Tuesday, 18 April 2023


Sunday night was mild, calm, overcast and very slightly damp. Surely perfect for a few arrivals? The moth trap was out, the noc-mig kit primed and waiting, the early alarm set...

Come morning, the moth tally was 35 of 19 species, including four new for the garden and a pucka migrant: Diamond-back Moth. Comfortably the best catch of 2023, and definitely an arrival. The noc-mig recording revealed four occurences of Oystercatcher, two of Whimbrel (my first this year, and featuring a lovely bit of song) and another wader that I haven't sussed yet. The best bit of wader action so far this year, and definitely an arrival. A pre-work plod around West Bay and the golf course produced three Common Sandpipers - my first of 2023 - and six Wheatears. Not bad. And yes, definitely an arrival.

Some time later, I had a quick scroll through Twitter. A concise tweet from Portland Bird Observatory...

Note: 'Huge fall.' And it was. By close of play, the PBO tally was 616 birds ringed by just three ringers, an all-time day record. And literally thousands of warblers passed through the island, plus a superb list of other bits and bobs. Full details HERE. Quite an arrival - definitely - but all I can say is there wasn't much overspill in this direction!

After work yesterday I paid tribute to another arrival, one that was very overdue if you ask me...

Black-winged Stilt at Black Hole Marsh

Black-winged Stilt is still a rare bird here, but over the last twenty years I have lost count of the number which have occurred east of Seaton, west of Seaton, and everywhere but Seaton. With all the lovely habitat on offer, this improbably long-legged wader is so-o-o-o-o overdue on the Axe. It turned up on Sunday, and I was well chuffed for all the local birders but pretty laid back about seeing it myself. If it waited until after work on Monday, great, I would drop by to say hello. It did, and I did. Mind you, five minutes in the hide was more than enough for me!

The first two Black-winged Stilts I ever saw, in May 1984, involved an illicit dawn raid on Perry Oaks Sewage Farm, where Terminal 4 of Heathrow now resides. Huge fun for a much younger me, and an experience that would be tough to beat. I've only seen one other: Sammy, the bird that lived at Titchwell for ages back in the 1990s. Despite several relatively local opportunities I have never bothered going to see another one.

Rushing off to see rare birds simply because they are rare has long been off the agenda, so I couldn't help a wry smile on hearing today''major' news...

Disclaimer: photo may not be of actual bird at actual location on actual date

Possibly the most obvious candidate for addition to the British List, this morning's Black-winged Kite in Powys has set birdy Twitter on fire. If it ever gets pinned down, there will be some twitching. A lot of twitching. However, the funniest thing about this event is that I have a screenshot of a friend's WhatsApp message sent last Friday, predicting exactly this species, this week. Such phenomenal prescience surely deserves a big boy's pack of Cadbury's Giant  Buttons? Yes it does. The only thing is, that WhatsApp message predicts another species as well, one which isn't here yet. He has until Sunday...

Meanwhile, in the land of Everyday, birding continued as normal...

Early Saturday morning, and a very welcome sight on the West Bay rocks... first Whimbrel of 2023

Although I heard my first Willow Warbler on Saturday morning, I didn't see any until today, when I clocked up a total of seven at West Bay...

Willow Warbler at West Bay this afternoon. The long primary projection (compared to Chiffchaff) is obvious in this shot.

Red Kite has become a familiar sight in recent years. Still, locally it is usually a species of warm, sunny days, from late morning on. So I was surprised to see one just inland of West Cliff at 07:00 this morning...

Looking inland, very close to the autumn vis-mig watch point at West Bay. The Red Kite has just been noticed by some of the local corvids.

Yep, it definitely has their attention now!

I shan't say much about noc-mig just now but, as there was a Little Grebe last night, I thought it might be instructive to post a sonogram which illustrates a helpful difference between that species and Whimbrel, a very real confusion risk when heard only...

Whimbrel is famous for its classic, so-called 'seven-note whistle' (actually nine in this case) but Little Grebe can sound awfully similar. The give-away is that introductory 'pip' note (frequently two of them) which indicates Little Grebe.

Finally, moffs...

Apologies for imminent photo-indulgence, but in the last few days there has been quite an arrival. Moths have arrived on the new-for-garden list, on the new-for-year list, and on the pleasingly-photographed list. I shall start with probably the rarest, a moth which bolted to freedom the moment I gave it a sniff of fresh air, and is therefore on just the first two lists...

New to Britain in 2017 apparently, this recent arrival is quite possibly breeding in Dorset now, but there are still fewer than a dozen records on the county's Living Record map. So yes, Caloptilia honoratella is a good one. Shame about the pic though.

Original in-the-garage pot shot. It is a ve-e-e-ry small moth.

Spotting a micro-moth during after-dark, moth-trap loitering sessions is always a highlight, and I get ridiculously excited about them. Many are just so whacky, like the one above, and full of character. The Diamond-back Moth is in that category but did a bunk before I could photograph it. Here are a few others instead...

Big for a Depressaria, at approximately 12-13 mm long. Photographed through a plastic pot lid. The moment I lifted the lid out of the like a shot!

Our second for the garden. Rather worn, so its various tufty 'fins' are a bit knackered.

This one is tiny, but that's no excuse for the woeful lack of photographic sharpness. Not sure what happened there. New for the garden.

Our second one of these, but this time I got a decent side-on photo...

...showing the crazy scale-tufts.

And now the macros...

Grey Pine Carpet. New for year.

Nut-tree Tussock. A regular customer last summer, but this one was new for the year and definitely worth a pic.

Early Tooth-striped. New for the garden, and a springtime classic it seems.

A nice, fresh Common Pug. First for the year, and quite early I suspect.

A male Muslin Moth. New for the garden.

Brindled Pug. A bit worn, and very nearly overlooked as a Double-striped Pug. New for the garden.

Red Chestnut. New for the garden. Rather worn, and consequently not quite as red as the illustrations suggest. Struggled to ID this one, but got there in the end; ObsIdentify helped.

In addition to moths...

Alder Leaf Beetles Agelastica alni along the Mangerton River, north of Bridport, on Sunday afternoon. Grateful thanks to Karen Woolley for the ID.

Lots of them!

NQS is traditionally one of those Wheatear-heavy kinds of blog, and I am conscious of falling a bit short this year so far. Thankfully there was an arrival at West Bay first thing this morning. Just the one...


  1. It's definitely kicking off - at last. I even heard a cuckoo the other day.

    1. Nice. Hoping very much for a Cuckoo here too. Pretty scarce unfortunately.

  2. Great post as usual but you didn't say what the second predicted first for Britain was on the whats-app message. Hopefully predicted to occur at West Bay!

    1. The other species is a bit outside the box. All I shall say right now is that West Bay doesn't have the necessary habitat!

  3. Red Chestnut. The poker straight leading edge to the wing is a good indicator at this time of year. Most moths arent that parallel, certainly not Drabs that can be mixed up... Its not just birds that can be done on jizz... :)

    1. Thanks, Stew. Yes, it does have quite a distinctive shape, which became more obvious to me once I'd photographed it. Gradually getting my eye in...

  4. For me? An adult Pallas's Gull or Black Woodpecker might be worth twitching, so long as it's no further than Little Chalfont.

  5. I think your beetles are Agelastica alni - Alder Leaf Beetle.

    1. Thanks Karen, that makes much more sense. Edited accordingly!