With south-easterlies well established today saw the sea come in for marathon coverage and there were decent rewards, with the Bill returning totals of 452 Common Scoter, 117 Little Gulls (the highest ever spring day total at the Bill), 68 Sandwich Terns, 22 Red-throated Divers, 6 Arctic Skuas, 5 Brent Geese, 5 Eider, 4 Shelducks, 4 Common Terns, 2 Great Crested Grebes and at least 1 lingering Iceland Gull. Another 4 Little Gulls passed through Portland Harbour, where singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Red-necked Grebe remained; the long-staying Iceland Gull also continued to roam about the harbour/Ferrybridge/Chesil Cove area. The land was very much the poor relation: there were a few new arrivals but numbers, variety and quality left a lot to be desired, with a Brambling and the lingering Firecrest at the Obs, a Redwing at Barleycrates Lane and a spread of at least 3 White Wagtails being the only minor oddities on offer.
With the light south-easterly not having the keen edge it had yesterday it was a really pleasant day to be birding the island, even if the sad lack of grounded arrivals made for some uneventful trudging. It really was extremely quiet on the ground, with 2 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Merlin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart and Firecrest providing the only interest at the Bill over and above the lightest sprinkle of Chiffchaffs. Visible passage was concentrated along West Cliffs, where sample counts came up with 170 Linnets in 15 minutes and 110 Meadow Pipits, 58 Sand Martins, 47 Linnets and a Skylark in an hour a little later on. Sea passage was never very strong, but a good deal of watching eventually returned totals that included 116 Black-headed Gulls, 100 Common Scoter, 15 Brent Geese, 15 Little Gulls and 8 Red-throated Divers through off Chesil and 7 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill, where the Iceland Gull was again lingering offshore.
Under clear skies and with a freshening south-easterly the sea was always going to be in with a shout for a bit of variety - and so it came to pass. A small passage of Little Gulls was a surprise for so early in the season, with 23 off the Bill, 19 off Chesil and a singleton lingering at Ferrybridge, but further interest came in the form of 100 Common Scoter, 97 Black-headed Gulls, 26 Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Dunlin, an Arctic Skua and the Iceland Gull off Chesil, and 67 Common Scoter, 17 Sandwich Terns, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and singles of Pintail, Grey Plover and Arctic Skua off the Bill; an Iceland Gull - likely yesterday's Bill bird, and seemingly not the Chesil individual - was also off East Cliffs near Southwell. The land didn't disgrace itself, with a fair scatter of arrivals around the Bill in particular. The first Redstart of the spring was at Southwell and a Ring Ouzel showed up at Tout Quarry but the numbers were further south, with 75 Chiffchaffs, 40 Wheatears, 10 Blackcaps, 5 Willow Warblers and singles of Black Redstart and Firecrest at the Bill; visible passage wasn't properly censused but overflying Meadow Pipits were conspicuous and a few hirundines were tagging along.
...we know next to nothing about dodgy pheasants, but this bird - which has been frequenting private gardens at Easton for the last fortnight - looks from the unbarred belly and other features to be a fair bet for a Lady Amherst's Pheasant. We don't know who keeps dumping all these dubious gamebirds around the island, but a few Lady A's would be a welcome replacement for the Common Pheasants whose few years of residence looks now to have fizzled out.
The morning's mix of bright spells punctuated by heavy showers arriving in from the south-east wasn't that dissimilar to yesterday's conditions but there were far fewer migrants both on the ground and overhead. Wheatear and Chiffchaff again dominated on the ground, although topped just 40 and 20 respectively at the Bill; a lone Black Redstart was the only very minor oddity there. In contrast, the sea was a good deal more productive than it had been yesterday: Chesil Cove came up with a good movement of 240 Black-headed Gulls, together with 3 Canada Geese, 3 Sandwich Terns, a Curlew and the Iceland Gull, whilst 2 Red-throated Divers and singles of Great Northern Diver, Manx Shearwater, Grey Plover, Arctic Skua, Little Gull and Iceland Gull passed through off the Bill. Just a reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 29th March.
Despite what must have amounted to the most trying of conditions - including frequent showers of rain, hail and sheet - there was a palpable sense of urgency about the morning's arrivals at the Bill, with few touching down for long, and many flying straight through. So rapid was the dawn departure that there was no time for a proper census beyond estimates of 100 each of Wheatear and Chiffchaff; a few Blackcaps and Willow Warblers also touched down briefly, along with a single Ring Ouzel. Before long visible passage begun in earnest, with the sample totals of 1800 Meadow Pipits, 50 Linnets, 9 Sand Martins and singles of Grey Heron, Merlin, Grey Wagtail and Bullfinch accrued in quick time certainly reflecting the volume of passage taking place. Although a few late-comers continued to trickle in, the bulk of passage fizzled out in improving conditions through the middle of the day and the only later interest came in the form of a lone Arctic Skua passing through on the sea.
Not before time there was a much more positive vibe to events today, with the first decent little drop of grounded migrants at the Bill. Totals of 75 each of Wheatear and Chiffchaff made up the bulk of the numbers, but variety/quality came in the form of 5 each of Blackcap and Willow Warbler, 2 Ring Ouzels and singles of Common Sandpiper, Black Redstart, Goldcrest and Firecrest; sadly, new arrivals were in short supply elsewhere, although the Iceland Gull continued to entertain on its frequent visits to Ferrybridge. In a light north-easterly the sea promised more than it delivered: a passing Long-tailed Duck was the pick of the bunch off the Bill, where 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Common Scoter were just about the only other migrants logged.
In terms of numbers and variety on the ground it remained extremely quiet, although there was more than a suggestion from events overhead that migrants were on the move in some quantity - perhaps the nocturnal arrivals are just going straight over? At the Bill the total of 20 Wheatears represented the only numbers on the ground; Chiffchaffs were almost non-existent, Blackcaps limited to a single at Southwell and 2 Black Redstarts, a White Wagtail and a Firecrest constituted the rather sorry tally of oddities. Overhead it was a different story, with the sample one hour count of 224 Meadow Pipits, 7 Linnets, 6 Pied Wagtails, 6 Greenfinches, 4 Sand Martins and 2 Skylarks heading north along West Cliffs being representative of the steady passage going on throughout the morning; a Red Kite that appeared over Suckthumb Quarry may well also have been a migrant as opposed to a wanderer from the mainland. The sea came up with little more than 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, although both the Black Guillemot and Iceland Gull remained at Portland Harbour and Chesil Cove/Ferrybridge respectively. Finally, a reminder that the next In Focus field event at the Obs takes place between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 29th March.
In an ever-freshening south-easterly ahead of rain that finally arrived late in the afternoon there were again pitiful numbers of grounded migrants: a Black Redstart was amongst the handful of Wheatears scattered at the Bill, where a single Firecrest was the only new bird ringed at the Obs; overhead, incoming alba wagtails were conspicuous, with a lone Crossbill also passing over at the Bill. Sea passage was steady but hardly spectacular: the first 2 commic terns of the spring and the Iceland Gull lingered off Chesil Cove, where 3 Shelduck, a Sandwich Tern and a Puffin also passed by, whilst 17 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Sandwich Terns, 3 Shelduck, 2 Great Northern Divers and singles of Red-throated Diver and Arctic Skua passed through off the Bill; one of the Black Guillemots was still in Portland Harbour.
Despite what would for incoming migrants have been a brisk and chilly headwind - the sort of conditions we sometimes do quite well on - there were few signs of passage getting going in any worthwhile quantity: 3 White Wagtails at the Bill and 3 Siskins at Avalanche Road were noteworthy new arrivals but the likes of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs hardly featured. Two Black Redstarts remained at the Bill, the Iceland Gull was again at Chesil Cove/Ferrybridge and 2 Black Guillemots were off Portland Castle (...is it a new second individual or a reappearance of the bird last seen more than three weeks ago?). Seawatching at the Bill came up with 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver.
Although not quite a grim as we'd been expecting, the weather certainly has taken a turn for the worse with a cold north-westerly and occasional hail showers the order of the day. Migrant activity was very subdued, with a Little Ringed Plover that pitched in briefly at Ferrybridge easily the highlight; at least 2 Black Redstarts remained at the Bill but there was precious little else of note amongst the thinnest of spreads of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs. The Iceland Gull was again at Ferrybridge/Chesil Cove and 5 Red-throated Divers passed through off the Bill.
On a bright but distinctly chillier morning a Hoopoe
was a nice find at Wakeham, where it remained for a few hours at least. A few
new commoner migrants were also in evidence, with 2 extra Black Redstarts
joining the long-stayer at the Bill, an Oystercatcher arriving in/off at
the Bill, a Water Rail new in at the Obs, the first Blackcap of
the spring at Southwell, a Goldcrest at Wakeham and a thin spread of Wheatears
and Chiffchaffs everywhere. Lingerers still about included the Iceland
Gull at Chesil Cove and the Black Guillemot at the Bill, whilst
seawatching came up with 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill.
With it having been a really dry month at Portland it
came as quite a surprise to be on the receiving end of gathering cloud, a
freshening wind and, towards dusk, a decent dose of rain. The conditions perked
up seawatching a little, with 25 CommonScoter, 12 Red-throatedDivers, 2 ManxShearwaters, and singles of Black-throatedDiver, ArcticSkua and SandwichTern
through off the Bill and 8 Red-throatedDivers through off Chesil Cove; what
was presumably one of lingering IcelandGulls was also about again off the
Cove. A light scatter of Wheatears constituted the only numbers on the migrant
front, although singles of BlackRedstart at Verne Common, Firecrest at
Southwell and WhiteWagtail at the Bill did provide some extra interest.
westerly ensured that the day was nowhere near as balmy as had been forecast,
whilst overnight clear skies saw to it that the grounded migrant tally remained
pegged right back. Visible passage did continue to feature, with the first 2 Swallows of the spring
(at Barleycrates Lane) of note amongst the steady arrival of Meadow Pipits, but
on the ground there was only a BlackRedstart
at the Bill and a GreyWagtail
at Southwell to provide interest amongst the very thin spread of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs. The sea
fared no better, with just 3 Red-throatedDivers and a lone SandwichTern off the Bill.
Low-key again today. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 8 Red-throated Divers, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern, whilst grounded arrivals there consisted of a handful of Wheatears and Chiffchaffs, together with the long-staying Black Redstart. The only other report was of the Black Guillemot still in Portland Harbour.
Both land and sea came up with a little passage on a quiet,
mainly overcast day. Up-Channel movement off the Bill included 10 Red-throatedDivers, 8 CommonScoter, 3 Black-throatedDivers and a GreatNorthernDiver.
Two Firecrests were the pick of the light smattering of new arrivals on the
ground at the Bill, where odds and ends coming in/off included 2 Skylarks and a
The day's rather glorious unbroken sunshine wasn't at all
conducive to dropping migrants in any quanity although there was a steady
passage overhead. The less mentioned about the land the better: a Red-leggedPartridge was an unexpected turn-up at the Bill (although it was actually first
heard calling the day before yesterday), but the handful of migrants there included
nothing better than a single Black Redstart; it was much busier overhead, with
the first 3 SandMartins of the spring mingled amongst the steady stream of
incoming MeadowPipits and alba wagtails. Seawatching at the Bill came up with
singles of Red-throatedDiver, Black-throatedDiver, GreatNorthernDiver,
BrentGoose and IcelandGull, and one of the BlackGuillemots was again in
With the notable exception of perhaps the most showy RedKite ever to visit Portland, that spent more than an hour roaming around the
Bill before heading off to the north, today's tally of new arrivals was
particularly meagre. The handful of other migrants at the Bill included little
more than 7 Wheatears, 5 Fieldfares, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Redwing, with 4
Red-throatedDivers and a Black-throatedDiver all that could be mustered from
the sea. Elsewhere the IcelandGull remained at Ferrybridge.
The murky conditions we mentioned yesterday eventually made
it to Portland and the island was fog-bound for much of the day. The evidence
seemed to suggest that the other side of the Channel was clear, since migrants
were trickling in throughout the day. Three early HouseMartins were of
particular note at the Bill, where 30 Chiffchaffs, 6 Wheatears, 6 Redwings, a
presumed migrant CommonBuzzard and a BlackRedstart all made the list and
there were some decent-sized gatherings of grounded Meadow Pipits by the
afternoon; 6 more Redwings and 2 GreyWagtails were at Southwell. The only
other report was of the IcelandGull still at Ferrybridge.
With Portland missing out on the murky conditions evidently
widespread over the mainland, fieldwork was a pleasure on another remarkably
balmy day. The day's chief rewards were fly-bys: a MarshHarrier over the Bill
shortly after dawn and a LittleRingedPlover heading north along West Cliffs
later in the morning. A steady trickle of incoming MeadowPipits and alba
wagtails were again evident, whilst grounded arrivals included 20 Wheatears, 15
Chiffchaffs and 2 Redwings at the Bill; singles of BlackRedstart and Firecrest
at the Bill and BlackRedstart at Reap Lane lingered on from previous days,
whilst the IcelandGull was again at Ferrybridge. The sea was again very quiet,
with 15 passing BrentGeese the only worthwhile sighting from the Bill.
It's a bit of a bad job when the birds of the day are 3
CanadaGeese over the Bill, but beggars can't be choosers and in the absence of
a Great Spotted Cuckoo they'll have to do. Migrant-wise, the clearance of
yesterday's cloud saw northbound passage of MeadowPipits return to the fore,
with a well into four-figure total logged through the day; overflying alba
wagtails also numbered several dozen. On the ground there was nothing in
quantity but amongst the expected fare 2 BlackRedstart and a WhiteWagtail at
Reap Lane, another BlackRedstart at Southwell, a Fieldfare at Barelycrates
Lane and 2 Firecrests, a Redwing and a BlackRedstart at the Bill were all of
note. Amongst the long-stayers, the BlackGuillemot in Portland Harbour and
IcelandGull at Ferrybridge both made the list. The only report from the sea
was of 2 Red-throatedDivers through off the Bill.
...also of interest, thanks to Ken Dolbear for a photo of the Widow (or Snake's-head) Iris Hermodactylus tuberosus that's just coming into flower at Broadcroft BC reserve; we featured this first record for the island last year when, as a good example of how cold and late the spring was, it was in flower on 29th April:
The return of a complete cloud cover - coupled with the
continuing brisk north-easterly - saw the temperature take a tumble. The make
up of the day's migrant miscellany also had a chilly feel, with a Woodcock at
Suckthumb Quarry and winter thrushes featuring in their highest numbers so far
this year, including single figure totals of Redwings at several sites between
the Bill and Barleycrates Lane, and 2 Fieldfares at Suckthumb Quarry; other new
arrivals included 2 Chiffchaffs and singles of Goldcrest and Firecrest at the
Bill and a BlackRedstart at Southwell. One of the IcelandGulls showed up
again along the Beach Road, whilst seawatching at the Bill came up with 38
CommonScoter, 10 Red-throatedDivers, 4 Shelduck and singles of Black-throatedDiver, GreatNorthernDiver and Brent Goose.
As might be expected in such fair weather grounded arrivals
certainly weren't numerous but the ever increasing volume of visible passage is
providing ample indication of spring really kicking off. The numbers were all
overhead, with a good 500 MeadowPipits and 100 albawagtails through over the
Bill, where 5 ReedBuntings and a Brambling were also of note; a Redpoll
through at Reap Lane was an addition from elsewhere. On the ground, 2 WhiteWagtails, a BlackRedstart and a Firecrest at the Bill and another BlackRedstart at Reap Lane were the best amongst a very thin spread of other
expected fare. With the breeze having shifted toward an offshore north-easterly
the only sea reports were of 3 Red-throatedDivers and a Black-throatedDiver
through off the Bill.
With high pressure beginning to get well established there
was little hope of a dawn fall but plenty of expectation of later arrivals and
some seawatching. Having being disappointingly absent thus far, it certainly
wasn't a surprise that the first 2 Wheatears - singles at both the Bill and
Ferrybridge - put in an appearance, whilst other interest on the land came in
the form of 7 GoldenPlovers and a Redwing grounded at the Bill and a constant
light trickle of northbound MeadowPipits and albawagtails everywhere; a
CommonBuzzard also looked to have arrived in/off at the Bill. Amongst a light
passage of commoner gulls the sea also came up with 4 SandwichTerns, 3 Curlew,
2 Red-throatedDivers and a GreatNorthernDiver through off the Bill, 3 GreatCrestedGrebes settled offshore there and 2 Red-throatedDivers, 2 Shelduck and
a Pintail through off Chesil; at least 2 IcelandGulls were again roaming
around between Ferrybridge and Chesil Cove, and one of the Red-neckedGrebes
was still in Portland Harbour.
The chill and damp of a hazy dawn quickly gave way to
unbroken warm sunshine. With a brisk south-easterly breeze blowing through the
morning there was some movement at sea, with 2 Mallards and a LittleGull -
together with fair numbers of commoner gulls - through off Chesil and 20 CommonScoter, 14 Shoveler, 4 Red-throatedDivers, 4 Curlews and a Mallard through off
the Bill. Overhead passage consisted largely of MeadowPipits trickling north,
whilst a WhiteWagtail at the Bill was the best of the grounded arrivals.
Points northward came up with an IcelandGull at Ferrybridge/Chesil Beach, a
SlavonianGrebe settled off Chesil and 11 SlavonianGrebes, 4 Red-neckedGrebes, a TuftedDuck and a BlackGuillemot in Portland Harbour.
An overcast and occasionally damp dawn was maybe a shade
disappointing in not dropping a few thrushes, but once skies cleared there were
visible migrants on the move even if precious little showed up on the ground.
In terms of quality it was the singles of IcelandGull and Kumlien'sGull off
Chesil Cove in the morning and IcelandGull through off the Bill during the
afternoon that stole the show, but the migrant tally picked up a little: albawagtails and MeadowPipits trickled over in some numbers, with 2 Kestrels, a
Sparrowhawk and a ReedBunting providing further interest at the Bill; on the
ground there was a new Chiffchaff at Blacknor. Sea passage included 22 BrentGeese, 8 CommonScoter and 4 Red-throatedDivers off the Bill and 26 BrentGeese and 3 Red-throatedDiver off Chesil Cove.
Whilst there were welcome hints of passage gathering ground
it was hardly a case of the flood-gates opening today. The first minor flurry
of 'crests included 2 Firecrests at Avalanche Road and 2 Goldcrests at the
Bill, a few Blackbirds and a Chiffchaff were new at the Bill and amongst a
small incoming passage of alba wagtails a single WhiteWagtail made it to Reap
Lane. Passage on the sea included 2 Pintails off Chesil Cove and 16
Red-throatedDivers, 12 CommonScoter and a GlaucousGull off the Bill. Among
the lingerers still about there were again 2 IcelandGulls at Chesil
Beach/Ferrybridge, 2 SlavonianGrebes off Chesil and singles of Red-neckedGrebe
and Eider (along with reduced totals of other divers and grebes) in Portland
Despite not really being able to undestand why we didn't
record a Wheatear, it was nonetheless a pleasure to be out on a fine, calm and
mild day. The first WhiteWagtail of the spring was an on-cue arrival at the
Bill, where a fly-by Puffin was the first sighting of what we hope is a
returning breeding bird; elsewhere, a Mistle Thrush was a first for the year at
Southwell, whilst quality came in the form of one or more IcelandGulls again
at Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge (another sighting of a white-winged gull off
West Cliffs concerned a bird that was too distant to determine whether it was a
wandering IcelandGull or yesterday's Kumlien's Gull). The back-up cast
included a trickle of northbound visible migrants (MeadowPipits along West
Cliffs and 2 Chaffinches over the Bill), the GreatSkua again at Ferrybridge, a
BlackRedstart at the Bill, 2 Red-throatedDivers through off the Bill and 19
Black-neckedGrebes, 10 GreatNorthernDivers, 8 SlavonianGrebes, 4 Red-neckedGrebes, 2 Black-throatedDivers, the Eider and the BlackGuillemot in Portland
Gulls were back to the fore today, with a welcome prize
being a Kumlien'sGull that was first spotted passing through Chesil Cove,
before being relocated settled off West Cliffs south of Blacknor Point; one of
the IcelandGulls was also lingering again in Chesil Cove. Early migrant
interest was restricted to a handful of MeadowPipits and Skylarks arriving
in/off at the Bill, 39 Dark-belliedBrentGeese and a Red-throatedDiver
passing through on the sea there and singles of Red-throatedDiver and ManxShearwater through off Chesil Cove. Winterers/long-stayers still making the
list included theFirecrest at Suckthumb
Quarry, the GreatSkua at Ferrybridge and 187 MediterraneanGulls, 19
Black-neckedGrebes, 8 GreatNorthernDivers, 5 Black-throatedDivers, 4 Red-neckedGrebes, 2 SlavonianGrebes and singles of Eider and BlackGuillemot still in
As usual at this time of year we're probably getting ahead
of ourselves and hoping for more than is realistic. Nonetheless, despite
looking promising for the likes of albawagtails and MeadowPipits trickling
in, migrant-wise today didn't come up with anything of consequence beyond
another ContintentalStonechat at the Bill. Movement at sea included 17 CommonScoter, 12 Red-throatedDivers, a GreatNorthernDiver and a ManxShearwater
off the Bill, whilst one of the IcelandGulls was again at Chesil Cove.
What early promise there was today rather quickly evaporated
as a freshening wind brought with it thickening cloud and eventually an
afternoon and evening of rain. A ContinentalStonechat provided interest
amongst a little arrival of 5 new Stonechats at the Bill, but the rest of the
day's news came from the sea: 2 IcelandGulls were in Chesil Cove, where
Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls were passing through in some numbers,
whilst 33 Common Scoter, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Great Crested Grebes, a
Red-throatedDiver and Black-throatedDiver passed through off the Bill. Sadly,
dead seabirds continue to be washed up on Chesil Beach: today's haul of 107
between the skatepark and Ferrybridge included 56 Razorbills, 41 Guillemots, 5
Kittiwakes, 2 Puffins and a ManxShearwater; the majority of these birds were
again un-oiled and most were severely underweight.
On a lovely mild, sunny day spring was announced in the form
of new arrivals/visible passage on land, overhead and at sea, including a
Goldcrest at Avalanche Road, 2 albawagtails in/off and a Rook at the Bill, 42
CommonScoter, 10 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through off
the Bill and at least 7 Common Buzzards wandering widely overhead. We're
beginning to lose track of the white-winged gull tally, but single Iceland
Gulls at Chesil Cove and Portland Castle provided today's entertainment for the
larophiles. Further interest from perhaps the most fulsome day-list thus far
this year came in the form of the likes of 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Black
Redstart at the Bill, aBlack Redstart
at Reap Lane, 3 Slavonian Grebes off Chesil Beach and at least one of the Black
Guillemots - along with seemingly dwindling numbers of divers and grebes - in