19th July


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Sunday, 22nd July.
Portland Bill Sand Martin 500, Swallow 250, Swift 25, Wheatear 4, Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 2, Grey Heron 1, Purple Sandpiper 1 (summer plumaged bird on the shore near the Obelisk), Grey Wagtail 1, Sedge Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 21, Mediterranean Gull 20, Sandwich Tern 12, Common Scoter 6, Black-headed Gull 4, Yellow-legged Gull 3.

Portland Bill nocturnal passage Dunlin 5 flocks + 1 single, Common Sandpiper 2 flocks + 2 singles, Redshank 1, Black-headed Gull 1.

Southwell Cuckoo 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 54, Sanderling 2, Whimbrel 1, Redshank 1.

Moths Obs immigrants/dispersers Silver Y 30, Diamond-back Moth 7, Bird-cherry Ermine 1, Marbled Piercer 1, European Corn-borer 1, Rusty-dot Pearl 1.

Sand Martin was the feature migrant of the day at the Bill; with many lingering about over the fields as well as there being good pulses of what looked to be birds moving straight through it was tricky to get a handle on numbers but we'd doubt that fewer than 500 were involved...

...a sound lure certainly drew in plenty when we made a bit of an attempt to catch a sample of them...

...and the attempt had it's comical side with so many birds attracted at times that the top of the net sagged a couple of feet or more under their weight and actually prevented most being caught © Martin Cade:

Hot on the heels of yesterday's first Sedge Warbler of the season, today came up with the first Reed Warbler - a quite early autumn date for the Bill © Martin Cade:

Family parties of Sandwich Terns are beginning to show up at Ferrybridge and a lone Whimbrel was the pick of the waders there © Pete Saunders:

The highlight of overnight mothing was this very freaky-looking, copper-coloured Silver Y at the Obs - certainly the most extreme aberration of the species that we've ever seen © Martin Cade:

18th July

Portland Bill Grey Heron 2, Spotted Redshank 1 north, Sedge Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 23, Mediterranean Gull c20, Black-headed Gull 5, Common Scoter 4, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Ferrybridge Mediterranean Gull 60, Dunlin 32, Sandwich Tern 8, Sanderling 2, Redshank 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Moths Obs immigrants Diamond-back Moth 9, Silver Y 9.

The first Sedge Warbler of the autumn mist-netted in the Crown Estate Field © Martin Cade: 

17th July

Precious few reports today: single Green Sandpipers over Blacknor and the Bill were quite likely the same individual, 2 Grey Herons were at the Bill with likely one of the same over Blacknor, 11 Manx Shearwaters, a Common Scoter and several Yellow-legged Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls were off the Bill and a lone Yellow-legged Gull was at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant/dispersing moth activity has quietened off in recent nights, with 39 Diamond-back Moth and 30 Silver Y providing the bulk of the numbers amongst the overnight catch at the Obs.

Has there ever been a twitchable Green Sandpiper at Portland? We learnt from a co-observer - a long-time visitor and now island resident - of this morning's bird at the Bill that it was quite likely a Portland tick for him which maybe isn't as surprising as it might seem since the vast majority of island records relate to fly-overs at a time of year when fieldworkers are pretty thin on the ground © Martin Cade: 

This Grey Heron struck off high to the south after a short break on East Cliffs © Martin Cade: 

As we've already mentioned, we have been trying to resist posting too many Yellow-legged Gull photos this year but we'll relent for a moment since there are so many about; this one was at Ferrybridge a couple of days ago © Debby Saunders (flying) and Pete Saunders (settled): 

16th July

Early autumn passage/dispersal continued to tick along at a limited level, with 23 Sand Martins, 20 Swifts, 4 Little Egrets and a Bar-tailed Godwit through at the Bill, a lingering Lesser Whitethroat still there, a Yellow Wagtail over Weston, 9 Dunlin, 7 Redshanks, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Mallard at Ferrybridge and 26 Common Scoter, c20 Mediterranean Gulls, c10 Yellow-legged Gulls, 5 Black-headed Gulls and a Sandwich Tern through or lingering off the Bill.

Six Bottle-nosed Dolphins and a Harbour Porpoise passed by off the Bill during the morning.

15th July

Bitsy odds and ends on land and sea today: 34 Mediterranean Gulls, 15 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Yellow-legged Gulls and 5 Sandwich Terns through or lingering off the Bill, 11 Sand Martins and singles of Ringed Plover, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Whitethroat on/overhead on the land there and 12 Dunlin, 9 Sandwich Terns, 5 Curlew, 4 Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge.

A small increase in Diamond-back Moths - including 79 at the Obs - was the only event of note from overnight mothing.

14th July

The occasion of the Obs AGM got in the way of routine coverage today and the only reports from the Bill were of 40 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter and a Yellow-legged Gull offshore and 3 Curlews overhead on the land. Elsewhere, 10 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwits and a Curlew were at Ferrybridge and a Grey Wagtail passed over at Blacknor.

Two Clouded Yellows were at the Bill today.

It was the most idyllic of dawns to be out birding anywhere around the island - the Black-tailed Godwits looked particularly special at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders: 

...and © Pete Saunders:

13th July

A surprisingly entertaining selection today with the millpond calm conditions and, at times through the morning at least, decent cloud cover making for more comfortable birding than has sometimes been the case in recent weeks. The sea was again busiest, with 93 Common Scoter, 39 Manx Shearwaters, c30 Mediterranean Gulls, at least 4 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua through or lingering off the Bill. Dispersal rather than migration looked to accounting for most of what turned up on the land there, with 8 Sand Martins and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler all of note. Elsewhere, a/the Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Southwell and 5 Dunlin, a Redshank and a Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge.

Dispersal also looked be accounting for most of the overnight moth interest, with a Brown Oak Slender Acrocercops brongniardella at the Obs constituting yet another addition to the island list.

The recent sightings of Great Spotted Woodpeckers - this one was a Southwell today - have all been of juveniles and most likely all relate to the same wandering individual. They're surely going to breed before long but for the time being we have no evidence of that so presumably this and the other increasingly frequent annual sightings at this time of year refer to dispersal from the mainland © Debby Saunders:

There must surely be a finite number of moth species that could occur at Portland but we never seem to reach that total. Despite the island being well worked for lepidoptera for well over 150 years additions to the list keep cropping up, with this Brown Oak Slender Acrocercops brongniardella at the Obs just the latest © Martin Cade:

It isn't very often these days that two species get added to the Obs garden list in one night; additional to the Brown Oak Slender this London Dowd Blastobasis lacticolella was also a garden tick overnight. We don't know when this adventive first reached Portland (it was only recorded for the first time Britain in the 1940s) but it was already well established when initially discovered at the Grove and at St Andrews Church in 2011; it's taken another seven years but it's finally got nearly as far south as it's going to get in Dorset! © Martin Cade:

Widespread enough on the mainland but always a nice sight on Portland, this Oak Hook-tip was a first record for the trap site at Sweethill © Debby Saunders:

12th July

There's beginning to be a slightly different feel to the weather with a good deal more cloud in the sky at times and the edge certainly taken off the heat of the last couple of weeks. A miscellaneous selection at the Bill included 25 Mediterranean Gulls, 12 Common Scoter, 7 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and a family party of Shelducks offshore and 70 Swallows, 2 Sand Martins and singles of Common Sandpiper, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Chiffchaff on the land; at Southwell 2 Shelduck, 2 Mallard and a Yellow-legged Gull all flew north off East Cliffs. Mediterranean Gulls increased to 128 at Ferrybridge where 10 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and singles of Redshank and Sandwich Tern were also logged.

A party of 10 or more Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill for a second day.

Immigrant butterflies included 2 Painted Ladys and 2 Clouded Yellows at the Bill.

On a night when moth immigration/dispersal tailed off quite noticeably Diamond-back Moth (29) and Marbled Piercer (25) topped the tally at the Obs.

We keep imagining that one of the parties of mid-summer Black-tailed Godwits that drop in briefly at Ferrybridge will be Continental limosa birds but, like all the others in recent times, today's pair looked to be pretty standard Icelandic islandica birds © Pete Saunders:

This morning's Great Spotted Woodpecker making use of the tallest 'tree' at the Bill © Martin Cade:

Clouded Yellow at the Bill today © Martin Cade:

And a truly awful image - the birds were a good mile and a half distant - of what as far as we know was a unique event off the Bill: this family party of Shelducks - the pair and two tiny youngsters - were spotted drifting slowly from east to west well offshore this morning; we lost them soon afterwards and presumed they'd gained speed with the tide and headed off into Lyme Bay, only to discover later from members of the public that in fact they'd eventually come offshore on East Cliffs below the Obs. Quite where they'd originated from can only be guessed at: the harbour breakwaters are perhaps the best bet but they were so far offshore that somewhere like the Purbeck coast seems a plausible possibility © Martin Cade:

11th July

A reminder for Obs members that this year's AGM - the first AGM since our change to Charitable Incorporated Organisation status - will be held at 4.30pm this Saturday, 14th July; buffet refreshments - including a barbeque - will be provided after the meeting. An agenda for the meeting can be found by clicking here.

More of the same on the bird front with a few more early autumn migrants and plenty of interest on the sea. The Mediterranean Gull build up included at least 50 off the Bill, where 9 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Common Scoter, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and a Redshank also passed through. The land there came up with 2 Grey Herons, 2 Sand Martins and a dispersing Lesser Whitethroat, whilst elsewhere an unseasonable Redpoll passed over at Blacknor and 4 Dunlin, 4 Sandwich Terns, 2 Redshank and a Sanderling were at Ferrybridge.

The island's third Dark Crimson Undwering at the Obs was the highlight of overnight moth-trapping; overall, immigrant and dispersing numbers dropped off but a Blackneck at Sweethill and a Broad-barred Knot-horn Acrobasis consociella at the Grove were additional island rarities.

A selection of second and third records for the island from recent nights: Dark Crimson Underwing and Blackneck from last night and Dark-bordered Pearl and Suspected from 8th July © Debby Saunders (Blackneck) and Martin Cade (others):

10th July

Ferrybridge provided the bulk of the day's numbers amongst which the customary - and this year very rapid - mid-summer build up in Mediterranean Gulls topped 100 for the first time; 16 Dunlin, 3 Little Ringed Plovers and singles of Curlew, Redshank and Yellow-legged Gull also dropped in there at times. Another Little Ringed Plover passed over at the Bill where 6 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls were offshore and a lone Sand Martin also passed overhead.

A Splendid Brocade at the Grove was the pick of the night's immigrant moths; although there were also sample totals of, for example, 84 Diamond-back Moth and 74 Silver Y at the Obs most of the other interest concerned further presumed dispersal from the mainland, with the list at the Obs including 5 Marbled Piercer Cydia splendana, 4 Dotted Ermel Ethmia dodecea, 4 European Corn-borer, 3 Bird-cherry Ermine, 3 Fen Wainscot, 2 Four-spotted Footman, 2 Marbled White-spot, 2 Cream-bordered Green Pea and singles of Wax Moth Galleria mellonella, Dotted Oak Knot-horn Phycita roborella, Bulrush Veneer Calamotropha paludella, Horse Chestnut, Maiden's Blush, Buff Footman, Double-lobed and Dark Spectacle.
There's still quite a backlog of mainly micros from the last few very busy nights to work through but among the more interesting records have been the island's first Common Heath (from Duncan Walbridge's garden at Weston) and second records of Dark Bordered Pearl Evergestis limbata (at the Grove) and Suspected (2 at PBO), along with the likes of Dark-streaked Button Acleris umbrana, Heath Knot-horn Apomelois bistriatella, Treble Brown-spot, Beautiful Snout and Lunar-spotted Pinion - all of which have been recorded only a handful of times before.

Little Ringed Plover and Yellow-legged Gull at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

9th July

On yet another uncomfortably hot day most of the bird interest was on the sea, with 35 Common Scoter, 12 Mediterranean Gulls, 7 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Sandwich Terns, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, a Whimbrel and a Common Gull through or lingering off the Bill; 5 passing Sand Martins were the only migrants of note on the land. The only other reports were from Ferrybridge, where there were 33 Mediterranean Gulls, 15 Dunlin and a Redshank.

A fuller report on recent mothing to follow tomorrow - it's been so busy/time-consuming that we've lost track of all the island rarities we haven't reported yet!

8th July

A Marsh Harrier leaving south from the Bill was a surprise for the time of year. The day's only other movers were 6 Cormorants and 5 Grey Herons over the Bill and 12 Common Scoter through on the sea there; 6 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Black-headed Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull were also lingering offshore at the Bill.

The Marsh Harrier passed high south down the island and powered on out to sea - just the sort of sighting you'd have expected in September but certainly not in early July © Martin Cade:

Common Heath is an at times quite abundant moth in appropriate habitat across inland Dorset so it's a bit of a surprise that it hadn't been recorded at Portland before last night © Martin Cade:

7th July

The weather was again a significant disincentive for spending long out birding - it was really was just too hot and sultry until a bit of a breeze sprung up during the afternoon for there to any pleasure in flogging about on the land. Other than an unseasonably Grey Wagtail that appeared at the Bill the only worthwhile reports were of 20 Common Scoter, 19 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls either through or lingering off the Bill.

Diamond-back Moth numbers continued to increase, with 474 trapped overnight at the Obs; a wide variety of dispersers making into the traps included singles of Heath Knot-horn Apomyelois bistriatella and Lunar-spotted Pinion at the Obs.

6th July

The heat returned with a vengeance today and seemed to have restricted fieldwork to the two ends of the day. The best of the numbers at the Bill were offshore, with 47 Common Scoter, 24 Manx Shearwaters, 21 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Sandwich Terns and singles of Yellow-legged Gull, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull and Common Gull through or lingering. Another pulse of overhead passage included 31 Swifts, 7 Sand Martins and singles of Greenshank and Redshank over the Bill.

A surge in Diamond-back Moth numbers saw 247 trapped overnight at the Obs - the year's highest total to date. More on the moths to follow tomorrow.

5th July

Although fog clung on at the Bill until well into the afternoon, for the most part today saw the return of fine and increasingly warm conditions. Three Black-tailed Godwits passing through at the Bill, at least 2 Yellow-legged Gulls lingering offshore there and an increase to 6 Redshanks at Ferrybridge provided the best of today's birding, with 25 Manx Shearwaters and at least 4 Mediterranean Gulls off the Bill and 26 Mediterranean Gulls and 20 Dunlin at Ferrybridge the best of the rest.

Moth numbers tailed off noticeably in the overnight fog but some of the commoner immigrants were relatively well represented, with 72 Silver Y, 34 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Dark Sword Grass, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and a Four-spotted Footman at the Obs and 62 Silver Y in one trap at the Grove.

4th July

An unexpectedly profound change in the weather saw first a band of steady rain arrive in off the Channel before fog developed and, at least in some spots, lingered for the rest of the day. New arrivals included the first 4 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls of the summer at Ferrybridge, where 2 Little Ringed Plovers, a Redshank and a Common Gull also dropped in; a Curlew was the only worthwhile newcomer at the Bill, whilst seawatching there came up with 30 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Mediterranean Gulls and a Black-headed Gull.

We're sure that the majority of blog viewers wouldn't thank us if we bored them witless with a summer of endless rather tiresome images of baby seagulls growing up so it's good to get Yellow-legged Gull - a very young/fresh juvenile in this case - done and dusted straight away © Joe Stockwell...

...and while we're at it we can kill two birds with one stone by getting juvenile Mediterranean Gull done at the same time - there was a fly-by at the Bill a couple of days ago but today was the first day with settled birds at Ferrybridge © Joe Stockwell:

This Common Gull was a rather rarer mid-summer visitor to Ferrybridge © Martin Cade:

The season's first juvenile Redshank, also at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders:

And the latest two of what's been a nice recent flurry of Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge © Martin Cade:

Today's rain and then fog were a welcome relief from the scorching heat of the last few weeks; by the evening the top of the island and Chiswell were treated to a nice sunset whilst Lyme Bay, Weymouth and the mainland were all hidden beneath an enveloping blanket of fog ©  Martin Cade: 

And a bit more catching up: the emergence of Lunar Hornet Clearwings at the Obs was nearly a fortnight later than last year, with the first spotted on Sunday (1st); we must have jammed into this female within minutes of her emerging since she had three males buzzing frantically around her - just as soon as one coupled the other two completely vanished © Martin Cade:

There's been a lot of interest from folk wanting to come and twitch them but they're proving to be just as tricky to get to grips with as they were last year - despite plenty of looking, this one that we fluked into settled on a mist-net this morning has been the only other one that we've seen so far © Martin Cade:

It seems as though Portland was a bit too far west to have scored with any of the rarer immigrant moths that have been reported in recent days - this Splendid Brocade on Monday (2nd) was about as good as it got for us © Martin Cade:

3rd July

With a lot more cloud in the sky birding was considerably easier today but there looked to be very little about, with 60 more Swifts through over the Bill, 20 Manx Shearwaters, 19 Common Scoter, 8 Black-headed Gulls and 3 Mediterranean Gulls through or lingering off the Bill, 3 Sand Martins through over Ferrybridge and 13 Dunlin settled there.

A Purple-bordered Gold at Reap Lane - a new moth for the island - was the highlight of the night's moth-trapping; the immigrant tally at the Obs consisted of 46 Diamond-back Moth, 19 Silver Y, 2 each of Dark Sword Grass and Cream-bordered Green Pea, and singles of Bird-cherry Ermine, Cock's-head Bell, Bulrush Cosmet, Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Delicate and Green Silver-lines.

In as much as heathland insects are pretty well-represented amongst the ever-growing list of strays making it out to Portland, Purple-bordered Gold might well have made it on to a list of possible future additions even though it does appear to be only a thinly distributed inhabitant of the south-east Dorset heaths - the recent spell of hot weather and freshening northeasterly winds certainly offered up what looked to be ideal conditions for dispersal away from that area © Martin Cade:

And with rain setting in whilst we're compiling this update we've got an opportunity for a bit of catching up so it's back to Sunday 1st for some nice photographs of the Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge and one of the Southwell Peregrines © Pete Saunders:

2nd July

On what was apparently Portland's hottest day so far during the ongoing spell of glorious weather - probably not the best day to have chosen to be toiling over building the bulk of a permanent brick barbeque in the Obs garden! - there was a fair bit of early autumn passage afoot. Swifts were most conspicuous, with at least 90 through over the Obs, whilst sea passage off the Bill included 36 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Common Scoter, 6 commic terns, 3 Whimbrel and singles of Teal, Curlew, Great Skua and Sandwich Tern. Other odds and ends of note included the first 3 Sand Martins of the season through at the Bill and 12 Dunlin, 11 Mediterranean Gulls, a Sanderling and a Curlew at Ferrybridge.

A Red-veined Darter was in the Bill Quarry during the morning.

The Large Tortoiseshell at Bottomcombe was still present for a while during the morning but couldn't be found later in the day.

The first Splendid Brocade of the year was the best of an improvemed catch of immigrant moths at the Obs, where 148 Diamond-back Moth, 23 Silver Y, 12 Cock's-head Bell Zeiraphera isertana, 2 European Corn-borer, 2 Water Veneer and singles of Willow Ermine, Dark Spectacle and Marbled White-spot were also trapped.

1st July

A rain shower at dawn was a novelty and for the most part the day remained doggedly overcast and increasingly humid. An orange-billed tern - suspected as being a reappearance of the American Royal Tern - seen briefly on the falling tide at Ferrybridge caused panic once the news circulated but couldn't be found during subsequent searches. The day's only other reports were of 25 Mediterranean Gulls, 20 Dunlin, a Little Ringed Plover and a Sanderling at Ferrybridge, a new Chiffchaff at the Bill and 50 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter, 4 Black-headed Gulls and 3 Mediterranean Gulls lingering or through off the Bill.

A Large Tortoiseshell (together with at least 1 Hummingbird Hawkmoth) showed for a while during the afternoon at Bottomcombe.

Andy Dyball came up trumps at Bottomcombe with Portland's first Large Tortoiseshell since the series of nine records in 2007 © Martin Cade: