8 Dec 2018

8 Dec 18 - I Thought It Was All Over, It Is Now

At the end of November, I reflected on how poor the late autumn was this year. In the last decade, I've grown used to the expectation that rarities can turn up as late as the third week of the month & there will be a late good Bird like the Crag Martin that turned up in mid Nov 15. This year seemed to fizzle out by late October. While there was the odd interesting species turning up, there had been nothing showstopping at the end of the season. Even the cast of the usual Eastern suspects were much lower in numbers. 2018 has been a disappointing year as a result of the cold spring. The hot summer in the UK & the excessively snowy high Arctic seems to have resulted in a poor breeding season for most species. Consequently, it is perhaps not surprising that numbers of many migrant species have been disappointing this autumn. Hopefully, it will be better next year. But I decided that the autumn ended early this year. Therefore, I was surprised to see an email alert from local Poole Harbour Birder, Shaun Robson saying there was a Little Bunting on Portland & it had been there for over thirty minutes & might be twitchable. I still needed Little Bunting for Dorset. I tried for my first Little Bunting in Apr 81 & despite a fair number of people looking for it on the following morning, it was not seen again. That was in the day when news didn't always get around as quickly as it does these days. I've looked for one or two others at Portland since, but never too hard, given when I've arrived & heard the actual story of the sighting, they have generally been in & out quickly. Despite the number of Birders visiting Portland Bill, it is often a difficult place to get updates on sightings of many species after the first sighting (if it isn't a really rare species). Little Buntings at Portland fall in the category, that the Portland locals don't seem to regard them as especially rare, whereas for other Dorset Birders it's a much rarer species: e.g. there is a single accepted Poole Harbour record over South Haven, Studland in Nov 06 (James Lidster). Back to the current Little Bunting, I checked & it wasn't at Portland Bill, but at Chiswell, a name I didn't recognise. I checked the map on RBA & it was the Fortuneswell area. This seemed a much better place for one to stick around. I quickly rang a couple of mates as I made a coffee to take with me, picked up the camera & headed out the door. I remembered to pick Peter Moore up at Wareham as he had permission to come. We arrived on a gravel road between the lower Fortuneswell road & the beach. It was blowing a hoolie at the top of the beach, but was relatively sheltered where we were. We met James Lowther who showed us where it had been feeding on a weedy edge to the gravel road a few metres in front of the handful of Birders. But it had flown into a high wall garden about twenty minutes before we arrived. James said it had done that on previous occasions before reappearing. When it reappeared, it first hopped up into the Tamarisk before flying back to the gravel road. It seemed to be a matter of waiting. After twenty minutes, somebody must have walked into the garden as we saw bread being thrown onto beach for the Gulls. Just after a Bird flew into the Tamarisk & a quick check confirmed it was the Little Bunting.
Little Bunting: Finally, it's on the Dorset list (no 344). It looked like it had been having a quick wash while it was out of view
It stayed in the Tamarisk for several minutes, but was difficult to get good views. Suddenly, it flew down to a small garden, where it spent a minute or so on view, before flying back to the top of the high walled garden.
Little Bunting in the little garden
Little Bunting: Back in the Tamarisk. Is it going to come down?
Fortunately, it then flew down onto the gravel road & started to feed. Occasionally, it was disturbed by a car, but it quickly reappeared.
Little Bunting
Little Bunting
Little Bunting: At one point, it hopped into the middle of the track & was unfazed by the Birders only a few metres away
Little Bunting: It was a superb individual & easily the best views I've had in the UK or abroad
This has to be the end of the season now.