31st January

In increasingly cold, frequently showery and always howlingly windy conditions the only reports were of a Barn Owl at Southwell, a Blackcap at Wakeham and 400 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour.

Southwell has become the owl hotspot in recent days: the Barn Owl was again south of the village this evening © Debby Saunders...

...whilst this Short-eared Owl was nearby yesterday evening © Steve Ridout:  

Blackcap in typical winter habitat at Wakeham today © Martin Adlam: 

30th January

With the wind having dropped right out overnight there was frost on the ground at dawn that was very quickly cleared by pleasant sunshine. A Blackcap was a new arrival at the Obs where a Firecrest was again about and a wintering Goldcrest resurfaced for the first time this year; 12 Purple Sandpipers were also showing at the Bill and 12 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a Teal passed through on the sea. The day's other reports included another Blackcap at Wakeham, the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove, 2 Collared Doves south over Portland Harbour and 47 Oystercatchers, 4 Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver in and around the harbour.

This winter's turned out to be a good one for Blackcaps, with today's new female at the Obs seemingly the eighth different individual reported since mid-December - and we wouldn't mind betting that there'll be a few more tucked away in private gardens here and there © Martin Cade: 

And carrying on with yesterday's distant seabird theme, this is how we usually see Red-throated Divers off the Bill on calm, sunny days - this group of six this morning were way up in the sky heading west a mile or so off the Bill:

29th January

Hardly brimming with reports today but there were a couple of morsels of interest in the form of singles of Pomarine Skua and Little Gull lingering for a while off the Bill; 6 Common Scoter also passed by there, singles of Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl were at Southwell and one of the Black-throated Divers was still about in Portland Harbour.

The Southwell Barn Owl and Portland Harbour Black-throated Diver © Pete Saunders: 

Phones are just so versatile just days - this Pom Skua was at 'tiny blip in the eyepiece' distance from the Obs but Joe managed to get a nice little snippet of phone-scoped video as it made one of its passes © Joe Stockwell: 

28th January

Another brief show by the Pennsylvania Castle Yellow-browed Warbler was the best of today's bitsy selection. Singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest were also there, another Firecrest was at the Obs, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter passed by on the sea at the Bill and 5 Black-necked Grebes, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour.

27th January

It was back to square one on the weather front with lots more drizzly rain and reduced visibility. The day's only reports were of a Chiffchaff at Southwell, 12 Common Scoter, 8 Red-throated Divers and 2 Shelducks through off the Bill and 5 Shelducks at Ferrybridge. After dark a Golden Plover was heard heading north over the Bill.

Probably rather optimistically we'll claim the Golden Plover low over the Obs on a mild, misty night had all the feel of an inbound migrant:

And back to something from many moons ago. When Peter Moore kindly let us post his record shots of the Humpback Whale a couple of weekends ago we mentioned a previous record back in the 90s; although we quoted 1991 as the year in question we now suspect it was actually in late May/early June 1992 - the details are sketchy largely because this was in the quaint old days before mobiles and none of the local birding community heard about the animal's presence until after the event (...if anyone does have a definitive date do please let us know). Anyway, there is a cracking series of photos of this event taken by Andrew White that we're not sure have ever been published before and are well worth a look at © Andrew White: 

26th January

One of the nicest days of the year so far with plenty of sunshine and just a waft of a breeze. The flurry of resultant fieldwork didn't really come up with many surprises but a decent selection of the regulars were on view: 3 Short-eared Owls, a Merlin and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Bill, singles of Red-throated Diver and Brent Goose through off the Bill, 2 Firecrests, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Blackcap at Pennsylvania Castle, singles of Black Redstart, Blackcap and Chiffchaff at Blacknor/Weston and 11 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Portland Harbour.

One of this evening's Short-eared Owls at the Bill © Martin Cade:   

25th January

It was a bit of a novelty not to have a single spot of rain at the Obs all day but there were few worthwhile rewards from the extra fieldwork that was possible. Nine Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl were at the Bill where 4 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose passed through on the sea, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Pennsylvania Castle and 10 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Kittiwake were at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

A Brimstone Moth was a surprise out-of-season capture in the Obs moth-traps.

The return of sunshine was very welcome on the photography front, with Great Northern Diver, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Red-breasted Merganser all showing nicely at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders:  

In a quick check of a few of our recent moth notebooks we haven't come across any February or March records of Brimstone Moth - let alone one from January - so last night's specimen was way outside the usual flight season © Martin Cade:  

24th January


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 27th January.

Although the bulk of the day was again a wash-out there were a couple of brief windows of opportunity early and late when a fly-through Shoveler was a minor local highlight at Portland Harbour, 3 Red-throated Divers passed by off the Bill and 2 Short-eared Owls and a Grey Heron were still about at the Bill.

23rd January

Another day to forget, with the swirling drizzle often so opaque that we couldn't even see the sea from the Obs. The only worthwhile report was of a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Easton.

22nd January

Hardly a bumper haul today, but at least it was birdable after yesterday's wash-out. The Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle remained the pick of the assortment, with a Firecrests also there, 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Reed Bunting at the Bill, a Chiffchaff at Weston and 14 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour.

21st January

Virtually nothing to report from a day of almost constant rain or drizzle.

A Kingfisher from yesterday at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders: 

20th January

Weather-wise, a tad quieter and milder today although the wind did start to freshen again through the afternoon. A Merlin was a first for the year at the Bill but nothing much else had changed, with 4 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill, 7 Purple Sandpipers, a Short-eared Owl and a Reed Bunting at the Bill and 16 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and an Eider in Portland Harbour.

A slight rise in the temperature tempted this Western Conifer Seed Bug out from wherever it was overwintering at the Obs © Martin Cade: 

19th January

Just a handful of routine odds and ends today: 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter through off the Bill, a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle and 8 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

Not only was one of the Southwell Barn Owls showing nicely this evening but it was also having a lot of success, catching three voles in quick succession © Debby Saunders: 

18th January

It goes without saying that it remained very windy and none too warm with it. The Yellow-browed Warbler surfaced for the first time in a few days at Pennsylvania Castle where 5 Firecrests and a Blackcap were also present amongst the roving tit and crest flocks. Singles of Great Crested Grebe through off the Bill and Kittiwake dropping in at Ferrybridge were minor oddities, whilst regulars making the list included 8 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill and 5 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

There are always a few Great Crested Grebes knocking about Portland Harbour through the winter © Pete Saunders...

...but fly-bys off the Bill are much less frequent © Martin Cade: 

Kittiwakes being recorded at Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge are always a sure sign of it being persistently stormy© Pete Saunders:  

17th January

Another very blustery day but with rain holding off until after dark there was a little more enthusiasm for fieldwork, even if the rewards were much as in recent weeks. Three Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl were at the Bill where a lone Red-throated Diver passed by on the sea, a Barn Owl was showing at both ends of the day at Southwell, singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff were at Weston and 4 Great Northern Divers and 4 Black-necked Grebes at Portland Harbour.

Some of the Portland Harbour Black-necked Grebes have been showing far better this winter than is usually the case © Pete Saunders: 

There have been Barn Owls about all winter at the Bill where, as is usually the case, they seem to be very strictly nocturnal; however, when they venture up to Southwell they do often show when there's just enough light for photography © Pete Saunders (top two photos) and Nick Stantiford (bottom photo):

16th January

Pretty turbulent conditions once again and very little to report: 10 Purple Sandpipers were at the Bill and 2 Firecrests at Church Ope Cove.

15th January

A wet and/or windy day put a stop to any meaningful fieldwork and the only entries on the day sheet at the Obs were of singles of Grey Heron and Short-eared Owl at the Bill.

14th January

As a very welcome change there was non-bird highlight today, with a Humpback Whale that headed south off Chesil Cove during the afternoon the day's headliner.

A better bird list than yesterday came only by virtue of improved conditions and better coverage. Four Short-eared Owls, the Grey Heron and a Reed Bunting were still in situ at the Bill, where 3 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea; Firecrests were still about at Pennsylvania Castle (2) and Foundry Close, with 3 Redwings also at the latter, whilst totals from Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour included 115 Dunlin, 5 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and singles of Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Goosander.

The Humpback Whale was always distant and, sadly, appeared to be trailing some fishing equipment that included an orange float; it was last watched heading away south off West Cliffs but couldn't be picked up from either Blacknor or the Bill. As far as we know this is only the second Humpback Whale to be recorded in Portland waters - the first being a famous animal that spent most of a summer evening way back in 1991 close inshore at Chesil Cove © Peter Moore petermooreblog:

Black-throated Diver and Goosander over Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

13th January

A stiff, chilly southeasterly made for very difficult birding today and the only worthwhile reports were of 11 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Mallard at Reap Lane and the Eider still in Portland Harbour.

12th January

A pretty nondescript, dreary day came up with a surprising number of new arrivals, including an Eider in Portland Harbour, an increase to 60 Linnets along with singles of Golden Plover and Red-legged Partridge at the Bill and 70 Redwings heading north over Blacknor. Among the regulars putting in appearances were 4 Short-eared Owls, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Reed Bunting at the Bill, 6 Common Scoter and 5 Red-throated Divers through on the sea there, a Blackcap at Fortuneswell, the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 15 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

Short-eared Owl at the Bill this afternoon © Martin Cade:

11th January

Not as mild as yesterday in a noticeable north-easterly but pleasantly sunny throughout. Sadly, there was far less coverage and the day's only reports were of singles of Lapwing and Firecrest at the Bill, 15 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea there, another Firecrest at Easton and a Tufted Duck - along with the 3 released Great Bustards - through at Ferrybridge.

Never a particularly easy bird to get on a Portland year-list, today's fly-by Tufted Duck at Ferrybridge was bird of the day © Debby Saunders:

The released Great Bustards have been kicking around along the Fleet since they made their last visit to Portland back in mid-December; they looked as though they were heading back to the island again this morning but chickened out and headed back up the Fleet © Debby Saunders (the single) and Pete Saunders (two together): 

10th January

Such has been the uniform miserableness of the weather so far this year that today's lovely mild, calm and sunny conditions were a real treat. With plenty of birders tempted out there was decent coverage that resulted in quite a spread of variety, amongst which a Little Gull off the Bill and overflying singles of Snow Bunting at Ferrybridge and Redpoll at Blacknor were the best of the newcomers; the odd few winter thrushes were also still about, with 3 Fieldfares and 2 Redwings at Avalanche Road and another Fieldfare at the Bill. The rest of list consisted of regulars putting in appearances: the Yellow-browed Warbler and 4 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle, 12 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests and a Grey Heron on the land at the Bill and 7 Red-throated Divers (+ a likely Iceland Gull) through on the sea there, a Short-eared Owl at Tout Quarry, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 12 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Northern Divers at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge.

Three butterflies were tempted out onto the wing: a Peacock at the Bill, a Small Tortoiseshell at Blacknor and a Red Admiral at Fortuneswell.

9th January

A nice little sprinkle of variety today as the weather turned noticeably quieter and milder. Cold weather refugees featured again - presumably, since what movement there was was in off the sea, escaping events on the Continent - with 36 Lapwings over the Bill and another 6 over Ferrybridge, 2 Redwings over Blacknor and a Fieldfare grounded at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter and singles of Mallard, Eider and Black-headed Gull, whilst 9 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Turnstones, 2 Firecrests and a Little Egret were about on the land there. A Black-tailed Godwit was a new arrival at Ferrybridge, with 5 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Great Northern Divers and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose also there and at Portland Harbour.

Mid-winter Fieldfares are a pretty unusual sight on Portland in anything other than really bitter weather © Martin Cade:

8th January

No let up in yesterday's bitter north-easterly and some more evidence that the birds were getting fed up with it, with 28 Lapwings heading north over the Bill, a settled Fieldfare there and 3 Black-necked Grebes - along with 3 Great Northern Divers - seeking shelter close inshore at Osprey Quay. Fifteeen more Red-throated Divers and 14 Common Scoter passed through off the Bill, 10 Common Scoter were in Chesil Cove, both the Grey Heron at the Bill and the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove were still about and the Purple Sandpipers at the Bill reached a new winter peak of 14.

It's not often that the Black-necked Grebes afford these sort of views in Portland Harbour...

...some of the Great Northern Divers were also showing nicely at Osprey Quay...

...as was the Chesil Cove Black Redstart all photos © Debby Saunders:

7th January

Lovely in the sun looking outdoors but the north-easterly that had gathered strength overnight and reached gale force by dawn saw to it that forays out into the field were a far from pleasant experience. Those that did attempt it were rewarded with what looked to be another new Iceland Gull that lingered off the Bill for a few minutes (with the same or another later at Ferrybridge) and a Sandwich Tern that dropped in at Ferrybridge; a Woodcock at the Bill and some Golden Plovers heard overhead there after dark were the sort of things that might have been expected given the temperature. The rest of the day's reports were more mundane: 19 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill, 2 Purple Sandpipers there, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and a Black-throated Diver through over Ferrybridge.

