Thursday 30 October 2008

Hooded Merganser in Fife - of unknown origin

A first-winter or female Hooded Merganser has been present since Sunday 26 October 2008 in Fife. It was on an old boating pond recently converted for wildlife NE of Tayport at Tayport Pond, besides the track between Tentsmuir Point and the Caravan Park at NO 462 285 on at least 26th.

Today the bird has relocated 20 miles away just south of Collessie at the converted gravel pits now known as Gaddon Lochs NR (Fife). This location is adjacent to the Fife Wildlife Park, where both Australian Black Swan and White-cheeked Pintail have escaped from in recent years. Now Fife Wildlife Park did have 3 Hooded Mergansers up until recently but today told local birder Rab Shand that they do not have any (nor ever did). Therefore the origin of the bird is a mystery.

I am hoping to be able to study images of the bird later today to see if it is an adult or immature. We know that the Fife Park birds were adults.


The first SNOWY OWL to be recorded on Scilly since spring 1972 arrived from the SW yesterday afternoon (over Gugh) and flew low over Porthellick Down and Pool and then Holy Vale before eventually landing on stone walls along Pungies Lane not far from Newford Duck Pond. It was a bird of the year (very heavily barred) and had clearly got blown well off course and was most likely associated with the weather front which bought the first OCTOBER snow to the Chiltern and London area since 1934 !

After moving to more sheltered accommodation in fields south of Pungies Lane, it then flew to Bant's Carn Burial Chamber, where it remained until dusk. Obviously an absolute MEGA on Scilly, some 200 local and visiting birders, as well as 40+ local residents, had seen and enjoyed the bird before dark. Residents Martin Goodey and Robin Mawer obtained excellent photographs of the bird (Robin's image is reproduced above)

The bird is still present today but of course has relocated to the more remote island of St Martin's. At lunchtime today, it was roosting on the beach just east of the Higher Town Quay.

There have been just five previous Snowy Owls recorded on the archipelago, including one which overwintered in 1964/65 (Evans 1998, Rare and Scarce Migrant Birds of the Isles of Scilly, page 57).

Singles were shot on St Martin's in September 1905 and on St Mary's in February 1913.

One boarded the Scillonian off Land's End (Cornwall) on 14th February 1934 and remained on board until the ship reached Scilly, when it flew from the rigging towards Samson and was seen on Bryher on 15th-16th February.

One remained on Tresco from 10th October 1964 until 13th March 1965, visiting Tean, St Mary's and St Agnes during the period.

The most recent record prior to this was an adult male that commuted between St Martin's, Tresco, St Mary's and Gugh from 8th March until 27th April 1972.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Recent Rarities in County Louth IRELAND

Adult winter FORSTER'S TERN at Cruisetown Strand and a garden visiting GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER in Dromin

AMERICAN GREEN-BACKED HERON - More shots by Ashley Stowe

American Green-backed Heron at Royal Military Canal, Hythe, Kent.

I arrived at 1.15pm and joined 20 or so birders watching the Green Heron next to the canal dam, it was sat in the water presumably standing on a sunken log and sat motionless for 5 or so minutes giving amazing views some 20ft away. It was obviously looking for small fry in the water and remained very calm and oblivious to the fact that everybody was watching it and at times almost seemed to enjoy the attention. It flew to beneath the bridge and perched on the concrete footings below the onlooking observers but soon crossed back over the canal and perched halfway up the reeds, it remained in the reeds for a further 10 minutes before flying west along the canal and out of sight. It was found 500yards further down the canal and an hour later at 2.27pm it returned to the dam and again showed extremely well. After standing in the water in almost the same place as it was earlier it flew to a nearby overhanging tree bow and crept up the bow to the top and scanned the water below, there must be a good supply of small fish/fry around the dam as every 10 or so minutes small numbers broke the surface followed by the large splash of what could only be a Pike chasing it's prey, this continued all afternoon. At about 3pm the Green Heron moved in to the reeds and slowly crept through them until it stopped and remained motionless, watching the water intently it suddenly lurched forward and pulled out a Perch which it soon devoured head first, Roy Woodward managed to capture this and the photos are on birdguides. I was surprised at how quickly it dispatched the perch especially with the amount of spines that Perch have on their dorsal fin, it went straight down and after a few bobs up and down and a quick almost burp like action it was swallowed. At 3.30pm the Heron was still sat in the reedbed where it remained till I left at 3.45pm.

During the time I watched the Green Heron it successfully caught small fry/fish from around the dam end of the canal, a few insects where also taken when it was in the reedbed and then later the Perch. A number of observers had also seen it catch a Perch earlier in the day. It doesn't seem to have any problems catching food and is propably in a prey rich enviroment, lets hope a Pike doesn't get it!

Fantastic bird and you couldn't wish for better views, it was so close and at times I was beginning to believe it was an escape


Ashley Stowe

Tuesday 28 October 2008

28 OCTOBER 2008

The fabulous 2nd-winter drake KING EIDER off Appledore (North Devon) fabulously captured on film here by Gary Thoburn
The star bird of this past weekend - an extremely confiding AMERICAN GREEN-BACKED HERON in East Kent at West Hythe (top 5 images by Marc Heath with two more by Mike Lawrence)
CACKLING CANADA GOOSE at Caerlaverock WWT (Tristan Reid) - a bird seen previously in Norway
Juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE at Borough Farm, St Mary's on Scilly (Robin Mawer). This bird caused hysteria on the archipelago when reidentified as a Brown Shrike. Fortunately Robin's images alerted Stuart Piner and LGRE to the mistake shortly after he uploaded them early afternoon to Surfbirds and those on Scilly were swiftly informed. By early evening, the identification was rectified on RBA.
BLYTH'S REED WARBLER on St Agnes (Scilly) (Steve Keightley)
Male BLUETHROAT at Land's End (Cornwall), where the species is particularly difficult to catch up with. Prints of this bird are available from Brian Field at

This is the UK400 Club Rare Bird Alert for Tuesday 28 October 2008, issued at 2200 hours and published in association with Rare Bird Alert Pagers, whilst untilising additional information gleaned from BirdGuides, the Regional Birdlines, local email groups and websites and individual observers.

Pride of place goes to a first-winter AMERICAN GREEN-BACKED HERON showing well in East Kent. Initially discovered on Tuesday 21 October by locals, this very confiding bird is affording views down to just a few yards by the dam on the Royal Military Canal in West Hythe. It is finding plenty of small Perch to catch and seems perfectly happy with its surroundings and really is an essential and delightful bird to see. It represents only the sixth ever to have been recorded in Britain (see summary of records below) and has been very well photographed (see images at top of Alert).


Leave the M20 at Junction 11 and follow signposts for Hythe and Lympne. Continue towards Hythe and half a mile before that town, turn right on a very minor road. After 1.8 miles, turn left at the crossroads and continue down the hill to park in the designated, public car park in West Hythe village. Follow the canal towpath westwards for 450 yards to the dam to view. Alternatively, leave the A259 coast road south of Hythe for Botolph's Bridge and enter the village from the south. Please note that Lympne Hill is closed this week for extensive roadworks. DO NOT PURPOSEFULLY FLUSH THE HERON and please respect other people when photographing or videoing the bird.

PREVIOUS GREEN-BACKED HERONS IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND (data reproduced from Evans, Rare Birds in Britain and Ireland 1700-2008).

AMERICAN GREEN-BACKED HERON Butorides virescens (Linnaeus)
(North and Central America, and West Indies)

1889 Cornwall Penrice, near St Austell, immature, shot, 27th October, now at County Museum, Truro (Zoologist 1890: 105, 181-182; British Birds 65: 424-427; Penhallurick, 1969; Ibis 116: 578; 1992: 220).
1982 East Yorkshire Stone Creek, 27th November to 6th December, seen with a Great White Egret, A. alba (British Birds 76: 101, 480, plates 40-41; 77: 510, plate 219; 78: 106-107; Ibis 126: 442).
1987 Lothian Tyninghame, first-winter, freshly dead, probably killed by fox, 25th October, now at National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (British Birds 81: 542; Scottish Bird Report 1987: 10, photo).
2001 Lincolnshire Messingham Sand Quarry, first-winter, 24th September to 2nd October (British Birds 94: plate 316 & 95: 481; Birding World 14: 370-371, plates 1-5).
2005 Anglesey Red Wharf Bay, first-winter, 7th-20th November (British Birds 99: plate 17 & 100: 27, plate 2) (considered bird previously present in Ireland)

2005 Cork Schull, first-winter, 11th-13th October (relocated in Britain)

1992 Guernsey Divette Bay, St Peter’s Port, juvenile/first-winter, 13th-24th September (photograph in Birding World 5: 329).

On the Isles of Scilly today, last week's first-winter RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL was relocated, showing well intermittently in field-edges and scrub in the Newford Duck Pond vicinity of St Mary's, and along Trenoweth Lane. The GREY-CHEEKED THRUSH also remains on St Mary's, skulking in dense cover on the vegetated bank below Carn Thomas Gymnasium on Porthmellon Beach, along with the first-winter Red-backed Shrike near Borough Farm. The first-winter WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER continues to commute between Porthellick Bay and Beady Pool, Wingletang Down (St Agnes) with the BLYTH'S REED WARBLER still present in the St Agnes Chapel Fields. Three Hawfinches are in Holy Vale.

In Norfolk, a juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER was identified today, consorting with a flock of up to 600 European Golden Plovers at East Harling Heath (Peter Wilson et al). As usual, the Golden Plover flock is very skittish and easily disturbed so the ideal way to see it is to 'scope from a vehicle and not break the skyline or slam car doors. East Harling lies 8 miles ENE of Thetford and the flock are feeding east of the B111 by the minor road just ENE of Triangle Covert at TL 998 843.

A sudden snatch of Arctic weather and NE winds this afternoon resulted in an arrival from Scandinavia of a small number of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, with 5 in Yorkshire (3 at Filey and singles at Bempton and Flamborough Head) and another in Lowestoft (Suffolk) as well as a few Goosander.

There was also a continuing unprecedented 'wreck' of GREY PHALAROPES in Northern Scotland with the strong, Northerly winds displacing 52+ on Skye (at Mhor-bheoil, Gedintailor, at HG 533 353), 50+ on Orkney, 30+ on Shetland and 20+ on the Outer Hebrides, whilst further south, first-winters were at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) (on 27th), Easington Lagoons (East Yorks) and Kelling Water Meadows (Norfolk).

On the wildfowl front, both Small Canada Geese remain with Barnacle Geese at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway), 5 'vagrant' Canada Geese are on Islay (Argyll), the adult ROSS'S SNOW GOOSE with Pink-footed Geese on Pilling Marsh (Lancs), 160 Taiga Bean Geese are at Fannyside Lochs (Forth) and the fabulous 2nd-winter drake KING EIDER is off Appledore (North Devon). Two adult drake LESSER SCAUPS remain at Hogganfield Loch (Clyde) with another present for its second day at Holme Pierrpont A52 Pit (Notts), a drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK at Hollycross Lake, Amwell NR (Herts) and a juvenile SURF SCOTER off Carne Beach, in Gerrans Bay, 7 miles NE of Falmouth (Cornwall). A further SURF SCOTER was off Dawlish Warren (South Devon) on 27th.

The long-staying adult GLOSSY IBIS remains elusive as ever at Swillington Ings (West Yorks), with a WHITE STORK at Desford (Leics) and a GREAT WHITE EGRET at Blashford Lakes (Hampshire). In Dorset, a CATTLE EGRET is still in the cattle field SE of Glebelands, Studland, with 15 Spoonbills on Brownsea Island and at Middlebere (Poole Harbour) and 6 more on Isley Marsh (North Devon).

On the passerine front, a RICHARD'S PIPIT flew SW over Tring (Herts) early morning, the juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE remains at Halling Common (Kent) and a EUROPEAN SERIN was in Cot Valley (Cornwall). Up to four EUROPEAN SERINS remain at Rainham Marsh RSPB, frequenting the weedy embankment opposite the landfill site, 0.8 miles west of the RSPB Information Centre. In Cornwall, a very confiding male BLUETHROAT continues to show well adjacent to the footpath in Sallows just south of the Land's End tourist car park. A tiny number of Yellow-browed Warblers are still around, mainly on Scilly.


The CATTLE EGRET remains at Inchydoney (Co. Cork), with the drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK DUCK in Ventry Harbour (Co. Kerry), a drake American Wigeon in Broad Lough (Co. Wicklow), the drake Ring-necked Duck on Inishmore (Co. Galway) and a drake SURF SCOTER off Waterville (Co. Kerry).

Thursday 23 October 2008

Highlights of WEEK 3 on SCILLY - a portfolio from Steve Arlow

With just over 300 visitors this year, this was perhaps the quietest year for birders in over 25 years. As a result, the number and diversity of species recorded was much less than of late, with scarce migrants really at a premium (with no Common Rosefinhes, Ortolans, Barred Warblers or Icterine Warblers).
The undoubted highlight was the moulting adult SOCIABLE PLOVER (pictured above, top) which, after initially arriving on the Airfield settled down in fields opposite the top end of Porthloo Lane in Telegraph Road. It was the first for Scilly.
There were 3 RED-EYED VIREOS (with singles on the Garrison, St Mary's, at Covean, St Agnes and the one photographed above in Gugh Plantation, with a superbly confiding OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT in the Parsonage Garden on St Agnes (plates 3 & 4).
St Agnes was also graced with this wonderfully obliging GREY-CHEEKED THRUSH (plates 5-7) and this BLYTH'S REED WARBLER in Chapel Fields (which was mysteriously ringed during its stay).
Note more STEVE ARLOW images can be seen at

IRELAND still shining

Olive-backed Pipit, St Agnes Parsonage, Scilly, 20-23 October 2008 (Stevie Evans)
Juvenile Little Blue Heron, Letterfrack, County Galway, October 2008 (Christine Stean)
2nd-winter drake King Eider, Appledore, North Devon, October 2008 (Andy Slade)
Drake North American Green-winged Teal, Farlington Marshes, Hampshire, October 2008 (Jason Crook)
Adult drake Ferruginous Duck, Calvert BBOWT Lake, North Bucks, October 2008 (Tim Farr)

In County Clare, the first-winter ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK discovered on Loop Head yesterday morning (John Murphy) was relocated again today in Kilbaha Harbour (Kieran Fahy). It represents the first record for Clare and only the 8th for Ireland. Park sensibly near the Lighthouse Inn.

In Cork, a CATTLE EGRET was in fields at Inchydoney late evening, where it roosted at dusk with 41 Little Egrets, whilst the juvenile LITTLE BLUE HERON was seen again just west of Letterfrack in Barnaderg Bay (County Galway) on 21st-22nd. In Donegal, the drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK DUCK was again at Blanket Nook on Lough Swilly

Four CATTLE EGRETS remained at Castle Water, Rye Harbour NR (East Sussex) at dawn, whilst a further CATTLE EGRET was with cattle at Glebelands on Studland (Dorset). The GREAT WHITE EGRET remains at Island Mere, Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk).

In Clyde, two adult drake LESSER SCAUPS remain for at least a 4th day at Hogganfield Loch, ENE of Glasgow off the A80 with an eclipse drake KING EIDER today in Spey Bay (Moray) feeding with Long-tailed Ducks off the entrance mouth of the river. The adult drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK continues at Calvert BBOWT Lake (North Bucks) (with another at Amwell Holycross Lake, Hertfordshire) with an adult drake AMERICAN WIGEON at Fenham Flats (Northumberland) and adult drake Ring-necked Duck at Foxcote Reservoir (North Bucks). The drake North American Green-winged Teal also remains at Farlington Marshes (Hants).

A WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER was seen briefly at Bogside Flats, Irvine (Ayrshire) at 1735, with another (juvenile) at the SE end of Tresco (Scilly) and an adult on South Uist at Balgarva, South Ford.

A GREY PHALAROPE was today SE of Shrewsbury (Shropshire) at Venus Pool NR (on the island to the right of the main hide), with 2 still on Fair Isle and up to 10 still on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). Another was seen just south of the River Brue mouth at Highbridge (Somerset), with 21 past Porthgwarra (Cornwall) and 5 past Ardivachar Point, South Uist.

The juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE remains on Halling Heath, 4 miles SSW of Rochester (Kent) (at TQ 710 642), with a SHORELARK still inland at Upton Warren Flashes Pool (Worcs) (view from main hide) and a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW east past Warham Greens (Norfolk).

On the Isles of Scilly, an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT and (ringed) BLYTH'S REED WARBLER remain on St Agnes, along with a Red-breasted Flycatcher.

RED-BACKED SHRIKE on Halling Common (KENT)

In response to an earlier request, the juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE is still present today (Thursday 23rd October - its 7th day of residence) 4 miles SSW of Rochester just east of Halling and just west of the River Medway this morning on Halling Common (at TQ 710 642), showing well until at least 1045 hours.


From Halling High Street, take Low Meadow to the end and park sensibly to view (TQ 710 642). From Low Meadow, Halling, take the footpath north over the first stile and along the river path, to view hawthorns/brambles on your left (west of the river) just before the second stile/navigational marker. The bird seemed to be favouring this clump, occasionally perching high on a hawthorn that had Clematis growing through it.
All credit to Ian Shepherd I believe who first reported having seen it from his house across the river! Ian seems to do an amazing job of 'finding' things in the immediate area - Pallas Warbler, Leach's Petrel, Pectoral Sandpiper just to name a few.
Please note that the photographs above relate to a juvenile present earlier in the month at Margate, North Kent, in September and excellently captured on film by Barry Wright

Wednesday 22 October 2008


Philadelphia Vireo (Josh Jones) and Scarlet Tanager (Mark Carmody) - just two of the Irish avian delights enjoyed by visiting British birders this autumn
I would be most grateful if visiting birders from Britain could ensure that they phone in their updates and finds during their pilgrimages to IRELAND to BINS - the equivalent service to Rare Bird Alert and National Birdline in this country. Eric Dempsey's HOTLINE and personal mobile number is

00353 87 907 5669

Eric works hard to provide us with the most efficient service possible and ensures that we hear about the real Megas not long after he gets the information. It is the least we can do to repay him