24th October

Birds didn't exactly return to the fore today but any day with a Pallas's Warbler logged is a day to remember. The Pallas's was trapped at the Obs but its arrival wasn't indicative of any uptick in grounded migrant numbers - if anything it was quieter than on most of the already below-par recent days: a Yellow-browed Warbler was new at Broadcroft, the Wryneck and 2 Cetti's Warblers remained at the Bill, 3 Firecrests were scattered in mid-island and 3 Ring Ouzels and a Dartford Warbler were around the north but there were only the slimmest of pickings on the commoner migrant front. Some respectability was salvaged from overhead, where vismig totals for the Bill included minima of 460 Starlings, 353 Meadow Pipits, 260 Goldfinches and 135 Skylarks, with singles of Merlin and Bullfinch amongst a varied selection of lower totals. Despite the sea getting a fair bit of attention and there being a decent feeding aggregation of routine fare offshore there seemed to be almost no movement afoot (...where did all those Dungeness Little Gulls go?).

Tiny but perfectly formed. For such a long-distance migrant Pallas's Warblers really are staggeringly small, with legs and feet so spindly even in comparison to those of a Goldcrest or Firecrest that whenever we've handled them we've always paid the closest of attention to make sure that our smallest UK ring isn't too big for them © Martin Cade:

We didn't have time yesterday to dwell long on what had been another monumentally good night/day for moths but last night's trapping was utterly spoilt by the strength of the wind and biblical quantities of rain so there's nothing to get in the way of backtracking a night. Our chief prize had been the very freaky-looking pyralid, Cornifrons ulceratalis; this was the most welcome of vagrants since we had the misfortune - not for want of making an extreme amount of effort in trying to get one - of a crushing dip on the only other occasion that this species has reached Britain when an extraordinary 17 were logged during December/January 2015/16. The extreme tectiform resting posture of this species (our specimen rarely sat without the wings being held so tightly together that, distally, they were not separated along the length of the termen) gives it a really odd look which is obviously highly characteristic but seemed to us to maybe invite the possibility of it not being recognised as a moth at all; this 'some other invertebrate' demeanor was accentuated in our specimen at least by the vaguely caddis-like colouration.

Our specimen of Dark Mottled Willow wasn't the best but it did at least renew our acquaintance with a species we hadn't seen since the last century. Our first was in 1990 and was actually the second British record although we didn't realise that at the time: Julian Clarke had caught the first in Cornwall only two nights before but it wasn't until months later when we read Julian's Ent. Rec. account of his capture that it dawned on us what it might be (if we remember rightly that article wasn't illustrated so having some inkling that Julian's description might refer to the same species we posted him a photograph of our specimen to get him to OK it - how times have changed!). Not too long afterwards we jammed the fourth record for Britain as well, with the capture of two in one trap in 1995 - these were such pristine specimens that Bernard Skinner even got in touch and asked if he could have a loan of one of them that still has pride of place on one of the rarity plates in his Colour Identification Guide. The British tally is still only in the 30s so it remains a pretty good quality rarity to this day.

Portland's ninth Crimson Speckled had a nice 'Like father, like son' twist, since it was chivvied up by day on the Slopes at the Bill by Andy Slade whose father, Brian, had found one in the Hut Fields in exactly the same circumstances back in 2006; weirdly, we've still never caught one in a moth-trap at Portland © Martin Cade: