This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The image above is of a Bohemian Waxwing that was by my house in Weymouth, taken on 29th January 2011.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Blast From The Past

On the 20th December 1992 I found a gull at Radipole Lake that, at the time, I identified as a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull. I'd never previously seen a 1st-winter Yellow-legger before. In fact, Yellow-legged Gull was still considered a race of Herring Gull at that time. None of us had even heard of Caspian Gull back then. Subsequently, of course, I've seen many 1st-year Yellow-legged Gulls and none of them looked like that bird. 

Then along comes some papers highlighting the appearance of Caspian Gull and then it gets us thinking. I also start seeing a few Caspos myself. Was that bird back in 1992/93 a Caspo? It wasn't until a recent paper by Chris Gibbins, in British Birds magazine, that highlighted the variation shown by 1st-year Caspians, that we suddenly started to take this bird seriously as a Caspo. Thanks to Martin Cade and his photos, this bird has become history, not a mystery. Thanks also to Chris Gibbins, who confirmed the identification. 

And that was that, we thought. Obviously, being a first for Dorset, I had to send it in. I was also aware that for a very short period of time it was an official rarity, so it had to be sent into the British Birds Rarities Committee. After reading a couple of things, imagine my shock when I found out that it was in fact a potential first for Britain. Shit!!! I didn't have any notes that would be constructive, just a few photos of Martin's and the say so of a genius gull expert.
The only option was to send it in, with an explanation of the circumstances.

Fast forward to 2014 and the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee accept me bird as a FIRST for Britain. It feels kind of insane. I so wish I'd been more clued up at the time, but our knowledge back then, on these things, were very much in their infancy. Like I said, none of us had ever heard of Caspian Gull. Was aware of the existence of cachinnans, but back then, it was Larus argentatus cachinnans. I think we thought that they must look very like Yellow-leggers, because they were considered the eastern counterpart of what was to be split from Herring Gull, as Yellow-legged Gull. How we know different now, thanks to people like Martin Garner.



Caspian Gull at Radipole Lake 20th December 1992. The first record for Britain. Both photos © Martin Cade.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Caspo The Friendly Gull

What an appalling title for a blog post, but it did put a wry smile on my face, so had to do it. Sorry. Anyway, back to what it's all about and that is Dave Chown's lovely 1st-winter Caspian Gull, that he found at Radipole Lake today. A mad dash from home was in order, as these things have a habit of not hanging around. Luckily it stayed put. Here are me pics.

Only the 6th I've seen in Dorset, all of which have been 1st-winters like this bird. Have found 4 of those myself, one of which was the first record for Britain, which is mad.







Check out it's pooey nappy.

I have been out birding this weekend, with my main aim being to find a rare insectivorous bird, but I wasn't rewarded unfortunately. Several Common Chiffchaffs and a single Blackcap was all I could muster. Pants isn't it? Had to take my daughter to the docs, so whilst she was there, I took time out to have another look at the Redcliff Point Richard's PipitExcellent views were my reward. A cracking bird!






Sunday, 7 December 2014

Barred Warbler

A total change in the weather today sort of scuppered my plans as far as birding is concerned. So, with news the Barred Warbler was still showing on Portland today, I couldn't resist paying it a visit.

Happily munching on apples.





The amazing loud rattle call was also heard from this bird.


I then joined my friends Paul and Jill on a wild goose chase. The object of our desires were a couple of Bean Geese on the water meadows next to Wareham. They were very distant, but thankfully, adequate views were obtained through Paul's zoom on his scope.

The uncropped version. Can you see one of them?

I can assure you that they are both in this image. The second bird is to the right of the obvious bird. Don't know if you can see it, but there is a black spot and that is the top of the birds head.

Whilst watching the geese, by way of a bonus, a Great White Egret flew past and then landed in a wet field by Slepe Heath.


Here with a Little Egret for company.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Richard's Pipit

The adult Richard's Pipit showed well this afternoon at Redcliff Point.










Was certainly finding some tasty morsels.

Friday, 5 December 2014

More Taxonomic Crap

In relation to a recent post about taxonomy, firstly a correction. Got the Latin names of the Black Redstarts screwed up. Should be as follows:

Western Black Redstart Phoenicurus gibraltariensis
Eastern Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Now, back to this post. All of this shit is my own opinion, which I have to say, is pretty spot on the money. If you don't like it, well, let me think now. Oh yeah, I don't care. He he. hehe. He. Ha.

Iceland Gull - Now becomes three species

Thayer's Gull Larus thayeri
Kumlien's Gull Larus kumlieni
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides

Southern Grey Shrike - the form L.m. pallidirostris, that turns up in Britain, should be treated as a species in it's own right.

Steppe Grey Shrike Lanius pallidirostris

Name changes

White-fronted Goose becomes Greater White-fronted Goose.
Greenland Goose becomes Greenland White-fronted Goose.
Common Nightingale becomes Western Nightingale.
Western Black Redstart becomes Black Redstart.
Eastern Black Redstart becomes Kashmir Redstart.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler becomes Olivaceous Warbler.
Western Bonelli's Warbler becomes Bonelli's Warbler.
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler becomes Balkan Warbler.
Steppe Grey Shrike becomes Saxaul Grey Shrike.

Catagory C species to be removed from British List.

Egyptian Goose
Mandarin
Ruddy Duck
Red-legged Partridge
Capercaillie
Pheasant
Lady Amherst's Pheasant
Golden Pheasant
Little Owl
Ring-necked Parakeet

A few things explained

From the last post about about taxonomic changes, some of you may be wondering what White-throated Wagtail is. Well, from the Latin name, it obviously includes the form known as Ashy-headed Wagtail, but it also includes the form known as Spanish Wagtail.

Back to this post now and some of you may be surprised by Kumlien's Gulls elevation to species. Whilst this is a very variable taxon, it is my opinion that it acts as a good species. I think the hybrid swarm hypothesis is a load of tosh. Based on the fact that Iceland Gull is more closely related to Glaucous Gull than it is to Kumlien's Gull and that Kumlien's Gulls vocalizations are not intermediate between Thayer's and Iceland Gull, I think treating it as a species in it's own right is the only way forward, until proved otherwise.

You may have noticed that I haven't split the Brents or Bean Geese. I'm not dismissing it completely, but I remain to be entirely convinced. Also, I thought it would frustrate some people in the same way the BOU does. 

The name changes I think is the best way forward and some of them sound quite sexy, me thinks. Okay, maybe sexy is the wrong word, but come on, Kashmir Redstart, HELL YEAH!!!

Fuck knows what my British List is now? Oh yeah, I don't care.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Wild Goose Chase

Started my day on The Fleet at Littlesea. The 2 Black Redstarts remained from last week, while a Slavonian Grebe and 2 Great Northern Divers were additional.

Great Northern Diver number 1.

Slavonian Grebe.

Great Northern Diver number 2 snorkeling.

Both Great Northern Divers were juveniles.

It's only taken me 5 attempts to see it, but finally caught up with the adult Greenland Goose at Abbotsbury Swannery this afternoon.












Also present in the flock of feral Canada Geese were a family party of 6 Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

Brent Geese appear to have had a good breeding season this year.

An earlier Greenland Goose attempt was compensated by a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, including this 1st-winter male.