April 2011




   Wood Warbler, Whinchat, Bar-tailed Godwits and Pomarine Skua - Reap Lane and Chesil Beach, 30th April 2011 © Pete Saunders (Wood Warbler and Whinchat) and Martin Cade (Bar-tailed Godwits and Pomarine Skua)

  30th April

A Bee-eater (...although we'd guess the two sightings could just as easily refer to different individuals) seen briefly early in the morning at Easton and again early in the afternoon over Verne Common provided a suitable rarity finale to what's been a pretty decent month at Portland. We'd think today probably also produced the highest species list of the year to date: a Long-eared Owl over Chesil Cove, a Wood Warbler at Reap Lane and a Marsh Harrier off the Bill were the only other out of the ordinary sighting, but routine summer migrants were plentiful and widespread and the seawatchers were well rewarded. Pretty well all of the expected migrants were logged with, for example, conservative estimates of 300 Willow Warblers and 100 Wheatears making up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill; uncommon/unseasonable migrants there included 2 Hobbys, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Snipe, a Ring Ouzel and a Black Redstart. A varied list from the sea included 59 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas, a Black-throated Diver and a Knot passing the Bill and 370 Bar-tailed Godwits, 65 Whimbrel, 16 Sanderling, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Grey Plovers, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Black Terns, a Black-throated Diver and a Knot passing Chesil.

The overnight highlights in the moth-traps were a Pine Beauty and an unseasonable Scarce Bordered Straw at Southwell.




   Short-eared Owl and Wheatear - Portland Bill, 29th April 2011 © Nick Hopper

  29th April

Plenty of variety on a mainly overcast and at times quite sultry day. Once again there was no large fall of migrants but new arrivals appeared to be trickling in throughout the morning, with 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 Grey Plovers, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Lapwing, a Purple Sandpiper, a Short-eared Owl, a Black Redstart and a Reed Bunting the pick of the oddities amongst a general scatter of commoner migrants at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill produced 570 Bar-tailed Godwits, 48 commic terns, 39 Common Scoter, 23 Whimbrel and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Great Skua; another 150 Bar-tailed Godwits passed high over the High Angle Battery.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 10 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Dark Sword Grass and a Silver Y.




   Cuckoo - Portland Bill, 28th April 2011 © Martin Cade (settled) and Paul Baker (flying)

  28th April

Today was this spring's Barwit day - in fact it turned out to be the best ever Barwit day at Portland (...so we dread to think how many there have been at Dungeness!). Pretty well all the coverage was of the Bill where the day's Bar-tailed Godwit total reached just over 6000, with at least one further flock heard calling over the Bill after darkness fell; as far as we know Chesil wasn't watched until the evening - by which time passage past the Bill had largely fizzled out - when just 120 passed over the beach. To put this day total in perspective, the previous highest spring total for Portland was 4266 in 2007, with the previous spring record at the Bill itself being just 2500. The rest of the day's sea passage paled into insignificance, with just 3 Great Skuas, 2 Black-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua as highlights off the Bill. On the land there was another steady if unspectacular arrival of routine migrants through the day, with another 200 or so Willow Warblers making up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill; scarcer migrants there included 5 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, a Hobby, a Short-eared Owl, a Cuckoo, a Ring Ouzel and a Black Redstart.





   Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wiilow Warbler variation - Reap Lane and Portland Bill, 27th April 2011 © Pete Saunders (Pied Flycatcher and Redstart) and Martin Cade (Willow Warblers)

also, as a bit of extra fun, we've finally got round to downloading the images captured by a motion activated camera that we'd placed in the Obs garden over the course of last winter. We'd come by this camera - popularly dubbed the 'Stoat Cam' - following the untimely death of our former Hon. Secretary, Peter Mowday, who'd originally obtained it in an attempt to prove the occurrence of Stoats on Portland: Peter's occasional claims of a Stoat crossing the road in front of his car at Culverwell had been widely derided by most local observers who maintain that the species has never been recorded on Portland. Anyway, amongst hundreds of images of miscellaneous bird-ringers, cats, Pheasants, Wood Pigeons etc etc there were a whole series of Foxes, including this canoodling couple:

...it also wasn't too much of a surprise to see Bambi the Roe Deer feature from time to time as we'd flushed him out of the garden in daylight every now and then:

...however, the real shock was a Badger caught on camera in the early hours of 11th March. Although there are still a few Badgers elsewhere on the island we're not aware of one having been seen south of Southwell for getting on for 20 years!:

  27th April

In the most promising-looking conditions for ages (heavily overcast with a brisk north-easterly blowing) the day begun hugely disappointingly with next to nothing in the way of migrants apparent at dawn; however, after an hour or more birds did start to appear/drop in and the final totals for the Bill area included a quite respectable 200 Willow Warblers along with a decent scatter of other new arrivals that included 5 Garden Warblers, 4 Whinchats, 2 Redstarts, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Tree Pipit; among a similar selection elsewhere there were additional singles of Pied Flycatcher at Southwell and Reap Lane. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 140 Bar-tailed Godwits, 53 commic terns, 15 Whimbrel, 6 Arctic Skuas, 2 Great Skuas and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Little Egret.

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






    Red-rumped Swallow - Portland Bill, 26th April 2011 © Martin Cade

  26th April

Cloudless skies again but feeling fresher and chillier in a brisk north-easterly. Hirundines passed through in very good numbers all day and included an early morning Red-rumped Swallow that arrived in off the sea at the Bill and shortly afterwards flashed past the Obs; quite a while later the same or another individual was spotted heading north over the Southwell Business Park. Sample counts of the other hirundines suggested Swallows and House Martins were moving through the Bill area at an hourly rate of around 200 and 30 respectively; 3 Hobbys also passed though there, whilst amongst the still rather lean return of grounded migrants there were 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Cuckoo at the Bill and a Pied Flycatcher at Reap Lane. The seawatchers were rewarded with a rather belated first Pomarine Skua of the spring at the Bill, where 120 Manx Shearwaters, 15 commic terns, 14 Common Scoter, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Great Skua and Arctic Skua also passed by.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 20 Diamond-back Moth and 1 Silver Y.




    Common Buzzard - Southwell, 24th April 2011 © Pete Saunders

...another bunny bites the dust.

In recent months we've been really pleased to receive so many e-mails from local residents who're not only regularly checking out the website but also getting in touch with news and photos of bird and other wildlife sightings from around the island. We'd love to be able to post more of the photos but inevitably a million and one other jobs get in the way and all too often we just don't find enough time for the re-sizing, caption writing, uploading etc that's required. Among today's offerings were one of the Puffins at the Bill (© Sharon Hepburn):


...and one of the Swallows breeding at the Windmill Stables (© Ruth Ashdown):


  25th April

Still staggeringly hot for the time of year with the weather station at the Obs registering a shade temperature of 23ยบ in the middle of the afternoon. On the migrant front it was case of less of the same, with routine fare scattered very thinly everywhere; 3 passing Hobbys were the pick of the bunch at the Bill. Sea passage was at more or less the same level, with 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua the best of a bad job at the Bill.

Singles of Brimstone, Clouded Yellow and Orange-tip were all noteworthy at the Bill.

Despite a stiff breeze the Obs garden moth-traps were quite busy, with 24 Diamond-back Moth and 4 Silver Y constituting the night's immigrant interest; a single Pine Beauty was also of note there.




    Subalpine Warbler - Portland Bill, 24th April 2011 © Martin Cade

...also one of today's mid-island Yellow Wagtails (© Pete Saunders):


...and yesterday's Red Kite over Southwell (© Pete Saunders):


  24th April

Still very hot and sunny but a conspicuous increase in the strength of the north-east wind was enough to drop plenty of migrants along the west side of the island where, for example, the Barelycrates Lane/Reap Lane area was carpeted in 300 Wheatears and a fair little scatter of other routine migrants. In contrast the Bill area was relatively devoid of birds but it did turn up the rarity when a Subalpine Warbler was trapped and ringed at the Obs. Some uneventful seawatching at the Bill produced little more than 4 passing Great Skuas and the semi-resident Balearic Shearwater.

A likely Vagrant Emperor was watched this morning at close range flying slowly north-west along the inland side of Chesil Beach at Ferrybridge.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 16 Diamond-back Moth and 1 Rush Veneer.



    Wood Warbler - Old Hill, 23rd April 2011 © Martin Cade

  23rd April

On a day that really was just like high summer the birding remained, with one or two exceptions, pretty hopeless. The only interest on/overhead on the land was provided a Red Kite that appeared over the north and centre of the island during the morning (our hopeless photos of this bird and the individual seen on 10th April - both too dreadful to post here - show a large gash out of the primaries on the right wing and it may be that these records, and perhaps some of those earlier in the month?, refer to the same individual), a Wood Warbler and the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year at Old Hill and single Hobbys through at the Bill and Reap Lane; passing hirundines and a few more Yellow Wagtails aside, routine migrants were again very thinly spread. Odds and ends on the sea at the Bill included 7 Whimbrel, 6 Arctic Skuas, 4 Red-throated Divers and the lingering Balearic Shearwater.

Wall Brown and Small Copper were both seen on the wing for the first time this year.

A large, seemingly featureless hawker-type dragonfly was seen at the Grove during the afternoon (we couldn't think what else it could be bar a Vagrant Emperor but it didn't settle and after being watched for a minute or more through binoculars it suddenly struck off strongly northwards and couldn't be relocated).

The Diamond-back Moth total in the Obs garden moth-traps increased to 16, and 6 more Brindled Pugs also showed up there.




   Little Tern and Currant Pug - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 22nd April 2011 © Paul Baker (Little Tern) and Martin Cade (Currant Pug)

  22nd April

Pitiful on the land today but bank holiday visitors were at least able to salvage something from the sea which provided a steady movement of expected migrants. With even the commonest land migrants reduced to a paltry scatter even the few scarcities such as a single Cuckoo at the Bill hardly saved the day. In hazy conditions and a light easterly Chesil came up with the sea numbers that included 256 Whimbrel, 190 commic terns, 69 Bar-tailed Godwits, 53 Common Scoter, 10 Arctic Skuas, 6 Knot, 2 Velvet Scoter and a miscellany of other divers and waders in smaller numbers; a poorer selection at the Bill did include 2 Black Terns and a Black-throated Diver by way of additional variety.

A party of around 40 dolphins, thought by the observers to be Bottle-nosed Dolphins, were off the Bill during the afternoon.

Two Diamond-back Moth were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps; also there, a Currant Pug appears to constitute the first confirmed record of the species for Portland (we're not sure to what extent this species wanders and we'd guess it could be a hitherto overlooked resident on currant bushes in gardens around the island but since there's only a single Red Currant bush and no Black Currant or Hop in the Obs garden it probably isn't very likely to be established there).





       Dawn Canada Geese, dusk Arctic Skua and Brindled Pug - Portland Bill and Chesil Beach, 21st April 2011 © Martin Cade

  21st April

Same weather, fewer birds. With no great arrival of grounded migrants it was left to a steady overhead movement of hirundines and the like and some rather limited sea passage to provide most of the day's interest. Visible migrants over the Bill included a sample 2 hour count of 120 Swallows, 14 Meadow Pipits, 5 Sand Martins and a White Wagtail through along the West Cliffs during the afternoon and the likes of 9 Yellow Wagtails and 2 Hobbys over at other times; the best of the grounded migrants there were 5 Sedge Warblers, 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Common Sandpiper, a Whinchat, a Redstart and a Lesser Whitethroat, whilst elsewhere there was a Black Redstart at Reap Lane. Seawatching produced 38 Common Scoter, 25 Whimbrel, 20 commic terns, 10 Oystercatchers, 4 Canada Geese, 3 Shelduck, 3 Arctic Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater, a Ringed Plover and a Great Skua through off the Bill and 22 Black-headed Gulls, 21 Whimbrel, 17 Common Scoter, 15 commic terns, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Arctic Skuas and singles of Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser through off Chesil.

During the afternoon a party of about 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins headed south down the west side of the island before leaving to the east from the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 11 Diamond-back Moths and a Dark Sword Grass; additionally, a small influx of Brindled Pugs saw 3 caught at the Obs and another single at Weston (this species seems to be only an occasional visitor to the island).




       Eiders and Whinchat - Barleycrates Lane, 20th April 2011 © Paul Baker (Eiders) and Pete Saunders (Whinchat)

  20th April

With the weather remaining remarkably settled and warm, with only a light north-easterly breeze, there was precious little change in the birding. One fortunate observer dipped in on a very brief Ortolan Bunting at the Bill, whilst the migrant tally around/over the centre and south of the island included 13 Yellow Wagtails, 11 Whinchats, 5 Tree Pipits, 4 White Wagtails, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Redstarts and a Cuckoo amongst another fairly thin spread of commoner species. The breeze was a little too offshore for the seawatchers, but their persistence eventually produced 21 Whimbrel, 12 Canada Geese, 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Knot and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill and 14 Whimbrel, 12 commic terns, 4 Brent Geese and an Arctic Skua through off Chesil; 25 Eider were also settled off the West Cliffs at Barelycrates Lane and another 3 Whimbrel dropped in at Ferrybridge.

The first 2 Diamond-back Moths of the season, together another single Dark Sword Grass, provided some immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps.



       Blackcap - Southwell, 19th April 2011 © Pete Saunders

  19th April

A fair bit of variety again today but with the weather remaining very much in the high summer mode there was not a chance of a substantial fall of migrants. The Willow Warbler total just about topped the 100 mark at the Bill, where if anyone had troubled to count all day the passing Swallow tally might well have got into the low thousands. Otherwise it much as in recent days with a light scatter of most of the expected summer visitors everywhere; the pick of the scarcer species were singles of Nightingale and Grasshopper Warbler at the High Angle Battery, a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane and and 12 Yellow Wagtails and 5 Grasshopper Warblers at the Bill. The sea turned up a few birds all day, with final totals from the Bill that included 200 Manx Shearwaters, 136 Common Scoter, 33 Whimbrel, 22 commic terns, 6 Arctic Skuas, 6 Little Gulls, 3 Curlew and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Balearic Shearwater.







Filming the BBC Springwatch Easter Special at the Obs - Portland Bill, 18th April 2011 © Martin Cade & Peter Morgan

...to be broadcast Easter Monday on BBC2 at 8pm.

  18th April

With the weather remaining set very fair only the strength of the easterly breeze tempered what was otherwise another day of clear skies and pleasant sunshine. The first 2 Swifts of the spring passed overhead at the Bill amongst another steady arrival of hirundines (sample counts of Swallows included just shy of 100 in 20 minutes moving north along the west Cliffs during the afternoon) but on the ground only Wheatears were well represented, with 90 at the Bill and at least 50 at Reap Lane; a thin sprinkle of most of the other expected migrants included 7 Yellow Wagtails and a late Fieldfare at the Bill. Sea passage picked up, with 160 Manx Shearwaters, 30 Whimbrel, 12 Shelduck, 7 commic terns, 5 Arctic Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers and 3 Eider through off the Bill.

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

17th April

With the night sky dominated by a nearly full moon and hardly a cloud in the sky by day an arrival of grounded migrants certainly wasn't on the cards and didn't materialise. A report of a Great White Egret flying close past the Bill and heading away to the south-east will prove to be the pick of the sightings should some fuller details come to light. As it was the year's first Turtle Dove at the Bill and another single Corn Bunting there were the best of the more routine fare; the usual mid-April suspects were all represented but none reached particularly worthwhile counts and only a lone Lapwing at the Bill was out of the ordinary. The Manx Shearwater tally off the Bill just sneaked past 100 for the first time this year; 5 Whimbrel, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Curlew also passed through there, 5 Dunlin, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Teal, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua passed through off Chesil and 3 Mute Swans flew south at Ferrybridge.

Insect interest was provided by a single Clouded Yellow at the Bill and the first singles of Broad-bodied Chaser and Large Red Damselfly on the wing there.



Brindled Beauty - Weston, 16th April 2011 © Martin Cade

...a perhaps overdue but nonetheless nice addition to the island moth list from Duncan Walbridge's garden moth-trap at Weston. Among the birds, Grasshopper Warblers have featured quite conspicuously in recent days; this one was singing (click here to have a listen to a recording of him) from time to time this morning at the Bill (photo © Martin Cade):


  16th April

The gradual improvement in migrant numbers continued, with a fair sprinkle of birds everywhere today. The Bill area got the lion's share of the coverage, with 250 Willow Warblers, 50 Wheatears, 30 Chiffchaffs and 15 Blackcaps making up the bulk of the numbers on the ground there; Common Sandpiper and Reed Warbler were both new for the year at the Bill, whilst scarcer migrants included 7 Grasshopper Warblers and a Ring Ouzel scattered around the south of the island and late singles of Snipe at Weston and Firecrest, Brambling and Bullfinch at the Bill. The sea was again something of the poor relation, with little more than 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through off the Bill and a Great Northern Diver settled in Portland Harbour.

A Brindled Beauty - the first island record of this otherwise widespread and relatively common species - attracted to a garden trap at Weston was the pick of the overnight moth catch; 2 Rush Veneer and a Dark Sword Grass provided some immigrant interest in the Obs garden traps.



A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Sunday 17th April. 




Garganey - off Chesil Beach, 15th April 2011 © Martin Cade

...this unexpected trio were settled a little way offshore during the evening.

  15th April

Just about enough by way of numbers and variety to keep the visitors entertained today although still relatively low key for the middle of April. Hirundines - mainly Swallows - were again passing through in fair numbers, whilst on the ground it was still Wheatears and Willow Warblers that made up the numbers with, for example, 75 and 100 respectively of each at the Bill. The day's scarcer migrants on the ground included the likes of 6 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Redstarts, a Cuckoo and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill, a Black Redstart at Reap Lane and a Whinchat at Barleycrates Lane. Despite a promising-looking light easterly seawatching at the Bill didn't come up with anything more than 26 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Common Scoter, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Curlew, 2 Arctic Skuas and a lone Balearic Shearwater (the recent rather unseasonable series of records of the latter are thought to refer to the same lingering individual); elsewhere 2 Brent Geese passed through off Chesil and 3 Garganey were settled just offshore there during the evening.

14th April

Another fair little sea passage today and although the land was certainly not busy with grounded migrants there was slightly more to see there than during the last couple of days. At the Bill Swallows dribbled through all day, whilst several dozen of both Wheatear and Willow Warbler made up the bulk of numbers on the ground; odds and ends by way of scarcer migrants there included 2 Grasshopper Warblers, a Cuckoo and a Redstart. The seawatch totals for the Bill included 170 Common Scoter, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Sandwich Terns, 6 Great Skuas, 6 commic terns, 4 Arctic Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Balearic Shearwater.

A party of about 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins headed west close inshore at the Bill during the morning.

13th April

A really quite peculiar day: despite a faintly promising veil of cloud overhead at dawn common migrant numbers and variety again hovered around the dire level, whilst sea passage was scarcely any better; however, towards midday and ahead of the onset of some mainly light rain, a sudden pulse of action at sea saw some unexpected quality and quantity logged at the Bill. The final seawatch totals there included 200 Kittiwakes, 100 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 87 Common Scoter, 70 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Shoveler, 9 Red-throated Divers, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Gadwall, 2 Eider, 2 Great Skuas, a Black-throated Diver, a Little Gull and an Arctic Skua. Results from the land were hardly worth mentioning, with a lone Garden Warbler the only worthwhile sighting at the Bill.




Wheatears - Portland Bill, 12th April 2011 © Martin Cade

  12th April

Pretty dire today in fresher but still very fine conditions. With it looking like the Short-toed Lark had indeed departed, a decent arrival of migrants would have been welcome; in the event even the commonest species were hard to come by, to the extent that, passing Swallows aside, only Wheatear managed to reach a double figure total at the Bill. A lone Merlin constituted the only morsel of minor interest on the land at the Bill, where 20 Common Scoter, 19 Manx Shearwaters and 4 Sandwich Terns were the only passing seabirds of note.

A handful of immigrant moths continue to show up: we forgot to mention yesterday a single Rush Veneer in the Obs garden traps, with this morning's tally consisting of 4 Dark Sword Grass and a lone Turnip Moth.





   Continental Stonechat - Portland Bill, 11th April 2011 © Martin Cade

...the odd likely Continental rubicola Stonechats crop up quite often at this time of year and this rather fine first-summer male was trapped and ringed at the Obs this morning; others in recent days have included this one at the Bill on 4th April (photo © John Down): 


  11th April

The Short-toed Lark was reported once early in the morning but couldn't be found after that (although being a Monday there weren't many newcomers looking so it may still be lurking). In a briskish north-westerly common migrants weren't particularly numerous although Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler all reached around the 50 mark at the Bill, where odds and ends of variety included 15 Blackcaps, 4 Redstarts, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Whitethroats, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher; another 5 Yellow Wagtails were amongst a similar selection at Reap Lane. The only sea reports were of 6 Common Scoter and a lone Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.



   Another day, another constant turnover of lark watchers - Portland Bill, 10th April 2011 © Martin Cade

...we'd guess that somewhere approaching 500 observers have now called in to have a look. Also from today, a Skylark in song (© Brett Spencer):


  10th April

The Short-toed Lark remained in residence and yet another Red Kite showed up (this one appeared from the north over Verne Common towards midday and after getting as far south as Wakeham departed back northwards to the east of Verne Common), but otherwise the quality didn't get much better than first records for the year of Little Tern (3) at Ferrybridge, Nightingale at the Bill (click here to listen to a short recording of this bird giving a burst of half-hearted song; you'd think that Culverwell shortly after dawn would be blissfully quiet but as borne out by this recording the soundscape there is more akin to the warm-up lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix), Garden Warbler at Barleycrates Lane and Black Tern off the Bill. Grounded migrants were slightly more numerous than yesterday, although only Wheatear, Blackcap and the two phylloscs were at all conspicuous; 2 Grasshopper Warblers at the Bill and the likes of the odd few White Wagtails, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits and Redstarts everywhere provided some further minor interest. The majority of seawatch reports came from the Bill where 48 Common Scoter, 31 commic terns, at least 25 Little Gulls, 7 Manx Shearwaters and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Arctic Skua and Great Skua passed by or lingered offshore.



     Greylag Goose - Portland Bill, 9th April 2011 © Nick Hopper

...and a record shot of the Velvet Scoter that passed through off the Bill today ( © Joe Stockwell Hampshire Yearlisting):


...and one we forgot from yesterday of one of the Yellow Wagtails at the Bill (© John Lucas):


  9th April

The Short-toed Lark remained at the Bill for its seventh day, another Red Kite passed through (at Southwell late in the afternoon), a Greylag Goose flew over the Bill and in a fresher easterly there were a fair few birds on the move offshore but grounded migrants were much more sparsely spread than in recent days. The sea produced a lot of the variety of the day, with 93 Black-headed Gulls, 60 Common Scoter, 54 Common Terns, 30 Dunlin, 22 Sandwich Terns, 3 Little Gulls, 2 Red-throated Diver, 2 Arctic Skuas and singles of Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Velvet Scoter, Sanderling and Whimbrel through off Chesil and 40 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Shelducks, a Velvet Scoter, a Ringed Plover and a Whimbrel amongst an equally varied list from the Bill. Wheatear (many of which again looked to be Greenland Wheatears) was the only really conspicuous migrant on the ground, with maybe 100 or more scattered about, whilst overhead Sand Martins dominated, with 'hundreds' passing through at Chesil; scarcer migrants included a Merlin in off the sea on Chesil,  2 Siskins and a Yellow Wagtail over Tout Quarry, singles of Ring Ouzel and Redstart at Barleycrates Lane and 7 Yellow Wagtails and a White Wagtail at the Bill.



   Red-rumped Swallow - Portland Bill, 8th April 2011 © Joe Stockwell Hampshire Yearlisting

...a spectacularly good spot since the observer appeared to be half asleep in an easy chair on the Obs patio at the time; this finder's record shot was taken moments later as it disappeared rapidly northwards. Also, record shots of yesterday's Osprey (© Colin White):


...one of today's Ring Ouzels (© Pete Saunders):


...and, since it's a species you don't very often see in-hand photos of, a selection of the Short-toed Lark from today (© Martin Cade):






  8th April

An excellent day made all the more enjoyable by the continuing summery conditions: the Short-toed Lark remained at the Bill where it was trapped and ringed at midday, a Red-rumped Swallow passed through at the Bill during the afternoon and a Serin flew past the Obs during the evening, a Red Kite headed north over Barleycrates Lane early in the afternoon, 5 Avocets passed by off the Bill and the Barleycrates Lane/Reap Lane area was particularly favoured with quantities of uncommon migrants. Considering the fine conditions and lack of wind, common migrants have been unexpectedly well represented in recent days (maybe the lack of a big moon during the hours of darkness has been a factor?), with today's including 100 each of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, 35 Wheatears, 35 Blackcaps, 10 Redstarts, 3 Yellow Wagtails, a Short-eared Owl, a White Wagtail, a Tree Pipit, a Redwing and a Whitethroat at the Bill, 5 Redstarts at Southwell, 15 Redstarts, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Whinchat and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane/Reap Lane and a Pied Flycatcher at Old Hill. The Avocets aside, odds and ends through on the sea at the Bill included 58 Common Scoter, 33 Black-headed Gulls, 14 Shelduck and 6 Red-throated Divers.

Five more Dark Sword Grass were caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.




    Greenland/Iceland Wheatears - Portland Bill, 6th/7th April 2011 © Martin Cade

...Greenland/Iceland Wheatears have been on the move quite early this year: many of the birds seen in the field have been sufficiently richly-saturated as to be likely north-western breeders, whilst three of the five birds trapped and ringed today measured in at well outside the range for European birds, with the whopping adult male above having a wing length of 111mm (European birds fall in the range 93-102mm, whilst Greenland birds typically have a wing length of 99-110mm).

  7th April

Another lovely day and another fair little scatter of migrants that included an Osprey over Fortuneswell in the evening and first records for the year of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat at the High Angle Battery. At the Bill the Short-toed Lark continued to pull in a steady trickle of visiting birders, whilst the migrant tally included 150 phylloscs (mainly Willow Warblers today), 50 Wheatears, 10 Blackcaps, 7 Redstarts, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Yellow Wagtails and singles of Bullfinch and Corn Bunting. A shift in breeze direction to the north-west saw sea interest dwindle to the extent that just 9 Common Scoter, 2 Shelduck, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill.

The first Holly Blue of the year was on the wing at the Bill.

Another single Dark Sword Grass was the only immigrant caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.




    Yesterday's migrant Pale-bellied Brent Geese - Ferrybridge, 5th April 2011 © Pete Saunders

  6th April

A day of fabulous summer-like conditions but the birding was ultimately slightly disappointing after what looked to be a promising start. The Short-toed Lark remained and was much more straightforward to see throughout the day (and click here to listen to a much better attempt at a recording of its flight call than we managed a few days ago), whilst there were also a couple of reports of a/the Glaucous Gull lingering distantly off the Bill during the afternoon. On the routine migrant front there appeared to be the makings of some good totals of phylloscs at dawn at the Bill but in the fair conditions this early promise rapidly evaporated as birds moved on in quick time; the best of the back-up scarcer migrants there were 4 White Wagtails and singles of Merlin, Golden Plover, Redstart, Black Redstart, Firecrest and Corn Bunting (click here to listen to a short recording of the latter giving a few snatches of song), whilst elsewhere there were singles of Hobby and Redstart at Southwell. Seawatching at the Bill produced 40 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwater, 6 Red-throated Divers, 5 Velvet Scoter, 4 Common Terns, 2 Mallards, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Balearic Shearwater and a Brent Goose.

A lone Dark Sword Grass was the only immigrant caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps, whilst by day the year's first Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the wing at Cove Caravan Park and several singles of Red Admiral butterflies appeared (among the resident butterflies Speckled Wood, Large White and Green-veined White were also all reported for the first time this year).



   Glaucous Gull - Portland Bill, 5th April 2011 © Joe Stockwell Hampshire Yearlisting

  5th April

A Glaucous Gull that was briefly settled on the Bill Common early in the morning but soon headed off west was the pick of the day's new arrivals; in dreary, blusterly conditions the Short-toed Lark proved to be quite elusive but did show from time to time in the Crown Estate Field. A splash of rain either side of dawn was instrumental in dropping a fair few phylloscs throughout the island, with 100 Willow Warblers and 50 Chiffchaffs grounding at the Bill; migrant variety was otherwise quite limited, with little more than singles of Redstart, Black Redstart and Redwing to provide interest at the Bill. The seawatchers gathered with considerable expectancy given the strength of the wind, but their rewards were limited to 15 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Common Tern through at Ferrybridge and 61 Common Scoter and 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill.

Four more Dark Sword Grass, together with another single Large Yellow Underwing, made up the overnight immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps.



   Turnip Moth - Portland Bill, 4th April 2011 © Martin Cade

  4th April

The Short-toed Lark remained in situ and there were again reports from local residents of the Hoopoe showing up in private gardens at the Grove. Commoner migrants still weren't plentiful but minor interest was provided by 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, 2 Black Redstart, a Merlin and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Ring Ouzel at Southwell. Seawatch reports included 7 Sandwich Tern, 5 Common Scoter and a Black-throated Diver through off the Bill.

Two Dark Sword Grass were the only recognised immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps, although 2 very early Large Yellow Underwing and a single Turnip Moth also seem likely to have been of distant origin.






    Short-toed Lark - Portland Bill, 3rd April 2011 © Martin Cade (on the ground) and Nick Hopper (in flight)

...and click here to listen to a short recording of a few flight calls nearly lost amongst the background din of traffic noise, Skylarks, Linnets and a cursing photographer.

  3rd April

A Short-toed Lark was a really unexpected find at the Bill (all the previous spring records there have been in May) and the Grove Hoopoe showed up again in a variety of private gardens in the area. In the continuing fair conditions commoner migrants weren't plentiful but did include 3 Redstarts, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Firecrests, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Golden Plover, a White Wagtail and a Tree Pipit grounded/overhead at the Bill and 21 Common Scoter, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Manx Shearwater, an Eider and a Great Skua through on the sea there.




    Redstart and Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, 2nd April 2011 © Martin Cade

  2nd April

On a day of fair weather with a moderate breeze shifting around either side of south the sea came up with the numbers: at least 70 Sandwich Terns passed through/lingered off Chesil, whilst 250 Common Scoter, 29 Sandwich Terns, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Great Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and singles of Black-throated Diver, Shelduck, Teal and Red-breasted Merganser passed through off the Bill; also on the water, 10 Sandwich Terns and 2 Black-necked Grebes were in Portland Harbour. Although the land wasn't awash with quantity it did provide a few seasonable highlights that included 2 each of Redstart and Ring Ouzel at the Bill, another Ring Ouzel at St George's Church and a Hobby in off the sea at the Bill.



    Great Skua - Portland Bill, 1st April 2011 © Pete Saunders

...unexpectedly - and rather like the one we photographed at this time last year - the plain underparts, wing moult etc would suggest that this presumed migrant is a juvenile/first-winter; it's not entirely clear from a quick scan of the likes of the Migration Atlas quite what proportion of juveniles remain in the wintering grounds through their first full summer but it seems like most usually do.

  1st April

With the wind, mist and general dreariness taking longer to clear than expected passerine migrants remained in short supply, although as the day went on 25 Wheatears, 2 Redwings and a White Wagtail did drop in at the Bill, where singles of Water Rail, Purple Sandpiper, Black Redstart and Firecrest remained in situ. From elsewhere news was received of a Hoopoe visiting a private garden at the Grove; later searches for that drew a blank although a single Black Redstart was found nearby. At least 1 lingering Balearic Shearwater was an unseasonable highlight off the Bill, where 85 Common Scoter, 22 Brent Geese, 15 Manx Shearwater, 8 Red-throated Divers, 4 Gadwall, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Sandwich Terns also passed by.