Saturday, 18 September 2021

A Friday Wryneck

I had cycled to Portland Bill four times this year prior to the end of August, but invariably on a weekend or a holiday when there was plenty of time to complete the 55 mile round trip. While sorely tempted to make a midweek dash for the Chough which appeared there back in early May, I worked out that it would be dark before I got there, so took the drive of shame for that particular bird. 

Wryneck, Portland Bill, 3rd September

I knew I could 'do' Lodmoor by bike after work, as I had successfully twitched both Black-winged Stilt and Bonaparte's Gull there. I had even managed to get to Barton-on-Sea over the Hampshire border on a school night for a Black Guillemot, which was about the same distance as Portland Bill, albeit on a flatter route. But I had yet to attempt twitching Portland by bike after work. As September began, the nights had started to draw in, and it felt like there might not be many more opportunities to try. But the presence of a Wryneck at the Bill - two in fact - on Friday 3rd September provided one such opportunity.

Wryneck, Portland Bill, 3rd September

News on the Wrynecks had come through in the morning and updates had been a bit sparse thereafter, but an exchange of messages with Martin Cade confirmed they were still there mid-afternoon at least. So I was away sharply after finishing work and, in pleasant conditions, began the familiar slog through Wool, Winfrith, Warmwell, Weymouth and Wyke Regis before dropping down to Ferrybridge to ruin the alliterative string of place names en route to the Bill. I pushed myself pretty hard and completed the 27 miles in just over 2 hours, the quickest I had managed for that particular journey.

Wryneck, Portland Bill, 3rd September

The Wryneck at the Obs Quarry was reportedly 'showing well' so I went straight there. Digi-scoping expert Paul Hackett had been there a while and broke the unwelcome news that there had been no sign of the Wryneck since his arrival. Weirdly, given the experience of several decades of regular dipping, I hadn't considered the possibility that I might not see the Wryneck. To make matters worse, I had underestimated how quickly the sun would set and it was dropping fast - not great when looking for a warmth-loving, ant-eater of a bird as the base of the quarry was now in full shade. At least one of the resident Little Owls was out enjoying the last few rays so that was something.

Wryneck, Portland Bill, 3rd September

A flattened patch of grass on the lip of the quarry suggested that this might be the best place to look for the Wryneck, so I flopped down there for a breather and decided to call Pete Coe who I guessed might know something of the birds habits. It transpired that he hadn't been down to look for it but before he could finish his sentence explaining as much, a movement caught my eye - it was the Wryneck which promptly sat up in front of me. I alerted Paul, and we enjoyed good views as it made its way around the quarry, perching in brambles and the branches of a dead elder.

Wryneck, Portland Bill, 3rd September

I was delighted, the gamble had paid off and another cycling rubicon - the post-work Portland twitch - had been crossed. Most of the journey home had to be completed in the dark, but after the traditional pit-stop at the Preston chippy, I didn't mind that at all and slept like a log that night with the year-list up to 203.

Little Owl, Portland Bill, 3rd September

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing Pete, your non-motorised year list is basically nearly as big as my entire year list!