19th September

A building anticyclone brought a return to summer on the weather front with wall-to-wall blazing sunshine and just the faintest waft of a breeze; despite these seemingly unfavourable conditions there was plenty to see even if quality wasn't really a feature. On the ground a small pulse of Goldcrests was evident in most patches of trees and there were signs of an overdue build-up in Linnet numbers, but other than example totals at the Bill of 15-30 of most of the other expected commoner migrants there was little else worth a mention beyond oddities that included 2 Green Sandpipers there. Although moving hirundines featured in good numbers everywhere, visible passage was perhaps more subdued than might have been hoped; 100 Yellow Wagtails over the Bill - where the autumn's first 2 Redpolls also passed through - was the only total worth singling out.

The immigrant moth situation changed very little, with 2 White-speck, a Scarce Bordered Straw and a Small Mottled Willow the only scarcities at the Obs. Elsewhere, 2 Convolvulus Hawk-moths were at Southwell, whilst a Square-spot Dart at West Grove Terrace constituted only the third Portland record of a species that could plausibly be in the course of getting established on the island.

Yellow Wagtail, Long-winged Conehead and Square-spot Dart - Portland Bill and the Grove, 19th September 2015 © Will Bown (Yellow Wag), Martin King (Long-winged Conehead) and Martin Cade (Square-spot Dart)

We're well aware that we've sadly neglected in recent months/years our formerly regular little features on ageing and sexing; this hasn't been intentional, but just reflects us digressing into all sorts of other areas that have taken our fancy. We still might dip into the backlog of photos that continues to accumulate but in the meanwhile we've been fortunate in recent days to tap into a run of Whinchats that are worth a look at. On the basis of the colour of the inside of the upper mandible - which is said to be a diagnostic ageing feature -  these four birds were all first-years, although you'd be hard pushed to be sure of that on field views; sex-wise, largely based on the tail pattern we have them down as a female (the top one) and three males: