April 2005



  Meadow Pipit - Portland Bill, April 30th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 30th

The fog lingered on but it was a much more interesting day after some rain in the night dropped a decent arrival of migrants. Counts from the Bill area included 70 Garden Warblers, 65 Sedge Warblers, 65 Blackcaps, 60 Willow Warblers, 15 Tree Pipits, 15 Wheatears, 7 Redstarts, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Turtle Doves, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Whinchats, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Golden Plover, a Cuckoo, a Wood Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher; hirundines were also very numerous, with many seemingly having roosted in the area after arriving in the fog yesterday, whilst 3 fly-over Bar-headed Geese were a further peculiar sight at the Bill. Additional Wood Warblers at Ventnor Road (2) and Pennsylvania Castle were pick of the migrants elsewhere, whilst 140 Dunlin at Ferrybridge provided evidence of wader passage getting going there. The sea was invisible for much of the day from the Bill but a seawatch in slightly clearer conditions from Chesil Beach during the morning revealed plenty of birds on move: 483 commic terns, 31 Bar-tailed Godwits, 16 Common Scoter, 16 Whimbrel, 12 Dunlin, 8 Arctic Skuas, 3 Black Terns, 2 Sanderling and a Little Gull. A Black-throated Diver, a Little Gull and a Black Tern passed through off the Bill in clearer weather during the evening.

There was evidence of a small arrival of immigrant moths, with 7 Dark Sword Grass in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

April 29th

The Portland spring blight of thick fog struck again today. There was an encouraging start on the land when a Stone Curlew was heard calling near the Obs in the gloom soon after dawn but it was soon evident that any other migrants on the move had passed overhead without stopping. The Bill area produced just a handful of the commoner species along with 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Reed Warblers, a Whimbrel, a Redstart, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Garden Warbler; another Grasshopper Warbler was at Avalanche Road. The sea eventually became visible early in the afternoon but the only movement of any interest logged thereafter was of 12 Manx Shearwaters and 3 Great Skuas passing through off the Bill.




  Great Skuas, Shag and Cormorant - Portland Bill, April 28th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 28th

Still slow on the land with a freshening south-west wind and drizzly outbreaks ensuring that most eyes were again on the sea. Odds and sods around the Bill area included 48 Wheatears, 7 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Sedge Warblers and a Yellow Wagtail, whilst elsewhere there was a lone Whinchat at Reap Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced 55 Whimbrel, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Common Scoter, 7 Arctic Skuas, 5 Great Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a Bar-tailed Godwit.

Late news for 25th April: a fuller count of the party of Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the Portland Harbour shore revealed there to be 70 birds present - easily the highest count recorded at Portland.



  Whimbrel - Portland Bill, April 26th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 27th

Quiet again on the land in bright and breezy westerly weather, with the only noteworthy grounded migrants at the Bill being 29 Wheatears, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Redstarts, 2 Sedge Warblers, a White Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail and a Lesser Whitethroat. The sea continued to provide some interest, with totals of 275 Gannets, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 19 Common Scoter, 8 Whimbrel, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 3 commic terns, 2 Great Skuas, 1 Red-throated Diver and 1 Black-throated Diver passing through off the Bill.

The Obs garden moth-traps produced a single Silver Y overnight whilst a Brimstone butterfly was a notable sighting at Weston.




  Pomarine Skuas (.....still too distant!) - Portland Bill, April 26th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 26th

From feast to famine with a complete clear out of yesterday's birds and very little arriving in their place. The sea provided the best of the day's birding with watches from the Bill producing 250 commic terns, 170 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 7 Pomarine Skuas, 6 Great Skuas, 5 Black-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Red-throated Diver. The only reports of birds on the land came from the Grove where there 2 Turtle Doves and from the Bill where hirundines were arriving in off the sea in quantity but the pick of the few birds on the ground were just 3 Redstarts, a Yellow Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler and a Garden Warbler.






  Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler, Wood Warbler and Blackcap - Portland Bill, April 25th 2005 © Roger Treeby (Pale-bellied Brent Geese) and Martin Cade (warbler heads)

  April 25th

A promising-looking dreary, still dawn delivered if not quite the best fall of the spring numerically then certainly the best in terms of variety. The Bill area was covered pretty thoroughly and produced totals of 300 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatears, 100 Blackcaps, 30 Whitethroats, 25 Chiffchaffs, 20 Redstarts, 20 Garden Warblers, 15 Pied Flycatchers, 10 Tree Pipits, 10 Whinchats, 10 Grasshopper Warblers, 10 Sedge Warblers, 4 Cuckoos, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Reed Warblers, 4 Wood Warblers, a Turtle Dove, a Redpoll, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Spotted Flycatcher, hirundines and Swifts were arriving in off the sea in quantity but were not fully counted and a passing Greenshank was a noteworthy visible migrant at the Bill. Other island areas produced lesser numbers of the same wide range of species but the only real oddities discovered were a party of 40 Pale-bellied Brent Geese settled on the Portland Harbour shore and a Quail that was flushed several times at the Bill. Chesil Beach again produced the best of the seawatching, with 62 Common Scoter, 42 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua passing through and a Roseate Tern lingering for a while among the local Little Terns; the Bill produced 70 Common Scoter, 25 Whimbrel, 19 commic terns, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Grey Plover.



  Yellow Wagtail - Portland Bill, April 24th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 24th

A day with plenty of movement overhead and at sea but not quite so much on the ground. The sea was fairly productive throughout the morning; totals at the Bill included 300 Gannets, 100 Manx Shearwaters, 130 commic terns, 111 Common Scoter, 41 Sandwich Terns, 12 Arctic Skuas, 3 Eider, 3 Curlews, 2 Black Terns, a Brent Goose and a Pomarine Skua, whilst off Chesil Beach there were 220 commic terns, 86 Manx Shearwaters, 55 Whimbrel, 35 Bar-tailed Godwits, 35 Sandwich Terns, 25 Little Terns, 16 Common Scoter, 6 Arctic Skuas, 3 Sanderling, 3 Curlew, a Red-throated Diver, a Brent Goose and a Red-breasted Merganser. Visible passage was very conspicuous along the West Cliffs, where a two and a half hour sample count produced totals of 330 Swallows, 100 House Martins, 83 Meadow Pipits, 82 Linnets, 36 Goldfinches, 33 Wheatears, 11 Sand Martins, 4 alba wagtails, 2 Yellow Wagtails and 2 Tree Pipits flying north; several Swifts and a Hobby also passed through at other times and a Short-eared Owl arrived in off the sea on Chesil Beach. On the ground there was a moderate scatter of all the expected summer migrants, including 70 Wheatears, 5 Sedge Warblers, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Yellow Wagtail, a Redstart, a Ring Ouzel and a Reed Warbler (the first of the spring) at Barleycrates Lane, a Yellow Wagtail and a Redstart on Chesil Beach and 75 Wheatears, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Grasshopper Warblers and a Black Redstart at the Bill. Finally, the 2 resident Pheasants were still at the Bill where there were also 7 Purple Sandpipers



  Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid - Portland Bill, April 19th 2005 © Colin McEntee

  April 23rd

The rain finally stopped soon after dawn but this was the cue for the wind to die down and thick fog to roll in and persist for much of the day. Rarity of the day was a Hen Harrier that passed through at the Bill and later arrived in off the sea at Chesil Beach. A Swift at the Bill and Lesser Whitethroats at Pennsylvania Castle and Verne Common were both new species for the year, whilst a Whinchat at Reap Lane was the first since an exceptionally early single was reported a couple of weeks ago. The land provided small numbers of a variety of migrants that included 5 Sedge Warblers, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Garden Warblers, a Common Sandpiper, a Yellow Wagtail, a Redstart, a Ring Ouzel and a Reed Bunting at the Bill and 2 Whitethroats, a Sedge Warbler and a Garden Warbler at Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane. Chesil Beach again produced the best of the seawatching, with several watches through the day providing totals including 560 commic terns, 93 Whimbrel, 24 Dunlin, 5 Arctic Skua, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shoveler, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Little Gulls and 1 Black-throated Diver; the Bill produced not much more than 82 commic terns, 21 Whimbrel, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas, 1 Great Skua and 1 Black-tailed Godwit.

Late news for 19th April: A presumed Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid was seen briefly on the clifftop in the Lower Admiralty compound at the Bill.

April 22nd

The weather looked threatening from early in the day but with the expected rain holding off until early afternoon there was ample time to discover that the land was extremely quiet and the sea was not as productive as might have been expected in a brisk easterly. Common migrants were reduced to a mere handful with nothing much more interesting at the Bill than a Scandinavian Rock Pipit, a Yellow Wagtail and a Redstart. The sea was well-watched throughout the morning with most of the commoner species in similar numbers at both the Bill and Chesil Beach although the latter, as usual, produced quite a bit more variety; totals at the Bill included 260 Common Scoter, 110 commic terns, 61 Whimbrel, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Little Gulls and 4 Arctic Skuas, whilst Chesil chipped in with 170 Common Scoter, 69 Whimbrel, 69 commic terns, 34 Common Terns, 30 Sandwich Terns, 24 Manx Shearwaters, 20 Brent Geese, 18 Little Gulls, 14 Little Terns, 8 Knot, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Sanderling, a Grey Plover and an Arctic Skua. Waders at Ferrybridge in the late afternoon included 16 Bar-tailed Godwits and 6 Dunlin.

April 21st

Despite there not being a large fall of migrants variety is increasing by the day and there was plenty of interest around the island. Grounded migrants at the Bill included 90 Willow Warblers, 20 Wheatears, 20 Blackcaps, 20 Chiffchaffs, 6 Whitethroats, 2 Redstarts, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers, a Common Sandpiper, a Yellow Wagtail, a Sedge Warbler, a Goldcrest and a Pied Flycatcher; 2 more Pied Flycatchers at Avalanche Road were among the similar scatter of birds elsewhere. There was also plenty of visible passage along the West Cliffs, where a short 45 minute sample count late in the morning provided totals of 250 Meadow Pipits, 150 Goldfinches, 68 Swallows, 30 Linnets, 7 Sand Martins and 2 House Martins moving north; in the late afternoon a Marsh Harrier flew north over Fortuneswell. With the wind still in a slightly offshore north-easterly direction for most of the morning the sea was disappointingly quiet, with the Bill producing only 100 or so lingering Manx Shearwaters and 65 Bar-tailed Godwits, 31 Common Scoter, 4 Black-throated and a Red-throated Diver, 3 Shelduck, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Eider, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Sandwich Terns and a commic tern passing up-Channel. A short evening seawatch from Chesil Beach produced just 4 commic terns, 2 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Whimbrel passing through and a single Red-throated Diver settled offshore, whilst 4 Bar-tailed Godwits were new arrivals at Ferrybridge where spring wader passage has thus far been almost non-existent.

The only insect news was of a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on the wing in a garden at the Grove in the evening.



  Iceland Gull - Portland Bill, April 20th 2005 © Martin Cade and Joe Cockram

  April 20th

A peculiar assortment of sightings to report today, the most noteworthy of which was of a Shore Lark that was seen twice early in the morning at the Bill (this species remains a major rarity on the island where there have been just seven records in total of which the last was as long ago as 1988). A white-winged gull that lingering off the Bill during the morning was eventually pinned down off West Cliffs during the afternoon where it could be identified as an Iceland Gull (the sighting of a white-winged gull at Ferrybridge yesterday was of an adult bird and was thus a different individual). The final notable oddity was a Green Woodpecker that showed up in and around the Obs garden during the afternoon. Among the sprinkle of commoner migrants at the Bill there were several Greenland Wheatears, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Redstarts, a Common Sandpiper, a Yellow Wagtail and a Black Redstart, whilst elsewhere there 3 Whimbrel at Ferrybridge and a Cuckoo at Tout Quarry. Seawatching at the Bill was much less productive than in recent days: more than 200 Manx Shearwaters lingered offshore all day but the only passing birds of note were 2 Red-throated Divers; a short seawatch from Chesil Beach in the evening produced 40 Manx Shearwaters, 20 Common Scoter, 14 commic terns, 1 Great Skua and 1 Arctic Skua.

The first Broad-bodied Chaser and Large Red Damselfly of the year were on the wing in the Obs garden.



  Eider - Portland Bill, April 19th 2005 © Joe Cockram

  April 19th

After some heavy rain passed through during the night a fresh easterly wind set in and got more birds moving on the sea. The morning totals at the Bill were 300 Manx Shearwaters, 250 Gannets, 200 Common Scoter, 36 Eider, 31 commic terns, 15 Arctic Skuas, 13 Sandwich Terns and 2 Whimbrel. Chesil Beach was watched for a shorter time and many of the birds passing there were thought to be different to those seen at the Bill; the morning totals there were 280 Common Scoter, 100 commic terns, 80 Little Terns, 60 Manx Shearwaters, 15 Arctic Skuas, 10 Sandwich Terns, 4 Shelduck, 4 Little Gulls, 3 Dunlin, 2 Eider, 2 Velvet Scoter and 1 Whimbrel. Later in the day there was some limited evening movement of Manx Shearwaters off both the Bill and Chesil. Coverage of the land has been poor in recent days but it was again apparent today that there were few common migrants about: the best on offer at the Bill was the first Sedge Warbler of the spring, along with 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Grey Heron and a Merlin. Elsewhere, a large white-winged gull seen in flight over Ferrybridge during the afternoon was thought most probably to be a Glaucous Gull.

April 18th

The land was not quite so devoid of birds as yesterday but most of the interest was still on the sea. Watches from the Bill produced 700 Manx Shearwaters, 500 Gannets, 97 Common Scoter, 47 commic terns, 12 Eider, 12 Great Skuas, 9 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Black-throated Diver, a Brent Goose and a Pomarine Skua, whilst early morning totals at Chesil Cove were 17 Sandwich Terns, 6 Great Skuas, 8 Little Terns, 3 Whimbrel, 2 commic terns, 1 Black-throated Diver and 1 Arctic Skua. Swallows were on the move overhead in some quantity but grounded migrants were not at all numerous, with the best at the Bill being a Merlin and a Golden Plover.

April 17th

A seawatching day, with a freshening south-east wind pushing in some passage ahead of a front of rain that swept in by midday. Totals at the Bill during the morning included 500 Gannets, 107 Manx Shearwaters, 69 Common Scoter, 31 Eider, 17 Great Skuas, 7 Pomarine Skuas, 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 commic terns, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver; Chesil Beach was watched for a shorter period and produced many of the same birds: 570 Gannets, 90 Manx Shearwaters, 71 Common Scoter, 56 Little Terns, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, 1 Black-throated Diver and 1 Arctic Skua. After a very clear night common migrants were all but absent from the land although the first Black Redstart for a few days was at the Bill and the first Whitethroat was back on territory at Verne Common.



  Pied Flycatcher and Short-eared Owl - Reap Lane and Portland Bill, April 16th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 16th

More of the same today with another good arrival of migrants throughout the island. The Bill area was covered most thoroughly and produced 300 Willow Warblers, 40 Wheatears, 25 Blackcaps, 25 Chiffchaffs, 12 Redstarts, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Tree Pipits, a Little Egret, a Short-eared Owl, a Yellow Wagtail, a Whitethroat and a Continental Coal Tit; visible passage was not fully counted but the Swallow total was in the many hundreds and there were lesser numbers of the other hirundines, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Linnets. Common migrants were plentiful throughout the rest of the island, where noteworthy sightings were of a Hobby and a Merlin on Chesil Beach, 2 Little Terns at Ferrybridge, 2 Greenland Wheatears at Tout Quarry, a Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry and a Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane. On the sea the pick of the sightings were of 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Velvet Scoters and 2 Great Skuas off the Bill and 7 Little Terns, 5 Red-throated Divers, 3 Velvet Scoter and a Little Egret off Chesil Beach.

