April 2006




   mixed Brent Goose flock and Whinchat - Ferrybridge, April 30th 2006 © Pete Saunders 

  April 30th

No sign of any Hoopoes today and nothing much of significance arrived in their place. The scatter of grounded common migrants included 12 Sedge Warblers, 5 Whinchats, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Cuckoo, a Tree Pipit, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Pied Flycatcher and a Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill, 2 Pied and 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler in the Avalanche Road/Weston Street area, another Grasshopper Warbler near Blacknor and 10 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Whinchat at Ferrybridge. Sea passage remained rather slow; Manx Shearwaters were still offshore in quantity (400 logged at both the Bill and Chesil Beach during the course of the day) and the pick of the birds on the move were 11 Eider, 9 Sanderling, 2 Red-throated, 2 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver and 2 Pomarine, 2 Arctic and a Great Skua off the Bill, 25 Dunlin, 9 Sanderling, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Little Gulls and a Red-throated Diver off Chesil Beach and a mixed flock of 21 Brent Geese over Ferrybridge that contained at least 6 Pale-bellied Brents.

The generally settled conditions that prevailed throughout April allowed for a pretty full programme of ringing on every day of the month in the Obs garden. The total of 1162 new birds ringed was a little higher than the average April total during the previous 15 years which stood at 1081 (individual April totals have ranged from just 229 in 1992 to 1902 in 1995). The majority of summer migrants chipped in with respectable totals, although the fact that a day-total of 100 new birds ringed was achieved just once indicates that April was a month of steady passage rather than spectacular falls.




   Hoopoe, Purple Thorn and Early Thorn - Weston Street and Portland Bill, April 29th 2006 © Martin Cade 

  April 29th

Hoopoe was species of the day today, with the Weston Street/Coombefield Quarry bird present all day and further individuals seen - briefly in each case - near the RN Cemetery at Verne Common early in the morning and flying over Croft Road, Weston, during the afternoon. Otherwise it much quieter than yesterday for grounded common migrants, with the very light sprinkle of expected species including nothing much more interesting than a Cuckoo and a Grasshopper Warbler at the Bill and a Bullfinch at Avalanche Road, Southwell. Singles Hobbies passed overhead at the Bill and Weston Street and Swifts and hirundines were on the move in some numbers everywhere. Seawatching at the Bill produced 560 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Great, an Arctic and a Pomarine Skua, a Black-throated and a Great Northern Diver and a few Common Scoter passing through off the Bill and a single Black-throated Diver and a few Manx Shearwaters passing through off Chesil Beach.

A Clouded Yellow was seen at the Bill and the first Holly Blue of the the year was on the wing at Weston.

Overnight moth-trapping in the Obs garden produced a Purple Thorn (only the third island record, following singles in April 1958 and August 2000) and a Diamond-back Moth; V-Pug and Dotted Border were the only additions to the macro-moth year list, whilst Eudonia angustea was the first pyralid recorded this year.



   Hoopoe - Weston Street, April 28th 2006 © Martin Cade 

  April 28th

A day with plenty of variety as migrants trickled through without stopping for long. The highlights both came late in the day, with a Marsh Harrier seen flying south-east over Admiralty Quarry early in the evening and a Hoopoe found just before dark between Weston Street and Coombefield Quarry. Pick of the migrants in the Bill area included 150 Swifts, 75 Willow Warblers, 30 Blackcaps, 20 Whinchats, 15 Sedge Warblers, 15 Garden Warblers, 7 Bullfinches, 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Redstarts, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Hobby, a Common Sandpiper, a Turtle Dove, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Reed Warbler, a Firecrest, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Redpoll. The sea was still deadly quiet, with nothing more than 2 Red-throated Divers and an Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill, where 150 Manx Shearwaters were lingering offshore.

Moth-trapping overnight at the Obs produced a single Diamond-back Moth along with the first Muslin Moth of the year; a Waved Umber attracted to lights at Church Ope was also a first for the year.






   Greenshank, Whimbrel and Yellow-legged Gull - Portland Harbour and Portland Bill, April 27th 2006 © Paul Baker (Greenshank), Colin McEntee (Whimbrels) and Martin Cade (gulls)

  April 27th

Cloudier than yesterday although the weather remains very settled and dry, with the light northerly breeze doing the seawatchers no favours at all. The bird of the day was a Long-eared Owl that arrived in off the sea at Ferrybridge and flew off west along Chesil Beach with gulls and crows in pursuit; a Yellow-legged Gull in the Bill car park was a good deal less noteworthy but still an odd record for the time of year. Grounded migrants were not plentiful but did include 15 Whimbrel, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Redstarts, 3 Bullfinches, 2 White Wagtails and 2 Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat at Barleycrates Lane, the Little Ringed Plover still at Ferrybridge and the Greenshank still along the Harbour shore. Swifts are beginning to arrive in numbers and 90 Wood Pigeons, 3 Hobbies, a Little Egret and a Redpoll also passed overhead at the Bill. The best of the passing seabirds were 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Skuas and 2 Arctic Skuas off the Bill and a Great Northern Diver off Chesil Beach.

No immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning, with Brimstone and Shuttle-shaped Dart the only new species for the year trapped overnight.





   Firecrest, Little Ringed Plover, the Wryneck draws a crowd and Greenshank - Southwell, Ferrybridge, Portland Bill and Portland Harbour, April 26th 2006 © Keith Pritchard (Firecrest), Pete Saunders (LRP) and Martin Cade (Wryneck crowd and Greenshank) 

  April 26th

After a day lurking out of view in yesterday's fog the Wryneck emerged again in today's brilliant sunshine to show from time to time in and around the Obs Quarry. It was otherwise very quiet all round, with the pick of a light scatter of grounded migrants being a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane, a Firecrest at Southwell, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Bullfinches, a Grey Plover and a Lapwing at the Bill, a Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge and a Greenshank on the Portland Harbour shore. Despite the clear skies, visible passage was limited to a small northward movement of Swifts, hirundines, pipits and wagtails everywhere, a Hobby in off the sea at the Bill and a total of 250 Wood Pigeons that arrived from the north over the Bill. The highlights on the sea during the morning were 90 Manx Shearwaters, 60 commic terns, 7 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver and 3 Great, an Arctic and a Pomarine Skua passing through off the Bill; later in the day there was a good evening movement of Manx Shearwaters, with 500 passing the Bill and 200 passing Chesil Cove.

A single Turnip Moth was the only presumed immigrant attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.



   Chris Packham and entourage filming for a BBC TV series at PBO - Portland Bill, April 25th 2006 © Matt Wood 

  April 25th

A quiet day on the land after a very foggy night. The only grounded scarcer migrants at the Bill were 7 Whimbrel, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Whinchats, a Ring Ouzel, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Bullfinch; another 2 Grasshopper Warblers were at Barleycrates Lane. Four Yellow Wagtails, 3 Tree Pipits, a Hobby and a Green Sandpiper were among the few birds on the move overhead at the Bill. Seawatching was hampered by poor visibility, although 350 Gannets, 6 Arctic and 6 Great Skuas, 4 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, and a few Manx Shearwaters and commic terns were spotted passing through off the Bill during the morning. 

Two Silver Y and a Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrants attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight; additionally, a Chamomile Shark was a first record for the year in a garden light-trap at Southwell.



   Wryneck and Silver Y - Portland Bill, April 24th 2006 © Martin Cade 

  April 24th

Much quieter than in recent days although the appearance of an elusive Wryneck in the hut fields adjacent to the Obs garden provided some compensation for the apparent disappearance of the Common Rosefinch. Common migrants were pretty thin on the ground everywhere, although did include 9 Tree Pipits, 4 Redstarts, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Swifts, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Bullfinches, a Purple Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, a Cuckoo and a Whinchat at the Bill and another Ring Ouzel at the Grove. Despite very promising-looking conditions, the sea rewarded only the most dogged observers: 12 Eider, 8 Arctic Skuas and a Pomarine Skua passed through off the Bill and 5 Dunlin (!) passed through off Chesil Beach. Passage waders at Ferrybridge included 4 Sanderling, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Little Ringed Plover.

On the butterfly front a Speckled Wood was a first for the year in the Obs garden.

Moth-trapping was much more productive than of late at the Obs, where 2 Silver Y, a Diamond-back Moth and a Dark Sword Grass were immigrants of note and Double-striped Pug, Early Thorn, Red Chestnut, Angle Shades and Powdered Quaker were all recorded for the first time this year.



   Two more Common Rosefinch images from yesterday - Portland Bill, April 22nd 2006 © Paul Baker 

  April 23rd

The Common Rosefinch remained in Top Fields where it was seen much more frequently than yesterday. In damp and often drizzly conditions common migrants were present in good numbers and variety, with totals from the Bill area that included 75 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 30 Whitethroats, 20 Sedge Warblers, 15 Tree Pipits, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Curlews, 10 Whinchats, 8 Whimbrel, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, a Turtle Dove, a Reed Warbler, a Firecrest and a Brambling. Elsewhere quality was provided by a Black Redstart, a Firecrest and another Brambling at Southwell, and a Ring Ouzel and a Siskin amongst plenty more commoner migrants at Barelycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced totals of 44 Bar-tailed Godwits, 21 Whimbrel, 3 Arctic and a Great Skua, 2 Grey Plovers and a Red-throated Diver passing through and a very unusual report of 20 Little Terns lingering offshore.




   acredula Willow Warbler and lousy record shot of Common Rosefinch - Portland Bill, April 22nd 2006 © Martin Cade 

  April 22nd

The surprise highlight of the day was an exceptionally early (and extremely elusive) Common Rosefinch in Top Fields at the Bill, whilst Roseate Tern (1 lingering off the Bill) and Spotted Flycatcher (at least 2 at the Bill) were also both additions to the year list. Grounded migrants were plentiful everywhere, with scarcer species at the Bill that included 10 Whinchats, 10 Redstarts, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Bullfinches, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Redpoll. Overhead, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Tree Pipits and a Hobby passed through at the Bill although hirundines were not quite as numerous as yesterday. The pick of the day's sea passage included 175 commic terns, 12 Little Gulls, 9 Arctic Skuas, 2 Great Skuas and a Great Northern Diver off the Bill and 120 Manx Shearwaters, 53 Black-headed Gulls, 46 Whimbrel, 40 Bar-tailed Godwits, 11 Common Terns, 5 Arctic Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Grey Plover off Chesil Beach.





   Bar-tailed Godwits and......wonder what else would have been found if they'd have dragged themselves away from the Obs patio? - Chesil Beach and PBO, April 21st 2006 © Martin Cade

  April 21st

Plenty of variety again today, including a report from one fortunate observer of a fly-by Red-rumped Swallow at the Bill. A Wood Warbler in song at Ladymead, Easton, and a Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell were both first records for the year, whilst a Marsh Harrier over Barleycrates Lane early in the morning and a Dartford Warbler in Top Fields later in the day were the best of the oddities discovered. Migrants at the Bill included a very heavy passage of hirundines - including at least 2000 Swallows - good numbers of grounded Wheatears and Willow Warblers, and scarcer species such as 8 Grasshopper Warblers, 8 Bullfinches, 2 Redpolls and a Firecrest; another 3 Grasshopper Warblers were at Barleycrates Lane and another 3 Bullfinches at Avalanche Road. Seawatching was relatively uneventful but provided totals that included 230 Common Scoter, 76 Sandwich Terns, 6 Little Gulls, 6 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua passing the Bill, 133 Manx Shearwaters, 127 Common Scoter, 6 Little Gulls, an Arctic Skua and a Black Tern off Chesil Beach in the morning and 60 commic terns and a single flock of around 500 Bar-tailed Godwits passing high over Chesil Beach and Ferrybridge in the evening.




   Marsh Harrier and Little Ringed Plover - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, April 20th 2006 © Martin Cade (harrier) and Colin McEntee (LRP)

  April 20th

A nice look to the day again, with overcast skies, the wind in the south and occasional drizzly outbreaks, but it remained disappointingly quiet on the common migrant front. Some moments of quality were provided by a very unusual spring sighting of a Green Sandpiper over the Obs garden early in the morning, a Marsh Harrier that lingered around Top Fields for a few minutes later in the morning, a Montagu's Harrier that arrived from the south at the Bill (but continued flying north off the East Cliffs rather than coming ashore) late in the afternoon and a Little Ringed Plover that was at Ferrybridge during the afternoon. Otherwise the pick of the day's scarcer migrants were 4 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Redstarts, 2 Bullfinches, a Tree Pipit and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill, a Cuckoo and another Grasshopper Warbler at Reap Lane and 3 Sanderling and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill provided totals that included 9 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 11 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, 2 Eider and a lone Great Crested Grebe; 2 Great Skuas also passed through off Chesil Beach.



   Whinchat and yesterday's Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Southwell, April 19th 2006 © Martin Cade (Whinchat) and Pete Saunders (Pied Flycatcher)

  April 19th

A day with plenty of variety but there was not the large fall of migrants that looked a possibility given the heavy cloud cover overhead at dawn. Wheatear and Willow Warbler numbered around 75 apiece at the Bill, where there were also 8 Yellow Wagtails, 7 Whitethroats, 4 Goldcrests, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Redstarts, 2 Whinchats, 2 Bullfinches, a Canada Goose, a Tree Pipit and a Garden Warbler; more than 500 Swallows (together with smaller numbers of Sand and House Martins) also passed through during the morning. Elsewhere the Barnacle Goose was still at Portland Harbour (evidently it has been present there for several days!) and more than 50 Sandwich and 20 Common Terns were also in the Harbour; a single Sanderling was at Ferrybridge where there are now several Little Terns back visiting their breeding colony. There was a particularly noteworthy movement of 46 Great Skuas past the Bill, where seawatching also produced 21 Whimbrel, 8 Eider, 3 Arctic Terns, 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, 3 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua and at least another 1500 auks (still mainly Razorbills). 

Late news for yesterday: 65 Sandwich Terns and a Common Sandpiper were at Portland Harbour and a Pied Flycatcher was in a garden at Southwell.

Finally, we've recently received several requests for information regarding the exceptional numbers of Bullfinches recorded at the Bill in recent weeks. The details of the birds handled are as follows: a total of 21 have been trapped and ringed in the Obs garden so far this spring (the previous highest annual total there was 17 in 2005); the average wing length of these birds is 80.5mm (range 78mm-84mm) and their average weight has been 22.7gms (range 20.6gms-24.2gms); the calls heard in the field have been typical of the calls of 'British' Bullfinches. 



   Barnacle Goose - Portland Harbour, April 18th 2006 © Martin Cade

  April 18th

Another largely clear day with plenty of visible passage but only small numbers of grounded migrants. The rather unlikely highlight of the day came in the form of a Barnacle Goose found in Portland Harbour late in the evening. A Marsh Harrier that arrived from the south at the Bill during the afternoon was not so unexpected given the weather conditions; 150 Wood Pigeons, 15 Yellow Wagtails and 5 Tree Pipits were amongst the plentiful hirundines, pipits and finches on the move overhead at the Bill, whilst grounded scarcer migrants included the first Cuckoo of the year at Suckthumb Quarry and 7 Redstarts, 6 White Wagtails, 4 Bullfinches, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Ring Ouzel and a Black Redstart at the Bill. Offshore, at least another 3000 auks passed through off the Bill where 9 Great and 6 Arctic Skuas, 6 Red-throated Divers and small numbers of Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoter were also logged passing by.





   Black Redstart and Redstarts (including greater-covert detail) - Southwell and Portland Bill, April 17th 2006 © Martin Cade

 The two Redstarts are an adult male (left) and a first-summer male (right). The greater-coverts provide the best ageing clue: on the adult these are all edged blue-grey, whereas on the first-summer the old (juvenile) brown-edged outer feathers contrast with the newer (post-juvenile) blue-edged inner feathers. Confusingly, the adult great-coverts are usually tipped rufous-brown, giving the appearance of a brown wing-bar which sometimes leads to mis-ageing in the field. By virtue of the lack of a white wing-panel and worn brown flight feathers/coverts the Southwell Black Redstart can be rather easily aged in the field as a first-summer.

  April 17th

Just a thin scatter of grounded migrants today, with the best in the Bill area being the first Whinchat of the spring, along with 12 Redstarts, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and a Black Redstart; Wheatear and Willow Warbler - both with totals of around 40 - were the only commoner migrants in any numbers. In clear conditions there were plenty of birds on the move overhead; 250 Wood Pigeons arrived from the north early in the morning but as the day went on there was a steady passage of hirundines, Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails, Linnets and Goldfinches arriving from the south; 10 Yellow Wagtails, 7 Tree Pipits, 2 Bullfinches and a Hobby were among the better quality birds tagging along with this movement. The only report from other island areas was of a Black Redstart at Southwell. Sea interest at the Bill was dominated by another huge movement of thousands of auks flying west; the only noteworthy 'routine' migrants were 4 Eider, 2 Great Skuas, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua.

A single Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the wing at Cheyne.

April 16th

Far quieter today with, for example, just 12 birds trapped and ringed in the Obs garden as opposed to the total of 118 ringed there yesterday. Less common species reported included 2 Bullfinches at the Obs, single Grasshopper Warblers at Southwell and Verne Common, a Turtle Dove at the Grove, a Redpoll over Easton and a Hobby over the Bill. The most unexpected feature of the day's sea passage were the large numbers of auks on the move off the Bill; more than 5000 - seemingly mainly Razorbills - flew west there during the course of the morning. The pick of the more routine sea passage included 50 commic terns, 4 Red-throated, 2 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver, 4 Eider and 2 Great, 2 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua passing through off the Bill and 44 Common Scoter, 34 commic terns, 7 Whimbrel, a Black-throated Diver and a Grey Plover off Chesil Beach.



   Turtle Dove - Southwell, April 15th 2006 © Pete Saunders

  April 15th

The most promising looking conditions of the spring - overcast skies and a moderate easterly breeze - delivered a decent arrival of birds on the land, visible passage was conspicuous everywhere and there was a distinctly improved passage on the sea. Wheatears, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs made up the bulk of grounded numbers and were numerous throughout the island (sample totals included 200 Wheatears in the Barleycrates Lane/Reap Lane/Windmills area and 200 Willow Warblers, 150 Chiffchaffs and 30 Blackcaps at the Bill); all three hirundines, Meadow Pipits and Linnets were arriving in off the sea in good numbers and terns and waders were passing in quantity for the first time on the sea. The only rarity seen was a Serin at Barleycrates Lane; Little Tern (off Chesil Beach), Black Tern (off the Bill), Swift (over the Bill) and Garden Warbler (at Southwell) were new for the year, whilst less common migrants included 10 Grasshopper Warblers scattered around the southern half of the island, 15 each of Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail over the Bill, a Merlin at Chesil Beach and 2 Turtle Doves at Southwell. The pick of sea passage included 122 commic terns, 119 Whimbrel, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 6 Little Terns, 5 Grey Plover and 2 Arctic Skuas passing through off Chesil Beach and 347 commic terns, 5 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Velvet Scoter off the Bill.



   In the absence of anything more exciting to photograph: the first Whitethroat trapped and ringed at the Obs this year - Portland Bill, April 14th 2006 © Martin Cade

  April 14th

A fairly low-key start to the Easter holiday. The only scarcities reported were a first for the year in the form of a fly-over Yellow-legged Gull at the Bill and slightly earlier than average first sightings for the spring of a Pomarine Skua passing through off the Bill and 2 Turtle Doves (along with 2 Tree Pipits) flying north over Independent Quarry. Common migrants remained thin on the ground at the Bill although there was news of Willow Warblers in particular being a good deal more numerous in the Weston area; the best of the less regular migrants were 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Bullfinches and a White Wagtail at the Bill, a Yellow Wagtail and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane, a Ring Ouzel near the windmills at Easton and a Pied Flycatcher at Cheyne. In addition to the Pomarine Skua, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great and an Arctic Skua, 2 Sandwich Terns and a trickle of Manx Shearwaters passed through off the Bill, but Chesil Beach provided slightly more in the way of numbers with 13 Common Scoter, 6 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, 5 Manx Shearwaters, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver passing during the morning.

April 13th

Still very few migrants dropping in. Small numbers of Wheatears, Willow Warblers and passing Swallows accounted for most of the activity at the Bill where the only slightly out of the ordinary reports were of 2 Bullfinches, a Grey Heron, a Whimbrel and a Redstart; elsewhere the first Reed Warbler of the spring was at Church Ope Cove. The sea could hardly have been quieter with the now daily 2 Puffins showing from time to time at the Bill but nothing more than 12 Common Scoter, 3 Manx Shearwaters and a single commic tern on the move past there.

April 12th

Uniformly dismal on land and sea today with the best on offer at the Bill being 3 Whimbrel, 2 Bullfinches, a Merlin, a Redstart and a Redpoll amongst the merest handful of commoner species; elsewhere there were 2 more Redstarts and a Black Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. A few Manx Shearwaters and 3 Red-throated Divers were just about the only passing seabirds of note at the Bill.

April 11th

The second Hawfinch of the spring was a good highlight at Penn's Weare towards the end of a dull and increasingly windy morning that produced nothing more interesting at the Bill than 2 White Wagtails, a Merlin and yet another Bullfinch (a record-breaking spring total of 14 Bullfinches have now been trapped and ringed at the Obs) among very low numbers of commoner migrants. Sea interest picked up a little with totals of 18 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Red-throated, 1 Black-throated  and 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Eider, 4 Arctic and 3 Great Skuas and a Whimbrel passing through off the Bill during the morning. Persistent rain curtailed activities during the afternoon before a late clearance allowed for some evening seawatching that produced 100 or more Manx Shearwaters passing though or lingering off the Bill.

April 10th

With the weather remaining very fair some raptor movement had been expected and duly occurred late in the afternoon when two single Ospreys flew north - half an hour apart - along the West Cliffs at the Bill and at Southwell. Otherwise it was still fairly uneventful, with the best of the other new arrivals being the first Common Sandpiper of the spring at the Bill. Among the common migrants the only species in any numbers was Blackcap (a total of 32 were trapped and ringed in the Obs garden alone); scarcer migrants at the Bill included 2 Redstarts, a Merlin, a Snipe, a Brambling and a Bullfinch. The only reports from the sea were of 30 Common Scoter, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Black-throated Diver passing through off the Bill.

The first Clouded Yellow of the year was on the wing at the Bill where there was also a Hummingbird Hawk-moth (and 2 Brimstones were again in the Obs garden).

Late news for yesterday: a bit of evening sea movement at the Bill included a few Manx Shearwaters, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Skua passing by.



   White Wagtail - Portland Bill, April 9th 2006 © Martin Cade

  April 9th

Another good day for the sun-lovers but just about as bird-less as it could be at this time of year. Swallows trickled through all day, but on the ground Wheatear and Willow Warbler just about struggled into double-figure totals at the Bill where the only 'quality' was provided by 4 more Bullfinches, 2 Redstarts, a White Wagtail and a Grasshopper Warbler. The seawatchers came up with just 49 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill where 34 more Common Scoter and a new Eider were settled offshore.

Two Brimstone butterflies were in the Obs garden.

Late news for yesterday: a Hobby flew north at Kingbarrow Quarry.

April 8th

Very little to report, with only the most minor flurry of new arrivals today. The Bill area produced a light scatter of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, along with 5 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Bullfinches, a Grey Heron, a Merlin and a Grey Wagtail; Swallows trickled through all day, but otherwise visible passage consisted of just a few Linnets and alba wagtails arriving in off the sea. The only reports from other island areas were of a Redstart at Barleycrates Lane, 2 Common Buzzards over Weston and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Sanderling at Ferrybridge. Sea passage consisted of 23 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and a Curlew passing the Bill, where 25 Common Scoter were still settled offshore and 2 Puffins passed back and forth a few times early in the morning.

A Brimstone butterfly was again in the Obs garden.

April 7th

A better day with the veil of cloud overhead at dawn dropping a fair selection of common migrants if not the big fall that might have materialised given a bit more damp in the air. The rarity of the day was a Serin that lingered for a while early in the morning at Easton, whilst a Grasshopper Warbler trapped at the Obs was another on cue first for the year. Migrant totals at the Bill included 75 Willow Warblers, 35 Wheatears, 20 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Bramblings, a Grey Heron, a Merlin, a White Wagtail, a Ring Ouzel, a Redstart and a Bullfinch, whilst elsewhere there was another Black Redstart at Suckthumb Quarry. Hirundines were on the move in better numbers than during the last couple of days, with more than 100 Swallows passing through at the Bill before midday. The sea remained as quiet as it has been in recent days, with nothing better than 9 more Red-throated Divers passing through off the Bill.

At least 2 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were still off the East Cliffs at the Bill during the morning.

April 6th

Another good day for boosting the suntan but anyone coming to Portland for the spectacle of migrants on the move would have gone away disappointed. A Treecreeper at Westcliff Road, Weston, was the bird of the day but grounded commoner migrants consisted of nothing more than a handful of typical early April species; another 5 Bullfinches at the Bill were the only slightly out of the ordinary new arrivals. The trickle of visible migrants included 3 White Wagtails passing overhead at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced 300 auk spp, 65 Common Scoter and 3 Red-throated Divers moving up-Channel and a couple of Shelduck lingering offshore. 

Three Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill for much of the day.




      Water Pipit, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, April 5th 2006 © Colin McEntee (pipit) and Martin Cade (warblers)

  April 5th

Similar weather conditions to yesterday but much quieter everywhere today. The most interesting sighting of the day concerned a Water Pipit photographed near the Bill car park during the morning; searches for the bird later in the day drew a blank (Water Pipit is a quality rarity at the Bill with only 8 records in total and none since 1991). A single Jack Snipe was another notable record at the Bill where commoner migrants included nothing more than 40 Wheatears, 20 Willow Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Redstarts, 3 Goldcrests, 3 Bullfinches and a Tree Pipit; despite the clear skies there was virtually no visible passage overhead (not a single Swallow was reported in the Bill area!). Bits and pieces elsewhere around the island included 2 Redstarts and a Merlin at Blacknor, a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry and another Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced just 4 Sandwich Terns and a Red-throated Diver passing by.

Following on from the noteworthy report of 2 Brimstone butterflies at the weekend, there were further singles today at the Obs and at Priory Corner.

Late news for yesterday: a Short-eared Owl was seen at Weston during the afternoon. By the end of the day the ringing tally in the Obs garden had reached 93 new birds and one control (a British-ringed Blackcap), with species totals that included 35 Willow Warblers, 19 Blackcaps, 12 Chiffchaffs, 6 Redstarts, 5 Bullfinches and 1 Pied Flycatcher.

April 4th

Clear skies and a moderate north-easterly headwind provided just the right conditions for the first good fall of the spring this morning. The day's highlights were a Serin that settled briefly on the Lower Admiralty fence at the Bill before flying off north, a Hawfinch that flew north over the Obs and three more year ticks in the form of the first Whitethroats, Pied Flycatchers and Yellow Wagtail. The lion's share of the common migrants were logged at the Bill where totals included 150 Wheatears, 150 Willow Warblers, 50 Chiffchaffs, 30 Blackcaps, 25 Redstarts, 10 Goldcrests, 6 Bullfinches, 4 Pied Flycatchers, 3 Whitethroats, a Merlin, a Tree Pipit, a Yellow Wagtail and a Long-tailed Tit; there was also plenty of movement overhead, including 400 Swallows, 300 Meadow Pipits, 250 Wood Pigeons, 100 Linnets, 100 Sand Martins and 5 House Martins passing through. At least 4 Common Buzzards lingered around the Bill area throughout the morning and a Water Rail was still at Culverwell. The only seawatching reports of note were of 8 Red-throated Divers and 2 Shoveler passing through off the Bill.

Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Early Grey were three fairly predictable first records for the year in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.

April 3rd

Clear skies and unbroken sunshine today although the stiff westerly wind still retained a keen edge. There was plenty of variety on the bird front although numbers were for the most part less than impressive. Redstart got on to the year list by virtue of singles at the Bill and Barleycrates Lane, whilst a Green Woodpecker at the Bill was noteworthy; however the most impressive movement of the day involved 550 Wood Pigeons passing overhead at the Bill (a fairly constant passage of small flocks during the first four hours of the morning that arrived from the north-east and headed off to the west). More mundane fare at the Bill included 40 Swallows, 25 Willow Warblers, 20 Wheatears, 15 Chaffinches, 10 Blackcaps, 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 Shelducks, 2 Goldcrests, a Grey Heron, a Water Rail, a Curlew, a White Wagtail, a Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting, whilst elsewhere there was a Merlin at Barleycrates Lane, a Brambling at Avalanche Road and a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. The only sea interest concerned the usual 20 Common Scoter settled off the Bill where a couple of Red-throated Divers also passed by.

April 2nd

The recent run of bright and blustery conditions with occasional passing showers continued. The first House Martin of the spring passed through at the Bill, where there were also 25 Wheatears, 20 Chiffchaffs, 20 Willow Warblers, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Swallows, 2 Redwings, a Merlin and a Blackcap. Seawatching reports from there included 25 Common Scoter, 12 Red-throated Divers, 4 Sandwich Terns, 3 Manx Shearwaters, a Great Northern Diver, a Great Skua, an Arctic Skua and a Little Gull passing by and 20 Common Scoter and an Eider still settled offshore. The only news from other sites was of a single Sanderling at Ferrybridge.



      ...a freak of nature (of which there are quite a few - avian or otherwise - on Portland)...Great Tit - Portland Bill, April 1st 2006 © Martin Cade

  April 1st

Just a hint of passage picking up a little today but still nothing like the numbers that there ought to be. The first Tree Pipit of the spring was reported at the Bill, along with 20 Swallows, 20 Wheatears, 20 Willow Warblers, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Sand Martins, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Golden Plovers, a Merlin and a Reed Bunting; the most peculiar bird of the day was a freakishly plumaged Great Tit (lacking the usual black and blue pigmentation in its plumage) trapped and ringed at the Obs. Seawatching at the Bill produced totals of 17 Brent Geese, 12 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers, 4 Sandwich Terns, 2 Gadwall and 1 Arctic Skua passing by and 22 Common Scoter and an Eider still settled offshore.

On the butterfly front, 2 Brimstones (a scarce - non-breeding? - visitor to Portland) were at Church Ope Cove and the first Peacocks of the year were on the wing at several sites.