22nd July

Today's seawatching would have deemed quite productive anytime but the day after yesterday's excesses: the Bill was watched from dawn until late afternoon and came up with 121 Common Scoter, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 5 Sanderling, 3 Arctic Skuas, 2 each of Red-breasted Merganser, Great Skua, Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern, and singles of Sooty Shearwater, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel and Pomarine Skua; late on during this period a visitor watching from another viewpoint also reported singles of Cory's Shearwater and Great Shearwater. The only other news was from Ferrybridge where there were 9 Dunlin, 3 Sanderling and 3 Whimbrel, along with a Common Buzzard heading south towards the island.

The moth-traps were largely devoid of immigrants but a ?dispersing Dotted Clay at the Obs was a first record for the island.

On the photo front it's back to yesterday for some more seabirds; this presumably juvenile Balearic Shearwater passed the Bill at point blank range © Pete Saunders (upperparts) and Keith Pritchard (underparts):



The large shearwaters were all much further out but pretty educational nonetheless. Large shearwaters are really, really rare off the Bill (up until yesterday, the writer of these notes had seen fewer than 10 Cory's and just a single Great in countless thousands of hours of seawatching there over more than 40 years) and with the benefit of hindsight it's clear that lack of experience with them led to the first two Greats being overlooked in the less than ideal conditions (the initial series of sightings were into strong light so the birds were often little more than silhouettes): the first was only identified from video footage reviewed after the seawatch and the second was only identified from photographs after it had passed by; by the time that the third bird passed the light had improved and an ID was possible during the initial 'scope views. We'll keep looking back at the video footage until the differences in shape and flight action are drummed into us but in the meanwhile these two photos - Cory's at the top and Great at the bottom - capture the feel of these distant sightings quite well © Martin Cade:



Moth-wise, we keep being amazed how, despite daily trapping over many years, new species for the island keep cropping up. Today's offering was a Dotted Clay at the Obs: it seems that this species is usually accorded the status of widespread, common resident in Britain, even if that doesn't quite hold true in Dorset where it's largely confined to the east of the county; we're guessed that if it's taken this long for one to get here then the species isn't much of a mover - a moth equivalent of the Marsh Tit? © Martin Cade:


What with all the sea action we didn't get round to photographing yesterday's two best moths until today - the Splendid Brocade and the Mere Wainscot © Martin Cade

21st July

Balearic Shearwaters aside, Portland's long, long been the poor relation when it comes to early autumn seawatching, with the east Devon headlands in particular (which are visible from West Cliffs!) regularly trouncing the island for variety and numbers. Today Portland was trounced again but just for once a few crumbs fell from the Devon table and provided more than enough entertainment for us, with island record totals of at least 26 Cory's Shearwaters and 4 Great Shearwaters (as well as several unidentified large shearwaters) the chief rewards. The back-up cast included 750 Manx Shearwaters, 46 Common Scoter, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 6 Sandwich Terns, 3 each of Storm Petrel, Whimbrel and Arctic Skua, 2 each of Sooty Shearwater and Arctic Skua, and a single Yellow-legged Gull. The only other reports were from Ferrybridge, where there were 120 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sanderling, 2 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.

It was way too windy overnight to have expected much reward from the moth-traps so another Splendid Brocade and the first Mere Wainscot for several years were surprises amongst the handful of commoner immigrants trapped at the Obs.

Some of the day's shearwater action; the stills are of one of the Great Shearwaters that doesn't feature on the video © Martin Cade:





20th July

With a brisk and ever-freshening wind always a feature coverage of the land was pretty limited and largely fruitless, with singles of Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull and Wheatear at Hamm Beach, 15 Dunlin and a Whimbrel at Ferrybridge and a trickle of hirundines through at the Bill all that could be mustered. Surprisingly, the sea wasn't much better with 23 Common Scoter through off the Bill the only obvious movers.

After yesterday's post-storm disappointment on the moth front there were welcome signs that just a few immigrants had indeed crossed the Channel. A Scarce Marsh Pearl Psammotis pulveralis at the Obs was the only real rarity, but among the routine species there were increases to, for example, 25 Diamond-back Moth, 16 Rusty-dot Pearl and 9 Silver Y at the Obs; 3 Small Mottled Willow scattered about the middle of the island were the first for a while.

With just 3 previous records (involving 4 individuals) Scarce Marsh Pearl is a pretty high value rarity at Portland © Martin Cade:


Chalkhill Blues are now on the wing in hundreds at favoured sites; these females were at Westcliff today © Ken Dolbear:


19th July

In the dreary and often breezy aftermath of overnight electric storms and heavy showers the land didn't get much coverage today. The sea was still worth attention, with a small arrival of at least 5 Yellow-legged Gulls off the Bill where a Balearic Shearwater was again lingering and another passed straight through. Ferrybridge came up with fewer waders than yesterday but variety picked up, including 42 Dunlin, 13 Oystercatchers, 12 Sanderling, 6 Curlew, 2 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.

There's been a daily feeding frenzy of gulls off the Bill for some while, with a Balearic Shearwater in increasingly frequent attendance for several days © Martin Cade:



Sanderling and Whimbrels at Ferrybridge this morning  © Pete Saunders:


18th July

A bit of a miscellany today with, amongst other things, hirundines moving in some quantity into the brisk easterly that had sprung up ahead of thundery rain crossing the Channel and an increase in wader numbers once the rain arrived: the hirundine tally reached 300 of both Swallow and Sand Martin through over Ferrybridge, whilst the waders there in the evening included 204 Dunlin and 15 Sanderling (with 3 Redshank also there earlier in the day). A Yellow Wagtail dropped in at Southwell but the only other interest on the land concerned at least 2 Yellow-legged Gulls that joined the Herring Gulls feasting on a hatch of ants in the beach hut fields at the Bill. A Balearic Shearwater lingered off the Bill for much of the day, with 77 Common Scoter and 2 Shelduck also passing by there.

The overnight moth catch was also quite varied, with the highlight being single Lesser-spotted Pinions at both Weston and the Grove.

Aerial activity at Ferrybridge included many freshly fledged Little Terns and the perhaps inevitable patrolling Peregrine © Pete Saunders: 



The day's Yellow Wagtail dropped in very briefly at Southwell © Nick Stantiford: 


The two Lesser-spotted Pinions constitute only the fourth and fifth island records; this was the Grove individual © Martin Cade: 

17th July

Most of what movement there was today was either overhead or out to sea. Hirundines and Swifts were moving through into the at times quite brisk easterly during the morning, when sample counts included 80 Sand Martins through Ferrybridge in 90 minutes; other visible migrants included 13 Cormorants and a Dunlin south over the Bill and a Yellow Wagtail through at Ferrybridge. The only arrivals on the ground were 21 Dunlin, 8 Sandwich Terns, 2 Sanderling and 2 Redshanks at Ferrybridge (where the unseasonable Dark-bellied Brent Goose also dropped in again) and another dispersing young Blackcap at the Bill. Out to sea, 200 Manx Shearwaters, 52 Common Scoter and a Mediterranean Gull passed by at the Bill.

Dispersing moths featured a little better than in recent nights, including 2 each of Bulrush Veneer and Water Veneer, and a single Brown-veined Wainscot at the Obs.

It was a flying ant hatch day around the island today and the sky overhead was at times full of an assortment of gulls - Herring Gulls dominated over Easton and north Portland but they were joined by large numbers of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls over Ferrybridge/Wyke Regis © Martin Cade:

16th July

The Roseate Terns only put in a couple of brief appearances at Ferrybridge today, so interest came largely from other happenings, with a Canada Goose pitching up at Ferrybridge and singles of Sooty Shearwater and Pomarine Skua reported from seawatching at the Bill. The sea also came up with 41 Common Scoter, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Great Skua, a Yellow-legged Gull was at Ferrybridge and the first departing young Willow Warbler of the season dropped in at the Bill.

The fifth Splendid Brocade of the summer (at the Obs) was a slightly unexpected highlight amongst the night's moth catch given that just about the only other sign of immigrant activity was a modest increase in Silver Ys at one of the trap sites (27 at the Grove).

Thus far, the customary summer flurry of arriving juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls hasn't been much of a feature; this one passed through at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders: 



The Roseate Terns have been attracting a steady steam of admirers but didn't really play ball today; this photo was taken when they first arrived a couple of days ago © Keith Pritchard: 


15th July

The Roseate Terns again made frequent visits to Ferrybridge, where an unseasonable Brent Goose passed through and 8 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling were amongst what few waders were about. At the Bill, 4 Common Sandpipers constituted the only migrant interest on the land but there was a fair bit of movement on the sea, including 350 Manx Shearwaters, 40 Common Scoter, 11 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and a Great Skua.

It's not often that Portland Roseate Terns show as well as these two have © Pete Saunders  


14th July

Two showy Roseate Terns that spent a good part of the day at Ferrybridge stole the limelight today. Along with the steady little trickle of departing Swifts and hirundines overhead, a Cuckoo was below Grove Point and the first 2 Sedge Warblers of the autumn at the Bill were a further and perhaps unwelcome sign of how summer's already slipping way; singles of Grey Heron, Little Egret and Yellow-legged Gull also passed over at the Bill. In common with recent days the sea was worth attention, with 59 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua through off the Bill.

A brisk northwesterly breeze overnight reduced moth interest and there were no scarcities amongst the limited range on immigrants trapped at the Obs.

The Ferrybridge Roseate Terns © Pete Saunders (top still), Debby Saunders (middle still) and Martin Cade (video)



13th July

All much of a muchness still with a light trickle of passing Sand Martins the only evidence of passerine movement today. The sea was a little busier, with 28 Common Scoter, 25 Manx Shearwaters, 15 Mediterranean Gulls, 7 Black-headed Gulls and 3 Sandwich Terns through off the Bill, whilst 140 Mediterranean Gulls and 27 Dunlin were at Ferrybridge.

Moth numbers jumped back up to par although it remained relatively quiet for immigrants, with a Ni Moth providing the best of the quality at the Obs.

12th July

More standard fare today, with 200 or more Manx Shearwaters, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and at least 1 Yellow-legged Gull lingering off the Bill, 8 Common Scoter, 3 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Sandwich Terns through on the sea there, a handful of Swifts and a Sand Martin though overhead and a Knot settled on the shore; elsewhere there were 31 Dunlin, 3 Redshanks and 2 Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

After the recent run of quality and quantity last night's windy and at times wet conditions saw moth interest plummet - there were just 3 single immigrants in total in the Obs traps!

Although never numerous, Knot is a wader that seems more than happy making itself at home on the rocky shore at the Bill © Marc Bryans (still) and Martin Cade (video):


11th July

The first rainfall for a while dropped a nice selection of waders at Ferrybridge, where 30 Dunlin, 11 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Knot, 2 each of Sanderling and Common Sandpiper, and singles of Whimbrel and Redshank pitched up at various times. There were also hopes for the sea but just 14 Common Scoter, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua passed through off the Bill before heavy rain set in and prevented further coverage.

On a breezier night there was less moth activity than of late, with another 2 Small Marbled at the Obs the only rarities in the immigrant line.

The Black-tailed Godwits at Ferrybridge this morning © Pete Saunders:


10th July

A significant downturn in the weather that saw heavy cloud streaming in from the west arrived far too late to spoil what had otherwise been another day of largely unbroken sunshine. A dispersing Blackcap showed up at the Obs and the Dunlin total at Ferrybridge crept up to 17 but, once again, most of what numbers there were were garnered from the sea, with 90 Manx Shearwaters, 37 Common Scoter, 5 each of Mediterranean Gull and Black-headed Gull, and singles of Little Egret, Great Skua and Sandwich Tern through off the Bill.

Overnight moth interest included a couple of quality scarce immigrants in the form of a Bedstraw Hawkmoth at Reap Lane and a Splendid Brocade at the Obs, although overall numbers and variety continued to fall away.

The first juvenile Common Terns of the season - presumably from Lodmoor? - showed up at Ferrybridge today © Pete Saunders:


It's the season for dispersing juvenile warblers and we were surprised after such a relatively benign late spring and summer to see just how conspicuously fault-barred the tail of this morning's Blackcap was © Martin Cade:


Moth interest continues to tick along, with decent quality immigrants/strays turning up in the traps on a nightly basis just at the moment. The Bedstraw Hawkmoth was the first for a few years and the 15th ever for the island. Splendid Brocade is a relative newcomer to these shores but it's already edged ahead of the hawkmoth in the standings, with this year's 4 taking the all-time total to 18 © John Lucas/Martin Cade:


9th July

Efforts to spirit some early departing migrants out of the now well established crops in the Crown Estate Field for the first time this 'autumn' drew a probably predictable blank, so what happenings there were on the bird front were much as in recent days. A Grey Heron passed over at the Bill where 56 Common Scoter, 22 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Whimbrel passed by on the sea; elsewhere, 16 Dunlin, a Mallard and Grey Plover were at Ferrybridge, where 2 Sand Martins also passed over.

The millpond-calm conditions off the Bill resulted in a veritable rash of sightings of 'other' sealife, with 7 Harbour Porpoises, a Basking Shark and an Ocean Sunfish spotted during the course of the morning.

The was no great change on the moth front, with immigrant numbers continuing to drop away after their small peak a few days ago; 2 more Small Marbleds were the immigrant highlight at the Obs, with a flurry of wetland species providing the principle interest among the strays putting in appearances: singles of Reed Smudge Orthotelia sparganella and Bulrush Cosmet Limnaecia phragmitella were trapped at the Obs, whilst singles of Bulrush Veneer Calamotropha paludella and Silky Wainscot turned up at the Grove.

Chalkhill Blues are now on the wing in some quantity - these were above Church Ope Cove today © Ken Dolbear:


8th July

Sand Martin passage gathered a bit of momentum today, with 124 through over the Bill in the first few hours of the morning, but all the other movement there was offshore, including 240 Manx Shearwaters, 41 Common Scoter, 9 Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Crested Grebe and an Arctic Skua. The only other report was a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell.

Overnight mothing ticked along in a similar vein to recent nights with good catches and a decent variety of mainly routine immigrants/strays; the best of the oddities was an Alder Moth at the Obs that is only the third record for the island.

With dedicated wardening and following the adoption of innovative management techniques the Ferrybridge Little Tern colony is going from strength to strength - this year is already the most successful in the modern era and the season's not over yet © Pete Saunders


With a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker about back in the spring it's perhaps not inconceivable that breeding's occurred somewhere on the island but we suspect this juvenile at Southwell is more likely a wanderer from the mainland © Pete Saunders:

7th July

Still precious little happening on the bird front, with single figure totals of Swifts, Sand Martins and what looked to be the first 'moving' Swallows of the autumn through over the Bill, 2 Grey Herons through over Blacknor and 22 Common Scoter through on the sea at the Bill.

Another small pulse of moth immigration saw the Diamond-back Moth total at the Obs jump back up to 83, with a fair selection of 'off-island' species amongst the catches everywhere; however, the only rarer immigrants putting in appearances were a Splendid Brocade and 3 Small Marbled at Freshwater Bay and a Ni Moth at Fortuneswell.

6th July

A brisker easterly breeze saw a little more get moving overhead, with 30 Sand Martins and 7 Shelducks through at Ferrybridge and 38 Swifts, 12 Sand Martins and singles of Grey Heron, Little Egret and Curlew through at the Bill. There was also a pulse of movement on the sea, with 35 Sandwich Terns (...where had they all come from?), 32 Common Scoter, 5 Mediterranean Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill. Odds and ends on the ground included a Willow Warbler at the Bill and 60 Mediterranean Gulls and a Grey Plover at Ferrybridge.

Under a very bright moon the overnight moth catch was rather reduced; a Grey Ermine Yponomeuta sedella at Sweethill was easily the best of a limited selection of immigrants and island scarcities.

Presumably these Shelducks heading east over Ferrybridge are on their way to the moulting area in northwest Germany © Pete Saunders:


Grey Ermine is a rare stray to Portland and looks to be only thinly distributed in Dorset as a whole © Debby Saunders:

5th July

Another rather samey bird day, with a Blue-headed Wagtail at the Bill the best of the few new arrivals on the land; a single Sand Martin passed through there and a Willow Warbler may have been one of the two that showed up last week, whilst a Grey Plover and the first 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls of the summer were at Ferrybridge. Totals from the sea included 100 Manx Shearwaters, 83 Common Scoter, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Sandwich Terns, a Whimbrel and a Great Skua through off the Bill, where 8 Storm Petrels had been sound-lured and trapped overnight.

Moth immigrants/wanderers included nothing that hadn't already been recorded in the last fortnight, with singles of Barred Red, Pine Hawkmoth and White Satin - all at Sweethill - the best of the night's catch.

It was a particularly lovely night for Storm Petrel catching...


...and the 8 trapped in the couple of hours we could stay awake for made it the best session we've had so far this summer © Martin Cade:



It looked as though maybe the bright moon led to subdued moth activity - or at least the traps were quieter overnight - but there was still some quality about, with the third Pine Hawkmoth of the summer...


...and, also straying from the pine woods, the second Barred Red (which was a 'normal' red form and so a nice contrast with the freaky green one caught last week) © Debby Saunders:


The Grey Plover at Ferrybridge looked to be a lot like the one-footed individual that lingered there for a long time in the spring - has it been hiding nearby and just resurfaced or did it completely leave for a while? © Pete Saunders:


The first juvenile Mediterranean Gulls of the summer are always a fine sight © Debby Saunders


These days, Raven families are a virtually permanent fixture around the car parks at both Ferrybridge and the Bill © Pete Saunders:

4th July

Not much change on the bird front today, with 89 Common Scoter, 4 Mediterranean Gulls and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls through/lingering off the Bill, 3 Sand Martins and a Redshank over the Bill and 3 Redshank, 2 Sand Martins and a Whimbrel at/over Ferrybridge.

Moth variety remained impressively good even if overall immigrant numbers were nothing special. New species for the current spell of immigrant activity were limited to a Bordered Straw at the Grove and a small arrival of Four-spotted Footman (at least 6 at three sites), but the second Splendid Brocade in three nights - this one at Sweethill - was a nice rarity and noteworthy strays included a Silky Wainscot at the Obs and Hoary Footman and Bulrush Veneer Calamotropha paludella at Sweethill.

Splendid Brocade and Bulrush Veneer at Sweethill © Debby Saunders:


3rd July

Another day with far more on the sea than the land, with watches at the Bill returning totals of 138 Common Scoter, 18 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Whimbrel, 4 Balearic Shearwaters, a Great Skua and a Yellow-legged Gull. After escaping attention yesterday the Common Rosefinch showed briefly again at Southwell, but the only other land reports were of 9 Sand Martins and a Ringed Plover over the Bill and 2 Whimbrel and a Grey Plover amongst the handful of waders at Ferrybridge.

Moth-wise, immigrant numbers remained relatively low, with none of the commoner species reaching double figure totals in the Obs traps, but variety was still good; Portland rarities included singles of Royal Mantle at the Obs, Black Arches at Sweethill and Lesser Cream Wave and Scarce Oak Knot-horn Acrobasis tumidana at the Grove

2nd July

On a bright and at times quite breezy day it was again the sea that came up with the bulk of the day's numbers, with 67 Common Scoter, 9 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Whimbrel and 4 Mallards through off the Bill. Sand Martin passage picked up a little, with 21 through over the Bill but the land otherwise didn't chip in with much more than a Grey Wagtail over the Bill, a first Yellow-legged Gull of the season over Blacknor and 22 Dunlin, 2 Shelducks and a Greenshank at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant moth numbers continued to decline, with none of the commoner species managing a double figure total at the Obs, but rarities still featured: singles of Orache Moth, Small Marbled and Olive-tree Pearl were nice highlights from overnight trapping at Cheyne Weare, whilst 2 European Corn-borers and singles of Vestal, Latticed Heath, Delicate, Small Mottled Willow and Scarce Bordered Straw were the best of the catch at the Obs.

The Orache Moth was the fourth record for the island and the first for 11 years © Matthew Deans/Martin Cade:


And more lepidoptera from yesterday; the Lunar Hornet Clearwings continue to show from time to time at the Obs © James Phillips:


...whilst a few of the mid-summer butterflies now on the wing at Bottomcombe included Lulworth Skipper, Gatekeeper and Ringlet © Ken Dolbear: