Northern Charm

Sunday, 29th December 2013

For the archetypal 'fair weather', birder like myself, who extremely rarely travels anywhere north nowadays, the past few days and the influx of near/Arctic species to our local counties has been quite an experience. I began today by returning to Portland Harbour, a couple of miles from home, where both the Brunnich's and a Black Guillemot were showing. By chance there I met a friend in the car park, and within a few minutes we had set off to Brixham, some two hours away in Devon. There we were fortunate enough to catch up with the White-billed Diver that has been present since last week.


White-billed Diver, Brixham, Devon - 29th December 2013

Along with the White-billed, one or more Great Northern and three Black-throated Divers were also present closeby offering great opportunities for species comparison, as if, with even a half decent glimpse, that were needed to confirm this magnificent bird's ID. Although the Diver spent a great deal of time underwater we did get some brief, but excellent views. I do rather envy the birders who, judging by their superb photos, may well have earlier seen the White-billed both closer and in better light than we did. Check out Steve Carey's shots here.

Terrific while it was, the White-billed Diver, unlike the Brunnich's isn't that rare an occurrence in English waters. Indeed my sighting today might rightly be regarded by some as a true 'Tart's Tick': my only previous experience of the species being well outside the UK in northern Scandinavia waters, back in 1982. That was coincidently the time of my only earlier  sightings of Brunnich's Guillemot before the appearance of the current bird at Portland.

While we were at Brixham we also saw a further two Black Guillemots out to sea and a Long-tailed Duck, completing an impressive and quite charming, northern 'assemblage'.

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