13th April

A day with maybe more about than met the eye but there again nothing that even approached being described as a good Portland mid-April fall. It was always dreary and misty enough that migrant activity was subdued at best, with the clearest idea of numbers coming from captures in the Obs garden mist-nets that suggested Blackcap and Willow Warbler reached about 50 each in the Bill area; Chiffchaff got to half that number, with 6 Redwings, 3 each of Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail, 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Ring Ouzels, the first 2 Lesser Whitethroats of the year and singles of Whimbrel, Wheatear, Black Redstart, Brambling and Bullfinch making up the rest of the tally there and additional singles of Ring Ouzel and Black Redstart at Barleycrates Lane and Black Redstart at Blacknor of note elsewhere. A frequently invisible sea returned totals of 46 Manx Shearwaters and 1 Red-throated Diver through off the Bill.

In the immigrant moth line singles of Rusty-dot Pearl at the Obs and Diamond-back Moth at the Grove were both first records for the year.

Joe Stockwell had his recording gear deployed at the Obs overnight and has passed us a short report on the night's happenings: Despite what was clearly a nice still night for migration, things still weren't in the mood and only a small selection of birds were logged. Obvious highlights included 9 passes by Moorhen(s) over an hour between 11pm and midnight - whether or not this was actually 9 different Moorhens remains a mystery although at one point one flew so close to the microphone that its wing beats were audible. Fog set in around 1:30am which prompted a little burst of thrush passage - including 7 Redwing and 3 Song Thrush - as well as 2 Water Rail, Sandwich Tern, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Chiffchaff and Black-headed Gull.

A freshly arrived Tree Pipit that dropped out of the murk at the Bill this morning © Joe Stockwell:

Joe's early round of the Bill also turned up this Black Redstart that he duly trapped:

Conventionally, these grey 'cairii' birds are unsexable and not necessarily even straightforward to age, although the heavily worn, brown tertials and primaries of this individual did at least allow it to be assigned as a second year rather than an adult. On close inspection it turned out that this bird had moulted a good deal more of its wings than would have been expected (generally only some of the coverts are moulted in the post-juvenile moult) and we took it that since the selection of new inner secondaries didn't have the broad white edges of a male then we were safe to assign it as being a female.

Since these 'cairii'-type individuals could be of either sex and both age classes they're usually overwhelmingly the most frequently encountered Black Redstart at this time of year; adult males are less frequent, whilst 'paradoxus' second year males are the scarcest of all - this one was Southwell in April 2006 all Black Redstart photos © Martin Cade: