30th March

Another very nice drop of summer migrants today in conditions quite unlike those prevailing for yesterday's more 'classic' fall; today's arrival looked to be related as much to there suddenly being a stronger momentum to passage - there was a decent cloud cover at dawn but many of the birds seemed to drop in after this had dissipated. Around the south of the island, a dawn flurry of 41 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares set the scene for what later materialised into a really good arrivals of Wheatears and Blackcaps in particular: an estimate of 200 Wheatears may well be conservative given so many of them were frequenting a huge ploughed field at Barleycrates Lane where most were hidden from view at any given moment, whilst the total of 104 Blackcaps trapped at the Obs suggests that their numbers were seriously underestimated by the fieldworkers. Variety was typically limited this early in the spring, but 20 Black Redstarts, 4 Ring Ouzels, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, 2 Bramblings and the first Pied Flycatcher of the season - together with 2 lingering Short-eared Owls - represented a good return from all the legwork. Visible passage was poorly recorded but did include a trickle of all three common hirundines. The sea didn't look to offer much promise what with there being a fresh offshore breeze for much of the morning so 27 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through off the Bill were a welcome surprise.

One of the four Ring Ouzels at the Bill © Pete Saunders:

By virtue of being such creepy, unobtrusive birds Blackcaps really are one of the most enigmatic and presumably under-recorded of common migrants at Portland. In spring, numbers trapped at the Obs can be way above anything suspected from fieldwork alone - did anyone out in the field today seriously believe there were anything even approaching 100 Blackcaps at the Bill, let alone the likely twice as many that really made landfall there (you only had to walk around the front net lanes at the Obs to see that far more were missing the nets and subsequently leaving the garden than were actually being caught)?, whilst in autumn the relatively low numbers trapped at the Obs in no way mirrors the seemingly huge but poorly quantified numbers that are audible or afford only flight views in the thicker cover of the centre and north of the island © Martin Cade: