January 2012

31st January

Despite it being a frost-free night (there still hasn't been a frost at the Obs this winter) the day itself felt bitterly cold in a stiff easterly and mainly dreary skies. The plover total at the Bill increased slightly to 30 Lapwings and 2 Golden Plovers, but the only other noteworthy reports from there were of 2 Red-throated Divers through on the sea and 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Chiffchaff on the land.

30th January

A thoroughly miserable day of constant light rain and a raw easterly. The only obvious cold weather refugees to make it to the island were 22 Lapwings at the Bill; also there, 2 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver passed through on the sea and the usual 4 Turnstones and 3 Purple Sandpipers were on the land.

Six Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed through off the Bill during the morning.



 Black-tailed Godwit - Ferrybridge, 29th January 2012 © Pete Saunders

  29th January

The Black Guillemot appeared off the Bill - settled for a while off East Cliffs - for the first time in three weeks and a Black-tailed Godwit was at Ferrybridge but otherwise the day's sightings were pretty routine: 11 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour, single Black Redstarts at Portland Castle and the Bill, a Teal through off the Bill and singles of Ringed Plover and Purple Sandpiper at the Bill.



  Razorbill - Portland Harbour, 28th January 2012 © Pete Saunders

  28th January

Sufficiently sunny and pleasant that even the cool northerly breeze hardly spoilt what was a really fine day. Just for once the land returned most of the interest at the Bill, where the usual 4 Turnstones, 3 Purple Sandpipers and lone Black Redstart remained in situ and singles of Snipe and Reed Bunting were newcomers. The only other reports were of 15 Black-necked, a Slavonian Grebe and a Razorbill in Portland Harbour.

The first butterfly of the year - a Red Admiral - was on the wing in the Obs garden.

27th January

Just routine fare again today: 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Black Redstart at the Bill and 11 Black-necked Grebes and singles of Black-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour.

26th January

Sunshine and some pretty beefy showers blown through on a fresh westerly today. A pre-dawn Barn Owl beside the road outside the Obs was a nice start to the day, but otherwise a fairly routine return from the Bill included 7 Common Scoter and 2 Great Skuas through on the sea and the 3 wintering Purple Sandpipers still present there.




Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Diver - Portland Bill, 25th January 2012 © Martin Cade

...and a photo to give at least some idea of the wealth of seabirds feeding off the Bill at the moment:


  25th January

Dreary and often damp but certainly mild for late January. The sea continued to get most of the attention, with 7 Red-throated Divers, 7 Common Scoter and a lone Great Northern Diver through off the Bill. Standard fare on the land there included 3 Turnstones, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest. Elsewhere there was a Yellow-legged Gull at Ferrybridge.

24th January

Rain throughout the morning kept nearly everyone indoors and the day's only sightings were of a Red-throated Diver through on the sea at the Bill and the wintering Chiffchaff still in the Obs garden.

23rd January

An altogether more pleasant day was ultimately spoilt by a succession of passing showers during the afternoon. A Lapwing arriving in off the sea at the Bill was a bit unexpected, but the real spectacle there was the enormous number of auks still present offshore: a sample 15 minute count that returned a total of 8000 was entirely representative of the situation throughout most the morning, although with huge flocks whirring about in all directions it was really difficult to get a handle on quite how many birds were offshore. Five Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter also passed through there.

A Western Conifer Seed Bug was found on an outside wall at the Obs.

22nd January

Even windier than yesterday, with a good deal fewer birds of note: singles of Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter passed through off the Bill, the wintering trio of Purple Sandpiper, Black Redstart and Chiffchaff were all represented singly there on the land, whilst elsewhere 14 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour.

21st January

Another windy day when seawatching seemed like the best bet. Singles of Balearic Shearwater and Great Skua appeared - only quite briefly in each case - amongst the seabirds off the Bill, where 60 Brent Geese, 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and a Golden Plover also passed through. Elsewhere there were 13 Black-necked and 2 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour.

Four Bottle-nosed Dolphins headed west off the Bill during the morning.

20th January

On a day of pretty brisk north-westerlies the only reports were from the sea at the Bill, where a Balearic Shearwater was a notable newcomer amongst the feeding flocks offshore; 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver also passed by there.



Firecrest - Church Ope Cove, 19th January 2012 © Martin Cade

  19th January

Not too bad a day: the westerly breeze was a bit fresh at times but the forecast rain didn't amount to much. Off the Bill a Great Skua was still in residence amongst the feeding frenzy of routine seabirds around the tide race; 27 Brent Geese and singles of Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter also passed through on the sea and 4 Turnstones, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Chiffchaff were still about on the land. Elsewhere there were 7 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour and singles of Goldcrest and Firecrest at Church Ope Cove.

18th January

Mild but unfortunately also quite foggy which saw to it that the only reports were of a Chiffchaff still in the Obs garden and a lone Red-throated Diver through off the Bill. Also, thanks to Jon Illsley for sending through a recording of a Little Owl that's been particuarly vocal just lately at Avalanche Road - click here to have a listen.

17th January

A quieter, milder day. Two Little Gulls were newcomers amongst the melee of feeding seabirds off the Bill, which also again attracted a Great Skua; 9 Red-throated Divers, 5 Eider and 2 Common Scoter also passed through on the sea and singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were still about on the land.

16th January

Still a chill in the air although not feeling too bad under constantly sunny skies. Three Redwings and a Golden Plover were newcomers at the Bill where 5 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua passed through on the sea.

15th January

With the chilly easterlies still established it was only the sea that got much attention and the rewards were relatively scant. A party of 50 Brent Geese heading up-Channel off the Bill were of minor note, but otherwise nothing more than 6 Red-throated Divers and 4 Common Scoter passed by amongst the impressive numbers of auks and other routine seabirds still lingering offshore.

14th January

A veil of cloud and and an increasingly conspicuous easterly breeze saw the temperature drop a little more, with a few birds moving in reponse. The brisk breeze saw to it that most coverage was given to the sea, with watches at the Bill returning totals of ca15000 auks (again largely Razorbills), 50 Mediterranean Gulls, 24 Red-throated Divers, 10 Common Scoter, 6 Brent Geese, 5 Teal, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Skua. The only worthwhile report from the land was of a Lapwing at the Bill.

13th January

Unbroken sunshine again today although beginning to feel a fair bit cooler than earlier in the week. The day's reports were of 3 Chiffchaffs and a Black Redstart at the Bill, where singles of Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter also passed through on the sea, 400 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge and 10 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

12th January

With the exceptions of a couple of minor additions today could easily have been another day when all we had to do was change the numbers on a January template of entirely routine fare. The additions were singles of Merlin and Redwing at the Bill and an Eider in Portland Harbour; otherwise it was very much a case of more of the same: 8 Red-throated Divers and 7 Common Scoter through off the Bill, where the auk total (seemingly mainly Razorbills) looked to somewhere around 10000, singles of Purple Sandpiper and Chiffchaff at the Bill, and 4 Black-necked Grebes and a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour.

Also something else from today: Mark Coller kindly sent us through a much better photo than we'd managed to get of the Richard's Pipit over at Wyke Regis, click here to have a look.

11th January

Another fabulous day of wall-to-wall sunshine, but with only a handful of observers out to enjoy it the day's sightings at the Bill consisted of just 12 Red-throated Divers, 4 Shelduck and 2 Common Scoter through on the sea and 4 Turnstones, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest on the land.

There were no noteworthy overnight captures in the moth-traps, but whilst on this subject it's worth mentioning some new Dorset macro-moth distribution maps that have recently been uploaded to the always fascinating Dorset Moths website; click here to have a look.

10th January

On what was probably the nicest day of the winter a rather samey selection at the Bill included 14 Brent Geese, 9 Red-throated Divers, 3 Common Scoter and an Eider through on the sea and 2 Turnstones, a Short-eared Owl and a Chiffchaff on the land. Elsewhere there were 11 Common Scoter, 10 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour.

The overnight moth catch at the Obs included a Dark Chestnut amongst an otherwise similar array to yesterday.





Amblyptilia acanthadactyla, Early Thorn and Rusty-dot Pearl - Portland Bill, 9th January 2012 © Martin Cade

  9th January

A little bit breezier and quite dreary but still very mild today. Most attention was given to the sea, where those searching for the Black Guillemot off the Bill were hindered by the sheer number of auks present offshore - described as mesmerizing by one rather lyrical correspondent; 49 Common Scoter, 20 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Northern Divers were spotted passing by there.

A few surprises in the Obs garden moth-traps overnight included a Rusty-dot Pearl - the first immigrant of the year - and a rather early Early Thorn; routine winter fare included Scrobipalpa costella, Light Brown Apple Moth, Amblyptilia acanthadactyla and Mottled Grey.




Short-eared Owl and Snow Bunting - Portland Bill, 7th/8th January 2012 © Ken Dolbear

  8th January

Pleasantly quiet conditions allowed for plenty of field work today, with the rewards including two additions to the year-list at the Bill: 3 Velvet Scoter passed through on the sea and a Short-eared Owl was in Top Fields; also there, the Black Guillemot was again spotted from time to time off East Cliffs and a Great Skua lingered there for a while, 58 Common Scoter and 13 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea and the Snow Bunting was still present near the Privet Hedge. The only other report was of 9 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour.

7th January

With fair conditions seemingly setting in for a few days it wasn't too unexpected to see a fair few Red-throated Divers - 52 in total (the highest count so far this winter) - heading round the Bill into Lyme Bay; the Black Guillemot again showed on occasions, and 13 Common Scoter, 2 Eider and a Great Northern Diver also passed by. On the land there, the Snow Bunting remained near the Privet Hedge and 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Redwing were logged.

6th January

The first relatively still day of the year was very welcome indeed and certainly permitted much more coverage of the Bill area. The sea continued to come up with most of the interest, including the Black Guillemot that eventually showed a couple more times off East Cliffs; 21 Red-throated Divers, 13 Common Scoter and a Shelduck also passed through there. On the land the Snow Bunting remained in situ near the Privet Hedge, and 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Lapwing and a Chiffchaff were also of note. Elsewhere there was a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove.

5th January

It almost goes without saying that it remained howlingly windy. The day's only report was of the Black Guillemot which was seen a couple of times during the morning off East Cliffs at the Bill.



Black Guillemot - Portland Bill, 4th January 2012 © Martin Cade

...at last, some semi-acceptable record shots of it - at least some in which it isn't quite in the 'could be anything' category. Today saw a surge in interest in looking for it, with coverage from the Obs and from the Bill itself throughout the morning, but unfortunately many observers had given up before it eventually appeared early in the afternoon (as on several other occasions it looked to be flying in from well up the East Cliffs so perhaps it's spending time further up towards Southwell or Church Ope Cove).

  4th January

Still windy but nothing like as severe as it had been yesterday. The Snow Bunting was still in residence near the Privet Hedge at the Bill, but the rest of the day's news was all of seawatching at the Bill, which produced the Black Guillemot, 14 Brent Geese, 7 Red-throated Divers and singles of Great Northern Diver, Pomarine Skua and Great Skua.



Little Gull - Ferrybridge, 3rd January 2012 © Pete Saunders

...and the view from the Obs lounge during a downpour of almost biblical proportions late in the morning:


  3rd January

The most ferocious storm of the winter blew in overnight and restricted birding during the morning to watches from the car at Ferrybridge, where 8 Kittiwakes and a Little Gull passed through; 55 Dunlin and 12 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were also settled there. Having been unbirdable through the morning the Bill came up with smallish numbers of routine fare, along with 3 Wigeon and another fly-past by the Black Guillemot, during the afternoon.


Finally, a reminder to potential bookshop customers that the shop will be closed on Wednesdays throughout January and February; the shop will be open as usual on Saturdays and Sundays during this period.






   Snow Bunting, Little Egret and Red-breasted Merganser - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 2nd January 2012 © Martin Cade (Snow Bunting) and Pete Saunders (Little Egret and Red-breasted Merganser)

...the Snow Bunting was close to the spot where one was seen a fortnight ago so was more than likely the same individual that's just been overlooked in the meanwhile.

  2nd January

On a bright but very breezy day the Black Guillemot was reported from the Bill again during the morning but rather more visible was a Snow Bunting that (re)appeared in the afternoon near the Privet Hedge. The rest of the day's news consisted of 2 Brent Geese and another 14 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, 5 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Turnstones and a Black Redstart on the land there and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

1st January

Considering that the afternoon was a complete washout the few birdable hours before midday actually came up with a reasonable list that included another brief reappearance of the Black Guillemot off the Bill; also there, 14 Red-throated Divers, 5 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Brent Geese and a Common Scoter passed through on the sea and 4 Purple Sandpipers, a Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff were logged on the land.

After a few blank nights in the moth-traps last night produced singles of Acleris hastiana and Winter Moth at the Obs.