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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Latest Bardsey Island Bird Report just published

BARDSEY BIRD AND FIELD OBSERVATORY REPORT 2008
Number 52

The latest Bardsey Island bird report for 2008 is a sumptuous affair and like those now published by Spurn Point Bird Observatory, of the highest quality. It is a perfect bound publication - and 168 pages in thickness - with a beautiful female Dotterel adorning the front cover.

Opening the first page leads you to a full Richard Brown spread. depicting the flowering Thrift and the Observatory and island lighthouse. The Warden's Report and Seasonal Summaries follow on pages 7-18 and then the all-important Systematic List. 2008 saw a mammoth 191 species of bird recorded on the island, including the first-ever Paddyfield Warbler, 2nd Pied Avocet and Rustic Bunting, the 5th Nuthatch, the 6th records of Garganey and Marsh Warbler, the 7th Mute Swan, Gadwall and Greater Short-toed Lark and the 8th Greater Scaup.

The Systematic List is comprehensive, fully detailed and very informative, and liberally enhanced by the inclusion of large numbers of black -and-white photographs. The text is easily-readable and the layout first-rate and the graphs and tables superbly reproduced. There was much information that I homed in on, such as the extent and amount of White Wagtail passage and the fact that 76 Winter Wrens were on the island on 7 October. Every single species recorded on the island in 2008 is given ample treatment.

Pages 80-91 are devoted to the breeding birds of the island, detailing the 654 Atlantic Puffin burrows, three pairs of Little Owl and six pairs of Red-billed Chough, with a paper on Manx Shearwaters on pages 92-96 and details of island lighthouse attractions on pages 98-101. A ringing report summaries the details of the 4,600 captured during the year, including an exceptional 53 Long-tailed Tits.

There is a superb 8-page full colour gallery depicting many of the best birds of the year, as well as the moths and other insects, with virtually all never seen before.

Richard Brown provides full documentation of the first Paddyfield Warbler on pages 111-112, with the latter pages of the report concentrating on the wider natural history of the island, including an educational piece on Grey Seals and an exhaustive list of the 143 moth species recorded in 2008.

All in all, this was a brilliant report and a particularly thorough account of the wildlife recorded on this island situated off of the North Wales coast.

For more information about the report and observatory can be found at www.bbfo.org.uk and www.bbfo,blogspot,com

Lee Evans

FERA's ongoing determination to eradicate the RUDDY DUCK

I have been informed today that WWT field scouts have located 632 surviving Ruddy Ducks in Britain and it is FERA's intention to try and eradicate every last one of these birds whatever the cost (in terms of money and in disturbance) in the remaining few months that they have available. They are hellbent in mercifulessly slaughtering this charming bird, whatever the feelings of conservationists and bird-lovers like myself.

I never thought I would see the day when a bird species was completely obliterated from Britain. These are truly sad times indeed.

It's a shame that virtually zero effort has gone in to the shameful plight of the European Turtle Dove, where shooting laws are continually flouted by our EU partners in crime

Both the Goshawk and European Eagle Owl are non-naturalised residents in Britain, as well as American Mink and Grey Squirrel, I wonder if these will all be on the target list. I very much think not, as we all know that the poor Ruddy Duck was a political scapegoat and literally a 'sitting duck'

Lee G R Evans

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The THAYERS GULL in County Galway

Latitude 53.569676 (north), Longitude -10.028372 (west)Irish Grid Reference L 656 596

Directions from Clifden town. Take the N59 north to towards Westport. After 8km take a left (ignoring a previous left-hand turn for Cleggan). Follow this small road for 2km and take the second right (small sign for Judo Club). Follow this road for another 2km passing a bay on your right. End the end of this road you should see a group of rocky islands on the left and a group of six fish cage offshore. The bird feeds mainly on these cages (500m out). He usually sits on the bottom floats of the cages at the back and can be obscured by the netting at times. Also been seen even more distantly on a Mussel farm from here on the other side of bay. At low tide he has been seen drinking and washing on the small cobble/sand beach to your left where a small stream enters the bay. I found there was alot of disturbance at the weekend from walkers, more so on Saturday. Low tide between 11 and 12 next weekend (Dermot Breen).

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The variability of NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULLS

Last week a friend lent me her new Canon digital SLR with a moderately long lens (250mm). It was my first chance to photograph birds by other than digiscoping in the last 10 years, and it was my first experience with a digital SLR. The big excitement for me was shooting flying birds. (I took over 3,000 photos in the first weekend.) I used the opportunity to try to document some of the variability in North American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus) that visit central New York in winter. I have put a number of shots at

http://picasaweb.google.com/KevinJ.McGowan/HerringGullsInIthaca.

These were all taken over 2 days at the Cornell compost facility east of Ithaca (I will be adding some more from the next weekend, eventually). I have been working at this particular facility for over 10 years now, mainly looking for marked crows for my long-term study. In the last 5 years or so we have had a bonanza of different gull species occurring there, recording Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull (1x), fly-over Bonaparte's, Herring Gull (including some European-looking individuals), Iceland Gull (ca. dozen yearly), Thayer's Gull (at least 5 1cy), Lesser Black-backed Gull (ca. 10 yearly), Great Black-backed Gull, Slaty-backed Gull (2 adults), Glaucous Gull (ca. 2-3 yearly), and hybrids Herring x Glaucous (Nelson's), Herring x Lesser Black-backed, and possibly others.

Herring Gulls breed in New York state, but not in the near vicinity of Ithaca. From reading band numbers we know that we get some from breeding colonies along the St. Lawrence River and from Maine. Where else they come from, I don't know.

I see a huge amount of variation in adults in terms of dark head markings, bill markings, and pattern of dark in the wings. We see individuals with the underside of the wingtips as dark as Ring-billed Gulls and some as white as Thayer's. I posted some examples of adults a while ago at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/HEGUadults.htm. Whether the extremes represents variation within a single breeding unit or the occurrence of several different and distinct clusters from disparate locations is unknown.

The examples posted at http://picasaweb.google.com/KevinJ.McGowan/HerringGullsInIthaca
are not a random sample; they are essentially birds that flew past my car close enough to be photographed and at the right angle for sunlight to illuminate them under the wings. I tried to exclude multiple pictures of the same individual. I did not include multiple photos from the same sequence, but I will not guarantee that the same individuals are not represented more than once. I have thousands of digiscoped photos of immature Herring Gulls showing an incredible mix of characters from past years, but, oddly, right now we have primarily adult Herrings present, and they represent the bulk of what I have posted.

Kevin J. McGowan, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, kjm2@cornell.eduhttp://birds.cornell.edu/crows/

Star on a TV show







After the demise of the Middlesex Asiatic Brown Shrike, the Whitby BLACK-THROATED THRUSH has been by far the most exciting rarity in Britain this January. These cracking shots by Cumbrian photographer Craig Shaw perhaps explain why.........

Friday, 22 January 2010

Apparent THAYER'S GULL in County Galway !















































































This second-calendar gull of presumably Nearctic origin has all the characteristics of a dark male Thayer's Gull. However, the overall darkness of the bird, the extent of dark in the uppertail and the patterning of the scapulars do raise some questions and do suggest much in the way of North American Herring Gull influence.
Dermot Breen found and photographed this bird on Ross Beach, near Claggan, on Tuesday and saw it again much better today.
It is interesting to compare with these Japanese 'Thayer's Gull' images

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Mid-week Review

Recent days have seen some interesting wild geese relocating, many from the close continent, including a flock of 7 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE in Oxfordshire today (in winter wheat in Ham Lane, Aston, at SP 338 025) and 2 at Rainham Marsh RSPB (London) (on Aveley Marsh), some impressive skeins of PINK-FEET (again over Rainham), a major inland influx of DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE (including 21 at Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon) and a party of 3 TAIGA BEAN GEESE for a third day in fields by the B1093/Byall Fen Drove junction in Cambs at TL 440 875.

In addition to the above, an apparent TODD'S CANADA GOOSE is at Slimbridge WWT Rushy Pen (Gloucs), 91 TAIGA BEAN GEESE were counted today in the Yare River Valley at Buckenham Marshes RSPB (Norfolk) and the adult white morph GREATER SNOW GOOSE is visiting Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) daily.

Whilst reports come in thick and fast of rare Siberian thrushes in back gardens, the only real contender is our star performer and much visited female BLACK-THROATED THRUSH in North Yorkshire, still enticing and thrilling allcomers in Newholm village, near Whitby (park by the village hall and walk 80 yards to the second road beyond the Beehive Pub to view the front garden of 5 Glen View). Artificially being fed is another garden vagrant - a LITTLE BUNTING - in relatively inaccessible Dunnet Bay (Caithness).

The only other real excitement is that of an adult BONAPARTE'S GULL still showing well in Ligwy Bay, on Anglesey.

GREAT WHITE EGRETS continue in abundance with long-stayers on the River Dee in Aberdeenshire, in Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir (Northants), in its usual series of ditches east of Pymoor (Cambs) (TL 511 883), at Worth Marshes, Sandwich (Kent), again in the Chess River Valley near Chorleywood (Herts) and on the Harbridge Water Meadows (Hants), with CATTLE EGRETS at Brew Farm, Sennen (West Cornwall) (at SW 371 251) and by the cattle sheds at Park Farm, Chideock (Dorset) (at SV 428 930) and the three surviving first-winter GLOSSY IBISES at Catcott Lows NR (Somerset)

NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEALS remain at Llyn Padrig (Anglesey) and Brandon Marsh NR (Warks), drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK DUCK on the Abbey Pool, Tresco (Scilly), with the two first-winter drake VELVET SCOTERS just off the dam at Grafham Water (Cambs) and the female RING-NECKED DUCK still wintering on North Ronaldsay (Orkney).

William Girling Reservoir in London hosts both BLACK-THROATED and 2 GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS, with King George VI Reservoir in West London playing host to no less than 7 juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS - a new record. Meanwhile, Whitlingham Broad near Norwich (Norfolk) is supporting the only inland/freshwater RED-NECKED GREBE and a few Smew.

Wintering SHORE LARKS include the two birds at Snettisham RSPB (Norfolk) and singles at Point of Ayr (Clwyd) and Kessingland North Beach Pools (Suffolk), whilst up to 7 LAPLAND BUNTINGS can be found at Frampton Marsh RSPB (Lincs). A RICHARD'S PIPIT was at Walmsley Sanctuary (Cornwall) on 20th.

A GREY PHALAROPE put in a brief appearance at Gibraltar Point NNR (Lincs) on 20th.

Little change in IRELAND, other than interesting gulls, some perhaps Arctic hybrids of Nearctic origin, but with a good crop of RING-BILLEDS, the usual adult NORTH AMERICAN HERRING and the ever-faithful FORSTER'S TERN, the latter two both sharing Galway Bay in the Nimmo's Pier area.

The adult drake NORTH AMERICAN EIDER was still off Glasagh Bay, Fanad Head (Co. Donegal) this week, with a drake AMERICAN WIGEON at The Gearagh and a LESSER SNOW GOOSE at Loch Swilly. A BONAPARTE'S GULL was east of Cobh at Cuskinny (Co. Cork) on at least 17th.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

And now a COMMON WHITETHROAT makes it 245

On Sunday 17 January, a COMMON WHITETHROAT was trapped and ringed in Kingsteignton in South Devon - a particularly odd occurrence and considerably unseasonal.

.......And yet another SLATY-BACKED GULL for Newfoundland - surely one will reach Britain soon

A few photos of a Slaty-backed Gull that I found today at Quidi Vidi Lake in St.John's Newfoundland. Amazingly,this is our 11th or 12th individual since 2006,when we I found our first at this same location. We have had multiple individuals annually since then.

Images here http://birdingnewfoundland.blogspot.com/2010/01/slaty-backed-gull.html

Dave Brown

........and LESSER WHITETHROAT makes it 244


It’s 244.

This Lesser Whitethroat has been visiting my fathers garden in Nottingham on and off since before Christmas. We think it’s blythi or halimodendri.

It hasn’t been seen for 2 weeks but reappeared yesterday. There was an attempt to mist-net over the Christmas holiday but it didn’t appear the day the ringer was there (it rained a lot)

The footage my father has is on his old (tape) camcorder and the picture was taken of the image on TV with my camera phone which is why it looks odd. Now the bird has reappeared we will try to mist net again to ascertain it’s racial identity.

Thanks,

Chris Wilkinson.

Places available on LGRE Spring Tours

I have several available places on my annual ISRAEL tour of this spring (15-29 March 2010) if any of you are interested. It is a full itinerary, generally recording some 230 species, taking in the mountains of the north and the spectacular Hula valley and its thousands of wintering/migrating raptors, Common Cranes, storks, etc, as well as the Nizzana Desert and of course, the rarity-saturated Eilat area. The approximate price is £579 plus accommodation and food.

There are also a couple of places available on my four-day 2010 Highlands and Islands tour in May, as well as limited space on tours of Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Poland and Scandinavia

Please email me at LGREUK400@aol.com for further information

Monday, 18 January 2010

African HOUBARA BUSTARD population bolstered by Emirates help

The Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation has proudly proclaimed breeding 44,000 HOUBARA BUSTARDS in captivity since 1997, including a staggering 16, 624 in 2009 alone. Of these, some 30,000 birds have now been released into the wild in the Western Sahara and Morocco, including 1,500 which have been fitted with satellite-tracking. This is fabulous news for this globally-threatened species and testament to the effort and financial resources that the ECWP is putting into conservation and the support the organisation is giving to large scale ecological studies (www.ecwp.org)

243 down

As we commence the third week of January 2010, a grand total of 243 species have been recorded in Britain and Ireland

1) Great Northern Diver
2) Black-throated Diver
3) Red-throated Diver
4) Slavonian Grebe
5) Black-necked Grebe
6) Little Grebe
7) Great Crested Grebe
8) Red-necked Grebe (just 35)
9) Northern Fulmar
10) Balearic Shearwater (off Porthgwarra)
11) Northern Gannet
12) Atlantic Great Cormorant (including Sinensis)
13) European Shag
14) Eurasian Bittern (106+)
15) BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (North Lincs)
16) CATTLE EGRET (6+)
17) Little Egret
18) GREAT WHITE EGRET (11+)
19) Grey Heron
20) White Stork (1 of unknown origin)
21) GLOSSY IBIS (5)
22) Eurasian Spoonbill (25+)
23) Mute Swan
24) Bewick's Swan
25) Whooper Swan
26) SNOW GOOSE (9+)
27) Eurasian White-fronted Goose
28) Greenland White-fronted Goose
29) Taiga Bean Goose
30) Tundra Bean Goose
31) Pink-footed Goose
32) Western Greylag Goose
33) Atlantic Canada Goose (including Todd's & Lesser)
34) SMALL CANADA GOOSE (4)
35) Barnacle Goose
36) Dark-bellied Brent Goose
37) Pale-bellied Brent Goose
38) Black Brant (12+)
39) RED-BREASTED GOOSE (adult in South Devon, perhaps of captive origin)
40) Common Shelduck
41) Egyptian Goose
42) Mandarin Duck
43) Mallard
44) NORTH AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (2)
45) Gadwall
46) Northern Pintail
47) Northern Shoveler
48) Eurasian Wigeon
49) AMERICAN WIGEON (2)
50) Common Teal
51) North American Green-winged Teal
52) BLUE-WINGED TEAL (1 - IRELAND only)
53) BAIKAL TEAL (1 - IRELAND ONLY - of unknown origin)
54) Northern Pochard
55) Red-crested Pochard
56) Ferruginous Duck (6)
57) LESSER SCAUP (2)
58) Greater Scaup
59) Tufted Duck
60) RING-NECKED DUCK (12)
61) Common Eider (including Northern and North American)
62) KING EIDER (1)
63) Common Scoter
64) Velvet Scoter
65) SURF SCOTER (5)
66) Long-tailed Duck
67) Common Goldeneye
68) Smew
69) Goosander
70) Red-breasted Merganser
71) Ruddy Duck
72) White-tailed Sea Eagle
73) Golden Eagle
74) Red Kite
75) BLACK/ASIATIC BLACK-EARED KITE (1 of unknown origin in Powys)
76) Marsh Harrier
77) Hen Harrier
78) PALLID HARRIER (1 in Cornwall)
79) Rough-legged Buzzard (3)
80) Common Buzzard
81) Eurasian Sparrowhawk
82) Northern Goshawk
83) Common Kestrel
84) Peregrine
85) Merlin
86) GYRFALCON (3)
87) Red Grouse
88) Ptarmigan
89) Capercaillie
90) Black Grouse
91) Red-legged Partridge
92) Grey Partridge
93) Common Pheasant
94) Golden Pheasant
95) Water Rail
96) Moorhen
97) Eurasian Coot
98) COMMON CRANE (40)
99) Oystercatcher
100) Pied Avocet
101) Ringed Plover
102) Grey Plover
103) European Golden Plover
104) Lapwing
105) Red Knot
106) Sanderling
107) Purple Sandpiper
108) Turnstone
109) Dunlin
110) Curlew Sandpiper (1)
111) Little Stint (11)
112) Green Sandpiper
113) Common Sandpiper
114) SPOTTED SANDPIPER (2)
115) Common Redshank
116) Spotted Redshank
117) Common Greenshank
118) Black-tailed Godwit
119) Bar-tailed Godwit
120) Eurasian Curlew
121) Whimbrel (4)
122) Woodcock
123) Common Snipe
124) Jack Snipe
125) Grey Phalarope (3)
126) BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (1 in Lothian)
127) Ruff
128) LESSER YELLOWLEGS (1)
129) LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (2)
130) Great Skua
131) Pomarine Skua
132) Black-headed Gull
133) BONAPARTE'S GULL (2)
134) Common Gull
135) RING-BILLED GULL (15)
136) Mediterranean Gull
137) Herring Gull (argenteus & argentatus)
138) NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL (1 in IRELAND)
139) Yellow-legged Gull
140) Caspian Gull
141) Lesser Black-backed Gull
142) Great Black-backed Gull
143) Little Gull
144) Kittiwake
145) Glaucous Gull
146) Iceland Gull
147) Sandwich Tern
148) FORSTER'S TERN (1 in IRELAND)
149) Little Auk
150) Black Guillemot
151) Common Guillemot
152) Razorbill
153) Rock Dove
154) Stock Dove
155) Woodpigeon
156) Eurasian Collared Dove
157) Tawny Owl
158) EURASIAN EAGLE OWL
159) SNOWY OWL (1+)
160) Long-eared Owl
161) Short-eared Owl
162) Barn Owl
163) Little Owl
164) EURASIAN HOOPOE (1)
165) Common Kingfisher
166) Ring-necked Parakeet
167) Green Woodpecker
168) Great Spotted Woodpecker
169) Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
170) Eurasian Skylark
171) Woodlark
172) Shore Lark (20+)
173) Water Pipit
174) Rock Pipit
175) Meadow Pipit
176) Pied Wagtail
177) Grey Wagtail
178) Wren
179) Dipper
180) Bohemian Waxwing (15+)
181) Dunnock
182) European Robin
183) Black Redstart
184) Common Stonechat
185) Song Thrush
186) Redwing
187) Mistle Thrush
188) Fieldfare
189) Common Blackbird
190) Ring Ouzel (2)
191) BLACK-THROATED THRUSH (2+)
192) Blackcap
193) Dartford Warbler
194) Cetti's Warbler
195) Common Chiffchaff
196) Siberian Chiffchaff
197) Goldcrest
198) Firecrest
199) Great Tit
200) Coal Tit
201) Blue Tit
202) Crested Tit
203) Willow Tit
204) Marsh Tit
205) Long-tailed Tit
206) Bearded Tit
207) EURASIAN PENDULINE TIT (1)
208) Nuthatch
209) Common Treecreeper
210) ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE (1)
211) Northern Grey Shrike (17)
212) Common Magpie
213) Jay
214) Jackdaw
215) Red-billed Chough
216) Rook
217) Carrion Crow
218) Hooded Crow
219) Common Raven
220) Common Starling
221) House Sparrow
222) Tree Sparrow
223) Chaffinch
224) Brambling
225) Linnet
226) Twite
227) Lesser Redpoll
228) Mealy Redpoll
229) Goldfinch
230) Greenfinch
231) Siskin
232) EUROPEAN SERIN (2)
233) Bullfinch
234) Hawfinch
235) Common Crossbill
236) Scottish Parrot Crossbill
237) Reed Bunting
238) LITTLE BUNTING (1 in Caithness)
239) Snow Bunting
240) Lapland Bunting
241) Yellowhammer
242) Cirl Bunting
243) Corn Bunting

Saturday, 16 January 2010

BLACK-THROATED THRUSH remains star attraction






A female BLACK-THROATED THRUSH in North Yorkshire continues to be the lead attraction as the snow starts to melt across the country as milder southerly winds briefly move in. The bird is performing admirably in gardens in Newholm village, not far from Whitby, within walking distance of the Beehive public house. The superb images above were obtained by Ron Marshall.

And now for the supporting cast - in chronological order....a total of 242 species already having been recorded in Britain and Ireland thus far in 2010.

The only freshwater BLACK-THROATED DIVER is that still present on Oulton Broad, Lowestoft (Suffolk), whilst long-staying GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS inland include singles at Rutland Water (in Whitwell Creek) (Leics), Whitlingham Broad, Norwich (Norfolk), Pitsford Reservoir (Northants), Stewartby Lake (Beds), Brogborough Lake (Beds) and Cheddar Reservoir (Somerset).

Four BALEARIC SHEARWATERS moved west off Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 14 January, indicating wintering of this species surprisingly north in the Atlantic, whilst EURASIAN BITTERNS involve at least 63 surviving birds and CATTLE EGRETS at Brew Farm, near Sennen (SW 371 252) (West Cornwall) (2 birds) and another flying south along the A487 at Llanfain (Ceredigion) today. The long-staying GREAT WHITE EGRET of French origin was showing well on Rockford Lake, Blashford (Hants) today, with another present for a fifth day near the dam at West Hythe (East Kent). The three first-winter GLOSSY IBISES in Somerset at Catcott Lows NR have survived the worst of the weather, whilst wintering EURASIAN SPOONBILLS include at least 9 in Poole Harbour (Dorset), up to 6 in Cornwall and singles on the River Axe, Axmouth (South Devon) and in Pagham Harbour (West Sussex).

On the wildfowl front, a white morph SNOW GOOSE is with Greylag Geese near Craob Haven (Argyll) (in fields at NM 805 085), at least 15 TAIGA BEAN GEESE remain in the River Yare at Cantley Marshes (Norfolk), two vagrant CANADA GEESE remain with Barnacle Geese on Islay (Argyll), a displaced flock of 19 BARNACLE GEESE is near Chypraze Farm, Morvah (at SW 387 358) (West Cornwall), BLACK BRANTS are at Wells Harbour (Norfolk), Reculver Marshes (North Kent), HMS Sultan Fields, Gosport (Hants) and on The Fleet (Dorset) and the adult RED-BREASTED GOOSE of perhaps feral origin on the Exe Estuary (South Devon).

Drake NORTH AMERICAN GEEN-WINGED TEALS remain at Tain (Inverness-shire), on Loch Leven (Fife), Eyebrook Reservoir (Leics) and off Hayling Island Oyster Beds (Hants), 270 displaced Red-crested Pochards at a variety of sites, FERRUGINOUS DUCKS of unknown origin at Brookley's Park (Staffs), Barton Broad (Norfolk) and on the flooded diggings west of Rosebud Farm at Westhay Moor NNR (Somerset), the drake LESSER SCAUP at Cardiff Bay Wetlands (Glamorgan), the drake RING-NECKED DUCK at Pugney's Country Park (West Yorks) and a drake KING EIDER off the end of Bath Street in Burghead (Moray). At least one VELVET SCOTER is inland off of the dam at Grafham Water (Cambs), with an adult drake SURF SCOTER off Ruddon's Point in Largo Bay (Fife) and an adult female off Dawlish Warren (South Devon). Presumed escape Hooded Mergansers continue at Radipole Lake (Dorset) and on the Petroplus Pools at Saltholme Pools (Cleveland). The cold weather has forced 70 or more SMEW into Britain, with an impressive flock of 97 GOOSANDER at Old Moor RSPB (South Yorks).

The juvenile BLACK or ASIATIC BLACK-EARED KITE of suspect origin continues to show very well at feeding times with up to 420 Red Kites at the Gigrin Farm feeding station near Rhayader (Powys), with a juvenile PALLID HARRIER in West Cornwall (highly elusive and only occasionally seen during daylight hours) and just one twitchable ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD on the Haddiscoe Levels (Norfolk/Suffolk border). A beautiful white morph GYRFALCON is present for a second day on the island of Eilean Mhic Connich (NR 163 523) at Portnahavern, Islay (Argyll).

A COMMON CRANE visited Penhill Marsh on the Taw Estuary (North Devon) on 15 January, with the long-staying and only second-ever wintering BAIRD'S SANDPIPER at White Sands Bay, Dunbar (Lothian), the SPOTTED SANDPIPER on the Exe Estuary (South Devon) and a GREY PHALAROPE today off of the wooden pier of the Lunar Fish Factory in Aberdeen.

An adult BONAPARTE'S GULL remains for a third day on the sea in Ligwy Bay on Anglesey, with the only regular RING-BILLED GULLS being the old adults at Westcliff-on-Sea (Essex) and Walpole Park Sailing Lake, Gosport (Hants).

A flock of 12 WOODLARK was an unusual find in Penrhyn Bay (Clwyd) (at SH 805 798), with further birds in South Wales, with SHORE LARKS at the Point of Ayr (Clwyd), Snettisham (Norfolk) (2), Kessingland (Suffolk) and at the NW end of the Flamingo Pool at Cliffe Pools RSPB (North Kent) at TQ 713 773. Just 1 BOHEMIAN WAXWING is twitchable at present - an adult in Norwich (Norfolk) favouring an apple tree in Lower Clarence Road.

The first RING OUZELS of the year visited gardens in Charlbury (Oxon) and in Poldhu Cove, Lizard (Cornwall), with a single very elusive and erratic PENDULINE TIT in the Dungeness area (Kent), a single continuing EUROPEAN SERIN at Rainham Marsh RSPB (Essex) and NORTHERN GREY SHRIKES at just six wintering locations.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

EAGLE OWLS at large in Britain - yet another target bird on the Fera hit list - but now new evidence suggests that some may be of natural origin

An autopsy and isotope analysis of a EURASIAN EAGLE OWL picked up dead as a road casualty in Thetford Forest has apparently proved positive in terms of comparison with the clades of birds resident in Continental Europe and Scandinavia, indicating that the small population in East Anglia is perhaps of natural origin rather than of introduced or escaped birds.

As there has been a recent application made by Fera and other organisations to destroy up to 44 pairs of this species breeding in the wild from Scotland and Wales south to Sussex and Kent, on the basis that the birds are illegal releases and may sway the natural swing of the food chain in this country, this new information is perhaps more than ever pertinent and testament to the fact that the birds should be left well and alone.

Furthermore, a recently-published paper by Aebischer and others on juvenile dispersion of Eurasian Eagle Owls on the Continent has provided an insight into the actual movements of this species.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Cornish PALLID HARRIER - an excellent selection of images obtained by local birder Brian Field











This juvenile PALLID HARRIER, photographed here as it glided across the fields near Sennen school, West Cornwall, has been wintering in the area since at least 2 December 2009.

Monday, 11 January 2010

PALLID HARRIER in Cornwall........and another garden BLACK-THROATED THRUSH

A juvenile PALLID HARRIER, present in West Cornwall since the first few days of December 2009 (Roy Phillips), has shown well for three consecutive days over fields and farmland close to Sennen school, allowing Brian Field to obtain an educational set of flight images. The bird has been roosting intermittently with up to four Hen Harriers and represents only the second record for Cornwall, following a male in the same general area on 9 March 2003 (James Gilroy).

In North Yorkshire, a female BLACK-THROATED THRUSH was photographed in a back garden at Newholm, 2 miles west of Whitby, but did not show today.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Deep Freeze continues

Last night, the overnight temperature in Altnaharra in Sutherland reached an alarming minus 22.3 degrees - the coldest night for many a decade. This extreme winter weather has already cost the lives of many thousands of starving birds and with it expecting to continue until 10 February, this could well lead to one of the biggest catastrophies to ever besiege the birdlife of Britain and Ireland. Most of Britain is blanketed by snow and ice, making access to many sites hazardous and very difficult.

As we enter the weekend, I provide below the latest Rare Bird Alert from the UK400 Club.......

A LITTLE BUNTING that has been present in a birder's garden for several weeks was still being attracted to grain this morning in the largely snowbound hamlet of Dunnet (Caithness) whilst a female BLACK-THROATED THRUSH was in the SE corner of the 'Nitten Field' in the Mewslade Valley at Middleton on the Gower Peninsular (West Glamorgan) briefly this morning. One EUROPEAN SERIN continues to survive at the west end of the seawall at Rainham Marsh RSPB (London)

An apparent juvenile ASIATIC BLACK-EARED KITE of unknown origin continues to join upwards of 420 Red Kites at the Gigrin Farm Feeding Station near Rhyader (Powys), visiting daily in the afternoon from around 1300 hours (beware of very dangerous driving conditions in this area of Central Wales)

Two CATTLE EGRETS have survived the freeze in Somerset, showing well at Shapwick Heath NNR this morning, with a GREAT WHITE EGRET hanging on at Lawford Heath Lane (Warks).

On the Isles of Scilly, the drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK DUCK visited St Mary's briefly this morning with Mallards, whilst the Lancashire drake RING-NECKED DUCK was today on Fleetwood Marine Lake. In Berkshire, the first-winter female FERRUGINOUS DUCK remained for a second day on the only ice-free patch of water on the British Airways Pit at Wraysbury (it flew off south early afternoon) whilst large numbers of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS have been displaced from the frozen Midlands and have appeared all along the South Coast, from Sussex west to Dorset (including 11 in Christchurch Harbour), as well as at Stewartby Lake (up to 30) and Grafham Water (up to 23), the latter site still hosting a first-winter drake VELVET SCOTER. Single drake SURF SCOTERS are off Ruddon's Point, Largo Bay (Fife) and Llandullas (North Wales), with the returning adult female off Dawlish Warren (South Devon), with a drake AMERICAN WIGEON briefly on the Crouch Estuary at North Fambridge (Essex) on 4 January.

Following yet another poor breeding season in the Arctic, ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS are at a premium, with one yesterday over Graemeshall (Orkney Mainland) and wintering birds at Coveney (Cambs) and at Chedgrave/Haddiscoe Levels (Suffolk/Norfolk border), whilst Orkney's grey morph juvenile GYRFALCON was seen again near Stromness on 6 January. A male SNOWY OWL was again on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 5 January.

Rare waders include the SPOTTED SANDPIPER on the Exe Estuary at Topsham (South Devon), the BAIRD'S SANDPIPER at White Sands Bay, Dunbar (Lothian) and a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER again at Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay (Argyll).

Smew are in evidence around the country but with small water bodies now frozen over, becoming harder to locate, whilst Eurasian Bitterns are very prominent as they skid about the ice at many locations throughout the country, including as many as four together. The weather has also seen a sudden upsurge in BOHEMIAN WAXWING reports, with 40 seen during the week and two today in Warsett Crescent, Skelton (Cleveland).

IRELAND has been fairly uneventful in recent weeks but a drake BAIKAL TEAL of unknown origin was seen at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 6 January (with the long-staying first-winter GLOSSY IBIS still there that day), with the female BLUE-WINGED TEAL at North Bull Island (Co. Dublin) and the adult winter FORSTER'S TERN at Nimmo's Pier, Galway Harbour (Co. Galway). A blue morph LESSER SNOW GOOSE was at Lough Swilly (Co. Donegal), CATTLE EGRET at Great Island (Co. Cork) and a host of lingering RING-BILLED GULLS, including 3 at Sandymount Strand, Dublin. An apparent NORTH AMERICAN EIDER was again off Fanad Head in Glasagh Bay on 2 January.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Most of UK and Ireland covered in blanket of snow

The winter weather that first arrived in Britain on 18 December 2009 stepped up a gear in the past 24 hours, with a blanket of heavy snow, in some places 44 cms deep, now covering most of the country, even as far west as Cornwall. This is proving detrimental to our birdlife and with it forecast to continue until 12 February, could be absolutely catastrophic and as bad as the winters of 1847 and 1963.

Unlike those two winters when birdlife was in relatively good shape, the numbers of many of our more familiar farmland species are severely depleted and this winter could well prove to be the 'nail in the coffin' and even relative new immigrants such as Little Egret and Cetti's Warbler will be suffering. It is heart-rending watching so many Bitterns standing on the ice and starving and so many birds are now being killed on the roads as they desperately seek out salt deposits used to melt the snow. These are depressing times indeed........

Lee G R Evans

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

NORTH AMERICAN EIDER in IRELAND on 2 January




All, photos attached of the possible NORTH AMERICAN EIDER (dresseri) found by myself and Derek Charles at Glasagh Bay, Fanad, on 2 January 2010. Unfortunately neither of us had any photo gear with us so I had to resort to mobile phone pics!

The photographs do not do the bird justice. It actually was showing well and stood out by a mile. Main features seen (or to look out for if you intend going for it):

1) Big lobes at the top of the bill!
2) Stonking orange bill.
3) Sails - initially not clear but after the bird preened, these showed clearly.
4) The green on the neck was more extensive than the accompanying Eider and extended under the black cap.
5) Fine black line between bill and feathering.

Comments or feedback welcome.

Regards

Wilton Farelly

Drake BAIKAL TEAL in IRELAND today

An adult drake BAIKAL TEAL of unknown origin was discovered in IRELAND today, showing well at the east end of Tacumshin (County Wexford)

Monday, 4 January 2010

Kite of unknown origin still present


Gareth Jones obtained this crippling image of the apparent juvenile Asiatic Black-eared Kite at Gigrin Farm, Rhyader, this afternoon, as it visited from 1400-1420 hours. The site is currently attracting up to 420 Red Kites - a spectacle in itself.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Apparent ASIATIC BLACK-EARED KITE at Red Kite feeding station in Central Wales


This first-year ASIATIC BLACK-EARED KITE was photographed at Gigrin Farm Red Kite feeding station near Rhyader today - possibly a natural vagrant

Friday, 1 January 2010

Wintering BAIRD'S SANDPIPER in Scotland




Dennis Morrison very kindly emailed me these images taken today of the wintering first-winter BAIRD'S SANDPIPER in Lothian - at White Sands Bay, just north of Barns Ness. It is only the second ever occurrence of overwintering by this Nearctic species in Britain.

Surprise of the Day - ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE survives the deep freeze






NEW YEARS DAY 2010 (FRIDAY 1 JANUARY)

The surprise of the day was the relocation of the Middlesex BROWN SHRIKE - after last being seen prior to the cold snap on 18 December 2009. As a result, Staines Moor was my first port of call.......

STAINES MOOR (MIDDLESEX)

The ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE was proving typically popular and arriving just after 1210 hours, I met Lester Mulford and his sister (sadly his mum of 105 years of age passed away just recently), Ron & Simon King, Steve Webb, John Dixon, Franko & Oliver, Dave Morris, Ian & Chris Williams, Gary Howard & family and Peter Alfrey amongst others.

The footpath down from Hithermoor Road is still incredibly muddy, despite the ice, and it remains a challenge to get to the boardwalk without getting totally caked in mud. I did finally make it relatively unscathed and for about five minutes enjoyed good views of the long-staying Asiatic vagrant as it moved along the Hawthorns bordering the east side of the river. It had been feeding on earthworms on the ground in the sparsely vegetated area on the left just after the boardwalk and showing very well but after being the centre of attraction for several hours, decided to revert back to its skulking nature and disappeared at about 1300 hours (and failing to reappear in the next two hours).

Andrew Moon had managed to get these superb images of the bird just prior to its disappearance on 18 December and shows how much buff on the underparts the bird now has acquired.