3rd December

Portland Bill Red-throated Diver 4w, Common Scoter 4etc, Black Redstart 1, Redwing 3, Blackcap 1 (new), Chiffchaff 2 (both new), Brambling 4.

Ferrybridge Dark-bellied Brent 245, Pale-bellied Brent 4, Dunlin 140, Knot 3, Bar-tailed Godwit 4, Curlew 4. 

Provide them with the right facilities and they'll come - eventually! Nick Stantiford first built and erected this Barn Owl box at Southwell in spring 2018 and after suspecting it was being used by a roosting bird he was finally able to confirm that fact today - hopefully the next step will be a breeding attempt © Nick Stantiford:



After evading the camera lenses for a few days the leg-flagged Knot that we mentioned a few days finally gave itself up at Ferrybridge today...


...where the Bar-tailed Godwit continue their winter residence © Pete Saunders:


Also at Ferrybridge, this colour-ringed Brent Goose (evidently it's a male) has been about - it was first marked at a spring staging site in The Netherlands in May 2018 and has been sighted there in each subsequent spring; there'd been no winter sightings until this year when it was first at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 7th October and subsequently on The Fleet since 20th October © Debby Saunders:

2nd December

Portland Bill Red-throated Diver 2w, Brent Goose 1, Common Scoter 3etc, Little Egret 1, Merlin 1, Black-headed Gull 1w, Short-eared Owl 4, Redwing 9, Fieldfare 2n, Chiffchaff 1, Brambling 4n.

Church Ope Cove Black Redstart 1.

Ferrybridge Black Brant 1, Pale-bellied Brent 5, Dark-bellied Brent 510, Ringed Plover 42, Dunlin 105, Bar-tailed Godwit 4, Curlew 6, Turnstone 16.

1st December

Pennsylvania Castle Firecrest 2.

Church Ope Cove Black Redstart 1.

Ferrybridge Curlew 6, Bar-tailed Godwit 3, Sanderling 1.

This morning's Ferrybridge Sanderling © Debby Saunders:


30th November

Portland Bill Red-throated Diver 1e, Brent Goose 1e 1w, Common Scoter 3etc, Merlin 1, Great Skua 1etc, Kittiwake c3000etc, Redwing 4, Chiffchaff 1.

Pennsylvania Castle Firecrest 1.

Grove Cliffs Goldcrest 1.

Blacknor Merlin 1.

Osprey Quay Rook 1.

Portland Harbour Red-throated Diver 1w, Black-necked Grebe 8, Slavonian Grebe 1.

Late news for yesterday Portland Harbour Red-throated Diver 1, Great Northern Diver 1, Black-necked Grebe 10, Slavonian Grebe 1, Red-breasted Merganser 53.

Red-throated Diver over Hamm Beach, Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:



29th November

Portland Bill Red-throated Diver 4w 1e, Common Scoter 2 etc, Eider 2w 1 etc, Merlin 1, Short-eared Owl 4, Black Redstart 1, Chiffchaff 1, Redwing 11n 2etc, Starling 38n, Brambling 2n 2etc, Siskin 2n.

Sweethill Fieldfare 1.

Church Ope Cove Black Redstart 1.

Blacknor Black Redstart 1.

Easton Jay 1.

Ferrybridge Black Brant 1, Pale-bellied Brent Goose 2, Bar-tailed Godwit 3, Rook 1.

A nice brent trio at Ferrybridge this morning - Pale-bellied, Dark-bellied and Black Brant © Pete Saunders:


Also from Ferrybridge, news of interesting colour-flag sighting: yesterday Charlie Richards spotted a Knot there bearing a green leg-flag coded CPH; it transpires that this bird's a juvenile that was first trapped/marked at Heacham, Norfolk, on 7th November and was still present at the same site on 21st November. 

28th November

Portland Bill Red-throated Diver 2w, Brent Goose 2e, Common Scoter 3etc, Merlin 2, Purple Sandpiper 1, Mediterranean Gull 100etc, Black Redstart 1.

Southwell Fieldfare 1, Blackcap 2.

Church Ope Cove Black Redstart.

Weston Jay 1n.

Easton Chiffchaff 1.

Ferrybridge Knot 1, Snipe 1.

Portland Harbour Black-necked Grebe 6, Slavonian Grebe 1.

27th November

Storm Arwen's blasting northerly did nothing except make field excursions a pretty futile exercise, with the day's only reports being of singles of Merlin, Purple Sandpiper and Fieldfare at the Bill, 3 Common Scoter settled offshore there, a new Blackcap and a lingering Fieldfare at Sweethill, a Black Redstart at Church Ope Cove and 2 Knot at Ferrybridge.

Kestrel and Purple Sandpiper at the Bill today © Matthew Barfield:


26th November

Increasingly windy today with spells of hefty showers through the morning - conditions that scuppered attempts at meaningful searches for passerines. The day's only reports were of 6 Common Scoter and 2 Pintail through off the Bill, a Merlin rather forlornly looking for overhead migrants there, 4 Fieldfares at Southwell and 3 Knot amongst the wader selection at Ferrybridge.

One of the Southwell Fieldfares © Debby Saunders:


Knot aren't to be expected at Ferrybridge in mid-winter so three there today was noteworthy © Pete Saunders:


25th November

Very slow birding today with just a handful of new migrants logged. Six Redwings, 3 Bramblings, a Golden Plover and the lightest trickle of Chaffinches passed over at the Bill, where lingerers included 2 Black Redstarts, a Blackcap and the Siberian Chiffchaff; another Black Redstart was at Southwell.

Sadly, the beautiful cloudless sky wasn't filled with much migrant action and we suspect it'll only be tail-end Charlies like this Golden Plover from here on in:


The downside of a cloudless sky at this time of year is that morning seawatching at the Bill is trashed by the low sun: this Herring Gull-sized white-winged gull that passed by soon after dawn could only be viewed straight into the sun which made the ID very problematic - it looks as though there's something odd going on in the middle of this bird's primaries and we have a feeling it's most likely one of the  leucistic Herring Gulls that seem to pop up from time to time off this coast in winter © Martin Cade:


It seems to have become customary in recent winters to find a few dead Kestrels at the Bill - on investigation they pretty well always turn out to be emaciated youngsters that presumably don't have the experience to survive on the slim pickings usually available at this time of year; with a super abundance of voles in evidence just lately it's looking like it mightn't be such a struggle this winter © Roy Norris:

24th November

Despite the dreariest of conditions today ticked over with a decent enough selection for late November. At the Bill, 10 Bramblings, 6 Redwings, 3 Siskins, 2 Lapwings and singles of Snipe and Fieldfare dribbled through overhead along with 100 Starlings and a few dozen Chaffinches; a new Blackcap dropped in and the lingering Merlin, Black Redstart and Siberian Chiffchaff were all logged. Offshore, a sample count of 282 Kittiwakes in 30 minutes was representative of a movement that was ongoing in that manner throughout the morning; 8 Teal, 7 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Skuas and a Red-breasted Merganser also passed by. Elsewhere, 2 Redpolls and a Mistle Thrush were at Thumb Lane.

23rd November

Less windy today but the crystal clear sky did no favours when it came to dropping migrants, with a grounded Snipe one of the few new arrivals at the Bill; the Siberian Chiffchaff was still there and 2 Black Redstarts and a Merlin were again available for those looking. Starlings accounted for the bulk of the numbers overhead, with 235 in from the south at the Bill and another 450 north at Blacknor; the bitsy passage overhead also included 12 Redwings, 8 Bramblings, 6 Fieldfares, a Lapwing, a Siskin and a frustrating 'one call wonder' likely Tree Pipit over the Bill. A nice little miscellany of waterfowl through off the Bill included 24 Common Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers, 6 Brent Geese, 6 Teal, 3 Wigeon and singles of Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander.

