A family day trip to Dorset began with an early morning visit to RSPB Arne. We arrived just as the car park gates had been opened and made our way through the mixed woodland and heathland towards the Shipstall Point hide. Once there we had fantastic views over the salt marsh and mudflats where I discovered a fantastic number of European Spoonbill, 34 in total. A rather noisy Common Raven appeared overhead and began to harry the resident Eurasian Curlew before a Great Black-backed Gull intervened and eventually grounded it. We then walked to the nearby viewing point which had a fantastic vista overlooking Brownsea and adjacent islands. In the bay below 5 Red-breasted Merganser and a couple of Great Crested Grebe fished. We then returned to the car but not before stopping to photograph a couple of herds of Sika Deer, an introduced Asian species that favours woodland and farmland.
We then drove the twenty or so miles to Weymouth where I dropped of my wife and daughter, who fancied a bit of retail therapy, and were happy to leave me to some therapy of my own. I knew that a wintering Black Guillemot was present at Portland Harbour so I parked at Chesil Beach and spent an hour searching the harbour to no avail. I did find an impressive 109 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Black-necked Grebe, a single Little Grebe and a lone Black-throated Diver. I later found out that the Black Guillemot was present below Portland Castle so will have to organise another trip before the Spring.
I then drove to Portland Bill in search of Purple Sandpiper but I obviously arrived too late in the day as none were present during my visit. I did find a single Black Redstart that was doing a fantastic job of copying the resident Rock Pipits in their feeding habits, gleaning the weed covered rocks of small invertebrates. Out to sea a fantastic gathering of c1000 Northern Gannet were busily diving for fish while close to the cliffs a single Northern Fulmar effortlessly passed by. I then returned back to Weymouth to pick up my ladies and managed to persuade them to allow me the briefest of visits to RSPB Lodmoor. On arrival I noted a Marsh Harrier as it glided overhead although at altitude while out on the marsh a pair of Common Shelduck dabbled in the shallows.
It was now time to leave and head off to our planned final destination, Swanage. A family favourite this quaint little seaside town still retains its charm and offered my ladies a final spot of shopping and me a final spot of birding. I walked towards the pier and past the now derelict lifeboat station to Peveril Point. On the rocks a total of 4 Rock Pipit fed while close to shore a single adult Black-legged Kittiwake passed by, a fitting end to my day.
A list of species observed as follows:-
Black-throated Diver, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, European Spoonbill, Mute Swan, Brent Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Feral Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, European Robin, Black Redstart, Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Treecreeper, Eurasian Nuthatch, Common Magpie, Western Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Raven, Common Starling, Common Chaffinch, Eurasian Bullfinch.