30th June

The long-term presence of the Great Spotted Cuckoo earlier in the month perhaps deflected attention from something of a mid-summer quality deficiency this year, with no more than a one day Greenish Warbler to fulfil rarity aspirations - the current westerly dominated conditions also don't give a lot of hope that things are going to change any time soon. Returning/dispersing migrants today included 3 Whimbrel, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and singles of Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank at Ferrybridge, and singles of Little Egret, Redshank and Grey Wagtail at the Bill. The only other reports were from the sea at the Bill, where 75 Manx Shearwaters, 20 Common Scoter and a Great Skua passed by.

Odds and ends of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps included 21 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Rush Veneer and a single Diamond-back Moth.

Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Meadow Brown and Silver-studded Blue - Ferrybridge, Southwell and Broadcroft, 30th June 2016 © Pete Saunders (Redshank), Debby Saunders (Med Gull and Meadow Brown) and Ken Dolbear (Silver-studded Blue)

And thanks to Andy Mitchell for sending us through this photo from a few days ago of a Kestrel family at Cheyne:

29th June

Flaming June? - more like flaming miserable today, with rain setting in not long into the morning and coming and going for the rest of the day. It took a while before yesterday's eastbound Manx Shearwaters returned westward but eventually at least 350 had trickled through off the Bill. The only other reports were of singles of Arctic Skua and Black-headed Gull through off the Bill and another 5 Swifts leaving to the south there.

Immigrant moth totals aren't really worth mentioning at the moment, but for completeness the overnight tally from the Obs traps was 10 Rusty-dot Pearl, 7 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Rush Veneer and 2 Silver Y.

28th June

The two halves of today couldn't have been more different with a calm, sunny morning giving way to a wet afternoon that saw a near gale force westerly set in. On the migrant front a late Reed Warbler was in song at the Bill, whilst heading in the other direction a Curlew passed over and Swifts were still trickling away to the south. After 4 Storm Petrels had been tape-lured overnight at the Bill there was some hope for the sea coming up with more interest, but morning watches at the Bill came up with little more than 34 Common Scoter and singles of Mediterranean Gull and Sandwich Tern. The evening was busier, with Manx Shearwaters featuring quite strongly once the wind increased: a sample total of 450 passed the Bill in an hour; 8 Common Scoter and 2 Arctic Skuas also passed through at Chesil Cove at this time.

Little Owl - Cheyne, 28th June 2016 © Mark Eggleton

27th June

A day that won't live long in the memory. The only reports were of 5 Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill and 3 Dunlin and a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge.

Overnight moth-trapping was as uneventful as the birding, with 2 Rusty-dot Pearl the only immigrants caught at the Obs.

Adonis Blue - Inmosthay, 27th June 2016 © Ken Dolbear

26th June

Not the most inspiring of Portland days, with the only reports coming from the Bill where 60 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Common Scoter and 2 Sandwich Terns passed through on the sea and a few more Swifts departed south.

Marbled White - Broadcroft, 25th June 2016 © Ken Dolbear

25th June

This week has provided plenty of evidence for why Portland is consistently the driest part of Dorset, with deluges of rain frequently visible from the island but invariably passing it by; today continued in that vein with a couple of brief showers all that could be mustered off the edge of much wetter weather passing by on the mainland. The sea provided most of the day's bird interest, with 200 Manx Shearwaters, 22 Common Scoter, 3 Sandwich Terns and singles of Arctic Skua, Great Skua and Mediterranean Gull through off the Bill. The only faintly interesting contribution from the land was the first Sand Martin of the autumn through off the Bill.

In fresher, breezier conditions immigrant moth variety dropped still further, with 15 Rusty-dot Pearl, 4 each of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer, and 2 Silver Y making up the tally from the Obs garden traps; a single Delicate at Sweethill provided the best of the quality elsewhere.

24th June

Sadly, what would have been the day's highlight had it lingered - a Bee-eater over the Bill - deigned only to be audible to one lucky observer and there was little else to show from other fieldwork. Two Black-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge were a now rather typical midsummer oddity but the only other reports were of 6 Common Scoter and a Manx Shearwater through off the Bill and 2 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant moth numbers dropped back after yesterday's modest arrival; a Cosmopolitan was easily the best of the catch at the Obs where 25 Rusty-dot Pearl, 6 Rush Veneer, 5 Diamond-back Moth and 4 Silver Y made up the numbers.

Black-tailed Godwits and Cosmopolitan - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 24th June 2016 © Pete Saunders (Blackwits) and Martin Cade (Cosmopolitan)

23rd June

With Portland just to the west of some very active storms that moved across the Channel both overnight and again during the afternoon the island remained dry and, whenever the sun broke through, pretty hot. Migrant interest has gradually taken on an autumnal feel in recent days and today continued in that vein, with 4 Curlews and a Whimbrel at the Bill and a Common Sandpiper at West Weare. Seawatching came up with 32 Common Scoter, 30 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Sandwich Terns through off the Bill and at least 20 commic terns - presumably Lodmoor Common Terns - feeding distantly offshore there.

Immigrant moth numbers/variety increased conspicuously, with totals of 42 Rusty-dot Pearl, 40 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Silver Y, 3 Rush Veneer, 2 Hummingbird Hawk-moth and 2 Small Mottled Willow caught overnight in the Obs traps; other sites recorded lower numbers of a similar variety of mainly routine fare, including another Small Mottled Willow at the Grove where 2 Dark Sword Grass and 2 Pearly Underwing were additions to the species list. By day, single Hummingbird Hawk-moths were at several sites and there was a noticeable increase in Diamond-back Moth numbers everywhere.

Shags - West Cliffs, 23rd June 2016 © Martin Cade

It's been a few years since we've actually seen breeding Shags at the Bill rather than having to rely on the circumstantial evidence of eg seeing adults carrying nest-material: there was a time when the QinetiQ fence was damaged and it was possible to sneak through/take your life in your hands to access a much better viewpoint from where one or two active nests were visible. However, whilst having a look at the baby auks leaving the cliffs yesterday evening we discovered that by going down the slope off the top of the cliffs it was possible to get fairly long-range views of two active nests in a 'new' area of the seabird colony (below the end of the fence in the view below):

...one of these nests is much more advanced than the other, with the young already active on the ledges; the much more downy youngster at the other site was still on its nest yesterday but had begun to get a bit more adventurous this evening.

22nd June

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 25th June.

With humidity rising and thunderstorms audible out in the Channel through the evening the fog that had enveloped the island for most of the morning continued to lap ashore from time to time for the rest of the day. A Reed Warbler was new in at the Obs and a Yellowhammer made occasional flights high over the Bill without ever being pinned down on the ground; the Short-eared Owl was also still about there. In clearer slots during the afternoon 82 Common Scoter, 7 Sandwich Terns and 3 Manx Shearwaters passed through off the Bill.

Immigrant moths in the Obs garden traps this morning: 7 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and 1 Silver Y.

Linnet, Little Owl, Peregrines, Thistle Ermine and Pyramidal Orchids - Southwell and Broadcroft Quarry, 22nd June 2016 © Nick Stantiford (Linnet), Pete Saunders (Little Owl and Peregrines) and Ken Dolbear (Thistle Ermine and Pyramidal Orchids)

21st June

Another odds and ends day with the only reports coming from the Bill where 11 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Common Scoter, 2 Pomarine Skuas and an Arctic Skua passed by on the sea, the Short-eared Owl was still about and singles of Wheatear and Chiffchaff were new on the land.

The first Hummingbird Hawk-moth of the year was at Sweethill during the afternoon; immigrant interest in the moth-traps has been very limited in recent days, with last night's catch at the Obs consisting of just 10 Diamond-back Moths and 1 Rusty-dot Pearl.

By day, both Marbled White and Silver-studded Blue are now on the wing.

Silver-studded Blue - Admiralty Quarry, 21st June 2016 © Ken Dolbear

20th June

An announcement for PBO members that this year's AGM will take at the Obs on Saturday 16th July; an agenda can be viewed here.

After a complete wash-out of a morning it did at least clear up enough to allow for limited coverage during the afternoon. The sea came up with most of what little was on offer, with a trickle of Manx Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua and a very unseasonable Black-throated Diver through off the Bill; the long-staying Short-eared Owl was the only bird of note on the land.

Greenish Warbler, Grey Seal, Painted Lady and Sea Clover - Portland, 18th/19th June 2016 © John Martin

...many thanks to John for this nice little selection of photos from the weekend - the nationally scarce Sea Clover was carpeting the 'Great Spotted Cuckoo paddocks' at Reap Lane.

19th June

Precious little to shout about today, with no sign of any of yesterday's rarities and a combination of rain and fog preventing any meaningful birding after late morning. The Short-eared Owl was still on show at the Bill but the only noteworthy newcomers there were 2 Grey Herons and singles of Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Siskin on/overhead on the land and 2 Arctic Skuas through on the sea.

Peregrine - Southwell, 19th June 2016 © Pete Saunders

18th June

The rewards for sticking with it at this time of year are the more pleasing for being so hard won and today came up a couple of typical midsummer goodies: a Bee-eater that flew north along West Cliffs early in the morning escaped the attention of most but, by virtue of turning up in a net at the Obs, a midday Greenish Warbler was well-viewed even if it kept a low profile after release. After yesterday's no-show the Great Spotted Cuckoo did eventually make a short reappearance at Reap Lane. The oddities aside, the day came up with the Short-eared Owl lingering on at the Bill, 2 Blackcaps also there on the land and 6 Black-headed Gulls, a Curlew, a Great Skua and a trickle of Manx Shearwaters through on the sea.

The overnight Diamond-back Moth total in the Obs garden moth-traps dropped back to just 5.

Greenish Warbler - Portland Bill, 18th June 2016 © Martin Cade

Also from today, there was an interesting record of local significance when Lesser Whitethroat was proved to breed for the first time at the Bill (in Top Fields) when three young was watched being fed by an adult - an event that, hitherto, hadn't even been suspected to have been in the offing; Lesser Whitethroats breed annually in small numbers at Verne Common/East Weare and there have been probable/possible records on odd occasions elsewhere around the island but as far as we're aware breeding has never been suspected in 10km square SY6868. Thanks to Anthony Bentley for a couple of long range record photos of this event:

It does make you wonder just how much we miss when, on just one day on a pretty well-worked headland day-visitors jam into a Bee-eater that escapes everyone else's attention, Lesser Whitethroats are found that have patently been around completely undetected for several weeks and then a Greenish Warbler drops in that very likely would never have been found if it hadn't blundered into a mist-net. What else was about in all those other lovely little bits of habitat around the island that don't get looked at from one month to the next, let alone one day to the next?

17th June

For the second time this week a whole day passed with no reports of the Great Spotted Cuckoo (...there were quite a few visitors looking, at least through the morning). Although a succession of heavy showers did work their way across from the mainland there was plenty of pleasant sunshine in between when the Bill area at least was well-worked: the presumably summering Short-eared Owl was about once again, 2 Reed Warbler and a Blackcap were new on the ground, 60 Swifts and a Curlew passed through overhead and 200 Manx Shearwaters (including at least 80 feeding offshore), 38 Common Scoter, 7 commic terns and 5 Sandwich Terns were logged by the seawatchers.

The Diamond-back Moth tally dropped still further, with just 10 caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps; a single Silver Y was the only other immigrant trapped there.

Short-eared Owl and West Cliffs sunset - Portland Bill, 17th June 2016 © Simon Kidner (SEOwl) and Martin Cade (sunset)

And when we downloaded yesterday's cuckoo videos from the camera we realised we'd forgotten about a few little clips of the Obs Quarry Little Owls that we'd taken shortly after the young were first visible at the end of May; there's only one youngster visible in this sequence but we're told that two were seen at times:

16th June

Portland again missed the majority of the hefty thundery showers brewing over the mainland and it wasn't until late afternoon that one or two did finally make it out to the island. The Great Spotted Cuckoo successfully clocked up its fifth week in residence, but the only other reports were of a Black Redstart at Blacknor, 2 new Blackcaps at the Bill and 100 Manx Shearwaters and 96 Common Scoter through on the sea there.

The Obs immigrant moth tally consisted of just 19 Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y, with another Orange Footman providing added minor interest.

Great Spotted Cuckoo - Reap Lane, 16th June 2016 © Martin Cade

15th June

Just as it had done yesterday, Portland avoided most of the heavy showers that were evidently such a feature over the mainland and it was not until too late for it to really matter that some light rain set in during the evening. As had been expected, yesterday's no-show by the Great Spotted Cuckoo proved to be weather related and it duly resurfaced in more clement conditions today. The day's only other reports came from the sea, with 120 Manx Shearwaters, 38 Common Scoter, 2 Arctic Skuas (and 2 more skua spp) and a Little Egret through off the Bill.

Immigrant moth interest didn't get beyond dwindling numbers of Diamond-back Moths, with 21 caught overnight at the Obs.

Peregrine and more Bee Orchid variation - Portland, June 2016 © Andy Mitchell (Peregrine) and Ken Dolbear (Bee Orchids)

14th June

A Great Spotted Cuckoo-free day had to come, although there remains more than a suspicion that its apparent demise may be no more than a temporary blip related to the arrival of blustery westerlies that kept it hidden from view. The seawatchers were the chief beneficiaries of the change in the weather with enough to keep interest maintained for the best part of the day at the Bill, where 600 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Sandwich Terns, 2 each of Great Skua and Arctic Skua, and singles of Great Northern Diver and Pomarine Skua were the pick of the sightings. The only report from the land was of a Reed Warbler at the Bill.

Immigrant moth interest consisted of just 21 Diamond-back Moths caught overnight at the Obs.

13th June

Bar the Great Spotted Cuckoo that continued to give would-be observers the run-around, morsels of interest on a damp morning included singles of Hobby and Reed Warbler new at the Bill and 10 Manx Shearwaters and 9 Common Scoter through on the sea there. The only other reports were of a Grey Wagtail over Blacknor and a lone Dunlin at Ferrybridge.

We've been doing a bit of work in recent days on this spring's migrant totals which, overall, don't look too bad. As usual there are winners and losers that are perhaps easiest to identify from the ringing totals (almost exclusively this year Obs garden totals since Culverwell was hardly worked).
2013-15 mean
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Garden Warbler
Willow Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher

Of the 'big three' commonest migrants Blackcap and Willow Warbler were both well up on their recent averages, whilst Chiffchaff was on pretty well level par; not surprisingly after last autumn's glut, Goldcrest also fared well. The losers were all amongst the middle tier species, with Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher struggling at around half of their recent average totals and Whitethroat barely managing even a third of the recent average. More on this in the next few days when we'll also have a look at the spring's ringing recoveries.