November 2012



   Kingfisher - Portland Harbour, 27th November 2012 © Pete Saunders

  30th November

Another pleasantly calm day allowed plenty of opportunity to look for late migrants and scour Portland Harbour for waterbirds. The harbour came up with the day's highlight in the form of a Black Guillemot that showed up - albeit very distantly - during the afternoon; more mundane fare about the harbour included 14 Black-necked Grebes, 17 Guillemots, 10 Great Northern Divers, 10 Razorbills and singles of Red-necked Grebe and Eider. Late migrants weren't as plentiful as yesterday at the Bill, but still included fair numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Redwings and Chaffinches, together with 5 Snipe, 5 Fieldfares, 2 Bramblings, 2 Reed Buntings and singles of Grey Heron, Short-eared Owl, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Redpoll; 6 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea there.




Blackbirds and Chaffinches - Portland Bill, 29th November 2012 © Martin Cade

  29th November

A thoroughly enjoyable day to be out birding: unbroken sunshine, hardly a breath of wind and - particularly for so late in the season - a really nice flurry of newly arrived migrants. The newcomers included nothing at all out of the ordinary and precious little that lingered for long under such clear skies, but totals for the Bill area included 100 each of Blackbird and Chaffinch, 45 Redwings, 30 Song Thrushes and single figure counts of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Fieldfare, Blackcap, Brambling, Siskin, Redpoll and Reed Bunting. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 7 Red-throated Divers and 4 Brent Geese, whilst 12 Black-necked Grebes and singles of Great Northern Diver, Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck were still in Portland Harbour.



  Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, 28th November 2012 © Will Bown

  28th November

Another constant, albeit light, trickle of new arrivals today included the second Waxwing of the week that dropped in for a short while at Ladymead/Reforne. At the Bill the day's tally included 15 Redwings, 8 Fieldfares, 3 Water Rails, 2 Bramblings and singles of Woodcock, Snipe, Short-eared Owl and Black Redstart, whilst elsewhere there was a Merlin near the Windmills. A settled flock of up to 12 Common Scoter lingered off the Bill, where 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Brent Geese and a Velvet Scoter also passed by; at least 4 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Slavonian Grebes and a Red-necked Grebe were still in Portland Harbour.

27th November

A day without rainfall was a bit of a welcome novelty, whilst there was the added bonus of the chillier conditions that look to be setting in producing a fair little arrival of late migrants. The Bill area got most of the coverage and returned totals of 100 Chaffinches, 40 each of Blackbird and Song Thrush, 14 Redwings, 3 each of Fieldfare and Brambling, 2 each of Brent Goose, Snipe and Blackcap, and singles of Grey Heron, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Black Redstart; elsewhere, 2 Firecrests were at Pennsylvania Castle. Three Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver passed through off the Bill, whilst Portland Harbour came up with 6 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Great Northern Divers and singles of Red-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe and Eider.




Waxwing - Portland Bill, 26th November 2012 © Martin Cade

  26th November

Not altogether unexpectedly - although rather earlier in the winter than we'd imagined - a Waxwing that spent a few minutes in the tree-tops in the Obs garden during the afternoon was the day's star bird. The gradually improving conditions saw a few other new arrivals show up, with 50 Chaffinches, 6 Redwings, 4 Water Rails (at least one of which was new in), 3 Fieldfares, 3 Bramblings, a Merlin, a Woodcock and a Snipe on the ground in the Bill area, and still a little finch passage (including 120 Linnets south) going on overhead there. The day's only reports from the sea were of singles of Red-throated Diver and Pomarine Skua through off the Bill.

25th November

After a fair-ish start the weather quickly deteriorated into a succession of increasingly heavy showers. Given the conditions, there were a surprising variety of reports from the weekend visitors: a Long-tailed Duck was a notable new arrival in Portland Harbour, where more routine fare included 6 Great Northern Divers, 4 Black-necked Grebes and singles of Red-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe, 8 Pintail, 3 Red-throated Divers and singles of Great Northern Diver and Golden Plover passed through off the Bill and 2 Firecrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were at Pennsylvania Castle.

Singles of Rush Veneer and Silver Y made up the immigrant tally in the Obs garden moth-traps.

24th November

Another day of weather excesses saw it raining from dawn 'till dusk. One hardy seawatcher was rewarded with 2 Gadwall and singles of Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Little Auk passing through off the Bill, whilst singles of Redwing and Fieldfare at the Bill were the only sightings of note on the land.



Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone - Portland Bill, 23rd November 2012 © Paul Baker The Bagsy Blog

...and thanks to Pete Saunders for a selection of photos from Southwell this week; Fieldfare, Grey Heron and Sparrowhawk:




  23rd November

After a night of weather excesses it was quite a surprise to wake to much more benign conditions at dawn. The improvement probably came too late to allow many migrants to get moving, with the only obvious new arrivals at the Bill being 130 southbound Goldfinches and smaller numbers of other routine finches (as well as a likely Serin heard calling) overhead and 2 Redwings, 2 Robins and singles of Fieldfare and Blackcap on the ground; 3 Water Rails, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Black Redstarts and a Purple Sandpiper also there was presumed winterers. Seawatching at the Bill produced 10 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Norhern Divers and a Red-necked Grebe, whilst the calm conditions allowed for good coverage of Portland Harbour, that revealed 11 Black-necked Grebes, 6 Great Northern Divers, a Red-necked Grebe and an Eider.

22nd November

In increasingly stormy conditions nearly all the day's reports came from the sea: 3 Common Scoter, 2 Great Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Manx Shearwater through off the Bill and 4 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off Chesil Cove. The only report from the land was of a Black Redstart at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 2 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Silver Y and 1 Dark Sword Grass.

21st November

Another day with precious few incentives to spend long in the field. The only reports came from the Bill, where 7 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Common Scoter and singles of Manx Shearwater and Velvet Scoter passed through on the sea and odds and ends on the land included 3 Redwings and singles of Chiffchaff and Redpoll.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 2 Rusty-dot Pearl.

20th November

A strong southerly wind and almost constant rain or drizzle severely restricted fieldwork today. The only reports were of 27 Common Scoter through off the Bill, 13 Common Scoter, 3 Little Gulls and 2 Red-throated Divers through off Chesil Cove and 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle.

19th November

Although it was windy throughout, the forecast rain took a good deal longer to arrive than we'd expected so there was plenty of opportunity for seawatching. Kittiwakes in particular were trickling through more or less constantly off the Bill, where the pick of the sightings were of 57 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Teal and a Balearic Shearwater passing by. Very little attention was paid to the land, from the where the only news was of 300 Starlings arriving in from the south at the Bill, a Firecrest at Easton and a Black Redstart at Blacknor.

A lone Silver Y was the only immigrant in the Obs garden moth-traps.



Quail - Portland Bill, 18th November 2012 © Martin Cade

...this hapless individual was discovered in rather peculiar circumstances: well after dark yesterday evening it seemingly crash-landed on the roof of a house extension at Weston; upon investigating the commotion the home-owner found the bird cowering against a wall and took it into care. By the time it came into our hands today it looked to have made a full recovery so we decided to just let it go at the Bill - on release it flew off very strongly into the Crown Estate Field. Quite why a domestic/farm-bred Quail should have been flying over Weston at night at this time of year is open to conjecture, and, since we're always suspicious about such things, leads us to ponder on the provenance of other winter Quail records from Portland.

  18th November

Although dawn had revealed the first light frost of the winter, the day itself was beautifully clear, sunny and increasingly mild. The most extraordinary report of the day concerned two flypasts off the Bill by a Steller's Eider (both sightings from the same observer); after-the-event coverage of the sea there produced 18 Common Scoter, 3 Brent Geese, 2 Red-throated Divers and singles of Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe and Eider. Not surprisingly given the conditions, grounded migrants weren't at all numerous, with 5 Water Rails, 2 Black Redstarts and a Woodcock providing the only real interest amongst the light scatter of mainly thrushes at the Bill. Equally small numbers of finches were still on the move overhead, with singles of Short-eared Owl, Woodlark and Lapland Bunting providing further interest over the Bill.

A single Red Admiral was still on the wing at the Bill.

Three Silver Y were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.



Serin - Portland Bill, 17th November 2012 © Martin Cade

...a right dingy, streaky little thing in the field and only a tad more colourful on closer examination in the hand:

Although clearly a female, we weren't so confident about its age: at first glance it looked likely to be a bird of the year but the more we looked the less confident we were that that was an entirely safe diagnosis:

  17th November

With what wind there was having shifted out of the east and into the north-west there was a good deal less expectancy about proceedings today, but in the event a Serin that showed at the Obs was a nice surprise and kept up the recent run of oddities. The eventual tally of more routine fare wasn't too bad either, with the Bill area coming up with totals of 150 more northbound Starlings, 75 Redwings, 50 Blackbirds, 25 Song Thrushes and 11 Long-tailed Tits, whilst the decent array of single-figure totals included 2 Snipe, 2 Black Redstarts, a Grey Heron and a Mistle Thrush. Elsewhere there were further single Black Redstarts at Blacknor and Portland Castle, a Moorhen at Suckthumb Quarry, a Red-throated Diver in Portland Harbour and 1 of the Black Brants at Ferrybridge. A single passing Red-throated Diver off the Bill was the only bird of interest on the sea.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 4 Silver Y and 1 Rush Veneer.





   Goldcrest and Bramblings - Portland Bill and Southwell, November 2012 © Martin Cade (Goldcrest) and Pete Saunders (Bramblings)

...also of interest, we received news this week of the continuing presence of a family of Badgers on the Verne Common Estate; thanks to Trevor Felstead for a photo of two of them visiting his garden:


  16th November

Despite the conditions seeming just as promising as those of the last couple of days there was considerably less in evidence today. Thrushes were still conspicuous, with counts that included 100 Blackbirds and 50 Redwings at the Bill, but the best of the relatively thin spread of other new arrivals were 10 Bramblings, 9 Lapwings, 4 Snipe, 2 Golden Plovers and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Mistle Thrush at Penn's Weare. Four Brent Geese passed through off the Bill and 1 of the Black Brants were again amongst the brents at Ferrybridge.





   Hoopoe - Osprey Quay, 15th November 2012 © Nick Hopper A Hard Day at the Office (flight shot) and Martin Cade (others)

  15th November

Portland's late autumn purple patch continued with the discovery of a very obliging Hoopoe in the Osprey Quay area, whilst migrant-wise, with the wind remaining in the east, there was still plenty to entertain. Thrushes, Goldcrests and finches made up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill, where day-totals included 100 Blackbirds, 70 each of Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, 25 each of Goldcrest and Brambling, 9 Lapwings, 3 Woodcocks, a Snipe and a Black Redstart; of note elsewhere were singles of Woodcock at Easton, Black Redstart at Reap Lane, Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle and Lapland Bunting over Penn's Weare. The sea also got a fair bit of attention, with 4 Shelduck and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Brent Goose, Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser and Pomarine Skua the pick of the bunch off the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and 1 Delicate.

14th November

The much anticipated return of easterlies certainly saw the numbers perk up, whilst the hot tip for the day - a Pallas's Warbler - duly obliged by dropping in briefly at Verne Common; further rarity interest was provided by the Dusky Warbler that remained at Portland Castle. Northbound Starling passage has been a feature of the last fortnight, and today chipped in with totals of 9860 over Portland Heights, 850 over the Bill and 500 over Portland Castle; small numbers of routine thrushes and finches were also on the move overhead, along with singles of Ringed Plover, Golden Plover and Snipe over the Bill and 2 Snipe and a Mistle Thrush over Portland Heights. On the ground a late flurry of Goldcrests included 10 new birds trapped at the Obs, whilst also of note were 5 Reed Buntings, 3 Woodcock, a Merlin, a Firecrest and a Bullfinch at the Bill, a Merlin at Barelycrates Lane, at least 3 Black Redstarts and 4 Firecrests scattered elsewhere and singles of Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 15 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Silver Y and 1 Rusty-dot Pearl.



   Dusky Warbler - Portland Castle, 13th November 2012 © Martin Cade

...for a long time views were subliminal at best:


...but towards the end of the afternoon, after a decent little burst of calling (click here to have a listen), it became slightly more visible when, rather oddly, it made several visits into the tops of 10m sycamores:


The best views came so late that there was almost no light for photography:


  13th November

A day that looked to be fizzling out rather uneventfully suddenly came to life in mid-afternoon with the discovery of a typically elusive Dusky Warbler at Portland Castle. Earlier, interest had been restricted to 2 Great Skuas through off the Bill, some light passage of finches over the Bill (including 220 Goldfinches, 80 Linnets and 5 Bramblings), the odd few grounded thrushes, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests here and there, Water Rails at Verne Common (8) and the Bill (2) and single Black Redstarts at Blacknor and the Bill.

The lingering party of 10 or more Bottle-nosed Dolphins spent most of the day off East Cliffs at the Bill.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 6 Rusty-dot Pearl and 3 Silver Y.

12th November

More or less constantly drizzly, miserable conditions saw to it that meaningful coverage was out of the question today. Newly arrived thrushes, particularly Blackbirds, were in evidence at the Bill, where odd forays into the field also produced 2 Chiffchaffs, a Merlin and a Goldcrest on the land, 160 Starlings arriving in from the south and a single Red-throated Diver through on the sea.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Pearly Underwing, a Rush Veneer and a Silver Y.




   Starlings - Portland Bill, 11th November 2012 © Martin Cade

...and we've never had to twitch a Coot before now, but since this is a species that we haven't featured a single photograph of in 12 years of doing the website we thought we ought to make the effort when a decent little flock turned up at Ferrybridge this morning: 



The Coot must be one of the most consummate of nocturnal migrants that hardly ever makes a mistake and turns up in the wrong place: despite the presence every winter on the nearby Fleet of thousands that migrate to and fro from northern Europe, there have only ever been six records at the Bill - and the last one of those was 31 years ago! These days virtually all of the Portland records are of odd singles or small groups that show up at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour during spells of severe cold, so today's presumed downed migrants at Ferrybridge were quite noteworthy.

  11th November

In clear, sunny conditions another 3000 or so Starlings arrived from the south but overhead passage was otherwise largely uneventful, with no more than a trickle of expected fare - including a lone Bullfinch - over the Bill. Morsels of interest elsewhere included 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle, a Black Redstart at Blacknor, singles of Red-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe and Eider in Portland Harbour and 25 Coots at Ferrybridge.



   Mistle Thrush - Portland Bill, 10th November 2012 © Pete Saunders

  10th November

Today's migrant tally remained at a less than impressive level, with single figure totals of the less common thrushes and finches amongst the light trickle of common migrants overhead; a Canada Goose in off the sea at the Bill, single Black Redstarts at the Bill, Reap Lane and Blacknor, and a lone Mistle Thrush grounded at the Bill were the day's only very minor highlights. Despite getting a fair bit of attention the sea produced nothing better than singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill, although there were signs of interest picking up in the sheltered waters of Portland Harbour, where 2 each of Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe, and singles of Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe were of interest.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins have been relatively frequent off the Bill in recent days, with a dozen or more lingering off East Cliffs for much of the morning today.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 5 Silver Y and 2 Rusty-dot Pearl.

9th November

With an Atlantic air-flow still well-established there was again little to enthuse about today. The highlights of a fairly mediocre overhead passage were three large flocks of Starlings - totalling c4500 birds - arriving in quick succession in off the sea at the Bill, and a steady (mainly southbound) passage of Chaffinches there that included a sample count of 317 in an hour; a few more of the usual suspects overhead there included 15 Bramblings, 5 Siskins and 4 Fieldfares. Grounded migrants included precious little of note anywhere. A good congregation of Mediterranean Gulls - 200 or so in total - featured off the Bill, where 2 each of Pomarine Skua and Great Skua along with a lone Red-throated Diver also passed by.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 6 Rusty-dot Pearl and 2 Silver Y.

8th November

Poorer by the day this week, with today coming up with no more than the lightest trickle of new arrivals, the majority of which were common thrushes and finches. What little quality there was came in the form of 11 Swallows, 9 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Bramblings and singles of Snipe and Firecrest at the Bill, a Lapland Bunting at Barleycrates Lane, a Firecrest at Suckthumb Quarry and a Black Redstart at Blacknor. The sea wasn't action-packed, but did produce 86 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Teal through off the Bill; another 2 Red-throated Divers, along with a lone Slavonian Grebe, were in Portland Harbour.

Immigrants in the Obs garden moth-traps: 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and 2 Silver Y.

7th November

West/north-west winds tend to sound the death knell for routine migration at this time of year and, with the notable exception of 2 Lapland Buntings and a Snow Bunting that flew north over the Bill, that certainly proved to be the case today. There were still small numbers of late migrants on the move, but the only moderate interest was provided by the likes of 7 Bramblings and singles of Grey Heron, Snipe, Short-eared Owl, Swallow, Firecrest and Yellowhammer at the Bill and additional mid-island Firecrests at Easton (2) and Avalanche Road. Up to 100 Mediterranean Gull were lingering off the Bill, where 42 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Pomarine Skua also passed by.

The first moth-trapping for a few nights revealed that were still a few immigrants on the wing, with 6 Silver Y and 2 Rusty-dot Pearl caught at the Obs.

6th November

For the most part a lovely clear, sunny day, with heavy cloud cover eventually rolling in late in the afternoon. Late migrants certainly found the conditions to their liking and there was a steady throughput of new arrivals - most departing just as quickly as they'd shown up. Wood Pigeons were again on the move, with 2000 or so heading south so high over the Bill that it looked likely that many more were missed; in contrast, Starling passage was more visible, with 3000 over the Bill and 2000 over Weston all heading north at low level. Amongst the steady trickle of other migrants at the Bill there were 100 each of Blackbird and Song Thrush, 50 Redwings, 25 Bramblings, 15 Fieldfares, 10 Swallows, 5 Snipe, 5 Redpolls, 3 Reed Buntings, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Firecrests and singles of Grey Heron, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer, whilst elsewhere notable sightings included a Lapland Bunting at Barleycrates Lane, 2 Continental Coal Tits, 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Firecrest Avalanche Road/Suckthumb Quarry and singles of Ring Ouzel and Coal Tit at Penn's Weare. A lone Eider passed through on the sea at the Bill.

5th November

Lots more heavy overnight rain eventually gave way to clearer skies and a good deal of sunshine, along with a welcome shift in wind direction into the north-east. The day's rewards were hardly on a par with those in late October, but there was a good deal more on the move than in recent days. At the Bill the most conspicuous migrants were Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Wood Pigeons and Starlings, all of which were heading in different directions: c300 Lesser Black-backs headed east offshore, c500 Wood Pigeons left to the south and c875 Starlings arrived in off the sea and headed away to the north. Otherwise it was a day of relatively routine northbound passage of mainly thrushes and finches that included 600 Chaffinches, 22 Bramblings, 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Lapland Bunting, whilst the best of the rest were 6 Black Redstarts, 2 Merlins and singles of Lapwing, Snipe, Firecrest and Continental Coal Tit.

4th November

Quite a weather roller-coaster today, with a blasting, cold northerly and rain at dawn, calm, sunny and mild conditions through the middle of the day and then bucketloads of rain through the evening. Although there were a few new arrivals in the poor weather at dawn, more seemed to drop in as the day went on, with mildly respectable totals on the ground at the Bill that included 7 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps, 6 Bramblings, 4 Goldcrests, 3 Redwings, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Black Redstarts and 3 Firecrests; elsewhere there was a notable total of 14 Black Redstarts at Easton/Weston. Finches - mainly Goldfinches today - were still on the move overhead, and another 2 late Swallows also passed over at the Bill. Three Mallards passed by off the Bill, with the same or another 3 later found settled on floodwater at Reap Lane.

3rd November

Still very samey conditions and birding. The only numbers were overhead, with a continual light southbound passage over the Bill through the morning; a sample one hour count there came up with 1500 Wood Pigeons, 370 Goldfinches, 210 Linnets, 57 Chaffinches, 30 Meadow Pipits, 18 alba wagtails, 4 Bramblings, 2 Swallows and a Siskin. New arrivals on the ground were few and far between, with better weekend coverage probably doing little more than finding more of what had been around for several days: Black Redstarts were at the Bill (2), Weston (2) and Church Ope Cove, 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 2 Black Brants were again at Ferrybridge, and singles of Merlin, Purple Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl and Mistle Thrush also made the log at the Bill. The sea remained disappointingly quiet, with a lone Great Skua providing the only interest off the Bill.

2nd November

Not even a hint of a change in the weather so precious little change in the birding. Despite a general lack of grounded migrants - a late Redstart, a Black Redstart and a Firecrest at Wakeham and further Black Redstarts at the Bill (2) and Weston provided the only real interest - there was a fair bit on the move overhead, with a sample one hour count at the Bill coming up with 360 Goldfinches, 320 Linnets, 120 Wood Pigeons, 110 Starlings, 60 Chaffinches, 25 Greenfinches, 16 alba wagtails and 9 Skylarks. Despite the strength of the wind the only worthwhile sighting from the sea was of a lone Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.


Also, thanks to Dr Martin Collinson at the University of Aberdeen for letting us know that mtDNA extracted from feather samples of last week's Siberian Stonechat confirm that it belongs to the form stejnegeri; fuller details will follow in due course.

1st November

With a stiff westerly firmly established there were low expectations which were only just exceeded by the day's happenings. The thin scatter of grounded migrants included some interest in the form of singles of Ring Ouzel at Penn's Weare and Wakeham, Firecrest at the Bill, Perryfields, Penn's Weare and Easton, and Black Redstart and Bullfinch at the Bill; small numbers of finches were on the move overhead, with a short sample count at the Bill coming up with totals of 240 Goldfinch, 180 Linnets and 40 Chafffinches. The only other news was of the continued presence of the Red-throated Diver at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge.

A lone Rush Veneer was the only immigrant moth caught overnight at the Obs.