Portland Heights Special Interest Breaks
Trip Report 18 – 20 July 2008

reports archive

click here for a list of species seen over the weekend

Saturday July 19th
Weather: Warm sunshine all day in a strong westerly wind

East Weares, 0900

We started the day with a really outstanding sighting even before we left the car park when a very rare variant of Chalkhill Blue appeared and posed for photos (see photo by Liz Taylor). More Chalkhills were found as we walked down to Church Ope Cove along with a Small Skipper and plenty of Marbled Whites. The old railway line to Grove Point was sheltered from the fresh westerly wind and proved to be a haven for butterflies. Lulworth Skippers were everywhere as were Common Blues, all very fresh males. A couple of Small Blues were around one of the few patches of Kidney Vetch. The most surprising find was a fresh male Silver-studded Blue, and one of the most colourful was the Clouded Yellow which sadly did not stop.

Birds were also much in evidence with a family of Kestrels (see photo by Liz Taylor) and a male Peregrine with its female offspring. A Little Owl sat on a rock in the sunshine was great to see through the telescope. The best plants we saw were 2 rare ferns, Maidenhair and Sea Spleenwort. Rock Stonecrop was another rarity as was Pennywort (but only on Portland!).

This moth turned out to be a Galium Carpet, identified by the slightly concave leading edge to the forewing.

Southwell, 1330

We had lunch waiting for the Wall Lizards to come out, which they did just as we finished the last of our sandwiches. 2 young Peregrines were flying around the cliffs, occasionally chasing their father and screaming for food. Butterflies here included a Green-veined White, with a Hummingbird Hawk-moth and a huge Rose Chafer amongst other insects seen. 2 species of Bush-cricket were found here, a Roesel’s (see below) and a Grey, both relatively local. The Portland Rock Sea-lavender was in full flower and looking very attractive on its cliff-side home.

Tout Quarry, 1500
We visited this quarry right next to the hotel to see one species – Grayling. In the breezy conditions they were difficult to find but eventually we found several and had good views. A Small Copper here was the only one of the weekend.

Kingbarrow Quarry, 1600
We finished the day by walking through a working quarry – Inmosthay- and on to Kingbarrow Quarry, run by Dorset Wildlife Trust. Here another 2 ferns – Male and Hartstongue and the only Small Heath of the day, bringing the butterfly list up to a remarkable 21 species, all seen on Portland.

Sunday July 20th
Weather: Mostly sunny in a fresh north-westerly wind.

Portland Bill, 0630
Off the Bill most of the seabirds were very distant apart from a few of the many Gannets that were passing. Even so we managed to pick out a Balearic Shearwater amongst several Manx and spotted 2 groups of Common Scoter flying west down the Channel.

At the Bird Observatory we examined the night’s catch from the moth trap, (see the list for details) the highlight of which were singles of Poplar and Eyed Hawk-moths. The warden Martin Cade updates the Portland Bird Observatory web site every day with a summary of the day’s sightings – see www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk.

Radipole Lake, 0930
We stopped here to see just one bird – the Hooded Merganser. This was in its usual spot and was duly added to the list, even though it may well turn out to be an escaped bird.

White Nothe, 1000

Walking along the coastal path here in lovely sunny conditions was a real pleasure this morning, although it was a bit too windy to see many butterflies. Even so we did add Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell to the list as well as our target species – Dark Green Fritillary. Field Scabious (see below) were fairly common along the field edges here, with Small Scabious on the uncultivated cliff paths.

Walking back we found an unprecedented number of Rose Chafers (see below), at least 20 of them, mostly on Carrot flowers. Yellowhammers were very numerous here as were corvids with a huge flock of around 1,000 (mostly Rooks with a few Jackdaws) being teased by a young Peregrine. Driving away we had a brief view of a Hobby attacking a Buzzard.

Maiden Newton, 1400
Here we had a splendid walk along the River Frome and water-meadows with plenty of Beautiful Demoiselles, which were the main reason we went there. We also added Comma and Large Skipper to the butterfly list, which now reached an amazing 26 species for the weekend. A fish list was started as well with several Brown Trout in the river.

Muckleford, 1600
This abandoned chalk pit held a remarkable range of plants but surprisingly few butterflies. Autumn Gentian was a good record as was Stemless Thistle.

We finished back at the hotel with a well-earned cream tea more than happy with our weekend of walking in the Dorset countryside.

Hoping to see you all again soon,