April 2012





   Redpoll, Whimbrel and Yellow Wagtail - Portland Bill and Reap Lane, 30th April 2012 © Martin Cade (Redpoll) and Pete Saunders (Whimbrel and Yellow Wagtail)

  30th April

Yesterday's miserable conditions lasted well on into the night and although the rain had cleared through by dawn the gale force easterly didn't ease away until late in the morning. The sea was well-watched all day, with the pick of the sightings being 29 Arctic Skuas, 9 Great Skaus, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Balearic Shearwater and a Tufted Duck through off the Bill and 200 commic terns, 6 Black Terns, 3 Knot, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Red-throated Diver through of Chesil Cove; Manx Shearwaters were a constant feature at both watchpoints (numbers into the low thousands), whilst there was also a conspicuous up-Channel movement of Fulmars (400 counted in 2 hours at Chesil Cove, with it likely that more than 1000 passed during the course of the day). Swifts and hirundines were arriving in off the sea all day, with particularly good numbers during the afternoon when 337 Swallows and 83 House Martins headed north along the West Cliffs during a sample 30 minute count; 2 Hobbys also passed through at the Bill, with another through at Ferrybridge. Grounded migrants were widespread without being really numerous: totals of 50 Wheatears, 5 Whinchats, 3 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Redstarts were noteworthy at Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane, whilst singles of Cuckoo and Redpoll provided further interest at the Bill.

A lone Basking Shark headed west off the Bill during the evening.

29th April

Truly awful conditions - day-long rain and an easterly gale - kept most people indoors today. There were grounded migrants about on the land, but any sort of meaningful census was out of the question; overhead passage was at least visible from time to time and included single Hobbys through at the Bill and Ferrybridge, along with another steady arrival of Swifts and Swallows. A single passing Great Northern Diver was the only seabird of note logged at the Bill.




   Stonechat and Fox - Portland Bill, 28th April 2012 © Joe Stockwell

...and a few fly-bys from yesterday - Stock Dove, Swallow and Wheatear (all © Pete Saunders):




  28th April

As so often happens at migration times some of the grimmest conditions produce plenty of birds, and today proved to be no exception, with a morning of constant rain gaving way to a slightly drier afternoon that saw the north-easterly wind freshen to getting on for gale force by evening. The rain dropped a decent arrival of a wide variety of mainly routine migrants at the Bill, where 15 Whimbrel, 6 Redstarts, 5 Garden Warblers, 4 Tree Pipits, 3 each of Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Warbler, and 2 each of Cuckoo and Pied Flycatcher provided interest amongst the good numbers of Wheatears, Blackcaps and phylloscs; overhead, singles of Hobby and Brambling passed through amongst a really conspicuous day-long passage of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. Elsewhere the Little Tern tally at Ferrybridge increaed to 6. The sea remained quiet in the offshore wind, with nothing more than 18 Common Scoter, 2 each of Red-throated Diver, Arctic Skua and Mediterranean Gull, and singles of Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill.



   Osprey - Portland Bill, 27th April 2012 © Martin Cade

  27th April

A considerable improvement in the weather saw attention shift to the land, where a few heavy showers in the first hours of daylight downed the best arrival of migrants of the week. There were few surprises other than an Osprey that arrived in from the south-east over the Bill late in the afternoon, but the generous spread of migrants across the south of the island included most species that would be expected in late April, with the presence of a double-figure total of Whitethroats being particularly welcome. The bulk of the numbers at the Bill consisted of 200 Willow Warblers, 75 Wheatears and 50 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, with singles of Merlin and Short-eared Owl being notable amongst the lesser totals; elsewhere, singles of Cuckoo at Osprey Quay and Pied Flycatcher at Portland Castle were both species that didn't make the list at the Bill, whilst the first 3 Little Terns of the year were back at Ferrybridge. Overhead, incoming Swallows, and to a lesser extent House Martins, were especially conspicuous throughout the day. The sea was the poor relation, with nothing more than singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua to provide interest off the Bill.

A lone Silver Y was the first immigrant attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps for more than a fortnight.



A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 28th April. 







   Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua and Great Skua - Portland Bill, 25th April 2012 © Joe Stockwell (Pom Skua lower and Arctic Skua) and Pete Saunders (Pom Skua upper and Great Skua)

  26th April

A mainly fair day, with just the occasional squally showers blown through on a still very brisk south-westerly. It was again the sea that attracted most observers, with an all-day session at Chesil Cove returning totals of 63 Great Skuas, 44 Arctic Skuas, 15 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 5 Pomarine Skuas, a Red-necked Grebe and a Black Tern; sporadic watches at the Bill produced 53 Common Scoter, 36 Great Skuas, 14 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 16 Arctic Skuas, 15 Whimbrel, 4 Pomarine Skuas and 2 Little Gulls. The strength of the wind saw to it that birding on the land was hard work, although even cursory coverage revealed that there were plenty of new arrivals about, with 5 Redstarts and singles Garden Warbler and Pied Flycatcher at the Bill and 2 Yellow Wagtails at Reap Lane providing interest amongst the quite decent numbers of Blackcaps and phylloscs; fair numbers of Swallows and a few Swifts - along with a single Hobby - were arriving in off the sea at the Bill all day.






    Black-throated Diver, Great Skua, Pomarine Skua and Manx Shearwater - Portland Bill, 25th April 2012 © Pete Saunders

  25th April

Just as forecast, a day of gale force southerlies and frequent pulses of heavy rain. Not surprisingly, most attention was given to the sea, with watches at the Bill returning totals of ca500 Manx Shearwaters, 350 commic terns, 100 Common Scoter, 52 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 39 Great Skuas, 20 Sandwich Terns, 9 Arctic Skuas, 7 Whimbrel, 5 Little Gulls, 2 Black Terns, a Black-throated Diver and a Pomarine Skua; Chesil Cove was watched at least for a while during the morning, when all the movement logged was thought to involve birds heading on out towards the Bill. Despite the often grim conditions it was apparent that there were a fair few new arrivals on the land, with 2 Redstarts and singles of Merlin, Grasshopper Warbler and Redpoll the best of the bunch at the Bill.

A party of at least 5 Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed through off the Bill during the morning.




   Common Sandpiper and Tree Sparrow - Portland Bill, 24th April 2012 © Joe Stockwell

  24th April

A day of pleasant conditions and good coverage. Grounded migrants weren't exactly plentiful but did include a Tree Sparrow - presumably yesterday's bird moving down the island - at the Bill, where there were also 75 Wheatears (now nearly all Greenland Wheatears), 50 Blackcaps, 7 Common Sandpipers and a thin scatter of other expected fare (...but not a single Whitethroat); overhead, Swallows were arriving steadily in small numbers, and 4 Swifts and a Hobby also passed though. In a light northerly during the morning the sea was unsurprisingly quiet, with just 300 or more lingering Manx Shearwaters, 14 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver of note off the Bill; however, a shift in wind direction into the south-west from mid-afternoon saw movement pick up, with totals of 500 Manx Shearwaters, 14 Great Skuas, 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Pomarine Skuas logged at the Bill before dusk.



   Small Blue - Bottomcombe, 23rd April 2012 © Ken Dolbear

  23rd April

A very wet morning that permitted no meaningful fieldwork gave way to an altogether more pleasant afternoon that allowed for decent coverage of the Bill area at least. With a stiff south-easterly blowing there had been high hopes for the sea, but post-rain watches were slightly disappointing with 311 commic terns, 21 Common Scoter, 4 Whimbrel, 4 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Arctic Skuas the pick of the list at the Bill; another single Arctic Skua passed through later off Chesil. The inclement conditions certainly downed a fair few migrants on the land, with the Bill area coming up with 100 Willow Warblers, 40 Blackcaps, 10 Wheatears, 5 Redstarts and singles of Nightingale, Sedge Warbler and Redpoll; Swallows were also arriving in off the sea at more than a trickle. Limited coverage elsewhere produced singles of Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow at Southwell, along with a lone Swift passing overhead there.

On the butterfly front the first Small Blues of the year were on the wing at Bottomcombe.

22nd April

Nothing to commend the weather or the birding at the moment, with the very mobile Atlantic airflow putting the block on passerine and seabird passage. The land was uniformly shocking today, with nothing more than a paltry handful of grounded migrants and next to no visible passage going on; 2 Common Sandpipers and a Redstart were the only migrants of minor note at the Bill. Manx Shearwaters continued to figure in quantity off the Bill, where several hundred lingered throughout the day, but 20 Common Scoter, 7 Whimbrel, 5 Shelducks, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Great Skuas and a Great Northern Diver were the only birds on the move there.

21st April

A pretty hefty dawn shower came just at the right moment to down a small arrival of mostly routine warblers, but it otherwise remained relatively quiet everywhere. Totals of 150 Willow Warblers and 30 Blackcaps made up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill, where the only less common migrants making the list were 4 Whimbrel, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and singles of Common Sandpiper, Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Redstart; elsewhere there was another Grasshopper Warbler at Reap Lane. Manx Shearwaters were again conspicuous off the Bill, with 200 or more lingering for much of the day and another 150 passing up-Channel during the evening, but seawatching there otherwise produced just 11 Common Scoter, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Red-throated Diver and a handful of Sandwich and commic Terns.



   Willow Warbler - Southwell, 19th April 2012 © Pete Saunders

  20th April

The continuing westerly airflow isn't doing us any favours and it remained much quieter than would be hoped at this stage of the spring. Grounded migrants at the Bill included 50 Willow Warblers, 10 Wheatears, 10 Blackcaps, 6 Whimbrel, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Common Sandpiper, a Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler, with the lack of some species - Whitethroat in particular - beginning to be quite concerning; visible passage was also hardly conspicuous, with Swallows arriving at nothing more than a trickle. Elsewhere there were 4 Common Terns, a Common Sandpiper and an Arctic Tern at Ferrybridge. The only reports from the seawatchers were of 6 Shelducks, 4 Great Skuas, a Curlew and an Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill, where 200 Manx Shearwaters were lingering offshore.

A party of 20ish Common Dolphins headed west past the Bill during the morning.



   Greylag Goose - Portland Bill, 19th April 2012 © Peter Morgan

  19th April

A subtle shift in wind direction toward the north-west saw interest dwindle on sea and land. The seawatchers came up with most of the news, with 6 Great Skuas, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Common Scoter and an Eider passing through off the Bill, and 250 or more Manx Shearwaters still lingering offshore there. A lone Grasshopper Warbler was the only grounded migrant of note at the Bill, where even the likes of phylloscs were only very thinly scattered; a Greylag Goose did a fly-past there, but overhead passage was otherwise almost non-existent.

Accommodation alert: following yesterday's message, one of the two rooms unexpectedly available for Monday 7th-Thursday 10th May incl has now been booked for the Monday and Tuesday nights but the other is still available for all four nights.





   Gannet and Great Skuas - Portland Bill, 18th April 2012 © Martin Cade

....also a much better photo of yesterday's Glaucous Gull taken when it was first discovered heading over Ferrybridge towards Chesil Cove © Pete Saunders:


  18th April

The sea accounted for nearly all of the day's news, with the strong westerly wind and occasional showers restricting coverage of the land to the operation of a couple of sheltered mist-nets in the Obs garden. Seawatch totals at the Bill included 41 Great Skuas, 9 Arctic Skuas, 5 Common Scoter and singles of Red-throated Diver, Pomarine Skua and Sandwich Tern, together with several hundred Manx Shearwaters still lingering offshore; many of the Great Skuas were also seen passing through Chesil Cove, where a single Red-breasted Merganser also passed by. Yesterday's Pied Flycatcher remained at the Obs, where there were also a handful of grounded Blackcaps and phylloscs.

Accommodation alert: having looked as though we were going to be completely full on every night for the next five weeks - and having turned away quite a few potential visitors during this period - we've just been informed of a cancellation of a booking for 2 rooms for Monday 7th-Thursday 10th May incl; if anyone's still keen on accommodation for those four nights do get in touch.





   Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Sandwich Tern and Glaucous Gull - Ferrybridge and Chesil Cove, 17th April 2012 © Pete Saunders (PbBrents and Sandwich Tern) and Martin Cade (Glaucous Gull)

  17th April

A right stir-up in the weather today with the rain front that passed through during the late hours of the night introducing blustery westerlies and, at least through the afternoon, some really beefy showers. A Glaucous Gull that passed through at Ferrybridge and later lingered in Chesil Cove was the bird of day, although a decent movement of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Great Skuas, together with a few more grounded migrants than had been expected, made for a more productive day than the conditions might have suggested. The sea was watched throughout the day, with 32 Great Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Whimbrel, a Great Northern Diver, an Arctic Skua and several hundred Manx Shearwaters logged at the Bill; two parties of Pale-bellied Brents dropped in briefly at Portland Harbour (30) and Ferrybridge (18), and a lone Greylag Goose also passed through at Ferrybridge. At the Bill, 3 Tree Pipits and singles of Redstart, Sedge Warbler and Pied Flycatcher were the pick of the bunch amongst a small fall of 100 or more Willow Warblers; Swallows were also arriving in off the sea at a steady rate throughout the day.



   Firecrest - Portland Bill, 16th April 2012 © Martin Cade

  16th April

After a clear, still night there was a touch of frost on the ground at dawn, although, rather perversely, it actually started to feel a lot colder once a freshening southerly wind set in during the afternoon. On the bird front it was easily the quietest day of the month to date, with little more than low single figure totals of even the commonest summer migrants at the Bill, where the Firecrest of the last couple of days lingered on at the Obs but the only other birds of note on the land were 2 Purple Sandpipers and a White Wagtail. Seawatching at the Bill produced the customary few Manx Shearwaters lingering offshore, together with 48 Common Scoter, 10 Eider, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Canada Geese, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua passing by.

The first Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly of the year was on the wing at the Obs.

15th April

Clearer today, but still quite chilly in the continuing brisk north-easterly. Migrants numbers dropped still further, with quality hard to find anywhere. Willow Warblers got to about the 75 mark at the Bill, where amongst the very light scatter of other routine there were just 3 Redstarts, 2 or 3 Short-eared Owls, a Merlin, a Purple Sandpiper, a White Wagtail and a Firecrest to provide further interest. Small numbers of Manx Shearwaters were again lingering off the Bill, but singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Whimbrel and Great Skua were the only other migrants of note on the sea.

14th April

Changes afoot today, with more of a veil of cloud overhead and a freshening - and chilly - north-easterly setting in during the morning. Migrant numbers were significantly reduced but there was still plenty to entertain the weekend visitors. Phylloscs remained well spread, with 200 or so - mainly Willow Warblers - at the Bill, whilst amongst the scarcer migrants there were 4 Yellow Wagtails, 4 White Wagtails, 3 Redstarts, 2 Tree Pipits, Marsh Harrier (in off the sea), Whinchat, Ring Ouzel, Sedge Warbler, Firecrest and Redpoll at the Bill and 3 Redstarts and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Ring Ouzel and Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane. The sea was hardly busy, but persistence at the Bill eventually came up a list that included 13 Eider and singles of Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Pomarine Skua.

13th April

We continue to be fortunate in missing the downpours reported to be affecting the mainland and wonder if it's the sight of these that's prompting so many common migrants to ground on the island at the moment (Portland has been bathed in pleasant sunshine - hardly the conditions that usually drop migrants - whilst the mainland looks to blanketed in towering cloud). For the third day on the trot migrants were plentiful everywhere, with grounded Willow Warblers and passing Swallows especially conspicuous: at the Bill, the waves of phylloscs - mostly Willow Warblers - passing through during the first couple of hours of the morning certainly numbered into four figures, whilst a sample half-hour count of 167 Swallows heading north along the West Cliffs (together with 34 House Martins and 16 Sand Martins) was representative of numbers on the move through much of the day. Among the range of other migrants around the island there were 20 Redstarts, 5 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Whitethroats and singles of Hobby, Short-eared Owl, Goldcrest and Pied Flycatcher scattered between Barleycrates Lane and the Bill, and a single Grasshopper Warbler at West Weare. For the most part the sea was unproductive, but a late afternoon flurry of interest at the Bill included 4 Velvet Scoter and 2 Arctic Skuas passing by.

12th April

Portland has fared really well so far this spring, and another excellent fall of common migrants today did nothing to blot its copybook. As has been the case throughout, it was numbers rather than variety or rarity interest that stole the show, with phylloscs - mainly Willow Warblers - still to the fore: a good 1000 were logged at the Bill, whilst as an example of how widespread the fall was, in a timed hour two observers counted 455 leaving the island northwards from Portland Castle. Wheatears were well spread, including 150 at the Bill, there were plenty of Blackcaps everywhere and Swallows were arriving steadily throughout the day, whilst scarce migrants included totals of 40 Redstarts, 5 Tree Pipits, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Grey Heron and a Grasshopper Warbler scattered around the south of the island between Barelycrates Lane and the Bill. The sea was still the poor relation, with nothing more than 38 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.

11th April

The uninspiring north-westerly breeze and reports of quite poor weather to the south of us didn't bode well, but in the event dawn saw the Bill area fairly busy with grounded warblers in particular. There were few surprises amongst what did show up, but totals of 200 Willow Warblers, 60 Wheatears, 30 Chiffchaffs, 20 Blackcaps, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Redstarts, a Golden Plover and a Reed Bunting were logged at the Bill, whilst amongst a similar array elsewhere there were singles of Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane and Pied Flycatcher at Penn's Weare; overhead passage didn't figure very much, although there were welcome signs of more Swallows arriving than has hitherto been the case. Given the conditions the seawatchers didn't expect any reward and came up with nothing more than 24 Common Scoter and a Curlew passing through off the Bill.

10th April

Portland missed out on the heavy showers that could be seen passing to the south and north of the island all day, but the change to a brisk westerly airflow seems to have all but halted passerine migration. Given the strength of the wind the sea was always going to be worth a look and watches at the Bill produced more Manx Shearwaters (down into the low hundreds after the excesses of the last couple of days), a handful of Common Scoter and Sandwich Terns, 3 each of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua, and 2 Black-throated Divers. Even the commonest of the summer migrants were reduced to little more than single figure totals on the land, although overhead interest came in the form of reports of singles of Osprey and Swift arriving in off the sea at the Bill.



   Manx Shearwaters - Portland Bill, 9th April 2012 © Matthew Dampier

  9th April

After a long spell of basically samey conditions the change arrived with something of a vengeance, as the damp in the air at dawn gave way to steady day-long rainfall blown in on an ever strengthening wind. Manx Shearwaters were ever-present offshore and certainly numbered in the low thousands again, but seawatching at the Bill otherwise returned totals of just 11 Common Scoter, 8 Sandwich Terns, 3 Eider, 2 Great Skuas and a Red-throated Diver. There were birds about on the land, with a couple of hours of netting at the Obs before the heavy rain set in producing a respectable 32 Willow Warblers, but the conditions prevented any other serious coverage beyond turning up a lone Redstart at the Bill.

8th April

The flow of incoming summer migrants continued unabated today, with the morning's mix of gloomy skies and occasional drizzly outbreaks being more than enough to down plenty more warblers. The year's first Yellow Wagtail passed over at the Bill, where 3 Redstarts, 2 Redwings, a Black Redstart and the first Greenland Wheatear (but again very few 'ordinary' Wheatears) also showed up, whilst there were again 2 Ring Ouzels at Barleycrates Lane, but it was the usual trio of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler that made up all the quantity (including, for example, 300 Willow Warblers, 75 Chiffchaffs and 40 Blackcaps at the Bill). A slightly unseasonable Balearic Shearwater spent a while off the Bill, where there were also signs of passage picking up a little, with 78 Common Scoter, 75 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Shelduck and a Red-throated Diver through during the morning and more than 3000 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Teal and a Great Skua through during the evening; 760 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Skua  - no doubt largely the same birds as were logged at the Bill - passed through off Chesil.

Two Silver Y were welcome immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps.

7th April

It ought to be difficult to find fault with a week of almost constant falls of migrants when over 1000 birds get trapped and ringed, but if there has to be a gripe with recent days it's that variety hasn't been great. Today's overcast skies and occasional light showers produced another pretty decent drop of birds around the south of the island, but it was again the usual suspects that made up all the numbers with, for example, another 200 Willow Warblers and 75 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff at the Bill. In the variety stakes, the spring's first Whitethroat was at Southwell, but further interest was limited to 10 Redwings, 5 Redstarts, a Black Redstart and a Ring Ouzel scattered between Barleycrates Lane and the Bill, with even the likes of Wheatear reduced an unimpressive 25. The pick of the sea passage was 22 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers, a Great Skua and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill.




  Grey Heron and Sandwich Tern - Ferrybridge, 6th April 2012 © Pete Saunders

  6th April

The rapid return of clear, sunny skies saw to it that migrant numbers took a bit of a dip although there was still a decent spread of grounded arrivals everywhere. As in recent days it was entirely seasonable fare that dominated, with 5 Redstarts at the Bill and a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane providing some of the only interest amongst the good scatter of Wheatears, Blackcaps and phylloscs around the south of the island; a Marsh Harrier through off the Bill was the only unexpected report of the day.



  Red-necked Grebe - Portland Harbour, 5th April 2012 © Joe Stockwell

  5th April

A cold, dreary and, at least for a while during the morning, wet day but migrants were still getting through, with another quite decent little arrival around the south of the island. The Bill area returned totals of 200 Chiffchaffs, 75 Willow Warblers, 50 Blackcaps, 25 Wheatears, 5 Redstarts and singles of Redwing, Mistle Thrush and Ring Ouzel on the ground, together with a steady arrival of well into the hundreds of Meadow Pipits arriving in off the sea. The poor conditions limited coverage of other areas, but there were still 2 Ring Ouzels and plenty of commoner migrants at Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane; the Red-necked Grebe was also still in Portland Harbour.



  Redstart - Barleycrates Lane, 4th April 2012 © Pete Saunders

  4th April

Bar a couple of showers and a drop in the temperature Portland didn't suffer too much from the downturn in the weather, although it did seem as though there weren't nearly as many migrants on the move as there had been in the last week or so. An early morning flurry of Blackcaps - including 19 through one small area of Top Fields - was noticeable, but otherwise 3 Ring Ouzels and a Redstart at Barleycrates Lane and singles of Merlin and Grasshopper Warbler at the Bill were the only oddities amongst a very light scatter of Wheatears and phylloscs everywhere. The long-staying Red-necked Grebe was still in Portland Harbour, but the offshore breeze saw to it that the only reports from the seawatchers were of 60 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.





   Redstart, Willow Warbler and Skylark - Barleycrates Lane and Portland Bill, 3rd April 2012 © Joe Stockwell (Redstart) and Nick Hopper (Willow Warbler and Skylark)

  3rd April

None of the cloud cover that looked to have been a possibility on the forecast showed up until well into the afternoon, but the presence at dawn of a chilly northerly breeze was enough to drop another pretty decent flurry of migrants around the south of the island. As would be expected at this time, it was still Wheatears, Blackcaps and phylloscs that made up pretty well all the numbers, but variety was provided 10 Redstarts, 7 Redwings, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Canada Goose, a Golden Plover, a Black Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler; sample totals of the common migrants included 300 Willow Warblers, 150 Chiffchaffs and 50 Blackcaps at the Bill and 70 Wheatears at Reap Lane/Barelycrates Lane. Odds and ends on the sea included 7 commic terns, a Red-throated Diver and a Black-throated Diver through off the Bill.

Also, having received today - just over a year after the event - news of a rather excellent ringing recovery of one of 'our' Willow Warblers that was controlled 28 hours later on Bardsey Island (a distance of 297 km), we thought we'd give a quick mention of the ringed birds we've controlled during the last few days, on the off chance that one or other of the original ringers might just happen to be looking in:

  • Song Thrush Brussels 23Z45645

  • Redstart BTO L025370

  • Pied Flycatcher BTO V670441

  • Chiffchaff BTO BTJ791

  • Chiffchaff Paris 2C9063




   Wood Pigeon - Portland Bill, 2nd April 2012 © Martin Cade

...this 'baby' has been on the wing at the Obs for at least the last fortnight (it was first noticed on 19th March); back-calculation would seem to imply an egg-laying date sometime in late January at the latest, which seems sufficiently freakish that we almost wonder if the bird isn't in some sort of weird retarded plumage left over from last year. Postscript: thanks to all those that e-mailed with comments, the majority of which drew attention to the occasionally very extended breeding season of pigeons that would make a January laying date not too outlandish.

  2nd April

Uneventful again today. There was a very small flurry of newly arrived common migrants at dawn but under clear skies they moved on rapidly, with the day's only later interest provided by 2 Redwings and a Black Redstart at the Bill, where 42 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers also passed through on the sea.

1st April

A day that really couldn't have been more different to yesterday. With all cloud cover having vanished overnight there was no reason for overflying migrants to drop, and most of the routine species were reduced to just low single figure totals. A couple of Ring Ouzels lingered on at Barleycrates Lane, with another 2 being reported briefly at the Bill; otherwise the only less frequent migrants making the list were 2 Black Redstarts and a Redstart at Reap Lane, a Merlin at Barelycrates Lane and a Bullfinch at the Bill. The first Arctic Skua of the spring passed through off the Bill, where 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shoveler and a Black-throated Diver were also logged.