PORTLAND BILL - PORTLAND HARBOUR - FERRYBRIDGE - LODMOOR
WEATHER: superb, another crisp, sunny winter's day. Light northerly, cold wind. Temp 4C
What a fantastic day we had today. Unbelievable weather and some excellent birding, its not often you can list five species of Grebe in one day in the UK. We hoped to do it today, read on!!
After a lovely breakfast we set off from our Guest House in Weymouth at 7:45am, we headed straight to Portland Bill on the southern tip of Portland. We hoped to see a few sea-birds as well some goodies around the rocky shoreline and in the disused quarries.
We started off with Rock Pipits and Ruddy Turnstones, quickly followed by Raven, Guillemot, Razorbill and Shag. We set up for a sea-watch with the cold wind in our backs and turned up a few more species. With an offshore wind the birds were a serious distance away, we found Gannet, Kittiwake, Fulmar and more Auks than you can shake a stick at. Three of the group saw two Puffins?? I never got onto them but they were certain of what they saw.
a Ruddy Turnstone in the morning sunlight
A walk along the west side of the Bill towards Pulpit Rock turned up a Black Redstart, spotted by Lorna, our bird of the day so far (the Restart, not Lorna!). We then located three Purple Sandpipers with a bunch of Ruddy Turnstones, we saw more Rock Pipits, Ravens and our first Feral Pigeons!!
a Purple Sandpiper with Ruddy Turnstones
We drove back from the Bill area and parked near the Old Lower Lighthouse which is now the Bird Observatory with a disused quarry adjacent to it. From a lay-by we scanned the quarry and found the resident Little Owl. A short walk to the quarry gave us great views of this little beauty. We also saw a large mixed flock of Goldfinces and Linnets, a Common Buzzard and a Stock Dove.
walking back to the bus from the quarry area at the Bill
Moving on, we left Portland and parked near Portland Castle on the southern shore of the harbour where we could scan part of the Port area for water birds. Within minutes we had found 6 Great Northern Divers, one or two were quite close. A single Red-breasted Merganser was also on show, a large roosting flock of Shags sat on a breakwater, one or two Grey Herons with them and our first Great Black-backed Gull.
the Little Owl in the 'Obs' Quarry was hit with the group and voted bird of the day
After stopping at a supermarket to buy lunch supplies we drove to west side of the Harbour near Ferrybridge where we scanned the water once again. It was quite windy there and the water was choppy, we saw very little. Oystercatchers, a few Mediterranean Gulls, our first Brent Geese and a very distant flock of Mergansers.
Dunlin at Ferrybridge
Walking across the main road we viewed the mud flats at Ferrybridge where we found a lot more Mediterranean Gulls, a small flock of Dunlin and a single Ringed Plover. In the distance we added Little Egrets, Cormorants, more Mergansers and another Great Black-backed Gull.
It was really nice and comfortable when we got out of the bus at Sandsfoot Castle, we were sheltered from the cold breeze, you could feel the warmth of the sun and the cafe was open serving hot drinks and cakes. From a grassy bank near the Castle we scanned the North Eastern area of the Harbour, the water was flat calm and all the birds were easy to see.
Great Northern Diver
We had an amazing hour there! Four more Great Northern Divers went onto the list, a dozen or so Great Crested Grebes were present and then we started finding the goodies! First a Slavonian Grebe appeared, it was distance, but with perfect light and still water it was easy to identify and and even easier to get my group onto it.
A Red-necked Grebe was next, it appeared in the same area and at one point both star grebes were sitting together!! Wow!! Two great birds for our list and three of the famous five in the bag. We saw lots of other birds out there but it took another fifteen minutes to find a Black-throated Diver, this was much nearer and showed very well to all of us.
Med Gulls at Ferrybridge
We finished our drinks and walked down the road to the Weymouth Sailing Club, where after a short search, we came across our last target bird, the Black-necked Grebe. We saw two at first and then another bunch of 4, they we quite far out, off to the west with the sun behind them, so all we had was silhouettes of the birds but their unmiskable shapes gave us thier ID.
A showy Firecrest was nice, it appeared in the large bushes behind us and even flew into the brambles right next to us, a lovely ending to our visit to Portland Harbour. We had seen four of the possible five winter-Grebes in Britain, we only needed Little Grebe to get the full set and I knew exactly where to go for that one.
At Radipole Lake in the centre of Weymouth we ate our lunch in the warmth of the visitor's centre, another hot drink went down well. A short walk produced the Little Grebe near the Town Bridge, we had done it. All five Grebe species, in one day!! Some acheivement.
the beautiful colours of the Lapwing in the afternoon sun
At 2pm we drove across town to visit Lodmoor Reserve, we parked at the north end and took a path that led us to the west side of the marsh. With the sun behind us we had fantastic views of all the birds sitting out in the lagoons and on grassy islands. Hundreds of duck, with hundreds more of Lapwings. We saw dozens of Common Snipe and Mediterranean Gulls, with Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls.
a few Golden Plovers
Our main target species was the Golden Plover and we could see some in the distance along the southern edge of the reserve near the main road. We walked around to a viewing point and got much better views. In fact, we were treated to a spectacle as 5-6 hundred of them took to the air with just as many Lapwings, it was awesome to see them in flight. The sunlight would catch their golden sheen as they twisted and turned in flight, you couldn't have asked for better views.
more Golden Plovers
Most of the flock descended and dropped down not far from us, so we had even better views, our Birding God was with us today! Also seen along the tracks was: Common Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit and many most-common species.
As the sun went down so did the temperature, it was our cue to depart so we made our way back to the bus. It was 4:30pm when we got back to our guest house, Sonia our host, always makes us hots drinks and plies us with bisciuts and cakes, a plate of short-bread biscuits sat on the table, not for long though!!