Monday, 28 February 2022

#LocalBigYear - February

January is an easy month to get excited about. The new start, the blank sheet (in some cases literal, as birders crack open a pristine notebook) and every species an addition to the nascent year-list. January is a hard act to follow...

And so it has sometimes proved in years past, with February a big let-down. But this year has been different. Instead of covering the same ground I did in January, and experiencing the inevitable law of diminishing returns, I ventured inland to areas I have previously given little or no attention. And it has been a revelation. To be fair, my species list hasn't increased hugely (from 89 to 101) but the enjoyment quotient remains pleasingly high.

I could single out a few birds which provided special moments, but it seems a shame to reduce this month to a list of species when other factors contributed just as much to February's highlights as the birds themselves. My main pleasure has come from simply broadening my horizons and trying out a few quiet corners of my local area. Quiet corners where birders rarely go. The usual word is 'underwatched' but I wonder if 'unwatched' might be more appropriate in some cases.

One such area provided me with 130+ Stock Doves and four Little Grebes. No big deal maybe, but Little Grebe was a year tick and the Stock Dove count higher than any recorded in the latest Dorset Bird Report! A new spot for me, made very memorable by two common species. Context is everything...

Little Grebe, this one photographed at West Bexington yesterday

At this rate I might have to start calling myself a birdwatcher rather than birder! But seriously, easing right off the throttle has been very good for me this past couple of years, and I can honestly say I am enjoying my birding at least as much as I ever have.

I've had the nocmig kit out on 14 nights since the 6th, and at the moment there are three species on my nocmig list which have yet to feature in any other way: Barn Owl, Curlew and Oystercatcher. In fact Oystercatchers have flown over, calling, on four nights so far. Where are they off to? Fascinating.

In a month's time there should be one or two summer migrants on the #LocalBigYear list, and last year there was a bonus Laughing Gull too. Also in March 2021, Long-tailed Duck, Eider and Pochard. I've always considered March one of the better months for wildfowl goodies, so here's hoping. But as for vagrants, well...

Photogenic Stonechats are a feature of every month, thankfully.

Friday, 25 February 2022

A Dose of Meds

I do bang on about gulls quite a lot, don't I? I can't help it; they have the capacity to surprise and delight like no other group of birds I can think of. The other day I was chatting with Mike, one of the Axe patch birders, and he reminded me of that day two years ago when Mediterranean Gulls invaded the Axe. I had a feeling it was about now, but in fact it was January 29th. From a previous peak Med Gull count of 30-odd, the Axe record jumped to a staggering 123, completely out of the blue. I was fortunate enough to witness it, and of course wrote a blog post to celebrate the occasion. So far this winter on the Axe I've had just the odd Med Gull here and there, but this afternoon there were four. Dazzling sunshine made for low ISO and [relatively] high shutter speeds, so here are all of them...

2nd-winter

2nd-summer, more or less

Adult

1st-winter (on the left-hand end of the line)

Even now, after many thousands over many years, each Med Gull winkled from a flock of BHGs still feels like a precious little nugget. Or, on the rare occasion I've seen them in big numbers, the joy is in the sheer spectacle. Like that time last October when loads flew past me at West Bay, including a sample count of 100 in nine minutes. I wrote a blog about that too.

Not Quite Scilly would be a lot poorer without gulls.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Quality Gulls

Despite a fair bit of checking, so far this winter I haven't found many gulls to get excited about. An unexpected intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull, a few Meds, a couple of young Common Gulls with retained juv scapulars, and that's about it. But things seem to be warming up at last.

Yesterday I spent a bit of time at the Axe Estuary, between jobs and after work. A light sprinkling of LBBGs was good to see, mostly graellsii, but at least two or three dark intermedius jobs. And many of the adult Herring Gulls are looking really smart now, with lovely clean, white heads. And then, late in the day, I noticed a slightly darker-mantled bird among them, north of Coronation Corner. Momentarily I thought it had a dark eye, and got a slightly Casp-ish vibe from it, but no, the iris was pale, and the bill a bit too brightly coloured for a typical adult Casp. Also, far too much black on the underside of p10. Not a brute by any means, so I put it down as a presumably female Yellow-legged Gull...

Quite a looker. An elegant female (probably) Yellow-legged Gull

And again, with an adult HG on the right for mantle shade comparison purposes

Unfortunately it was a bit distant for really good pics, and flew off downriver within a few minutes. Still, great to finally get a nice gull. All pleased with myself, I too headed off downriver. I could see a sizeable bunch of large gulls by the tram depot. This is about the best spot on the Axe for close views, and they're really easy to do with bins here. To my surprise, among the closest birds was the Yellow-legged Gull. It hadn't flown out to sea after all...

Lovely light for comparing mantle shades. Adult argenteus HG in the background. The dark markings on the bill suggest the YLG is not quite fully adult.

Again I only had a short time with the bird, because something spooked the whole flock and this time they really did all head out to sea. Reviewing the photos afterwards I suddenly realised this wasn't the bird I saw at Coronation Corner. A number of subtle differences, certainly enough to be conclusive.

So. Two Yellow-legged Gulls. Both showed small signs of immaturity still, but near enough adult as makes no difference. And both very elegant examples of the species, lacking the brutish look of big males.

In other news, a solid hour of lunchtime at Kilmington WTW failed to yield any tristis Chiffs, despite good numbers (20+? 30+?) of standard collybita. And an early seawatch from West Bay on Tuesday simply added another 28 and 7 to the year's Kittiwake and Gannet totals respectively.

Thank goodness for gulls.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

In the Wake of Eunice

Storm Eunice battered a merciless path across Britain on Friday, taking one and a half of our neighbour's fence panels with it. The storm also did a pretty thorough job of sweeping our bit of Lyme Bay clean of birds. Seriously, a late-afternoon seawatch from Cogden yielded precisely nothing...

There might not have been any seabirds passing, but wow!


Meanwhile, in the sunny lee of a hedge...

This Stonechat - and the gorse - acting like it's spring already

To be honest, if asked what the storm might produce in the way of seabirds I would have replied, 'Probably none.' Plus a rider that the next day or two might do the business. Which is why I've been in the West Bay shelter first thing these last two mornings.

I stuck it for an hour yesterday, but just 30 minutes this morning. On Saturday I counted 124 Kittiwakes, 11 Gannets and 3 auk sp. Most of the Kittiwakes were literally miles out, and identifiable only by jizz. This morning was slower: 10 Kitts, and singles of Gannet, auk sp, Med Gull and Common Scoter.

Yay! Common Scoter! Finally, a ton up for the #LocalBigYear list.

So that's the sea. What about the land? Not much to tell, but a walk from Cogden to West Bex and back yesterday was suitably bracing, if not that birdy. In fact, the first winged creature I noticed was not a bird at all...

Honey Bee in the sheltered gorse, also acting like it's spring.

I counted 30 Teal, 2 Wigeon and 16 Shovelers on the West Bex Mere, and a Shelduck flew west. The gulls were unapproachable and disappointing, so I went to check out the buntings. It's almost two weeks since I last gave them any time, so it was nice to see four male Reed Bunts in the gang now. One of the female Cirls was also in residence. A few pics...

Female Cirl Bunting is a tricky ID challenge, but even this tiny amount of rump on a Yellowhammer would give away the chestnut colour.

No rump here, obviously, but among other features you can detect a subtle ghosting of the male's breast colouring: a greeny-grey wash with a touch of chestnut below at the sides.

Female Cirl on the left, Yellowhammer on the right.

I thought it might be useful to enlarge on that last pic. As Cirl Bunting gradually seems to be expanding its range there is a very real possibility of birds turning up well away from the core breeding area. Cirl is still a rarity in Dorset, but in January one was found in Glamorgan, South Wales. The last Welsh bird was in 2004, and the most recent Glamorgan record in 1982! It was a male, therefore unmistakeable, but I wonder how many extralimital females slip through the net every winter. Cirl Bunting must surely be a realistic target in much of southwest England, and perhaps elsewhere? So...

Although the two birds in that photo look very similar, there are some subtle - but consistent - differences. I'll mention three:

  1. Cirl has strikingly dark facial stripes.
  2. The pale ear covert spot (between the rear end of each dark stripe) is almost white, and though small, it stands out vividly in almost any view. Often it is the first feature to catch my eye when looking for the Cirl. On Yellowhammer the spot can be quite variable, but it never seems to stand out to that degree.
  3. Devon birder Mike Langman is more familar with Cirl Bunting than most, and put us on to this brilliant feature last winter: See that fine, sharp, dark streak curling over the eye? Apparently it is diagnostic* of Cirl Bunting. Yellowhammer doesn't seem to show it, or if it does it is very, very faint. That dark streak is obvious in all three photos above. Even if I can see barely anything else on the bird when it is buried in the hedge, that streak is enough to tell me I'm looking at the Cirl.

* Hopefully 'diagnostic' is not too strong. If it is, I'm sure someone will put me right.

I've learned to beware of the occasional dull, washed-out Yellowhammer, and concentrate instead on the facial features, plus rump of course, if it's visible.

I hope that might be helpful for any birder who fancies sifting their local Yellowhammers. Obviously I am no expert, but I'm a bit better at them now than I was 14 months ago!

Finally...

Local birder Tom Brereton recently organised a get-together of other Bridport birders at the excellent Tiger Inn. It was in effect the inaugural meeting of the Bridport Bird Club, though there was a bit more to it than meets the eye. But I'll save that for another post...

The fledgling Bridport Bird Club proudly show off their 'membership cards'. L to R: Luke Phillips, David Martin, Keith Desbois, Steve Crimp, me, Pete Forrest. (photo © Tom Brereton)

Thursday, 17 February 2022

The Calm Before the Storm...

Enjoyed an absolutely brilliant walk earlier today. A roughly seven-mile circuit, much of it new to me. It was in the general vicinity of recent Goshawks, so my hopes were high, but reality definitely exceeded expectations. Over the course of four hours I had several sightings, probably on most occasions that I stopped for a good scan. Mostly the female today, but the male at least three times. Like the many Buzzards, they appeared to enjoy the brisk wind. Along with a Sparrowhawk, two Kestrels and a surprise pair of Peregrines, Gos and Buzzard took the raptor count to five species. I don't often manage that without a Red Kite or Hobby on the list. I even got photos of all five. A few of the less awful ones...

The female Goshawk. The spotty/streaky underparts indicate a 2cy (2nd calendar-year) bird.

Female Peregrine

Female Goshawk - typical view!

The male Goshawk. Prominent white undertail coverts visible even in this tiny image.

I thought it might be quite instructive to make a comparitive collage of the Sparrowhawk and female Goshawk. I suspect the Sparrowhawk is a female too, but cannot be sure. As I was only interested in the silhouettes really, here it is in B&W...

Sparrowhawk above, Gos below. Not to scale.

There was plenty of other stuff too. Two Marsh Tits, a sprinkling of winter thrushes, single Siskin and Jack Snipe; all in very scenic countryside.

One of the Marsh Tits

I've really enjoyed poking around in spots away from the coast this winter. It is quite hard work, but the rewards have made it more than worthwhile. That said, the previous couple of days have started with a short seawatch from West Bay. Apart from a Red-throated Diver and a meagre helping of Kitts, Gannets and auks, it has been quiet. I'm still waiting for my first Common Scoter of 2022.

Storm Eunice arrives tomorrow. There'll probably be a Common Scoter in the garden...

Monday, 14 February 2022

Avoiding the Definite Article

It is impossible to be a birder on Twitter right now and not know what a drake Baikal Teal looks like, or an American Robin. Every few minutes a fresh reminder appears. Some of the photos are really excellent, and if you want your search image for these two species reinforced, Twitter is a fine place to go.

I would imagine that some birders are galvanised into instant action by such pics: 'That is stunning! I must go and see it NOW!' Many years ago I might well have responded like that. Nowadays I get no further than the first three words, and with some other species which have bloated my Twitter feed on occasion, not even that far. I do sometimes ponder my complete disinterest in twitching, and wonder what led to it...

Complete disinterest? Hmmm...

It is true that I have moved pretty quick for some good local birds. Technically, that is twitching I suppose. But the last time I was struck with a must-go-and-see-it-NOW urge which took me out of my local area was the Axe Estuary American Herring Gull two years ago today, and it was possibly the most stressful 30-minute drive I've undertaken. But that was as much about context as it was the bird. A mega-rare gull at a much-loved former patch, and the very place I went to gull school. It had to be done. But other birds?

I would be the first to agree that the Baikal Teal really is stunning. However, though I've never seen one in the flesh, I definitely do not need it, and feel no urges.

What I do need is pleasure from my hobby, contentment, fulfillment; that kind of stuff. And I feel very privileged that I can get almost all of it from relatively common birds. Mind you, offer me the less common and I won't say no...

Another visit to the Goshawk site produced a very-much-hoped-for pair. For a while the female was chivvied by a Raven, and comfortably matched it for size. What a truly impressive beast! Mostly it was distant scope views, and I botched a brief opportunity for photos. This is the only one worth posting...

Female Goshawk, admittedly not looking as huge and impressive in this photo as I would have liked...

Much closer to home I added a new species to the #LocalBigYear list, bringing the tally to 99. I find it quite bizarre that I had so far failed to see this species locally in 2022, when exactly 1.62 miles from my house there was a field-full. And it still needed someone to tell me about them!

Lapwings - a few of the 196-strong flock!

The title of this blog post was inspired by my Twitter feed. Recently I noticed how frequently the definite article (i.e. the word 'the') appears in front of bird's names in the tweets of some birders I follow. Obvious examples are the American Robin and the Baikal Teal. But often the species involved will be far less rare. So we have the Shore Larks, for example, the Black-necked Grebe, and on one occasion even the Water Pipit. And it suddenly struck me how many birders treat a day's birding as basically a tour from one 'known' bird to the next. I'm not knocking it, but it made me take a close look at my own behaviour to see if I do similar, if on a more compact scale. And yes, sometimes I do go somewhere to see 'the' something-or-other, but it is not the norm. By far and away the majority of my outings are totally on-spec visits, with no specific target or expectation. And this made me wonder if therein lies one of the keys to contentment with relatively everyday birds? I suppose I reasoned this way: If you go somewhere to see the [insert species] and you fail to see it, well, that's disappointing, isn't it? If you go somewhere expecting nothing in particular, surely it's hard to be disappointed?

Or perhaps I'm being a bit simplistic. Whatever, I know which I prefer these days.

Friday, 11 February 2022

Bird of the Year

In the last twenty-something years I have seen Goshawk exactly three times: one in December 2004, a pair in February 2005 and another single in August that year. All three encounters were especially delightful because they were on my old Axe patch, when I lived in Seaton. Also, each was completely unexpected. The first occasion, in company with my old pal @birdingprof, provided the best view of the species I have had anywhere, with an adult perched up in a tree just across the field from us. We were scouting Dipper locations for an upcoming New Year's bird race and equipped with just bins, but even binocular views were sufficient to blow socks right off. Oh for a Nikon P900 in those distant times!

Following that brief flurry of sightings - and a few by other local birders - Goshawk suddenly became very rare again. I've never travelled to any breeding areas to look for them, so that was that. Until 2021...

Last year I was kindly given a tip-off, but wasn't really able to capitalise on it properly, and failed to see any. However, this year I was determined to make a proper effort and have been patiently waiting for a convenient sunny morning...

As I say, it's been many years since my last Goshawk, but the moment I clapped eyes on one again brought the memories flooding back. The slow, deep, elastic wingbeats are such a giveaway, and so different to Sparrowhawk. I had about twenty minutes of on/off scope views before the bird melted away. In size comparison with a pair of Ravens which gave it close escort for a while, I would say it was a male. I got one decent chance with the camera, and the following collage comprises every frame from the burst of seven. It was not close!

Male Goshawk. What a beast!

Needless to say, I have no intention of divulging the location. As far as I'm aware, those Axe patch birds were not around for more than a year or two, and I have no idea what happened to them. Perhaps they moved on of their own accord? Or maybe there was a more sinister reason for their disappearance? Whatever, there is no doubt that Goshawk is one of those birds where careless words can indeed cost lives. Much to our own collective shame as a species.

But on a more positive note:

Wow!!! What a bird!! 

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

New Bins

At the turn of the year I wrote a post about the need to upgrade my bins. At the time I thought I knew what I wanted (see original NQS post here) but comments on the blog and on Twitter persuaded me to think again, particularly as I am not in the 'money no object' category. It is so helpful having access to the opinions and experience of so many fellow birders through these two social media. Anyway, long story short: I bought a three-year-old pair of Swarovski 10x32 EL in immaculate condition.

1987 Zeiss Dialyt 10x40 BGAT vs 2018 Swarovski 10x32 EL

Comparing them with my 35-year-old Zeiss is simply not fair. Chalk and cheese. Bright, sharp, crystal clear, contrasty - absolutely stunning! There was one hitch...

My eyes are super sensitive to collimation issues, and these bins were very slightly out of adjustment. It took me a day or two to be sure, but on Jan 11th I sent them off for treatment to Swarovski Optik UK. They do all the necessary customs paperwork and forward the bins to HQ in Austria. Exactly four weeks and one day later (yesterday) they arrived back via DHL On Demand, internally cleaned, perfectly collimated and sporting a bonus pair of new eye cups. At no cost to me. I took them out immediately and looked at Woodcocks. The Swarovski service was basically excellent, but I do have one small complaint. At no stage of the process did I receive acknowledgement from Swarovski that my bins were in the system. Yes, the Post Office confirmed that they had been signed for by Swarovski Optik UK in Surrey, but that was the last I knew of my bins' little jaunt until yesterday's message from DHL that they were out for delivery to me later in the day. Pretty poor communication really. But the bins are so brilliant that I don't care!

The increase in image contrast over my old Zeiss is so noticeable that birds actually look slightly different. It is going to take some getting used to. I now realise why I've made the odd ID cock-up in recent times. Clearly a lot of birds look exactly like other species when they're all smudged and blurry. In a short time I ought to be back to my infallible old self...

The new bins get an after-work gulling lesson this afternoon.

PS. I am very grateful to everyone who offered opinions and advice via Twitter and/or this blog's comments facility. It all helped. Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Local Doings

The last few days of local birding have been both fun and pretty rewarding. On Saturday afternoon I took a walk from home, north up the River Asker valley to a picturesque old mill in the middle of nowhere. The highlights were very modest, but included a few Meadow Pipits, 250+ Redwings in two flocks, four Little Egrets and a fly-by Peregrine, my first of the year...

Redwing. 150 of its mates just out of shot.

Meadow Pipit

Little Egrets still have a tiny bit of novelty appeal when they're along the local river.

Peregrine in all its miniscule glory.

A single Common Gull was actually quite notable at this location.

Mistle Thrush at Mangerton Mill Lake

Since then there have been efforts to add Golden Plover to my #LocalBigYear tally (fail), a fourth Marsh Tit and a handful of Corn Buntings...

Marsh Tit near Powerstock Common

Uncooperative Corn Bunting near Eggardon Hill

Which brings me to today.

This morning I was kindly invited to accompany a local birder on one of his periodic visits to census a wintering flock of Woodlarks. The count was 18 (there have been as many as 22) and as they flippety-flopped around for a minute or so before resettling, there was a chance to get some ropey flight shots...

Six of the 18 Woodlarks. This shot captures their distinctive jizz quite well. Broad wings and short tails.

Having a wander nearby for a bit produced a nice flock of c200 Chaffinches - sadly Brambling free - and another opportunity to photograph thrushes badly through gaps and behind twigs...

Fieldfare

Redwing

It is fair to say that without assistance I would never in a million years have discovered those Woodlarks for myself, and anyway, they are on private land. I am increasingly coming to appreciate the quality of birding available on my doorstep. The local countryside is not all wonderful by any means, but there are lots of little pockets here and there, if you know where to look. And again, I was kindly pointed towards another in my so-far-unsuccessful search for Woodcock. So this afternoon I tried it...and found FOUR! Winner!

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Sound 'ON'

A couple of local birders are making a sterling effort to compile a 2021 local bird report for the Bridport area. This is a lovely idea and it's galvanised me into finishing off my 2021 nocmig data entry so that it can be included. This has involved a dreaded spreadsheet, but yesterday I finally got it done. There is an entry for each night, but here is a summary of the monthly totals...


I had to insert it as a screenshot, so not too sure how legible it will be when embedded in the blog post, but that's the best I can do right now. I only missed one night in March, none in April, four in May and June, three in July, one in August and six in September. October was a bit rubbish, and I recorded only 13 nights. I managed the first five nights in November, and that was it for 2021. Therefore, if my sums are correct, the table shows the results of 213 nights nocmig.

There are some very nice highlights, including Stone-curlew and Ring Ouzel, but my personal favourite thing about nocmig is all the wader action I get here. Being three miles from the sea and a lot further from the nearest pukka wader habbo (there is so little around here) every single wader is a small 'wow' moment.

Needless to say, I'm hooked, and plan to do it all again this year. Earlier this evening I deployed the nocmig kit for its first outing of 2022, to the sound of the local church bells loudly wrecking the start of the night's recording! I recently applied for and was granted a Trektellen login, so I'll be trying that platform from now on. Perhaps nocmig spreadsheets are a thing of the past? I hope so!


Yes, I am manager of the official Bradpole nocmig site...

There is a slight problem though. After requesting my Trektellen login, and registering my site as 'Bradpole' I made the surprising discovery that I do not after all live in the civil parish of Bradpole. Rather, I live in what is actually a sneaky part of the parish of Bridport which extends into Bradpole CP like an invasive tongue. Although it was a crushing disappointment to learn that I no longer live in a cosy Dorset village, but a full-blown market town, hopefully Trektellen isn't worried about this trivial factoid.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

#LocalBigYear Listing Ethics for the Unethical

Off the beaten track again this afternoon, and another wander up a quiet back lane. Slightly NW of where I tried yesterday, and a much shorter route. Still, with all the poking around off-piste here and there I still clocked up more than six miles. This map shows the bare bones of it...

A bit of footpath exploration on the top loop, but mostly on the road.

I was hoping to add to the Marsh Tit tally, but that didn't happen. Still, it was great once again to walk roads I've only ever cycled previously, and there was plenty to keep me occupied...

I was surprised to see this Wild Strawberry(?) flowering in a hedge bank in early February, but I don't really do plants and perhaps shouldn't have been?

This Mistle Thrush was one of four seen, but the only one singing.

Siskins being very uncooperative

Coming across a little group of Siskins was the surprise of the afternoon [correction: almost the surprise of the afternoon - see below]. There were at least six, and at first I could only hear them. Very faint initially, but I was unexpectedly thrilled at the sound. Wow! Siskins! But that's what happens when you try somewhere largely unwatched and have basically zero expectations. Unfortunately they flew off before I could get a better photo.

A bit later I found them again, at least a quarter of a mile from the original spot. Or maybe they were a different lot. Anyway, they were feeding in Alders, a good 150m away across an open field. From the road I could see there were 10 or so. I took a couple of full-zoom photos, with the intention of later trying to count them from the pics. And thought no more of it.

So I get home, enlarge the photos and start counting...

One, two, three... Hello, what's this? What's this brown thing?

In fact there were two brown things...

Hmmm. That's a Lesser Redpoll right there...

...and that's another one.

Careful scrutiny revealed a total of 10 Siskins with those 2 Redpolls.

I could be wrong, but I guess it's likely that many (most?) other birders would find themselves with a problem right now. A listing-type ethical problem. I mean, there's no doubt that two Lesser Redpolls were present this afternoon, but I didn't actually see them. Well, maybe I saw them, but just as unidentifiable blips that I assumed were Siskins. Can I count them? What would an ethical birder do?

Who cares?!

As a not-very-ethical birder in relaxed pursuit of a #LocalBigYear list I'll tell you what I am going to do. Yesterday's Marsh Tit was species number 90. Today's Siskin, 91, and today's Lesser Redpoll, 92. There, that was easy.

And if you think that's bad, wait until I fire up the nocmig kit...

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

A Walk in the Country

This afternoon I walked a favourite old cycle route - a nine mile, country lane circuit from the nearby village of Powerstock. I've fancied it for a while, and wondered whether Marsh Tit was a possiblity. After all, the circuit passes very close to Powerstock Common, the only place locally I've seen that species. Here's the route...


Well, for several miles I saw very few birds at all. I'm not kidding. Yes, the odd Robin, a few House Sparrows and whatnot around the occasional farmyard, but barely anything in between. Climbing south-east away from Powerstock up King's Lane brings you to the high ground near Eggardon Hill. Turning north from there is like heading into a green desert...

Birdless. Honestly.

The heady whiff of slurry at this point...

Thankfully the ground slowly drops away towards the edge of Powerstock Common, and birds...

Yesss! My first Marsh Tit for a couple of years, and a lovely species to hit 90 with.

Bullfinch.

At its lowest point the road passes beneath an old railway bridge, long redundant. In wet weather it floods here, and once I tried cycling through the accumulated water only to find the 'puddle' was in fact a knee-deep lake. It was dry today, and I was interested to see that a load of work was in progress, seemingly to turn the old railway into a path of some kind...

A nice bit of industrial Victoriana there. The line opened in 1857.

Up on top...

Looking east. I've just read that Sustrans have funding to turn this old line (Maiden Newton to Bridport) into a cycle path. Presumably that's what is going on here. The sign says 'Please keep off. New path surface bedding in.' Obviously I kept off.

Looking west. Plenty to do yet...

The lane is quite pretty along this stretch, and light drifts of Snowdrops brightened it further...


Another uphill trudge here, before turning back towards Powerstock for the home leg. Amazingly I jammed two more Marsh Tits, both together and presumably (hopefully!) a pair. I got a very bad photo of one of them...

One of two. Well over a mile from the first Marsh Tit.

It was dark by the time I was back in Powerstock. Though I hadn't fluked a Woodcock, I did enjoy the delightful sight and sound of a loose flock of 100+ Fieldfares heading over through the gloom to roost. I was kind of doing likewise soon after...