March 2004

March 31st A day with plenty more movement overhead and the first good sea passage of the spring, but again precious little in the way of grounded migrants on the land. A sample count on the West Cliffs for an hour-and-a-half in the morning produced totals of 315 Meadow Pipits, 280 Linnets, 14 Sand Martins, 7 Goldfinches, 4 alba wagtails and a Swallow moving north; other northward moving birds elsewhere included a Kestrel, a Song Thrush and a Redwing over the Obs and a Redpoll over Weston. Odds and sods on the land included a Firecrest at the Bill. The vanguard of up-Channel Common Scoter passage was the highlight off the Bill, where 569 passed through during the day; 15 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Sandwich Terns, 2 Curlew, a Red-throated Diver, a Garganey and an Arctic Skua also passed through there.  March 30th A stiff east wind and clear skies saw to it that visible passage was conspicuous everywhere. The main thrust of movement was along the West Cliffs, where 1000 Meadow Pipits, 200 Linnets, 32 Greenfinches, 25 Sand Martins, 20 Goldfinches, 15 alba wagtails and 11 Swallows passed through during the morning; elsewhere, the highlight was an early Cuckoo passing through at Culverwell. Not surprisingly, grounded migrants were hard to find, with just a handful of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests at the Bill. The sea was disappointingly quiet, with a Red-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull being the only worthwhile sightings off the Bill. March 29th A distinct change in the weather brought the return of clear skies and unbroken sunshine but also saw the supply of migrants dwindle. The Bill area provided totals of 50 Wheatears, 20 Chiffchaffs, 20 Willow Warblers, 6 Goldcrests, 3 Sand Martins, 3 Firecrests, 2 Bullfinches a Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, a Siskin and a Brambling; the only noteworthy sighting elsewhere was of a lone Swallow passing through at Blacknor. Seawatching at the Bill produced 38 Common Scoter, 20 Eider and 3 Shoveler.



  Chiffchaff - Portland Bill, March 28th 2004 © Martin Cade

  March 28th Another bird-filled day, with overcast skies dropping plenty more early migrants around the island. The Bill area produced 200 Chiffchaffs, 150 Wheatears, 50 Goldcrests, 5 Fieldfares, 3 Sand Martins, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Willow Warblers, 3 Firecrests, a Golden Plover, a Swallow, a Black Redstart, a Ring Ouzel, a Redwing, a Blackcap and a Reed Bunting. Sea passage picked up a little in light onshore winds, with the Bill producing 39 Common Scoter, 13 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Shelducks, a Manx Shearwater, a Mallard, a Garganey, an Eider and a Curlew.



  Brambling - Portland Bill, March 27th 2004 © Martin Cade

  March 27th A damp, overcast dawn dropped much better numbers of common migrants, with 75 Chiffchaffs, 35 Wheatears, 20 Goldcrests, 3 Snipe, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, a Redwing, a Firecrest, a Brambling and a Yellowhammer in the Bill area. Elsewhere around the island there were smaller numbers of the same species, and late in the afternoon an Osprey flew in off the sea over Southwell. A good island rarity in the form of 2 Garganey were the highlight on the sea at the Bill, where 2 Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe and an Eider also passed through.



  Long-eared Owl and Grey Plover - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, March 26th 2004 © Martin Cade and Guy Edwardes

