Wednesday 29 April 2009


The CRESTED LARK was present until late evening tonight, although may have been disturbed by those still searching for it after it had flown to roost. The bird is exceptionally difficult to see on the ground and when flushed, moves a long distance (500 yards or more) before re-settling. It is frequenting the vast 'shingle desert area' inland of the coast road (behind all of the beach cottages) and has been present for at least three days.

This is a major rarity and if we are all to see it, a number of ground rules need to be applied. I shall hopefully be on site tomorrow morning at dawn and within the first hour of daylight, a sweep of the area will be made to try and relocate it (if it is still present). It is going to be very difficult to pin it down on the ground, mainly because of the lie of the land and the numerous hollows in the area. Obviously, to keep disturbance to the bare minimum and to minimise any disturbance to any ground-nesting birds that may be in the vicinity (Meadow Pipits, Eurasian Skylarks, etc), organised 'flushing' will have to be implemented. Please adhere to any 'on-site' instructions. The bird flushes at 100 yards distance, and at least 50 birders (mainly Kentish) managed to see it before dark this evening.

The first twitchable Crested Lark was at Dungeness 33 years ago, where it frequented the shingle beach from 28th September to 1st October 1975. That bird attracted some 73 birders over its four day stay !!

WHITE-COLLARED FLYCATCHER still on Portland and a summary of British records

First-summer male COLLARED FLYCATCHER, Southwell, Portland, Dorset, 29 April 2009 (Martin Cade)

The beautiful first-summer male WHITE-COLLARED FLYCATCHER was still present today and showing very well throughout much of the day.

It was still frequenting Pete and Debby Saunders' garden in Southwell and during the warm sunshine, was commuting between the four tall Leylandii conifers at the back of the garden and two Sycamore trees and two flowering Apple trees. Although there is NO ACCESS WHATSOEVER to ANY of the private gardens in Sweethill Lane, the garden can be adequately overlooked from the road and the bird seen at 75 yards as it actively moves about the trees (flycatching on many occasions).

DIRECTIONS: Head as if you are driving to Portland Bill proper but instead of turning down to the Bill by the Eight Kings public house, continue back around into Southwell and just after the bus stop turn into Sweethill Lane. After just a few yards park sensibly and courteously in the road and by number 8 view through the wide gap towards the Bill and the back garden. Please, please consider the local community and respect all privacy of the residents. Actively involve and inform any local that is interested in the event.

White-collared Flycatcher is a very rare vagrant to Britain and a particularly challenging bird to catch up with - Poland is the best place to see them, where they are numerous in the old Oak forests.

1) The first British record concerned an adult male obtained on Whalsay (Shetland) on 11th May 1947 (Scottish Naturalist 1948: 51).

2) A fine adult male was identified in Nant Withy, on Bardsey Island (Caernarfonshire) on 10th May 1957 (British Birds 51: 36).

3) A male was seen at Hunscarth, Harray (Orkney) on 30th May 1963 (Britsin Birds 57: 275; Scottish Birds 2: 478; 3: 174).

4) An adult male was found dead at Eskmeals, near Ravenglass (Cumbria) on 2nd June 1964 (British Birds 58: 367).

5) A male remained in the Trapping Area at Holme NOA Reserve (Norfolk) from 4th-6th May 1969 and was trapped on 4th. This was the first individual to be 'twitched' and was enjoyed by over 75 observers (British Birds 63: 286).

6-7) A male was seen on Out Skerries (Shetland) on 13th May 1975 (Scottish Bird Report 1975: 228) and was followed by a female on the same island on 25th May 1976 (Scottish Bird Report 1976: 112) (British Birds 69: 351 & 70: 436).

8) A male visited a coastal garden at Frinton-on-Sea (Essex) on 6th June 1979 (British Birds 75: 524).

9) A male remained on Bressay (Shetland) from 23rd-24th May 1979 (Scottish Bird Report 1979: 44; British Birds 73: 525)

10) A male was seen on Stronsay (Orkney) on 31st May 1980 (Scottish Bird Report 1980: 48; British Birds 74: 487).

11) An elusive male frequented the churchyard and parkland at Northdown Park, Foreness (Kent) from 24th May until 9th June 1984. It was extremely difficult to see as it moved rapidly between the canopy branches, but was eventually enjoyed by over 825 observers (British Birds 78: 578).

12) A fine male frequented a large pine tree at the entrance to the campsite on St Martin's (Scilly) from 20th-21st May 1984 (British Birds 78: 578).

13) A first-summer male was present at then western end of Holkham Pines (Norfolk) from 12th-13th May 1985 (British Birds 96: 600).

14) A first-summer male frequented the bowling greens and adjacent parkland and private gardens at Sparrow's Nest, Lowestoft (Suffolk) from 13th-14th May 1985. It was an unusual individual in that it spent virtually the whole of its stay feeding on the ground and could be observed dashing around the bowling greens snapping up flies. It disappeared just after midday on 14th, but by then had been enjoyed by up to 85 birders. An account of the occurrence and an excellent photograph of the bird taken by the late Brian Brown was published in British Birds 82: 223-224, plate 151.

15) A stunning adult male frequented the Hawthorn hedge adjacent to the Country Park at Filey (North Yorks) from 21st-22nd May 1985, and was admired by at least 160 fortunate observers (British Birds 78: 416, plate 191; 79: 575).

16) A first-winter was trapped and ringed at the Double Dyke, Fair Isle (Shetland) on 8th October 1986 (British Birds 81: 586; 84: 20-21 [Plates 8 & 10]; Scottish Bird Report 1986: 251; 1987: 49).

17) An adult male visited Hirta, St Kilda (Outer Hebrides) on 24th May 1992 (Scottish Bird Report 1992: 59; British Birds 86: 523)

18) A male visited the East Bank bushes, Cley NWT Reserve (Norfolk), briefly on 5th May 1995 (British Birds 89: 520).

19) A male visited Tresta (Shetland) on 5th June 1995 (Scottish Bird Report 1995: 60; British Birds 89: 520).

20) A superb and rather showy first-summer male was well-twitched at Ethie Mains, near Arbroath (Angus) from 31st May to 1st June 1997 (British Birds 91: 510; Rare Birds 3: 188, plates 23-25).

21) An adult male was on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 28th May 1998 (Rare Birds 4: 272; British Birds 92: 599).

22) A superb male was at Cove Community Woodland, Aberdeen, from 30th April to 1st May 1999 (British Birds 93: 560, plate 340).

23) A female was photographed on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 31st May 1999 (British Birds 94: 494).

24) A first-summer male was at Skaw, Unst (Shetland), on 13th June 1999 (British Birds 93: 560).


25) A stunning male performed for at least four hours for up to 170 admirers at Church Norton, Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) on 20th June 2002 (British Birds 96: 600). It was in trees between the harbour entrance and the car park from 1115 and disappeared from view at 1530.

26) A first-summer male was present on Fair Isle (Shetland) from 9th-12th May 2004 (British Birds 98: 682). It was initially discovered in 'Small Trinket Geo'.

27) An adult male at Muness, Unst (Shetland), on 2nd June 2004 (British Birds 98: 682).

28) A fabulous male flycatched from fenceposts adjacent to Brow Marsh (Shetland) from 9th-10th May 2006 (British Birds 100: 744, plate 360 and photographs in 99: plate 164: Birding World 19: 190).

29) A male was on Lundy Island (North Devon) on 12th May 2008.

30) A female was on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) near the Lighthouse on 24th May 2008.

MEGA - CRESTED LARK at Dungeness, Kent, this evening

The CRESTED LARK found and discovered by Dave Walker is still present this evening, frequenting the 'shingle area' 500m north of the new lighthouse by the track to the fishing boats

New total now rises to 318 species

This superb male EASTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER was present at Scatness, Shetland, for several days and captured fantastically on film by Jim Nicolson
With another good run of rarities and further incoming migrants, the total number of species now recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2009 has now increased to 318 species.

The 19 additions since my last update are -:

NORTH AMERICAN WOOD DUCK (drake on Shetland)
European Honey Buzzard (3 very early migrants)
RED-FOOTED FALCON (reports of up to 7 very early vagrants)
Corncrake (numerous arrivals in Ireland and on Northern Isles)
KENTISH PLOVER (male in Suffolk)
Eurasian Dotterel (several trips including one of 10 birds)
Temminck's Stint (very early bird on Scilly)
Wood Sandpiper (8+)
WHISKERED TERN (unprecedented arrival of 11 birds)
Black Tern (several early migrants)
RED-THROATED PIPIT (Brownsman, Farne Islands)
BLACK-HEADED WAGTAIL (vagrant males in Norfolk and in Northumberland)
Spotted Flycatcher (early migrant at Portland)
RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (exceptionally early migrant at Dungeness)
WHITE-COLLARED FLYCATCHER (vagrant male at Southwell, Portland)
Golden Oriole (early migrants)
WOODCHAT SHRIKE (singles in Cornwall & Devon and in Ireland)

Tuesday 28 April 2009


A first-summer male WHITE-COLLARED FLYCATCHER was present this evening in Pete & Debbie Saunder's private garden in Southwell on the Isle of Portland (Dorset). The bird was showing well and was superbly photographed by Pete (see image on the Portland Observatory site at

It represents the first record for Dorset of this long-range migrant which breeds from eastern France, Switzerland and Italy through eastern Europe into European Russia and follows a remarkable fall of this and closely related flycatchers in Israel this past week (involving over 700 birds)


Hi Lee. A LESSER YELLOWLEGS and a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER were at RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve on Sunday along with the "resident" North American Green-winged Teal of the last few days. Details sent on to Angus Murray by James How (warden).

None could be found yesterday despite my giving the lagoon continuous observation for a couple of hours . Seen by quite a lot of people as the Argyll Bird Club were across and we managed to call them in from various parts of the island ( not an easy thing on Islay!! ).. Some pictures will doubtless appear in due course.

A few other more routine things have appeared over past days ( Dotterel, Marsh Harrier).
John S. Armitage Airigh Sgallaidh, Portnahaven, Isle of Islay

Male SNOWY OWL in Orkney

Have located the Holm SNOWY OWL at Backakelday hy463033. A male for a change!

DIRECTIONS: Take the track to Backakelday (first turn right after Gutterpool on the A961 if you are coming from the Kirkwall direction). There is a pool on your left as you go down the track - keep going - before you get to the farmhouse look to your left for a field full of sheep. I found the bird in there on the ground close to a stone strainer - from certain angles it can be hidden by it. Please do not approach too closely - there may be others who want to see it! (Keith Hague)


Plates 1-4: WHISKERED TERNS, Willington GP, Derbyshire, 25-27 April (Glyn Sellors)
Plates 5-8: first-summer PURPLE HERON, Crossness LNR, London, 26-27 April (John Archer)
Plates 9-10: BLACK-WINGED STILT at Maxey GP, Cambs, 25 April (Will Bowell)
Plates 11-13: male BLACK-HEADED WAGTAIL, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk, 25 April (Ben Lewis)

This is the UK400 Club Rare Bird Alert for Monday 27 April, issued at 2100 hours

A male WESTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER remains for a second day at Uskmouth RSPB (Gwent) but remains typically elusive (park in the RSPB visitor centre car park) whilst a female WOODCHAT SHRIKE was on gravestones in Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth (South Devon) throughout the day. A female MONTAGU'S HARRIER was seen at various locations on St Mary's (Scilly) with one of this weekend's RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS at Far Pasture NR near Gateshead just ENE of Rowlands Gill (Durham) briefly this morning and again this evening (another was at Atwick, East Yorks, for its second day).

Five of this weekend's unprecedented arrival of WHISKERED TERNS moved from Staffordshire south to Leicestershire, where from late morning until mid-afternoon they were feeding over the South Arm, with a further adult at Diddington Pit, Paxton Pits NR (Cambs) from mid-afternoon until mid-evening.

A first-summer PURPLE HERON flew west over Cley Marshes NWT and ESE over Salthouse and Kelling Quags (Norfolk) early morning, where the drake North American Green-winged Teal remains on Simmonds Scrape and the first-summer Eurasian Spoonbill in dykes west of West Bank. Meanwhile, the London first-summer PURPLE HERON returned to Cross Ness LNR, visiting once more the Great Breach Lagoon.

A WRYNECK was newly discovered, showing well by the path north of the eastern car park at Westleton Heath (Suffolk) this morning

Eight rather late BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were in Sycamores behind the bus stop on Askew Road West in Teams, Gateshead (Durham) with another two in Chapeltown, Leeds (West Yorks)

1-2 CATTLE EGRETS remain at Plex Moss (Lancs), in fields along Plex Moss Lane between the caravan park and the farm.

A DOTTEREL remains for a second day alongside the path next to the Beacon Stones at Axletree Edge (Grtr Manchester) at SD 983 139 (take Pennine Way south for 800 yards from the first car park on the A672) witrh a further three

Male BLACK-HEADED WAGTAILS appeared at Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) on Saturday (25th) and on Holy Island (Northumberland) yesterday (26th)

The near-resident drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK remains at the north end of Wimbleball Lake (Somerset) (assuming this is the Chew bird) whilst in NE Scotland, the two SNOW GEESE remain with Pink-footed Geese at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire)

In IRELAND. the male WOODCHAT SHRIKE continues to show well in bushes in the boggy field between Ballydwan and Stradbally (Co. Waterford).

Monday 27 April 2009


An unprecedented arrival of WHISKERED TERNS

A strong SSW current at the latter part of last week heralded the arrival of an astonishing single flock of 11 WHISKERED TERNS Chlidonias hybridus into Derbyshire - the largest single flock ever to be recorded in Britain and Ireland (the previous highest was of four birds - at Doncaster Lakeside and Potteric Carr in South Yorkshire on 16 May 2004 and at Woolston Eyes and Ashton's Flash, Cheshire, on 19-20 May 2005 (the latter also flew over Keele Services, Staffs, on 20 May).

The eleven birds (virtually all full breeding-plumaged adults) arrived mid-afternoon on Willington GP (Derbyshire) on Friday 24 April, where they soon settled on posts and could be seen very well from the footpath adjacent. At least eight (perhaps 10) remained overnight and afforded good views for a constant stream of admirers throughout the rest of the day (see Phil Jones' photographs above).

Early on 25 April, a further adult was discovered at Frampton Sailing Lake (Gloucestershire), where it remained until disturbed by yachts at 1215 hours. A couple of minutes later it relocated to neighbouring Saul Wharf and Water Meadows but flew off high south heading towards 100 Acre Flash. Nearly three hours later, it did appear at 100 Acre but flew south towards Slimbridge WWT reserve proper at 1618 and was then relocated on the reserve South Lake. After a short while, it flew off and was not seen again.

Meanwhile, eight of the 11 at Willington GP were still present early morning on 26 April and stayed on site until just after 1000 hours, when both a Peregrine and a migrant Hobby passed over. The Hobby separated and spooked the flock and unfortunately six of the group flew up high and headed for the river course. Two adults then remained and continued to show well for the rest of the day.

Five of these eight then relocated 20 miles south to Croxall Lakes NR (Staffs) late afternoon, whilst the missing single was just a short way away at Long Eaton GP (Derbyshire), commuting between Pits 1 and 2.

Perhaps two of the original flock were then discovered late afternoon (1700 hours onwards) in NE England - at Back Saltholme Pools (Cleveland). The birds were found by John Dunnett just before 1730 and commuted between Back Saltholme and East Saltholme Pools until 2050, when a Peregrine stooped at them and they disappeared. It represented the first county record (per Martyn Wilson). Three photographs are published above (Martyn Wilson)

The five Staffordshire birds appeared in South Arm III at Rutland Water (Leics) late morning on 27 April (where they were viewed from the cycle track on the Hambleton Peninsula and Lapwing Hide) whilst a single breeding-plumaged adult visited the Diddington Pit at Paxton Pits NR (Cambs) from mid-afternoon. The former flew south at 1655 hours with the latter still there mid-evening.

A further adult was discovered in NORTHERN IRELAND, where it frequented Quoile Pondage NR (County Down) and was watched from the Castle Island Hide on 26 April.

Ageing of Hampshire WHITE-THROATED SPARROW - finite detail

Tristan Folland has very kindly emailed me these close-ups of the Old Winchester Hill tail feathers and upperwing feathers
North American expert Peter Pyle commented
''Hi Lee -The added detail showing brown and worn primary coverts, outer primaries, and rectrices makes me entirely confident that this is a first-cycle individual. Cheers, Peter''


First-winter male WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, Old Winchester Hill, Hampshire, April 2009 (Chris Upson)
Hi Lee,

I’ve been away and am just catching up on e-mails ... by now you may well have received good feedback, but I’ll provide a couple of comments just in case. Generally I wouldn’t put much stock in head pattern for ageing, and prefer to look first at tail condition in spring, but the photos you’ve posted don’t show it clearly enough. But with this bird, you’re fortunate to know you’re seeing the same individual now as in fall, and in that case I agree that the transition from buffish to whitish head stripes makes it almost certain this is a first-winter bird. For reference, here is my White-throated Sparrow ID page (; see for other species if interested).

All the best,

Marcel Gahbauer
Migration Research Foundation
Calgary AB / Montreal QC

Thursday 23 April 2009

Putative GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL this winter

Gary Messenbird obtained these excellent photographs of the bird at Beddington Sewage Farm two days ago.
This winter this bird was at the following locations -:
Queen Mother Reservoir, BERKSHIRE, 3-4 February, 26 March and several dates throughout April (CDRH, et al)
Calvert Landfill and Sailing Lake, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, 1-2 March (TW, LGRE, WC)
Willen Lake South Basin, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, 8-9 March (RH, SN)
Stewartby Lake, BEDFORDSHIRE, 9-10 March (MJP, RN, KO, PW, et al)
Westmill Tip, Amwell, HERTFORDSHIRE, 15 March (BR)
Rainham Marsh RSPB, ESSEX, 12 & 16-21 March (HV, et al)
Beddington Sewage Farm, SURREY, 21-22 April (JA, PA, GM)

Wednesday 22 April 2009

The recent first-summer AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER at Breydon Water, Norfolk

This problematic plover was present at Breydon Water (Norfolk) from 6-16 April. I eventually saw it on 15 April and concluded like many others had done so before me (including Lee Gregory, Brian Small and Baz Harding) that it was an AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER.
A summary of the criteria used to come to this conclusion has been published on Surfbirds, in the Rare Bird Information Discussion section.
Dave Holman and Christine Stean very kindly supplied me the images above and this short note accompanying it.

Sorry for delay, as promised have attached some of our American Golden Plover photos.

As I explained to you I went down the uncertainty road on the first day (6th) when I saw the bird a couple of times in misty conditions and generally resting; I think that I phoned it out as an either/or. On the 7th the visibility was better but the bird was quite distant and generally resting mostly with its left side on view. The bird held its left wing slightly loose so it was hard to assess length of wing and the general shape of the bird often took on a rather rounded look. I Queried the apparently short tertials but AG was becoming firmly in the Pacific camp so I phoned it out as a probable Pacific. On the 9th I again watched it rather more closely but still viewing its left side, I was feeling far less comfortable about its ID. Finally I returned on the 12th and had much better views of the bird both feeding and resting but often viewing its sleeker right side. I watched it with Peter Allard and we both were happy that it was in fact an American Golden Plover. As we were about to leave it flew off calling twice a rather slowed down Spotted Redshank like "Chu--wit" which I have heard from American GP in the past.

Hope pics are of use.


Dave Holman

Arctic Gull rears its ugly head again - this time at Beddington Sewage Farm, Surrey

What is considered to be the juvenile 'white-winged gull' first seen at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berkshire, England) in February and then subsequently at Stewartby Lake (Bedfordshire) and Willen Lake (North Buckinghamshire) in early March and at Rainham Marsh (Essex) on 12 & 16-18 March reappeared at QMR two nights ago and was at Beddington Sewage Farm (Surrey) today (see images linked with the thread below)

This individual has dramatically changed its plumage between February and now and after writing it off as a hybrid back then (probably with North American Herring Gull influence), its appearance now far more resembles GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL.

I would be most grateful if those of you very familiar with GWG would have a look at today's images and comment on whether this resembles West Coast birds at this time of year. It has always seemed too small in terms of structure and jizz

This winter has seen an exceptional influx of Arctic gulls into Western Europe, including record numbers of both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls in Iberia, the majority of which arrived just after a fierce winter storm arrived from the NW Atlantic (it also displaced several Snowy Owls and Gyrfalcons, Ivory and Ross's Gulls and a number of North American ducks, a Killdeer and an American Coot. We have already had an adult Glaucous-winged Gull in Cleveland in early January.

Looking forward to any feedback

Many many thanks
Lee G R Evans

Hi Lee,

Here is my comments and shots (click on them for better sized images)
The following comments were kindly received
Not a safe candidate for a pure G-w in my opinion. Structurally it's too Herring-like, particularly how flat the skull looks with the crown feathers flattened, and it appears to have at least faint barring across the inner rectrices, Phil Pickering, Lincoln City, Oregon
Lee, If I saw that bird here where Glaucous-winged is common, I would NOT identify it as a Glaucous-winged particularly at this time of year. The structure is off, plumage is off, fading state seems off…everything seems off from a central California perspective. I would say it is a hybrid of some type. Regards, Alvaro Jaramillo
Half Moon Bay, California
The Beddington bird's plumage looked impressive at first glance for 1st-winter Glaucous-winged but Peter Alfrey's larger photos seem to portray a slighter bird and bill perhaps indicating (as has been suggested) some sort of hybrid?
Plumage looks decent for Glaucous-winged but structurally less convincing (especially size and shape of bill):

Hybrid American Herring x Glaucous-winged we'd expect to show more of a dark tail band?
Southern California has also had a bit of a white-winged gull event winter this year too with excellent numbers of Glaucous and significantly more Glaucous-wingeds than usual. Seawatching reports this week have revealed flights of Glaucous-wingeds heading north.
Best, Andy Birch
Los Angeles

Thursday 16 April 2009


A drake NORTH AMERICAN WOOD DUCK was discovered this afternoon on Brow Loch on Shetland (Rob Fray et al). It is particularly wary and is consorting with Tufted Ducks. It represents the third record for Shetland following single drakes shot dead at Sae Water, near Voe, on 30th October 1977 and on Fair Isle on 27th November 1979 (Pennington et al, The Birds of Shetland).

April is a classic month for transatlantic wildfowl vagrancy in Britain and Shetland in recent years has attracted a drake Hooded Merganser and often gets Ring-necked Ducks.

What I am trying to find out from a North American perspective is the propensity of Wood Ducks in spring to migrate. Do places like Nova Scotia get overshoots in spring? Is April a month when you would expect Wood Ducks to be returning north? I know that vagrant Wood Ducks are regular on Bermuda in autumn and often remain for the winter departing in spring.

I have previously accepted just ONE record of Wood Duck in Britain - a drake that paused briefly by a North Sea oil rig on 2nd November 2003. There have been many other records but because this is a particularly popular species in captivity and attempts at introduction have been made, virtually all have been dismissed as escapes. In contrast, natural vagrants have occurred in Iceland (at least 4 records) and on the Azores (several) so it is almost certain that natural vagrants are occurring in Britain.

I am also interested to know the most recent population estimates on North American Wood Duck and percentage increases/decreases year-on-year since 2000 if this is known

Looking forward to any correspondence/discussion

Wednesday 15 April 2009

The big 300 reached today

Recent Images: Red-rumped Swallow at Watermead Park, Leicester (Ian Merrill); adult Bonaparte's Gull at Farmoor Reservoir (Nic Hallam) and White-throated Sparrow at Old Winchester Hill (Chris Holt & Stevie Evans)

Well a particularly productive last 7 days has seen the total number of species recorded in Britain and Ireland rise to an impressive 300 species by 15 April. The 16 new additions are as follows -:

Montagu's Harrier - 3+ records
Hobby - numerous arrivals
AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER - first-summer at Breydon Water, Norfolk
PECTORAL SANDPIPER - very early individual at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire
CASPIAN TERN - exceptionally early vagrant in County Wexford
Arctic Tern - large passage overland
Little Tern - English Channel passage
European Turtle Dove - 2+
European Nightjar - exceptionally early bird back on territory
Common Swift - remarkably early number of birds
WRYNECK - migrants in Kent and Suffolk
Whinchat - 3+ (early)
SAVI'S WARBLER - reeling birds back on territory
Garden Warbler - early arrival in Dorset
Wood Warbler - very early bird in Devon
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW - first-summer male in Hampshire (present since November 2008)

13th-ever STONE CURLEW in Northants today

Well done David for finding the STONE CURLEW at Earls Barton GP today (see my photographs above), only the 13th ever in Northants, 5 in the 19th century between 1850 and 1898, then interestingly the next record was of one shot at Earls Barton on 10th April 1945 but kept alive for several weeks with a broken wing. Next one at Lutton on 3rd May 1963. Then one at Ecton SF in 1950. Next one at Lutton on 3rd May 1963. One found dead near Aldwincle, stuffed, and in the possession of D J Watkins-Pitchford (BB)in 1976. Then two in 1989, at Clifford Hill GP on 28th April and at Stanwick GP on 16th July. Again at Earls Barton GP on 8th August 1994 (unpublished) (Bob Bullock)


On behalf of the UK400 Club, I did a thorough review of the Chiffchaff complex in the mid 1990's and as a result, recognised four distinct species - COMMON (colybitta), IBERIAN (ibericus), SIBERIAN (tristis) and MOUNTAIN/CAUCASIAN (lorenzii). More recently, CANARY ISLANDS CHIFFCHAFF (canariensis) was recognised. My decisions were largely based on scientific work carried out by George Sangster and Andreas Helbig.

For reasons unknown, no other authorities to date have treated tristis as a separate species even though the differential of mitochondrial DNA of 1.7-2.0% is much higher than the 0.4% divergence of Pine Bunting vs Yellowhammer. Siberian Chiffchaff is highly distinct from the other chiffchaffs in many respects including plumage and most importantly songs and call. I am pleased to report however a new paper by Arnoud B van den Berg & The Sound Approach in Dutch Birding 31: 79-85, documenting further results of research in this species.

They have concluded that Siberian Chiffchaff shows a slight morphological variation, becoming browner and less olive from west to east, and that some western individuals can approach some abietinus in appearance. Arend Wassink has spent a lot of time studying tristis in southern Kazakhstan and has concluded that any chiffchaff producing a typical tristis call SHOULD be a tristis, providing that plumage and bare-part coloration is within the typical variation of that species.

There is no genetic proof that western tristis are hybrids/intergrades and therefore more closely related to abietinus than to eastern tristis. Although just a few birds were sampled, Helbig and others in 1996 only found evidence of gene flow between nominate collybita and abietinus, and NOT between tristis and abietinus. Therefore, the idea that there is a wide zone of hybridization between tristis and abietinus (a theory put forward by several interested commentators on the complex) must be regarded as hypothetical. It is presumably based upon the cline in colour within the range of tristis, or perhaps upon the incidence of mixed-song which, by definition, is more likely to occur in western areas where abietinus may turn up.

Arend Wassink has put together an excellent selection of images taken in Kazakhstan showing the variations within tristis plumage (taken of birds in the hand). Classic individuals are those as plumaged in plate 71 (page 80) and to which the UK400 Club uses as a baseline for acceptance.