A morning on Portland

With my alarm set for 5am I'd seemingly forgotten to check the weather forecast, by 5:45 I was stood in Culverwell wondering what I'd done to deserve a gale force easterly! I trapped 5 birds in my first round but it was too windy to continue. Beating a path to the Bill with Colin White we set up for a seawatch down over (the ledges below the bill quarry) passage was slow and somewhat overshadowed by the incoming passerines, White Wag, Tree Pipit, Lots of Willow Warblers, Linnets, Wheatears and Hirundines came through, the later in big numbers, my first Swift of the year also passed through. A few Whimbrel, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Manx Shearwater and Sandwich Terns passed by on the sea but it wasn't anything to send a postcard about! Back at the Obs news of a Cuckoo came through, initial views were distant but re-finding it in the top fields provided a better opportunity.

Great Northern Diver
House Martin
Sand Martin
Willow Warbler
White Wagtail
Northern Gannet

Why not book to come and Join me for a day tour? I saw all of this in just 4 hours with relative ease and you could too!

Pure luck...

I needn't write all that much, last night I had a superb 20 minutes at Portland! Nailing the Western Subalpine Warbler with ease and a White-spotted Bluethroat was bought to us n the patio, what luck!


An introduction to Portland and Weymouth - 2 Days Guiding

With birds pouring in, seabirds moving in huge numbers and the weather showing no let up in allowing migrants to move, I was very excited sat in The Portland Heights' car park waiting to pick up a guest booked for a mornings introduction to Portland. We set off at 8am in search of newly arrived migrants at the Bill, arriving at the Observatory we were immediately greeted by a stunning adult male Redstart in the hand, an excellent bit of timing there! A little scan around the bushes revealed Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and the odd Blackcap so a small fall had occurred and it was time to get in among the birds. The Bill area provided us with nice views of Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Swallows, with a short viewing offshore adding Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar and Sandwich Tern. A little jaunt around the top fields was sadly less productive, a few more Wheatears, White Wagtail and a Redstart, We dipped on a Pied Flycatcher though! A coffee and biscuit stop allowed us to see a Goldcrest in the hand which was lovely as always, several Gannets passed offshore along with some more Fulmar. A session around the middle of the Island added another Redstart but we failed to find the Hoopoe, it did show up later in the day though...

Day 2 Dawned very clear with an east wind blowing, things looked promising, we started by looking for the Hoopoe straight away and re-found it within 10 minutes! A British tick for both of my guests.

Two Short Eared Owls were seen further to the south near the bill, both roosting so allowing good views, sadly there appeared to be very little in the way of new migrants arriving though, we managed to see all of the routine birds with relative ease so we headed into Weymouth - After a cup of tea obviously! 

Our first port of call was Radipole RSPB in the hope of adding Beared Tit to the day list, it didn't take long for me to locate two from the viewing platform, sadly I was the only one to see them so we had to find some more, Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting and Cetti's Warbler were also added. Further into the reserve we managed to find a pair of Bearded Tits showing nicely along one of the dykes! I tried to get some photos of them but failed miserably! Lunch was had on the patio at the visitor center, we added Hooded Merganser and Great Crested Grebe while enjoying Brie and Grape sandwiches, thanks to my lovely fiance we had a nice big slab of coffee cake too, Lovely! 

A visit to Lodmoor provided yet another yeartick in the for of Lesser Whitethroat, yet again I've seen this species before Common Whitethroat - which I still haven't seen! Several Teal showed superbly along the path edge allowing lovely views of this super duck. We ended the day with some Sandwich Terns at Ferrybridge showing nicely by the oyster farm. A lovely couple of days with some really nice company, sadly we didn't tap into the rarer birds which have turned up in the last few days but I hope it was enjoyable nonetheless.

I hope you'll be joining me for a day tour soon, great birds, great company and really good cake!

Guided Walk, Migrants at last and 2 Opsreys!

What a few days! It's all been kicking off here in sunny Weymouth. Finally there's been a really good push of migrants arriving, with several new birds for the year including Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit and I've now caught up with 2 Ospreys! The migrant guided walk on the 10th had far less migrants than we'd have liked, though a really good up-channel movement of Common Scoter kept interest up, I hope everyone had a good time though and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Yesterday (11th) Was an incredible day, BBC Weather yet again was about as useful as a chocolate fireguard! Rain was forecast all day from dawn so I stayed in bed... I got up at 6:30 and it wasn't raining and a check on the radar showed it may not come at all! up on the Chesil by 6:50 I joined John Down for what was about to be a superb couple of hours, I returned for an hour before lunch and added a few more Scoter, 2 Little Gulls (which I didn't see ALL year last year) and a really good passage of Manx Shearwater had started up.

Velvet Scoter 1
Common Scoter 438
Little Gull 2
Arctic Tern 1
Little Tern 2
Sandwich Tern 14
Dunlin 7
Whimbrel 1
Sanderling 1
BH Gull 7
Common Gull 3
Arctic Skua  5
Manx 320+

Velvet Scoter (bottom Bird with Commons) Osprey over the north of Portland and as it flew past

5th April - Weymouth and Portland Guiding.

Lodmoor at sunrise excites me enough in the spring let alone when I've just met up with a client for a mornings birdwatching around Weymouth and Portland. We set off to the sound of  Cetti's and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting, it was immediately obvious birds had arrived overnight as every bush seemed to contain a Warbler of some description including the first good bird of the day. A Siberian Chiffchaff, present since at least last week was singing away in it's rather peculiar non-chiffchaff way, a new bird (subspecies) for my guest and showy enough for me to get some recordings and photos.

With that safely ticked off we continued along, a real surprise came from a flyover Hooded Merganser, the Radipole bird on a wander no doubt! A Swallow was seen over the reed bed before flushing a Whimbrel from the West Scrape - the first of the year for both of us and an early one at that.
Ropey record shot of the Whimbrel.

Reed and Sedge Warbler were both in song at the corner of Beachdown Way, both nice and early but neither giving full bursts of song. We later recorded another of each along the track, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard were easy to see, the colors on the latter were superb in the morning light. 

Arriving at Portland we were greeted by the sound of a small fall of Willow Warblers, and straight away were treated to both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler in the hand - thanks to the volunteer ringers. Stopping for Coffee Goldcrest and Firecrest were both noted and the first Gannets were seen to head east up channel. A visit round the Bill tip produced Little Owl (always a personal favorite) Rock Pipit, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Fulmar and Guillemot, our first Wheatears were here too, a male and female in the Bill Quarry. The West cliff was cold and windy, this didn't deter the next target of Peregrine, we watched a male stooping on a Raven for a couple of minute which was absolutely superb! Swallows and Sand Martins paste by in small numbers, as did the odd Meadow Pipit.

Watching Stooping Peregrine and him in action!

I decided we should try to add Redstart as a final good bird for the morning, and almost immediately found a stunning male in Helen's Fields, a further 2 were seen by the Crown Estate Field, also the location of our only Stonechats, a pair along the fence line. More Willows and Chiffs were seen in among the Alexanders and we ended the morning with a snack and the sound of them calling away in the background. You could be joining me soon, details are on the Bespoke Day Tours page

They're struggling in!

A nice weekend with the family curtailed my birding slightly, a few visits to various bits of my local patch and cursory glances out of my office window have kept things ticking over. The undoubted highlight for me over the last few days was a Yellowhammer, a really good bird on my patch and the first for me, incoming migrants have included Redstart, House Martin, Common Tern and Arctic Skua, these all firsts for the year. More Willow Warblers have arrived including a bird in my garden and several dozen seen elsewhere, Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Swallows, Sand Martin and Chiffchaff all made an appearance too making a rather short amount of time very rewarding. Day tour tomorrow hoping for some great birds!

Come and Join me on a day tour soon and enjoy these birds plus much much more! 

Redstart, Pale-bellied (4) and Dark Bellied Brent, Arctic Skua and Common Scoters and a Chiffchaff, the latter had just arrived in off the sea!