18th October

Although it remained very mild there was a profound upheaval today as the progress of a weather front saw wind and rain set in and, towards evening, thick fog cloak the island. A few hours of fieldwork were possible before the rain arrived but the rewards on the land were low-key: what's presumably one of the returning Black Brants showed up for the first time at Ferrybridge but migrant numbers showed no great improvement, with two each of Merlin and Brambling, and singles of Golden Plover, Snipe and Firecrest as good as it got at the Bill. The sea was considerably more productive, with 13 Arctic Skuas, six Great Skuas, two Pomarine Skuas and a Manx Shearwater through off the Bill along with a constant procession of gulls that included, at times, Kittiwakes at 400 per hour and Black-headed Gulls at 100 per hour.

One of the day's Merlins © Andy Swash WILDGuides.co.uk


We have absolutely no clue as to what's going with Black-headed Gulls just at the moment, save to say that the numbers being logged at the Bill - where there have been many hundreds passing on some days in the last fortnight - are unprecedented in modern memory, if not ever © Martin Cade:


17th October

Just like the acceptance that more than 100 folk a day dying of Covid is somehow normal, so it seems to be being accepted that the presence of a few Short-eared Owls and odd mini-scarcity make for a good day's birding at Portland in mid-October - they really don't and it should be miles better than this! In more of what can only be described as ridiculous weather for the time of year - in the blazing sun, shorts and tee-shirts were the order of the day within a couple of hours of dawn - a lot of common migrants that ought to be featuring everywhere were all but absent: barely more than single figures of Blackcap and Chiffchaff made it onto the day-sheet and was there really not a single 'crest anywhere on the island? The first Jay out of what sounds to be a significant influx elsewhere was a nice sight at Ladymead, whilst three Little Egrets, two Short-eared Owls and at least one Dartford Warbler entertained at the Bill where off-passage flocks of finches provided the best of the grounded migrants. It was far busier overhead where not far short of a thousand Starlings arrived from the south and two Merlins were amongst a typically varied seasonable array leaving in the other direction. Offshore, the continuing influx of gulls and other seabirds provided such a quick-fire post-dawn movement past the Bill that the counters were barely able to keep up: more than 1000 each of Kittiwake and Razorbill were excellent totals for October, with the likes of three Balearic Shearwaters, two Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Yellow-legged Gull all nice additions to the tally. 

A Vagrant Emperor dragonfly was at Suckthumb Quarry during the morning.

A concerning sight in recent days has been the number of grounded Siskins looking as though they're really struggling, with no apparent reason as to why this should be. Portland isn't some sort of godforsaken Northern Isle where sights like this are commonplace and a fair proportion of the hapless passerine migrants that make landfall probably end of dying - rather, Siskin's a common enough migrant here and even in influx years when their usual food source has failed we simply don't see behaviour like this; indeed, the vast majority are so seemingly fit and healthy as to be active visible migrants that don't even bother to pitch in © Martin Cade:

16th October

In continuing benign conditions migrants were in far shorter supply than might be hoped in mid-October, although the sea provided unexpected interest with large numbers of gulls offshore. A strong movement of smaller gulls off the Bill included a Sabine's Gull amongst 600 Kittiwakes, 200 Black-headed Gulls, 180 Mediterranean Gulls and 120 Common Gulls, with singles of Red-throated Diver, Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua providing some more conventional interest there. It was hard work on the land with many usually productive patches of cover seemingly devoid of even common fare such as Chiffchaffs; 4 Short-eared Owls and singles of Black Redstart, Siberian Chiffchaff and Dartford Warbler were of note at the Bill, with further single Black Redstarts at both Reap Lane and Blacknor, a Ring Ouzel at Church Ope Cove and a Lesser Whitethroat (presumably on date alone most likely an 'eastern' bird of some sort) at Wakeham. It was only marginally busier overhead, where a Woodlark over the Bill and a Short-eared Owl over Ferrybridge were the best of the bunch.

Orthoptera interest came in the form of what's believed to be the first documented record of an Oak Bush-cricket for the island, even if the fact that it was found inside the Obs perhaps suggests the possibility of it being an unintended introduction (perhaps amongst the belongings of one of our guests?).

15th October

Summer lingered on for another day although not before more cloud in the sky at dawn had offered some promise on the migrant front; sadly, this proved to be a false dawn and, with a few exceptions, migrant numbers were their lowest of the week. The Siberian Chiffchaff tally at the Obs increased to two and 4 Short-eared Owls, a Marsh Harrier, a Jack Snipe and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill, a Firecrest at Tilleycombe and a Black Redstart at Blacknor provided additional scarcity interest, but beyond a total of 40 Stonechats at the Bill there was precious little worth a comment on the ground; just into three figure totals of arriving Starlings and departing Wood Pigeons were of note overhead. Enormous numbers of large gulls - estimated at 7-8000 - were ashore on Chesil gorging on whitebait washed ashore, with more than 200 Kittiwakes and 100 Mediterranean Gulls lingering off the Bill perhaps also associated with this event; singles of Balearic Shearwater and Great Skua also passed by off the Bill.

A Vagrant Emperor dragonfly was seen in the Obs garden briefly during the afternoon.

We've mentioned this before but this autumn has thus far provided more evidence that the population(s) of Firecrests that we get passing through Portland have never fully recovered from the extraordinary events of October 2017 when, for whatever reason, there was a profound disruption of their usual migration pattern that led to unprecedented numbers pitching up at Portland (indeed today's the anniversary of 150 being logged at the Bill in that year). Today's Tilleycombe bird was only the third logged on the island so far this autumn © Joe Stockwell:



Although we didn't realise it at the time the Siberian Chiffchaff trapped at the Obs during the morning was a new arrival...



...later in the day the usually rather super-elusive lingerer appeared in its usual haunts and was revealed to be unringed © Martin Cade (photos and video) and Joe Stockwell (sound recording):



14th October

The continuing summer-like conditions were great for getting out birding (...it's not often that we get so many moans from visitors in mid-October that they're flagging in their endeavours through being over-dressed) but far from ideal for dropping migrants - fortunately there were a couple of new scarcities to save the day. A Red-breasted Flycatcher that turned up unannounced in a mist-net at the Obs was the second for the year but the first this season, whilst less of a surprise was the second Dartford Warbler of recent days; the lingering although always elusive Siberian Chiffchaff at the Obs completed the face-saving trio. It really was just too fine for commoner migrants: the nocmig recorder logged a steady trickle of Redwings overnight (at just over one/minute overall although there was a distinct peak either side of midnight and passage dwindled away later in the night) and the evidence from the ground was that the majority of other nocturnal migrants must have carried on without stopping. It was busier with diurnal migrants overhead, including the first signs of arriving Starlings along with a steady procession of departing pigeons, Skylarks, finches and Reed Buntings. Finally, three Short-eared Owls were again at the Bill towards dusk.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Dartford Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff © Joe Stockwell:




13th October

We did debate whether we ought to mention that one of the day's 'highlights' was a wide-ranging Mallard (...although a former breeding bird, they've become very infrequent in recent years), but it was so we'll go with it as a reflection of just what a low-key day it was. That's not to say that migrants were sparse because there was a fair bit to see, but scarcity-wise a Siberian Chiffchaff at the Obs was as good as it got. Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails continued to dominate the grounded tally although all dropped back a notch or two in comparison with recent days; 2 Black Redstarts and late-ish singles of Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher were among the odds and ends of interest. Overhead, the pulse of pigeons and corvids continued, with small flocks of Siskins also dribbling through all day; the first Redpoll of the season passed over at Easton but the strong passage of Redwings detected elsewhere didn't really materialise: they were audible in moderate numbers during the later hours of darkness but few continued moving once dawn broke.

12th October

Although we're quick to apportion blame for lack of birds on weather conditions or a variety of often less than plausible intangibles it would have been hard to conjure up anything to find fault with today: the weather was near-perfect for birding and there were certainly plenty of eyes out looking; the rewards might have been far from earth shattering but they at least continued yesterday's little flourish that it's hoped can be maintained for a while yet. Two Yellow-browed Warblers were entirely expected in this day and age, whilst singles of Siberian Chiffchaff, Woodlark, Cetti's Warbler and Common Rosefinch - the latter presumed to be yesterday's bird although, since it only showed briefly, that couldn't be established for sure - were a nice supporting cast. Common migrants weren't nearly as plentiful as yesterday: the evidence from the mist-nets was that, at the Bill at least, Blackcaps outnumbered Chiffchaffs by two to one, with the former likely just managing a three figure total; other than that the seasonable offerings were many and varied although few especially numerous, with only a noticeable increase in Jackdaws overhead and the continued early departure of fair numbers of Wood Pigeons worth a comment.

This morning's fly-by Woodlark at the Bill © Joe Stockwell:


Finally, we've heard back on the ringing details of the colour-ringed Caspian Gull that was sighted amongst the Culverwell gull flock at the end of September and again a week later. Evidently the bird was ringed as a nestling at the Ijsselmeer, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, on 28th May; it was first sighted as a fledged youngster nearby on 16th August but there had been no further sightings until it pitched up at Portland © Martin Cade:


11th October

With high pressure becoming well established today's gentle northerly breeze and clear skies resulted in the best arrival of common migrants for several weeks: it was not a classic fall but rather a steady throughput of birds seemingly arriving in off the sea and heading away northwards - the fact that they were accompanied by a few nice scarcities was a welcome bonus. A Long-eared Owl flushed from the Bill Quarry that later showed up amongst the beach huts won out for looks even if the Common Rosefinch trapped at the Obs had a little more rarity value; four Short-eared Owls, three Black Redstarts, two Merlins, a Jack Snipe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were also at the Bill, where 10 Bramblings and seven Golden Plovers were amongst the less frequent migrants overhead. Conservative totals of 250 alba wagtails and 150 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff made up the bulk of the grounded numbers, with a decently varied list of back ups that included at least a few of most of what might be expected at this juncture of the autumn.

As they always are, the Long-eared Owl was a great looker - especially if you happened to be the one fortunate observer that rounded a corner to find it staring at him at point blank range © Martin King:


Autumn Common Rosefinches really are the trickiest of birds to get to grips with in the field at Portland - today's bird was another that turned up out of the blue in a net at the Obs and wasn't seen again after release © Joe Stockwell:


Finch numbers are building very impressively with big swirling flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches all over the place at the Bill © Geoff Orton:

10th October

Lovely birding conditions - heavily overcast skies and a gentle northwesterly through the morning giving way to blazing sunshine and warmth by the afternoon - and a nicely varied selection of typical mid-October migrants today. Overdue newcomers included two firsts for the season - a Yellow-browed Warbler at Tout Quarry and a Dartford Warbler at the Bill - whilst the likes of three Bramblings, two each of Short-eared Owl and Mistle Thrush and singles of Merlin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Ring Ouzel at the Bill were all nice list-fillers. Among the commoner migrants there was a good totals of at least 500 alba wagtails and 42 Siskins overhead at the Bill, where 120 Wood Pigeons and 22 Stock Doves were surprise early movers and off-passage Linnets totalled more than 700; not before time, the odd few single Goldcrests begun to show up around and about, whilst a couple of late single Redstarts were of note. Despite seemingly unhelpful conditions the sea continued to produced, with 16 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill where the Little Gull lingered for another day.

The first Dartford Warbler of the autumn in that most predicable spot for them at the bottom of the Slopes © Roger Hewitt:


Another little spread of Wheatears featured amongst the day's commoner migrants © Martin King (top) and James Phillips (bottom):



The beautifully millpond calm and cloudless late afternoon gradually gave way to a lovely multi-layered dusk this evening © Martin King:

9th October

With a cloudless sky the order of the day the temperature soared and it was positively summer-like by the afternoon. Migrant action was only at the ticking over level, with few surprises on the ground or overhead: three Cattle Egrets passing the Bill were somewhat devalued by yesterday's larger flock, whilst the first two Bramblings of the autumn overhead were on cue arrivals; also at the Bill, seven Long-tailed Tits, two Merlins and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were of minor interest. Numbers were entirely in keeping with the conditions: grounded arrivals were thinly spread rather than abundant and overhead passage was at times hard to get amongst at the height it looked/sounded to be taking place at. A resurgence in Balearic Shearwaters saw 111 logged at the Bill even if there was a suggestion that this total may have involved some duplication as birds lingered offshore in the balmy conditions; singles of Red-throated Diver, Arctic Skua and Little Gull were the best of the rest there.

8th October

A real enjoyable mild mid-October day that had everything except a rarity: grounded migrants increased conspicuously, visible passage begun to include classic seasonable fare like thrushes and Reed Buntings and the sea still provided constant interest. With yesterday's claggy conditions replaced by lightly overcast skies migration picked up nicely, with the likes of Robins, Stonechats and Chiffchaffs numerous everywhere; the season's first Black Redstarts (two at the Bill) and Redwings (two at the Bill and 11 at Southwell/Easton) were joined on the day list by a few less frequent migrants including 2 Grasshopper Warblers and singles of Yellow-legged Gull, Short-eared Owl and Nightjar at the Bill and a Firecrest at Southwell. Visible passage was varied rather than heavy, with 12 Cattle Egrets through at East Weare/Portland Harbour the highlight; 60 Siskins and 3 Snipe over the Bill were also noteworthy. At sea the continuing aggregations of gulls off the Bill included 600 Mediterranean Gulls, 100 Black-headed Gulls (a really huge total for the Bill) and a Little Gull, whilst 14 passing Arctic Skuas took their month total to more than 70 - a pretty creditable total for a formerly frequent autumn migrant that's been far scarcer in recent years; 113 Common Scoter, 10 Brent Geese, five Sandwich Terns, two Great Skuas and a Teal also passed by.

The Little Gull was great to see amongst the seething mass of other gulls offshore - it looked so tiny and out of place when settled that we were told it was even mistakenly reported as a Grey Phalarope on one occasion © Joe Stockwell:



Although gulls aren't everyone's cup of tea the Culverwell gull flock receives remarkable little attention from the majority of visitors which is a bit odd considering it's become probably the most reliable readily accessible location in Dorset for both Caspian Gull and Yellow-legged Gull in recent years - this Yellow-legged Gull was a new arrival there today © Joe Stockwell:



Once we get into mid-October it's always nice to get some tangible evidence that the likes of the odd late Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipits that fly over calling really are what they sound like - this Yellow Wagtail passed over at the Bill this morning © Joe Stockwell:


7th October

Those that talked up the overdue return of quiet conditions got a bit of a rude awakening when dawn broke to the accompaniment of the lighthouse fog signal and murkiness cloaking the island; it was also soon apparent that if they had been on the move then most nocturnal migrants passed high overhead without even being aware of our presence let alone feeling any desire to drop in on us (...later examination of the nocmig recording indicated that either next to nothing had been on the move or what there was had been way too high to be audible). More far-ranging fieldwork did eventually bolster the day's tally to the extent that Blackcap and Chiffchaff both reached towards three-figure totals around the centre and south of the island and seasonable fare such as Stonechats were suddenly conspicuous everywhere. Numbers overhead were significant down on those logged under the clearer skies of recent days, with nothing of particular note beyond the likes of two Merlins and late-ish Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipit over the Bill. The shift from offshore gale to gentle onshore breeze perked up sea totals that were straight away at an impressive level due to the presence of a huge feeding flock of c3000 Herring Gulls and many hundreds of other gulls offshore; 240 constituted an autumn peak to date for Common Scoter, whilst further waterfowl interest came in the form of 20 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, four Teal and two Wigeon; nine Arctic and four Great Skuas were the best of the rest.

6th October

A samey day in terms of the general character of proceedings but variety increased in keeping with the season and the marginal improvement in the conditions (just a stiff wind as opposed to a howling gale). Overhead passage again accounted for the numbers, with 1500 Meadow Pipits, 1000 Linnets, 300 Swallows, 250 Goldfinches, 200 alba wagtails, 43 Siskins, 25 Skylarks,17 Chaffinches, a Merlin and the first Reed Bunting of the autumn among the heavy traffic over the Bill. At the same time the sea was constantly busy, with 500 auks, 250 Mediterranean Gulls, 150 Kittiwakes, 50 Black-headed Gulls, 41 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 21 Common Scoter, six Arctic Skuas, four Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated Diver and a Pomarine Skua through or lingering offshore. The land remained far quieter than it ought to be: a Turtle Dove flew through at Weston but grounded migrants otherwise amounted to barely more than single figure totals of Wheatear, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, with the odd singles of the likes of Whinchat thrown in; at least one Short-eared Owl also remained at the Bill.

A Monarch butterfly was seen in flight at Blacknor.

5th October

One of these days the wind's going to drop - sadly, today wasn't that day: the wild winds of the daylight hours were merely a continuation of what had rolled in overnight, although the latter's accompanying downpour had fizzled out by daybreak. Appropriate storm-driven seabirds were the order of the day, with two Grey Phalaropes bobbing about in Chesil Cove all day and one or more Storm Petrels lingering off the Bill; further sea interest came in the form of 845 Mediterranean Gulls, 46 Kittiwakes, 6 Arctic Skuas and singles of Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua and Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill. Numbers overhead didn't reach yesterday's levels but were nothing to be sniffed at, with 500 Meadow Pipits, 400 Linnets, 130 alba wagtails and 100 Goldfinches making up the three figure totals at the Bill where another Merlin was in attendance. As we've grown accustomed to the land was the poor relation, with little more than the odd Chiffchaff here and there; 10 Sanderlings were the best of the waders at Ferrybridge.

4th October

Despite conditions out in the Channel that looked as though they'd test the resolve and abilities of even the hardiest of would-be departing migrants it was overhead passage that accounted for most of today's numbers, with totals from the Bill that included 1600 Meadow Pipits (together with another 1000 grounded), 470 Linnets, 300 Swallows, 130 alba wagtails and 115 Goldfinches; another passing Merlin was amongst the also-rans, with further singles logged lingering at the Bill and over Ferrybridge. If there had been nocturnal migrants on the move then very few deigned to drop in, with the thinnest of sprinkles of the likes of Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs everywhere. The sea was well watched and eventually accrued totals of 690 Mediterranean Gulls, 300 auks, 122 Kittiwakes, 26 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 15 Balearic Shearwaters, 10 Arctic Skuas, six Common Gulls, three Great Skuas and one Sooty Shearwater.

3rd October

There was a galvanising start to the day when a nightjar species was watched over the Obs garden as dawn broke - sadly, the views were relatively brief and inconclusive with regard to identity, and there was no further sign of the bird through the day or at dusk. Despite the continuing - and constantly strengthening - westerly the sky was clear enough that visible passage picked dramatically, with 2500 Meadow Pipits and 1200 Linnets through over the Bill where three Merlins were amongst the miscellany tagging along. This increase overhead wasn't reflected on the ground where two Spotted Flycatchers were as good as it got amongst the very sparse spread of expected fare at the Bill. The wind was always a little too far into the west to do much for the sea, with 12 Balearic Shearwaters, three Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua the best that could be mustered from a lot of watching at the Bill; elsewhere, two Little Gulls were lingering at Chesil Cove. Dark-bellied Brent Geese are beginning to appear now at Ferrybridge, with 45 settled there this morning. 

2nd October

Today's challenging conditions broke the resolve of even the hard-core seawatchers who failed to find any shelter from the at times torrential rain that set in a couple of hours after dawn and didn't finally clear through until late in the afternoon. The early watch was promisingly productive, with 315 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Arctic Skuas, four Balearic Shearwaters, a Great Skua and a Little Gull through off the Bill where a Caspian Gull was also found settled off East Cliffs, whilst the end of the afternoon produced at least six more Arctic Skuas. The only reports from the land were of a Short-eared Owl still at the Bill and three Sanderling, three Bar-tailed Godwits and two Common Terns at Ferrybridge.

1st October

With a continuing far fresher than we'd like wind seeing in the new month most eyes were again on the sea, where the main feature was a subpar showing of Balearic Shearwaters. Just three of the latter passed by off the Bill, although interest there was more than salvaged by a better showing of other seabirds: 17 Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua and a Long-tailed Skua were the chief reward, but improved totals of 237 auks, 150 Mediterranean Gulls, 94 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 85 Kittiwakes, 20 Common Gulls, 19 Common Scoter, two Little Gulls and a Red-throated Diver ensured there was plenty to see. Visible passage was evident throughout the morning seawatch, with the steady stream of departing Swallows and Meadow Pipits accompanied once again by at least two Merlins; a Marsh Harrier was also overhead but that ended up departing back towards the mainland. The land was still at a 'less said about it the better' level with little of interest and no numbers of note amongst what was uncovered.

30th September

We were fortunate to have summer linger on for so long into late September but there's no doubt that autumn's blown in with a vengeance as we end the month. Today's ever increasing southwesterly saw to it that attention remained focused on the sea, resulting in another c200 tally of Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill; two Sooty Shearwaters and singles of Arctic and Great Skua also passed by there, with six Arctic Skuas through at Chesil Cove and two Little Gulls grounded at Ferrybridge. The stormy conditions also boosted the build up of grounded gulls at the Bill, with at least one Caspian Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls joining the Culverwell flock during the afternoon. A pretty steady flow of Swallows and Meadow Pipits departed from the Bill, whilst an aggregation of 30 Blackcaps at Old Hill suggested there might have been more to be uncovered on the ground but for the profoundly unhelpful conditions.

The Balearic Shearwaters were affording great views at the tip of the Bill © Martin Cade (video) and Mike Trew (stills):




The gulls weren't so obliging in the buffeting wind and rain of the afternoon © Martin Cade (Caspian Gull videograbs and Yellow-legged Gull still)



29th September

As forecast, a much fairer day albeit still pretty brisk throughout. Despite the wind veering towards the northwest it was the sea that stole the show at the Bill, with Balearic Shearwaters moving strongly for the first couple of hours of the morning when 225 were logged heading west; a steady passage of Gannets and Kittiwakes totalled 300 and 258 respectively, whilst some quality came in the form of two Arctic Skuas and singles of Sooty Shearwater, Long-tailed Skua and Arctic Tern. Overhead passage was conspicuous for a while, with 600 Meadow Pipits, 250 Swallows and 8 Siskins amongst the miscellany on the move over the Bill, but it remained quiet on the ground with 20 Wheatears the best on offer there.

 Grounded migrants have been really sparse this week with Wheatears providing some of the only variety amongst the seasonable spread of Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails © Martin Cade:

28th September

A day that descending into some pretty grim wind and rain after a pleasantly bright start. With the wind having moved onshore overnight seawatching was always going to be first choice at the Bill and a light trickle of westbound Balearic Shearwaters was evident from the outset; after something like 75 had been logged by early afternoon the situation became rather confused as the rain threatened with plenty returning eastward and a decent-sized feeding flock developing offshore; a day total of 150 looked like a fair guesstimate taking into account all their shenanigans. Sea passage was otherwise an almost complete non-event: Gannets dribbled by all day - including the first juveniles of the autumn - but a handful of Kittiwakes and auks were the only other worthwhile sightings. A constant stream of Swallows were departing out to sea through the morning but the only other noteworthy reports from the land concerned a Hobby over Southwell and a lone White Wagtail grounded at the Bill.

A few of the day's Balearics in a few of the day's ever changing conditions © Martin Cade:



27th September

Definitely a day to forget in a hurry, with the profound change in the weather that followed the passage of a weather front late in the night doing absolutely nothing for the birding. The cooler, windy and at times showery conditions hindered fieldwork but it was readily apparent that there were no more than the handful of grounded migrants on offer, with White Wagtail at the Bill the only one of them of minor interest. Swallows were leaving in some quantity through the morning with another Merlin tagging along with them. The only other reports were of 10 Sanderling and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge.

Sanderling at Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge this afternoon © Debby Saunders:



26th September

Another day that won't live long in the memory: the potential for an overnight arrival of exciting immigrant moths came to absolutely nothing, whilst the birding remained very much at the ticking over level. An early doors Ring Ouzel trapped at the Obs was easily the pick of the day's bird arrivals that included nothing else of particular note amongst the thin spread of routine fare. It was considerably busier overhead with in excess of 1100 Meadow Pipits leaving from the Bill; alba wagtails and Chaffinches are also beginning to feature more conspicuously, whilst two Merlins departed along with the flow of pipits.

25th September

Although it remained unseasonably warm - particularly when the sun eventually broke through late in the afternoon - there was a different feel to the weather today with heavily overcast skies and occasional mistiness the order of the morning. The hopes that this might drop more migrants were soon dashed as dawn broke to reveal general quietness; however, more did emerge as the day wore on and the day's final tally wasn't too bad in the circumstances. Two Cattle Egrets over the Bill were a decent enough highlight (despite the huge increases elsewhere there are still fewer than ten island records in total), with the likes of eight Golden Plover, four Hobbys and several sightings of Short-eared Owls some of the other less regular migrants logged. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs again accounted for the bulk of the common migrant total, with both well into three figures over the island as a whole; although variety wasn't too bad most of the other routine migrants struggled to get into double figures. Balearic Shearwaters continued to entertain offshore with 50 passing through off the Bill, where plenty more Mediterranen Gulls and a lone Arctic Skua also made the list

The Cattle Egrets and one of the four Short-eared Owls at the Bill © Matt Phelps


24th September

Hardly a migrant bonanza today but encouraging signs all round of a little more action befitting what really ought to one of the busiest periods of the season: both grounded arrivals and visible passage picked up, whilst a resurgence in Balearic Shearwaters provided some entertainment for the seawatchers who've been mightily underemployed just lately. The numbers were all overhead, with 1000 Meadow Pipits through over the Bill where Swallows pulsed through in quantity at times. On the ground some decent aggregations of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were evident everywhere, Stonechats were prominent for the first time this autumn and variety included ones and twos of most of what might be expected in late September; of local interest were two singing Cetti's Warblers at Portland Port - maybe the birds that had hitherto been semi-resident beside the nearby Merchant's Incline? Balearic Shearwaters and Mediterranean Gulls - that totalled 142 and 117 respectively off the Bill - accounted for the bulk of the numbers offshore.

This lonesome Dark-bellied Brent has got ahead of itself and continues to whirr about over Ferrybridge looking for its yet to arrive mates © Pete Saunders:

23rd September

Changes afoot on the weather front saw a lot more cloud in the sky and a brisk breeze blowing all day; sadly there was no perceivable uptick in the quality of the birding, with grounded common migrants - Blackcaps aside - stubbornly few and far between and visible passage much more subdued than in recent days. A few aggregations of Blackcaps around the centre and south of the island amounted to at least a three figure total that would no doubt have been considerably higher but for the lack of coverage elsewhere; little else even managed a double figure total, with a Firecrest at Thumb Lane easily the best quality-wise. Wader numbers continue to hold up quite well, with 91 Ringed Plovers, 5 Sanderling and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits amongst the mix at Ferrybridge. Visible passage amounted to no more than a light trickle of Swallows and Meadow Pipits.


22nd September

Since we've still not really been blighted this year with anything that might be deemed autumnal conditions it seems hardly appropriate to remark on the current glorious continuation of summer as in any way unexpected; however, it's certainly making for enjoyable birding even if the quality of the discoveries leaves plenty to be desired. Today's wall-to-wall blue sky was great for the likes of Meadow Pipits and hirundines to pass through in quantity but, once again, grounded arrivals were at a premium: 4 Short-eared Owls lingered on at the Bill but there was nothing remotely unexpected amongst the newcomers there or elsewhere. The balmy conditions were far from appropriate for seawatching so three Balearic Shearwaters, two each of Teal and Arctic Skua and the first Common Gull of the autumn through off the Bill were a bonus.

21st September

The routine of a bright, moonlit night and a blazingly hot, sunny day was maintained and grounded migrants remained in short supply. The usual mid-September suspects were all represented - mostly in low numbers - with little more of note at the Bill than 4 Short-eared Owls and singles of Snipe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, White Wagtail and Firecrest; a Golden Plover at Ferrybridge was as good as it got elsewhere. Meadow Pipits were well represented overhead, with 1000 or so through at the Bill, but few other diurnal migrants contributed much to the tally. Balearic Shearwaters totalled 17 off the Bill, where the first Manx Shearwater for several weeks was also of interest.

20th September

Migrant-friendly conditions - good for migration that is, rather than good for anyone hoping to see many of them - continued to prevail and it remained relatively quiet on the ground. The autumn's first Firecrest was an on cue arrival at the Bill where the best of the rest included 3 Short-eared Owls and a Grasshopper Warbler. The crystal-clear sky was busier, with in excess of 1000 Meadow Pipits through over the Bill; variety was limited though, with hirundines in particular far fewer than might have been expected. Despite the seemingly unhelpful offshore breeze a waterfowl medley provided some interest off the Bill, where 15 Wigeon, two each of both Pale- and Dark-bellied Brent Goose and a lone Teal bolstered a list of more routine fare that included 14 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua.