The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Sub-standard Goose

I've decided to do a separate post for yesterdays seawatching, as it would have made this one far too long!

Update for 26th April to 4th May.  There was a bit of a lack of birding during what should be peak-time, mainly due to having to work in Bridport for several days. 

26th + 27th

I spent a very enjoyable weekend back at my old patch of Tice's Meadow for their 24 hour event.

Water levels were as high as they've been, but it still looks so promising!

I was eventually able to hear the sites first Nightingale singing away, though it wasn't as vocal as it had been.  We also probably heard a second calling.  A female?  Hope so.

The other main ornithological highlight was at least 2 Arctic Tern dropping in, one staying all of Sunday.  Also my first few Swift of the year.

This big Grass Snake was a great spot by Keith Kerr, right out in the open on The Meadow.

In the end, we managed 66 species, which is way down on last year, largely down to the strong wind, and lack of luck with the likes of waders.  Still a fantastic time was had!
Just my usual circuit of mid-island, which just produced singles of the likes of RedstartTree Pipit, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat (at Suckthumb), Grasshopper Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warbler (at Barleycrates), and at least 10 Whinchat.  It was a struggle to photograph them though!

Best though was a female Merlin, which whizzed through Suckthumb and on to Barleycrates.
On the way back, I bumped into this mating pair of Holly Blue.  I managed to take a snap, just as an intruder came in to investigate. 


I also saw my first Orange-tip on Portland, near the Windmills.  Surprised it's here at all, as I have yet to find any Cuckoo-flower, and only a tiny amount of Garlic-mustard, it's other food plant.
After work in Bridport, I decided to try and twitch a Collared Pratincole in Bideford, north Devon, as I was effectively already 25 miles into the journey.
It had been seen in the morning, but after a few hours of trudging round the golf course at Northam Burrows, I gave up.  The bird was never seen again.
The perfect tonic to a couple of rubbish work days, was a locally available lifer.  On arrival at Top Fields late afternoon, the stonking male Eastern Subalpine Warbler was showing.
It continued to show well throughout, very obligingly feeding in the tops of the Blackthorn hedges.
I put plenty of time in today, but was largely unrewarded.  Ferrybridge had a few snippets of interest first thing, including a close Whimbrel, but the awful light played havoc with my photo setup!
The lightest smattering of migrants on the land included, finally, my first Portland Swift of the year.  A visible migration session at the West Cliffs produced a few of these, as well as only a trickle of Swallow.
Conditions weren't ideal, but I thought it might be worth a little seawatch from Chesil Beach.  There was a good passage of 175 Common Scoter in a couple of hours, but otherwise little else moving.  In fact, the highlight was a pair of Shoveler sneaking past with a flock of 60 Scoter!  Also a Great Skua passed over at great height, before going cross-harbour.  I wonder how many are missed like that!
On the mud-flats was a nice selection of waders, which included only my second Grey Plover of the year there.

The only highlight of a little round of mid-island was a very male Honey Buzzard-like pale Common Buzzard.  Not an individual I'd seen before.  A huge trap for the unwary!
In the afternoon, I took my first ever visit to the Abbotsbury Swannery, as I met up with my mum and step-dad down from Surrey.
It's amazing how rare Mute Swan is on Portland (I've never seen one, for instance), given this little lot are only 10 miles away...

It's a fabulous place, and I hadn't realised how good a birding spot it was.  As, in this short visit I saw at least one Arctic Tern, several Whimbrel, as well as a surprise female Scaup.

 As for the Swans, their eggs were very close to hatching.

Meanwhile, others had.

Among the non-avian highlights, was this stunning female Adela reaumurella longhorn-moth.

Also interloping with the Swans were 2 Black Swan and a single Bar-headed Goose (the Swannery does not keep any pinioned wildfowl).
After a nice meal in Weymouth, I was driving back along the Beach Road, when I suddenly noticed a large pale wildfowl species flying along parallel with me.  A Shelduck?  No, it was a Bar-headed Goose!  Very likely to be the bird I had seen earlier.  I think I would have been pretty stumped as to its identity had I not just seen one!  Whatever its origins, it's a true Portland rarity!

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