Portland Heights Special Interest Breaks
Friday September 28th – Sunday September 30th 2007

Superb Autumn birdwatching with a good mix of species including Hobby, Merlin and Short-eared Owl.

click here for the weekend's list of species

Saturday September 29th
Weather: almost calm in the morning with a light but cold NE breeze in the afternoon. Dry with warm sunny intervals.

Portland Bill 0700
The totally calm conditions did not bode well for a seawatch and indeed there was very little on the move over the sea. We did see a few seabirds however including some Gannets, 2 Razorbills and 2 Common Scoters. The best sighting was a young Hobby that appeared over the sea chasing the pipits and Swallows that were migrating south.

Southwell 0930
After breakfast we parked our vehicle in the village of Southwell and walked out to the Westcliffs towards the Bill. The clifftop path allowed us to enjoy the spectacular views and also produced a lone Golden Plover. One particular weedy field produced most of the birds including a Whinchat, a Redstart (pictured right) and the bird of the day, a fine Short-eared Owl. Commoner birds were much in evidence here with good numbers of Chiffchaffs, Skylarks and Stonechats.

Ferrybridge 1330
The usual common waders were here along with a group of Bar-tailed Godwits.

Radipole RSPB Reserve 1430
More godwits here, this time Black-tailed, which along with several Snipe and a fine female Ruff brought our wader list to nine species. A solitary Bearded Tit was found feeding at the edge of the reeds, fulfilling one of our main targets for the weekend. The North Hide showed us a few new species including Shoveler and Gadwall. As we returned to the car park all the gulls took to the air as a huge female Peregrine soared overhead.

East Weares 1700
Returning to Portland we failed to find any more Peregrines but we did get some outstanding views of a pair of Ravens.

Sunday September 30th
Weather: overcast with occasional short spells of light drizzle in a fresh SE wind.

Westcliffs 0700
While we were waiting for the sun to come up we walked through Tout Quarry looking at the sculptures put there by the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust. Once on the cliffs we were aware that there were large numbers of Meadow Pipits going north with, strangely, quite a few Swallows heading in the opposite direction. Our main target proved elusive but eventually we managed a brief view of an adult male Ring Ouzel.

Portland Bill 0930
This morning’s south-easterly wind had certainly blown a few Gannets in and we very much enjoyed seeing them fly past at close range in groups of 5 and 6. The first Kittiwakes of the autumn were also passing but much further out.

Lodmoor RSPB Reserve 1030
Our hopes of finding lots of waders were initially boosted when a Ruff flew in, but there followed an hour’s fruitless searching of a variety of muddy patches. Finally our perseverance bore fruit when we found a group of sleeping Ringed Plovers with 3 Dunlins. The flock of Wigeon which arrived from the north were probably new arrivals from Russia.

Radipole RSPB Reserve 1230
What was intended to be a quick lunch stop turned out to be one of the most productive stops of the weekend with Little Stint, Water Rail and Bearded Tit seen in quick succession.

Moonfleet 1330
Parking at the Moonfleet Manor Hotel we walked out onto the shores of The Fleet and into perfect quiet, with just the calls of the gulls to disturb the peace. The hoped-for waders never materialised but a pipit-chasing Merlin was a wonderful sight on the way back to the car. Less wonderful, more comical, was the Green Woodpecker perched on the roof of one of the outbuildings of the hotel!

Ridgeway 1530
Our hunt for Corn Buntings was a waste of time but we did enjoy some stunning views and we did add Stock Dove to the list. A lone Golden Plover asleep in an adjoining field made us make a mental note to return later and look for Dotterels.

On this hopeful note we returned to the hotel well pleased with our list of 94 species and equally pleased with our Heights Hotel cream tea!

Hoping to see you all again soon,