February 2012

29th February

After a night that produced some really heavy overhead passage of thrushes and other early migrants, dawn saw the the southern half of the island positively jumping with new arrivals. Thrushes dominated, with 200 Redwings, 50 Blackbirds, 30 Fieldfares, 20 Song Thrushes and 4 Mistle Thrushes scattered around the Bill area, where other newcomers of note included 270 Starlings, 18 Stonechats, 6 Goldcrests, 3 Rooks, 2 Woodlarks, a Grey Heron and a Golden Plover; winterers still about there included 2 Purple Sandpipers, a Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff. The day's other reports included 15 Common Scoter, 6 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through off the Bill and 5 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Wigeon and 3 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour.



   Firecrest - Portland Bill, 28th February 2012 © Martin Cade

...the dolphins were a fair way off from the Obs but would have afforded great views for anyone watching from East Cliffs (photos © Martin Cade): 



And a couple of photos from the weekend. The Black Brant - which is seemingly now paired up with a Dark-bellied Brent - at Ferrybridge (© Pete Saunders):


...and a Black Redstart at the Bill (© Debby Saunders):


  28th February

Still, overcast and very mild. The first migrant Firecrest of the spring was the pick of an otherwise rather meagre list from the Bill, where plenty of fieldwork produced little else beyond 2 Black Redstarts and a Redwing on the land and 2 Red-throated Divers through on the sea.

A party of about a dozen Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off East Cliffs at the Bill during the morning.

Also a note for potential bookshop customers, as of tomorrow the shop will be reverting to normal hours and so will be opening on Wednesdays as well as on the two weekend days.

27th February

Much drearier than yesterday but still pleasantly mild. The odd few extra thrushes included 3 Redwings at the Bill, whilst 4 Shoveler were also newcomers at Portland Harbour. Otherwise it was a case of more of the same: 7 Red-throated Divers and 6 Common Scoter through off the Bill, 2 Chiffchaffs still at the Bill and 4 Black-necked Grebes, a Shelduck and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

26th February

A lovely fine, sunny day. The first Black Brant for a while was a surprise at Ferrybridge, with the best of the rest being a Canada Goose and the spring's first White Wagtail at the Bill. Offshore passage continued, with another 22 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill, whilst the land there came up with 2 Chiffchaffs and singles of Black Redstart and Rook. The only other reports were of 5 Black-necked and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

25th February

With no change in the very quiet weather conditions there was plenty of interest looking for early arrivals, and the morning's list from the Bill included a fair mix of newcomers and old stagers: 160 Gannets, 63 Mediterranean Gulls (seemingly all up-Channel migrants as opposed to local winterers), 5 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers through on the sea and 10 Stonechats, 4 Turnstones, 4 Redwings, a Short-eared Owl, a Black Redstart, a Chiffchaff and a Rook dotted about on the land.

24th February

Just a handful of seawatch reports on another mild, quiet day: 13 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter and a Great Skua through off the Bill.

Three Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off East Cliffs between Southwell and the Bill early in the morning.

Also a couple of snippets of 'better late than never' news that we gleaned today: about a week ago there were 3 Avocets at Ferrybridge (with 1 still present the following day on the sandbanks in Portland Harbour), whilst about three weeks ago there was another Portland and Dorset record count of just over 700 Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge.

23rd February

The arrival of some very mild air behind yesterday's weather front brought with it the first signs of spring gull passage off the Bill, where a mid-morning sample half-hour count produced totals of 202 Common Gulls and 41 Black-headed Gulls heading up-Channel; 19 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and 2 Mallard also passed by there. The day's only other reports were of singles of Black Redstart and Chiffchaff still at the Bill.



   Little Egret - Ferrybridge, 20th February 2012 © Pete Saunders

...and thanks to Graham Masters for a photo of yesterday's Speckled Wood at Old Hill:


  22nd February

Relatively poor reward from the few hours birding possible before the promised rain arrived early in the afternoon: 4 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua passed through off the Bill and 180 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck and a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose were at Ferrybridge.

21st February

In very mild but increasing breezy conditions 29 Red-throated Divers and 10 Common Scoter passed through off the Bill and 260 Mediterranean Gulls, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Wigeon were at Ferrybridge.

A small party of Bottle-nosed Dolphins lingered off the Bill throughout the afternoon.

A Speckled Wood butterfly - the earliest ever recorded at Portland - was on the wing at Old Hill during the morning.

20th February

Another pleasant day but nothing out of the ordinary to report from the Bill, where 5 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea and 4 Turnstones, 2 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Golden Plover and Redwing were about on the land.

A party of Bottle-nosed Dolphins - 8 or so - headed west off the Bill early in the morning.

Apologies once again for the frequent lack of timely updates in recent days but our internet connection problems remain unresolved.

19th February

Wall to wall glorious sunshine today. An Iceland Gull was again lingering off the Bill for a while early in the morning before it headed away west towards Chesil Cove; the only other worthwhile report from there was of a Goldeneye also heading west. Elsewhere there were 35 Great Crested Grebes, 17 Black-necked Grebes, a Red-necked Grebe and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

18th February

A day of weather contrasts - a fine morning sandwiched between a post-dawn shower and a much wetter afternoon - produced a maybe overdue highlight in the form of a brief Iceland Gull off the Bill in the morning; another 5 Red-throated Divers and a Common Scoter also passed through on the sea there, whilst at dusk 3 Woodcock were seen in flight beside the Bill road.

17th February

Not too much to show from today's coverage: 2 northbound Lapwings arrived at the Bill, at least 1 wintering Chiffchaff was still present there and 5 Common Scoter and 12 more Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea.

The second butterfly of the year - a Peacock - was on the wing at the Bill.

Moth-trapping at the Obs has been predictably hopeless this week (unless we get any unseasonable immigration this time of year is usually very quiet for moths at Portland), with just one moth - a Mottled Grey - in the traps this morning.

16th February

The mild but rather overcast conditions that set in at the beginning of the week continued and the day's sightings list from the Bill consisted of just 7 Red-throated Divers, 5 Common Scoter and a Red-breasted Merganser through on the sea and singles of Golden Plover, Redwing abd Chiffchaff on the land.

15th February

A day rather in keeping with the last few saw some more signs of early spring movement at the Bill, with another 16 Red-throated Divers and 3 Black-headed Gulls through on the sea, a Grey Heron arrived from the south and 2 new Redwings dropped in at the Obs; 4 wintering Chiffchaffs were also still there.



   Slavonian Grebe - Portland Harbour, 14th February 2012 © Keith Pritchard

  14th February

More signs of the transition from winter into spring today, with the vast majority of the wintering seabirds off the Bill having now departed and the likes of the passing Red-throated Divers looking very much like they're early migrants rather than aimless winterers. The day's reports from the Bill included 20 Red-throated Divers through on the sea and 2 Turnstones and a Black Redstart on the land, whilst elsewhere a Greenshank was heard calling over Southwell and singles of Black-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe were in Portland Harbour

13th February

A Hen Harrier over Southwell and the first Great Skua of the month through off the Bill were noteworthy highlights on a day that otherwise produced 11 Common Scoter and 6 Red-throated Divers also through off the Bill, 16 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour and 2 Lapwings at the Bill.

12th February

Despite a conspicuous upturn in the temperature there seemed to be little enthusiasm for fieldwork today and the only reports were of 9 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and 2 Purple Sandpipers still there.

Also apologies for several very late updates in recent days but we are - yet again - experiencing problems with our internet connection.

11th February

A much more pleasant day than yesterday. Signs of the prevailing cold weather included 11 Lapwings and 3 Golden Plovers scattered around the south of the island, together with small increases in one or two commoner species that included counts of 15 Song Thrushes and 5 Chiffchaffs at the Bill. The sea came up with 6 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and 46 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Slavonian Grebes in Portland Harbour.




   Dunlin and Sanderling - Ferrybridge, 10th February 2012 © Pete Saunders

  10th February

A sufficiently unpleasant cold and wet morning saw to it that the couple of stalwarts who ventured out reported nothing more of note than 10 Golden Plovers and 3 Lapwings at the Bill and singles of Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Mallard and Sanderling at Ferrybridge.



A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 11th February. 


9th February

Just a fairly routine list on a much less windy and thus much more pleasant day to be out looking: at the Bill, 6 Common Scoter and 5 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea, with the offshore Mediterranean Gull total increasing to around 150; elsewhere there were 11 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour, 2 Pintail flew over the Harbour, 100 Dunlin, 40 Ringed Plover, 40 Turnstone and a Sanderling were at roost on the Harbour shore and 375 Mediterranean Gulls, 140 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Black Redstart at Ferrybridge.






   Redshank, Pintails and Little Gull - Ferrybridge, 8th February 2012 © Debby Saunders (Redshank) and Pete Saunders (Pintails and Little Gull)

  8th February

Under dreary skies and with the north-easterly having freshened quite conspicuously it was feeling really raw again today. The state of the tide is such that a fair few of the Fleet/Portland Harbour Mediterranean Gulls have been feeding off the Bill during recent mornings, with well over 100 there shortly after dawn today; singles of Brent Goose and Red-throated Diver also passed through on the sea, whilst 2 Fieldfares and singles of Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Redwing and Goldcrest were about on the land. The Mediterranean Gulls eventually made their way to Ferrybridge, where 440 were counted mid-morning; 8 Pintail, 2 Sanderling, and singles of Shelduck, Redshank and Little Gull were also present there.



   Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, February 2012 © Debby Saunders

  7th February

With what breeze there was having crept back round into the east it was beginning to feel a fair bit chillier again today. Interest at the Bill was very much at a premium: singles of Redwing and Chiffchaff in the Obs garden, a lone Red-throated Diver through on the sea and 40 Mediterrranean Gulls lingering offshore.

6th February

A calm, quite mild day when it was hard to believe that half the country was blanketed in snow. The odd few cold weather refugees continued to appear, with 4 Golden Plovers, a Knot and a Redwing all new in at the Bill; also there, 4 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Turnstones, a Water Rail and a Short-eared Owl were about on the land and a lone Red-throated Diver passed by on the sea.

5th February

The strong wind that had set in with last night's rain took a while to abate but by the afternoon it was starting to feel really quite mild once again. The day's sightings consisted of little more than 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Reed Bunting at the Bill and a lone Red-throated Diver through on the sea there.




 Grey Plover and Sanderlings - Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge, 4th February 2012 © Pete Saunders

  4th February

After another frosty night it wasn't long before a veil of cloud rolled in and by mid-afternoon there was steady light rain falling. Cold weather arrivals included a second Reed Bunting, a Dunlin and a Snipe at the Bill, 3 more Teal through on the sea there, 2 Wigeon in Portland Harbour and 6 Shelduck and 2 Sanderling at Ferrybridge. Otherwise things were much as normal, with 6 Red-throated Divers and 4 Common Scoter through off the Bill (for a while early in the morning the sea was also covered in a moving carpet of auks as some tens of thousands of mainly Razorbills headed east having presumably roosted en masse somewhere out in Lyme Bay), 2 Chiffchaffs and a Purple Sandpiper still about on the land at the Bill and a Grey Plover at Portland Harbour.

3rd February

Once again there was limited enthusiasm for flogging round in an icey wind, with the morning's sightings at the Bill consisting of just 5 Red-throated Divers and 4 Shelduck through on the sea and 4 Lapwings heading north. With the wind having abated by the afternoon a check of the land there revealed some evidence of routine fare having arrived in response to the weather: totals of 80 Meadow Pipits, 55 Skylarks and 6 Song Thrushes were all higher than any other counts of those species so far this winter.

2nd February

Only limited coverage on another bright but still very cold day. The only worthwhile reports were of 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.

Also a notice from the bookshop: The shop has one spare copy of each of the recently-published Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol 16 (RRP £185) and Handbook of the Mammals of the World Vol 2 (RRP £130). These are on sale to members at the unbeatable prices of £130 for HBW (£145 to non-members) & £105 for HMW (£115 to non-members). Only one copy of each is available. Contact Nick Wright on 01305 459268 or wright39@talktalk.net

1st February

After the first light frost of the winter at the Obs a day of unbroken sunshine saw to it that despite the continuing stiff easterly it wasn't too bad a day. A little more cold weather movement at the Bill included 11 Lapwings heading north and 5 Teal, 2 Wigeon and 2 Little Egrets through on the sea; 4 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Black Redstarts were also there and 6 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea.