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: