Portland Heights Special Interest Breaks
Friday June 15th - Sunday June 17th 2007

A great weekend with a good variety of birds, butterflies, flowers – and weather!

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday June 16th
Weather: weather – sunny intervals in the morning, warm sunshine in the afternoon

Tout Quarry, 0700
A fairly quiet early morning walk but we did get goof views of Whitethroats and added Dingy Skipper and Red Admiral to the list. As we left the quarry we found a beautiful Scarlet Tiger Moth settled quietly on an Elder bush.
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 single Common Scoter. Manx Shearwaters glided past too far out to see properly, and even further out were a pair of Pomarine Skuas. 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 Guillemots and Razorbills on the ledges. A smart Stonechat posed for us on a fence.

Kingbarrow Quarry - High Angle Batteries, 0930
The highlight here was the pair of Little Owls that gave us clear and prolonged views through the telescope as they perched on a nearby rock face. As soon as the sun came out we were treated to a good range of butterflies including Silver-studded, Small and Common Blues along with a juvenile Speckled Bush-cricket. After lunch we walked down into Admiralty Quarry and found countless numbers of Silver-studded Blues amongst dozens of Pyramid Orchids. At the High Angle Batteries we came across a couple of Summer Chafers buzzing around.

Silver Studded Blue Mother Shipton Little Owl

Ferrybridge, 1300
Here we were mainly interested with our lunch but we did see some Ringed Plovers and Dunlins with some very distant Little Terns on Chesil Beach.

Abbotsbury, 1400
This superb site held a huge variety of flowers with some very special species growing on the beach, including Sea Pea, Sea Kale and, rarest of all, Corn Parsley growing right on the path. Less showy but almost as scarce were the tiny Rough Clover and the Wild Celery growing in the reed bed. The reed beds also produced Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings with Common Terns on The Fleet and a couple of Buzzards soaring over the hill.

Sea Pea Sea Campion Sea Kale

Sunday June 25th
Weather: warm sunshine in the morning, cloudier in the afternoon

Portland Bird Observatory, 0930
Here the warden, Martin Cade, saved us a huge variety of moths caught overnight in his moth traps. Probably the favourites were the very colourful Small Elephant Hawk Moths and Cream-spot Tiger Moths. Martin updates the Portland Bird Observatory web site every day with a summary of the day’s sightings – see www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk.

The field next to the Observatory had 3 species of Skipper – Large, Small and the nationally rare Lulworth Skipper whilst the nearby quarry had another Little Owl. Several Bee Orchids were growing here along with Common and Lesser Centauries.

Cheyne Point, 1130
Our two targets here, Wall Lizards and Peregrines were both achieved without too much trouble, with the Peregrines putting on a particularly fine show. We were all spell-bound as the Peregrines first separated a pigeon from a flock, then guided it towards the coast where the female caught it and took it to a boulder to kill and pluck. On a smaller scale the Harlequin Ladybird we found was the rarest sight with only a handful of these ever having been recorded from Portland before. More Lulworth Skippers were found here along with an uncommon hoverfly, the bee-mimic Volucella bombylans.

Peregrine feeding young Harlequin Ladybird Wall Lizard
(photo taken on a previous visit)

Radipole RSPB Reserve, 1330
After lunch we set out to see if we could find some Bearded Tits and struck gold (well, ginger anyway) almost immediately with a pair of very tame youngsters not far from the car park. The best bird was in front of the North Hide – a superb Hobby perched quietly on a dead tree. A completely different set of plants were growing in this fen-like habitat including some very beautiful Southern Marsh Orchids.

Southern Marsh Orchid Hobby

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a well-earned cream tea and went through the enormous list of species we had seen.
Here’s to the next time,

Bob Ford