The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Ode to a Sub-song


I immediately went down the Obs this morning cause I was going to show Alex Berryman round the island. 

With that in mind, I did a very long route showing him all the best spots in the south and middle. 

It was soon evident that there were again a good number of migrants about, with the Bill Common and Quarry being well scattered with Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear, plus a Whinchat.  A Peregrine gave us a nice fly-past at the Coastguards, and the Admiralty Hedge held a Spotted Flycatcher, a Sedge Warbler, and another Whinchat.  We were finally able to find the hoped for Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane, as well as another 2 Whinchat.  It was clear at Barleycrates that the Ring Ouzel had departed, but then we entered Suckthumb Quarry.  In an Elder bush here we found a Garden Warbler and a Blackcap.  My first of both of those this autumn would you believe. 

We went on to the paddocks out the back of the Hump, and it was clear it was swarming with stuff.  Another Spotted Flycatcher, another Garden Warbler, a stunning male Redstart, and 2 Pied Flycatcher.  At one point the same bush held what seemed like most of these at once!

The Top Fields was the next stop, and we managed to find 2 female Redstart, and 3 Spotted Flycatcher in the same hedgerow!

We got back, just as we heard that a Wryneck had just been ringed, and released in the Obs Quarry area.  No sign sadly, though it was nice to be in the right place at the right time to see this juvenile White Wagtail in the hand.  The poor thing had just been clobbered by a Sparrowhawk, but escaped with only one small wound!

The flowers in the Obs garden were packed with insects, including at least 15 Painted Lady on one Buddleiha.  I also noticed this nice little congregation of a Signal Fly, and two Hover Fly (Episyrphus balteatus + Syrphus ribesii).
Come the evening, I heard about a Black Tern down at Ferrybridge, so rushed down there on my bike.  As I arrived, I was told the inevitable news that it had just flown off!  I was just about to leave when Martin suggested I take a look at the Harbour.  Thanks for the tip-off Martin, cause that's just where it was, roosting on a buoy!  Lots of Common Tern around as well, as well as the usual waders plus a Bar-tailed Godwit.
Nothing special today in terms of journey, as I took a chance at the usual migrant haunts.  In Suckthumb Quarry I came across the common fungus Ergot, which grows out of the seed-heads of grasses.  In the olden days this extremely poisonous fungus caused many deaths, as it would occasionally be harvested with Wheat and end up in bread.
The Hump was once again jumping with life, with at least 4 Spotted Flycatcher (including 3 in one bush!), 3 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Redstart, 1 Garden Warbler, plus loads of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler.  The other surprises here were 3 juvenile Bullfinch (these birds really had me searching, as their calls sound just like distant Bee-eaters!), and 3 Tree Pipit sitting in a low Elder.  Nice to finally get a proper look at them!
The best surprise here though was the sight of a juvenile Cuckoo flapping over one of the horse fields.  My first proper autumn bird.
On getting to Obs area, after a rather uneventful walk up the East Cliffs, I heard that the Nightingale was singing from the Obs Quarry.  On my arrival, it's quiet sub-song could be heard very close-by.  I sat and listened for quite some time, and although the sound was moving very markedly, not once did I see any vegetation move!  Martin arrived and attempted to play a call to it, but accidentally played the call of Aquatic Warbler.  Nonetheless, it seemed to do the trick as it came right close and tacked angrily!  Still no appearance though!
Afterwards, I retired to the moth traps at the Obs.  Although there was nothing remarkable, there was still a great variety to look through.  The good ones were Satin Wave.
The second-generation of Yellow Belle.
The common migrant Rusty-dot Pearl.
And two Agonopterix. A common one Agonopterix arenella.

And not so common Agonopterix pallorella.

Also in the trap was the Burrying Beetle Nicrophorus humator. Be careful if you come across one of these, not because they can bite, but because they absolutely stink (and are always covered with mites)!
A particularly spectacular sight from the Obs this afternoon was quite a large pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphin distantly offshore, endulging in plenty of breaching.


I was going to wend my way back, but I thought I'd take to opportunity first to join a few of the guys in the fields (very much remembering the Ortolan had been there the previous day!).  Nothing had been seen, up to the point I got to the very far corner of the field, and something took flight.  I'm not going to stake my life on it, but I suspect it the was the previous-days Wryneck.  I'm sure I saw a patterned tail as it bounded off and came down right in the middle somewhere.  There was no further sign of it, though I wonder whether the bird Alex had close-by this afternoon was the same.
Four Whinchat on the same fence were nice on the way back.
I'm looking forward to a few days of cloudy skies (both promising for migrants, and a bit more comfortable for the fieldworker!).

1 comment: