30th June

On an absolute scorcher of a day it was the invertebrates that stole the show with plenty for the lepidopterists to sink their teeth into. On the birding front even the sea was quiet and it was down to Ferrybridge to boost the species totals with Black-tailed Godwit, two Whimbrels, five Dunlin, 54 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua

On the invertebrate front there was both a second for Portland and a first for Dorset on the island as well as a Large Tortoiseshell at the obs. The second Marbled Clover for the island was in a garden in Southwell with the first record on 30th July 1983 and the first Dusky Peacock for Dorset was trapped in Wakeham. 

The Large Tortoiseshell at the obs... could this be part of the unusual eruption from earlier in the year or a genuine migrant? © Martin Cade:

The Marbled Clover at Southwell is only the second for Portland © Debby Saunders:

It's remarkable how much volunteer effort goes into birding, it must be a truly unique community. The Ferrybridge Little Terns are guarded day and night by stalwart volunteers and the birds themselves are monitored by a very small team of dedicated individuals. Today we were lucky enough to join this team and witness these truly magnificent birds up close. In a colony of around 70 birds, 50 have been colour ringed already with the oldest bird still going strong at 20 years old. Todays captures included a new bird as well as two that have been ringed previously, one of which was at least 10 years old ©Erin Taylor:

29th June

A stunning, clear day with a strong breeze to keep the temperature down to a bearable level made for excellent walking conditions even if there were very few birds to halt the procession at any point. On a more positive note there was some improvement on the sea with both Pomarine and Arctic Skuas, two Balearic Shearwaters, a Curlew and a good passage of 34 Mediterranean Gulls. Ferrybridge was also showing the signs of returning breeders with a further 24 Mediterranean Gulls, a Whimbrel and six Shelduck.

If you've ever wondered what makes the obs garden so attractive to migrants, it becomes abundantly clear when viewed from above © Paul Hopwood:

We're pretty lucky people © Paul Hopwood:

The sunny weather has brought with it a storm of butterflies including an invasion of Painted Lady's and the first hatchling Ringlets © Ken Dolbear:

28th June

Not a lot to enliven the summer doldrums today, with a continuing blasting northeasterly hindering the birding on the land. A few Swifts and Sand Martins were passing through into the wind but the only other reports from the Bill were from the sea, with 7 Little Terns and a Teal of particular note. The Ferrybridge Dunlin tally jumped to 18, with 2 Shelduck and a Whimbrel also there.

Inaction on the bird front has at least been compensated for by a pretty good week for mothing in the prevailing hot weather. Local specials like Portland Ribbon Wave have been regular visitors to some of the moth-traps (our two Grove traps attracted a garden record total of 15 on Tuesday night) © Debby Saunders:

Rare immigrants haven't really been a feature, with this Blair's Mocha at the Obs being about the best on offer...

...but there's been plenty of dispersal afoot, with Grey Arches, Heather Knot-horn Pempelia palumbella and White-barred Knot-horn Elegia similella just a few of a good variety of infrequently-recorded strays making it out the Obs © Martin Cade:

27th June

Whilst one half of the staff manned the fort the assistant warden embarked on a small adventure out onto the breakwaters of Portland Harbour with the Radipole Ringing Group. At the obs proper the sea-watch provided the highlight of a Balearic Shearwater with the additions of six Mediterranean Gulls, 20 Manx Shearwaters and a selection of the usual terns and gulls.

Out on the breakwaters, time was spent sifting through the Sea Beet in search of the Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull chicks that have hatched there. Each gull was fitted with a darvic (colour) ring so keep an eye out for red on white (sequence starting p:) for the GBBG's and white on black for the Herrings class of 2019. It was also an excellent opportunity to explore the structures that make Portland Harbour so calm and clear as well as inspect the camera traps investigating the rat population that is potentially preventing the recolonization of the tern colonies.

Built in the mid 1800's the breakwaters are a spectacular feat of engineering that not only harbour a pretty extensive gull colony but also some brilliant historical artefacts left from the various times it has been occupied ©Erin Taylor:

The Portland Buzzards are doing a rat eradication project of their own...©Pete Saunders:

26th June

An uneventful day all round, with a steady movement of Swifts into a constantly freshening easterly the most noteworthy feature.

After the year's first Red-veined Darter at Broadcroft yesterday, 2 more were logged at the Bill today.

Another good selection of dispersers featured amongst the overnight moth catch, with a total of 8 White Satin from 4 sites between the Bill and Weston of particular note.

One of the two male Red-veined Darters at the Bill today © Matt Ames:

25th June

A wet night gave way to a mainly overcast but still and muggy day. Bird interest was limited but did include a few indications of passage: a Teal through off the Bill was an unseasonable surprise, a Spotted Flycatcher at Blacknor was perhaps a tardy spring arrival, whilst the 8 Sand Martins and 4 Little Egrets over the Bill were more or less on cue early autumn dispersers.

Painted Ladys remained very numerous throughout the island, whilst a bumper overnight haul of moths included a Blair's Mocha - seemingly the first June record for Portland of this still quite infrequently recorded immigrant.

The Little Egrets left out to sea when they were first spotted but chickened out of a Channel crossing and returned northward 10 minutes later © Nick Hopper:

24th June

With the Southward end of the island entirely fog bound for most of the day, it was unsurprising that the most common captures in the nets were Great Tits. Slightly more surprising was the fact that todays tallies pushed the year total of Great Tits over 100 breaking the all time record. As you may have surmised from the fact that the first half of this blog is about Great Tits the rest of the day list was somewhat limited, however, the first returning Sand Martin of the year was recorded as well as four Reed Warblers (across the entire recording area), 2 new Blackcaps and a new Chiffchaff. Ferrybridge saw a marginal increase in interest as the pair of Whimbrel were joined by 10 Dunlin, 12 Mediterranean Gulls and a Redshank. On the invertebrate front, the Painted Lady influx really got going with many hundreds logged by the end of the day.

The 100th Great Tit ringed this year...what a time to be alive © Martin Cade:

23rd June

An otherwise unexceptional day was brightened by the trapping of yesterdays returning male Serin. The island was otherwise quiet with little more than the usual selection Terns, and Gulls on the sea.

Serin © Martin Cade/Erin Taylor:

22nd June

With long-overdue warmth apparently here to stay for a few days it was pleasant enough to be out birding and those that took the trouble had a few rewards. A Serin briefly at both the Obs and Culverwell was the only oddity uncovered but a Reed Warbler and at least 1 Chiffchaff were also new in at the Bill and 10 commic terns, 2 each of Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern and a single Whimbrel passed through on the sea there. Elsewhere, 3 Arctic Skuas passed over at Ferrybridge.

There's been a good run of Arctic Skuas off the Bill this summer and most that have been seen well enough have looked to be immatures of some sort so it was good to see a nice series of photos from Ferrybridge this morning that offer up much more plumage detail on a couple of similar-looking individuals © Debby Saunders:

Conditions have become very conducive for butterfly-watching over the last couple of days and there's been plenty to see - Clouded Yellow © Geoff Orton...

...and Silver-studded Blues, Adonis Blue and Small Skipper © Ken Dolbear:

We also popped over to Lodmoor to have a look/listen at the Marsh Warbler that had pitched up there this morning; it was easy enough to see although more tricky to sound record what with the constant chatter of birders, rustling reeds and heavy-duty traffic noise - we've overlayed some of the slightly less adulterated audio onto this video so the two aren't actually in sync! © Martin Cade:

21st June


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow Saturday, 22nd June.

Also an announcement for Obs members: this year's AGM will take place at 4pm on Saturday 13th July; an agenda for the meeting can be viewed here and the minutes of last year's meeting can be viewed here.

We were very much outshone today in the Dorset rarity stakes and had nothing of any consequence to report from the Bill; elsewhere, a Roseate Tern was seen briefly in Portland Harbour.

Silver-studded Blues are beginning to appear on the wing - this one was at Broadcroft today © Ken Dolbear:

We spent more time just watching the Slate-coloured Junco on our little twitch to Abbotsbury Swannery this afternoon but a few video clips give an idea of what it was up to © Martin Cade: 

20th June

Reed Warblers have been so relatively frequent this month that another 2 new arrivals at the Obs today didn't come as too much of a surprise. Singles of Grey Wagtail and Blackcap were the only other migrants of note at the Bill, where singles of Arctic Skua and Great Skua also passed by on the sea.

A Bordered Straw at Reap Lane was the pick of the night's immigrant moth catch.

Always a feast or famine immigrant at Portland, Bordered Straws have been completely absent for three consecutive seasons - with any luck last night's single at Reap Lane will prove to the first of a few this year © Martin Cade/John Lucas:

19th June

As the relentless downpour settled into a more bearable, but no less consistent, drizzle we were treated to a couple of surprise migrants. A Cuckoo found perched on the fence posts of the strips was accompanied, virtually simultaneously, by a Turtle Dove in Southwell (speculation is rife that this is the same individual that has been frequenting the gardens of Southwell for much of the spring). The nets remained relatively quiet but 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Chiffchaff were perhaps signs of the beginnings of autumn rather than a late spring rush.

The lingering Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge was finally joined by a pair of passing Whimbrel © Debby Saunders:

Although it rarely gets a mention on the blog this bull Grey Seal is a more or less ever-present feature at the Bill © Nick Hopper:

18th June

Once more unto the rain drenched fields we trudged with little encouragement from our avian quarry. Passerine highlights were limited to a small smattering of Reed Warblers, a Willow Warbler (honestly when we saw this hunkered in the Pulpit Bushes we were hoping for a little more...) and the first fly-over Siskin since April. The sea was once again limited to single figure counts with the highlight of a single Arctic Skua causing chaos amongst the gull flock.

17th June

Having seen the weather forecast it appears that the end of the rain may be a temporary break as opposed to the start of a glorious summer. However, we still took the opportunity  presented by the dry spell to get out searching for some birds. Unfortunately most hunts were unsuccessful and the day tally remained pitifully low with the main excitement being a Lesser Whitethroat trapped at the obs. The sea provided the rest of the interest with single figures of Arctic Skua, Balearic Shearwater, Sandwich and Common Terns and Mediterranean Gull (as well as the common fare). Although the variety of species was pretty low the Bill Wheatears were keeping things interesting with the ringed male (from the East Cliffs) putting in some graft with the Bill female whilst the Bill male was tending to his fledglings; needless to say we'll be keeping an eye on these scandalous birds.

16th June

Precious little to report on another day when it was far too breezy to engender much confidence that any lurking rarity that had dropped in might actually offer itself up for discovery. A Spotted Flycatcher at Thumb Lane was the only new arrival reported from the land, a Great Skua passed over at Ferrybridge and 7 Sandwich Terns were off the Bill.

Butterfly-friendly conditions have been at a premium in recent days but the occasional bit of warm sunshine has seen Marbled Whites now on the wing in good quantity and a few Painted Ladys cropping up here and there © Ken Dolbear (Marbled White) and Martin Cade (Painted Lady):

15th June

A day of two halves, with a miserably drizzly morning giving way to a bright but still breezy afternoon and evening. Odds and ends from the sea included 2 Arctic Skuas and a single Great Skua lingering off the Bill, whilst a Reed Warbler in song at Culverwell was the day's only new arrival on the land.

It was nice to find a couple of fledged Wheatears at the Bill Quarry this evening - the second year in succession that there's been a successful outcome here...

...the youngsters might have looked plump and tidy but the male's looking decidedly shoddy and scrawny after his efforts over the last few weeks:

It was also nice to finally confirm from the part-read ring number that the female of the pair is indeed one of last year's youngsters; sadly, the male's never been trapped so we can't prove he's the same individual in both breeding attempts but, this being Portland where incest's evidently a deeply ingrained facet of local culture, we wouldn't mind betting that's the case © Martin Cade:

14th June

A respite from the recent rain didn't arrive in tandem with much of a reduction in the strength of the nagging southwesterly but some pleasant sunshine was certainly most welcome. Tardy migrants keep appearing, even in the prevailing seemingly wholly unsuitable conditions, with 4 Reed Warblers and 2 Spotted Flycatchers new in at the Bill. The sea provided the rest of the interest, with 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Common Scoter and 2 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill along with a nearly three figure total of Manx Shearwaters.

13th June

A truly miserable day with constant heavy cloud and drizzle meant little was done in the way of field searching. Despite the wet conditions visibility remained good so sea-watching was the order of the day. The lingering gull flock eventually attracted in a small selection of followers including a Balearic Shearwater (in amongst a flock of 23 Manxies), three Arctic Skuas and a pair of Common Terns.  

12th June

The unsettled weather that we've been experiencing brought with it a rather unusual selection of birds today. In terms of island rarity the highlight came in the form of the third Glossy Ibis for Portland that flew over Ferrybridge shortly after dawn; Ferrybridge was scored with a south-bound fly-by Cuckoo. In terms of numbers, the day saw (at least by June's standards) a decent fall of Reed Warblers with a minimum of 12 throughout the recording area; Spotted Flycatchers also put in a good showing with three trapped and a further two elsewhere, whilst singles of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were also new in. Once again Swifts were a prominent feature of the day although in lower numbers than yesterday.

11th June

The stir-up in the weather that's been so evident over recent days seems finally to be generating a few rewards on the bird front, with a Rosy Starling that dropped in at Southwell stealing the show today. From the spectacle point of view the day's highlight was actually a spectacular movement of Swifts associated with a band of intense rainfall just to the north of the island during the afternoon: many hundreds left out to sea ahead of the rain, with most later trailing back northward into the teeth of a brisk northeasterly that sprung up after the rain. Another small flurry of migrants on the ground included 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Willow Warbler at the Bill and 13 Sanderling, 9 Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge.

The first Convolvulus Hawkmoth of the year was trapped overnight at the Obs.

The Rosy Starling dropped in just long enough to allow for a snatched record photo © Nick Stantiford:

The Convolvulus Hawkmoth looks to be the earliest ever recorded at Portland - the previous earliest record we can find is of one on 15th June 2015 © Martin Cade:

With Alpine Swifts to the east and west of the island more scrutiny of the evening rush of Swifts might have paid dividends...

...laggards were till arriving in off the sea at the Bill as night fell, with several making attempts to find roosting spots on the window ledges of the Obs lighthouse tower © Martin Cade:

10th June

With the storm clouds looming ever closer it was up to the morning to produce the good today. The land fell a little short with no more than a new Reed Warbler in the nets, a Spotted Flycatcher at Culverwell, a fly-by Turtle Dove up-island and 13 each of Dunlin and Sanderling at Ferrybridge, whilst an unexpectedly eventful morning seawatch at the Bill came up with a Pomarine Skua, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Barnacle Goose and a handful of Manx Shearwaters.

We had a pleasant little off-island jaunt yesterday evening up onto the downs above Dorchester to have a listen for a Quail that Richard Newton had stumbled upon the day before. It was soon apparent that there were 2 birds singing at the site we'd been directed to and, with the conditions so perfect, we had a drive about and quickly came across another a few fields away - with seemingly suitable habitat for as far as the eye could see it makes you wonder how many more must be tucked away out of earshot this summer:

9th June

Two things were most welcome today, the slackening of the wind and the appearance of a small selection of migrants. Presumably yesterdays Golden Oriole continued its skittish rounds back and forth between the Obs garden, Culverwell and the huts, a Reed Warbler set up in one of the Obs sycamores and sang through most of the day (as is their wont at this time of year) and a Spotted Flycatcher put in an appearance in the Top Fields. The sea continued to be quiet but the first signs of returning Mediterranean Gulls are beginning both on the sea and at Ferrybridge. Ferrybridge wader numbers showed a small increase with the Bar-tailed Godwit remaining for a second day.

A rare view of the Golden Oriole in the open at Culverwell © Roger Hewitt:

8th June

A wildly windy day hadn't been expected to produce on the land but it was a Golden Oriole that showed up in the Obs garden that stole the show (...it later transpired that it or another had been reported earlier from a private garden at Weston). Whatever else might have dropped into the largely unbirdable bushes escaped detection but the fact that there was certainly some other late passage afoot was evidenced by a nice flurry of waders at Ferrybridge, where 23 Sanderling, 9 Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit were all new in. The sea got plenty of attention with 6 Arctic Skuas, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and a Great Skua the best on offer off the Bill.

As is often the case the oriole was heard before it was seen and it proved to be typically elusive and mobile, affording no more than fleeting flight views as it dashed about the Obs garden and the beach hut fields © Martin Cade:

7th June

The cyclical vortex of precipitation that engulfed much of the south-west today put pay to most birding attempts. There was, however, a brief respite in the middle of the day as the eye of the storm sat directly above Portland revealing beautifully warm, clear skies. During this period those of us at the Obs put our skates on and headed to as many places as possible before the onslaught ensued again. Unfortunately the rain didn't drop any marvellous presents onto our shores but the sea-watch provided a couple of Balearic Shearwaters, 45 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Puffins. The land produced little more than a new Chiffchaff, and a small handful of Swifts and House Martins still on the move.

6th June

With the breeze remaining firmly in the west nothing much was expected of the land and singles of Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher looked to be the only new arrivals at the Bill. A single Balearic Shearwater was lingering off the Bill during the evening.

Never a regular Portland breeding bird in living memory, this year has seen an interesting turn of events for Wheatear with a pair breeding at the Bill Quarry for the second successive year and at least three unpaired males holding territories elsewhere for varying lengths of time. One of these additional males is still about and from the part-read ring number seems pretty likely to be one of last year's Bill Quarry youngsters © Erin Taylor: