September 2002



     Dartford Warbler - Portland Bill, September 30th 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 30th Barely any increase in grounded migrants today, although there was plenty of visible passage overhead in the continuing unseasonably settled conditions. A Dartford Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs was the best of the new arrivals, with other interest provided by 3 Short-eared Owls, a Hobby, a Merlin, a Cetti's Warbler, a Firecrest and a Corn Bunting at the Bill; a Sooty Shearwater and a Great Skua also passed through on the sea there. Overhead, the bulk of passage consisted of Linnets, with 550 counted leaving to the south at the Bill. September 29th Another early-morning fly-over Lapland Bunting - this time at Reap Lane - was the bird of the day, although more visible were 2 Short-eared Owls that again showed well at the Bill in the evening. The dismal total of only 8 new birds trapped and ringed at the Obs all day reflected the almost complete lack of grounded migrants anywhere. Seawatching at the Bill produced 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Sandwich Terns, a Brent Goose and a Great Skua. September 28th Unfortunately there was no increase in migrant numbers to mirror the customary influx of weekend birders, and the best birds seen were a fly-over Lapland Bunting at Barleycrates Lane at dawn, 2 Little Stints at Ferrybridge, a Buzzard at Verne Common, a Merlin at the Bill and a Firecrest in the Obs garden. With nothing more than a handful of grounded common migrants anywhere, most attention was paid to overhead passage; Linnets were on the move in fair numbers for the first time, along with plenty of hirundines, Meadow Pipits, wagtails and other finches September 27th More quiet weather and pretty quiet birding. A Common Rosefinch was reported to have been seen briefly at Verne Common at midday, but the only visible oddities around the island were 2 Merlins, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Turtle Dove and a Firecrest at the Bill, and another Firecrest at Delhi Lane. Movement of commoner migrants was largely restricted to a light scatter of grounded Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere, with little visible passage overhead. The sea produced the first Red-throated Diver of the the autumn off the Bill, as well as 16 Common Scoter, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Brent Goose and a Wigeon there. September 26th Still no great change despite some heavy cloud cover overhead early in the day. A Firecrest remained at the Obs, whilst other common migrants at the Bill included double figure counts of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests as well as smaller numbers of most of the other expected species. Grounded and overflying Meadow Pipits are now numerous everywhere and passage Skylarks and alba Wagtails are becoming more conspicuous at the Bill. The only interest on the sea was a party of 5 Eider passing the Bill. September 25th Lots more good weather for sunbathing but nothing that offered much prospect of any numbers of birds on the land or sea. A couple of Firecrests at the Obs and another at Southwell, and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill were the only scarcer migrants reported from around the island. Visible passage was much less conspicuous than in recent days and grounded migrants were positively scarce, with only Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks and Chiffchaffs at all numerous. The sea came up with nothing more than 22 Common Scoter, 6 Teal and a Great Skua. September 24th With the remarkably settled weather showing no signs of ending there were precious few changes today. Visible passage dominated, with a strong broad-front movement of hirundines and Meadow Pipits overhead all morning; the first Redwing of the autumn was seen among the sprinkle of other species noted passing through. On the ground, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were conspicuous, and oddities included the Cetti's Warbler still at the Bill, along with a Merlin and a Short-eared Owl there. Seawatching at the Bill produced 20 Wigeon, 6 Brent Geese, 4 Golden Plover and an Arctic Skua. September 23rd More of the same today, with lots of overhead passage and a fair variety of grounded migrants. Rarities of the day were a Richard's Pipit seen briefly at the Grove early in the morning, a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Top Fields and a Cetti's Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs. Among the commoner migrants there were no especially noteworthy counts but 2 Siskins and a Brambling overhead at the Bill were both first records for the autumn. In stiff offshore winds seawatching remained very unproductive, with 3 Brent Geese and a Wigeon the only worthwhile sightings off the Bill. September 22nd Plenty of typical mid-autumn movement today, with good numbers of pipits, wagtails and hirundines passing overhead and a decent sprinkle of grounded migrants, particularly Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, everywhere. Wrens, Robins and Dunnocks are now passing through in good numbers and were conspicuous everywhere and the first few migrant Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Chaffinches also put in an appearance. Among the scarcer migrants there were 3 Hobbies, 3 Short-eared Owls and a Merlin at the Bill. A Little Stint was at Ferrybridge and 5 Arctic Skuas passed overhead there.



     Woodchat Shrike and Peregrine - Portland Bill and Verne Common, September 21st 2002 © Martin Cade and Kelvin Pearce

  September 21st A Woodchat Shrike was the best of the new arrivals today; it showed well for much of the day in the Huts Fields and the Obs garden and was trapped and ringed in the afternoon. Other oddities included an Osprey that flew over the Bill early in the morning, a Tree Sparrow that spent an hour in and around the Obs garden in the morning, 3 Short-eared Owls that again showed well in the evening at the Bill, a Firecrest at Avalanche Road and single Hobby and Merlin at the Bill. Common migrants were again fairly plentiful under heavily overcast skies through the morning but most quickly moved on as conditions improved in the afternoon.



     Common Rosefinch - Portland Bill, September 20th 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 20th After more than a week of relatively unproductive easterlies, a decent rarity - a Common Rosefinch trapped and ringed at the Obs in the early afternoon - finally showed up today. A little overnight rain also dropped a reasonable flurry of common migrants, with the Bill area producing 35 Wheatears, 25 Whitethroats, 25 Blackcaps, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Chiffchaffs and 8 Spotted Flycatchers. Scarcer migrants around the island included 3 Short-eared Owls at the Bill, with another at Barleycrates Lane, single Firecrests at the Bill and Pennsylvania Castle, single Turtle Doves at the Bill and Barleycrates Lane, a Ring Ouzel at Avalanche Road and a Merlin at the Bill. September 19th Precious little change today, with the only faintly interesting sightings being of a Ring Ouzel and a Firecrest behind the former Weston Craft Centre, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Marsh Harrier, a Turtle Dove and a Firecrest at the Bill, and a Little Stint at Ferrybridge. Migrant numbers fell markedly at the Bill, where there were just 35 Wheatears, 25 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Chiffchaffs, 6 Spotted Flycatchers and ones and twos of a few of the other expected species.  September 18th Not a lot to show for plenty of effort today. A fly-over Woodlark and a new Firecrest were the highlights at the Bill, where the only worthwhile counts of common migrants were of 50 Wheatears, 25 Yellow Wagtails and 25 Chiffchaffs, as well as 500 Meadow Pipits passing through overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 60 Black-headed Gulls and a Balearic Shearwater. Elsewhere there was another Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle, and 25 Knot, 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Ruff, 3 Redshank and a Little Stint at Ferrybridge. September 17th Another day of fair variety but poorish numbers of migrants, with visible passage a good deal less conspicuous than recently. Grounded birds included 40 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Whinchats and 10 Spotted Flycatchers at the Bill, with oddities including a Golden Plover and a Turtle Dove there, a Ring Ouzel at Avalanche Road and single Firecrests at the Grove and Pennsylvania Castle. Overhead, counts of Swallows and Meadow Pipits reached the low hundreds and 4 Kestrels passed through at the Bill. September 16th A good variety of common migrants today although numbers were hardly impressive. The Bill area held 50 Yellow Wagtails, 40 Wheatears and 25 Chiffchaffs along with small numbers of all the other expected mid-autumn migrants, whilst overhead there were again plenty of pipits, wagtails and hirundines on the move. Oddities around the island included 3 Short-eared Owls and a Marsh Harrier at the Bill, 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle and a Buzzard ranging around the centre and north of the island. In the continuing offshore wind the only birds of note off the Bill were single Arctic and Great Skuas and the first Brent Goose of the autumn.



