21st April

What had been a decent enough day took an extraordinary turn during the afternoon when scrutiny of photographs of what at the time had been thought to be a distant Hen Harrier that flew north off West Cliffs at Barleycrates Lane during the morning revealed the bird's true identity as a Northern Harrier - a first for Portland and Dorset. Routine passage had been dominated by overhead movement of hirundines, with Swallows passing at rates of up to around 500/hour at times; with only occasional sample counts to go on it was difficult to get a handle on the full extent of visible passage, but examples such as the total of 11 Yellow Wagtails north in an hour on West Cliffs gave an indication of what was being missed through coverage being less than adequate. Grounded migrants were fairly well represented, without there being the numbers of some recent days: Willow Warbler struggled to get above 50 at the Bill, but totals of the likes of 11 Redstarts and 6 Garden Warblers there and 73 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling at Ferrybridge showed there were certainly birds to be seen. It looked from the weather charts as though up-Channel sea passage may have been blocked by poor conditions to our west, and early indications were that there was precious little on the move; however, a lot of watching did eventually come up with totals that included 9 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 5 Great Skuas, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill and 10 Little Gulls and singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Skua through off Chesil.

Northern Harrier - off Barleycrates Lane, 21st April 2014 © Peter Moore Peter Moore's Birding Blog

...check out Peter's as always beautifully-written blog for fuller details and some more photographs.
And many thanks to Peter Moore (Tree Pipit), Pete Saunders (Whitethroat) and Debby Saunders (Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler) for today's rather lovely selection of migrant photos: