24th August

Despite seemingly interesting conditions - a little pre-dawn damp, the threat of rain never far off through the morning and eventually some heavy, thundery downpours either side of midday - the land was pretty abject, with 25 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Tree Pipits, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Redstarts and singles of Spotted and Pied Flycatchers representing the best of what arrival there was at the Bill; a Firecrest also lingered on there with a second individual - a new arrival - at Southwell. Now and again it looked like hirundines might get going overhead but the ever present threat of storms offshore likely put paid to their thoughts of a Channel crossing. Wader variety increased and included 9 Knot, 4 Sanderling and singles of Whimbrel, Redshank and Greenshank at Ferrybridge and 6 Whimbrel and a Redshank at the Bill. The day's surprise performer was the sea - and that despite almost millpond-calm conditions - with 550 Kittiwakes, 79 Balearic Shearwaters, 46 commic terns, 25 Arctic Skuas, 17 Manx Shearwaters and 12 Sandwich Terns through off the Bill; 250 Kittiwakes and 4 Arctic Skuas lingering off Chesil during the evening may have been some of the birds involved in this movement.

This morning's very confiding Whimbrel on the Portland Harbour shore © Pete Saunders:

And now to some news that's already been communicated to attendees of our AGM and other regular visitors to the Obs but is probably not widely known to other more occasional visitors to the island. Last year we completed the purchase of two more tranches of land at the Bill, namely the Privet Hedge Strip and the far westernmost strips in the Obs Quarry Field (these are marked in red on the map below; the green areas are those that we already owned and the blue strips are those that we rent from other landowners). This latest purchase was made possible by a very kind donation from Trish and Dave Budgen in memory of Trish's brother, Rob Tuck, who had been a regular visitor to the Obs before sadly passing away in 2021. Although this purchase came too late for the land to be included within our current Countryside Stewardship agreement we're managing the strips in a similar way: the Privet Hedge Strip was planted this spring with bird-friendly sacrificial arable crops, whilst the strips in the Obs Quarry Field will be left as flower-rich limestone grassland. 

As a thanks to Trish and Dave for their generosity the Observatory commissioned a stone memorial bench that last week was installed atop the hill on the edge of the Privet Hedge Strip; the bench itself is a magnificent three tonne piece of shelly Portland stone, whilst the commanding view from it right across the Bill is equally magnificent © Martin Cade: