Thursday, November 15, 2012

Portland mauve patch

Couldnt get to the Dusky Warbler yesterday evening so gave it a go this morning. The winds were south east, so while it was still a bit chilly for small birds to be showing well I decided to do some vis migging at the Portland Heights. In these winds birds are moving roughly along the Chesil where they then meet Portland and are forced up and over. At this time of the year however we are looking for quality not quantity but today turned out to be the other way around. For some reason there was a huge movement of Starlings.

 As we know most birds seen on a vis mig are moving into the wind. However it seems that Starlings have their own ideas. These birds were moving roughly on a north east heading. At first they were coming from along the west cliffs in flocks of a few hundred but later also started coming more from the central areas. In total I counted 9860 birds including one flock of 2780 (counted from one of the photographs!).
Other noteworthy birds moving were 2 Snipe and a Mistle Thrush

More flocks of birds. Brents coming in to Ferrybridge

My photographic yearlist is rather frustratingly still languishing back on 281.
Although with still some common stuff to get I reckon I can still get to 300. If I don't then I may well be relying on claiming the magic total sometime in the future when stuff like Sibe Chiff and this Black Brant eventually get split!

Being flushed by dog walker

By the time I had finished mucking about I didnt get to Portland Castle to look for the Dusky Warbler until around 10.30. Despite it being a lovely sunny morning, nobody had seen or heard it all morning. I gave it until 11.30 by which time most other people had also gone.
As is always the case, I had just got home when there was the message on the pager - 'Dusky Warbler seen again just after mid-day at Portland Castle' And to add insult to injury also a Pallas's Warbler at the Verne, another bird needed for the year list.
Couldnt get back that afternoon, so it was back again the next morning. As with before, decided to have a look for my own birds first whilst waiting for any news. All a bit quiet at the Bill with a Pom Skua and a few Brambling being the only notable birds. News on the Dusky and Pallas's Warbler was negative but despite this, after lunch decided to make a concerted effort to try and refind the Dusky. After soon getting bored of the Castle grounds, the search area was expanded. I ended up wandering onto some waste ground in the Osprey quay area where I kicked up a flash of black and white from behind some temporary fencing. It flew up and landed on the fence. It was a Hoopoe! You could have knocked me down with a feather, there couldnt have been a bird further from my thoughts.
I quickly got the camera out and managed a few shots of it on the fence before it dropped down on my side and proceeded to happily feed, not at all bothered by my presence.

After getting over the initial shock and putting the news out I was able to watch it at close range.
Its overall appearance seemed unusually dark. It was also very confiding. Normally Hoopoes tend to flush at quite long range and then proceed to fly off into the distance. With the recent run of birds my thoughts immediately went east, in particular saturata which is a darker race.

(I later did some research and it seems like its probably not a dark enough bird for saturata. Also most of the photos of these birds tended to show a much greyer back than this)

Martin getting some shots from his car

Coastguard rescue Helicopter hovering close by and being filmed for the local news. The plan is to scrap the service.