2nd February

With the wind having finally dropped away overnight dawn was particularly crisp and frosty, with as thick a layer of ice on the Obs ponds as we've seen anytime this winter. The first rather limited ringing session at the Obs so far this year didn't come up with any surprises beyond a new Blue Tit (their numbers have been at a low ebb for many months, with just 8 ringed at the Obs in the whole of last year); 7 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Blackcaps, a Lapwing, a Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting were the best of the other land sightings at the Bill, with singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver through on the sea. A Black Redstart showed up again at Weston, whilst 17 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver were scattered about Portland Harbour.

Chiffchaff - Portland Bill, 2nd February 2015 © Martin Cade
...the infrequency with which Chiffchaffs actually winter at the Obs would suggest the habitat is very much sub-optimal for them at this time of year, and after spending a bit of time watching this bird you begin to appreciate quite how hard it's having to work: Tree Mallows seem to be the only plants with enough of a density of insect/arachnid prey to be worth gleaning and, as far as we've been able to make out, it doesn't stop darting from one clump of them to the next from dawn 'til dusk - you really get a feel for it being a pretty fine line between life and death for a bird like this during these short winter days.