January 2010



    Black Redstart - Portland Bill, 31st January 2010 © Martin Cade


31st January

A relatively quiet end to what has been a much more action-packed January than most in recent years. The Bill area got most of the coverage and produced 16 Common Scoter, 11 Red-throated Divers and a Mute Swan through on the sea, 48 Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore and singles of Water Rail, Woodcock, Redwing and Black Redstart on the land. Elsewhere there was another Black Redstart at Southwell and 580 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge.

A party of 7 or more Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the East Cliffs at the Bill for a while during the morning.





    Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Mergansers and Ringed Plover - Ferrybridge, 30th January 2010 © Pete Saunders

...we presume that the colour-ringed Ringed Plover is the same individual that we last featured in August 2008 - the colour ring combination is certainly the same on the left leg but it seems to have lost a white ring from its right leg. If it is this individual then 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, August 2007 and August 2008; a probable sighting of the same individual at Ferrybridge in February 2005 had already suggested that it most likely wintered on the Fleet as well as occurring there at passage times (thanks to Dave Chown for details of most of the previous sightings). 

And something completely different - this evening's moonrise at the Bill (© Martin Cade):



30th January

Unbroken sunshine and better coverage today. The Bill area produced a couple of surprises in the form of a Marsh Harrier and Merlin; more routine fare there included 3 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Grey Partridges and a Redwing on the land, at least 48 Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore and 15 Common Scoter, 12 Brent Geese and 7 Red-throated Divers passing through on the sea. Elsewhere there were 3 Redwings, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff at Southwell, 8 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour and 350 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 100 Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Northern Diver and a Black Brant at Ferrybridge.

29th January

Early rain soon cleared through to leave a mainly clear although increasingly breezy and chilly day. A Kestrel arriving in off the sea at the Bill was somewhat unexpected at this time of year but otherwise there was little change, with 2 Redwings and a Purple Sandpiper at the Bill, 9 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Black Redstart in the Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane area, 11 Common Scoter still settled off the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers passing through off the Bill.



    Stonechat - Reap Lane, 28th January 2010 © Martin Cade


28th January

Very few reports so far today: 11 Common Scoter still settled off the Bill, 7 Red-throated Divers through on the sea there and 10 Redwings at Reap Lane.





    Red-throated Diver - Portland Bill, 27th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...we've moaned before about how far away the mid-winter Red-throated Divers usually are as they pass the Bill and this bird - at somewhere around a mile out - was typical. 


27th January

After the first frosty night for a couple of weeks the day itself wasn't too bad. All the reports were from the Bill area where 11 Shelducks, 5 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser passed by on the sea and 40 Song Thrushes, 8 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Turnstones, 2 Snipe, 2 Redwings, 2 Reed Buntings and a Water Rail were logged on the land.

26th January

A very grey, dreary morning gave way to a brighter afternoon but it still felt chilly throughout. Fair coverage of parts of the island revealed 3 Redwings, 3 Fieldfares, 2 Turnstones, a Water Rail and a Golden Plover at the Bill, 37 Redwings and a Chiffchaff at Reap Lane, another Chiffchaff at Suckthumb Quarry, a Merlin at Inmosthay Quarry and 4 Red-throated Divers through on the sea at the Bill. 



    yesterday's Golden Plover - Portland Bill, 24th January 2010 © Tony Hovell


25th January

With a north-easterly breeze having set in it felt quite chilly today. Another fairly routine bird list included 23 Song Thrushes, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Redwings, a Golden Plover, a Snipe, a Fieldfare and a Reed Bunting at the Bill, where 19 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea and very large numbers (certainly into the low tens of thousands) of auks - mainly Razorbills - were offshore.

Late news for yesterday: 2 Black Redstarts were at Southwell School.

24th January

Another day of quiet weather saw plenty of weekend birders out and about. The only reports of particular note related to a Dartford Warbler still present in the Verne Common area and an increase to 12 in the Black-necked Grebe tally in Portland Harbour (the highest count there for 8 years). More routine fare included 4 Red-throated Divers through on the sea off the Bill, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Golden Plover at the Bill, a Mistle Thrush at Weston and 36 Tufted Ducks, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Kingfishers and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

After dark yesterday evening the first Mottled Grey of the year was settled on the outside of the Obs lounge window.



    colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull - Portland Bill, 22nd January 2010 © Martin Cade

...this bird was on the Bill Common yesterday. Paul Veron has kindly been in touch to let us know that he ringed it as a nestling on the islet of Crevichon, 3km off the east coast of Guernsey, on 9th June last year. 


23rd January

Much nicer, quiet conditions today. Twenty Common Scoter were still settled off the Bill, where 2 Great Skuas were marauding about amongst the large concentrations of gulls feeding offshore and 3 Red-throated Divers passed by. The wintering Water Rail was still at Culverwell and a lone Lapwing was also at the Bill.




    Yellow-legged Gulls - Portland Bill, 22nd January 2010 © Martin Cade

...the hulking second-winter bird was straightforward enough but we weren't totally convinced by the adult which was quite small, quite streaky-headed and had only the faintest of yellow hues to the legs; it did have a red orbital ring but unfortunately we missed seeing the wing pattern when it flew off.


22nd January

Very miserable conditions today, with the overnight rain that had been forecast to peter out during the morning lingering right on into the afternoon. , The only reports were of 20 Common Scoter still settled off the Bill, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls at the Bill and 2 Black-necked Grebes, a Great Northern Diver and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

21st January

Gloomy and chilly today. The only reports from the Bill have been of singles of Black Redstart and Redwing on the land, 25 Common Scoter settled offshore and 4 Red-throated Divers passing by on the sea.



    Wood Pigeons - Portland Bill, 20th January 2010 © Colin White


20th January

Steady rain throughout the morning prevented any serious birding beyond some half-hearted seawatching from the Obs that produced a couple of appearances by a Balearic Shearwater, 4 Red-throated Divers passing by and 25 Common Scoter still settled offshore. In drier but still dreary conditions during the afternoon 12 Lapwings, 3 Redwings and a Golden Plover were found on the land.



    Tufted Duck - Portland Harbour, 19th January 2010 © Pete Saunders

...and Pete also passed us a photo from a couple of days ago of the Ferrybridge Red-legged Partridge:


...the usual haunts of this individual - the caravan park and housing estate just to the north of Ferrybridge - are just outside our recording area but it does wander south along the roadside and over the bridge (and thus onto Portland) from time to time!


19th January

A freshening south-easterly saw interest perk up on the sea, including some surprisingly early signs of up-Channel passage. Given the conditions the first Balearic Shearwater of the year lingering off the Bill wasn't too surprising; also there 31 Common Scoter were still settled offshore and 25 Red-throated Divers, 13 Brent Geese and 2 Mallards passed by. Another 35 Brent Geese headed east over Portland Harbour, the Red-necked Grebe and a Tufted Duck were still in the harbour and 17 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Black Brants were at Ferrybridge. Odds and ends on the land included singles of Black Redstart and Chiffchaff at both Reap Lane and Weston, a Blackcap at Weston, 10 Redwings at Southwell and 5 Purple Sandpipers and 3 Redwings at the Bill.



    male (left) and female Linnets - Portland Bill, 18th January 2010 © Martin Cade


18th January

Between occasional brief foggy spells it was another lovely mild, sunny day. Most of the news came from the Bill where 10 Redwings, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Golden Plovers, 2 Reed Buntings, 2 Corn Buntings and a Black Redstart were the best on offer on the ground, 13 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver passed by on the sea, 26 Mediterranean Gulls were feeding offshore and 25 Common Scoter were still settled off East Cliffs. News from Portland Harbour included 15 Great Crested Grebes, 9 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Tufted Ducks and a Slavonian Grebe. The only other report concerned a Dartford Warbler seen flying across the road in front of one fortunate birder driving near Southwell.

17th January

In really pleasant mild and sunny conditions it was apparent that, bar 25 or so Redwings, 2 Corn Buntings and a Snipe, things have pretty well got back to normal at the Bill; also there, a couple of Reed Buntings were the best of the rest on the land and 11 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver passed by on the sea. Five Black-necked Grebes and a single Red-necked Grebe were the only birds of note in Portland Harbour.

16th January

A wet and windy morning saw most attention paid to the sea, with 7 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great Skuas and 2 Little Gulls through at Chesil Cove, 3 Red-throated Divers, a Brent Goose and a Great Skua through off the Bill and 30 Common Scoter still settled off the Bill. The inclement conditions saw to it that the only news from the land was of 4 Lapwings and 2 Golden Plovers at the Bill and a Blackcap at Southwell.




    Common Buzzard and Skylark - Portland Bill, 15th January 2010 © Martin Cade


15th January

Our excellent spell of cold weather birding has just about fizzled out now: the odds and ends left at the Bill today included just 50 Redwings, 21 Lapwings, 3 Golden Plover, 3 Snipe and a Corn Bunting amongst more or less routine numbers of the likes of Skylark and Song Thrush. The only other reports from there were of 50 Common Scoter settled offshore and 4 Red-throated Divers and a Teal through on the sea.

The second moth species of the year was notched up in the early hours of the morning when a Satellite flew in through the Obs office window while we were doing some late night paperwork.




    Redwing and Fieldfare - Portland Bill and Easton, 14th January 2010 © Martin Cade (Redwing) and Ken Dolbear (Fieldfare)

    And since it's marginally better than yesterday's effort here's another photo of one of the Corn Buntings:


...although it's probably tempting fate to say so, the little party of Corn Buntings are beginning to look quite at home in the Crown Estate field opposite the Obs and we live in hope that our conservation management initiatives there and elsewhere at the Bill might lead to the scene above becoming a familiar one once again.


14th January

It was certainly apparent today that there's been quite of exodus of birds, with Redwing being the only one of the cold-weather refugees that remained at all conspicuous. At the Bill, Skylarks numbered around 150 and Lapwing went up a little to 33, but Snipe only just managed a double figure total and there were fewer still of Golden Plover and Fieldfare. Further interest there was provided by 4 Corn Buntings, 2 Reed Buntings, a Water Rail and a Curlew on the land and 4 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through on the sea. The other reports were all from Ferrybridge, where there were 300 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 3 Tufted Ducks.




Tufted Ducks and Corn Bunting - Smallmouth and Portland Bill, 13th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...we haven't featured photographs of either of these species before. In the case of Tufted Duck that isn't particularly surprising as most of the records are of fly-bys on seawatches. Our lousy Corn Bunting photo is very much a case of beggars can't be choosers - the lack of a previous photo merely reflecting how infrequently this once common breeding bird is now recorded on the island. The party of four birds (the most seen on the island for goodness knows how many years) were so mobile that we had as little luck with sound recording them as we did with photographing them but one sequence of them in the far distance does include a few flight calls and even one brief snatch of song - click here to have a listen,


13th January

Portland escaped the latest bout of snow and, with much less wind than yesterday and occasional sunny spells, it was a really quite pleasant day. Redwings remain in the hundreds and are particularly noticeable of road verges and greens throughout the island; Skylarks and Song Thrushes are also still numerous, with 400 Skylarks and 100 Song Thrushes still remaining at the Bill. The Bill area also produced 120 Linnets, 28 Snipe, 25 Fieldfares, 23 Lapwings, 11 Golden Plover, 4 Corn Buntings, a Water Rail, a Woodcock, a Black Redstart and a Mistle Thrush on the land and 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through on the sea. Elsewhere there were 32 Tufted Ducks in Portland Harbour and 350 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 6 Pale-bellied Brents, 2 Redshank, a Black Brant and a Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

The first moth of the year - a Winter Moth - was on the outside of the Obs front door this morning.





Lapwing, Song Thrush and Redwing - Portland Bill, 12th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...they all seem much happier now the ground has softened up. Two things that weren't too happy were these Snipe that got involved in a full-blown barney about something or another. Given the circumstances, we can't imagine it was anything to do with sex, religion or politics so we'd guess that it was a squabble over close proximity and/or food. Whatever the reason it made for good viewing as they postured, tail-fanned/cocked and fluttered around each other for what must have been a minute or more:






And the difference in their underwing patterns was striking. We're not aware that there are supposed to any sex or age related differences here so presumably this is just individual variation:




12th January

A bit of a grim day today: the temperature remained well above freezing but a blasting south-east wind made it feel much colder. With rather poorer coverage than in recent days the best of the reports from the Bill were of 50 Snipe, 3 Woodcock, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Jack Snipe and a Black Redstart on the land and 6 Red-throated Divers through on the sea. Elsewhere there were 250 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 150 Dunlin, 50 Ringed Plovers, 2 Pale-bellied Brents and 2 Black Brants at Ferrybridge.



Mistle Thrush - Portland Bill, 11th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...one of four Mistle Thrushes trapped and ringed at the Obs today - we've never ringed more than three in a year before now! With so many around we also managed to get a recording of one of them calling in flight - click here to have a listen.


11th January

Damp, dreary and with the temperature well above freezing getting quite soft underfoot again today. The gradual departure of the cold weather refugees continued: at the Bill only Skylark, Redwing and Song Thrush remained at the low hundreds level; Snipe were down to 55, Fieldfare to just a few tens and Lapwing and Golden Plover to just a few scattered individuals. The only other reports from there were of 10 Woodcock, 4 Mistle Thrushes, a Water Rail and a Jack Snipe on the land and a lone Red-throated Diver through on the sea. Elsewhere, a Dartford Warbler was at Tilleycombe and 110 Dunlin and 40 Ringed Plover were at Ferrybridge.

The departure of most of the thrushes from the Obs garden meant that we weren't able to catch much of a sample of Redwings and Fieldfares today to see how they're doing. Of the few that were netted, the day's average weights were 53.3gms for the Redwings and 102.6gms for the Fieldfares: the Fieldfares have clearly got right back to par (no doubt explaining why there are so few left around the island now) but the Redwings have still got a way to go.




`Grey Heron - Portland Bill, 10th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...oddballs like Grey Herons sat in fields are to be expected in these conditions, as are the frequent sightings of Woodcock that are copping up everywhere:



photos  © Martin Cade (Woodcock and birders) and Pete Saunders (back-garden Woodcock)


10th January

Although the numbers continue to dwindle the birding remains excellent for the time of year with plenty to see throughout the island. Snipe, Skylark and thrushes again dominated, with the counts of all just a little lower than those logged yesterday; 10 Woodcock, a Grey Heron, a Jack Snipe and a Mistle Thrush at the Bill and several other single Woodcock at other sites provided the pick of the quality. More attention was paid to the sea today, with 9 Red-throated Divers, 2 Tufted Ducks and a Wigeon passing through off the Bill where there were impressively high numbers of, in particular, Gannets and auks lingering offshore.

Finally, we weren't able to catch any thrushes today to be able to give an update on how they're doing but Alan Bull (who transfers all our ringing data to electronic format for us) kindly had a look through the last few year's data and worked out that between 2000 and 2009 the mean weights of Redwings and Fieldfares ringed here were 57.9gms and 96.3gms respectively (samples of 260 Redwings and 17 Fieldfares). The vast majority of these birds were autumn migrants which clearly arrive at Portland in an almost identical condition to the cold weather refugees we've been catching in recent days.





Woodcock and Black Redstart - Portland Bill and Verne Common Estate, 9th January 2010 © Martin Cade (Woodcock) and Colin White (Black Redstart)


9th January

Somewhat less of the same today. At the Bill, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare all remained at the several hundreds level, Snipe got to around 100 and there were still a few dozen of both Lapwing and Golden Plover. Overhead there was still a little movement going on, including 200 Lapwings leaving to the south through the morning. In terms of better quality there were 10 or more Woodcock, 2 Grey Herons and a Jack Snipe at the Bill, a lone Pintail through on the sea off the Bill, a Mistle Thrush at Reap Lane, singles of Black Redstart and Blackcap at Easton, a Woodcock at Tout Quarry, another Black Redstart on the Verne Common Estate and 2 Black-necked, a Red-necked Grebe and a Tufted Duck in Portland Harbour.

Continuing yesterday's theme of the condition of the birds we opened our one mist-net at the Obs for a couple of hours around midday and caught another small sample of thrushes; the mean weights today were 56.8 gms for the Redwings and 91.0gms for the Fieldfares. Clearly these birds are still not in a near-death situation - although of course you don't have to be Einstein to work out how many more days of freezing weather would be required before the current rate of weight loss would bring them to that point (...and judging by the dwindling number of birds lingering at the Bill they've probably worked that out for themselves and headed off in search of a more agreeable situation!). If the thrushes aren't doing too badly, the same can't be said for the plovers: several of the few that remain at the Bill look to be in a poor state, with one Golden Plover that was picked up freshly-dead at dawn weighing in at 110gms (BWP records that 'normal' mid-winter weights are in the range 200-250gms).



Woodcock - Portland Bill, 8th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...and a couple of good back-garden birds at Southwell yesterday afternoon - Grey Heron and Mistle Thrush (photos  © Pete Saunders):




8th January

Numbers of most of the cold weather refugees are gradually dwindling but there's still been plenty to see. On the ground in the Bill area there were counts of between 100 and 500 of Snipe, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare; the two plovers were not so plentiful, with Golden Plover in particular reduced to just a few tens. Overhead there was still some limited movement, with several hundred Lapwings leaving to the south and small parties of thrushes seemingly trickling in from the west. The pick of the day's oddities were 9 Woodcock, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Jack Snipe, a Ringed Plover, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Mistle Thrush at the Bill and 2 Mistle Thrushes still at Southwell.

We're not very keen on attempting to catch and ring birds in any sort of dodgy weather but we thought it might be useful to operate just one mist-net in the Obs garden for a while yesterday and today in an attempt to secure some objective data on how the thrushes are faring. We've managed a steady catch of Redwings and Fieldfares on both days and the following figures might be of interest: 





  7th January 8th January 7th January 8th January

mean weight (gms)





weight range (gms)

53.4 - 64.6

48.7 - 65.8

88.3 - 110.2

78.3 - 107.6

number ringed






To put these figures in perspective we had a delve into BWP and discovered that 'normal' mean mid-winter weights are around 68gms for a Redwing and 115gms for a Fieldfare; BWP also records that exhausted/dying/frost-killed individuals have weights in the region of 30s/low 40s gms for Redwing and 50s/low 60s gms for Fieldfare.

Finally, we've also been bumbling around making some recordings of which the following couple of Redwings are certainly not how we normally hear them at Portland: click here to listen to a right old din from 50 or more that were about to leave their night-time roost in the Obs front garden, and here to listen to a feeding group of 20ish that were scratching about and squabbling under the holm-oak trees in the Obs front garden (the constant rustling sound in the background is from them turning fallen leaves).





Ruff, Mistle Thrush and Woodcock - Portland Bill and Southwell, 7th January 2010 © Pete Saunders (Ruff and Mistle Thrush) and Martin Cade (Woodcock)

...one of the curiosities of the day was this peculiar leucistic, beige-coloured Skylark that certainly attracted attention amongst the wealth of 'ordinary' Skylarks at the Bill (photos  © Pete Saunders):




7th January

A snow-free Portland was again a magnet for birds escaping the grim conditions elsewhere. At the Bill there had been an overnight clear-out of plovers (at the Obs we could hear Lapwings and Golden Plovers calling overhead until at least 2 o'clock in the morning and 800 Lapwings were watched leaving to the south just as dawn broke) but there were still counts in the low hundreds of both Lapwing and Golden Plover through the day. Thrushes were much more conspicuous although numbers were hard to fathom with constant movement around the area along with a seemingly unending arrival of newcomers and departure of others throughout the morning; at any one time it looked as though there were at least 1500 of both Redwing and Fieldfare present, along with 250 Song Thrushes and at least 8 Mistle Thrushes. Other counts included 500 Skylarks, 300 Meadow Pipits, 50 Snipe and 5 Stonechats, along with oddities such as 6 Ruff, 3 Woodcock, a Merlin and a Corn Bunting





Lapwings and Ruff - Portland Bill, 6th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...and some more photos of the star performers (...we're sure they'd rather not have been at Portland but they certainly put on a good show) - Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redwing and Fieldfare:






6th January

If the birding in the rest of this year is half as good as the events we witnessed today then we're going to be having a vintage time of it. After a slow start that produced 19 Red-throated Divers, a Teal and a Tufted Duck passing through off the Bill but few new arrivals on the land, a spectacularly good cold weather movement/arrival involving prodigious numbers of birds developed at the Bill around mid-morning. Under grey skies and in a strengthening easterly wind, plovers begun heading south off the West Cliffs, with 2500 Lapwings and a few hundred Golden Plovers leaving towards the Continent in an hour or so. Around midday the onset of blizzard conditions saw Redwings in particular drop in in quantity, with 2300 logged in quick time at the Bill; these, and the other arrivals at the time, looked to be arriving from the west and either dropping in or heading away to the north-east. Before long Fieldfares begun to outnumber Redwings and it probably wouldn't be unreasonable to put the numbers of each at around the 5000 mark for the day. Throughout all this both plover species were moving rather haphazardly, with a good 500 of each grounded at any one time but much larger numbers involved in total; among the supporting cast, Skylarks were not particularly conspicuous actually on the move but at least 400 were grounded around the area, there were a lot more Meadow Pipits around than usual and 25 Snipe were logged. In fairer weather late in the afternoon the fields remained strewn with cold weather refugees, with 6 Ruff, a Mistle Thrush and a likely Snow Bunting (the latter heard calling overhead) being further notable finds. Coverage of other island areas produced lots more of the same with, for example, large numbers of birds moving south over Ferrybridge, where 200 Golden Plovers, 120 Lapwings and 4 Teal were grounded during the afternoon.




A couple of Snipe from this morning and the Ferrybridge Shelducks from the weekend - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 5th January 2010 © Martin Cade (Snipe) and Pete Saunders (Shelducks)


5th January

Greyer skies and the odd rain shower today. At the Bill there was still quite a bit about on the land, with counts of 50 Song Thrushes, 31 Golden Plovers, 18 Snipe, 12 Lapwings and 2 Redwings all being noteworthy. Also there the sea was still busy with the likes of auks and Mediterranean Gulls (at least 118 of the latter) but divers were less conspicuous than in recent days, with just 4 Red-throated Divers passing by through the morning. The only other news was from Portland Harbour where there were 3 Black-necked Grebes and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Red-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe.





Lapwing and Golden Plovers - Portland Bill, 4th January 2010 © Martin Cade

...and another colour-ringed gull from a few days ago:


This second-winter Great Black-back was on the Bill Common on 29th December; it was originally ringed as a chick by Gilles Le Guillou at Le Havre,  France, on 17th June 2008. We've recorded quite a few of Gilles' Great Black-backs at the Bill and at Ferrybridge in the last few years and he's very kindly sent through a map showing the recoveries generated by his colour-marking scheme in Normandy:

     4th January

More of the same again today at the Bill, where 70 Song Thrushes, 55 Golden Plovers, 15 Lapwings, 10 Purple Sandpipers, 7 Snipe, 3 Turnstones, a Black Redstart, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff were about on the land, at least 100 Mediterranean Gulls were feeding offshore and 15 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver passed by on the sea. Elsewhere there were 17 Song Thrushes and 14 Redwings in the Avalanche Road/Suckthumb Quarry area and a Chiffchaff at Reap Lane.



The next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Tuesday 5th January. 





 Blackcap and Song Thrush - Portland Bill, 3rd January 2010 © Martin Cade

3rd January

The continuing chilly spell is producing a decent array of birds with quite a few new arrivals reported around the island today. Seawatching at the Bill provided 14 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Eider and a Little Gull passing by, 49 Common Scoter settled offshore and at least 47 Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore. Thirteen Golden Plover and a Blackcap were new arrivals on the land there, where 7 Purple Sandpipers and 3 Snipe were also still present. Elsewhere there were 900 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 207 Mediterranean Gulls, 20 Pale-bellied Brents, 2 Black Brants and 2 Shelduck at Ferrybridge, 36 Golden Plover flew over at Ferrybridge, 6 Black-necked Grebes, a Great Northern Diver, a Red-necked Grebe and a Slavonian Grebe were in Portland Harbour and a Black Redstart was on the Verne Common Estate.

Late news for yesterday: 2 Chiffchaffs were at Reap Lane.

2nd January

Another fine, sunny day after a frosty night. Seawatching at the Bill was quite productive, with 25 Red-throated Divers, 3 Velvet Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a Brent Goose passing by, 51 Common Scoter settled offshore, 10 or more Mediterranean Gulls lingering offshore and a Grey Heron leaving to the south; the land there produced 46 Song Thrushes, 7 Snipe, 2 Grey Partridges, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Reed Buntings, a Redwing and a Fieldfare. Elsewhere there were 650 Brent Geese, 100 Mediterranean Gulls, 15 Pale-bellied Brents and 2 Black Brants at Ferrybridge, 6 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Little Grebes, a Black-throated Diver and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour, 19 Song Thrushes, 4 Redwings, a Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff in the Suckthumb Quarry/Weston area, a Chiffchaff at Southwell and a Black Redstart found dead - a presumed road casualty - at Southwell.

Late news for yesterday: 6 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Great Northern Divers and singles of Black-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe were in Portland Harbour.



 New Year fireworks - Southwell, 1st January 2010 © Martin Cade

...our first bird of the new year occurred in slightly bizarre circumstances: the initial barrage of fireworks on the edge of Southwell flushed a Woodcock that flew low overhead just as we were about to take this photograph!

1st January 2010

A lovely start to the year with the dreary skies of recent days replaced by unbroken sunshine; overnight, the Obs garden ponds had acquired another covering of ice but by mid-morning it was so pleasant that Skylarks at the Bill were bursting into song from time to time. There weren't too many surprises on the bird front, with the Bill area producing 65 Linnets, 45 Skylarks, 40 Song Thrushes, 35 Chaffinches, 7 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Redwings, 2 Turnstones, 2 Lapwings, 2 Grey Partridges, 2 Stonechats, a Snipe, a Woodcock, a Short-eared Owl and a Reed Bunting on the land, 32 Common Scoter still settled offshore, 20 Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore and 21 'extra' Common Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser passing by on the sea.