May 2002


Linnet - Portland Bill, May 31st 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 31st The arrival of promising-looking conditions led to a general air of high expectation around the island today. Unfortunately, the rarity that appeared - a Black Kite over Easton - proved to be no more than a rapid fly-over, and most observers had to be content with views of it disappearing northwards over Weymouth. Spotted Flycatchers were conspicuous everywhere, with as many as 50 dotted widely around the island, but there were otherwise just 5 Reed Warblers, 4 Turtle Doves, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Cuckoo to show for plenty of fieldwork. May 30th Another fairly quiet day. On the land there were 7 Spotted Flycatchers between Weston and the Bill, a Lesser Redpoll in Top Fields and a Reed Warbler near the Obs. Manx Shearwaters continued to pass the Bill in fair numbers, where there were also 19 Common Scoter and 2 Storm Petrels. May 29th A Tree Sparrow was the minor highlight of the day at the Bill, where there were also 7 Spotted Flycatchers and a Yellow Wagtail; another 3 Spotted Flycatchers were also at Southwell. Seawatching produced single Pomarine, Arctic and Great Skuas at Chesil Cove, and plenty of Manx Shearwaters off the Bill. Also of interest, today we received the results of the DNA analysis of feathers from the the putative Blyth's Reed Warbler present at the Bill between October 16th and November 3rd 2001. Feathers from this bird, as well as some from the Blyth's Reed Warbler trapped on November 12th 2001, were submitted for analysis to Dr David Parkin of the Institute of Genetics, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham; he has commented: 'Both birds were Blyth's Reed Warblers - or, at least, their mothers were! The gene that we sequenced is transmitted from mother to offspring, so that the male plays no part. Thus, either the birds were Blyth's Reed, or hybrids. If hybrids, then the mother was a Blyth's.' May 28th After the brief respite yesterday, wind and rain swept back in and there was yet another pulse of Pomarine Skuas: 8 passed the Bill and another 7 were off Chesil Cove. The sea otherwise produced 200 Manx Shearwaters,  a Storm Petrel and single Arctic and Great Skuas off the Bill, and 300 Manx and a Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Arctic and a Great Skua and a Storm Petrel at Chesil Cove. On the land the only reports were of the Nightingale still at Southwell, and 7 Spotted Flycatchers and a Reed Warbler at the Bill. May 27th The first fine, calm morning for a week produced a small flurry of new arrivals. Counts from Weston southwards included 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Hobby, a Yellow Wagtail, a Nightingale, a Reed Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat. Seawatching at the Bill was quieter than of late, with just a few Manx Shearwaters, 31 Common Scoter, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver passing through, although the most peculiar sighting was of a Nightjar flying west offshore during the morning. May 26th Although the wind had dropped away a little, nothing of note was discovered on the land. Seawatching at the Bill produced 200 Manx Shearwaters, 40 Common Scoter, 4 Sandwich Terns, 10 Storm Petrels, 1 Pomarine and 1 Arctic Skua, and a Little Gull. May 25th More wind and fewer birds. Six Arctic Skuas were seen at both Chesil Cove and the Bill, but apart from small numbers of Manx Shearwaters the only other bird of note offshore was a Great Northern Diver at the Bill. A Wheatear and a Reed Warbler were the only new arrivals on the land at the Bill. May 24th With no end in sight to the unseasonably stormy weather, today was another seawatching day. Chesil Cove produced 1300 Manx Shearwaters, 13 Pomarine, 12 Great and 6 Arctic Skuas, 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and a Storm Petrel, whilst off the Bill there were 250 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Arctic Skuas and 3 Storm Petrels. The only migrant of any note on the land was a lone Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill. May 23rd Migrants remained very thin on the ground, with just 2 Reed Warblers, a Turtle Dove, a Yellow Wagtail and a Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill, and a Lesser Redpoll at Southwell. Persistent seawatchers were rewarded with fair numbers of Manx Shearwaters, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Pomarine Skuas off the Bill, and a late Long-tailed Duck passing Chesil Cove. May 22nd In gale force southerly winds, searching for migrants on the land was all but a lost cause, and a lone Turtle Dove at Southwell was the noteworthy sighting. Seawatchers hardly fared better, with just single Arctic and Great Skuas off the Bill along with a steady but light movement of Manx Shearwaters. To complete the rather woeful picture, even wader passage has completely ground to a halt: for the second successive day the only migrant at Ferrybridge was a solitary Bar-tailed Godwit May 21st There was an exciting start to the day with a singing Golden Oriole in the Obs garden soon after dawn; unfortunately it didn't linger and made only brief stops at Culverwell and Southwell as it headed north. Migrants otherwise remained thin on the ground, with just 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Reed Warblers, a Turtle Dove, a Yellow Wagtail and a Whinchat around the southern half of the island. On the sea there were a few Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic and a Great Skua, and 2 more Great Northern Divers off the Bill (the 2 Great Northern Divers take the spring tally of this species at the Bill to 46 - the previous highest spring total was 31 in 2000). May 20th Migrants scattered about the island today included 5 Whimbrel, 5 Turtle Doves, 3 Whinchats, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Yellow Wagtail. The sea produced just a trickle of Manx Shearwaters, 4 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua, whilst the only migrant waders at Ferrybridge were a Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit.



Golden Oriole - Portland Bill, May 19th 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 19th A Golden Oriole at the Bill was the highlight today: it was first seen briefly at the Observatory early in the morning, but later settled in Top Fields where it remained for the rest of the day. Late migrants around the Bill area included 4 Whimbrel, 4 Turtle Doves, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Whinchat and a Sedge Warbler, whilst a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua were the only birds of note offshore. May 18th Another very quiet day, with the sea producing most of the interest. Four Arctic Skuas, a Pomarine Skua and 2 Great Northern Divers passed the Bill, and another 3 Arctic Skuas lingered off Chesil Cove. A Hen Harrier flew north over the north of the island at midday, but the only grounded migrant of any note was a lone Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill. May 17th Thundery weather and south-easterly winds promised much but in the event failed to deliver anything of great interest. The sea again produced most of the worthwhile birds, with 107 commic and 1 Black Tern, 26 Bar-tailed Godwits, 19 Grey Plover, 11 Dunlin and 4 Arctic Skuas off Chesil Beach, and 150 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Sandwich Terns, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits, 1 Pomarine and 1 Arctic Skua off the Bill. The pick of the very few migrants on the land were a Cuckoo, a Tree Pipit and a Lesser Redpoll at the Bill. May 16th Passage all but dried up on the land, and it left to the sea to produce most of what little interest there was today. Seawatching at the Bill produced 190 commic Terns, 156 Common and 2 Velvet Scoter, an Arctic Skua and a few Manx Shearwaters. Hirundines were still on the move in good numbers but a solitary Bullfinch at the Bill was the only noteworthy 'migrant' discovered anywhere. Sanderling numbers  increased to 40 at Ferrybridge, where there were also 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Little Ringed Plover. May 15th The arrival of warmer and less windy weather saw interest on the sea dwindle, with watches from the Bill producing just 4 Arctic and 1 Great Skua, a Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and a few terns. On the land, there was another small arrival of tardy migrants and a heavy passage of overflying Swallows. The Bill area produced more than 1500 Swallows, along with a couple of Turtle Doves, 2 Redpolls, a Hobby, a Cuckoo and a sprinkle of commoner species. Elsewhere, highlights included a Hobby and a Blue-headed Wagtail at Barleycrates Lane. Waders at Ferrybridge included 15 Sanderlings and a Grey Plover.



Pomarine Skuas - Chesil Cove, May 14th 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 14th The sea again provided most of the interest, with up to 13 Pomarine, 8 Arctic and 4 Great Skuas lingering off Chesil Cove for much of the morning; 2 Mediterranean Gulls also passed through there, and another 11 Pomarine Skuas passed in the evening. Two Arctic, and single Pomarine and Great Skuas, as well as 2 Great Northern Divers and a Storm Petrel passed the Bill. A Honey Buzzard and 240 Swifts flew north over Verne Common in the early afternoon, and a Hobby passed through at the Bill, but the pick of the few grounded migrants were 7 Turtle Doves dotted around the south of the island, and a lone Cuckoo at Verne Common. May 13th A seawatching day, with gale force south-easterly winds and heavy rain having swept in overnight. Good numbers of birds passed through off Chesil Beach, with totals including 750 commic, 5 Roseate and 3 Black Terns, 16 Arctic  and 2 Great Skuas and a Great Northern Diver; another Black Tern was settled at Ferrybridge in the afternoon. In the inclement weather the majority of birds took the short-cut over Portland Harbour, and the Bill only produced small numbers of terns, 6 Arctic and 3 Great Skuas, and single Red-throated and Great Northern Divers. The only noteworthy reports from the land were of 7 Turtle Doves between Weston and the Bill, a small passage of Swifts at the Bill and 2 Hobbies passing through there. May 12th A Melodious Warbler was a surprise new arrival at Culverwell today; unfortunately it proved to be extremely elusive and only showed on a few occasions in the late morning. The land otherwise remained pretty quiet, with little more interesting than a late Goldcrest and a Black Redstart at the Bill and a Grasshopper Warbler at Weston among the small numbers of common migrants. Despite promising weather conditions, sea passage was hardly spectacular: the Bill produced 8 Eider, 2 Velvet Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua, whilst the highlight off Chesil Beach was a Nightjar lingering offshore during the evening. May 11th There was no sign of the Woodchat Shrike today, but a thin scatter of common migrants at least gave weekend visitors something to look at. Hirundines and Swifts passed through in fair numbers, and among the grounded migrants Sedge Warblers, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers just made double figures. Scarcer species included a couple of Purple Sandpipers, a Cuckoo and a Pied Flycatcher at the Bill, and a Hobby and a Turtle Dove at Weston. A few Manx Shearwaters, as well as single Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, an Arctic Skua and a Mediterranean Gull were the only worthwhile sightings on the sea. May 10th With there being virtually no noteworthy passage on either the land or the sea, it was left to the Woodchat Shrike at Weston to again save the day. A lone Turtle Dove was the only faintly unusual migrant among the ones and twos of commoner species at the Bill, where seawatching only produced a single Manx Sheawater. Two Buzzards that lingered overhead around the middle of the island were the only notable sighting elsewhere. The selection of waders at Ferrybridge included several Bar-tailed Godwits. May 9th The Woodchat Shrike was still at Weston and salvaged some respectability from what would otherwise have been a very quiet day. Among the small numbers of common migrants there were a couple of Turtle Doves and a Cuckoo at the Bill, and a Hobby and a late Fieldfare at Weston. Seawatching at the Bill produced 29 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Great Northern and 2 Black-throated Divers, and 2 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua.


Turtle Dove - Weston, May 8th 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 8th The Woodchat Shrike remained at Weston, but it was otherwise a much quieter day than of late, with only the thinnest sprinkle of common migrants about the island. Oddities included a Marsh Harrier flying north over Weston, single Hobbies over the Bill and Weston, 4 Turtle Doves at Weston, 2 Redpolls passing through at the Bill and single Siskins at the Bill and Weston. Other than hirundines and Swifts that were on the move in fair numbers, all the commoner migrants were reduced to just single figure totals. The first couple of Pomarine Skuas for several days passed through off the Bill, but seawatching there otherwise produced just 3 Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver.



Woodchat Shrike - Weston, May 7th 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 7th Although common migrants have been abundant in recent days, rarities have been conspicuously thin on the ground, so the arrival of a Woodchat Shrike today at Weston was very welcome; it was discovered behind the Weston Craft Centre and later moved across Weston Street and frequented the area around Watery Lane. Whitethroats continued to arrive in astonishing numbers, with another 100 counted at the Bill and very many more present throughout the island; 39 were trapped and ringed at the Obs, where more have been trapped so far this spring than in any whole year since 1968 (indeed only four annual totals ever are higher than the 223 trapped there so far). Willow Warblers also numbered around 100 at the Bill, where other totals included 75 Wheatears, 35 Whinchats, 20 Sedge Warblers and 15 Blackcaps, as well as a sprinkle of other species in lower numbers. Elsewhere the highlight was a single Turtle Dove at Avalanche Road. Sea passage showed no sign of improvement, with just 2 Arctic Skuas and a Little Gull at the Bill. May 6th Migrants were again plentiful, although today the Bill area scored much more heavily than other island areas that were distinctly quiet by comparison. Whitethroats dominated again, with another 71 trapped and ringed at the Obs out of the 200 or so present at the Bill. Blackcaps and Willow Warblers both numbered about 75, and there were also 30 Whinchats, 30 Sedge Warblers and lower numbers of all the other expected common migrants. Oddities included an Osprey flying north over Verne Common, 8 Redpoll spp at the Bill, 4 Hobbies passing through at the Bill, 3 Greylag Geese at the Bill and later at the Windmills, and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill only produced 14 commic Terns, a Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua.


Greenland Wheatear - Portland Bill, May 5th 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 5th There was another whopping arrival of common migrants today, with the total of 235 new birds ringed at the Obs making it the far the best trapping day there this spring. The total of at least 500 Whitethroats on the island included 83 trapped and ringed at the Obs: the highest day-total of this species since the Whitethroat 'crash' of 1968/69. Other noteworthy all-island totals included 200 Wheatears, 150 Sedge Warblers and 100 Whinchats, with many other species in well above average numbers. Oddities were few and far between, but included 3 Wood Warblers dotted about the island and a Corn Bunting at the Bill. The sea remained very quiet, with the just 2 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver, and a single Arctic Skua off the Bill.


Puffin - Portland Bill, May 4th 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 4th A promising start to the May Bank Holiday weekend, with another good arrival of common migrants on the island. Numbers were hard to estimate as most birds were again moving through very quickly, but counts from the Bill area included 1000 Swallows, 150 House Martins, 150 Willow Warblers, 60 Wheatears, 40 Sedge Warblers, 40 Whitethroats, 30 Whinchats, 30 Blackcaps, 20 Sand Martins, 20 Garden Warblers, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Redstarts, 6 Whimbrel, 5 Reed Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Tree Pipits, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 1 Buzzard, 1 Hobby, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Black Redstart, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Wood Warbler, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and 1 Redpoll. Other areas were just as productive, with notable sightings including further single Wood Warblers at Southwell School and the Windmills, a Nightingale at Verne Common and a Corn Bunting at Reap Lane. Seawatching remained very unproductive, with only 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Garganey off the Bill. Puffins are being seen more frequently there now: today 3 were showing well early in the morning on the sea below the Auk colony on the West Cliffs. May 3rd There were plenty more common migrants around the island today, as well as a couple of rarities: an Osprey flew in off the sea at the Bill in the morning, and a Red-rumped Swallow flew north at Blacknor in the afternoon. In very fine weather most common migrants passed through pretty quickly rather than lingered, and counts at the Bill included 2000 Swallows, 300 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatears, 25 Blackcaps, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Whitethroats, 15 Redstarts, 6 Garden Warblers, 5 Whinchats, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Wood Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers and 2 Spotted Flycatchers; similar numbers and variety were reported from other sites across the island. The sea produced nothing of note at all. 


Whinchat - Portland Bill, May 2nd 2002 © Martin Cade

  May 2nd Sea passage died a death today, but the land was busier than for some time. The only rarity reported was a fly-over Serin at the Grove in the morning. Common migrants around the Bill area included 100 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 10 Whitethroats, 8 Redstarts, 8 Blackcaps, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Whinchats, 2 Garden Warblers, a Common Sandpiper, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Pied Flycatcher; another Pied Flycatcher was also seen at Verne Common. Hirundines were on the move all day, with at least 5000 Swallows passing through at the Bill alone. The only birds of note on the sea were a handful of Manx Shearwaters and 2 Great Northern Divers off the Bill.  May 1st The sea continued to produce plenty of birds, with counts at the Bill of 11 Pomarine, 2 Great and an Arctic Skua, 8 Great Northern, a Black-throated and a Red-throated Diver, and a Little Egret. The land was still not busy, but there was much more about than in recent days, with the Bill area producing 25 Willow Warblers, 8 Whimbrel, 10 Wheatears, 6 Blackcaps, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers, a Hobby, a Whinchat and a Pied Flycatchers; another Pied Flycatcher was at Weston Craft Centre.