Portland Heights Special Interest Breaks Trip Report
Friday June 23rd - Sunday June 25th 2006

A warm day and a damp day – one for butterflies and one for plants!

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday June 24th

Weather:  perfect butterfly-watching weather - warm sunshine all day with just a light breeze  .

Portland Bill, 0530

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Cynaeda dentalis
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 single Puffin putting in an occasional appearance.   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 Razorbills on the ledges.


Portland Bird Observatory,  0930

Here the warden, Martin Cade, showed us a huge variety of moths caught overnight including the very rare Many-lined Moth. Martin updates the Portland Bird Observatory web site every day with a summary of the day’s sightings – see www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk.

Southwell, 1000

A walk around the fields here started off our butterfly list with plenty of Meadow Browns and Small Heaths.  A tiny moth was caught and proved to be a Portland speciality - Cynaeda dentalis.  This beautiful little moth is in the Pyralid family and feeds on Vipers Bugloss.

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Xanthogramma pedissequum

Next we crossed  the road and walked down to the cliffs.  This short walk took us at least half an hour as we found species after species of insect.  The rarest was probably the hoverfly Xanthogramma pedissequum but we were also taken with the glossy-green Thick-kneed Beetles on all the flowers. Finally we found the real target for the day – a fresh Lulworth Skipper.  We soon found several others and were able to compare them with Large Skippers which also appeared nearby.


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Roesel’s Bush-cricket

Turning back we were distracted by the sight of a Peregrine dashing off over the sea on a hunt.  We then spent a very pleasant half hour watching a series of chases after pigeons over the sea.  The last one culminated in disaster  with the female Peregrine accidentally plunging into the sea with her catch and then having to swim a sort of butterfly-stroke back to shore to dry off.  We left the 2 youngsters forlornly huddled together on the cliff with both their parents missing. 

See below for a PEREGRINE UPDATE


High Angle Batteries,  1300

Lunch was had in the company of more fascinating insects – in particular a Hummingbird Hawk-moth and a Roesel’s Bush-cricket.  After lunch we walked down into a quarry area and found countless numbers of Silver-studded Blues and Six-spot Burnets.  Back at the High Angle Batteries we came across a couple of shining male Adonis Blues.


Ferrybridge, 1630

Our final stop was to look at the variety of flowers to be found on the shell-sand soil at the edge of Portland Harbour, with Sea Holly the main attraction.


Sunday June 25th

Weather:  Rain at first with dry but humid conditions in the afternoon.

Cheyne Point,  0930

This was a quick visit in the rain to check on the progress of the Peregrine family.  Happily the female was back with her young on the cliff and appeared to be using the rain to wash her seawater-soaked feathers.

See below for a PEREGRINE UPDATE

Powerstock Common, 1030

We tried to lose the rain by driving to the west of the county, and largely the tactic worked with only short spells of rain for the rest of the day.  Powerstock Common was a wet and humid paradise with countless species of  plants and a surprising number of insects, although sadly very few butterflies.  The Dyer’s Greenweed was very impressive everywhere, but my personal favourites were the Meadow Thistles.  Birds here included Blackcaps, Marsh Tits, Spotted Flycatchers and a singing Lesser Whitethroat that we never quite managed to see.



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Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet
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 Meadow Thistle











Maiden Newton, 1400

Stood on the bridge over the Frome looking for Dippers we saw a new species for the Portland Heights fish list – Brown Trout.  The list now stands at an impressive 3 species!  Moving to the other side of the village we walked along the disused railway line where we came across a fabulous pair of Bullfinches posing nicely next to a hedge.  Next we went down to the river and found even more new plants including Shining Cranesbill and Wall Rue.  Another plant we thought might be a fern growing on a tree by the river turned out to be Upright Hedge Parsley.


Back at the hotel we enjoyed a well-earned cream tea and went through the enormous list of species we had seen.



Bob Ford, 26 June 2006


Thursday June 29th

Both adults were on the cliffs on their usual perches and looking well. 2 youngsters were soaring around the cliffs some distance away and appeared fit and well-fed.

Saturday July 22nd

Both adults present again, male seen passing food to female. Female seen taking a shower again in the rain, but this may be normal behaviour for her. One youngster on the cliff with the male.