29 April 2009

RSPB Long weekend...

Last weekend was our annual long weekend away with the Derby RSPB Group, we were based in Bournemouth and visited the RSPB reserves at Arne and Radipole, Portland Bill and also Durlston Country Park. As a group we saw or heard a total of 107 species with Lynda and myself managing a list amounting to 76 species. The number of birds was down a little on past years but the weekend itself was, as usual, of very high quality.

On Saturday we visited RSPB Arne, a reserve with a mixed habitat of heathland, mature woodland and also tidal marsh. Birds of note here included Little Egret, Spoonbill, Whimbrel, Curlew, Stonechat and a pair of friendly Wheatear that gave us some very close views. Large numbers of Sika deer were also seen during our walk around the reserve.

RSPB Arne.


At 4:45PM we left Arne and headed for the Riviera Hotel in Bournemouth. As with all the previous long weekend trips we’ve been on with the group, the non-birding side of the break is equally important - good food and a bar are as important as the birds! This year’s hotel provided us with superb food, both at breakfast and the evening meal, and also had plenty of space to relax with friends over a few drinks at night.

My birding started just before breakfast on Sunday when I took a stroll down to the sea front. Although I didn’t take my ‘bins with me I was still able to add Sandwich Tern to my trip list with numerous birds fishing just off the shoreline. Once back at the hotel a full cooked breakfast set me up for the day.

Bournemouth view.

Our first stop off on Sunday was RSPB Radipole in the centre of Weymouth. Despite it’s urban location this reserve is still rather scenic and also provided the group with some great birds. Great Crested Grebe, Shelduck, Gadwall, Teal and Tufted Duck were all present as was the somewhat dubious Hooded Merganser that has been on the reserve for some while now. I’ve recorded my sighting of this bird but reckon that it’s almost certain to fail the “wild or not” test of the BOU!

RSPB Radipole.

Other birds of note at Radipole included Marsh Harrier, Swift, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Cetti’s Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Blackcap. We also managed to get a couple of views of Bearded Tit as they flew, very quickly, over the reed beds!

From Radipole it was just a short coach ride to Portland Bill where we spent the rest of the afternoon. Portland could have been the perfect location for a few hours of birding if only the weather wasn’t so nice! The morning had started off dull and misty with one or two heavy rain showers. The wind was also rather strong and coming in off the sea, great for a bit of sea-watching. The problem was the rain cleared away, the sun came out and the bird movement suffered as a result. I did manage a count of around 320 Manx Shearwater in a little over an hour but failed to see any skuas at all.

Portland Bill.

Gannet, Shag, Turnstone, Guillemot, Razorbill and Rock Pipit were all seen at Portland along with a single Whimbrel that was wandering around the cliff top rocks. I would imagine the Whimbrel was a recent arrival on this side of the Channel and was resting up before continuing its journey north. Our birding for the day came to and end at 4:30PM when we set off on the return journey to the hotel. The evening was spent relaxing over another great meal and a few more drinks.


Monday was our last day of the trip and unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse. It was raining heavily as we ate breakfast and continued to do so as the coach drove to Durlston Country Park. We spent four hours at the Country Park and the rain persisted for much of that time. By far the most welcome sighting here was the Lookout Cafe where we enjoyed getting dry whilst having a bite to eat!

The Lookout Cafe.

What birding we did do resulted in sightings of Fulmar, Gannet, Peregrine, Guillemot, Razorbill, Stonechat, Whitethroat and, surprisingly, our first two Great Tits of the weekend! At just after 2:30PM our coach started the long journey home, just as the rain started to pour down again. It wasn’t the ideal end to the weekend but it certainly didn’t ruin it either.

As we headed north along the A34 towards Oxford a Red Kite flew low alongside the road and gave most people on the coach one last new species for the weekend - those that weren’t fast asleep that is! I was lucky enough to be awake at that moment!


  1. Nic (Birdnerdblog)30 April, 2009 22:16

    Hey Rich!
    Sounds like you had a great trip!
    Your text earlier about "making time for myself" really inspired me to grab my bins! OK so I only went as far as the back garden, but I was rewarded with 10+ House Martin and 2 Swallow. Not bad!

  2. Hi ya, Nic!

    Pleased to hear you've picked up the bins again... now, where you going to go over the weekend then?