31st March

A profound change in the conditions as well as the quality of the birding today as a cold front swept south overnight and introduced a blasting, raw northerly laced with occasional sleet showers. The cloud and rain associated with the weather front passed over rather too early in the night and seemingly prevented most migrants from leaving their departure points: a trickle of thrushes made it through but only low dozens of, for example, Wheatears and Blackcaps remained/arrived where yesterday there had been hundreds and 4 Black Redstarts, a White Wagtail and a Ring Ouzel provided the only scarcity interest around the south of the island. In wholly inappropriate conditions for the sea just 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Sandwich Terns passed through off the Bill.

One of this morning's Redwings © Debby Saunders:

We received very sad news today of the death earlier this week of Ken Dolbear. Ken was a great friend and supporter of the Obs - many visitors will have met him in person on Portland but still more will have become acquainted with him through his beautiful photographs of the flora and fauna of the island that he generously allowed us to post on the blog and publish in our annual reports. After a rewarding and influential working life Ken spent his retirement tirelessly and selflessly championing so many of the underappreciated aspects of Portland's unique natural history - he was a lovely chap who'll be sorely missed. We offer our sincere condolences to Ken's family and friends.

30th March

Another very nice drop of summer migrants today in conditions quite unlike those prevailing for yesterday's more 'classic' fall; today's arrival looked to be related as much to there suddenly being a stronger momentum to passage - there was a decent cloud cover at dawn but many of the birds seemed to drop in after this had dissipated. Around the south of the island, a dawn flurry of 41 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares set the scene for what later materialised into a really good arrivals of Wheatears and Blackcaps in particular: an estimate of 200 Wheatears may well be conservative given so many of them were frequenting a huge ploughed field at Barleycrates Lane where most were hidden from view at any given moment, whilst the total of 104 Blackcaps trapped at the Obs suggests that their numbers were seriously underestimated by the fieldworkers. Variety was typically limited this early in the spring, but 20 Black Redstarts, 4 Ring Ouzels, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Redstarts, 2 Bramblings and the first Pied Flycatcher of the season - together with 2 lingering Short-eared Owls - represented a good return from all the legwork. Visible passage was poorly recorded but did include a trickle of all three common hirundines. The sea didn't look to offer much promise what with there being a fresh offshore breeze for much of the morning so 27 Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua through off the Bill were a welcome surprise.

One of the four Ring Ouzels at the Bill © Pete Saunders:

By virtue of being such creepy, unobtrusive birds Blackcaps really are one of the most enigmatic and presumably under-recorded of common migrants at Portland. In spring, numbers trapped at the Obs can be way above anything suspected from fieldwork alone - did anyone out in the field today seriously believe there were anything even approaching 100 Blackcaps at the Bill, let alone the likely twice as many that really made landfall there (you only had to walk around the front net lanes at the Obs to see that far more were missing the nets and subsequently leaving the garden than were actually being caught)?, whilst in autumn the relatively low numbers trapped at the Obs in no way mirrors the seemingly huge but poorly quantified numbers that are audible or afford only flight views in the thicker cover of the centre and north of the island © Martin Cade:

29th March

Migration aficionados had noticed today's potential to at last provide them with some action and, thanks to overnight rain and overcast skies - ingredients that had hitherto been missing all month, they had their chance to wade through some fairly respectable numbers today. It's still early for variety but a spread around the south of the island of the likes of 10 Black Redstarts, 5 Ring Ouzels, 4 White Wagtails, 2 Bullfinches and singles of Merlin, Redstart and Brambling, amongst 150 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 40 Wheatears and 30 Willow Warblers, made for some thoroughly enjoyable birding. Visible passage didn't look to be as heavy as in recent days although the totals of 300 Meadow Pipits and 280 Wood Pigeons logged heading north when there were so many distractions suggested there was still plenty on the move despite the murky conditions. Seawatching was also hampered by the imperfect visibility so the totals of 400 Gannets, 63 Common Scoter, 14 Red-throated Divers, 12 Teal and 3 Shoveler accrued at the Bill weren't too bad given the circumstances.

We'd thought our Redstart today (see below) was the first of the year but it later transpired that visitors staying at the Old Higher Lighthouse had seen one there yesterday evening! © Clare Harrison:

28th March

A good all round early season migration day today - about time too! Grounded arrivals have been very conspicuously sparse all month so a little flurry at the Bill of 60 Chiffchaffs and 15 each of Blackcap and Willow Warbler was very welcome albeit nothing whatever to shout about for late March; 2 Black Redstarts were also still about there and 2 Bramblings dropped in, whilst elsewhere another 3 Black Redstarts lingered at Reap Lane and singles of Redwing and Fieldfare were about at Reap/Barleycrates. Despite the persistent cloud cover visible passage continued apace, with a sample one hour watch on West Cliffs returning totals of 391 Meadow Pipits and 85 Linnets. The sea was the surprise package of the day - in spite of a seemingly unhelpful offshore breeze - with 414 Common Scoter, 16 Shoveler, 9 Red-throated Divers, 9 Garganey, 2 Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe representing a really good return off the Bill.

It was about time we had a decent little arrival of grounded migrants and, as would be expected in March, it was Chiffchaffs that made up the bulk of the numbers;...

...we had been anticipating a decent passage of Bramblings and although points westward and eastward have done far better for numbers we've still been treated to daily records just lately. Many have pitched in briefly but few have been as confiding as this morning's young male that repeatedly dropped onto the Obs garden bird-table; sadly, an even better looking male was more circumspect;...

...the spring's best waterfowl passage to date was slightly hampered by a dogged haziness over the sea but a few of the scoter flocks were just about within camera range © Martin Cade:

27th March

Such has been the dearth of birds on the ground that anyone wandering the byways of the island during the last week or so would be forgiven for thinking that migration's currently a non-event; however, venture up onto the West Cliffs and a far truer picture emerges, exemplified today by the almost unending stream of Meadow Pipits hurrying northward - 2500 were logged in six hours but the day's total was no doubt considerably higher than that. The year's first Osprey also passed through, whilst sample counts of the likes of 300 Linnets were further indications of how much was on the move. No doubt there's just as much on the move during the hours of darkness but with barely a cloud in the sky few of these nocturnal migrants are troubling to stop; a round-island totals of at least 11 Black Redstarts was notable but the tally of 10 Wheatears at the Bill was the only other double figure worth a mention. Amongst the miscellany of other reports a Red Kite at Nicodemus Knob and singles of Merlin at the Bill and Weston were noteworthy.

26th March

It was again a real struggle to get much reward anywhere other than on West Cliffs where visible migration maintained decent momentum under the clear, sunny sky and an increasingly brisk northeasterly. The Meadow Pipit tally reached four figures, with 350 Linnets, 87 Wood Pigeons, 37 Siskins and 15 Stock Doves all worthwhile list padders. With the notable exception of 8 Black Redstarts it was frankly pitiful on the ground with no more than lowly single figure totals of a limited range of expected fare. The sea was a tiny bit better, with 17 more Red-throated Divers moving alongside a surge in non-local auks that saw 300 - seemingly mostly Razorbills - head up-Channel; elsewhere on the water the Red-necked Grebe remained in Portland Harbour.

25th March

Another gloriously sunny, pleasant day albeit slightly tempered by more of a northeasterly breeze than yesterday. The migrant situation hardly changed, with no more than single or low double figure totals of grounded arrivals amongst which there were no surprises: at least 2 Black Redstarts did make the tally along with lingering singles of Merlin and Bullfinch, whilst 2 Short-eared Owls were again at the Bill (there was also belated news of a single at Barleycrates Lane yesterday evening that was additional to the 3 at the Bill). Overhead passage was less conspicuous than in recent days, with Meadow Pipits failing to top a 500 total on West Cliffs; 46 Wood Pigeons, 19 Stock Doves, 12 Siskins, 8 Sand Martins, 2 Swallows and a Brambling were the best of the vismig variety. Another 29 Red-throated Divers and a lone Little Egret were the pick of a limited selection from the seawatchers at the Bill.

24th March

A fair bit more interest today although you had to be on your toes to catch up with any of real quality. With the conditions getting more summer-like by the day it was no surprise when a Hoopoe was called in, although it proved to be no more than an almost subliminal fly-by at Verne Common; 3 Red Kites should have proved more visible but even they passed straight through over the centre of the island and escaped the attention of almost everyone, as did the Corn Bunting overflying at Weston. On the common migrant front there was a slight improvement in numbers on the ground, with 25 Wheatears, 15 Chiffchaffs, 5 Black Redstarts and a Bullfinch new at the Bill, another 3 Black Redstarts at Tout Quarry and a Brambling dropped in at Easton; 8 Purple Sandpipers and 3 Short-eared Owls were also lingerers worth a mention at the Bill. Overhead passage continued apace, with 700 more Meadow Pipits through along West Cliffs where the first House Martin of the season was the best of the rest. Red-throated Diver was the feature bird on the sea, with 40 through off the Bill where passage was otherwise very uneventful.

We've had active Badger setts in the Obs garden for several years but this often escapes the attention of visitors since the animals are invariably strictly nocturnal, only venturing out in twilight once the nights shorten as summer approaches © Jodie Henderson:

23rd March

At the risk of sounding like a broken record today brought forth a light easterly breeze, unbroken sunshine and precious little of great interest. Overhead passage again dominated the numbers with just shy of 1000 Meadow Pipits through north along West Cliffs; the varied back-up selection there included 77 Wood Pigeons, 13 Siskins, 8 Stock Doves, 8 Redwings and the customary assortment of alba wagtails, finches and the like, whilst 4 Greylag Geese headed in the opposite direction and were lost to view well on their way to France. For the most part it was hopelessly quiet on the ground with a lingering Firecrest, a Black Redstart and a brief Brambling the best on offer at the Bill. Routine fare aside, sea passage dwindled away with 8 Red-throated Divers the pick of the migrants off the Bill.

This super-smart male Wheatear was patrolling around the Ferrybridge car park - where it was even bursting into song at times - when we happened to drop in there today en route to Weymouth. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth since we didn't have a blog photograph for today it seemed worth spending a few minutes on and it was at this point we noticed the bird was ringed; dozens of photographs later we hoped we might have captured enough of the characters in the ring number to at least give some idea where the bird had been ringed. On checking the images later we discovered to our astonishment that it was a bird (AFD7940) we'd ringed ourselves as a just-fledged youngster in the Bill Quarry in June 2019. We've told some of this story before but, to cut a longish story short, it's an individual that was the product of an incestuous pairing between a male and one of its own young. We haven't had time to check on the bird's subsequent history but if we remember rightly it was back at the Bill in summer 2020 (where it was holding territory but didn't attract a mate) but there were no reports of it last summer...

...and here's this individual or its sibling fresh out of the nest back in June 2019 © Martin Cade:

Moth happenings have been entirely underwhelming so far this year so a Red Sword-grass from the Obs moth-traps this morning is worth a mention - this former great rarity is now just about annual here although the origin of these occasional arrivals remains obscure © Martin Cade:

22nd March

More lovely conditions for migration but not so good for anyone wanting to get amongst the migrants that no doubt streamed overhead during the crystal-clear hours of darkness. What precious little did make it to ground level included a scatter of 6 Redwings, 3 Bramblings and a Goldcrest amongst the handful of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs; a lingering Bullfinch was also still about, as were 9 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Black Redstarts, a Short-eared Owl and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. In seemingly perfect conditions overhead passage was unexpected far slower than had been the case yesterday, with 400 Meadow Pipits and 3 Siskins the best of the morning's offerings on West Cliffs. Some bitsy sea passage included combined Bill/Chesil totals of 43 Common Scoter, 15 Red-throated Divers, 13 Brent Geese, 11 Teal, 6 Sandwich Terns, 5 Pintail, 3 Garganey, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Black-throated Diver and an Arctic Skua.

Not that it sounds like the Sussex and Kent seawatchers need any more Pintail but these 5 that headed high east over Ferrybridge this morning no doubt bolstered their totals still further sometime this afternoon © Pete Saunders:

Garganey are notorious for providing some peculiar encounters at Portland and this morning's drake that we fluked from Pulpit Rock was no exception: in contrast to most moving waterfowl that head east up-Channel at this time of year this bird flew in from the south and looked for a moment like it might land amongst some auks before it shot off north gaining height all the time - by the time it disappeared from view in the vicinity of the auk colony it was already at clifftop height and had anyone been vismig-ing high up on West Cliffs it looked a lot like it'd have flown past them at eye-level! © Martin Cade:

21st March

Nice variety today even if it was only really visible passage that came up with any numbers. A veil of cloud overhead at dawn that gradually cleared to a haziness as the day wore on and the temperature crept up helped to drop a steady procession of Meadow Pipits to countable height and towards 1500 were eventually logged over the Bill; the usual accompanying suspects included 9 Siskins, 5 Sand Martins and the first three figure total of Linnets of the spring. Grounded nocturnal migrants were far less numerous but did include the first multiple arrival of Blackcaps (5 at the Bill and a scatter of singles elsewhere), 2 additional Black Redstarts (the Ferrybridge bird was also still present) and further singles of Brambling and Bullfinch. With notable sea passage taking place all along the Channel far more might have expected than the measly totals accrued at Chesil and the Bill: 5 Garganey passing the former were the clear highlight, but 58 Common Scoter, 15 Brent Geese, 10 Teal, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Black-throated Diver and the first Puffin of the season constituted a sorry back-up cast.

Today's Brambling visited a private garden at Southwell © Nick Stantiford:

20th March

A little less wind and an injection of new fieldworkers made all the difference today, with visible passage much more conspicuous as well as being far more comprehensively sampled. A minimum of 500 Meadow Pipits made up the bulk of the numbers passing through at the Bill, where a trickle of alba wagtails,  8 Sand Martins, 4 Greylag Geese, 2 Swallows and a variety of finches that included 6 Siskins and a Bullfinch provided some nice variety. It was much quieter on the ground with 15 Chiffchaffs, 4 Wheatears, 2 White Wagtails, a Black Redstart and a Willow Warbler the best of it at the Bill; another Black Redstart lingered on at Ferrybridge. Odds and ends out to sea included just a hint of Common Scoter passage getting going, with 37 through off the Bill.

19th March

Today was one of those days when you really question the wisdom of getting out of bed, not least because you have to field more questions from day-visitors concerning the nature of atmospheric physics: why is that when an anticyclone establishes itself over the UK the easterly wind is umpteen forces stronger at Portland than it is just a few miles inland? Sadly, the spectacle of spring migration in full flow wasn't something that was worth getting up for: a trickle of Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Chiffchaffs, together with a lone Curlew, made it ashore and headed away north overhead but, with the exception of the lingering Black Redstart at Ferrybridge, anything grounded hunkered down and completely escaped attention in the blasting wind.

After so many negative reports from their usual haunts in recent weeks it's good to be able to report some positive news on the Large Tortoiseshells front, with two seen today at Church Ope Cove © Colin Burningham:

18th March


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

With high pressure now firmly in control low expectations proved not to be misplaced. Migrants weren't entirely absent but with Wheatear and Chiffchaff reaching just 6 apiece at the Bill they were certainly hard won. A Goldcrest there was the first of the season and a Blackcap at Southwell was considered to be a new arrival rather than a winterer; a scatter of 2 Bramblings, 2 Redwings, a White Wagtail and a Black Redstart provided a little extra variety. The ever-freshening northeasterly was a little too far offshore for the sea and 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Crested Grebes were the best that could be mustered from the Bill.

17th March

With yesterday's deluge behind us the day dawned - and remained - crystal-clear as anticyclonic conditions settled in. Migrant numbers were inevitably on the low side but variety included the season's first Willow Warbler (trapped at the Obs), White Wagtail (settled below Culverwell) and Swallow (settled on wires at Cheyne), along with a scatter of 3 single Black Redstarts and a lone Brambling. Fifteen Chiffchaffs and 8 Wheatears provided some numbers at the Bill, where 12 each of Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter, a lone Manx Shearwater and a steady trickle of Common Gulls passed by on the sea. A lone Slavonian Grebe was added to this week's tally of tardy winter visitors in Portland Harbour.

16th March

A promising day that saw the rapid onset of heavy rain entirely scupper attempts at meaningful fieldwork. The heavily overcast skies of dawn dropped a decent little flurry of 40 or more Chiffchaffs at the Bill, with early looks there also coming up with a few Wheatears and a Redwing on the land and 6 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through on the sea. Once the rain set in  Meadow Pipits could been seen trailing in off the sea in some quantity (more than 200 were grounded by the end of the day) and singles of Brambling and Black Redstart dropped in at Southwell and Ferrybridge respectively.

15th March

Once again, far too nice to expect any sort of arrival of grounded migrants. The miscellany logged included singles of Water Rail, Brambling and Bullfinch at the Bill, where more routine arrivals were at a premium and included little more than ones and twos of Wheatear and Chiffchaff on the ground and a few Meadow Pipits and alba wagtails arriving overhead; another Brambling also dropped in at Weston. Sea interest dwindled and included little of note beyond 6 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

This morning's Water Rail © Verity Hill:

When there aren't many migrants to get amongst there are always the Purple Sandpipers to fall back on © Alick Simmons:

14th March

In conditions that made it feel very much like we'd finally seen the back of winter there was a flurry of appropriate interest that included spring firsts in the form of a Firecrest trapped at the Obs, a Reed Bunting at the Bill and a party of 3 Red Kites that headed south over the Bill before leaving high out to sea - two were lost to view still heading directly towards France, whilst the third individual chickened out and was last seen heading towards Purbeck. Further seasonable fare at the Bill included 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Wheatears and a Brambling on the ground and a trickle of Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and a Siskin overhead. It was almost a little too calm for the seawatchers, with 32 Common Gulls, 24 Common Scoter, 13 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Red-throated Divers, 5 Manx Shearwaters and singles of Great Northern Diver and Great Skua the pick of the combined Bill/Chesil totals. Singles of Red-necked and Black-necked Grebe were still in Portland Harbour.

After their disastrous showing last autumn when only two were trapped and ringed at the Bill we can but hope that today's on cue arrival proves to be the first of a few Firecrests this spring © Martin Cade:

With no overwintering Reed Buntings this year, today's arrival at the Bill was a certain migrant © Matt Ames:

13th March

After a rather too breezy start today ticked over in what ultimately turned out to be at times very pleasant sunshine. The migrant tally consisted of a lowly 5 Chiffchaffs and 2 Wheatears grounded at the Bill, a scatter of single Chiffchaffs elsewhere and a Sandwich Tern through at Ferrybridge, with 100 Kittiwakes, 3 Common Scoters, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Manx Shearwaters, a Red-throated Diver and a Black-headed Gull through off the Bill. Winterers of note included 5 Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and the Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle.

To our knowledge an Obs garden first: these two Rooks that visited the bird table were the first we've ever seen in such circumstances and we don't recollect that Rooks ever used to visit the garden to feed, even more than 25 years ago when there was an active Rookery elsewhere on the island © Martin Cade:

12th March

Overnight rain lingered on as showers after daybreak but these were enough to drop the overdue first 3 Wheatears of the season at the Bill. With the early rain restricting opportunities on the land the sea got more attention, with 240 Kittiwakes, 10 Red-throated Divers, 4 Mediterranean Gulls, a Manx Shearwater and a Black-headed Gull through off the Bill before the arrival of fairer weather eventually killed off the movement. An incoming Merlin was of note overhead but, the wheatears aside, 2 Chiffchaffs were the only other migrants of note on the ground at the Bill.

11th March

Bucketloads of rain - at least for the duration of the morning - today joined the litany of excuses (...gales, sloth, incompetence and senility all spring readily to mind) we can provide for our continuing lack of a Wheatear - in fact no summer migrant featured on the day-list today! A fly-by party of Shoveler off the Bill did provide small compensation, with 3 Common Scoter and a single Red-throated Diver also passing by there; the only other report of note was of the 6 Bar-tailed Godwits still at Ferrybridge.

It might seem like a silly little simple pleasure but we were really excited to see the flock of Shoveler passing the Bill - in fact all the more so for the fact that they rounded Pulpit Rock within seconds of us arriving at the Obelisk and we then remained at the Bill tip for another half hour and saw absolutely nothing else of interest. We've seen umpteen Shoveler pass by over the years but we're pretty sure this is the first time that there's been the happy coincidence of them being close enough and us having a camera to hand © Martin Cade:

Considering what a shocker the morning had been, the afternoon was really quite pleasant albeit still pretty breezy © Martin Cade:

10th March

With the land continuing to underperform persistence with the sea again provided some numbers today, notably another 500 Kittiwakes, 30 Common Gulls, 24 Mediterranean Gulls, 12 Red-throated Divers and 10 Common Scoter through off the Bill. It wasn't entirely dead on the ground but the rewards from plenty of legwork were hardly fulsome, with the best a handful of single Chiffchaffs hear and there, 2 Redwings at Southwell and singles of Firecrest and Siskin still at Pennsylvania Castle; a very light trickle of incoming Meadow Pipits were also apparent overhead.

Four Bottle-nosed Dolphins were lingering in Portland Harbour.

9th March

The sea provided the numbers again on a day of blustery southerlies, with Kittiwakes in particular putting in a strong showing that saw 1385 logged heading east during a sample two hour count of what looked to be the peak of the movement at the Bill; 13 Common Scoter, 9 Red-throated Divers, 6 Manx Shearwaters and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Skua and Arctic Skua provided some additional variety. Three Chiffchaffs and a Black Redstart made up the lowly tally on the ground there.

If ever a single image was unrepresentative of an event then this is it: the morning's Kittiwake passage consisted almost entirely of tight flocks of 20-30 shooting past at mid-distance in horribly bright light for photography/video; with everything else equally out of range it was left to poor old Billy no-mates here to satisfy our need for a blog photo! © Martin Cade:

We still haven't got round to filling in the missing daily reports from when we were away the week before last; there really wasn't much going on but this Brambling was a nice garden visitor at Weston during that period © Duncan Walbridge:

This Sparrowhawk was another garden visitor today © Geoff Orton:

8th March

The arrival of a noticeably milder onshore breeze saw spring sea passage kick off quite impressively with 29 Black-headed Gulls, 27 Mediterranean Gulls, 25 Common Scoter, 12 Teal, 9 Pintail, 8 Brent Geese, 7 Curlew, 5 Shelducks, 3 Red-throated Divers and singles of Black-throated Diver, Whimbrel and Great Skua constituting a decent return off Chesil; the Bill fared very poorly, with just 2 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose of note. Passerine migrants didn't respond at all, with just 2 grounded Chiffchaffs at the Bill. The day's only other reports of interest concerned one of the wintering Blackcaps still at Southwell and a Short-eared Owl over Weston.

The Southwell Barn Owl's now into its 14th week residing in its box - there have been others in the area but none seem to have struck up a promising friendship with this individual! © Nick Stantiford:

7th March

With the vicious easterly freshening all the time and gusting up around gale force by the afternoon birding opportunities - at least on the land - were again rather limited. A couple of single Chiffchaffs and an inbound Meadow Pipit made up the migrant tally at the Bill, 6 Purple Sandpipers were still there, 4 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver passed by on the sea and the Black Brant was back in at Ferrybridge.

Four Bottle-nosed Dolphins were lingering off the Bill.

6th March

The briskness of the easterly again dented enthusiasm for fieldwork and the only reports were of a Grey Wagtail and the odd single Chiffchaffs here and there on the ground at the Bill, 21 Common Scoter through offshore there, a reappearance of a Black Brant at Ferrybridge and an increase to 37 Oystercatchers there. It will get better but perhaps not for a few days!

5th March

Feeling chillier today in a brisk northeasterly. After of a night with virtually no detectable overhead passage it wasn't a surprise when grounded arrivals weren't at all conspicuous, with no more than a handful of Chiffchaffs and a Redwing at the Bill and a Siskin at Pennsylvania Castle to mention. The conditions were conducive for a dribble of visible passage to get going but, typically for this early in the season, this consisted of just Meadow Pipits heading up West Cliffs. Winterers on show included one of the Blackcaps at Southwell, the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle and the Red-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour. The only sea reports were of 9 Common Scoter and 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

4th March

After a really dreary, damp week it was a pleasure to at last have a day of almost unbroken sunshine even if the quality of the birding didn't improve in tandem. Migrant interest at the Bill consisted of 52 Redwings and a Curlew through overnight, single figure totals of Chiffchaffs, Redwings and seemingly new Stonechats on the ground by day and a couple of vismig Carrion Crows arriving in off the sea; 6 Mediterranean Gulls and 3 Black-headed Gulls through offshore - together with 6 Common Scoter and 3 Red-throated Divers - also looked to be passing migrants. In situ winterers included 7 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill and a Black Redstart at Blacknor.

The local inhabitants were looking good in the sunshine but there was little to excite by way of new arrivals today © Martin Cade:

3rd March

Another steady little overnight passage of Redwings - 184 calls logged at the Obs of which all bar 3 were between 21:25 when it stopped raining and 01:30 - didn't prove to be the precursors to an uptick in daytime migrant numbers, with 3 Redwings, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Siskin the sum total of the numbers at the Bill; 4 Purple Sandpipers and 4 Turnstones were also still there and 4 Black-headed Gulls passed by on the sea.

Moth interest certainly hasn't been to the fore just lately although, even without any moth-traps being operated, there have been the occasional signs of the onset of spring. Three Dotted Borders were a seasonable find in the Obs porch this morning © Martin Cade...

...whilst a Garden Carpet that flew in through an open door at the Obs one day whilst we were away last week had got well ahead of itself - the new Dorset moth website doesn't show any previous county records for the month of February © John Lucas:

2nd March

Since it again damped and drizzled until nearly lunchtime and a fresh easterly breeze was a less than enjoyable feature throughout there wasn't a lot to commend in the day's weather. However, there was just a little solace to be found in the birding, with 3 new Chiffchaffs and a Redwing grounded at the Bill, where 334 Gannets (a sample 90 minute total of presumed migrants heading up-Channel), 3 Black-headed Gulls, a Common Scoter, a Curlew and a Great Skua passed by on the sea.

The first 'pollened' Chiffchaff of the spring was a sure sign that at least some of the new arrivals were of distant origin © Peter Morgan:

1st March

The twelve hours of murky but drier conditions - midnight to midday - sandwiched between long spells of rain provided a few more signs of passage getting going at the Bill, with 83 Redwing calls logged by the nocmig recorder (nearly all between midnight and 4am), another 2 inbound Redwings during the morning, 2 more Siskins overhead and new singles of Robin and Chiffchaff trapped at the Obs. A lone Common Scoter passed by off the Bill and singles of Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Black-necked Grebe were still in Portland Harbour.

A warm welcome today to Jodie Henderson who took up her role as assistant warden for the season; Jodie comes to us after spending extended spells during the last few years on Skokholm Island, with exciting little interludes on the Azores and the Seychelles featuring amongst her other recent fieldwork experiences.