Portland Heights Birdwatching Breaks
Friday October 21st - Sunday October 23rd 2005

reports archive

A weekend of outstanding birdwatching with some first-class birds including Wood Sandpiper, Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest and Merlin.

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday October 22nd
Weather: sunny intervals in a light north-westerly wind.

Portland Bill, 0900
We started the weekend at the Bill and had hardly got out of the vehicle when we started what was to be an outstanding list of birds. First was a fine Rock Pipit at the edge of the car park with a Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail alongside for comparison. Overhead a flock of 50 or so Wood Pigeons flew out to sea - a tiny proportion of the huge movement of many thousands of these birds that were flying out of the UK over the weekend. Walking to the coast we realised that seabirds were limited to distant Gannets and Great Black-backed Gulls so we turned back to the land and soon found a fine Black Redstart. We were watching this bird when a familiar call was heard as a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over and landed in some low trees in front of us. We saw the bird again when we reached the Bird Observatory - it had been caught and was being shown to a group of visiting birders by the warden Martin Cade. See the Bird Observatory's web site at www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk for the latest news on sightings there.
We continued on to Culverwell where we found a continental Coal Tit (P.a.ater) and a very confiding Firecrest. Reaching the Topfields we found a Short-eared Owl which was soon seen off by a series of dramatic stoops from a Peregrine. Next on the list was another tame crest, this time a Goldcrest. All the time we were seeing Kestrels and Stonechats in unprecedented numbers as flocks of Siskins flew over every now and again.
Admiralty Quarry, 1100
We failed to find the Ring Ouzels here that we had hoped for but we did get a brief view of a Blackcap and plenty more Stonechats. A party of late House Martins with a single Swallow were a welcome sight - perhaps the last we will see this year.

Tout Quarry, 1200
Still no Ring Ouzels but a lone Raven gave us a dramatic rolling dive in compensation!

Ferrybridge, 1330
Lunch was had watching an enormous flock of around 1,000 Brent Geese along with 3 beautiful adult Mediterrenean Gulls.
Lodmoor, 1430
One of the first birds we found here was a superb Wood Sandpiper, a very late record and one of the most well-marked examples any of us had ever seen. The Water Pipit that was first reported yesterday was surprisingly easy to find and we were delighted when a second bird joined it. Birds were everywhere, Black-tailed Godwits fed in the shallows, another Mediterranean Gull flew over and a Reed Bunting appeared nearby. A really great afternoon's birdwatching.
Radipole, 1600
Soon after arriving here we found some Bearded Tits but the Bittern we hoped for never appeared. A pair of Ruddy Ducks were amongst a wide range of wildfowl seen that included Pochard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall.
Sunday October 23rd
Weather: Overcast but warm with occasional sharp showers.

Langton Herring, 0930
Finally we managed to find some Ring Ouzels, 3 in all including a bright adult male feeding in Hawthorn bushes. Reaching the Fleet we stood watching a huge flock of several hundred Pintail and Wigeon, with a party of 4 Redshank feeding on the shoreline. All the time Jays were flying into a stand of Holm Oaks collecting acorns, oblivious to our presence. The cause of concern to the agitated crow flock on Chesil Beach turned out to be a huge female Peregrine sat on some driftwood. Other raptors included several Buzzards and Kestrels. Back at the car a female Speckled Bush-cricket was an unexpected find on the windscreen!

Abbotsbury, 1130
The long walk along the beach to the Fleet produced very little apart from some ancient peat that had been washed up from the sea floor. More was seen once we reached the lagoon however, in particular a Water Rail that briefly showed itself as it flew into the reeds and a pair of first-year Mediterranean Gulls that flew past.

Nottington, 1330 No Dippers here but Grey Wagtail and Mistle Thrush were added to the list.

Tidmoor Point,1400 More Brent Geese and the first Mergansers of the autumn were found here along with brief views of Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit and a late Speckled Wood butterfly.

Ferrybridge, 1530 We completed the weekend with an hour's watch at Ferrybridge car park where we saw yesterday's 3 Mediterranean Gulls again along with a new bird - a Bar-tailed Godwit. We were just about to leave when a female Merlin flew past heading for Portland - a fitting end to a fantastic weekend!

Very much looking forward to our next trip out together,

Bob Ford