April 2002

April 30th For the most part a really miserable day, with heavy rain and strong winds spoiling any serious attempts at birding. However, in clearer but still blustery weather in the evening there was plenty of activity on the sea. A flock of 14 Pomarine Skuas lingered off Chesil Cove until dusk, and another 5 passed the Bill during this period; 4 Arctic and 2 Great Skuas passed through at the Bill and another 4 Arctic Skuas were off the Cove. Manx Shearwaters were numerous at both sites, with 350 counted off the Bill, and 5 Great Northern Divers and a Little Gull also passed there. In the Bill area, a Garden Warbler was another first for the year, and there were also 7 Whimbrel, 6 Blackcaps, a Cuckoo and a Yellow Wagtail.



Kentish Plover - Ferrybridge, April 29th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 29th After a night of severe westerly gales, it was a surprise that the bird of the day should turn out to be a Kentish Plover that spent the afternoon at Ferrybridge. Seawatching was otherwise the order of the day, and among the good numbers of Manx Shearwaters still offshore there were 10 Great, 9 Arctic and 3 Pomarine Skuas off the Bill, and 16 Great Skuas, 9 Eider and a Black Tern at Chesil Cove. The only bird of note on the land at the Bill was a solitary Cuckoo. April 28th Another very windy day with the sea providing virtually all the interest. At the Bill, day totals included 600 Manx Shearwaters, 80 Common Scoter, 9 Sandwich Terns, 9 Great, 8 Arctic and 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Storm Petrel and a Canada Goose; 16 Great and 4 Pomarine Skuas were also logged at Chesil Cove. Seven Whimbrel, 3 Common and 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Cuckoo and a Redstart at the Bill were the only minor highlights on the land, where there were otherwise just a very few of the commoner migrants. April 27th Not surprisingly, bearing in mind the strong north-westerly winds and full moon, grounded migrants were thin on the ground. A Serin was seen briefly twice at the Bill during the morning, but there was otherwise nothing more interesting reported on the land than a Cuckoo at Church Ope Cove. The highlight on the sea was a flock of 7 Pale-bellied Brent Geese passing the Bill in the evening; Manx Shearwaters were present offshore in good numbers, and 6 Arctic and 6 Great Skuas, as well as 4 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver also passed the Bill. Belated news received was of a Hoopoe apparently present yesterday in a private garden on the Verne Common Estate; searches there today drew a blank. 



Red-necked Phalarope - Ferrybridge, April 26th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 26th A very quiet day, with the exception of a most unlikely highlight: a first-winter Red-necked Phalarope that spent several hours consorting with the Dunlin flock at Ferrybridge over the midday low tide; also there were 16 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Whimbrel and 3 Sanderling. In near gale-force north-westerly winds, common migrants were hard to find anywhere, and the only noteworthy reports were of a Hobby, a Redstart, a Whinchat and a Pied Flycatcher at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced more than 500 Manx Shearwaters, but otherwise just 3 Great and 3 Arctic Skuas.



Yellow Wagtails - Portland Bill, April 25th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 25th Another day with plenty of variety. A Red-rumped Swallow put in two appearances at the Bill, where it flew north along the West Cliffs in the late morning and then south down the East Cliffs in the middle of the afternoon. Equally tricky to catch up with was a Wryneck that lurked in the hedges between Top Fields and Southwell where it showed itself just twice all day. Migrants again trickled through all day rather than arrived en masse at dawn; counts from the Bill area included 300 Swallows, 120 Willow Warblers, 60 Wheatears, 25 Sand Martins, 15 Swifts, 10 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 7 Redstarts, 7 Whinchats, 6 Yellow Wagtails, 6 Tree Pipits, a Nightingale, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Pied Flycatcher and a Spotted Flycatcher. Elsewhere, 4 Buzzards again lingered over the north of the island, a Hobby flew through at Weston and there was a Siskin at Barleycrates Lane. In north-westerly winds, seawatching at the Bill produced just 55 Manx Shearwater, 32 Bar-tailed Godwits, 27 Common Scoter, 17 Whimbrel, 8 Dunlin, 2 Arctic and a Great Skua, 1 Great Northern Diver and a Canada Goose; also reported from there was a lone Storm Petrel seen briefly off Pulpit Rock. Wader numbers increased at Ferrybridge, where there were 95 Dunlin, 40 Ringed Plover, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Sanderling and a Whimbrel.


Whimbrel - Portland Bill, April 24th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 24th Despite the lack of any obvious overnight arrival of birds, new migrants continued to turn up all day under heavily overcast skies. The only rarity reported was an over-flying Ortolan Bunting that was heard but not seen near Southwell; subsequent searches for it proved fruitless. Hirundines and Swifts passed through in very good numbers, with more than 1500 Swallows and 100 House Martins counted in the Bill area alone. Willow Warblers remained the commonest grounded migrants, with the Bill also producing 30 Wheatears, 20 Blackcaps, 10 Tree Pipits, 10 Redstarts, 10 Whitethroats, 5 Yellow Wagatils, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Common Sandpipers and 2 Whinchats. Of note elsewhere were 5 Buzzards over the middle of the island for much of the afternoon. Sea passage remained slow, although a lot of watching from the Bill did manage to produce 110 Bar-tailed Godwits, 40 Manx Shearwaters, 40 Whimbrel, 20 Common Scoter, 7 Arctic, 2 Great and 1 Pomarine Skua, and a single Great Northern Diver April 23rd A better day for variety of migrants, although numbers remained on the low side. Swallows, Wheatears and Willow Warblers were by far the most conspicuous migrants, with counts of 1000, 100, and 90 respectively in the Bill area. Most of the other expected species were to be found around the island, including 3 Grasshopper Warblers at the Bill, and single Pied Flycatchers in Top Fields and at Weston Craft Centre. Sea passage was again hardly spectacular, although there were 31 Whimbrel, 4 Knot, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua, and 2 Little Egrets off the Bill. Little Tern numbers increased to 18 at Ferrybridge, where there were also 4 Whimbrel and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits. April 22nd An anticlimax of a day after the busy weekend. Common migrant numbers reached rock-bottom, with just 5 birds trapped and ringed at the Obs all day, and even over-flying Swallows reduced to a mere trickle; the first Hobby of the spring at the Bill was by far the best bird reported. Sea passage was also much reduced, with counts at the Bill of only 42 Whimbrel, 40 Common Scoter, 30 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic, 1 Pomarine and 1 Great Skua. April 21st A dismal day for common migrants on the land, but plenty of good spring fare out to sea and the first couple of spring rarities today. The birds of the day were an Alpine Swift that made a short foray onto the island from Weymouth and got as far as the Bill before returning northwards again, a Hoopoe that was seen flying north along the West Weares below Blacknor, and an Osprey that flew north over Easton. The sea was again busy, with totals at the Bill of 60 Common Scoter, 38 commic and a Little Tern, 30 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Knot, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, 10 Whimbrel, 10 Arctic, 2 Pomarine and 2 Great Skuas, 8 Red-throated, 3 Black-throated and a Great Northern Diver, 6 Shoveler, 2 Tufted Ducks, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Little Gull. The land was very much the poor relation, with nothing of note among a thin scatter of the commonest species. Finally, the 'Red-legged Partridge' gave itself up after several days of offering just glimpses, and its true identity was revealed as a Chukar (or hybrid?). April 20th With rain at dawn for the first time in several weeks, it was perhaps predictable that there was a good arrival of common migrants on the land; much more surprising was the fact that the best birds of the day showed up on the sea. A Cory's Shearwater that flew east past the Bill was much the rarest bird, but an extraordinary westward movement of Pale-bellied Brent Geese was the undoubted highlight for the island. An early morning flock of 55 brent geese off the Bill were thought to be mainly, if not all, Pale-bellied Brents, and an early afternoon flock of 36 Brents there consisted of 35 Pale-bellied and a lone Dark-bellied bird. Seawatching at the Bill also produced 44 Manx Shearwaters, 36 Whimbrel, 36 Bar-tailed Godwits, 32 Common Scoter, 27 Arctic and 1 Pomarine Skua, 27 commic and 16 Sandwich Terns, 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Garganey, 1 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, and a single Little Gull. On the land, counts from the Bill area included 600 Swallows, 300 Willow Warblers, 60 Wheatears, 10 Blackcaps, 8 Redstarts, 7 Grasshopper Warblers, 6 Whitethroats, 5 Yellow Wagtails, a Pied Flycatcher, a redpoll sp. and a Brambling, as well as the first Swift, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat of the spring. Whinchats were reported from several other sites, and a Cuckoo was at Verne Common, but otherwise the variety and numbers elsewhere on the island were similar to those noted at the Bill.  April 19th The first Serin of the spring was the highlight today, although unfortunately it proved to be nothing more than a brief fly-over at Top Fields. On the migrant front, the island remained decidedly quiet, with just 40 Willow Warblers, 20 Wheatears, 15 Chiffchaffs, 4 Redstarts, a Yellow Wagtail, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Blackcap at the Bill, and precious little elsewhere. Seawatching produced nothing more than 7 Common Scoter and 2 Sandwich Terns off the Bill. April 18th Quiet all round today, with only small numbers of grounded migrants on the land and hardly any sea passage. The most conspicuous migrants were Wheatears that numbered more than 60 at the Bill, and Swallows that trickled through all day. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs just made double figures, and there were 4 Redstarts, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and 2 Common Sandpipers dotted around the island. The only oddities reported were the Red-legged Partridge that was heard calling in Top Fields but otherwise remained very elusive and was not seen all day, and a Short-eared Owl that again patrolled the fields north of the Obs during the evening. Off the Bill, there were just a few Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, an Eider, and a single Great Skua. The first 4 returning Little Terns were at Ferrybridge in the evening. April 17th The land remained very quiet today, and, with a suitable onshore breeze, seawatching was the order of the day. Watches from the Bill produced 1000 Gannets, 366 Common Scoter, 160 commic and 10 Sandwich Terns, 70 Manx Shearwaters, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits, 17 Great and 12 Arctic Skuas, 5 Red-throated and 4 Black-throated Divers, 5 Gadwall, 4 Little Gulls and 3 Whimbrel; Chesil Cove produced smaller numbers of the same species. Swallows continued to pass through in fair numbers, but among the handful of grounded Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, the only faintly interesting new arrivals on the land were a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a Grasshopper Warbler. April 16th Migrant numbers fell sharply today, although there was still quite a bit to see. A Red-legged Partridge at Culverwell - the first seen on the island for several years - was the unexpected highlight, but there was also a fly-over ringtail harrier sp. at Verne Common, as well as the long-staying Short-eared Owl and Hawfinch at the Bill. Swallows were by far the most numerous common migrants, with numbers of most other species having dropped to single figures; oddities included a Firecrest at the Bill and single Grasshopper Warblers at Southwell and Tout Quarry. Seawatching at the Bill produced 30 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Skuas. April 15th Another very busy day, with plenty of common migrants around the island. Willow Warblers again numbered around 1000, but the variety and numbers of other species increased, with all-island counts including 60 Wheatears, 35 Redstarts, 6 Pied and a very early Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Nightingales, 2 Whinchats, 2 Black Redstarts and a Ring Ouzel. Swallows were really conspicuous for the first time this spring, with more than 500 passing through during the course of the day. The only particularly unusual species seen were two single Ospreys that flew north over the Verne (at 10am and 3.30pm), and the long-staying Hawfinch that remained at the Bill. The sea produced nothing better than a couple of Red-throated Divers off the Bill.


Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, April 14th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 14th The New Moon period is proving to be productive for common migrants, with another good arrival of birds everywhere. Willow Warblers numbered around 1000 throughout the island, with 173 trapped and ringed at the Obs alone. The Bill area also produced 70 Chiffchaffs, 12 Redstarts, 10 Wheatears, 6 Blackcaps, 4 Yellow Wagtails, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a White Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Black Redstart, as well as a Short-eared Owl and the Hawfinch still present. Elsewhere, highlights included the first Cuckoo at Verne Common, the first Turtle Dove at the Windmills, 4 Pied Flycatchers around the north of the island, 2 Ring Ouzels at Tout Quarry and another at Barleycrates Lane and a Little Ringed Plover over Wide Street. The sea was unexpectedly productive in the light north-west wind, with 132 Common and 9 Velvet Scoter, 13 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, and an Arctic Skua off the Bill. April 13th Migrants were again present in reasonable numbers everywhere. The Hawfinch remained in and around the Obs garden, although it was extremely elusive and rarely seen other than in the hand when retrapped. Two Short-eared Owls were present at the Bill in the evening, and other oddities included a Ring Ouzel at the Bill and a Nightingale at Barleycrates Lane. Counts of commoner migrants included 150 Willow Warblers, 30 Blackcaps and 8 Redstarts at the Bill. The sea remained unproductive, with just 30 Manx Shearwaters and 5 Red-throated Divers passing the Bill.



Hawfinch - Portland Bill, April 12th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 12th Not before time, there was a decent flurry of migrants today. A Hawfinch that was trapped and ringed at the Obs in the morning was the highlight, and there was again a Short-eared Owl around Top Fields. At the Bill, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, which numbered 120 and 70 respectively, were the dominant commoner migrants, but there were also 10 Wheatears, 6 Chiffchaffs, 5 Redstarts, 3 Yellow Wagtails, a Tree Pipit and a Black Redstart there. Swallows, Linnets and Goldfinches all passed overhead in fair numbers, and a Buzzard wandered widely around the island. Sea passage remained very light, with just 13 Whimbrel, 11 Common Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers and a Sandwich Tern past the Bill. April 11th The Ring Ouzel remained at Barleycrates Lane, and new arrivals of note included a Short-eared Owl, a Black Redstart and a Redpoll at the Bill. Migrants numbers were still woefully low, with only Swallow managing to reach double figures. The only seabird worth recording was a single Arctic Skua that passed the Bill.


Ring Ouzel - Barleycrates Lane, April 10th 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 10th The Ring Ouzel was still at Barleycrates Lane today, but new migrants were few and far between. The Bill area produced 6 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Wheatears, a Golden Plover and the first Corn Bunting of the year, whilst elsewhere there were 4 Blackcaps and a Redstart at Barleycrates Lane, and a Black Redstart at Tout Quarry. Three Sandwich Terns, 2 Whimbrel and a Red-throated Diver passed through off the Bill. April 9th There was finally a hint of passage getting going again today. A probable Mealy Redpoll seen briefly at Southwell in the afternoon was the highlight, but there was also a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane, and 25 Chiffchaffs, 25 Willow Warblers, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Wheatears, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Siskins, a Buzzard and a Redstart at the Bill. Swallows, Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Goldfinches all trickled northwards along the West Cliffs throughout the day, and 3 Kestrels also passed through there. Four Black-throated and 2 Red-throated Divers passed the Bill, and there were 27 Sandwich Terns at Ferrybridge. April 8th The appearance of 2 Siskins, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl and a Mistle Thrush at the Bill was poor compensation for the almost complete lack of grounded common migrants anywhere on the island. Overhead passage picked up a little, with 160 Linnets, 40 Goldfinches and a few Swallows passing through at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced no more than 40 settled Common Scoter and a couple of fly-by Red-throated Divers. April 7th Despite the strong easterly wind it was clear that the island was pretty devoid of anything other than a handful of common migrants, and even overhead passage was restricted to just a trickle of Swallows and a single Merlin at the Bill. The sea provided a little interest, with 5 Shelducks and 4 Avocets passing the Bill along with a few Common Scoter, Common Gulls, Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns. The only report from other sites was of a single Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour.


Sandwich Tern - Ferrybridge, April 6th 2002 © Ben Sheldon

  April 6th Searching for grounded migrants was a fairly futile exercise in near gale-force easterly winds, and it was left to the seawatchers and visible-migrant counters to salvage something from the day. The sea produced 154 Common Scoters, 20 Sandwich Terns, 14 Common Gulls, 8 Shelduck, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Puffins  and a Bar-tailed Godwit; in addition, there were 7 Purple Sandpipers on the rocks at the Bill. There was plenty of northward passage along the West Cliffs, with a 2.5 hour count in the morning producing 627 Linnets, 268 Meadow Pipits, 247 Goldfinches, 17 Wheatears, 14 Sand Martins, 9 Swallows, 8 Goldfinches, 3 House Martins, 3 alba Wagtails, 2 Collared Doves and a Yellow Wagtail. The only reports from other sites were of 32 Sandwich Terns and 2 Grey Plovers at Ferrybridge. April 5th Another cloudless night was followed - not surprisingly - by another rather birdless day. Among very low numbers of grounded Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, there was a Yellow Wagtail, a Black Redstart, a Sedge Warbler and a Brambling at the Bill, and another Brambling at Reap Lane. Two Tree Pipits were the highlight among the light northward movement of pipits, wagtails and finches along the West Cliffs. Poor visibility hampered seawatching, although 200 Common and 2 Velvet Scoter, 9 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Sandwich Terns and a Black-throated Diver passed off the Bill during clearer spells. April 4th A disappointing day, with few migrants anywhere on the island. A fly-over Yellow Wagtail at the Bill was another first for the year, but otherwise there was just a late Redwing, a Buzzard, a couple of Siskins, and a handful of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers there. Seawatchers fared no better, with only a few Common Scoter and Manx Shearwaters, a Red-throated Diver and the first 2 Bar-tailed Godwits of the spring off the Bill.


Buzzard - Portland Bill, April 3rd 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 3rd A Common Sandpiper at the Bill was the only first for the year among the scatter of migrants today. Also at the Bill there were 35 Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, 25 Willow Warblers, 15 Wheatears, 3 Redstarts, a White Wagtail and a Whitethroat, whilst other oddities included 2 Mallards, a Buzzard and a Bullfinch. Elsewhere, there was a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry, another 2 Buzzards over the centre of the island, and Black Redstarts at both Reap Lane and Tout Quarry. Seawatching at the Bill produced nothing more than a few Common Scoter, a Black-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua.


Redstart - Portland Bill, April 2nd 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 2nd Migrants arrived in some numbers overnight, with the Bill area producing counts of 60 Wheatears, 60 Willow Warblers, 40 Chiffchaffs, 25 Blackcaps, 4 Redstarts, a Tree Pipit, a Black Redstart, a Pied Flycatcher and a Goldcrest; the total of 49 new birds ringed at the Obs was the highest day-total so far this year. There were similar numbers and variety elsewhere, with Barleycrates Lane also producing 2 Sedge Warblers and a Whitethroat. Light eastward sea-passage continued off the Bill, where there were 190 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shelducks, a Curlew, a Sandwich Tern and the first Common Tern of the spring.


Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill, April 1st 2002 © Martin Cade

  April 1st Another rather light sprinkle of migrants saw the Easter holiday weekend close quietly. A Pied Flycatcher in the Obs garden was the only new species for the year, and the Bill area otherwise produced just small numbers of grounded Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, and a few Swallows, Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails passing overhead. Offshore, the lingering Common Scoter flock numbered up to 40, and 4 Red-throated and 2 Black-throated Divers, an Arctic and a Great Skua, and a single Manx Shearwater passed through.