The Iceland Gull was seemingly the third of the last few days although the first that's lingered long enough for some photos © Joe Stockwell: 

Random winter Sandwich Terns are never as numerous in this area as they are at Poole Harbour but they do seem to be getting that bit more frequent in recent years © Debby Saunders:

Black-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser were amongst the morning fly-bys at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders: 

6th January

A switch to easterly weather saw the temperature take a dip but the quality of the birding go up a notch, the latter as much because for once it wasn't either raining or too blastingly windy. A little pulse of movement off the Bill saw 16 Red-throated Divers, 9 Pintail, 6 Common Scoter and a Black-headed Gull pass by, with 10 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Reed Buntings and a Short-eared Owl the best on offer on the land. Further up island a Firecrest was at Southwell, another 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler were again at Pennsylvania Castle, a Black Redstart was again at Chesil Cove and, after dark, a Short-eared Owl was beside the Beach Road. The day's list from Portland Harbour included 9 Black-necked Grebes, 7 Great Northern Divers and singles of Black-throated Diver and Red-necked Grebe. What with it being both the first weekend of the new year and there being several bird race teams dashing about the area there was a rash of other reports that we haven't heard details of including a Black Guillemot settled off the Bill and an Iceland Gull at Chesil Cove.

There's been pretty well no moth news to report just lately - a few Winter Moths and a variety of common micros have been settled on the outside of lit windows at the Obs on the few nights that there hasn't been a gale blowing - but we've uploaded a preliminary report on last year's new and immigrant lepidoptera for the island Lepidoptera in 2017

The recent spell of stormy, westerly weather had led to quite an increase in Great Northern Divers seeking shelter in Portland Harbour; today's switch to easterlies saw a few of them getting quite flighty as they were perhaps getting fed up with it starting to get choppy in the harbour - these were two of several over Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

5th January

The very low-key start to the year continued with another samey selection from around the island: 10 Purple Sandpiper at the Bill, 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter through on the sea there, 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler at Church Ope Cove and 7 Great Northern Divers, 6 Black-necked Grebes and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

A not so usual view of a Great Crested Grebe at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

4th January

A new Iceland Gull that dropped in briefly at Chesil Cove was not wholly unexpected given the stormy conditions of the last few days. Regulars still on station included 10 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill, 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle, 5 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge, whilst a single passing Red-throated Diver off the Bill was the only other seabird of note.

3rd January

Although the wind had abated somewhat from the 'official' 80+mph gusts recorded overnight birding was never going to be straightforward today and it was no great surprise when the day-sheet at the Obs was still completely blank well into the afternoon. The odds and ends that did eventually get reported were all from the relative sheltered waters of Portland Harbour, where a scatter of the regular divers and grebes were sheltering close to the causeway and a lone Kittiwake passed through.

Black-necked Grebes and the Kittiwake at Portland Harbour this morning © Pete Saunders:

2nd January

Weather-wise, this year's got off to a pretty dreadful start with today's uniformly gloomy sky and frequent showers hardly encouraging long sessions in the field. A Woodcock at the Obs was a surprise newcomer but the rest of the day's sightings were routine: 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Water Rail at the Bill, 5 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea there, a Chiffchaff at Southwell and 5 Goosanders, 4 Great Northern Divers, 3 Black-necked Grebes and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

Photography's been a bit of a challenge in the prevailing dreary conditions but a few of the regulars obliged yesterday at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:

1st January

Not the most auspicious of starts to the new year with rain for the best of the morning before a clearance did at least allow for some perfunctory coverage. The Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle made it onto a second month list and there were still 2 Firecrests there. Great Northern Divers increased to 14 in Portland Harbour, where 18 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Goosanders, 2 Black-throated Divers and a Red-necked Grebe were still about. Two Great Northern Divers at Ferrybridge might have been additions to the harbour tally, with 105 Dunlin, 2 Redshanks and a Bar-tailed Godwit also there. The only seawatch report was a lone Great Skua through off the Bill.