July 2007

July 31st

The fine weather continued for another day but it was much quieter for birds. All the news was from the Bill area where there were 15 Willow Warblers, 7 Wheatears, 3 Redshank, a Sanderling, a Whimbrel, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Sedge Warbler on the land, 3 Ringed Plover and a trickle of departing hirundines and Swifts overhead and 35 Common Scoter, 3 Sandwich and a commic tern and 2 Manx and a Balearic Shearwater passing by or lingering offshore.

Odds and ends in the way of immigrants/wanderers in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning included 9 Silver Y, 3 Rush Veneer, 3 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Diamond-back Moth and a Southern Wainscot.






   Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler and Bedstraw Hawk-moth - Portland Bill, July 30th 2007 © Martin Cade

  July 30th

A hint of the return of summer today with clear blue skies and warm sunshine throughout. Common migrants were well represented with the Bill area returning totals that included 200 Sand Martins, 75 Willow Warblers, 25 Wheatears, 5 Sedge Warblers, 3 Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Yellow Wagtail, a Garden Warbler and a Bullfinch, whilst elsewhere there was a Tree Pipit at Barleycrates Lane. The sea continued to be worth a look, with an Arctic Skua over Ferrybridge and 6 Balearic and 4 Manx Shearwaters off the Bill the pick of the day's sightings.

A Bedstraw Hawk-moth was the unexpected highlight amongst an otherwise poor selection of immigrant moths in the Obs garden traps; 3 Silver Y, 2 Diamond-back Moths and a Rusty-dot Pearl were the only other captures worth mentioning.

July 29th

Nothing too unexpected to report today, with the highlight - a Green Woodpecker at the Bill and Southwell - certainly not on a par with the goodies of the last couple of days. Commoner migrants at the Bill included 35 Willow Warblers, 2 Wheatears and a Sedge Warbler on the ground, a steady trickle of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Swifts and Sand Martins overhead and 1300 Gannets, 45 Common Scoter, 12 Balearic Shearwaters, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 2 late Puffins, an Arctic Skua and a Yellow-legged Gull passing on the sea. Elsewhere 3 Mallards passed over at Southwell and 5 Sanderling were at Ferrybridge.







   Alpine Swift, Yellow-legged Gull and Palpita vitrealis - Portland Bill, July 28th 2007 © Pete Saunders (Alpine Swift upperparts view) and Martin Cade (other photographs)

  July 28th

There was another pleasant surprise today in the form of an Alpine Swift that zoomed around overhead at the Bill for a couple of hours either side of midday. The light scatter of grounded migrants at the Bill included 20 Willow Warblers, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Sedge Warblers, a Sanderling, a Turnstone and a Lesser Whitethroat, whilst 50 Sand Martins and singles of both Redshank and Snipe passed overhead there. A trickle of passage on the sea included 450 Gannets, 24 commic terns, 5 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Whimbrel passing the Bill.

The Obs garden moth-traps produced a minor highlight in the form of a Palpita vitrealis but the only other immigrants were 11 Silver Y, 3 Diamond-back Moths and a single Rusty-dot Pearl.

Late news for yesterday: a Black-tailed Godwit was at Ferrybridge in the evening.


The Obs Open Day was to have been held tomorrow, Sunday 29th July, but in view of the poor weather forecast the PBO management committee have reluctantly decided to cancel the event for this year. This is mainly an outdoor event and bearing in mind our limited indoor facilities it was felt we should cancel now and so give potential visitors as much notice as possible.



   Ruddy Shelducks - Portland Bill, July 27th 2007 © Martin Cade

....this photograph rates highly in the annals of duff Portland record shots although the excuse was at least a new one: when the birds flew low over the Obs garden the photographer was up to his eyeballs in sxxt whilst clearing a blocked drain; by the time he cleaned his hands and got to the camera the birds were miles away!

  July 27th

Three Ruddy Shelducks that appeared low over the Obs garden and then headed off north were unexpected new arrivals during the afternoon but otherwise the day's sightings at the Bill were fairly routine: 10 Willows Warblers were grounded, 50 or more Sand Martins and a Yellow-legged Gull passed overhead and 14 commic terns, 9 Balearic Shearwaters, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern passed through on the sea. The only reports from elsewhere were of 40 Dunlin, 8 Sanderling and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls at Ferrybridge.

Two Silver Y were the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

Late news for yesterday: in better weather late in the day a Wheatear and a Grasshopper Warbler were found at the Bill.

July 26th

Another day typical of this 'summer': leaden skies, frequent driving rain and gale force south-westerlies. The only reports were of some limited seawatching: 19 Common Scoter, 13 Manx Shearwaters and 3 Balearic Shearwaters passed through off the Bill and a lone Balearic Shearwater was off Chesil Cove.

July 25th

Birding was hard work today with a stiff wind blowing through the morning and rain setting in by midday. The only birds of note on the land were a handful of Willow Warblers in the Obs garden and 2 unidentified egrets that flew north over Southwell. The sea was a little more productive with 19 Common Scoter, 9 Manx and 5 Balearic Shearwaters, a Great Skua and an Arctic Tern passing through off the Bill. 

Yesterday's flurry of immigrant moths proved to be short-lived as the Obs garden traps didn't come up with anything other than 11 Silver Y and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rusty-dot Pearl and Rush Veneer today.

Late news for yesterday: 13 Sanderling and 3 Mediterranean Gulls were at Ferrybridge and extra evening sightings from the Bill included a Grasshopper Warbler in Top Fields and 3 Balearic Shearwaters lingering offshore.

July 24th

A big improvement in the weather saw virtually unbroken sunshine all day and there was certainly evidence of autumn passage getting going. Even with relatively limited coverage the Bill area produced totals of 250 Sand Martins, 100 Swifts, 100 Swallows, 15 Willow Warblers, 4 Whimbrel, 2 Sanderling, a Ringed Plover and a Snipe, whilst seawatching there provided 60 Manx Shearwaters but, for the first time for several weeks, no Balearics.

In tandem with the improvement in the birding there was also a small but welcome increase in immigrant moth numbers, with the Obs garden traps producing totals of 20 Silver Y, 14 Rusty-dot Pearl, 8 Rush Veneer, 5 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Dark Sword Grass, a Dioryctria abietella and a Maiden's Blush; Yellow-tail and Langmaid's Yellow Underwing were both new for the year.

July 23rd

A truly miserable day of constant rain. At the Bill the only birding possible was seawatching which produced 300 Gannets, 9 Common Scoter, 6 Balearic and 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Curlew, a Mediterranean Gull and a Little Tern. Waders at Ferrybridge included 40 Dunlin and 4 Sanderling.


Finally a reminder that there is an Focus field event at the Obs tomorrow, Tuesday 24th July, between 10am and 4pm. July 22nd

Just a limited selection of expected fare today. Seawatching at the Bill produced 11 Common Scoter, 10 Balearic and 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Dunlin, a Whimbrel and a Mediterranean Gull, whilst odds and ends on the land there included 4 Sanderling, 2 Willow Warblers, a Reed Warbler and the first sighting of a Red-legged Partridge for many weeks (presumably the same individual that was present way back in the spring?). The only other reports were of 2 more Willow Warblers at Duncecroft Quarry and 50 Dunlin, 6 Sanderling and a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge.

A Large Tortoiseshell in a private garden at Southwell in the evening was the same individual that had been seen there on 11th July.

Four Silver Y, a Diamond-back Moth and a Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.

July 21st

Dribs and drabs of passage at the Bill today included 26 Common Scoter, 7 Manx and 5 Balearic Shearwaters offshore, 7 Cormorants, a Greenshank and small numbers of Swifts and Sand Martins passing through overhead and 2 Willow Warblers, the first Wheatear of the autumn, a Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat on the ground.

Yesterday's slightly improved selection of immigrant moths proved to be no more than a flash in the pan as the overnight 'haul' in the Obs garden traps didn't get beyond 2 each of Diamond-back Moth, Rusty-dot Pearl and Dark Sword Grass along with a single Silver Y; Dun-bar was the only year-tick of the night.



   another photograph of yesterday's Green Woodpecker - Southwell, July 19th 2007 © Pete Saunders

  July 20th

The threatening skies of dawn didn't deliver much in the way of weather beyond occasional light showers but also didn't deliver much in the way of birds. A few Willow Warblers were in evidence at the Obs, small numbers of Sand Martins passed through overhead, a Yellow-legged Gull lingered offshore and 13 Common Scoter, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Sandwich Terns passed through on the sea.

A Large Tortoiseshell was seen briefly in the Obs garden late in the afternoon.

The overnight thundery rain deposited slightly increased numbers of routine immigrant moths, with the Obs garden traps producing 17 Diamond-back Moth, 7 Silver Y, 5 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Dark Sword Grass and a Delicate. Coronet and Marbled Beauty were both year-ticks.

Late news for yesterday: 4 Common Scoter were in Portland Harbour and a Sanderling and a Mediterranean Gull were the pick of the birds at Ferrybridge in the evening.






   Large Tortoiseshell, Green Woodpecker and Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, July 19th 2007 © Martin Cade

  July 19th

Good days have a habit of cropping up when you least expect them and today certainly proved to be a case in point. The highlight was a Large Tortoiseshell that popped up on and off for more than hour late in the morning in the Obs garden but the day's bird list was also longer and more varied than might be expected in mid-July. Pick of the birds was a Green Woodpecker that appeared first in the Obs garden and later at Southwell, whilst a good selection of early autumn arrivals at the Bill included 100 each of Swift and Sand Martin, 20 Willow Warblers, 7 Dunlin, a Grey Heron, a Common Sandpiper, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Garden Warbler. An unseasonable Eider was also new in off the Bill where 15 each of Manx and Balearic Shearwaters, 12 Common Scoter and 3 Sandwich Terns passed through or lingered.

The Obs garden moth-traps were no where near as productive: 4 Silver Y, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rusty-dot Pearl and Rush Veneer were the only immigrants recorded and Jersey Tiger was a year-tick.

July 18th

A fair passage of Sand Martins developed during the morning, including 150 over the Bill and 50 over Wakeham, but otherwise there were just thin pickings with 17 Common Scoter, 14 Manx Shearwaters and 3 Balearic Shearwaters passing through off the Bill, 40 Dunlin and 5 Sanderling at Ferrybridge and a Yellow-legged Gull on the school playing field at Weston.

A Large Tortoiseshell was seen between the Portland Heights Hotel and Kingbarrow Quarry late in the morning and 2 Hummingbird Hawk-moths were at Wakeham.

Two Silver Y were the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning; Orange Swift and Oak Eggar were both new for the year. 





   Some more 'other wildlife' from recent days: Adder, Red-veined Darter and Lulworth Skipper - East Weare, Bottomcombe Quarry and Wakeham, July 2007 © Emma Cockburn (Adder), Ken Dolbear (Red-veined Darter) and Mike Hamzij (Lulworth Skipper)

  July 17th

There was a distinct autumnal feel to the day with some very heavy showers blown in on a cool and much stronger than expected south-westerly. The first 2 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls of the autumn flew north over the Obs, 30 Swifts and a Whimbrel also passed over and a Blackcap was still in the Obs garden but it was again the sea that held attention for longest with a disappointing poor tally of 600 Gannets, 17 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Black-headed Gulls and a few tardy auks logged at the Bill. The only other news was of a Gannet in Portland Harbour and 30 Dunlin, 4 Sanderling and a Common Gull at Ferrybridge.

A single Delicate was the only immigrant caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight. 

Late news for yesterday: a Red-veined Darter was at Bottomcombe Quarry.

Finally thanks to those of you who've got in touch to highlight our dodgy plant identification skills. The plant captioned a couple of days ago as Field Pepperwort is in fact the much commoner Field Penny-cress Thlaspi arvense. We understand that there are specimens of the pepperwort in the field in question and we'll endeavour to provide photographs of them shortly. The botanical skills of the compiler of these notes don't extend much beyond distinguishing a Bee Orchid from an oak tree and he'll be sticking to birds, butterflies and moths in future.

July 16th

More of the same again today. Odds and ends on the land at the Bill included 3 Sand Martins, a Grey Heron, a Ringed Plover and a Blackcap, whilst seawatching there produced 250 Gannets, 66 Common Scoter, 22 Balearic Shearwaters, 9 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Manx Shearwaters and a Curlew.

The Obs garden moth-traps remained very quiet: 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Rush Veneer, 2 Silver Y and a Delicate were the only immigrants caught and Wormwood Pug, Scarce Footman and Small Dotted Buff were all year-ticks.

Late news for last Wednesday (11th July): a Large Tortoiseshell was seen on buddlieas at Cheyne.



   Field Pepperwort Lepidium campestre - Portland Bill, July 15th © Martin Cade

....this scarce arable weed has been discovered in one of the strips being cultivated by PBO opposite the Obs front entrance; the species was last recorded at Portland in 1880.

  July 15th

Precious little change today despite the breeze shifting well into the east as thundery showers always looked likely but never actually materialised. Most attention was given to the sea with 600 Gannets, 54 Common Scoter, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 26 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Sooty Shearwater, a Whimbrel and a Mediterranean Gull the pick of the sightings off the Bill. Overhead 100 Swifts, 20 Sand Martins and 2 Grey Herons passed though at the Bill.

Another pitiful selection of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning included nothing more than 3 Silver Y and singles of Rusty-dot Pearl and Dark Sword Grass.




   Great Black-backed Gull - Portland Bill, July 14th © Martin Cade

...it looks like this individual has attempted to eat another bird (a juvenile Oystercatcher?) and during the act of swallowing the bill of its victim has penetrated the gull's throat!

  July 14th

Seawatching was again the order of the day with the Bill producing totals of 350 Gannets, 168 Common Scoter, 35 Manx and 15 Balearic Shearwaters, a Whimbrel and an Arctic Skua. Small numbers of Swifts, Sand Martins and Swallows were again leaving out to sea.

A presumed Large Tortoiseshell was seen in flight near the Mermaid pub at Wakeham today.

Three Silver Y were the only immigrants and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing the only year-tick in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

Late news for the last couple of days: Sooty Shearwaters have been reported from the Bill on both the last two afternoons/evenings: 3 yesterday and a single the day before.



   Devonshire Wainscot - Portland Bill, July 13th © Martin Cade

  July 13th

Quite slow on the sea again today with no more than about 30 Manx and 6 Balearic Shearwaters lingering off the Bill; also there a single Storm Petrel was offshore and at least a couple of Puffins were still visiting the auk colony. There were no reports of any consequence from the land.

Despite the slightly promising-looking weather conditions not a single recognised immigrant was caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight; at a local level a single Devonshire Wainscot provided some interest and Square-spot Rustic was new for the year.

July 12th

By recent standards a pretty dismal day with very few shearwaters offshore at the Bill. The morning's Balearic tally was just 7 - all heading west rather than lingering - and less than 100 Manx passed though during the same period. The only other news was of 14 Common Scoter passing the Bill and a Reed Warbler in song at Wakeham.

The Obs garden moth-traps were a little busier than of late although the only immigrants logged were singles of European Corn-borer and Silver Y; Dingy Footman, Broad-barred White and Cloaked Minor were all year-ticks.

July 11th

Shearwaters continued to feature off the Bill, albeit again in somewhat reduced numbers, with 250 Manx and 29 Balearics logged during the morning; 103 Common Scoter and 2 Sandwich Terns also passed through there. With the exception of a Spotted Flycatcher at Culverwell and a Chiffchaff at the Obs the interest on the land was overhead with a Grey Heron and a steady trickle of Swifts and Sand Martins passing through at the Bill.

The remarkable recent run of Large Tortoiseshell sightings continued with one present for an hour during the morning in a private garden on the island. A Dark Green Fritillary was at Tout Quarry today and there were several sightings of single Hummingbird Hawk Moths and Clouded Yellows  around the island.

Singles of Dark Sword Grass, Delicate and Silver Y were the only immigrants caught in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.



   Bloxworth Snout - July 9th © Mark Parsons/Butterfly Conservation

  July 10th

A good deal less on the land and sea today although still plenty enough in the way of shearwaters to keep visiting birders happy. There was a steady if unspectacular westward movement of at least 250 Manx and 38 Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill through the morning and a good 150 or more Manx were still lingering offshore throughout the day; 62 Common Scoter, 5 Storm Petrels and 2 Whimbrel also passed through off the Bill. There were no reports from the land beyond those of the odd few small parties of Swifts and Sand Martins passing through overhead.

Another Large Tortoiseshell was seen briefly near the Obs early in the afternoon.

Late news for yesterday: odds and ends at Ferrybridge included 28 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 15 Dunlin, 2 Redshank and a Mediterranean Gull. Day-time mothing on the east side of the island led to the discovery of 9 Bloxworth Snouts along with a single Hummingbird Hawk-moth and local specialities such as Chalk Carpet and Sitochroa palealis.



   Saturday's Large Tortoiseshell - Nicodemus Knob, July 7th © Bryan Edwards

  July 9th

This morning's shearwater tally at the Bill was ca 600 Manx and 88 Balearics flying west (viewed from the Obs); fair numbers of both were lingering offshore as the morning went on. Further sea interest was provided by 132 Common Scoter, 2 Curlew, a Whimbrel, a Great Skua, a Mediterranean Gull and a Roseate Tern passing the Bill, whilst small numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also on the move (including 23 settled in the Bill car-park). Otherwise the best of the reports were of a few Swifts and Sand Martins, 3 Grey Herons and a Reed Warbler at the Bill.

We've received second-hand news today of 4 Large Tortoiseshell butterflies being seen somewhere on the island over the weekend - we've requested further details but are still awaiting a reply.

Late news for the weekend: the final shearwater totals for yesterday at the Bill were 117 Balearics and 2380 Manx. On Saturday a survey of arable weeds in the strips cultivated by PBO in the field opposite the Obs front entrance resulted in the discovery of Field Pepperwort Lepidium campestre evidently the first record from the Island since 1880. We also forgot to mention the results of the first moth-trapping for a few days at the Obs (yesterday morning) when a Delicate was the only immigrant caught and Four-dotted Footman, Garden Tiger, Gold Spot and Burnished Brass were all year-ticks.



   Dark Green Fritillary - Portland Bill, July 8th © Martin Cade

  July 8th

Plenty more of the same today with 1100+ Manx and 80+ Balearic Shearwaters off/past the Bill along with 75 Common Scoter and a Pomarine Skua. On the land Sand Martins were certainly getting moving, with more than 60 passing over the Bill, and there were even a few groups of Swallows heading off out to sea; otherwise the pick of the new arrivals were 3 Grey Herons, 2 Reed Warblers, a Curlew and a Redshank.

A Dark Green Fritillary that showed up briefly in the Obs garden was the first record there for some years and the first reported on Portland this year.

July 7th

A much nicer day of unbroken sunshine but still virtually all the interest was on the sea, with the Bill providing totals of at least 600 Manx and 33 Balearic Shearwaters along with 14 Common Scoter, 5 commic terns, 2 Storm Petrels, a Whimbrel, a Sandwich Tern and an Arctic Skua. The only report from the land was of another singing Reed Warbler at Suckthumb Quarry.

There was again no moth-trapping at the Obs last night (we're not going for a smaller carbon footprint, it's just hard to remember a longer mid-summer spell that has been as lousy as this when grim weather and consistently dismal catches have seen us question whether it's really worth wasting electricity on the moth-traps!) but lepidoptera interest was provided by a Silver-washed Fritillary at Barleycrates Lane in the morning (only the third Portland record) and a Large Tortoiseshell near Nicodemus Knob in the afternoon (photo of the latter to follow on Monday).

July 6th

After a very stormy night there was again plenty to see on the sea. Shearwaters were still plentiful off the Bill with more than 1000 Manx and 30 Balearics logged through the morning; 27 Common Scoter, 5 Storm Petrels, 2 Sandwich Terns and single Pomarine and Arctic Skuas also passed through there. The only other reports were from Chesil Cove where there were 7 Arctic Skuas and a single Storm Petrel.





    Manx Shearwater and four different Balearic Shearwaters - Portland Bill, July 5th © Martin Cade

  July 5th

Quite a decent list of sightings from the Bill area today with the sea again providing lots of interest throughout the day. By far the most conspicuous feature was a very heavy westward passage of at least 5000 Manx Shearwaters; Balearic Shearwaters also looked to be on the move (as opposed to lingering offshore) with at least 90 heading west through the day, whilst 24 Common Scoter, 9 Storm Petrels, 3 Curlew, 3 commic terns, a Whimbrel and an Arctic Skua also passed by and a Hobby arrived in off the sea. On the land there were 2 more singing Reed Warblers and a Green Sandpiper passed over heading north.




    Peregrines - Southwell, July 4th © Pete Saunders

  July 4th

More of the same....yet again. The pick of the morning's seawatching at the Bill were 250 Manx and 42 Balearic Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel and a Great Skua, whilst odds and ends on the land included 2 Reed Warblers and a Chiffchaff at the Bill and another Reed Warbler at Sheat Quarry.

July 3rd

Just at the moment these daily reports would be very thin indeed were it not for the seabirds. The continuing presence of plenty of shearwaters off the Bill provided most of the interest, with more than 250 Manx and 25 Balearics lingering there all morning; 3 Common Scoter, 2 Curlews, 2 Common Terns and an Arctic Skua also passed through and 2 Little Egrets arrived from the south. The only other report of interest was of another late Reed Warbler in song at the Obs.

There was still precious little of interest in the Obs garden moth-traps: singles of Zeiraphera isertana, Rusty-dot Pearl and Delicate were the only immigrants/wanderers caught last night.

July 2nd

All the action was still on the sea, with morning watches at the Bill producing at least 400 Manx and 40 Balearic Shearwaters, 15 Common Scoter, a Curlew and a Great Skua.

A meagre overnight catch of moths in the Obs garden traps included singles of Zeiraphera isertana and Silver Y, along with the first Rosy Minor of the year.



    Manx Shearwater - Portland Bill, July 1st © Kevin Lane

  July 1st

With a stiff south-west wind blowing all morning all the interest was again on the sea. Virtually all the passage at the Bill was westward and comprised 900 Manx and 39 Balearic Shearwaters, 20 Common Scoter, 9 commic terns, 5 Storm Petrels, 3 Arctic Skuas and a Curlew; elsewhere 15 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Arctic Skuas and a Storm Petrel passed through at Chesil Cove.