30th April

An eventful enough end to what's been a pretty full on month at Portland, with perhaps the chief surprise being frequent showers or longer spells of rain - hitherto, this April's been a month with almost no measurable rainfall. Yesterday's freshening southeasterly strengthened still further overnight and was very gusty at dawn ahead of the threatening rain. The sea got almost all the attention and Chesil came up with the best of the numbers that included 900 commic terns, 300 Manx Shearwaters, 173 Common Scoter, 39 Bar-tailed Godwits, 21 Whimbrel, 18 Arctic Skuas, a Knot and a Little Gull; generally lower totals at the Bill included additional species in the form of 2 each of Great Northern Diver and Pomarine Skua, and singles of Black-throated Diver and Black Tern. On the land 2 Turtle Doves were the only migrants of any note at the Bill; additionally, there was an early morning report of the Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Cheyne Weare.

We haven't really had time yet to reflect on what a bumper month April was for common migrants but in updating the daily ringing total table we've realised that it was the best April ever for Willow Warbler: the total of 1699 ringed in the Obs garden (where, year-on-year, we basically make the same amount of effort with the same nets and don't use sound lures) is the highest April total ever and exceeds all but five annual totals there.

It's a sad reflection on their current status that the day's biggest crowd-pullers were 2 Turtle Doves showing quite well at times at the Bill © Martin Cade:

Grey Plovers and Knot were amongst today's wader selection at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders:

29th April

Although the Eastern Subalpine Warbler continued to attract a steady stream of weekend listers at Cheyne Weare the main focus of the day was on new possibilities on land and sea. In a freshening southeasterly the sea in particular got lots of attention and returned highlights that included 570 Bar-tailed Godwits, 86 Common Scoter, 52 Whimbrel, 11 Arctic Skuas, 10 Great Skuas, 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Knot, and singles of Great Northern Diver and Teal off the Bill, with a similar selection off Chesil being further padded out with 2 Little Egrets and a Pomarine Skua. An increase in waders and wildfowl was also apparent at Ferrybridge, where totals included 61 Sanderling, 26 Bar-tailed Godwits, 18 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and singles of Grey Plover and Greenshank. A small fall at the Bill included another 200 Willow Warblers, amongst which 10 Whinchats, 6 Redstarts, 3 Turtle Doves and singles of Lapwing and Common Sandpiper provided the best of the variety; elsewhere, the first Spotted Flycatchers of the season were at Avalanche Road (2) and Portland Castle, with a Pied Flycatcher at the former and a Wood Warbler at the latter further additions to the day tally. Visible passage was dominated by an increasing passage of hirundines through the day, with 2 Serins arriving in-off over Chesil at Ferrybridge a further notable highlight.

A lone Rusty-dot Pearl was the night's only immigrant moth at the Obs, but an Early Tooth-stripe was a good local record at Reap Lane and by day a Clouded Yellow was at Bottomcombe; a small south-bound passage of Painted Ladies was evident along and off Chesil during the evening.

We didn't ever round yesterday to extracting a still from our video footage of the Eastern Subalpine Warbler that showed the tail pattern, but Ted Pressey kindly passed us a photo from this morning that shows the large extent of white in the tail corners © Ted Pressey: 

Another day, another Wood Warbler - this one at Portland Castle © Joe Stockwell:

The north-bound passage of Arctic-breeding waders is now well underway and there was some nice variety today; the always compelling spectacle of the annual up-Channel passage of Bar-tailed Godwits - last stop Mauritania, next stop Holland - was sadly way too distant off the Bill for it to be captured by anything other than the imagination so we'll have to content ourselves with Sanderlings and Dunlins, and Turnstones and Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge © Martin Cade:

...and a Whimbrel at the Bill © Ted Pressey:

In as much as there was clearly some Painted Lady passage taking place it might be that today's Clouded Yellow was a new arrival rather than a potentially local-bred specimen © Ken Dolbear: 

28th April

With the notable exception of the sea today was a good day all round, with another nice fall of common migrants that was topped off with the discovery the spring's third Subalpine Warbler - this time an Eastern bird - at Cheyne Weare. Willow Warblers made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground, including 300 at the Bill, with 2 Wood Warblers - singles at the Obs and Avalanche Road - providing the best of the quality amongst the back-up variety that also included a Ring Ouzel and a White Wagtail at Barleycrates Lane, a Grasshopper Warbler at Cheyne Weare and single Pied Flycatchers at the Obs, Southwell, Avalanche Road and Blacknor. The wader selection at Ferrybridge included singles of Grey Plover, Sanderling and Common Sandpiper but the sea remained the poor relation, with nothing much better than 2 each of Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill and another Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge.

After the male Western a fornight ago and the indeterminate bird last weekend, today's fine male Eastern was a nice addition to the spring's Subalpine Warbler tally © Martin Cade

At times the bird was calling and/or chortling away in quiet song:

As eye candy Wood Warblers take a bit of beating and remain quite high value birds at Portland © Martin Cade:

27th April

A much quieter day today with grounded and visible migrants considerably reduced in numbers. Willow Warbler was back to the top spot although only with a meagre 50 at the Bill; amongst the scatter of other routine fare minor interest came in the form of 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Hobby at the Bill, Grasshopper Warblers at Broadcroft (2) and Southwell, and a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane. A good deal of seawatching at the Bill eventually returned totals of 35 Common Scoter, 18 Whimbrel, 2 each of Great Northern Diver and Pomarine Skua, and singles of Red-throated Diver and Black-throated Diver. At least 90 Sandwich Terns remained around Portland Harbour and 3 Whimbrel, 2 Sanderling and a Grey Plover were amongst the waders at Ferrybridge.

26th April

Today dawned with spot-on ingredients for a fair weather arrival after yesterday's brief weather-induced hiatus: a sharp overnight frost, crystal-clear skies and a brisk, chilly headwind. As a sign of how far the season's advanced Willow Warblers were downgraded to the also-ran category as the larger warblers were strongly to the fore at the Bill: in getting to 150 Blackcap dominated the numbers, with Garden Warbler also turning in a respectable 25; other totals there included 50 Wheatears, 40 Willow Warblers, 15 Redstarts and 5 Lesser Whitethroats, with 2 Grasshopper Warblers and singles of Hobby, Snipe, Short-eared Owl, Cuckoo and Black Redstart of note amongst the rest. Elsewhere, a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane and 2 White Wagtails and a Hobby through over Blacknor were of interest. Conventional sea passage was almost non-existent, with just 2 Great Skuas through off the Bill, but an evening feeding movement of 150 Manx Shearwaters was the highest total there so far this spring and there was a strong movement of 270 Sandwich Terns through at Ferrybridge.

Perhaps the oddest event of the day was the strong movement of Sandwich Terns through Ferrybridge (they were heading northwest) - this wasn't reflected at all at the Bill so was presumably some sort of odd local movement - did all the Brownsea Sandwich Terns up and leave for some reason this morning? © Pete Saunders:

Time marches on and we're already well past the middle of spring passerine passage with variety now conspicuously greater than it was quite recently; it was a little unexpected that a couple of the Redstarts trapped at the Obs were tardy adult males © Martin Cade and Joe Stockwell:

We quite like seeing the occasional freak of nature and one such this morning was this Garden Warbler with white outer tail feathers; whilst it was likely 'just' a leucistic (...or whatever the more precise term for this condition might be) bird it's tempting nonetheless to ponder on some sort of throwback link to many of the other Sylvia warblers that always exhibit this feature © Martin Cade:

25th April

With the weather front that introduced much cooler conditions overnight just visible far to the south at dawn it seemed unlikely that any volume of passage would have got going and that proved to be the case, with numbers on the ground significantly reduced and visible passage almost non-existent. Morsels of interest were unearthed, including 3 each of Whinchat and Garden Warbler, 2 each of Sedge Warbler and Pied Flycatcher and singles of Redstart and Ring Ouzel dotted about at the Bill where 2 Hobbies also passed through, but the only common migrants in any numbers there were Wheatear, Blackcap and Willow Warbler that struggled up to around 30 each. In a brisk northerly the sea was quieter still, with 2 Red-throated Divers and a single Great Northern Diver the only worthwhile migrants off the Bill; of local significance, 2 Puffins together off the auk colony represented the first time in two years that there's been more than a single there. Elsewhere, 8 Common Terns and 7 Whimbrel were at Ferrybridge.

24th April

A rather too fine a dawn didn't bode well on the migrant front and it was quieter all round today. A small post-dawn rush of Willow Warblers saw 120 pass quickly through at the Bill, with Wheatears - that got to around 70 there - making up the bulk of the rest of the numbers. Although there were entries on the day-sheet for many of the other expected routine migrants their numbers were pretty insignificant and it was left to the likes of the 2 long-staying Ring Ouzels at Barleycrates Lane to provide interest on the ground; rarity-wise, the singing Serin showed up for a while again in Southwell. Visible passage was much reduced but did include a Hobby through at Blacknor. The best of the sea variety came from Portland Harbour and Chesil: 55 Pale-bellied Brent Geese (together with 17 Dark-bellied Brents) dropped in at Portland Harbour and 35 Common Scoter, 37 Whimbrel, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits and an Eider were amongst a customary mix of wildfowl and waders through off the latter; 113 Common Scoter, 100 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Arctic Skuas were the best of the bunch off the Bill.

In the absence of any so far this year at the Obs it's good to have had this nice Serin show up at Southwell © Pete Saunders:

Part of the raft of mixed Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese settled in Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:

Judging by the appearance of many of the genetically-confirmed trapped individuals, Siberian Chiffchaffs seem to come in all manner of guises these days so this very drab chiffchaff at Southwell might well be one - unhelpfully it remained resolutely silent © Pete Saunders:

23rd April

Any day would struggle to compete with the last two so today had it's work cut out from the outset - that said, there was still more than enough going on to keep most visitors happy. The reappearance of yesterday's Subalpine Warbler was very welcome after it had vanished almost as quickly as it had been found; however, it still proved troublesome to connect with and had gone to ground in the Obs Quarry by mid-morning. The spring's first Wood Warbler moved quickly through the Obs garden amongst an early flourish of 150 or so Willow Warblers and many of the rest of day's highlights were less regular migrants rather than another avalanche of routine fare, with the likes of at least 9 Whinchats, 8 Redstarts, 7 Ring Ouzels, 6 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Pied Flycatchers and singles of Turtle Dove, White Wagtail and Black Redstart scattered around the south of the island amongst a thinnish spread of commoner fare. Overhead passage was really conspicuous but poorly quantified with a strong incoming movement of hirundines a feature throughout the morning. There were hints that the sea would have been more productive were it not for the mainly offshore breeze with, amongst others, 23 Whimbrel, 5 Great Skuas, 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill, singles of Grey Plover and Sanderling off Chesil and 14 Whimbrel, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Greenshank over Ferrybridge.

Reports from some field observations suggested that the Subalpine Warbler was a rather obvious male but that's not really borne out by the photographic/video evidence (...it certainly isn't in the same league as last week's very well-marked bird at the Higher Light); we'd be more inclined to leave the sex as uncertain and wonder if it mightn't be more likely a 'bright' female © Martin Cade (stills) and Dave Foot (video):

We still haven't found enough time to get round to yesterday's photos, but in the meanwhile here's a nice couple from today of a Ring Ouzel and a Whinchat at Barleycrates Lane © Pete Saunders:

22nd April

Fall size continues to grow exponentially, with another fantastic arrival around the centre and south of the island today. Solidly overcast skies and what was only really a waft of a headbreeze did the trick and saw the Bill area absolutely hopping with 1000 Willow Warblers, 200 Wheatears, 100 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 50 Whitethroats and 20 Grasshopper Warblers on the ground and a strong and constant passage of hirundines overhead. The back-up cast was too varied to enumerate in full but over a wider area of the south of the island included an additional 20 Grasshopper Warblers, 25 each of Sedge Warbler and Redstart, 10 Yellow Wagtails (including a 'Channel' Wagtail), 5 Ring Ouzels, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 each of Black Redstart and Pied Flycatcher, 2 each of Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Fieldfare and Firecrest, and singles of Hobby and Green Sandpiper, whilst rarity interest was confined to brief sightings of a Subalpine Warbler beside the Coastguard Cottages at the Bill and a Serin at Coombefield Quarry. Sea passage was pretty limited but did include 62 Common Scoter, 32 Whimbrel, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Arctic Skua, and singles of Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill.

Two of the more interesting migrants today were this 'Channel' Wagtail that dropped in briefly at the Bill © Graham Morey:

...and a Green Sandpiper that flew over the Bill and Ferrybridge (presumably both sightings referred to the same bird?) © Pete Saunders:

We've been sent a hatful more photos for today's blog but after a such a busy week we really need to catch up on some sleep so they'll have to wait until tomorrow!

21th April

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 22nd April.

The change delivered overnight was sufficiently subtle that it could hardly be termed a stir-up but a weak weather front slipping southward introduced more than enough heavy cloud cover to precipitate another whopping fall of migrants across the south of the island at least (...was there anyone looking around the north?). As usual, the perceived totals for the Bill could only be arrived at with some informed guesswork, but it was clear to everyone that Willow Warblers were hugely dominant and 700 was the eventual total making the log; the also-rans included 90 Wheatears, 50 Chiffchaffs, 40 each of Whitethroat and Blackcap, 20 each of Yellow Wagtail and Redstart, 11 Grasshopper Warblers, 10 Garden Warblers, 8 each of Tree Pipit and Sedge Warbler, 5 Ring Ouzels, 4 Whinchats, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Short-eared Owl, Reed Warbler, Firecrest and Serin (the latter at Southwell). Additions numbers-wise elsewhere included 2 more Ring Ouzels at Barelycrates Lane and another at Blacknor, and another Short-eared Owl at Tout Quarry. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 58 Whimbrel, 26 Bar-tailed Godwits, 21 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and an Arctic Skua.

The first Small Blues of the year were on the wing at Bottomcombe.

Two more of what's turned out to a pretty good late flurry of Ring Ouzels (these were over Southwell) © Pete Saunders:

Bottomcombe again came up trumps with what we're guessing must be some of the UK's earliest emerging Small Blues © Ken Dolbear:

20th April

Just a rather modest flurry of new arrivals today - the prevailing quiet and very dry weather conditions make for nice, easy birding but perhaps there's a sense now that a bit of a stir-up wouldn't do any harm. Although numbers were significantly reduced there was a fair bit of variety on offer, with the Bill area coming up with totals on the ground of 150 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 25 Blackcaps, 20 Chiffchaffs, 2 each of Redstart, Black Redstart, Whinchat, and Sedge Warbler, and singles of White Wagtail, Ring Ouzel, Lesser Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher; another 2 Ring Ouzels lingered on at Barleycrates Lane and a Snipe at Suckthumb Quarry was a extra species for the day. Visible arrivals were a feature throughout, with Swallows in particular passing through in some quantity. The sea ticked over without ever getting busy, with 65 Common Scoter, 18 Whimbrel, 14 Bar-tailed Godwits, 10 Red-throated Divers, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Sandwich Terns and 2 Great Skuas the pick of the day's tally at the Bill.

Whinchat at Suckthumb Quarry © Graham Stacey:

Finally, we've received an interesting follow up to Ken Dolbear's recent sighting of a Dotted Bee-fly from John Mellings, an entomologist who's moved to Portland relatively recently; John's note is worth posting in full:

As an entomologist, I was interested in Ken Dolbear's Dotted Bee-fly Bombylius discolor posting of 6th April, particularly as Carol and I recorded several specimens (males and females) of this species on Saturday afternoon, at the northern end of the East Weares (if the rather inaccessible bit of coast with two small saline lagoons immediately east of Grove Prison, is still considered being part of the East Weares?) The grid ref was around SY70543 72352. The insects were flying over the open part of the path just before the beach.
I also have recorded Black Oil Beetle Meloe proscarabaeus on the island (see below) - I got a bit carried away and have written the following, in case it is of interest to you/readers of the blog? Goes into a bit of detail about lifecycles/host associations etc:
Bee-flies are parasitic within the nests of ground nesting solitary mining bees. In the UK, Dotted Beefly has been associated with two species of the ground-nesting mining bee genus Andrena. These include the Yellow-legged Mining Bee Andrena flavipes and the Ashy Mining Bee A. cineraria, both of which occur on Portland (I recorded them during a survey in 2013). The UK range of both bees have, according to records, increased in range in recent years and I suspect that an increase in Dotted Bee-fly distribution is related to this.
My Portland Dotted Bee-fly records were in an area where Ashy Mining Bees were nesting. In the literature Dotted Bee-fly has been associated primarily with the Yellow-legged Bee-fly in coastal southern England, whilst it has been more strongly associated in the Cotswolds with Ashy Beefly. I have seen Dotted Beefly both on the south coast and in the Cotswolds within close proximity of Ashy Beefly aggregations, however, whilst observation is valuable such records do not necessarily prove an association.
Interestingly, bee-flies exhibit a similar biology to those of the oil beetles and species like the Black Oil-Beetle Meloe proscarabaeus are nearly always seen in close proximity to ground nesting bee aggregations in warm, sheltered locations, often with bee-flies and hymenopteran cuckoo bee species also in attendance. 
I have seen Black Oil Beetles in only one area of Portland so far; amongst Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria within the gardens at Grove Prison, myself and friends first saw the species there in spring 2015 and have seen it again in a similar location this year. In my experience (and I have seen a lot of oil beetles in different parts of the country), Lesser Celandine is pretty much always present. Whilst, as far as I know, there have been no scientific studies regarding this association, I have read anecdotal accounts of this associations.
Despite being from completely different taxonomic orders, the life-cycles of bee-flies and oil beetles are remarkably similar. The larvae of oil beetles and bee-flies both have early larval stages which are adapted for crawling and, in some cases, clinging to the host bee species. These larvae are collectively called 'planidia'. In the case of the oil beetles, the name 'triungulin' is used, as the species have three claws, enabling the larvae to cling to the hairs on the legs of host bees. The triungulins are transferred from flowers to the bee's legs as they forage on flowers and are then transported to the nest chambers of the host. 
Once in the nest cell, the larvae are sealed into the larval chamber of the host bee where they change from agile, crawling planidia or triungulins to fleshy, immobile maggot-like larvae. Both oil-beetle and bee-fly larva then feeds on the supply of pollen provided by the host bee for it's own progeny and at the progeny's expense. After developing fully, the oil beetle and bee-fly larvae pupate, usually emerging in the following spring.
I suspect that like many species, the Dotted Beefly is under-recorded on a national basis. It needs to be stationary for conclusive identification and is probably overlooked by non-entomologists due to its similarity to the ubiquitous Dark-edged Beefly Bombylius major. Incidentally I have also seen the latter species on several occasions on Portland. I think Dark-edged Beefly is usually ignored by recorders as it is pretty much as common in southern England as the Speckled Wood Butterfly (for example).

19th April

Sadly for the wealth of extra observers who were on station today (...where were you for the last couple of days when that extra coverage would have been so welcome?) it would have been pushing our luck to have expected a fall for the third day on the trot; that said, for the early risers at least there was a decent enough flurry of new arrivals to sift through before activity quickly quietened down. The nature of what occurred was very much like yesterday's event, with migrants whipping through rapidly under a crystal clear sky such that there was often precious little differentiation between grounded birds and visible passage. Day totals from the Bill area included 800 Swallows, 150 Willow Warblers, 200 House Martins and 120 Wheatears, with quality amongst the wide range of lower counts that included 15 Yellow Wagtails, 6 White Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels and singles of Merlin and Grasshopper Warbler; an additional 6 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels and 1 Grasshopper Warbler were at Barleycrates Lane. The promised shift toward a more onshore breeze didn't materialise until well into the afternoon and the sea remained quiet, with 15 Whimbrel, 12 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Bar-tailed Godwit the best on offer at the Bill.

A good many of the day's migrants, such as this Willow Warbler high over the Obs, didn't even trouble to touch down but made the most of the cloudless sky to head straight through to points northward © Martin Cade:

A few of the birds actually making landfall included Whinchat and Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane © Ted Pressey (Whinchat) and Debby Saunders (Ring Ouzel):

The first Wall Browns of the year were on the wing today © Ted Pressey:

It's not often we get to see this view but Nick Stantiford was recently out on a boat off the Bill and sent us through some photos of parts of the seabird colony and a couple of shots of close Razorbills © Nick Stantiford:

18th April

In very different conditions to yesterday the island experienced another fine fall of migrants. Today's event was a classic fair weather arrival: under a clear, sunny sky the chilly headwind dropped birds that to a great extent barely touched down before heading off rapidly northward. The bulk of the numbers at the Bill consisted of 600 Willow Warblers, 250 Wheatears, 200 Blackcaps and 100 Chiffchaffs; amongst the less frequent species wider coverage of the southern half of the island came up with totals that included 40 Redstarts, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 12 each of Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher, 11 Grasshopper Warblers, 10 Tree Pipits, 8 Whinchats, 7 Ring Ouzels, 2 each of White Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Siskin, and singles of Cuckoo and Sedge Warbler, whilst elsewhere 2 Common Sandpipers were an addition to the tally at Ferrybridge. The only rarity putting in an appearance was a Siberian Chiffchaff trapped and ringed at the Obs. The breeze was always a little too offshore for the sea, but 59 Whimbrel and 36 Bar-tailed Godwits passed through off/over Chesil and 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Great Skua were logged at the Bill.

A Brimstone butterfly was a good local oddity at the Obs.

A few photos from around the island today - Redstarts © Angela Trew (upper) and Nick Stantiford (lower):

...Whinchat © Joe Stockwell:

...Whitethroat © Roger Hewitt: 

...Common Sandpipers © Pete Saunders:

...Linnet © Angela Trew:

...and finally, the in-hand Siberian Chiffchaff © Martin Cade:

17th April

With the Easter weekend having hitherto been a slow-burner at best there was quite a need for an injection of excitement that duly arrived in the form of a whopping fall around the centre and south of the island. Under partly cloudy skies and with no more than the lightest of northwesterly breezes conditions were perfect for getting amongst the birds at the Bill, where 500 Willow Warblers and 150 each of Wheatear and Blackcap made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground and all three routine hirundines were moving through in quantity; far from extensive coverage of the southern half of the island returned scarcer migrant totals of 25 Redstarts, 23 Pied Flycatchers, 18 Grasshopper Warblers, 5 Yellow Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail, a Tree Pipit and a Firecrest. The only coverage reported from points northward was of Ferrybridge, where 7 Whimbrel, 2 Mallard and a Common Sandpiper were of note. The sea got some attention, with 2 Red-throated Divers and singles of Great Skua and Arctic Skua logged at the Bill.

Excepting the constantly moving carpet of Willow Warblers - a spectacle we're usually lucky enough to witness several times each spring - the sight of the day had to be the wealth of male Pied Flycatchers exhibiting themselves in multiples in just about every patch of suitable trees that were visited © Pete Saunders:

The sound of the morning was undoubtedly the reeling of multiple Grasshopper Warblers, with 13 counted around the Bill area and at least 5 more elsewhere; Richard Newton recorded this one singing beside the Obs garden:

16th April

Today was a Bank Holiday Sunday but you'd have never guessed that at the Bill where there were extraordinarily few visiting birders about doing the rounds. What limited coverage there was revealed a slight increase in migrant numbers, with Willow Warblers up to around 60 on the ground at the Bill where hirundines were again moving through pretty steadily all day; sadly, variety wasn't a feature, with 2 Pied Flycatchers at Southwell and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge the best of the uncommon migrants. A single Little Gull was off the Bill, where 2 Red-throated Divers also passed by.

In the insect line, the first Broad-bodied Chaser of the year was on the wing at the Bill (...marking the point where a lousy view of a dragonfly whizzing past can no longer be assumed to refer to a Vagrant Emperor!).

One of the day's Pied Flycatchers at Southwell © Debby Saunders:

15th April

A pretty low-key day with no more than a small flurry of new arrivals. Hirundines were pulsing through in fair numbers throughout the day but grounded totals from the Bill area didn't get beyond 40 Willow Warblers, 25 Wheatears, 10 each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, 7 Whimbrel and 3 Grasshopper Warblers; the Red-legged Partridge was also still about there, whilst a Pied Flycatcher dropped in at Southwell and 2 Whimbrel and the first settled Sanderling of the spring were at Ferrybridge. With little else to entertain the sea got plenty of looks but was also quiet, with Bill totals of just 9 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 3 Sandwich Terns and 2 Great Skuas.

Whimbrel at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

We mentioned a few weeks ago the presence of Canada Geese out on the Portland Harbour breakwaters and Nick Stantiford has kindly sent us through an update on happenings there; Nick reports that both the pairs of geese have now settled down to breed © Nick Stantiford:

...and it looks like there'll be at least one pair of Shelducks making an attempt © Nick Stantiford: