October 2013

31st October
Not even a hint of an upturn in passage today as October ended under dreary skies that matched the general air of gloom prevailing amongst the gathered birders. A damp dawn that on other occasions might have produced a hatful of thrushes came up with next to nothing by way of new arrivals, with 250 southbound Linnets, 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Water Rails, 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Firecrest being easily the best of a bad job at the Bill. Elsewhere, another Black Redstart was at Reap Lane, 2 Pale-bellied Brents and a Black Brant were again at Ferrybridge and singles of Red-necked Grebe and Sandwich Tern were in Portland Harbour.

Sanderling - Ferrybridge, 30th October 2013 © Pete Saunders

30th October
Disappointing all round today, with a lot of legwork in for the most part decent conditions coming up with few rewards of any consequence. For a while after dawn it looked like visible passage would feature but, after 320 Wood Pigeons, 9 Bramblings and, rather oddly, a Goosander amongst others put in an appearance over the Bill, everything fizzled out. Grounded migrants have been so thin on the ground just lately that it probably wasn't a surprise that, for the umpteenth day, they scarcely featured at all; single Black Redstarts at the Bill and Blacknor were two of the only birds worth a mention. A lone passing Balearic Shearwater off the Bill was the only seabird of note.
   Little Gull and Sabine's Gull  - Ferrybridge and Chesil Cove, 29th October 2013 © Pete Saunders (Little Gull flying), Debby Saunders (Little Gull settled) and Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog (Sabine's Gull)
...and a bit of video - taken in terrible light - of the Sabine's Gull:

29th October
The calm after yesterday's storm wasn't really as calm as might have been hoped, with birding on the land quite difficult in a still blusterly north-westerly. Even if there was precious little evidence of nocturnal migrants having dropped in there was a fair bit on the move once dawn broke, with 600 Goldfinches, 400 Wood Pigeons, 300 Linnets, 150 Chaffinches and 20 Swallows making up the bulk of a respectable southbound passage over the Bill; grounded migrants there included nothing much better than 2 Ring Ouzels, a Short-eared Owl and a Firecrest, whilst elsewhere 2 Black Redstarts were at Portland Castle. Seawatching still had its rewards, with a Sabine's Gull lingering off Chesil Cove during the afternoon and 5 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Little Gulls and singles of Great Northern Diver and Manx Shearwater through off the Bill. The Red-necked Grebe remained in Portland Harbour, where a Great Northern Diver and a Common Scoter provided further interest, whilst the Arctic Tern and a Little Gull were at Ferrybridge.
   Surf Scoter and Grey Plover  - Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge, 28th October 2013 © Debby Saunders (Surf Scoter settled & Grey Plover) and Pete Saunders (Surf Scoter flying)
...and a bit of evidence for the origins of some of the large numbers of Great Black-backed Gulls about at the moment (photos © Martin Cade). 2AA0 that was at Osprey Quay this afternoon was ringed as a nestling on an islet off Herm, Channel Isles, on 1st July this year; the ringer, Paul Veron, also kindly passed us a link to a short article with further details of the monitoring trip during which this bird was ringed:
...whilst 22L which was at the Bill last week was ringed as a nestling at Le Havre, France, on 24th July last year; the ringer, Gilles Le Guillou, kindly also informed us that this individual was sighted in Cornwall during January and at two sites in northern France during September:

28th October
Although we gather that Portland Bill recorded the highest wind-speed (81mph) in SW England during last night's storm, it didn't seem at the time to be a particularly exceptional event and the quality of the day's seawatching probably bore that out: there were some decent sightings to be had but overall a lot of coverage came up with nothing in great quanity. The stand-out highlight was a Surf Scoter that pitched in briefly at Chesil Cove during the afternoon, whilst the best of the back-up cast were a Grey Phalarope in Chesil Cove and c10 Storm Petrels and a Sabine's Gull through off the Bill; routine sea passage was uneventful, with 10 Brent Geese, 6 Great Skuas, 3 Little Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and singles of Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua through off the Bill, whilst the shelter of Portland Harbour held singles of Long-tailed Duck and Red-necked Grebe. Birding on the land was again hard work in the constant buffeting wind, but 1000 Linnets, 170 Goldfinches and 3 Merlins headed south at the Bill through the morning, 2 Black Redstarts and a Firecrest were grounded there, another 3 Firecrests were at Pennsylvania Castle, a late Garden Warbler was at Weston Street and the Arctic Tern remained at Ferrybridge/Chesil Cove.
   Purple Sandpiper and Ring Ouzel  - Ferrybridge and Penn's Weare, 27th October 2013 © Pete Saunders (Purple Sandpiper) and Keith Pritchard Birding Portland UK (Ring Ouzel)
...two particularly noteworthy records: Purple Sandpiper is a real oddity anywhere away from the tip of the Bill, whilst the colour-rings worn by the Ring Ouzel should give us the first unequivocal evidence for the origin of the migrants that pass through Portland.

27th October
A pretty rough day following a very stormy night. Not surprisingly it was the sea that came up with most of the day's highlights, notably singles of Leach's Petrel and Sabine's Gull at Chesil Cove and a Leach's Petrel through off the Bill. The back-up cast was maybe not as extensive as might have been hoped: a feeding flock of gulls and Gannets off the Bill attracted the constant attention of a variety of skuas, including a dozen or more Great Skuas, 4 Arctic Skuas and 2 Pomarine Skuas, whilst 3 Balearic Shearwaters and a Manx Shearwater also passed through there; singles of Arctic Skua and Little Gull also passed through at Chesil Cove, and at least 24 Kittiwakes were in Portland Harbour. In windswept conditions birding on the land was very hard work but 4 Ring Ouzels and a Wheatear were of note in the shelter of Penn's Weare, a Black Redstart was at Reap Lane and a Purple Sandpiper and the Arctic Tern were at Ferrybridge.
26th October
After an autumn when - Balearic Shearwaters aside - the sea has come up with few rewards today finally saw things perk up. Numbers were nothing special but quality came in the form of a Leach's Petrel through Chesil Cove and 9 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Great Skuas, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, a Red-throated Diver, a Pomarine Skua, an Arctic Skua and a Sabine's Gull through off the Bill. It was really too windy and/or wet for serious coverage of the land, but interest there was provided by a Merlin and a Firecrest at the Bill, a Black Redstart and a Brambling at Southwell, 3 more Firecrests and another Brambling at Pennsylvania Castle/Wakeham, a Black Redstart at Portland Heights, 8 Swallows and a House Martin at Verne Common, 4 Black Redstarts at Portland Castle and a Black Brant and the Arctic Tern at Ferrybridge.
   Brambling - Southwell, 25th October 2013 © Debby Saunders
...and from yesterday a Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge (© Pete Saunders):

25th October
Although it might seem from the day's list that there was a fair bit about that certainly didn't reflect the reality of spending time birding and, for the most part, getting precious little reward at all. The conditions weren't helpful, with a constant gusty wind to contend with, and common migrants weren't at all numerous either on the ground or overhead. However, the list of oddities included 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Merlin, a Woodlark, a Yellow-browed Warbler (only briefly at dawn at the Obs) and a Firecrest at the Bill, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Balearic Shearwater through on the sea there, singles of Water Rail, a late Whitethroat, and Brambling at Southwell, 6 Firecrests and a Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle/Windmills and one of the Black Brants and the Arctic Tern still at Ferrybridge.

A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 26th October. 

   Black Redstart, Reed Bunting and Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, 24th October 2013 © Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (Black Redstart & Short-eared Owl) and Martin Cade (Reed Bunting)
...and the day wasn't without its frustrations: an apparent nightjar seen fleetingly in the Obs garden in the pre-dawn half-light was annoying enough, but later even an admittedly very distant photo (© Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog) maybe isn't quite enough to clinch what looked to be a good bet for a Rustic Bunting that dropped in briefly high on the West Cliffs at the Bill:

24th October
A light southerly breeze and clear skies saw a lot of migrants take advantage of a brief window of opportunity to make their exit, with a strong overhead passage during the first few hours of the morning; from the dearth of birds on the ground it looked very much like nocturnal migrants had made full use of similar conditions in the preceding hours of darkness. Visible passage over the Bill included totals of around 1000 Linnets, 400 each of Skylark and Chaffinch, 300 each of Wood Pigeon and Goldfinch, 200 Pied Wagtails and 30 each of Dunnock, Siskin and Reed Bunting; among the wide variety of make-weights 3 Woodlarks and 2 Tree Sparrows were of particular note, whilst elsewhere 3 Crossbills passed over Tout Quarry/Portland Heights. On the ground there were at least 30 Stonechats at the Bill, but few if any other routine migrants were at all numerous; quality came in the form of 3 Water Rails, 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 Merlins, 2 Black Redstarts, a Ring Ouzel, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest at the Bill, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Merlin and a Black Redstart at the Windmills, 2 Black Redstarts at Blacknor and the Arctic Tern still at Ferrybridge.
A Red-veined Darter was seen briefly at the Bill.
   Black Brants and Arctic Tern - Ferrybridge, 23rd October 2013 © Pete Saunders (two Black Brants & settled Arctic Tern), Debby Saunders (flying Arctic Tern) and Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (single Black Brant)

23rd October
A little more to report today although not a great deal of it was on the ground where we'd certainly wish it to be right now. After a very stormy night the seawatchers were again expectant, but although a lingering Storm Petrel was a notable newcomer at Chesil Cove passage itself consisted of little more than 17 Brent Geese, 4 Great Skuas, 2 Little Gulls and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill; singles of Little Gull, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern were also lingering at Chesil Cove. Visible passage was much more conspicuous than in recent days, with a sample count of the steady southbound movement at the Bill coming up with 1750 Linnets, 600 Goldfinches, 180 alba wagtails, 70 Starlings and 48 Skylarks; 5 Swallows, 3 Merlins and a Golden Plover were among the extras logged there at other times. Grounded migrants remained at a premium with nothing in any quantity and only Black Redstarts at the Bill, Blacknor (2) and Chesil Cove of any very minor quality. Elsewhere the 2 Black Brants were again at Ferrybridge.
22nd October
The momentous events on this date last year were certainly not repeated, with last year's excesses having been replaced this year by an island seemingly almost bereft of migrants of note. The prevailing mild but unsettled southerly airflow has clearly knocked passage on the head, to the extent that amongst the day's tiny number of new arrivals the only interest came in the form of 2 Merlins, 2 Reed Buntings, a Short-eared Owl and a Black Redstart at the Bill, further Black Redstarts at Reap Lane (2) and Chesil Cove, and one of the Black Brants, together with a late Common Tern, at Ferrybridge.
21st October
Whilst hardly representing an upturn in fortunes at a time that ought to be an awful lot better there was just a little more on offer today. With the wind still blowing hard the sea was well watched: a constant procession of west-bound Gannets off the Bill certainly gave the impression that routine passage had picked up, but 5 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Great Skuas and a Brent Goose were the only oddities tagging along; singles of Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Little Gull also passed through off Chesil Cove. Four Black Redstarts dotted about the island were clearly new arrivals, as was a Woodcock at the Bill; routine fare remained poorly represented, with 2 Merlins at the Bill and a Reed Bunting at Barleycrates Lane of note but little else beyond the lightest scatter of Chiffchaffs everywhere.
  Last Friday's Woodlark - Portland Bill, 18th October 2013 © Steve Copsey Three Amigo's Birding

20th October
A day of frequent heavy showers blown through on a stiff south-westerly - rather dishearteningly, apparently setting the pattern for the week to come. The sea got a lot of attention but didn't come up with much more than 2 Great Skuas and singles of Red-throated Diver, Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater and Little Gull through off the Bill and a Common Scoter through at Ferrybridge. The strength of the wind made for difficult birding on the land although it did seem as though there was still very little about: the thin scatter of migrants at the Bill included little of note beyond singles of Merlin, Purple Sandpiper, Siskin and Reed Bunting, whilst a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle was the only worthwhile addition from elsewhere.
   Pomarine Skua - Ferrybridge, 19th October 2013 © Pete Saunders

19th October
Portland continues to be well and truly in the doldrums, with little in the way of numbers or quality today. The promise generated by a few extra thrushes and the like at dawn soon evaporated as it became clear that there was no general arrival of grounded migrants; visible passage did get going for a while but only involved alba wagtails, Linnets and Goldfinches in any numbers. The sea managed to salvage some interest, with 3 Balearic Shearwaters and singles of Great Crested Grebe, Grey Plover, Arctic Skua and Great Skua of note off the Bill; elsewhere a Pomarine Skua passed through at Ferrybridge.
18th October
A low-key day, much in keeping with the last few, with migratory activity remaining pretty subdued. Odds and ends of interest included 2 Black Brants (amongst the first four figure total of Dark-bellied Brents of the autumn) at Ferrybridge, a Ring Ouzel at Tout Quarry and singles of Hobby, Merlin, Woodlark, Firecrest and Tree Sparrow at the Bill. With the full moon no doubt a factor in there being far few grounded migrants about than might be hoped in a south-easterly, it was left to passage overhead to provide some recompense, with the likes of departing Skylarks, alba wagtails and a variety of finches all quite well represented through the morning.
   Short-toed Lark - Portland Bill, 17th October 2013 © Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog
...and another video clip of it:

17th October
With summer-like conditions returning yet again there was no excuse for not getting out in the field although sadly, at least in the way of new arrivals, it remained pretty quiet. Just as the Short-toed Lark had entered its second week in residence at the Bill so reports came through in the evening of it having been taken by a Merlin; with nothing else of equal or better rarity about it was left to 3 Merlins, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Short-eared Owl and a Woodlark to provide the next level of interest at the Bill. Although grounded commoner migrants were very thinly spread there were some signs of an improvement in overhead passage, with a short sample count at the Bill coming up with 450 Linnets, 220 Goldfinches, 80 alba wagtails and 11 Skylarks leaving to the south at the Bill.
   Merlin, Ruff and Woodlark - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 16th October 2013 © Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog (Merlin & Woodlark) and Pete & Debby Saunders (Ruff)

16th October
A morning of bucketing rain and strong south-easterlies gave way to a very mild and almost cloudless afternoon when the wind shifted into the west and freshened still further. Although there was nothing in any numbers the day's tally did include a fair bit of variety, with a Black Brant and a Ruff at Ferrybridge, and a Woodlark and the Short-toed Lark at the Bill being of particular note; back-up migrants at the Bill included 3 Lapwings and singles of Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Ring Ouzel at the Bill. The sea was for the most part very disappointing, with 2 Great Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Shoveler easily the best on offer at the Bill; a mixed flock of ducks high over Ferrybridge included more than 30 Pintail, along with several Shoveler, 2 Wigeon and a Tufted Duck.
   Red-veined Darters - Portland Bill, 15th October 2013 © Ken Dolbear (top) and Martin Cade (bottom)

15th October
Glorious weather but less than exciting birding with few signs of passage really getting going beyond the appearance of a late pulse of Swallows at the Bill. The Short-toed Lark was still about at the Bill although seemed to getting more elusive/completely absent as time went on, and the now expected crop of Yellow-browed Warblers consisted of at least 2 at sites around Southwell. Scarcity interest was otherwise rather limited and didn't get much beyond the level of 2 Ring Ouzels, a Merlin and a Firecrest at the Bill, another Firecrest at Wakeham and singles of Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua through off the Bill. The only commoner migrants in any sort of quantity were Swallows (including a good 500 or more through/lingering at the Bill), Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs, Linnets and Chaffinches, all of which made three figure totals.
Three Red-veined Darter dragonflies were at the Bill during the afternoon.
14th October
Rather quiet again today with it seeming as though few migrants are getting through the unsettled conditions affecting swathes of southern Britain. Although the Short-toed Lark remained ensconced at the Bill there were relatively few new arrivals on the ground, whilst visible passage overhead was more or less a non-event. The Bill area came up with a few minor highlights that included singles of Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Black Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest, whilst elsewhere there was a Ring Ouzel at Suckthumb Quarry; additionally a lone Great Skua passed through on the sea at the Bill.
13th October
A slightly disappointing day with a good deal less being discovered than might have been hoped. The Short-toed Lark remained at the Bill, whilst further interest came in the form of Yellow-browed Warblers at the Obs and Southwell School, a Long-tailed Duck in Portland Harbour, a Mistle Thrush and a Firecrest at Penn's Weare and 2 Short-eared Owls, a Dartford Warbler, a Firecrest and a presumed Twite (heard and seen twice in flight but not pinned down) at the Bill. Routine migrants included 100 Chiffchaffs at the Bill but precious little in any quantity.
   Short-toed Lark and Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bill and Reap Lane, 10th and 12th October 2013 © Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings

12th October
A day of weather contrasts - damp and very windy at dawn but sunny and calm by mid-afternoon - saw the Short-toed Lark remain at the Bill but, other than another flush of Yellow-browed Warblers, only a rather limited array of new arrivals. The Yellow-browed Warblers numbered at least 5 at sites around the centre of the island, whilst other quality came in the form of 5 Ring Ouzels, 3 Barn Owls, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Lapland Buntings and a Woodlark at the Bill and another 3 Ring Ouzels at Southwell. Commoner migrants weren't particularly plentiful either on the ground or overhead. A trickle of interest on the sea included 18 Brent Geese and 2 Arctic Skuas through off the Bill.
Also today we received the sad news of the death of Roger Isted; Roger was involved in a serious car accident several weeks ago and died in hospital this afternoon. Regular visitors to the Obs will chiefly remember Roger as a very enthusiastic visiting ringer, but he actually had a wide range of other natural history interests as well as possessing an unerring eye for a good photo opportunity - his famous shot of a Muntjac deer sneaking through the Lower Admiralty fence on a summer evening remains unique in Portland terms:
We offer our sincere condolences to Roger's family on their sad loss.

   Glossy Ibis and Redwing - Portland Bill, 11th October 2013 © Martin Cade
...and the Southwell Yellow-browed Warbler from a couple of days ago (© Pete Saunders):

11th October
Three good birds in three days - it really is beginning to seem like a purple patch. Today's star rarity was a Glossy Ibis that flew in off the sea at the Bill and continued as far north as Southwell before about-turning and heading away high to the south-west; in the light of increasingly frequent autumn influxes into Britain Glossy Ibis had certainly been on the cards as a likely addition to the Bill list (one that made a brief visit to Ferrybridge in May 2008 consitutes the only previous record for the island as a whole) but today's bird was nonetheless quite a surprise on a day of blasting north-easterlies. The Short-toed Lark also remained at the Bill (albeit tricky to catch up with since it disappeared for several hours through the middle of the day) and a Yellow-browed Warbler roamed about gardens at Southwell, whilst quite out of the blue the Thrush Nightingale also reappeared when it turned up in a net in the Obs garden. The rest of the day's interest came in the form of a steady trickle of thrushes and other migrants arriving in off the sea and heading away north, with 300 Redwings, 10 Snipe, 5 Fieldfares, 3 Redpolls, 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Bramblings, a Grey Heron, a Golden Plover and a Jack Snipe being of particular note over the Bill.
   Short-toed Lark - Potland Bill, 10th October 2013 © Pete Saunders
...and a little video clip of it: 

10th October
A couple of decent birds on consecutive days probably doesn't constitute a purple patch but, taken in conjunction with a fair little back-up cast just lately - along with a hatful of rare moths - things are certainly looking up. Today's quality was provided by a Short-toed Lark (maybe surprisingly only the 12th record for Portland) that showed for much of the day on the footpath beside the Privet Hedge at the Bill. Once again, it seemed to be a case of the rarity travelling alone, since commoner migrants weren't at all well represented; 2 Merlins and singles of Jack Snipe, Black Redstart and Lapland Bunting were noteworthy at the Bill, where the 60 or so Redwings and single Fieldfare that turned up late in the day represented no more than insignificant crumbs swept from a veritable feast of thrush passage observed across south-east England today.
   Thrush Nightingale and Spoonbill - Portland Bill and Grove, 9th October 2013 © Martin Cade
...and some more close-up detail on the Thrush Nightingale:
The open wing shows the critical details that make identification straightforward enough in the hand: the 1st primary is tiny and falls well short of the tips of the primary coverts (longer than them in Nightingale), the 2nd primary is longer than the 4th primary (2nd shorter in Nightingale - often level with 5th), the 3rd primary is the longest (4th often nearly as long in Nightingale) and only the 3rd primary is emarginated (both the 3rd and 4th are emarginated in Nightingale).

9th October
Dawn captures of rarities in the mist-nets are very unusual at Portland so today's Thrush Nightingale at Culverwell which was caught as the sun was rising was both unexpected and, since it was only the third island record (and the first in autumn), very welcome; sadly it did the usual nightingale thing of disappearing without trace upon release. Equally sad was the lack of any real sign of routine passage picking up; single Yellow-browed Warblers were at Culverwell, Southwell and Portland Castle, whilst a Spoonbill flew north over the island at dusk, but the likes of singles of Merlin and Ring Ouzel at the Bill provided some of the only other interest amongst the pretty paltry numbers of migrants both on the ground and overhead.
   Chiffchaff and Southern Oak Bush-cricket - Easton and Portland Bill, 8th October 2013 © Martin Cade (Chiffchaff) and Ken Dolbear (Southern Oak Bush-cricket)
...in the three years since the first record in November 2010 Southern Oak Bush-crickets have increased to the extent that they're now one of the most familiar late autumn orthopterans at the Obs. Although their original origin remains obscure (accidental transportation on a vehicle - perhaps from the Bristol area - is thought to be a good possibility) there's no doubt they're now well established and breeding has been proved with the discovery of nymphs during both the last two summers.

8th October
Migration looks to have ground to a halt again, with precious little grounded and, considering the seemingly decent conditions, disappointingly little on the move overhead. Single Yellow-browed Warblers popped up briefly at both Weston and Easton but, singles of Merlin and Firecrest at Southwell aside, there were few other reports worth mentioning.
   Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bill, 7th October 2013 © Martin Cade
...and click here to listen to a short recording of it giving a burst of calling.

7th October
Another - maybe the penultimate? - unseasonably warm day brought little in the way of numbers and still less by way of quality. A Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed at Culverwell soon after dawn was likely another new individual to add to the burgeoning total of that species, but the only other sightings of particular note concerned fly-over singles of Crossbill and Lapland Bunting at the Bill. The less said about commoner migrants the better: there was a light scatter of routine fare everywhere, including singles of Golden Plover and Firecrest at the Bill, but considerably less both on the ground and overhead than might be hoped in early October. A single passing Balearic Shearwater was the only seabird of note at the Bill.
   Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bill, 6th October 2013 © Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog

6th October
In almost astoundingly pleasant, summer-like conditions for early October there was little chance of a fall of grounded migrants - although Chiffchaffs still managed to be numerous in every bit of cover - but the inexorable southward trickle of Yellow-browed Warblers continued, with 4 on show around the island (at the Obs, Southwell School, Verne Common and Portland Castle). Chiffchaffs aside, grounded migrants were conspicuously less numerous than yesterday, with oddities consisting of little more than a Short-eared Owl and a Firecrest at the Bill and a Lapland Bunting at Reap Lane. Given the conditions it was perhaps most likely that diurnal passage was taking place at great height, in any event it certainly wasn't a feature that attracted much attention. A resurgence in Balearic Shearwaters saw 43 pass through off the Bill.
5th October
With anticyclonic conditions setting in there looked to be plenty of opportunity for migrants to get moving again and numbers on the ground improved no end. The day's rarities included Yellow-browed Warblers at Southwell School, Penn's Weare and the Obs and singles of Woodlark, Richard's Pipit and Tree Sparrow over the Bill. However it was really a day of numbers of common migrants, with Meadow Pipits and Chiffchaffs in particular in quantity everywhere, with sample counts from the Bill of 1000 Meadow Pipits and 250 Chiffchaffs.
4th October
Disappointingly, after such a busy start, this week fizzled out with barely a whimper: a Quail was a nice early surprise in Top Fields but common migrant numbers fell still further. With the breeze having shifted into the west for the first time in a while it was only the relative shelter of the trees around the middle of the island that held grounded migrants in any quantity, and there only Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Spotted Flycatchers were at all well represented; single Merlins at the Bill and Suckthumb Quarry were the only minor highlights. Overhead passage was dominated by departing Linnets, with more than 500 leaving from the Bill during the morning. A lone Arctic Skua passing the Bill constituted the only seabird of note.
   Yesterday's very obliging Tree Pipit - Tillycombe, 3rd October 2013 © Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog

3rd October
Although there was a short spell of heavy rain during the morning the conditions were not nearly as grim as had been anticipated, indeed by mid-afternoon it was feeling positively balmy once the wind dropped and the sun broke through. The one grim aspect of the day was the quality of the birding, with precious little evidence of any worthwhile arrival of migrants beyond 2 Firecrests at the Obs, a Black Redstart at Barleycrates Lane and a conspicuous increase in Whitethroats; singles of Turtle Dove at Southwell and Merlin at the Bill may or may not have been lingerers. The sea remained very quiet, with just 5 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua through off the Bill.
   Wheatears - Portland Bill, 2nd October 2013 © Tony Hovell The Travelling Naturalist
...and this afternoon we made a couple of trips to Tillycombe to try to get to grips with an extremely furtive pipit that had been giving its finder the run-around - eventually it gave itself up and could be confirmed as 'just' a Tree Pipit:

2nd October
After a wet night that many migrants probably sat out rather than venture southward there was a further decline in numbers on the ground, although the clearer hours immediately after dawn did see a decent amount of diurnal passage get going. Meadow Pipits, Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground, with the warblers being concentrated in good quantity around the sheltered centre and north of the island; quality didn't get much beyond the level of the likes of 2 Turtle Doves, a Merlin and a Water Rail at the Bill, another 2 Turtle Doves at Barleycrates Lane and 2 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Arctic Skuas through on the sea at the Bill. Elsewhere, the customary rapid build-up in Brent Goose numbers saw totals of 230 Dark-bellieds and a single Pale-bellied logged at Ferrybridge.
 Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler - Southwell and Portland Bill, 1st October 2013 © Pete Saunders (Turtle Dove and Spot Fly) and Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog (Y-b Warbler)

1st October
Although numbers on the ground were somewhat reduced and there was conspicuously less on the move overhead today carried on in much the same vein as yesterday, with plenty to see throughout the island. The favoured spots of cover again held plenty of departing common migrants, for example Wakeham alone held 110 Blackcaps and 60 Chiffchaffs, but it was very much routine fare that dominated, with single Yellow-browed Warblers at the Obs and Avalanche Church the only rarities to put in an appearance; among the infrequent migrants a Turtle Dove remained at Southwell and 2 Hobbys and at least 1 Merlin made the tally.