The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Monday, 26 August 2013

Portland Shining Bright

The best day since I moved here was enjoyed today, though there were two big disappointments. A) I wasn't able to get any bird photos for varying reasons, and B) I didn't find anything of significance myself, despite being in the field virtually all day.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy it hugely, and hopefully this is just the start of a classic Portland autumn.

Although I was out all day, I did have a little bit of a lie-in, as the Cornish shenanigans had taken a lot out of me.  I headed out to Barleycrates as usual, and seeing the first field covered in Wheatears (at least 10) certainly got my hopes up.  Bumping into Debby and Pete Saunders, we got to the end of the lane, only for a flock of 5 Redshank to fly over south calling.  They also had two larger birds with them, but I suspect they were Pigeons.

Into Suckthumb quarry, which initially seemed quiet.  Though, out into the middle I found a nice Spotted Flycatcher, and shortly after found a little patch of warbler activity by the hump, but they frustratingly eluded identification (other than a couple of Willow Warbler).

Top Fields was largely quiet, except for a single female Redstart by the farm, and a load of Yellow Wagtail.

I was eager to get to the Obs, to see the star moth capture.  Shame it's a bit worn, but this Shining Marbled is rare indeed, with only 3/4 previous records.

I'm not sure how many traps Martin ran, but there were a lot of other moths to look through.  The other highlights being a Vestal (with Orange Swift).
Not unusual at all, but the first Purple Bar I've seen at Portland.

And the best of the micros was this lifer, Agonopteryx subpropinquella.
Whilst I was searching through the traps, Brett Spencer (see his great blog ) phoned the Obs to say an Osprey was circling over the Bill.  It wasn't hard to find from the Obs patio, as it soared up on a thermal, being harassed by a Great Black-backed Gull.  Quite possibly the same bird had earlier been seen at Abbotsbury.
I headed back home, travelling via the East Cliffs and the Admiralty Hedge, seeing nowt bar loads more Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail.  I got to the Reap Lane barns, and quickly found the Pied Flycatcher that the Saunders' had found earlier.  Though, it was hard to follow as zillions of House Sparrow were fly-catching in the same trees!
I was nearly home when I got the message that a Wryneck had been found.  Probably the most predictable find of the day (I was hoping to find my own in the north-island quarries after lunch!).  I rushed down there, and soon had good views of the bird preening in the middle of an Elder. 
I was about to get the camera out to get some shots, when someone informed us that an Ortolan Bunting had just been found, by that man Brett again (plus Julian Thomas) at the East Cliffs, very close to where I'd walked earlier in the day!  We all rushed up there, leaving the Wryneck no doubt feeling rather usurped!  We searched the area, including all the nearby fields and quarries.  No sign.  Would have been a lifer, but hopefully more will occur here this autumn.
I finally got an opportunity to do my shopping and get something to eat I thought.  Well, I got the former in, but not the latter, as a Curlew Sandpiper was found at Ferrybridge!  No time to eat in autumn at Portland!
I cycled down there, getting showered with Flying Ants on the way, only to find the place teeming with imbecile holidaymakers as usual.  I started scanning.  There was still plenty of waders out there though, including Sanderling, Redshank, Turnstone, Little Stint....wait...Little Stint!  I was not expecting to find that!  There were actually two birds, and another also flew over in addition.  Joe arrived, and quickly found the Curlew Sandpiper, though the flushing of the birds continued, and all the goodies soon scarpered, so only brief views of the Curlew Sand were had.
On the way back I checked out Tout Quarry and Lancridge (the bushes above Chesil Cove and below Priory Corner).  The latter was a marvellous little spot that would certainly repay further investigation, though exploring it in shorts isn't a good idea, as I found out to my cost!
All in all, a very tiring and enjoyable day, and I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.  These easterly-induced goodies need to filter down here now!


  1. Nice Blog Sean, went to see Shining Marbled today, as well as Tamarisk Peacock (have you seen it yet??) and Bedstraw Hawk.

    1. Yep, saw them this afternoon. The Convolvulus Hawk was brill too.

    2. Convolvulus was nice, but (for me at least) nothing compared to the Bedstraw (seen convo before, but BS was a lifer) :) Had to walk home though (saw Yellow Wags & Wheatear, plus Clouded Yellow, but nothing of great note)

    3. Let me know if you're likely to be in that situation again, cause I'd be quite happy to give you a lift, Jack.

      See my latest post for my photos of those latest goodies.

    4. Don't worry about lift, was my plan to walk back, see what I could see.
      Nice new post, saw Ring Ouzels for first time in the Spring when they came through!