Although family live a long way from Norfolk, it does give us a good opportunity to sneak in a spot of birding on patches old and new. This recent trip was no different with a new site visited in Dorset and an old favorite in Somerset.
First stop on our trip was Canford Heath on the edge of Poole for Dartford warblers. Although they are resident in Norfolk, it is always nice to see them in good numbers on the Dorset heaths.
The dark foggy weather put pay to any chances of seeing any reptiles but the birds did perform. A walk round a large part of the heath produced 3 male Dartford warblers and 5 pairs of stonechats. It was interesting the see at least one of the male darties in the company of a pair off chats, presumably feeding together in a small 'flock'. A singing chiffchaff on the edge of he housing estate was the only sign that spring is around the corner.
Friday was much better, bright and breezy, for a look around part of Poole harbour in the company of Shaun Robson and Terry Elborn.
The long staying lesser yellowlegs and green-winged teal were on the agenda for the day along with visiting the new reserve at Lychett Fields. Despite being seen the day before, we couldn't find the yellowlegs amongst the feeding redshank although good numbers of blackwits and a couple of greenshank were about.
As we arrived at Lychett Fields, a female marsh harrier had spooked all the teal but thankfully the didn't go far and the drake green-winged teal was soon located. After a spot of displaying it went to sleep!
Although there were not many birds, it was good to look at the habitat and talk to Shaun about the ideas behind the habitat design. The tidally flooded grassland with the ridge and furrow, to me, looked similar to that a Ryan's Field at Marizion in Cornwall. My first swallow of the summer put in a brief appearance but I managed to miss the sand martin.
A quick look around Canford Heath saw a couple of new darties, both singing males, but it was too breezy for much else.
The journey across the border into Somerset produced plentiful buzzard sightings and even a couple of flyover sand martins just over the border. Apart from adding a calling med gull and green woodpecker to my sisters new house list, much of the day was spent holiday planning and being a climbing frame to my two nieces!
Sunday had an unexpected bonus. Not only did we manage to get out with my other two nieces, we went to one of my old haunts for a walk. I have seen much talked about all the great work that has been happening at Steart Marshes so it was good to get a glimpse of it. The site used to be one of my regular sites (saw a fantastic Wilson's phal there) but it had been over 20 years since my last visit. I was very impressed by the developments but didn't really have time to do it justice. The highlight was a single LRP but the strong wind and low tide probably didn't help the birding.
All in all, a good few days combining family and birding.