April 2003


 Golden Oriole - Portland Bill, April 30th 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 30th A Serin - presumably the bird seen yesterday - flew over the Obs garden twice during the morning, but bird of the day was a Golden Oriole that showed up first at Culverwell and eventually settled in Top Fields. Common migrants in the Bill area included 30 Wheatears, 4 Whinchats, a Redstart, a Sedge Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Redpoll, whilst elsewhere there were 3 Spotted Flycatchers and a Wood Warbler at Verne Common; the resident Red-legged Partridge was also seen again at Southwell. Seawatching at the Bill produced 21 Whimbrel, 15 Common Scoter, 5 Pomarine, 2 Arctic and 2 Great Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Bar-tailed Godwit, whilst a lone Little Gull was the only bird of note at Chesil Cove. April 29th Best of the few new arrivals today was a Serin that roamed the Bill area for a while during the morning but was never seen settled. Common migrants were only thinly spread again, with the best being a couple of Turtle Doves and the first 2 Spotted Flycatchers of the year at the Bill. The sea went some way towards redeeming the poor show on the land, with totals of 27 Common Scoter, 27 Whimbrel, 4 Great, 4 Pomarine and an Arctic Skua, 3 Red-throated Divers and an Eider past the Bill during the morning. Eight Sanderling were at Ferrybridge and an Arctic Skua flew overhead there. April 28th Despite some unseasonably stormy weather there was a small arrival of new migrants in the Bill area, including 20 Wheatears, 10 Willow Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 5 Garden Warblers, 3 Whinchats, 3 Redstarts, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Merlin, a Yellow Wagtail and a White Wagtail; 85 Swifts and a Little Egret also overflew there, another Little Egret flew over at Chesil Cove and the long-staying Reed Bunting was still at Southwell. Seawatching was not as productive as hoped, with the pick of a mearge bunch being 16 Whimbrel, 3 Arctic, 2 Great and a Pomarine Skua at the Bill, and an Arctic Skua at Chesil Cove. Waders at Ferrybridge included 25 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Sanderling. April 27th Although Swallows were again on the move in some quantity there was no change at all in the dismal grounded migrant situation, with 2 Turtle Doves being not only the most interesting but also just about the only birds in the Bill area. The sea continued to provide a little interest, with 12 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver off the Bill, and 14 Eider, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Black-throated Diver off Chesil Cove. April 26th Grounded migrants remained at a premium, with a lone Turtle Dove at the Bill being the only interesting sighting amongst ones and twos of the commoner species; Swallows passed overhead in fair numbers and a single Hobby flew north at the Bill. Seawatching was hardly riveting, with totals at the Bill of just 17 Whimbrel, 5 Pomarine, 4 Arctic and 3 Great Skuas, 2 Black-throated, 1 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Manx Shearwaters and a Bar-tailed Godwit; Chesil Beach produced 77 Whimbrel and a lot more terns, including 33 passing Little Terns, and a Pomarine and an Arctic Skua. Elsewhere there were 3 Sanderling at Ferrybridge and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour. April 25th A couple of hours of dry weather at dawn permitted a reasonable check of the Bill area but conditions soon deteriorated and the rest of the day was a washout. Three Turtle Doves and a Reed Bunting were at Southwell and a lone Pied Flycatcher passed through on the West Cliffs, but commoner migrants were otherwise all but absent. Seawatching at the Bill produced 52 Common Scoter, 46 Whimbrel, 3 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, 3 Black Terns, a Velvet Scoter and a Bar-tailed Godwit; a similar selection of birds off Chesil Beach included higher counts of 221 Bar-tailed Godwits and 77 Whimbrel.



 Turtle Dove - Southwell, April 24th 2003 © Debby Saunders

  April 24th The first substantial rainfall for a month or so prompted hopes of a flurry of grounded migrants but in the event little of note was found. The Bill area produced a few Sylvia warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Whinchats, a Short-eared Owl, a Turtle Dove, a Redstart and a Pied Flycatcher but little else on the ground. Passage along the West Cliffs was stronger than expected, with 170 Swallows and a good variety of other species counted in an hour during the morning. Seawatching at the Bill produced 318 commic terns, 61 Whimbrel, 8 Common Scoter, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver, and a Bar-tailed Godwit.



 Hoopoe - Portland Bill, April 23rd 2003 © John Hurst

  April 23rd A much more obliging Hoopoe was bird of the day today; it was found in roadside fields at Culverwell early in the morning but later settled well in Top Fields where it remained until dusk. After another clear night grounded common migrants were few and far between, with the best being a Cuckoo at the Bill, a Turtle Dove at the Grove, a Lesser Redpoll at Tout Quarry and a few Whinchats dotted around. A shift in wind direction back to the east saw visible passage pick up again along the West Cliffs, where Swifts, hirundines, pipits, wagtails, Wheatears and finches passed through in quantity all morning; a Hobby and a Merlin also passed through elsewhere. Sea passage died a death, with totals at the Bill of just 44 Common Scoter, 43 Whimbrel, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Grey Plover and an Arctic Skua. April 22nd Despite a promising start, with a Hoopoe seen soon after first light, it was a much quieter day on the island. Unfortunately the Hoopoe proved very mobile and gave birders the run-around as it moved north between the first sighting at Cheyne and the last at the Verne. Common migrants were very thin on the ground, with the best being the odd Redstart here and there, 2 Turtle Doves in Top Fields and a wandering Buzzard; Swallows passed through in some quantity and a couple more presumed migrant Buzzards passed quickly north.  Seawatching produced 110 Bar-tailed Godwits, 17 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns, 6 Whimbrel, 4 Arctic, 2 Pomarine and 1 Great Skua, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Manx Shearwater at the Bill, and 61 Common Scoter, 34 Whimbrel, 3 Arctic and a Great Skua off Chesil Beach.



 Serin - Portland Bill, April 21st 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 21st A shift in wind direction to a warmer south-westerly finally did the trick today and migrants were much more numerous everywhere. Birds of the day were a Serin that was trapped and ringed at the Obs during the morning and a Wryneck that showed up at Southwell in the afternoon. Among the common migrants, Lesser Whitethroats at the Verne and the Bill, and Wood Warblers at the Verne and Weston were additions to the year list. The Verne area also produced 4 Pied Flycatchers, a Ring Ouzel and good numbers of Sylvias, another Pied Flycatcher was at Southwell and there was a good sprinkle of commoner migrants everywhere. Sea passage picked up well, with the highlights being 80 Manx Shearwaters, 58 commic terns, 8 Arctic, 4 Pomarine and 3 Great Skuas, and 5 Red-throated Divers off the Bill, and 100 commic terns, 11 Arctic, 3 Great and 1 Pomarine Skua, 3 Black-throated Divers, 2 Little Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull off Chesil Beach. Thirteen Bar-tailed Godwits were pick of the waders at Ferrybridge. April 20th Predominantly overcast skies again with the chilly wind remaining firmly in the east. At the Bill there was a small influx of 20 Whinchats, but it otherwise remained quiet with totals of just 30 Willow Warblers, 20 Wheatears, 4 Tree Pipits, 4 Whitethroats, 4 Garden Warblers, 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Redstarts, 2 Redpolls, a Cuckoo, a Robin, a Firecrest and a Yellowhammer; Swallows trickled through all day and 3 Swifts also passed through. Elsewhere the only news was of a Hobby over Barleycrates Lane. The sea provided just 5 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter and a Whimbrel. April 19th A much quieter day with the balmy conditions of recent days replaced by a cold north-east wind and a veil of heavy cloud that swept in during the morning. Visible movement and sea passage slowed to a trickle, whilst  grounded migrants were thin on the ground as well as being hard to get to grips with in the strong wind. Cuckoo and Garden Warbler were both additions to the year list at the Bill, where there were also 50 Willow Warblers, 20 Wheatears, 3 Blackcaps, and single Tree Pipit, Redstart, Whinchat, Fieldfare, Whitethroat and Firecrest; a lone Redpoll overhead at Barleycrates Lane was the only worthwhile sighting elsewhere. Odds and sods on the sea at the Bill included 36 Sandwich Terns, 13 Grey Plover, 2 Whimbrel, an Arctic Skua and a Manx Shearwater, whilst Chesil Beach provided 61 Black-headed Gulls, 33 Sandwich, 5 Little and 2 Common Terns, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Dunlin, 2 Turnstones and a Red-breasted Merganser. Finally, 2 Little Terns and a Mediterranean Gull were at Ferrybridge.



 Little Owls - Portland Bill, April 18th 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 18th The north and west of the island was the place to be today, with plenty of visible passage along the West Cliffs, a sprinkle of grounded migrants in the Verne Common area and the best of the seawatching off Chesil Beach. Northward passage was very strong along the length of the West Cliffs; Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Linnets dominated, but there were also plenty of hirundines, Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipits, as well as oddities such as a couple of Redpolls. The Verne Common area produced more than 20 Whitethroats, 4 Ring Ouzels and a Buzzard, and another 2 Ring Ouzels were at Grove Point. Elsewhere the thin scatter of grounded birds included several Redstarts and Whinchats on the west side, a Reed Warbler at Reap Lane and single Grey Plover, Nightingale, Fieldfare and Pied Flycatcher at the Bill. Seawatching produced 56 Black-headed Gulls, 13 Little Gulls, 5 Red-throated Divers and a variety of terns and waders off Chesil Beach, but little more than 2 Arctic Skuas and a lone Red-throated Diver off the Bill.



 Nightingale - Portland Bill, April 17th 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 17th Three year-ticks today in the form of a Hobby in off the sea at the Bill, a Nightingale trapped and ringed at the Obs and a Pied Flycatcher at Southwell School, but common migrants otherwise remained extremely thin on the ground. A flurry of birds between Reap Lane and Tout Quarry, where there were 14 Wheatears, 7 Whitethroats, 6 Redstarts, a White Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail, a Whinchat and a Blackcap, was not replicated at the Bill, where there were just a few Wheatears and Willow Warblers, a Redstart, a Sedge Warbler and a Blackcap. With the wind still in the east  there was plenty more visible passage along the West Cliffs, where more than 750 Goldfinches, as well as plenty of hirundines, pipits, wagtails and Linnets were logged. The sea remained fairly quiet, with the Bill producing 40 Sandwich and 18 commic Terns, 36 Common Scoter, 25 Whimbrel, 4 Dunlin, 2 Shoveler, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Red-throated Diver and a Bar-tailed Godwit. April 16th A day of clear blue skies, hot sunshine and even fewer birds than yesterday! One or two Whitethroats appeared back on territory around the island, but new arrivals at the Bill were restricted to a handful of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, 3 Wheatears, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Bullfinches, a Robin and a Redstart. Hirundines, pipits, wagtails and finches trickled overhead all morning but no particularly noteworthy counts were reported anywhere. Interest dwindled on the sea, with morning watches at the Bill producing just 96 Common Scoter, 17 commic terns, 6 Whimbrel, 2 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua. April 15th Plenty of warm sunshine and less wind than in recent days but still extremely little reward for the many birders tempted into the field, with a pitiful selection of grounded migrants, a meagre overhead passage and a rather lean seawatch. Highlights on the land were the first Whitethroat and Reed Warbler of the year at Southwell and the Obs respectively, 5 Yellow Wagtails at Weston, 4 Song Thrushes at Avalanche Road, a late Brent Goose at Ferrybridge, and 6 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Robins, 2 Goldcrests and a Tree Pipit at the Bill. An hour-long count of visible passage on the West Cliffs provided totals of 168 Linnets, 64 Goldfinches, 28 Swallows, 22 Meadow Pipits, 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Sand Martin. Seawatching at the Bill produced 102 Sandwich Terns, 40 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Whimbrel. April 14th An Osprey and a Marsh Harrier arrived in off the sea at the Bill late in the afternoon, and a Turtle Dove at the Bill and a Swift over New Ground were both rather early, but otherwise the day was something of a repeat of yesterday, with a fair sea passage but next to nothing on the land. Grounded migrants in the Bill area consisted of nothing more than a handful of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, 2 Redstarts, a Grey Heron, a Sedge Warbler and a Blackcap. Visible passage was a little more conspicuous than in recent days, with a two hour sample count on the West Cliffs producing 375 Linnets, 126 Meadow Pipits, 54 Swallows, 31 Goldfinches, 6 Sand Martins, 2 Yellow and 2 alba Wagtails, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Greenfinches. Morning seawatching at the Bill provided totals of 150 Bar-tailed Godwits, 56 Sandwich, 34 commic, 3 Little and 1 Black Tern, 48 Whimbrel, 14 Common Scoter, 8 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 6 Arctic, 1 Great and 1 Pomarine Skua, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and 1 Manx Shearwater. Finally, a Red-legged Partridge was seen near Culverwell. April 13th Despite promising-looking cloudy and damp conditions virtually no new grounded migrants arrived, and it was left to the sea to again salvage the day. A few hirundines trickled in off the sea all day, but the only noteworthy new migrant on the land was a Grasshopper Warbler at Weston Corner. The sea was busy throughout the morning, with totals at the Bill of 600 Gannets, 107 Common and 3 Velvet Scoter, 30 Sandwich, 27 commic, 15 Common and an Arctic Tern, 25 Arctic, 3 Great and a Pomarine Skua, 14 Whimbrel, 5 Red-throated Divers, 3 Manx Shearwaters, a Shelduck and a Mediterranean Gull April 12th Yesterday's faint promise was not maintained and there was precious little to be found anywhere. Grounded migrants around the Bill area included 10 Wheatears, 5 Chiffchaffs, a Water Rail, a Lapwing, a Yellow Wagtail, a Black Redstart and a Bullfinch, whilst the trickle of movement overhead included 50 Swallows, 10 Sand Martins and 5 House Martins. Seawatching there produced 180 Common Scoter, 9 Eider, 5 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua, whilst a watch off Chesil Beach produced the first Little Tern of the spring, as well as 124 Common Scoter, 5 Sandwich Terns, 2 Brent Geese, 1 Red-throated Diver and 1 Arctic Skua. April 11th Just a hint of a little more movement today with the first small flurry of grounded commoner migrants of the week. The Bill area provided totals of 70 Wheatears, 40 Willow Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs, 7 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Redstarts, a Merlin, a Tree Pipit, a Black Redstart and a Goldcrest; visible passage was limited to a trickle of Swallows and Linnets. The only reports from elsewhere were of a Redwing and a Reed Bunting at Suckthumb Quarry. Seawatching was less productive than in recent days, with 82 Common and 2 Velvet Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, an Arctic Skua and a Whimbrel logged at the Bill. April 10th A reappearance by the Serin and a trickle of movement offshore salvaged a day when migration otherwise remained at a standstill, with even visible passage drying up completely. The Serin showed up once in the Obs garden and three times in flight near the Bill during the morning, but the only other birds of note on the land were 4 Purple Sandpipers, a Redshank, a Merlin and a Black Redstart in the Bill area. Seawatching at the Bill produced 170 Common and 2 Velvet Scoter, 8 Whimbrel, 3 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, 3 Great and 1 Arctic Skua and 2 Sandwich Terns.



 Serin - Portland Bill, April 9th 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 9th There was no repeat of yesterday's excitement, although the first Serin of the spring - a drab female that appeared twice in the Obs garden during the morning - and an overflying Goosander at the Bill were decent highlights on a day when grounded migrants were again all but absent. Small numbers of migrants were still on the move overhead, with 30 Wheatears, a Merlin, a Tree Pipit and a Redpoll seen amongst the trickle of Meadow Pipits, hirundines and finches moving north along the West Cliffs. The only birds of note on the ground were the first Whinchat of the spring, and single Redstart and Black Redstart at the Bill. Interest was maintained on the sea, with watches from the Bill producing 156 Common and 10 Velvet Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Common Tern. April 8th Spring finally sprung to life just after midday when a Black Kite arrived in off the sea at the Bill; unfortunately it didn't linger and left quickly to north up the West Cliffs. Further searches for it proved futile, with the only reward being a Hen Harrier that was spotted flying west across the island at Southwell; this bird also passed straight through, being seen shortly afterwards off Chesil Cove before finally making landfall again to the north of Ferrybridge. Visible passage was again quite strong, with 327 Linnets, 104 Meadow Pipits, 34 Goldfinches, 28 Swallows, 4 Wheatears, 3 Sand Martins, 2 alba wagtails, a House Martin, a Willow Warbler and a Greenfinch moving north along the West Cliffs in a two hour sample count during the morning. Grounded migrants were almost non-existent, with the best being single Redwings at the Bill and Barleycrates Lane, a Bullfinch in Top Fields and a Long-tailed Tit near the Obs. The rest of the interest was on the sea, where another up-Channel movement off the Bill provided totals of 230 Common and 16 Velvet Scoter, 8 commic and 4 Sandwich Terns, 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Garganey, an Eider and an Arctic Skua April 7th A strong and unpleasantly chilly easterly wind had sprung up overnight and spoilt an otherwise fine and sunny day. Passage on the land slowed still further, with only 4 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Water Rail, a Black Redstart and a Siskin found in the Bill area. A few visible migrants were still on the move however, with a two hour count on the West Cliffs producing 143 Linnets, 55 Goldfinches, 40 Meadow Pipits, 4 alba wagtails, a Whimbrel, a Swallow, a Sand Martin and a Greenfinch flying north. Off the Bill, another 325 Common Scoter passed through, along with a steady passage of Common Gulls, 6 Oystercatchers, 6 Whimbrel, 3 Red-throated Divers, the first 2 commic terns of the spring, an Arctic Skua and a lone Sandwich Tern.



 Raven and Yellowhammer - north Portland, April 6th 2003 © Charlie Moores and Mary Snell

  April 6th Quiet anticyclonic conditions again, but with cloud cover maintained for most of the day. Migrants were surprisingly thin on the ground, with the Bill area providing little more than 40 Willow Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs, 10 Wheatears, 6 Purple Sandpipers, a Mallard, a Water Rail, a Grey Plover, a Black Redstart, a Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting. An hour-long count of visible passage on the West Cliffs revealed 145 Linnets, 50 Meadow Pipits, 13 Swallows and 8 Sand Martins passing north; a few other hirundines were logged passing through elsewhere as well. The best birds at other island sites were an Osprey over north Portland and Ferrybridge late in the afternoon, a Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry and a Redwing at Barleycrates Lane. Offshore, a small up-Channel passage of Common Scoter in the morning provided counts of 186 off the Bill and 133 off Chesil Beach; further totals at these sites included 44 Black-headed Gulls, 11 Velvet Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Shoveler and an Eider off the Bill, and the same 11 Velvet Scoter, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Sanderling, a Red-throated Diver and an Eider off Chesil. An evening watch off Chesil provided a further 51 Common and 6 Velvet Scoter, as well as 8 Shoveler.



 Redstart - Portland Bill, April 5th 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 5th Something of a repeat of yesterday, although heavier cloud cover early in the morning dropped proportionately more common migrants. Bird of the day was an Osprey that arrived in off the sea over the Bill in the morning. Willow Warblers remained by far the most numerous species, with more than 100 in the Bill area alone; also there were 25 Wheatears, 10 Swallows, 10 Chiffchaffs, 8 Song Thrushes, 5 Blackcaps, 4 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Redstarts, a Grey Plover, a Sand Martin, a Black Redstart, a Ring Ouzel and a Goldcrest. Elsewhere there was a Buzzard over the centre and north of the island again, and another Black Redstart at Reap Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced 55 Common Scoter, 14 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers and the regular 3 Puffins.



 Grey Plover - Portland Bill, April 4th 2003 © Martin Cade

  April 4th A little cloud cover at dawn prompted a few Willow Warblers to drop in, but as skies cleared the rest of the day was notable only for balmy summer-like warmth. More than 50 Willow Warbler passed rapidly through the Obs garden soon after dawn, but the only other migrants around the Bill area were 20 Wheatears, 6 Blackcaps, 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Swallows, a Merlin, a Grey Plover, a Black Redstart, a Ring Ouzel, a Sand Martin, a Goldcrest and yet another new Bullfinch (the eighth individual of this minor Bill-rarity to be trapped and ringed at the Obs so far). Elsewhere, Barleycrates Lane continued its good run of island year-ticks by providing the first Sedge Warbler of the spring. In light offshore winds the sea remained quiet, with just 35 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shelduck and a Sandwich Tern passing the Bill during the morning. April 3rd A much more pleasant day, but no sign of passage picking up again. The majority of common migrants at the Bill seemed to be left-overs from recent days: among the small numbers of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Goldcrests, there were single Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart, Blackcap and Bullfinch; visible passage consisted of no more than a few Linnets, 2 Swallows and a Yellow Wagtail. Elsewhere the only birds of note were 3 Buzzards soaring over the centre of the island. Morning seawatching at the Bill produced just 2 Common Scoter. April 2nd In chilly north-westerlies, with frequent showers through the morning, most of the interest today was on the sea. Watches at the Bill produced the first Arctic Skua of the spring, along with 7 Common and a Velvet Scoter, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Puffins, a Red-throated Diver and a Sandwich Tern; 6 Purple Sandpipers and a Turnstone were also on the rocks at the Bill-tip. On the land there were a handful of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, as well as a Ring Ouzel and a Blackcap. Two Sandwich Terns were at Ferrybridge. April 1st Yesterday's Hoopoe(s) couldn't be found and the bird of the day was another Osprey that passed though along the east side of the island during the morning. In blustery westerlies and frequent showers there was not much to be found on the land: among small numbers of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Goldcrests, there were a couple of Mallards, a Ring Ouzel and a Reed Bunting at the Bill, and another Reed Bunting at Weston. Off the Bill, 2 Manx Shearwaters were the first of the year and 22 Common Scoter, 14 Eider, 7 Red-throated Divers and 3 Curlews passed by; a flock of 21 Cormorants also arrived from the south and a Red-breasted Merganser was settled off the East Cliffs.