I aimed to keep up with my early starts for the duration of the holiday, so set my alarm for 5.30 in the morning with the aim of doing the moths on the toilet block followed by a visit to nearby Winfrith Heath, which has become something of a local patch for the holiday.
I did the quick moth round, but there was nothing really any different. Most of yesterday’s moths were still in the same location as they had been, and the number of new moths was low. The only real addition to the moth fauna of the holiday was a Dark Arches that was on the toilet block where the hawkmoth had been the day before.
Next I cycled on to the heath. It was a muggy morning but as the morning drew on the sun decided to make its first appearance of the holiday, and by the time I was heading back for breakfast it was a very pleasant and warm day.
This was reflected in the fact that a number of insect species were on the wing, despite the early time of day. I finally got my Odonata list out of the hangar with a good number of Banded Demoiselles that were associating with the bracken alongside the river. I was able to add to that a nice female Keeled Skimmer and brief views of a Golden-Ringed Dragonfly.
Despite the weather picking up, there were no reptiles on any of the open areas of ground, nor were there any on the corrugated iron sheets that had been put down. Fortunately the birds more than made up for this, as I got a bumper haul of species from the morning.
I got a few Siskins in flight from the nearby pine trees, and a Tree Pipit chilling on a small conifer in the middle of the heathland. The real stars of the day were the Dartford Warblers. I am accustom to seeing these birds flit in and around the gorse, so I felt my luck was in when I encountered 2 juveniles flitting along the fence line adjacent to the railway. I was pretty thrilled about that, but it got even better when I wandered round the main hillock on the heath, as round the far side there was a superb adult which was sitting out in the open only around 6 feet away. I got a few nice photos of the exceptional view I got of it. It was calling similar to a Whitethroat when in distress, so I decided that it was probably best to leave it, just in case it was upset. And then, on the bird front, if it could not get any better, I had a flock of around 7 flyover Crossbills, which was an unexpected bonus.
I arrived back at the caravan site for around 8.30 ready for breakfast and a full day out in what appeared to be the first nice day of the holiday. The consensus was that my family were heading to Portland Bill for a walk, so I decided to go down with them and have a look round the site which I had not looked at before.
We arrived at the Bill for around 10.30, upon which my family decided to go for a morning drink at the café. As a committed birdwatcher I decided to do my first independent Seawatching from the Bill, in the hope of getting a Balearic Shearwater and a few other coastal species.
I probably spent an hour watching the birds off the Bill. There were not masses of birds moving but there was decent quality. I felt I was tested but managed to do it reasonably well, and it was my first outing with the new scope in Seawatching.
There were a few Guillemots moving, blogging to and fro as well as plenty of Gannets of a number of different ages. The first real nice birds for the watch were 2 Pale phase and a Dark phase Arctic Skua that flew through relatively close in, and I got really nice views through the scope. They were a yeartick and my second yeartick was Shag, with a few of them in the area flying to and fro. At 11.10 I was treated to my target bird, when a mid-distance Balearic Shearwater flew past. It was banking in and out of the waves at it moved past but I was able to pick up the key features as it whizzed on by. Unknown to me at this point but there had been one ‘lingering’ all morning before, but to see it for myself was pretty special and I was chuffed to bits with that. I also had a Mediterranean Gull and 4 Common Scoter fly past. So overall it was an exceptional session. Also of note were 3 Rock Pipits that were blogging around the shore below me, a nice holiday tick.
At this point my family returned, explaining that they intended to go for a walk along the cliff up to a nearby cove for lunch. Since movement was slow and I had most of what I wanted I decided to go with them. The wind was still quite strong so there were not many insects on the wing along the coast. However there were a few more birds that were not seabirds around. The highlight of these was a pair of Raven feeding in a field, but there was also a very confiding Kestrel, perched on a fencepost just over 9 feet away.
As we walked along the coast we began to dip in and out of old limestone quarries where it was more sheltered. Here there were a few more butterflies on the wing, which finally meant my holiday butterfly list was getting somewhere. My dad pointed out a Marbled White, but soon these were everywhere, while there remained good numbers of Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper.
It started to get exciting when I spotted a Skipper roosting on the path. Sadly I had the wrong lens on and my attempts to get a photo were poor, but I head a sneaking suspicion that it might be a Lulworth Skipper, a Dorset specialty. Before I managed any decent record shots it took flight and I lost it, but I remained optimistic that the photos might show it was, when compared to a guide book back at the caravan.
I need not have worried, as further along the coast I found another skipper which was far more obliging, allowing me good views of all the features I needed, leaving me in little doubt that I had found a Lulworth Skipper. All doubts were finally laid to rest when I compared this individual to the book back home, showing beyond all doubt that I had my first butterfly lifer of the year. I had a strong feeling when I initially saw it that this was a Lulworth and so had taken plenty of photos for the record, but the initial shots also showed that the first skipper had been a Lulworth too. Both were females. What a super little thing.
Buzzing from that I continued along my way. By now my parents had long gone due to my constantly being distracted. My brother came back though, saying he had found a lizard, so we headed up that way to see a stunning Common Lizard sunning itself under the wall alongside the road. I grabbed a few photos of this one, but it was the first of many along the coast route, though many were only fleeting glimpses.
Butterfly numbers had picked up through the walk, and I was beginning to build up a decent species list. There were a few Lulworth Skippers around, as well as Small and Large Skippers to offer comparisons. A few blue butterflies also appeared, initially only Common but soon a few Chalk-Hill too, which are always a delight to see. The real bonus butterfly was a Grayling which I accidentally flushed, but was able to follow back to its landing point on the path to grab some photos. It’s an England tick for me, having only seen them previously in Scotland, and then a long time ago. Overall I was thrilled and it could not get much better.
Or that’s what I thought until after lunch when me and my brother began looking again. We had a while to wait while my dad fetched the car, so we had a look at the grassland on the Northern side of the cove in which we had eaten lunch in the hope of maybe finding an Adonis blue, the only other potential butterfly lifer. Sadly not, but I did get a superb alternative.
I was just strolling through the grassland, my brother along the cliff-top when I spotted a large Yellow Butterfly flying over the shrubs. I had seen this only one time before but I knew immediately what it was; Clouded Yellow. I immediately began shouting and calling as I could not believe what I was seeing. We were able to follow its movement along the cliff as it rested on a number of flowers. Sadly it never rested wings open, which was disappointing, but I managed some nice shots of it perched up wings closed. If there was anything that could have been added to the day I had already had, this would have been. What a superb insect.
It had been thrilling to see that, and that’s an understatement. What an insect filled day. And it was not just the butterflies, as I was able to finally, finally see a live Cockchaffer beetle. My brother found it crawling on the floor, but it did not stick around long before flying off. There were not only Cockchaffer but also their green cousins in the form of Rose Chaffers, which were sitting in their usual position atop a large white flower.
After that we had a quick look at Chesil Beach, but the weather had started to set in and there was nothing of any real note there. We ended the day back at the Caravan, where we stumbled across a Common Shrew that had come into the Awning. I managed to get it out when it ran into a food crate, but it was full of energy, as Shrews are. A final note is that out evening meal was interrupted rudely by a massive House Spider. What a superb day.
Winfrith Heath: Linnet, Blackbird, Robin, Rook, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Tree Pipit, Chaffinch, Stonechat, Magpie, Cormorant, Siskin, Swift, Dartford Warbler, Great Tit, Willow Warbler, Crossbill, Skylark, Keeled Skimmer, Golden-Ringed Dragonfly, Banded Demoiselle, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Painted Lady, Large Skipper,
Portland Bill: Guillemot, Gannet, Arctic Skua, Shag, Herring Gull, Rock Pipit, Balearic Shearwater, Great Black-Backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Cormorant, Common Scoter, Linnet, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Starling, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Woodpigeon, Black-Headed Gull, Skylark, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Swallow, Common Buzzard, Common Lizard, Common Blue, Chalk-Hill Blue, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Lulworth Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Small Heath, Grayling, Large White, Clouded Yellow,