A week at Portland Bird Observatory, 15th – 22nd October 2017

Our last week at Portland was in September this year and ended with a Greenish Warbler in the hand on the final day. This latest visit started with a Radde’s Warbler within an hour of our arrival. Result! Only the second one we have seen in the UK

In general the weather and the birds were typical for October, with the expected passage larks, thrushes, and finches etc. moving through in reasonable numbers whilst a handful of Hawfinches put in brief appearances around the Observatory and a pair of Bearded Tits passed through quickly. Despite the wind and lashing rain, a Red-breasted Flycatcher provided a pleasant, if brief and damp, diversion on 19th October.

The crop fields adjacent to the Observatory, now part of a stewardship scheme and planted specifically to provide cover and winter food for birds, held a spectacular whirling flock of up to 2,500 linnets, numbers which reminded me of days gone by when agriculture was less intense. It will be a brave birder who tries to find a Rosefinch or Twite in amongst that lot!

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I’ll never tire of ringing these beauties!

The star bird of the week had to be Firecrest, with a major fall on the 15th October. They seemed to be present in every patch of suitable cover and 68 were ringed on that first day, more than the highest annual total for the Observatory. The fall was not confined to Portland and large numbers were reported from south Devon to Nanjizal and also along the Dutch coast. During our week at the Observatory 146 were ringed and numbers would have been higher had it not been for the intervention of storms Ophelia and Brian which curtailed operations for three days. We returned home on the 22nd, after Brian had blown itself out, and hoping that there would still be a few lingering at South Milton when I next get the nets up.

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