The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Mutant Woodlouse

Sorry about the length of this post, but I didn't want to post yesterday due to a lack of photos, and I've ended up with a glut of them from today!

It's rather exciting that we are now into October, and it's all going off here in Dorset, despite the lack of cripplingly rare birds (they'll come hopefully).


The only wildlife watching I did today was a cycle to the Obs and back, really to take a look at the rare moths they'd got.

I was cycling along the edge of the houses next to Barleycrates lane when I flushed a Redstart from the fence.  I only got a brief glimpse as it disappeared into the bare gardens, but location would be a pointer for Black Redstart.  An odd observation were one after another Wheatear on the house roofs!  I've seen the odd one like that before, but not so many.

I went to the Obs principally for the rare 8th for Britain, Egyptian Bollworm, and what a beauty.

Also among the quality was the scarce migrant Antigastra catalaunalis.
Still lots of Wagtails, Wheatears, and Meadow Pipits in the Barleycrates horse fields.
Today was a key day, as I visited many areas after the best birds, though I didn't manage any photos worth showing, just the one 6 second video!
First of all, off the back of work I took a walk round Verne Common.  Just like other sites, it was crawling with Blackcap, Whitethroat, and Chiffchaff
The interesting observations here though were an 'cecking' call coming from deep in cover, which I realised was an out of place Water Rail (I've now encountered 2 of these on Portland, but never seen Moorhen or Coot here!), my first 4 Siskin of the autumn over, a bit of Cormorant movement in the shape of a flock of 26 over, and finally a nice own-found Vestal.
After lunch I thought I'd better give these birds at Bridging Camp, Wyke, some time.  Earlier in the week I had popped into there first thing to try and see the Shrike, but it was hiding.
This time, the nice juvenile male Red-backed Shrike proved no problem (my third of the autumn), as it sat on the boundary fence of the old derelict army camp, on arrival.  The other quality bird of the site was much more elusive though.  Eventually, I re-found the juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher at the far end of the site sitting on a horse jump, and it went on to show reasonably well, though distant.  It was getting a hard time from the local Robins.   Blink and you'll miss it!

Only my second ever.  Apparently earlier in the afternoon, the Flycatcher and the Shrike had been side by side on the same fence at one point!  Welcome to birding in Dorset.

I quickly popped into Radipole on the way back, as I wanted to achieve my latest ever Hobby.  They were much harder than I imagined, but one eventually showed well.

After an uneventful check of Ferrybridge, I got back on the island.  I was determined to search for migrants, so embarked on a grand tour of Wakeham, Perryfields, Bottomcombe, Yeolands, Broadcroft, and Bumpers Lane.  I was justly rewarded with one, then two Grasshopper Warbler at Perryfields/Bottomcombe.  I flushed the first from beside the path, and the second popped up into a nearby bush and briefly sunbathed.  Don't worry, I made sure they were 'just' Common Groppers!  I've gone the whole autumn without seeing one (other than in-hand) and I visit a relatively poor site late in the season and find two!

Other than a load more common warblers, the only other birds of note were a single Whinchat at Grove, and two fly-over Ringed Plover at Broadcroft.


The day dawned beautifully clear and still, with a bit of mist hanging about.

Unfortunately, this meant that most of the grounded birds on the island had left overnight!  I got all the way to the far end of Reap Lane before I saw a Wheatear or a Blackcap!  A check of Southwell School produced no eastern sprite (Yellow-browed Warbler to those English-speakers amongst you), though typically, it was seen later in the morning.  There were still two Yellow Wagtail hanging on to the Pipit flock, an adult and a juvenile.

Predictably, there was a great deal of vizmig (visible migration) happening in the clear, still conditions, but the only oddities I encountered were as I was walking past Southwell Business Park.  These were a Grey Wagtail, a Reed Bunting, some Siskin, and I heard my first Redwing of the autumn too.
There were a great deal of butterflies still on the wing in these positively balmy conditions, and alongside Small White, tons of Red Admirals, and Speckled Wood, were a few Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady still about.  Also this late Small Copper.
As I got to the Top Fields, I immediately noticed a Short-eared Owl come right overhead being mobbed by a Kestrel.  It then flew around in circles, as if making sure that everyone had noticed it's arrival.  It then landed in a field close-by.


I attempted to film the Kestrel chasing it, though it looks like it had peeled off just as I started filming.
The Kestrel itself was one of many, and as usual, these birds seem to be particularly confiding here.
I eventually made it to the Obs, where a Yellow-browed Warbler again eluded me.  To be fair though, I'm not putting too much effort into seeing one, as hopefully I'll bump into one soon, particularly given the number around at the moment.
The moths were excellent, and I also managed to catch up on a few goodies from previous days.  The rarest being this Old World Webworm.
Among the scarce migrants were this White-speck.
And this Pearly Underwing.
As well as the rather dull Scarce Bordered Straw.

Plus a few commoner species, that were still quality, including this lifer of Dusky-lemon Sallow.

Only my second Mallow.

A common Beaded Chestnut.
And finally this scarce-for-the-site Blair's Shoulder-knot.
Last, but certainly not least, among the pots of moths was a pot with this remarkable gigantic Sea-slater in it, that was found under one of the moth traps.  Look at the size of it!

Despite it's appearance, it's more closely-related to Shrimps than to Woodlice.

The walk back home was relatively uneventful. 
Back at Bridport this week.  Bugger.  Though, I'm off to Norfolk next to do some real birding (insert smiley)!

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