30th November

Sometimes one little event encapsulates so much more, and today it was the Yellow-browed Warbler dropping out of a clear blue sky into the top of a now leafless sycamore in the Obs garden at midday that summed up a lot of what's gone before during this month - things like this really shouldn't be happening on the last day of November. As it was, the Yellow-browed wasn't alone since 3 new Blackcaps popped up in mist-nets at the Obs at almost the same moment, while the morning had seen a steady little trickle of thrushes arriving in off the sea and making off northward. Yesterday's unseasonable Wheatear at the Bill lingered for a second day, whilst the Hoopoe again added colour to proceedings, although on this occasion it was watched heading north over Osprey Quay so might finally have been making an escape from the island. The day's routine fare included 22 Redwings, c20 new Blackbirds, 8 Fieldfares and singles of Lapwing, Black Redstart and Chiffchaff at the Bill, together with 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Shoveler through on the sea there, 3 Black Redstarts at Blacknor and several Black Redstarts and the Black Guillemot at Portland Castle.

Red Admirals were still on the wing at the Obs, where 9 Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Diamond-back Moth and Silver Y made up the overnight immigrant moth catch.

Stonechat and Yellow-browed Warbler - Hamm Beach and Portland Bill, 30th November 2014 © Pete Saunders (Stonechat) and Martin Cade (Yellow-browed Warbler)

...the rather subdued greens, at times seemingly pale lores and quite indistinct median covert wing-bar gave the Yellow-browed Warbler a sometimes rather Hume's-ish feel and it took quite a while before it called and completely satisfied us that it really was 'just' a Yellow-browed:

29th November

Winter again seemed a long way off on a day of unbroken sunshine, unseasonable warmth, butterflies on the wing and Hoopoe and Wheatear on the bird list; the Hoopoe - perhaps the elusive Southwell bird getting wanderlust? - was reported first at Kingbarrow Quarry and later in the Portland Castle area but couldn't be pinned down at either, whilst the Wheatear showed up at the Bill. Bird-wise, there were few other surprises: new arrivals were limited to singles of Redwing and Fieldfare, lingering Black Redstarts included 4 at Portland Castle, 2 at Blacknor and 1 at the Bill, 5 Great Northern Divers, the Eider and the Black Guillemot remained in Portland Harbour and the odd few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests lingered on in sheltered spots everywhere.

The stiff east wind didn't die down until very late in the night so the immigrant moth catch at the Obs was limited to 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Silver Y and 2 Diamond-back Moth, with a few more of the same attracted to garden traps at Sweethill and the Grove.

28th November

The strength of the blasting easterly was more than enough to put the mockers on what had looked quite promising overnight mothing conditions as well as seriously hinder daytime birding forays. New arrivals were limited to a lone Redwing at the Bill, singles of Merlin, Snipe and Ring Ouzel in the Watery Lane/Windmills area and singles of Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour, whilst lingerers included a Black Redstart and a Blackcap at the Bill, a Firecrest at Wakeham and the Black Guillemot in Portland Harbour.

Five Diamond-back Moth and 4 Rusty-dot Pearl constituted the overnight immigrant moth tally at the Obs.

27th November

The calm of dawn didn't last, with a stiffening breeze and occasional drizzly outbreaks featuring by the afternoon. Although 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs remained at the Bill newcomers there were limited to 16 Starlings arriving from the south, 2 Redwings, a Snipe and Fieldfare. Richer rewards around the middle of the island included 3 Black Redstarts 2 Blackcaps and a Siberian Chiffchaff at Weston and a late Wheatear near the Windmills. The Eider and Black Guillemot remained in Portland Harbour.

The calm, dreary conditions overnight were much more favourable for moth-trapping, with 8 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Diamond-back Moth, 2 each of Dark Sword Grass and Pearly Underwing, and a single Silver Y making up the immigrant tally at the Obs.

Little Owls - Portland Bill, 27th November 2014 © Martin Cade
...considering that they're really just dodgy introductions that you probably shouldn't get all that excited by, Little Owls are pretty good value birds that certainly add a hatful of interest to the often rather barren winter months at the Bill. In the lovely calm conditions last night the Obs Quarry pair were really active, with both birds quite often perching together - as in our torch-lit photo above - on the electric pole beside the Obs garden; since we assume they're paired up we're not quite sure why they're so noisy at the moment but for whatever reason they've been dominating the nocturnal soundscape now that the migrant thrushes seem to have fizzled out:

26th November

In much quieter conditions there was a rather wintery feel to the birding, with little evidence of late passage beyond singles of Redshank and Redwing at the Bill. An almost flat calm Portland Harbour got a good look which revealed a newly arrived Velvet Scoter; 6 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Great Northern Divers, the Black Guillemot and singles of Eider, Common Scoter were also still about there, whilst singles of Mallard and Redshank were of note at Ferrybridge. The land came up with 8 Black Redstarts (4 at the Bill and 2 each at Blacknor and Portland Castle), 3 Blackcaps (2 at the Bill and 1 at Portland Castle), a scatter of Chiffchaffs everywhere and 4 Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill; a high count of 36 Rock Pipits around the tip of the Bill was also of interest.

Not surprisingly, 2 Diamond-back Moth were the only immigrant moths caught overnight at the Obs.

25th November

What a contrast to yesterday: shocking weather and lean birding. A day of almost constant rain driven through on a stiff, cold north-easterly saw fieldwork severely curtailed, with precious little evidence of new arrivals on the odd occasions it was possible to venture out. At the Bill 2 Lapwings were new and 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff were lingering on from recent days; elsewhere there was another Black Redstart at Blacknor and 8 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge.

Three Diamond-back Moth were the only immigrants caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese - Ferrybridge, 25th November 2014 © Debby Saunders

24th November

Clear skies and this winter's first touch of frost on the ground represented a profound change over what's gone before thus far this month but the quality of birding continued to exceed expectations. Although the Hoopoe that made a brief reappearance at Avalanche Road, a Lapland Bunting that flew over at the Bill and the ever-present Hooded Crow and Black Guillemot at the Grove and Portland Harbour respectively were the clear winners in the rarity stakes there was almost as much interest in the number of out of season migrants that made landfall at the Bill, where 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Swallows, a Ring Ouzel and a Willow Warbler all graced the tally. The day's other migrants there were rather more seasonable and included a few dozen new Wood Pigeons and Stock Doves, 11 Fieldfares amongst otherwise small numbers of thrushes, 4 Blackcaps and a Brambling, whilst 6 Lapwings passed over at Ferrybridge; a total of 7 Black Redstarts scattered about the island and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Easton were perhaps more likely to be winterers. The only reports from the sea were of 11 Common Scoter, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill.

Several Red Admirals and a single Clouded Yellow were amongst butterflies on the wing at the Bill. Despite the plunge in overnight temperatures there were still a few immigrant moths on the wing, with 5 Diamond-back Moth, 3 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Silver Y caught at the Obs.

Willow Warbler - Portland Bill, 24th November 2014 © Martin Cade
...the latest ever 'new' Willow Warbler to be trapped and ringed at the Obs.

23rd November

The passage of a cold front and associated rain made for disagreeably trench-footish conditions underfoot but certainly jazzed up the quality of the birding, with a rather motley but nonetheless very worthwhile selection of migrants making the list today. The overnight rain downed a good few thrushes, with 74 Redwings and 7 Fieldfares leaving to the north from the Obs garden shortly after dawn and later a Ring Ouzel heading off in the same direction from Top Fields; also new in were at least 5 Blackcaps, a Lapwing and a Chiffchaff at the Bill, a Bullfinch at Southwell and singles of Wheatear and Snow Bunting at Ferrybridge, whilst a Hen Harrier headed north over Blacknor. Waterfowl were also on the move, with 7 Greylag Geese, 2 Goosanders and an Eider - along with 46 Common Scoter and a Brent Goose - through off the Bill, and 12 Barnacle Geese north-east over Top Fields; singles of Mute Swan and Eider was new in Portland Harbour. Lingerers still about included Black Redstarts at the Bill (4), Reap Lane (2) and Portland Castle (6), a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell, 2 Knot and a Redshank at Ferrybridge and 6 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Common Scoter in Portland Harbour.

Immigrant moths again featured in far greater numbers/variety than usual at this time of year, with 31 Diamond-back Moth, 18 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Silver Y, 3 each of Rush Veneer, Pearly Underwing and Dark Sword Grass, and singles of Gem and Small Mottled Willow caught overnight at the Obs; an Olive-tree Pearl was amongst a similarly wide-ranging catch at Sweethill.

Blackcaps, Fieldfare, Gem and Small Mottled Willow - Portland Bill and Southwell, 23rd November 2014 © Martin Cade (Blackcap and the moths) and Pete Saunders (Fieldfare)

22nd November

Whilst we're sure there's a fair bit of mileage left in the autumn, today was again rather disappointing. Thrushes accounted for the bulk of the new arrivals at the Bill/Southwell, where 38 Redwings and 10 Fieldfares were amongst the thinnish spread of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes; new singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff were trapped and ringed, while 4 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Short-eared Owls, a Black Redstart and a Goldcrest were lingerers/winterers. Odds and ends elsewhere included a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle, 2 Blackcaps and another Firecrest at Easton Fire Station and 2 Black Redstarts and the Black Guillemot at Portland Castle.

A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the wing at Blacknor, whilst another small arrival of new immigrants saw totals of 10 Diamond-back Moth, 7 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Silver Y and a Pearly Underwing caught overnight at the Obs; an Olive-tree Pearl was the pick of the catch at the Grove.

21st November

Some days just don't pan out how you think they're going to, and today was one such. With all the right ingredients in the mix - a stiff easterly, lots of birds on the move overhead overnight and the island on the cusp of a weather front arriving from the west - you couldn't have asked for more; sadly, the birds cocked a snook and carried on without giving a second thought to dropping in on Portland. New arrivals at the Bill consisted of little more than a handful of thrushes, 8 Lapwings and singles of Swallow, Blackcap and Goldcrest, with precious little beyond a few more thrushes elsewhere; 5 Purple Sandpipers and 4 Black Redstarts at the Bill and another Black Redstart at Blacknor were presumed winterers/lingerers. The only other news concerned 4 Brent Geese, a Great Northern Diver, a Sandwich Tern and a reported Sabine's Gull through off the Bill and 2 Knot and singles of Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Grey Plover and Redshank at Ferrybridge.

The overnight immigrant moth catch at the Obs consisted of 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Rusty-dot Pearl, Dark Sword Grass and Pearly Underwing.

We usually think of Black Redstarts as being pretty silent at this time of year so were surprised when a rather arresting and persistent caller this morning (...since it was hidden in a tree it didn't dawn on us what it was until it moved into view) turned out to be a quite agitated-looking female/immature Black Red:

Grahame Walbridge - who recognised the call immediately from our recording - tells us that he hears this call rather frequently in the Blacknor area, where several individuals are usually present throughout the winter, and suggests that in those circumstances it might be used to advertise/delineate winter feeding 'territories'.
And on the subject of vocalisations, we were fortunate to have Nick Hopper staying with us a couple of nights ago to undertake some more nocturnal sound recording. As we've already mentioned, that night was at times fantastically busy and it'll no doubt take Nick ages to fully analyse his recordings. In the meanwhile he's sent us through a couple of quick samples of some of the action; Redwings and Blackbirds were the night's most numerous migrants (here with a couple of calls from a Golden Plover as well):

Golden Plovers featured frequently over several hours either side of midnight when there was a feeling that a lot of the calling might have emanated from just one party of them that had got stuck overhead having been unable to escape the disorientating influence of the lighthouse beams and regular drizzle showers (more Redwings and a Song Thrush also feature here):

20th November

After a night when it sounded like there were at times prodigious numbers of migrants on the move over the island it wasn't too much of a surprise to find the daylight hours coming up with bags of variety, although on the debit side the only rarity news concerned reports of both the Hoopoe at Southwell and the Dusky Warbler at Blacknor being heard but not seen. Thrushes made up the bulk of the numbers overnight and although most had moved through by dawn there was nonetheless a decent enough spread during the day, with 50-60 each of Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird at both the Bill and mid-island; a few Fieldfares also trickled through and a lone Ring Ouzel dropped in at the Bill. An unexpected feature at the Bill was the number of smaller migrants still arriving: 5 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests and a Firecrest trapped and ringed at the Obs mightn't sound like a lot but constitutes an almost unprecedented event for the last third of November. A very varied list of back-ups included another spread of at least 15 Black Redstarts (with 6 each at Reap Lane and Church Ope Cove); 5 Lapwings, 2 Grey Herons and a Goosander at the Bill, 6 Lapwings, 3 Swallows, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Snipe at various mid-island sites and 35 Lapwings and singles of Great Northern Diver, Grey Plover and Redshank overhead or settled at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant Lepidoptera making the list included singles of Painted Lady at the Bill and Hummingbird Hawk-moth at Southwell; an Olive-tree Pearl was caught overnight at the Grove, with 10 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Silver Y and a Diamond-back Moth making up the catch at the Obs.

19th November

Another day, another Dusky Warbler: although they're not quite coming along like buses the second Dusky Warbler in a week - this one at Blacknor Fort - did nothing but confirm that this once quality rarity has reached the 'almost to be expected' level in this time of year.  With a brisk south-easterly blowing there was no shortage of expectation that the Dusky mightn't have been travelling alone, but in the event the only other oddity to surface was a Yellow-browed Warbler at Avalanche Road - although a very late Willow Warbler there was probably an even greater surprise. Migrant numbers were otherwise quite disappointing, with thrushes reduced to a mere handful; 4 Lapwings, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Little Egret, a Merlin and new singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest at the Bill, and a Swallow at Avalanche Road were the best of the rest on the land, whilst 7 Brent Geese, 3 Red-throated Divers and a Teal passed through on the sea at the Bill.

Hints that the conditions might have been looking more favourable for immigrant moths proved wide of the mark, with 7 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y the only overnight captures at the Obs.

Dusky Warbler and Short-eared Owl - Blacknor Fort and Portland Bill, 19th November 2014 © Martin Cade (Dusky Warbler) and Nick Hopper The Sound Approach (Short-eared Owl)
...and, as usual, the Dusky Warbler was often far easier to follow around by sound rather than by sight:

18th November

The continuing easterly wind again paid dividends on the migrant front with a pretty respectable tally for mid-November. The Hoopoe remained in the Southwell/Suckthumb Quarry area, but the day's only other oddity was a Yellow-browed Warbler that made a brief early morning visit to the Obs garden. The list at the Bill included a mix of lingerers/new arrivals amongst which 31 Lapwings, 5 Black Redstarts, 3 Woodcocks, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Swallows and an Arctic Skua were of particular note; a Mistle Thrush at Weston Street, a Swallow at Barelycrates Lane, a Firecrest at Wakeham, the Black Guillemot off Portland Castle and a scatter of 8 Black Redstarts were the best of the bunch elsewhere.

Hoopoe - Avalanche Road, 18th November 2014 © Pete Saunders

17th November

Rain and a northerly breeze were trying conditions for the few birders in the field but were just right for dropping another succession of new arrivals; however, the chief surprise of the day wasn't actually a newcomer but the reappearance of the very mobile and flighty Hoopoe in Weston Street/Coombefield Quarry area. The newcomers were mainly thrushes, with 50 Blackbirds, 40 each of Redwing and Song Thrush, and 13 Fieldfares at the Bill alone; Chaffinches were also trickling through at a similar rate, 2 Blackcaps at Southwell and a Golden Plover over Watery Lane were of note, whilst ringing efforts revealed new singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest to add to the mix at the Obs. Other reports were the land were more likely to refer to lingerers, with at least 10 Black Redstarts scattered about, 3 Short-eared Owls still at the Bill and a Great Spotted Woodpecker again at Southwell. Sea news concerned 8 Great Northern Divers, 7 Shelduck, 5 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Common Scoter in Portland Harbour and 8 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

In conditions that didn't look at all promising there was surprise increase in immigrant moth variety/numbers, including 7 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Silver Y caught overnight at the Obs.


Hoopoe, Short-eared Owl, Blackcap and Great Spotted Woodpecker - Weston Street, Portland Bill and Southwell, 17th November 2014 © Martin Cade (Hoopoe and SEOwl) and Debby Saunders (Blackcap and GSWoodpecker)

16th November

Another nice selection of late arrivals today, with Black Redstarts in particular featuring much more conspicuously than would expected in mid-November. The Dusky Warbler lingered on for another day and continued to provide the best of the rarity interest, whilst it was the 20 or so Black Redstarts - including 8 at both the Bill and Portland Castle - and the general spread of thrushes - including 50 Blackbirds, 34 Redwings and 18 Fieldfares at the Bill - that provided the bulk of the numbers of more routine fare. Other noteworthy migrants included 4 Short-eared Owls, 2 Bramblings and a Wheatear at the Bill, a Short-eared Owl at Barleycrates Lane, single Great Spotted Woodpeckers at Southwell and Easton and 12 Chiffchaffs and another Wheatear at Portland Castle. Reports from the sea included 13 Brent Geese, 9 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill and 4 Great Northern Divers, 4 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Common Scoter in Portland Harbour.

The odd few immigrant moths linger on, with 3 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Silver Y caught overnight at the Obs.

Finally, for a different take on events around the island don't forget to check out Sean Foote's always entertaining blog, The Portland Naturalist.

Black Redstarts, Great Northern Divers and Stonechat - Portland Bill, Portland Castle, Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge, 16th November 2014 © James Phillips (male Black Redstart), Tony Hovell Tony Hovell's Wildlife (female/immature Black Redstart, settled Great Northern Diver and Stonechat) and Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (flying Great Northern Diver)

15th November

Another day full of late migrants and interest, with proceedings made all the more enjoyable by the gloriously mild, calm conditions that were such a pleasant change from the recent wind and rain. The day's quality was provided by the Dusky Warbler that skulked for another day at Avalanche Road, a Hoopoe that made a fleeting visit to nearby Weston Street and a Siberian Chiffchaff at Wakeham. Whilst it's now getting a bit too late for a really decent fall of migrants there was nonetheless plenty to see for those who put the time in, with a notable arrival of Black Redstarts - 21 in total reported from sites around the island, overhead movement of 930 Wood Pigeon, 300 Starlings and 80 Skylarks south over the Bill and late Wheatears at the Bill and Blacknor, Ring Ouzel and Swallow at the Bill and House Martin at Blacknor all being of particular note. The back-ups were too varied to mention in full but amongst the general spread of new arrivals the likes of 20 Reed Buntings, a Short-eared Owl and a Bullfinch at the Bill, 2 Firecrests and singles of Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle/Wakeham and 2 Firecrests at Verne Common all made for excellent late autumn birding.

The calmer conditions were a little more favourable for moth-trapping, with immigrant interest consisting of 5 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Silver Y and a Rush Veneer at the Obs and 9 Rusty-dot Pearl and a Rush Veneer at the Obs.

Dusky Warbler, Black Redstart and Wheatear - Avalanche Road, Portland Castle and Portland Bill, 15th November 2014 © Peter Moore Peter Moore's Birding Blog (Dusky Warbler and Black Redstart) and Martin Cade (Wheatear)

14th November

More torrential downpours overnight were enough to ground a small arrival of a few of the migrants that had been heard calling overhead in the darkness, whilst a huge improvement in the weather during the daylight hours allowed plenty of opportunity to get amongst things. The Avalanche Road Dusky Warbler surfaced again and got most of the attention, although after the recent fallow times it was the new arrivals that were perhaps more significant in indicating that autumn's far from over. Redwings were the most conspicuous, with 'lots' at Penn's Weare, 60 at Easton, 30 at Avalanche Road, 21 at the Bill and single figure totals dotted about elsewhere, whilst amongst the slightly thinner scatter of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, a Ring Ouzel at Penn's Weare and a Fieldfare at Southwell were of note; there were few surprises amongst the list of also-rans, but 2 Wheatears, 2 Siskins, a Short-eared Owl, a Black Redstart and a Brambling at the Bill, a Blackcap at Avalanche Road and a Firecrest at Easton were all nice to see. Two Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge and a Great Northern Diver and the Black Guillemot in Portland Harbour were the pick of the bunch from points northward.

A lone Silver Y was the only immigrant to make it into the Obs moth-traps overnight.

Dusky Warbler, Firecrest, Great Northern Diver, Song Thrush and Redwing - Southwell, Easton and Portland Harbour © Martin Cade (Dusky Warbler and Firecrest), Pete Saunders (Great Northern Diver) and Debby Saunders (Song Thrush and Redwing)

13th November

A fierce south-easterly gale hampered searches for the Dusky Warbler that was heard during the morning but couldn't be found at all once the wind had abated a little later in the day; 2 Redwings and a Woodcock were new arrivals at Avalanche Road, but the only other reports from the land were of the long-staying Wheatear lingering on at the Bill and a Black Redstart at Portland Castle. For the best part of the day the conditions were too severe for anything much to be moving on the sea but the slight improvement during the afternoon saw 4 Great Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas and another 2 unseasonable Puffins make the list at the Bill; the Black Guillemot was also still in Portland Harbour.

12th November

Although there was no overall change to the prevailing mild, damp, southerly airflow it seemed as though there were enough longer clear spells between the bands of rain overnight to allow a few late migrants to get moving. A small arrival of thrushes included 16 Redwings and several new Song Thrushes and Blackbirds at the Bill, where singles of Snipe and Blackcap were also fresh in; 4 Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest were also newcomers at Southwell where the day's headline rarity - Portland's 13th Dusky Warbler - showed up at Avalanche Road. Further interest from the land came in the form of a Merlin at the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell, a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle, a likely Siberian Chiffchaff heard calling at Tradecroft and single Black Redstarts at Church Ope Cove and Portland Castle. Sea passage was limited to 16 Common Scoter, 5 Brent Geese and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill; 3 Great Northern Divers, the Long-tailed Duck and the Common Scoter were also still in Portland Harbour.

The overnight immigrant moth tally at the Obs consisted of 3 Rusty-dot Pearl, a Diamond-back Moth and a Silver Y.

Kingfisher - Portland Harbour, 12th November 2014 © Pete Saunders

Sadly, the Dusky Warbler was true to form in affording only occasional glimpses and eluding attempts at obtaining any sort of meaningful record photo; however it was at times quite vocal and amongst the sound recordings Sean Foote's of it at its noisiest shortly after he'd discovered it and Joe Stockwell's of it with an extraneous Robin and Herring Gull are well worth a listen:

11th November

A day of almost uniformly foul conditions: a blasting south-easterly and, bar a short period during the morning, constant rain or drizzle. An early flurry of migrants at Blacknor, including 80 Fieldfares, 55 Redwings and a Swallow, gave hope that there'd been a more general fall but once the rain eased searches elsewhere revealed nothing beyond a Wheatear lingering on at the Bill and a Black Redstart at Portland Castle. Gannets were on the move in quantity off the Bill but seawatching otherwise came up with nothing more than 11 Common Scoter and a rare winter record of a Puffin there and a Wigeon through off Chesil. Yesterday's Long-tailed Duck had moved into Portland Harbour, where there were also 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-necked Grebes, a Teal, a Common Scoter and the Black Guillemot, whilst 4 Knot were at Ferrybridge.

In the wild weather overnight moth-trapping at the Obs produced just 3 individual moths, of which 2 were Rusty-dot Pearls.

Black-necked Grebe - Portland Harbour, 11th November 2014 © Pete Saunders

10th November

In gradually deteriorating conditions there were odds and ends of interest everywhere without there being anything really out of the ordinary. New arrivals of note included a Long-tailed Duck through at Ferrybridge, a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour, single Firecrests at Wakeham and Pennsylvania Castle, and a Corn Bunting at the Bill. On the ground a Wheatear lingered on at the Bill and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was again at Pennsylvania Castle but newcomers were few and far between; overhead passage was limited to one small flock of Wood Pigeons milling around over the Bill and 150 Starlings arriving from the south there. A lot of seawatching at the Bill eventually came up with 2 Pomarine Skuas and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Brent Goose, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Little Gull, whilst 2 Great Northern Divers and the Black Guillemot were still about in Portland Harbour.

Small numbers of immigrant moths were again on the wing, with 11 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Rush Veneer, Gem, Pearly Underwing and Silver Y caught overnight at the Obs.

9th November

A pleasantly still and bright day was a welcome respite from the wind and rain of the last few days, but on the downside there were far fewer migrants about than might have been expected. Very good coverage of the centre and south of the island revealed nothing more than the lightest sprinkle of new arrivals/lingerers, amongst which 10 Reed Buntings, 4 Redwings, 3 Short-eared Owls, 3 Swallows, 3 Wheatears, 2 Siskins and singles of Black Redstart and Redpoll at the Bill, the Yellow-browed Warbler at Avalanche Road and a Woodcock at Easton were about the most noteworthy. Seawatching at the Bill produced 17 Common Scoter, 11 Brent Geese, 6 Teal, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver, a Common Scoter was at Ferrybridge and the Black Guillemot, along with 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Common Scoter, was in Portland Harbour.

Moth-trapping conditions were quite favourable overnight, with 38 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 each of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer, 2 Silver Y and singles of Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Delicate making up the immigrant tally at the Obs.

Common Scoter - Ferrybridge, 9th November 2014 © Pete Saunders

8th November

With the wind switching back into the south-west and a steady procession of showers or longer spells of rains crossing the Channel seawatching remained the order of the day. The Bill was covered for pretty well the whole day and returned totals of 19 Common Scoter, 6 Pomarine Skuas, 4 Fulmars, 3 Great Skuas, 3 Little Auks, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and singles of Manx Shearwaters, Leach's Petrel and Arctic Skua amongst the steady procession of Gannets and Kittiwakes - each of which were moving at rates in the region of 100-200 per hour. The land did get a little attention, with 2 Short-eared Owls and a Wheatear at the Bill and a Black Redstart at Blacknor the best on offer.

Despite overnight wind and rain a few immigrants put in an appearance in the moth-traps, with 2 Silver Y and a Diamond-back Moth caught at the Obs.

Leach's Petrel, Great Skua, Kittiwake, Little Gull and Red-breasted Merganser - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 8th November 2014 © Keith Pritchard (Leach's Petrel), Martin Cade (Great Skua) and Pete Saunders (Kittiwake, Little Gull and Red-breasted Merganser)

7th November

A something of nothing day with sea interest dwindling as the still very strong wind shifted into the west. Although there were odds and ends on the land, including 3 Black Redstarts and 2 Wheatears at the Bill, most attention was given to the sea with watches at the Bill coming up with 20 Common Scoter, 2 each of Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua, and singles of Sooty Shearwater and Pomarine Skua, whilst 3 Little Gulls, 2 Black-throated Divers, a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua passed through/lingered off Chesil Cove.

6th November

In the light of a forecast of stiff southerlies ahead of an Atlantic weather front there'd been high hopes for the sea which looked to have come to nothing through the morning when there was precious little on the move; however, things perked up through the afternoon and by dusk some pretty decent totals had been accrued at the Bill in particular. As so often at this time of year it was Kittiwakes that were in the vanguard and no sooner had the first of the c1000 that were eventually logged got moving than the skuas appeared in their wake, with final totals of 32 Pomarines, 9 Arctics and 7 Greats making the list; the back up cast included 51 Common Scoter, 13 Teal, 11 Wigeon, 8 Little Gulls, 6 Dunlin, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Fulmars, 2 Sanderling and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Pintail, Shoveler and Velvet Scoter. Chesil Cove chipped in with 5 Little Gulls, 2 Tufted Ducks and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Mallard and Pintail, with an additional 6 Mallard and a Pintail over at Ferrybridge. For the most part the land was too blown out to be worth spending time on, but a Yellow-browed Warbler that showed up at Avalanche Road was perhaps yesterday's individual from the nearby Weston Craft Centre, whilst 5 Black Redstarts at Portland Castle and 2 Fieldfares and singles of Golden Plover and Wheatear at the Bill were all of note.

A handful of immigrant moths continue to linger on at the Obs, with 5 Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Rush Veneer and Dark Sword Grass caught overnight.

Kittiwakes, Pomarine Skuas, Teal & Wigeon, Pintail, Common Scoter and Velvet Scoter - Portland Bill, 6th November 2014 © Martin Cade (Kittiwakes, Teal & Wigeon and Common Scoter), Keith Pritchard (Pomarine Skuas and Velvet Scoter) and Pete Saunders (Pintail)

5th November

Although there were a few new arrivals on the ground, of which a Yellow-browed Warbler at the former Weston Street Craft Centre was easily the best, today's clear skies and chilly northerly wind were perfect vis mig conditions and many of the usual suspects responded by putting on a decent show. Wood Pigeon passage was all over the place, with a strong mainly southerly push soon after dawn - including 5900 over the Bill - being replaced by a mainly northward trickle - including 1000 over Blacknor - through the middle of the day; Chaffinches and Starlings were the next most numerous migrant, with both well into the low hundreds and both heading in opposite directions - most the former were arriving from the south, whilst most of the latter were leaving out to sea. Although nothing else passed in quantity, variety was always a feature, with a frustratingly not-quite-clinched Olive-backed Pipit over Barleycrates Lane easily the best; at the Bill 4 Lapwings, 3 Bullfinches, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Mistle Thrushes and singles of Snipe and Ring Ouzel were amongst the miscellany of thrushes, finches and Reed Buntings, whilst a Woodcock was of note over Ferrybridge. Much of what was logged on the ground looked to be lingerers, with the Black Brant and a Black-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge and a scatter of Black Redstarts everywhere the best.

Butterflies still about in the sunshine included a Clouded Yellow at the Obs, where the overnight immigrant moth catch consisted of just 2 Silver Y and a Dark Sword Grass.

4th November

In clearer, chilly conditions today was always going to be a day for looking skyward and the first couple of hours of the morning came up with all the numbers. Southbound pigeons were in evidence right from dawn and in quick time at least 12500 Wood Pigeons and 185 Stock Doves were logged at the Bill; slightly oddly for recent times, 900 Starlings headed in the same direction, whilst further interest came in the form of 3 Swallows south and 30 Brent Geese, a Short-eared Owl and small numbers of thrushes, finches and Reed Buntings mainly north. Grounded arrivals weren't plentiful but did include a smattering of new Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere, 20 Black Redstarts (including 10 at Osprey Quay and 6 at the Bill) and 10 new Stonechats and a Wheatear at the Bill. Lingerers included the Black Guillemot off Portland Castle and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Pennsylvania Castle.

In the sunshine today quite a few Red Admirals and Clouded Yellows and a single Painted Lady were still on the wing at the Bill. Not surprisingly, moth immigration has pretty well fizzled out as the weather has changed over the last few days; the only lingerers caught overnight at the Obs were singles of Rush Veneer and Delicate.

Wheatear and Black Redstart - Portland Bill and Portland Castle, 4th November 2014 © Ken Dolbear (Wheatear) and Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings(Black Redstart)
Also thanks to Will Bown for a photo and some extra details on this blue-ringed Mediterranean Gull that was at Ferrybridge on 21st October:
 ...there are so many colour-ringed Med Gulls about at Ferrybridge these days that we don't often mention them unless they're from somewhere other than France and Belgium; it turns out Will's blue-ringed bird is from Italy - it was first ringed as a chick at Venice in June 2012, with just one subsequent sighting from inland western France in May 2013.

3rd November

Prolonged birding opportunities were limited today, with showers or longer spells of rain cropping up with depressing frequency. What coverage there was of the land yielded just a thin scatter of mainly expected migrants on the ground, including 3 Redwings and singles of Short-eared Owl, Wheatear, Black Redstart and Fieldfare at the Bill and further Black Redstarts at Blacknor (2), Barleycrates Lane and Castletown; overhead a minor flurry of 700 southbound Wood Pigeons at Weston Street was quite a surprise given the prevailing conditions. The long-staying Hooded Crow was still in residence at the Grove. Seawatching at the Bill produced singles of Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Arctic Skua, whilst the Black Guillemot was still off Portland Castle.

Black Guillemot - Portland Harbour, 3rd November 2014 © Pete Saunders

2nd November

The passing of a weather front overnight brought not only wind and rain but also saw the temperature begin to return to a level more appropriate for November. Although land birding was never easy in the blustery conditions there was a suggestion of there being just a few more warblers and crests about in the patches of cover, amongst which there was a surprise in the form of the Pallas's Warbler that had relocated from the Obs to Avalanche Road. A Firecrest there, a Little Egret and a Wheatear at the Bill, 2 Black Redstarts at Portland Castle (where the Black Guillemot was still offshore), and 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Redshanks and singles of  Sanderling, Pintail, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern and Black Redstart were the best of the rest on the land. Any hopes that the stormy night would have led to an improvement on the sea were quickly dashed, with little more than 2 Great Skuas and singles of Great Northern Diver, Manx Shearwater, Teal and Pomarine Skua through off the Bill and singles of Teal, Pintail, Great Skua and Arctic Skua through off Chesil Cove.

Pintail and Yellow-legged Gull - Ferrybridge, 2nd November 2014 © Pete Saunders