22nd June

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 June.

In much fresher and breezier conditions than of late the Common Rosefinch remained at Southwell but was seemingly always hidden from general view in private gardens. The change in the weather didn't really perk things up on the land at the Bill, with another 90 Swifts and a Grey Heron through overhead and another new Chiffchaff at the Obs the only reports of note. Offshore, at least 30 Common Terns off the Bill were presumed to be Lodmoor breeders on feeding forays; 7 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Common Scoter and a Whimbrel also passed through/lingered there. The only reports from elsewhere were of up to 10 Mediterranean Gulls and 4 Sandwich Terns at Ferrybridge.

Overnight mothing was not quite as busy as in recent nights with fog and a freshening breeze pegging back numbers, but there signs of a small arrival of new immigrants/dispersers. At the Obs, a Marbled Grass-veneer Catoptria verellus was the immigrant highlight, with 6 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 each of European Corn-borer and Silver Y, 2 each of Rush Veneer and Dark Sword Grass, and singles of Olive-tree Pearl, Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Small Mottled Willow and Scarce Bordered Straw making up the rest of the tally.

The Common Rosefinch lingered on but was mobile and generally elusive - it very occasionally gave some half-hearted song and was only seen when it visited various birder's back gardens © Pete Saunders:


...we made an early morning attempt to sound record it during which time it only called/sung twice in an hour:



From the evidence of the national records it would seem as though Marbled Grass-veneer might be in the process of colonising south-east England, but it remains a decent rarity in this part of the world - last night's specimen constituted only the second island record 

21st June

Yesterday's Common Rosefinch remained overnight at Southwell to provide a nice mid-summer highlight: after announcing its presence with strident song for a while at dawn it became a good deal more furtive as the day went on and was never visible other in private gardens. Also in the finch line, a Siskin was an odd summer turn up at the Bill, but the day had few other surprises, with another new Chiffchaff at the Bill, 70 Swifts and 3 Sand Martins through overhead there and 18 Common Scoter, 8 Mediterranean Gulls, 5 Black-headed Gulls and 3 Manx Shearwaters through/lingering offshore.

Despite the continuing high temperatures immigrant moth activity remained quite subdued, with 29 Diamond-back Moth, 11 Silver Y, 3 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Rush Veneer and an Olive-tree Pearl making up the totals at the Obs.

Although the rosefinch showed well at times - usually when it visited feeders - it quickly sung much more fitfully after its noisy start and we weren't able to get a sound recording of it © Debby Saunders (stills) and Martin Cade (video):




It'll be interesting to see if this unseasonable Siskin wandering out as far as the Bill proves to the vanguard of a strong autumn passage - are they on the move elsewhere yet? © Martin Cade:


20th June

With a fresher easterly breeze beginning to set in conditions were a little more conducive for fieldwork and there were a couple of surprises to show for the day's efforts. With the month slipping away it was looking like Common Rosefinch - perhaps the classic Portland June rarity - might be a no-show this year so a brief spell of song from one hidden in the depths of the Southwell gardens during the afternoon was welcome even if the bird couldn't be seen. For the most part the rewards from the sea at the Bill - 10 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Common Scoter, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and a Sandwich Tern - were to be expected, but the 2 fly-by Red-breasted Mergansers there were much less seasonable. The day's other reports included 70 Swifts and 4 Sand Martins through over the Bill and 3 new Chiffchaffs and a new Blackcap at the Obs.

Overnight moth-trapping was very busy indeed; immigrant activity was still quite limited but there was much more evidence of short-range dispersal than in recent nights. Immigrant totals at the Obs included 27 Diamond-back Moth, 6 Silver Y, 5 Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Rush Veneer, Olive-tree Pearl and European Corn-borer, with further singles of Olive-tree Pearl and European Corn-borer at the Grove.

Auks below their breeding ledges at the Bill today © Roger Hewitt:


Having spent the last three nights on miscellaneous mothing forays around the island and elsewhere we've got behind with updates. The moth highlight has been Portland's first Lunar Hornet Clearwing that was found clinging to a recently opened mist-net at the Obs shortly after dawn yesterday; over the years we've had a couple of subliminal glimpses of insects that we felt sure must have been one of other of the hornet clearwings so yesterday's record was very welcome in finally providing confirmation of Lunar Hornet - presumably by far the more likely of the two species to occur here © Martin Cade: 

19th June

There's limited enthusiasm for comprehensive fieldwork in the current hot weather but a few odds and ends did make the day's list. Early leavers over the Bill included 30 more Swifts, 2 more Sand Martins (we hadn't been told of the first single two days ago when we compiled the update for that day) and a Redshank; sea passage there included 34 Common Scoter, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Whimbrel and 3 Mediterranean Gulls. The only other reports were of a Black Redstart at Blacknor (there's been a series of singles between the Bill and Blacknor this summer - could they be breeding somewhere on the west side?) and the first juvenile Chiffchaff at the Bill (presumably a dispersing local breeder).

Moth news to follow tomorrow.


18th June

Very hot and none too exciting again today. The only reports from the Bill were from the sea, where 53 Common Scoter, 3 Whimbrel, a Manx Shearwater and a Common Tern passed through; elsewhere, 7 Sandwich Terns passed through Ferrybridge where 5 Mediterranean Gulls were settled.

Sandwich Terns over Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders:


Although they've been on the wing for several weeks on the mainland, Portland Lulworth Skippers seem usually to be late emergers; our first record for the year was only yesterday, with this one at Broadcroft BC Reserve today © Ken Dolbear: 


There are some great displays of Pyramidal Orchids throughout the island at the moment - these were also at Broadcroft © Ken Dolbear:


17th June

Extremely little to show for today's fieldwork that was pretty hard going in the scorching heat. A Yellow Wagtail at the Bill and 2 Sanderling at Ferrybridge were the day's only worthwhile sightings.

The moth-traps were bursting with numbers but quality was lacking: singles of Olive-tree Pearl at the Obs and Delicate at the Grove were easily the best of a limited selection of immigrants.

Bird interest might be limited but the island is certainly awash with bugs; among the random selection attracting the photographer's attention were a Marbled White at the Bill © Debby Saunders:


...and at Admiralty Quarry, mating Silver-studded Blues, a Cinnabar Moth and a Mullein caterpillar feeding on Common Figwort (the other insect in this photo is evidently a Figwort Weevil Cionus scrophulariae) © Ken Dolbear:



16th June

The fine, warm weather continued and there were precious few signs that the summer rarity was about to pop up. Two new Chiffchaffs at the Obs looked to be early departers as were the light trickle of Swifts and single House Martin heading out to sea overhead. Two each of Sanderling and Dunlin made up the migrant wader tally at Ferrybridge, where 2 Shelducks also dropped in. The only other reports were of 10 Manx Shearwaters through off the Bill and a lone Gannet in Portland Harbour.

Usually at this time of year we have a quick look back at how common migrants fared during the spring and, as before, it's easiest to gauge this by way of the Obs ringing totals that are based on a pretty consistent effort from one year to the next; these totals - together with comparison figures for 2010-16 and the mean for that period - were as follows:


As we'd drawn attention to earlier, it's immediately obvious that Willow Warbler was the big winner this spring with a total nearly twice as high as the recent spring average; in fact, their total wasn't far off equalling the all-time record for a whole year (which stands at 2113 in 2012). For our other regulars it really wasn't too bad a season: both Whitethroat and Garden Warbler were more than a third down on their recent averages (...this perhaps didn't come as a surprise given that both had very poor years in 2016) and the two 'crests didn't recover after their indifferent showings last autumn, but everything else was hovering either side of average.

Sanderling and Shelducks at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:



...a Gannet off the Bill © Martin Cade:


...and a Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria at Bottomcombe © Ken Dolbear:

15th June

Not quite so hot and noticeably breezier today in the wake of the very weak weather front that passed through during the morning. Another brief Serin - this one heard calling at Southwell - was the only report of note on the ground, although a steady little passage of departing Swifts was evident overhead and included 70 leaving to the south from the Bill. The only other action was out to sea where 43 Manx Shearwaters, 23 Common Scoter, 7 Whimbrel and 2 Balearic Shearwaters passed by off the Bill.

A single Delicate at Blacknor was the only worthwhile oddity amongst the handful of immigrant moths trapped overnight.

A pair of mating Scarlet Tigers at Easton © Ken Dolbear:

14th June

On a lovely hot, sunny day interest was again pretty minimal. A Chiffchaff was the only new arrival at the Bill, where 4 Sandwich Terns and 3 each of Manx Shearwater, Common Scoter and Mediterranean Gull passed by on the sea. The only reports from elsewhere were of 3 Sanderlings, a Shelduck and a Grey Heron at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant moth arrivals seem to have utterly ceased, with a single battered Rusty-dot Pearl the only overnight capture in the Obs traps.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Marbled White and Silver-studded Blue at the Bill and Broadcroft BC Reserve today © Tony Hovell:




13th June

Although a couple of Storm Petrels had been trapped and ringed overnight at the Bill the daylight hours were pretty uneventful. A Grey Wagtail was an out-of-season visitor to the Bill where a Willow Warbler was also new but the only other reports were of 20 Common Scoter and a few Manx Shearwaters through on the sea there.

A group of 10 or so Bottle-nosed Dolphins were off the Bill during the afternoon.

One of last night's Storm Petrels © Martin Cade:



Just a few years ago it would have been unimaginable that anything remotely interesting could have been written about a Greenfinch trapped and ringed at the Obs - at that time they were one of the commonest breeding passerines at the Bill and dozens were ringed at this time of year. However, such has been the scale of their recent demise throughout the island that this bird (actually it was one of two caught together that we presume wandered from Culverwell where at least two pairs have been present) was the first juvenile ringed at the Obs for three years © Martin Cade:

12th June

Precious little to report today. Eight Swifts left to the south at the Bill, 12 Manx Shearwaters, a Common Scoter and an Arctic Skua passed through off the Bill and a lone Sanderling was at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant moth interest was limited to singles of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y trapped overnight at the Obs and several Hummingbird Hawkmoths scattered about the island by day.

One of yesterday's Arctic Skuas at the Bill © Keith Pritchard:


...and an Emperor Dragonfly at Bottomcombe today © Ken Dolbear:

11th June

Although the return of settled conditions looks to be on the horizon, for the time being the strength of the wind remained both a hindrance and a blessing. Coverage of the land wasn't at all easy but a Reed Warbler was a noteworthy new arrival at the Bill; 4 Swallows there looked have got cheesed off with the conditions and were watched departing out to sea. The benefits of the wind came on the sea, with singles of Sooty Shearwater and Long-tailed Skua through off the Bill being nice highlights for their observer; more mundane fare there included the first signs of return passage of Common Scoters - a total of 156 heading west - together with 4 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Arctic Skuas and 3 Sandwich Terns. The only report from elsewhere was of the long-staying Eider still in Portland Harbour.

10th June

Still rather breezy today but for a change perfectly birdable on the land in nice warm sunshine. Another brief fly-by Serin showed up - this time over Culverwell - but the only other newcomers there were singles of Whitethroat and Blackcap, both of which looked likely to be failed breeders. Sea interest dwindled away still further, with nothing more than a trickle of Manx Shearwaters and a single Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

On the immigrant moth front both numbers and variety were very poor, with singles of Delicate and Scarce Bordered Straw providing the best of the interest at the Obs.

This buzzard (being dived on by a Peregrine) was the chief frustration of the day: it had presumably just arrived in off the sea over the Obs but sadly wasn't spotted until it had already gone over and was powering away to the northwest; it looked very likely to have been a Honey Buzzard but was one of those things that you felt maybe wasn't quite 100% clinched © Martin Cade:


Although immigrant moth numbers have dropped away this is a good time of year for some of the island's speciality indigenous species; this quite early Chalk Carpet was the first of the season at the Obs today:


...whilst Portland Ribbon Waves have been on the wing since the beginning of the month - this one at the Grove on 2nd June was our first for the year © Martin Cade:

9th June

The strong wind that set in earlier in the week is taking its time to die away, with today's blustery conditions again severely impacting on land coverage. The only worthwhile reports were of small numbers of Manx Shearwaters, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua through off the Bill.

Out of the wind and in the sun it was really quite warm today and much to the liking of Silver-studded Blues that are now getting out on the wing in some numbers - these two were at Admiralty Quarry © Ken Dolbear:



And to end on something completely different, we now have a static bat detector deployed at the Bill, with the principle intention of maybe tapping into some migrant bat activity. We're total novices when it comes to anything to do with bats so we're heavily reliant on the expert help of Adrian Bicker, who initiated the project in the first place. Adrian's still having to spend a lot of time with us going through the sound files generated by the detector and on today's visit he identified several passes on a night earlier this month by a Greater Horseshoe Bat:


We'll give a fuller rundown on findings in due course, but these were the first detections of a Greater Horseshoe since we got going back in April. We do have occasional previous records of Greater Horseshoe seen in various circumstances and it'll interesting to discover whether the species crops up more frequently now that sampling's taking place every night.

8th June

Whilst we appreciate the excitement that seawatchers elsewhere along the Channel have been getting from the sight of a few inshore Storm Petrels, the relentless wind and hours spend gawping at the sea is beginning to take its toll at Portland, particularly at this time of year when it feels a lot like valuable time for late spring rarities is being lost. Quite remarkably bearing in mind their numbers elsewhere - and following yesterday's blank - there was just a single Storm Petrel logged at the Bill today; Manx Shearwaters were prominent throughout the day, with the steady west-bound movement looking from sample counts to have totalled around 3000, with a lone Balearic Shearwater the only addition to the mix.

7th June

Interest was hard to come by on another windy day. The sea got virtually all the attention and although Manx Shearwaters were offshore in small numbers all day the only other reports were of 22 Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill. The only new arrival apparent on the land was a Lesser Whitethroat at the Bill.

6th June

We're struggling to remember a June storm that was quite as ferocious as the one that blew in overnight (we've been told that the wind strength was gusting up to force 10 at times) and left in its wake a scene of minor devastation around the island with the ground carpeted in fallen leaves and quite substantial branches broken from trees; with the wind remaining up around gale force for the best part of the day seawatching was the only birding possible. Storm Petrels featured off the Bill throughout the day but it was difficult to get a handle on numbers and quite likely that the majority of sightings related to the same few lingering individuals; Manx Shearwaters were also a mixture of lingerers and passing birds but certainly got into the low hundreds, whilst 32 Common Scoter, 5 Arctic Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Great Skua also passed by.

The gaping holes exposed in many of the trees around the Obs garden after an extraordinary amount of leaf-fall would have been useful during last week's Greenish/Two-barred Greenish episode and might yet prove handy before the spring's out:


The strength of the wind was enough to literally rip apart quite a few of our carefully nurtured Tree Mallows:


Manx Shearwaters were an ever-present feature offshore even if their numbers didn't approach yesterday's tally © Martin King (top) and Martin Cade (bottom):




One or two of the day's Storm Petrels looked to be passing straight through but the majority of sightings were of lingering birds and we suspect that very few individuals were involved - gone are the days of 20 or so years ago when counts of way into three figures would have been quite routine on windy days at this time of year © Martin Cade:



5th June

Land birding took a back seat as a fierce little Atlantic depression swept through and introduced an unseasonable storm today. Manx Shearwaters featured all day off the Bill, where sample counts of getting on for 300 an hour at times suggested the day total wouldn't have been far short of 2000; singles of Sooty Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater also passed by but there was precious little else of note. The only other reports were of a Mediterranean Gull off Chesil and 18 Sanderling and 6 Dunlin at Ferrybridge.

Flaming June it was not, with the sea whipped into a boiling frenzy once the wind topped gale force during the evening © Martin Cade:



In slightly better conditions during the afternoon we'd managed to be in the wrong spot at the right moment - at the Obs instead of the Bill tip - when the Sooty Shearwater passed through amongst a group of Manx; such are the resolving powers of even 'ordinary' camera equipment these days that we just about managed to get some record shots of it at what has to be getting on for a mile range:



4th June

If a heard-only fly-by qualifies as the bird of the day then a Serin that just got on the radar of one lucky observer at the Obs during the afternoon was the highlight. The only other worthwhile reports from the land were of an apparently new Lesser Whitethroat at Southwell and 10 Sanderling and 6 Dunlin at Ferrybridge. Breezy conditions saw the sea produce 75 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Common Scoter and singles of Great Skua and Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

An early Marbled White was on the wing at the Bill.

Cooler, breezy conditions saw immigrant moth interest take a dip, with a handful of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y the only species trapped overnight at the Obs.

3rd June

Largely uneventful today, with 17 Sanderling and 12 Dunlin at Ferrybridge and 2 Reed Warblers at the Bill the only obvious new arrivals. The only other reports were of 25 Common Scoter and a single Great Skua through off the Bill.

Both Painted Lady and Hummingbird Hawkmoth looked to more numerous and widely distributed today than at any time since both started to show up in small numbers a couple of weeks ago.

Overnight immigrant moth totals at the Obs included 10 Diamond-back Moth, 8 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y, 2 Rush Veneer and singles of Pine Hawkmoth and Small Mottled Willow.

A couple of the day-flying moths on the wing at the Bill in recent days - Burnet Companion and Mother Shipton © Ken Dolbear:


2nd June

Today's mainly overcast skies looked a little more promising from the migrant point of view and pretty thorough coverage of the Bill area eventually came up with a reasonable return. An early morning report from a visitor of a Red-footed Falcon flying over Southwell would have constituted a nice highlight but it couldn't be found again so perhaps won't be adjudged to be completely clinched. A Turtle Dove was the pick of the other new arrivals, with at least 4 new Chiffchaffs, a new Whitethroat and singles of Redstart and Black Redstart making up the rest of the tally; elsewhere a Willow Warbler was fresh in at Blacknor. A few odds and ends on the sea included 50 Manx Shearwaters, 28 Common Scoter, a Great Skua and a Sandwich Tern through off the Bill.

Immigrant moth numbers and quality have slowly declined through the week, with just 9 Rusty-dot Pearl, 2 Silver Y and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Orange Footman, Delicate and Small Mottled Willow caught overnight at the Obs.

A few random images from today's wanderings around the island © Emma Cockburn:




...and © Joe Stockwell: