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Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

20th June

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:01
 

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm this Saturday, 23rd June.
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19th June

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 22:07
Today's only migrant interest concerned an increase in (returning?) Dunlin at Ferrybridge where they were up to 28 in the evening.
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18th June

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 23:02
An announcement for Obs members that this year's AGM - the first AGM since our change to Charitable Incorporated Organisation status - will be held at 4.30pm on Saturday 14th July; buffet refreshments - weather permitting, including a barbeque - will be provided after the meeting. Our new charitable status does bring with it the need to be as open to scrutiny by the membership as we have been in the past and we're hoping for a good attendance at the meeting. An agenda for the meeting can be found by clicking here.

Hardly anything worth a mention today: a few Manx Shearwaters, 5 Common Scoter and an unidentified skua passed by the Bill and 2 lingering Chiffchaffs were still about on the land there.

A Delicate at the Grove was the night's only noteworthy immigrant moth.


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17th June

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 08:40
A day of increasingly grim conditions, with the fog blown in on a freshening wind so thick by the late afternoon that the sea was no longer visible from the Obs. The only reports were of 50 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter and singles of Arctic Skua and Mediterranean Gull through off the Bill and 2 Arctic Skuas through over Ferrybridge.

Two Delicates were the only immigrant moths trapped overnight at the Obs.
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16th June

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 23:58
Very little to report that would be of even the slightest interest to anyone from off-island: 44 Common Scoter passed through off the Bill, a Turnstone was new on the land there and 2 Dunlin, a Black-headed Gull and a Mediterranean Gull were at Ferrybridge.

Since it's looking like the spring passage of all but the tardiest individual common migrants has fizzled out we thought it'd be timely to have a quick review of how the season's panned out for some of our most numerous migrants; as before, this is perhaps easiest to gauge by having a peek at the Obs ringing totals. From what we've heard from elsewhere we get the impression that the numbers of both migrants on the coast and breeders inland are considered to be well down this year, but this wasn't entirely reflected at Portland. Willow Warbler and Whitethroat were perhaps the most conspicuous losers - as much because they're usually so numerous here - but maybe a little more under the radar were the notably poor totals of Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. Chiffchaff, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher were right on par with recent years, whilst Blackcap has been doing so well lately that the slight drop in their numbers was, arguably, only what might have been expected in an indifferent season. Garden Warbler looks have bounced right back from a series of poor years and Spotted Flycatcher was the biggest winner of all among the long distance migrants, with not far off record numbers ringed this spring. Finally, bearing in mind the severity of the late winter it was a welcome surprise that both 'crests looked to have survived really well.

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15th June

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 21:50
A little selection of migrants heading in both directions at the Bill today: a singing Reed Warbler was no doubt a typically late arrival whilst a Spotted Flycatcher was also most likely an incoming bird; the 2 Blackcaps were found on examination in the hand to have well-formed brood patches so were presumably departing failed breeders. Other odds and ends making the list included 3 lingering Chiffchaffs and a Chaffinch at the Bill where 4 Common Scoter, a Black-headed Gull and a handful of Manx Shearwaters passed by on the sea.
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14th June

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 23:07
A breezy and at least briefly drizzly morning saw a little action on the sea, with Manx Shearwaters trickling past Chesil Cove and the Bill and 22 Common Scoter and 2 tardy Great Northern Divers also through off the Bill. The rapid return of sunny skies by midday allowed for some land coverage with a Reed Warbler the only new arrival apparent at the Bill.

Immigrant moth numbers at the Obs dropped to just 3 Silver Y, a Green Oak Tortrix and a Rusty-dot Pearl.

Late news for yesterday: a Short-eared Owl was at the Bill.
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13th June

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 00:53
With the expected break down of the recent fair weather holding off until late in the afternoon there was ample opportunity for coverage today, with two nice highlights providing equally ample evidence for what can still drop in at this time of year: a crack of dawn Rosy Starling was a brief visitor to Blacknor (with a later report of one flying over at the Bill), whilst a Golden Oriole was in song for a while during the morning at Culverwell. A Reed Warbler was also of note at the Bill where 50 Common Scoter passed through on the sea. Overnight, 9 more Storm Petrels had been sound-lured and trapped at the Bill.

The overnight immigrant/dispersing moth tally at the Obs consisted of just 4 Silver Y, 3 each of Green Oak Tortrix and Rusty-dot Pearl, and 2 Diamond-back Moth.

The Golden Oriole was singing - and calling - quite well at times but afforded no more than the odd glimpse as it flashed between trees; we did get a few recordings of it, a snippet of which we've overlayed onto a bit of scene-setting video (...you probably shouldn't really say such things but it was one of those moments on an idyllically balmy morning when you think: 'Blimey, we're getting paid to do this!') © Martin Cade:

By Portland standards, we've had a pretty successful start to the Storm Petrel season with 20 birds trapped over the last couple of nights (getting paid to also get dangerously sleep-deprived might seem like a perverse thing to want to do but there's something so compelling and exciting about petrel-catching that we can't help but to keep going back for more of it). The most interesting of these was the recapture of a bird that we'd first ringed in June 2015; we've had a few subsequent year retraps in the past but never one from as long ago as three years - in all probability these records refer to wandering immatures but we've always wondered if there isn't actually a chance that Storm Petrel might breed at somewhere like West Weare where there's a wealth of seemingly suitable habitat © Martin Cade:
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12th June

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 22:29
The smallest of pulses of late passage included a nice highlight in the form of a Golden Oriole that was flushed from the Obs Quarry but couldn't be found again; other arrivals/movers included singles of Whinchat and Reed Warbler at the Bill, 8 Mediterranean Gulls through off the Bill, a Hobby through at Blacknor and 14 Dunlin and 2 Whimbrel at Ferrybridge. Overnight, a total of 11 Storm Petrels were sound-lured and trapped at the Bill.

The first Marbled Whites of the year were on the wing at Southwell.

A small increase in immigrant/dispersing moths saw 19 Diamond-back Moth, 8 Silver Y and singles of Green Oak Tortrix, Rusty-dot Pearl, Orange Footman and Cream-bordered Green Pea; a similar variety from other sites included a White Satin caught at Reap Lane.

Late news for yesterday: 2 Red-veined Darter dragonflies were seen briefly in different spots at the Bill.

Fulmar at Southwell today © Pete Saunders... 


...and a Silver-studded Blue from Broadcroft BC reserve © Ken Dolbear: 

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11th June

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 22:15
Very little to report on the bird front with no new migrants on the land and just 17 Manx Shearwaters and 10 Common Scoter through on the sea at the Bill. 
Overnight conditions were again very good for moth-trapping but seemingly less than helpful for immigration and dispersal; immigrant totals at the Obs were 17 Silver Y, 6 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl and the first Delicate of the year.
Although the lesson of history is that there's still a long way to go before we can rest easy that there isn't a late spring rarity lurking somewhere, the feel over the last couple of days is that the forecast upcoming break down in the current long settled spell of weather won't do any harm; in the meanwhile the conditions have been lovely - if pretty unrewarding - for at least being out looking; Kestrel © Dan Law: 


Although a lot of our moth-trapping just recently has involved making the most of the nice conditions by getting out and about inland the static moth traps around the island have been pretty busy; with one or two exceptions immigration has been a bit of a non-event but there are plenty of nice local specials on the wing now, including Portland Ribbon Wave © Debby Saunders...


...and Samphire Knot-horn Epischnia asteris © Martin Cade:

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10th June

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:37
On an increasingly warm and sunny day the only migrant interest concerned 2 more new Chiffchaffs at the Obs, a Hobby thorough at Southwell, 25 Common Scoter through off the Bill and 3 Dunlin at Ferrybridge.

Although the moth-traps remain very busy with resident fare there seems to be very little immigration afoot: 9 Rusty-dot Pearl, 7 Diamond-back Moth and 5 Silver Y constituted the night's tally at the Obs.
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9th June

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 23:34
A couple more June oddballs livened up proceedings today: a Hoopoe was flushed from a path at Wallsend but couldn't be found again after it disappeared into nearby horse-paddocks, whilst an equally brief Marsh Harrier passed through at the Bill. Singles of Yellow Wagtail and Chiffchaff were the only new commoner migrants at the Bill, a few Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Scoter and singles of Great Skua and Mediterranean Gull passed through off the Bill and a Bar-tailed Godwit was new at Ferrybridge.

Immigrant lepidoptera interest remained at a fairly low level. By day, Painted Ladys have got a little more widespread although not at all numerous, with reports of ones and twos throughout the island today. Overnight, immigrant/dispersing moths trapped at the Obs included 14 Silver Y, 6 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl, singles of Orange Footman and Marbled White-spot and a Red Admiral butterfly.

We keep pondering the question at this time of year but never arrive at a satisfactory answer: what is it with Chiffchaffs - why do they have such an amazingly long spring migration period? We all know they arrive early but at least here at Portland it's the long drawn out tail end of spring passage that's so puzzling and so unlike that of every other summer migrant that passes through. This year hasn't been at all out of the ordinary in coming up with new Chiffchaffs throughout late May and early June - no less than 21 have been ringed in June alone - which wouldn't be odd if it weren't for the fact that spring passage started in the second week of March and has been trundling along without a stop ever since (up until today we've only not ringed a new Chiffchaff on six dates since 24th March) © Martin Cade:

Today's Bar-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge was a rather sad-looking specimen that looked to have a problem with its plumage © Pete Saunders: 
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8th June

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 22:31
Although late spring/early autumn passage again delivered a small flurry of migrants the day's main interest came in the form of a Subalpine Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs; it was released into the Obs Quarry from where it eventually emerged a couple of hours later only to quickly disappear again across nearby fields. The day's commoner migrants included 5 Chiffchaffs, 2 Wheatears and singles of Ringed Plover, Reed Warbler and Blackcap at the Bill, 19 Common Scoter, 9 Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua through on the sea there and 25 Ringed Plover, 20 Dunlin and 6 Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

As seems to be what's usual at this time of year with what we're presuming is a first-summer female Western Subalpine Warbler the bird's plumage was in a pretty shoddy state...


...the absence of any recent flight feather moult other than a couple of inner secondaries (as would be usual in Western Subalpine Warbler) would seem to rule out that it might be a Moltoni's Warbler...

...the outer tail feathers were of an adult pattern (we've handled first-summers in the past that have the outer feathers literally reduced to a shaft only) but we suspected these feathers had been replaced out of sync with any normal moult...

...finally, it was interesting to discover that the bird had a well-formed brood patch and had presumably at least attempted to breed sometime earlier this spring © Martin Cade:
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7th June

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 21:37
Despite drearier conditions with some light rain for a time during the morning there were few surprises amongst what little was on offer at the Bill, that included 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Lapwings, a Reed Warbler and a Blackcap on the land, another Hobby through overhead and a light trickle of Manx Shearwaters, 6 Common Scoter and 6 Dunlin through on the sea.

Another good overnight catch of moths at the Obs included 12 Diamond-back Moth, 8 Silver Y, 7 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Orange Footman and singles of Bordered White, Dark Sword Grass and Cream-bordered Green Pea by way of immigrants/dispersers.

Apologies to those who've sent us photos in recent days that we still haven't posted - we will try and catch up once we've worked out how to fit 48 hours of jobs/fun into a 24 hour day.
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6th June

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 23:01
A rather thin list for today with arriving, departing, lingering and 'goodness knows what they're up to' migrants featuring. The miscellany at the Bill included 266 Manx Shearwaters, a Barnacle Goose and a commic tern through on the sea, a Hobby through overhead and 2 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Lapwing on the ground, whilst odds and ends elsewhere included a Grey Plover over Reap Lane and 2 Willow Warblers in the centre of the island.

The first Lulworth Skipper of the year was on the wing above Penn's Weare.

By day, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Coombefield Quarry. The overnight immigrant moth tally at the Obs dropped back to just 9 Diamond-back Moth, 3 Silver Y and a Rusty-dot Pearl.

It's been some years since we've remembered to look out for one of the island's speciality beetles - Omophlus pubescens (formerly O. rufitarsis) - but last evening there were a few visiting thrift heads at Ferrybridge (sadly, a nasty traffic accident had blocked the road there this evening so we weren't able to check the situation today). We don't profess to know anything about beetles so most of what follows about pubescens has been gleaned from visiting coleopterists (with apologies if we've got any of it wrong): evidently the Chesil at Ferrybridge is the only UK site and the adult stage lasts just a day or so, with this mass emergence occurring on or about 6th June; we can vouch for it being a mass emergence since we've several times looked for them for days on the trot at the beginning of the month before eventually finding a few on one day, very many thousands the day afterwards and then just a handful the day after that. If they have emerged the adults are very conspicuous and are often crowded several to a thrift head where they evidently feed on the flower's pollen © Martin Cade:


And back to today for a couple of the many Bee Orchids in flower at the Bill now © Martin King:

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5th June

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 07:34
Another samey assortment today: 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Wheatears, a Ringed Plover and a Blackcap at the Bill, well in excess of 250 Swifts through at the Bill (probably a weather related movement rather late passage), 65 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Common Scoter and a Mediterranean Gull through off the Bill and 9 Dunlin and 6 Sanderling at Ferrybridge.
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4th June

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 00:22
Just a small selection of fairly routine late migrants to report today: 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 each of Reed Warbler and Blackcap, and singles of Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill, a Yellow Wagtail over Blacknor and 17 Sanderling at Ferrybridge.

A bumper catch of moths at the Obs included a Many-lined - the first island record for 12 years; the accompanying tally of more routine fare was a less than impressive 7 Diamond-back Moth, 2 each of Rusty-dot Pearl and Silver Y, and singles of Dark Sword Grass and Gold Spot. Elsewhere, there was a noteworthy catch of 9 Orange Footman at the Grove.

For a while in the early/mid 2000s Portland was quite favoured with Many-lined records - today's specimen was our 9th out of a national total of c48 since the species fizzled out as a breeding resident of the Fens in the 19th century © Martin Cade:

The relatively poorly worked north of the island continues to throw up surprises in the moth line: in a rather round about way we received word over the weekend of a mystery larval web on blackthorn at King Barrow Quarry that on investigation today turned out, as had been suggested, to be a nest of Small Eggars; at the time of the first and hitherto only record for the island of an adult attracted to one of the Obs moth-traps last year we speculated that it'd be unlikely that Small Eggar would colonise Portland since the females would find Portland Harbour an insurmountable barrier - what do we know about anything? © Martin Cade:

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3rd June

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 09:39
The loss of the Rosy Starlings that couldn't be found today ended a nice little run of oddities, with only a fly-by Hooded Crow at Blacknor providing minor compensatory interest. In very sunny and warm conditions new commoner migrants were at a premium: 3 Chiffchaffs, a Wheatear and a Lesser Whitethroat were additions to a lingering Black Redstart at the Bill and 21 Sanderling were at Ferrybridge. Sea reports included 47 Common Scoter and a Black-throated Diver through off the Bill.

We secured a nice proof of breeding during the evening when a cursory scan of Portland Harbour revealed a family of Shelducks slowing making their way from the breakwaters (where they probably breed every year although proof is usually lacking) towards Small Mouth - we thought they'd eventually make it under the bridge and into the Fleet but at the last moment they were spooked by a paddle-boarder and were still milling around in the harbour when we had to leave. Rather gormlessly we'd forgotten to put a 'proper' camera in the car so had to resort to phonescoping to record the event - our ineptitude at this technique is plain to see © Martin Cade:


The return of clear skies and sunshine looks to have been the cue for the Rosy Starlings to move on which is a shame since photo opportunities during the latter part of their stay were hindered by fog when it/they were often looking really bedraggled © Nick Hopper:
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2nd June

Sat, 06/02/2018 - 23:41
We begin with the sad news of the passing of Ted Levy; Ted was best known to us at Portland as the co-author with his son, David, of reports on the hoverflies of the island that were published for many years in our annual report. Ted and David worked tirelessly on the hoverfly fauna of this region and published guides to the hoverflies of both Dorset and Somerset. Ted's knowledge and enthusiasm will be sorely missed and we extend our sincere condolences to his sons, Mike and David.

Although the fog made an attempt at a comeback - at least at the Bill where it lingered for several hours either side of midday - today for most part saw a return to the sunny sky and warmth of summer. The birding had a touch of colour about it with the Rosy Starling at the Bill being joined by a second individual - perhaps all the sightings in the last week have related just to the two original birds that found each other again today - and a Red-backed Shrike showing up at Coombefield Quarry. Commoner migrants included 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, and singles of Redstart, Blackcap and Willow Warbler at the Bill, a Reed Warbler at the Grove, singles of Black Redstart and Siskin at Blacknor and 20 Dunlin, 16 Sanderling, 6 Turnstones and 2 Whimbrel at Ferrybridge.

A quite major influx of Silver Ys has been developing in recent days, with large numbers visiting Red Valerian flowers even during the daylight hours; more than 170 were caught overnight in one moth-trap at the Grove. Immigrant totals from the Obs traps included 30 Silver Y, 22 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Rusty-dot Pearl and singles of Dark Sword Grass, Dark Spectacle and Gold Spot. At least 1 Clouded Yellow was at the Bill today.

Just occasionally the best laid plans do come to fruition and Erin's quest for a Red-backed Shrike today involved a lot of legwork but eventually came up with the most handsome of rewards © Erin Taylor (stills) and Martin Cade (video):  




Clouded Yellow and Mother Shipton in the Obs Quarry Field today © Ted Pressey:

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1st June

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 23:26
In contrast to a lot of foggy days at Portland today came up with a decent little arrival of migrants that was all the more noteworthy for occurring so late in the season. The lingering Rosy Starling again stole the show rarity-wise but there was the feeling that if just a few of the folk dropping in to twitch it had troubled to spend a bit of time exploring some underwatched parts of the island then there would surely have been some other rares uncovered. As it was, a Hawfinch at the Obs was the next best on offer whilst the commoner migrant tally at the Bill included 10 Dunlin, 8 Chiffchaffs, 7 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Sanderling, 3 Reed Warblers and 3 Blackcaps. A brief clearance in the fog around midday allowed for an unexpectedly productive seawatch when 50 Common Scoter and 2 Pomarine Skuas passed the Bill in quick time.

Overnight, 43 Silver Y, 3 Diamond-back Moth and a Rusty-dot Pearl made up the immigrant moth catch at the Obs; however, by day both species looked to have become very numerous throughout the island.

It's got to that time of year when new young birds are appearing everywhere you look; this nestbox full of Great Tits were photographed yesterday morning in a garden at Grangecroft Road - apparently by the evening they'd all successfully fledged and left the box © Julie Howarth:  

Our botanical knowledge is woefully inadequate and we can remember many years ago stumbling across this rather distinctive plant in the Obs Quarry field and not having a clue what it was. The late Peter Mowday sorted it out for us and identified it as Tassel Hyacinth - evidently a garden escape that doesn't usually persist. It clearly can persist at times because a couple of weeks ago visiting botanist Nicky Nichol found three spikes of it right out in the middle of the Quarry field - most likely right where it was 15 or more years ago © Martin Cade:  

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