Portland Heights Birdwatching Breaks
Friday November 23rd Š Sunday November 25th 2007
An outstanding weekend's birdwatching that produced several remarkable sightings including Whooper Swan, Goosander and Little Auk
click here for a list of species seen over the weekend
Saturday November 24th
Weather: Bright first thing with cloud cover increasing during the day in an increasingly cold north-westerly wind. Dry apart from a bout of light rain in the afternoon.
Kingbarrow Quarry, 0730
Apart from a couple of fly-over Bramblings the Quarry was a quiet place this morning. The resident Little Owl was present as usual but did not wait long enough for most of us to get our binoculars on it. Walking back to the hotel we saw several hundred Wood Pigeons passing through and a Raven chasing off a Carrion Crow.
Portland Bill, 1000
The north-westerly wind kept most of the seabirds well away from the coast but we could see distant Gannets and Kittiwakes. A Black Redstart was a welcome find on the shoreline where we also had good views of Rock Pipits.
We soon found our target here, a fine female Peregrine that gave us great views as it soared around the cliffs and settled for a while near its nest site allowing us to see it even better through the telescopes.
The flock of a hundred or so Brent Geese proved to be all dark-bellied, with no sign of the Black Brant from North America which had been seen recently. From the reserve centre we had good views of Ringed Plovers and Dunlins with a Mediterranean Gull in the distance. A few Red-breasted Mergansers were visible feeding in the waters of the Fleet next to Chesil Beach.
Portland Harbour, 1230
Before we managed to start on our sandwiches we found 2 female (or first-year male) Goosanders feeding close inshore just off Sandsfoot Castle. As if these werenÕt enough a Little Auk flew past them only a little further out. The Goosanders followed us as we walked along the shoreline to find a suitable spot to stop for lunch. Offshore we could see at least 10 Great Crested Grebes with a Little Egret arriving on the shore just in front of us. Another Mediterranean Gull was seen passing through the harbour and behind us a Chiffchaff flitted around the trees. Next we drove off to the other side of Sandsfoot Castle to look for the Little Auk, where we instead found a fine Black-throated Diver and had the closest views yet of Mergansers.
The Goosanders fishing in Portland Harbour
photo by Liz Taylor
Radipole RSPB Reserve, 1400
After sitting out a patch of rain drinking coffee in the Reserve Centre we walked out to the North Hide, seeing 3 more Mediterranean Gulls and 4 Ruddy Ducks on the way. From the hide we had good views of Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall as well as a very odd-looking Pintail, presumably a first-year male. Returning to the car park we were treated to the sight of hundreds of Gulls at their pre-roost gathering, mostly Black-headed and Common with a few Lesser Black-backs here and there.
Sunday November 25th
Weather: much warmer than yesterday with occasional sunny spells.
Kingbarrow Quarry, 0730
At first it looked like it was going to be a repeat of yesterday morning when 2 Little Owls refused to sit still long enough for us to look at them, but then we found another 2 much more obliging birds. We also added Stock Dove to the list here. Back at the hotel we saw Raven, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk during breakfast!
Little Owls getting affectionate
Today there were at least 1500 Brent Geese present including 2 Pale-bellied birds. The mudflats held plenty of Dunlins and Ringed Plovers this morning with a solitary Curlew feeding amongst the geese.
No sign of the Bittern but we did add Goldfinch to the list and received news of 5 Cattle Egrets nearby.
Langton Herring, 1200
After a drive round the villages north-west of Weymouth in a fruitless search for the Cattle Egrets we arrived at Langton and proceeded to walk down to the shores of the Fleet. 2 or 3 Buzzards were soaring over the village and a pair of Mistle Thrushes flew out of the orchard near the path. Reaching the coast we counted over 100 Pintail and hundreds of Coot out on the Fleet. 15 Redshank were feeding on the shoreline alongside a sizeable flock of Lapwings. The birds of the day though were the 3 Whooper Swans that were sleeping across the Fleet next to Chesil Beach. Walking back to the car we had a good view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a dead tree.
Friar Waddon, 1430
We finally found where the Cattle Egrets had been, only to see the cows herded into their yard and no sign of any egrets. We did take the chance to overlook the hamlet of Corton though, which was particularly beautiful in the late afternoon sunlight. On the other side of the road was a huge free-range chicken farm where a Fox was trying to stalk chickens using sheep as cover!
Pirates Lane, Wyke Regis, 1500
Our final visit was in response to news of a Short-eared Owl seen near the Fleet just north of Ferrybridge. It didnÕt reappear but we did see no less than 54 Mediterranean Gulls in a flock just offshore.
We ended the weekend with a cream tea as the sun set over Lyme Bay. Perfect!
Hoping to see you all again soon,
Sheep and spider's webs at Langton Herring