Dorset Walks

Walks on Portland - wildlife highlights for 2018

last year's walks . . .

Friday September 21st
Penn's Weare

A sunny interlude during a spell of very wet and windy weather was very much appreciated, even if we did have to take to the Eastcliffs again to avoid the near gale-force westerly.

Walking along the old railway line we were surprised to see so many Meadow Pipits heading south and making very little fuss of such windy conditions. Less surprising were the large numbers of Swallows with them, although most of these were down with us in the shelter of the cliffs.

We eventually found the resident pair of Peregrines but only after suffering the embarassment of being shown where they were by a couple of visiting birdwatchers!

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Magpie, Peregrine, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Cormorant, Shag, Gannet, Swallow
insects: Small White, Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Ivy Bee, Great Green Bush-cricket, Hoverfly Chrysotoxum elegans, Harlequin Ladybird, Meadow Grasshopper
plants: Maidenhair Fern, Sea Spleenwort, Harts-tongue Fern, Marjoram, Wood Sage, Carline Thistle, Dog Rose, Stinking Iris

Friday September 14th
Eastcliffs

A blustery south-west wind sent us to the shelter of the east side of the island today, in what turned out to be a pleasantly warm morning.

We were hoping to see some of the dolphins that had been about eatlier in the week but of course they were not there today. There were quite a few birds feeding in Southwell Quarry though including several Blackcaps and a very smart Spotted Flycatcher. Further along the cliffs we watched a Wheatear for a while and then were treated to a fine display of formation flying by a group of six Cormorants.

An unexpected highlight on the way back was the couple of Autumn Lady's Tresses orchids found in someone's front lawn!

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Magpie, Blackcap, Wheatear, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Spotted Flycatcher, Cormorant, Shag, Gannet, Swallow
insects: Small White, Common Blue, Painted Lady, Small Heath, Meadow Grasshopper
plants: Autumn Lady's Tresses Orchid, Small Scabious, Sea Pink, Portland Rock Sea-lavender, Wild Thyme, Ploughman's Spikenard, Blue Fleabane, Golden Sampire, Carline Thistle, Portland Spurge, Rock Samphire

Friday September 7th
Weston Windmills

From Weston Street we walked through the ancient fields of Weston towards the windmills, stopping on the way to admire a particularly fine male Great Green Bush-cricket.

Reaching the windmills we were interested to see the new information board and the extract from an old map showing the way the fields were divided up into "lawnsheds". Later walking back towards Gypsy Lane we came across a parched field that revealed the same pattern of ridges.

Wildlife definitely took a second place to local history this morning but we did manage to find a single Wheatear and a very attractive group of migrant Meadow Pipits.

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Whitethroat, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Starling, House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail (heard)
insects: Large White, Small White, Common Blue, Great Green Bush-cricket, Brown-tail Moth caterpillars
plants: Field Bindweed, Cottoneaster, Blackthorn, Greater Knapweed

Friday August 31st
Suckthumb Quarry

On an absolutely gorgeous calm late summer morning we parked at Cheyne and crossed the road into Grangecroft and Suckthumb Quarries. The sides of the paths were thick with blackberries and elderberries, with bright red Honeysuckle and Guelder Rose providing contrast. Many of these bushes were home to migrant warblers today, particularly Blackcaps and Whitethroats with a few Willow Warblers and a single Lesser Whitethroat.

Butterflies were everywhere with a male Adonis Blue being the highlight, although the Clouded Yellow was a close second. A number of unusual plants were found as well including a couple of Autumn Lady's Tresses.

All morning hundreds of Swallows were streaming overhead on their way south along with a few Sand and House Martins.

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Magpie, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin
insects: Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Clouded Yellow, Small Copper, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Adonis Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Comma, Wall, Silver Y, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter
plants: Autumn Lady's Tresses, Ploughman's Spikenard, Golden-rod, Guelder Rose, Common Centaury

Friday August 24th
Topfields

As so often happens our target species, Tree Sparrow, was nowhere to be seen but we were very pleased to witness the start of the autumn bird migration with at least ten Wheatears, a similar number of Yellow Wagtails and a distant Whimbrel. Kestrels were also very much in evidence with five or six of them hunting over the ancient field system that we were walking through.

Another sign of autumn was a patch of the tiny white orchid known as Autumn Ladies Tresses.
(if any of you want to see what a Tree Sparrow looks like, click here)

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Gannet, Buzzard, Stock Dove, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Raven, Pheasant, Whimbrel butterflies: Speckled Wood, Small White
plants: Autumn Ladies Tresses, Common Toadflax, Black Knapweed

Friday August 10th
Portland Bill

The first wet and windy Friday for about three months attracted us down to the Bill to look for the migrating seabirds that have blown in recently.

A Manx Shearwater appeared just off the rocks as soon as we arrived but was almost immediately lost to view as it rounded the obelisk. Gannets were far more obliging with lots of very young birds giving us excellent views as they flew past, coping incredibly well with the near-gale force winds. Fulmars were also much in evidence but too far away to photograph so on the right I've used a photo Kay took last week in Iceland!

A flock of Turnstones by Pulpit Rock was a surprise bt the morning's the star bird by a lng way was the Cory's Shearwater that gave us a relatively close but all too brief view as it flew west.

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, Fulmar, Shag, Guillemot, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Turnstone, Rock Pipit, Mediterranean Gull

Friday July 27th
Merchant's Railway - Verne Common

Today we left the cars at the hotel and walked east along New Ground to the Metchant's Railway skirting the slopes of the Verne Citadel.

Although it was refreshingly cool as we left the sun soon came out and we started seeing butterflies. First on the scene was a pair of Walls, closely followed by some Common Blues and a Chalkhill Blue.

Our destination was the Verne Common, where we just about managed to spot some distant Harebells. On the way back we found an even more rare botanical sight, some flowering Crow Garlic.

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Blue Tit, Stock Dove, Wren, Dunnock
insects
: Common Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Wall, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Green-veined White, Large White, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Skipper, Small Copper, Silver Y, Mint Moth, Field Grasshopper, Meadow Grasshopper
plants: Red Valerian, Blackthorn, Wild Privet, Greater Knapweed, Small Scabious, Wayfaring Tree, Harebell, Crow Garlic, Ragwort

Friday July 20th
Independent Quarries

We started our walk at Fancy's Farm, stopping to look at the wallabies and also a trio of young Ravens that landed on the aerial mast.

As today was in the Big Butterfly Count we tried a fifteen-minute count and found mostly Gatekeepers (15) and Meadow Browns (12), with smaller mumbers of Small Whites (3) and Chalkhill Blues (2).

The best butterfly though was the Wall Brown, the first of the second autumn brood.

The day's list:
birds
: Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Linnet, Stock Dove
insects
: Common Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Wall, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Marbled White, Small White, Peacock, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Silver Y, Mint Moth, Field Grasshopper, Meadow Grasshopper
plants: Red Valerian, Blackthorn, Wild Privet, Greater Knapweed, Small Scabious, Wayfaring Tree, Pyramidal Orchid

Friday July 13th
Bottomcoombe

Parking in Wakeham we walked down a path between the houses, one that we have not tried before.

The path led to the old Bottomcoombe masonry yards that were in action until the main site nearby was developed for the new Tesco supermarket. We were surprised to see lots of blocks of a wide variety of stone still stored there, as well as items of machinery rusting away in the bramble bushes.

The real highlights today though were the beautiful little patch of meadow we discovered and the last section of the railway cutting that led to Easton Station, both sites absolutely alive with butterflies.

The day's list:
birds
: buzzard, kestrel, whitethroat, mammals: brown rat
insects
: Common Blue, Small Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Heath, Marbled White, Small White, Green-veined White, Large White, Peacock, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Thick-kneed Beetle, Red-tailed Bumblebee, Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Great Green Bush-cricket, Emperor Dragonfly
plants: Viper's Bugloss, Red Valerian, Weld, Teasel, Restharrow, Wild Privet, Himalayan Cottoneaster, Horizontal Cottoneaster, Black Knapweed, Hemp Agrimony, Spear Thistle, Pale Flax, Kidney Vetch, Fennel, Field Sabious, Yellow-wort, Crow Garlic, Birdsfoot Trefoil

Friday July 6th
Kingbarrow Quarry

Now we have reached July it is time to look for the last of Portland's blues to emerge, the Chalkhill Blue. With that in mind we stayed close to the hotel today and explored the quarry just to the east.

In the hot sunshine butterflies were everywhere but for a while we could only see browns, mostly Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites with a few Ringlets and Gatekeepers. Approaching the edge of the quarry a Grayling was found next to the path, the first we have seen this year. Walking down into the quarry we found our first blue, a Common Blue, closely followed by a very unexpected Small Blue. Just round the corner a couple of male Silver-studded Blues were seen. We were still watching these two when a male Chalkhill Blue appeared and landed on a Marjoram flower not far away.

The day's list:
insects
: Common Blue, Small Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Grayling, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Heath, Marbled White, Small White, Peacock, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Cinnabar Moth caterpillar, Silver Y, Forester, Hummingbird Hawkmoth
plants: Pyramid Orchid, Viper's Bugloss, Red Valerian, Wild Thyme, Broad-leaved Eyebright, Wayfaring Tree, Restharrow, Wild Privet, Himalayan Cottoneaster, Common Hawkbit, Marjoram, Wood Sage, Greater Knapweed, Hemp Agrimony, Carline Thistle, Stemless Thistle, Rose of Sharon

Friday June 29th
Southwell - Cheyne

Today's mission was to check on the Cheyne Peregrines and at the same time enjoy the hopefully cooler conditions on the Eastcliffs in an easterly breeze.

We succeeded on both counts but were unable to be decide whether or not either of the two Peregrines seen were juveniles. We did see large numbers of Marbled Whites along with all three Skippers and the first Ringlets and Gatekeepers of the year. Not many small birds were seen apart from a Whitethroat in song near Cheyne House. The Wall Lizards were very secretive today but we did manage brief views of two or three of them.

Probably the most memorable sighting though was a huge Rose Chafer that looked astonishingly bright as we looked down on it in the strong sunshine.

The day's list:
birds:
Kestrel, Peregrine, Gannet, Raven, Whitethroat, Swift, Magpie
reptiles: Wall Lizard
insects: Common Blue, Lulworth Skipper, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Marbled White, Large White, Peacock, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Lackey Moth caterpillar, Mullein Moth caterpillar, Rose Chafer,
plants: Pyramid Orchid, Viper's Bugloss, Red Valerian, White Stonecrop, Rock Stonecrop, Fennel, Restharrow, Dwarf Elder

Friday June 22nd
Jordan Quarry - Inmosthay

Today we were on the trail of a rare butterfly that had been seen yesterday: we never did find it but of course we found lots of other interesting species instead.

On such a warm sunny day butterflies were always going to take up most of our time with the first marbled whites and small skippers on the wing. Not many birds were about but we did find a young whitethroat flitting about the brambles. The photo on the right shows part of a large boulder of gypsum or "Portland Alabaster" that the quarry operators have placed beside the path.

On the way back we paused to look at some pyramidal orchids and also found a very photogenic Forester moth.

The day's list:
birds:
jackdaw, whitethroat, robin, swallow
insects: Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Marbled White, Large White, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Mother Shipton, Forester, Thick-kneed Beetle, Summer Chafer,
plants: Pyramid Orchid, Viper's Bugloss, Red Valerian, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Clematis, Red Valerian

Friday June 15th
Tout - Westcliffs

A beautifully warm day with a fresh north-westerly wind that for once we were glad of after the hot weather of recent days.

Walking through Tout we were accompanied by a very tame kestrel that appeared to be hunting the summer chafers that were everywhere this morning. Very few other birds were seen though apart from a pair of buzzards cruising high over the cliffs.

Reaching the cliff-fall we wondered whether or not the scene had changed at all but the photos below show that once again little if anything has changed in the last two years.

The day's list:
birds:
kestrel, carrion crow, jackdaw, herring gull, great black-backed gull, buzzard, gannet
insects: Silver-studded Blue, Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, Large Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Speckled Yellow, Cream-spot Tiger, Bloody-nosed Beetle, Summer Chafer,
plants: Pyramid Orchid, Viper's Bugloss, Red Valerian, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Small Scabious, Honeysuckle, Wild Thyme, Hedge Bedstraw, Wood Spurge, Hartstongue Fern

Friday June 8th
Bower's Quarry - Westcliffs

After failing to find Adonis Blues two weeks ago at the High Angle Battery we were delighted to stumble upon a very fresh male this morning as we walked near the Westcliffs.

Bee orchids were the other highlights of the walk with enough out in flower along the cliffs to make us think that this is going to be an excellent year for this species.

The day's list:
birds:
Fulmar, Kestrel, Goldfinch, Linnet
insects: Small Heath, Common Blue, Adonis Blue, Dingy Skipper, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady, Lackey Moth, Cream-spot Tiger, Bloody-nosed Beetle, Thick-kneed Beetle,
plants: Bee Orchid, Pyramid Orchid, Milkwort, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Ploughman's Spikenard, Quaking Grass, Shining Cranesbill, Spear Thistle, Viper's Bugloss, Yellow-wort

Friday June 1st
Portland Bill

We had three reasons to visit the Bill this morning, a)to see the D-day memorial flypast of historic aircraft, b) to see the rosy starling that has been there all week, and c) to escape the fog. In the end we only achieved target b but we were very pleased to see such a gorgeous and very rare bird and within minutes of arriving.

We did plenty of botanising as well this morning as the plant list below demonstrates. There were also quite a few insects about including sme very fresh common blues and a female dragonfly that was almost certainly a red-veined darter.

The day's list:
birds:
Fulmar, Gannet, Kestrel, Buzzard, Guillemot, Razorbill, Skylark, Stonechat, Common Starling, Rosy Starling, Raven, Linnet
insects: Small White, Common Blue, Yellow Shell, Silver Y, Lackey Moth, Brown-tail Moth, Red-veined Darter?,
plants: Bee Orchid, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Medick, Bulbous Buttercup, Hoary Plantain, Hogweed, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Meadow Vetchling, Milkwort, Quaking Grass, Red Clover, Red Fescue (the blue grass), Ribwort Plantain, Thrift, Toothed Medick, White Clover, Wild Clary, 'Wild' Gladiolus, Woody Nightshade, Yellow Vetchling, Yellow-wort

Friday May 25th
Pennsylvania Castle - Perryfields

In gloriously warm weather we visited the ruins of St Andrew's church to see the wall lizards. They performed really well with three or four female lizards giving us excellent views.

The bird highlight came as we walked back to the car park when a hobby appeared slowly circling overhead. Before returning to the hotel we had a quick look at the Perryfields Butterfly Conservation reserve and were surprised to see a very bright clouded yellow there.

The day's list:
birds:
Kestrel, Hobby, Buzzard, Wren (heard), Chiffchaff, Blackcap (heard), Whitethroat, Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch (heard),
insects: Small White, Orange-tip, Holly Blue, Common Blue, Clouded Yellow, Speckled Wood, Rose Chafer, Wall Lizard,
plants: Green Alkanet, Bulbous Comfrey, Pennywort, Cleavers, Spotted Medick, English Elm, Horse Chestnut, Common Lime, Sycamore, Dryad's Saddle

Friday May 18th
High Angle Battery

Today's bright sunshine tempted us over to the east side to look for adonis blues. In the end the air temperature was probably too low for them but we did see a good number of wall browns and a lovely, if unapproachable, small blue.

A painted stone was an unusual find; you can find out more by joining their facebook group.

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Buzzard, Stock Dove, Swift, Swallow, Whitethroat, Jackdaw
insects: Small White, Small Blue, Wall Brown White Ermine Moth, Oak Eggar caterpillar, Burnet Moth caterpillar, Mason Wasp, Carder Bee
plants: Bush Vetch, Hartstongue Fern, Herb Robert, Hairy Rockcress, Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Milkwort,

Friday May 11th
Tout Quarry - Inmosthay

A cold easterly kept us below ground level in the quarries today where there were few butterflies and even fewer birds to see. We did however compile quite a list of plants.

The day's list:
birds
: Kestrel, Stock Dove, Swift, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Jackdaw
insects: Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Green Longhorn Moth (Adela reaumurella) , Bloody-nosed Beetle, Green Shield-bug
plants: Annual Wall Rocket, Black Medick, Bristly Ox-tongue, Buddleia, Clematis, Common Elder, Common Gromwell, Cotoneaster microphyllus, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cow Parsley, Germander Speedwell, Hartstongue Fern, Herb Robert, Honeysuckle, Horseshoe Vetch, Milkwort, Pear, Portland Spurge, Soft Cranesbill, Spanish Bluebell, Stinging Nettle, Viper's Bugloss, Whitebeam, White Stonecrop, Wild Privet, Wood Sage, Wood Spurge, Wormwood

Friday May 4th
Barleycrates Lane - Blacknor

With such calm and warm conditions it seemed to be a good day to explore the more exposd parts of the Westcliffs, where the weather is normally not at all conducive to a pleasant walk.

The first bird we stopped to look at was a wheatear, closely followed by a male peregrine that checked us out closely before heading off inland in search of pigeons.

Further on we found a point where we could see the fulmars on the cliffs, the same site that the video on the right was made from several years ago.

We finished off with a quick look at Barleycrates Lane and glimpsed what must have been a cuckoo as it dived into a bush.
The day's list:
birds
: wheatear, stonechat, peregrine, fulmar, meadow pipit, skylark, swallow, sand martin, cuckoo?
insects: large white, small white, peacock, bloody-nosed beetle
plants: wild cabbage, alexanders, sea beet, sea buckthorn, horseshoe vetch, Spanish bluebell, milkwort

Friday April 27th
Portland Bill

A very wet day but the rain radar showed a clear spell between ten and eleven so we opted to keep the Lobster Pot close at hand and look for seabirds going past the Bill.

The first gannet was seen as we were still driving into the car park and we went on to see dozens of them, mostly flying past at point blank range. Further out we saw a couple of common scoter and a few kittiwakes but the best bird, a manx shearwater, was also very close.

As soon as we felt the first of the next belt of rain arrive we retired to the cafe - but still carried on birdwatching when a smart male wheatear turned up not far outside our window!

The day's list:
gannet, guillemot, kittiwake, manx shearwater, cormorant, shag, wheatear, fulmar, lesser black-backed gull, raven, swallow, rock pipit, common scoter, skylark

Friday April 20th
Admiralty Quarries - Grove Stadium

At last a beautiful summer's day (in spring!), lots of warm sunshine and almost no wind.

As a hoopoe had been seen nearby last evening we started off from Fancy's Farm and walked south searching the Admiralty Quarries for anything pink. No hoopoe was seen but we did find a dozen or so wheatears along with the first whinchat and whitethroat of the year.

The day's list:
birds
: pied wagtail, chiffchaff, willow warbler, goldfinch, whinchat, wheatear, fulmar, whitethroat, raven, buzzard, kestrel, stock dove, swallow, house martin
reptiles: slow-worm
butterflies: peacock, small white, comma

Friday April 13th
Portland Castle

With the top of the island shrouded in fog we decided to drop down to sea level and have a look for spring migrants in the grounds of Portland Castle.

Just one chiffchaff was found after much searching so we walked on into Castletown and looked at the new Crabber's Wharf development. Walking along the quay that used to be the site of Copine's (crab fishery) we were most surprised to see a full-size squid swimming along the sea wall. Out in the harbour a flock of sixteen mergansers swam across to have a look at us, and continued to follow us as we walked back to the Sailing Academy!

The day's list:
birds
: pied wagtail, chiffchaff, willow warbler, goldfinch, red-breasted merganser, wren, robin, sandwich tern, grey heron, shag
insects: scale insect
molluscs
: squid

Friday April 6th
Broadcroft Quarry

Starting at Bumper's Lane we walked through Silklake Quarry across a carpet of daisies into Broadcroft. Here we saw the bird of the day in the shape of an outstandingly smart male white wagtail. A chiffchaff was nearby and on the way back the same tiny field produced a wheatear and two swallows.

The widow iris in Broadcroft was doing very well but not yet in flower. We did see an abundance of primroses though and one patch of cowslips already in full bloom. Looking out over Yeolands Quarry we saw a heron being chased off by gulls, presumably after visiting the ponds between Broadcroft and Bumper's Lane. When we reached the ponds we found that they were well topped up after all the recent rain but we could see no sign of any frogs or toads. Several coltsfoot flowers were a welcome sight though.

The day's list:
birds
: wheatear, white wagtail, chiffchaff, stock dove, swallow, greenfinch, dunnock, song thrush, wren, great tit, grey heron
insects: bumblebee, peacock
plants
: primrose, cowslip, widow iris, winter heliotrope, coltsfoot

Friday March 30th
Portland Bill

Undeterred by the constant cold drizzly rain we set off for the Bill in the hope of seeing the dolphins that have been there most of the last week. Of course they weren't there but we did see a couple of close red-throated divers flying east up the Channel and plenty of even closer gannets.

Walking over to Pulpit Rock we found plenty of guillemots along with a single razorbill. Next we searched the Eastcliffs for purple sandpipers but instead saw a flock of meadow pipits fly in from the sea heading north on their spring migration.

The day's list:
birds
: red-throated diver, gannet, guillemot, razorbill, common gull, great black-backed gull, meadow pipit, cormorant, shag, fulmar

Friday March 23rd
Merchant's Railway - Verne Naval Cemetery

Starting near the High Angle Battery we first had a look for the little owls in the Verne Ditch but they were nowhere to be seen today.

Walking around Verne Hill on the Merchant's Railway we had excellent views of a buzzard and a pair of kestrels.

Finally we reached the Naval Cemetery just as the RFA Wave Knight was being guided in to its berth in the Harbour by a pair of tugs.

The day's list:
birds
: buzzard, kestrel, stock dove, wood pigeon, blue tit, great tit, carrion crow, jackdaw, wren, dunnock
ships: RFA Wave Knight, RFA Tidespring

Friday March 16th
Engine Sheds - Grove Point - Shepherd's Dinner

Today we enjoyed a very pleasant walk along the high section of the Eastcliffs starting at the Grove. We stopped first above the firing range to count the goats; at first we could only find eight but on the way back the ninth one had appeared.

The resident birds of prey were very much in evidence today with a particularly close sparrowhawk allowing us an unusual view from above. A kestrel and a buzzard were seen soon afterwards with the male peregrine being found on the return leg.

The clear highlight though was the gorgeous male wheatear that appeared in front of us as we walked along the infilled area known as Shepherd's Dinner.

The day's list:
birds
: buzzard, raven, peregrine, sparrowhawk, kestrel, wheatear, cormorant, fulmar
plants: wild parsley, wallflower, alexanders, field speedwell, bulbous meadow grass

Friday March 9th
Portland Bill - Westcliffs

On a day so dark that I had to find a library photo of a gannet for the day's illustration, we drove down to the Bill to escape the thick fog that had descended on the hotel.

At the Bill we were soon looking at gannets flying east, some of which were quite close. Guillemots and razorbills were dashing about getting ready for the breeding season with some pretty smart cormorants and shags sat on the cliffs. Just offshore a couple of purple sandpipers were glimpsed as they flew over the sea by Pulpit Rock.

But for me the highlight was the succession of flocks of meadow pipits that were passing overhead flying north - the first migrants of the spring!

The day's list: : guillemot, razorbill, gannet, pied wagtail, purple sandpiper, meadow pipit, rock pipit, cormorant, shag

Friday March 2nd
Heights Hotel - Ferrybridge

With no buses running and the roads virtually impassable I didn't expect anyone to turn up today, but I thought I would walk up anyway. The journey up to the hotel produced very few birds at all, just a great northern diver and a few black-necked grebes at Portland Castle. But by the time I walked back a lot more birds had arrived, sheltering from what was now a gale force south-easterly. The list below highlights the best birds seen between the hotel and the Rodwell Trail.

The day's list:
Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Pintail, Teal, Red-breasted Merganser, Glaucous Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Wood Lark, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Linnet

Friday February 23rd
Chesil Cove - West Weares

Hoping to see the recently-arrived Ross's gull we searched the sea but only found some very normal herring and great black-backed gulls. Later on we did see a few gannets but no sign of the very special visitor from Arctic Canada.

As often happens when you look for a particular species something quite unexpected turned up - a pair of purple sandpipers feeding on rocks at the very start of Chesil Beach. A little further on another surprise was waiting for us in the form of a grey seal feeding in the surf.

Walking back along the sea wall I did actually mention that we might find a black redstart just as one flew up right in front of us!

The day's list: : buzzard, kestrel, gannet, stonechat, purple sandpiper, black redstart, rock pipit, grey seal

Friday February 9th
Bumper's Lane - Penn Weare

From Wakeham we walked along a very muddy Bumper's Lane out to the Shepherd's Dinner area of the Eastcliffs. Dropping down to the old railway line we lost the cold north-westerly wind and enjoyed some warm sunshine as we walked along the track overlooking Penn Weare.

The first find of note was a tiny rustyback fern growing out of the vertical rock face. Nearby was an even rarer species, maidenhair fern.

Probably the most unusual sighting though was a very pale buzzard sat on rocks near the shoreline. Another, much darker, buzzard was found when the male peregrine that we had been watching on the cliffs made a very dramatic high-speed stoop, just missing the buzzard's head.

The day's list:
birds
: buzzard, raven, peregrine, gannet, kestrel, rock dove (feral), fulmar
ferns: rustyback, wall rue, maidenhair fern, hartstongue fern, sea spleenwort

Friday February 2nd
Southwell Landslip

Parking opposite Pennsylvania Castle we walked south along the road until we reached the footpath leading down onto the Eastcliffs. This took us onto the Great Southwell Landslip, see https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=The%20Great%20Southwell%20Landslip.

The day's list:
birds
: buzzard, raven, kittiwake, gannet, kestrel, goldfinch, common gull, guillemot/razorbills, duck spp, grey heron
plants: bee orchid, wild madder, ribwort plantain, hoary plantain, Portland spurge, horseshoe vetch, white stonecrop, rock stonecrop, carline thistle, yellow-wort

Friday January 26th
Portland Bill - Westcliffs

Another beautiful calm and sunny day that seemed ideal for a walk along the normally very exposed Westcliffs at the Bill.

A stonechat was seen just as we left the car park with the usual Bill kestrel following soon after. At the top of the Admiralty Slopes another kestrel, a female, was seen but no sign of the short-eared owls we had hoped for. While we were stood waiting for the owls more and more skylarks appeared, with some singing high up over the field next to us.

Walking back along the cliffs we had good views of fulmars and guillemots as well as an unusual opportunity to compare cormorant and shag sat close together.

The day's list:
skylark, raven, fulmar, kestrel, stonechat, common gull, guillemot, shag, cormorant

Friday January 19th
Cheyne - Eastcliffs

A beautiful sunny day but the fresh westerly wind sent us across to the Eastcliffs near Southwell where we were hoping to see the pair of peregrines that are usually there.

Well needless to say they weren't there today but we did find a very approachable male wall lizard basking in the warm sunshine. Out to sea a real feeding frenzy was going on over the waters of the Race with several gannets and dozens of kittiwakes making a great fuss over something in the water. Nothing could be seen to explain all this commotion so presumably dolphin and humpback whale can be ruled out.

You might be interested in this link to a documentary on Portland made by Westward television in 1974: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-portland-documentary-1974-online

The day's list:
fulmar, kestrel, gannet, kittiwake, guillemot, shag, great tit, pheasant, wall lizard

Friday January 12th
Inmosthay - Bower's Quarry - Westcliffs

One of the first birds seen this morning was a kestrel, which in today's calm conditions was sat on a post instead of hovering. Nearby was a buzzard using a similar hunting strategy in Tout Quarry. Soon we saw another kestrel, then another until at least four birds were counted.

Walking along the edge of Inmosthay and then Bower's Quarry we reached the cliff edge and had good views of eighteen or twenty fulmars on the colony below Blacknor.

The day's list:
fulmar, stock dove, kestrel, buzzard, wren, chaffinch, meadow pipit, jackdaw, great tit, pied wagtail

Friday January 5th
King Barrow - Withies Croft - Admiralty Quarries

Starting in Kingbarrow Quarry we searched the rock faces for little owls but to no avail. In fact a kestrel hunting over the fields some distance away was about the only bird we could find.

Moving on to Withies Croft we were pleased to find the stone arch clearly visible now that the vegetation has died down. Very similar to Lano's Arch in Tout this is all that remains of the network of rail tracks that used to cover this area of quarries. We walked on to Admiralty Quarries and were amazed to see the amount of infilling that has gone on recently.

We walked back through Kingbarrow via the tunnel, finding a couple of stock doves on the way. Back at the top on New Ground a fieldfare was a surprise find, looking very much as if it had just arrived.

