September 2010





    Lapland Bunting, Silver-striped Hawk-moth and Grey Plover - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 30th September 2010 © Martin Cade (Lap Bunting and Silver-striped Hawk) and Paul Baker (Grey Plover)

  30th September

In much fairer weather there were plenty of new arrivals on the ground and quite a bit of passage overhead. The majority of reports came from the Bill area, where the bulk of the numbers on the ground constituted 250 each of Meadow Pipit and Linnet, 150 Pied Wagtails, 120 Chiffchaffs and 30 Blackcaps, with 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Firecrests and a Ring Ouzel providing the best of the quality; overhead there was a steady passage of hirundines - mainly Swallows - through the morning when, amongst the miscellany of other passage, at least 1 Lapland Bunting also passed over. Elsewhere the best of the bunch were 30 Siskins, 2 Firecrests, 5 Redpolls and a Brambling at Wakeham and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge. The only seawatch reports were of 20 Common Scoter and 4 Balearic Shearwaters passing through off the Bill.

A Silver-striped Hawk-moth was the pick of the overnight moth catch at the Obs; 6 Rush Veneer, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Delicate were the only other immigrants caught there.

29th September

Yesterday afternoon's downturn in the weather continued and seawatching was the only option for a good part of the day. The bird of the morning was a Long-tailed Skua that passed through Portland Harbour, with watches at the Bill producing 174 Common Scoter, 8 Wigeon, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Pintail, 2 Teal, 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 commic terns, a Manx Shearwater, a Brent Goose and a Shoveler. Limited coverage of the land at the Bill turned up just a single Firecrest amongst a handful of commoner migrants.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 4 Rush Veneer, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Vestal and a Dark Sword Grass.

28th September

Weather-wise, a day of two distinct halves, with a gloriously fine and warm morning giving way to an increasingly dreary and eventually wet afternoon. At the Bill both Redwing (2) and Brambling were recorded for the first time this autumn but the migrant tally otherwise remained loaded heavily in favour of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, which both numbered around 60; odds and ends of variety there included singles of Merlin and Firecrest amongst the generally low totals of other species. A lone Great Skua was the only seabird of note at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 25 Rush Veneer, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Silver Y, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Vestal and Pearly Underwing; a single White-speck was caught overnight by a visiting moth-trapper at Cheyne Weare.

27th September

Under heavily overcast skies today proved to be a 'more of the same' day, with Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs again featuring very conspicuously. All the reports thus far have been from the Bill area, where counts have included 150 Chiffchaffs, 120 Blackcaps, 6 Wheatears, 5 Whitethroats, 3 Stonechats, 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, 2 Song Thrushes, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Siskins, a Redstart, a Sedge Warbler, a Goldcrest (the first of the autumn and only the second of the year!) and a Reed Bunting.

A single Dark Sword Grass was the only immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

26th September

Something of a repeat of yesterday without any of the quality. A Short-eared Owl was a first for the autumn at the Bill where Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, that numbered 90 and 60 respectively, were again the only migrants in any quantity on the ground; a single Grasshopper Warbler was the only slightly scarcer migrant of note there. Overhead passage was largely restricted to the first couple of hours of the morning and didn't really include anything in great numbers or of particular quality.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: singles of Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Silver Y.




    Common Rosefinch - Portland Bill, 25th September 2010 © Martin Cade

  25th September

With crystal clear skies and a stiff north wind blowing dawn saw the first single digit temperature of the autumn. On the migrant front the strength of the wind seemed to have knocked down a bit more than in recent days but overhead passage was maybe not as conspicuous as might have been hoped. A Common Rosefinch that was trapped and ringed late in the morning at Culverwell provided the day's highlight, with further interest coming in the form of a brief Ortolan Bunting in the Crown Estate Field at the Bill, a late Wood Warbler at the Eight Kings Quarry, singles of Turtle Dove and Ring Ouzel at Southwell and 7 White Wagtails, a Hobby and a Mistle Thrush at the Bill. The grounded migrant tally was dominated by Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, with 100 of each at the Bill and plenty more of both elsewhere; 3 Snipe, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Reed Buntings were amongst the thin spread of other species at the Bill, where sample counts of early morning movement overhead included 320 Meadow Pipits, 56 alba wagtails and 7 Chaffinches.

Four Rush Veneer were the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.

24th September

A chilly northerly and increasing cloud cover today. Despite the conditions there was plenty of visible passage, with most of the movement taking place at very low level; hirundines dominated but Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails were also conspicuous, most of the other expected species were present in small numbers and oddities included 2 Grey Herons, a Little Egret and a Hobby over the Bill. On the ground Chiffchaffs, which totalled around 60 at the Bill, were again the only migrant in numbers; singles of Grasshopper Warbler and Yellowhammer were the only minor highlights at the Bill.

Immigrants/strays in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 13 Rush Veneer, 2 vestal, a Rusty-dot Pearl, a Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Delicate.

23rd September

Another Ortolan Bunting sighting - of one flushed from the Crown Estate Field during the morning - was the only report of real note today. A wet night and early morning looked to have all but put the block on routine passage, with just a handful of new arrivals (that included nothing at all unexpected) on the ground and precious little on the move overhead. Seawatching at the Bill produced 33 Common Scoter and a single Arctic Skua.

Immigrants/strays in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 10 Rush Veneer, a Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Pink-barred Sallow.



    Ortolan Bunting - Portland Bill, 22nd September 2010 © Martin Cade

...considering how relatively frequently they occur at the Bill, Ortolans are very infrequently trapped and ringed - today's bird was the first since 1983 and the only the eighth ever. Continuing yesterday's ageing Ortolan theme, we had a good look at tail pattern and shape on today's bird as these are often quoted as reliable ageing criteria. That the bird was a first-winter was fairly easily established by the presence of a complete set of unmoulted juvenile greater coverts, and at first glance the tail feather shape - in particular the narrow, pointed central feathers - did nothing but support that. However, the rest of the tail was all over the place, with evidence of prior (and current) feather replacement - presumably accidental - that included still growing t4 on the right side and t5-6 on the left side. In the end we decided not to dwell for too long on what was going on but it was certainly worth noting the unexpected mixture on some feathers of an adult-like pattern and a juvenile-like shape:


  22nd September

An Ortolan Bunting was trapped and ringed in the Crown Estate Field opposite the Obs during the morning but otherwise it was a rather quiet day with a veil of light cloud at dawn not knocking down many of the migrants that looked likely to have been passing over during an otherwise clear, moonlit night. Most of the expected common migrants were represented but virtually none reached double figure totals on the ground at the Bill and an increasing cloud cover restricted overhead passage to little more than a trickle. The only report from the sea was of a single Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 16 Rush Veneer, a Delicate, a Silver Y and a Red Admiral butterfly.



    Ortolan Bunting - Portland Bill, 21st September 2010 © Martin Cade

...and click here for a recording of some calls from this bird as it's settled and then takes flight. Seeing just the occasional stray migrant, we certainly wouldn't profess to know much about ageing Ortolans but it looks as though this bird can be rather easily aged as a first-winter by the pattern of the greater coverts which consist of a mixture of short, whitish edged/tipped retained juvenile feathers and longer, brown edged/tipped adult pattern feathers:


It seems from the literature as though, as shown by our bird, the feathers are often moulted in irregular sequence which brought to mind another first-winter Ortolan that we photographed last autumn (at the Bill on 9th September 2009) which showed a similar irregular moult sequence. That individual retained just one juvenile greater covert on the left wing:


...and none at all on the right wing:


We're not sure quite how much cleaner/brighter an autumn adult would look in comparison with these streaky first-winters so clinching one in the field might depend on very close observation of the wing to try and spot old, unmoulted secondaries as it seems that nearly all adults interrupt the post-breeding moult and retain at least a few old, bleached/worn secondaries.

additional photos © Martin Cade

  21st September

A party of 3 Ortolan Buntings that lingered for a little while between the Obs and Lloyd's Cottage just after dawn before departing purposefully northwards provided the highlight on a day of such fine weather that it felt more like mid-summer than mid-autumn. Amongst the more routine migrants hirundines featured strongly throughout the day, with some really large gatherings at the Bill that included a higher proportion of House Martins (50%+) than hitherto this autumn. Grounded migrants at the Bill included 350 Meadow Pipits, 30 Chiffchaffs and 25 Dunnocks, along with the first pulse of 11 Stonechats. 6 Chaffinches and 3 Reed Buntings, but although there was plenty of variety nothing else reached particularly noteworthy numbers.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 71 Rush Veneer, 2 Delicate and 2 Silver Y.




Long-tailed Blue - Cheyne Weare, 8th September 2010 © Val McCormack

...we expect most visitors to the site followed the link to these photos a fortnight ago but the photographer has since e-mailed us the photos which certainly deserve another airing. There have been previous reports of Long-tailed Blues at Portland but as far as we know this is the first fully confirmed record supported by photographs.

  20th September

A bit of a dead loss today with, for example, not a single new bird caught and ringed at the Obs up to the time of this update. Two Great Skuas and a Manx Shearwater passed through off the Bill soon after dawn but in rapidly improving conditions the wind soon died away and nothing else of note was reported on the sea. The mearest handful of migrants on the land included nothing at all unexpected. 

Singles of Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow were seen in the Obs garden today

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 2 Dark Sword Grass and a Rush Veneer.



Arctic Tern - Chesil Cove, 19th September 2010 © Steve Davis Swindon Birds

  19th September

With a brisker westerly having set in there was more than a little hope for some action on the sea which, after an uneventful few hours at the start of the day, looked to be something of a pipe dream. However, from mid-morning until early afternoon there was some welcome action when a pulse of 34 Sooty Shearwaters, accompanied by 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Great Skuas and 3 Arctic Skuas, headed down-Channel off the Bill; elsewhere a lone Arctic Tern lingered in Chesil Cove. A Red Kite reported from the Grove during the morning and a Spoonbill that headed west over the Bill were the best of the rest, which otherwise included no more than odd ones and twos of common migrants on the ground. 

There were just 3 immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: singles of Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Delicate.




    Little Ringed Plover & Ringed Plover and Mute Swans - Ferrybridge, 18th September 2010 © Pete Saunders

  18th September

Another lovely fine day that lacked much in the way of quality, with the only slightly out of the ordinary sighting being of 2 Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge. Hirundines and Meadow Pipits were again on the move overhead everywhere (although there were rather fewer of them than might have been imagined given the conditions), whilst a routine list from the Bill area included 75 Chiffchaffs, 40 Wheatears, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Blackcaps, 5 Whitethroats, 5 Willow Warblers, 4 Grey Wagtails, 4 Tree Pipits, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Siskins, singles of Snipe, Whimbrel, Garden Warbler and small numbers of new Dunnocks, Robins, Blue Tits and Great Tits on the land and a lone Great Skua passed through on the sea, Elsewhere, 3 Mute Swans and 3 Sanderling were at Ferrybridge.

Two Rush Veneer and singles of Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Dark Sword Grass were again the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.





Grey Phalarope, Sanderling and Great Spotted Woodpecker - Chesil Cove, Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 17th September 2010 © Martin Cade

  17th September

Blue skies and a light northerly today. A Grey Phalarope was a slightly incongruous sight at a very calm Chesil Cove, whilst other oddities included an Osprey leaving to the south at the Bill and singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush there and Firecrest at Weston. Given the conditions an arrival of grounded migrants wasn't on the cards: a respectable total of 75 Chiffchaffs made up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill where it was otherwise quite hard going. There was a lot more on the move overhead, with the first couple of hours of the day producing 500 Swallows, 300 Meadow Pipits, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 8 Tree Pipits and 3 Grey Wagtails over the Bill, with plenty more hirundines passing over for much of the rest of the morning.

Singles of Rush Veneer, Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.



Visitors this weekend can do their bit to help the country avert a double-dip recession by calling in at the next In Focus field event at the Obs which takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 18th September. 





Wryneck and Wheatear - Portland Bill, 16th September 2010 © Martin Cade

  16th September

Quieter weather today although the breeze remained in a pretty unhelpful north-westerly direction. Given their numbers elsewhere, the odd Wryneck - and hopefully a few morsels of better quality over the next few weeks - might be expected to trickle down to this part of the world whatever the weather, so one that showed up today near the Pulpit Inn wasn't too much of a surprise. It was otherwise a day of standard fare, with plenty of Meadow Pipits and hirundines passing through overhead everywhere and 50 Chiffchaffs, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 15 Wheatears, 10 Blackcaps, 10 Whitethroats, 10 Willow Warblers, 8 Grey Wagtails, 8 Tree Pipits, 2 White Wagtails, a Sedge Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler grounded/overhead at the Bill. Sea passage was limited to singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua passing through off the Bill. 

Also, thanks to Henri Bouwmeester for contacting us with the ringing details of the Netherlands-ringed Willow Warbler we featured a few days ago; the bird had been ringed at the bird observatory on the Dutch Waddensea island of Schiermonnikoog on 31st August.

Another single Clouded Yellow was at the Bill today.

15th September

Still windy today although sunnier skies made it feel a good deal more pleasant than yesterday. With the wind having shifted into the north-west what little interest there had been on the sea completely fizzled out and all the reports were from the land, with a steady passage of Meadow Pipits and hirundines, along with a late Swift, a Merlin and a Ringed Plover, overhead at the Bill and 80 Wheatears, 25 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, 8 Whitethroats, 3 White Wagtails and a Common Sandpiper grounded there.

A Clouded Yellow was at Southwell.

A single Frosted Orange was the pick of the overnight moth catch at the Obs, where no recognised immigrants were caught.

14th September

The windiest day so far this autumn, with the westerly gusting up to around gale force at times during the afternoon. A Grey Phalarope that spent a little while in Chesil Cove during the afternoon was the day's highlight; 3 Arctic Terns and a Little Gull also lingered there but despite the promising-looking conditions there was next to nothing moving off the Bill where 10 Common Scoter and singles of Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua were the only worthwhile sightings. A lone White Wagtail at the Bill was the only bird of note amongst the handful of migrants on the land.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 3 Rush Veneer, 2 Pearly Undering, a Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Dark Sword Grass.

13th September

A fair start to the day but by afternoon the westerly windy had freshened conspicuously and the odd drizzly shower passed through. The land was less than inspiring with, overflying hirundines and Meadow Pipits aside, 30 Yellow Wagtails, 30 Chiffchaffs, 20 Wheatears and 10 Tree Pipits the only double figure totals amongst the common migrant tally at the Bill; 4 White Wagtails, a Hobby and a Great Spotted Woodpecker provided minor interest there and the same or another Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Broadcroft Quarry. Odds and ends passing through on the sea at the Bill included 2 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 32 Rush Veneer, 5 Silver Y, 4 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Pearly Underwing, 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Diamond-back Moth.




Netherlands-ringed Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, 12th September 2010 © Martin Cade

...the overwhelming majority of our recoveries and controls of Willow Warblers to the north of Portland involve birds moving to/from sites in Ireland and north and west Britain; movements to/from sites in, for example, eastern England are unusual and today's bird was only our second from the Netherlands.

  12th September

A lovely fine, sunny day, although probably too fine to have expected much of an arrival of grounded migrants. Those that did show up at the Bill included 90 Wheatears, 60 Chiffchaffs (outnumbering Willow Warblers for the first time this autumn), 25 Willow Warblers, 20 Whitethroats, 15 Tree Pipits, 15 Robins, 12 Sedge Warblers and smaller numbers of a good range of expected fare. The clear skies prompted plenty of of birds to get moving overhead, with the highlight being an Osprey that passed over Ferrybridge and Chesil Cove during the morning; otherwise there was a steady but unquantified movement of the likes of hirnudines and Meadow Pipits going over throughout the day. An Arctic Tern passed through at Ferrybridge, where waders included 107 Ringed Plover, 25 Dunlin, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Sanderling and a Greenshank.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 6 Rush Veneer, 4 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Delicate and 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moth.

