Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Mortens' Murre and Chasing the Loon

On Sunday 29th December I joined Mark Chidwick on a twitch to Dorset for the Brunnich’s Guillemot (Thick-billed Murre) that had taken up residence at Portland Harbour. I picked Sue Morton up at 3.30am and met Chiddy along with Marc Heath at Tesco in Whitstable and we were soon on our way, arriving on site at 7.15am. The plan had been to tick the Guilly early and, maybe, get a picture then move on to Devon for a nice adult White-billed Diver making Brixham Harbour its home. Things, however, never work out as they should and we spent a couple hours with fears the target Guilly had departed. In the mean time we had the pleasure of watching at least 13 Red-breasted Mergansers, several Shags, 4 Little Grebes a Grey Heron and a Great-northern Diver. Looking out beyond the harbour walls it was evident there were many Common Guillemots on the water and we were worried the Brunnich’s was out there with them. At one point Mark and Marc decided to take photos of the Mergansers that were showing close in the Dorset sun but I thought the rare Guilly was more important but alas, soon gave in and snapped at a couple that were close but as close as the birds they had followed. 
Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Soon the news broke that the Brunnich’s Guillemot was still in the harbour but unfortunately was always in the most shaded part of the harbour throughout our stay.
Brunnich's Guillemot

Brunnich's Guillemot

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Brunnich's Guillemot
We had some fantastic views of this once in a life-time mega as it swam and fed at close quarters below the harbour wall. Also here were a couple of Black-throated Divers, at least 3 Razorbills and a fantastic winter plumage Black Guillemot and, in the words of Mr Heath, that was a stunner. Two Kingfishers whizzed by while we watched and on our exit towards Devon we saw our first Buzzard. Two hors later we pulled up in the car park at Brixham harbour and were soon watching the adult winter White-billed Diver (Yellow-billed Loon)as it swam up and down the centre channel of the harbour. Sadly never coming in close making photography impossible. Alongside were 2 Great-northern Divers and the White-billed appeared to dwarf these somewhat despite the written word saying they are similar in size. Also here were 2 more Black-throated Divers, 1 Common Guillemot and an overhead Buzzard.
My poor phonescoped White-billed Diver attempt!!!

After a good time watching this remarkable bird we moved a few miles up the coast to take in the opportunity to see Cirl Buntings at Broadsands. The last time I saw Cirl Buntings in Britain was on 21st June 1997 at nearby Exminster after a twitch to Dawlish Warren for a Semi-palmated Plover. An uneventful drive home added at least a dozen Buzzards along the A30 towards the M5. 
Cirl Bunting

Cirl Bunting

Cirl Bunting

Cirl Bunting

A fantastic day in good company with two outstanding birds, good to see Mr Heath expanding his British list with out of county ticks. The last twitch I did with Marc was the Scops Owl at Thrupp in Oxon on 19th June 2007










2 comments:

  1. A great account Martyn of a superb day, as you say we may never see these birds again.

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  2. Sounds u had a great time...glad you saw all your targets.

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