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Saturday 2nd September 2023

A cloudy yet warm day seemed to be quite quiet at the start. However, plenty of birds were moving at sea, 181 teal, 2 arctic skuas, 2 great crested grebes, and 20 gannets moving south, with the latter moving north also. A few backcaps were trickling through the compound along with a handful of willow warblers, whitehtroats and a few more robins. 

Bird of the morning has to go to a 1st year wryneck at the OBs, the first ringed for the year andsecond observed. Scarcely had the excitement of this bird passed when an icterine warbler was found at the Butts, not far from where the aquatic warbler had been but it was sadly not rediscovered. 2 whinchats and 2 wheatears were also notable. 

First noted 6 years ago, Celypha rufana, now lives here in small numbers.

Birds Ringed: Blackcap 4, Robin 2, Whitethroat 1, Willow warbler 1, Wryneck 1.

Friday 1st September 2023

A wet and cold start to the morning, with a slight south easterly wind picking up during the day. Whilst this seemed to mean a very quiet morning for passerines, it was good for seawatching. Our best day for skuas yet this year, with 9 arctic and 2 pomarine heading south along with 15 gannets, 130 teal and 11 common scoter before the skies cleared and the movement lessened. A couple of yellow wagtails went over, and a pied flycatcher was in the compound. 

Non seabird of the day though was a young cuckoo perched outside the kitchen for one lucky observer. We've had a better year for them, but they are still far from common here.

The Crescent is a very infrequent visitor here. Perhaps not surpsingly as wetlands are its preferred habitat.

Birds Ringed: Blackcap 1, Pied Flycatcher 1.


A very different August to last years. For a start, numbers were deceptively down, but only because starlings and house sparrows have hardly come into the observatory grounds this year. Indeed the house sparrows which usually demolish our feeders haven't been present in the helgoland in numbers since spring. This is probably due to an abundance of natural food, as starling numbers seem similar to last year and they're gorging themselves on the blackberry crop, as a lot of our passerines are doing. They've also had ample access to water sources for bathing so our ponds are not as attractive to them this year. 

Willow warblers were more in abundance this autumn, with 107 ringed compared to last years 61. The other warblers were also noticeably up on last year, especially sedge and reed. Both species were in the low double figures, which is over double last August's numbers for both species, indeed sedge were 10 x the numbers caught this time last year. 

Pied flycatchers had a good month with 19 ringed compared to 2022's 6, though spotted were only marginally better than last year with just one ringed, though several others were present during the month.

Despite our overall poor year locally for breeding robins, the numbers ringed this August are almost double that of last year. 

Grey wagtails have started dropping in earlier, as is evidenced by 5 ringed so far, compared to zero last august as they hadn't begun serious movement by that time (presumably).

The observatories, and the years, second Blyth's reed warbler, a first year, was obviously the highlight of the month, being caught on one of our handful of decent migratory days, alongside 7 pied flycatchers, with 7 of the rest caught the next day as the wind returned to the west. 

Obviously ringing activity is very subject to weather conditions and its been a far wetter and windier year than 2022, and that has obviously affected both species productivity and our ability to monitor the population. 

Overall a better month than last August, when you remove 112 starlings and 39 house sparrows ringed, the monthly total was only 171 birds ringed of 23 species, compared to this years 262 of 26 species.



Willow Warbler






Pied Flycatcher


Lesser Whitethroat






Reed Warbler


Sedge Warbler




Grey Wagtail


Blue Tit






Great Spotted Woodpecker


Great Tit








Wood Warbler


Blyth's Reed Warbler


Pied Wagtail


Spotted Flycatcher




Garden Warbler






Thursday 31st August 2023

A return to normality after yesterdays aquatic excitment. Migrants were thin on the ground, but the locals put on a good show. In response to the local sparrowhawks the starlings murmurated above the observatory much to our delight. The sparrowhawk did not have much luck, having seized a starling early morning, it was mugged by a juvenile great black backed gull, which in turn lost the meal to a magpie, with the sparrowhawk sadly looking on. Later the sparrowhawk returned and sparred with the magpie, but the starling was long since gone. A single blackcap was not the first of many, so we'll have to wait a little longer for their numbers to build up. Another reed warbler ringed in the Observatory takes us up to 11 for the month, significantly higher than last August.

Formerly abundant, the Snout appears to be having a lean year, perhaps as a result of the dry weather last year.

Birds Ringed: Blackcap 1, Great Tit 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Reed Warbler 1.

Wednesday 30th August 2023


For those who didn't know it birding Landguard involves a degree of perserverance & hard work that very occasionally produces the unexpected. The first site record of Aquatic Warbler showed well this afternoon, with a bit of patience, on the Butts. Otherwise a fairly predictably quiet late August morning with southbound 72 Swallow, 2 Sand Martin, Curlew, Marsh Harrier & Oyk. On site 4 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Wheatear, 2 Redstart, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff plus the first 3 Chaffinch of the autumn.

Latticed Heath appears in variable numbers and has recently been added to the Red List as "Near threatened".

Ringing: 2 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat.

Tuesday 29th August 2023

Another north westerly surprised us by producing a couple of pied flycatchers, perhaps remnants of last weeks eastern influx trickling down the coast. A few other migrants were present, including a young willow warbler trying out his singing voice, which was an odd soundtrack for an August day. A 1st year male blackcap was our first for a while, and hopefully a herald of more as this is the time they begin to pass through. 

Terns and gulls were still feeding out front, despite much searching a black tern could not be found, but an arctic was briefly feeding with 28 common and 7 sandwich terns.

We've only recorded Antler moth in 7 previous years.

Birds Ringed: Blackcap 1, Grey Wagtail 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Pied Flycatcher 2, Robin 3, Whitethroat 1.  


Monday 28th August 2023

A return to the brisk north westerlies today brought in a handful of migrants. Out on the water in front of the observatory we've done better for black terns than '22, and 3 today was our highest count of the year, as well as beng the first time a black tern photo has appeared on the blog. 

A tree pipit was also new in and another osprey headed south east, upsetting all the gulls and pigeons on the docks.

A male lesser emperor dragonfly at the Butts was the first we've had this year.

Orange Swift is a classic autumnal species.

Birds Ringed: Grey Wagtail 1, Wren 1.


Sunday 27th August 2023


Wheatear numbers very poor so far this autumn - although on the plus side the vegetation looks lush for the time of the year.

Southbound 36 Sand Martin, 22 Oyk, 9 Swallow, 3 Turnstone, Teal & Whimbrel. Offshore early on 18 Sandwich, 6 Common, Black & Little Tern. On site 5 Willow Warbler, 3 Wheatear, 3 Whitethroat, Grey Wag & Spot Fly. Finally a Marsh Harrier came in off the sea.

The second site record of Portland Moth. However all is not what it seems as it has transpired that one was released illegally onto the SSSI yesterday after the guilty party confessed their sins. We did think that it was a bit fresh for a migrant.

Ringing: 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Robin, 1 Spotted Flycatcher.