March 2005



Black Redstart - Portland Bill, March 31st 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 31st

A slightly better day for common migrants than recently although the fact that the total of 39 new birds trapped and ringed in the Obs garden represented the highest day ringing total there this spring spoke volumes for the general dearth of birds passing through so far. The Bill area produced the first Yellow Wagtails (2) and Tree Pipit of the spring as well as counts of around 20 each of Sand Martin, Swallow, Wheatear, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler; oddities there included 3 Black Redstarts, a Scandinavian Rock Pipit, a Firecrest and a Reed Bunting, whilst elsewhere there was another Black Redstart at Reap Lane and a Grey Wagtail at Southwell. Seawatching at the Bill produced 66 Common Scoter, 15 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Brent Goose and a Sandwich Tern.

Moth-trapping remains very quiet at the Obs where the only new species for the year in recent nights have been Oak Beauty, Clouded Drab and Red Chestnut.

March 30th

Yesterday's rain gave way to dull but dry conditions with a chilly north-west wind. A Pomarine Skua - the earliest spring Pom ever recorded at the Bill - was a surprise highlight on the sea where 19 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua also passed through; seawatching from Chesil Beach produced 14 Common Scoter, 7 Sandwich Terns, 3 Brent Geese, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua. On the land there were 20 Blackcaps, 18 Wheatears, 6 Song Thrushes, a Scandinavian Rock Pipit and a Firecrest at the Bill but other common migrants there were still in low single figure totals; elsewhere there was a Siskin at Southwell. There was quite a bit of overhead passage of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails arriving in off the sea early in the morning but this movement fizzled out as the day went on. The only other news was of a Brent Goose and an Eider in Portland Harbour.

March 29th

A day that made every effort to reverse the recent rainfall deficit. In truly grim conditions the only reports were from the Bill during a period of marginally less heavy rain late in the day: a Snipe, a Mistle Thrush and a Black Redstart were seen amongst a sparse selection of common migrants on the land and a single Sandwich Tern passed through on the sea.



Common and Velvet Scoters - Portland Bill, March 28th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 28th

The heavily overcast and murky conditions of the first couple of hours of the day soon cleared away and it was another fine, sunny day on the island. A Barn Owl over Crown Farm at the Grove soon after midnight was the highlight, but migrants remained sparsely spread everywhere with nothing better on view than 3 White Wagtails, a Black Redstart and a Firecrest at the Bill; 11 Purple Sandpipers were also still at the Bill. Seawatching was hard work, with virtually no routine passage and just an Arctic Skua past the Bill and 4 Velvet Scoter past both Chesil Beach and the Bill as the highlights along with 2 Slavonian Grebes that were settled off Chesil. Elsewhere there were 4 Eider and 3 Sandwich Terns in Portland Harbour.

A lone Grey Seal lingered off the Bill during the morning.

March 27th

With the weather remaining much fairer than forecast it was largely more of the same on the bird front. Highlight was a wing-tagged Red Kite (evidently a bird marked in either the Chilterns or Rutland in 2002 or 2004) that flew over the Grove early in the morning. Among the more routine fare the first Redstart of the spring was at Suckthumb Quarry but although the other common migrants were in slightly higher numbers than in recent days it remained very quiet overall, with visible passage in particular reduced to virtually nothing. The pick of the other oddities were 4 Bullfinches, 3 White Wagtails and a Firecrest at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced 17 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Crested Grebe.



Curlew - Portland Bill, March 26th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 26th

After a crystal-clear moonlit night it seemed unlikely that there would be much in the way of numbers of common migrants around the island and this certainly proved to be the case. There was just the lightest sprinkle of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Goldcrests everywhere, with the only scarcer species reported being 3 Firecrests, 3 Bullfinches, a Curlew, a White Wagtail and a Black Redstart at the Bill, a Short-eared Owl at Broadcroft Quarry and, in the early evening, an Osprey over Southwell. Visible passage was not as strong as might have been expected, with only small numbers of hirundines, Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and Linnets on the move overhead. The sea was also unproductive: 23 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Sandwich Terns passed the Bill and 47 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Sandwich Terns passed through off Chesil Beach.

A single Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the wing in a garden at Reforne today.



Seaside Rescue - Portland Bill, March 25th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 25th

The start of the Easter weekend saw the customary first big influx of holidaymakers of the year (and inevitable business for the Coastguard rescue helicopter) but birds - and for that matter birdwatchers - were surprisingly few in number. The Bill area couldn't muster much more than 20 Goldcrests, 15 Chiffchaffs, 11 Purple Sandpipers, 6 Wheatears, 5 Sand Martins, 4 Willow Warblers, 2 Turnstones, 2 Swallows, a Buzzard, a White Wagtail, a Redwing, a Blackcap and a Firecrest. Seawatching there produced just 13 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Sandwich Terns, a Mallard and a Little Gull, with the only news from elsewhere being of seawatching at Chesil Beach where 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and 2 Sandwich Terns passed through.

A single Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the wing in a garden at Southwell in the morning.

March 24th

Early cloud gave to way to clear skies and warm sunshine, and with just the lightest southerly breeze blowing it was the nicest day of the year so far. Unfortunately there were few migrants around to take advantage of the pleasant conditions, with only Wheatear and Goldcrest managing to scrape into double figure totals at the Bill; a couple of Scandinavian Rock Pipits lingered on there and 2 Black Redstarts were also still present. Elesewhere the first Willow Warbler of the spring was at the Grove and nearby a Buzzard and a Black Redstart were at Nicodemus Knob. The sea again provided some interest, with 87 Common Scoter, 18 Sandwich Terns, 9 Red-throated Divers, an Arctic Skua and a Little Gull passing through off the Bill.

Moth trapping at the Obs has been very uneventful in the last few days: Hebrew Character, Common Quaker, Twin-spotted Quaker and Early Grey have been the only resident species caught this week, whilst a single Silver Y (this morning) has been the only immigrant recorded.



Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, March 23rd 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 23rd

Once again an overcast, drizzly dawn after a clear night looked promising but failed to deliver the goods. None of the expected common migrants managed to reach double figure totals and the only scarcities on show were 2 Scandinavian Rock Pipits, 2 Black Redstarts, a White Wagtail and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill and further single Black Redstarts at Weston and Tout Quarry. Seawatching at the Bill was less eventful than yesterday, producing totals of just 77 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, a Sandwich Tern, the first Arctic Skua of the spring and a very early flock of 55 Bar-tailed Godwits.




Red-throated and Black-throated Divers - Portland Bill, March 22nd 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 22nd

The hours of darkness saw the heaviest rainfall for many weeks and dawn brought damp and overcast conditions that looked like producing a lot or nothing - the entirely empty Obs garden mist-nets in the first hour or so of daylight were indication enough that the nothing option had prevailed! Sea passage saved the day at the Bill, where 53 Common and 2 Velvet Scoter, 19 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 19 Sandwich Terns, 9 Black-headed Gulls, a Manx Shearwater and a Brent Goose passed through; the land there produced just a handful of common migrants, 2 Scandinavian Rock Pipits and a single Mistle Thrush. Elsewhere a bird thought to be a Wryneck was heard calling at Fortuneswell and a Mediterranean Gull and a Sandwich Tern passed through off Chesil Cove.

March 21st

A freshening easterly wind finally blew away the fog of the weekend that was replaced by more overcast skies with drizzly rain setting in during the afternoon. Grounded migrants were few and far between but there was a steady passage overhead, with a sample 2 hour count at the Bill producing 825 Meadow Pipits, 117 Linnets, 7 alba wagtails, 5 Greenfinches, 4 Chaffinches, 2 Goldfinches and a Sand Martin arriving in off the sea. The pick of the sparse selection on the land were 3 Black Redstarts, a White Wagtail and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Mistle Thrush and a Black Redstart at West Weare. Seawatching at the Bill produced 36 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Mallards and 2 Little Gulls.

March 20th

Another very foggy morning gave way to a hazy but brighter afternoon. The stiff easterly breeze gave some hope that birds would get moving on the sea and with the Bill fog-bound it was Chesil Beach that scored with the best watch; totals from there included 117 Common Scoter, 102 Black-headed Gulls, 18 Teal (13 settled in Chesil Cove later in the day may have been some of these birds), 11 Dunlin, 7 Pintail, 4 Garganey, 3 Gadwall, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated Diver, a Great Crested Grebe, a Curlew and a Mediterranean Gull, whilst the Bill could muster no more than 44 Common Scoter, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Curlew and a Sandwich Tern. On the land Black Redstarts again figured well, with at least 8 scattered around the island, but few of the other common migrants even managed double figure totals. Overhead, Meadow Pipits passed through in quantity along with the first 5 Sand Martins.



aberrant Blackbird - Portland Bill, March 19th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 19th

Dense sea fog and productive birding rarely go hand in hand at Portland and today proved to be no exception. Black Redstarts were the only migrants that were more conspicuous than in recent days, with at least 10 scattered around the Bill area. Wheatears numbered around 30 at the Bill, but other common migrants were reduced to just single figure totals; the pick of the oddities there were several Scandinavian Rock Pipits, 2 Reed Buntings and a Firecrest, whilst elsewhere there were 2 Blackcaps and a Firecrest at Ventnor Road. Meadow Pipits could be heard passing overhead in some quantity but there was no sign of the sea let alone any sea passage.



Black Redstart - Portland Bill, March 18th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 18th

A day of light southerly winds and drab, overcast skies. Birds were on the move throughout the day although nothing particularly unexpected was discovered anywhere. Grounded migrants at the Bill included 75 Wheatears, 40 Goldcrests, 15 Chiffchaffs, 4 Black Redstarts, several Scandinavian Rock Pipits and a Reed Bunting, whilst overhead totals of 300 Meadow Pipits, 150 Starlings, 120 Redwings, 50 alba wagtails and 20 Chaffinches passed through; lower numbers of the same species were reported from elsewhere around the island. Seawatching at the Bill produced 40 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Common Scoter and a single Great Skua.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced a single Dark Sword Grass and the first Double-striped Pug and Early Thorn of the year. The first Peacock butterfly of the year was on the wing at Barleycrates Lane.




Great Skua, presumed Scandinavian Rock Pipit and White Wagtail - Chesil Beach and Portland Bill, March 17th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 17th

A night and early morning of misty low cloud and quite strong wind didn't promise too much but migrants became more evident as warm sunshine broke through during the morning. The bird of the day - a Stone Curlew at Barleycrates Lane - didn't linger, but there were more than 120 Wheatears around the south and west of the island, along with 35 Stonechats, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Ring Ouzels, a White Wagtail, a Fieldfare and a Redwing; Chiffchaffs and 'crests were all but absent but pipits and wagtails were on the move overhead in fair numbers during the morning and the grounded Rock Pipits at the Bill again included several presumed Scandinavian Rock Pipits. Elsewhere there were 2 Curlews at Ferrybridge, a Black Redstart at the Grove and a sickly-looking Great Skua on Chesil Beach.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced not a single moth!.



Chiffchaff (with pollen encrustation on forehead) and Dark Sword Grass - Portland Bill, March 16th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 16th

A mild and still morning allowed good coverage of the Bill, the west side of the island, the Grove and Verne Common, where migrant totals included 120 Wheatears, 60 Stonechats, 25 Goldcrests, 9 Redwings, 7 Black Redstarts, 6 Chiffchaffs, 3 Firecrests (2 at Weston and 1 at the Obs), 2 Ring Ouzels (at Blacknor and Verne Common), a Blackcap and a Reed Bunting; 3 Grey Wagtails over Weston were the best of an otherwise light visible passage of pipits and wagtails overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 13 Brent Geese, 11 Common Scoter, 6 Black-headed Gulls and a Red-throated Diver.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced a single Dark Sword Grass.

March 15th

A strengthening south-west wind spoilt what was otherwise another quite mild day. Migrants were not as numerous as yesterday, with the Bill area producing 12 Stonechats, 6 Wheatears, 6 Black Redstarts, 5 Goldcrests, 3 Redwings, 3 Rooks and a Scandinavian Rock Pipit; 2 Puffins were again offshore but a single Red-throated Diver was the only passage seabird of note. The first 2 Sandwich Terns of the spring showed up at Ferrybridge, where there also 9 Brent Geese and 2 Mediterranean Gulls.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced just a few Hebrew Characters and a single Grey Shoulder-knot.



Wheatear and Firecrest - Portland Bill, March 14th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 14th

Lots of interest today including plenty of birds and a good selection of other wildlife interest. On the bird front, overcast skies and a light south-west wind at dawn dropped a good flurry of early migrants, whilst later in the day in clearer skies and warm sunshine there were further new arrivals. Totals from around the south of the island included 60 Stonechats, 15 Goldcrests, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Wheatears, 4 Black Redstarts, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Redwings, a Lapwing, a Turnstone, a Swallow and a Firecrest; pipits and wagtails were also again arriving in off the sea in small numbers. Seawatching at the Bill produced 34 Common Scoter, 2 Puffins, a Red-throated Diver, a Black-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull. Elsewhere there were 3 Chiffchaffs, a Buzzard and a Rook at the Grove, a Firecrest at Delhi Lane and 18 Brent Geese at Ferrybridge.

The first Hummingbird Hawk-moth of the year was seen in the Obs garden, a Comma at Barleycrates Lane was only the second butterfly species recorded this year and, finally, at least 24 Wall Lizards were counted at Duncecroft Quarry.



Stonechat - Portland Bill, March 13th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 13th

Yesterday's unpleasantly strong wind had died right down and there were further signs of spring passage gathering momentum. Stonechats were much the most conspicuous new arrivals, with 60 or more scattered around the south of the island between the Bill and Barleycrates Lane; 10 Redwings, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff at Barleycrates Lane, 2 Redwings and a Reed Bunting at the Bill and a Chiffchaff at Suckthumb Quarry were also new arrivals as were the trickle of alba wagtails and Meadow Pipits that were on the move overhead. Winter left-overs included 10 Brent Geese and a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge, 3 Eider and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour and a Purple Sandpiper and a Turnstone at the Bill, whilst seawatching at the latter produced 22 Common Scoter and 4 Red-throated Divers passing by and a couple more sightings of returning Puffins. The only other noteworthy sighting was of a Common Buzzard over the Bill.

March 12th

A fine, sunny day - albeit with a brisk and chilly north-westerly wind - saw plenty of birders in the field but their quest for early migrants all but drew a blank. The first returning Puffin was off the Bill and a White Wagtail was at Watery Lane but the only other new arrivals were a trickle of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails passing north overhead. Ten Purple Sandpipers were at the Bill where 4 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea.

March 11th

A stiff westerly wind had sprung up overnight and although it did nothing for a land it did perk up interest on the sea just a little. Seawatching at the Bill produced 21 Common Scoter, 12 Brent Geese, 6 Red-throated Divers, 6 Wigeon, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Mediterranean Gull. A few Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails were again on the move overhead and the first certain White Wagtail of the spring dropped in a Weston; a Goldcrest and a Firecrest were still still at Easton.




Bottle-nosed Dolphins - Portland Bill, March 10th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 10th

Still surprisingly little bird news, with the best on offer being 2 Firecrests at Easton, 3 Purple Sandpipers, a Redwing, a Rook and a Reed Bunting at the Bill and 3 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter passing through off the Bill; a few alba wagtails and Meadow Pipits were again on the move overhead throughout the island.

A party of 6-8 Bottle-nosed Dolphins - seemingly the same party that were present there for a few days during late January/early February - were off the Bill for much of the day.



Raven - Portland Bill, March 9th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 9th

The quiet, heavily overcast conditions of recent days continued and it was more of the same on the birding front. Redwings today included 15 at Barleycrates Lane, 3 at the Bill and 1 at Tout Quarry, the trickle of pipits and wagtails on the move overhead included 2 Grey Wagtails passing through at the Bill, whilst the wealth of seasonal corvid activity overhead included 4 Rooks over the Bill; 2 Lapwings were also at the Bill and there was a Black Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. The only other reports were of seawatching from the Bill that produced 23 Brent Geese, 5 Red-throated Divers, 5 Common Scoter and a Curlew.

March 8th

Thrushes were the most conspicuous new arrivals today, with more than 35 Redwings and a few 'extra' Song Thrushes and Blackbirds scattered around the south of the island. Stonechat numbers also increased, with the total of 15 between the Bill and Reap Lane being considerably more than have been present through the winter. A Woodcock over Wide Street was the best of the other new arrivals that also included a few more alba wagtails trickling in off the sea. Two Lapwings were still at Barleycrates Lane, 'the' Pheasant turned up in the Obs garden before wandering still further to the Bill lighthouse, whilst seawatching at the Bill produced 13 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Red-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull.

March 7th

The pick of today's miscellaneous late winter/early spring selection was a Jack Snipe at the Bill, where there were also 9 Song Thrushes, 7 alba wagtails in off the sea, 6 Rooks, 5 Redwings, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones, a Snipe, a Chaffinch in off the sea and a Yellowhammer; seawatching there produced just 13 Common Scoter. Elsewhere there were 5 Mediterranean Gulls (at roost in the evening), 3 Eider and a Brent Goose in Portland Harbour, 2 Long-tailed Tits at Avalanche Road and 2 Lapwings at Barleycrates Lane.



Peregrine - Portland Bill, March 6th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 6th

Clear skies and sunshine today with the chilly north-east wind dropping away as the day went on. The only passage reported involved a handful of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails that were heading north along the West Cliffs at the Bill through the middle of the day. The only other reports were of 7 Redwings near Verne Common, 2 Lapwings over Weston and 4 Common Scoter, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Black-headed Gulls that passed through off the Bill.




Magpies - Portland Bill, March 5th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 5th

Slightly milder today but no sign of any early migrants. Five Lapwings remained at Reap Lane but the only other news was of seawatching at the Bill that produced just 5 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser.



Lapwings - Reap Lane, March 4th 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 4th

Cold weather movement had ceased today but grounded Lapwings included 18 at Weston, 6 at Reap Lane and 6 at the Bill. A Manx Shearwater off the Bill was a quite early first record for the spring, whilst a Black Redstart at Reap Lane and a Chiffchaff at Weston were both at 'new' sites and might both have been new arrivals. Otherwise the best on offer were 26 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Curlew passing by off the Bill and a Redwing in the Obs garden. Late news for yesterday: a Red-throated Diver passed through off Chesil Cove.




 Common Buzzard and Lapwings - Southwell and Portland Bill, March 3rd 2005 © Martin Cade

  March 3rd

The clear blue skies of today were deceptive as a biting north wind made any foray outdoors an unpleasant experience. Quite unexpectedly a decent cold weather movement got going as the day went on: a handful of Lapwings and a Golden Plover had passed through in the morning but during the afternoon a total of 456 Lapwings trickled in off the sea from the south-east at the Bill and carried on northwards. Other sightings from around the island included a Merlin at Easton, 8 Little Egrets and a Goldeneye at Ferrybridge, 2 Rooks at Portland Heights, a Common Buzzard over various points between Easton and the Bill, a Redwing at the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers and a Mallard passing through off the Bill.

March 2nd

Precious little birding was done today and the only report of any interest was of a total of 10 Common Scoter passing through off the Bill.



The PBO Annual Report for 2004 has just been published and has been posted to Obs members today. It is available to non-members for £5 (+£1 p&p) from the PBO Bookshop.



March 1st

Dull and showery today as well as feeling a good deal milder than in recent days. New arrivals included a Merlin and a Curlew at Ferrybridge and 2 Snipe at the Bill; a slight increase in Song Thrushes was also evident at the Bill. Otherwise interest was provided only by long-stayers: a Chiffchaff and a Firecrest were at Easton, 3 Mediterranean Gulls were at Ferrybridge and 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Redwing were at the Bill.