December 2001


Common Gull - Portland Bill, December 31st 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 31st The sea was quieter than in recent days, although auks and Kittiwakes were still present in fair numbers; 2 Red-throated Divers also passed through. Purple Sandpipers increased to 12 at the Bill, where there were also 29 Song Thrushes, 18 Golden Plovers, 3 Snipe and the wintering Buzzard and Water Rail. Elsewhere, Portland Harbour produced a scatter of divers and grebes, and a single Eider. Additionally, belated news received today is of 2 Woodcock and 2 Long-eared Owls having been seen at Verne Common during the Christmas period.  December 30th Auks, particularly Razorbills, still numbered in the thousands off the Bill, but there was little else offshore except for 3 fly-by Red-throated Divers. Four Purple Sandpipers and 2 Turnstones were on the rocks at the tip of the Bill, but the land otherwise produced just the wintering Goldcrest at Culverwell. In the afternoon a Spoonbill showed up at Ferrybridge, but it flew off to the north before dark. December 29th Despite the hills of the mainland having acquired a dusting of snow overnight, there was no sign of any cold weather movement on the island. Song Thrushes numbered around 20 at the Bill, where the only other birds of note were the wintering Buzzard and Goldcrest. Auks and Kittiwakes, the former totalling over 2000, were still a feature off the Bill throughout the morning, and 3 Red-throated Divers passed through there. Portland Harbour is at last attracting a few birds, with reports of 5 Great Northern and 3 Black-throated Divers, 7 Black-necked Grebes and an Eider there today. December 28th The large feeding flock of Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes remained off the Bill all day, but a single Red-throated Diver was the only other noteworthy sighting on the sea. Song Thrushes were still conspicuous everywhere on the land, and there was a Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff at Weston. December 27th The sea again provided the only interest today. Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes were still present in very high numbers off the Bill, but the only other bird of note there was a single unidentified fly-by Diver December 26th More of the same today. Auks were again on the move off the Bill, with more than 2000 flying east during a half-hour sample count in the late morning; Gannets, Kittiwakes and other gulls were also still feeding offshore in quantity throughout the day. The only other sightings of note were of a Ringed Plover settled on the rocks at the Bill, and a single Black Redstart at Weston. December 25th Another quiet day for birds and birders. At the Bill, there were good numbers of Kittiwakes and auks passing through during the morning, and later in the day a feeding flock of more than 500 Kittiwakes had gathered offshore; also lingering offshore were 25 Common Scoter. The only bird of note on the land was a single Golden Plover. December 24th Very little birding was done today, and the only sightings of note came from the Bill where there was a lone Redwing on the land, and 12 Common Scoter and an unidentified Diver flying past offshore.


Little Egret - Ferrybridge, December 23rd 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 23rd With the weather remaining distinctly chilly a few birds were again on the move. The Bill area produced 28 Song Thrushes, 3 Snipe, 2 Fieldfares, a Lapwing, a Golden Plover and a Redwing. Elsewhere, a Blackcap at Southwell and a Chiffchaff at Weston were both presumed wintering birds, and there were 4 Little Egrets at Ferrybridge. Three Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose passed the Bill, but there was no sign of the Long-tailed Duck offshore. December 22nd After a frosty night, Song Thrush numbers increased again at the Bill, but there was otherwise little of interest on the land. A Long-tailed Duck joined the small group of settled Common Scoter offshore, but the sea otherwise produced only a Red-throated Diver and a Brent Goose. December 21st Even less than of late. A wintering Water Rail was about the only bird of note on the land at the Bill, and the sea there produced nothing more than a couple of Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver. Portland Harbour remains remarkably quiet for the time of year, with just a few Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes seen there today.


Purple Sandpiper - Portland Bill, December 20th 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 20th Another fairly quiet day, with the Bill area producing just a Golden Plover and several wintering Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones; 2 Red-throated Divers passed on the sea, and 14 Common and a Velvet Scoter remained offshore. Elsewhere, 5 Long-tailed Tits visited a garden in Southwell.


Song Thrush - Portland Bill, December 18th 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 19th The unexpectedly calm weather enabled the mist-nets to be opened at the Obs, where a Song Thrush had the distinction of being the 5500th bird ringed this year (the fourth-highest annual total at PBO); also trapped there was a surprisingly late new Blackcap. The island was otherwise rather quiet, with the best birds being the wintering Buzzard, a Snipe, a Golden Plover and three fly-by Red-throated Divers at the Bill, and a Black Redstart at Weston.


Golden Plover - Portland Bill, December 18th 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 18th Very little to report today, with the Bill area producing just a few Song Thrushes, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 'the' Buzzard, a Golden Plover and a Turnstone on the land, and 2 Brent Geese and a Red-throated Diver offshore. December 17th After the grim weather of recent days there was a lot less wind and some pleasant winter sunshine today. Birds were hardly plentiful but there was a good scatter of Song Thrushes everywhere, as well as 8 Lapwings, 3 Redwings and a Golden Plover at the Bill. The wintering Buzzard and Goldcrest also remained at the Bill, and seawatching there produced over 60 Common and a Velvet Scoter, 4 Black-headed Gulls and a Red-throated Diver December 16th Grey skies and a bitter wind kept most birders indoors, and there was little reward for the few who did venture out. The wintering Buzzard remained at the Bill, and elsewhere there a few Black-necked and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Wakeham. December 15th Song Thrushes were again obvious everywhere, but they remain the only species conspicuously affected by the recent cold weather. Five Lapwings also passed through at the Bill, but the only other birds of note there were a Blackcap and the wintering Buzzard and Goldcrest. Seawatching produced nothing better than 27 Common Scoter and 2 of the long-staying Velvet Scoters. December 14th A Goosander flying over Blacknor was the bird of the day, although not a particularly surprising one bearing in mind the continuing cold weather. The only other birds of note were a Grey Heron, a Snipe and the wintering Water Rail at the Bill.


Lapwing - Portland Bill, December 13th 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 13th The raw easterly wind had increased overnight and there was a little more interest on the sea. Gannets and Kittiwakes were in good numbers off the Bill, and 28 Common and a Velvet Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers, 3 Pintail and a Golden Plover also passed there. On the land, the 'eastern' Chiffchaff was seen again at Haylands, 2 Black Redstarts were at Weston, and there were a sprinkle of Song Thrushes, 3 Redwings and a Lapwing at the Bill. December 12th Despite it remaining pretty chilly there was little improvement in the birding. The Bill area produced 15 Song Thrushes, 2 Redwings and a Golden Plover, as well as a flock of 7 Long-tailed Tits that had presumably wandered down from the centre of the island. Single Red-throated and Black-throated Divers passed through on the sea.  December 11th It was a struggle to find anything of note today and the only worthwhile sightings were of the wintering Buzzard and a single Velvet Scoter at the Bill, and 4 Black-necked Grebes and a Kingfisher at Portland Harbour. December 10th The wind remained a cold easterly but again there was little on the move. A few new Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, 3 Lapwings and a Fieldfare were dotted around the Bill and Southwell, but the only other birds of note there were the wintering Buzzard, Water Rail and Goldcrest. At least 1 Velvet Scoter remained offshore, and 3 Red-throated Divers and 4 Eider passed through. Elsewhere there was a single Little Egret on the tidal pools below the Grove. December 9th A brisk east wind and sharp drop in temperature promised some birds, but in the event little was found. An 'eastern' Chiffchaff was a new arrival at Haylands, but the Bill produced nothing more than 9 wintering Purple Sandpipers, 4 Lapwings, 2 Redwings, a Fieldfare and the resident Buzzard. The highlight on the sea was once again the 3 Velvet Scoters off the East Cliffs, with only 12 Black-headed Gulls,  9 Common Scoter and 2 Brent Geese passing through offshore. December 8th A few flocks of Starlings passed through during the morning, but the only other new arrivals around the Bill area were 9 Redwings and a Brambling. The 3 Velvet Scoters remained offshore, and the sea also produced 18 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Red-throated Diver and an Eider. December 7th Odds and sods around the Bill area today included a couple of Golden Plovers, a Dunlin, a Redwing and a Fieldfare, as well as the long-staying Buzzard and Goldcrest. Seawatching there produced 11 Red-throated Divers, 4 unidentified divers, 2 Shelduck and a Red-necked Grebe, whilst the 3 Velvet Scoters were still settled offshore. December 6th An unexpected highlight today was a Marsh Tit (only the second Portland record) seen briefly at Easton Square with a flock of Long-tailed Tits in the early afternoon; searches in the vicinity shortly afterwards drew a blank. New arrivals elsewhere were all but non-existent, with the Bill producing just a Water Rail, the wintering Buzzard and a fly-by Great Northern Diver.


Gannet - Portland Bill, December 5th 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 5th Once again the stormy weather precluded any birding but seawatching, and that produced nothing more exciting than a lone Great Skua off the Bill December 4th Seawatching at the Bill produced the only sightings of note today, with 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passing through and the 3 Velvet Scoters still lingering offshore. 


Mistle Thrush - Portland Bill, December 3rd 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 3rd There was another small flurry of late migrants today, with the Bill area producing 3 Redwings, a Water Rail, a Mistle Thrush and a Chiffchaff; the Buzzard was also still present there, as was a Goldcrest that has been lingering at Culverwell for some days. Eight Eider and 6 Red-throated Divers passed the Bill, and the 3 Velvet Scoters were still present offshore.


Redwing - Portland Bill, December 2nd 2001 © Martin Cade

  December 2nd Just as it had looked like autumn passage was over, so another flurry of late migrants appeared. The sprinkle of new arrivals at the Bill included 30 Chaffinches, 20 Blackbirds, 10 Redwings, 3 Fieldfares, 2 Bramblings, a Blackcap and a Yellowhammer, with another 2 Bramblings at Reap Lane. The 3 Velvet Scoters remained off the Bill but the Common Scoter flock has either broken-up or moved: just 6 fly-bys were seen today; 4 Brent Geese and a Wigeon also passed the Bill. December 1st Despite a marked improvement in the weather the few birders in the field went largely unrewarded. A Golden Plover and a Brambling passed through at the Bill, and the wintering Buzzard again put in an appearance there; seawatching produced nothing more than a single Great Northern Diver.