February 2003

February 28th Before heavy rain in the morning there were 2 Short-eared Owls, a Little Egret, a Little Owl,1 Black and 1 Red-throated Diver around the Bill area, plus 8 Black-headed Gulls and a good passage of Gannets. In the afternoon in brighter weather 9 Purple Sandpipers and 1 Turnstone showed well at the Bill. Elsewhere, a Reed Bunting was in a garden at the Grove. February 27th   A warmer day with patchy rain in the morning and early mist in the afternoon. Around the Bill there were 4 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Stonechats, 3 Short-eared Owls and 3 Little Owls. The Top Fields produced a Golden Plover and 7 Song Thrushes. Elsewhere the was a Chaffinch and 5 Redwings. There was a report of a male Hen Harrier around the Higher Osprey during the late morning. Later at the Bill there were 28 Linnets and a Redshank.    February 26th A slightly warmer morning turned to a cold, overcast afternoon with few birds of note. There were 7 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill tip and up to 3 Short-eared Owls in the fields north of the Observatory. Elsewhere on Portland there were 5 Song Thrushes and a single Redwing. 34 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were at Ferrybridge and there were 4 Red-throated Divers past the Bill. A single Water Rail showed briefly in the Observatory garden.    February 25th Another day with late morning sunshine followed by cloud and a cold SE wind in the afternoon. A few more birdwatchers produced records of 3 Short-eared Owls around the Bill Fields. Sea-watching resulted in 1 Common Scoter and 1 Red-throated Diver. There were 11 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill tip and elsewhere 5 Lapwings in off the sea, 6 Song Thrushes in the Top Fields and 14 Redwings in the horse paddocks near the Hump.    February 24th A pleasant middle to a day but the wind turned cold from the SE and produced few birds and very few bird watchers. At the Bill there were 8 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls. Elsewhere there was a Little Owl, 2 Ravens and a Rook. At 16.10, 30+ Grey Geese, thought to be Pink-footed, flew high across the Bill and out towards the North West. February 23rd A much more pleasant day but the only news so far is from the Bill, where there have been 7 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Short-eared Owls and a Turnstone on the land, and 11 Common Scoter and 3 Red-throated Divers passing through on the sea. February 22nd A potentially promising day that was spoilt by a strong and chilly south-east wind that had sprung up overnight. Not too many birders ventured out, and those that did found just 4 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill.  February 21st A mild southerly breeze and unbroken sunshine got a few birds on the move again, with 13 Stonechats counted along the West Cliffs between the Bill and Barleycrates Lane (where there have been only 3-4 all winter), and a lone Redshank showing up at the Bill. At least 3  Short-eared Owls, 2 Water Rails and a Mistle Thrush remained at the Bill, whilst elsewhere there were 8 Redwings, 6 Fieldfares and a Black Redstart were at Barleycrates Lane February 20th A much more pleasant day with a hint of warmth in the air for the time this week. The sea provided most of the interest, with the highlight being the reappearance of a Sooty Shearwater off the Bill for most of the morning; a little up-Channel movement was also recorded there, with 33 Wigeon, 8 Common Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers, 2 Brent Geese and a Red-breasted Merganser passing through. Otherwise things remained pretty static, with 3 Short-eared Owls, a Redwing, a Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush at the Bill, and 4 Black-necked and a Red-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour. February 19th An even windier day with the same few birds seen as in recent days. The Bill area produced 3 Short-eared Owls, a Mistle Thrush and a Redwing on the land, and a single Red-throated Diver passing through on the sea. Elsewhere there were still 8 Redwings and 6 Fieldfares at Southwell. February 18th The strong and very cold east wind continued unabated, and new arrivals were few and far between. Three Short-eared Owls and a Mistle Thrush remained at the Bill, whilst elsewhere there were 8 Redwings and 6 Fieldfares at Reap Lane, a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge and 8 Black-necked Grebes and a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour. After dark, a grey goose heard calling over the Obs was considered to be a Bean Goose by an observer very familiar with the call of that species. February 17th Not much change in the weather or the birds. Thrushes were quite conspicuous, with 35 Song Thrushes, 11 Redwings, 5 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush scattered around the south of the island, but the only other worthwhile sightings on the land were of a Water Rail and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, and 3 Lapwings at Reap Lane. Ten Common Scoter remained off the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers flew past there. February 16th Not much incentive to get out today, with overcast skies and a raw east wind blowing. The only news was from the Bill area, where there were 7 Fieldfares, 3 Short-eared Owls, a Water Rail, a Snipe and a Bullfinch on the land, and a couple of Red-throated Divers past on the sea. February 15th The Mistle Thrush and the Bullfinch were still at the Bill, where 3 Short-eared Owls were also present. Seven Red-throated Divers flew past off the Bill, whilst elsewhere there were 2 Black Redstarts at Reap Lane, a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge and 7 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour. February 14th After the flurry of interest yesterday, today was quieter. A Mistle Thrush was a new arrival at the Bill, where Song Thrushes also increased to 15; another Bullfinch also showed up in the Obs garden. Two Short-eared Owls were still at the Bill, whilst 5 Ravens overhead there were perhaps part of the flock of 6 seen earlier in the week at Verne Common. Elsewhere there were 10 Redwings at Reap Lane and a Lapwing at Weston. The only seawatching news was of 14 Common Scoter settled off the Bill and a Red-throated Diver passing by there.



 Woodlark - Avalanche Road, February 13th 2003 © Martin Cade

  February 13th Spring really does seem to be arriving. A Woodlark was a new arrival at Avalanche Road during the morning, where, remarkably, it was joined by a second individual during the afternoon. Also new in today were 4 Fieldfares at the Bill and another 2 at Avalanche Road, a Lapwing at the Bill and 48 Meadow Pipits at the Windmills (where there have been only 10 or so all winter). Purple Sandpiper numbers increased to 12 at the Bill, 2 Short-eared Owls were also there, whilst elsewhere there were 9 Redwings and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. February 12th Another hint of spring today with the arrival of a Bullfinch in the Obs garden. Eight Purple Sandpipers, 4 Short-eared Owls and 2 Redwings were also at the Bill, and a Red-throated Diver flew past on the sea there. Six Ravens were at Verne Common (the highest count on the island this winter), whilst Portland Harbour produced 9 Black-necked, 4 Great Crested and a Slavonian Grebe, and a single Common Scoter. February 11th A damp, misty day that provided some unexpected new arrivals. At the Bill, Short-eared Owl numbers increased to 7, whilst at Reap Lane the wintering Black Redstart was joined by a second individual. The only news otherwise was of 11 Common Scoter lingering off the Bill, a Red-throated Diver and a Shelduck passing through there, and 6 Purple Sandpipers on the rocks at the Bill-tip. February 10th Just a handful of typical winter sightings today. Six Purple Sandpipers, 4 Short-eared Owls and a Redwing were at the Bill, a Red-throated and an unidentified Diver flew past on the sea there and 2 more Redwings were at Avalanche Road.



 Sooty Shearwater - Portland Bill, February 9th 2003 © Martin Cade

  February 9th A Sooty Shearwater, presumably the same individual that was seen last weekend, lingered around the tide-race off the Bill for much of the morning; 2 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver also passed through off there. Eight Purple Sandpipers were on the rocks at the Bill and at least 3 Short-eared Owls were still in the area.  February 8th Auks remained very numerous off the Bill, where another 6 Red-throated Divers also passed through. Four Short-eared Owls and 3 Purple Sandpipers were on the land at the Bill, and the only other news was of 2 Slavonian Grebes, a Red-necked Grebe and an Eider in Portland Harbour. February 7th Not much change today. Six Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill, where auks still numbered in the thousands and the flock of wintering Common Scoter was still present. Four Short-eared Owls were again in the Bill area, whilst Redwings included 6 at the Windmills and 2 at the Bill. Portland Harbour remains rather quiet, with totals today of 5 Black-necked and 2 Slavonian Grebes, 3 Mute Swans, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Common Scoter. February 6th The first damp, dreary day for a while. Twenty Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill, where the 25 wintering Common Scoter were also still present. Limited birding on the land produced just 14 Linnets, 2 Redwings and a Short-eared Owl around the Bill area, and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane.



 Short-eared Owls - Portland Bill, February 5th 2003 © Martin Cade

  February 5th Inevitably, yesterday's report of the apparent demise of the Short-eared Owls proved unduly pessimistic - today, 4 showed very well at the Bill all afternoon! Otherwise the only news was of 11 Redwings at Reap Lane and another 2 at the Bill, single Black Redstarts at St Georges Church and Reap Lane, and a Goldcrest at Weston Street. February 4th Fine weather got a few more birders into the field, and there were a few snippets of interest to report. At the Bill, Short-eared Owl numbers have been dwindling of late, and only a single bird could be found today; also there were 19 Skylarks (the highest count of the winter) and a lone Redwing. Elsewhere on the island, a Coal Tit in song at Wakeham was presumably the individual seen in that area last autumn, 2 Redwings, a Fieldfare and a Black Redstart were at Southwell and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 2 Mute Swans were at Ferrybridge. February 3rd Once again, the only news was from the Bill area, where seawatching produced 5 fly-by Red-throated Divers and the flock of 25 wintering Common Scoter, and there were 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Redwing on the land. February 2nd A good mid-winter sighting today in the form of a Sooty Shearwater that lingered for more than an hour with the feeding flocks of Gannets, gulls and auks off the Bill during the morning. Four Red-throated Divers passed through there, along with a dozen Common Scoter that appeared to be additional birds to the small wintering flock already present. The only news otherwise was of a couple of Short-eared Owls still at the Bill. February 1st A slow start to the new month. The only news was from the Bill, where there were 25 Song Thrushes, 2 Short-eared Owls and a Lapwing on the land, and 20 Common Scoter and 4 Red-throated Divers on the sea.