I spent several days in the fabulous Dorset countryside a few weeks ago, based primarily around the coastal village of Lyme Regis. For those that don’t know Lyme Regis is the best fossil hunting location in the country with cliffs that basically form a large conveyor belt bringing new specimens onto the beaches on a daily basis. I spent most of my time there religiously combing the shore and came back with some great finds. The only problem was that this didn’t leave much time for a lot of birding. The coast at Lyme Regis had limited offerings in the form of numerous Herring Gulls, loads of Meadow Pipits and Rock Pipits and a very surprising Razorbill. In fact I’m not sure if it was the Razorbill or me that was more surprised as it popped up from beneath the water only a few meters away from where I was stood.
The one day of proper birdwatching we managed was along the Axe Estuary just over the border in Devon. We spent the morning traveling on the Seaton tramway which cuts right through the middle of the estuary affording superb views in all directions. The first bird we saw was a stunning Merlin sat on a fencepost that only took flight as we were right alongside it. Moments later a Deer (presumably a Roe) bolted out straight in front of the tram before running out across the mud and onto an island in the river. Other birds seen from the tram included Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Shellduck, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Wigeon.
Wigeon on the Axe Estuary
On the return leg we broke our journey at Colyford to go and explore the nature reserve at Colyford Common. Boy was I glad we did that. From the brand new hide we were immediately on to a male Ruff (my first of the year) as well as a couple of Green Sandpipers and three Ringed Plovers. Scanning around I spotted a suspicious looking bird that I quickly realised was a Curlew Sandpiper! I had another life tick and for one of my bogey birds as well. Admittedly it wasn’t that close to home but I’m not going to complain as it was a beautiful little thing. It was at this point that a rather excited gentlemen burst into the hide asking if we had seen the Buff Breasted Sandpiper that had just flown our way. No I hadn’t but I would certainly like to. Unfortunately he then pointed to the Ruff and began to describe its features and explain how he was experienced with this species behaviour having seen one before. I didn’t have the heart to contradict him as he seemed very happy with himself but in my opinion it was a Ruff. At the end of the day if you are convinced you have seen something then who has the right to tell you that you haven’t? In fact in his opinion he probably thought I was wrong but we both went home happy and confident in our identification. That’s how bird watching should be in my opinion.
Across Colyford Common to the Seaton Tramway
Elsewhere around Dorset I captured some cracking shots of a few of our more common species including a Robin that was singing his little heart out so close to me that I actually had to move back to get him in the frame.
During our stay we also popped into the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake in the hope of seeing some Bearded Tits. We were out of luck on that score but did see a Common Snipe, four Gadwall, twenty Teal and a pair of Shovellers. The best was saved till last though with a stonking Mediterranean Gull sat amongst the Black Headed Gulls in the reserve car park.
As you can see from the picture above this bird is ringed much like the one I found on Gower a few months ago. The ring reads 3J76 and I shall send off the details to find out where this bird originates from. Stay tuned for another edition of “This is your life”.