Sunday, 22 June 2014

Portland Wildlife

Many people when thinking about Portland will first think of the stone quarries then maybe the lighthouse at the tip of the bill, birders think of it as one of the best sites for migrating birds in the UK a place where they may see or find a rarity.  There is much more to Portland, it has quite a diverse wildlife and yesterday Jackie and I led a small group to various sites on the island to find some of that other wildlife. 

We started at 08:00 in the Bill car park and headed out to the Obelisk for a spot of sea watching.  We quickly checked off Fulmar, Gannets, Guillemots and Razorbill and of course the usual gull species.  Walking around to look at the auk nesting ledges we could hear the nesting birds making their groaning calls.  Walking on making our way across to the Obs quarry we recorded our first butterflies with Small White, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper and Marbled Whites and added Linnet, Rock Pipit, Swallow and a pair Stonechat to the bird list.  A pair of Raven were also seen distantly probably the same pair that I had photographed earlier before all the group had assembled.

Raven - Portland Bill © Nick Hull
We moved off to our next location near Cheyne Weare to try and find Wall Lizard, one of two sites in Dorset, for this mainly continental species.  As we arrived we were able to check off Ringlet and Dingy Skipper on our butterfly list.  We scoured the quarry for sometime before Tim spotted one crawl out to sunbath on one of the large boulders.  Soon after Jess pointed out another and over the next few minutes we located a possible four Wall Lizards.

Wall Lizard catching the rays - © Nick Hull
Broadcroft Quarry was our next location this is a Butterfly Conservation reserve an excellent site for butterflies.  We started with more Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites then added Small and Large Skippers and I found a single Lulworth Skipper.  Next it was blue with Small, Common and then one of the target species, Portland's very own Cretaceous race of Silver-studded Blue.  Whilst watching the "blues" Joe and I picked up a Clouded Yellow which posed briefly for all to see. Walking on we were able to show various stages of Six-spot Burnet with a caterpillar, then with one already in its web like tent cocooned on the side of a piece of grass and then the adult which seemed to be everywhere.  We continued searching, two more day flying moths were found with Silver Y and Burnet Companion, then another migrant moth shot through towards the Valerian - a Hummingbird Hawk-moth a cracking moth but very fast.

Clouded Yellow © Nick Hull
Hummingbird Hawk-moth © Nick Hull
Burnet Companion © Nick Hull
This took us nicely up to lunch time and we headed off to to the view point of Portland Height where, whilst having a well earned break, we watch a male Kestrel hunting the slopes of the Verne and Priory Hill and enjoyed the view across the Lyme Bay and the Chesil beach.  

We ended our day at Ferrybridge where we walked out to the edge of the Little Tern colony which has 24hr wardens and electrical fencing, real high security to protect these super terns from predation from ground animals like Foxes.  Though we found out that the Herring Gull and the local Kestrel can take advantage and predate the eggs and young.  Though the Little Terns will try their upmost to see off either species with driving home attacks one after another to see them off to a safe distance.  We also found Ringed Plover out here on the Chesil Bank taking advantage of the high security.

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