Monday 30th made up for being a bit quieter by producing our first ever record of Hedge Rustic, along with a Copper Underwing, while Setaceous Hebrew Character, predictably enough, became the latest member of the Hundred Club. For the remainder of the morning we drove to Chesil Cove and walked along the rugged shore beneath the western cliffs, dotted with chalets that presumably sell (if ever) for a fortune. It was too calm for any offshore activity but this must be a good spot in spring as migrants pass by on their way upchannel.
Moths captured overnight included a Purple Bar; our 200th macro species of the year in the best night for over a week that yielded 194 moths of 37 species. Our meadow seems much to the liking of the local birds, which this morning included 2 Wheatears and singles of Yellowhammer, Blackbird and Robin. Tired of the Lambeth Walk, we decided to try out the Lodmoor Loop for the rest of the morning and although it was actually fairly quiet (only five species of wader, for example) both Great White Egret, of which there were three, and Teal were new Dorset species for us.
Broadcroft Quarry again this morning, though unlike yesterday it was overcast with a light NE breeze. The hoped-for migrants did not disappoint, the first things of note being 3 Tree Pipits that I could actually hear (my new hearing aids having resurrected a call I lost five or so years ago). 3 Yellow Wagtails and a Raven flew over, at least 19 Whitethroats were scattered about and 12 Wheatears included a party of 11 working their way south across the freshly-cut stones in the quarry itself, where a Common Buzzard was loafing. Probably best of all, 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Spotted Flycatcher were sallying after insects from sycamores at the western edge of the site. Returning home, another Spotted Flycatcher was perched on the gate leading to Howe, but the moth trap was pretty much the same as yesterday, though Setaceous achieved double figures for the first time. Now we’re in for it.
It felt like a good time to think about doing some birding again, so off I went to Broadcroft Quarry on Portland, arriving at 0635 in bright sunshine with a brisk NE breeze. Not the best of conditions, but a few Willow Warblers were in the bushes, 6 Yellow Wagtails were mostly associating with animals in an adjacent horse paddock and a Sparrowhawk and 3 Ravens flew over. The contents of the moth trap reflected the breezy overnight conditions, however.
It was raining along the ridge to the north as we drove to the Brewers Arms last night and only stopped when we got home at 9.30. Consequently the moth trap was very quiet, though the gang were a good deal more sparkly than yesterday morning! Our choice for the rest of the day was Pallington Lakes, east of Dorchester, where we enjoyed Sculpture on the Lakes so much back in May. Rain threatened as we neared the site, but clouds soon dissipated and it turned into a lovely warm and only slightly breezy afternoon. Red Admirals, were abundant, with plenty of Peacocks and a few Commas and Brimstones, a Hobby dashed over our elevated lunch spot and dragonflies included Brown Hawkers, Red-eyed Damselflies and Banded Demoiselles.
Wednesday 18th. Another dull day, in terms of weather, and not much to report apart from a visit to the Dorchester Hearing Centre to investigate the possibility of obtaining hearing aids and a very good takeaway from Lee Garden. We have struggled a bit to find a consistently good Indian takeaway but this was the first Chinese we tried and it has been very good each time we have used them. Best bit of news was that Henry’s first match for Bath Under-16s against Bristol went as well as could have been hoped. He played in the first quarter when Bath went three tries ahead and in the final quarter when they had to claw back a deficit and scored the winning try! Apparently he made two of the first quarter tries as well, so a very proud mum and dad, we expect.
Tuesday 17th and I’m 70! Rewards this morning included Six-striped Rustic in the moth trap, a splendid butterfly-shaped cake from Ben, our 12-year old neighbour next door, a camera from Karen, for taking micro photographs, and loads of good wishes, from family in Dorset and friends back in Kent. Discovering that Sculptures on the Lake was closed we headed to Portland, taking in the sculptures at Tout Quarry, along with a few Chalkhill Blues, then lunched at the Lobster pot at the Bill itself. With good service and reasonably priced food we felt it better than the supposedly up-market Hive Beach. On our way back we looked in on Moonfleet Manor, where we were married in March 2018, and saw 11 Mediterranean Gulls making their way west along The Fleet.
Our evening was spent very enjoyably at the Saxon Arms in Stratton, where Ben’s cake went down pretty much as well as the very nice food and a pint or three of Timothy Taylor Landlord. A jolly nice day, all in all.
Friday night’s moth highlight was a Gem, which seems to be a good record here as there were only 8 Dorset records last year. Otherwise it was a bit of touristy stuff, taking Chrissie and Tony to Poundbury, Hardy’s Monument; surely the most awful structure designed and the sort of thing slugs might come with if they were ever persuaded into architecture. This morning was drizzly and overcast with moth highlights being Bulrush Wainscot (also quite scarce) and Square-spot Rustic. The day did improve slightly but a stiff and rather chill wind made it very unlike August.
Our moth trap this morning was significantly busier, if not back to the dizzy heights of July, and the outstanding highlight was the capture of our first ever Radford’s Flame Shoulder. Previously a rare migrant in autumn it seems to be following a similar trend down here to Golden Twin-spot in Kent, having almost certainly having established itself as a breeding species along the south coast. Nevertheless, smiles all round!
At last, a decent night for trapping turned up a Pinion-streaked Snout among understandably reduced numbers, but at least it meant that we had logged the contents in time for a visit to Broadcroft Quarry. Calm and warm, there was a good mix of birds and butterflies, the avian interest including 12 Willow Warblers, while butterflies included numerous Chalkhill Blues, a late-ish Marbled White and around a dozen Walls. On our way to obtain some shoe laces (you would not believe how difficult it is to find them) we stopped off at Lodmoor where we found around 400 Mediterranean Gulls and five Dorset wader ticks in Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and three each of Green and Common Sandpipers. Must get out more!
The absence of updates reflects the mostly awful weather of the last five days and it is still wet and windy as I type. The last four nights have been too windy and at times too wet to operate the moth trap and apart from one short walk along the railway it has been a case of staying indoors and counting occasional butterflies in the garden, which have at least provided some interest with a Brimstone, a Painted Lady and a couple of Wall sightings in the last few days. Still, the forecast suggests that we are imminently in for something a bit more like summer, a view shared by this pristine Painted Lady nectaring on knapweed in our garden …..
A highly impressive Oak Eggar was extracted from the moth trap, which also saw Common Footman pass the 3,000 mark for the year, which is remarkable given that the only species to pass a thousand in Sandwich was Setaceous Hebrew Character, which reached 1,856 in 2017, while the highest annual total achieved for Common Footman there was 374.
The moth trap was again fairly busy, though Rosy Rustic was the only new one for the year and Common Footman numbers appear to be reducing to sensible levels (still over a hundred, though). A warm, still morning was perfect for wandering along the old railway line and it proved quite productive for butterflies, with the highlights being Common Blue and Wall (another was in the garden). Several presumably locally-bred Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats were calling in the hedgerows in the lane. Karen finished work at 4 and we drove up to Hardy’s Monument and walked around the bracken-covered hillsides, taking in fabulous views down to Chesil and Weymouth harbour, with a hazy Portland in the distance and our first Migrant Hawkers of the summer, plus another Southern Hawker. One of the Magpies we lured overnight decided to pose for a photo, so here it is …..