24th September

A stiff wind usually takes a knocking from passerine seekers but there's no denying that it often does the trick in dropping active migrants at the Bill. Today's brisk northerly downed a steady succession of presumably coasting migrants to a manageably visible and net-able height after they'd arrived in off the sea. Perhaps more of a surprise was another decent little movement of Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill.

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit 1500n, House Martin 320n, Swallow 250n, Chiffchaff 150, Linnet 120n, Blackcap 100, Wheatear 15, Skylark 10n, Grey Wagtail 10, Goldcrest 10, Spotted Flycatcher 8, Yellow Wagtail 7, Tree Pipit 6, with lower totals including Redpoll 2, Merlin 1, Green Sandpiper 1, Turtle Dove 1, Wryneck 1, Firecrest 1, Pied Flycatcher 1.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 70w 3e, Common Scoter 12e 5w, Brent Goose 3w, Teal 1w.

Plenty more of the same including singles of Merlin and Firecrest.

Selected immigrants Obs: Turnip 12, Rusty-dot Pearl 8, Rush Veneer 7, Delicate 2, Silver Y 2, Scarce Bordered Straw 1, Clifden Nonpareil 1.

Thus far this autumn rarities and scarcities haven't been giving themselves up very easily and today's Wryneck along East Cliffs at the Bill was no exception © Roger Hewitt:

One of the day's Yellow Wagtails © Roger Hewitt:

23rd September

A couple of pulses of overnight rain probably came a little too early to have been as beneficial as they might have been a few hours later but they and their associated cloud cover did drop a decent arrival of Wheatears. Offshore, Balearic Shearwaters featured in higher numbers than for a while.

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit c500, Swallow c250, Wheatear c200, alba wagtail 30, Chiffchaff 30, Blackcap 10, Willow Warbler 6, Spotted Flycatcher 5, Whinchat 3, with lower totals including singles of Ringed Plover, Sedge Warbler and Siskin.
Sea passage auk spp 230e 45w, Balearic Shearwater 42w 5e, Common Scoter 8w 6e, Dark-bellied Brent Goose 2w.

Bar-tailed Godwit 7, Sanderling 3, Knot 2 Little Stint 2.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 26, Rush Veneer 7, Scarce Bordered Straw 2, Silver Y 2, Beet Moth 2, Saltmarsh Knot-horn 1, Vestal 1, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1, Turnip 1, Pearly Underwing 1, Delicate 1, White-speck 1.

This morning's Little Stints amongst the Sanderling and Dunlins at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

22nd September

Something of nothing today with the promised cloud cover not materialising and migrant numbers and variety both on the ground and overhead less than impressive.

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit c100, Blackcap 20, Chiffchaff 10, with lower totals including singles of Cattle Egret, Hobby, Grey Plover, Snipe, Whimbrel and Siskin.
Sea passage Common Scoter 20e 14w, Balearic Shearwater 6w 2e, Wigeon 2e, Brent Goose 1w.

Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Ortolan Bunting 1.

Bar-tailed Godwit 8, Knot 2, Merlin 1, Whimbrel 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 19, Rush Veneer 11, Delicate 6, Silver Y 5, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1, Turnip 1, Pearly Underwing 1.

A typical view of a Portland Cattle Egret. With more horses than a whole series of Rawhide you'd think the fields of the island might be quite a draw for a passing Cattle Egret but only a very few of the burgeoning total logged here have ever pitched in on a horse field © Roger Hewitt:

21st September

A lovely millpond-calm, warm and sunny day provided a very varied species list but, hirundines and Meadow Pipits aside, precious little in the way of numbers.

Portland Bill
Migrants Swallow c2500, House Martin c2000, Meadow Pipit c500, Sand Martin c200, with lower totals including Grey Heron 5, Merlin 2, Little Egret 1, Turtle Dove 1.
Sea passage Common Scoter 21w 1e, Velvet Scoter 15w, Dunlin 10w, Arctic Skua 3w 1e, Sandwich Tern 2w, Dark-bellied Brent Goose 1e.

Firecrest 1.

Dunlin 124, Ringed Plover 119, Bar-tailed Godwit 6, Turnstone 6, Knot 5, Curlew 4, Sanderling 1, Common Sandpiper 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 11, Rush Veneer 11, Delicate 5, Pearly Underwing 4, Turnip 3, European Corn-borer 1, Vestal 1, Convolvulus hawkmoth 1, Dark Sword Grass 1, Scarce Bordered Straw 1, Silver Y 1. Grove: Vestal 1, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1.

It's a sad state of affairs that these days whenever you see - late alone catch - a Turtle Dove you feel you need to have a really good look at it just in case it's the last one you ever clap eyes on. As is the case with pretty well all our autumn catches of this species, today's bird was a juvenile. These youngsters vary tremendously in appearance which seemingly relates to whether they're from the first or second brood (apparently they sometimes even have three broods): first brood birds moult far more of their plumage before migration than do birds from the second brood. Our bird has so many adult-like next generation feathers in, for example, its wing coverts that we're guessing it has to be a first brood bird; check out also how amazingly longer the next generation inner two primaries are than the juvenile outer primaries...

...We're sure we've got some decent photographs of presumably later brood youngsters but the only one we could lay our hands on straight away was of this bird from pre-digital times, 21st October 1997; having moulted far less of its juvenile plumage, this individual's altogether plainer with only the lightest smattering of more richly-coloured, chestnut and black adult-like wing coverts © Martin Cade:

20th September

Very benign conditions were no doubt great for migration but, daytime hirundines aside, didn't offer much for the watchers waiting forlornly on the ground for something to happen.

Portland Bill
Migrants Swallow c2000, House Martin c500, Meadow Pipit c250, Sand Martin c200, with lower totals including singles of Snipe and Turtle Dove.
Sea passage Common Scoter 34w 9e, Arctic Skua 3w, Sooty Shearwater 1e.

Bar-tailed Godwit 6.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 35, Rusty-dot Pearl 26, Pearly Underwing 12, Turnip 4, Delicate 4, European Corn-borer 3, Clifden Nonpareil 1, Pink-barred Sallow 1, Silver Y 1. Southwell: Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1.

Old hat these days for many moth-trappers inland, for us Clifden Nonpareil is still a quality rarity - today's individual at the Obs was only the third recorded on the island © Martin Cade:

19th September

Continuing clear skies - at least until the afternoon when heavy cloud cover rolled in from the north - did few favours migrant-wise so a Rosy Starling that showed up at Southwell was very welcome. The afternoon cloud cover did aid mist-netting, in particular holding up many hirundines that had hitherto been passing straight through and the day's Bill ringing total was the highest of the autumn to date.

Portland Bill
Migrants Swallow c1000, Sand Martin c300, Meadow Pipit c250, House Martin c150, with lower totals including Siskin 6, Goldcrest 5, Snipe 2, Purple Sandpiper 1, Turtle Dove 1.
Sea passage Common Scoter 70w, Balearic Shearwater 25w, Wigeon 2w, Teal 1e 1w.

Merlin 1, Rosy Starling 1.

Wryneck 1.

Avocet 7.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 20, Rush Veneer 20, Pearly Underwing 10, Turnip 6, Delicate 6, Dark Sword Grass 1, Scarce Bordered Straw 1. Southwell: Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1.

The Southwell Rosy Starling © Duncan Walbridge:

18th September

Not much happening weather-wise so still rather little happening bird-wise; the Bill area's first Wryneck of the autumn was the day's highlight.

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit c400 over, Wheatear 30, Stonechat 30, with lower totals including Siskin 7 over, Goldcrest 5, Whimbrel 2, Merlin 1, Wryneck 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Redstart 1, Spotted Flycatcher 1.
Sea passage Common Scoter 16e 12w, Arctic Skua 2w 1e, Arctic Tern 3w.

Bar-tailed Godwit 5, Knot 2, Curlew Sandpiper 1, Little Stint 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 33, Pearly Underwing 16, Rusty-dot Pearl 7, Turnip 6, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 2, Delicate 2, Silver Y 2, Dark Sword Grass 1. Southwell: Scarce Bordered Straw 2, Sombre Brocade 1.

This morning's Merlin at the Bill © Roger Hewitt:

Nick Stantiford's been keeping us in touch with the ongoing soap opera of the Southwell Barn Owl pair: the two surviving youngsters are both now flying with their chances considerably improved by what are obviously really good numbers of voles in the vicinity - Nick logged 14 deliveries of voles in a little over three hours a few evenings ago! © Nick Stantiford:

17th September


A reminder that there's an InFocus field day at the Obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Sunday 18th September.

'Catastrophically clear' was the assessment of the conditions from the early net-openers at the Obs and it was certainly the coolest dawn since late spring. As expected, migrants weren't plentiful either on the ground or overhead. 

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit 250 over + 100 grounded, Wheatear 30, Blackcap 25, Chiffchaff 25, Willow Warbler 10, Tree Pipit 8, Yellow Wagtail 5, Chaffinch 5, with lower totals including singles of Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest and Siskin.
Sea passage Common Scoter 15e 10w, Sandwich Tern 7w, Great Northern Diver 1e.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 31, Pearly Underwing 9, Turnip 6, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1, Delicate 1.

One of yesterday's Spotted Flycatchers © Geoff Orton:

Once the morning warmed up we were surprised to encounter what we presume is a female Black-tailed Skimmer beside one of the paths in the Crown Estate Field. Former breeding populations at the Obs and at Yeolands Quarry fizzled out many years ago and latterly this species has only been a less than annual stray to the island; although the logged records from the breeding era are rather imperfect we can't find any reference to them having been recorded as late in the year as September © Martin Cade:

16th September

Today's dawn cloud cover didn't seem to affect migrants in any way that was beneficial for us, with considerably less grounded and overhead than might be hoped in mid-September.

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit 200 over + 100 grounded, Chiffchaff 50, Blackcap 40, Wheatear 30, Yellow Wagtail 10, Grey Wagtail 7, Tree Pipit 6, with lower totals including singles of Merlin, Whimbrel, Redstart, Reed Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest and Siskin.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 4w, Greylag Goose 1e.

Knot 5, Sanderling 4, Curlew Sandpiper 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 67, Rusty-dot Pearl 23, Turnip 9, Pearly Underwing 7, Silver Y 5, Delicate 3, Vestal 2, Daimond-back 1, Blair's Mocha 1, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1, Dark Sword grass 1, Scarce Bordered Straw 1.

15th September

An unexpectedly heavy cloud cover at dawn did no harm today and there was a nice little drop of grounded arrivals along with a fair trickle of overhead migrants brought down to a very visible height. The Bee-eater undertook a few more early laps of the south of the island before seemingly managing to escape: it wasn't reported after mid-morning and it's tempting to wonder if later news of singles over Durlston and the Isle of Wight referred to the same individual. Among the commoner migrants an early first Redpoll and the first passing Red-throated Diver of the season were of note

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit 300 over + 250 grounded, Yellow Wagtail 50, Blackcap 50, Chiffchaff 45, Wheatear 40, Willow Warbler 30, Grey Wagtail 17, Chaffinch 17, Tree Pipit 14, with lower totals including Spotted Flycatcher 5, White Wagtail 3, Little Egret 1, Merlin 1, Kingfisher 1, Bee-eater 1, Swift 1, Redstart 1, Pied Flycatcher 1, Siskin 1, Redpoll 1.
Sea passage Teal 4e, Red-throated Diver 1w.

Yellowhammer 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 154, Rusty-dot Pearl 52, Turnip 18, Pearly Underwing 17, Silver Y 10, Delicate 6, Vestal 4, Diamond-back 3, Dark Sword Grass 3, European Corn-borer 2, Wax Moth 1, Scarce Bordered Straw 1, Red Admiral butterfly 1.

Our day was somewhat disrupted by news of a peculiar wagtail having been found at Lodmoor, debate about which hung over proceedings like a bad smell and eventually forced us to abort the potential of the Bill to go and take a look. We were fortunate to jam straight into what were evidently the best views thus far obtained, even if the bird remained frustratingly silent which greatly hampered the ID process. Despite being told by well-travelled observers that 'it looks just like all the Eastern Yellow Wagtails we've seen' it actually looked rather unlike what we'd imagined one would look like: amongst other things, the enormous wing-bars, black-centred tertials, wholly black bill and at least part of the head pattern all looked spot on for the bird to have had a massive input of Citrine genes. However (and despite having been shown a photo taken earlier of the head pattern looking pretty well perfect for Citrine!), we utterly failed to see any suggestion of a whitish wrap around the rear ear-coverts and if not really dark then the lores certainly weren't in any way pale. This wackily-anomalous head pattern aside it was clearly a Citrine, but at what point does that sort of anomaly become an issue? - we've seen several photos of similar-ish vagrant Citrines with the rider added that this sort of head pattern's unusual or aberrant but that seems like a bit of a concern when these features are of such importance. It'd be really good if the call of the bird could be recorded to show that at least all's well in that department © Martin Cade:

14th September

Another wash-out dawn was very disappointing but the weather did eventually clear up and by the late afternoon it begun to feel a lot like summer had returned. With the afternoon sunshine came a surprise reappearance of the Bee-eater that remained just as mobile as it had been the day before yesterday; a selection of raptors included 2 Honey Buzzards and an Osprey, whilst Clouded Yellows surfaced/arrived in their highest numbers of the year to date, with 40 or more between the Bill and Southwell.

Portland Bill
Selected migrants Meadow Pipit 150n, Wheatear 75, Yellow Wagtail 25, Tree Pipit 3, Swift 2, Pied Flycatcher 2, Honey Buzzard 1, Greenshank 1, Green Sandpiper 1, Common Sandpiper 1, Bee-eater 1, White Wagtail 1.

North Portland 
Osprey 1s, Honey Buzzard 1s.

Sanderling 8, Knot 3, Curlew Sandpiper 2, Little Stint 1.

Selected migrants Obs: Rush Veneer 17, Rusty-dot Pearl 14, Pearly Underwing 11, Turnip 8, Dark Sword Grass 4, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 2, Scarce Bordered Straw 2, Silver Y 2, Diamond-back 1, European Corn-borer 1, Delicate 1. Grove: Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1.

This afternoon's Honey Buzzard over the Bill was rather odd since it looked to have just come in off the sea - maybe it had chickened out after leaving earlier? - and proceeded to circle enormously high overhead for a long time (it was jammily noticed while scanning around for the Bee-eater that could be heard but not seen and for most of the time was just a tiny speck that was unresolvable to the naked eye!). Although Honey was suspected, the field views at such long range were pretty inadequate and it took a series of massively blown-up photos to fully confirm the ID © Martin Cade:

13th September

Very far from the sort of day we were hoping for, with rain or drizzle from before dawn until early evening spoiling most opportunities for getting amongst what looked to be a promising arrival of migrants; with the open areas well scattered with the likes of wagtails and Wheatears, and visible migrants clearly on the move there would surely have more to be found had the bushes been properly bird-able or net-able.

Portland Bill
Migrants Meadow Pipit 160e, Swallow 100e, Wheatear 40, Yellow Wagtail 30, Blackcap 10, Willow Warbler 10, Whinchat 5, Tree Pipit 3, with additional ones and twos including Snipe 1.
Sea passage Knot 15e, Lesser Black-backed Gull 15s, Common Scoter 9e, Sandwich Tern 5e 1w, Balearic Shearwater 1w.

Dunlin 135, Ringed Plover 75, Bar-tailed Godwit 5, Dark-bellied Brent Goose 2w, Knot 2, Curlew Sandpiper 1, Little Stint 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 69, Rush Veneer 68, Turnip 16, Pearly Underwing 7, Silver Y 6, Vestal 4, Scarce Bordered Straw 4, Diamond-back 3, Delicate 2, Vagrant Metal-mark Tebenna micalis 1, Dark Sword Grass 1, Neglected Rustic 1, Dark Spectacle 1.

It seems like our Bee-eater managed to escape the island before today's grotty weather materialised but it left us with plenty of memories (its prey in the photograph is a Red Admiral butterfly) © Martin Cade:

Moth-trapping's been ticking along quite successfully lately without there being many really classy immigrants. Last night's catch featured a slightly improved array of oddities amongst which the little Choreutid, Vagrant Metal-mark Tebenna micalis, was a nice highlight. There was a time, way back in 1998, when we got to know this species quite well as it bred prolifically at Yeolands Quarry, after having been recorded new for the island only a few weeks earlier; however, this freaky event turned out to be a one-off and subsequently the species reverted to its former status as a quality rarity © Martin Cade:

Almost as exciting for us is what we take to be a Neglected Rustic which, assuming it is one rather than us being stringy, would be only the second or third record for the island of this stray from the heathlands - it certainly caught the eye amongst all the run-of-the-mill Square-spot Rustics even if that apparent distinctiveness mightn't be conveyed in our photograph. We've been shown some striking paler examples of this species that look perfectly obvious but his more reddish specimen is pretty subtle © Martin Cade:

12th September

Another nicely varied tally today but perhaps not quite including the numbers of common migrants that looked to be on the cards as dawn broke with patchy cloud overhead, a waft of an easterly and an enticing warmth in the air. The Bee-eater remained marooned on the island and, as the day wore on, begun to exhibit signs of getting pretty cheesed off with life as the weather took a downer and it undertook increasingly rapid circuits of much of the centre and south of the island. Yet another Honey Buzzard scooted through and yet again escaped the attention of nearly everyone, a second Wryneck joined yesterday's bird at Suckthumb and an Ortolan Bunting at Broadcroft was a nice addition to the scarce list.

Portland Bill
Migrants Yellow Wagtail 40, Blackcap 25, Tree Pipit 20, Wheatear 20, Stonechat 20, Grey Wagtail 12, Whinchat 5, with lower totals including Hobby 1, Kingfisher 1, Bee-eater 1, Cetti's Warbler 1, Siskin 1.
Sea passage Common Scoter 20e 7w, Lesser Black-backed Gull 20s, Arctic Skua 2e 1w. 

Swallow c1000, Blackcap c50, Redstart 6, Spotted Flycatcher 3, Wryneck 2, Honey Buzzard 1, Bee-eater 1, Ortolan Bunting 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 1, Rush Veneer 91, Turnip 6, Pearly Underwing 3, Delicate 3, Silver Y 2, Diamond-back 1, Olive-tree Pearl 1. Grove: Beautiful Marbled 1.

The Broadcroft Ortolan Bunting © Martin Adlam:

11th September

With an overnight shift in the breeze into the east and summer-like warmth and clear skies the order of the day there were ample reasons to get out into the field today (...not that many people actually seemed to see it that way). Whilst the rewards didn't come thick and fast the season's very belated first Wryneck gave early hope before, just as expectations flagged early in the afternoon, literally out of the blue a very welcome Bee-eater descended to spend the rest of the day in residence (first at the Bill and later at Suckthumb). It had been too clear and moonlit overnight to expect a substantial grounding of migrants but the decent little spread on offer was backed up with further signs of visible passage gathering momentum.

Portland Bill
Grounded migrants Robin 50, Wheatear 30, Blackcap 25, Whinchat 11, Redstart 3, with a varied list of additional ones and twos.
Visible passage Meadow Pipit 400, Swallow 100, Yellow Wagtail 42, Grey Wagtail 16, Tree Pipit 8, Chaffinch 8, Honey Buzzard 1, Little Egret 1, Ringed Plover 1, Snipe 1, Skylark 1.
Sea passage Gannet 500e, Kittiwake 58w, Sandwich Tern 8w 1e, Brent Goose 2w, 

Honey Buzzard 2s, Wryneck 1, Pied Flycatcher 1, Goldcrest 1.

Portland Port 
Black Redstart 1. 

Swallow 272s, Meadow Pipit 200s, Yellow Wagtail 21s, Tree Pipit 2s, Bar-tailed Godwit 5, Curlew Sandpiper 2, Knot 2.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 182, Rusty-dot Pearl 33, Turnip 12, Pearly Underwing 11, Dark Sword Grass 6, Silver Y 6, Delicate 4, Small Mottled Willow 2, European Corn-borer 1, Vestal 1, Red Admiral butterfly 2.

We're probably being forgetful and haven't had time to check the facts but we don't recollect there ever having been an autumn Bee-eater at Portland, let alone one as late as in mid-September; oddly, this one's an adult and not a dowdy, disorientated youngster as might have been expected © Martin Cade:

A snatched record-shot from a little more than split-second view of one of the day's three Honey Buzzards bombing south over Thumb Lane © Dan Law:

10th September

A welcome quietening down in the weather brought an end to our recent all too long migfast (...great term, many thanks to whoever coined/corrupted that one) and saw birds get moving in fair numbers and, as befits mid-September, much improved variety. Singles of Icterine Warbler and Cetti's Warbler were nice scarcities, whilst a fall of 50 Robins at the Bill was, by recent standards, noteworthy for being so early in the season. A surprise event considering what looked to be wholly unsuitable conditions was an arrival of immigrant insects: the few moth-traps that had been left on were busy with Rush Veneers in particular, whilst by day there was a noticeable increase Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow and Hummingbird Hawkmoth numbers.

Portland Bill
Grounded migrants Wheatear 90, Robin 50, Blackcap 30, Willow Warbler 20, Chiffchaff 10, Whinchat 9, Whitethroat 5, Lesser Whitethroat 5, Pied Flycatcher 3, Spotted Flycatcher 3, Garden Warbler 2, with singles including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cetti's Warbler and Icterine Warbler.
Visible passage Swallow 500, Meadow Pipit 130, Sand Martin 100, House Martin 75, Yellow Wagtail 30, Grey Wagtail 24, Chaffinch 10, Tree Pipit 6.
Sea passage Arctic Skua 2w, Balearic Shearwater 1w.

Pied Flycatcher 4, Siskin 3, Goldcrest 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 95, Rusty-dot Pearl 29, Silver Y 12, Turnip 11, Pearly Underwing 10, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1, Dark Sword Grass 1, Delicate 1, Bordered Straw 1.

Today's Icterine Warbler - you don't usually get to appreciate from field views just how broad-based the bill of a Hippolais warbler is © Martin Cade:

With an all-time total of 16 ringed before today, Cetti's Warbler is a rather higher-value in-hand bird at Portland than Icterine Warbler - today's Icterine was the 48th ringed here © Martin Cade:

One of a good total of 5 Lesser Whitethroats logged at the Bill today © Roger Hewitt:

Finally, a sad footnote to the day: we've just read of the recent passing of Iain Robertson who was PBO warden between 1975 and 1978; the writer of these notes will be forever grateful for Iain's unfailing support and encouragement in his junior years - many thanks Iain, it was much appreciated.

Iain Robertson with a Wryneck, PBO, 24th April 1976 © Steve Gantlett:

9th September

Rather out of the blue since the still blustery wind was firmly in the northwest and the conditions far from settled there was a small drop of new arrivals today - numbers remained far below what might be hoped at this stage of the autumn but after the last rather abject fortnight we'll happily take what's on offer.

Portland Bill
Migrants Grey Wagtail 29, Wheatear 25, Willow Warbler 25, Yellow Wagtail 12, Meadow Pipit 10s, Blackcap 5, Chiffchaff 5, Sedge Warbler 3, Dunlin 2, Tree Pipit 2, Garden Warbler 2, Spotted Flycatcher 2, with singles including Osprey 1s, Ringed Plover and Purple Sandpiper.
Sea passage Lesser Black-backed Gull 47s, Balearic Shearwater 4w 3e, Common Scoter 3e 1w, Manx Shearwater 1w, Arctic Skua 1w.

Bar-tailed Godwit 5, Knot 2, Curlew Sandpiper 2, Little Stint 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 22, Turnip 8, Rush Veneer 6, Pearly Underwing, Scarce Bordered Straw 1, Silver Y 1.

These days our wintering Purple Sands often don't return until getting on for November so this weary pausing youngster - already the second this autumn - was a decent bird for this date...

...are the little white spikey plumes on the nape some sort of remnant of the downy first plumage? - we don't recollect noticing this on other juvenile calidrids at this time of year © Jeremy Palmer:

8th September

Weather-wise, comprehensively the poorest day for months with a constant blasting westerly and the afternoon emphatically rained off. Migrant-hunting on the land was pretty much of a write-off; the sea was always worth attention and did eventually come up with the first Grey Phalarope of the year.

Portland Bill
Migrants Yellow Wagtail 5, Spotted Flycatcher 1.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 60w 3e, Kittiwake 31w, Common Scoter 8e 3w, Sooty Shearwater 3w, Arctic Skua 1w.

Chesil Cove
Grey Phalarope 1, Arctic Skua 1, Little Gull 1.

Knot 5, Curlew Sandpiper 3, Bar-tailed Godwit 3, Merlin 1, Little Stint 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 29, Rush Veneer 13, Delicate 3, Turnip 2, Silver Y 2.

The first Merlin of the autumn at Ferrybridge this evening © Nic Jones:

Moth interest has progressively dwindled away this week in the face of increasingly hostile trapping conditions and, at least last night, a seemingly immigrant-unfriendly weather situation. A national talking point in the last few weeks has been an increasingly widespread influx of the Beet Moth Scobipalpa ocellatella - hitherto a coastal specialist that seems to have gone a bit mad and turned up pretty well everywhere in sometimes extraordinary numbers. It's a moth that's long been known at Portland where its usual foodplant - Sea Beet - is well established; we've always caught a fair few at the Obs and in places like Ferrybridge it can be really quite abundant. Because it's a routine resident it isn't a moth we've ever bothered to count but we've hardly detected any signs of increased numbers just lately - and certainly nothing like the huge catches made even as close as Weymouth - which really adds a bit of mystery to the situation! © Martin Cade:

Finally, a really grim sight during our evening seawatch at Chesil Cove were all the sickly-looking Gannets just off the beach - presumably avian flu victims - seemingly lining up to die; this individual did die literally right in front of our eyes - that's not a thing you see very often during the course of your routine birding:

We're a wee bit surprised the authorities aren't taking this issue more seriously: with Chesil already littered with dead Gannets being picked over by gulls and crows you don't have to stretch imagination far to see these same gulls and crows soon afterwards scavenging for scraps around a local picnic bench beside which Little Johnny picks up and eats his chip that's just fallen in their c**p. The origins of the next pandemic anyone?

7th September

A somewhat more benign day than expected although always a tad too breezy for getting amongst what looked to be an ever so slightly improved selection of grounded migrants. Hopes for the sea proved wide of the mark save for a Long-tailed Skua passed through off Chesil Cove.

Portland Bill
Migrants Wheatear 12, Whinchat 10, Grey Wagtail 4, Ringed Plover 3, Willow Warbler 2, with singles including Common Sandpiper, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 28w, Sooty Shearwater 1w, petrel sp 1w.

Verne Common 
Osprey 1s.

Chesil Cove 
Balearic Shearwater 12, Sandwich Tern 9, Arctic Skua 4, Long-tailed Skua 1.

Sanderling 8, Curlew Sandpiper 5, Knot 3, Bar-tailed Godwit 3, Little Stint 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 28, Rush Veneer 3, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 2, Turnip 2, Spindle Knot-horn 1, Dark Sword grass 1, Delicate 1.

Nick Stantiford's Southwell Barn Owls have now got to their first flight stage and this has revealed that there are/were actually three youngsters in the box; sadly, during a scrap for a vole a couple of nights ago the smallest of the three took a tumble from the box and feathers found on the ground after dawn suggested it had been predated soon afterwards © Nick Stantiford:

6th September

Portland Bill
Migrants Wheatear 18, Grey Wagtail 15, Tree Pipit 6, Blackcap 5, Willow Warbler 5, Yellow Wagtail 3, Whinchat 2, and singles including Caspian Gull, Lesser Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 52 w 9e, Kittiwake 37w, Manx Shearwater 1w.

Dunlin 220, Ringed Plover 120, Sanderling 20, Knot 2 + 20e, Curlew Sandpiper 1, Little Stint 1, Bar-tailed Godwit 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 67, Rush Veneer 25, Delicate 10, Turnip 4, Vestal 1, Silver Y 1.

With yesterday evening's attempt to see/video the Little Stint thwarted by the onset of an electric storm and the heavens opening we endured a virtual repeat this evening when biblical quantities of rain and rumbling thunder greeted our arrival at Ferrybridge; fortunately, a clearance just as dusk was falling did at least allow us to see it even if conditions were hardly optimal © Martin Cade:

Earlier, we'd been pleased to finally get to the bottom of an ongoing mystery - that of a Japanese Quail at Blacknor. We'd first become aware of this matter several weeks ago when mystery calls emanating from the area had been identified on a BirdForum thread initiated by a visitor from abroad as belonging to a Japanese Quail. We didn't follow up the matter at the time but after an alert today from a member of the public who reported hearing unfamiliar calls in the same area 'for several months' we decided to check it out. It very quickly became apparent that not only are there captive Japanese Quails in an allotment there but some have escaped and are at liberty in an adjacent quarry where two singing males were clearly audible if always invisible in thick cover from where we failed to lure them out with playback © Martin Cade:

5th September

The very unstable airflow introduced by a whopping low pressure area anchored west of Britain unleashed a spectacular storm and torrential rain towards dusk but not before the daylight hours had been reasonably bird-able. Sadly, the migration hiatus continued (...how long is it before a hiatus morphs into something more profound like a pointer toward an unfolding ecological breakdown?) and a dawn Ortolan Bunting over the Obs proved not to be the harbinger of better things; the first Little Stint of the season and another Caspian Gull were additional decent scarcities but common migrant numbers remained woefully low.

Portland Bill
Migrants Grey Wagtail 15, Wheatear 10, Willow Warbler 10, Yellow Wagtail 5, Blackcap 4, with singles including Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Ortolan Bunting.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 7e 4w, Shoveler 2e.

Sanderling 7, Bar-tailed Godwit 4, Knot 2, Whimbrel 1, Little Stint 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 59, Rush Veneer 23, Delicate 4, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1, Turnip 1, Pearly Underwing 1, Dark Sword Grass 1, Scarce Bordered Straw 1, Silver Y 1.

4th September

The weather upheaval became much more apparent today with a stiff southerly bringing in heavy cloud cover and even the occasional shower; however, the heaviest rain and associated lightning held off until after dark. With little meaningful coverage of the land possible it was left to the sea to provide most of the day's limited interest: the fact that our Common Scoter tally trumped that at Berry Head was a far from memorable event but we do have to clutch at something...

Portland Bill
Migrants Swallow c100s, with singles including Osprey and Reed Warbler.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 65w 6e, Common Scoter 11e 2w, Manx Shearwater 10w 1e, Sooty Shearwater 1w.

Osprey 1s (same individual seen shortly afterwards at the Bill).

Sanderling 19, Curlew Sandpiper 3, Bar-tailed Godwit 2, Knot 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 1, Rush Veneer 6, Turnip 2, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1, Dark Sword Grass 1, Delicate 1, White-speck 1, Silver Y 1. Blacknor: Bordered Straw 1, Scarce Bordered Straw 1.

3rd September

Bird-wise, just an itsy-bitsy selection of no particular consequence today; on the moth front, however, promising conditions produced a noticeable arrival of the commonest immigrants even if there wasn't anything particularly unexpected amongst the back-up oddities. 

Portland Bill
Migrants Yellow Wagtail 20, Wheatear 18, Willow Warbler 10, Whinchat 7, Tree Pipit 2, Sedge Warbler 2, Blackcap 2, with singles including Little Egret 1s, Knot, Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher 1.
Sea passage Gannet 280e, Arctic Skua 1e 1w, Sandwich Tern 2w.

Ringed Plover 186, Dunlin 98, Sanderling 4, Knot 2, Bar-tailed Godwit 1, Whimbrel 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rush Veneer 171, Rusty-dot Pearl 113, Silver Y 11, Delicate 7, Turnip 5, Diamond-back 4, Saltmarsh Knot-horn 2, Portland Ribbon Wave 2, Dark Sword Grass 2, European Corn-borer 1, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1, Small Marbled 1. Grove: Saltmarsh Knot-horn 1.

One of the nicest-looking birds we've handled recently was this adult male Whinchat from the Crown Estate Field nets this morning...

Since we quite often struggle with both the ageing and sexing of autumn Whinchats - their plumage has so many intricacies that sometimes we don't seem to be able to see the wood for the trees when it comes to spotting subtle differences between or discontinuities within various feather tracts - today's bird made for a nice comparison with a jammy 'one of each sex' catch of two first-year birds just a few days ago; this is the first-year male...

...and this is the first-year female © Martin Cade:

2nd September

It really seems that routine migration remains vectored well away from Portland: last night's heavy cloud cover and threat of rain did precious little for numbers by day and the evidence from the nocmig recorder suggests that there aren't the birds on the move overnight either (for example, our highest Tree Pipit total during this passage period has been just 57 on 26th/27th August - in the recent years, overnight totals well into the hundreds have been quite usual at this time of year). For anyone Larus-inclined Portland's earliest ever Caspian Gull was a nice highlight, whilst a fly-by Osprey was missed by most once it had vanished into the low cloud associated with the passing of the day's only brief shower.

Portland Bill
Migrants Wheatear 30, Yellow Wagtail 20, Whinchat 11, Willow Warbler 10, Grey Wagtail 6, Tree Pipit 5, Swift 3, Sedge Warbler 3, with singles including Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Pied Flycatcher.
Sea passage Gannet 350e, Common Scoter 4e 1w, Teal 3e, Arctic Skua 3w.

Tout Quarry
Osprey 1s.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 62, Rush Veneer 16, Pearly Underwing 8, Silver Y 8, Turnip 6, Diamond-back 4, Dark Sword Grass 4, White-streak Grass-veneer A. latistria 3, Blotched Marble E. quadrimaculana 1, Saltmarsh Knot-horn A. oblitella 1, Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1, Delicate 1.

The island's previous earliest autumn date for Caspian Gull was 30th September so today's bird very significantly increases the potential occurrence window (the latest date is 21st November) © Martin Cade:

1st September

September begun as August had ended - very quietly - with the chief talking point of the underemployed fishwives not the day's non-events but anticipation for what the forecast imminent upheaval in the weather might bring.

Portland Bill
Migrants Wheatear 50, Yellow Wagtail 20, Grey Wagtail 7, Tree Pipit 7, Willow Warbler 6, Whinchat 2, Lesser Whitethroat 2, with singles including White Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher.
Sea passage Balearic Shearwater 16e 1w, Lesser Black-backed Gull 15s, Black-headed Gull 14e, Common Gull 3e, Shoveler 2e, Mallard 1e, Teal 1e.

Curlew Sandpiper 1, Sanderling 1, Knot 1, Bar-tailed Godwit 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 24, Turnip 11, Rush Veneer 8, Pearly Underwing 5, Delicate 2, Silver Y 2, Horse Chestnut 1. Southwell: Convolvulus Hawkmoth 1.

After a rather chequered breeding season for Barn Owls there's finally some good news from Southwell where two youngsters have now surfaced from their box and look just about ready to take to the wing © Nick Stantiford:

31st August

They may get all the hype but when was the last time a stiff easterly actually did us much good? Another pretty abject showing today despite a good deal more fieldwork than we've grown accustomed to so far this autumn. To be fair, with no change in the conditions no great change was expected in the parlous migrant situation but just the smallest morsel of quality out of all the legwork would have been nice.

For good reason, the scavengers are gathering around a once great migration watchpoint now reduced to ornithological penury...

Portland Bill
Migrants Swallow 200n, Wheatear 45, Yellow Wagtail 15, Willow Warbler 10, Tree Pipit 6, Whinchat 5, Yellow-legged Gull 3, Redstart 2, with singles including Lesser Whitethroat and Goldcrest.
Sea passage Black-headed Gull 15, Balearic Shearwater 9, Common Scoter 9, Teal 1

Pied Flycatcher 3.

Knot 2, Curlew Sandpiper 1.

Selected immigrants Obs: Rusty-dot Pearl 40, Rush Veneer 30,  Pearly Underwing 5, Turnip 3, Dark Sword Grass 2, Silver Y 2, Diamond-back 1, European Corn-borer 1, Bordered Straw 1.

We've got a bit of a backlog of spot the differences photos from the last couple of weeks so to start with here are a couple of male Redstarts; this is an adult male - a bird born before this year...

...and here's a first-year male - a bird born this summer © Martin Cade: