April 2008




     Lesser Black-backed Gulls: graellsii (top) and intermedius (bottom) - Portland Bill, 30th April 2008 ©  Martin Cade  

  April 30th

Ever so slightly more on the land today (which wasn't exactly difficult) including a Hobby, a White Wagtail and a Black Redstart at the Bill and a Grasshopper Warbler at Suckthumb Quarry; the Serin and Siberian Chiffchaff were also both still at the Bill. The sea continued to be enlivened by the presence of a large feeding gathering off the Bill (which again included more than 500 Manx Shearwaters), but passage itself was rather slow with 180 commic terns, 6 Shelduck, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Red-throated Diver, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua and Little Gull logged at the Bill and 4 Arctic Skuas seen on a brief look off Chesil Beach.

Orange-tip and Wall butterflies were both on the wing for the first time this year.





    Iceland Gull - Portland Bill, 29th April 2008 ©  Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (flight photos) and Martin Cade (settled photo)  

  April 29th

A respectable list of species to report despite the day being one with precious little movement on land or sea. The rarity highlights were a Hoopoe seen in flight over Weston, 2 Hawfinches flying west over Top Fields, an Iceland Gull lingering off the Bill and the Serin and Siberian Chiffchaff both still at the Bill. There was very little improvement in common migrant numbers, with the first Spotted Flycatcher of the spring (at Avalanche Road) being the best on offer anywhere. On the sea the melee of feeding birds off the Bill included more than 500 Manx Shearwaters and 100 commic terns, but actual passage was less than spectacular with 7 Black Terns, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Great Northern Diver, 3 Great Skuas and singles of Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver and Little Gull being the best of what passed by.



         Whimbrel - Ferrybridge, 28th April 2008 © Martin Cade  

  April 28th

Very quiet save for the Serin that remained in the Bill/Southwell area and a Bee-eater that was heard calling over Top Fields early in the morning. Swallows were arriving in good numbers throughout the morning but the miserable selection of grounded migrants included just one species - Wheatear - that managed to return a double figure total at the Bill. Lingering Manx Shearwaters, which topped the 400 mark, dominated off the Bill where birds on the move consisted of little more than 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 3 Great Northern Divers, 3 Great Skuas, a Red-throated Diver, a Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua and a Little Gull.

Two Rusty-dot Pearls were caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.




     Serin - Portland Bill, 27th April 2008 © Martin Cade  

...and click here to listen to a recording of the bird singing and here for another burst of song followed by some flight calls.

. April 27th

A Serin was a nice new arrival in the Obs/hut fields area where it was seen on and off throughout the morning (with presumably the same individual making a brief excursion to Southwell around midday). Otherwise it remained pretty quiet on the land with just a thin sprinkle of common migrants everywhere; the Siberian Chiffchaff also still remained at the Bill. Attempts at seawatching were spoilt by the presence of dense sea fog from mid-morning until late afternoon but eventual day totals at the Bill included 500 Manx Shearwaters, 150 commic terns, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Great Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Pomarine and Little Gull; 3 Arctic Skuas and a Gadwall also passed through off Chesil.

The first 2 Painted Ladys of the year were at the Bill this morning and a Silver Y caught in a garden moth-trap at Fortuneswell was the first immigrant moth recorded for many weeks. The Obs garden moth-traps have been so quiet lately that we haven't been bothering to mention the few common, resident species that we've been catching; the very mundane haul this weekend included the first records for the year of Purple-bar, Pale Mottled Willow, Nutmeg, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Herald and Yellow belle.



     Great Northern Diver - Portland Bill, 26th April 2008 © Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog  

. April 26th

Another day when the sea provided most of the interest. The pick of the sightings at the two main watchpoints were 300 Manx Shearwaters, 250 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Gadwall and a Great Skua at the Bill and 3 Arctic Skuas, 3 Black Terns, 2 Gadwall and a Pomarine Skua at Chesil; another single Black Tern passed through at Ferrybridge. Wheatears were quite numerous at the Bill where 150 were counted during the morning and the general impression was of rapid movement through, suggesting that the true total must have been considerably higher. Grounded migrants were otherwise largely absent and the only minor interest was provided by 5 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Hobbys and singles of White Wagtail and Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill.







   Common Sandpipers, Pomarine Skua, seawatchers at the Trinity House obelisk - some of whom got privileged treatment with a delivery of tea and biscuits to sustain them - and one of the Wood Warblers from a couple of days ago - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 25th and 23rd April 2008 © Paul Baker (Common Sandpipers), Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (Pomarine Skua) and Chris Stone (seawatchers and Wood Warbler)

. April 25th

In the absence of quality or - Swallows aside - quantity on the land it was left to the sea to provide most of the day's interest (and even that was a good deal quieter than might be expected given the light onshore breeze). Watches through the morning at the Bill produced 300 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Common Scoter, 10 Whimbrel, 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, and an Arctic Skua. On the land Swallows were arriving in good numbers, including an estimate of 750/hour passing through at Weston during the morning, but there was precious little by way of grounded migrants: 6 Sedge Warblers, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, a Common Sandpiper, a Grasshopper Warbler and the wintering Siberian Chiffchaff were the best on offer at the Bill, 2 White Wagtails passed through at Weston and another 4 Common Sandpipers were at Ferrybridge.





   Icterine Warbler - Portland Bill, 24th April 2008 © Chris Patrick

...seen very briefly at quite long range by just one observer. Given these circumstances and since there can't be too many other April records for Britain, let alone Portland (we've only had four previous spring records and they all occurred between 12th and 31st May), we wonder how this record would have been treated had it not been for the observer's quick-thinking in obtaining these excellent record-shots!

. April 24th

Dire on the land today until, quite out of the blue, an Icterine Warbler popped up very briefly beside the Obs garden during the morning; the only other reports of note from the land were of 2 White Wagtails and singles of Hobby, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat and Ring Ouzel at the Bill and single Grasshopper Warblers at both Barleycrates Lane and Reap Lane. There was some action on the sea at the Bill, particularly after a front of drizzly rain passed by during the morning, with totals of 250 commic terns, 150 Manx Shearwaters, 32 Common Scoter, 30 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 18 Great Skuas, 8 Whimbrel, 5 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers and 2 Shelduck logged.

Late news for yesterday: a Hawfinch flew north over Southwell during the evening. We also forgot to mention a minor gamebird bonanza: a new Pheasant was at Barleycrates Lane and a Red-legged Partridge just made it into the recording area at Ferrybridge.





   Grasshopper Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Hoopoe - Portland Bill and Wakeham, 23rd April 2008 © Martin Cade

...for the benefit of our many non-European visitors who mightn't know the song of Grasshopper Warbler click here to listen to a short recording of one of the many 'Groppers' singing at the Bill today.

. April 23rd

Given the forecast weather conditions - a front of rain passing through before dawn after an otherwise very clear night - there had been high expectations for the day and for once the prophets were proved right. Dawn saw the immediate Bill area leaping with common migrants and although many moved on very quickly once the sun broke through there was still plenty to see throughout the day. No new rarities were found but a Hoopoe - presumably the individual seen nearby at the weekend - showed up in the Glen Caravan Park/Mermaid pub area of Wakeham. Among noteworthy counts of common migrants at the Bill there were 600 Willow Warblers, 200 Blackcaps and 25 Grasshopper Warblers; most of the other expected late April species were well represented, whilst more uncommon migrants included 10 White Wagtails, 2 Wood Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Hobby, a Black Redstart and a Firecrest. The pick of a similar assortment elsewhere included a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell, 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Wood Warbler at Avalanche Road, a Blue-headed Wagtail at Reap Lane and a Lesser Redpoll and a Brambling at Barleycrates Lane. The sea provided further interest, with 570 commic terns, 70 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers and 3 Great Skuas passing the Bill and 300 commic terns off Chesil.






        Brambling, Iceland Gull and Whimbrel - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 22nd April 2008 © Martin Cade (Brambling and Iceland Gull) and Pete Saunders (Whimbrel)

. April 22nd

The return of fair weather saw it get a good deal quieter for common migrants today. An Iceland Gull, seen during the morning at both Ferrybridge and the Bill, and a Marsh Harrier overhead at Southwell in the morning were the best of the few oddities logged. Among the relatively light scatter of commoner migrants at the Bill there were 10 Yellow Wagtails, 8 Redstarts, 5 White Wagtails, 5 Tree Pipits, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Siskins and singles of Fieldfare, Ring Ouzel and Brambling, whilst odds and ends elsewhere included a Ring Ouzel and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane, a Knot at Chesil Cove and a Merlin, a Sanderling and a Knot at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 150 Manx Shearwaters, 36 commic terns, 12 Brent Geese, 6 Arctic Terns, 5 Little Gulls, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Mediterranean Gull, whilst 9 Little Gulls were the best of a light passage off Chesil during the evening.







        Black Redstart, Marsh Harrier, Reed Warbler and chiffchaff sp - Portland Bill, 21st April 2008 © Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (Black Redstart, Marsh Harrier and Reed Warbler) and Martin Cade (Chiffchaff)

...we thought the chiffchaff (trapped during the afternoon at the Obs) looked to be a decent candidate for an Iberian Chiffchaff but after close study we weren't really any the wiser. At first glance it looked remarkably Willow Warbler-like, courtesy of its strong bill, yellow fore-supercilium, poorly-marked lower eye-crescent, yellowish wash to the ear-coverts, hints of moss-green above, rather white underparts and relatively pale legs. Unfortunately a quick check of the wing length indicated it was a female so a clinching burst of song was going to be out of the question. Once we'd established that the wing-formula didn't look at all promising, for example P2=8/9, we lost interest and didn't venture into the territory of dodgy discriminant formulae and identification by pocket calculator.

. April 21st

Another decent arrival of common migrants at the Bill today after a very damp night. Although it looked like many birds moved on very quickly once the rain stopped late in the morning there was still plenty to see throughout the rest of the day. A Marsh Harrier lingering overhead was the pick of the oddities at the Bill where there were also 250 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatears, 50 each of Blackcap and Whitethroat, 15 Redstarts and 13 Song Thrushes, whilst among the single figure totals of other species there were 6 Grasshopper Warblers, 5 Ring Ouzels, 4 Hobbys, 4 Black Redstarts, 4 Garden Warblers, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Merlin and a Cuckoo. Other island areas weren't so well covered but the general impression was of more of same everywhere. With the wind a little more offshore the sea wasn't as productive as yesterday but watches at the Bill did turn up 40 Whimbrel and 10 Little Gulls.








     Mealy Redpoll, Redstart, Hen Harrier and Hoopoe - Portland Bill, Southwell and Wakeham, 20th April 2008 © Martin Cade (Mealy Redpoll), Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (Redstart), Ken Arber (Hen Harrier) and Ken Tucker (Hoopoe)

. April 20th

Much more to report today with a good arrival of common migrants on the land, plenty on the move at sea and some bonus rarities. The best of the rarities were a Black Kite that arrived on the island over Chesil Beach during the evening and soon afterwards left to the north again over Portland Harbour and a Red-rumped Swallow that was spotted flying north at Weston by an observer looking out for the Black Kite; a Hoopoe - thought likely to be the bird seen a couple of days ago at Easton - was also in the garden of the Portland Museum at Wakeham. At the Bill the fall of common migrants, that included the first Swift and Garden Warbler of the spring, 400 Willow Warblers, 40 Redstarts, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Hobbys and 3 Black Redstarts, was topped of with quality in the form of a Mealy Redpoll trapped and ringed at the Obs and a Hen Harrier passing through over Top Fields. Elsewhere there were 3 Dark-bellied and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 3 Sanderling, 2 Knot and a Little Stint at Ferrybridge. The sea provided plenty of interest, with an Iceland Gull lingering for a while at the Bill, 130 Bar-tailed Godwits, 69 Sandwich Terns, 67 Common Scoter, 52 Whimbrel, 30 Arctic Skuas, 11 Little Gulls, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Great Skuas and 2 Black Terns passing through off the Bill and 160 Whimbrel, 69 Common Scoter, 68 Bar-tailed Godwits, 55 commic terns, 52 Sandwich Terns, 13 Little Gulls, 10 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Pomarine Skua passing Chesil. 







     A Merlin and a Pied Flycatcher from yesterday and another Pied Flycatcher from spring 2004 - Portland Bill, 18th April 2008 and 10th April 2004 © Steve Copsey (Merlin) and Martin Cade (Pied Flycatchers)

...Pied Flycatchers can be surprisingly tricky to age in the spring although the extremes are usually easy enough. Yesterday's first-summer male was straightforward as it retained, for example, a couple of bleached, pale-tipped, juvenile outer greater coverts and bleached, juvenile primary coverts, as well as looking relatively dowdy with a substantial amount of brown in the upperparts, sullied underparts, a reduced white wing-panel and reduced 'headlights' on the forehead. The adult male above is a really decent specimen although a hint of how an ageing complication might arise is provided by the worn grey-brown feathers in the lesser/median coverts and the bleached tips to the primaries. This species acquires breeding plumage by means of a pre-breeding moult during the winter which although extensive is by no means complete; among the feathers which are retained from the previous autumn's post-breeding moult are the primaries, primary coverts, alula and some of the lesser, median and outer greater coverts. With the exception of the paler, worn feathers already mentioned, on our adult male above the contrast between these two generations of feathers isn't at all obvious but on some individuals it can be quite conspicuous and can be mistaken for the moult-limit that exists between juvenile and pre-breeding feathers on a first-summer bird.

. April 19th

A comprehensively miserable day, with rain or drizzle an almost constant feature. Birding on the land was hard work but did produce a bit of quality in the form of 2 Merlins, a Cuckoo, the Siberian Chiffchaff and a Pied Flycatcher at the Bill and 14 Whimbrel, 6 Knot, a Grey Plover and an Arctic Tern at Ferrybridge. There was a distinct lack of numbers on the sea but at the Bill interest was provided by 8 Little Gulls, 4 Arctic Skuas and a Mediterranean Gull passing through.



     Hoopoe - Easton, 18th April 2008 © Martin Cade

. April 18th

A Hoopoe, first reported by a local resident during the afternoon, was a nice find in the vicinity of All Saints Church, Easton, but otherwise it was much quieter than the last couple of days in dreary, drizzly and still very windy conditions. Sea passage died a death, with just a few Whimbrel and terns, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Little Gulls, a Pintail and an Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill. Three Hobbys (at the Bill, Southwell and Barleycrates Lane) flew north during the course of the morning, but otherwise the best of a thin selection of migrants on the land were singles of Green Sandpiper, Merlin, White Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat and Pied Flycatcher at the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle, the first Lesser Whitethroat of the spring at Weston and 8 Sanderling, 2 Knot and a Snipe at Ferrybridge.







   Knot, White Wagtail, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern and seawatchers at the Bill (where full winter attire and the shelter of the rocks beneath the Trinity House obelisk were requirements for the morning's watch in a blasting, bitter easterly) - Ferrybridge, Southwell, Chesil Beach and Portland Bill, 17th April 2008 © Pete Saunders, (Knot and White Wagtail) and Martin Cade (terns and seawatchers)

. April 17th

Yesterday's fresh easterly wind had strengthened to near gale-force by dawn and seawatching was very much the order of the day. At the Bill the morning produced totals of 103 Whimbrel, 84 commic terns, 62 Sandwich Terns, 56 Common Scoter, 27 Little Gulls, 7 Grey Plover, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Dunlin, 3 Teal, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shoveler, 2 Knot, 2 Sanderling, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Ringed Plover, a Turnstone, a Mediterranean Gull and a Yellow-legged Gull; rather surprisingly, considering the good-looking conditions, a watch on Chesil Beach was not so productive, with 45 Sandwich Terns, 37 Whimbrel, 8 Shoveler, 3 Little Egrets, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Grey Plover the best of the tally there. With the land seemingly deadly quiet after yesterday's good flourish it was left to some steady visible passage to provide the rest of the interest. An hour long sample count on the West Cliffs produced totals that included 230 Swallows, 170 Linnets, 160 Goldfinches, 65 Meadow Pipits, 37 Sand Martins, 26 House Martins, 32 Wheatears and 6 Yellow Wagtails, whilst more of the same were recorded throughout the Bill area during the rest of the morning.







   Whinchat, Redstart, Sanderling, Whimbrel and Weasel  - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 16th April 2008 © Pete Saunders (Whinchat, Redstart and Whimbrel), Paul Baker (Sanderling) and Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (Weasel)

. April 16th

The best day of the spring so far with a decent arrival of common migrants on the land, a good passage overhead and fair list of sightings from the sea. On the land, birds were moving through very quickly under crystal clear skies and the tally for the Bill area included 500 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatears, 25 Redstarts, 12 Grasshopper Warblers, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Whitethroats, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, a Short-eared Owl, a Cuckoo, a Sedge Warbler, a Brambling, a Bullfinch and the long-staying Siberian Chiffchaff; there was plenty more of the same elsewhere, with the pick of the bunch being 2 Ring Ouzels at Barleycrates Lane and 6 Sanderling at Ferrybridge. With a brisk easterly wind blowing there was a strong movement of diurnal migrants along the West Cliffs, where counts included 1000 Swallows, 400 Linnets, 300 Meadow Pipits and 200 each of Sand Martin and Goldfinch. Seawatching at the Bill produced 166 Whimbrel, 122 Common Scoter, 9 Little Gulls, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Great Skuas and a long list of miscellaneous ones and twos including 2 Tufted Ducks, a Brent Goose and an Eider.



   A live broadcast from the Obs patio for today's BBC Radio 4 programme World on the Move  - Portland Bill, 15th April 2008 © Peter Morgan

. April 15th

A clear night and a day of glorious unbroken sunshine certainly weren't the conditions to drop any great number of common migrants but the spring's first overshoot - a White Stork that flew in off the sea over Southwell and headed off north up the island - perhaps wasn't too unexpected. Willow Warblers dominated on the ground, with 150 or so at the Bill, but the thin spread of other species included by way of uncommon migrants just 6 Redstarts, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, a Short-eared Owl, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, the Siberian Chiffchaff, a Firecrest and a Siskin; odds and ends elsewhere included 4 more Redstarts, a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher between Southwell and Weston. The sea remained very quiet, with nothing more than 22 Manx Shearwaters, 13 Whimbrel and singles of Red-throated and Black-throated Diver passing through off the Bill.

Among the butterflies Small Copper was on the wing for the first time this year.



The Ouzel was much too far away for anything other than a record shot...


....but as we tried to get a bit closer there was a sudden commotion and a Sparrowhawk appeared out of nowhere and dived into the hedge, missing the Ouzel by a hair's breadth...


...the Ouzel emerged unscathed and after a short pursuit the Sparrowhawk gave up

   Ring Ouzel - Barleycrates Lane, 14th April 2008 © Martin Cade

. April 14th

After a slow start it seemed that migrants dropped in in some numbers through the morning and the eventual tally for the day - particularly in terms of variety - wasn't too bad . The south of the island between Barleycrates Lane and the Bill was well covered and returned totals of 100 Willow Warblers, 60 Blackcaps, 25 Wheatears, 10 Chiffchaffs, 6 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Common Sandpipers, 5 Tree Pipits, 4 Redstarts, 4 Firecrests, 3 Whimbrel, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Lapwing, a Black Redstart, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Whitethroat, the Siberian Chiffchaff and a Brambling, along with a steady trickle of passing hirundines overhead and 25 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through on the sea. Elsewhere there was another Ring Ouzel at Verne Common.




   Waterspout/tornado and Turnstone - Portland Bill and Portland Harbour, 13th April 2008 © Martin Cade

. April 13th

A tiny bit busier on the land today but still a good deal quieter than might be hoped on this date. The pick of the new arrivals at the Bill were the first Pied Flycatcher of the spring and singles of White Wagtail, Redstart and Reed Bunting; 2 Short-eared Owls and the Siberian Chiffchaff were also still present but the rather pitiful array of commoner migrants included nothing more noteworthy than a total of 60 Willow Warblers. On the sea the first 2 commic terns of the spring passed through, along with 50 Manx Shearwaters,  3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Whimbrel, a Great Northern Diver, an Arctic Skua and a Great Skua. The only report from elsewhere was of a Little Stint at Ferrybridge briefly in the evening.

Somewhat more interesting than most of the day's birds were a series of small waterspouts/tornados that emerged from a squall front off the Bill during the morning.

April 12th

Bright and breezy again with the occasional beefy shower passing through during the afternoon. Most of the interest was again on the sea with 500 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Great Skuas and a Red-throated Diver logged at the Bill during the morning; smaller numbers of the same species also passed through at Chesil Cove. With the exception of Swallow - and there wasn't that many of them - none of the commoner migrants reached double figure totals on the land at the Bill; the only oddities there were a Firecrest and the Siberian Chiffchaff.




   Great Skua and Manx Shearwaters - Portland Bill, 11th April 2008 © Martin Cade

. April 11th

Still very quiet on the land but in an increasingly fresh westerly wind there was more on the move at sea. The few new arrivals on the land included nothing of any significance and it was left to a Firecrest and the Siberian Chiffchaff that had been present for days and months respectively to salvage some respectability at the Bill. The first decent numbers of Manx Shearwaters of the spring provided most of the interest on the sea; with lots milling around in all directions off the Bill it was hard to arrive at any sort of meaningful day count but 400 flew east in four hours during the morning and the day total looked to have involved well in excess of 1000 birds. Eight Red-throated Divers and 6 Great Skuas also passed through off the Bill.



   The Bill from Top Fields: a pleasant but birdless vista today! - Portland Bill, 10th April 2008 © Martin Cade

. April 10th

Clear skies, a light breeze and no birds today. For some reason - poor weather to the south? - passage all but dried up today with little more than a handful of grounded migrants, virtually no visible passage and next to nothing moving on the sea. The Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrests, a White Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail and a Redwing were the only morsels of quality that could be mustered at the Bill, where 7 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Velvet Scoter and a Red-breasted Merganser passed by on the sea.



   Puffin - Portland Bill, 8th April 2008 © Martin Cade

...once they've arrived we don't usually bother to mention the Puffins on the site although perhaps we ought to as they remain priority quarry for many visiting birders. At present two or three are being seen in the vicinity of the auk colony at the Bill but as usual at this early stage of the breeding season they are best looked for early in the morning before they disappear out to sea to feed.

. April 9th

On a day of relatively little in the way of numbers the place to be was the centre of the island where a Woodlark, a Ring Ouzel and a Serin put in appearances at Barleycrates Lane and 2 new Firecrests were at Avalanche Road. At the Bill a steady trickle of Swallows and a few House Martins arrived in off the sea but the thin spread of routine grounded migrants included nothing much better by way of quality than 3 White Wagtails, 3 Firecrests, 2 Redstarts, a Yellow Wagtail and the Siberian Chiffchaff. A rather unseasonable Little Stint was the pick of a handful of waders at Ferrybridge.



   Wheatear - Portland Bill, 8th April 2008 © George Gay

. April 8th

Under clear skies and with the wind having eased right down overnight there was a sharp frost by dawn. Despite these unpromising conditions migrants got moving in decent numbers, with the Bill area returning totals that included 250 Swallows, 200 Willow Warblers, 150 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 20 House Martins, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Bullfinches, a Little Egret, a Tree Pipit, a Ring Ouzel (a very overdue first for the spring), a Goldcrest and a Firecrest; the Siberian Chiffchaff was also still present there. The sea remained very quiet, with 17 Common Scoter, 3 Sandwich Terns and 2 Velvet Scoter the best of a poor list from the Bill.

April 7th Slow again today in a brisk and chilly north-westerly. Common migrants were even more thinly spread than yesterday, with the pick of what little interest there was being 2 Short-eared Owls, the Siberian Chiffchaff and a Firecrest at the Bill, a Yellow Wagtail and a White Wagtail at Barleycrates Lane, a Mediterranean Gull in Portland Harbour and a Grey Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge. April 6th

Much quieter today with the sunshine punctuated by occasional snow showers. On the migrant front there was a very light scatter of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, but the only quality was provided by 2 Firecrests and the Siberian Chiffchaff at the Bill. The only reports from the sea were of 24 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Manx Shearwater passing through off the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: 3 very early Little Terns were reported at Ferrybridge but there was no sign of them there today.







   Siberian Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Redstart and Kestrel - Portland Bill, 5th April 2008 © Gabriel Jamie (Siberian Chiffchaff), Martin Cade (Willow Warbler and Redstart) and Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (Kestrel)

. April 5th

In promising conditions - the new moon period, a stiff headwind and cloudy skies at dawn - there was a decent arrival of Willow Warblers but not a great deal else by way of variety today. The Willow Warbler tally in the Bill area reached around the 500 mark; much lower numbers of Chiffchaff also dropped in there along with the first Whitethroat of the spring, 20 Blackcaps, 15 Wheatears, 4 White Wagtails, 3 Bramblings, a Grey Heron, a Redstart and a Siskin. The Siberian Chiffchaff also lingered on the Bill but the only Firecrests found were singles at the Bill and Wakeham. Seawatching at the Bill produced 135 Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Divers, 3 Velvet Scoter and a Manx Shearwater.




   Brown Hare and Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit - Ferrybridge, 4th April 2008 © Pete Saunders

...Brown Hares are rarely reported on the site as they are very infrequent visitors to the bulk of the island; however there is a small resident population on Chesil Beach and the species can often be spotted in the vicinity of the Little Tern colony at Ferrybridge.

. April 4th

Another fine, sunny day after some early morning mist had cleared. On the ground phylloscs dominated with more than 100 Willow Warblers and 20 Chiffchaffs dropping in at the Bill, whilst overhead there was another steady if unspectacular passage of Meadow Pipits, hirundines and Linnets. The first Tree Pipit of the spring passed over at the Bill, where there were also 10 Wheatears, 5 Blackcaps, 4 Firecrests, 3 White Wagtails, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Short-eared Owls, 'the' Marsh Harrier, a Water Rail, a Yellow Wagtail, 'the' Siberian Chiffchaff, a Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting; 2 more White Wagtails were at Reap Lane and singles of Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit were at Ferrybridge. In light offshore winds the sea remained very quiet, with just 39 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Sandwich Tern passing through off the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: 2 Red-necked Grebes were in Portland Harbour.






   Wheatear, Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier and harrier watchers - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 3rd April 2008 © Debbie Saunders (Wheatear), Paul Gay (Short-eared Owl), Pete Saunders (Marsh Harrier) and Martin Cade (birders)

. April 3rd

Clear skies overnight didn't promise much in the way of numbers but as expected variety is increasing by the day. Yellow Wagtail (singles through at the Bill and Barleycrates Lane) and Arctic Skua (two past the Bill) were on cue year-ticks, whilst quality was provided by a - ?the - Marsh Harrier roaming about overhead between Weston and the Bill, an Osprey reported on the pagers as having passed north up the east side of the island and the Siberian Chiffchaff still at the Bill. There was little in the way of numbers on the ground but scarcer species included 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests, a Long-tailed Tit and a Bullfinch at the Bill and a Merlin and a Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. A fair passage overhead included 200 Sand Martins, 100 Swallows and 8 Bramblings at the Bill. Two Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver passed through on the sea at the Bill.

Lepidoptera year-ticks included Clouded Yellow (singles at Penn's Weare and Barleycrates Lane) and Hummingbird Hawk-moth (singles at Weston and Fortuneswell.

Late news for yesterday: a Barn Owl was hunting beside the Bill Road late in the evening.




   Blackcap and Comma - Portland Bill, 2nd April 2008 © Paul Baker (Blackcap) and Martin Cade (Comma)

. April 2nd

Pretty much a repeat of yesterday, albeit with slightly lower numbers of grounded migrants and a little bit more on the move overhead. At the Bill, 7 Firecrests, singles of Short-eared Owl, Redstart and Black Redstart and the Siberian Chiffchaff were the pick of the selection on the ground, whilst overhead 3 Bramblings, 2 Merlin and a Whimbrel accompanied a fair passage of hirundines and pipits that included 200 Meadow Pipits, 44 Sand Martins, 10 Swallows and 2 House Martins. Two Red-throated Divers and 2 Manx Shearwaters passed through on the sea at the Bill.

Comma was amongst the butterflies on the wing at the Bill today.




   Holly Blue and Green-veined White - Portland Bill, 31st March and 1st April 2008 © Joe Cockram Joe's Birding Blog (Holly Blue) and Martin Cade (Green-veined White)

. April 1st

A damp, foggy start soon gave way to lots more pleasantly warm sunshine. 

Another small flurry of new arrivals at the Bill included 60 Chiffchaffs, 20 Wheatears, 15 Willow Warblers, 10 Blackcaps, 4 Firecrests, a White Wagtail, a Black Redstart, a Yellowhammer and a Reed Bunting; the Siberian Chiffchaff was also still there. Odds and ends on the sea included 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passing the Bill.

On the butterfly front, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood were both on the wing for the first time this year. 

Late news for yesterday: the first Holly Blue of the year was on the wing at the Bill.