The day's list:
fieldfare, stock dove, kestrel, chaffinch, meadow pipit



Full list of species seen since 2005

Birds (148 species)

Great Northern Diver
Black-throated Diver
Red-throated Diver
Little Grebe
Great-crested Grebe
Slavonian Grebe
Storm Petrel
Leach's Petrel
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
CORY'S SHEARWATER
Gannet
Shag
Cormorant
Glossy Ibis
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Dark-bellied Brent Goose
Pale-bellied Brent Goose
Black Brant
Red-breasted Goose
Mute Swan
Mallard
Teal
Shoveler
Wigeon
Pintail
Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter
Goldeneye
Eider
Red-breasted Merganser
Goosander
Long-tailed Duck
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Buzzard
Merlin
Kestrel
Peregrine
Sparrowhawk
Wood Pigeon
Stock Dove
Collared Dove
Great Skua
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
ICELAND GULL
Herring Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Little Gull
Kittiwake
Curlew
Oystercatcher
Woodcock
Snipe
Jacksnipe
Bar-tailed Godwit
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER
Redshank
Lapwing
Golden Plover
Grey Plover
Ringed Plover
Ruff
Purple Sandpiper
Dunlin
Curlew Sandpiper
Sanderling
Knot
Turnstone
Pheasant
BRÜNNICH'S GUILLEMOT
BLACK GUILLEMOT
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Little Owl
Short-eared Owl
HOOPOE
WRYNECK
Skylark
Kingfisher
Swift
Swallow
House Martin
Sand Martin
WOODCHAT SHRIKE
RED-BACKED SHRIKE
Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
Rock Pipit
Pied Wagtail
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Wren
Dunnock
Grasshopper Warbler (heard)
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Garden Warbler
Blackcap
Whitehroat
Lesser Whitethroat
Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER
Goldcrest
Firecrest
Spotted Flycatcher
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Stonechat
Whinchat
Robin
Wheatear
Redstart
Black Redstart
White-spotted Bluethroat
Blackbird
Ring Ouzel
Fieldfare
Redwing
Song Thrush
Starling
ROSY STARLING
Rook
Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Raven
Magpie
Jay
House Sparrow
Linnet
Siskin
Redpoll
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Bullfinch
Greenfinch
Crossbill
Yellowhammer
Snow Bunting


Mammals (10 species)

British Primitive Goat
Common Shrew
Grey Squirrel
Brown Rat
Oryctolagus cuniculus
Brown Hare
Red Fox
Roe Deer (prints)
Grey Seal
Bottle-nosed Dolphin


Reptiles (4 species)

Common Lizard
Wall Lizard
Slow-worm
Adder


Amphibians (2 species)

Common Frog
Common Toad


Fossils (6 species)

Belemnite
Lopha gregarea
Nucleolites clunicularis
(sea urchin)
Titanites giganteus (ammonite)
Trigonia gibbosa (oss's head)
Butterflies (28 species)

Adonis Blue
Chalkhill Blue
Clouded Yellow
Comma
Common Blue
Dingy Skipper
Gatekeeper
Grayling
Green-veined White
Holly Blue
Large White
Large Skipper
Lulworth Skipper
Marbled White
Meadow Brown
Painted Lady
Peacock
Red Admiral
Ringlet
Silver-studded Blue
Small Blue
Small Copper
Small Heath
Small Skipper
Small Tortoiseshell
Small White
Speckled Wood
Wall


Moths (33 species)

Brown-tail
Cinnabar
Clay
Cream-spot Tiger
Crescent Plume-moth
Dark Arches
Forester
Green Longhorn Moth (Adela reaumurella)
Heart and Club
Heart and Dart
Jersey Tiger
Knot Grass
L-album Wainscot
Large Yellow Underwing
Lesser Yellow Underwing
Light Brocade
Marbled Minor
Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata
Mother Shipton
Oak Eggar
Poplar Hawk-moth
Portland Riband Wave
Privet Hawkmoth
Scarlet Tiger
Shuttle-shaped Dart
Silver Y
Six-spot Burnet
Speckled Yellow
Treble Lines
Vine's Rustic
White Ermine
White-point
Yellow Shell

Other Insects (17 species)

Horse-chestnut Scale Insect
7-spot Ladybird
Bloody-nosed Beetle
Dark Bush-cricket
Drone-fly
Green Shield-bug
Harlequin Ladybird
Honey Bee
Ivy Bee
Meadow Grasshopper
Oil Beetle
Roesel's Bush-cricket
Rose Chafer
Speckled Bush-cricket
Summer Chafer
Swollen-thighed Beetle
Volucella zonaria


Arachnids (4 species)

Harvestman
Garden Cross Spider
Nursery-web Spider
Wasp Spider


Marine Life (30 species)

Ray spp (egg-case)
Garfish
Triggerfish
Greater Spotted Dogfish
Lesser Spotted Dogfish
Goose Barnacles
Spider Crab
Edible Crab
Portugese Man o' War
Hydroid
Whelk
Cuttlefish
Squid
Blue-rayed Limpet
Flat Winkle
Rough Winkle
Toothed Topshell
Beadlet Anemone
Snakelocks Anemone
Seasquirt
Dead Man's Fingers
Pink Sea-fan

