Trip reports

Portland 2017

Portland 2017
Tony Bates

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The weather forecast suggested a bright dry morning with the possibility of showers later, but a strong westerly win for our annual trip to Portland to sample the autumn migration. Disappointingly only five people turned up for a day that provided some unexpected sightings. Two of us set out early and had a quick stop at Ferrybridge on the way to Cheyne Weares. There were very few waders present on the mud, singles of sanderling and bar-tailed godwit, a couple of ringed plover and a number of oystercatchers was all that were seen. Black-headed, herring and great black-backed gulls rested on the mud and several meadow pipits and a couple of pied wagtails foraged on the shore.

At Cheyne Weares car park we had a couple of sightings of peregrine, one flew low along the line of the cliffs but the other went right over our heads giving an excellent view. We were unable to find one roosting on the cliffs in their familiar spot. At the quarry just south of the car park, we got brief tantalising views of blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler, but they kept themselves hidden most of the time. A little further down the road we came on the first rarity of the day in the form of a solitary buff-breasted sandpiper only about 20 feet from a footpath from which it could easily be watched without disturbing it at all.

The walk through the fields produced the first of the large number of wheatears and meadow pipits seen during the trip as well as a few stonechats and a single yellow wagtail. Kestrels seemed to be present virtually all the time either hovering over the cliff edge or swooping across the fields. Lunch at the lighthouse did not produce any sea passage although there were several cormorants and a sizeable flock of great black-backed gulls moving around. Rock pipits foraged around the café tables nearby.

A stop at the observatory quarry at first seemed fruitless with only house sparrows and stonechats moving, but one sharp-eyed member spotted and photographed a wryneck in the brambles, which went unseen, not only by the rest of our group, but by the other 25 or so people present. Walking back along the cliffs produced more wheatears, we had never seen so many, more rock pipits now in more appropriate habitat along the shore and a sparrowhawk perched on a fence-post. Then the promised afternoon shower hit, which was heavy, cold and accompanied by a strong wind such that the rain was horizontal. Chilled but not disheartened, we agreed to an unscheduled stop at Lodmoor on the way home to see if the American waders were still present.

We were greeted with the news that the stilt sandpiper had been flushed a few minutes before, but there was plenty of other interest with Mediterranean gull, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, marsh harrier, teal, moorhen, little egret, etc. A walk round to another viewing point produced good telescope views of a least sandpiper, but it was very hard to pick up on the mud with binoculars. A great white egret and grey herons were also viewable. A last stroll round to the first viewpoint was a first unsuccessful in locating the stilt sandpiper , which had not returned to its former feeding location but, straining to look at distant pools just visible over the tops of the reeds, we located the sandpiper with a group of dunlin. For some of us that was three" lifers" in one day!

Species list:
Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Teal, Mallard, Pheasant, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Robin, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Goldfinch