May 2001

May 31st The run of quiet days continued, with the only migrants of note being 2 Wheatears and a Turtle Dove at the Bill (despite the mist-nets being open for 7 hours, no birds were trapped and ringed at the Obs!). Seawatching at the Bill in the morning produced just 12 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua May 30th The only reports came from the Bill area, where there were 3 Turtle Doves, 2 Wheatears, a Hobby and a Willow Warbler on the land, and a few Manx Shearwaters and 2 Arctic Skuas offshore. May 29th Despite the return of warm, sunny weather there was no change in the rather dire migrant numbers. The Bill area produced just 4 Wheatears, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Hobby (the 39th of the spring), a Sedge Warbler and a Willow Warbler. Seawatching was no more productive, with the highlights being single Arctic and Great Skuas.


Sedge Warbler - Portland Bill, May 28th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 28th A hint of a few new arrivals today, with 2 Reed Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, a Blackcap, a Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher trapped and ringed at the Obs. Unfortunately, thick fog restricted birding elsewhere and the only other reports were of 3 Turtle Doves and another Reed Warbler elsewhere at the Bill, and 17 Sanderling at Ferrybridge May 27th No change in the weather or the birds. Migrants at the Bill today totalled just 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Wheatears, a Turtle Dove, a Sedge Warbler and a Willow Warbler. May 26th A pretty dismal start to the Bank Holiday weekend, with the island blanketed in thick fog, and very few birds about. The only reports came from the Bill, where there were 9 Spotted Flycatchers, 6 Wheatears, 3 Yellow Wagtails, a Turtle Dove, a Sedge Warbler and a Chiffchaff. May 25th After the hot weather of recent days there was a sudden change today as misty low cloud and a stiff north-east wind kept the temperature pegged right down for most of the day. Unfortunately there was little improvement in migrant numbers, with the Bill area producing just a few Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Turtle Doves, 2 Common Sandpipers, a Whimbrel,  a Yellow Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Whinchat, a Garden Warbler and a Willow Warbler.



Bee-eater and Storm Petrel - Portland Bill, May 24th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 24th The highlight today was a Bee-eater at the Bill at 08:30; unfortunately it made a typically brief visit, and after settling on wires beside the Coastguard Cottages for a couple of minutes made off north over the Top Fields and was not seen again. Common migrants remained thin on the ground, with just 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Reed Warbler at the Bill; other oddities there included a single Mistle Thrush and another late Firecrest. Seawatching during the day has produced nothing of note, although last night 4 Storm Petrels were trapped and ringed during a tape-luring session at the Bill. Access update: All previously closed footpaths and rights of way on the island have been officially reopened today. May 23rd There was another good early morning tern passage today, with 370 commic and 6 Black Terns logged off the Bill. The land is even quieter than on recent days, with, for example, just a single Spotted Flycatcher trapped at the Obs all day; other migrants included 2 Sedge Warblers, a Turtle Dove and a Yellow Wagtail around the Bill, and several Spotted Flycatchers at other sites. A Marsh Harrier flew north up the West Cliffs early in the morning, and a Hobby was settled in the Strips at the Bill later on. May 22nd The settled spell of weather continued, but a freshening north-east breeze grounded a few more late migrants than in recent days. At the Bill, Swifts passed through in fair numbers, and there were also 7 Wheatears, 6 Willow Warblers, 6 Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove, a Whinchat, a Redstart and a Chiffchaff. Seawatching at the Bill produced 140 commic Terns in the morning.


Spotted Flycatcher - Portland Bill, May 21st 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 21st The lean spell continued today, with little evidence of movement beyond a good passage of Swifts in the morning. The Bill area held 10 Wheatears, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, a Reed Warbler and a late Brambling. Seawatching at the Bill produced 60 commic Terns and a Great Northern Diver. May 20th More of the same today, with a sprinkle of late common migrants around the island. Reed Warbler has been the only species in any numbers, with 4 at the Bill and several singles elsewhere. Oddities included a Firecrest at the Obs and a Tree Sparrow at Barleycrates Lane. Forty Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua passed the Bill in the morning. May 19th The Bill area remained rather quiet, and produced just a few typical late migrants, including 3 Spotted and a Pied Flycatcher, 2 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, and both Sedge and Reed Warbler. Elsewhere there was a Hobby and a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry, and several Spotted Flycatchers at other sites. Two Arctic and a Pomarine Skua passed the Bill in the morning, but otherwise the sea was as quiet as the land.


Grey Heron - Portland Bill, May 18th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 18th The island remains firmly off-the-boil at the moment, with very little movement on the land or sea. The Bill area produced 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Willow Warblers, a Grey Heron,  a Turtle Dove, a Sedge Warbler, a Reed Warbler and a Blackcap today. Offshore, there was just 3 Arctic Skuas, a few Manx Shearwaters and a Little Gull. May 17th A miserable day, with the island swept by near-gale force westerlies, and little of interest reported anywhere. Seawatching from the Bill produced just 90 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua, whilst a Spotted Flycatcher in the Obs garden was the sole migrant of note on the land. Twenty Sanderling were at Ferrybridge in the early afternoon. May 16th Heavy rain before dawn forced down a small flurry of late migrants this morning. Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers numbered just into double figures, and there were ones and twos of Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtail, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler about the island. Another Hobby arrived in off the sea at the Bill, but seawatching there produced nothing better than 100 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver. Waders at Ferrybridge included 10 Sanderling and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits. May 15th The Wryneck at Suckthumb Quarry was relocated behind the Craft Centre off Weston Street during the morning, but proved to be fairly elusive throughout the rest of the day. Also seen today were a Nightjar that showed for a while settled in a tree beside the RN cemetery at Verne Common in the afternoon, and a singing Wood Warbler at the Grove in the morning. Common migrants remained very thin on the ground, with just 3 birds trapped and ringed at the Obs, and little more elsewhere. Seawatching at the Bill produced 2 Great Northern Divers, and an Arctic and a Pomarine Skua May 14th An odds and sods day, with a surprising variety of birds reported. The highlight was a Wryneck that spent most of the morning at Suckthumb Quarry. Migrants included a fair number of Turtle Doves (including at least 10 at Southwell), 2 Pied Flycatchers at Suckthumb Quarry, Spotted Flycatchers at several sites, a Cuckoo at Inmosthay Quarry, a Nightingale at Suckthumb Quarry and a late Goldcrest in song at Delhi Lane. The arrival of clearer westerly weather all but halted sea passage, with the Bill producing just 2 Great Northern Divers, a Storm Petrel, a Pomarine Skua and a handful of waders and commic Terns; a lone Mute Swan settled on the sea off the Bill was another unexpected sight during the morning. Passage waders at Ferrybridge included 17 Whimbrel and 10 Sanderling. May 13th The sea provided virtually all the action today. Day totals at the Bill included 960 commic, 18 Black and 2 Roseate Terns, 200 Manx Shearwaters, 37 Common Scoter, 26 Pomarine, 7 Arctic and 3 Great Skuas, a Storm Petrel and plenty of waders. Full totals for Chesil are not available yet, but morning watches there produced 1000 commic, 2 Roseate and 14 Black Terns, 9 Pomarine and 3 Arctic Skuas, 3 Little Gulls and a good variety of waders; a Roseate Tern also showed well at Ferrybridge during the afternoon. The land remained very quiet, with just a sprinkle of late migrants, including a Turtle Dove and a Redpoll, seen at the Bill. May 12th Terns were still on the move today, with counts from Chesil of 200 commics, 2 Roseate and 2 Black Terns, and from the Bill of 500 commic, 5 Black, 4 Little and 3 Roseate Terns. In the morning, a Spoonbill and a Marsh Harrier also passed Chesil, and an unidentified ringtail Harrier was seen briefly over Top Fields at the Bill. Migrants on the land have been very sparse everywhere, with, for example, just 7 birds trapped and ringed at the Obs all day. May 11th The sea provided most of the interest today, including a remarkable passage of terns off Chesil Beach. Highlight was a Caspian Tern that flew past during a movement that produced counts of 1200 commic, 4 Black and 2 Roseate Terns; a variety of waders and 5 Arctic Skuas were also seen there. In the misty weather, passage off the Bill was much slower, with just 370 commic and 3 Black Terns seen, along with 2 Arctic, 2 Great and a Pomarine Skua, a Little Gull and a Mediterranean Gull. On the land, it is looking likely that the bulk of spring passerine migrants have now passed through, and it is certainly relatively quiet again today. Three Dotterels were flushed from Tout Quarry in the morning, but unfortunately flew off high to the north, and scarcer migrants elsewhere included 3 Greenshank and a Hobby at the Bill.


Greenland Wheatear - Portland Bill, May 10th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 10th Highlight today was a Tawny Pipit that was reported from Tout Quarry in the morning; unfortunately it flew off in the direction of Verne Common soon after it was discovered, and could not be relocated. Elsewhere, 4 Little Egrets flew over the Bill, and a lone Hobby passed north up the West Cliffs in the morning. Swifts and hirundines were still on the move in good numbers, but there was only a meagre sprinkle of grounded migrants on the island. Seawatching produced 4 Tufted Ducks, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua off the Bill in the morning, and 210 Arctic Terns, 40 Bar-tailed Godwits, 12 Whimbrel and a Black Tern off Chesil Beach in the evening. May 9th A much quieter day. Among the common migrants, only hirundines and Swifts were on the move in good numbers, with most other species much scarcer than in recent days. The recent run of Hobbies continued, with 4 passing through during the morning, and in the evening a Marsh Harrier and a Merlin arrived from the south at the Bill. The only other oddity reported was a single overflying Greenshank.  Seawatching at the Bill produced just a few commic Terns, 6 Sanderling, 4 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua, and a Red-breasted Merganser. May 8th There were again a good variety of common migrants about, although numbers were not quite as high as in recent days. Hirundines, Swifts, Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers and Blackcaps were most conspicuous, with all the other expected species present in lower numbers. A Short-eared Owl arrived from the south at the Bill in the afternoon, singles Hobbies passed through at both the Bill and Weston, and a Tree Sparrow was an unusual but brief visitor to Reap Lane. With the wind remaining in the north-east, the sea was still quiet, with just 20 Common Scoter, 20 commic Terns, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Pomarine Skua past the Bill.



Hobby and Bar-tailed Godwit - Portland Bill, May 7th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 7th Despite a less than promising start, with little around at dawn, the stiff north-east breeze forced surprising numbers of migrants down as the day went on. Willow Warblers were numerous, with more than 250 at the Bill alone, but most of the other expected common migrants were represented; other counts from the Bill included 17 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Garden Warblers, 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 6 Redstarts, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, and single Black Redstart and Pied Flycatcher. Scarcer migrants included Hobby, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Siskin at the Bill, and 3 Hobbies passing through in the morning at Church Ope Cove. A single Roseate Tern lingering off the Bill in the morning livened up some otherwise dire seawatching, with the only other birds of note being single Arctic and Great Skuas



Chough, Tree Pipit and Wood Warbler - Portland Bill, May 6th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 6th Yesterday's probable Chough was confirmed early in the morning when it showed well for a while in fields beside the East Cliffs at the Bill; unfortunately it proved as elusive as the birds seen earlier in the spring, and showed just once more near the Bill later in the morning. Common migrants were fairly numerous everywhere today, with counts at the Bill of, for example, 150 Willow Warblers, 40 Blackcaps and 30 Garden Warblers. Scarcer migrants included 4 Hobbies at various sites during the day,  2 Wood Warblers and a Nightingale at the Bill, and a Green Sandpiper at Yeolands Quarry. Seawatching produced just a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua off the Bill in the morning, and 4 Pomarine Skuas there in the evening. May 5th Inevitably perhaps, the Bank Holiday weekend started very quietly. Numbers of common migrants were much reduced, although still included 50 Willow Warblers, 35 Blackcaps, 15 Garden Warblers, 10 Whinchats, 10 Whitethroats, 5 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Sedge Warblers and single Whimbrel, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest, and Pied and Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill. A fly-over Goosander at the Bill was the most unusual bird of the day, and there were also 2 Hobbies at the Bill, and a Buzzard over Weston. Seawatching at the Bill produced 3 Great Northern Divers in the morning and 3 Pomarine Skuas in the evening. Late in the evening a possible Chough was watched flying in from the south at the Bill.


aberrant Blackcap - Portland Bill, May 4th 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 4th Migrants were distinctly fewer than during the last two days, but there was still plenty to see. Around the Bill area, totals included 100 Willow Warblers, 30 Blackcaps, 30 Whitethroats, 15 Garden Warblers, 15 Whinchats, 7 Whimbrel, 5 Redstarts, 5 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Yellow Wagtails, a Common Sandpiper, a Turtle Dove, a White Wagtail, a Black Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler. Among the oddities, raptors continue to figure well, with a total of 6 Hobbies and an unidentified ringtail Harrier in off the sea at the Bill, and another Hobby seen over East Weare. The latter site also produced a typically brief Serin in the morning. The stiff northerly wind continued to spoil seawatching, with nothing better than a trickle of Manx Shearwaters, and 3 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua seen off the Bill.


Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill, May 3rd 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 3rd There were plenty of migrants on the island again today, with the day's ringing total at the Obs reaching over 150 (taking the spring total to over 2000 - a well above average figure). The same array of common migrants as yesterday were present, with counts at the Bill including 300 Willow Warblers, 30 Whitethroats, 20 Whinchats and 10 Lesser Whitethroats; less common species included a Cuckoo, a Turtle Dove, a Redpoll, a Brambling and a Black Redstart. Three Great Northern Divers were also still in Portland Harbour. Oddities on the island included 3 Hobbies and a Marsh Harrier in off the sea at the Bill, another Hobby and another Marsh Harrier over Weston, 3 Goosanders and 2 Pomarine Skuas past the Bill, and a Firecrest trapped at the Obs.


Swallow - Portland Bill, May 2nd 2001 © Martin Cade

  May 2nd A busy day on the island, with the highlights being a female Serin (the same individual as the bird trapped last week) around the Hut Fields for much of the morning, a female Marsh Harrier in off the sea at the Bill in the morning, a Garganey past the Bill with Common Scoter, and a probable Dotterel seen in flight over Southwell. Common migrants were in reasonable supply everywhere, with counts at the Bill of 250 Willow Warblers, 50 Chiffchaffs, 30 Wheatears, 40 Whitethroats, 15 Blackcaps, 12 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Reed Warblers, and lower numbers of all the other expected species and a few oddities, including single Hobby, Turtle Dove, Grasshopper Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Redpoll; hirundines and Swifts were also on the move in good numbers all day. Bearing in mind the offshore wind, the sea was fairly productive, with totals at the Bill of 800 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Pomarine and 3 Arctic Skua, and 4 Tufted Ducks May 1st May arrived with grey skies, a blasting north-east wind and frequent heavy rain, and, not surprisingly, migrants were at a premium for most of the day. A Serin was an unexpected but brief visitor to Cheyne Weares, where there was also a Grasshopper Warbler. The Bill area produced nothing better than a few Swifts, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. Seawatching was no better, with just 10 Common Scoter, 7 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua off the Bill. Clear weather finally arrived in the early evening, and there was a late flurry of activity at the Bill: hirundines and Swifts moved through in some numbers, and a Hobby and a Marsh Harrier flew in from the south in quick succession.