     Ring Ouzel and Sparrowhawk - Portland Bill, September 15th 2002 © Martin Cade and Anna Hughes/Charlie Wilkins

  September 15th A veil of heavy cloud overhead at dawn dropped a better variety of common migrants around the island, with counts at the Bill including 50 Wheatears, 40 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Whinchats, 20 Spotted Flycatchers, 20 Willow Warblers and 20 Chiffchaffs; oddities there included 3 Hobbies, 2 Merlins, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Marsh Harrier, a Short-eared Owl, a Cuckoo and a Ring Ouzel. Among the similar numbers and variety elsewhere the highlight was another Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane.



     Short-eared Owl, Spotted Flycatcher and Kestrel - Portland Bill, September 14th 2002 © Adrian Webb (top), Martin Cade (above left) and Ben Sheldon (above right)

  September 14th The Semipalmated Sandpiper was still at Ferrybridge for the first couple of hours of the day before it flew off south with several Dunlin and was not seen again; also there were 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Knot, a Sanderling and a Curlew Sandpiper. Raptors were conspicuous everywhere, with 7 Short-eared Owls lingering at the Bill, as well as 3 Hobbies, 2 Marsh Harriers and 2 Merlins passing through there and an Osprey overhead at Portland Harbour. Swallows were again on the move in good numbers, whilst the few grounded newcomers at the Bill included the first Ring Ouzel of the autumn. A Dotterel flew north over the Top Fields in the afternoon.



Semipalmated Sandpiper - Ferrybridge, September 13th 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 13th A major surprise today came in the form of an adult Semipalmated Sandpiper at Ferrybridge - it had probably been present since yesterday but was only identified today when it showed well in the late afternoon and evening; also there were 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Knot, a Ruff and a Merlin. A Honey Buzzard flew north at Tout Quarry at midday and 4 Short-eared Owls patrolled Top Fields in the evening, but the island otherwise remained disappointingly quiet, with plenty of visible passage but few birds except Wheatears grounded in any numbers. 



Wryneck - Portland Bill, September 12th 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 12th Highlight of the new arrivals today was a Wryneck at the Bill, with a motley collection of back-up oddities there including a Marsh Harrier, a couple of Hobbies, a Short-eared Owl and a Wood Warbler. In stiff easterlies, most routine movement was of diurnal migrants passing straight through, with plenty of pipits and wagtails among the wealth of hirundines. Grounded migrants around the Bill included 60 Wheatears, 10 Blackcaps, 8 Spotted and 6 Pied Flycatchers, 5 Redstarts and a Turtle Dove. Seawatching at the Bill produced 6 Arctic Skuas, 6 Wigeon and a Teal. Belated news was received in the morning of 2 Bee-eaters seen by a local resident yesterday afternoon on the southern edge of Southwell village - just before a Bee-eater was heard but not seen over the Obs.



Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill, September 11th 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 11th Evening update. A little more interest today with a Melodious Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs, an Ortolan Bunting heard over Southwell and then seen briefly at Barleycrates Lane early in the morning and a report of a Bee-eater heard calling high over the Bill in the afternoon. Grounded nocturnal migrants were still thin on the ground but Swallows were moving south along the West Cliffs at an estimated 3000 per hour during part of the morning and there were also 100 Yellow Wagtails and 30 Whinchats around the southern half of the island. Scarcer migrants included 2 Firecrests, a Merlin and a Golden Plover at the Bill and a Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge. September 10th Still not a lot to report, with poor numbers of migrants and nothing more unusual than a Merlin, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Wood Warbler at Weston Craft Centre. Common migrants at the Bill included 60 Yellow Wagtails, 25 Wheatears, 16 Grey Wagtails, 15 Whitethroats and single figure counts of the other expected species. Seawatching at the Bill produced 25 Common Scoter, 3 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and 2 Balearic Shearwaters September 9th Truly dismal day-long wet weather saw to it that coverage was poor today. The Bill area produced 2 Short-eared Owls, a Merlin, a Greenshank, a Turtle Dove, a Mistle Thrush and a Firecrest along with a sprinkle of commoner migrants, whilst waders at Ferrybridge included 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Knot, a Curlew and a Sanderling. September 8th Almost a repeat of yesterday, with Wheatears and Grey Wagtails the only common migrants in any numbers; the only oddity seen was a Blue-headed Wagtail among the few Yellow Wagtails in Top Fields. September 7th Not a lot of change today in more bright and breezy weather. The Bill area produced 90 Wheatears and 22 Grey Wagtails but otherwise just a handful of other common migrants. Elsewhere a lone Crossbill was at Weston. seawatching at the Bill came up with nothing more than 3 Great Skuas. The good selection of waders at Ferrybridge included 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Curlew Sandpipers and 3 Knot; a Merlin was also seen there. September 6th Very quiet today in distinctly autumnal blustery westerlies. Yesterday's rarities had all moved on and common migrants were few and far between, with the Bill area producing just a handful of birds including 3 Redstarts, 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Turtle Dove. Elsewhere, the only news was of 5 Curlew Sandpipers and 3 Knot at Ferrybridge. September 5th Another pulse of rarities today produced sightings of an Icterine Warbler at Culverwell, an Ortolan Bunting at the Grove, a Wryneck at Suckthumb Quarry and 6 Crossbills over Verne Common. Commoner migrants were again well spread in small numbers, and included 19 Grey Wagtails through at the Bill and a Merlin there. Wader numbers dropped at Ferrybridge, although there were still 6 Curlew Sandpipers there in the morning.



      Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit - Ferrybridge, September 4th 2002    © Martin Cade

  September 4th The most interesting new arrivals today were at Ferrybridge, where the variety of waders included 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Curlew Sandpipers, 3 Knot, a Whimbrel, a Curlew, a Grey Plover, a Little Stint and a Sanderling. Elsewhere around the island there was a decent sprinkle of birds but numbers remained low; in the Bill area counts included 35 Wheatears, 25 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Whitethroats, 12 Willow Warblers, 10 Whinchats, 5 Spotted and 4 Pied Flycatchers, 5 Blackcaps and 4 Redstarts. The only minor rarity reported was a Crossbill at the Bill.



Kingfisher - Portland Bill, September 3rd 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 3rd With an east wind and heavily overcast sky at dawn there was a lot of promise in the air but in the event little of note was found today. The unlikely highlights were a Kingfisher trapped and ringed at the Obs, a Crossbill in Top Fields and a report of a Honey Buzzard at Verne Common. Commoner migrants were once again very thin on the ground, with Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails liberally scattered but otherwise just ones and twos of most other species; a Hobby at the Bill was the first of the autumn there. September 2nd Common migrants remained extremely sparse and with the Wryneck having finally moved on from the Obs Quarry it was left to a few rarities to salvage the day. An Icterine Warbler showed up in the bushes beside the Pulpit Pub in the evening, and at the same time the Ortolan Bunting at Reap Lane also reappeared. Earlier, 5 Crossbills had lingered at Verne Common during the morning, and a Honey Buzzard overhead at the Bill had eventually drifted off northwards up the West Cliffs. Among the few common migrants there were a couple of Pied Flycatchers and a Turtle Dove at the Bill, whilst at Ferrybridge a Little Stint was a new arrival.



Ortolan Bunting - Reap Lane, September 1st 2002 © Martin Cade

  September 1st The Wryneck continued to show well in the Obs Quarry but the highlight of the few new arrivals wasn't found until the evening when an Ortolan Bunting showed well at Reap Lane. A Crossbill over Barleycrates Lane and 5 Little Egrets over Weston were the only other noteworthy newcomers. Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails still dominated the common migrant scene, with most other species only present in very small numbers. Waders at Ferrybridge again included 3 Knot and 2 Curlew Sandpipers.