29th November

PBO membership standing orders
As Obs members will be aware, earlier this year our charitable status changed when we became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO); as part of this change we were required to open a new current bank account. We are in the process of closing our old bank account and request that members who have a membership subscription standing order in our favour transfer this to the new account. 
For those with online banking facilities this transfer may be readily accomplished via your banking app - our new account details are: 
Account name Portland Bird Observatory; Sort code 09-01-29; Account No. 19754723
Those without online arrangements will require a new standing order form that can be requested from the Obs or downloaded here  - this form should be filled in and returned to us for forwarding to your bank or sent direct to your bank. 
Apologies for the inconvenience and many thanks for your help with this important matter.

28th November

The final day of the season before the assistant warden heads off North to cooler climes and the Warden does the sensible thing and migrates South for a while saw little in the way of bird action. In fact, out list at the Bill consisted of just three birds: two Redwings and a Goldcrest. Thankfully we were spared by a Black Redstart at Reap Lane and by the Ferrybridge totals of one Goosander, a pair of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Bar-tailed Godwit

Last night saw the best nights 'mothing' for some time. The moths appeared in good numbers, presumably due to the relative warmth and calmness of the early parts of last night, and totals included: 37 Diamond-back Moths, 5 Rusty Dot Pearls, 3 Silver Y's, 2 Dark Sword Grasses, a pair of Turnips and a pair of White Specks

27th November

Well that's nearly all folks, the end of the season is nigh and the weather was obviously feeling it too with torrential rain and gale force winds forcing us all inside. A frankly eerie drop in wind in the evening led to our daily tallies reaching four species for the obs area: a pair of Fieldfares, a pair of Redwings, 5 Goldcrests and a female Blackcap; whilst the harbour was harbouring the drake Goosander, the lingering Little Gull and a Wigeon.

Last nights immigrant moths consisted of 6 Diamond-back moths and a White-speck. Fingers crossed that the relaxed winds and relative warmth hold out long enough to catch something good for our last night for a while. 

26th November

In unexpectedly benign conditions - the gentle north-easterly had lost all its raw edge of recent days - there was enough about to keep interest going all day. With the sky clearing as the morning went on few of the new arrivals dropped in for long but overhead there was quite a trickle of thrushes and finches heading through into the breeze; singles of Blackcap and Goldcrest were also new at the Obs, with another 2 Blackcaps featuring at Southwell. Further miscellaneous oddities included singles of Little Egret and Merlin at the Bill, a Great Northern Diver settled offshore there, a Black Redstart at Church Ope and 2 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour.

Last night's immigrant moths: 2 each of Diamond-back Moth and Rusty-dot Pearl at the Obs.

Fieldfares are rather notorious for rarely dropping much lower than the tops of the tallest trees at the Obs so this one - seemingly an adult male - was a nice surprise in the mist-nets today © Martin Cade: 

Although we've received plenty of notifications of birds we've ringed being discovered elsewhere, this year has been one of the poorest we can remember for 'controls' in our nets so two foreign ringed birds - a Chiffchaff from France and a Blackbird from Holland - in the last few days have been very welcome © Martin Cade:  

25th November

With the rain having finally relented some time in the early hours of the morning there was a little more life about than yesterday. The Bill saw a small movement of thrushes with double figures of Song Thrushes and Redwings plus a pair of Fieldfares in the Top Fields. The finches also put in a good display with the Serin being resighted and a Brambling among the Chaffinch flock. Wader-wise the flock of lingering Lapwings were still in the East Cliffs fields accompanied by a Jack Snipe in the huts. The sea was also back on form with a very late Manx Shearwater, a lone Velvet Scoter, 5 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a selection of gulls.

The Little Gull (that one us may or may not have forgotten to report yesterday-sorry!) was back at the Harbour accompanied by a Slavonian Grebe, 4 Black-necked Grebes and a fly-over Curlew. Ferrybridge was also productive with a drake Goosander, 150 Dunlin, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Redshank and a Sandwich Tern.

The adult Little Gull arrived below Portland Castle at 0710 this morning with just enough light to produce some pretty impressive pictures © Debby Saunders: 

The long staying drake Goosander at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders: 

24th November

A grey day of continuously drizzly showers saw the poorest species list for quite some time. None of yesterdays rarities (confirmed or otherwise) were relocated and, save for the usual flocks of finches within the Crown Estate Fields, the South end of the island was largely quiet. 17 Redwings, 5 Song Thrushes, a pair of Brambling, 3 Blackcaps, a Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff were all we had to offer.

Ferrybridge had slightly more success with 2 Pale-bellied Brents, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Redshank, 160 Dunlin and the Merlin.

Thankfully Pete and Debby are diligent in their Ferrybridge vigils, otherwise our days totals would have looked awfully sad © Pete Saunders: 

The unrelenting moisture didn't deter the Ferrybridge Merlin © Pete Saunders:

23rd November

A day of mixed feelings with as many birds giving us the slip as were clinched. The first bird of the morning proved to be the highlight as a Serin left the garden roost with the usual Goldfinches. This set the tone for a very 'finchy' day with a total of seven species including good numbers of Chaffinches, Goldfinches, and Linnets; plus small numbers of Greenfinches, Bramblings, a Siskin and the Serin. There was also a noticeable increase in House Sparrows with multiple flocks making the island total in the triple figures. Other passerines trickled through including double figures of Redwings and a couple of Song Thrushes. The real gut-wrencher came from a missed opportunity of a Richard's Pipit with two possible sightings never being fully confirmed. The sea was quiet with counts of just 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and the first 3 returning Fulmars since their late summer departure. Elsewhere on the island, Ferrybridge produced 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Merlin (presumably a loitering individual following the pipits and larks).

So often a straightforward Portland banker, Serin had been surprise omission from the year list before today - sadly, our photographic efforts were sufficiently inept that it'd take a combination of half-a-dozen frames to be able to see the whole bird © Martin Cade:

22nd November


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 24th November.

 A very quiet day compared to the past week with just a handful of Redwings, Song Thrushes, Siskins, Chaffinches and Blackcaps on the passerine front. The non-passerines provided some light relief with a Merlin past the Bill, a Woodcock in Culverwell, three Purple Sandpipers on the rocks and a fly-over Golden Plover. The sea was quieter than usual with just a small selection consisting of 9 Common Scoter, a flock of 25 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Common Gulls and topped with a strong passage of Auks with approximately 1000/hour. 

Ferrybridge saw little change from yesterday with 1175 Dark-bellied and 5 Pale-bellied Brents, the usual Black Brant and a Grey Plover

21st November

Swift, sharp showers interspersed with clear skies and a cool wind didn't quite drop the late rarity we were hoping for, but a good variety of species across the recording area kept the day interesting. The sea saw a big reduction in numbers with just 29 Common Scoter, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Wigeon and 2 Brent Geese. The highlight from the garden came from a French controlled Chiffchaff, a lone Siskin and a small influx of Robins.

Ferrybridge was back on form today with 1175 Brent Geese (plus 8 pale-bellied), 7 Little Grebes, a Goosander, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Curlew. 136 Dunlin, a lone Merlin and a Black Redstart.

Given its pedigree in conditions similar to those we have been experiencing over the last few day the harbour was a tad disappointing, although it still produced a good bird for Portland in the form of a Pochard plus: a fly-over Golden Plover, 2 Common Scoters, a Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and several Black-necked Grebes.

As the numbers of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks have increased in the salt marsh at Ferrybridge it was inevitable that an opportunist would follow and, thankfully for us, it was this showy Merlin © Pete Saunders:

A small influx of presumably incoming Blackcaps featured amongst the day's new arrivals - these two were at Southwell and another three were at the Obs © Debby Saunders:

20th November

Another day for the sea watchers with strong cold winds hampering the coverage of the land. The Bill produced a couple of nice highlights including 4 Velvet Scoters in amongst the 48 Common Scoters, 11 Eiders (of which 4 were stonking males), 3 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 12 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Red-throated Divers, and a male Red-breasted Merganser. A furtive Long-eared Owl roosting in the Obs garden was the highlight from the land; 3 new Goldcrests also showed up there, with further variety in the form of 7 Redwings, a Lapwing, 2 Redshanks, 4 Turnstones and a Brambling at the Bill and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane.

Ferrybridge saw a small increase in waders with 5 Curlew, a lone Lapwing, a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits and 22 Oystercatchers; one of the Black Brants also showed up there along with a Goosander, 3 Pale-bellied Brents and a large flock of 13 Shelducks.

We're well aware from previous experience that Long-eared Owls are past masters at escaping detection in the Obs garden and today's bird was only given away by the fuss it elicited from the local Magpies and Jackdaws once they'd discovered it. After a couple of fleeting flight views it was lost for several hours before we completely fluked it after peering into an umpteenth hole in a hedge and finding it staring right back at us at point blank range © Martin Cade:

We're not sure what the highest ever count of Shelducks at Ferrybridge has been but today's 13 must run it pretty close if it's any higher © Pete Saunders:

Record shots from the Obs lounge were the order of the day with the scarcer wildfowl - these Eider settled off East Cliffs were the second group of the day, whilst the Velvet Scoters passed by along with what proved to be the best movement of Common Scoters of the month to date © Martin Cade: 

19th November

A relatively uneventful day with a very strong, brisk North-east wind that put pay to much of the recent movement we have been witnessing. A late entry from the Harbour dramatically increased the day's intrigue value with 8 Egyptian Geese passing overhead adding to our fewer than five previous records since 1961. Without the passing Egyptian Geese the day's tallies would have looked rather sad with sea totals reaching just 9 Common Scoter, 57 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Red-throated Divers and 250 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The land produced little in the way of variety or numbers with the most exciting record being 10 Lapwing in the field below Culverwell. 

Ferrybridge proved quiet for waders although saw a dramatic increase of geese compared with the last few days with totals reaching 1200 Dark-bellied Brents, 3 Pale-bellied Brents and a single Black Brant being joined by a lone Goosander

The drake Goosander and confiding Guillemot from Ferrybridge this morning © Debby Saunders (top and bottom) and Pete Saunders (middle): 

18th November

As the wind swung round into the North-east we started to feel a chill reminiscent of the early spring. Yet again the majority of the sightings were sea-based but a couple of highlights in the form of five fly-over Great Bustards at Ferrybridge (presumably from the Salisbury programme), and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier in off the sea added some excitement on the land. On the sea it was the first day for double figures of Red-breasted Mergansers, three Shelducks, a Great Northern Diver, three Red-throated Divers, five Brent Geese, a pair of Wigeon and four Pintail.

Elsewhere, a Black Redstart was at Fancy's Close, Ferrybridge came up with 94 Dunlin, 20 Ringed Plovers, 18 Turnstone and 4 Shelducks, and 12 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour. 

The drove of Great Bustards over Ferrybridge are presumed to be of slightly less than wild origins but what a sight to behold anyway © Joe Stockwell:

After a pretty dreadful showing in what would be their customary autumn passage period back in October, November has come up with several decent little flurries of new Goldcrests - many have been frequenting Tree Mallows now that most of the Sycamore leaves have dropped © Debby Saunders:

17th November

The beginnings of a change in the weather that saw a cold easterly freshen up and quickly clear away the low cloud of recent days also saw to it that the Pallid Swift headed away south almost as soon as it had emerged from roost at Chesil Cove. New arrivals and visible passage - the latter particularly over the sea - were prominent, with a really varied list accumulated at the Bill, where 70 Redwings, 37 Lapwings,  25 Goldcrests, 23 Teal, 21 Dunlin, 17 Wigeon, 7 Chiffchaffs, 6 Snipe, 6 Black Redstarts, 6 Bramblings, 5 Woodcock, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Siskins, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, singles of Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Mallard, Pintail and Tufted Duck, and a total of 39 miscellaneous unidentified waders (all seawatch sightings that couldn't be clinched) were logged; other island sites were well covered and returned extras that included 39 Lapwings, 6 Teal, 5 Black Redstarts, 3 Woodcock, a Long-tailed Duck (at Ferrybridge) and a Snipe.

The Ferrybridge Long-tailed Duck © Debby Saunders (settled) and Pete Saunders (flying): 

A stiff easterly in November usually comes up trumps for wildfowl, with 29 Teal amongst the variety logged today; these 3 were at Ferrybridge  © Pete Saunders:

The various Woodcock were typically unobliging; this one was flushed from the rocks close to Pulpit Rock © Ted Pressey:

16th November

With the Pallid Swift marooned in the gloom at West Weare/Chesil Cove under the blanket of heavy cloud that enveloped the whole island there was rarity interest for the duration. Thrushes again featured in quantity overnight and in the hour or so after dawn 450 Redwings, 30 Song Thrushes and 15 Fieldfares either lifted off or passed through at the Bill; the varied list of back-ups there included 15 each of Goldcrest, Siskin and Brambling, 7 Black Redstarts, 3 Blackcaps and ones and twos of Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Chiffchaff, Firecrest and Corn Bunting, whilst elsewhere there was a Water Rail at Southwell and a scatter of at least 3 more Black Redstarts.

The Pallid Swift at Chesil Cove today © Mike Trew (top) and Joe Stockwell (bottom):

The Water Rail at Southwell © Pete Saunders:

Black Redstart and Corn Bunting at the Bill © Joe Stockwell:

And on the basis that you probably want to peruse as many images as possible when trying to make an objective assessment of the subtle plumage features of a Pallid Swift we eventually got round to sorting out a few of ours from yesterday at the Bill © Martin Cade:

15th November

A stormer of  day that just about had it all: a tremendous nocturnal passage of thrushes, a decent arrival of grounded migrants, some strong visible passage and, to top it all, a good rarity; there was even a from the sublime to the ridiculous twist in the form of an entirely bizarre report from a photographer - supported by a patently photoshopped image - of the Weymouth Franklin's Gull being seen at the Bill - presumably the quality of the real birding isn't exciting enough for halfwits like this. After days spent staring upwards for a swift of some sort to come streaking through the eventually appearance of one sneaking over the Obs under heavily overcast skies today caught everyone unawares and its identification would have remained unresolved had it not later been discovered lingering first along West Cliffs at the Bill and later over West Weare above Chesil Cove when it could be confirmed as a Pallid Swift. After a night when thrushes were passing over in huge numbers (we were recording but haven't yet had time to even download what we're rather dreading is going to be a really time-consuming file to go through!) there was plenty about on the ground including totals at the Bill of 280 Redwings and 50 Goldcrests; the 5 Woodlarks were also still about at Broadcroft/Shepherd's Dinner. Visible passage was also evident throughout the morning when sample totals at the Bill included 880 Chaffinches, 690 Goldfinches, 520 Wood Pigeons and 13 Bramblings.

The Pallid Swift © Debby Saunders (stills) and Dave Foot (videos):

14th November

With the fresh breeze having backed toward the south there was less on the move overhead today, with Wood Pigeons and finches reduced to a mere trickle in comparison with the last couple of days. Woodlarks featured well, with 5 at Shepherd's Dinner and a single at the Bill, but quality was otherwise limited to the long-staying Firecrest at the Obs, a Black Redstart at Blacknor and a reappearance of the even longer staying Red-legged Partridge at the Bill. Three Red-throated Divers, a Velvet Scoter and a Great Skua passed though off the Bill.

One of the Woodlarks at Shepherd's Dinner © Martin Adlam Port and Wey Blog: 

13th November

With similar weather conditions to yesterday there was another impressive visible movement early on with clouds of Woodpigeons amounting to over 4000 birds, flocks of 'pinking' Chaffinches reaching 480 and oodles of Goldfinches (a term which here means approximately 175). On the sea, a feeding flock of 170 Gannets were accompanied by a lone Common Scoter, 11 Brent Geese, 36 Mediterranean Gulls and a Red-throated Diver. Other highlights of the day included a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest among the sadly dwindled Goldcrest flock at Wakeham, another Firecrest within the huts, 2 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill and a Little Gull at Ferrybridge.

Despite the rolling swell, the Bill Purple Sandpipers were finding plenty to feed on in the rippling rockpools © Matt Ames:

After leaving too early for its afternoon appearance yesterday we nipped back to Radipole today and jammed straight into the Franklin's Gull when it dropped in and spent a few minutes on the carpark before heading off to roost © Martin Cade:

12th November

A clear and increasingly blustery day saw excellent conditions for visible passage early on and the finches most definitely obliged with 930 Chaffinches, 390 Goldfinches, 27 Siskins and 5 Bramblings with a savvy Merlin in tow. Elsewhere, there was no sign of our seven-striped pixie but a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest were still present amongst the Goldcrest flock.

11th November

Though there were few new arrivals, bright if blustery conditions made it easier to catch up with birds already present. The sea was rolling but with little to offer on it, totals coming in at 2 Brent Geese, 3 Bonxies and 4 Black-headed Gulls past the bill. Smaller birds around the obs and bill came in with a Firecrest, a Purple Sandpiper, a Black Redstart and the usual selection of Chaffinches, Linnets and Skylarks in the Crown Estate Fields.
The day's excitement was undoubtedly provided by leftovers from yesterday in the still-leaved Sycamores at Wakeham. An impressive crest flock doing the rounds included a minimum of 20 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests, a vocal Yellow-browed Warbler and the stunning Pallas's Warbler which provided fun and games but giving prolonged views at times.
Odds and ends from elsewhere included another Yellow-browed Warbler at Thumb Lane, a juv Arctic Tern in the harbour and the Glaucous Gull at Ferrybridge showing its force.

Despite the better views offered by this late leaf warbler, only a select few observers managed to get good photographs whilst it fed energetically amongst the leaves © Duncan Walbridge:

At this time of year, white-winged gulls are an expected feature of the birding fare. Just a shame this Guillemot hadn't read his calendar © Debby Saunders:

Where the seasons meet, at a blustery beach in Dorset. Some fine flight-shots of oddities about today © Pete Saunders:

10th November

On a day when a Swift of some sort seemed like the best bet for some quality - was Portland the only place without one today? - it was the discovery between a succession of viciously heavy showers of a Pallas's Warbler at Wakeham that actually provided the rarity entertainment; 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 30 Goldcrests and a Firecrest were also doing the rounds there and surely indicated there was more to have been found elsewhere if there'd been better coverage. Earlier, it had been Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour that had provided the best of the birds, with the Glaucous Gull, 8 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Black-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Great Skua and Arctic Tern showing up in the wake of last night's stormy conditions. Odds and ends elsewhere included a Black Redstart at Wakeham, a Brambling at Southwell and 2 Siskins, a Moorhen and a Firecrest at the Bill.

In choosing to consort with a plethora of Goldcrests in one of the most sheltered and hence still leafy nooks of the island the Pallas's Warbler didn't give itself up very easily and most views/photographs was as dismal as this one © Martin Cade...

...just occasional though it was possible to be in the right spot at the right moment for something a bit better © Martin Adlam Port and Wey Blog:

The Brambling at Southwell © Debby Saunders: