The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Monday, 27 January 2014

Larus Hyperboring!

A few days to catch up on, and there were one or two highlights, but otherwise things a rather samey at the moment!


I took a little look from the top of Chesil Beach after work, in the hope of passing birds on the sea.  I didn't see any of those, though I did manage to find my THIRD Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus, if you were wondering about the post title!) this year.  Don't get me wrong, they are great birds.  But it would be nice if I was capable of finding scarce birds that aren't Black Guillemots and Glaucous Gulls!

I got a glimpse of a white-winged Gull with its wings up on the sea by a fishing boat, and thought, 'that looked a little big for a Med!'.  It was indeed an adult Glaucous Gull, though it was no doubt the West Bexington bird, and also the one that was seen at Ferrybridge before Christmas.

Nothing else of particular note that day, though I managed to get some okay shots of the Portland Castle Black Guillemot.  One of these days it will be close in!

A bit of a lucky shot as it dived!

On the way home, I had a quick stroll down Watery Lane, seeing nothing of interest species-wise. 
Though I did witness some odd Crow behaviour.  A group of Carrion Crow were making quite a racket, and as I watched, more and more individuals flew in from all directions.  No sign of any predators, and it was too early for a roost (2.5 hours before sunset).  A few of the local Gulls began to join in with the raucous scrum too.  Never seen such a tight nit group of Carrion Crows before (Rook, Jackdaw, and Magpie yes, but not Carrion Crows).  Most odd!


The first of three days off today, that I was determined to make the most of.

A look at Portland Castle first produced the best views yet of the Black Guillemot, which seemed to be closely investigating the rock breakwater there.  It even poked away at the seaweed at the base.  It really looked as though it was about to climb up onto it too, but didn't sadly.  Also a Black-throated and Great Northern Diver there.

I next took a look in Chesil Cove, and was rewarded with a passing Long-tailed Duck, which kept landing on the sea with a belly-flop, as it went further and further out.  90% sure of the ID.

I had a poke around the bushes, and found the wing of a Kittiwake.  Possibly a storm victim that had been picked up by a Fox.

Here, I was treated to a marvellous Peregrine display, as the local pair repeatedly attempted to chase away an intruding female.  At one point, the male chased her at full pelt right past my ear, from behind me!  Didn't half make me jump!
Come the afternoon, the wind was calm, and the sun was out.  That meant a look at Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour.  The former had more Dunlin and Ringed Plover than recently, but still little else.
The latter though, from Weymouth Watersports, was as busy as I've seen it, with the conditions allowing me to count everything pretty well.  Final totals were 4 Red-necked Grebe (in two distinct pairs), 19 Black-necked Grebe, a couple of Slavonian Grebe, 2 more Great Northern Diver, and at least 3 more Black-throated Diver, one of which flew in.  Awesome!
Things were starting to get a little samey at this point, with another day gone, and nothing new for the year.  Still, it was an enjoyable ramble up island, starting at Chesil Cove.
Best, was two close-in Slavonian Grebe, salvaging what was otherwise a rather tedious couple of hours.
I next decided to head home via Portland Castle, but there was nothing of note.  On the way back up the Merchant's Incline, I noticed that the first proper signs of spring were arriving.  Hawthorn leaves in bud...
...and, better still, Blackthorn blossom out!
As I ascended, I suddenly heard a call coming from the trees behind the abandoned flats.  I was pretty sure it was a Siberian Chiffchaff.  Basically a single note call, reminiscent of Chiffchaff, but more like a Bullfinch.  I found a gap in the fence, and checked it out.  As I arrived, a few birds (mostly Tits) flew across into an area with no access.  There was no further sign of any birds in the original trees.
I went round to the corner of Verne Common, but found nothing in that area either.  Plenty of places for a bird like that to be hiding around there.  I may try again sometime.
The one that got away!
The only sightings remotely of note during my little after-work dash round the best sites were a Sandwich Tern back at Portland Castle, and a pair of Kingfisher chasing each other around there.
With the stormy conditions, Chesil Cove was really the only option this afternoon.  I was delighted to get my first patch tick for over a week, as at least 3 Little Gull passed by.  I searched through the good number of other Gulls feeding in the surf finding nothing, though I apparently missed an Iceland Gull! Bugger!
More shots of the 'Portland-weather'!

I look forward to the apparent icy conditions coming.  That should produce plenty of new stuff with any luck!

Sunday, 19 January 2014


I haven't updated for a while, so I'll try and condense the last 9 days.  Still a bit long though, sorry!


I spent the day helping to lead a trip round Blashford Lakes, Hants.

This is a brilliant reserve, and we did particularly well on this day, basically clearing up on the scarcer species.

We saw the long-staying Great White Egret right in front of the Ivy North Hide, though the Bittern was only seen subliminally amongst the reeds.  On Ivy Lake itself was a Yellow-legged Gull.

A cracking Mealy Redpoll was on the feeders by the Woodland Hide, though we failed to get direct comparisons with Lessers, and a male Red-crested Pochard was on Rockford Lake.

Finally, Ibsley Water had two close Black-necked Grebe and a Mediterranean Gull in the gull roost.  Routine for me nowadays yes, but still nice to see.

A cracking day that was enjoyed by all!


I did one of my mega walks all the way to Ferrybridge, then back via Verne Common etc.

I have considered taking part in the Footit challenge, but decided against it.  Mainly cause I'd have to include the Bill in my 3 mile area, and I'd rather just concentrate on my North Portland patch.

It was dawning to a beautiful day, and somebody was playing noughts and crosses in the sky!

On the way along the West Weares, I noticed that the Fulmar were already prospecting the cliffs.  Then I remembered that I'd had to remove the species from my patch list when I got rid of the Bill!  A patch tick!

The wind was virtually non-existent, which made scanning the harbour on arrival at Ferrybridge all the easier. 

I finally managed to find the Velvet Scoter out in the middle of the harbour, along with all the now expected Divers and Grebes.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a pair of Grebes doing their 'penguin' dance.  I didn't really take any notice of it, until I later looked in the same area and found two Red-necked Grebe (though, still in winter dress).  No Great Cresteds in sight.  I wish I'd paid more attention!

After a quick look at a quiet Ferrybridge, I stationed myself up on the crest of Chesil Beach, in the hope of passing birds on the sea.  It was absolutely dead, though I somehow managed to pick up a very distant Red-throated Diver on the sea.  In these calm conditions, they should've been passing.

I took the occasional glance at the mudflats whilst up there, and on one check, I noticed an interesting looking Gull.  The bill and head looked all the world like a Glaucous Gull, but the wing-tips didn't look that pale, and it was virtually the same size as the nearby Herring Gull.

I checked it as much as possible before putting the news out, though still with reservations.  I went down to let the Saunder's know, who were down on the edge of The Fleet photographing the smaller Gulls.  At this closer range I was more happy with the bird, even though it was not the biggest in the world.  It was indeed a 1st-winter Glaucous Gull.  The second 'Glauc' I'd found this year!

It went on to show really well for the small gathered crowd.

Whilst back on Diver watch, I heard a Grey Plover, then saw the bird flying around over the Saunder's heads!  The fourth, and last, patch tick of the day.
I went back on the rather convoluted route of Verne Common, Old Hill, and Tout Quarry.  The former had virtually nothing of note, though I swore I glimpsed a very yellow bird (prob Yellowhammer) in with a passing Greenfinch flock.
The latter two sites got me nothing on the wildlife side.  But, the Tout Quarry sculptures are getting more and more imaginative.
15th to 18th
On these days I just followed a routine of checking Ferrybridge and it's environs on the way back from work.
Nothing of great note was encountered during these visits, though on the latter date I finally caught up with the Harbour Sandwich Tern at Portland Castle, despite it being present for several days.
Portland was battered by some pretty heavy showers during this time.
But these do bring their advantages.

On another day, I took a quick late-afternoon look at Pennsylvania Castle Woods, in the hope of Firecrest.  No luck at all on that score, just a few 'peeps' from a crest or two. 
The place really is pretty in the winter, carpeted with Ivy, and looking rather mystical.

I found a good number of Fungi scattered about the place.  I really should get back into these.
Here (I think) we have Velvet Shank.

The famous Jew's (or Jelly) Ear on Elder.

And what I believe to be Layered Cup Peziza varia, which is a lifer for me.

I went back via Watery Lane, and counted 50 Pied Wagtail on one of the fields.


I started another beautiful calm day at Penn Woods once again, where my luck finally improved.  A rather skulking Firecrest was eventually found in a little roaming flock of Goldcrest by the ruins.

I wasn't expecting a great deal at Verne Common next, and indeed most of it was empty.  That's apart from one little corner by the Cemetery, which held another Firecrest, along with more Goldcrest and at least 3 calling Water Rail.  I can't wait to check this site in spring.

The rest of the day was largely spent on Chesil Beach again, in the vain hope of passing birds.  Despite the Bill recording 25-odd Red-throats, I didn't see one, not even at great distance.  What line are they taking that means they by-pass this area? 

I did see some Divers though, as two Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver took advantage of the windless conditions to leave Portland Harbour, though they didn't quite go over my head, which is what I was hoping for!

A enjoyable day nonetheless.

Now on 83 species and 109 points for the Patchwork Challenge.

I'm afraid to say that I've decided to make one last change to my patch area.  I know I've U-turned more than the government, but I may have to live with this patch for many years so it's important that I get it right.  I have removed the East Weares, and instead connected the Penn Woods/Perryfield bit to Suckthumb via Watery Lane.  I've also extended a thick piece of patch down to Debby and Pete's house.  I couldn't live with myself if they got another Pale-legged Leaf Warbler or Collared Flycatcher, and it was just outside my patch!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Patchwork Guilt

Ever since I completed the map of my patch shape for the Patchwork competition, I've felt awfully guilty that it contained long, thin, connecting lines.  Not against the rules (though should be in my opinion), but not the 'done' thing.
I thought long and hard about the best thing to do, and decided rather than just moving the long lines onto paths and roads, I'd totally re-think my patch. 
The main areas that I felt I had to include were Ferrybridge, and the area around my flat in Weston.  As these are fairly far apart anyway, there was nothing I could do but make the area fairly linear.  And, I also then had a load of extra space to play with.  So, despite the continued presence of connecting lines, I hope everyone will agree that my new patch is an improvement on the last attempt.  My patch name will change to North Portland.
Okay, so I'll see less species than my last patch shape, of that there is no doubt.  But, I like a challenge!
The other good thing about this patch, is that I'm no longer in direct competition with Joe Stockwell (a small bit of overlap).  Instead we can both find our own stuff, and cover more ground!
The area includes:
  • Ferrybridge
  • Portland Castle
  • Castletown
  • Verne Common
  • Tilleycombe
  • Old Hill
  • Chesil Cove
  • Tout Quarry
  • Bowers Quarry
  • A small bit of High Angle Battery
  • East Weares (Keith will be pleased!)
  • Bumpers Lane
  • Bottomcombe and Perryfields
  • Penn Castle Woods
  • Suckthumb, Reap, and Barleycrates complex
  • Blacknor
I'm already loving this patch, as I've had a brilliant start, and up to 81 species already!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Merg in Turn


In my usual 2 hour window after work, I checked out Ferrybridge, Portland Castle, and The Bill, as per my developing routine.

Little of note till I got to the Castle.  From here I finally got the female Eider onto the patch and year lists, though it spent it's entire time dozing by the breakwater.

A sudden glimpse of a bird disappearing round the corner towards The Aqua hotel had me puzzled.  It looked all the world like a Kingfisher, though I failed to see the usual 'flash of blue' from the bird.  Just a Starling?

I whizzed round the corner, and as I got to the water's edge, I flushed a Kingfisher from the rocky wall!  A Portland tick.

Otherwise, the usual stuff in the area including Great Northern and Black-throated Divers.

Once at the Bill, I moved over towards the Obs Quarry to see if the usual Little Owl was enjoying the brief sunshine, and it was!  That was the only highlight, as the sea was dead as the sun began to set.


The wind has finally died down!

Ferrybridge was again rather quiet today, but I was happy to finally get Rook and Curlew on the Patch list, though I had to get the latter by scoping halfway down the Fleet!

The sun was shining, and that made watching from Hamm Beach rather an attractive proposition, especially as water sport activity was fairly low.  It seems that this little corner of the harbour is excellent for Grebes and Divers etc, when they're not disturbed that is.  Today, there were 3 Great Northern Diver very close in, including one literally just off the rocks!  They were too close for me to phonescope!

Moving round to Portland Castle, I found a photographers dream, with the sun shining on the birds, which were mostly close-in.  With nothing particularly notable in view, I just relaxed and enjoyed the commoner birds.

Even with the conditions, my photography set-up still struggled with some of the distances, and I managed my best photo of the Black Guillemot yet(!).

Closer in (though still not close enough for my phone camera) was a Guillemot.
The female Eider was still present, though as yesterday, it was sleeping!


But, the star of the show were the Red-breasted Merganser, which were displaying, and calling.  Not something you hear everyday.  There were two particularly boisterous males displaying to a female...


...but the female was having none of it!

I finished the day with a rather uneventful stroll round Verne Common, producing only the patch tick of Bullfinch.


 I had the day off, so immediately headed out for a circuit round the Barleycrates, Reap, and Suckthumb area, in very mild and pleasant conditions.

The first sign of spring on Portland, is the Alexanders sprouting, and here's some in Barleycrates Lane.

The first bit of the walk had produced just the patch ticks of Collared Dove and Stock Dove, till I got to Reap Lane.

I was delighted to find a pair of Stonechat here, as they'd been hard to find during the strong winds.  But, better still, a Black Redstart was apparently associating with them.  I made yet another attempt to photograph one, but I was hampered by a pair of overly-friendly Horses, one of which had a nibble of my binocular case (oooer)!

So, I had to make do with a video grab.

The bird was, as usual, being chased by the local Robin.
On the way back home, I witnessed a pair of Peregrine co-operatively hunting a Feral Pigeon.  Something I have seen once before, but it was no less exciting for that.  I failed to see the outcome on this occasion.
Onwards to Ferrybridge, where things were again quiet on the mudflats.  But, scoping further down the Fleet, I managed to see a pair of Shelduck, and two male Goldeneye.  Both uncommon closer to the island, and both valuable patch ticks.
A look from Hamm Beach produced the usual stuff, including a distant group of 3 Black-throated Diver, and a Grey Heron in flight. 
Also this rather large family group of Brent Goose with 6 youngsters!
Portland Castle was quieter than in recent days, but I again attempted some photography.
This Shag was very helpful.
Which cannot be said for a fourth Black-throated Diver!
After a great deal of thought, I have decided to change my Patch boundaries for the Patchwork Challenge.  The shape that I posted before was just too unconventional.  My patch now no longer includes The Bill.  I'll do a blog post on it shortly.
Under these new boundaries, I'm up to 77 species for the patch.


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Blewits, Balearics, and Bird Racing

If you're not interested in my Surrey Bird Race, do skip down to yesterday.  I realise my blog is rather hard going when there is a lack of pretty pictures!


Today, I was back in my old stomping ground of Surrey, to take part in a fledgling bird race for what was once my local RSPB group.  Only ourselves (me and two others) were racing this year, in order to set a benchmark to try and beat, hopefully with more teams, next year.

I'd never done a bird race before, but it has always been something that appealed to me.  I have to say it well and truly lived up to expectations, and was tremendous fun!  Due to the rather frenetic style of the day, there wasn't really any time to take pictures, sorry!

We had considered cancelling as the forecast was poor, but in the end we decided to chance our arm.  We started first thing at Staines Reservoir with the sun just rising.

There had been a suite of goodies seen yesterday, so we began scanning for birds on the water.  No problem with the common wildfowl, which we mopped up in no time, but where were the scarcities?  Whilst scanning a distant flock of Tufted Duck in the south-west corner of the south basin,  I noticed a bird with very white cheeks, and a reddish head.  Smew!  We weren't expecting to get one of those!

Soon enough we had managed to find a Black-necked Grebe, and I also spotted a very distant small grebe with very white cheeks on the far shore, which I thought looked good for Slavonian Grebe.  I subsequently learnt that other birders saw it better, and confirmed my suspicions!

Just as we were about to leave, I found the male Scaup, against expectations, in one of the closer flocks of Tufties!  I was concentrating on the distant flocks!

28 species straight on the list (without any of the small birds of course, no bushes at 'The Res'!).

Site No. 2 was the small car park at Papercourt, which got us a myriad of passerines, including a large flock of Redwing, Fieldfare, and Mistle Thrush, as well as one of the only Buzzard of the day sitting on a pylon. 

Up to 45 now.

Next, we just popped round the corner to Papercourt Farm, which is where we hoped might be some Little Owl.  Incredibly, We were immediately greeted by a pair, in full glare mode!  Also in a nearby field was a bonus pair of Egyptian Goose.  The weather was holding nicely.

51 was the score.

Onto Puttenham Common, and a quick glance at Cutt Mill and The Tarn lakes.  The main target at Cutt Mill was worryingly absent on arrival, though a small flock of Mandarin were no problem. 

The first Mallard of the day was seen (!), and in the surrounding trees were Treecreeper and NuthatchSiskin and Redpoll were only fly-overs.

We were just about to move on, when a sudden splash announced the arrival of 5 Goosander!  We needn't have worried, as a brief look at next door Tarn lake produced 11 more!

On a respectable 58 now.

We weren't planning it, but we thought we better quickly pop to Frensham, just to be able to say we had Glossy Ibis on our list!  The bird was no problem, and this area was really alive with other birds in addition.

62 by lunchtime.

As we arrived at the centre-piece of Surrey birding, Tice's Meadow, the rain started, plus The Mound was very exposed to a strengthening wind!

Even so, we added another 10 species, though it was frustrating that we missed Skylark, Water Rail, and Green Sandpiper, which were all present.  Chiffchaff and Snipe were the best additions.

The rain had now stopped, and we had a ponder as to what to do next, then decided to stick to our plan, and head for Crooksbury Common.  This unassuming little heath has surprised me on more than one occasion, and today was no exception, as it initially appeared rather lifeless!  We did manage to see Stonechat and Coal Tit on the walk out, but I wasn't expecting much more than that.

Then, a rather frantically-flying Feral Pigeon going over drew my attention to what was on it's tail, a Peregrine

Finally, we managed to witness a nice spectacle of the Finch coming to roost, including the hoped for Brambling.  At least 30 seen, and some close views too.

77 was the score now, but that was it surely?

Well, we thought so, but as we still had a little light left, we took a chance of possible Barn Owl back at Papercourt Water Meadows.  The wind was now quite strong, and a combination of that, plus the fact that the meadows were flooded, meant there was never going to be much chance of Mr Alba.  However, in the half-light, we jammed a last minute Kingfisher on the swollen river!  A fitting finale.

So, we finished on 78 species, and a cracking effort I think.  The only glaring omission then was Skylark, but it was disappointing we didn't get Water Rail, Little Egret, Grey Wagtail, or Linnet.  We were very lucky with the weather!

Nonetheless, I think we'll find it tough to beat next year! 

We raised £50 for the RSPB, and had a wonderful time.


Another afternoon watching Portland Harbour from Weymouth Watersports, another unexpected storm-driven seabird!

After work, I was scanning the harbour for seaduck etc., when I came across something dark shearing in the distance towards the Marina.  My initial reaction was a small Skua, but I was equally delighted to realise it was in fact a Balearic Shearwater!

It was rather an odd sight, as it flew back and forth along the south shore of the harbour, desperately looking for an exit!  At one point is was even amongst the kite-surfers!

