Sightings - Saturday 31st May 2014

A memorable day for Dorset with a short-toed eagle which showed well to all observers late afternoon.
Finder Paul Morton has kindly sent in his account:

I guess I should write a little piece about whats happened in the last 24 hours during my birding escapades of Poole Harbour and (only just slightly) beyond.
It all started last night at 7pm when I left the house on a Poole Harbour Little Owl hunt, visiting every suitable area hoping to hear birds calling around dusk. Fairly unsuccessful, I decided to go and watch Nightjar instead on Soldiers Road where around 3 or 4 birds were active calling. Also lots of Fox cubs around too, no less than 7 on various roads to and from places. Knowing I had to get up and lead a guided walk at 7am at Morden Bog this morning I decided to leave the Nightjars around 11:30pm and headed for home. Then the GWE bug got me again, and as I set my alarm for 6am I thought 'sod it', I may as well set it for 4am instead and try for the Egret one last time, before going to lead the walk. So at 4.20am I found myself out on Arne Moors poised and ready. The most incredible thing I saw was a Hobby hunting Skylark in almost near darkness as I arrived...bizarre. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Grey Heron and Little Egret after Little Egret was all that showed...still no GWE. Off to Morden Bog....
A group of 10 members of the public plus me headed out from Sherford Bridge on our monthly BoPH field trip to see what we could see. Despite the obvious, it was a near perfect walk...stonking views of Dartford, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo, 5 flyover Crossbill, loads of Stonechat and 2 Hobby. Then, as we were walking along one side of the decoy pond a member of the group pointed out a bird of prey sat in a tree on the other side of the heath. Through bins it was white blob, and through a scope is was a white blob with talons. I immediately confirmed it as one of Dorset's incredibly pale morph Buzzards but was amazingly surprised at how pale it actually was. We were kind of heading that way, so suggested we get a closer look, as its always a good idea to see how pale these buzzards can be, as not to mis-ID them in the future (ha). We stopped again about 100m on to look at the bird and this time things didn't seem to add up, and the bird was beginning to look quite strange. Honey Buzzard was my next rational thought, but the head was way too big. We then edged a bit closer and got good views of the bird as it sat minding its own business, and as I started making field notes and going through everything in my mind it suddenly hit me in the stomach like a sack of spuds topped up with cannon balls. We watched for a few more minuets as I wanted to be 100% I wasn't going totally nuts, and in that time the bird turned on its branch, did a crap and flew off right over our heads, giving stunning underwing views. My experience of STE is somewhat limited but this just had to be. I didn't say anything straight away to the group, but asked one of them who was holding a Collins Field Guide to turn to the Short-toed Eagle page. Puzzled but excited the group waited for the page to be opened, and there it exact replica of what had been in the tree up ahead of us. There were members of the group with better cameras than my iPhone so I asked them to take as many pics as possible which worked well, as I was frantically trying to phone people and email photos despite no signal. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we quickly finished the walk still dragging our jaws along the ground and I pegged it over to Shaun's house where I arrived on his doorstep looking like a man who had just been given dreadful news, held up my phone and showed him the photo. 'Yeah, thats a Short-toed Eagle' he said.

I'm so so glad the bird came back and everyone could it enjoy it as much as I did, even though the blimmin thing almost gave me a heart attack. Thats why I love birding, you just never, ever, EVER know whats going to happen next.

Paul Morton

Photos by Aiden Brown can be seen here:

Other reports

Little ringed plover - 1 Ferrybridge
Garganey - 1 Cowards Marsh
Roseate tern - 1 Abbotsbury
Honey buzzard - 1 Hillfield: 1 Portland
Bee eater - 4 Portland
Cuckoo - 1 Powerstock Common
Rose-coloured starling - West Bexington
Blue-headed wagtail - Old Harry Rocks
Black redstart - Christchurch harbour