Sunday, 11 February 2018

Brownsea Island NT Urban Rangers Day 3, 4th February 2018

The final day of the trip. 
I decided to get up at dawn and make the most of the opportunity to look for some good birds and other bits and pieces for the last time in probably a while. Although sunny it was freezing, but I didn't mind too much as there was plenty to see. Through the scope another 10ish Mergansers were noted, 7 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Curlew and large numbers of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls. Just as I was leaving, a large group of 19 Brent Goose flew over the water and landed some distance away. While walking up, a Red Squirrel made a dash for cover - I didn't think I was that scary but apparently I was.

After tidying up and getting ready to leave, we had a quick 20 minute saunter back down to the shore - as it was mid-morning very little was around now. A tally of 28 Shelduck were seen, looking fine in the sun, and a Little Egret roosting on the beach added to the list. 3 Red-breasted Mergansers were found in amongst the gulls, and also a welcome adult Glaucous Gull, my first for a few years.  Through the scope it looked magnificent, dwarfing the Herring Gulls on the water some way away. The wind was too strong for digiscoping unfortunately, but I'm pretty certain I'll get pictures of this bird eventually. As we were walking back, this plaice had been washed up on the shore - probably a few minutes earlier as no gulls were there yet - and a group of waders flew overhead at a stupid speed. This was the only picture I got of them, and my suspicion was Dunlin or Sanderling - I'm not sure so I'm going with Dunlin. Let me know if you're more sure. 


Just as we prepared to head towards the little harbour, and passing agonisingly close to the lagoon which I had been longing to go to, not one nor 2 but 3 Red Squirrels paid a visit to the log piles near the bunkhouses, allowing distant but pleasant views for all, but for the only person yet to and desperate to see one, Thomas. Just as we thought they'd disappear into the woodland, before he reappeared, he arrived carrying a bag, which he promptly dropped when he heard the words 'Red Squirrel!' In the end we all got views of them, as they relaxed on the log pile, little before heading back into the trees. 
While walking back, I saw nothing but a Robin and GSW. When we arrived at the harbour early, 20 minutes before the boat ride back to the mainland, I had a few minutes to do some final sea-coastal watching. A lonely Turnstone was doing its job on the beach, and when a Sparrowhawk rushed through us all and straight into the lagoon, nearly every wader there went up, and flew manically along the beach. I had chosen that moment to change the camera batteries, meaning I got this hurried picture of a group before they settled down. This time I'm happier to say that they are Grey Plovers - though that's probably still wrong! 
This bird also flew past us as we were boarding - having heard a Velvet Scoter had been seen (i haven't even seen Common) my hopes were up, but due to a poor picture anyway there's no chance of ID, so probably Cormorant!

Red Squirrel

Once we arrived on the mainland again, we were straight off to the next place for another couple of hours or so. Since we were cutting down more pine trees on Knighton Heath felt like déjà vu, as that's exactly what I did at Arne a few months ago. After a briefing about the heath, and being told what could be found there, we got to work, and after an hours worth of chopping we left the site, as we had to start to head back to Morden Hall. It was an interesting place, with all 3 British species of Snake found there, with good numbers of the elusive Smooth Snake found there. For birds, a smashing place for Nightjar, which the leader gave us several good stories about. Either war, what we saw was obviously less exciting than nightjar. Though Dartford Warblers and Stonechat were common there, only 3 Buzzards and 2 Raven were seen while no other birds were. 


Thomas and his pine trees. 
The Urban Rangers at work!
The trip back was quiet, and a single Red Kite was one of few birds to be seen. 

An absolutely brilliant trip, and I'm very happy that I joined the Rangers at Morden Hall - hopefully I'll have many more amazing experiences with them in the future. Thanks to Hattie and the lead rangers (Richard and Richard) in the group, and also all from the National Trust. Finally, and I always say this wherever I go, but Brownsea Island, I'll be back! 

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