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Bob Ford's Video Blog
Monday December 10th 2018
Seeing a rare bird is a very exciting event, but when you find the rarity yourself it's even more thrilling.
Two days ago I was leading a group of birdwatchers on a Heights Hotel Birdbreak weekend when we literally stumbled across this Little Bunting in the most unlikely of places - the back of Chesil Beach.
The photos and videos on this page were all taken today, at the same site where the events described below took place two days ago.
The bush in the video is in the garden of the Chesil Gallery, a building on the very edge of the beach itself.
On Saturday morning this was one of the most sheltered spots on a very windy day; we had already seen a Black Redstart and a few Rock Pipits feeding in the area. When this bird flew up the striking white edges to its blackish tail reminded me of a pipit, but it looked too small and in addition its behaviour was different. Instead of flying off it turned towards us and landed behind the tree on a wall. Checking it out through my binoculars I could see a small but stout conical bill, so it certainly was no pipit. Then the bird turned its head and revealed bright chestnut cheek patches with neat black and buff edges.
At this point I strongly suspected that we had found a Little Bunting but thought that there was just an outside chance that a closer inspection might just show that it was just a bright Reed Bunting. So I sent out a text alerting the local birders that I had found a "probable Little Bunting".
By the time I had put my phone away again the bird had left the wall and flown onto the beach landing somewhere behind the next building, looking very small indeed in flight. We moved away to a point just up the path to get a better view, but try as we might we could not get any sign of it at all. For the best part of ten minutes we waited where we were, not wanting to risk disturbing the bird by approaching it too closely.
I was just thinking that perhaps that was all we were ever going to see of it when it flew back to its original spot, landing in the bushes in the garden of the Chesil Gallery again.
Through my telescope I could still see the striking face pattern and became even more convinced that this was not a Reed Bunting. The rest of the group were finding it difficult to get onto the bird and the dull, overcast light did not help. Ten minutes later everyone in the group had seen it but with it still in the tree none of us had gained a really clear view. However I was now convinced of its identity and sent out another text reporting the "Little Bunting was showing well now". A little bit optimistic but I desperately wanted someone else to turn up so that my group could continue with our planned weekend's birdwatching.
At this point the bird flew out of the tree and looked as if it was going to fly off again - but amazingly it turned round and landed at the edge of the track right in front of us. Now all of its distinctive features could clearly be seen, especially the striking head pattern and pink legs. Another text went out pinpointing exactly where it was, just in case we had to leave before anyone else arrived.
We had now all obtained excellent views of this very handsome bird - a new bird for most of the group. I was just putting my camera up to my telescope to get a few record shots when a car drove up the track and we had to take our eyes off the bird. When we looked back it had gone.
It was now half an hour after we had first found the bird and still no other birders had arrived. So I sent one final text out alerting others that I had to leave the bird and again spelling out exactly where it was likely to be.
Our next site was Portland Castle, where we hoped to get better views of a Black Redstart. In such strong winds very few birds at all were visible and we soon drove on to Ferrybridge. Today the wind had died right down and one of the smartest Black Redstarts I have ever seen was dashing about the rocks at the edge of the harbour.