Portland Heights Birdwatching Breaks Sept 12th – 14th 2008

After an infamously wet summer we enjoyed a weekend of warm sunshine and lots of good birds – including 19 species of waders!

Saturday September 13th
Weather: Long sunny spells all day, warm in the afternoon

Kingbarrow Quarry, 0700
It was in beautifully calm weather that we started our weekend with an early walk into the quarry next to the hotel. A good variety of migrants were recorded here with Tree Pipit, Wheatear, Whinchat, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap all being seen or heard. A very smart Red Fox was watching us from a high rock face overlooking the quarry.

Brownsea Island, 1100
In warm sunshine the island looked particularly beautiful today as we arrived on the ferry from Poole Quay. From the boat we could see hundreds of Avocets and an even greater number of Oystercatchers, with Little Egrets dotted around amongst them.

Little Egret by Beryl Shaw

Teal by Joan Clark

Reaching the first hide we could see that there were also lots of Black-tailed Godwits as well as several Greenshanks. A Kingfisher flew past but was missed by most of the group. The next hide added a real star with a Spotted Redshank roosting just a few feet away. A search of the more distant waders produced a Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits. The third hide added even more wader species with Curlew, Ringed Plover and Sanderling all being found. We had now seen an incredible 13 species of wader!

Black-tailed Godwits by Trevor Allen

Greenshank by Bob Ford

Apart from the birds we also had some excellent views of the native Red Squirrels as well as lots of dragonflies. Fungi were widespread with lots of puffballs of at least 2 species.

The trip back was also very productive the highlight being a Black Tern almost alongside the boat. A solitary Whimbrel on a sandbank was our 14th species of wader.

Avocets by Bob Ford

Sunday September 14th
Weather: Long sunny spells all day, overcast but warm and humid in the afternoon

Portland Bill, 0630

Not many seabirds today in the calm conditions but we did manage reasonable views of Gannet and enough Shags and Cormorants to sort out the differences between the two. Wheatears, Linnets and Rock Pipits occupied most of our attention before a flock of House Martins arrived and clustered around the lighthouse tower.

Reap Lane, 0930
The cliffs here produced an adult male Peregrine and a family of Stonechats – each one of which looked completely different! Nearby Barleycrates Lane added Sand Martin to the list and Skylarks which we heard but did not see. Another family of Stonechats were here. Crossing over to Suckthumb Quarry we took a break next to the famous dinosaur footprints and saw even more Stonechats and a couple of Whitethroats. 2 Painted Lady butterflies were a welcome sight in a year when the species has been unusually rare. Finally a pair of Ravens appeared high overhead.

Ferrybridge, 1300
Here we had the very pleasant experience of being able to eat our sandwiches outside in warm sunshine whilst looking at a good selection of birds on the Fleet, including Mediterranean Gull, Curlew Sandpiper and Sanderling.

Lodmoor, 1400
Spending rather more time here than we intended we saw some class birds including Ruff, Common Sandpiper and Snipe, bringing our wader list to a record-breaking 19 species. A fresh Green-veined White was an unusually late record.

Radipole Lake, 1600
From the reserve centre we were pleased to see more Snipe feeding out at the edge of the reeds and a first-year Mediterranean Gull in with the other gulls. On the way to the North Hide we saw the Hooded Merganser (of unknown origin). The hide produced good views of a Buzzard eating a small mammal of some sort.

Green-veined White at Lodmoor

Buzzard at Radipole

Both photos by Bob Ford

Adding up our total back at the hotel in front of an enormous cream tea we found that we had seen a remarkable 90 species.

Looking forward to our next trip out together,