30th June

An unexpectedly warm, clear day saw the barest trickle of overhead passage including a new Yellow Wagtail, a smattering of Sand Martins and a single Curlew. The sea provided a couple of points of interest with two Balearic Shearwaters through in the morning and a Little Tern with two Sandwich Terns in the evening. 

Much of the morning's focus continues to go to the moths with the traps full to bursting once more. The most exciting capture - at least in terms of rarity if not looks - was a Porter's Rustic, with a supporting cast that included another 273 Diamond-backs

29th June

Another unsettled morning saw a slow start from the lighthouse residents. Despite the birding being a tad dire, it was at least a successful night for moths. The birding was exceptionally difficult with very little in the way of new migrants save for a Cuckoo at Southwell and a Reed Warbler in Culverwell. The sea was equally challenging with just single figures of Sandwich Tern and Manx Shearwater to speak of.

The moths were much more varied with the fourth first for Portland of the year turning up in the form of a Bird's Wing, as well as highest totals for the year to date of Diamond-back (259) and Silver-Y (245).

Today's Cuckoo and one of the recently fledged Peregrines from a few days ago © Andy Mitchell

28th June

After the heavy rain either side of dawn cleared through there was some encouragement when the first few checks of the Obs garden mist-nets came up with new arrivals in the form of 2 Chiffchaffs and a Reed Warbler, with 2 more Reed Warblers soon found in the Bill Quarry. Sadly, these migrants proved to be a flash in the pan and little else of note was uncovered on the land. A handful of skuas provided the only interest on the sea: a Great passed by off the Bill and 2 Arctics headed overhead at Ferrybridge.

There's plenty of action right now in the Little Tern colony at Ferrybridge © John Dadds (filmed under NE licence):

27th June

Day-long grim conditions limited both enthusiasm and fieldwork possibilities and the only report was of a Cuckoo at the north of the island.

26th June

Manx Shearwaters made up the bulk of today's numbers with another strong movement off the Bill totalling at least 1000 through the morning; 58 Common Scoter, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Whimbrel were amongst a few other birds also on the move offshore. The land remained quiet: an unseasonable Reed Bunting was at the Bill where another Yellow Wagtail also showed up, whilst 6 Dunlin were at Ferrybridge.

Ones and twos of Wheatears have remained at both the Bill and Ferrybridge all summer but, at least thus far, there's been no evidence of breeding at either; this female was one of a pair at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

25th June

The day's only reports were of singles of Yellow Wagtail, Black Redstart and Reed Warbler at the Bill.

The Yellow Wagtail is an interesting-looking bird that's been seen on the ground just this once when it was settled for a few seconds in the Bill Quarry; it was first noted yesterday when it flew over the Obs and there was a repeat again today when it flew over shortly before the Bill Quarry sighting - on both occasions the calls heard sounded quite odd - in particular being rather clipped - for a 'normal' Yellow Wagtail © Colin Gittins:


24th June

A sprinkling of variety on a clear, calm and warm day saw a second Turtle Dove join yesterday's bird in the Southwell gardens. A common bird on the mainland, but a good bird for Portland came in the form of the second Mistle Thrush of the summer. A fly-over Yellow Wagtail added to the day's tally, along with the first seven returning Black-tailed Godwits that passed by on the sea. Common migrants seem to be on the up again with a smattering of Sand MartinsChiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Reed Warblers across the island. 

Mid-summer used to be a reliable time for dispersing Mistle Thrushes like today's juvenile to pitch up at Portland but these days they've become very infrequent at this season © Martin Cade:

 The Turtle Dove remained confiding in the Southwell gardens and was joined by a second individual in the morning (and rather spectacularly also by 24 Stock Doves) © Debby Saunders:

A trip to Broadcroft Quarry is always worth your while at this time of year with Common Blues, Lulworth Skippers and the first Silver-studded Blues of the year featuring there today © Ken Dolbear:

23rd June

June always has surprises up its sleeve but, with no previous sightings in this month even in those long-ago days when they were a more frequent visitor, Cirl Bunting probably wouldn't have featured on anyone's list of possibilities for today; however, preconceptions are there to be shot down by events and the hitherto unseen fine male that turned up in a mist-net at Culverwell was a great reward for the dogged ringer operating that site in what's very much the off-season for commoner migrants. The glorious sunshine was ample enough reason to get out searching but there were other snippets of interest to be found, with 3 Reed Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Sand Martins, a Hobby and a Chiffchaff unearthed at the Bill, the Turtle Dove still at Southwell and singles of Grey Plover and Wheatear at Ferrybridge. The sea was also worth attention, with 140 Manx Shearwaters, a Curlew and an Arctic Skua the best of the bunch off the Bill.

Mark Cutts' perseverance with Culverwell paid off in fine style with the Cirl Bunting © Martin Cade:

22nd June

We've today taken delivery of our latest report and will be mailing copies to members before long - if you happen to call in at the Obs during the next few days do please pick up your copy to save us the postage costs. 

Strong winds and rain overnight continued through the morning resulting in the most disappointing moth night for some time. However, the rain appeared to down a few bits and pieces in the bird line with a nice highlight in the form of a Turtle Dove in the Southwell gardens; other migrants included a Cuckoo at the Privet Hedge, a Siskin at the Obs, a lingering Spotted Flycatcher in Culverwell and 2 Curlews through on the sea. The morning rain also saw a small displacement of Swifts with over 50 overhead at the Bill.

Birder's gardens at Southwell are always a magnet for late spring Turtle Doves and today's bird paid its respects to two of them © Nick Stantiford (top) and Debby Saunders (bottom): 

21st June

With rain falling pretty well constantly from before dawn until after dusk it was a painfully long longest day of the year and one that produced no worthwhile bird sightings.

After the slow start to the year moth interest has improved considerably this month; we've mentioned the addition of Sloe Pug to the island list and the last couple of nights have produced two more additions: Black-speckled Groundling Carpatolechia proximella from the Obs traps and Oak Marble Lobesia reliquana trapped by Paul Parsons at Church Ope Cove; proximella is a quite widespread moth but with foodplants of alder and birch it seems much more likely to have strayed here than to be a hitherto undiscovered resident; reliquana is usually an oak feeder but blackthorn is given as an alternative foodplant and since Paul trapped two individuals it seems a lot more likely that it's established in the Church Ope area © Martin Cade (proximella) and Paul Parsons (reliquana):

20th June

Continuing heavily overcast skies dropped another little flurry of arrivals today, with 3 Reed Warblers, 3 Blackcaps and a Spotted Flycatcher logged at the Bill.

Maybe we're getting too old or too in need of a longer night's sleep these days but so far this summer we haven't made as many night-time visits to the Bill tip as we used to to have a try for Storm Petrels. That said, it's still a compelling activity and we couldn't resist one night last week: it was far from a vintage session with only four birds trapped but having a thermal camera does at least afford the opportunity to while away some time by watching what the petrels are up to before they get trapped - or in a some cases don't get trapped despite clearly being attracted by the sound-lure © Martin Cade:

19th June

With new waves of Rosy Starlings entering the country as readily as Covid variants it was only a matter of time before our short hiatus in sightings ended, with today's newcomer pitching up for a few minutes during the afternoon in and around the Obs Quarry - it didn't linger long before heading away rapidly northwards. Under heavily overcast skies that eventually resulted in a brief downpour during the evening a few other arrivals also showed up, including 2 Cuckoos and singles of Reed Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff at the Bill. Up to 50 Manx Shearwaters and 30 Common Terns were lingering off the Bill where 8 Sandwich Terns, 6 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua also passed by. Elsewhere, a Roseate Tern passed through at Ferrybridge.

18th June

A reminder that there's an InFocus field day at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Sunday, 20th June.

With Portland right on the cusp of an almost stationary weather front with rain to east and brightness to the west, today could have gone either way but in the event the rain just won out and persisted until late afternoon. A very frustrating event for the observer concerned saw what was very likely a pratincole pass rapidly up the Slopes at the Bill without giving any sort of clinching view before it disappeared from sight. With routine activities heavily curtailed by the rain the day's only other reports were of a Cuckoo at the Obs and a few Manx Shearwaters and Common Terns milling around offshore.

Maybe unexpectedly, Portland does already have a track record for pratincoles, with two birds that couldn't been be specifically clinched in Top Fields on 9th October 1971 and a Collared Pratincole high over the Bill on 31st May 1992. This woefully inadequate image of the latter (this is only a quick phone snap of the transparency - despite being a tiny image of the bird, you'll have to take our word that when projected it's possible to see perfectly well that it's a Collared Pratincole!) is a tangible reminder of one of those unforgettable Portland moments: in this case Geoff Moyser burtsting into the Obs after a lung-bursting run and blurting out there there was something that was either a pratincole, an Alpine Swift or a Hobby hawking insects high over the Privet Hedge! 'Scope views duly confirmed it was a Collared Pratincole and, since it was in view for only a few minutes before towering away and being lost to view, it's remained a high value sighting as there's been no subsequent record of a pratincole of any sort in Dorset  © Martin Cade:

Turning to moths, in the pretty stakes this fantastically richly-coloured Beautiful Marbled from the Grove moth-trap has been the hands-down winner in recent nights...

...however, we were much more excited to catch this Sloe Pug at the Obs last night as this is a new species for Portland. We've always been on the look out for this slightly tricky to identify moth having imagined it really ought to be here what with the amount of its food plant - Blackthorn - on the island; whether it really is here but has always escaped attention or this individual is just a stray from the mainland where it's thinly distributed right across Dorset remains to be clarified © Martin Cade:

17th June

Just when the land seemed like it was giving up the ghost, the sea stepped in to provide some entertainment today. This year has been poor for Manx Shearwaters, with a maximum count of 500 on both the 18th April and 3rd May being a well below average peak for the spring; today saw over 1000, first on the move eastward but later many swilling and shearing among the summer gull flock. This spectacle was accompanied by two Pomarine Skuas during the morning and another in the evening.

The two morning Poms were full adults heading west - failed breeders? - but this one that passed by during the evening was a scratchy-looking sub-adult of some sort © Martin Cade:

The Shag families in the seabird colony at the Bill are coming along nicely with parents regularly bringing in food to their pterodactyl-like chicks © Erin Taylor

16th June

You know it's June on Portland when you can wear shorts from dawn and the best bird of the day is a Reed Warbler at Bumpers Lane. Not that we have anything to complain about: this June has had its moments of excitement even if, unfortunately, today didn't have its share of them. The rest of the list consisted of two fly-over Siskins at Wakeham, a single Balearic and three Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill and the first juvenile Blackcap of the summer in the Obs garden.

It's hard to be too despondent with evening skies as tranquil as yesterday's © Erin Taylor:

And to pop back to the weekend: we had promised more of Sunday's Common Rosefinch and finally today got round to cobbling together a little video © Martin Cade:

15th June

The day dawned with a stiff northeasterly breeze and cloud that steadily ameliorated away to another gloriously warm day.  Once again it was down to the nets to provide the potential quality of the day as the afternoon session produced a single bird - a very bright, pale-legged Chiffchaff. Of course, we've been caught out before so caution is prudent but it looked to be a worthwhile candidate for an Iberian Chiffchaff. Unfortunately the bird was a female so singing was out of the question and no amount of recording equipment could induce the bird to call upon release. Aside from this glimmer of excitement, a Bonxie passed at sea and a single Blackcap was in the Obs garden. 

The afternoon Chiffchaff was a bright bird with a lot of yellow in the supercilium, a reduced under-eye crescent and a nice clean white belly...

...although even more interesting since this is supposed to be a good feature of first-summer Iberian Chiffchaffs was the evidence of moult in the flight feathers: this was a wee bit subtle since it's already mid-June so the whole tract of feathers was worn, but in comparison to the heavily worn inner primaries the outer primaries were noticeably darker and less worn; the outermost secondary was also conspicuously fresh and dark and so had the look of a more recently moulted feather than those around it © Martin Cade:

14th June

Important announcement for PBO members: in the light of this evening's Government announcement concerning a delay in the easing of lockdown restrictions we will be unable to hold this year's AGM on Saturday 3rd July as a physical meeting, instead the meeting will be held in virtual form via the Zoom video conferencing app. An agenda and details of how to join the meeting are available HERE.

You couldn't have asked for a nicer day: the sun was shining and the breeze provided just enough chill to stop the heat becoming unbearable. Obviously it would be too much to ask for there to be a slew of good birds two days on the trot so we made do with the little trickle of migrants we could find. Those included a Spotted Flycatcher each at Culverwell and Old Hill, as well as a Chiffchaff at the former and two singing Blackcaps around the Obs area. The rest of the day was spent admiring the local breeders with an excellent show of Kittiwakes in the West Cliff sea bird colony - the onomatopoeic calls sounded all the more magical given their absence over the past few years. 

The moth-traps can often be relied on to provide some interest when we're struggling for birds at this time of year, with quite a few local specials now on the wing including Portland Ribbon Wave and Thyme Pug © Debby Saunders:

The Little Tern colony at Ferrybridge is also a hive of action right now, with the shoreline there often also attracting a selection of gulls and waders displaced from the mudflats by the inevitable human activity in this warm weather...

...amongst the terns, three 'outsiders' are currently in residence - two from Irish colonies and this one 'PPF' that was ringed in the Gronnant colony in north Wales © John Dadds (photos taken under NE licence):

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