6 Dec 2023

6 Dec 23 - Some Nice South Purbeck Birds

When I moved to Swanage in 1996, I quickly started a Poole Harbour list and a South Purbeck List. The South Purbeck List is the Historic Isle of Purbeck south of the Corfe Ridge, It is a long, narrow patch with some specific challenges, given it has no significant areas of open water & no wetlands which runs from Swanage to Arish Mell. But it does include some fantastic Birding sites including my Winspit, St Aldhelms & Chapman's Pool patch, as well as, Durlston. It also includes my house, so there were a number of areas I spent a lot of time watching each year. As a result of the habitats, I've seen a lot of good migrant passerines in the South Purbeck patch, but you also need to see a lot of tricky groups, including Seabirds, wildfowl and Waders to get a good total.
Ringed Plover: This is one of the two Ringed Plovers that were present
Over the last few years, I've spent a lot more time seawatching & I've seen a good selection of Dorset Seabirds. I've slowly managed to see the majority of the regular Waders during spring seawatches, but I've still struggled with many Wildfowl, which I've mainly missed on Spring seawatches. There are a few Waders I've missed till this Autumn, including Grey Phalarope, Redshank & Purple Sandpiper. In recent weeks, I've managed to see the first two species with late afternoon twitches to Kimmeridge: I must be one of the few Dorset Birders to have twitched a Redshank, but it was a species I had only heard on passage over the house in the dark.
It was nice to see these two Knot
Purple Sandpipers are hard to connect with in South Purbeck as they don't Winter on the coastline. So, you need to see a passage migrant. My mate Steve Morrison has spent weeks of fanatical Spring & a fair bit of Autumn seawatching at St Aldhelms over the many years he lived in Dorset. He has never seen a Purple Sandpiper on a St Aldhelms seawatch or in South Purbeck. Interestingly, there was one seen on a couple of days at Peveril Point, the point right at the Southern end of Swanage Bay, last year. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate it when I heard about it. Had it moved on or was it tucked in somewhere in the large bay between Peveril Point and Durlston. I've no idea, but Birding pride means it must have been the former case. This year, there was a sighting sent into the Dorset Bird Club for one being present at Peveril Point on 5 Dec. Local Purbeck Birder, James Leaver, saw the message on the Dorset Bird Club sightings page & was down there just after dawn on the following morning. He disturbed my breakfast with a call to alert me to its presence. I quickly finished the food & headed down. Rob Johnson had just beaten me there & was watching it. Even better it was roosting & feeding on the rocks right by the point, with 2 Ringed Plovers & 2 Knot. I've seen both species before, but only on a couple of occasions each in recent years as I've switched back to watching St Aldhelms more regularly. So, it was nice to add the Purple Sandpiper to the South Purbeck List and see the other two species.
Purple Sandpiper: The Purple Sandpiper and the Ringed Plovers couldn't be relocated later in the morning, so perhaps this is a very transitionary location for them
Purple Sandpiper
The Purple Sandpiper took my South Purbeck List to 208 species seen, plus two species heard: a Spotted Redshank over the garden moth trap at night & Quail. The All Time South Purbeck List is currently 295, so I've still got a lot of species I could see. However, Steve Morrison's South Purbeck List is only 229, despite his many years of seawatching & Birding at the Winspit & St Aldhelms patch. There are a number of potential Duck species I could add from Spring seawatching, plus a few missing Terns. But after that it's still going to be a challenge to get close to Steve's List. But it will be fun trying to pass his List, especially, as I have chances every time there is a South Purbeck rarity, as Steve now lives in France, unless he is back in the UK for a few months of survey work.
Purple Sandpiper