May 2000

    May 31st There was little of interest anywhere today. A single Spotted Flycatcher at the Obs. was virtually the only new migrant on the land; whilst the sea, with just single Pomarine and Arctic Skuas off the Bill in the evening, was hardly better. May 30th Persistent drizzle put the block on birding for most of the day, and the best birds logged were a Reed Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher at the Obs., and a Storm Petrel and a small evening movement of Manx Shearwaters off the Bill. May 29th A ridge of high pressure improved the weather and migrants were a little more conspicuous than for many days. At the Bill, where the highlight was a Tree Sparrow at the Obs., counts included 8 Spotted Flycatchers and 7 Reed Warblers, as well as singles of Whinchat and Sedge Warbler; lower numbers of the same species were also reported from several other Island sites. Offshore, Manx Shearwaters again figured prominently, and there were also 7 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua, and 3 Storm Petrels. Two Purple Sandpipers were again on the shore at the Bill. May 28th The sea again provided most of the interest, with totals from the Bill of more than 100 Manx and the first Balearic Shearwater of the summer, 3 Arctic and 2 Great Skuas, and 2 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver. A lingering Purple Sandpiper was still on the shore at the Bill, and the handful of migrants on the land included 2 Turtle Doves at Southwell, and 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Reed Warbler at the Bill. May 27th More of the same today with no end to the wind and showers. Offshore there were 50 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Pomarine, 2 Great and an Arctic Skua, and 2 Red-throated Divers, whilst in the inclement conditions just 2 Reed Warblers and a Whimbrel were discovered at the Bill.  May 26th The third wet day in the last four saw no let-up in the recent dismal spell. On the land the one or two new migrants noted included singles of Yellow Wagtail, Blackcap and Willow Warbler, whilst off the Bill a lone Great Northern Diver and a few Manx Shearwaters were the best. May 25th Blustery westerly weather continued to dominate and as expected there was virtually nothing of note on the land. Off the Bill there were more than 100 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Common Scoter and 5 Arctic Skuas. May 24th Despite a more pleasant start today soon deteriorated into a repeat of yesterdays washout. Once again there were a few Spotted Flycatchers dotted about the Island, but the only other birds on the move were the hirundines that trickled in all morning. A Great Skua and a Storm Petrel were the only worthwhile birds logged off the Bill. At Ferrybridge wader passage seems to be tailing off: today saw counts of just 20 Dunlin and 4 Sanderling. May 23rd A miserable day which started unpleasantly blustery and ended up as a washout. On the land a few Spotted Flycatchers were seen before it rained. Off the Bill there was just a trickle of Manx Shearwaters and a single Great Skua. May 22nd Westerly weather continued to dominate and it remained very quiet. A handful of Spotted Flycatchers were dotted around the Island, but otherwise there were just singles of Yellow Wagtail, and Reed and Sedge Warbler. At the Bill, where there was a late Purple Sandpiper on the shore, 2 Storm Petrels in the morning were the only birds of note offshore. May 21st Despite less than ideal blustery north-westerly winds the sea provided virtually all the birds worth reporting. Over 100 Manx Shearwaters and 70 Common Scoter were logged off the Bill, along with 9 Knot, 3 Great Northern Divers, a Red-throated Diver, a Storm Petrel, and single Great and Pomarine Skuas. A Hobby at Fortuneswell was the only worthwhile migrant on the land.  May 20th A short-lived ridge of high pressure settled the weather and a handful more common migrants were discovered. About the Island as a whole there were 25 or more Spotted Flycatchers, as well as a few Yellow Wagtails, Whinchats and Reed Warblers, and a single Grasshopper Warblers. A lone Black Tern passed the Bill in the evening. May 19th No change in the weather or the birds today. A single Spotted Flycatcher was again the highlight on the land, and seawatching produced 2 Arctic and a Pomarine Skua. May 18th Blustery north-westerly weather rarely produces much at Portland, and today was no exception. On the land a single Spotted Flycatcher at the Obs. was just about the only bird of note, whilst offshore there were a few Manx Shearwaters and a lone Great Skua. May 17th A total change to blustery, much cooler, westerly weather did nothing to improve the situation for common migrants, which remained conspicuously few and far between everywhere. A lone 'green' Golden Oriole was seen in flight at Wakeham, but could not be relocated later. Surprisingly little was stirred-up offshore: off the Bill the only birds of note were a trickle of Manx Shearwaters, single Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, and a Great Skua. May 16th The Fan-tailed Warbler remained overnight but was much more difficult to pin down as it ranged between the Bill and Culverwell for the first few hours of the day; it finally left to the north around mid-morning and was not relocated. After another foggy night very few common migrants arrived and a lone Hobby was the only bird of note discovered later in the day.  

Fan-tailed Warbler © Alan Tate

  May 15th Dense fog continued to shroud the Island from dawn and it was soon evident that virtually no new migrants had arrived overnight. However, no sooner had the sun started to burn off the fog than a Fan-tailed Warbler was seen seemingly arriving in off the sea. It later settled and showed well between the Pulpit Pub and the Lower Admiralty compound, before moving to Culverwell in the evening. A 'green' Golden Oriole was also trapped and ringed at the Obs. as the fog cleared. May 14th With swirling sea-fog lingering all day, at least at the Bill, today was the quietest day for a long time. The only migrants of note were a Turtle Dove and yesterdays Firecrest still present at the Obs.  May 13th Neither of the rarities reported today stayed around to please the weekend visitors: a Hoopoe flew north past one observer at the Grove, and a Bee-eater was spotted from the car of another birder driving down the Bill Road. A small flurry of late migrants in early morning fog at the Bill included 3 Redpolls, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Firecrest and a Pied Flycatcher, and later a couple of Hobbies were seen. With limited visibility the sea produced just 3 Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver, and a single Great Skua May 12th With the bulk of spring migrants having seemingly passed through, the emphasis appears to be switching to variety rather than numbers. A brief Red-throated Pipit at Weston was the highlight of the day, although this was almost matched in local rarity terms by the Stone Curlew that showed up for a little longer in Top Fields. On the land migrants included 3 Hobbies, a Turtle Dove and a late Redpoll at the Bill. Off the Bill seawatching produced 80 commic Terns,11 Pomarine and 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Storm Petrels and a Little Egret. At Ferrybridge 40 Sanderlings represented the highest count of the species so far this spring. May 11th A subtle change in the weather, with stronger easterly winds and more overcast skies, resulted in a much better day for birds. At the Obs. an apparent Iberian Chiffchaff was trapped and ringed in the early afternoon. This bird was not heard calling or singing but showed many of the in-hand features and biometrics of the species. Later in the afternoon 2 separate Honey Buzzards arrived in off the sea at the Bill. On the land Spotted Flycatchers were conspicuous: 20 were trapped at the Obs. and more than 50 were present around the Bill area. Other migrants included a Wood Warbler at the Obs., several Turtle Doves at the Bill, and good numbers of Swifts and hirundines passing through. May 10th Another hazy, hot day saw two good raptors reported: a Black Kite just clipped the north-west corner of the Island en route to the mainland, and a Montagu's Harrier appeared overhead at Ferrybridge. Land and sea were otherwise very quiet, with no particularly noteworthy migrants save for a Little Stint and 10 Black Terns at Ferrybridge. May 9th Little change in the weather and little change in the birds. Again very few common migrants arrived overnight and seawatching continued to be thwarted by poor visibility. A lone Serin put in two brief appearances at Culverwell, there were 4 Wood Warblers at sites between Southwell and Weston, and a late Ring Ouzel was in the Top Fields. Offshore the highlight was the first Storm Petrel of the year at the Bill in the evening. May 8th Despite there being no obvious change in the prevailing hot, humid weather, today was a considerable anticlimax. The Wryneck and Woodchat Shrike had both moved on overnight and unfortunately nothing of note arrived in their place. Swifts and hirundines continued to pass through in high numbers, but otherwise common migrants were still scarce, with the best being 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove and a Black Redstart. Morning seawatching was hampered by poor visibility, but in the evening a selection of waders, including 30 Whimbrel, were seen off Chesil Beach. May 7th With the hot weather continuing this was another day that came up with the goods, at least in terms of the rarities and sea passage recorded. A Woodchat Shrike was a new arrival in the Top Fields, the Wryneck at the Obs. Quarry continued to please the crowds, and an Iceland Gull commuted between Ferrybridge and the Bill. Less settled were a fly-over female Montagu's Harrier, a Ring-necked Parakeet, a Nightjar and a Tree Sparrow at the Bill, and one or more flighty Golden Orioles reported from several sites. Common migrants were thin on the ground everywhere, but included 2 Wood Warblers at the Obs. The Chesil Beach was the place to seawatch: here there were 800 commic and 169 Black Terns, as well as 6 Little Gulls; the Bill, with just a trickle of commic Terns and 4 Arctic Skuas, was poor in comparison. May 6th Expectations were high following the arrival of very warm weather but this proved to be a day when most of the rarities seen were on the move, and only seen by their lucky finders. The Wryneck at the Obs. Quarry continued to show well all day, but less obliging were a Bee-eater heard over the East Weares, at least 1 Golden Oriole in the same area, and a Honey Buzzard passing through along the West Cliffs. Migrant numbers, with the exception of hirundines, were considerably lower than yesterday, although most of the same species were still represented; scarcer migrants recorded included 2 Black Redstarts and a Firecrest at the Bill, and at least 3 Hobbies. Hirundines streamed through all day: conservative estimates put Swallow numbers alone at 7500. The sea was productive, with the Chesil Beach predictably doing well in the very hazy conditions: here there were 38 Black and a Roseate Tern, whilst the Bill provided 90 Common Scoter, 12 Black Terns, 12 Little Gulls, a Great Northern Diver and a few waders. May 5th A classic Portland spring day. Under an overcast sky at dawn it soon became apparent that there had been a major fall of migrants: Swifts were arriving in numbers off the sea, and the Bill was alive with a variety of common migrants - many flying straight through into the strong north-east wind. The total of 220 new birds trapped and ringed at the Obs spoke volumes for this sudden rush of birds after a long relatively barren spell for common migrants. Day totals for the Bill area were difficult to estimate with so many birds not lingering but included minimums of 750 Swifts, 500 Willow Warblers, 80 Whinchat, 80 Garden Warblers, 75 Spotted Flycatchers, 50 Whitethroats, 15 Pied Flycatchers, 20 Tree Pipits, 15 Sedge Warblers, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Turtle Doves, 5 Wood Warblers, 4 Redstarts, 3 Reed Warblers, 3 Cuckoos and a Nightingale. Rarity interest was maintained with 3 Serins, including 2 males together at the Obs, and the rediscovery of yesterdays Wryneck which eventually showed well at the Obs. Quarry once the weather improved in the afternoon. May 4th The recent run of interest continued with the discovery of a short-stay Wryneck during the morning at the Bill Quarry, and another Serin during the afternoon near the Eight Kings Quarry. Most common migrants were represented, albeit generally still in lowish numbers; Swifts were an exception, being logged passing through in good supply all day. A single Pied Flycatcher was at the Obs, a lone Wood Warbler at Verne Common and at least a couple of Hobbies ranging widely. Off shore passage included a good variety of waders, including 5 Black-tailed Godwits, off Chesil Beach in the morning, and a Little Egret and single Pomarine and Arctic Skuas. May 3rd There were conspicuously fewer migrants about today, but the rarity interest was maintained at the Obs. where there was another fly-by Serin, and, in the nick of time in the evening, a sub-adult  male Golden Oriole which was found trapped in one of the mist-nets. Commoner migrants included 2 Wood Warblers at the Obs. and a Black Redstart on the East Cliffs, as well as a trickle of Swifts passing through all day. At sea, day totals off the Bill included 100 Bar-tailed Godwits, 20 Dunlin, 2 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, and a Grey Plover.  

Golden Oriole © Martin Cade

  May 2nd At long last a decent spring day with migrants, seabirds and rarities. The now daily flurry of Serins continued with several sightings at the Bill and Southwell, but much more exciting was a Short-toed Lark which showed well on the slopes above the Lower Admiralty during the morning. A Woodchat Shrike was reported briefly near the Pulpit Pub in the afternoon. Numbers of common migrants picked up markedly across the Island. At the Obs the 45 birds ringed included both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, and the Bill area in general was much busier, with Whinchats and Wheatears especially prominent. Elsewhere 2 Hobbies passed through at Weston. Off the Bill, sea watching totals included 113 Bar-tailed Godwits, 11 Pomarine and 1 Arctic Skua, 3 Knot and a Great Northern Diver.  

Short-toed Lark © Peter Coe

  May 1st With the settled weather continuing most common migrants were again at a premium. Hirundines were conspicuous all day, and there were 2 Hobbies, a Turtle Dove and a Wood Warbler at the Bill. One or more Serins continued to be seen occasionally anywhere between the Bill and Southwell. Sea passage was still rather disappointing: at the Bill 400 Bar-tailed Godwits passed but there were just single Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, whilst off Chesil Beach 5 Pomarine Skuas were counted along with a variety a waders. At Ferrybridge Little Terns now numbered nearly 100.