Trip report: Portland (17th September 2011)

Nine members met with Jane, our leader for the day, at Ferrybridge car park at 9.30 on a very blustery day with lots of white horses out to sea. High tide coincided with our arrival and the only birds to be seen were a juvenile Herring Gull, a Black-headed Gull and a diminutive wader which appeared to walk under the BHG; it was of course a Little Stint. Jane briefly outlined the plan for the day and we were off to Portland Bill. Sheltering behind the Obelisk we sea-watched for the best part of an hour. A steady straggle of Gannets was flying down channel into the wind. Two Balearic Shearwaters were picked up but it was doubtful if we all saw both in the rough seas. Otherwise a single auk, various gulls, and some Shags and Cormorants was a poor total for an hour’s watching. We walked along the East Cliff seeing Rock Pipits, a lone Turnstone and several Wheatear. The short grass held small groups of finches – Green and Goldfinches, Linnets, Wagtails (Pied and/or White) Starlings and gulls. We walked up through the cabins area to look at the Obs Quarry. A very obliging Whitethroat sat up in the open but other birds were not so keen. The walk back behind the Pulpit Pub produced a Skylark and some Meadow Pipits, but it was too windy for most species to be in the open.

We drove up to Southwell to check the top fields and were initially serenaded by a noisy group of House Sparrows. Further on we saw two or three Kestrels desperately trying to hover in the little shelter provided by the 8 stunted trees. The wild bird food planted area had only a few finches but the wind was exhilarating with even the resident horses seeking shelter. The pager having alerted us to two Grey Phalaropes at Chesil Cove, we managed to park and were eventually well rewarded by sightings of both birds – not at all easy in the heaving swell and broken waves. The sun was shining strongly as we sat on the seawall seats to eat our lunch and watch the Phalaropes. A lone Razorbill put in a brief appearance to join the small group of BHGs. A memorable lunch stop. Back to Ferrybridge with the tide now well out and lots of mud. Apart from 2 heavy rain showers ( the only ones of the day ) Jane was counting Ringed Plover, was it 86 or 87? Elsewhere was a Little Egret with its plumes blown all over the place, Dunlin, Turnstone, Starlings and a few gulls. In the distance the telescopes picked up Mediterranean Gull and Oystercatcher, Sandwich Terns flew over, identified by call, but otherwise it was very quiet.

We moved on to Radipole RSPB Centre for news of birds in and around Weymouth. Lodmoor appeared to be devoid of birds according to the Centre’s log, so we checked the view from the Centre with 2 Little Stints, a single Snipe and Sand Martin plus the usual fresh water species including the Hooded Merganser of doubtful origin. We stopped at the Tennis Courts car park for a very obliging Arctic Tern. At the end of the day we had seen a reported 53 species between us which considering the weather was quite satisfying. Strangely we failed to see any of the reported Skuas but they will have to wait for another day. Many thank, Jane, for showing us the best of Portland.

David Turner