Friday, 23 February 2018

Ross's Gull...

I don't really twitch many birds these days but on Wednesday morning this week an adult Ross's Gull was found at Ferrybridge, Dorset. It promptly disappeared not to be seen again until late that day at Lodmoor on the other side of Weymouth.

I kept a close eye on news of it's movements after it was seen again on Thursday (yesterday) morning and again it was appearing in short bursts around the Weymouth area often vanishing for large chunks of time. After seeing some amazing photos of it on Twitter I wish I'd stopped working and gone to see it. Its not a new bird, I've seen a few in the UK and more in Canada but they are truly beautiful, elegant birds and being only 40 miles away I decided to take today off and try for it.

Good news broke early - it had been seen again at Ferrybridge. After dropping Jake at school in Axminster I set off along the coast road, which takes about 50 minutes to Weymouth. It was a beautiful morning and I was in no rush, half expecting it to have moved to Lodmoor as it had the day before. I got to Ferrybridge around 09:20 but it was eerily quiet, checked had flown off at 08:45 while I was en route!! That would explain the obvious lack of birders. I decided to stay put and have a coffee when I noticed a couple with scopes checking the few gulls that were out on the mud. I went over to be sociable and see if they'd seen it earlier this morning and as I approached one of them turned and said 'it's here!' Sure enough, it had just returned and was lingering with a handful of Black-headed Gulls on the edge of the rising tide.

It was bitterly cold and it must have felt right at home, a real Arctic beauty...

Ross's Gull, adult winter, Ferrybridge: R.Harris

Ross's Gull, adult winter, Ferrybridge: R.Harris
After watching it for about 15 minutes, it took to the air and headed out across the Fleet on its own. I grabbed some video too while it was on the deck but it was incredibly windy and despite being on a heavy video tripod, the camera was still moving around. I had to lower the soundtrack volume as the wind was deafening.

Sadly it failed to return in the following hour before I left and it was only relocated around 15:40 this afternoon in Bowleaze Cove west Weymouth before departing east half-an-hour later. Hopefully it will stick around and be picked up again over the weekend.

Monday, 12 February 2018


Brambling are just one of those birds that you long to see each winter, special birds because they are usually fairly scarce, they always look great with their contrasting black, white and orange plumage and they are a sure sign that it's cold!

I've had Brambling at Whitestaunton before, but only the odd one or two and certainly not every year. This year there have been good numbers locally including about a dozen regular birds with the local Chaffinch flock about 500 meters south of the house. Every morning on the school run to Axminster I keep a keen eye out for the white rumps as they disappear up into the beech trees along the roadside. So perhaps it's no surprise that they would eventually put in an appearance here, after all there's no shortage of seed for them in the garden.

I've been lucky to have four over the last few days, two male and two female. They are much shyer than the Chaffinches they associate with, never coming to the main bird table but preferring the seed table I set up for the Hawfinch at the end of last year, which is situated further from the house by the garden shed. Dave Helliar came to enjoy them at the weekend and was treated to close views of the residing Hawfinch too. In fact there are seven species of finch present at the moment with Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Siskin and Hawfinch being seen on a daily basis. After much waiting, hidden from view, I managed a bit of long distance (hence the quality) video.

If they keep coming in, I'll definitely be trying to get some better clips of them.

Three of the Brambling with a pair of Bullfinch
Brambling, male: R. Harris

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Bird That Keeps on Giving...

After seemingly disappearing for long intervals, the Hawfinch has reappeared in the garden yet again, it obviously likes it here. Now that the last of the field maple seeds have fallen (or rotted on the tree), he's now coming regularly to the whole sunflower seeds. At the weekend a second bird joined it for 10 minutes but hasn't been seen since.

Regular bird with pale flecking on some of the scaps.

Second bird, looking for a way into the cage
Sadly it was raining and the light was rubbish but it was wonderful to watch these two as I munched on my cornflakes.  Wish I'd taken a shot of the House Sparrows all sitting on top of the cage waiting for the visitors to leave so that they could get a look-in.

This morning it was back on its favourite tray and showed incredibly well.

Hawfinch, Whitestaunton: R. Harris
See how the colours change when not in direct sunlight
Taken through glass while in shadow

Hawfinch: R. Harris

Another bird of interest was this male Brambling which came in to feed alongside the Hawfinch on 6 Feb.

Brambling, Whitestaunton: R. Harris

Every day the Hawfinch is  here is a bonus, may never see one like this again. Pleased it's managed to see out the worst of the winter months in my garden.