Knotted Wrack
Channeled Wrack
Spiral Wrack
Bladder Wrack
Sea Lettuce
Carragheen
Laminaria saccharina
Laminaria digitata
Saccorhiza polyschides


Fungi (6 species)

Dryad's Saddle
Field Blewits
Field Mushroom
Honey Fungus
Velvet Shank
Shaggy Inkcap
Plants (210 species)

Agrimony
Alexanders
Annual Beard Grass
Annual Meadow Grass
Annual Mercury
Annual Wall Rocket
Autumn Gentian
Autumn Ladies Tresses
Bastard Toadflax
Bee Orchid
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Biting Stonecrop
Black Knapweed
Black Medick
Black Mustard
Black Spleenwort
Blackthorn
Bladder Campion
Brackish Water Crowfoot
Bramble
Bristly Ox-tongue
Broad-leaved Dock
Broad-leaved Eyebright
Buddleia
Bulbous Buttercup
Bulbous Meadow Grass
Bulrush
Burnet Rose
Burnet Saxifrage
Bush Vetch
Calamint
Carline Thistle
Cats-tail
Charlock
Clematis
Cocksfoot
Common Broomrape
Common Centaury
Common Elder
Common Gromwell
Common Ragwort
Common Storksbill
Common Toadflax
Cotoneaster horizontalis
Cotoneaster microphyllus
Cotoneaster simonsii

Cow Parsley
Cowslip
Creeping Buttercup
Creeping Cinquefoil
Crested Dogstail
Crow Garlic
Cut-leaved Cranesbill
Daisy
Dandelion
Dog Rose
Dogwood
Dropwort
Dwarf Elder
Early Gentian
Early Purple Orchid
English Bluebell
False Brome
False Oat-grass
Fennel
Fern Grass
Field Penny-cress
Field Speedwell
Fodder Burnet
Germander Speedwell
Golden-rod
Golden Samphire
Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil
Greater Knapweed
Greater Plantain
Great Hairy Willowherb
Great Mullein
Grey Willow
Hairy Bittercress
Hairy Rockcress
Hard Rush
Harebell
Hartstongue Fern
Hawkweed Ox-tongue
Hawthorn
Hedge Bedstraw
Hemp Agrimony
Herb Robert
Hoary Plantain
Hoary Ragwort
Hoary Stock
Hogweed
Holly
Holm Oak
Honeysuckle
Hop Trefoil
Horseshoe Vetch
Horsetail
Ivy
Ivy Broomrape
Ivy-leaved Toadflax
Japanese Knotweed
Kidney Vetch
Lady's Bedstraw
Lady's Mantle
Lesser Centaury
Lesser Reedmace
London Plane
Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Male Fern
Marjoram
Meadow Vetchling
Melilot
Milkwort
Mouse-ear Hawkweed
Musk Mallow
Musk Thistle
Olive Willow
Oxford Ragwort
Pear
Pendulous Sedge
Polypody
Portland Rock Sea-lavender
Portland Spurge
Prickly Sow-thistle
Purple Toadflax
Pyramidal Orchid
Quaking Grass
Red Clover
Red Fescue
Red Valerian
Restharrow
Ribwort Plantain
Rock Samphire
Rock Sea Lavender
Rock Stonecrop
Rough Hawkbit
Rough Meadow Grass
Round-leaved Cranesbill
Round-leaved Fluellen
Rue-leaved Saxifrage
Rye Grass
Sainfoin
Saw-wort
Sea Beet
Sea Holly
Sea Kale
Sea Lavender
Sea Mayweed
Sea Radish
Sea Spleenwort
Shining Cranesbill
Slender Thistle
Soft Brome
Soft Cranesbill
Slime Mould
Small Scabious
Smooth Sow-thistle
Spanish Bluebell
Spear Mint
Spear Thistle
Spindle Tree
Spotted Medick
Square-stemmed Willowherb
Squinancywort
Stemless Thistle
Stinging Nettle
Stinking Iris
Strawberry Clover
Tall Fescue
Teasel
Three-cornered Leek
Thrift
Timothy
Tor Grass
Toothed Medick
Upright Brome
Upright Hedge Parsley
Viper's Bugloss
Wall Barley
Wall Rocket
Wall Rue
Wall Speedwell
Wallflower
Wayfaring Tree
Weld
Welted Thistle
Western Polypody
Whitebeam
White Clover
White Stonecrop
Widow Iris
Wild Cabbage
Wild Carrot
Wild Clary
'Wild' Gladiolus
Wild Leek
Wild Madder
Wild Parsley
Wild Privet
Wild Thyme
Winter Heliotrope
Wood Sage
Wood Spurge
Woody Nightshade
Wormwood
Yellow Horned-poppy
Yellow Oat-grass
Yellow Vetch
Yellow Vetchling
Yellow-wort
Yorkshire Fog

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