Monday, 18 February 2013

Amwell and Portland

Saturday morning was spent as usual at Amwell. It was a nice, fairly mild but cloudy day. Initially only Bill and Tony were present, though many others eventually appeared. We watched a Water Rail in the reeds just in front of the watch point, and a large number of Snipe were present on the island-I think 14 were counted which was the largest count this year.
Eventually I went for a slow walk up to Tumbling Bay, locating a pair of Bullfinches in the usual spot opposite the footbridge and some very confiding Siskins. There were four Smew, including a drake present, but it seems the Scaup has departed as there have been no sightings for about a week. I had hoped the warmer weather would bring out a Treecreeper or Chiffchaff in the woods or along Hollycross but there  was little to see apart from more Siskin.  Around 1145 a Bittern flew in to the reeds just to the left of the hide and showed intermittently for s while.

Colin and I used to visit Portland either on New Years Day or soon after, but it has been a while since we had done that. Recent plans to go down have been put off several times but we decided to go down on Sunday.
The drive down was interesting-thick fog or heavy frost seemed to alternate every five to ten miles but we eventually arrived to discover a lovely late winter/early spring morning with lots of sunshine. it was however to put it mildly bracing with a fairly strong south easterly wind.
We started by scanning the northern part of Portland Harbour from the slip way near Sandisfoot Castle. The highlight was the large number of Slavonian and Black Necked Grebes present with small groups all over the place. Maybe 15 Slavs and perhaps 8-10 Black Necks. A few scoter flew through and there were as usual many Mergansers. The north east corner was not observable and moving up to the Castle was not on because a Sealed Knot type meeting was taking place. we did locate a birder along the road and joined him. The two female Velvet Scoters were found, as was the red Necked Grebe.
Moving to Portland Harbour to scan the southern harbour was fruitless, with a lot of disturbance so we headed off to the Bill.
The wind was rather strong, making observing difficult. Guillemots and Razorbills were coming and going, evidently the recent oil type spill has not had as severe impact as first feared. Small parties of Gannets were moving east. There were as usual many Rock Pipits around.
A search of the eastern rocks failed to locate any Purple Sandpipers, though the scenery was photogenic. The wind was rather troublesome and I was reluctant to get too close to the edge to check the rock shelves below the cliff edge.

 Colin went over the west side to get out of the wind and I eventually made my way over, but noticed three Purple Sands just below the Bill monument so decided to clamber down and get a bit closer. I 
eventually got down to the shelf that they were feeding on and so managed to get a few good images although as often happens here I was almost facing the Sun.

We eventually left, calling in at the Fleet visitors centre briefly (rebuilt since our last visit) where there were a number of med Gulls around, but there was no information on where the elusive Snow Bunting could be found.
On the way home we detoured into the New Forest ending up at Hawkhill enclosure (the Junco site from last year). It was getting a bit late in the day and still rather breezy, and much of the area was under water. Apart from some Linnets Chaffinches and Reed Buntings there was not much in the woods, and the heath did not have anything apart from a brief but close glimpse of a Woodlark.

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