Pied Flycatcher – Portland, Dorset

A friend of mine had posted photos of an Osprey on a nesting platform in Poole Harbour and having got more information Dad and I decided to go the next day and combine it with a trip to Portland.

The next morning we parked at Arne RSPB and walked out to Coombe Heath and the viewpoint which overlooks the harbour and sure enough the female Osprey was on the nesting platform. She had just arrived from West Africa and the camera on the new Middlebere nesting platform showed that she had a blue ring which revealed that she was a four year old female from Rutland who originally visited Poole Harbour in 2017.

Also during 2017 a project in Poole Harbour had released five six-week old Osprey chicks from a healthy, sustainable population in Scotland. Before their long migration to West Africa these chicks had a six week period to imprint on the area and adopt Poole as their new home. During 2017 our newly arrived female had spent a week feeding with and associating with these newly released chicks. 

In 2018 she reappeared in the harbour and spent most of the summer on nest platforms around the Arne peninsular.

In 2019 it is hoped that one of the males from the 2017 release will return to Poole Harbour and pair up with our female. After about 20 minutes she took off and so we also had good flight views. Whilst at Arne we also saw Whimbrel, Dartford Warbler and heard Woodlark briefly.

Later – during the rest of April and May CJ7 showed a strong urge to breed by regularly bringing back new nesting material to the platform, however, no male joined her. That changed on the 12th June when LS7 one of the males from 2017 appeared and they quickly paired up sharing the nesting platform. Although, by then, it was too late to breed this year (and LS7 may not be quite ready anyway) it is exciting news for 2020.

With the first part of the day successful we headed off to Portland. The targets were a female Serin which had spent the previous day at the barn on Reap Lane along with a Whinchat, a male Pied Flycatcher at nearby Southwell and then the wintering Short-eared Owls which were still lingering at the Bill. 

We arrived at Reap Lane and almost immediately found a gorgeous male Redstart and several smart Whinchats. The Serin had been a bit elusive the previous day hiding away in a weedy field only popping up occasionally. Someone claimed to have seen the Serin earlier but in the hour we were there, there was no sign and no one reported it again during the day. While looking we saw and then heard a Grasshopper Warbler singing. Also a Yellow Wagtail was with cattle in the paddocks. A Short-eared owl flew north just up the track but we didn’t get onto it, this was either a newly arrived migrant or one of the Portland Bill wintering birds deciding to leave. Another birder gave me good directions for the Pied Flycatcher at Southwell, although he hadn’t seen it on his walk this morning. 

We made the short walk over to where Southwell School used to be (it has now been demolished!) and soon found the trees where the Pied Flycatcher had been seen the previous day. Pretty soon I managed to find the lovely black and white male and we watched him for 30 minutes or so. There were lots of Blackcaps as well and we also found a female Pied Flycatcher.

Next on the itinerary were Short-eared Owls at Portland Bill. We decided we would park and walk south from Southwell Business Park.

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