31st December

A very crisp dawn today but thereafter it was perfect winter birding conditions all the way. Rook is hardly a big deal bird on the mainland but 3 today at Barleycrates Lane were an unusual mid-winter sight for the island; 2 Redwings at Weston and a Fieldfare at the Bill (along with a Snipe heard calling overhead there after dark) were pretty well expected arrivals given the current low temperatures. Run of the mill fare included a Bonxie still lingering off the Bill, 2 Red-throated Divers also through there and 3 Redpolls, 2 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Black Redstarts on the land. The 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs at Southwell were joined by the first Goldcrest there for a while, with another Blackcap - along with a Black Redstart - at Weston. The Rosy Starling was again at Easton, Black-necked Grebes increased a little to 12 at Portland Harbour, where the 2 Black-throated Divers and single Red-necked Grebe were still about.

There's always plenty of bug action on and around Tree Mallows to help keep the Southwell Chiffchaffs sustained © Pete Saunders:

So, the curtain falls on what's surely been the most peculiar year in PBO's history.

Sadly, the fact that 2020 will live long in the memory had rather less to do with the quality of the natural history on offer than the uniquely disruptive circumstances associated with the ongoing global pandemic. In terms of the effects of this event on recording, we escaped lightly: thanks in no small measure to the efforts of a hard core of local residents the daily census was maintained throughout; whilst, during the spring at least, the two staff members had the rare pleasure of undertaking the entirety of the ringing programme themselves – every cloud has a silver lining! The losers were our guests: with the Observatory entirely closed for the bulk of the spring migration period and only partially open for the rest of the year, many of our stalwart regulars had to forgo their annual visits – we really felt for them and can only hope that some semblance of normality returns as 2021 unfolds.

Bird-wise, an autumn Arctic Redpoll – a wholly unexpected first for the island – was the year’s highlight, whilst a wonderful summer influx of Balearic Shearwaters brought with them the year’s big crowd-puller in the form of a putative Yelkouan Shearwater. A varied roll call of lesser rarities included a stunning dark-morph Montagu’s Harrier, 2 Red-footed Falcons, a Woodchat Shrike and a Blyth’s Reed Warbler in spring, half a dozen Rosy Starlings and another Blyth’s Reed Warbler during the summer and 4 Great Shearwaters, 2 Melodious Warblers and singles of Glossy Ibis, Kentish Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Olive-backed Pipit, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Radde’s Warbler amongst others through the autumn.

It was not a year of excesses on the common migrant front. The crystal-clear skies prevailing for the bulk of the spring saw to it that falls of summer visitors – usually such bread and butter events for us at this season – were almost non-existent, whilst the vagaries of the weather seemed again to conspire against us through the autumn when we missed out on, for example, the large arrivals of thrushes, Goldcrests and the like that were a feature elsewhere. All this said, few if any of these commoner migrants were seriously under-represented and some of the irruptive woodland finches, in particular Siskin, Redpoll and Crossbill, were logged in near record totals.

Nocmig sampling continued apace although frequently fell victim to the peculiar circumstances of the year:  analysis of the recordings takes quite a time and with staff engaged in covering activities often undertaken by our volunteers there often simply weren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in and a considerable backlog of recordings from both migration periods has accrued; nonetheless, loggings of 3 Stone Curlews, a Dotterel and a Quail from the spring and night in the autumn with a tally of 750 Tree Pipit calls were yet more examples of how fruitful this technique is proving.

The year’s ringing activities progressed steadily if largely unspectacularly, with only a seriously poor May – and that solely a result of weather conditions that never looked likely to be propitious – dragging the overall totals of some migrants down to a level a little below average. Arctic Redpoll and Great Grey Shrike were both ringed for the first time, whilst amongst the recoveries notified during the year news of a Portland-ringed Firecrest controlled in Poland – seemingly the first such movement resulting from UK ringing – was the stand-out highlight.

Lepidoptera provided some nice excitements, with the first British record of Rusty-shouldered Pug a fine reward from Debby Saunders' moth-trap; a Silver Barred was a new moth for Dorset, whilst another strong showing of Large Tortoiseshell butterflies included confirmation of breeding on the island – the first such record in Britain for many decades.

A big thanks to everyone who's helped us out through the year, be that in the form of legwork around the island, phone calls for scarcities, photos for the blog and all the other multitude of ways that go toward providing us with such fantastic support.

Finally, thanks also to our members for their continuing support: in this most challenging of years there’s nothing like being safe in the knowledge that we have such a strong support base - despite many of you being unable to visit us this year we really appreciate that you've stuck with us and we hope to see many of you in 2021.

30th December

In the light of today's announcement that Dorset has been upped a level and will be placed in Covid Restriction Tier 3 our accommodation will be closed from tomorrow until further notice. Our car park will remain open for local members wishing to walk at the Bill and toilet facilities will continue to be provided in the Annexe. Tier 3 regulations expressly forbid meeting indoors in all circumstances likely to apply to visitors to the Obs so please don't come indoors other than to use the toilet in the Annexe.

The chilly theme was maintained today, with millpond calm conditions a particular benefit for anyone taking a look at the harbour that returned totals that included 6 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Brent Geese (heading east overhead), 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers and singles of Red-throated Diver (also east overhead), Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe and Common Scoter; nearby, 3 Pale-bellied Brents were at Ferrybridge. Singles of Red-throated Diver and Brent Goose passed by off the Bill, the 3 Redpolls and a lone Black Redstart were still about on the land there, another Black Redstart was again at Blacknor, a Grey Heron passed over at Southwell and the bountiful rewards on offer in one garden at Sweethill tempted in 2 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff.

29th December

 A chilly but otherwise pretty decent day allowed for a fair bit of coverage. The good numbers of routine seabirds - including c20000 auks, c600 Kittiwakes and c300 Gannets - off the Bill continued and again had a Great Skua in attendance; the 2 Eider and 10 Common Scoter also remained there, with 5 Red-throated Divers and 3 Teal passing by. Also of interest at the Bill was an increase/return of Purple Sandpipers, with 9 on the shore along with 5 Turnstones. Elsewhere, the wintering Chiffchaff was again at Southwell, 15 Razorbills, 4 Gannets and the Red-necked Grebe were in Portland Harbour and 94 Brent Geese, 60 Dunlin and a Great Northern Diver were at Ferrybridge.

The Ferrybridge Great Northern Diver...

...and the Southwell Chiffchaff © Pete Saunders:

28th December

Just a few odds and ends from the Bill today: 3 Red-throated Divers through offshore where the 12 Common Scoter, 2 Eider and 2 Great Skuas were knocking about all day; on the land, a Chiffchaff at the Obs was the first seen there for several weeks.

27th December

At the Bill, the aftermath of Storm Bella was no more eventful than the run up to it, with an utterly routine return of 4 Red-throated Divers, 12 Common Scoter and 2 Eider from the sea. A Purple Sandpiper was on the shore at the Bill (there seems only to be this lone bird present at the moment - with most attempts to find that drawing a blank!) and a Merlin was in Top Fields. Elsewhere, 2 Blackcaps were at Southwell, the Red-necked Grebe was still in Portland Harbour and a Curlew flew west over the harbour.

One of the two Blackcaps that look to be wintering at Southwell © Nick Stantiford:

26th December

The preamble to Storm Bella was sufficiently unpleasant that birding from shelter was the only possibility today. A Goosander through off the Bill was nice mid-winter record, with 3 Red-throated Divers also through and 2 Great Skuas lingering amongst the melee of feeding seabirds. Elsewhere, 8 Gannets were in Portland Harbour and 170 Dunlin represented their month peak at Ferrybridge.

25th December

Another decent day for some pre- or post-lunch coverage, with one or two minor surprises to show: a Merlin was the first for over a week so mightn't be the bird that had looked like it was set to winter; a Fieldfare was also new there, whilst extras included the 3 Redpolls and a Black Redstart still about, one of the Eider still settled offshore and 2 Red-throated Divers through on the sea. Elsewhere, the Red-necked Grebe was still in Portland Harbour and a Chiffchaff was at the Grove.

24th December

With much improved weather conditions affording the opportunity to get on with some urgent outdoor jobs the only reports from the Bill were of 4 Red-throated Divers through on the sea and the 3 Redpolls still about on the land. A Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour was the only report of particular note from elsewhere.

23rd December

It didn't take long for the wind increase again and rashes of nasty showers to set in. Two Great Skuas were an almost expected result off the Bill, with 6 Red-throated Divers also through and the 2 Eider still settled offshore; a white-winged gull that passed by during one spell of particularly unhelpful conditions sadly couldn't be clinched. The first Fieldfare for a while dropped in at Barleycrates Lane, whilst other snippets from the day included a Chiffchaff still at Southwell, a Great Northern Diver off Billy Winters and 2 Shelducks and the regular family of Pale-bellied Brent Geese still at Ferrybridge.

The Ferrybridge Pale-bellied Brents © Debby Saunders:

22nd December

A damp, dreary and extremely mild day. Despite the wind having dropped right out late in the night scrutiny of the land was pretty unrewarding and what few reports there were came from the water: the Red-necked Grebe and Iceland Gull were still in Portland Harbour and the 2 Eider and 10 Common Scoter were still off the Bill.

Portland Harbour was like a millpond and in between spells of iffy visibility both the Red-necked Grebe and Iceland Gull were going about their business © Joe Stockwell:

21st December

On a miserably damp, misty and increasingly windy day the only reports were of 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through off the Bill, 800 Kittiwakes, 12 Common Scoter and 2 Eider still lingering offshore there and singles of Black-throated Diver and Pintail through at Ferrybridge.

20th December

We've been saddened to receive news of the death of stalwart local birdwatcher, Mick Shepherd. Mick's association with PBO dated back to the early 1960s and he served as Honorary Secretary from 1961 until 1981 - an onerous role during a period when his administrative skills were so often required as the fledgling Obs consolidated activities at its newly opened base at the Old Lower Light and later achieved charitable status for the first time. In the wider birding world, Mick was known to many through his work as a tour guide for Ornitholidays and as author of the Let's Look at...series of birdwatching guides. Always a staunch supporter of PBO, Mick remained a regular visitor until ill health finally curtailed his activities in recent years; he passed away yesterday, aged 92.

Mick Shepherd (right) with the then warden, Peter Morgan, at PBO in autumn 1961:

Today's only reports were of 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, the 3 long-staying Redpolls still at the Bill and 3 Redwings at Foundry Close.

19th December

A Grey Phalarope through at Ferrybridge was a good late year record today but the only other sightings were of a Great Skua and 10 Common Scoter lingering off the Bill and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

The Portland Harbour Great Northern Divers © Pete Saunders:

It might not have been an outstanding year for numbers of Red Admirals but the date range of the records is quite likely longer than it's ever been: the first was in a moth trap at the Obs on 2nd January and this one - which at this rate won't be the last of the year - was still on the wing near Rufus Castle today © Gerry Hinde:

18th December

A reminder that we'll be hosting an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10 am and 4pm this Sunday, 20th December.

Pretty wild weather again today meant that it was the sea that got most attention at the Bill. As usual in a winter storm there was no shortage of routine fare - Gannets, Kittiwakes, large gulls, auks and the like - on offer, with 2 Red-throated Divers also through, a Great Skua lingered for a while and the best prize was an Iceland Gull that joined the melee during the afternoon; 2 Eider and a dozen Common Scoter were also still settled offshore.

There's always plenty to see during rough weather at the Bill - Guillemots & Razorbills, Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver and Cormorant:

The Iceland Gull was first spotted at long range from the Obs and once we got closer to the action at the Bill tip it was relatively easy to latch on to with binoculars but, because of the wind direction and shocking light, it was always rear end on and tricky to find through the camera viewfinder - it is in both these photos although we weren't actually sure of that when we pressed the shutter!...

...after a while it left the flock and powered away to the east and we'd assumed it was leaving for elsewhere...

...however, as we were walking back past the pumping station it suddenly appeared flying back down East Cliffs towards the Bill tip - if we'd have stayed put at the Obelisk we'd have scorched it up at point blank range but instead had yet more ropey rear end views of it! These photos do suggest there's more happening in the wing-tip than had been apparent at long range but it does look as though it's the inner web of each feather that's darker (=Iceland Gull rather than Kumlien's Gull) although we're not quite sure what's going on with the apparent little dark tips to the outer couple of primaries and the blotch of darkness midway through the primaries - maybe it's soiled there? © Martin Cade:

17th December

Either very little or very unproductive coverage today. The only reports were of 4 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill where the semi-resident Common Scoter group had increased to 14.

There's still plenty of Little Owl activity afoot around the Obs; usually at this time of year they only start calling once it's got fully dark but on recent evenings one's taken to coming out just after sunset and advertising his presence from the electric poles beside the Obs Quarry © Martin Cade:

16th December

Truly grim conditions saw it raining until well past lunchtime, although on the plus side the gale of dawn had subsided to little more than a waft of a breeze by the afternoon. Despite the rain there was a little bit of movement on the sea, with 11 Red-throated Divers, 4 Brent Geese, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill and a Little Gull through at Ferrybridge; routine seabirds were also a feature and included a nearly four figure total of Kittiwakes feeding off the Bill where the 2 Eider were also still settled. The only other reports were of 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge and the Rosy Starling still at Easton.

Semi-expected during a mid-winter storm but always a highlight nonetheless - this morning's Little Gull at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

15th December

With most of the heavy showers evident further out in the Channel missing the island there were plenty of opportunities for some fieldwork today even if the rewards were largely as in recent days. One of the Eider remained off the Bill where another 3 Red-throated Divers passed by and there was again an impressive gathering of routine wintering seabirds; a least 1 Black Redstart was also still at the Bill and the wintering Chiffchaff was still at Southwell. Elsewhere, the Rosy Starling was at Easton, a Slavonian Grebe joined the spread of other divers and grebes - that again included 2 Black-throated Divers and a Red-necked Grebe - in Portland Harbour and 2 Shelducks were at Ferrybridge where singles of Great Northern Diver and Kittiwake also passed through.

The Brent Geese are always a spectacle at Ferrybridge even if the flock there is often only a small portion of the much higher numbers present further up the Fleet. Although taken for granted these days, it's amazing to recollect that only a little over 40 years ago Brents were far less numerous on the Fleet: the writer of these notes can well remember in his junior days bumping into Charlie Richards who'd just that day counted his first ever 100+ total of Brents at Littlesea - hardly a decade passed before the winter flock had reached 6000! © Pete Saunders:

Black Redstart, Turnstone and Oystercatcher on East Cliffs at the Bill © Geoff Orton:

14th December

Seabird numbers have been on the up in recent days, with a notable total of c600 Kittiwakes lingering off the Bill this morning; the semi-resident 2 Eider were also offshore, with 9 settled Common Scoter and 2 passing Red-throated Divers also logged. An overflying Guillemot was an oddity at Ferrybridge, with a storm-blown Kittiwake over the road in Portland Harbour. Other than these snippets of sea interest, the Rosy Starling was still at Easton, the 3 Redpolls were still at the Bill, a Black Redstart was again at Portland Castle and the usual scatter of divers, grebes and wildfowl were at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge.

13th December

The wind and rain finally arrived with a vengeance today and scanning from shelter accounted for most of the day's activity. Singles of Sooty Shearwater and Great Skua passing the Bill weren't too unexpected given the conditions, with a couple of Red-throated Divers and the 2 lingering Eider also logged there; 5 Kittiwakes were blown into Portland Harbour where the Red-necked Grebe was the best of the regular fare. The only other reports were of the Yellow-browed Warbler still at Pennsylvania Castle and a decent winter totals of 135 Dunlin at Ferrybridge.

12th December

More coverage today but nothing much beyond the known oddities to report, with the Rosy Starling, Yellow-browed Warbler and Iceland Gull remaining at Easton, Pennsylvania Castle and Portland Harbour respectively. Decent seabird numbers offshore included at least 250 Kittiwakes, with the 2 Eider still present and a lone Red-throated Diver passing by

11th December

 After some early showers cleared it was another unexpectedly pleasant day but, with precious little coverage, the only reports were of a late Swallow through over Blacknor, the Yellow-browed Warbler still at Pennsylvania Castle, a Black Redstart still at the Bill and the 2 Eider still settled offshore there.

10th December

Yesterday's rather bleak weather prognosis proved to be way wide of the mark, with the gale and rain that had blown through overnight no more than a precursor to the arrival of milder air and more relatively quiet conditions. That said, the only birds taking advantage seemed to be the lingerers, amongst which the Rosy Starling and Yellow-browed Warbler again provided the quality. Odds and ends at the Bill included 2 each of Black Redstart and Redpoll, a Grey Heron, the 2 Eider again settled offshore and 4 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver through on the sea.

9th December

On what sounds as though it might be the last day of quiet conditions before an unsettled spell sets in the only new arrivals were a couple of Redwings at the Bill. The Yellow-browed Warbler showed again at Pennsylvania Castle, several Black Redstarts remained on station, 2 Black-throated Divers were again in Portland Harbour and 4 Red-throated Divers and a Little Egret passed by off the Bill. 

The Yellow-browed Warbler © Roy Norris...

...and the 2 Black-throated Divers © Pete Saunders:

8th December

Unbroken sunshine made for much more enjoyable birding today and there were a couple of surprises in the form of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle and an overflying Goosander at Easton; a Lapwing was also new at the Bill where the first skua of the month - inevitably a Bonxie - was lingering offshore and another 10 Red-throated Divers passed by. As usual, the Rosy Starling at Easton was easily the best of the long-stayers, with the 2 Redpolls and the Merlin still at the Bill, at least 4 Black Redstarts scattered about and the Red-necked Grebe and 2 Black-throated Divers still amongst the mix in Portland Harbour.

Although the last sighting of one there was more than three weeks ago, there's always a chance that the Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle was a resurfacing lingerer; however, the Penn's watched nearly every day and the bird was very vocal so it seems much more likely that it was a new arrival © Martin Adlam Port and Wey:

7th December

Even the weak sun that eventually and always fitfully managed to poke through the otherwise all-enveloping veil of murky low cloud couldn't budge the mercury as far as the 4°C mark today and, judging by their eager attendance at feeders and other provisions on offer, the birds were feeling the chill as much as their watchers. Three Siskins overhead at the Bill in conditions seemingly wholly unsuitable for passage provided a glimmer of hope that there are still a few late migrants on the move, whilst offshore a fly-by Pochard was a bonus addition to the island year-list. The Rosy Starling continued to provide some rarity interest at Easton, at least 2 of the Redpolls and the Merlin remained at the Bill, 3 Red-throated Divers passed by off the Bill and the customary selection of wintering divers, grebes, Black Redstarts and the like remained in situ.

Another item being offered for sale by an Obs member: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens used on just one holiday; complete with carry case, carrying strap and all packaging. Cost new on Amazon £1,895, selling at half price for £950 or very near offer. Contact Vaughan on email birdfinders @hotmail.com or telephone 01258-839066 or 07768-691997

6th December

The coldest night of the winter so far gave way to a much nicer, bright day that saw the arrival of a couple of new - presumably incoming - Blackcaps at the Obs and at Southwell; a Fieldfare passed over at Wakeham and a lone Redwing was also new at the Bill where 9 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea. A few of the regulars made up the rest of the day's happenings: 2 Black Redstarts, the Merlin and the Great Spotted Woodpecker were at the Bill, the Iceland Gull put in another appearance at Portland Harbour where 2 Black-throated Divers and a Red-necked Grebe were still in residence and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Knot were at Ferrybridge. 

Rarely an easy mid-winter bird in this area, this Knot looks to be settling in for the duration at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders:

5th December

Another meagre return in very grim conditions: singles of Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Great Northern Diver passed through off the Bill, 2 Eider were still settled offshore there and singles of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were at Southwell.

4th December

We seem to have slipped into the barren and extremely bleak mid-winter with alarming speed. The Rosy Starling - that'll hopefully be a stalwart on the day-lists throughout the winter - was still at Easton, a Knot was at Ferrybridge and the Merlin was still at the Bill where a Great Northern Diver passed through on the sea; otherwise the only reports were of winter staples including the odd Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests here and there and a scatter of divers and grebes in Portland Harbour.

With the temperature having plummeted some of the lingering Goldcrests must be wondering if they've made the right move by sticking it out here rather than heading away west or south © Pete Saunders:

Although Little Owls appear to have become quite tricky to catch up with in much of Dorset, at Portland they're still well distributed and seemingly quite numerous - just at the moment there are multiple individuals audible from the Obs at night and, for better or worse, they're an almost constant presence on our nocmig recordings. It was so calm a couple of nights ago that we spent a while out with the thermal camera having a look at what some of them were up to - the soundtrack of this little clip is an edit from the nocmig recording that was running at the same time but isn't in sync with what's happening in the video. Before anyone asks, we're not sure what the bird is that we followed as it flew past - the real-time view with the thermal camera is a lot crisper than the video capture and we thought the bird had a long bill and was presumably a wader of some sort but it was too far away to be sure © Martin Cade:

3rd December

A day to forget in a hurry, with rain that set in overnight lingering until well into the afternoon and preventing any meaningful fieldwork on the land. Four Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and one of the lingering Eider still settled offshore were the day's only worthwhile reports.

2nd December

The grey geese that perhaps might have been expected given events elsewhere didn't materialise but one early-riser got a nice surprise when 2 Whooper Swans passed low overhead soon after dawn at Easton. Sadly, it was downhill all the way after that with the lovely calm conditions of the morning revealing precious little bar the expecteds or the regulars that included the Iceland Gull straying into Portland Harbour where the Red-necked Grebe was again the pick of the waterfowl selection, 3 Redwings, 3 Redpolls, 2 Black Redstarts, the Merlin and a new Chiffchaff at the Bill and 5 Red-throated Divers and 2 Eider off the Bill.

We're rather conscious that we rarely make enough of the many ringing recoveries that we receive, but today we were notified of one that's well worth a mention: a Firecrest ringed at PBO on 12th April 2018 that was controlled by a ringer in Poland on 26th August 2019 - the precise location being a coastal site a little east of Gdansk. From what we can make out this can't be too far from the northeastern-most limit of their breeding range and is certainly the furthest east that a British-ringed Firecrest has been recovered; in fact, it looks like there's only ever been one other movement of a ringed Firecrest to or from Poland.

1st December

A meagre tally of new arrivals today despite beautifully sunny and calm conditions for getting out looking. A Short-eared Owl arriving in off the sea, 4 Redwings and singles of Swallow, Fieldfare and Redpoll made up the additions at the Bill where long-stayers included 3 more Redpolls and singles of Merlin, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest; 4 Red-throated Divers also passed through on the sea there. The only reports from elsewhere were of both Pallas's Warblers still in private gardens at Weston and a routine selection of divers, grebes and a couple of Black Redstarts in or beside Portland Harbour.

A Red Admiral was on the wing in Top Fields at the Bill.

30th November

The last day of the month saw the skies heading towards a wintry grey as the wind picked up a chill through the day. The birding at the Bill continued along its current form with the now regular selection of two each of Eider and Turnstone, a single Purple Sandpiper, the Obs garden Great Spotted Woodpecker and three Black Redstarts. Highlights elsewhere were limited to the stayers already in residence: one of the Pallas's Warbler at Weston, the Iceland Gull in the harbour and the Rosy Starling in Easton. 

29th November

On a day that had looked to be fizzling out quite uneventfully there were a couple of surprises during the afternoon when the 2 Pallas's Warblers reappeared in gardens at Weston after having escaped detection for a couple of days and a Cattle Egret flew past the Obs at dusk. New arrivals weren't at all numerous but did include a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, a Black-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge and 10 Greylag Geese through overhead there. The Black Brant at Ferrybridge and Rosy Starling at Easton were the pick of the regulars that also included the Merlin and a Black Redstart at the Bill; another 2 Black Redstarts at Admiralty Quarry were an addition to the growing list of locations holding apparent wintering birds.

There are a lot of suitable secluded gardens in the Weston area that the Pallas's Warblers are presumably wandering about amongst © Duncan Walbridge:

Black-tailed Godwits are so much more regular at Ferrybridge these days than they used to be © Pete Saunders:

The Black Brant has been closely associating with - paired? - a Dark-bellied Brent whenever it's visited Ferrybridge this winter Pete Saunders:

28th November

 A distinctly end-of-year feeling to proceedings as far as the birding went, the weather on the other hand saw a return to the early autumn with a gentle warmth to the wind that made conditions wonderful to be out and about. Ducks continued to move through on the sea in small numbers with low single figures of Eiders, Shoveler and Teal. Lingering migrants included five Chiffchaffs around the Obs and the Rosy Starling in Easton. At the northern end of the island, the now expected assortment of divers were in the harbour along with six Black-necked Grebes, whilst the Iceland Gull again visited the outer breakwaters Across the road, the Black Brant returned to Ferrybridge along with four Bar-tailed Godwits and two Knot

27th November

A distinctly wintry feel to the bite in the wind (now more easterly than north-easterly) must have been very unwelcome for the 2 Swallows over the Obs and saw a big clear out on the land with little more than 2 Chiffchaffs and singles of Black RedstartBlackcap and Goldcrest remaining at the Bill. However, the cool weather did bring with it a small passage of wildfowl with 6 Wigeon, 5 Brent Geese, 3 Teal, 3 Tufted Ducks and a Velvet Scoter through off the Bill. Elsewhere on the island, the Rosy Starling continued its residence and the white-winged gull at the harbour finally gave itself up and was confirmed as an Iceland Gull

A surprise from this morning's wanderings came in the form of a fully moulted Grey Seal pup - an unusual sight on Portland, with the nearest pupping beaches no closer than the Channel Islands © Martin Cade: