Friday, 20 October 2017

Spoilt for choice?

The choices facing intrepid twitchers as the third weekend of October approaches have perhaps been more enticing: a dead Black and White Warbler in Merseyside, a nearly dead Yellow-billed Cuckoo on Scilly, or the ghostly apparition of a possible Lanceolated Warbler in North Norfolk being the headliners as the sun set tonight. As well as autumn migration, the Purbeck Film Festival is now in full flow, and with my wife up to her neck in organising it, and my bargaining position at an all time low after a recent trip to Shetland, leaving home is not really an option anyway, so I may just have a duvet day as Hurricane Brian approaches and reflect on the rare bird event of the week which took place just a few miles from home in Dorset.
At least three Firecrest were in the quarry near St Aldhelm's Head - this one was photographed on Portland on Sunday
I wrote last month about how three new birds seemed certain to be added to the Dorset list when the 2017 record books come to be written - that number has now risen to five. Following September's Least Sandpiper, the crème-de-la-crème of a scrumptious crop of American waders to turn up along the Jurassic Coast over the past few weeks, the latest addition was even rarer - a Two-barred Greenish Warbler near St Aldhelm's Head.
The bird had first been reported as a probable Arctic Warbler on Sunday evening - that would have been an excellent bird in Dorset (only the third record), but some uncertainty around the identification prompted Dorset Bird Club guvnor Marcus Lawson to urge any local birder with time on their hands to check it out. Fortunately, one of the sharpest, Brett Spencer, did so on Tuesday, and re-identified it as a Two-barred Greenish - the first record for Dorset, and only the fifth for Britain.
Firecrest - 68 were ringed at Portland Bill on Sunday, including this one
All very well then, but would I get to see it? It was cutting it very fine for me to get to St Aldhelm's after work and before dark - but I managed it thanks to some speed walking, a tense train journey and slinging my bike in the boot to save time between parking the car at Renscombe Farm and getting to the quarry where the bird was to be found.
Pale underparts helped pick out the Two-barred Greenish Warbler
The combination of heavy rain and a hyper-active bird made getting conclusive views difficult at first, but eventually it showed reasonably well and, in view of the conditions, I was delighted to get any kind of photograph. After August's Yellow Warbler from the Americas, this beast from the far east will hopefully not be the last surprise my adopted county has in store for 2017.
A thick wingbar on the greater coverts and a shorter, narrower wingbar on the median coverts can just about be seen here

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