31st March

Better conditions today with a cloudy start and a reasonable North-easterly led to the presence of a few more birds including another Osprey over Weston, a Ring Ouzel on the West Cliffs and the first Common Redstarts of the spring with four males and a female. Other commoner migrants were on the move in greater numbers than in recent days including 200+ Meadow Pipits, 30 Wheatears, 180 Chiffchaffs, 36 trapped Willow Warblers, a thin smattering of crests and a pair of Brambling. Hirundines were on the move but in lower numbers than yesterday. Once again Common Scoter led the charge on the sea with 80 past the Bill accompanied by a pair of Red-throated Divers and a Sandwich Tern. The non-avian highlight of the day was a pod of 15 Bottle-nosed Dolphins. 

Elsewhere on the island, a sea-watch from Chesil was much more productive with 34 Common Scoter, six Wigeon, a pair of Teal, two Shelduck, a Red-throated Diver and a Sandwich Tern

The Ring Ouzel seen early doors on the West Cliffs was presumably the individual later photographed at Reap Lane  © Bruce Park

There haven't been many opportunities to see a Brambling on the island so far this year and today's bird hardly obliged as it dropped into the tree tops at the Obs for little more than a few seconds © Martin Cade:

The gardens of Southwell provide an excellent haven for migrating birds and often fantastic photo opportunities  © Debby Saunders

30th March

Another bright clear day saw the seeming departure of the Hoopoe at Reap Lane. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom with a far better hirundine passage seeing the first House Martins of the spring. Sand Martins were moving at a rate of over 1 per minute whereas Swallows were slower at just 1 per 10 mins. The second Yellow Wagtail of the year was also located at the Southwell barns as well as a Merlin. A pair of Ring Ouzels graced the top fields accompanied by the lazy Fieldfare. Chiffchaffs were moving again in slightly greater numbers joined by a slack handful of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps.  The sea saw 56 Common Scoters, 8 Red-throated Divers, 6 Black-headed Gulls and the highlight came from a Pintail in amongst the scoters.

29th March

Despite the general feeling of a much quieter day, another first for the Spring was recorded in the form of an Osprey high over the West Cliffs this afternoon. Other than this numbers were thin on the ground with little but the remaining Hoopoe and a Puffin off the Bill to spark much enthusiasm. Commoner migrants were in short supply but included a reasonable passage of hirundines, a smattering of phylloscs, six Wheatears, a White Wagtail, a Black Redstart and a Fieldfare at the Bill, a singing Firecrest at Weston and 2 more Black Redstarts at Reap Lane; 2 Short-eared Owls were also still lingering at the Bill. The sea produced little of note with 17 Common Scoter and five Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and another Red-throated Diver settled off Chesil. In non-avian news the seeming bloom of Barrel Jellyfish continued with six along the West Cliffs and a Large Tortoiseshell was briefly in Fortuneswell. 

On another gloriously sunny day the year's first Osprey had been much predicted and duly whipped through off West Cliffs late in the afternoon © Dan Law:

The Hoopoe entertained for another day at Reap Lane © Brendan Sheils:

Black Redstarts are always a sought-after scarcer migrant in early spring and have been featuring quite well in recent days; by the look of its ring this male at the Bill yesterday was the one we'd trapped the day before © Geoff Orton:

...whilst this female/immature was at the Bill today © Mike Trew:

It's looking like there's the beginnings of another good incursion of barrel jellyfish into Portland waters with plenty visible off West Cliffs over the last couple of day (...is this happening more often these days or did we just overlook them in the past? - we seem to remember that 20-30 years ago there'd be the odd year every now and again when a few would be reported but now good arrivals seem to have become a nearly annual event) © Andy Luckhurst:

...the Guillemots seemed genuinely curious as to what the large gelatinous monster floating towards them was up to...  © Erin Taylor:

28th March

What looked to be pretty well a re-run of yesterday's weather sadly didn't come with a re-run of yesterday's birds. The Hoopoe lingered on at Reap Lane but numbers-wise there was little to get excited about as the likes of Swallow, Sand Martin, Wheatear and Chiffchaff all struggled to get beyond the 25-30 mark at the Bill; 5 Black Redstarts, a Merlin, a Moorhen (the lingering bird at Culverwell) and a Redpoll provided very minor interest there, with Reap Lane chipping in with another single Black Redstart.

The Hoopoe's still showing nicely at Reap Lane © Pete Saunders:

Although still well short of equalling Chiffchaff in numbers, Willow Warblers are beginning to get more numerous; this one was at Southwell today © Nick Stantiford:

27th March

Despite a seemingly similar weather pattern to yesterday there was a lot more passage happening, particularly around the obs area. The highlight of the day was the first Swift of the year over Southwell, closely followed by the lingering Hoopoe at Reap Lane. We also saw the first Yellow Wagtail of the year. Over 100 Chiffchaffs were logged once again as well as our first day of double figure Willow Warblers. Wheatear passage has slowed somewhat with just 18 recorded, the same was true for Black Redstarts with five present, however two of these were stunning males. Other migrants included five White Wagtails, two Firecrests, two Goldcrests, six Swallows, five Sand Martins and a Brambling.

In non-avian news the Large Tortoiseshell was once again in Tout Quarry and we saw our first Speckled Woods and Clouded Yellow of the year.

It's that time of year when there's action and movement everywhere you look © Martin Cade:

A rare capture indeed: an adult male Black Redstart © Martin Cade/Erin Taylor:

Suckthumb quarry is an ever reliable site for crests on the island and today was no exception 
© Roger Hewitt:

Razorbills are start to show us their softer side with plenty of billing and preening © Erin Taylor:

Apart from the inevitable Large Tortoiseshells (...it must have been a substantial release of them as they're being reported right across the island now!) butterflies are beginning to feature in both variety and quantity; both Clouded Yellow and Speckled Wood were on the wing for the first time today, whilst Commas are popping up quite widely  © Roger Hewitt (Clouded Yellow) and Ken Dolbear (Speckled Wood and Comma)

26th March

Another beautifully clear day with little in the way of numbers but the Hoopoe gave itself up for a showing granting some excellent quality. Numbers of common migrants were thin on the ground with just a smattering of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Wheatears and Swallows. However, we did have our second Tree Pipit of the year and the highest Sand Martin count of the spring with 28 passing over. The sea produced five Manx Shearwaters, six Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver and four Common Scoters. Elsewhere on the island, the Large Tortoiseshells were making the rounds being seen at three separate locations throughout the day.

Today's Hoopoe wasn't too far away from the private garden in which one spent yesterday afternoon so was more than likely the same individual © Martin Cade:

These two Large Tortoiseshells were at Tout and Kingbarrow Quarries, with a third individual at Weston Street © Jeremy Palmer:

25th March

Clear skies and an at times keen northeasterly breeze might have been the recipe for a flurry of migrants a little further into the spring, but at this early juncture they weren't propitious conditions. A Hoopoe that showed up in a private garden on the island wasn't available to the fieldworkers who had to content themselves with the thinnest of spreads of routine early season arrivals: 30 Wheatears, 5 Black Redstarts and singles of Merlin, Moorhen and Firecrest were the best on offer at the Bill. The first confirmed sighting of a Puffin back in attendance at the auk colony at the Bill (we did hear a report of 3 there on one afternoon last week but the observer didn't get in touch with further details) was welcome news, with 2 Gadwall and a Red-throated Diver also through off the Bill.

One of the Large Tortoiseshells was seen at least once at the north of the island.

Wheatear and Skylark at Top Fields today © Nick Stantiford:

24th March

 A bright, clear and beautiful day didn't do much to down the migrants but a good species total was still amassed. Chiffchaff totals were down on the last few days with 60 birds recorded and 23 trapped. Wheatear numbers were also down with just 36 birds. However, the star of the show came from the continued increase in Black Redstart numbers with 11 birds around the coast including an excellent adult male (see below). The Moorhen was once again showing in Culverwell and a Moorhen was also recorded over the Obs last night at 23:09. In the garden the crest movement had slowed to a trickle with just three each of Goldcrest and Firecrest, a pair of Redwings left the garden early and the highlight came from a trapped Water Rail. The sea produced 42 Common Scoter, a lone Red-throated Diver, a pair of Mediterranean Gulls and a pair of Sandwich Terns.

Elsewhere on the island there was a Ring Ouzel in Boradcroft quarry, a Sandwich Tern in Portland Harbour and a Wheatear at Ferrybridge.

The brilliant Black Redstart in the lower admiralty was showing off for a good portion of the morning © Roger Hewitt:

 The Water Rail trapped in the garden was obviously on the move weighing a whopping 164g (about 30g heavier than average) and was covered in fat, it would be amazing to know where he ends up © Martin Cade:

The improvement in the weather saw plenty of visitors scouring the north of the island for Large Tortoiseshells. Evidently most was unrewarded but we have seen photos of two different individuals that fortunate observers did jam into at various times; this one was at Kingbarrow Quarry videograb © Richard Donovan:

Last night's nocturnal recording session at the Obs was our busiest so far this spring; that shouldn't be taken to mean it was anything special but there was considerably more to tap into than there had been in the last few weeks when we've either contrived to sample on some pretty dud nights or there just hasn't been anything moving. Redwings featured nicely for a while - with 104, 66 and 21 calls in each of the hours after we started at 9:15pm - although thereafter they tailed right off. A few other seasonable thrushes and a lone Golden Plover were also logged, along with a nice close Moorhen:

At dusk we popped over to Lodmoor to see if any Bitterns took advantage of the first clear sky for a few days to depart towards their breeding sites. In the event one bird did oblige, even if its performance was a tad sub-standard in as much as it wasn't calling as frequently as we've sometimes heard in the past - that said, it was a great spectacle to watch it towering up into the gloom and listen to the calls get progressively fainter as it headed away to the east © Martin Cade:

23rd March

With its combination of light drizzle and gentle North-easterlies today had the feel of a really good spring day (if only this combination had come in a months time!). New in for the Spring we saw our first Tree Pipit of the year, not quite the earliest but an excellent record. Meadow Pipits were perhaps the most common migrant of the day with over 250 passing overhead throughout the morning. Chiffchaffs again made up the bulk of the ringing numbers with over 100 recorded across the area and 41 trapped. Competing for most numerous bird were the Wheatears with 64 spread around the coast (although this is likely to be an underestimate as birds were constantly moving through). Following on the chats theme, Black Redstarts were at their highest tally for the Spring with seven birds around the coast and in the top fields, including a splendid male. Other migrants included: yesterdays lingering Moorhen, a Golden Plover, 12 Redwings (following a high nocturnal count), seven Song Thrushes, 12 Blackcaps, three Willow Warblers, a Brambling, eight Siskins and three Redpoll.

The sea was slightly quieter with 48 Common Scoter, two Red-throated Divers, three Mediterranean Gulls and a Sandwich Tern.

Elsewhere on the island there was a Ring Ouzel at Blacknor, and the Suckthumb/avalanche area saw 31 Chiffchaffs, 12 Blackcaps, two Redwings, 10 Goldcrests and a Firecrest,

A little flurry of crests late in the afternoon boosted the ringing totals nicely and provided some excellent views of our smallest birds © Martin Cade (Goldcrest), ©Pete Saunders (Firecrest)

A very Chatty day with the highest counts of Wheatears and Black Redstarts so far this year ©Roger Hewitt:

22nd March

A day of fewer birds but greater variety, particularly from the sea. The most unusual bird by Portland standards came in the form of a Moorhen that spent the morning calling from Culverwell. However, the days true highlight was a fly-over Serin at the Obs; other land-based migrants included: three Sand Martins, 37 Wheatears (the highest count of the spring so far), a lone Black Redstart, a new Ring Ouzel at the Obs, a tardy Fieldfare in the top fields, five Blackcaps in the vicinity of the Obs, 75 Chiffchaffs, three Willow Warblers, three Firecrests, 14 Goldcrests, 27 alba Wagtails, four Siskins, a Brambling and a new Blue Tit (almost as unusual as the Moorhen!). The sea provided some more interest with 56 Common Scoter, three Velvet Scoter, four Eiders, three Red-breasted Mergansers,  27 Brent Geese, six Red-throated Divers and a Porpoise.

Elsewhere on Portland there was the loitering pair of Black-necked Grebes at the Harbour and a single Black Redstart at Reap Lane.

Although we now know from sound recordings sessions that Moorhens are relatively frequent nocturnal migrants here, daytime sightings aren't even annual and the species is notoriously tricky to see when it does pitch in. Today's bird at Culverwell wasn't even glimpsed despite being audible at close range (in just the sort of spot where you thought you couldn't possibly not have seen it) for extended periods throughout the morning - we even had to go to the lengths of sending a recording to Joe Stockwell and Nick Hopper for them to confirm that it was indeed a Moorhen!

As an aside, Joe mentioned the difference between these calls and those given in flight by nocturnal migrants - we'll have a look at that another day when we've got a bit more time.

21st March

Another cracking day. Overcast skies and a hint of misty drizzle saw a second vernal fall bringing with it a few firsts for the year. Once again Chiffchaffs provided the bulk of the migrants with 71 trapped at the Obs and the same numbers again elsewhere. The days highlights came in the form of the first migrant Firecrest trapped in the garden, a female Merlin in off the sea, a lovely male Ring Ouzel in the top fields, the first Willow Warblers of the year (three trapped) and the beginnings of Blackcap migration. Other migrants included: 21 Wheatears, two Black Redstarts, 100 Meadow Pipits, 26 alba Wagtails, 5 Swallows, 3 Sand Martins and three Goldcrests. The sea provided us with a highlight of 38 Dunlin accompanied by 45 Common Scoter and four Red-throated Divers

Elsewhere on the island a pair of new Firecrests were at Thumb lane and the first Green-veined White was out at Chesil Cove. 

The first Merlin of the season was a female that came straight in off the sea and was seen shooting off over the West Cliffs before disappearing © Martin Cade:

The third Ring Ouzel of the season, but the first to be photographed, was a cracking male © Martin Cade: 


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 23rd March.

20th March

A misty drizzly morning led to the first fall of the Spring with the damp grounding Chiffchaffs across the island. 200 Chiffchaffs were recorded throughout the Obs area including 56 ringed in the garden. The garden also produced a Brambling whilst a Ring Ouzel was on the Slopes. Other migrants were on the wing in small numbers for the first time this spring including the first migratory Goldcrests with four in the garden and hut fields, ten Sand Martins and six Swallows were along the West Cliffs, Meadow Pipit numbers were relatively low at 67 but probably due to their flight paths being above the low level cloud, alba Wagtails were up to 24 and Wheatears up to 18. The real highlight of the day came from the Sea in the form of a fly-by winter plumage Black Guillemot (Tystie), the sea also produced 25 Common Scoter and 12 Red-throated Divers.

Elsewhere on the island, Reap Lane saw 12 Chiffchaffs and 52 Meadow Pipits, Ferrybridge saw a pair of Wheatears and the Harbour was harbouring a pair of summer plumage Black-necked Grebes.

Despite the number of birds present we didn't really put in enough time to capture todays stars so here's our token Chiffchaff © Erin Taylor

Today we are announcing our Spring Book Sale. As many of our regular visitors know the Bookshop is a well loved part of the Observatory but its been getting a little out of hand lately and therefore some books must go! Join us on the 13th-16th April for our big sale of new and old books and a bit of PBO merchandise too (background picture © Martin King)

19th March

Finally the wind has subsided and although it wasn't joined by an influx of migrants, it did provide much more pleasant conditions for birding. The gardens nets were finally opened and showed that Chiffchaffs were on the move with 13 trapped through the morning (including a Jersey ringed bird) and a further seven distributed through the obs area. Only two Wheatears were recorded at the South end of the island but a further three were at Reap Lane. Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails were still on the move but in slightly lower numbers with 67 and 15 respectively. Other passerine migrants included a single Swallow through the West Cliffs, a pair of Black Redstarts and five Song Thrushes. The sea was unseasonably quiet with just four Common Scoter and two Red-throated Divers

It's good to have the Wheatears back in such fine plumage © Erin Taylor

18th March

As the winds continued to ameliorate, passage continued its gradual upward trend. Six Wheatears were within the obs area accompanied by four Chiffchaffs and four Rooks. Overhead the pipits and wagtails began picking up with a day count of 167 Meadow Pipits, 17 alba Wagtails and a single White Wagtail. The increased movement was also noted in Blacknor with 30 Meadow Pipits and a pair of alba Wagtails. The sea produced little of note with the exception of a good Common Gull passage tallying 49 birds. Other than this totals were: a single Red-throated Diver, one Common Scoter, and four Black-headed Gulls.

17th March

A glimmer of hope that the windy days are behind us with a very small influx of Wheatears and a fraction more excitement on the Sea. Although the day count of Wheatears reached just six birds, this included the first two females of the year. Other passerine movements included a Swallow past the Bill, 30 Meadow Pipits between the East Cliffs and the Top Fields and single figures of alba Wagtails. On the sea totals amassed to: one Bonxie, two Red-throated Divers, four Common Scoter and a single Mediterranean Gull.

16th March

The winds appeared to climax today with strong gusts and showers throughout. The sea was of some interest with 2 Bonxies, 7 Manx Shearwaters, a Mediterranean Gull and a Red-throated Diver. Meadow Pipits were seen arriving against the weather with 20+ grounded in the East Cliff Fields to keep the single male Wheatear company. Other small birds found shelter with 6 Song Thrushes in the Top Fields, 4 Chiffchaffs along the East Cliffs and a further 3 Chiffchaffs from other localities.

15th March

The Westerly winds continued to blow. There were few birds of interest at the Bill with a Wheatear still hunkered down in the East Cliff Fields and a Chiffchaff sheltering in the Obs garden. Elsewhere on the island proved slightly more productive with 13 Chiffchaffs still at Church Ope Cove and a single Corn Bunting at Fancy's Farm.

Totals from around Fleet and the Harbour comprised 3 Black-necked Grebes, 6 Great-crested Grebes, 10 Brent Geese and 24 Red-breasted Mergansers.

14th March

If it weren't for the surprise discovery of a Large Tortoiseshell hibernating in a garage at Fortuneswell today would have been largely forgettable. Just 1 Wheatear - along with a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Black Redstart - graced the Bill area, further singles of Wheatear and Black Redstart were at Church Ope Cove and a Swallow bombed through at Fortuneswell. A glimmer of action at sea included 14 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Brent Geese and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.

Despite the continuing blasting northwesterly singles of Dark Sword Grass and Turnip provided a sniff of immigrant interest in the Obs moth-traps.

The capture of a couple of immigrant moths overnight reminded us that we'd never got round to mentioning the Red Sword Grass trapped last weekend at the Obs. Despite now turning up pretty well annually we guess this species is still just a stray to the island © Martin Cade:

13th March

With a blasting and none too warm westerly an ever-present accompaniment to proceedings it was no surprise that today's migrant medley consisted of nothing more than 3 Wheatears at the Bill, 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Swallow through at Reap Lane and a scatter of Chiffchaffs everywhere. Long-stayers still making the list included the Grey Heron at the Bill and single Black Redstarts at the Bill and Church Ope Cove.

12th March

The day started miserably with rain and a keen Westerly but cleared to sun and showers by the afternoon. There was a subtle trickle of arrivals seen throughout the day with 3 male Wheatears, 3 White and 6 Pied Wagtails frequenting the East Cliff Fields, 5 Chiffchaffs and 4 Song Thrushes around the Observatory area. Meadow Pipits were noted as more conspicuous with a greater presence than in recent days. A further 13 Chiffchaffs were located sheltering from the wind at Church Ope Cove and 3 Purple Sandpipers at the East Cliffs comprised other small birds seen today.

11th March

After the rainstorms of the night before it was a relief to wake to a crisp, clear morning that melted away into a reasonably calm and warm afternoon. The relatively calmed wind accompanied by blue skies meant we saw a little more movement today with a pair of Wheatears and a Song Thrush along the East Cliffs, three Chiffchaffs in the garden and a slow trickle of Meadow Pipits in off the Sea. The morning seawatch produced little more than three Common Scoters.

Elsewhere on the island, three Chiffchaffs were recorded at Church Ope Cove, a Swallow passed through at Ferrybridge and the Large Tortoiseshell put in another brief display in Tout quarry.

Both of the East Cliff Wheatears were stunning males, and also exceptional escapologists © Erin Taylor:

10th March

Today was record-breaking, although not in the bird sense. The wind on Portland managed to gust at a mega 70mph. These were not ideal conditions for birding as the daily log showed with the land totals of three Chiffchaffs, a lone Blackcap and nine Lesser-black Backed Gulls the best we could muster. The sea didn't fare much better with the only highlight our second Manx Shearwater of the year.

Some deeply upsetting news today from our counterparts in the North, our thoughts are with Fair Isle Bird Observatory and we hope everything will be pulled together after the fire. 

Greenfinches have become a rare breeding bird on Portland in recent years so the appearance of singing birds across the Obs area and into Southwell are a hopeful sign ©Andy Mitchell

9th March

Today's blustery westerlies didn't make for easy birding but there was no indication of spring passage getting any sort of momentum. At the Bill, Chiffchaff just scraped to a double figure total for the first time but an extra Black Redstart - 3 instead of the customary 2 - was the only other arrival on the land; 30 Brent Geese and 2 Mediterranean Gulls provided the only signs of passage on the sea there. At least 2 Short-eared Owls were also still about at the Bill.

8th March

Spring sprung into action today with not one, but two Wheatears gracing our shores, one on the East Cliffs and one on the West. Black Redstarts also put in a small show with three individuals in new areas. Although we counted the same number of Chiffchaffs as yesterday, they were far more concentrated with six in the immediate area around the Obs and a pair at Reap Lane. Pipits and Wagtails had also begun to move with a very slow trickle of Meadow Pipits following the rain showers, a single Grey Wagtail and 11 alba Wagtails. Five Rooks put in a show over the Crown Estate Fields. The sea was beginning to show some promise with three Common Scoter accompanied by the first Velvet Scoter of the year.

Elsewhere on the island, Penn Castle continued to provide with singles of Black Redstart and Firecrest, a couple of Goldcrests and three Chiffchaffs.

Despite the large amount of suitable habitat, its always a nice surprise when one of the Little Owls is feeling cooperative © Erin Taylor 

Migration action's hardly got into first gear just yet and we're very much still at the clutching at straws level of getting excited with things like high flying Grey Wagtails arriving in/off. What happens to all the Grey Wags that we watch leaving out to sea during the autumn? We have a tiny bit of ringing evidence to suggest that some actually about turn and end up wintering in southern England but you'd imagine that most must surely make it to France. Of the several hundred that we count departing each autumn we're lucky if many more than half-a-dozen are logged returning the next spring - have the others all just succumbed during the winter or do they return by another route? This sort of question could probably be asked about a whole host of migrants but maybe because they're so audibly obvious it seems to be Grey Wagtail that we always end up pondering on... © Martin Cade:

7th March

An unexpectedly pleasant day despite the roaring winds. Today saw the first trickles of Spring since the warm spell at the end of February. The usual selection of Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones and a lone Black Redstart were still at the Bill but with the addition of a small influx of Chiffchaffs across the whole recording area amounting to eight individuals. The warm weather also brought out the first vestiges of Meadow Pipit movement overhead as well as a worn looking Painted Lady. Elsewhere, 5 more Chiffchaffs and a Black Redstart were at Church Ope Cove/Pennsylvania Castle and the Harbour was maintaining its standard winter fare accompanied by a pair of Black-necked Grebes.

A couple of the species enjoying the change in weather...© Erin Taylor

6th March

Today saw some typically variable early spring weather ranging from clear blue skies (albeit short-lived) to hammering showers and almost everything in between. Perhaps we were a little optimistic to think that the strong Southerlies overnight may have brought something of interest into the channel as our sea watch failed to produce anything of note except a pair of Black-headed Gulls. A pair of Chiffchaffs (one almost certainly fresh in) were around the Obs and East Cliffs, a pair of loitering Song Thrushes were still frequenting the Crown Estate Field and a pair of Black Redstarts were evading our attempts at photography around the Huts.

5th March

Not much in the way of new migrants but a singing male Chiffchaff at the Obs, a pair of Song Thrushes along the East Cliffs and a small increase to the number of the local Robins. The sea provided us with 3 Common Scoter West and a pair of Black-headed Gulls. The Bill Purple Sandpiper flock have been replaced over night with 4 Turnstones on the sea-blasted ledges.

4th March

Blustering wind interspersed with squally showers meant there wasn't so much as a sniff of yesterday's Cirl Bunting. However, a Chiffchaff in the Crown Estate was a new arrival accompanied by five Stonechats and six Song Thrushes. The Bill's Purple Sandpiper flock were one short with just five birds present and a Blackcap surfaced at Church Ope Cove. Ferrybridge provided the usual fare plus a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits.

3rd March

Although the island didn't feel the full force of Storm Freya it was still a pretty miserably soggy and windy day. The sea had looked to offer the best chance of providing some interest but in the event it was the land that stole the show in the form of a Cirl Bunting discovered in peculiar circumstances at Southwell. The season's first Manx Shearwater passed through off the Bill along with 9 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver, whilst what little shelter there was on the land came up with a Chiffchaff at the Obs and 2 Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff and a Firecrest at Church Ope Cove/Pennsylvania Castle.

Despite our proximity to their UK heartland in east Devon (on a clear day many of their breeding sites are visible from the West Cliffs!), Cirl Bunting is these days a high value rarity at Portland and certainly not the sort of thing that you'd have been expecting when asked by a member of the public for help with a 'finch-like bird' that had become trapped in the roof space of a garage at Southwell. At first the identity of the mystery bird fluttering in the gloom amongst the rafters of the garage wasn't immediately apparent but once we were atop a step ladder wafting a hand net at it it became clear what it was - not quite an Allen's Gallinule moment but surprisingly galvanising nonetheless © Martin Cade: