November 2009



Goosander - Ferrybridge, 30th November 2009 © Pete Saunders

...and a few more Leach's Petrels from yesterday. Colin White let us have a nice big sea/little bird photo from Chesil Cove:


...and from Ken Parker a couple more images from Portland Harbour:



...and finally, a bit of more detail on the ageing of these birds. Today we've had a look back through the photos that we've taken or been sent and every one of nearly 40 individuals appears to be an adult (or at least none are juveniles); most are clearly in active wing moult and close examination of the few that are at first glance in fresher plumage show that these too exhibit clear signs of a moult contrast in the wing (without examination in the hand we can't be sure but these birds give the appearance of being in suspended/arrested moult as the flight feathers all appear to be of the same length; perhaps some of these birds are older immatures?). This morning we were able to have a good look at the bird found dead at Portland Harbour yesterday; the mixture of new and old feathers in all the main tracts on the wing of this adult in active moult shows up very nicely:




...and as a matter of interest this bird weighed 34.2 gms (according to BWP the usual weight of a healthy Leach's is 40-50 gms)

  30th November

...and just as quickly as they arrived so they all vanished! The overnight switch to a chilly north wind put paid to virtually all of the storm-blown seabirds, with not a single Leach's Petrel seen anywhere today; the only quality birds that did remain were 2 Grey Phalaropes at Hallelujah Bay. Seawatching at the Bill did produce 22 Common Scoter, 6 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 5 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, a Pintail, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Curlew, whilst a small overhead movement of late migrants there included 4 Redwings, a Fieldfare and a trickle of Chaffinches and Goldfinches; 12 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes were also new arrivals at Southwell. The rest of the day's news concerned a Goosander at Ferrybridge (and later in Portland Harbour), 3 Great Northern Divers and 2 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour and 6 Purple Sandpipers and the Cetti's Warbler still at the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: we forgot to mention a Barn Owl beside the Beach Road in the small hours of the morning.







Sooty Shearwater and Leach's Petrels - Portland Bill and Portland Harbour, 29th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

...and after uploading the photos above we received a few more from other observers fortunate enough to be out in the field today. One of Ken Tucker's photos shows a bird battling over Chesil:


...whilst James Phillips sent through some more photos from Portland Harbour that include a bird found dead on the tideline:

29th November

A day that will certainly feature in the annals of Portland seawatching - and it all started so quietly. After a morning that produced little more than half a dozen Leach's Petrels and a Sooty Shearwater off the Bill a major wreck of Leach's suddenly developed around midday and by dusk around 600 had passed both the Bill and Chesil Cove (600 were estimated at the Cove and 582 were counted by clicker at the Bill by one observer who certainly didn't get on to all the birds that passed there). The rest of the day's tally at these and the other watchpoints included: 1400 Kittiwakes, 7 Great Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Little Auks, an Arctic Skua and a Grey Phalarope through off the Bill, 4 Grey Phalaropes, 2 Red-throated Divers, 5 Little Gulls, a Balearic Shearwater, a Great Skua, an Arctic Skua and a Little Auk through at Chesil Cove and at least 50 Leach's Petrels through Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge.




Goosander and dead Puffin - Portland Harbour and Chesil Beach, 28th November 2009 © Bob Ford (Goosander) and Martin Cade (Puffin) 

...and one of the dead Gannets on Chesil was ringed. If the ringer of this bird happens to be taking a look at the site do let us know where you originally ringed it!:

28th November

A day of extreme variations in the weather, with the gale force westerlies of dawn giving way to flat calm conditions by midday before torrents of rain set in during the afternoon. Considering the circumstances the bird list included quite a bit of quality: 4 Redshank, 2 Leach's Petrels and 2 Great Skuas passed through at Chesil Cove where 2 Grey Phalaropes were still lingering and a Black Redstart was still present, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Leach's Petrel and a Goosander were in Portland Harbour, a Balearic Shearwater passed through off the Bill and another 250 Goldfinches headed south overhead at the Bill. Finally, a check of the tideline debris at Chesil Cove revealed a few corpses, including 7 Gannets and a Puffin.

27th November

Although it remained windy with frequent showers running along the Channel there was less of note on the sea today: 2 Grey Phalaropes and a Little Gull remained at Chesil Cove and 2 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser passed through off the Bill. The only other news was of another 400 Goldfinches heading south over the Bill.




  Goldfinches still on the move - Portland Bill, 26th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

26th November

Leach's Petrels again provided the main rarity interest, with 3 through at Chesil Cove and another through off the Bill; sea interest otherwise dwindled a little and the only other sightings of note concerned 3 Grey Phalaropes, a Great Crested Grebe and a Little Gull at Chesil Cove and 2 Great Northern Divers at Portland Harbour. Another 900 Goldfinches headed south at the Bill, where a few Chaffinches and singles of Brambling and Reed Bunting also passed over.






    Leach's Petrel and Razorbills - Portland Harbour, 25th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

...and Colin White has kindly passed us more photos from Chesil Cove and Portland Harbour from recent days. Leach's Petrel at the Cove yesterday (24th):

...Great Skua at the Cove on Sunday (22nd):

...and one of the two Grey Phalaropes in the Harbour on Sunday (22nd):

  25th November

Yet another rough day saw plenty more attention given to the sea. Chesil Cove produced 5 Leach's Petrels, a Great Northern Diver, a Grey Phalarope and a Little Gull, singles of Red-necked Grebe, Leach's Petrel, Storm Petrel and Great Skua passed though off the Bill, a Leach's Petrel passed through at Ferrybridge and 5 Great Northern Divers, a Slavonian Grebe, a Leach's Petrel, a Gannet and a Kittiwake were in Portland Harbour. On the land, Goldfinches were again on the move at the Bill, where just over 1000 headed south through the morning; a Merlin, a Brambling and a handful of Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Linnets also tagged along.

Late news for yesterday: 8 Great Northern Divers and 4 Goosander were at Portland Harbour.



    Black Redstart - Portland Bill, 24th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

  24th November

With the strength of the wind having eased just a little most of today's interest on the sea involved birds actually on the move as opposed to lingering/wrecked. Four Leach's Petrels and 2 Grey Phalaropes passed though at Chesil Cove and 200 Kittiwakes, 3 Leach's Petrels, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver passed through off the Bill. Considering the conditions it was a surprise that another 295 Goldfinches headed south at the Bill; singles of Redwing, Black Redstart and Firecrest were also there, whilst elsewhere at least 1 of the Black Brants was again at Ferrybridge and 2 Great Northern Divers were in Portland Harbour.






  Leach's Petrel - Portland Harbour, 23rd November 2009 © Martin Cade 

...the photos above were taken in really lousy conditions during the morning. When we popped back to the harbour in slightly better weather during the afternoon another Leach's appeared briefly as it tried to make its way over Chesil Beach to Lyme Bay (it got as far as the Sailing Academy roundabout but chickened out and whizzed back into the harbour):


...both these birds appear to be ragged adults (juveniles ought to be in very fresh plumage at this time of year and we'd guess that non-breeding sub-adults ought to be further advanced with their wing moult than this). The limited photographic evidence available seems to hint at the late autumn/winter influxes of recent years having involved birds of different age classes: the early November 2005 wreck related to fresh-plumaged juveniles, whereas the early December 2007 wreck and this years influx relate to adults. And finally, one of the handful of Kittiwakes battling through the harbour this afternoon:


  23rd November

The constant foul conditions are certainly taking their toll on the smaller seabirds, with Leach's Petrels and Grey Phalaropes in particular being wrecked in some numbers now. Today's mixture of very strong westerlies and frequent heavy showers has produced 3 Grey Phalaropes, 2 Leach's Petrels and 2 Great Skuas at Chesil Cove, 5 Kittiwakes, 4 Leach's Petrels, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Little Gull at Portland Harbour and 2 Leach's Petrels at Ferrybridge.




  Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Black Brant - Ferrybridge, 22nd November 2009 © Pete Saunders 

  22nd November

More wind and  frequent very heavy showers today. Chesil Cove got plenty of attention and returned totals of 4 Grey Phalaropes, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Little Gulls, a Black-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and a Leach's Petrel; 2 of the Grey Phalaropes were also settled in Portland Harbour for a while during the afternoon. Elsewhere there were 600 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 27 Pale-bellied Brents, 2 Black Brants, a Merlin and a Kittiwake at Ferrybridge, 2 Black Redstarts at the Bill and another Black Redstart at Chiswell.

21st November

A not too bad morning gave way to a truly shocking afternoon of constant driving rain. After a relatively still night when Redwings could be heard passing over in quantity there was some minor hope that there might be a few new arrivals on the land but 2 Bramblings and a single Redwing were just about the only birds of note at the Bill, where a Purple Sandpiper, a Cetti's Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Firecrest were still present. The sea was well-watched and came up with 19 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Great Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Sooty Shearwater passing the Bill and 50 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Shelduck and a Black-throated Diver settled/passing at Chesil Cove. The only other news was of a typical selection, including 76 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Black Brant, from Ferrybridge: 



  Firecrest - Foundry Close, 20th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

  20th November

After a wet, windy night and dreary dawn the day itself became progressively brighter. Unfortunately quality birds were hard to come by, with little more than singles of Firecrest at the Obs and Foundry Close, single Chiffchaffs at five sites around the centre and south of the island and a lone Red-throated Diver passing through off the Bill.



  Wren - Pennsylvania Castle, 19th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

  19th November

The strength of the wind has been an unrelenting feature of recent days although today was actually so pleasantly mild and sunny as to make it quite birdable in a few sheltered spots on the land; that said, the only noteworthy reports from there were of singles of Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and Firecrest still at the Bill, a continuing light southward passage of Goldfinches overhead there and 2 each of Chiffchaff and Firecrest still at Pennsylvania Castle. From the sea there was news of singles of Grey Phalarope at Chesil Cove and Arctic Skua over Ferrybridge; 2 of the Black Brants were also again at Ferrybridge.

Given the strength of the wind we weren't expecting much reward from the Obs garden moth-traps but 2 Rusty-dot Pearl did provide some minor immigrant interest amongst the few residents (Feathered Ranunculus, Lunar Underwing and Beaded Chestnut) still on the wing.




  Red-throated Diver and Grey Phalarope - Ferrybridge, 18th November 2009 © Pete Saunders 

  18th November

Another windy day. At the seawatch spots there were 2 Little Gulls and a Leach's Petrel at Chesil Cove and 3 Balearic Shearwaters at the Bill, whilst elsewhere a Grey Phalarope dropped in briefly at Ferrybridge, where there were also 1380 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 50 Mediterranean Gulls, 20 Pale-bellied Brents and 2 Black Brants; 2 Red-throated Divers also passed overhead there. The only other reports were of 3 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

17th November

Despite it remaining somewhat windier than expected there was quite a bit of passage overhead today, with 1000 Wood Pigeons, 550 Goldfinches, 150 Chaffinches, 50 Greenfinches, 5 Bramblings and 2 Siskins leaving to the south at the Bill. On the ground a couple of new Blackcaps dropped in at the Bill, where long-stayers still present included 2 Firecrests, a Water Rail, a Cetti's Warbler and a Chiffchaff. The only news from elsewhere was of 800 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 80 Mediterranean Gulls, 18 Pale-bellied Brents, 7 Mute Swans and 3 Black Brants at Ferrybridge.

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






Great Skua and Little Gull - Ferrybridge, 16th November 2009 © Pete Saunders 

...the Great Skuas in recent days have been a mixture of moulting adults (today's bird and two of the individuals in the photos posted yesterday) and fresh-plumaged juveniles (the other individual in yesterday's photos). Although it gets far less coverage than, for example, the traditional hotspots at Chesil Cove and the Bill, Ferrybridge can be a really rewarding 'seawatch' venue in very stormy conditions. Watches at high tide generally provide closer views of birds passing between Portland Harbour and Lyme Bay but, as Pete's photograph below of one of the Leach's Petrels on Saturday shows, it's certainly still worth checking at low tide (we've inset an enlargement of the petrel - you can just make it out above the right hand end of the distant Brent Goose flock on the wider frame):


  16th November

With the wind having freshened again all the news was from the sea: 4 Little Gulls, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua at Chesil Cove, a Little Auk through at Portland Harbour (with 2 Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver settled there) and singles of Great Skua and Little Gull through at Ferrybridge (with 1100 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 16 Pale-bellied Brents, a Black Brant and 40 Mediterranean Gulls settled there).

Four Rusty-dot Pearl and a Rush Veneer provided some minor immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.







A few photographs from yesterday's seawatching: Leach's Petrel, Grey Phalarope and Great Skuas - Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge, 14th November 2009 © Colin White (Leach's Petrel and top Great Skua) and Pete Saunders (Grey Phalarope and bottom two Great Skuas) 

  15th November

After yesterday's wild weather.relative normality returned today. The sea still provided most of the day's interest, with 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas and a single Leach's Petrel passing through off the Bill, from where there was also a report of a Little Auk settled offshore during the morning; Chesil Cove produced 2 Little Gulls and singles of Balearic Shearwater and Red-breasted Merganser, and singles of Black-throated and Great Northern Divers were in Portland Harbour. On the land the most conspicuous feature was a steady passage of Goldfinches - totalling 720 birds - heading south over the Bill through the morning; singles of Merlin, Purple Sandpiper, Cetti's Warbler, Firecrest and Reed Bunting were the best of the odds and ends on the ground there.

14th November

What a difference a day makes: yesterday dawned absolutely flat calm but, following an increasingly rough night, today dawned with the wind gusting well towards 70 mph. Inevitably all the reports were from the sea, with 5 Great Skuas, a Leach's Petrel (and another brief/distant petrel sp) and a Red-breasted Merganser passing through off the Bill, 6 Little Gulls, 4 Great Skuas, a Leach's Petrel, a Manx Shearwater and a Grey Phalarope passing Chesil Cove and 5 Great Skuas, 3 Leach's Petrels, a Grey Phalarope and a Little Gull through at Ferrybridge.

13th November

Poor weather and few reports again today: 6 Fieldfares, 2 Water Rails, a Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff at the Bill, a Woodcock at Kingbarrow Quarry and 17 Common Scoter and a single Red-throated Diver through on the sea at the Bill. 

Singles of Rush Veneer, Rusty-dot Pearl, Dark Sword Grass and Silver Y were the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

12th November

In increasingly miserable conditions there was little in the way of quantity or quality today. The Bill area produced 4 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Water Rail, a Woodcock, a Swallow, the Cetti's Warbler and a Firecrest on the land and 9 Common Scoter, 2 Fulmars (the first for several weeks), a Great Northern Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser on the sea, whilst at Ferrybridge there were 450 Brent Geese, 36 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Mallard and a Merlin.

Red Admiral and Painted Lady were both still on the wing today.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 3 Silver Y and singles of Diamond-back Moth and Rusty-dot Pearl.




Some more photos from a couple of days ago: the putative Siberian Chiffchaff and Black Redstart - Southwell School and Portland Bill, 9th November 2009 © Pete Saunders (Siberian Chiffchaff) and Dick Senior (Black Redstart) 

  11th November

Poor reward again today with the continuing south-easterlies failing to come up with the goods. All the news was from the Bill area/Southwell, where there were 30 Blackbirds, 12 Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Firecrests, a Little Egret, the Cetti's Warbler, a Blackcap, a Brambling, a Siskin, a Redpoll and a Reed Bunting on the land and a Brent Goose passed by on the sea.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 5 Silver Y, 2 Dark Sword Grass and a Rusty-dot Pearl; as it's getting late in the season we may as well also mention the other species still on the wing and caught during the last couple of nights: Common Marbled Carpet, Double-striped Pug, Red-green Carpet, Large Yellow Underwing, Turnip, Red-line Quaker, Yellow-line Quaker, Satellite, Beaded Chestnut, Lunar Underwing, Black Rustic, Grey Shoulder-knot, Feathered Ranunculus and Angle Shades.

Late news for yesterday: a Vestal was caught in a garden moth-traps at Southwell.



Little Owls and Purple Sandpipers from yesterday - Portland Bill, 9th November 2009 © Allan Neilson 

  10th November

A waft of south-easterly wind raised expectations a little but in the event the rain or drizzle was more persistent than forecast and exploration in the clearer slots revealed no new arrivals of any quality. A few extra thrushes, including 30 Blackbirds and 6 Redwings at Southwell and 10 Fieldfares at the Bill, were dropped by the rain but the only other sightings of note concerned 6 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Grey Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Firecrest and Siskin on the ground at the Bill, and 20 Common Scoter, 9 Brent Geese, 3 Wigeon, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver through on the sea there.

A small arrival (or re-emergence?) of immigrant moths included 3 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Silver Y and a Rush Veneer caught overnight in the Obs garden traps.




Fieldfare and yesterday's Great Spotted Woodpecker - Portland Bill and Wakeham, 9th and 8th November 2009 © Martin Cade (Fieldfare) and Pete Saunders (Great Spotted Woodpecker) 

  9th November

Portland escaped the fog that looked to be cloaking the mainland and in gloriously clear, sunny conditions there was plenty of coverage of the island. The main feature of the day was an almost constant light trickle of mainly thrushes, Starlings and finches heading north into the north-east breeze, with the Bill area producing totals that included 750 Starlings, 200 Goldfinches, 150 Chaffinches, 100 Blackbirds, 50 Song Thrushes, 40 Redwings, 25 Fieldfares, 10 Bramblings, 5 Siskins, 5 Redpolls, 5 Reed Buntings, 2 Lapwings, a Golden Plover, a Short-eared Owl and a Mistle Thrush; further grounded migrants there included 7 Black Redstarts, 7 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, a Grey Wagtail and a Firecrest, whilst winterers in residence included 6 Purple Sandpipers and a Water Rail. Elsewhere there were 3 more Black Redstarts, a Jack Snipe and a likely Siberian Chiffchaff at Southwell, a Firecrest at Easton and a Black Redstart at the Grove. A little bit of passage on the sea included 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Northern Diver passing the Bill.

8th November

A Snow Bunting dropped in briefly during the morning on the East Cliffs at the Bill, but otherwise the day's list was fairly typical for a chilly late autumn day: 150 Chaffinches, 100 Goldfinches, 80 Wood Pigeons, 25 Blackbirds, 20 each of Redwing and Song Thrush, 6 Black Redstarts, 5 Fieldfares, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Bramblings, 4 Redpolls, 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Grey Heron, a Swallow, the Cetti's Warbler, a Blackcap and a Firecrest overhead or on the ground at the Bill, 30 Mediterranean Gulls and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea there, 4 Firecrests, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a handful of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs around the centre of the island and 2 Black Brants at Ferrybridge.

7th November

Whilst there's still plenty of time for a bit of late action today certainly had an end of autumn/beginning of winter feel about it with plenty of weekend coverage producing precious little new on the ground or overhead. Visible passage very conspicuously fizzled out, with just 200 Wood Pigeons and a very minor trickle of thrushes and finches over the Bill. Long-stayers accounted for most of the reports from the ground, with 7 Black Redstarts, 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Merlin, the Cetti's Warbler and a Firecrest at the Bill, 2 more Black Redstarts at Reap Lane, 3 more Firecrests in the Pennsylvania Castle/Perryfields area and 10 Pale-bellied Brents and 3 Black Brants amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge.




Barn Owl - Portland Bill, 6th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

  6th November

On the face of it, with very threatening-looking skies out to the south of the island, the morning seemed unlikely to produce much in the way of overhead passage but in the event there was still plenty on the move. Wood Pigeons again dominated, with 6500 leaving to the south over the Bill, whilst the makeweights there included 700 Goldfinches, 400 Chaffinches, 140 Starlings, 100 Meadow Pipits, 12 Bramblings, 10 Song Thrushes, 10 Redwings, 3 Fieldfares, 2 Siskins, 2 Redpolls, 2 Reed Buntings, a Merlin and a Snipe. Grounded migrants remained thinly spread, with little of significance beyond 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Wheatears, 2 Blackcaps, a Water Rail and a Firecrest at the Bill; singles of Purple Sandpiper and Barn Owl were also there. Odds and ends on the sea at the Bill included 26 Common Scoter, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Red-throated Diver and a Wigeon.






Yet more Wood Pigeons and Grey Partridge - Portland Bill, 5th November 2009 © Martin Cade's high-flying (one mile+) pigeons were still heading straight out to the south but some of the smaller, lower (lighthouse-ish height) flocks chickened out and headed back north. The partridge covey is getting a bit depleted - today we could only find 4 birds (down from at least 6 a month ago).

  5th November

A bit of a shift in the wind toward the north-west saw much of the morning's overhead passage switch from a southerly to a northerly heading; Wood Pigeons, however, carried on regardless with the majority of the 3500 or so logged at the Bill still heading away to the south. Also on the move over the Bill were 400 Goldfinches, 300 Chaffinches, 50 Meadow Pipits, 6 Redwings, 4 Bramblings, a Merlin, a Woodcock, a Swallow, a Fieldfare and a Siskin, whilst a fair-sized westward passage of gulls on the sea there included in a one hour sample count 400 Common Gulls, 38 Mediterranean Gulls and 34 Black-headed Gulls; a lone Great Northern Diver was also settled offshore. New grounded migrants were all but non-existent, although there were still 6 Black Redstart at the Bill.







Another busy Wood Pigeon morning - Portland Bill, 4th November 2009 © Martin Cade 

  4th November

Another day of blasting westerlies but with the showers holding off until afternoon there was plenty of opportunity for overflying migrants to get going. Wood Pigeons were again conspicuous, with just over 8000 leaving to the south over the Bill, whilst Skylarks and a variety of finches - notably Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches - were also moving in good numbers. The day's tally from the Bill area also included 10 Chiffchaffs, 5 Bramblings, 4 Purple Sandpipers,  4 Fieldfares, 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Siskins, a Merlin, a Woodcock, a Wheatear, the Cetti's Warbler, a Blackcap and a Firecrest on the land and a Great Skua lingering offshore,  whilst elsewhere another Black Redstart was at Reap Lane.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 4 Silver Y, 3 Rush Veneer and a Diamond-back Moth.




Black Brant - Ferrybridge, 3rd November 2009 © Pete Saunders 

  3rd November

Blasting westerlies and frequent heavy showers today - certainly not good birding weather. The only news was of 1830 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 25 Mediterranean Gulls, 8 Pale-bellied Brents and a Black Brant at Ferrybridge, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Firecrests, a Little Egret, a Merlin, a Wheatear, a Black Redstart, the Cetti's Warbler (click here to listen to a short recording of some alarm calls from this bird which has been in the Obs garden for getting on for a fortnight - it does occasionally call but has hardly been seen at all since it was trapped and ringed on 23rd October; the reason for it getting agitated becomes obvious at the end of the recording) and a Blackcap at the Bill and 11 Common Scoter, 10 Mediterranean Gulls and 2 Great Skuas through on the sea at the Bill.

Although it's probably of little interest to anyone who wasn't on the trip we have finally got round - only five months after returning - to uploading a bit of a report, along with some photos and recordings, on the Birdfinders trip to Finland and Norway that we co-led back in May/June; click here if you'd like to have a look at some photos of bewildering redpoll variation or listen to Red-flanked Bluetail singing! (...and apologies, this is a really big file so it does take quite a while to download).




Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Wood Pigeons - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 2nd November 2009 © Pete Saunders (Pale-bellied Brent) and Martin Cade (pigeons)

...a lot of this morning's pigeon passage took place at the limit of naked eye vision; the loose flock in the photo above was somewhere around 1½ miles up (we don't know much about bird's long range vision but to the human eye France/Channel Isles ought to have been clearly visible from this height)...and for anyone interested in flock size estimation we had a look at the higher resolution original of this photo and there are around 380 birds visible in the frame.

  2nd November

In clear, brisk north-westerlies it was relatively quiet on the ground but there was plenty of movement overhead, notably of Wood Pigeons. A little over 4000 Wood Pigeons headed south over the Bill, where Chaffinch and Goldfinch both reached into the several hundreds and 15 Redwings, 10 Bramblings, 8 Siskins, 7 Swallows, 5 Reed Buntings and 2 Fieldfares also passed over. Odds and ends on the ground there included 3 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Firecrests and the long-staying Cetti's Warbler, whilst 3 Brent Geese, a Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua passed by on the sea. The only other reports were of 700 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Pale-bellied Brents and one of the Black Brants at Ferrybridge.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 3 Rush Veneer, a Rusty-dot Pearl, a Dark Sword Grass and a Silver Y.

...finally, a reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Tuesday 3rd November. 


1st November

The recent settled, mild spell couldn't go on for ever and today saw the inevitable change to wet and stormy conditions. A fair bit of seawatching at the Bill produced not too much: 8 Common Scoter, 4 Great Skuas, 3 Wigeon, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Great Northern Divers and a single Sooty Shearwater. The only news from the land was of 2 Firecrests, a Short-eared Owl, a Black Redstart and a Redwing at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 19 Silver Y, 9 Rush Veneer, 8 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Dark Sword Grass, a Vestal, a Scarce Bordered Straw and out of season singles of Single-dotted Wave and Dark Arches.