Portland Heights Special Interest Breaks Trip Report
Friday October 14th - Sunday October 16th 2005

A very full weekend with plenty of high quality landscapes, birds and fossils.

Saturday October 15th
Weather: warm sunny intervals with a south-easterly wind.
Portland Bill, 1000
On the way to the Bill we stopped to look at a remarkable set of dinosaur footprints. See http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/portdino.htm for a detailed account of these fossils by Ian West of Southampton University..

Portland Bill, 1000
At the Bill we were pleased to see 2 Black Redstarts near the internationally important raised beach deposit on the Westcliffs. Walking along the Eastcliffs to the Bird Observatory we passed a number of wave-cut platforms and a crane used to lower fishing boats into the sea. Reaching the Bird Observatory we were treated to exceptionally close views of a Goldcrest on the Observatory garden. The Portland Bird Observatory web site is updated every day with a summary of the day's sightings - see www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk.
Juvenile Wall Lizard Cheyne Point, 1200
Further north along the Eastcliffs we explored an old clifftop quarry which had some excellent exposures of the Purbeck series with its characteristic tree root holes and dirt bed - the 130 million year old soil trapped between the Purbeck beds and the Portland Beds. Here we also found a family of Wall Lizards - Mum, Dad and several babies! Birds included Kestrels, Peregrines and a Raven.
Ferrybridge, 1300
Sat in the sun next to the huge shingle bank of Chesil Beach we saw a range of birds including Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sandwich Tern. A flock of Starlings entertained us while we were eating our lunch.
Starling at Ferrybridge
Church Ope Lane East Weares, 1400
Parking next to Pennsylvania Castle we walked down Church Ope Lane under the arch leading to the ancient Rufus Castle.
The walk along the disused Weymouth to Portland railway line took us next to 2 notable plants - Maidenhair Fern (pictured right) and Sea Spleenwort. The resident pair of Peregrines gave us some excellent views in flight over the cliffs above us and were joined by one of their young from this year's breeding season. A family of Kestrels were also hunting along these cliffs and frequently hovered directly above us, showing us the way they fanned out their first primary - the "bastard wing". A Raven soared below us, rolling ocasionally for fun. Maidenhair Fern
Tout Quarry, 1600
Here we looked at the variety of rocks used in the sculptures. From left to right: Portland Roach Bed, Portland Whitbed, Purbeck.
Sculpture at Tout Quarry

Sunday October 16th
Weather: warm but foggy in the morning, with rain after lunch.

Kingston, 1000
We chose to heed the weather reports for once and took advantage of the warm dry weather to walk in the Purbeck hills from the village of Kingston to Swyre Head. At 682 feet, Swyre Head is the highest point in the Purbecks and on a clear day the view is amazing!

View from Swyre Head

Walking back to the car park we came across a dead Yellow-necked Mouse, the first ever seen on a Portland Heights weekend.

Tidmoor Point, 1430
After lunch we drove to the shores of the Fleet and walked down to Tidmoor Point where we found a range of birds including 300 Brent Geese (almost all adults) along with Wigeon, Curlews and Grey Plovers. Searching the beach we soon found plenty of tiny fossils, including crinoids, ammonites and belemnites. The ammonites were of 2 species Cardioceras alphacordatum (keeled, pictured left) and Quenstedtoceras mariae (knobbly, pictured right).
Cardioceras alphacordatum Quenstedtoceras mariae

Now thoroughly soaked but happy, we hurried back to the hotel to identify our finds and enjoy a well-earned cream tea.

Looking forward to our next trip out together.

Bob Ford