The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Surf's Up!


I had my usual early morning look at Ferrybridge on my way to Bridport, but the tide was high.  In fact, I didn't realise the tide went this high!

That didn't deter me, and I instead crossed the road to take a look in Portland Harbour.  The strong wind made things difficult, but there genuinely did appear to be little to see.  Just a close Razorbill of note. 
But then I flushed a Lark from the grassland, and I don't know what it was, but my instinct told me it was not a Skylark.  I moved over to where it landed, and it again flushed, from almost under my feet.  It flew over the road to the rocky verge by the centre, and I again managed to almost tread on it, but fail to get any further detail.  My excuse is that it was in half-light, and the bird didn't call.
But, after work I took a look at the bird news, and saw that a Woodlark had been at Ferrybridge the day before.  I can't prove it, but I'm 90% certain that's what my bird was.  The fact that it flushed at such close range is a big plus point.
On my way home, I popped back in to Ferrybridge to see if I could re-find the bird, to no avail.  I did however manage to scrutinise the Brent Goose flock enough to find the Black Brant.
As well as three Pale-bellied Brent Goose.  A pair, and this loner.
I then made a brief visit back to Portland Castle, to take a second look at the Red-necked Grebe.  It was however further out than before, so no photos.
Before today, I can confess to having a bit of an 'after the lord mayor's show' feel about birding on Portland.  But, today well and truly buried that thought, as it all came to life again.
I had the day off work, and took a fairly lazy option of a short walk around Barleycrates, Suckthumb, the Hump, and Reap Lane, followed by a small added section round Blacknor and Bower's Quarry.  I wasn't expecting much, but I was mindful of the smidgens of quality seen at the Hump yesterday. 
Indeed, it was there where the highlight was seen, in the shape of the supposed 'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroat, which called to announce it's presence, then showed reasonably well.  The call sounded normal to me, and the only thing which seemed odd about it's appearance was a small amount of brown in the head.
Nothing much else was seen, though there were a lot of Skylark and Goldfinch around, particularly in the Reap Lane area.  A quick scan out to sea revealed 3 Common Scoter flying past, and I found this Fox Moth caterpillar crossing the path.

My quick loop round Blacknor produced nothing till I found a 1st-winter male Black Redstart at the corner of St. Georges Church graveyard.  This species continues to elude my camera!
I was rather looking forward to my lunch, but then I noticed what had been found at the Bill! So I cycled down to the bushes by the Pulpit Inn.
It was rather elusive, but luckily the Dusky Warbler was calling reasonably frequently, so it could just about be followed in the fairly open Elm thicket.  I managed to glimpse it a few times in the middle of the bush, but I was also fortunate to catch it out in the open on the edge, but only briefly.  Not a lifer, but my first was 3 years ago, so nice to catch up with one again.
Once back home, I was again interrupted from my food by a report of a Surf Scoter in Poole Harbour.  I waited for a further report before jumping into my van and driving the 30 miles.  It didn't start well as the centre of Weymouth was gridlocked with an accident, and I lost 20 minutes.  I thought time was rather critical as the tide was currently going out.
Once there, I had little trouble finding the spot, and it was evident the tide was not a problem at all, as it was still pretty high. 
The fantastic 1st-winter Surf Scoter was fairly easy to find, although it was distant.  The lack of any other scoter-shaped ducks helped, but the whole visit was made all the more enjoyable by the lack of wind, and flat-calm water at Brand's Bay.  I initially watched from the hide, but quickly moved to the much better spot of Redhorn Point.

The bird was showing pretty well now (first with a Red-breasted Merganser).

It did do a little bit of diving and re-surfacing, but it was particularly enjoyable to watch as it preened and bathed, as my video shows.
No way of being sure I know, but I feel it's pretty likely that this is the same bird that made a brief visit to Chesil Cove last week.
A quick scan of the nearby waters revealed a Sandwich Tern (probably attempting to winter here), at least 40 Great Crested Grebe, a few Knot, and 5 Black-necked Grebe viewing towards Brownsea Island.
All in all, quite a day! 
Come January 1st, I shall be entering the Patchwork Challenge with Portland Bill.  I urge anyone who regularly watches a local patch to do the same.  All the details here:

1 comment:

  1. Some lovely photo's. Good luck with the patchwork challenge!