31st March

A low-key day much in keeping with the last few, with the howling westerly that set in late yesterday precluding much in the way of meaningful fieldwork. Despite - or because of? - the strength of the wind the sea was very unrewarding, with just a Great Skua through off the Bill and singles of Red-throated Diver and Sandwich Tern through off Chesil Cove; the Black Guillemot was also still about off Portland Castle. On the land there was no more than 2 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Wheatear, Blackcap and Firecrest (all lingerers) at the Bill and 3 Chiffchaffs in the relative shelter of Church Ope Cove.

30th March

If it's possible to get any consolation from the current debacle of a migration event it may be that the chances of getting a really decent fall are increasing with every day that there's nothing. Despite plenty of fieldwork today certainly vied with yesterday in the nothingness stakes: 2 Firecrests and a Blackcap lingered on at the Obs but no new arrivals were ringed there and the only migrant logged in the wider Bill area was a solitary Wheatear; seawatching there came up with 5 Red-throated Divers and 4 Manx Shearwaters. Elsewhere the Black Guillemot remained off Portland Castle.

29th March

With the weather taking a further downturn as frequent rain and a westerly gale set in most of what few reports there were came from the sea: 36 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter passed through off the Bill and a Great Skua lingered for several hours in Chesil Cove after having earlier passed over Ferrybridge. The only other news was of a Snipe at the Bill and the Black Guillemot again off Portland Castle.

Black Guillemot - Portland Harbour, 29th March 2015 © Martin Cade

...also today, this immature gull that has a more than passing resemblance to a Thayer's Gull created some interest at Chesil Cove; it seems that the current consensus is that it's most likely an odd Herring Gull (video © Sean Foote):

28th March

The wind and rain that we'd been forecast duly showed up, with a good deal of accompanying fog making matters even worse. Passerine passage almost completely fizzled out, with 3 Firecrests and singles of Redwing, Chiffchaff and Blackcap - nearly all long-stayers - all there was on offer at the Bill. The sea wasn't as productive as might have been hoped, with 58 Brent Geese, 12 Common Scoter, 7 Manx Shearwaters and 6 Red-throated Divers all that could be mustered off the Bill.

27th March

Migrant-wise, a shocker of a day, with late March staples like Wheatear and Chiffchaff reduced to totals at the Bill of just 1 and 2 respectively. The nice, quiet conditions were perfect for getting out looking, but the only other new arrivals worth a mention were 700 Wood Pigeons heading north over the centre of the island, the first 2 single Swallows of the spring overhead at the Bill and Portland Castle, a Merlin at Ferrybridge and 2 Firecrests, a Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest grounded at the Bill; singles of Water Rail, Black Redstart and Blackcap were also still about at the Bill, another Black Redstart remained at Blacknor and the Black Guillemot was again off Portland Castle. The sea was no more productive, with 17 Black-headed Gulls, 9 Brent Geese, 2 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off Chesil and 14 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.

The first Small White of the year was on the wing at Barleycrates Lane.

26th March

Overnight rain cleared through soon after dawn to leave of day of clear skies and a brisk north-westerly. Hopes for the rain dropping a few birds largely came to nothing, although the small arrival of 25 Chiffchaffs and 10 Wheatears at the Bill were accompanied by the spring's first 2 Willow Warblers (although see below for an earlier record that escaped human consciousness), 2 new Firecrests (2 lingerers were also still present there), a Lapwing and a Blackcap. The Bill's first Sandwich Tern of the year was the pick of the morning's sea passage, which otherwise included little more than 10 Brent Geese and 6 Red-throated Divers. The only news from elsewhere was of a Black Redstart at Penn's Weare.

Stonechat - Portland Bill, 26th March 2015 © Martin Cade

...our breeding male rubicola-ish Stonechat is now back on territory for his fourth successive year.

And further to yesterday's nocturnal sounds update, Nick Hopper's been back in touch with some news from his scrutiny of the sound files for the rest of the night before last, which came up with a real surprise in the form of a pre-dawn (5.20am) Spotted Redshank:

...as we mentioned above, there was another worthwhile addition to the night's events when a passing Willow Warbler was recorded a few minutes before the Spotted Redshank.

25th March

Perhaps there weren't enough shower clouds about for a repeat of yesterday's flurry of migrants, but for whatever reason it was extremely quiet today. At the Bill none of the routine migrants got remotely near a double figure total, with 3 Firecrests (all lingerers) and a Black Redstart the only worthwhile oddities; elsewhere, the year's first Corn Bunting showed up at Barleycrates Lane, where there were also 3 Redwings, whilst singles of Siskin at Blacknor, Black Redstart at Portland Castle and Sanderling at Ferrybridge were all of note. The only sea report was of 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.  

And as further evidence of migration being on the slow side Nick Hopper had his sound recording gear deployed at the Obs overnight but had a pretty lean return, with 37 Redwings making up the bulk of the numbers; singles of Snipe and Reed Bunting provided further interest, whilst the night's highlight was a passing flock of Wigeon:


24th March

Today's chilly headwind, sunny skies and bank of towering shower clouds to the north created perfect 'fair weather fall' conditions at the Bill, where Chiffchaffs in particular were moving through in some quantity for a few hours after dawn; the logged total of c200 looked likely to have been very much a minimum, with many birds barely touching down as they hurried through. Variety was otherwise still pretty limited, with 35 Wheatears, 15 Wood Pigeons, 6 Song Thrushes, 4 Firecrests (including 2 new arrivals), 3 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Blackcaps and singles of Sand Martin, Redwing, Goldcrest and Bullfinch the best on offer at the Bill; additions elsewhere included 2 Black Redstarts at Blacknor, a Firecrest at Barleycrates Lane and a Sanderling at Ferrybridge. On the water there was a surprise reappearance by the Black Guillemot off Portland Castle (it's been looked for but not seen quite often in recent days) but conditions were again far from favourable for the seawatchers, with 23 Common Scoter through off the Bill and 9 Brent Geese, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 each of Common Scoter, Tufted Duck and Red-breasted Merganser passing Chesil.

23rd March

It's a pretty poor show when quiet conditions and lightly overcast skies at this juncture come up with a Wheatear tally for the whole Bill area of just a single individual, but so it came to pass today. In truth there was a light spread of other routine migrants, at least for the hour or two after dawn when 10 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests and a Bullfinch were all new in at the Bill, but it certainly wasn't busy anywhere; 3 Redwings and a Siskin also showed up later at the Bill, a Black Redstart was new at Southwell and 2 Blackcaps, 2 more Firecrests and a Black Redstart at the Bill were additional lingerers from recent days/weeks. Once the cloud cover broke up a light overhead passage of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails developed and 90 Wood Pigeons also headed north along West Cliffs. Some samey sea passage included 20 Common Scoter, 8 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser through off the Bill and lower numbers of the same limited variety off Chesil; additionally, a Grey Plover passed over Ferrybridge and a settled Puffin appeared at the Bill auk colony for the first time since the year's first sighting a couple of weeks ago.

22nd March

Lots more fair weather today although still feely decidedly chilly in the at times quite fresh north-easterly. Sadly the conditions were not at all favourable for dropping migrants and in terms of numbers it was pretty hopeless on the land, with minor interest limited to 4 Redwings, 3 Blackcaps, 3 Firecrests (including one new arrival) and singles of Water Rail and Black Redstart at the Bill, a Fieldfare at the Grove and 2 Black-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge. The sea was hardly any better, with 15 Common Scoter and 7 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and 12 Brent Geese, 10 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Black-throated Diver through off Chesil.

two-tailed Wall Lizard - St Andrew's Church, 22nd March 2015 © Ken Dolbear

...seemingly, two-tailed lizards aren't actually that unusual - the additional appendage apparently grows after damage to the original tail.

21st March

Far clearer conditions weren't at all conducive to a resurgence in passage and it was very quiet throughout the island today, with routine migrants restricted to just low single figure totals. Snippets of interest at the Bill included a likely Iceland Gull headed down East Cliffs during the afternoon, 8 Redwings, the first 3 returning Linnets taking up territory and singles of Black Redstart, Firecrest and Bullfinch on the land and 7 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through on the sea. Elsewhere, 2 Black Redstarts were at Weston, where 41 migrant Wood Pigeons headed north.

And an update on Nick Hopper's nocturnal sound recording project. Nick was with us again overnight last Tuesday 17th/Wednesday 18th and had another interesting night; he reports that, "thrushes were the main callers with 26 Redwing, 15 Song Thrush and 4 Blackbird...very pleased to get a Moorhen, the call is short and rather distant but just about identifiable...Barn Owl calling quite regularly...one interesting thing that I have been noticing recently is Dunnock's propensity for random short bursts of song in the middle of the night, this happened on 5 occasions that night". The most intriguing sound of the night remains unidentified; the nearest Nick could come up with was Common Scoter, whilst even Magnus Robb was stumped: "I'm really stuck with this one! Although the pitch is right for Common Scoter the shape of the calls is not. Common Scoter doesn't normally show any modulation, and these calls are a bit too long anyway. The sound is somehow familiar but I just can't place it! Maybe it'll come to me...".

20th March

It felt rather like spring was going into reverse today with summer visitors still further depleted and Redwings coming to the fore: after a night when overflying migrants could be heard in some quantity the morning saw a total of 115 trickle through at the Bill, with the movement only subsiding once heavy cloud cover was replaced by sunshine after midday. Other odds and ends amongst the day's arrivals at the Bill included singles of Curlew, Grey Wagtail and Siskin, whilst 2 each of Black Redstart, Blackcap and Firecrest, and a single Bullfinch lingered on from recent days; another Black Redstart was also still at Reap Lane. The sea was a little busier than in recent days, with 8 Red-throated Divers, 7 Common Scoter, 2 Shelduck and a Red-breasted Merganser through off Chesil, 7 Wigeon, a Black-throated Diver and a Slavonian Grebe settled off the beach and 12 Common Scoter, 7 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser through off the Bill.

A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was at Easton and a single Dark Sword Grass was caught overnight in the Obs garden moth-traps.

Wall Lizards - St Andrew's Church, 20th March 2015 © Ken Dolbear

Finally, today's partial eclipse of the sun was the ultimate of damp squibs at the Obs where there wasn't even the briefest of glimpses of the sun for the whole duration of the event; up-island observers were more fortunate, with the cloud thinning just enough at times - thanks to Duncan Walbridge for this photograph taken from his house at Weston:


19th March

On a day when the return of heavy cloud cover more or less killed off routine passage there was a most unexpected event in the form of a fall of Blackcaps at the Obs; 16 of the day's ringing total of just 25 migrants were Blackcaps - for mid-March this was an unprecedented event in PBO's history which, bearing in mind the early date and general lack of northbound migrants, would seem most likely to have involved departing winterers. With the likes of Wheatear and Chiffchaff struggling even to get into double figures most of the other migrant interest concerned thrushes: a small passage of Redwings included 26 at the Bill, 12 at Barleycrates Lane and 4 at Chesil Cove, whilst the spring's first Ring Ouzel dropped in at the Obs; 4 Firecrests also lingered on at the Obs and a Black Redstart was again at Reap Lane. The sea remained quiet, with just 13 Brent Geese south at Ferrybridge and Red-throated Divers through off Chesil (2) and the Bill. A Great White Egret reported heading south over Portland Castle would have been a very good Portland record but for it coinciding with a fly-by Little Egret on the same track shortly afterwards - that's one for someone else to sort out!

And something else that'll more likely invite derision than impart education; we did manage a short recording of the Ring Ouzel but the exaggerating effects of the microphone and the presence of a jumpy flock of Wood Pigeons made our inept attempt at being furtive whilst creeping into the holm oak clump after it sound as though the whole episode was conducted on elephant back:

18th March

A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 21st March 2015.
With the sky having cleared still further and the north-easterly freshened up overnight the ingredients were in place for a fair weather fall which duly materialised with Chiffchaffs in particular pulsing through in some quantity at the Bill, where 200 or more - the majority barely stopping - were logged. Wheatears also reached a three figure total there, whilst 25 Stonechats, 2 each of Blackcap (the winterer together with the first migrant), Goldcrest, Firecrest and Bullfinch, singles of Lapwing, Snipe and Reed Bunting, and small increases in the likes of Robin, Song Thrush and Blackbird were all of further note; proper visible passage was unexpectedly light, with Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and Sand Martins all on the move, although in decidedly lower numbers than yesterday. A 'more of the same' tally elsewhere included a Hen Harrier through over Weston, the year's first Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge and 4 Black Redstarts and a Firecrest around the centre/north of the island. The only seawatch reports were of 13 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Brent Geese through off Chesil.
Kestrel and Comma - Portland Bill, 18th March 2015 © Martin King

17th March

Numbers-wise, the busiest day of the season so far with the arrival of slightly clearer, warmer air seeing visible passage in particular get going quite impressively. As would be expected in mid-March Meadow Pipits dominated proceedings, with a sample count of 1400 north along West Cliffs in an hour during the morning suggesting that the passage as a whole comfortably exceeded 5000 birds; alba wagtails and Linnets were also on the move although their totals didn't get beyond the dozens, whilst scarcer visible migrants included a Lapwing over the Bill and a Siskin over Ferrybridge; also of interest overhead, a Hooded Crow - presumably the Grove bird - left out to sea from the Bill before returning some while later and a Merlin was about over the Bill. On the ground Wheatears and Chiffchaffs far outnumbered everything else, with totals of 100 and 30 respectively at the Bill and decent counts of both at quite a few up-island sites. Better quality came in the form of 4 Firecrests (1 new) and a lingering Bullfinch at the Bill, 6 Black Redstart (at least 3 new) dotted about there and elsewhere and 2 White Wagtails at Ferrybridge.

Stonechat and Small Tortoiseshell - north Portland, 17th March 2015 © Nick Hopper

...carrying on from what we wrote about stonechats the other day, we're not sure we've actually seen a male Stonechat in recent days that doesn't show some/many features of 'rubicola' which seems rather peculiar since it's hard to believe most of them aren't routine migrants passing through en route to breeding places in western Britain.
Finally, some very belated news of a second for Britain at Portland. Phil Sterling has kindly been going through our boxes of moth specimens from the last couple of years and has identified this pyralid (caught and photographed at the Obs on 7th August last year, with the specimen set and retained) as Ancylosis cinnamomella:
...we probably should have done better with this record since the first and only other record for Britain - on 12th August 2003 - was also taken at the Obs! We can remember being perplexed by last year's specimen and deciding it was perhaps a dark form of Gymnancyla canella (canella is an occasional vagrant to the Bill but the previous records have all been of paler forms) but odd enough to be worth retaining. Although collecting specimens isn't everyone's cup of tea it does afford the luxury of being able to revisit tricky IDs when things aren't quite so busy - or in this case just passing them to an acknowledged expert to sort them out for you. For interest, here's the 2003 cinnamomella (photos © Martin Cade):

16th March

Relatively uneventful and for the most part rather unpleasantly chilly, with the dreary skies and occasional drizzle of yesterday a persistent feature again today. Four Firecrests and a Bullfinch remained in the Obs garden and, judging by the paucity of new captures in the mist-nets (singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were the only new migrants ringed at the Obs), a good many of the 40 or so Wheatears at the Bill may have been lingerers as well; the wintering Black Redstart and Blackcap also remained at the Bill where a lone Red-throated Diver passed by on the sea. The only worthwhile reports from elsewhere were of additional Black Redstarts at Reap Lane and Blacknor.

15th March

With a nagging, chilly north-easterly now well established - an all too familiar event at this time of year - birding wasn't exactly a pleasure although the day did come up with a few slightly out of the ordinary sightings that included 2 Canada Geese over Ferrybridge, 2 Greylag Geese over Wide Street, the second Bullfinch of the week at the Bill and the 2 Scandinavian Rock Pipits still at Ferrybridge. Routine migrants didn't look to be at all plentiful at dawn but the generally heavily overcast skies and occasional spits of drizzle did drop a small flurry of arrivals as the morning went on; Wheatears were most numerous, including 40 at the Bill, whilst the mix of old and new also included 3 Redwings, 3 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts and the Blackcap at the Bill, another Blackcap at Barleycrates Lane and further single Black Redstarts at Southwell and Weston. The only sea news was of 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

14th March

The colder north-easterly airstream that set in after yesterday's rain dropped a few more arrivals around the island although it certainly wasn't busy anywhere. Chiffchaffs were scattered far and wide and likely got into three figures over the island as a whole, whilst Wheatears numbered 50 or so around the centre and south; as evidenced by numbers at the Obs - where 6 new individuals were ringed - Robins were also on the move in some quantity. Among the lesser totals, 13 Stonechats, 5 Redwings, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Firecrests and a Grey Wagtail at the Bill, 3 Firecrests at Avalanche Road, a Woodcock and a Fieldfare at Barleycrates Lane, 2 Black Redstarts at Reap Lane, 2 Black Redstarts at Blacknor, a Firecrest at Portland Castle and 2 Scandinavian Rock Pipits at Ferrybridge were all of note. Nine Red-throated Divers and a Shelduck passed through on the sea at the Bill.

13th March

Maybe a tad disappointing today, with the onset of heavy rain and a chilly north-easterly - conditions that so often come up with the goods in spring - delivering only a minor flurry of newcomers. A small arrival was apparent in the rain through the morning, when Wheatears and Chiffchaffs in particular were dotted about the Bill tip, but this either overplayed the situation or things upped and left very quickly once it eventually dried up, for the afternoon came up with no more than 25 Chiffchaffs, 15 Wheatears, 4 Redwings, 4 Firecrests and singles of Golden Plover, Redshank, Fieldfare and Goldcrest around the whole Bill area. The wintering Black Redstart and Blackcap were also still there, a lone Red-throated Diver passed by on the sea, 2 more Redwings dropped in at Blacknor and the year's first Sanderling was at Ferrybridge.

12th March

A perfect Portland early spring day, with the first small fall of the season in quiet conditions that were just right for enjoyable birding. Chiffchaffs, Wheatears and Stonechats made up the bulk of the drop of migrants: the good spread of the former everywhere included at least 100 at the Bill/Southwell, whilst the latter two numbered at least 25 each at the Bill alone. Being so early in the season variety was nothing special, but list-fillers included 5 Firecrests, 3 Golden Plovers, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Sand Martin, White Wagtail, Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldcrest at the Bill, 2 more Firecrests at Southwell, 2 more Sand Martins through Barleycrates Lane, 11 presumably non-local Ravens over Blacknor and 4 Redwings at Verne Common; semi-residents included the wintering Blackcap at the Obs and the Hooded Crow at the Grove. Reduced visibility hampered seawatching, but 4 Red-throated Divers were spotted passing Chesil.

The immigrant tally in the Obs moth-traps again consisted of just a single Dark Sword Grass.

Firecrest and Widow Iris - Portland Bill and Broadcroft BC reserve, 12th March 2015 © Martin Cade (Firecrest) and Ken Dolbear (Widow Iris)

...the Widow Iris is just getting into full flower on exactly the same date as last year; in contrast, in the cold, late spring of 2013 it wasn't in flower until the last days of April.

With so many Stonechats about we couldn't resist making an effort to spring-trap some of them and lucked in on a pretty decent tally of 7 in all. Females are a right struggle to age with any confidence but most males are do-able - a task that's even easier when you happen to jam in on three at once:

The well-worn, less densely-coloured plumage and various moult contrasts in the first-summer birds are relatively easy to spot here in the hand but are usually visible as well in a good field view. The adult male could almost pass muster as a Continental 'rubicola' bird but, as regular readers with remember, we've never been very enamoured with the pigeonholing of stonechats for the simple reason that the more you look at them the more you appreciate there's an almost seamless gradation in plumage from extreme 'rubicola' to extreme British 'hibernans' - where does one stop and the other begin?

11th March

Some fairly inept weather forecasting had suggested a good part of the day would be rained off which was a far cry from the conditions that unfolded as the initial brisk easterly died right away once very misty, murky conditions set in through the afternoon. Migrants still weren't conspicuous but variety at the Bill included 2 each of Black Redstart, Chiffchaff and Firecrest, and singles of Wheatear, Redwing and Bullfinch; another 2 Firecrests were at Southwell, whilst further Black Redstarts were at Portland Castle (2) and Chesil Cove. The wintering Blackcap lingered on at the Obs as did the 2 Pheasants there, whilst the sea came up with 2 passing Red-throated Divers off the Bill and 5 settled Teal at Chesil Cove.

A party of a dozen or more Bottle-nosed Dolphins spent a while off the Bill early in the morning before heading away northwards, whilst a lone dolphin - another Bottle-nosed? - was later in Portland Harbour.

A lone Dark Sword Grass was again the only immigrant caught overnight at the Obs.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins - Portland Bill, 11th March 2015 © Debby Saunders

10th March

A lovely fine, sunny day but migrants still weren't at all numerous. Three new Firecrests - plus a lingerer from yesterday - were the best of the bunch at the Bill, where 2 Redwings, singles of Water Rail, Black Redstart, Wheatear and Blackcap, together with a continuing trickle of incoming Meadow Pipits, made up the rest of the tally. Elsewhere there were 2 Chiffchaffs at King Barrow Quarry, the Hooded Crow at the Grove, a Wheatear at the Sailing Academy, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 4 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour.

Kestrels and Peregrine - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 10th March 2015 © Ken Dolbear (Kestrels) and Pete Saunders (Peregrine)

9th March

With the forecast rain not amounting to much today's largely dreary skies dropped a few morsels of interest even if numbers remained far from impressive. The Bill area got most of the coverage and came up with 14 Stonechats, 3 Firecrests (all new arrivals), 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Wheatears, a new Sparrowhawk and the wintering Blackcap on the land and 3 Red-throated Divers through on the sea. The only news from elsewhere was of the spring's first migrant Chiffchaff at Blacknor and 65 Black-headed Gulls through over Ferrybridge.

The year's first Dark Sword Grass was the only moth caught overnight at the Obs.

8th March

Normal coverage resumed after yesterday's distractions and there was a fair spread of newcomers on show. Meadow Pipits made up the bulk of the numbers, with a steady northbound passage along West Cliffs for a good part of the day; Stonechats were the most conspicuous arrivals on the ground, with at least 20 at the Bill and a good scatter elsewhere, whilst variety came in the form of single Wheatears at the Bill, Blacknor and Ferrybridge, and the spring's first Firecrest at the Obs. The sea got in on the act with 15 Common Scoter, 13 Brent Geese and 11 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill. Lingering winterers included the Black Redstart and Blackcap at the Bill and the Black Guillemot off Portland Castle.

7th March

The quest for early migrants was quickly dropped from the agenda today when news came through of the discovery of a Bonaparte's Gull off Chesil Cove - the first ever 'get-able' record for Portland; although tricky to catch up with there it soon turned up on the falling tide at Ferrybridge where it showed extremely well for a time before become rather troublesome again. With most other fieldwork taking a backseat the only other reports were of a Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Ferrybridge, 2 somewhat incongruous Canada Geese off Portland Castle, the Hooded Crow still at the Grove pig farm and the wintering Blackcap still at the Obs.



Bonaparte's Gull and Scandinavian Rock Pipit - Ferrybridge, 7th March 2015 © Pete Saunders (Bonaparte's Gull stills) and Martin Cade (videos)

6th March

Another lovely day for getting on with outdoors jobs but not at all productive for migrants. Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails again trickled over but arrivals on the ground consisted of little more than a few Stonechats (including 4 more at the Bill and 5 at Blacknor) and a Redwing at the Bill; sea passage included 10 Black-headed Gulls, 8 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Teal through off Chesil and 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose off the Bill. The best of the winter lingerers were again the Hooded Crow at the Grove and the Black Guillemot off Portland Castle.

5th March

Lots of fieldwork today although the conditions were really far too nice for there to be an expectation of significant numbers. It was again only the earliest, short-distance migrants that featured overhead and on the ground, with the likes of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails trickling north along West Cliffs, an arrival of at least 8 new Stonechats at the Bill and a likely new Black Redstart at Blacknor; the sea came up with 6 Brent Geese, 4 Greylag Geese, a Great Crested Grebe and a Velvet Scoter off Chesil and 4 Red-throated Divers and 3 Shelducks through off the Bill. Coverage otherwise revealed most of the long-stayers still in situ, including the Black Redstart and Blackcap at the Bill, the Hooded Crow at the Grove pig farm, the Black Redstart at Portland Castle and the Black Guillemot off Portland Castle.

Stonechats and Common Buzzard - Portland Bill, 5th March 2015 © Martin Cade (Stonechats) and Ken Dolbear (Buzzard)
...the buzzard is a juvenile - presumably a local-bred bird - that we'd previously featured when it was trapped and ringed on 30th October last year:
...it's been knocking around all winter and, as in Ken's photograph of it today, has developed a bit of a penchant for perching on the electric poles beside the Obs Quarry.

4th March

Despite the weather improving by the day newcomers hardly featured today, with a Snipe at the Bill, a few Rooks overhead and an increase to 5 Stonechats at Barleycrates Lane about as good as it got. Long-stayers still about included singles of Purple Sandpiper, Black Redstart and Blackcap at the Bill, the Hooded Crow at the Grove and 12 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour, whilst the only sea news concerned 3 Red-throated Divers off the Bill.

Carrion Crow 'turnstoning' to feed on snails - Bowers Quarry, 4th March 2015 © Ken Dolbear

3rd March

Despite largely unchanged conditions migrants obviously spotted a window of opportunity - maybe it was clearer on the other side of the Channel? - and there was a steady arrival of Meadow Pipits in particular for a good part of the day; with sample counts of 30-40/hour at both the Bill and Chesil a fair few hundred birds in total must have passed over the island today. Although it was nice to at last see some numbers, the day's highlights were actually two more firsts for the year: a White Wagtail dropped in briefly at Reap Lane and a returning Puffin was prospecting the auk colony at the Bill. The rest of the action was relatively mundane, with 4 Purple Sandpipers, the Black Redstart and the Blackcap still at the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker again at Pennsylvania Castle, the odd few Rooks scattered about and Red-throated Divers through off Chesil (2) and the Bill.

2nd March

Although plenty of enthusiasm was generated by the belated news received of the spring's first Wheatear making landfall at West Weare yesterday, today's cold, showery north-westerly did us no such favours. The only reports were of the usual Black Redstart and Blackcap at the Bill, and singles of Red-throated Diver and Great Skua through on the sea there.

We're very pleased to announce that today was Glen Maddison's first full day with us as this season's PBO assistant warden. Glen's been such a frequent visitor to the Obs in recent years that he'll need no introduction at all to most of our regular visitors - he's already looking forward to meeting you all again this year!

Follow Glen on Twitter @GlenOrioleglen for his take on life at the Bill.

1st March

Not at all surprisingly given the brisk north-westerly March begun pretty uneventfully. At the Bill the Black Redstart and Blackcap lingered on and 7 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua passed through on the sea, but the year's first Snipe was the only obvious new arrival. Elsewhere, singles of Black Redstart and Chiffchaff were at Church Ope Cove and the Black Guillemot lingered on off Portland Castle.

A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was another first for the year at Weston.

Common Gull - Ferrybridge, 1st March 2015 © Pete Saunders