Saturday, 21 March 2009


With nearly a week of high pressure and light easterly winds, a few early migrants have trickled in, forwarding the total number of species recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2009 to 266 species.

Since my last update, the new additions are -:

OSPREY (at least 12 migrants)
Stone Curlew (6+)
IVORY GULL (French first-winter reoriented and occurred in SW Ireland in County Cork for nearly a week)
Common Tern (early migrant in Kent)
EURASIAN EAGLE OWL (breeding pairs in Northern England)
EURASIAN HOOPOE (several migrants)
House Martin (25+)
Tree Pipit (at least 3 early migrants)
Yellow Wagtail (early migrant in Kent)
White Wagtail (100+)
Willow Warbler (45+)

Friday, 13 March 2009


Female SNOWY OWL at Kame of Corrigal HY330208 approx - First seen at about 12 noon by Sue Whitworth (RSPB Field Teacher). Sue phoned the office at about 4pm to ask about this strange owl they had seen on a field trip up at the Kame of Corrigal track...

After this phone call I sent a text to the grapevine and some contacts on my phone and deserted the office in a rush to look for what we were sure was gonna be a Snowy Owl!!!

Although, many hours had passed we found the bird (white dot) on the hill from the Wilderness Track roadside. Drove up the track to view the bird from a safe distance (parked at the new turbine site) - The bird remained in the same place all the time of our observations and a few folk arrived who had got my texts. A stunning female SNOWY OWL - Looked very settled when I left at 1720hrs...Fingers crossed it will hang around - Perhaps been there since its Shapinsay adventure...Cheers Alan Leitch

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


First-winter male Siberian Thrush in captivity, Natural Surroundings NR, Glandford, Norfolk, 3 March 2009 (John Miller)
I am afraid that after spending the best part of a week investigating this claim and to talking to the cage bird trade, the finder and those with a vested interest in the bird, birders with experience of the species in the wild in Asia in spring and to ringers, the first-winter male Siberian Thrush recorded last week at Glandford is being accepted on to Category D1.

This category deems the bird to be of unknown origin, with the likelihood of it being an escaped bird higher than that of it being a natural vagrant. It is therefore NOT COUNTABLE on any UK400 Club/BBA listings I am afraid.

I was not able to trace directly the bird, although a bird matching the description (still awaiting images) escaped from an aviary in Kettering (Northants) on 2 March. This bird however had a silver closed ring on its right leg when it escaped. According to bird traders, the last importation of a Siberian Thrush into Britain (from Asia) was in February 2003, although several have been handled in Antwerp subsequent to this date.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you that have helped in the investigation and have provided vital information, including Chris Heard, Paul Leader, Steve Gantlett, John Miller, Neil Alford, Andrew Gibson, Adrian Kettle, Chris Batty, Mark Golley, Stuart Piner, Johnny Allan, Barry Lancaster, Sue Bryan, David Norgate, Dave Holman, Jerry Warne, Baz Harding, Paul Hardaker, Lee Gregory, Martin Cade, Mark Grantham, Matthew Deans, Gerald Jobson, Gary Davies, Mark Whittaker and of course, Paul Laurie (the finder).

As an aside, I did receive this anonymous email from Johnny Allan, which may or may not be genuine (it may have been a spoof email). It was apparently sent to Birdforum. If it is genuine, can the poster contact me directly please (and if anyone knows anything about this email, get in touch).

"Hi folks- I believe that this Siberian thrush is one that I bred in 2008 in my aviaries and escaped from a friends house in the Midlands. It certainly looks like him! And what a coincidence! Please note I am a genuine hobby aviculturis t- not a spammer.1)
To prove their captive bred status At 4/5 days old I ring all my young birds with an IOA 2008 size K closed ring - which I believe someone must have cut off since its escape (perhaps when it was captured to 'save' it?). If this has happened then this does really shock me. This ring was tight on the leg so would not have been able to be accidentally pulled off.

2) If this was a captive-reared bird owned by someone else and not a wild British bird why was it subsequently released to its probable death and with no chance of breeding?

3) It has typical 1st winter colouring of captive birds (and certainly similarto other young from this pair). I do remember it having just a bit of immature plumage on the breast.

4) A bird can act 'wild' in the 'wrong' type of aviary- subtle changes can make the bird feel more or less secure. My birds rarely see anyone else and when they do they are worried to an extent. Photographs show the bird as being quite confident and settled. If a number of people were around the bird it would easily 'spook'. Was an aviculturist available to properly advise? (the bird would have been better off in a small secluded aviary with closed sides- not a large open flight- mine love skulking in an enclosed shelter).

5) The prevailing winds have been strong toward the East from the point and time of escape.

6) I am one of a very few who do manage to breed them (although a bit 'tricky'). They have not been imported from the wild for the last 5+ years due to the well overdue Import ban on wild caught birds.

7) The bird has been reared in an aviary covered on the floor with barley straw-this is probably why there is little wear on the toe nails.

8) The wing ends may be missing due to being abraded on wire netting (although it was reared and has been living in a very large flight- 50ft in total length).

9) If the bird is caught or seen again please feed it on soaked and mushed dogfood- Wagg is one of the best- and poultry pellets and halved apples. It will recognise black seed trays as feeding and watering vessels.

10) Unfortunately I do not have any photographs of the bird in my care however if the bird is re-caught DNA evidence could prove that the bird is from my breeding stock. Hopefully it could then be returned to my friend.Sorry if this sounds like a bit of a rant - but when you have followed these birds from the egg you do get a bit attached- I really feel for this little guy''


I was lucky enough to find the CATTLE EGRET Monday afternoon.

It is still present this morning favouring either the horse field just ESE of Bures at approx. TL930341. viewing is from the crossroads just north of Smallbridge Hall / Farm or from the road towards Assington from the crossroads, although the bird is closer from here views of the field are more restricted. The bird does disappear from view as the far end of the field is over the brow of a hill, or if its not here it also gets in a sheep field on the Essex side of the river opposite Goddy's Farm at Wissington approx. TL943336 best viewed from the roadside banks just East of Goody's Farm; also has been seen along the ditch which is being dredged by an obvious orange digger opposite Malting Farm Cottage approx. TL933335

Yesterday morning there was a Peregrine over the fields on the Suffolk side by Goody's Farm plus a Little Egret along the river here.

This morning there is a Stonechat viewable from the pull-ins up the hill towards Assington from the crossroads it is between the horse field & the crossroads.

About 6 miles north of here there are 26 Waxwings in Sudbury usually along Springlands Way which is part of the A134, between the Focus & Homebase DIY stores, as it passes the outskirts of Sudbury (Stuart Read)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


The CATTLE EGRET present on the Essex/Suffolk border remains for a second day (Stuart Read et al, see image above) showing well late afternoon in the field south of Malting Farm House (TL 933 340) 1.5 miles ESE of Bures and 3 miles WSW of Nayland. This is the same individual recently present in Norfolk.

Also in Suffolk, the GREAT WHITE EGRET remains elusively at North Warren RSPB Reserve (in the extreme NE corner, in reeds and ditches), with up to 152 Eurasian White-fronted Geese there, 250+ Barnacles and the feral adult Red-breasted Goose, large numbers of wildfowl, a WATER PIPIT and a migrant SAND MARTIN.

Neighbouring Minsmere RSPB has a brown-stained adult WHOOPER SWAN, a pair of SMEW (Island Mere), at least 15 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS on the main scrape and a trickle of migrant waders and 100+ PIED AVOCETS.

The very confiding female LAPLAND BUNTING remains 475-800 yards north of Dunwich Beach car park, with 43 SNOW BUNTINGS at Kessingland Beach and 2 FIRECRESTS at Kessingland Sewage Works.

In Lowestoft, the long-staying BLACK-THROATED DIVER remains on Oulton Dyke at the extreme west end of Oulton Broad, being best observed from the Yacht Club on the south side in Merritt's Park (the drake American Wood Duck is also still present there).

A number of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS still remain, with 26 in Sudbury (along Springlands Way), 14 at Coney Hill, Beccles and 12 in Worlingham (behind Primrose Drive).

Moving north into Norfolk, a ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD is on Haddiscoe Levels, with two more at North Wootton Marshes (viewable distantly from Dersingham Bog), the latter site holding a wintering NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE, with another at Roydon Common (visible from the westernmost car park). Dersingham Bog also has 10+ COMMON CROSSBILL, as well as Hen and Marsh Harrier.

A regular adult BLACK BRANT is with Dark-bellied Brent Geese in the Wells Channel, with 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese still at Cley Marshes NWT, whilst a TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE remains with 200+ Pink-footed Geese adjacent to Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham.

The BLACK-BELLIED DIPPER continues on the River Glaven in Hunworth village, favouring the southernmost ford (please park sensibly and courteously in the vicinity), with a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR at Salthouse one of few incoming migrants of this week.

In Breckland, up to 4 NORTHERN GOSHAWKS are showing (view from the designated Goshawk Trail at Mayday Farm), with WOODLARKS in song, COMMON CROSSBILLS breeding, 3 HAWFINCHES in the paddock Hornbeams at Lynford Arboretum, a pair of WILLOW TITS by the river at Lynford Hall and 1 STONE CURLEW back on territory.

Monday, 9 March 2009


The recent Cattle Egret in Norfolk, photographed near Holt, and the long-staying Black-bellied Dipper (John Miller)

In terms of migrants, the odd GARGANEY is around, the first WILLOW WARBLERS of the year, a flurry of SAND MARTINS and the first HOUSE MARTIN and several WHITE WAGTAILS. NORTHERN WHEATEARS are pushing further north.

Four PENDULINE TITS visited Ingrebourne Valley (Essex) yesterday morning.

The BLACK-BELLIED DIPPER which has wintered on the River Glaven has finally given its favourite locality away and can be regularly found just downstream of the southernmost ford in Hunworth village (Norfolk) in recent days.

CATTLE EGRETS still remain all over the country, with 3 still at Park Farm on the Kingsbridge Estuary (South Devon) (viewable from the Gerston Water Treatments access road) and singles on the Nevern Estuary at Newport (Pembs), on the Isle of Man at Port St Mary (SC 205 683), in the cattle field at Seend Cleeve (Wiltshire) (ST 932 604, and in the horse field by the Tarka Trail at Lower Yelland Farm (North Devon). What was presumably the Norfolk bird of late was relocated today in Suffolk (by Stuart Read) 1.5 miles ESE of Bures and just north of Smallbridge Hall in the horsefield SE of Nayland End Wood and NE of the crossroads.

The Clyde GREAT WHITE EGRET remains just south of Gilmourton, favouring South Gilmourton Pools by Avon Water (NS 660 397), with two individuals in the Ely area (Cambs).

Two ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS remain on the Isle of Sheppey (Kent) (with singles at Elmley RSPB and the usual adult along Capel Fleet), with another two on North Wootton Marshes (NW Norfolk).

The extremely confiding female or first-winter LAPLAND BUNTING remains at Dingle Marshes (Suffolk), either feeding on the grassy plateau or the vegetated shingle inner bank 475-800 yards north of the beach car park, whilst nearby, a BLACK-THROATED DIVER continues on Oulton Dyke, viewable from the Yacht club in Merritt's Park, Oulton Broad.

The family group of 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE remains in Bedfordshire (commuting between Southill Park and Cainhoe Lakes) with the lone adult still from Nelson Avenue at Haverton Hole (Cleveland) with a single Greenland White-fronted Goose and 5 Pink-footed Geese.

An adult winter BONAPARTE'S GULL spent several hours yesterday afternoon in Cardiff Bay showing well on the Taff Estuary in front of the Channel View Centre, where nearby the first-winter drake LESSER SCAUP was still showing well in the NE corner of Cardiff Bay at the Wetlands Reserve (view from the boardwalk adjacent). The gull was relocated this afternoon on playing fields south of the Leisure Centre at ST 182 743.

In IRELAND, the two KING EIDERS (first-winter drake and female) remain in Drumcliff Bay, Lissadell (Co. Sligo), with Ring-necked Ducks on Lough Arrow (Co. Sligo) and at Lough Bo (Co. Sligo). At least 10 CATTLE EGRETS remain, whilst a white morph GYRFALCON flew over Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) yesterday when also the first-winter IVORY GULL was still to be found at Baltimore Harbour (Co. Cork).

Thursday, 5 March 2009


This dazzling male SIBERIAN THRUSH (photographed here by Lee Gregory on Wednesday) was not seen today, despite searching by over 300 birders.


This GREAT WHITE EGRET was first discovered on 21 February 2009 at Gilmourton, Lanarkshire (Clyde Region), favouring pools by the River Avon. It was showing well this afternoon late afternoon feeding on invertebrates and amphibians in the shallow pools adjacent to the river just south of the village.

It represents the 5th record for the Clyde Area and the third for Lanarkshire and is most likely the same bird as that seen in Aberlady Bay, Lothian, on 3 February, and subsequently at Baron's Haugh RSPB (Clyde) on 7 February 2009.

Angus Murray obtained these images above this afternoon.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


Killian Mullarney has very kindly emailed me details of an additional Irish record:

Adult male, Loop Head, 31st October 2004 (M. Meehan) (See Irish Rare Bird Report 2004 in Irish Birds Vol. 8 No. 1 (p. 107-122).

This bird was watched foraging in a narrow ditch near the Lighthouse at the tip of Loop. The observer didn't know what it was at the time but realised it was something unusual. She identified it when she returned home and checked her field guide. She immediately alerted John Murphy but the bird was never relocated.


A superb first-winter SIBERIAN THRUSH was discovered today at Glandford, just 2 miles SW of Cley (Norfolk), where it flew in to a wire fence at the Natural Surroundings NR just east of the minor road between Letheringsett and Blakeney. Paul Laurie picked the bird up which had become very wet and bedraggled and rehabilitated it in a large Red Squirrel cage, which was positioned in front of the reserve shop. Whilst recuperating, some 30 Norfolk birders quickly visited, and observed the bird at close range in captivity. It was examined in the hand and found to be in perfect order, with no damage to the legs and feet and nothing untoward with the general plumage, and area at the base of the mandibles. I am concerned however by apparent anomalies at the wing tips but this may have been caused in the cage as it collided with the sides. The primary tips are broken on both wings but this is most likely damage incurred whilst in the cage.

The bird made a very swift recovery from its sodden and stunned state and became very restless in the cage, flying back and forth. This agitation led Paul to release it prematurely, and after a hole was cut in the cage, the Siberian Thrush 'zoomed' out and disappeared into thick cover down by the stream, about 100 yards away from the buildings.

It hid up in the vegetation by the side of the stream for about half an hour before reappearing, and then showed on and off until dark, affording over 150 birders with views.

Simon Chidwick kindly sent me some fabulous shots he took today as the bird was recovering and four of these are reproduced above.

ACCESS INSTRUCTIONS: Natural Surroundings is accessed off of the Letheringsett to Wiveton road and is signposted. There is a designated car park by the shop and access to where the bird has spent the afternoon is through the main centre - admission £3.00 per person. Paul Laurie will look for the bird from dawn tomorrow with access from 0800 hours.

Siberian Thrush is mega-rare in Britain with just eight records in total, including two previous records in Norfolk - a male seen briefly by Peter Wilkinson in Great Yarmouth Cemetery on 25 December 1977 and a first-winter male at Gun Hill, Burnham Overy, on 18 September 1994.

It breeds in Central and Eastern Siberia from the Yenisey and Lena rivers south to NE Mongolia and east and NE to China, Amurland, Sakhalin and northern Japan. Wintering areas include Central Burma, Indochina and Thailand south to Singapore, Sumatra and Java.

The British and Irish Records to date

1) An adult male was present on the Isle of May (Fife) from 1st until at least 4th October 1954. It was trapped on 2nd and was fully documented in British Birds 48: 21-25 and in Sharrock & Grant, Birds new to Britain and Ireland, pages 59-61 (plates 9-10).

2) A male was seen briefly by Peter Wilkinson in Great Yarmouth Cemetery (Norfolk) on 25 December 1977 (see detailed account in British Birds 72: 122-123).

3) A male was seen at Widewall, South Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 13 November 1984 (British Birds 78: 573; Scottish Bird Report 1984: 40)

4) A first-winter female was discovered at dusk in one of the Holland House garden mist-nets on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 1 October 1992. It was roosted overnight at the Observatory and then released close-by at first light next morning, immediately flying to a nearby croft garden. It remained here until late afternoon and then moved to the beach below the pier, where it remained until 8th. It was eventually 'twitched' by at least 180 observers and was featured in Birding World 5: 377-379 (British Birds 86: 510-511, plate 184)

5) A very elusive first-winter male was discovered in dense sueda at Gun Hill, Burnham Norton (Norfolk) early afternoon on 18 September 1994, where it remained until dusk, despite being flushed over 14 times during the afternoon (see published photograph of bird in flight in Birding World 7: 345; British Birds 88: 535).

6) The first for Scilly was discovered by Hugh and Ian Bradshaw as they checked the fields and hedgerows on Gugh. Whilst trying to relocate a nightingale species, they were rewarded with a first-winter male Siberian Thrush. Due to the brief views of the bird being obtained, and the associated difficulties on site, the news was slow to filter out, but by early afternoon, the tripper boats were arriving from all directions packed shoulder to shoulder with expectant and very excited birders. The plntation where the bird was favouring was soon encircled with the thrush eventually showing several times in flight on a gorgeous balmy afternoon. It remained, generally very skulking in behaviour and only occasionally seen perched, from 5-8 October 1999 (see colour plate on page VI in the centre pages of Isles of Scilly Bird Report 1999 (British Birds 93: 551).

7) The first record for Shetland involved a stunning first-winter male at Hametoun, Foula, on 28 September 2007 (British Birds 101: 560, plate 285 and plate 326 in BB 100

8) The most recent record to date involved a first-winter male on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 25 September 2008 (see photograph in Birding World 21: 367).

There is an additional record from IRELAND where a first-winter female was on Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork) on 18 October 1985 (see Irish Birds 3: 273-276 & 322; British Birds 81: 73-74, plate 39).


Some stunning images of the Baltimore Harbour (Co. Cork) IVORY GULL taken by Ronan McLaughlin.
Killian Mullarney has commented, in relation to the French bird, the following
''It seems I was too hasty in concluding that the Baltimore bird could not be the same as the Gujan-Mestras bird. I want to thank Benoit Paepegaey for having written directly to me to draw my attention to some of the remarkable similarities in fine details when comparing photos of the two birds. I have now taken the time to critically compare some of my own shots of the Baltimore bird with the best available shots of the French bird and I must agree with Benoit and other French observers who have concluded that it IS the same bird!
I am open to correction, but I very much doubt that the pattern of tiny black dots above and behind the eye is produced by a spatter of blood; the pattern is symmetric (though seems a little more pronounced on the bird's left side) and close scrutiny of the markings indicates that they are identical in nature to other spotted parts of the plumage. I am amazed that such markings, assuming that they are 'real', can develop so apparently quickly and at this time of year, but perhaps there is more potential for changing head-markings in this species than I realised?
I would be very interested in seeing any good photos taken of the Gujan-Mestras bird shortly before it was last seen there. Apologies to Julien for contradicting him in such a categorical manner in my earlier email''

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

With the addition of IVORY GULL (with an adult on North Uist and today's first-year in County Cork) and PACIFIC DIVER (a returning bird in SW Wales very briefly) and incoming migrants Little Ringed Plover (in Hampshire), Sand Martin and Northern Wheatear, the total number of species recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2009 rises to 256 species. Four species have been recorded in IRELAND only (American Black Duck, North American Herring Gull, Forster's Tern and Great Spotted Cuckoo).


A birder who I have not met before called Julian Wyllie (who has lived on Sherkin island for the last 5 years) was coming over this morning from Sherkin to Baltimore (County Cork) to stock up on groceries. As the ferry was pulling into the harbour at Baltimore he saw a first-year IVORY GULL circling around over the dock. Julian immediately informed others of his major find. After a while during which he borrowed a mobile phone from the shop and got one or two images. we all arrived in the afternoon from 2.30 onwards.

Frustratingly, there was no sign of the bird and after checking gulls over near Sherkin (where a single Glaucous was espied) Aidan Duggan and I went up to the fish factory and checked the gulls there (with a single Glaucous and 2 Iceland Gulls present) and about that time most of the gulls there moved down to the harbour. We went back to the harbour and Julian and Mick Hartnett had the IVORY GULL again in front of them. It spent the next hour or more flying around the dock and alongside two big foreign trawlers tied up at the dock. The foreign crewmen (Latvian maybe ?) let us on the boats where we were afforded crippling views as it flew around with other gulls and occasionally dropped down to the surface to pick up a morsel or two. After an hour of this I was so cold I just had to leave.

Pete Wolstenholme


This juvenile (first-year) IVORY GULL was present at Baltimore Harbour (Co. Cork) today, showing well throughout the day (Peter Woolstenholme obtained this excellent flight shot)

Eugene Archer added ''It was intriguing to see some photos of this bird and I've compared the few shots available with other first-winter birds and perhaps there's good reason to suspect that this is the recent French individual which has not been seen since last Thursday. Interestingly, if it is the French bird, Baltimore lies directly on a course for Ivory Gull breeding sites mid-way up the east coast of Greenland !Hope it's seen again''