20th February

Not the easiest day for looking with misty low cloud more or less throughout and occasional mizzle blowing in the breeze, but there were a few new Stonechats in evidence today which was very welcome. Otherwise there were just a few regulars about, including 2 Black Redstarts at the Bill and 9 Black-necked Grebes and an Eider in Portland Harbour.

What with war, contagion, Tory corruption and similar concerns it's not that we haven't had other things to dwell on over the last couple of years but one matter that had occasionally nagged was pondering on just what that Lesser Whitethroat in June 2019 was. As a reminder, this was part of the blog post for 4th June of that year:

How do you identify a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in the spring/summer? We'd been immediately struck in the field by how brown-backed today's new arrival at the Obs had looked and made a bit of effort to cajole it into a net to get a better understanding of its features © Nick Hopper...

...it did indeed turn out to be appreciably sandy-brown on the upperparts and had what seemed to be a rather poorly defined mask. The tail possessed a peculiar mixture of old and new feathers that could be taken to suggest that the bird was a first-summer although we weren't completely convinced that the old feathers were actually juvenile © Martin Cade:

Anyway, back to the present and now we have an answer - thanks as ever to Professor Martin Collinson and his team at the University of Aberdeen who were clearing a backlog of older samples and recently got round to our dislodged feather from this bird - that it was a blythi Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. Martin informs us that this is only his lab's third genetically confirmed spring blythi - the other two were both from Bardsey Bird Observatory, the first in 2016 and the other just last year in May 2022. Here's another in-hand photo, together with a selection from the few times it afforded any sort of views in the field. It was singing pretty constantly but annoyingly/ineptly we can't at the moment lay our hands on the recordings that seem to have vanished into the bowels of one or other external hard-drive in our office © Martin Cade: