Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Hello Portland. It's Been a While...

The last time I went birding on Portland was 3rd May 2004, when two adult Long-tailed Skuas and a dark-phase Pom were the stand-out highlights. So why the 17-year wait? I've written previously about my tendency to go there almost never, and it is something I've been meaning to rectify since publishing that post. And finally, a mere nine months later, I have...

My last October visit was almost exactly 25 years ago. I referred to that day in the post linked above, and remembered to mention the several Firecrests, the Lapland Bunting and the unwelcome lack of Northern Waterthrush. But I had completely forgotten about the smart male Subalpine Warbler in the Obs quarry! Even my Portland dips are nicely decorated.

Today was not a twitch though. Just a straightforward on-spec visit, with no expectations beyond a nice walk and dry weather. The Portland Bird Observatory terrace at 06:30 was a fine spot to watch the sun rise and begin the day's caffeine-loading. In the half-light a distant, idling diesel engine was briefly misidentified as a churring Nightjar. It could only get better...

At first light there were birds everywhere, especially at the Bill. Loads of Pied Wags, Meadow Pipits, Linnets etc. A Golden Plover went over at the head of a Woodpigeon flock. Lots to look at. As the morning progressed, the sun rose higher and grew hotter. The afternoon was absolutely gorgeous, though unsurprisingly not that birdy. Some pics etc...

At 09:15 I accidentally flushed a Short-eared Owl from some stubble right next to the track I was on. It plonked down further away, and I could see its eyes peering at me and its stubby little 'ears'. Unfortunately this Crow was on it straight away, and chivvied it into the air...

Short-eared Owl getting grief

I didn't get a photo of the Golden Plover, but I did get this...


I had my recorder switched on for the duration, but sadly didn't capture anything else to get excited about. Not that I'm aware of anyway. Mind you, there was certainly some potential around. Like this, for example...

Bird of the day for me - Yellow-browed Warbler

Seeing Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand was a personal first, and the result of a beautifully timed coffee break. Just wonderful.

During the afternoon sunsine there was plenty of non-birdy stuff on the wing, and occasionally settling...

Comma

Migrant Hawker

Unfortunately the three Clouded Yellows I saw failed to cooperate, but were definitely the best of the inverts. For what it's worth, my bird tally: 20 Chiffs (undoubtedly a huge undercount), 8 Blackcaps, singles of Whitethroat, Yellow-browed Warbler, Golden Plover, Heron and Wheatear. Needless to say, there were thousands of other birds, and so there should be in about 12 miles of walking! Talking of Wheatear, I almost forgot...

Obviously there's a Wheatear photo

Finally, it was great to chat briefly with fellow Dorset birder Joe Stockwell and PBO warden Martin Cade. I thoroughly enjoyed the change of scenery and look forward to visiting again, and maybe next time I'll ponce a cup of Obs tea to go with my choc-chip muffin...

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