May 2004

May 31st With the promised rain holding off until the afternoon there was plenty of time to see that very little had arrived overnight. The Bill area provided reports of just 3 Chiffchaffs, a Turtle Dove, a Reed Warbler, a Blackcap and a Garden Warbler, as well as one of the long-staying Pheasants. The Little Stint was again at Ferrybridge, along with 2 Sanderling and a Bar-tailed Godwit, whilst 2 Arctic Skuas and 30 Common Scoter passed the Bill ahead of the rain.



  Little Stint - Ferrybridge, May 30th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 30th A Serin continued to show up from time to time at Southwell, but there was very little in the way of new arrivals around the island. Migrants in the Bill area included 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove, a Reed Warbler and a Garden Warbler, with a few Manx Shearwaters being the only worthwhile sightings on the sea there. In the evening a Little Stint was amongst the small numbers of commoner waders at Ferrybridge.



  Serins - Portland Bill, May 28th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 28th The Serin again made a few visits to the Obs garden during the morning, where suspicions that 2 individuals were involved in the sightings were confirmed at midday when both were trapped and ringed. A marked change in the weather saw the arrival of overcast skies and some light rain, but unfortunately commoner migrants remained all but absent on the land. On the sea, Manx Shearwater numbers picked up off the Bill and there was a marked movement of around 400 very distant commic terns, but the only other noteworthy sightings were of 4 Sandwich Terns and 2 Arctic Skuas. In the evening, 64 Arctic Terns flew east over Ferrybridge, where 6 Sanderling and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits were present amongst the common waders.



  Serin - Portland Bill, May 27th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 27th A Serin made a couple of brief appearances in the Obs garden during the morning and 2 Tree Sparrows were at Barleycrates Lane early in the day, but otherwise the only new arrivals reported were a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler at the Bill, a Spotted Flycatcher at Barleycrates Lane and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge. Despite the rather fresh easterly wind, seawatching at the Bill produced nothing more than a few Manx Shearwaters and 34 commic terns. May 26th Very quiet today, with the Bill area producing just 4 Reed Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Turtle Doves, a Yellow Wagtail, a Whinchat and a Willow Warbler; elsewhere there were 2 Common Sandpipers on the shore beneath the West Cliffs at Barleycrates Lane. A total of 68 commic terns trickled past the Bill, where a few Manx Shearwaters were again lingering offshore.



  Woodchat Shrike - Barleycrates Lane, May 25th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 25th Bird of the day today was an extremely mobile Woodchat Shrike that was first found in Top Fields at the Bill and eventually settled at Barleycrates Lane. A fair passage of House Martins and Swifts was evident overhead, but the only grounded common migrants of note in the Bill area were 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Turtle Dove, a Tree Pipit, a Reed Warbler and a Garden Warbler. Another Pomarine Skua passed through off the Bill, where there were otherwise just 65 commic terns, a Mallard and a few Manx Shearwaters. May 24th Precious little in the way of new arrivals today, with only Reed Warblers and Chiffchaffs at all obvious around the south of the island; a Hobby overhead at Weston was the sole oddity on the land. Forty commic terns, 11 Common Scoter and single Pomarine and Great Skuas passed the Bill, whilst 2 unseasonable Great Crested Grebes were in Portland Harbour. On the edge of the recording area, a Nightjar lingered off Chesil Beach to the north-west of Ferrybridge for more than an hour during the evening.



  Tree Sparrow - Portland Bill, May 23rd 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 23rd With the Golden Oriole having moved on it was left to a Tree Sparrow at the Obs to provide some rarity interest today (in the hand this bird was found to have a conspicuous brood-patch and so was presumably a dispersing failed breeder). The light sprinkle of commoner migrants around the south of the island included 10 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Whinchat, whilst 2 Hobbies passed through overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 110 commic terns and 32 Common Scoter passing through and a few Manx Shearwaters lingering offshore, and waders at Ferrybridge included 220 Dunlin, 54 Ringed Plover, 3 Knot and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits.



  Marsh Harrier - Priory Corner, May 22nd 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 22nd The Golden Oriole remained in Top Fields but most of the other interest today related to birds passing straight through into the brisk north-east wind; 2 Marsh Harriers were the quality, but there were also 3 Hobbies, a Turtle Dove and a steady passage of Swifts. Grounded migrants were all but non-existent, although yet another Nightjar was seen at Avalanche Road. The sea produced 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver passing the Bill.



  Nightjar - Culverwell, May 21st 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 21st Interest was provided today by the continued presence of the Golden Oriole in Top Fields and the arrival of 2 more Nightjars (in the Obs garden and at Culverwell). A weak weather front passed through in the night and the light pre-dawn shower and stiff north wind that it introduced helped drop a few more late migrants. At the Bill, 50 Spotted Flycatchers and 20 Reed Warblers made up the bulk of numbers, but there was also a scatter of other late arrivals together with more than 100 Swifts, 3 Hobbies and 3 Turtle Doves that passed through overhead. Three Knot were again the pick of the waders at Ferrybridge.



  Golden Oriole - Portland Bill, May 20th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 20th A Golden Oriole had been on the cards for a few days and one duly appeared this morning in Top Fields at the Bill - always the island hot-spot for the species. A Nightjar was also seen there and a lone Canada Goose was again at the Bill. Common migrants were a little more conspicuous everywhere, with 10 Reed Warblers, 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Blackcaps, 4 Willow Warblers, 2 Wheatears, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers and a Whinchat at the Bill.



  Canada Goose - Portland Bill, May 19th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 19th The fact that a fly-over Canada Goose at the Bill was the highlight just about summed up a day that was great for sunbathing but hopeless for birding. The few common migrants around the centre and south of the island included 8 Chiffchaffs, 7 Dunlin, 7 Whinchats, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove, a Reed Warbler and a Garden Warbler, whilst seawatching at the Bill produced nothing better than a lone Great Northern Diver. May 18th Still glorious summer-like weather and very few birds. A Honey Buzzard arriving in off the sea at Chesil Cove early in the morning was the day's highlight, but otherwise the best the island could offer was a Turtle Dove amongst the handful of late migrants at the Bill, a Pomarine Skua passing through on the sea there and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Sanderling and 3 Knot with the commoner waders at Ferrybridge. May 17th With the weather still set fair there was precious little change in the bird situation, with late migrants reduced to a trickle. Chiffchaffs and Spotted Flycatchers just managed double-figure counts around the south of the island, where a couple of Turtle Doves, a late Robin and a Corn Bunting at the Bill were only faintly interesting sightings. Elsewhere, an unseasonable Black Redstart was near Blacknor. With what breeze there was still blowing offshore the only reports from the sea were of 81 commic terns, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 13 Common Scoter and 2 Great Northern Divers passing the Bill. Waders at Ferrybridge included 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Sanderling, 3 Knot, 2 Grey Plovers and a Whimbrel.




  White Wagtail and Little Stint - Ferrybridge, May 16th 2004 © Debby Saunders (top) and Martin Cade (others)

  May 16th Another hot, sunny day. A wealth of common migrants was never on the cards, but unfortunately the hoped-for rarity failed to materialise and it was left to 2 possible Mealy Redpolls trapped and ringed at the Obs to salvage some interest from the day. Plenty of Swifts, hirundines and a lone Hobby passed through overhead, but interest on the ground was restricted to the 2 long-staying Pheasants, a couple of Turtle Doves and the lightest scatter of commoner migrants at the Bill and a single White Wagtail at Ferrybridge. The sea was just as quiet, with only 55 commic terns, 45 Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill. Waders at Ferrybridge in the evening included 3 Knot, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Little Stint.




  White Stork - Priory Corner, May 15th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 15th A bad start to the day for island birders when belated news was received of a crucial Portland dip - a Temminck's Stint (the first record for the island) seen briefly at Ferrybridge yesterday afternoon - was somewhat tempered when a White Stork (the only previous island record occurred as long ago as 1972) appeared over the north of the island at midday before leaving towards Weymouth. In hot and sunny weather the only common migrants in anything other than ones and twos were Whinchats, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers on the ground and Swifts and Swallows overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 118 Common Scoter, 35 Manx Shearwaters, 12 commic terns, 3 Great Northern Divers and an Arctic Skua passing through and a lone Little Egret arriving from the south.



  Knot - Ferrybridge, May 14th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 14th There was plenty more evidence that the majority of commoner migrants have now passed through, with overcast skies and even the odd spot of rain early in the morning failing to drop anything in any numbers. A Jay at Avalanche Road was a good island-rarity and a Hobby passed through at the Bill, but the only commoner migrants that were at all conspicuous were Swifts, Swallows and House Martins overhead, and Sedge Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers on the ground. The sea fared little better, with just 100 Manx Shearwaters, 11 commic terns and a Great Skua off the Bill. Four Knot and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits were at Ferrybridge.



Little Tern and Curlew Sandpiper - Ferrybridge, May 13th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 13th Despite promising-looking overcast skies at dawn there was a lot less to be seen than yesterday and - from the common migrant point of view at least - there was a distinct end of spring passage feel about proceedings. Grounded migrants at the Bill included a few of all the expected late spring migrants, as well as 3 more Wood Warblers to add to the recent good run of sightings there. Overhead, there were still plenty of Swallows on the move, as well as a Grey Heron and a Merlin at the Bill, a Crossbill at Southwell and a Hobby and a Redpoll further 'up-Island'. The best the sea could offer was a Little Egret and an Arctic Skua passing off the Bill, whilst waders at Ferrybridge included 10 Sanderling, 2 Knot and a Curlew Sandpiper. May 12th A light headwind and overcast skies saw common migrants trickle through in surprising numbers all day, with totals around the Bill area of 120 Willow Warblers, 75 Whitethroats, 50 Sedge Warblers, 30 Garden Warblers, 30 Spotted Flycatchers, 25 Whinchats and 25 Reed Warblers. A Corncrake in and around the Obs garden for a short while in the afternoon was the rarity highlight of the day, whilst scarce migrants included a Hobby, a Turtle Dove and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Knot and a Curlew Sandpiper at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 95 Manx Shearwaters, 85 commic terns, 5 Pomarine and 3 Arctic Skuas, and 3 Great Northern and 2 Red-throated Divers.



  Blyth's Reed Warbler - Portland Bill, May 11th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 11th There was a startling and completely unexpected start to the day when a Blyth's Reed Warbler (biometry and more in-hand photos) was trapped and ringed soon after dawn in the Obs garden; it was released into the Obs Quarry but later searches for it drew a blank. Common migrants were not at all numerous, but a miscellaneous selection of oddities and scarcer migrants included a Little Egret and a Spotted Redshank both flying north along the West Cliffs, and 2 Firecrests, a Hobby, a Wood Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher at the Bill. Early morning seawatching at the Bill produced 3 Pomarine and 2 Arctic Skuas before thick fog rolled in and hampered viewing. Waders at Ferrybridge included 100 Dunlin and 8 Sanderling.



  'Continental' Coal Tit - Portland Bill, May 10th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 10th More of the same today, although numbers were somewhat reduced on both the land and sea. At the Bill, Whinchats, Sedge Warblers and Sylvia warblers dominated, whilst oddities included a Turtle Dove, a Wood Warbler and a 'Continental' Coal Tit; elsewhere there was another Wood Warbler at Weston Street. Overhead, Swifts, Swallows and House Martins were on the move in quantity, 4 Hobbies and a Merlin passed through at the Bill and a Siskin flew north over Weston. Seawatching at the Bill produced 114 Common Scoter, 96 commic terns, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Pomarine Skuas and an Arctic Skua, whilst 2 more Pomarine Skuas were seen off Chesil Beach.



  Wood Warbler - Portland Bill, May 9th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 9th An overcast, damp dawn saw the first decent arrival of common migrants for over a week, with the Bill area producing counts of 100 Garden Warblers, 70 Sedge Warblers, 70 Whitethroats and 60 Blackcaps; most other species were poorly represented, but oddities there included a Hobby, a Cuckoo, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Wood Warbler. Pomarine Skuas featured again off the Bill where another 9 flew east; also off there were 145 Common Scoter, 8 Arctic Skuas, 4 Little Terns, 3 Great Northern Divers and a Little Gull. May 8th Despite the continuing north-west wind another 24 Pomarine Skuas passed the Bill today, where the spring total now exceeds 100 birds (the second-highest spring total ever); 100 Manx Shearwaters, 24 Common Scoter, 10 Sanderling, 4 Great Northern Divers, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Great Skuas and 2 Arctic Skuas also passed through there. The land remained the poor relation, with the sprinkle of common migrants at the Bill including nothing better than 10 Whimbrel, 5 Garden Warblers, 4 Wheatears, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Common Sandpiper, a Turtle Dove and a Pied Flycatcher. Elsewhere, an Osprey flew overhead at Kingbarrow Quarry where there was also another Turtle Dove.



  Whinchat - North Portland, May 7th 2004 © Charlie Moores

  May 7th With precious little change in the weather it was a surprise that there was a strong movement of Pomarine Skuas past the Bill, where 31 flew east through the day (although these and all the other seabirds seen were very distant in the clear conditions); 350 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Arctic Skuas, 5 Great Northern Divers and 2 Great Skuas also passed through there. The land remained relatively quiet: a Lapland Bunting flew north over Southwell but there was otherwise just with a light scatter of common migrants everywhere. May 6th A day that did little more than confirm that clear, north-westerly conditions aren't much use on the land or sea. The light sprinkle of migrants in the Bill area included 9 Whimbrel, 7 Wheatears, 2 Curlews, 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove, a Black Redstart and a Sedge Warbler, whilst another 2 Turtle Doves were at Avalanche Road. A late afternoon pulse of 5 Pomarine and 3 Arctic Skuas off the Bill enlivened seawatching that had otherwise produced just 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Great Northern Divers. May 5th A shift in wind direction to north-westerly was no help on the land or sea. The only news was from the Bill, where there were 100 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Great Northern and a Red-throated Diver, and 2 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas on the sea, and 10 Purple Sandpipers, 8 Wheatears, 5 Whimbrel and a Lesser Whitethroat on the land.



  Pomarine Skuas - Portland Bill, May 4th 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 4th Another seawatching day, with gale-force westerly winds having set in overnight and squally showers or longer spells of rain persisting throughout the day. Watches at the Bill produced 11 Pomarine, 10 Great and 7 Arctic Skuas, 4 Sandwich Terns and a single Great Northern Diver, with Manx Shearwaters getting moving in large numbers during the afternoon. Another single Pomarine Skua was off Chesil Cove.



  Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Diver - Portland Bill, May 3rd 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 3rd Most of the interest today was on the sea, with the Bill producing 2 very early Long-tailed Skuas as well as 150 Manx Shearwaters, 48 Common Scoter, 21 commic Terns, 10 Great Northern, 4 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 4 Arctic, 2 Pomarine and 1 Great Skua and 2 Eider; another 3 Arctic Skuas were seen off Chesil Beach. On the land, there was a scatter of common migrants everywhere but the only really noteworthy sighting was of a pair of Blue-headed Wagtails at the Bill; overhead, Swallows were again on the move in quantity.



  Whimbrel and Serin - Portland Bill and Southwell, May 2nd 2004 © Martin Cade (left) and Debby Saunders (right)

  May 2nd The damp and dreary weather of recent days was replaced by clear blue skies and unbroken sunshine - not the conditions to provide another fall of migrants but much better for seawatchers and visible migrations counters. The sprinkle of grounded migrants included a Serin that visited a garden at Southwell twice during the afternoon, a Cuckoo and a Corn Bunting at Weston, but otherwise nothing else of particular note and nothing in any numbers. Overhead, Swallows streamed through, with sample counts suggesting a day total of more than 5000; a Bee-eater passed straight through along the West Cliffs during the morning, with 3 Hobbies and a Marsh Harrier also arriving from the south. A Black Guillemot settled off Chesil Beach was the seabird highlight of the day, with further totals of 600 commic Terns, 130 Common Scoter, 13 Pomarine Skuas, 10 Little Gulls, 9 Little Terns, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Black Terns, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver off the Bill and 370 commic Terns, 66 Common Scoter, 7 Little Gulls, 2 Black Terns and 2 Arctic Skuas off Chesil Beach.



  Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat - Portland Bill, May 1st 2004 © Martin Cade

  May 1st Still no end to the supply of common migrants, with another bumper fall of birds throughout the island today. Virtually all of the expected spring migrants were numerous, with noteworthy counts at the Bill of 150 Wheatears, 150 Whitethroats, 70 Blackcaps, 60 Garden Warblers, 50 Whinchats, 30 Sedge Warblers, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Tree Pipits, 11 Grasshopper Warblers, 6 Hobbies, 6 Lesser Whitethroats, a Cuckoo, a Black Redstart and a Wood Warbler; a similar wealth of migrants were reported elsewhere around the island. Rarity interest was provided by 2 Nightjars and a Wryneck at the Bill. Seawatching was hampered by poor visibility, but it was evident that there were a lot more birds on the move than in recent days. Chesil Beach provided lots of variety, including 450 commic Terns, 180 Manx Shearwaters, 54 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Little Gulls, a Long-tailed Duck and a Great Skua, whilst the Bill came up with 350 commic Terns, 13 Little Gulls, 6 Black Terns, 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and 1 Great, 1 Arctic and 1 Pomarine Skua.