About Graham Clarkson

Born & brought up in Marshside, I started birding there in the mid 1970s & made my first birding trip to Martin Mere in 1977. I've lived, worked & birdied in Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland & Gloucestershire & I've spent time working in Kazakhstan & Madagascar. I enjoy birding my various West Lancashire patches, making frequent birding visits throughout the north-west of England and North Wales. I stray elsewhere in the UK & enjoy birding abroad from time to time. I'm particularly interested in wildfowl (especially pink-footed geese) with an interest in waders & raptors, bird counts & surveys & conservation. I'm trying to get the hang of photography & digiscoping - I'll get there eventually.

My degree from Edge Hill University is in conservation biology. I've guided on numerous birding days out & trips & guided birding holidays to Lesvos, Andalucia, Extremedura, Majorca, Camargue, Hungary, Finland & Florida. I enjoy showing people birds & habitats & helping them learn more about birds & enjoy birding. I'm currently involved with the Birdwatching and Beyond course at Edge Hill and a brand new venture; Skein Birding.

As well as birding I'm interested in captive breeding & reintroduction projects & zoos, how they're managed & how they contribute to conservation. I'm a proud Lancastrian & love the Lancashire countryside & landscapes. I'm an Evertonian & also keep up with what's happening at Southport, PNE & Bristol Rovers. Gardening, dogs (I have a Labrador & a Tibetan Terrier) and keeping chickens (especially Marsh Daisys & Scots Dumpy Bantams). Ruth & I have two marvellous boys who both love nature too. I hope you find the blog and subjects covered interesting; please feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

South Coast Harbouring Arctic Beauties

News over Christmas about a confiding Brunnich's Guillemot swimming about in Portland Harbour in Dorset and an equally confiding White-billed Diver in Brixham Harbour, in Devon, set my pulse racing and temptation became too much last night. The chance of seeing both of the elusive arctic specialities caused Horwich based, Welsh birder Jon Bowen and I to hatched a plan. I rang round and texted and only persuaded my Burscough birding neighbour Frank Whitney to join us. I picked Frank up at 4 a.m. and we got to John's at 4.30 a.m. We set off straight away with John heroically driving. With just a single, brief stop near Bristol, the journey was uneventful, although subject to much verbal nonsense, and we arrived at Portland Harbour in good spirits at around 9 a.m., my good friend and WWT colleague Paul Marshall,  along with twitter, providing updates and gen. On arrival we bumped into Paul and immediately, albeit briefly, caught site of the Brunnich's Guillemot - mega! The bird showed on and off for about an hour and we enjoyed it, and a supporting cast, of 59 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Black Guillemot, four Razorbills, numerous Shags, four Great Northern Divers and two Black-throated Divers. Great stuff. We also bumped into Merseysdide/Lancs birders Chris Galvin, Neill Hunt, Jason Stannage, John Aitchison and Cllr John Wright - always a pleasure. 

Record shot of the Portland Harbour Brunnich's Guillemot. 28/12/13. 

Southport birder Neill Hunt 'getting comfy' 

Birders birding at Portland Harbour

More birdspotters. Yep, that's Chris Galvin on the rocks....

A great time was enjoyed at Portland and we decide to pop into RSPB Radipole to see what was about. We weren't disappointed, we saw the resident drake Hooded Merganser (of unknown origin) and a superb Glossy Ibis. 

Drake Hooded Merganser. Radipole 28/12/13

Glossy Ibis. Radipole 28/12/13

The Radipole stop was perfectly pleasant but we decided to scoot off to Brixham, a good two hours or so away. 

On arrival at Brixham Harbour we 'got onto' the White-billed Diver (and two Red-throated Divers) almost immediately, although it occurred to us that we were at the wrong side of the harbour. We followed a friendly local and walked out onto the harbour wall and entertained ourselves with more than satisfactory views of the White-billed Diver - a great bird and well worth the effort. We bumped into Jason, Neill and co again; a proper social outing. A couple of Black-throated Divers floated in the harbour, with other harbour birds including Shags, Turnstones and a Rock Pipit. A scan offshore produced numerous divers and Great Crested Grebes, a couple of Eiders and several Gannets. 

White-billed Diver. Brixham Harbour 28/12/13. 

Brixham and it's harbour

We enjoyed Brixham and it's avifauna and decided for a final hurrah searching for Cirl Buntings at Broadsands, a village close to Brixham. It only took ten minutes to drive there and we were delighted to be put onto the Cirl Buntings straight away. We counted 13 of them feeding on put out millet (great work) - a fine flock mixed in with Chaffinches, Dunnocks and Reed Buntings. Superb little birds and the first I'd seen in the UK since 2004. Lovely! Another social gathering ensued with the usual suspects. A brief sea watch produced 30 odd Great Crested Grebes, c. 20 Common Scoters and a Black-necked Grebe. A wonderful birding end to a wonderful birding day. 

Two drake Cirl Buntings and a Chaffinch. Broadsands 28/12/13.

John drove brilliantly, despite the distraction of the Bluebirds unfortunate end of match collapse, and we arrived safely back to Horwich at c.08.20 p.m. Two flat tyres wasn't ideal to come back to but I got Frank home safe and sound by 9. I've just tucked into some Aldi artichoke hearts and a bottle of Cotes du Down me Clacker and I'm 'made up'. 

Happy days.....

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