Portland Heights Birdwatching Breaks
Friday March 24th - Sunday March 26th 2006

reports archive

In spite of the rain we had close views of some excellent birds including Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Bramblings.

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday March 25th
Weather: fresh south-westerly wind with rain all afternoon

Portland Bill, 0630
Definitely worth getting up early this morning as we found a huge flock of 300+ Guillemots and Razorbills sat off the cliffs in full breeding plumage. Several groups of Gannets were seen moving up the Channel including one that had time to dive for a fish. The clifftop downs held several recently arrived Wheatears along with plenty of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Rock Pipits were seen at the Bill with the first one found being of the paler Scandinavian race. A lone Peregrine was seen hunting over the cliffs at the Bill. 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.

Kingbarrow Quarry, 0930 The hoped-for Little Owls failed to materialise here but we did find a very confiding Chiffchaff just outside the quarry itself (see digi-binned photo on right). While we were watching this lovely little bird a pair of Buzzards could be heard calling from the trees and then were seen in flight as they flew off to find breakfast. As the rain set in we hurried back to the hotel for a well-earned coffee.
Portland Castle, 1200
This point at the southern corner of Portland Harbour produced good views of Red-breasted Mergansers, many of which were busy displaying to each other.

Ferrybridge, 1300
The tidal mud-flats here produced Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher with Brent Geese feeding on the shoreline. Sheltering in the Fleet Centre we found a distant Grey Plover and a single Turnstone.
Lodmoor, 1400
It was now really too wet to explore this site properly but we managed to get to the viewpoint from where we had excellent views of a pair of Spoonbills with a third individual further off. Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Shelduck were also seen from here. As we stood sheltering from the rain a Sandwich Tern appeared high overhead, made a couple of circuits and then disappeared off to Weymouth Bay.
Radipole, 1500
The resident Ruddy Ducks provided plenty of interest here with their unusual bubbling display. Nearby we added Great-crested and Little Grebe to the list and had a brief view of a Snipe. On the way back a Cetti's Warbler was seen briefly by one or two members of the group.

Weymouth Bay, 1630
We finished off with a short visit to Weymouth seafront where we found a distant Mediterranean Gull in the rapidly-gathering gull roost out in the Bay.

Sunday March 26th
Weather: Very similar to Saturday, but even wetter and windier.
Arne, 1000
Woodland species were first on the list here and we soon had some good views of Nuthatch and Treecreeper around the car park. A little further on a male Great-spotted Woodpecker landed on a dead tree just in front of us and started a strange head-waving display that lasted at least 5 minutes, after which we got fed up with watching this odd bird and walked on. Just round the corner we found an exceptionally bright Green Woodpecker. Nearby a log supported a fine growth of Slime Mould (see right).
Reaching the shore of Poole Harbour we found our first waders, mainly Redshank with a few Curlew. The hide at Shipstall Point gave us better views of the same species as well as a Raven which flew past pursued by a Carrion Crow.

The walk back to the car park produced the sighting of the day in the shape of a group of beautiful male Bramblings feeding around the cattle in a muddy field. Nearby a flock of Redwings were feeding in the field along with a pair of Mistle Thrushes.

By now the rain was coming down hard but we were almost back at the bus where our sandwiches were waiting for us. As we were devouring them two of us were treated to the sight of a male Sparrowhawk making a circuit of the bird feeders. By the time we had spluttered 'Sparrowhawk!' it was long gone.

After lunch we walked out to Middlebere Lake, braving heavy rain to do so and finding a Stonechat on the way. From the hide we could see a flock of Brent Geese feeding in a field but very little else apart from a few Teal and Redshank.

In the distance a Buzzard sat in a field getting wet, we knew what he felt like.

Looking forward to our next trip out together - just choose some drier weather please!

Bob Ford