December 2002

December 31st A damp, chilly and uneventful end to the year. Eight Short-eared Owls, 8 Purple Sandpipers and a Turnstone were at the Bill along with the 30 Common Scoter that remained offshore. Elsewhere, thrush numbers increased at Avalanche Road, with counts of 12 Redwings and 8 Song Thrushes there today, 2 Goldcrests were at Fancy Beach and 5 Yellowhammers at St Georges Church. Portland Harbour produced the usual scatter of divers and grebes, 3 Eider, 2 Common Scoter and a Sandwich Tern. December 30th Not a bad mid-winter list today in much fairer weather. At least 8 Short-eared Owls continued to show well at the Bill where there was also a Fieldfare. Elsewhere on the land there was a Firecrest, a Goldcrest and a Buzzard in the Grove area, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest at Pennsylvania Castle, another Chiffchaff at Weston, 3 Redwings at Avalanche Road and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. The 30 Common Scoter remained off the Bill, but most of the interest off the shore was in Portland Harbour where there were 100+ Red-breasted Mergansers, 7 Mute Swans (an exceptional count for the island), 5 Great Crested, 1 Red-necked and 1 Black-necked Grebe, 4 Great Northern and 3 Black-throated Divers, 2 Eider, 2 Common Scoter, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret. December 29th Unpleasantly damp and murky weather made birding very difficult, and the only news was of 9 Short-eared Owls and a Snipe at the Bill, a Goldcrest at Southwell and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane.

 

      

     Great Northern Diver - Portland Harbour, December 28th 2002 © Martin Cade

  December 28th Most of the news today came from Portland Harbour where a Black Guillemot was a notable new arrival; also there were 9 Black-necked, 7 Slavonian and 2 Red-necked Grebes, 4 Great Northern and 4 Black-throated Divers, 2 Eider, 2 Common Scoter and a Sandwich Tern. Seven Short-eared Owls were still at the Bill, a Siskin appeared there briefly, 25 Common Scoter and an Eider remained settled offshore, and 4 Brent Geese and 2 Red-throated Divers flew past. December 27th Up to 7 Short-eared Owls were still at the Bill, along with 11 Oystercatchers, 5 Purple Sandpipers and a Turnstone. The wintering Common Scoters and an Eider remained offshore and a lone Red-throated Diver flew past there. Elsewhere the only news was of 3 Black-necked and 3 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and an Eider in Portland Harbour.

 

          

     Purple Sandpiper - Portland Bill, December 26th 2002 © Martin Cade

  December 26th The combination of poor weather and an excess of seasonal spirits meant there was little incentive to get out birding, and the only news was of a couple of Short-eared Owls at the Bill, 25 Common Scoter offshore there and 2 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour. After dark, 2 Purple Sandpipers were trapped and ringed at the Bill. December 25th The only news today was of several Short-eared Owls around the Bill area, 25 Common Scoter still offshore there and a single Red-necked Grebe flying past. December 24th Spring-like weather prompted a few more birders into the field but the only noteworthy new discovery was a lone Firecrest at Culverwell. At least 8 Short-eared Owls and a Black Redstart were still at the Bill, 30 Common Scoter remained offshore and 3 Eider flew past. Portland Harbour was conspicuously unproductive, with 3 Eider and 2 Common Scoter the only worthwhile sightings. December 23rd Not much change today, with 9 Short-eared Owls, 2 Black Redstarts and a Redwing around the Bill area, 30 Common Scoter still offshore there and another Black Redstart at Ferrybridge.  December 22nd Still very mild and overcast, but without the fog of the last couple of days. Eleven Short-eared Owls were counted at the Bill and there were still 2 Black Redstarts there. Off the Bill, an Eider continued to consort with the 40 wintering Common Scoter, and 4 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver passed through. The only other news came from Portland Harbour, where there were 8 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Black-throated and a single Great Northern Diver, an Eider and a Common Scoter. December 21st Another mild but very damp and foggy day. At least 8 Short-eared Owls were spotted in the gloom at the Bill, an Eider remained offshore there, a Sanderling was at Ferrybridge and a Great Northern Diver was the only noteworthy bird to emerge from the fog at Portland Harbour. December 20th Unfortunately the very mild air that arrived overnight was accompanied by low cloud and heavy rain, and birding was restricted to a short dry slot early in the morning. A very mobile Snow Bunting again appeared overhead several times at the Bill but it couldn't be found on the ground. Also there were 26 Song Thrushes, 8 Short-eared Owls, 3 Redwings and a Water Rail. A Firecrest and several Goldcrests were seen at Easton and a lone Black Redstart was again at Reap Lane. December 19th The only news today came from the Bill, where there were 8 Short-eared Owls, 7 Lapwings and 3 Black Redstarts around the area, 30 Common Scoter still lingering offshore and a lone Teal flying past.

 

     

   Little Egret - Southwell, December 18th 2002 © Pete & Debby Saunders

  December 18th A bitter east wind kept most birds hidden and most birders indoors. A Little Egret was an unusual but brief visitor to a garden pond at Southwell, whilst a Water Rail in the Obs garden - presumably a different individual to the bird already wintering at Culverwell - was another unexpected new arrival. Otherwise there were still at least 5 Short-eared Owls, a Purple Sandpiper and a Turnstone at the Bill, and 38 Common Scoter and an Eider remained offshore there. Three Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose flew past off the Bill and a single Common Scoter was in Portland Harbour. December 17th An uneventful day. The only reports were of 5 Short-eared Owls, 2 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares in the Bill area, and 26 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers off the Bill itself. December 16th A flighty Snow Bunting overhead a couple of times at the Bill during the morning was a new arrival today. There was otherwise little change anywhere, with 8 Short-eared Owls, 3 Redwings, 2 Black Redstarts and a Lapwing at the Bill, and 4 Long-tailed Tits at Southwell, 2 Black Redstarts at Weston and a Coal Tit at Pennsylvania Castle as the pick of the bunch elsewhere. Off the Bill, the 25 Common Scoter and an Eider remained in residence, and a Red-throated Diver and a Velvet Scoter flew past. December 15th Not a lot to report today, with a chilly wind and persistent light rain making birding less than entertaining. Seven Short-eared Owls remained at the Bill, together with 3 Lapwings, 2 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares and a Water Rail. Seawatching there produced just the 25 lingering Common Scoter and a fly-by Red-throated Diver. Elsewhere there were 3 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Black-throated and a Great Northern Diver, an Eider and a Goldeneye in Portland Harbour, and a single Black Redstart at Reap Lane. December 14th Most of the interest today was on the sea, where a strengthening south-east wind got plenty of auks moving off the Bill: around 1000/hour were passing east throughout the morning. Also off there was a good-sized feeding flock containing 300 Herring Gulls, 200 Kittiwakes and 100 Gannets; the regular party of Common Scoter - with a lone Eider still in occasional attendance - also remained offshore. Nine Short-eared Owls were still at the Bill, along with 6 Fieldfares, 3 Redwings, a Lapwing, a Snipe and a Black Redstart. Three Little Egrets were at Ferrybridge. December 13th Calm conditions permitted the first good look at Portland Harbour for several days which produced totals of 9 Great Crested, 4 Black-necked, 3 Red-necked and 2 Slavonian Grebes, 4 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver, 3 Eider, a Goldeneye and a Kingfisher. At the Bill, 70 Starlings arrived in off the sea, and there were also 30 Song Thrushes, 9 Short-eared Owls, 2 Lapwings, 2 Redwings, a Water Rail, a Black Redstart and a Siskin around the area; additional single Black Redstarts were at Reap Lane and Weston. Off the Bill itself, 4 Eiders were again with the wintering Common Scoters and a lone Red-throated Diver flew past. 

 

          

     Fieldfare - Southwell, December 12th 2002 © Pete & Debby Saunders

  December 12th Quieter, milder weather arrived overnight, although the first couple of hours of the morning were spoilt by some passing heavy showers. An obvious legacy of the cold snap were the total of nearly 70 Song Thrushes scattered around the Bill area, with other left-overs there including 25 Lapwings, 14 Redwings, 2 Golden Plovers, 2 Snipe, a Jack Snipe and a Fieldfare; at least 8 Short-eared Owls were also still in the area. The Common Scoter flock off the Bill continued to attract a few passers-by, with 3 Eider and a Goldeneye settled with them during the morning; a Red-throated Diver and a Grey Plover also flew past there. December 11th It remained heavily overcast and very windy but the temperature had distinctly crept up a few degrees and the short cold spell looked to be on the way out. The Bill area produced more than 30 Song Thrushes, 10 Redwings, 9 Lapwings, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Fieldfares and a Snipe, and there was a single Black Redstart at Reap Lane. The Common Scoter flock off the Bill attracted 3 Velvet Scoters and 3 Eider, but the only birds of note passing through on the sea were a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Red-throated Diver. December 10th Despite it remaining very cold and windy there were fewer birds about today. The Bill area still held plenty of Song Thrushes, 19 Lapwings, 10 Redwings and 3 Fieldfares, as well as the 9 Short-eared Owls and a Black Redstart. A Curlew was grounded at Reap Lane and there was another Black Redstart there. At sea, 4 Eider joined the lingering Common Scoter flock off the Bill, and 50 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 25 Black-headed Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, a Wigeon, a Gadwall and a Tufted Duck passed through there.

 

                

     Ring Ouzel - Southwell, December 9th 2002 © Pete & Debby Saunders

  December 9th With the weather remaining pretty bitter - and made worse today by a strong easterly wind - there were the first signs of cold-weather movement. A surprise new arrival was a Hawfinch seen briefly early in the morning at Southwell; the Ring Ouzel also reappeared in a private garden there. Song Thrushes numbered up to 50 around the southern half of the island, and 30 Lapwings, 25 Redwings, 4 Snipe, 3 Fieldfares, 2 Golden Plovers and a Woodcock were new arrivals at the Bill; a Chiffchaff was also freshly arrived at Avalanche Road. At least 9 Short-eared Owls, 8 Purple Sandpipers and a Black Redstart remained at the Bill. Off the Bill itself, more than 500 Lesser Black-backed Gulls passed through, along with 50 Black-headed Gulls, 12 Teal, 9 Brent Geese, 2 Curlews, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Little Gull; a Slavonian Grebe also lingered offshore there. December 8th With each day getting colder and more miserably grey and damp there are few incentives to spend long in the field. The majority of reports came from the Bill where a Little Auk and a Red-throated Diver passed through on the sea, and the land produced 7 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Redwings, a Snipe, a Black Redstart and a Fieldfare. Elsewhere, there were 2 Chiffchaffs at Weston and 2 Mediterranean Gulls and a Black-throated Diver at Ferrybridge. December 7th A very gloomy, cold day with the only noteworthy new arrivals being 4 Lapwings and a Mistle Thrush at the Bill; long-stayers there included at least 4 Short-eared Owls, 2 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Black Redstarts, as well as the flock of 30 Common Scoter offshore. The only other reports were of a Woodcock and a Firecrest at Verne Common, and a Black-throated Diver and a Sandwich Tern still at Ferrybridge.

 

        

     Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, December 6th 2002 © Martin Cade

 

December 6th Highlight today was a Ring Ouzel - thought to be the same bird that was seen last week - that spent much of the day in a private garden in Southwell. Under heavily overcast skies there was another flurry of late migrants at the Bill, where 40 Blackbirds, 30 Redwings, 12 Fieldfares and 2 Lapwings passed through; at least 6 Short-eared Owls were also still there. Elsewhere, a Black Redstart was again at Reap Lane. Offshore, more than 500 auks flew east past the Bill.
December 5th The arrival of a much chillier northerly airflow was the cue for some more late passage today. Typically, thrushes and finches dominated, with 40 Redwings and 20 Fieldfares over Weston, and 50 Chaffinches, 25 Redwings, 7 Siskins, 4 Bullfinches, 3 Fieldfares and 2 Bramblings at the Bill; rather more unexpected was a late pulse of Swallows, with 3 at the Bill and 2 at Ferrybridge. Six Short-eared Owls were still at the Bill, where 3 Red-throated Divers and a Little Gull also passed through on the sea.
December 4th A Marsh Harrier passing through at the Bill was bird of the day, although it was otherwise a bit of a struggle with just a late Swallow, 4 Short-eared Owls and 2 Fieldfares at the Bill, and 2 Black Redstarts and a Goldcrest at Church Ope Cove. Seawatching produced the lingering flock of Common Scoter off the Bill and 3 Red-throated Divers flying west past there.
December 3rd The arrival of quieter weather produced a minor flurry of sightings. Three Siskins, a Goldcrest and a Bullfinch were new arrivals at the Bill, where there were still at least 2 Short-eared Owls and a Water Rail about the area; 40 Common Scoter remained offshore there, and 2 Red-throated and Great Northern Diver passed by. Two Black-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers were in Portland Harbour along with a Mute Swan and a Common Scoter, and 7 Little Egrets were at Ferrybridge.
December 2nd A blast of strong north-westerly winds kept most birders indoors today, and the only news was of 5 Short-eared Owls patrolling the Bill area late in the afternoon and at least 25 Common Scoter still offshore there, 2 Black Redstarts at Reap Lane and 2 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour.
December 1st A very slow start to the new month. The only reports were of a lone Black Redstart at Weston, and 7 Wigeon and 4 Red-throated Divers passing through off the Bill. 

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