The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Rarity Finding, From Dawn to Dusky

It seems that what I said at the end two posts ago was somewhat premature!  In the last few days I've learnt that you cannot predict what birds are going to do, but most of all, I've learnt never to write off Portland!

These few days were already pretty good with a Long-tailed Duck seen a couple of times in Portland Harbour, lots of Thrushes and Finches, a Short-eared Owl at Barleycrates Lane, and 6 Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge.

Plus, I got some of my best views yet of the Yellow-browed Warbler at the hump, on the 10th.

On top of those, there has been a bit of an influx of Black Redstart in recent days, with at least 6 seen myself, including this bird at Barleycrates Lane.

On the 12th, I shunned my usual walk round mid-island in favour of a look at Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour.  After seeing a few titbits, I still had loads of time till lunch so thought I may as well drive up to the Avalanche Rd hump to see if the Yellow-brow, or indeed anything else, was there.  I don't know why, but I decided to take the long way round, along the public footpath. 

As I was walking along, I became aware of a call coming from some close Brambles, that I nearly dismissed as a Wren. Almost immediately, I flushed the bird, and it flew off to a more distant Bramble patch.  At this point, still not sure it wasn't a Wren.  'Better go and check it out', I thought.   A few more calls, but still nothing which shouted anything other than Wren to me.  Then I flushed the bird again.  It flew back to its original Brambles, but this time sat nicely on the side of the bush for a split second.  Enough time for me to see a large dark warbler, and it clicked. DUSKY WARBLER!  I had heard the species once before, at the Bill last year, but I didn't know the call off by heart. Only on seeing the bird did the pieces of jigsaw come together!

After putting the news out, I had to wait a bit for others arrive, but they did eventually.

I've seen the bird a few more times subsequently, though it's being largely typically elusive. Some of its favoured bushes:

Getting any sort of documentation of the bird has been tricky with its skulking nature, but here's footage of it calling (shortly after I found it), and some footage from today of it showing (just!). Turn the sound down on the second, and play both together for the full 'experience'!
Yesterday afternoon, I wanted to put some time in at the Dusky, so walked there from home via Weston Street.
I was just walking along the path by the former Weston Craft Centre when I spotted a bird flying straight at me over the adjacent horse field, with a bounding flight.  A HOOPOE!  Was I hallucinating, seeing a Hoopoe in November?  It immediately dived down into a front garden along the road.  I rushed over there, only for it to pop over the fence and land on the roadside verge!  I grabbed my camera (though dropped it on the wet grass in my excitement, hence the spots on the lens!).
As you can see, it disappeared over the houses, but despite an extensive search, particularly of the Watery Lane area, it couldn't be re-found.  Perhaps it went into a back garden.   
Wow, what a purple patch. Can it continue? Not likely! Oops, there I go again, writing off Portland. Punish me birding gods, I dare you!


  1. Glad you managed some autumn quality self-finds. You've certainly put in the effort and deserve it!

  2. Lucky you seeing the hoopoe. They are so beautiful!