25th October

This year's been very kind when it comes to unblocking Portland bogeys: spring dealt us perhaps the most long-standing of all when the Great Spotted Cuckoo showed up, whilst the Red-eyed Vireo a couple of weeks ago allowed us to claw back a species that had been inaccessible on its only other island appearance; today came up with what's surely the most long-overdue autumn rare - a Red-flanked Bluetail that conveniently dropped into a net at the Obs. It would have been a pretty decent day without the bluetail: in lovely, sunny and mild conditions common migrants that had been dropped by heavy rain overnight were present in both quantity and variety - Robin and Goldcrest topped 50 apiece at the Bill and thrushes were conspicuous everywhere - whilst oddities included 5 Yellow-browed Warblers, the long-staying Hen Harrier, 2 Bearded Tits (singles at the Bill and Broadcroft) and a showy Turtle Dove (at Reap Lane for its second day); scarcer migrants included 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Firecrests, 2 each of Merlin and Yellowhammer, and a late Garden Warbler at the Bill and singles of Woodcock and Short-eared Owl at Avalanche.

A small influx of immigrant moths included 2 more Radford's Flame Shoulder - this time at Sweethill; the tally at the Obs included 57 Rusty-dot Pearl, 51 Rush Veneer, 29 Diamond-back Moth, 2 Dark Sword Grass and singles of Olive-tree Pearl, Vestal, Pearly Underwing, Delicate, White-speck and Silver Y.

Red-flanked Bluetail and viewers © Nick Hopper (in hand) and Martin King (the crowd)

The Reap Lane Turtle Dove showed really nicely © Mark Eggleton (still) and Martin Cade (video):

...as did this Ring Ouzel in the hut fields at the Bill © Roger Hewitt:

At first glance we were amazed by how blue the Bluetail was and assumed it had to be an adult male; however, close examination soon revealed what appeared to be a single 'non-blue' edged outer greater covert - what we presumed to be a juvenile feather - on each wing which, together with the brownish-rimmed tertials and pointed tail feathers, suggested it was a bird of the year. Further research though seems to indicate that in terms of, for example, head pattern and blueness, it's way outside the normal range of first-winter plumage (there doesn't seem to be any evidence of post juvenile moult ever being extensive enough to account for a plumage pattern like this) so we're guessing that it has to be an older bird after all.