23rd May

Today was rescued from total failure by a Serin first heard calling then seen within the Obs Garden and Hut Fields. A Cuckoo in Culverwell and a pair of Corn Buntings at the Bill were an excellent supporting cast, but common migrants were extremely thin on the ground with just two each of Spotted Flycatchers and Reed Warblers and singles of Redshank and Yellow Wagtail. The sea was also quiet with little more than a Great Northern Diver and 62 Common Scoter.

Rather conveniently the night recording kit was still switched on when the Serin made a quick early morning dash over  the Obs patio: 



The Cuckoo was good value since it was gorging voraciously on a what must have seemed to it like conveyor belts of Lackey caterpillars moving along the tree branches at Culverwell - wherever it chose to perch there was a constant stream of food on tap that it gladly made the most of © Martin Cade:



22nd May

A stunningly clear day from start to finish did little for the birding, but was greatly appreciated by the sun-worshippers of the south coast. The highlight of a largely predictable day was another singing Golden Oriole at Culverwell, as is the trend this year it was hugely elusive showing for brief glimpses before vanishing back amongst the Sycamore leaves to whistle its melody once more. Other migrants were decidedly thin on the ground with little more than a handful of Spotted Flycatchers, Reed Warblers and Chiffchaffs and singles of Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler and Yellow Wagtail. The sea too was quiet with just a measly passage of Common Scoters to keep us occupied.



Perhaps not the best day for birding was an excellent day for butterflies with this Adonis Blue, found away from the usual haunts, on the Slopes © Erin Taylor:


21st May

Not before time it was beginning to feel really quite warm today in unbroken sunshine and with just a waft of a northerly breeze. The birds too had a flavour of warmer climes about them, with a rash of Golden Oriole sightings or hearings at various points between the Bill and Easton; many of the reports likely related to just one very mobile individual but 2 were considered to be present at Avalanche Road at one point. Two Nightjars (different individuals) were at the Bill, where Spotted Flycatcher again topped a double-figure total and ones and twos of a few other late common migrants continued to feature on the day-list; Spotted Flycatcher was also by far the most conspicuous migrant elsewhere, with another 10 at Avalanche Road alone, whilst one or more Turtle Doves were still at Southwell. Seawatching at the Bill returned just 45 Common Scoter, whilst waders at Ferrybridge included 48 Dunlin, 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 each of Sanderling and Whimbrel, and a lone Grey Plover.

As well as being rather drowned out by the customary Bill dawn cacophony, this morning's Golden Oriole wasn't such a strident singer as yesterday's bird although it was calling quite frequently: 

20th May

It would've taken something extraordinary for someone to have guessed the combination of birds sighted today. A couple of anticipated scarcities included a Golden Oriole singing in Southwell and a fly-over Bee-eater at the Windmills and the Bill.  Less expected - but actually more gripping for Portland! - were 2 passing Egyptian Geese off East Cliffs; combine this with the first Greenshank of the year, a fly-over Golden Plover and the lingering Turtle Dove and you've got a truly varied selection of oddities. Common migrants were present but in lower numbers than previous days with Spotted Flycatchers only just breaching double figures. Singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill salvaged some interest from on otherwise pretty quiet sea.

It's looking like most of the local breeding Swallows are back on station but tardy migrants - along with a few Swifts and House Martins - continue to trickle in off the sea © Nick Hopper:


Although perfectly audible the Golden Oriole was initially tucked away out of view behind the houses in Southwell



eventually though it did give itself up in typically fleeting circumstances as it dashed between Avalanche Road and Thumb Lane © Nick Hopper:

19th May

A mildly frustrating day for most with the quality necessitating being in the right spot at the right moment to score - and in both cases just lone observers struck lucky: a Bluethroat that was watched flying in off the sea over East Cliffs at the Bill promptly vanished after making landfall, whilst a Purple Heron over Barleycrates Lane carried on quickly northwards. The commoner migrant miscellany included another double figure total of Spotted Flycatchers, 7 Reed Warblers and low single figures of Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warbler; a Ringed Plover also joined the 2 lingering Grey Plovers on the East Cliffs ledges. The sea was quiet, with 2 more passing Pomarine Skuas the chief reward in an unhelpful offshore breeze.


18th May

Another much appreciated damp, grey day saw a small influx of common migrants to our shores. Once again Spotted Flycatchers and Reed Warblers provided the bulk of the migrants with both reaching well into double figures with 11 Spotted Flycatchers trapped in the garden and 28 elsewhere. A Redstart trapped at the obs was the first recorded since the 12th and was accompanied by a selection of other common migrants including three each of Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, and Whinchat. The Southwell Turtle Dove continues to loiter, associating with the Stock Doves frequenting the seed piles in various gardens. The wader fest occurring on the ledges continued along the same theme with just two Grey Plovers, a Common Sandpiper and a Dunlin. The sea had a touch more variety than in previous days with three Skua species present including two Pomarines, as well as four Shelducks and the lone Puffin.

Doing what it says on the tin... a Garden Warbler in the obs garden ©Martin Cade:


17th May

Finally the plague of beautiful blue skies ended today with the first bit of real cloud cover for some time and, before the end of the afternoon, the first real rainfall for a while. With this came a small flurry of interesting migrants including the first Wryneck of the year flushed from the path in Coombefield Quarry and a singing Cuckoo at the Grove. Other commoner migrants were present in good numbers with Reed Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers reaching double figures; 2 each of Yellow Wagtail and Whinchat were recorded whilst Tree Pipit, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler were only present as singles. The ledges below the East Cliffs continued to be of interest producing 3 Grey Plovers, 2 Whimbrel and a Dunlin. The sea held a bit of interest with a pair of Velvet Scoter and a Pomarine Skua being the pick of the bunch.

 Whimbrel and Whinchat at the Bill © Nick Hopper...




...and a Puffin - seemingly the only one in attendance at the auk colony this year - settled offshore © Ted Pressey:



16th May

A largely uneventful day that was punctuated by a couple of moments of considerable excitement, not least when a Bee-eater popped up first in Top Fields and then a few minutes later at Reap Lane; the sea was also well worth a look , particularly during the evening when Chesil dipped in on a share of what will likely turn out to be this spring's 'Pom Day'. Migrant-wise, the winding down of spring continued with ones and twos of a few tardy regulars on the ground and another pulse of Swifts and hirundines overhead; 3 Grey Plovers, 2 Sanderling and a Blue-headed Wagtail were the best on offer at the Bill, whilst Grey Plovers, Knots and Sanderlings featured in varying numbers at Ferrybridge/Chesil. Seawatching in the morning produced 2 Pomarine Skuas and a Velvet Scoter off the Bill along with a varied selection of other seasonable fare there and off Chesil, whilst the evening brought a further flurry of Pomarine Skuas: 7 passed through during a short watch from Chesil, with another 13 seen from a viewpoint just outside the recording area also likely to have passed by there.

The Blue-headed Wagtail in Top Fields  © Dave Smith:


The seven Poms off Chesil during the evening ascended a good few hundred metres (way above the height of the top of the island) before crossing the beach/Osprey Quay and heading away to the east over Portland Harbour © Martin Cade:


15th May

As the easterly winds continued to maintain the cloud-free blue skies birds began to stream up the West Cliffs leaving little in their wake. One bird that did decide to linger rather than shoot straight up the island was a Nightjar that was flushed from the fields around the Higher Light. This highlight was closely followed by the sheer number of Swifts streaming over the island with c.120/hour North for most of the morning. Waders continued to be a prominent feature both on sea-watch and on the land with three Grey Plovers now on the ledges below the East Cliffs as well as a pair past Chesil, Ferrybridge was also harbouring a lone Grey Plover, 17 Sanderling and a Knot. The Bill morning sea-watch saw singles of Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua and Sanderling whilst Manx Shearwaters provided the bulk of the passage.

Is there a more tricky bird to photograph well in daylight than a Nightjar? Despite watching today's bird pitch in under some decking at the Higher Light - and being well placed to see it when it was soon disturbed from there - we still weren't able to do any better than these token record efforts as it jinked away © Martin Cade:

14th May

With a blasting easterly and crystal-clear skies the order of the day a fall of tardy migrants was never on the cards but there was still plenty of movement afoot. Waders featured most strongly, with post-dawn and pre-dusk watches at Chesil coming up with 143 Sanderling, 19 Grey Plovers, 10 Knot, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 9 Turnstone, 6 Whimbrel and 6 Dunlin - all of which headed away east over Portland Harbour; 6 more Whimbrel and 3 more Grey Plover were at the Bill, whilst at least 9 Sanderling were amongst the handful of birds that dropped in at Ferrybridge. Visible passage elsewhere included a pretty steady throughput of hirundines and Swifts along West Cliffs. Grounded migrants were few and far between but did include an ater Coal Tit that popped up briefly during the afternoon at the Bill.

The majority of the day's waders were active migrants, with only a few like this Sanderling at Ferrybridge actually dropping in © Martin Cade:


This flock of mixed waders high overhead were rather typical of the Chesil action under clear skies at this time of year: high enough to be only just resolvable with the naked eye, even binoculars don't get you much beyond the realisation that there's a mixture of species...


...'scope views - or a telephoto lens in this case - are necessary to get much further; we made it 7 Grey Plover, 6 Knot, 5 Barwits and 2 Whimbrel (the views were a bit better in the 'scope!) © Martin Cade:



Yesterday's Nightingale that we didn't get round to last evening:



And also rather belatedly, a couple of recordings from Nick Hopper's overnighter on 10th/11th May:



13th May

Although todays clear blue skies and fresh winds were not conducive to large numbers of birds, the variety of species at this time of year is often exciting. The highlight of the day came from a singing Nightingale along the admiralty hedge, a stunning song that's difficult to hear without a smile. The backing cast on the land consisted of a handful of commoner migrants such as Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, Yellow Wagtails and a Grey Plover entering summer plumage along the East Cliffs. The sea saw a greater variety particularly on the wader front with the evening sea-watch from Chesil producing 24 Sanderling, 42 Knot, 45 Whimbrel, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Grey Plover. The morning sea-watch was full of its own highlights including 28 Barnacle Geese and a Pomarine Skua

The East Cliffs Grey Plover was starting to look really smart © Geoff Orton:


The main flock of Knot past Chesil were in full summer regalia © Joe Stockwell:


12th May

A day of moderates; moderate cloud, moderate wind, moderate success and moderate failure. The onset of a North-easterly on Portland at this stage of the spring meant a team effort to cover the key areas before the skies cleared. This early morning romp produced both the biggest excitement and disappointment of the morning with a bird passing overhead calling in a most unusual way (somewhat akin to a wheezy panting dog), too small and pointed winged to be a Woodcock and too large and pot-bellied to be a Common Snipe the bird was an excellent candidate for Great Snipe. However, with none of the key plumage characteristics noted with the bird flying directly into the sun it is likely that the record cannot be taken further. 

Passage up the West Cliffs produced some much happier conclusions with a good movement of Swifts amassing to well over 150 for the day, large numbers of Swallows and House Martins being followed by a pair of Hobbys and three Yellow Wagtails consisting of a pair of flavissima and one Blue-headed Wagtail. Elsewhere, Whinchats reached double figures for the first time in over a week, Spotted Flycatchers continued to move in reasonable numbers accompanied by singles of Pied Flycatcher and Redstart. The sea produced little in the way of interest with just a Dunlin, three Great Northern Divers and a pair of Arctic Skuas

The night of 10th/11th May saw Nick Hopper joining us once again recording two Spotted Flycatchers, two flocks of Common Terns (plus a presumed singleton), two Turnstones, a Whimbrel and four flocks of Dunlin

The lone Pied Flycatcher in Southwell © Nick Santiford:



The one that got away...?© Erin Taylor:


11th May

A day to forget in a hurry with, passing Swifts and hirundines aside, none of the routine common migrants making even close to a double-figure total at the Bill. Other than a hearsay report of a Serin at the QinetiQ compound, a Hobby arriving in off the sea and singles of Great Northern Diver and Arctic Skua through offshore were the only scarcer migrant making the day list at the Bill.

10th May

As Portland falls go today was quite an oddity, with a hatful of birds around the middle and north of the island but precious little at the Bill. With hindsight it seemed as though the lack of a brisk headwind (...it was more or less millpond calm at dawn) saw to it incoming migrants were too high to be dropped straight away as they arrived over the Bill but many then took the option of touching down briefly around the top of the island. Spotted Flycatchers made up the bulk of the numbers, with more than 100 scattered between Southwell and Portland Castle, but there were plenty of Willow Warblers, Sylvias and Acrocephalus amongst them and 2 ater Coal Tits at Portland Castle were a nice bonus. The Bill fared relatively poorly for numbers but did steal a little bit of the limelight late in the afternoon when a Honey Buzzard trundled through overhead. Despite what at times looked to be promising seawatch conditions - a waft of a southerly sprung up as the day went on - 2 passing Great Northern Divers were the only migrants worth a mention off the Bill.

The icing on the cake today was the Honey Buzzard that we're guessing we'll find when we check is one of the earliest records for the island © Martin Cade:



But as a spectacle the sheer number of migrants passing through the north of the island soon after dawn took some beating; the ater Coal Tit at Portland Castle was the only oddity uncovered...


...but Spotted Flycatchers featured in good quanity...


...and there were plenty of other typical late arrivals like Whitethroats © Joe Stockwell:

9th May

Another measly migrant tally today with new arrivals few and far between. A Cuckoo singing at East Weare and the long-staying Turtle Dove at Southwell provided a modicum of quality. Other than passing Swallows that weren't exactly numerous, 10 Turnstones that dropped in at the Bill tip constituted the only double-figure migrant total; Spotted Flycatcher nearly made a double-figure total over the island as a whole but most other species were represented by just singletons. The sea too was quiet with little more than 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Red-throated Divers by way of conventional passage off the Bill; a trickle of Manx Shearwaters and a noticeable inbound movement of more than 100 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also worth a mention from there.

We were joined on the night of 6th/7th May by Nick Hopper whose nocturnal recordings included a rare event in the form of a passing Black Tern; also logged a Moorhen, a Sandwich Tern, a Turnstone, two flocks of Whimbrels, 12 flocks of Dunlin, three flocks of Ringed Plovers and 2 Common Sandpipers

Nick tells us that as far as he's aware the Black Tern is the first sound-recorded at night in the UK:



A clear night wouldn't be complete without a Moorhen and one duly obliged; Moorhens have been really frequent at night this spring which has made us wonder if this mightn't be related to the long-term residence of one at Culverwell - could some of the loggings refer to this bird making some sort of nocturnal 'display' flights attempting to attract a mate?:

8th May

With the rain setting in before dusk the previous evening it didn't look too hopeful for land-based migration this morning - this assessment turned out to be quite correct with one of the quietest days on the land so far this spring. The day's saving grace was the sea with a strong southeasterly blow bringing in a few of the expected treats: Chesil saw the cream of the crop that included 15 Arctic Skuas, at least 3 Pomarine Skuas and 2 Great Skuas; watches from the Bill added a few extras to the list including at least 3 more Great Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Shoveler. The handful of new grounded migrants included single Cuckoos at Church Ope Cove and Suckthumb, whilst the lingering Turtle Dove was still about at Southwell.

The Turtle Dove continued its residency at Southwell and today ventured into another birder's garden...© Nick Stantiford


...whilst in its more usual haunt a few gardens away it's beginning to get really quite bolshie © Debby Saunders

7th May

Although today had its moments it certainly fell well short of expectations, with scarcely a hint of a flurry of new arrivals on the land and far less out to sea than had been anticipated. A Golden Oriole that evaded most would-be observers in the Thumb Lane area proved to be by far the pick of the grounded migrants. Single Turtle Doves at Southwell and Broadcroft were of further interest but few of the most routine commoner species even registering a double-figure total at the Bill; it was busier overhead where Swallows trickled through all day and a tardy Short-eared Owl arrived in off the sea over Chesil. In a light southeasterly there were particularly high hopes for the sea but this too failed on the numbers front: the Bill totals included 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 each of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Black Tern, and singles of Teal, Pomarine Skua and Little Tern, whilst Chesil chipped in with 4 more Pomarine Skuas and an Arctic Skua.

Always the chief prize of a May seawatch © Ian Lewington www.ian-lewington.co.uk
  

6th May

With more clear blue skies and even less breeze than yesterday it was no surprise that numbers took a dip today. However, it was not all doom and gloom with the Hooded Crow making a return - albeit brief - visit to the Bill; a Melodious Warbler discovered in song at the Admiralty Hedge would have been an even more exciting highlight for most but it chose to shut up and go to ground the moment the first of the summoned admirers rolled up. Migrant-wise, there were few surprises amongst the smattering of late season arrivals, with 4 Pied Flycatchers scattered around the centre and north of the island the best of the passerines on offer; a welcome flurry of waders at Ferrybridge included 98 Dunlin, 11 Whimbrel (plus another 34 fly-throughs), 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Sanderling and 2 Knot. A little passage at sea included 164 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.

With the exception of Bar-tailed Godwits, common waders have been woefully under-represented just lately - hopefully today's little surge in numbers is a sign of things to come; these Whimbrel were a couple of the 45 logged at Ferrybridge today © Debby Saunders


We've still got a bit of catching up to do from the last few days: spring migrants don't come a lot better then this male Whinchat at the Bill yesterday © Martin Cade:


And finally, we probably should have ended the day with a late flog round the middle of the island but took the easy option and nipped in to Radipole for a look at the Black-winged Stilt that had dropped in there this morning - hardly the most challenging of scarcities to either see or identify but always a characterfully incongruous sight in this country © Martin Cade:

5th May

As with any day after a fall, today felt slightly disappointing despite the good variety of birds found. The clear blue skies and slack winds meant any stragglers from yesterday had the opportunity to move on rapidly. Highlights included the lingering Turtle Dove at Southwell, 2 Wood Warblers at Thumb Lane and a lone spoon-laden Pomarine Skua through off the Bill. Common migrants were still abundant with 100 Willow Warblers, 75 Whitethroats, 30 Blackcaps, 25 Garden Warblers, 25 Wheatears, 10 each of Whinchat, Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat all within the Obs area. Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and Redstarts were limited to single figures once more with greater numbers away from the Obs. Ferrybridge saw a small increase in variety with singles of Grey Plover, Knot and Sanderling along with the usual fare.

Sylvias continued to move through the island in good quantity with some lucky folk seeing Lesser Whitethroats in their back gardens © Nick Stantiford:


On the subject of gardens, this one - also in Southwell - is amassing one pretty impressive year list... © Pete Saunders:


May the 4th (be with you)

The long-awaited first really decent fall of the spring came with a bang today courtesy of some pre-dawn showers and a stiff and chilly northeasterly breeze; the total of 240 birds trapped at the Obs and Culverwell reflected the wealth of migrants that kept the weekend fieldworkers more than entertained. Willow Warblers made up the bulk of the tally, with 250 at the Bill alone, whilst it was also a good day for Wheatear, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher, each of which exceeded 60 there; Whinchat topped 40 and Sedge Warbler 25, whilst nice supporting totals included 12 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 each of Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher, 3 Turtle Doves and singles of Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler and Brambling.

There were great looks at Whinchats to be had today...


...including several of both sexes in the hand © Martin Cade




A couple of the day's Wood Warblers - trapped at the Obs © Martin Cade and in the field at Southwell © Debby Saunders



Portland seems to have bucked the trend of a national decline in Spotted Flycatcher numbers - for whatever reason we've been treated to some good years for migrants just lately with today's total being really high for so early in the season © Pete Saunders:

3rd May

In terms of migrant numbers the recent lacklustre spell continued and, with the breeze having taken an offshore shift, the sea wasn't able to save the day. Willow Warblers just about reached the 50 mark on the ground at the Bill where passing Swallows amounted to about 400; otherwise the only real interest came in form of a few less frequent migrants that included 9 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 White Wagtails and singles of Hobby, Wood Warbler and Jay at the Bill and the lingering Turtle Dove at Southwell. The sea mustered a short, sharp movement of more than 300 Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill soon after dawn, but no more than 2 Great Skuas there and a single Pomarine Skua over Ferrybridge by way of proper passage.

The Jay trapped at the Obs (it looked to be the same individual that visited the Bill a couple of days ago) was only the fourth ever ringed there and the first since 1993 © Martin Cade:


The Turtle Dove lingered on at Southwell © Debby Saunders:


As a rather simplistic gauge of just how many spring arrivals we haven't seen dropping in on the coast this spring we were interested to hear from John Lucas this morning that his still incomplete census of territorial male Whitethroats at the Bill is already up to 17 birds - just one short of last year's final total of breeding males there; since our Obs and Culverwell spring ringing total of Whitethroats stands at only 25 there must have already been an awful lot of Whitethroats - and no doubt other summer migrants - that didn't have to make landfall on the coast this season © Martin Cade



2nd May

Another slightly average day with a couple of nice highlights including the third Turtle Dove of the year, a Marsh Harrier over Southwell, the return of one of yesterday's Serins to a private garden in Southwell and an Osprey over Ferrybridge. The biggest excitement came from the call of a Black Kite over Coombefield Quarry, however the obvious jesses had us putting the phones and cameras back down to just enjoy a pretty impressive (if not strictly wild) bird. Today also saw the highest total of Spotted Flycatchers of the spring at six individuals, accompanied by a lone Pied Flycatcher at Avalanche Road. Although the passage of Hirundines was not as consistent as pervious days, a flurry around midday also saw the passage of a pair of Hobbys. The morning's sea-watch was reasonably quiet with highlights including two Great Northern Divers, a Great Skua, three Sanderlings and four Shelducks; later there was a report of an exceptionally early Balearic Shearwater.

Depressingly, any occurrence of a Turtle Dove is now a twitchable event at Portland; today's bird dropped in at times at a former hot-spot for the species on the lawn of a private garden in Southwell © Pete Saunders:


Common Sandpiper and Turnstone on East Cliffs this morning © Martin Cade:



We'd have been very happy indeed if our only view/photograph of this morning's Black Kite had been this one...


...but, sadly, it was quickly apparent that the bird was bearing jesses and was thus presumably an escape. Subsequent communications have revealed that the bird was in Ceredigion on 28th April and Glamorgan on 30th April - does anyone know who lost it in the first place?
© Martin Cade: