Monday, April 18, 2016

Amazing Portland Day

Looking up the East Cliffs toward Purbeck
The sky was clear blue all the way down to Portland. Whilst undoubtedly making for a beautiful day walking the island, a clear night is usually the signal for migrants to depart. Would there be any migrants left? Would new ones arrive?

Male Ring Ouzel on the slopes near the neolithic site was a promising start. Then down to the Bill car park and Swallows were in off the sea in a constant stream. Probably low hundreds during the day, with a House Martin and 5 Sand Martins. There was a Wheatear near the bill - the first of 12 during the day and a hint of things to come. The sea was largely void as expected, with some Guillemots lounging near the cliffs. I thought a distant large brown bird was my first skua of the year, but no it was a Creamcrown Marsh Harrier making its way to landfall somewhere along Chesil beach.

Up the west cliffs to the Top Fields. A male Redstart was the first of 4 seen during the day, and a White Wagtail was present, identification of this presenting no problem now I am an expert (see previous post). On to the top fields proper, and more Wheatears, another Redstart, 3 White Wagtails on a strip of freshly ploughed field, and two Short-Eared Owls in a bush showing fantastically well. A Peregrine zipped around amongst some Buzzards and a Raven. the first of a number of views of Peregrine as they hunted over the bill area presumably looking to feed the growing chicks somewhere down the West Cliffs.

Shy SEO in bush
A lift to the Hump - thanks - where there were Blackcaps and a female Redstart (carefully studied for future reference) then a Hoopoe in Suckthumb Quarry. A fantastic bird, quite close, looking almost prehistoric with its crest. It picked out a few grubs then sat quietly under a bush. I called a Whinchat on a bush, but it was a smart male Wheatear, joining my small but rapidly expanding list of Birds That Sit In Bushes For No Other Purpose Than To Confuse Me. Thanks

Hoopoe heading off to the dusky periphery of my scope view.
At this point someone mentioned the Subalpine Warbler was showing well down by the huts, and Tick Fever kicked in strongly. I set a fierce pace, ignoring all possible migrants and arrived at a large crowd surrounding some low vegetation near the huts. Showing regularly round the fringes according to a departing birder. Two hours of watching several Willow Chiffs flitting around followed until the target bird flew in to give tantalisingly brief views. It showed once later for slightly longer. A really neat little bird, the back surprisingly olive-grey I felt, vivid purple face and breast. Some Mediterranean magic for our cold island.

The crowd waits for the Subalpine Warbler to appear ...
Off to the Privet Hedge to spend a couple of hours not seeing the Bluethroat, with just Wheatear, Redstart, and a very close male Sparrowhawk as reward, but even this dip could not take the gloss off a fantastic day. Finally a Little Owl in the jobs quarry to finish.

Great weather, great scenery, great birds, good chat with other birders. The kind of day that you wish you could repeat over and over, step for step, bird for bird. Fantastic.

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