Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Portland, Sea Watching & more

Sunday (21st) saw Jackie and I at Portland Bill where our group assembled at eight o'clock in the shelter of the Lighthouse.  The sea was pretty heavy and the wind gusted strongly but the flock of Gannets moving west off the Bill just took it in their stride.  It was good to see lots of juveniles and a good number of other aged birds up to adult.

At the start Gannets was all to be seen but it wasn't long before I picked up a Manx Shearwater gliding through the 'Race', an area of rough sea off the Bill created by an underwater rock shelf .  I managed to keep an eye on the bird until it cleared the race and was able to get most onto it as it disappeared into, and then reappeared from, the troughs. After a while we were picking up a steady stream of Manx moving west then the first Balearic Shearwater went through.  There was a little panic as everyone was trying to pick it up with very little directional points to guide people except a bright orange buoy which kept disappearing as did the shearwaters.  By the time we finished and moved on everyone managed to see both shearwater species Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Turnstones plus of course the usual gull species.  I managed a couple of views of Storm Petrel but unfortunately couldn't get anyone else on to them in time, though other birders not in our group did manage brief views.  On land we added Wheatear, Rock Pipits, Linnets, Starlings and Swallows, a Sparrowhawk flew in and perched up briefly on a large rock giving us a pretty close view of its rear.
Sparrowhawk Portland Bill © Nick Hull
We moved on to have a quick stop at Chesil Cove but only added another Fulmar and three Mediterranean Gulls to the day list.  Then on to Ferrybridge for our lunch, a short walk first along the beach produced Dunlin and Ringed Plovers, a flight of delightful Little Terns and a couple of Sandwich Tern flew overhead giving their typical grating calls.  We also had a single Wheatear and Common Blue butterfly here.  Time to stop for lunch and when we had finished the tide had started to drop and Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plovers started to fly in to feed.  There was also a good sized flock of Mediterranean Gulls loafing on the water which gave us a chance to go through the plumage differences and ages with the group.   
Juvenile Wheatear Portland Bill © Nick Hull
Just before moving on we heard news that the juvenile Garganey had been seen again at Radipole from the visitor centre so we called in on our way to Lodmoor.  At first we scanned quickly through the duck finding Teal, Mallard, Tufted, Shoveler and Gadwall, but eventually Tony picked out a small duck and asked Jackie to check and she was able to confirm he had found the Garganey which we all enjoyed before heading to Lodmoor.  

Lodmoor was fairly empty at first, it wasn't until we reached the metal shelter that we picked up a few waders, one being a Little Stint looking really diminutive next to the Dunlin it was associating with. An eagle eyed group member found a Common Sandpiper then a second flew in while a Green Sandpiper flew off up one of the dykes landing out of sight. Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit completed the waders here, but a very scruffy male Marsh Harrier was picked up quartering the reedbed.   Moving around to the south side we were able to add Ruff and more Black-tailed Godwits with both adults and juveniles.  As we were returning to our cars a small flock of Sand Martins appeared with the odd Swallow and House Martin and I topped it off by finding with a single Swift, which will probably be our last until next year.  A good end to a super days birding in excellent company.

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