14th July

July rares are a thing of myth and folklore at Portland as well as being the niggling doubt of those who dare to pack up the nets early on days that seem to be devoid of life. Today proved why you shouldn't give up, even in the middle of July. The day started slowly with little in the way of sea passage and a slow trickle of breeding birds in the crop nets, however, the report of an 'eared-owl' in the Strips, soon materialised into a very fresh, juvenile Long-eared Owl. A new bird for the year list is always an exciting addition for the day, but this was topped off by the midday appearance of the second Blyth's Reed Warbler of the year in the Obs nets. Other land-based migrants continued to percolate through with a new Willow Warbler, single figures of Swifts and 20 Sand Martins. The sea totals were limited to 17 Balearic Shearwaters, 30+ Manx Shearwaters and a small selection of gulls and Common Scoters. 

The second Blyth's Reed Warbler of the year and the eighth for the island - it was also the only bird trapped in the Obs garden all day!


Like the June individual, today's bird was entirely typical in pretty well all respects. If we were better organised we'd be able to immediately lay our hands on some comparison photos of Reed Warbler wing formula detail but we're not so we can't and viewers will have to make do with the Blyth's Reed alone. Primary 4 (the third from outside primary in this view) had a nice prominent emargination and there's even a trace of an emargination on primary 5; with any luck a Reed Warbler wouldn't show these 'extra' emarginations but that's not something that's 100% fail safe so it's always worth checking that everything else is as it should be...


...amongst these other esoteric details, primary 2 (again, the outer primary in this view) fell well short of the wing-tip and not far off level with primary 7; in a Reed, primary 2 should be longer and fall much closer to the wing-tip © Martin Cade:


We don't know nearly enough about Long-eared Owls to even begin to speculate in any informed manner as to where a fresh-ish juvenile that arrived at the Bill in mid-July might have come from, but arrive it did. Do they vacate their natal area quite quickly once they fledge or should we be wondering if there's been a breeding event right under our noses somewhere on the island? © Martin Cade


We publicised news of the discovery of the owl together with a request that observers didn't enter the surrounding fields since the latter are all privately owned and there's no carte blanche permission to enter any of them - besides, the owl was showing nicely and could be viewed perfectly satisfactorily and without causing any disturbance from several public vantage points. With all this in mind it was profoundly dismaying to discover that within an hour miscreants had already ignored this request...


...Arrogance, entitlement, stupidity? - we're not sure what it is that prompts this sort of behaviour from these folk but it shows nothing but contempt for the hand that feeds them and always risks compromising local birder's often hard-won informal arrangements to access these and other usually out-of-bounds areas.