30th September

A day of visible passage overload, with a veritable torrent of  migrants battling through overhead into the continuing stiff easterly. Numbers were impossible to quantify in full but an early morning 45 minute sample count at the Bill that came up with 800 House Martins, 650 Swallows, 400 Meadow Pipits, 250 Linnets, 80 Goldfinches, a Woodlark and a Siskin provided a mere snap-shot from just one spot of a passage that looked to be taking place on such a broad front that similar counts could have been made just about anywhere on the island; the pick of the quality overhead were 3 Spoonbills that flew east over the Bill before heading away north and later dropping in at Lodmoor, a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and a Lapland Bunting over Barleycrates Lane. There were perhaps slightly more grounded migrants about than in recent days but nothing was easy to get to grips with in the wind-lashed trees and the rewards got no better than at least 5 Firecrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Bill and another Firecrest at Southwell. The only seawatch report came from Chesil Cove where 15 Common Scoter, 14 Brent Geese and a Grey Plover passed by.

It goes without saying that moth interest dropped still further, with a Silver Y at the Obs and a White-speck at West Grove Terrace the only immigrants amongst the trap catches.

Spoonbills - Portland Bill, 30th September 2015 © Martin Cade

29th September

With there still being precious few reasons for migrants to drop out of the crystal clear night sky it remained largely quiet on the ground, where 2 new Firecrests at the Obs were a pretty minor highlight amongst small numbers of other very routine arrivals. It was considerably busier overhead with some strong pulses of Swallows and House Martins in particular heading through into the brisk easterly; all the expected pipits, wagtails and finches were also well represented, with higher quality coming in the form of a Red Kite that did a circuit of the island, 6 Crossbills over Suckthumb, a Hobby over Barleycrates and 2 Merlins, 2 Short-eared Owls and a Hobby over the Bill.

Moth interest diminished considerably, with the lowest immigrant total at the Obs - just 3 individuals - since 23rd June; the only scarcer species making the list were a Delicate at West Grove Terrace and a Convolvulus Hawk-moth visiting Nicotiana flowers there at dusk.


Red Kite and Convolvulus Hawk-moth - Chesil Cove and the Grove, 29th September 2015 © Matt Phipps (Red Kite) and Martin Cade (Convolvulus Hawk)
Although we'd imagined that migrants must have been streaming over during the recent clear nights it would seem from Nick Hopper's latest evidence that wasn't the case during the first few hours of last night. Up to the time of compiling this update Nick's only had a chance to go through his recordings made between dusk and midnight, but during that period he logged just 15 birds; interestingly though, these did include two species we haven't yet been seeing during the daylight hours: the first 3 Redwings of the autumn were particularly noteworthy: 
...whilst 10 Song Thrushes were hopefully also a sign of things to come as late autumn passage gathers momentum:
Finally, a few odds and ends from the Crown Estate Field today where through being less than burdened during net-rounds we were reduced to aimless meandering with the camera - Linnet, Greenland Wheatear, Hobby and Merlin all popped up at various times (all © Martin Cade):

28th September

With no change in the weather bar the wind racking up to an even more difficult blasting easterly today was not especially fruitful. A fly-by Ortolan Bunting at the Bill that didn't oblige by dropping in for general consumption provided the one moment of quality in conditions that saw to it all the day's numbers were also overhead, where hirundines, Meadow Pipits and a miscellany of wagtails and finches passed through in decent albeit unexceptional quantities. It was considerably quieter on the ground, where 2 Firecrests and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill were the only minor highlights amongst paltry numbers of commoner migrants.

The odd single Clouded Yellows and Hummingbird Hawk-moths were again reported at several sites.

Moth numbers dwindled as the wind increased, with a single Scarce Bordered Straw at the Obs the only immigrant of note.

27th September

The pretty low-key birding continued with a brisk easterly making it difficult to get amongst what few migrants there seemed to be on the ground. Overhead passage was as strong as yesterday but was mainly taking place on a narrower front along West Cliffs where House Martins in particular were prominent; a few sample counts indicated they were pulsing through at between 1500 and 2500 per hour for the best part of the morning at the Bill so a five figure total was likely reached there. Swallows and Meadow Pipits weren't so numerous today and other species were poorly recorded. Grounded migrants consisted of a very thin scatter of the likes of Wheatears, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, with singles of Turtle Dove at the Bill and Firecrest at Southwell about as good as it got by way of quality. Three Brent Geese and singles of Manx Shearwater and Great Skua passed through off the Bill.

Immigrant moth interest was limited to singles of Delicate and White-speck at the Obs, Olive-tree Pearl at Sweethill and Delicate at West Grove Terrace amongst low numbers of commoner species.

26th September

Another lovely warm, sunny day but with a freshening easterly wind becoming a feature. Grounded arrivals were a little more conspicuous than yesterday but totals from the Bill of, for example, 25 Wheatears, 20 Chiffchaffs, 15 Blackcaps and 6 Goldcrests were indication enough that there really wasn't a great deal about, whilst quality there didn't get much better than singles of Woodlark and Black Redstart. Overhead passage was strong but tricky to count, with birds on the move on a broad front over the Bill; Swallow and Meadow Pipit were again getting towards four figure totals, whilst singles of Merlin, Hobby, Snipe, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper provided interest amongst the lesser totals there.

25th September

A scorching summer-like day with anticyclonic conditions seemingly now setting in for the foreseeable future. Maybe not surprisingly, the quantity of grounded migrants wasn't dissimilar to mid-summer, with precious little descending from the now really moonlit night sky; the one arrival of quality was a Yellow-browed Warbler - by the sound of events elsewhere it may prove to be the first of many - that spent the day in the Obs garden. There was a very thin spread of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests everywhere but some typical mid-autumn migrants - there was, for instance, just 1 Wheatear on the list for the Bill area - were pretty well absent; singles of Mistle Thrush and Firecrest at the Bill and another Firecrest at Pennslyvania Castle were about as good as it got for less frequent migrants. Under the clear sky it was considerably busier overhead, with Swallows well into four figures and Meadow Pipits in the high three figures; Siskins again topped 100 over the Bill, where 5 Redpolls and a Merlin were amongst other more routine fare overhead. The only noteworthy report from the sea was of 7 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill.

Single Hummingbird Hawk-moths continued to pop up here and there but nocturnal moth immigrants still weren't at all numerous, with singles of Delicate and White-speck the best amongst small numbers of the regulars at the Obs.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bill, 25th September 2015 © Martin Cade

24th September

A surprisingly dismal showing today, with pre-dawn showers dropping hardly anything in the way of new arrivals; one-off duff days like this crop up occasionally during any migration season, but three flops in apparently good conditions within the space of a week really does bring home to you - as so many surveys indicate these days - that there simply aren't the numbers of migrant birds about that there used to be. Fair coverage of a good deal of the south of the island revealed no more than a handful of the likes of Wheatear, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, whilst more uncommon fare was all but absent; visible passage was only a little stronger and that involved hardly anything beyond hirundines and Meadow Pipits. With the wind remaining north of west the only reports from the sea were of 4 Balearic Shearwaters, a Great Skua and an Arctic Tern through off the Bill.

23rd September

A reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 26th September 2015.

On a day of clear skies and a freshening westerly the numbers were overhead rather than on the ground. At the Bill a sample one hour count early in the morning came up with 600 Meadow Pipits, 140 Linnets, 90 Goldfinches and 49 alba wagtails, whilst full totals for the whole morning including 70 Siskins, 35 Chaffinches, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 7 Redpolls, 4 Grey Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Reed Buntings and a Merlin. Quality was hard to come by amongst the grounded arrivals, with single Firecrests at Southwell and Pennsylvania Castle about the best on offer; numbers included 30 or so each of Wheatear, Blackcap and Chiffchaff at the Bill. Not much attention was given to the sea, with singles of Red-throated Diver and Arctic Skua the only reports from the Bill. The only reports from elsewhere were of a Common Scoter in Portland Harbour and a Knot at Ferrybridge.

A Red-veined Darter was in the Crown Estate Field during the afternoon.

Singles of Delicate and White-speck were the only scarcer immigrant moths caught overnight at the Obs.

Red-veined Darter - Portland Bill, 23rd September 2015 © Martin Cade

Also today Nick Hopper sent us through a report and some recordings from his most recent visit last Friday night/Saturday morning (18th/19th). The main feature of the night was what sounded to be sizeable flocks of moving waders, amongst which Dunlin were prominent (seven parties of multiple birds):

...perhaps surprisingly, it was the first night this autumn when no Ringed Plover were logged. Other highlights included a Greenshank:

...two flocks of Turnstones (together with Dunlin in this recording):

...a Knot, three groups of Sandwich Terns, a Common Sandpiper, a Redshank, a Pied Flycatcher, 9 Robins, 8 Tree Pipits, 8 Yellow Wagtail and two calls from Skylarks. Additionally, this passerine calling and then giving a short snatch of song well after dark on the Friday evening caused considerable puzzlement; despite sounding as though it ought to be some sort of Sylvia, further research couldn't pin it down to any specifically. Magnus Robb's suggestion is that it's most probably a Wheatear, which, on second listening, sounds far more plausible - the chacking calls are rather like those we hear from migrant Wheatears, whilst the little burst of scratchy song could easily come from their wide repertoire:

22nd September

A blustery north-westerly made for an uneventful day, with grounded migrants at a premium. The few snippets of interest amongst otherwise low numbers of routine migrants included singles of Grasshopper Warbler and Firecrest at the Bill and another Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle; it was a tad busier overhead, where 60 Siskins passed over at the Bill amongst a light passage of Meadow Pipits and hirundines. Seawatching was uneventful in the offshore wind, with singles of Red-throated Diver, Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua the best of what little was on the move off the Bill.

Moth interest was as minimal as bird interest, with a single Delicate at West Grove Terrace the best of the low numbers of immigrants.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth - Portland Bill, 22nd September 2015 © Martin King

21st September

For the second time in the last few days pretty likely looking fall conditions didn't deliver, with the showers that passed by late in the night having little effect at all. Singles of Grasshopper Warbler and Firecrest at the Obs were welcome enough but about as good as it got on the land, where there were no more than tiny numbers of other grounded passerines; waders at Ferrybridge included 150 Ringed Plovers and a Grey Plover. With the wind freshening as a rain band passed through later in the morning sea interest picked up noticeably: 16 Common Scoter, 9 Balearic Shearwaters, 7 Arctic Skuas and a Sooty Shearwater passed through off the Bill, where there was also a visitor report of a passing Great Shearwater.

Immigrant moth activity remained at a fairly low level, with 4 Delicates and a Scarce Bordered Straw at the Obs, a Vestal at Sweethill and a White-speck at the Grove representing the best of the quality.

Yellow Wagtail - Portland Bill, 20th September 2015 © Roger Hewitt

Colour-ringed gulls haven't featured much of late, largely because we haven't come across any from unexpected locations; however, these two are worth a mention, as much because they were only a few yards apart in the field below Culverwell one day last week. Great Black-back 45N was from Le Havre, France, where it was ringed as a chick in June 2013; since being marked it has been sighted at Radipole Lake in October 2014 and was back at Le Havre in July this year:

Lesser Black-back B.VBA was from Orfordness, Suffolk, where it was ringed as a chick 18 years ago in July 1997 - it's sufficiently old that it's already on its second colour ring; apart from frequent breeding season sightings at or near Orfordness this bird has only been seen elsewhere during March and September 2008 when it was at Faro, Portugal (perhaps it winters further south in Africa?). Thanks to Gilles Le Guillou and Mike Marsh for these details.

20th September

A far too nice a day after a far too nice a night to have expected much in the way of grounded migrants - and expectations were pretty well spot on. The thin selection at the Bill included just Wheatear, Whinchat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff making it into double figures on the ground, where a lone Pied Flycatcher was about as good as it got in the quality stakes. Visible passage was also surprisingly subdued, with Siskins just topping 50 but no other counts worth a mention.

Immigrant moth numbers dropped away a little, with 2 Delicates at the Obs and a Convolvulus Hawk-moth at Sweethill providing the best of the quality.

19th September

A building anticyclone brought a return to summer on the weather front with wall-to-wall blazing sunshine and just the faintest waft of a breeze; despite these seemingly unfavourable conditions there was plenty to see even if quality wasn't really a feature. On the ground a small pulse of Goldcrests was evident in most patches of trees and there were signs of an overdue build-up in Linnet numbers, but other than example totals at the Bill of 15-30 of most of the other expected commoner migrants there was little else worth a mention beyond oddities that included 2 Green Sandpipers there. Although moving hirundines featured in good numbers everywhere, visible passage was perhaps more subdued than might have been hoped; 100 Yellow Wagtails over the Bill - where the autumn's first 2 Redpolls also passed through - was the only total worth singling out.

The immigrant moth situation changed very little, with 2 White-speck, a Scarce Bordered Straw and a Small Mottled Willow the only scarcities at the Obs. Elsewhere, 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moths were at Southwell, whilst a Square-spot Dart at West Grove Terrace constituted only the third Portland record of a species that could plausibly be in the course of getting established on the island.

Yellow Wagtail, Long-winged Conehead and Square-spot Dart - Portland Bill and the Grove, 19th September 2015 © Will Bown (Yellow Wag), Martin King (Long-winged Conehead) and Martin Cade (Square-spot Dart)

We're well aware that we've sadly neglected in recent months/years our formerly regular little features on ageing and sexing; this hasn't been intentional, but just reflects us digressing into all sorts of other areas that have taken our fancy. We still might dip into the backlog of photos that continues to accumulate but in the meanwhile we've been fortunate in recent days to tap into a run of Whinchats that are worth a look at. On the basis of the colour of the inside of the upper mandible - which is said to be a diagnostic ageing feature -  these four birds were all first-years, although you'd be hard pushed to be sure of that on field views; sex-wise, largely based on the tail pattern we have them down as a female (the top one) and three males:

18th September

Perhaps surprisingly bearing in mind the beefy showers that passed through in the final hour of an otherwise clear night it was considerably quieter today. Totals of 70 Wheatears, 40 Blackcaps, 25 Whitethroats and 20 Whinchats made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground at the Bill, where the long-staying Wryneck was the only oddity to make the list. The sky was also unaccountably quiet, with only relatively low double figure totals of wagtails, pipits and Siskins amongst the trickle of hirundines moving through. With the breeze set firmly offshore a lone Balearic Shearwater was the only minor highlight off the Bill.

Another single Red-veined Darter was in the Crown Estate Field at the Bill.

Cooler conditions limited the overnight moth catch, with 2 Scarce Bordered Straw and singles of Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Delicate and Small Mottled Willow the best of the immigrants at the Obs.

Wryneck - Portland Bill, 18th September 2015 © Nick Stantiford
And a few more night - and morning - sounds from Nick Hopper. It might seem as though this is all old news by the time we get some of the highlights uploaded here, but it should maybe be remembered that, at least in a UK context, this is a pretty novel study that as it's evolved has thrown up as many queries and conundrums as it has revelations about what's passing over the Bill at night - the few recordings we post here are just the tip of the icebeg when it comes to the amount of work that's gone into getting to this stage. Nick reports that the pick of the captures on the night of 10th/11th September was another flock of Arctic Terns; otherwise, a rather samey selection included a flock of Redshank, 3 groups of Ringed Plover, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Snipe, 3 Yellow Wagtails  and 5 Tree Pipits:

Overflying Yellow Wagtails (with alba wagtails in the clip that follows) were a constant feature after daybreak:

...whilst on the non-avian front a close Fox wasn't altogether unexpected:

17th September

Much improved conditions saw most of yesterday's migrants get away overnight but almost as many newcomers drop in. With it being relatively quiet both overhead and on the sea the day's legwork was mainly confined to getting amongst birds on the ground, where there were notable totals of 200 Wheatears, 50 Whitethroats and 40 Whinchats amongst a good spread at the Bill; less frequent migrants there included 3 Wrynecks (at least 1 of which looked to be a new individual) and singles of Hobby, Golden Plover, Woodlark and Firecrest, whilst elsewhere a Nightjar was a good autumn record at Barleycrates Lane. Very limited seawatching effort came up with singles of Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

A single Red-veined Darter was a Culverwell.

Nick Hopper's most recent sound recording visits have been getting more fruitful now that we've reached mid-autumn, with calls logged on the night of 9th/10th September that included a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, a party of Knot, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper, 5 Ringed Plover, 7 groups of Dunlin, a Sandwich Tern, 8 Tree Pipits, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Grey Herons:

This apparent sequence of wing-beats followed by two calls recorded the night before required a lot of investigation but looks likely to refer to a Short-eared Owl pitching in near the recorder:

...and, as we'd mentioned before, Nick has taken to leaving the recorder running on into the morning, with the latest reward being last week's Little Bunting passing overhead on the morning of 9th:

16th September

Most certainly a day of two halves with an excellent morning's birding coming to an abrupt halt as at times epic quantities of rain completely washed out the afternoon. The presence of rain all morning not too far away in the Channel looked to be instrumental in interrupting the progress of active migrants that wouldn't ordinarily have grounded at the Bill, with a higher than usual proportion of adult birds identified both in the hand and in the field; a brief post-deluge ringing attempt at dusk also resulted in the capture of a notably heavy Blackcap (such birds rarely feature amongst the captures in the sub-optimal habitat at the Bill). With woefully inadequate coverage it was difficult to get a full handle on numbers at the Bill, but minima on the ground included 250 Wheatears, 75 each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, 35 Whinchats, 25 Blackcaps, 15 Spotted Flycatchers, 8 Redstarts, 4 Wrynecks and 4 Grasshopper Warblers; singles of Cuckoo, Wood Warbler and Firecrest featured amongst a wide variety of other ones and twos. Visible passage overhead was also incompletely covered, with the totals of 1000 Swallows, 300 Meadow Pipits, 200 Siskins, 100 House Martins, 35 Yellow Wagtails and 20 Tree Pipits logged heading into the brisk north-easterly at the Bill likely falling well short of the true numbers on the move.

Overnight conditions weren't too bad for mothing, with decent numbers of immigrants making it into the Obs traps; the total of 77 Rush Veneers was a new high for the year, whilst 3 Scarce Bordered Straw and a White-speck were the best of the scarcer arrivals.

15th September

Yesterday's stormy conditions lasted on through the night and whilst doing nothing for passerine passage were more than fierce enough to wreck several noteworthy seabirds. Routine seabird passage was pretty hopeless, with no more than 7 Balearic Shearwaters and the autumn's first Red-throated Diver off the Bill, but a series of sightings of at least 2 Storm Petrels were of interest there, whilst another Storm Petrel and a Grey Phalarope lingered off Chesil Cove; an additional Storm Petrel was found dead at Chiswell. Although there was a general dearth of grounded migrants there were odd pockets of interest, with several Goldcrests scattered around sheltered spots everywhere, and singles of Firecrest and Coal Tit cropping up at Pennsylvania Castle. Once the dawn rain had cleared through a little visible passage got going, including 20 Siskins through over the Bill.


Grey Phalarope - Chesil Cove, 15th September 2015 © Martin Cade

14th September

The first really wildly windy day of the autumn, with a stiff south-easterly and rain through the night replaced by a blasting south-westerly through the daylight hours. Not surprisingly, most attention was given to the sea where although Gannets were moving through in force - including a sample count of 840 off the Bill in 2 hours during the morning - there wasn't too much else to show for the efforts, with 12 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas and an Arctic Skua the best off the Bill. The land was far too blown out to have expected much of a return and there were no oddities found amongst the handful of common migrants logged at the Bill.

Ringed Plover - Ferrybridge, 14th September 2105 © Martin Cade
 And to finish off, some sounds from last week. Nick Hopper was with us for three nights mid-week and found it to be considerably busier than thus far this autumn; nocturnal highlights were Knot and Arctic Tern, whilst other migrants of interest included Sandwich Tern, 2 Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Robins, several Pied/Spotted Flycatchers (separating these two species is proving troublesome at the moment) and good numbers of Tree Pipits:


Nick has also got into the habit of leaving the recorder running well on into the morning and was rewarded with an Ortolan Bunting passing overhead on Wednesday - a day with no sightings/hearings of this species from the field birders!:


13th September

There was certainly some bafflement as to why today didn't come up with the goods: a seemingly perfect overnight mix of the New Moon, a pre-dawn rain shower and south-easterly winds created plenty of expectation but generated next to nothing by way of an arrival of routine migrants, with few species getting beyond single figure totals at the Bill. A Wryneck that showed up in Top Fields did provide some compensation but there wasn't anything else out of the ordinary on the ground and just a Golden Plover and a late Swift of note amongst the limited passage overhead. The sea was hardly any better with just 4 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill.

The immigrant moth situation continued to improve, with the overnight catch at the Obs including a year peak to date of 70 Rush Veneers; a single Latticed Heath was the scarcest immigrant there, whilst another Convolvulus Hawk-moth was the best of the catch at West Grove Terrace.

Wryneck and Latticed Heath - Portland Bill, 13th September 2015 © Mark Eggleton (Wryneck-top), Duncan Walbridge (Wryneck-bottom) and Martin Cade (Latticed Heath)

12th September

At least from the bird point of view a very disappointing day, with overnight rain dropping next to nothing by way of migrants and a brisk westerly wind not stirring up much on the sea. An Osprey that headed out to the south-west from Chesil Cove during the morning was easily the highlight; migrant interest on the ground included 40 Wheatears and 12 Whinchats at the Bill and 2 Little Stints, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and a Knot at Ferrybridge but the likes of phylloscs were almost absent. At least 11 Balearic Shearwaters and a single Great Skua passed through/lingered off the Bill and another Great Skua passed over at Ferrybridge.

At least 3 Red-veined Darters were found in the Broadcroft BC reserve/Easton Fire Station area.

Immigrant moth interest picked up after this week's lull and included a conspicuous arrival of Rusty-dot Pearl (numbers of this species have been very low this year) with 21 logged from the Obs traps.

Red-veined Darters - Broadcroft BC reserve and Easton Fire Station, 12th September 2015 © Martin Cade

And a few migrants from the last couple of days; Yellow Wagtails at the Bill and Ferrybridge © Ted Pressey (settled) and Pete Saunders (flying): 

...Wheatear and Whinchat at the Bill © Tony Hovell (Wheatear) and Ted Pressey (Whinchat):

Also a Wall butterfly at Southwell ©  Tony Hovell:


11th September

Sadly, today was but a shadow of what anticipation and a south-easterly had suggested it might be, with a lot of legwork coming up with precious few rewards beyond the mundane. Numbers on the ground were particularly disappointing, with only Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, Whinchat, Blackcap and Willow Warbler getting into double figures at the Bill; it was a tad busier overhead although, hirundines aside, it was only really the continuing flow of Siskins - including another 120 over the Bill - that saw the tally reach respectable proportions. Odds and ends through on the sea included 7 Balearic Shearwaters and 3 Arctic Skuas off the Bill.

We've run out of time this evening to post any of the nice selection of migrant photos passed to us today - they'll feature tomorrow.

10th September

Despite the lack of any useful cloud cover a reasonable little list was eventually garnered from today's efforts, amongst which the high points were an Ortolan Bunting that dropped in for a while on West Cliffs, a Coal Tit at Pennsylvania Castle and yet another Ruff at Ferrybridge. The majority of commoner migrants weren't particularly well represented, at least on the ground, with a total of 15 Whinchats one of the few worthwhile totals from the Bill area; 2 each of Short-eared Owl, Yellow-legged Gull and White Wagtail at the Bill, singles of Golden Plover and Greenshank at Ferrybridge and single Merlins at both these sites were of further note. Under sunny skies it was busier overhead, with hirundines passing through in quantity everywhere and both Yellow Wagtail and Siskin getting up to  the 50 mark at the Bill.

The immigrant moth total from the Obs traps fell below 10 for the first time in a long while, with several of that low total looking likely to be locally-reared progeny of earlier arrivals.

Ortolan Bunting, Ruff, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gulls and Bordered Straw - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 10th September 2015 © Martin King (Ortolan and Kestrel), Pete Saunders (Ruff) and Martin Cade (Yellow-legged Gulls and Bordered Straw)

9th September

The high hopes generated by a heavily overcast dawn with not too distant showers running up the Channel looked to be evaporating after a relatively migrant-free couple of hours when proceedings were galvanised by news of a Little Bunting - Portland's earliest autumn record by more than a fortnight - at the Pulpit Bushes; sadly, its visit was all too brief and its next appearance - in flight over the Higher Lighthouse a little later - proved to be the last that was seen of it. A Hoopoe overhead at Blacknor was perhaps most likely to be the Bill bird of a couple of days ago relocating, whilst during the afternoon an Osprey headed rapidly south over the Bill. The common migrant situation wasn't quite as dire as first indications had suggested, but tracking things down was never easy in a pretty stiff easterly; noteworthy totals from the Bill included 20 Whinchats, 9 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Pied Flycatchers and a Short-eared Owl. Six Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill constituted the only worthwhile reports from the sea.

Immigrant moth interest was again very limited, with the totals of individuals from the Obs traps only just getting into double figures.

Little Bunting, Tree Pipit and Pied Flycatcher - Portland Bill, 9th September 2015 © Keith Pritchard (Little Bunting), Martin Cade (Tree Pipit) and Mark Rayment (Pied Flycatcher)

We haven't had a great deal to report lately from Nick Hopper's nocturnal recording sessions, as much because Nick's visits seem to have coincided with periods of fairly subdued passage; however, by all accounts last night saw a good deal more activity that we'll report on once Nick's finished running through the recordings. As a taster Nick's sent us through a couple of recordings from his last visit of what are turning out to be two of the most frequently logged species in this mid-autumn period:

8th September

More unbroken sunshine and a constantly freshening easterly wind weren't really a recipe for success on the ground, with the total of only 5 new migrants ringed all day at the Obs being an adequate reflection on the numbers everywhere. It did remain quite busy overhead, with 250 Siskins, 28 Yellow Wagtail, 11 Grey Wagtails, 6 Tree Pipits, 2 Snipe, a Short-eared Owl and plenty more hirundines through over the Bill and a Golden Plover over Blacknor the pick of a similar selection elsewhere. On the ground, most of the expected early September migrants put in appearances but there were few double figure totals in any of the areas covered and 9 Spotted Flycatchers at the Bill was the only total really worth a mention; less frequent migrants included 3 White Wagtails, a Kingfisher and a Grasshopper Warbler at the Bill and 2 Little Stints at Ferrybridge, whilst the season's first Brent Goose also passed through at Ferrybridge. Interest from the sea came in the form of singles of Balearic Shearwater, Arctic Skua and Puffin off the Bill.

Singles of Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Ni Moth at the Obs were best of a poor overnight catch of immigrant moths.

Siskin, White Wagtail, Little Stint, Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Flycatcher and Hummingbird Hawk-moth - Portland Bill and Ferrybridge, 8th September 2015 © Martin Cade (Siskins, White Wag and Ni), Pete Saunders (Little Stint and Barwit), Martin King (Spot Fly) and Mark Rayment (Hummingbird Hawk)
 Whilst you do hear all manner of stilted song from autumn migrants we can't actually recall ever having heard a Reed Warbler at this time of year. Yesterday one was giving snatches of quite passable song in the Obs garden, and at dawn today what was presumably the same individual in the same spot was trying it on again (we did see it and were able to confirm that it's a lingering ringed youngster); today its 'learning song' was much more hesitant and all but drowned out by the general dawn cacophony:


7th September

Another lovely day that was to a great extent saved from the birding point of view by the appearance of a Hoopoe that flew in off the sea near the Obs during the morning and was eventually refound late in the afternoon between the Higher Light and Privet Hedge. Both the Wryneck at the Pulpit Bushes and the Nightingale at the Obs Quarry also lingered on but migrant interest was largely limited to overflying hirundines and Siskins. Numbers on the ground were as thin as might have been expected in the conditions, with only Wheatear, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Willow Warbler getting into double figures at the Bill. Passing hirundines were an ever-present although unquantified feature at the Bill where a minimum of 210 Siskins also passed over (once again, many high-flying flocks were only heard and so couldn't be counted).

Immigrant butterflies increased conspicuously, with several Clouded Yellows of particular note at the Bill and active northbound passage of 5-10 Red Admirals per minute logged along the Causeway during the afternoon.

The overnight catch of immigrant moths was considerably poorer than of late, with singles of Marbled Yellow Pearl and Convolvulus Hawk-moth the best on offer at the Obs.


Hoopoe, Chiffchaff, Linnets, Red Underwing and Marbled Yellow Pearl - Portland Bill, Ferrybridge and Southwell, 7th September 2015 © Martin Cade (Hoopoe and Marbled Yellow Pearl), Martin King (Chiffchaff), Pete Saunders (Linnets) and Debby Saunders (Red Underwing)