7 Mar 2015

7 Mar 15 - First Signs Of Spring

I've been looking forward to the chance to get out around the Studland/Ballard patch all week as I've been stuck in front of a laptop all week. The joys of finally having to start working instead of being a self (un)employed Birder. Early March is the opportunity for early Spring migrants like Wheatear, Black Redstart & Sand Martin in Dorset. Local Birder, Steve Morrison, had a fly over Woodlark during the week over Studland's high hide, so there was always the chance of another Woodlark: which is an erratic Studland visitor. I started off with a walk over the high part of Ballard Down where the highlights were small parties of Meadow Pipits on Ballard, some of which were probably migrants. Although there was no evidence of them actually on the move. It was also good to see Skylarks up on the high down, presumably getting ready for breeding. A Yellowhammer defending a territory helped to explain why I didn't see any around Manor Farm: as they were dispersing to their local territories.

It was a quiet walk & I was starting to think it was maybe a week or two early, when I saw a distant flash of red fly up to the edge of the Front Wood by Old Harry. Scanning with the bins, I picked up a couple of Stonechats perched up: damn. It wasn't close, so I assumed I hadn't seen the flash correctly, when a Black Redstart dropped back onto the grass: phew. Species 126 for the patch Year List was a female Black Redstart. This is a species I reckon had a better than average chance of getting, but it wasn't one I was certain I would see.
Black Redstart: Female. Number 126 for the patch Year List
Walking back to the village, I saw another Black Redstart: but this time a cracking male. As it was about 80 metres away, I carried on to a nearer viewpoint. But it remained out of view behind the hedge and in private fields. A pity as it was a great looking individual. Carrying on down to South Beach, there was a Firecrest at a regular Winter site. Off Middle Beach were three Summer plumage Black-necked Grebes, along with the two lingering Slavonian Grebes. Interestingly, the Slavs were both in Winter plumage.
Black Redstart: Female. This is the first time a UK Black Redstart has appeared on the Blog, although there have been photos of the same subspecies in Morocco & the Eastern phoenicuroides subspecies at Desert Coursers and CEDO in Gujarat, India
I carrying on to look for an early Sand Martin at Littlesea, hoping to find Dorset's first for this year. No joy, but good views of a near adult female Marsh Harrier flying back to Brands Bay. I was pleased to see that it was a different individual to the sub adult female which has been around quite regularly in recent weeks. I finished off at Brands Bay as the tide was starting to drop. Just two more Blackwits would have made 500 in the flock. A first Winter Spoonbill was feeding in the bay again. Still great to see this normally scarce feeding visitor. Scanning through the bay for about the fifth time, finally provided the reward of a Spotted Redshank dropping into the back of the bay. Great to see species no 127, as I didn't give this more than a 50-50 chance of seeing it for the patch Year List. Too far away for a photo, but not too far to enjoy with the scope. So no Sand Martins (which I will be unlucky to miss in March), but two species I wasn't confident of getting on the patch, which were more than compensation for not finding Dorset's first Sand Martin. That honour goes to Lodmoor. Maybe I can find the first Poole Harbour Sand Martin tomorrow.