13th June

Wow, what a difference a waft of easterly makes. Outwardly, there was little change in the weather with a beautiful blue sky and warm sunshine from the outset, but those with a feel for possibilities had noted the evident shift in what little breeze there was and it didn't take too long before the hearing of an unfamiliar call led to the discovery of a Common Rosefinch in the Obs garden; it duly begun to sing pretty heartily before suddenly upping and heading away north. The next discovery came solely from perseverance with the Obs garden mist-nets: after a morning and most of an afternoon with literally not a single capture what should pop up completely of the blue towards teatime but a Red-breasted Flycatcher. It proved to be an in-hand only bird that couldn't be found after release but searching for it uncovered the day's most frustrating arrival, a Hippolais warbler lurking high in tree tops of the Obs front garden; whilst clearly a Melodious or Icterine the views were almost all extremely brief and from directly underneath and, although Melodious was strongly suspected, it defied conclusive identification. Further unseasonable arrivals at the Bill included singles of Yellow Wagtail, Mistle Thrush and Siskin, whilst a Little Egret also arrived from the south.

Once it got going the Common Rosefinch was in good voice (although to hear the recording you'll have to wait until tomorrow when we're less weary from gawping into treetops for several hours trying to clinch a Melodious Warbler!) © Martin Cade:


In keeping with all previous June Red-breasted Flycatchers at the Obs, today's bird was in really ragged first-summer plumage, with tiny pale tips just about visible in the greater coverts and two generations of tail feathers © Martin Cade:




A couple of glimpses of the Hippolais; we'll scrutinize again our other photos that appear to mostly show just random unhelpful bits of it in case there is something that could be relied on for an ID © Martin Cade:



There's been a really heartening development in the seabird colony at the Bill with the first evidence of Kittiwake breeding activity for several years. We'd mentioned a while ago just how many birds have been lingering offshore but some are now settling on the ledges and it looks like nests are being built on the invisible section of cliffs under the QinetiQ compound © Pete Saunders:


A fascinating piece of evidence for where these new arrivals might have originated from comes from a colour-ring sighting yesterday: this individual was ringed as a nestling on 30th July 2019 in a colony at Point du Raz, Brittany, France © John Hansford:


Pointe du Raz looks to be a picturesque location © Wikipedia Commons:

12th June

A gorgeously warm and sunny day but slow on the bird front: the Woodchat that remained at Wallsend was the only sighting of note on the land; 200 Manx Shearwaters, 18 Common Scoter and a Mediterranean Gull passed by on the sea.

Busiest night of the year in the moth-traps saw precious little evidence of immigration save for a surprise Silver Barred.

Quite where Portland's - and Dorset's - second Silver Barred popped up from remains anyone's guess: last year's first record occurred during a well-defined episode of immigration and dispersal but precious little of that nature looks to be underway at the moment © Martin Cade:



11th June

We awoke to the sound of the foghorn for the second morning in a row, and with little respite in the thick cloud it seemed unlikely that anything had been able to either arrive or leave. As such, the Woodchat Shrike was still present at Wallsend and the Wheatears continued their territorial displays with little else to add to the variety of the day. 

Early Gentians are considered an endemic to the UK, with a distribution centered on the southern counties, with Dorset being a key area. However, its distribution is called into question by those who bracket it as a subspecies of the commoner Autumn Gentian that flowers in almost identical habitats but with a flowering period from July-October as opposed to these specimens from April-July. The differences in physical appearance are somewhat subtle with the books telling us that, "the apical pedicel is greater than half the total height to pedicel apex" - us mortals will just have to take their word on it © Erin Taylor:


The Woodchat Shrike continued to delight on its fifth day in residence © Mark Eggleton (top) and Mike Trew (bottom): 


10th June

With thick fog enveloping the island all day there were literally just two entries on the bird list: the Woodchat Shrike was still at Wallsend and there was a Blackcap at Culverwell.

