March 2002


Sparrowhawk - Portland Bill, March 31st 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 31st Despite promising conditions, with overcast skies and drizzle at dawn, there was scarcely any improvement in migrant numbers. There were unconfirmed reports of 2 Ring Ouzels at Verne Common and an Osprey flying over there early in the day, but the Bill area could muster no more 15 Chiffchaffs, 10 Willow Warblers, 6 Blackcaps and 5 Wheatears. A Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle was presumably the individual that wintered in the area. Seawatching improved a little, with 13 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 4 Manx Shearwaters, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern past the Bill, 35 Common Scoter and 2 Puffins lingering offshore, and a very high count of 700 Guillemots in attendance at the auk colony.  March 30th Poorer numbers and variety of migrants today. A Puffin off the Bill, a fly-by Whimbrel there, and both Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler reported singing there were all firsts for the year. Counts of common migrants at the Bill included 30 Sand Martins, 10 Swallows, 10 Chiffchaffs, 6 Willow Warblers, 5 Blackcaps, 3 Wheatears, 1 Tree Pipit and 1 Black Redstart. Seawatching there produced 135 Common Scoter, 12 Sandwich Terns, 10 Red-throated Divers and 2 Manx Shearwaters. Elsewhere there were 3 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Black-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and an Eider in Portland Harbour. March 29th The Easter weekend got off to a slow start, with clear night skies again seeing to it that grounded migrants were at a premium. A Ring Ouzel at Priory Corner, a Tree Pipit at Reap Lane and a Redstart at Barleycrates Lane were the pick of the birds on the land, with the Bill area producing nothing more than single figures of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Goldcrests, as well as a Fieldfare and a Reed Bunting. Overhead passage of hirundines, pipits and finches was fairly conspicuous throughout the day, with the first few House Martins being seen at several sites. There was a hint of an improvement in sea passage, with the Bill producing 51 Common and 12 Velvet Scoters, 4 Shoveler, 3 Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated Diver, a Brent Goose, a Mallard and a Great Skua. March 28th Common migrants were again all but absent, with only 6 Wheatears, a Goldcrest, a Firecrest and a Brambling grounded at the Bill, and a trickle of Sand Martins, alba Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and finches moving north up the West Cliffs. A single Red-throated Diver and 21 Common Scoter flying east off the Bill were the only seabirds of note. March 27th The recent raptor theme continued today with a Red Kite that toured the island for a while during the morning, and an Osprey that flew north up the West Cliffs shortly afterwards. However, the only other new arrivals of note were 2 Bullfinches and a single Firecrest at the Bill, and a flock of 15 Little Gulls that flew over Ferrybridge and Portland Harbour. Common migrant numbers dropped markedly, with, for example, just 3 Wheatears, a Swallow, a Sand Martin, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff at the Bill. March 26th Clear blue skies and warm sunshine continued to give the island something of an air of the Mediterranean - unfortunately without any of the appropriate birds. An exceptionally early Whitethroat at the Windmills was the bird of the day, although rather rarer for the island was a Tree Sparrow at the Bill. The motley collection of other migrants at the Bill included 30 Wheatears, 8 Chiffchaffs, 5 Swallows, 4 Redwings, 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Goldcrests, 3 Bullfinches, 2 Bramblings, a Dunlin and a Fieldfare. Northward passage of Meadow Pipits and Linnets was reported from many sites, and another 3 Buzzards appeared over the middle of the island. Common Scoter numbers remained above 100 off the Bill, but the only birds actually on the move offshore were 2 single Red-throated Divers. March 25th Another warm and sunny day with very few migrants. A Dartford Warbler was a first for the year at the Bill, but otherwise there were just 10 Wheatears, 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Swallows, a Merlin, a White Wagtail and a Goldcrest there. Buzzards again wandered onto the island from the mainland, with a many as 12 over Southwell and Weston for a time. Seawatching at the Bill produced over 100 Common Scoter lingering offshore, as well as 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua passing by March 24th In clear weather, there were fewer grounded and overflying migrants around today. The Bill area produced 15 Chiffchaffs, 10 Wheatears, 2 Bullfinches, a Sand Martin, a Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest and a Firecrest. Elsewhere, 3 Buzzards over Weston were thought to be wanderers from the mainland rather than new migrants, 10 Wheatears were at Ferrybridge, and the selection of lingering divers and grebes in Portland Harbour included 9 Black-throated Divers, and 5 Slavonian and 4 Red-necked Grebes


Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, March 23rd 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 23rd After a fairly lean week there was a lot more movement today. Overhead visible passage was very conspicuous, with 2500 Meadow Pipits, 500 Linnets, 50 Sand Martins and 50 alba Wagtails counted moving north up the West Cliffs. An early Tree Pipit flew over at Weston, whilst at least 4 Willow Warblers at the Bill were also distinctly earlier than usual. Grounded migrants were otherwise surprisingly thin on the ground, with just 15 Wheatears, 10 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests and a Fieldfare at the Bill, and a single Merlin at Weston. March 22nd Despite promising weather conditions there was only a rather thin scatter of migrants about the island. The Bill area produced 30 Chiffchaffs, 20 Wheatears, 10 Goldcrests, a Firecrest and a Brambling, with only lower numbers of Chiffchaffs and Wheatears reported elsewhere. A lone Red-throated Diver was the only worthwhile return from seawatching at the Bill. March 21st Little improvement in the pretty dire migrant situation today. A total of 6 Fieldfares, 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Wheatears, a Sand Martin, a Black Redstart, a Redwing and a Goldcrest were at the Bill, and a lone Black Redstart was at Ferrybridge. Sea passage off the Bill was restricted to just 21 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Sandwich Terns, whilst lingering wintering birds around Portland Harbour included 123 Red-breasted Mergansers, 12 Great Crested, 3 Slavonian and a Black-necked Grebe, 2 Eider and a Brent Goose. March 20th Still very little to report today, with just 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, a Black Redstart, a Wheatear, a Fieldfare and a Redwing at the Bill. Elsewhere there was a small overhead passage of Meadow Pipits and a couple more grounded Chiffchaffs around the centre of the island, and 3 Sandwich Terns in Portland Harbour. March 19th Despite calmer conditions, there was little sign of migrants getting back on the move. The Bill area produced no more than 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests and a lone Wheatear, and numbers and variety were as dismal elsewhere, where the only noteworthy sighting was of a Ring Ouzel at Nicodemus Knob.


Little Gull - Chesil Cove, March 18th 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 18th Stormy weather put paid to any attempts to search for migrants on the land, and seawatching was the only birding possible. Chesil Cove produced 8 Little Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull, whilst the Bill could only manage a Manx Shearwater, a single Little Gull and the lingering flock of 50 Common Scoter. March 17th Another quiet day, with only 8 Wheatears, 5 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrests, 3 Redwings. 2 Black Redstarts and a Yellowhammer at the Bill, and precious little in the way of migrants elsewhere around the island. Seawatching at the Bill produced just 82 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver, a Shelduck and a Sandwich Tern, whilst the only birds found in Portland Harbour were 5 Black-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers. March 16th Despite seemingly promising weather conditions, common migrants were only thinly spread today, with the Bill area producing just 15 Wheatears, 7 Chiffchaffs, 2 Redwings, a Black Redstart, a Goldcrest and a Firecrest. Other sites fared a little better for numbers, and there were also 2 Swallows and a Woodlark at Weston, a Black Redstart at Southwell, 2 Mistle Thrushes at Tout Quarry and a report of a Ring Ouzel there again. A few gulls, including a lone Mediterranean Gull, were on the move past the Bill, but seawatching there otherwise produced just 3 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, and a single Manx Shearwater. Portland Harbour remained quite productive, with counts of 7 Black-throated, 2 Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver, 3 Red-necked, 2 Black-necked and a Slavonian Grebe and 2 Eiders there. March 15th A marked improvement in the weather and plenty more common migrants today. Highlights among the new arrivals were an exceptionally early Redstart at the Bill, 2 Ring Ouzels at Tout Quarry and another at Verne Common, and single Blackcaps at the Bill and Barleycrates Lane. The Bill area produced totals of 75 Wheatears, 50 Chiffchaffs, 11 Robins, 10 Song Thrushes, 8 Redwings, 5 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests, a Lapwing, a Golden Plover, a White Wagtail, a Fieldfare, a Brambling and a Reed Bunting. Common migrants were also reported in good numbers elsewhere on the island, where different species included a Redpoll at Tout Quarry. Sea passage also picked up, with watches at the Bill producing 110 Common Scoter (in addition to the semi-resident flock of 50 that were still present), 8 Avocets, 5 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe, a Teal and a Great Skua.


Brambling - Portland Bill, March 14th 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 14th There was no change in the miserable weather, but birds were harder to come by than in the last two days. The highlight was a very early Swallow at the Bill, but otherwise the only migrants there were 10 Wheatears, 10 Chiffchaffs, a Redwing, a Firecrest and a Brambling. Elsewhere the only report was of a Merlin at New Ground. March 13th Plenty more to see today, although a biting, gale-force easterly wind made birding very difficult. Visible passage was conspicuous, with more than 1000 Meadow Pipits passing through, together with smaller numbers of alba wagtails, a few Redwings and Fieldfares, a Merlin and a Lapwing. Grounded migrants included 25 Wheatears, 10 Chiffchaffs, a few 'crests, a Black Redstart and a Brambling. The sea was unexpectedly quiet, although the flock of 50 Common Scoter were still off the Bill, and a lone Red-throated Diver passed by.


Goldcrest - Portland Bill, March 12th 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 12th Overcast skies and a switch to easterly winds produced a small flurry of migrants at the Bill, where there were 20 Goldcrests, 8 Wheatears, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Redwing and a Reed Bunting, as well as fair numbers of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails passing overhead and a couple of Rooks arriving in off the sea. Two wintering Purple Sandpipers were still there, as were the flock of 50 Common Scoter offshore. Elsewhere there was a Fieldfare and a Chiffchaff at Barleycrates Lane, and 135 Red-breasted Mergansers, 7 Black-throated Divers, 2 Eider and a Common Scoter in Portland Harbour. March 11th A hotch-potch of news to report today. Two Blackcaps were new arrivals at Southwell, but in the absence of many other new migrants around the area they seem likely to have been wintering nearby. At the Bill, the Firecrest remained in the Obs garden but the only other birds of note were 11 Stonechats, 3 Mallards and a lone Goldcrest. The sea produced a Red-throated Diver, a single Sandwich Tern and the lingering flock of 50 Common Scoter, as well as a report of a Balearic Shearwater (any further details of this sighting would be welcome - there are no previous March records for the island). Finally, belated news was received of a Barn Owl having been seen at the Bill after dark on 7th March - the first record of this species on the island for several years. March 10th Another very windy day that produced precious few migrants. At least 1 Firecrest and a couple of Goldcrests were in the Obs garden, but all the other interest was on the sea, where the first Manx Shearwater of the spring passed by along with large numbers of Kittiwakes, and the flock of 50 Common Scoter were still lingering offshore. March 9th A blasting north-west wind saw to it that migrants were hard to find. The Firecrest in the Obs garden was still present, and another 2 individuals showed up in the Obs Quarry. A few Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails struggled through during the morning, and the only other bird of note was a single Red-throated Diver passing the Bill.


Firecrest - Portland Bill, March 8th 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 8th Still surprisingly little to report. Single Firecrests at the Obs and Culverwell were new arrivals, as was a Wheatear at Barleycrates Lane; alba wagtails also trickled through all day, and with them there were a few Meadow Pipits and 2 Grey Wagtails. March 7th Passage has well and truly ground to a halt at the moment, with the only worthwhile sightings being of the 5 Long-tailed Tits still in the Obs garden and the 50 Common Scoter still off the Bill. March 6th A very quiet day. The group of 5 Long-tailed Tits remained at the Obs, and 2 different individuals also showed up at Culverwell, but otherwise the only noteworthy birds on the land were 13 Stonechats in the Bill area. Seawatching at the Bill produced just 3 Red-throated Divers and 56 settled Common Scoter. March 5th After the flurry of birds in recent days, today looked like being an anticlimax until a Red Kite appeared over the island late in the morning; it was first seen over Verne Common, and wandered south as far as Weston before returning back northwards and leaving towards the mainland. Another good bird was a lone Crossbill that flew north over the Grove later in the day. Migrants were otherwise much scarcer than in recent days, with the only noteworthy sightings being of 11 Stonechats and 5 Redwings at the Bill, where the 5 Long-tailed Tits were also still present.


Wheatear - Portland Bill, March 4th 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 4th There was plenty to see around the island today. The Bill area produced the first Wheatear of the spring, as well as 31 Stonechats, 7 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Goldcrests, a Curlew and a Scandinavian littoralis Rock Pipit. Seawatching there produced 13 Red-throated Divers and the lingering flock of 70 Common Scoter. A White Wagtail was at Weston, but by far the rarest bird for the island was a Moorhen at Tout Quarry.



Stonechats - Portland Bill, March 3rd 2002 © Martin Cade

  March 3rd New arrivals included a White Wagtail at the Bill and a Chiffchaff at Southwell, but Stonechats were again the most conspicuous migrants, with 29 counted in the Bill area and plenty more scattered elsewhere on the island. Meadow Pipits were grounded in good numbers everywhere, although few were actually moving through today. The only other reports were of 40 Common Scoter still off the Bill, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Crested Grebe passing through there, and a good selection of divers and grebes, including 9 Black-throated Divers, in Portland Harbour. March 2nd Meadow Pipits only trickled through in small numbers today, although there were again plenty of Stonechats around the island, including 16 in the Bill area. A Chiffchaff was a new arrival at the Obs, but the only other birds of note at the Bill were the wintering Buzzard, Water Rail and Goldcrest, and the lingering flock of 50 Common Scoters offshore. March 1st The first decent movement of the spring occurred today: more than 500 Meadow Pipits passed through, and among them the few alba wagtails on the move included at least 2 White Wagtails. Stonechats also increased, with a total of 19 counted at the Bill and Reap Lane. The Bill area also produced 6 Purple Sandpipers, a Turnstone and the wintering Buzzard, whilst elsewhere there were 6 Slavonian and 3 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Great Northern Divers and 2 Eider in Portland Harbour.