Archive for April 2012

April 3rd – Portland   Leave a comment

A cold front moving south, which was to lead to snow and high winds in the north the next day, looked like it would produce a fall of migrants, perhaps comparable to the one that occurred last Saturday. As a result I made the effort to get up at 0515 and get to Portland by  0645.

Instead of heading straight for the Observatory, I checked out the Barleycrates/Reap Lane area, about a mile north of the Bill, as this is where most Ring Ouzels have been seen. These ‘mountain Blackbirds’ are a scarce but regular early migrants. There is a good chance that I will see one in Scotland in June  or on autumn migration but it seemed prudent to get one in the spring. In the event I saw a female, but only in flight.

Far more satisfying was several Common Redstarts in the area and up to 60 Wheatears, although most of the latter arrived a couple of hours after dawn. Phylloscs, ie Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers, were quite common, with Willows predominating. Other interesting birds included a Golden Plover overhead, a Peregrine and a small pale warbler that looked just like a Lesser Whitethroat but about ten days too early!

Later I headed down to the Observatory where they had a busy morning ringing, but not on a par with Saturday. As the rush of migrants was now over, I headed home.

Barleycrates Lane, Portland.

A male Redstart, perhaps on route to south-western Scotland or central Wales.

Willow Warblers outnumbered Chiffchaffs

A male Wheatear, a common breeder in Britain's upland areas.

A short distant migrant, Meadow Pipits are common in the early spring.

A male Linnet, another local breeder and partial migrant.

Stonechats seem to have declined in recent years but several pairs can still be seen around Portland.

This male Kestrel perched on fence posts......

... before pouncing on prey in the fields...

.... before returning.....

.... to its original post.

Posted April 4, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

1st April – Kingcombe and Winyards Gap.   Leave a comment

On the Sunday morning we headed back down the hill to Kingcombe centre, where Nick had left the best of his moth trap for guests to see. Dotted Border was a new species for me.

When we had assembled we drove (in a convoy) to Winyards Gap, from where we set out for a five mile walk down into Somerset and back. Many had a pub lunch at Winyard’s Gap and then continued on another walk, but we decided to head home as we now felt pretty knackered.

We woke to a gloriously sunny morning...


Upper Kingcombe Lodge has a series of private fishing lakes.


Hebrew Character, a common early season moth.


Oak Beauty is a moth of oak woodland and not one that I see in Upton.


Dotted Border, an early season moth of woodland


A aerial matrix near Kingcombe was once used to broadcast the BBC world service.


The view from Winyards Gap into Somerset.


Woodspurge, a green flowered plant.


An isolated farm with some unusual garden ornaments.



Posted April 2, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

30th – 31st March – Kingcombe, West Dorset   Leave a comment

Every year the Nexus group books the Kingcombe Centre in west Dorset for a walking weekend. We have been to two such weekends and have really enjoyed them. We left on the Friday evening soon after Margaret got back from work and arrived at Kingcombe about 7pm. This time we were booked into Higher Kingcombe Lodge, a nice B&B just up the road, although we ate at the Kingcombe Centre.

On the Saturday we met at the centre and headed off on a 10.5 mile walk, first to Nettlecombe where we had lunch at the Marquis of Lorne and then, climbing over Eggardon Hill Fort we descended to Tollor Pocorum and returned to Kingcombe.

After the sunny conditions of previous days, today was grey and cool. However these conditions had deposited literally thousands of migrants onto Portland Bill, something I would have loved to have seen. I had to make do with singing Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a single Sand Martin.

Over 30 Nexuns gathered at the Kingcombe Centre on Friday evening.

A couple of orphaned lambs proved a big hit.

Chani took on the role of surrogate mother.

We stayed at the attractive Upper Kingcombe Lodge about a mile away from the centre.

The following morning we gathered at the Kingcombe Centre prior to the hike

In this area there were picturesque old cottages in need of attention.....

... and others in perfect condition.

Shaun the Sheep brought his mates along to meet us.

Some of the tracks in west Dorset are a bit on the steep side.......


... including this climb up Eggardon Hill.


A welcome rest at the top was shortened by the cold wind. It was a bit murky, apparently you can see from St Catherine's Point on the IOW to Start Point in Devon on a clear day.


Part of the summit is occupied by a Neolithic hill fort.


It's a dogs life!


In the evening, the centre's manager (and former RSPB warden) Nick Tomlinson gave us a short talk on future plans for the centre and the extensive wildlife reserve.

Posted April 2, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized