August 2008







    The 2 Ortolan Buntings, the Rose-coloured Starling and a couple more photos of yesterday's Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill and Southwell, 31st and 30th August 2008 © Alan Lewis (the Ortolans), Chris Courtaux (the Rosy Starling) and Pete Saunders (the Melodious)

  31st August

The 2 Ortolan Buntings remained in Top Fields, the Wryneck remained in the Obs Quarry/Hut Fields area and late in the afternoon a Rose-coloured Starling was discovered near the Obs Quarry. New arrivals were otherwise restricted to a fair selection of routine migrants dropped by a couple of thundery downpours around dawn and a steady day-long passage of hirundines overhead. Less common species in the Bill area included 20 Tree Pipits, 13 Crossbills, 11 Redstarts, 7 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Merlin, a Snipe and a Firecrest, whilst elsewhere there was another Turtle Dove at Southwell and singles of Short-eared Owl and Barn Owl at Barleycrates Lane/Reap Lane. Not much attention was paid to the sea but 8 Teal and singles of Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua passed through off the Bill.

A small increase in immigrant numbers in the Obs garden moth-traps included 15 Silver Y, 8 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Rush Veneer and singles of Ancylosis oblitella, Porter's Rustic and Gold Spot.






   Wryneck and Melodious Warbler - Portland Bill and Southwell, 30th August 2008 © Paul Baker (Wryneck settled), Martin Cade (Wryneck flying) and Pete Saunders (Melodious Warbler)

  30th August

Less in the way of common migrants today but there was adequate compensation in the form of a list of typical scarcities for this time of year that included 2 Ortolan Buntings in Top Fields, a Wryneck in the Obs Quarry, a Melodious Warbler in a private garden at Southwell and a Corncrake at Verne Common (although it should be added that of these only the Wryneck proved to be at all obliging; the others were either extremely elusive or just seen fleetingly). The most noteworthy of the more regular migrants at the Bill included 40 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Grey Wagtails, 6 Whinchats, 5 Redstarts, 5 Sedge Warblers, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Pied Flycatchers, a Common Sandpiper, a Tree Pipit, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Reed Warbler; whilst the only commoner species in good numbers were the hirundines which were on the move overhead throughout the day (with Swallows certainly numbering in the low thousands at the Bill alone). The only report from the sea was of 2 Balearic Shearwaters passing through off the Bill.

A Webb's Wainscot was an unexpected capture in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning; the only routine immigrants in the traps were 4 Silver Y, 2 Rush Veneer, 2 Dark Sword Grass and a Rusty-dot Pearl.




   Firecrest and insect swarm - Portland Bill, 29th August 2008 © Martin Cade

...the super-abundance of flying insects was a really conspicuous feature at the Bill where the lee-side of almost every building or clump of trees (the photo above is a telephoto shot of a tiny part of the huge swarm gathered beside the top of Obs lighthouse tower) had a constantly moving smoke-like plume of insects beside it.

  29th August

August has certainly left it late but finally seems to be coming up with the migrants. Today's flurry in muggy, mainly overcast conditions was easily the best of the month and included a good 200 grounded Willow Warblers and at least a four figure total of hirundines (along with 18 late-ish Swifts) lingering overhead feeding on a large hatch of flying ants and a plethora of other aerial insects. Quality was provided by a fly-over Ortolan Bunting near Lloyd's Cottage at the Bill and a miscellany of uncommon migrants that included in the Bill area 10 Redstarts, 5 Pied Flycatchers, 3 Turtle Doves, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and singles of Merlin, Hobby, Snipe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grasshopper Warbler and Firecrest. Pretty well all the other expected commoner migrants reached well into double figure totals. A single Balearic Shearwater passed though off the Bill and 4 Sanderling, a Redshank and a Mediterranean Gull were at Ferrybridge.

Overnight mothing was extremely busy although immigrants were still conspicuously thin on the ground; 7 Rush Veneer, 6 Silver Y, 3 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Dark Sword Grass and a Four-spotted Footman were all that could be mustered from some very full traps at the Obs.

28th August

Although it was by no means bursting with birds (for instance we netted only 11 new migrants at the Obs in 9 hours of trying) it was nonetheless a lot busier than it has been in recent days. Once again most of the coverage was of the Bill area, from where totals included 55 Wheatears, 40 Willow Warblers, 35 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Tree Pipits, 8 Whinchats, 8 Crossbills, 7 Whitethroats, 6 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Little Egrets, 4 Swifts, 4 Sedge Warblers, 2 each of Grey Wagtail, Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat and singles of Dunlin, Cuckoo, Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Hobby and Chiffchaff.

Five Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Silver Y and a single Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.

Late news for recent days: single Turtle Doves were at Southwell on 25th and Wakeham on 26th and a Little Stint was at Ferrybridge yesterday.

27th August

There was a tiny increase in the number of migrants overhead early in the morning but the situation on the ground was just as dire as it's been in recent days. The only concerted coverage was of the Bill area which produced 25 Yellow Wagtails, 13 Wheatears, 8 Tree Pipits, 3 Grey Wagtails, 3 Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers and singles of Merlin, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. The wind was a little too far north of west for the sea, from where the only reports were of 12 Common Scoter, 7 Balearic Sheawaters, a Manx Shearwater and a Razorbill passing the Bill.

This morning's immigrant moth tally at the Obs didn't get beyond 2 Rusty-dot Pearl.

Late news for last Saturday (23rd August): we keep forgetting to mention some late news of the first Short-eared Owl of the autumn seen at dawn at the Bill.

26th August

It's a bad job when in late August western Ireland is graced with more Yellow Warblers than there are Willow Warblers in the Obs garden - we mist-netted at the Obs for another seven hours today and caught precisely nothing! The odds and ends that did make it onto the day sheet at the Bill included 15 Wheatears, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Whitethroats, a Merlin, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Crossbill, whilst the sea there produced 15 Common Scoter, 6 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Arctic Skuas. Elsewhere there were 2 Little Stints and a Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

Overnight mothing at the Obs remained uneventful: the classic Portland autumn trio of Feathered Ranunculus, Beautiful Gothic and Feathered Brindle were all on the wing for the first time but immigrant interest was restricted to singles of Dark Sword Grass and Silver Y.





  Kestrel, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher from yesterday - St Georges Church and Southwell, 24th August 2008 © Stuart Martindale (Kestrel) and Pete Saunders (Redstart and Pied Fly)

  25th August

There was a general air of bafflement regarding today's lack of birds as the weather conditions - a damp, drizzly dawn after a mainly clear night - had looked to be really suitable for a good fall of migrants. In the event the only reports from the land were of 3 Wheatears, 3 Willow Warblers and a Sedge Warbler at the Bill and a Spotted Flycatcher at Church Ope Cove. The only other news was of seawatching at the Bill that produced 9 Common Scoter, 7 Arctic Skuas, 8 Balearic, a Manx and a Sooty Shearwater, 2 Sandwich Terns and a single commic tern.

Immigrant moths were as few and far between as migrant birds: 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Silver Y were the only overnight captures in the Obs garden traps.

Late news for yesterday: 2 Redstarts and 2 Pied Flycatchers were at Southwell in the afternoon.

24th August

Precious little on the land today after a night that was wet and windy enough to have put the block on passerine movement but there was a fair selection of seabirds on the move off the Bill early in the morning. The Bill area produced another fly-over Crossbill and a light passage of Swifts and hirundines but the handful of grounded migrants included nothing much more than 15 Wheatears, 8 Willow Warblers, 3 Yellow Wagtails and a Turtle Dove. The sea there came up with 7 Balearic, 5 Sooty and a Manx Shearwater, 8 commic terns, 7 Common Scoter, 7 Arctic Skuas, a Black-headed Gull and a Sandwich Tern. Wader variety seems to have diminished at Ferrybridge, where 4 Sanderling provided the only interest today.

The first Gem of the year was the best of a poor showing of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

Late news for yesterday: a Green Woodpecker was at Fortuneswell.

23rd August

With the weather remaining very fine there was a fair bit on the move overhead for a while early in the morning but, Wheatears aside, not too much in the way of grounded migrants. At the Bill singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Crossbill provided the quality, whilst the numbers included 70 Wheatears, 30 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Willow Warblers, 15 Tree Pipits, 10 Swifts, 8 Grey Wagtails, 5 Whitethroats, 4 Ringed Plover, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Dunlin, a Redshank, a Whinchat and a Sedge Warbler. Elsewhere there was a Pied Flycatcher at Kingbarrow Quarry and the Little Stint remained at Ferrybridge.

A dragonfly that appeared to be a Beautiful Demoiselle - a species previously unrecorded at Portland - was flushed up from the crop field opposite the Obs during the morning; unfortunately it flew off very strongly and further searches drew a blank. 

The overnight tally of immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps included 7 Silver Y, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rusty-dot Pearl, Rush Veneer, Pearly Underwing, Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Red Admiral butterfly. 



Willow Warbler and Convolvulus Hawk-moth - Portland Bill, 22nd August 2008 © Martin Cade

  22nd August

As expected the first fine day for a while produced a small but varied flurry of new grounded migrants along with a decent sized gathering of hirundines and late Swifts. The Bill area got most of the coverage and returned totals that included 60 Wheatears, 50 Willow Warblers, 25 Tree Pipits, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Swifts, 15 Whitethroats, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Garden Warblers and singles of Merlin, Turnstone, Turtle Dove, Grey Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher; the hirundines weren't properly counted but certainly numbered well into the hundreds. Seawatching at the Bill produced little more than 75 passing commic terns. The only other reports were from Ferrybridge where waders included 8 Sanderling, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, a Little Stint and a Black-tailed Godwit.

The first 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moths of the year were a minor surprise in the Obs garden moth-traps; the only other immigrants logged were 8 Rusty-dot Pearl, 6 Silver Y, a Diamond-back Moth and a Pearly Underwing.





   Black-tailed Godwit and Little Stint - Ferrybridge, 21st August 2008 © Martin Cade

...being an adult moulting out of summer plumage - and being appreciably bulkier than an accompanying Little Stint - the stint attracted a bit of interest but looks to be 'just' a Little Stint.

  21st August

Our only excuse for there not being any birds today was that the overnight weather - a stiff breeze and more heavy showers - hardly looked suitable for migrants to be on the move. Whatever the reason it remained very quiet on the ground with the best of a poor showing at the Bill being 50 Sand Martins, 25 Wheatears, 10 Willow Warblers, 3 Swifts and a White Wagtail; another White Wagtail was at Barleycrates Lane and a Pied Flycatcher showed up at Easton. As a measure of how grim it's been for early autumn  migrants it's worth mentioning that the Obs garden ringing tally for the month stands at just 160 birds and only 78 of those are departing summer visitors. Elsewhere a better showing of waders at Ferrybridge included 6 Knot, 3 Sanderling, 2 Little Stints and a Black-tailed Godwit. The few birds on the move off the Bill included 6 Common Scoter, 2 each of Balearic and Manx Shearwater and a single Sooty Shearwater; 45 Common Terns also passed straight through over Ferrybridge.

Two Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Silver Y were the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.










   Whitethroat detail - Portland Bill, August 2005-2008 © Martin Cade

...few of the common passerine migrants passing through Portland have as complicated a moult strategy as the Whitethroat; spring birds are notoriously tricky to age (and even in many cases to sex) but fortunately autumn birds are rather more straightforward. In theory, adults undertake a complete post-breeding moult and ought to be in uniformly fresh plumage but the reality is that many interrupt this moult and migrate with varying numbers of old, unmoulted primaries, secondaries and smaller wing-coverts; first year birds are of course always in fresh plumage at this time of year. Autumn adult males aren't usually too difficult to spot (our two adults above look, for example, to be pretty certain males) as they retain plenty of greyness about the head and smaller wing coverts, but separating adult females from first years isn't so straightforward and requires examination of the colour of the outer tail feathers (white in adults, sullied brownish-white in first years) or checking for the presence (in first years) or absence (in adults) of a moult-limit in the greater coverts; there are further useful age related differences in, for example, iris colour (yellowish- to olive-brown in adults and darker grey-brown in first years).

  20th August

Any hopes that the general easing in the strength of the wind might see a few more migrants drop in on the land proved to be well wide of the mark as, for example, the Bill area produced just 15 Wheatears, 8 Tree Pipits and singles (!) of Ringed Plover, Curlew, Swift, Sand Martin, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting. Offshore there were still a few birds on the move, with watches at the Bill producing 43 Manx, 7 Balearic and 1 Sooty Shearwater, 8 Common Scoter, 7 Dunlin, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern; 8 Oystercatchers and a steady procession of Swallows also headed away to the south from the Bill. Elsewhere there was a Common Sandpiper at Portland Castle and 3 Sanderling and a Mediterranean Gull at Ferrybridge.

19th August

Still pretty windy today but, for the most part, rather clearer than yesterday so sea passage was somewhat reduced, with the morning's totals at the Bill standing at 25 Manx, 18 Sooty and 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter, 3 Great Skuas, 2 commic terns and 1 Arctic Skua.  

18th August

Another gale, another day seawatching. The Bill was covered for most of the day and returned totals of 137 Manx, 37 Balearic and 34 Sooty Shearwaters, 29 Common Scoter, 7 commic terns, 6 Arctic Skuas, 4 Great Skuas, 2 'blue' Fulmars, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Storm Petrel.  

A single Rusty-dot Pearl was the only immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.



   colour-ringed Ringed Plover - Ferrybridge, 12th August 2008 © Martin Cade add to the selection of colour-ringed birds we've highlighted recently, this Ringed Plover has been present for the last week or so at Ferrybridge. It was first ringed as a breeding adult on the island of Nidingen off the coast of Sweden on 12th April 2004; there have been previous confirmed sightings of it at Ferrybridge in July 2004, August 2005 and August 2007, whilst a sighting of what was probably the same individual in February 2005 would suggest that it most likely winters on the Fleet (thanks to Dave Chown for details of these previous sightings).

  17th August

There was a distinct air of Portland at its poorest about proceedings today with lousy numbers and variety of common migrants and some less than inspiring seawatching. Odds and ends at the Bill included 16 Wheatears, 5 Whitethroats, a Sand Martin and a Willow Warbler, seawatching there produced 18 commic terns, 10 Common Scoter, 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Sandwich Terns, a Dunlin and an Arctic Skua, and singles of Sanderling, Redshank and Knot were the best of the waders at Ferrybridge. 

Four Rusty-dot Pearl and 2 Silver Y constituted the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.



   Last night's particularly miserable specimen of Great Dart - Portland Bill, 16th August 2008 © Martin Cade

  16th August

It was too much to have expected a third successive fine day and sure enough drizzly rain and a strengthening wind were ever-present features today. Four Tree Pipits, 4 Wheatears and a Hobby made it into the log at the Bill but all the rest of the news was of seawatching which produced 30 commic terns, 27 Balearic Shearwaters, 27 Common Scoter, 5 Manx Shearwaters, a Shoveler and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill.

A Great Dart was a notable overnight capture in the Obs garden moth-traps but the only other immigrants caught were 6 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Rush Veneer, 2 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Silver Y and a Diamond-back Moth.

Late news for yesterday: the morning's catch of immigrant moths in the Obs garden traps was sufficiently uninspiring that we forgot to mention it later in the day: 8 Silver Y, 7 Dark Sword Grass, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Diamond-back Moth and a Rush Veneer.






Black-tailed Godwits and Grasshopper Warbler detail - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 15th August 2008 © Pete Saunders (godwits) and Martin Cade (Grasshopper Warbler)'s Grasshopper Warbler (it was actually first caught yesterday but we made a hash of the photos on that occasion and so were pleased when it was retrapped today!) was a rare example of an autumn adult. In contrast to first year birds which are in uniformly fresh plumage at this season adults carry out a partial post-breeding moult and so exhibit a mixture of old and new feathers. Close inspection of today's bird showed the presence of old, unmoulted feathers in virtually every feather tract but, with new feathers predominating, it would be quite easy in a brief view in the field to be fooled into believing that the bird was in fresh, first year plumage.

  15th August

A rarity for this month: a second successive day of pleasant sunshine. On the migrant front there was again quite a bit to see, with the Bill area returning totals that included 100 Sand Martins, 50 Willow Warblers, 25 Wheatears, 20 Tree Pipits, 10 Sedge Warblers, 9 Whitethroats, 7 Ringed Plovers, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 each of Grasshopper Warbler and Garden Warbler and singles of Grey Heron, Yellow-legged Gull, Whinchat, Lesser Whitethroat and Treecreeper; 7 Black-tailed Godwits were the best of the new waders at Ferrybridge. In very light winds the only noteworthy sighting from the sea was of 2 Pomarine Skuas passing the Bill.

14th August

Weather-wise there was something of a return to fair conditions and that was enough to prompt a few migrants to get moving again. The Bill area was given most of the coverage and produced 50 Sand Martins, 20 Wheatears, 15 Willow Warblers, 2 Swifts, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Tree Pipit; a Turtle Dove at Avalanche Road was the pick of the sightings elsewhere. A trickle of passage on the sea included 13 Manx and 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Common Scoter, 2 commic terns, a Whimbrel and a late Razorbill passing the Bill.

13th August

In what for this time of year was a pretty raging westerly wind there was precious little to do but sit glued to the sea. Coverage from the Obs produced a steady mainly eastward passage of Gannets and a westward movement of more than 100 Fulmars, along with just 30 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 8 Great Skuas, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Common Scoter, 2 commic terns, a Storm Petrel, a Sooty Shearwater, an Arctic Skua and a Razorbill; the local observers have developed a blind-spot for Cory's Shearwaters and so dipped the two singles (one mid-morning and the other early afternoon) of that species seen by day visitors watching from other viewpoints.








   Brent Goose and Sedge Warbler detail - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, August 2008 © Pete Saunders (Brent Goose) and Martin Cade (Sedge Warbler)

...when we started our occasional ageing and sexing features last year we mentioned that we catch relatively few adult migrant passerines in the autumn; last week's adult Sedge Warbler was, for example, the first autumn adult of this species that we've handled this year and, if recent form is anything to go by, may well be the only one we catch this year!  Sedge Warbler ageing is pretty straightforward as the young of the year are sporting very fresh plumage, whilst the adults don't moult until they arrive in winter quarters and are thus very worn. Since the paler feather edges of, for examples, the crown, wing coverts and tertials are largely worn off on adults these feather tracts appear considerable darker than on first years and contribute to the altogether darker and more contrasting dark brown-and-white appearance of adults when compared to the tawny-and-cream appearance of first years. A gorget of diffuse brown spots across the breast is almost invariably a feature of first year birds.

  12th August

In increasingly windy conditions the bird of the day was a phalarope sp - thought most likely to be a Red-necked - that settled very briefly in Chesil Cove before heading south off the West Cliffs. Seawatching at the Bill produced 25 Manx and 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 12 Common Scoter, a commic tern and a Roseate Tern, whilst the Brent Goose that has been summering a little further up the Fleet dropped in at Ferrybridge along with 70 each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, 6 Sanderling and a Mediterranean Gull.



   Canthophorus impressus - Portland Bill, 7th August 2008 © Bryan Edwards

...this shieldbug is restricted to dry calcareous turf where its host plant, Bastard Toadflax, grows. It seems that the only previous record from our recording area was from 'Smallmouth Sands'  - presumably referring to somewhere in the vicinity of Ferrybridge - in the mid-1800s; the foodplant has not been seen at this location for over 100 years so the discovery last week of the bug at the Bill, where the foodplant still occurs, is very welcome.

  11th August

Quieter weather today but no sign of any upturn in migrant activity, indeed virtually all the reports were of seawatching at the Bill which produced 20 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas, a Black-headed Gull, a commic tern and a late Guillemot. Five Willow Warblers, 3 Wheatears and 2 Sedge Warblers were the only grounded migrants found at the Bill.





   Adder, mating pair of Meadow Grasshoppers and purple form Meadow Grasshopper - East Weare and Portland Bill, August 2008 © Emma Cockburn (Adder) and Ken Dolbear (grasshoppers)

...the trouble with having a week away on holiday is that there's a pile of jobs to do when you return and we've accumulated quite a backlog of nice photographs from the last fortnight that we haven't had enough time to deal with - apologies to the contributors for the late postings. If the bird situation remains as dismal as it is at the moment then there'll be plenty more 'other wildlife' photos to follow in the next few days.

  10th August

With a stiff westerly wind blowing all day most of the news was of seawatching. At the Bill no one watch was good enough to keep observers in place for long but cumulatively the tally for the day reached a faintly respectable 10 Arctic Skuas, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas, a Sooty Shearwater and a Teal; a shorter watch at Chesil Cove produced 60 commic terns, 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and a Great Skua. Very limited coverage of the land at the Bill revealed the presence of nothing more than 6 Willow Warblers, 2 Wheatears and a Spotted Flycatcher.


An announcement for Obs members: 

The Peter Mowday Memorial Fund

In our summer newsletter we announced the creation of the Peter Mowday Memorial Fund with the object of financing a suitable memorial to our late Honorary Secretary. Response has been generous and to date some £3000 has been donated. We have been able to fund a cast bronze memorial plaque to Peter and to purchase an agricultural mower for the maintenance of our conservation grassland at the Bill. Monies remaining will go towards the purchase of more land - something always dear to Peter's heart. The fund is still open and anyone wishing to donate is asked to send a cheque (payable to PBO Memorial Fund) to the Hon Sec at the Observatory.

9th August

A clear slot early in the morning allowed for some coverage of the land but thereafter it was seawatching all the way in increasingly wet and windy conditions. The Bill area produced 15 Willow Warblers, 4 Wheatears and 2 Sedge Warblers on the land and 42 Common Scoter, 29 commic terns, 10 Arctic Terns, 8 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua on the sea, whilst at Ferrybridge there were 44 Common Terns, 6 Sanderling and a Whimbrel together with decent numbers of commoner waders.

The overnight immigrant tally in the Obs garden moth-traps consisted of 5 Dark Sword Grass, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 4 Silver Y, 2 Four-spotted Footman and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Pediasia contaminella and Brown-veined Wainscot.

8th August

A dreary, drizzly dawn saw the best arrival of land migrants of the autumn so far (which isn't saying much as to date it's been pretty quiet), with totals from the Bill area of 400 Swallows, 100 House Martins, 75 Willow Warblers, 60 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 50 Sand Martins, 17 Swifts, 6 Wheatears, 3 Sedge Warblers, a Ringed Plover, a Redshank, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Spotted Flycatcher. Elsewhere there were 4 Redshanks at Ferrybridge, a Pied Flycatcher at Avalanche Road and the star bird of the day in the form of a Dotterel that passed overhead at Barleycrates Lane (particuarly noteworthy for being a good week earlier than the previous earliest autumn record for the island which was of one at the Bill on 16th August 1975). The sea continues to provide interest without ever getting particularly busy; today's tally at the Bill included 33 commic terns, 25 Common Scoter, 8 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Dunlin, 2 more Yellow-legged Gulls, a Balearic Shearwater, a 'blue' Fulmar and an Arctic Skua. Also of interest on the bird front, we've just received notification of a remarkable ringing recovery: a juvenile Magpie ringed at the Obs in July 2007 was found dead in April this year 140 km away near Lechlade in Gloucestershire; according to the Migration Atlas the median natal dispersal distance for this species is only 1.5 km and this bird looks to have covered one of the longest distances recorded between ringing and recovery by a British Magpie.

It was a little too windy overnight to expect much reward in the Obs garden moth-traps and the only immigrants logged were 5 Silver Y, 3 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Cydia amplana, Four-spotted Footman and Small Mottled Willow.


The next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am to 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 9th August.






   Yellow-legged Gull - Portland Bill, 7th August 2008 © Martin Cade

...we were trying to get a comparison photograph of the Yellow-legged Gull standing next to a Herring Gull but this particular individual was such a nasty piece of work that it beat up anything that that came anywhere near it and the best we manage was getting a closer but very out-of-focus Herring Gull in the same frame.

  7th August

In unexpectedly pleasant conditions there was a good deal more on view at the Bill this morning, where 30 Willow Warblers, 12 Wheatears, 10 Sedge Warblers, 3 Ringed Plover, a Dunlin, a Green Sandpiper, a Turnstone, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Tree Pipit and a Garden Warbler were logged on the land and 7 Manx and 2 Balearic Shearwaters passed through on the sea.

The Obs garden moth-traps were much busier this morning, with a list of immigrants that included 28 Rusty-dot Pearl, 8 Silver Y, 6 Dark Sword Grass, 6 Straw Dot, 2 Gold Spot and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rush Veneer, Evergestis extimalis, Palpita vitrealis, Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Four-spotted Footman and Scarce Bordered Straw.

6th August

Common waders continued to arrive in fair numbers and there was a trickle of passage on the sea but passerine migrants remained decidedly thin on the ground. The Bill area produced 40 Swifts, 25 Willow Warblers, 7 Wheatears, 6 Sand Martins, 2 Garden Warblers and a Ringed Plover overhead/grounded and 94 Common Scoter, 5 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Sandwich Terns, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Tufted Duck and a Great Skua through on the sea. Elsewhere 2 Crossbills passed overhead at Easton and both Ringed Plover and Dunlin topped the 200 mark at Ferrybridge.

In nice muggy conditions overnight the Obs garden moth-traps were disappointingly quiet, with the only immigrants logged being 8 Rusty-dot Pearl, 7 Silver Y, a Diamond-back Moth and a Four-spotted Footman.




   colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull - Portland Bill, 5th August 2008 © Martin Cade

...we love the speed with which it's possible to find out ringing details when you're dealing with colour-ringed birds. We photographed this juvenile Lesser Black-back in the Bill car park this morning and by early afternoon had received a reply from Peter Rock - the co-ordinator of this particular project - informing us that the bird had been ringed at Bristol on 23rd June. Roll on the day when we can find out the ringing details of metal-ringed passerines controlled in our mist-nets as quickly as that!

  5th August

Although it didn't rain nearly as much as forecast there were precious few birders in the field and the only worthwhile sightings from the Bill were of 21 commic terns, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and a Common Scoter through on the sea and 15 Willow Warblers, a Dunlin and a Wheatear on the land. Wader numbers, including more than 100 of both Ringed Plover and Dunlin, remained high at Ferrybridge, where the best of the sightings were of singles of Greenshank, Whimbrel and Common Gull.

Immigrant interest remained at a very low level in the Obs garden moth-traps with overnight captures consisting of just 9 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Dark Sword Grass, a Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y.




   Autumn Gentians and Graylings - The Grove, 4th August 2008 © Ken Dolbear

  4th August

In breezy but otherwise pleasantly sunny conditions there was a little more to be seen on the land, with 50 Willow Warblers, 7 Wheatears, 2 Redstarts, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Redshank, a Greenshank and a Dunlin logged at the Bill; seawatching there produced 16 Common Scoter, 14 commic terns, 9 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Arctic Skuas. The only reports from elsewhere were of 100 Ringed Plover, 80 Dunlin, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and singles of Greenshank, Redshank, Yellow-legged Gull and Little Tern at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant interest dwindled still further in the Obs garden moth-traps which attracted just 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Dark Sword Grass and a Pearly Underwing.




   Adonis Blue - Church Ope Cove, 2nd August 2008 © Ken Dolbear

  3rd August

Another grey, damp day. Odds and ends on the land included 15 Willow Warblers, 2 Swifts and singles of Golden Plover, Wheatear and Garden Warbler at the Bill, whilst seawatching there produced 143 Gannets, 18 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Ringed Plover, 6 commic terns, 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Turnstones, a Whimbrel and a Great Skua.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced by way of immigrants just 6 Rusty-dot Pearl, 6 Silver Y, 3 Diamond-back Moth and a Dark Sword Grass.

Late news for yesterday: the first summer brood Adonis Blues were on the wing at Church Ope Cove.



   Bedstraw Hawk-moth - Portland Bill, 31st July 2008 © Martin Cade

  2nd August

The dismal drizzly, misty conditions of early morning eventually cleared through and the rest of the day was pleasantly warm and sunny. Land migrants remained at a premium with little more than 15 Willow Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and a Whimbrel at the Bill. Precious little seawatching was possible until the weather cleared through and then watches at the Bill produced just 9 Manx and a Balearic Shearwater, 3 commic terns and singles of Common Scoter, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Pomarine Skua.

Late news from the last week: the pick of the sightings during our week off the air involved passing Cory's Shearwaters: 3 off Chesil Cove on 29th July and 1 off the Bill on 1st August; with the exception of another 10 Crossbills there wasn't a great deal to report from the land. Immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps petered out as the week went on, with the best of the captures being of a Bedstraw Hawk-moth on 31st July and a total of 17 Four-spotted Footman between 27th and 30th July.

Finally, we're sure that someone must have secured some better images of today's Dorset Lesser Grey Shrike than our miserable digiscoped efforts but as we haven't spotted anything on the web yet then click here to get a vague idea of what it looked like!