19th October

In an ever-freshening southerly birding wasn't a doddle but for those that stuck with it there was a lot of variety on offer today, with a scarcity list that included the long-staying Rosy Starling at Easton, the first showing at Ferrybridge this season of one of the Fleet Black Brants, 34 Crossbills (in three parties overhead), 8 Black Redstarts, 4 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Firecrests and singles of Balearic Shearwater, Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Most commoner migrants were less numerous on the ground than they'd been yesterday although there did seem to be an improved spread everywhere of various 'under the radar' species like Wrens, Robins and Stonechats.

The Yellow-browed Warbler near Bowers Quarry © Simon Wood:


The Ferrybridge Black Brant © Andrew Slade:


One of the day's Crossbills © Joe Stockwell:


Purple Sandpiper at the Bill © Roy Norris:


One of our favourite birds of the day was this nice young male Brambling trapped at the Obs © Martin Cade:


18th October

Knowing that yesterday's Great Grey Shrike had gone to ground at dusk (and with a band of rain sitting in the Channel), it seemed likely that the bird had gone to roost locally. This prediction was proved correct as the gloomy dawn was brightened when the bird was trapped in the Obs garden. The nets continued to produce through the morning as another eastern type Lesser Whitethroat emerged in the Crown Field and was trapped shortly afterwards. The final highlight in the nets came when one of the three Dartford Warblers was trapped. Away from the nets, today saw the first real influx of Goldcrests with over 70 recorded in the Obs area, bringing with them two Firecrests and a single Yellow-browed Warbler  Today also saw the first significant arrival of Black Redstarts with a minimum of eight birds around the Bill, as well as potentially the last Redstart of the year in the Obs garden. Ring Ouzels put in another good display with the West Weares group up to six, and two in Top Fields. The now usual supposrting cast of Chaffinches, Redwings and Song Thrushes also included a single figure totals of Redpoll and Brambling. A strong westbound movement of nearly 1000 auks provided the main interest on the sea.

Maybe not all that surprisingly bearing in mind the tally of island records is only just into double figures, today's Great Grey Shrike was the first trapped and ringed here © Martin Cade (top) and Joe Stockwell:


Always a wee bit overshadowed by the ever-increasing Yellow-browed Warblers, Siberian Lesser Whitethroat has lately overtaken Pallas's Warbler to become the second most frequent eastern rarity at Portland - today's bird was a new arrival in the Crown Estate Field © Martin Cade:


After a lean season last autumn this year's seen a resurgence in Dartford Warbler numbers © Martin Cade:

At least two of the newly arrived Black Redstarts were stonking males © Joe Stockwell (top) and Erin Taylor (bottom):


17th October

Another day that had plenty of promise but ultimately only really delivered a Great Grey Shrike that unhelpfully proved to be both mobile and elusive. The heavy cloud cover at dawn and close proximity of some rain during the afternoon did drop a few new arrivals - Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs in particular increased everywhere - but there were only paltry numbers of the likes of thrushes that might have been expected to be better represented; scarcer migrants included 5 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Merlins, and singles of Short-eared Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black Redstart and Dartford Warbler. Three Teal, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and singles of Balearic ShearwaterWigeon and Arctic Skua were of note on the sea at the Bill.

The Great Grey Shrike was a really tricky bird to get to grips with: these photos were snatched moments after it was discovered when it made a fleeting visit to a private garden at Southwell; it was only seen once more when it popped up equally briefly in the Crown Estate Field an hour later © Nick Stantiford:


16th October


A reminder that we'll be hosting an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10 am and 4pm this Sunday, 18th October

With a heavy cloud cover overhead dawn promised birds aplenty but failed to deliver, with overhead passage reduced to little more than a trickle and ground migrants far from plentiful. The day was somewhat saved by a fair spread of less frequent migrants that included 8 Ring Ouzels (including 5 at West Weare), 7 Yellow-browed Warblers (including 3 at Old Hill), 6 Crossbills, 4 Merlins, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests and a Lapland Bunting; the Rosy Starling also remained in situ at Easton and a Cattle Egret flying over Ferrybridge was a surprise oddity. If numbers were lower than expected then at least common migrants variety was up to par, with most of the typical late autumn fare represented: Redpolls staged a good showing overhead that included 53 over the Bill but visible passage was otherwise rather pedestrian; few if any of the meagre grounded totals were worthy of a mention. After their good showing earlier in the week Kittiwake passage resumed, with 135 through off the Bill where a passing Arctic Skua was also of note. 

After being absent for the best part of the year Clouded Yellows have been featuring daily in quite good numbers just lately - these two were at Church Ope Cove this afternoon © James Phillips

15th October

Despite the crystal clear skies, the favorable wind continued to produce a steady stream of passage migrants that continued well into the afternoon. The most notable increase was in thrushes with pulses of Redwings, Fieldfares and Song Thrushes heading in off the sea, and exploding out of every fruit covered bush across the island. Perhaps the most impressive showing came from the Blackbirds, but finches also put in a good display with 47 Redpolls overhead the second highest day count of the year. In amongst the triple-figure droves of Chaffinches came 16 Bramblings, 39 Siskins and four Crossbills. Although the mega never materialised, some points of interest included a Lapland Bunting in off the West Cliffs, a Jack Snipe flushed off the centre track and the first Black Redstart of the autumn at Barleycrates Lane. The now expected Yellow-browed Warblers were in place once again as well as four Ring Ouzels on the West Weares and two Dartford Warblers by the Business Park. 

In non-avian news, the first Vagrant Emperor of the year was spotted dashing around the Crown Field.  

Even the less favourable perches were taken around the Bill, with Blackcaps making use of the shelter in Burdock, Chiffchaffs flycatching off the Golden Samphire and the Redpolls making use of the brittle Alexanders remains © Erin Taylor:




The overhead passage this morning was spectacular © Joe Stockwell:



14th October

Movement was the order of the day today, with a rain front sitting not too far out in the Channel seemingly deflecting a steady passage of Swallows, Meadow Pipits, thrushes, finches and the like toward the island; in a stiff northeasterly and under relatively clear skies over the island itself most birds headed straight through northward. Passage was on a broad front so was tricky to keep abreast of but sample counts at several strategic spots suggested day-totals from the Bill were of the order of 800 Chaffinches, 700 Meadow Pipits, 500 apiece of Swallow, Starling and Linnet, and 250 Redwings; the good spread of further variety included 13 Crossbills, 9 Lapwings, 3 Merlins and 2 Snipe. At least 5 Yellow-browed Warblers were scattered about but birding on the ground was hard work in the wind and, aside from a freaky Great White Egret that pitched into a bone-dry horse paddock at Wakeham, 3 Ring Ouzels, a Short-eared Owl and a Dartford Warbler in the relative shelter of West Weare were the best that could be unearthed. In an offshore wind 14 Brent Geese and 6 Wigeon off the Bill were the best mustered from the sea

13th October

After yesterday's flush of scarcities today was quite an odd day with the best arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers to date - at least 12 were discovered scattered through the usual hotspots for this now entirely expected migrant - but far less by way of routine late autumn fare than might have been hoped. A selection of oddities uncovered or still about included the Red-breasted Flycatcher and a/the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill, single Dartford Warblers at the Bill and East Weare and a Long-eared Owl at the Grove, whilst there were a series of frustrating heard-only fly-overs that escaped being clinched. Siskins continued to feature overhead with another 95 through over the Bill, but commoner migrants were for the most part inexplicably few and far between on the ground with, for example, just one Redwing at the Bill on a day after many tens of thousands had been on the move not all that far away - migration can be really strange! With the breeze having switched back to the northwest sea interest was limited to a few hundred auks and 2 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill.

Yellow-browed Warblers were all over the place today © Nick Hopper...


...and they were still coming out of the woodwork at dusk: this one popped up literally after sunset at the Grove - once it dropped into thick cover it was barely resolvable with the naked eye but cameras are so good these days that with a massive iso setting it was still possible to get a perfectly acceptable record shot © Martin Cade:


The Red-breasted Flycatcher led folk a merry dance today: it was first retrapped at dawn at Culverwell but then variously turned up in the Strips, in the middle of the Crown Estate Field, at the Obs and at the Privet Hedge - we're struggling to think of a passerine that's ever done anything like that before! © Martin Cade:

12th October

Being connoisseurs of lacklustre conditions the recent mediocrity inflicted on us has hardly come as a surprise; today, though, was a different kettle of fish and for some while had looked to be the day that might come up with the goods. A gentle southwesterly and decent cloud cover ahead of an oncoming weather front made for easy birding and it wasn't long before a Red-breasted Flycatcher showed up in the Obs mist-nets; in quick time, a Rustic Bunting was latched on to as it made its way northward over the Slopes, before the action switched back to the Obs where a Radde's Warbler found its way into the nets just before the onset of the rain. In the circumstances, back-ups to further burnish proceedings were hardly required but a great little seawatch ticked over all day, a nice pulse of visible passage was evident before the rain and the likes of 4 Yellow-browed Warblers (2 at the Obs and singles at Avalanche Road and the Grove) were on hand to provide further entertainment. The seawatch totals included 1000 auks, 800 Gannets, 600 Kittiwakes, 86 Common Scoter, 11 Arctic Skuas, 4 Wigeon, 4 Pintail, 4 Teal, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Great Skuas and a Pomarine Skua, whilst the vismig tally included 178 Siskins, 14 Crossbills, a Grey Plover and a Woodlark. The scarcities aside, the land was the poor relation with relatively low numbers of grounded migrants amongst which singles of Ring Ouzel and Mistle Thrush (at the Bill and Blacknor respectively) were of note. 

Portland's twelfth Radde's Warbler © Joe Stockwell...


...and the Red-breasted Flycatcher © Martin Cade:


Sadly, the Rustic Bunting was not nearly so obliging © Joe Stockwell:


Grey Plover and Woodlark were amongst the vismig oddities over the Bill © Joe Stockwell:


11th October

A much more satisfactory day with plenty of signs of a genuine resurgence in passage today. In island terms, a Whooper Swan passing the Bill was the day's highlight but 3 new Yellow-browed Warblers at the Obs (with further presumed lingerers also at Avalanche Road and Wakeham) were welcome evidence of the trickle-down of migrants from points northward finally reaching this part of the world in numbers greater than the odd scattered singles; a new Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Bill, some more Crossbills (a single over the Bill and 8 over Easton) together with the long-staying Rosy Starling were additional morsels of quality. Oddities aside, at least in the places there was more to get amongst by way of common migrants, including 30 each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap grounded at the Bill, a tiny pulse of new thrushes including the first 8 Fieldfares of the season through at Wakeham, 2 Merlins and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, a good selection of tardy migrants including several Willow Warblers, a Sand Martin, a Tree Pipit and a Whinchat, a modest overhead passage that included 100 Chaffinches and 80 Siskins at the Bill and odds and ends including a Balearic Shearwater through off the Bill.

The Whooper Swan was a really nice highlight: only the seventh island record, the first for ten years and the earliest ever autumn record © Joe Stockwell:


The second Merlin trapped this autumn but only the third ever © Martin Cade:

Although far more frequent these days than they once were, Great Spotted Woodpeckers still aren't regular enough that we've got blasé about them © Joe Stockwell:


It's looking like the little group of between four and six Bar-tailed Godwits have settled in for the winter at Ferrybridge © Roy Norris:

10th October

Anyone paying attention to the island's rather pitiful grounded migrant totals in recent weeks might be forgiven for imagining there's been little coverage: whilst it's true that there have been far fewer observers than usual throughout the autumn, it's also the case that those that have been making an effort have been relentless in trying to cover as much ground as possible but, by and large, have been singularly unrewarded - our day will come but, at least at the moment, the vectors of both routine migration and vagrancy haven't been aligned in our favour. Today saw most of the conventional locations scrutinized pretty thoroughly, with the only real rewards uncovered being 3 single Yellow-browed Warblers and another Siberian Lesser Whitethroat; the ever reliable Rosy Starling at Easton lingered on for another day to provide a little more gloss to proceedings. Commoner migrants - at least on the ground - were restricted to the odd pockets of Chiffchaffs here and there and 4 Woodlarks at spots around the north of the island but precious little else. Overhead passage entertained for a while early in the morning when totals of note included 175 Chaffinches over the Bill; oddities included 3 Woodlarks over Cheyne, single Merlins there and at the Bill and two flocks of Crossbills over the north of the island.

The Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was trapped at Culverwell © Erin Taylor:


9th October

 And we're back to north westerlies. This October is starting to feel hauntingly like the last with our repeated searches feeling somewhat fruitless. That being said, the morning's visible passage was once again in triple figures for Swallows, Meadow Pipits, alba Wagtails and Chaffinches. Overhead oddities included two Tree Pipits, 15 Crossbills, six Bramblings and nine Reed Buntings. The remaining pipits in the now browned clifftop fields continued to attract Merlins with one at each end of the island. Away from the Bill, singles of Yellow-browed Warbler at Church Ope and Thumb Lane consisted of one new, and one lingering bird; a new eastern-type Lesser Whitethroat was in a flock of busily feeding Blackcaps at Broadcroft Quarry (the 'original' eastern bird that was first logged at the Obs on 28th September also emerged from hiding and was re-trapped today), and 2 Ring Ouzels were in the Cotoneaster in the Verne moat. A smattering of supporting extras involved a Garden Warbler trapped at the Obs, a Firecrest at Church Ope, a handful of well scattered Goldcrests and the usual selection of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs

A random selection from the day - Crossbills, a one-eyed Buzzard, a Little Owl and a Stonechat © Joe Stockwell:




8th October

A dramatic change in the wind saw it swing round to the south west, and our hopes were renewed, not for a Siberian migrant, but an American vagrant. Our frankly thorough and exhaustive search of the islands hotspots didn't turn up 'the biggie', in fact it was left to a lone Woodlark, amongst the gathering Skylarks, to represent the only new passerine migrant at the Bill. Away from the obs, the cove benefitted from the change in wind as three Grey Phalaropes arrived to escape the wild seas. Lingering migrants included the long-staying Rosy Starling at Easton and the Yellow-browed Warbler remained in the garden. Other migrants were thin on the ground with just a Merlin left harassing the now depleted Meadow Pipit flocks. 

7th October

A slackening of the wind and a clearing of the skies unleashed some of the migrants that were obviously held up yesterday. The morning skies teemed with mixed flocks of Meadow Pipits, alba Wagtails, Chaffinches, Siskins and Goldfinches. Meadow Pipits topped the tallies with over 550 birds, closely followed by nearly 500 Linnets. Amongst these mass flocks, oddities appeared with the first strong push of Skylark migration intermingled with 10 Redpolls, four Grey Wagtails and two Tree Pipits. Of course, a day of pipit migration wouldn't be complete without a Merlin in tow, today's was a small male hot in pursuit of the downed flocks along the East Cliffs. On the deck, there were few new surprises as the long-staying Yellow-browed Warbler at the Obs was joined by its usual posse of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a single Willow Warbler. Similar numbers of common migrants were unearthed across the island, as well as another Yellow-browed Warbler along the East Weares.

6th October

With a ripping northwesterly battering the island today saw a largely reduced repeat of yesterday's happenings. Triple figure tallies of Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Linnets were quickly accrued along East Cliffs but with many birds balking at leaving out to sea the Bill Common soon hosted a moving carpet of insectivores working their way through the autumnal glut of daddy longlegs'. The relative shelter of East Weare provided further bountiful pickings migrant-wise including more than 150 Blackcaps, amongst which 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler and a Firecrest were detected; lingering Yellow-browed Warblers were also still at the Obs and Thumb Lane and the Rosy Starling remained at Easton. A passing Storm Petrel off the Bill was a surprise reward from the sea but the season's first Red-throated Divers - one through off the Bill and another settled at Ferrybridge - provided the only other offshore action.

Red-throated Diver © Martin Cade and Little Egret © Roy Norris at Ferrybridge: 


5th October

 A big - although not entirely comprehensive since the wind gathered strength all day - improvement in the weather saw a lot of migrants take the opportunity to get moving and visible passage in particular was worth tapping into throughout the morning. There were no surprises amongst the tally, but totals of 550 Linnets, 480 alba wagtails, 400 Meadow Pipits, 150 Chaffinches and 58 Siskins were logged at the Bill, where 3 more Bramblings were the best of the lower totals. Grounded migrants weren't as numerous but there was still enough to maintain interest, with noticeable arrivals of seasonable staples like Robins, Wheatears and Stonechats everywhere, a Ring Ouzel and lingering singles of Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow-browed Warbler at the Bill and 2 more Yellow-browed Warblers, another Ring Ouzel and a Coal Tit scattered elsewhere; the long-staying Rosy Starling also remained at Easton. Despite the freshening wind the sea returned little more than 3 Great Skuas and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose through off the Bill.

There was an odd selection of grounded waders at the Bill including Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling © Ralph Todd and a Common Sandpiper © Joe Stockwell:




Last week's Siberian Lesser Whitethroat also popped up again © Joe Stockwell:


Whilst commoner fare included increasing numbers of Reed Buntings and Stonechats © Martin Cade:


4th October

Tougher conditions today left the day list struggling to get off the ground. Just as the seawatching at the Bill was becoming more of a wave watch, a Sooty Shearwater added some much needed variety; a Great Northern Diver also passed by there and 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese through at Portland Harbour were the only other birds of note over the water. The strength and direction of the wind and the driving rain left few sheltered areas to check on the land: the Obs garden was still home to a Spotted Flycatcher and a handful of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, with low single figures of Wheatears elsewhere at the Bill seen as a little more than a white flash being whipped away in the wind; a lone Short-eared Owl also arrived in off the sea at the Bill. Elsewhere, a single Siskin was clinging to the conifers in Southwell and the high pitched call of a Firecrest could just be heard over the squeaking, scraping branches at Thumb Lane. 

3rd October

With the forecast predicting heavy rain for much of the day, and a continuation of the overnight gusting gales, we were dragging our feet somewhat this morning. However, as the rain slowed and the wind ebbed it was clear that there were a few more birds around than in recent days. The first sign came with a wheeze from the nearby Chaffinch flock revealing the first Brambling of the year, swiftly followed by a eastern type Lesser Whitethroat in the hut fields. As the morning progressed, more subtle signs of migration made themselves known as Blackcaps emerged from the brambles, Robins remained hidden but ticking loudly and Whinchats appearing amongst the swollen ranks of Stonechats. The highlight of the day came as a Yellow-browed Warbler announced its presence in the Obs garden, joined by a flurry of Chiffchaffs and a single Willow Warbler. Other notable migrants included singles of Reed Warbler, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher, as well as three Redwings, 11 Snipe (involving a single and a flock of 10), five Grey Herons and large flocks of mixed hirundines over the West Cliffs. Birds that we consider resident were also clearly joined by migrants including Dunnocks, Robins, Blackbirds and Rock Pipits, the latter's population being joined by a flock of 24 on the recently washed in seaweed. 

Assuming they don't all carry on westwards from Scotland and perish in the North Atlantic there should be an awful lot more Yellow-browed Warblers to get down this way before the autumn's out © Martin Cade:

2nd October

 A wild and windy day saw the worst of the spirally rain over by mid-morning. The frequent showers and gusting winds were enough, however, to keep most passerines sheltering through the morning. With the swell gathering and an onshore wind, the sea provided the mornings entertainment with 13 Pintail, 16 Wigeon, 6 Grey Plovers and a Curlew Sandpiper the best of the bunch off the Bill and 8 Golden Plover through over Portland Harbour. The day's highlight, however, came from one diligent watcher of Ferrybridge as a Kentish Plover materialized in amongst the Ringed Plover flock. The rest of the Ferrybridge tallies were made up by four Bar-tailed Godwits, three Grey Plovers and two fly-over Great Northern Divers. As the afternoon progressed, the wind dropped and the temperature rose to reveal a thin spread of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, a couple of tardy Willow Warblers and a single Spotted Flycatcher; the Rosy Starling also remained in residence at Easton.

With a vicious low pressure area centred close to the Channel Islands feeding in wind and rain off the near Continent more might perhaps have been expected passerine-wise but the Kentish Plover was nice compensation © Martin Cade:

It was a real day of two halves, with the wild weather of the morning giving way to a far more clement afternoon - it was still windy enough for migrants to be hunkered down but at least it was possible to get out amongst them © Martin Cade: