Saturday 15 November 2014

Playing away

With November murk lying low over the Frome Valley this morning, it was time to play away, and head for the impossibly exotic, sun-kissed horse-paddocks of Portland. A Dusky Warbler had been present in Weston since Thursday, and I had yet to see one in Dorset. I awoke later than planned, and with a headache, the product of drinking pathetically small amounts of beer, which is enough to induce a hangover these days it seems.
Dusky Warbler, Portland: a rare view out in the open
Staying so low in the vegetation that it would have been difficult to locate if it wasn't calling regularly
Perhaps the clearest view I enjoyed in 3 hours of watching
Arriving at Avalanche Road around 0900, I was prepared for a long wait but within half an hour the only other birder present alerted me to the calling bird at the other end of the paddock to which I was stood. The Dusky Warbler had been extremely elusive in previous days but we dropped lucky as it sat out in the open for the best part of a minute preening. I stuck around until midday in the hope of improving on my original photos, and despite the bird coming very close on occasions, it only ever sat in the open at some distance, and then only briefly, hence the heavily cropped shots here.
Caught in mid air - check out those orange feet
Note the rusty flanks and vent
Here giving its tutting call - note sharp supercilium in front of the eye (diffuse in Radde's)

With a good Dorset tick in the bag from the top of the famous rock it was time to head down to the bottom and the migrant trap of Portland Castle. Three Chiffchaffs and two Black Redstarts were aron the castle walls, and the wintering Black Guillemot eventually appeared out in the harbour with a Great Northern Diver for company.
Black Redstart on the picnic tables outside the Chesil Beach Centre...
...and on the roof...
...and on the tideline at Ferrybridge
A final stop at Ferrybridge produced another trio of Black Redstarts, these much more obliging as they fed on the tideline and around the Chesil Beach Centre. Normally stopping here would be a good excuse for fancy coffee and cakes, but there was too much going on outside to be tempted today.
Chiffchaff at Portland Castle
Great Northern Diver, Portland Harbour
Black Guillemot, phone-scoped taking a rest on a mooring in Portland Harbour

It was incredibly mild for mid-November, which may have helped explain the lack of waterfowl in Portland Harbour - apart from the returning Tystie, a couple of Great Norther Divers and a handful of Red-breasted Mergansers there wasn't much to be seen. But still a fruitful excursion, and good to keep the county list ticking along as the clock had pretty much stopped on that in the last few months.
Wren at Ferrybridge
Black Redstart
Black Redstart, just drawing a few things to the attention of the humans

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