June 2013

30th June

Although a spell of fog for a good part of the morning somewhat restricted fieldwork, particularly seawatching, there was plenty enough fair enough weather at other times for it to be obvious that new arrivals were few and far between. A Cuckoo at the Bill was noteworthy but the only other report of any real interest from there concerned the Short-eared Owl that was lingering on. 29th June

On a really pleasant day there was another fairly motley selection of sightings at the Bill, where the Short-eared Owl remained, a Corn Bunting was new in on the land, a Sand Martin left to the south and a Whimbrel, an Arctic Skua and a trickle of Manx Shearwaters passed through on the sea. Elsewhere, 2 Jays were new at Avalanche Road and a Blackcap was new at Foundry Close. 28th June

The Short-eared Owl continued its unseasonable residence at the Bill where it provided the day's main interest; migrants there included 4 Chiffchaffs, a Wheatear and a Spotted Flycatcher. 27th June

Another nice selection of migrants going in all directions today. All the reports were from the Bill where 2 singing Reed Warblers were typically late spring arrivals, whilst the 12 Common Scoter, 9 Whimbrels and 2 Black-headed Gulls were no doubt leaving towards winter quarters; the rest of the day's tally - consisting of 100 Swifts arriving in off the sea from the south, 4 new Chiffchaffs, a Mistle Thrush, a Spotted Flycatcher and the lingering Short-eared Owl - presumably knew what they up to even if it wasn't immediately apparent to us! 26th June

Considering it was less than three weeks ago that we were relating how spring Common Scoter passage was taking place much later than usual, it seems extraordinary to be reporting now that return passage is well under way, with 228 heading west off the Bill through the morning. In fact all the day's migrant events related to 'autumn' passage, with 2 Sand Martins, a Whimbrel and a Curlew also leaving to the south or west at the Bill and a Crossbill heading north at Reap Lane. The only other worthwhile report was of a decent-sized gathering of 70 Swifts at Penn's Weare. 25th June

This spring's flurry of Jays continued with a single individual roaming about at the Bill during the morning but the rest of the day's tally was less than inspiring: a Curlew passed over at the Bill, 15 Common Scoter and a trickle of Manx Shearwaters passed through on the sea there and a Blackcap was in song at Avalanche Road.




  Crossbill and Peregrines - Penn's Weare and Grove Point, 24th June 2013 © Keith Pritchard Birding Portland UK

  24th June

June keeps coming up with some pretty decent days, and today carried on in that vein. In much improved conditions the Serin was still about at the Bill, albeit only for a while early in the morning, whilst the Short-eared Owl and long-staying Firecrest also both put in appearances there, whilst new arrivals included 2 Mute Swans through offshore and 2 Grey Herons heading south overhead; 'proper' sea passage there was limited to 200 or so Manx Shearwaters, 6 Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua. Six Crossbills that settled briefly at Penn's Weare were much the best of the few reports from elsewhere.



A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Tuesday 25th June. 

  23rd June

With it remaining windy and cool it was a bit of a surprise that the day's best birds showed up on the land, where a very mobile Serin roamed the Obs/Hut Fields area, a seemingly new Quail was in song in the Crown Estate Field and a very unseasonable Short-eared Owl appeared near the Obs during the evening. The sea got lots of attention, with 2000 Manx Shearwaters, 12 Common Scoter, 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Great Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas, a Black-heaed Gull and a Mediterranean Gull logged at the Bill. 22nd June

Feeling a lot more like autumn than mid-summer today in an increasingly strong and distinctly chilly north-westerly. All the reports were from the sea, with 120 Manx Shearwaters, 17 Common Scoter, 4 Puffins (3 of which had the look of being non-locals), 3 each of Great Skua and Arctic Skua and 2 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill. 21st June

Clearer and less humid today. Yesterday's flurry of interest wasn't repeated: 1 of the Quails was still singing for a while early in the morning at the Bill where the Redstart and Firecrest also remained but a Yellow Wagtail was the only obvious new arrival on the land. Seawatching there came up with 78 Common Scoter, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern. 20th June

An unexpectedly migrant-filled day with warm, humid and ultimately quite foggy conditions dropping a succession of new arrivals, several of which were notably unseasonable. Two Quails were again at the Bill, where newcomers included 2 Chiffchaffs and singles of Greenshank, Snipe, Cuckoo, Redstart, Willow Warbler, Firecrest and Siskin on/overhead on the land and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea. Elsewhere singles - all in song - of Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat and Chiffchaff at Suckthumb Quarry were all perhaps more likely semi-residents. 19th June

Yesterday's Quail was still in song at the Bill where a second singing individual also showed up; the only other news was of 2 Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill. 18th June

The recent run of interest at the Bill was sustained, notably with a Quail in song in the Terraces, a Crossbill overhead, a Storm Petrel offshore and the Firecrest still present at the Obs; more routine fare there included 3 Lapwings and a Curlew on/overhead on the land and 22 Common Scoter and 3 Sandwich Terns through on the sea. 17th June

An unseasonably Firecrest at the Obs constituted the day's highlight at the Bill, where singles of Grey Heron and Chiffchaff were also new and 4 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua passed by on the sea.



  Greenish Warbler - Portland Bill, 16th June 2013 © Joe Stockwell

...and a bit more detail (photos © Joe Stockwell):



Also thanks to Richard Newton for a nice recording of the bird in song - click here for a listen; by a weird coincidence the usual writer of these notes was in the Ural Mountains, Russia, today also recording Greenish Warblers - click here to listen to one of them.

  16th June

Greenish Warbler was for a period a couple of decades ago almost a mid-June staple at the Bill so the appearance of one at the Obs today after a good many blank years was very welcome; although the bird was initially in song and was also trapped and ringed it proved to be increasingly elusive and escaped the attention of most later visitors. The day's only other reports came from the sea, with 32 Common Scoter, 30 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Arctic Skuas and a Storm Petrel through off the Bill. 15th June

With the exception of a lone Sand Martin through over the Bill the day's interest was all on the sea, where 120 Manx Shearwaters, 100 Common Scoter, 5 Arctic Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Storm Petrel passed by off the Bill. 14th June

Quieter conditions allowed for better coverage of the land today which came up with 2 Chiffchaffs and singles of Sand Martin, Wheatear, Reed Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill and a Willow Warbler at Wakeham. Manx Shearwaters were trickling through off the Bill throughout the morning. 13th June

Quite stormy at times again today. Not surprisingly, all the interest was on the sea, with 350 Manx Shearwaters, 16 Common Scoter, 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Great Skuas and a Balearic Shearwater through off the Bill and 3 Pomarine Skuas and 2 Arctic Skuas through off Chesil Cove.



  Wood Pigeon - Southwell, 12th June 2013 © Pete Saunders

  12th June

The promised rain set in a vengeance today and restricted opportunities to a good deal of seawatching and some half-hearted searching for migrants. Limited rewards for the seawatchers at the Bill included 2 Great Skuas and singles of Storm Petrel and Little Egret, along with no more than a light tickle of Manx Shearwaters. The land there came up with 3 Chiffchaffs, a Reed Warbler and a Willow Warbler.


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An announcement for PBO members: a provisional agenda for the Annual General Meeting of Portland Bird Observatory and Field Centre, which will be held at the Observatory on Saturday 6th July 2013, can be inspected on the Noticeboard page here. 11th June

After several weeks of mainly dry weather it was a surprise to wake to a damp dawn, although what might have been very welcome at the height of spring passage succeeded on this late date in dropping at the Bill no more than 4 Reed Warblers and a Chiffchaff. The first Barn Owl for some weeks was unexpected there, but the day's only other reports were of 12 Common Scoter through off the Bill and an Arctic Skua through off Chesil. 10th June

The migrant list grows shorter by the day, with today's complete cloud cover at dawn dropping precious little by way of new arrivals. At the Bill another single Jay was the pick of the bunch that otherwise included just 2 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Reed Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs on the land and 23 Common Scoter through on the sea. Elsewhere a Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham was perhaps more likely a potential breeding bird rather than a passing late migrant. 9th June

A day that saw Portland well and truly becalmed in the midsummer doldrums - that time when you know there'll be some more rarities to find but the usually fruitless toil required to eke them out can for the most part seem extremely tedious. Apart from yet more incoming Swifts the day's migrant tally at the Bill consisted of just 3 Willow Warblers and a Wheatear on the land and 16 Common Scoter, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Grey Heron through on the sea. Elsewhere, 6 Shoveler and 5 Ringed Plover passed through off Chesil.




  Adonis Blue - Nicodemus Knob, 8th June 2013 © Ken Dolbear

  8th June

Despite the constant presence of a brisk north-easterly today saw a return to the Flaming June conditions that had dominated up until yesterday. The day's highlight was a remarkable, albeit fleeting, sighting of a Black-veined White butterfly that flew rapidly north through the Obs garden during the afternoon; sadly, this unique event was witnessed by just one fortunate observer and later searches for the butterfly drew a blank.

In comparison, bird interest was minimal. Incoming Swifts dominated the migrant tally at the Bill, where more than 200 passed through in 3 hours during the morning, but there was precious little of note amongst the few new arrivals on the ground there; the hybrid Yellow Wagtail was still about near the Obs, whilst a lone overflying Yellowhammer was also of note. Singles of Little Egret and Great Skua were the best of a limited selection though on the sea at the Bill.



  Red-rumped Swallow - Portland Bill, 7th June 2013 © Martin Cade

  7th June

A less than subtle blip in the prevailing fine conditions saw Portland narrowly miss two thunderstorms that crossed the Channel and passed either side of the island early and late in the day. This stir-up in the weather did the trick from the rarity point of view, with an almost subliminal Red-rumped Swallow dashing through at the Bill between the storms; amongst the more routine migrants there was another steady arrival of Swifts and a few hirundines in off the sea, a Siskin was an unseasonable visitor at Southwell, 2 new Willow Warblers were at the Bill and the hybrid Yellow Wagtail from three days ago also showed up there again. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 85 Common Scoter, 2 Gadwall, 2 Great Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Pomarine Skua.




  Common Blue and Small Copper - Bottomcombe Quarry, 6th June 2013 © Ken Dolbear

  6th June

Once again, very little changing. The day's migrant tally at the Bill consisted of 11 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Willow Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, a continuing light tickle of passing Swifts and hirundines and, best of all, a Tree Sparrow that headed north along West Cliffs; a late Common Sandpiper below West Cliffs at Reap Lane was the best of the bunch elsewhere. Late sea passage again featured, with 100 commic terns, 88 Common Scoter and 2 Great Northern Divers through off the Bill and 25 Common Scoter through off Chesil. 5th June

More of the same glorious weather but less of the same meagre selection of late migrants. At the Bill 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 each of Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, a single Yellow Wagtail and a few more incoming Swifts consituted the tally of new arrivals, with a few more of a similar selection elsewhere. Five passing Common Scoter were the only birds of note on the sea at the Bill.



  Yellow Wagtail - Portland Bill, 4th June 2013 © Martin Cade

...its parentage open to debate.

  4th June

On another lovely day rewards were scant at best; the brisk easterly breeze that had set in by dawn promised much but, other than a near-miss in the form of a likely Bee-eater heard calling over Southwell, failed to deliver the hoped-for rarity. A miscellany of late commoner migrants dotted about the centre and south of the island included nothing that managed a double figure total, although Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Whinchat, Redstart, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and Redpoll were all represented, whilst overhead Swifts continue to trickle in off the sea in some numbers and a Hobby passed through at Weston. Offshore, the extremely late up-Channel passage of Common Scoters continued with 150 more through off the Bill, but a single Great Northern Diver was the only other worthwhile sighting there.



  Garden Warbler - Southwell, 3rd June 2013 © Pete Saunders

  3rd June

The excitement of the weekend was replaced by altogether more mundane fare today, although there was some compensation in the form of the continuing fine weather that at least made the wandering around finding nothing in particular quite pleasurable. The migrant tally at the Bill consisted of little more than 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Reed Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Whinchats on the ground, a trickle of incoming Swifts overhead and 17 Common Scoter, 12 commic terns and 2 Black-headed Gulls through on the sea; a similarly thin selection elsewhere included singles of Garden Warbler at Southwell, Yellow Wagtail over Reap Lane, Mute Swan and Sanderling at Ferrybridge and Common Gull off Penn's Weare.




  Common Rosefinch and Eastern Subalpine Warbler - Southwell and Portland Bill, 2nd June 2013 © Pete Saunders (Common Rosefinch) and Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (Subalpine Warbler)

...the Subalpine Warbler had the rather characteristic mix of old and new feathers that readily permitted it to be aged as a first-summer (photos © Martin Cade):







  2nd June

Yesterday produced the quantity, today came up with the quality: a Common Rosefinch in song at Southwell was a not altogether unexpected early morning find, whilst early in the afternoon an Eastern Subalpine Warbler popped up out of the blue in a mist-net at the Obs. On a much quieter day for routine passage Spotted Flycatcher just crept over the 20 mark at the Bill/Southwell, where 4 Reed Warblers, 2 Blackcaps and a Hobby were the only other new arrivals of note. A single passing Great Skua provided the only real interest on the sea at the Bill.

1st June 2013 © Martin Cade 1st June

Portland was treated to a real top-notch migration spectacle today when a combination of factors including clear skies, a brisk northerly and the lateness of the spring - conspired to precipitate a quite astouding visible passage of Spotted Flycatchers at the Bill. The first observer through the Top Fields after dawn reported none until he reached the Privet Hedge, whereupon he was met by the first wave of what was to prove a five hour or so north-bound stream of flycatchers arriving a low level in off the sea from the south; the total of birds passing in close proximity to the Obs reached just over 800 and, allowing for the seemingly lower but uncensused numbers visible at times heading overhead well to the west of the Obs, it seems inconceivable that there weren't well in excess of 1000 birds through by mid-morning. With so many flycatchers about it was easy to overlook that there was another very respectable arrival of other migrants with, for example, the likes of 20 Wheatear, 15 Willow Warblers, 10 Whinchats, 6 Reed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Jays and singles of Whimbrel, Turtle Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail and Redstart at the Bill, along with some quality in the form of a Firecrest and a brief Serin at Southwell