17th November

A birdable couple of hours to start the day before more wind and rain rolled in produced one surprise when a Hen Harrier showed up at the Bill; Goldfinches were also still on the move, with another 220 south at the Bill, but the day's only Wood Pigeons all headed back north without reaching the Bill tip: 2000 headed back towards the mainland over Weston and later another 50 about-turned over Top Fields. Additional interest before the weather closed in included singles of Redwing and Firecrest at the Bill, a Merlin at Weston and 9 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Redshank at Ferrybridge. Storm-driven seabirds amounted to no more than 4 Great Skuas off the Bill during the afternoon.

A Red Admiral was a surprise overnight capture in the Obs moth-traps.

Hen Harrier - Portland Bill, 17th November 2015 © Martin Cade

As a sad reflection of the quality of the rest of the birding we've spent far too long in recent days nipping back and forth to check the gatherings of gulls in the horse fields below Culverwell. Caspian Gull has been the principal target and just as today's heaviest rain set in we clapped eyes on what looked to be a candidate which, unfortunately, quickly upped and left during a mini flush to leave us pondering some pretty inadequate photos:

Having a rudimentary knowledge of Caspian Gulls we knew this was by no means a classic, but equally, once we'd got some literature out, we were struggling to work out why it couldn't be one. Richard Bonser kindly had a look at the photos for us and, whilst highlighted the possibly anomalous features that we'd been concerned about - the apparent darkness of the underwing, the presence of some mottling on the greater coverts and the maybe not quite right scapulars - suggested it had so much else going for it that it likely originated in a Caspian Gull colony where perhaps there are some other genes in the mix. With so many large gulls about at the moment there must be a fair bet it'll pop up again when we might be able to see some finer detail on it.