31st March

A largely dry day was very welcome indeed even if it did remain pretty comprehensively dreary throughout. The improvement brought with it a slight response on the migrant front that included the spring's best arrival to date of Wheatears and a couple of visible Ring Ouzels. The Wheatear tally at the Bill was a minimum of 200, with 25 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 5 each of Willow Warbler and Goldcrest, and a single Reed Bunting making up the rest of the migrant totals; a lighter scatter of the same variety elsewhere did come with the bonus of the 2 Ring Ouzels at Barleycrates Lane. With the breeze in an unhelpful northwesterly direction seawatching at the Bill came up with just 19 Common Scoter, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Red-throated Divers and 2 Sandwich Terns.

A party of at least 8 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill for the best part of the day.

The Barleycrates Ring Ouzels were at times quite good performers © Roger Hewitt:

30th March

A shocker of a day to start the bank holiday weekend with steady if never actually very heavy rain from before dawn until not long before dark. The sea came up with the only numbers, with 93 Common Scoter, 11 Red-throated Divers, 5 Sandwich Terns, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Goosander through off the Bill. There were new arrivals about on the land but they weren't easy to get amongst and there didn't look to be much variety at the Bill beyond a few grounded Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Goldcrests, a lone Brambling and a single passing Sand Martin; lingerers there included 3 Short-eared Owls and 2 Firecrests, whilst another Short-eared Owl was at Ferrybridge.

29th March

The decidedly unsettled conditions of recent weeks turned particularly unpleasant today with it feeling chilly throughout as frequent heavy showers rolled in off the Channel. Passerine passage was reduced to a handful of new Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests on the land and a trickle of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails through overhead. A blustery afternoon saw Manx Shearwaters get moving in small numbers - including 83 through off the Bill - whilst earlier 28 Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas and singles of Great Skua, Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern had passed by there between the showers; elsewhere, lower numbers of the same seabird selection passed through off Chesil and a Kittiwake headed through at Ferrybridge.

One of this morning's Red-throated Divers passing the Bill © Martin Cade:

28th March

A day with some nice rewards on the scarcity front but, despite another dose of overnight rain that lasted on into the morning, precious little by way of numbers. The pick of the oddities were a Dartford Warbler on the Slopes at the Bill and a Red Kite over the centre and south of the island; a Ring Ouzel at the Bill was a first for the year, whilst 2 Greenshank on the oysterbeds at Ferrybridge were of note even if they were probably not strictly within the recording area. Six Redwings were amongst the small arrival of new common migrants at the Bill where 2 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Water Rail and Firecrest lingered on and 6 Red-throated Divers, a Manx Shearwater and a Sandwich Tern passed by on the sea.

This Dartford Warbler was a nice find in the 'Spectacled Warbler bushes' on the Slopes at the Bill and it was even more exciting to discover that it was colour-ringed - we believe it was originally marked in Devon but unfortunately the ringer is currently away from his records so we'll have to wait a few more days before discovering the full details © Martin Cade:

As usual, this morning's Red Kite caused consternation amongst the local inhabitants © Martin Adlam:

27th March

With the Obs garden relatively jumping with Chiffchaffs at dawn there were high expectations for today; however, these were ultimately unrealised as the flow of new arrivals dwindling away as the morning wore on. Overnight rain had done the trick and grounded 150 Chiffchaffs and single figure totals of Wheatear, Redwing, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Goldcrest at the Bill, but it was soon apparent as these newcomers filtered away that little else was dropping in and, bar the odd few wagtails and pipits on the move overhead, nothing much else was discovered. Early seawatching at the Bill returned totals of 14 Red-throated Divers, 5 Brent Geese and a Sandwich Tern.

The party of a dozen or more Bottle-nosed Dolphins lingered off the Bill all day.

26th March

Quieter on the numbers front today with the sky too clear to have expected a repeat of the little flurries logged at the weekend. Wheatears were more conspicuous, including 20 at the Bill, but Chiffchaff and Goldcrest both dropped back into low single figure totals there where variety included 3 Redwings, 3 Firecrests, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Short-eared Owl, White Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Brambling and Bullfinch. Elsewhere, 2 Sand Martins through at Ferrybridge were the first hirundines logged anywhere on the island so far this spring (...has there ever been a year without a hirundine before this date? - we can't remember one). The only other reports were of 12 Red-throated Divers and 6 Common Scoter through off the Bill and a lone Redshank at Ferrybridge.

Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone at the Bill over the weekend © David Sawyer:

25th March

Passage seems to be getting some momentum behind it now with another decent little flourish of arrivals at the Bill; however, the best of the quality came in the form of raptors over the centre of the island from where there were reports of an Osprey over Southwell, a Goshawk over Weston and two apparent migrant Common Buzzards also over Southwell. The day's numbers came largely in the form of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, with both topping 30 at the Bill; the year's first Willow Warbler, together with 7 Redwings, 4 Short-eared Owls, 4 Wheatears, 2 Firecrests, 2 Bramblings and singles of Golden Plover, Blackcap, Siskin and Bullfinch provided some variety there, whilst elsewhere 3 White Wagtails at Reap Lane, the 'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell, a Black Redstart at Blacknor and 13 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour were nice list-padders.

A party of at least 14 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off East Cliffs at the Bill for much of the day.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins and Brambling at the Bill this afternoon © Martin Adlam:

24th March

By Portland standards an arrival of 30 Chiffchaffs at the Bill would hardly qualify for a fanfare but such have been the numbers thus far this spring that it seemed like a fall worthy of attention. Sadly, it looked as though little else had been overcome by a migratory urge and, bar a handful of incoming Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails, 3 Wheatears were the only other arrivals of note at the Bill; 5 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Firecrests, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Black Redstarts and a Water Rail there were all lingerers or winterers. Restricted visibility hampered seawatching there and the only reports were of 30 Common Scoter, 6 Sandwich Terns and a Red-throated Diver through. Elsewhere, the 'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroat remained at Southwell and there were 2 Blackcaps at Wakeham and 2 Black Redstarts at Blacknor.

We can't imagine today's freshly arrived Chiffchaffs were enamoured of prospects in a miserably dank, chilly and leafless Obs garden...

...but there were sustaining rewards out there if you stuck with it © Martin Cade:

And finally, for something a bit different, a nice old and new comparison. Deborah Tessier kindly popped us through a scan of a postcard she'd come across featuring what we're guessing must be a 1950s view of the Bill; as evidenced by our same view from yesterday there's plenty enough hasn't changed in 70 or so years:

23rd March

Passage seems to have been really set back by the cold snaps this month, with remarkably few new arrivals in evidence today. A lone Wheatear was the only long-distance migrant logged at the Bill where further minor interest came in the form of 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 lingering Firecrests and 5 Long-tailed Tits on the land and 19 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Manx Shearwaters and a Sandwich Tern through on the sea; elsewhere, a Grey Heron flew north over Blacknor and 8 Black-necked Grebes and a Common Scoter were still in Portland Harbour.

22nd March

A nice little pulse of diver passage offshore today but precious few indications of passerines getting going at all. The steady movement of Red-throated Divers off the Bill ended up totalling 39, with 11 Common Scoter and 3 Mediterranean Gulls also passing through. Ordinarily, the land would have been described as deadly quiet but beggars can't be choosers and with passage looking to have been set right back by the two cold snaps this month observers were grateful for what there was, with 8 Wheatears, 5 Chiffchaffs, 2 each of Purple Sandpiper, Redwing and Goldcrest, and singles of Teal, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bullfinch mustered from the Bill area. Elsewhere, the Lesser Whitethroat was still at Southwell and 7 Black-necked Grebes were in Portland Harbour.

21st March


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 24th March.

A lovely sunny and - at least in comparison with earlier in the week - mild day, although probably too nice to have expected much of an arrival of migrants. Numbers certainly weren't a feature at the Bill where a good deal of legwork failed to muster even a single Chiffchaff, with 10 Wheatears, 4 each of Redwing, Firecrest and Reed Bunting, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Teal, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Redpoll and Bullfinch about the best on offer; elsewhere another 2 Black Redstarts were at Blacknor. Red-throated Divers totalled 27 off the Bill, with 8 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Common Scoter and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour the only other reports from the water.

After many months of absence there are again Little Owls residing in the Obs Quarry. The disappearance of the pair present there last year has been widely attributed to the constant harassment they received from the 'non-birder' photography community; the owls can be watched/photographed perfectly satisfactorily - without causing them any disturbance - from the rim of the quarry so please don't try to get closer to them by, for example, walking down onto the floor of the quarry under their breeding crevice © Phyl England:

20th March

A gradual return to normality today saw just the odd little patch of sheltered snow remain once the temperature edged back up towards double figures. Whilst there were a few migrants about it was cold weather fare that made up the bulk of the day's numbers, with at least 220 Golden Plovers still at the Bill and a light scatter of Fieldfares and Redwings everywhere; the lone Teal was also still at the Bill. Migrant-wise, nothing was in any quantity but 11 Wheatears, 3 each of Chiffchaff and  Goldcrest, and 2 Black Redstarts were at the Bill, with further single Black Redstarts at both Reap Lane and Barleycrates Lane; 5 new Long-tailed Tits were also at the Bill, where 3 Firecrests and a Short-eared Owl lingered on and 6 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea.

The Golden Plovers weren't doing too badly yesterday but they were doing even better today © Joe Stockwell:

Also doing well was this Southwell Barn Owl that was watched catching three voles in 25 minutes this evening - which would suggest that a Barn Owl that we picked up freshly dead at the Bill last week hadn't been struggling for food but perhaps came off worse in a scrap with a Short-eared Owl or a Buzzard © Nick Stantiford: 

19th March

This winter's had a pretty brutal sting in the tail, with another substantial overnight snowfall making it very hard going for both the cold weather refugees and what newly arrived migrants were about; the only redeeming feature was that, like yesterday, the snow was largely gone by late afternoon. Golden Plovers and Meadow Pipits again made up the bulk of the numbers, with 600 or so of the former and in excess of 1000 of the latter spread about the island as a whole. Amongst the thinnish spread of back-ups the most noteworthy were 3 Firecrests, 2 Short-eared Owls  and singles of Teal, Dunlin, Redshank, Jack Snipe, Black Redstart, Blackcap and Bullfinch at the Bill.

Dawn brought with it the unusual sight of the Obs garden looking like a winter wonderland and the wider Bill area blanketed in a decent enough dollop of the white stuff © Martin Cade...

...by early afternoon though the snow was rapidly disappearing © Martin King:

Despite looking as though they were finding plenty of food the Golden Plovers were getting increasing confiding today...

...Jack Snipe was a fairly expected cold weather arrival...

...whilst sights like this Dunlin probing around on the middle of the Bill Common were also to be expected.

It was hard not to feel sorry for the Firecrests that were reduced to scratching around on the ground where at least they did seem to be getting some reward © Martin Cade:

18th March

We can't say we weren't warned - and from the frequency with which flocks of Golden Plovers could be heard moving overhead during the hours of darkness it should have been obvious that something was afoot - but there was still genuine surprise at the substantial accumulation of snow evident around the island at dawn; in fact it kept snowing throughout the morning, although with the temperature creeping up a little by the afternoon the landscape was looking nowhere near as uniformly white by then as it had done earlier. As had been the case during the cold snap earlier in the month, the constituent parts of today's cold weather arrival/passage were hugely different to those observed just a few miles away on the mainland, with Golden Plovers overwhelmingly more numerous than anything else: at least 600 made landfall at the Bill, another 450 were at Ferrybridge and - once the sea was visible, which wasn't until midday when the snow abated - another 120 or so moved east off the Bill. Thrush movements were largely confined to Ferrybridge and then only involved 600 Redwings and 200 Fieldfares (20000 and 16000 respectively were counted moving west today on the West Dorset coast). Grounded Meadow Pipits featured in quantity everywhere but variety at the Bill otherwise didn't extend to much more than 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 each of Teal, Snipe and Firecrest, 2 Wheatears and singles of Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Knot. Odds and ends amongst the similar variety elsewhere included the 'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroat still at Southwell, 2 Blackcaps at Wakeham and singles of Woodcock and Black Redstart at Weston.

From the mainland Portland was only just about visible through the snow flurries © Joe Stockwell:

There was a fairly crisp and even spread at the Bill © Martin King:

Golden Plovers were certainly the feature birds of the day © Martin King...

...with the flock at the Bill including this oddly-plumaged leucistic individual © Martin Cade:

Knots joined the Golden Plovers at both Ferrybridge and the Bill © Joe Stockwell (upper photo at Ferrybridge) and Martin Cade (lower photo at the Bill):

It's pretty hard work being a passerine migrant at the best of times and they could certainly have done without today's events © Geoff Orton (Goldcrest at Easton) and Martin Cade (Wheatear at the Bill):

17th March

Recent arrivals to these shores got a very rude awakening today in the face of frequent snow showers and a temperature that plummeted from yesterday's dizzy mid-teens to below zero by the end of the afternoon today. Whilst it's become the rule to be pretty dismissive of recent Common Crane records at Portland as being most likely relating to wandering 'plastic' reintroduced birds one that materialized out of the snow showers over the Bill this afternoon would seem more likely to have better credentials for being of continental origin; sadly, it disappeared out to sea without pitching in and before it could be widely viewed. Not surprisingly, the inclement conditions resulted in quite a little arrival of grounded migrants, with 15 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Wheatears, 6 Chiffchaffs, 5 Redwings, 4 Firecrests, 2 Fieldfares and singles of Golden Plover, Woodcock, Black Redstart and Goldcrest at the Bill, where 190 Meadow Pipits, another 14 Golden Plovers, 3 Wood Pigeons and a Merlin also passed through overhead; elsewhere, another Black Redstart was at Reap Lane and 5 Knot dropped in at Ferrybridge.

Thanks to Peter Moore for popping us through a nice little selection of photos from the Bill yesterday - Black Redstart, Wheatear, Stonechat and Purple Sandpiper © Peter Moore petermooreblog 

16th March

Disappointingly little taking advantage today of the warmth and sunshine of one of the nicest days of the year to date. With no more than low single figure totals of common migrants at the Bill it was left to 3 Short-eared Owls, 3 Firecrests and singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker, White Wagtail, Black Redstart and Bullfinch on the land and 100 Common Gulls and 3 Red-throated Divers through on the sea to provide the interest at the Bill. Elsewhere, the Lesser Whitethroat remained at Southwell, a Little Gull passed through off Chesil and 3 Slavonian Grebes were still in Portland Harbour.

15th March

Before getting on with today's news we have several administrative and other announcements to make. First off, we're very pleased to report that we have a new assistant warden in post for the season: Erin Taylor comes to us after successful spells on Skokholm and North Ronaldsay and is already proving to be a great asset - we're sure everyone will extend a warm welcome to Erin as they encounter her through the year.

We also have news of an important administrative change at PBO: after more than 50 years as an unincorporated registered charity, the Charity Commission have approved our application to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation; the CIO is a relatively new charitable structure that in particular affords trustees greater financial peace of mind than was hitherto the case (in the old structure they were personally responsible for the financial or other liabilities of the charity). The Constitution of the new CIO may be examined here. Whilst this change will have no noticeable effect on the day to day running of PBO it has necessitated a change in some of our banking arrangements, notably that we have a new current bank account; with this in mind we ask that members amend the details of membership standing orders that they have in our favour - this may be done easily via online banking facilities or by contacting us for an appropriate form. Our new account details are: 
Account name Portland Bird Observatory
Account number 19754723
Sort code 09-01-29

Finally, we'd like to remind visitors of the small increase in overnight accommodation fees that took effect on 1st March: the overnight charge for members increased from £15 to £17, with the non-members charge increasing from £20 to £22. 

A nicely varied selection from today's legwork that was undertaken in pleasantly bright and mild conditions - hard to believe there's snow forecast again for the weekend. A flurry of another 4 new Firecrests at the Bill - that joined 2 lingerers still present there - came despite the fact that passerine arrivals were otherwise pretty thinly spread, with 5 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs and singles of Redwing and Goldcrest on the ground and 70 Meadow Pipits through overhead being the best on offer at the Bill. A surprise elsewhere was a (likely Siberian) Lesser Whitethroat visiting a garden feeder at Southwell where a Blackcap was also present; another Firecrest was also present at Weston, whilst winterers still about included 4 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill. The sea got plenty of attention and returned totals of 17 Sandwich Terns, 10 Common Scoter, 8 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Red-throated Divers, 3 Avocets and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Manx Shearwater through off the Bill. Four Sandwich Terns, 2 each of Shelduck, Slavonian Grebe and Black-necked Grebe and singles of Redshank and Kittiwake were at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

Sandwich Tern and Kittiwake at Ferrybridge this morning © Debby Saunders (Sandwich Tern) and Pete Saunders (Kittiwake)

14th March

Not the easiest birding day with a freshening southerly and increasing threat of rain ensuring that what few migrants were about weren't easy to get amongst. A mix of lingering and new birds included 5 Firecrests, 3 Goldcrests and 2 Chiffchaffs at the Bill, a White Wagtail at Reap Lane and 3 Redshanks and singles of Greylag Goose, Kittiwake and Wheatear at Ferrybridge. The sea was a wee bit disappointing in promising-looking conditions, with the first Puffin of the year and the second Arctic Skua of recent days giving hope at the Bill, but little else moving there apart from 6 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a small but noticeable up-Channel movement of Razorbills.

Wheatear at Ferrybridge this morning © Debby Saunders:

 ...and the Greylag Goose over Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders: