The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

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!

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