27th May

More lovely, settled weather and more late migrants today. After yesterday's promising signs it was the sea that returned to the fore to provide the best of the day's action including a strong passage of terns: 790 commics made up the bulk of the numbers, but the addition of 25 Sandwich and a single Black, together with 58 Common Scoter and singles of Arctic Skua and Common Gull, made for a pretty decent late May watch at the Bill. Passerines still featured but there was certainly evidence of diminishing returns on that front, with 10 Willow Warblers, 8 Spotted Flycatchers and 3 each of Whinchat and Reed Warbler grounded at the Bill, where a Siskin and a handful of Swifts and hirundines trickled overhead. Nine Sanderling, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and singles of Grey Plover and Whimbrel featured amongst the waders at Ferrybridge.

Sanderling and Ringed Plover at Ferrybridge this morning © Debby Saunders:

A Barn Owl out in broad daylight at the Bill this afternoon © Martin Cade:

And back to a bit of catching up from earlier in the week: we'll start with our little voyage of discovery around a Cuckoo. This story begun when we came by a Cuckoo that had been found seemingly stunned under a window at a private house in the Verne Citadel. Despite being rather dopey - evidently it had crawled up into a bush where it had then sat motionless for at least eight hours! - it seemed otherwise OK so we kept it overnight to assess its condition in the morning. 

The bird immediately stuck us as quite odd-looking: we imagined from the brown wash and barring around the head and chest that it must be a female but, although predominantly grey above, the upper wing coverts were plastered in brown notches and bars - a feature we couldn't remember having seen on a spring Cuckoo before but presumed must be related to some sort of immaturity; however, the plumage all seemed to be fresh and of the same generation, with no sign of any moult discontinuities or suspensions that might indicate it was in first-summer plumage. Seeking help from our betters we had a scan through the standard field guides and, perplexingly, discovered none of them depicted a bird that looked anything like this - basically, they showed female as either plain grey above or rusty with dark bars in hepatic morph individuals. It was eventually the ever-dependable detailed plumage description in BWP that came up with the answer: a proportion of adult females do in fact show this feature to a greater or lesser extent.

The next issue to dwell on was whether it was definitely a Common Cuckoo. Oriental Cuckoo is always at the back of our mind with late spring or late autumn occurrences but few if any of these sightings actually afford the sort of views required to tackle this massively difficult ID issue - however, a bird in the hand is a different kettle of fish! The essential reference for a bird like this is Identification of Oriental Cuckoo and Common Cuckoo based on primary pattern from Dutch Birding - in our bird both the number of white bars on the outer three primaries and the extent of the barred area on each feather is bang on for Common Cuckoo and outside the range for Oriental:

Just for comparison purposes with our bird (above), we hope the folk at Dutch Birding won't mind us lifting this photo and caption from the article that relates to the Finnish Oriental Cuckoo in 2015 and shows really well the difference in primary pattern (and, for example, the extent of barring on the underwing coverts):
And finally, our Cuckoo story ended very satisfactorily: after feeding the bird on ermine caterpillars for most of the next day it looked to have really perked up so we decided to attempt to release it; for a little while it looked rather bemused at the prospect of liberty but just as we were thinking perhaps we ought to pick it up again it flew strongly away into nearby trees and we left it to take its chances © Martin Cade: