Portland Heights Birdwatching Breaks
Friday October 6th - Sunday October 8th 2006

reports archive

An outstanding weekend's birdwatching that produced a clutch of rare birds including Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Firecrest and 2 Rose-coloured Starlings.

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday October 7th
Weather: mostly bright and sunny with a strong south-westerly wind.

Portland Bill, 0900
The seawatch we were hoping for after yesterday's gales never really materialised with just a few Gannets passing a long way off. Walking along the Eastcliffs we eventually found where the Gannets were - they were fishing off the Shambles Bank a mile or so to the east of the Bill. In spite of much searching we failed to find any skuas or shearwaters so we turned our attention to the land and looked for migrants. Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were the main examples of migrants to be found with a few resident Rock Pipits for comparison. A number of Clouded Yellows were flying around, including one of the pale helice form. Every flock of Starlings were examined closely, finally with success as we found the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling we were looking for. Sadly the bird flew off and resisted our attempts to refind it.

Pennsylvania Castle, 1200
The trees here often attract the smaller migrants but today we could only manage fleeting views of a Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff.

Ferrybridge, 1300
As usual we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch here in the sunshine with plenty of waders to see including Dunlins, Bar-tailed Godwits and Ringed Plovers although most were distant.
Ferrybridge, 1300
Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and Turnstones were on the tidal mud-flats here with a few Bar-tailed Godwits, a very close Little Egret fishing in the shallows and a Raven cruising along Chesil Beach.

Lodmoor, 1400
Hoping to see more waders we found the reserve in a very quiet mood with little to see apart from large numbers of migrant Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails. Careful searching of these birds revealed a Yellow Wagtail feeding in the Marsh Samphire. Apart from this we had a brief view of a Kingfisher and the unusual site of a Buzzard eating a bird - which apparently it had stolen from a Sparrowhawk! The Sparrowhawk was perched nearby looking decidedly put out. Walking back to the bus we found the bird of the day - another juvenile Rose-coloured Starling!
Radipole, 1630
Lots of gulls here but nothing of great interest until we turned to leave - when an adult Mediterranean Gull appeared and landed right in front of us. Sadly it didn't stay long but still it was a great end to the day.
Sunday October 8th
Weather: Veven warmer with the wind less strong and more in the south.

Wareham Forest, 1030
After stopping at Wareham for the toilets and witnessing one of the highest tides there I've ever seen we went on to our favourite part of Wareham Forest - Sherford Bridge. It was a fine sunny morning with little wind and at first the birds were hard to find. Then a flock of finches appeared over the Alders - Siskins! There were probably more than 100 of these lovely little birds and we managed some good views through the scopes. While we were watching them a pair of Great-spotted Woodpeckers appeared and a Wood Lark was heard calling overhead.
Walking on towards the lake we came across a pair of young Dartford Warblers on the heath which also allowed us to scope them. The lake was almost birdless apart from at least 10 Little Grebes, some Coots and a couple of Tufted Ducks. Walking back Brian thought he could hear a singing Wood Lark which we all started to hear as we got closer. Soon the bird was found sat on a stump singing its heart out, and quite happy to let us get some amazing views of it. Predictably it flew off as soon as I got my camera out but still flew around us singing loudly. Apart from the birds we saw large numbers of fungi including lots of very pretty Fly Agarics. The rhododendrons were covered in hundreds of tiny insects - Rhododendron Leafhoppers.
Arne RSPB Reserve, 1400
Lunch was had in warm sunshine with a Marsh Tit calling nearby. The walk to the Middlebere Lake hide failed to add any more woodland species but we did see a fine stag Sika Deer with its harem of wives. The hide showed us another unusually high tide and no waders at all, but we did see an adult Yellow-legged Gull and more Sika. Walking back to the car park the heathland was unusually quiet - not even a Dartford Warbler could be heard. We were back at the car park before we found any woodland species, but we struck gold here with Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest all giving good views. The real star waited right until the very end as we were about to drive home - a fabulous Firecrest which darted around just in front of our vehicle and a few feet above Brian's head! A superb end to a great weekend.

See you all soon,

Bob Ford