28th February

February went out with much more of a whimper than a bang with a White Wagtail grounded at the Bill and an apparent migrant Raven that arrived in off the sea there the best of the newcomers. The only other reports were of 2 more Long-tailed Tits joined the 3 birds that arrived at the Obs yesterday, 4 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Black Redstart still at the Bill and a Red-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour.

27th February

Clear skies and sunshine all the way again today, with most new arrivals on the land being overhead visible migrants. Fairly limited coverage at the Bill detected just a tiny trickle of inbound Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails, with the first Grey Wagtail of the spring the best amongst them; on the ground, 3 Long-tailed Tits were the first at the Obs this year, whilst more 6 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea. Elsewhere, a Blackcap was at Southwell and 1200 Mediterranean Gulls, 5 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour. 

Five Large Tortoiseshells were on the wing at Church Ope Cove.

26th February

Today's rarity was the sight of a cloud in a sky full of pretty well unbroken sunshine from dawn until dusk. Of course, these were hopeless conditions for any sort of arrival of migrants but there was adequate compensation in the form of a Black Guillemot in Portland Harbour and the first sightings of post-hibernation Large Tortoiseshells (at Pennsylvania Castle/Church Ope Cove and another likely one seen briefly at Castletown). Bird-wise, further odds and ends making the list included 5 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Merlin at the Bill, singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell and Easton, the Rosy Starling at Easton and 2 Redwings at Wakeham.

Additional to the Large Tortoiseshells, 2 Brimstones were on the wing at Perryfields.

Rather old news since it relates to a sighting much earlier this winter, but we've just received details back on a colour-flagged Dunlin photographed by Roy Norris at Ferrybridge on 8th December; it turns out that the bird was marked (as an adult) in Poland last July - the trapping location is on the Gulf of Gdansk. There's been a nice series of Dunlin colour-ring sightings at Ferrybridge in recent years but this is the first from Poland © Roy Norris:

25th February

Some early damp didn't do the trick by dropping much in the way of new arrivals on the ground but the warm sunshine that emerged as the day went on was so pleasant that the dearth of birds didn't really seem like an issue to fret over. The only passerines of note at the Bill were a Pied Wagtail in off the sea and the first Rook that's made it all the way out to the south of the island so far this year. Elsewhere, an apparent Mealy Redpoll dropped in briefly at Ladymead and the Rosy Starling was still nearly at Channel View Road. The day's gull passage consisted of just a paltry 3 Mediterranean Gulls through off the Bill, where 7 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver also passed and the 2 Eider remained in residence. Winter fare at Ferrybridge included 210 Dunlin, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.

The Ferrybridge Bar-tailed Godwits have presumably got a couple more months to gi before they think about leaving © Pete Saunders:

The odd few immigrant moths continue to show up: this Hummingbird Hawkmoth made a few fleeting visits to a Hebe in the Obs garden whilst another Dark Sword Grass was trapped overnight at the Obs © Martin Cade:

24th February

Common Gulls were today's most numerous mover: more than 50 passed the Bill during a few fairly brief seawatches after dawn, with some movement still afoot through the afternoon; 3 Red-throated and singles of both Black-throated and Great Northern Divers also passed by and 20 Common Scoter and 2 Eider were still settled offshore. A Merlin was still at the Bill, whilst elsewhere the Rosy Starling was at Easton, 3 Black-necked Grebes remained in Portland Harbour and 2 Knot were back at Ferrybridge.

There can't be many more days of Black-necked Grebe presence left this winter © Pete Saunders:

An at least 40cm eel proved to be hard work for this Cormorant in Portland Harbour: at one point it dropped its victim that proved to be too heavy for a Great Black-backed Gull to lift from the water and after 10 minutes struggle the Cormorant did eventually manage to swallow its meal © Pete Saunders:

23rd February

Although gusty southerlies made for difficult birding there were a few more early arrivals to show for today's efforts: the season's first White Wagtail showed up at the Bill, whilst new Chiffchaffs were at Southwell and Blacknor; the Ferrybridge Lesser Black-backed Gull total also reached double figures for the first time this year, a Merlin passed through there and 2 more Rooks headed south towards the island. Among the winterers, the Rosy Starling was at Easton, 7 Purple Sandpipers, a Merlin and Black Redstart at the Bill and 3 Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour. The only sea news was of a lone Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.

It's been a very good winter for Merlin sightings, with a regular bird around the south of the island and several sightings of additional singles elsewhere including this one over Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

22nd February

If we'd have known at dawn what the results of our overnight nocmig attempt were - this was the first try this spring - we'd have had a pretty fair indication of the level of passage that awaited us today: in some ways it really wasn't too bad with birds clearly getting moving pretty promptly now that a mild, southerly airflow is established. The overnight nocmig tally at the Obs consisted of 15 Redwings and singles of Dunlin, Robin and Song Thrush, whilst the feature birds by day were Stonechats and Redwings: a good 20 new arrivals of the former were at the Bill, with at least 12 of the latter scattered about around the Bill and Southwell. The first couple of Chiffchaffs of the season were fresh in (one actually watched arriving at the Bill tip and the other at Southwell), with a duo of arriving Meadow Pipits also making the tally at the Bill. The sea also came up with a trickle of movement, including 23 Brent Geese, 8 Red-throated Divers, 6 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Black-headed Gulls and a Shelduck through off the Bill. Old faithfulls still featuring on the day list included the Rosy Starling at Easton, the Redpoll at the Bill and the 2 Eider offshore there.

21st February

Sadly, a day when the potential far outweighed the reality - with reports of a few early summer migrants elsewhere, Portland certainly should have been in with a shout but drizzle that persisted for the best part of the morning put a dampener on proceedings and all that could be found later were a handful of extra Stonechats. The only other reports were of 4 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, the 2 Eiders still offshore, a Blackcap at Avalanche Road, the Rosy Starling still at Easton and a few Black-necked Grebes still in Portland Harbour.

Mothing was a little more productive than birding, with the first few immigrants of the year putting in appearances: after a Dark Sword Grass at the Obs yesterday, today's moth-traps there came up with a Diamond-back Moth, whilst by day a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was on the wing at Southwell.

20th February

It was supposedly unseasonably mild today although you'd have been forgiven for overlooking that fact if you were stood out in one the frequent drizzly outbreaks exposed to the blast of the near gale force southerly. A second Black Brant that dropped in at Ferrybridge provided the best of the day's interest that otherwise included 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, the 2 Eider still settled offshore there, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 2 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Black-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour.

The second Black Brant that turned up at Ferrybridge this morning (it's the right-hand bird in the photographs below) was in some ways a more poorly-differentiated specimen than the regular visitor there that's come in for a fair bit of stick as maybe not making the grade for a pure Black Brant - the new bird has at the very least a noticeably paler mantle. We're in no way well-versed enough in the minutiae of brent ID - at least anything fully informed rather than just idle speculation - but what is the problem with the original bird that isn't accounted for by variation within Brants or the vagaries of the photographic process? © Pete Saunders:

19th February

Blustery, dreary, damp and just plain unpleasant - today's conditions were perfect for knuckling down to indoor jobs. Fortunately, a few more motivated observers did make it outdoors, with the Rosy Starling at Easton and 9 Purple Sandpipers and a Merlin at the Bill to show for their efforts.

After a few weeks of being really elusive earlier in the winter the Purple Sandpipers at the Bill seem to have become a good deal more see-able in the last month © Pete Saunders:

18th February

On an unexpectedly bright, sunny day after some early rain cleared through there was the tiniest glimmer of interest on the migration front: the first passerine of the year watched arriving in off the sea at the Bill was too distant to allow for a certain ID but looked very likely to have been a Meadow Pipit, whilst later in the day a Woodcock gave every indication that it too had arrived in-off as it powered through the Obs garden and headed away rapidly northward; additionally, 3 summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull headed up-Channel past the Bill. Otherwise everything was as before: 25 Common Scoter and 2 Eider were settled off East Cliffs, 3 Red-throated Divers passed by off the Bill, the Rosy Starling was at Easton and 2 Slavonian Grebes remained amongst the divers and grebes lingering on in Portland Harbour.

17th February

The downside of the arrival of milder air was thrown into sharp focus today as successive deluges of heavy rain were blown through on a brisk southwesterly - and don't even mention the return of the mud... Incentives for fieldwork were few and the day's only reports were of the Rosy Starling still at Easton, 2 Great Northern Divers at Ferrybridge and a Redpoll at the Bill.

The Great Northern Divers were finding plenty of reasons to continue their long residence in the Ferrybridge area © Pete Saunders:

16th February

Not a great deal of birding to report on today: 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill, a Fieldfare was new at the Bill where singles of Black Redstart and Redpoll were still about, the Rosy Starling was still at Easton, 100 Brent Geese were at Ferrybridge and singles of Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe were in Portland Harbour.

15th February

Although extremely welcome, the mild, quiet conditions of today didn't prompt any unexpected flurry of action beyond what looked to be a wholesale departure of wintering seabirds off the Bill. A total of 13 Lapwings and 2 Snipe at the Bill were lingering reminders of last week's cold, with a Black Redstart and a Redpoll still about there and a couple of Red-throated Divers through on the sea. Elsewhere, a Merlin was at Reap Lane, the Rosy Starling at Easton and the customary selection in and around Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge included a bonus Rook overhead.

With a small party of them taking a punt on spending the winter on the island, today's Rook over Ferrybridge wasn't a first for the year but did provide sure evidence of the imminent change in the seasons © Pete Saunders:

We don't know whether last year's breeding season was generally poorer than usual for Mediterranean Gulls but youngsters seem to have been under-represented amongst the wintering birds at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:

It didn't take long for the last lingering Lapwings to return whence they'd come © Martin Cade:

14th February

The quantities of rain and strength of the southerly wind that accompanied the arrival of milder air scuppered a fair bit of the day's activities but there was still time for some fieldwork. A Manx Shearwater passing through off the Bill had got a little ahead of itself if it thought spring had arrived and there certainly weren't any other premature arrivals, with oddities such as the 2 Snipe and single Teal lingering at the Bill reminding us of just how cold it was only yesterday. Routine fare padding out the day list included the Rosy Starling at Easton, 3 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour, 2 Eider settled off the Bill and 2 Red-throated Divers passing by there.

13th February

The relentless, biting southeasterly remained in play for another day and coverage was perfunctory at best. Odd newcomers at the Bill included singles of Teal and Fieldfare on the land and an increase to 22 Common Scoter settled offshore; 10 Lapwings and 4 Snipe were also dotted about on the land, the 2 long-staying Eider were settled offshore and 9 Red-throated Divers passed by on the sea. The Blackcap was still at Southwell and 3 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe were again off Hamm Beach.

The Portland Harbour grebe-fest wasn't such a spectacle today but a nice close comparison of Black-necked and Slavonian is always a worthwhile little event © Debby Saunders:

12th February

With the southeasterly still blasting the best of today's action was in Portland Harbour, where a good selection of divers and grebes - including 8 Black-necked Grebes, 7 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Red-necked Grebe - were riding out the conditions close to Hamm Beach; 2 Black Redstarts were still nearby at Osprey Quay. A handful of cold weather refugees, including 6 Lapwings, 5 Golden Plovers and a Snipe, lingered on at the Bill, whilst the ever faithful Rosy Starling was still at Easton, a Blackcap was still at Southwell and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose was at Ferrybridge.

Some of the grebes are beginning to get into decent plumage © Pete Saunders (Red-necked and Black-neckeds) and Debby Saunders (Great Crested):

11th February

The raging gale of the day before yesterday returned with a vengeance and severely hindered today's efforts. A Woodcock at Wakeham was the best of the cold weather refugees that otherwise didn't extend beyond 6 Lapwings and 3 Redwings at the Bill and a big increase in Dunlin at Ferrybridge - 385 being by far the highest count there this winter. The Stock Dove tally at Sweethill increased to 38 with a Blackcap also still in residence there, the Rosy Starling was again at Easton and the Black Brant showed up at Ferrybridge for a second successive day.

10th February

In altogether brighter conditions that took the edge off the chill just a little, fieldwork didn't seem quite such an uninviting prospect today. The list accrued was certainly more varied than in recent days even if the totals of cold weather immigrants remained very low, with the pick being 25 Golden Plovers, 7 Redwings, 4 Lapwings and 2 Snipe at the Bill and a Goosander at Ferrybridge. A Velvet Scoter through off the Bill was a first for the year, with 2 Red-throated Divers also through on the sea there and the usual singles of Merlin and Black Redstart still in residence on the land. The Rosy Starling was still at Easton, whilst Ferrybridge chipped in with the Black Brant amongst the standard fare.

Goosander and Smew were always the duo of scarce wildfowl that you'd go out expecting to see during cold spells of old; the former, like this morning's nice drake through Ferrybridge, does still turn up but the latter has become an almost mythical rarity around here these days © Pete Saunders:

The Black Brant - or hybrid or whatever it is - made another of its occasional visits to Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:

The Mediterranean Gull blizzard was - as it always is - an impressive spectacle at Ferrybridge. When they were scarcities many, many years ago it seemed as though they hated low temperatures and always vacated the Weymouth area as soon as an icy spell set in; as well as acquiring some sort of population explosion gene they also seem to run on anti-freeze these days © Pete Saunders:

The Bill Black Redstart this morning © Geoff Orton:

9th February

Experience tells us that Portland very rarely comes up with a worthwhile cold weather movement unless there's substantial snow cover visible across on the mainland or, preferably, it's actually snowing on the island. Today might have had a bitter and brutally strong northeasterly but our half-a-dozen flakes of snow around dawn caused little or no avian disruption, with a Woodcock and 4 Lapwings at the Bill the only evidence of any movement away from weather events further east. Additionally, another 3 Red-throated Divers passed by off the Bill, 32 Stock Doves at Sweethill was thought to be the highest ever count there and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Shelducks and a Knot were among the waterfowl selection at Ferrybridge.

8th February

A really raw day with the temperature not getting above zero until nearly midday and never even reaching a full degree higher than that. From the cold-weather movement point of view snow cover remained very distant so the likes of plovers and thrushes didn't feature at all and the tally of 7 Wigeon, 4 Shelducks, a Brent Goose and a Dunlin through off the Bill - along with routine fare including 4 Red-throated Divers - can hardly be regarded as a rich reward from the sea. The day's other reports included the Rosy Starling at Easton, a Black Redstart at Weston and 2 Knot and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge.

Bar-tailed Godwit and Knots at Ferrybridge this morning - perhaps most likely making one of their occasional visits from further up the Fleet rather than being entirely new © Pete Saunders:

7th February

A Short-eared Owl over Barleycrates Lane was a first for the year today, whilst singles of Teal and Red-breasted Merganser through off the Bill were both mid-winter scarcities there. The only other reports were of 3 Red-throated Divers also through off the Bill, 14 Common Scoter and 2 Eider settled offshore there and at least one of the Redpolls still about on the land.

5th February

Bar a couple of rogue showers today could easily have been passed off as a day from well into the spring even if, for the most part, the quality of the birding was still at the late winter doldrums level. Eleven Red-throated Divers through off the Bill were all moving back out of Lyme Bay, with 2 Brent Geese also heading in the same direction and a Great Skua again knocking about offshore; one fortunate observer also dipped into a major Bill rarity in the form of a Black-necked Grebe passing by. Two Blackcaps at Church Ope Cove were the first there this winter, whilst regulars on the land included the Rosy Starling at Easton, 9 Purple Sandpipers and a Black Redstart at the Bill, 2 more Black Redstarts beside Portland Harbour and a Chiffchaff at Southwell. Three Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Red-necked Grebe were also still about in Portland Harbour.

The Black Redstart at Osprey Quay today was, per the observers, seemingly different to one there last week. Assuming these wintering birds are relatively sedentary (...are they? - at least the ones we're most familiar with at the Bill seem to occupy large-ish but relatively discrete winter territories) a quick tally of the reports we've received for this winter indicates an all-island population in the low twenties - the exact tally to date is a minimum of 21 birds from 9 different areas but the latter doesn't include, for example, the urban areas of Easton and the Grove or the industrial parts of Portland Port where you'd think there's bound to be the odd one tucked away like there have been in many past winters © Debby Saunders:

4th February

Another very low-key selection today that included a Brent Goose through off the Bill, 2 Redpolls still coming and going from the Obs, a Black Redstart at Osprey Quay and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour, and a Shelduck along with the more routine inhabitants at Ferrybridge.

3rd February

Just a few entirely routine sightings today including the Rosy Starling still at Easton.

2nd February

The return of a fresh southwesterly saw sea interest dwindle away, with just 6 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill where the 2 Eider were still in residence; a Kittiwake in Portland Harbour was an additional minor seabird oddity. Standard fare on the land included 10 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Redpolls and a Black Redstart at the Bill, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Long-tailed Tits at Southwell, the Rosy Starling at Easton and another Black Redstart at Osprey Quay.

Fulmar and Purple Sandpiper at the Bill this morning © Pete Saunders:

1st February

Still a mighty swell running off the Bill today but with the wind reduced to little more than a waft of easterly Red-throated Divers were still relocating toward Lyme Bay in good quantity, with far less comprehensive coverage than yesterday producing another 59 during the morning; the Great Skua and 2 Eider were also still offshore, whilst 2 Redpolls and a Merlin were about on the land. Elsewhere, the Rosy Starling was at Easton, single Black Redstarts were at Blacknor and Verne Common Estate, a total of 210 was this winter's peak for Dunlin at Ferrybridge and the Red-necked Grebe was again amongst the waterfowl selection at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge that also included 65 Red-breasted Mergansers - a good total in the current era of sawbill poverty.