31st October

The wind gradually subsided today but dank, dreary conditions continued to envelope the island. A Caspian Gull was a nice find in the gull flock below Culverwell, a Siberian Chiffchaff dropped in at Blacknor, at least 3 Yellow-browed Warblers were dotted about the south of the island and Black Redstarts and Firecrests remained spread in good quantity. Grounded commoner migrants were noticeably more numerous then they've been for a few days with Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs to the fore everywhere, whilst for a while after dawn there was a steady passage of thrushes along West Cliffs and later a constant trickle of small flocks of incoming Chaffinches developed. Sea interest dwindled, with 4 Teal and 2 each of Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser the best off the Bill.

Caspian Gull remains a quality rare at Portland and one that's notoriously tricky to catch up with as they rarely linger for long (this was only the second multi-observed bird of the six recorded); the Culverwell gull flock is the place for them and late autumn's the time - four of the previous five records were of birds at this spot and all the records fall between extreme dates of 26th September and 21st November © Martin Cade:

Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest at Southwell © Debby Saunders:

30th October

The weather front hovering in the Channel meted another fair old battering with an easterly gale and frequent pulses of often heavy rain again the order of the day. Birding on the land was hard work and generally unrewarding but the sea was worth constant attention and returned a typical miscellany of island irregulars. Common Scoters, Brent Geese, Dunlin and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (all reached 50-150 totals) made up the bulk of the numbers off the Bill, where the likes of 14 Pintail, 4 Velvet Scoter, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, a Great Crested Grebe and a Little Gull were maybe the pick of the varied bunch of waterfowl, waders and gulls logged; the selection of wildfowl on the move across Portland Harbour included 8 Shelduck and 6 Wigeon. The land was certainly worth attention even if there was a constant feeling that much of what was about wasn't actually showing itself in the blasting wind; single Yellow-browed Warblers showed up at the Obs and Southwell, 800 Starlings were grounded at the Bill, the long-staying Wryneck popped up again at the Bill and there were certainly a good few new arrivals amongst the more routine thrushes, 'crests and the like.

29th October

An intriguing day of gusting easterlies meant much focus was directed towards the sea. An early movement of 46 Barnacle Geese mulled around the Bill area for much of the morning heading back and forth out to sea, evidently unsure of which direction to head (probably something to do with the large bank of rain sitting in the channel between us and France). These weren't the only geese of the day as a flock of 8 'grey geese' heading south were later picked up in Normandy and were identified as Greylags. The sea continued its fine form with a male Pochard, a juvenile Pom Skua, four Velvet Scoter, a single Red-breasted Merganser and a large passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Brent Geese, Common Scoters and Dunlin. Land-based movement was much quieter but a Jack Snipe flushed from beside the road outside the obs was the first for the autumn, two Ring Ouzels were frequenting the top fields along with 30 Fieldfares, Black Redstarts and Firecrests were still well into double figures, a Yellow-browed Warbler was at Old Hill and Lapwings were moving with a maximum flock size of 19 over Southwell.

There's something quite spectacular about skeins of geese passing over-head, especially when you hear them before you see them emerging from behind the trees and passing over the lighthouses of Portland © Pete Saunders (upper middle) & Martin Cade (others):

Some of the 19-strong Lapwing flock over Southwell this morning © Pete Saunders:

There are still plenty of Black Redstarts knocking about the island - this one was at Southwell © Dan Law:

Two Purple Sandpipers from below the Pulpit Rock, one of our more attractive winter visitors © Roger Hewitt:

And finally, Nick Hopper's sent us through results from his last nocturnal recording session on the night of 23rd/24th October:

A massive movement of thrushes with birds calling virtually continuously for much of the night.

Song Thrush and Redwing dominated with 5611 calls and 4920 calls logged respectively. For Song Thrush around 70% of the calls were before midnight resulting in an average of 1 call every 4.5 seconds for the 5 hour period, although in reality the calls often came in rapid fire pulses.

Redwing calls started slower but continued in large numbers further into the night.

Blackbirds were also on the move with 388 calls logged. Very small numbers until midnight, the biggest pushes coming between 2 and 4am.

Also logged:

Ring Ouzel 5

Fieldfare 2

Goldcrest 28

Robin 16

Water Rail 3

Moorhen 2

Common Snipe 2

Golden Plover

Short-eared Owl

Grey Heron

Two late Tree Pipits and a Yellow Wagtail were also notable.

28th October

How many times have we heard this autumn the pained gripes from visitors who'd thought the conditions had promised so many more birds than had actually materialised - well, today was another such event! In truth, the combination of a freshening easterly and heavy cloud cover advancing from the south really had looked pretty decent but the birds didn't oblige and it was only Goldcrests that staged any sort of arrival on the ground. They numbered well into three figures over the island as a whole, with Chiffchaffs well spread if not quite so numerous; beyond that, Black Redstarts and Firecrests were well into double figures, 2 Ring Ouzels were at Old Hill and a lone Yellow-browed Warbler was at Southwell. The briefly clear skies of dawn were not busy with overhead passage although more than 1000 Wood Pigeons passed through along with more than 200 Jackdaws and a customarily varied selection of smaller numbers of thrushes, finches and the like; a Lapland Bunting over the Bill was as good as it got for overflying scarcities. Sea movement included singles of Red-throated and Great Northern Divers through off the Bill.

The Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell © Pete Saunders...

...and one of the Black Redstarts at the Bill © Joe Stockwell:

27th October

A still and beautiful morning was the first true break in the weather for over a month! A Wryneck flushed from the Crown Estate Field and a Siberian Chiffchaff trapped in the Obs garden early on gave the impression that there was something better to find but it was not to be. Siberian Chiffchaffs featured well with 2 more at the Fire Station and another at Old Hill, Yellow-browed Warblers were at Southwell and Old Hill, and  Firecrests included 5 at both the Obs and Old Hill; further interest included a Ring Ouzel at Old Hill and a scatter of at least 10 Black Redstarts.

The rarest sighting of the day was not avian but a Vagrant Emperor dragonfly that was located and remained twitchable for over an hour in the Obs Quarry field.

Ferrybridge totals included this smart Black Brant displaying its conspicuous collar, along with seven Pale-bellied Brents © Pete Saunders:

The day's Siberian Chiffchaffs included this one trapped at the Obs...

...and this one of the two behind the Fire Station © Martin Cade:

The Vagrant Emperor was a nice surprise  © Martin Cade:

And finally, who needs the far from noble sport of cockfighting when you can watch Pheasants going at it hammer and tongs in the lane beside the Obs © Martin Cade:

26th October

An absolute shocker of a day of gale force winds and torrents of rain. With meaningful birding opportunities severely limited the only reports of particular note were of single Yellow-browed Warblers at the Obs and Weston, Black Redstarts at Reap Lane (2) and Chesil Cove, 2 Firecrests, a Siskin and a Garden Warbler at the Obs, 2 Little Gulls at Chesil Cove and the Black Brant at Ferrybridge.

The Black Brant pitched up at Ferrybridge for the first time this week...

...and the small party of Bar-tailed Godwits were also still there and presumably now settled in for the winter © Pete Saunders:

Late October/early November Garden Warblers are surprisingly regular at the Obs and often adopt the habits of late season/overwintering Blackcaps © Martin Cade:

25th October

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 26th October.

A strong, gusting wind that built through the day meant that only the most sheltered of areas were  birdable. Yellow-browed Warblers lingered on at the Eight Kings Quarry, Avalanche Road (2) and Old Hill, a Siberian Chiffchaff was at the Grove Cliffs and single Firecrests were scattered about these and other spots. The stream of Black Redstarts from the past couple of days dried up with only four recorded within the Bill area. The sea added a touch of variety with three Bonxies, two Arctic Skuas and a Pomarine Skua as well as a single Balearic Shearwater. The highlight from an extremely windy Ferrybridge was this autumn's highest count to date of 1400 Brent Geese; 6 Pale-bellied Brents and 2 late Sandwich Terns were also there.

The strength of the wind made for difficult birding today but there were still odd nuggets of interest on offer; this Yellow-browed Warbler was still at the Eight Kings Quarry © Martin Cade:

When they're mingling together at this time of year on the sandflats at Ferrybridge it's easy to forget that only a couple of months ago the Dark-bellied and Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on two different continents as their High Arctic summer drew to a close © Pete Saunders:

24th October

With the predicted rain having slipped to our south, the morning was free for our rag-tag bunch of birders to explore every nook and crevice of the island. The effort put in today was reflected in the tally of Yellow-browed Warblers and Firecrests with 12 and 8 respectively recorded across the island . Once again it was the chats that impressed numbers wise with a whole-island count of 59 Black Redstarts and triple figures of Robins (a slight reduction from yesterday's huge count). A good count of Fieldfares, a Siberian Chiffchaff in the 8 Kings Quarry, a Woodcock at Walls End and a Dartford Warbler along the Bill road completed the ensemble. Bring on the easterlies of next week...

Siberian Chiffchaff and Yellow-browed Warbler from the 8-kings today ©Nick Hopper:

23rd October

A bit of a bonanza on the ground today with heavily overcast conditions and the occasional spits of drizzle in the air dropping a steady succession of arrivals everywhere. Robins were abundant, with 150 at the Bill alone and most likely in the region of 1000 for the island as a whole; Goldcrest also topped 150 at the Bill, where 25 Black Redstarts and 20 Firecrests were additional stand-out totals. Most of the other expected late season migrants featured, with 4 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Ring Ouzels and a Lapland Bunting all new and the Bearded Tit and Wryneck both lingering on at the Bill.

The dreariness was really lit up by flashes of orange and yellow today: Robins were popping out of every bramble bush and quarry crevice and Goldcrests were busy in every patch of cover © Martin Cade and Joe Stockwell:

Black Redstarts were frequenting their customary spots but also dropping into less conventional habitat © Nick Hopper (top) and Joe Stockwell (bottom):

22nd October

Quiet conditions made for very enjoyable birding even if the migrant interest didn't get to the level that might have been hoped. Thrushes were well spread rather than moving in quantity - Redwing only just about managed a three figure for the island as a whole - and it was Goldcrest that topped the day's grounded totals, with 50 at the Bill and a pretty decent spread throughout the better cover further up island; although there was plenty of other seasonable fare on offer it was probably the 'under the radar' arrivals such as Wrens and Robins - both seemed to really numerous everywhere - that made up the bulk of the rest of the numbers on the ground. Overhead passage was fitful at best, with a few flocks of new Wood Pigeons but, for example, precious little in the way of finch movement. Minor oddities consisted of singles of Quail and Bearded Tit at the Bill and Yellow-browed Warbler at Wakeham, with a scatter of 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Firecrests and singles of Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Ring Ouzel making up the meagre tally of less frequent migrants.

Always a freaky thing to spot away from a reedbed, Bearded Tits are actually an almost to be expected arrival in fair weather in mid-October, with the 54 records since the first in 1965 involving a total of at least 251 individuals. Today's solitary male trapped in the Crown Estate Field was presumably the individual first seen yesterday in the Pulpit bushes © Martin Cade:

21st October

Another day of good visible passage was dominated not by finches but by thrushes. The mornings observations amounted to 131 Redwings, 52 Song Thrushes and 14 Fieldfare over the obs (including the first Fieldfare trapped of the autumn). Although there was no big rare, small oddities continued to turn up throughout the day including a Bearded Tit at the Pulpit Bushes, a Tree Sparrow over Culverwell and the first Black Redstart of the season. Elsewhere, four Firecrests remained at Old Hill and a smattering of three Ring Ouzels were recorded across the island.

The Black Redstart in the hut fields had the plumage to rival even our best and brightest spring birds ©Roger Hewitt:

20th October

Calm and chilly, the day started with a strong visible (but high) migration of alba Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches. Present during a vis-mig on the west cliffs were singles of Ring Ouzel and Merlin, two each of Mistle and Song Thrush and seven Brambling. The highlight from a steady days ringing was a Dartford Warbler from the crown fields. Elsewhere on the island, a pair of Yellow-browed Warblers were in a mixed flock of Firecrests, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs at Old Hill (as well as singles of Yellow-browed at Southwell school, Wakeham and Thumb Lane); there were Ring Ouzels at the obs quarry, Easton (2) and Penn's Weare, as well as a further two Mistle Thrushes at Southwell in the afternoon.

The Dartford Warbler trapped today was the 37th for the obs and was, rather surprisingly, an adult female ©Martin Cade:

19th October

As the wind slowly lost its bite throughout the day, the sun came out and a beautiful and warm afternoon materialised. The clear skies meant a much reduced day list, however three Yellow-browed Warblers across the island is the highest day count so far this autumn. Other highlights included a juvenile Pomarine Skua west past the Bill, two slightly tardy Common Whitethroats and 5 Wheatears across the Bill area.

A flock of 25 Chiffchaffs in the trees above Wakeham was harbouring this very camera-shy Yellow-browed Warbler © Erin Taylor:

In what's been a pretty grim period for migrant numbers Stonechats have fared rather well: at the Bill the year's ringing tally is already its second highest ever which is pretty good going considering the Crown Estate Field mist-nets have been out of action for so long in the windy weather of recent weeks when most Stonechat passage has been underway (Glen Thomas has made a sterling effort this week and trapped 28 using just spring-traps!). We've long known from recaptures that some of our breeding population are year-round residents here and it also seems that a few of the arriving migrants end up - weather permitting - spending the winter here. What we're less clear on is the full extent of the natal areas our migrants originate from and where they end up departing to for the winter, although we do have recoveries of birds ringed in the breeding season as far north as Cumbria and have onward movements to both Brittany and northern Spain © Ken Dolbear:

18th October

A wild night saw to it the new arrivals were few and far between on the land and even the sea-birds weren't up to battling their way through the howling gale that continued to throw icy showers our way throughout the daylight hours. Visitors struck gold with a Melodious Warbler and a likely Dusky Warbler in the Avalanche Road hump area but both eluded later searchers; otherwise the best on offer were a Little Stint still at Ferrybridge, 3 Firecrests and 2 Merlins at the Bill and singles of Manx Shearwater and Arctic Skua through on the sea there.

17th October

A frustrating day in several senses, not the least of which were a couple of potentially decent birds that escaped being clinched: a likely Radde's Warbler was heard calling and seen in flight at the Obs (...and even responded to a tape lure) but promptly evaporated and a Melodious or Icterine Warbler showed only very briefly at the Coastguard Cottages before also vanishing. The other big frustration was the weather, with a number of heavy, squally showers blown through on the ever-freshening southwesterly scuppering any chance of both comprehensive coverage or a full mist-netting programme. The Wryneck first seen last week surfaced again after missing a couple of days but the best of the day's sightings were otherwise the likes of a 2 Merlins and singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest and Brambling at the Bill and 4 Arctic Skuas through on the sea there.

16th October

As has so often been the case so far this autumn just as passage had looked to be gathering some momentum so things fizzled out. That's not to say there was nothing happening since 6 Ring Ouzels and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers represented a nice return from the Penn's Weare area, but plenty of coverage elsewhere garnered no other significant rewards. Numbers took a dip throughout the island, with the commoner thrushes almost absent and even the likes of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests only thinly spread; 2 Little Stints at Ferrybridge, singles of Merlin and Dartford Warbler at the Bill, another Merlin at Penn's Weare and a Firecrest at Old Hill were the only other reports of note.

Always one of their favourite haunts on Portland, Penn's Weare returned a nice little haul of Ring Ouzels today © Joe Stockwell:

15th October

A clear night with a large, shining moon meant few additions to yesterday's list made it to our shores, however at least one of the Red-breasted Flycatchers remained at Avalanche Road with a second brief sighting at Barleycrates bringing their tally back up to two. A Great White Egret at Ferrybridge was the one quality arrival (...despite their increase elsewhere they're still a high value Portland rarity!), but Dartford Warbler and Ring Ouzel also made it onto the day totals, as did 2 fly-by Tree Sparrows and late-ish singles of Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher. Finches put in another big display with Chaffinches the most prominent passage bird (although the Linnet flock in the Crown Fields has swollen to over 250); the capture of two Greenfinches was also notable these days.

14th October

Finally! A break in the horrendous gale-force westerlies and rain led to the first successful October day. One might even go as far to say it was a small autumnal fall. The constant drizzle was, for the first time in a while, a help rather than a hindrance and although there was no big rare, birding was exciting throughout the day. Highlights from a much improved selection included two Red-breasted Flycatchers at Avalanche Hump, the first Yellow-browed Warbler trapped at the obs and another at Avalanche Roiad, an eastern Lesser Whitethroat trapped at Culverwell with a second Lesser Whitethroat sp seen briefly at the Obs Quarry, a Wryneck in the bramble hedge in the Crown Fields and a Dartford Warbler up by the Higher Light; the Black Brant was also again at Ferrybridge. Across the island the tallies of other migrants included 30+ Redwings, an impressive three-figure passage of Chaffinches and Goldfinches, a smattering of Bramblings and Siskin as well as the usual (but no less impressive) presence of plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.

Quite how Portland hadn't logged a Yellow-legged Warbler so far this autumn had been a much discussed topic in recent days - now there's been one it's a fair bet there'll be plenty more...

...the Lesser Whitethroat was pretty clearly from somewhere points eastward...

...whilst Red-breasted Flycatcher and Dartford Warbler were nice list-fillers © Martin Cade:

13th October

As the drizzle slowly abated throughout the morning the birds began to move and the north end of the island provided a Treecreeper, the first Brambling of the autumn, 40+ Redwings, 5 Firecrests and a selection of other common migrants. Heading south a little a Whinchat at Weston Street and a Spotted Flycatcher at Thumb Lane were the highlights from the middle of the island. At the Bill, seawatching provided the most entertainment with singles of Sooty Shearwater and Curlew as well as four Arctic Skuas and five Bonxies. Once the weather had settled into a more bearable state, a report of a 'stint' at Ferrybridge prompted a quick visit that in fact yielded three Little Stints on top of the usual selection of Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Mediterranean Gulls and Sandwich Terns.

12th October

Whilst the rest of the country revelled in rare vagrants from the west and scarcities from the east, we were left swimming our way around a seemingly drowning island with only intermittent flocks of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs to maintain our levels of enthusiasm. Two pairs of jeans, two waterproof coats and a soaked pair of walking boots later and our migrant tally consisted of a scatter of 4 Firecrests, a Woodlark and a Merlin. Thankfully Ferrybridge provided some much needed variety and the lingering Black Brant, two Bar-tailed Godwits, a Black-tailed Godwit and nine Red-breasted Mergansers improved the day list exponentially.

11th October

The one positive we can take from today is that the weather was not quite as bad as was predicted, it only rained for most of the day not all. When the rain wasn't hampering our efforts the wind certainly did and therefore the tally of new land-based migrants amounted to one Redwing. The sea was fractionally more interesting with the constant presence of 650+ Gannets being joined by five Bonxies and a Manx Shearwater.

10th October

Still not a sniff of things getting beyond the entirely mundane - one day the wind will drop but that day wasn't today! Under a clearer sky visible passage was conspicuous with a steady trickle of flocks of Meadow Pipits and Linnets struggling through overhead, with a Woodlark over Pennsylvania Castle and 2 Merlins over the Bill the pick of the tag-alongs. Grounded migrants were pitifully few and far between with 2 Firecrests at Wakeham/Pennsylvania Castle easily the best. The brent flock has been building steadily on The Fleet and the winter's first Black Brant showed up amongst them at Ferrybridge this morning.

9th October

More of the same trying conditions but slightly more of interest on the bird front. A Wryneck trapped at the Obs was presumably the same individual that had been at the Coastguards for a couple of days but an early morning Richard's Pipit at the QinetiQ compound at the Bill was a surprise newcomer given the blasting westerlies. Visible passage of Swallows, Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and Linnets was again a feature, with the latter again getting up towards the 500 per hour mark at the Bill, whilst there were also again the odd single Merlins about; singles of Ring Ouzel at Kingbarrow Quarry and Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle were as good as it got for less frequent migrants on the ground. Sea passage has been disappointingly slow this week, with 2 each of Great and Arctic Skuas, and singles of Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters the best that could be mustered at the Bill.

With tricky access to the haunts of the Wryneck of the last couple of days we couldn't be sure that it had moved but it seems pretty likely that today's bird trapped a few hundred metres away at the Obs was the same individual © Martin Cade:

8th October

There might be a mouth-watering selection of American vagrants making it to Ireland but the constant westerly battering is doing us no good at all. Two passing Woodlarks were a minor highlight amongst a decent diurnal movement over the Bill that also included more than 530 Linnets in 80 minutes and a single Merlin. Grounded nocturnal arrivals though were really poorly represented, with the Wryneck still present at the Coastguard Cottages and a Firecrest at Avalanche Road but precious little by way of routine newcomers. Despite the strength of the wind the only worthwhile reports from the sea were of 2 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

We had an interesting visit today from local resident Brian Keel who brought us photos and video of a praying mantis he'd found last week in a summerhouse in his garden near Easton. We're not sure whether any of the mantids are able to survive at liberty in the UK in the manner of, for example, stick insects in the West Country but it'll be worth keeping an eye out for them © Brian Keel:

7th October

As we watched the rain clouds continuously forming just to our west it seemed as if we were never going to get out in the field. A brief respite in the late morning allowed an excursion across the island, however, this was relatively fruitless and a Little Egret on the east cliffs, a Redwing flushed from the garden and a Reed Bunting in the crown fields were the limited highlights. As the light began to dim a final push before the last rain shower of the day provided an as-of-yet unidentified bunting and a Wryneck in the hut fields. Who knows what tomorrow will bring...

Very much a record shot as the light was fading, the Wryneck in the huts put on a very brief display and never showing its right leg... © Erin Taylor:

6th October

Once more unto the west the wind went and our frustratingly quiet days continued. A Merlin harassing the moderate pipit passage was joined by a Short-eared Owl being harassed by the rather colossal gull flock. Pied Wagtails put in an impressive show with 125 across the bill area and Meadow Pipits were conspicuous once again, but other migrants were thin on the ground.

Although it's still relatively early in the season for them, migrant Short-eared Owls have been in pretty short supply so far this autumn; this one came in at the Bill this morning but it was made to work really hard: it was first spotted off East Cliffs but was constantly beaten back offshore by the local gulls - it took over an hour of repeated attempts to make landfall before it reached its goal © Ken King:

5th October

A quick breather before the westerlies begin once more saw a relatively calm day at Portland as a gentle northerly, swinging to south easterly dominated the day. The land saw another decent passage of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps with the former making up a third of the day's ringing totals. A rather tardy Swift caused a ripple of excitement in the early evening but otherwise two Spotted Flycatchers, four Firecrests, five Reed Buntings and the first Great Spotted Woodpecker of the autumn were the highlights of the day. The sea was a hive of activity early on with 65 Balearic Shearwaters through in quick succession, accompanied by a Red-throated Diver, two Sandwich Terns and a lingering flock of 50 Mediterranean Gulls.

Chiffchaffs were in quantity literally everywhere - the clumps of still leafy trees were favoured but even sub-optimal spots held a few © JR Norris:

We've had no time to go through our own nocturnal recording attempts just lately so it's good that Nick Hopper is still able to make the occasional foray over to the Bill on what look like being the more promising nights. Nick's last session was on the night of 2nd/3rd October when the stand-out highlight was a Bittern; also logged were:

Ring Ouzel

Redwing 2

Song Thrush 52


Tree Pipit 3

Spotted Flycatcher 2

alba Wagtail

Meadow Pipit 4



Dunlin 2

Ringed Plover

Sandwich Tern flock

Black-headed Gull

4th October

As the wind swung back round into a seemingly unending westerly, the tallies of migrants took a nose-dive once again. Highlights on the passerine front were largely limited to those found in the nets including two Spotted Flycatchers and a Reed Warbler, the only exception was a Redwing sighted at Ferrybridge. The sea was deathly quiet with singles of both Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua the only birds recorded through the day. On a more positive note, the first triple figure count of Brent Geese at Ferrybridge for the autumn was noteworthy.

3rd October

A change in wind direction saw a reduction in the numbers of birds present, although quantity was replaced by some limited quality with a couple of firsts for the season. The main highlight on the passerine front was the first two Redwings of the autumn flushed from Culverwell in the early morning, otherwise a Grasshopper Warbler in Coombefield Quarry, four Spotted Flycatchers across the southern end of the island and a Firecrest at the obs were about all we could muster. On the non-passerine front the sea provided much of the action but a Golden Plover on the East-cliffs was the first for the autumn. An entire day of sea-watching provided 18 Arctic Skuas, 62 Common Scoters and a lone Sandwich Tern.

Smart birds at all times of the year, the grey wagtail total reached just four for the day... ©Nick Stantiford:

2nd October

Usually it'll be a rarity that makes a day at this time of year but sometimes - like today - there's just so much about that the absence a rare almost goes unnoticed. The first really quiet weather conditions for ages coupled with the first really chilly dawn of the autumn saw a conspicuous push of migrants everywhere. Meadow Pipits, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Linnets made up the bulk of the numbers with totals of well into the hundreds of each through the island as a whole; even scare-ish migrants were few and far between though, with 4 Firecrests, a Merlin and a Grasshopper Warbler the best on offer at the Bill. House Martins won out overhead, with a strong northbound movement along West Cliffs where Swallows and Meadow Pipits were also moving in quantity.

1st October

Yesterday's excesses quickly faded from memory as a blustery westerly pushed through a series of early squally showers that reduced visible passage to a minor trickle of Swallows and Meadow Pipits amongst which at least 2 Merlins tagged along; an Osprey also snuck through overhead at Ferrybridge. It was barely busier on the ground where 3 Firecrests were the best on offer at the Bill. What was poor for passerines was a better for seabirds, with 41 Balearic Shearwaters, 12 Arctic Skuas, 6 Sandwich Terns, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Great Skuas, 2 Manx Shearwaters and a Grey Plover through off the Bill.

A Grass Webworm Herpetogramma licarsisalis - the first Portland record - first trapped but not secured at the Obs overnight Sunday/Monday was re-caught soon after dusk last night.

The Grass Webworm saga was a memorably stressful little event that could easily have ended in tears. When we got around to doing the Obs moth-traps yesterday morning we'd just been inspired by a Twitter message reporting that a Grass Webworm had been trapped overnight on Scilly. We had what turned out to be an entirely erroneous mental image of the species as being something as big as a Mother of Pearl so when we saw this spread-winged shape amongst all the slightly smaller Rusty-dot Pearls on the underside of the Perspex lid of one of the traps we weren't sure what it was but didn't immediately think of Grass Webworm:

What followed was a comedy of errors when the moth twice dropped into the bowels of the trap only to suddenly whizz straight out when we risked removing the cone; after briefly settling in full view it then shot off again and disappeared deep into an ivy clump next to the trap. We still weren't certain what it was that we'd seen and were further confused on checking the UK Moths website to find a photo of an individual with a resting posture more like that of a Rusty-dot Pearl. As the day went on it became clear from images of, for example, another one trapped overnight in Dorset that we really had seen a Grass Webworm but that, without a specimen, it certainly wasn't claimable. Fortunately, all's well that ends well and soon after dusk last night what was most likely the same individual was re-caught in the same trap:

Our specimen was alarmingly skittish but we did eventually get a photo of it close to a Rusty-dot Pearl to give an idea of their relative sizes © Martin Cade: