Lesser Yellowlegs – Lodmoor NR, Dorset

A Lesser Yellowlegs was found at Lodmoor on the 23rd September 2018. I’ve only seen two previously in Britain, one in Cambridgeshire in 1988 and another in Kent in 1997.

This new Dorset bird quickly settled down and with a workshop booked for Portland Bill on the 7th October I decided to pop into the reserve near Weymouth on my way down. I gave myself three hours in case it was tricky to locate and sure enough it was!

It had been favouring the scrapes on the western side of the reserve although unfortunately I arrived shortly after it had flown from there over towards the eastern side of the reserve. I exchanged mobile numbers with a birder who was going to cycle around to the other side and I stayed on the west side.

After about 30 minutes he texted me to say that he had relocated it and I started the 15 minute walk. I’d got to within a minute or so of him and he texted again to say it had flown back to the west side! I headed back west again and spent a further hour or so searching without luck. Eventually I gave up.

On the 6th January 2019 Dad, Aly and I dropped into Lodmoor to try for the yellowlegs again. Unfortunately, it was a similar story with the bird proving very elusive. At one stage I joined a group of birders who were watching it only for it to fly again as I set up my scope! We did see a very white-headed Ruff which was new for the year but rather than waste all day chasing after the Lesser Yellowlegs we moved on.

After these failed attempts in early October and early January I decided to try for the Lodmoor Lesser Yellowlegs for a third time. Dad & I went again as the bird had settled into a routine where it was showing well for long periods on the northern part of the western scrapes. We arrived there just after first light and it was one of the first birds we saw and I wondered how I’d previously managed to spend 6 hours searching unsuccessfully. 

It showed very well feeding fairly closely in the lovely warm early morning light. Looking a bit like a Wood Sandpiper but with a longer finer bill, lacking the obvious white supercilium and with longish bright yellow legs. At one stage it flew revealing a square ended white rump and with its legs and feet clearly extending beyond the end of the tail.

Once I’d got some sketches and Dad had got some nice photos we headed off to the middle of the reserve to try for a calling Yellow-browed Warbler which had been present since the 16th December.

The Yellow-browed Warbler had been favouring the area around the seat on Beechdown Avenue. This individual was being fairly vocal and so once we were close we began to listen for the characteristic call and sure enough we heard it fairly quickly. After catching a few brief glimpses we finally got good views and noted the double wing bars and supercilium.

Our next stop was Bowleaze Cove where we had better views of the Red-necked Grebe which we had seen, albeit distantly, the previous weekend. Then it was off to Sandsfoot Castle where 2 Slavonian Grebes had been seen. It took a while to find them but we did eventually, right in the northern corner of Portland Harbour. There were 14 Black-necked Grebes in the harbour as well, providing a good comparison to the more cleanly cut dapper Slavonian Grebes.

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