31st December

A quiet end to the year with 3 Teal through off the Bill the only unexpected sighting. Three Red-throated Divers also passed by, 9 Purple Sandpipers and a Blackcap were still at the Bill, a Firecrest was again at Pennsylvania Castle and Portland Harbour hosted a more of the same selection of divers, grebes and seaduck.

30th December

For no obvious reason given that the weather's quietened right down the final few days of the year are coming up with a few new arrivals, with a Blackcap in the Obs garden, a passing Pomarine Skua off the Bill and a Sandwich Tern in Portland Harbour today's offerings. Routine fare putting in appearances included 8 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and 3 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle. Also of local interest, in the early hours Tawny Owls were heard calling for the first time in ages at Wakeham.

Such has been the utter dearth of birds in the Obs garden just lately that we'd got out of the habit of skewering a few apples on the trees. The completely out of the blue appearance of today's Blackcap - the first one at the Obs for over a month - necessitated a quick dash to the store of apples and within 10 minutes of a few being put out the bird had found them and was feasting! © Martin Cade:

29th December

Today's only 'new' news came from the Bill where a passing Long-tailed Duck was the highlight; 6 Red-throated Divers, 4 Brent Geese and a Great Skua also passed by and at least 50 Common Scoter were still offshore. The Grey Heron was again wandering around the south of the island, 400 Mediterranean Gulls were at Ferrybridge and the usual selection of divers and seaduck were in Portland Harbour.

Local social media has been featuring lots of photographs of this Grey Heron that's been visiting garden ponds all over the centre and south of the island in recent weeks; this evening it was settled on a roof at the Coastguard Cottages © Martin Cade:

28th December

Nice mild, quiet conditions but not too much to report: 4 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill where c50 Common Scoter were still lingering, 2 Firecrests in the Obs garden, another Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle and several Great Northern Divers and 2 Eider still in Portland Harbour.

A small flurry of immigrant moths included 3 Rusty-dot Pearls trapped at the Obs and a White-speck trapped at the Grove.

27th December

Not a lot to be seen today through the murkiness of persistent drizzly mist. Twelve Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill where 13 Purple Sandpipers were on the shore; a Siberian Chiffchaff was again at Blacknor.

26th December

Back to wet and windy today. The only reports were of 3 Firecrests and a Blackcap at Pennsylvania Castle, 3 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and 200 Dunlin, 140 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a Pale-bellied Brent at Ferrybridge.

25th December

Lovely balmy and millpond calm conditions were perfect for even the briefest of forays into the field in between the inevitable other commitments. Nothing new cropped up but regulars on show included 11 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill, a Chiffchaff at Southwell, 2 more Chiffchaffs, the eastern Lesser Whitethroat and a Firecrest at Wakeham/Pennsylvania Castle, 190 Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge and 8 Great Northern Divers, 3 Eider and 2 Black-throated Divers in Portland Harbour

If only every midwinter day was as pleasant as today...and what a pleasure to see Portland Harbour almost entirely bereft of watersport activities © Martin Cade:

23rd December

In pretty decent conditions there were a couple of additions to the run of the mill assortment of recent days: a Great Skua through off the Bill was the first skua of any sort for six weeks, whilst 4 Wigeon and 3 Mute Swans at Ferrybridge weren't really expected on a mild day. Among the regulars, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest were at Pennsylvania Castle.

This morning's Wigeon at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders...

...and a Red Admiral on the wing again at Pennsylvania Castle © Martin Adlam Port and Wey:

22nd December

A bright and breezy day saw a selection of the regulars putting in appearances: 55 Common Scoter settled and 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, 11 Purple Sandpipers on the shore at the Bill, a Grey Heron at Southwell, the eastern Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham and a Firecrest nearby at  Pennsylvania Castle, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Eider, a Black-throated Diver and a Black-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour and 101 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and 7 Pale-bellied Brents at Ferrybridge.

There are two apparent family groups of brents with mixed parentage visiting Ferrybridge this winter - it looks like the youngsters of this pair would easily be passed of as 'pure' Pale-bellied Brents if it weren't for one of the parents being a Dark-bellied bird © Pete Saunders:

21st December

Still very little to report from around the island: 80 Common Scoter settled off the Bill with a Red-throated Diver passing by and 4 Purple Sandpipers on the shore there, a Blackcap at Wakeham and another Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest at Pennsylvania Castle.

20th December

A day of largely fair conditions but rather little to report: 3 more Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Blackcap along with several Chiffchaffs and Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle, 115 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a Pale-bellied Brent at Ferrybridge and several Great Northern Divers and 2 Eider in Portland Harbour.

Showy divers have been a nice feature of the Portland Harbour birding this winter - these 2 Great Northerns were at Osprey Quay this morning © Pete Saunders:

19th December

A reminder that there's an InFocus field day at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 21st December.

A day with ever changing conditions through which the only constant was a buffeting southerly wind. The middle and end of the day were wash-outs but under grey skies through much of the morning and sunshine for a period during the afternoon the sea was always worth attention, with 50 or more Common Scoter still settled offshore and 9 Red-throated Divers, 6 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 6 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Velvet Scoter and a Great Northern Diver passing by. Land sightings were restricted to 2 Firecrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Church Ope Cove/Pennsylvania Castle.

18th December

It didn't take long for the weather to revert to what's become the norm, with today seeing the return of first the wind and later the rain. The day's only reports were of 5 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, 10 Long-tailed Tits making a rare mid-winter foray to the Obs garden and ones and twos of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Eider in Portland Harbour.

17th December

Quiet conditions for the second successive day were both a novelty and very welcome after so many weeks of turbulence. The millpond waters of Portland Harbour invited scrutiny and returned double figure totals of Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe along with the Black Guillemot and 2 each of Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Eider; noticeably sparse were Red-breasted Mergansers - do they all disappear up the Fleet to escape from the water sports activities these days? A Sanderling on the harbour shore was a decent mid-winter bird and 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were again at Ferrybridge. Three Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver passed by off the Bill where 5 Purple Sandpipers were on the shore and a Great Spotted Woodpecker showed up at the Obs; elsewhere there were 2 Firecrests, a Blackcap and the eastern Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham/Pennsylvania Castle, singles of Siberian Chiffchaff and Chiffchaff at Blacknor and Chiffchaff at Portland Hospital.

The Black Guillemot was way too far away for anything other than an attempt at phone-scoping © Martin Cade:

16th December

The nicest, most birdable conditions for a while were a treat today as Portland steered clear of a rain front that lingered in the Channel all day. The calm conditions allowed for decent scrutiny of Portland Harbour where 10 Black-necked Grebes, 6 Great Northern Divers, 2 each of Black-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe, and singles of Eider and Common Scoter were on show; further divers included 3 Red-throated and a Great Northern through off the Bill. Elsewhere, the eastern Lesser Whitethroat showed again at Wakeham with 2 Firecrests and a Chiffchaff nearby at Pennsylvania Castle, a Black Redstart was at Fortuneswell and a Snipe at the Bill.

The good views of divers have been a treat on the few occasions it's been calm so far this winter - these Black-throated Divers were off Hamm Beach this morning © Pete Saunders:

15th December

This weekend has seen signs of the customary mid-winter build up in auk numbers, with sample counts this morning suggesting totals of 8-9000/hour - seemingly predominantly Razorbills - passing the Bill; at least 85 Common Scoter were still offshore there whilst a lone Fieldfare showed up in Top Fields. Singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff and Firecrest were still about at Pennsylvania Castle and the Velvet Scoter and a Black-throated Diver were still in Portland Harbour.

14th December

Cursory coverage and few reports today: a lone Red-throated Diver passed by off the Bill and 3 Firecrests, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Chiffchaff were at Church Ope Cove/Wakeham.

13th December

Very little to report today: the Bill Common Scoter flock increased to at least 94, the eastern Lesser Whitethroat was still at Wakeham and a Firecrest was still at Pennsylvania Castle.

A Red Admiral was still on the wing at Church Ope Cove.

12th December

Just token coverage today during the odd spells when it wasn't raining: 50 Common Scoter still off the Bill, an Eider still in Portland Harbour and 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

11th December

The unrelenting wind is beginning to become a real bore and, to boot, there were still plenty of squally showers to dodge again today. A Velvet Scoter in Portland Harbour was the day's only obvious new arrival (...assuming it was different to the bird that's been lurking just up the Fleet for a few weeks); 2 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Eider were also still there, 10 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Great Northern Diver were the pick of the bunch at Ferrybridge, 4 Firecrests were still at Pennsylvania Castle, at least 50 Common Scoter were still settled off the Bill and 3 Red-throated Divers passed by there.

The miscellany at Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge today included Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver and a few Pale-bellied Brents amongst the brent flock © Pete Saunders:

10th December

A shocker of a day weather-wise and bird-wise. The only reports were of 54 Common Scoter still off the Bill, 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and few routine waders at Ferrybridge and 2 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour.

9th December

Two Pintail and 2 Brent Geese through off the Bill were a little unexpected in the aftermath of a night of pretty wild winds but the rest of the day's action was relatively routine: at least 50 Common Scoter still settled off the Bill with a single Red-throated Diver through there, the eastern Lesser Whitethroat still at Wakeham, 3 Firecrests still at Pennsylvania Castle, 2 Black-throated Divers and an Eider in Portland Harbour and 5 Greenfinches, 2 Shelduck and a Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge.

Three Red Admirals were on the wing at Church Ope Cove.

8th December

Today's increasingly strong wind wasn't at all conducive to rewarding coverage and the only reports were of the Eastern Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Firecrests still at Wakeham, an Eider still in Portland Harbour and 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

7th December

With fair-ish conditions on a weekend day coverage got a boost today. The Black Guillemot showed up again Portland Harbour where 2 Wigeon and singles of Black-throated Diver and Eider were also present. The wintering Common Scoter flock off the Bill totalled 48 with a lone Red-throated Diver also through there, whilst passerine variety around and about included 2 Firecrests at Avalanche Road, the Eastern Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham, 4 Redwings at Easton Fire Station and a Black Redstart at Blacknor.

6th December

Portland Harbour again provided most of the news with 8 Black-necked Grebes, 2 each of Black-throated and Great Northern Diver, an Eider and the Black Guillemot seen during the morning. Ten Purple Sandpipers were still at the Bill and a Chiffchaff was at Portland Marina.

2nd December

Apologies for the lack of news but we're going to be off the air for a few days whilst finishing off swanning around in Africa - normal service should resume on Friday.

Postscript: many thanks to Paul Swann for sending us through some great photos of the Portland Harbour Black Guillemot from this afternoon - initially it was off Billy Winters but later drifted right under the Smallmouth road bridge © Paul Swann:

1st December

The first day in December was beautiful, clear and bright. An Avocet at Ferrybridge was a nice late addition to the year list but otherwise the day's totals remained much the same as in previous days.

This morning's Avocet at Ferrybridge Cliff Smith

30th November

The last day of the month saw grey skies and strong winds, confining all but the bravest to the warmth of the indoors. The days tallies from the Bill amounted to very little but the harbour and Ferrybridge saw a trio of divers (two Great Northerns and a Black-throated).

An homage to the Divers of the north end of the island © Debby Saunders: 

29th November

Breezier than anticipated and far cooler than recent days, the day produced no new passerine migrants but the sea was far livelier with 8 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and two Velvet Scoters past the Bill. However, it was the Harbour that really came to life with the second Black-throated Diver putting in a return appearance along with two Eiders, a Black Guillemot and late news of a fly-by Long-tailed Duck.

Seeing double... the divers were showing well off Portland Castle © Pete Saunders:

28th November

Calm, quiet and peaceful the day saw little in the way of new arrivals on the land (with the exception of a small influx of just under 30 Long-tailed Tits in the 8 Kings/ Water-works Quarry), but a passage of small gulls at sea early on provided some much needed variety. At the north end of the island a Black-throated Diver near Osprey Quay was the first since the 23rd. 

The not-too-distant Black-throated Diver near Portland Castle © Pete Saunders:

The Eiders in the harbour have been showing well, displaying how difficult taking off must be when permanently dressed in a duvet © Debby Saunders (above), © Pete Saunders (below):

27th November

Sporadic but heavy showers made birding rather difficult. Those that managed to make the dash between bursts of rain saw flurries of birds including flocks of Long-tailed Tits, the remaining Yellow-browed Warbler and a handful of crests. Early morning saw the departure of the usual winter thrushes but the highlight was a Woodcock, rescued from the pavements of Weymouth the previous night, that was released in the garden. Ferrybridge remained unchanged with the Great Northern Diver still on show with the, now expected, cohort of waders and geese.

Often seen pelting away from between your feet, its always a pleasure to see Woodcocks up close with their massive eyes and brilliant camouflage © Erin Taylor:

The showy Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge continued to display to its audience © Pete Saunders:

26th November

A blustery and showery day left little desire to go out birding as the days species count reflects. A dismal sea-watch off the Bill in the morning produced no more than the over-wintering flock of Common Scoter. Ferrybridge was a little livelier with a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits, the lingering Knot and Redshank, the slightly lost Great Northern Diver and the rather unusual family of mixed Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

The mixed family of Pale and Dark-bellied Brent geese have not been seen since the 9th November  ©Pete Saunders:

25th November

A largely quiet day was excellent for doing some much needed paper work, but pretty poor on the birding front. A troop of seven Long-tailed Tits ventured south into the obs garden for a brief morning visit and a Woodcock was flushed from the hut fields, but otherwise birds recorded were our wintering residents. The sea provided a drop of excitement with a passing male Eider but was otherwise woefully under-watched. The rest of the island remained mostly unchanged with the exception of a Great Northern Diver entering into the Ferrybridge side of the fleet along with the long-staying Knot and two Bar-tailed Godwits.

The first Great Northern Diver of the autumn to cross through into the Fleet © Debby Saunders:

Even on the quietest days there is always something of interest at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

24th November

A cloudy but perfectly calm day meant the nets could be opened for the first time in 5 days. The drop in wind meant the bands of threatening rain were held firmly over the continent and a shower-free morning brought a small incoming of Firecrests, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. Elsewhere on the island there was little evidence of any new migrants appearing with most of the usual suspects putting in an appearance. However, a Merlin chasing the Dunlin at Ferrybridge was a nice addition to the day tallies as well as a second Black-necked Grebe in the harbour and a Water Rail at Culverwell. 

A total of four Firecrests were in the garden including an individual ringed here on the 26th September that hasn't been recorded since that date. Where has this elusive bird been? ©  Erin Taylor:

The Merlin had a large selection of prey choice today with the wader tallies of Dunlin and Ringed Plover reaching 97 and 63 respectively ©  Pete Saunders: 

A nice little selection of winter specialties were recorded including Redwings, Song Thrushes and Bramblings ©  Debby Saunders:

23rd November

The bleak, washed-out morning slowly drifted into a warm and clear afternoon prompting the appearance of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell, a late Swallow at Reap lane, three Firecrests in the obs garden and a handful of winter thrushes including a Mistle Thrush over the Crown Fields. Ferrybridge was busy once more with highlights including two Goosanders, two Bar-tailed Godwits and a Kingfisher. The harbour saw a double figure count of Black-necked Grebes as well as three Great Northern Divers, one Black-throated Diver one Red-throated Diver and two Eiders.

The Purple Sandpipers around the Pulpit Rock must be some of our hardiest winter visitors seeming unperturbed by the encroaching waves © Erin Taylor:

The Crown Field setup is allowing a flock of Chaffinches and Linnets to overwinter ©Erin Taylor: 

22nd November

Bitter and cold the day brought little news of new migrants and the returning Lesser Whitethroat and two Bramblings at Penn Castle were the only report-worthy sightings.

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 23rd November. 

A selection of yesterdays Ferrybridge highlights, many of whom lingered on today ©Debby Saunders:

21st November

A notably dark and frankly miserable day left few with the enthusiasm to scour the wind blasted (and later on drenched) fields and instead turned their attentions to the more sheltered areas of the island. The mornings seawatch produced little of note save for a Slavonian Grebe loitering around offshore in the proximity of the presumably over-wintering flock of Common Scoter. Elsewhere on the island the lingering Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow-browed Warbler remained at the Penn but there was no sign of the Pallas's Warbler at the cuttings. Ferrybridge had more activity than of late with 222 Dark-bellied Brents, 7 Pale-bellied, 4 Curlews and singles of Goosander and Redshank; whilst the lone Eider remained in the harbour.

20th November

A brisk south-easterly that gathered over night meant much of the south end of the island was blasted into a bird-free zone and highlights were limited to four Red-throated Divers, one Great Northern Diver and the return of the Culverwell Moorhen. Thankfully the rest of the island did not suffer the same fate and a Pallas's Warbler was found at the railway cuttings, the same location as the individual found 1 year and 10 days ago. The Northern end of the island was quieter than recent days with singles of Goosander, Redshank and Eider at the Harbour and Ferrybridge combined.

Todays Pallas's Warbler at the cuttings was the fifth individual to be found in this location since the bird observatory began recording ©Martin Adlam:

The Eider was performing just offshore next to Billy Winters ©Pete Saunders:

19th November

With the wind gathering strength gradually through the day, it was down to the morning to produce a little excitement. A small arrival of Goldcrests, Firecrests and Chiffchaffs in the obs garden gave the hope that something might arrive with them. This was not to be, however, and we had to settle for highlights of the lingering Lesser Whitethroat, an adult Yellow-legged Gull at the Bill and a couple of Black Redstarts. Elsewhere on the island singles of Slavonian Grebe and Great Northern Diver were reported from the harbour.

18th November

An unexpectedly glorious day saw a small influx of Blackbirds and a handful of other thrushes early doors. Birds of note at the Bill included a Water Rail at Culverwell (we've been surprisingly low on Water Rail numbers this autumn so this was a welcome addition to the day list) and a Jacksnipe at Wallsend. The Lesser Whitethroat continued to intrigue at Penn Castle with much speculation over its origins, the Yellow-browed Warbler also remained in the area. Once again the Harbour and Ferrybridge were the place to be for variety with singles of Slavonian Grebe and Eider in the Harbour and Goosander at Ferrybridge amongst the now regular Black-necked Grebes, Great Northern Divers and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Firecrests have maintained decent numbers across the island despite the recent dip in temperatures ©Duncan Walbridge:

17th November

A beautiful, calm and clear day (one of the last for a while if the forecast is correct) brought a nice selection of wintering passerines as well as the usual waders. Finches put in a good show with just short of 100 Chaffinches being joined by seven Bramblings, two Siskins and 11 Greenfinches. The garden saw another flock of Long-tailed Tits whilst the Bill was harbouring the same flock of 10+ Purple Sandpipers, five Turnstones and a Black Redstart. Church Ope Cove was once again the place to be, the eastern looking Lesser Whitethroat made a reappearance along with the ling staying Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest flock.

One of the lingering Goosanders at Ferrybridge ©Pete Saunders:

16th November

A comparatively quiet day after yesterdays wintry flurry, the highlights at the southern end of the island were confined to a small selection of winter thrushes plus a good count of the over-wintering waders including 12 Purple Sandpipers and five Turnstones. The North end of the island was far more productive with some excellent early winter counts. The combined tallies from the Harbour and Ferrybridge included a singles of Black-throated Diver and Knot, two Great Northern Divers, four each of Great Crested Grebe and Common Scoter, eight Black-necked Grebes and 31 Red-breasted Mergansers. Elsewhere on the island the lingering Yellow-browed Warbler remained at Penn Castle.

15th November

With the remnants of yesterday's storm clouds leaving our shores a small but very welcome influx of late migrants showed their faces. The annual project of making the Obs garden look like a bizarre homage to apples paid off once again with at least 7 newly arrived Blackcaps queuing up to partake of the offerings. Blackbirds were also conspicuous with more than 50 through in the vicinity of the Obs alone, whilst other totals from the Bill included 700 inbound Starlings, 150 Chaffinches, 40 Redwings, 7 each of Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest, 6 each of Fieldfare and Brambling, 2 Lapwings and a Firecrest; the long, long staying Wryneck also put in another appearance. Offshore, a passing Red-necked Grebe was a good highlight at the Bill where the Common Scoter flock increased to at least 67. 

There was a nice little influx of presumably incoming Blackcaps today © Martin Cade:

14th November

Depending on how you look at things Portland was favoured or blighted today: it was a lovely still and for the most part bright day that allowed for plenty of coverage but a look at the rainfall radar revealed that the island was within a sliver of fair weather that was surrounded by grim conditions through which it appeared nothing much was moving. The Yellow-browed Warbler remained at Pennsylvania Castle to provide a some quality but new arrivals were conspicuously few and amounted at the Bill to no more than a handful of thrushes and 2 each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest; amongst the stayers a scatter of Black Redstarts included 2 at both the Bill and Osprey Quay, whilst Firecrests included 4 at Pennsylvania Castle. The flock of 50 or so Common Scoter remained off the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers passed by there.

13th November

Although there ought to be a fair bit of late passage to get amongst today proved to less rewarding than anticipated, with a few hours of quiet weather during the morning producing a minor flurry of finches but little else. A Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle was most likely a new arrival but grounded migrants were otherwise few and far between; the majority of movement at the Bill was overhead with 135 Chaffinches, 100 Goldfinches, 14 Greenfinches and 2 Bramblings through after dawn, whilst elsewhere 6 Fieldfares passed through at Hamm Beach. Winter fare included a good total of 15 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill, 58 Common Scoter still settled offshore there, a Knot still at Ferrybridge and 5 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Goosanders, a Great Northern Diver and an Eider in Portland Harbour.

Fieldfare and Great Northern Diver overhead at Hamm Beach © Pete Saunders: