April 2001


Lesser Whitethroat - Portland Bill, April 30th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 30th Despite very clear skies, the cold northerly wind ensured a reasonable scatter of common migrants were grounded on the island at dawn. The Bill area held 100 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 20 Whitethroats, 15 Blackcaps, 8 Garden Warblers, 5 Redstarts, 4 Whimbrel, 4 Whinchats, 3 Sedge Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, and single Black Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler and Firecrest; a Serin was also seen briefly at the Obs Quarry in the morning. The offshore wind saw to it that seawatching produced very little, with just 3 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver seen from the Bill. April 29th Migrants were again in fairly short supply today, with the Bill area producing 10 Whimbrel, 5 Redstarts, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, a Nightingale and a Pied Flycatcher, among a sprinkle of commoner species. Elsewhere the highlights were a Hobby and a Tree Sparrow at the Grove. The sea was equally slow, with the best birds being 2 Great Northern Divers and an Arctic Skua off the Bill. 


Whinchat - Portland Bill, April 28th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 28th A much quieter day that produced a good variety of migrants, but none in very high numbers. At the Bill there were plenty of hirundines, along with a few Whimbrel, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits, Wheatears, Whinchats, Redstarts, Sedge Warblers, Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Willow Warblers, and Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. Elsewhere there was a Wood Warbler at Verne Common, and a Firecrest was still at Pennsylvania Castle; waders are also starting to show up in higher numbers at Ferrybridge, where there were 200 Dunlin and 3 Sanderling. Seawatching from the Bill produced 5 Arctic and 5 Great Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a few Manx Shearwaters, and 4 Black Terns passed through Ferrybridge in the morning.


Serin - Portland Bill, April 27th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 27th Damp and murky conditions at dawn saw migrants arrive in excellent numbers everywhere today. Counts at the Bill included 400 Willow Warblers, 40 Whitethroats, 40 Redstarts, 25 Garden Warblers, 20 Whinchats, 15 Tree Pipits, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Pied Flycatchers, 4 Turtle Doves, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Black Redstart, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Nightingale; there were also lots of hirundines and Swifts, 2 Little Ringed Plovers and a Little Egret, and in the afternoon a female Serin, that was eventually trapped and ringed, showed up around the Obs and the Hut Fields. Elsewhere there were plenty more common migrants, with other species recorded including Hobby and  Nuthatch at Verne Common, and Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle; a male Serin was also seen briefly at Southwell in the afternoon. The sea was much quieter than in recent days, with the best birds being 60 commic Terns, and 2 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua off the Bill.  April 26th The sea produced most of the action today, with totals of 9 Great, 8 Arctic and 6 Pomarine Skuas off the Bill; also seen there were 3 Red-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers, and plenty of Manx Shearwaters. A Serin made a couple of fleeting visits to the Obs garden in the morning, and plenty of hirundines were on the move all day, but otherwise migrants were very thin on the ground at the Bill. Elsewhere there were single Firecrests at both Pennsylvania Castle and East Weare. April 25th There was again a good variety of migrants about the island, although numbers were generally on the low side. The Bill area held several Yellow Wagtails, Redstarts, Sedge Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats, as well as single Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler, Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher; there was also a brief sighting of a Serin over the Obs in the morning. The sea remained productive, with totals off the Bill of 68 commic Terns, 35 Common Scoter, 8 Arctic Skuas, 4  Pomarine Skuas, 4 Great Northern Divers, 3 Great Skuas and 3 Red-throated Divers


Nightingale - Portland Bill, April 24th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 24th Wind and rain had swept in overnight and there were a fair number of migrants, including both Nightingale and Grasshopper Warbler, about the Bill area at dawn. Unfortunately most quickly left as soon as the rain stopped during the morning, and it was left to the sea to provide most of the interest during the rest of the day. Watches from the Bill produced 200 Manx Shearwaters, 120 Common Scoter, 29 Great and 14 Arctic Skuas, 24 Teal, 16 Shoveler, 15 commic and 9 Arctic Terns, 2 Little Gulls, a Red-throated Diver and a Black Tern. April 23rd Fine spring weather returned to the island, but there were not many birds about to make the most of it. Migrants at the Bill included 70 Willow Warblers, 33 Whimbrel, 15 Wheatears, 4 Redstarts, 3 Blackcaps, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Whitethroat and 1 Garden Warbler; hirundines passed through in good numbers as the day went on. Following the strong passage yesterday, the sea was still productive, with 100 Manx Shearwaters, 89 Common Scoter, 7 Great and 5 Arctic Skuas, and 3 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver off the Bill. April 22nd A really miserable day, with rain setting in for the day a couple of hours after dawn. The land was very quiet, with the only birds of note being 10 Whimbrel at the Bill. Sea passage was slow in the morning, but picked up well in the late afternoon when the first really strong up-Channel movement of the spring got going; totals off the Bill included 1000 Gannets, 450 Common Terns, 300 Fulmars, 300 auks, 85 Manx Shearwaters, 67 Whimbrel, 31 Common Scoter, 15 Sandwich Terns, 12 Arctic Skuas, 11 Arctic Terns, 6 Eider, 6 Red-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Gadwalls, 2 Great Skuas, 1 Little Tern and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. The only other birds reported from the area were 42 Little Terns and a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge. April 21st Another very clear night saw to it that migrants were rather thin on the ground. The Bill area held 60 Willow Warblers, 30 Wheatears, 25 Blackcaps, 8 Whimbrel, 4 Whitethroats, a Yellow Wagtail, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Bullfinch. The sea was quiet until the afternoon, when a change in wind direction produced totals of 400 Manx Shearwaters, 27 Common Scoter, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Skuas and an Eider off the Bill. Elsewhere there were 3 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and a Buzzard at Tout Quarry.  April 20th With no great change in the weather, the migrant situation was much the same as in recent days. The Bill area held a scatter of a wide variety of species, including 70 Wheatears, 50 Willow Warblers, 40 Blackcaps, 5 Whimbrel, 3 Redstarts, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Reed Warbler, a Garden Warbler and a Bullfinch. Elsewhere there were single Cuckoo, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher at Verne Common. The sea was still very quiet, with the only birds of note off the Bill in the morning being 41 Common Scoter, 7 Sandwich Terns and 2 Red-throated Diver; in the evening there was an up-Channel passage of 70 Manx Shearwaters. Six Little Terns were at Ferrybridge, and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.


Serin - Portland Bill, April 19th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 19th The cold northerly winds continued, and there was another surprisingly good scatter of migrants on the island. A Serin in the Obs garden briefly in the morning was the highlight, but the Bill area also held 75 Willow Warblers, 30 Wheatears, 30 Blackcaps, 8 Whimbrel, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Redstarts, 4 Pied Flycatchers, a Yellow Wagtail, a Whitethoat, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Firecrest, a Siskin and a Bullfinch; the first Swift of the year also passed through, and plenty of hirundines were again on the move. Seawatching produced 15 Eider and a Great Skua, and 3 Great Northern Divers remained in Portland Harbour. April 18th The quietest day for a while. At the Bill there were 16 Wheatears,10 Willow Warblers, 5 Whimbrel, 5 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and single Buzzard, Common Sandpiper, Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Whinchat and Firecrest; the sea produced nothing more than 8 Sandwich Terns. Elsewhere a Serin passed north over Easton, there were 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Common Scoter and a Black-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour, and several Little Terns were at Ferrybridge.


Subalpine Warbler - Southwell, April 17th 2001 © Pete and Debby  Saunders

  April 17th Despite the continuing clear and cold weather there was still plenty to see on the island, with the highlight being a male Subalpine Warbler that made a brief visit to a garden in Southwell during the morning. The Bill area held 100 Willow Warblers, 25 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, 4 Wheatears, 4 Redstarts, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and single Buzzard, Merlin, Whimbrel, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher. Hirundines were conspicuous everywhere, with over 1000 Swallows counted moving north at Weston, and migrants at other sites included a Hen Harrier passing over Ferrybridge, a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry and a Grasshopper Warbler at Weston. Seawatching produced just a single Red-throated Diver, and lone Great and Arctic Skuas off the Bill.


Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill, April 15th 2001 © Charlie Moores

  April 16th After a very clear night it was a surprise to find a fair sprinkle of migrants about the island in the morning. There were 75 Willow Warblers, 30 Wheatears, 20 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 6 Redstarts, 5 Whimbrel, 4 Tree Pipits, 3 Firecrests (all new individuals), a Common Sandpiper, a Yellow Wagtail, a Ring Ouzel and a Black Redstart at the Bill, with other species including Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Pied Flycatcher elsewhere; as the day went on plenty of hirundines and finches also started to arrive from the south. With the wind in the north, the sea remained quiet, with the best birds being 21 Manx Shearwaters, a Great Northern Diver, a Pintail and a Great Skua off the Bill. Rarities of the day were the Hoopoe that continued to show occasionally at Weston, and a Little Egret that flew past the Bill in the evening.


Hoopoe - Weston, April 15th 2001 © Charlie Moores

  April 15th A quieter day for common migrants; the species mix was similar to recent days, but numbers were much reduced. Highlights at the Bill were a Buzzard and a Firecrest, and there were also a few Redstarts there, and single Pied Flycatchers both there and at Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching produced nothing better than 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Teal and single Arctic and Great Skuas off the Bill. In the afternoon news came through of a Hoopoe frequenting gardens on the south side of Weston, and eventually the bird showed for a while in a small paddock near the junction of Barleycrates Lane and Weston Road (please note that Barleycrates Lane itself is still closed). April 14th Passage remained strong in some more chilly, overcast weather. The Bill area produced another 250 Willow Warblers and 200 Swallows, together with 30 Chiffchaffs, 30 Wheatears, 28 Whimbrel, 20 Blackcaps, 6 Whitethroats, 5 Redstarts, 4 Tree Pipits, 2 Goldcrests, a Fieldfare and the first Garden Warbler of the spring. Elsewhere on the island there were plenty of hirundines and finches moving north along the West Cliffs at Weston, and single Buzzard, Redwing and Grasshopper Warbler at Verne Common. Seawatching  produced 7 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and 5 Great Skuas off the Bill, and there were 2 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour. There was a report of the Subalpine Warbler being seen by a single observer near the Obs Quarry early in the morning, but later searches proved fruitless. April 13th Migrants were still on the move in good numbers, with a cold north-easterly wind and drizzle grounding many around the Bill in the morning. There were more than 200 Willow Warblers, along with 50 Chiffchaffs, 15 Redstarts, 10 Blackcaps, 6 Goldcrests, 4 Whitethroats, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Ring Ouzel and a Firecrest at the Bill, with several Redstarts and another Ring Ouzel at Verne Common. Despite plenty of searching the Subalpine Warbler could not be found today. 



Subalpine Warbler -  Portland Bill, April 12th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 12th A still and mainly overcast day that produced plenty more migrants. Highlight was a first-summer female Subalpine Warbler that was trapped and ringed at the Obs at midday; it was released in the Obs Quarry but was not seen again until 5 o'clock when it showed briefly several times for half an hour near the edge of the Obs garden. Common migrants at the Bill included 300 Willow Warblers, 30 Chiffchaffs, 20 Wheatears, 4 Redstarts, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Whinchats, 2 Firecrests and 1 Sedge Warbler; other oddities included a Buzzard and a Dartford Warbler. Elsewhere on the island there were 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Reed Warbler at Verne Common, and a Whimbrel at Ferrybridge. Seawatching remained slow, with the best birds being 5 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Skuas off the Bill. April 11th Another flurry of migrants arrived on the island today. Willow Warblers again numbered about 150 at the Bill, and there were also 9 Wheatears, 5 Tree Pipits, 2 Redstarts, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Common Sandpiper, a Brambling and plenty of hirundines (including the first few House Martins) there. Migrants elsewhere included 2 Pied Flycatchers at Verne Common. Rarity of the day was an Osprey that arrived in off the sea at the Bill in the late afternoon, and was then seen moving north over both Weston and Tout Quarry. April 10th Despite the fresh north wind, there was a distinct upsurge in passage today, although variety was still limited. Willow Warblers numbered more than 150 at the Bill, where there were also 25 Swallows, 4 Blackcaps, 2 White Wagtails, a Redstart and a Firecrest; oddities there included a Lapwing and a Little Ringed Plover, and there was also an early Whinchat at the Grove, and the first Little Tern of the spring at Ferrybridge. The offshore wind meant that the only noteworthy birds on the sea were a couple of Great Skuas off the Bill.


Stonechat -  Portland Bill, April 9th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 9th No great change today. Migrants remained in low numbers, with the Bill area producing just a trickle of Swallows, 10 Willow Warblers, 4 Wheatears, 2 Firecrests, a Buzzard, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. Sea passage was equally slow, with 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Manx Shearwaters, a Common Scoter and a Great Skua off the Bill. April 8th There was a surprise to start the day when the Chough reappeared around the Bill. It proved to be very mobile again, and had left to the north by mid-morning. Migrants were still scarce, with totals at the Bill of just 4 Willow Warblers, 4 Wheatears, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Firecrests, a Tree Pipit and a few Swallows. The sea produced 4 Pintail, 1 Red-throated Diver, 1 Artic Skua and 1 Common Scoter. Eight Sandwich Terns and a single Sanderling were at Ferrybridge. April 7th A cold, damp day, with little improvement on the migrant front. The Bill area produced 6 Willow Warblers, 5 Wheatears, 3 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Firecrests, a Siskin and a few Swallows. The sea was little better, with just 8 Common Scoter, 7 Sandwich Terns, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Skuas counted from the Bill. Two Buzzards were over the middle of the island during the afternoon, and 6 Great Northern Divers were still in Portland Harbour.


Goldfinch -  Portland Bill, April 6th 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 6th Passage remained at a standstill, with today's dismal haul of migrants at the Bill consisting of just 1 Swallow, 1 Wheatear, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler and a Firecrest that has been present for nearly three weeks. Seawatching was equally unproductive, with the Bill producing 3 Common Scoter, an unidentified Diver and a Manx Shearwater. We received news today that there were 2 Alpine Swifts along the cliffs near Southwell on the afternoon of 3rd April. April 5th Another miserable wet and windy day meant there was little else to do but seawatch, with totals at the Bill of just 16 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 5 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Arctic Skuas. The handful of birds on the land included a few Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Wheatears, a Firecrest  and a Redstart around the Bill.


Serin -  Southwell, April 4th 2001 © Pete Saunders

  April 4th Clear weather and a strong north-west wind ensured that migrants remained very sparse. A singing Serin visited several gardens in Southwell in the afternoon, but none of the other rarities seen yesterday could be found today. Oddities at the Bill included a Firecrest and a Black Redstart, but there were otherwise just a handful of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers on the land. The sea produced more than 1000 Gannets, 6 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver. April 3rd Common migrants were again thin on the ground, but this was more than made up for by a series of rarities. Single Serins, different birds in each case, were seen briefly at the DERA compound at the Bill and at Southwell in the morning; equally brief was an Alpine Swift that flew north over Southwell at midday. The afternoon saw the arrival of another Chough - seemingly a different individual to the bird seen two weeks ago - at the Bill; quite apart from being extremely vocal, it also proved to be very mobile and left to the north after an hour roaming the Bill area. In the evening a female Kentish Plover showed up at Ferrybridge. Common migrants in the area today included just 2 Blackcaps and a Black Redstart at the Bill, and a Redstart at Southwell, whilst seawatching at the Bill produced only 5 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua. April 2nd The supply of migrants eased again, but there was still plenty to see. A singing Serin at the Obs got the day off to a good start, and there were also 25 Willow Warblers, 20 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrests, 4 Firecrests, 4 Bullfinches and a White Wagtail around the Bill area. Seawatching was much more productive than in recent days, with totals from the Bill of 250 Common Scoter, 14 Sandwich Terns, 8 Red-throated Divers, 4 Pintail, 3 Arctic and a Great Skua; the few breeding Puffins are also now beginning to show regularly in the mornings off the Bill.


Redstart -  Portland Bill, April 1st 2001 © Martin Cade

  April 1st There was another good fall of migrants in damp, foggy weather. Counts at the Bill included 100 Willow Warblers, 75 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 4 Redstarts, 4 Firecrests and a Tree Pipit; clearer conditions in the afternoon also saw a few hirundines arriving. Seawatching was spoilt by poor visibility in the morning, and just a few Common Scoter and Sandwich Terns, and 3 Brent Geese passed in the afternoon.