30th November

A rather quiet morning kicked into gear with the arrival of a Pallas's Warbler in the obs garden, which briefly called before appearing in the undergrowth below the patio. However from there, it quickly proceeded to flit across the wall into the depths of the garden where, not for want of trying, it was not seen again. Other birds logged around the Bill included 3 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 1 Black Redstart, 2 Water Rail plus singles of Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Cetti's Warbler, Firecrest and Blackcap (different from yesterday's). Sea passage past the Bill included 15 Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Diver and a Fulmar. A Goosander and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits were still at Ferrybridge.  

29th November

A cold start to the day was accompanied by a rather thick blanket of fog which lingered well into the morning. Birds logged around the Bill included 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Turnstones and singles of Merlin, Lapwing and Water Rail with 3 Redwing and a Blackcap emerging from the obs garden as the day went on. At sea, a total of 20 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Diver and 1 Little Egret were seen passing through. Elsewhere, an adult Little Gull was seen off Chesil Cove, with 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-necked Grebes, c20 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Eider in Portland Harbour. Ferrybridge totals included 1 Goosander, c160 Dunlin, c25 Ringed Plover and 2 Bar-Tailed Godwits. An additional 3 Black Redstarts were present at the Cove and Hamm Beach.   

One of today's Great Northern Divers fishing off Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders

28th November

Portland Bill Common Scoter 9, Turnstone 4, Fulmar 1, Black Redstart 2, Woodcock 1.

Blacknor Black Redstart 1. 

Portland Harbour Red-breasted Merganser 29, Great Northern Diver 1, Black Redstart 2 (Smallmouth Bay).

27th November

The reappearance of the ringed Cetti's Warbler and Firecrest in the obs garden this morning just goes to show what may have been tucked away in the wet and windy weather of the last week. Sea passage off the Bill included 7 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Fulmars, 18 Common Gulls, 49 Kittiwake and 19 Mediterranean Gulls with a total of 3 Black Redstarts also present. At Portland Harbour, a single Leach's Petrel was logged, alongside 5 Great Northern Divers, 3 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Eider as well as the lingering Common Tern. Totals from Ferrybridge included 1 Goosander, c200 Dunlin, c30 Ringed Plover, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit and 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.

Today's Leach's Petrel and Common Tern from Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders

26th November

Portland Bill Turnstone 2, Purple Sandpiper 2, Black Redstart 2 (with a further 2 at Blacknor and 1 at Portland Castle). Sea passage: Common Scoter 15, Red-throated Diver 3, Fulmar 8, Little Gull 1. 

Portland Harbour Great Northern Diver 4, Eider 2, Black-throated Diver 1.

Ferrybridge Goosander.

Just some of the 700 Mediterranean Gulls present at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders 

25th November

Whilst today's drop in the wind made for more pleasant conditions in the field, it did not appear to greatly alter the general mix of birds present. Around the Bill, 9 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Turnstones and 1 Black Redstart were logged, with a single Chiffchaff and 2 Water Rails heard calling at Culverwell. Elsewhere, 2 Great Northern Divers were at Portland Harbour, 1 adult Little Gull was at Chesil Cove and 3 Goosanders, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and a late Swallow were at Ferrybridge. A scattering of Black Redstarts away from the Bill included singles at Southwell, Hamm Beach and the Cove. 

24th November

With the weather showing no sign of relenting, it was yet another day of difficult birding for those that braved the Bill, with just singles of Merlin and Black Redstart logged. Elsewhere, 3 Little Gulls made a brief appearance at Ferrybridge where the Common Tern was also present. 

One of today's Little Gulls at Ferrybridge was this 1st winter type © Pete Saunders

A steady stream of Kittiwakes was logged at Ferrybridge, with approx. 100 passing through in 2 hours © Pete Saunders

The upside to getting caught out in one of this afternoon's showers was this rather impressive rainbow © Jodie Mae Henderson

23rd November

The highlight of today's birding was the (presumed) reappearance of yesterday's Glaucous Gull at the Bill Common, although yet again it made an all too brief appearance before flying off towards the West Cliffs. Other birds logged around the Bill included 3 Turnstones, 2 Purple Sandpipers and 1 Black Redstart, with 2 Red-throated Divers seen heading west. Elsewhere, a Barnacle Goose as well as 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were seen at Ferrybridge, with an additional Black Redstart in the cove. 

Today's Barnacle Goose from Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders

22nd November

Today turned out to be a bit of a gull-fest, with both a 1st winter Caspian Gull and a juvenile Glaucous Gull dropping in amongst the mixed flock that typically congregate in the fields below Culverwell. Further up island, a juvenile Sabine's Gull was still lingering in Chesil Cove with 2 Little Gulls also present. Work on the ground continued to be tricky in the strong winds, with a total of just 3 Turnstones, 1 Purple Sandpiper and 1 Black Redstart, with a new Blackcap visiting the apples in the obs garden. At Portland Harbour, a single Leach's Petrel was observed mid-morning, as well as 2 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Eider and Goosander. A total of 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were at Ferrybridge, where a Pomarine Skua was observed at close range drifting along The Fleet. 

Images from Portland Harbour today with this Eider © Debby Saunders 

And Goosander © Pete Saunders

21st November

With lashing rain from the southeast for most of the morning, all that could be done was to batten down the hatches and wait out the heavy showers. Whilst a brief walk around the Bill in the afternoon failed to turn up anything new for today's log, a juvenile Sabine's Gull as well as 3 Little Gulls in Chesil Cove proved the highlight of the day, with singles of Great Northern Diver, Goosander and Eider reported from Portland Harbour. 

One of three Little Gulls seen from Chesil Cove this afternoon © Pete Saunders

20th November

Birds logged around the Bill included 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Purple Sandpipers as well as singles of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, with sea passage including a total of 26 Common Scoter and 2 Red-throated Divers. Elsewhere at Pennsylvania Castle/ Church Ope were 2 Black Redstarts and up to 5 Firecrests. 3 Black-necked grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers were seen in the Harbour with a Common Tern observed from Portland Castle. Totals from Ferrybridge included 156 Dunlin, 34 Ringed Plover, 13 Turnstone, 1 Curlew and an additional 2 Great Northern Divers up the Fleet. 

Milder conditions overnight led to an increase in migrant moth totals, with 10 Rusty-dot Pearls, 2 White-Speck, and singles of Silver Y, Pearly Underwing, Dark-sword Grass and Diamond-back

19th November

A combination of ideal calm weather and improved coverage resulted in a rather impressive and varied total of birds logged. Visual migration in the first hours of daylight included 652 Wood Pigeons, 184 Chaffinch, 59 Goldfinches, 46 Linnets, 34 Meadow Pipits, 14 Skylark, 5 Redwing, and 1 Siskin, with the highlight being a Richard's Pipit that flew northwest just after sunrise. Other birds logged at the Bill included 3 Black Redstarts, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Chiffchaff and singles of Blackcap, Firecrest, Merlin, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, WoodcockWater Rail and a late Swallow. Intermittent glances out to sea proved unexpectedly productive, with 5 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Northern Diver, 8 Eider, 7 Pintail, 1 Shoveler and up to 6 Velvet Scoter. An additional 4 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Eider, 10 Goosanders and 8 Red-breasted mergansers were reported from Portland Harbour. 

Penn Castle

4 Goldcrest, 1 Firecrest, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Grey Heron.


5 Goldcrest, 2 Brambling.


Yellowhammer, Dartford Warbler. 

4 of today's Velvet Scoter were first seen over Portland Harbour heading west before passing by the Bill a short time later © Lee Gardiner

18th November

Whilst today's Northwesterly winds brought about a slight drop in temperature, long stretches of blue skies and sunshine made for a very pleasant if rather uneventful day. Birds logged at the Bill include a reduced passage of 760 Wood Pigeons, up to 4 Black Redstarts, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Merlin as well as a single Fieldfare heading North. 

One of 4 Black Redstarts logged around the Bill today © Geoff Orton 

17th November

Another clear start to the day, but this time with an obvious uptick in visible passage of Wood Pigeons, with up to 2,400 leaving the Bill during the early hours. Other birds logged on the ground included just 1 Black Redstart, the lingering Cetti's Warbler, a couple of Goldcrests and a single Blackcap taking a momentary interest in the rapidly deteriorating apples. The 2 juvenile Sabine's Gulls reported in the morning at Chesil Cove were later joined by a flock of Eider, which totaled 15 by late afternoon. A single Grey Phalarope and Black Redstart were also logged there in addition to 4 Pale-Bellied Brent Geese and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge.

The Juvenile Sabine's Gull was first seen over Ferrybridge before flying to Chesil Cove where it joined a second individual. Photographs show this bird to be different to the juvenile birds logged thus far © Pete Saunders


16th November

In the relative calm weather of this morning, a scattering of birds was reported around the Bill, with 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Lapwing, a Merlin and 5 Purple Sandpiper, with up to 40 Common Scoter and singles of Great Northern Diver and Red-throated diver the best of the morning's sea passage. However, with a rather threatening band of rain on the horizon came an exciting period of sea watching with a Little Gull and Leach's Petrel observed going east with a stream of 104 Kittiwakes. Elsewhere, the juvenile Sabine's Gull was still at Chesil Cove with an additional 2 Little Gulls, with a Goosander and 3 Knot reported from Ferrybridge.

15th November

A rather frustrating start to the day, with heavy rain putting a halt to any thoughts of visible passage in the early hours of the morning. Birds logged at the bill in the few hours of clear weather that followed included singles of Merlin and Cetti's Warbler, 3 Black Redstarts and up to 4 Purple Sandpiper, the latter the highest total of the autumn thus far. Elsewhere, totals of 130 Dunlin, 16 Knot, 2 Goosander and single Redshank and Curlew were recorded at Ferrybridge, with 3 Velvet Scoter observed going west from Portland Harbour.   

Woodcock from a couple of days ago Pete Saunders:

Today's Goosander... 

...and flock of Knot Pete Saunders:

14th November

Partly overcast skies and hardly a breath of wind - together with the promise of the onset of some rain that didn't materialise - were promising ingredients at dawn and it was soon apparent that there were new arrivals on the ground and some strong passage overhead. An almost instant surprise was a huge flock of departing Starlings - very roughly estimated at 3000 over the Obs although a much higher estimate from further up the island suggested some had peeled off before they reached the Bill - that were even murmurating as they left out to sea. Long trails of Wood Pigeons soon appeared, with a final total of 6780 leaving at the Bill, whilst 268 Goldfinches, 70 Chaffinches, 68 Linnets, 47 Meadow Pipits, 23 Redwings and 21 Siskins were among the other worthwhile totals logged; 5 Redpolls and singles of Merlin, Golden Plover, Snipe, Swallow, Brambling and Lapland Bunting - the latter a rather belated first of the season - were the pick of the back-ups. Grounded totals were far lower but amongst the single figure totals of the likes of new Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, a Mistle Thrush - another first for the season - was noteworthy at the Bill; the Cetti's Warbler and Wryneck were also still there, whilst the spread of Black Redstarts from around the island reached at least double figures. The only reports from the sea were of the Sabine's Gull lingering on off Chesil and 9 Brent Geese through off the Bill.

13th November

An ultimately slightly disappointing day with an obvious if small arrival of common migrants on the ground being accompanied by nothing more exciting than an almost subliminal Serin that pitched into a treetop at the Obs for a few seconds before moving off with other finches. A flurry of new Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were apparent both at the Bill and in many of the still leafy spots further up-island, whilst passing finch flocks and regular ones and twos of thrushes were a feature all day. Despite clear, sunny skies overhead the slack airflow and very damp atmosphere looked to have resulted in quantities of fog forming over the mainland that in turn scuppered conventional post-dawn visible passage, with not much more than 390 Wood Pigeons through over the Bill. The Wryneck, Cetti's Warbler, Dartford Warbler and Firecrest remained there, the Sabine's Gull lingered on off Chesil and a scatter of Black Redstarts were evident everywhere.

12th November

A quite exciting day with unseasonable - even uncomfortable at times - warmth and sunshine accompanying a really good selection of birds. Although the continuing Sabine's Gull attracted the visitors it was the varied selection of migrants that provided most interest, with a Radde's Warbler in Top Fields, 2 Yellow-browed Warblers at Weston, and singles of Woodcock, Wryneck and Corn Bunting at the Bill all new in on the ground. Visible passage was again a spectacle, with 8220 Wood Pigeons, 780 Goldfinches, 670 Starlings, 100 Linnets, 85 Meadow Pipits, 70 Chaffinches, 22 Skylarks, 18 Siskins, 9 Redpolls, 2 Merlins, 2 Swallows and a Snow Bunting through at the Bill and a similarly varied selection over Chesil. Commoner arrivals weren't especially numerous on the ground but lingerers included the likes of the Cetti's Warbler and Dartford Warbler at the Bill, the Wheatear at Hamm Beach and a good spread of Black Redstarts everywhere. Sea interest included a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill and the Common Tern still in Portland Harbour.

It's not always that your glimpses of something looking rare...

...actually materialise into something that really is rare - on odd occasions the Radde's Warbler popped out quite nicely although this was very much the exception © Martin Cade:

                        The Yellow-browed Warblers at Weston showed really well © Duncan Walbridge:

We wouldn't write off that today's Wryneck was a reappearance of the long-stayer from back in the second half of October; that bird could easily have been overlooked given the lousy weather and poor coverage this month but today's sighting was in a different place so it'll certainly be logged as relating to a new individual © Martin Cade:

It's a sad sign of the times that this morning's Corn Bunting at the Bill was, at least in terms of Portland records this year, the rarest bird of the day © Dave Chown:

And finally some rather arresting news of an exciting second record for the island. We bumped into Mark Eggleton today and Mark mentioned an odd, drab wheatear he'd photographed at the Bill on 29th October; a photograph was duly revealed that looked to us likely to be a Pied Wheatear, a fact further confirmed by some more images Mark popped us through later. Autumn Pied vs Black-eared Wheatear can sometimes be a tricky call but as far as we can see everything visible here points to it being a Pied. A great record and really fortuitous that on a dreary late afternoon Mark took the trouble to take some photographs rather than ignore it © Mark Eggleton:

Out of interest, here's John Ash's account published in BB of Portland's first Pied Wheatear way back in October 1954 (click on it to enlarge):

11th November

The arrival of yet another Sabine's Gull at Chesil Cove - a second juvenile joined the bird lingering on from yesterday - provided day-long entertainment, with a late Common Tern in Portland Harbour adding yet another species to the week's seabird list. The clearing sky and rising temperature looked to offer promise of other arrivals - particularly overhead - but in the event 3 Swallows and a passing Short-eared Owl were all that could be mustered by way of aerial interest; odds and ends on the ground included lingering singles of Water Rail, Cetti's Warbler and Dartford Warbler at the Bill, the Wheatear still at Hamm Beach and a scatter of several single Black Redstarts.

Look-alikes but not that alike: the two juvenile Sabine's Gulls have been shown to be the same two that first arrived in West Dorset on 9th November © Pete Saunders:

A Common Tern to add to this week's tally of wrecked seabirds © Pete Saunders:

10th November

The sea again provided day-long interest today with a nice selection of wrecked seabirds lingering close to shore: at least 2 Sabine's Gulls (as many as 4 individuals were reported but we've yet to see photographic evidence that there were more than 2 birds involved in the sightings - any further evidence would be much appreciated) patrolled Chesil Beach throughout, with a Grey Phalarope settled there for a while and a Little Gull through; nearby, 2 Leach's Petrels lingered on in Portland Harbour and an Arctic Tern passed through at Ferrybridge. Further routine sea interest came in the form of 4 Great Northern Divers and 2 Goosanders at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge, 300 Mediterranean Gulls lingering off the Bill and a lone Red-throated Diver passing through there. Some post-dawn overhead passage at the Bill included 2680 Wood Pigeons, 310 Goldfinches, 244 Starlings, 34 Linnets and 2 Siskins, with singles of Merlin and Firecrest of note on the ground there; elsewhere, a Black Redstart was at Church Ope Cove and the Wheatear remained at Hamm Beach

The first-summer Sabine's Gull © Dave Foot (videos) and Pete Saunders (stills)...

...the juvenile Sabine's Gull © Martin Cade:

...the Grey Phalarope © Dave Foot (video) and Pete Saunders (stills)...

...and the Arctic Tern which, since it's clearly an adult, isn't the bird that's been frequenting the Weymouth area for a few days © Pete Saunders:

This morning's Firecrest at the Bill © Martin Cade:

9th November

Sea interest continued, although in a brisk rather than raging wind it largely involved lingering, wrecked pelagic specialists rather than storm-driven movement. Two reorientating Leach's Petrels did pass through off the Bill, but 3 more spent the afternoon criss-crossing Portland Harbour; even more welcome was the Sabine's Gull that spent the day off the Chesil, whilst further interest came in the form of a Grey Phalarope off Chesil, singles of Red-throated and Great Northern Divers through off the Bill and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour. The amelioration in the weather saw overhead passage get going again, with 3700 Wood Pigeons, 1350 Goldfinches and lower totals of a few other regulars through in quick time after dawn at the Bill. New arrivals on the ground included a late Wheatear beside Portland Harbour and a Merlin at Reap Lane but little else of note; the Common Rosefinch also showed up again on feeders in a private garden at the Grove.

Although of entirely esoteric interest, the Sabine's Gull was reported on numerous occasions to be an adult but it seemed to us far more likely to be in first-summer plumage: notwithstanding the yellow bill-tip, it was unhooded (in theory, adult undertake most of their post-breeding moult in winter quarters so ought still to be in pretty decent summer plumage at this time of year), the flight feathers were hugely worn, the wing coverts noticeably uneven, the primaries matt brownish-black and lacking big white tips and, at least in some photographs we've seen, the legs look to be party pale © Pete Saunders (top) and Duncan Walbridge (bottom):

The Common Rosefinch again at the Grove © Mary Snell: