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Friday, 18 November 2016

15 new members of a most exclusive club

Following an exceptional autumn that has seen the likes of 13 Siberian Accentors, 5 White's Thrushes, 4 Black-throated Thrushes, a Siberian Thrush, an Eyebrowed Thrush, 5 Asiatic Brown Shrikes, a Black-faced Bunting, Eastern Kingbird, 2 North American Cliff Swallows, 7 Pine Buntings, Eastern Crowned Warbler, 5 Isabelline Wheatears, 5 Eastern Yellow Wagtails, perhaps 7 Stejneger's Stonechats and a Killdeer this past week, an unprecedented number of twitchers have now crossed through that magical 500 barrier, resulting in 325 in total. Steve Gantlett, on the other hand, becomes the first to reach 600 (with Siberian Accentor) and is now three clear of his nearest rival Chris Heard on 602

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A SIBERIAN ACCENTOR irruption into Europe sees UK's first records

Autumn 2016 - the Year of the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR irruption
When news of a Siberian Accentor trapped & ringed on Utsira (Norway) on 6th August 2011 hit the headlines, no birder could have foreseen what was to follow just five years later in October 2016. With a protracted period of strong East/NE winds starting late September and continuing well into October, indications of something incredible happening began in Finland on 4th October, when another Siberian Accentor was discovered, followed by several more in Scandinavia over the next few days. It seems that because of a particularly bumper breeding season in Arctic Russia, presumably due to a startling bloom in insect matter, this tiny but beautiful Dunnock-like bird has irrupted. So much so, that by 24th October, a staggering 153 had been discovered in Europe, including 56 in Sweden, 45 in Finland, 10 in Denmark, 7 in Germany, 6 in Estonia, 6 in Poland, 5 in Latvia, 5 in Norway, 3 in Lithuania and a single in The Netherlands. With such a huge arrival, it was inevitable that the UK would share in, that being achieved when a brightly marked individual was discovered by Judd Hunt in a small quarry at Scousburgh (Shetland) on 9th October - the first record for Britain & Ireland. As one would expect, that sparked off an epic twitch, with no fewer than 177 observers connecting during its two-day stay. However, for those with less money or time to spend on the hobby, the prayers were answered on 13th October, when Spurn stalwart Lance Degnan discovered a first-winter feeding at close range with up to 4 Dunnocks on hard standing opposite Easington Gas Refinery in East Yorkshire. Being at such an accessible location for many, this bird was a real top drawer, attracting over 4,000 observers in its week-long stay! In fact, the irruption proved remarkably kind to the home range, Britain reaping 9 different records between 9th and 24th October - truly sensational!
1) Scousburgh, Shetland, 9th-10th October;
2) Easington Village, East Yorkshire, 13th-19th October;
3) Huntscliff, Saltburn, Cleveland, 15th October;
4) Hendon South Dock, Sunderland, County Durham, 16th-18th October;
5) Holy Island, Northumberland, 18th October;
6) Troila Geo, Fair Isle, 20th October;
7) Lund, Unst, Shetland, 22nd-24th October;
8) Fair Isle, 22nd October;

9) Sandside Bay, Deerness, Orkney, 24th October

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


PURPLE GALLINULE in North Lincolnshire
An adult has been discovered this afternoon at Alkborough Flats NR, 8 miles north of Scunthorpe, showing at 250-300 yards range at the reed edge from the first hide. Use the car park off of Whitton Road DN15 9JG. This record comes very hard on the heels of our first considered genuine Purple Gallinule at Minsmere RSPB Reserve (Suffolk) on 31st July to 4th August and associated with a widespread dispersal from breeding grounds in France due to severe drought.

Monday, 1 August 2016

PURPLE GALLINULE gets an upgrade!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Vilified in the Birding World for voting LEAVE

One bout of abuse after another - that has been the response on my twitter feed since the British people overwhelmingly (by over 1.25 million) decided to LEAVE the European Union during Thursday's referendum vote. I make no secret of the fact that I am extremely right wing in my political views and anybody that knows me personally would be well aware of that. However, it's my lack of support for the EU Birds Directive that seems to be getting up people's goat. I have already explained much of the reasoning's behind this on my facebook page but what gets me, is the vitriol coming from those with an invested interest in supporting a REMAIN position. Many of these moaning birdwatchers are on the EU payroll, getting grossly overpaid by up to £340 per day for conducting surveys involving wildfarms, solar farms, new roads, HS2 and other infrastructure projects. EU demands unnecessarily that Great Crested Newt surveys should be conducted everywhere so that they can be moved elsewhere and it is literally 'money for old rope'. Property developers and builders aren't interested one iota what natural habitats or creatures are being destroyed - they just have to be seen going through the motions and get the surveys done by a recognised or registered 'ecologist' - it's a complete con. For a while I got sucked in, working on HS2 surveys, but soon realised it was 'blood money', when developers and councillors didn't have any concern whatsoever for the rare bats and butterflies that fell within the route, the loss of Ancient Woodland and all of its Bluebells and Badger setts and the breeding Corn Buntings, Yellow Wagtails, European Turtle Doves, Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Linnets I found and censused along the route. It was a traversty and I rapidly resigned. Plenty of people are throwing lists of achievements they claim are attributed to the EU legislation but little evidence of when the Commissioners actually applied that legislation - it's all a Red Herring. Did the RSPB, BTO, Wildlife Trusts, etc explain, for example, the success of EU legislation in preventing the shooting of migrating birds throughout the Mediterranean? Of course not! Did it explain or prevent the decision by the SNH to order the destruction of up to 5,800 Greenland Barnacle Geese on Islay each winter? Of course not! Did any of them attempt to prevent several restaurants from legally obtaining up to 2,500 eggs from nesting Black-headed & Mediterranean Gulls in the Solent? Of course not! Were efforts and legislation passed in order to prevent the decline of farmland birds throughout the EU region and a ban on the harvesting of European Turtle Doves? Of course not! And what of our seas? Were these conservation charities proud of the EU's record in maintaining the biodiversity and abundance of our sealife during these 43 years - I think not! And then there is the vexed issue of farm animal welfare...

Did any of these groups highlight what effect increased human population growth has on our wildlife Can we continue obliviously on without delimiting the ever-increasing volume of people. Are they of the opinion that the more houses, roads, factories, towns and cities there are in this country, the easier it becomes to feed and water ourselves, and make a countryside better for wildlife. Come on! Do these groups all deny that habitat loss is the principal cause of biodiversity loss and a catastrophic decline in abundance? Do they deny that habitat loss is principally caused by human activity and population increase? I see no mention of population growth in their promotional blurb, that's because they daren't talk about it, but more than happy to take the money and ignore the core issue. The referendum result shows that each of these conservation organisations, as well as all mainstream political parties, are living in denial of a basic fact which most ordinary tax-paying Brits have little difficulty in identifying and making a voting point on. These same ordinary people have no problem talking about it either, but the political class refuse to, and this mindset is supported by our wildlife organisations. Population growth adversely affects climate change too. The reality is, is that until human population growth is tackled, the planet will continue to suffer significant and irreversible declines in wildlife and ever increasing greenhouse emissions.

And so to the Referendum in question.....

If you take out the votes of Greater London, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the overall count, there was an overwhelming majority of people in England and Wales that voted in favour of quitting an undemocratic European Union. In fact the majority was so ginormous that it was easily able to dwarf the impressive majorities in favour of remaining in these three regions by well over one and a quarter million votes! Proof if ever needed that the great British public has finally woken up, completely ignoring the advice of their governments, both Tory and Labour, as well as the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

There are genuine reasons for this -:

1) Northern Ireland is still driven with sectarian bigotry and voting there was highly influenced by religious/community belief rather than economic...

2) The greater Ireland is a major beneficiary of the EU and even though their economy has largely been ruined by the euro currency, an overhaul of housing and road infrastructure has seen a transformation of fortunes. It has a population deficit and thus shares little in common with the pressure on housing, congestion, environment that we here in England will experience

3) Scotland is another major beneficiary of EU aid and it is in their interest to Remain but how the SNP can both govern itself and hand over power to Brussels is beyond me. But again, Scotland largely benefits from massive open spaces, away from the conurbations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and can easily sustain a marked arrival of new immigrants, unlike much of Southeast England, the Midlands and Northeast. However, the ability of Scotland to break away from the UK is greatly vexed, North Sea Oil values having evaporated to leave a somewhat cumbersome deficit. Furthermore, it will not be able to join the EU and keep the pound sterling - can't see to many Scots looking forward to the euro!

4) London is hugely multi-cultural and is an overcrowded, heavily congested, expensive, polluted metropolis alienated from the environment; it has an enormous housing and congestion crisis. The majority of people living there have no idea how much countryside is required to produce their food nor are they bothered.

Delight at Brexit and my experiences with the EU Birds Directive

Thursday, 12 May 2016



Patch birder Paul Freestone had a Pelican species fly over him at Gwithian, east of Hayle (Cornwall), on Saturday afternoon (7th May), this same bird being seen on Sunday in St Ives Harbour, Cape Cornwall and later off Land's End and Porthgwarra. With some excellent photographs taken, it soon became apparent that the bird was an adult DALMATIAN PELICAN - the first to be seen in Britain since 16 November 1974 (Evans 1991, Rare Birds in Britain 1800-1990, page 14). With its identification confirmed, next job was to try and find out its origin and with both Hayle Wildlife Park's Pink-backed Pelicans accounted for, Paignton Zoo was contacted and that drew a blank too. In fact, all five of the UK's captive Dalmatian Pelicans were soon found to be behind 'bars' so the investigation widened. Ace intelligence officer Christopher Batty was soon 'on the case' and armed with Steve's superb flight shots from Cornwall soon got a match - it was an adult seen a month earlier in Poland, still bearing the broken p7! As a result of this information, the twitch was on and the news of its presence viral....

After a quick conversation with CBWPS Bird News operative and keen Cornish birder David Parker, local birders were soon on the ground and searching hard and within no time at all, Mark Halliday had intercepted it - flying in high from the south at Swingates House, Land's End at around 0910 on 9th. Seemingly it dropped down on the small fishpond within the grounds to feed but as the first of the locals arrived, it took flight from the pond and drifted off in the direction of Skewjack Pools. It quickly became apparent that the bird was doing its best to find somewhere to land and feed and for the next few hours, commuted between Skewjack and Brew Pools but without much success. It also visited Trevorian Pool at Sennen briefly (where some stunning photographs were taken) as well as standing forlorn in a ploughed field for the best part of an hour SW of Escalls Chapel. The weather then started deteorating and after being flushed from near Skewjack late afternoon, it then went to ground early evening as heavy rain and high winds set in. Around 100 twitchers had managed to connect including Neil Alford from North Norfolk!

Tuesday 10 May dawned foggy and grey with poor visibility continuing throughout much of the morning. A couple of hundred birders had gathered, spreading themselves widely between Land's End, Polgigga, Escalls, Sennen and Marazion. Hours of searching then followed but other than a singing male Serin and two vagrant Woodchat Shrikes, the Pelican was not to be found. Late in the morning a shout went out that the bird had been seen flying east south of St Michael's Mount at Marazion and a whacky races style departure hastily took place, with carloads of twitchers heading first for Marazion and then onward to Helston Loe Pool, Helston Boating Pond and the Hayle Estuary! It later transpired that the information was erroneous - it had actually related to a flyover Osprey - and as everybody was otherwise waylaid, the Dalmatian Pelican itself reappeared - circling the Land's End complex from about 1115. It remained in flight for a long period of time, drifting very slowly southeast towards Skewjack and Nanjizal, before finally dropping down onto the Porthgwarra pools some 45 minutes later. Fortunately, the majority of car-loads managed to get back in time, but as John Chappell endeavoured to video the bird at PG, it took flight again and spent the next hour or more criss-crossing the Penwith countryside, flying back & forth over Bosistow Lane on numerous occasions. At around 1320 hours and with the sky clearing and temperatures rising to 21 degrees C, it thermalled ever higher in the sky, seemingly disappearing to the east. I stopped watching it then, as did the majority of others, but as further twitchers arrived during the afternoon, it was relocated several more times in the vicinity, Keith Holland and his mother last reporting it at around 1530 hours.

Just 14 twitchers connected on Wednesday morning - the bird once more visiting Porthgwarra, Nanjizal and Swingates House - before dense fog blanketed the Penwith peninsular and remained throughout much of Thursday - a day of just two brief reports from St Buryan.

Peter De Vries very kindly supplied me with a detailed summary of European sightings since 2014, 'our' particular adult being first sighted at Chygirynskae Water Reservoir in BELARUS from 10-15 January 2016. It was then relocated in POLAND, where it remained at Przygodzice Fishponds from 6-11 April 2016 before moving to GERMANY, where it visited numerous locations from Berlin, Brandenburg, Volkmannsdorf and Worms between 14 April and 1 May 2016. By 3rd May, it had reached Alsace in France, and with strong Southeasterly winds, hot conditions and clear skies made its landfall in West Cornwall on 7th May.

Four further Dalmatian Pelicans had been recorded in NW Europe since 2014 including a juvenile in Germany that had escaped from Zoo Munster on 20th November of that year and had survived in that country until 29th April 2015 before relocating to Poland from 14th August 2015 until at least 3rd May 2016. A second immature was then believed to have escaped prior to pinioning at Amneville, France, in February 2015, this bird visiting a fishpond in Borow, Poland, from 7th March to 2nd April 2015. There then followed two considered vagrants, both in Lithuania - in Kelme District from 21st May 2015 to 6th January 2016 and at Nemunas Delta on 3rd July 2015.

Elsewhere in Europe, four individuals, a breeding pair and two offspring, are free-flying in Italy, while in France, up to 40 individuals are known to be resident at a single Zoo, several adults of which are free-flying but fortunately marked with green rings.

At the time of writing, the British Birding Association/UK400 Club is treating the Cornish Dalmatian Pelican as a likely genuine vagrant, particularly as several countries have already admitted this same bird onto their national lists (eg, 7th record for Poland).