Portland Bird Observatory
and Field Centre
Latest news - March 2014
Iceland Gull and Slavonian Grebes - off Chesil Beach, 6th March 2014 © Pete Saunders
Whilst there were welcome hints of passage gathering ground it was hardly a case of the flood-gates opening today. The first minor flurry of 'crests included 2 Firecrests at Avalanche Road and 2 Goldcrests at the Bill, a Chiffchaff was new at the Bill and amongst a small incoming passage of alba wagtails a single White Wagtail made it to Reap Lane. Passage on the sea included 2 Pintails off Chesil Cove and 16 Red-throated Divers, 12 Common Scoter and a Glaucous Gull off the Bill. Among the lingerers still about there were again 2 Iceland Gulls at Chesil Beach/Ferrybridge, 2 Slavonian Grebes off Chesil and singles of Red-necked Grebe and Eider (along with reduced totals of other divers and grebes) in Portland Harbour.
Black-necked Grebes, Eider, Great Northern Diver, Iceland Gull and Mediterranean Gull - Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge, 5th March 2014 © Will Bown (Black-necked Grebes, Eider and Great Northern Diver), Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (Iceland Gull) and Debby Saunders (Mediterranean Gull)
Despite not really being able to undestand why we didn't record a Wheatear, it was nonetheless a pleasure to be out on a fine, calm and mild day. The first White Wagtail of the spring was an on-cue arrival at the Bill, where a fly-by Puffin was the first sighting of what we hope is a returning breeding bird; elsewhere, a Mistle Thrush was a first for the year at Southwell, whilst quality came in the form of one or more Iceland Gulls again at Chesil Cove and Ferrybridge (another sighting of a white-winged gull off West Cliffs concerned a bird that was too distant to determine whether it was a wandering Iceland Gull or yesterday's Kumlien's Gull). The back-up cast included a trickle of northbound visible migrants (Meadow Pipits along West Cliffs and 2 Chaffinches over the Bill), the Great Skua again at Ferrybridge, a Black Redstart at the Bill, 2 Red-throated Divers through off the Bill and 19 Black-necked Grebes, 10 Great Northern Divers, 8 Slavonian Grebes, 4 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Black-throated Divers, the Eider and the Black Guillemot in Portland Harbour.
Iceland Gull, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Kumlien's Gull - Chesil Cove, Ferrybridge and off Blacknor, 4th March 2014 © Pete Saunders (Iceland Gull and Pale-bellied Brent) and Martin Cade (Kumlien's Gull)
...and a little video clip that gives some indication of how distant the Kumlien's Gull was as it bobbed around off West Cliffs south of Blacknor Point:
Gulls were back to the fore today, with a welcome prize being a Kumlien's Gull that was first spotted passing through Chesil Cove, before being relocated settled off West Cliffs south of Blacknor Point; one of the Iceland Gulls was also lingering again in Chesil Cove. Early migrant interest was restricted to a handful of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks arriving in/off at the Bill, 39 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a Red-throated Diver passing through on the sea there and singles of Red-throated Diver and Manx Shearwater through off Chesil Cove. Winterers/long-stayers still making the list included the Firecrest at Suckthumb Quarry, the Great Skua at Ferrybridge and 187 Mediterranean Gulls, 19 Black-necked Grebes, 8 Great Northern Divers, 5 Black-throated Divers, 4 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Slavonian Grebes and singles of Eider and Black Guillemot still in Portland Harbour.
As usual at this time of year we're probably getting ahead of ourselves and hoping for more than is realistic. Nonetheless, despite looking promising for the likes of alba wagtails and Meadow Pipits trickling in, migrant-wise today didn't come up with anything of consequence beyond another Contintental Stonechat at the Bill. Movement at sea included 17 Common Scoter, 12 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a Manx Shearwater off the Bill, whilst one of the Iceland Gulls was again at Chesil Cove.
What early promise there was today rather quickly evaporated as a freshening wind brought with it thickening cloud and eventually an afternoon and evening of rain. A Continental Stonechat provided interest amongst a little arrival of 5 new Stonechats at the Bill, but the rest of the day's news came from the sea: 2 Iceland Gulls were in Chesil Cove, where Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls were passing through in some numbers, whilst 33 Common Scoter, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Great Crested Grebes, a Red-throated Diver and Black-throated Diver passed through off the Bill. Sadly, dead seabirds continue to be washed up on Chesil Beach: today's haul of 107 between the skatepark and Ferrybridge included 56 Razorbills, 41 Guillemots, 5 Kittiwakes, 2 Puffins and a Manx Shearwater; the majority of these birds were again un-oiled and most were severely underweight.
Iceland Gull - Portland Castle, 1st March 2014 © Andrew Maynard
On a lovely mild, sunny day spring was announced in the form of new arrivals/visible passage on land, overhead and at sea, including a Goldcrest at Avalanche Road, 2 alba wagtails in/off and a Rook at the Bill, 42 Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill and at least 7 Common Buzzards wandering widely overhead. We're beginning to lose track of the white-winged gull tally, but single Iceland Gulls at Chesil Cove and Portland Castle provided today's entertainment for the larophiles. Further interest from perhaps the most fulsome day-list thus far this year came in the form of the likes of 2 Purple Sandpipers and a Black Redstart at the Bill, a Black Redstart at Reap Lane, 3 Slavonian Grebes off Chesil Beach and at least one of the Black Guillemots - along with seemingly dwindling numbers of divers and grebes - in Portland Harbour.
From well off-island but sure to be of interest, today sees the launch of the brand new Flamborough Bird Observatory website - go to fbo.org.uk and bookmark it now for latest sightings and much more.