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, 6 March 2016

Four Countries In One Day

In October 1997, one day I was watching a Pallas's Warbler and the next day I was watching a Siberian Rubythroat. That was eighteen and a half years ago.

Fast forward to 2016 and it's March, not October or November, yes, March. So, Friday just gone, I'm watching a cracking Pallas's Warbler at Portesham. Some of my best views ever were had of this delightful Sibe.

Yesterday, a crew consisting of myself, Rich Bonser, Steve Arlow and Richard Howard headed off to Holland for that ultimate of Sibes, Siberian Rubythroat.

We arrived on site at first light. Myself and Steve decided to get into position, whilst the other two stayed in the car to catch up on some sleep. It wasn't long before I spotted the stunning 1st-winter male Siberian Rubythroat moving through the vegetation. Then came the moment that will be etched in our memories forever. The bird then came closer, and closer, and closer, until it was in full view within 2 or 3 feet of us. The looks myself and Steve gave each other was a mix of incredulity and joy. Steve then raced off to get the others and together we all enjoyed, at times, extraordinary views of this normally skulking species. To watch this stunner down to a few feet, without needing the aid of optics, was one of the highlights of my years of birding. We never expected to get the views we were given, it was quite astonishing. We were even treated to the bird serenading us with it's sub song.


After watching this beauty for a few hours, we headed off for home, but on the way home, was another Sibe on offer.

First though, Rich was wanting to call into a park in Amsterdam for a Western Paleartic tick. This was one of the funniest parts of the trip and Rich got no end of piss taken out of him for wanting to see the very plastic Alexandrine Parakeets that occur there. Apparently a self sustaining population occurs in the Netherlands.

The very similar Ring-necked Parakeets were more numerous in the park.

After quarter of an hour of this silliness, we were off for our next target, a Pine Bunting. I saw 2 male Pine Buntings in a single week in 1992, I haven't seen one since.

We arrived with a needle in a haystack situation, but as luck would have it, we spotted a birder on a bicycle and we were directed to the right area. Steve spotted it grovelling around and again, like the Rubythroat, we were treated to sensational views. Being a 1st-winter female, this was a real birders bird. What was a real education was hearing the flight call, which though similar to Yellowhammer, was distinctly more metallic in tone. Something to listen out for in future me thinks.

Note the white edges to the primaries and lack of yellow in this birds plumage.

A truly brilliant day, setting foot in Holland, Belgium, France and England, all in one day.

Thanks to Rich Bonser for organizing the trip and doing the driving. Was also great to meet both Steve, who's truly amazing photographic skills I envy and Richard, who I also envy, as he spends most of the year living in Spain, the lucky man.