31st March

March fizzled out on the migrant front, with more seemingly perfect fall conditions - a drizzly dawn after a clear night - not delivering the goods. There was ever so slightly more about than in recent days but for the Bill at this time of year an arrival of a few dozen phylloscs and maybe just into double figures of Wheatears is way off the mark; the long-staying Iceland Gull did put in an appearance over the Obs shortly after dawn to provide a morsel of quality. Quite why visible passage has hardly featured at all in recent days remains a mystery. With so few distractions on the land the sea got plenty of attention and returned totals of 56 Common Scoter, 11 Red-throated Divers, 8 Sandwich Terns, 7 Velvet Scoter and singles of Black-throated Diver, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Common Tern through off the Bill.

Butterfly interest included the Bill's first Red Admiral of the year, whilst 4 Dark Sword Grass and a single Silver Y constituted the immigrant moth tally at the Obs.

A bit of today's sea action - Gannets, Velvet Scoters, Great Skua and Kittiwake © Keith Pritchard:

We got a bit of a shock during the afternoon when we came across this quite startling-looking Chiffchaff in a net at the Obs; we're always vaguely on the look out for things that could just be Iberian Chiffchaffs and on cursory inspection this bird looked to tick a lot of boxes: yellow supercilium, bright green upperparts (maybe not as mossy as the famous Verne Common songster of 1999 that we did inspect in the hand, but certainly a good bit brighter than is perhaps conveyed in the somewhat sun-bleached snap below), pale based lower mandible, white belly, yellow under-tail coverts, amber legs etc - basically it looked a whole lot like a Willow Warbler but had the structure of a Chiffchaff:

By coincidence, earlier in the day we'd only just been discussing Iberian Chiffchaffs with Grahame Walbridge, who'd alerted us to a recent paper in Ardeola that evidently discredits the published discriminant methods hitherto used to distinguish the species from Common Chiffchaff. Structurally, today's bird wasn't noticeably different from Common Chiffchaff - eg 2nd = 8th - and since with a wing of 57mm it was a fair bet it was a female it was unlikely it was going to sing for us (frustratingly, it also didn't call on release). It'll be interesting to see what the genes tell us about this one © Martin Cade: