31st October

Coverage plummeted today but a morning of fair weather before wind and rain set in through the afternoon allowed for the stalwarts to accrue a pretty respectable tally, amongst which it was overhead passage that again provided all the numbers. The day's highlight was for most a frustration: an ultra-elusive Radde's Warbler in thick cover near the Obs could at times be heard calling from only a few feet away but, aside from occasional flight views, was seen just once fully in the open all day. Far from comprehensive coverage of the ground revealed a few spots with quantities of birds, including 22 Chiffchaffs and 8 Goldcrests at Pennsylvania Castle/Wakeham, but the overall impression was that new arrivals weren't numerous; 10 Firecrests, 9 Black Redstarts, 2 Merlins, a Cetti's Warbler and a Yellowhammer were the best of the well-scattered selection of oddities on the ground. Overhead passage was strong for the first few hours of the morning, with the 2.5 hours after dawn at the Bill returning totals that included 994 Goldfinches, 958 Starlings, 760 Wood Pigeons, 562 Linnets, 324 Jackdaws, 214 Chaffinches, 211 Meadow Pipits, 135 Skylarks, 38 alba wagtails, 35 Siskins and 21 Greenfinches. The sea was noticeably quieter than in recent days, with 2 Velvet Scoter and a Balearic Shearwater the best from the Bill.

30th October

With the wind constantly blowing from the south or southwest for so long there was an inevitability that eventually a few seabirds would begin to feel the effects; however, there was still an element of surprise when today's brisk but far from fierce onshore gusts came up with two species more usually associated with far worse conditions: first a Sabine's Gull passed through Chesil Cove before soon afterwards being picked up passing the Bill, whilst later a Leach's Petrel lingered for an hour or more off the Cove; fair numbers of Gannets and Kittiwakes were certainly moving for periods - seemingly both east and west off the Bill - but the only other slightly out of the ordinary sea sightings concerned 2 Sooty Shearwaters and a Great Skua through off the Bill and a Long-tailed Duck through off the Cove. The land was nowhere near as well covered as in recent weeks, with a scatter of Black Redstarts, 2 Merlins and singles of Cetti's Warbler and Dartford Warbler the best on offer at the Bill/Southwell. Overhead passage continued although today was dominated by Goldfinches, with 614 through at the Bill; 190 departing Starlings made up the bulk of the rest of the numbers there.

The Leach's Petrel off Chesil Cove was always several hundred metres out but the light was pretty decent so the 'scope views weren't too bad; this video clip with our little camera at full zoom (16x) together with a bit of cropping during editing must be at about 25x magnification. It was a rather odd experience to watch a Leach's feeding quite happily in very benign conditions when you usually only get to see them off this coast in a raging storm when it's often hard to stand up let alone keep a 'scope or camera steady © Martin Cade:

The way things are going, Great Skua is going to be a description bird before long - the autumn tally at the Bill still hasn't got into double figures © Martin Cade:

29th October

A bit more about today with some late in the night rain dropping a good little arrival of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in particular; thrushes, however, remained far fewer than would usually be the rule at this time of year. The Chiffchaff and Goldcrest tallies were likely up to 100 and 25 respectively around the centre and south of the island, where less frequent migrants included the likes of 8 Firecrests, 8 Black Redstarts, 3 Dartford Warblers and singles of Merlin, Ring Ouzel, Cetti's Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler, as well as the lingering Wryneck and late singles of Reed Warbler and Whitethroat. Overhead passage continued apace, with 855 Goldfinches, 746 Starlings, 228 Wood Pigeons, 167 Linnets, 134 Meadow Pipits, 94 Chaffinches, 87 Redwings, 36 Skylarks, 20 Bramblings, 17 Siskins, 7 Fieldfares, 7 Redpolls, 2 Woodlarks and a Hawfinch amongst the miscellany through over the Bill. The feeding flock of upwards of 500 Gannets remained off the Bill.

Immigrant moth numbers remained on a par with recent nights, with totals from the Obs garden moth-traps of 46 Rush Veneer, 36 Rusty-dot Pearl, 21 Turnip, 13 Scarce Bordered Straw, 6 White-speck, 3 Hummingbird Hawkmoth, 3 Cosmopolitan, 2 Olive-tree Pearl, 2 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Small Mottled Willow and singles of Tomato Leaf-miner Tuta absoluta, Vestal and Silver Y.

Unaccountably, we still haven't trapped a Crimson Speckled in the Obs garden moth-traps but at least two were discovered by day today (social media channels reported a third but we don't know any details about that one): the first was in the Crown Estate Field © Martin Cade...

...whilst Dave Chown and Pete Akers came across another at Suckthumb Quarry © Duncan Walbridge:

A particularly fine Black Redstart at Southwell today © Dan Law:

The Obs Quarry Wryneck remained in residence © Alan Josey:

28th October

Something of nothing today with Pallid Swift remaining a stubborn absentee and what noteworthy arrivals there were being less than obliging: after a near-gale blew up late in the night a Leach's Petrel passed through at Chesil Cove, whilst in the much more benign sunshine that followed neither a Coal Tit at Thumb Lane nor a Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell showed for more than their finders. On the ground, the centre of the island remained busy for numbers that included several Black Redstarts and Firecrests, a Dartford Warbler and a late Yellow Wagtail; the Wryneck lingered on at the Bill but singles of Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Cetti's Warbler and a late Whinchat were the only sightings of particular note there. The rapid improvement in conditions after dawn allowed migrants to get moving overhead, with 500 Goldfinches, 300 Starlings, 130 Linnets and 90 Skylarks through over the Bill. The offshore Gannet flock at the Bill increased to more than 500 but movement on the sea was almost non-existent.

The Egyptian Bollworm was a nice highlight from overnight mothing although having seen this species before we were a bit too casual when trying to get a 'proper' photograph of it as opposed to this in-tube mobile phone shot: on tapping it out onto our usual photography stone it sprung to life in an instant and shot straight out of the open Obs lounge door - fortunately there weren't fridge twitchers en route from all corners of the country or we'd have been mightily unpopular! This is a moth that's been good to us: we've now had four of the 11 British records © Martin Cade:

27th October

No doubt about today's feature species with new Pallas's Warblers showing up at both Thumb Lane and the Obs. As has become the routine, their arrival wasn't in tandem with numbers of common numbers as it remained quiet on the ground everywhere: a handful of new Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and 'crests, popped up here and there, a lingering late Reed Warbler was still about and 2 Short-eared Owls and a Merlin were logged. Overhead passage was far stronger, with 966 Goldfinches, 336 Starlings, 326 Linnets, 205 Jackdaws, 125 Meadow Pipits, 94 Skylarks, 90 Chaffinches and 85 Wood Pigeons the pick of the totals from the Bill. A good feeding flock of 200 Gannets close inshore at the Bill didn't attract anything else of particular note.

If you take enough photographs of a Pallas's Warbler eventually you're just about able to piece together most of the features...

...even then we failed to get a decent rump shot so we've had to trawl through the rejects from earlier in the week for that missing field mark! © Martin Cade:

In our experience Pallas's Warblers aren't especially vocal on passage - at least, nowhere near as much as Yellow-browed Warblers are - but today's bird obliged with several bursts of frequent calling; here are a few examples picked from a particularly noisy five minutes or so:

26th October

A very unrewarding day spoilt by a constant nagging southwesterly that looked to have done no favours on land or sea. A likely Great Shearwater through off Chesil Cove would have been a nice highlight but it escaped being clinched; a Great Skua through there and 2 each of Sooty Shearwater and Velvet Scoter  through off the Bill were the only other notables from the sea. The Wryneck and a Firecrest remained at the Bill but new arrivals there were almost non-existent.

25th October

Once again, quality over quantity on the ground today with a Siberian duo entertaining at the Obs where the month's second Radde's Warbler joined yesterday's lingering Pallas's Warbler. A major arrival in the Weston area that included 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, at least 9 Firecrests, a Ring Ouzel and a Dartford Warbler - along with good totals of commoner migrants - sadly wasn't reflected at all elsewhere, with the 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Dartford WarblersWryneck and Firecrest at the Bill, the 3 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle and the 2 Ring Ouzels at the Verne Moat all seemingly long-term lingerers rather than newcomers. The day's numbers were again overhead and included 1336 Skylarks, 1161 Starlings, 1045 Meadow Pipits, 675 Linnets, 675 Goldfinches and 405 Wood Pigeons south at the Bill, where the season's first Lapland Bunting and a lone Woodlark were the best of the rest. The freshening onshore wind promised rewards from the sea but in the event 2 passing Sooty Shearwaters were as good as it got at the Bill.

Another day, another Radde's Warbler - Portland's 14th in total © Martin Cade:

Yesterday's Pallas's Warbler took a long time to resurface but once it did it showed quite well on occasions © Martin Cade:

One of the Thumb Lane Firecrests © Duncan Walbridge:

24th October

Birds didn't exactly return to the fore today but any day with a Pallas's Warbler logged is a day to remember. The Pallas's was trapped at the Obs but its arrival wasn't indicative of any uptick in grounded migrant numbers - if anything it was quieter than on most of the already below-par recent days: a Yellow-browed Warbler was new at Broadcroft, the Wryneck and 2 Cetti's Warblers remained at the Bill, 3 Firecrests were scattered in mid-island and 3 Ring Ouzels and a Dartford Warbler were around the north but there were only the slimmest of pickings on the commoner migrant front. Some respectability was salvaged from overhead, where vismig totals for the Bill included minima of 460 Starlings, 353 Meadow Pipits, 260 Goldfinches and 135 Skylarks, with singles of Merlin and Bullfinch amongst a varied selection of lower totals. Despite the sea getting a fair bit of attention and there being a decent feeding aggregation of routine fare offshore there seemed to be almost no movement afoot (...where did all those Dungeness Little Gulls go?).

Tiny but perfectly formed. For such a long-distance migrant Pallas's Warblers really are staggeringly small, with legs and feet so spindly even in comparison to those of a Goldcrest or Firecrest that whenever we've handled them we've always paid the closest of attention to make sure that our smallest UK ring isn't too big for them © Martin Cade:

We didn't have time yesterday to dwell long on what had been another monumentally good night/day for moths but last night's trapping was utterly spoilt by the strength of the wind and biblical quantities of rain so there's nothing to get in the way of backtracking a night. Our chief prize had been the very freaky-looking pyralid, Cornifrons ulceratalis; this was the most welcome of vagrants since we had the misfortune - not for want of making an extreme amount of effort in trying to get one - of a crushing dip on the only other occasion that this species has reached Britain when an extraordinary 17 were logged during December/January 2015/16. The extreme tectiform resting posture of this species (our specimen rarely sat without the wings being held so tightly together that, distally, they were not separated along the length of the termen) gives it a really odd look which is obviously highly characteristic but seemed to us to maybe invite the possibility of it not being recognised as a moth at all; this 'some other invertebrate' demeanor was accentuated in our specimen at least by the vaguely caddis-like colouration.

Our specimen of Dark Mottled Willow wasn't the best but it did at least renew our acquaintance with a species we hadn't seen since the last century. Our first was in 1990 and was actually the second British record although we didn't realise that at the time: Julian Clarke had caught the first in Cornwall only two nights before but it wasn't until months later when we read Julian's Ent. Rec. account of his capture that it dawned on us what it might be (if we remember rightly that article wasn't illustrated so having some inkling that Julian's description might refer to the same species we posted him a photograph of our specimen to get him to OK it - how times have changed!). Not too long afterwards we jammed the fourth record for Britain as well, with the capture of two in one trap in 1995 - these were such pristine specimens that Bernard Skinner even got in touch and asked if he could have a loan of one of them that still has pride of place on one of the rarity plates in his Colour Identification Guide. The British tally is still only in the 30s so it remains a pretty good quality rarity to this day.

Portland's ninth Crimson Speckled had a nice 'Like father, like son' twist, since it was chivvied up by day on the Slopes at the Bill by Andy Slade whose father, Brian, had found one in the Hut Fields in exactly the same circumstances back in 2006; weirdly, we've still never caught one in a moth-trap at Portland © Martin Cade:

23rd October

We've been fortunate that during what's proving to be a pretty barren spell for birds the mothing has been fantastic, with the continuing favourable overnight conditions for immigration delivering yet another addition to the island moth tally: the pyralid Cornifrons ulceratalis trapped at the Obs constituted the first British record of this species since the remarkable mid-winter immigration during December 2015 when all 17 previous records were logged; additionally, the island's fourth Dark Mottled Willow was trapped there, whilst by day another Crimson Speckled was discovered.

With it pitifully quiet for migrants on the ground it was left to overhead passage to again provide the day's bird numbers, with the Bill returning totals that included 635 Linnets, 582 Meadow Pipits and 285 Skylarks; 2 Merlins and a Woodlark were amongst the day's lower totals. The Wryneck lingered on at the Bill, where 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Dartford Warblers and a Cetti's Warbler were amongst the extremely low totals of most grounded commoner migrants. Three Arctic Skuas, 2 Velvet Scoters and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Great Skua passed by on the sea.


22nd October

A drier and still extremely mild day that came up with plenty of variety if not out and out numbers. What numbers there were were overhead where vismig sessions at two watchpoints at the Bill looked to be tapping into entirely separate streams of departing migrants; combined totals from these watches included 610 Meadow Pipits, 562 Linnets, 454 Starlings, 381 Goldfinches, 377 Skylarks, 30 Chaffinches, 30 Siskins, 25 Swallows, 14 Cormorants, 11 Redwings, 10 Redpolls, 9 Reed Buntings, 6 Grey Wagtails, 2 Merlins, a Woodlark, a Brambling and a Bullfinch. Grounded arrivals were patchily distributed, with far more by way of warblers and Goldrests around the middle of the island than at the Bill; the Wryneck remained at the Bill, whilst a scatter of at least 7 Black Redstarts, 3 Firecrests and singles of Ring Ouzel, Cetti's Warbler and Dartford Warbler, together with tardy singles of Whinchat, Redstart and Reed Warbler provided further interest. Sea interest consisted of 14 Dark-bellied Brents, 11 Common Scoter, 6 Velvet Scoter and 2 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill.

On a very breezy night immigrant moth numbers fell right away but by day a Crimson Speckled was a nice find at the Bill.

21st October

Another day of wild weather - long spells of heavy rain driven in on a southerly gale - didn't look to have anything much to offer by way of birding opportunities but ultimately delivered a few nice little morsels of quality. Despite being hugely blown-out there were migrants about on the land including an arrival of thrushes - 70 Redwings and 10 Fieldfares - around the top of the island (where there was also a late Tree Pipit) and odds and ends including a Firecrest, a late Reed Warbler and a Brambling at the Bill; a Black Redstart was also at Southwell. At sea, auks were passing at 1200-1500 per hour off the Bill, where 7 Velvet Scoters, 2 Arctic Skuas and singles of Manx Shearwater, Great Skua and Yellow-legged Gull also passed by; elsewhere, a Red-throated Diver passed Chesil Cove.

Overnight mothing was spoilt by the strength of the wind but immigrants were again in good supply, with a Blair's Wainscot at the Obs yet another new moth for the island; other totals from there included 54 Rush Veneer, 22 Rusty-dot Pearl, 17 Turnip, 8 Scarce Bordered Straw, 4 Silver Y and singles of Dark Sword Grass and Cosmopolitan.

Back to yesterday for news for an exciting moth discovered amongst the catch at the Obs: this rather undistinguished-looking noctuid was eventually tracked down as likely to be the Robust Tabby Pandesma robusta. It's a mainly African species that evidently also has a foothold in southern Iberia, some of the Mediterranean islands and the far south of Italy; other records in, for example, southern France are considered to refer to migrants. It appears on the British list by virtue of a few records of adventives imported with produce but, given the circumstances of its arrival with lots of other immigrants, we're guessing ours will be the first that's turned up under its own steam. Two firsts for Britain in a week - blimey! © Martin Cade:

20th October

A day that promised plenty of birds but delivered as many frustrations as it did variety, with nothing except the long-staying Wryneck particularly easy to get to grips with. A fly-over Red-throated Pipit at the Bill was the rarity highlight; a Richard's Pipit at Coombefield was equally unobliging, whilst a Yellow-browed Warbler at Avalanche Road was hardly showy. Migrant-wise, rain before and for a while after dawn dropped a hatful of birds in the Coombefield/Suckthumb area but seemingly rather little elsewhere; all-island totals of note included 300 Redwings, 45 Siskins, 36 Fieldfares, 8 Ring Ouzels, 5 Black Redstarts, 5 Dartford Warblers, 3 Firecrests, 2 Woodlarks, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl and a Cetti's Warbler. A miscellaneous selection from the sea included 314 Kittiwakes, 130 Mediterranean Gulls, 62 Common Scoter, 36 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 9 Pintail, 7 Shoveler, 6 Wigeon, 6 Eider, 4 Teal, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 Velvet Scoters, a Red-throated Diver and an Arctic Tern through off the Bill.

Once yesterday's strong wind abated during the evening conditions were very favourable for moth-trapping, with immigrant totals from the Obs traps of 304 Rush Veneer, 101 Rusty-dot Pearl, 8 Scarce Bordered Straw, 7 Turnip, 4 Diamond-back, 3 Delicate, 3 Silver Y, 2 Olive-tree Pearl, 2 Vestal and singles of Pearly Underwing, White-speck and Cosmopolitan.

19th October

A raging easterly gale was always going to stir things up and although the early signs hadn't looked at all promising eventually a sudden mid-morning pulse of long overdue thrushes gave proceedings some respectability. A usual with an easterly wind, most movement took place along West Cliffs where 379 Redwings, 150 Fieldfares and 7 Ring Ouzels were logged at the Bill and 276 Redwings at Blacknor; amongst the tag-alongs, 7 Siskins, 3 Golden Plovers and 2 Merlins were of note. There wasn't much evidence of an arrival of migrants on the ground: the bushes weren't easy to cover in the blasting wind but little more than singles of Black Redstart, Dartford Warbler and Firecrest were uncovered at the Bill. Rewards from the sea were few but did include 109 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Brent Geese, a Canada Goose and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.

Nothing hung around today including the Ring Ouzels that struck off north at a rate of knots © Joe Stockwell:

This Black Redstart spent all day about the Obs patio and car park © Joe Stockwell (still) and Martin Cade (video):

18th October

Clear skies and a freshening northeasterly were potent ingredients on the vismig front today, generating some strong passage that was at time tricky to comprehensively record what with there being movement over a very broad front at the Bill. The totals from the Obs included 655 Linnets, 450 Meadow Pipits, 230 Goldfinches, 166 alba wagtails, 163 Skylarks, 120 Wood Pigeons, 90 Chaffinches, 51 Jackdaws, 16 Reed Buntings, 15 Greenfinches, 10 Siskins and the likes of 6 Redpolls, 2 Woodlarks and a Merlin amongst the single figure totals; mainly lower totals from several other viewpoints likely included a lot of birds that weren't logged from the Obs. In comparison with the riches overhead it was relatively quiet on the ground: the Wryneck remained at the Bill but singles of Water Rail, Dartford Warbler and Firecrest were all that could be mustered by way of other minor oddities there. Three Balearic Shearwaters passed by off the Bill where more than 100 Mediterranean Gulls were again lingering.

After a couple of slow nights immigrant moth numbers picked up despite a dip in the temperature, with totals at the Obs that included 27 Rush Veneer, 17 Rusty-dot Pearl, 8 Turnip, 6 Delicate, 3 Scarce Bordered Straw, 3 Silver Y, an Olive-tree Pearl and a Vestal.

17th October

Although the daylight hours became increasingly pleasantly warm, sunny and birdable it had at times been howlingly windy and unpleasant overnight which looked to have stopped migration in its tracks - not that a great deal had been happening beforehand! Amongst the light scatter of common migrants on the ground and overhead the continuing Wryneck, 2 each of Black Redstart, Dartford Warbler and Firecrest and singles of Merlin, Hobby and Great Spotted Woodpecker provided some interest, whilst offshore another 2 Balearic Shearwaters passed by.

16th October

A benign few hours between yesterday's gale and this evening's heavy rain allowed for some fair coverage of a good deal of the island; common migrant-wise, there were pockets of relative plenty but the overall feel was still one of it being far quieter than's usual in mid-October - with seasonable fare such as thrushes and Linnet flocks pretty well absent. By way of less frequent migrants, the Wryneck resurfaced at the Obs Quarry, at least 7 Firecrests were dotted about the centre and north, 2 Black Redstarts were at the Bill and a Woodlark was at Coombefield Quarry. The strongest passage to date of Skylarks - including 180 south at the Bill - was the highlight overhead, with 210 each of Meadow Pipit and Linnet, 180 alba wagtails and 42 Chaffinches also through at the Bill. After a lull yesterday, Kittiwakes got moving again offshore, where more than 200 passed by off the Bill, with 2 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua amongst the other sea interest.

One of the day's Firecrests © Dave Foot...

...and the Wryneck and Black Redstart at the Bill © Roger Hewitt:

15th October

Pretty wild westerly weather did nobody any favours today and there was only the most meagre of day-lists to show from a good amount of weekend fieldwork. Even allowing for the unhelpful conditions it was clear that grounded migrants were very sparsely spread, with single Dartford Warblers at the Bill and Penn's Weare, and Firecrests at the north of the island (2) and Thumb Lane the only minor highlights; a few diurnal migrants were battling through into the wind, with a late Sand Martin over the Bill about as good as it got overhead. Hopes for a shearwater-fest from the sea were very quickly dashed and regular seawatch sessions returned just 4 Balearic Shearwaters and a Sooty Shearwater amongst the routine fare.

The first hours of darkness had been relatively calm and there was another decent catch of immigrant moths, with 80 Rush Veneer, 37 Rusty-dot Pearl, 9 Turnip, 2 Scarce Bordered Straw and singles of Diamond-back, Vestal, Hummingbird Hawkmoth and White-speck making up the tally at the Obs; also of note there were unseasonable singles of Rosy-striped Knot-horn Oncocera semirubella and Least Yellow Underwing.

14th October

Just at the moment perfectly reasonable conditions don't seem to be doing much for us, with today's veil of cloud and always unmaterialising threat of rain - what's not to like about those conditions in mid-October? - returning pretty dreadful numbers of migrants despite a lot of searching. A late afternoon Wryneck at the Obs Quarry was a good deal later in the season than's usual for new arrivals at Portland, but otherwise the less frequent migrant tally consisted of just Firecrests at the Bill, Easton (2) and Portland Castle, a Dartford Warbler at Fancy's Farm and a lingering Cetti's Warbler at the Bill. The likes of Stonechats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs remained well spread in fair numbers here and there but for the most part it remained hard work to get much reward on the ground. Overhead passage was fitful and far from impressive, with 228 Linnets, 210 Meadow Pipits, 100 alba wagtails, 85 Goldfinches and 75 Swallows making up the bulk of the numbers at the Bill. Offshore, Kittiwakes were again moving in quantity with 748 through off the Bill, but 3 Balearic Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua provided the only other interest there.

Immigrant moth variety was still good, with 117 Rush Veneers, 46 Rusty-dot Pearl, 8 Turnip, 7 Vestal, 5 Diamond-back, 5 Delicate, 4 White-speck, 2 Olive-tree Pearl, 2 Scarce Bordered Straw, 2 Silver Y, a Dark Sword Grass and a Pearly Underwing at the Obs and singles of Vagrant Metal-mark Tebenna micalis and Autumnal Rustic at Southwell the pick of the oddities elsewhere.

13th October

On what looked to be an all too blustery night for productive mothing it did at least remain completely overcast and often damp which kept the temperature noticeably higher than on recent nights. Overall, immigrant numbers were the highest since 14th/15th September and amongst the catch at the Obs was a Southern Brindled Green; the full tally of other immigrants there was 94 Rusty-dot Pearl, 41 Rush Veneer, 9 Turnip, 6 Vestal, 2 Pearly Underwing, a Delicate and a Scarce Bordered Straw, with 2 Oak Rustic (the first of the autumn) another irregular wanderer/immigrant to the Bill.

Bird-wise, the overnight cloud and damp may have been rather too comprehensive since the relative calm of dawn revealed a marked paucity of new arrivals; sheltered spots up-island were eventually found to contain some good concentrations of Chiffchaffs in particular, whilst Stonechats were numerous everywhere (maybe 50 in total around the centre and south of the island), but for the most part the day was one of unrealised potential. The best of the less frequent migrants were a/the Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell, at least 5 Dartford Warblers at the Bill with further singles at Bowers Quarry and Penn's Weare, a lingering Firecrest at the Bill and single Black Redstarts at the Bill and Reap Lane; of further minor interest were a late Garden Warbler at the Bill and the first 3 wandering Long-tailed Tits of the autumn there. The sea was still coming up with some numbers that included 207 Gannets, 105 Kittiwakes, 17 Balearic Shearwaters, 16 Common Scoter, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Manx Shearwater through off the Bill.

Sometimes there are advantages to not being able to get too blasé about certain relatively common moths. The Brindled Green has always been a pretty infrequently-trapped moth at Portland and whenever it does show up it gets as much attention as certain rarities; there's also a tendency to look hard at the specimens just to make sure you're not throwing away something exciting like a Southern Brindled Green. Well, when a real Southern Brindled Green did emerge from one of the Obs moth-traps this morning it was so blindingly different to its commoner cousin that we almost couldn't believe our eyes and tried to convince ourselves for a moment that it must be something more mundane that we were forgetting about. Anyway, the rest is history and the moth was indeed the rarity - the first record for Britain! © Martin Cade:

12th October

A more of the same day, with grounded migrants - at least in places, if not universally - a little more numerous than yesterday, overhead passage a little stronger and the sea well worth attention. Dartford Warblers again featured conspicuously, with likely as many 10 dotted about the Bill area, the Yellow-browed Warbler was still at Southwell and a Coal Tit (subspecies uncertain) popped up at Thumb Lane. Overhead totals at the Bill included 690 Linnets, 270 alba wagtails, 165 Meadow Pipits, 110 Goldfinches and 51 Chaffinches, with singles of Little Egret, Merlin and Brambling amongst the tag-alongs. The likes of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were reported to be considerably more numerous around the centre of the island than they were at the Bill, but everywhere there was a good variety of October fare to get amongst that included single Firecrests at the Bill and Thumb Lane. Offshore, a constant stream of good-sized auk flocks trailed past the Bill, where 330 Kittiwakes, 28 Balearic Shearwaters, 23 Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua were also logged.

Dartford Warblers have been a real feature of the last three days, with the double figure estimate from the Bill likely to be conservative and certainly constituting the highest day-total ever recorded there © Andy Swash Princeton WILDGuides

11th October

Some nice very seasonably variety on offer today under more clear, blue skies and pleasant warmth. Given the circumstances, grounded offerings were always likely to be wanting, numbers-wise, and so it came to pass, with Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs reduced to just ones and twos in many patches of cover; however, interest came in the form of a Richard's Pipit, 3 Dartford Warblers, 2 Black Redstarts, a Cetti's Warbler and a Firecrest at the Bill and 2 Black Redstarts and a Yellow-browed Warbler at Southwell. Once again, it was considerably busier overhead where some of the higher totals from sampling at the Bill included 600 Meadow Pipits, 460 Linnets, 250 Swallows, 155 alba wagtails, 135 Goldfinches, 36 Chaffinches, 35 Jackdaws, 24 Skylarks and 10 Siskins; interest amongst the lower totals included 2 Golden Plovers and singles of Hen Harrier, Merlin, Hobby, Brambling and Redpoll. The sea remained rather quiet, with 400 Mediterranean Gulls, 11 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Pintail and 2 Dark-bellied Brent Geese the best off the Bill.

We were beginning to feel rather left out with Yellow-browed Warblers but, in truth, it's still a tad earlier than average for our peak numbers so today's first arrival at Southwell may well prove to be the first of quite a few © Roger Hewitt:

Same old story: both Hen Harrier today and Montagu's Harrier earlier this autumn affording nice confirmatory photo opportunities but the one we really wanted - Pallid Harrier - quite likely snuck by last weekend and escaped the attention of both binoculars and cameras © Joe Stockwell:

Cetti's Warbler's on consecutive days (together with another last month) from the nets at Culverwell suggests that there's a fair bit of dispersal going on with them - did they have a better than average breeding season this year? © Mark Cutts:

Dartford Warblers are distinctly seasonable fare and, duly, there's been quite a little influx of them yesterday and today © Martin Cade:

Black Redstart's another very typical mid-October migrant. The first of the season at the Bill was this bird handled on Sunday - its capture was somewhat unconventional since it came indoors and had to be caught with a hand-net before it came to grief by crashing into a window or some other unfortunate fate. Like the vast majority it was a grey, unsexable youngster - not that that was immediately apparent since we'd first noticed the seemingly very broad tail feathers and wondered if it was going to be an adult...

...however, the pattern of the greater coverts told a different story (ageing-wise, what's visible there pretty well always trumps what's going on with the tail) as the inner two feathers had a (subtle but surprisingly noticeably even if that might not be apparent in our inadequate photo) blue-grey tinge - these are adult-pattern feathers acquired in the post-juvenile moult and the contrast between them and the duller, retained juvenile outer feathers allowed us to confidently age the bird as one of this year's youngsters. We don't handle nearly enough Black Restarts to be fully au fait with their moult but it seems from the literature that pretty well all youngsters also moult all of the smaller covert feathers on the leading edge of the wing - the lesser and median coverts - and on our bird that certainly seems to be the case as they're distinctly bluer-tinged and darker-centred than the surrounding feathers © Martin Cade:

10th October

Insects provided the highlights of the day after some passing pre-dawn rain gave was to increasingly clear skies and, by the afternoon, real warmth to the sun. Singles of Long-tailed Blue butterfly and Vagrant Emperor dragonfly were spotted on East Weare, where Clouded Yellows were positively abundant. Whether the two rarities were new arrivals is debatable but there was back-up for this scenario in the form of the best overnight catch of immigrant moths since the first days of the month, with several Vestals, Scarce Bordered Straws and White-specks amongst the hugely improved totals of more routine fare.

Bird-wise, it was hard work getting amongst anything in quantity on the ground, where the overnight rain appeared to have worked no magic at all; at least three Dartford Warblers were an on-cue first for the season but a new Cetti's Warbler - the second of the autumn away from the north of the island where they seem to have reappeared after several month's absence - was the best of the rest. As in recent days, overhead passage was busier even if numbers were far from impressive: 3 Bramblings were an autumn first over the Bill amongst other totals that included 250 Meadow Pipits, 125 Linnets and 115 alba wagtails. In a fresh offshore breeze sea passage at the Bill was almost non-existent: 340 passing Mediterranean Gulls were almost to be expected these days but a paltry 3 Balearic Shearwaters were all that could be mustered by way of proper quality.

Long-tailed Blue remains the most tricky of all the 'mid-level' rare butterflies to catch up with at Portland: whilst the likes of Monarch, Large Tortoiseshell and others have been perfectly get-able at times there's never been a Long-tailed Blue - including this one - that's ever stuck in one place for more than a few seconds © Joe Stockwell:

9th October

Quality over quantity today, at least on the ground, with a Radde's Warbler at the Obs a nice highlight amongst an otherwise very poor showing of grounded arrivals - even the formerly much busier sheltered spots of cover around the middle of the island were uncharacteristically quiet, with Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs reduced to single figure totals at most; odds and ends of further interest did include singles of Kingfisher, Black Redstart and Firecrest at the Bill, another Firecrest at Old Hill and a Little Stint at Ferrybridge. The day's numbers were again overhead, where sample totals at the Bill included 1090 Linnets, 800 Meadow Pipits, 180 alba wagtails, 70 Goldfinches and 70 Skylarks, with 335 Linnets and 256 alba wagtails among the totals logged over New Ground; further interest amongst the lower totals overhead came in the form of 3 Snipe and singles of Grey Heron, Merlin, Hobby and Green Sandpiper over the Bill. With the exception of 400 Mediterranean Gulls the sea provided generally lower totals than yesterday, but 8 Balearic Shearwaters and singles of Sooty Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua were of note off the Bill.

Radde's Warblers are really chunky, characterful little birds with lots going on by way of interesting structure and plumage; outwardly rather subdued in dull light...

...but much more dazzlingly ochre and bronze with a bit of sun on them.

Of entirely esoteric interest, we were taken by events going on with the bird's tail. Anyone who's had the good fortune to handle a Radde's Warbler in autumn (when virtually all of those turning up in the UK are likely to be birds of the year) will be aware that they've got rather spectacularly spikey tail feathers. Today's bird was no exception, with the almost hook-tipped spikes on the right side of its tail very typical for youngsters of this species; however, the left side of its tail contained several much shorter, broader and blunter-tipped feathers - we're guessing that the bird had some sort of tail mishap a few weeks ago and that these noticeably differently shaped 'next generation' replacement feathers accord more with what we might see on an adult © Martin Cade:

But for the dogedness of our stalwart ringers at Culverwell we'd have been able to mention the odd little quirk of Kingfisher and Radde's Warbler - birds that travel something like 30 miles and 3000 miles respectively to get here - having been on 11 apiece in the all-time Portland ringing tally; as it was, Mark and Verity's unexpected catch (...has there ever been one trapped here in October before this?) kept Kingfisher one ahead for the time being © Martin Cade:

8th October

The return of perfect birding conditions sadly wasn't accompanied by a surge in coverage and it was left to a few die-hards to accumulate a decent tally of visble migrants but an unsurprisingly poorer return from the ground, from where it was quickly apparent that the clear skies and balmy warmth hadn't been conducive to dropping birds in quanity. Overhead passage was well-sampled at the Bill where 500 Swallows, 450 Meadow Pipits, 230 Linnets, 225 alba wagtails, 66 Skylarks, 50 Goldfinches, 40 Jackdaws, 35 Chaffinches, 22 Siskins, 19 Reed Buntings, 16 Greenfinches and a few odds and ends including singles of Grey Heron and Merlin had headed mainly south by mid-morning. Grounded migrants were better spread around the centre of the island than they were at the Bill but everywhere variety was hard to come by amongst the routine Stonechats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. A promising-looking feeding aggregation of gulls off the Bill (vaguely reminiscent of the beginnings of a similar and ultimately very much larger event like this last October) included the likes of 300 Mediterranean Gulls, 275 Kittiwakes and 40 Black-headed Gulls, with up to 15 Balearic Shearwaters and 2 Great Skuas also attracted at times; a lone Red-throated Diver also passed by offshore.

7th October

Today unfolded more or less exactly as had been foreseen given the brisk and constantly freshening westerly and largely clear sky: grounded arrivals were all but non-existent, visible passage was only worth dipping into during the first hour of daylight and the sea got attention as much because there was so little else unfolding by way of more compelling entertainment. Visible passage consisted of a steady movement of departing flocks of the customary early October quartet - alba wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Goldfinches; only Linnets were in particularly worthwhile numbers, with 340 through along East Cliffs before passage dwindled. A rather spectacular feeding aggregation of 100 or more Gannets just metres off East Cliffs at the Bill were a pleasant distraction during an otherwise routine seawatch there that saw 500 auks, 100 Kittiwakes, 16 Common Scoter and 12 Balearic Shearwaters logged along with a surprise passing Cattle Egret; a similar selection at Chesil Cove included 3 Balearic Shearwaters and a Red-throated Diver.

6th October

Bright, blustery and not particularly migranty today. Some rather fitful diurnal passage of coasting birds that headed down over East Cliffs and then back up West Cliffs provided all the numbers that included 700 Meadow Pipits, 160 alba wagtails, 80 each of Goldfinch and Linnet,19 Skylarks; 5 Siskins, 3 Reed Buntings, a Grey Heron and a Merlin. It was considerably quieter on the ground, where the likes of singles of Golden Plover, Snipe, Whinchat, Reed Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher provided a little interest amongst the thin spread of Wheatears, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Gulls blown to shore included 300 grounded Great Black-backs and 150 Kittiwakes, whilst 10 lingering Balearic Shearwaters and 10 passing Common Scoter were also of note offshore.

5th October

The strength of the wind limited today's activities to prolonged spells of seawatching - in the conventional birding sense this would involve seeing/counting seabirds but today it largely took the form of gazing at an empty sea. Trickles of auks, Gannets and Kittiwakes were quite conspicuous for a while early in the day but the only particularly worthwhile sightings were of 10 Balearic Shearwaters and a Sooty Shearwater through off the Bill and 3 Balearic Shearwaters and a Grey Phalarope off Chesil Cove. The land was very blown out and no more than a handful of routine migrants were logged by the few observers that took the trouble to have a look at the Bill area.

Despite the strength of the wind it remained mild overnight and the moth-trap catches were respectable; however, singles of Vestal and Scarce Bordered Straw were the only worthwhile immigrants making it into the Obs traps.

A couple of the morning's Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill © Martin Cade: