Portland Heights Birdwatching Breaks
Friday January 13th - Sunday January 15th 2006

reports archive

Fine, almost Spring-like weather helped us to see a superb list of birds including Red-necked Grebe, Water Pipit and multiple Mediterranean Gulls!

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday January 14th
Weather: rain first thing, then brighter with warm sunny periods.

Portland Bill, 0900
A good variety of seabirds were seen at our first stop, mainly Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills with a small group of Eider settled just offshore. A flock of 10 Purple Sandpipers were feeding on the shoreline. Around the car park plenty of Rock Pipits were feeding with a few Meadow pipits allowing us to make comparisons. A pair of Stonechats were nearby and close views of a male Kestrel were had on the way to the seabird colony on the Westcliffs. Here we could smell the Kittiwakes but didn’t see any. We did see a Fulmar and some summer-plumaged Guillemots flying up to the ledges. A Shag was collecting nesting material from the clifftop. Driving to the next stop we saw a Buzzard sat on a fence post near the road.

Portland Castle, 1200
This point at the southern corner of Portland Harbour produced good numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers and a close Black-throated Diver.

Ferrybridge, 1300
A close Little Egret and a few distant Mediterranean Gulls were all we could find here.

Sandsfoot, 1400
This favourite site to view Portland Harbour from really came up trumps this afternoon with 4 species of grebe including the first ever Red-necked Grebe seen on a Birdbreak weekend. The rocks just offshore held 2 Sandwich Terns, with Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes swimming not far behind them. A distant group of 4 Black-throated Divers together was a very notable sighting.

Bincleaves, 1500
Moving a little further east we increased our Black-throated Diver tally to a remarkable 9 birds in view at once.
Nothe, 1530
Walking from Nothe Gardens down into Newton’s Cove we found 2 Black Redstarts, one of which gave prolonged views as we sat on the sea wall in the warm sunshine.
Weymouth Bay, 1630
We arrived just as the gull population of South Dorset was starting to assemble in the Bay, and dozens of Pied Wagtails were also gathering on the car park. A search of the gulls produced just a single adult Mediterranean Gull, but the sight of thousands of Common Gulls roosting together was remarkable.
Sunday January 15th
Weather: mainly bright with some warm sunny intervals but in a brisk southerly wind.

Grove Point, 0900
No sign of the pair of resident Peregrines here but plenty of close views of Fulmars.

Ferrybridge, 1000
Still no waders here but we did see some much closer Mediterranean Gulls and a distant flock of Brent Geese.

Lodmoor, 1100
Stopping first at the Overcombe car park we struck lucky straight away with 5 or 6 Water Pipits giving reasonable if brief views as they skulked in the marshy vegetation. A pair of Stonechats here included a very handsome male and a Buzzard was seen feeding on something under a tree. Moving on to the main reserve we soon found the Spoonbill that has been wintering here. Our circuit of the marsh and reedbeds produced plenty of wildfowl, another Mediterranean Gull and a very shy Goldcrest. Committing the cardinal sin of letting the group spread out too much your leader paid the ultimate price by missing the best sighting of the day – a Bittern flying over the reedbed. A small group of Bearded Tits were also seen by those bringing up the rear.
Radipole, 1300
Lunch was had by the car park which produced yet another Mediterranean Gull whilst a Black-tailed Godwit was found nearby. Walking out to the North Hide we found a very attractive flock of Pochard and a few Ruddy Ducks and Little Grebes.
From the hide itself we saw Shovelers, Teal and Gadwall and had a very close view of a fishing Grey Heron, one of 16 present. Just as we were getting ready to leave a very pale Buzzard arrived and perched on a post in front of the hide.

Westcliffs, 1600
Our final excursion was a windy walk out to the clifftop to see Ravens. Sadly they had gone to bed early but we did find astonishing numbers of juvenile Banded Snails (Cepaea nemoralis/hortensis) in the grass.

As we demolished a splendid cream tea back at the hotel we reflected over a weekend of fine birdwatching in very pleasant weather, with a total of 73 species seen including one addition to the hotel list. Notable absentees were Raven, Peregrine, Ringed Plover and Turnstone.

Looking forward to our next trip out together,

Bob Ford

Bob Ford