July 2013

31st July On a day where things didn't get going until lunchtime the bird list grew quite rapidly, the garden and crop field were the only areas which received any coverage due to a bit of ringing, the first Willow Warbler to be trapped since spring was nice (I've got a bit of stick calling the end of July autumn) 10 Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler were noted also. The undoubted highlight on the sea was a Sub-adult Long-tailed Skua which flew east late afternoon, due to the fog the sea wasn't visible until around lunch again but westerly Balearic Shearwater passage continued and 24 had been seen by the evening. conversation popped up in the afternoon about what goes past when we're not looking, each 5 minute look at the sea in between net rounds later this afternoon seemed to produce a Balearic, with a flock of 4 at one stage, how many do we miss? I suppose it could drive you mad wondering! Other birds of note 12 Scoter, 7 Manx, and singles of Whimbrel, Curlew and Puffin. A Black-tailed Godwit was a Weston.
30th July
Today dawned pretty soggy with light precipitation continuing until just after lunch, bouts of mist and fog hampered visibility throughout the morning which finally abated at around 1:30. This seemingly sparked a little bit of movement on the sea (although Judging by some of Devon's counts today we're a seriously poor relation) 12 Balearic Shearwater, 16 Manx Shearwater, 3 Oystercatcher and singles of Great Skua, Dunlin, Sanderling, Whimbrel and Turnstone, Past in a few hours before the mist rolled back in! The only migrant to note from the bill was a lowly Sedge Warbler. Ferrybridge again was the place to be locally for numbers of common waders with 250 Dunlin, 16 Sanderling, 9 Turnstone, 3 of Redshank and Curlew and a single Greenshank.
29th July
Judging by the faces of our hardy fieldworkers this morning it was less than rewarding to be out, 4 Sedge Warbler, 2 Yellow-legged Gull, and the semi-resident Cuckoo and Wheatear by mid afternoon was all they had to show. With the onset of some rather brisk south-westerlies in the last few days the sea was given even more attention, the first Sooty Shearwater of the year was logged late morning, a personal highlight for myself as it was a Portland tick, by 8pm 35 Manx Shearwater, 20 Balearic Shearwater, 9 Common Scoter, 2 Turnstone and singles of Ringed Plover, Mallard, Little Egret and Med Gull flew past, most species going west, except for the Mallard which shouldn't have been here in the first place... Ferrybridge wader numbers continue to build with 217 Dunlin, 36 Ringed Plover, 20 Sanderling, 7 Turnstone and 5 Sandwich Tern.
28th July
Though starting off rather bright and sunny the cries of gardeners everywhere now seem to have been well and truly heard, by mid afternoon some rather feisty showers were arriving in off the sea, the first catching us out leading to an impromptu mopping of the communal lounge! Birding as always with this time of year was largely confined to the bill area where 12 Sedge Warbler, 6 Grasshopper Warbler, 5 Yellow-legged Gull, 2 each of Long-tailed Tit and Willow Warbler were noted. With what seemed like quite an enormous throng of visiting birders for July this morning, it was hardly any surprise that with each giving the sea a cursory glance here and there a reasonable tally was logged; 48 Common Scoter, 36 Manx Shearwater, 4 Balearic Shearwater, 3 Black-headed Gull, 2 Dunlin and singles of Redshank, Great Skua and Arctic Skua, the latter flew straight over the obs! At Ferrybridge this morning were 175 Dunlin, 28 Ringed Plover, 11 Sanderling, 8 Sandwich Tern and a Yellow-legged Gull.
27th July
With the way things have been going recently it came somewhat as a surprise when only one new bird was trapped this morning, admittedly it was a rather half-hearted effort but there were just far fewer birds present in the crop this morning. A little bit of coverage on the land returned 4 Willow Warblers in Culverwell this afternoon, and singles of Cuckoo and Sedge Warbler at the bill. The sea was given quite a bit of attention throughout the morning and early afternoon, although quiet at first things did pick up and returned totals of 55 Common Scoter, 52 Manx Shearwater, 13 Black-headed Gull, 5 Dunlin, 5 Balearic Shearwater, and 2 each of Med Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern. A Kestrel was also seen to fly out to sea.
26th July
With the fog that was lingering just offshore for most of the day being kept largely at bay by the warmth and the strength of the sun, conditions weren't too bad to make the most of the first small fall of warblers of the autumn; numbers weren't anything to shout about but the Bill area did manage to come up with 20 Sedge Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, 3 Grasshopper Warblers and, quite unexpectedly, a Dartford Warbler. The long-staying Cuckoo was also still at the Bill, where other newcomers included 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, a Grey Heron and a Curlew overhead and a single Sanderling through on the sea. Ferrybridge was still relatively busy, with 160 Mediterranean Gulls, 150 Dunlin and 15 Sanderling making up the bulk of the numbers.

25th July
Something of nothing today with the chances of new arrivals showing up overnight being hampered by thick fog and frequent rain showers. The day itself did eventually turn out quite warm and sunny but the only reports worth a mention were of 150 Mediterranean Gulls, 100 Dunlin, 7 Sanderling and 2 Knot at Ferrybridge, a Cuckoo lingering on at the Bill where an unseasonable Siskin passed over and a Yellow-legged Gull was grounded, and 16 Common Scoter, 3 Sanderling, 2 Turnstones, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Manx Shearwater and a Whimbrel through on the sea there.
   Sanderling - Ferrybridge, 24th July 2013 © Pete Saunders 
24th July
Despite there being a half decent species list to show for the day's activities it remained disappointingly quiet for some of the migrant warblers in particular that probably ought to be getting a bit more numerous by this stage of the autumn. The numbers were all again at Ferrybridge, where up to 105 Dunlin, 70 Mediterranean Gulls, 14 Sanderling, 4 Redshanks and 2 Knot were present at times. The Bill area chipped in with 44 Common Scoter, 2 Sanderling, 2 Common Gulls and a Great Skua through on the sea and 3 Whimbrel and singles of Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warbler on the land.
23rd July
Although there were a few migrants about it looked as though the fog that had been a feature all night and lingered on and off for much of the day probably put the block on many potential new arrivals. Fieldwork at the Bill came up with 2 each of Yellow-legged Gull, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler, and a lone Willow Warbler, whilst at Ferrybridge the list included 80 Dunlin, 4 Sanderling, 3 fly-by Teal, 2 Knot, a Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit.
   Brown-tail, Gatekeeper and Lulworth Skipper - Portland Bill, 22nd July 2013 © Ken Dolbear
22nd July
After last night's short-lived thunderstorm today was very muggy and at times quite foggy but remained dry throughout. The scatter of new arrivals (or in some cases probably lingerers) included 30 Sand Martins, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Willow Warblers and a Cuckoo at the Bill, another Yellow-legged Gull at Penn's Weare, 3 Common Sandpipers at Blacknor and 122 Dunlin and 2 Knot at Ferrybridge. Mediterranean Gulls were again a virtual constant off the Bill, where 102 Common Scoter, a Balearic Shearwater and an Arctic Skua also passed by.
   Little Ringed Plover - Ferrybridge, 21st July 2013 © Pete Saunders 
21st July
Still very warm, but a thundery downpour that rolled in from the south soon after dusk provided noisy evidence that there's a change in the weather in the offing. The morning had seen welcome signs of autumn passage gathering momentum on all fronts, with the first records for the season of both Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler at the Bill, where singles of Cuckoo and Crossbill were also of particular note, whilst the Ferrybridge wader tally increased and included 110 Dunlin, 6 Sanderlings, 2 Knot and singles of Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Whimbrel. Also of note were decent numbers of Sand Martins, including 60 through over Ferrybridge, and 39 Common Scoter, 20 Mediterranean Gulls and 3 Balearic Shearwaters through or lingering off the Bill.
   Knot and Turnstone - Ferrybridge, 20th July 2013 © Pete Saunders (Knot) and Debby Saunders (Turnstone)
...also from today, thanks to Ken Dolbear for some interesting Ringlet photos from Church Ope Cove; this is a typical individual:

...and this appears to an example of the abberation arete, which lacks the black and ochre surrounds to the underside spots:

20th July
With a fresh north-easterly still a feature it was again Ferrybridge and the sea that came up with the numbers and variety; the land was the poor relation and, a few more passing Sand Martins and a Yellow-legged Gull at Barleycrates Lane aside, produced precious little of note. A conspicuous increase in waders at Ferrybridge included 82 Dunlin, 8 Sanderling, 7 Curlews and a Knot, whilst seawatching at the Bill turned up 38 Mediterranean Gulls, 27 Common Scoter, 26 Black-headed Gulls, 11 Manx Shearwaters, 8 migrant Cormorants, 6 Sandwich Terns, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Whimbrel.
   Chalkhill Blues - Church Ope Cove, 19th July 2013 © Ken Dolbear
19th July
An at times quite brisk north-easterly had sprung up overnight and there was a little bit on the move today. The sea came up with all the numbers, with 51 Manx Shearwaters, 44 Common Scoter, 22 Balearic Shearwaters, 10 Black-headed Gulls, 9 Dunlin, 5 Sandwich Terns, 4 Mediterranean Gulls and 3 Sanderling through off the Bill. Also at the Bill 15 Cormorants left to the south, a Little Egret arrived in off the sea, another trickle of Swifts and Sand Martins were moving through into the wind and 2 Turnstones and singles of Yellow-legged Gull, Cuckoo and Wheatear were about on the land. Ferrybridge came up with 52 Dunlin, a Grey Plover, a Knot and a Whimbrel on the ground and 15 Cormorants and a Greenshank passing over.
18th July
Still oppressively hot for a good part of the day. In the absence of much serious legwork on the land beyond logging the trickle of Sand Martins on the move overhead and noting a passing Grey Heron over the Bill it was left to the Obs garden mist-nets to reveal that southbound passage of warblers and the like still hadn't got underway. Yesterday's flush of Balearic Shearwaters ensured that the sea got a good deal of attention, with watches at the Bill coming up with 127 Common Scoter, 29 Manx Shearwaters, 22 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 commic terns, 4 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Gadwall and a Whimbrel.
17th July
On another very hot day Balearic Shearwaters appeared off the Bill in some numbers for the first time this summer, with 18 heading west during the first few hours of the morning; the day's Manx Shearwaters - 67 in total - all passed in the opposite direction. A Cuckoo was a new arrival on East Cliffs, but events were otherwise much as in recent days, with a trickle of Sand Martins, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Redshank the best of the rest at the Bill.
Skylark - Portland Bill, 16th July 2013 © David Rashley
...and thanks also to Emma Cockburn for a nice series of photos from this last weekend of Six-spot Burnets on the East Cliffs:
16th July
Disappointingly uneventful today with a full morning's mist-netting at the Obs revealing by way of migrants amongst the local youngsters just a single dispersing Blackcap; in the continuing heat there was limited enthusiasm for prolonged fieldwork further afield and the only other noteworthy reports from the Bill area were of 15 Common Scoter and 8 Manx Shearwaters through on the sea.
 Little Tern, Sanderling and Whimbrel - Ferrybridge, 15th July 2013 © Will Bown (Little Tern) and Pete Saunders (Sanderling and Whimbrel)
15th July
On another very hot day there were continuing signs of autumn passage getting going. Ferrybridge figured well, with all-round increases that included 35 Dunlin, 11 Shelducks, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Sanderling and a Little Ringed Plover, whilst at the Bill 65 Common Scoter, 12 commic terns, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Little Egrets and a Redshank passed by on the sea and small numbers of Sand Martins dribbled through overhead. The day's only other report was of a Yellow-legged Gull through off Penn's Weare.
 Shelducks - Ferrybridge, 14th July 2013 © Pete Saunders
14th July
Precious little change in the weather or the birding today. The numbers were off the Bill, where 185 Common Scoter, 11 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Crested Grebe and a Yellow-legged Gull passed by; most of the reports from the land at the Bill were of passage overhead that included 40 Sand Martins, 3 Black-headed Gulls, a Grey Heron and a Yellow Wagtail. Seven Little Egret through over Penn's Weare were presumed migrants, whilst Ferrybridge came up with 9 Shelducks, 10 Dunlin, 9 Sandwich Terns, 3 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.
13th July
The very warm spell continued unabated and, for the most part, there seemed to be limited enthusiam for prolonged fieldwork. At the Bill there was another steady trickle of Sand Martin on the move, but 3 Little Egrets also overhead, a new Wheatear on the ground and 81 Common Scoter, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull passing on the sea were the only other reports of note. Elsewhere a Cuckoo was at Suckthumb Quarry and 13 Sandwich Terns, 2 Shelduck, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel were at Ferrybridge; also at the latter 3 Little Egrets overhead seem likely to be the individuals seen shortly before at the Bill.
12th July
The island's beginning to take on a quite parched look with today's early cloud cover quickly dispersing without issuing forth even a hint of dampness. Bird-wise, the day's highlight was a very unseasonable Black Guillemot seen passing the Bill early in the morning; hitherto there had been no island records for either July or August so this was as unexpected as the Brent Geese and Short-eared Owl also logged in the last couple of weeks. The rest of the day's tally was altogether more mundane: Ferrybridge came up with 53 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Shelduck, 3 Dunlin and a Whimbrel, singles of Cuckoo and Redshank were grounded at Cheyne Weare and the Bill respectively and 48 Manx Shearwaters, 34 Common Scoter, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and a Curlew passed through on the sea at the Bill.
11th July
A weak weather front that passed through during the hours of darkness introduced much fresher air and, at least until late morning, plenty of cloud cover. The day's sightings list was rather predictable and included 18 Common Scoter, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Willow Warblers, a Whimbrel and an Arctic Skua at the Bill and 44 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Dunlin and 2 Shelducks at Ferrybridge.
   Kestrel and Little Ringed Plover - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 10th July 2013 © Will Bown (Kestrel) and Pete Saunders (LRP)
10th July
More lovely weather and some more passage afoot on land and sea. Black-headed Gulls, Swifts and Sand Martins were conspicuous through the morning with, for example, 102 Sand Martins, 50 Black-headed Gulls and 40 Swifts through over the Bill during the first few hours of the morning; also there 80 Common Scoter and a Teal passed by on the sea. Elsewhere the Little Ringed Plover remained at Ferrybridge, where there were also 2 Yellow Wagtails.
Also today we received the sad news of the death this morning of David Peart. David was particularly fond of Portland and all aspects of its natural history and visited us from his home in Wilton, Wiltshire, as often as possible; he was a stalwart supporter of PBO who gave many years service as a committee member, most recently as vice-chairman between 1983 and 1996. We extend our sincere condolences to David's wife, Jackie, and to the rest of his family.
  Dark-bellied Brent Geese - Ferrybridge, 9th July 2013 © Pete Saunders
9th July
The glorious conditions remained firmly established which made the oddest sighting of the day - of 3 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge - all the more incongruous; Ferrybridge also came up with 6 Dunlin, a Little Ringed Plover and a Whimbrel. At the Bill gulls featured conspicuously through the morning, with 17 Black-headed Gulls and 14 Mediterranean Gulls trickling through either overhead or over the sea; 9 Manx Shearwaters, 5 commic terns, 4 Common Scoter, 3 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Whimbrel also passed by on the sea and 25 Swifts, 18 Sand Martins and a Lapwing passed overhead into the easterly breeze.
  Sparrowhawk - Southwell, 8th July 2013 © Pete Saunders
8th July
Another fabulous day for sun-lovers although, with a conspicuous easterly breeze a feature for a good part of the day, not quite as stiflingly hot as yesterday. Odds and ends of passage/dispersal at the Bill included singles of Lapwing, Whimbrel, Yellow Wagtail and Willow Warbler on the land and 83 Common Scoter, 17 Manx Shearwaters, 17 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Mediterranean Gulls and 3 Balearic Shearwaters through on the sea. Elsewhere there were 5 Dunlin and 4 Redshank at Ferrybridge.
7th July
Surely one of the hottest days at Portland for some years. Fortunately there was decent coverage, at least of the Bill area, in the first few hours of the morning before it really got too hot to flog around birding. Signs of passage are beginning to get more varied: a Reed Warbler in song at Southwell was perhaps most likely a late spring arrival, singles of Yellow Wagtail at the Bill and Willow Warbler at Southwell were unexpected in mid-summer, whilst it's anyone's guess quite what the Red-breasted Merganser that passed through off the Bill was up to. More conventional early autumn fare at the Bill included 60 Sand Martins, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and singles of Grey Heron, Curlew, Whimbrel and Cuckoo on the land and 162 Common Scoter, 112 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Balearic Shearwaters through on the sea.
  Silver-studded Blue - Easton, 6th July 2013 © Ken Dolbear
...late emerging this year but evidently now on the wing in good numbers.
6th July
Intermittently foggy during the morning but blazingly hot and sunny through the afternoon. At the Bill the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the summer was a more or less on cue new arrival but a Redstart, also in full juvenile plumage, was an altogether more unexpected newcomer; the only other report was of up to 100 Sand Martins gathering over the fields
  Little Tern, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher - Ferrybridge, 5th July 2013 © Pete Saunders (Little Tern) and Will Bown (Common Sand and Oystercatcher)
5th July
The arrival of much anticipated anticyclonic conditions saw wall-to-wall sunshine and warmth set in and certainly got things going on land and sea. Sand Martins were on the move overhead, with 70 at the Bill, where 3 Black-headed Gulls, a Ringed Plover and a Crossbill also passed over. Seawatching there came up with 134 Common Scoter, 29 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, a Balearic Shearwater and a Yellow-legged Gull, whilst another 17 Mediterranean Gulls and a Common Sandpiper were at Ferrybridge.
A reminder for PBO members that they are invited to attend this year's AGM which will be held at the Obs at 7pm tomorrow, 6th July; light refreshments will be available after the meeting.
4th July
On a day of mixed conditions - one minute blanketed in fog and the next bathed in hot sunshine - the only reports were from the sea at the Bill where 23 Common Scoter, 5 Manx Shearwaters and a Balearic Shearwater passed through.
  Skylark - Portland Bill, June 2013 © Will Bown
3rd July
A fresher breeze saw to it that most of the day's action took place on the sea, with watches at the Bill coming up with 138 Common Scoter, 18 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Oystercatchers, 3 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Whimbrel. The only other reports came from Ferrybridge, where the Mediterranean Gull tally increased to 10; 2 Shelducks and 2 Sandwich Terns were also there.
2nd July
A decent blanket of cloud cover - which preceded the arrival of a fair bit of rain from late afternoon onwards - looked promising but the rewards by way of newcomers were limited to 2 Grey Herons and a Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill, a Mistle Thrush at Blacknor and 8 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Whimbrel and a Redshank at Ferrybridge. The seawatchers fared slightly better, with 96 Common Scoter, 19 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and singles of Balearic Shearwater and Great Skua through off the Bill.
  Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, 1st July 2013 © Pete Saunders
1st July
Quiet today with the only signs of passage being 20 Common Scoter through off the Bill and 3 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge; the Short-eared Owl was also still present at the Bill.