Portland Bird Observatory
and Field Centre
Latest news - June 2013
Wood Pigeon - Southwell, 12th June 2013 © Pete Saunders
The promised rain set in a vengeance today and restricted opportunities to a good deal of seawatching and some half-hearted searching for migrants. Limited rewards for the seawatchers at the Bill included 2 Great Skuas and singles of Storm Petrel and Little Egret, along with no more than a light tickle of Manx Shearwaters. The land there came up with 3 Chiffchaffs, a Reed Warbler and a Willow Warbler.
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After several weeks of mainly dry weather it was a surprise to wake to a damp dawn, although what might have been very welcome at the height of spring passage succeeded on this late date in dropping at the Bill no more than 4 Reed Warblers and a Chiffchaff. The first Barn Owl for some weeks was unexpected there, but the day's only other reports were of 12 Common Scoter through off the Bill and an Arctic Skua through off Chesil.
The migrant list grows shorter by the day, with today's complete cloud cover at dawn dropping precious little by way of new arrivals. At the Bill another single Jay was the pick of the bunch that otherwise included just 2 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Reed Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs on the land and 23 Common Scoter through on the sea. Elsewhere a Lesser Whitethroat at Wakeham was perhaps more likely a potential breeding bird rather than a passing late migrant.
A day that saw Portland well and truly becalmed in the midsummer doldrums - that time when you know there'll be some more rarities to find but the usually fruitless toil required to eke them out can for the most part seem extremely tedious. Apart from yet more incoming Swifts the day's migrant tally at the Bill consisted of just 3 Willow Warblers and a Wheatear on the land and 16 Common Scoter, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and a Grey Heron through on the sea. Elsewhere, 6 Shoveler and 5 Ringed Plover passed through off Chesil.
Adonis Blue - Nicodemus Knob, 8th June 2013 © Ken Dolbear
Despite the constant presence of a brisk north-easterly today saw a return to the Flaming June conditions that had dominated up until yesterday. The day's highlight was a remarkable, albeit fleeting, sighting of a Black-veined White butterfly that flew rapidly north through the Obs garden during the afternoon; sadly, this unique event was witnessed by just one fortunate observer and later searches for the butterfly drew a blank.
In comparison, bird interest was minimal. Incoming Swifts dominated the migrant tally at the Bill, where more than 200 passed through in 3 hours during the morning, but there was precious little of note amongst the few new arrivals on the ground there; the hybrid Yellow Wagtail was still about near the Obs, whilst a lone overflying Yellowhammer was also of note. Singles of Little Egret and Great Skua were the best of a limited selection though on the sea at the Bill.
Red-rumped Swallow - Portland Bill, 7th June 2013 © Martin Cade
A less than subtle blip in the prevailing fine conditions saw Portland narrowly miss two thunderstorms that crossed the Channel and passed either side of the island early and late in the day. This stir-up in the weather did the trick from the rarity point of view, with an almost subliminal Red-rumped Swallow dashing through at the Bill between the storms; amongst the more routine migrants there was another steady arrival of Swifts and a few hirundines in off the sea, a Siskin was an unseasonable visitor at Southwell, 2 new Willow Warblers were at the Bill and the hybrid Yellow Wagtail from three days ago also showed up there again. Seawatching at the Bill came up with 85 Common Scoter, 2 Gadwall, 2 Great Skuas, a Balearic Shearwater and a Pomarine Skua.
Common Blue and Small Copper - Bottomcombe Quarry, 6th June 2013 © Ken Dolbear
Once again, very little changing. The day's migrant tally at the Bill consisted of 11 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Willow Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, a continuing light tickle of passing Swifts and hirundines and, best of all, a Tree Sparrow that headed north along West Cliffs; a late Common Sandpiper below West Cliffs at Reap Lane was the best of the bunch elsewhere. Late sea passage again featured, with 100 commic terns, 88 Common Scoter and 2 Great Northern Divers through off the Bill and 25 Common Scoter through off Chesil.
More of the same glorious weather but less of the same meagre selection of late migrants. At the Bill 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 each of Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, a single Yellow Wagtail and a few more incoming Swifts consituted the tally of new arrivals, with a few more of a similar selection elsewhere. Five passing Common Scoter were the only birds of note on the sea at the Bill.
Yellow Wagtail - Portland Bill, 4th June 2013 © Martin Cade
...its parentage open to debate.
On another lovely day rewards were scant at best; the brisk easterly breeze that had set in by dawn promised much but, other than a near-miss in the form of a likely Bee-eater heard calling over Southwell, failed to deliver the hoped-for rarity. A miscellany of late commoner migrants dotted about the centre and south of the island included nothing that managed a double figure total, although Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Whinchat, Redstart, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and Redpoll were all represented, whilst overhead Swifts continue to trickle in off the sea in some numbers and a Hobby passed through at Weston. Offshore, the extremely late up-Channel passage of Common Scoters continued with 150 more through off the Bill, but a single Great Northern Diver was the only other worthwhile sighting there.
Garden Warbler - Southwell, 3rd June 2013 © Pete Saunders
The excitement of the weekend was replaced by altogether more mundane fare today, although there was some compensation in the form of the continuing fine weather that at least made the wandering around finding nothing in particular quite pleasurable. The migrant tally at the Bill consisted of little more than 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Reed Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Whinchats on the ground, a trickle of incoming Swifts overhead and 17 Common Scoter, 12 commic terns and 2 Black-headed Gulls through on the sea; a similarly thin selection elsewhere included singles of Garden Warbler at Southwell, Yellow Wagtail over Reap Lane, Mute Swan and Sanderling at Ferrybridge and Common Gull off Penn's Weare.
Common Rosefinch and Eastern Subalpine Warbler - Southwell and Portland Bill, 2nd June 2013 © Pete Saunders (Common Rosefinch) and Brett Spencer Brett's Goosey Ganderings (Subalpine Warbler)
...the Subalpine Warbler had the rather characteristic mix of old and new feathers that readily permitted it to be aged as a first-summer (photos © Martin Cade):
Yesterday produced the quantity, today came up with the quality: a Common Rosefinch in song at Southwell was a not altogether unexpected early morning find, whilst early in the afternoon an Eastern Subalpine Warbler popped up out of the blue in a mist-net at the Obs. On a much quieter day for routine passage Spotted Flycatcher just crept over the 20 mark at the Bill/Southwell, where 4 Reed Warblers, 2 Blackcaps and a Hobby were the only other new arrivals of note. A single passing Great Skua provided the only real interest on the sea at the Bill.
Spotted Flycatcher - Southwell, 1st June 2013 © Pete Saunders
...although there were plenty of good looks to be had at lingering birds, the majority of the day's total involved birds on active passage overhead...
...interspersed amongst them were a few other late migrants like this Willow Warbler (additional photos © Martin Cade):
Portland was treated to a real top-notch migration spectacle today when a combination of factors including clear skies, a brisk northerly and the lateness of the spring - conspired to precipitate a quite astouding visible passage of Spotted Flycatchers at the Bill. The first observer through the Top Fields after dawn reported none until he reached the Privet Hedge, whereupon he was met by the first wave of what was to prove a five hour or so north-bound stream of flycatchers arriving a low level in off the sea from the south; the total of birds passing in close proximity to the Obs reached just over 800 and, allowing for the seemingly lower but uncensused numbers visible at times heading overhead well to the west of the Obs, it seems inconceivable that there weren't well in excess of 1000 birds through by mid-morning. With so many flycatchers about it was easy to overlook that there was another very respectable arrival of other migrants with, for example, the likes of 20 Wheatear, 15 Willow Warblers, 10 Whinchats, 6 Reed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Jays and singles of Whimbrel, Turtle Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail and Redstart at the Bill, along with some quality in the form of a Firecrest and a brief Serin at Southwell