Sunday, 15 May 2011

Fan-tailed Warbler, Portland Bill, Year 2000

They say 'time flies' and none more so than when you relate it to an event in life! It was 11 years ago today that I enjoyed what has so far been the 'second' best single bird find in the UK in what has nearly been 40 pursuing the hobby. A fine day in the year 2000, when I had covered a similar track to that which is covered today, only to find a few low flying Swifts at Radipole and just a single Swallow on Portland. Stopping at the Observatory for a usual chat and coffee with the Warden, around about mid-morning I decided to head for home. Why it was I turned left on leaving the Obs remains a mystery still, but on arrival at the then Devenish pub at the Bill there was a 'zitting' sound coming from ahead of me and seemingly quite high. Even before raising my binoculars my heart was in my mouth, and as I did so a small flying creature (thought at first to be a Bumble Bee) immediately came into view. It was initially at great distance, but as it neared it was seen to be a small bird which I was sure, right away, had to be a Fan-tailed Warbler.

Perhaps more correctly known as Zitting Cisticola I was now loudly willing it to land, but unfortunately it flew over my head, completed a circuit around the lighthouse, that is the Portland Bird Observatory, then headed back out to sea. The good fortune was that it remained vocal throughout and soon returned to where I stood, landing close by in a bush. Confirming my suspicions I ran to the Obs, a fair distance away where Alan Bull joined me to return to the site leaving Martin Cade to furl the mist nets as he was duty bound to do before following us. With no mobile phone in those days I spent most of the afternoon dashing backwards and forwards to the telephone box at the southern end of the Common until everyone was alerted. How many people 'twitched' this bird will never be known but during the next couple of days I spoke to people from as far away as Glasgow in Scotland. This was the 'third' record for Great Britain and the 'second' for Dorset, but when they tell you lightning never strikes in the same place twice, don't believe them as another was found at Hengistbury head (a few mile to the east) a couple of days later. Both photos are from the archive and taken in Cyprus in 2007.

Maybe needless to say there was no 'rarity' for me today, but the weather continued to be fine with some cloudy periods, with the wind remaining in the north west and a little fresher than yesterday.

Ferrybridge was once again very quiet with just a small flock of 28, very flighty, Dunlin and a single Turnstone. There were however 2 Shelduck there later in the day. Waiting for the bus to take me onward, Roger ? a fellow 'birder' from Somerset, stopped and gave me a lift.

Dropping me at the crest of what is known as Bill Hill, I took some time to sit there listening to the Skylarks and to muse over what fantastic surrounding we live in. Still buzzing with the delight of it all, I took this picture and then continued to wander the Top Fields quickly finding

2 Whinchats

this Magpie which was worthy of

more than one flight shot,

plus numerous Wall Brown Butterflies. Continuing through Helen's Field and rejoining the main path, I decided to walk the circuit again but not before locating

3 Yellow Wagtails,

not surprisingly

in one of the horse paddocks. These beautiful insect eating birds favour fields holding farm animals as they attract a ready supply of groceries!

The next 2 fields held 5 Spotted Flycatchers, there for the same reason,

as this extremely vocal Wren allowed close approach, obviously more interested in getting the song right!

Pied Wagtails were also around in good numbers, as were

Swallows allowing me opportunity to practice capturing 'flight shots'.

Common Whitethroats seem to have arrived in good numbers,

holding territories and trying to attract a mate just about everywhere you go - Good News indeed!

Another dainty little flower that seems to be springing up everywhere that I can't find in the book.

Throughout today's wander it was Wheatear that seemed most numerous, but while I only saw about a dozen

there were others who had seen more, and there was also singles of both Common Swift and Great Northern Diver.

With the weather continuing to be dry, most of the puddles hereabouts have dried up. Not least the one featured in last weeks photograph of House Martins collecting mud for their nests. On my way to the Obs I stopped for a chat with local land owner Curtis Gould who said he could go some way to rectifying this. By the time I returned, true to his word he had collected a 50 gallon drum of water and deposited it in this depression - I think I'll have to start calling him 'Martin'.

As promised the last of the photographs from the Wareham Forest:-


One of the many Ferns

Rhododendron, now blooming everywhere despite efforts to eradicate it.

Square Spot Moth

and finally, this photograph of the pair of

Canada Geese (taken by Brian Axford of Reels & Deals Fishing Tackle, Weymouth) which are the first record of this species breeding on the Isle of Portland.

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