April 2007




     Buff-tip and yet more Bar-tailed Godwits ...sorry but it's difficult to tire of migrating Barwits - Portland Bill and Chesil Beach, April 30th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 30th

Rather quiet again on the land but there was still quite a bit on the move at sea. A very limited selection of grounded and overflying migrants included 25 Wheatears, 9 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Bullfinches, 2 Tree Pipits, a Redstart and a Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill. On the sea there were 1235 Bar-tailed Godwits, 60 miscellaneous commic terns, 45 Whimbrel, 46 Black-headed Gulls and singles of Red-throated Diver, Hobby, Grey Plover and Dunlin off Chesil and 170 Manx Shearwaters, 100 commic terns, 90 Bar-tailed Godwits, 68 Whimbrel, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Black Terns, a Black-throated Diver, a Great Crested Grebe, a Canada Goose and a Great Skua off the Bill. Overall, April turned out to be a bumper month for passerine migrants with the settled, albeit often rather windy, conditions allowing for ringing in the Obs garden on every day of the month. The total of 1911 new birds ringed there was the highest April total during the last 16 years (in that period the individual April totals have ranged from just 229 in 1992 to 1902 in 1995).

A slight improvement in immigrant numbers in the Obs garden moth-traps saw 3 Silver Y, two each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Pearly Underwing and singles of Diamond-back Moth and Gem caught overnight; Pale Tussock, Buff-tip, Least Black Arches and Vine's Rustic were also all year-ticks.




  more Bar-tailed Godwits - Chesil Beach, April 29th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 29th

A few highlights in the scarcity line today although as a spectacle the best was provided by the sea where Bar-tailed Godwits and a few Pomarine Skuas were again on the move. Rarity-wise two Nightjars arrived in off the sea at the Bill (one at dawn and the other early in the afternoon), a Serin was heard singing briefly at Reap Lane early in the morning, an Osprey flew north over Chesil Cove early in the afternoon and at least one Marsh Harrier lingered over the centre of the island late in the morning. With interest on the land restricted to a very light sprinkle of grounded migrants (including a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane) and one of the better movements of incoming hirundines and other overhead migrants (including single Hobbys over the Bill and Chesil) of the spring, plenty of attention was paid to the sea. The pick of several seawatches at the two main sites were 860 Bar-tailed Godwits, 31 Little Terns, 5 Knot, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Grey Plover, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Northern Diver and a Black Tern off Chesil and 517 Bar-tailed Godwits, 157 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, an Eider and a Great Skua off the Bill.

Red Admirals remained extremely abundant everywhere (probably numbering in the low thousands on the island as a whole with lots more watched arriving in off the sea at the Bill and Chesil.

A single Rusty-dot Pearl was the only immigrant caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight; Common Wainscot, L-album Wainscot, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Light Brocade were all on the wing for the first time.



  Jersey Tiger caterpillar - Portland Bill, April 28th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 28th

Yesterday's evening movement of Bar-tailed Godwits proved to be the precursor of the main passage of this species which took place in clear skies and brisk north-easterlies this morning when Chesil and the Bill came up with totals of 600 and 300 respectively. Also on the move were 37 Black-headed Gulls, 17 Whimbrel, 8 Sanderling, 6 Grey Plover, 4 Dunlin, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Knot, 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and singles of Marsh Harrier, Black-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver off Chesil and 100 Manx Shearwaters, 43 Whimbrel, 5 Shelduck, 3 Arctic Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Little Terns, 4 Little Gulls and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Hobby, Merlin, Great Skua and Short-eared Owl at the Bill. A particularly miserable selection of grounded migrants included nothing better than a Grasshopper Warbler at the Bill, whilst waders at Ferrybridge included 28 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Knot and a Common Sandpiper.

Red Admirals were again on the move with many seen arriving in off the sea at the Bill and on Chesil Beach.

It was much too windy to expect anything in numbers in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning although 2 Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y provided some minor immigrant interest. The discovery of a Jersey Tiger caterpillar in the Obs garden provided final proof that this species is now breeding on the island. Also of interest the first Four-spotted of the year was seen this morning at a regular site for this species near the privet hedge at the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: a single Black Tern was an addition to the Chesil evening seawatch list.




  Some fly-by waders: Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot (above) and part of a flock of Knot (below) - Chesil Beach, April 27th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 27th

With the slightly unsettled conditions of recent days being replaced by the return of clear skies and warm sunshine today's bird list was again dominated by very typical late April fare. Nothing was especially numerous but variety wasn't bad and included 8 Yellow Wagtails, 8 Whinchats, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Reed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, a Common Sandpiper, a Blue-headed Wagtail, a White Wagtail and a Redstart at the Bill. Singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Pomarine Skua and Arctic Skua were the pick of some pretty low-key sea passage off the Bill, whilst a few waders on the move off Chesil in the evening included 138 Bar-tailed Godwits, 32 Knot and 2 Whimbrel.

There was a large increase in Red Admiral numbers, with more than 100 scattered around the centre and south of the island; further to yesterday's report of several Red Admirals on Chesil we heard today that anglers reported seeing many more butterflies arriving in off the sea both there and at the Bill throughout yesterday afternoon and evening.

The only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning were 4 Silver Y and 3 Dark Sword Grass; a single Maiden's Blush was a wanderer of interest whilst Heart and Dart was on the wing for the first time.





  A few 'other wildlife' photographs from the last few days: Wall Lizard, Cream-spot Ladybird and the shieldbug Eurydema ornatum; the lizards have been showing in good numbers at Duncecroft in recent weeks, Cream-spot Ladybird seems to be a fairly widespread species on the island and the photograph of ornatum provides the first evidence of the species' presence away from Tout Quarry where it was first identified as new for Britain a couple of years ago - Duncecroft Quarry and The Grove, April 2007 © Kevin Lane (the lizard) and Ken Dolbear (the insects)

  April 26th

No big fall today but a brisk northerly wind dropped a steady trickle of common migrants at the Bill where 150 Willow Warblers, 40 Wheatears, 30 Blackcaps, 8 Redstarts, 7 Whinchats, 5 Pied Flycatchers and smaller numbers of a wide selection of other typical late April species passed through during the morning; hirundines were also on the move in a steadier procession than has been evident in recent days, whilst a Marsh Harrier - the only real oddity of the day - arrived in off the sea at Chesil Cove early in the evening. Given the unhelpful wind direction it was a surprise that anything much passed by on the sea but persistence eventually paid off with totals of 50 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers and 2 Great Skuas passing the Bill, small numbers of Manx Shearwaters, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwits and commic terns, along with a lone Mediterranean Gull, also passed through off Chesil. The only other news was of 2 late Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the Portland Harbour shore off Hamm Beach (where they were also present yesterday).

Two Silver Y and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Dark Sword Grass and Pearly Underwing, along with the first marbled minor sp of the year, were the pick of the overnight catch in the Obs garden moth-traps.

During an evening seawatch on Chesil Beach 4 single Red Admirals arrived in off the sea and headed off north-eastwards towards Weymouth.

Late news for the last couple of days: local residents report the continuing presence of a Hoopoe in the Portland Hospital area but searches for it today have again drawn a blank.





  Great Skua, Black-throated Diver and Greenland Wheatear - Portland Bill, April 25th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 25th

In a brisk south-westerly wind the land quietened down but there was still quite a bit of passage on the sea. Seawatching at the Bill through the morning produced 48 Common Scoter, 37 Sandwich Terns, 32 Manx Shearwaters, 20 Whimbrel, 12 Great Skuas, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Little Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Mediterranean Gull. The light scatter of birds on the land included another Wryneck at Verne Common where there also 2 each of Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher and a single Cuckoo; elsewhere there was a Ring Ouzel and a Grasshopper Warbler at Tout Quarry, another Grasshopper Warbler at Reap Lane and 6 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Redstarts, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 2 Garden Warblers amongst small numbers of commoner species at the Bill.

Two Silver Y provided the only immigrants interest in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning, Common Swift and V-Pug were also recorded for the first time this year.





  Grasshopper Warbler and Hen Harrier - Portland Bill, April 24th 2007 © Dave Bull (Grasshopper Warbler) and Martin Cade (Hen Harrier)

  April 24th

Another murky, damp day but much more productive for common migrants than yesterday. A Hen Harrier that spent the morning ghosting in and out of the fog around Top Fields at the Bill was the pick of the oddities. In persistent drizzly rain early in the morning common migrants were plentiful but soon filtered away once the weather cleared; estimates of numbers seem likely to have been on the low side as so many birds left so quickly but minimum totals at the Bill included 150 each of Wheatear and Willow Warbler, 50 Blackcaps, 30 Whitethroats, 28 Whimbrel, 20 Sedge Warblers, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Redstarts, 10 Whinchats, 9 Grasshopper Warblers, Garden Warblers, 2 each of Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher and a singles of Blue-headed Wagtail and Black Redstart; plenty more 'up-island' included at least 4 more Grasshopper Warblers at Barleycrates Lane/Suckthumb Quarry. Seawatching was again hampered by poor visibility for a good part of the day but 57 Common Scoter, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Great Skuas, 6 Arctic Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, and a Gadwall were logged amongst a trickle of birds passing the Bill and 25 commic terns, 15 Little Terns, 23 Whimbrel, a Little Gull and the first Black Tern of the spring passed through off Chesil.

The conditions overnight looked quite suitable for some moth arrivals but the only immigrant in the Obs garden traps at dawn was a lone Rusty-dot Pearl.






  Whinchat and Roe Deer  - Portland Bill, April 23rd 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 23rd

Evening update.

Quite a change in the weather saw the arrival of overcast, murky conditions as what wind there was swung into the south-west for the first time in many weeks. Unfortunately the change didn't produce the hoped-for fall of migrants and land and sea were relatively quiet. The only out of the ordinary bird sighting was of a Hoopoe reported to have been seen in flight by a member of the public near Portland Hospital at Castletown - searches for it later drew a blank. More routine migrants at the Bill included 50 each of Blackcap and Willow Warbler, 20 Wheatears, 8 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Whinchats, 5 Redstarts, 4 Sedge Warblers, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and small numbers of other routine fare; elsewhere there were 4 Yellow Wagtails, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Turtle Dove at Barleycrates Lane and 2 Redstarts and a Grasshopper Warbler at Reap Lane. Odds and ends picked out in the gloom offshore included 10 Great Skuas, 8 Whimbrel, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and 2 Little Gulls passing the Bill and 6 Little Gulls, 4 Little Egrets, 2 Arctic Skuas and singles of Grey Plover and Great Skua off Chesil.

A highlight at the Bill was the first appearance there for nearly a year of 2 Roe Deer.

Moth numbers picked up conspicuously in muggier conditions overnight but the only immigrants in the Obs garden traps this morning were 3 Pearly Underwing, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and 2 Silver Y.

Late news for yesterday: singles of Turtle Dove and Spotted Flycatcher at Verne Common were both first records for the spring.




               Mob-handed seawatching and Great Northern Diver - Portland Bill, April 22nd 2007 © Martin Cade (seawatchers and diver)

  April 22nd

Another day with plenty of routine passage with a particular highlight being one of the largest spring arrivals of Yellow Wagtails of recent years. Yellow Wagtails included more than 50 at the Bill and 27 Blacknor along with smaller numbers at several other sites, whilst other scarcer migrants included 7 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Marsh Harrier, a Cuckoo and a Black Redstart scattered around the island. Seawatching produced the bird of the day in the form of a Nightjar off Chesil Beach in the evening (the earliest island record by two days); the pick of the rest of the sea sightings were 12 Arctic Skuas, 7 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers and the long-staying Great Northern Diver off the Bill and 16 Little Gulls, 7 Arctic Skuas, 5 Red-throated Divers and 4 Great Skuas past Chesil.

A party of 25 or more Common Dolphins lingered off the Bill during the morning.

Four Pearly Underwings were the only immigrants caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.



    Arctic Skua (for anyone who doesn't know the lie of the land this photograph was taken from Chesil Beach at Ferrybridge looking south towards the west side of Portland - the Old Higher Lighthouse is just visible at the right hand end of the photo. In spring a good proportion of smaller species moving up-Channel - particularly Arctic Skuas, waders, gulls and terns - take the 'short-cut' over Chesil instead of rounding the Bill; many such as this skua hesitate and may tower hundreds of feet into the sky before making the brief overland crossing of the beach and Portland Harbour) - Chesil Beach, April 21st 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 21st

Good variety again today without there being any outstanding numbers on land or sea. The centre and south of the island held 12 Yellow Wagtails, 12 Redstarts, 10 Whinchats, 5 Swifts, 4 Sedge Warblers, the first 4 Garden Warblers, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Tree Pipit, a Ring Ouzel and a Pied Flycatcher along with a smallish arrival of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. A decent selection on the sea included 36 commic terns, 16 Whimbrel, 15 Arctic Skuas, 13 Little Gulls, 9 Brent Geese, 3 Pomarine Skuas and a Great Skua past the Bill and 50 Common Scoter, 41 commic terns, 31 Whimbrel, 29 Little Gulls, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Little Terns, 5 Arctic Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Great Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas and a Red-throated Diver past Chesil.

April 20th

A stiff easterly wind saw to it that what newly arrived migrants there were - and there didn't seem to be many - kept their heads down. Wheatears, which numbered nearly 100 at the Bill, were the only birds that were at all conspicuous, whilst the scarcer migrant tally at the Bill didn't get any better than 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, 2 Whinchats, a White Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat. The sea was considerably more productive, at least from the point of view of variety, with 51 Common Scoter, 10 Whimbrel, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Grey Plover, 3 Little Gulls, 3 Little Terns (the first of the year), 2 Gadwall, a Little Egret and a Sanderling the pick of Chesil's offering in the morning and at least 90 Little Gulls (including flocks of 72 and 18), 13 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Pomarine Skua past there in the evening; the Bill chipped in with 79 Common Scoter, 6 Whimbrel, 6 Arctic Skuas, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Red-throated Diver. Elsewhere there were 30 Sandwich Terns, 25 Dunlin, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Little Terns at Ferrybridge.

A slight increase in immigrant numbers saw totals of 10 Pearly Underwing and 4 Silver Y caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight; Mullein Shark and Treble Lines were both new for the year.



    Chamomile Shark, Muslin Moth and Purple-bar - Portland Bill, April 19th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 19th

The fresh northerly wind that has been a feature of recent mornings dropped right away and as a result there were far fewer common migrants around the island. The Bill area produced totals of 60 Willow Warblers and 40 Wheatears but otherwise just low single figure totals of the other expected common migrants. In crystal clear conditions there was more than might have been expected passing by on the sea, with watches at the Bill producing totals of 130 Common Scoter, 18 commic terns, 15 Whimbrel, 5 Shoveler, 4 Little Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, an Arctic Skua and the first Pomarine Skua of the spring.

A group of at least 3 cetaceans passing through off the Bill were thought likely to be Pilot Whales but were too distant for the identification to be clinched.

The first Wall butterfly of the year was on the wing at the Bill.

Immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps was provided by 4 more Pearly Underwings whilst Purple-bar and Lychnis were both first records for the year.





  Swallow Prominent, Pebble Prominent and Red-legged Partridge - Portland Bill, April 18th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 18th

A much more routine flurry of common migrants today although still quite busy for a couple of hours early in the morning as the brisk northerly wind again dropped plenty of Wheatears and Willow Warblers out of the completely clear skies. Morning totals for the Bill area included 300 Willow Warblers, 200 Wheatears, 15 Redstarts, 4 Whinchats, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Common Sandpiper, a Fieldfare, a Ring Ouzel, a Sedge Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Bullfinch. Two more Grasshopper Warblers at Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane and 2 more Ring Ouzels at Tout Quarry were the pick of the scarcer migrants elsewhere whilst another brief Serin in the hut fields at the Bill was the only rarity discovered anywhere; the Red-legged Partridge was also still at the Bill. The sea remained very quiet with nothing more than 35 Common Scoter, 13 commic terns, 2 Shelduck, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Black-throated Diver passing through off the Bill where the long-staying Great Northern Diver was also still present.

Overnight mothing at the Obs produced 3 Pearly Underwings and a single Diamond-back Moth along with first records for the year of Waved Umber and Pale, Pebble and Swallow Prominents. With all the bird action yesterday we forgot to mention that morning's moth-trap results: immigrants consisted of 6 Silver Y and 4 Pearly Underwing whilst Garden Carpet, Flame Shoulder, Nutmeg and Cabbage were all on the wing for the first time.

Late news for yesterday: a Hoopoe - perhaps the bird seen earlier at Church Ope Cove? - was at Osprey Quay at midday.





     The visiting ringers raise a toast at the end of an historic day, Cetti's Warbler and Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Verne Common, April 17th 2007 © Matt Wood (happy ringers), Martin Cade (Cetti's) and Colin McEntee (Pied Fly)

  April 17th

Today comes well up the list of great Portland days with the heavy cloud cover that had rolled in from the north by dawn together with a brisk northerly headwind providing ideal conditions for a fall - and what a fall it was. In terms of birds ringed at the Obs it was the best day in the 46 year history of PBO with the total of 502 easily exceeding the previous record of 440 achieved on 19th April 1997 (to put these totals in perspective there are usually several 100 days and one or two 200 days each year; 300 days aren't annual and there's only ever been a couple of 400 days). In addition to the Obs garden total another 138 birds were ringed at Culverwell during the morning. With birds on the move throughout the morning it was very difficult to arrive at meaningful 'in the field' migrant totals but very conservative estimates for the Bill area included 1000 Willow Warblers, 300 Wheatears, 300 Blackcaps, 250 Chiffchaffs, 80 Redstarts, 25 Tree Pipits, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Grasshopper Warblers, 15 Whitethroats, 15 Lesser Whitethroats, 6 Ring Ouzels, 6 Pied Flycatchers and 4 Short-eared Owls; the pick of the wide variety of lower totals included year-ticks in the form of Whinchat (6), Swift (3), Brambling (2), Sedge Warbler (3), Common Sandpiper and Reed Warbler along with the island's second Corn Bunting of the year. There was also plenty of coverage of the centre of the island where further notable totals amongst similarly large numbers of migrants included 385 Wheatears (all in one field!), 40 Redstarts, 7 Grasshopper Warblers and a Ring Ouzel in the Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane area. Rarity interest was provided by a Hoopoe briefly near Church Ope Cove, another Wryneck in Top Fields and a Cetti's Warbler trapped at Culverwell. The sea was very much the poor relation with nothing more noteworthy than singles of Black-throated and Great Northern Diver passing the Bill.

April 16th

Plenty more by way of common migrants today and although the Wryneck at the Bill had moved on it was replaced by what was presumably a different individual that dropped in near Southwell at midday (details of this sighting didn't reach us until after dark so there was no news on it either way later in the day); the only other oddity discovered was a typically subliminal Serin in the Obs garden during the morning. Wheatears figured conspicuously early in the morning when a strong but quite brief movement of more than 150 arriving in off the sea at the Bill included quite a few Greenland Wheatears (the first of the spring). With clear skies and a stiff headwind a lot of other migrants weren't lingering around and other totals from the Bill area included 150 Willow Warblers, 40 Blackcaps, 25 Chiffchaffs, 10 Redstarts, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, a Merlin, a Ring Ouzel, a Whinchat (the first of the spring), a Pied Flycatcher and ones and twos of most of the other expected species. A Marsh Harrier over Suckthumb Quarry, a Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane and 2 more Grasshopper Warblers at Barleycrates Lane/Reap Lane were the best of a similarly wide selection on offer elsewhere. The only reports from the sea were from the Bill where 2 Arctic Skuas and a single Red-throated Diver were the best of a very thin list of sightings.

Two Silver Y, a Rusty-dot Pearl and a Pearly Underwing were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.



    Marsh Harrier - Portland Bill, April 15th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 15th

More in the way of numbers today although variety remained essentially the same. The Wryneck and Red-legged Partridge remained at the Bill where a Marsh Harrier also passed overhead and there were 100 Willow Warblers, 60 Blackcaps, 50 Chiffchaffs and 30 Wheatears, along with single figure totals of most of the other expected scarcer migrants; the best on offer elsewhere were 2 Grasshopper Warblers at Portland Heights and a Ring Ouzel at Reap Lane. During the morning the sea wasn't quite as productive as yesterday but the first decent evening movement of Manx Shearwaters of the year bumped up numbers quite well at the Bill where the day-tally consisted of 286 Gannets, 227 Manx Shearwaters, 42 Common Scoter, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua; 39 Common Scoter, 18 Manx Shearwaters and a Red-throated Diver were the pick of the bunch off Chesil.

Four Pearly Underwings and the first White-point and Muslin Moths of the year were the best of the overnight captures in the Obs garden moth-traps and an early Bright-line Brown-eye was caught in a garden moth-trap at Reap Lane.




   The weekend Wryneck attracting quite a crowd - Portland Bill, April 14th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 14th

Precious little in the way of a fall of migrants but variety was quite good and a Wryneck that showed up between the QinetiQ compound and the Pulpit pub at the Bill provided the weekend crowds with a reasonable highlight. In the absence of numbers interest at the Bill was provided by a scatter of scarcer migrants that included 7 Song Thrushes, 4 Tree Pipits, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Redstarts, a Grey Heron, a White Wagtail, a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler and the first Lesser Whitethroat of the spring. Odds and ends elsewhere included 2 Ring Ouzels at Tout Quarry, singles of Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit and Redstart at Reap Lane, a Yellow Wagtail and a Redstart at Avalanche Road and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane. Hazy conditions and a hint of an offshore breeze hindered seawatching but there was a suggestion of interest picking up a little with 107 Common Scoter, 4 Little Gulls, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 commic terns and singles of Black-throated Diver, Whimbrel, Arctic Skua and Great Skua passing the Bill in the morning and singles of Arctic Skua and Mediterranean Gull past there in the evening; Chesil Beach chipped in with 75 Common Scoter, 15 Sandwich Terns, 4 Shelduck, a Red-throated Diver, a Grey Plover and a Common Tern passing in the morning and 24 Manx Shearwaters, 13 commic terns, 9 Little Gulls, 6 Common Scoter and singles of Arctic Skua and Mediterranean Gull through in the evening.

Two Pearly Underwings and a Silver Y was caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight and the first Lime-speck Pug of the year was attracted to the lit windows of the Obs lounge.

Late news for yesterday: the first 10 Common Terns of the spring passed through off the Bill late in the afternoon and the Red-legged Partridge was seen again near the Higher Light.




   Whitethroat and Redstart - Portland Bill, April 13th 2007 © George Gay (Whitethroat) and Martin Cade (Redstart)

  April 13th

Friday the 13th it might have been but it certainly wasn't a day of ill-fortune at Portland. Overcast skies and a few spells of light, drizzly rain through the morning dropped a decent variety of typical mid-April migrants. Sedge Warbler was a year-tick at the Bill where there were also 200 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatear, 50 Chiffchaffs, 30 Blackcaps, 8 Redstarts, 5 Whitethroats, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 3 White Wagtails, 3 Song Thrushes and singles of Tree Pipit, Black Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler. The pick of the sightings elsewhere around the island included 4 Ring Ouzels and a Pied Flycatcher at Verne Common, a Black Redstart at Blacknor, a Fieldfare at the Grove, 2 Grasshopper Warblers at Barleycrates Lane and a Lapwing, a Redwing and a Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane. The only reports from the sea were of a Great Skua and a Mediterranean Gull passing through off the Bill and the Great Northern Diver still settled offshore there.

A single Silver Y was caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight. 




     Merlin - Portland Bill, April 12th 2007 © Martin Cade 

  April 12th

Sultry, hazy conditions didn't perk things up very much and it remained pretty quiet around the island. A Serin briefly at Barleycrates Lane early in the morning was an overdue new arrival but in the commoner migrant line the best on offer at the Bill were 4 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Merlin, a White Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Black Redstart and a Ring Ouzel amongst a very thin scatter of routine fare on the ground and passing overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 32 Common Scoter, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Whimbrel, 4 Canada Geese, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Sandwich Terns and the usual settled Great Northern Diver. Elsewhere on the island news was received from local residents of the discovery of a freshly dead Raven on the cliff-top near Blacknor - presumably one of the pair from the active nest site near Tout Quarry; evidently the bird had all the appearance of having been poisoned.

Several Clouded Yellows were again on the wing at the Bill, whilst 2 Pearly Underwings provided some immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps; the traps also attracted year-ticks in the form of Chamomile Shark and Chinese Character




   Whitethroat trapped at the Obs and the view northwards from Priory Corner.....there was an Osprey right in the middle of this view ten minutes before the photo was taken but unfortunately the photographer was sat in the Obs at the time! - April 11th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 11th

Quieter today with the pick of the sightings being of 2 passing Ospreys (one over Reap Lane during the morning and another over Weston and Chesil Cove early in the afternoon), a Red-legged Partridge and the first 3 Whitethroats of the year at the Bill and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Reap Lane. More routine fare included relatively small numbers of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Grey Plovers, a Purple Sandpiper,  a Yellow Wagtail, a Ring Ouzel and a Redpoll at the Bill, a Snipe, a Yellow Wagtail and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane, a White Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail and a Ring Ouzel at Reap Lane and plenty of hirundines on the move everywhere. A couple of passing Mallards, a Whimbel and 2 Arctic Skuas that lingered offshore for a while during the afternoon were the only sightings of note on the sea at the Bill.

Two Harbour Porpoises passed through off the Bill during the morning.

Finally we would like to appeal to visiting birders to behave in an acceptable manner with regard to accessing private land at Portland. Yesterday afternoon visiting birders (with unrestrained dogs in tow) were apprehended by a land-owner after been seen climbing over walls and fences to access occupied horse-paddocks in Top Fields; when challenged their belligerent manner only succeeded in inflaming an already difficult situation. Behaviour such as this will only serve to harm the already strained relationship that exists between birders and certain landowners/tenants on Portland. The Observatory doesn't appreciate having to apologise to angry locals - in this case land-owners that hitherto we have had a good relationship with - for instances of anti-social behaviour such as this.

Some diary dates: the next few In Focus field events at the Obs take place on Tuesday 22nd May, Saturday 9th June, Tuesday 24th July and Tuesday 28th August.



    Bottle-nosed Dolphins - Portland Bill, April 10th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 10th

A decent veil of cloud overhead for a good part of the morning made all the difference today and there was a substantial arrival of migrants (the largest spring fall for a couple of years). The phylloscs continued to dominate, with a good 750 at the Bill (where there was an approximate 2:1 ratio of Willow Warblers to Chiffchaffs) and plenty more elsewhere. On the down side there was still very little variety on the migrant front; the Bill area produced 75 Wheatears, 15 Blackcaps, 2 Redstarts, 2 Firecrests, a Merlin, a White Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail, a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Ring Ouzel along with decent numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins passing overhead, whilst further up the island the pick of the scarcer species were 4 more Ring Ouzels, 2 more Redstarts, 2 more Grasshopper Warblers, a Tree Pipit, a Black Redstart and a Pied Flycatcher. Odds and ends on the sea included 29 Common Scoter, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Eider, 2 Great Skuas, a Curlew and a Whimbrel passing the Bill and the Great Northern Diver still settled offshore.

A party of a least 7 Bottle-nosed Dolphins lingered close inshore off the Bill throughout the late morning and afternoon.

A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place tomorrow, 11th April.




    A few of the varieties of 10-spot Ladybird - The Grove, April 9th 2007 © Ken Dolbear

  April 9th

Although Portland itself remained clear and sunny it was considerably more overcast/foggy over the mainland and visibility was significantly reduced over the sea. The two phylloscs were plentiful, with probably not too far shy of 500 Willow Warblers present on the island as a whole, but most of the other expected common migrants were all but absent and the only less regular species reported were singles of Little Egret, Greenshank, Redstart, Black Redstart and Firecrest at the Bill and another solitary Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. The Great Northern Diver remained off the Bill where 5 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose also passed through.

The first Knot Grass of the year was the pick of another poor overnight catch of moths at the Obs.

April 8th

Blue skies and a millpond-calm sea once again. The morning's arrival of common migrants included the customary scatter of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs - none of which were at all numerous - and the land otherwise struggled to come up with much more than singles of Ring Ouzel and Firecrest at the Bill and a Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. Overhead there was surprisingly little passage of the commoner species and it was left to a selection of raptors to provide interest (or frustration if you weren't on the spot to see them): pick of the bunch was a report of 2 Red Kites flying north along East Weare, whilst a whole series of sightings of Marsh Harriers throughout the island involved the resident Weymouth bird paying yet another visit along with an uncertain numbers of other individuals. The rest of the reports were from the sea, with 3 Common and a Velvet Scoter still in Portland Harbour, a Black-throated Diver settled off Chesil, the Great Northern Diver still settled off the Bill, and 22 Common Scoter, 7 Red-throated Divers, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and 2 Sandwich Terns passing the Bill.

A Brimstone was the only year-tick in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

Two Bottle-nosed Dolphins and a Harbour Porpoise were reported from the Bill at various times during the morning.





    Ring Ouzel, Hummingbird Hawk-moth and Pine Beauty - Portland Bill and Easton, April 7th 2007 © Ken Dolbear (Hummingbird Hawk) and Martin Cade (Ouzel and Pine Beauty)

  April 7th

It almost goes without saying that the weather remained set very fair which might be pleasant for the Easter holidaymakers but wasn't much use for the birders. The small dawn flurry of common migrants soon faded away and overall it was a little quieter than yesterday. Pick of the scarcer migrants were the year's first Grasshopper Warbler at Reap Lane, single Ring Ouzels at the Bill and St George's Church and singles of Black Redstart and Firecrest at the Bill. Around 80 Willow Warblers and 30 Chiffchaffs passed through very quickly at the Bill and, aside from passing hirundines that were on move in decent numbers through the middle of the day, there wasn't a great deal else of note on the land beyond local oddities such as a couple of Yellowhammers at the Bill and a Long-tailed Tit at Reap Lane. The only noteworthy reports from the sea were of the first Arctic Skua past the Bill and 8 Sandwich Terns, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Mediterranean Gull passing Chesil.

Hummingbird Hawk-moths continue to be seen on the daily basis, with several reports from sites across the island today, whilst singles of Pine Beauty and Oak Nycteoline were noteworthy wanderers attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.

April 6th

A fine, summer-like day produced quite a long list of sightings although the only species in numbers were the two phylloscs and Wheatear. The Bill area provided totals that included 100 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 40 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 3 Goldcrests, a Redshank, a Short-eared Owl, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Redstart and a Firecrest on the ground and a trickle of Sand Martins, Swallows, Meadow Pipits and finches arriving in off the sea. Elsewhere there was a Marsh Harrier over High Angle Battery, a Ring Ouzel at Southwell School, a Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane, a Corn Bunting passing over at Barleycrates Lane and the Velvet Scoter was still in Portland Harbour. The day's seawatching produced 13 Common Scoter, 6 Shelduck, 3 Red-throated and 2 Black-throated Divers, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern passing through off the Bill and 12 Common Scoter, 3 Curlew, 2 Shelduck, a Red-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull off Chesil; single Great Northern Divers were also settled off both sites. 

Yesterday's Camberwell Beauty was well searched for but couldn't be found; a Large White was a first for the year at Avalanche Road, a Clouded Yellow was again at the Bill and a possible Large Tortoiseshell was seen briefly in flight near the QinetiQ compound at the Bill.

Herald and Shuttle-shaped Dart were new for the year in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.





  Camberwell Beauty - Portland Bill, April 5th 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 5th

There was a spectacular and totally unexpected highlight today in the form of a Camberwell Beauty (the first record for Portland) in the Obs garden; the butterfly appeared at midday and was then seen on and off until at least mid-afternoon (evening update: later on just one brief sighting of the butterfly in flight in the Obs garden at about 4 pm). A Clouded Yellow and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth were also seen in the garden during the afternoon.

On the bird front the continuing settled weather saw to it that migrants were very thin on the ground; less common species at the Bill included 3 White Wagtails, a Redwing, a Fieldfare and a Redstart but most of the common species didn't even manage single figure totals. Even visible passage was disappointingly light with a Short-eared Owl the best of the birds arriving in off the sea at the Bill. The light offshore wind made seawatching a bit of a dead loss, with nothing more than singles of Red-throated and Black-throated Diver passing the Bill where the long-staying Great Northern Diver remained offshore. The only other reports were from Portland Harbour where there were 3 Common and a Velvet Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a Sandwich Tern.

April 4th

Another anticyclonic day of clear skies and north-easterlies - not the best conditions for any sort of fall of migrants. Year ticks came in the form of an early morning Yellow Wagtail over the Bill and a late evening Short-eared Owl in Top Fields; another couple of Redstarts also dropped in at the Bill but otherwise interest was pretty limited. Wheatears were the only grounded commoner migrants in any numbers, with 50 at the Bill and 15 at Barleycrates Lane, whilst Swallows that got moving in some numbers during the afternoon were the only birds in any quantity overhead. Another miscellaneous selection on the sea included 27 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and twos of Shelduck, Mallard and Gadwall passing the Bill and the Great Northern Diver still settled off East Cliffs.

A Brimstone at Tilleycombe and Small Copper and Holly Blue at Barleycrates Lane were all new butterflies for the year.



    Redstart - Southwell, April 3rd 2007 © Pete Saunders

  April 3rd

A slight change in the weather saw yesterday's quite warm north-easterlies replaced by a much chillier blast from the same direction; the composition of the migrant list also changed with next to nothing on the move overhead but quite a bit more to be found on the ground. Meadow Pipit passage declined to a tiny trickle and, aside from the odd few Swallows, Song Thrushes, finches and a Fieldfare, the only bird of note passing over at the Bill was the first Whimbrel of the spring. On the ground the standard early April quartet were fairly well represented at the Bill where there were totals of 80 Wheatears, 60 Willow Warblers, 45 Chiffchaffs and 15 Blackcaps; quality was provided a couple of Ring Ouzels (one at Southwell that was killed by a Peregrine and another in Top Fields) and the year's first Redstart (also at Southwell). A motley collection of seawatch sightings included 3 Shelducks, 2 Black-throated Divers and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Manx Shearwater, Red-breasted Merganser and Curlew passing through off the Bill.

Three Bottle-nosed Dolphins lingered off the Bill for most of the morning.




    Willow Warbler and Clouded Yellow - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, April 2nd 2007 © Martin Cade

  April 2nd

Another bird-filled Monday, with the highlights being single Ospreys over Chesil Cove early in the afternoon and flying north off West Cliffs in mid-afternoon, 2 Hawfinches flying north along the West Cliffs at Reap Lane late in the morning and 2 Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge. In perfect conditions for diurnal passage Meadow Pipits streamed northwards all day with the sample counts of 900 north at the Bill in the first two hours of daylight, 1680 north along West Cliffs in 90 minutes a little later and 2130 north at Barleycrates Lane in an hour either side of midday suggesting that the day total for the island as a whole was likely to have approached 10000. Surprisingly few other species were moving in any great numbers although there was a steady trickle of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Skylarks, hirundines, Wheatears and finches tagging along, together with 6 White Wagtails, 3 Kestrels, a Merlin, 2 Fieldfares and a Redwing. Grounded migrants were only very thinly spread (just 4 birds were trapped and ringed at the Obs all morning) although there was a decent gathering of more than 30 Wheatears in the Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane area. 

The first Clouded Yellow of the year showed up at the Bill where a single Red Admiral was also seen flying north along the West Cliffs.

April 1st

The fresh north-easterlies continued and migration remained at a standstill until late in the day. Today's meagre list from the Bill consisted of 9 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Wheatear on the land, the Great Northern Diver still settled offshore and a single Manx Shearwater passing through on the sea. Late in the afternoon a steady arrival of Meadow Pipits in off the sea became evident, with a couple of brief sample counts at the Bill and Southwell suggesting that as many as 1000 passed through in the three hours before dusk. The only news from elsewhere was of 2 Sandwich Terns in Portland Harbour during the afternoon.

Two Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill during the morning.