29th October

After a night of first fog and later heavy rain when migrants - particularly Redwings and Robins - could be heard overhead in quantity there were high expectations at dawn; sadly the rain lingered on far longer than forecast and it wasn't until midday that any serious fieldwork was possible. Although it was apparent even in the rain that many of the nocturnal migrants had managed to avoid landfall there were still a fair few new arrivals about, which included 10 Black Redstarts, 3 Fieldfares, a Ring Ouzel and a Firecrest amongst the thinnish spread of Redwings, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs at the Bill; several of the Chiffchaffs there and elsewhere were clearly cold-coloured and one or two might have clinched as Siberian Chiffchaffs if the conditions hadn't have been so dismal. Elsewhere, 4 Pochards over Ferrybridge were of note.

Overnight moth-trapping intercepted much improved numbers/variety of immigrants, with 90 Rusty-dot Pearl, 5 Diamond-back Moth, 4 Silver Y, 2 each of Rush Veneer and Delicate, and singles of Hummingbird Hawk-moth and Scarce Bordered Straw at the Obs; a Ni Moth at the Grove and 5 Olive-tree Pearl, a Gem and a Scarce Bordered Straw at Duncecroft Quarry were the best of a similar selection at other sites.

Pochard and Ni Moth - Ferrybridge and Portland Bill, 29th October 2014 © Pete Saunders (Pochard) and Martin Cade (Ni Moth)

Also many thanks to Dr Martin Collinson for getting in touch with the results from our two September Lesser Whitethroat feather samples that we hoped he'd have time to have a look at. If we'd have had to put money on it we'd have guessed that both would have turned out to be Siberian Lesser Whitethroats but although the mtDNA revealed that the bird first trapped at the Obs on 22nd September that subsequently settled in the Obs Quarry until 2nd October was indeed a blythi, the individual trapped on 13th September was 'just' a nominate curruca. With this knowledge it's worth having another look at the in-hand photographs of these birds (© Martin Cade):

Sadly we didn't take these images under any sort of standardised conditions so it's very difficult to interpret the subtleties of plumage tones and the like, save to say that in life both birds looked to be noticeably brown-backed/naped. As hoped, the amount of white on the outer tail feathers was considerably greater on the blythi, which also showed more than a suggestion of a ghosting of paleness about the tip of the penultimate feather. Of much more concern, at least from the point of view of future random captures of similar looking birds, was the fact that the wing structure of both was more of less identical, with both having the short 2nd primary usually considered characteristic of blythi; the conspicuously longer primary projection of the blythi was also against expectations. A selection of field photos of the blythi are on Steve Smith's blog and Brett Spencer's blog.