The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Friday, 12 July 2013


Another day off today (the benefit of working part-time), and the sky was lovely and cloudy, so I thought I'd go down to the Bill first thing to look for migrants, and then do some seawatching.  Well, a quick look at Avalanche Road, Top Fields, and Culverwell produced absolutely nothing of note.  Except, in Culverwell I found a tree full of juveniles.  At one point, there were young Linnet, Greenfinch, Great Tit, and Goldfinch, and shortly after some Blue Tits and a Dunnock visited it too!  Must be the day-nursery tree.  A plant lifer here was Brookweed.

Onto the Bill then where I was greeted with little to suggest a decent days passage.  However, within five minutes of me sitting down, a Curlew, a Common Tern, and 7 Manx Shearwater went past, raising my hopes.  But, the next 25 minutes went past totally uneventfully.  That was until 7 on the dot, when I couldn't help noticing a summer-plumaged Black Guillemot passing east close-in with a small flock of Razorbill and Guillemot, sticking out like a sore thumb!  There were several sightings of a bird offshore during the winter, so this is presumably the same individual that has lingered, who knows where!  You would have thought someone would have noticed if it had been in amongst the Bill Auk colony!  That was not the end of the quality, as not so long after that, a Balearic Shearwater passed east at mid-distance.  Also seen was another 7 Manxies and a lingering Mediterranean Gull.

Frustrated that I had not yet got any seabird photos, I spent the next half-hour or so experimenting with phonescoping Gannets!  Not easy!

Next I had a quick look in the obs moth trap.  It was heaving with quality as usual.  The best was this lifer of The Shark.
Amongst the other quality was a Lackey (a species I rarely see as an adult).
This Muslin Footman, which I have only seen previously in Wales.
And a Cochylis hybridella.
On the way slowly home for lunch, I decided to pop into Cheyne Weares, for no particular reason really.  As I arrived, I could hear the small birds calling wildly, and looking off the cliff, a cloud of Pipits and Linnets appeared, surrounding a juvenile Cuckoo!  The first time I've seen this plumage.  It flew off and landed out of view in a tree by Avalanche Road.  I'm certain it was a migrant, and not a locally-bred bird.
I continued to walk along the cliffs, and stumbled on the Portland plant ticks of Ploughman's Spikenard, Small Scabious, and Golden-rod (below).

The sun was now out with all it's force once again, and I took the route home that took me past Suckthumb Quarry, and onto Weston St.  On this area of grassland, I found this mating pair of Crescent Plume moths (notice that the leaves of Restharrow - their foodplant - are in the background).

And this is not something you just come across everyday!  A female Drinker with her eggs.
This was all just the morning remember!  Portland is a magical place.
In the afternoon I thought it might be worth holding a vigil at Ferrybridge, as you never know what might drop in.  The problem with this site (particularly on a day like this), is there is always another moron happy to ignore the nature reserve signs.  Nevertheless, I managed to count 53 Mediterranean Gull in attendance.
And I was entertained by watching this Great Black-backed Gull trying to devour a gigantic (already dead) Spider Crab.
Once the tide had gone fully out a nice sandy island, where no human can tread, had appeared.  On this I found 3 Dunlin, a Grey Heron, and 3 Sandwich Tern, including an early juvenile, begging for food as usual.  Are there are any colonies closer than Brownsea?
I had to walk along Chesil for a little way in order to see the aforementioned sandbank, and as I did so, I found a botanic gem.  It may not look much, but this Four-leaved Allseed is pretty rare (the green one, the red one is a Stonecrop).
What wonders await tomorrow.

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