16th September

Not a great deal to shout about again today: for the duration, Portland remained right on the edge of a band of rain to the west - a scenario that on another occasion might have delivered but today provided little to excite. Overhead passage did pick up again, with a steady flow of Meadow Pipits and hirundines - many well out over the sea - heading east into the breeze; singles of Osprey and Kestrel also left to the south, the customary array of other mid-autumn pipits, wagtails and the like were represented in small numbers and 16 Black-headed Gulls were of note after their almost absence just lately. It was uneventful on the ground, with no surprises amongst the thin scatter of passerines on the land and just 5 each of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit with the otherwise routine waders at Ferrybridge. A resurgence in Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill - 207 before the movement abruptly halted - saw the sea given a fair bit of attention, with 4 Arctic Skuas and singles of Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Mallard and Teal noteworthy additions to the tally.

Carrying on from yesterday's musing on Whitethroats, today we trapped another nice adult that further illustrated their pale - in this case verging on orange - iris:

Adults are quite odd in as much they very often arrest/suspend moult in the secondaries (and occasional in other feather tracts as well) during their otherwise complete post-breeding moult; today's bird - a male by the look of it - has left the penultimate inner secondary unmoulted:

Here's another adult - likely a female - that's moulted all of its flight feathers but looks to have left some of the lesser coverts unmoulted. Incidentally, compare the tertials of these birds with those of the Kenyan bird - a rubicola? - we posted yesterday; as far as we know there aren't any accepted records of 'eastern' Whitethroats for Britain but any of the forms could surely occur and a vagrant with tertials anything like this ought to stand out like a sore thumb:

We're not great fans of giving too much weigh to feather shape as an ageing criteria - give us an unambiguous plumage difference any time! Feather shape is often a useful back-up feature but it seems to be one of those things that the more you look the more you find exceptions to what ought to be the rule - today's Whitethroat featured above had just the right colour pattern to its tail feathers but the outer ones at least were oddly pointed...

...and quite unlike the broad, round-ended shape expected in a text-book adult like this one from earlier in the week:

And for comparison here are a couple of tails of youngsters from this week © Martin Cade: