Just under two weeks ago, we had a fun Bird Race around Poole Harbour. The rules were similar to the Jan Dorset Bird Race, but with an added rule that teams should actively pass on news of good Birds, so it is a friendly & great day of local Birding. I teamed up with Peter Moore & we ended up with a day total of 114. But well behind the team of Nick Hopper & Paul Morton, who ended up with a record breaking 130. I won't go into the full details of the day as Peter had already provided a great write up of the day along with photos in his usual humourous style. But why did we end up with an average total for the day. A few factors including no planning or stakeout of sites (away from my current obsession with the Studland patch) & Peter getting side-tracked with photos for his photo year list. Peter would also be right in saying we spent too long looking for a Wryneck that had been found by Mike Gould & Tom Carley on Greenlands Farm: in my defence it is likely to be the only one I see on the Studland/Ballard patch this year. After unsuccessfully looking for the Wryneck for too long after we arrived at Greenlands Farm, we had a second look as we were leaving. Fortunately, as I was checking a party of Spotted Flycatchers, it popped up nearby. I had just enough time to get another team (the other Steve Smith & Terry Elborn) onto it, while Peter was photographing it, before it flew over our heads & disappeared into a large patch of Gorse. The Wryneck appeared in one of the fields visible from what I was beginning to suspect should be called The Rare Gate. I've just realised I don't have a photo of The Rare Gate, but I do have the views into the private fields visible from it.
Looking right from The Rare Gate: The Wryneck appeared in this line of trees. In April 14, I found a Hoopoe in this field
Looking left from The Rate Gate: This is the field where Mike & Tom found the Wryneck. Going back to 3 Oct 2010, I found a distant, but good looking candidate for a Rose-coloured Starling from the Brands Bay hide. It disappeared before any of the Harbour Listers arrived, but we relocated it & had cracking views, an hour later in this field. There are great photos of the Rose-coloured Starling on Nick Hopper's BlogAfter the Wryneck, I was starting to feel this is a key gate to lean on whilst scanning these private fields. So after a morning of Birding around South Haven & Brands Bay, I decided I couldn't neglect the Easterly winds & should give Greenlands Farm a go. Arriving at the gate, I scanned the field edges. It looked fairly quiet, then a pale fronted Bird caught my eye. It looked interesting, but was just at the range that the bins were struggling & I hadn't got the scope with me. Half obscured it looked like it might just be a Shrike, but more realistically a Spotted Flycatcher or Song Thrush could have fitted the bill & were much more likely. I just couldn't see much on it as it was partly obscured & too far away. I turned to the SX60 to grab some photos, but that failed. Next plan was the Canon 7D & 400mm lens. It didn't have the same magnification, but it is so much easier to find distant Birds with it.
Red-backed Shrike: Now you know how I was struggling with the bins & no scopeZooming into maximum crop, it was now looking like a Shrike. Moving left a little & it was a much better view. Some more photos & zooming & result, a Red-backed Shrike.
Red-backed Shrike: Juvenile. I had thought it was a female from the back of the camera views, but looking at it on the laptop I guess the pale mandible makes it a JuvenileThis was a Studland patch Tick & only my second in Poole Harbour. I think this is only the third record for Poole Harbour since the start of the millennium. Life isn't easy when your patch isn't on the East Coast. I started ringing around as it was still a Harbour Tick for several of the locals. While I was on the phone, I saw it fly across the field & disappear behind a tree. I assumed it had just gone up into the tree & would reappear a few minutes later. When it didn't, I moved to check the next field along the track, but still couldn't relocate it. Over the next nearly five hours, I spent a lot of time checking the adjacent fields, some of the time with assistance from Neil Gartshore & Jol Mitchell. In addition, we scanned the back of these private fields from the Brands Bay hide, as they all back onto the bay. Sadly, it wasn't relocated. I now have a really good excuse to spend even more time in future visits leaning on The Rare Gate.