9th August

It can't be very often that we've reported it so hot as to spoil the enjoyment of being out birding much beyond the first couple of hours of the morning - and to do so for the second day on the trot really takes some beating. Dawn saw the strength of the breeze an issue again but sheltered spots were still busy with Willow Warblers - perhaps getting up towards 50 at the Bill - with the first 2 Redstarts of the autumn also a noteworthy arrival; 25 Wheatears was also a fair total at the Bill. Overhead movement included 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Curlews and singles of Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Yellow Wagtail and Siskin at the Bill, whilst a very light trickle of Manx Shearwaters accounted for the bulk of the numbers on the sea there. Waders totals - including 78 Ringed Plovers - increased a little at Ferrybridge.

Common Tern through at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:


8th August

A bit of a frustrating day with a pretty raging wind making it hard to get amongst what looked to be a decent little flurry of new grounded migrants at dawn, whilst the intensity of the heat once the wind died down meant that activity fizzled out quite quickly (...in fact it became so hot by midday - more than 30°C which is truly exceptional for the Bill - that we thought it circumspect to shut the mist-nets in even the shadiest parts of the Obs garden). Willow Warblers made up the bulk of the numbers, with 40 or more at the Bill where a light scatter of Wheatears, a handful of Sedge Warblers and a Garden Warbler were also logged. Hirundines, Swifts, Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Grey Herons were on the move overhead - with both Sand Martin and Swallow getting into three figure totals at the Bill alone. Ferrybridge stole the show rarity-wise, with a Rosy Starling dropping in with the Starlings for a short while before it relocated to fields near the Bridging Camp later in the day; 43 Ringed Plover, 31 Dunlin, a Sanderling and a Knot were the best of the waders there.

We'd thought our good summer for Rosy Starlings was over but then up popped this fine specimen on the roof of the Chesil Beach Centre © Angela Thomas:



Little Terns, Sandwich Terns and a Knot were also amongst the Ferrybridge ensemble today...




...whilst Priti Patel would be horrified to discover that both Polish and Serbian seagulls had snuck through and pitched up on our shores © Pete Saunders:



Moth-wise, it would have been difficult to match the excitement of the last couple of nights even if, for sheer quantity of catch alone, it was by far the best night of the year to date. Dispersal was very evident, as much in the form of enormous numbers of beetles and hoverflies as it was for moths, with this Chevron perhaps the most infrequently caught species making it onto the night's list -  it's a simple pleasure at a place as inhospitable for many 'inland' moths as Portland is that we get almost as excited to trap something like this as we do to catch all manner of rare immigrants that we're lucky enough to see rather often! © Martin Cade:

7th August

When the predicted south easterlies failed to materialize (instead a straight northerly at dawn, that moved to the east through the morning), we gave up on our hopes of a mega in the Crown Field. With the temperature rapidly climbing, it was unsurprising that there was very little evidence of any movement (in fact of the four Willow Warblers trapped in the garden, two were recent re-traps and a third has been moulting here since the 14th July). Two new Skylarks, one shabby adult and a pristine juvenile, brought the summer trapping total to 14, but the nets were otherwise unperturbed by their avian quarry. The sea added little to the days excitement with a virtually impenetrable heat haze developing by around 9o'clock; highlights included two Balearic Shearwaters and a lone Bonxie. Elsewhere, Ferrybridge saw just one addition to the usual small wader flocks of a Wheatear and a lonesome Shelduck.

The day's highlight was without doubt Debby Saunders' overnight catch at Sweethill of Britain's first Eupithecia breviculata - more to follow on this before long © Martin Cade/Debby Saunders:


Wednesday night's Pale Shoulder from Weston, the fifth for the island © Duncan Walbridge:


Despite the Shelduck seeming to be alone, its encouraging to see one get to this size. It seems everyone has stories of watching the poor black and white balls of fluff being picked off by every predator under the sun, but very few recollections of families of larger juveniles © Pete Saunders:


6th August

With thick, at times impenetrable, fog rolling in through the night it was an unexpectedly miserable morning with the mist failing to clear until gone midday. Scattered showers throughout the morning prevented much trapping in the garden, although when the rain finally did clear a re-trap Garden Warbler from three days ago proved our assumption correct; that the fog put an end to much migration through the night. Other land-based migrants included a trickle of Willow Warblers and Whitethroats and a small increase in the arrival of Wheatears with five across the recording area. The sea was equally dismal with a smattering of Shearwaters (two Balearics) and the first juvenile Kittiwake of the year the only real birds of note. Ferrybridge saw a sliver of action with a single Bar-tailed Godwit, two Wheatears and four of the remaining fledgling Little Terns on the shoreline.

A sprinkling of quality amongst the usual Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings and Turnstones © Pete Saunders (Bar-tailed Godwit) and © Debby Saunders (Little Terns):


5th August

What can we say about today? A gusting south-westerly should have seen some more activity on the sea, but a disappointing first hour set the precedent for a poor day all round. Sea totals, despite fairly favorable conditions, reached just 14 Manx Shearwaters, two each of Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua, and singles of Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern. The land was deadly quiet with few signs of new arrivals. The previous days Melodious Warbler remained in the garden whilst the Willow Warbler and Wheatear tallies were woefully low. Ferrybridge saw a similar lack of change with two Shelducks the only new additions to the usual wader selection.


4th August

After yesterday's fall and a building cloud cover through the morning there was some hope for similar numbers if nothing exciting. The numbers, however, never materialized but a second Melodious Warbler appeared in the Obs nets to provide some rarity interest. Other migrants were thin on the ground but the first juvenile Cuckoo for the autumn was accompanied by single figures of Willow Warbler and Whitethroats. The sea was - if that's possible - quieter than the land with just two Balearic Shearwaters and a lone Yellow-legged Gull of note throughout the morning. The highlight past Ferrybridge was a movement of Cormorants with a maximum flock size of 38.

Another day, another Melodious Warbler © Martin Cade:

3rd August

Under a big moon and with a tail breeze to assist it was no surprise that quantities of migrants were on the move and, with plenty of inexperienced youngsters in the mix, also no surprise to find a decent little spread of grounded arrivals at dawn. Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler topped the tally with a good 30 apiece at the Bill, where singles of Little Ringed Plover, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher provided some variety; on the downside, the likes of Wheatear and Pied Flycatcher remained oddly under-represented - indeed the latter has still to make its first appearance this season. A trickle of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and hirundines were on the move overhead, where a likely Honey Buzzard was a surprise sight over Easton. The only other reports concerned a handful of Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoter through off the Bill and 2 Redshanks and a Sanderling amongst the few waders at Ferrybridge.

2nd August

Sometimes we think the birding Gods read this blog and purposefully prove us wrong. After stating that birding was as unpredictable as weather, a blind call from one of the locals today proved splendidly prescient: "I think you should go and look in the nets, there'll be 12.7g of Melodious Warbler hanging in there", and so there was - give or take 0.1g! Common migrant-wise, it was pretty uneventful, with a thin spread of Willow Warblers just about lending a veneer of respectability to proceedings  Elsewhere, sea highlights included 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 11 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and a single Arctic Skua. The sea also provided some mammalian interest with 15+ Common Dolphins distantly offshore, as well as the regular lone male Bottle-nosed Dolphin.

With the all-time island tally standing at something like 227 we can hardly gripe that just lately we've been a little hard done by on the Melodious Warbler front but there's no getting way from the fact that with just one August record during the last four years things haven't been quite what they used to be © Martin Cade:


In a year without any predator mishaps the Ferrybridge Little Terns will have often departed by early August but this year there are still young from some replacement clutches keeping adults busy...


...Little Egret and Redshank were also on the shoreline at the colony today © John Dadds (photos taken under NE license):



At this time of year when they're at their busiest for temporary residents we tend to give the beach hut fields at the Bill a miss coverage-wise, so it was nice to receive a photo of the Long-eared Owl that evidently pitched up there briefly this morning - it had a mob of gulls in hot pursuit and had presumably been inadvertently disturbed from its daytime roost in the vicinity © Ann Campbell:

1st August

 A really rather quiet day where the lepidopteran highlights far outweighed the avian highlights. Two Pomarine Skuas east past the Bill in the early morning were the best of the bunch on the sea; the rest being made up of six apiece of Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter as well as singles of Balearic Shearwater and Black-headed Gull. The land was exceptionally quiet with single figures of Willow Warblers, Whitethroats and Yellow Wagtails making up the migrant tallies. An unexpected highlight of recent days in the nets is the capture of 11 Greenfinches - a really positive sign for a species that has been declining rapidly on the island.

On a night of exciting immigrant moth action Portland wasn't blessed with a killer rare but single Oak Processionary Moths trapped at the Obs and at Blacknor were only the second and third records for the island © Martin Cade: