The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Fog and Balearics

I've called the blog post that, because these were the only real characteristics of the last few days!

On Saturday, the only high point of the day bird wise was watching a juvenile Peregrine making a nuisance of itself at Ferrybridge, flushing a Whimbrel in the process.  Just the usual Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, and Ringed Plovers otherwise.

I also bumped into only my second Scarlet Tiger, that was sitting in the middle of the pavement at Priory Corner!  Needless to say, I led it to safety.

Sunday brought yet more fog, so the only real option was seawatching.  I put in a great deal of time, but got only as a reward, one Great Skua closely followed by a single Balearic Shearwater, as well as lots of Manx Shearwater, 2 Dunlin, and a very out-of-season adult Common Gull.  I noticed something else slightly odd.  A large number of Gannet heading east, almost all immatures.  I also witnessed 15 or so Sand Martin heading out to sea, as well as several birds still feeding up over the slopes of Bill Hill. 
I found yet more Knot Grass larvae, this time feeding on Broad-leaved Dock.

Yesterday was yet another plagued by fog coming and going, but the conditions improved for seawatching (or so I thought) with the edition of a nice blasting south-westerly.  But, just an hour or so at the Bill proved that virtually nothing was on the move.  Is it that there is simply nothing out there to be blown in?  I did managed to salvage a couple of Balearic Shearwater, along with a Mediterranean Gull and 5 Common Scoter.
Today was of a little more quality.  I headed out to work in a downpour, the first proper rain I had encountered during the day here.
By lunchtime the rain had largely stopped, but there was still stubborn fog around Weston.  I eventually decided I just had to do something, and headed on down to the Bill.  The difference was astounding.  Almost no fog.  When I came back home in the evening, Weston was still shrouded!  The Bill has a microclimate it seems (and the weather also bears no resemblance to the forecast for Fortuneswell either!).  Weird.
I did manage to get a bit of seawatching in, but despite the continuing south-westerly, it was still pretty dire.  A little group of us did manage a few Balearic and Manx Shearwater, as well as singles of Turnstone, Dunlin, and Sanderling
By this time the wind had died down a little, so I decided to take the first look of anyone that day, at the bushes of Top Fields.  The area around The Strips was alive with Goldfinches, Linnets, Skylarks, and Meadow Pipits, but try as I might, I could see nothing more unusual.  The Rape crops were alive with Green-veined Whites, and I found a confiding Painted Lady.

I did eventually find something different.  I flushed a Sedge Warbler from long grass near the Admiralty Hedge.  Notable, for being the first migrant warbler (i.e. except Whitethroat) I had seen in the Top Fields/Culverwell area since I got here in mid-June!

Once I got back to the Obs, I rather hopelessly scanned the sea.  I immediately found a passing Great Skua, followed by a Balearic Shearwater!  Something must be happening, I thought.  So, I yet again took a chance at the Bill.  Sadly, the weather gods had different ideas, and the sea fog foiled my attempts, though I did see a couple more Balearics through the haze.  I was otherwise entertained by a family party of Rock Pipits.

The first Melodious Warbler of the autumn can only be round the corner.  That's if the fog will let us see as far as that.

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