4th June

Remind us to get some lottery number tips from the island resident who told us this morning that the day looked to be a good one for raptors: his assessment was that the puffy cumulus clouds and brisk northerly breeze that followed yesterday's change in the weather were spot on for birds of prey - and how right he was. He himself came up trumps first with a Honey Buzzard that arrived along West Cliffs and quickly headed away north; a Marsh Harrier followed over Reap Lane but it was not until early afternoon when the pièce de résistance was stumbled upon in the most unlikely of settings - a Red-footed Falcon that spent a couple of hours on the sand flats at Ferrybridge. The rest of the day's sightings paled into insignificance, but a steady trickle of passing Swifts overhead, a couple more grounded Reed Warblers and a few passing Manx and Balearic Shearwaters and Mediterranean Gulls offshore are worth a mention.

The Red-footed Falcon - Portland's sixth record - was a great performer © Martin Cade (video) and Pete Saunders (stills):

It's interesting to compare the extent of moult of this bird with that of our last showy Red-footed Falcon in May 2017. Today's individual had moulted precious little of its underwing coverts - we're thinking we can see a few 'new' grey feathers on the leading edge of the lesser underwing coverts on the right wing and on the greater underwing coverts on the left wing but could do with some more photos to confirm that. In contrast, the 2017 bird had big blocks of moulted adult-like grey feathers on both underwing coverts © Pete Saunders:

From an ID perspective, the lack of moult in this area opens up the possibility of Amur Falcon - they evidently often have an underwing pattern a lot like today's bird (and besides, they'd be acquiring new white feathers in this area that would perhaps contrast less well with the retained juvenile feathers than do the new grey feathers of a Red-foot). The literature seems to suggest that if you're lucky a first-summer male Amur Falcon will have a paler face, streaks on the breast and grey rather than blackish newly-moulted central tail feathers so hopefully you'd suspect you were onto something good before having to scrutinize the underwing coverts.