Tuesday 8 September 2015

Weymouth weekender

While perusing Twitter last Thursday evening I came across Ian Barthorpe's fantastic blog post on the infamous East Anglian fall that took place on 3 September 1965, 'It was raining birds 50 years ago today'.

What a great read, and one that made me feel quite poignant (and envious!) as I ambled around Portland on Friday afternoon. The sad truth is that such a spectacle will never be seen again on our shores, or indeed probably anywhere. Migrant bird populations are just fractions of what they were 50 years ago, and one can only imagine that they are set to become fractions of those fractions in the coming 50 years, bar some sort of miracle.

Anyway, enough of being morose, despite the distinct lack of a fall during the four days we spent down in Weymouth - not that it was surprising given conditions were dominated by a light north-westerly and bright skies. Migrant numbers may have been at a premium, but it was still enjoyable to reacquaint myself with this beautiful part of the south coast on what was a largely non-birding trip. It was my first visit of any significant length here since September 2013, when the Short-billed Dowitcher was at Lodmoor, although I did visit briefly for the BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot that December.

Birding may have taken a back seat but we still managed to see the Bill Wryneck on at least three occasions. Unfortunately it wasn't one of those 'porno' Wrynecks that you can virtually tread on; it tended to be elusive, skittish and consequently pretty mobile between the Pulpit Inn and the compound to the west throughout our visit.

On Sunday morning I sneaked out early and spent a bit of time with the bird. Though it was generally a little more confiding as it warmed itself up in the early morning sun it still proved difficult to get anywhere near, and this was the best of my rather average batch of shots.

The commonest migrants were Northern Wheatears, with a light scattering noted around the island on our Friday walk. After this it was probably Yellow Wagtails - small numbers were going overhead on most days. Sunday morning produced a flyover Tree Pipit and a couple of Whinchats, and I had a Garden Warbler in Culverwell on the Friday (but no Barred).

Best of the rest included a few Mediterranean Gulls seen daily around Weymouth and a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls dotted around among the loafing flocks of predominately Herring Gulls.

3cy Yellow-legged Gull, Portland Bill, 5 September 2015

1cy Yellow-legged Gull, Chesil Cove, 4 September 2015

There also seemed to be decent numbers of Painted Ladies on the wing around Portland over the weekend. We didn't see any other significant migrant Lepidoptera but I saw there was a Death's Head Hawkmoth seen near the Obs as well as plenty of Convolvulus Hawkmoths (seems to be a great year for them). There were still quite a lot of Chalkhill Blues on the wing but the battered state of many individuals betrayed the imminent conclusion of their flight season. It was actually a little depressing watching some of them flapping around pathetically in the grass, as if trying their best to defy an inescapable fate! In contrast many of the Red Admirals and Peacocks seen were in fine condition - I haven't seen many of either this year, so that was nice.

So, nothing particularly spectacular on the wildlife front but a great few days down in Dorset - hopefully the next visit isn't such a long time coming.

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