April 2010




    Gannet and Spotted Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Avalanche Road, 30th April 2010 © Nick Hopper

  30th April

In blustery south-westerlies the migrant situation remained pretty close to the pitiful level although there was just about enough on the move on the sea to keep visitors entertained. With the commonest summer migrants reduced to low single figure totals at best, interest on the land was restricted to 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Common Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit and Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill and a lone Spotted Flycatcher at Avalanche Road. Seawatching at the Bill produced 700 Gannets, 300 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Sandwich Terns, 6 Great Skuas, 4 Whimbrel, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 commic terns, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua.

A single Diamond-back Moth was caught overnight in a moth-trap at Weston and the first Red Admiral for some time was seen at the Bill.



    Turnstones - Portland Bill, 29th April 2010 © Paul Baker

  29th April

A complete change in the weather - fog giving way to light rain before it cleared up a little during the afternoon - did nothing to improve the birding and it was the quietest day for several weeks. The handful of migrants at the Bill included nothing more interesting than 3 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Sedge Warblers and 2 Whimbrel; elsewhere there were 4 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge. Once the fog had lifted it looked as though nothing of any interest was on the move on the sea.

28th April

With the full moon dominating a pretty well cloudless night sky there was no hope of a fall of migrants on the land and rather disappointingly - as the light easterly breeze had made conditions look quite promising - the sea was hardly brimming with birds. The sea did manage to produce most of the numbers, with 135 Bar-tailed Godwits, 300 Manx Shearwaters, 28 commic terns, 18 Sandwich Terns, 19 Whimbrel, 8 Arctic Skuas, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Little Gulls passing the Bill and 37 Manx Shearwaters, 15 Whimbrel and 3 Arctic Skuas passing Chesil. Odds and ends on the land at the Bill included 4 Yellow Wagtails and singles of HobbyShort-eared Owl, Turtle Dove, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Sedge Warbler and Blackcap; elsewhere there were 5 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge.




     Redstart and Wheatear - Waycroft Quarry and Portland Bill, 25th and 26th April 2010 © Nick Hopper (Redstart) and Ken Dolbear (Wheatear)

  27th April

Quiet today in very fine conditions: only persistence with seawatching or working the land gave the day's list any sort of respectability. Hirundines (and now the odd few Swifts) were still arriving in good quantity but after a clear, moonlit night grounded migrants were very thinly spread; at the Bill, a Turtle Dove was new for the spring (which just about wraps up the list of routine summer migrants for the season) and 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Hobby, a Short-eared Owl, a Tree Pipit, a Redstart, a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Yellowhammer provided further interest. Although nothing was moving in quantity on the sea, 35 Bar-tailed Godwits, 8 Whimbrel, 2 Red-throated Divers, and a Black-throated Diver did provide a bit of variety off the Bill.






    Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Short-eared Owl and Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, 26th April 2010 © Martin Cade (the divers) and Duncan Walbridge (the owl and the ouzel)

  26th April

The switch to a south-westerly airflow has seen passerine passage all but dry up, with most of the commoner species barely represented at all today. Small numbers of hirundines were still on the move, but on the ground the only birds of note at the Bill were 30 Wheatears, a handful of Whitethroats and phylloscs, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, 2 Ring Ouzels and singles of Short-eared Owl, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat; 2 Little Egrets also passed overhead there, whilst reports from elsewhere included a Serin passing through near Cheyne and another Ring Ouzel at Southwell. The sea was also much quieter than over the weekend, although watches at the Bill did still produce 37 Common Scoter, 20 Whimbrel, 6 commic terns, 4 Great Northern Divers, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Pomarine Skuas, an Arctic Skua, a Little Gull and a Mediterranean Gull.



    Wood Warbler - Portland Bill, 25th April 2010 © Nick Hopper

...and after yesterday's Ring Ouzel we had another uncommon capture this morning in the form of this Tree Pipit (photos © Martin Cade):




...Tree Pipits can be troublesome to age in spring since their pre-breeding moult (carried out in the winter quarters by both first-winter and adult birds) can introduce moult limits into, for example, the greater coverts that can be mistaken for the discontinuities that occur as a result of post-juvenile moult (carried out the previous autumn by youngsters only); trying to spot the differences between good quality new feathers and good quality eight/nine month old feathers (on an adult) on the one hand and good quality new feathers and poorer quality eight/nine month old feathers (on a second calendar year bird) on the other mightn't sound too difficult, but in reality the vagaries of wear and bleaching can make it pretty difficult. The four outer greater coverts on today's bird were so worn and faded, and contrasted with the fresher, darker, inner feathers so conspicuously, that we were pretty confident they were retained juvenile feathers which would make this bird a second calendar year; in support of this we were pleased to see that the tail feathers, whilst maybe not as worn as might be expected on a bird that had been scratching about in West Africa all winter, were certainly relatively narrow and pointed.

Finally, thanks to Colin White for a photo of the Osprey that arrived in off the sea at the Bill a couple of evenings ago: 


  25th April

A 'more of the same' day which was almost a surprise after the first major change in the weather for getting on for three weeks saw the wind shift into the south-west which introduced quite a bit of cloud cover and even a little light overnight rainfall. The sea again provided the lion's share of the numbers, with 500 commic terns, 30 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 7 Great Skuas and 7 Arctic Skuas passing Chesil and 420 commic terns, 228 Gannets, 55 Common Scoter, 36 Whimbrel, 33 Sandwich Terns, 28 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 16 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Dunlin, 5 Great Skuas, 4 Arctic Skuas, a Red-throated Diver, a Garganey, a Pomarine Skua and a Little Gull passing the Bill. The fair bit of variety on or overhead on the land included 15 Yellow Wagtails, 7 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Whinchats, 2 Redstarts, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Marsh Harrier, a Hobby and a Wood Warbler at the Bill.





Bottle-nosed Dolphins: dorsal fin variation - Portland Bill, 24th April 2010 © Colin White

...and this Ring Ouzel was a nice capture at Culverwell this morning:




...the combination of, for example, a moult limit in the greater coverts (the 6 outer juvenile feathers contrasting with the 4 new adult-type inner feathers) and tail shape (thin and pointed as opposed to broad and rounded) meant that the bird was relatively easily aged as being in its second calendar year. The standard texts urge caution with sexing ouzels and, since we don't catch many in spring to be able to check out the full extent of variation, we weren't sure which way to lean with this bird: in the field (the bird's been present for several days) everyone seemed to be calling it a female but we wonder if first-summer females really can have a gorget as bold as this? Perhaps an ouzel aficionado can help us out.

  24th April

The sea stole the show again today with good watches reported from both the Bill and Chesil: the Bill returned totals that included 470 commic terns, 75 Whimbrel, 61 Common Scoter, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 47 Bar-tailed Godwits, 25 Little Gulls, 16 Sandwich Terns, 9 Arctic Skuas, 4 Shelduck, 4 Little Terns, 3 Tufted Ducks, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Velvet Scoter and a Black Tern, whilst off Chesil there were 650 commic terns, 268 Whimbrel, 92 Manx Shearwaters, 78 Common Scoter, 34 Little Gulls,  16 Black-headed Gulls, 16 Sandwich Terns, 9 Arctic Skuas, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Little Terns, 4 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck, 2 Grey Plovers, 2 Sanderling, 2 Black Terns and a Roseate Tern. In comparison the land was the poor relation with little in any numbers anywhere, although morsels of quality did include 16 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Ring Ouzels, 3 Grasshopper Warblers and a Golden Plover at the Bill

A party of 8-10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed through off Chesil and the Bill during the morning.





Ring Ouzel, Spotted Flycatcher and Long-tailed Duck - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 23rd April 2010 © Ken Parker (Ring Ouzel) and Martin Cade (Spotted Flycatcher and Long-tailed Duck)

  23rd April

Yet another gloriously fine day saw interest pick up a little on the sea but, rather like yesterday, migrants on the land were not as well represented as they were earlier in the week. The only out of the ordinary sightings involved an Osprey that arrived in off the sea at the Bill in the evening and an unseasonable Long-tailed Duck at Ferrybridge (with the last 3 lingering Red-breasted Mergansers). Seawatching at the Bill produced 100 Manx Shearwaters, 100 commic terns, 92 Common Scoter, 24 Arctic Terns, 24 Sandwich Terns, 12 Whimbrel, 12 Arctic Skuas, 6 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Shelducks, 2 Tufted Ducks, 2 Great Skuas and a Black-throated Diver. Hirundines were still on the move in good supply (a sample half-hour count on the West Cliffs at the Bill returned totals of 121 Swallows, 19 House Martins and 17 Sand Martins) and Willow Warblers totalled around 100 at the Bill, whilst the selection of scarcer migrants around the southern half of the island included 4 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Redstarts, 3 Tree Pipits, 3 Whinchats, a Golden Plover, a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler and the first Spotted Flycatcher of the spring. The only other reports were of 32 Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge.




  Kestrel - Church Ope Cove, April 2010 © Ken Dolbear

  22nd April

With the wind having veered well into the east and freshened noticeably birding wasn't particularly easy on the land, but it was still apparent that there were a good deal fewer migrants grounded than has been the case in recent days: a lone Ring Ouzel lingered on at the Bill, where both Wheatear and Willow Warbler topped 50 but amongst the fair variety of other expected species there was nothing else in particularly noteworthy numbers. Overhead, passage was still going strong, with a one hour sample count on the West Cliffs at the Bill producing 237 Swallows, 85 House Martins, 85 Goldfinches, 46 Linnets, 11 Willow Warblers, 7 Swifts, 5 Sand Martins, 3 Wheatears, a Sparrowhawk and a Greenshank; singles of Canada Goose, Marsh Harrier and Hobby also passed through at other times. In the light of the shift in wind direction a bit more sea passage had been expected but watches at the Bill came up with nothing more than 40 Whimbrel, 24 commic terns, 20 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and 2 Sandwich Terns, whilst off Chesil there were a few Manx Shearwaters, 14 commic terns, 3 Sandwich Terns, an Oystercatcher and a Whimbrel.

Late news for last Sunday (18th April): the first Pomarine Skua of the spring passed through off the Bill during the afternoon.



  Whinchat - Portland Bill, 21st April 2010 © Ian Dodd

  21st April

Still no change in either the fine weather or the quality birding, with another nice arrival of migrants around the south of the island today. A fly-over Serin at the Bill and the first Nightingale of the year at Barleycrates Lane were the pick of the sightings, whilst numbers included 400 Willow Warblers, 60 each of Wheatear, Blackcap and Whitethroat, 20 Redstarts, 10 Swifts, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Whinchats, 4 Tree Pipits, 4 Pied Flycatchers, 3 Garden Warblers, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Cuckoo, a Ring Ouzel, a Redwing and a Sedge Warbler at the Bill and plenty more of a similar array in the Reap Lane/Barelycrates Lane area; passage waders are beginning to pick up a little at Ferrybridge where there were 25 Ringed Plover, 17 Dunlin and a Sanderling in the evening. With the wind still well round in the north the sea remained relatively quiet, with 13 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Common Scoter, 10 Shelduck, 9 Whimbrel, 5 commic terns, 3 Sandwich Terns,  2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Skua, a Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser through off the Bill.

Also, Nick Wright has kindly sent us through on update on bookshop stock, with a particular emphasis on the collectable New Naturalists, Poysers etc; click here to check out this update.




    Redstarts - Portland Bill, 20th April 2010 © Martin Cade

...and the rarest sight of the day in the skies above the Bill:


  20th April

Visitors to the island in the last week or so have been tapping into a really rich vein of passage which, considering the almost constantly crystal clear skies, has been quite unexpected; today saw no change to that situation with perhaps the best fall of the spring to date. The Bill area got plenty of coverage and returned totals that included 500 Willow Warblers, 175 Wheatears, 75 Blackcaps, 60 Whitethroats, 50 Chiffchaffs, 30 Redstarts, 15 Tree Pipits, 10 Grasshopper Warblers, 7 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Common Sandpipers, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Whinchats, 2 Reed Warblers and a Sedge Warbler; plenty more of the same elsewhere included a Lesser Whitethroat, a Mistle Thrush and further singles of Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane/Barelycrates Lane and 8 Little Terns at Ferrybridge. The seawatchers have been relatively poorly rewarded in recent days and their luck didn't change in the light north-westerly wind, with 14 Whimbrel, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Common Scoter, 4 commic terns, 3 Black-headed Gulls, an Arctic Skua, a Great Skua and a Little Tern the best of a pretty paltry selection at the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: 10 Dunlin were amongst a very thin selection of waders at Ferrybridge.







    Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat - Portland Bill, 19th April 2010 © Martin Cade

...migrant warblers are currently taking full advantage of the flush of insects attracted to Blackthorn hedges that are now (several weeks later that in recent years) awash with blossom.

  19th April

The common summer migrants continue to arrive in some quantity, with another decent scatter of birds throughout the south of the island today. The species composition was much as in recent days, although the first Garden Warbler of the spring was at the Bill, the first 2 Little Terns were at Ferrybridge, the first Pied Flycatcher for a few days was at Reap Lane, several new migrant Robins and Song Thrushes were logged and 5 presumed migrant Common Buzzards (together with a Sparrowhawk) headed north along the West Cliffs; counts of the commoner species at the Bill included 250 Willow Warblers, 100 Chiffchaffs, 90 Wheatears, 40 Blackcaps, 30 Whitethroats, 15 Redstarts, 6 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Sedge Warblers, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Black Redstarts and a White Wagtail. Seawatching at the Bill produced 48 Common Scoter, 18 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Sandwich Terns, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Shelduck.

A lone Dark Sword Grass was the first immigrant attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps for a while.





    more Ring Ouzels from yesterday - Suckthumb Quarry, 17th April 2010 © Martin Cade

  18th April

Under continuing crystal-clear skies and with the wind having dropped away to such an extent that there was frost on the ground at the Bill at dawn expectations weren't particularly high, but in the event there was another decent arrival of common migrants. Swallows and Willow Warblers dominated with, for example, 270/hour of the former heading north along the West Cliffs during the morning and a good 300 of the latter grounded at the Bill; the southern half of the island also produced 100 Wheatears, 50 Sand Martins north/hour, 15 House Martins north/hour, 10 Redstarts, 7 Grasshopper Warblers, 5 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Sedge Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper, a Short-eared Owl, the first Whinchat of the spring, a late Fieldfare and a Redpoll amongst other expected fare. Seawatching at the Bill produced 140 Common Scoter, 8 Sanderling, 8 Sandwich Terns, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Tufted Ducks, 4 Black-headed Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, a Shoveler and a Great Skua.

Four Harbour Porpoise were milling around off the Bill for a while early in the morning.

Late news for yesterday: 2 Ring Ouzels were at Suckthumb Quarry in the evening.




    Ring Ouzel - Barleycrates Lane, 17th April 2010 © Martin Cade

  17th April

Just small changes in the weather and the birding today: the north-east wind was conspicuously less strong and perhaps as a result of that there were slightly fewer common migrants to be found. The Bill area produced a good scatter of expected fare, including 100 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 6 Redstarts, 2 Common Sandpipers, a Yellow Wagtail and a Sedge Warbler, as well as a pretty constant throughput of hirundines; elsewhere there was a Short-eared Owl at Ferrybridge and 25 Wheatears, 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Redstarts and a Black Redstart at Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill produced 75 Whimbrel, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 30 Common Scoter, 7 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Great Northern Diver.



    Chiffchaff - Portland Bill, 16th April 2010 © Martin Cade

  16th April

Another very fine day with the stiff breeze backing a little towards the east. The commonest mid-April migrants were still on the move in fair numbers although variety was again pretty limited. At the Bill, where a lot of birds were moving through very quickly, there were another 150 or so Willow Warblers and more than 100 Wheatears, whilst Swallows were passing in the low hundreds per hour around the middle of the day. Goldfinches and Linnets were also heading through in good quantity, whilst on the ground 4 Redstarts, 3 Black Redstarts, a Tree Pipit and a Lesser Whitethroat provided a bit of variety; additional reports from elsewhere included 2 Ring Ouzels and a Lesser Whitethroat at Barleycrates Lane and 10 Whimbrel over Ferrybridge. Seawatching produced 19 Whimbrel, 2 Shoveler, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Black-throated Diver and a Brent Goose passing Chesil and 12 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shelduck and a Great Crested Grebe passing the Bill.

Finally, an update for Obs members on various admin matters: the 2009 annual report is now finished and, depending on progress at the printers, will be posted out to members within the next couple of weeks or so. Producing the report is so time-consuming these days that we've hardly been able to spend any time on other admin in recent weeks, so there's a considerable backlog of, for example, membership renewals to deal with: please don't worry if it seems that your renewal has gone un-acknowledged - membership cards for those that have renewed will be posted out with the report. Also, the date of this year's AGM has recently been fixed: it will be held at the Obs at 7pm on Saturday 3rd July.






Willow Warbler, Yellow and White Wagtails, Wood Pigeon and Bottle-nosed Dolphins - Portland Bill, 15th April 2010 © Martin Cade (Willow Warbler, Wood Pigeon and dophins) and Matthew Dampier (wagtails)

  15th April

Although yesterday's cloud cover had completely cleared, the strength of the north wind was enough to drop another steady succession of migrants at the Bill, where 300 or so Willow Warblers made up the bulk of the numbers; hirundines, particularly Swallows, were also passing through in quantity, whilst amongst the light scatter of the likes of Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Blackcap on the ground, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Tree Pipit and a Redstart helped to flesh out the day list a little. Elsewhere there was a notable concentration of 70 Wheatears, 7 Redstarts and 2 Ring Ouzels at Barelycrates Lane, a late Fieldfare at the Verne, a Redstart at Portland Castle and 10 Sandwich Terns, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Curlew at Portland Harbour. The seawatchers got no help from the stiff offshore breeze, and logged just 10 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Brent Goose passing the Bill and 18 Whimbrel, 17 Common Scoter, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and singles of Brent Goose, Shoveler and Arctic Tern passing Chesil.

A party of around 8 Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed up-Channel off Chesil and the Bill during the morning.

Finally, an update on one of yesterday's ringed birds: thanks to Steve Hales for letting us know that the colour-ringed White Wagtail was a bird that he marked at Abbotsbury, Dorset, on either 18th October or 27th October last autumn.



Osprey - Portland Bill, 14th April 2010 © Martin Cade

...and a minor highlight in the Obs garden mist-nets this morning was this Blackcap bearing a French ring:



    ...whilst nearby a colour-ringed White Wagtail provided additional interest:


  14th April

The arrival of some substantial cloud cover during the hours of darkness was very welcome and dropped a steady little arrival of common migrants at the Bill, where getting on for 200 birds were ringed during the course of the day.  In terms of oddities, the highlight was another Osprey that arrived in off the sea at the Bill and carried on northwards; also there, a 'new' Red-legged Partridge was noteworthy but most likely just the latest in the long line of dodgy releases taking place around the area as opposed to being a wanderer from the mainland. Amongst the commoner migrants at the Bill the total of 300 Willow Warblers was the highest logged so far this spring, whilst 50 Wheatears, 50 Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, 3 Redstarts, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 White Wagtails, a migrant Sparrowhawk, a Common Sandpiper, a Short-eared Owl and a Redpoll made up the rest of the tally on the land. Seawatching there produced 58 Common Scoter, 30 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Whimbrel, 2 Red-throated Divers and an Arctic Skua.

Late news for yesterday: a Hobby was at Southwell in the evening.

13th April

An Osprey that flew south over Ferrybridge and reached the north end of the island during the morning provided the highlight on another fine but otherwise fairly quiet day. New arrivals at the Bill included 5 White Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Redstarts, 2 Firecrests and a Black Redstart but the commoner migrants were still very poorly represented. Odds and ends passing through on the sea at the Bill included 20 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and a Whimbrel.

Also, thanks to Roy Dennis www.roydennis.org for getting in touch to draw our attention to the fact that Nimrod, one of his Ospreys fitted with a satellite transmitter, passed close to us yesterday: having started its Channel crossing from Cap de la Hague in the morning, the bird was at sea level some 19km south of the Bill at midday; unfortunately no more GPS locations were transmitted until it was found at roost at Blagdon Lake, Somerset, in the evening. Bearing in mind the stiff north-easterly blowing at the time, we suspect he may have come ashore to the west of Portland but either way we didn't see him here!

Finally, we've accumulated quite a backlog of links to a variety of Obs member's blogs and websites that we're always happy to publicise and we'll be adding to our links page in the next few days. We'll start tonight with one that's always worth a look: Paul Baker's Captain's Log. If any other Obs members would like a link added, please get in touch.




Black-headed Gulls - Chesil Beach, 11th April 2010 © Martin Cade

...the attraction of Chesil spring seawatching seems to be lost on most birders who drive blindly past on their way to joining the throng at the tip of the Bill, but we continue to find it both fascinatingly unique and peculiarly compelling; perhaps we should take heart from the fact that we still get excited over the spectacle of something as seemingly inconsequential as last evening's flock of migrating Black-headed Gulls that made umpteen attempts at crossing the beach before eventually towering hundreds of feet above Portland and heading away up-Channel.

  12th April

With anticyclonic conditions firmly established, clear skies and a fresh north-easterly (= no grounded migrants!) look to be in for the time being. A lone Hen Harrier that arrived from the south over the Bill during the afternoon, spent a few minutes hunting in Top Fields and then headed away to the north was easily the day's highlight. The only even slightly worthwhile migrant on the ground at the Bill was a single Black Redstart; commoner species there were reduced to just single figure totals at most. Seawatching came up with 30 Manx Shearwaters, 23 Common Scoter, 9 Whimbrel and 2 Sandwich Terns passing the Bill and 30 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Whimbrel, 4 Shelduck, 2 Grey Plovers and a Common Tern passing Chesil.

Late news for yesterday: 14 Black-headed Gulls and an Arctic Skua passed through off Chesil during the evening.

11th April

Another really quite slow day with the list only achieving any sort of respectability by dint of an awful lot of legwork. The commoner migrants were again poorly represented and no one area was particularly favoured with scarcer species, but odds and ends that did show up on the land included 10 Redstarts, 2 Ring Ouzels, the first Cuckoo of the spring, a Yellow Wagtail, a Tree Pipit and a Redpoll. Seawatching produced 116 Common Scoter, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Whimbrel, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Shelduck and a Tufted Duck through off the Bill, 2 Great Northern Divers settled off the Bill and 15 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Whimbrel, 2 Curlew, a Tufted Duck and a Common Tern through off Chesil.

10th April

A repeat of yesterday's fine weather and general lack of birds. The sea provided a little more than the land, with 103 Common Scoter, 12 Whimbrel, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Teal, 2 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua passing the Bill, the Great Northern Diver still settled offshore there and 2 Sandwich Terns, a Great Crested Grebe, a Brent Goose, a Shelduck and an Arctic Skua passing Chesil. On the land there were 50 or so Willow Warblers grounded at the Bill but none of the other common summer migrants got into double figures and singles of Grey Heron, Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler were the only slightly scarcer migrants logged there.

9th April

With the weather getting more and more summer-like by the day prospects didn't look too good for much in the way of a fall of birds and in the event there was precious little in the way of numbers or variety. The first Hobby of the spring was reported passing over at the Bill, where hirundines also trickled through all day, but on the ground a single Firecrest was just about the only noteworthy sighting amongst a very light scatter of commoner migrants. Seawatching there produced 62 Common Scoter, 3 Shelduck and a Red-throated Diver passing by and one of the Great Northern Divers still settled offshore.



    Sunrise - Portland Bill, 8th April 2010 © Martin Cade

...one of the last of the 'winter' sunrises before the sun starts to rise from behind the distant Purbeck coast (St Alban's Head, in the distance, is a tiny bit north of due east from the Bill and 29 kms away).

  8th April

A gloriously sunny day and nothing like the number of birds that dropped in yesterday. Most of the day's reports were from the Bill area, where Wheatears increased to around 60 but Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler all struggled to get past the 20 mark; there was also a steady arrival of Swallows in off the sea, whilst among the odds and ends of note there were 5 Redstarts, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 White Wagtail, 2 Whitethroats, a Grey Heron, a Greylag Goose, a Curlew and a Firecrest. Seawatching there produced 23 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Manx Shearwater, whilst the Great Northern Diver that's been settled offshore for several days was joined by a second individual.




        Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill, 7th April 2010 © Martin Cade

  7th April

A good cloud cover overhead, a brisk headwind and a generally milder feel to the air provided the ingredients that have been sadly lacking of late and migrants dropped in some quantity at the Bill, where Little Ringed Plover, Grasshopper Warbler (2), Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher were all logged for the first time this spring. In terms of numbers, Blackcaps were disproportionately more numerous and Wheatears much scarcer than might be expected on this date. Further totals from the Bill area included 200 Willow Warblers, 100 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 25 Wheatears, 12 Redstarts, 10 Tree Pipits, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Firecrests and a Black Redstart, whilst amongst the reports from elsewhere there were 2 more Pied Flycatchers at Avalanche Road and another Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane. The few birds on the move offshore at the Bill included 79 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Sandwich Terns, whilst a Great Northern Diver was still settled there.

Late news for yesterday: a single Tree Pipit was another addition to the year list at the Bill and a Firecrest was at Southwell.




        Hoopoe and Canada Goose - Suckthumb Quarry and Portland Bill, 6th April 2010 © Martin Cade

...and from the Easter Weekend, Daniel Trim kindly sent through these photos of Fulmar and Black Redstart at the Bill:



  6th April

Pleasantly sunny again but no more migrants than in recent days. Rather unexpectedly, since it was looked for frequently over the Easter weekend and not seen, the long-staying Hoopoe showed up again at Weston Street/Suckthumb Quarry at the end of the day. The day's tally from the Obs garden mist-nets was a measly 9 Chiffchaffs, whilst fieldwork in the rest of the Bill area produced just a few passing Swallows, a handful of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, a Canada Goose, the first Yellow Wagtail of the spring, a Wheatear, a Blackcap and a Yellowhammer; a Ring Ouzel at Barleycrates Lane was the best on offer from elsewhere. In seemingly quite promising conditions (with a moderate easterly blowing along the Channel) the seawatching was as disappointingly uneventful, with nothing more than 37 Common Scoter, 28 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a commic tern passing through off the Bill.



        Redstart - Portland Bill, 5th April 2010 © Martin Cade

  5th April

On a second successive bright, sunny day there was just a hint of a little more passage getting going, with a steady arrival of hirundines in off the sea and both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler creeping over the 25 mark at the Bill, although 2 White Wagtails, a Black Redstart, a Redstart and a Firecrest were the only slightly better quality migrants making it onto the list from there. The sea got quite a bit of attention and returned totals of 18 Common Scoter, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Sandwich Terns, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Great Crested Grebes and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill and singles of Little Gull and Great Skua off Chesil. Elsewhere there were singles of Great Northern Diver and Eider in Portland Harbour.



The next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Tuesday 6th April. 


4th April

A marked upturn in the weather, with virtually unbroken sunshine throughout the day, but still just paltry numbers of migrants. Odds and ends on the land at the Bill included 6 Chiffchaffs, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Willow Warblers, a Black Redstart and a Wheatear, whilst seawatching there produced 45 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Manx Shearwaters, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua. The only other news was of 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe still in Portland Harbour. Roll on spring...

3rd April

Yesterday's flurry of interest proved to be a flash in the pan, with today's unsettled conditions producing very little at all on land or sea. Singles of Black Redstart and Firecrest were the best of a dismal selection of grounded migrants at the Bill, where 50 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passed by on the sea.

2nd April

After a very slow start in pouring rain through the morning, interest perked up conspicuously during a bright and breezy afternoon when a small scatter of grounded migrants showed up at the Bill and there was quite a bit on the move at sea. Seawatching at the Bill produced 350 Manx Shearwaters, 176 Fulmars, 69 Common Scoter, 5 Sandwich Terns, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua, whilst 317 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua passed through off Chesil Cove. Grounded migrants at the Bill included 10 Wheatears, 7 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 White Wagtails, 4 Blackcaps, 4 Firecrests, 3 Turnstones and a Black Redstart, whilst the 2 long-staying Grey Partridges also put in another appearance there. The only news from elsewhere was of 2 Slavonian Grebes still in Portland Harbour.

1st April

Judging by reports from elsewhere, Portland seems to have been missing out on an awful lot of incoming migrants just lately and there was certainly no change to that situation today. Under much sunnier skies than earlier in the week a Redstart was a welcome first for the spring at Southwell and the Hoopoe remained at Suckthumb Quarry, but the Bill area came up with little more on the land than 15 Wheatears, 5 Chiffchaffs, 5 Willow Warblers, 4 White Wagtails, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Blackcaps, and a few passing Swallows; seawatching there was just as uneventful, with 4 Common Scoter and singles of Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers all that could be mustered through the morning.