19th July

On an otherwise largely rained off day Ferrybridge attracted provided most of the action that included good counts of 166 Common Terns and 122 Dunlin, with further variety there consisting of 2 Black-tailed Godwits and singles of Sanderling, Whimbrel and Little Gull. The combination of the rain and a fresh breeze looked to have some promise for the seawatchers but singles of Manx and Balearic Shearwater were all that could be mustered during the few spells that weren't spoilt by limited visibility.

Ferrybridge rarely disappoints in the rain and today mix of terns and waders provided a compelling spectacle. The Little Gull was thought to be the third different individual present there in recent days © Pete Saunders (settled) & Debby Saunders (flying):




Black-tailed Godwits have either got a lot more regular at Ferrybridge in recent years or the coverage there has improved and their often brief appearances are being picked up more often © Pete Saunders:

18th July

The sporadic showers and overcast morning did nothing for a quiet and uneventful day that saw little movement on the land. Highlights from a much diminished sea included a loitering Arctic Skua, a small handful of Manx Shearwaters and 20 each of Common Terns, Mediterranean Gulls and Common Scoter. In non-avian news the first Common Darter of the year was seen around the Obs garden.

17th July

Another hope-filled day as both Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler trapped in the Crown Estate Field nets heralded the beginnings of autumnal passage. A smattering of additional migrants included a Hawfinch at Oldhill, two new Blackcaps in Culverwell and a trickle of Swifts and Sand Martins. The sea was lively once again with a steady influx of common passage birds joined by 16 Balearic Shearwaters. Ferrybridge was also showing signs of life with a new Little Gull, 30+ Common Terns, 17 Dunlin and a flock of 7 Little Egrets.

In non -avian news the sea provided a host of marine species with a Compass Jellyfish off the West Cliffs as well as six of the Bottle-nosed Dolphin pod, four Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal.

The din of the Common Tern flock at Ferrybridge was almost loud enough to drown out the usual roar of the traffic ©Pete Saunders:



A freshly emerged second generation Small Copper from High Angle Battery ©Ken Dolbear:


16th July

The weather's probably a tad too lovely just at the moment to expect much to be dropping in and, a few passing Sand Martins aside, passerine migrants didn't feature at all today. Singles of Lapwing and Dunlin overhead at the Bill constituted the only reports of note from the land, with 75 Mediterranean Gulls, 9 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Yellow-legged Gull through or lingering offshore there.

15th July

 Today was fairly unremarkable on the birding front. The only migrants noted were on the sea and the highlights were limited to a Balearic Shearwater and a Whimbrel.

The highlights from yesterday included the lingering Little Gull and a passage Greenshank ©Pete Saunders:



One of the Dark Green Fritillaries found its way into the obs garden, but with negative news today was this the first stage of a movement away from the island? ©James Phillips:


There's always something to look at on Portland, even on the very quiet bird days. Canthophorus impressus or the Down Shieldbug is associated with Bastard Toadflax (a rare plant in its own right) and therefore has a limited distribution across the UK. The Slopes above the Bill are a particularly good site for this diminutive bug and its host plant ©Erin Taylor:




14th July

Pick of the bunch today were singles of Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Little Gull at Ferrybridge, singles of Grey Heron and Reed Warbler at the Bill and a Balearic Shearwater through on the sea there. Fuller update and photos to follow when we have more time tomorrow.

13th July

A miscellaneous selection to report today with early autumn migrants featuring quite well. Ferrybridge provided the best of the numbers that included 238 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Curlew, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Sanderling, as well as the Little Gull for a second day. At the Bill new arrivals included 4 Redshank, 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Reed Warbler, with 50 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Common Scoter, a Shoveler and Great Skua through on the sea.

It was a lovely morning to sit and wait for photo opportunities at Ferrybridge and Black-tailed Godwit and Little Gull both obliged © Debby Saunders:



Longleaf (or Sickleweed) Falcaria vulgaris is a naturalised alien first introduced to Britain as a garden plant in the 18th century. The Flora of Dorset notes just three sites in the county of which two are at Portland - whether one of them is near Wallsend where the plant was quite numerous today isn't entirely clear © James Phillips:

12th July

Despite the AGM looming on the horizon, and the prep therein involved taking up most of the day, we managed to accrue a decent list with a couple of new faces joining the now familiar Hawfinch. Perhaps its just the way that we remember things but the autumn seems to be encroaching ever further into the summer's territory and this was proved today by the arrival of the first juvenile Sedge Warbler of the year in the Obs nets. In spite of this and a Balearic Shearwater past the Bill it was Ferrybridge yet again that stole the show with a first summer Little Gull in amongst the, now numerous, Mediterranean Gulls.

Despite the general trends emerging across the country the Portland Swallows seem to be just as abundant as in recent years © Martin King:


The Little Gull proving just how small they are by showing in the midst of the Mediterranean Gull flock © Pete Saunders:



11th July

Another beautiful day was most productively spent at Ferrybridge where the selection of waders provided the greatest variety of the day. The three Little Ringed Plovers were still outside the visitor centre but had been joined by a pair of Black-tailed Godwits, five Curlew and nine Dunlin. Elsewhere the only real migrants were six fly-over Sand Martins and a Blackcap at the Obs where the lingering male Hawfinch continued to gorge on the bird table seed for all to see.

The Ferrybridge Black-tailed Godwits were still looking reasonably smart © Pete Saunders:


10th July

Warm and beautiful days are nothing to complain about so while the chilly north may be getting a fall of  two-barred crossbills we will have to be content with the beginnings of the juvenile warbler passage with Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps trapped in the garden. The unseasonable Hawfinch continued to make regular visits to the bird table as well as the first sightings of the Culverwell Moorhen for some time. The Ferrybridge Little Ringed Plovers went from a pair to a miniature flock (3 birds now instead of 2- you've got to celebrate the small victories). 

In non-avian news the Dark Green Fritillaries continued to delight on the slopes below the higher light. 

The trio of Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:


The Hawfinch became very flighty through the morning and had the look of something that was about to head off but ultimately the lure of a bird-table full of seed proved too much and it settled back into its old ways © Martin Cade:


Its not just the rare butterflies that are looking stunning at the moment, the Painted Ladies continue to appear and the Peacocks have just started another generation © Ken Dolbear:


9th July


A couple of information/admin matters for Obs members: first, a reminder of our AGM that'll be taking place at 4pm this Saturday - all are welcome to attend the meeting, a short/optional guided walk to explain the Countryside Stewardship management regime and the refreshments/barbeque that'll follow (an agenda for the meeting can be viewed here); secondly, we've finally got round to posting out copies of our latest report to everyone who'd been a member during 2016-18 - if you believe you were a member during this period and haven't received a report do please let us know as there are a few names on out list for which we either didn't have a current address or for which there was some other administrative query.


The fine, settled spell continued and there was enough early autumn interest to make it well worth making the most of the lovely conditions. The Hawfinch lingered for another day at the Obs, whilst migrant interest included 10 Sand Martins through over the Bill, a Yellow-legged Gull lingering offshore there, a Cuckoo at Suckthumb Quarry and 14 Dunlin, 3 Redshank and a Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge.

Three Dark Green Fritillarys were again knocking about around the top of the Slopes at the Bill.

The Dark Green Fritillarys look to be well-settled at the Bill and it'll be interesting to see if they persist in future years at this spot - has a small population survived here undetected or are they strays from elsewhere? © Duncan Walbridge (upper) and Martin Cade (lower):



There'd been concerns that last year's long, hot summer mightn't have done some of the blue butterflies any favours but so far the signs aren't too bleak: Silver-studded Blues certainly aren't as numerous as they are some years but they are about in all the usual spots, whilst Chalkhill Blues are only just getting out on the wing but they too look to be around everywhere they ought to be - this pair at the north of the island today were already getting on with the business © Ken Dolbear

8th July

Autumn appears to be slowly rearing its head as numbers of breeding birds begin to swell in the fields, Swallow and Swift flocks have become noticeably more vocal and sizable and the Ferrybridge waders have begun to move. Yesterday's Hawfinch continued to entertain at the obs feeding regularly on the bird table throughout the day. Continuing on the migrant front, a juvenile Cuckoo was seen exiting its roost site in Southwell and heading off to sea, another young Yellow-legged Gull was seen departing towards France and a pair of Balearic Shearwaters continued to associate with the dwindling gull flock.

Ferrybridge had noticeably more variety with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, two Redshank, six Dunlin and singles of Sanderling and Curlew.

In non-avian news the pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins were back playing in the waters in front of the obs and at least two Dark Green Fritillaries were sighted at the higher light as well as the seemingly lingering Large Tortoiseshell at Tout Quarry.

The Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge were looking pretty shabby as they made their stop-over © Debby Saunders:



This is the second sighting of a juvenile Cuckoo in the vicinity of the obs in the last week, although these are probably migrating birds there are plenty of breeding host species on the island...© Pete Saunders:



And a bit of the Hawfinch action from yesterday - it was showing just as well again today © Martin Cade:

7th July

Today started much the same way as most days for the past month, however, in true Portland summer fashion an unexpected arrival on the bird feeder brought some much needed variety to the daily fare. A Hawfinch that materialized onto the bird table in the garden was a great surprise as they are virtually unheard of on the island in July. A more frequent summer visitor, but an excellent addition to the day list none the less, was a fly-over Greenshank over Southwell. Other migrants included a selection of the regulars at sea and single figures of Sand Martins. The sea also provided a sighting of 11 Bottle-nosed Dolphins, the first time the local pod has breached our waters since the spring. 

This Hawfinch has managed to defy everything that BWP says about Hawfinch movements. Northern populations of female, juvenile birds are quoted as more likely to migrate post-breeding; this bird is an adult male. French birds are known to show dispersive feeding movements but this doesn't quite explain how a lone bird should turn up on Portland in July when there is evidence to suggest that even failed breeders maintain their pair bonds throughout the year...perhaps its just sneaking in a quick trip to the beach before the kids break up from school ©Duncan Walbridge:


A rather unusual showdown for the bird table feeding rights...©Duncan Walbridge:


The first Chalkhill Blues of the year are on the wing as well as good numbers of Marbled Whites ©Ken Dolbear:



6th July

A pretty seasonable selection today that included plenty more Mediterranean Gulls, with at least 168 at Ferrybridge and 75 off the Bill. Six Manx Shearwaters, 3 Common Scoter, a Balearic Shearwater and a Sandwich Tern also passed through off the Bill and 20 Sand Martins and a Dunlin were logged overhead there. The only other passerine report was a slightly odd one of a Chiffchaff at Ferrybridge.

A Large Tortoiseshell was again at Tout Quarry. The moth-traps were again very busy although quality immigrant interest was limited to singles of Scarce Light Plume at the Obs and Small Marbled at the Grove.

5th July

Another blistering day on the idyllic Isle of Portland. Although the list of species left a lot to be desired there were signs of autumn at the obs with the first returning juvenile Garden Warbler trapped, the lingering male Serin and a new female Blackcap. The sea provided the second Yellow-legged Gull of the season as well as a smattering of the usual suspects.

A Large Tortoiseshell was again in Tout Quarry. The first Splendid Brocade of the year (at the Grove) was the best of the night's immigrant moths.

Today's somewhat out of season juvenile arrival was this Garden Warbler trapped at the Obs; Garden Warbler doesn't breed with any regularity at Portland - in fact the only records are of single pairs at West Weare in 1971 and 1972 - and as far as we know isn't at all numerous anywhere in south Dorset but, whilst clearly not as young as the Black Redstart we mentioned yesterday, this bird was a good fortnight to three weeks earlier than we'd usually expect the first autumn migrant to arrive. Kevin Shepherd's been in touch to relate his experiences at other migrant hotspots of juveniles of a range of other species turning up well away from breeding sites and it seems that surprisingly long distance dispersal isn't that unusual. It'd be interesting to discover with something like this Garden Warbler whether the post-juvenile dispersal and the long-distance migration phases of its first few months actually merge together and it doesn't really ever stop drifting off gradually southward © Martin Cade

4th July

Another day of clear blue skies and little more than a waft of a breeze. The 2 Serins remained at the Bill although also remained rather mobile and elusive, whilst a Cuckoo provided the best of the migrant interest there; also on the land - or at least overhead - a few Swifts and Sand Martins trickled through. The first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was an on cue arrival off the Bill, where 25 Mediterranean Gulls lingered and 2 Puffins were still about. The only other report was of 64 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge.

A Large Tortoiseshell was at Tout Quarry, whilst the best of the night's moths were a Suspected at Weston and a Vestal at the Grove.

And back to yesterday for something we forgot last evening: this juvenile Black Redstart popped up briefly during the day in a garden at Southwell; Black Redstarts have bred from time to time at Portland but we've also got several previous records of mid-summer juveniles turning up in years when there were no known breeding pairs - do juvenile Black Reds have a known propensity to wander fair distances or did we just miss a breeding pair this year? © Nick Stantiford:


And while we're going back in time we may as well jump right back to last week and, as is our want, poach a nice bird from the Weymouth area: we never did see many images of the Lodmoor White-winged Black Tern (on Wednesday 26th June) so when regular visitor Leslie Crofts mentioned photographing it we asked if we could post a couple here; this bird was likely a missed opportunity for Portland as well since when it left Lodmoor for the last time we wouldn't mind betting it flew right through Portland Harbour and over Ferrybridge (the route the Common Terns from the Lodmoor colony often take when going on longer fishing trips) - sadly, neither was being covered at the time © Leslie Crofts:


3rd July

This time of year can be pretty wearying what with very long days followed by late night excursions petrel-catching and moth-trapping so it's good to have some keen young visitors in residence who've been out from the crack of dawn. They were rewarded today with what must surely be a Portland record flock of 11 Gadwall through off the Bill, where 34 Mediterranean Gulls, 25 Manx Shearwaters, 24 Common Scoter and singles of Arctic Skua and Great Skua also passed by. On the land another Serin appeared on several occasions at the Obs where yesterday's bird was also still about from time to time; hints of autumn passage getting going included 18 Sand Martins, 2 Ringed Plovers and singles of Lapwing and Common Sandpiper at the Bill.

Single Large Tortoiseshells were at Broadcroft and Bottomcombe, whilst a Scarce Light Plume Crombrugghia laetus at Weston was a nice immigrant highlight from overnight moth-trapping.

Unhelpfully against the light but you get the idea: one of this morning's Serins was an unringed male and was thus yet another new individual - it wasn't seen in company with the female but they both visited the Obs garden at the times through the morning © Duncan Walbridge:


Portland's got a good track record for Scarce Light Plume - last night's specimen takes the island tally to six records involving eight individuals © Duncan Walbridge/Martin Cade: 

2nd July

After a couple of lean years Portland's bounced right back to its customary position at the top of the Serin league this year, with the latest addition to a tally a female at this Obs this morning. Passerines didn't otherwise feature but a bit of movement on the sea included 280 Manx Shearwaters, 19 Mediterranean Gulls, 9 Common Scoter, 3 Sandwich Terns, a Balearic Shearwater and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

The recent run of quality moth immigrants continued, with an Orache Moth at the Obs the night's highlight.

Before long a pair of Serins are going to end up coinciding at Portland but, as so often has been the case, this female missed out on an easy mate by just a few days © Martin Cade:


A common moth just across the water in northern France but still a decent rarity in Britain - last night's Orache was only Portland's fifth © Martin Cade:


Strays of note keep cropping up in the moth-traps, with Pied Grey Eudonia delunella and Pale Lettuce Bell Eucosma conterminana nice Portland scarcities from the Obs traps over the last couple of nights © Martin Cade:



1st July

The enduring sunshine brought little in the way of new birds save for a handful of the usual fare on the sea. 

The Large Tortoiseshell remained at the Obs and a second individual was located at Tout Quarry. Continuing on yesterday's theme of interesting moths, Southwell pulled it out of the bag again with a Marbled Grass-veneer Catoptria verellus

Perhaps not as high up the beauty stakes as the Bedstraw Hawkmoth that was brought out for our delectation from inland Dorset today but Marbled Grass-veneer has rather more of a rarity cachet in this part of the world - this one was the third for Portland and perhaps only the fourth for Dorset © Debby Saunders:

30th June

On an absolute scorcher of a day it was the invertebrates that stole the show with plenty for the lepidopterists to sink their teeth into. On the birding front even the sea was quiet and it was down to Ferrybridge to boost the species totals with Black-tailed Godwit, two Whimbrels, five Dunlin, 54 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua

On the invertebrate front there was both a second for Portland and a first for Dorset on the island as well as a Large Tortoiseshell at the obs. The second Marbled Clover for the island was in a garden in Southwell with the first record on 30th July 1983 and the first Dusky Peacock for Dorset was trapped in Wakeham. 

The Large Tortoiseshell at the obs... could this be part of the unusual eruption from earlier in the year or a genuine migrant? © Martin Cade:





The Marbled Clover at Southwell is only the second for Portland © Debby Saunders:


It's remarkable how much volunteer effort goes into birding, it must be a truly unique community. The Ferrybridge Little Terns are guarded day and night by stalwart volunteers and the birds themselves are monitored by a very small team of dedicated individuals. Today we were lucky enough to join this team and witness these truly magnificent birds up close. In a colony of around 70 birds, 50 have been colour ringed already with the oldest bird still going strong at 20 years old. Todays captures included a new bird as well as two that have been ringed previously, one of which was at least 10 years old ©Erin Taylor: