May 2012

31st May

Almost as pitiful a bird list as we reported yesterday: singles of Wheatear and Chiffchaff were the only obvious new arrivals at the Bill, where an Arctic Skua passed though on the sea during the morning and a trickle of Manx Shearwaters looked to be getting moving as the westerly breeze freshened during the afternoon.

The night's only immigrant moths were 3 Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y at the Obs and another 11 Diamond-backs at the Grove.

30th May

Something of nothing today, with singles of Black Redstart and Wheatear at the Bill and 9 Sanderling at Ferrybridge the only new arrivals on the ground. Occasional looks at the sea revealed 50 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Arctic Skuas passing through off the Bill. 

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 25 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Silver Y and 1 Rusty-dot Pearl.

29th May

Precious little change in the weather or the birding today. The only new migrants on the ground at the Bill were 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Wheatear; seawatching there produced 15 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver.

A Muntjac deer - perhaps only the third record for Portland? - was seen briefly at Verne Common during the morning.

Another single Clouded Yellow was at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 6 Diamond-back Moth and 1 Silver Y.



Lesser Black-backed Gull - Ferrybridge, 27th May 2012 © Martin Cade

...this colour-ringed individual was at Ferrybridge yesterday evening (there seems to have been a small and rather unseasonable influx of Lesser Black-backs there in recent days). Thanks to Paul Veron for letting us know that this was the 19th sighting of this bird since it was first ringed as an adult in the breeding colony on Burhou, Channel Isles, on 12th June 2009: it looks as though it spends the early part of each winter at Faro, Portugal, before moving later in the winter to Malaga, Spain; it was sighted back on Burhou in May 2011.

  28th May

More very fair weather but fewer birds. The handful of new arrivals at the Bill included 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Reed Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher, whilst reports from elsewhere included a Wheatear at Penn's Weare and a fly-by Golden Oriole at Perryfields. Odds and ends on the sea included 50 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Common Scoter, 4 Sanderling and 4 Sandwich Terns through off the Bill.

A few new Red Admirals, a Painted Lady and a Clouded Yellow were logged at the Bill, whilst another single Painted Lady was at Penn's Weare.

Thirty Diamond-back Moths made up the immigrant tally in the Obs garden moth-traps.

27th May

Calmer and slightly fresher conditions today certainly didn't help in the variety stakes but an early morning Montagu's Harrier that headed south along Chesil and shortly afterwards left out to sea from Grove Point did provide a nice and unexpected highlight. Migrants on the ground included 3 Chiffchaffs, a Wheatear and a Whinchat at the Bill, a Turtle Dove still at Southwell and 11 Sanderling, a Golden Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge; a single Little Egret also passed over at the Bill. Seawatching produced 3 Sanderling, a Mediterranean Gull and a trickle of Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill and 3 Dunlin, 3 Sanderling, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Skua through off Chesil.

Singles of Diamond-back Moth and Rusty-dot Pearl were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.



Sanderling - Ferrybridge, 26th May 2012 © Martin Cade

  26th May

Despite it remaining very warm the strength of the easterly wind put a real downer on proceedings today, making birding very difficult and restricting the catches in the moth-traps. An Osprey that arrived in off the sea at the Bill was the pick of the new arrivals, with the light scatter of ones and twos of tardy commoner migrants including singles of Turtle Dove at the Bill and Southwell and Black Redstarts at Southwell and Suckthumb Quarry; overhead, 300 Swifts passed through at the Bill, where a few Sand Martins were still arriving amongst the other other hirundines. Waders were also on the move, with 49 Sanderling, a Grey Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge, and 11 Sanderling and a Turnstone through off Chesil; singles of Common Gull and Mediteranean Gull were also at Ferrybridge, whilst further sea sightings included 2 Pochard through off Chesil and a Great Skua through off the Bill.

Singles of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.



Small Seraphim - Portland Bill, 25th May 2012 © Martin Cade

...and, as usual, we've ended up with quite a backlog of photos from this week, amongst which are a couple of extras of the Woodchat and White Storks from the day before yesterday (both © Mark Rayment):



...and from yesterday an unusually approachable Hare at Ferrybridge (© Martin Cade):


  25th May

More of the same lovely hot, sunny weather but despite the promising-looking fresh easterly breeze there was precious little by way of quality today. The long-staying Short-eared Owl remained at the Bill, where the only new arrivals were 2 each of Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher, and singles of Dunlin, Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

Moth numbers have picked up very well in the current warm spell but immigrant interest remains pretty minimal, with today's tally consisting of 7 Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y at the Obs and 2 Diamond-back Moth and a Rusty-dot Pearl at the Grove; the island's third record of Small Seraphim at the Obs was the pick of the rest of the night's catch.




   Icterine Warbler and Golden Oriole - Portland Bill, 23rd May 2012 © Martin Cade (Icterine Warbler) and Nick Hopper (Golden Oriole)

  24th May

On an increasingly hot day the highlights came early: an Icterine Warbler was trapped on the first net-round of the morning at the Obs and a Golden Oriole made a quick visit to Top Fields before flying off to the north over Southwell. Another small flurry of late commoner migrants at the Bill included several Whitethroats, 7 Willow Warblers, 6 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Wheatears, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Greenshank (that also dropped in later at Ferrybridge), 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, a Hobby, a Turtle Dove and a Short-eared Owl; 10 Mute Swans also flew down West Cliffs before heading back north.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 10 Diamond-back Moth and a single Rusty-dot Pearl.



   Woodchat Shrike - Portland Bill, 23rd May 2012 © Martin Cade

...the White Storks weren't such good performers as the Woodchat but they were a lot more dramatic to see; on their flight southwards they came down the middle of the island before leaving very purposefully out to sea over the Obs:


...about 20 minutes later they came back in but remained out over the sea to the east of the island and after a fair bit of circling around eventually looked to be heading in towards Weymouth Bay:



(photos © Martin Cade)

  23rd May

The fine conditions of the last couple of days continued but without any significant headwind migrant numbers were much reduced; fortunately interest was more than maintained, in the first instance with the discovery of a Woodchat Shrike, and later by a brief visit to Old Hill by a Golden Oriole and the appearance overhead of 4 White Storks. The Woodchat settled and showed well near Culverwell, the oriole was heard in song but only seen fleetingly, whilst the storks headed south down the island and left out to sea over the Obs before later returning northwards back towards Weymouth. The sparse spread of more routine fare at the Bill included 6 Willow Warblers, 4 each of Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher, 3 each of Wheatear and Garden Warbler, and singles of Short-eared Owl, Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtail and Blackcap; passing hirundines were plentiful through the morning, with Sand Martins again unexpectedly well represented.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning: 3 Diamond-back Moth, a Rush Veneer, a Dark Sword Grass and a Silver Y.

22nd May

After a rather quiet few days today saw an entertainingly nice little fall of tardy migrants that were knocked down from crystal clear skies by the strength of the northerly breeze. The day's bird list got off to an early start when a Storm Petrel was tape-lured and ringed at the Bill shortly after midnight; the highlight of the daylight hours also came early when a Golden Oriole made a brief visit to Culverwell soon after dawn. Thereafter the morning produced a decent list of new arrivals at the Bill, amongst which were 30 Spotted Flycatchers, 20 Willow Warblers, 8 Reed Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 each of Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Wheatear and Garden Warbler, and singles of Grey Heron, Short-eared Owl, Turtle Dove, Redstart and Sedge Warbler.

The immigrant moth tally in the Obs garden traps consisted of 14 Diamond-back Moth and a Rush Veneer.


Also of interest, we popped over to Radipole in the evening for the Great Reed Warbler that was discovered there this morning; it was a bit too distant for any decent photos but from time to time it was singing quite well - click here to listen to a recording that was rather spoilt by the constant background din of traffic and trains.

21st May

Increasingly warm under clearing skies today. Unfortunately migrants were hard to come by at the Bill, where there was little more than 7 Chiffchaffs, 2 Reed Warblers, a Short-eared Owl, a Blackcap, a Willow Warbler and one or two new Whitethroats on the ground. Seawatching there produced 16 Common Scoter, 7 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua.

Yesterday's flush of immigrant moths continued, with 24 Diamond-back Moths and singles of Rush Veneer, Dark Sword Grass and Silver Y caught overnight at the Obs.


Steve Groves, the WeBs organiser for The Fleet and Portland Harbour, is seeking a volunteer to undertake the monthly waterbird count in the southern half of Portland Harbour. If anyone would be prepared to take on this important but not too onerous survey do please get in touch with Steve at

20th May

A brisk north-easterly and a bit of damp in the air was just enough to drop a few tardy migrants at the Bill, where 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 6 Chiffchaffs, 4 each of Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler, and singles of Golden Plover, Mistle Thrush, Redstart and Blackcap made the day's list; elsewhere there were 45 Dunlin, 5 Sanderling and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge. The sea was again well-watched but rewards were relatively scant, with 388 Gannets, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Sanderling, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Sandwich Terns and singles of Great Northern Diver, Whimbrel and Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

A rather conspicuous immigration of Diamond-back Moths resulted in 68 being caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.

19th May

Distinctly milder and more pleasant conditions saw quite a resurgence in hirundine passage, with Swallows - and to a lesser but still surprising extent Sand Martins - arriving in off the sea throughout the day; a sample 10 minute count of 87 Swallows and 3 Sand Martins heading north along the West Cliffs looked to be quite representative of the strong passage taking place. Grounded migrants were a little more conspicuous than on most days in the last week, with 5 Wheatears, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Yellow Wagtails and singles of Redstart, Black Redstart, Reed Warbler and Blackcap at the Bill, and 33 Dunlin, 6 Sanderling, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel at Ferrybridge. There was also a hint of the sea getting a bit more interesting, with 57 commic terns, 10 Common Scoter, 4 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua through off the Bill.

There was just a hint of moth immigration at the Obs, where overnight trapping produced singles of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer.

18th May

Very dreary and, at least through the morning, quite breezy again, before milder, quieter, foggy conditions edged in late in the afternoon. A light trickle of Swifts and hirundines were arriving in off the sea through the morning, but grounded migrants at the Bill consisted of just 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Whimbrel, Turtle Dove, Wheatear, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler; elsewhere there were 10 Sanderling and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge. The sea was well watched at the Bill where nothing more than 18 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwaters and 3 Common Scoter passed by.

17th May

It certainly wouldn't have been posssible to take yesterday's aerial photograph today since the island was for the duration blanketed by heavy and often threatening-looking cloud; the lack of sunshine and the presence of a strengthening easterly wind made it feel a lot like mid-winter rather than mid-May. The conditions had been widely talked up, but in the event both land and sea seemed at times almost devoid of migrants. The handful of new arrivals at the Bill included a Black Redstart amongst tiny numbers of routine fare on the land, and small numbers of Swallows and House Martins passing overhead; the sea there came up with 50 Manx Shearwaters, 35 Common Scoter, 3 Sanderling, 5 Tufted Ducks, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Great Skuas and a Black-throated Diver. Elsewhere a lone Hobby passed through at Fortuneswell. Seawatching at Chesil produced 5 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Whimbrel, whilst 8 Sanderling, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Whimbrel were amongst the commoner waders at Ferrybridge.




   Portland from 30,000ft - 16th May 2012 © Rob Sawyer

...Rob has in the past very kindly provided us with lower level aerial views of the island; today he obtained this image whilst passing us at much greater height whilst en route to Madrid. As is so often apparent on the ground during the warmer months, notice how Portland invariably misses all the cloud that bubbles up over the mainland during periods of fair weather.

  16th May

Very clear skies still and more pretty lean birding. Aside from a brief Serin reported from the QinetiQ compound during the morning, there were a handful more grounded migrants than yesterday, with small numbers of Wheatears, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Hobbys and singles of Short-eared Owl, White Wagtail, Whinchat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill; the steady passage of arriving Swallows apparent there during the morning had largely petered out by the afternoon. For the most part the sea provided little more than a trickle of passing Manx Shearwaters, although perseverance did eventually produce 2 Pomarine Skuas and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.

15th May

Blustery north-westerlies promised little and delivered virtually nothing today. At the Bill grounded migrants were sufficiently few that they could be enumerated in full: 8 Wheatears, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Robin, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher; a similarly poor variety elsewhere included 10 Sanderling at Ferrybridge. Odds and ends through off the Bill included a trickle of Manx Shearwaters, 3 Ringed Plover, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua.

14th May

The sunny skies of the weekend lingered for a little while into the morning before yet another rainy weather front advanced in from the north-west and spoilt a good part of the rest of the day. Unfortunately the day's birding was, by recent standards at least, decidedly uneventful, with precious little in the way of quantity of migrants on the ground and not over much on the sea. At the Bill the light spread of new arrivals included 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Reed Warblers, a Tree Pipit and a Garden Warblers amongst a meagre tally of Willow Warblers. The seawatchers there came up with totals of 200 Manx Shearwaters, 62 Common Scoter, at least 10 Sanderling, 6 Great Northern Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Pomarine Skua, with the passage of Sanderlings reflected in an increase to 26 in their numbers at Ferrybridge.

13th May

The sky remained crystal clear but the absence of yesterday's brisk headwind ensured that migrants were much more thinly spread today, with a Nightingale at Weston, a Wood Warbler at Verne Common and a Marsh Harrier in off the sea at Chesil providing the only morsels of quality. At the Bill totals on the ground included 30 Willow Warblers, 25 Wheatears, 10 Reed Warblers, 5 each of Sedge Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff, 3 Whinchats and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat and Redpoll; elsewhere there were 8 Sanderling and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge. Hirundines were arriving at a steady rate through much of the morning, with Sand Martins surprisingly numerous at the Bill. Seawatching produced 83 Common Scoter and 2 Shoveler through off the Bill and 6 Bar-tailed Godwits through off Chesil.

A single Clouded Yellow was at Ferrybridge.

12th May

After all the recent rain a day of almost unbroken sunshine was particularly welcome. The brisk northerly wind that accompanied the change in the weather saw to it that passing migrants were made to struggle, with a nice array of mainly routine fare at least temporarily downed at the Bill. With many birds passing straight through soon after dawn the day's census perhaps erred on the low side, but the totals available included 100 each of Wheatear and Blackcap, 75 each of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, 50 each of Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher, 20 Reed Warblers, 15 each of Redstart and Sedge Warbler, 10 each of Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and Chiffchaff, 3 each of Turtle Dove and Lesser Whitethroat, 2 each of Hobby and Cuckoo and singles of Grey Heron, Tree Pipit, Siskin and Redpoll. Elsewhere there was an additional Cuckoo at Barleycrates Lane and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Whimbrel and a Gadwall were at Ferrybridge.

Another single Clouded Yellow was at the Bill.






Golden Oriole - Portland Bill, 11th May 2012 © Martin Cade

...apologies for the rather shoddy appearance of this bird but as anyone fortunate enough to catch Golden Orioles will known they're invariable noisy, unsettled birds in the hand and this individual was no exception - we were keen to record the salient features in haste and let it go rather than spend too long tidying it up.

  11th May

The beginnings of an at least brief change in the weather saw the skies clear and the brisk breeze veer toward the north-west - not usually a favourite direction at Portland. Unsurprisingly, the flow of newly arrived grounded migrants was reduced to little more than a trickle, although the appearance of a Nightjar and a Golden Oriole at the Bill more than made up for that: the Nightjar was flushed up in the Hut Fields during the morning before reappearing around the Obs garden at dusk, whilst the Oriole was trapped and ringed at the Obs and later settled in Top Fields. Amongst the more routine fare 20 Spotted Flycatchers, 15 Garden Warblers, 5 Reed Warblers, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Dunlin and a Cuckoo were of note at the Bill. Seawatching there produced 4 Sanderling, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Red-throated Diver.

10th May

Another very murky, damp day produced another fair little arrival of grounded migrants, although the poor visibility, strength of the brisk south-westerly and arrival of pretty torrential rain during the afternoon made for uncomfortable birding. A Wood Warbler was the pick of the new arrivals at the Bill, where the likes of 25 Garden Warblers, 15 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Sedge Warblers, 4 Reed Warblers, 2 Tree Pipits, a Whimbrel and a Cuckoo provided variety amongst the decent spread of Blackcaps, Whitethroats and phylloscs. A constant light westward movement of Manx Shearwaters featured off the Bill, where 27 Common Scoter, 2 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Black-throated Diver also passed through.







  Western Subalpine Warbler - Portland Bill, 9th May 2012 © Martin Cade

...straightforward to age as a first-summer on the basis of the faded, well-worn, juvenile flight feathers, this bird - as is usual - had renewed a selection of the tertials and inner secondaries in the pre-breeding moult. Although the rather orangey underparts were in themselves a strong indicator of this individual belonging to the nominate form, the very limited extent of the pre-breeding moult would appear to virtually rule out the possibility of the form moltonii (in which the first pre-breeding moult is apparently nearly always complete).

  9th May

For a day that had sounded likely from the weather forecast to be a near wash-out, today turned out to be highly successful. It was certainly damp and dreary, but the rain was restricted to occasional short-lived showers which didn't prevent plenty of coverage of the Bill area. The claggy conditions dropped another decent arrival of common migrants which were topped off with a Subalpine Warbler that showed up late in the afternoon in the Obs garden (earlier in the day there'd been a report of a possible seen briefly near the Privet Hedge). The good spread of grounded migrants at the Bill included 200 Willow Warblers, 50 Whitethroats, 30 Garden Warblers, 20 Spotted Flycatchers and lower numbers of most of the other species that might be expected at this time; another 3 Cuckoos were noteworthy, as was a late Goldcrest. Seawatching at the Bill produced 4 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver.

Singles of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.



   parakeet sp - Portland Bill, 8th May 2012 © Martin Cade

...our feeble attempts at a record-shot were thwarted by the extreme speed and unhelpful behaviour of the bird and were not enough to enable it to be identified; however, later in the day, what was no doubt the same individual visited the Weymouth garden of local birders, Jill and Paul Rendell, where it stayed long enough to be confirmed as a Ring-necked Parakeet (photo © Jill Rendell):


And some more photos from yesterday. A Sanderling at the Bill (© Colin White):


...and Sparrowhawk and Garden Warbler at Southwell (© Pete Saunders):



    8th May

An ultimately rather glorious day after blue skies and warm sunshine replaced the overnight rain and dawn gloom that had promised to drop a few migrants but failed to deliver - maybe it's only the stragglers left to come? At a local level the bird of the day was the parakeet that did a very rapid lap round the tip of the Bill; in all probablility it was a Ring-necked but the brevity and nature of the views didn't permit that fact to be established beyond doubt (but see the postscript above). 'Proper' oddities included a Marsh Harrier that arrived in off the sea at the Bill and headed off quickly northward, whilst a Nightingale - presumably yesterday's individual - was in song in the Obs garden (click here to listen to another recording of it in better voice than yesterday). Grounded commoner migrants weren't too plentiful but did include 4 Whimbrel, 4 Reed Warblers, 4 Garden Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Whinchats, 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Redstart at the Bill; overhead, Swallows and House Martins were arriving in decent numbers at times and another Hobby passed through at the Bill. Seawatching was largely uneventful, with 35 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas,  a Great Skua and a Pomarine Skua the best on offer off the Bill.

A Clouded Yellow was on the wing at the Bill.

Singles of Rush Veneer and Silver Y at the Obs and another Silver Y at Southwell constituted the overnight immigrant interest in the moth-traps.



   Nightingale - Portland Bill, 7th May 2012 © Martin Cade

...and click here to listen to a short recording of a few snatches of song from him later in the day.

And a few more photographs from yesterday. Little Owls and Foxes at the Obs Quarry (© Tony Hovell):



...and one of the Bottle-nosed Dolphins that lingered off the Bill during the morning (© Peter Moore):


  7th May

In many other springs a day like today would have qualified as pretty decent, but such has been the wealth of migrants this year that it didn't feel as though it made the grade at all. A Nightingale at the Obs was the pick of a relatively thin scatter of grounded migrants at the Bill that otherwise included the likes of 6 Reed Warblers, 4 Sanderling, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, 2 Garden Warblers and singles of Purple Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, White Wagtail, Tree Pipit and Sedge Warbler amongst the more numerous Blackcaps, Whitethroats and phylloscs. Overhead, Swallows were moving through at a steady if unspectacular rate, whilst 4 more Hobbys passed through at the Bill and another 2 were grounded at Reap Lane; a lone Cuckoo also passed through on Chesil. The sea got plenty of attention, with 14 Arctic Skuas, 9 Great Skuas, 3 Pomarine Skuas and a Red-throated Diver the pick of the passage off the Bill and 23 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Great Skua the best off Chesil.

Immigrant moths remain all but non-existent, with a single Silver Y the sole representative in the Obs garden traps this morning.



   Hobby - Portland Bill, 6th May 2012 © Simon Slade was noticeable that several of today's Hobbys weren't very enamoured with the English spring (...given the current conditions, who can blame them): two birds were watched disappearing back out to sea, whilst of the individuals that stuck around two spent long periods crashed out on the ground).

We haven't featured much except birds just recently so it was nice to receive a photo of one of the Green-winged Orchids that's now in flower at their traditional spot on the Slopes at the Bill (© Kay Mantripp):


Also thanks to Pete Saunders for another batch of migrant photos - Brambling, Cuckoo and Turtle Doves, all from yesterday in the Bill/Southwell area (© Pete Saunders):

  6th May

With the dull, chilly, north-easterly conditions of dawn gradually replaced by sunshine, today at least brought some respite from the relentless damp of recent days. On the migrant front the larger warblers and other migrants that have gradually come to the fore were all again represented but were somewhat upstaged by a resurgence in Willow Warblers, with the 150 or so at the Bill making them easily the most numerous migrant there today; at least 1 Short-eared Owl was also still present there, whilst among the decent spread of other new arrivals 5 more Hobbys and another Black Redstart were of note at the Bill and a Cuckoo passed through on Chesil. The sea got a fair bit of attention, with 40 Dunlin, 4 Sanderling and 3 Great Northern Divers through off Chesil and 6 Arctic Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Pomarine Skua through off the Bill.

A group of at least 3 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill during the morning.






  White Storks - Southwell, 5th May 2012 © Martin Cade

  5th May

Another constantly damp, dreary day was not quite so good for routine fare but did provide an unexpected highlight when the 5 White Storks that have been touring the country for the last fortnight appeared over the island during the morning: they were initially spotted arriving from the west over Southwell, before heading north-east and eventually leaving out to sea from the Grove. With the weather charts indicating that the English Channel was swathed in cloud and rain it seemed that passage ought to have fizzled out, but although Swallows in particular were moving in much reduced numbers there were still plenty of new arrivals on the ground. Wheatear and Whitethroat both got to around the 100 mark at the Bill, where the decent spread of other species included 8 passing Hobbys, 4 Short-eared Owls, 2 Cuckoos and 2 Black Redstarts; 2 Turtle Doves, another Black Redstart and a late Brambling were at Southwell, another Cuckoo at Barleycrates Lane and another Short-eared Owl passed over Chesil. Only persistence turned up anything on the sea, with 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Great Northern Divers eventually logged at the Bill.

A single Rush Veneer was the only immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.








  Blackcap, Ring Ouzel, Reed Warbler, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Whitethroat - Portland, May 2012 © Pete Saunders

...many thanks to Pete for this nice selection of some of the week's migrants around the south of the island.

  4th May

One of these days the bubble's going to burst and we'll wake up to find the migrant tap turned off, but this year's vintage spring has certainly been fun while it lasted. Today's gloomy skies at dawn were more than enough to drop another veritable flood of migrants around the centre and south of the island (we didn't receive any reports from 'up-island' and it may well be that there's been just as many birds there). It was again the larger warblers that were most conspicuous at the Bill, where totals of 300 Whitethroats, 250 Blackcaps, 200 Garden Warblers and 100 each of Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler eclipsed the 200 or so Willow Warblers that made the log; prettty well all the other expected early May migrants chipped in with lower totals, whilst oddities included 6 Hobbys, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Little Egret, a Turtle Dove, a Black Redstart and a Nightjar. Hirundines, and to a lesser extent Swifts, were certainly still on the move, although - presumably as a result of increasingly poor weather on the other side of the Channel - numbers were significantly reduced compared with the last two days. Sea passage was also virtually non-existent, with 2 Great Skuas, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua providing the only interest off the Bill.




  Kentish Plover and Osprey - Ferrybridge and The Grove, 3rd May 2012 © Joe Stockwell (Kentish Plover) and Martin Cade (Osprey)

  3rd May

There was absolutely no reason to commend the weather today, save to say that it was again just right to drop plenty of migrants around the island: another fair bit of overnight rain lingered on for a couple of hours after dawn, with the day itself remaining dreary and damp throughout. Interest largely revolved around the numbers and variety of grounded migrants, together with the strength of the overhead passage of hirundines, although with the Kentish Plover remaining at Ferrybridge and singles of Osprey and Hen Harrier passing overhead there were at least some quality oddities to be seen. On the ground it seemed that the passage of Willow Warblers was beginning to dwindle, and they were certainly outnumbered today by Blackcaps and Garden Warblers, both of which reached around the 100 mark at the Bill. Lower totals of most of the other expected species were logged there, along with a list of less regular migrants that included 3 Turtle Doves, 2 Cuckoos, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Short-eared Owl, a Wood Warbler and a Reed Bunting; another Cuckoo passed through at Ferrybridge and another Wood Warbler was at Old Hill. Visible passage was again very impressive, with maybe getting towards 10000 Swallows through at the Bill, where Swifts and both Sand and House Martins were well represented; 3 more Hobbys passed through there, with another single through at the Grove. The sea contributed next to nothing, with a lone Arctic Skua the only worthwhile sighting from the Bill.

The best catch of immigrant moths so far this year included 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y at the Obs, and 2 Rush Veneer and a Diamond-back Moth at Southwell.




  Kentish Plover - Ferrybridge, 2nd May 2012 © Martin Cade

  2nd May

Another pretty decent day was rounded off very nicely when a Kentish Plover was found at Ferrybridge in the evening. Nocturnal migrants didn't feature in anything like the quantity we'd seen yesterday - although there was still a good spread of routine early May fare - but their relative paucity was more than made up for by a whopping diurnal passage of Swallows in particular; with the wind having veered into the north-east the sea was also quieter than yesterday, although again there still a fair bit of reward for anyone willing to put the time in. The land didn't produce any particular surprises, with low three-figure totals of Blackcap and Willow Warbler making up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill; singles of Short-eared Owl, Turtle Dove, Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow provided about the best of the variety there; elsewhere a Green Woodpecker was a first for the year at Wakeham. Overhead passage was conspicuous throughout the day and occurred on an unusally broad front, with Swallows featuring very prominently: sample counts included 400 arriving in off the sea at the Bill in an hour early in the morning, 138 passing in one minute along the West Cliffs at midday and 80 passing in 20 seconds over Top Fields during the afternoon; the day-total for the island as a whole can only be guessed at but seems unlikely to have been any less than a high five-figure total (several resident and visiting birders remarked that they had never seen a spring Swallow passage at Portland of the magnitude witnessed today). The sea again got plenty of attention, with the pick of a variety of watches being 160 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Great Northern Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas, a Black-throated Diver and a Shoveler through off the Bill and 100 Bar-tailed Godwits, 30 Knot, 11 Sanderling, 7 Grey Plovers and a Shoveler through/over at Chesil.




Turtle Dove and Wood Warbler - Portland Bill, 1st May 2012 © Joe Stockwell (Turtle Dove) and Martin Cade (Wood Warbler)

...and click here to listen to a recording of a few bursts of song from the Wood Warbler.

Also a bit of belated moth news: being too busy/incompetent to do our own genitalia dissections to identify questionable moth specimens, we're very fortunate to be able to call on the services of Dr Phil Sterling to undertake these for us. Phil's kindly been in touch to report the confirmation of one of last year's specimens (7th August 2011) as a Large Ear - a new species for Portland and seemingly only the second record for Dorset:


  1st May

A stormingly good start to the new month, with another wet night dropping a large and varied fall of grounded migrants; the light south-easterlies that were a feature throughout the day saw to it that there was plenty of action on the sea, whilst the sunny skies that quickly replaced the early gloom were full of incoming diurnal migrants. The land was certainly leaping with birds, with coverage of the Bill area returning very conservative estimates of 800 Willow Warblers, 250 Blackcaps, 200 Chiffchaffs, 150 Wheatears, 100 Whitethroats, 50 Garden Warblers, 30 Lesser Whitethroats, 25 Whinchats, 20 Reed Warblers, 20 Sedge Warblers, 10 Yellow Wagtails and 10 Tree Pipits; the back-up list of single-figure totals encompassed nearly all the less frequent migrants that might be expected, including 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Turtle Doves, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Wood Warblers, a Nightingale, a Ring Ouzel, a Redpoll and a fly-by Serin. The centre of the island was also well covered and saw reports of similar numbers and variety, particularly in the Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane area, where a lone Black Redstart was an addition to the tally; wader passage was also more in evidence than of late at Ferrybridge, where 64 Dunlin, 9 Whimbrel, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, 6 Sanderling, 2 Knot and a Grey Plover were present. Incoming Swifts and hirundines featured in numbers, with well into a four-figure total of Swallows, together with higher than expected numbers of Sand Martins; an Osprey also passed over at Southwell. The seawatchers were kept very busy at the Bill, where 1350 commic terns, 130 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 105 Bar-tailed Godwits, 21 Arctic Skuas, 9 Pomarine Skuas, 8 Great Skuas, 3 Gadwall, 2 Little Gulls, 2 Black Terns, a Red-throated Diver and a Balearic Shearwater passed though; another 2 Arctic Skuas, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua passed through off Chesil.

A single Rush Veneer was a welcome immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps this morning.