1st December

If November went out in style then December came out of the blocks in much the same vein when a Barred Warbler was trapped and ringed at the Obs shortly after dawn; although there have been three previous November records of Barreds (the latest of which was on 14th) this was the first for the month of December. At a local level, the morning also came up with a potentially even bigger rarity when 4 likely Egyptian Geese passed through off the Bill; sadly though the observer wasn't completely confident on the tail-end views that Ruddy Shelduck had been satisfactorily eliminated so this Bill tick will have to be put in abeyance...at least until they're found on the Fleet tomorrow! With the clear skies of the weekend replaced by constant heavy cloud cover tardy migrants were downed at a steady rate throughout the morning. Thrushes accounted for the bulk of the numbers at the Bill, where 72 Redwings, c50 Blackbirds, 11 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush arrived in off the sea and trickled away northwards; 3 new Blackcaps also joined a weekend left-over there and a Curlew passed through, whilst lingerers still about included singles of Short-eared Owl, Black Redstart and Chiffchaff, with further Black Redstarts at Reap Lane (2), Blacknor and Portland Castle. Noteworthy sightings from the sea included 6 Red-throated Divers, 5 Eider, a Brent Goose and a Great Skua through off the Bill.

The moth immigrant tally remained at a samey level, with 4 Rusty-dot Pearl and 3 each of Diamond-back Moth and Silver Y caught overnight at the Obs.

Also on a bird front there are a couple of other snippets of news to report:
Nick Hopper was with us again at the weekend (Saturday night/Sunday morning) undertaking another session of nocturnal sound recording. This was quite an interesting night to try the technique as the sky remained more or less clear throughout (it was starlit and with a half moon visible well into the early hours before some low mist formed for a while) and to the unassisted ear it sounded like the volume of passage overhead was fairly slight; however, Nick reports that the dish picked up totals of 219 Redwings, 19 Song Thrushes, 12 Blackbirds, 4 Fieldfares and singles of Lapwing and Dunlin in a four hour period from 21.40 to 01.40 before - maybe surprisingly - passage dwindled once the mist had set in.
Our other news concerns the Western Bonelli's Warbler trapped and ringed at the Obs back in August. Although this bird conformed in all tangible respects to a Western as opposed to an Eastern Bonelli's, during the handling process we did happen to come by a couple of feathers which we thought we may as well submit to Dr Martin Collinson at the University of Aberdeen for mtDNA analysis. Martin has very kindly been in touch as follows: 'finished the Western Bonelli's from Portland (18/8/2014, HBV514) (our ref PBo01).......confirms it's Western, of course, novel sequence but 2-3 bp different from 3 Western Bonellis, 2-5 bp difference (/932 bp) in GenBank, at least 25 bp different from any Eastern Bonelli's, and also 25 bp different from sibilatrix'.

Barred Warbler - Portland Bill, 1st December 2014 © Martin Cade