24th October

A very low-key day of poor coverage and, after a fair start, a deterioration into unhelpfully wet conditions. The early brightness saw a limited array of seasonable fare logged on the ground but little on the move overhead and only the continuing gatherings of Mediterranean Gulls offshore. A Hobby was a late surprise at the Bill, with 2 each of Black Redstart, Firecrest and Brambling providing further morsels of interest around the centre and south of the island. A lone Great Skua tagged along with a steady passage of Kittiwakes that developed after the afternoon rain had cleared.

23rd October

A few hours of relative calm under a heavily overcast sky afforded some prospect of tapping into new arrivals after dawn, with the trapping of the third Common Rosefinch of the autumn (like the other two, this was again at the Obs) the principal reward. A fly-over Snow Bunting at the Bill was a first for the season, whilst further scarcity interest there came in the form of the reappearance of one of yesterday's Caspian Gulls, the lingering Hen Harrier, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Short-eared Owls, at least 1 Merlin and a Firecrest. There were extra common migrants about but they were hardly a spectacle to behold: with so much cloud cover overhead passage was largely a non-event, but the first multiple arrival of Goldcrests (...where are they all?) was noteworthy on the ground. The day's spectacle was undoubtedly the extraordinary numbers of Mediterranean Gulls lingering offshore, with the logged minimum of 2000 looking at times to be very conservative.

This autumn's Common Rosefinches haven't exactly been co-operative and although today's bird did remain visible for a while after release it wasn't exactly showy © Martin Cade:


We happened to have the nocmig recorder still running when the Snow Bunting flew over:

22nd October

A day with plenty going on although it was all overhead or offshore - the land remained firmly in the doldrums with new arrivals on the ground few and far between. A strong movement of Wood Pigeons was already underway as dawn broke and set the scene for the day's migration happenings that were all skyward: the pigeon total eventually reached a respectable 12,500, with the varied vismig tally also including 650 Goldfinches, 200 Meadow Pipits, 200 Jackdaws, 130 Starlings, 125 Chaffinches, 60 Siskins, 11 Bramblings and 3 Merlins. The offshore happenings were less about movement and more about voracious feeding: the gatherings of gulls along East Cliffs and off the Bill that have been such a feature just lately continued and included both Black-headed Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls in their hundreds; these in turn attracted 2 Caspian Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull, while 13 Balearic Shearwaters, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua passed by or lingered for periods. The Hen Harrier, at least 2 Short-eared Owls and the Black Redstart lingered at the Bill but, even allowing for the dreary sky and strength of the pretty chilly wind that made for uncomfortable birding, the bushes and other cover on the ground looked to be genuinely bereft of new arrivals. Finally, the Black Brant (or hybrid, depending on how minutely you wish to dissect its features) was again at Ferrybridge.

Wood Pigeons: mundane they might be in everyday life, but seeing the dawn sky full of them on active migration is enough of a spectacle to up their value quite considerably © Martin Cade:





For a good part of the morning it was hard to know whether to concentrate on the sky or the sea for they both had so many competing attractions, with the latter chipping in with the likes of Gannets diving at point blank range and Balearic Shearwaters lurking on the periphery of the feeding flocks © Martin Cade:




It was the gulls the provided all the numbers offshore. Although we'd been secretly hoping for something like a Bonaparte's Gull amongst all the Black-headed Gulls, this Caspian Gull was a nice compensation © Martin Cade...





...however, when we nipped down to have another look at it when it was found again late in the day we struggled to reconcile some of the plumage details with what we'd seen during the morning - a closer look at the photos after the event shows the reason for this is that they're two different individuals! © Joe Stockwell:


21st October

 


A reminder that there's an InFocus field day at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Sunday, 24th October.

A most turbulent of nights saw a few hours of gale force winds and torrential rain introduce much cooler air that in turn prompted of pulse of departing migrants to develop once clear skies returned after dawn. Variety was to the fore, with 400 Wood Pigeons, 250 Goldfinches, 175 each of Linnet and Siskin, 150 alba wagtails, 100 Chaffinches, 23 Bramblings, 21 Greenfinches, 2 Merlins and a Woodlark among the movers over the Bill; later, 2 Glossy Ibis snuck through over Thumb Lane but escaped attention elsewhere. In terms of numbers, the returns from the ground fell far short of those from overhead, with Blackcap the only reasonably well-represented arrival (there were surely several hundred about the island in total but this species is so difficult to census here in autumn!); quality came in the form of a Hen Harrier at the Bill and a Jay at Fortuneswell, as well as totals of 3 Short-eared Owls, 3 Firecrests, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Black Redstart, a Dartford Warbler and the first Fieldfare of the autumn dotted about the centre and south of the island. Gulls continued to dominate offshore, with at least 750 Kittiwakes and 500 Mediterranean Gulls amongst the mix off the Bill where a lone Balearic Shearwater also passed by; the lingering Common Tern was also still at Ferrybridge.

20th October

Freaky weather always opens up the possibilities for freaky bird arrivals and Pallid Swift had been spoken of more than once during the ongoing extreme mildness; when visitors dropped in at the Obs with news of a 'noticeably brown' swift passing by along the Grove cliffs it seemed like the predictions had come to fruition; however, subsequent searches for it drew a blank so it'll likely prove to be one of those that got away. With the mildness accompanied by plenty of wind the sea got a lot of attention, with 4 Great Skuas, 2 Gadwall and a Little Gull the pick of the returns from Chesil Cove and singles of Balearic Shearwater and Pomarine Skua the best off the Bill; also of note was a late Common Tern that dropped in at Ferrybridge. The land had its moments, albeit not many of them: the Black Brant paid another visit to Ferrybridge, the late Hobby lingered on at Verne Common and 50 Siskins and singles of Merlin, Black Redstart and Firecrest were logged at the Bill.

The Hobby would have given some great views at Verne Common but was always a long way off from our viewpoint at Fancy's Farm © Martin Cade:


Spending some time on the viewpoint at Fancy's Farm reminded us yet again of how fantastic the habitat looks on this part of the undercliff and how absurd it is that there's no public access to this whole area: it all falls within the estate of Portland Port who evidently deem that providing public access would be some sort of security risk - we're not quite sure to whom, but what's abundantly clear is that providing access would open up for scrutiny the extent to which the insidious creep of industrial development is eking into the greenery that overran this area once its previous custodians - the Royal Navy - departed in 1999 © Martin Cade:



Heavy rain and cloud cleared by1100hrs and ringing with restricted netting at Portland Bird Observatory produced 8 birds before closure and a new heavy storm from 1800hrs. Only 2nd Firecrest ringed this autumn with 3 Siskin,Blcap and 1 new juv. male Sparrowhawk. pic.twitter.com/m41JmJc3zQ

19th October

The turbulent but extremely mild conditions introduced by yesterday's weather front resulted in spells of rain before dawn and towards evening but, the strength of the wind aside, it wasn't too bad a day for getting amongst some more sea passage and a hatful of winter arrivals of Ferrybridge; sadly, the migrant situation remained firmly on the bleak side. Gulls again dominated at sea, with a sample 90 minute total of 700 Black-headed Gulls through off the Bill adequately reflecting their continuing unprecedented passage; plenty of other small gulls were sucked in, along with two Arctic Skuas and singles of Great Northern Diver, Balearic Shearwater and Great Skua. Ferrybridge was positively rammed, with the huge numbers of Dark-bellied Brents and Mediterranean Gulls joined by amongst others the Black Brant, at least three Pale-bellied Brents, four Bar-tailed Godwits, two Sandwich Terns and a Sanderling. The continuing Siskin  displacement included flocks of 65 at Verne Common and 21 at Pennsylvania Castle, whilst other odds and ends in the migrant line included singles of Merlin, Black Redstart and Firecrest at the Bill and a late Hobby at Verne Common.

There's no denying that the arrival of the wintering brents afford a real spectacle at Ferrybridge, all the more so when there are a thousand Mediterranean Gulls mingling amongst them; of course the presence in their midst of the odd Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent doesn't do any harm either © Ralph Todd:




The Black-headed Gull passage continued apace © Andy Swash WILDGuides.co.uk

18th October

Although it remained very mild there was a profound upheaval today as the progress of a weather front saw wind and rain set in and, towards evening, thick fog cloak the island. A few hours of fieldwork were possible before the rain arrived but the rewards on the land were low-key: what's presumably one of the returning Black Brants showed up for the first time at Ferrybridge but migrant numbers showed no great improvement, with two each of Merlin and Brambling, and singles of Golden Plover, Snipe and Firecrest as good as it got at the Bill. The sea was considerably more productive, with 13 Arctic Skuas, six Great Skuas, two Pomarine Skuas and a Manx Shearwater through off the Bill along with a constant procession of gulls that included, at times, Kittiwakes at 400 per hour and Black-headed Gulls at 100 per hour.

One of the day's Merlins © Andy Swash WILDGuides.co.uk


We have absolutely no clue as to what's going with Black-headed Gulls just at the moment, save to say that the numbers being logged at the Bill - where there have been many hundreds passing on some days in the last fortnight - are unprecedented in modern memory, if not ever © Martin Cade:


17th October

Just like the acceptance that more than 100 folk a day dying of Covid is somehow normal, so it seems to be being accepted that the presence of a few Short-eared Owls and odd mini-scarcity make for a good day's birding at Portland in mid-October - they really don't and it should be miles better than this! In more of what can only be described as ridiculous weather for the time of year - in the blazing sun, shorts and tee-shirts were the order of the day within a couple of hours of dawn - a lot of common migrants that ought to be featuring everywhere were all but absent: barely more than single figures of Blackcap and Chiffchaff made it onto the day-sheet and was there really not a single 'crest anywhere on the island? The first Jay out of what sounds to be a significant influx elsewhere was a nice sight at Ladymead, whilst three Little Egrets, two Short-eared Owls and at least one Dartford Warbler entertained at the Bill where off-passage flocks of finches provided the best of the grounded migrants. It was far busier overhead where not far short of a thousand Starlings arrived from the south and two Merlins were amongst a typically varied seasonable array leaving in the other direction. Offshore, the continuing influx of gulls and other seabirds provided such a quick-fire post-dawn movement past the Bill that the counters were barely able to keep up: more than 1000 each of Kittiwake and Razorbill were excellent totals for October, with the likes of three Balearic Shearwaters, two Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Yellow-legged Gull all nice additions to the tally. 

A Vagrant Emperor dragonfly was at Suckthumb Quarry during the morning.

A concerning sight in recent days has been the number of grounded Siskins looking as though they're really struggling, with no apparent reason as to why this should be. Portland isn't some sort of godforsaken Northern Isle where sights like this are commonplace and a fair proportion of the hapless passerine migrants that make landfall probably end of dying - rather, Siskin's a common enough migrant here and even in influx years when their usual food source has failed we simply don't see behaviour like this; indeed, the vast majority are so seemingly fit and healthy as to be active visible migrants that don't even bother to pitch in © Martin Cade:

16th October

In continuing benign conditions migrants were in far shorter supply than might be hoped in mid-October, although the sea provided unexpected interest with large numbers of gulls offshore. A strong movement of smaller gulls off the Bill included a Sabine's Gull amongst 600 Kittiwakes, 200 Black-headed Gulls, 180 Mediterranean Gulls and 120 Common Gulls, with singles of Red-throated Diver, Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua providing some more conventional interest there. It was hard work on the land with many usually productive patches of cover seemingly devoid of even common fare such as Chiffchaffs; 4 Short-eared Owls and singles of Black Redstart, Siberian Chiffchaff and Dartford Warbler were of note at the Bill, with further single Black Redstarts at both Reap Lane and Blacknor, a Ring Ouzel at Church Ope Cove and a Lesser Whitethroat (presumably on date alone most likely an 'eastern' bird of some sort) at Wakeham. It was only marginally busier overhead, where a Woodlark over the Bill and a Short-eared Owl over Ferrybridge were the best of the bunch.

Orthoptera interest came in the form of what's believed to be the first documented record of an Oak Bush-cricket for the island, even if the fact that it was found inside the Obs perhaps suggests the possibility of it being an unintended introduction (perhaps amongst the belongings of one of our guests?).

15th October

Summer lingered on for another day although not before more cloud in the sky at dawn had offered some promise on the migrant front; sadly, this proved to be a false dawn and, with a few exceptions, migrant numbers were their lowest of the week. The Siberian Chiffchaff tally at the Obs increased to two and 4 Short-eared Owls, a Marsh Harrier, a Jack Snipe and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill, a Firecrest at Tilleycombe and a Black Redstart at Blacknor provided additional scarcity interest, but beyond a total of 40 Stonechats at the Bill there was precious little worth a comment on the ground; just into three figure totals of arriving Starlings and departing Wood Pigeons were of note overhead. Enormous numbers of large gulls - estimated at 7-8000 - were ashore on Chesil gorging on whitebait washed ashore, with more than 200 Kittiwakes and 100 Mediterranean Gulls lingering off the Bill perhaps also associated with this event; singles of Balearic Shearwater and Great Skua also passed by off the Bill.

A Vagrant Emperor dragonfly was seen in the Obs garden briefly during the afternoon.

We've mentioned this before but this autumn has thus far provided more evidence that the population(s) of Firecrests that we get passing through Portland have never fully recovered from the extraordinary events of October 2017 when, for whatever reason, there was a profound disruption of their usual migration pattern that led to unprecedented numbers pitching up at Portland (indeed today's the anniversary of 150 being logged at the Bill in that year). Today's Tilleycombe bird was only the third logged on the island so far this autumn © Joe Stockwell:



Although we didn't realise it at the time the Siberian Chiffchaff trapped at the Obs during the morning was a new arrival...



...later in the day the usually rather super-elusive lingerer appeared in its usual haunts and was revealed to be unringed © Martin Cade (photos and video) and Joe Stockwell (sound recording):



14th October

The continuing summer-like conditions were great for getting out birding (...it's not often that we get so many moans from visitors in mid-October that they're flagging in their endeavours through being over-dressed) but far from ideal for dropping migrants - fortunately there were a couple of new scarcities to save the day. A Red-breasted Flycatcher that turned up unannounced in a mist-net at the Obs was the second for the year but the first this season, whilst less of a surprise was the second Dartford Warbler of recent days; the lingering although always elusive Siberian Chiffchaff at the Obs completed the face-saving trio. It really was just too fine for commoner migrants: the nocmig recorder logged a steady trickle of Redwings overnight (at just over one/minute overall although there was a distinct peak either side of midnight and passage dwindled away later in the night) and the evidence from the ground was that the majority of other nocturnal migrants must have carried on without stopping. It was busier with diurnal migrants overhead, including the first signs of arriving Starlings along with a steady procession of departing pigeons, Skylarks, finches and Reed Buntings. Finally, three Short-eared Owls were again at the Bill towards dusk.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Dartford Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff © Joe Stockwell:




13th October

We did debate whether we ought to mention that one of the day's 'highlights' was a wide-ranging Mallard (...although a former breeding bird, they've become very infrequent in recent years), but it was so we'll go with it as a reflection of just what a low-key day it was. That's not to say that migrants were sparse because there was a fair bit to see, but scarcity-wise a Siberian Chiffchaff at the Obs was as good as it got. Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails continued to dominate the grounded tally although all dropped back a notch or two in comparison with recent days; 2 Black Redstarts and late-ish singles of Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher were among the odds and ends of interest. Overhead, the pulse of pigeons and corvids continued, with small flocks of Siskins also dribbling through all day; the first Redpoll of the season passed over at Easton but the strong passage of Redwings detected elsewhere didn't really materialise: they were audible in moderate numbers during the later hours of darkness but few continued moving once dawn broke.

12th October

Although we're quick to apportion blame for lack of birds on weather conditions or a variety of often less than plausible intangibles it would have been hard to conjure up anything to find fault with today: the weather was near-perfect for birding and there were certainly plenty of eyes out looking; the rewards might have been far from earth shattering but they at least continued yesterday's little flourish that it's hoped can be maintained for a while yet. Two Yellow-browed Warblers were entirely expected in this day and age, whilst singles of Siberian Chiffchaff, Woodlark, Cetti's Warbler and Common Rosefinch - the latter presumed to be yesterday's bird although, since it only showed briefly, that couldn't be established for sure - were a nice supporting cast. Common migrants weren't nearly as plentiful as yesterday: the evidence from the mist-nets was that, at the Bill at least, Blackcaps outnumbered Chiffchaffs by two to one, with the former likely just managing a three figure total; other than that the seasonable offerings were many and varied although few especially numerous, with only a noticeable increase in Jackdaws overhead and the continued early departure of fair numbers of Wood Pigeons worth a comment.

This morning's fly-by Woodlark at the Bill © Joe Stockwell:


Finally, we've heard back on the ringing details of the colour-ringed Caspian Gull that was sighted amongst the Culverwell gull flock at the end of September and again a week later. Evidently the bird was ringed as a nestling at the Ijsselmeer, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, on 28th May; it was first sighted as a fledged youngster nearby on 16th August but there had been no further sightings until it pitched up at Portland © Martin Cade:


11th October

With high pressure becoming well established today's gentle northerly breeze and clear skies resulted in the best arrival of common migrants for several weeks: it was not a classic fall but rather a steady throughput of birds seemingly arriving in off the sea and heading away northwards - the fact that they were accompanied by a few nice scarcities was a welcome bonus. A Long-eared Owl flushed from the Bill Quarry that later showed up amongst the beach huts won out for looks even if the Common Rosefinch trapped at the Obs had a little more rarity value; four Short-eared Owls, three Black Redstarts, two Merlins, a Jack Snipe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were also at the Bill, where 10 Bramblings and seven Golden Plovers were amongst the less frequent migrants overhead. Conservative totals of 250 alba wagtails and 150 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff made up the bulk of the grounded numbers, with a decently varied list of back ups that included at least a few of most of what might be expected at this juncture of the autumn.

As they always are, the Long-eared Owl was a great looker - especially if you happened to be the one fortunate observer that rounded a corner to find it staring at him at point blank range © Martin King:


Autumn Common Rosefinches really are the trickiest of birds to get to grips with in the field at Portland - today's bird was another that turned up out of the blue in a net at the Obs and wasn't seen again after release © Joe Stockwell:


Finch numbers are building very impressively with big swirling flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches all over the place at the Bill © Geoff Orton:

10th October

Lovely birding conditions - heavily overcast skies and a gentle northwesterly through the morning giving way to blazing sunshine and warmth by the afternoon - and a nicely varied selection of typical mid-October migrants today. Overdue newcomers included two firsts for the season - a Yellow-browed Warbler at Tout Quarry and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill - whilst the likes of three Bramblings, two each of Short-eared Owl and Mistle Thrush and singles of Merlin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Ring Ouzel at the Bill were all nice list-fillers. Among the commoner migrants there was a good totals of at least 500 alba wagtails and 42 Siskins overhead at the Bill, where 120 Wood Pigeons and 22 Stock Doves were surprise early movers and off-passage Linnets totalled more than 700; not before time, the odd few single Goldcrests begun to show up around and about, whilst a couple of late single Redstarts were of note. Despite seemingly unhelpful conditions the sea continued to produced, with 16 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill where the Little Gull lingered for another day.

The first Dartford Warbler of the autumn in that most predicable spot for them at the bottom of the Slopes © Roger Hewitt:


Another little spread of Wheatears featured amongst the day's commoner migrants © Martin King (top) and James Phillips (bottom):



The beautifully millpond calm and cloudless late afternoon gradually gave way to a lovely multi-layered dusk this evening © Martin King:

9th October

With a cloudless sky the order of the day the temperature soared and it was positively summer-like by the afternoon. Migrant action was only at the ticking over level, with few surprises on the ground or overhead: three Cattle Egrets passing the Bill were somewhat devalued by yesterday's larger flock, whilst the first two Bramblings of the autumn overhead were on cue arrivals; also at the Bill, seven Long-tailed Tits, two Merlins and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were of minor interest. Numbers were entirely in keeping with the conditions: grounded arrivals were thinly spread rather than abundant and overhead passage was at times hard to get amongst at the height it looked/sounded to be taking place at. A resurgence in Balearic Shearwaters saw 111 logged at the Bill even if there was a suggestion that this total may have involved some duplication as birds lingered offshore in the balmy conditions; singles of Red-throated Diver, Arctic Skua and Little Gull were the best of the rest there.

8th October

A real enjoyable mild mid-October day that had everything except a rarity: grounded migrants increased conspicuously, visible passage begun to include classic seasonable fare like thrushes and Reed Buntings and the sea still provided constant interest. With yesterday's claggy conditions replaced by lightly overcast skies migration picked up nicely, with the likes of Robins, Stonechats and Chiffchaffs numerous everywhere; the season's first Black Redstarts (two at the Bill) and Redwings (two at the Bill and 11 at Southwell/Easton) were joined on the day list by a few less frequent migrants including 2 Grasshopper Warblers and singles of Yellow-legged Gull, Short-eared Owl and Nightjar at the Bill and a Firecrest at Southwell. Visible passage was varied rather than heavy, with 12 Cattle Egrets through at East Weare/Portland Harbour the highlight; 60 Siskins and 3 Snipe over the Bill were also noteworthy. At sea the continuing aggregations of gulls off the Bill included 600 Mediterranean Gulls, 100 Black-headed Gulls (a really huge total for the Bill) and a Little Gull, whilst 14 passing Arctic Skuas took their month total to more than 70 - a pretty creditable total for a formerly frequent autumn migrant that's been far scarcer in recent years; 113 Common Scoter, 10 Brent Geese, five Sandwich Terns, two Great Skuas and a Teal also passed by.

The Little Gull was great to see amongst the seething mass of other gulls offshore - it looked so tiny and out of place when settled that we were told it was even mistakenly reported as a Grey Phalarope on one occasion © Joe Stockwell:



Although gulls aren't everyone's cup of tea the Culverwell gull flock receives remarkable little attention from the majority of visitors which is a bit odd considering it's become probably the most reliable readily accessible location in Dorset for both Caspian Gull and Yellow-legged Gull in recent years - this Yellow-legged Gull was a new arrival there today © Joe Stockwell:



Once we get into mid-October it's always nice to get some tangible evidence that the likes of the odd late Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipits that fly over calling really are what they sound like - this Yellow Wagtail passed over at the Bill this morning © Joe Stockwell:


7th October

Those that talked up the overdue return of quiet conditions got a bit of a rude awakening when dawn broke to the accompaniment of the lighthouse fog signal and murkiness cloaking the island; it was also soon apparent that if they had been on the move then most nocturnal migrants passed high overhead without even being aware of our presence let alone feeling any desire to drop in on us (...later examination of the nocmig recording indicated that either next to nothing had been on the move or what there was had been way too high to be audible). More far-ranging fieldwork did eventually bolster the day's tally to the extent that Blackcap and Chiffchaff both reached towards three-figure totals around the centre and south of the island and seasonable fare such as Stonechats were suddenly conspicuous everywhere. Numbers overhead were significant down on those logged under the clearer skies of recent days, with nothing of particular note beyond the likes of two Merlins and late-ish Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipit over the Bill. The shift from offshore gale to gentle onshore breeze perked up sea totals that were straight away at an impressive level due to the presence of a huge feeding flock of c3000 Herring Gulls and many hundreds of other gulls offshore; 240 constituted an autumn peak to date for Common Scoter, whilst further waterfowl interest came in the form of 20 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, four Teal and two Wigeon; nine Arctic and four Great Skuas were the best of the rest.

6th October

A samey day in terms of the general character of proceedings but variety increased in keeping with the season and the marginal improvement in the conditions (just a stiff wind as opposed to a howling gale). Overhead passage again accounted for the numbers, with 1500 Meadow Pipits, 1000 Linnets, 300 Swallows, 250 Goldfinches, 200 alba wagtails, 43 Siskins, 25 Skylarks,17 Chaffinches, a Merlin and the first Reed Bunting of the autumn among the heavy traffic over the Bill. At the same time the sea was constantly busy, with 500 auks, 250 Mediterranean Gulls, 150 Kittiwakes, 50 Black-headed Gulls, 41 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 21 Common Scoter, six Arctic Skuas, four Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated Diver and a Pomarine Skua through or lingering offshore. The land remained far quieter than it ought to be: a Turtle Dove flew through at Weston but grounded migrants otherwise amounted to barely more than single figure totals of Wheatear, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, with the odd singles of the likes of Whinchat thrown in; at least one Short-eared Owl also remained at the Bill.

A Monarch butterfly was seen in flight at Blacknor.

5th October

One of these days the wind's going to drop - sadly, today wasn't that day: the wild winds of the daylight hours were merely a continuation of what had rolled in overnight, although the latter's accompanying downpour had fizzled out by daybreak. Appropriate storm-driven seabirds were the order of the day, with two Grey Phalaropes bobbing about in Chesil Cove all day and one or more Storm Petrels lingering off the Bill; further sea interest came in the form of 845 Mediterranean Gulls, 46 Kittiwakes, 6 Arctic Skuas and singles of Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua and Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill. Numbers overhead didn't reach yesterday's levels but were nothing to be sniffed at, with 500 Meadow Pipits, 400 Linnets, 130 alba wagtails and 100 Goldfinches making up the three figure totals at the Bill where another Merlin was in attendance. As we've grown accustomed to the land was the poor relation, with little more than the odd Chiffchaff here and there; 10 Sanderlings were the best of the waders at Ferrybridge.

4th October

Despite conditions out in the Channel that looked as though they'd test the resolve and abilities of even the hardiest of would-be departing migrants it was overhead passage that accounted for most of today's numbers, with totals from the Bill that included 1600 Meadow Pipits (together with another 1000 grounded), 470 Linnets, 300 Swallows, 130 alba wagtails and 115 Goldfinches; another passing Merlin was amongst the also-rans, with further singles logged lingering at the Bill and over Ferrybridge. If there had been nocturnal migrants on the move then very few deigned to drop in, with the thinnest of sprinkles of the likes of Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs everywhere. The sea was well watched and eventually accrued totals of 690 Mediterranean Gulls, 300 auks, 122 Kittiwakes, 26 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 15 Balearic Shearwaters, 10 Arctic Skuas, six Common Gulls, three Great Skuas and one Sooty Shearwater.

3rd October

There was a galvanising start to the day when a nightjar species was watched over the Obs garden as dawn broke - sadly, the views were relatively brief and inconclusive with regard to identity, and there was no further sign of the bird through the day or at dusk. Despite the continuing - and constantly strengthening - westerly the sky was clear enough that visible passage picked dramatically, with 2500 Meadow Pipits and 1200 Linnets through over the Bill where three Merlins were amongst the miscellany tagging along. This increase overhead wasn't reflected on the ground where two Spotted Flycatchers were as good as it got amongst the very sparse spread of expected fare at the Bill. The wind was always a little too far into the west to do much for the sea, with 12 Balearic Shearwaters, three Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua the best that could be mustered from a lot of watching at the Bill; elsewhere, two Little Gulls were lingering at Chesil Cove. Dark-bellied Brent Geese are beginning to appear now at Ferrybridge, with 45 settled there this morning. 

2nd October

Today's challenging conditions broke the resolve of even the hard-core seawatchers who failed to find any shelter from the at times torrential rain that set in a couple of hours after dawn and didn't finally clear through until late in the afternoon. The early watch was promisingly productive, with 315 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Arctic Skuas, four Balearic Shearwaters, a Great Skua and a Little Gull through off the Bill where a Caspian Gull was also found settled off East Cliffs, whilst the end of the afternoon produced at least six more Arctic Skuas. The only reports from the land were of a Short-eared Owl still at the Bill and three Sanderling, three Bar-tailed Godwits and two Common Terns at Ferrybridge.

1st October

With a continuing far fresher than we'd like wind seeing in the new month most eyes were again on the sea, where the main feature was a subpar showing of Balearic Shearwaters. Just three of the latter passed by off the Bill, although interest there was more than salvaged by a better showing of other seabirds: 17 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Long-tailed Skua were the chief reward, but improved totals of 237 auks, 150 Mediterranean Gulls, 94 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 85 Kittiwakes, 20 Common Gulls, 19 Common Scoter, two Little Gulls and a Red-throated Diver ensured there was plenty to see. Visible passage was evident throughout the morning seawatch, with the steady stream of departing Swallows and Meadow Pipits accompanied once again by at least two Merlins; a Marsh Harrier was also overhead but that ended up departing back towards the mainland. The land was still at a 'less said about it the better' level with little of interest and no numbers of note amongst what was uncovered.

30th September

We were fortunate to have summer linger on for so long into late September but there's no doubt that autumn's blown in with a vengeance as we end the month. Today's ever increasing southwesterly saw to it that attention remained focused on the sea, resulting in another c200 tally of Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill; two Sooty Shearwaters and singles of Arctic and Great Skua also passed by there, with six Arctic Skuas through at Chesil Cove and two Little Gulls grounded at Ferrybridge. The stormy conditions also boosted the build up of grounded gulls at the Bill, with at least one Caspian Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls joining the Culverwell flock during the afternoon. A pretty steady flow of Swallows and Meadow Pipits departed from the Bill, whilst an aggregation of 30 Blackcaps at Old Hill suggested there might have been more to be uncovered on the ground but for the profoundly unhelpful conditions.

The Balearic Shearwaters were affording great views at the tip of the Bill © Martin Cade (video) and Mike Trew (stills):




The gulls weren't so obliging in the buffeting wind and rain of the afternoon © Martin Cade (Caspian Gull videograbs and Yellow-legged Gull still)