August 2001

August 31st A much cooler autumnal day, with frequent showers and a blustery north-westerly wind - unfortunately not the weather likely to produce much in the way of migrants, rarities or sea passage. The Melodious Warbler was still at Barleycrates Lane, although it remains rather elusive for most of the day. Common migrants were thin on the ground everywhere, and the only seabird of any note was a lone Manx Shearwater off the Bill.



Melodious Warbler - Barleycrates Lane, August 30th 2001 © Terry Baker

  August 30th All good things come to an end, and today saw not only a drying up of the flow of common migrants, but also a mass clear-out of all the rarities seen yesterday. Fortunately, there was some compensation with the discovery of an elusive Melodious Warbler at Barleycrates Lane; a ringtail Montagu's Harrier also passed south over the island in the afternoon. Among the common migrants, only Wheatears were relatively numerous, although a handful of all the other expected species were to be found with a little searching. Oddities included Cuckoos at both Reap Lane and the Bill, single Merlin and Treecreeper at the Bill, the first 12 Wigeon of the autumn passing the Bill, and 2 Little Stints at Ferrybridge. August 29th Scarce migrants dominated again today: the Red-backed Shrike remained at Culverwell, the Barred Warbler was still at Barleycrates Lane, and Wrynecks stole the show with a total of 5 reported from around the island (2 at Southwell, 1 at Watery Lane, 1 in Top Fields and 1 around the Hut Fields). In comparison, there was only a modest sprinkle of most of the commoner migrants, although oddities included a Little Ringed Plover at Weston, a Nightjar at the Bill, and a Cuckoo and a Merlin at the Bill; the first migrant Chiffchaff and Goldcrest of the autumn were also at the Bill.



Red-backed Shrike - Portland Bill, August 28th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 28th Evening update. New arrivals today included a Red-backed Shrike at Culverwell and a Barred Warbler at Barleycrates Lane, with the Wryneck that remained around the Bill making a good trio of scarce migrants on the island. After two good days for commoner migrants, numbers were somewhat reduced everywhere although the same good selection of species were still to be found. August 27th Despite a complete change to clear skies and warm sunshine there were still lots of birds to be seen on the island. The highlights were Wrynecks at Southwell, the Bill and the Verne, and a Melodious Warbler still in the Obs garden, although just as unusual for Portland was a Treecreeper seen briefly at the Obs. Migrant numbers were on a par with yesterday, although there was evidence of birds on the move all day, and it may be that overall totals were actually rather higher; sample counts at the Bill included 300 Wheatears, 200 Willow Warblers, 30 Spotted and 15 Pied Flycatchers, and 20 Redstarts.



Raven - Grove Point, August 26th 2001 © Mary Snell

  August 26th Grey skies, occasional drizzly rain and a brisk north-east wind promised much, and in the event delivered the best fall of the autumn so far. Migrants were numerous everywhere, and all-island counts included 1000 House Martins, 500 Swallows, 500 Wheatears, 300 Willow Warblers, 200 Yellow Wagtails, 75 Spotted Flycatchers and 30 Pied Flycatchers, with all the other expected species present in lower numbers. Scarcer migrants included Hobby, Merlin and Black-tailed Godwit at the Bill, Wood Warbler at Southwell, Marsh Harrier in off the sea at the Bill, and Osprey south over Verne Common. Rarities included one very elusive Melodious Warbler still around the Obs, and new Wrynecks at Southwell and Easton.  



Melodious Warbler and Willow Warbler- Portland Bill, August 25th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 25th A milestone was reached at midday when another Melodious Warbler was trapped and ringed in the Obs garden - the 100th Melodious Warbler ringed at PBO. Yesterday's Melodious Warbler was also still present in and around the Obs garden, and both individuals were seen together at times during the morning. All the expected common migrants were again present around the island, with higher counts including 120 Wheatears, 100 Yellow Wagtails, 30 Whinchats and 25 Spotted Flycatchers at the Bill, and 40 Spotted Flycatchers at the Verne. Oddities included Green Sandpiper, Nightjar and Nightingale at the Bill, and Hobby over Southwell.



Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill, August 24th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 24th Bird of the day was another new Melodious Warbler that was trapped and ringed at the Obs in the early afternoon, after having been seen in the Obs Quarry in the morning. A decent variety of common migrants remained around the island, although numbers were generally on the low side; the only oddities were a Merlin, a Purple Sandpiper and a Nightingale at the Bill. The sea was also still fairly quiet, with the best birds being 2 Arctic Skuas and a Balearic Shearwater off the Bill. August 23rd Migrants were a lot more numerous today, although - as often happens in the autumn - the Bill area was the poor relation and the highest counts were made around the middle of the island. Totals for all sites included 60 Yellow and 2 Blue-headed Wagtails, 40 Pied and 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 30 Tree Pipits, 10 Redstarts, a Little Ringed Plover, a Turtle Dove and a Nightingale. The sea remained very quiet, with watches from the Bill producing nothing more than 6 Manx Shearwaters and a Great Skua.



Sparrowhawk - Portland Bill, August 22nd 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 22nd Despite promising conditions, with overcast skies and drizzle at dawn, there was no upturn in migrant numbers. The Bill area held 20 Wheatears, 7 Pied Flycatchers, 5 Willow Warblers, 3 Whinchats, a Tree Pipit, a Yellow Wagtail, a Nightingale and a Garden Warbler, whilst seawatching there produced just single Manx and Balearic Shearwaters, and Arctic Skua. August 21st A surprise today was the retrapping at the Obs of the Melodious Warbler that was first seen early last week, but had not then been reported for five days - it remained highly elusive and was not seen again after release back into the Obs garden. Sand Martins and Swifts passed through in fair numbers all day, but migrants were otherwise in remarkably low numbers everywhere, with just 20 Wheatears, 9 Tree Pipits, 5 Willow Warblers, 3 Pied Flycatchers, a Whinchat, a Redstart and a Garden Warbler at the Bill. The sea produced a couple of Little Egrets off the West Cliffs, as well as 4 Balearic and 3 Manx Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel and a Black Tern off the Bill. August 20th A repeat of yesterday, with around 100 Wheatears at the Bill, but few other migrants in any numbers. The Bill area also held, for example, only 25 Willow Warblers, 15 Yellow Wagtails and 5 Tree Pipits, along with oddities such as a Merlin, a Cuckoo and a Grasshopper Warbler. Elsewhere on the island, the highlight was a lone Ring-necked Parakeet flying north up the West Cliffs in the morning. August 19th Most of the expected common migrants were logged today, but the only species in any numbers was Wheatear: the Bill area held 95, and there were smaller numbers at most other sites. Oddities around the island included both Little Ringed Plover and Greenshank at the Bill. Seawatching from the Bill produced 12 Black and 2 Arctic Terns, 8 Balearic and 4 Manx Shearwaters, and single Arctic and Great Skuas August 18th A dramatic change in the weather, with plenty of heavy rain showers throughout the day, dropped a few unexpected birds around the island. Migrants remained generally sparse at the Bill, where there 60 Wheatears and 20 Willow Warblers, but otherwise just a Hobby, a Yellow Wagtail and a Grey Wagtail. Elsewhere, there were single Redstart and Pied Flycatcher at Weston, and a good numbers of waders at Ferrybridge included 6 Whimbrel, 4 Sanderling, 2 Knot and a Little Stint. Waders also passed on the sea at the Bill, where there were 31 Whimbrel, 15 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover and a Greenshank, along with 250 Gannets, 34 Common Scoter, a Balearic Shearwater, and single Arctic and Great Skuas August 17th Little change today, with only the thinnest scatter of migrants about the island. The Bill area held 25 Wheatears, 20 Willow Warblers, 2 Tree Pipits, a Yellow Wagtail and a Lesser Whitethroat, and as the day went on more than 100 Sand Martins gathered over the area. Three Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua passed on the sea. August 16th Autumn migrants may be on the move at the moment, but they're certainly not stopping in quantity at Portland. Grounded migrants at the Bill today totalled no more than 30 Wheatears, 25 Willow Warblers, 3 Whinchats and 2 Tree Pipits, although there were signs of more Swallows passing through as the day went on. With a distinct autumnal chill in the air it was perhaps fitting that the first Merlin also passed through at the Bill. The sea produced 15 Common Scoter and 3 Balearic Shearwaters, and the only other noteworthy sighting was of a Curlew Sandpiper at Ferrybridge in the evening. August 15th Yesterday's Melodious Warbler was retrapped at the Obs during the morning, and in the afternoon another individual was seen at Avalanche Road, Southwell. Commoner migrants around the Bill included 20 Willow Warblers, 15 Wheatears, 2 Tree Pipits, a Whimbrel, a Whinchat, a Blackcap and a Pied Flycatcher. The sea was hardly any better, with totals at the Bill of just 11 Common Scoter, a Manx Shearwater, an Arctic Skua and a Great Skua.



Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill, August 14th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 14th A new Melodious Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs in the morning was the highlight today. Migrants were otherwise pretty sparse, with just 20 Willow Warblers, 18 Wheatears, a Grey Wagtail, a Redstart, a Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat around the Bill area. Four Balearic and 2 Manx Shearwaters were the only noteworthy seabirds noted off the Bill. August 13th Another extremely quiet day. Migrants at the Bill totalled just 25 Wheatears, 6 Willow Warblers, a Mediterranean Gull and a Whimbrel, whilst seawatching there produced only a Great Crested Grebe and a Black-headed Gull. August 12th The Black-headed Bunting could not be found today, and the Bill area produced nothing better than 30 Wheatears, 6 Willow Warblers, a Greenshank, a Purple Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper. With a fresh south-west wind blowing there was some hope of passage offshore, but in the event seawatching at the Bill produced only 25 Common Scoter, 6 Manx and a Sooty Shearwater, 2 Great Skuas and 2 Sandwich Terns.



Black-headed Bunting - Portland Bill, August 11th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 11th New in today was a male Black-headed Bunting that was discovered near the Lower Admiralty at 10am and then spent the rest of the day in or near the Obs garden; it proved to be frustratingly elusive and spent long periods hidden from view in trees on the edge of the Obs garden. The Bunting aside, it was a rather quiet day with nothing more than a Snipe and a few Willow Warblers and Wheatears around the Bill area. The sea produced just 10 Manx and 5 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Eider, 2 Tufted Ducks and an Arctic Skua


Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, August 10th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 10th The return of calmer weather got a few more migrants moving, with counts from the Bill area of 50 Wheatears, 40 Willow Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 new Robins, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Garden Warbler. The sea was much quieter than of late, with the Bill producing just a few Manx and 2 Balearic Shearwaters, and 2 Arctic Skuas. August 9th With passage still at a standstill on the land it was the sea that provided virtually all the worthwhile sightings again today, with watches from the Bill producing 600 Manx and 14 Balearic Shearwaters, and 2 Arctic and a Great Skua. The only noteworthy reports from the land were of 10 Willow Warblers, a Little Egret and a Green Sandpiper at the Bill.


Dunlin - Ferrybridge, August 8th 2001 © Martin Cade

  August 8th The wind remained rather strong and it was only persistent seawatching that provided much reward today. Day totals from the Bill included 33 Manx, 4 Balearic and 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 15 Common Scoter, 4 Sanderling, a Whimbrel, and single Arctic and Great Skuas. The only migrants around the Bill area were a handful of Willow Warblers and a lone Garden Warbler. Waders at Ferrybridge included 200 Dunlin, 140 Ringed Plover, 10 Sanderling, a Knot and a Curlew, and there was also a Mediterranean Gull there. August 7th Very little to report today. Despite a favourably strong south-west wind, seawatching at the Bill has produced only 3 Balearic Shearwaters and a lone Common Scoter. The land has been no better, with just a small arrival of Willow Warblers and Wheatears around the Bill. August 6th With a brisk westerly wind blowing all day, most of the interest was on the sea. Watches from the Bill produced 23 Common Scoter, 11 Balearic and 2 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Arctic and 2 Great Skuas, 2 Greenshank, 2 Common Terns and a Teal. Migrants remained sparse around the Bill area, with just single Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat among a sprinkle of Willow Warblers. August 5th The Melodious Warbler again showed from time to time during the morning, and in the early evening it was finally trapped and ringed in the Obs garden. The migrant situation was otherwise unchanged, with Wheatears and Willow Warblers the only species in any numbers; oddities included a Little Egret and a Green Woodpecker at the Bill. The sea continued to produce Balearic Shearwaters, although the day total fell to only 13 off the Bill.  August 4th After being missed for a day, the Melodious Warbler made another couple of brief visits to the Obs garden during the morning, but there were then no more sightings of it before the end of the day. The Bill area also produced 30 Willow Warblers, 10 Wheatears and single Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat. A freshening wind promised more sea passage off the Bill, but in the event there was little improvement on recent days, with totals for the day of 46 Common Scoter, 23 Balearic and 4 Manx Shearwaters, and a single Teal. August 3rd The sea produced most of the interest today, with totals at the Bill of 31 Common Scoter, 26 Balearic and 14 Manx Shearwaters, a Bar-tailed Godwit, and an Arctic and a Great Skua. Migrants were still fairly thin on the ground at the Bill, but included 25 Willow Warblers, 10 Wheatears, 2 Garden Warblers, a Reed Warbler and a Sedge Warbler. August 2nd The Melodious Warbler remained at the Bill, although it was still extremely elusive and showed just once in the Obs garden at midday. Migrants at the Bill included 25 Willow Warblers and 10 Wheatears, whilst seawatching there produced 11 Balearic Shearwaters and 11 Common Scoter. August 1st The Melodious Warbler proved even more elusive today, with just one sighting of it in the Obs garden for a few minutes in the early evening. Willow Warblers and Wheatears remain the only passerines passing through in any numbers, with around 40 of the former and 15 of the latter at the Bill today. Seawatching at the Bill produced 24 Common Scoter, 18 Balearic Shearwaters, 7 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua. In the evening more than 500 Dunlin were counted at Ferrybridge.