Jurassic Coast trip report from the Portland Heights Hotel, Dorset UK

Portland Heights Special Interest Breaks Trip Report
Friday June 9th - Sunday June 11th 2006

Beautiful weather and lots of birds, rocks and fossils. A perfect weekend!

Saturday June 10th
Weather: fresh north-easterly wind with warm sunshine all day.

Portland Bill, 0700
Definitely worth getting up early and driving down to the Bill as we were seeing Gannets moving up the Channel as soon as we arrived. The sea held the usual Guillemots and Razorbills with a pair of Puffins as well. Star bird award went to the Manx Shearwaters that glided past not too far out. On the way back to the vehicle we stopped off at the seabird colony on the Westcliffs where there were Fulmars and Kittiwakes flying around with Shags on the ledges.
Grove Point, 0800
A brief stop to see the pair of Adders that are always visible here before they get too warm.

Tout Quarry, 0930
Plenty of butterflies here including Dingy Skipper, Painted Lady and Common Blues along with several Hummingbird Hawk-moths recently arrived from the continent. The geology was the main interest here with a particularly fine exposure of the Purbeck and upper Portland Beds at the site of the Antony Gormley sculpture “Still Falling”.

Ferrybridge, 1300
The tidal mud-flats here produced a lone Redshank but we were more interested in our sandwiches.
Penn Weare, 1400
We spent the afternoon walking along the old railway line under the Eastcliffs, looking at plants, birds and geology. We were pleased to see that the pair of Peregrines had fledged a young bird already, with more in the nest hopefully. The cliffs at the northerly limit of our walk held a huge ammonite (Glaucolithites gorei ) in the grey Portland Sand beds that lie below the Portland Stone. Sitting down for a rest here we noticed a Grey Seal coming up for breath just off the coast in front of us.

Walking back we found a particularly bright female Common Blue.

Sunday June 11th
Weather: Foggy at first, then warm and calm.

Dinosaur Quarry, 0930
See http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/portdino.htm for a detailed account of these fossils by Ian West of Southampton University. The dinosaur footprints were the main interest here but we started with a rare sighting of a Little Egret flying north. Common elsewhere on the Dorset coast these birds are rarely seen on the island.

Fleet at Wyke Regis, 1030
Starting at Ferrybridge we walked north to Pirate’s Cove and then on to the Royal Engineer’s Bridging Camp. The start of the walk was on the Kimmeridge Clay that underlies the Portland Sand, with the headlands consisting of various beds of Corallian limestone. Numerous fossils were found, mostly bivalves and eroded echinoids (Nucleolites sea urchins) but with 2 finely marked specimens of Plesiechinus ornatus appearing at the Bridging Camp.

Plants here included some quite rare species such as Sea Milkwort, Celery-leaved Buttercup and Sea Arrowgrass (the last 2 were not identified at the time)

Fleet at Chickerell, 1400 After lunch at Ferrybridge we drove on to another part of the Fleet, this time on the Oxford Clay that is immediately under the Corallian Beds. The beach at Tidmoor Point is covered in tiny Belemnites and Ammonites, with a variety of other marine life in fossil form as well (see list). We spent a very pleasant afternoon here birdwatching and fossil-hunting, with a few good insects seen as well including a nest of Small Eggar moth caterpillars and a very fresh Speckled Wood. A Meadow Brown was the first any of us had seen this year.

All in all a most enjoyable weekend. See you all again soon!

Bob Ford