Saturday, 2 June 2012

Portland - The Best Bits

Recently enjoyed a holiday at Portland Bird Observatory, commencing on 19th May. I had a feeling it was set to be a good week upon finding a Black Redstart at the M.O.D. shortly after arrival. Here are the best bits from the trip...

Spotted Flycatchers and Garden Warbler were regulars in the Obs garden, a female Common Redstart was noted at the bill, a lone Wheatear lingered at East Cliffs and other migrants such as Willow and Reed Warbler continued to filter through. Stonechats with young were noted. Peregrine, Raven, Rock Pipit, Little Owl are all regular on the island, with stuff like Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Gullemot, Razorbill etc at sea.

All very nice, however things hotted up considerably with news of a singing Great Reed Warbler at Radipole on 22nd. The bird was elusive during the morning, but as hoped this sizable Acro was in full song again by early evening. Scope views were immense. Lifer #290. Also here some extremely showy Cetti’s Warblers, Bearded Tit and Lesser Whitethroat.

Monster Acro!

Weds 23rd was a most memorable day with a self-found Woodchat Shrike, on the hill opposite the Obs. Very excited to stumble across this bird, my best find thus far and only the second Woodchat I’ve ever seen. The bird stayed in these fields for the rest of the day and was enjoyed by many, including the notorious LGRE.

Woodchat Shrike - both images courtesy of Mark Rayment

4 White Storks also put in an appearance that day. The Obs received a phonecall from Radipole to report them heading our way and within 10 minutes they were over the Obs and out to sea around 12:18. However, they must have had second thoughts on a channel crossing as they returned within 20 minutes heading north back towards Weymouth. A Short-eared Owl was also seen that evening.

4 White Storks - nice to see you again!
Image by Mark Rayment

Lifer #291 – Portland Warden Martin Cade caught an Icterine Warbler on 24th. I saw and photographed the bird in the hand and saw it released. Not sure I feel comfortable ticking in the hand, but amazing to see it like this nontheless.

Icky in the hand

Also trapped by Martin, Willow Warbler & Chiffy - not similar mantle colour
Image by Mark Rayment

Later that day a visit to Lodmoor RSPB provided a Black-winged Stilt, although it was rather distant. Much better though, was getting excellent views of a Roseate Tern, rosy glow showing nicely in late afternoon sunlight. Only the second I’ve seen and the previous was one was in flight 4 years ago. Not a lifer, but felt like one. Also here 3 Dunlin, Marsh Harrier, Cuckoo (h), Little Egret and Oystercatchers with a chick.

Roseate Tern

Ferrybridge is another good place to visit: protected Little Tern colony and waders on the estuary. Ringed Plover, 3 sum plum Grey Plover, Dunlin, 2 Sanderling and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit were noted on our visit on 25th.

As well as birds some interesting insects were noted during the trip. Most notable was a visit to Cerne Giant Hill - the hillside was alive with thousands of Marsh Fritillary, Grizzelled and Dingy Skipper and Common Blue - a sight just as incredible as the giant himself.

Cerne Giant Hill

Marsh Frit - Butterfly Lifer

Broad-bodied Chaser - common in Obs garden

I would highly recommend Portland Observatory as a fantastic place to stay for any birders visiting Dorset. It is clean and cosy and the facilities are very good. Very affordable too at £15 per night for members. Many thanks to Warden Martin Cade, who made us feel very welcome indeed.


  1. One of my top 5 favourite birding places in the country. Congrats on the Woodchat find. Agree Martin is an ace birder and photographer. Cheers Hughie.

  2. Thanks Hughie!. Beautiful place & fantastic birding & nature in general. Really enjoyed it & will be going back again.

  3. Congratulations on "your" find Kay, time spent in field matey......