11th September

A much quieter day than of late. The Pectoral Sandpiper remained at Fancy's Close. Easton, for a few hours early in the morning before moving on and the land otherwise produced a very thin scatter of routine fare with, for example, just one bird trapped and ringed at the Obs all morning. The sea was almost as empty, although persistence eventually produced 22 Common Scoter, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua passing the Bill and 4 Black Terns and a Balearic Shearwater through off Chesil Cove

To round off a pretty uninspiring day, 4 Rush Veneer and 4 Dark Sword Grass were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.




Neglected Rustic and Balearic Shearwaters - Portland Bill, 10th September 2010 © Martin Cade (Neglected Rustic) and Colin White (Balearic Shearwaters)

    And a lull in the birding has given us a chance to dwell on something that continues to interest and often perplex us: how/why is it that coastal headlands in relatively close proximity record on any given day remarkably different proportions of some of the common migrant species? As a case in point, just recently we've noted on the various websites/blogs that to both the east and west of Portland Chiffchaffs have started to hugely outnumber Willow Warblers but here, although Chiffchaffs are certainly getting more conspicuous, Willow Warblers remain far more numerous (for example, so far this month we haven't had a day when the two have reached even close to equal numbers, with yesterday's good-sized fall of phylloscs seeing our mist-nets still return a 3:1 ratio in favour of Willows). How do you get your head round this sort of stuff?...perhaps it's just best not to think about it! Anyway, here's one of each from recent days, Willow Warbler above and Chiffchaff below (photos © Martin Cade):



...and have a listen to some calls recorded this week: click here for a Willow Warbler and here for a Chiffchaff.

  10th September

A day of blustery south-westerlies and mainly overcast skies. The Pectoral Sandpiper (click here to listen to a very brief recording we got yesterday of a couple of flight-calls) remained at Fancy's Close. Easton, and the Obs Quarry Wryneck was reported once early in the morning but the only quality new arrival was another Wryneck that showed on and off through the morning at Barleycrates Lane. The seawatchers had high hopes of some action but their only rewards were 37 Balearic Shearwaters, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Teal passing the Bill and 2 Black Terns and an Arctic Tern through at Chesil Cove. On the land there had been an overnight exodus of migrants with precious little arriving in their place (just 2 new birds were netted and ringed at the Obs all day.

The highlight of the overnight moth-trapping at the Obs was the first island record of Neglected Rustic; other immigrants/strays there included 28 Rush Veneer, 26 Dark Sword Grass, 3 Pearly Underwing, 2 Delicate, a Catoptria falsella, a (presumed) Wood Carpet and a White-line Dart.



    Pectoral Sandpiper - Easton, 9th September 2010 © Martin Cade's in the least likely place imaginable on a dry green in the middle of a close of houses:


...and another photo of it © Brett Spencer:


  9th September

On another fine, warm day an unexpected highlight in bizarre circumstances was a Pectoral Sandpiper - first seen by local residents yesterday but not identified until today - at Fancy's Close, Easton. The Wryneck also remained at the Obs Quarry and the Icterine Warbler from a couple of days ago was re-trapped at the Obs. Commoner migrants were not as numerous as yesterday although there was still plenty to see, with totals from the the Bill that included 100 Wheatears, 60 Willow Warblers and smaller numbers of most of the other expected species; the only minor oddities there were singles of Little Ringed Plover and Firecrest. Seawatching was for the most part a dead loss although an evening flurry off the Bill saw 22 Balearic Shearwaters pass through in quite quick time.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 22 Rush Veneer, 15 Dark Sword Grass, 9 Silver Y, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Delicate, 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moth, a Vestal and a Striped Hawk-moth.





Whinchat, Tree Pipit and Striped Hawk-moth - Portland Bill and Southwell, 8th September 2010 © Martin Cade

  8th September

A few passing showers during an otherwise clear night did the trick and knocked down a nice arrival of migrants today. Although a Melodious Warbler did pop up briefly at dawn at Culverwell and there were reports of a second Wryneck at the Bill - additional to the Obs Quarry individual that was still in residence - it looked like most of the constituents of this flurry were departing British-breeders (or in the case of the Wheatears, mainly of Iceland/Greenland origin) rather than drift migrants of more distant origin. Everything that might be expected at this time of the autumn was represented, with sample totals from various places and times that included 100 Wheatears, 60 Willow Warblers, 50 Yellow Wagtails, 50 Chiffchaffs, 35 Whinchats, 25 Sedge Warblers, 20 Tree Pipits, 17 Grey Wagtails, 15 Redstarts, 11 Grasshopper Warblers, 10 Reed Warblers, 5 Lesser Whitethroats, 5 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Siskins at the Bill, 100 Wheatears between Barleycrates Lane and Tout Quarry, 50 Blackcaps and 15 Garden Warblers at Suckthumb Quarry/Coombefield Quarry and single Firecrests at Weston and Easton.

A Clouded Yellow was at Reap Lane and check out this link for photographs of a Long-tailed Blue seen at Cheyne Weare (thanks to David Gibbs for alerting us to the latter news).

A welcome overnight arrival of immigrant moths saw totals of 50 Rush Veneer, 7 Silver Y, 5 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Delicate and singles of Wax Moth, Maiden's Blush, Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Striped Hawk-moth and Pearly Underwing caught in the Obs garden moth-traps.



Icterine Warbler - Portland Bill, 7th September 2010 © Martin Cade

...had this bird afforded just brief field views it looked as though it could have been a troublesome individual: although the the visible wing structure was spot on for Icterine, if that hadn't been seen properly then the underparts were perhaps more strongly washed with yellow than usual, the pale fringes to the secondaries were quite greenish and didn't coalesce into much of a wing panel and the tertials weren't particularly crisply marked. Rather oddly, in the hand it also showed a fairly well developed emargination on the 5th primary which, although not unknown on Icterine, is more typically a feature of Melodious Warbler.




  7th September

A little more quality today, with an Icterine Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs, the Wryneck still present in the Obs Quarry and an Ortolan Bunting and another Wryneck showing up during the morning at Verne Common. Commoner migrants still weren't at all plentiful (for example, on the ground at the Bill the only double figure totals were of 40 Wheatears and 15 Whinchats) but did include singles of Turtle Dove, Grasshopper Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and the first Firecrest of the autumn at the Bill and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Curlew Sandpiper at Ferrybridge. Singles of Balearic Shearwater and Great Skua passed through on the sea at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 3 Silver Y and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rush Veneer, Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Dark Sword Grass and Delicate

6th September

There was plenty of opportunity for decent coverage today before the promised heavy rain set in during the afternoon. Unfortunately - once again - the quality of the birding left a lot to be desired with promising-looking conditions failing to deliver on land or sea. The Wryneck remained in situ in the Obs Quarry, with a second individual popping up late in the day at Southwell, but although there was quite a varied species list for the rest of the Bill area nothing was present in any quantity, with the pick of the slightly scarcer migrants there being 20 Yellow Wagtails, 16 Whinchats, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Hobby, Snipe, Tree Pipit, Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. Elsewhere the only reports of any interest were of a Kingfisher on Chesil Beach, singles of Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper at Ferrybridge and an escaped Diamond Dove at Portland Castle. Seawatching at the Bill produced 2 Balearic Shearwaters, a Mediterranean Gull and precious little else.

The first Western Conifer Seed Bug of the autumn was caught in a moth-trap at Reap Lane.

Singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rusty-dot Pearl, Feathered Gothic and Silver Y were the only immigrants/strays in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.



Wryneck - Portland Bill, 5th September 2010 © Tim Dackus

  5th September

Not before time, the first Wryneck of the autumn showed up today at the Bill. Occasional light showers and an even stronger south-easterly than yesterday put paid to most overhead passage and grounded migrants weren't as numerous as might have been hoped. At the Bill a scatter of mainly routine fare included 25 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Whinchats, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Green Sandpiper, a Tree Pipit, a Redstart and a Reed Warbler, whilst elsewhere there were singles of Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit and Greenshank at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Great Skuas and an Arctic Skua

Another Antler Moth was the best of the overnight moth catch at the Obs; 3 each of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer were the only immigrants caught there.

4th September

A slight change in the weather with more cloud in the sky and the brisker wind having edged a little more more towards the south-east but the birding remained something of nothing. Hirundines were again passing through in quantity but it was only the usual trio of Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and Wheatear that reached anything like worthwhile numbers on the ground at the Bill, where 4 White Wagtails and singles of Hobby and Merlin provided very minor interest; elsewhere there were 2 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Sanderling, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Knot at Ferrybridge. Seawatching at the Bill produced 2 Arctic Terns, a Balearic Shearwater and a Great Skua.

Immigrants/strays in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 5 Rush Veneer, a Diamond-back Moth, a Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Feathered Gothic.



Yellow Wagtail - Portland Bill, 3rd September 2010 © Pete Saunders

  3rd September

With the fair weather and easterly wind still established it remained rather quiet on the migrant front, with 3 Crossbills and another Marsh Harrier over the Bill and another Curlew Sandpiper at Ferrybridge the only oddities reported. Hirundines were again moving in fair numbers, with a sample count of 300 Swallows and 30 Sand Martins over Ferrybridge in 75 minutes early in the morning, and there was a light scatter of Yellow Wagtails, Whinchats and Wheatears everywhere but among the other grounded migrants warblers in particular remained few and far between (for example, just singles of Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were trapped and ringed in 8 hours or so of mist-netting at the Obs!). Odds and ends of further minor interest included 3 Sanderling and singles of Bar-tailed Godwit and Yellow-legged Gull at Ferrybridge, 5 White Wagtails, 3 Curlew and a Common Sandpiper at the Bill and 3 Teal passing through on the sea at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 4 Rush Veneer and singles of Rusty-dot Pearl, Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Silver Y.



Marsh Harrier - Portland Bill, 2nd September 2010 © Martin Cade

...amongst other features, the variegated wing pattern (including the beginnings of a black trailing edge), patchy moult in the flight feathers and the grey tail seem to indicate that this is a second calendar year male.

  2nd September

Not much change in the weather or the quality of the birding today. Minor highlights included a Marsh Harrier over the Bill and 4 Curlew Sandpipers at Ferrybridge, whilst amongst more routine fare hirundines and Yellow Wagtails were numerous overhead but, as in recent days, grounded migrants weren't at all conspicuous. With the likes of warblers and flycatchers very thin on the ground/absent the only noteworthy counts among the commoner migrants were of 800 Swallows south over Ferrybridge in a 2 hour sample count, 80 Yellow Wagtails grounded at Reap Lane and another 60 overhead at the Bill, 16 Whinchats at the Bill and 7 White Wagtails scattered about. The only report from the sea was of a lone Balearic Shearwater passing through off the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning:  2 Rush Veneer, 2 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Silver Y and a Pearly Underwing.






    Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Shelduck and White Wagtail - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 1st September 2010 © Pete Saunders (Little Stint and Shelduck) and Martin Cade (Curlew Sandpiper and White Wagtail)

  1st September

More - or in many cases less - of the same on another day of sunny skies and a brisk easterly. An Osprey that passed over the Bill during the evening was the best of the day's sightings that otherwise included, for example, 30 Yellow Wagtails, 8 Whinchats, 5 Grey Herons, 5 Garden Warblers, 4 Tree Pipits, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and singles of Merlin and Hobby at the Bill and 3 White Wagtails and singles of Shelduck, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint at Ferrybridge but only rather low totals of grounded commoner migrants and far fewer hirundines on the move overhead than yesterday. Seawatching at the Bill produced 4 Sanderling, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Redshank and an Arctic Skua.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 4 Dark Sword Grass, a Rush Veneer and a Silver Y