21st February

Well, nobody saw this one coming. The daily early perusal of Ferrybridge came up trumps in dramatic fashion when a Ross's Gull dropped in for just a few minutes today; it very quickly flew off up the Fleet but a later appearance at Lodmoor offered the possibility that it may yet return . Considering how little time was put in elsewhere there was a more than respectable back-up cast that included the year's first Glaucous Gull that was settled on the shore at the Bill during the evening and 13 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Short-eared Owls and a Merlin also at the Bill.

A single Harbour Porpoise was off the Bill during the morning.

It's not often that we can't be fairly definitive about the status of a particular species at Portland but Ross's Gull is one that's always perplexed us: the Dorset literature (the bird report of the year and The Birds of Dorset) asserts that an adult was seen from a vessel anchored in Portland Harbour on 13th August 1967, but in contradiction the BBRC report for that year accepts the bird - that constituted only the fifth record for Britain - as having been seen in Weymouth Bay by an observer with a remarkable track record for spotting rare seabirds in British waters. In cases like this we usually take what's published in the PBO report as most likely to accord to the truth and, perhaps tellingly, there's not a mention of it there. Whatever the resolution of this matter, there's no disputing now that Ross's Gull has put in an appearance at Portland © Pete Saunders:





20th February

Not much birding activity today. The morning's migrant activity at the Bill consisted of just the first Redwing of the season at the Obs and a lone Blackbird arriving in off the sea; other odds and ends there included 2 Short-eared Owls and a Firecrest on the land and singles of Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and Common Scoter through on the sea.

The Short-eared Owls were depleted in number but those that were about showed nicely at times © Pete Saunders:



19th February

Not too much on offer today although there were some signs of passage in the form of several small groups of Meadow Pipits - along with a single Rock Pipit - arriving in off the sea at the Bill during the afternoon. Regulars still about included the Firecrest at the Obs, at least 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill, the Blackcap and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Wakeham and 12 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers at Portland Harbour.

We haven't done any systematic night recording yet this year but judging by the number of times we've heard Oystercatchers in recent nights - they're always an early migrant over here - it won't be long before it'll be worth giving it a try; this one was heading north over the Obs during a rain shower late yesterday evening:



One of the Great Northern Divers was showing nicely on the mill-pond calm waters of Portland Harbour © Pete Saunders:

18th February

Not much to report from a dreary and increasingly drizzly day. The first skua of the month - a Great Skua through off the Bill - was a minor highlight, but the only other news was of 4 Red-throated Divers and a Common Scoter through off the Bill, a Firecrest still at the Obs and the Blackcap still at Wakeham.

17th February

Another lovely, mild and bright day saw further apparent early arrivals pitch up, notably singles of Chiffchaff at the Obs, Southwell and Blacknor, and 2 or more Firecrests at Southwell; the fine conditions also tempted the wintering Yellow-browed Warbler into view for the first time in a while - on this occasion at the Church Ope carpark. Standard fare also putting in appearances included 9 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Short-eared Owls and a Firecrest at the Bill, 5 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Blackcap at Pennsylvania Castle, 17 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and singles of Mute Swan and Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge.

There have been Firecrests about like this one at the Obs that arrived last October © Martin Cade...


...but a flurry of two or three at Southwell - this one was the first at the site for nearly three months - looked to be fresh in © Nick Stantiford:


Several of the Portland Harbour Black-necked Grebes are beginning to colour up really well © Pete Saunders (upper photo) and Nick Stantiford (lower photo): 



With hundreds of their kind at the other end of the Fleet you'd think that Mute Swans would be a frequent sight at Ferrybridge but they're actually really infrequent visitors there © Pete Saunders:


The Barn Owl(s) continue to be a daily sight at Southwell © Pete Saunders: 

16th February

The huge improvement in the weather that set in yesterday was maintained and other than a late afternoon shower that only clipped the north of the island the day was mild, calm and bright throughout. A few Mediterranean Gulls are starting to move, with 13 through off the Bill during the morning, whilst although no passerine visible passage was noticed it looked like a few grounded Meadow Pipits at the Bill were fresh in. Other than those hints of spring the day's tally consisted just of winter regulars: 10 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 Barn Owls and a Firecrest at the Bill, 3 Red-throated Divers and 3 Common Scoter through on the sea there, the Blackcap at Wakeham and 12 Black-necked Grebes, 8 Little Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge.

15th February

In conditions that couldn't have been more different to those endured yesterday - the sun shone from pretty well dawn 'til dusk - single potentially new Chiffchaffs popped up at both Bumpers Lane and Portland Castle, both being locations with no other sightings for many weeks; a Sandwich Tern was also an unexpected sighting off the Bill, although since it was fishing and gradually heading to the west it had less of the look of an early migrant. Other reports from the day included 6 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill, 4 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver through off the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Firecrest at Pennsylvania Castle/Church Ope Cove, the long-staying Blackcap at Wakeham, 10 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Great Northern Divers in Portland Harbour and 80 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a Pale-bellied Brent at Ferrybridge.

14th February

An even grimmer day than yesterday with rain and wind and throughout. The stalwarts that ventured out came up with a few odds and ends including the long-staying Grey Heron at the Bill, 6 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour and 290 Dunlin (the highest count of the winter) and 77 Brent Geese at Ferrybridge.

13th February

Nothing at all to report from a shocker of a morning when a gale force southerly and driving rain prevented any birding. Later, a Chiffchaff that nipped through a garden at Reap Lane gave every indication of being a freshly arrived migrant.

12th February

On an unexpectedly decent day 3 Red-throated Divers passed though off the Bill, 4 Short-eared Owls and a Firecrest were about at the Bill, 2 more Firecrests and a Blackcap showed at Pennsylvania Castle, 8 Redwings and a Blackcap were at Easton and a Shelduck was at Ferrybridge.

The pleasant sunshine tempted singles of Red Admiral at Reap Lane and Peacock at Pennsylvania Castle onto the wing.

The recent owl-fest continued with both Barn Owl and Short-eared Owls showing nicely again this afternoon © Pete Saunders:


11th February

A little bit more on offer today with sunshine tempting a few weekend visitors into the field even if the constant blasting northwesterly took the edge off their enjoyment. To a great extent the list consisted of regulars resurfacing, with 4 Purple Sandpipers and singles of Water Rail, Short-eared Owl and Firecrest at the Bill, 5 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, the regular Barn Owl at Southwell, the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove and 10 Black-necked Grebes and a Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour; a small change came in the form of a continuing steady increase in Ringed Plovers at Ferrybridge - up to 44 today.

The resident birder-photographers at Southwell have been getting plenty of mileage out of the Barn Owl(s) regularly hunting there at dawn and dusk, with today's show a particularly good one © Nick Stantiford:





...and from a different angle © Debby Saunders:

10th February

Birding doldrums if not weather doldrums: on a miserable wet day the only reports were of a Common Scoter through off the Bill and a Shelduck at Ferrybridge.

9th February

A blasting northwesterly saw to it that it was a good day to get on with lots of other jobs; the only reports were of 3 Red-throated Divers and 3 Common Scoter through off the Bill.

8th February

With the crisp sunshine of the last few days replaced by grey skies, occasional drizzle and a constantly freshening westerly there was little enthusiasm for fieldwork and the only reports were of 8 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter through off the Bill.

Three Harbour Porpoises were watched heading west off the Bill during the morning.

Decorating and renovating the Obs is no small undertaking and involves an awful lot of rigmarole before the paint rollers can even be wielded:

7th February

An arrival of 10 Meadow Pipits in off the sea at the Bill was a surprise today, with it seeming more likely they were refugees from snowy weather in northern France rather than early migrants; in a similar vein - and presumably also not relating to any sort of long distance movement - a Chiffchaff heading north along the causeway at Smallmouth was an unexpected sight. These oddities aside there was little change, with 7 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver and a Common Scoter through off the Bill, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell, 2 Firecrests at Pennsylvania Castle/Church Ope Cove, the Blackcap still at Wakeham and 32 Ringed Plovers and a Great Northern Diver at Ferrybridge.

One of the Short-eared Owls at the Bill and the Great Spotted Woodpecker at Southwell © Pete Saunders: 


6th February

A nice crisp, clear and relatively calm day came up with a few extra passerines of which the best was a likely Siberian Chiffchaff at Southwell; 2 Blackcaps were also there (evidently present for the last fortnight), singles of Goldcrest and Firecrest were still at the Obs and a Goldcrest visited a garden at Easton. Morning rounds at the Bill came up with 11 Purple Sandpipers on the shore and 8 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a Red-breasted Merganser through on the sea.

As we mentioned a few days ago, this winter's been very good for Blackcaps; this male is one of two birds that have been visiting a garden at Sweethill for the last fortnight © Andy Mitchell:


5th February

Less of the same today with 6 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Short-eared Owls at the Bill, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and a Red-breasted Merganser through on the sea there, a Firecrest still at Church Ope Cove and the Blackcap still at Wakeham.

Kestrel at Southwell today © Nick Stantiford...


...and a Fox in the Obs garden © Ken Dolbear: 

4th February

Modest fare today with a roost count of 750 Mediterranean Gulls in Portland Harbour the highlight; the only other reports were of 6 Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl at the Bill, 6 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and the Blackcap still at Wakeham.

3rd February

With the best part of the day a wash-out the only reports were of 5 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, 11 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Short-eared Owls and a Firecrest still at the Bill, the Blackcap still at Wakeham and 11 Black-necked Grebes, 7 Razorbills and a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour.

Black-throated Diver and Razorbill in Portland Harbour this morning © Pete Saunders (BtDiver) and Debby Saunders (Razorbill): 




And from a couple of evenings ago the Southwell Barn Owl © Pete Saunders: 



And back to yesterday for an event that we've only got round to sorting out today. Around midday we were roped into running an errand at St Peter's Church at the Grove and whilst there a sudden commotion developed amongst the local gulls and crows; the source of alarm materialised as a large-ish raptor but with no binoculars to hand and the bird largely obscured behind trees we couldn't resolve much more than it looked to be an accipiter; by the time we'd run back to the car for some optics the bird had gained height and was already getting pretty distant but we did snatch a very brief bit of video of it. The clip was so short and the bird so small on the screen that on review we more or less dismissed it as unidentifiable and got back to what we were doing at the church. It wasn't until this morning that we remembered the episode and took a look at the video on a proper screen - to which the immediate reaction was 'blimey, it's a Goshawk!' The sequence below starts with the few seconds that the bird was in view at normal speed, followed by a quarter speed slow-motion of the same clip:

2nd February

Black-necked Grebes reached a new peak for this winter of 23 in Portland Harbour but other than that it was business as usual, with 9 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, 2 Short-eared Owls and the Grey Heron still at the Bill, single Firecrests still at the Obs and Church Ope Cove, the Blackcap still at Wakeham and a good count of 180 Dunlin at Ferrybridge.

1st February

A chilly but fair start to February came up with a few of the regulars: 4 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Blackcap at Wakeham, a Black Redstart at Fortuneswell and 52 Oystercatchers, 5 Black-necked Grebes, an overflying Red-throated Diver and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

31st January

In increasingly cold, frequently showery and always howlingly windy conditions the only reports were of a Barn Owl at Southwell, a Blackcap at Wakeham and 400 Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour.

Southwell has become the owl hotspot in recent days: the Barn Owl was again south of the village this evening © Debby Saunders...



...whilst this Short-eared Owl was nearby yesterday evening © Steve Ridout:  


Blackcap in typical winter habitat at Wakeham today © Martin Adlam: 

30th January

With the wind having dropped right out overnight there was frost on the ground at dawn that was very quickly cleared by pleasant sunshine. A Blackcap was a new arrival at the Obs where a Firecrest was again about and a wintering Goldcrest resurfaced for the first time this year; 12 Purple Sandpipers were also showing at the Bill and 12 Red-throated Divers, 2 Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver and a Teal passed through on the sea. The day's other reports included another Blackcap at Wakeham, the Black Redstart at Chesil Cove, 2 Collared Doves south over Portland Harbour and 47 Oystercatchers, 4 Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver in and around the harbour.

This winter's turned out to be a good one for Blackcaps, with today's new female at the Obs seemingly the eighth different individual reported since mid-December - and we wouldn't mind betting that there'll be a few more tucked away in private gardens here and there © Martin Cade: 


And carrying on with yesterday's distant seabird theme, this is how we usually see Red-throated Divers off the Bill on calm, sunny days - this group of six this morning were way up in the sky heading west a mile or so off the Bill:

29th January

Hardly brimming with reports today but there were a couple of morsels of interest in the form of singles of Pomarine Skua and Little Gull lingering for a while off the Bill; 6 Common Scoter also passed by there, singles of Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl were at Southwell and one of the Black-throated Divers was still about in Portland Harbour.

The Southwell Barn Owl and Portland Harbour Black-throated Diver © Pete Saunders: 



Phones are just so versatile just days - this Pom Skua was at 'tiny blip in the eyepiece' distance from the Obs but Joe managed to get a nice little snippet of phone-scoped video as it made one of its passes © Joe Stockwell: 

28th January

Another brief show by the Pennsylvania Castle Yellow-browed Warbler was the best of today's bitsy selection. Singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest were also there, another Firecrest was at the Obs, 2 Red-throated Divers and 2 Common Scoter passed by on the sea at the Bill and 5 Black-necked Grebes, a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour.

27th January

It was back to square one on the weather front with lots more drizzly rain and reduced visibility. The day's only reports were of a Chiffchaff at Southwell, 12 Common Scoter, 8 Red-throated Divers and 2 Shelducks through off the Bill and 5 Shelducks at Ferrybridge. After dark a Golden Plover was heard heading north over the Bill.

Probably rather optimistically we'll claim the Golden Plover low over the Obs on a mild, misty night had all the feel of an inbound migrant:



And back to something from many moons ago. When Peter Moore kindly let us post his record shots of the Humpback Whale a couple of weekends ago we mentioned a previous record back in the 90s; although we quoted 1991 as the year in question we now suspect it was actually in late May/early June 1992 - the details are sketchy largely because this was in the quaint old days before mobiles and none of the local birding community heard about the animal's presence until after the event (...if anyone does have a definitive date do please let us know). Anyway, there is a cracking series of photos of this event taken by Andrew White that we're not sure have ever been published before and are well worth a look at © Andrew White: 





26th January

One of the nicest days of the year so far with plenty of sunshine and just a waft of a breeze. The flurry of resultant fieldwork didn't really come up with many surprises but a decent selection of the regulars were on view: 3 Short-eared Owls, a Merlin and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Bill, singles of Red-throated Diver and Brent Goose through off the Bill, 2 Firecrests, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Blackcap at Pennsylvania Castle, singles of Black Redstart, Blackcap and Chiffchaff at Blacknor/Weston and 11 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Great Northern Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Portland Harbour.

One of this evening's Short-eared Owls at the Bill © Martin Cade:   

25th January

It was a bit of a novelty not to have a single spot of rain at the Obs all day but there were few worthwhile rewards from the extra fieldwork that was possible. Nine Purple Sandpipers and a Short-eared Owl were at the Bill where 4 Red-throated Divers and a Brent Goose passed through on the sea, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Pennsylvania Castle and 10 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Kittiwake were at Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour.

A Brimstone Moth was a surprise out-of-season capture in the Obs moth-traps.

The return of sunshine was very welcome on the photography front, with Great Northern Diver, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Red-breasted Merganser all showing nicely at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders:  




In a quick check of a few of our recent moth notebooks we haven't come across any February or March records of Brimstone Moth - let alone one from January - so last night's specimen was way outside the usual flight season © Martin Cade:  

24th January

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, 27th January.

Although the bulk of the day was again a wash-out there were a couple of brief windows of opportunity early and late when a fly-through Shoveler was a minor local highlight at Portland Harbour, 3 Red-throated Divers passed by off the Bill and 2 Short-eared Owls and a Grey Heron were still about at the Bill.

23rd January

Another day to forget, with the swirling drizzle often so opaque that we couldn't even see the sea from the Obs. The only worthwhile report was of a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Easton.

22nd January

Hardly a bumper haul today, but at least it was birdable after yesterday's wash-out. The Yellow-browed Warbler at Pennsylvania Castle remained the pick of the assortment, with a Firecrests also there, 3 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill, a Reed Bunting at the Bill, a Chiffchaff at Weston and 14 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver in Portland Harbour.