November 2001

November 30th A miserable, damp day. The only birding done confirmed the continuing presence of the 3 Velvet Scoters off the East Cliffs at the Bill. November 29th  Another wet and windy day, with the only sightings of note being of the Common and Velvet Scoters still off the Bill, and a fly-by Great Northern Diver there. November 28th The only news today came from the Bill where there were 4 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones and a Ringed Plover on the shore at the Bill itself, the Common and Velvet Scoters still lingering offshore, and a Pomarine Skua and 2 Red-throated Divers passing through. November 27th A strengthening westerly wind and frequent heavy showers saw to it that today was another seawatching day. Watches at the Bill produced 1200 Kittiwakes and 1000 Gannets, as well as 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and a lone Great Crested Grebe; small numbers of Fulmars have also now reappeared offshore after their moult absence. The Common and Velvet Scoters were still off the East Cliffs, with the numbers of the former having now fallen to 70. The only bird of note on the land was a Black Redstart at Weston. November 26th A ridge of high pressure quietened the weather but late migrants were not very conspicuous. There was a thin scatter of thrushes and finches, including 4 Siskins at Easton and a Brambling at the Bill, but the only other noteworthy birds tempted out by the sunshine were a Water Rail, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest at Culverwell, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Chiffchaff at Pennsylvania Castle. The wintering Buzzard wandered widely and was joined by a second individual over Weston in the afternoon. Off the Bill, the Common and Velvet Scoters were still present, and 8 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver passed through. November 25th The long spell of dry weather ended with a day of almost constant rain or drizzle and there were few birders out in the field. Nothing of note was seen on the land, and seawatching at the Bill produced just a Red-throated Diver and a Brent Goose in addition to the Velvet and Common Scoters that were still lingering offshore. November 24th More very good weather but a distinct lack of good birds. The Buzzard remained at the Bill, and the trickle of late migrants there included 6 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, a Golden Plover, a Blackcap and a Siskin. The Velvet and Common Scoters were still off the East Cliffs at the Bill, and a lone Red-throated Diver passed by offshore. November 23rd A calm and sunny day that produced another flurry of late migrants. Finches were conspicuous, with plenty of new Chaffinches, Linnets, Greenfinches and Goldfinches as well as several Bramblings, Redpolls and Siskins at the Bill. Also there were 5 Redwings, 4 Reed Buntings, 3 Golden Plover, 2 Snipe, a Lapwing, a Black Redstart, a Mistle Thrush, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest. The Scoter flock off the Bill again included 2 Velvet Scoter, and fly-bys there included 5 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Little Auk. A few more wintering birds are now appearing in Portland Harbour, where there were 5 Black-necked and a Red-necked Grebe, and a Black-throated Diver today. November 22nd Another very quiet day. In addition to the long-staying Buzzard and 6 wintering Purple Sandpipers the Bill area produced just a late Swallow, a Redwing and a Redpoll. Offshore there was still at least 1 Velvet Scoter with the Common Scoter flock. Elsewhere a Spoonbill made a brief visit to Ferrybridge in the morning and a single Eider was in Portland Harbour. November 21st A much quieter day, with the few birds around staying well hidden as the south-west wind freshened through the day. The only noteworthy late migrants were a couple of Bramblings and a Blackcap at the Bill, and a flock of 1500 Starlings moving north up the West Cliffs at Weston. The Common and Velvet Scoters  remained off the Bill, where a lone Great Northern Diver also passed through.


'eastern' Chiffchaff - Portland Bill, November 20th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 20th There was another good scatter of migrants around the island, although the numbers of thrushes and finches were not as high as in recent days. Among the new arrivals in the Bill area were a Golden Plover, a Snipe, a Blackcap, an 'eastern' abietinus/tristis Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest, whilst elsewhere there was still a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle, and several Goldcrests were in sheltered spots around the centre of the island. At least 1 Velvet Scoter remained with the Common Scoter flock off the Bill. November 19th Migrants remained on the move in surprisingly good numbers. Among the scatter of thrushes and finches around the Bill area there was also a Water Rail, a Snipe, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest; the Purple Sandpiper flock also increased to 12. Elsewhere there were 6 Goldcrests, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Chiffchaff and a Bullfinch at Pennsylvania Castle, and another Chiffchaff at Avalanche Road. The 3 Velvet Scoter were still off the Bill with the resident flock of Common Scoter, and fly-bys there included 6 Brent Geese, 2 Shoveler and a Red-throated Diver.


Velvet Scoter - Portland Bill, November 18th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 18th There was no sign of the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler today despite plenty of searching. Late migrants continued to trickle through at the Bill, where there were a few thrushes, 4 Bramblings, 3 Goldcrests and a Blackcap; the long-staying Buzzard that has been seen several times over the last fortnight was also still there. Offshore, the 3 Velvet Scoter were still present along with the flock of around 100 Common Scoter November 17th The Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler was still present around the Obs garden today but it was generally extremely elusive in the strong easterly wind that made any birding on the land pretty difficult. The only other birds of note around the Bill area were 10 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares and a Merlin. The sea was quite productive with 3 Velvet Scoters among the resident flock of Common Scoter off the Bill, a fly-by Red-necked Grebe,  and a motley selection of other passing wildfowl including 8 Wigeon, 2 Shovelers, 2 Mallard, a Pochard and a Red-breasted Merganser. November 16th The Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler was still present and showed well throughout the morning; it became much more elusive in the early  afternoon and was seen just once more before being retrapped just prior to dusk (its weight had increased from 5.5gms on first capture yesterday to 6.4 gms). Under heavily overcast skies at dawn thrushes and finches were conspicuous everywhere, with counts at the Bill of 120 Redwings, 100 Blackbirds, 40 Bramblings and 30 Fieldfares; later more than 600 Starlings also passed through at the Bill. The rest of the day was quieter, although 2 new Chiffchaffs were found at Southwell and a late Swallow passed through at the Bill. Off the Bill, 3 Velvet Scoter joined the Common Scoter flock that had increased to nearly 100.



Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bill, November 15th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 15th The recent flurry of interest continued today with the discovery of a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler in the Obs garden; it was trapped and ringed late in the morning (in-hand pictures) and showed well throughout the rest of the day. Migrants were otherwise in fairly short supply, although there was a northward movement of 1000 Starlings, as well as a trickle of thrushes and finches passing through all day. The only other scarce migrant seen was a Hen Harrier that flew north over Weston in the afternoon. November 14th Late migrants were on the move in some numbers again today, with the Bill area producing counts of 70 Redwings, 60 Chaffinches, 50 Blackbirds, 30 Fieldfares, 15 Lapwings, 8 Bramblings, 5 Redpolls, 3 Snipe, 2 Siskins, 2 Goldcrests, a Mistle Thrush and a Blackcap. Elsewhere there was still a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle. The resident flock of Common Scoter remained off the Bill, where there were also 10 Wigeon, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Teal.


Fieldfare - Portland Bill, November 13th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 13th There was no sign all day of the Blyth's Reed Warbler, and unfortunately nothing of great note arrived in its place. A total of 50 Fieldfares passed through at the Bill and Southwell, but otherwise the south of the island produced just a handful of Redwings and Chaffinches, a Blackcap, a Goldcrest and a Redpoll. The Pennsylvania Castle area was busier, with totals of 14 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, a Firecrest, a Treecreeper and the first Coal Tit of the autumn. The resident flock of 70 Common Scoter were still off the Bill, but the only other bird of note offshore was a single Arctic Skua.



Blyth's Reed Warbler - Portland Bill, November 12th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 12th After the unexpectedly busy weekend there was a marked absence of common migrants, but this was more than made up for when a Blyth's Reed Warbler was trapped and ringed at the Obs during the morning; it proved very elusive but was later retrapped, and at the end of the day showed well in the same ivy patch on the edge of the Obs garden that the 'mystery Acrocephalus' frequented in late October/early November. A few thrushes and finches passed overhead through the morning, but the only other birds of interest on the land were a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Barleycrates Lane. The resident flock of 70 Common Scoter, as well as single Arctic and Great Skuas were still lingering offshore, and single Red-throated and Great Northern Divers were also seen passing the Bill.  November 11th Thrushes, finches and Starlings were again on the move in good numbers all day, with the highlights being movements of 2250 Starlings in off the sea at the Bill, and 1100 Chaffinches passing north up the West Cliffs at Weston. Other records on the land included 4 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Blackcaps, a Little Egret, a Woodcock and a Chiffchaff at the Bill, and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. The sea was also productive: 3 settled Little Auks were along the East Cliffs at the Bill early in the morning, the Common Scoter flock offshore increased to 70, and 2 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas lingered offshore all morning. Another Little Auk was reported from Portland Harbour in the morning.



Redpoll and Little Auk - Portland Bill, November 10th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 10th A big improvement in the weather and quite a few more birds about. Thrushes and finches, especially Blackbirds and Redpolls, passed through in good numbers, and there was also a decent northward movement of Lapwings and Starlings. A Long-eared Owl was seen early in the morning at Portland Heights, and later another arrived in off the sea at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced a few divers and wildfowl, as well as a single fly-by Little Auk; a further 2 Little Auks were later found settled off the East Cliffs. Waders at Ferrybridge included 95 Dunlin, and nearby there were 2 Eider and a Little Auk in Portland Harbour. November 9th The wind stayed as strong and cold but a subtle change towards the east produced a few more late migrants. All the reports again came from the Bill area where the constant trickle of finches included 15 Bramblings, 6 Siskins and 3 Redpolls; also there were 2 Chiffchaffs, a Lapwing, a Snipe, a late Ring Ouzel and a Reed Bunting. A few Brent Geese and Black-headed Gulls passed on the sea, and the settled flock of Common Scoter again numbered over 30. November 8th A blast of bitter northerly winds did nothing to improve the birding. The only reports were from the Bill area where there were just 3 Chaffinches, a Fieldfare and a Redpoll on the land, and 34 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver on the sea.


Yellow-legged Gull - Portland Bill, November 7th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 7th Strong westerly winds again dominated and the only migrants around the Bill area were 6 Chaffinches, 2 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, 2 Goldcrests and a Short-eared Owl; elsewhere, the sheltered east side of the island produced a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, and a single Blackcap. Another Little Auk passed the Bill, but the only other birds of note offshore were 44 Common Scoter, 2 Mallard and an unidentified diver; additionally, a Yellow-legged Gull joined the flock of storm-driven gulls on the Common at the Bill in the morning. November 6th Stiff westerly winds are rarely productive in November, and today proved no exception. Eight Chaffinches, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Redpolls, a Swallow, a Redwing and a Chiffchaff were the only late migrants logged at the Bill. Seawatching there produced the highlight of the day in the form of lone Little Auk, although the only other birds of note were 16 Common Scoter


Woodcock - Southwell, November 5th 2001 © Martin Cade

  November 5th More of the same today, with a light passage of thrushes and finches overhead but little of note on the ground. The Bill area produced totals including 30 Redpolls, 15 Swallows, 9 Bramblings, 4 Siskins, a Buzzard, a Snipe and a Bullfinch, and elsewhere there was a Woodcock at Southwell and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle. November 4th The unidentified Acrocephalus seems to have left - it was not seen all day despite plenty of searching. Common migrants remained sparsely spread, with fly-over thrushes and finches again dominating, and the only scarcer species noted were several Black Redstarts, a Merlin and a Mistle Thrush. Seawatching at the Bill produced 27 Common and a Velvet Scoter, 3 Wigeon, a Red-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull. November 3rd The mystery Acrocephalus showed well again at the Obs, but the only other scarce migrants reported today were several Firecrests and Black Redstarts, a Short-eared Owl and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Common migrants were still rather thin on the ground, with just a meagre passage overhead and precious little grounded around the island. Winter visitors are now starting to arrive in Portland Harbour, where there were 4 Slavonian and 3 Black-necked Grebes along with good numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers. November 2nd The unidentified Acrocephalus was still at the Obs, and 2 Spoonbills seen briefly at Ferrybridge at midday were a very good island rarity. Common migrants were in short supply, and consisted mainly of small numbers of fly-over pigeons, thrushes and finches. Oddities included a Dartford Warbler at Barleycrates Lane, a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle  and a Corn Bunting at the Bill. Seawatching was unexpectedly interesting, with 50 Common Scoter, 8 Eider, a Red-breasted Merganser, an Arctic Skua and a Little Auk off the Bill November 1st The unidentified Acrocephalus was still showing well at the Obs, but it was otherwise a day of fly-over late migrants. The variety of pigeons, thrushes, finches and buntings passing through in the morning included a good count of 11 Mistle Thrushes, but grounded migrants were all in low numbers. The only scarcer migrants reported were 3 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle and another at Southwell, single Ring Ouzels at the Bill and East Weare, a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, and a Buzzard over Southwell.