Saturday, 15 November 2014

Nearly Dipped a Dusky...

When I set off on a twitch I'm always optimistic. I think most of us are, we probably wouldn't bother otherwise.  But I have to confess that setting off to see a very skulky Dusky Warbler on Portland at 12:15 on a mid - November afternoon,  knowing there was a chance of showers and only a few hours of daylight left was pushing the limits of my enthusiasm. Nevertheless Dave Helliar picked me up and we set off to give it our best shot.

Upon arrival it looked bleak. Only a handful of people were present and it seemed only one or two were serious birders, all of the locals having seen the bird over the previous three days. I don't mind photographers but they have a very different agenda to birders, often where conflict occurs at twitches. We heard it call almost immediately and then nothing. One guy who'd seen it earlier in the day insisted on talking to another guy present at an irritatingly loud volume while some of us strained to listen for the bird above him and the passing traffic. He'll never know how close he came to being told to STFU! A long hour passed and it began to take on all the hallmarks of a major dip. I decided to check out another field behind the group and while I was gone Dave picked it up moving along the back hedge of the paddock calling.  Amazingly only one other birder recognised it (or seemed to care) and a few of us moved around to where it had last been heard.  It called a few more times and I had brief distant views before it flew into a large bramble patch in the middle of the field. 

It spent a lot of time in here...

It called again and we moved back to our original location as it looked like it might be doing a circuit.  Sure enough, it 'tacked' a couple more times and then hopped out in the open in front of myself,  Dave and one other birder! It was only on show for three or four seconds about 10ft away before flying into the hedge to disappear yet again. In fact it had the ability to move without been seen and could pop up just about anywhere. By now we'd been there for two hours and didn't anticipate getting better views so decided to call it a day. We also had two black redstarts there.

On the way back we called in at Portland Castle as the light faded to look for the (returning? ) black guillemot that had been reported in the week.  Sure enough, there it was about 250 m away, a lovely bird in flat light and mill pond conditions - best views I've had in a long while.  It even hauled itself up onto a flat buoy giving a brief phone scope opportunity.

Black Guillemot, Portland Harbour: R. Harris

What a great way to end what turned out to be a few hours of great birding.

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