31st May

This has been a week that keeps giving, and it carried on in fine style today with first a Bee-eater and then shortly afterwards a Goshawk both north over East Weare, these being followed in quick time by the appearance/reappearance for 15 minutes of 4 Bee-eaters at the Obs; the back-up cast was also a good deal more varied and numerous that might be expected at the end of May. Common migrant-wise, the Bill area came up with 15 Reed Warblers, 10 new Whitethroats, 5 each of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler, and 3 each of Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher, whilst Bee-eater seekers reported several more Reed Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers in particular elsewhere around the centre of the island; a Little Ringed Plover was also new overhead at Ferrybridge. Even the sea chipped in with more than it should have done on a calm day, with 150 Common Scoter, 23 commic terns, 10 Shelduck, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Great Skuas and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

This morning's immigrant/dispersing moths from the Obs traps: 13 Diamond-back Moth, 3 Silver Y, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Rush Veneer and singles of Maiden's Blush and Green Silver-lines.

Goshawk and Bee-eaters - East Weare and Portland Bill © Keith Pritchard gullsandterns.blogspot (Goshawk) and Martin Cade (Bee-eaters)

...as something of a local quirk, Goshawk is a much, much higher value rarity at Portland than Bee-eater, with today's bird being only the second of the few records to be photo-documented; quite why the last three records should have all occurred in the month of May seems particularly baffling - what's all that about?

We didn't get time yesterday to mention that whilst wandering about the middle of the island looking for migrants we stumbled upon our 'mixed-singing' chiffchaff still seemingly holding territory in some trees behind the fire station at Easton that we hadn't visited since we last saw it there a fortnight ago. It appears now to have an even more arrestingly weird repertoire than it had before; have a listen to this compilation of song phrases that we recorded over the half-hour or so that we were with it:

In appearance it looks likes a bright but scruffy Chiffchaff, with certain aspects of its plumage and structure bearing some resemblance to Iberian Chiffchaff; at close range it even looks to have a moult limit in the primaries, although the seemingly older outer feathers vs newer inner ones is the opposite to what is now known to be a feature of some spring Iberians:

We again had a go at playing various recording to it and it still gives an at times very strong reaction to Iberian Chiffchaff song, whereupon it comes shooting out of the trees almost as soon as the recording's played:


30th May

While yesterday's showers did the trick with knocking down some migrants, today they did little more than get us wet early on and keep us wet throughout the morning. A few new arrivals did show up, with several Whitethroats, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, and singles of Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler at the Bill; elsewhere there were 2 Turtle Doves at Southwell and several extra Reed Warblers, phylloscs and Spotted Flycatchers dotted around suitable spots through the middle of the island.

The immigrant list from the Obs garden moth-traps did include 2 Rush Veneer, but otherwise just 2 Silver Y and a single Rusty-dot Pearl.

Turtle Dove - Southwell, 30th May 2014 © Pete Saunders

29th May

The flow of rarities dried up - hopefully just for the time being - but it was still a decent enough day with, for late May, a good little scatter of late migrants that were being downed by a succession of showers and occasional heavier bursts of rain. The Bill area got most of the coverage and came up with totals that included 30 Whitethroats, 20 Spotted Flycatchers, 8 Willow Warblers, 6 Reed Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers and 2 each of Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff; overhead there was steady arrival of small parties of Swifts, whilst elsewhere there were 2 single Turtle Doves in the Southwell/Reap Lane area. Singles of Great Skua and Arctic Skua, along with 23 Common Scoter, passed through off the Bill.

28th May

Any worries that the excitements of the past couple of days might be a flash in the pan were very quickly dispelled with an early morning reappearance of the 4 Bee-eaters in and over the Obs garden, where they performed admirably for a couple of hours before leaving high to the south. The hot streak at the Obs was further maintained early in the afternoon when the mist-nets struck with a previously unseen Red-breasted Flycatcher; sadly it proved less than cooperative and wasn't seen after release. The day's other happenings paled into insignificance, but did include new singles of Hobby, Golden PloverReed Warbler, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill and 124 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver through on the sea there.

Immigrant-wise, 2 Rusty-dot Pearls were a first record for the year in the Obs garden moth-traps, that also came up with 7 Diamond-back Moths and a Silver Y.

Bee-eaters, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Hobby - Portland Bill, 28th May 2014 © Martin Cade
...never frequent at the best of times, if we remember rightly the Red-breasted Flycatcher is only Portland's seventh spring record, as well as being the first to occur in May (the previous records were all in mid-June). If the date was a bit unexpected then the bird's age certainly wasn't: just like all the recent records it was a first-summer with well-worn plumage and tell-tale little buff tips to most of the greater coverts (which were actually surprisingly hard to see on the closed wing when the bird was held at any distance):

We've never quite been able to work out whether first-summer males can ever have traces of red on the throat, but either way none of our recent spring birds have had any so, like today's bird, they've all fallen into the un-sexed category (additional photos © Martin Cade).

27th May

Very pleasingly we seem to have found ourselves getting into something of a mini purple patch, with yesterday's two oddities being followed today by a party of 4 Bee-eaters that arrived in off the sea over the Obs early in the afternoon and settled briefly at Culverwell; they were quickly located again roaming widely over the middle of the island before seemingly departing northward over Verne Common. Earlier a Common Rosefinch (presumably most likely yesterday's bird, although a new arrival couldn't be ruled out) had been heard very briefly in song in the beach hut fields at the Bill, whilst later one observer on the hunt for the Bee-eaters also noted the coincidental appearance over Reap Lane of a Red-footed Falcon, but sadly that couldn't be found again. Before all the excitement in the sky there had been a small arrival of grounded migrants at the Bill, where 8 Whitethroats, 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and singles of Turtle Dove and Willow Warbler had shown up through the morning; elsewhere a Hobby was overhead at Avalanche Road. The sea was very quiet, with nothing more than 30 Common Scoter and a single Manx Shearwater through off the Bill.

Immigrant moths caught overnight at the Obs: 19 Diamond-back Moths and 1 Silver Y.

Bee-eaters - Portland Bill and Southwell, 27th May 2014 © Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog  (settled birds and upper single in flight), Debby Saunders (lower single in flight) and Pete Saunders (two in flight)
...and a short video clip of three of the birds settled at Culverwell:

...and thanks to Joe for a short recording of the birds calling at Culverwell:

26th May

At the second attempt of trying, shortly after midnight the first Storm Petrel of the summer was tape-lured, trapped and ringed at the Bill. After a drop of rain in the late hours of the night the calm, heavily overcast dawn looked very promising indeed, so it was rather disappointing to find that the first hour revealed precious little on the ground; that soon changed when in quick succession first a Serin and then a singing Common Rosefinch showed up in the vicinity of the Obs/beach hut fields. Both lingered for a while before the Rosefinch relocated to Southwell later in the morning. A fly-over Brambling was another surprise newcomer at the Bill, where 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher and Chaffinch also showed up; elsewhere, 2 Turtle Doves passed over at Blacknor. The sea was still worth a look, with 56 Common Scoter, 25 commic terns, 3 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua through off the Bill.

Immigrant interest in the Obs garden moth-traps consisted of 2 Pearly Underwings and singles of Dark Spectacle and Silver Y.

Common Rosefinch and Serin - Southwell and Portland Bill © Nick Stantiford (Rosefinch stills) and Martin Cade (Rosefinch video and Serin)
...and, although it's only of rather esoteric interest, Nick's cracking photos of the Common Rosefinch on his garden bird-feeder show evidence of the partial moult of the flight-feathers exhibited by (some/all?) first-years that's alluded to in Svensson and illustrated in one or two blogs elsewhere on the web - here the three longest primaries are clearly newer/fresher than the older/worn inner primaries:

And a few sounds from the days oddities. The Rosefinch was initially singing quite well at the Obs:

...and later Nick Stantiford got a really very decent recording of it just with his mobile phone when it was singing in his garden at Southwell:

...maybe we've just been inattentive in the past, but today's bird seemed to be calling in flight a lot more frequently than is usually the case; most of our attempts at recording these quite subtle calls were spoilt by miscellaneous birders shouting that it was flying (...yes, we could see that for ourselves...) but you can just about make out some calls here as it flies over the Obs heading towards Culverwell:

...and, finally, a few calls from the Serin:

25th May

Signs of a settling down in the weather today although seemingly having come too late to have dropped anything in the way of tardy passerines, with a lingering Blackcap the only report of note from the land at the Bill. Fortunately there was still reward to be had from the sea, with watches at the Bill coming up with 63 Common Scoter, 28 Sanderlings, 5 Great Skuas, 5 Pomarine Skuas, 5 commic terns, 2 Ringed Plovers and singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver, a single Arctic Skua also passed over Ferrybridge. Waders at Ferrybridge included 15 Sanderling, a Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit, with a lone Greenshank also passing over there.

Immigrant moths included the first Pearly Underwing of the year found indoors at the Obs and 2 Diamond-back Moths caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.

Sanderling - Ferrybridge, 25th May 2014 © Pete Saunders

...and two of Ken Dolbear's always beautiful butterfly photos - Common Blues and Small Copper at the High Angle Battery today:

24th May

The sea stole the show again today with the continuing unsettled conditions coming up with some pretty good totals for so late in the spring. The Bill got the best of the coverage and although some of the commoner species were not moving in the quantities logged yesterday there was better variety today, including 50 commic terns, 38 Common Scoter, 8 Pomarine Skuas, 7 Arctic Skuas, 6 Great Northern Divers, 6 Great Skuas, 3 Balearic Shearwaters and a Storm Petrel; Chesil Cove was only watched in the evening but returned totals of 6 Pomarine Skuas and 3 each of Great Skua and Arctic Skua. A Curlew Sandpiper dropped in briefly at Ferrybridge, where 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Grey Plover were still present, but otherwise the land was the poor relation, with nothing more than singles of White Wagtail, Blue-headed Wagtail, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler making the log at the Bill.

In the constantly dreary conditions the only migrant Lepidoptera making the list were those attracted to the various moth-traps, including at the Obs 5 each of Diamond-back Moth and Silver Y, and a single Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

Curlew Sandpiper - Ferrybridge, 24th May 2014 © Pete Saunders

23rd May

Another very unsettled day turned up a decent selection of new arrivals on the ground together with some of the heaviest sea passage we've seen all spring. The latter was particularly unanticipated: at the Bill the Manx Shearwater total got beyond 1000, whilst Gannets and Fulmars were passing at rates of up to 800 and 40 per hour respectively at times during the morning (these figures constitute peaks for each species so far this season); 15 Common Scoter, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Sanderling, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Great Northern Diver and a Storm Petrel also passed through off the Bill, whilst 3 Black Terns, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Pomarine Skua passed through off Chesil and an Arctic Skua flew over Ferrybridge. Coverage of the land was hard work in the stiff breeze but there were certainly new arrivals about, with 10 Reed Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, 2 each of Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher, and singles of Whimbrel, Wheatear, Redstart and Blackcap at the Bill and 15 Sanderling, a Grey Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge.

Migrant Lepidoptera continued to feature, including single Hummingbird Hawk-moths at the Obs and Sweethill, 15 Silver Ys and 14 Diamond-back Moths caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps and small numbers of Painted Ladys at the Bill and Southwell.

Grey Seal - Portland Bill, 22nd May 2014 © Beatrice Dopita 

...and some of the migrant lepidoptera of the last few days:

22nd May

A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 24th May.

The unsettled conditions that set in earlier in the week continued, with a night of heavy rain followed by two more wet spells through the day; the only redeeming feature was that with the storms tracking straight out of western France it remained quite warm. Another minor flurry of new arrivals at the Bill included 5 Whitethroats, 2 each of Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler, and singles of Grey Heron, Ringed Plover, Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtail, Grasshopper Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher. Elsewhere there were singles of Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher at Southwell and 24 Sanderling, 6 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge.

Despite the promising-looking conditions moth immigration dwindled away, with just 2 Silver Y and a Diamond-back Moth caught overnight at the Obs. Painted Ladys cropped up in small numbers wherever there was coverage, whilst another single Hummingbird Hawk-moth was at the Windmills.

Grey Plover and Turtle Dove - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 22nd May 2014 © Debby Saunders (Grey Plover) and Martin Cade (Turtle Dove)

...and a bit more of the Turtle Dove:

21st May

It's got to that time of the season when there'd be much more productive things to be getting on with than migrant-seeking but the lure of what could be there is keeping the stalwarts at it. Today's less than rewarding selection at the Bill included 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Wheatears and singles of Turtle Dove, Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher on the ground, a trickle of Swifts and House Martins arriving overhead and an Arctic Skua through on the sea. A similarly lean return from elsewhere included a Cuckoo singing at Barleycrates Lane and a Hobby passing through there, a Spotted Flycatcher at Portland Castle, 6 Sanderlings and a Whimbrel at Ferrybridge and 31 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Ringed Plover through off Chesil.

Yesterday's hints at lepidoptera immigration getting going were confirmed, at least during the day, with a small arrival of Painted Ladys throughout the island; Red Admirals increased and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth was again in the Obs garden; overnight moth-trapping was spoilt by a conspicuous dip in the temperature, with 5 Diamond-back Moths at the Obs and a Maiden's Blush at Sweethill the best of the captures.

Painted Lady and Hummingbird Hawk-moth - Easton and Portland Bill, 21st May 2014 © Ken Dolbear (Painted Lady) and Duncan Walbridge (Hummingbird Hawk-moth)

20th May

With yesterday's thunderstorms arriving earlier and fizzling out sooner than anticipated overnight rainfall was all but non-existent, which perhaps played a part in there being little improvement on the land. A very thin scatter of newcomers at the Bill included 2 Spotted Flycatchers and singles of Whimbrel, Wheatear and Reed Warbler on the ground, whilst overhead there were still a trickle of Swifts and hirundines arriving. Seawatching was slightly more eventful, with 70 commic terns, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 Great Northern Divers and singles of Red-throated Diver, Arctic Skua and Pomarine Skua through off the Bill.

Yesterday's thunderstorms were no doubt instrumental in depositing the year's first substantial flurry of immigrant lepidoptera around the island: Red Admirals begun appearing around the Obs garden yesterday afternoon, whilst overnight moth-trapping there came up with 17 Diamond-back Moths, 4 Maiden's Blush and 2 Silver Y; highlights elsewhere included singles of Orange Footman at Sweethill and Maiden's Blush at the Grove. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was in the Obs garden today.

19th May

Although the day dawned as pleasantly as the last few it was soon apparent from the cloud streaming in from the south-west that the forecast arrival of thundery showers would come a good deal sooner than expected. The day's highlight proved to be crane/stork that flew rapidly north along the West Cliffs at Blacknor; sadly, it was only spotted as it was disappearing into the distance and on the less than satisfactory views couldn't be clinched, although the observer strongly suspected it to be a Black Stork. Even the onset of the cloud didn't improve the rather grim migrant situation, with 2 each of Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher, and singles of Whimbrel, Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear just about all that could be mustered from the Bill; 13 Sanderling were the best of the waders at Ferrybridge. With the easterly breeze having freshened a little the sea remained worth some time, with 28 Common Scoter, 24 commic terns and a Pomarine Skua through off the Bill, and 160 commic terns and 6 Sanderling east over Chesil.

Sanderlings & Dunlin and commic terns - Ferrybridge and Chesil Beach, 19th May 2014 © Pete Saunders (Sanderlings & Dunlin) and Martin Cade (commic terns)

...the ever-compelling sight of tern passage over Chesil (and for that matter off the Bill) invariably throws up as many questions and opinions as it does answers and truths. Our two images above show part of one flock that shaved the top of the beach on their first attempt at the crossing and headed off rapidly eastwards over Ferrybridge, and part of a second flock that made several attempts hundreds of feet above us but always bottled out at the last minute. Close examination of the series of photos of these flocks show that, as is often suspected with these 'late' birds, the vast majority are Arctic Terns; more worrying however, at least from the recording point of view, is that there are several clear-cut Common Terns (as well as a few birds we're not sure of) amongst them. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of flocks can't be subjected to the photographic scrutiny that these were, it really does seem safest just to log the lot as commic terns.

18th May

Although we're well aware that spring's far from over there was nonetheless quite a feel of the summer doldrums about today's very uneventful proceedings that played out under a blazing sun and in just a waft of an easterly breeze. A Cuckoo at Southwell and a Whinchat at Barleycrates Lane provided just about the only interest around the south of the island, where new arrivals on the ground could otherwise just about be counted on the fingers of one hand; waders fared a little better, with 20 Dunlin, 14 Sanderling, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Whimbrel at Ferrybridge. A trickle on the sea included 43 commic terns, 42 Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a Bar-tailed Godwit through off the Bill and 34 Arctic Terns through over Chesil.

Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel - Ferrybridge, 18th May 2014 © Pete Saunders
...and the Bar-tailed Godwit in action:

17th May

On another hot, sunny day the high hopes for a rarity went unfulfilled but there was a noticeable little flurry of late arrivals on the ground, with upwards of 40 Willow Warblers at the Bill alone. In truth, nothing else featured in quantity, with even hirundines passing through in conspicuously lower numbers than in recent day, but minor interest came in the form of the likes of 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 each of Whinchat, Redstart and Reed Warbler, and a single Greenshank at the Bill and 2 more Whinchats at Barleycrates Lane. Seawatching at the Bill came up little more than 36 Common Scoter.

16th May

With the weather remaining much too pleasant to expect any quantity of migrants it was left to 2 rather late Ospreys that flew north over the island an hour apart either side of midday to provide the day's main interest - a nice highlight but mere crumbs in comparison with the raptor-fest elsewhere in South-west England. The largely insignificant spread of routine fare - nothing, for example, reached a double figure total on the ground - included 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Black Redstarts and a Cuckoo at the Bill. Another pulse of Common Scoter passage - 135 off the Bill and 38 off Chesil - was unexpected on the sea, with 3 Great Northern Divers, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua off the Bill and 2 Shoveler off Chesil also worth a mention.

Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher and Turtle Dove - Portland Bill, 16th May 2014 © Debby Saunders (Whitethroat), Joe Stockwell Yet another birding blog (Spotted Flycatcher & settled Turtle Dove) and Martin Cade (flying Turtle Dove)

15th May

Migrants were a good deal harder to come by on the ground today with a combination of the lateness in the season and the onset of fine, summery conditions seeing to it that interest dwindled. Considerable toil did eventually come up with a fair bit of variety, even if the numbers - passing hirundines aside - were less than impressive, with single Turtle Doves at the Bill and Southwell, an overflying Grey Plover at Barleycrates Lane and a seemingly incoming Little Egret at the Bill being the best on offer. Amongst the ones of twos of typical mid-May fare there were slightly better totals of 40 Wheatears, 10 Willow Warblers, 9 Whinchats, 6 Sedge Warblers and 4 Yellow Wagtails scattered about the southern half of the island. With what breeze there was veering into the east sea interest picked up a little, with 41 Common Scoter, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Arctic Skua, and singles of Teal and Great Skua through off the Bill, another Arctic Skua lingering offshore there all day and another Great Northern Diver through over Ferrybridge.

Chiffchaff - Easton, 14th May 2014 © Martin Cade

...we didn't have enough time last night to edit and upload these images and video of a peculiar 'mixed singing' Chiffchaff that we stumbled across at Easton yesterday evening. We didn't have proper recording gear with us at the time but the bird was so close that some of the variation in song is captured fairly well on the soundtrack of the video. The most alarming feature of the encounter was that we tried playing recordings of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Iberian Chiffchaff to it and the only one that elicited any response at all was the recording of Iberian Chiffchaff: on every one of the half-a-dozen or so times we tried it the bird flew straight out of the trees (we left a tiny sequence of one of these events on the end of the video clip when the recording of Iberian Chiffchaff can be heard in the background) and skimmed low overhead - what can be read into that is anyone's guess. Although the bird clearly had some 'interesting' plumage features we did hear it call several times and the calls were always typical Chiffchaff.
Just for comparison, here are a couple of vintage recordings of the famous Verne Common Iberian Chiffchaff of spring 1999 (we only had cassette tape recordings of it so have digitalized them for playback here; according to the long-faded biro annotation on the tape the two recordings were made by Keith Vinicombe and Richard Newton who we hope won't mind us taking the liberty of making them available here):

14th May

Visitors to the island will be aware of the Little Tern breeding colony at Ferrybridge and of the recent success of wardening efforts in consolidating the tern's tenuous foothold there. Morgan Vaughan, this year's summer tern warden, is keen to enlist the help of more volunteers who are able to spare some time to ensure this trend continues. Morgan is holding a meeting for potential volunteers at the Chesil Beach Centre at 7pm tomorrow, Thursday 15th May - please come along and find out how you can help with wardening South-west England's only Little Tern colony.
There was another nice little arrival of late migrants today when nothing more than a moderate headwind dropped a steady succession of newcomers out of a clear blue sky. The centre and south of the island were well-covered and returned totals of 50-60 each of Wheatear, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, 40 Spotted Flycatchers, 30 Whinchats and 12 Yellow Wagtails, with 2 Pied Flycatchers and a Turtle Dove featuring amongst a varied back-up cast. Although other areas were not so well covered it was evident that there was a good spread of arrivals everywhere, with a Nightingale and Pied Flycatcher at Blacknor and 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Redstarts and a Pied Flycatcher at Portland Castle of particular note. The conditions were also conducive for another good throughput of hirundines, with a sample one hour count on West Cliffs coming up with 777 Swallows, 148 House Martins and a handful of Swifts and Sand Martins. Conventional seawatching was a dead loss but odds and ends making the list from occasional cursory looks at the sea at the Bill included 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Knot, 2 Sanderling, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua.

13th May

Although it's beginning to get late in the season for sizeable falls we do get the impression that there are a fair few migrants still to arrive, with today's happenings doing nothing to dispel that belief. A series of showers either side of dawn were more than enough to drop a steady arrival of birds, with many leaping off pretty sharpish once the weather improved. As might be expected, Spotted Flycatchers dominated, with more than 50 at the Bill and plenty more scattered throughout the middle of the island; Willow Warbler approached the same total at the Bill, where 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Common Sandpiper and a Redstart were amongst the variety of other largely routine fare on offer. Visible passage took a while to get going, but either side of midday Swallows in particular were passing at rates well into the low hundreds per hour. With the easing breeze shifting toward the north-west there hadn't been a lot of hope for the sea, but salvation came in the form of what will likely prove to be the best day of the spring for Great Northern Divers: 15 passed through off the Bill (in fact one peeled off and took the overland route right over the Obs), whilst an additional single opted for the short-cut over Ferrybridge.

Spotted Flycatchers, Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Redstart - Portland Bill, 13th May 2014 © Martin Cade

12th May

The events of the foregoing weekend came quite out of the blue and today saw a return to the hiatus that might ordinarily be expected after a week of relentless westerlies. The thin spread of grounded migrants at the Bill/Southwell included 10 Willow Warblers, 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Wheatears, 2 each of Redstart and Blackcap, and singles of White Wagtail, Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Garden Warbler, with a few more of a similar variety elsewhere. A trickle more on the sea included 3 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Great Skuas and a single Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.

White Wagtail and Ravens - Portland Bill, 12th May 2014 © George Gay (White Wagtail) and Tim Cleeves (Ravens)

11th May

Sometimes events that unfold are just so bizarre that you may as well not bother with trying to get your head round them, and one such occurred today when in blink-and-you-miss-it circumstances on an otherwise deadly morning Portland's first Citrine Wagtail swooped in on the little pond beside the Obs patio and after less than 30 seconds flew off, never to be seen again. The quest for the disappeared wagtail did at least ensure there was comprehensive coverage of the south of the island, where 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Hobbys and singles of Turtle Dove, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Redstart, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Pied Flycatcher, along with a handful of commoner fare, provided less than adequate compensation for the searchers; 13 Whimbrel also showed up at Portland Harbour. A tally of 7 Great Skuas and 4 Pomarine Skuas was garnered before the early seawatch at the Bill was rudely interrupted; a single Great Northern Diver also passed over at Ferrybridge.

Citrine Wagtail - Portland Bill, 11th May 2014 © Martin Cade
...although a long overdue and anticipated addition to the Portland list - there have been at least three previous near misses that didn't quite make the grade - we don't think many folk would have put money on the first Citrine Wagtail dropping in right beside the Obs patio:

We were particularly pleased that, 14 years after he put in the lion's share of the back-breaking task of digging the pond, John Lucas was present today to witness the fruits of his labour:

...and the pond has certainly come on a bit since it was re-lined - and used as an impromptu paddling pool by one errant child - four years ago: