30th April

Today's ingredients might have offered promise but the recipe wasn't up to much and, by the end of the day, we'd been left hungry for more. The heavy cloud cover that rolled in overnight and drizzle that set in around dawn might on another occasion have provided us with a whopping fall but the propitious early signs with the likes of Cuckoo and Corn Bunting grounded proved not to be indicators of good things about to unfold and the day's grounded migrants totals were average at best; a lot of the late April regulars were represented but quality didn't get better than the lingering Ring Ouzel at Weston Street and 7 Pale-bellied Brent Geese settled in Portland Harbour. At times, particularly into the afternoon and evening when the breeze veered towards the south, the sea was worth a punt but, as with the land, the combined Bill and Chesil totals of, amongst others, 5 Arctic Skuas, 3 Gadwall and 1 Great Skua left a lot to be desired; the total of more than 200 Gannets through off the Bill was a marked improvement on the dismal day-totals logged hitherto this spring that presumably reflect the severe hit dealt by avian flu to their wider population.


29th April

Yesterday's gathering warmth was maintained today although it remained as yet far from summery; the downsides were the clear overnight sky and increasingly large moon that saw to it that grounded migrants were present in respectable but hardly exciting numbers, and the increasing haziness offshore that made seawatching more of a challenge than it might otherwise have been. Considering the conditions, the migrant tally wasn't bad and included around the southern half of the island 75 Wheatears, 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Ring Ouzels and singles of Turtle Dove, Black Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler along with the more routine arrivals. Overhead passage was more subdued than might have been hoped suggesting the conditions at points of departure weren't especially favourable. The sea ticked over all day, with the first Balearic Shearwater of the year of note off the Bill where 5 Eider, 5 Arctic Skuas, 4 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver, a Great Skua and a Pomarine Skua also passed by.

The Turtle Dove at Weston Street showed nicely at times © Mark Eggleton...

...whilst the bonus Ring Ouzels in the same field included this nice male © Martin Cade:

28th April

A rather languid day with nothing ever quite getting going on the ground, overhead or on the sea. A marked improvement in the weather - at least from the human perspective, even if it wasn't doing much for the birds - saw sunshine and even some semi-warmth materialise as the day went on, but the rewards didn't get beyond the likes of a Turtle Dove at Barleycrates Lane and singles of Great Northern Diver and Pomarine Skua through off the Bill. Grounded migrants were well scattered and even reported to be quite numerous in places around the middle of the island, although for the most part they were only what would expected in late-April; a Reed Bunting at the Obs certainly wasn't to be expected at this time, whilst further interest came in the form of the first 3 settled Sanderlings of the spring dropping in at Ferrybridge. a lone Hobby overhead there and a single Purple Sandpiper at the Bill - remarkably, the latter is the first seen at the Bill all month. Six Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas and 2 Great Skuas provided the best of the rest from the sea at the Bill.

Probably the most unexpected bird of the day was this Reed Bunting that turned up unannounced in a mist-net at the Obs...

...whilst the most peculiar bird of the day was this leucistic Willow Warbler trapped at Culverwell - a freak of nature this one certainly was © Martin Cade:

27th April

In outwardly quite similar conditions to yesterday - heavily overcast with a brisk easterly breeze - today's results were strikingly different, with migrants not only liberally spread at dawn but seemingly dropping in throughout the morning; the onset of heavy rain by early afternoon and then fog by early evening scuppered all later activities and likely resulted in the day's totals being a tad lower than they might otherwise have been. For the first time in recent weeks Willow Warbler and Blackcap were usurped from top spot by a surge of Whitethroats, with perhaps 200 of the latter at the Bill alone where Blackcap and Wheatear topped 150 and 100 respectively but Willow Warbler trailed in at fewer than 50; variety was a feature, with a Wood Warbler at Ladymead and 3 Grasshopper Warblers and a Ring Ouzel at the Bill the best but most of the other expected late April commoner migrants were represented in multiples on the ground. Sea passage was equally varied, with a good showing of 339 Whimbrel between the Bill and Chesil, and 300 commic terns lingering off Chesil; 12 Arctic Skuas, divers included 4 Red-throated and singles of both Black-throated and Great Northern, whilst an Osprey arrived in off at Chesil.

It's not often these days that Whitethroat is the most numerous grounded migrant at the Bill and it's hard to grasp that in the now distant past - before the Whitethroat 'crash' in 1969 - it very often outnumbered Willow Warbler and was one of the commonest summer migrants logged/ringed here; on the day of one particularly famous Whitethroat 'rush' - 29th April 1955 - 1000+ were estimated at the Bill and, based on this and concurrent events elsewhere in east Dorset and adjacent west Hampshire the Report on Dorset Birds for that year ventured that 'many hundreds of thousands, if not several millions, of Whitethroats must have landed in Dorset overnight' © Martin Cade:

Bedraggled arrivals in unlikely places were a feature today - this Redstart was at Ferrybridge © Joe Stockwell:

More Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits migrating over Chesil © Joe Stockwell:

26th April

All too murky and breezy today with the heavy cloud cover evidently extending right across the Channel and seemingly dissuading both nocturnal migrants and seabirds from moving in any quantity. There were birds about on the ground but they weren't straightforward to get amongst in the wind and there was a feel that many didn't drop in until the afternoon; Blackcap and Willow Warbler remained the prominent duo, reaching 30 each at the Bill where singles of Grasshopper Warbler and Firecrest provided the best of the quality on the ground and a lone Hobby passed overhead along with a steady trickle of Swallows; elsewhere, the season's first Spotted Flycatcher was at Avalanche Road, a late Goldcrest was at Southwell and 2 Yellow Wagtails, a White Wagtail and a Black Redstart were of interest amongst the the commoner fare. Offshore, passage was pedestrian at best with a handful of divers - including a Black-throated Diver off Chesil - a few Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwits, and 3 Arctic Skuas the best of it.

25th April

After yesterday's little hiatus normal service was resumed today with cloud overhead at dawn and our favourite - although currently really cold! - northeast wind dropping a nicely varied selection of common migrants. Willow Warblers and Blackcaps on 300 and 150 apiece made up the bulk of the numbers but 30 Garden Warblers was a noteworthy total and most of the other late April expecteds were represented, with singles of Little Ringed Plover, Black Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Siskin the best of the less frequents; the male Cirl Bunting male a dawn appearance at the Obs where it was shortly afterwards mist-netted with a female in tow. The sea was very disappointing, with a veering of the breeze into the southeast as the day went on doing almost nothing; a white-winged gull - thought by the observers to most likely be an Iceland Gull - passed the Bill but 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, 15 Whimbrel, a Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua were as good as it got there on the routine passage front.

The lingering singing male Cirl Bunting has been really furtive just lately - on several days it hasn't been seen/heard at all - so its appearance early this morning in the Obs garden with a female in tow may well be extremely significant! © Martin Cade:

A few routine migrants aside, the Obs garden moth-traps have been very quiet this spring so a Brindled Beauty was a welcome overnight catch; although a widespread enough moth on the mainland, if we remember rightly this is only the third record for Portland © Martin Cade:

Wheatear at Ferrybridge today © Roy Norris:

24th April

A distinctly underwhelming day although it has to be said that only the very optimistic expected much from a chilly northwesterly and clear skies. The grounded migrant tally was low, with many expected species completely absent, so 4 Grasshopper Warblers and a Cuckoo were a slight surprise given how little else was about; the lingering Black Redstart was also still about at Southwell. Waders fared slightly better, with 36 Dunlin, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Whimbrel at Ferrybridge and a Common Sandpiper amongst others at the Bill. The trickle of movement on the sea included 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Eider, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Black-throated Diver through off the Bill.

Black-winged Stilts are always entertaining birds so we couldn't resist popping over to Lodmoor for a look at the pair that dropped in there today - we didn't see them mating but evidently they were both before and after our visit! © Martin Cade:

23rd April

A day that only a little over a week ago would have seemed like the highpoint of spring almost paled into insignificance in comparison with the riches on offer over the last few days. A good dawn flurry of Willow Warblers looked to be setting the scene for further excitements to come but as early heavy cloud cover gradually evaporated so the birds rapidly upped and moved on. The Willow Warbler total from the Bill was up around 150, but nothing else reached that sort of level and the likes of 3 Pied Flycatchers at Avalanche Road, 2 Grasshopper Warblers at the Bill and a Marsh Harrier ranging between the Bill and Barleycrates Lane were the best of the less regulars. With the breeze a little towards the northwest the sea was watched more in hope than expectation so c100 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Red-throated Divers, an Arctic Skua and a Pomarine Skua (plus another of the latter reported only on the national news services) through off the Bill were reward enough. 

An adult male Marsh Harrier is a very rare sight at Portland - the majority of sightings are of immatures of one sort or another - so today's bird was much appreciated © Martin Cade:

22nd April

A somewhat lower key day than the last few, with a substantial blocking belt of rain in the Channel looking likely to have diminished the incoming flow of migrants. Willow Warblers did get through in plenty, with perhaps 250 at the Bill, but there were declines in both variety and number of other arrivals both on the ground and overhead; the likes of Redstarts and Whinchats were still represented but the total of just 30 Wheatears and 25 Blackcaps logged at the Bill reflected this general drop in quantity. The pick of the less regulars were singles of Little Egret, OspreyLapwing, Ring Ouzel, Black RedstartGrasshopper Warbler and Pied Flycatcher scattered around/over between the Bill and Reap Lane. Fairly constant attention was given to the sea, with 14 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 10 Arctic Skuas, 4 Eider, 2 Red-throated Divers, the season's first 2 Pomarine Skuas and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose through off the Bill and 1 of the 2 Pomarine Skuas through off Chesil. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose - the same individual as at the Bill? - dropped in at Ferrybridge where there were also 29 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Whimbrel.

On the premise that every view of a Pomarine Skua is a good view then this afternoon/evening's duo were great even if they were far enough out from the Bill tip to look a lot better through a 'scope than they did through a camera lens...

...Manx Shearwaters have been notably low in numbers in what's customarily a really good time for them so a three figure total at the Bill this evening was welcome © Martin Cade:

Black Redstart and Whitethroat at Sweethill today © Nick Stantiford:

Today's snippet of esoteric rubbish concerns Redstarts since we just happened to catch nice examples of both age classes over the last couple of days and their ageing is something that often seems to catch out even experienced ringers; besides, given a good view it's also something that's perfectly visible in the field so can be checked out by 'ordinary' birders...

...Although superficially very alike, the most important bit to check out that's always different is the colour of the edges - not the tips - of the outer greater coverts: blue-grey in an adult and buffy-brown or paler in a first-summer; if you look closely the first-summers will always have one or two blue-edged feathers right on the inside of the tract - these are adult pattern feathers grown during the partial post-juvenile moult last early autumn at a time when the adults would have been moulting this whole tract and so don't end up with a discontinuity between two ages of feathers. There are other more subtle differences, some of which are visible in these photos, see which ones you can spot © Martin Cade:

21st April

A slightly nicer - not quite so windy and for the most part a little warmer - day for birding than yesterday wasn't quite so productive on the migrant front but there was still plenty enough to entertain on all fronts. On the ground Wheatear, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff still made up the bulk of the tally: the first three of them all reaching three figure totals at the Bill, whilst Wheatears in particular were very conspicuous elsewhere including 50 at Ferrybridge; the likes of Redstart and Whinchat were again liberally dotted around the centre and south, with singles of Grasshopper Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and the continuing Cirl Bunting at the Bill and Black Redstart at Reap Lane among the scarcer migrants on show. Overhead passage was steady but certainly not heavy, with 5 incoming Ravens, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, an Osprey and a Marsh Harrier over the Bill and 15 Common Buzzards, 2 single Red Kites and a Hobby over the centre of the island the best of the oddities. Bar-tailed Godwits provided the numbers offshore, where 356 passed over Chesil and 77 passed the Bill; further worthwhile totals from the sea included 17 Whimbrel, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Red-throated Diver off the Bill, 6 Little Gulls and 3 Red-throated Divers from a boat 3 miles off the Bill and 10 Whimbrel and a Great Northern Diver off Chesil. Grounded waders are beginning to feature in greater numbers and variety as the month progresses, with 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Whimbrel and a Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge and 4 Purple Sandpipers among a selection on the harbour breakwaters (the Bill Purple Sandpipers have for a long time been erratic at best and most often absent - perhaps they've moved to the breakwaters?).

A Vagrant Emperor was seen briefly at the north of the island.

Finally, an admin matter: apologies to everyone who's been emailing us with eg membership applications and other queries this week and not getting a timely response but we've been really snowed under with all the birds, a constantly rammed-full Obs and an ever increasing flow of day-visitors - we will get round to answering the emails as soon as we've got a spare minute!

The Pied Flycatcher and Osprey at the Bill © Martin Cade...

...and the Little Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge © Joe Stockwell:

The Wheatears, Whinchats, Redstarts, Blackcaps - and pretty well everything else for the matter - are looking great right now © Joe Stockwell (Wheatear) and Martin Cade (Whinchat, Redstart and Blackcap):

The Vagrant Emperor at Tout Quarry earlier in the week © Gillian Bamford:

20th April

There've been a lot of fun days this week and today provided bags more entertainment albeit at times in slightly testing conditions since until early afternoon the strength of the chilly northeasterly saw to it that we wouldn't mind betting almost as much was missed as actually got seen; however, as the afternoon wore on the wind the wind dropped right out and in balmy sunshine the already respectable migrant totals got a further boost. We didn't hear of comprehensive coverage of the middle of the island, but for the Bill area provisional totals of 200 Wheatears, 150 Blackcaps, 100 Willow Warblers, 50 Chiffchaffs, 40 Whinchats and 20 Redstarts made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground, with the likes of singles of Short-eared Owl, Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Brambling and Redpoll - along with the continuing Cirl Bunting - all adding spice to the mix; random coverage elsewhere provided amongst others another Ring Ouzel at Tout and another Grasshopper Warbler at Barleycrates. Under the constantly sunny sky visible passage was also strong, with Swallow and Goldfinch well in excess of 500, Sand Martin and Linnet certainly exceeding 250, a good variety of other April staples each heading towards 200 and Yellow Wagtail well into double figures. After yesterday's flourish sea passage was steady if unspectacular: 121 commic terns, 26 Whimbrel, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua were the pick off the Bill, with 135 Bar-tailed Godwits, 77 Whimbrel, 10 Dunlin, 7 Sanderling, 2 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, a Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua the best off Chesil.

Another Vagrant Emperor was on the wing in Top Fields.

After their pretty dismal start this spring Wheatear numbers have improved no end this week and today they outnumbered anything else on the ground; we have begun to see Greenland/Iceland Wheatears in some numbers over the last 10 days or so but, to our eyes at least, they're still well outnumbered by apparent nominates © Geoff Orton:

From the Obs mist-nets today our sixth Grasshopper Warbler of the week was a nice catch and further evidence of their return to form after several extremely lean springs - we didn't ring any at all last spring! We're always surprised at just how huge their tails are - a feature that, together with their big, floppy undertail covert feathers, you'd imagine ought to be quite an encumbrance for a long-distance migrant; presumably it confers all sorts of advantages in other respects although we're not entirely sure what these might be © Martin Cade:

Also on the ringing front we've been rewarded with a steady flow of controls and recoveries in recent days; none has been particularly spectacular in its own right but cumulatively they've shown very nicely the wide geographical origins of the migrants stopping off at Portland: one of our Cetti's Warblers from last autumn was recently caught again just off the island at Tidmoor, beside the Fleet; Blackcaps we've handled in recent days were first ringed at likely breeding sites in the Scottish Borders and in Staffordshire; we've handled singles of Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler that had first been ringed as migrants in Gloucestershire and far west Cornwall respectively; one of our spring Willow Warblers from last year was caught again a few days ago at Skokholm Bird Observatory; and finally, one of our spring Goldfinches from last year was subsequently caught again in northern France last winter. This is the Blackcap from the Scottish Borders that we've only just received the details of so they're not yet on our all-time Blackcap recoveries map © Martin Cade:

19th April

If today does prove to be this spring's principal Bar-tailed Godwit day then, through a combination of the relatively early date and seemingly less than optimum conditions, it did its best to catch us unawares and we were fortunate to achieve reasonable coverage in recording it, with 569 logged passing on or over the Bill, 929 over Chesil and 260 settled at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour. Despite some pre-dawn dampness the day's arrival of grounded migrants was modest and not the easiest to get amongst what with the ever-freshening northeasterly, but 6 Redstarts, 4 Whinchats, 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 3 Firecrests, 2 Ring Ouzels and 2 Pied Flycatchers gave some substance to the tally of more routine fare at the Bill, where the 2 Serins and the Cirl Bunting again provided succour for the travelling listers. Once the cloud cleared overhead passage was strong particularly along West Cliffs, with upwards of 500 apiece of Swallow, Linnet and Goldfinch, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 9 Tree Pipits, 3 Hobbys and a Swift, together the first good showing of House Martins amongst others. The Barwits aside, the sea was relatively quiet: just shy of 100 Whimbrel through at the Bill was a good total but singles of Arctic Skua both there and at Chesil were otherwise about as good as it got.

And a great little video that really captures the Barwit experience at Chesil - fantastic! © Joe Stockwell:

18th April

Yesterday was so good that today was always going to seem an anticlimax but, in the event, even as a shadow of what went before there was more than enough to entertain today. The constituents of the day's arrival were largely unchanged save for switches in proportions, with Blackcaps to the fore and the two common phylloscs about equally numerous - Blackcap likely topped a three figure total around the southern half of the island, where Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler hovered around 50 each; Wheatear did well with more than 50 at the Bill alone, whilst the spread of the less numerous included a few Whinchats and Redstarts, 3 Grasshopper Warblers and singles of Hobby (the first of the spring), RedshankShort-eared Owl, Cuckoo, Pied Flycatcher and Firecrest. Scarcities put on a decent show, with 3 Ospreys over Portland Harbour, 2 or more Serins at the Bill, a Red Kite over the centre and north of the island and the reappearance of a Cirl Bunting at the Bill. The sea provided variety rather than great numbers, with 2 Arctic Skuas the best off the Bill and 38 Whimbrel, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits, 10 Grey Plovers, 4 Sanderling and a Greenshank noteworthy amongst the miscellaneous selection from Chesil.

A Vagrant Emperor dragonfly was on the wing at Tout Quarry.

We've said it before but if ever there's a migrant that's undercounted at Portland it's the Blackcap. Today was one of those days when you knew from odd calls or subliminal glimpses that there were one or two in a particular Blackthorn hedge but when you waited beside a gap for them to pass through and reveal themselves for just a little longer there were actually half a dozen or more there: 

Pied Flycatchers have given the Bill area a wide berth thus far this spring so this nice male at Culverwell was appreciated:

Our freak of nature of the day was this leucistic Meadow Pipit - in flight the white tertials and inner wing were really striking and conveyed something of the look of a female Snow Bunting to it:

We don't usually have trouble with fly-by Serins as the twinkling call is so characteristic. However, this bird that flew past at the Obs during the morning was calling so seemingly oddly that there was a reluctance to claim it as completely certain until the recording had been reviewed - from this it sounds rather like a tiny snatch of song was being used as a flight call...

...and we suspect this individual was probably the bird that later in the day turned up - along with a female in tow - in the Upper Strips. Here the male sung more fully in flight but, at least when we popped up to see them, they were only showing at very long range in poor conditions © Martin Cade:

17th April

Wow, that was a pretty monumental day, with a whopping fall-out of migrants that was right up there with the best ever recorded at Portland. Grasshopper Warblers reeling everywhere as the calm and heavily overcast dawn broke gave an instant feel for what might be about to unfold and it was quickly apparent that the southern half of the island was carpeted in Willow Warbler and Blackcaps - estimates of 3000 and 1500 respectively were arguably very conservative since birds were literally pouring northwards in an uncountable stream over a broad front for several hours. The Grasshopper Warbler tally was an impressive 35, whilst the wide range of back-ups totals included 125 Wheatears, 40 Whitethroats, 28 Sedge Warblers, 25 Redstarts, 11 Ring Ouzels, 10 Yellow Wagtails (including a very freaky-looking Blue-headed x something southeastern hybrid), 10 Song Thrushes, 8 Whinchats, 5 Reed Warblers, 3 Turtle Doves, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 or more Hoopoes, 2 White Wagtails, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Firecrests, a Short-eared Owl and a Redpoll. A strong visible passage of hirundines was ongoing throughout but, not surprisingly, escaped full attention and quantification; 2 Ospreys in quick succession also arrived in off the sea at Chesil. The sea was well-watched and also quite rewarding, with 280 Common Scoter, 47 Whimbrel, 7 Red-throated Divers, 4 Teal, a Great Skua and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill, and 321 Common Scoter, 94 Whimbrel, 84 Bar-tailed Godwits, 6 Red-throated Divers, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Tufted Ducks, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Skua the pick of a typically more varied selection off Chesil.

The sound of the day...

...and the sight of the day © Martin Cade:

16th April

For the first time this spring there was an almost perfect feel to conditions at dawn, with a few spits and spots of damp in the air and no more than a waft of a breeze. Migrants were soon in evidence in quantity although - and exemplifying the relative latenesss of the season - variety was nothing to shout about. On the ground, Willow Warblers were hugely dominant and made up three-quarters of the respectable catch in the Obs mist-nets, but a total of 9 Grasshopper Warblers dotted about the centre and south of the island were a nice surprise; the odd Redstart here and there and the likes of singles of Whinchat and Firecrest were bonuses even if several species, notably Wheatear, were conspicuously few and far between. Overhead, Swallows got moving early and seemingly in quantity although thorough coverage of their passage was sadly lacking; an Osprey over Easton was the pick of the visible migrants. Lingerers continuing to entertain included at least 1 of the Cirl Buntings at the Bill and the Hoopoe at Weston Street. The sea was well looked at but failed to really deliver, with the best 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua through off the Bill; a handful of waders over Chesil included 10 Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits.

The Cirl Bunting that roamed the Bill area all day was a really good performer, singing vigorously at each stop it made © Martin Cade:

Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:

An unusual sight at the Bill tip were three Grey Seals actually hauling out on the shore at low tide; this is quite regular behaviour in some quieter parts of the island but we've never seen full-size Grey Seals out of the water at the Bill before now © Fred Allway (top) and Roger Hewitt (bottom):

15th April

Despite the continuing lack of grounded migrants today actually ended up quite a fun day, with some scarcities to get amongst and, under a nice sunny sky, some visible passage getting going. The Hoopoe lingered on at Weston but more interest came in the form of 2 singing Cirl Buntings and a Serin at the Bill; the spring's first Turtle Dove passed through at Easton, a Great Skua off the Bill was the first there this year and only the second for the island as a whole, whilst a Merlin was also of note at the Bill. A very light scatter of Blackcaps made up the bulk of the grounded migrants, with Swallows that were arriving at more than 100 an hour at times the main constituent of the overhead passage. Odds and sods passing offshore included 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Whimbrel and a Canada Goose off the Bill.

The Serin pitched up twice in quick time at the Obs but on neither occasion was it particularly showy © Martin Cade:

There was a time, long ago now, when the dawn soundscape at the Obs would have been dominated by wheezing Greenfinches and jangling Corn Buntings; these days twinkling Goldfinches, moaning Wood Pigeons and crowing Pheasants are the routine so it was a real pleasure to hear a full-blown rattling Cirl Bunting in their midst this morning. The Serin that pitched in a few minutes later was equally nice even if they are a bit of an Obs staple these days:

Additional to these daytime events, the nocmig recorder at the Obs picked up an unexpected passer-by at 10 to 3 this morning when a Mediterranean Gull was audible; we've never logged a nocturnal Med Gull before at the Obs, indeed actively moving gulls of any sort (as opposed to the local breeders that sound as though they have squabbles at all hours) seem to be extremely infrequent over the Bill - is it the same everywhere?

And for a bit of fun, this black lump in the top left of the photo was our first Great Skua of the year that lumbered up-Channel a couple of miles of the Bill this evening - for someone who usually year-ticks Bonxie on 1st January or within a few days thereafter it seems almost inconceivable that it's taken three and half months to see one this year - however, that's what it's become like in these times of contagion © Martin Cade:

Finally, we must apologize to anyone who spent ages looking for it but due to a multiple misunderstanding the Vagrant Emperor that we reported had been seen this morning at High Angle Battery was actually seen there last Sunday, 9th April. That gaff aside, the photograph of it is well worth a look at and we wouldn't mind betting that there would have been one somewhere or other on the island today! © Stuart Crowley:

14th April

What had once looked likely to be among the most promising days of this week gradually looked less and less of a possibility as time ticked down and, sure enough, turned out to be a partial write-off in yet more rain and a gale-force southeasterly. What fieldwork was possible during the afternoon did reveal the year's first Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill, an Osprey overhead at Sweethill and hints of some wader passage getting going both at Ferrybridge and offshore; the Hoopoe was also still about at Weston Street as was the Ring Ouzel at Sweethill. There were grounded arrivals about but they were never easy to get amongst and the wind and mizzle that persisted after the rain stopped, with singles of Yellow Wagtail and Firecrest of interest at the Bill/Sweethill.; a light overhead trickle of Swallows, House Martins and Meadow Pipits also developed at this time. The tiniest hint of sea movement, included 7 Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits through off the Bill, with 7 more Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Grey Plover also dropping in at Ferrybridge.

The Osprey over Sweethill where the Ring Ouzel lingered on © Pete Saunders:

13th April

Still a bit blustery today but a far nicer, sunny day for birding than the last two. Migrant activity was again greatest in the relative shelter of the centre of the island where the year's first Whinchat, singles of Ring Ouzel and Black Redstart, the long-staying Hoopoe and a fair spread of commoner fare were encountered but there, as elsewhere, variety was otherwise still quite limited, with a Short-eared Owl at the Bill and 2 Swifts over Ferrybridge the best from points further south and north. Sea passage was almost non-existent.

The first Holly Blue of the year was on the wing at the Bill.

The Ring Ouzel was a minor highlight at Sweethill © Debby Saunders (settled) and Pete Saunders (flight)...

...but everywhere it was hard to get amongst interest beyond the usual early April quartet of Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Wheatear © Martin Cade: