31st July

A small smattering of migrants today as the howling gale from yesterday slowly abated leaving a warm but cloudy day behind. The sea saw the majority of the action with singles of Balearic Shearwater and Black-headed Gull, 2 each of Arctic and Great Skuas, three Turnstones, four Manx Shearwaters and a plethora of Mediterranean Gulls. Passerine migrants left a lot to be desired with little more than a smattering of Whitethroats and a trio of Willow Warblers in Suckthumb Quarry. Ferrybridge was equally quiet with only a Whimbrel to show for the hard working birders efforts.

Ever since we'd first seen photographs of it many years ago in Barry Goater's original pyralid guide, Scarce Striped Grass-veneer Ancylolomia tentaculella was a species that had captured our imagination and our desire to catch one for ourselves. That opportunity first arose last year when on family (=mothing!) holiday in northern France we were surprised to discover it's actually quite a common moth barely more than 100 miles south of Portland; however, with only half-a-dozen British records - and most of those in far south-east England - we didn't get carried away with thinking we might ever see one here. All that's changed in the last week when not only has there been a remarkable influx into Kent and Sussex but the first for Dorset also made it to Paul Harris' fantastic migrant-interception garden at Weymouth. Our capture this morning suddenly doesn't seem such as surprise but rest assured it was still a really exciting little event for us!

The last week has been really good for moth immigration with a nice array of other highlights from around the island. The best were our third Beautiful Marbled...

...and fourth and fifth Dark Crimson Underwings:

Our best ever arrival of Scarce Oak Knot-horns Acrobasis tumidana has also been of note:

Among the other noteworthy captures have been three Channel Islands Pugs; although established in places along the South Coast we suspect ours both this year and in the past are still primary immigrants rather than colonists of our tamarisk trees:

Lots of nice moth-trapping weather has also resulted in captures of plenty of local specials that are always good to see; Marjoram Crest Acompsia schmidtiellus is a very rare resident in Dorset that crops up from time to time in our Grove traps...

...whilst in Dorset the Wormwood is rarely seen away from Portland and is a relatively frequent visitor to moth-traps around the top of the island. All moth photos © Martin Cade:

30th July

In huge contrast to what we'd got used to in recent weeks some really wild weather blew in overnight and, quite apart from sounding an at least temporary death knell for moth immigration, caused a right stir-up on the wader front; Ferrybridge scored heavily in the squally showers after dawn when minima of 100 Dunlin, 81 Sanderlings, 74 Turnstones, 60 Oystercatchers, 50 Ringed Plovers, 20 Black-tailed Godwits, 8 Whimbrel, 6 Redshank, 5 Knot and singles of Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper were logged. The sea was well watched but rather unrewarding, with little more than 46 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and singles of Curlew, Whimbrel and Great Skua through off the Bill, whilst 2 Yellow-legged Gulls at the Bill were the best from a very blown-out land.

Two Vestals at Weston were by far the best of some very limited overnight catches in the moth-traps.

Although hardly a surprise arrival given the numbers recorded elsewhere in Britain in recent days, this morning's Wood Sandpiper was nonetheless a very welcome Portland record (...it was only the second in the last four years). In fact, so subliminal are most of our records that we're not even sure that we've ever before been able to provide tangible evidence for any of them on the blog © Pete Saunders (settled) and Debby Saunders (flying):

Knots and Whimbrel were just a few of the wealth of other waders dropping in at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

29th July

Anyone who thought the weekend's little flurries of migrant might be the precursor to rich pickings this week were in for a rude awakening today, with a low double figure total of Willow Warblers and a handful of Sedge Warblers all that could be mustered from the land at the Bill. Two Balearic Shearwaters lingered offshore there and 22 Common Scoter and a Manx Shearwater also passed by on the sea, whilst the only other island report was of a lone Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

28th July

A quite decent little flurry of common migrants again today with a dispersing Treecreeper topping things off at the Bill, where 40 Willow Warblers, 10 Sedge Warblers, 2 each of Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler and Blackcap, and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were logged on the land and 7 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter, a Balearic Shearwater and a Curlew passed by on the sea. Ferrybridge chipped in with 143 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Dunlin, 4 Sanderling and a Common Sandpiper.

A clearer, breezier night saw immigrant moth numbers drop away; 2 more Scarce Oak Knot-horns were the best of the catch at the Obs.

July's a good month for Treecreepers at Portland; most records - like today's - relate to dispersing juveniles © Martin Cade:

Sanderlings and Sandwich Terns at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

27th July

Such is the amount of cover available to hide migrants at this time of year that today's visitors might have been forgiven for being a tad perplexed at our reports of there being more about than has been the case of late: it was hardy much of a fall but 25 Willow Warblers, 20 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers and a Garden Warbler scattered at the Bill did amount to the best arrival there so far this autumn. Visible passage consisted of a trickle of hirundines and a Grey Heron, whilst 3 Balearic Shearwaters were amongst a none too exciting selection from the seawatchers. The only reports from elsewhere were of 2 Redshank and a Sanderling amongst a few routine waders at Ferrybridge.

Despite what little breeze there was issuing from the northwest moth immigration continued apace, with by the best arrival of scarcities of year to date. The Obs fared best with 2 Small Marbled and singles of Scarce Oak Knot-horn Acrobasis tumidana, Olive-tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis, Beautiful Marbled and Dark Crimson Underwing amongst a varied selection of more routine fare, whilst a second Dark Crimson Underwing was trapped at the Grove. Photos of some these to follow tomorrow.

26th July


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

Overcast skies and a post-dawn shower looked promising today and the oddest feature of what unfolded was the continuing utter lack of Willow Warblers; half a dozen Sedge Warblers, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Reed Warbler (...that rather unexpectedly was in full song) looked to be only newcomers at the Bill, with 21 Dunlin and 3 Sanderling making up a meagre wader tally at Ferrybridge. The only other reports were of 5 Balearic and 4 Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill.

25th July

Fieldwork was limited to early and late today with fierce heat and increasing humidity rendering the middle hours of the day a write-off. Migration certainly wasn't fast-paced but was quite varied, with trickles of Swifts and Sand Martins overhead, a few more Sedge Warblers on the ground and a small increase in both grounded and fly-by waders; yet again Willow Warblers didn't feature - why are they later than usual in getting going this autumn? Very minor highlights amongst the variety included singles of Balearic Shearwater and Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill.

Overnight moth-trapping was again disappointing poor for scarcer immigrants, with singles of Small Marbled at Freshwater Bay and Scarce Oak Knot-horn Acrobasis tumidana easily the best on offer.

24th July

The heat that developed through yesterday lasted sparked off plenty of overnight lightning activity but little in the way of precipitation; it also dropped a few migrants, with 10 Sedge Warblers and a Grasshopper Warbler trapped in the Crown Estate Field, a Garden Warbler at Culverwell and 2 Ringed Plovers and singles of Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank through over the Bill. A steady passage of hirundines was also evident soon after dawn, with 400 Swallows and 30 Sand Martins through at the Bill. The only other reports concerned 13 Common Scoter through off the Bill and 2 Sanderling, 2 Redshank and a Whimbrel amongst small numbers of waders at Ferrybridge.

A hoped-for rush of immigrant moths failed to materialise, with 3 Vagrant Piercer Cydia amplana the best of the overnight captures around the south of the island.

This morning's Redshanks at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders

23rd July

With thick fog lingering throughout the hours of darkness few nocturnal migrants would have had any inkling of Portland's existence and the only reports of grounded arrivals were of 2 Sedge Warblers at the Bill. Visible migrants did start to feature once the fog cleared after dawn, with 78 Sand Martins, a Siskin and a trickle of Swifts through over the Bill and 17 Common Scoter, 5 Dunlin, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Black-headed Gulls and a Manx Shearwater through on the sea there.

In most previous years the Ferrybridge Little Tern's breeding season will already have been over by now and they'll have upped and gone, but this year there's been a bit of a disaster at the hands of a Kestrel and they're still ensconced after re-laying and should be present for quite a while yet © Pete Saunders:

22nd July

With the promised hot spell being ushered in by increasingly thick fog birding wasn't entirely straightforward today. It did seem as though passerine migration was almost non-existent, with a single Sedge Warbler the only worthwhile sighting at the Bill. A settled Great Crested Grebe was a surprise off the Bill where 5 Common Scoter, 3 Manx Shearwaters and a lone Balearic Shearwater were logged before the fog clamped down.

21st July

More of the same, with singles of Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler the only new passerine migrants at the Bill where 10 Common Scoter, 2 Sandwich Terns and a single Balearic Shearwater passed by on the sea. Ferrybridge maintained its stranglehold on the numbers and variety that included 200 Common Terns, 80 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sanderling, 2 Little Gulls and singles of Whimbrel and Black-tailed Godwit.

It seems like at least four different Little Gulls have been involved in the sightings at Ferrybridge in recent days - these two were there this morning © Pete Saunders:

Bugs on offer in recent days have included plenty of Graylings and the rather lovely pink form of Meadow Grasshopper - both these were at Tout Quarry yesterday © Ken Dolbear:

20th July

Today's rather measly list wasn't for want looking since there was a fair bit of weekend fieldwork but interest away from Ferrybridge was limited to a Sedge Warbler at the Bill and a Manx Shearwater through on the sea there. Ferrybridge still hosted a hatful of activity, notably including more than 200 Common Terns, but 2 Little Gulls were as good as it got in terms of quality

19th July

On an otherwise largely rained off day Ferrybridge attracted provided most of the action that included good counts of 166 Common Terns and 122 Dunlin, with further variety there consisting of 2 Black-tailed Godwits and singles of Sanderling, Whimbrel and Little Gull. The combination of the rain and a fresh breeze looked to have some promise for the seawatchers but singles of Manx and Balearic Shearwater were all that could be mustered during the few spells that weren't spoilt by limited visibility.

Ferrybridge rarely disappoints in the rain and today's mix of terns and waders provided a compelling spectacle. The Little Gull was thought to be the third different individual present there in recent days © Pete Saunders (settled) & Debby Saunders (flying):

Black-tailed Godwits have either got a lot more regular at Ferrybridge in recent years or the coverage there has improved and their often brief appearances are being picked up more often © Pete Saunders:

18th July

The sporadic showers and overcast morning did nothing for a quiet and uneventful day that saw little movement on the land. Highlights from a much diminished sea included a loitering Arctic Skua, a small handful of Manx Shearwaters and 20 each of Common Terns, Mediterranean Gulls and Common Scoter. In non-avian news the first Common Darter of the year was seen around the Obs garden.

17th July

Another hope-filled day as both Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler trapped in the Crown Estate Field nets heralded the beginnings of autumnal passage. A smattering of additional migrants included a Hawfinch at Oldhill, two new Blackcaps in Culverwell and a trickle of Swifts and Sand Martins. The sea was lively once again with a steady influx of common passage birds joined by 16 Balearic Shearwaters. Ferrybridge was also showing signs of life with a new Little Gull, 30+ Common Terns, 17 Dunlin and a flock of 7 Little Egrets.

In non -avian news the sea provided a host of marine species with a Compass Jellyfish off the West Cliffs as well as six of the Bottle-nosed Dolphin pod, four Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal.

The din of the Common Tern flock at Ferrybridge was almost loud enough to drown out the usual roar of the traffic ©Pete Saunders:

A freshly emerged second generation Small Copper from High Angle Battery ©Ken Dolbear:

16th July

The weather's probably a tad too lovely just at the moment to expect much to be dropping in and, a few passing Sand Martins aside, passerine migrants didn't feature at all today. Singles of Lapwing and Dunlin overhead at the Bill constituted the only reports of note from the land, with 75 Mediterranean Gulls, 9 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Yellow-legged Gull through or lingering offshore there.

15th July

 Today was fairly unremarkable on the birding front. The only migrants noted were on the sea and the highlights were limited to a Balearic Shearwater and a Whimbrel.

The highlights from yesterday included the lingering Little Gull and a passage Greenshank ©Pete Saunders:

One of the Dark Green Fritillaries found its way into the obs garden, but with negative news today was this the first stage of a movement away from the island? ©James Phillips:

There's always something to look at on Portland, even on the very quiet bird days. Canthophorus impressus or the Down Shieldbug is associated with Bastard Toadflax (a rare plant in its own right) and therefore has a limited distribution across the UK. The Slopes above the Bill are a particularly good site for this diminutive bug and its host plant ©Erin Taylor:

14th July

Pick of the bunch today were singles of Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Little Gull at Ferrybridge, singles of Grey Heron and Reed Warbler at the Bill and a Balearic Shearwater through on the sea there. Fuller update and photos to follow when we have more time tomorrow.

13th July

A miscellaneous selection to report today with early autumn migrants featuring quite well. Ferrybridge provided the best of the numbers that included 238 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Curlew, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Sanderling, as well as the Little Gull for a second day. At the Bill new arrivals included 4 Redshank, 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Reed Warbler, with 50 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Common Scoter, a Shoveler and Great Skua through on the sea.

It was a lovely morning to sit and wait for photo opportunities at Ferrybridge and Black-tailed Godwit and Little Gull both obliged © Debby Saunders:

Longleaf (or Sickleweed) Falcaria vulgaris is a naturalised alien first introduced to Britain as a garden plant in the 18th century. The Flora of Dorset notes just three sites in the county of which two are at Portland - whether one of them is near Wallsend where the plant was quite numerous today isn't entirely clear © James Phillips:

12th July

Despite the AGM looming on the horizon, and the prep therein involved taking up most of the day, we managed to accrue a decent list with a couple of new faces joining the now familiar Hawfinch. Perhaps its just the way that we remember things but the autumn seems to be encroaching ever further into the summer's territory and this was proved today by the arrival of the first juvenile Sedge Warbler of the year in the Obs nets. In spite of this and a Balearic Shearwater past the Bill it was Ferrybridge yet again that stole the show with a first summer Little Gull in amongst the, now numerous, Mediterranean Gulls.

Despite the general trends emerging across the country the Portland Swallows seem to be just as abundant as in recent years © Martin King:

The Little Gull proving just how small they are by showing in the midst of the Mediterranean Gull flock © Pete Saunders:

11th July

Another beautiful day was most productively spent at Ferrybridge where the selection of waders provided the greatest variety of the day. The three Little Ringed Plovers were still outside the visitor centre but had been joined by a pair of Black-tailed Godwits, five Curlew and nine Dunlin. Elsewhere the only real migrants were six fly-over Sand Martins and a Blackcap at the Obs where the lingering male Hawfinch continued to gorge on the bird table seed for all to see.

The Ferrybridge Black-tailed Godwits were still looking reasonably smart © Pete Saunders:

10th July

Warm and beautiful days are nothing to complain about so while the chilly north may be getting a fall of  two-barred crossbills we will have to be content with the beginnings of the juvenile warbler passage with Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps trapped in the garden. The unseasonable Hawfinch continued to make regular visits to the bird table as well as the first sightings of the Culverwell Moorhen for some time. The Ferrybridge Little Ringed Plovers went from a pair to a miniature flock (3 birds now instead of 2- you've got to celebrate the small victories). 

In non-avian news the Dark Green Fritillaries continued to delight on the slopes below the higher light. 

The trio of Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

The Hawfinch became very flighty through the morning and had the look of something that was about to head off but ultimately the lure of a bird-table full of seed proved too much and it settled back into its old ways © Martin Cade:

Its not just the rare butterflies that are looking stunning at the moment, the Painted Ladies continue to appear and the Peacocks have just started another generation © Ken Dolbear:

9th July

A couple of information/admin matters for Obs members: first, a reminder of our AGM that'll be taking place at 4pm this Saturday - all are welcome to attend the meeting, a short/optional guided walk to explain the Countryside Stewardship management regime and the refreshments/barbeque that'll follow (an agenda for the meeting can be viewed here); secondly, we've finally got round to posting out copies of our latest report to everyone who'd been a member during 2016-18 - if you believe you were a member during this period and haven't received a report do please let us know as there are a few names on out list for which we either didn't have a current address or for which there was some other administrative query.

The fine, settled spell continued and there was enough early autumn interest to make it well worth making the most of the lovely conditions. The Hawfinch lingered for another day at the Obs, whilst migrant interest included 10 Sand Martins through over the Bill, a Yellow-legged Gull lingering offshore there, a Cuckoo at Suckthumb Quarry and 14 Dunlin, 3 Redshank and a Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge.

Three Dark Green Fritillarys were again knocking about around the top of the Slopes at the Bill.

The Dark Green Fritillarys look to be well-settled at the Bill and it'll be interesting to see if they persist in future years at this spot - has a small population survived here undetected or are they strays from elsewhere? © Duncan Walbridge (upper) and Martin Cade (lower):

There'd been concerns that last year's long, hot summer mightn't have done some of the blue butterflies any favours but so far the signs aren't too bleak: Silver-studded Blues certainly aren't as numerous as they are some years but they are about in all the usual spots, whilst Chalkhill Blues are only just getting out on the wing but they too look to be around everywhere they ought to be - this pair at the north of the island today were already getting on with the business © Ken Dolbear

8th July

Autumn appears to be slowly rearing its head as numbers of breeding birds begin to swell in the fields, Swallow and Swift flocks have become noticeably more vocal and sizable and the Ferrybridge waders have begun to move. Yesterday's Hawfinch continued to entertain at the obs feeding regularly on the bird table throughout the day. Continuing on the migrant front, a juvenile Cuckoo was seen exiting its roost site in Southwell and heading off to sea, another young Yellow-legged Gull was seen departing towards France and a pair of Balearic Shearwaters continued to associate with the dwindling gull flock.

Ferrybridge had noticeably more variety with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, two Redshank, six Dunlin and singles of Sanderling and Curlew.

In non-avian news the pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins were back playing in the waters in front of the obs and at least two Dark Green Fritillaries were sighted at the higher light as well as the seemingly lingering Large Tortoiseshell at Tout Quarry.

The Little Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge were looking pretty shabby as they made their stop-over © Debby Saunders:

This is the second sighting of a juvenile Cuckoo in the vicinity of the obs in the last week, although these are probably migrating birds there are plenty of breeding host species on the island...© Pete Saunders:

And a bit of the Hawfinch action from yesterday - it was showing just as well again today © Martin Cade: