Reasons to be Cheerful

Saturday, 23rd March 2013

I do sometimes like to be a bit of a rebel and play-down the fun of birding on Portland ;-)

Under Leaden Skies - East Weare, Portland - March 2013

There are several reasons for this. One of these is that by mentioning the mundane (like Mallard) often enough it'll hopefully serve to remind some that while the island does have a first class reputation for the occurrence of rarities, everyday birding on Portland for quite a lot of the time, 'out of season', can also be relatively BORING.

Despite what many may imagine, the number of times when any individual birder actually finds a real rarity on this beloved lump of limestone, is really very few.

If we except those located by ringers, it's probably fair to say that someone who is out in the field here almost every day during the best periods, might only be expected find a verifiable, 'BB' vagrant about once every six or seven years. OK, this may be ten times more likely than most places elsewhere, but it's an important and oft' forgotten fact.

Most of the excitement of birding on Portland lies not so much in what does turn up - but in the thought of what might appear!

It's that very prospect of course that keeps many of us going... 'executing tireless convolusions' around the Top Fields or wherever, ad infinitum.  It's knowing what could and has turned up that maintains the momentum, decade after decade

I suspect that if we relied on these real rarities for salvation from the monotony of often pretty mindless meanderings, bus loads of birders might have given up long ago, and taken up more immediately gratifying pursuits. Thank goodness therefore for birds such as the one that turned up 'Out of the Blue', (well, 'battleship-grey'), today.

'The Bluethroat'

Oriole, Wryneck, Hoopoe, Serin, Firecrest, Woodchat Shrike, Melodious Warbler of course, and even Balearic Shearwater, are all synonymous with Portland. There is a real chance of finding any of these and many other species that are encountered much less frequently elsewhere. It's just as well then that we don't 'rely' only with the remote possibility of scoring with a 'mega', mind-blowing, national or even Western Palearctic rarity, and that we are all able to regularly find and enjoy such a stunning selection of scarcities.

Sometimes during the migration it's possible to turn up a moderately unusual bird even in the most unfavourable conditions, as in my weather photo above. Such was today's adult male Bluethroat that was caught in the Obs mist nets. Have a look here:  PBO Bluethroat link

For those like myself who were unaware that White-spotted Bluethroats can show some red in their breast where the white spot 'should' be (!) please also check out this enlightening research published on Martin Garner's 'Birding Frontiers' website. Thanks 'Prof' for pointing this out.

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