10th November

There was little enthusiasm for prolonged fieldwork under constantly dreary skies and in a very stiff westerly. At the Obs there didn't look to be any evidence of new arrivals, with the handful of Chiffchaffs and 'crests, that included at least 1 Firecrest, all lingering ringed birds; elsewhere, Black Redstarts at the Bill (2) and Blacknor (3) were also presumed lingerers, whilst 7 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were again amongst the brents at Ferrybridge. Some more inconsequential seawatching came up with 6 Common Scoter through off the Bill.

With the temperature remaining unusually high there were still immigrant moths about, even if conditions were hardly favourable for catching them; the overnight tally at the Obs consisted of 6 Rusty-dot Pearl, 3 Silver Y and a Gem.

Short-eared Owl - Portland Bill, 10th November 2015 © Martin Cade

...another day, another dead body - today's victim being a Short-eared Owl found moribund beside the Bill Road at dawn:

Although it's of somewhat esoteric interest we thought we ought to try and learn something about ageing and sexing Short-eared Owls as there's better literature available these days than when we last handled one; Moult, ageing and sexing of Finnish Owls looks to be the definitive resource, although there's also lots of helpful stuff online in the Short-eared Owl section of Javier Blasco-Zumeta's always useful website. Ageing seems to be pretty straightforward, with the strong 'V' pattern on the tip of the central tail feathers confirming that this is a bird of the year; evidently adults have more heavily marked central tail feathers that lack this clearly defined 'V':

The tail also offered an immediate clue to sexing: males evidently have the barring on the outer tail feather confined to the inner web; however, although our bird has barring on the outer web, it has fewer bars than the 3-5 which would be usual for a female. If the tail pattern wasn't wholly conclusive then the patterning on the inner web of the outer secondaries looked to be spot on for a female (well defined barring on a female vs almost unmarked in a male):

The richly buff abdomen and thighs was another female feature (paler on a male), even if the strength of streaking in this area (narrow c1mm on a male; broader 2-3mm on a female) didn't entirely favour either sex. Further female features were the dark facial disc (paler on a male) and the presence of barring on the underwing along the whole length of the secondaries (more fragmented on a male):

Finally, it was interesting to get a close look at the quite extraordinary ear structure: