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 above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Tail Of Stumps

Odd title, but all will become apparent. The day started out with a fruitless search for the Greenland Goose that had spent a week or so on the West Fleet area. Next stop was Ferrybridge, where a Northern Wheatear caused my heart to race for a millisecond. This particular individual had a bit of a stumpy tail, so presumably had lost it's tail at some stage and was in the process of growing a new one. 

After that momentary bit of excitement, on the vegetated shingle the Portland side of the Ferrybridge car park, something to definitely get excited about, a flight call alerting me to the presence of a Snow Bunting. A cracking male, it flew over and headed low over to the seaward side of the Chesil beach. A short search couldn't relocate it, but it could be still lurking in the vicinity somewhere.

I carried onto Portland Castle, where 4 Black Redstarts and a couple of Common Chiffchaffs seem to be the norm there from recent visits. Apart from a Great Northern Diver casually noted in Portland Harbour, nothing else of interest was seen.

My last stop of the day, was on The Fleet at Littlesea. Almost the first bird seen here was a Black Redstart in the Bridging Camp, a traditional winter hotspot for this species. Like the rest seen earlier in the day, this was a female/immature bird, but I later located a stunning adult male in the camp.

Sadly, this stunning adult male Black Redstart wasn't close enough for a good photo.
Carrying onto Littlesea Holiday Camp, amongst the small number of Brent Geese in Lynch Cove, was a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose. I was more interested in checking the wood, where recent visits have yielded a very poor return. 3 Common Chiffchaffs gave me some optimism, then just as I was getting to the other end of the wood, a vocal phylloscopus warbler grabbed my attention. Further investigation confirmed my suspicions, it was a cracking Siberian Chiffchaff. This individual had obviously suffered the same fate as the earlier Northern Wheatear. This bird though, had an especially stumpy tail, giving it a really cute appearance. 

Sibe Chiff. GET IN!

The light was awful when taking these shots.

What was interesting about this bird was that it was giving two call types, both typical of P. tristis. As well as the most familiar "peep" call, it also uttered a "hweet", but unlike the "huweet" call of Common Chiffchaff, it was shorter in duration and higher pitched, giving it a sweeter sound. This is a call I've heard before, uttered from a bird in the hand, that was confirmed by DNA I might add. This "hweet" call seemed to be an excitement call.

On the subject of calls, in light of recent events, had listened to recordings of Pale-legged and Sakhalin Warblers. There is a slight difference between the two species, the latter being slightly longer with a slight upward inflection toward the end. Having heard the 2012 Portland bird calling, I'm happy in my own mind that it was indeed a Pale-legged Warbler, which, lets be honest, on paper is the most likely candidate for vagrancy to north west Europe.

Not being rebellious here and not a decision I've made for listings sake, 'cause I don't care much about that. I do believe, based on the calls I heard, that this 2012 bird was a Pale-legged Warbler, but understand from a point of view of a records committee, that without a sound recording and DNA, that the either or decision had to be made.

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