11 Aug 2015

11 Aug 15 - What A Prediction

The morning started in a similar way to a number of recent mornings. An early alarm call followed by breakfast & a dash to South Haven to be on the beach before 07:00. Shell Bay beach is on the seaward side of South Haven, next to the harbour mouth. As a result, it attracts Waders which have just arrived. At 07:05 the first ferry arrives from the Poole side bringing the likelihood of dog walkers doing their best to flush any Waders. Sadly, Shell Bay beach is ruined by grockles & their uncontrolled dogs soon after the ferry starts running & the Waders quickly disappear. I checked the beach & found a Curlew, 2 Ringed Plovers & 2 newly arrived Turstones on the beach and had a Whimbrel fly over. The Waders were checked just before being booted by the first dog walkers & beach types heading South for the nudist beach. Waders checked, it was time to head into the dunes & bushes surrounding the South Haven pool, to see if there are any Passerine migrants.
Brittany Ferry: A more predictable migrant heading off to France. South Haven (8 Aug 15)
The last week has seen small numbers of Autumn migrants heading South. Generally in previous Autumns, I have focused on Ballard Down & Greenlands Farm as early Autumn migrant sites within the Studland patch. But this Autumn, I've been trying South Haven first in the hope of an interesting early morning Wader e.g. Little Ringed Plover or Little Stint. As a result there were a number of common migrant species I hadn't seen at South Haven until the last week: Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler & a real goodie for South Haven, a Pied Flycatcher. But now all the easy Warblers are on the South Haven list. I saw Graham Armstrong had appeared & wandered over to join Graham looking at the bushes. Graham has a different strategy to me when checking the bushes. I tend to walk along the edge of the bushes surrounding the pool, whereas Graham tend to pick spots & wait to see if anything pops out in the next few minutes. We spent the next fifteen minutes chatting & watching the bushes. For once they were quite busy with several Garden Warblers, at least five Willow Warblers & the local Reed Warblers. While we were Birding, we were discussing what we would like to find at South Haven. For me it was a Greenish Warbler or later on a Red-flanked Bluetail: both of which would be Harbour firsts. For Graham, it was a Hippolais Warbler: Melodious Warbler or Icterine Warbler (either would have been a Poole Harbour Tick for him & he wasn't needing to find one of the really rare Hippos).
Pied Flycatcher: This popped out of a seemly quiet bush after a ten minute wait. This was a bonus for me as Pied Flycatcher is one of the species I would probably see, but can't guarantee I will see it for the Studland/Ballard Patch Year List. It stayed for two days, but was never easy to see in the open for long. I'm clearly going to have to try Graham's strategy more often. South Haven (7 Aug 15)
I was thinking we should move on, when Graham called out Hippolais, fully in the open. The only problem was there was a mass of bushes & I couldn't see anything. After ten or fifteen seconds, I saw a Warbler flit left & dive into a bush: that was it & all I saw was it was probably a Warbler. It then flicked up & over the top of the bush & was gone. Nothing else moved, so that must have been it disappearing out of sight. After several minutes of waiting, it had not reappearing, so Graham decided to try twenty metres further left. Soon after a whistle, but it had gone before I got there. At this stage, it was a definite Hippolais & presumed Melodious (as that is the commoner Dorset species), but on both occasions it had been head on for Graham. After two hours of searching, we hadn't seen it again. Had it gone? I was getting more frustrated as this is a Poole Harbour rarity & I still hadn't got the bins on it: so it obviously couldn't go near my list. Then fortunately, I relocated it close to where Graham had seen it the second time. This time it was only me who got onto it, as Graham was about eighty metres away. My views were brief, but good enough to confirm I had seen my first Melodious Warbler or Icterine Warbler in Poole Harbour. On both sightings, I quickly dropped the bins & tried to get the 7D onto it. But on both occasions, it had already moved back into cover. Soon after that, Graham had a side view which indicated it was probably a Melodious Warbler. Then another hour went by with no more sightings & Graham decided to leave. As he left local Studland Birder, Steve Morrison, arrived. When we had seen it, it seemed to be associating with a mixed Warbler flock. But the Willow Warblers & Garden Warblers had disappeared again. Steve & I spread out to look for the flock. Steve found a Warbler flock along the edge of the pool which also had a family of Blue Tits with it. Was it the same flock as they hadn't been around earlier. It seemed the Blue Tits had joined the flock as Steve had just seen the Hippolais. I joined Steve & we both had views on & off over the next twenty minutes. I had a couple of good views of the wing & could see it was short winged. Strictly, one of the main features for separating Melodious and Icterine Warblers is the primary extension (the distance the primaries project beyond the tertials), but with this wing length, the primary projection was clearly wrong for an Icky. But frustratingly it had moved back into cover before I could accurately assess the primary projection. Still I was happy it was a Melodious Warbler on the views I had seen.
Melodious Warbler: A record shot from Steve Morrison (who has kindly allowed me to publish the photo & retains copyright)
Soon after the flock disappeared & we assumed it had crossed over to the far side of the South Haven pool. By this time we had been joined by Mark & Mo Constantine & Paul Morton. We tried the bushes along the edge of the car park, but I never managed to get onto it again. The flock seemed to move away from the boardwalk & we lost it. Eventually, after over ten hours in the field at South Haven, I decided to call it a day. A quick look at Brands Bay & I was off home for dinner (having missed out lunch completely). There are only a handful of previous Poole Harbour records & nearly all have been at Studland or Ballard Down. I believe only one of these individuals was twitchable. So it was a really good Bird to see on the patch. It brings my Poole Harbour List to 260 & Studland/Ballard List to 217 (not counting a heard Nightingale).

Graham was also talking up Middlebere as where a Black Stork would be if one of the recent arrivals appeared in Dorset. That was three days before one was seen there at the weekend. I will now try & convince Graham about being more adventurous in his predictions: maybe White's Thrush or Siberian Thrush for the South Haven Thrush season.