Dorset Walks

Walks on Portland - wildlife highlights for 2017

last year's walks . . .

Friday December 29th
Portland Bill

With a near-gale-force westerly blowing and a vicious hail storm forecast for 1100 we decided to follow the full risk assessment procedure and position ourselves close to the door of the Lobster Pot cafe. The strategy worked very well as we were able to run for shelter when the hail arrived but still had enough time to examine the thousands of seabirds that were feeding off the Bill.

Gannets and kittiwakes made up the bulk of the feeding flock with a few shags, fulmars and guillemots amongst them. The first major find was a great skua that powered its way past not long after we arrived. Then the slim shape of a shearwater soared into view. Large and dark its identity was later confirmed as a sooty shearwater by the Observatory warden Martin Cade.

After sheltering in the cafe for a while we walked out towards Pulpit Rock in bright sunshine, disturbing a flock of goldfinches on the way.

The day's list:
gannet, kittiwake, fulmar, guillemot, shag, kestrel, great skua, sooty shearwater, goldfinch, rock pipit, turnstone

T>last year's walks . . .

Friday December 22nd

Parking near the entrance to Southwell Business Park we explored the area of ancient fields above the mesolithic settlement at Culverwell.

We were hoping to find a short-eared owl but none were about, and I think in the end we saw more horses than birds! We did see some very attractive stonechats though and quite a few song thrushes, as well as skylarks and a large flock of chaffinches. And a lot of mud.

The day's list:
buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel, goldcrest, chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, robin, blue tit, great tit, skylark, stock dove, magpie, pied wagtail, song thrush

Friday December 15th
Engine Sheds - Grove Point

Two weeks ago we tried and failed to see the fulmars on the cliffs at Grove Point so today we decided we would have another go.

On the way we stopped off at the Firing Range to look fir the flock of British Primitive Goats that were introduced there about fifteen years ago. They took some finding but in the end we spotted nine out of the ten goats. Reaching Grove Point we had good views of a couple of fulmars patrolling the cliffs just underneath us. As we walked back though the Governor's Gardens a pair of goldcrests appeared in the trees right next to us.

The final bird on the list was a peregrine that circled round the cliffs in front of the hotel while we were enjoying our coffees!

The day's list:
wren, fulmar, kestrel, goldcrest, chaffinch, robin, long-tailed tit, great tit, gannet, peregrine

Friday December 8th
Pennsylvania Castle-Church Ope Cove

The discovery of a yellow-browed warbler above Church Ope Cove drew us back to Wakeham for the second week running. All the long-tailed tits were carefully checked but all we could find with them were goldcrests. The ancient cellar, or more likely water cistern, under Rufus Castle was dry enough to explore properly today (for a photo of it scroll down to the entry for Feb 24th).

On the way back some of us squeezed into the crevice in the rock underneath Rufus Castle to discover that it continued some way under the castle, but was far too narrow for anyone to explore.

The best bird of the day though was the firecrest that appeared when we stopped at Wakeham to check the trees around the old railway line.

The day's list:
wren, buzzard, firecrest, goldcrest, chaffinch, robin, long-tailed tit, great tit
plants:bulbous comfrey
mammals: grey squirrel

Friday December 1st
Penn's Weare

A beautiful sunny day on Portland but with a bitterly cold northerly wind so we kept under the shelter if the Eastcliffs and walked from Church Ope Cove along the old railway line to Grove Point.

The hope was that we would see the first returning fulmars on the cliffs but they hadn't arrived yet. We did get good views of both of the resident pair of peregrines though and offshore a single gannet was fishing.

The star sighting though was a pair of crests, one of which stopped long enough for us to identify it as a firecrest.

The day's list:
wren, peregrine, raven, song thrush, kestrel, gannet, firecrest, goldfinch, chaffinch, rock dove (feral pigeons)
plants: stinking iris, maidenhair fern, sea spleenwort
ships: HMS Chiddingfold

Friday November 24th
Fancy's Farm - Grove Engine Sheds

Another cold, calm and sunny day - perfect conditions to explore the exposed northern Eastcliffs. But before we left the hotel car park we had to stop and look at a very late hummingbird hawkmoth that was investigating the hotel roof.

At Fancy's Farm there were very few birds to see but we did find a small flock of seven or eight redwings in the trees at Grove Stadium, where there was also a kestrel.

In the end we spent more time looking at ships with some enormous container ships in the distance. Closer in we had an excellent view of RFA Argus coming in to port.

The day's list:
hummingbird hawkmoth
birds: wren, meadow pipit, redwing, song thrush, kestrel, stock dove
plants: wall-rue
ships: RFA Argus, RFA Sir Tristram, Glovis Cougar, Merete Maersk

Friday November 17th
Portland Bill

A cold but very bright and sunny day with very little wind so we decided to brave the exposed cliffs at the Bill and get a rare view of a new Royal Navy ship - the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The huge ship was easy to spot even though it was several miles out. The birds however were far more difficult, apart from the gannets which were fishing just offshore.

Rock pipits were showing themselves now and again and a pair of stonechats were very obliging. Apart from these we were confined to enjoying the crisp air and looking at the varieties of fungi that made fairy rings in the grass.

The day's list:
gannet, shag, cormorant, wren, rock pipit, skylark, stonechat, kestrel, raven

Friday November 10th
Rodwell Trail - Smallmouth

As we were sat in the hotel lobby wondering where to go today I received a text informing me that six black-necked grebes were in Portland Harbour just off the site of the old Whitehead's pier. Although not technically in Portland we decided that it was still Portland Harbour so OK to visit on a Portland walk.

However when we reached the site we found that the grebes had been disturbed by a very noisy helicopter and were a very long way out indeed. So we decided to leave them there and walk under the road at Ferrybridge to look for brent geese. With the tide well in just a single goose could be seen in the distance. It really wasn't our day today so we cut our losses and returned to the hotel for a cup of coffee.

The day's list:
black-necked grebe, red-breasted merganser, brent goose, Mediterranean gull, robin, wren, greenfinch, pied wagtail, rock pipit, stonechat

Friday November 3rd
Bumpers Lane - Silklake - Broadcroft

Another beautifully warm day saw us making a rare visit to the area of infilled quarries just east of Wakeham. The buddleias at the end of Bumpers Lane were full of finches and thrushes, mostly chaffinches and blackbirds but also a few greenfinches, goldfinches and a single redwing.

Moving on to Broadcroft a few stonechats and chiffchaffs were found but what was most likely the best bird of the day evaded us. This was a probable black redstart that appeared in the brambles briefly and then vanished into thin air. A very late small copper was probably the most unexpected sighting of the morning.

The day's list:
sparrowhawk, chiffchaff, goldfinch, robin, wren, chaffinch, greenfinch, redwing, blackbird, stonechat, blue tit, great tit
insects: small copper, ground beetle
plants: melilot, buddleia, pampas grass

Friday October 27th
Suckthumb Quarry - Grangecroft Quarry

In beautifully warm and calm weather we parked on Weston Street and walked down the newest road on Portland - Thumb Lane.

We waited in the old quarry for a few minutes but the only birds present were a single chiffchaff and a goldcrest. High overhead a long line of brilliantly white birds were a little disappointing when they turned out to be only gulls, most likely a group of lesser black-backs migrating south.

Walking through Suckthumb Quarry we carefully checked all the blackbirds and found a redwing and a song thrush but no ring ouzels. The small flocks of wood pigeons and starlings moving north overhead looked as if they might be migrants rather than local birds.

Finally we stopped off at Grangecroft Quarry which looked ideal for little owls but only produced a few stock doves.

The day's list:
sparrowhawk, kestrel, chiffchaff, goldcrest, robin, wren, chaffinch, greenfinch, redwing, song thrush, siskin (heard), stonechat, blackcap, lesser black-backed gull, stock dove, raven (heard), meadow pipit, skylark, blue tit, great tit
insects: speckled wood
plants: Himalayan cotoneaster, pyracantha, dogwood, water crowfoot, pampas grass

Friday October 20th
Grove Corner - Jordan Quarry - Inmosthay

We started by walking down to Grove Corner where we inspected the mysterious but very informative sign that has appeared there recently.

Next we walked along Victoria Place to the site of the end of the Portland Railway. From there we made a quick visit to look at the mines in Jordan Quarry before walking through the southern end of Inmosthay.

Inmosthay revealed a range of fascinating geological specimens, and a variety of cotoneaster bushes, such as the one pictured here.

The day's list:
swallow, kestrel, chiffchaff, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch, redwing, linnet
plants: Himalayan cotoneaster, entire-leaved cotoneaster, bullate-leaved cotoneaster, wayfaring tree, dogwood

Friday October 13th
Inmosthay - Tout

A dismal but warm day with a fresh south-westerly wind that we successfully kept out of most of the time.

Walking through Tout on to the Westcliffs we were accompanied by first one, then two and finally three kestrels. Very few other birds were seen though apart from a very impressive raven cruising along the cliff-top.

Reaching the cliff-fall we once again started arguing about whether or not the scene had changed but the photos below show little, if any, change in the last eighteen months.

The day's list:
raven, kestrel, carrion crow, jackdaw, great black-backed gull, stock dove, robin, wren, linnet

Friday October 6th
Kingbarrow Quarry - Withies Croft

On a beautifully warm and calm day we walked east into Kingbarrow where we soon bumped into a few migrants in the shape of some chiffchaffs, meadow pipits and a stonechat.

Failing to locate the resident little owl yet again we moved up into the plateau that was once the deep hole of Withies Croft Quarry. Four or five different species of fungi were found here includingone blackening waxcap and a number of shaggy inkcaps. Another two stonechats were found here as well along with more meadow pipits. A kestrel was seen to catch a small rodent with a somewhat luckier rodent seen running through the grass nearby.

We left the reserve via the Kingbarrow tunnel seeing little more to add to the list apart from a few swallows heading south.

birds: kestrel, swallow, stonechat, chiffchaff, goldfinch, greenfinch, meadow pipit butterflies: red admiral, peacock

Friday September 29th
Old Hill - Verne Ditch - New Ground

In damp and windy conditions we walked north from the hotel to check the trees around Old Hill for migrant warblers. With the rain increasing birds were hard to find and only single chiffchaff and goldcrest could be glimpsed.

As we walked eastwards along the track of the Merchant's Railway the weather improved and a peregrine was found gliding high over the ramparts of the Verne Citadel. Although the weather was still windy quite a few red admirals were seen flying overhead heading south.

Reaching the west gate of the Verne Prison a very strange sight could be seen. A group of crows and jackdaws were playing with a wire on a pole by trying to land on the wire while it was blowing around!

birds: kestrel, peregrine, swallow, wheatear, blackcap, chiffchaff, goldcrest, meadow pipit, raven butterflies: red admiral, speckled wood

Friday September 22nd
Chesil Cove

Very little about today but we still had a very pleasant walk under the Westcliffs followed by a lovely cup of coffee at Quiddles. The one surprise find was a beautiful gothic moth (that's its name, not a description!) on the road near the sea wall.

The main reason for being here though was to check on the state of the section of cliff near Tout Quarry that has been about to collapse for the last year or two.

birds: robin, wren, rock pipit, swallow, cormorant, shag, kestrel, raven, carrion crow, jackdaw, great black-backed gull, herring gull
butterflies: red admiral
moths: beautiful gothic
plants: hoary ragwort, rock samphire, portland spurge, Allium (unidentified)

Friday September 15th
Portland Bill

Even though the wind was in the north we risked a look at the sea as we were at the Bill and surprisingly enjoyed a vey productive half hour's sea watch.

First we found several wheatears in the Bill Quarry, along with flocks of linnets and meadow pipits. Looking out to sea we found a number of gannets heading west and a group of three scoter as well. The highlight was when a couple of white wagtails landed just in front of us. Shortly after this a grey wagtail was seen heading out towards France.

Walking east along the cliffs we were surprised to see a very early purple sandpiper feeding at the very tip of the Bill, making it the most southerly bird in Dorset!

We just had enough time left after all this to check out the Observatory Quarry where a wryneck had been hiding for a few days. We eventually found it but never saw more than its head and neck. I am reluctant to copy someone else's photo here but Calum Urqhuart has published a photo on Twitter that shows exactly what we saw. (click here for the photo)
birds: meadow pipit, rock pipit, white wagtail, swallow, purple sandpiper, oystercatcher, gannet, cormorant, shag, wheatear, wryneck, linnet, raven, common scoter
butterflies: red admiral, small tortoiseshell, small white, speckled wood
other inverts: sea slater

Friday September 1st
High Angle Battery

Early September is the best time to look for the lovely adonis blue butterfly so we set out towards Fancy's Farm and the High Angle Battery.

Our route from the hotel took us across New Ground just north of Kingbarrow Quarry where we found that the overnight rain had dropped at least twenty wheatears, several of which allowed excellent views through the telescope.

Reaching the High Angle Battery the first butterfly found was a very fresh small copper, one of several seen this morning. As we were watching it a whitethroat appeared just above us on the edge of the Redoubt.

We were soon seeing lots more butterflies, mostly chalkhill and common blues, and we did eventually find a female adonis. For the second week running a hornet hoverfly showed up, this time on Norma!

birds: whitethroat, swallow, sand martin, wheatear, willow warbler, linnet, raven
butterflies: wall brown, common blue, chalkhill blue, adonis blue, small copper, meadow brown, peacock, red admiral, small heath, small white, speckled wood
other insects: hornet hoverfly Volucella zonaria
plants:Autumn Lady's Tresses, Burnet Rose, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea

Friday August 25th

It took until the end of August this year for the centre track in Topfields to dry out, so we were up there today looking for autumn migrants.

The first ones we found were yellow wagtails, feeding almost underneath the horses' hooves. All were fairly plain-looking young birds, but I've added a video below from last year showing what a bright male looks like. Next was a wheatear closely followed by two more with two whinchats appearing on the same fence. A female sparrowhawk gave us all the chance to examine it closely through the telescope as it sat on a fence post and then again as it flew around the fields.

A few butterflies were out in the warm sunshine but the star insect sighting was this enormous Hornet Hoverfly.

birds: buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk, peregrine, swallow, sand martin, house martin, wheatear, whinchat, willow warbler, whitethroat, yellow wagtail, linnet, goldfinch, rook, raven
butterflies: common blue, small copper, meadow brown, peacock, red admiral, small heath, small white, speckled wood
other insects: silver Y, hoverflies Volucella zonaria and Myathropa florea
plants:Autumn Lady's Tresses, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Bristly Ox-tongue, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Common Toadflax, Sea Buckthorn

Friday August 11th
Merchant's Railway - High Angle Battery

Parking next to the Verne Ditch the first bird seen was a little owl enjoying the sunshine on his rock in a sheltered corner of the moat that surrounds the Verne Prison. He was still there when we returned over an hour later!

Chalkhill blues were everywhere but sadly no adonis yet. Wall browns were also quite numerous and one of us managed to see a hummingbird hawk-moth buzzing around the slopes of the Verne embankment.

The High Angle Battery added small copper to the list and as the morning got colder the chalkhills were getting more and more approachable.

birds: buzzard, kestrel, swallow, little owl, stock dove
butterflies: common blue, chalkhill blue, small copper, marbled white, meadow brown, gatekeeper, red admiral, painted lady, small white, wall brown
moths: silver Y, mint moth, hummingbird hawk-moth
reptiles: common lizard

Friday August 4th

In a fresh westerly wind we braved the highest and windiest part of the island to look for the Ocean Sunfish that was in Chesil Cove yesterday. Of course we didn't see it but we did find an enormous and very noisy young female peregrine with a much smaller and rather harassed-looking adult male.

In spite of the windy conditions there were plenty of butterflies about including a very bright clouded yellow.

birds: peregrine, gannet, great black-backed gull, cormorant, fulmar, kestrel, swallow
butterflies: common blue, chalkhill blue, holly blue, meadow brown, gatekeeper, red admiral, small white, wall brown, clouded yellow
other insects: common field grasshopper, common darter
plants: Wild Cabbage, Greater Knapweed, Small Scabious, Duke of Argyll's Tea Plant, Wild Carrot, Pyramid Orchid

Friday July 28th

Similar weather to last Friday with strong south-westerly winds blowing a range of seabirds close in to the Bill. But this week we decided to avoid the crowds (of sea-watchers) and walk along the much quieter Eastcliffs.

We had to walk some distance before we could see the seabirds in Portland Race but on the way we found a good variety of plants in flower and even a few butterflies.

birds: balearic shearwater, gannet, great black-backed gull, cormorant, shag, kestrel, swallow, rock pipit, goldfinch, linnet
butterflies: common blue, meadow brown, grayling, red admiral, small white
moths: yellow shell, chalk carpet
plants: Agrimony, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Bristly Ox-tongue, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Carline Thistle, Common Centaury, Common Ragwort, Dwarf Elder, Fennel, Golden Samphire, Greater Knapweed, Portland Rock Sea-lavender, Red Valerian, Restharrow, Rock Samphire, Teasel, Wild Carrot, Yellow-wort

Friday July 21st
Portland Bill

Before I left home this morning Twitter informed me that Cory's shearwaters were being seen off the Devon coast, just across Lyme Bay, so it was with great anticipation that we arrived at the Bill and walked out towards the obelisk against the southerly wind.

For once we were at the right place at the right time and enjoyed a superb sea-watch with several Cory's seen passing westwards distantly and many gannets and manx shearwaters much closer in.

birds: Cory's shearwater, manx shearwater, gannet, guillemot, common scoter, Mediterranean gull, cormorant, shag, kestrel, buzzard, fulmar, rock pipit
insects: common blue, six-spot burnet

Friday July 14th
Penn's Weare - Grove Point

Today we revisited one of our most favourite walks - along the old railway line under the Eastcliffs.

Butterflies were in abundance with lots of Lulworth skippers and the first chalkhill blues of the summer.

We were hoping to see some young peregrines on the cliff (we had already seen two from the hotel car park!) but only found a single adult. However this disappointment was more than made up for when we found a nest of kestrels with two fluffy heads clearly visible through the telescope.

The ornithological highlight though was the young cuckoo that suddenly appeared hiding in a bush at the foot of the cliffs.

birds: kestrel, peregrine, cuckoo, fulmar, goldfinch, house martin
insects: Lulworth skipper, small skipper, wall, gatekeeper, meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, red admiral, common blue, chalkhill blue, six-spot burnet
plants: Birdsfoot Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Viper's Bugloss, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Maidenhair Fern, Buddleia, Pyramidal Orchid,

Friday July 7th
Church Ope Cove - Perryfields

Another bright sunny day but a fresh westerly breeze so we walked down to Church Ope on the sheltered east side of the island,

Waiting to greet us was a bright young male wall lizard, the first of quite a number seen this morning. Much less expected was the tiny toad that we found in the ruins of St Andrews church.

We finished off with a short walk roud Butterfly Conservation's Perryfields Reserve and found the first ploughman's spikenard of the year and dozens of marbled white butterflies.

birds: buzzard, sparrowhawk, swift, swallow, house martin
herptiles: wall lizard, toad
insects: small skipper, gatekeeper, meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, comma, red admiral, speckled wood, six-spot burnet, small fan-footed wave, silver Y, emperor dragonfly
plants: Agrimony, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Medick, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Common Centaury, Greater Knapweed, Lady's Bedstraw, Ploughman's Spikenard, Pyramidal Orchid, Restharrow, English Elm, Wych Elm

Friday June 30th
Reap Lane - Westcliffs

After two days of pretty much continuous rain it was nice to be out on the cliffs in bright sunshine.

We were looking for a common rosefinch but as is often the case our target remained hidden and a host of other sightings appeared instead.

The birding highlight was the first juvenile peregrine of the year patrolling the cliff-top, but it was the insects that really stole the show.

The day's list:
raven, kestrel, peregrine, gannet, cormorant, swallow, house martin, stonechat, linnet, fulmar
butterflies: small skipper, large skipper, lulworth skipper, meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, small heath, red admiral, peacock, small white
moths: six-spot burnet, five-spot burnet, silver Y, burnet companion, cinnabar, chalk carpet, Crambus perlella
other insects: great green bush-cricket, Roesel's bush-cricket, seven-spot ladybird
plants: Agrimony, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Medick, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Common Centaury, Greater Knapweed, Lady's Bedstraw, Pyramidal Orchid, Restharrow, Squinancywort, Wild Carrot, Wild Thyme, Yellow-wort

Friday June 23rd
Fancy's Farm - Admiralty Quarries

Today we explored the clifftop paths on the highest accessible part of the island, enjoying the views across Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay to the far Purbeck coastline.

It was a bit breezy for butterflies but we did manage to see a few including some very fresh marbled whites and one of the first small skippers of the year.

The highlight though had to be the flora with a huge range of floers out in the close-cropped grassland in and around the farm. Pyramidal orchids were out in huge numbers and we also managed to locate an early gentian still just about in flower.

Not many birds were seen but we did witness a brief encounter between an adult peregrine and a young buzzard that had yet to learn to keep away from this part of the cliffs! A gannet cruising around the harbour was a good sighting as well.

The day's list:
buzzard, raven, kestrel, peregrine, gannet, cormorant, shag, lesser black-backed gull
reptiles: slow-worm
butterflies: small skipper, large skipper, speckled wood, meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, small heath
other insects: six-spot burnet caterpillar, sawfly
plants: Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Medick, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Burnet Rose, Common Centaury, Dog Rose, Early Gentian, Greater Knapweed, Great Mullein, Hedge Bedstraw, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Ivy Broomrape, Kidney Vetch, Lady's Bedstraw, Marjoram, Pyramidal Orchid, Quaking Grass, Small Scabious, Musk Thistle, Squinancywort, Wayfaring Tree, Wild Carrot, Wild Thyme, Wood Sage, Yellow-wort

Friday June 16th
Grove - Admiralty Quarries

Our sunny morning's walk started with a pair of adders basking near the Engine Sheds. The cliffs nearby showed us a pair of young buzzards showing off their newly-acquired flying skills. Their landings still needed a bit more practice though.

The low-lying areas of the Admiralty Quarries near Nicodemus Knob were a blaze of yellow vetches, buttercups and cinquefoil with patches of bright pink pyramidal orchids. The first silver-studded blues of the year were in flight along with some late common blues and a single small blue.

The day's list:
buzzard, raven, kestrel, stock dove
reptiles: adder, common lizard
butterflies: common blue, small blue, silver-studded blue, red admiral, dingy skipper, large skipper, speckled wood, meadow brown
moths: crambid moth Scoparia pyralella, speckled yellow, six-spot burnet caterpillar, lackey caterpillar
plants: ivy broomrape, red valerian, pyramidal orchid, creeping cinquefoil, creeping buttercup

Friday June 9th
Southwell Eastcliffs

On a sunny but very windy day the shelter of the Eastcliffs was very handy, providing ideal conditions for butterflies and reptiles to come out and be seen.

A good list of butterflies were seen including the first meadow browns of the year. Several different moths were out too including at least one hummingbird hawk-moth. Wall lizards were particularly plentiful this morning taking advantage of the first strong sunshine for a day or two.

Birds were mostly out at sea or on the cliffs with both male and female peregrines visible but no sign of any youngsters yet.

The day's list:
whitethroat (heard), linnet, swallow, peregrine, buzzard, kestrel, raven, fulmar, gannet
butterflies: common blue, red admiral, dingy skipper, large skipper, speckled wood, meadow brown, small white
moths: crambid moth Scoparia pyralella, hummingbird hawk-moth, oak eggar caterpillar, magpie moth
other insects: ground beetle, rose chafer, swollen-thighed beetle
plants: sea spleenwort, red valerian, pyramidal orchid, bee orchid, spear thistle, bristly oxtongue, prickly sowthistle, rock samphire

Friday June 2nd
New Ground - High Angle Battery

A warm and sunny day when we left but before long the clouds gathered and kept the sunshine down to the occasional sunny interval. Consequently the butterflies were a bit hard to find until the sun came out but in the end we amassed quite a respectable list of butterflies and day-flying moths. The most outstanding sighting was the unusually well-marked female common blue pictured on the right.

We were still at the hotel when the first highlight turned up in the shape of a hummingbird hawk-moth seen by one of the group. Soon after we found the first bee orchid of the year right in the middle of the hotel's front lawn! This was soon followed by a few early pyramidal orchids as we walked eastwards across New Ground.

A few birds were out in the sunshine including whitethroats and a family of great tits.

The day's list:
whitethroat, great tit, swallow, swift, stock dove, kestrel, wren
butterflies: small blue, common blue, red admiral, dingy skipper, speckled wood, painted lady, small heath, large white
moths: mint moth, cinnabar, mother shipton, grass rivulet, burnet companion, speckled yellow, silver Y, hummingbird hawk-moth
plants: birdsfoot trefoil, kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch, red valerian, pyramidal orchid, bee orchid, burnet rose with rose rust fungus (Phragmidium mucronatum)

Friday May 26th
Kingbarrow Quarry

A beautifully sunny day but the fresh easterly breeze was keeping the butterflies down so we decided to walk below ground level in Kingbarrow Quarry next to the hotel.

Common blues were seen from the outset with the first small heath for the year seen as well. The highlight was a hummingbird hawk-moth hovering around the wild privet. Very few birds were about but a whitethroat could be heard singing towards Withies Croft.

Lots of plants were out including a patch of Sainfoin which looked like it could have been from the original Portland population rather than from a wildflower seed mix.

We also spent a while looking at the fossilised tree bowls that this quarry is famous for.

The day's list:
whitethroat (heard), magpie, wren (heard) insects: nomad bee, common blue, red admiral, dingy skipper, speckled wood, wall brown, small heath, hummingbird hawk-moth
plants: Birdsfoot Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Red Valerian, Early Gentian, Milkwort, Sainfoin,

Friday May 19th
France Quarry

Parking next to the Grove Road playing field we walked across what used to be Long Acre Quarry before it was levelled off in about 1981. Next to this is a far more overgrown area, Crown Farm Quarry, named after the farm that was removed by the Luftwaffe in 1942. We spent a while here listening out for golden orioles and seeing a few butterflies including the first large skipper of the year.

Moving on to France Quarry at the back of Easton Lane we searched the sycamore for orioles but could only find a blackcap.

After Wednesday's torrential rain we could almost see the plants growing and very much had the impression that if we stood still for long we too would soon be enveloped by the clematis in particular. Many of the plants here were introduced species including several different cottoneasters and a huge lily that turned out to be honey garlic, Nectaroscordum siculum bulgaricum.

Our route back to the van took us past the edge of Broadcroft Quarry where we had a brief view of a small blue.

Back at the hotel three painted lady butterflies were in the car park feeding on the cottoneaster in the flower beds.

The day's list:
swift, swallow, house martin, buzzard, blackcap
reptiles: slow-worm
fungi: Jelly Ear Fungus
invertebrates: wolf spider, swollen-thighed beetle, dock bug, red-tailed bumblebee, buff-tailed bumblebee, common carder bee, honey bee, ashy mining bee, cream-spot tiger moth, holly blue, small blue, red admiral, large white, small white, large skipper, speckled wood, painted lady, peacock
plants: Birdsfoot Trefoil, Blackthorn, Buddleia, Clematis, Common Elder, Cotoneaster microphyllus, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster simonsii, Dogwood, Hawthorn, Herb Robert, Hogweed, Horseshoe Vetch, Japanese Knotweed, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Red Fescue, Red Valerian, Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Soft Brome, Spanish Bluebell, Tall Fescue, Teasel, Yellow Vetchling

Friday May 12th
Portland Bill

The sea off the Bill was very busy close inshore with dozens of auks (guillemots and razorbills) but very quiet further out with just a handful of gannets passing. A flock of six kittiwakes flew past going east but then came back, hopefully to investigate nest sites on the Westcliffs.

A brilliant blue object on the clifftop turned out to be a guillemot egg recently predated by one of the local ravens.

Just next to the car park was another bright blue find - this time the first common blue of the year.

The day's list:
linnet, swallow, stonechat, goldfinch, raven, gannet, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, kittiwake, shag, meadow pipit, skylark
invertebrates: common blue, red admiral, green-veined white, brown-tail, lackey moth
plants: kidney vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, hoary cress, thrift, lesser burdock

Friday May 5th
Tout - Inmosthay

Crossing the road from the hotel we walked around the new stone circle and dropped down into Tout Quarry. Almost immediately we found the only butterfly of the morning - a very early dingy skipper.

Walking out onto the Westcliffs we quickly inspected the landslip (it still looks just the same)and then cut back into the quarry in an attempt to hide from the wind. Woodlice were everywhere, mostly the huge Armadillium. A female bloody-nosed beetle was also on the cliff path.

Back in Tout we found the old tunnel under Wide Street before taking its partner tunnel into Inmosthay.

The day's list:
birds: linnet, swallow, swift, house martin, kestrel, whitethroat (heard), wren (heard), greenfinch, robin
reptiles: common lizard
invertebrates: dingy skipper, bloody-nosed beetle, St Marks fly, woodlouse (Armadillium), woodlouse (Porcellio), woodlouse (Oniscus),
plants: maidenhair fern, horseshoe vetch, birdsfoot trefoil,

Friday April 28th
Southwell, Eastcliffs - Coombefield - Suckthumb

When the peregrines failed to show up on the cliffs we decided to go back across the road and explore the quarries just inland.

A large female common lizard was the first find as it basked on the wall next to the Southwell road. The more vegetated areas of the quarry held quite a few migrants including lots of blackcaps, one or two of which eventually gave us good views. Linnets were very much in evidence, seemingly very involved in pairing up and nest-building.

The day's list:
linnet, swallow, kestrel, willow warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff, chaffinch, pheasant
reptiles: common lizard
insects: green-veined white
plants: field madder

Friday April 21st
Barleycrates Lane

A classic taste of spring migration today with migrants everywhere. Most were willow warblers but plenty of other species were also present in much smaller numbers, the highlights being a pair of redstarts and an invisible grasshopper warbler (the photo here is from a bird found at Radipole thirty-odd years ago!).

Out on the Westcliffs fulmars were enjoyed at close quarters whilst out on the sea a grey seal could be seen bobbing about in the rocks just offshore. Overhead a group of four whimbrel appeared calling loudly to each other.

The day's list:
whimbrel, fulmar, oystercatcher, goldfinch, swallow, house martin, yellow wagtail, wheatear, redstart, grasshopper warbler (heard), blackcap (heard), willow warbler, whitethroat, linnet, meadow pipit, skylark, carrion crow (70)
mammals: grey seal
insects: brown-tail moth, holly blue
plants: Duke of Argyll's tea plant, wild cabbage

Friday April 14th
Admiralty Slopes

Attracted here in the hope of seeing the Subalpine warbler that spent the day here yesterday we instead concentrated on walking the clifftop path and watching the gannets that were constantly moving east offshore.

Guillemots and razorbills were present in good numbers as well along with a few fulmars and a single kittiwake. The video was taken here a few days ago.

The day's list:
raven, gannet, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, kittiwake, kestrel, swallow, sand martin, wheatear, stonechat, willow warbler, linnet, meadow pipit, skylark (heard)
butterflies: peacock, small white

Friday April 7th
Broadcroft Quarry

Flushed with our success from last week we set off to Broadcroft confidently expecting to find the rare widow iris in flower. After quite a bit of searching we did find the plant but sadly we were too late - all the flowers had gone. But there were plenty of other plants to look at, a few of which such as primrose and cowslip, were already in flower.

One or two butterflies were out but birds were in very short supply with just a few swallows passing over and a buzzard being mobbed in Yeolands Quarry. We did find a crow's nest which on closer examination proved to be occupied!

The day's list:
buzzard, swallow, chaffinch, stock dove, great tit, wren, dunnock, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch (heard)
insects: speckled wood, peacock, buff-tailed bumblebee
native plants: horseshoe vetch, wayfaring tree, dogwood, sallow, primrose, cowslip, clematis, reed
alien plants: buddleia, winter heliotrope, Leyland cypress, yellow vetch,

Friday March 31st
Admiralty Quarries

Luck was certainly with us today as the rain stopped just as we got out of the van at Fancy's Farm. Hoping our good fortune would continue we walked south in increasingly warm and sunny weather to the look-out point near the Engine Sheds. The wheatear that appeared right in front of (remarkably perched on the top of a tree!) was our second bit of good luck for the day.

In such pleasant weather it wasn't entirely surprising when a couple of swallows were seen flying north along the cliffs. Buzzard and kestrel were also pretty much expected at this site.

Walking back towards the Farm we kept our eyes to the east hoping to find the Iceland gull that had been seen here recently. With most of the gulls at a great distance each one that came within half a mile was closely scrutinised.

This strategy finally paid off when the bird we were searching for appeared at a sensible distance slowly circling round with some herring gulls. Even so it was too far to photograph so the one pictured here is one that spent several winters in Weymouth Harbour some thirty years ago!

The day's list:
Iceland gull, buzzard, kestrel, wheatear, swallow, chiffchaff, stock dove, great tit, raven (heard), small tortoiseshell

Friday March 24th

A particularly interesting walk this morning with three very different quarries visited.

We started by looking at Hannah Sofaer's newly-installed circle of "Memory Stones". The photo on the right is of the installation on Tuesday.

Walking through Tout on to the Westcliffs it became apparent that there was a significant overhead passage of meadow pipits going on, with probably several hundred heading north during the ninety minutes of our walk. Reaching the cliff-fall it looked as if there had been some more movement but the photos below show little, if any, change since November.

After looking at some of the new sculptures in Tout we crossed the road and walked through a very busy Inmosthay, with all sorts of quarry machinery moving backwards and forwards.

Finally we walked through Kingbarrow where we found a couple of chiffchaffs and yet more meadow pipits.

The day's list:
buzzard, kestrel, meadow pipit, cormorant, chiffchaff, stock dove

Friday March 17th

A lovely sunny morning but with a very cold north-westerly wind so we chose the Eastcliff walk today, which didn't actually give us much shelter as it happened but never mind.

Our best sighting was before we reached the coastal path, in fact just opposite where we parked on the Bill Road. Stopping for a quick look into the Eight Kings Quarry we saw something flash through the trees, only to reappear just in front of us as a beautiful male sparrowhawk. Several times we saw it picking up twigs a fly off with them but it was when the female appeared as well that we knew for sure that nest-building was taking place.

The rest of the walk was a bit of an anti-climax after this but we did get a good view of a very smart male wheatear.

Back at the hotel we waited to see the final fly-past of the lynx helicopters.

The day's list:
sparrowhawk, buzzard, peregrine, kestrel, gannet, rock pipit, cormorant, fulmar, great black-backed gull, peacock (butterfly), sea spleenwort

Friday March 10th
Portland Bill

Misty conditions often bring the first wheatears to ground at the Bill so it was in ideal conditions this morning that we gingerly made our way south.

The first birds we saw were grounded meadow pipits which certainly raised our hopes for a wheatear but it was not to be.

We can't complain though as we amassed the best bird list for many weeks with a cracking adult male black redstart being the highlight. It was far too misty for photographs so the bird pictured here is one we saw in 2015.

The day's list:
black redstart, little owl, kestrel, meadow pipit, rock pipit, skylark, stonechat, shag, cormorant, fulmar, linnet, goldfinch, pheasant (heard) guillemot, razorbill, gannet

Friday March 3rd
Chesil Cove

In a strong southerly wind we sought the shelter of the Westcliffs and walked from Chiswell along the lower coastal path towards Hallelujah Bay.

The beach was littered with hundreds of whelk egg-masses and we also found several examples of the much more scarce pink sea fan.

Birds were hard to find, with perhaps the kestrel hunting over the rocks the best sighting.

The day's list:
kestrel, collared dove, pied wagtail, rock pipit, shag, cormorant, fulmar
cuttlefish (bones), common whelk (eggs), pink sea fan, kelp
green hellebore, Portland spurge, Santolina spp, , hart's-tongue fern,

Friday February 24th
Church Ope - Perryfields

Sheltered from today's north-westerly the steps leading down to Church Ope Cove were a very warm place to be today. So warm in fact that when we reached the ruins of St Andrews Church we found a couple of very young wall lizards watching us from the walls. There may well be fewer lizards there now as the kestrel that was sat in the tree right next to us was seen to drop down onto something very close to the lizards' location.

We also took the opportunity to have a look at the mysterious "dungeon" underneath Rufus Castle, picture here.

The day's list:
wall lizard, grey squirrel, raven, kestrel, collared dove, bullfinch (heard), goldfinch, chaffinch, great tit, long-tailed tit (heard)

Friday February 17th
The Verne

A very rare day on Portland - completely calm and with good visibility. Just the conditions to explore the highest point on the island and have a coffee at the Jailhouse Cafe for a change.

First we walked round the Verne Naval Cemetery where we saw a good range of finches in the trees. Up on the cliffs the jackdaws were making quite a racket while the pair of peregrines dashed off to fetch their breakfast. In the far distance a flock of red-breasted mergansers could just about be seen out on the waters of Portland Harbour.

The day's list:
red-breasted merganser, bullfinch, goldfinch, chaffinch, raven, magpie, dunnock, peregrine, jackdaw, stock dove, water rail (heard)
plants: sycamore, horse chestnut, primrose, cottoneaster, ivy

Friday February 10th
Suckthumb - Coombefield Quarries

With a raw easterly wind blowing over the island it only seemed fitting that we should go in search of a bird from Siberia - such as the Hume's warbler that has been seen recently in the old quarries between Weston and Southwell.

Our technique was to explore likely areas of bushes whilst listening for its distinctive "swee-wee" call, a method which returned absolutely no results. We did see a flock of redwings though, also a magpie carrying nesting material and a pair of ravens on a courtship flight.

Spring is coming!

The day's list:
redwing, goldfinch, chaffinch, raven, magpie, robin, wren, stock dove

(the bird on the right is the last Hume's warbler that turned up, in 2011)

Friday February 3rd
Chesil Beach

Driving along the beach road we all saw the signs warning that the road could be closed before the high tide at 1130, so a decision had to be made. Did we go for a walk and leave early, foregoing the coffees? Or did we we go straight for the coffees and watch the storm from the comfort of the hotel's bistro bar?

Six coffees please ...

The day's list:
great black-backed gull, jackdaw, herring gull, carrion crow

(the photo on the right was taken from Chiswell several years ago)

Friday January 27th

Still a cold easterly blowing so we decided to explore all the gullies in the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park.

Not many birds about today but we did get very close views of a hovering kestrel. The video on the right was filmed nearby on this date two years ago.

The day's list:
kestrel, stock dove, carrion crow, robin, great tit

Friday January 20th

Even colder than last week now that the wind has moved to a very unpopular north-easterly. So we dropped down into Kingbarrow Quarry and searched for sunny patches out of the wind.

Up on the stacks of stone a little owl was doing exactly the same thing. Nearby several pairs of stock doves were already staking out their breeding territories.

The day's list:
little owl, kestrel, stock dove, jackdaw, carrion crow, robin, wren, redwing, blackbird, magpie, great tit

Friday January 13th
Portland Bill

In a viciously cold north-westerly we braved the Bill on a hunt for seabirds, especially skuas.

Lately there has been a very large feeding flock of seabirds around the three mile long Shambles Bank, mostly gannets and kittiwakes but with occasional visits from all three of the more common species of skua.

Needless to say we didn't see any skuas but the seabird flock really was astonishing, with a thousand or more gannets feeding for all their worth in very choppy seas.

The day's list:
oystercatcher, gannet, kestrel, guillemot/razorbill, jackdaw, carrion crow, kittiwake, cormorant, shag, great black-backed gull, common gull, rock pipit

Friday January 6th
Grove Point - Yeolands Quarry

From Grove Point we walked through the Governors Gardens stopping on the way to look at the entrance to the extensive system of narrow caves that are in this area. Reaching the cliff-top path above the East Weares we saw a few close fulmars and nearly missed a raven that tried to sneak past us. A bit further on we found stock doves in Yeolands Quarry but no little owl.

Turning back we started to walk back towards the bus when we remembered that before the diversion was put in place the path here was a very good place to get close views of peregrines. So we tried leaning over the now closed path as far as possible and managed to just about see the male peregrine sat on his traditional perch on the cliff edge.

We finished by enjoying the view on this exceptionally clear day all the way to the Isle of Wight fifty miles to the east and Bulbarrow twenty miles to the north.

The day's list:
raven, kestrel, peregrine, jackdaw, carrion crow, fulmar, cormorant, shag, great black-backed gull, wood pigeon, stock dove
plants: wild parsley

Full list of species seen since 2005

Birds (146 species)

Great Northern Diver
Black-throated Diver
Red-throated Diver
Little Grebe
Great-crested Grebe
Slavonian Grebe
Storm Petrel
Leach's Petrel
Manx Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Glossy Ibis
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Dark-bellied Brent Goose
Pale-bellied Brent Goose
Black Brant
Red-breasted Goose
Mute Swan
Velvet Scoter
Red-breasted Merganser
Long-tailed Duck
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Wood Pigeon
Stock Dove
Collared Dove
Great Skua
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Herring Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Little Gull
Bar-tailed Godwit
Golden Plover
Grey Plover
Ringed Plover
Purple Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Little Owl
Short-eared Owl
House Martin
Sand Martin
Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
Rock Pipit
Pied Wagtail
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Grasshopper Warbler (heard)
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Garden Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Willow Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Black Redstart
White-spotted Bluethroat
Ring Ouzel
Song Thrush
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Snow Bunting

Mammals (10 species)

British Primitive Goat
Common Shrew
Grey Squirrel
Brown Rat
Oryctolagus cuniculus
Brown Hare
Red Fox
Roe Deer (prints)
Grey Seal
Bottle-nosed Dolphin

Reptiles (4 species)

Common Lizard
Wall Lizard

Amphibians (2 species)

Common Frog
Common Toad

Fossils (6 species)

Lopha gregarea
Nucleolites clunicularis
(sea urchin)
Titanites giganteus (ammonite)
Trigonia gibbosa (oss's head)
Butterflies (28 species)

Adonis Blue
Chalkhill Blue
Clouded Yellow
Common Blue
Dingy Skipper
Green-veined White
Holly Blue
Large White
Large Skipper
Lulworth Skipper
Marbled White
Meadow Brown
Painted Lady
Red Admiral
Silver-studded Blue
Small Blue
Small Copper
Small Heath
Small Skipper
Small Tortoiseshell
Small White
Speckled Wood

Moths (31 species)

Cream-spot Tiger
Crescent Plume-moth
Dark Arches
Heart and Club
Heart and Dart
Jersey Tiger
Knot Grass
L-album Wainscot
Large Yellow Underwing
Lesser Yellow Underwing
Light Brocade
Marbled Minor
Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata
Mother Shipton
Oak Eggar
Poplar Hawk-moth
Portland Riband Wave
Privet Hawkmoth
Scarlet Tiger
Shuttle-shaped Dart
Silver Y
Six-spot Burnet
Speckled Yellow
Treble Lines
Vine's Rustic
White Ermine
Yellow Shell

Other Insects (15 species)

7-spot Ladybird
Bloody-nosed Beetle
Dark Bush-cricket
Harlequin Ladybird
Honey Bee
Ivy Bee
Meadow Grasshopper
Oil Beetle
Roesel's Bush-cricket
Rose Chafer
Speckled Bush-cricket
Summer Chafer
Swollen-thighed Beetle
Volucella zonaria

Marine Life (29 species)

Ray spp (egg-case)
Greater Spotted Dogfish
Lesser Spotted Dogfish
Goose Barnacles
Spider Crab
Edible Crab
Portugese Man o' War
Blue-rayed Limpet
Flat Winkle
Rough Winkle
Toothed Topshell
Beadlet Anemone
Snakelocks Anemone
Dead Man's Fingers
Pink Sea-fan

Knotted Wrack
Channeled Wrack
Spiral Wrack
Bladder Wrack
Sea Lettuce
Laminaria saccharina
Laminaria digitata
Saccorhiza polyschides

Fungi (6 species)

Dryad's Saddle
Field Blewits
Field Mushroom
Honey Fungus
Velvet Shank
Shaggy Inkcap
Plants (207 species)

Annual Beard Grass
Annual Meadow Grass
Annual Mercury
Annual Wall Rocket
Autumn Gentian
Autumn Ladies Tresses
Bastard Toadflax
Bee Orchid
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Biting Stonecrop
Black Knapweed
Black Medick
Black Mustard
Black Spleenwort
Bladder Campion
Brackish Water Crowfoot
Bristly Ox-tongue
Broad-leaved Dock
Broad-leaved Eyebright
Bulbous Buttercup
Bulbous Meadow Grass
Burnet Rose
Burnet Saxifrage
Bush Vetch
Carline Thistle
Common Broomrape
Common Centaury
Common Elder
Common Gromwell
Common Ragwort
Common Storksbill
Common Toadflax
Cotoneaster microphyllus
Cotoneaster simonsii

Cow Parsley
Creeping Buttercup
Creeping Cinquefoil
Crested Dogstail
Crow Garlic
Cut-leaved Cranesbill
Dog Rose
Dwarf Elder
Early Gentian
Early Purple Orchid
English Bluebell
False Brome
False Oat-grass
Fern Grass
Field Penny-cress
Field Speedwell
Fodder Burnet
Germander Speedwell
Golden Samphire
Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil
Greater Knapweed
Greater Plantain
Great Hairy Willowherb
Great Mullein
Grey Willow
Hairy Bittercress
Hairy Rockcress
Hard Rush
Hartstongue Fern
Hawkweed Ox-tongue
Hedge Bedstraw
Hemp Agrimony
Herb Robert
Hoary Plantain
Hoary Ragwort
Hoary Stock
Holm Oak
Hop Trefoil
Horseshoe Vetch
Ivy Broomrape
Ivy-leaved Toadflax
Japanese Knotweed
Kidney Vetch
Lady's Bedstraw
Lady's Mantle
Lesser Centaury
Lesser Reedmace
London Plane
Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Male Fern
Meadow Vetchling
Mouse-ear Hawkweed
Musk Mallow
Musk Thistle
Olive Willow
Oxford Ragwort
Pendulous Sedge
Portland Rock Sea-lavender
Portland Spurge
Prickly Sow-thistle
Purple Toadflax
Pyramidal Orchid
Quaking Grass
Red Fescue
Red Valerian
Ribwort Plantain
Rock Samphire
Rock Sea Lavender
Rock Stonecrop
Rough Hawkbit
Rough Meadow Grass
Round-leaved Cranesbill
Round-leaved Fluellen
Rue-leaved Saxifrage
Rye Grass
Sea Beet
Sea Holly
Sea Kale
Sea Lavender
Sea Mayweed
Sea Radish
Sea Spleenwort
Shining Cranesbill
Slender Thistle
Soft Brome
Soft Cranesbill
Slime Mould
Small Scabious
Smooth Sow-thistle
Spanish Bluebell
Spear Mint
Spear Thistle
Spindle Tree
Spotted Medick
Square-stemmed Willowherb
Stemless Thistle
Stinging Nettle
Stinking Iris
Strawberry Clover
Tall Fescue
Three-cornered Leek
Tor Grass
Toothed Medick
Upright Brome
Upright Hedge Parsley
Viper's Bugloss
Wall Barley
Wall Rocket
Wall Rue
Wall Speedwell
Wayfaring Tree
Welted Thistle
Western Polypody
White Stonecrop
Widow Iris
Wild Cabbage
Wild Carrot
Wild Clary
'Wild' Gladiolus
Wild Leek
Wild Madder
Wild Parsley
Wild Privet
Wild Thyme
Winter Heliotrope
Wood Sage
Wood Spurge
Yellow Horned-poppy
Yellow Oat-grass
Yellow Vetch
Yellow Vetchling
Yorkshire Fog

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