April 2013

30th April A pretty decent end to what's been a month of really quite peculiar migration at Portland, not least the fact that, probably uniquely in the 50+ year history of PBO, Willow Warbler wasn't the most numerous migrant ringed at the Obs this April - that accolade went to Blackcap which seems to be the migrant on the up at the moment. After a few low-key days passage picked up quite conspicuously today, at least for a few hours after dawn when the brisk north-easterly dropped a constant throughput of new arrivals that weren't hanging around under clear, blue skies: numbers were hardly spectacular but the species list included virtually all the routine migrants that might be expected in late April, along with a good spring rarity in the form of a Richard's Pipit that put in a very brief appearance on the Slopes at the Bill. Wheatears, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers dominated on the ground at the Bill, where each came in with totals of between 50 and 100; the list of less common migrants there included 10 Redstarts, 8 Yellow Wagtails, 6 Whinchats, 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Reed Warblers, 4 Whimbrel, 2 Bullfinches and singles of Hobby, Cuckoo, Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher and Redpoll, whilst elsewhere a Ring Ouzel was of note at Suckthumb Quarry. Only a good deal of persistence came up with much of interest from the sea, with 6 Great Skuas, 3 Black Terns and an Arctic Skua being the pick of the bunch off the Bill.



   Widow (or Snake's-head) Iris Hermodactylus tuberosus - Broadcroft BC Reserve, 29th April 2013 © Ken Dolbear

...discovered by Dale Culbreth and evidently the first record for Portland

  29th April With the exception of a brief Serin at the Obs during the morning (the same or another was also reported later in the day at Barleycrates Lane) there was precious little to hold the attention today, with both numbers and variety conspicuously poorer than yesterday. The meagre spread of migrants around the centre and south of the island included nothing better than 7 Whimbrel, 2 each of Yellow Wagtail, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher, and singles of Grey Heron, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher amongst the scatter of commoner fare. Seawatching at the Bill came up with singles of Red-throated Diver and Arctic Skua.





Raven, Wheatear and Wall Lizard - Portland Bill and Duncecroft Quarry, 28th April 2013 © Tony Hovell The Travelling Naturalist (Raven and Wheatear) and Vic Savery naturenutz (Wall Lizard)

  28th April

As might be hoped in late April there was a decent enough species list for the day but, sadly, the numbers were nothing to shout about. The lack of any prolonged overnight cloud cover saw to it that there was only a thin spread of grounded migrants, amongst which there were few if any surprises and little more than single figure totals of most of the routine species. The sea was well-watched, with the Bill coming up with totals of 50 Manx Shearwaters, 16 Great Skuas, 3 each of Arctic Skua and Pomarine Skua, 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Black-throated Diver, and a single Great Northern Diver.

Four Harbour Porpoises headed east off the Bill during the morning.

27th April

From feast to famine today, with migrant numbers reduced to the merest handful after a clear night that turned increasingly chilly as the wind shifted into the north. There was extremely little worth mentioning on the land, with 3 each of Whimbrel, Tree Pipit and Redstart, 2 White Wagtails, a Yellow Wagtail and a Bullfinch at the Bill and single Cuckoos at Weston Street and Old Hill the only less common migrants making the list. The conditions promised very little on the sea, with 2 Red-throated Divers and a single Great Skua providing the only real interest off the Bill.







   Short-eared Owl, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Southwell, 26th April 2013 © Nick Hopper A Hard Day at the Office (Short-eared Owl and Whitethroat) and Pete Saunders (Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher)

  26th April

It's probably isn't talking up our ability to read the runes when we say that a fall was pretty obviously on the cards for today: the weather forecast had for several days been mentioning the overnight passage of a weather front and, in the event, the pre-dawn timing of the rain showers was near-perfect. The Bill area in particular was awash with migrants at first light, and although most moved on quite rapidly once the remaining cloud cleared through some impressive totals were quickly racked up, including 700 Wheatears, 500 Blackcaps, 200 Whitethroats and 100 each of Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler; the back-up tally was far too extensive to mention in full but included the likes of the first 6 Spotted Flycatchers of the spring, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Hobbys, 2 Redpolls, 2 Bullfinches and singles of Short-eared Owl, Cuckoo, Black Redstart, Nightingale, Ring Ouzel, Wood Warbler and Firecrest, with more of the same scattered widely around other island areas. Despite all the action on the land the sea was given some attention, with 7 Red-throated Divers, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Great Skuas, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver the best of the bunch off the Bill.



A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 27th April. 




   Redpoll - Portland Bill, 25th April 2013 © Martin Cade

...although this looks to be a cabaret, having seen so many indeterminate specimens in recent years - and having been party ourselves to what now seem like some pretty dubious determinations - we've all but given up bothering to use specific epithets for the Portland records.

  25th April

The fog that first appeared yesterday afternoon completely enveloped the island overnight and lingered for a good part of the day. New arrivals were certainly out there but birding was never easy and seawatching in particular was out of the question until the evening. The usual trio of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler all got into the low dozens at the Bill, where the tally of less regular migrants included 8 Yellow Wagtails, 7 Whinchats, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Garden Warblers, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Grey Heron, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Redpoll and Bullfinch; another Grasshopper Warbler was at Cheyne. Singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Skua were the pick of the sightings from what little seawatching was possible at the Bill.

24th April

A bit of an improvement today, at least for a while early in the morning when the cloud cover that rolled in late in the night dropped a small flurry of 100 Willow Warblers at the Bill. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were also represented in much lower numbers, but surprisingly little else seemed to be affected by the change in the weather: the spring's first Wood Warbler showed up at Old Hill, singles of Greenshank and White Wagtail were at Reap Lane and 4 Whimbrel, a Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler were the best on offer at the Bill. Dogged persistence by the seawatchers at the Bill eventaully came up with a list that included 67 Common Scoter, 6 Great Skuas, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Arctic Skuas, a Black-throated Diver, a Manx Shearwater (yes, that is just one!) and a Teal.



   Firecrest - Portland Bill, 23rd April 2013 © Martin Cade

...as usual we're only using a little kiddie camcorder to take these videos so the quality isn't great in the first place but they are HD so will look best by upping the quality setting to 1080 HD.

  23rd April

On a really pleasant day of unbroken sunshine it was truly dreadful for common migrants: at the Obs just 3 birds were trapped and ringed all day - 2 Wood Pigeons and a Firecrest. The day's highlight was a Hawfinch that flew over Portland Harbour and headed away north over Portland Harbour; in the almost complete absence of routine fare the only other interest on the land was provided by the first Cuckoo of the spring at Wakeham, singles of Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Firecrest and Bullfinch at the Bill and a Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates Lane. Some slight respectability was salvaged at the Bill with seawatching that came up with 84 commic terns, 27 Whimbrel, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 each of Bar-tailed Godwit, Pomarine Skua and Arctic Skua, and a single Great Skua.



   Whimbrel - Portland Bill, 22nd April 2013 © Will Bown

  22nd April

Yesterday's two rarities were not at all representative of what has been in recent days a very flat spell for migration, and today saw that pattern maintained. Although hirundines were passing through at a steady rate, and 4 Yellow Wagtails, a Brambling and a Redpoll also passed over at the Bill, none of the typical late April migrants were grounded in any quantity, with the likes of 5 Whimbrel, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Common Sandpipers, a Redstart, a Black Redstart and a Firecrest providing what little quality there was at the Bill. The sea got plenty of attention, with watches at the Bill coming up with 75 commic terns, 22 Whimbrel, 16 Bar-tailed Godwits, 6 Red-throated Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua.




Ravens - East Weare, 21st April 2013 © Keith Pritchard Birding Portland UK

  21st April

The carpet of frost on the ground at dawn was testament to it having remained clear all night so it was no surprise that routine migrants were once again poorly represented; however, the early discovery of a fleeting Red-rumped Swallow at the Bill provided evidence that southern overshoots might be on the cards, which was more than borne out later when a Subalpine Warbler made an equally brief visit to a local birder's garden at Southwell. Wheatears again figured in some numbers, with a good 100 or more at the Bill, but the otherwise thin smattering of migrants on the ground/overhead at the Bill included by way of quality little more than 7 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Redstarts, 2 Whinchats and singles of White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Firecrest, Siskin, Bullfinch and Corn Bunting, with more of the same elsewhere. The sea was well worth some time, with a varied list off the Bill that included 200 commic terns, 64 Whimbrel, 10 Red-throated Divers, 8 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 8 Arctic Skuas, 5 Great Skuas, 3 Gadwall, 3 Eider and a Red-breasted Merganser; elsewhere 70 Bar-tailed Godwits passed over Portland Harbour.

20th April

Yesterday promised the goods but didn't deliver, whereas today promised precious little and delivered just that. No doubt plenty of migrants were on the move overhead on a crystal clear night but with no reason for them to drop in on Portland it was only Wheatears - that totalled around 150 about the centre and south of the island - that figured in any quantity; these areas also came up with a list of less frequent migrants that included 7 Redstarts, 5 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Whinchats, 3 Black Redstarts and singles of White Wagtail, Grasshopper Warbler, Brambling, Bullfinch and Corn Bunting. Despite the waft of south-easterly the sea was very quiet, with little more than 100 commic terns, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Northern Divers through off the Bill.



   Chiffchaff - East Weare, 19th April 2013 © Keith Pritchard Birding Portland UK

  19th April

Without doubt the most pleasant day of the year to date but, sadly, a big disappointment on the migrant front with seemingly promising conditions failing to deliver anything but a handful of grounded arrivals. Amongst the very thin spread of common species there was minor interest at the Bill in the form of 4 Bullfinches, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Redstarts and singles of Common Buzzard (a new, non-local individual), Merlin, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher, Brambling and Corn Bunting, whilst elsewhere there were singles of Merlin, Redwing, Redstart and Black Redstart at Reap Lane, a Brambling at the Grove and a Pied Flycatcher at Verne Common. The light breeze had shifted to the north-west which more or less killed sea passage: 6 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Skuas and 2 Arctic Skuas were the only worthwhile sightings off the Bill.

18th April

A seawatch day: the strength of the westerly wind was far too great for easy birding on the land, with those that did make the effort discovering few signs that there'd been any significant overnight arrival of grounded migrants. Morning seawatching at the Bill came up with 150 Manx Shearwaters, 130 commic terns, 25 Whimbrel, 18 Great Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Pomarine Skuas, whilst 6 Great Skuas and singles of Great Northern Diver, Arctic Skua and Pomarine Skua passed through off Chesil. In the absence of any numbers on the land it was left to the odd less common migrants such as 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Redstarts and a Brambling at the Bill, another Redstart at Southwell and 2 more Yellow Wagtails at Barleycrates Lane to provide interest.

17th April

Despite apparently promising-looking conditions today turned out to be perplexingly unproductive with few signs of an arrival of migrants on the land, nothing much on the move overhead and, at least until a late flurry of skuas off the Bill, uneventful on the sea. Blackcap was the only migrant that featured in any sort of quantity on the ground, with a good 50 at the Bill alone; a handful of Redstarts, 2 each of Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit and Redwing, and singles of Lapwing, Snipe, White Wagtail, Grasshopper Warbler and Yellowhammer were the best of the bunch amongst the rather paltry showing of other species. The morning seawatch at the Bill came up with precious little bar 30 Knot, 2 Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver, however the arrival of some threatening-looking weather towards the end of the afternoon prompted a small flurry of passage that included 5 Great Skuas and 4 Arctic Skuas.








   Arctic Skua, Great Skuas, Arctic Tern and Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill and Southwell, 16th April 2013 © Martin Cade (the seabirds) and Pete Saunders (Pied Flycatcher)

  16th April

There was interest all round on a day when a pleasantly mild and bright afternoon had replaced the threatening skies of the morning that were a hangover from another wet night: the land was relatively busy everywhere, whilst the sea produced enough to sustain some quite long watches; the only obvious absentees were the diurnal migrants that didn't feature in any worthwhile quantity. The expected quartet of Wheatear, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff dominated on the ground, with all returning totals in the 50-150 range from the Bill, with lots more scattered elsewhere. Variety has been increasing by the day, with today coming up with first records for the year of Garden Warbler (at Barleycrates Lane) and Lesser Whitethroat (at the Bill), along with totals of 19 Redstarts, 4 Whinchats, 3 Pied Flycatchers and a Firecrest amongst the less common migrants dotted about the centre and south of the island. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 9 Great Skuas, 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Little Gulls and 2 Arctic Terns, whilst the Chesil Cove totals included 21 Arctic Terns, 8 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas and the first 2 Little Terns of the year.

A party of at least 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins headed north off East Cliffs at the Bill during the morning.



   Sanderling - Ferrybridge, 14th April 2013 © Martin Cade

...this colour-ringed/flagged individual was at Ferrybridge yesterday evening; thanks to Jeroen Reneerkens for very quickly letting us know that it was first marked at the mouth of the River Tagus, near Lisbon in southern Portugal, on 6th November last year.

Postscript After we uploaded the photo above we received a message from Kevin Crisp who, rather remarkably, saw the same individual at 3.15 this afternoon on the oysterbeds at Hayling Island, Hampshire; many thanks to Kevin for this photo of it:


  15th April

A something of nothing day with less all round than might perhaps have been expected given the light onshore wind and overcast skies with occasional spits of drizzle in the air. Whilst not at a complete standstill passerine migration was nonetheless hardly a spectacle: the total of 50ish Wheatears at the Bill was the only worthwhile count of routine fare, whilst the only less numerous species making the tally there were 5 Redstarts, a Tree Pipit, a Firecrest and the first Sedge Warbler of the spring; elsewhere another Firecrest was at Avalanche Road. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 21 Common Scoters, 10 Sandwich Terns, 7 Red-throated Divers, 7 Great Skuas, 6 Pochard, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Whimbrel, a Pomarine Skua and just 2 Manx Shearwaters (in case anyone thinks we're not bothering to mention Manx that isn't the case - it's just that their customary arrival in considerable quantity in Portland waters at this time of year hasn't happened so far).

The first immigrant moth since January - a Dark Sword Grass - was caught overnight at Sweethill, Southwell.

14th April

In the light of nocturnal migration looking to have been pretty well non-existent - little more than single figure totals of even the commonest summer migrants were in evidence at the Bill - in was a minor surprise that the spring's first Whinchat was spotted at St George's Church; the only other less common migrants making the list at the Bill were 3 Firecrests, 2 Redstarts, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Reed Bunting. As the day wore on the sky cleared and diurnal passage of the likes of hirundines - particularly Swallows - became very conspicuous; the day's other highlight - an incoming Osprey - also passed over at the Bill at this time. Despite high hopes from the gathered throng it was only dogged persistence that eventually came up with anything of consequence on the sea, with 5 each of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua, 4 Shoveler and singles of Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser through off the Bill, and the same Velvet Scoter also off Penn's Weare.



   Brambling - Southwell, 12th April 2013 © Pete Saunders

...one from yesterday.

  13th April

There was only a limited window of opportunity for meaningful fieldwork today, with rain and a strengthening wind setting in by mid-morning and spoiling proceedings for the rest of the day. The post-dawn clear slot was long enough for it to be pretty obvious that grounded migrants were poorly represented, with 3 Firecrests, 2 Yellow Wagtails and singles of Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Tree Pipit, Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler providing the only interest amongst the barely more than single figure totals of commoner migrants at the Bill; elsewhere another Redstart was at Reap Lane. The sea was similarly unproductive, with 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Wigeon and a lone Great Skua the only worthwhile highlights off the Bill.





   Mallards, Willow Warbler and Redstart - Penn's Weare and Southwell, 12th April 2013 © Keith Pritchard Birding Portland UK (Mallards and Willow Warbler) and Pete Saunders (Redstart)

...also today the long-staying Long-eared Owl at the Bill was discovered roosting in an unusually visible position (on many days it isn't seen at all):


  12th April

Heavy overnight rain cleared through just before dawn and it was quickly apparent that there'd been a pretty decent fall of mainly phylloscs at the Bill. Later fieldwork revealed that this arrival quickly spead out right across the island, with likely as many as 1000 birds involved in total; the day's mist-netting at the Obs, where 167 phylloscs were ringed, came up with a ratio of close to 3:2 in favour of Willow Warbler. The other feature of the day was the first concerted arrival of hirundines, with Swallows passing through at over 100 per hour at times. Sadly, variety was otherwise extremely limited, with all-island totals of just 2 Redstarts, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Firecrests and singles of Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail and Brambling amongst the other more routine fare. The sea showed early promise, with a flurry that included 7 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Velvet Scoters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver through in quick time off the Bill, but passage there rather quickly fizzled out.

11th April

Bar a brief shower midway through the morning today was a decent enough day to be in the field but rewards were relatively scant. Numbers-wise there certainly wasn't any sort of fall of commoner migrants but a lot of coverage of most areas eventually produced a list of scarcer migrants that included the spring's first Pied Flycatcher (near Pennsylvania Castle), along with 13 Redstarts, 13 Black Redstarts, 8 Firecrests, 4 Bramblings, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Mistle Thrushes and singles of Merlin, Green Sandpiper, White Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Continental Stonechat, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 39 Common Scoter, 32 commic terns, 25 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-throated Divers and singles of Great Northern Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua.



   Greenshank - Reap Lane, 10th April 2013 © Pete Saunders

  10th April

The first calm morning for what seemed like weeks soon revealed that there was far less about than yesterday but improved coverage did eventually come up with a more than respectable tally before heavy rain set in during the afternoon. The Southwell Hoopoe showed up again (in fact it transpired that local residents had seen it and even heard it singing yesterday) although it remained extremely elusive; also of local note was a wide-ranging Corn Bunting in song at various points between the Bill and Barleycrates Lane. With visible passage reduced to little more than a trickle of Meadow Pipits, Wood Pigeons, hirundines and finches most attention was given to the land, where sample common migrant totals at the Bill included around 100 each of Wheatear, Robin and Song Thrush, around 50 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff but still only a single figure count of Willow Warblers; the scarcer migrants dotted about the centre and south of the island included 15 each of Redstart and Black Redstart, 7 Bramblings, 5 White Wagtails, 4 each of Ring Ouzel and Firecrest, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and singles of Merlin, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Snipe, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and Continental Stonechat. The sea was also quieter than yesterday, with 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Little Gulls and 2 Arctic Skuas the pick of the bunch off the Bill.





   Common Scoters, Dark-bellied Brent Geese & Common Scoter and Sandwich Tern - Portland Bill, 9th April 2013 © Martin Cade

...for no particular reason we started with the sea. Amongst the oddities on the land this Little Ringed Plover and Black Redstart were at Reap Lane (photos © Pete Saunders):



Chiffchaff was the most conspicuous migrant on the ground:


...this Goldcrest alighted right next to us on the Trinity House obelisk whilst we were seawatching:


The two most conspicuous visible migrants were Meadow Pipits:


...and Wood Pigeons (additional photos all © Martin Cade:


  9th April

After yesterday had brought what was hoped would prove to be the vanguard of a renewed push of migrants today saw the longjam well and truly broken, with some very heavy passage overhead, a decent arrival on the ground and a good bit of movement through on the sea. Under gloomy skies and with damp always in the air visible passage was at times quite spectacular, with a broad-front arrival of at least 5000 Meadow Pipits and 2000 Wood Pigeons, together with lesser numbers of a wide variety of other largely expected fare; a Swift through at Blacknor was a first for the year, whilst many of the arriving Linnets quickly dropped in to reoccupy their breeding areas. On the ground, although singles of Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat were pretty well on cue date-wise, the numbers/variety would in the main otherwise have been more characteristic of a fortnight/three weeks ago, with totals at the Bill of 150-200 each of Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, 50-60 each of Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Willow Warbler, and 13 Firecrests. The list of miscellaneous scarcer migrants from around the centre and south of the island included 26 Redwings, 13 Bramblings, 12 Fieldfares, 10 each of White Wagtail, Redstart and Black Redstart, 5 Siskins, 4 Ring Ouzels and singles of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Dunlin, Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit. Off the Bill there was a good deal of variety but the only real numbers came in the form of 486 Common Scoter, a single flock of 100 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 75 Sandwich Terns; amongst the also-rans there were 23 Dark-bellied Brents, 11 Red-throated Divers, 3 Shoveler, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Velvet Scoter and an Arctic Skua.




   Slavonian Grebes and Snipe - Chesil Beach and Reap Lane, 8th April 2013 © Martin Cade (Slavonian Grebes) and Pete Saunders (Snipe)

...and a little, slightly seasick-inducing video clip of the Slavonian Grebes which although often very close to the shore were unfortunately always right into the light:


  8th April

An improvement today, with almost constant drizzly rain through the morning dropping a fair few new arrivals - nothing like as much in the way of either numbers or variety than might be expected on this date but a lot better than it's been for a fortnight. At the Bill grounded totals included 75 Chiffchaffs, 50 each of Robin and Blackbird, 40 Song Thrushes, 30 Goldcrests, 15 Fieldfares and 10 each of Wheatear, Blackcap and Willow Warbler, with quality in the form of 3 Ring Ouzels, 2 Black Redstarts and a Brambling; a similar assortment elsewhere included singles of Snipe, Tree Pipit, Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel and Brambling at Reap Lane/Barleycrates Lane. Visible passage was conspicuous along West Cliffs, where a sample one hour count came up with totals of 679 Meadow Pipits, 85 Wood Pigeons, 13 alba wagtails, 3 Chaffinches and 3 Linnets. The sea got plenty of attention, with Chesil coming up with the best of the numbers that included 132 Common Scoter, 99 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 26 Black-headed Gulls, 10 Red-throated Divers, 8 commic terns, 4 Little Gulls, 2 Shoveler and singles of Black-throated Diver, Redshank, Pochard, Whimbrel and Arctic Skua, together with 7 Slavonian Grebes settled offshore; lower totals at the Bill included singles of Manx Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua.

7th April

A freshening and again very cold south-easterly saw yesterday evening's increase in sea passage maintained for a couple of hours after dawn but did nothing for passerine passage that remained almost non-existent. The surprise bird of the day was a Hoopoe that was first reported flying south along West Weares during the morning by observers searching for the White-spotted Bluethroat, before paying an equally fleeting visit to Southwell late in the afternoon; sadly, it seemed as though the bluethroat had finally moved on, as had the last remaining Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry. The only new arrivals on the land were odd ones and twos of Blackcaps and phylloscs everywhere and singles of Hobby, Common Sandpiper and Black Redstart at the Bill; the Long-eared Owl showed up again at the Bill where singles of Water Rail and Bullfinch also remained, whilst 7 Redwings, 3 Black Redstarts, a Ring Ouzel and a Yellowhammer were still in various spots between Southwell and Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 100 Common Scoter, 23 Red-throated Divers, 20 Sandwich Terns, 6 Arctic Skuas, 5 Brent Geese, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and singles of Black-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser; 4 Velvet Scoter, together with an otherwise similar tally to that logged at the Bill, passed through off Chesil.




   Red Kites - Wakeham, 6th April 2013 © Martin Cade

...always rather distant, high up and never quite all in the same field of view; the individual with the sheared-off tail ought to be easy to keep tabs on should it wander back onto Portland or appear elsewhere in Dorset:


Meanwhile, with the temperature creeping up there were enough insects on the wing that the few summer migrants about were able to indulge in the novelty of aerial fly-catching rather than spend another day trying to eke out an existence on the floor; thanks to Pete Saunders for this photo of a Wheatear at Reap Lane:


Also thanks to Pete and Debby Saunders for some more photos of the bat that we first featured a few days ago that was again over their garden at Southwell this afternoon:



...although it's maybe not immediately apparent in these photographs this is a small bat and the consensus seems to be that it's a pipistrelle

  6th April

Although there was again ice on the ponds/puddles at dawn the day itself was one of unbroken sunshine when it begun to  feel almost warm at times for the first time in weeks. Bird-wise, the migration hiatus continued, with precious few new arrivals on the ground and surprisingly little on the move overhead. That said, there was still plenty of mileage to be had from the continued presence of the White-spotted Bluethroat at Chesil Cove and at least 1 of the Ring Ouzels at Suckthumb Quarry (with another nearby at Reap Lane), whilst 3 Red Kites that appeared over the centre and north of the island during the morning were a seasonable but nonetheless welcome highlight. What little there was by way of new/lingering migrants included 9 Stonechats and singles of Tree Pipit, Black Redstart, Fieldfare, Brambling, Siskin and Bullfinch at the Bill, 21 Redwings, 2 Siskins and singles of Redstart, Black Redstart, Brambling and Yellowhammer around the centre of the island and 5 more Black Redstarts at Killick's Hill. After an unpromising start sea passage conspicuously picked up during the late afternoon, with eventual day totals from the Bill of 56 Brent Geese, 25 Red-throated Divers, 7 Whimbrel, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Black-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, a Canada Goose and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

5th April

With routine migration still at pretty much of a standstill it was left to the lingering morsels of quality to provide interest: the White-spotted Bluethroat was reported again from Chesil Cove, whilst the areas immediately north of Southwell came up with totals of at least 25 Redwings, 7 Black Redstarts, 4 Ring Ouzels, 2 White Wagtails and a Yellowhammer. The spring's first Yellow Wagtail flew north over the Bill, where 5 Purple Sandpipers, a Siskin and a handful of new Blackcaps provided interest on the land and 6 Red-throated Divers, 2 Whimbrel and a Black-throated Diver passed by on the sea.


Important announcement for Obs members

The trustees propose that the current charity - Portland Bird Observatory and Field Centre UK Registered Charity No.211630 - apply to be registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). This change in status requires the approval of the membership at a General Meeting; this meeting will be held on Saturday 4th May 2013 at 5pm at the Observatory. Further details are available here.



   Wheatear - Reap Lane, 3rd April 2013 © Pete Saunders

  4th April

A thoroughly grim day: always penetratingly cold in a brisk easterly and with snow falling steadily from leaden skies throughout the late afternoon and evening. Bird-wise, the White-spotted Bluethroat remained at Chesil Cove, 2 Ring Ouzels were still at Suckthumb Quarry and at least 5 White Wagtails, 5 Black Redstarts and 2 Bramblings were scattered about the centre and south of the island. Commoner summer migrants that ought by now to be arriving in quantity were again all but absent, with minor interest being provided by the likes of 19 Redwings and 9 Bar-tailed Godwits at Barleycrates Lane/Reap Lane, 3 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill and 2 Sanderlings at Ferrybridge.



   White Wagtail - Reap Lane, 3rd April 2013 © Pete Saunders

  3rd April

Should you complain when there are the likes of a White-spotted Bluethroat and numerous Ring Ouzels around? - probably not and, after all, these things keep the pager-followers entertained; however, as we mentioned yesterday, the routine birding has become very samey, with many long-stayers having been in situ for a long time and precious little by way of new arrivals beyond the expected visible passage of diurnal migrants along West Cliffs. The Chesil Cove White-spotted Bluethroat was still around, the 3 Ring Ouzels remained at Suckthumb Quarry (with another 3 popping up at times at the Bill and on West Cliffs) and both White Wagtail and Black Redstart made double figure totals. The first 2 Redstarts of the spring were welcome newcomers at Culverwell and Blacknor but in the absence of any sort of arrival of grounded migrants 'new' interest was limited to the likes of singles of Merlin, Tree Pipit, Siskin and Brambling at the Bill and singles of Water Rail and Mistle Thrush at Suckthumb Quarry. The only sea passage worth mentioning concerned 34 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.




   bat sp - Southwell, 2nd April 2013 © Pete Saunders

...identification comments welcome!

  2nd April

After a crystal clear but still breezy dawn when the temperature at the Obs had dropped to -4ÂșC the day got steadily more pleasant, with it feeling tolerably warm by the afternoon. Two White-spotted Bluethroats remained: the Chesil Cove male was present for a second day and the female first netted in the Crown Estate Field on 28th March was retrapped there after having escaped attention for four days. It was otherwise a case of the rather repetitious birding of recent days continuing, with 3 Ring Ouzels still at Suckthumb Quarry and a scatter of White Wagtails and Black Redstarts everywhere. Although Meadow Pipits in particular were still streaming north along West Cliffs and several in-bound flocks of Wood Pigeons arrived, commoner migrants were still not numerous on the ground: Song Thrushes and Redwings were again in fair supply but amongst the thin spread of the likes of Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs there was, for example, just a single Willow Warbler. The sea was quieter than yesterday, with 31 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, a Curlew and a Whimbrel through off the Bill and 25 Wigeon dropping in off Chesil Cove; Portland Harbour still held 5 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and 1 Slavonian Grebe.






White-spotted Bluethroat and Kentish Plover - Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge, 1st April 2013 © Dave Helliar (Bluethroat), Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (Kentish Plover - top two photos) and Pete Saunders (Kentish Plover - bottom photo)

...after it was initially discovered beside the footpath south from Chesil Cove (the photo above) the bluethroat moved right down onto the shoreline where it was photographed nicely by Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings:


...and we got a bit of scene-setting video:


 ...and also from today, two of the long-staying Ring Ouzels at Suckthumb Quarry (© Pete Saunders):  



...and the Little Egret that pitched into Culverwell (© David Rashley):


  1st April

Another day, another White-spotted Bluethroat: today's bird was discovered at Chesil Cove, not far from where the best of the day's other new arrivals - a Kentish Plover at Ferrybridge - had been found soon after dawn. With the easterly wind having freshened once again there was plenty of northbound visible passage going on along West Cliffs/Chesil, where Meadow Pipits were moving through at up to 1000 an hour and singles of Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and Tree Pipit provided further interest amongst the routine migrants on the move. On the ground the centre of the island was again busy, with 20 White Wagtails, 10 Black Redstarts, 4 Ring Ouzels and a Merlin amongst good numbers of the likes of Wheatears, Song Thrushes and Redwings; at the Bill the Long-eared Owl was again discovered at roost during the afternoon and singles of Little Egret and Ring Ouzel were of note. Interest on the sea came in the form of 5 Avovets through off Chesil, 9 Slavonian Grebes over Chesil into Portland Harbour and 139 Common Scoter, 4 Red-brested Mergansers, 3 commic terns and 2 Shoveler through off the Bill.