Sunday 30 August 2009

A classic seawatch of Bridges proportions - but off West Cornwall !!


On Thursday evening, I was in a dilemma. I had driven from my home in Buckinghamshire to see a WRYNECK at Witley Reservoir (Gloucs) and a near-adult SABINE'S GULL at Upton Warren Flashes Pool (Worcs) and knew full well that a good seawatch was on the cards should the wind go roiund.

After observing the Sab's as it went to roost, I contacted an array of Cornish birders to solicit opinion on what to do. After all, being on the M5, it made far more sense to drive straight down. The weather forecast was for strong winds and a deep depression moving in overnight and Cornwall was going to take the brunt. Frustratingly, the latest shipping forecast was stating WSW 7, occasionally gusting 9 - a wind direction not necessarily that good for Pendeen Watchpoint. I discussed the conditions at great length with both Chris Batty and John Swann, the two of them going to great lengths to trawl the internet for further updates. By 2100 hours, I had almost made my mind up but one last call to Falmouth Coastguards swayed my decision - their latest forecast was suggesting a WNW wind overnight veering NW by day and strengthening to force 7-9 by early afternoon - a classic forecast. The swell was also estimated to be in the region of 16-22 feet.

So that was it. I continued down the M5, on to the A30 and into Cornwall. By the time I reached Marazion it was 1am and walking around the Penzance Tesco car park in the early hours, I was worried I had made the wrong decision (it was relatively calm and incredibly starlit). However, sleeping at Pendeen soon made me realise that the forecasters had got it right - by 0300 hours, the wind was gusting gale force and WAS WNW in direction.

Daybreak Friday dawned shortly after 0615 hours and within 15 minutes, 11 of us were in position on the 'concrete pad' including Cornish seawatching stalwarts and good friends Brian Mellow, Pete Maker, Steve Rogers and Royston Wilkins. I had only set my 'scope up on the rocks for a few seconds before I noticed 'good' birds - two 'flocks' of SOOTY SHEARWATERS totalling 9 birds and a very close GREAT SHEARWATER. It sure was going to be a good day !!

Within the next half hour I was joined by 40 or so birders, predominantly of local origin, including John Swann, Linton Proctor, Steve Votier, Mike Langman, Mark Darlaston, Brian Field, Martin Elliott and Geoff Wyatt.

(Seawatching from 0620 through 1820 hours; WNW 7-8 veered NW 8 moderating to NW 6 by evening with excellent visibility and occasional showers) (all passage to the west)

The following species were recorded -:

Northern Fulmar (243, many in heavy wing moult)
CORY'S SHEARWATER (2 west, with singles at 0806 and midday)
GREAT SHEARWATER (7 west - following the first very close in at 0625, further singles followed at 0930,1139, 1154, 1211, 1237 - another very close in, and 1707 - the closest yet, in the surf in front of the rocks).
**NORTH ATLANTIC LITTLE SHEARWATER (0947-0953 - initially picked up by Linton Proctor as it was overtaken by other seabirds in the close 'Manx line' of movement. I got on to it almost straight away followed by Royston Wilkins and others as it negotiated the huge swell. A very striking bird with a 'Common Sandpiper-like' flight action, gleaming white underparts and very black on the upperparts. Its predominantly white head was held straight or peculiarly upwards with the white on the underwing extending far out on to the under-primaries, almost restricting the black to the tips. I concentrated on the upper wing in the 'scope and could make out a silvery-grey panel on the inner section of the wing and as a single Manx joined it, the shorter tail, blacker plumage and underwing contrast was noticeable. It was a much smaller bird, more compact in structure and had very oddly-shaped wings - in fact it reminded me of Common Sandpiper. It was repeatedly fluttering its tail feathers and trawling the surface and eventually landed on the sea. On the water, I targeted the head pattern - the face was strikingly white and contrasting heavily with an isolated dark, beady eye. It kept holding its head up in a very odd fashion and at times was quite auk-like. I lost it in the huge swell on the sea but shortly later it took flight again and Linton and others followed it as it flew further west and eventually disappeared around the wall for us. Sadly, despite the fact that I shouted a loud running commentary on what exactly the bird was doing and where, surprisingly few others were able to get on to it in the seven minutes it was on view).
Manx Shearwater (9,040 including some in heavy moult and others with white on the upperwing)
BALEARIC SHEARWATER (93 west including many pale variants)
**YELKOUAN SHEARWATER (an apparent Yelkouan flew west at 1058 hours. I initially thought Herald Petrel when I picked it up as it was surprisingly small but it had typical Balearic-like brownish upperparts but incredible gleaming white underparts all the way down to the undertail-coverts. There was a thin dark line on the underwing contrasting with the white underwing and some brown staining on the rear flanks. Although we saw much variation in the large number of Balearic Shearwaters that were passing including a rather high percentage of pale birds, none had the appearance of this startlingly obvious individual. I have never seen a Balearic with such white underparts like Manx)
SOOTY SHEARWATER** (a record Cornwall movement with outstanding passage, including regular flocks. I click-counted an exceptional 394 birds)
EUROPEAN STORM PETREL (just 9 flew west; two were seen feeding on a dead Harbour Porpoise)
**WILSON'S STORM PETRELS (2 flew west and I managed to miss both of them, despite one being tracked for the best part of 10 minutes - Pendeen is one frustrating seawatching locality - the first at 0930 (Steve Votier, Mike Langman, Mark Darlaston) and another at 1640 (Steve Rogers, Royston Wilkins, Brian Mellow, et al).
Northern Gannet (10,300+ west, with very few juveniles)
European Shag (15)
Common Scoter (3 west; 2 drakes)
Turnstone (1)
Whimbrel (3)
GREY PHALAROPES (following the first at 1335, a further 7 was seen by 1820, including some showing well in the surf)
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (a typically dark and very small juvenile sat on the sea just beyond the rocks and flew along relatively close inshore at 1626 hours. In flight, it had a very thin white wing-bar, a small head with a black crown and very dark mantle and back)
GREAT SKUA (38 west including an equal proportion of adults and juveniles; no 'collared' birds were seen)
POMARINE SKUA (1 superb pale morph adult still with 'spoons' flew west at 1241)
Kittiwake (just 3 - 2 adults and a juvenile)
**SABINE'S GULLS (summer-plumaged adults still retaining black hoods west at 0915, 1035, 1130 and 1759, with two together at 1145 - 6 in total)
Sandwich Tern (1)
ARCTIC TERN (58 west)
BLACK TERN (1 west, in with 4 Arctic Terns)
Auk spp (2)

COMMON RAVEN (pair flew west)
Northern Wheatear (1 on cliff edge)

Ocean Sunfish (1+)
Basking Shark (1)

Thursday 27 August 2009

A hybrid Tufted Duck x Ring-necked Duck at Seaforth NR, Lancashire, in March-April 2009

This is a drake Ring-necked Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid which was present at Seaforth NR, Lancashire, in March-April 2009 (Pete Kinsella).
From these two images it would be hard to believe that this were not a pure drake Ring-necked Duck but other images reveal it to be an obvious hybrid.

The Westport Lake RING-NECKED DUCK - further images from Steve Seal

Wednesday 26 August 2009

LGRE at the Rutland Birdfair - August 2009

After a six year absence, I made my first appearance at the Rutland Bird Fair this past weekend, promoting a new publication under a joint collaboration with the hugely successful and popular BirdGuides company. I must admit that I was totally overwhelmed by the love and affection shown by the large number of visiting friends and exhibitors and spent much of my time posing for photographs, autographing copies of my book, being interviewed by journalists or being filmed by the media.

It is quite staggering just how many individuals rely on birding as a business to survive and the fair proves how much of a multi-million empire it actually is. Tim Appleton and Martin Davies are to be congratulated and highly commended on the tireless effort they both put into staging and organising this event every year. This will be the third and final year of Birdfair support for Birdlife's 'Preventing Extinctions Programme' and funds raised from this year's fair will be drawing special attention to the 45 Critically Endangered bird species that are in dire need of our help.

It was great to see and spend time with some very special friends and birding colleagues, including those of you I haven't seen in an awful long time - Killian Mullarney, Dick Forsman, James Lidster, Mark Constantine, Arnoud van den Berg, Marcel Haas, Rene Pop, Magnus Robb, Bryan Bland, Ian Wallace, Raymond, Christine & Moya Scalley, Russell Slack, John McLoughlin, Jim Lawrence, David Lindo, Stuart Winter, Pete Alfrey, Graham Catley, Derek Moore, Andy Musgrove, Mark Grantham, Derek & Jan Toomer, David Fisher, Steve Rooke, Mark Andrews, David Cottridge, Tim Loseby, Hugo Romano, Solomon Jallow and his 'new' generation from Gambia, the entire Lambert family, Chris, Paul and the remaining members of the original Leicestershire twitching crew, Dick Filby, Will Wagstaff, James Wolstencroft, Ian Lewington, Peter & Carole Leigh, 'Becca Nason & Phil, David Hatton, Anna Hughes & Charlie Wilkins, David Cromack, Brian Clews, Vaughan Ashby, Pete Basterfield, Ian Packer, Tim Cleeves, Tim Stowe, Richard Porter, Dave Morgan, Paul Fuller, Ray Wright, Geoff & Alan Clewes, Matt Mulvey, Andy Clifton, Richard Bonser, John Gale, Mark Thomas & the Wildlife Crime Officers, Neil, Richard and team from In-Focus, Duncan MacDonald and all of his loveable rogues on the Wildsounds stall and all of my friends on the Opticron stall I love you all.

I also had the great pleasure in meeting and discussing pressing subjects with Mark Avery of the RSPB

The diversity and richness of those contributing towards the success of the fair is incredible and it is testimony to our hobby that so many individuals can be bought together from so many different areas of life

'Leucism' in buntings


Grahame Walbridge has very kindly responded to my comments relating to yesterday's Landguard Ortolan Bunting and in this context, I reverse my view and agree that it is just as likely to be a genuine vagrant as an escape from captivity where perhaps more of these plumage aberrations occur.

Hi Lee,
I have just seen the images of yesterdays leucistic Ortolan at Landguard. An amazing looking bird but undoubtedly an Ortolan, in my view. I gather it was calling typically. Not sure why you would consider it a likely escape though?

This brings to mind a very washed-out example that Richard Cockram and I found in the Bill quarry on 12th October 2007. The bird, which was not as pale/unmarked as the Languard individual, virtually lacked all yellow, olive and russet tones to its plumage.

Some years ago there was a resident leucistic (white) male Corn Bunting at the Bill which, I recall, may have succumbed to a Merlin. I would have to go through my notebooks to find out which year since there appears to be no mention of it any PBO report!

Cheers, Grahame Walbridge.


This peculiar plumaged ORTOLAN BUNTING (photographed above by Lee Woods and Matthew Deans) spent the day yesterday on Landguard Common (Suffolk). Its plumage pigmentation was very pale sandy brown.
A juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE was also present in Suffolk yesterday at Benacre Sluice (image above by Dave Carr) whilst the main attraction over the summer has been the fine GREAT WHITE EGRET (superbly photographed in flight by Dick Walden)

Tuesday 25 August 2009

This is the UK400 Club Rare Bird Alert for Tuesday 25 August 2009 issued at 2200 hours and published in association with Rare Bird Alert Pagers whilst utilising additional information gleaned from the Regional Birdlines, BirdGuides, local email groups, web-sites and web-blogs and individual observers.

An adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER continues to delight visitors at Cresswell Pond NWT (Northumberland) (see Stef McElwee's excellent images above) whilst in Cleveland, a juvenile CITRINE WAGTAIL moulting into first-winter plumage showed well for two days (23-24 August) at Saltholme Pools RSPB.

SPOTTED CRAKES have appeared in force over recent days as more and more mud becomes exposed at numerous sites following the recent hot, dry weather including singles at Conwy RSPB (showing well from the reserve Tal-y-fan Hide), Abbotsbury Swannery (Dorset), Grove Ferry NR (Kent), Greylake RSPB (Somerset), Sandwell Valley RSPB (West Midlands) and the long-staying bird in the Dearne Valley at Edderthorpe Flash (South Yorks).

There has also been an upsurge in PECTORAL SANDPIPER appearances with adults at Loch of Houll on Whalsay (Shetland), on the golf course at Point of Ness, Stromness (Orkney Mainland), at Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire), at the north end of Hollowell Reservoir (Northants), whilst the first of this autumn's DOTTERELS appeared at Hatfield Moors (South Yorks) and on Ramsey Island (Pembs) this afternoon.

Recent days have seen a scattering of drift migrants with a very confiding HOOPOE at the base of the cliffs above the beach at the Folkestone end of Samphire Hoe Country Park (East Kent) (access through the tunnel east of the A20), juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKES at Kelling Water Meadows (Norfolk) and Benacre Sluice (Suffolk) and ICTERINE WARBLERS on Fetlar and at Scatness (Shetland). A very odd-plumaged leucistic-type ORTOLAN BUNTING spent the day at Landguard NR (Suffolk) (perhaps more likely an escape) whilst a drab juvenile yesterday afternoon caused consternation on Inner Farne (Northumberland).

The long-staying adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS is still present with the juvenile Ruff on Porthellick Pool, St Mary's, with a TEMMINCK'S STINT showing well on roadside pools at Pett Levels (East Sussex) and a juvenile RED-NECKED PHALAROPE new in at Keyhaven Marshes Lagoons (Hants).

The two GREAT WHITE EGRETS, one of which is a colour-ringed bird from NW France, both remain at Ouse Fen (Cambs) with another at Chard Reservoir (Somerset) and a returning adult at Mockbeggar Lake (Hamts).

A male MONTAGU'S HARRIER was present for a second day at Rainham Marshes RSPB (Essex/London), showing well from the seawall hunting over Aveley and Wennington Marshes until 1015 hours when it drifted off high to the southeast, with a juvenile in the Burrough Hill CP area (Leics), with other longer stayers at Orford Ness (Suffolk) and at Elmley Marshes RSPB (Kent) (two birds). Meanwhile, a presumed first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON continues to range widely between Horsey Mere and Hickling Broad (Norfolk), occasionally resting in dead trees visible distantly from Bittern Hide at Hickling NWT.

An adult SABINE'S GULL has been roosting almost every evening at Upton Warren Flashes Pool (Worcs) since Friday, arriving at 2020 hours and departing shortly before 0540, whilst a hint of east in the wind carried large numbers of Black Terns over the North Sea and into the Midlands. A flock of 40 ROSEATE TERNS were at Beacon Point, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) this afternoon.

With over 14,500 TREE PIPITS leaving Sweden south over Falsterbo, it is hardly surprising that above average numbers have appeared in central, southern and eastern Britain in recent days. A COMMON NIGHTINGALE on Scilly is a good record, remaining for a second day on the Garrison, St Mary's, with good numbers of Whinchat and Common Redstarts now passing through.

A CORNCRAKE visited North Ronaldsay (Orkney) today, with a BARRED WARBLER on Fair Isle (Shetland).

The adult drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK remains at Heron's Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake (Avon), with another at Loch Gelly (Fife), with drake RING-NECKED DUCKS at Loch Leven (Fife) and at Westport Lake (Staffs) whilst an adult female Hooded Merganser of unknown origin arrived at Scaling Dam Reservoir (Cleveland).

Seawatching continues to cause concern in County Clare (IRELAND) with the 35 or so participants in this week's residency being showered in yet further WILSON'S STORM PETRELS today, as well as 18+ SABINE'S GULLS, 2 LONG-TAILED SKUAS, 7 GREY PHALAROPES and a single GREAT SHEARWATER

Meanwhile, 200 miles west of County Cork aboard the ''Cetaceans on the Frontier'' survey vessel, a WILSON'S STORM PETREL was seen on Sunday (23 August), along with Cory's Shearwater, 20+ Great Shearwaters, Long-tailed Skua, several Sabine's Gulls and a Grey Phalarope, whereas today the same vessel recorded 3 WILSON'S STORM PETRELS, a GREAT SHEARWATER, 2 SABINE'S GULLS and a LEACH'S PETREL 150 miles west of County Mayo (Antony McGeehan et al).

Elsewhere in IRELAND, a juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER was today on Inch Lake, Lough Swilly (Co. Donegal) and an incredible 550+ ROSEATE TERNS in Dublin Bay at Sandymount Strand (Co. Dublin).

Staffordshire RING-NECKED DUCK

Presumed drake Ring-necked Duck, Westport Lake, Staffordshire
There have been doubts expressed over the identification of this individual from certain quarters and after receiving several enquiries I passed on the information to the UK400 Club wildfowl expert Keith Vinicombe for comment.
''Funnily enough I saw the photos of this on Surfbirds by Phil Jones and Steve Seal and also the comment by Phil about it possibly being a hybrid. I did wonder whether a controversy might be in the offing and I even thought about emailing Phil, but then I thought better of sticking my nose in on a bird that I hadn't even seen! I must admit that I'm becoming increasingly loath to comment on photographs of birds as they can be so misleading. However, with this one I feel confident that this is just a tatty moulting RING-NECKED DUCK.
Everything about it is spot-on and I find it hard to believe that a Ring-necked Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid would not show a few more pro-Tufted features. A particularly good point in its favour is the wing-stripe, which looks classic RND to me - Tufted x RND hybrids would be likely to have a whiter wing-stripe. I have certainly seen moulting male RNDs that look quite square-headed but, with your bird, the stumbling block is the tuft - but what people forget is that adult male RND has long rear crown feathering, which forms the peak (I'm sure some people think that the peak is formed by the actual shape of the head, ie by the bone of the skull, but that is not the case). The peak on a RND obviously performs the same sexual function as the tuft on a Tufted. Of course when this peak is moulted, the feathers will look scruffy as some of the old, long feathers will remain after others have been moulted. I'm sure that is what is happening with this bird. If you look at Phil's top image on Surfbirds and the one by Steven Seal, the little remaining 'tufts' aren't just on the rear of the crown, but down towards the nape as well. Given that Tufted's tuft comes straight out of the rear crown, then I can't see why a hybrid would show tufts further down''

Thursday 20 August 2009

Seawatching off BRIDGES OF ROSS - August 2009

Ronan Maclaughlin obtained the outstanding images above during a pelagic out of County Kerry, including GREAT SHEARWATERS (top two), POMARINE SKUA, SABINE'S GULL, SOOTY SHEARWATER and EUROPEAN STORM PETREL
A NORTH ATLANTIC LITTLE SHEARWATER flew west at Bridges of Ross this morning, remaining on view for about three and a half minutes as it crossed the bay at 250 yards range with a pack of Manx Shearwaters. Chris Heard relayed to me an excellent description of the bird, commenting on a number of salient features he and others latched on to. Chris was with five Irish birders at the time, including John Murphy, Paul Troake and Stan Nugent. There was also an excellent cross-section of other scarce seabirds seen today.

It seems that WILSON'S STORM PETRELS are the 'en vogue' seabird this year with what appears to be a number of individuals summering and perhaps following the circuituous feeding route that other rare seabirds have at the Bridges in recent years. They have been seen almost daily, peaking at an overwhelming and unprecedented 27 birds on 1 August.

The Story So Far - Bridges of Ross: 1-20 August 2009
Source of information:
Additional information Chris Heard

MANX SHEARWATER: 5,000+ on 1 August, 4,000+ on 10th

BALEARIC SHEARWATER: 1 on 1 August, 10 on 8th, 1 on 10th, 7 on 15th, 4 on 17th, 3 on 18th, 1 on 19th, 5 on 20th

SOOTY SHEARWATER: 2 on 1 August, 12 on 8th, 13 on 10th, 46 on 15th, 88 on 17th, 20 on 18th, 29 on 19th, 55 on 20th

CORY'S SHEARWATER: 1 on 15th August, 1 on 20th

GREAT SHEARWATER: 5 on 15th August, 2 on 17th

EUROPEAN STORM PETREL: 300 on 1 August, just 20 on 8th, 21 on 10th, 46 on 15th, 125 on 19th, 40 on 20th

WILSON'S STORM PETREL: unprecedented numbers offshore, many affording stunning views, with 27 on 1 August (Dermot Breen, Dara Fitzpatrick, John Murphy, et al), 1 on 8 August (Aidan Duggan, John Murphy, Finbarr McGabhain & Darrach Turley), 2 on 17th (Tom Lowe, Michael Hoit), 2 on 18th (Chris Heard, Tom Lowe, et al), 6 on 19th (Tom Lowe et al), 3 on 20th (Chris Heard et al)

LEACH'S STORM PETREL: the first of the autumn flew west on 20th August

POMARINE SKUA: 2 on 8 August, 2 on 15th, 2 on 17th, 2 adults on 18th, an adult on 19th, 6 on 20th

LONG-TAILED SKUA: 2 adults on 17th August (Tom Lowe, Michael Hoit), a staggering 8 (7 adults & a sub-adult) on 20th

SABINE'S GULL: 7 adults on 1 August, 2 adults on 8th, 12 adults on 15th, 3 adults on 17th, 6 adults on 19th, 15 adults on 20th

Wednesday 19 August 2009


The wonderful adult female SNOWY OWL at Termon Hill (Co Mayo) (Dermot Breen)
Juvenile ROSEATE TERN, juvenile adult COMMON TERN at South Shields, Tyneside (Glyn Sellors)
The adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS on Porthellick Pool, St Mary's (Scilly) (Robin Mawer), with Cambridgeshire's two GREAT WHITE EGRETS at Ouse Fen (Richard Thomas)
Finally, drake FERRUGINOUS DUCKS at Lochgelly Loch (Fife) (Willie McBay) and at Chew Valley Lake (Avon) (Gary Thoburn), the lower image depicting it with a Red-crested Pochard and Canvasback hybrid.
The first SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER of 2009 involves a moulting adult present for its third day on the beach opposite Cresswell Pond NWT Reserve (Northumberland). It has also been commuting to the causeway on the reserve (nearby, at least 5 Roseate Terns at Druridge Bay CP)

Hot weather from the south has resulted in another boom in GREAT WHITE EGRET sightings, with further birds from the breeding site in Brittany, NW France. Cambridgeshire was treated to another two, including a multi-ringed individual - see Richard Thomas' images above), both birds favouring Phase 3 at Ouse Fen (part of the Over Fen complex), viewable with patience from the end of the track to Brownshill Staunch accessed from Overcote Road (Richard Patient et al). Three more were present at Dolydd Hafren MWT (Powys) on at least 11 August

A further individual has taken up territory at Chard Reservoir (Somerset) since 13 August, with another at Denge Marsh RSPB, Dungeness (Kent) (since 15), whilst a close relative - CATTLE EGRET - was on Iley Lake, on the north bank of Keyhaven Marshes (Hants) from early afternoon (at SZ 313 933) (a further CATTLE EGRET was also seen at Elmley RSPB, Kent, on 14 August)..

On the Isles of Scilly, the moulting adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS continues to show very well on Porthellick Pool, St Mary's, where it first arrived on 12 August. It is often in company with a juvenile Wood Sandpiper and juvenile Ruff on the pool and has been captured excellently on film by local photographer Robin Mawer (see above). The archipelago is also blessed by the occurrence of a once frequent visitor from North America - an adult BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER. This bird, an adult, has been visiting the airfield runway and short grass since Sunday 16 August.

In South Yorkshire, a typically elusive SPOTTED CRAKE is skulking in the Dearne Valley at Edderthorpe Flash (2nd day), where it can be viewed from the bench not far from the layby on the west side of the A6195, following a bird at Upton Warren (Worcs) on 15 August.

In a relatively lean year for the species, Hickling Broad hosted a first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON on 18 August, after it roosted nearby at Rush Hills at dusk on 17 August.

It has been an excellent year for breeding MONTAGU'S HARRIERS in Britain (with 23 pairs raising at least 36 young) with post-breeding birds now being seen at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) and Elmley Marshes RSPB (North Kent) and a juvenile at Orford Ness (Suffolk), whilst EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARDS have had favourable results, up to four birds of which have been showing from the Raptor Viewpoint at Great Ryburgh (Norfolk) and two more from the Welbeck Raptor Viewpoint (Notts).

The old faithful adult RING-BILLED GULL has returned for its 11th consecutive season at Westcliff-on-Sea, favouring the promenade, street lamps and beach adjacent to or near Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour, with another on the River Thames on the Isle of Dogs (London) favouring the mud of low tide just east of Glen Affric Avenue slipway. An adult SABINE'S GULL was off Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland) mid-morning

In Scotland, the eclipse drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK and eclipse drake RING-NECKED DUCK continue their summer sojourn at Loch Gelly, 2.5 miles NE of Cowdenbeath (Fife) (please view from the steps at the north end) whilst an additional drake RING-NECKED DUCK is present at Kilconquhar Loch (Fife). The long-staying adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS continues at Aberlady Bay (Lothian)

Drift migrants typically appear from mid-August and this year is no exception. A GREENISH WARBLER was at Theddlethorpe Dunes (North Lincs) on 12 August, with another on Fair Isle (Shetland) on at least 17-18 August. An ICTERINE WARBLER was seen at the seaward end of Hope Gap, Seaford (East Sussex) briefly early morning on 18 August, whilst exceptionally one was trapped and ringed this morning at ''The Marsh'' at Longbridge Deverill (Wiltshire). A juvenile ORTOLAN BUNTING was reported from Mersea Island (Essex) at 0900 hours, with a MELODIOUS WARBLER at Hengistbury Head Wick Fields (Dorset) on 18 and a long-stayer in Pittisporum in Porth Minnick, St Mary's (Scilly), from 11-18 August at least, a COMMON ROSEFINCH on Whalsay (Shetland) on 18 and RED-BACKED SHRIKES involving an adult female at Halling (Kent) on 13-14, a juvenile at Hindon (Wilts) (at ST 902 331) on 14-16 and a juvenile on Hayling Island (Hants) on 18 August. The only WRYNECK so far this autumn is a juvenile at Baltasound, Unst (Shetland), on 15 August, whilst BARRED WARBLERS were at Kilnsea (East Yorks) on 9 and Noss (Shetland) on 15 August. A BLUETHROAT was trapped and ringed at West Bexington (Dorset) on 15 August.

An adult summer WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER visited Elmley RSPB Floods (North Kent) on the high tide overnight of 13-14 August, with an adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER SE of Dounby (Orkney) at 'The Shunan' on 14-15 August.

In IRELAND, the summering adult RING-BILLED GULL remains at Nimmo's Pier, Galway Harbour (Co. Galway) with a first-year on the boulder beach between Lurge Point and Lough Donnell in County Clare and another at Sandymount Strand (Co. Dublin). This latter site has seen the annual gathering of over 190 ROSEATE TERNS.

The seawatching season has begun at Bridges of Ross (Co. Clare) with WILSON'S PETRELS becoming a daily occurrence, regardless of weather, with another today, along with frequent SABINE'S GULL sightings and a scattering of CORY'S and GREAT SHEARWATERS. Cape Clear island has also seen a moderate passage of GREAT SHEARWATERS in recent days.

An adult BAIRD'S SANDPIPER was at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) from 9-12 August

The long-staying adult female SNOWY OWL (depicted above) remains a formidable attraction on The Mullet (Co. Mayo), favouring the bleak and windswept Termon Hill SW of Belmullet.

Saturday 15 August 2009


Collared Pratincole Frampton Marsh RSPB 9th Aug 2009 - only the 4th Lincolnshire record.

Shot Branston near Lincoln 15th Aug 1827
Gib Point 21 Mat 1973
Donna Nook area 11th July 1981

Steve Botham

Friday 14 August 2009

RUDDY SHELDUCKS in Britain - some additional comments by Keith Vinicombe following heated discussions on this topic today

I was speaking to Lee Evans this morning about the status of Ruddy Shelducks in Britain and I thought it might be helpful if I reiterated some of Lee's comments. I've done a lot of work on the status of the species in Britain which culminated in papers in British Birds and articles in Birdwatch.
My understanding of the position is as follows.
Feral populations
There are three feral populations in Europe:
1) Moscow: there is a population based on Moscow Zoo that appears to be sedentary. They nest in and on buildings in Moscow but return to the zoo in winter, where of course they are fed. If I remember rightly, the population is in the region of 250 birds. There is no evidence that any of these have ever reached western Europe.
2) Askanya Nova, Ukraine. There is a more significant feral population based on the Askanya Nova steppe reserve in southern Ukraine. As I understand it, this basically is a set-up a bit like Slimbridge, where captive and wild birds mix in the grounds and are fed in winter. Ruddy Shelducks have bred there for many years and there is a feral population based on the 'zoo'. However, things have become very complicated for the following reasons. Firstly, the feral bred birds are now mixing with the nearby wild breeding populations along the Black Sea coast. Secondly, ringed zoo bred birds have been recovered with wild Ruddy Shelducks across southern Russia. Thirdly, wild Ruddy Shelducks from southern Russia are now wintering in numbers at Askanya Nova (where they also take advantage of the food provided) and so mixing with the feral birds there. The situation in Ukraine has, therefore, become completely blurred with a situation there that is akin to the position in Britain with the Gadwall, ie that it descends from a mixture of wild immigrants and captive escapes.

3) Switzerland. There is a feral population in northern Switzerland along the border with Germany that numbers around 450 birds. These gather to moult in July on Klingau Reservoir in northern Switzerland. Counts indicate that these birds are present and flightless at precisely the same time as the Dutch birds (see below) so the two populations are separate. However, even the situation in Switzerland may not be as clear-cut as originally thought. This is because Italian birders have noticed an increase in Ruddy Shelduck records in northern Italy (Po Delta etc) immediately before and after the Swiss moult and they think it possible that the Swiss moulting birds may now include wild Ruddy Shelducks from the small Balkan population.
4) The Netherlands. Every summer there is a large moult gathering at Emmeer in Utrecht. The highest count I came across for 2009 was 540 on 17 July, although recent reports indicate that 1,060 birds visited there this summer. The important point about this gathering is that, while a few pairs of escaped/feral Ruddy Shelducks may breed irregularly in Holland and Germany, there is no evidence whatsoever of a large self-sustaining feral population. German correspondents that I have dealt with are always bemused that there is a continuing myth in Britain of a large feral population in Germany - it does not exist. The simple fact is that the Dutch do not know where their moulting birds come from but Arnoud at least is of the view that they are likely to be genuinely wild immigrants from eastern Europe. Personally, I find it frustrating that the Dutch haven't caught any of their birds to either ring them or fit radio transmitters to them to solve the mystery once and for all.

Records in Britain are no doubt a mixture of escapes from captivity and birds that have either overshot Holland on their way to moult, or birds dispersing from Holland after moulting. This largely explains the July/August peak in Britain. Small parties on the East Coast are of course more likely to involve these Dutch birds. There are no feral populations in Britain although the odd pair has bred from time-to-time but they have never become established.

In 1892 and in 1994 there was a large influx of wild Ruddy Shelducks across northern Europe, with the largest numbers in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. I can't remember the exact total for 1994 off hand but I think it was around 350 birds. The records strongly indicated an origin in SE Europe/SW Asia, thought to have been provoked by desiccation on their breeding and/or moulting grounds. The BOURC would not accept that any wild birds occurred in Britain in 1994, despite good evidence to the contrary.