October 2002

October 31st Another very gloomy, damp day that saw thrushes and finches trickling through all the time. At the Bill, 250 Chaffinches, 150 Goldfinches, 75 Redwings, 75 Song Thrushes, 60 Blackbirds and 60 Fieldfares passed through during the day; also there were 5 Short-eared Owls, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Lapwings, 3 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts, a Golden Plover, a Snipe and a Curlew, as well as small numbers of other finches. At least 6 more Black Redstarts and 3 more Firecrests were seen around the centre of the island. Poor visibility hampered seawatching, but a Black-throated Diver and a Red-necked Grebe passed by off the Bill. October 30th After a damp, misty night with thrushes overhead in good numbers, the day itself was disappointingly quiet. A handful of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were in evidence, but otherwise the only new arrivals among the commoner migrants were a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and finches. There were still 4 Firecrests at the Obs, with another 6 scattered around the centre of the island; 5 Black Redstarts were at the Bill and Southwell, Short-eared Owls increased to 4 at the Bill and the late Willow Warbler and a Treecreeper were at Pennsylvania Castle. The only rarity seen was a Serin that settled briefly in the Obs garden before flying off north early in the morning. Seawatching at the Bill produced a Great Northern Diver and a Little Gull, as well as 33 settled Common Scoter.



      'eastern' Chiffchaff - Portland Bill, October 29th 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 29th There was a small arrival of new migrants today, including an 'eastern' Chiffchaff and 7 Firecrests trapped and ringed at the Obs. The Bill area also produced a few thrushes, a Black Redstart, a late Whinchat and a little overhead passage including 300 Linnets and 200 Goldfinches leaving to the south. It was surprisingly quiet elsewhere, with just 6 Firecrests dotted around the centre of the island. Off the Bill, there was a steady westward passage of more than 500 Kittiwakes, as well as 35 Common Scoter, 3 Little Gulls, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Sooty Shearwater. Two Black-throated Divers remained in Portland Harbour, where there was also a single Red-necked Grebe.



      Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, October 28th 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 28th In quieter weather there were a few birds about on the land and some steady passage overhead. At the Bill, there were counts of 1000 Linnets, 300 Goldfinches, 150 Greenfinches, 100 Chaffinches, 70 Wood Pigeons and 50 Siskins leaving to the south; a lone Woodlark also passed through along with small numbers of Skylarks. On the ground, the Pennsylvania Castle/East Weares area produced small numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and crests, together with a Coal Tit and a late Willow Warbler, but the only noteworthy birds elsewhere were 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Black Redstarts, a Merlin and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Mistle Thrush at Avalanche Road. Two Sandwich Terns passed the Bill and 2 Black-throated Divers were in Portland Harbour. October 27th The stormy weather intensified and seawatching was the only the only birding possible today. Chesil Cove produced most of the birds, with small numbers of Storm Petrels and Little Gulls noted throughout the day, a couple of Grey Phalaropes passing through and a Mediterranean Gull lingering. Elsewhere the only reports were of a single Storm Petrel past the Bill and an Arctic Tern in Portland Harbour. October 26th After another very stormy night there were few new grounded migrants in evidence anywhere, with sheltered spots around the island holding just a handful of Chiffchaffs and crests; a lone Merlin was still at the Bill, a Black Redstart was at Southwell and the late Lesser Whitethroat was still at Wakeham. Despite the strong winds, finches were again on the move overhead, with counts of 600 Goldfinches and 300 Linnets leaving to the south at the Bill; an unidentified harrier also left to the south from there. The only bird of interest on the sea was a single Little Gull lingering in Chesil Cove.



      Corncrake - Portland Bill, October 25th 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 25th Most unexpectedly the Corncrake seen briefly in a private garden at Southwell yesterday was rediscovered, seemingly trapped inside a high-walled neighbouring garden, during the morning; it was caught and successfully released at the Bill. In very strong south-westerly winds no common migrants of note were seen on the land and overhead passage had reduced to a trickle. At the Bill, seawatching produced 4 Little Gulls, 3 Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern, whilst another Little Gull lingered in Chesil Cove.




      Hen Harrier - Portland Bill, October 24th 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 24th The Snow Bunting was still at the Bill early in the morning and was later refound on the West Cliffs at Southwell in the evening. A Hen Harrier lingered for much of the morning at the Bill and a Corncrake was seen in a private garden at Southwell. In improved weather conditions commoner migrants were well represented everywhere, with plenty of visible passage overhead and better numbers of grounded migrants than in recent days; scarcer species included 10 Bramblings, 8 Redpolls, 3 Firecrests, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Merlin and a Black Redstart at the Bill, 3 Ring Ouzels at Verne Common, 3 Black Redstarts at Southwell, 2 Firecrests at Weston and a Woodlark overhead at Easton.



      Snow Bunting - Portland Bill, October 23rd 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 23rd A Snow Bunting found at the Bill in the evening was the best of the few new arrivals today. Other newcomers included 3 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle and another lone bird at the Obs, 2 Ring Ouzels at both Avalanche Road and Penn's Weare, 2 Coal Tits at Pennsylvania Castle and a Dartford Warbler at Avalanche Road. In very windy weather the only commoner grounded migrants of note were a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in sheltered areas around Easton and Wakeham. Visible passage was very conspicuous with alba wagtails, Linnets, Goldfinches and Chaffinches leaving from the Bill in numbers all morning; also overhead were the first few passage Wood Pigeons of the autumn. Seawatching at the Bill produced a Balearic Shearwater and a Little Gull. October 22nd The pitiful total of just 3 new birds trapped and ringed at the Obs was a sad but accurate reflection of the dismal numbers of common migrants everywhere today. A few thrushes struggled through the poor weather to make landfall, but otherwise there were just ones and twos of the other common migrants. Scarcer species included a couple of Merlins, a Hobby, a Black Redstart and a Yellowhammer at the Bill, and single Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle and the Grove. Seawatching at the Bill produced just a Red-throated Diver, a Manx Shearwater and a Mediterranean Gull, whilst 7 Little Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull lingered in Chesil Cove through the morning. October 21st Something of nothing today, with promising-looking conditions on the land and sea but, in the event, little to show for plenty of effort. Thrushes were fairly conspicuous everywhere, and included more than 100 Blackbirds scattered around the southern half of the island and 3 Ring Ouzels at Suckthumb Quarry. Grounded migrants were otherwise thin on the ground, with warblers and crests particularly scarce; the only oddities were 2 Black Redstarts at the Bill and another at Reap Lane, a Woodcock at Avalanche Road and a Coal Tit at Wakeham. The wintering flock of Brent Geese at Ferrybridge increased to 200, and there was also a Mediterranean Gull and the first 5 settled Red-breasted Mergansers of the autumn there. Seawatching at the Bill produced just 30 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Great Skua and a Little Gull October 20th A complete change today to very strong south-easterlies and occasional showers. The sea provided most of the interest, with Little Gulls conspicuous off the Bill all day; it was thought that more than 50 passed through, although counting was made tricky by the presence of many lingering individuals. Eight Wigeon, 3 Tufted Ducks, a Sooty Shearwater, a Teal and a Sandwich Tern also passed through there. Observations on the land were hampered by the weather, although a few thrushes and finches were still on the move overhead, and a Merlin and a Firecrest were at the Bill. October 19th Another crisp, moonlit night saw to it that common migrants remained sparsely spread and even overhead passage was disappointingly quieter than expected. Among the few grounded migrants at the Bill there were 5 Short-eared Owls, a Woodcock and a Bullfinch, whilst elsewhere there were 2 Ring Ouzels at both Priory Corner and Tout Quarry, a Black Redstart at Reap Lane and a Coal Tit at Reforne. The best of the fly-overs was a lone Woodlark at the Bill. Four Little Gulls lingered offshore at the Bill, where seawatching also produced 45 Common Scoter, 5 Brent Geese, a Red-throated Diver and a Red-necked Grebe. A Little Gull and a Mediterranean Gull were settled at Ferrybridge in the morning. October 18th After a clear, cold night migrants were pretty thin on the ground. There was a scatter of thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere, whilst oddities included 8 Ring Ouzels at Suckthumb Quarry and another 3 elsewhere, 3 Short-eared Owls at the Bill and a Firecrest at the Obs. Good numbers of hirundines and finches, including a late Sand Martin at Weston and a few Bramblings and Siskins at the Bill, were on the move overhead, but seawatching at the Bill produced just 2 Little Gulls and a Teal.



      Firecrest - Southwell, October 17th 2002 © Pete and Debby Saunders

  October 17th A new arrival today was a Yellow-browed Warbler seen briefly at the Obs early in the morning; what was perhaps the same individual was then refound behind the Mermaid Inn at Wakeham later in the morning. Common migrants were again present in good numbers at the Bill, where counts included 100 Song Thrushes, 50 Redwings, 50 Blackbirds, 30 Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, 16 Golden Plovers, 15 Wheatears and 10 Goldcrests, as well as scarcer species such as 8 Bramblings, 4 Ring Ouzels, 3 Short-eared Owls, a Merlin and a Firecrest. Elsewhere, there were another 10 Ring Ouzels dotted around the island, 9 Long-tailed Tits and a Firecrest at Southwell, a Buzzard at Reap Lane, a Mistle Thrush at Delhi Lane and a late Spotted Flycatcher at Penn's Weare.  October 16th The wind and rain of yesterday was replaced by the first really chilly easterly blast of the autumn. Thrushes and finches trickled in off the sea all day, with counts at the Bill of 1000 Linnets, 500 Chaffinches, 75 Song Thrushes, 45 Redwings, 30 Siskins and 6 Ring Ouzels. Grounded migrants were only sparsely spread, with the best being a couple of Firecrests, a Short-eared Owl and a Merlin at the Bill, 2 more Firecrests at Wakeham, 3 Ring Ouzels at Barleycrates Lane and another at Suckthumb Quarry and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. There was little in the way of seabirds passing the Bill, although Black-headed Gulls (as well as 3 Little Gulls and a lone Mediterranean Gull) trickled east all day and 3 Red-necked Grebes passed west. October 15th After a days respite, wind and rain swept back in overnight and, for the most part, seawatching was the only birding possible. Off the Bill, there was a pulse of action for an hour before midday as the heaviest rain cleared though, when 14 Great Skuas, 24 Little Gulls, 3 Sooty Shearwaters, a Manx Shearwater and an Arctic Skua passed by, however there was little else seen during the rest of the day. The only storm-driven birds elsewhere were 25 Little Gulls and an Arctic Tern at Ferrybridge. Little birding was possible on the land, although 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Redwings, 2 Firecrests and a Snipe were found in sheltered spots at the Bill.



      Wryneck - Southwell, October 14th 2002 © Pete and Debby Saunders

  October 14th In quieter weather, the best of the new arrivals today were a Wryneck at Southwell and a Coal Tit at Wakeham. There were still 5 Ring Ouzels around the southern half of the island and 3 Firecrests at the Obs, whilst the 2 long-staying Short-eared Owls around the Bill were joined by 2 new individuals in the evening. Commoner migrants were only present in relatively small numbers everywhere, with the most interesting being a late Whitethroat at Reap Lane and a late Spotted Flycatcher at Wakeham. Seawatching at the Bill produced just a lone Arctic Skua. October 13th An almost unbirdable day of gale-force south-easterlies and dawn till dusk rain. A couple of Firecrests were still at the Obs, 2 Ring Ouzels were at Avalanche Road and a Merlin and a Black Redstart were seen at the Bill.



      Siskin - Portland Bill, October 12th 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 12th A night of heavy rain that heralded a change to clear, blustery north-westerly weather put paid to any hope of another sizeable flurry of migrants. However, there were still birds to see, with the Yellow-browed Warbler remaining at Reap Lane, at least 15 Ring Ouzels still scattered around the sheltered east side of the island, at least 5 Firecrests still at the Obs and 3 Short-eared Owls at the Bill. New arrivals included a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Wakeham, a Black Redstart at Southwell and fair numbers of finches passing through everywhere. Waders at Ferrybridge included 134 Ringed Plovers, 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Grey Plover and a Redshank. October 11th Lots more movement through and a few more birds grounded today. The Yellow-browed Warbler remained at Reap Lane and a new arrival was a Stone Curlew that was heard calling over Southwell before dawn and subsequently showed several times around Top Fields early in the morning. Thrushes were still on the move in good numbers, and included around 20 Ring Ouzels scattered about the area, whilst Firecrests were also conspicuous, with at least 6 at the Obs alone. The 2 long-staying Short-eared Owls were again at the Bill in the evening. October 10th The first Grey Phalarope and Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn - off the Bill and at Reap Lane respectively - were the highlights today, and there were plenty more commoner migrants about everywhere. Thrushes were particularly well represented, with a scattering of 35 or more Ring Ouzels including 14 at Nichodemus Knob and 12 at Priory Corner, and lots of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes passing through (550 of the latter flew north at Avalanche Road in half-an-hour soon after dawn). Other visible migrants included a fairly heavy passage of hirundines and finches, and single Woodlarks passing over at the Bill and Avalanche Road. Grounded migrants were not so numerous but did include up to 10 Firecrests and 4 Black Redstarts, whilst other oddities included 2 Short-eared Owls and a Little Egret at the Bill. October 9th Any last vestiges of the recent Indian Summer were well and truly swept away by a blasting easterly wind that also saw to it that the few birds around the island remained very well hidden. At least 7 Firecrests were dotted around the Bill area where they outnumbered both Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. Also there were a Merlin and a Redwing, whilst elsewhere a Ring Ouzel was at Weston. A Lapland Bunting passed over at the Bill, where the bulk of visible passage otherwise consisted of Linnets and alba wagtails. Seawatching at the Bill produced 18 Common Scoter, 6 Wigeon, 3 Brent Geese and a Little Gull, and there were 100 Brent Geese and 2 Mediterranean Gulls settled at Ferrybridge. October 8th Much quieter today, with a strong south-easterly wind making birding on the land pretty difficult. There was little on the move overhead, and grounded migrants were reduced to a sprinkle of the commonest species along with 4 Firecrests and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Avalanche Road. The sea was surprisingly quiet, with just 46 Common Scoter, a Brent Goose, an Arctic Skua, a Great Skua and a Mediterranean Gull off the Bill. October 7th A heavy rain shower at dawn and a generally overcast day prompted common migrants to drop in in fair numbers but rarities remained conspicuously absent. Counts at the Bill included 70 Goldcrests, 50 Wrens, 30 Song Thrushes, 30 Chiffchaffs, 25 Stonechats, 20 Blackcaps, 7 Redwings and the first 2 Fieldfares of the autumn; oddities there included 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests and a Ring Ouzel. Despite the seemingly unfavourable conditions there was also a lot of overhead passage that included 700 Linnets and 300 Goldfinches leaving to the south at the Bill. After an autumn of unprecedentedly abysmal seawatching there was a hint of interest picking up offshore, with 71 Common Scoter, 51 Brent Geese, 24 Great Skuas, 7 Arctic Skuas and a Sooty Shearwater passing the Bill. October 6th Very little change today, with a another light scatter of common migrants everywhere. Oddities included a Lapland Bunting early in the morning at Barleycrates Lane, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Avalanche Road, and 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests, a Ring Ouzel and a Cetti's Warbler at the Bill.



     Jack Snipe - Portland Bill, October 5th 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 5th Grounded migrants, with the conspicuous exception of Meadow Pipits and Goldfinches, were again at a premium, although visible passage overhead was still very strong. Along with small numbers of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests there were a few Yellow Wagtails, Wheatears and Blackcaps, a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, and single Merlin, Redstart, Reed Warbler and Firecrest at the Bill. Rarities were limited to another fly-over Lapland Bunting at Barleycrates Lane and a Jack Snipe trapped and ringed at the Obs. Among the heavy overhead passage, oddities included a few Siskins and Reed Buntings, 3 Golden Plovers, 2 Bramblings and 2 Redpolls at the Bill. The highlight on the sea was a single Great Skua passing the Bill. October 4th A clear night and a summer-like day seemed unlikely to produce large numbers of grounded migrants, and in the event there was a lot less about than yesterday. Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests still dominated but variety was otherwise rather poor; the only scarcer species logged were 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill. Plenty of birds were on the move overhead, with 20 Siskins, 3 Grey Herons, a Woodlark and a late Swift amongst the large numbers of hirundines, alba wagtails and commoner finches passing over at the Bill. October 3rd Better numbers of the commonest migrants today, with an arrival of 150 Chiffchaffs, 25 Goldcrests, 20 Stonechats and 20 Wheatears at the Bill. Also there were 600 Meadow Pipits and 200 alba wagtails, a sprinkle of other scarcer migrants including another fly-over Lapland Bunting, 4 Turtle Doves, 3 Short-eared Owls, a Hobby, a Merlin, a Dartford Warbler and a Firecrest, and some good overhead passage. The sea remained extremely unproductive, with just 38 Black-headed Gulls, 20 Brent Geese and a Great Skua off the Bill.



     Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, October 2nd 2002 © Andrew Slade

  October 2nd Grounded migrants included plenty more Meadow Pipits, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere, but variety was otherwise quite limited with just ones and twos of a few other expected species. Oddities included several Firecrests dotted around the island, 3 Short-eared Owls still at the Bill (with one trapped and ringed at the Obs), an Osprey over the Bill in the afternoon and a Dartford Warbler lingering on at the Bill.



     Leucistic Whinchat - Portland Bill, October 1st 2002 © Martin Cade

  October 1st Heavy cloud overhead during the morning seemed to have dropped a few more migrants, but ultimately the day was spoilt when rain set in at midday and prevented any serious birding afterwards. Grounded Meadow Pipits, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were fairly numerous, and scarcer migrants included 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests, a Merlin and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill, a Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry, and 2 Curlew Sandpipers and a Merlin at Ferrybridge. An almost completely white Whinchat - first seen two days ago - was also still at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced a Red-necked Grebe, a Great Skua and an Arctic Skua.