27th September

Heavily overcast skies and a spell of light rain around dawn looked to have halted passage instead of dropped new arrivals and it was again very quiet everywhere today. The Obs Quarry Wryneck continued to draw in a steady stream of watchers and the Haylands Rosy Starling was reported from time to time but, save for an arrival of several new Dunnocks at the Bill and an increase in Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Ferrybridge, one of yesterday's Firecrests lingering on at the Obs was about as good as it got for other migrants.

Despite the temperature creeping up it was too windy overnight to have expected much reward from the moth-traps and the immigrant totals at the Obs consisted of just 22 Rush Veneer, 10 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Silver Y and singles of Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Dark Sword Grass and Pearly Underwing.

Thanks to the efforts of Tim Ridgers-Steer and his friends who were trying their hand at some ringing away from the Obs we got to have a close look at this very nice juvenile Common Sandpiper today (it was caught during attempts to catch Rock Pipits along East Cliffs); probably not surprisingly, this is only the seventh Common Sand ever ringed by PBO:





26th September

Not a very memorable day, with rain spoiling the best part of the morning and seemingly not much in the way of new arrivals in evidence during what dry spells there were. The Wryneck was still about at the Obs Quarry and 2 Firecrests were certainly new arrivals at the Obs, but there was no more than the thinnest scatter of routine migrants anywhere. Lingering waders included the Knot at the Bill and 22 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge.

The immigrant moth tally wasn't too bad considering the strength of the wind, with 47 Rush Veneer, 9 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Waste Grass-veneer Pediasia contaminella, Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Delicate, White-speck and Silver Y trapped overnight at the Obs.

The moth-traps have been turning up a few oddball, out of season species just recently, with a Waste Grass-veneer - a far as we can see, the latest island record of this scarce immigrant - an unexpected capture at the Obs:


Kent Black Arches is another mid-summer species that seems to be increasingly often churning out a small second brood at this time of year - this one was also caught overnight at the Obs:


Also on the moth front, our Death's-head Hawk-moth (from the caterpillar found at Culverwell on 16th August) finally emerged over the weekend:



25th September

Pretty blustery again today with a short-lived spell of heavy rain overnight introducing slightly fresher Atlantic conditions in place of the recent warm southerlies. Both the Wryneck at the Obs Quarry and the Rosy Starling at Haylands continued to entertain, whilst a Melodious (or Icterine - see below) Warbler was a nice find at Sheat Quarry at Southwell. Routine migrants certainly weren't conspicuous in the wind but sheltered spots did hold a scatter of Blackcaps, whilst singles of Merlin and Purple Sandpiper were of note over the Bill. Sea passage was almost non-existent, with 2 Balearic Shearwaters the only birds of note off the Bill.

Although it was far too windy overnight to have expected much in the way of moths there was evidence of a small arrival of new immigrants: totals from the Obs traps included 103 Rush Veneer, 10 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Diamond-back Moth and singles of Vagrant Piercer Cydia amplana, Dark Sword Grass and Silver Y; elsewhere, singles of Olive-tree Pearl at Weston and Clancy's Rustic at the Grove were of note.

We didn't ever get to see today's Hippolais warbler so our thoughts that follow are based entirely on the photos of it that we've been given. We're always disappointed at how little coverage Sheat Quarry gets - it's not the easiest place to work but it's nearly always nicely sheltered and it's got a good rare feel about it - so it was very nice to hear that Chris Patrick's perseverance there this morning had paid off with a Melodious Warbler; Chris's photo that followed didn't particularly ring any alarm bells, even if with hindsight it does look as though the apparent primary projection on the 'hidden' left wing does look to be alarmingly long © Chris Patrick


We didn't really give the bird any more thought until the afternoon when Simon Craft tweeted (and sent us though a slightly better resolution version) a long-range record shot of it that, at least on a phone screen, made it look well worth some more attention: although it again has an unhelpfully drooping right wing it seems as though the primary projection is very long and the primary tips are contrastingly pale © Simon Craft


A late afternoon look for it drew a blank so we weren't able to progress things any further until Paul Chandler passed us some more photos this evening. These again seem to show a long primary projection and, for example, quite contrasty tertials © Paul Chandler



Since the bird was presumably reasonably well seen by quite a few observers we hesitate to query the ID on the basis of these record shots alone - a lot of the contrasts could easily be camera or light effects - but we seem to be picking up a lot of pro-Icterine Warbler features here.

24th September

A something of nothing day, with the fresh southerly a bit too strong for easy birding on the land but with it remaining too clear and sunny for the seawatchers. The Obs Quarry Wryneck remained in situ but the Rosy Starling was more troublesome, with just an early report from Weston some way away from its usual haunts. The pick of the rest of the sightings concerned 4 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua passing through off the Bill. Grounded and visible migrants were none too plentiful, with little more than a thin spread of expected species everywhere.

Wryneck, Whitethroat and Goldfinch today at the Bill © Tony Hovell




...and one of the Ferrybridge Bar-tailed Godwits © Kerry Beale



23rd September

A pretty perfect calm, sunny day to be out birding and although it was too fine for there to have been decent fall of migrants there was still a decent spread to get amongst. The day's quality again came in the form of the Obs Quarry Wryneck and the Haylands Rosy Starling, both of which remained about. Meadow Pipits filled the sky for a while after dawn, whilst on the ground the likes of 50 Chiffchaffs and 40 Blackcaps made up the bulk of numbers at the Bill where typical mid-autumn fare like Stonechats, Robins and Dunnocks have now become a lot more conspicuous. Waders at Ferrybridge included 21 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Grey Plover and a Sanderling.

Rather unexpectedly given the clear, cool night, immigrant moth numbers perked up noticeably, with 87 Rush Veneer, 6 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Dark Sword Grass, 5 Silver Y, 2 each of Diamond-back Moth and Convolvulus Hawk-moth, and singles of Olive-tree Pearl, Pearly Underwing and Delicate made up the tally from the Obs traps

The Barn Owl was once again showing very well at times at the Bill © Simon Craft 

22nd September


http://www.at-infocus.co.uk/ 
A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 24th September.

Today was certainly not the sort of day that had been hoped after some seemingly well-timed rain either side of dawn had promised a drop a flurry of grounded migrants; in the event it was the quietest day of the week so far, with even the blue skies that followed the rain being all but devoid of diurnal migrants. All of this said, there were morsels of interest to keep the visitors entertained: Wrynecks remained at the Obs Quarry and Barleycrates Lane, and the Rosy Starling lingered on around the Haylands housing estate; another Yellow-browed Warbler dropped in - this time at Culverwell - and there was yet another report of a brief Ortolan Bunting at the Bill. Commoner migrants were very poorly represented, with 40 Blackcaps and 25 Chiffchaffs making up the bulk of numbers on the ground at the Bill; a late Cuckoo at Southwell was easily the best of the less regulars.

Mothing was as uneventful as the birding, with the immigrant tally at the Obs consisting of just 16 individuals, amongst which a lone Vestal was the only minor oddity.

Despite our concerns for its wellbeing the wacky diurnal Barn Owl is still surviving at the Bill; the Barleycrates Wryneck also lingered on for its umpteenth day © Alick Simmons 



And the warm sunshine of many recent days has seen plenty of butterflies remain on the wing at the Bill © Ken Dolbear






21st September

Although the ringers were reeling in the likes of Meadow Pipits in decent numbers and there were some good pulses of passing hirundines, today was something of a non-event for grounded migrants with fairly limited numbers and variety everywhere. Wrynecks were still on view at the Obs Quarry and Barleycrates Lane, and the Rosy Starling surfaced again on the Haylands housing estate, but their presence perhaps deflected attention form the general dearth of commoner fare, with little else of particular note at the Bill; Chiffchaff and Blackcap were the most conspicuous of the grounded commoner migrants there but even their totals didn't get beyond 40 and 30 apiece.

The immigrant moth situation hasn't been changing much this week, with last night's totals from the Obs traps consisting of 41 Rush Veneer, 25 Rusty-dot Pearl, 10 Silver Y, 5 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Vestal, Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Pearly Underwing and Scarce Bordered Straw.

The Obs Quarry Wryneck was again showing nicely at times © Roger Hewitt



We had an interesting conundrum from the Obs moth-traps yesterday in the form of this putative Sombre Brocade - a relative newcomer to Britain that's already established at Durlston and maybe one of two other spots along the Dorset coast and had been expected to get to Portland before long © Martin Cade


...in the trap it looked very drab and we suspected it might well be a Sombre Brocade; however, when inspected in better light it often took on a brighter, greener guise and at times looked a lot more like a Brindled Green (a much more widespread moth in Britain but one that's only a rare visitor to Portland so we don't know it very well). Although one or two other folk that saw it remained quite pro it being a Sombre Brocade we'd got doubtful and put it aside for further inspection when we had more time. By fortunate coincidence Martin Evans - who sees Brindled Greens much more frequently than we do - called in at the Obs later in the day and immediately recognised it as a Sombre Brocade (a species he'd targeted at Durlston on several occasions but not actually managed to catch!). In drawing attention to the inadequacies of some of standard field guide illustrations of these two species Martin very kindly put together this little composite (using photos of set specimens taken from lepiforum.de and his own photo of our specimen) that establishes beyond doubt that it's a Sombre Brocade:



20th September

Mainly overcast again today but feeling increasingly muggy on the few occasions the sun broke through. The season's first Yellow-browed Warbler had been on the cards for a day or two and duly pitched up in a mist-net at the Obs, whilst the 3 Wrynecks (2 in the Obs Quarry/beach huts area and the other at Barelycrates Lane) lingered on. Migrant-wise, things didn't really get beyond the ticking over level: another 50 Chiffchaffs made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground at the Bill, where less regular fare included singles of Knot, Snipe, Grasshopper Warbler and the first Siskin of the autumn, whilst elsewhere 40 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Curlew Sandpiper were the best on offer at Ferrybridge. Overhead, there were a few pulses of mainly Meadow Pipits and Swallows but it remained too overcast for passage to get going in earnest.

Immigrant moth activity was fairly subdued, with the tally from the Obs traps consisting of 24 Silver Y, 23 Rusty-dot Pearl, 21 Rush Veneer, 4 Pearly Underwing and a single Scarce Bordered Straw.

Bearing in mind the rate at which they've been arriving in Britain in recent days the autumn's first Yellow-browed Warbler certainly wasn't unexpected - even though we're only three days past the date of the island's earliest ever record © Martin Cade

19th September

The heavily overcast and eventually drizzly conditions that were the order of the day looked as though they'd be productive but were perhaps ultimately a little disappointing: many of the weekend's scarcer migrants remained in situ and yet another very brief Ortolan Bunting dropped in near the Higher Light, but visible passage was very subdued under the heavy cloud cover and although variety was again a feature on the ground numbers were nothing special. Wrynecks remained popular attractions, with 1 still at Barleycrates Lane and 2 roaming between the Obs Quarry and the Obs; the Rosy Starling was also still about in the Haylands housing estate. On the ground there was a fair spread of  Chiffchaffs, including 60 at the Bill, but little in the way of significant numbers of other migrants save for an increase in Stonechats, including 16 at the Bill; 27 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Grey Plovers were the best of the waders at Ferrybridge. The only other news was of a solitary Balearic Shearwater through off the Bill.

Although immigrant moth numbers dropped off a second Boxworm Moth arrived at Weston hot on the heels of the first island record there just last week; singles of Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Scarce Bordered Straw were the best of the overnight catch at the Obs.

The Rosy Starling and Wrynecks continued to draw in a steady stream of watchers © Brendan Sheils



This Barn Owl at the Bill has also been well-watched in recent days although there is some concern for its welfare in the light of its at times quite peculiar behaviour © David Rashley


Today's Ortolan was almost but not quite as subliminally seen as all the others just recently - this one did at least stay in view just long enough for a photo. We've heard some speculation concerning just how many - or how few - individuals have been involved in the recent series of sound recorded or seen/heard records, and this bird didn't really inform the debate in any meaningful way: the brevity of the sighting - the bird flew miles off up the West Cliffs just after this photo was taken - suggested it was just a passing migrant, but the fact that it was clearly wet suggested it had just been bathing/drinking in the pond inside the nearby Coastwatch compound which would hint at it knowing the lie of the land having been around for a while © Martin Cade


18th September

Plenty of action overhead today but on the ground it was a day of variety as opposed to numbers. The spread of scarcities included a Quail flushed at Reap Lane during combine harvesting and an Ortolan Bunting heading north over Blacknor, along with the Rosy Starling and at least 3 Wrynecks that remained on station. Swallows and Meadow Pipits were making the most of the clear skies and both got up to around a four figure total at the Bill where most of the other mid-autumn usual suspects were well represented overhead. On the deck Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps put in fair showings, with 60 and 30 respectively at the Bill, but there were few other noteworthy totals amongst the varied selection of also-rans; the autumn's first Merlin (at Ferrybridge) was of note along with the first few Dark-bellied Brent Geese (13 at Ferrybridge and a single off the Bill). The conditions remained less than suitable for seawatching but a cursory look from the Bill did come up with 3 Balearic Shearwaters.

A drop in the strength of the wind saw immigrant moth totals creep back up, with 97 Silver Y, 34 Rush Veneer, 21 Rusty-dot Pearl, 4 Dark Sword Grass, 2 Vestals and singles of Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Scarce Bordered Straw caught overnight in the Obs traps. By day, Clouded Yellows were a little more conspicuous than they have been for a while, with at least 5 at the Bill.

The Obs Quarry Wryneck © Peter Moore petermooreblog

17th September

Although the wind had eased away a little it remained largely clear and sunny which allowed plenty of opportunity for passage to continue. A Rosy Starling roaming the Windmills/Haylands area was the best of the new arrivals, whilst the Wryneck tally increased to 2 with a new bird at the Obs Quarry an addition to the lingering individual at Barelycrates Lane; odds and ends of further interest included an unidentified ringtail harrier heading high north over the Bill at midday. Routine migrants were a little less plentiful than yesterday but the selection was certainly varied and included the first Reed Bunting of the autumn over the Bill; among the numbers there were 75 Wheatears, 50 Chiffchaffs and 20 Blackcaps grounded at the Bill, where 16 Grey Wagtails and 15 Tree Pipits passed overhead.

It was far too clear and breezy overnight for yesterday's immigrant moth arrival to be sustained, with totals at the Obs dropping to 54 Silver Y, 8 Rush Veneer, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Olive-tree Pearl, Vestal and Dark Sword Grass.

As this view from Cheyne Weare indicates today was a pretty perfect day to be out birding © Ted Pressey


The Rosy Starling was the pick of the day's new arrivals © Roger Hewitt


...whilst the Barleycrates Wryneck continued to entertain © Ted Pressey


On the ringing front it was a lovely day to show visitors what we get up to © Peter Morgan


...and it was nice to catch a Robin bearing a nice shiny - recently fitted? - Brussels ring as potential evidence for where some of the current crop of migrants might have hailed from © Peter Morgan


The oddest catch of the day was this juvenile Peregrine: it downed but didn't kill a young Kestrel and on investigating the din from the latter we discovered the pair of them on the deck in the Crown Estate Field; by sneaking up whilst the Peregrine was intently mantling its potential victim we were able to grab the pair of them by hand! © Peter Morgan


16th September

The profound change in the weather that had been forecast duly arrived overnight, with the quiet, muggy conditions of recent days replaced by a much cooler blast of north-westeries; such changes are rarely a bad thing and the shake-up certainly prompted a flurry of migrant activity even if the strength of the wind made for difficult birding. Wheatears featured strongly everywhere, with well in excess of 150 at the Bill and a minimum of 100 at Barleycrates Lane, whilst Chiffchaffs put in their best showing so far this autumn, including 100 or so logged at the Bill where they outnumbered Willow Warblers by more than 5:1; although there were few other particularly significant totals on the ground most of the expected migrants were represented, including, for example, 15 Whinchats, 10 Spotted Flycatchers and 8 White Wagtails at the Bill and a Turtle Dove at Barleycrates Lane. Rarities weren't a feature but yet another Ortolan Bunting dropped in briefly at the Obs (...has there ever been a year when so many have been recorded and yet, at least thus far, not a single one could be described as pinned down and showing?) and the Hen Harrier and Wryneck lingered on at the Bill and Barleycrates Lane respectively. Visible passage was conspicuous but, mediocre totals of Yellow Wagtails and Grey Wagtails aside, was completely unquantified. Although conditions were not at all suitable for concerted seawatching there were random sightings of singles of Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

The initial hours of darkness had looked to be very promising for moth-trapping and there was a decent arrival of common immigrants, amongst which Silver Ys were especially numerous including site totals of 263 at the Obs, 135 at the Grove and 55 at Sweethill; back-up totals included 62 Rush Veneer, 44 Rusty-dot Pearl, 11 Diamond-back Moth, 5 Dark Sword Grass, 5 Pearly Underwing, 2 Vestal and a Gem at the Obs.

The St Andrew's Church Wall Lizards continue to show nicely © Simon Craft


15th September

An extraordinarily hot and humid day for mid-September, with a drop of rain either side of dawn and a waft of a north-easterly proving to be just the recipe for dropping a succession of new arrivals. Early doors, routine fare featured most prominently, with 150 Wheatears, 100 mixed phylloscs (Chiffchaffs now very much to the fore) and the first Goldcrest of the season heading quickly through at the Bill where the usual hirundines, pipits and wagtails were plentiful overhead; amongst the selection of less regulars there 10 Grey Plovers, 5 Grey Herons, 4 White Wagtails, a Green Sandpiper and a Turtle Dove were noteworthy. Typically, the best of the oddities there - a Red-breasted Flycatcher trapped and ringed at the Obs - arrived just as passage was fizzling out. Given the scorching conditions it was no surprise that a selection of raptors featured, with a 'new' Common Buzzard, a Hen Harrier and a Marsh Harrier at the Bill and an Osprey over Weston. As the Bill quietened off the middle of the island got considerably busier: at least 3 Wrynecks showed up/resurfaced between Coombefield Quarry and Barleycrates Lane, whilst migrant totals in the area included at least 30 Spotted Flycatchers and 6 Redstarts. There was too much happening elsewhere for the sea to get much attention but 4 Wigeon and a Pintail were of interest off the Bill.

The overnight moth catch was somewhat depleted in the semi-daylight of a nearly full moon; the immigrant tally at the Obs consisted of 28 Rusty-dot Pearl, 19 Rush Veneer, 9 Silver Y, 3 Vestal, 2 Diamond-back Moth and singles of White-speck and Scarce Bordered Straw.

In the early days of the Obs September - and even late August - Red-breasted Flys were not infrequent, but latterly October has been the more usual month of autumn occurrence © Duncan Walbridge


The day's raptors included this rather striking - and certainly 'non-local '- juvenile Common Buzzard © Martin Cade



...and this quite early but not so cooperative Hen Harrier © Martin Cade


14th September

A lovely clear, sunny and warm day - initially with a brisk north-easterly blowing - brought forth a host of overhead passage but also caused some frustration with neither of the morning's oddities lingering: an Ortolan Bunting headed straight through into the wind over the Obs and shortly afterwards a Tawny Pipit was flushed from the Crown Estate Field and was likely also heading off when it was heard calling nearby shortly afterwards; further local quality at the Bill came in the form of 2 Avocets through on the sea and a Marsh Harrier leaving to the south overhead. The bulk of visible passage was hardly quanified, with the totals of 100 Yellow Wagtails, 30 Grey Wagtails, 12 Tree Pipits, 5 Grey Herons and a Short-eared Owl through over the Bill being just the main interest amongst a far heavier passage of hirundines and Meadow Pipits in particular. Maybe not surprisingly grounded migrants weren't exactly numerous, even if variety was a little better than in recent days; the first few migrant Stonechats of the season did merit a mention at the Bill. The Avocets aside, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, a Balearic Shearwater and a Teal were of note off the Bill. Elsewhere there were 21 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Knot at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant moth interest increased in tandem with the increase in overnight temperatures following yesterday's thunderstorms; however, there was perhaps a feeling that in another year such seemingly promising conditions would have come up with plenty more in the way of both numbers and rarities than proved to be the case on this occasion. The night's highlight was the first island record of Boxworm Moth Cydalima perspectalis at Weston; immigrant totals included 26 Silver Y, 24 Rush Veneer, 19 Rusty-dot Pearl, 13 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moth and singles of Vagrant Piercer, Gem, Vestal, Hummingbird Hawk-moth and Pearly Underwing at the Obs. Other strays included singles of Portland Ribbon Wave (most likely an immigrant, since indigenous specimens are very rarely recorded at the Obs), Latticed Heath and Oak Hook-tip at the Obs, whilst another arrival of Western Conifer Seed Bugs saw at least 6 trapped in moth-traps around the island.

The chief prize (...although we're not sure that the topiary community would describe the occurrence of this pernicious pest of their works as a prize) from overnight mothing was the island's first Boxworm Moth from Duncan Walbridge's trap at Weston; despite having been on the British scene since 2007, the south-westward spread from the Home Counties of this Asian adventive hasn't exactly been rapid - has there been more than just one other Dorset record so far? - so, particularly bearing in mind the prevailing conditions, it may be that this first island occurrence comes as a result of immigration from France where the species is apparently also well established in places © Martin Cade

13th September

Some pretty freakish weather - a succession of thunderstorms through the middle of the day were accompanied by an inexorable rise in temperature and humidity that was still continuing after dark - offered the hope of a change in fortunes on the migrant front but in the event, bar brief sightings of a Wryneck and 3 Ortolan Buntings in the Avalanche Road/Coombefield area and a Marsh Harrier over Weston, there was precious little happening. Swallows were still on the move in good numbers and Meadow Pipits begun to dominate the pipit and wagtail tally overhead, but on the ground Wheatears were only thinly spread everywhere and the likes of Whinchat, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff could only struggle up to around half-dozen totals at the Bill. The sea did manage to chip in with another 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Sooty Shearwater through off the Bill.

On the moth front, singles of Marbled Yellow Pearl E. extimalis, Oblique Carpet and Latticed Heath at the Obs and Vestal at the Grove - along with single Convolvulus Hawk-moths at both sites - hinted at there being some immigration afoot, even if the totals of more routine immigrants hardly changed.

Marbled Yellow Pearl, Oblique Carpet and Latticed Heath were the pick of the night's immigrant moth captures at the Obs...




...although this unseasonable Figure of 80 from Duncan Walbridge's garden at Weston was perhaps an even odder record:



We'd also forgotten to mention an Oak Hook-tip from yesterday's Grove traps - less than annual at Portland, this record has coincided with further singles at two sites in the Weymouth area all © Martin Cade