Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iceland Gull

Yet another day that started off promisingly but failed to deliver the goods (on the rarity side of things at least)

First up were two Hawfinches that flew over us on the Top Fields shortly after dawn, 'zick'ing away as they do.

Next a seawatch off the Bill was going painfully slowly until an Iceland Gull rounded the cliffs right in front of us, just as a Pom Skua was bombing through a bit further out, some people just didn't know where to look!

I'm a bit unsure of the ageing of this bird. The greyish tint to the mantle, and well marked bill would suggest a 2nd winter, but the dark eye looks more in line for a 1st winter. I know sod all about gull ageing though, so if anyone can help, it would be much appreciated.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prruup Prruup!!

Today got off to an excellent start when what was presumably yesterdays Serin appeared in our garden as we left home early in the morning.
Half an hour later, as we were checking Culverwell, I heard a distinctive prruup prruup, bloody BEE EATER. I rushed out of the trees and frantically scanned the skies but there was no sign of the bird. A search back over the Top Fields and the gardens of Southwell was equally fruitless. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

The Serin returned again in the afternoon and sung for a while from the tree behind our kitchen window.

Crappy Brambling flight shot that I forgot about from a week ago.

And the Serin's back again now. How cool is that, it's like living in Spain, but without the wierd language, oh, hang on, this is Portland, just like Spain then.

EDIT: 10 minutes later, here it is again, back in the Silver Birch, thats an awesome tree, we've now seen Mealy Redpoll, Ring Ouzel, Pallas's Warbler and several Yellow-browed Warblers in it (in reverse chronological order)

I even heard it tinkling through the bathroom window as I was having a tinkle myself, how ironic!!
For the non-birders anongst you, (and probably a few "birders" too), 'tinkling' is a good way to describe the song of the Serin, I wasn't listening to it taking a slash or anything wierd like that.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

We Wuz Robbed

It was all set up nicely for a parade of poms this morning, and then the crappy weather went and spoilt it all. First, a big-off thunderstorm was hanging around offshore for ages and all the seabirds were blatantly passing around the other side of it (which is fair enough really), and then as soon as that moved on, thick sea-mist rolls in for the entire day, reducing visibility to the exact distance of sod-all, rubbish!!

Still, a male Serin was fine compensation as it spent the morning feeding and singing in the Obs Garden and Hut Fields.

These might just qualify as record shots, but i'm not sure if they're even up to that standard.

The first view I had of the bird as it flew over us on the Bill Common, calling loudly

It then gave excellent views through the scope in the hut fields but was far too far away for photography.
And there were way too many people around to try and creep up on it. You can get hanged in public for doing that sort of thing days you know. The Birdforum lynchmob gets everywhere, no-one is safe!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Poms are coming

There can be few sights as specatacular as a flock of fully spooned Pomarine Skuas thundering past a South coast headland in spring. We're just starting to get the vanguard through now, with several seen each day. They've all been a bit far off for photgraphs, with this bird this morning coming the closest.

Note the heavy chest, long spoon shaped tail and big white flashes on the wings. Photos like this just can't do the birds justice, you really need to see them powering along to fully aprecciate them.

This Great-northen Diver flew close past the bill this morning

Several hundred Manx Shearwaters were feeding off the Pulpit Rock, but never came in too close to shore

The usual residents are always flying by, including this Shag

And this cock Pheasant was skulking around Culverwell this morning.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Another good day for common migrants on Portland with heavy rain overnight and dense fog at dawn. The fog cleared very quickly, leaving behind a big whack of Grasshopper Warblers, they were reeling everywhere, it was like some crazy form of tinitus!!

Gropper trapped at the obs, just about the only way to get a picture of a whole one, unless your very patient or very jammy. I am neither.

Fat Skylark: You should cut down on your craneflies mate, Get some exercise!!!

It must be at least 6 months since I last posted a pic of the Little Owl in the Obs Quarry, so here's another one
Yet another flyover Whimbrel

NOTE: I am aware that craneflies aren't the chosen fodder of Skylarks, nor does it really rhyme with 'pork-life', but what ya gonna do about it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How Stupid Do I Look

Typical, bloody typical!!
Just hours after proclaiming the Mealy Redpoll as Portlands 'bird of the day' yesterday, a Black Kite and Red-rumped Swallow turn up in quick succession.
Unfortunately I didnt see either, but I won't beat myself up over that.

Plenty of migrants on the island today. Year ticks in the form of Reed, Sedge and Garden Warlber (taking me over 600 for the year, and all in Dorset too, apart from a short visit to Asia, but that didnt have much of an impact on the total really).

The Reed showed exceptionally well responding to some fierce pishing.

Also, this total heap of a Black Redstart

Other unphotographable goodies included a handful of Ring Ouzels and Groppers, 10 Little Gulls feeding off the bill, a few Pied Flycatchers and best numbers of the year of Redstart and Whitethroat

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mealy Roll

The best day of the spring so far on Portland today, a good variety of stuff on the land and passing by on the sea. Bird of the day goes to this Mealy Redpoll trapped and ringed in the Obs garden this morning

Most noticable bird today was Common Redstart, with around 40 on the southern half of the island. This male was in our back yard at lunchtime and a another bird was in the front garden. My excuse for the rubbish photo is that it was taken through our mucky kitchen window.
One of the many Whimbrel that went East this morning

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Weasel is weasily recognised:

An inquistive Weasel in the Top Fields was one the highlights of a pretty good morning yesterday. After it ran across the track, we managed to squeak it in for some really good views of this cool little mammal. It was pretty birdy as well, with a good arrival of Grasshopper Warblers ( I heard 10 singing, but only saw 3!!!), Common Redsarts, and the commoner migrants like Willow Warblers and Wheatears.

I had left the scope at home, but there were a few things moving by on the sea, best Whimbrel numbers of the year so far......

and a pair of Tufted Duck, not something we see that often off The Bill

With howling Easterlies this morning, birding on the land was nigh on impossible, so the morning was spent huddled down on The Bill seawatching. Nothing spectacular but a good variety of birds, mainly waders and wildfowl and a fair bit of passerine vis-mig overhead

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

SEO by the sea

You can tell that summer is on the way when you can watch Hollyoaks, and there's still enough time in the day to go birding!! A short walk around the top fields yesterday evening produced this Short-eared Owl but not a lot else. Not the best shots, but you wont get that lovely ocean blue background photographing those stuffed things at Ouse Washes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Airborne action

Not many birds around portland again today, so the dubious highlight was this coastguard helicpoter faffing around off the East Cliffs, but apparently not actually rescuing anyone

the light was so good that I had to stop down to f32 to get a shutter speed slow enough toget some motion in the blades, unfortunately it also shows up the filthy state of my sensor, yeuch!!

flyover Lapwing at dawn

Kestrel getting decked by the local yobs

One of 5 Common Sandpipers at The Bill

sad looking oiled Guillemot. I wanted to catch it, but it was sat on an offshore rock, so was unreachable. I might have a try if it's still there tomorrow though.

Fulmar off the West Cliffs

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The curse is lifted!!!

Finally, we've had some windy weather. Friday and Saturday had a moderate south-westerly, resulting in some good numbers of Manx Shearwaters, moving East on the Friday, and coming back West on Saturday, most of them coming in really close as well. We've also had a few Bonxies and Red-throated Divers, allowing me to give the new scope (Kowa773) a good trial at last. Basically i'm very impressed with it, its superbly bright and sharp, and pretty light and compact as well (considering the large 77mm objective lens) so i'll have no qualms about taking it on long foreign trips. Focusing is a delight to use as well, lovely and smooth, and the dual geared knob (fnarr fnarr) is much easier to use than I had expected.
Hows that for a comprehensive, in-depth review eh?
Also, the price of it went up by £200 yesterday for some peculiar reason, leaving me very glad that I purchased it when I did.

Anyway, Portland was very quiet again today, highlight being this water-spout type thing off The Bill. With a bit (a very big bit) of imagination, you can just about make out the disturbance in the water, pointed out by the wopping great big yellow arrow, in case you hadn't guessed.

Also this smart Flying Piecatcher, the first of the year

A Meadow Pipit on a lovely natural looking perch

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Praying for wind

Having blown a silly amount of money on a new scope a couple of weeks ago, i've been waiting for an opportunity to try it out properly. Unfortunately, ever since I bought it, Portland has been uncharacteristically calm, and there hasn't even been a hint of a good seawatch on the cards. Almost every evening, BBC weather is forecasting moderate SSW winds for the next morning, and every morning, its calmer than a gnats fart, so, apart from yesterdays Little Crake twitch, i've always left the scope gathering dust in the corner.
Being the supersticious lot that they are, the Portlanders have been blaming the scope for the calm weather. I'm half expecting to come back one day and find "Kowa" scrawled out and "Jonah" written in its place.
Yet again, theres a bit of onshore wind apparently coming tomorrow, so i'm hoping that this will finally be the time to christen the scope (Little Crake doesn't count according to certain seabird obsessives)

If there is no wind tomorrow, then i'm going to start advertising my self as a 'Storm suprresant', so the next time the Caribbean, or somewhere else warm and birdy is facing a Hurricane threat, they can hire me to fly out with my scope to set up on some random headland, and hey-presto, the storm will abate, could be quite a lucrative business that, though it may result in me never seeing a decent seabird again for the rest of my life.
On second thoughts, I might just have to ditch the scope, or get it exorcised or something, my one goal in life is to see a Fea's Petrel from an English headland, and if something doesn't change soon, I may go disappointed.

Rock Pipit on the East Cliffs this afternoon. Amazingly, we haven't had a single littoralis here yet this spring.

One of the many foxes roaming the Top Fields. This was one of the few occasions where I regretted swapping my gun for a camera!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Little Craker

With Portland being pretty quiet this morning we decided to go down to Exminster Marshes for a look at the Little Crake, which would be an actual real whole wide world tick for me.
On arrival, a bloke was just telling us that it had disappeared and that they thought it might have moved onto a different stream when I interuppted him to point out that was in fact right in front of us, having just crept out of the reeds, impeccable timing as ever. It showed well on the edge of the ditch but was always obscured by a wall of reeds right in front of us.
It did move further down where we had a clear view but it was a bit further away, allowing only some iffy record shots:

Safety goggles are recommended, that primary projection could have someones eye out!!

It then legged it over the road, flew over another couple of ditches and disappeared. Happy with the views we had got, we headed home, dipping the Falcated Duck at Countess Wear on the way, its a crappy escapee anyway.