April 15th

Although thundery showers broke out during the afternoon, the morning was pleasantly clear and sunny with only a light northery breeze. A Serin briefly at Weston at midday was the only rarity discovered but commoner migrants got moving again and there was a decent flurry of birds at the Bill, where totals included 200 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatears, 30 Chiffchaffs, 20 Redstarts, 20 Blackcaps, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Ring Ouzels, 3 Goldcrests, a Common Sandpiper and a Whitethroat; other sites around the centre and north of the island produced a similar variety including 3 Pied Flycatchers at Verne Common, 2 more Ring Ouzels at Barleycrates Lane and 2 more Grasshopper Warblers at the Grove. Hirundines, including an increasing number of House Martins, were arriving in off the sea in good numbers but the only other overhead movement involved fair numbers of Linnets, a single Grey Heron and up to 4 lingering Common Buzzards. Odds and sods passing on the sea off the Bill included 33 Common Scoter, 7 Whimbrel, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Black-throated Divers and a Red-throated Diver.

A large party of around 60 dolphins, thought probably to be Common Dolphins, lingered distantly off the Bill for more than two hours early in the morning; later in the day the regular group of 8 Bottle-nosed Dolphins appeared close inshore off East Cliffs at the Bill.



  Common Buzzard - Portland Bill, April 14th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 14th

Popular opinion had it that the substantial quantities of frontal cloud shown on satellite weather maps as blanketing the near-Continent would have knocked passage on the head. Just for once the pundits proved to be right and it was indeed deadly quiet throughout the island. An Osprey passed over at Wakeham late in the morning but there was next to no other visible passage and grounded migrants consisted of just single figure totals of a handful of common species; 3 Common Buzzards made full use of the clear skies and warm sunshine and roamed widely around the south of the island throughout the afternoon. With so little on the land plenty of attention was paid to the sea but watches at the Bill produced only 13 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Whimbrel, a Great Skua, an Arctic Skua and a Mediterranean Gull.

The Obs garden moth-traps remain very quiet: no immigrants have been recorded this month and the the only new species for the year in recent nights have been Shoulder Stripe, Chamomile Shark and Powdered Quaker.



  Bottle-nosed Dolphins - Portland Bill, April 13th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 13th

Much quieter today with the morning arrival of new migrants at the Bill consisting of just a light scatter of the commonest expected species, along with a Merlin, a Golden Plover, a White Wagtail, a Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler; under predominantly overcast skies visible passage later in the day was restricted to just a trickle of hirundines. The sea scarcely fared any better with nothing more than 46 Manx Shearwaters, 41 Common Scoter, 4 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill.

A party of at least 8 Bottle-nosed Dolphins lingered off the Bill for much of the morning before leaving to the west into Lyme Bay.



  Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, April 12th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 12th

Heavy cloud overhead at dawn dropped the best fall of migrants so far this spring although variety remained distinctly limited. Willow Warblers dominated, with around 400 at the Bill and at least as many more elsewhere around the centre of the island. The Bill area also produced 100 Wheatears, 50 Chiffchaffs, 15 Blackcaps, 8 Redstarts and a Goldcrest but the overcast skies put a stop to visible passage and no more than a trickle of Swallows passed through as the day went on. The only scarcer migrants noted were a Merlin at the Bill, a Firecrest at Cheyne and the first Pied Flycatcher of the spring at Avalanche Road, although a large falcon, thought to be a Saker, was an additional interesting sighting at Grove Point early in the morning. The sea remained quiet, with just 11 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and a single Great Skua passing through off the Bill.




  Swallows - Westcliff, April 11th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 11th

The recent migrant drought ended today with both quality and quantity reported around the island. In warm sunshine and light winds the quality proved difficult to catch up with as nothing lingered long: a Serin popped up briefly on several occasions around the Bill early in the morning, a Hoopoe was flushed up from beside the cliff top at Weston late in the morning and an Osprey flew straight through along the West Cliffs during the afternoon; scarce migrants included a Firecrest at Culverwell and a Nightingale at Southwell. Among the commoner migrants Swallows were on the move in quantity with more than 400 per hour passing along the West Cliffs either side of midday; a handful of House Martins, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits, Linnets and  Goldfinches also passed through. On the ground, a good arrival of Willow Warblers around the south of the island at dawn included at least 150 at the Bill, whilst there were also small numbers of Redstarts, Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs everywhere. Seawatching produced just 16 Common Scoter and a Mediterranean Gull passing through off the Bill.

Single Brimstone butterflies were seen at the Bill and at Suckthumb Quarry, the first Large White of the year was on the wing at Weston and several single Red Admirals were scattered around the island.





  Greenland Wheatear and Glaucous Gull - Portland Bill, April 10th 2005 ©  Martin Cade 

  April 10th

The light veil of cloud overhead at dawn soon dissipated and it remained very quiet on the migrant front. New arrivals at the Bill included 3 Redstarts, 2 Whimbrel, a Golden Plover, a Black Redstart, a Nightingale and a Grasshopper Warbler, but there were otherwise just odd ones and twos of Wheatear, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler there. The sea came up with the bird of the day in the form of a Glaucous Gull that was seen twice off the Bill during the morning; more routine passage there included 43 Common Scoter, 14 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Sandwich Terns and 3 Red-throated Divers passing by. Elsewhere there were 18 Sandwich Terns and a Sanderling at Ferrybridge and a high count of 21 Great Crested Grebes in Portland Harbour. 

Speckled Wood and Holly Blue butterflies were both on the wing for the first time this year in the Obs garden.

April 9th

After a night so clear that there was a touch of frost on the ground at dawn there were low expectations of any improvement in migrant numbers. A very light scatter of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were evident around the south of the island where the only even vaguely interesting other sightings were of the long-staying Scandinavian Rock Pipits, Pheasant and Redstart still present at the Bill. The continuing offshore wind restricted passage on the sea to 47 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill.

A party of 4 Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed east off the Bill during the morning and the first Red Admiral butterfly of the year was seen in the Obs garden.




  Rock Pipits ?petrosus and littoralis - Portland Bill, April 8th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 8th

With the wind having veered still further into the north it was pretty chilly and migrants remained thin on the ground. A Serin dropped in briefly in a garden at Southwell before leaving to the north and among the commoner migrants 'the' Redstart remained for it's fourth day at the Bill where just about the only new arrivals were half-a-dozen each of Blackcap and Willow Warbler, two each of Wheatear and Chiffchaff and a single passing Merlin; several Scandinavian Rock Pipits remained settled on the Bill Common. The stiff offshore wind saw to it that the sea was deadly quiet.

April 7th

No great change on the land in pretty uninspiring brisk north-westerlies with occasional heavy showers; among the small numbers of common migrants there were several Scandinavian Rock Pipits and a Redstart at the Bill and 2 House Martins at Church Ope Cove, whilst a Pheasant reappeared at Culverwell. Seawatching at the Bill produced 500 Gannets, 8 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Common Scoter, 5 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Brent Geese and 2 Great Skuas.

A group of at least 3 Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed quickly south off the East Cliffs at the Bill during the afternoon.

April 6th

Only the real diehards ventured out  this morning in strong winds and heavy and persistent rain; their reward was 275 Gannets, 53 Common Scoter, 20 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas, 2 Little Terns and an Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill. The afternoon was clear and sunny if still rather windy and it was apparent that there were few grounded migrants to be seen, with the Bill area producing a handful of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers and a single Redstart. The only news from elsewhere was of 4 Little Terns at Ferrybridge.



  The Blair entourage overhead - north Portland, April 5th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 5th

It was a sad reflection on the quality of birding today that the most unusual visitor to the island was the Prime Minister who kicked off the General Election campaign with a flying visit to Portland. Birders would have been well advised to have made their visits to the island as fleeting as Mr Blair made his for there was precious little in the way of migrants to occupy them today. The Bill area came up with just low single figure totals of the commonest summer migrants, along with a single Merlin and a lone Redstart; a Black Redstart at Reap Lane was the only noteworthy sighting elsewhere. Seawatching at the Bill produced 9 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Shelduck, a Manx Shearwater, an Arctic Skua and a total of 19 presumably migrant Cormorants that arrived from the south.



  Grasshopper Warbler - Portland Bill, April 4th 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 4th

The promised rainfall amounted to no more than a few spits and spots and, with what wind there was being a favourable light offshore breeze, there was a decent arrival of grounded migrants. Bird of the day was a Red Kite that arrived from the mainland over Portland Harbour and, despite the weather conditions, continued heading off to the south-west out to sea. Wheatears and Willow Warblers were the most conspicuous new arrivals, with 60 of the former and 150 of the latter at the Bill, where there were also 20 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 5 Goldcrests, the first 3 Grasshopper Warblers of the spring and a Redstart. The sea was much less productive than in recent days, with totals of just 55 Common Scoter, 25 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Red-throated Divers, 3 Little Egrets, a Great Northern Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, an Arctic Skua and a Sandwich Tern passing through off the Bill. The only news from elsewhere was of 132 Red-breasted Mergansers, 16 Great Crested Grebes and 3 Eider still in Portland Harbour and a Mediterranean Gull off Chesil Cove.




  Seawatchers beside the Trinity House obelisk and Little Egrets - Portland Bill, April 3rd 2005 © Martin Cade and Joe Cockram

  April 3rd

Another fairly quiet day on the land with the sea providing some quality if not quite the quantity of yesterday. The best on offer on the land were 3 Black Redstarts, a Short-eared Owl, a Firecrest, a Brambling and the first Common Sandpiper of the spring at the Bill, 2 Grey Plovers at Ferrybridge, a White Wagtail at Reforne and a Corn Bunting at Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced 115 Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Divers, 10 Brent Geese, 10 Shoveler, 6 Arctic Skuas, 5 Little Egrets, 4 Shelduck, 4 commic terns, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Little Gull and a Sandwich Tern, whilst off Chesil Beach 46 Common Scoter, 27 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Manx Shearwater, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Common Tern, a Sandwich Tern and a Puffin passed through.

Three Bottle-nosed Dolphins were seen off the Bill during the morning and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the wing in a garden at Southwell




  Wall Lizard and Purple Sandpiper - Duncecroft Quarry and Portland Bill, April 2nd 2005 © James Lees

  April 2nd

A brisk and quite chilly easterly wind took the edge off what otherwise a pleasantly sunny day. Grounded migrants were in very short supply but did included the first report of the spring of a Whinchat at the Bill as well as a Scandinavian Rock Pipit, a Black Redstart and a Reed Bunting there and a Fieldfare at Kingbarrow Quarry. There was a good deal more movement overhead including the first House Martin over Weston, 5 Tree Pipits and 2 Yellow Wagtails over the Bill and plenty of Sand Martins, Swallows, Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails, Chaffinches and Linnets everywhere (sample counts included 99 Swallows and 32 Sand Martins passing through at Tout Quarry in 90 minutes during the afternoon). Conditions looked promising for some good sea passage but, Scoters aside, there was surprisingly little passing; totals at the Bill included 533 Common Scoter, 4 Velvet Scoter, 2 Mallard, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Red-throated Diver.



  Redstart - Portland Bill, April 1st 2005 © Martin Cade

  April 1st

Dense sea-fog blighted the island again today and made for difficult birding everywhere. One of the first sightings of the day was bizarre enough to have seemed likely to have been an April Fool's Day spoof: an Osprey found settled at close range on a fence post beside the Bill Road at dawn by an incredulous birder turned out to be all too real when it lumbered away into the fog never to be seen again. Equally frustrating was a Stone Curlew flushed at close range at Blacknor later in the morning that also vanished into the fog. Commoner migrants around the Bill area included 24 Wheatears, 20 Willow Warblers, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Redstarts, a Yellow Wagtail and a Firecrest, whilst elsewhere there was a Cuckoo at Barleycrates Lane and a Redstart at Reap Lane; quite good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Linnets were on the move overhead throughout the island. The only seawatching possible was in a couple of hours of clearer weather early in the morning at the Bill when 121 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Garganey, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Long-tailed Duck passed through, and in a similar clearer slot off Chesil Beach early in the afternoon when 22 Common Scoter, 2 Shelduck and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers passed by.