East Weares, Portland, 2012

This is intended as informal, but comprehensive, summary of the birds that Jon and I saw following our extensive coverage of the East Weares, Portland, in 2012. During this time we each walked over 200 miles here in search of birds - most often as a team, but frequently also on independent outings.


The area birders refer to as the 'East Weares' at Portland is a one and half mile stretch of coast on the east side of the Island reaching from Church Ope Cove, in the south, to the Portland Port boundary fence in the north. By local tradition the northern half of the Weares is called 'East Weare', and the southern section, 'Penn's Weare'.

The area is characterised by largely overgrown and disused, limestone quarry workings that range from the shoreline to the base of cliffs several hundred yards inland. Trees are rather sparse here except for on the northern slopes where Sycamore is the dominant species. There are several tidal pools at the shoreline and 'Little Beach', below the midway section of cliff at 'Grove Point'. Access to the shore can also be had at several other places, notably at the northern perimeter fence where a small concrete pier exists from where one can view Portland Harbour Breakwater in the mid-distance.

The start of our walk - the cliffs at Penn's Weare, Portland, seen here in October.

We bird the area by walking more or less the same route every time, (and re-tracing the same path) along the one point six mile length of disused railway line that lies at the foot of the cliffs between Rufus Castle at Church Ope Cove, and the pier at the port fence. We most often note all the species we see during our average three-hour visit. Migratory species and a few other birds of particular, rather random (!) interest are counted where possible. We do not stop and sea-watch as such during visits. Our tally includes every species seen within, and from our area; some seabirds are therefore noted as the ocean remains close-by, in full view throughout.

Please refer to the Views and Maps pages on this blog for further information.

Systematic List

Brent Goose:
Several winter records of birds passing, the highest count being 6.

Common Scoter:
Highest number, 11 birds passing on 10th October.

A single bird flew west with 8 Common Scoter on the extraordinary date of July 23rd.

Breeding as usual on Grove Cliffs, no birds seen during October or November.

Fulmar at Grove Point, Portland

Manx Shearwater:
Several records

Balearic Shearwater:
One past on September 17th

Highest count 38 on October 10th attracted by disturbance caused by pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins



Little Egret:
Seen on eight occasions, 2 birds present on July 8th (adult and immature) and 2 on November 15th.

Little Egret off Grove Point on September 15th 2012

Grey Heron:
Seen occasionally at the tidal pools near Grove Point.

Montagu's Harrier:
A ring-tail bird flew close overhead in a north-easterly direction on May 27th.

Birds seen most regularly in September and October.  Four birds together overhead at East Weare on September 16th. A single female seen frequently hunting over Penn Weare in October. 

Birds seen throughout the year. A pair seen regularly  the at East Weare near Nikodemus Knob where breeding suspected. Food being carried to a site high on the cliff. Birds seen from time to time at Penn Weare to the south may be from the Cheyne territory near Southwell.

Two territories believed to have been occupied and many other birds passing through towards autumn. Six birds present on October 25th.

A single, adult bird, on October 11th.

Seen on almost every visit, a pair raised two young at Grove Cliff.

It is impossible to correctly assess the number of birds present during any one visit at so much of the lower shore is hidden from view, and the birds don't always flock together. Oystercatcher was seen on most visits. The highest number was eight together on September 7th and 29th. Six and seven birds were frequently seen together from July onwards.

Ringed Plover:
One bird heard on August 16th

Common Sandpiper:
Seen on seven occasions between July 4th and September 16th. Three present on August 28th.

Pomarine Skua:
One bird passing out to sea on September 26th.

They 'never' come around this side of the island, or if they do they must be miles out, despite breeding just around the corner of Portland Bill. One bird seen on October 11th.

Black-headed Gull:
Seen on twenty occasions between July 24th and November 16th. The highest number by far being 35 on October 16th.

Mediterranean Gull:
Seen only twice, both times in October. Six birds on the 16th (re. B.h Gull influx at Little Beach, above).

Common Gull:
Four sightings between September 25th and November 15th.

Lesser-black-backed Gull:
Six sightings in July, and one for July, August, September and November.

Herring Gull:
Common breeding resident. Influxes of juvenile birds flocking at Little Beach in late July.

Yellow-legged Gull:
Single juveniles on July 23rd and 26th.

Herring and Yellow-legged Gulls - 26th July 2012

Great-black-backed Gull;
Resident. Breeding nearby on Portland  Breakwater.

Sandwich Tern:
Two records for July. (minimal spring coverage).

Common Tern:
One on September 25th.

One on July 23rd - that's all. Breeds just around Portland Bill.

Feral Pigeon:
Resident. Highest number 45 on September 27th.

Wood Pigeon:
Resident and moving through: 115 on October 15th. 

Little Owl:
We don't usually go on the Weares at night. One daytime at a part of Penn Weare where we don't usually visit close up, on May 28th.

Seen ten times between the end of May until the end of August.

One on the path near the Port fence and King's Pier on August 16th.

Great-spotted Woodpecker:
Present on five occasions between July 15th and October 4th; thought to be juvenile birds dispersing southwards from the mainland.



Resident on cliffs at Grove Point. About seven pairs? Will study more closely in 2013.

One over on September 26th.

Carrion Crow.

Seen almost every visit. Breeds just outside our area. Four birds together on July 5th and August 14th.

Seen in the month of September, October and November with a maximum of five birds on 1st November.

A single bird on 11th October. Other brief views of birds thought likely to have been this species.

Blue Tit:
A resident species that's breeding success is believed to have been compromised by the wet summer. Very few birds seen early in the season.

Great Tit
Resident breeding species. More numerous than the former.

Coal Tit:
One bird of indeterminate race on 6th November.

Surprisingly, hardly ever seen over here: two records, in September and October.

Sand Martin:
Seen migrating overhead, most often along the cliff at Penn's Weare, only in September.

The most frequently seen hirundine. Noted between May and 1st November. Migrants moved overhead along clifftop, southwards in autumn with martins.

House Martin:
As for Sand Martin except: seen from May to 11th of October. The highest count being c100 on 16th September. Flock of c40 birds regularly seen between Grove Point and Nikodemus knob in late summer were most likely local, breeding birds.

Long-tailed Tit:
None seen before 27th of June when a family part of 6 were noted. Last seen on on 16th November; a flock of 11 birds together. The species breeds in or very close to our area.

Seen until 16th November. Breeds with two or three pairs present. Little movement noted with a maximum of twelve birds counted on 11th October.

Willow Warbler:
Seen mainly in August and September. No evidence of breeding.

Breeds in small numbers. The Blackcap is a iconic bird of the Weares. It passes through in 'large numbers' in autumn - that can be impossible to estimate - taking advantage of the bountiful Cotoneaster berries.

Garden Warbler:
Three records: between August and October. Two together on 3rd September.

Lesser Whitethroat:
Another 'iconic' bird of the East Weares. Five or six males were heard singing in 2012. The species' breeding success is believed to have been severely compromised by the wet summer.

A rather common summer visitor that breeds in good numbers. No doubt affected by the bad weather as the previous species.

Grasshopper Warbler:
One seen very close to and well on 7th of September was a 'first' for the area for us.

Numerous breeding resident. Seen or heard on almost every visit.

list of 2012 species continued - further details to follow


Ring Ouzel:



Song Thrush:


Mistle Thrush:

Spotted Flycatcher:


Black Redstart:






House Sparrow:

Yellow Wagtail:

Grey Wagtail:

Pied / White Wagtail:

Tree Pipit:

Meadow Pipit:

Rock Pipit:









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