Bonaparte’s Gull in Weymouth – 31st Mar

New Birds in England are becoming more difficult to find as my life list grows. The outstanding candidate in the six days since my Belgium trip has been a north American rarity Bonaparte’s Gull. These have been present in Cardiff, South Wales; and Weymouth, Dorset. Today I went for the latter bird as it involved the more pleasant drive (120 miles) and location. This proved a wise choice as the Cardiff equivalent was elusive until late afternoon.

Present weather patterns appear to be holding up the spring passage, making local birding tedious so I made a snap decision to hit the road again. After leaving home at 8:30am, to avoid the rush hour around Winchester and Southampton, bright sunshine came to prevail when I reached the M27 but very strong, cold wind persisted throughout the day. I arrived at the RSPB’s Radipole Lake reserve in Weymouth shortly after 11am to be told the star visitor was showing well.

Bonaparte's Gull Radipole Lake RSPB

Bonaparte’s Gull
Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset

The Bonaparte’s Gull (pictured above) was viewable from a path known as the Buddleia Loop. There was a shelter there containing a jolly band of locals but I needed no assistance in identifying my bird. This first-winter individual stood out at once from the other species it was associating with: a very small gull with a busy, almost delicate flight pattern. A number of people in the visitor centre and shelter all described this gull as being “tern-like” in it’s behaviour and that description was quite apt.

I watched the “Boney” for some time in the freezing wind and then returned to the visitor centre. Outside I caught up with the reserve’s more famous north American resident, the drake Hooded Merganser. He had apparently just returned from four weeks’ holiday, or possibly a search for a mate, and was looking as dapper as ever (below).


Hooded Merganser (male)

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

I have retained a soft spot for Dorset since first visiting as a teenager and relish any reason for going there again. So I travelled back to Oxford via Dorchester then Blandford Forum to reacquaint myself with the green and rolling landscape of this lovely county. There was more scope for nostalgia when I reached Salisbury in neighbouring Wiltshire and found a free two-hour parking space close to the city’s cathedral close, a beautiful and historic location with fond past associations. Eventually I reached home, pleased with my day out, its birding result and most of all my flight shot of the Bonaparte’s Gull.

Salisbury Cathedral ... surely England's finest

Salisbury Cathedral …
surely England’s finest


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