November 2006

November 30th

Dull, increasingly windy and surprisingly cold this morning. The only reports have been from the Bill where there were 2 Goldcrests and a Redwing on the land and 6 Common Scoter, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Red-throated Diver passed through on the sea.

A single White-speck was the only capture in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.

November 29th

Bright, breezy and mild again. Another small trickle of late migrants overhead included 170 Goldfinches, 55 Linnets and 16 Meadow Pipits flying south at the Bill; a Blackcap was still present in the Obs garden but the only other reports from the land at the Bill were of 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Turnstone. Elsewhere there were 2 Fieldfares at Southwell, 2 Black Redstarts at Portland Castle, a Woodcock at New Ground and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge. A small flock of 15 settled Common Scoter were a welcome addition to the scene offshore at the Bill (the usual wintering flock of this species has in the past arrived well before this date) and a Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua also passed through on the sea. 

Butterflies still on the wing today included a Clouded Yellow at Cheyne and several Red Admirals at the Bill. A late Feathered Ranunculus moth was also found on the outside of a one of the Obs lounge windows (the occasional attempts at moth-trapping in recent nights have drawn a blank in mild but much too windy conditions).



  Brambling - Southwell, November 28th 2006 © Pete Saunders

  November 28th

Still very mild and not quite so windy. A Blackcap and Chiffchaff were lingering on from previous days at the Bill where new arrivals included 2 more Blackcaps, a Redwing and a Goldcrest; a steady southward trickle of Goldfinches (250) and a few Linnets was also evident there. Elsewhere there were 15 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, a Blackcap and a Brambling at Southwell and small numbers of Goldcrests at both Pennsylvania Castle and Foundry Close. Three Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver were in Portland Harbour, a Red-throated Diver passed overhead at Ferrybridge and 19 Brent Geese and 4 Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill.

Two Red Admirals were on the wing at Foundry Close.

Late news for yesterday: a Woodcock was seen at Admiralty Quarry.

November 27th

Very windy but extremely mild today. Eighty Redwings and 2 Blackcaps were new arrivals at the Bill but the only other reports were of 2 more Blackcaps at Avalanche Road, single Chiffchaffs at Reap Lane and Weston and a thin scatter of Redwings and Goldcrests in suitable spots around the centre of the island.

A single Red Admiral was on the wing at Pennsylvania Castle.

November 26th

A lot of effort produced a little more reward today, with sightings that included single Black Redstarts at Chesil Cove and Portland Castle, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Redwing at the Bill, 2 Eider and a Great Crested Grebe settled offshore there and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Great Skuas, a Red-throated Diver, an Arctic Skua and a Mediterranean Gull passing through off the Bill.



  a presumably sickly Gannet getting washing ashore on Chesil Beach - Chesil Cove, November 25th 2006 © Pete Saunders

  November 25th

Not a great deal of improvement on recent days with heavy and prolonged showers of rain and hail spoiling any attempts at birding that involved anything other than staring at a near-empty sea. The only reports were of a Water Rail and a Goldcrest at Culverwell and 24 Common Scoter, 16 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Mediterranean Gulls passing through off the Bill.

November 24th

Absolutely dire today. The continuing stormy conditions produced nothing of any consequence on the sea and the only other reports were of 8 Goldcrests at Easton and a Chiffchaff at Weston.

November 23rd

In quite stormy conditions the only reports were of a Great Skua passing through off the Bill, a Chiffchaff in the Obs garden and 2 Goldcrests at Pennsylvania Castle.



  Redwing - Portland Bill, November 22nd 2006 © Martin Cade

  November 22nd

There was welcome evidence of a few new arrivals on the passerine front today, with most of the suitable areas of cover around the centre and south of the island harbouring small numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. The only other reports were of 6 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Redwings at the Bill, a Mediterranean Gull lingering offshore there, 2 Redwings at Avalanche Road and 2 Black Brants still at Ferrybridge.

Late news for yesterday: a Yellow-legged Gull was at Weston.

Finally, we've been asked to mention a forthcoming event that might be of interest. In preparation for setting up a more continuous Dolphin Watch on Portland the Durlston Marine Project will be running a training afternoon tomorrow (Thursday 23rd November) at 2.00 pm at the Tourist Information Centre (adjacent to the Bill lighthouse) at the Bill.  If you feel you would like to be involved (and it doesn't matter if you would only be able to offer limited time for Dolphin watching) you're welcome to attend to see what is involved. If you are intending to go along to this event it would be helpful if you could leave your name at the IVY office (01305 823789) so they can organise enough seating.




   Ruddy Shelduck - Ferrybridge, November 21st 2006 © Martin Cade

  November 21st

The cracking spell for wildfowl at Ferrybridge continued with the discovery there at dawn of a Ruddy Shelduck (the fifth island record, following fly-bys at the Bill on 14th August 1987, 19th September 1992 (3) and 3rd October 1997 (3) and 2 settled in Portland Harbour on 27th November 2004); 2 Black Brants and a Pale-bellied Brent were also still present there. The only other reports were of a Chiffchaff still present at the Bill where there was a light passage of Chaffinches overhead.

November 20th

A typical late autumn/early winter assortment today: 3 Pale-bellied Brents and 2 Black Brants amongst 1000 Brent Geese at Ferrybridge, a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour, a Black Redstart at Portland Castle, a Great Northern Diver and a Mediterranean Gull at Chesil Cove, 12 Redwings and 3 Goldcrests at Easton and 47 Skylarks, 6 Purple Sandpipers and a Chiffchaff at the Bill.





    Black Redstart, Black Brant and Pintails - Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge, November 19th 2006 © Kevin Lane (Black Redstart) and Pete Saunders (geese and ducks)

  November 19th

Some more fair weather this morning saw quite a few more finches on the move at the Bill although the only oddities spotted amongst them were 4 Bramblings; the only other new arrivals of note at the Bill were 2 Chiffchaffs and a Reed Bunting in the Obs garden. The Chesil Cove Long-tailed Duck was reported once during the morning (this bird seems to be very elusive and is escaping the attention of most people who search for it), a Black Redstart was again at the Cove and there were 1150 Brent Geese, 5 Pintail, 2 Pale-bellied Brents and a single Black Brant at Ferrybridge.



    yesterday's Little Gull - Chesil Cove, November 17th 2006 © Pete Saunders

  November 18th

A marked improvement in the weather saw quite a bit more fieldwork today. The scatter of reports from around the island included 1200 Brent Geese, 3 Pale-bellied Brents and 2 Black Brants at Ferrybridge, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Long-tailed Duck, a Common Scoter and a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove, a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour, a Dartford Warbler and a Reed Bunting at Suckthumb Quarry, a Chiffchaff at Southwell and a Mediterranean Gull off the Bill. Overhead a few flocks of finches, mainly Linnets, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, took advantage of the fair weather and were on the move at the Bill.

November 17th

Another really miserable wet and windy day. All the news was from the sea, with singles of Great Northern Diver, Arctic Skua and Great Skua passing the Bill and 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Great Skuas, a Red-throated Diver and a Little Gull passing through off Chesil Cove. 

A few hours of fair weather early in the night saw 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Gem and Silver Y attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps (along with a single Peacock butterfly).

Late news for yesterday: a Long-tailed Duck was settled in Chesil Cove and 16 Redwings and 2 Goldcrests were at Easton.



    Shelducks - Ferrybridge, November 16th 2006 © Pete Saunders

  November 16th

After some more wild weather during the night the day dawned much calmer although still quite wet until mid-morning. Redwings were passing over in some quantity during the hours of darkness but precious little seemed to have actually dropped in, with nothing more than 2 Golden Plovers, 2 Redwings, a Blackcap, a Siskin and a Brambling found at the Bill and the patches of cover around the middle of the island (where many of the trees are still remarkably leafy for the time of year) appearing to be virtually devoid of life. Ferrybridge produced 6 Shelduck, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose but no sign of the Red-breasted Goose during the morning at least. Seawatch reports from the Bill included 4 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, a Mediterranean Gull and a Great Skua passing by.

Five Rusty-dot Pearl were the only immigrants caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.

Late news for yesterday: there was a Merlin at Ferrybridge and a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove.



    Yellow-legged Gull - Portland Bill, November 15th 2006 © Martin Cade

  November 15th

Still mild and windy, as well as being dry until late in the afternoon. Odds and ends on the land included 5 Purple Sandpipers, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Blackcap at the Bill, 2 Goldcrests at Easton and a Brambling over Kingbarrow Quarry. There were still plenty of seabirds feeding offshore and their presence looked to be masking some passage on the sea, with 375 Kittiwakes counted heading west off the Bill in the first couple of hours of the day and a double figure total of Fulmars along with 2 Great Skuas flying in the same direction later in the day; elsewhere a lone Mediterranean Gull was at Chesil Cove.

Despite the relatively mild conditions overnight it was much too windy to have expected any reward in the Obs garden moth-traps and the only immigrants caught were 2 Diamond-back Moths and a Rusty-dot Pearl.

November 14th

Wet, windy and pretty birdless. The Red-breasted Goose showed up again at Ferrybridge from mid-afternoon onwards but the only other news from the land was of a couple of Goldcrests at Culverwell. There were still plenty of Gannets and gulls feeding off the Bill, 12 settled Common Scoter were also there and a single Red-breasted Merganser passed by.

At least 2 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill during the morning.

Immigrants attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight included 5 Rusty-dot Pearl, 4 Silver Y, 2 Rush Veneer, 2 Pearly Underwing, a Diamond-back Moth and a Cosmopolitan.




    ...a fairly vivid imagination is required to just about make out some features of Red-rumped Swallow...and before you ask, the photos are rubbish because it was this far away when it flew past:


Red-rumped Swallow - Portland Bill, November 13th 2006 © Martin Cade

  November 13th

Just as it was looking like autumn passage had run out of steam so there was a very unexpected flurry of late arrivals, the best of which was a fly-by Red-rumped Swallow at the Bill early in the afternoon; a very late Turtle Dove at Suckthumb Quarry was almost as noteworthy whilst a Wheatear also showed up at the Bill. Further reports from the land included a Merlin and a Snipe at the Bill, with seawatching there producing 26 Common Scoter, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Skua.

November 12th

Not a lot of change today with the Red-breasted Goose and Black Brant (which were at Ferrybridge either side of midday) providing the only real interest around the island. Four Mediterranean Gulls and a Short-eared Owl were also at Ferrybridge, whilst elsewhere the Bill chipped in with 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, a Common Buzzard, a Fieldfare and a Firecrest on the land and 8 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver, a Mediterranean Gull and the first returning Fulmar on the sea.



    Black Brant - Ferrybridge, November 11th 2006 © Paul Marshall

  November 11th

There were a few early morning sightings, including the Black Brant and 13 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge, 3 Eider and a Mediterranean Gull passing on the sea at the Bill and a Firecrest still in the Obs garden, before many of the local birders headed west to Devon. The only later news was of a Hen Harrier flying across Top Fields late in the afternoon and 6 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Turnstones at the Bill.

The wind-swept Obs garden moth-traps were very quiet overnight, with the only immigrants caught being 13 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Silver Y, 1 Rush Veneer and a Pearly Underwing.

November 10th

The Red-breasted Goose was again at Ferrybridge around midday and a Goosander seen flying across Portland Harbour early in the morning was a good bird for the island. On the land a few more late thrushes and finches, including 10 Fieldfares, 5 Bramblings and a Siskin, passed through at the Bill where 2 Blackcaps were also new arrivals on the ground; a Merlin and a Firecrest were still present there and additional single Firecrests were at Avalanche Road and Pennsylvania Castle. Seawatching at the Bill produced 29 Common Scoter, 4 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a late Manx Shearwater.

It was much quieter in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight; the only immigrants caught were 10 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Rush Veneer, 2 Diamond-back Moth, a Pearly Underwing and a Silver Y




    Red-breasted Goose and Yellow-browed Warbler - Ferrybridge and Avalanche Road, November 9th 2006 © Pete Saunders (Red-breasted Goose) and Martin Cade (Yellow-browed Warbler)

  November 9th

Clear, anticyclonic conditions returned and there was a small flurry of new arrivals, the best of which were single Yellow-browed Warblers - perhaps the same individual in each case? - at Culverwell briefly early in the morning and at Avalanche Road for much of the afternoon. The Bill area also produced 7 Reed Buntings, 4 Siskins, 4 Redpolls, 3 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings, a Mute Swan, a Merlin, a Black Redstart, a Firecrest, a Brambling and a Bullfinch. Odds and ends elsewhere included single Firecrests at Wakeham and Easton, a Merlin, a Swallow and a Dartford Warbler at Barleycrates Lane and a Black Redstart at Weston; the Red-breasted Goose was still around but made only one short visit to Ferrybridge early in the morning.

The immigrant tally in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight included 74 Rusty-dot Pearl, 10 Rush Veneer, 8 Diamond-back Moth, 3 Pearly Underwing, 2 Silver Y and a Cosmopolitan

November 8th

The hope that the arrival of dreary, overcast conditions would drop a few new arrivals proved to be well wide of the mark and in the event today was easily the poorest day of the month so far. Fortunately the Red-breasted Goose and Black Brant were again at Ferrybridge to salvage some interest but otherwise the only sightings of note on the land were of long-stayers such as a Water Rail, a Merlin and a Firecrest still present at the Bill. A fair-sized feeding flock of Gannets and gulls has been building up recently off the Bill and today 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Great Skua joined the melee during the morning.

Immigrants attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight included 86 Rusty-dot Pearl, 17 Rush Veneer, 3 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing, Cosmopolitan, White-speck, Scarce Bordered Straw and Silver Y

November 7th

The Red-breasted Goose, Black Brant and 2 Pale-bellied Brents were again at Ferrybridge during the morning and the Yellow-browed Warbler was still at Verne Common but in very fine and warm conditions new arrivals were at a premium. The Bill area produced 8 Reed Buntings, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Black Redstarts, a Golden Plover, a Dartford Warbler and a Firecrest along with a handful of mainly fly-over thrushes and finches, whilst elsewhere there was a Merlin at Ferrybridge, a Black Redstart at Church Ope Cove, a Water Rail at Suckthumb Quarry and a Brambling at Avalanche Road. We have no knowledge of information service reports of Richard's Pipit and Quail at the Bill today (presumably these reports refer to yesterday's birds?) and at the time of writing we've received no confirmation of a report of a Red-breasted Flycatcher seen briefly at Verne Common today.

In relatively mild conditions overnight the Obs garden moth-traps attracted a fair selection of immigrants: 41 Rusty-dot Pearl, 8 Rush Veneer, 4 Pearly Underwing, 3 Silver Y, 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Dark Sword Grass, Delicate, Cosmopolitan and Scarce Bordered Straw.





    Black Brant, something that's just about discernible as a Little Auk rather than a piece of flotsam and Harlequin Ladybird - Ferrybridge, Portland Bill and Barleycrates Lane, November 6th 2006 © Pete Saunders (Black Brant), Martin Cade (Little Auk) and Ken Dolbear (Harlequin Ladybird)

  November 6th

The Red-breasted Goose, Black Brant and 2 Pale-bellied Brents remained at Ferrybridge, the Yellow-browed Warbler was still at Verne Common and a Richard's Pipit that showed briefly near the Obs early in the afternoon might have been the individual first seen equally briefly yesterday. As regards new arrivals a Quail flushed up at the Bill during a search for the Richard's Pipit, a Little Auk that drifted close past Pulpit Rock at the Bill and headed away west and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Wakeham were the pick of the bunch. Small numbers of thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were scattered around their usual haunts but the only other noteworthy reports were of 4 unidentified grey geese, 2 Bramblings, a Woodcock, a Black Redstart and a Firecrest overhead or grounded at the Bill, another Woodcock at Old Hill and 6 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced nothing better than singles of Great Northern Diver and Shelduck passing by.

Harlequin Ladybirds continue to be discovered; one found today at Barleycrates Lane was the first reported from that site.







    Great Grey Shrike and Dusky Warbler - Verne Common and Portland Bill, November 2nd 2006 © Martin Cade

  November 5th

The second half of the weekend proved to be as exciting as the first, with new arrivals that included a Dusky Warbler at Culverwell (found early in the afternoon and trapped and ringed later; click here for a short recording of this bird calling) , a Great Grey Shrike at Verne Common (which showed for a while around mid-morning before flying off strongly to the west) and a Richards Pipit at the Bill (a fly-over bird early in the morning). The Red-breasted Goose and the Black Brant (along with 2 Pale-bellied Brents) were at Ferrybridge during the morning and the Yellow-browed Warbler was still at Verne Common. Scarce migrants included 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Dartford Warblers, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl and a Firecrest at the Bill and 2 Firecrests at Verne Common but once again commoner migrants were pretty sparse overhead and on the ground.









    Yellow-browed Warbler, the Ferrybridge goose-fest....and after dark lots of people celebrated our Portland tick with firework displays - Verne Common, Ferrybridge and Southwell, November 4th 2006 © Pete Saunders (Red-breasted Goose and Black Brant together, Red-breasted Goose flying and Pale-bellied Brent) and Martin Cade (other photographs)

  November 4th

There was a fine highlight today in the form of the island's first Red-breasted Goose that was discovered amongst the Brents at Ferrybridge. A Black Brant and a Pale-bellied Brent were also in the goose flock there, whilst elsewhere a Yellow-browed Warbler was a new arrival in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Verne Common and a Siberian Chiffchaff showed briefly at the end of the afternoon at Wakeham. More routine fare included 2 Black Redstarts, a Merlin, a Barn Owl and a Firecrest at the Bill, 2 more Firecrests at Verne Common, a Mistle Thrush at Southwell and a late Wheatear at Ferrybridge. Common migrants remained stubbornly uncommon with nothing more than low single figure totals of a few of the expected thrushes and finches at the Bill.

November 3rd

For the most part birding was a dead loss today with the weather being perhaps a little too clear and settled to expect much in the way of new arrivals. Morsels of interest were provided by a fly-by Little Auk off Pulpit Rock at the Bill and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose amongst a flock of 2000 Dark-bellied Brents (a record count for the site?) at Ferrybridge; as a measure of what must have been a poor breeding season for the Brents it's worth noting that the flock contained just 16 first-winter birds. There was a trickle of birds overhead at the Bill, including 70 Starlings, 30 Fieldfares, 22 Siskins, 4 Bramblings, 4 Reed Buntings and a Bullfinch, but grounded migrants were almost non-existent and didn't include anything better than 2 Black Redstarts and 2 Firecrests at the Bill.

Three Bottle-nosed Dolphins were lingering off East Cliffs at the Bill for much of the afternoon.

Late news for yesterday: a Willow Warbler was still at Avalanche Road and there was a Ring Ouzel at Verne Common.




    Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, November 2nd 2006 © Tim Dakus (Reed Warbler) and Martin Cade (Willow Warbler)

  November 2nd

The first touch of frost on the ground at the Obs was an unwelcome sign of the approach of winter although it remained apparent that a few summer migrants - notably today singles of Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler at the Obs - have been lulled into a false sense of security by the recent mild weather. The majority of other new arrivals were on the move overhead, with 570 Wood Pigeons, 55 Redwings, 40 Fieldfares, 30 Bramblings, 6 Reed Buntings, 9 Siskins, 6 Lapwings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Snipe, a Golden Plover and a Swallow the pick of the sightings at the Bill. Under completely cloudless skies it wasn't a surprise that grounded migrants were not at all plentiful although they did include 2 Firecrests, a Woodcock and a Black Redstart at the Bill and a Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry. Despite the fresh offshore breeze there was a little passage on the sea, with 19 Brent Geese, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Great Northern Divers the best of the movement off the Bill.

Red Admirals remain very numerous at the Bill (including over 30 at a time visiting one patch of ivy at the Obs) where several Clouded Yellows and a Painted Lady were also still on the wing.

November 1st

Clear, crisp conditions today prompted pigeons to get moving and just short of 10000 Wood Pigeons passed south over the Bill during the first couple of hours of the day; Stock Doves were also moving in some quantity but with the majority of mixed flocks passing over at great height it wasn't possible to get a satisfactory estimate of their numbers. Other over-flyers were surprisingly few in number but did include 13 Siskins, 12 Reed Buntings, 9 Bramblings, 5 Redpolls, 2 Snipe, a Grey Heron, a Little Egret and a Swallow at the Bill. Scarcer/late migrants included 5 Bearded Tits, a Ring Ouzel, a Dartford Warbler, a Firecrest and a Bullfinch at the Bill, a Firecrest at Old Hill, a Ring Ouzel and a Bullfinch at Suckthumb Quarry, a late Whinchat at Barleycrates Lane, a late Willow Warbler at Avalanche Road and at least 8 Black Redstarts scattered around the centre and south of the island.

In pretty windy and increasingly cold conditions overnight the only immigrants attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps were 23 Rush Veneer, 5 Silver Y, 3 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Pearly Underwing, 2 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Cosmopolitan, 2 Scarce Bordered Straw and a Delicate.