September 2003

September 30th Another very disappointing day with stiff south-easterly winds and overcast skies promising to produce birds on land and sea but, in the event, next to nothing showing up. A briefly seen probable Little Bunting at Lancridge eluded subsequent searchers, and the only other birds of even minor interest on the land were a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Verne Common and a Merlin at the Bill; common migrants were reduced to just the odd single here and there. A prolonged seawatch at the Bill produced just 27 commic and 6 Arctic Terns, 15 Common Scoter, 4 Arctic Skuas and a Sooty Shearwater. September 29th Things just aren't getting going at the moment. Overhead passage of pipits, wagtails, hirundines and finches was quite heavy for a while early in the morning, but grounded migrants were again in short supply. Scarcer migrants consisted of the Great Spotted Woodpecker that appeared at the Bill again, single Firecrests at Culverwell and Pennsylvania Castle, and a lone Turtle Dove at the Bill. The sea provided just 1 Arctic Skua passing the Bill. September 28th Precious little to report today, with both the land and the sea remaining distinctly quiet. Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails were on the move in quantity overhead, but the scatter of grounded common migrants included nothing of more interest than 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Casle and another at the Bill, and a Merlin at Southwell. A lone Balearic Shearwater was the only bird of note off the Bill.



 Great Spotted Woodpecker - Portland Bill, September 27th 2003 © Martin Cade

  September 27th A re-run of yesterday, albeit with somewhat fewer common migrants on show. A Great Spotted Woodpecker that did a round of the Bill area during the morning was the only scarcity found amongst the standard fare of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and other typical migrants that were all present in small numbers; single Firecrests at the Obs and Culverwell were the only less common migrants reported. September 26th A typical mid-autumn day with a reasonable sprinkle of common migrants everywhere, although the only local rarity found was a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell. Sample counts from the Bill area included 60 Chiffchaffs, 25 Goldcrests, 10 Wheatears, 6 Blackcaps, 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Firecrests, 2 Tree Pipits, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Whitethroat, as well as fair numbers of new Robins and Dunnocks. Overhead, there were a couple of Siskins and the first double figure count of Chaffinches amongst the larger numbers of hirundines, pipits and wagtails on the move. The sea was still rather quiet, with 5 Great and an Arctic Skua, 4 Eider, 2 Wigeon and a Balearic Shearwater constituting the only noteworthy sightings off the Bill. September 25th Bird of the day today was a Melodious Warbler reported several times in and around the Obs garden during the afternoon and evening. Commoner migrants around the centre and south of the island included 40 Chiffchaffs, 20 Wheatears, 15 Goldcrests and 10 Whinchats, whilst the variety of species in smaller numbers included both a Merlin and a Firecrest at the Bill, and the first Redwing of the autumn at Avalanche Road. The sea remained very quiet, with just 12 Common Scoter, 4 Arctic and a Great Skua, 4 Shelduck and a Balearic Shearwater passing the Bill. September 24th With a heavy passage of more than 3000 Meadow Pipits and plenty of hirundines passing overhead a fly-over rarity was on the cards, and it duly arrived in the form of a Red-throated Pipit over Weston Corner late in the morning; searches for the bird at the Bill and elsewhere drew a blank. Further fly-overs included 6 Golden Plovers and 2 Snipe at the Bill. Grounded migrants were only sparsely spread, and included nothing much better than a Tree Pipit, a Firecrest and a Pied Flycatcher at the Bill. September 23rd Just a sprinkle of common migrants today in clear, much fresher north-westerly weather. The Bill area produced 25 Wheatears, 20 Chiffchaffs, and ones and twos of a few other species including the first couple of Garden Warblers for some days, 2 Firecrests, a Buzzard, a Merlin and a Purple Sandpiper; overhead passage was disappointingly poor, with the first decent of movement of alba wagtails being the only minor highlight. The sea produced nothing more than up to 4 Great Skuas lingering amongst the fishing flock of Gannets off the Bill. Elsewhere there was a Hobby at Reap Lane, and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Knot at Ferrybridge. September 22nd A dramatic change in the weather today, with the recent Indian Summer well and truly blown away by the arrival of a blast of north-westerlies that saw temperatures plunge during the afternoon. A lone Firecrest in the Obs garden was the sole report of interest from the land. Seawatching provided totals of 21 Common Scoter, 6 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, 3 Sooty and 3 Manx Shearwaters, a Wigeon and a Yellow-legged Gull off the Bill, and 6 Great and 3 Arctic Skuas at Chesil Cove. September 21st Not a lot of change today, with the Barred Warbler remaining in and around the Obs Quarry and a fair scatter of commoner migrants on view everywhere. At least 1 Firecrest, a Kingfisher and a Black Redstart were still at the Bill, where Chiffchaff numbers increased to 40 and the first 2 Redpolls of the autumn passed overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced totals of 19 Common Scoter, 10 Sandwich Terns, 4 Arctic and 3 Great Skuas, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and a Mediterranean Gull.



 Barred Warbler - Portland Bill, September 20th 2003 © Martin Cade

  September 20th The recent lull ended with the discovery of a showy Barred Warbler in the Obs Quarry and a fleeting Common Rosefinch at Reap Lane. Common migrant numbers and variety picked up a little, although the pick of the bunch - 3 Long-tailed Tits, a Black Redstart and a Firecrest at the Bill - were actually lingering on from previous days rather than being new arrivals.



 Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill, September 19th 2003 © James Lees

  September 19th Poor reward again today with passage on land and sea remaining at a virtual standstill. Among the pitiful variety of common migrants at the Bill the only faintly interesting scarcities were 3 Firecrests, 3 Long-tailed Tits and a Black Redstart. Seawatching there produced a single Balearic Shearwater. A better variety of waders at Ferrybridge included 200 Dunlin, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Sanderling and a Curlew Sandpiper.



 Firecrest - Portland Bill, September 18th 2003 © Martin Cade

  September 18th The arrival of heavily overcast skies promised much but failed to deliver, and there were even  fewer common migrants on view than in recent days. At the Bill, Wheatear was the only grounded migrant that managed a double figure count; oddities there included 7 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Firecrests, a Hobby and a Merlin. Despite a freshening onshore wind the sea was also very quiet, with 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a single Great Skua being the only noteworthy sightings off the Bill. September 17th Interest dwindled still further today and the only minor island-rarity to be seen was the Kingfisher that remained on the East Cliffs at the Bill. Ones and twos of most of the expected commoner migrants were at the Bill, where oddities also included a Buzzard, a Hobby, a Merlin and a Black Redstart. September 16th Little change today in more hot, sunny weather. The Melodious Warbler remained on the edge of the Obs garden, an Ortolan Bunting flew north over Top Fields, the Kingfisher lingered along the East Cliffs at the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was watched flying south along the Chesil Beach and a Water Rail was at Yeolands Quarry. Hirundines were again conspicuous overhead but grounded common migrants remained few and far between; the best at the Bill were 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Turtle Dove. Seawatching at the Bill produced just 6 Eider and a lone Great Skua.



 House Martins - Portland Bill, September 15th 2003 © Martin Cade

  September 15th In balmy summer-like conditions the Melodious Warbler remained on show at the Obs, an Ortolan Bunting was in Top Fields and a Wryneck showed up near Avalanche Church. Grounded migrants were all but absent, with the best being a Kingfisher and a Turtle Dove at the Bill, whilst overhead passage again consisted largely of good numbers of hirundines and Meadow Pipits at the Bill. The sea came up with nothing better than single Arctic and Great Skuas off the Bill. Waders at Ferrybridge included 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Curlew Sandpiper. September 14th Today's rarity list consisted of the long-staying Melodious Warbler that remained beside the Obs garden, two new Wrynecks that dropped in at Reap Lane and at Lloyds Cottage, one or two Ortolan Buntings that flew south over Top Fields and another that showed up at Suckthumb Quarry, a Marsh Harrier that flew south between Easton and Southwell, and a ringtail harrier sp that was seen briefly at the Bill. Grounded migrants were fewer than on any day for quite a while, whilst visible passage - hirundines aside - was a lot less conspicuous than on the last couple of days; pick of the bunch at the Bill were a Merlin, a Greenshank, a Short-eared Owl and a Grasshopper Warbler, whilst elsewhere there was another Merlin at Ferrybridge and a Firecrest at Reap Lane.



 Honey Buzzard - Portland Bill, September 13th 2003 © James Lees

  September 13th With the wind having swung into the east again there were high hopes of a few more oddities dropping in and the weekend visitors were certainly not disappointed. The Melodious Warbler remained on the edge of the Obs garden, Wrynecks showed up near Southwell and at Barleycrates Lane, an Ortolan Bunting paid a brief visit to Top Fields and a Honey Buzzard flew north up the island during the afternoon. Under very clear skies a fall of commoner migrants certainly wasn't on the cards and most of the routine passage was of passing diurnal migrants, with Meadow Pipits again dominating; the best of the grounded birds were a couple of Turtle Doves and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill. Seawatching there provided totals of 6 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua and a single Balearic Shearwater. September 12th The Melodious Warbler continued to show from time to time on the edge of the Obs garden but the only quality new arrival was a Lapland Bunting that flew over the Top Fields during the morning. Visible passage was again very conspicuous overhead, with Meadow Pipits dominating: 1270 flew north at the Bill in an hour and a quarter early in the morning. The land otherwise remained fairly quiet, with the pick of the bunch at the Bill being 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Merlin and a Firecrest. Interest dwindled on the sea, where there were just 42 Common Scoter and 30 Sandwich Terns logged passing the Bill. September 11th After a couple of days avoiding both the mist-nets and the gaze of visiting birders the Melodious Warbler was re-trapped again in the Obs garden during the morning. Despite heavily overcast skies there was a surprisingly strong passage of pipits, wagtails and hirundines over the Bill, where grounded migrants were not particularly numerous; the first Firecrest of the autumn was the best of the sightings there. A steady westward trickle on the sea provided counts including 63 Common Scoter, 21 Arctic Skuas, 4 Wigeon, and 3 Balearic and a Manx Shearwater. September 10th Quieter all round today, with the best bird found being a Cetti's Warbler near Bumpers Lane. In blustery westerlies the sea provided a little interest, with 4 Balearic and a Sooty Shearwater, 3 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, and a handful of commic and Sandwich Terns logged passing the Bill. Common migrants were hard to find in the trying conditions, with the best being 25 Grey Wagtails, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Hobby and a Purple Sandpiper at the Bill, and single Redstart and Pied and Spotted Flycatchers near Bumpers Lane.



 Merlin - Portland Bill, September 6th 2003 © Adrian Webb

  September 9th In stiff north-westerlies, new rarities weren't really expected and it was left to single Wrynecks at the Hut Fields/Obs and Barleycrates Lane to provide some interest. An early Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane was the best of the commoner migrants, although there were surprisingly good numbers and variety elsewhere, with the Bill area producing counts including 50 Wheatears, 40 Willow Warblers, 30 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Tree Pipits, 15 Whinchats, 10 White Wagtails, 10 Grey Wagtails, 8 Blackcaps, 5 Pied Flycatchers, 4 Redstarts, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers, a Merlin, a Hobby, a Common Sandpiper and a Turtle Dove. Ten Knot and a Bar-tailed Godwit were new arrivals amongst the commoner waders at Ferrybridge. September 8th The quietest day for a while, although a passing Long-tailed Skua off the Bill provided some compensation for the dearth of birds on the land. The only one of the weekend rarities still on view was the Melodious Warbler that showed up in the Obs garden again in the evening. Grounded migrants were very sparsely spread, with the best being a Golden Plover, a Merlin and a Turtle Dove at the Bill, whilst overhead passage there included 25 Grey Wagtails and a lone Marsh Harrier. Six Balearic Shearwaters passed through on the sea at the Bill. September 7th Rarity interest today was restricted to the Melodious Warbler that was again at the Obs and the Obs Quarry, the Rosy Starling that wandered between Easton and the Grove, and single Wrynecks that showed up at the Obs Quarry and Bumpers Lane; a 'near miss' were the 2 presumed Caspian Terns that flew west past the Bill during the morning. A good overhead passage of pipits and wagtails - including the first decent Meadow Pipit movement of the autumn - was the highlight of the common migrant arrivals, whilst seawatching at the Bill produced 6 Balearic Shearwaters and a Great Crested Grebe.



 Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill, September 6th 2003 © James Lees

  September 6th Pick of the new arrivals today were a Melodious Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs and a fly-over Tawny Pipit at the Bill; Wrynecks remained at the Pulpit Pub bushes, Top Fields and Reap/Barleycrates Lane, and the Rosy Starling moved a short distance from the Grove to Easton. Pick of the sparse scatter of commoner migrants were 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and a Merlin at the Bill, and a Cuckoo at Barleycrates Lane.


Wryneck, Icterine Warbler and Little Egrets - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, September 5th 2003 © James Lees (top) and Charlie Moores (centre and bottom)

  September 5th A few more new arrivals showed up today to join some of the longer staying rarities still around the island. An Icterine Warbler was new at Culverwell, single Wrynecks at Top Fields, Reap Lane and St George's Church were additional to the bird that remained at the Pulpit Pub bushes, and there were still two or more very mobile and elusive Ortolan Buntings doing the rounds of various sites between the Bill and Barleycrates Lane. Commoner migrants were still pretty thin on the ground, with just single figure counts of everything except Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and Wheatear; the best of the scarcer migrants was a Hobby at the Bill. September 4th Quieter today, with the only left-over rarities being a Wryneck beside the Pulpit Pub and 2 or more Ortolan Buntings that were always elusive but popped up at several spots between the Bill and Barleycrates Lane. A Fieldfare was an exceptionally early arrival at the Bill, where the light scatter of common migrants otherwise included 70 Wheatears, 40 Yellow Wagtails and 15 Tree Pipits.



 Icterine Warbler and Yellow-breasted Bunting - Portland Bill and Southwell, September 3rd 2003 © Martin Cade

  September 3rd Yesterday's lull certainly proved to be short-lived and the cracking selection of new arrivals today included a Yellow-breasted Bunting at Southwell and an Icterine Warbler at the Obs, as well as a minimum of 6 Ortolan Buntings and 3 Wrynecks dotted widely around the island; the Rose-coloured Starling also showed up again at the Grove. Common migrants also arrived in quantity, with noteworthy counts from the southern half of the island of 100 Whinchats, 25 Pied Flycatchers and 20 Redstarts, as well as 2 Hobbies, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Short-eared Owl and a Wood Warbler. Waders increased at Ferrybridge, where there were 385 Dunlin and 255 Ringed Plovers. September 2nd All good things must come to an end, and today saw the clear-out after the recent excellent run of birds; a lone Ortolan Bunting overhead at the Bill was the only rarity found anywhere on the island. Commoner migrants were well spread in small numbers, with the best being 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and a Turtle Dove at the Bill. September 1st Despite there being no sign of the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler there was still plenty of interest around the island. The Rose-coloured Starling started the day at Reap Lane before moving to the Grove, 3 Wrynecks were in the Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane area and another was at the Grove, at least 1 Ortolan Bunting roamed between the Bill Top Fields and Barleycrates Lane, a Montagu's Harrier flew south over the Bill during the morning and an Osprey circled the Grove during the afternoon. Wheatears and Whinchats were still present in good numbers but most other commoner migrants were thin on the ground. Seawatching at the Bill produced just a Balearic Shearwater and a Mediterranean Gull.