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: