16th February

Very little in the way of news today. A brief moment of excitement (before either of the staff had ventured out of their beds) was an unidentified Skua sp. but the rest of the seawatch proved to be unproductive.

15th February

As Storm Dennis approached, there was little more to do than watch the sea as it swam in and out of view in ever worsening drizzle. The highlight was a Bonxie, first seen heading east then back west, but additions thereafter were thin on the ground. The usual fare included three Red-throated Divers, 33 Common Scoter and three Mediterranean Gulls.

It was the sort of day that drives you to cleaning and decorating © Erin Taylor:


14th February

A substantial drop in the wind brought a few familiar faces back through our doors for the first time this season. The change also saw the return of the Obs Firecrest, as well as the first Eider past the Bill this year and a good passage of Common Gulls. The rest of the morning's seawatch proved to be very quiet with just one Red-throated Diver and 25 Common Scoter. Elsewhere, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs were still at Southwell.

13th February

The winter winds howled on and the day's list looked suitably sad. Twelve Purple Sandpipers were present near the obelisk, along with a lone Turnstone. A Short-eared Owl cropped up at Southwell where the long-staying singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff were still present. The north end of the island was equally poor with 150 Brent Geese, four Black-necked Grebes and a single Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

12th February

The wind of recent days finally abated but what little fieldwork there was returned no surprises, with 25 Common Scoter still off the Bill, 4 Purple Sandpipers still on the shore there and single Firecrests still at the Obs and Pennsylvania Castle.

Every now and again a quirky little detail crops up amongst the often rather mundane/expected life histories and movements revealed from all the colour-ring readings of gulls in the area. We were particularly taken by the details relating to this Herring Gull that Debby Saunders kindly sent through to us: the bird was at Ferrybridge yesterday morning and it turns out that it was ringed in August 2010 after rehabilitation at the RSPCA Wildlife Centre at West Hatch; it had originally been found oiled at Weymouth Marina in July of that year and, until yesterday, there'd only been one subsequent sighting of it at Arlingham on the River Severn in December 2018 © Debby Saunders:


Based purely on how difficult it is to see a live animal on Portland (we only saw our first earlier this winter) we've always imagined that Badgers must be pretty uncommon here but the frequency with which road casualties crop up - this one was on the Bill Road this morning - maybe suggests otherwise © John Lucas

11th February

Another blustery but clear day saw a good passage of Fulmars early on, resulting in a count of 48 birds west. A Sandwich Tern, first sighted in the Radipole car park, made its way into the recording area by the early afternoon. The rest of the harbour contained a minimum of four Great Northern Divers, along with a single Black-necked Grebe. Passerines were slightly better represented than in recent days with two Firecrests in Penn's Wood and Five Long-tailed Tits, one Blackcap and one Chiffchaff in Southwell.

The Rosemary in Southwell seems to be a particular favourite of late... © Debby Saunders:

10th February

A pleasant break from the howling gales in the early morning was short-lived, and the wind returned again in the afternoon bringing squally showers and a drop in temperature. The harbour was the place to be during the brief calmer spell and 14 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers as well as singles of Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver and Common Scoter were recorded. Elsewhere, Penn Castle woods saw 3 Firecrests and the Bill Common Scoter flock reached 25.

With the winds as strong as they have been, the harbour's wildlife has been blown into unusually confiding areas. Today's intrepid birders were treated to some excellent views, not least the brilliant red eyes of one of our resident Black-necked Grebes © Pete Saunders:




9th February

With the onset of Storm Ciara over night there was little anyone could do in the way of birding. Besides the obvious (incredibly high wind speeds and driving rain) the visibility remained poor for most of the day. The only true pluviophiles proved to be the Fulmars with upwards of 20 birds circling and wheeling above the huge swell.

8th February

A glorious winter's day saw a flurry of activity, mostly centred at the northern end of the island, with Ferrybridge counts including 187 Dunlin, 250 Mediterranean Gulls and 60 Brent Geese. The harbour held singles of Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe; while the Bill seawatch maintained its steady course with 10 Red-throated Divers and 24 Common Scoter.

The panoply of avian life at Ferrybridge brought in by the recent high tides made for quite a spectacle © Pete Saunders:  


At first glance thought likely to be a Caspian Gull, closer inspection of this bird at Ferrybridge showed it to be at best of uncertain parentage © Joe Stockwell:

7th February

A second day of suitable conditions saw another small pulse of early sea passage offshore, with 38 Black-headed Gulls, 19 Wigeon, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and 3 Shelduck through off Chesil and 20 Brent Geese, 10 Red-throated Divers, 9 Teal, 5 Shelduck and a Black-throated Diver through off the Bill. The only other report was of a solitary Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour.

6th February

The day started overcast and breezy but by the afternoon the sun was shining in a clear-blue sky. Another quiet day for birds was spent giving some much needed attention to the pond (where else could the Citrine Wagtail turn up in the spring?). The morning's Bill sea watch provided little more than five Red-throated Divers and a small subset of the wintering Common Scoter flock. The harbour saw singles of Great Northern Diver and Eider, whilst the first Chesil seawatch of the spring came up with 3 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers.

The perfect time of year to spend a bit of quality time with some of our less appreciated avian life, the Dunlins of Ferrybridge © Roy Norris:



5th February

High pressure and a drop in the wind saw a beautiful, still but chilly day. The rate of Red-throated Diver passage remained much the same as the past few days but the addition of a Firecrest in the Obs garden made up for the slightly reduced Purple Sandpiper numbers. Elsewhere, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs were at Southwell.

A couple of the wintering residents in the gardens of southwell… © Pete Saunders:



One of our regular contributors has decided to sell his trusty Canon 7D and 300F4, hopefully to a young and aspiring ornithologist, for the bargain price of £400. If you are interested please feel free to contact the obs on obs@btinternet.com and we'll send you in the right direction.

4th February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 40, Purple Sandpiper 11, Red-throated Diver 5.
Portland Harbour: Red-breasted Merganser 128, Black-necked Grebe 17, Great Northern Diver 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Slavonian Grebe 1, Canada Goose 1.

3rd February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 25, Red-throated Diver 4.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 4.

2nd February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 40, Red-throated Diver 4, Black-headed Gull 4.

1st February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 27.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 2, Blackcap 1.

31st January

Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 1.

30th January

Portland Bill: Brent Goose 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 1.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Brent Goose 54.

Great Northern Divers are still showing up close inshore off Portland Castle © Pete Saunders:


29th January

Portland Bill: auk spp c10,000, Common Scoter 28, Purple Sandpiper 12, Turnstone 5, Red-throated Diver 3, Snipe 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 4.

28th January

Nothing of any note reported today!

27th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 4.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 3, Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 2.
Ferrybridge: Bar-tailed Godwit 1.

26th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 20, Black-throated Diver 1.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart 1.
Ferrybridge: Brent Goose 70, Bar-tailed Godwit 1.

25th January

Portland Bill: Purple Sandpiper 10, Red-throated Diver 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 2.

24th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 39, Purple Sandpiper 8, Red-throated Diver 5, Firecrest 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 2.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 1.
Ferrybridge: Mediterranean Gull 900, Brent Goose 126.

23rd January

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 25th January.

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 18, Red-throated Diver 6.
Fortuneswell: Black Redstart 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-throated Diver 1.

Red-throated Diver off the Bill this morning © Keith Pritchard:


22nd January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c30, Red-throated Diver 9, Turnstone 5, Brent Goose 4.
Southwell: Goshawk 1 probable north.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 6, Great Northern Diver 1, Eider 1, Common Scoter 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 140.

21st January

Portland Bill: Purple Sandpiper 12, Red-throated Diver 8, Pintail 5; also at least 7 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.
Pennsylvania Castle area: Firecrest 4, Chiffchaff 1.
Portland Harbour: Eider 2.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 72, Egyptian Goose 22, Ringed Plover 19, Shelduck 4.

We shouldn't really be making a fuss about Egyptian Geese since they fall into that dodgy introduction category alongside Pheasants, Large Blues and Beavers but as there isn't much indigenous wildlife to report at the moment we can trumpet a new Portland record total: this morning's flock of 22 over Ferrybridge break one of the longer-standing island records of 10 at the same place on 10th July 1978. The 1978 record was rather baffling since at that time Egyptian Goose wasn't really established anywhere near Dorset (in fact it was the first county record in the modern era) but latterly they've spread into the county and we guess that today's birds strayed from somewhere like Warmwell or the Avon Valley © Pete Saunders:



20th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c30, Red-throated Diver 17, Snipe 1, Firecrest 1; also at least 4 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.
Southwell: Blackcap 2.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 15, Great Northern Diver 4, Slavonian Grebe 2, Eider 2, Black-throated Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 60.

The Portland Harbour selection - including these 2 Eider - has remained very samey since late December; despite perfect viewing conditions in recent days the Black Guillemot from earlier in the winter can't be found © Pete Saunders:


19th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 8, Brent Goose 2, Firecrest 1; also c6 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.

18th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c30, Purple Sandpiper 11, Red-throated Diver 3, Firecrest 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 3, Chiffchaff 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 6, Great Northern Diver 5, Eider 3, Black-throated Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 80.

With only one other sighting this month at the site it looks like today's little arrival of three Blackcaps at Sweethill represented a movement from further afield than just adjacent gardens © Debby Saunders:



It was a lovely bright day to get amongst a few of the regulars; Chiffchaff at Sweethill © Debby Saunders...


...Common Buzzard at Sweethill and Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders...



...Purple Sandpiper at the Bill © JR Norris...


...and Short-eared Owls at the Bill © Martin Cade:

17th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c40, Red-throated Diver 2, Firecrest 1.
East Weare: Chiffchaff 3.