16th November

With the Pallid Swift marooned in the gloom at West Weare/Chesil Cove under the blanket of heavy cloud that enveloped the whole island there was rarity interest for the duration. Thrushes again featured in quantity overnight and in the hour or so after dawn 450 Redwings, 30 Song Thrushes and 15 Fieldfares either lifted off or passed through at the Bill; the varied list of back-ups there included 15 each of Goldcrest, Siskin and Brambling, 7 Black Redstarts, 3 Blackcaps and ones and twos of Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Chiffchaff, Firecrest and Corn Bunting, whilst elsewhere there was a Water Rail at Southwell and a scatter of at least 3 more Black Redstarts.

The Pallid Swift at Chesil Cove today © Mike Trew (top) and Joe Stockwell (bottom):



The Water Rail at Southwell © Pete Saunders:


Black Redstart and Corn Bunting at the Bill © Joe Stockwell:




And on the basis that you probably want to peruse as many images as possible when trying to make an objective assessment of the subtle plumage features of a Pallid Swift we eventually got round to sorting out a few of ours from yesterday at the Bill © Martin Cade:





15th November

A stormer of  day that just about had it all: a tremendous nocturnal passage of thrushes, a decent arrival of grounded migrants, some strong visible passage and, to top it all, a good rarity; there was even a from the sublime to the ridiculous twist in the form of an entirely bizarre report from a photographer - supported by a patently photoshopped image - of the Weymouth Franklin's Gull being seen at the Bill - presumably the quality of the real birding isn't exciting enough for halfwits like this. After days spent staring upwards for a swift of some sort to come streaking through the eventually appearance of one sneaking over the Obs under heavily overcast skies today caught everyone unawares and its identification would have remained unresolved had it not later been discovered lingering first along West Cliffs at the Bill and later over West Weare above Chesil Cove when it could be confirmed as a Pallid Swift. After a night when thrushes were passing over in huge numbers (we were recording but haven't yet had time to even download what we're rather dreading is going to be a really time-consuming file to go through!) there was plenty about on the ground including totals at the Bill of 280 Redwings and 50 Goldcrests; the 5 Woodlarks were also still about at Broadcroft/Shepherd's Dinner. Visible passage was also evident throughout the morning when sample totals at the Bill included 880 Chaffinches, 690 Goldfinches, 520 Wood Pigeons and 13 Bramblings.

The Pallid Swift © Debby Saunders (stills) and Dave Foot (videos):






14th November

With the fresh breeze having backed toward the south there was less on the move overhead today, with Wood Pigeons and finches reduced to a mere trickle in comparison with the last couple of days. Woodlarks featured well, with 5 at Shepherd's Dinner and a single at the Bill, but quality was otherwise limited to the long-staying Firecrest at the Obs, a Black Redstart at Blacknor and a reappearance of the even longer staying Red-legged Partridge at the Bill. Three Red-throated Divers, a Velvet Scoter and a Great Skua passed though off the Bill.

One of the Woodlarks at Shepherd's Dinner © Martin Adlam Port and Wey Blog: 

13th November

With similar weather conditions to yesterday there was another impressive visible movement early on with clouds of Woodpigeons amounting to over 4000 birds, flocks of 'pinking' Chaffinches reaching 480 and oodles of Goldfinches (a term which here means approximately 175). On the sea, a feeding flock of 170 Gannets were accompanied by a lone Common Scoter, 11 Brent Geese, 36 Mediterranean Gulls and a Red-throated Diver. Other highlights of the day included a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest among the sadly dwindled Goldcrest flock at Wakeham, another Firecrest within the huts, 2 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill and a Little Gull at Ferrybridge.

Despite the rolling swell, the Bill Purple Sandpipers were finding plenty to feed on in the rippling rockpools © Matt Ames:


After leaving too early for its afternoon appearance yesterday we nipped back to Radipole today and jammed straight into the Franklin's Gull when it dropped in and spent a few minutes on the carpark before heading off to roost © Martin Cade:

12th November

A clear and increasingly blustery day saw excellent conditions for visible passage early on and the finches most definitely obliged with 930 Chaffinches, 390 Goldfinches, 27 Siskins and 5 Bramblings with a savvy Merlin in tow. Elsewhere, there was no sign of our seven-striped pixie but a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest were still present amongst the Goldcrest flock.

11th November

Though there were few new arrivals, bright if blustery conditions made it easier to catch up with birds already present. The sea was rolling but with little to offer on it, totals coming in at 2 Brent Geese, 3 Bonxies and 4 Black-headed Gulls past the bill. Smaller birds around the obs and bill came in with a Firecrest, a Purple Sandpiper, a Black Redstart and the usual selection of Chaffinches, Linnets and Skylarks in the Crown Estate Fields.
The day's excitement was undoubtedly provided by leftovers from yesterday in the still-leaved Sycamores at Wakeham. An impressive crest flock doing the rounds included a minimum of 20 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests, a vocal Yellow-browed Warbler and the stunning Pallas's Warbler which provided fun and games but giving prolonged views at times.
Odds and ends from elsewhere included another Yellow-browed Warbler at Thumb Lane, a juv Arctic Tern in the harbour and the Glaucous Gull at Ferrybridge showing its force.

Despite the better views offered by this late leaf warbler, only a select few observers managed to get good photographs whilst it fed energetically amongst the leaves © Duncan Walbridge:



At this time of year, white-winged gulls are an expected feature of the birding fare. Just a shame this Guillemot hadn't read his calendar © Debby Saunders:


Where the seasons meet, at a blustery beach in Dorset. Some fine flight-shots of oddities about today © Pete Saunders:


10th November

On a day when a Swift of some sort seemed like the best bet for some quality - was Portland the only place without one today? - it was the discovery between a succession of viciously heavy showers of a Pallas's Warbler at Wakeham that actually provided the rarity entertainment; 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 30 Goldcrests and a Firecrest were also doing the rounds there and surely indicated there was more to have been found elsewhere if there'd been better coverage. Earlier, it had been Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour that had provided the best of the birds, with the Glaucous Gull, 8 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Black-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Great Skua and Arctic Tern showing up in the wake of last night's stormy conditions. Odds and ends elsewhere included a Black Redstart at Wakeham, a Brambling at Southwell and 2 Siskins, a Moorhen and a Firecrest at the Bill.

In choosing to consort with a plethora of Goldcrests in one of the most sheltered and hence still leafy nooks of the island the Pallas's Warbler didn't give itself up very easily and most views/photographs was as dismal as this one © Martin Cade...


...just occasional though it was possible to be in the right spot at the right moment for something a bit better © Martin Adlam Port and Wey Blog:


The Brambling at Southwell © Debby Saunders:

9th November

Apart from seeing in a marked downturn in the weather this week has also come up with the two best falls of Goldcrests of the autumn, with today's arrival of 50 or so at the Bill being a particular surprise - it can't have been much fun migrating in last night's blasting wind. With very heavy rain setting in and the wind gusting up towards 70mph by the evening today wasn't really birdable after midday but, the Goldcrests aside, the morning did come up with a scatter of 4 Black Redstarts, plenty of new Chaffinches and a odd ones of twos of other routine late arrivals. Kittiwakes begun to pass the Bill in moderate numbers as the blow set in but the sea was otherwise pretty quiet.

Three of today's Black Redstarts - like this one at Church Ope Cove - were probably winterers settling in for the duration, but one at the Obs looked to be a new arrival © Martin Adlam Port and Wey Blog:


It might have got pretty stormy at times in the last few days but it's still very mild so a Clouded Yellow on the wing at Church Ope wasn't too much of a surprise © Martin Adlam Port and Wey Blog:

8th November

A day of strong Southerlies again failed to produce anything of note on the land and, as expected, totals of birds came from the Northern extremities of Ferrybridge and the Cove. The birding highlight of the day came from a settled Gadwall at Ferrybridge (the first for the year), 7 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a lone Sandwich Tern, 37 Dunlin, and 2 Black-necked Grebes. The Cove produced a similar tally to yesterday with 3 Little Gulls, 2 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers. A marginally better day for passerines than yesterday, although that's not saying much, with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Fortuneswell and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane being the main highlights.

Its been a very poor year for thrush movements and this Fieldfare in Southwell is only the 47th record of the autumn © Debby Saunders: 


A known bird around Ferrybridge, this Brent Goose has returned to the Fleet flock every year since 2016 © Pete Saunders: 


Despite there being a good number of Gadwall just a few miles away at Radipole it is still an unusual sight to see within the boundaries of Portland © Pete Saunders: 


7th November

With a night of pretty wild weather being followed by a day that was scarcely any better - the heavy showers came through thick and fast for a good part of the morning - most of today's attention was devoted to the sea or Ferrybridge; the land did get some looks but it was way too windy for even the spots that usually afford some shelter. The pick of the rewards from the sea were 6 Little Gulls and 4 Great Skuas through Chesil Cove, the Glaucous Gull and a late Common Tern through Ferrybridge and a Great Skua and a Little Auk through off the Bill; numbers weren't really much of a feature, with totals for the first couple of hours of the morning of 400 Gannets from Chesil Cove and 300 Kittiwakes from the Bill as good as it got. A Black Redstart at the Bill was the best of a meagre return from the land.

Late terns in this part of the world are usually either Sandwich or Arctic so it was nice to get a fully confirmed Common Terns sighting from Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

6th November

An ever freshening wind spoilt proceedings today although not before a Dusky Warbler had shown up at the Higher Light to provide a much-needed sniff of rarity action. The 2 Black Brants were again at Ferrybridge and the lingering Glaucous Gull showed up on Chesil Beach, whilst local oddities included 5 Woodlarks leaving to the south over the Bill, 7 Mute Swans at Ferrybridge and single Black Redstarts at the Bill and Church Ope Cove. New commoner migrants weren't plentiful but included a few Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, thrushes and finches at the Bill, whilst the goose totals at Ferrybridge increased to 2120 Dark-bellied and 7 Pale-bellied Brents. For a while it looked as though sea passage might be picking up but no sooner had 100 Kittiwakes and 3 Great Skuas passed through off the Bill then movement fizzled out.

Despite largely clear skies overnight it remained quite mild and there was a decent arrival of immigrant moths at the Obs; a Red-headed Chestnut was the highlight, with 13 White-speck, 3 Radford's Flame Shoulder and an Olive-tree Pearl amongst the rest of the catch.

The Dusky Warbler proved to be a frustrating bird: when first discovered it was very vocal and easy to follow even if it afforded little more than glimpses and flight views - it had all the feel of something that had just dropped in; however, it quickly became all but silent and before long vanished into thin air just as we thought we had it pinned down in an isolated clump of Tree Mallows - all we were left with to remember it by was a dodgy phone-recording:



Goldcrest was again the most conspicuous common migrant of the day - this one was in a random wind-swept bush high on the West Cliffs © Martin Cade:


This morning's Mute Swans at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:


Today's Red-headed Chestnut was the tenth for the island but the first since 2011© Martin Cade:

5th November

As a bit of a novelty for this late autumn today dawned with a veritable cacophony of grounded migrants immediately audible; the gathering light soon revealed that the fall consisted almost exclusively of Goldcrests but the 40 or more evident at the Obs represented easily the best arrival of a species that's hitherto been woefully under-represented this season. Sadly, it was also quickly evident that precious little else had dropped in, with thrushes in particular being conspicuously few and far between; a brief Yellow-browed Warbler did show up at the Obs, whilst elsewhere 5 Woodlarks at Broadcroft, a Merlin at Suckthumb and a scatter of 4 Black Redstarts were also discovered. Visible passage was largely limited to 350 Starlings and a trickle of Chaffinches passing through over the Bill. A second Black Brant joined the individual already present at Ferrybridge, with 4 Pale-bellied Brents and 10 overflying Canada Geese also of note there; nearby, Black-necked Grebes increased to 9 in Portland Harbour.

The new Black Brant and 4 Pale-bellied Brents at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders... 



...and the Chesil Cove Black Redstart © Mark Eggleton: 

4th November

The first day of heavy rain and wind for quite some time saw little in the way of passerine migrants but some action on the sea. The first Leach's Petrel of the year was accompanied by a pair of Little Gulls, a lone Great Northern Diver, 90 Kittiwakes, 9 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Black-headed Gulls and a Common Gull. Perhaps the most unusual record of the day was a Moorhen frequenting Culverwell, although not uncommon on our nocturnal recordings, it is not a common species on the deck. 

Elsewhere, the wintering flock of Brent Geese at Ferrybridge saw a dramatic increase to 2100 Dark-bellied and 5 Pale-bellied as well as a single Bar-tailed Godwit but the highlight came from a fly-by Ruff at the Harbour. 

3rd November

In the words of George R.R. Martin, "Winter is coming", and with it some interesting birds. Today saw the first Glaucous Gull of the year, first sighted in Chesil Cove it swiftly made a loop past the Bill to Culverwell then down the East Cliffs and was finally relocated in Portland Harbour. The impressive swell on the sea produced a pretty decent seawatch with a good passage of auks and Kittiwakes, a Bonxie and a Pomerine Skua. On the land side of things, migration was pretty slow but a male Crossbill briefly pitched in Culverwell was an excellent addition to the day totals, 2 Black Redstarts were at Church Ope Cove and a Firecrest lingered on at the Obs.

The North end of the island continued the theme of wintering birds with a Red-breasted Merganser, 7 Goosanders and a Great Crested Grebe at Ferrybridge. The Harbour, on the hand, was stuck firmly in early autumn mode with a late Arctic Tern showing nicely. 

The first-winter Glaucous Gull was kind enough to do a lap of the island allowing itself to get photographed at various stages of its journey © Roger Hewitt: 



2nd November

A day of tranquillity with clear blue skies, not a breathe of wind and none of those pesky migrants to bother us. That's perhaps a little harsh for a day that produced four Yellow-browed Warblers but it was otherwise another day of scraping the barrel as far as visible migration went. Despite the appearance that all movement (however minimal) had ended by 10am, the day produced a couple of oddities later on including a pair of fly-by Velvet Scoters, a very tardy Swallow, and the first Bullfinch at the southern end of the island for the autumn. Finches were the only common migrants showing in any numbers with 23 Bramblings, 73 Chaffinches, 7 Redpolls and 24 Siskins.

At the Northern end of the island winter was rearing its ugly head with the beginnings of the wintering harbour birds with three Black-necked Grebes at Sandsfoot. Ferrybridge also had a distinctly wintery feel with 245 Brent Geese, 4 Goosanders and a Grey Plover.

At least one of the pair of Yellow-browed Warblers at the Reap Lane barns was obliging enough for a photo © Matt Ames: 


The four Goosanders at Ferrybridge were also accompanied by 9 Red-breasted Mergansers © Pete Saunders: 


1st November

What did we do wrong today? With showers before dawn after an otherwise crystal-clear night there ought to have been at least a flurry of thrushes grounded at dawn, but in the event it was again desperately quiet everywhere with scarcely a highlight worth a mention amongst what little was grounded or on the move overhead; at the clutching at straws level a lone Black Redstart at Weston, 6 Bramblings, 2 Fieldfares and a Firecrest at the Bill and an Eider through on the sea there were about as good as it got from what amounted to some pretty comprehensive coverage of the bulk of the centre and south of the island.

After a couple of really chilly days the return of some brief mildness saw 4 butterfly species logged by day - including a helice Clouded Yellow above Church Ope Cove - and a decent selection of immigrant moths trapped overnight; the latter included an Olive-tree Pearl at Sweethill and 6 White-speck, 3 Delicate, 2 Vestal and a Radford's Flame Shoulder at the Obs.

Thanks to plenty of practise with a variety of crazily good-looking and often highly range-restricted owls around the world it didn't take Richard Newton long to last night spotlight us Portland's rather more mundane - but presumably one and only? - Tawny Owl; it had remained doggedly silent through the initial hours of the night but after 11pm it became quite vocal and was relatively easy to follow about the Wakeham/Pennsylvania Castle area - it's spotlighted here in the grounds of the latter © Martin Cade/Richard Newton:



In an autumn of pretty well across the board below average numbers Great Spotted Woodpecker has bucked the trend and continued its seemingly inexorable increase; this one pitched up in the Obs garden but they've become a familiar autumn/winter sight and sound throughout the island these days © Martin Cade:


An undreamt of sight not so long ago but something that'll likely become routine before long - Oak Rustic, Flame Brocade and Radford's Flame Shoulder from the Obs moth-traps this morning © Martin Cade:

31st October

Today we were rescued from writing a blog much the same as we have for most of the autumn by a wandering Rough-legged Buzzard that graced our shores (albeit briefly) this morning, before it shot off towards the Purbecks. A Black Brant, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Long-tailed Duck at Ferrybridge, 3 Goosanders and a Common Scoter in Portland Harbour and 2 Ring Ouzels at Kingbarrow Quarry added some variety to the mix on an otherwise distinctly average day. There was also belated news of a Tawny Owl in Wakeham from the previous night. In terms of common migrants, we were thin on the ground once again with the exceptions of a good passage of Auks and Mediterranean Gulls at sea, 4 Purple Sandpipers around the Bill and a miniscule influx of Goldcrests.

It's a shame that none of the observers had a camera over their shoulder when the Rough-legged Buzzard first appeared overhead at the Obs - it had presumably just arrived in off the sea - since by the time these record-photos were taken after a mad dash to the top of the Obs driveway it was already hundreds of metres away and leaving rapidly to the north. A short while later it was picked up from Bill Hill heading off very high northeast over the centre of the island and we'd guess it would next have made landfall somewhere over the Purbecks. The only previous Portland record occurred during one of the largest influxes ever recorded in Britain when one flew in off the sea at the Bill on 22nd October 1974.© Martin Cade:


The Black Brant at Ferrybridge, possibly one of the returning 'winterers' first recorded in 2006 © Debby Saunders



Three of the four Purple Sandpipers today back in their classic spot to ride out the winter storms © Roger Hewitt: 



There was a time when Tawny Owls were resident on the island but as far as we're aware the last confirmed breeding record was at the Grove Stadium in 1989 since when the only reports have been of isolated calling birds - many unconfirmed and none of which appear to have lingered. Earlier this autumn we followed up reports from non-birders of a calling bird at St Peter's Church at the Grove but drew a blank so it was great to get a fully confirmed record from last night at Wakeham © Martin Adlam portandwey.blogspot:

30th October

What can we say about today that we haven't said about the majority of days this autumn? Clear skies led to another clear out of birds with movements of winter migrants limited to just 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Pintail, 6 Lapwings, 100 Chaffinches, 4 Bramblings, and a Yellow-browed Warbler behind the Museum. Another Cetti's Warbler was located at the Avalanche Hump, its been a remarkably good year for the species on Portland with this being the 7th record.

The Short-eared Owls are often obliging, but its not every day that one decides to pitch up and perform for everyone on a post viewable from the Obs patio © Martin Cade:

29th October

Another bright, clear day saw little movement of birds save for those in the very early hours. A Water Rail in the garden was the first for the autumn, Bramblings made a return to double figures, a sixth Cetti's Warbler was located on the slope above Portland Castle, 2 Woodlarks were present around the Obs and Helen's Fields and there was a surprise reappearance of Friday's Barred Warbler at the Obs. The highlight of the day, however, came in the form of a Little Auk close in off the East Cliffs, no doubt pushed in by the strong North-easterlies we have been getting battered by over the past 48 hours.

Little Auks are notoriously storm driven and this bird was no exception being forced right into the coast by the strong winds we have been experiencing over the past few days © Geoff Orton:


The Ferrybridge Greenshanks © Pete Saunders... 


...and a Fieldfare at the Bill © Roger Hewitt:

28th October

Today saw the movements of birds that we had anticipated with the onslaught of yesterdays gale. A good passage of Brent Geese on the sea was accompanied by a very strong showing of thrushes including over 250 Redwings, 110 Blackbirds, 14 Fieldfares, 2 Mistle Thrushes and 2 Ring Ouzels. A selection of waterfowl and waders were also on the move over land and sea with 17 Common Scoter, 14 Teal, 7 Wigeon, 5 Pintail, 5 Lapwings and a Golden Plover. at the Bill and 2 Greenland White-fronted Geese over Ferrybridge. Chaffinches put in another good showing with over 500 recorded across the island, however Brambling numbers were down on recent days with just 4 for the day. Highlights came from a huge passage of Starlings up the west cliff with over 2000 birds, a Woodlark over the Crown Fields and a lone Firecrest at the Avalanche Hump.

We're struggling to discover any good reason as to why Greenland White-front shouldn't have at least as decent a claim to full specific status as some of the dodgy passerine 'splits' of the modern era but, be that as it may, there don't appear to have been any previous claims of this form at Portland so today's nicely documented fly-bys at Ferrybridge were an excellent first for the island © Edmund Mackrill:


A brilliant display from the Redwings around the Obs Garden today was obviously replicated in the gardens around Southwell © Debby Saunders: