The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Barred from the Pub

Previous days

Since returning from Spurn, I've not done much birding, partly through laziness (and little's been reported anyway), but mainly because I've been working in Bridport, which means getting home much later.

On the plus side, it has meant I've been able to check out the Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour area first thing.

Last Sunday I made a point of rushing home to Portland as seawatching conditions looked ideal, with a very strong south-westerly.  Though numbers were disappointing (does seawatching here ever produce the goods?), I did manage to glean 3 Sooty, 1 Manx, and 1 Balearic Shearwater, as well as a Portland tick female Shoveler going past with three Common Scoter.  The sea was unbelievably choppy. Call this a time-lapse if you like.

Just like last time, my checking of Ferrybridge has been hampered by high tides, though Portland Harbour seems to have compensated a little, as one morning I had an Arctic Tern, and another I flushed a Common Sandpiper and Snipe from the shore there.  On the same day an out-of-place Gannet was in the harbour, but the Grey Phalarope from the previous day could not be found, though a fly-past Sanderling initially put my hopes up.


I managed my first morning Portland walkabout for 3 weeks.

It was immediately obvious with complete cloud cover and no wind, that today was going to be good for birds overhead.  The main feature of the day did indeed turn out to be the incredible number of hirundines (of all three species) and Meadow Pipits about, with every scan of the sky producing swarms of birds.  I really wouldn't like to estimate it. 

Barleycrates Lane was quiet, though I did see a Wheatear and a pair of Stonechat (probably not migrants).  Suckthumb and the Hump was as usual jumping with birds, though they turned out to be almost all Blackcap.  Just a few Chiffchaff and singles of Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler were seen.  The first of several Yellow and Grey Wagtail flew over.

Going via Reap Lane, I saw my only Whitethroat of the day, they'll be gone soon, plus loads more Meadow Pipit in the field and hirundines on the fence wires.  One of which was a House Martin with a brown wash on the rump and throat.  I'm assuming this is variation and not one of these rare Sand x House hybrids, which do occur.

Whether by luck or judgement, the hirundines have timed their arrival here to perfection, as everywhere I went there are swarms of Flying Ants.  This big girl seems to have grown pretty fat on this bounty!

The Top Fields go by largely uneventfully, that's until I snatch a view of a Turtle Dove flying along a hedgerow before disappearing behind it!  A beauty, and sadly all too rare now.  By far my latest ever.
A few more Blackcap and Chiffchaff later, I reach the Obs, where the moth traps were brimming as usual.  The highlight of course was the rare Purple Marbled (sadly this specimen lacks the purple flash).
Not the only lifer for me, as in the trap itself was several of the nationally scarce Feathered Brindle.
Same applies for this striking L-album Wainscot.
Not a lifer, but still a coastal speciality is this Feathered Ranunculus.

 A nice selection of typical autumnal species here, including a pale form of Lunar Underwing in the middle.

And, I know I've had a shot of these before, but they are just so smart! Beautiful Gothic.

I was at the Obs long enough to see a Sedge Warbler and a Sparrowhawk hit the mist-net, though sadly the latter got away!  They must have a field day in these migrant-filled conditions, as must the local Peregrine, one of which I later saw stooping through a cloud of hirundines, no doubt with it's eye on something larger out of sight!  Epic!
On the walk back I finally heard a different Pipit in the masses, a single Tree Pipit.
Later in the afternoon, I got wind of the Barred Warbler by the Pulpit Inn at the Bill.
On arrival, I surprisingly found no-one around!  I was then faced with a reasonably high number of low Bramble bushes where the thing could be hiding.  I sat by the wall of the pub and started scanning.  Within minutes the cracking Barred Warbler flew into view and sat on the edge of a bush.  What a monster!  A shame the juveniles we see in Britain are not at all barred, though the sheer greyness of the bird sure makes them distinctive!  It went on to show occasionally, though it wasn't easy to follow, as in the same small bush was a Reed Warbler, loads of House Sparrow, a couple of Dunnock, a Whinchat, and a Stonechat!  I waited for a little while as I wanted to get some footage, but it didn't show again.  Looking at Joe's tweet that said the last he saw if it was it disappearing up towards the coastguards, I realise just how lucky I was!  Unless there are two of them?!  Doubt it.
A cracking day, and I'm hoping that's going to last me a little while, as I'm working the next 6 days straight in Bridport again.  At least the tides are more favourable at Ferrybridge.  It's due a good'un! 


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