31st July

With a near full moon looming large in a crystal clear sky it didn't look likely that migrants on the move would drop in any quantity, but dawn did bring greater variety than hitherto this autumn. The Bill area came up with 45 departing Sand Martins, 25 Willow Warblers, 20 Whitethroats and singles of Grey Heron, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap, whilst 155 Sand Martins and 8 Shoveler passed over at Ferrybridge. Shearwaters again featured off the Bill, where 125 Manx and 6 Balearics passed by during the morning.

As a measure of just how weak autumn passage has been thus far, Peter Morgan has totted up for us the July ringing totals at the Obs (...sadly, not a very arduous task!); the measly total of just 68 new birds ringed included only 15 presumed active migrants: 12 Willow Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 1 Sedge Warbler. It can only get better...

Despite the unpromising chilly, clear conditions there were signs of immigrant moths numbers picking up just a little, particularly at Sweethill where 2 Small Mottled Willows and a Bordered Straw provided the best of the quality.

Bordered Beauty - Sweethill, 31st July 2015 © Debby Saunders
...we used to consider Bordered Beauty a rare stray to Portland - it's very infrequent at the Obs and today's example was new for Debby at Sweethill - but last year came up with circumstantial evidence that it might now be established at Culverwell.

30th July

In much improved conditions the only news of any consequence was of a small arrival of Willow Warblers that included at least 10 at the Obs, and 400 Swallows and 40 Sand Martins leaving to the south at the Bill.

Although it remained far from suitable for overnight moth-trapping immigrant numbers did improve; routine fare - including 10 Silver Y - dominated at the Obs, with a Pine Hawk-moth at Weston providing some quality elsewhere.

juvenile and adult Common Buzzards - Southwell, 30th July 2015 © Pete Saunders

29th July

Another day of brisk north-westerlies. The odd few new arrivals included 10 Willow Warblers abd a Wheatear at the Bill, whilst a steady movement of Manx Shearwaters that developed during the evening off the Bill reached up to 50/minute at times.

Immigrant moths were again almost non-existent, with just 4 individuals of 3 species at the Obs.

28th July

Things remain far from what they ought to be at this juncture, with the almost astounding fact that just 4 new birds have been trapped and ringed at the Obs during the last week more than adequately reflecting the dearth of passerine passage in particular. Today's still brisk and chilly north-westerly did nothing to perk things up, with the only news worth a mention being of 60 Manx and 15 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill and 4 Sanderlings amongst the handful of waders at Ferrybridge.

27th July

In still wilder conditions there was a surprise highlight in the form of a Black Guillemot wrecked in Chesil Cove early in the afternoon; from a distance, we're unsure quite what the totals of more conventional seabirds were, but it seems like the best of the bunch at the Bill were at least 20 Balearic Shearwaters and a Yellow-legged Gull. Wader numbers were much reduced at Ferrybridge, where 8 Sanderling, a Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper provided the only quality.

26th July

It didn't take long for the weather to revert back to grim mode, and today's wind and at times heavy rain again restricted birding activities to seawatching at the Bill and wader/tern watching at Ferrybridge. Sea totals at the Bill included 100 commic terns, 50 Manx Shearwaters. 18 Common Scoter, 12 Balearic Shearwaters and a Yellow-legged Gull, whilst the Ferrybridge tally included 92 Dunlin, 13 Sandering, 12 'new' Little Terns and a Whimbrel.

Immigrant moth interest dwindled, with a Four-spotted Footman the best of the selection at the Obs.

25th July

We're away on family holiday in Cornwall this week - with what seems to be a pretty iffy internet connection - so updates are likely to be short and may well be late.

Much improved conditions today but very quiet on the migrant front, with 6 Sand Martins and 3 Willow Warblers the best on offer at the Bill. Waders at Ferrybridge included 120 Dunlin, 16 Sanderling, 3 Whimbel and a Redshank.

In what looked to be a very unpromising gusty northerly there was a surprise arrival of immigrant moths, with the totals of 42 Silver Y and 6 Dark Sword Grass at the Obs constituting year-peaks to date for both.

24th July

Quite a shocker of a day that went a long way toward replenishing the recent rainfall deficit. With serious coverage of the bushes out of the question the day's only reports were of waders at Ferrybridge and seawatching at the Bill. The Ferrybridge wader tally included 200 Dunlin, 50 Ringed Plover, 15 Sanderling, 12 Whimbrel, 3 Redshank and 2 Curlew, whilst 2 Balearic Shearwaters were ever-present off the Bill.
Despite faintly promising-looking conditions there was hardly any improvement in immigrant moth numbers, with a Tawny-barred Angle and a Four-spotted Footman at the Obs and 2 more Four-spotted Footman at the Grove the only real morsels of interest.

 Whimbrels - Ferrybridge, 24th July 2015 © Pete Saunders

23rd July

Just a reminder, since we're going to be away and the blog mightn't be updated, that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm next Tuesday, 28th July 2015.

After a relatively slow start to autumn passerine passage there were welcome signs of action today, with a very small flurry of new arrivals. The Bill area received the only coverage, with 12 Sand Martins, 6 Willow Warblers and singles of Wheatear and Sedge Warbler making the list; wader numbers were largely unchanged at Ferrybridge, where 77 Dunlin, 4 Sanderling and a Whimbrel were logged. Elsewhere, a Great Spotted Woodpecker that's evidently been visiting a garden at Easton for several weeks was today noticed to be ringed and is most likely the bird ringed at the Obs on 23rd June. Standard fare on the sea included 49 Manx Shearwaters, 45 Common Scoter, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Shelducks, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua.

The immigrant moth situation remained pretty dire, with singles of Olive-tree Pearl and Four-spotted Footman by far the highlights from the mundane variety and poor numbers in the Obs traps.

Comma, Painted Lady, Peacock and Red Admiral - Portland Bill, 23rd July 2015 © Ken Dolbear
...Ken's also sent us through a couple of photographs of aberrant butterflies he encountered yesterday at Bottomcombe. This Small Copper with blue marking on the hindwings appears to conform to the known aberration, caeruleopunctata:
...but in a quick check we couldn't find any reference to a named aberration of Ringlet in which there are only four spots (instead of the usual five) on the hindwing:

22nd July

Although waders still featured, including 75 Dunlin and 9 Sanderling at Ferrybridge, the current Atlantic influence isn't doing anything for passerines, with nothing more than a lone Willow Warbler at the Bill today. Three Balearic Shearwaters lingered off the Bill for the best part of the day and 45 Common Scoter, 6 Manx Shearwaters and singles of Mediterranean Gull and Black-headed Gull also passed through there.

Immigrant moth interest has dwindled right away, with nothing in any numbers overnight; singles of Four-spotted Footman at the Obs and Scarce Bordered Straw at the Grove provided the only rarity interest.

21st July

Dribs and drabs rather than an opening of the migrant floodgates today. A sudden pulse of 75 passing Sand Martins accounted for the vast bulk of the day's numbers at the Bill, where 2 Willow Warblers and single Little Ringed Plover were the only other worthwhile reports from the land. Four Manx Shearwaters, 3 Common Scoter and lone Balearic Shearwater were all that could be mustered from the sea there.

Barn Owl, Mediterranean Gull and Chalkhill Blue - Portland Bill, Ferrybridge and Tout Quarry, 21st July 2015 © Duncan Walbridge (Barn Owl), Debby Saunders (Med Gull) and Ken Dolbear (Chalkhill Blue)
We also received news today of a result from some feathers of last autumn's putative Siberian Chiffchaff. We say putative because although this particular individual - it was first trapped and ringed on 23rd October and remained around for a few days - looked to us to be perfectly OK for a tristis, it certainly didn't sound like one. This was the bird:

Professor Martin Collinson has very kindly let us know that his analysis confirms that it's a tristis: "its cytb DNA sequence is novel, but 1009/1012 bp identical to previously sequenced tristis from core Yenesei, and also to a Landguard bird we published previously. There's an extra 10+ bp changes separating it from other Chiffie taxa (menzbieri and abietinus are next closest)."

And this was what it sounded like:

...and here's what we take to be a more typical Siberian Chiffchaff call (we recorded this one at that well-known tristis hotspot, PC World drain at Poole):

 That the two calls are pretty obviously very different is more than confirmed on sonograms; this is the Portland bird:

...and this is the Poole bird:

We hope Mr Constantine won't mind us nicking his sonograms of Common Chiffchaff and Siberian Chiffchaff from The Sound Approach to birding so that we can compare them with what we've got:

So there you have it: a genetically confirmed Siberian Chiffchaff calling more or less identically to a Common Chiffchaff - most peculiar!

Postscript: it occurred to us after we'd posted this piece that there might be doubt that we'd sound-recorded the correct bird; there's no question this was it since it was in our hand when we made the above recording - it always called in this fashion and the example posted was the 'cleanest' recording we obtained.

20th July

Thick fog that clamped down overnight dropped a host of passing waders to audible height during the hours of darkness but, for the most part, completely messed up daytime birding. That said, there were new arrivals about, as evidenced by the 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Sedge Warbler that dropped in at the Obs, and the 59 Dunlin, 6 Curlew, 5 Sanderling, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Redshank that cropped up at Ferrybridge. Odd glimpses of the sea during the morning and the final lifting of the fog towards evening did allow for at least 2 Balearic Shearwaters to be seen off the Bill.

Immigrant moth arrivals were a feature, with improved numbers of routine fare everywhere - including 15 Small Mottled Willows at the Obs - and notable highlights that included singles of White Satin at Sweethill and Olive-tree Pearl, Splendid Brocade and Small Marbled at the Grove.

White Satin and Olive-tree Pearl, Small Marbled & Splendid Brocade - Sweethill and the Grove, 20th July 2015 © Debby Saunders (White Satin) and Martin Cade (the trio)

An early return from a rained/fogged-off overnight mothing attempt gave us an opportunity to tap into an impressive wader 'disorientation' over the Obs during the early hours. We were too whacked to spend ages listening but in quick time Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Whimbrels and Common Sandpipers all featured in what sounded to be really good numbers, including this simultaneous Whimbrel flock and Common Sandpiper (sorry, although it sounds as though there was some sort of biblical deluge afoot, the apparent 'rain noise' here is actually only drips from leaves being accentuated by the microphone!).

19th July

A little drop of rain around dawn soon cleared through to leave another pleasantly warm and sunny day. After the single a couple of days ago at the Bill, 2 more Bee-eaters put in an appearance over Weston during the afternoon but - much like the Bill bird - they managed to slip away before attracting a wide audience. The day's sightings were otherwise much as might be expected at this time of year. Waders made up the bulk of the new arrivals on the land, with 56 Dunlin, 5 Sanderling and 3 Redshank at Ferrybridge and a Whimbrel over the Bill; passerines consisted of little more than a Willow Warbler and a few passing hirudines at the Bill. Three Balearic Shearwaters lingered off the Bill, where an Arctic Skua and a miscellany of other routine fare also passed by.

An Ocean Sunfish drifted close east past the Bill during the morning.

Overnight moth-trapping came up with a few highlights, including the island second record of Pine Marble Piniphila bifasciana at Sweethill, a selection of immigrants that included 2 more Small Marbleds and a Four-spotted Footman at the Obs and scarce wanderers that included a Hoary Knot-horn Gymnancyla canella at the Obs and a Large Emerald at the Grove.

Pine Marble, Hoary Knot-horn and Emperor dragonfly - Sweethill, Portland Bill and Easton, 19th July 2015 © Debby Saunders (Pine Marble), Martin Cade (Hoary Knot-horn) and Ken Dolbear (Emperor)

18th July

Fair weather and another fair little spread of birds everywhere. At the Bill the only new arrivals were overhead, with 3 Sand Martins and 2 Grey Herons along with a few more departing Swallows; elsewhere a Little Ringed Plover passed over at Blacknor and a varied list from Ferrybridge included 75 Mediterranean Gulls, 27 Dunlin, 4 Mute Swans, 2 Grey Herons and singles of Curlew, Redshank and Greenshank. The lingering Balearic Shearwater off the Bill was joined by a second individual at times, with another 8 that passed through indicating that numbers in local waters may finally be picking up; 3 Sandwich Terns and singles of Common Scoter, Whimbrel and Yellow-legged Gull also passed through there.

On a cooler and breezy night moth interest dwindled right away, with just 2 individual immigrants - a Rush Veneer and a Dark Sword Grass - caught in the traps run at the Obs.

17th July

An important reminder for Obs members that our AGM takes place at 7pm tomorrow, Saturday 18th July 2015; full details are available on the Notices page.
In fresher, breezier conditions there was still a fair bit about as autumn passage gathered ground. Passerines were still the poor relation although a welcome first Willow Warbler of the season did show up at the Obs and there were still signs of a few Swallows departing at the Bill. Waders continued to fare better, with 26 Dunlin, 3 Common Sandpipers and singles of Whimbrel, Greenshank and Redshank - along with a slightly unseasonable Common Gull - at Ferrybridge and another Common Sandpiper at the Bill. The sea produced the rest of the day's interest, with 66 Common Scoter, 23 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Arctic Skuas and singles of Balearic Shearwater and Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill.
On the moth front it was a case of wondering where all of yesterday's numbers went - in the fresher conditions the traps were far quieter everywhere; immigrant interest was largely restricted to the year's first Scarce Bordered Straw at the Obs. As a postscript to yesterday's apparent mass arrival of Garden Grass-veneers Chrysoteuchia culmella, Debby Saunders reports that she caught c700 at Sweethill - in her words, "I've never had that number of moths of any kind before".

Common Sandpipers, Starry Pearl Cynaeda dentalis and Puss Moth - Ferrybridge, Southwell and Portland Bill, 17th July 2015 © Pete Saunders (Common Sands), Debby Saunders (Starry Pearl) and Ken Dolbear (Puss Moth)

16th July

A bumper night when prodigious numbers of moths were on the wing was followed by an unexpectedly excellent day, when a surprise avian rarity cropped up amongst the decent numbers of commoner migrants beginning to get moving. A Bee-eater that showed up at the Bill for a few minutes during the morning stole the show bird-wise, but there was a strong supporting cast amongst the early autumn movers. Sand Martins were heading south at Ferrybridge in some quantity, with signs also of Swallows beginning to depart from the Bill. Waders had been evident overnight, when 4 Common Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover provided distractions from the moth-trapping at Ferrybridge, so it wasn't a surprise when 7 Dunlin, 2 Redshanks, 2 Common Sandpipers and a Curlew all made the log during daylight hours at the Bill; 24 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpipers, a Sanderling and a Greenshank also dropped in at times at Ferrybridge, where the addition of 92 Mediterranean Gulls and a Little Gull made for a minor waterbird bonanza by recent standards. The sea came up with the rest of the numbers, with 172 Common Scoter, 25 Manx Shearwaters, 17 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and a Balearic Shearwater through off the Bill.

Overnight moth-trapping was very busy, with much improved numbers and variety at all sites; Garden Grass-veneers Chrysoteuchia culmella were especially prolific, with 800 estimated in just 1 trap/sheet at Ferrybridge. Single Small Marbled at the Obs, Sweethill and the Grove constituted the best of the rarity interest, totals of Small Mottled Willow included 11 at the Obs, whilst infrequent strays included singles of Silky Wainscot at Ferrybridge (a location from where we have no previous records, although it could plausibly be established there), Lesser Wax Moth, Royal Mantle and Horse Chestnut at the Obs and Miller at the Grove.


Small Marbled, Bee-eater and Little Gull - Portland Bill, and Ferrybridge, 16th July 2015 © Martin Cade (Small Marbled and Bee-eater) and Pete Saunders (Little Gull)
...and a sound-recording of sorts of the Bee-eater:

15th July

Quiet and increasingly muggy conditions today once the overnight fog had lifted. A Common Sandpiper provided the only migrant interest on the land at the Bill, where 95 Common Scoter, 40 Manx Shearwaters, at least 1 Balearic Shearwater and singles of Black-headed Gull and Mediterranean Gull passed through or lingered on the sea.

14th July

The promised rain held for much longer than expected today and allowed for plenty of coverage but, sadly, rewards were scant. A lone Balearic Shearwater was again lingering off the Bill, where 24 Common Scoter, 3 each of Black-headed Gull and Mediterranean Gull, and singles of Manx Shearwater and Curlew passed through or lingered. The only worthwhile report from the land was of 2 Yellow Wagtails over the Bill.

In damp, breezy conditions overnight moth catches were very disappointing, with little interest beyond singles of Buff Footman at the Obs and European Corn-borer at the Grove.

Clay Crest Helcystogramma lutatella - Freshwater Bay, 10th July 2015 © Martin Cade

...we did illustrate this local special last year, but this specimen - caught on our excursion to Freshwater Bay last Friday night - was such a decent, freshly-emerged example that it was just crying out to be photographed. As far as we're aware, lutatella is still only known in the UK from the east side of Portland and a couple of spots on Purbeck, even though it apparently has a rather wide range elsewhere in Europe.
Having given folk a few days to dwell on the matter we thought we ought to revisit Nick Hopper's mystery bird sound we posted a few days ago:

 This has generated plenty of comment both at the Obs and via email, with the most popular explanation being a snatch of song from a Wood Sandpiper. Nick had been thinking along these lines but couldn't really find anything that was that close a match, so he consulted Magnus Robb; Magnus's explanation was that it wasn't a vocalisation at all, rather that the sound was 'mechanical' - it was the sound of the wingbeats of a passing bird. Being unhealthily sceptical, we'd queried this explanation with Nick, in particular wondering why there were apparent variations in pitch, as well as posing the question as to whether or not the equipment would/ought to pick up something akin to the Doppler effect as the bird passed by (Dave Chown has raised pretty well the same issues in his comments). Nick is still investigating this whole subject but for the time being he's sent us though a hatful of information to ponder. Here are sonograms from the parts of the mystery recording with the highest and lowest pitches:

...and here's a sonogram of Wood Sandpiper song;


The pink line in each of sonograms is at the same pitch, so it's pretty clear that the mystery sound is considerably lower-pitched than a Wood Sand. The delivery of the sounds is very similar, at 7 notes per second, but the shape of the mystery sound is rounded at the top with a rather convex curve down; the Wood Sand rises, more abruptly comes to a point and then has a straight diagonal line down. It would seem from this evidence that Wood Sand song is certainly out of the equation.
As an example of a recording of wingbeats, this is apparently a Surf Scoter in flight (OK, a pretty random choice as an example, but needs must): 

The wingbeats in the mystery recording are at just under 7 per second which apparently puts it in the large wader/wildfowl category - seemingly an official category in radar studies. Examples of wingbeat rates in the literature and from Nick's preliminary measurements include:

Grey Heron 2.8
Buzzard 3.5
Shelduck 5
Eider 6.6
Wood Pigeon 6.8
Shoveler 7.2
Wigeon 7.2
Starling 10
Chaffinch 11

Broadly speaking, and as would be expected, wingbeats get quicker the smaller the bird is; but there are certainly exceptions, with the likes of Goldeneye coming in at 10, Surf Scoter at 9.4 and Little Bustard at 9. Interestingly, the Little Bustard shapes on the sonogram are quite similar to the mystery bird and also waver a bit in pitch, although the beats per second and pitch are much higher:


 Many thanks to Nick for putting in a lot of work on this subject, and we hope we haven't paraphrased away too much of what he's educating us with; also thanks in particular to Dave Chown for his comments. 

13th July

Yesterday's dreary theme continued and although it felt constantly damp in the brisk south-westerly there wasn't actually any proper rainfall. Birding wasn't top of the agenda for most, and the only reports from the Bill were from a seemingly very quiet sea, with 14 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Common Scoter and a Sandwich Tern the only sightings making the log. Elsewhere, the first Sanderling of the autumn was at Ferrybridge.

Overnight mothing was as quiet as the daytime birding, with a Dark Pine Knot-horn at the Obs easily the best of a very limited immigrant list.

Balearic Shearwater - Portland Bill, 13th July 2015 © Martin Cade

12th July

Some of our rather impoverished-looking crops in the conservation fields have been crying out for rain for weeks and they finally got their wish today - hardly a downpour but constant-enough drizzle that some good must have been done. From the birding point of view the low cloud and reduced visibility associated with the drizzle became an issue as the day wore on, but not before there'd been signs of a fair bit of sea passage getting going; 73 Common Scoter, 61 Manx Shearwaters and singles of Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua and Yellow-legged Gull passed through off the Bill before visibility got too poor from the Obs, whilst a Balearic Shearwater settled off Chesil later in the day hinted that there would have been more to log with a bit more effort. The same or another Yellow-legged Gull dropped in at Ferrybridge, where 10 Dunlin and 3 Whimbrel were also about, whilst a Gannet was patrolling about in Portland Harbour.

Immigrant interest on another decent moth night was deficient enough that only a European Corn-borer at the Grove was worth a mention.

11th July

A fairly routine July selection today, with a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle the only slightly out of the ordinary sighting. Although Swifts were dribbling through overhead it was the sea that came up with the bulk of the numbers at the Bill, where 40 each of Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter, 11 Cormorants, 6 Mediterranean Gull and singles of Great Skua and Yellow-legged Gull passed by. Waders at Ferrybridge included 7 Curlew and 6 Dunlin.

Overnight moth-trapping was again busy without any real sign of a concerted arrival of fresh immigrants; the night's best quality was provided by singles of Small Marbled at Reap Lane, Vestal at West Grove Terrace and Four-spotted Footman at St Peter's Church.

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, 11th July 2105 © Debby Saunders
...from her photos, Debby has pieced together the ring number of this German-ringed individual and will let us know once she's heard back on it.

10th July

In a summer with Bee-eaters scattered widely around the UK another 2 at Portland - these overflew Easton during the morning - probably wasn't a huge surprise, with the only downside being their vanishing into the ether just as soon as they'd shown up. New arrivals on the ground seemed to be limited to yet another Chiffchaff at the Obs and 12 Dunlin and a Redshank at Ferrybridge, with all the rest of the news coming from the sea: 2 Storm Petrels were tape-lured and ringed at the Bill during the early hours and 52 Common Scoter, 5 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Mediterranean Gulls passed through off there during the day.

Overnight mothing was very busy but quality in the immigrant line was really just limited to singles of Small Marbled at St Peter's Church and the Obs; a Spindle Knot-horn Nephopterix angustella at the Obs was the best of an equally limited range of wanderers.

Sparrowhawk - Southwell, 10th July 2015 © Pete Saunders

9th July

Autumn migrants were certainly to the fore today, with one or two surprises even if the numbers weren't up to anything. At the Bill 4 passing Sand Martins were very much on cue (5 more also passed over at Blacknor) but singles of both Spotted Flycatcher and Siskin were much more unexpected. Ferrybridge came up with the rest of the new arrivals, with singles of Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Greenshank all putting in appearances. The only other reports were from the sea, with 40 Manx Shearwaters and a Common Scoter through off the Bill.

After a bit of a lull in inclement conditions moth numbers picked up again, although immigrants didn't feature in any quantity with, for example, just 8 individuals of 7 species in the Obs traps; by day, Hummingbird Hawk-moths looked to have increased, with several sightings throughout the island.

Black-tailed Godwit, Rosy-striped Knot-horn Oncocera semirubella and Volucella zonaria - Ferrybridge and Wakeham, 9th July 2015 © Pete Saunders (Blackwit) and Ken Dolbear (the insects)
And a few sounds to round off today's update. Our attempt at the fly-over Siskin at the Obs turned out to be a minor classic in a field we specialise in: irritating background interruptions that spoil would be have been a nice clean recording; although the Siskin performed admirably it's hard to ignore the Great Tit tapping on the perspex of an empty bird-feeder, whilst the Blackbird that pipes up at the end is actually the naff bird song clock in the Obs lounge letting us know it's 8am - Blackbird hour!

 If a Siskin is quite out of the ordinary for this time of year, a Curlew certainly isn't; Nick Hopper recorded this one over the Obs on his last night visit:

Finally, Nick's also sent us this mystery sound he recorded at night on another recent visit - any ideas?

8th July

A day of very blustery westerlies gave us an opportunity to concentrate on garden maintenance and the only bird news was of smallish numbers of Manx Shearwaters offshore at the Bill whenever we had time to look.

The lower half of the Obs garden 2015 and 1975 © Martin Cade (2015) and Iain Robertson (1975)

Hosting a visit this evening from the Portland Camera Club afforded us the rare opportunity of taking in the views from the outside of top of the Obs lighthouse tower (...please don't ask us if you too can get on the outside: even we only get out there once every few years since the whole procedure is a right rigmarole that requires several burly people to shift a heavy and largely seized-up segment of glass and metal on a track that probably last functioned properly well before Iain Robertson took the above photograph 40 years ago).
This visit to the top of the tower reminded us that we still hadn't got round to announcing another small but important land purchase made by PBO earlier this year. An opportunity arose for us to acquire lawn 2215 which is the field immediately adjacent to the east side of the Obs garden; in these photos taken this evening lawn 2215 is the field between the Obs garden and the field where the farmer is haymaking:

We'd rented this field for a number of years but have had mixed success with making it more attractive ornithologically since we were limited to growing annual crops there; the permanent acquisition of it will enable us to implement a programme of tree and scrub planting that will greatly enlarge the size of the Obs garden. In the current climate of very high land prices at Portland this acquisition involved a not insubstantial outlay; we are extremely gratefully to long-standing Obs member and regular visitor, Deborah Tessier, who - in memory of her uncle, Jack Dyke - supported half of the purchase price. We're sure that Obs members and other visitors to the island will join us in thanking Deborah for her wonderful gesture.
The formal announcement of the purchase of lawn 2215 will be made at our upcoming AGM which, as we'd detailed before, takes place on Saturday 18th July; full details are on the Notices page.