November 2003

November 30th No sign again today of either the Yellow-browed Warbler or the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat. A Lapland Bunting flew north at the Bill but the only movement of late common migrants there involved a few Chaffinches and a Redpoll passing overhead; a lone Blackcap was still in the Obs garden. Elsewhere there was a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle and a Chiffchaff at Easton. Nine Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Red-necked Grebes passed through off the Bill and a Little Auk was reported briefly in Portland Harbour.  November 29th Only a handful of birders braved the wind and rain this morning and, not surprisingly, they drew a blank with both the Yellow-browed Warbler and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat. The only other news was of 7 Goldcrests and a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passing through off Chesil Cove and 3 Common Scoter lingering off the Bill.



  Long-eared Owl - Portland Bill, November 28th 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 28th A Long-eared Owl showed well at the Bill for a while during the morning after it had been watched flying in off the sea, but new arrivals there otherwise consisted of just 250 Starlings also arriving in off the sea and a Golden Plover. Long-stayers still around included the Yellow-browed Warbler at Easton, the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell, and 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Black Redstart and a Blackcap at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced 17 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser.



  Blackcap - Portland Bill, November 27th 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 27th The Yellow-browed Warbler at Easton and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell were both still present today. The sprinkle of birds in the Bill area included 6 Bramblings, 5 Redpolls, 5 Siskins, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Water Rails (including a new individual in the Obs garden), 2 Goldcrests, a Merlin, a Black Redstart and a Reed Bunting, as well as 100 Starlings arriving in off the sea. Elsewhere there were 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Firecrests and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle, a good count for the winter of 38 Pied and a Grey Wagtail on Church Ope beach and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge. November 26th Very little change today, with both the Yellow-browed Warbler at Easton and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell still present and a Siberian Chiffchaff seen again at Wakeham. Five Redwings and 4 Fieldfares at Avalanche Road were probably new arrivals, but the Black Redstart at the Bill and the scatter of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and 'crests in sheltered spots between Southwell and Easton were all likely to be lingering on from previous days. Eight Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea at the Bill. November 25th Despite the continuing presence of both the Yellow-browed Warbler at Easton and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell it is looking like autumn interest is fizzling out as increasingly frequent Atlantic depressions sweep wind and rain across the island. The only additional news today was of a Firecrest and a Treecreeper still at Pennsylvania Castle, and 18 Common Scoter and 2 Brent Geese passing through on the sea at the Bill.



  Yellow-browed Warbler - Easton, November 24th 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 24th The weather finally took a turn for the better enabling most areas of the island to be looked at pretty thoroughly. The Yellow-browed Warbler at Easton and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell both showed well, a Siberian Chiffchaff was at Wakeham and there were further single 'eastern' Chiffchaffs at both Wakeham and Easton. The trickle of thrushes and finches passing overhead at the Bill included 7 Bramblings, 2 Redpolls and 2 Siskins, whilst grounded migrants/winterers there included 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Firecrests and a Water Rail. Suitable sites elsewhere around the island still held a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and 'crests, and another Black Redstart was at Weston. Finally, seawatching at the Bill produced 7 Brent Geese and a Red-throated Diver. November 23rd Another day of unrelenting rain. The Yellow-browed Warbler remained in the Pennsylvania Castle area and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat was still at Southwell. Despite the grim weather it was apparent that there were plenty of late migrants on the move, with thrushes in particular passing overhead at the Bill throughout the morning. Seawatching at the Bill produced little more than a single Great Skua. November 22nd Day-long wet weather made meaningful birding a lost cause everywhere today. The presumed Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler was still at Pennsylvania Castle although it afforded only occasional brief views and the continued presence there of an elusive Yellow-browed Warbler further confused matters; a late Garden Warbler, an 'eastern' Chiffchaff, a Treecreeper and a few Blackcaps and 'crests were also there. The Yellow-browed Warbler remained at Easton and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat was still at Southwell but there was no sign of any Pallas's Warblers today. November 21st The excellent run of birds continued today with new Pallas's Warblers at both Avalanche Road and Pennsylvania Castle and, in the fading light of the last hour of the day, a presumed Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler discovered at Pennsylvania Castle; in addition, the Yellow-browed Warblers remained at Easton and Pennsylvania Castle, the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat was still at Southwell, a Lapland Bunting passed through at the Bill and there were several Firecrests scattered around the island. Common migrant arrivals included surprising numbers of new Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in all suitable sites and a trickle of thrushes and finches overhead everywhere. 



  Yellow-browed Warbler - Easton, November 20th 2003 © James Lees

  November 20th Quality new arrivals today were confined to Easton where a Pallas's Warbler was seen briefly early in the morning and a Yellow-browed Warbler showed well for much of the day; another Yellow-browed Warbler and a Continental Coal Tit at Pennsylvania Castle were both perhaps individuals that had been in the area for some days. There was little evidence of an arrival of new commoner migrants, although fair numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and 'crests were lingering on in sheltered spots throughout the island. Seawatching at the Bill produced 2 Arctic Skuas lingering amongst good numbers of Gannets and gulls. After dark, a Barn Owl was seen hunting alongside the Portland Beach Road near the oil tanks.



  'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat - Southwell, November 19th 2003 © James Lees

  November 19th The 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat remained at Southwell where it was trapped and ringed and found to conform closest to the form halimodendri (click here for more pictures and biometrics). Starlings were still on the move, with another 1600 counted heading north over the Bill, a few finches and a lone Swallow passed through in the opposite direction, but the only noteworthy new birds on the ground were 3 Blackcaps at the Bill; long-stayers still around included 4 Firecrests between the Bill and Easton, a Water Rail at Culverwell and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle. 



  Pallas's Warbler - Southwell, November 18th 2003 © Debby Saunders

  November 18th The rarities keep coming, with a Pallas's Warbler at Southwell being the latest addition to the already impressive November tally. The 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat was also seen again at Southwell, single Merlins were at Easton and Portland Harbour, and at least 7 Firecrests were found in sheltered spots around the south of the island. New common migrants were few and far between, with the only noteworthy movement being of a few Starlings that trickled in off the sea at the Bill.  November 17th Late migrant interest dwindled as the fine weather of the weekend gave way once more to wet and windy south-westerlies. At the Bill, the wintering Firecrest remained at the Obs, but the only evidence of new arrivals were a few grounded thrushes and 500 Starlings that arrived in off the sea; elsewhere the Pennsylvania Castle area still harboured the long-staying Treecreeper and a few Chiffchaffs and 'crests. Offshore, a lone Sooty Shearwater lingered off the Bill throughout the morning.




  'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow-browed Warbler - Southwell and Portland Bill, November 16th 2003 © Adrian Webb (top) and Martin Cade (bottom two)

  November 16th Lots to see again today, with plenty of visible passage overhead, a few new grounded migrants and a selection of new and lingering rarities. On the rarity front a Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs was additional to the singles that remained at both Pennsylvania Castle and Portland Castle, and the 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat also remained at Southwell. Scarcer migrants included a few Black Redstarts and Firecrests scattered around, 3 Woodlarks over Barleycrates Lane, a Merlin at Weston, a Woodcock at Wakeham, a Continental Coal Tit and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle, and a Snow Bunting over the Bill. Grounded commoner migrants included several new Blackcaps and Goldcrests, whilst a strong movement of at least 175 Bramblings was the pick of visible passage over the south of the island, where 800 Wood Pigeons, 175 Stock Doves and 5 Mistle Thrushes also passed through along with plenty of other thrushes, finches and Reed Buntings. Finally, seawatching at the Bill produced 3 Red-breasted Mergansers , a Black-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua, and the Little Gull was still at Ferrybridge. November 15th The return of fair weather saw another pulse of late passage but also produced a most peculiar selection of unseasonable sightings. Most unexpected of all was a fly-by tern off the Bill that was considered by its observers to be a Caspian Tern; seawatching there also produced a Great Northern Diver, a Balearic Shearwater, a Red-breasted Merganser and an Arctic Skua. On the land, sheltered spots in the Pennsylvania Castle/Wakeham area still held a few Chiffchaffs and 'crests, as well as a Garden Warbler, a Willow Warbler and a Treecreeper. At the Bill most of the movement was of fly-over thrushes, finches and Reed Buntings, although 600 Wood Pigeons also passed overhead. Elsewhere the Yellow-browed Warbler showed up again at Portland Castle, a Serin was seen briefly at Weston, a Lesser Whitethroat was in private gardens at Southwell (the same individual that was first seen there several days ago and seemingly a bird of the one the eastern forms) and there were single Mediterranean and Little Gulls at Ferrybridge.



  Chesil Cove - November 14th 2003 © James Lees

  November 14th A very stormy day that saw most attention fixed on the sea. A Sabine's Gull passed through off the Bill and one or more Grey Phalaropes were seen a couple of times in Chesil Cove, but the only other reports were of a single Red-throated Diver passing the Bill and 3 Mediterranean Gulls, a Little Gull and an Eider lingering in Chesil Cove. The land was all but unbirdable, although the shelter of Pennsylvania Castle produced a Yellow-browed Warbler (perhaps the same as the bird seen a couple of days ago at nearby Wakeham), a Treecreeper, a Brambling and a Siskin.



  Yellow-browed Warbler and Long-tailed Tit - Avalanche Road, November 13th 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 13th Yet another new Yellow-browed Warbler that dropped in at Avalanche Road was bird of the day today. The sparse selection of grounded commoner migrants included 3 Black Redstarts at Weston and 2 Blackcaps at the Bill, whilst long-stayers included a Merlin and a Firecrest still at the Bill. Overhead passage was dominated by finches, with 220 Chaffinches, 110 Goldfinches and 22 Bramblings passing through at the Bill. Elsewhere there were 300 Brent Geese, 70 Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Little Grebes, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Little Egrets at Ferrybridge, and a Great Northern Diver, a Slavonian Grebe and an Eider in Portland Harbour. November 12th Skies cleared today giving late migrants a chance to get moving again. New Yellow-browed Warblers showed up at Wakeham and Portland Castle, a Serin paid a brief visit to the Obs garden and a Continental Coal Tit was another surprise newcomer there. Chaffinches and Starlings were conspicuous overhead, with the selection of other visible migrants including 10 Bramblings and 6 Redpolls over the Bill. On the ground there were 3 new Blackcaps and 2 new Goldcrests at the Obs but few other indications of much in the way of new arrivals. Seawatching at the Bill produced 28 Common Scoter, 11 Brent Geese and a single Great Skua. November 11th A dull, damp day that for a change produced nothing of particular note. The Firecrest count dropped to less than 10, Black Redstarts numbered just 4 and the only other scarcer migrants reported were 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Woodcock at the Bill. Among the commoner migrants there were noteworthy counts of 40 Fieldfares at Reap Lane and 14 Bramblings at the Bill but, although Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were still about in some numbers in the remaining well-leaved spots and the late Wheatear was still at Reap Lane, most other species were present in only very small numbers. 



  Serin - Portland Bill, November 10th 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 10th The good birds keep coming, with another Dusky Warbler seen early in the morning at Reap Lane and a Serin seen - and later trapped and ringed - in and around the Obs garden. The Yellow-browed Warbler was still at Southwell, whilst scarcer migrants included about 20 Firecrests and 10 Black Redstarts dotted around the island, 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill and another at Reap Lane, a Merlin at the Bill, a Woodcock at Avalanche Road and a Corn Bunting at Reap Lane. Commoner migrants included a good scatter of new Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, a few over-flying thrushes, finches and Reed Buntings, a late Wheatear at Reap Lane and yesterday's Lesser Whitethroat still at Southwell.




  Dusky Warbler - Portland Bill, November 9th 2003 © James Lees/Martin Cade

  November 9th November goes from strength to strength, with a Dusky Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs in the morning being the latest addition to the list of quality birds recorded around the island this month. A Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell was thought likely to be the individual first seen there three days ago but a late Lesser Whitethroat at the same site and a Pallas's Warbler at Verne Common were certainly new arrivals. Thrushes and finches once again made up the bulk of common migrant passage, but there were also several new Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests at the Bill. Other oddities around the island included 5 Firecrests, 2 Long-tailed Tits and a Woodcock at the Bill, and several more Firecrests scattered elsewhere. Seawatching at the Bill produced 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Skuas, a Brent Goose and a Little Gull, whilst one of the first looks at Portland Harbour this winter revealed the presence of 3 Black-necked and a Great Crested Grebe, a Great Northern Diver and a Shelduck.



  Wood Pigeons - Portland Bill, November 8th 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 8th Heavily overcast skies and a raw south-east wind made birding very difficult all day. Thrushes, Starlings and finches were again on the move in fair quantity although the highlight of the overhead passage were the 1500 or more Wood Pigeons that arrived in off the sea at the Bill during the morning. Scarcer species were hard to come by but did still include at least 11 Firecrests in the few sheltered spots, 2 or 3 Long-tailed Tits between the Bill and Southwell, 2 Black Redstarts at Southwell and a Merlin at the Bill. The sea produced a few surprises, with totals at the Bill of 246 Common Gulls, 28 Black-headed Gulls, 12 Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Wigeon, 5 Common Scoter, 4 Brent Geese, 4 Greylag Geese, 4 Teal, 4 Dunlin, 1 Mediterranean Gull and 1 Little Auk. November 7th One of the Pallas's Warblers remained at the Obs but in clear weather and a strengthening easterly wind it was a much quieter day than yesterday. Thrushes were about in some numbers at dawn but didn't linger and later in the morning more than 1000 Starlings trickled in off the sea, but new common migrants were otherwise thin on the ground. Oddities included 7 Firecrests scattered around the south of the island, a Water Rail, a Short-eared Owl, a Black Redstart and a Corn Bunting at the Bill, a Moorhen, a Black Redstart and a Corn Bunting at Barleycrates Lane and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle.



  Pallas's Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Perryfields, November 6th 2003 © James Lees and Martin Cade

  November 6th The combination of mild, southerly winds and a weak weather front overhead at dawn looked likely to deliver the goods and in the event certainly didn't disappoint. Yesterday's Pallas's Warbler remained at the Obs where it was joined by a second individual that was also trapped and ringed; also new today were an elusive Red-breasted Flycatcher in the Pennsylvania Castle/Perryfields area and a Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell. Commoner migrants arrived in quantity, with counts at the Bill including 120 Skylarks, 100 Redwings, 100 Blackbirds, 70 Song Thrushes, 25 Goldcrests, 13 Black Redstarts, 7 Blackcaps, 7 Firecrests, 5 Siskins, 4 Fieldfares, 3 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Chiffchaffs and 3 Bramblings. Elsewhere there were good numbers of new Goldcrests everywhere, along with 4 Firecrests at Avalanche Road, a Woodcock at Old Hill and a Woodlark over Barleycrates Lane. The sea again provided a little interest, with 5 Eider, 4 Shelduck, 3 Wigeon, 2 Little Gulls, a Great Northern Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser passing through off the Bill.



  Pallas's Warbler - Portland Bill, November 5th 2003 © James Lees

  November 5th Overhead passage all but dried up today but there was plenty of interest on the land where quite a few new arrivals showed throughout the day. At the Bill, a few thrushes and finches passed overhead, and 8 Goldcrests, 6 Blackcaps, 5 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Merlin were scattered about on the land; the highlight wasn't found until late in the afternoon when a Pallas's Warbler was trapped and ringed at the Obs. Elsewhere there were a couple more Firecrests at Avalanche Road, 2 more Black Redstarts at Bowers Quarry and a britannicus Coal Tit at Weston; another interesting discovery was of a Merlin picked up dead on the road at Victoria Square that proved on examination in the hand to be of the Icelandic subspecies subaesalon (thought to be the first confirmed record for Portland). The sea continued to provide some interest, with 25 Common Scoter, 12 Little Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers and single Arctic and Great Skuas passing the Bill. November 4th The return of calmer weather saw plenty of late migrants get moving again. Counts of visible passage at the Bill produced totals of 900 Goldfinches, 500 Linnets, 100 Chaffinches, 75 Meadow Pipits, 60 Greenfinches, 30 alba Wagtails, 15 Bramblings, 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Siskins, 2 Redpolls, 2 Swallows, a Reed Bunting and a Mistle Thrush. Grounded migrants were much more sparsely spread, with 60 Redwings at the Bill leaving before sunrise and nothing better than 2 Firecrests and a Merlin seen there later in the day. The sea produced a trickle of westward passage all day, with 8 Little Gulls, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, a Pintail and single Arctic and Great Skuas passing through off the Bill.



 Red-breasted Goose and Little Auk - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, November 3rd 2003 © Martin Cade and James Lees

  November 3rd There was excitement for a while in the morning when a Red-breasted Goose joined the Brent Goose flock at Ferrybridge; unfortunately, when the bird finally emerged out onto the mud it was found to be sporting a blue plastic ring, and further enquiries revealed it to be an escaped bird that had been present in the Abbotsbury area for several weeks. After a very stormy night there was still plenty to be seen offshore; Chesil Cove produced 600 Black-headed Gulls, 10 or more Little Auks, a Storm Petrel, a Little Gull and a report of a Grey Phalarope, whilst at the Bill there were more than 1000 Kittiwakes, single Great and Arctic Skuas, and a Little Auk that lingered off the East Cliffs all afternoon. The Merlin and the Firecrest were still at the Bill, where 4 Swallows also passed through.



  Little Auks - Chesil Cove, November 2nd 2003 © James Lees

  November 2nd The first good south-westerly blow for a long time saw attention switch to the sea. Off the Bill there were 13 Common Scoter, the first dozen returning Fulmars of the winter, 5 Arctic and 4 Great Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Little Auks, single Manx and Balearic Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel and a Red-breasted Merganser. At least 15 Little Auks also passed through at Chesil Cove, where 3 lingered for a while in the afternoon (although one was later killed by a Great Black-backed Gull); a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua also passed through there. A Little Gull, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Knot were new arrivals at Ferrybridge, where the Black Brant was again present with 200 Brent Geese and the 4 Bar-tailed Godwits were still present. The only news from the land was of 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Merlin and a Firecrest still at the Bill.




 Black Brant - Ferrybridge, November 1st 2003 © Martin Cade

  November 1st The Black Brant that joined the wintering flock of Brent Geese on the Fleet a couple of weeks ago showed up at Ferrybridge for the first time during the morning; also there were 4 Bar-tailed Godwits. In very clear conditions there was a good deal of northward passage of Redwings, Fieldfares, Starlings, Bramblings, Redpolls and Reed Buntings over the south of the island, where a lone Lapland Bunting also passed through. New grounded migrants were thin on the ground, but did include an additional Firecrest that joined the 2 birds already present at the Bill; 3 Purple Sandpipers, a Merlin and a Black Redstart were the only other minor highlights there, whilst elsewhere there were 2 Short-eared Owls at Barleycrates Lane and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle. Seawatching at the Bill produced 2 Great and an Arctic Skua, a Black-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull.