The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Leach's don't suck

A lot to catch up with, as my lack of photo-taking has put me off putting together a post earlier.


Today I was 'in transit' in Surrey after my Norfolk trip, and I did a recee for my leading of a walk round Tice's Meadow for the Guildford RSPB group the next day.

The place was looking quite a mess, thanks to ground works to divert the River Blackwater creating a scar through the site, plus the electricity company had felled a load of trees and branches under their cables, and just left them. 

Nonetheless, it was nice to see the local Peregrine come in with a kill of a Starling, which may well have occurred there and then, but I happened to miss it!  The birds in the workings had been unsettled for quite a while before.

The other highlight was at least 2 Yellow-legged Gull in amongst 70 or so Lesser Black-backed Gull.  A walk to Tongham GP added a calling Kingfisher and a flock of Fieldfare.


The walk proper went really rather well, with no rain till we were back at the cars!  There had been no real action, until not one, but two Peregrine came in and sat on the islands.  One even had a bath, and was a great hit amongst the punters (of which there were 25 or so - a good turnout)!

No Yellow-legs this time, but a couple of Snipe, and fly-over Siskin and Redpoll put in appearances.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the walk, and were delighted to be introduced to a site many had never visited before.

On the way back to Dorset, I thought it was a good opportunity to try for the current 'big thing' in the rarity world, down at Sandy Point, Hayling Island (okay, so it wasn't quite on route!).

On arrival at the seafront, the Semipalmated Plover was roosting with a flock of Ringed Plover and Sanderling, with a large group of birders in attendance.  I struggled to find a space to view, and as I got on the bird, the flock took flight!  They whizzed off towards Black Point, so I headed round there.

I kept a vigil on the best wader roosting area for some time along with a few others, but the bird was not re-found.  A shame, and I don't think I'm going to get an opportunity to go back.  That is unless I go through with my plan to start national (but strictly mainland) twitching!  I'll need to get rid of my gas-guzzler of a van first though!


After work, I thought it might be worth popping down to the Bill, as there was a bit of a south-west hooly blowing up.

As is often the case with seawatching, I saw something good on arrival, a Great Skua, before the rest of the time produced next to nothing!  Luckily, right at the end I managed the Portland tick of a Little Gull heading east, closely followed by a Red-throated Diver.

On the Obelisk I found a curious Silver-fish (sometimes called a Bristletail) Petrobius maritimus.

I took a bit of a lazy option today, and just did a short walk around the Blacknor/Bower's Quarry area in the afternoon.  A few Black Redstart had been reported from around the island in the morning, so it wasn't a surprise when I stumbled on a calling female amongst a load of boulders on the coast path.  Always a great bird to find.

I again did the walk round Blacknor, but this time ventured as far as Tout Quarry, and managed to look down into Chesil Cove, that had had a Storm-petrel earlier in the day.

The Cove was virtually empty, bar a distant feeding flock of 80 Mediterranean Gull, and it was great to have a female Merlin whizz by, heading on south along the cliffs.

Blacknor Point was chat heaven today, with now 2 Black Redstart, along with a couple of Wheatear, and at least 6 Stonechat.  Clearly there'd been an influx of these too.


Chesil Cove was again the destination this afternoon, what with the weather as it is.  I first tried watching from the top of the West Weares, but saw virtually nothing.  That is apart from the Great Skua which flew right over my head being mobbed by Gulls!  The rather reddish-brown body indicated a juvenile.

Watching from within the Cove itself made things easier, but all I got was a higher count of Gannet than before!  Right at the end, a juvenile Little Gull struggled south.  On the walk, a couple of Wheatear really looked miserable as they got blown around by the wind.


Today was the day when the storm really began to make it's presence felt, hence, seawatching was again the only option.

I made sure I was in position at the Bill at dawn, in preparation for a spectacle.  A couple of Great Skua (one of which was chasing GBB Gulls), and a single immature Pomarine Skua raised my hopes.  But, other than a trickle of Kittiwakes, Auks, and Gannets, nothing else was seen!  Also a Wheatear that was attempting to feed by the Obelisk, despite having the flushing public and the strong wind to contend with!

Imagine my frustration when I later learned of a Leach's Petrel that was briefly present with this feeding flock of mostly Gannet, numbering about 120 at it's height.

I really wanted to try something else, so I imagined the East Weares would be nice, calm and sheltered, so headed there. 

Well, somehow the westerly even gusted through here, but I did see my quarry, earlier found by Keith Pritchard.  Two fabulous Ring Ouzel were feeding on Cotoneaster berries on the cliff-face, the juvenile of which was ringed.  My latest ever.  Funny how I've now seen the first, and (possibly) last RO's of the autumn, but none in between (exactly 2 months apart)!

After lunch, I headed out to my favoured spot on the West Weares looking down into Chesil Cove, as the wind increased yet further.

On arrival, I found a Leach's Petrel struggling along close inshore (though bear in mind I wasn't actually that close to the shoreline).  Perhaps the bird that had passed Abbotsbury 2 hours earlier.  That may not sound correct, but the poor thing really was pondering along.

As always with this sought-after species, it was great to watch, but not easy to get any footage in the wind!
I didn't really have any further opportunity to scrutinise the Cove, as soon after, it started belting down!  I had no shelter whatsoever, but had no option but to leg it home.  I had to walk against the wind, and in truly horizontal rain.
I was completely soaked through by the time I got home, but pretty happy with the days birding nonetheless!
I really can't imagine what tomorrow will bring with the winds set to strengthen.  Sadly, I'm working the morning, so I'll probably miss it all!

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