20th March

Well, what a scorching day for mid-March. With hardly a breath of breeze to take the edge off the increasingly pleasant sunshine conditions were perfect for birding and the migrants more than obliged with a decent little arrival of the regulars on the ground and overhead, some interesting sea passage and a selection of oddities that was topped off in fine fashion with an Alpine Swift that zoomed around over Southwell during the evening. Dawn saw immediate promise on the migrant front when the first 2 Willow Warblers of the season showed up in the Obs mist-nets; the other expected arrivals weren't hugely numerous on the ground there but Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest all managed double figure totals and a lingering Firecrest provided further interest; amongst a similar spread of birds elsewhere, another Firecrest was at Southwell and the likely Siberian Lesser Whitethroat remained there. Overhead, alba wagtailMeadow Pipits and Sand Martins were arriving steadily, the first House Martin of the year passed through at Southwell, 2 Red Kites arrived from the north over Portland Harbour and singles of Marsh Harrier and Merlin passed over at the Bill. A small movement of 21 Pale-bellied Brent Geese in three flocks off the Bill was unexpected, with 18 Red-throated Divers, 12 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Sandwich Terns also through there and an impressive gathering of 3000 Herring Gulls lingering offshore.

Migrant moth interest perked up a little, with 6 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Turnip, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Diamond-back trapped overnight at the Obs and a Silver Y attracted to the Obs porch light around midnight.

Pete and Debby Saunders' scarcity hotspot garden at Southwell has, by their own admission, been off the boil during the last two or three years so this evening's Alpine Swift right overhead there represented a welcome return to form - lots more of the same please © Pete Saunders:

You don't usually get to see Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes right next to each other in Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:

Amongst this morning's arrival of Wheatears at the Bill this colour-ringed bird was of particular interest. The guys at Lundy Bird Observatory tell us that it was first ringed there as an adult male on 28th May 2022 and was back on the island during the 2023 breeding season; really oddly, after both breeding seasons it's left Lundy and moved to Skokholm to undertake its post-breeding moult during July/August - it might be that this isn't freaky behaviour at all but it's the sort of thing that you'd never realise was happening were it not for it bearing colour-rings © Simon Johnson

The Southwell Lesser Whitethroat today afforded some views of its tail, with the seemingly whopping amount of white in the outer feathers strongly supporting the suggestion that it belongs to one or other of the eastern forms © Alan Mayell

The Marsh Harrier motoring south so high over the Bill that it was only just discernable to the naked eye as a tiny speck was one of those things that was only spotted by virtue of looking for something else - in this case the Red Kites that we'd had a call about; it doesn't pay to dwell too long on all those things we must be missing that slip by like this! © Martin Cade: