Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Portland Bill, Dorset. 24th June 2008.

A visit to Portland Bill, Dorset today with the aim of catching up with a few seabirds. I was really hoping to see Fulmar, Shearwaters, Auks and Kittiwake and seeing as I haven't been to Portland for quite awhile I was looking forward to it.

Roy Rose and i arrived at Portland Bill and from the car park Skylark, Swallow, House Martin and Swift were soon seen followed by Starling, Linnet and of course Herring Gull perched on the Lobster Pot Cafe roof, lets face it if there's a free meal going there's sure to be a Herring Gull nearby.

Portland Bill Lighthouse

We had a quick look inside the Lighthouse visitor centre and were delighted to see the cameras showing Guillemot and Razorbill on the West cliffs, we made our way to the Bill and looked out to sea. Below on the waters surface bobbing up and down were small groups of both Guillemot and Razorbill and lots of individuals flying in and out to sea, Cormorant, Herring, Lesser & Greater Black-backed Gulls were also soon seen. Roy quickly picked up on a lone Manx Shearwater passing by and while I tried to locate it picked up on a passing Gannet, I finally caught up with the Manx and we soon found another closely and watched as they skirted the waves before we lost them over the sea. A Rock Pipit called as it passed overhead before settling on the rocks nearby, giving us just enough time to view it before it flew off out of sight lower down the cliffs. We made our way towards the West cliffs soon finding a pair of Rock Pipits and a small group of Linnets washing themselves in a puddle just inside the MOD base, good views considering obscured views through the fence. Throughout the day we encountered both Rock Pipit and Linnet along the sea path.


Viewing the sea next to the West cliffs we soon saw our first Puffin of the day as a single bird bobbed up and down on the waves next to the cliffs, it was soon followed by a Fulmar which soared round the cliffs towards us and then drifted back round the cliffs. A single Oystercatcher sat in full view on the side of the cliffs and below us in the water 2 Shags were fishing, the odd Gannet passed by and again the Rock Pipits taunted me from behind the MOD fence and knowing the moment I'd get my camera out they would fly off, I didn't bother, yet.

Another check out at sea produced more Manx Shearwaters as they flew passed, we watched them for as long as possible often losing them to sight as they flew behind waves, their black upperwing and white underwing standing out like crosses as they tilted their wings as they glided passed. We then picked up on a Shearwater flying in from the sea, it was difficult to pick up at first due to it being head on but amazingly it flew very close to the coastline and landed on the water, I was delighted to be watching my first ever Balearic Shearwater which was now bobbing up and down in the sea alongside a guillemot. It gave an excellent chance to see some of the key features which separates it from Manx Shearwater close up rather than being seen flying out at sea, a few birders were now watching it and we were amazed to see it joined by another Balearic which came from somewhere below us. They remained on the water until we lost sight of them as they drifted round towards the lighthouse. I had hoped to see Manx but to see Balearic Shearwater and at such close views I was delighted, Brilliant. Out at sea at least 6 Kittiwakes were in a small flock on the water and a lone bird on the water below us in the sea gave very good views.

Herring Gull

A Rock Pipit perched on the fence and gave me a one photo chance and then flew off, a pair of Stonechat were busy feeding around the car park as was a Herring Gull that took a liking to the chips we purchased from the Lobster Pot, it made a very good subject and I didn't mind trading a few chips for a couple of photos, probably the best of the day I hasten to add. House Sparrow, Starling, Linnet, Meadow & Rock Pipit along the coastal path towards the Observatory.

Rock Pipit

We stopped off at Ferrybridge near Chesil beach on the way home and decided to have a wander along the beach in the hope we might find a Little Tern, a Little Egret was seen flying off as we pulled up. Leaving the car park I was disappointed to see a family ignore the signs asking people to keep their dogs on their leads because of breeding birds in the area, they simply walked passed the sign ignoring it letting their 3 dogs run riot around the area. Alright I don't want to sound as if getting on my soapbox as we can all be liable to make mistakes from time to time but it really got my back up.

There was little to be seen at the Tern nesting site, infact there was only 2 Terns to be seen and they seemed to be Common Terns which only gave distant views. We walked back down to the mudflats at Ferrybridge spotting both Meadow Pipit and Linnet on the way and then scanned the flats. A few Herring Gulls were sat at the waters edge and scanning across the mudflats 2 pairs of Ringed Plovers were busy feeding, it wasn't until we walked further along the shore that the 2 closet Ringed Plovers got excited and started showing us their distraction technique.

Ringed Plover

One ran across the front of us and scampered up the pebbles drawing our attention away from where we were standing, it was of course leading us away from 2 very young chicks that were on the edge of the flats with the other nearby adult. This was an amazing sight and showed just how these little waders protect their young from predators. My thoughts soon turned to the unleashed dogs that were now chasing Crows and Gulls across the flats and realised just how vulnerable these little chicks were. A summer plumaged Dunlin appeared from behind a rock a began searching for food in the mud giving good views until I got my camera out, I finally managed to get a few photos before my attention was drawn to the family heading back towards us. I feared for the chicks that were now just at the edge of the mud flats and surely within sniffing distance of any dog. Incredibly the chicks sat motionless and the numbskulls passed by leaving the Ringed Plover parents to gather their young and scuttle off along the mudflats.

Fantastic day.

Ringed Plover Chick


Added To My Year List.

185. Guillemot
186. Razorbill
187. Manx Shearwater
188. Rock Pipit
189. Shag
190. Puffin
191. Fulmar
192. Kittiwake
193. Balearic Shearwater

Added To My Life List.

302. Balearic Shearwater

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