Interesting to note this bird's behaviour, as a Skua for instance would think nothing of heading up over the beach.  Shearwater clearly will not go over land, even as thin as Chesil Beach.

A quick look from The Bill later, and I had a Balearic go west past only just beyond the rocks!  The closest one I've ever seen.

I feel sure it was the harbour bird, that had managed to get out by going back on itself.


A quick look from Weymouth Watersports and at Ferrybridge produced little to shout about (except the patch tick of Ringed Plover!).  Seems odd that I barely care to mention the likes of Great Northern Diver and Red-necked Grebe these days!

I briefly popped into Chesil Cove next, where I witnessed the 'destruction' from the storm.  I put that in quotes, cause all I could see was a scatter of pebbles over the seafront path, plus the presence of Environment Agency vans.

Even though the wind has eased, the sea is still pretty spectacular.

I headed for The Bill once again. 
On the way I found a good flush of Field Blewit on the fields, which I think is in fact a lifer.  Nice to be able to report a non-bird sighting now and again!

On arrival at the obelisk, I couldn't resist more stormy sea shots.

There was absolutely nothing on the sea, except the usual Gannet, Kittiwake, and Auks.
But, I was delighted to finally see the wintering flock of 5 Purple Sandpiper with a few Turnstone.
They found a snug roosting place behind the cliff-edge, and they were obviously determined to play hide and seek with me!

They did eventually pop down the cliff to feed, as a news cameraman, obviously attempting to film the stormy seas, watched.  Perhaps the birds managed a 'photobomb' and will be on the news later?
I look forward to some calm weather to explore the Bill a bit more!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Storming the Patch!

Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, but the weather for the last few days hasn't exactly been camera friendly!


Determination is my middle name, (it's actually Robert, but, you know) and that was the only thing forcing me to get out birding to kick off the year, and also the patch list. 

The forecast was horrendous, but it started off with perfectly tolerable light rain, as I started at Verne Common at dawn.  I was hoping this little sheltered area would get me the small birds, and I did indeed get a little luck, with Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit, a heard only Goldcrest, and hoped for Long-tailed Tit (not easy on Portland).

A call I didn't recognise echoed down from the cliff-edge, and there I found a rather fed-up looking Peregrine.  Not their normal territorial call, but a softer, rather Kestrel-like noise.

Onwards to the end, and I came across a number of paths that have opened up since I was last here, through the leaves dropping in autumn, and I suspect, a little human pruning.  On one of these paths I was delighted to flush a Woodcock (I had to rely on my instincts, as the ID wasn't immediately obvious)The perfect time to find my first on Portland!

I was able to find a couple of decent vantage points overlooking the south-east corner of the harbour, and found a number of Auks scattered about the place, though nothing out of the ordinary. 

It was at this point that I decided it was time to get down to Portland Castle, in the hope that I could get the Brunnich's onto the list.  Well, it was just not meant to be, but it was great to see Black Guillemot, Black-throated Diver, and Great Northern Diver amongst the expected stuff.

Next, it was on to Weymouth Watersports, where I found a lovely sheltered corner behind one of the porta-cabins.  Even in these horrendous conditions, I was able to eventually pick out all five species of Grebe; the first time I've ever managed that on the same day!  What a place!

I managed to coincide a visit to Ferrybridge with low tide, though the site was at it's very quietest!  Not even a Ringed Plover!  I took the opportunity to sit in the car de-misting my optics, as I had to do between all these visits!

On my way back home for lunch, I stopped off at Chesil Cove briefly, only to witness a spectacular procession of Gulls passing close-in, in lovely soft light.  Any Lariphile would have had a whale of a time.  With my limited skills however, the only quality species I was able to pick out was a 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, which flew west, and on over the beach towards Victoria Square (where it was later found by others).   There was a constant stream of Kittiwake, including some right over the beach, and I spotted two Great Skua past. 

In all this excitement, I rather forgot about lunch, and instead decided to pop quickly back to Verne Common, to check out the Harbour again, just in case the Brunnich's had moved there.  No such luck on that score, though I did glimpse a dark-headed Auk just outside the Harbour entrance.  Both Guillemot and Razorbill were about, seemingly relishing the calm water.

A real bonus was hearing a pair of Water Rail squealing as I stood. 

The day was drawing to an end, but I really wanted to try The Bill, particularly for the wintering Purple Sandpiper and Black Redstart.  Well, the weather was now at it's very worst, and the only birding I managed was a watch from the obelisk.  This was fairly productive though, with one after another Great Skua passing, some really close, adding up to 9.  Awesome birds!  Only Fulmar was added to the list.

On arrival back at home, I rushed round Barleycrates and Suckthumb to try and jam in a few routine species.  The all-day rain had had quite an affect on the usually bone-dry Barleycrates.

I was delighted to add Sparrowhawk, Meadow Pipit, Magpie, and Linnet as it got to dusk.
I finished on 55 species (plus one, Collared Dove, just outside of patch), which I feel is a pretty good effort considering the conditions! 
I got home, soaking, starving, but very happy with my days work!

In much improved conditions, I wanted to make doubly sure the Brunnich's wasn't in the south-east corner of the harbour, so once again headed for Verne Common.

I'm not sure what they were up to, but there was a flock of at least 25 Auk flying around in the Harbour, as well as 15 or so dotted about, the most I've ever seen in there.  I was able to identify most of the closer birds around the Portland Port and the entrance, including my dark-headed bird in exactly the same spot as yesterday - a slightly oiled Common Guillemot in full summer-plumage.  To add to the rather 'Bill' feel of the harbour today, there were also at least 4 Gannet wheeling about, and apparently also hunting.  Also a Great Northern Diver very close to one of the Port walkways.  Shame the whole place is private!

Also, in a completely different spot to yesterday, two Water Rail squealed.  I wonder how many of these winter on Portland!?  More than any estimates I bet.

Also from the same spot, I was able to add Chiffchaff and Greenfinch to the patch list.

I was planning to head to The Bill, but then I heard of a Woodlark apparently seen at Ferrybridge.

On arrival, there was a fair number of people looking, but no-one had seen the bird, only Skylark.  I watched the small flock amongst the saltmarsh plants for quite a while, but could only see Skylark, some with particularly bold-looking ear-coverts and supercilium, as the sun shone on them.

The mudflats were looking a bit busier than yesterday, and I was able to find the ticks of Common Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, and Little Egret.

On arrival back at base, a Buzzard being mobbed by crows, was also an addition.


Very frustratingly, for the foreseeable future, I shall be working in Weymouth.  This is a real pain, cause I didn't get out into the field till gone 2 today, so only with a couple of hours of light left.  I suppose I'd rather it happen now than during spring!

Nonetheless, when I finally got down to Ferrybridge this afternoon, it was blowing a hoolie, and I know only too well that weather like that can so often produce the goods.

I was once again in my lovely sheltered spot at Weymouth Watersports, scanning the water of the harbour for seaduck, when I happened across a small Petrel struggling into the wind, a fair distance away towards Hamm Beach.  I thought I'd better get the news out quickly, as it wasn't likely to hang around.  So, I assumed at this time of year it has to be a Leach's Petrel, and tweeted the message.

I began to watch it more closely, and it started to move towards my position.  I was sure I saw a flash of white on the underwing, and that's when doubt started to take hold.  I'd never seen a Storm Petrel as well as this before, but it was soon enough clear to me that that's what it was.  I'm still very happy with the find though.  Unfortunately, it then drifted away into the harbour, and I do not rate it's chances of survival, especially with the number of hungry Gulls about (one did make a couple of glances at the bird at one point, but decided against it)!  Far too distant to get any sort of image, so you'll just have to take my word for it!

So, up to 62 species for the patch.  I'll be grateful for any additions in the coming weeks (still need Raven, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Ringed Plover, Bullfinch, RT Diver, C. Scoter, Little Owl etc.), hopefully starting with the Bill Purple Sands and Black Redstart, once the weather improves!