Windy But Not Wet at the Bill

A five-thirty start was quite a shock to the system this morning and the heavy rain when Ian and I left Swindon made us think that we were in for a challenging days birding at Weymouth and Portland Bill. A Blackbird that shot across the road in the dark and the rain was an unexpected first Wiltshire tick of the year. After a steady drive down we arrived at a still extremely dark Portland Harbour just a couple of hours later. There wasn’t even a glimmer of light in the sky so it was a case of hunkering down in the car until the coming of the Dawn. Eventually the skies start to lighten and miraculously the rain eased. We left the comfort of the car and headed for the quayside hoping that we could find a good sheltered spot.  This we did and after putting up a Pied Wagtail started to scan the harbour. Several Red-breasted Merganser were seen along with a Great Crested Grebe and the first of half-a-dozen Great Northern Divers. Moving along to Osprey Quay a Black Throated Diver was found. Also seen were plenty of Cormorants and some Shags. Next was Chesil Cove which being on the western side was being battered by some impressive waves. Some of which looked as if they would top the bank of Chesil Beach. There were a good number of gulls here picking food from the sea in an impressive display of flying. Several Med Gulls and a few Kittiwakes were amongst them but although we both thought we saw Little Gull neither of us could confirm it. However a tired looking Diver being battered by the surf was identified by Ian as a Red Throated. Then it was off to the Bill where with the rapidly improving weather allowed us to seawatch in some comfort. This turned up a Bonxie amongst the Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. Five Purple Sandpipers were roosting and feeding on the higher ledges of eastern side.IMG_1244 (1024x682) Also seen was aIMG_1260 (1024x780) surprise flyby Brent Goose.  Some entertainment was provided when a group of four people got too close to a blow-hole and got absolutely drenched when an extra-large wave came in. Luckily for them they weren’t hurt but they were quite lucky as At least one of them was knocked off of their feet. A check of the Top Fields gave only a Kestrel and a Buzzard. All of the small birds were keeping well out of sight, sheltering from the wind. On our way back to the mainland we stopped again at Chesil Cove picking up a smart male Black Redstart by the car park. Ferrybridge added more Brent Geese and another surprise a couple of Skylarks. A final scan of the Harbour before heading to Radipole was worthwhile with six Black-necked Grebes found along with a close-in Great Northern Diver. The star bird at Radipole was the long staying Hooded Merganser.
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Supporting cast included two Marsh Harriers and heard only Bearded Tits. The final site visited was Lodmoor where amongst the many Lapwing were eleven Black-tailed Godwits and four Dunlin. A Marsh Harrier was also seen here. On the drive out of Weymouth Blackbird and Pheasant gave us a day total of sixty-nine species. A clearing sky raised hopes of a Barn Owl sighting on the way home and we weren’t disappointed with two being seen in flight on the edge of Salisbury Plain. My thanks to Ian for the day out and for his picking out of several great species during the day.


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