21st November

Bearing in mind the unbirdable lashing rain and wind that was a feature for the best part of the day there were some decent birds on offer on the odd occasions it was possible to watch from shelter or venture outside. A Caspian Gull that showed up towards dusk amongst the storm-driven Great Black-backs below Culverwell was the pick of the new arrivals, with 3 Blackcaps and a Redwing also new in at the Bill and the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff still about there; offshore, Kittiwakes looked to be on the move in some numbers whenever the sea was visible. The Barn Owl was again at Southwell at dawn and 22 Bar-tailed Godwits, 6 Pale-bellied Brents, the Black Brant and a Knot were at Ferrybridge.

A lone Rusty-dot Pearl provided the only immigrant interest amongst the handful of resident moths that made it into the Obs traps overnight.

Both the Barn Owl and Black Brant put on decent shows during the morning © Pete Saunders:

Unfortunately the Caspian Gull was discovered right at the end of the day when the light was failing and it was only possible to get some really long range record shots of it...

...and it chose to fly off just as it started belting down with rain for the umpteenth time:

20th November

The wild weather associated with the overnight passage of Storm Angus proved to be short-lived and in increasing benign conditions during daylight hours there was a fair scatter of worthwhile sightings. The Ferrybridge Goosanders had increased to 13 and further coverage there and at Portland Harbour came up with a fly-by Long-tailed Duck, 9 Black-necked Grebes, at least 4 Great Northern Divers and a Short-eared Owl. The improving conditions came too late for many late migrants to get moving at the Bill where a few flocks of Goldfinches headed south and a new Chiffchaff showed up on the ground; the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and 5 Purple Sandpipers were also still about and a Red-throated Diver passed through on the sea. Elsewhere there was a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove, 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle and a scatter of presumably wintering Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in other areas of cover.

Barn Owls have been quite regular at dusk at the Bill just lately and one was on patrol at dawn today at Southwell © Pete Saunders:

The Ferrybridge Goosanders seem to getting more confiding as they settle in © Debby Saunders:

...and this Long-tailed Duck was a nice fly-by there this morning © Pete Saunders:

19th November

With heavy showers appreciably more frequent than anticipated the welcome reduction in wind strength didn't herald the arrival of as many late migrants as it might. Visible passage over the Bill included 145 Wood Pigeons, 75 Chaffinches and 3 Bramblings, but arrivals on the ground there didn't get any better than 4 Redwings, a Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting; the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat also surfaced for the first time in several days and singles of Purple Sandpiper and Short-eared Owl were about. Seawatching there came up with 6 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and singles of Red-breasted Merganser and Great Skua. The 12 Goosanders were again about at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour, with 6 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver also in residence at the latter.

18th November

Although it did brighten up as the day went on, wind and rain had featured throughout the morning and limited enthusiasm for anything other than perfunctory coverage. A few small parties of Chaffinches and Goldfinches heading away to the south between the showers and grounded singles of Yellow-legged Gull and Redwing constituted the only evidence of new arrivals at the Bill where the sea was busy with established winterers but devoid of storm-driven newcomers. The only other news was of the 12 Goosanders through again at Ferrybridge.

17th November

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Sunday, 20th November.

Wind and rain restricted opportunities for meaningful fieldwork today but there a few odds and ends about to keep interest going. The sea got plenty of attention although rewards were pretty meagre with just 8 Common Scoter and a Pomarine Skua through off the Bill and a Great Skua through at Chesil Cove. Ferrybridge was still extremely busy with Brent Geese and Mediterranean Gulls but 12 Goosanders that pitched in for a while and 8 Pintail that flew through were the only oddities on offer. The only reports from the land were of 10 Redwings, 7 Fieldfares and 2 Black Redstarts at Portland Castle and a Chiffchaff at Southwell.

There was plenty more Brent Goose action at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

16th November

If autumn passage had nearly fizzled out in recent days then today qualified as rock bottom since there wasn't a single entry for a new arrival on the day sheet or the ringing log at the Obs. Winterers there included singles of Water Rail and Black Redstart, whilst a constantly freshening westerly perked up numbers on the sea that included 2 lingering Great Skuas. Elsewhere the Ferrybridge Mediterranean Gull total got up to 650, with 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese also there and 2 Black-necked Grebes nearby in Portland Harbour.

The increasing breeze spoilt overnight mothing, with 12 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Silver Y the only immigrants trapped overnight at the Obs.

It's sometimes difficult to believe just how many birds manage to cram themselves into what's a very small space at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

15th November

Sure signs of the end of autumn today with passage reduced to the point of being almost non-existent. The cumulative total of new thrushes didn't even get into double figures at the Bill where a handful of Chaffinches dropped in and a tardy Swallow passed through; 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle were perhaps more likely winterers than new arrivals. Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour remained busy with Goosanders increasing to 12 and 1750 Dark-bellied Brents, 500 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Pale-bellied Brents and singles of Great Northern Diver, Black Brant and Pintail also packed in there.

A breezier night saw immigrant moth numbers pegged back, with 41 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Rush Veneer, 2 White-speck and a Pearly Underwing trapped at the Obs; another White-speck was among the catch at Sweethill.

The Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour Goosanders continue to increase and mirror a similar influx during the 2010-11 winter when the highest count was 15 (which remains the island record) © Debby Saunders

14th November

Increasing amounts of cloud during the hours of darkness looked to have some promise for dropping a few arrivals but in the event virtually all the day's passage was again overhead, with some decent totals accrued at the Bill. In a light westerly, movement was taking place both to the north and the south, with the bulk of the morning's total consisting of 1400 Starlings, 800 Wood Pigeons, 400 Chaffinches, 200 Goldfinches and 175 Linnets; variety otherwise wasn't great but did include 13 Siskins, a Snipe and a Brambling. Newcomers on the ground were conspicuously few and far between, with even the likes of Blackbirds poorly represented; the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was still about at the Obs, whilst a Black Redstart was also now a likely winterer there. Four Teal passed by off the Bill where the first returned Fulmar also showed up. Ferrybridge was again busy, with 370 Mediterranean Gulls, 22 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Grey Plover, 2 Redshank, the Black Brant and a Knot amongst the morning selection.

The quiet, mild and increasingly overcast conditions overnight favoured a decent moth catch, with immigrants being represented at the Obs by 85 Rusty-dot Pearl, 6 Rush Veneer, 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Radford's Flame Shoulder, White-speck and Silver Y.

In an autumn that's already produced 14 others between 29th September and 30th October it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that the immigrant moth highlight of the night was yet another Radford's Flame Shoulder; in contrast to these earlier records, this one actually conforms much more closely with our only other records before this year that occurred on 12th November (twice) and 1st December:

13th November

The raw cold of early last week has been gradually replaced by much milder air and in today's constant sunshine it felt positively balmy. Although the conditions were hardly conducive for any sort of arrival on the ground a Cetti's Warbler was a surprise newcomer at the Obs; another 4 Blackcaps were also new in there, whilst the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat remained in situ. Virtually all the other passage there was overhead, with 650 Wood Pigeons, 560 Starlings and 250 Chaffinches making up the bulk of the numbers; amongst the lower totals 18 Bramblings and singles of Bullfinch and Lapland Bunting were of note. Goosanders again showed up at Ferrybridge - increasing to 10 today - the Black Brant dropped in there for a while and 2 Wigeon and a Teal also passed through.

A modest increase in immigrant moth numbers saw 15 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Silver Y, 2 each of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer, and a single Pearly Underwing trapped overnight at the Obs.

Having largely given Ferrybridge a miss last winter when there was just one sighting in late October the Black Brant - assuming it's the same individual - has returned to form just lately and shown up quite frequently © Debby Saunders:

Goosanders have also been quite reliable there in recent days, even if they've yet to settle for long © Debby Saunders:

Although there are now as many as 28 island records of Cetti's Warbler today's bird was the first since the long-stayer that remained throughout November 2010:

12th November

Overnight rain that lingered on into the morning eventually cleared to reveal some sea passage and a small arrival of grounded migrants. The sea was well worth attention, with 250 Kittiwakes, 20 Teal, 2 each of Arctic Skua and Great Skua, and a single Red-throated Diver through off the Bill. New thrushes were evident on the land, with particular concentrations of 30 Blackbirds in and around the Obs and 40 Redwings, 25 Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush in the Foundry Close/Easton Fire Station area; also new were 4 Blackcaps, a Siberian Chiffchaff, a Chiffchaff and a Brambling at the Obs and 200 Starlings in off the sea at the Bill; the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat also remained at the Obs. Goosanders have been cropping up from time to time at Ferrybridge, with 3 through there today and 4 nearby in Portland Harbour; 2040 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 24 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Pale-bellied Brents, 2 Knot and the Black Brant were also at Ferrybridge.

Presumably another Siberian Chiffchaff: the one inflected note it gave on release wasn't the 'usual' plaintive call although it does conform closely to other recordings of autumn juveniles:

11th November

In lovely quiet, bright conditions there was a small resurgence in late passage today. There were no particular surprises amongst what was on off but the Bill came up with creditable totals 350 Wood Pigeons, 220 Chaffinches, 12 each of Brambling and Siskin, and 11 Redpolls, along with single figure totals of a decent range of other November regulars; the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat also remained there. Limited coverage elsewhere came up with 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 2 Firecrests at Avalanche Road, whilst the Black Brant put in another appearance at Ferrybridge.

After what's been a really duff autumn for Firecrests it was a slight surprise to come across two at Avalanche Road that are maybe now ensconced for winter:

At Ferrybridge there's endless entertainment to be had at this time of year with the 'Spot the oddity amongst the Dark-bellied Brents' game © Pete Saunders (Black Brant) and Debby Saunders (Pale-bellied Brent):

We've never been great fans of the redpoll split and have always continued to log them simply under an all-encompassing 'Redpoll' umbrella; that said, we can't remember handling an autumn bird that couldn't be pigeon-holed quite easily as a cabaret Lesser. So it came as quite a shock to find the bird below amongst a simultaneous catch of five Redpolls at the Obs this morning; this specimen stood out like a sore thumb amongst the other four completely ordinary-looking Lessers:

It looked far buffier about the face than we'd usually associate with Mealy Redpoll but, equally, much of the rest of its plumage was well outside the usual range we'd associate with Lesser. Although it appears larger than the accompanying Lesser in these photos that's no more than a photographic effect: it measured up to be precious little different to the Lessers in all ways except primary projection which did fall (just) outside the normal range of Lesser.

10th November

Whilst there's still more than enough time for autumn to have some action up its sleeve today had a depressingly end of season feel about it with, for example, nothing new trapped and ringed in several hours of trying at the Obs. What movement there was took place overhead, with 125 Chaffinches, 65 Linnets, 50 Goldfinches and a Brambling through at the Bill where, the lingering Siberian Lesser Whitethroat aside, a lone Redwing was the only obvious new arrival on the ground. The sea reverted to type, with nothing more than 6 Brent Geese through off the Bill. Elsewhere there was a Black Redstart at Church Ope Cove and 20 Bar-tailed Godwits and 4 Grey Plover amongst a routine selection at Ferrybridge.

A few immigrant moths still on the wing included 3 Silver Y, a Diamond-back Moth and a Rush Veneer caught overnight at the Obs.

9th November

After a wild, wet and windy night it took the best part of the day for the wind to abate. Seawatching was the order of the morning but in a north-westerly little more than 9 Common Scoter, 3 Great Skuas and a Pomarine Skua passed through off the Bill. The land got little coverage and the only worthwhile reports from the Bill were of 6 settled Purple Sandpipers, a Short-eared Owl in off the sea and singles of Mallard and Golden Plover through overhead.

8th November

Much improved birding conditions - millpond calm and overcast - and a nice pulse of late movement today. It was certainly a day to be looking skyward or out to sea with precious little of what was on the move actually dropping in: 4 Cranes heading west over Portland Harbour provided the rarity highlight, whilst another Spoonbill - over Ferrybridge - added to the recent rash of records of that local oddity. Visible passage over the Bill included 1700 Wood Pigeons and 210 Chaffinches by way of numbers and the likes of singles of Merlin and Short-eared Owl as minor quality amongst the selection of seasonable back-up; it was quieter on the ground although the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat popped up again and singles of Woodcock and Mistle Thrush were of interest. The sea there was busier than it has been for weeks, with auks now plentiful offshore and 69 Brent Geese, 24 Common Scoter, 6 Teal, 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great Skuas and a late Manx Shearwater through. Additional to the Spoonbill, movers over Ferrybridge included 6 Goosander, 3 Lapwings and singles of Great Northern Diver and Mute Swan.

Two Pearly Underwings and a Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrant moths trapped overnight at the Obs.

It's been a good year to have been peering skyward at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour - the autumn alone has come up with the likes of both White and Black Stork, two Cranes and a Sabine's Gull, to which can be added today's party of four more Cranes © Matt Phipps:

...the Cranes aside, there was plenty more overhead action at Ferrybridge through the morning including Spoonbill, Great Northern Diver, Mute Swan and five Goosanders © Pete Saunders:

7th November

A really raw morning in a blasting north-easterly saw some more visible passage get going but it remained very quiet on the ground. A Hawfinch was a nice surprise at the Bill where Chaffinches were pulsing through in some quantity - 380 passed over the Obs in a couple of hours - and other travellers included the usual mix of Wood Pigeons, thrushes, finches and Reed Buntings in lower numbers. Wildfowl on the move included 6 Teal and 5 Goosanders through at Ferrybridge, whilst later in the day 2 Avocets pitched in at Portland Harbour.

The Hawfinch did drop in several times at the Obs but it afforded the best views when it was bombing around overhead:

Ferrybridge fly-bys included Goosanders and Teal © Pete Saunders:

The oddest sight of the day were the two Avocets bobbing around 150m out in Portland Harbour - not what you expect to spot when you're scanning around for divers and grebes © Geoff Pollitt:

One of the morning's Redwings at the Obs looked to be at least a candidate coburni Icelandic Redwing - it immediately stood out as the darkest, swarthiest-looking Redwing we've seen so far this autumn and with a wing length of 127mm it was by some margin the longest-winged Redwing handled in recent weeks:

...for comparison, this iliacus Scandinavian Redwing was trapped a little later:

The rear flanks/undertail coverts of the two birds - the putative coburni on the left and the iliacus on the right:

6th November

A note for Obs members: we've recently been mailing out copies of the 2015 annual report but there are a few members for whom we don't have a current/correct postal address; if you think you're a paid-up Obs member and haven't received your report please get in touch so we can clear up these issues. Thanks.

The recent switch to a colder northerly airflow hasn't prompted nearly as much late passage as might have been expected and today continued in that vein. Wood Pigeons were again departing to the south in relatively small numbers - including 1500 over the Bill - but most of the day's other movement involved a light trickle of northbound thrushes and finches, including 130 Chaffinches over the Bill; a tardy lone Swallow also passed through at the Bill. Numbers on the ground looked to be very low everywhere: the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat remained at the Obs, but a single Woodcock was the only other minor oddity among the handful of new thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Reed Buntings at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 16 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Brent Geese and a Wigeon, a Pomarine Skua passed through Portland Harbour and 19 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Mallards, 2 Grey Plover and singles of Pintail, Redshank and Kittiwake were the best of the bunch at Ferrybridge.

5th November

Clear and mainly sunny but a real chill in the air today. The birds didn't seem to be unduly bothered by the slide in temperature and, bar visible passage perking up a little, it was relatively quiet. Chaffinches were prominent amongst the overhead movers, with 150 through at the Bill, but Wood Pigeons didn't get going to the extent that might have been expected: 800 headed south over Ferrybridge but very few made it out as far as the Bill; 12 Redpolls, 3 Merlins, a Common Buzzard and a Woodlark were among the back-up cast at the Bill. Odds and ends on the ground included the lingering Siberian Lesser Whitethroat at the Obs and a Woodcock at the Bill. Seawatch reports included 30 Brent Geese, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua off the Bill, whilst a Pintail was again at Ferrybridge.

Moth activity tailed off, with 7 Diamond-back Moth, 4 each of Rush Veneer and Silver Y, 2 Pearly Underwing, a Rusty-dot Pearl and a Dark Sword Grass making up the immigrant tally at the Obs; elsewhere a Gem was trapped at the Grove.

It's been a poor autumn for Woodlarks so one that was actually settled for a while was appreciated:

4th November

A disappointing day on several levels: the forecast brief showers at midday manifested themselves as several hours worth of persistent rain, whilst the high hopes for a decent arrival of grounded migrants came to nothing; by way of some compensation overnight mothing was far more productive than might have been expected. The overcast skies of dawn dropped precious little migrant-wise, with even thrushes reduced to barely more than singles figure totals at the Bill, where the only real interest came in the form of the lingering Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Merlins, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Short-eared Owl and Dartford Warbler. Elsewhere there were 2 Yellow-browed Warblers at Avalanche Hump and another at the Craft Centre, 2 Black Redstarts at Blacknor and Ferrybridge was busy with a 2 Pale-bellied Brents and the Black Brant amongst 2600 Dark-bellied Brents; a lone Pintail was also a minor oddity there.

Immigrant moth numbers bounced back after yesterday's low point, with 49 Diamond-back Moth, 38 Rusty-dot Pearl, 21 Rush Veneer, 6 Silver Y, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Olive-tree Pearl, Pearly Underwing and White-speck trapped overnight at the Obs.

The Ferrybridge Pintail and Fieldfare and Grey Wagtail at Southwell © Pete Saunders:

3rd November

Although the volume of general passage is certainly slowing up as autumn winds down there's still more than enough going on for plenty of entertaining birding, with today's nice quiet conditions allowing for lots of coverage. Overhead passage provided all the numbers, with 4000 Wood Pigeons, 200 Chaffinches and lower totals of a good variety of thrushes and finches moving over the Bill through the morning. On the ground another Serin showed up at the Bill, where 2 each of Woodcock and Short-eared Owl, and singles of White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (for its fifth day), Dartford Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler were among the lowish numbers of commoner migrants; elsewhere there were 2 more Yellow-browed Warblers at Avalanche Hump and 4 Black Redstart at Portland Castle. In terms of both quantity and variety the sea has been the poor relation for many weeks so signs of a slight upturn were very welcome, with 100 Kittiwakes, 19 Common Scoter, 10 Brent Geese, 3 each of Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser, and a Wigeon through off the Bill.

Despite the plunging temperature seeing moth activity reduced almost to the point of being non-existent an Oak Rustic - a new species for Portland - made it into a trap at the Obs; 2 Silver Y and a single Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrants logged there.

The third Serin in a fortnight was, like the first of the three, a young female:

On what was probably the poorest moth night since sometime in the spring the long-awaited first Oak Rustic for Portland was a pretty unexpected capture at the Obs:

There was a time when the standard calls at this time of year were things like the wheezing and chupping of a Brambling...

...but the soundscape is changing and these days you're almost as likely to hear a Yellow-browed Warbler (and in today's case, whilst recording the Yellow-browed Warbler a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat suddenly pops up as well):