December 2011

31st December

As it has done through most of this very unsettled December the sea produced much of the day's news, with 12 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter and singles of Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill. The only other reports were of singles of Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Black-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour.

30th December

Less wind but more rain today. Seawatching was once again the order of the day: 25 or more Mediterranean Gulls were lingering off the Bill, a lone Common Scoter was settled offshore and another 12 Red-throated Divers passed by.

Singles of Harbour Porpoise and Bottle-nosed Dolphin were off the Bill during the morning.



   Pheasant - Portland Bill, 29th December 2011 © Martin Cade

...a frequent bird table visitor in the Obs garden just at the moment.

  29th December

More comprehensively grim conditions prevented any serious birding on the land and the only worthwhile news was of 5 more Red-throated Divers through on the sea at the Bill.

28th December

Yesterday's pleasant interlude didn't last, with today seeing the return of a brisk wind and occasional showers. The only reports were of seawatching at the Bill where 11 Red-throated Divers and 5 Common Scoter passed by. We also received some late news for yesterday from a vistiting birder who reported another brief flight view of the Black Guillemot off the Bill.

27th December

A calmer day than most just recently but nothing of great note to report: 21 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breated Merganser passed through on the sea at the Bill, singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were still in the Obs garden and 10 Black-necked Grebes were still in Portland Harbour.



   Balearic Shearwater - Portland Bill, 26th December 2011 © Martin Cade

...another distant seabird on a grey day.

  26th December

Just the odd few snippets from the south of the island today: a Balearic Shearwater spent a while amongst the feeding seabirds off the Bill, a Chiffchaff was still in the Obs garden and a Fieldfare dropped in at Southwell.

25th December

A short seawatch at the Bill produced 2 Red-throated Divers and a single Great Skua.



   Black Guillemot - Portland Bill, 24th December 2011 © Martin Cade looked great through a 'scope but it could be just about anything in these dismal photos we managed on only the fourth occasion it's been seen since mid-October; presumably it's about offshore all the time but being usually settled and very distant it only gets spotted on the odd occasion that someone sees it flying.

  24th December

The Black Guillemot made another of its very occasional appearances off the Bill again today; 9 Red-throated Divers and a Velvet Scoter also passed through on the sea, the Chiffchaff was still present in the Obs garden and a Redpoll dropped in briefly there.



   Mottled Grey and Shuttle-shaped Dart - Portland Bill, 23rd December 2011 © Martin Cade

...a slightly unlikely duo at this time of year: we haven't got any previous December records of either of these species.

  23rd December

Very little to report on a windy day when the rain or drizzle was sufficiently constant to prevent even serious watching of the sea. Odds and ends that did make the list included singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest still at the Bill and 4 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea there.

Singles of Mottled Grey and Shuttle-shaped Dart were caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.


Also a note from the bookshop: the shop still has a few copies of the recently re-issued Jenni & Winkler Moult & Ageing of European Passerine on sale at £85 to members and £100 to non-members; contact Nick Wright on 01305 459268 or Please also note that as in previous years the bookshop will not be open on Wednesdays during January & February. During these months we shall be open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10.00 am till 4.00 pm


22nd December

Mild again but heavily overcast all day. After last night's thrush movement today brought some more unexpected arrivals in the form of 41 Lapwings dropping in at the Bill. Otherwise things were much as usual, with 17 Common Scoter, 13 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through off the Bill, singles of Black Redstart, Redwing and Chiffchaff still on the land there, another Black Redstart at Osprey Quay and 10 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced a single Silver Y, along with three typical mid-winter micros: Scrobipalpa costella, Light Brown Apple Moth and Crocidosema plebejana.



   Hume's Warbler - Littlesea, 21st December 2011 © Martin Cade

...we've had to resort to off-island for today's photograph. We happened to be in Weymouth attending to pre-Christmas duties this afternoon when Ian Dodd called to report that he'd trapped the long-staying Hume's Warbler on his ringing patch at Littlesea - being only a few minutes away it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss; click here for some more in-hand photos and further details.

  21st December

As promised it's turned much milder. At the Bill 8 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver passed by on the sea and 4 Redwings, 2 Black Redstarts, a Fieldfare, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest were logged on the land. Elsewhere there were 12 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Wigeon and singles of Black-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour. After dark there were again many dozens of Redwings - along with the odd Fieldfare and Song Thrush - on the move over the Bill (as far as we could tell from the few that were coming low enough to get illuminated by the Obs garden moth-traps these birds looked to be southbound); click here to listen to a short recording of a few of these birds calling overhead.

20th December

In relatively benign conditions it was another diver morning at the Bill, with 37 Red-throateds and a Great Northern through on the sea; the only other reports from there were of 5 Common Scoter also through on the sea and 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Chiffchaff on the land. In increasingly wet conditions after dark surprisingly good numbers of Redwings could be heard calling overhead at the Bill.

19th December

Almost constantly wet and increasingly windy today. The sea got plenty of attention, but there was little of note off the Bill beyond 6 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a conspicuous increase in west-bound Kittiwakes. The only other reports from there were of 3 Redwings and a Chiffchaff in the Obs garden.

A seemingly lone Bottle-nosed Dolphin lingered off the Bill for a good part of the morning.



   Purple Sandpiper - Portland Bill, 18th December 2011 © Paul Baker The Bagsy Blog

  18th December

A bit more interest on land and sea today included the best diver total - 22 Red-throateds and 2 Black-throateds - so far this winter off the Bill; also passing on the sea there were 20 Common Scoter and an Eider, whilst the land came up with 5 Redwings, 3 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Water Rail, Snipe, Fieldfare, Dartford Warbler and Chiffchaff. Elsewhere there were 2 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour.

17th December

A bright but still quite breezy day returned a few surprises, of which the best was a Snow Bunting that pitched in briefly on a footpath near the Privet Hedge at the Bill. The rest of the reports were also from the Bill: 26 Dunlin, 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and a Grey Plover through on the sea, a Golden Plover overhead and 4 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Turnstones, a Black Redstart and a Fieldfare on the land.

16th December

Feeling really raw today in a blasting north-westerly. The sea came up with most of the day's morsels of interest, notable of which were a Long-tailed Duck and an unseasonable Manx Shearwater through off the Bill; more routine fare there included 2 Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver. Overhead at the Bill a bit of late Goldfinch passage - involving more than 100 heading south - was a surprise, but the only other reports from the land were of single Black Redstarts at both Chesil Cove and Weston. Elsewhere singles of Great Northern Diver and Black Brant were at Ferrybridge.



   Great Crested Grebe - Ferrybridge, 15th December 2011 © Pete Saunders

  15th December

The only report on the bird front was of a Great Crested Grebe at Ferrybridge.

A Grey Seal was an unusual but brief visitor to Ferrybridge.

14th December

We really must be due some calm weather before long, but there certainly wasn't any sign of it today. The Grey Phalarope remained for another day at Chesil Cove, where a Black Redstart was also present, whilst reports from the Bill included nothing better than singles of Red-throated Diver and Brent Goose through on the sea and a Black Redstart on the land.

13th December

Still no end in sight to the increasingly stormy conditions. Today's only reports were of a Grey Phalarope still at Chesil Cove and 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

12th December

Precious little change in the unsettled conditions or the quiet, mid-winter birding. The day's only reports were of a Grey Phalarope still lingering on at Chesil Cove, 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Black Brant amongst the brents at Ferrybridge, a Red-throated Diver over Ferrybridge, another Red-throated Diver through off the Bill and 3 wintering Purple Sandpipers still there.

11th December

With a freshening south-westerly and rain setting in by late morning the sea got most of the attention today. There was no sign of the Black Guillemot off the Bill, where 4 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a Little Gull constituted the only worthwhile sightings. The only other reports were of 2 Black Redstarts still at the Bill.

10th December

In pleasantly quiet conditions the day's highlight was a Black Guillemot that showed briefly in flight three times off the Bill late in the morning; further watches for it during the afternoon drew a blank. The sea there also produced 19 Common Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers, 2 Brent Geese, a Shelduck and a Great Skua, whilst elsewhere a Grey Phalarope remained at Chesil Cove and one of the Black Brants was at Ferrybridge. On the land there was a Snow Bunting at Blacknor and singles of Water Rail, Purple Sandpiper and Fieldfare at the Bill.

A party of about a dozen Bottle-nosed Dolphins headed east off the Bill during the morning. Also some mammal news for yesterday when a Badger was seen crossing the Bill road near Culverwell late in the evening.



   Cup Fungus Sowerbyella radiculata - Portland Bill, December 2011 © Ken Dolbear

...found by Ken and identified by Bryan Edwards; evidently this is another first for Portland, as well as being only the third record for Dorset.

  9th December

The return of sunny skies, albeit with a brisk north-westerly still a feature, was welcome today. The long-staying Grey Phalarope at Chesil Cove was joined by a second individual, whilst also on the sea 2 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser passed through off the Bill and 4 Mallards passed over Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour. A little bit of late passerine movement was evident at the Bill, where 70 Starlings arrived in off the sea, whilst winterers showing in the  decent conditions included singles of Blackcap and Firecrest at Rufus Castle, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Black Redstart at the Bill and 12 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge.

8th December

In pretty wild conditions seawatching was the order of the day but the only worthwhile reports were of 2 Great Skuas lingering off the Bill and the Grey Phalarope still present at Chesil Cove.

7th December

After an extremely windy night the day's reports all came from the Bill, where a new Water Rail showed up in the Obs garden, singles of Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser passed by on the sea and there was an obvious although unquantified arrival of graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

6th December

The Grey Phalarope lingered on at Chesil Cove but in bright and breezy westerlies a rather mundane list from the Bill included little of note beyond singles of Red-throated and Black-throated Diver through on the sea.



   Grey Phalarope - Chesil Cove, 5th December 2011 © Martin Cade

  5th December

The Grey Phalarope remained at Chesil Cove, but the day's only other reports were of 6 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill and a single Purple Sandpiper settled at the Bill tip.

A lone Rusty-dot Pearl was the only overnight capture in the Obs garden moth-traps.

Also today we nipped over to try for some better views of the Hume's Warbler beside the Fleet; click here for a few photos from this excursion.

4th December

On another breezy day most of the reports came from the sea, with the Grey Phalarope again at Chesil Cove being the pick of the sightings; the Bill came up with 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter, a Balearic Shearwater and a Great Skua. The land produced little more than a Black Redstart still present at the Bill and a Blackcap at Southwell.

Despite the breeze the Obs garden moth-traps returned a respectable overnight tally of several Light-brown Apple Moths and singles of Rusty-dot Pearl, Double-striped Pug, Large Yellow Underwing, Angle Shades and Silver Y.

3rd December

On a brisk and showery day a Grey Phalarope was a noteworthy new arrival at Chesil Cove. At the Bill there were 29 Mediterranean Gulls lingering offshore, 2 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea and 3 Turnstones and singles of Purple Sandpiper and Black Redstart on the land.



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




Basra Reed Warbler - Tsavo, Kenya, November 2011 © Martin Cade

...apologies for the lack of updates for the last week but as can be seen from the photo above we've been out of the country; once we've attended to the pile of post and e-mails that have accumulated in our absence we might get round to sorting out a little off-island feature with a few more images from this trip. On another matter we've become aware through being away that there's a huge difference in colour rendition between the screens of the desktop that we use to maintain the website and the laptop we were using to edit images whilst we were away (images on the desktop screen look to be strongly green/yellow toned). We're investigating this issue but in the meanwhile apologies if it appears that images on the website have been oddly coloured in recent months!   

  2nd December

A nicer calm and sunny morning than the last few although by the end of the afternoon it looked like the next batch of wind and rain wasn't too far over the horizon. At the Bill a late passing Swallow was a nice surprise; 2 overflying Mute Swans and 55 Skylarks, 2 new Song Thrushes and a Chiffchaff were also on the land there, whilst seawatching produced 16 Wigeon, 8 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose. The only other reports of note were of one of the Black Brants at Ferrybridge and 2 Redwings and a Black Redstart at Portland Castle.

Overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced 2 Angle Shades and a Rusty-dot Pearl.

1st December

On a breezy but still mild day the only reports were of a few Mediterranean Gulls and a single Black-headed Gull off the Bill.

A single Rusty-dot Pearl was attracted overnight to the Obs garden moth-traps.