19th January

Just a handful of routine odds and ends today: 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter through off the Bill, a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle and 8 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

Not only was one of the Southwell Barn Owls showing nicely this evening but it was also having a lot of success, catching three voles in quick succession © Debby Saunders: 


18th January

It goes without saying that it remained very windy and none too warm with it. The Yellow-browed Warbler surfaced for the first time in a few days at Pennsylvania Castle where 5 Firecrests and a Blackcap were also present amongst the roving tit and crest flocks. Singles of Great Crested Grebe through off the Bill and Kittiwake dropping in at Ferrybridge were minor oddities, whilst regulars making the list included 8 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill and 5 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

There are always a few Great Crested Grebes knocking about Portland Harbour through the winter © Pete Saunders...


...but fly-bys off the Bill are much less frequent © Martin Cade: 


Kittiwakes being recorded at Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge are always a sure sign of it being persistently stormy© Pete Saunders:  

17th January

Another very blustery day but with rain holding off until after dark there was a little more enthusiasm for fieldwork, even if the rewards were much as in recent weeks. Three Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl were at the Bill where a lone Red-throated Diver passed by on the sea, a Barn Owl was showing at both ends of the day at Southwell, singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff were at Weston and 4 Great Northern Divers and 4 Black-necked Grebes at Portland Harbour.

Some of the Portland Harbour Black-necked Grebes have been showing far better this winter than is usually the case © Pete Saunders: 


There have been Barn Owls about all winter at the Bill where, as is usually the case, they seem to be very strictly nocturnal; however, when they venture up to Southwell they do often show when there's just enough light for photography © Pete Saunders (top two photos) and Nick Stantiford (bottom photo):




16th January

Pretty turbulent conditions once again and very little to report: 10 Purple Sandpipers were at the Bill and 2 Firecrests at Church Ope Cove.

15th January

A wet and/or windy day put a stop to any meaningful fieldwork and the only entries on the day sheet at the Obs were of singles of Grey Heron and Short-eared Owl at the Bill.

14th January

As a very welcome change there was non-bird highlight today, with a Humpback Whale that headed south off Chesil Cove during the afternoon the day's headliner.

A better bird list than yesterday came only by virtue of improved conditions and better coverage. Four Short-eared Owls, the Grey Heron and a Reed Bunting were still in situ at the Bill, where 3 Red-throated Divers passed through on the sea; Firecrests were still about at Pennsylvania Castle (2) and Foundry Close, with 3 Redwings also at the latter, whilst totals from Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour included 115 Dunlin, 5 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and singles of Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Goosander.

The Humpback Whale was always distant and, sadly, appeared to be trailing some fishing equipment that included an orange float; it was last watched heading away south off West Cliffs but couldn't be picked up from either Blacknor or the Bill. As far as we know this is only the second Humpback Whale to be recorded in Portland waters - the first being a famous animal that spent most of a summer evening way back in 1991 close inshore at Chesil Cove © Peter Moore petermooreblog:


Black-throated Diver and Goosander over Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:


13th January

A stiff, chilly southeasterly made for very difficult birding today and the only worthwhile reports were of 11 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Mallard at Reap Lane and the Eider still in Portland Harbour.

12th January

A pretty nondescript, dreary day came up with a surprising number of new arrivals, including an Eider in Portland Harbour, an increase to 60 Linnets along with singles of Golden Plover and Red-legged Partridge at the Bill and 70 Redwings heading north over Blacknor. Among the regulars putting in appearances were 4 Short-eared Owls, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a Reed Bunting at the Bill, 6 Common Scoter and 5 Red-throated Divers through on the sea there, a Blackcap at Fortuneswell, the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 15 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

Short-eared Owl at the Bill this afternoon © Martin Cade:


11th January

Not as mild as yesterday in a noticeable north-easterly but pleasantly sunny throughout. Sadly, there was far less coverage and the day's only reports were of singles of Lapwing and Firecrest at the Bill, 15 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea there, another Firecrest at Easton and a Tufted Duck - along with the 3 released Great Bustards - through at Ferrybridge.

Never a particularly easy bird to get on a Portland year-list, today's fly-by Tufted Duck at Ferrybridge was bird of the day © Debby Saunders:


The released Great Bustards have been kicking around along the Fleet since they made their last visit to Portland back in mid-December; they looked as though they were heading back to the island again this morning but chickened out and headed back up the Fleet © Debby Saunders (the single) and Pete Saunders (two together): 


10th January

Such has been the uniform miserableness of the weather so far this year that today's lovely mild, calm and sunny conditions were a real treat. With plenty of birders tempted out there was decent coverage that resulted in quite a spread of variety, amongst which a Little Gull off the Bill and overflying singles of Snow Bunting at Ferrybridge and Redpoll at Blacknor were the best of the newcomers; the odd few winter thrushes were also still about, with 3 Fieldfares and 2 Redwings at Avalanche Road and another Fieldfare at the Bill. The rest of list consisted of regulars putting in appearances: the Yellow-browed Warbler and 4 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle, 12 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Short-eared Owls, 2 Firecrests and a Grey Heron on the land at the Bill and 7 Red-throated Divers (+ a likely Iceland Gull) through on the sea there, a Short-eared Owl at Tout Quarry, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 12 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Northern Divers at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge.

Three butterflies were tempted out onto the wing: a Peacock at the Bill, a Small Tortoiseshell at Blacknor and a Red Admiral at Fortuneswell.

9th January

A nice little sprinkle of variety today as the weather turned noticeably quieter and milder. Cold weather refugees featured again - presumably, since what movement there was was in off the sea, escaping events on the Continent - with 36 Lapwings over the Bill and another 6 over Ferrybridge, 2 Redwings over Blacknor and a Fieldfare grounded at the Bill. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter and singles of Mallard, Eider and Black-headed Gull, whilst 9 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Turnstones, 2 Firecrests and a Little Egret were about on the land there. A Black-tailed Godwit was a new arrival at Ferrybridge, with 5 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Great Northern Divers and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose also there and at Portland Harbour.

Mid-winter Fieldfares are a pretty unusual sight on Portland in anything other than really bitter weather © Martin Cade:


8th January

No let up in yesterday's bitter north-easterly and some more evidence that the birds were getting fed up with it, with 28 Lapwings heading north over the Bill, a settled Fieldfare there and 3 Black-necked Grebes - along with 3 Great Northern Divers - seeking shelter close inshore at Osprey Quay. Fifteeen more Red-throated Divers and 14 Common Scoter passed through off the Bill, 10 Common Scoter were in Chesil Cove, both the Grey Heron at the Bill and the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove were still about and the Purple Sandpipers at the Bill reached a new winter peak of 14.

It's not often that the Black-necked Grebes afford these sort of views in Portland Harbour...




...some of the Great Northern Divers were also showing nicely at Osprey Quay...



...as was the Chesil Cove Black Redstart all photos © Debby Saunders:

7th January

Lovely in the sun looking outdoors but the north-easterly that had gathered strength overnight and reached gale force by dawn saw to it that forays out into the field were a far from pleasant experience. Those that did attempt it were rewarded with what looked to be another new Iceland Gull that lingered off the Bill for a few minutes (with the same or another later at Ferrybridge) and a Sandwich Tern that dropped in at Ferrybridge; a Woodcock at the Bill and some Golden Plovers heard overhead there after dark were the sort of things that might have been expected given the temperature. The rest of the day's reports were more mundane: 19 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and Great Skua through off the Bill, 2 Purple Sandpipers there, a Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and a Black-throated Diver through over Ferrybridge.

The Iceland Gull was seemingly the third of the last few days although the first that's lingered long enough for some photos © Joe Stockwell: 


Random winter Sandwich Terns are never as numerous in this area as they are at Poole Harbour but they do seem to be getting that bit more frequent in recent years © Debby Saunders:



Black-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser were amongst the morning fly-bys at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders: 


6th January

A switch to easterly weather saw the temperature take a dip but the quality of the birding go up a notch, the latter as much because for once it wasn't either raining or too blastingly windy. A little pulse of movement off the Bill saw 16 Red-throated Divers, 9 Pintail, 6 Common Scoter and a Black-headed Gull pass by, with 10 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Reed Buntings and a Short-eared Owl the best on offer on the land. Further up island a Firecrest was at Southwell, another 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler were again at Pennsylvania Castle, a Black Redstart was again at Chesil Cove and, after dark, a Short-eared Owl was beside the Beach Road. The day's list from Portland Harbour included 9 Black-necked Grebes, 7 Great Northern Divers and singles of Black-throated Diver and Red-necked Grebe. What with it being both the first weekend of the new year and there being several bird race teams dashing about the area there was a rash of other reports that we haven't heard details of including a Black Guillemot settled off the Bill and an Iceland Gull at Chesil Cove.

There's been pretty well no moth news to report just lately - a few Winter Moths and a variety of common micros have been settled on the outside of lit windows at the Obs on the few nights that there hasn't been a gale blowing - but we've uploaded a preliminary report on last year's new and immigrant lepidoptera for the island Lepidoptera in 2017

The recent spell of stormy, westerly weather had led to quite an increase in Great Northern Divers seeking shelter in Portland Harbour; today's switch to easterlies saw a few of them getting quite flighty as they were perhaps getting fed up with it starting to get choppy in the harbour - these were two of several over Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:



5th January

The very low-key start to the year continued with another samey selection from around the island: 10 Purple Sandpiper at the Bill, 2 each of Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter through on the sea there, 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler at Church Ope Cove and 7 Great Northern Divers, 6 Black-necked Grebes and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour.

A not so usual view of a Great Crested Grebe at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:


4th January

A new Iceland Gull that dropped in briefly at Chesil Cove was not wholly unexpected given the stormy conditions of the last few days. Regulars still on station included 10 Purple Sandpipers at the Bill, 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle, 5 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge, whilst a single passing Red-throated Diver off the Bill was the only other seabird of note.

3rd January

Although the wind had abated somewhat from the 'official' 80+mph gusts recorded overnight birding was never going to be straightforward today and it was no great surprise when the day-sheet at the Obs was still completely blank well into the afternoon. The odds and ends that did eventually get reported were all from the relative sheltered waters of Portland Harbour, where a scatter of the regular divers and grebes were sheltering close to the causeway and a lone Kittiwake passed through.

Black-necked Grebes and the Kittiwake at Portland Harbour this morning © Pete Saunders:


2nd January

Weather-wise, this year's got off to a pretty dreadful start with today's uniformly gloomy sky and frequent showers hardly encouraging long sessions in the field. A Woodcock at the Obs was a surprise newcomer but the rest of the day's sightings were routine: 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Water Rail at the Bill, 5 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through on the sea there, a Chiffchaff at Southwell and 5 Goosanders, 4 Great Northern Divers, 3 Black-necked Grebes and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

Photography's been a bit of a challenge in the prevailing dreary conditions but a few of the regulars obliged yesterday at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:



1st January

Not the most auspicious of starts to the new year with rain for the best of the morning before a clearance did at least allow for some perfunctory coverage. The Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle made it onto a second month list and there were still 2 Firecrests there. Great Northern Divers increased to 14 in Portland Harbour, where 18 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Goosanders, 2 Black-throated Divers and a Red-necked Grebe were still about. Two Great Northern Divers at Ferrybridge might have been additions to the harbour tally, with 105 Dunlin, 2 Redshanks and a Bar-tailed Godwit also there. The only seawatch report was a lone Great Skua through off the Bill.

31st December


Fuller reports will resume when we get over a nasty attack of toothache(!). Today's highlights were the Yellow-browed Warbler still at Pennsylvania Castle and a Great Skua off the Bill.

Although there's still a lot of fleshing out of it to do - notably including the addition of plenty more controls that we await notification of - we've cobbled together a preliminary summary of this year's ringing activities at the Bill Bird Ringing in 2017

30th December

Just a routine selection today: 430 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 9 Pale-bellied Brents and a Shelduck at Ferrybridge, 9 Black-necked Grebes, 6 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Goosander in Portland Harbour, an Eider through at Chesil Cove and 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

29th December

Quite a change overnight from millpond calm at dusk to 80mph gusts around dawn. Such a stir-up was always going to be worth paying attention to and the best of the storm-driven strays were a Sooty Shearwater off the Bill, a Manx Shearwater off Church Ope Cove and the Iceland Gull resurfacing in Chesil Cove; one or more Great Skuas were also about off the Bill. The only other reports were of 43 Brent Geese at Ferrybridge and singles of Great Northern Diver and Goosander in Portland Harbour.

From the Obs it was only possible to get a few very, very long range record snaps of the Sooty Shearwater...


...but as it looked to be lingering we nipped to the Bill tip to get a bit closer; sadly, just as we rolled up at the pump station a really vicious squall came through that not only rendered the sea almost invisible but, once it had cleared through, also put paid to the feeding flock © Martin Cade:


Such was the strength of the wind that a few birds - including this Great Crested Grebe - were sheltering closer to shore than usual in Portland Harbour © Debby Saunders:

28th December

An unexpectedly really pleasant day tempted a fair few folk out into the field but there was little change in the quality of the birding. Good looks at Portland Harbour came up with reports of an increase in Goosanders to at least 20, along with more customary fare including 10 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Northern Divers. At least 1 Firecrest and the Grey Heron remained at the Bill, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest were at Southwell and the Black Redstart was again at Blacknor. Sea reports included 7 Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Brent Goose through off the Bill.

Great Northern Diver, Guillemot and Kestrel from Portland Harbour and Southwell today © Debby Saunders:



27th December


http://www.at-infocus.co.uk/ 

A reminder for those with Christmas money burning a hole in their pocket that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 30th December.

Just a few regulars about today to entertain those that were out braving the blasting and very raw northwesterly: 3 Firecrests and a Black Redstart at Church Ope Cove, another Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 3 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Red-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour.

26th December

Once again, very little to report although a fly-by Iceland Gull at the Bill was a nice highlight; single Firecrests were also at Southwell and the Obs.

25th December

The day's only report was of a Goosander in Portland Harbour.

24th December

A freshening breeze and occasional drizzly spells saw a Great Skua and 6 Red-throated Divers pass through off the Bill. The only other reports were of 2 Firecrests still at Pennsylvania Castle and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour.

Some aerial views of the Bill © James Bohan and Brett Spencer...




...and some video of the Obs © Brett Spencer:


23rd December

It was back to square one with the weather as yesterday sunshine was replaced by constant low cloud and occasional drizzle. The day's only new arrivals were a Lapwing at the Bill and an extra Blackcap joining the long-staying bird at Weston. The Yellow-browed Warbler showed up again at Pennsylvania Castle where there were also 3 Goldcrests and 2 Firecrests, the Red-backed Grebe was again in Portland Harbour and 13 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose passed by off the Bill.

Two Rusty-dot Pearls trapped overnight at Southwell provided the first immigrant moth interest for a few days.

22nd December

It seems as though fieldwork is taking a backseat as Christmas gets nearer, with very little coverage despite the gloriously sunny and mild conditions. Two Siskins were new at Church Ope Cove and 5 more Red-throated Divers passed by off the Bill, but the only other reports were of a few of the established regulars including 2 Firecrests at both the Obs and Church Ope Cove, and the Grey Heron and Reed Bunting at the Bill.

A Red Admiral was on the wing at Blacknor.

Dusk is often a good time to census wintering Firecrests - at least when the weather's as nice as it's been in recent days - since they invariably call a lot prior to going to roost; all this week the two at the Obs which are usually really unobtrusive through the day have been getting ever so noisy towards sunset:


21st December

It was perhaps fortunate that there were so few hours of daylight today since it limited the time that the few stalwarts making an effort had to endure the uninspiringly dreary and mild conditions - even the birds seemed to keeping their heads down, with several of regulars not showing up. Firecrests did put in appearances at the Obs and Church Ope Cove, the Blackcap was still at Weston and 4 Great Northern Divers and 2 Black-throated Divers were still at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge. Six Red-throated Divers and a Common Scoter passed through off the Bill.

Perseverance at Ferrybridge has paid off with some nice diver fly-by opportunities this winter - today it was the turn of a Great Northern to put on a show © Pete Saunders:


20th December

Precious few changes today in the prevailing quiet conditions, with many of the established winterers getting on the day list: singles of Grey Heron and Firecrest at the Bill and Goldcrest and Chiffchaff at Southwell, 2 Firecrests and the Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle, the Black Redstart at Haylands and the Blackcap at Weston, 11 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Black-throated Divers and the Red-necked Grebe in Portland Harbour and a Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge. The only seawatch reports were of 11 Common Scoter and 4 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.

A Rusty-dot Pearl was the only moth trapped overnight at the Obs.

One of the regular Grey Herons at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders: