July 2008






  Cydia amplana, Mecyna flavalis, Reed Dagger and Dewick's Plusia - Portland Bill, 26th July © Martin Cade

  July 26th

Another good list of immigrant/wandering moths in the Obs garden traps this morning: 71 Diamond-back Moth, 30 Rusty-dot Pearl, 21 Silver Y, 2 Cydia amplana, 2 Dark Sword Grass, and singles of Yponomeuta rorella, Eudemis profundana, Meal Moth, Orthopygia glaucinalis, Mecyna flavalis, Four-spotted Footman, Reed Dagger, Fen Wainscot, Dewick's Plusia and Red Admiral butterfly.

Please note that there will be no further updates to the site until next Saturday (2nd August).






   Cydia splendana, Conobathra tumidana, Dark Spinach and Lunar Thorn - Portland Bill, 25th July © Martin Cade

...the distant shot of the Lunar Thorn is explained by the fact that it escaped from the moth-trap just as we first spotted it and settled 20ft up in the canopy of a nearby Whitebeam tree. We managed to get some record shots of it with the 400mm lens before attempting a recapture using a ladder; unfortunately the ladder slipped and jarred the branches when we were half way up the tree and the moth flew off, never to be seen again!

  July 25th

Rather thin again on the bird front, with the best on offer at the Bill being 3 Willow Warblers, a Yellow Wagtail, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Sedge Warbler on the land and 9 Common Scoter, 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Whimbrel and a Great Skua passing through on the sea.

In nice muggy conditions overnight there was a good arrival of a particularly motley selection of immigrant/wandering moths, with the Obs garden traps producing 51 Diamond-back Moth, 16 Rusty-dot Pearl, 13 Silver Y, 2 Red Admiral butterflies, singles of Eucosma obumbratana, Bactra furfurana, Pammene fasciana, Donacaula forficella (the third record for the island), Conobathra tumidana, Maiden's Blush, Dark Spinach, Lunar Thorn (the first or second record for the island depending on whether a rather sketchy record from the early 1980s proves to be acceptable) and Tawny-barred Angle, along with a remarkable influx of Cydia splendana (we didn't count them all but there were 78 in one trap alone). An influx of splendana was also noted at Southwell where 40 were caught overnight in a garden actinic trap at Reap Lane.

Late news for recent days: the day before yesterday (23rd July) a Crossbill flew over High Angle Battery in the morning, whilst yesterday evening there were 12 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge.



   Mating Clouded Yellows - Wakeham, 24th July © Ken Dolbear

  July 24th

Much quieter today in a brisk north-easterly. Swallows and Sand Martins, which numbered around 200 and 100 respectively at the Bill, were the only birds on the move in any quantity; indeed the only grounded new arrivals logged at the Bill were singles of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler. Seawatching at the Bill produced 19 Black-headed Gulls, 8 Sanderling, 7 Common Scoter, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Dunlin and a Ringed Plover



   The view looking south-east from the Obs patio - but for the crass incompetence of the photographer this image might have included two Great White Egrets lumbering northwards off the East Cliffs, but as it is visitors to the site will forever be left to ponder on such thoughts as: 'I expect they just messed up a couple of distant, silhouetted Little Egrets.' - Portland Bill, 23rd July © Martin Cade

  July 23rd

A little quieter for common migrants today but there was fine compensation in the form of 2 Great White Egrets (just the second Portland record of the species) that flew north off the East Cliffs at the Bill during the morning. Further oddities included 4 more Crossbills over Suckthumb Quarry, a Treecreeper at Avalanche Road and a Green Sandpiper over Barleycrates Lane, whilst commoner migrants included 100 Swifts, 100 Sand Martins, 10 Willow Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Dunlin, Whimbrel, Snipe and Yellow Wagtail at the Bill and 50 Sand Martins, 20 Dunlin, 12 Sanderling and a White Wagtail at Ferrybridge. The only news from the sea was of 47 Common Scoter passing through off the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: 7 more Crossbills were at Perryfields and another Grasshopper Warbler was nearby at the Windmills.






Chalkhill Blue, Small Copper and Arctic Tern - Penn's Weare and Ferrybridge, 22nd July © Ken Dolbear (the superb butterfly images) and Martin Cade (the really ropey Arctic Tern images)

...the snatched record-shots of a fly-by Arctic Tern - quite a good July record for Portland - provide a nice example of how a couple of photographs of the same bird taken a few seconds apart in slightly different light (and with no change in the camera settings) can come up with ever such different results.

  July 22nd

More lovely weather and another good selection of early departing migrants today. The Bill area got most of the coverage and returned totals that included at least 4 Crossbills, along with 200 Swallows, 150 Sand Martins, 20 Willow Warblers, 3 Little Egrets, 3 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Dunlin, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Curlew, Snipe and Grasshopper Warbler; elsewhere there were 3 Crossbills at Wakeham, 2 Sedge Warblers and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane and 54 Ringed Plover, 30 Dunlin, 7 Sanderling and an Arctic Tern at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 25 commic terns, 13 Common Scoter, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Sandwich Terns and 3 Balearic Shearwaters.

Two Painted Ladys were amongst the butterflies on the wing at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning included 4 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Dark Sword Grass and 3 Silver Y.




Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler - Portland Bill, 21st July © Martin Cade

  July 21st

Clear skies, pleasant sunshine and a fairly decent bird list for the day. Migrants grounded or overhead at the Bill included 60 Sand Martins, 7 Willow Warblers, 3 Dunlin, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Whimbrel, Curlew, Yellow Wagtail and Grasshopper Warbler, whilst elsewhere there were 100 Swifts and 14 Sanderling at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 33 Common Scoter, 8 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Puffins.

July 20th

A little more dispersal/early autumn passage to report today, with 35 Swifts, 5 Sand Martins, 4 Willow Warblers, 3 Little Egrets (all arriving in off the sea from the south), 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Redpoll at the Bill and 30 Dunlin and 12 Sanderling at Ferrybridge. Sea interest has tailed off in recent days, with several hours watching at the Bill this morning producing just 57 Manx Shearwaters, 27 Common Scoter, 8 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Shoveler and a Puffin.

Just two immigrants/wanderers in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: singles of True Lovers Knot and Silver Y.

July 19th

A very unexpected highlight today was a Nuthatch that flew over the car of the fortunate observer who was stationary in a traffic queue at Priory Corner. Otherwise the only reports of note were of 70 Manx and 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 29 Common Scoter, 2 Sandwich Terns and 2 Puffins through off the Bill, a Whimbrel overhead at the Bill and singles of Gannet and Mediterranean Gull in Portland Harbour.

In a brisk wind overnight the immigrant tally in the Obs garden moth-traps consisted of just singles of Pearly Underwing and Silver Y.





  Some fine butterfly images taken in better weather yesterday: two views of Chalkhill Blue and a mating pair of Common Blues - Penn's Weare, 17th July © Ken Dolbear

  July 18th

Another typical early autumn list from a dreary and increasingly windy Bill area today: 18 Common Scoter, 15 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Curlew and a Great Skua through on the sea, 3 Willow Warblers on the land and 13 Sand Martins overhead.






  Tawny-barred Angle and a few of the local specialities on the wing at the moment: Eudonia lineola, Oncocera semirubella and Synaphe punctalis - Portland Bill, 17th July © Martin Cade

  July 17th

...and still more of the same at the Bill: 17 Balearic and 10 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Common Scoter, 2 Sandwich Terns and singles of Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull, commic tern and Puffin past on the sea, a Grey Heron arriving from the south, a Kestrel leaving out to sea and 10 each of Swift and Sand Martin overhead; elsewhere there was a Hobby at Cheyne Weare.

The Obs garden moth-traps produced a few welcome signs of renewed immigration/dispersal, including 5 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Tawny-barred Angle and a Dark Sword Grass.

July 16th

Two minor goodies today in the form of a Crossbill over Suckthumb Quarry and a Little Ringed Plover over the Bill. Otherwise it was a case of more of the same as we've been seeing in recent days: 11 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Common Scoter, 7 Balearic Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua and a Puffin through off the Bill and 50 Sand Martins, 20 Swifts and a Willow Warbler overhead/grounded at the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: further dispersing/early departing migrants included 50 Sand Martins and 20 Swifts at the Bill, 2 Willow Warblers at Southwell and a Blackcap at Easton.



  Great Green Bush-cricket - Portland Bill, 15th July © Martin Cade

  July 15th

Another 77 Common Scoter passed through off the Bill, where 10 Manx and 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Black-headed Gulls and the odd few tardy auks (still including a single Puffin) were the only other birds on the move offshore. On the land the first returning Willow Warbler and a lone Redshank were at the Bill.

A Basking Shark was seen briefly close inshore off the Bill in the morning.

A solitary Silver Y was the only immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

July 14th

The sea again provided most of the day's interest with 182 Common Scoter, 77 Manx Shearwaters, 32 Balearic Shearwaters and a Whimbrel passing through off the Bill. Nine Swifts, 2 Sand Martins, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were on/overhead on the land and a Black Redstart was at Chesil Cove.

July 13th

A summery feel to the weather for the first time in a week or so saw a fair turn-out of birders although most of their attention was again given to the sea, with watches at the Bill producing 105 Common Scoter, 46 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and 2 Sandwich Terns. The pick of the bunch on the land were 17 Sand Martins, a Grey Heron and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Bill.

There were again just slim pickings in the Obs garden moth-traps which produced by way of immigrants just singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rusty-dot Pearl and Dark Sword Grass. July 12th

Much better coverage of the island today resulted in a decent scatter of fairly typical summer/early autumn sightings. Returning migrants included 69 Sand Martins, 8 Swifts, a Grey Heron and a Redshank at the Bill, 2 Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper at Portland Harbour and 3 Sanderling, a Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper at Ferrybridge, whilst seawatching at the Bill produced 30 Common Scoter, 16 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua.

A Thresher Shark was seen off the Bill during the morning.

Two Clouded Yellows (along with both Grayling and Chalkhill Blue) were on the wing at East Weare.

Three Silver Y were attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight.

July 11th

The fact that it remained dry was about the only redeeming feature of what was otherwise another cool and breezy day. The only reports were of seawatching at the Bill that produced 16 Balearic and 14 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Common Scoter, 3 Storm Petrels, a Whimbrel, a Black-headed Gull and a Great Skua.

Singles of Dark Spectacle and Silver Y were the only immigrants/wanderers in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.





  Sanderling, Common Gull and Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, 10th July © Martin Cade

...the Sanderling has been present at Ferrybridge all week and seems to be becoming increasingly inconvenienced by a knot of what looks like horse hair tangled around one foot.

  July 10th

Thankfully there was no repeat of yesterday's deluge although the wind remained fresh enough that seawatching was again the only birding worth spending much time on. The light trickle of movement off the the Bill included 26 Manx and 17 Balearic Shearwaters, 9 Common Scoter and 6 Storm Petrels, whilst the only news from the land was of a Blackcap at Culverwell and 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Sanderling and an unseasonable Common Gull at Ferrybridge.

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

July 9th

On a really miserable wet day the only real highlight was an Ocean Sunfish seen drifting slowly west off the Bill around midday. Bird-wise it was pretty uneventful: 4 Balearic Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel, a Curlew and small numbers of Manx Shearwaters passed through off the Bill, a grounded Whimbrel was at the Bill, 4 Storm Petrels and a Balearic Shearwater lingered in Chesil Cove, a single Storm Petrel passed through Portland Harbour and there were 2 Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

July 8th

A minor improvement in the weather but rather less of the same on the bird front. At least 20 Balearic Shearwaters, together with small numbers of Manx Shearwaters and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, a Storm Petrel, a Whimbrel and a Great Skua, passed through off the Bill; a lone Whimbrel was the only bird of note on the land there.

Considering the strength of the wind the presence of 3 Diamond-back Moths in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning was a slight surprise.





  Balearic Shearwater and Storm Petrels - Portland Bill, 7th July 2008 © Martin Cade

...as usual, way too far away for anything other than dismal record shots. On inspecting the photos of the petrels we came across the following three images of one individual that appears to have a dark stripe through the centre of the rump; we didn't notice this in the field and the bird otherwise gave the impression of being nothing other than a typical Storm Petrel (however, should the authors of the wonderful Petrels Night and Day discover something similar amongst the wealth of cryptic species they've uncovered in the North Atlantic then you saw the photos of the Stripe-rumped Storm-petrel here first!):


  July 7th

With the current spell of very unsettled weather showing no signs of petering out it was again a day for seawatching. As seems to have become the case in recent days there there were quite different counts of passing/lingering birds from the various different viewpoints at the Bill, with conservative estimates for the morning's watches being of perhaps around 300 Manx Shearwaters, 30 Balearic Shearwaters, 10 Storm Petrels, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Dunlin, a Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua; there was also another report from two visiting observers of a passing Cory's Shearwater. Elsewhere, a Storm Petrel passing through at Ferrybridge was a good record, whilst other sightings from there included 6 Whimbrel, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Knot and a Sanderling.



  CORY'S SH.....oops....sorry, just another Fulmar - Portland Bill © Martin Cade

  July 6th

Another day for the seawatchers. Most of the day was covered at the Bill where 100 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Balearic Shearwaters, 23 Common Scoter, 12 Whimbrel, 8 Storm Petrels, 2 Mallards and a Curlew were logged (...and additionally, singles of both Sooty and Cory's Shearwater were reported by some observers); further singles of Storm Petrel and Balearic Shearwater passed through at Chesil Cove. The only reports from elsewhere were of 23 Sandwich Terns, 19 Dunlin, 8 Whimbrel, 5 Little Terns and a Shelduck at Ferrybridge.

Finally, thanks to Jamie Hooper for providing us with the ringing details of the Lesser Black-backed Gull, E12799, sighted three days ago at the Bill; this bird was ringed as a chick on the islet of Burhou, just west of Alderney, on 20th June 2005.

July 5th

Some unseasonably rough conditions saw to it that pretty well all attention was given to the sea, with watches at the Bill producing 30 Balearic Shearwaters, 11 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Common Scoter, 7 Whimbrel, 7 Sandwich Terns and 3 Arctic Skuas. The only other report was of a Black Redstart at Tout Quarry.






   Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill, 4th July 2008 © Martin Cade

...always a bit of a chameleon amongst birds, Melodious Warbler seems to have an ever-changing appearance depending on, for example, light and posture. We deliberately took a few indoor and outdoor photographs today to show how the degree of green and yellow saturation can apparently change in sunny or shady viewing conditions; also note how long-winged the bird looks in the bottom photo.

  July 4th

Although it might seem ungrateful to moan, we were just a little disappointed when our early July rare Hippolais showed up in the Obs garden mist-nets this morning and turned out to be yet another Melodious Warbler! That aside there was another good movement of 60 Balearic Shearwaters past the Bill, along with 30 Manx Shearwaters, 23 Common Scoter, 11 Black-headed Gulls, a Curlew and a Whimbrel, and a Greenshank passed overhead at the Bill.





   ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull - Portland Bill, 3rd July 2008 © Martin Cade

...it's always worth having a quick look at the gulls loafing in the Bill car park in case any are ringed. Colour rings are usually easy enough to read but with a little judicious manoeuvering of the car it's also often possible to read metal rings, as in the case of today's Jersey-ringed Lesser Black-back E12799. In his junior days of reading gull ring numbers at Radipole Lake the present writer once reported a ring sighting of a bird that it later transpired was already dead (...at least that's what the BTO claimed!) so nowadays he makes every effort to photograph the ring to eliminate the possibility of a mis-reading.

  July 3rd

Bearing in mind the numbers being reported elsewhere it wasn't particularly surprising that a couple of groups of Crossbills should show up today: early in the morning 9 that flew south and than back north past the Obs showed up a few minutes later still heading north over Avalanche Road, whilst later in the morning 4 more dropped in briefly at Broadcroft Quarry. The day's early morning tally of Balearic Shearwaters reached 40 heading west past the Bill, where 80 Manx Shearwaters, 44 Common Scoter, a Whimbrel and an Arctic Skua also passed by. The only other news was of a Yellow-legged Gull at Bumpers Lane.






Yellow-legged Gull, Bordered Beauty and Eucosma obumbratana - Portland Bill, 2nd July 2008 © Martin Cade

...the two moths are of similar status at Portland: there doesn't seem to be any reason why both species couldn't be resident on the island but, at least in the Obs garden moth-traps, neither is any more than just about annual and it remains to be clarified if they are anything other than occasional wanderers to Portland.

  July 2nd

More of the same on the bird front with the highlights being a Yellow-legged Gull lingering along East Cliffs and 18 Balearic Shearwaters passing through off the Bill. The rest of the day's reports consisted of just a Black-headed Gull and a Sand Martin at the Bill and 10 Common Scoter and a small movement of Manx Shearwaters through on the sea there.

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



Grey Arches - Portland Bill, 1st July 2008 © Martin Cade

  July 1st

A bit more quality today, including brief sightings of the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year in the Bill car park and a Crossbill in Top Fields; 16 Balearic Shearwaters also passed through off the Bill. Other odds and ends included 50 Swifts, 3 Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and a Chiffchaff at the Bill and 40 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter, an Arctic Skua and a Sandwich Tern passing through on the sea there.

Long-distance immigrants remained conspicuously absent from the Obs garden moth-traps although a single Grey Arches - only the fifth recent record for the island - was a noteworthy wanderer there; a lone Silver Y was caught in a garden moth-trap at Southwell.