  March 26th There was a good start to the day with a Long-eared Owl trapped and ringed in the Obs garden and a Woodlark seen at Nicodemus Knob early in the morning; unfortunately the rest of the day proved to be an anticlimax, with few other migrants in evidence. The Bill area produced 26 Wheatears, 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 White Wagtails, a Firecrest, a Siskin and a Brambling, whilst the handful of new arrivals elsewhere included a Willow Warbler at Weston and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge. A single passing Red-throated Diver off the Bill was the only worthwhile sighting on the sea. March 25th Despite promising-looking conditions, with overcast skies and light winds at dawn, there were again precious few migrants to report. The Bill area produced 20 Chiffchaffs, 15 Wheatears, a Firecrest and a few alba wagtails arriving in off the sea, whilst seawatching there saw 23 Common Scoter, 9 Red-throated Divers and a Manx Shearwater move east and 2 Mute Swans leave to the south. March 24th Still not a lot of change in fine but quite chilly conditions. Visible passage overhead was reduced to a trickle although there were a handful more grounded migrants, with the Bill area producing 20 Wheatears, 15 Chiffchaffs, 3 Firecrests, 2 Goldcrests, a Blackcap and a Brambling. Three Puffins were again off the Bill, where 2 Red-throated Divers also flew past. March 23rd Little change in either the weather or the birds, save for the appearance of Portland's earliest-ever Osprey that flew over Weston at midday. Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails trickled overhead everywhere, 5 Redpolls flew north over Southwell and a Sparrowhawk flew north along the West Cliffs at the Bill, but the only grounded birds at the latter were 9 Wheatears, 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Firecrests and a Goldcrest. The wintering Water Rail remained at Culverwell, whilst 2 Buzzards were over the centre and north of the island  during the middle of the day. Seawatching at the Bill produced 25 Black-headed Gulls, 12 Common Scoter and 4 Red-throated Divers. March 22nd Clear blue skies and a brisk westerly wind didn't look likely to produce much in the way of new arrivals, and there were certainly no numbers to speak of. Three Firecrests were the highlight at the Bill, where there were otherwise just 11 Purple Sandpipers, 8 Long-tailed Tits, 6 Wheatears, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Curlew, a Goldcrest, a Rook and a Brambling. The sea produced a good Bill rarity in the form of a Black-necked Grebe, with 50 Common Gulls, 2 Eider and a Red-throated Diver also passing through there. March 21st Still very windy but without the rain of recent days. The sea provided most of the interest again, with 25 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Black-headed Gulls, 2 diver spp, a Sandwich Tern and frequent sightings of at least 3 Puffins off the Bill. The only migrants of note on the land were a dozen Wheatears at the Bill and a couple of Chiffchaffs at Weston. One of the wintering Eider remained in Portland Harbour. March 20th Another wet and windy morning that gave way to a clearer but even windier afternoon. Seawatching produced just 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver at the Bill and 2 Sandwich Terns and a Mediterranean Gull at Chesil Cove. On the land there were still 8 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill but the only migrants found were 7 Wheatears. March 19th A wet and windy morning restricted observations to the sea, where the only reports were of 5 Manx Shearwaters passing the Bill and the Eider still lingering offshore there. A clearer afternoon revealed that virtually no new common migrants had struggled in: the only birds in the Bill area were 11 Wheatears, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest. March 18th A day of very contrasting conditions: another calm, foggy dawn gave way to a clear, sunny middle of day before wind and rain swept in during the afternoon. Migrant numbers were not too bad again at the Bill, where totals included another 100 Chaffinches, 25 Chiffchaffs, 15 Goldcrests, 10 Wheatears, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Redwings, a Lapwing, a Black Redstart, a Willow Warbler, a Firecrest and a Brambling. Some sea passage was evident off the Bill once the fog cleared, with 160 Gannets, 20 Common Scoter, 16 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Shelduck passing east.



  Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, March 17th 2004 © Martin Cade

  March 17th A clear night gave way to a drizzly, foggy morning and there were plenty more common migrants to see. Highlights at the Bill were at least 2 Ring Ouzels and an exceptional passage of 300 Chaffinches; other totals there included 100 Starlings in off the sea, 40 Wheatears, 35 Chiffchaffs, 30 over-flying alba wagtails, 15 Robins, 15 Goldcrests, 8 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Swallows, 2 Redwings, 2 Bramblings, a Yellowhammer and a Reed Bunting. Elsewhere there was another Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry. March 16th Fine weather and plenty of birds today, with the best fall of migrants so far this spring. The Bill area produced 60 Wheatears, 25 Stonechats, 25 Chiffchaffs, 20 over-flying alba wagtails, 13 Fieldfares, 8 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Sand Martins, 2 Redwings, a Redshank and a Blackcap; the first returning Puffin was also off the West Cliffs at the Bill. Elsewhere there were 4 Sand Martins over Ferrybridge, a Dunlin and a Grey Wagtail over Reap Lane and a Sandwich Tern in Portland Harbour. March 15th The sea again provided most of what little interest there was today, with 22 Brent Geese, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter, a Manx Shearwater and a Mediterranean Gull seen off the Bill. Five alba wagtails arrived in off the sea at the Bill, where a lone Wheatear was the only grounded migrant of note. March 14th The first good south-westerly blow for quite a while stirred up a few things on the sea, with 7 Common Scoter, 5 Manx Shearwaters, a Red-throated Diver, a Golden Plover and an Eider off the Bill, and a Red-throated Diver and a Great Crested Grebe off Chesil Cove. The only news from the land was of a Golden Plover at the Bill and a Chiffchaff and a Black Redstart at Southwell.



  Wheatear - Portland Bill, March 13th 2004 © Martin Cade

  March 13th A Long-eared Owl hunting beside the Beach Road near the Ferrybridge car-park was a good record in the early hours of the morning. A small flurry of half-a-dozen Wheatears were new arrivals at the Bill, where there were also 15 Stonechats, several alba wagtails passing overhead, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Golden Plover and a Siskin. Six Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill and Portland Harbour produced a Great Northern Diver and an Eider.



  Chiffchaff - Portland Bill, March 12th 2004 © Martin Cade

  March 12th Disappointingly quiet today. Yesterday's Chiffchaff remained at the Bill, but the only obvious new arrivals there were a Golden Plover, a Redwing and several over-flying Grey and alba Wagtails; the wintering Black Redstart was also still present there. March 11th Really grim conditions - a blasting, raw south-easterly and heavily overcast skies - hardly lent themselves to enjoyable birding, although there were things to be seen. Not before time, the first Wheatear of the spring put in an appearance at the Bill, where there also 15 Song Thrushes, 9 Stonechats, 5 over-flying alba wagtails, 3 Fieldfares, a Lapwing and a Chiffchaff; 6 Redwings were also new arrivals at Avalanche Road. Seawatching at the Bill produced 300 Gannets, 14 Brent Geese, 6 Common Scoter, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Red-throated Diver and a Curlew. March 10th Despite similar conditions to yesterday there were very few birds on the move today. A Scandinavian Rock Pipit made a brief visit to the Obs pond but there were only a handful of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails on the move overhead. Ten Common Scoter flew past off the Bill and there were 30 Brent Geese at Ferrybridge. At Verne Common, the discovery of some Pheasant feathers was the only indication of the occurrence of a good island rarity that had presumably fallen victim to a predator. March 9th With a stiff easterly wind and clear skies there were a few more birds on the move today, with an hour-long watch on the West Cliffs during the morning producing 73 Meadow Pipits, 14 alba wagtails, 4 Goldfinches, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Greenfinches and a Song Thrush flying north. Smaller numbers of the same species, as well as a lone Grey Wagtail, passed overhead elsewhere at the Bill through the morning. Grounded migrants were few and far between but did include a Chiffchaff in the Obs garden; the first Rook of the year was also seen at the Bill. Twelve Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill and the Eider was still lingering offshore. March 8th The slow start to March continued, with passage again restricted to a trickle of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails passing overhead; the only birds of note on the land were the wintering Water Rail and Black Redstart at the Bill. On the sea, 22 Common Scoter, 9 Golden Plovers and a Red-throated Diver passed through off the Bill. March 7th A Woodcock at Broadcroft Quarry and single Scandinavian Rock Pipits at Ferrybridge and on the Portland Harbour shore were new arrivals today, with the land otherwise producing only the wintering Water Rail and Black Redstart at the Bill and a handful of fly-over Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and Chaffinches everywhere. A passing Velvet Scoter was a first for the year off the Bill, where 20 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver also passed through and the Eider was still lingering offshore. Elsewhere there was another Eider in Portland Harbour. March 6th A few more birds to report today, including a small flurry of migrants. New arrivals included a Chiffchaff and a Siskin at Weston and 4 Redwings, a Curlew and a White Wagtail at the Bill; a few Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails also trickled north overhead. Wintering birds still around included 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Black Redstart at the Bill and a Firecrest at Southwell, whilst other oddities included 4 Long-tailed Tits at Southwell and a Buzzard at Fancy Beach. Seawatching at the Bill produced just a Red-throated Diver, a diver sp and a Common Scoter. March 5th A Woodlark was a quality fly-over at the Bill, but the only other new arrivals there were a Redwing, an alba wagtail in off the sea and a couple of new Dunnocks and Robins trapped at the Obs; wintering birds still present included 7 Purple Sandpipers, a Water Rail and a Black Redstart. March 4th A milder, foggy day that looked as though it might have produced one or two early migrants, but all that could be found were a handful of new Song Thrushes at the Bill. The wintering Purple Sandpiper, Water Rail and Black Redstart were all still at the Bill, where 12 Common Scoter passed through on the sea. March 3rd Almost a blank today, with the only report received being of a single Goldcrest at Easton. March 2nd Spring-like weather today but no birds to go with it. Another lone alba wagtail arrived in off the sea at the Bill but the only other bird of note on the land was the wintering Water Rail at Culverwell. On the sea, the Eider remained offshore and 3 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Crested Grebe passed by.



  Greenshank - Ferrybridge, March 1st 2004 © Guy Edwardes

  March 1st Precious little change to report. A single alba wagtail arrived in off the sea at the Bill, where there were still 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Water Rail and a Black Redstart; the Eider was still off the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers flew past on the sea. Elsewhere, a Greenshank was at Ferrybridge.