May 2010




    Bar-tailed Godwit and Greenland Wheatear - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 31st May 2010 © Nick Hopper

  31st May

A lovely day but on the birding front there was a slow end to what's proved to be a quite uneventful month. Odds and ends in the way of new arrivals on the land included 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Wheatears, 2 Whitethroats and a Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill, a Sanderling at Ferrybridge (where the Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 long-staying Red-breasted Mergansers were still present) and a Hobby at Weston. At least 300 Manx Shearwaters were milling around/passing through off the Bill, where 5 Common Scoter, 5 commic terns and an Arctic Skua also passed by.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 16 Diamond-back Moth and 7 Rush Veneer.

30th May

Still very quiet on the land with 2 Chiffchaffs trapped and ringed at the Obs being just about the only new arrivals reported at the Bill; elsewhere 10 Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit were at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 250 Gannets, 50 Manx Shearwaters and singles of Great Northern Diver, Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua.

After a not particularly promising-looking breezy night the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning were 2 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Silver Y and a single Rush Veneer.

29th May

A good day to have had to leave the island to attend what could have been a poorly-timed family wedding: early morning mist-netting at the Obs drew a complete blank and, once wind and rain set in, the stalwart seawatchers had little reward at either the Bill or Chesil Cove. Virtually all the reports were from the sea, with 120 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Common Scoter and a Balearic Shearwater passing through off the Bill and 65 Manx Shearwaters, a Great Skua and an Arctic Skua passing Chesil. The only other news was of a Chiffchaff at the Bill and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 3 Diamond-back Moth and 3 Silver Y.

28th May

A lack of both quality and quantity today. The migrant tally at the Bill consisted of just 4 each of Chiffchaff and Reed Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a single Wheatear, whilst the only report from elsewhere was of another Spotted Flycatcher at Wakeham. Seawatching at the Bill produced 30 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a late Brent Goose.

An exceptionally early Marbled White butterfly was seen at Culverwell.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 10 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Silver Y and 1 Dark Sword Grass.



    one of yesterday's Turtle Doves - Southwell, 26th May 2010 © Pete Saunders

  27th May

In accounting for the lack of quality birds in recent weeks, rainfall has been accorded the status of missing 'magic ingredient' so it was something of a disappointment when overnight showers failed to produce the goods. That said, there was a slight improvement in common migrant numbers, with 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Wheatears, 4 Reed Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, a Hobby and a Blackcap at the Bill, singles of Turtle Dove, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher at Southwell and a couple more single Spotted Flycatchers elsewhere. The only other reports were of 100 Manx Shearwaters and 27 commic terns passing through off the Bill and the 2 long-staying Red-breasted Mergansers still at Ferrybridge.

Immigrants/wanderers in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 78 Diamond-back Moth, 7 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Silver Y and a Maiden's Blush.



    Sanderlings - Ferrybridge, 25th May 2010 © Pete Saunders regular visitors to the site will be aware, we love the speed with which it's possible to obtain the ringing details of colour-ringed birds and yesterday's two Sanderlings provided another excellent example. Pete Saunders passed us the photos this morning and within a couple of hours Jeroen Reneerkens from the Netherlands, the co-ordinator of this particular project, had got back to us with the news that this individual...:


...was ringed in south-west Ghana on 19th December 2008, whilst the second bird..:


...was ringed at the Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania, on 7th December 2007 (the bird from Ghana spent the rest of the 2008/09 winter close to the site of ringing but, until yesterday, hadn't been sighted since then; the bird from Mauritania spent each subsequent winter at the Banc d' Arguin but it too has yet to be sighted anywhere else). Maybe we're just being naive but it seems to us that in this day and age it ought to be perfectly possible to implement procedures whereby recoveries generated from 'conventional' ringing operations could be dealt with just as quickly as this but since, for example, we still haven't heard back on something as seemingly straightforward as a British-ringed Gannet we featured on the site six months ago, we won't be holding our breath...

