21st February

Yet another blustery day with little to add to the year list. 12 Purple Sandpipers were present on the ledges by the pulpit and a single Red-throated Diver was sighted during the morning seawatch.

20th February

A reminder that there's an InFocus field day at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 22nd February.

An impressively miserable morning melted away into a clear, albeit windy, afternoon. Once more, attention was paid primarily to the upkeep of the buildings and therefore the list from the Bill remained much the same as in recent days with 20 Common Scoter settled offshore and a lone Red-throated Diver through. The Harbour was still worth a look with 3 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Common Scoter, a Red-throated Diver and 2 Great Northern Divers visible in the testing conditions, whilst elsewhere singles of Goldcrest and Firecrest remained at Pennsylvania Castle.

Ravens are such a familiar sight at the Bill these days © Martin King:

19th February

A truly appreciated gap in the wind (for the foreseeable future if the forecast is to be believed), allowed for some fruitless searches for early migrants. The day tallies amounted to little more than in recent days with six Red-throated Divers, a single Brent Goose and 20 Common Scoter on the sea with the lingering Firecrest remaining in the garden.

18th February

The grim times continued with nothing much more than 5 Turnstones and a Grey Wagtail at the Bill and 3 Common Scoter and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour to show for the few that took the trouble to struggle through today's wind and heavy showers.

17th February

The deluge of rain of the weekend might have subsided but it remained far too windy for most fieldwork and the day's only report was of 2 Firecrests still at Pennsylvania Castle.

16th February

Very little in the way of news today. A brief moment of excitement (before either of the staff had ventured out of their beds) was an unidentified Skua sp. but the rest of the seawatch proved to be unproductive.

15th February

As Storm Dennis approached, there was little more to do than watch the sea as it swam in and out of view in ever worsening drizzle. The highlight was a Bonxie, first seen heading east then back west, but additions thereafter were thin on the ground. The usual fare included three Red-throated Divers, 33 Common Scoter and three Mediterranean Gulls.

It was the sort of day that drives you to cleaning and decorating © Erin Taylor:


14th February

A substantial drop in the wind brought a few familiar faces back through our doors for the first time this season. The change also saw the return of the Obs Firecrest, as well as the first Eider past the Bill this year and a good passage of Common Gulls. The rest of the morning's seawatch proved to be very quiet with just one Red-throated Diver and 25 Common Scoter. Elsewhere, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs were still at Southwell.

13th February

The winter winds howled on and the day's list looked suitably sad. Twelve Purple Sandpipers were present near the obelisk, along with a lone Turnstone. A Short-eared Owl cropped up at Southwell where the long-staying singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff were still present. The north end of the island was equally poor with 150 Brent Geese, four Black-necked Grebes and a single Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

12th February

The wind of recent days finally abated but what little fieldwork there was returned no surprises, with 25 Common Scoter still off the Bill, 4 Purple Sandpipers still on the shore there and single Firecrests still at the Obs and Pennsylvania Castle.

Every now and again a quirky little detail crops up amongst the often rather mundane/expected life histories and movements revealed from all the colour-ring readings of gulls in the area. We were particularly taken by the details relating to this Herring Gull that Debby Saunders kindly sent through to us: the bird was at Ferrybridge yesterday morning and it turns out that it was ringed in August 2010 after rehabilitation at the RSPCA Wildlife Centre at West Hatch; it had originally been found oiled at Weymouth Marina in July of that year and, until yesterday, there'd only been one subsequent sighting of it at Arlingham on the River Severn in December 2018 © Debby Saunders:


Based purely on how difficult it is to see a live animal on Portland (we only saw our first earlier this winter) we've always imagined that Badgers must be pretty uncommon here but the frequency with which road casualties crop up - this one was on the Bill Road this morning - maybe suggests otherwise © John Lucas

11th February

Another blustery but clear day saw a good passage of Fulmars early on, resulting in a count of 48 birds west. A Sandwich Tern, first sighted in the Radipole car park, made its way into the recording area by the early afternoon. The rest of the harbour contained a minimum of four Great Northern Divers, along with a single Black-necked Grebe. Passerines were slightly better represented than in recent days with two Firecrests in Penn's Wood and Five Long-tailed Tits, one Blackcap and one Chiffchaff in Southwell.

The Rosemary in Southwell seems to be a particular favourite of late... © Debby Saunders:

10th February

A pleasant break from the howling gales in the early morning was short-lived, and the wind returned again in the afternoon bringing squally showers and a drop in temperature. The harbour was the place to be during the brief calmer spell and 14 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers as well as singles of Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver and Common Scoter were recorded. Elsewhere, Penn Castle woods saw 3 Firecrests and the Bill Common Scoter flock reached 25.

With the winds as strong as they have been, the harbour's wildlife has been blown into unusually confiding areas. Today's intrepid birders were treated to some excellent views, not least the brilliant red eyes of one of our resident Black-necked Grebes © Pete Saunders:




9th February

With the onset of Storm Ciara over night there was little anyone could do in the way of birding. Besides the obvious (incredibly high wind speeds and driving rain) the visibility remained poor for most of the day. The only true pluviophiles proved to be the Fulmars with upwards of 20 birds circling and wheeling above the huge swell.

8th February

A glorious winter's day saw a flurry of activity, mostly centred at the northern end of the island, with Ferrybridge counts including 187 Dunlin, 250 Mediterranean Gulls and 60 Brent Geese. The harbour held singles of Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe; while the Bill seawatch maintained its steady course with 10 Red-throated Divers and 24 Common Scoter.

The panoply of avian life at Ferrybridge brought in by the recent high tides made for quite a spectacle © Pete Saunders:  


At first glance thought likely to be a Caspian Gull, closer inspection of this bird at Ferrybridge showed it to be at best of uncertain parentage © Joe Stockwell:

7th February

A second day of suitable conditions saw another small pulse of early sea passage offshore, with 38 Black-headed Gulls, 19 Wigeon, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and 3 Shelduck through off Chesil and 20 Brent Geese, 10 Red-throated Divers, 9 Teal, 5 Shelduck and a Black-throated Diver through off the Bill. The only other report was of a solitary Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour.

6th February

The day started overcast and breezy but by the afternoon the sun was shining in a clear-blue sky. Another quiet day for birds was spent giving some much needed attention to the pond (where else could the Citrine Wagtail turn up in the spring?). The morning's Bill sea watch provided little more than five Red-throated Divers and a small subset of the wintering Common Scoter flock. The harbour saw singles of Great Northern Diver and Eider, whilst the first Chesil seawatch of the spring came up with 3 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers.

The perfect time of year to spend a bit of quality time with some of our less appreciated avian life, the Dunlins of Ferrybridge © Roy Norris:



5th February

High pressure and a drop in the wind saw a beautiful, still but chilly day. The rate of Red-throated Diver passage remained much the same as the past few days but the addition of a Firecrest in the Obs garden made up for the slightly reduced Purple Sandpiper numbers. Elsewhere, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs were at Southwell.

A couple of the wintering residents in the gardens of southwell… © Pete Saunders:



One of our regular contributors has decided to sell his trusty Canon 7D and 300F4, hopefully to a young and aspiring ornithologist, for the bargain price of £400. If you are interested please feel free to contact the obs on obs@btinternet.com and we'll send you in the right direction.

4th February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 40, Purple Sandpiper 11, Red-throated Diver 5.
Portland Harbour: Red-breasted Merganser 128, Black-necked Grebe 17, Great Northern Diver 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Slavonian Grebe 1, Canada Goose 1.

3rd February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 25, Red-throated Diver 4.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 4.

2nd February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 40, Red-throated Diver 4, Black-headed Gull 4.

1st February

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 27.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 2, Blackcap 1.

31st January

Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 1.

30th January

Portland Bill: Brent Goose 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 1.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Brent Goose 54.

Great Northern Divers are still showing up close inshore off Portland Castle © Pete Saunders:


29th January

Portland Bill: auk spp c10,000, Common Scoter 28, Purple Sandpiper 12, Turnstone 5, Red-throated Diver 3, Snipe 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 4.

28th January

Nothing of any note reported today!

27th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 4.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 3, Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 2.
Ferrybridge: Bar-tailed Godwit 1.

26th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 20, Black-throated Diver 1.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart 1.
Ferrybridge: Brent Goose 70, Bar-tailed Godwit 1.

25th January

Portland Bill: Purple Sandpiper 10, Red-throated Diver 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 2.

24th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 39, Purple Sandpiper 8, Red-throated Diver 5, Firecrest 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 2.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 1.
Ferrybridge: Mediterranean Gull 900, Brent Goose 126.

23rd January

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 25th January.

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 18, Red-throated Diver 6.
Fortuneswell: Black Redstart 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-throated Diver 1.

Red-throated Diver off the Bill this morning © Keith Pritchard:


22nd January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c30, Red-throated Diver 9, Turnstone 5, Brent Goose 4.
Southwell: Goshawk 1 probable north.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 6, Great Northern Diver 1, Eider 1, Common Scoter 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 140.

21st January

Portland Bill: Purple Sandpiper 12, Red-throated Diver 8, Pintail 5; also at least 7 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.
Pennsylvania Castle area: Firecrest 4, Chiffchaff 1.
Portland Harbour: Eider 2.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 72, Egyptian Goose 22, Ringed Plover 19, Shelduck 4.

We shouldn't really be making a fuss about Egyptian Geese since they fall into that dodgy introduction category alongside Pheasants, Large Blues and Beavers but as there isn't much indigenous wildlife to report at the moment we can trumpet a new Portland record total: this morning's flock of 22 over Ferrybridge break one of the longer-standing island records of 10 at the same place on 10th July 1978. The 1978 record was rather baffling since at that time Egyptian Goose wasn't really established anywhere near Dorset (in fact it was the first county record in the modern era) but latterly they've spread into the county and we guess that today's birds strayed from somewhere like Warmwell or the Avon Valley © Pete Saunders:



20th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c30, Red-throated Diver 17, Snipe 1, Firecrest 1; also at least 4 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.
Southwell: Blackcap 2.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 15, Great Northern Diver 4, Slavonian Grebe 2, Eider 2, Black-throated Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 60.

The Portland Harbour selection - including these 2 Eider - has remained very samey since late December; despite perfect viewing conditions in recent days the Black Guillemot from earlier in the winter can't be found © Pete Saunders:


19th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 8, Brent Goose 2, Firecrest 1; also c6 Bottle-nosed Dolphins.

18th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c30, Purple Sandpiper 11, Red-throated Diver 3, Firecrest 1.
Southwell: Blackcap 3, Chiffchaff 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 6, Great Northern Diver 5, Eider 3, Black-throated Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 80.

With only one other sighting this month at the site it looks like today's little arrival of three Blackcaps at Sweethill represented a movement from further afield than just adjacent gardens © Debby Saunders:



It was a lovely bright day to get amongst a few of the regulars; Chiffchaff at Sweethill © Debby Saunders...


...Common Buzzard at Sweethill and Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders...



...Purple Sandpiper at the Bill © JR Norris...


...and Short-eared Owls at the Bill © Martin Cade:

17th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c40, Red-throated Diver 2, Firecrest 1.
East Weare: Chiffchaff 3.

16th January

A shocker of a day - not a single sighting logged on the day-sheet at the Obs!

15th January

Portland Bill: auk spp well in excess of 50,000 (sample counted only but the feeling was that the true total could easily have been as many as 100,000), Common Scoter 18.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart 2.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 4, Black-necked Grebe 3, Eider 2, Black-throated Diver 1.
Ferrybridge: Brent Goose 118.

Black-necked Grebes have been ever present in Portland Harbour this winter but their behaviour seems to have changed from what we're usually accustomed to: in the past you'd expect to see most if not all of them in a loose flock off Sandsfoot Castle but this winter they've been spread far and wide in much smaller groups - these two were off Billy Winters this morning © Pete Saunders:


Moth interest has been hovering between the minimal and the non-existent for most of the winter, to the extent that a few days ago we tasked Matt Ames with finding us a female Winter Moth in the Obs garden...he's up for that sort of thing!. Male Winter Moths are very routine mid-winter visitors to lighted windows at the Obs but seem to be oddly scarce elsewhere on the island (are they really or is it just that nobody looks for them/reports them?); females on the other hand need a bit of searching for and we hadn't bothered for many years. It took Matt a while but he came up with the goods for us; here's a male...


...and a female © Martin Cade:


14th January

Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 2.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Black-necked Grebe 1.

13th January

Portland Bill: auk spp c30000/hour early morning, Red-throated Diver 3.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 1.
Ferrybridge: Turnstone 16.
Portland Harbour: Eider 1.

Some of the Turnstones at Ferrybridge this morning (the count of 16 was the highest there since last autumn) © Debby Saunders:


As seems to have become customary at this time of year there are now very few large gulls loitering on the fields at the Bill so ring-readings have dwindled; however, there are usually a few small gulls to keep an eye on at Ferrybridge - this Black-headed Gull there yesterday was first ringed (as an adult male) in a breeding colony in north-east Germany in May 2013 and has spent most winters since then in the Weymouth/Portland area © Debby Saunders:


12th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 25, Purple Sandpiper 4, Red-throated Diver 2, Great Skua 1.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 3, Black-throated Diver 2.

Long-tailed Tit at Southwell today © Pete Saunders:




11th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 210, Red-throated Diver 7, Purple Sandpiper 7, Firecrest 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 3, Chiffchaf 1.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 3.

10th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 5, Purple Sandpiper 1, Wryneck 1.
Pennsylvania Castle area: Firecrest 2, Chiffchaff 1.

9th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter c50, Purple Sandpiper 9, Red-throated Diver 2, Pomarine Skua 1, Black Redstart 1.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 5, Great Northern Diver 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Eider 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 135.

One of the Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and one of the Purple Sandpipers at the Bill © Pete Saunders:



8th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 1.
Pennsylvania Castle area: Firecrest 2, Chiffchaff 1.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart 2.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 10, Great Northern Diver 3, Shelduck 3, Eider 2, Pale-bellied Brent Goose 1, Common Scoter 1.
Ferrybridge: Curlew 7, Pale-bellied Brent Goose 1.

The Grey Heron continues to patrol the garden ponds of Southwell © Debby Saunders:


7th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 2, Bottle-nosed Dolphin 1.
Pennsylvania Castle/Wakeham: Firecrest 3.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 2, Sandwich Tern 1.

6th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 2, Blackcap 1.
Portland Harbour: Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 2, Pale-bellied Brent Goose 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 46, Ringed Plover 33, Arctic Skua 1.

5th January

Portland Bill: Red-throated Diver 9, Purple Sandpiper 8, Great Northern Diver 1, Blackcap 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Firecrest 4 Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Goldcrest 1.
Blacknor: Black Redstart 1.
Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge: Black-necked Grebe 8, Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Pale-bellied Brent Goose 1.

It won't be lost on regular visitors to the blog that our abilities to find something to write about nothing in particular have finally been defeated by the current samey nature of the birding and we've reverted to a simple list of sightings - the narrative will return just as soon as things pick up!

Eider and Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:


4th January

Portland Bill: Common Scoter 49, Red-throated Diver 2, Pale-bellied Brent Goose 1, Blackcap 1.
Pennsylvania Castle: Chiffchaff 2, Firecrest 1.
Bumpers Lane: Firecrest 1.
Chesil Cove: Black Redstart1.
Portland Harbour: Black-necked Grebe 6, Great Northern Diver 2, Eider 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Slavonian Grebe 1, Common Scoter 1.

3rd January

Chillier but eventually brighter today after a weather front had passed through overnight. Merlin, Snipe and Great Skua all put in first appearances of the year at the Bill, where 10 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver also passed by on the sea and 10 Purple Sandpipers, the 2 Firecrests and the Blackcap were about on the land.

Although mild for a good part of the night it was way too windy to have expected much in the moth-traps - a lone Rusty-dot Pearl was all that made it into the Obs traps.

Long-tailed Tits seem to really numerous everywhere this winter, with it being suggested by some of the locals that there may well be more than 100 across the island as a whole; this group were visiting a feeder at Wakeham this afternoon © Martin Cade:


2nd January

The recent run of unexpected waterfowl continued with 2 Gadwall and a Shoveler through off the Bill; 16 Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver and Eider also passed by, whilst c70 Common Scoter remained offshore. The day's other odds and ends included 7 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Firecrests and a Blackcap at the Bill and singles of Eider and Common Scoter along with the usual divers and grebes in Portland Harbour.

A Red Admiral was a surprise overnight catch in one of the Obs garden moth-traps.

Not the sort of wildfowl scarcities that we're very interested in: these two Muscovy Ducks originate from Fancy's Farm but they've been at liberty for some months and are currently waddling about at Victoria Square © Debby Saunders:


The Portland Harbour Eider © Pete Saunders...


...and a Great Crested Grebe and Great Northern Diver from Ferrybridge and the harbour © Debby Saunders:



The moth-trap Red Admiral - as far as we can recollect, the first time we've ever caught a butterfly in the traps in mid-winter  © Martin Cade:

1st January 2020

The new year begun much as last year had finished: 7 Red-throated Divers, 4 Teal and a Shelduck through off the Bill, the Blackcap still at the Obs, a Mallard at Reap Lane, a Firecrest at Chesil Cove, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and an Eider in Portland Harbour and 4 Shelducks at Ferrybridge.

The only immigrant moth interest came in the form of a Rusty-dot Pearl settled on the Obs front door in the early hours.

The wintering Grey Heron was again at Southwell today...


...and the same garden has been hosting another slightly out of the ordinary visitor: this Common Buzzard has taken a liking to perching on a children's swing just lately © Nick Stantiford:


A Kingfisher providing a nice splash of colour along the Portland Harbour shore today © Joe Stockwell:


The super abundance of Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge still never ceases to amaze - this was a small part of yesterday's tally of 860 there © Pete Saunders:


The lighted glass in the Obs front door is often more productive than the moth-traps at this time of year - this Rusty-dot Pearl joined the throng of Winter Moths in the early hours © Martin Cade: