March 2001


Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler -  Portland Bill, March 31st 2001

photo © Martin Cade

  March 31st An overcast, damp morning produced plenty of migrants. Around the Bill, there were 150 Willow Warblers, 75 Chiffchaffs, 30 Goldcrests and 25 Blackcaps, as well as 3 lingering Firecrests. The sea produced 19 Common Scoter, 13 Red-throated Divers, 4 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua March 30th Another disappointing day, with few new arrivals. Hardly anything had arrived overnight, but during the day a trickle of Swallows and Sand Martins passed through, and a Buzzard was seen flying north to the east of the island. Odds and sods around the Bill included 20 Wheatears, 2 Blackcaps, 2 lingering Firecrests, a Fieldfare, a Bullfinch, a Yellowhammer and a Reed Bunting. Seawatching produced just 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and a Mediterranean Gull off the Bill.


Bullfinch -  Portland Bill, March 29th 2001

photo © Martin Cade

  March 29th Migration has virtually ground to a halt, with little evidence of any new arrivals today. There were still a scatter of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs at the Bill, along with 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Firecrests, a Blackcap, a Willow Warbler and a Bullfinch. The sea produced just a Red-throated Diver and a Sandwich Tern, and there were 4 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour. March 28th The quietest day for common migrants for some while. Around the Bill area there were a sprinkle of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs, 5 Black Redstarts, 4 Firecrests, 3 White Wagtails, a Willow Warbler, a Dartford Warbler and a Bullfinch. Seawatching there produced 6 Red-throated Divers, 6 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua. March 27th Another small flurry of common migrants arrived today. Wheatears again totalled about 100 at the Bill, where there were also 40 Chiffchaffs, 6 Willow Warblers, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts, a Golden Plover and a Fieldfare. Seawatching at the Bill produced 40 Common Scoter, 11 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver and 4 Curlew. Four Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Eider were in Portland Harbour. Belated news for yesterday: a probable female Bluethroat was reported near Lloyd's Cottage at the Bill early in the morning - searches today proved fruitless. March 26th Wheatears remained relatively numerous, with around 100 at the Bill again, but most other migrants were in rather short supply. The total of 3 Firecrests at the Bill included a new individual that took the number ringed at the Obs in the last ten days to a remarkable 22. Other migrants around the Bill included a Dartford Warbler, a Ring Ouzel, a Fieldfare and a Black Redstart, and another 100 Common Scoter flew east offshore. In the afternoon more than 400 Meadow Pipits passed north over Weston. March 25th A male Serin paid a brief visit to the Obs garden early in the morning, but the supply of common migrants dwindled somewhat today. The Bill area held 75 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 25 Goldcrests, 6 Firecrests, 2 White Wagtails and a Blackcap, and there was another Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle. Late in the day a male Hen Harrier was seen flying north over Weston. Off the Bill, spring passage of Common Scoter is now getting going: 150 flew up-Channel during the morning. March 24th Migrants continued to arrive in good supply, with another fall of 100 Wheatears, 50 Goldcrests, 50 Chiffchaffs and 11 Firecrests at the Bill. Also there were 5 Swallows, 3 Redwings, 2 Blackcaps, 2 White Wagtails, a Golden Plover and a Black Redstart; 27 Common Scoter, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Red-throated Diver passed on the sea. March 23rd The calm, drizzly start to the day was quite busy, at least at the Bill, with plenty of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests around; with them were 6 Firecrests, 3 Blackcaps and a couple of Willow Warblers. Unfortunately the arrival of brighter weather by midday saw most of the migrants leave very quickly, and the only birds of note in the afternoon were a steady passage of Fulmars and Gannets, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Manx Shearwater off the Bill. Despite plenty of searching, the Chough was not seen today. March 22nd The Chough continued to show well on the East Cliffs for the first couple of hours of the day, but then became much more elusive and showed just briefly at midday near the dung heap beside the Bill Road - there were no more sightings in the afternoon. Wheatears still numbered more than 200, but otherwise there were fewer migrants about. Three Black Redstarts, 2 Swallows and a Firecrest were in the Bill area, a Merlin was seen at Reap Lane, and 2 Red-throated Divers and a Sandwich Tern passed the Bill.


Chough -  Portland Bill, March 21st 2001

video-still © Martin Cade

  March 21st Highlight today was the appearance of a Chough on the island - the first record for Portland, and the first in Dorset since the 1920's. It was seen initially over Penn's Weare in the early afternoon, and subsequently settled on the East Cliffs at the Bill for the rest of the day. Migrants were still present in good supply everywhere, with totals including 300 Wheatears, 8 Ring Ouzels, 5 Firecrests and 5 Black Redstarts; at the end of the day a Stone Curlew was also seen briefly at Suckthumb Quarry.



Avocet -  Portland Bill, March 20th even walked across the Bill Road!

photo and video-still © Martin Cade

  March 20th A stormy and very wet day that produced a major surprise in the form of an Avocet that spent several hours on floodwater in the field outside the Obs front gate. There were still quite a few common migrants on the island, with Wheatears again numerous, but full counts proved impossible in the wild weather. At least 1 Ring Ouzel was still at the Bill. March 19th Although distinctly fewer new migrants arrived today there was still plenty to see. Wheatears were again prominent, with more than 500 on the island. Other migrant totals included 50 Chiffchaffs, 30 Goldcrests, 20 Stonechats, 8 Black Redstarts, 5 Ring Ouzels, 3 Blackcaps and a Firecrest


Wheatear -  Obs garden, March 18th 2001

photo © Martin Cade

  March 18th Migrants continued to arrive in excellent numbers again today. Wheatears were everywhere, and were conservatively estimated to number 1200 over the whole island; other thrushes and chats included conspicuous arrivals of Robins and Stonechats, 4 Ring Ouzels, and single Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare. Other migrant totals included 150 Chiffchaffs, 100 Goldcrests, 5 Black Redstarts, 3 Firecrests, 4 Blackcaps, and single Short-eared Owl, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Brambling and Corn Bunting; more than 60 Wood Pigeons also arrived from the south during the day. Seawatching produced 6 Red-throated Divers off the Bill.  March 17th A misty, damp day saw the arrival of plenty more early migrants, with all-island counts of 1000 Wheatears, 200 Chiffchaffs, 150 Goldcrests, 6 Ring Ouzels, 4 Firecrests, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Blackcaps, a Common Sandpiper, a Redstart and a Willow Warbler. Other oddities included 6 Golden Plovers, 2 Curlew, 2 Reed Buntings, a Grey Heron, a Water Rail, a Lapwing, a Snipe and a Mistle Thrush. Seawatching from the Bill produced 80 Common Scoter, 3 Brent Geese and a Red-throated Diver.


Firecrest -  Obs garden, March 16th 2001

photo © Martin Cade

  March 16th Spring finally sprung to life today, with the first decent fall of migrants of the year. The Bill was busy with more than 100 Goldcrests, 50 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 13 Stonechats and 7 Firecrests; visible passage was also very conspicuous, with totals of over 1000 Meadow Pipits, 50 alba Wagtails and 2 Sand Martins. There were also plenty of birds elsewhere on the island, including 5 Firecrests around Weston. Everything was conspicuously on the move, and by afternoon most of the migrants had filtered away to the mainland. Seawatching at the Bill produced 12 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and the first Sandwich Tern of the year, and during the afternoon the first-year Glaucous Gull was watched following a fishing boat off the East Cliffs. March 15th A light passage of pipits and wagtails continued, and there were also a couple of new Goldcrests, a Wheatear and a Chiffchaff at the Bill. Three Mallards roamed the island throughout the day, and 4 Common Scoter passed the Bill. March 14th Apart from a constant trickle of pipits and wagtails moving north, the only new migrants today were a Redwing at the Bill and a Chiffchaff at Weston; a singing Blackcap at Weston was presumed to be a wintering bird. Seawatching at the Bill produced 8 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver, as well as the first sighting of Puffin since the very early arrivals back in February; a single Purple Sandpiper was also on the rocks at the Bill. March 13th Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails continued to pass through in small numbers, but no other new migrants were seen on the land. Off the Bill, a Mediterranean Gull arrived from the south in the morning, and a second-winter Glaucous Gull was reported flying west at midday. In the afternoon the first-winter Glaucous Gull, first seen a couple of days ago, was again at Ferrybridge. March 12th The only new migrants today were a few more Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails trickling northwards. Seawatching from the Bill produced 50 Gannets, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver, and there was still a Black Redstart at the Bill. Two Eider and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour, and there was another Black Redstart beside the Harbour near the Oil Tanks.  March 11th Foggy and wet weather saw the arrival of a few more new migrants, with the Bill providing 2 Chiffchaffs, a Wheatear and a Redwing, as well as a conspicuous increase in grounded Meadow Pipits; 6 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Turnstones were also still there. Five Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe were in Portland Harbour. March 10th Still not much action, with the Bill producing the first Sand Martin of the year, but otherwise just a lone Goldcrest, a Purple Sandpiper and a Red-throated Diver. Late news for yesterday: a first-winter Glaucous Gull was apparently at Ferrybridge, but there has been no sign of it there today. March 9th Spring may have arrived, but the birds still don't seem to have realised. At the Bill the first Goldcrest and the first 2 Linnets of the year showed up, but otherwise the only new migrants were a very few Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails trickling through, and 30 Brent Geese moving east offshore. March 8th More fine weather, but still not many birds about. Another Wheatear showed up at the Bill, and there were also a few Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails passing north over the island.  March 7th A better day, with fine weather and a few birds. The first 2 Wheatears arrived at the Bill, and there were also several new Stonechats, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones and a Black Redstart there. March 6th The promised milder weather unfortunately arrived with a strengthening wind and heavy rain, and the only noteworthy report was of a trickle of Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails moving north up the West Cliffs. March 5th Very little to show for efforts today. Seawatching at the Bill produced a Red-throated and an unidentified Diver. Also at the Bill there were 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Fieldfares and the first 2 Rooks of the year. 


An island rarity - snow at the Bill, March 4th 2001

photo © Martin Cade

  March 4th The day begun - very unusually - with the second snowfall in a week, although it again produced no cold weather movement. Seawatching provided most of the noteworthy birds of the day, with 2 Red-throated, a Black-throated and 3 unidentified Divers seen off the Bill. Elsewhere a Merlin was seen at Southwell. March 3rd The cold weather and access restrictions kept most birders indoors, and not much was reported again today. Five Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver passed the Bill, and there were single Black Redstart and Purple Sandpiper there. A Great Northern Diver and a Black-necked Grebe were off Portland Castle, and there was a male Black Redstart at Weston. March 2nd Despite a bitter easterly wind the first visible passage of the spring was noted today, with 16 Meadow Pipits and an alba Wagtail watched arriving from the south at the Bill. Also at the Bill a lone Red-throated Diver passed offshore, and 3 Common Scoter and single Purple Sandpiper and Black Redstart were seen. A single Pale-bellied Brent Goose was again at Ferrybridge.  March 1st The month started in very low-key fashion, with the only noteworthy sighting being of a single Red-breasted Merganser passing the Bill.