7th July

The lovely quiet conditions of dawn promised some movement after a few indifferent days and fieldworkers on the land weren't disappointed, with the first Grasshopper Warbler of the autumn the pick of the arrivals at the Bill that also included 19 Swifts, 13 Sand Martins, a Grey Wagtail and a Siskin overhead and a Whimbrel and a Reed Warbler (a singing bird so probably heading in the opposite direction to everything else) on the ground. The seawatchers had plenty of action to keep them occupied, with a minimum of 67 Balearic Shearwaters lingering off the Bill where 102 Common Scoter, 14 Mediterranean Gulls and a Great Skua passed by and a Yellow-legged Gull also lingered. Elsewhere, a Little Gull dropped in at Ferrybridge.

The first Grasshopper Warbler of the autumn © Martin Cade...

...and the first Little Gull since the spring were nice new arrivals today © Pete Saunders:

But most of the day's action took place out to sea where Balearic Shearwaters were showing really well as they joined the melee of feeding gulls off East Cliffs © Keith Pritchard (top) and Pete Saunders (bottom):

Whilst idly perusing the photos we were sent for tonight's blog we were more than startled when this one downloaded © Pete Saunders:

Any thoughts of the pale bird being a Manx were quickly dispelled by the presence of wing moult and feet protruding miles beyond the tail tip - it surely had to be a 'Mediterranean' Shearwater of some sort. Plumage-wise, it seems way too pale and clean to be any sort of conventional Balearic. The bird's position relative to the Balearic in the photo is weirdly tricky to interpret but however you look at it it seems to have a much slighter build even if something of a pot-bellied look is conveyed. We couldn't spot the bird in any other images Pete sent through but a later check of Debby's tweeted photographs taken during the same period revealed what was presumably it again - this time tagging on behind some Balearics and again looking extremely clean and even more slightly-built © Debby Saunders:

Just for comparison, here's a Manx that also joined the feeding melee this morning © Pete Saunders:

Over the years there have been quite a number of sightings of apparently similar-looking birds at Portland but this is the first time one's been photographed well. Popularly, they were always proposed as being Yelkouan Shearwaters - even if that ID was of no particular consequence in the past when that form was only a subspecies! In the modern era, the spanner in the works is the so called Menorcan Shearwater (have a read of the magnificent Petrels night and day for a bit of background) - we were really surprised that the adjudication of what was subsequently accepted as the first British record of a Yelkouan Shearwater more of less brushed under the carpet the possibility of Menorcan Shearwater when these enigmatic birds look to all intents and purposes identical to Yelkouans.