Sunday, 29 December 2013

Twitching Hat Trick!

I received a call from Mark Chidwick during Saturday asking If I was interested in going to Portland and then Devon on Sunday to see a Brunnich's Guillemot and White Billed Diver with the chance of Cirl Buntings as well, 3 birds I have never seen before This was indeed very tempting and after a bit of negotiating with the wife I met up this morning at the early time of 3.30am with Mark, Martyn Wilson and Sue Morton. Mark thankfully drove down and with all of us very excited about seeing some new birds we eventually arrived at Portland Harbour at dawn. Along with a few other birders we stood on the harbour front and waited for the mega Guillemot to appear. Plan A was for it to appear straight away, get a few photos in the sun and move on to Devon. Plan B was a little different. We had to wait a good 2 hours for the Brunnich's Guillemot to eventually show but show it did, unfortunately in the only corner with shade in it as the rest of the harbour was bathed in sunshine. It showed very well at times, diving continuously and popping up in front of the birders where I was able to grab a few shots of my first lifer for the day.

Brunnich's Guillemot

Earlier while waiting we has seen 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Black throated Diver, 2 Razorbill, 1 Guillemot, 1 Black Guillemot, a few Shag and Cormorant and 10 Red breasted Merganser with a few smart birds quite close allowing for some shots in the sun.

Red Breasted Mergansers

Male Red breasted Merganser

Female Red breasted Merganser

With part one completed we moved on mid morning for Devon and the White Billed Diver. After a nice scenic 2 hour drive we arrived at our location and could see a few birders with their scopes trained on the birds. We soon joined them and not long after had excellent if a little distant views of the White Billed Diver, lifer number 2 today and what a beast it was. The bill was huge and looked out of place on the bird but what a beauty. The only annoyance was that it stayed distant and never come close enough for any shots but we had food telescope views. Also in the harbour were 2 Great northern Divers which looked feeble compared to the White Billed Diver, 1 Black Throated Diver, 1 Guillemot and a Common Buzzard flew over. With more food and drink taken in and energy levels raised we made the short 10 minute drive to look for Cirl Buntings. We arrived at what looked like a childrens play park/scate park/walk the dog area and remote control car racing playing area but after a quick walk we soon saw a few other birders staring into the bushes. We joined them and there in the bushes were at least 7 Cirl Buntings including 3 males, wow and lifer number 3 for the day. With the sun shining they showed occasionally in the bushes and allowed a few distant shots but soon moved deeper into the bushes.

Cirl Bunting

With cars racing by and dogs everywhere we called it a day and made our way back to the car for the long journey home. An excellent day in brilliant company, 3 new birds seen and many thanks to Chidders for driving, greatly appreciated. 


  1. Quite a trip Marc :-) The Cirl Bunting would be my pick, but then I am bias towards woodland/heathland birds :-)

  2. Always good to see new birds Marc, certainly sounds like a more than worthwhile trip, there won't be many days when you get 3 lifers in a day in this country, excellent stuff!

  3. A shame that some photos elewhere appear to show that some people needed to get almost alongside the guillie in a canoe.

    1. There were some ladies from a rowing club out on the water, thats probably what you have seen... i hope.

  4. Marc....Well worth the effort of an early morning start and every other effort involved in this day of front line birding with the images take take back home too....I've turned a distinct pea green!

    The second image down of the BG has the edge over the others for me.

    1. 'take take back home''to take back home'.

  5. Some classic Gulli photos mate.Have seen some really close Diver pics,was it really as far out as Chiddy's pic seemed?

  6. Marc,

    The comments with the photos suggest that the canoe was used to get closer to the bird and the photos show it too close.

  7. What a winner Marc, and they are the best.

  8. Hi Marc
    Sounds like you had a great day, as did I when I made the trip on Saturday.
    Regarding the use of a boat by birders or photographers to get closer to the bird, this certainly didn't happen while I was there.
    As you have said it was a group of ladies from the sailing club who took a small rowing boat out. They did this on the Saturday also.
    In fact there was a large iron gate preventing any unauthorised access to the jettys.
    Anyone who made the trip to see this bird would know that at times it did come that close.

  9. Just seen a photo on Birdguides of the Brunnich's with the rowing boat in the picture.
    If this is the boat in question then it's the boat ladies from the rowing club took out.
    The boat was taken out 2-3 times while I was there.
    The jetty from which this boat was used was very close to where all the birders and photographers were lined up.

    Happy new year Marc

  10. Nice pictures .. I wish you a happy 2014 .. Regards from Spain