16th January

Some especially grim conditions overnight - not only did it bucket with rain but the wind gusted so ferociously sometime in the early hours that a window in the Obs lighthouse tower managed to blow open and shatter! - had cleared through by dawn and, despite it beginning to feel a lot chillier than of late, the daylight hours were altogether more pleasant. The Grey Phalarope (presumably all or most of the sightings refer to the same individual) that's been roaming about between Chesil Cove and West Fleet settled down nicely close to shore on the mainland side of Ferrybridge to provide the day's highlight, with a Lapwing overhead there also of note. The improved conditions saw a better return from Portland Harbour that included 9 Black-necked Grebes, 4 each of Great Northern Diver and Eider, 2 each of Red-necked Grebe and Common Scoter, a single Slavonian Grebe and a noticeable increase in both Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers. At the Bill, 5 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea and 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Turnstone were about on the land.

The Grey Phalarope put on a good show all day © Martin Cade (video) and Phil Cheeseman (still)

Rather like football referees when it comes to the laws of offside, we have a rather loose interpretation of our recording area boundary: technically, the Portland parish boundary is a midway line through the very western end of the Fleet that crosses the causeway at Small Mouth (where the 'old' Ferry Bridge used to be, so a little way north of the modern bridge) and then, depending on which map you look at, either follows the southern shore of the harbour or takes a notional midway line right across the harbour. We've always taken the view that it seems a bit barmy to bisect water bodies in two when bird move freely between each so for recording purposes we include all of the waters south of the mainland shore - following that interpretation is also about the only way that anyone can get Little Grebe on their island list these days! There was a time when Little Grebes were sufficiently numerous - certainly always way into double figures - during the wintertime at Ferrybridge that some would spill out into the harbour and even stray as far south as the marina; however, in the last few years numbers have plummeted to low single figures at best and we wouldn't be surprised if these two hugging the mainland shore today aren't the only ones about this winter © Martin Cade: