The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Barley Bassanus

Before I get into today, here is the Balearic video from yesterday, hopefully reproduced a lot better (watch it in full-screen):

I headed out first thing this morning, not in any particular hope of anything.  I went on down the Bill, seeing little but a few Wheatear.

Seawatching could have been an option after yesterday, but the wind had weakened, and swung round to the west.  Nevertheless, I thought the best use of my time was to join the others watching from the Obs.  Not like me I know, but it did actually pay off.  Not on the sea mind, where only a trickle of Manx and Balearic Shearwater could be found, but in the bushes.  A very confiding female Pied Flycatcher allowed everyone to photograph it, as it kept coming back to a particularly exposed and well-lit perch.

A short video of it.
I had seen the scarce Fly Tachina grossa a few weeks back at the High Angle Battery, though only ID'd it some days later.  Today, I had the chance to photograph this monster, as two were trapped in the Obs lounge.  This is the largest of the Tachinid flies, and like all members of it's genus, lays it's eggs on caterpillars (I think you can guess the rest).  This species targets Oak Eggar and Fox Moth larvae.
In the late morning, early afternoon time, I went out on a walk with my Mum and Step-dad, to show them the sights.  The wildlife highlight was yet more Clouded Yellow, and finally I was able to photo one (including a rare view of it's upperwing!).

On the East Cliffs near Cheyne Weares, we found this rather beautiful mineral encrustation on a cliff face, something I'd not noticed previously.

And a walk around Church Ope Cove produced this Portland plant tick of Common Calamint.

We were just getting back to the flat along Barleycrates Lane, when I noticed a white flapping thing in the corner of my eye.  All I initially saw was a large white bird with black wing-tips, floundering about in the barley field.  My first reaction was a Snow Goose or some kind of Feral Goose (they're kept up the road).  But, it soon became apparent that it was actually an adult Gannet!
I called the Obs.  No answer.  What to do?  I had to go and tackle the thing myself. 
So, I went traipsing through this field (probably trespassing) with a blanket.  It was amazingly difficult to locate at first, but once found, it was fairly easy to capture.  It growled at me as they do, but I just threw the blanket over it's head, and quickly grabbed it's beak!  Although unsuccessfully at first, as it grabbed my finger through the blanket!  I did manage to subdue it in the end, and carried it under one arm back to the car park. 
My Mum and Step-dad kindly drove me to the Obs.  If they hadn't been there I'm not sure what I would've done.  Quite possibly chucked the thing into the back of my camper and driven (carefully) down there!
Once at the Obs, it became apparent that Martin the warden was out for the afternoon!  Myself and the visiting ringer put it into a small metal cage, and it seemed quite happy.  It had no obvious injuries.  The ringer consulted the books, and reckons the bird is a 5 year-old female.  I waited patiently in the hope that Martin would get back soon and be able to release it that afternoon.  Sadly not, but hopefully, all being well, it will be released tomorrow morning.  How it came to be in the barley field remains a mystery.

Now excuse me while I have a bath, to rid myself of all the Lice which decamped from the bird, when they decided I would make an excellent new home!

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