After what was the poorest spring for moth-trapping in the modern era it's been a pleasure to at last find the traps relatively busy now that the nights have warmed up. Immigration has never got going in a big way but odd morsels of quality by way of long distance travellers just lately have included singles of Striped Hawkmoth and Bordered Straw on consecutive nights at the Grove... 



...the Striped Hawk was released at the Obs where it lingered around a valerian patch for quite a while after nightfall © Martin Cade

9th June

Today proved that effort doesn't always pay off, when nine hours of netting at the Obs resulted in the capture of exactly zero birds. In the field, the Woodchat Shrike returned to its favoured bramble patches in the horse paddock below Wallsend and a Rosy Starling flew through at Blacknor. A lone Turnstone was the best the Bill could muster in terms of new migrants, with the sea there coming up with a Balearic Shearwater and low double figures of Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoter

The lingering Woodchat Shrike continued to show well at Wallsend © Pete Saunders



8th June

A calm, clear and dewy morning brought little in the way of new migrants save for 2 Reed Warblers and singles of Grey Heron and Golden Plover at the Bill. Yesterday's Woodchat Shrike remained in the horse paddocks along West Cliffs, whilst Rosy Starlings were represented by the Avalanche Road bird and another individual at Watery Lane. A lone Balearic Shearwater was the pick of some very limited movement off the Bill.

The Watery Lane Rosy Starling spent a lot of time out of sight in the deep grass of its favoured horse paddocks but it showed nicely when it did come into view © Martin Cade (settled) and Pete Saunders (flying):





The Woodchat Shrike was also showing nicely © Martin Cade:

7th June

There were a few decent birds on offer today, the most notable of which was a new Woodchat Shrike that dropped in on the Slopes before becoming quite mobile and eventually ending up in Top Fields. A Rosy Starling continued to entertain from time to time at Avalanche Road whilst a presumably departing Cuckoo also showed up at the Bill; other new arrivals included 2 Reed Warblers, a Little Egret and a Chiffchaff at the Bill and a Whinchat at Reap Lane. The sea chipped in with 56 Common Scoter and singles of Great and Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

Two in one season represents a continuation of a return to form for Woodchat after a lean spell in the last decade: singles in both the last two years had been the first logged on the island since 2012; the all-time Portland tally now stands at 66 © Martin Cade:




One of the Rosy Starlings continued to visit a feeder in a garden beside Avalanche Road at regular intervals throughout the day © Andy Luckhurst:



After yesterday's Sand Martin it looks like autumn really is getting going with this Cuckoo - another classic early leaver - showing up at the Bill today © Martin Cade:


It was a shame that the resolving powers of our kiddie camera weren't a bit better for the freak of the day: this striking-looking leucistic Gannet passing by off the Bill looked great through a 'scope but was just too far away to permit any decent photos - the higher magnification views revealed a ghosting of pale grey on the primaries that's just about apparent on these photos. We have a faint recollection of a similar-looking bird being seen off the Bill way back in the mid-1970s but to our knowledge there have been no reports from here since that time. Which colony does this bird hail from? © Martin Cade:

6th June

Another day saved by a Rosy Starling, with at least one of the recent birds still about - although never easy to catch up with - at Southwell. Persistent fog hampered migrant-hunting but 3 Reed Warblers were new arrivals around the south of the island where a Sand Martin could plausibly even be the first departing summer migrant.

This character went to extreme lengths to avoid the £10 charge to make use of the pretty grim sanitary conditions we've heard prevail in at least one of the pop-up campsites at the Bill - and even then he doesn't look best pleased with his decision. Seriously though, this sort of activity is just the latest example of the utter disregard for the natural world shown by so many visitors to Portland - we're guessing this guy thinks he's in some way connecting with nature but, as is so often the case, it's on his terms so he's turned a blind eye to the fact that he's right on the edge of a restricted section of cliff - the restriction is well-publicised in local climbing guides - and ignored the evidence of his own eyes that he's patently disturbing a seabird breeding colony © Pete Saunders:


5th June

A radiant day, almost entirely undarkened by any clouds throughout was unencumbered by birds until the evening when two Rosy Starlings pitched up in the hedges behind Southwell. The rest of the day was a struggle bird-wise with with a new Chiffchaff at the Obs and a Blackcap at Culverwell the only additions from the land. The sea was a little busier, including singles of Great Northern Diver, Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

The Rosy Starling influx continues... © Nick Stantiford:



With the resident auks being one of the best things to watch at the moment, a quick round of 'spot the bridled Guillemots' was in order © Pete Saunders:


4th June

It was no surprise at all considering the prevailing circumstances that a Rosy Starling again provided the day's rarity interest even if it escaped the attention of birders by dropping in on a member of the public's garden pond at Southwell; a fly-by Iceland Gull at Weston was an unseasonable surprise as was a Black Redstart at Chiswell. New commoner migrants consisted of  no more than a trickle of arriving Swifts overhead, 7 Sanderling through at the Bill and 2 Chiffchaffs there. The first pulse of Manx Shearwaters for a while totalled 200 off the Bill where 2 Canada Geese and a Great Skua also passed by.

The Rosy Starling was an exciting garden visitor for a fortunate home-owner at Southwell © Mr Mackey:


Birds might have been hard to come by in today's lovely conditions but there are always moth opportunities at this time of year. The tiny Cocksfoot Moth Glyphipterix simpliciella is super-abundant right now, particularly on buttercups - there are often a dozen or more per buttercup flower if you get down on your hands and knees and have a look © Joe Stockwell:


The Vine Moth Eupoecilia ambiguella has become an increasingly familar sight these days - formerly a scarce immigrant, it seems to have colonised parts of the island and is now not only a regular moth-trap visitor but is also chivvied out of cover quite often by day © Martin Cade:

3rd June

It's a sad state of affairs when the sea scores with most of the day's interest in early June, but with 6 Arctic Skuas, 2 Pomarine Skuas and a Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill and barely more the 2 Reed Warblers and a Chiffchaff to show by way of new arrivals on the ground throughout the whole island it wasn't hard to gauge which fared better.

 There are definitely more molluscs around this year and it is a rare pleasure to manage to capture the moment when Glow Worm larvae find their next meal ©Gerry Hinde:




2nd June

 Today felt interesting with the constant threat of drizzle keeping the clouds low and the occasional burst of rain making it feel like something could be downed at any moment. Despite the seemingly excellent conditions, we had to make do with two Rosy Starlings that both moved north from arriving at the Bill in quick succession. The rest of the day was spent traipsing through the usual haunts in a vain attempt to find something a little rarer, finding just a single Hobby and a selection of breeding Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in the process. The sea was quiet with just the lingering Puffins and three Sandwich Terns of note. 

It would appear that the Rosy Starling invasion is gaining momentum with another two arriving this morning, including this absolute corker complete with clean pink mantle and full shaggy crest ©Erin Taylor (perched) ©Martin Cade (flight shots):





1st June

Absolutely glorious sunshine accompanied by a strong breeze made for the ideal conditions for ambling round the island, if not for producing migrant birds. In fact there was very little of note throughout the whole day save for another appearance of a/the Rosy Starling in a private garden at Easton (a different garden to yesterday's sighting). The sea highlight was a Pomarine Skua through east in the mid-morning, with only a few of the usual suspects included 25 each of Common Scoter and Manx Shearwater, seven Sandwich Terns and two Puffins to provide further interest there. Ferrybridge provided some much needed variety with three Knot and a single Bar-tailed Godwit

When there aren't many birds around, attention often turns to other things including: the first Meadow Grey Scoparia pyralella of the year, a spectacular bloom of Bithynian Vetch and some areas of Portland that we don't get to visit very often © Erin Taylor