17th August

Busy days have been at a premium thus far this this autumn so today's half decent little flurry of grounded migrants at the Bill was very welcome. Willow Warblers totalled 70, whilst the back ups included 25 Wheatears, 20 Whitethroats and 15 Sedge Warblers, with Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher all chipping in with singles or twos. Overhead passage begun soon after first light with 6 Tree Pipits, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Yellow Wagtails but faltered after the first small wave of hirundines had passed through. Routine fare in the wader line at Ferrybridge included 66 Ringed Plovers, 55 Dunlin and a Sanderling, whilst 4 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill constituted the day's only worthwhile sea passage.

On a cooler night than of late 3 more Convolvulus Hawkmoths (2 at the Obs and 1 at the Grove) were the best of the immigrant moths.

16th August

It would be safe to say that this morning we did not wake with our usual vim and vigour, the lashing rain and howling wind could be heard from bed and it was most definitely not the day for an early start. The inclement weather made sea watching the only viable option for most of the morning, the highlight being two Storm Petrels lingering with the Gulls. In addition to this there were 16 Common Scoters, 1 Balearic Shearwater, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Great Skua, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and 1 Common Tern. Once the rain had eventually alleviated, play resumed as usual and some migrants were tracked down. The largest count of Wheatears this autumn was bolstered by 26 birds on the East cliffs bringing the total to 39, a single Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat added to the days species totals and 10 Willow Warblers rounded it off in the Obs area. A quick visit to Suckthumb Quarry was rewarded with 2 Garden Warblers, 5 Willow Warblers and a Sand Martin.

Ferrybridge suffered also in the dawn downpour with just 2 Little Terns, 4 Sandwich Terns, 1 Common Tern and 1 Redshank.

There's a distinctly autumnal feel in the top fields at present with large mixed flocks of Finches gathering amongst the seed-ridden crops © Erin Taylor:


The numbers of Sand Martins have been dramatically decreasing over the past couple of the weeks as they leave our shores en mass © Erin Taylor: 


15th August

The delusional amongst us awoke under the sad misapprehension that the dreary skies of a mid-August dawn promised a worthwhile flourish of migrant activity - perhaps this might have been the case a couple of decades ago but times have moved on. What few rewards there were on the land at the Bill included just into double figure totals of Wheatear and Willow Warbler but little else by way of quality beyond a lone Pied Flycatcher; 3 of the dispersed locally-bred Tree Sparrows were also dotted about there. With the breeze freshening from the west the sea got plenty of looks but 40 Mediterranean Gulls, 13 Common Scoter, 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Whimbrel accounted for the best of things off the Bill. The only other reports came from Ferrybridge where a few Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 late Little Terns were of note.

Another single Convolvulus Hawkmoth was the pick of a thin scatter of immigrants in the Obs moth-traps.

With any luck some of the locally-bred Tree Sparrows will linger on through the autumn and winter; just at the moment they've dispersed quite widely around the Bill, with as reliable a spot as any being amongst the House Sparrows that frequent the roadside bramble bushes between the Obs and Lloyd's Cottage © James Phillips:

14th August

A day that started with not a breath of wind and a glassy sea was not the usual start to a good migrant day, however, by around 9am the cloud had rolled in and some visible passage was noted. 1 Grey Heron and 4 Tree Pipits began the day followed by a modest fall of Willow Warblers with the total reaching 45, 3 Pied Flycatchers also made an appearance with 3 fly-over Yellow Wagtails, 4 Sedge Warblers and 2 Swifts. A lone Siskin, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Spotted Flycatcher made up the single records of the day. The top fields were returning to their autumnal productivity with 11 Wheatears and 6 Whinchats. The sea was also putting on a fair show species wise, if not in numbers with: 2 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Turnstone, 1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Balearic Shearwater, 5 Common Scoter, 1 Yellow-legged Gull, and 1 Arctic Skua. 

Ferrybridge saw a notable increase in waders with: 2 Common Sandpipers, 1 Curlew, 1 Knot, 41 Dunlin, 52 Ringed Plover, 5 Turnstones, 36 Oystercatchers, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Yellow-legged Gull and 2 Common Terns.

The moth traps had a much more successful night with the first Convolvulus Hawkmoths of the year (1 at the Obs and 2 at the Grove) of particular note; 12 Silver Y, 11 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Diamond-back Moths, 1 Rush Veneer and 1 Vagrant Piercer Cydia amplana made up the rest of the night's tally at the Obs.

After a few days hiatus Pied Flycatchers returned to the fore today, with at least 5 scattered around the south of the island; this one was at Southwell © Debby Saunders:



Wader numbers were also on the up, with Common Sandpiper and Knot featuring at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders



On the moth front Convolvulus Hawkmoth and Vagrant Piercer were two August staples that put in appearances for the first time this year © Martin Cade:



After the cloud and fog passed, the day was actually quite warm and it coaxed this second generation Adonis Blue out of hiding on West Cliffs  © Matt Ames:

13th August

Despite a vast improvement on the weather front, the day remained rather uninspiring migration-wise. As such, it feels like a good time to show off a little success story from the summer. As regular followers of the blog and avid members will know, the Observatory entered into a Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier agreement for our surrounding farmland last year, with the aim of improving the land in regards to diminishing farmland breeding birds. This has included the planting of 'bird friendly' seed crops, an almost complete reduction in pesticides and the distribution of seed throughout the winter months. This summer we saw the first fruits of our labour as the first breeding record of Tree Sparrow for Portland occurred! Fantastically, our 'Chippers' managed to lay two clutches and succeeded in rearing a brood of 6 followed by a brood of 5. We have already recovered two of the first brood, during our morning ringing sessions, as free flying birds and a third was spotted at Nick Stantiford's feeders in Southwell. Although this is a highly nomadic species, we hope that this could be the start of a successful colonisation attempt.

Today's seawatching highlight came from a Cory's Shearwater seen off the Bill at 16:20. Otherwise: 3 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 1 Arctic Skua, 16 Mediterranean Gulls, 1 Black-headed Gull and 2 Common Scoter.

Land based migrants were, once again, few and far between, although with slightly more variety than the past couple of days: 7 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Tree Pipits, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Wheatear, 1 Whinchat, 45 Swallows and 24 Swifts.

Ferrybridge saw a large count of 33 Oystercatchers, 7 Sanderling and 1 Redshank.

It's been a pleasure to watch these birds throughout their entire attempt from the first stages of nest building to catching the fledged young well away from the breeding site. Fingers crossed for next year! © Erin Taylor (top and lower two) and Martin Cade 




12th August

The weather's single-handed offensive to re-green Portland has been well and truly underway. As is expected from a day where it rained and blew a gale most of the morning, many of todays migrants came from the sea. The highlight came in the form of a very close Sooty Shearwater, other than this, numbers were remarkably disappointing with: 5 Common Scoter, 3 Great Skuas, 21 Manx Shearwaters and 14 Balearic Shearwaters. 3 Yellow-legged Gulls were mingling with the ever present gull flock. Land-migrants remained thin on the ground even after the deluge had passed with just a single Swift, 2 Willow Warblers and 1 Wheatear

Ferrybridge suffered a similarly wet fate, however, 13 Sandwich Terns performed well. Other than this, 14 Sanderling and 3 Turnstones were the only additions to the totals.

Moths were also in poor form with just 3 Silver Y, 2 Diamond-back Moths and 2 Dark Sword Grass

The Ferrybridge Sandwich Terns put on an entertaining display despite the grotty weather © Pete Saunders:


And as is well known, it doesn't just take grotty conditions for us to be lazy enough to do an awful lot of our routine autumn seawatching from indoors at the Obs. Although you'll almost always get the best views of things by taking the trouble to watch from the Bill tip itself there's a surprising amount to be said for watching from the shelter of the more elevated viewpoint at the Obs (the close proximity to a kettle does no harm either) from where the views are often perfectly adequate © Martin Cade

11th August

Another changeable day where clear skies changed to thick drizzly fog in what seemed like seconds. This didn't stop a few diligent sea-waters from sticking around in the hopes of a fly-by skua (of the long-tailed variety). Unfortunately the bird never showed, but the sea did produce: 27 Balearic Shearwaters, 8 Common Scoters, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, 6 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns, 1 Guillemot, 4 Oystercatchers, and 1 Whimbrel; notable by their absence were Manx Shearwaters, not a single bird was recorded all day. Migrant totals on a distinctly average day added up to: 1 Little Egret, 11 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 5 Sedge Warblers and 7 Wheatears. A single Lesser Whitethroat in Weston was also new.

Ferrybridge picked up again today and 70 apiece of Dunlin and Ringed Plover was a notable increase on yesterdays below par performance. 11 Sanderling and 5 Sandwich Terns made up the rest of the days total.

Moth totals were better than the previous nights efforts, but still unremarkable with: 14 Silver Y, 10 Dark Sword Grass, 8 Diamond-back Moths, 1 Rush Veneer and 1 Rusty-dot Pearl. 


10th August

To say that todays weather was 'up and down' would be somewhat of an understatement, bright clear sunshine was interspersed with torrential downpours for much of the morning. From the outside today looked like it might've been productive with a South-westerly gale for the sea and showers forcing down migrants, however, the frequent and heavy deluges hampered both birding and ringing efforts. As such the migrant totals for the day reached a measly 7 Willow Warblers and 2 Wheatears. The sea was marginally more productive with 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 71 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Common Scoter, 31 Mediterranean Gulls, 1 Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Black-headed Gulls and 6 Ringed Plovers

Ferrybridge was very quiet however a Water Rail produced some much needed entertainment. Otherwise a single Sanderling, 2 Wheatears and 1 Sandwich Tern. 

The overnight wind and low temperature meant that very few moths were trapped and just 5 Silver Y's, 2 Diamond-back Moths, 1 Dark Sword Grass and 2 Rusty-dot Pearls were all the traps had to offer. 

One of our guests Robert Harvey captured this image of Durdle Door, at this time of year the brightest part of the milkway falls in exactly the correct angle for this amazing shot ©Robert Harvey www.naturalworldphotography.net 


9th August

Yet another swing in the wind direction and a little cloud cover saw a small rush of migrants. Willow warblers surpassed 200 with 51 trapped in the crown estate fields and garden combined, 10 Sedge Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 12 Wheatears, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Whinchats. We also received late news of a Marsh Harrier from two days previous. The highlight of todays sea watch came in the evening with 6 Sooty Shearwaters. The rest of the day saw: 11 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Arctic Skua, 6 Common Scoters, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Oystercatchers and 1 Dunlin.

Ferrybridge was quiet compared to recent days with sightings including: 3 Curlew, 3 Sanderling, 53 Dunlin, 30 Ringed Plover and 1 Redshank.

There was a distinct decrease in migrant moths within the traps this morning generating the following totals: 41 Silver Y, 9 Dark Sword Grass, 23 Diamond-back Moths and 1 Rush Veenes. 

Wasp Spiders were introduced to the UK in the 1920's and have since colonised the South coast, Portland is no exception. The males will wait at the edge of the orb web spun by a female like this one and will only mate once she has moulted, before her fangs have re-hardened  ©Erin Taylor:

8th August

A switch in the wind altered our fortunes somewhat with the majority of records coming from the sea as opposed to the land, as they have in recent days. The undoubted highlight came from a constant stream of Balearic Shearwaters with the final mornings total reaching 127. Further counts included: 20 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Mediterranean Gulls, 1 Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Black-headed Gulls and 1 Sandwich Tern. Pied Flycatchers were conspicuous by their absence given recent days totals and just one was recorded at the Avalanche Hump, and there was a noticeable decline in Willow Warbler numbers with 39 recorded across the obs area. Other migrants included an early morning Grasshopper Warbler, a Garden Warbler weighing a whopping 23g, 3 Sedge Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 6 Wheatears and 2 Whinchats.

2 Curlew, 2 Sanderling, 30 Dunlin, 63 Ringed Plover, 9 Turnstone and 1 Wheatear were at Ferrybridge this AM.

A windy and cooler night produced 42 Silver Y, 51 Diamond-back Moths, 6 Dark Sword Grass, 1 Rush Veenes and 2 Rusty-dot Pearls.

With the recent land purchase in mind, we unearthed this advert from the sale of the Old Lower Light and attached quarry from 1907, the year after the current Bill lighthouse came into function. The lighthouse underwent many transformations between then and now, even becoming a tea room shortly after WW1. 


7th August

This morning felt like a true autumnal morning with plenty of birds flicking around the garden at first light. This apparent passage passed very quickly with the warming weather and clearing skies. However, the numbers early on amassed to: 60+ Willow Warblers, 4 Pied Flycatchers, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Chiffchaff, 6 Wheatears, 4 Sedge Warblers and 1 Whinchat. The highlight of the morning came from a Crossbill, originally seen flying over Culverwell, that then pitched briefly in the Holm Oak before flying well over the net and away. Sea totals were much the same as usual with: 4 Yellow-legged Gulls, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 1 Black-headed Gull, 1 Sandwich Tern, 2 Common Scoter, 85 Manx Shearwater, 3 Balearic Shearwater, 1 Guillemot and 1 Whimbrel

Ferrybridge had an impressive number of Ringed Plovers with 50 recorded at the high tide. Other species included: 4 Sanderling, 5 Curlew, 1 Whimbrel, 36 Dunlin, 6 Little Tern, 9 Sandwich Terns, 1 Willow Warbler and 2 Wheatears

Moth numbers were slightly down on recent nights with: 19 Silver Y, 58 Diamond-back Moths, 6 Dark Sword Grass and 5 Rusty-dot Pearl

Wheatears are becoming increasingly conspicuous with double figures looming on the horizon  © Debby Saunders:


6th August

A day of quality over quantity, despite the ringing totals reaching a meagre 13 there was a noticeable movement of birds over head. The first Garden Warbler of the autumn was trapped in the crown estate field and 2 fly-over Tree Pipits were an encouraging sign of things to come. Other totals included: 7 Pied Flycatchers, 23 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Wheatears, a Lapwing and a Whimbrel in the top fields and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. The passage of Swifts once again increased with 110 birds heading out to sea, 30 Swallows were also seen departing accompanied by 5 Sand Martins. The sea continued to produce a few waders on top of the regulars: 3 Sandwich Terns, 5 Yellow-legged Gulls, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 8 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Ringed Plovers, 1 Turnstone and 3 Sanderlings. A Greenshank past Blacknor was also of note.

Ferrybridge was comparatively quiet compared to recent wader totals with: 7 Sanderling, 15 Turnstone, 3 Curlew, 1 Sandwich Tern and 2 Wheatears.

The moths returned to form with only our regulars putting on any kind of performance, 35 Silver Y, 8 Dark Sword Grass and 77 Diamond-back Moths.

It doesn't feel like Portland when the Willow Warblers have gone, its good to have them feeding up close and personal again before they depart for Africa ©Erin Taylor:


5th August

The easterlies that succeeded so well yesterday in pushing migrants our way slowed somewhat, producing a steady trickle nonetheless. 6 Whinchats around the top fields were a first for the autumn, and Pied Flycatchers continued to pass through with 6 around the Bill. Other records included: a single Spotted Flycatcher, 33 Willow Warblers, 9 Wheatear and 2 Sedge Warblers. With the exception of an increase in Manx Shearwaters (171 this morning), the sea produced much the same as it has in recent days with: 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 10 Common Scoter, 4 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Sanderling and 1 Bonxie. The upward trend of wader variety at Ferrybridge continued with: 71 Dunlin, 54 Ringed Plover, 6 Sanderling, 10 Turnstone, 1 Redshank, 6 Little Terns and 1 Yellow Wagtail. 

Moth records were reduced back to our regulars but numbers were decent: Silver Y 61, Dark Sword Grass 16, Diamond-back Moth 36, Rush Veenes 1. 

As the waders start rolling in so do the brilliant pictures from Pete and Debby Saunders, here's a selection from Pete of yesterday's events © Pete Saunders:





4th August

Mild easterly winds succeeded in pushing some of the flocks of East coast migrants our way. Early doors saw movements of flycatchers and warblers through the tops of the garden trees and the crown estate showed some early promise with the first net holding a Pied Flycatcher, a Willow Warbler and a Common Whitethroat.  Migrant totals for the day came to 64 Willow Warblers, 14 Pied Flycatchers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Wheatear, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 8 Sand Martins and 30 Swallows. Notable by their absence were yesterdays Swift flock with just 6 being recorded all day. The sea, once again, put on an average display with 5 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Common Scoter, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Curlew, 1 Ringed Plover and 3 Turnstone.

A small level of excitement at Ferrybridge as the variety of waders increased this morning with: 1  Greenshank, 3 Sanderling, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Turnstone, 37 Ringed Plovers and 17 Dunlin. A single Yellow Wagtail was also of note, with a supporting cast of 5 Little Terns (2 juvs), 1 Sandwich Tern and 3 Yellow-legged Gulls

There was greater quantity if not quality of moths trapped in the previous night with 119 Diamond-back Moths, 42 Silver Y's, 21 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Rusty-dot Pearl and 1 Rush Veenes. 

This Scarce Silver Y from Debby Saunders in Southwell is a first record for Portland and probably for Dorset. Although there is a resident population within the UK, vagrants are likely to have come from populations further North © Debby Saunders:


3rd August

With the temperature seeming to skyrocket today, it could have easily been written off as another baking day with no birds. However, two factors went in our favour 1. Its August. 2. Today was an Ant day and the swirling masses of flying ants generated quite the frenzy amongst all the insectivorous visitors (and the ever opportunistic Gulls). As a result, this afternoons Swift flock reached over 250 birds, Hirundines followed with over 100 Swallows, 21 Sand Martins and 5 House Martins. The migrant front was looking more promising with a Reed Warbler in the crown estate, an unringed Pied Flycatcher at the Obs, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Wheatear in the top fields, 4 Sedge Warblers and 5 Willow Warblers. A Little-ringed Plover was also sighted over Blacknor to add to the species tallies. The Sparrowhawks seem to have had a successful year with our regular orange-chested male appearing with an adult female and two juvs (a male and a female) to terrorise the Linnet flock which is now over 300 strong in the top fields. 

The sea was far from eventful today with final totals coming to just 11 Yellow-legged Gulls, 1 Black-headed Gull, 5 Mediterranean Gulls and 1 apiece of Manx Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater. Ferrybridge also maintained a steady rate with 1 Sanderling, 12 Dunlin, 5 Turnstone and 4 Little Terns.

There was some excitement on the Moth front as a probable Jersey Mocha was trapped. Besides this, the regulars included 19 Silver Y, 4 Dark Sword Grass, 1 Rusty-dot Pearl and 2 Diamond-back Moths. 

The soaring flock of Swifts produced a great deal of entertainment as they banked and glided after their winged prey. Unfortunately there were no white bellies among them ©Erin Taylor:


A Pied Flycatcher in the early morning sun should be enough to get anyone out of bed ©Erin Taylor:


2nd August

Autumn is creeping upon us slowly with a couple of notable additions to our migrant totals. The first addition of the morning came when a Pied Flycatcher stumbled into the garden nets, much to the delight of the mornings onlookers. A minimum of 4 Sedge Warblers in the crown estate fields were an improvement on recent tallies. The Obs garden has also hosted a small selection of warblers: 5 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Lesser Whitethroat. A flyover Yellow Wagtail and Ringed Plover added a little zest to the mornings proceedings on the land and a skulking Reed Warbler at Culverwell was only the second for the autumn. The increasingly hot afternoon turned up little other than a pair of Willow Warblers at Culverwell, 6 Sand Martins and 38 Swifts. On top of the usual suspects during the morning sea watch (11 Common Scoter, 7 Manx Shearwater, 2 Balearic Shearwater and 11 Yellow-legged Gulls) there was a notable passage of c.250 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Shelducks and a pale-phase Arctic Skua amongst the regular Gull flock.

A juvenile Merlin at Ferrybridge, a first for the autumn, also produced some excitement, although counts from the rest of the site were low in comparison with recent days: 3 Sanderling, 1 Redshank, 1 Yellow-legged Gull and 2 Little Terns.

Moths were extremely quiet, with a very poor night for migration providing just 6 Silver Y's and 1 Rusty-dot Pearl.

We have been tracking the reports of Pied Flycatchers as they have travelled down through the country across the last couple of weeks, it was a very welcome surprise to see our first today ©Erin Taylor:


This highly unusual Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelusax is suffering from erythrism, a genetic trait similar to albinism. It is expressing a larger than normal amount of red pigment resulting in a pink grasshopper! The fact it has made it to this stage of life is remarkable given its increased chances of being predated, a wonderful find ©Martin Adlam:


1st August

It would appear that no one has reminded the birds of Portland that its almost Autumn as migrant numbers remained low, however the trapping of another Sedge Warbler and Skylark were enough to keep the ringers entertained for a brief spell. The sea continued to be of interest with a constant supply of Gulls and Shearwaters (if not in large numbers). 

Portland Bill Sedge Warbler 2, Willow Warbler 8, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Sand Martin 4, Snipe 1, Swift 17, Chiffchaff 1. 

Portland Bill Seawatch Yellow-legged Gull 16, Balearic Shearwater 5, Manx Shearwater 13, Mediterranean Gull 150 +, Kittiwake 8, Black-headed Gull 2, Turnstone 1, Sandwich Tern 2.

Ferrybridge Sanderling 1, Redshank 1, Mediterranean Gull 80 (38 juveniles). 

Moths Silver Y 5, Diamond-back Moth 5, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Dark Sword Grass 3. 

A little taster of the spectacle that was yesterdays Mediterranean Gull flock! © Debby Saunders:


This Sanderling was obviously finding plenty of tasty morsels among the muddy pools at Ferrybridge despite the deluge of avifauna the previous day © Pete Saunders: 


31st July

We seem to be heading firmly back into summer, although a touch of autumn could be felt with the arrival of a smattering of migrants. Todays highlight came in the form of a mega-flock of Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge, including a large proportion of juveniles. The moth traps remained uneventful but a Six-belted Clearwing  represented a possible first for the Obs garden.

Portland Bill Willow Warbler 8, Swift 6, Sand Martin 4, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Sedge Warbler 3.

Portland Bill Seawatch Manx Shearwater 42, Balearic Shearwater 3, Common Scoter 1, Yellow-legged Gull 7, Mediterranean Gull 5, Kittiwake 18, Black-headed Gull 2, Sandwich Tern 2, Guillemot 1, Curlew 2.

Ferrybridge Common Sandpiper 3, Curlew 2, Turnstone 2, Whimbrel 1, Grey Heron 1, Yellow-legged Gull 3, Mediterranean Gull 1230 (420 juveniles).

Moths Silver Y 8, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Diamond-back Moth 9, Six-belted Clearwing 1.

There's nothing that spices up hanging out the washing like finding a Six-belted Clearwing on the wall of the Obs. Although relatively abundant on Portland, it is usually only with the help of a pheromone lure that one gives itself up © Erin Taylor:



30th July

As yesterdays tempest slowly ameliorated into a blustery but otherwise clear day, the numbers of seabirds calmed and migration over the land began to pick up again. As far as Moths were concerned, we were firmly back to the old faithfuls.

Portland Bill Swift 14, Sand Martin 2, House Martin 2, Willow Warbler 8, Raven 6.

Portland Bill Seawatch Manx Shearwater 68, Balearic Shearwater 3, Arctic Skua 1, Bonxie 1, Yellow-legged Gull 16, Mediterranean Gull 41, Guillemot 1, Sandwich Tern 1, Kittiwake 16, Curlew 1.

Ferrybridge Mediterranean Gull 595 (130 juveniles).

Moths Silver Y 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Diamond-back Moth 5.

Juvenile Whitethroats are comprising the majority of the catch at the moment, particularly in the Crown Estate Fields where the species seem to have had a bumper year. 


The Bill Quarry Wheatears seem to be determined to moult into Wallcreepers...

29th July

Another unseasonably dire day provided us with both some much needed moisture for the browning fields and some sea-watching entertainment. Yet again, land-based migrants struggled with the conditions and numbers were somewhat thin on the ground. Moth numbers were up on the previous nights catch, although that isn't saying much!

Portland Bill Swift 1, Willow Warbler 6, Red-legged Partridge 1.

Portland Bill Seawatch Common Scoter 8, Bonxie 8, Manx Shearwater 42/hour, Balearic Shearwater max. 34, Great Shearwater 1, Sooty Shearwater 3, Yellow-legged Gull 12, Mediterranean Gull 36, Whimbrel 18, Redshank 1, Ringed Plover 1.

Ferrybridge Whimbrel 10, Curlew 4, Sanderling 3, Dunlin 40, Turnstone 6, Common Tern 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Moths Silver Y 2, Diamond-back Moth 11, Dark Sword Grass 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1. (Emperor Dragonfly also in the trap).

Despite the strong wind and rain, some of our guests were brave enough to venture to the coast to witness the swell at its very best!  © Alan Hooper. 


28th July

A day of brisk South/ South Westerlies that saw the end (however brief) of the heatwave, also saw a reduction in migrating land birds. However, the swell generated attracted some noteworthy sea-watching events. Cooler temperatures overnight also hindered 'mothing' attempts, with only a slack-handful of migrants to show for our efforts. 

Portland Bill Swift 15, Willow Warbler 6, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Yellow-legged Gull 2.

Beach Road Arctic Skua 1 (flying West). 

Portland Bill Seawatch Manx Shearwater 239 in 1 hour, Balearic Shearwater up to 26, a possible Cory's Shearwater, Whimbrel 2, Great Skua 1, Guillemot 3, Common Scoter 11, Yellow-legged Gull 4, Mediterranean Gull 3, 1 Sunfish.

Ferrybridge Curlew 4, Mediterranean Gull 300 (including 50 juveniles). 

Moths Silver Y 2, Diamond-back Moth 27, Rusty-dot Pearl 2. 

The dry conditions have not impacted the emergence of hundreds of Chalkhill Blue Butterflies over the past few weeks, but how will the lack of Vetches alter their population in years to follow? 


27th July

Portland Bill Swift 30, Sand Martin 25, Willow Warbler 15, Sedge Warbler 2, Grey Wagtail 1, Yellow Wagtail 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatch Manx Shearwater 20, Common Scoter 9, Balearic Shearwater 4etc, Mediterranean Gull 4, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Sandwich Tern 1.

Portland Bill offshore Great Shearwater 1w.

Moths PBO Diamond-back Moth 490, Silver Y 28, Rusty-dot Pearl 10, Marbled Piercer 7, Water Veneer 1, Spindle Knot-horn Nephopterix angustella, Four-spotted Footman 1, Gold Spot 1 + Four-spotted 6, Meadow Brown 1, Large White 1.

The big news of the day was that PBO today purchased at auction the Obs Quarry and adjacent field, along with one of the strips just to the north of the Crown Estate Field; the areas in question are identified in the auction catalogue copied below:


The Obs Quarry is renowned as a great migrant trap as well as being a long-term breeding site for Little Owl, whilst the adjacent field that was once cultivated has in recent years reverted to a superb flower-rich meadow that's awash with butterflies and other insects throughout the summer months. Although there is a public footpath running around the back of the Obs Quarry and another running diagonally across the Quarry Field all other access to this area is unofficial and highly likely to have been lost had these fields been acquired by other parties. The Obs trustees felt it imperative that access to this important area should be maintained and its natural history interest preserved/improved and so prioritised its acquisition - today's positive result owes much to the generosity and foresight of our late benefactor, Miss Helen Brotherton, who we're sure would have been delighted at the outcome.  

26th July

Portland Bill Swallow 200, Swift 100, Sand Martin 50, Willow Warbler 30, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Ringed Plover 1, Turnstone 1, Grey Wagtail 1, Wheatear 1 (first autumn migrant), Sedge Warbler 1.

Portland Bill seawatch Manx Shearwater 60, Common Scoter 20, Black-headed Gull 2, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Sandwich Tern 1.

PBO nocturnal passage Oystercatcher 1, Redshank 1.

Weston Turtle Dove 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 21, Ringed Plover 12, Sanderling 2, Redshank 2, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Wheatear 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 27, Diamond-back Moth 26, Marbled Piercer 2, Maiden's Blush 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Wax Moth 1, Mocha 1, Four-spotted Footman 1.

Despite the prevailing scorching conditions immigrant butterflies aren't at all conspicuous around the island: Clouded Yellows have been straightforward to see in recent days in the Crown Estate Field where half a dozen or more seem to be semi-resident in the bottom of the valley but there have been few reports from elsewhere; a few very fresh Painted Ladys are maybe the progeny of earlier arrivals - this photographed specimen was at Easton today © Ken Dolbear; Red Admirals have been the most numerous although even they're hardly abundant.


This Mocha - another woodland stray that's a very infrequent visitor to Portland - was the pick of last night's moth catch © Martin Cade:  

25th July

Portland Bill Swallow 200, Sand Martin 100, Swift 30, Willow Warbler 5, Grey Heron 2, Dunlin 2, Ringed Plover 1, Sedge Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Mediterranean Gull 160west, Manx Shearwater 61, Guillemot 3 (local breeders have all departed), Black-headed Gull 1, Great Skua 1.

Moths PBO Diamond-back Moth 64, Silver y 37, Four-spotted Footman 3, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Marbled Piercer 2, Gold Spot 1 + Red Admiral butterfly 1. Sweethill Flame Carpet 1. Reap Lane Scorched Carpet 1. Weston Wax Moth 1. Grove Maiden's Blush 1, Slender Brindle 1.

Bug-filled sunflower heads at the Bill were proving popular with some of today's Swallows © Martin Cade:  


Although the early stages of the current hot spell were fantastic for moth-trapping with huge catches and lots of interesting dispersal, latterly things have quietened right down, with catches much diminished and interest dwindling. A few island oddities are still putting in appearances, with this Flame Carpet at Sweethill one of last night's better captures © Debby Saunders:  

24th July

Portland Bill Sand Martin 100, Swift 40, Willow Warbler 8, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Dunlin 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Sedge Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatch Manx Shearwater 150etc, Mediterranean Gull 25etc, Common Scoter 18, Black-headed Gull 7, Oystercatcher 2south, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Balearic Shearwater 1, Curlew 1, Whimbrel 1, Sandwich Tern 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 20, Diamond-back Moth 6, Four-spotted Footman 2, Marbled Piercer 1, Bulrush Veneer 1, Rusty-dot Pearl 1, Gold Spot 1.

Back to the last few days for some photos: Curlews are regular enough visitors to Ferrybridge but they're sufficiently skittish/ill at ease there that they're rarely settled for long after dawn or much before dusk; this little group were present at dawn yesterday © Debby Saunders:  


The young Wheatears are still about at the Bill where they're now getting increasing mobile © Roger Hewitt:  

23rd July

Portland Bill Sand Martin 100, Swallow 75, Swift 50, Willow Warbler 10, Sedge Warbler 3, Dunlin 1, Turnstone 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 25, Mediterranean Gull 14, Common Scoter 9, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Curlew 1, Arctic Skua 1.

PBO nocturnal passage Oystercatcher 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 41, Curlew 7, Black-tailed Godwit 6, Redshank 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 28, Diamond-back Moth 9, Marbled Piercer 3, Rusty-dot Pearl 1, Bird-cherry Ermine 1, Maiden's Blush 1, Four-spotted Footman 1, Dog's Tooth 1, Fen Wainscot 1.

As an exciting sign of what might be to come our Stewardship crops in the Crown Estate Field were suddenly alive with birds today; migrants weren't at all well represented but there were plenty of welcome signs of a lot of local breeders doing pretty well; this young Skylark was among the day's better captures in the mist-nets there © Martin Cade:  


Bar the expected hirundines and Swifts - along with a very minor flurry of Willow Warblers - migrants didn't feature in any numbers today; this Turnstone settled near the lighthouse was one of the few other new arrivals at the Bill © Martin Cade: 

22nd July

Portland Bill Swift 100, Sand Martin 50, Willow Warbler 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2.

Portland Bill seawatch Mediterranean Gull 20, Common Scoter 11, Balearic Shearwater 1, Little Egret 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 45, Curlew 4, Redshank1.

PBO nocturnal passage Redshank 1 flock + 1 single, Ringed Plover 1 flock, Dunlin 1 flock, Little Ringed Plover 1, Oystercatcher 1.

Moths PBO Striped Bent-wing Lyonetia prunifoliella 1 (new for Portland), Silver Y 36, Diamond-back Moth 19, Four-spotted Footman 6, Marbled Piercer 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Fen Wainscot 2, Bird-cherry Ermine 1, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1, Dark Spectacle 1; also Wall 1, Gatekeeper 1, Green-veined White 1. Weston Pebble Hook-tip 1. Grove Crescent 1.

Striped Bent-wing wasn't really a surprise addition to the island moth list because we'd been vaguely on the look out for it following multiple reports in south-east England - what we hadn't appreciated until today was that it had in fact already been found quite widely elsewhere in Dorset © Martin Cade: 


This morning's mass departure eastwards of 85 Little Terns (including several juveniles) from the breeding colony at Ferrybridge took the observers by surprise; whether they were upping and going for good remains to be seen, although there is past evidence from colour-ring sightings that indicates that some do indeed move eastwards to the Solent shore immediately after the breeding season per Steve Hales © Pete Saunders: 


An early hours Little Ringed Plover over the Obs was the highlight of last night's nocturnal recording session: