March 2003



 Hoopoe - Wakeham, March 31st 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 31st Highlight today was a series of sightings of Hoopoes; there was some uncertainty whether one very mobile bird did a round of the island, or two or three individuals were involved, but reports came from the Wakeham and Pennsylvania Castle area in the morning and again late afternoon, at Verne Common Estate at midday and at Grove Road early in the afternoon. Another good first for the year was an Osprey that flew over the Church Ope/Mermaid area during the morning. After a very clear night there was no repeat of the good numbers of common migrants seen yesterday, although variety wasn't too bad. The Bill area hosted a handful of all the expected species, along with 2 Bullfinches, a Lapwing and a Ring Ouzel, whilst a Tree Pipit passed over at Barleycrates Lane and 3 Redstarts were seen around the centre of the island. Seawatching at the Bill produced just 17 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Whimbrel.



 Firecrest and Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, March 30th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 30th Heavily overcast skies and a chilly north-east wind led to the best arrival of grounded migrants so far this spring; as skies cleared later in the morning there was also a substantial overhead passage of visible migrants. A Dartford Warbler near the Higher Lighthouse was the best of the grounded birds, with the Bill area otherwise producing 75 Wheatears, 70 Willow Warblers, 70 Chiffchaffs, 25 Redwings, 20 Blackcaps, 15 Goldcrests, 6 Robins, 6 Black Redstarts, 4 Fieldfares, 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Redstarts, 2 Bullfinches and single Mistle Thrush, Firecrest and Reed Bunting. Good numbers of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails, as well as a few hirundines and a Buzzard, passed overhead. A third Puffin joined the 2 birds already present off the Bill, where 37 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe and a Shoveler also passed by. March 29th The lean spell continued, with little more than a hint of new arrivals around the island. A Ring Ouzel at Verne Common was the bird of the day, 2 Fieldfares were at Reap Lane and the Bill area chipped in with 20 Wheatears, 8 Chiffchaffs, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Black Redstarts, a Golden Plover, a Ringed Plover, a Redwing, a Siskin and a Redpoll. Poor visibility hampered seawatching and the only reports were of a lone Sandwich Tern passing the Bill, and 38 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and 3 Sandwich Terns off Chesil Beach. A Sanderling and a Curlew were at Ferrybridge.



 Black Redstart - Portland Bill, March 28th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 28th The arrival of heavy cloud cover and the first showers of rain for more than a fortnight ought to have heralded a flurry of migrants but in the event did no more than put a stop to the visible passage recorded in recent days. The Bill area hosted nothing more than 7 Purple Sandpipers, 6 Wheatears, 6 Chiffchaffs, 3 Robins, a Yellow Wagtail, a Redwing, a Black Redstart and a Willow Warbler; elsewhere the only bird of note on the land was a Fieldfare at Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced 5 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Mediterranean Gulls, and there was a most unusual report of a Puffin in Portland Harbour. March 27th Another clear day with a fresh easterly breeze; grounded migrants were few and far between but visible passage was again conspicuous. A two hour watch on the West Cliffs provided totals of 240 Meadow Pipits, 175 Linnets, 11 Goldfinches, 8 Wheatears, 7 Sand Martins, 6 alba wagtails, 2 Collared Doves, a Chiffchaff, a Chaffinch and a Redpoll passing through. Paltry totals of settled birds around the Bill area included 5 Wheatears, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Redwings, 2 Black Redstarts, a Blackcap and a Rook. Oddities elsewhere included a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry, a Black Redstart at Barleycrates Lane and a Siskin at Avalanche Road. Off the Bill, Puffins increased to 2, and 38 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Shoveler passed through.



 Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, March 26th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 26th The first 6 Willow Warblers of the year arrived at the Bill in the morning along with a small flurry of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs. However, the main thrust of passage involved visible migrants on the move along the West Cliffs, where a three hour watch produced totals of 1075 Meadow Pipits, 305 Linnets, 18 Wheatears, 14 Sand Martins, 9 alba wagtails, 7 Goldfinches, 3 Swallows, a House Martin, a Redwing, a Chiffchaff and a Chaffinch. Other news from the island was of a fly-over Yellow Wagtail at Barleycrates Lane, a Black Redstart and a Lesser Redpoll at Tout Quarry, and a Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge. March 25th Thick fog at dawn soon gave way to another warm, summer-like day. A mini fall of common migrants in the Barleycrates Lane area included the first Redstart of the spring, as well as a Black Redstart and a few Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. Unfortunately there was little evidence of grounded new arrivals elsewhere, with the Bill area producing just 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Swallows, 2 Wheatears, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest; an hour-long sample count of visible passage on the West Cliffs revealed 90 Meadow Pipits, 13 Linnets, 4 Sand Martins and 3 Wheatears passing through. Lingering winterers at the Bill included 5 Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl. March 24th A subtle shift from an easterly to a westerly bias in the wind direction did nothing to improve the number of migrants about, and the total of just 3 birds trapped and ringed all day at the Obs was an entirely accurate reflection of the dearth of birds everywhere. Among the ones and twos of common species at the Bill, the only only faintly interesting scarcities were 2 Black Redstarts and a Bullfinch. Seawatching at the Bill was hampered by very hazy conditions, but 13 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns, 5 Red-throated Divers, a Mediterranean Gull and a Little Gull were logged passing through. March 23rd Visible passage picked up today but there were still very few grounded migrants on view. A two hour sample count of northward passage on the West Cliffs produced totals of 660 Meadow Pipits, 76 Linnets, 23 alba wagtails, 8 Sand Martins, 2 Wheatears and 2 Goldfinches; several more Sand Martins and 2 Swallows also passed overhead elsewhere at the Bill and along Chesil Beach. The highlight on the ground was the first Ring Ousel of the spring at the Bill, where there were also a handful of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Bullfinches, a Merlin and a Blackcap. A passing Greylag Goose was a good record off the Bill, where 27 Common and 5 Velvet Scoter, 2 unidentified divers and a Sandwich Tern also passed through, whilst a lone Puffin lingering close inshore during the morning constituted the first report there since last weekend. The first seawatch off Chesil Beach this spring produced 17 Teal, 14 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Sandwich Terns.



 Black Redstart - Portland Bill, March 22nd 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 22nd A very quiet day with fair weather continuing to dominate. Common migrants were few and far between, with most species reduced to just odd ones and twos everywhere. Interest was provided by 4 Black Redstarts at the Bill and another at Priory Corner, a Merlin and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, a Curlew at Ferrybridge and a lone Red-throated Diver passing by on the sea off the Bill.



 Merlin and Chaffinch - Portland Bill, March 21st 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 21st A veil of cloud overhead at dawn promised to have dropped a few more migrants, but in the event there were a good deal fewer birds about than yesterday. Wheatears and Blackcaps dominated, with 30 and 15 respectively at the Bill; also there were single-figure totals of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, 4 Redwings, 3 Black Redstarts, a Buzzard, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl, a Grey Wagtail, a Fieldfare and a Bullfinch. Three Velvet Scoter were the highlight on the sea, where there were otherwise just 14 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers. The only news from elsewhere was of a Black Redstart at Tout Quarry and a Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge. March 20th Despite the clear, moonlit night there were fair numbers of birds about throughout the morning, with totals for the Bill area of 50 Wheatears, 30 Chiffchaffs, 30 Goldcrests, 2 White Wagtails, 3 Bullfinches, 2 Siskins, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl, a Swallow, a Black Redstart, a Rook and a Yellowhammer. Among the sprinkle of birds elsewhere there was a Buzzard over Easton, another Black Redstart at Tout Quarry and another Siskin at the Grove. The only news from the sea was of 3 Red-throated Divers past the Bill. March 19th More fine, settled weather but fewer birds. The Bill area produced 10 Wheatears, 4 Short-eared Owls, 4 Song Thrushes, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings, a White Wagtail, a Blackcap, a Goldcrest, a Siskin, a Bullfinch and a Yellowhammer, as well as another steady passage of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails overhead. Seawatching there produced 6 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, and a single Sandwich Tern. March 18th A slight improvement in numbers if not variety today. A small flurry of migrants at the Bill provided counts of 30 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 10 Goldcrests, a Grey Wagtail, a Redwing, a Fieldfare and a Blackcap on the ground, and a steady passage of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails overhead; 2 Short-eared Owls also still remained there. The sea remained pretty quiet, with totals of just 22 Common Scoter, 8 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser past the Bill.


 Kestrel - Portland Bill, March 17th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 17th Weather-wise, the best day of the year so far but migrants remained in short supply. The Bill area produced 10 Wheatears, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Golden Plover, a Water Rail, a Sand Martin, a Blackcap and a Bullfinch, whilst elsewhere there were just a handful of Wheatears. A lone Red-throated Diver was the only worthwhile sighting on the sea. March 16th Another bright and breezy day with a fair bit of visible passage overhead and a light sprinkle of migrants on the ground. Earlier than usual migrants included a Whimbrel passing through at Blacknor and 2 Blackcaps in the Obs garden. Wheatears were scattered everywhere in small numbers, whilst other grounded birds included 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, a Black Redstart and a Bullfinch at the Bill, and 2 White Wagtails at Blacknor. A Short-eared Owl remained at the Bill and a Red-legged Partridge was a surprise find at Southwell (unfortunately it was in the same area that 2 Chukars were present last year, and so seems likely to have been released there rather than wandered from the mainland). Seawatching at the Bill produced 14 Common Scoter, 5 Curlews, 3 Red-throated and 2 unidentified divers, and a Black-headed Gull, and a Great Northern Diver and a Slavonian Grebe were in Portland Harbour. March 15th Very little change in the weather or the birds. Visible passage was again conspicuous, with a sample hour-long count in the morning producing 290 Meadow Pipits, 25 alba wagtails 18 Linnets and a Chiffchaff passing north along the West Cliffs at the Bill. Grounded migrants included 6 Goldcrests, 4 Wheatears, 3 Black Redstarts, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Bullfinch at the Bill, and another Black Redstart at Nichodemus Knob; a single Short-eared Owl was also still at the Bill. On the sea, the first Puffin of the spring was the highlight at the Bill, where otherwise 10 Common Scoter, 4 Shoveler, 4 Black-headed Gulls and a Red-throated Diver passed through. March 14th Clear skies and a stiff easterly wind are usually good conditions for logging visible passage up the West Cliffs in the spring, and today proved no exception with totals of nearly 600 Meadow Pipits, 27 Linnets, 25 alba wagtails and 4 Wheatears passing through during mid-morning and early afternoon watches. Grounded migrants were present in small numbers but proved hard to get to grips with around the windswept Bill area; counts there included 8 Goldcrests, 7 Wheatears, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Bullfinch. A lone Red-throated Diver was the only noteworthy sighting on the sea. March 13th Birding was hard work today in a strong and cold east wind. The Bill area produced 5 Wheatears, 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Goldcrests, a Short-eared Owl and a Redwing, whilst elsewhere there was a Reed Bunting at Wide Street, a White Wagtail and a Wheatear at Blacknor and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. Seawatching provided just 30 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver off the Bill. March 12th Another small flurry of migrants around the Bill area included 8 Wheatears, 5 Bullfinches, 4 Redwings, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Merlin, a White Wagtail and a Firecrest, as well as a trickle of alba wagtails and Meadow Pipits passing overhead; a lone Short-eared Owl was also still present there. March 11th The first Firecrests of the spring - singles at Culverwell and Southwell - were the highlights today; also at the Bill were 8 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Goldcrests, a Black Redstart and a Redwing on the land, and single Red-throated and Black-throated Divers on the sea. Elsewhere there was a Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge and a Chiffchaff at Avalanche Road.



 Skylark - Portland Bill, March 10th 2003 © Mick Rogers

  March 10th The only news today was from the Bill, where there were 8 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Wheatears, a Turnstone, a Short-eared Owl and a Black Redstart on the land, and 12 Brent Geese, 2 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver past on the sea.




 Wheatear and Chiffchaffs (note the pollen encrustation on the forehead of the right hand Chiffchaff) - Portland Bill, March 9th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 9th Much more to report today. New arrivals included 15 Stonechats, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Wheatears, a Merlin and a Snipe at the Bill, 4 Wheatears and 3 Sand Martins at Verne Common, and another Wheatear and a Black Redstart at Ferrybridge. The sea provided 17 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Black-headed Gull and a Sandwich Tern off the Bill, and another Mediterranean Gull at Chesil Cove. Three Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour. March 8th Dreary, blustery weather made birding a less than enticing proposition today, and the only news was of a Wheatear, a Black Redstart, a Redwing and a Chiffchaff on the land at the Bill, 5 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver passing on the sea there, another Black Redstart at Reap Lane and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge.  



 Wheatear - Portland Bill, March 7th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 7th Inevitably, the first Wheatear of the spring at the Bill - rather surprisingly a female - chose not to arrive in the fine weather yesterday but in really grim wet and windy conditions today. Also new today were single Chiffchaffs at the Bill and Pound Piece, and a Grey Wagtail and a Blackcap at Southwell. Four Purple Sandpipers, 2 Short-eared Owls and a Turnstone were still at the Bill, and 130 Gannets, 2 Mallard and and a lone Common Scoter passed through on the sea.


 Long-tailed Tits - Portland Bill, March 6th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 6th A pleasantly sunny and mild day with a few more migrants appearing. At the Bill, a few Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails trickled through overhead, 10 Stonechats, a Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff were new on the land, 3 Carrion Crows arrived in off the sea and the first Sandwich Tern and 2 Red-throated Divers passed up-Channel. Also still there were 9 Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl, whilst a flock of 6 Long-tailed Tits in the Obs garden were perhaps the same group that were seen there several days ago. Elsewhere there were 4 Redwings at Avalanche Road. March 5th A few early migrants again today in the continuing mild and damp weather. The first Chiffchaff of the spring was at Weston, whilst other new arrivals included single Golden Plover, Fieldfare and Black Redstart at the Bill and a trickle of Meadow Pipits arriving in off the sea (with more than 100 grounded at the Bill by the late afternoon). Three Short-eared Owls also remained at the Bill. Off the Bill, 15 Common Scoter, 12 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Red-throated Divers and an Eider passed through.



 Sparrowhawk - Portland Bill, March 4th 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 4th Scant reward today despite the arrival of a promising-looking mild south-westerly airflow. Yesterday's Goldcrest remained in the Obs garden, where a couple of new Wrens were the only overnight arrivals; elsewhere, a Black Redstart was new arrival at Southwell. Five Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls remained at the Bill, where 5 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver flew past on the sea.



 Goldcrest - Portland Bill, March 3rd 2003 © Martin Cade

  March 3rd In fair weather early in the day the first Goldcrest of the spring was in the Obs garden, 7 Purple Sandpipiers were at the Bill and 7 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver passed through offshore. Rain swept in later in the morning and the rest of the day was a washout. March 2nd A little more early spring movement today with the arrival of 6 Long-tailed Tits, a Rook and a Bullfinch at the Bill; 7 Purple Sandpipers and a single Short-eared Owl were also still there. The only other news was of 2 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose passing through off the Bill. March 1st All the news today came from the Bill area where there were 7 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Short-eared Owls and a Water Rail on the land, and 9 Common Scoter, 8 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver on the sea.