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: