11th December

The unrelenting wind is beginning to become a real bore and, to boot, there were still plenty of squally showers to dodge again today. A Velvet Scoter in Portland Harbour was the day's only obvious new arrival (...assuming it was different to the bird that's been lurking just up the Fleet for a few weeks); 2 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Eider were also still there, 10 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Great Northern Diver were the pick of the bunch at Ferrybridge, 4 Firecrests were still at Pennsylvania Castle, at least 50 Common Scoter were still settled off the Bill and 3 Red-throated Divers passed by there.

The miscellany at Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge today included Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver and a few Pale-bellied Brents amongst the brent flock © Pete Saunders:



10th December

A shocker of a day weather-wise and bird-wise. The only reports were of 54 Common Scoter still off the Bill, 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and few routine waders at Ferrybridge and 2 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour.

9th December

Two Pintail and 2 Brent Geese through off the Bill were a little unexpected in the aftermath of a night of pretty wild winds but the rest of the day's action was relatively routine: at least 50 Common Scoter still settled off the Bill with a single Red-throated Diver through there, the eastern Lesser Whitethroat still at Wakeham, 3 Firecrests still at Pennsylvania Castle, 2 Black-throated Divers and an Eider in Portland Harbour and 5 Greenfinches, 2 Shelduck and a Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge.

Three Red Admirals were on the wing at Church Ope Cove.

8th December

Today's increasingly strong wind wasn't at all conducive to rewarding coverage and the only reports were of the Eastern Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Firecrests still at Wakeham, an Eider still in Portland Harbour and 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

7th December

With fair-ish conditions on a weekend day coverage got a boost today. The Black Guillemot showed up again Portland Harbour where 2 Wigeon and singles of Black-throated Diver and Eider were also present. The wintering Common Scoter flock off the Bill totalled 48 with a lone Red-throated Diver also through there, whilst passerine variety around and about included 2 Firecrests at Avalanche Road, the Eastern Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham, 4 Redwings at Easton Fire Station and a Black Redstart at Blacknor.

6th December

Portland Harbour again provided most of the news with 8 Black-necked Grebes, 2 each of Black-throated and Great Northern Diver, an Eider and the Black Guillemot seen during the morning. Ten Purple Sandpipers were still at the Bill and a Chiffchaff was at Portland Marina.

2nd December

Apologies for the lack of news but we're going to be off the air for a few days whilst finishing off swanning around in Africa - normal service should resume on Friday.


Postscript: many thanks to Paul Swann for sending us through some great photos of the Portland Harbour Black Guillemot from this afternoon - initially it was off Billy Winters but later drifted right under the Smallmouth road bridge © Paul Swann:




1st December

The first day in December was beautiful, clear and bright. An Avocet at Ferrybridge was a nice late addition to the year list but otherwise the day's totals remained much the same as in previous days.

This morning's Avocet at Ferrybridge Cliff Smith


30th November

The last day of the month saw grey skies and strong winds, confining all but the bravest to the warmth of the indoors. The days tallies from the Bill amounted to very little but the harbour and Ferrybridge saw a trio of divers (two Great Northerns and a Black-throated).

An homage to the Divers of the north end of the island © Debby Saunders: 







29th November

Breezier than anticipated and far cooler than recent days, the day produced no new passerine migrants but the sea was far livelier with 8 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and two Velvet Scoters past the Bill. However, it was the Harbour that really came to life with the second Black-throated Diver putting in a return appearance along with two Eiders, a Black Guillemot and late news of a fly-by Long-tailed Duck.

Seeing double... the divers were showing well off Portland Castle © Pete Saunders:


28th November

Calm, quiet and peaceful the day saw little in the way of new arrivals on the land (with the exception of a small influx of just under 30 Long-tailed Tits in the 8 Kings/ Water-works Quarry), but a passage of small gulls at sea early on provided some much needed variety. At the north end of the island a Black-throated Diver near Osprey Quay was the first since the 23rd. 

The not-too-distant Black-throated Diver near Portland Castle © Pete Saunders:


The Eiders in the harbour have been showing well, displaying how difficult taking off must be when permanently dressed in a duvet © Debby Saunders (above), © Pete Saunders (below):



27th November

Sporadic but heavy showers made birding rather difficult. Those that managed to make the dash between bursts of rain saw flurries of birds including flocks of Long-tailed Tits, the remaining Yellow-browed Warbler and a handful of crests. Early morning saw the departure of the usual winter thrushes but the highlight was a Woodcock, rescued from the pavements of Weymouth the previous night, that was released in the garden. Ferrybridge remained unchanged with the Great Northern Diver still on show with the, now expected, cohort of waders and geese.

Often seen pelting away from between your feet, its always a pleasure to see Woodcocks up close with their massive eyes and brilliant camouflage © Erin Taylor:


The showy Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge continued to display to its audience © Pete Saunders:


26th November

A blustery and showery day left little desire to go out birding as the days species count reflects. A dismal sea-watch off the Bill in the morning produced no more than the over-wintering flock of Common Scoter. Ferrybridge was a little livelier with a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits, the lingering Knot and Redshank, the slightly lost Great Northern Diver and the rather unusual family of mixed Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

The mixed family of Pale and Dark-bellied Brent geese have not been seen since the 9th November  ©Pete Saunders:


25th November

A largely quiet day was excellent for doing some much needed paper work, but pretty poor on the birding front. A troop of seven Long-tailed Tits ventured south into the obs garden for a brief morning visit and a Woodcock was flushed from the hut fields, but otherwise birds recorded were our wintering residents. The sea provided a drop of excitement with a passing male Eider but was otherwise woefully under-watched. The rest of the island remained mostly unchanged with the exception of a Great Northern Diver entering into the Ferrybridge side of the fleet along with the long-staying Knot and two Bar-tailed Godwits.

The first Great Northern Diver of the autumn to cross through into the Fleet © Debby Saunders:


Even on the quietest days there is always something of interest at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:


24th November

A cloudy but perfectly calm day meant the nets could be opened for the first time in 5 days. The drop in wind meant the bands of threatening rain were held firmly over the continent and a shower-free morning brought a small incoming of Firecrests, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. Elsewhere on the island there was little evidence of any new migrants appearing with most of the usual suspects putting in an appearance. However, a Merlin chasing the Dunlin at Ferrybridge was a nice addition to the day tallies as well as a second Black-necked Grebe in the harbour and a Water Rail at Culverwell. 

A total of four Firecrests were in the garden including an individual ringed here on the 26th September that hasn't been recorded since that date. Where has this elusive bird been? ©  Erin Taylor:



The Merlin had a large selection of prey choice today with the wader tallies of Dunlin and Ringed Plover reaching 97 and 63 respectively ©  Pete Saunders: 


A nice little selection of winter specialties were recorded including Redwings, Song Thrushes and Bramblings ©  Debby Saunders:


23rd November

The bleak, washed-out morning slowly drifted into a warm and clear afternoon prompting the appearance of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell, a late Swallow at Reap lane, three Firecrests in the obs garden and a handful of winter thrushes including a Mistle Thrush over the Crown Fields. Ferrybridge was busy once more with highlights including two Goosanders, two Bar-tailed Godwits and a Kingfisher. The harbour saw a double figure count of Black-necked Grebes as well as three Great Northern Divers, one Black-throated Diver one Red-throated Diver and two Eiders.

The Purple Sandpipers around the Pulpit Rock must be some of our hardiest winter visitors seeming unperturbed by the encroaching waves © Erin Taylor:



The Crown Field setup is allowing a flock of Chaffinches and Linnets to overwinter ©Erin Taylor: 


22nd November

Bitter and cold the day brought little news of new migrants and the returning Lesser Whitethroat and two Bramblings at Penn Castle were the only report-worthy sightings.

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 23rd November. 

A selection of yesterdays Ferrybridge highlights, many of whom lingered on today ©Debby Saunders:




21st November

A notably dark and frankly miserable day left few with the enthusiasm to scour the wind blasted (and later on drenched) fields and instead turned their attentions to the more sheltered areas of the island. The mornings seawatch produced little of note save for a Slavonian Grebe loitering around offshore in the proximity of the presumably over-wintering flock of Common Scoter. Elsewhere on the island the lingering Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow-browed Warbler remained at the Penn but there was no sign of the Pallas's Warbler at the cuttings. Ferrybridge had more activity than of late with 222 Dark-bellied Brents, 7 Pale-bellied, 4 Curlews and singles of Goosander and Redshank; whilst the lone Eider remained in the harbour.

20th November

A brisk south-easterly that gathered over night meant much of the south end of the island was blasted into a bird-free zone and highlights were limited to four Red-throated Divers, one Great Northern Diver and the return of the Culverwell Moorhen. Thankfully the rest of the island did not suffer the same fate and a Pallas's Warbler was found at the railway cuttings, the same location as the individual found 1 year and 10 days ago. The Northern end of the island was quieter than recent days with singles of Goosander, Redshank and Eider at the Harbour and Ferrybridge combined.

Todays Pallas's Warbler at the cuttings was the fifth individual to be found in this location since the bird observatory began recording ©Martin Adlam:



The Eider was performing just offshore next to Billy Winters ©Pete Saunders:


19th November

With the wind gathering strength gradually through the day, it was down to the morning to produce a little excitement. A small arrival of Goldcrests, Firecrests and Chiffchaffs in the obs garden gave the hope that something might arrive with them. This was not to be, however, and we had to settle for highlights of the lingering Lesser Whitethroat, an adult Yellow-legged Gull at the Bill and a couple of Black Redstarts. Elsewhere on the island singles of Slavonian Grebe and Great Northern Diver were reported from the harbour.

18th November

An unexpectedly glorious day saw a small influx of Blackbirds and a handful of other thrushes early doors. Birds of note at the Bill included a Water Rail at Culverwell (we've been surprisingly low on Water Rail numbers this autumn so this was a welcome addition to the day list) and a Jacksnipe at Wallsend. The Lesser Whitethroat continued to intrigue at Penn Castle with much speculation over its origins, the Yellow-browed Warbler also remained in the area. Once again the Harbour and Ferrybridge were the place to be for variety with singles of Slavonian Grebe and Eider in the Harbour and Goosander at Ferrybridge amongst the now regular Black-necked Grebes, Great Northern Divers and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Firecrests have maintained decent numbers across the island despite the recent dip in temperatures ©Duncan Walbridge:


17th November

A beautiful, calm and clear day (one of the last for a while if the forecast is correct) brought a nice selection of wintering passerines as well as the usual waders. Finches put in a good show with just short of 100 Chaffinches being joined by seven Bramblings, two Siskins and 11 Greenfinches. The garden saw another flock of Long-tailed Tits whilst the Bill was harbouring the same flock of 10+ Purple Sandpipers, five Turnstones and a Black Redstart. Church Ope Cove was once again the place to be, the eastern looking Lesser Whitethroat made a reappearance along with the ling staying Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest flock.

One of the lingering Goosanders at Ferrybridge ©Pete Saunders:


16th November

A comparatively quiet day after yesterdays wintry flurry, the highlights at the southern end of the island were confined to a small selection of winter thrushes plus a good count of the over-wintering waders including 12 Purple Sandpipers and five Turnstones. The North end of the island was far more productive with some excellent early winter counts. The combined tallies from the Harbour and Ferrybridge included a singles of Black-throated Diver and Knot, two Great Northern Divers, four each of Great Crested Grebe and Common Scoter, eight Black-necked Grebes and 31 Red-breasted Mergansers. Elsewhere on the island the lingering Yellow-browed Warbler remained at Penn Castle.

15th November

With the remnants of yesterday's storm clouds leaving our shores a small but very welcome influx of late migrants showed their faces. The annual project of making the Obs garden look like a bizarre homage to apples paid off once again with at least 7 newly arrived Blackcaps queuing up to partake of the offerings. Blackbirds were also conspicuous with more than 50 through in the vicinity of the Obs alone, whilst other totals from the Bill included 700 inbound Starlings, 150 Chaffinches, 40 Redwings, 7 each of Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest, 6 each of Fieldfare and Brambling, 2 Lapwings and a Firecrest; the long, long staying Wryneck also put in another appearance. Offshore, a passing Red-necked Grebe was a good highlight at the Bill where the Common Scoter flock increased to at least 67. 

There was a nice little influx of presumably incoming Blackcaps today © Martin Cade:


14th November

Depending on how you look at things Portland was favoured or blighted today: it was a lovely still and for the most part bright day that allowed for plenty of coverage but a look at the rainfall radar revealed that the island was within a sliver of fair weather that was surrounded by grim conditions through which it appeared nothing much was moving. The Yellow-browed Warbler remained at Pennsylvania Castle to provide a some quality but new arrivals were conspicuously few and amounted at the Bill to no more than a handful of thrushes and 2 each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest; amongst the stayers a scatter of Black Redstarts included 2 at both the Bill and Osprey Quay, whilst Firecrests included 4 at Pennsylvania Castle. The flock of 50 or so Common Scoter remained off the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers passed by there.

13th November

Although there ought to be a fair bit of late passage to get amongst today proved to less rewarding than anticipated, with a few hours of quiet weather during the morning producing a minor flurry of finches but little else. A Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle was most likely a new arrival but grounded migrants were otherwise few and far between; the majority of movement at the Bill was overhead with 135 Chaffinches, 100 Goldfinches, 14 Greenfinches and 2 Bramblings through after dawn, whilst elsewhere 6 Fieldfares passed through at Hamm Beach. Winter fare included a good total of 15 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill, 58 Common Scoter still settled offshore there, a Knot still at Ferrybridge and 5 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Goosanders, a Great Northern Diver and an Eider in Portland Harbour.

Fieldfare and Great Northern Diver overhead at Hamm Beach © Pete Saunders:


12th November

The strength of the wind again scuppered attempts at comprehensive coverage and there was scant reward for those that did make an effort. The Bill area offered up 6 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Merlin, Yellow-legged Gull, Redwing and Firecrest on the land and 60 or so Common Scoter and 2 Eider settled offshore. Elsewhere there were 3 Firecrests in the Pennsylvania Castle area and 8 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Knot at Ferrybridge.

In comparison with yesterday's super-pristine full adult today's Yellow-legged Gull was a little bit sub-standard: it was a rather slighter bird - so perhaps more likely a female? - with a selection of not-quite-adult features...



This was yesterday's adult in flight © Martin Cade

11th November

A windswept day left eyes streaming, hands chilling and birds hiding. The Bill provided little new of note but the lingering Wryneck (surely it must be ready to leave soon?) and a fleeting glimpse of the Little Bunting at a new garden in Southwell added some much needed interest. Other migrants included a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull accompanied by a second-winter individual, four Lapwings and two Red-breasted Mergansers past at sea. Elsewhere on the island tallies were equally unimpressive although four Firecrests at Church Ope was a high count for recent days. Ferrybridge was quiet with three Goosanders and singles of Knot and Snipe.

This afternoon's particularly fine adult Yellow-legged Gull © Keith Pritchard:


At least one of the Ferrybridge Goosanders appears to be feeding well with a noticeable (perhaps imaginatively) fish shaped lump in its crop © Pete Saunders:


10th November

The gusting wind that confined some to their beds in the early morning dropped quickly to reveal a calm, clear and beautiful day. The cloud that disappeared toward the early afternoon meant a drop in avian activity towards the latter end of the day, however the morning produced a slack handful of migrants including three Brambling, four Firecrests, a Ring Ouzel at the hump and an eastern type Lesser Whitethroat at Church Ope. A quiet sea added but a few species to the day totals including Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and two Red-breasted Mergansers. A perusal of Ferrybridge and the Harbour produced little of note but 8 Knot at the former and three Black-necked Grebes at the latter.

This female Sparrowhawk seemed undeterred by her small crowd of onlookers as she sat digesting whatever unfortunate creature was bulging in her crop ©Martin King:


9th November

With the dry beginning and end of the day punctuated by a spell of heavy rain birding opportunities were limited today. New arrivals weren't in evidence in any numbers, with a Siberian Chiffchaff at Pennsylvania Castle the only out of the ordinary report on the land and a fly-by Spotted Redshank at Ferrybridge the best overhead; the Black Brant was also again at Ferrybridge.

Mixed race courtships have been observed several times in the past at Ferrybridge and it looks like one of these has resulted in successful breeding; the youngsters certainly have the look of something of a half-way house between Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent and goose aficionados may well have some inkling from behaviour and the like as to which sex each parent is. It'd be interesting to discover whether they bred in Canada or Russia - either way, one of the parents found itself a long way away from where it itself had been raised © Pete Saunders: