1st May

It was with shock and great sadness that we learnt of the sudden death this afternoon of Neil Arnold. Neil served on the management committee of PBO for a number of years during the 1970s and remained a regular visitor to the Obs until just a few days ago. Neil made a notable contribution to the field of environmental education, both practically as a teacher at Radipole School where he was instrumental in the establishment of the school nature reserve, but also as the author of a number of innovative text books in this field. Latterly, he was well-known and highly-regarded as a tour leader for The Travelling Naturalist. We extend our sincere condolences to his partner, Chris, and to the rest of his family.

May begun just as April had ended - very poorly for both land migrants and seabirds; it seems that there's perhaps been so much cloud and rain about on the near-Continent and in the Western Approaches than passage on all fronts has temporarily ground to a halt. Today's Obs ringing tally of just 4 new migrants again reflected the almost complete lack of any sort of fall; the only reports of faint interest concerned a Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill, a Hobby over Ferrybridge and 13 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Knot settled there. In a stiff easterly there had been a good deal of optimism for seawatch prospects but events revealed that was well wide of the mark; prolonged coverage at the Bill came up with 51 commic terns, 25 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Little Gulls and an Arctic Skua, whilst shorter watches at Chesil returned 2 Great Skuas, a Red-throated Diver, a Golden Plover and an Arctic Skua amongst others.

Two Silver Y from the Obs traps made up the overnight immigrant moth list, but a Water Carpet was a more noteworthy capture at the Grove.

Bar-tailed Godwits and Water Carpet - Ferrybridge and the Grove, 1st May 2015 © Pete Saunders (Barwits) and Martin Cade (Water Carpet)
Before this year Water Carpet only figured on the Portland moth list by virtue of its supposed occurrence during the 19th century (attributed to Charles Dale by Nelson Richardson, who placed the record in brackets). This year Martin Townsend, who was engaged in a search for Flame Brocade larvae at the time, caught single specimens in two actinic traps on either side of the Cheyne Weare car park on the night of 10th/11th April; Martin didn't appreciate the significance of the records so didn't retain the specimens for a photograph, and after a few failed attempts to catch one for ourselves in the same area we'd more or less given up on the species for this year. We'd guess that the species is most probably a low density resident in the scrub on the east side of the island and - since it's an early spring flyer when there's little or no trapping effort in that area - has simply been overlooked before now.