WHILE THE ISLE of Portland is recognised as one of the top birding hotspots during periods of migration, it is the southern half of the island from Southwell to the bill tip which gets the lion’s share of attention. For many years in the past, the Observatory recording area only stretched as far as Southwell but today, the whole of Portland, as far as Ferrybridge on the Chesil Beach, now comes within it. So, we’ll take a look around the north of the island encompassing Verne Common and Portland Castle. The Royal Naval Cemetery overlooks Portland Harbour, while the former Verne Prison is at the summit. In parts, the area looks harsh. Rugged limestone cliffs with bordering fields and, what has now become, overgrown areas of scrub and trees. Peregrine and Raven breed on the cliffs, together with large numbers of Jackdaws. The scrub below holds breeding warblers and attracts migrants and the cemetery trees attract flycatchers, with Pallas’s and Yellow-browed Warblers in recent years, and Nightingale has bred. Red-backed Shrike, Golden Oriole and Ortolan Bunting have also put in appearances. The nearby Portland Castle gardens is worth checking during spring and autumn migration – it’s one of the best locations on Portland for Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher in spring, and Yellowbrowed Warbler in the late autumn. Check fields near the Naval Cemetery for Stonechat, Linnet, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear and wagtails at passage periods.
1Follow the path towards the Naval Cemetery and beyond. Breeding birds include Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit and Song Thrush. Keep an eye on the sky for passage Osprey.
2Check the trees around Portland Castle during spring and autumn migrations. Black Redstart is a regular visitor to the area.
3Large areas of the harbour can be viewed, best in winter for divers, grebes, Eider, Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. Gales may blow in Leach’s Petrel, Sabine’s Gull, skuas and Gannet.
4Best to visit during spring or autumn migration
Black Redstart Raven