  26th May

A fresher feel to the day although it remained dry and sunny as the forecast threat of rain/thunderstorms came to nothing. The day's highlights were a fly-over Serin at the Obs and the first Balearic Shearwater of the summer passing through off the Bill. Most of the rest of the sightings were also from the Bill, with 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Sand Martins, 2 Hobbys, a Turtle Dove, a Yellow Wagtail, a Reed Warbler, a Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher on/overhead on the land and 150 Manx Shearwaters, 24 Common Scoter, a Great Skua, a Black-headed Gull and a Mediterranean Gull through on the sea. Elsewhere there were singles of Turtle Dove, Reed Warbler and Blackcap at Avalanche Road and a single Great Skua passed through off Chesil.

A few common immigrant moths are arriving, with a cumulative total of 17 Diamond-back Moth, 15 Silver Y and 3 Dark Sword Grass logged from traps operated overnight at the Obs, Southwell and Weston.




    Adonis Blues - High Angle Battery, 25th May 2010 © Emma Cockburn

  25th May

In a brisk north-easterly and with fog rolling in off the sea from time to time it looked like the recent spell of hot weather was beginning to peter out. At the Bill the rather paltry migrant list included just 3 each of Turtle Dove and Wheatear, 2 each of Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher and a single Sedge Warbler, whilst elsewhere there 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Blackcaps and singles of Turtle Dove, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler at Perryfields/Wakeham, another Reed Warbler at Reap Lane, singles of Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher at Weston Street and 12 Sanderling at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill in the morning produced just a single Red-throated Diver but there were signs of movement getting going later in the day, with an evening watch from Chesil producing 90 commic terns, 5 Grey Plovers, a Knot and a Roseate Tern, along with a Black-throated Diver settled offshore.

Red Admirals have suddenly become quite plentiful at the Bill, where a lone Painted Lady was also seen.

No immigrants were caught in the various garden moth-traps around the island but the first Four-spotted of the year was of note in the Obs garden traps.

24th May

Another lovely weather, no birds sort of day. A few Swifts and hirundines were still arriving, but 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Yellow Wagtail and a Reed Warbler looked to be just about the only grounded migrants at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced 86 Common Scoter, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 skua spp and a Great Northern Diver, whilst 3 Sanderling were the only noteworthy waders at Ferrybridge

Several Large White butterflies were seen arriving in off the sea at the Bill this morning and a single Clouded Yellow was also at the Bill.

Late news for yesterday: a Serin was heard flying overhead at Southwell in the morning.

23rd May

Slim pickings on another really hot, sunny day. The handful of migrants at the Bill included 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Wheatears and singles of Grey Heron, Hobby, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler, along with a steady but light passage of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins still arriving in off the sea; the only reports from elsewhere were of 7 Sanderling at Ferrybridge and another Reed Warbler at Avalanche Road. Some more late movement on the sea included 12 Common Scoter, 6 Sanderling, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Turnstones, a Great Crested Grebe and a Great Skua through off Chesil and 31 Common Scoter, 12 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Shelduck, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.

22nd May

Despite squadrons of Red Kites heading out of south-west England (and even getting as close to the island as Wyke Regis) Portland remained a Milvus-free zone today - indeed there was a serious lack of any quality amongst the dribble of late migrants still on the move. The day's coverage of the Bill area returned totals of 6 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 each of Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear and Blackcap, 2 each of Turtle Dove and Garden Warbler and singles of Hobby, Whinchat and Reed Warbler on the ground and 50 Manx Shearwaters, 17 commic terns, 11 Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua through on the sea. Reports from elsewhere included another Turtle Dove at Weston, 14 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge and an Arctic Skua through off Chesil.

Immigrants in the moth-traps this morning: 2 Diamond-back Moths at Reap Lane and a Pearly Underwing at the Obs.

21st May

Some almost Mediterranean heat and sunshine today and a couple of reasonable birds to go with it: a/the Serin was heard over Southwell early in the morning and a Montagu's Harrier drifted north over Barleycrates Lane towards midday. Routine fare included 6 Chiffchaffs, 4 Willow Warblers, 3 Wheatears, 3 Sedge Warblers, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, a Redstart and a Garden Warbler at the Bill and 3 Spotted Flycatchers, a Blackcap, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff at Avalanche Road. Other odds and ends on the day list included an Arctic Skua through on the sea at the Bill and a Knot at Ferrybridge. 

Red Admiral and Painted Lady (just singles of each) were logged at the Bill today.



    Dunlin - Ferrybridge, 19th May 2010 © Martin Cade

  20th May

Warm and increasingly muggy under a heavy cloud cover today. Rarity interest was limited to a Serin that flew over the Obs garden once during the afternoon, whilst commoner migrants reported included 7 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Sedge Warblers, 2 Wheatears, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Willow Warblers, a White Wagtail, a Redstart, a Reed Warbler and a Garden Warbler at the Bill. On the sea, 13 Common Scoter and 7 Manx Shearwaters passed through off the Bill and the 2 late Red-breasted Mergansers remained at Ferrybridge.

No immigrants were attracted to the Obs garden moth-traps overnight but a single Silver Y was caught in a garden trap at Southwell.







Nightjar - Portland Bill, 19th May 2010 © Martin Cade

  19th May

On a muggy, overcast day another small arrival of migrants included a nice highlight in the form of a Nightjar at Culverwell; more routine fare around the Bill area included 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Willow Warblers and singles of Hobby, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Blackcap, whilst elsewhere there were 50 Dunlin, 12 Sanderling and a Knot at Ferrybridge. The only reports from the sea were of 12 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill.

A lone Pearly Underwing was the only immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

18th May

Small numbers of tardy migrants continue to trickle through: Swifts and Swallows were again arriving in some quantity (Swallows were heading north along the West Cliffs at a rate of nearly one a minute at times during the morning), a Grey Heron left to the south over the Bill, 12 Wheatears, 4 Whinchats, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove, a Redstart, a Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and a Willow Warbler were grounded at the Bill, 6 Spotted Flycatchers and a Lesser Whitethroat were at Avalanche Road, 5 Spotted Flycatchers and a Cuckoo were at the Grove and waders at Ferrybridge included 13 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling and a Whimbrel. Seawatching at the Bill produced 21 Common Scoter, 19 commic terns, 5 Dunlin, 5 Sandwich Terns, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Shelducks and a Pomarine Skua.



    Roe Deer - Portland Bill, 15th May 2010 © Ken Parker

...and a few more photos from the weekend. Small Blue at Bottomcombe Quarry © Ken Dolbear:



...and the Portland Castle Hawfinch and a Spotted Flycatcher at Southwell © Pete Saunders:



  17th May

In almost unbroken sunshine and with the chilly wind of recent weeks having subsided today was probably the most pleasant day of the year so far. A few more tail-end charlie migrants included 15 Spotted Flycatchers, 10 Turnstones, 4 Wheatears, 2 Redstarts and singles of Dunlin, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler grounded at the Bill, 2 more Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove and a Willow Warbler at Southwell, 6 more Spotted Flycatchers at Avalanche Road and a steady trickle of Swallows and House Martins passing overhead everywhere. Odds and ends passing on the sea at the Bill included 8 Common Scoter, 7 commic terns, 4 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua.

16th May

Quite a change in the weather today with occasional light showers, plenty of misty, low cloud and a freshening westerly wind. The supply of new migrants on the land slowed to a virtual standstill with just one bird - a Redstart - trapped and ringed at the Obs and not very much else turned up by those that worked the rest of the area; 25 Dunlin, 7 Sanderling, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Knot and a Whimbrel were still at Ferrybridge. The sea got plenty of attention, with watches at the Bill returning totals of 250 Gannets, 90 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Common Scoter, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Garganey.





   Hawfinch - Portland Castle, 15th May 2010 © Martin Cade

  15th May

A Hawfinch that spent most of the day within the grounds of Portland Castle was a welcome highlight today. Commoner migrants certainly seem to be thinning out now although Swallows were still arriving in off the sea in surprisingly good numbers throughout the day; the Bill area also produced 30 Whitethroats, 20 Chiffchaffs, 20 Spotted Flycatchers, 15 Willow Warblers, 7 Dunlin, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers and a Blackcap, whilst 25 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling, a Knot and Whimbrel were at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 100 Manx Shearwaters, 50 commic terns, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Pomarine Skuas and a Great Skua, and a single Red-throated Diver was settled off Chesil.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 6 Diamond-back Moth and a Pearly Underwing.




   Knot - Ferrybridge, 14th May 2010 © Martin Cade

  14th May

The threatening skies to the west of the island at dawn eventually cleared and the day itself was noticeably milder than of late in a light south-westerly. Swallows, and to a lesser extent House Martins and Swifts, were still arriving in off the sea in some quantity but grounded migrants were very hard to come by, with the Bill area returning nothing much more of note than 3 Yellow Wagtails, a Whimbrel and a Redstart amongst the tiny numbers of commoner species; elsewhere there were 25 Dunlin, 7 Sanderling, a Knot and a Whimbrel at Ferrybridge. The change in the weather saw sea interest pick up, with 120 commic terns, 7 Common Scoter, 6 Great Northern Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers and singles of Sanderling, Great Skua and Sandwich Tern passing the Bill.



The next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 15th May. 





    A Sanderling from yesterday - Ferrybridge, 12th May 2010 © Dennis Jones

  13th May

With very little breeze and precious few clouds in the sky it wasn't too bad a day. Grounded migrants certainly weren't plentiful but the fair weather was to the liking of passing Swallows (although, curiously, there were very few Swifts or House Martins) with sample counts that included 225 north over Ferrybridge in 45 minutes during the morning and 90 north along the West Cliffs at the Bill in 30 minutes at midday). Further reports from the Bill included 11 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Redstarts, 2 Whinchats, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Grey Heron, a Hobby, a Greenshank, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Reed Warbler and a Garden Warbler on/overhead on the land and 100 Manx Shearwaters, 73 Common Scoter, 5 Arctic Skuas and 2 Red-throated Divers through on the sea, whilst elsewhere there were 13 Spotted Flycatchers between Southwell and Weston. Tardy winter visitors still making it onto the day list included a few Common Gulls through on the sea at the Bill and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers at Ferryrbridge.



    Mute Swans - Portland Bill, 12th May 2010 © Colin White

  12th May

With a noticeable reduction in the strength of the north-easterly wind it felt a good deal more pleasant today than it has done for some while. Migrant numbers picked up again although the only particularly out of the ordinary sightings were of 2 Mute Swans passing through off the Bill and a late Firecrest trapped and ringed at the Obs. At the Bill the day's tally included 60 Willow Warblers, 25 Wheatears, 20 Whitethroats, 10 Chiffchaffs, 8 Sedge Warblers, 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 6 Garden Warblers, 5 Whinchats, 4 Whimbrel, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps and a Redstart on the land, good numbers of Swifts, House Martins and Swallows still on the move overhead and 50 Manx Shearwaters, 10 commic terns, 7 Common Scoter, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Dunlin through on the sea. The only other report was of 5 Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

The first Clouded Yellow of the year was seen at the Bill.



    Broad-bodied Chaser - Portland Bill, 10th May 2010 © John Aldridge

  11th May

Although there were still good numbers of Swifts and hirundines on the move the recent run of relatively good days for grounded migrants came to an end, with just single figure totals of the few species that did make landfall at the Bill. Another 4 Hobbys passed through at the Bill, but the only other birds of particular note on the ground/overhead there were 3 Grey Herons, 3 Yellow Wagtails and a White Wagtail. Seawatching produced 300 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Black-headed Gulls, 10 Common Gulls, 5 Whimbrel, 4 commic terns, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Ringed Plover, a Dunlin, an Arctic Skua and a Little Gull off the Bill and 7 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Tufted Ducks and 2 Grey Herons off Chesil.




    Hobby - Portland Bill, 10th May 2010 © Martin Cade

...having had a look at the ageing and sexing of a lot of the 'easy' species in the last couple of years we've been left with a motley selection that we we either don't know much about and are having to learn and/or can't really get out head round. Male Redstarts are usually pretty straightforward to age but we've always found females to be very troublesome so we've spent a bit of time having a closer look at them just lately. The underparts of females vary between the very plain and something that almost approaches a subdued male in brightness and contrast; we're not aware that there's supposed to be an age-related difference here but we do wonder if - as in some other species - the brighter birds are older and acquire more contrast as the years go by (although we've captioned the heads below as being adult and second calendar year that only reflects the age of these particular individuals):



Adult and second calendar year wings often differ quite conspicuously, with the darker, broader, generally better quality feathers of an adult contrasting with the paler, thinner/more pointed and already well-worn/faded juvenile flight-feathers and coverts of a second calendar year bird:





...juveniles don't seem to replace many inner greater coverts during the post-juvenile moult so it often requires a good look to spot any next generation, adult-like coverts on a second calendar year bird: 


   The tail is worth a look and often shows the expected subtle differences between the age classes:



...and if these photos make it look as though females are quite do-able then think again - we looked at quite a lot of them in the course of taking these photos and really couldn't fathom out a good 50% of them!

  photos © Martin Cade

        10th May

The return of sunny skies was welcome even if the continuing north-easterly wind still had an unpleasantly chilly edge to it. Migrants were still well represented at the Bill where numbers were not quite up to those logged over the weekend but variety was just as good: incoming hirundines and Swifts, along with 5 Hobbys, were very conspicuous overhead, whilst a single Turtle Dove was the best of the sightings on the ground; the pick of the reports from elsewhere involved an Osprey heading over Weston during the afternoon. After a long barren spell for the seawatchers there were signs of passage picking up a little off the Bill, where 50 Manx Shearwaters, 36 Common Scoter, 7 Red-throated Divers, 3 Ringed Plovers, 2 Dunlin, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and singles of Great Northern Diver, Black-tailed Godwit, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Pomarine Skua passed by.

9th May

Once again, very little change in the weather or the birds today: numbers were down a little on yesterday but there was still plenty of variety. The most conspicuous feature of the day was a steady arrival of Swifts in off the sea; unfortunately no systematic count was made but from the samples at the Bill it looked like the morning's total there was well into four figures. On the ground, the Bill area got plenty of coverage and returned totals that included 100 Willow Warblers, 60 Wheatears, 50 Whitethroats, 25 Whinchats, 15 Redstarts, 15 Garden Warblers, 10 Reed Warblers, 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 7 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, 5 Sedge Warblers, 5 Blackcaps, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, a Hobby, a Common Sandpiper, a Turtle Dove and a Nightingale. Elsewhere, waders at Ferrybridge included 5 Sanderling.







   Hobby, Osprey, Redstart, Sedge Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Southwell, 8th May 2010 © Colin White (Hobby) and Pete Saunders (all the others)

...and another photo of last Wednesday's (5th May) Ortolan Bunting at the Bill © Pete Saunders:


       8th May

The constant spits and spots of rain in the air today were more than enough to drop another nice arrival of returning summer visitors. The day's rarity list comprised just an Ortolan Bunting heard and seen briefly during the morning over Top Fields and an Osprey flying high east over Southwell at midday. Most of the expected commoner migrants were well represented at the Bill, where totals included 200 Willow Warblers, 100 Wheatears, 60 each of Whitethroat and Whinchat, 40 Sedge Warblers, 30 Redstarts and 25 Spotted Flycatchers, whilst amongst the lower counts there were singles of Hobby, Grasshopper Warbler and Pied Flycatcher; other island areas came up with plenty more of the same, with a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge and a Wood Warbler at Portland Castle being the pick of the bunch. On the sea, a lone Red-throated Diver passed both the Bill and Chesil, with the latter also coming up with 35 Whimbrel, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits and 8 Dunlin.

7th May

Rather samey today: no change in the overcast skies and north-easterly wind, and no change in the mix of routine migrants on the move. Numbers didn't get up to yesterday's levels but there was still a fair selection at the Bill, including 120 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 40 Whitethroats, 15 Whinchats, 7 Sedge Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 6 Garden Warblers, 6 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Hobbys. 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Redstart, a Fieldfare and a Reed Warbler; the only news from elsewhere was of a Wood Warbler at Portland Castle and a Firecrest at Verne Common. The only reports of interest from the sea were of 28 Common Scoter, 12 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Whimbrel, 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Shelduck, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver passing through off the Bill and 15 Whimbrel, 6 commic terns and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits passing Chesil.

6th May

Although the still, heavily overcast conditions gave the day a good feel, rarities were conspicuously absent from a tally that was dominated by arriving British breeders. The Bill area produced a steady passage of hirundines, along with 150 Willow Warblers, 30 Chiffchaffs, 20 Wheatears, 15 Whinchats, 15 Blackcaps, 12 Garden Warblers, 10 Sedge Warblers, 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Hobbys, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, a Grey Heron, a Short-eared Owl, a Reed Warbler and a Redpoll; elsewhere there was a Turtle Dove at Tout Quarry. Sea passage off the Bill was - again - pretty much of a non-event.

At least 2 Harbour Porpoise were lingering off Chesil Beach during the evening.

Slightly unexpectedly there was a small influx of Diamond-back Moths, with 13 caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.




    Ortolan Bunting - Portland Bill, 5th May 2010 © Chris Stone

...a couple of record photos from the finder (above). Later it was still showing quite well, albeit at greater range or in dodgy light (photos © Martin Cade):



This Yellow Wagtail was a much better performer (© Martin Cade):


And later in the day another attempt at the Ortolan in even worse light (© Martin Cade): wasn't the most vocal Ortolan and we only managed to record a couple of very quiet flight calls; click here to have a listen.

  5th May

The heavy cloud cover that rolled in from the north at dawn arrived just a tad late to drop lots of migrant but there was still a fair selection to be found at the Bill where an Ortolan Bunting that showed up in Top Fields late in the morning provided a nice rarity highlight. Common migrants were certainly not as plentiful as they'd been yesterday, but noteworthy totals from the Bill area included 35 Wheatears, 16 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Sedge Warblers, 3 Redstarts, 2 Whimbrel and singles of Grey Heron, Hobby, Common Sandpiper, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher. Three passing Great Northern Divers off the Bill were the only birds of note on the sea.



    Garden Warbler - Portland Bill, 4th May 2010 © Martin Cade

  4th May

Quite promising conditions - clear skies and a brisk northerly wind - at last came up with the goods and there was a nice little flurry of new arrivals. All the reports came from the Bill area where the day's totals included 150 Willow Warblers, 40 each of Wheatear, Blackcap and Garden Warbler, 20 Whinchats, 8 each of Redstart, Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 each of Hobby and Tree Pipit and singles of Reed Warbler and Pied Flycatcher; Swifts and hirundines were still on the move but certainly not in the numbers that might have been expected given the conditions. The strength of the offshore wind saw to it that the seawatchers got hardly any reward at all. 



    Grey Seal - Portland Bill, 3rd May 2010 © Colin White

  3rd May

For the most part a shockingly poor day for this date, with little on the move on land or sea during the morning although a minor flurry of new arrivals in the late afternoon did eventually provide some interest. A light trickle of Swifts were still arriving in off the sea at the Bill, where 3 Hobbys also passed through, but new grounded migrants were all but non-existent: a Blue-headed Wagtail dropped in briefly there but many of the odd ones and twos of commoner species looked to be lingering on from the last few days; the only report from elsewhere was of another Hobby at the Grove. Seawatching at the Bill produced 200 commic terns (lingering offshore in the evening), 50 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Sandwich Terns, 5 Shelduck, 4 Great Northern Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Black-headed Gull.




    Bar-tailed Godwit and Firecrest - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 2nd May 2010 © Martin Cade

  2nd May

After a night of quite heavy rain the day itself was conspicuously chillier than of late with the westerly breeze freshening as it eventually headed into the north-east as the afternoon went on. After a slow start on the migrant front there seemed to be a bit of an arrival of birds as the strength of the wind increased and, along with a steady arrival of Swifts and Swallows in off the sea, the day's list at the Bill included 25 Willow Warblers, 20 Chiffchaffs, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Wheatears, 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Grey Heron, a Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, a Short-eared Owl, a Redstart, a Sedge Warbler, a Blackcap, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Firecrest; elsewhere there were 54 Dunlin and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 150 commic terns, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver.

The first Painted Lady of the year was in the Obs garden.

1st May

Another paltry return on the migrant front today: at the Bill, Wheatear and Chiffchaff hovered around the 10 mark (we can't think there have been many 1st of Mays in history when only 2 Willow Warblers have made the day tally at the Bill!), whilst minor interest was provided by 3 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Hobby, Dunlin, Short-eared Owl, Redstart, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher; elsewhere there was a Turtle Dove at Reap Lane. The sea was still worth a bit of time, with 50 Manx Shearwaters, 32 commic terns, 31 Common Scoter, 6 Whimbrel, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 Great Skuas, 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Pomarine Skuas passing through off the Bill and singles of Arctic Skua and Little Gull passing Chesil.