The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Marila Ice

Things are finally perking up, with even the suggestion of spring producing the goods!


A quick look at Ferrybridge initially produced little, till the now seemingly semi-resident Great Skua came in for a quick drink, before lumbering back up over the beach.

An interesting observation was a tight flock of four Raven flying from the mainland over to the island.  Going the wrong way, but migrants?

Chesil Cove I thought might be worth a look in medium-strength south-westerly wind.  When I got there, I was immediately confronted with a sea covered in packs of cigarettes!  They had apparently been lost off a container ship off Devon the previous day.  The glint of the plastic in the sun could literally be seen to the horizon!

And, the beach was now covered in a never-ending white strandline (you may need to enlarge the second shot).

The coastguard plane made several low flypasts, presumably to assess the situation.  Various people, some of which were the authorities, soon turned up and began to pick up the booty.  It's not going to be a small job though!

The only birds of any note whilst all this was going on was one close Great Northern Diver, plus another Diver which landed further out, probably also this species.


A lovely day with light winds meant a walk round some of the field and bush areas of my patch first of all.

No early summer migrant sadly, but I definitely noticed a larger number of Meadow Pipit, Linnet, and Stonechat than recently.

I found these Lesser Celandine in flower near Verne Common.  I was rather delighted to find these initially, but on inspecting the photos afterwards, I notice that they have marked leaves, and so are probably a cultivated variety.

A probable Firecrest was heard on the Common, and I had an amusing encounter with one of the local Peregrine.  It stalled in the wind above my head and had a good scratch of it's head.  This distraction caused it to fail to notice the Gull that was sneaking up on it, and the poor raptor got a right wallop!

Ferrybridge was the next destination, where I wasn't expecting a great deal.  Indeed the mudflats were empty.

But, on scanning The Fleet, I suddenly came across a distant Duck with a bright white blaze on it's forehead.  I was fairly sure it was a female Scaup (Portland rarity), but I had to get better views from the pub car park, just to make sure it wasn't one of those weird female Tufted Duck (which would also be a Portland tick!).  

Sure enough, it was showing really well from here.

It was associating with some Red-breasted Merganser, and more than once, the flock was frightened by Gulls attempting to steal their catch, and the Scaup (Aythya marila if you were wondering about the blog title!) took flight.

It almost looked as if it was about to fly up The Fleet at one point (which is presumably where it had come from - there has been a Scaup reported from Abbotsbury recently) but thankfully looped round and landed even closer.

Great bird!


Initial looks at Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour produced little, so I popped into Chesil Cove, as once again the wind felt promising.

As ever, passage was nil (except a Red-throated Diver, which ditched into the sea some way out).  But, watching the distant Gull flock down Chesil Beach, I suddenly got the flash of a white-winged Gull through my scope.

My immediate reaction was Glaucous, cause it just looked so large and chunky!  I had to check the bill colouration, but at that distance it was very tricky.  It didn't though appear obviously pale with a dark tip.  That's when I started to wonder.

I had to get closer, so I walked all the way along the beach, in the hope it would still be in the area beyond the diggers. 

It was, and it was now unequivocally an Iceland Gull!  Thank goodness for that!  I deserve that I think after dipping so many this year.  A Portland tick.

It went on to show brilliantly in perfect light.

Loving my birding at the moment! 

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