26 May 2022

26 May 22 - A Studland Alpine Swift

In 2022, I was doing a historic Isle of Purbeck Year List. The drawback of year listing is sometimes you end up having to chase species in locations you wouldn't normally do. Today was a good example with me spending about 2.5 hours in the afternoon unsuccessfully looking for a Little Gull from Slepe Heath, that the Birds of Poole Harbour Bird Boat had seen that morning in the Wareham Channel. Eventually, I decided to give up & head to Poole for a weekly food shop.

I hadn't got far when Paul Morton rang. He had received a message that he had seen an Alpine Swift over the cliffs at Old Harry. I quickly turned the car around. It wasn't clear if the Alpine Swift was hanging around or not. I decided to head for the Middle Beach car park. I could scan over the Southern end of Studland Bay & the Old Harry area with the scope & cover the area quickly, compared to the twenty minute walk out to Old Harry. After a few minutes of scanning, I could see a lone powerful Swift occasionally breaking the skyline over the wood at the end of Old Harry. I rang Paul back to say it was still present at Old Harry & we should head there. It took me a few minutes to move the car to the South Beach car park & I rang the updated news around the locals as I was walking out.
Alpine Swift
Paul & a couple of the Birds of Poole Harbour team had beaten me to Old Harry & they were watching it hawk up & down along the cliff edge about a couple of hundred metres South of Old Harry. I had decided that there was no point in taking the camera with me to look for the Little Gull. So, I arrived at Old Harry without a camera. The following photos were taken with my mobile. But the mobile was great for some slow motion videos of the Alpine Swift as it flew within a few metres of where we were sitting on the cliff edge. Unfortunately, the videos are too large to upload. I will need to find some video editing software to select the best part.
Alpine Swift
This would only be the fourth record for Studland. The previous records were over: one over Godlingston Heath (1 May 87) found by Steve Morrison, two over Knoll Beach car park (29 Mar 88) and one North over the Studland dunes (5 May 93). The latter two records were from visiting Birders and do not appear to have ever been formally submitted to the Dorset Bird Club. The two in 1988 were submitted, but only for Swanage on the following two days.
It was an enjoyable local twitch
The Alpine Swift stayed until 08:20 the following morning, before it drifted off over the sea & was lost to view. The handful of Birders who saw it that morning, also got to see David Attenborough, who was filming a sequence for the Wild Isles series. An even better sighting that the Alpine Swift.