18th August

With any luck today, with its zero ringing tally, will prove to be something of an autumn migrant nadir although with no particular change in the weather on the cards until after the weekend we perhaps wouldn't bet against a repeat tomorrow! There were a few birds about, with a Cuckoo at Blacknor easily the highlight on the land, where 10 each of Wheatear and Sedge Warbler provided the only worthwhile totals of routine fare at the Bill. In the brisk westerly the sea got plenty of looks and returned totals of at least 26 Balearic Shearwaters, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Common Scoter, 3 Sanderling, a Sooty Shearwater and a Yellow-legged Gull through off the Bill.

The strength of the wind was again a downer when it came to overnight mothing, with 3 Scarce Bordered Straw, 2 Silver Y, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and a Red Admiral butterfly the only immigrants making it into the Obs traps.

And for something completely different, thanks to Paul Bowyer for sending us through details of a rare fly recorded on the island earlier this summer. During a moth-trapping session with Dave Nevitt at Cheyne Weare on 5th July, Paul potted on unfamiliar fly that has recently been confirmed by Martin Drake as the critically endangered Sciapus heteropygus - a species last recorded in Britain 29 years ago! © Paul Bowyer: 

17th August

The days when we used to get established easterly airflows during August seem so long ago as to be from a bygone age of birding - one when there used to be falls of migrants and regular rarities at this time of year. Sadly, blustery westerlies do precious little for us, as evidenced by today's dismal showing of just 3 birds ringed at the Obs; a lone Marsh Harrier was the only sighting of any consequence amongst the low single figure totals of grounded and visible migrants at the Bill. The sea was hardly more compelling, with the feeding flocks of gulls that had been attracting Balearic Shearwaters in recent weeks not a feature in the much rougher seas off the Bill; a total of 13 passing Balearics were logged, along with 47 Common Scoter and 6 Manx Shearwaters.

In windy and wet conditions overnight the immigrant moth totals at the Obs consisted of just 3 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y, and singles of Rush Veneer, Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Pearly Underwing and Scarce Bordered Straw.

This morning's Marsh Harrier over the Bill © Martin Cade:


16th August

A rather overcast dawn dropped a handful more migrants, with the Bill area coming up with 20 Tree Pipits, 15 each of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler, 10 each of Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear, and singles of Grey Heron, Garden Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. Offshore, Balearic Shearwaters reached at least 25 - and likely quite a few more if they'd ever aggregated together - and 13 Common Scoter, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Whimbrel and a Manx Shearwater padded out the variety.

A Striped Hawkmoth was a surprise overnight capture in the Obs moth-traps, with 9 Rush Veneer, 7 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Dark Sword Grass, and singles of Diamond-back Moth, Marbled Yellow Pearl, Waste Grass-veneer Pediasia contaminella and Dark Spinach making up the rest of the immigrant tally there; a Vestal at the Grove was the pick of the catches elsewhere.

With it having been a poor year nationally for Striped Hawkmoths there had been no expectation of coming across one in the moth-traps: 


Marbled Yellow Pearl is recorded around the island just about often enough these days that you'd imagine it might sometimes breed but we still don't have any direct evidence that it has done © Martin Cade:  

15th August

There's barely a sniff of passage becoming in any way sustained, with today's migrant tally at the Bill consisting of no more than 15 Wheatears, 10 each of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler, 6 Tree Pipits and a Yellow Wagtail. Balearic Shearwaters have been reliable in providing interest at sea and that continued today with at least 25 lingering off the Bill but, bar a lone Yellow-legged Gull, there was little else of note to report from the sea. Four Sanderling, 2 Redshank and 'the' Grey Plover were amongst the waders at Ferrybridge.

There was just a hint of moth immigration taking off again, with 3 Hummingbird Hawkmoths and an Olive-tree Pearl at the Obs and single Marbled Yellow Pearls both there and at the Grove; commoner immigrant numbers at the Obs included 24 Rusty-dot Pearl, 12 Dark Sword Grass, 8 Rush Veneer, 2 Diamond-back Moth and a single Silver Y.




14th August

Yesterday's little pulse of passage rapidly fizzled out, with today's seemingly ideal conditions producing precious little by way of numbers on the land. Overflying Tree Pipits - 15 in all - featured most strongly amongst what little there was at the Bill, with 7 Yellow Wagtails and 2 Common Sandpipers providing the only other minor interest on the land there. The sea was more interesting, with at least 50 Balearic Shearwaters again ever-present offshore; 34 Common Scoter, 9 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Great Skuas and a Yellow-legged Gull also passed through or lingered there.

Overnight mothing was as low-key as the birding, with 15 Dark Sword Grass, 8 each of Rush Veneer and Rusty-dot Pearl, and 5 Silver Y constituting the immigrant tally at the Obs.

We suspect that it isn't widely appreciated just how few of the common migrants passing through Portland appear to enter or leave the country via the island during subsequent migration seasons; of course, we only have the ringing evidence to support our assumptions here (...and so it may be that more ringed migrants simply miss the nets during subsequent visits than appears to be the case) but today's Sedge Warbler, that was previously ringed on 30th July last year, is one of fewer than 10 subsequent recaptures of migrants that don't breed here during the whole history of the Obs - with a sample size of what's probably now well past 250,000 it certainly seems like most migrants don't use the same entry and exit points each year © Martin Cade: 


We don't very often mention the many ringed Mediterranean Gulls that it's possible to see these days at Ferrybridge, largely because most of those that we do hear about seem to have originated in 'expected' areas of continental Europe. However, these two birds from yesterday seemed to be slightly different to usual: green RV0X was ringed as a nestling in Vendee, western France, on 1st July, whilst yellow 2C65 was ringed as a nestling at Langstone Harbour on 28th June; western France and the UK may be regular points of origin but we don't recollect having heard them mentioned before this © Pete Saunders (and thanks to Debby Saunders for taking the trouble to submit these sightings):


13th August

It's been some time coming but a nice, set-fair day saw a good few departing migrants drop in at the Bill. Numbers were nothing more than modest but 150 Swallows, 100 Swifts, 60 Willow Warblers, 25 Sedge Warblers, 20 Whitethroats and 15 Wheatears made up the bulk, with the likes of 3 Tree Pipits, 2 each of Grasshopper Warbler and Garden Warbler, and singles of Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat providing a modicum of variety. The sea was again worth attention, with 56 Balearic Shearwaters the best on offer at the Bill. The only others reports were from Ferrybridge, where singles of Grey Plover and Sanderling were amongst the small numbers of commoner fare.

Immigrant moth numbers picked up a little, with 15 Rusty-dot Pearl, 11 Dark Sword Grass, 4 Silver Y and 3 each of Diamond-back Moth and Rush Veneer trapped overnight at the Obs.

12th August

After an unexpectedly windy and at times wet night lingering/feeding Balearic Shearwaters were a constant feature off the Bill, where the highest count in one scan was 17 but with all the comings and goings it looked like perhaps as many of 50 birds were involved; Common Scoter passage continued with another 73 through, whilst 20 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Sandwich Terns were also logged. After yesterday's small fall the land reverted to being the poor relation: at the Bill the Wheatear and Willow Warbler tallies topped 30 each but singles of Hobby and Grasshopper Warbler were the only less regulars making the list.

Immigrant moth numbers plummeted, with just two each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Rush Veneer, and singles of Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Dark Sword Grass and Silver Y - along with 3 Red Admiral butterflies - making up the totals from the Obs traps.

11th August

Bill: Land Wheatear 40, Willow Warbler 40, Sedge Warbler 30, Tree Pipit 5, Ringed Plover 1, Dunlin 1, Reed Warbler 1, Blackcap 1, Garden Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1. Sea Balearic Shearwater 5, Manx Shearwater 5, Common Scoter 4, Arctic Skua 3, Yellow-legged Gull 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 100, Black-headed Gull 51w, Dunlin 50, Oystercatcher 27, Sanderling 3, Shelduck 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Dark Sword Grass 37, Rush Veneer 12, Rusty-dot Pearl 10, Silver Y 2.

10th August

Bill: Land Wheatear 40, Willow Warbler 35, Sedge Warbler 20, Tree Pipit 5, Yellow Wagtail 3, Whinchat 2, Garden Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Spotted Flycatcher 1. Sea Common Scoter 42, Manx Shearwater 8, Balearic Shearwater 4, Yellow-legged Gull 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 80, Dunlin 40, Oystercatcher 36, Sanderling 14, Redshank 3, Greenshank 1, Common Sandpiper 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Dark Sword Grass 63, Silver Y 17, Rusty-dot Pearl 6, Rush Veneer 4.

9th August

Bill: Sea Manx Shearwater 41, Common Scoter 17, Balearic Shearwater 16, Arctic Skua 2, Great Skua 1. Land Wheatear 7, Sedge Warbler 3, Willow Warbler 1, Spotted Flycatcher 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 75, Dunlin 45, Turnstone 16, Sanderling 3, Whimbrel 1, Redshank 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Dark Sword Grass 75, Silver Y 28, Rusty-dot Pearl 6, Rush Veneer 4.

8th August

Bill: Land Willow Warbler 25, Sedge Warbler 20, Wheatear 7, Blackcap 2, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 1, Pied Flycatcher1. Sea Balearic Shearwater 200, Common Scoter 44, Cormorant 26s, Manx Shearwater 3, Mediterranean Gull 3, Grey Plover 2, Artic Skua 2, Great Skua 2, Redshank 1.
Ferrybridge: Sanderling 3, Redshank 1, Common Sandpiper 1.
Portland Harbour: Eider 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Dark Sword Grass 57, Silver Y 34, Rusty-dot Pearl 13, Diamond-back Moth 1, Rusty-dot Pearl, European Corn-borer 1.

7th August

Bill: Land Wheatear, 5, Sedge Warbler 4, Grashopper Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 1. Sea Manx Shearwater 11, Balearic Shearwater 2, Arctic Skua 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 35, Dunlin 20, Sanderling 2, Knot 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Dark Sword Grass 6, Rusty-dot Pearl 5, Diamond-back Moth 1, Rush Veneer 1, Hummingbird Hawkmoth 1.

One of this morning's Sandwich Terns at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders: 


6th August

Bill: Land Sedge Warbler 30, Willow Warbler 25, Wheatear 16, Tree Pipit 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 1, Garden Warbler 1. Sea Common Scoter 36, Balearic Shearwater 24, Dunlin 5, Manx Shearwater 3, Arctic Skua 3, Yellow-legged Gull 3, Sanderling 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 100, Mediterranean Gull 78, Sanderling 4, Grey Plover 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Silver Y 21, Dark Sword Grass 16, Rusty-dot Pearl 1.

We're not that well up on the sometimes complicated matter of ageing terns and are away from the required literature but we presume that this weirdly-plumaged Common Tern at Ferrybridge this morning is most likely an immature (first- or second-summer) © Pete Saunders: 



5th August

Bill: Land Willow Warbler 60, Sedge Warbler 35, Wheatear 15, Swift 10, Sand Martin 2. Sea Balearic Shearwater 21, Manx Shearwater 3, Dunlin 2, Arctic Skua 1.
Ferrybridge: Sanderling 3, Common Sandpiper 1, Redshank 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Silver Y 15, Dark Sword Grass 14, Rusty-dot Pearl 4, Diamond-back Moth 1, Rush Veneer 1.

4th August

Bill: Land Wheatear 6, Sedge Warbler 6, Willow Warbler 6. Sea Manx Shearwater 20, Sooty Shearwater 1, Balearic Shearwater 1, Great Skua 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 117, Dunlin 53, Sanderling 21, Turnstone 13, Curlew 4, Common Sandpiper 2, Redshank 1, Black-tailed Godwit 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 2, Dark Sword Grass 1, Silver Y.

3rd August

Bill: Sea Manx Shearwater 30, Balearic Shearwater 20, Arctic Skua 6, Storm Petrel 2, Great Skua 2. Land Wheatear 1, Sedge Warbler 1.
Chesil Cove: Storm Petrel 1 + Ocean Sunfish 1.
Ferrybridge: Sanderling 5, Whimbrel 1, Kittiwake 1,
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 1.

Portland thrives on nice settled conditions and accompanying falls of departing migrants (...along the the occasional bonus Melodious Warbler) at this time of year; today's photos largely reflect the current run of full-on gales that aren't the conditions we'd wish to be experiencing right now! Manx Shearwater off the Bill © Pete Saunders: 


...and Kittiwake at Ferrybridge © Debby Saunders: 


A Whimbrel was the only wader of note at Ferrybridge © Pete Saunders: 

2nd August

Bill: Sea Manx Shearwater 71, Common Scoter 52, Balearic Shearwater 21, Common Tern 40, Whimbrel 4, Sooty Sheawater 2, Yellow-legged Gull 2, Storm Petrel 1, Arctic Skua 1, Roseate Tern 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 28, Ringed Plover 26, Turnstone 10, Sanderling 7, Common Sandpiper 2, Curlew 2.
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 5, Silver Y 4, Diamond-back Moth 1.

1st August

Bill: Sea Common Scoter 37, Balearic Shearwater 26, Manx Shearwater 11, Arctic Skua 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1. Land Sedge Warbler 25, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Willow Warbler 2, Yellow Wagtail 1, Reed Warbler 1.
Ferrybridge: Ringed Plover 54, Dunlin 31, Sanderling 9, Grey Plover 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 8, Silver Y, Rush Veneer 2, Diamond-back Moth 1, European Corn-borer 1, Dark Sword Grass 1.

Peregrines have been a frequent feature at Ferrybridge in recent weeks and can always be relied upon to provide wader flight-shot opportunities! © Pete Saunders: 


31st July

Bill: Sea Common Scoter 23, Manx Shearwater 11, Balearic Shearwater 10, Yellow-legged Gull 5, Sooty Shearwater 1, Arctic Skua 1. Land Willow Warbler 15, Sedge Warbler 10, Sand Martin 5, Wheatear 2, Hobby 1, Dunlin 1, Pied Flycatcher 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 27, Ringed Plover 23, Sanderling 19, Goosander 6, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Redshank 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 7, Silver Y 3, Rush Veneer 2.

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


30th July

Bill: Sea Common Scoter 97, Balearic Shearwater 14, Arctic Skua 8, Sandwich Tern 7, Manx Shearwater 5, Pomarine Skua 2, Whimbrel 1, Yellow-legged Gull 1 + 1 Ocean Sunfish and a small group of Common Dolphins. Land Willow Warbler 50, Sedge Warbler 15, Pied Flycatcher 1.
Ferrybridge: Dunlin 20, Ringed Plover 12, Sanderling 6, Shelduck 1.
Portland Harbour: Eider 1.
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 7, Silver Y 1,

29th July

Bill: Sea Balearic Shearwater 31, Common Scoter 31, Arctic Skua 23, Storm Petrel 4, Mallard 2, Whimbrel 2, Yellow-legged Gull 1. Land Willow Warbler 10.
Ferrybridge: Little Tern 5, Sanderling 4, Knot 2.
Portland Harbour: Common Scoter 5.
Obs immigrant moths: Rusty-dot Pearl 5, Silver Y 2.

28th July

In really grim conditions much more akin to November than late July pretty well all of the day's interest was offshore. A Great Shearwater that appeared briefly twice off the Bill was presumably the lingerer from earlier in the week although given the conditions that might not have been an altogether safe assumption; Balearic Shearwaters also were a constant presence there but with movement in both directions and plenty lingering it was impossible to be sure how many birds were involved, with 25 perhaps a conservative minimum. With a lot more lingering than actual passage it was tricky to get a handle of many of the other Bill totals for the day, but 60 Manx Shearwaters, 16 Common Scoter, 3 Storm Petrels, 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Arctic Skuas and singles of Sooty Shearwater, Great Skua and Pomarine Skua looked to safe minima. The only other reports were of a handful of Willow Warblers at the Obs and 24 Sandwich Terns, a Knot and a Yellow-legged Gull at Ferrybridge.

Moth interest diminished still further, with 3 Rusty-dot Pearl the only immigrants caught overnight at the Obs.

Please note that for the next fortnight timely blog and Twitter updates are likely to be interrupted whilst we're away on holiday - normal activities at the Obs will be carrying on as usual and we'll try and convey the highlights as and when we can.

Just one of an awful lot of sightings of Balearic Shearwaters today © Martin Cade: 

27th July

Unexpectedly, bearing in mind the very blustery southwesterlies and the continuing presence of shoals of bait fish attracting seabird close to shore, the Great Shearwater didn't show up off the Bill today but there was still plenty of action to provide interest. With so many birds lingering offshore it was often tricky to get a handle on numbers but another strong movement of Yellow-legged Gulls - 20 juveniles heading west - featured during the morning, whilst a minimum of 12 Balearic Shearwaters joined the feeding melee offshore; other movers off the Bill included 43 Common Scoter, 25 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua. Waders at Ferrybridge included 33 Dunlin, and 8 Sanderling, but passerines were once again hard to get amongst, with 10 Willow Warblers at the Obs about as good as it got. The only other report was of the long-staying Eider spotted again in Portland Harbour.

Immigrant moth interest dwindled to virtually nothing, with just 5 individuals of 3 common species trapped overnight at the Obs.

26th July

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, 29th July.

The Great Shearwater spent another day lingering off the Bill and, in the intermittently wet and windy conditions, it was activity at sea that provided most of the rest of the day's interest. The Bill was watched pretty well throughout and returned totals of 94 Common Scoter, 13 Sandwich Terns, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 7 Arctic Skuas, a minimum of 4 Yellow-legged Gulls, 4 Great Skuas, a single Great Crested Grebe and plenty of Manx Shearwaters that peaked during the afternoon when a sample count came up with 211 in 80 minutes. Ferrybridge chipped in with 37 Dunlin, 25 Ringed Plovers, 11 Common Terns through, 8 Sandwich Terns, 4 Sanderling, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, a Hobby overhead and a Redshank, but it was hard work getting amongst passerines on the land, with a handful of Willow Warblers and 2 Wheatears all that could be mustered in the unhelpful conditions at the Bill.

The Great Shearwater lingered on and off all day and at times showed ridiculously well, coming to within 50 metres of shore for the birders and landing literally underneath the rods of the fishermen working from the bass boats offshore © Martin Cade (video) and Keith Pritchard (stills):




Although they're easy enough to photograph at Portland Harbour/Ferrybridge during the winter months we're not sure we've ever managed before to be in the right spot at the right moment to photograph a fly-by Great Crested Grebe off the Bill  © Martin Cade




Yellow-legged Gulls have staged their best ever post-breeding influx in recent days; this one was at Ferrybridge this morning  © Pete Saunders: 

25th July

Lovely weather and very enjoyable birding today with plenty more action out to sea and another small flurry of early departing migrants on the land. The biggest surprise on the sea was a brief reappearance by the Great Shearwater that joined the melee of gulls feasting on bait fish off the Bill during the afternoon; up to 6 Balearic Shearwaters also put in appearances there, whilst 65 Mediterranean Gulls, 30 Common Scoter, 10 Manx Shearwaters, 7 Yellow-legged Gulls, 6 Arctic Skuas and a Roseate Tern passed through and, in the early hours, another 6 Storm Petrels were sound-lured and trapped. Land-wise, both Whinchat and Garden Warbler - singles of each - were logged for the first time this season at the Bill, where 25 Willow Warblers and 10 Sedge Warblers made up the bulk of the numbers on the ground, gatherings of up to 100 Swallows and 20 each of Swift and Sand Martin paused overhead and a lone Yellow Wagtail also passed through.

Immigrant insects featured again, with 7 Painted Ladys and 4 Clouded Yellows amongst the many hundreds of Red Admirals about at the Bill; 5 Red Admirals and singles of Painted Lady and Emperor dragonfly were also caught overnight in the Obs moth-traps. A Pale Shoulder at Weston and a Lunar Thorn at the Obs (the fourth and second island records respectively) were nice rarity highlights amongst the moths caught overnight; common immigrant numbers also increased, including 35 Dark Sword Grass, 27 Silver Y and 19 Rusty-dot Pearl at the Obs.

We arrived at the Bill tip just in time to see the Great Shearwater fly off and disappear over the horizon but these Balearic Shearwaters provided some compensation © Martin Cade (apologies for the poor quality of several of the recent videos we've posted here - the speed of our internet connection at the Obs has recently declined to such an extent that we're currently unable to upload to YouTube from here and have had to resort to uploading some inferior footage via our phone whenever we've got a 4G signal):


Although a good national record - the UK total is still only around the 40 mark - the Pale Shoulder was the fourth record for Portland © Duncan Walbridge/Martin Cade...


...and in a typically peculiar quirk of distribution the Lunar Thorn - that's an uncommon resident in part of north and west Dorset - was actually a rarer moth for the island (there's just a single previous record) © Martin Cade:

24th July

Some pretty decent passage in nice benign conditions today, notably including an island record total of a minimum of 28 Yellow-legged Gulls at the Bill (all were juveniles and the majority arrived from the southeast and passed steadily west close inshore); there was plenty of other action at sea, including 169 Common Scoter, 26 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Balearic Shearwaters and singles of Great Skua and Arctic Skua. For the first time this autumn grounded migrants were relatively conspicuous around the Bill, where Willow Warblers reached 50 and 4 Sedge Warblers and singles of Dunlin, Redshank and Cuckoo were additions to the mix. Visible passage was the poor relation, with little more than a handful of Swifts and Sand Martins overhead.

Moth immigrants were conspicuously few despite there being plenty of other insect arrivals: a variety of hoverfly species were hugely abundant, including very many caught overnight in the moth-traps, whilst Red Admiral butterflies were not only very numerous everywhere but included several watched arriving in off the sea at the Bill; a single Painted Lady butterfly was caught overnight in one of the moth-traps at the Grove.

It was a good day for butterflies with the buddleia bushes covered in Red Admirals and lots of the local specials about in quantity; Graylings were numerous along the west side...


...whilst Chalkhill Blues - in marked contrast to Silver-studded Blue earlier in the summer - are having an excellent year and are being reported in hundreds at many sites; this mating pair were at West Cliff...


...where another mating pair were interrupted by a frenzy of another half-dozen males trying to get their share of the action (...are females relatively less numerous this season?) all photos © Ken Dolbear

23rd July

One seabird shock had seemed like quite enough for this month (...even for this year) but to have a second when a Great Shearwater afforded what might prove to be once in a lifetime views for land-based watchers when it lingered for several hours close inshore off the Bill during the afternoon was fortunate indeed. The sea was otherwise relatively quiet, with 30 Manx Shearwaters, 22 Common Scoter, 4 Yellow-legged Gulls, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Puffin through or lingering off the Bill. In quieter conditions interest picked up on the land, with a small arrival at the Bill that included a light passage of hirundines, 4 each of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler, and singles of Whimbrel, Yellow Wagtail and Grey Wagtail at the Bill; in contrast, Ferrybridge was uneventful, with nothing much more than 5 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.

Moth-wise, there was a small increase in common immigrants, including 44 Diamond-back Moth, 11 Silver Y, 7 Dark Sword Grass and 6 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and 4 Rush Veneer at the Obs, but quality by way of infrequent strays was limited to a lone Orange Pine Twist Lozotaeniodes formosanus at Weston.

Being resolutely land-based seawatchers this was really not how we were expecting to see a Great Shearwater - particularly at the Bill (...although it maybe should be remembered that the island's first Great Shearwater - on 21st June 1963 - was apparently seen in identical circumstances) © Martin Cade:



22nd July

Today's seawatching would have been 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: