28 May 2015

28 May 15 - April: A Variable Spring For The Studland/Ballard Patch Year List

Somehow I spent too much time out Birding earlier in the Spring & didn't get the chance to do an April round up for the Studland/Ballard Patch Year List. Well now the Spring migration is almost over, I had better do a quick catch up. Having finished March one ahead of my target of 130, I decided on an ambitious 150 for the end of April. All I needed to do was to hit a couple of good migrant arrival days & it should be possible. The month started off quietly with the Easter Bank Holiday on 3 - 6 April. Good Friday, true to form for a Bank Holiday, was a write off of constant rain. It finally cleared & allowed me to get out that afternoon. The highlights of which were my first Hirundines: a party of six Sand Martins, followed by a single Swallow North over South Haven. A scan in the evening revealed the Great Grey Shrike was still present on the edge of Godlingston Heath (I last saw it the following evening). Wildfowl were on the move on the next day, with a departure of 54 Brent Geese & 3 Canada Geese and eight Common Scoter flying East past the harbour mouth. More unusual, were singles of Jackdaw & Rook moving North over the harbour mouth. Despite being common species at the Ballard/Greenlands Farm end of the patch, they are fairly scarce visitors at South Haven & are only seen as they move North in small numbers over the harbour mouth. Most of the records are late Autumn & I think these are my first Spring records. It was slim pickings on Easter Sunday, despite spending a fair bit of the day in the field. Finally, the cold wind dropped on the Easter Monday and left clear sunny skies. A good day to check out Ballard Down for migrants. I was pleased to find a small fall here. I quickly added Blackcap & Willow Warbler to the Patch Year List. I'm sure Blackcaps must Winter around the gardens in the village, but it is a species I rarely see until the Spring. However, it was still fairly quiet with a couple of parties of Wheatears and just the occasional Swallow & Sand Martin quickly moving through.
Wheatear: It's always a good day when I bump into parties on the patch (6 Apr)
Yellowhammer: Male. Old Harry & Ballard Down are easily the best places in Poole Harbour to see this species (6 Apr)
The highlight came when I reached the ridge of Ballard Down: a Red Kite appeared over the ridge by the trig point, right above my head. I had a short opportunity to grab a few photos, before it slowly drifted off towards Old Harry. I thought it would turn to follow the Studland Peninsula North, but instead it headed steadily out into Studland Bay. I lost it about a mile out, still heading for central Bournemouth. I added the first House Martin to the Year List later in the morning.
Red Kite: A species I only gave myself a 50-50 chance of seeing as they are mainly erratic Spring migrants through Dorset on days of fine sunny weather & light winds. I was very relieved to have seen a Red Kite without any effort. I had expected to spend a lot of time sitting & scanning for one this Spring (6 Apr)
The sun brought out Butterflies, with small numbers of Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks & Brimstones on the wing. I have managed to see Butterflies in every month of the year on the patch so far this year. It should be easy to keep seeing them until Nov.
Peacock: (6 Apr)
Small Tortoiseshell: (6 Apr)
It was slim picking the following weekend. After a week of warm, sunny conditions, the weekend saw a return to colder Northerly based winds which quickly halted the migration. The highlight of the weekend was a lone Redstart, hanging around a group of Wheatears in one of the Old Harry fields. The same pattern seemed to reoccur the following week, but I wasn't able to get out on the patch over the weekend (due to the twitch to Scillies for the Great Blue Heron).

I was keen to get out for the final weekend of the month. It didn't take long to find the first Whimbrels & Common Terns in Brands Bay. Slightly more surprisingly was my first Whitethroat was on the edge of Greenlands Farm. I typically expect to see them first on territory at Old Harry, but they hadn't arrived by the second weekend of the month (when I saw the Redstart). A distant Cuckoo calling was another recent arrival, but I had to wait until the start of May before I finally saw one. The other two highlights were a couple of Whinchats at Greenlands Farm, & as expected, the Reed Warblers were back on territory at South Haven. However, the most unusual record of the day was a Red-legged Partridge on Greenlands Farm: nearly ten years after my only other record in Oct 2005 of four individuals. I wonder where that came from.
Whinchat: One of two with a Stonechat party on Greenlands Farm (25 Apr)
The final April visit started with an early visit to South Haven. Frustratingly, over the two decades the beach has been severely impacted by dog walkers. When I first moved to Dorset, there used to be a good high tide roost of Waders at Pilots Point. Some days, it seems that half of Poole & Bournemouth feel the need to let their dogs run unhindered & crap wherever they like on the beach. The result is you need to be out early to stand any chance of Waders on the beach. This morning I got their before the hordes & found three Whimbrels on the beach. Even better there was a big feeding flock of Common Terns off the harbour mouth, with a couple of Little Terns in with them. This was a species I only gave myself a 50-50 chance of seeing on the patch, so I was really pleased to see them. The final highlight of a day spent covering as much ground as I could, was a Garden Warbler feeding on the edge of the South Beach wood. This brought my end of April total to a disappointing 147 species. While I managed to add 16 species in April, it was the first end of the month I had dropped behind my 2009 reference total. By the end of Apr 2009, I was on 148 & finished the year on 176). However, I had managed to miss a number of common Spring migrants this April, so I wasn't too surprised.