Sat 25th February
Today was to be a day of filthy dirty twitching and it began here in this Hampshire suburb. News of the Spanish Sparrow first broke on 9th January, however a small number of hybrid sparrows residing in the area prove the bird has clearly already enjoyed at least one breeding season here.
Seeing this bird is not difficult at all, provided you look at the right time of day (the bird usually shows first thing and then mid-afternoon). Arriving on site early we had the bird showing very well at close range within a few minutes.
Spanish sparrow - lifer no 282
However that there was some evidence that the locals were beginning to find birders a little tiresome...
Sparrow sorted before breakfast; next stop was just a few miles away for the Dark-eyed Junco in the New Forest.
Unfortunately this bird was not nearly as accommodating as the Sparrow and a lengthy wait ensued. Common Crossbills showed well in bare trees. Siskin, Coal Tit and Goldcrest were noted, Great Spot drummed, Green Woody called, a couple of Buzzards thermalled, an endless stream of Reed Bunting and Chaffinch visited the feeding station, a tumbleweed drifted across the scene, but Junco still not come.
Because of the sporadic nature of this Junco’s previous appearances I was fast losing faith that it would show. Around 12 Dartford Warblers nearby provided a welcome change of scenery and a year tick. A couple of Stonechat were also present in the gorse.
The Dark-eyed Junco did eventually appear after 2.00pm, frustratingly at first feeding in the undergrowth, but eventually revealling itself properly on it's favoured log (lifer 283).
Following Junco viewing we went back for seconds on the Sparrow which showed once again and could be seen and heard belting out Spanish chirpings from deep within the hedge, although this was sadly no good for further photographs. At least one of the male sparrow hybrids was also noted.
Sunday 26th February
A scan of the harbour water revealed an impressive 10 or so Black-necked Grebes, 1 Slavonian Grebe, Great-crested Grebe and around 20 Red-breasted Merganser. Could not see a Red-necked Grebe which had been previously reported.
Following this, there was a visit to Portland Bird Observatory, which was quiet on the bird front but it was great to meet the warden and check out the place as I will be staying here soon. Great bookshop here too.
The main target bird was Glossy Ibis, which I’m embarrassed to say was still missing from my list. As part of the recent influx, one had been knocking around here but had been elusive and continued to be elusive (i.e. invisible) throughout our visit, despite some sustained watching from the North Hide.
This is a great little reserve to visit though, although being so central to Weymouth it can be rather busy with non-birding folk and general dudeyness. Nonetheless birds noted here included 2 Iceland Gulls (1st & 2nd winter), 6 Med Gulls, 2 Stonechat, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, 2 Kingfisher excavating a nest hole, Cetti’s warbler, Water Rail, c20 Snipe and Sparrowhawk.
Tufted Duck, often overlooked, were very obliging in some nice sunlight...
Another chance of Glossy Ibis here and this bird was on show immediately from the private road. Tart out of the way - lifer 284. I have to admit I enjoyed watching this bird far more than I’d anticipated. Iridescent sheen showed up well in the afternoon sun, not that this is at all evident in my photo...
Notice the Glossy Ibis was wearing bling – a cream coloured ring reading 3T7, indicating that it was ringed in Donana and spent some time in Devon before coming to Dorset.
A most enjoyable three tick weekend.