1st May

Thank goodness for the sea at the moment. Passerine migration - at least with the honourable exception of diurnal hirundines - seems to have ground to a halt this week: despite far damper conditions than expected or forecast Swallows and Sand Martins, together with a single Hobby, continued to trickle through in fair numbers but if there were nocturnal migrants on the move - which we seriously doubt given the night had been even more constantly damp and drizzly - they didn't deign to drop in, with 5 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Whinchats, 2 Sedge Warblers and singles of Redstart, Black Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler easily the best of it on the ground at the Bill. Sea passage was hardly compelling, as much because there was so little else moving to relieve the tedium between appearances of the always fickle skuas; however, their tally reached what in the circumstances was a very respectable 12 Arctics, 7 Pomarines and 1 Great through off the Bill. Four Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a Little Gull were the only other particularly notable loggings from there.

Our occasional musings on ageing and sexing - usually from the angle of being lucky enough to get to handle the birds in question - aren't usually aimed at ringers but rather at ordinary birders who could easily pick up on the features we draw attention to in the field; today's little dabble into Whitethroats, however, is perhaps just as much aimed at ringers is it features example of birds of known age. First off, Whitethroats are really tricky birds with fabulously complicated and variable moults that makes ageing and sexing them notoriously difficult - these days we only 'do' the very beautiful and usually obvious full adult males and at the other end of the spectrum bird that have very worn, sullied brownish outer tail-feathers that have to be last year's youngsters; everything else of inbetweeny appearance gets lumped up as of unknown age and sex. No doubt in the next few days and weeks we'll get some more example to feature but to start with here are two birds we're 100% sure of the age of because they were first ringed last summer as locally-bred juveniles and returned today still obviously wearing their rings. Without the evidence of the ring number the first individual would have sat squarely in the inbetweeny category even if we'd have taken a punt in our mind on it being a first-summer male...

...since it still possesses one heavily worn and obviously brown-washed outer tail-feather our second individual was clearly born last summer and we'd take a guess at it being a female. These two birds were trapped together and it'll be interesting to see if they stick around, pair up if they haven't already, and breed © Martin Cade: