October 2000

    October 31st A few Storm Petrels continued to linger inshore at Chesil Cove, but with the weather having improved the majority seem to have struggled back out to the open sea; 66 were counted passing west at the Bill during the course of the day. Seawatching also produced a Red-necked Grebe in Chesil Cove, and 19 Brent Geese, a Black-throated Diver and an Eider off the Bill. On the land a handful more migrants appeared, including 11 Redwings, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Firecrests and a Redpoll at the Bill.  October 30th The recent stormy spell reached its peak during the early hours, and in the morning it soon became apparent that there had been an exceptional wreck of Storm Petrels. The majority were present in the relative shelter of Portland Harbour, where the single highest count was of 90 from Portland Castle. Elsewhere, 20 passed the Bill during the day, at least 15 were seen at Chesil Cove, and there was even a lone bird on the Fleet at Ferrybridge. Single Leach's Petrels were reported from the Bill and Chesil Cove. Other seabirds in the area included 16 Great Skuas in Portland Harbour and another 4 in Chesil Cove, as well as 2 Great and an Arctic Skua, a Great Northern Diver and a Long-tailed Duck off the Bill.  October 29th There was no let-up in the stormy weather, but seawatching was rather disappointing. Two Storm Petrels and a Great Skua passed through Chesil Cove in the morning, and the Bill could only manage 5 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver all day. Sheltered spots on the east side of the Island still held fair numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, and there was a lone Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry. October 28th The continuing stormy weather made any birding other than seawatching impossible. At the Bill, the day totals recorded were: 690 Gannets, 450 auks, 174 Kittiwakes, 32 Sooty Shearwaters, 15 Great and 15 Arctic Skuas, 14 Common Scoter, 4 Fulmars, 3 Leach's Petrels, 2 Manx and 1 Balearic Shearwater, 1 Little Gull and 1 Red-throated Diver. October 27th Wet and windy weather made seawatching the only option for most of the day. A Leach's Petrel that passed through Chesil Cove in the morning was very much the highlight, with 2 Great Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Sooty Shearwater off the Bill the only other birds of note. A Short-eared Owl showed well quartering fields at the Bill at dawn and dusk, and the weather improved enough in the afternoon for a Dartford Warbler to be found at Culverwell. At least 4 Firecrests were still at the Obs garden, where there were also a handful of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. October 26th Under clear skies in the morning there was a good deal of visible passage overhead at the Bill; Goldfinch and Linnet both totalled more than 250, and there were fair numbers of Skylarks and Siskins. The stiff north-west wind again made birding on the land difficult, but the sheltered spots held good numbers of Goldcrests, as well as a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Firecrests. Oddities included single Short-eared Owls at the Bill and East Weares, and a Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry. October 25th Another very quiet day. The sheltered East Weares produced a single Dartford Warbler, and a lone Firecrest showed from time to time at the Obs. Visible passage consisted of just a trickle of Linnets and Goldfinches over the Bill. October 24th Grey skies, a strong wind and rather few birds today. There was a surprising amount of overhead passage of finches, particularly Goldfinches and Linnets, during the morning, but grounded migrants were few and far between. One or two Firecrests remained around the Obs and other sites, and there was again a lone Merlin at the Bill. The sea produced just a single Great Skua. October 23rd A change to blustery westerly weather all but brought to an end the decent passage of the past few days. A couple of new Firecrests were trapped at the Obs but there was little evidence of any other fresh arrivals. The sea perked up a little with 8 Great and an Arctic Skua passing the Bill in the morning. October 22nd Another good late autumn day, with lots of visible passage overhead and plenty of grounded migrants. Birds of the day were two Hawfinches: the first was at Barleycrates Lane briefly first thing in the morning, whilst the second spent a little longer around the Coastguards at the Bill. Goldcrests were in numbers everywhere, and there were still quite a few Firecrests to be found. Ring Ouzels totalled  about 15, with most around the Bill area, where there also several Black Redstarts and 2 Dartford Warblers. Passage overhead included more thrushes than of late, along with 100 Skylarks, 40 Jackdaws, and a selection of finches including more than 70 Siskins. October 21st A Yellow-browed Warbler that showed regularly at Barleycrates Lane was the best new arrival today. Firecrests figured prominently again: 4 new individuals were trapped and ringed among the 10 or more present at the Obs, and the all-Island total exceeded 25 birds. Black Redstarts and Stonechats remained quite numerous, and other migrants reported included 2 Merlins, 9 Golden Plovers, a Short-eared Owl,  5 Redwings, and several Siskins and Redpolls. Among this typical late autumn fare there were still a handful of late Yellow Wagtails and Whinchats at the Bill.


Firecrest  © Martin Cade

  October 20th A Yellow-browed Warbler was seen by one lucky observer at Fortuneswell, but otherwise today was very much a Firecrest day.  There were ones and twos at most suitable sites on the Island, as well as a remarkable total of 10 new individuals trapped and ringed at the Obs. In comparison most other migrants were in surprisingly short supply, although there were good counts of at least 16 Stonechats and 13 Black Redstarts around the Bill alone.


'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat  © Martin Cade

  October 19th The Lesser Whitethroat was still present in and around the Obs garden and was trapped again in the afternoon. Further measurements taken, as well as the birds plumage and behaviour, seem to rule out the possibility of it being blythi, and it seems to be belong to another eastern form or more likely an intergrade. This bird aside, it was another fairly quiet day. There were at least 6 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts and a Merlin reported from various sites, whilst visible passage overhead produced 3 Bramblings among a selection of other finches. October 18th The Lesser Whitethroat showing some characters of the form blythi appeared again at the Obs, but otherwise the recent run of rarities and scarce migrants came to a halt. Late common migrants were still present in quite good numbers, and included a scatter of Black Redstarts and Firecrests around the Island. October 17th The Dusky Warbler at Southwell School was again the highlight of the day, although it remained tricky to see for most of the time. Oddities about the Island included an Osprey over Pennsylvania Castle, a Short-eared Owl in Top Fields, a Dartford Warbler near the Obs, a Lapland Bunting at Southwell and a Snow Bunting flying north up West Cliffs. Common migrants were not as numerous as on the last two days, but still included up to 10 Black Redstarts, 3 Firecrests, a Ring Ouzel, and a fair passage of finches overhead. October 16th Another exciting day saw a few of yesterday's birds still about, as well as a flurry of fresh common migrants and rarities. The Dusky Warbler at Southwell School and the Pallas's Warbler at the Mermaid Inn were both present all day, although both were very elusive in the strengthening wind. Two Rose-coloured Starlings were new arrivals: one stayed all day at the Grove, and another made a fleeting visit to the Bill in the afternoon. Scarcer migrants reported about the Island included several Black Redstarts, 5 Tree Sparrows, 2 Ring Ouzels and 2 Dartford Warblers. Thrushes, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were numerous everywhere, and there were also the first few Redpolls of the autumn passing over at the Bill. October 15th A cracking autumn day, with exciting new birds showing-up throughout the day. Under heavily overcast skies at dawn it was obvious that there was much more in the way of common migrants about. Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were conspicuous for the first time this autumn, and the trees were alive with Goldcrests, Firecrests and Chiffchaffs. Very soon a Dusky Warbler was discovered beside the Southwell School (it continued to show on and off all day), and nearby the Yellow-browed Warbler was still present at Avalanche Road, where there were also 3 Ring Ouzels. As the morning went on, a blythi-type Lesser Whitethroat was seen and then trapped at the Obs, and a Pallas's Warbler was found at the dung heap beside the Bill Road. During the afternoon an Osprey flew over at the Bill, and finally a second Pallas's Warbler was found behind the Mermaid Inn at Wakeham. October 14th After several quite lean days a few more oddities showed-up today, . A Yellow-browed Warbler was a new arrival at Avalanche Road, and there was also an Osprey and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge, and a Short-eared Owl at Nicodemus Knob. Common migrants - Meadow Pipits excepted - remained in surprisingly short supply, although a small influx of Firecrests saw a total of at least 5 new individuals logged, and Stonechats increased to 25 at the Bill. October 13th After a clear moonlit night grounded migrants were in short supply but there was a lot of visible passage in the first couple of hours of the day. At the Bill, more than 500 alba Wagtails passed through, together with good numbers of Swallows and Linnets, and a few Song Thrushes, Bramblings, Siskins and Reed Buntings; on the ground there were up to 1000 Meadow Pipits, but otherwise just a sprinkle of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. Offshore, the only birds of note were 2 Red-throated Divers. October 12th A calmer day, albeit still with a few heavy showers, saw to it that there was more about on the land. Visible passage was conspicuous at the Bill in the morning: alba Wagtails, Swallows and Linnets all passed through in high numbers, and less common species included a few Reed Buntings, Siskins and a Brambling. On the ground, numbers were generally lower, but there was a reasonable sprinkle of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere. Late migrants included Yellow Wagtails, Whinchats, Redstart and Whitethroat at the Bill. October 11th More of the same weather, but fewer birds. Off the Bill there were just 3 Arctic and a Great Skua, and a single Manx Shearwater. A Merlin was the only worthwhile migrant at the Bill, and an Osprey was again seen at Ferrybridge. October 10th Another day of strong winds and rather few birds. The highlights were a fly-through Sabine's Gull at Chesil Cove in the morning, and a brief Grey Phalarope at Ferrybridge in the afternoon; these aside, the only noteworthy seabirds were 3 Great Skuas off the Bill. A couple of Merlins were seen at the Bill, but otherwise migrants seemed thin on the ground everywhere. October 9th Lashing rain and strong winds saw to it that the only birding done today was seawatching from the Bill, where there were 16 Common Scoter, 7 Great and 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Northern Diver, a Brent Goose and a Storm Petrel. October 8th The Yellow-browed Warbler at Avalanche Road was again the highlight of an otherwise quiet day. Visible passage was conspicuous, with over 250 alba Wagtails leaving to the south from the Bill alone, but grounded migrants remained thin on the ground everywhere. Oddities included an Osprey over the Bill, a Knot on the East Cliffs and 2 Short-eared Owls around Top Fields. October 7th The Yellow-browed Warbler as still present at Avalanche Road, but it was otherwise a rather quiet day all round. Grounded migrant numbers fell sharply, and the overcast skies saw to it that visible passage was restricted to just a steady trickle of Swallows and Linnets. A couple of Bramblings passed through the Obs garden and another was in Top Fields, a Firecrest was at the Verne, and an Osprey appeared briefly at Ferrybridge. October 6th Birds arrived in numbers today, with a decent arrival of grounded migrants and some heavy visible passage overhead. At the Bill, totals included 1000 Meadow Pipits, 50 Chiffchaffs, 30 Goldcrests, 20 Stonechats and 15 Blackcaps, and there were lots of new Wrens, Dunnocks and Robins about the area. At the Obs, the total of 54 new birds trapped and ringed represented the highest day-total of birds ringed since 6th August - a meagre total but a fair reflection of how few good arrivals of common migrants there have been so far this autumn. Visible passage totals at the Bill included 1000 Swallows, 300 alba Wagtails, 75 Siskins, 30 Tree Pipits, 25 Chaffinches, 12 Reed Buntings, 11 Golden Plovers, 2 Hobbies and single Redwing and Brambling. Finally, to round the day off well, a Yellow-browed Warbler was discovered at Avalanche Road, Southwell, in the late afternoon. Late record for today received on 7/10: A Woodlark was at Barleycrates Lane in the afternoon. October 5th A strong and - for the first time this autumn - cold north-westerly wind again made birding on the land difficult. One or more Lapland Buntings were seen and heard overhead at the Bill during the morning, but migrants were otherwise pretty sparse there. The more sheltered trees in the middle of the Island held a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, and there was a late Spotted Flycatcher at Easton Fire Station. Seabirds included 2 Great Skuas and a Red-throated Diver off the Bill, but much the best bird was the Grey Phalarope that showed well in Chesil Cove throughout the afternoon. Late record for today received on 6/10: An Osprey was seen at Ferrybridge in the morning. October 4th A few more migrants were expected as the wind had dropped markedly, but unfortunately the day proved to be a disappointment. Most of the commoner migrants were present, but numbers of all were rather low. At the Bill there was a fair movement of Swallows and Meadow Pipits, together with a few Grey Wagtails and Tree Pipits. Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were present in small numbers everywhere, and late migrants at the Bill included 4 Whitethroats and a Pied Flycatcher. The sea was much quieter than yesterday, although 2 Great and an Arctic Skua, as well as a late Roseate Tern were seen off the Bill. October 3rd Migrants remained in pretty short supply in the strong wind, and the only oddities found were 2 Merlins and a Hobby at the Bill. The sea was much more interesting, particularly in the afternoon when the wind increased still further. Off the Bill, totals logged included 45 Sooty Shearwaters, 9 Brent Geese, 8 Sandwich Terns, 5 Arctic and 4 Great Skuas, and the first Great Northern Diver of the autumn. October 2nd With a howling north-westerly wind blowing for most of the day, birding was difficult nearly everywhere. Most surprisingly, 2 Honey Buzzards left from the Bill during the morning, but common migrants there were otherwise either scarce or keeping their heads down. The sheltered east side of the Island held a few Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs, and searching in these areas eventually turned-up a Yellow-browed Warbler above Penn's Weare in the afternoon.


Radde's Warbler  © Martin Cade

  October 1st Another exciting day, with the highlight being the trapping of a Radde's Warbler at the Obs in the middle of the day. Many birders were in the area to see the bird in the hand, but it made for cover after release and was not seen again. The Wryneck was still present at the Bill, where there was also the best arrival of common migrants for some time, with Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs being particularly numerous. Single Firecrests were at the Obs and Pennsylvania Castle, with the latter site also holding a couple of Pied and a Spotted Flycatcher. At least 3 Honey Buzzards were seen overhead early in the day, but later the only large raptor reported was a Marsh Harrier flying south across Lyme Bay.