31st July

We seem to be heading firmly back into summer, although a touch of autumn could be felt with the arrival of a smattering of migrants. Todays highlight came in the form of a mega-flock of Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge, including a large proportion of juveniles. The moth traps remained uneventful but a Six-belted Clearwing  represented a possible first for the Obs garden.

Portland Bill Willow Warbler 8, Swift 6, Sand Martin 4, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Sedge Warbler 3.

Portland Bill Seawatch Manx Shearwater 42, Balearic Shearwater 3, Common Scoter 1, Yellow-legged Gull 7, Mediterranean Gull 5, Kittiwake 18, Black-headed Gull 2, Sandwich Tern 2, Guillemot 1, Curlew 2.

Ferrybridge Common Sandpiper 3, Curlew 2, Turnstone 2, Whimbrel 1, Grey Heron 1, Yellow-legged Gull 3, Mediterranean Gull 1230 (420 juveniles).

Moths Silver Y 8, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Diamond-back Moth 9, Six-belted Clearwing 1.

There's nothing that spices up hanging out the washing like finding a Six-belted Clearwing on the wall of the Obs. Although relatively abundant on Portland, it is usually only with the help of a pheromone lure that one gives itself up © Erin Taylor:

30th July

As yesterdays tempest slowly ameliorated into a blustery but otherwise clear day, the numbers of seabirds calmed and migration over the land began to pick up again. As far as Moths were concerned, we were firmly back to the old faithfuls.

Portland Bill Swift 14, Sand Martin 2, House Martin 2, Willow Warbler 8, Raven 6.

Portland Bill Seawatch Manx Shearwater 68, Balearic Shearwater 3, Arctic Skua 1, Bonxie 1, Yellow-legged Gull 16, Mediterranean Gull 41, Guillemot 1, Sandwich Tern 1, Kittiwake 16, Curlew 1.

Ferrybridge Mediterranean Gull 595 (130 juveniles).

Moths Silver Y 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Diamond-back Moth 5.

Juvenile Whitethroats are comprising the majority of the catch at the moment, particularly in the Crown Estate Fields where the species seem to have had a bumper year. 

The Bill Quarry Wheatears seem to be determined to moult into Wallcreepers...

29th July

Another unseasonably dire day provided us with both some much needed moisture for the browning fields and some sea-watching entertainment. Yet again, land-based migrants struggled with the conditions and numbers were somewhat thin on the ground. Moth numbers were up on the previous nights catch, although that isn't saying much!

Portland Bill Swift 1, Willow Warbler 6, Red-legged Partridge 1.

Portland Bill Seawatch Common Scoter 8, Bonxie 8, Manx Shearwater 42/hour, Balearic Shearwater max. 34, Great Shearwater 1, Sooty Shearwater 3, Yellow-legged Gull 12, Mediterranean Gull 36, Whimbrel 18, Redshank 1, Ringed Plover 1.

Ferrybridge Whimbrel 10, Curlew 4, Sanderling 3, Dunlin 40, Turnstone 6, Common Tern 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Moths Silver Y 2, Diamond-back Moth 11, Dark Sword Grass 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1. (Emperor Dragonfly also in the trap).

Despite the strong wind and rain, some of our guests were brave enough to venture to the coast to witness the swell at its very best!  © Alan Hooper. 

28th July

A day of brisk South/ South Westerlies that saw the end (however brief) of the heatwave, also saw a reduction in migrating land birds. However, the swell generated attracted some noteworthy sea-watching events. Cooler temperatures overnight also hindered 'mothing' attempts, with only a slack-handful of migrants to show for our efforts. 

Portland Bill Swift 15, Willow Warbler 6, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Yellow-legged Gull 2.

Beach Road Arctic Skua 1 (flying West). 

Portland Bill Seawatch Manx Shearwater 239 in 1 hour, Balearic Shearwater up to 26, a possible Cory's Shearwater, Whimbrel 2, Great Skua 1, Guillemot 3, Common Scoter 11, Yellow-legged Gull 4, Mediterranean Gull 3, 1 Sunfish.

Ferrybridge Curlew 4, Mediterranean Gull 300 (including 50 juveniles). 

Moths Silver Y 2, Diamond-back Moth 27, Rusty-dot Pearl 2. 

The dry conditions have not impacted the emergence of hundreds of Chalkhill Blue Butterflies over the past few weeks, but how will the lack of Vetches alter their population in years to follow? 

27th July

Portland Bill Swift 30, Sand Martin 25, Willow Warbler 15, Sedge Warbler 2, Grey Wagtail 1, Yellow Wagtail 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatch Manx Shearwater 20, Common Scoter 9, Balearic Shearwater 4etc, Mediterranean Gull 4, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Sandwich Tern 1.

Portland Bill offshore Great Shearwater 1w.

Moths PBO Diamond-back Moth 490, Silver Y 28, Rusty-dot Pearl 10, Marbled Piercer 7, Water Veneer 1, Spindle Knot-horn Nephopterix angustella, Four-spotted Footman 1, Gold Spot 1 + Four-spotted 6, Meadow Brown 1, Large White 1.

The big news of the day was that PBO today purchased at auction the Obs Quarry and adjacent field, along with one of the strips just to the north of the Crown Estate Field; the areas in question are identified in the auction catalogue copied below:

The Obs Quarry is renowned as a great migrant trap as well as being a long-term breeding site for Little Owl, whilst the adjacent field that was once cultivated has in recent years reverted to a superb flower-rich meadow that's awash with butterflies and other insects throughout the summer months. Although there is a public footpath running around the back of the Obs Quarry and another running diagonally across the Quarry Field all other access to this area is unofficial and highly likely to have been lost had these fields been acquired by other parties. The Obs trustees felt it imperative that access to this important area should be maintained and its natural history interest preserved/improved and so prioritised its acquisition - today's positive result owes much to the generosity and foresight of our late benefactor, Miss Helen Brotherton, who we're sure would have been delighted at the outcome.  

26th July

Portland Bill Swallow 200, Swift 100, Sand Martin 50, Willow Warbler 30, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Ringed Plover 1, Turnstone 1, Grey Wagtail 1, Wheatear 1 (first autumn migrant), Sedge Warbler 1.

Portland Bill seawatch Manx Shearwater 60, Common Scoter 20, Black-headed Gull 2, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Sandwich Tern 1.

PBO nocturnal passage Oystercatcher 1, Redshank 1.

Weston Turtle Dove 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 21, Ringed Plover 12, Sanderling 2, Redshank 2, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Wheatear 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 27, Diamond-back Moth 26, Marbled Piercer 2, Maiden's Blush 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Wax Moth 1, Mocha 1, Four-spotted Footman 1.

Despite the prevailing scorching conditions immigrant butterflies aren't at all conspicuous around the island: Clouded Yellows have been straightforward to see in recent days in the Crown Estate Field where half a dozen or more seem to be semi-resident in the bottom of the valley but there have been few reports from elsewhere; a few very fresh Painted Ladys are maybe the progeny of earlier arrivals - this photographed specimen was at Easton today © Ken Dolbear; Red Admirals have been the most numerous although even they're hardly abundant.

This Mocha - another woodland stray that's a very infrequent visitor to Portland - was the pick of last night's moth catch © Martin Cade:  

25th July

Portland Bill Swallow 200, Sand Martin 100, Swift 30, Willow Warbler 5, Grey Heron 2, Dunlin 2, Ringed Plover 1, Sedge Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Mediterranean Gull 160west, Manx Shearwater 61, Guillemot 3 (local breeders have all departed), Black-headed Gull 1, Great Skua 1.

Moths PBO Diamond-back Moth 64, Silver y 37, Four-spotted Footman 3, Rusty-dot Pearl 3, Marbled Piercer 2, Gold Spot 1 + Red Admiral butterfly 1. Sweethill Flame Carpet 1. Reap Lane Scorched Carpet 1. Weston Wax Moth 1. Grove Maiden's Blush 1, Slender Brindle 1.

Bug-filled sunflower heads at the Bill were proving popular with some of today's Swallows © Martin Cade:  

Although the early stages of the current hot spell were fantastic for moth-trapping with huge catches and lots of interesting dispersal, latterly things have quietened right down, with catches much diminished and interest dwindling. A few island oddities are still putting in appearances, with this Flame Carpet at Sweethill one of last night's better captures © Debby Saunders:  

24th July

Portland Bill Sand Martin 100, Swift 40, Willow Warbler 8, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Dunlin 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Sedge Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatch Manx Shearwater 150etc, Mediterranean Gull 25etc, Common Scoter 18, Black-headed Gull 7, Oystercatcher 2south, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Balearic Shearwater 1, Curlew 1, Whimbrel 1, Sandwich Tern 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 20, Diamond-back Moth 6, Four-spotted Footman 2, Marbled Piercer 1, Bulrush Veneer 1, Rusty-dot Pearl 1, Gold Spot 1.

Back to the last few days for some photos: Curlews are regular enough visitors to Ferrybridge but they're sufficiently skittish/ill at ease there that they're rarely settled for long after dawn or much before dusk; this little group were present at dawn yesterday © Debby Saunders:  

The young Wheatears are still about at the Bill where they're now getting increasing mobile © Roger Hewitt:  

23rd July

Portland Bill Sand Martin 100, Swallow 75, Swift 50, Willow Warbler 10, Sedge Warbler 3, Dunlin 1, Turnstone 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 25, Mediterranean Gull 14, Common Scoter 9, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Curlew 1, Arctic Skua 1.

PBO nocturnal passage Oystercatcher 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 41, Curlew 7, Black-tailed Godwit 6, Redshank 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 28, Diamond-back Moth 9, Marbled Piercer 3, Rusty-dot Pearl 1, Bird-cherry Ermine 1, Maiden's Blush 1, Four-spotted Footman 1, Dog's Tooth 1, Fen Wainscot 1.

As an exciting sign of what might be to come our Stewardship crops in the Crown Estate Field were suddenly alive with birds today; migrants weren't at all well represented but there were plenty of welcome signs of a lot of local breeders doing pretty well; this young Skylark was among the day's better captures in the mist-nets there © Martin Cade:  

Bar the expected hirundines and Swifts - along with a very minor flurry of Willow Warblers - migrants didn't feature in any numbers today; this Turnstone settled near the lighthouse was one of the few other new arrivals at the Bill © Martin Cade: 

22nd July

Portland Bill Swift 100, Sand Martin 50, Willow Warbler 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2.

Portland Bill seawatch Mediterranean Gull 20, Common Scoter 11, Balearic Shearwater 1, Little Egret 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 45, Curlew 4, Redshank1.

PBO nocturnal passage Redshank 1 flock + 1 single, Ringed Plover 1 flock, Dunlin 1 flock, Little Ringed Plover 1, Oystercatcher 1.

Moths PBO Striped Bent-wing Lyonetia prunifoliella 1 (new for Portland), Silver Y 36, Diamond-back Moth 19, Four-spotted Footman 6, Marbled Piercer 2, Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Fen Wainscot 2, Bird-cherry Ermine 1, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1, Dark Spectacle 1; also Wall 1, Gatekeeper 1, Green-veined White 1. Weston Pebble Hook-tip 1. Grove Crescent 1.

Striped Bent-wing wasn't really a surprise addition to the island moth list because we'd been vaguely on the look out for it following multiple reports in south-east England - what we hadn't appreciated until today was that it had in fact already been found quite widely elsewhere in Dorset © Martin Cade: 

This morning's mass departure eastwards of 85 Little Terns (including several juveniles) from the breeding colony at Ferrybridge took the observers by surprise; whether they were upping and going for good remains to be seen, although there is past evidence from colour-ring sightings that indicates that some do indeed move eastwards to the Solent shore immediately after the breeding season per Steve Hales © Pete Saunders: 

An early hours Little Ringed Plover over the Obs was the highlight of last night's nocturnal recording session:

21st July

Portland Bill Sand Martin 50, Willow Warbler 3, Sedge Warbler 2, Grasshopper Warbler 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 50, Common Scoter 11, Balearic Shearwater 3 (first record this year), Whimbrel 1, Arctic Skua 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

PBO nocturnal passage Redshank 1 flock, Common Sandpiper 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 32, Redshank 6, Sanderling 6, Turnstone 5, Knot 4, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Whimbrel 1, Curlew 1, Common Gull 1.

Moths Obs Silver Y 60, Marbled Piercer 21, Diamond-back Moth 12, Rusty-dot Pearl 6, Fen Wainscot 4, Four-spotted Footman 3, Dark Sword Grass 3, Ash-bark Knot-horn Euzophera pinguis 2, Barred Red 2, Bulrush Veneer 1, Buff Footman 1, Campion 1, Southern Wainscot 1, Dark Spectacle 1; also Four Spotted 3, Large White 1, Green-veined White 1. Avalanche Road Southern Wainscot 1. Grove Gold Spot 1.

Although numbers remain relatively low the wader selection at Ferrybridge improved today, including these Knot and Redshank © Pete Saunders: 

There are a fair number of ringed birds amongst the selection of Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge; we sometimes receive whole batches of colour-ring numbers read by diligent visitors there - whilst we're always keen to learn of recoveries from some of the more obscure countries they originate from we'd urge observers to initially submit these sightings via the cr-birding website © Debby Saunders: 

We'd hoped that a few overnight showers might have dropped a few extra migrants but in the event they were sufficiently insignificant and, besides, had long cleared through by dawn that this Grasshopper Warbler from the Crown Estate Field nets - the first ringed this year at the Bill - was the only minor highlight © Martin Cade: 

20th July

Portland Bill Sand Martin 150, Swallow 40, Swift 6, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Willow Warbler 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 56, Cormorant 9s, Mediterranean Gull 6, Yellow-legged Gull 4, Sandwich Tern 2w, Whimbrel 1w, Black-headed Gull 1.

PBO nocturnal passage Dunlin 4 flocks + 1 single, Oystercatcher 1 flock + 1 single, Common Sandpiper 1, Green Sandpiper 1.

Blacknor Greenshank 1s.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 45.

Butterflies Portland Bill Clouded Yellow 2.

Moths PBO Silver Y 49, Diamond-back Moth 12, Engrailed 1, Barred Red 1. Sweethill Silver Y 153.

Being frequenters of the rocky/shingly shores of the island we always get the impression that Common Sandpipers are rather under-recorded by day at this time of year but they've certainly been on the move at night just lately; several, including this small flock, passed over the night before last...

...whilst this single - that was so close overhead that we heard it out of the office window at the same moment it was picked up by the microphone - passed over early last night:

Despite being a common woodland insect on the mainland Engrailed very rarely strays to Portland: there are a couple of old 1960s records that may or may not be genuine but, prior to today's single at the Obs, just two confirmed modern records - both in 2011; it's a bug that looks to have a plumage pattern that's a perfect match for Portland stone so maybe it's about time the species reconsidered its stay-at-home lifestyle © Martin Cade:

Barred Red used to be a very infrequent stray to the island from its usual coniferous haunts but latterly it's become something that's tolerably regular during spells of dispersal © Martin Cade:

19th July


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Sunday, 22nd July.
Portland Bill Sand Martin 500, Swallow 250, Swift 25, Wheatear 4, Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 2, Grey Heron 1, Purple Sandpiper 1 (summer plumaged bird on the shore near the Obelisk), Grey Wagtail 1, Sedge Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 21, Mediterranean Gull 20, Sandwich Tern 12, Common Scoter 6, Black-headed Gull 4, Yellow-legged Gull 3.

PBO nocturnal passage Dunlin 5 flocks + 1 single, Common Sandpiper 2 flocks + 2 singles, Redshank 1, Black-headed Gull 1.

Southwell Cuckoo 1.

Ferrybridge Dunlin 54, Sanderling 2, Whimbrel 1, Redshank 1.

Moths PBO Silver Y 30, Diamond-back Moth 7, Bird-cherry Ermine 1, Marbled Piercer 1, European Corn-borer 1, Rusty-dot Pearl 1.

Sand Martin was the feature migrant of the day at the Bill; with many lingering about over the fields as well as there being good pulses of what looked to be birds moving straight through it was tricky to get a handle on numbers but we'd doubt that fewer than 500 were involved...

...a sound lure certainly drew in plenty when we made a bit of an attempt to catch a sample of them...

...and the attempt had it's comical side with so many birds attracted at times that the top of the net sagged a couple of feet or more under their weight and actually prevented most being caught © Martin Cade:

Hot on the heels of yesterday's first Sedge Warbler of the season, today came up with the first Reed Warbler - a quite early autumn date for the Bill © Martin Cade:

Family parties of Sandwich Terns are beginning to show up at Ferrybridge and a lone Whimbrel was the pick of the waders there © Pete Saunders:

The highlight of overnight mothing was this very freaky-looking, copper-coloured Silver Y at the Obs - certainly the most extreme aberration of the species that we've ever seen © Martin Cade:

18th July

Portland Bill Grey Heron 2, Spotted Redshank 1 north, Sedge Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 1.

Portland Bill seawatching Manx Shearwater 23, Mediterranean Gull c20, Black-headed Gull 5, Common Scoter 4, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Ferrybridge Mediterranean Gull 60, Dunlin 32, Sandwich Tern 8, Sanderling 2, Redshank 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1.

Moths Obs immigrants Diamond-back Moth 9, Silver Y 9.

The first Sedge Warbler of the autumn mist-netted in the Crown Estate Field © Martin Cade: 

17th July

Precious few reports today: single Green Sandpipers over Blacknor and the Bill were quite likely the same individual, 2 Grey Herons were at the Bill with likely one of the same over Blacknor, 11 Manx Shearwaters, a Common Scoter and several Yellow-legged Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls were off the Bill and a lone Yellow-legged Gull was at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant/dispersing moth activity has quietened off in recent nights, with 39 Diamond-back Moth and 30 Silver Y providing the bulk of the numbers amongst the overnight catch at the Obs.

Has there ever been a twitchable Green Sandpiper at Portland? We learnt from a co-observer - a long-time visitor and now island resident - of this morning's bird at the Bill that it was quite likely a Portland tick for him which maybe isn't as surprising as it might seem since the vast majority of island records relate to fly-overs at a time of year when fieldworkers are pretty thin on the ground © Martin Cade: 

This Grey Heron struck off high to the south after a short break on East Cliffs © Martin Cade: 

As we've already mentioned, we have been trying to resist posting too many Yellow-legged Gull photos this year but we'll relent for a moment since there are so many about; this one was at Ferrybridge a couple of days ago © Debby Saunders (flying) and Pete Saunders (settled): 

16th July

Early autumn passage/dispersal continued to tick along at a limited level, with 23 Sand Martins, 20 Swifts, 4 Little Egrets and a Bar-tailed Godwit through at the Bill, a lingering Lesser Whitethroat still there, a Yellow Wagtail over Weston, 9 Dunlin, 7 Redshanks, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Mallard at Ferrybridge and 26 Common Scoter, c20 Mediterranean Gulls, c10 Yellow-legged Gulls, 5 Black-headed Gulls and a Sandwich Tern through or lingering off the Bill.

Six Bottle-nosed Dolphins and a Harbour Porpoise passed by off the Bill during the morning.

15th July

Bitsy odds and ends on land and sea today: 34 Mediterranean Gulls, 15 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Yellow-legged Gulls and 5 Sandwich Terns through or lingering off the Bill, 11 Sand Martins and singles of Ringed Plover, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Whitethroat on/overhead on the land there and 12 Dunlin, 9 Sandwich Terns, 5 Curlew, 4 Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge.

A small increase in Diamond-back Moths - including 79 at the Obs - was the only event of note from overnight mothing.

14th July

The occasion of the Obs AGM got in the way of routine coverage today and the only reports from the Bill were of 40 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter and a Yellow-legged Gull offshore and 3 Curlews overhead on the land. Elsewhere, 10 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwits and a Curlew were at Ferrybridge and a Grey Wagtail passed over at Blacknor.

Two Clouded Yellows were at the Bill today.

It was the most idyllic of dawns to be out birding anywhere around the island - the Black-tailed Godwits looked particularly special at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders: 

...and © Pete Saunders:

13th July

A surprisingly entertaining selection today with the millpond calm conditions and, at times through the morning at least, decent cloud cover making for more comfortable birding than has sometimes been the case in recent weeks. The sea was again busiest, with 93 Common Scoter, 39 Manx Shearwaters, c30 Mediterranean Gulls, at least 4 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua through or lingering off the Bill. Dispersal rather than migration looked to accounting for most of what turned up on the land there, with 8 Sand Martins and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler all of note. Elsewhere, a/the Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Southwell and 5 Dunlin, a Redshank and a Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge.

Dispersal also looked be accounting for most of the overnight moth interest, with a Brown Oak Slender Acrocercops brongniardella at the Obs constituting yet another addition to the island list.

The recent sightings of Great Spotted Woodpeckers - this one was a Southwell today - have all been of juveniles and most likely all relate to the same wandering individual. They're surely going to breed before long but for the time being we have no evidence of that so presumably this and the other increasingly frequent annual sightings at this time of year refer to dispersal from the mainland © Debby Saunders:

There must surely be a finite number of moth species that could occur at Portland but we never seem to reach that total. Despite the island being well worked for lepidoptera for well over 150 years additions to the list keep cropping up, with this Brown Oak Slender Acrocercops brongniardella at the Obs just the latest © Martin Cade:

It isn't very often these days that two species get added to the Obs garden list in one night; additional to the Brown Oak Slender this London Dowd Blastobasis lacticolella was also a garden tick overnight. We don't know when this adventive first reached Portland (it was only recorded for the first time Britain in the 1940s) but it was already well established when initially discovered at the Grove and at St Andrews Church in 2011; it's taken another seven years but it's finally got nearly as far south as it's going to get in Dorset! © Martin Cade:

Widespread enough on the mainland but always a nice sight on Portland, this Oak Hook-tip was a first record for the trap site at Sweethill © Debby Saunders: