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Monday, 23 February 2009

Time for.........displaying NORTHERN GOSHAWKS



















Between now and 22 April, NORTHERN GOSHAWKS in southern Britain will be at their most active and most visible. On clear days with little to moderate wind, they will make the most of their display (see Sean Nixon's images above)

PRIME SITES

By far and away, the premier site in Britain for this species is NEW FANCY VIEW in the FOREST OF DEAN (GLOUCESTERSHIRE). The watchpoint at this location overlooks a large number of Goshawk territories (up to 22 pairs breed in the vicinity) and birds can be seen throughout the day, often with as many as 9 birds in the air at once. The nature of the land allows one to see perched birds in the forest and often, individuals fly past within 300 yards of where you stand. This really is a fantastic spectacle and should be on every birder's calendar in the first quarter.

If Gloucestershire is too far a drive then for those birders in the east of England, Ollie's Farm and Mayday Farm in Norfolk Breckland offer ample opportunities. Since early February, three different males (including one of last year's offspring) have been showing well and affording observers with some prolonged and reasonable 'scope views. The site is located just NW of Thetford. Park carefully in one of two layby's on the A11 400 yards west of the westernmost Thetford Bypass roundabout. Walk west to the entrance to Ollie's Farm and continue west along the main footpath through coniferous woodland for a mile to the 'watchpoint' on the main track where large numbers of felled trees have been stored. The birds can be seen over the large clearing to the NW, often sparring with the Red-tailed Hawk resident here. The same birds can also be seen rather distantly from the trail at Mayday Farm.

Friday, 20 February 2009

SPRING HAS ARRIVED

With temperatures reaching the balmy heights of 14 degrees C in parts of the south today, it was no surprise to see the first trickle of incoming migrants arrive - including the odd SAND MARTIN, BARN SWALLOW and LESSER WHITETHROAT, 6+ SANDWICH TERNS, along with numerous Oystercatchers, Common Redshank, Common Shelduck and Eurasian Curlew overland. A fair few herds of Bewick's Swans departed east out over the North Sea this morning, and Dark-bellied Brent Geese continue to move east along the South Coast.

The first-winter NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL was present again at the river mouth at the Otter Estuary NR (South Devon) today, showing from mid-morning to early afternoon.

A first-winter female SNOWY OWL was seen on Shapinsay (Orkney) yesterday, with the Amalveor Downs first-winter in Cornwall also showing for much of this week.

A GREAT WHITE EGRET was new-in this afternoon at Otmoor RSPB (Oxfordshire), favouring the second field from the car park.

The confiding CATTLE EGRET remains on St Mary's (Scilly), favouring the allotments by the dump, with the juvenile Kumlien's Gull, 2 juvenile Iceland Gulls and the 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull still in the same area. On the Isle of Man, another CATTLE EGRET is showing well, present for its third day in the cattle field by the gas storage tanks at SC 205 683 (Port St Mary), best viewed from the Truggan Road, whilst in North Devon, another is at Yelland, along the 'Tarka Trail' in the horse field at Lower Yelland Farm. The Norfolk bird is also still present, once more favouring the cattle field in the NW corner of Barningham Park, near Matlaske, as well as long-staying birds near Drift Reservoir (Cornwall) and at Powderham (South Devon).

Continuing wildfowl included the drake Ring-necked Duck at Foxcote Reservoir (North Bucks) (with a female at Hoveton Little Broad), drake American Green-winged Teals at North Cave Wetlands (on Island Lake) (East Yorks), Eyebrook Reservoir (Leics) and Maxey GP (Cambs), a drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK at Hoveton Little Broad (Norfolk) and the drake LESSER SCAUP at Holme Pierrpont (Notts). Three TUNDRA BEAN GEESE remain on Ivy Lake, Chichester GP (West Sussex), with the adult RED-BREASTED GOOSE still with 1300 Dark-bellied Brent Geese at West Wittering (West Sussex).

Six EURASIAN SPOONBILLS remain on the Taw Estuary at Isley Marsh (North Devon), with 2 at Lodmoor NR (Dorset) and another at Fingringhoe Wick NR (Essex).

Up to 5 HAWFINCHES are showing again in the three Hornbeam trees in the open paddock south of Lynford Arboretum (Norfolk), with another regular bird at Sotterley Church (Suffolk), 6 at Wentworth Castle (South Yorks) and 11 in the churchyard at Oldland, Longwell Green (Bristol), whilst NORTHERN GREY SHRIKES include singles at Roydon Common (Norfolk), Dersingham Bog (Norfolk), Santon Warren (Suffolk), Lakenheath Fen RSPB (Suffolk), Pannel Valley NR (East Sussex), in the setaside field at SP 037 009 east of the A419 at Cirencester (Gloucs), at Foel Fach in the Clocaenog Forest (Clwyd), Beaulieu Road Station (Hants), Dalton Crags (Cumbria) and Chamberlayne's Heath (Dorset).

LONG-EARED OWLS are always a delight to see and this week we have been treated to roosting individuals at Farlington Marsh (Hants) and Splatt Bridge (Gloucs), the latter in the hedgerow at the rear of the reedbed just south of the bridge. PLEASE VIEW THESE BIRDS FROM A REASONABLE DISTANCE.

In SCOTLAND, the adult RING-BILLED GULL is still showing very well by the snackbar on the A85 near Dundee, 250 yards west of the railway bridge, the CACKLING CANADA GOOSE is still with Barnacle Geese at Caerlaverock WWT (D & G)

In IRELAND, the two KING EIDERS (first-winter drake and female) remain in Drumcliffe Bay, Lissadell (Co. Sligo), with the white morph SNOW GEESE at Wexford North Slob (Co. Wexford) and Termoncarragh Loch (Co. Mayo) and several RING-BILLED GULLS (including two adults at Nimmo's Pier, Galway, and an adult at Belmullet, Mayo).

Thursday, 19 February 2009

SNOWY OWL ON SHAPINSAY, ORKNEY

Just been watching the most stupendous female SNOWY OWL and wow, what a fabulous bird !

Flying, perching on the ground and on fence posts, even made a stab at a cock Pheasant, but I think they decided on a mutual truce! Most likely the one seen by Nic of the Bu on 24 January around the Ouse area. This evening she was in fields near Parkhall about a kilometre east of Furrowend. She flew over my head to roost perhaps at 5.45pm in the direction of the Ouse

There was an AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL and a single Black tailed Godwit at Mill Dam too yesterday (Paul Hollinrake)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

LONG-EARED OWL AND ROUGH-LEG IN HAMPSHIRE FEAST










LONG-EARED OWL, Farlington Marsh, Hampshire, February 2009 (Mark Cutts, directional, and Mark Navy Owl)


2nd-winter male ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD (Mike Lawrence)


WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2009

Another mild day, with light SW winds and temperatures stable at 13 degrees C. A front moved in later in the day, bringing poor visibility and persistent drizzle.

FARLINGTON MARSHES
(with Maggi Short and others)

The roosting LONG-EARED OWL was showing well when I arrived early afternoon, still perched in its favourite 'cavern' inside the scrub.

DIRECTIONS: From where you park the car at the reserve entrance, walk through the gate and follow the sea wall down towards the main lagoon for 200 yards, to just beyond the small pond and interior gates. Set your 'scope up and train it on the obvious cluster of Hawthorn bushes looking NE towards the M27. The owl is roosting in the obvious dark 'hole' in the hawthorn (the upper section - see above photograph) and can be easily seen from the sea wall (I picked it up with binoculars initially). The views from here are more than adequate so there is no reason why anyone needs to get closer to it, particularly as doing so is most likely to force it to change its roosting spot. It has favoured this location for three days so please consider others and view it from the bank.

A single adult BLACK BRANT was with 320+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese close to the Information Centre, whilst the adjacent Langstone Harbour at low tide held large numbers of feeding waders, including PIED AVOCET, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover and Lapwing, along with Northern Pintail (pair) and Common Teal (45).

FACCOMBE AREA (1430-1700 hours)
(with Mike Alibone and others)

The ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD (first identified from Jerry O'Brien's photograph this past weekend) was present from at least 1500-1600 hours at the feeding station west of Pilot Hill (at SU 398 596). It was roosting precariously on one side of a dead Hawthorn (in the Hampshire side) before being flushed by a birdwatcher that had walked to the site (rather than 'scoped from a distance) and it then flapped low to the ground 500 yards to the north to roost in a tree (out of view) in Berkshire at cSU 600 394. Unfortunately, the light conditions were awful this afternoon with constant heavy drizzle.

The 'feeding station' on Pilot Hill really is a hive of activity with 11 RED KITES attending, as well as at least 15 Common Buzzards. Amongst the latter, are four pale morph individuals, including one which resembles a Booted Eagle or Osprey and three which have white on the head and extensive white breasts with some variable areas of dark breast-band. The Rough-legged Buzzard itself is a dark individual and small, most likely a male in its third calendar year. There were also 2 COMMON RAVEN noisily parading the area and a flock of 75 Fieldfares.

DIRECTIONS: Utilising OS Landranger 174, leave the A343 opposite the Texaco garage in Hurstbourne Tarrant and follow the minor road NE for three miles to Faccombe hamlet. Continue north up the incline to just beyond the wind turbine (about 800 yards beyond the village) and park sensibly and courteously on the grass verge. There is a gap in the hedge from where one can 'scope from at SU 387 594 and the bird is most often seen at the 'feeding station' directly to the east on the west slope of Pilot Hill.

This vicinity of Hampshire is by far the last remaining stronghold of the WILLOW TIT in SE England and in the last hour of daylight I was fortunate in seeing at least four different birds, at different spots along the wooded valley towards Netherton (and in Faccombe Wood) (from SU 387 555 to 377 568). I also recorded MARSH TIT, 4 Nuthatches, large numbers of Common Pheasant, WOODCOCK and 6 Roe Deers.

Rough-legged Buzzard was both a Berkshire and Hampshire 'lifer' for me so indirectly I was pleased that the 'trespassing birdwatcher' flushed it from one county to another but to keep the landowner on side (and he was indeed a very nice, concerning and interested individual) I suggest that birders only view distantly from the road and do not attempt to disturb the raptors at this long-standing feeding site.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

NEW FOREST WINTER SURVEY

This is a summary of the first 27 results from the weekend's survey (14-15 February). Several results are awaited still, so the total you'll see mentioned again next month will be slightly higher. All the sites are open heathland and scrub.

The figures given are for February (27 sites so far), January (32 sites), December (36 sites), and November (34 sites). The first number in each case is the number of birds and then the number of sites the species was seen at.There were four sightings of NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE over the weekend from Black Gutter Bottom, Pig Bush, Holmsley and Latchmore Bottom. Thrush numbers have started to build up again. Common Stonechat and Dartford Warbler numbers have crashed since the cold weather. Conditions were perfect for surveying so it is likely the numbers truly reflect the number of birds present. There were no Lapwings, and only two Common Kestrels. Two sightings of Golden Plover were very unusual.

GREAT GREY SHRIKE – 4 at 4 sites (2/2, 3/3, 3/3)
HEN HARRIER – 6 at 5 sites (11/9, 15/10, 8/6)
GOSHAWK – 1 from 1 site (0/0, 0/0, 1/1)
SPARROWHAWK – 5 from 4 sites (4/4, 4/3, 4/3)
BUZZARD – 34 from 14 sites (23/15, 39/22, 31/18)
MERLIN – 2 from 2 sites (1/1, 2/2, 5/4)
KESTREL – 2 from 2 sites (17/11, 14/10, 18/17)
PEREGRINE – 2 from 2 sites (3/3, 2/1, 1/1)
SHORT-EARED OWL – none (1/1, 0/0, 0/0)
WOODLARK – 3 from 3 sites (0/0, 0/0, 1/1)
MEADOW PIPIT – 294 from 24 sites (260/27, 570/33, 512/30)
STONECHAT – 29 from 15 sites 48/19, 49/24, 60/19)
FIELDFARE – 452 from 13 sites (89/16, 522/24, 698/25)
REDWING – 318 from 12 sites (126/13, 494/22, 1011/21)
RAVEN – 16 from 8 sites (2/1, 12/8, 13/9)
CHAFFINCH – 98 from 17 sites (90/13, 135/20, 92/18)
SISKIN – 13 from 6 sites (2/2, 27/3, 4/2)
REDPOLL – 46 from 4 sites (45/4, 47/5, 18/2)
COMMON CROSSBILL – 2 from 2 sites (4/2, 30/5, 18/3)
REED BUNTING – 5 from 3 sites (12/6, 13/7, 14/7)
DARTFORD WARBLER – 33 from 15 sites (45/19, 99/27, 123/22)
LINNET – 27 from 4 sites (4/3, 59/6, 29/4)
LAPWING – none (79/15, 47/3, 5/3)
SNIPE – 1 from 5 sites (16/9, 15/9, 9/6)
LITTLE EGRET – 5 from 4 sites (5/4, 4/4, 0/0)
HAWFINCH – none (8/3, 9/3, 9/3)
WOODCOCK – 1 from 1 site (8/4, 2/2, 0/0)
TEAL – 9 from 1 site (0/0, 0/0, 0/0)
GOLDEN PLOVER – 2 from 2 sites (0/0, 0/0, 0/0)

Thanks to everyone who took part. The next survey weekend is 21-22 March (Keith Betton)

PACIFIC DIVERS IN PEMBROKESHIRE AND ON SCILLY......AND FIRST RETURNING SUMMER MIGRANTS WITH THE WIND CHANGE

A SAND MARTIN was seen today in Cornwall (at Marazion Marsh RSPB), with a BARN SWALLOW in Oxfordshire, the first signs that a switch to SW winds is spurning on migration. Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers are also returning to sites inland

News from Richard Dobbins, Dave Astins & Paul Grennard is of an adult PACIFIC DIVER moulting into summer plumage at Llys-y-fran Reservoir in Pembrokeshire. The bird was first seen late on Sunday evening and remained present until just after 0900 hours on Monday morning. It has not been seen since.
The diver is no doubt the same bird which has appeared the last two winters at the site and appears to favour the stretch of water down towards the hide on the far side of the reservoir.

A further PACIFIC DIVER, present since at least December 2008, was seen off Innisidgen, Bar Point and Pelistry, St Mary's (Isles of Scilly) today, swimming between St Mary's and the Eastern Isles.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Record numbers of MEDITERRANEAN GULLS in BRITAIN




First-winter and adult winter Mediterranean Gulls (Simon Knight)
I was very fortunate to visit Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) last Friday and in doing so, recorded my largest ever single gathering of MEDITERRANEAN GULLS in Britain. I click-counted a staggering 267 individuals, commuting between Pagham Lagoon to sit and bathe and the shingle spit leading out from the west arm of the harbour mouth.

The vast majority were adult birds, ranging from full winter to virtual full breeding plumage, with 33 2nd-winters and 14 first-winters. It was a fabulous sight and the bird's deep, guttural 'craaking' call could be heard everywhere, as the birds flew overhead.

Has anyone got any photographs of this incredible flock? If so, I would be extremely grateful if they could be emailed to me.

I later saw Dave Smith at Goring and he informed me that he and Bernie Forbes had counted an absolutely staggering 379 birds there earlier in the autumn on 19 September 2008.

Mediterranean Gull is a real success story in Britain and numbers have been increasing year-on-year - a total of 270 pairs bred in 2008. It is likely that the Pagham birds originate from the breeding colony in Langstone Harbour, where a record 264 pairs bred in 2006. Sadly, due to the removal of protective Sea Beet after winter storms, just 94 pairs bred in 2007 raising just 15 young (see the brilliant 2007 Hampshire Bird Report just published) (Lee G R Evans)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO IN COUNTY CORK - FIRST VAGRANT OF THE SPRING

An adult GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO was present all day 8 miles SE of Cork (County Cork, IRELAND) near Ringaskiddy at Haulboline, feeding along the embankment (per John Diggin via Irish Birding) and representing not only the first real vagrant of the spring but also the 250th species in Britain and Ireland this year.

DIRECTIONS: Use the car park beyond the ferry terminal and turn right and walk along the beach towards Lough Beg and Currabinny to view the ivy-covered tree on the bank

NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL IN SOUTH DEVON






















First-winter NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL, Otter Estuary, South Devon, 13 February 2009 (A superb array of images taken by Brian Heasman)
A superb find by Matthew Knott again this afternoon with Devon’s 2nd NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL

Seen on the River Otter from the hide from about 2pm-3.15pm , then on the rocks at the mouth of the river from 3.20-3.45 when it flew by itself to the beach by Budleigh Salterton where it showed superbly , down to 75 yards, with a flock of about 50 large gulls until 4.25 when it flew, again by itself and for no reason back to the mouth of the River Otter and lost to view.

Just 8 birders connected, including Matt, Mark Bailey, Bob Bailey, Ernie Davis, Dave Hopkins, Brian Heasman and Doug Cullen.

Incidentally, the 20th gull species for Mark Bailey in Devon and his 357th species in Devon overall

Thursday, 12 February 2009

RARE BIRDS IN IRELAND














































NOORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL (SN), FORSTER'S TERN (RM), RING-BILLED GULL (RM) and assorted ICELAND GULLS off Nimmo's Pier (Sean Nixon/Ronan McLaughlan)














































CATTLE EGRETS, Great Island, Cobh, County Cork (Ronan MCLaughlan)

























First-winter and adult KUMLIEN'S ICELAND GULLS at Nimmo's Pier, Galway Harbour, County Galway, in February 2009 (Derek Charles)
In IRELAND, two presumed vagrant CANADA GEESE remain on North Slobs WR (Co. Wexford) (along with the adult white morph SNOW GOOSE), adult drake Ring-necked Ducks remain at Rinnbaun Bay, Lough Arrow (Co. Sligo) and on Lough Fern (Co. Donegal), the female LESSER SCAUP continues at Ballindoon, Lough Arrow (Co. Sligo), the female SURF SCOTER off Silver Strand (Co. Galway), and the 2 KING EIDERS (first-winter drake and female) remain in Drumcliff Bay, Lissadell (Co. Sligo).

RING-BILLED GULLS include an adult in Bray Harbour (Co. Wicklow), an adult at Ballynagaul, Dungarvan (Co. Waterford), an adult in Limerick City (Co. Limerick), an adult at Dunmore, Clonakilty (Co. Cork), up to 5 adults and 2 2nd-winters at Cobh (Co. Cork), up to 4 adults off Nimmo's Pier, Galway Harbour (Co. Galway) whilst large numbers of ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS are to be found at coastal localities. The adult winter FORSTER'S TERN continues on Claddagh Beach, near Nimmo's Pier

CATTLE EGRETS include singles at Rossmore, near Clonakilty (Co. Cork), 500 yards west of the caravan park in Bohonagh (Co. Cork), with 5 at Ballycrompane (Co. Waterford) and 6 in the cattle field opposite Sexton's Caravan Park in Timoleague (Co. Cork).

The adult LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER is still in Dundalk Docks (Co. Louth), whilst an adult BONAPARTE'S GULL was on Ballybrannigan Beach (Co. Cork) on 10th.

BRITISH BIRDING ASSOCIATION RBA FOR TODAY









ICELAND GULL (Newlyn Harbour) and RING-BILLED GULL (Helston Boating Lake) photographed in West Cornwall (Joe Ray)







Chris Upson obtained these terrific images of the Suffolk LESSER YELLOWLEGS

























COMMON CRANE (Gareth Picton)





































This very confiding CATTLE EGRET has been present on St Mary's (Scilly) for several weeks now (Robin Mawer)
This is the UK400 Club/British Birding Association Rare Bird Alert for Thursday 12 February 2009, issued at 1800 hours and published in association with Rare Bird Alert Pagers (phone 01603 456789 for subscription details) whilst utilising additional information gleaned from Regional Birdlines, BirdGuides, local email groups and websites and individual observers.

The total of species recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2009 remains unchanged at 248 species

In South Devon, the beautiful male PENDULINE TIT is still showing well on reedmace in the Phragmites beds at Clennon Valley Ponds, Paignton, commuting between the first and second pool. The site is situated just west of the A379 and is best accessed from the Sports Centre opposite the Goodrington Beach traffic lights.

In Suffolk, the adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS remains at Walberswick, where it favours the pools either side of the bund just south of the bailey bridge early mornings or at high tide. Elsewhere in the county today, large numbers of WAXWINGS remain present (with 20 in Bloodmoor Road, Lowestoft, 30 in Maple Close, Rendlesham, and 10 in Sudbury), up to 9 WATER PIPITS remain on Southwold Town Marshes, 4 Smew remain on Minsmere RSPB South Scrape and the 2 Long-tailed Ducks remain on the Stour Estuary off Stutton Mill.

A CATTLE EGRET is present for a second day following a ploughing tractor in fields by Barningham Hall, Matlaske (Norfolk) (at TG 142 358), whilst an extremely confiding individual is still following gardeners and other islanders around in allotments close to St Mary's Dump (Scilly). One was also present for its 5th day on GUERNSEY (CHANNEL ISLANDS) at St Andrew's today, whilst long-stayers included singles at Sellan Farm, Sancreed (Cornwall), by Lyme Bay Auction House in Seaton (South Devon) and the 3 at Powderham (South Devon) with cattle at SX 962 848.

The adult RED-BREASTED GOOSE (which had been wintering in Hampshire) returned to West Sussex today, feeding with Dark-bellied Brent Geese at West Wittering all day.

The Isles of Scilly has been spoilt for white-winged gulls in recent weeks with today a juvenile Kumlien's, 3 juvenile Icelands and 2 Glaucous present, whilst elsewhere, both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls are widespread..

A party of 9 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE is frequenting a stubble field opposite the main entrance to Sunderland Football Club Training Academy (Durham), with another still present at Donna Nook (North Lincs).

On the Outer Hebrides, an adult WHITE-BILLED DIVER was 'scoped in calm conditions off Port Skigersta, Ness (Isle of Lewis), with the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER still present on South Uist.

The 6 EURASIAN SPOONBILLS remained at Wrafton Marsh (Devon) until early morning, with others on Samson (Scilly), at Flow Point, Bishopsteignton (South Devon) and at Middlebere, Poole Harbour (Dorset).

Freshwater GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS include long-staying juveniles on Carsington Water (Derbyshire) (2), Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon), Stoke Newington West Reservoir (London) and Bough Beech Reservoir (Kent).

A 'dark-breasted' BARN OWL has been showing well hunting roadside ditches and dykes along the river bank at Welney WWT (Norfolk) whilst at Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve (West Yorks), all 5 LONG-EARED OWLS are still roosting in scrub at SE 434 270.

Wintering NORTHERN GREY SHRIKES remain at Dersingham Bog (Norfolk) and in Swinley Forest at Wishmoor Bottom (Berks).

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Introduced White-tailed Sea Eagle in Cumbria and SW Scotland


As I stated previously in earlier emails, I was of the opinion this bird was from a Scottish reintroduction project. It seems as this suggestion has been confirmed as BirdGuides.com is reporting that the bird at midday (still perched in a tree on Lamb Island by the River Dee in Threave, SW of Castle Douglas), is bearing a satellite transmitter CONFIRMING that it is a juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE released in 2008 as part of the Fife Reintroduction Scheme.

Chris Rollie of the RSPB added:

''ok, the bird that was at Threave until around noon today was identified positively by RSPB kite officer George Christie as a 2008 female from the east Scotland release scheme. It has one colour ring on left leg (silver over red) and a BTO type ring on right leg, but these can be notoriously difficult to see, as can the transmitter and aeriel. Anyway, it was last recorded in Stirlingshire last week.

The first sighting at threave last night was around 5pm by a farmer, whereas the last sighting I know of on the Solway was around 3.30 pm and it was heading west. So, it is almost certainly the same bird. Anyway, it was last seen around noon heading towards Kirkcudbright I gather''
.
Keith Kirk obtained the excellent photograph above, as the bird roosted in a tree at Threave.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

White-tailed Sea Eagle in Cumbria and SW Scotland

An immature White-tailed Sea Eagle has today spent the afternoon on the Solway Firth, being seen on both the Cumbrian and Dumfries-shire side. No one has reported it bearing any colour rings, but it does not have any wing-tags. It is most likely to be an individual from the Fife reintroduction scheme, where over two years, almost 30 have been released.

The RSPB have kindly supplied the following information relating to 2008 releases

''Due to a temporary hiccup in the licensing process, we have not been permitted to fit wing tags to any birds this year. Instead all sea eagles are fitted with a colour ring on the left leg. The colour combination shows that the bird was born in 2008, A9 is for Scottish birds and the 2-digit number below (e.g. 96) identifies the bird''

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

STRIKING 'WHITE-WINGED' GULL AT QUEEN MOTHER RESERVOIR TODAY





































Chris Heard has commented on this very interesting juvenile gull which he discovered at Queen Mother Reservoir this morning and was excellently photographed by Mike McKee this afternoon. It shows traits of both Thayer's Gull and North American Herring Gull.

''I first saw this bird at 11am and watched it – down to close ranges (from inside the car) – until 12.45pm. I concluded that it is a hybrid (if I'd thought it was a Kumlien's I would have broadcast it on Birdline South East!).
Kumlien's Gull is essentially an Iceland Gull with darker pigmentation on the primaries, especially the outermost. This bird does not have darker primaries – or even darker outer webs to these feathers (no `venetian blind effect' whatsoever). At rest the primary tips do show a darker arrowhead, but this pattern can also be seen on first-winter Icelands (eg plate 425 in Grant, 2nd edn). In fact, although the primaries are otherwise uniformly pale, they have the same warm brown tone as the the body plumage. So, if it's not assignable to kumlieni, could it still be an Iceland Gull in the broader sense? I think not - for the following reasons:
Size & Structure. This bird is significantly larger than argenteus Herrings. On it's own this would not be a problem but it also has a robust build – it does not look long-winged and it never appears short-legged (as all Icelands do). It is also very aggressive – attacking many other gulls - and was only successfully challenged by a GBB!
Head doesn't have a gentle look. The bill is not short and neat but actually quite long – the shape, colour and patterning are much like first-winter Herring (rather than being all or mostly dark, or having a simple two-tone pattern, it has dark and lighter areas extending along the whole of the basal section). The head is also oddly plumaged with pale areas on the throat and nape (cream-white – the palest part of the plumage!) combined with a darker, more uniform patch encompassing the eyes and ear-coverts and a mottled pattern on the forehead and crown.
General coloration is a light warm brown. This might occur on a recently fledged Glauc/Iceland but this late in its first-winter it should be a lot paler in colour and colder in tone. The pattern on the wing-coverts is like a more intricate version of Herring Gull's while the scapulars show fine vermiculation rather than the coarser scaling/barring of juv/first-winter Iceland. The tertials have vermiculated fringes (& paler tips) but much plainer centres.
I have seen at least eight hybrid `white-winged' gulls in the county prior to this, but this one is intriguing because it doesn't show an obvious Glaucous Gull jizz. But these hybrids are notoriously variable (Chris Heard)''