14 May 2022

14 May 22 - FA Cup Day Birding

I had lost interest in football by the age of 11. I got into birding a couple of years later & still have no interest in football. However, the FA Cup Final day is the one day a year when I have a passing interest in the day, but not the game, as it falls about the time interesting spring migrants might appear on the South Coast. This results in an unusually quiet day for the time of the year, as many people stay home to watch the match.

Over the years I've seen some good Birds on FA Cup Final day including: a Ringtail Montagu's Harrier & two Savi's Warblers at Stodmarsh (1979), Broad-billed Sandpiper at Paulsgrove which was found by my good mate Keith Turner (1982), a self-found migrant Honey Buzzard North along Winspit (1996), a female Black-eared Wheatear sp. at Winspit (1998), and a near miss of a Bee-eater at Durlston (1999). There are probably a few other goodies that I've seen.

Moving onto 2022. With the winds dropping, I was overdue a visit to St Aldhelms. Walking down to Trev's Quarry, there wasn't a lot of signs of migration other than a few parties of Swallows hurrying North. A look in the Sycamores at Trev's quarry produced my first two Spotted Flycatchers of the year, along with two nearby Wheatears.

It remained uneventful until I reached Quarry Ledge. I opted for my Eastern seawatch location above 'Billy Winspit's Garden' which has now reverted back to an overgrown vegetated ledge in the sixty or so years since Billy had cultivating it. There was little on the sea: c250 loafing Herring Gulls, a few Black-headed Gulls & some arriving Swallows. Nothing was moving, barring what was probably a local movement of Black-headed Gulls. But conditions looked good for a Pom Skua to drift through, so I kept looking & enjoying the sun.
Panoramic view of the Garden and the St Aldhelms Underworld
At 10:50, I picked up a Raptor heading North over one of the distant buoys, about 2 miles offshore. I quickly got my scope onto it and could see it was either a Buzzard or Honey Buzzard. I watched it close, but it was still distant. Time to make a decision: keep watching it with the scope or grab the camera (as I had bothered to carry it with me this time). I opted for the camera & photographed it as it came in, albeit it probably passed over the Coastguard's lookout or further West still, which was at least a half mile from where I was sitting. Had I chosen my alternative seawatch position, it would have gone right over my head: c'est la vie. As it got close to the land, I switched back to the scope, but failed to get onto it before it was obscured by the headland. The photos aren't in focus, but looking at the original image, I'm lucky that there were good enough to confirm it was a Honey Buzzard. In hindsight, I could easily have found all the photos were rubbish & I had failed to identify the Raptor. It wouldn't have been realistic to try running back up the small track from the Garden viewpoint, to try to get back onto the Raptor. By the time, I would have been able to look towards the Coastguard's lookout, it wouldn't have been in view.
Honey Buzzard: Showing the upperwing pattern
Honey Buzzard: Showing the underwing pattern, small head and longer tail than a Buzzard
Honey Buzzard: For those who think the above photos are crap, then this is the original of the first photo, but cropped to my standard 1.2 x 1 format
This is only my second Honey Buzzard for the St Aldhelms/Winspit patch and it is fitting it was seen on another FA Cup day.

In the evening, I had a walk up to Durlston to check if any Bee-eaters had arrived during the day. Durlston has a great track record for Bee-eaters and I've seen six on 31 May 1997, a single on 31 May 2012 and seven on 15 May 2019. Maybe there had been one earlier and like the 1999 FA Cup Durlston Bee-eater it had stayed twenty minutes before departing.