Monday, May 19, 2008


I guess everybody has been checking this blog recently hoping for some record shots of the crippling rares flooding Portland at the moment. I'm afraid that wont be happening as i'm currently living in a caravan on the edge of the Irish Sea, and i'm somewhat lacking in computer and rares.
Yes, having spent the last 2 months desperately waiting for the time to leave the island of dreams, i've finally started my job wardening the Little Tern colony at Kilcoole, just south of Dublin, and literally as I stepped onto the tarmac at Dublin Airport, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was plucked from the nets in the obs, and yesterday a Thrush Nightingale turns up. Oh well, shit happens.
Still, i've got plenty to keep me happy over here. Kilcoole is a wonderful site, a network of brackish lagoons and grazing marshes backing onto a strip of coastal scrub and a shingle beach, it looks like a superb spot for some goodies to turn up, I can't imagine what birds would turn up there if it was sited somewhere more promising, like right down in the south-east, oh, right, that would be Tacumshin.
The Little Terns are shaping up nicely for a good season with about 150 birds present, and the colony looking extremely hectic, with a constant stream of males bringing back sandeels for courtship feeding, we're expectign to find the first eggs any day now, and then the work really starts, with 24 hour watch on the site to deter predators during the night, and keep the public informed during the day.
Dont expect too many updates to the blog ,as my caravan isnt fitted out with wi-fi yet ,and I wont have too much time off to waltz into internet cafes, i'm only writing this as i'm waiting for the Government Offices in Bray to open so I can sort out all the tax stuff, oh the joys of working abroad!!!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What a Lark!!

Another day with a total dearth of common migrants, but exciting again on the rarity front.
Early on into a a seawatch off The Bill we had a Short-toed Lark in off the sea, unfortunately it didnt stop and we couldnt find it despite a good search over the slopes, top fields and obs plough.
Not exactly the best views but we followed it in the scopes long enough to see the lack of white trailing edge, general paleness to upperparts, clean underparts and dark patches on the breast sides. Nice but slightly frustrating.

After returning to the seawatch and clocking up a nice total of 72 Black Terns going East, we had another try for the Lark in the Top Fields, on the way back to the obs we picked up a Red-rumped Swallow flying distantly over the East Cliffs, we went down to have a look and found 2 more sat on the fence, presumably some of the birds from yesterday, but at this time of the year you just can't be sure.
For the next hour or so, they were flying around with masses of Barn Swallows giving fantastic close views and calling loudly all around us. I managed some much better photos than yesterday, be sure to click on them for full effect!!

The Swallows lined up in front of The Obs tower

A lone Arctic Skua off The Bill this morning

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Too much to Swallow

A cracking day on the island today with a good arrival from the south.

First up a was a single Red-rumped Swallow in the Top Fields, while looking for that bird, the call came through that there was 2 sat on the wires by the obs.
I dont know why, but I just love Red-rumped Swallows, they're one of those birds that no matter how many you see, it's always worth seeing more. So I legged it down to the obs, arriving just 5 minutes later, thats got to be a record, and even more impressive considering that I was carrying bins and a camera with telephoto lens, and was on the phone most of the way too. And even more impressive considering my spectacular fall as I tripped over a stray bramble vine, sending me flying several metres off track, jamming my bins into my face and getting a dead leg from landing on the pager in my pocket. I now have a nice square bruise on my thigh, thanks RBA!!

After a good look at these little beauts, and cooking and eating beans on toast in what was probably a record time too, I was back in the field again, arriving at the obs just as a Bee Eater appeared hawking over the Old Higher Light, Get In!! My british bogey bird. I've missed several by a matter of minutes, and only heard 2 (including the one a few days back). It was pretty distant but gave acceptable views before disappearing North up the Island, and despite extensive searching, was never seen again.
A very satisfying day overall, and all the more enjoyable for the sublime weather, I even caught the sun a bit, a very rare event in England for me.

What with todays birds and the Whiskered Tern down at Radipole, things are certainly looking up down here in South Dorset, and hopes are certialy high for the next few days.
It may seem a bit greedy after what we've had already but we're really hoping for a proper 'biggy' to put Portland back on the rarity map. White-throated Robin would do nicely!!

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Cats Whiskers

Apart from a decent arrival of Spotted Flycatchers and Turtle Doves, Portland was a bit quiet this morning. luckily news broke of a Whiskered Tern down in Weymouth at Radipole Lake RSPB giving us a good excuse to give up early.
After a nervy moment when it disappeared temporarily and saw us dashing off to look for it at nearby Lodmoor, the bird returned and gave excellent views as it hawked around the Buddelia Pool, viewable from the Buddelia Loop or the Tennis Courts.
The last Dorset record wasback in the 1980's I think, so there was a fair few people there throughout the morning.
An excellent bird to see as all the Whiskered Terns that i've seen before have been grotty winter plumaged birds out in Asia. This was the first sum plum bird that i've seen, a real cracker.
After watching it for a while I remembered that it was even a British tick for me, result!!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What a load of sh*t

Well, actually it was a pretty good day on the Island, but this Blue-headed Wagtail could have chosen a more photogenic perch!!

'Most awkward bird of the day' award went to this spazzy Redpoll. Looks like a Lesser, but its got a pale rump. I don't get it!

Seawatching was quite productive with a Roseate and a few Black Terns, them two together was like Ying and Yang.
A fine male Hen Harrier off on a jolly to France was unexpected but most welcome
Also a couple of Poms, Arctic Skuas and these 3 Velvet Scoter

A few more shots of the Blue-headed Wagtail

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Yet another Sibe Chiff

A new Siberian Chiffchaff that was pulled out of the obs nets this afternoon


Early Purple Orchids

Stock Dove

Common Buzzard

A few of the many thousands of Manx Shearwaters feeding off The Bill each day

Herring Gull with Spider Crab

Another disatant Pom Skua