October 2005




    Brambling and Wood Pigeons - Southwell and Portland Bill, October 31st 2005 © Pete Saunders (Brambling) and Martin Cade (pigeons)

  October 31st

Passage overhead dominated proceedings today, with 2800 Wood Pigeons, 2000 Goldfinches, 1900 Linnets and 600 Chaffinches making up the bulk of movement over the Bill; small numbers of thrushes, scarcer finches and Reed Buntings, along with 4 late Swallows also passed overhead there. There was no sign of a resurgence in numbers of grounded migrants, with just a very thin scatter of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere; 2 late Wheatears were also still at the Bill. Scarcer migrants included 6 Black Redstarts, 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 Merlins and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill, 2 more Black Redstarts at Freshwater Bay and a Barn Owl and a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane. Sea passage died a death, with nothing better than a lone Red-breasted Merganser passing through off the Bill.

Two White-speck and a Vestal were the pick of the poor selection of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning,



    Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, October 30th 2005 © Mike Prince

  October 30th

Heavy rain for much of the morning and a strong southerly wind throughout the day again made birding on the land very difficult and the only reports of note were of several brief sightings of the Pallas's Warbler in the Obs garden, a Long-eared Owl briefly early in the morning near the Higher Lighthouse, 2 Black Restarts, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill, another Ring Ouzel at King Barrow Quarry and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge. Good numbers of Gannets and Kittiwakes were on the move off the Bill but other interest there was restricted to 7 Arctic, 2 Great and a Pomarine Skua, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Storm Petrels, a Balearic Shearwater, a Long-tailed Duck and a Sandwich Tern passing through.

Two White-speck, a Delicate and a Scarce Bordered Straw were the only noteworthy immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.



    Yellow-browed Warbler - Southwell, October 29th 2005 © Mike Prince

  October 29th

Quite a few decent records today although most things proved pretty difficult to catch up with. Yesterday's ringed Pallas's Warbler was seen for a couple of minutes during the morning in the Obs garden before promptly vanishing for the rest of the day, a Yellow-browed Warbler was a new arrival at Southwell where a Barn Owl had been seen in the early hours of the morning by a visiting moth-trapper, a Long-eared Owl was flushed from West Cliffs at the Bill early in the morning and a Leach's Petrel flew past the Bill during the morning. Grounded commoner migrants were again thinly spread but among them there were a few scarcities that included 7 Black Redstarts, 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Merlins and a Short-eared Owl scattered around the island. Finches overhead included 20 Siskins, 18 Bramblings and 15 Redpolls over the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced 8 Arctic, 5 Brent Geese, 2 Pomarine and 2 Great Skuas, 3 Balearic and a Sooty Shearwater, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver and a Sandwich Tern, whilst 3 Little Egrets passed through off Chesil Beach.

On the moth front, another Flame Brocade was trapped overnight at the Obs along with 3 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Silver Y, 2 Plutella xylostella, 2 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Scarce Bordered Straw, a Palpita vitrealis, a White-speck and a Cosmopolitan. Of interest to moth-trappers, click here for the new Dorset Moth Group website that is now online.





    Flame Brocade, Pallas's Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bill, October 28th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 28th

A strong southerly wind saw to it that most areas of cover were verging on the unbirdable so it was no great surprise that the two best birds on the land - singles of both Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warbler - turned up in mist-nets in the Obs garden; neither was seen after release. Apart from these two quality new arrivals it appeared that grounded migrants were few and far between, with very low numbers of commoner species and just a Ring Ouzel and a late Garden Warbler at the Bill, a late Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham and Black Redstarts at Weston (2) and Southwell by way of oddities. There were high hopes for the sea but, Gannets and Kittiwakes aside, there was remarkably little on the move; virtually all the quality passed through in a half hour spell during the afternoon when 3 Little Gulls, a Sooty Shearwater, a Manx Shearwater, an Arctic Skua and a Great Skua passed the Bill.

With one notable exception - a single Flame Brocade - the Obs garden moth-traps were almost devoid of immigrants after a very windy night. Of interest to moth-trappers, click here for the new Dorset Moth Group website that is now online.

October 27th

Despite the balmy summer-like conditions - tempered only a little by a brisk south-east wind - the hoped-for southern rarities didn't show up and it was pretty typical late October birding everywhere. Oddities included a Hawfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Ventnor Road, a Continental Coal Tit at Avalanche Road, a Green Woodpecker at Wakeham and 2 Woodlarks and a Crossbill over the Bill. Among the grounded commoner migrants there were 4 Firecrests, 3 Black Redstarts, a Merlin, a Mistle Thrush, a Ring Ouzel and late singles of Wheatear, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill, a Firecrest and a Woodcock at Foundry Close, 3 Wheatears and a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry/Blacknor, a Black Redstart at Southwell and a Ring Ouzel at East Weare. There were a lot more birds on the move overhead, with noteworthy totals of 1900 Wood Pigeons, 630 Linnets and 330 Goldfinches leaving to the south at the Bill. The only reports from the sea were of 3 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Little Gull passing through off the Bill and 2 Mediterraneran Gulls lingering in Chesil Cove.

Clouded Yellows, Painted Ladies and Red Admirals all remain on the wing at sites around the island.

Despite the promising-looking conditions there was little sign of an upturn in immigrant moth numbers overnight, with the Obs garden traps producing 5 Silver Y, 3 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Scarce Bordered Straw, 2 Plutella xylostella, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Nomophila noctuella, Pearly Underwing and Delicate, and a garden trap at Southwell producing singles of White-speck, Delicate and Scarce Bordered Straw.

October 26th

With the wind having abated it was possible to have a good look on the land but those that made the effort were not rewarded with much quality. A steady passage overhead at the start of the day produced totals that included 950 Linnets, 515 Goldfinches, 200 Wood Pigeons, 122 Meadow Pipits, 76 Chaffinches, 68 Greenfinches, 20 Bramblings and a Lapland Bunting leaving to the south at the Bill. Grounded migrants were much more thinly spread but included 3 Merlins, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Firecrests, a Ring Ouzel and a Wheatear at the Bill, 20 Bramblings, a Firecrest and the late Willow Warbler at Foundry Close and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Avalanche Church. A Grey Phalarope lingered on at Chesil Cove but the only sea passage logged involved 5 Great Skuas, an Arctic Skua, a Pomarine Skua and a Little Auk passing the Bill. 




    Pallas's Warbler, Willow Warbler and Grey Phalaropes (the latter still really distant!) - Foundry Close and Chesil Cove, October 25th 2005 © Martin Cade (warblers) and Jon Stokes (phalaropes)

  October 24th

Another very stormy day although drier and brighter than yesterday. The slightly improved conditions allowed some birding on the land that revealed that the Pallas's Warbler and late Willow Warbler were still present behind Foundry Close in Easton; other sightings included 2 Merlins, a Black Redstart, a Ring Ouzel and a Brambling at the Bill, a Merlin and a Black Redstart at Southwell and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Cheyne. The sea received plenty of attention, with reports of a Sabine's Gull passing Church Ope Cove, 3 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Little Auks, a Fulmar, a Great Skua, a Sabine's Gull, a Little Gull and a Sandwich Tern passing the Bill, 2 Great Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Little Gull passing Chesil Cove early in the morning, a Sabine's Gull passing through there later in the morning and up to 3 Grey Phalaropes lingering there throughout the afternoon.



    Grey Phalarope (probably the poorest picture ever taken of this species!) - Chesil Cove, October 24th 2005 © Martin Cade 

  October 24th

The quiet weather of the weekend was replaced by a south-westerly gale and frequent showers that eventually gave way to continual heavy rain. The sea provided most of the interest, with a Grey Phalarope lingering distantly off Chesil Cove for much of the day, a Great Skua passing through off Southwell and 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Little Gulls, 2 Manx Shearwaters, a Pomarine Skua and a Little Auk passing through off the Bill. The only reports from the land were of a Merlin and a Black Redstart at the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle and a scatter of grounded Siskins and Bramblings at the Bill and Easton.

Immigrant overnight the Obs garden moth-traps included: 3 Silver Y, 2 Udea ferrugalis, 2 Dark Sword Grass, 1 Nomophila noctuella, 1 Pearly Underwing, 1 White-speck, 1 Scarce Bordered Straw and 1 Red Admiral butterfly. News of moth-trapping at the Obs for the night of 22nd/23rd was accidentally omitted from yesterday's round-up; immigrants included: 11 Silver Y, 10 Nomophila noctuella, 9 Plutella xylostella, 7 Udea ferrugalis, 6 Pearly Underwing, 5 Delicate, 3 Scarce Bordered Straw, 2 Dark Sword Grass and 1 Cosmopolitan.

October 23rd

Plenty more birds today with most of the movement taking place overhead where there was a strong passage of Wood Pigeons and finches during the morning. The rarity list was headed by a Black-throated Thrush reported briefly at dawn on the southern edge of Southwell; this bird has been seen at the same site on several occasions during the last four days by one local observer (and also once yesterday by two other observers) but a thorough search of the area by many other local and visiting birders yesterday evening and again this morning revealed no sign of it. A Pallas's Warbler was a new arrival behind Foundry Close (the former Easton Fire Station site), where the Yellow-browed Warbler was also still present; Coal Tits - some or all of them Continental birds - were seen at the Obs, Avalanche Church and Pennsylvania Castle. A constant stream of Wood Pigeons leaving to the south during the first couple of hours of the day totalled at least 3150 birds; other sample counts of overhead passage during this period included 550 Linnets, 315 Goldfinches, 42 Siskins, 38 Bramblings, 3 Merlins and a Woodlark over the Bill and Southwell. Grounded migrants were only thinly spread but included at least 10 Ring Ouzels and 6 Black Redstarts scattered around the island, 4 Firecrests at Foundry Close, single Short-eared Owls at the Bill and Easton, single Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers in the Wakeham area and a Dartford Warbler at the High Angle Battery. Odds and sods on the sea at the Bill included 5 Brent Geese, 4 Wigeon and a Balearic Shearwater, whilst a Great Skua was seen off Southwell.








    Great Bustard - Portland Bill, October 22nd 2005 © Martin Cade 

  October 22nd

A long and varied list of highlights today of which the most extraordinary involved a Great Bustard that was first seen flying south over Southwell during the afternoon. A little later it appeared over the Bill from where it flew back north along the West Cliffs and was last seen leaving the island heading north-east over Fortuneswell and Portland Harbour; the bird was wearing yellow wing-tags - seemingly number 06 - and is believed to have wandered from the Salisbury Plain reintroduction project. Other notable sightings included 3 Tree Sparrows and a Yellow-browed Warbler at the former Easton Fire Station, 7 Bearded Tits at the former Weston Craft Centre, a pre-dawn Barn Owl on the Bill Road, single Lapland Buntings over Top Fields and Cheyne, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Bill, single Continental Coal Tits at Culverwell and Cheyne and 3 Woodlarks over the Bill. Among the commoner migrants Wood Pigeon and Ring Ouzel were the feature species of the day; 1700 of the former left to the south over the Bill and at least 30 of the latter were scattered widely around the island.  

Bustard update: Since writing the notes above we have received confirmation that the bird seen at the Bill was a wanderer from Salisbury Plain. David Waters, the director of the reintroduction project, has e-mailed as follows: I can confirm that the Great Bustard in your excellent photos is one of this years birds. This bird was not fitted with a radio transmitter and had not been seen since her release onto Salisbury Plain at the end of August. She flew out of the release pen on the day she was released and has not been seen before today. We have no idea where she has been since then and had written if off as probably deceased. We are delighted she is alive and well. The rest of this years releases are doing well and things are much improved on last year, with the birds being much more mobile.

October 21st

One of the first really stormy days of the autumn. The land was all but unbirdable, with the only reports of note being of 4 Ring Ouzels and a lone Black Redstart at the Bill. Overhead a few tardy Swallows, a handful of finches and 2 Merlins trickled out to the south. Seawatching was for the most part a dead loss: during the morning the Bill appeared to be devoid of even the commonest seabirds, whilst Chesil Cove - usually a better bet in these conditions - produced just 6 Dunlin and a single Little Gull; a very slight improvement late in the day saw 2 Great Skuas pass the Bill and a single Storm Petrel appear in Chesil Cove.

The Obs garden moth-traps attracted a few routine immigrants overnight: 6 Silver Y, 3 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Nomophila noctuella, 2 Scarce Bordered Straw, 1 Dark Sword Grass and 1 Delicate.





 Siskin, Wood Pigeons, Continental Coal Tit and Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill and Wakeham, October 20th 2005 © Martin Cade (Siskin), James Lidster (Wood Pigeons) and Duncan Walbridge (Coal Tit and Ring Ouzel)

  October 20th

A surprising number of decent records today although in clear, sunny conditions very little stayed around long enough to be generally visible. Highlights included Yellow-browed Warblers at the Grove YOI gardens (2) and at Easton Fire Station, Continental Coal Tits at the Obs, Culverwell (3) and Wakeham/Pennsylvania Castle (3), a Grey Phalarope at Chesil Cove, a Hawfinch at Penn's Weare and a Woodlark at the Bill. Among the common migrants Ring Ouzel remains bird of the moment with counts today of 17 at Penn's Weare, at least a dozen around the centre of the island, 6 at West Weare, 6 at the Bill, 4 at Southwell and several other ones and twos elsewhere. As leaf-fall hastens at the Bill and other exposed sites so warblers and 'crests in particular are being concentrated in the more sheltered areas of Wakeham, Easton and the north of the island where there were at least 2 Firecrests and 2 late Willow Warblers today; grounded Siskins also numbered over 50 there. In the clear conditions there was plenty of visible passage overhead, including counts at the Bill of 400 Wood Pigeons, 390 Goldfinches, 270 Linnets, 5 Merlins and a Short-eared Owl, whilst elsewhere 35 Cormorants flew south at Priory Corner. The only other reports of note were of single Mediterranean Gulls at Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge.

Windy conditions spoilt overnight moth-trapping at the Obs, where the only immigrants recorded were 4 Silver Y and 3 Scarce Bordered Straw.

October 19th

The easterly weather of recent days was replaced by stiff south-westerlies with occasional heavy showers and migrant interest dwindled. The only particularly unexpected sightings were of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Hawfinch at Avalanche Road, although neither lingered long. Today's Ring Ouzel tally included 6 at both West Weare and the former Weston Craft Centre, with ones and twos at several other sites; other scarcer migrants included 3 Merlins, 2 Firecrests and a Black Redstart at the Bill, another Black Redstart at Weston and a Bullfinch at the Weston Craft Centre. Grounded common migrants were limited to small numbers of Wheatears, Stonechats, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere, whilst single figure totals of Bramblings, Siskins and Redpolls were the pick of a very limited passage overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 40 Common Scoter, 2 Pintail, 2 Velvet Scoter and a Red-breasted Merganser.

Heavy rainfall overnight dropped a decent arrival of new immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 26 Udea ferrugalis, 21 Silver Y, 9 Plutella xylostella, 5 Gem, 5 Delicate, 3 Nomophila noctuella, 2 Dark Sword Grass, 1 Palpita vitrealis, 1 Pearly Underwing and 1 White-speck.

October 18th

A fair scatter of birds everywhere today, with highlights including a Yellow-browed Warbler at the Grove, a Continental Coal Tit at Wakeham and more very high numbers of Ring Ouzels. Notable concentrations of Ouzels included 36 at West Weare, 19 at Blacknor, 7 at Suckthumb Quarry and 5 at the Bill, whilst odd ones and twos were seen at many other sites; even allowing for inevitable duplication there were presumably at least 60 Ouzels on the island today (and there was no news either way from such 'Ouzel-friendly' sites as Verne Common and Penn's Weare). Other scarce migrants included 5 Black Redstarts and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, another Black Redstart at Reap Lane and a Dartford Warbler at Tradecroft, whilst noteworthy numbers of common migrants included 400 Chaffinches flying north at Weston.

A single Clancy's Rustic was the pick of an otherwise poor selection of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps.



 Osprey - Portland Bill, October 17th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 17th

A pleasantly summer-like day that - Ring Ouzels aside - didn't really produce as much as might have been hoped. Ouzels numbered around 40 over the island as a whole, with notable concentrations of 10 at Tout Quarry/West Weare, 6 at Verne Common and 12 scattered around the centre of the island. At dawn Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests seemed to be very numerous but they soon filtered away in the fair weather and the only other noteworthy grounded migrants logged as the day went on were 4 Black Redstarts at the Bill and another single at Tout Quarry, a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and a Merlin, a late Garden Warbler and a Firecrest at Verne Common. The surprisingly poor passage overhead included an Osprey that left out to sea from the Bill shortly after dawn.

After torrential downpours overnight the extremely soggy Obs garden moth-traps produced by way of immigrants just 5 Silver Y, 3 Plutella xylostella, 2 Nomophila noctuella, 3 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Delicate and singles of Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Cosmopolitan and Scarce Bordered Straw.

October 16th

With some rain shortly after dawn and the wind remaining firmly in the east there were high hopes for the day that looked like being realised when it was soon apparent that thrushes and finches were around in quantity; unfortunately the interest fizzled out quite rapidly and the only out of the ordinary sighting to show for plenty of effort was a Yellow-browed Warbler heard calling at dawn at Barleycrates Lane. Among the grounded migrants Ring Ouzels featured conspicuously, with at least 12 at the Bill, 10 around the north of the island and several other singles scattered elsewhere; small numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were well spread and other noteworthy reports were of 3 Short-eared Owls, 3 Black Redstarts, a Merlin and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill, a Jack Snipe at Avalanche Road, 6 Yellowhammers and a Merlin at Barleycrates Lane and a dead Barn Owl found on the Beach Road at Ferrybridge. Passage overhead included the first decent numbers of pigeons of the autumn, including 800 Wood Pigeons over Ferrybridge, 400 Wood Pigeons and 70 Stock Doves over Weston and 200 Wood Pigeons and 95 Stock Doves over the Bill; thrushes included 130 Redwings and 70 Song Thrushes over Barleycrates Lane, as well as single Mistle Thrushes at Weston and the Bill, whilst finches included 50 Siskins and 20 Bramblings over the Bill. Some minor movement on the sea included 5 Wigeon, 3 Teal, a Black-throated Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, an Arctic Skua and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill.

The Obs garden moth-traps again picked up a handful of immigrants: 8 Silver Y, 7 Plutella xylostella, 5 Delicate, 2 Nomophila noctuella, 2 Udea ferrugalis and singles of Pearly Underwing, Cosmopolitan and Scarce Bordered Straw.



 Hawfinch - Portland Bill, October 15th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 15th

The brisk east wind was still a feature but with yesterday's cloud having cleared there were relatively few grounded migrants anywhere today. The pick of the scarcities were a fly-over Hawfinch at the Obs, 2 Woodlarks briefly at the Bill, a Quail flushed twice in Top Fields and a Yellow-browed Warbler heard calling at Reap Lane; additionally a Pallas's Warbler was reported early in the afternoon at Culverwell but later searches for it there drew a blank. Small totals of all the expected mid-October commoner migrants included 3 Black Redstarts, a Merlin and a Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill, where 20 Siskins, 10 Bramblings, 9 Redpolls and 2 Yellow Wagtails were among the birds on the move overhead.

The small assortment of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps included a single Small Mottled Willow.



 Ring Ouzel and Merveille du Jour - Portland Bill, October 14th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 14th

The rarity tap was turned off today, with the only quality sighting reported being of a Yellow-browed Warbler at the Church Ope car park. In contrast the heavily overcast skies and stiff easterly wind saw to it that commoner migrants were much more numerous on the ground and overhead. Totals of grounded migrants at the Bill included 150 Chiffchaffs, 50 Stonechats, 50 Wheatears, 40 Goldcrests, 25 Blackcaps, 8 Black Redstarts, 2 Ring Ouzels and singles of Merlin, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Firecrest; similar numbers and variety elsewhere included a Turtle Dove at Reap Lane and a Firecrest at Wakeham. Passage overhead occurred on a rather broad front and estimates of numbers looked likely to be very conservative; estimates at the Bill included 1000 Meadow Pipits, 1000 Linnets, 300 alba wagtails, 250 Chaffinches, 75 Song Thrushes, 50 Wood Pigeons, 50 Siskins, 25 Stock Doves, 8 Bramblings, 8 Redpolls, 5 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Reed Buntings, 4 Golden Plovers, 3 Redwings and 3 Mistle Thrushes. There was also some sea passage that included 23 Brent Geese, 22 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Great Skuas, 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Eider, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Manx Shearwater, a Teal, a Pintail, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Sandwich Tern passing through off the Bill.

A specimen of Merveille du Jour in the Obs garden moth-traps was a first record for the island; other immigrants there included 7 Delicate, 3 Pearly Underwing and singles of Plutella xylostella, Udea ferrugalis, Nomophila noctuella, Bordered Straw and Silver Y.




 Yellow-browed Warbler and Pallas's Warbler - Portland Bill, October 13th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 13th

A complete change in the weather - strong northerlies had pushed in after some rain yesterday evening - put paid to the Arctic Warbler which wasn't seen today. Most of the action took place in the Obs garden where singles of both Yellow-browed and Pallas's Warbler - the latter perhaps the bird first seen a couple of days ago at the Bill Quarry? - were present; the day's other quality proved trickier to catch up with: a second Yellow-browed Warbler near the Old Higher Lighthouse, a Long-eared Owl at Avalanche Road, a fly-over Richard's Pipit at the Obs and a Green Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle were all seen only by their respective finders. Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were a good deal more conspicuous than in recent days but the pick of the grounded migrants were otherwise just 5 Firecrests, 2 Redstarts, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Redpolls, a Merlin, a Whinchat and a Brambling at the Bill and 2 Black Redstarts at Reap Lane. Highlights overhead at the Bill included 41 Siskins, 5 Golden Plovers, a Snipe and a Yellow Wagtail

Immigrant moths continued to trickle in, with the Obs garden traps producing 5 Delicate, 3 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Vestal, 3 Silver Y, 2 Hummingbird Hawk-moth, 1 Plutella xylostella and 1 Nomophila noctuella overnight.



 Dusky-lemon Sallow - Portland Bill, October 12th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 12th

The Arctic Warbler remained at Reap Lane and a new Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling from trees at Mantle Close (near the edge of Verne Common) but it was otherwise something of nothing with grounded migrants only thinly spread and just a rather light visible passage overhead. The best of the birds on the ground were a total of 6 Firecrests scattered around the centre and south of the island, a Short-eared Owl and a late Lesser Whitethroat lingering on at the Bill and a Black Redstart and a late Willow Warbler at Reap Lane. The first minor flurry of interest on the sea for some days saw single Great and Arctic Skuas and the first Common Gull of the autumn pass through off the Bill.

There was another slight increase in immigrant numbers in the Obs garden moth-traps: 5 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Silver Y, 3 Cosmopolitan, 2 White-speck, 1 Hummingbird Hawk-moth, 1 Dusky-lemon Sallow, 1 Small Mottled Willow, 1 Scarce Bordered Straw and 1 Red Admiral butterfly.




 Pallas's Warbler (and watchers) - Portland Bill, October 11th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 11th

The recent purple patch continued with the island's earliest ever Pallas's Warbler showing up during the afternoon in the knee-high weeds on the edge of the Bill Quarry. The Arctic Warbler remained at Reap Lane but the only other slightly out of the ordinary reports were of a Jack Snipe and a Woodlark at the Bill. Grounded migrants were a little more numerous than yesterday but were still nothing special for mid-October, with the best at the Bill being 25 Stonechats, 25 Wheatears, 6 Firecrests, 2 Whinchats and 2 Lesser Whitethroats, with 3 Black Redstarts at Reap Lane being the pick of the sightings elsewhere. Overhead, alba wagtails dominated, but there were also 32 Siskins, 7 Grey Wagtails, 5 Redwings, 2 Bramblings, a Snipe and a Yellow Wagtail over the Bill and more of the same elsewhere.

On the immigrant moth front numbers increased to a little over two per trap in the Obs garden: 7 Udea ferrugalis, 5 Delicate, 2 Silver Y and 1 Cosmopolitan.




 Radde's Warbler and Common Crane - Portland Bill and over Southwell Business Park, October 10th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 10th

After a very clear night there was no expectation of any worthwhile arrival of common migrants but as so often happens that had no bearing whatsoever on whether new rarities might show up. In the event new quality was provided by a Common Crane that flew south over Southwell Business Park and the Bill during the morning and a Radde's Warbler that was trapped and ringed at the Obs in the early afternoon; to add to this duo the Arctic Warbler was also still present at Reap Lane. Grounded migrants were only very thinly spread but did include a Merlin, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Firecrest at the Bill, a Woodlark and a Dartford Warbler near Admiralty Quarry and a Ring Ouzel at Penn's Weare. There was more movement overhead where oddities included 20 Siskins, 4 Tree Pipits, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Lapwings, a Grey Heron and a Brambling over the Bill. The only seawatching reports were of 10 Common Scoter and a Great Skua passing the Bill.

Immigrant moths totalled less than one individual per trap operated in the Obs garden: 2 Plutella xylostella, 2 Udea ferrugalis, 2 Delicate and 1 White-speck.






 Arctic Warbler (and watchers) and Yellow-browed Warbler - Reap Lane and Weston Craft Centre, October 9th 2005 © Martin Cade (top three Arctic Warbler and group) and James Lidster (lower right Yellow-browed Warbler)

  October 9th

Big news today was of the discovery of an Arctic Warbler - only the second recorded at Portland - that showed on and off all day at Reap Lane. Single Yellow-browed Warblers at Reap Lane and the former Weston Craft Centre were left-overs from the last couple of days whilst the best of the other new arrivals was a fly-over Hawfinch at Perryfields. Grounded commoner migrants were only present in relatively small numbers, with the best being 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Firecrests, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Black Redstart at the Bill, another Black Redstart at Reap Lane and another Spotted Flycatcher at Suckthumb Quarry. In fine, clear and warm conditions it was much busier overhead, with 30 Siskins, 14 Redpolls, 7 Tree Pipits, 5 Reed Buntings and 3 Yellow Wagtails amongst the good numbers of hirundines, pipits, wagtails and finches passing through at the Bill and plenty more of the same elsewhere. The only seawatching news was of 10 Common Scoter, 3 Brent Geese and a Great Skua off the Bill.

Clouded Yellows, Painted Ladies and Red Admirals were much more conspicuous than of late throughout the island.

October 8th

A good day for anyone keen on Yellow-browed Warblers but, with commoner migrants in very much reduced numbers in comparison with earlier in the week, it was otherwise just thin pickings everywhere. Of the Yellow-browed Warblers singles at the Southwell Pumping Station, Southwell School, Reap Lane and Old Hill were new arrivals, whilst a fifth individual at the former Weston Craft Centre was a left-over from yesterday. There were around 40 Wheatears, 30 Chiffchaffs and 20 Goldcrests scattered around the south of the island but most other common migrants were in no more than ones and twos; the pick of the bunch at the Bill were 5 Reed Buntings, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Firecrests, a Grey Plover, a Merlin, a Yellow Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Redstart, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Brambling.

There were thin pickings in the Obs garden moth-traps as well, with 4 Udea ferrugalis, 1 Silver Y and 1 Delicate the only immigrants trapped overnight.



 'Continental' Coal Tit - Portland Bill, October 7th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 7th

Another dreary, overcast start to the day and another fair flurry of new migrants. Pick of the new arrivals were a 'Continental' Coal Tit trapped and ringed at the Obs and a Yellow-browed Warbler at the former Weston Craft Centre; one of yesterday's Yellow-browed Warblers also remained in the Obs garden. Thrush passage overhead had virtually dried up and although there were around 75 Song Thrushes grounded at the Bill the majority of the new arrivals were smaller migrants. Grounded and overhead passage at the Bill included 60 Siskins, 50 Robins, 30 Chiffchaffs, 25 Wheatears, 15 Blackcaps, 15 Goldcrests, 5 Firecrests, 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Merlin, Snipe, Ring Ouzel, Grasshopper Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Redpoll; a similar scatter of birds elsewhere included another Black Redstart at Weston Street.

There was another poor selection of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight: 3 Plutella xylostella, 3 Udea ferrugalis, 3 Silver Y, 2 Pearly Underwing and 1 Delicate.




 Yellow-browed Warbler and Richard's Pipit - Portland Bill, October 6th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 6th

A very promising looking overcast and damp dawn delivered an early highlight in the form of a Red-throated Pipit that was heard and seen twice as it flew over first the Obs and then shortly afterwards the Privet Hedge; from the latter it was watched heading away north towards Southwell and an extensive search revealed no further sign of it. Further rarity interest was provided by a rather mobile Richard's Pipit lingering around Top Fields and the East Cliff fields and single Yellow-browed Warblers at Culverwell and the Obs, whilst scarce migrants included a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and a Dartford Warbler at Reap Lane. A heavy passage of Song Thrushes was apparent throughout the morning when, for example, 250 passed overhead at the Bill; 15 Redwings and the first Fieldfare of the autumn tagged along with this movement. On the ground it was busier than for some while but nonetheless still quieter than might have been expected given the conditions; totals from the Bill area included 50 Robins, 25 Chiffchaffs, 25 Goldcrests, 20 Blackcaps, 15 Wheatears, 6 Snipe, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Redstart, a Whinchat, a Reed Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Moth interest has dwindled recently; last night's mild and damp conditions provided a good haul of common resident species in the Obs garden moth-traps but the only immigrants among the catch were 8 Udea ferrugalis, 6 Pearly Underwing, 2 Nomophila noctuella and 1 Silver Y.



 Stonechat - Portland Bill, October 5th 2005 © James Lidster

  October 5th

A Richard's Pipit flushed from fields near the Obs during the afternoon was the best of the new arrivals today. It was otherwise rather quiet on the land with only a light scatter of typical grounded migrants everywhere. There was a good deal more movement overhead, including 30 Siskins, a Turtle Dove and a Brambling over the Bill and 2 Crossbills over Old Hill.




        Common Buzzard, Tree Sparrow and Long-eared Owl - Portland Bill, October 4th 2005 © Martin Cade

  October 4th

The cloud of yesterday might have been forecast to have remained overhead all day but the reality was clear skies and warm sunshine from the outset. Grounded migrants remained distinctly less numerous than might have been hoped for but there was still a long and varied list for the day including some small morsels of quality: a Long-eared Owl showed up in the Obs garden/hut fields during the afternoon where 2 Tree Sparrows had paid a brief visit earlier in the day, a Dartford Warbler was at Reap Lane and a Great Spotted Woodpecker frequented gardens at Wakeham. More routine fare included a light scatter of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere, along with 6 Wheatears, 4 Common Buzzards, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Merlin, a Tree Pipit, a Reed Warbler, a Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Brambling and a Reed Bunting at the Bill and 4 Whinchats, a Tree Pipit and a Redwing at Barleycrates Lane. Passage overhead was largely uneventful, with the best being 19 Siskins and 2 Redpolls over the Bill and 5 Grey Herons over Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced 15 Common Scoter, 2 Brent Geese, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Teal, whilst a Mediterranean Gull and a Kingfisher were the best on offer at Ferrybridge.

Late news for yesterday: a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen briefly at Verne Common.

October 3rd

There was much more of the feel of late autumn about proceedings today with heavily overcast skies and just the lightest of breezes; the first small flurry of Song Thrushes was welcome but among the other migrants there were still surprisingly few 'crests and warblers in the trees and fewer still Stonechats around the fields . The Bill area produced a fair variety of grounded and fly-over migrants including 220 Meadow Pipits, 100 alba wagtails, 31 Siskins, 30 Chaffinches, 25 Chiffchaffs, 20 Song Thrushes, 20 Blackcaps, 10 Goldcrests, 6 Lapwings, 5 Wheatears, 4 Snipe, 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, a Dunlin, a Yellow Wagtail, the first Redwing of the autumn, a Ring Ouzel, a Reed Warbler and a Whitethroat, as well as plenty of hirundines and the customary sprinkle of 'new' Dunnocks, Wrens and Robins; a similar variety of new arrivals were noted elsewhere around the island. Seawatching at the Bill produced 117 Common Scoter, 6 Wigeon, 6 Black-headed Gulls, the first Brent Goose of the autumn, an Arctic Skua, a Sandwich Tern and an Arctic Tern, whilst another 5 Brent Geese were at Ferrybridge.

October 2nd

With the wind easing down throughout the day it was at least possible once again to search for migrants on the land even if there seemed to be precious few new grounded arrivals on view. Most of the action was overhead where there was plenty of visible passage of diurnal migrants, with a two hour sample count at the Bill provided totals of 925 Meadow Pipits, 550 Linnets, 304 alba wagtails, 78 Goldfinches, 74 Swallows, 51 Chaffinches, 42 Skylarks, 25 Siskins and the usual miscellany of other species flying north into the wind. It was much quieter on the ground where the hoped-for rush of, for example, thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and 'crests just isn't getting going; the only minor highlights reported where a Redshank and a Firecrest at the Bill, a late Swift at Church Ope Cove and a Ring Ouzel at Verne Common.

October 1st

Birding was very difficult in a blasting westerly wind that veered into the north-west through the day. With much clearer skies than yesterday visible passage got going again in quantity, with estimates at the Bill of 500 Linnets, 400 Meadow Pipits, 250 Swallows, 250 Goldfinches, 200 alba wagtails and 20 Siskins leaving to the south during the morning. The handful of birds on the land there included a Merlin and a Firecrest, whilst seawatching produced 2 Balearic and a Manx Shearwater, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua.