December 2003

December 31st A surprisingly busy end to the year with a chilly easterly breeze being the cue for some movement offshore and a couple of interesting late arrivals on the land. Seawatching at the Bill produced 33 Wigeon, 13 Red-throated Divers, 10 Common Scoter, 4 Mallard, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, a Teal, a Gadwall, a Pintail, a Tufted Duck and a Little Gull; 8 Common Scoter and 3 Eider were also still lingering offshore. A Blackcap and a Siskin were new arrivals at the Obs and there were still fair numbers of Song Thrushes, 2 Black Redstarts and a Snipe at the Bill. An Eider was in Portland Harbour, a Black Redstart was still at Portland Castle and 9 Little Egrets were at Ferrybridge. December 30th Quieter weather today allowed the southern half of the island to be checked more thoroughly than of late. Notable sightings included 2 Goldcrests and a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle, a Black Redstart and a Redwing at Barleycrates Lane, a Chiffchaff at Weston, a Fieldfare at Avalanche Road and 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Redwing at the Bill; there was also a distinct influx of Song Thrushes, with 44 counted between the Bill and Weston/Easton. Twelve Common Scoter and 3 Eider remained off the Bill, where 5 Red-throated Divers also flew past; another 2 Red-throated Divers flew over Portland Harbour and there were 2 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge. December 29th Another wet and windy day that offered few chances to venture outdoors. Nine Purple Sandpipers were at the Bill, where 17 Common Scoter remained offshore and a lone Red-throated Diver flew past. Elsewhere, a Black Redstart was at Southwell.



  Shag - Portland Bill, December 28th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 28th The flock of Common Scoter and Eider were still off the Bill, where 2 Red-throated Divers and a Teal also passed through.



  Great Skua - Portland Bill, December 27th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 27th A succession of heavy, squally showers of rain and hail meant that seawatching was again the only birding worth any effort. Two Great Skuas passed through off the Bill and another 1 or 2 were seen at Chesil Cove. The flock of 15 Common Scoter and 3 Eider were still lingering off the Bill and 10 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Turnstones were on the shore below the East Cliffs. A lone Eider was in Portland Harbour. December 26th Highlight today was a Little Auk settled in Chesil Cove for a while during the morning. The only other news was of 17 Common Scoter and 3 Eider off the Bill and the wintering Black Redstart still on the East Cliffs at the Bill. December 25th The flock of 11 Common Scoter and 3 Eider remained off the Bill where there were also very large numbers of Gannets, gulls and auks feeding distantly offshore - presumably being attracted by shoaling sprats which have apparently become abundant in the area lately.



  Kittiwake - Portland Bill, December 24th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 24th The only news today was of 14 Common Scoter and 3 Eider settled off the Bill and 2 fly-by Red-throated Divers there. December 23rd The flock of 11 Common Scoter and 3 Eider were still off the Bill, where 7 Red-throated Divers and 3 Velvet Scoters also passed through. Portland Harbour was a little busier than of late, producing totals of 7 Black-necked and 2 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver, 2 Eider and a Kingfisher. Single wintering Black Redstarts were at the Bill and on the Harbour shore. December 22nd More of the same today. Four Song Thrushes and a Redwing were at the Bill, a Red-throated Diver passed through and 11 Common Scoter and 3 Eider remained lingering offshore there, and Portland Harbour produced 6 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Eider and a Great Northern Diver. December 21st Eight Common Scoter were still lingering off the Bill, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Brent Geese passed through there and the wintering Black Redstart remained along the East Cliffs at the Bill. December 20th Very little to report today in wet and windy weather. Ten Common Scoter and 3 Eider were lingering off the Bill, a Great Skua was at Chesil Cove and a Black Redstart visited a garden at Southwell. December 19th Typical fare today, with the Bill area producing 2 Siskins, a Water Rail, a Snipe, a Black Redstart and a Redwing; a total of 11 Stonechats were found between the Bill and Tout Quarry, and another 2 Black Redstarts were at Blacknor. Six Common Scoter and 3 Eider were again off the Bill and a single Black-throated Diver was in Portland Harbour.



  Great Northern Diver - Portland Bill, December 18th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 18th A pleasantly mild and sunny day that at least made seeing nothing particularly out of the ordinary quite enjoyable. Odds and sods at the Bill included 80 Starlings moving north, a Water Rail, a Snipe and a Firecrest, whilst elsewhere there were 3 Goldcrests and a Treecreeper at Pennsylvania Castle and a Chiffchaff at Weston. A Red-throated Diver passed through off the Bill, where a Mediterranean Gull was also lingering, and a Great Northern Diver flew south high over the West Cliffs. December 17th The only news today was of 15 Song Thrushes at the Bill, a Firecrest at Culverwell and 3 Red-throated Divers passing on the sea off the Bill. December 16th New arrivals today included 350 Starlings, a dozen Song Thrushes and a Blackcap at the Bill and 16 Chaffinches at Southwell; presumed winterers included 6 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill, a few Redwings at Southwell and single Goldcrests at the Bill and Southwell, whilst a Barn Owl seen before dawn at Wide Street was perhaps the individual that has been seen from time in recent months both there and on the Beach Road. Seawatching at the Bill produced 18 Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Divers, 3 Eider and 2 Brent Geese. December 15th Still, clear mornings continue to produce a handful of late migrants, with 20 Goldfinches, 3 Brambling, a Redwing and a Fieldfare passing overhead at the Bill this morning. Single wintering Black Redstarts were also still at the Bill and Portland Castle, and 2 Great Northern Divers were in Portland Harbour  

After an autumn spent at PBO, James Lees is now in Canada - click here for James's new website chronicling his birding adventures there.


December 14th Despite a big improvement in the weather there was still little to be seen around the island. The 8 Common Scoter and single Eider were still off the Bill where 2 Red-throated Divers also flew past. Elsewhere a Velvet Scoter was a new arrival in Portland Harbour, where there also 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Common Scoter and an Eider. December 13th Same weather, same birds. The 8 Common Scoter and single Eider were still off the Bill and the lone Redwing was still in the Obs garden. The only news from elsewhere was of a single Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour. December 12th Damp, dismal weather saw to it that there were hardly any birders in the field. The only news was of a solitary Redwing in the Obs garden and 8 Common Scoter and an Eider lingering off the Bill.



  Turnstone - Portland Bill, December 11th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 11th Just a few snippets of news from the Bill today, where there were 8 Purple Sandpipers, a Turnstone and a Redwing on the land and 3 Red-throated Divers past on the sea. December 10th A pleasantly mild and bright day that produced a handful of late migrants, with new arrivals at the Bill including 20 Song Thrushes, 10 Chaffinches, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Siskins, a Redwing and a Brambling; a lone Red-throated Diver was the only worthwhile sighting on the sea there. Odds and sods elsewhere included 3 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour, 8 Little Egrets and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge and a Black Redstart at Portland Harbour Sailing Academy. December 9th Very little to report again today. A Black Redstart was a new arrival at the Bill where there otherwise just a few Song Thrushes and the wintering Goldcrest; an Eider and a Little Gull were the only noteworthy birds on the sea there. December 8th Another dull, chilly and windy day. The only news came from the Bill area, where there were 4 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Lapwings, 2 Snipe, a Water Rail, a Black Redstart, a Redwing and a Goldcrest on the land, and 3 Eider and 2 Red-throated Divers passing through on the sea. December 7th A blasting easterly wind prevented any serious birding other than seawatching at the Bill, where 16 Teal, 2 Wigeon, a Red-throated Diver, a Shelduck, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Snipe passed through. The only other news was of a Golden Plover and a Redwing on the land at the Bill, and 600 Dark-bellied and a lone Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge.



  Fieldfare - Portland Bill, December 6th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 6th There was another small flurry of late migrants at the Bill today, including 12 Chaffinches, 6 Fieldfares, 5 Redwings, a Golden Plover, a Blackcap, a Goldcrest, a Redpoll and a Yellowhammer.



  Pink-footed Geese - Southwell, December 5th 2003 © Martin Cade

  December 5th A dreary, cold day that produced a good island rarity in the form of 3 Pink-footed Geese: a lone individual flew north over the Bill soon after dawn, whilst later in the morning 2 birds together passed overhead at the Bill and Southwell before leaving to the west. New arrivals in the Bill area included 10 Redwings, 5 Lapwings, 3 Snipe and 3 Fieldfares; seawatching there produced 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua. A flock of 18 Eider were new arrivals in Portland Harbour, where there were also 80 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Great Northern Diver and a Common Scoter December 4th Thrushes were still on the move at the Bill where 45 Redwings, 20 Song Thrushes, 15 Blackbirds, 3 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush passed through during the morning; a Blackcap, a Goldcrest and a Siskin were also new arrivals there. Offshore, Gannets and Kittiwakes were feeding in good numbers, whilst more than 1000 auks, 7 Brent Geese, 6 Velvet Scoters, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Wigeon also passed through. December 3rd Clear weather in the morning saw a few more late migrants pass through at the Bill, where there were 20 Chaffinches, 19 Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes, 5 Fieldfares, 2 Bramblings, 2 Siskins, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest. The only news from other sites was of a Blackcap and a Goldcrest at Wakeham. December 2nd Despite the return of quieter weather there was little to report again today. Small numbers of Redwings were scattered around the south of the island, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff were still at Pennsylvania Castle, another lone Goldcrest was at Avalanche Road and a there was a Black Redstart at Southwell. Two Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill and a Mediterranean Gull was at Ferrybridge. December 1st A dismal start to December with heavy rain throughout the morning and the drier afternoon spoilt by a raw north-east wind. The only news from round the island was of 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge, 6 Common Scoter lingering off the Bill and 4 Redwings and a Goldcrest in the Obs garden.