In conjunction with the Obs, UK Birding Pins have recently released a PBO pin badge:


We will shortly have stock available at the Obs but in the meanwhile the pin badge can be ordered direct from UK Birding Pins at Portland Bird Observatory Pin Badge


During this autumn visitors to the Obs will have seen some of us wearing rather exclusive hoodies (actually very exclusive since only five of them were made!) bearing a PBO 60th Anniversary logo - these were a one-off order by one of our trustees, Mark 'Slasher' Cutts. Following lots of positive comments Mark's offered to make these Contrast Hoodies, as well as Polo Shirts bearing the same logo, available to our members and supporters.


They both come in small, medium, large, extra large and sizes upwards. The Polo Shirts come in Black, Red, Royal or Navy Blue, Heather or Solid Grey, Green or Burgundy; the Contrast Hoodies come in a variety of colour combinations. Please send requests to slashercutts@gmail.com with colour and size requirements. Mark will check availability and get back to you. Once confirmed, payment can be made to the Obs bank account via a BACS transfer. 

Contrast Hoodies are £25.00 each and Polo’s £15.00. Ideally items will be picked up from the Obs but Mark can post items out at a standard cost of £4:00 for 1-2 items.

22nd November

The quirks of migration were brought into sharp focus today as Portland fared utterly differently to other watchpoints on either side of the Channel: a persistent band of showers off the French coast no doubt deflected most of the Redwings away from us - Jersey logged thousands, we logged 4 - whilst a varied passage along the nearby mainland coast appeared to entirely miss Portland. Our interest came largely from a conspicuous arrival of many dozens of Blackbirds that, since almost no visible passage of them was evident, presumably arrived overnight. Two Red Kites over the Grove were unexpected visitors but other arrivals consisted of just 7 Lapwings and mainly low single figure totals of a selection of customary thrushes and finches. At least 1 Black Redstart and the Siberian Chiffchaff were still at the Bill, singles of Red-throated Diver, Brent Goose and Red-breasted Merganser passed through on the sea there and 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were at Ferrybridge.

21st November

Welcome to winter = cold and migrantless. Well, it wasn't quite that bad but the writing's certainly on the wall and after the overnight passage of a cold front that introduced clearer but much chillier air today's numbers were pretty poor, with a trickle of Chaffinches, 18 Redwings, 3 Fieldfares and a Blackcap the only new arrivals at the Bill. Two Black Redstarts and singles of Merlin, Siberian Chiffchaff and Brambling were noteworthy lingerers/winterers there, with at least another 4 Black Redstarts logged elsewhere around the island; one of the Black Brants also dropped in again at Ferrybridge.

The temperature might have plunged but there were still plenty of Red Admirals and even a Clouded Yellow still on the wing at the Bill.

It's been a bumper year for additions to the Portland moth list and thanks to Neil Sherman, the Suffolk county moth recorder who was on holiday on the island during October, there's another addition to report - the Fig-leaf Skeletonizer Choreutis nemorana. On 20th October Neil found a leaf fold containing a cocoon on a small fig tree hanging over the wall of a garden near Pennsylvania Castle and the adult moth duly emerged on 3rd November. The Fig-leaf Skeletonizer is a relatively recent arrival in Britain: it was first recorded in Hyde Park, London, in 2014 and has subsequently spread in south-east England - this Portland record is the first for Dorset © Neil Sherman:


20th November

Still dribs and drabs of passage to tap into today, even if what was logged by day was but a tiny proportion of what was on the move overnight - we've only had time to examine the first four hours of the night's nocmig recording but that revealed 1170 Redwing calls over the Obs between 20:30 and 00:30. By day, none of the customary thrushes and finches managed a three figure total at the Bill, with the likes of Fieldfare, Brambling and Siskin not even making it into double figures; 330 Starlings arrived from the south, two Merlins were again on the prowl for victims and singles of Snipe, Carrion Crow (arriving from the south) and Woodlark (trapped in the Obs garden where it had presumably dropped in to avoid a predator) were also of note overhead. On the ground, single Siberian Chiffchaffs were at the Obs and Wakeham, a Jay was at Wakeham and 2 Black Redstarts were still at the Bill. Three Brent Geese, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser passed through off the Bill.

Woodlarks have more than enough quirky bits of plumage to be seriously interesting little things if you're fortunate enough to see one in these circumstances; this one was only the second ever handled at the Bill © Martin Cade:



19th November


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

The Red-breasted Flycatcher remained but it was a modest increase in migrant numbers that provided most of the day's interest. Under a heavy cloud cover Redwings had been moving in some numbers overnight and the first hours of daylight saw another 145 trickle through over the Bill; 120 Goldfinches, 80 Chaffinches, 30 Linnets, 12 Bramblings, 8 Fieldfares, 5 Siskins and singles of Little Egret and Grey Heron were also logged over the Bill, with another 2 Little Egrets passing overhead at Avalanche Road. Two new Blackcaps dropped in at the Bill, single Siberian Chiffchaffs lingered on at the Bill and Avalanche Road, at least 2 Merlins were knocking around at the Bill, 5 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest were at Wakeham and 2 Black Brants spent a while at Ferrybridge. Offshore, singles of Red-breasted Merganser and Great Skua passed through off the Bill.

The Red-breasted Flycatcher © Martin Cade:


18th November

Another day that looked as though it'd fizzled out uneventfully took an unexpected turn just as dusk fell when a Red-breasted Flycatcher was discovered in the Obs garden. Earlier, there had been almost no positive signs with only Chaffinch and Goldfinch managing double figure totals overhead and just single figure totals of Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling pitching in briefly at the Bill and Southwell; 2 Merlins were again logged at the Bill where singles of Chiffchaff and Redpoll were new in, whilst a Blackcap was new at Southwell. A lone Great Northern Diver passed through off the Bill and 1700 Mediterranean Gulls were at Ferrybridge.

We can't recollect an occasion that a scarcity has turned up here so late in the day that we literally couldn't make out any plumage features through binoculars and, in the semi-darkness, had to resort to using flash to get any sort of image of it; fortunately the ID of the Red-breasted Fly had been established before we even clapped eyes on it since it was calling so frequently and conspicuously that it was hard to miss © Martin Cade:


17th November

Whilst not quite turned off, the migration tap was at best only dripping today. Thrushes, Starlings and finches were conspicuously fewer than in recent days but the odd few faintly respectable totals were accrued, including 310 Starlings, 180 Goldfinches, 90 Chaffinches and 15 Bramblings moving over the Bill, where 2 Merlins and another tardy Swallow were also overhead and 3 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Black Redstart, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Siberian Chiffchaff were scattered on the ground. Elsewhere, a late Common Whitethroat was a surprise find at Southwell, at least 2 more Black Redstarts were at the north of the island and another Merlin was overhead at Ferrybridge. The only reports from the sea were of singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill and 4 Black-necked and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

We're struggling to remember a previous Common Whitethroat as late as this one that was a serendipitous find right at the end of the afternoon close to West Cliffs but just within the confines of Southwell Business Park; it afforded only the briefest of views but, on the basis of the grey head and white outer tail-feathers, looks likely to be an adult male - it'll be interesting to have a closer look at it if it hangs around © Pete Saunders:


The back stories of so many of the migrants that pass through here often get forgotten about as you're watching them: this tardy young Swallow that was scooting about over the Obs this morning looking like it didn't have a care in the world has in theory got to get to South Africa in the next few weeks...


...whilst these Starlings that arrived in off the sea were quite likely born in Russia, spent last night roosting in France and will end up spending tonight roosting somewhere like the Somerset Levels - and as they zoomed through here without a pause they flew right over a load of our local Starlings that'll likely spend their whole lives at the Bill © Martin Cade:


16th November

Today didn't really pan out as might have been hoped given that not too long ago the forecast had been for a promising northeasterly; in the event what little breeze there was was firmly in the west and the cloud cover was sufficiently heavy as to restrict overhead passage to a short, early pulse that included 300 Starlings, 200 Goldfinches, 150 Chaffinches, 60 Redwings, 17 Bramblings, 10 Fieldfares, 6 Siskins, a Merlin and a Golden Plover over the Bill; elsewhere, a Short-eared Owl passed over at Ferrybridge. Briefly downed thrushes accounted for most of the numbers on the ground, where 2 Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting were the best of the only other new arrivals at the Bill; singles of Black Redstart and Siberian Chiffchaff also lingered on at the Bill and a Ring Ouzel was again at Sweethill. Offshore, a late Manx Shearwater, 2 Great Skuas and a Red-throated Diver passed by at the Bill.

15th November

Another day packed with movement - this time taking place over quite a broad front which made for a tricky collation of everyone's numbers; the fact that most of the action took place under a cloudless sky and in pleasantly warm sunshine with barely a breath of breeze was even more of a bonus. Incoming Starlings were most conspicuous at the Bill where they totalled 990; the thrush tally was more problematic save to say that Redwing and Blackbird exceeded 200 each, Fieldfare and Song Thrush chipped in with more than 100 apiece, whilst singles of Ring Ouzel and Mistle Thrush were welcome after their dismal showings this autumn. Finch-wise, both Brambling and Siskin got to the 30-40 level but there were fewer Chaffinches than in recent days. A good miscellany of lower totals included 5 Woodcocks, 3 Lapwings, 3 Swallows and singles of Merlin, Dunlin (inbound with a flock of Starlings!), Woodlark and Jay. It remained very slow on the ground save for the likes of thrushes dropping in briefly for a break: a handful of new Blackcaps were in evidence, whilst 4 Short-eared Owls, 4 Black Redstarts, the 2 lingering Siberian Chiffchaffs (and a likely third individual new in at Avalanche Road) and a Firecrest were scattered about the south of the island. Three Little Auks together through off the Bill were a nice surprise from some otherwise uneventful seawatching.

An interesting array of late insects still active in the warm sunshine included Painted Lady, Small White, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Common Darter, Field Grasshopper, Dark Bush-cricket and Southern Oak Bush-cricket.

One of the day's Fieldfares © Pete Saunders:

14th November

A mightily enjoyable day with movement afoot throughout and a constant vibe that something good was about to appear - the fact that it didn't was really neither here nor there! Numbers accumulated by way of an early southbound passage of pigeons and a much more constant trickle of thrushes and finches arriving in off the sea into the northerly breeze, with totals from the Obs that included 910 Wood Pigeons, 330 Stock Doves, 250 Chaffinches, 210 Redwings, 150 Blackbirds, 24 Fieldfares and 22 Bramblings, with the likes of 3 Redpolls, 3 Reed Buntings and singles of  Merlin, Woodcock, Snipe, Swallow and Serin adding some nice variety. With reports of a steady passage of a similar selection of common migrants at other sites it's likely the true totals for the island as a whole were considerably higher; 3 Jays and another Woodcock were amongst the oddities logged elsewhere. There was more about on the ground that has been the case for a while even if the numbers and variety were far below what might have been expected: a new Siberian Chiffchaff at the Bill was an addition to the lingerer still present there, a new Black Redstart was at the Bill and a handful of new Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were evident everywhere; a Firecrest was also still at Pennsylvania Castle.

13th November

Back to mid-November par today with a fair bit on the move overhead in predominantly overcast and increasingly quiet conditions. The mix of pigeons, thrushes and finches over the Bill included 750 Wood Pigeons, 535 Stock Doves, 200 Goldfinches, 175 Chaffinches, 60 Linnets, 29 Bramblings, 23 Redwings and 8 each of Fieldfare, Siskin and Redpoll, with a late Swallow amongst the extra odds and ends. It was considerably quieter on the ground where 5 Blackcaps and an extra Jay joining the long-stayer were amongst the few new arrivals; the Siberian Chiffchaff was still present, as were 4 Short-eared Owls and singles of Purple Sandpiper and Black Redstart. A lone passing Great Skua was as good as it got on the sea, whilst elsewhere 4 Black-necked Grebes were in Portland Harbour.

The Siberian Chiffchaff was looking ghostly-pale at times under the dreary sky...


...and it was prone to decent bursts of calling from time to time © Martin Cade:


As usual, out of another reasonable total of Bramblings hardly any dropped in to afford any sort of views; this female though did linger at a seed patch in the Obs garden © Martin Cade:


The wintering Purple Sandpiper tally remains woefully low: there was a report of three back in October but most sightings subsequently have been of this single youngster © Pete Saunders:

12th November

A wet start and much more blustery conditions saw to it that there was very little coverage today. A Snow Bunting headed south at the Grove, a Black Redstart was at Ferrybridge and 2 Bramblings, 2 Siskins and a Merlin passed over at the Bill.

11th November

A much more birdy morning was a treat after things had slowed up over the last couple of days. Finches moving under the heavily overcast sky accounted for the bulk of the numbers, with 340 Chaffinches, 330 Goldfinches, 90 Linnets, 43 Bramblings, 26 Siskins and 18 Greenfinches south over the Bill; 2 Merlins were in attendance, whilst other odds and ends overhead included a 80 Stock Doves, 70 Starlings, a few Meadow Pipits and thrushes, a lone Ringed Plover and an incoming Short-eared Owl. Precious little was grounded, with a Siberian Chiffchaff at the Obs the only warbler logged in the Bill area, where 3 Short-eared Owls, a Black Redstart and the Jay were still about. Elsewhere, 5 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour, the Black Brant was again at Ferrybridge, a Rook headed south over Ferrybridge and a Black Redstart was at Southwell.

A series of sightings of Bluefin Tuna - several involving multiples (...shoals, schools, pods?) - were the first off the Bill for a while.

10th November

The length of the day-list continues to shorten with the current spell of quiet, mild weather not really doing any favours when it comes to dropping late arrivals. A small flurry of 70 or so Redwings was the best of it at the Bill, where 120 departing Goldfinches, 7 Bramblings, 6 Fieldfares, a Black Redstart and a Blackcap were also logged along with a Jay - the latter presumed to be a reappearance of the weekend bird although that wasn't established for certain; elsewhere, 2 Swallows were at Wakeham, the Black Brant was amongst the brents at Ferrybridge and a Great Northern Diver was in Portland Harbour. Two Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver passed by off the Bill.

9th November

Just a dribble of late passage today with little to excite. A minor 'crest-fest reported from the Grove - 3 Firecrests and a Goldcrest which is almost as many 'crests as have been seen at one time anywhere on the island this autumn - was as good as it got on the ground where the only contributions from the Bill were 2 each of Short-eared Owl and Black Redstart. A few thrushes, Starlings and finches on the move overhead included 250 Goldfinches leaving at the Bill where another late Swallow put in an appearance. The sea ticked over, with 205 Kittiwakes, 99 Common Scoter, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Red-throated Divers of note off the Bill.

8th November

Although it seems from reports that Portland wasn't as favoured for numbers as some other Dorset coastal spots it was a decent enough day with a fair bit on the move in quiet, increasingly overcast conditions that eventually gave way to mizzly dampness at times during the afternoon. A Twite - only the second Bill record this century - that dropped in briefly in a tree-top in the Obs garden was the undoubted highlight albeit one that looked to involve a pausing migrant rather the long-awaited lingerer that would have caused a stampede of Dorset listers. Visible passage involved movement in both directions with some sample totals from the Bill included 1300 Wood Pigeons, 217 Stock Doves, 200 Chaffinches, 25 Siskins and 20 Bramblings, with a late Swallow and a Corn Bunting the pick of the lower totals. Aggregations of finches aside, it was slower going on the ground with little more than ones and twos of a limited range of expected fare at the Bill, where 3 Short-eared Owls and singles of Merlin, Black Redstart and Bullfinch were as good as it got by way of minor interest; elsewhere a Grey Partridge was a local oddity at Suckthumb Quarry. Two Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Northern Diver provided some interest over a sea that was noticeably more devoid of small gulls than it has been for a long time.

7th November

After being maybe quite upbeat about the prospects for autumn having plenty more in store, today's happenings were uneventful enough to throw in more than a few doubts: under a clear sky grounded arrivals amounted to next to nothing, whilst some vestiges of passage overhead did little to enthuse. The Jay remained at the Bill and there was some suspicion that more than one individual might be involved although that couldn't be fully confirmed; the Hen Harrier was also still in residence at the Bill, with singles of Merlin, Black Redstart and Bullfinch there and Short-eared Owl at Cheyne providing a little more interest. Overhead, Wood Pigeon, Chaffinch and Goldfinch returned well into three figure totals but the back-up totals of, for example, just 14 Siskins, 6 Bramblings, 2 Redwings, a Lapwing and a Redpoll provided evidence enough that there wasn't a rich vein of movement to tap into.

6th November

With a milder, breezy southwesterly replacing the cool northerlies of the latter half of the week migrant numbers fell away today. The first Jay to reach the Bill during the current influx was the best of the oddities, whilst flocks of 600 Starlings and 70 Chaffinches arriving in off the sea did hint at ongoing movement that wasn't really being picked up on the ground that looked to be very quiet; the Hen Harrier also reappeared at the Bill after missing another day yesterday, the Treecreeper was again at Pennsylvania Castle, 2 Firecrests , a Merlin, a Black Redstart and a Bullfinch were dotted about and a Pochard passed through off the Bill. These minor highlights aside, sample migrant totals at the Bill included 9 Redwings, 4 Fieldfares, 3 Swallows and 3 Siskins.

Although not an annual visitor to Portland the cumulative all-time total for the island is actually quite high by virtue of multiple occurrences during influx years; catches for ringing though are much more infrequent: today's bird was only the fifth ever handled at the Obs © Martin Cade:


The Merlin over Southwell © Pete Saunders:

5th November

The first touch of frost of the season was testament to how clear it had remained overnight and how low the chances were of there having been any sort of arrival of nocturnal migrants; however, that was more than made up for by the steady procession of diurnal arrivals - largely thrushes and finches through the morning but later including some quality in the form of a Jay at Pennsylvania Castle, a Great White Egret north from the Bill to Easton and a last-gasp Red-breasted Flycatcher at the Obs. The trickle during the morning had included more than 100 Redwings through at the Bill, where the likes of 14 Bramblings, 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Snipe, 2 Redpolls and singles of WoodcockShort-eared OwlGreat Spotted WoodpeckerFirecrest and Bullfinch added some spice to the decent list of other seasonable fare. Three passing Brent Geese and a Great Northern Diver were worth a mention from the sea there.

The third Red-breasted Flycatcher this year that's turned up completely out of the blue in a mist-net at the Obs, all in circumstances that indicated they'd just dropped in late in the afternoon © Martin Cade:


Still a quality bird at Portland, this Great White Egret was big and obvious enough to be readily noticed twice more as it lumbered north from the Bill © Pete Saunders:


Calling from a tree-top - that just about sums up how you see the vast majority Redwings at Portland © Pete Saunders:

4th November

There's nothing like a dip into single figure temperatures to inject some urgency into proceedings - even on a day when there was hardly a cloud in the sky - and it certainly did the trick today: Wood Pigeons were still heading away to the south but most of the day's steady passage of thrushes and finches was of birds arriving in off the sea and heading away north into the chilly breeze. The pigeon totals of 4700 over the Bill and 6000 over Easton were considered to be very conservative, with many flocks again beyond naked eye vision and suggestions from another site where the observer wasn't in a position to be able to count the flocks of far higher numbers crossing Portland Harbour. Jackdaws were again on the move, with 650 over the Bill, whilst selected other totals from there during the morning included 230 Redwings, 220 Chaffinches and 47 Bramblings; amongst the also-rans another Snow Bunting passed over, a few Fieldfares were the first since the only other single this autumn over a fortnight ago and singles of Merlin and Bullfinch were of note, whilst elsewhere 2 Woodlarks passed over at the Grove. It was quieter on the ground: both the Hen Harrier and the Continental Coal Tit remained at the Bill, where 3 Black Redstarts, a Short-eared Owl and a Firecrest were also about; at least 1 Firecrest was also still at Pennsylvania Castle. A single Pintail passing by off the Bill was the only sighting of note on the sea.

Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle © Roy Norris...


...and one of the Black Redstarts at the Bill © Pete Saunders:

3rd November

Whilst not endowed with the numbers of the migration fiestas of the last couple of days, today provided a nicely varied selection to give plenty of hope that autumn's far from over. Overhead passage continued to dominate, with 5500 Wood Pigeons, 1100 Jackdaws, 350 Starlings, 275 Goldfinches, 185 Chaffinches, 75 Siskins and 62 Bramblings making up the bulk of the tally over the Bill, where 2 Merlins and singles of Woodlark, Bullfinch and Snow Bunting featured amongst the lower totals. On the ground the reappearance of last week's Hen Harrier was unexpected, whilst even more of a surprise was a second individual that barely lingered before heading away north. A Siberian Chiffchaff was new at the Bill, where the Continental Coal Tit remained and 3 Swallows and singles of Wheatear, Black Redstart and Firecrest were logged amongst the thinnish selection on the ground.

After over a week in residence back in the last third of October - the only longer stayer we can remember was the bird in October 2016 that lingered for a fortnight - we weren't expecting a reappearance of the Hen Harrier; however, we did glean today that it's the same individual that visited Lodmoor from time to time during that previous residence so presumably its just wandering further afield now © Martin Cade:


We forgot to mention yesterday this post that appeared on a local Facebook group regarding a Cattle Egret taken into care on the island on Monday:

2nd November

Long overdue absolutely perfect conditions - millpond calm, a clear sky and really quite mild if you were flogging around birding - provided another vismig bonanza and the first flurry of grounded arrivals for a while. All the numbers were overhead where c30500 more Wood Pigeons streaming out to the south and 1350 Jackdaws going we're not quite sure where provided the spectacle, with 303 Chaffinches and 41 Bramblings worthwhile tallies amongst the varied tag-alongs. The grounded selection was also varied although numbers were only noteworthy in comparison with the abject lows of the last fortnight: a Continental Coal Tit and 3 Bullfinches were firsts for the season at the Bill, whilst a Siberian Chiffchaff at Thumb Lane/Avalanche Road was the pick of the sightings elsewhere; a scatter of 4 Short-eared Owls, 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Firecrests and a Merlin were of further interest.

Today's pigeon-fest was very different to yesterday's: with barely a breath of wind and a completely clear sky most of the flocks were so high as be verging on the limit of naked eye vision...


...Unlike yesterday the sky was also full of Jackdaws although, as is so often the case at Portland, the eventual destination of their swirling, often seemingly aimless flocks were a lot harder to interpret © Martin Cade:


The ater Coal Tit was one of those difficult birds that was nearly always just behind the the first layer of leaves - perfectly visible but only really rarely actually showing off its distinctive features to full effect...


...and there were nearly always parts of leaves or branches spoiling what could have been worthwhile photos of it! © Martin Cade:


And, as always, it had a staggering repertoire of calls: these are just a few of the dozens recorded - very many of them subtly different - as it processed around the Obs garden

1st November

November opened - as it often does these days - with a pigeon-fest, as Wood Pigeons that had been delayed by several days of turbulent weather took advantage of the beginnings of a clearance to depart in quantity: c39000 was the logged estimate although they were coming so thick and fast at times that there was a feeling that this underplayed the true total. The finches and other movers that were accompanying them were certainly undercounted but included mid to high three figure totals of all the usual late autumn suspects; a lone Hawfinch was the morning's bonus scarcity. With most of what few eyes that were in the field looking skyward for so long other sightings were at a bit of a premium but 5 Redpolls, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Firecrests and singles of Yellow-legged Gull and Wheatear on the ground and 2 Red-throated Divers and an Arctic Skua through on the sea were additions of interest.

The pigeon-fest © Martin Cade:


The Southwell Barn Owl © Pete Saunders...


...and one of the Bill Black Redstarts © Geoff Orton: