Tuesday 9 May 2017

Perfect timing

About once a week I need my car for work, otherwise preferring to travel by train. Sometimes on these days I sling my camera in the boot in the hope that something interesting might turn up during the day and I can go to see it on the way home. Once in a blue moon, something interesting does turn up, usually on Portland, but nine times out of ten it is gone by the time I get there. So the chances of seeing something good on the way home after work are actually pretty slim. Yesterday, however, the stars aligned and it all came together beautifully: a Spectacled Warbler, the first record for Dorset and only the 9th for the UK, was found at the Bill in the late afternoon, and a couple of hours later I was watching it with a small crowd of appreciative observers.
Spectacled Warbler, Portland Bill
Compared to the much commoner Whitethroat, the Spectacled Warbler is smaller, with black lores...
...more extensively dull pink underparts and a shorter primary projection
There was much wing-flicking and the occasional rattlesnake call from the warbler
Wing-flicking from the other angle. Charming!
Note the clear demarcation between white throat and pinkish underparts
A very smart male
Portland is not the easiest place to get to from outside Dorset, and I guess given the late hour of the bird's discovery that not too many people would have made it down from out of county to see it. It was found by a visiting birder on the first day of a five day stay so he will be most welcome to come again! The warbler was not seen today so it was a fortunate and exclusive group which got to enjoy it yesterday. A quick stop at the Ferrybridge car park on the way home as dusk approached found it crawling with migrants, part of yet another handsome fall which has been a feature of Portland this spring: Wheatears appeared to be on every rock, a couple of Whinchats were present, including a startlingly bright male, and an equally startling male Redstart was also hopping around the rocks. All against a carpet of pink thrift. A magical end to the day.
A small but happy band at the Bill
Wheatear at Ferrybridge
Whinchat against a backdrop of thrift
Looking south from Ferrybridge at the back of Chesil Beach to Portland beyond

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