31 Dec 17

Pennsylvania Castle wood and Church Ope Cove.

Well that's the way to see the year out. Great views of the Yellow-browed Warbler and a deafening clap of thunder above me as I was on the beach.

The weather looked okay when I left, in fact there was a slight hint that perhaps the sun might break through. And then I realised I was on Portland, where nothing is normal!!!

The wood was my first stop and talk about being in the right place at the right at the right time, as a flock of Long-tailed Tits came through and with them the Yellow-browed Warbler. The light was really fading but I managed to get some great views of it with the binoculars and a couple of record shots of it before it disappeared down the slope with the Long-tailed Tits towards Church Ope Cove. In amongst them were 2 Firecrests and at least 5 Goldcrests.

I managed to get down to the cove but though I could hear them I couldn't see them. I thought I'd have a quick look on the beach and was amazed to find just the Grey Wagtail and a lone Wren. The Rock Pipits, Pied Wagtails and "Rock" Robin all absent. I shouldn't have been surprised as within 5 minutes of being on the beach I could hear a distant rumble of thunder and then the black clouds appeared over Penns Wood. A few seconds later the heavens opened up and Ted I just made it to our Ivy Bush for shelter.

And then the flash, its been awhile since I've been out in the open during a thunderstorm. Now I know why I stay indoors.

Just a couple of photos from a brief but exciting walk.

A record shot of the Yellow-browed Warbler which if it is the same long-staying bird, has been on Portland since at least 5 Dec 17. Could be a good tick for the New Year, if it can be located. The last time it was seen before today was 23 Dec 17, so not the easiest of birds to track down. Good luck if try. Useful tips on searching for it: There are two Long-tailed Tit flocks and this one it was tagging along with had at least 12 birds in it. There are also a lot of crests with 5 Goldcrests and 2 Firecrests within the party.
The route has expanded now since I first found it on 5 Dec and now they can be found in the woods by Church Ope Car park, they then move across Pennsylvania Road to the trees by the Museum and then drop down into Pennsylvania Castle wood. From here it appears they then drop down below St Andrew's Church ruins and then head south under Cove Holiday Park. From this point they move along the ridge and up the steps to Rufus Castle and now back up to the Museum. It is quite a certain which seems to be covering a greater area in search for food.

Route of the Long-tailed Tits and potentially the Yellow-browed Warbler  (Map Courtesy of Google Earth)

Very quiet on the beach with just this Grey Wagtail and a lone Wren.

The black clouds move in and then............

This is one reason why I don't like to be out in the open during a thunderstorm which is above you.......

30 Dec 17

Pennsylvania Castle wood and Church Ope Cove

Even on a miserable dull day there is always something to see and today it was 3 Firecrests I found between the ruins of St Andrew's Church and the Church Ope Cove beach huts.

In Penn's Wood I came across 12 Long-tailed Tits and the prospect of maybe finding something interesting amongst them. Sadly not, which was a shame as often or not there are a least a couple of Firecrests with them. There were a few crests though and 5 Goldcrests was a good tally. Also amongst them 2 Great Tits, 3 Blue Tits and 2 female Chaffinches. Also here were 2 Siskins and a Song Thrush.

As I headed down to the cove the Long-tailed Tits "followed" me and at St Andrew's Church 2 Firecrests appeared in the ivy overhanging the church walls and then a third below the wall just above the coast path.

The tits and crests headed south and I carried on down to the cove, where there 14 Herring Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull and a Carrion Crow in the north-east corner of the beach.

Suspecting there might be something washed up here and they were feeding on it, I walked across the pebbles to have a look. There was absolutely nothing!!

As I got closer the gulls took off and so did 8 Rock Pipits. I had a quick look for any ringed birds, but none today. Also here just 2 Wrens and a Gannet just off the beach heading south. No sign of the "Rock" Robin.

A mystery gull passed by and caused me to question as to what it was. More at the bottom of the page......

Here are a few photos from today:

An adult winter Herring Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull

One of the 8 Rock Pipits on the beach today.

An adult Gannet heads south

There's been quite a few Gannets passing through over the past few days.

A Cormorant just off the beach.

Some not so good photos of one of the three Firecrests here today.

Just didn't quite get the focus right.

Same again another out of focus shot. Never-the-less there's no doubting as to what it is with that distinctive black and white eye-stripe.

Birds Recorded were: 1 Gannet, Cormorant, 1 Common Gull, 14 Herring Gull, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, 8 Rock Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 8 Goldcrest, 3 Firecrest, 12 Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, 2 Siskin and Goldfinch.

My mystery Gull

A lone gull passed by and I knew it was different, certainly Herring Gull size and almost the size of the Great Black-backed Gull close-by. I did wonder if it was a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, due to the white rump, but after asking a lot of gull experts it turns out the gull below is in fact a 1st winter Common Gull.

Its certainly the largest Common Gull I've come across before. I know Herring Gulls vary in size, but this one certainly confused me. Thank you to Martin Cade, Matt Pringle and everyone who contacted me to point me in the right direction.

I think I had it far to easy living in the countryside up until now!!

Here are a selection of images of the Common Gull of Church Ope Cove.






29 Dec 17

Church Ope Cove

What a mixture of weather we had here on Portland this morning. At around 7:00am we started off with thunder, lightening and gale force winds. Then the sun came out briefly, just enough time so I thought, to get down to Church Ope Cove and back before the next shower. Well I got down there okay and spent a good 30 minutes on the beach and then that was it as another wave of black clouds and torrential rain moved in.

I managed to get some shelter under an ivy bush, before walking home as the rain began to ease. And yep right on cue, as soon as I got home the sun came out. Good old Portland.

Unsurprisingly there wasn't much to report on, other than a good count of 18 Rock Pipits on the pebbles, including at least 2 birds with metal leg rings. I wonder where they were ringed!!

Also on the beach around 8 Wrens and the "Rock" Robin.

Out to see as the next band of rain moved in 4 Gannets came in close to shore as they headed down towards The Bill.

Here are a few images and a short video from this morning:

Quite a few Rock Pipits here today.

Another looks on.

As does this one

This one is sporting a metal leg ring. I wonder where he's been.

Out to sea a few Gannets passed by.

Certainly choppy out there as another Gannets heads south.

Normally a lovely shot of the Cove looking towards Weymouth Bay. Not today..


Church Ope Cove from Rufus Castle from a not so sunny day here on Portland.

Birds Recorded: 4 Gannet, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, 18 Rock Pipit, Robin, 1 Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, 11 Wren and 2 Carrion Crow.

Cheyne Weares Car Park

Just off Church Ope Cove at around 13:30 - 1 Manx Shearwater, 50+ Kittiwake, 20+ Gannets, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and dozens of Razorbills/Guillemots.

28 Dec 17

Church Ope Cove and St Andrew's Church

No sign of Black Redstart on the beach today, but then it was packed with holidaymakers, so hopefully it will return once it quietens down. It was good to see that all 3 wagtails were back, with the pair of Pied Wagtails and the Grey Wagtail enjoying the hundreds of flies on the washed-up seaweed. Not so many Rock Pipits here today, with just 7 up in the north-east corner of the cove along with over-wintering "Rock" Robin. As always a good count of Wrens with 10 recorded.

Behind the beach huts just 2 Firecrests with one I've not noticed before with a metal leg ring. Also here a Common Drone Fly and a Marmalade Hoverfly. More bees here today, feeding on the Hebe's, with 3 White-tailed Bumblebees counted. Also here the over-wintering "Hut" Robin.

With the sun out and actually feeling quite warm I headed up to St Andrew's Church, just in case there were any Wall Lizards out. I wasn't actually expecting any, I mean it is the middle of Winter, but there in the "sun-baked" corner of the ruins were 3. Two youngsters, one with a stubby tail and an adult. Well there were 3, until the "Church" Robin decided that Stubby looked like a meal not to be missed.

When I saw him fly down, I assumed he was taking a fly. It wasn't until I realised he was fighting with something, that it dawned on me, he'd actually taken one of the juvenile lizards. I mean its one thing to see Lizards in the winter, but to witness a Robin catching one and then eating it, is something else.

Here are a few images from today:

The "Hut" Robin eyes up a fly on the Hebe.

Whilst a Common Drone Fly makes sure he's out of sight of the Robin

Also on the Hebe a Marmalade Hoverfly

In the brambles a Firecrest feeds.

Its the first time I've seen one here with a metal leg ring.

And here's the other Firecrest out in the open.

Down on the beach one of the 7 Rock Pipits.

And good to see the female Pied Wagtail after an absence of a few days.

Here is the "Rock" Robin. Sadly no Black Redstart here though.

In the grounds of St Andrews Church the "Church" Robin.

A very confiding bird as it came up close to me.

Here is Stubby the juvenile Wall Lizard.

Here an adult keeps very still.

Here another juvenile makes the most of the "warm" sun.

Sadly this is Stubby. Unfortunately having already lost his tail, he was about to make a fatal mistake by venturing out to far.

The "Church" Robin seizing the moment, shot down of its perch behind me and that was the end of Stubby.

Not a pretty sight, but its a bit like Darwin. The "Rock" Robin is feeding predominantly on beach flies, the "Hut" Robin on insects on the Hebe's and as it appears the "Church" Robin on lizards. They have not only found different territories to over-winter but have adapted to catching food on offer at each of their chosen locations.

A very smart looking male Great Tit in Penn's Wood.

Birds RecordedBlack-headed GullHerring GullGreat Black-backed GullWood Pigeon, 7 Rock Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey WagtailDunnock, 5 RobinBlackbird, 5 Goldcrest, 2 FirecrestLong-tailed TitGreat TitBlue Tit, 16 WrenCarrion CrowChaffinch and Goldfinch.

Also recorded: 3 Wall Lizards, 3 White-tailed Bumblebees, 1 Common Drone Fly and 1 Marmalade Hoverfly.


Ships Today

This is the Panama Vehicle Carrier, Grand Vega on its way from Antwerp, Belgian to Derince, Turkey  More info here

27 Dec 17

Pennsylvania Castle Wood and Church Ope Cove

Another walk through Penn's Wood down to Church Ope Cove and a bit of a surprise to see Snowdrops in flower!!

Very quiet in the wood other than 3 Goldcrests, a Firecrest and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. When I returned this way from the cove a Sparrowhawk shot through and put up the local feral pigeons.

On the beach it was great to see that the Black Redstart had returned to its favourite corner of the beach and also the "rock" Robin which like the Black Redstart had gone AWOL for several days.

Only the male Pied Wagtail here, no sign of the female or the Grey Wagtail. There were 15 Rock Pipits here today and a good count of 11 Wrens.

Overhead 4 Ravens headed south and at the back of the cove there were 3 Firecrests feeding in the Hebe's. A flock of Long-tailed Tits passed through, but no sign of the Yellow-browed Warbler with them.

Quite a few insects about with dozens of Blue Bottle flies, a hoverfly and a Robber fly I think.

Here a few images from this afternoon:

Pennsylvania Castle wood looking up the slope. Here today were Goldcrests, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and..............

.....an early Snowdrop in flower.

A Goldcrest poses for me in the wood.

This is the path down to the Hebe's at the back of the cove.

Home to one of the wintering Robins and today.....

.....3 Firecrests. Here's one and.....

......and another. Unfortunately the 3rd one manage to elude the camera.

A hoverfly on a leaf of the Hebe. One to ID later.

In the cove the waves are still crashing onto the rocks.

A lovely surprise to see same/another Black Redstart in the north-east corner of the cove.

One of 11 Wrens feeding in amongst the pebbles and around the beach huts.

A Rock Pipit looks on........

......whilst another is seen feeding on the hut itself.

A closer view as it grabs a fly.

Overhead one of the four Ravens which were seen heading south.

On the walls of one of the huts, a fly sp.

Birds Recorded: 3 Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, 1 Sparrowhawk, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeons, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 15 Rock Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, 1 Black Redstart, Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 5 Goldcrest, 4 Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, 20+ Wren, Carrion Crow, 4 Raven, Chaffinch and Goldfinch.

Also 20+ Blue Bottle Flies, 1 hoverfly sp. and a possible Robber fly sp.

Flowers: Snowdrops


Ships today

This is the General Cargo vessel, Sirios Bulker I on its way from Bremen, Germany to Sagunto, Spain. More on this ship flying the flag of Panama Here.