17th May

Clear skies and a north-westerly breeze didn't bode at all well for migrants and it was quite a surprise that variety was as good as it was, even if numbers were nothing special. A Nightingale was the best of the arrivals at the Bill, where 8 Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Chiffchaffs and ones/twos of Yellow Wagtail, Black Redstart, Wheatear, Whinchat, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Yellowhammer all made the tally; a similar array graced sites around the centre of the island, whilst 80 Dunlin, 10 Sanderling, 3 Knot, 2 Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit were at Ferrybridge. Two Shelduck and singles of Great Northern Diver, Little Egret and Pomarine Skua passed through off the Bill.

Whimbrel - Ferrybridge, 17th May 2015 © Pete Saunders

Today's Nightingale was only glimpsed once or twice but it was singing quite well at times:

Being in exactly the same spot and on nearly the same date as the Obs Quarry Thrush Nightingale of 2008, today's bird did get us going when we first heard it singing from as far away as the Obs patio and, not hearing either species often enough to readily recognise them, we found ourselves having to have a quick listen to recordings of each before we were absolutely sure of its identity. We well remember initial difficulties in sorting out both of Portland's recent singing Thrush Nightingales so once today's bird had gone quiet we had a longer listen through our various recordings to try and sort out an 'easy' way of remembering them for the next time. Here's a couple of sequences of the 2008 Obs Quarry Thrush Nightingale:

Here's a Nightingale in the Obs garden in May 2012:

And, finally, this is last year's Top Fields Thrush Nightingale:

To our ears it seems like Thrush Nightingale just doesn't shut up - it churns away without ever really stopping - whereas Nightingale has distinct bursts of several seconds of song with similar length gaps of silence between each of these phrases. Thrush Nightingale also seems to blast off regular little staccato 'toy machine gun' rattles which we're not hearing in the Nightingale songs. We may well be being simplistic here - this certainly isn't a large sample and in each case the birds are patently stray migrants that mightn't be singing in an entirely typical fashion - but since there's a tendency to be awestruck rather than attentive to differences when encountering a singing migrant nightingale these pointers might be useful.