28th September

There's been a lot going on this week and today carried on in a similar vein with overnight rain and wind dropping a nice little selection of scarce and less frequent migrants; it was relatively quiet on the ground for commoner fare but the clearing skies of dawn did prompt a strong pulse of passage overhead. A Little Bunting that dropped into a net in the Crown Estate Field soon after dawn was the day's chief prize, with a worthy selection of back-ups that included single Yellow-browed Warblers at Thumb Lane and Blacknor, a fly-by Hoopoe in a private garden at Southwell, a Wryneck at Sheat Quarry, Southwell, a Marsh Harrier over Southwell, a Treecreeper at Weston and a Lapland Bunting over at the Obs. Firecrests were well represented, with perhaps as many as 20 scattered about the island (including 10 in the vicinity of the Obs) and although there were few really worthwhile totals amongst the grounded commoner migrants most of the expected species got at least some sort of look in. It was busier overhead, with 800 Meadow Pipits and 300 alba wagtails dominating the tally over the Bill where a variety of other typical mid-autumn movers chipped in with decent totals.

It was too windy overnight to have expected much reward from the moth-traps: the Delicate total at the Obs dropped to just 9 but unexpected interest came in the form of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth at the Grove and a total of 5 Hummingbird Hawkmoths from traps at the Obs and the Grove.

Although we've been lucky enough to stumble across Little Buntings either in the field or hanging up in mist-nets quite often over the years they're one of those rather exquisite little things that you never tire of...

...the gloss was taken off today's discovery though when we straight away noticed that the bird didn't have a tail - a scenario like this is the sort of thing that you dread in a very public spot like a bird obs when you know that there's a demanding audience to please just around the corner and that they'll squarely blame you for any mishap of this sort. Since we knew that we weren't responsible we even took the trouble to scour about under the net looking for the missing feathers on the assumption that this hapless rarity had had a run-in with a predator; when this drew a blank we had a closer look at the bird again and were amazed to discover that in fact it did have a tail but that this consisted of tiny 'in-pin' feathers that were completely hidden by the upper and under tail coverts - clearly it had lost its tail a good fortnight or more ago and the new feathers were just now re-growing. It's testament to how determined some migrants are to stick to their schedule that they don't let an event like this that must severely compromise their capabilities get in their way; this temporary rudderless existence maybe also explains how the bird pitched up well off course at Portland! © Martin Cade: 

It's not often that a Portland rarity is discovered this early in the morning so there wasn't quite the gathering of admirers that a Little Bunting - even a tail-less one - would otherwise have merited © Martin King:

After a bit of a duff autumn last year it was nice to see Firecrests back where they belong as one of the features of Portland at this time of year © Pete Saunders (upper photo) and Joe Stockwell (lower photo):

Some species occasionally cause ID difficulties through their anonymous appearance and creepy habits - Garden Warbler is one that quite often causes problems for learner birders (helpfully, this one at Southwell today was posing right out in the open) © Pete Saunders... 

...but now and again it's a context issue that can cause problems; this Sedge Warbler lurking high up in the canopy of the sycamores at Thumb Lane this morning was so out of context that it could easily have led to thoughts of other rarer possibilities if it hadn't shown just enough of its upperparts to allow it to be clinched (...it helps to have a camera to hand as well) © Duncan Walbridge: