The Adventures of Portland Bill

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 8 October 2023 15:44

Part 2 of the trip to Dorset. You can read part 1 here. This post is very moth heavy, and really focuses on a couple of places; Portland and the farm we stayed at, Gorwell Farm.

Gorwell Farm was just a lovely place to holiday and our hosts were very happy for me to do some recording on the farm. I would really recommend staying there if you were keen on wildlife. Actually, I would also recommend staying on any wildlife friendly farm as a great base for any PSL/nature-heavy holiday. You can contribute to what's possibly an under-recorded area and have a really positive impact in the process. We ran a moth trap every night and I knew things were going to be good as on the first night, I saw my first Scarce Bordered Straws in about 30 years!

There were five Delicates in the trap, they seem to be everywhere this year. The farm was just north of Abbotsbury by the way. Vestals were plentiful too.

Among the natives, Feathered Brindles were common. My only other records for are from Dungeness.

Then we got a couple of Convolvulus Hawk-moths! Always a great way to get people excited by moths.

We got a single Gem.

A single but very fresh White-speck.

And some interesting by-catch in the form of a Lesser Stag Beetle under the trap one day.

Yet the highlight of the mothing was this Old World Webworm which had only been a lifer a day or two before at the Obs! Apologies for the the naff photo, but it was about to fly and I only had my camera phone for some daft reason.

We did a bit of recording out on the farm and I found another stonking micro that I have only seen once before, another migrant and occasional resident, Tebenna micalis.

Non-moth inverts of interest included a new hectad record for Theridiosoma gemmosum (Nationally Scarce - just) and the weevil Protapion difforme (Nb).

A huge thanks to Mark, John and Simon Pengelly, we had a lovely time and I will definitely be back! Records coming your way very soon.

Then to Portland. On our first day we headed straight to Portland Bird Observatory (which I have since joined). The network of bird obs around the UK are such bastions of natural history knowledge, they're really important places for sharing and learning about our nature and PBO is no exception. We got there to a hub of activity, as a load of young ringers were staying there. I met Martin Cade, who was nothing other than hugely helpful, knowledgeable and welcoming. We had a look through the trap every time we were on Portland and there were plenty of goodies in it each time.

Radford's Flame Shoulder is clearly daily here. Imagine a regular Flame Shoulder jumping to hyperspace and the camera takes a shot of it just as it starts to move - that's Radford's. Stretch limos also come to mind.

And another lifer, that was abundant at the obs but not at Gorwell at all, was the gorgeous Beautiful Gothic. What a moth!

Other highlights included, Epischnia asteris. A smart looking pyrale that feeds on Golden Samphire.

Finally caught up with Oak Rustic!

And the rare migrant, Antigastra catalaunalis.

I did a bit of recording on the grounds of the Obs and came up with a few goodies. Nigma puella (NS), Berytinus hirticornis (Nb), Alopecosa cuneata (NS), Mecinus circulatus (Nb) and Lasaeola prona (NR). This latter was a new hectad record for this rare spider. I will send the records off to Martin shortly as a thank you!

I finally ticked my biggest bogey bird. As I first saw Balearic Shearwaters some 30 years ago in the Med, I have really not been that bothered about seeing them here, despite doing a lot of sea watching historically (usually in the spring though). I got great views off of Portland Bill.

Karen found a Beautiful Gothic in the toilets and I did a bit of suction sampling on the cliffs, where I found a Beautiful Gothic wing. This is clearly a really abundant moth where it occurs! Lasaeola prona was also here.

Beautiful Gothics everywhere down there!

Agroeca inopina was nice to see.

Then we headed to Tout Quarry, where I got permission to record from Dorset Wildlife Trust. This is a really nice invertebrate habitat. The commonest liny was Trichoncus saxicola, it was everywhere.

It did not take long to get something interesting. The scarce bug Heterogaster artemesiae (which feeds on Wild Thyme). This is a really scarce species and might be new to the site.

And nearby the Nationally Scarce bug Dicranocephalus agilis, only seen this a few times. This one feeds on Sea and Portland Spurge, by the coast obv.

Yet the highlight was getting a spider new to Portland and my 534th UK spider. This Nationally Rare/Vulnerable species is only known from about six locations in the country, so this is a really good find. Zodarion fuscum.

It was so good to finally get onto Portland and get some records. Here is where we got too! I will be back!

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