Friday, 31 December 2010

Year comes to a close

A total of 435 species was recorded in Britain and Ireland during 2010 - making it the second highest annual total of all time. I managed to see 358 of these - equivalent to 82% - but in terms of 'new birds' for high-ranking listers, these were few and far between - just one in many cases (the ship-assisted Indian House Crow in County Cork).

For those 1,000 members listed with 400 species or more, the year's additions included a THAYER'S GULL in Ireland in the early part of the year and a male LESSER KESTREL at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) in early spring. Otherwise, the highlights in spring were a first-summer male MARMORA'S WARBLER in South Wales and a long-staying ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE in Lincolnshire.

A long-awaited twitchable SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLER kick-started the autumn at Druridge Bay CP, Northumberland, in mid-August, with the afore-mentioned INDIAN HOUSE CROW appearing in September.

On the mainland, the best September offerings were an ALDER FLYCATCHER on Blakeney Point (Norfolk), an EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER at Flamborough Head (East Yorks) and an ASIATIC BROWN FLYCATCHER at Bempton (East Yorks) whilst the Isles of Scilly highlighted with BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR and EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL and the various Northern Isles produced yet more HORNEMANN'S ARCTIC REDPOLLS, a twitchable LANCEOLATED WARBLER, several PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS, two SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLERS and a SWAINSON'S THRUSH. There were also a SOLITARY SANDPIPER at Seaton (South Devon) and twitchable OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT and WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLERS in North Norfolk.

In the later autumn, the first twitchable AMERICAN BITTERN for 19 years - at Trewey Common, Zennor, at the end of October - was well received, as were two different HERMIT THRUSHES on the Outer Hebrides, a first-winter female NORTHERN PARULA on Tiree (Argyll) and 2-3 MYRTLE WARBLERS in western Ireland.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Another garden mega

In addition to the first-winter DUSKY THRUSH present in private gardens for two weeks in December, and the overwintering PINE BUNTING on private land, a DARK-EYED JUNCO was also present in the London Area in a Waltham Abbey garden on at least 18-19 December. With two AMERICAN ROBINS in western Ireland, one wonders how many more rarities are lurking in suburban gardens.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

And now an AMERICAN ROBIN in County Kerry

Hard on the heels of a sighting last week comes another AMERICAN ROBIN said to have been present for at least a week in County Kerry at Knockmoyle, Tralee, along Strand Road

Sunday, 19 December 2010

AMERICAN ROBIN in County Sligo (Ireland)

The story as I know it is:

Yesterday evening Mervyn Gawley opened a silage pit to feed sheep on the ground behind his farmyard, which adjoins the Warren Way. The Warren Way is a signed and paved public walkway which Mervyn has given a lot of his time to getting up & running some years back. He has run guided nature walks on the Warren Way. He said that there were quite a few earthworms or brandlings in the material he put out for the sheep, from the silage pit covering, and he attracted a lot of thrushes & starlings, as the whole area is carpeted with snow. It was 4pm (near dusk in these parts).

He saw the bird among the Redwings, and noticed it was considerably larger, and "red all the way round underneath". He also noticed that it had white spots around the eye, but no stripe or ring. He got a close view of the bird from the tractor, but had no optics. By the time he got to back to his house for binoculars and scope, and returned, it was too dark, and he hasn't seen it since. Mervyn identified the bird from a field guide and confirmed the ID with Google images.

Mervyn and I watched the area well today, but 4-5 visits from a male Sparrowhawk caused a fair bit of havoc. Nevertheless there were a lot of thrushes around (good numbers of Redwing and male Blackbirds, some Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush) and starlings, but no sign of anything close to what Mervyn saw. I have not been in contact with Stephen Meaney since he saw it today, but I gathered from Mervyn's text that Stephen was in the wood further along the walk when he re-found it. That is the sum total of all that I know.

Anyone travelling should be aware that the road between Ballina and Enniscrone (the 'coast road' or 'quay road') is terribly icy, packed white ice, no gritting, and I had a fairly scary return trip .

I put some sketch maps up on the BirdWatch Sligo website tonight, with apologies to Google and the Ordnance Survey...........I trust the laws of copyright are suspended in bad weather!

The maps are at

(contributed by Mícheál Casey)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Huge WAXWING gathering in East Kent

Just to keep you up to date with the east Kent WAXWING build-up. Get ready for it - there was an incredible number of 1400+ birds in recent days. The birds are in the area north of Richborough Power station along the Ebbsfleet Road close to the entrance of Stonelees Golf Course - some 400 decked there plus two flocks of 100 on the golf course and a huge c800 airborne flock but they all moved off to the south; they may well have been in the area three days and it is possible there could be more!! I only! had 170 and an 80 there then a 40 on the way home this afternoon a true birding wonder..... (Craig Sammels)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Putative LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE in the Yare Valley, Norfolk

Ben Lewis photographed today what he considered to be a Lesser White-fronted Goose at Buckenham Marshes RSPB in East Norfolk. I suspect this is the adult hybrid that has been present with Greylag Geese at Buckenham Carrs for at least six weeks (per Barry Jarvis, Phil Heath, Robin Able, et al). If not, it may well be one of three adult LWFG of suspect origin which have been resident in Norfolk for at least 12 years, which commute between the Yare Valley and Heigham Holmes. Tim Allwood and others saw at least one bird at the latter site during July-September of this year.

Of course, Buckenham Carrs were always the premier site for this species in the county, but consorting with the Eurasian White-fronted Geese wintering there then rather than the Taiga Bean Geese.

Best wishes

Lee Evans

WAXWINGS today in Belfast City Centre

A large flock of WAXWINGS in Belfast today - well over 100 birds. Flocking near the Albert Clock in Belfast City Centre........ Rob McAllister

Aberdeen WAXWINGS getting around

Paul Keene photographed this first-winter male BOHEMIAN WAXWING in Leighton Street, Woburn (Bedfordshire), on 2nd December, where it remained with up to 104 others until 5th. I saw this same colour-ringed bird in Linslade on 11th December and after writing to Raymond Duncan, the Waxwing co-ordinator and member of the Grampian Ringing Group, I found out that the bird had been trapped and ringed at Kincorth in Aberdeenshire on 2nd November 2010.
Ray informed me that other Kincorth colour-ringed Waxwings had been reported in December in Cleveland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Worcestershire, Nottinghamshire and Salop, proving how far these flocks continue to disperse in their search of food. They finally arrived in my village on Sunday.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Frozen continent forces young SEA EAGLE to move west

A juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE was discovered at Amberley Wild Brooks SWT in Sussex yesterday afternoon roosting in a distant tree. It remained until dusk and was enjoyed by over 40 local birders throughout the afternoon. It represented the first authenticated record for the county since March 1929 and was presumably a bird forced to move west by the severe wintry conditions being experienced over much of Continental Europe.

After the fog eventually lifted this morning, the bird was once again located in the same roosting tree as yesterday and could be viewed distantly from Rackham Street. It sat there until just after midday when it flew SSW and continued down the Arun Valley; it then drifted west over Arundel WWT at 1215 hours before entering Hampshire airspace and was later intercepted over Southsea, Fareham and Titchfield Haven NR as it entered Southampton Water early to mid afternoon.

In North Norfolk, the juvenile male harrier showing characteristics of the North American form hudsonius has reappeared after being 'lost' for a week or more during the severe weather, showing once more in the Burnham Overy Dunes area late morning. By lunchtime it was back quartering the saltmarsh at Thornham Point and was present in this area on and off all afternoon.

The long-staying juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was again viewed from the first layby just west of the cement works at South Ferriby (North Lincs) this afternoon, with the two again hunting Burnham Overy Dunes (North Norfolk) before roosting at East Hills, Wells Harbour.

Berkshire's first-ever twitchable GLOSSY IBIS continues for a fourth day at Freeman's Marsh, just west of Hungerford, the bird showing very well at times as it feeds in the ditches.

A EURASIAN HOOPOE continues to survive at Longham Lakes (Dorset), favouring the scrub and open land to the east of the main lake close to the pumping station. as does a wintering Eastern-type YELLOW WAGTAIL at Colyford Water Treatment Works (South Devon) at SY 254 931 (view through the gap in the hedgerow on the north side of the compound). The bird has not been trapped or sound-recorded but does show a suite of field characters consistent with the eastern clade of flava-type wagtails.

A vagrant DARTFORD WARBLER remains present in the orchard at Evesham (Worcs) (SP 041 450), accessed from the footpath east of the A4184 just north of Collinfield.

The juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER was again present in Works Cove at Herbury Gore (Langton Herring) in Dorset this morning but then returned this afternoon to Lodmoor Nature Reserve. Meanwhile, a GREY PHALAROPE first seen on the River Thames (Essex) on Friday was still present today on the foreshore at Grays, opposite the Wharf public house.

An adult drake AMERICAN WIGEON remains for a second day at Rutland Water (Leics) where it has been showing well in front of Deepwater Hide and Swan Hide at Lyndon Nature Reserve, whilst the drake AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL is still on the Whooper Pond at Caerlaverock WWT (D & G) (along with the adult Ross's Snow Goose of presumably captive origin). A further drake of the latter is at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) whilst the regular returning adult female SURF SCOTER remains in Dawlish Bay visible from just east of the Langstone Rock.

Southern Britain is now experiencing a phenomenal influx of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS - at least 4,000 in all - and is literally all over, from Kent in the east to West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the west. many more SMEW have also moved in from the continent and the icy conditions have made EURASIAN BITTERNS very noticeable and easy to locate, some reedbed sites harbouring 6 or more..

The adult RING-BILLED GULLS can still be located at Southend-on-Sea (Essex) and Walpole Park Boating Lake and adjacent Haslar Creek (Hants), with another at Sands Lane GP (West Yorks). The juvenile ICELAND GULL is still present in Hamilton Dock, Lowestoft (Suffolk) with the odd GLAUCOUS GULL appearing inland.

A GREAT WHITE EGRET is still to be found in Nottinghamshire - being noted at Holme Pierrepont GP again this morning - with the other wintering individual still present at Pitsford Reservoir (Northamptonshire).

Rather unseasonal was a gathering of BALEARIC SHEARWATERS in Carbis Bay, St Ives (West Cornwall) in the last few days, peaking at 25 birds.

In terms of displaced birds inland, GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS continue at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) (two birds), Stewartby Lake (Beds) (the juvenile from Brogborough) and Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon). Inland RED-NECKED GREBES remain extremely rare though with one still present with a Black-necked Grebe and female Smew at Sevenoaks WR East Lake (Kent) whilst VELVET SCOTERS continue at Walton Reservoirs (Surrey) and King George VI Reservoir (London) with a new bird at Cliffe Pools RSPB Alpha Pool (North Kent).

At Dingle Marshes, Walberswick NNR (Suffolk), the shingle pools north of Dunwich car park continue to harbour wintering flocks of 80 Twite, 90 Snow Bunting and 18 SHORE LARKS, whilst the fields by the South Wall of Breydon Water (Norfolk/Suffolk border) are hosting up to 35 wintering LAPLAND BUNTINGS.

IRELAND continues its run of rare Nearctic birds with yet another PIED-BILLED GREBE - present for its second day in the channel at Little Island (County Cork) (park at Garganey Pond and walk north along the shoreline to view from the golf course). This bird falls hard on the heels of last winter's two individuals. The AMERICAN COOT is also still present on Termoncarragh Lake (Co. Mayo), as well as the drake AMERICAN BLACK DUCK. The adult winter FORSTER'S TERN too can be counted on, appearing just before the high tide on the rocks just east of the Mutton Island causeway near Nimmo's Pier in Galway Harbour (Co. Galway).

WAXWINGS in Ireland today included 1 in Dungarvon (Co. Waterford) and 4 at Knocknacarra (Co. Galway)

A herd of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS at Ballymacoda (Co. Cork) is a noteworthy occurrence, whilst one of the two regular SMALL CANADA GOOSE is again with 1,500 Barnacle Geese in the Raghley area (Co. Sligo). The female SURF SCOTER near Cobh (Co. Cork) was again off Marloag Point this afternoon.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Vulnerable and rare shark targeted in Egypt after 5 attacks

The Oceanic White-tipped Shark is a globally threatened species and after being attracted in small numbers to the coastline off of Sharm el Sheik tourist town by the throwing of large carcasses from passing vessels, the Egyptian authorities in this region are now making determined efforts to destroy any large fish within the vicinity. Already, three different species of shark have been killed and hauled out of the water and the hunt is still on. The sea and reef environment belongs to the fish and other wildlife and not the swimmers and diving community - the killing of these creatures is disgraceful (Lee G R Evans)

''Dear Lee, EgyBird Members, and HEPCA supporters,
Your assessment is right on. The boats, and authority, of the South Sinai EEAA/NCS, or "South Sinai Protectorates," have been so undermined by the actions or inactions of the Manager of SS Protectorates, that monitoring of dangers such as passing boats throwing stuff that attracted the oceanic sharks, and preventing such actions, has been "dead" for a long time. And this is the result. The response, of course, by a government that takes no notice whatsoever of its biology experts and is ruled by the Great God Tourist Numbers, is to kill the cetaceans, no matter what sort. When the only nature protection agency of a country is so totally disabled, it is difficult to know who can deal rationally with the incident or the future. Good-bye Tourism, good-bye cetaceans'' (Mary Megalli)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Dark-hooded COMMON GULL resembling Laughing Gull

I was checking through the many hundreds of Gulls roosting on the frozen pool at Seaforth NR in Lancashire this evening when my eye caught something interesting. In the midst of the tightly packed roost I could see what appeared to be a hooded, dark-mantled Gull. Its bill was tucked into its mantle and I couldn`t see its legs or primaries. The alarm bells began to ring, but further observation solved the puzzle. It awoke and walked out of the flock, it was an adult COMMON GULL, but with a blackish "hood" made up of dense black markings. I`ve seen very heavily marked Common gulls on numerous occasions before but never anything like this. The bill and leg colour appeared normal. When it wing stretched however, it showed some white between the grey inner primaries and the black tips, remarkably similar to Franklins Gull. Interestingly it was carrying a Norwegian `darvic` ring, as quite a few of the Common gulls do here in winter. It was ringed in Tromso on 13th May 2004.
I was lucky enough to see this bird at 150m range, albeit in fog and fading light, but what would an observer make of this bird if it was seen at a great range, such as on an inland resevoir roost? Could this bird in fact be the reported Laughing Gull recently reported from Derbyshire?
Pete Kinsella

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The south experiences a thaw

The snow stopped falling in Britain today for the first time in a week whilst the temperatures recovered to between 5 and 9 degrees C in the south giving rise to a slight thaw. In the north though, the vast snowfields remain, and temperatures there struggled to get above freezing. The weekend saw more birders in the field and a consequent rise in sighting reports but neither Ivory or Ross's Gull was found, nor the hoped-for Pine Grosbeak. Finland attracted another BLACK-THROATED ACCENTOR though - this bird near Pori representing their 8th occurrence.

A single PENDULINE TIT has survived the freeze at Dungeness RSPB (Kent), feeding at the tops of reedmace close to the Hanson Hide on the ARC Pit this morning, but a HUME'S LEAF WARBLER present in Wells Woods (North Norfolk) on both Thursday and Friday and showing well could not be located today. Not that far away, a single CONTINENTAL WHITE-HEADED LONG-TAILED TIT was with 10 or more British Long-tailed Tits at the Sculthorpe Fen Nature Reserve near Fakenham

The juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER remains at Lodmoor CP (Dorset) whilst in neighbouring South Devon, a probable EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL has been showing well at the water treatment works at Colyford today. A COMMON CRANE flew west along the Hampshire coastline this morning, crossing Langstone Harbour and then Swaythling, Southampton, and was most likely the bird later seen at Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset).

The adult female SURF SCOTER has returned once more to her wintering site at Dawlish Warren (South Devon) whilst a female LESSER SCAUP on Orkney is now present for a seventh day at Ayre Loch, St Mary's and the drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL remains west of Castle Douglas (D & G) and off of the A75 at Threave Castle NT on the River Dee from the Lamb Isalnd Hide (NX 746 606).

Two long-staying GREY PHALAROPES continue: at Dunbar East Beach (Lothian) and in the South Arm from Gadwall Hide at Rutland Water Egleton Reserve (Leics).whilst a short-staying bird visited Rainham Marshes RSPB (Essex) on the adjacent River Thames at the Mar Dyke mouth mid-morning.

A flock of 7 SHORE LARKS ranged between Glyne Gap and the eastern end of the beach at Bulverhythe (East Sussex), whilst the fourth-ever for Ayrshire involved one on the shoreline on the SW side of West Kilbride on the south side of the point at Seamill close to the Scottish Water buildings (NS 204 461). Meanwhile, 19 are at Gibraltar Point NNR (Lincs) and at least 15 in Holkham Bay (Norfolk).

The 6,000 or so BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS that arrived in Scotland at the end of October are now scattered wide and far throughout Britain, with birds now west as far as South Wales, South Devon and in County Galway and County Antrim in Ireland. The other invasive species of the autumn - MEALY REDPOLL - is also penetrating Lesser Redpoll flocks well inland, with over 50 reported in the Birch scrub at The Lodge, Sandy RSPB (Beds) today.. Two ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS remain in the Burnham Overy Dunes (Norfolk) .

There has been a distinct arrival of SMEW in the last couple of weeks with at least 50 scattered around the country whilst the icy conditions and easterly winds saw an influx of TUNDRA BEAN GEESE, with four still today in winter wheat west of the Shell garage south of the A12 at Boreham (Essex) and a further 10 at Holland Haven (Essex). In the Yare Valley (Norfolk), TAIGA BEAN GEESE numbers increased to 106 this week

Also, as a direct result of the cold weather, ICELAND GULLS include a juvenile in Lowestoft's Hamilton Dock (Suffolk) and another in Preston Dock (Lancs) with immature GLAUCOUS GULLS at Salthouse Beach (North Norfolk), Dungeness Beach (Kent) and at Appleford Pit, Didcot (Oxon). Peterhead Harbour, in NE Scotland (Aberdeenshire) has both species present, as does Swillington Ings (West Yorks), with the usual adult ICELAND GULL in Ayr (Ayrshire).

The SLAVONIAN GREBE is still to be found on Brooklands Lake, New Hythe GP (Kent), as is the female VELVET SCOTER at Walton Reservoir (Surrey) with juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS at Eyebrook Reservoir (Leics) and Brogborough Lake (Beds) The LONG-TAILED DUCK is still on the Ferry Lagoon at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB (Cambs), whilst two NORTHERN EIDERS on the Jubilee River at Dorney Wetlands (Berks) was an exceptional record. One drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK remains at Chew Valley Lake (Avon).

A wintering EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE is in a private garden at Goonhavern Downs (West Cornwall) whilst a RED-BILLED CHOUGH is exceptional on the Isle of Wight frequenting fields at Headon Warren today.

In IRELAND, the INDIAN HOUSE CROW can still be found in Cobh Town (County Cork), with a RED-NECKED GREBE off Ballintubbrid (Cork) and adult female BLUE-WINGED TEAL south of the causeway at North Bull Island (Co. Dublin). The adult winter FORSTER'S TERN is again at Claddagh Beach, Galway Harbour (Galway) and the AMERICAN COOT continues its residence on The Mullet at Termoncurragh Lake (Co. Mayo).

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Identification of Lesser and Mealy Redpolls

With an influx of MEALY REDPOLLS currently besieging the country, I felt it timely to elaborate more on the differences and identification of Lesser and Mealy Redpoll and have produced another short paper for your perusal.

Click on the Download link at the website at

ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE in California - first image


Monday, 29 November 2010

WAXWINGS - one of the most charming bird species on the planet

Due to a crop failure in Scandinavia, some 6,000 or more BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS arrived in Scotland in October and have subsequently made their way south into England and Wales (with a few in Ireland). They have always been one of my favourite birds but these images that follow on the Fair Isle blogsite below show just how confiding they can become, if one perseveres with patience, love and food

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Severe Weather Warning

The earliest heavy snowfall since 1993 befell Aberdeenshire, the Border, Northumberland and the North Yorkshire Moors overnight, bringing severe disruption to road and rail after depositing five inches of lying snow in some areas. Such harsh conditions have seen part of the 6,000 or so BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS move south from their initial arrival in Scotland to most parts of England, including as far south and west to Hampshire. There has also been a westerly movement of BEWICK'S SWANS in recent days, with 3 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE new in at North Warren RSPB, Aldburgh (Suffolk), with GOOSANDERS moving south in large numbers, and a SNOW BUNTING appearing at Carsington Water (Derbyshire)

In North Norfolk, Robin Chittenden photographed the dark-backed, orange-breasted circus species recently at Holme NOA and his images, along with those taken by John Miller and SJMG at Thornham Harbour, certainly suggest that this bird too is a NORTH AMERICAN HEN HARRIER - the third record perhaps of the Nearctic vagrant this winter. Today the bird - a pale-eyed male presumably - appeared in the Titchwell RSPB and Thornham area several times

The juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER continues to show well at Lodmoor (Dorset), generally favouring the extreme SE corner of the main marsh adjacent to Beachdown Way, whilst a LESSER YELLOWLEGS - perhaps the Port Meadow bird relocating - remains on the main lagoon visible from the visitor centre at Rutland Water Egleton Reserve (Leics).

A GREAT WHITE EGRET is present for a fifth day at Hatchet Pond, east of Beaulieu, in the New Forest (Hants), with the wintering bird at Pitsford Reservoir (Northants), whilst the CATTLE EGRET remains at Dart's Farm at Topsham (South Devon) and the wintering AMERICAN GREEN HERON can still be found at the Lost Gardens of Heligan (Cornwall).

A GREY PHALAROPE remains off the East Beach at Dunbar (Lothian) (at NT 681 788) today, whilst the long-staying first-year DOTTEREL remains with the European Golden Plover flock at The Wig Scar at Loch Ryan (Galloway). A much longer-staying GREY PHALAROPE remains that on the roadside pools at Pett Level (East Sussex)

There has been a major arrival of MEALY REDPOLLS, perhaps representing 10% of all redpoll flocks currently, with reasonable numbers of NORTHERN BULLFINCHES at coastal localities. ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS continue to survive after arriving in Britain in October, with one hunting over the marsh at Tetney (North Lincs) today and another lingering over Holland Haven (Essex), whilst an old favourite has returned to the Isle of Sheppey (North Kent) to Shellness. A mammoth 43 SHORE LARKS have now amassed in Holkham Bay (North Norfolk).

A TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE is with Greylag Geese at Wat Tyler Country Park (Essex) whilst two different Red-breasted Geese, one bearing an orange-red ring initially seen in Hampshire, consort with the wintering Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the Exe Estuary (South Devon).

Reliable adult RING-BILLED GULLS back for the winter period include singles at Westcliff-on-Sea esplanade, Southend (Essex) and at Walpole Boating Lake, Gosport, and adjacent park fields (Hants)

The COMMON CRANE continues at Castlemartin Corse (Pembs), feeding in the stubble field viewable from the Corseside Nursery entrance, with another at the opposite end of the UK at Nigg Bay (Inverness).

GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS inland include juveniles at Astbury Mere CP (Cheshire) and Park Lake, Angler's Country Park (West Yorkshire), with the BLACK-THROATED DIVER still on St Aidan's Lake, New Swillington Ings (West Yorks), with SLAVONIAN GREBES on Brooklands Lake, New Hythe GP (Kent) and LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Balgray Reservoir (Clyde), Blackborough End Tip southern gravel pit (Norfolk) and Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB (Cambs) and the young drake VELVET SCOTER at Filby Broad (Norfolk).

A YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER remains in West Cornwall in the Cot Valley, whilst the first HUME'S LEAF WARBLER of the year was trapped and ringed at Holme NOA (North Norfolk) on Monday. The latter species and last week's DESERT WHEATEAR secure 2010 as the second best year in history in terms of numbers of species recorded.

In IRELAND, Tacumshane Lake (County Wexford) still harbours the juvenile NORTH AMERICAN HEN HARRIER, along with the now resident GLOSSY IBIS, whilst a female RING-NECKED DUCK is on the River Lee, at Lee Fields, near the football pitch in Cork City (County Cork). Cobh town's resident INDIAN HOUSE CROW was seen again today, as was the drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL at Cabragh Wetlands (County Tipperary), whilst the regularly returning female BLUE-WINGED TEAL is present once again in Dublin at North Bull Island. A drake NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL is at Belfast Lough RSPB (County Antrim)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The last surviving captive (free-flying) BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS at Edinburgh Zoo

An update on Edinburgh Zoo-derived Black-crowned Night Herons.

Thanks to Jo Elliot, Animal Records Keeper at the zoo and formerly Senior Keeper of the Bird Section, we now have better information on what may be only two remaining birds. In summary:

Bird 1 - single vertically-split band half blue half yellow, seen April 09 to date (at least); this is a "new style" band, probably numbered, used on birds hatched 1989 to 1993 [a small possibility this bird is one ringed from 1997 to 2004, when sequences used were not recorded so carefully]; if caught numbers may be readable, and thereby pin down hatch year.

Bird 2 - red over blue left (blue appears green in photos), red right to 2006 but missing subsequently, bird seen to date; this individual seems to have old style bands used from 1983 to 1987 (possibly 1988?); again if caught it may be possible to confirm lack of numbers and also check for transponder fitted to (some?) birds in that period, thus confirm year.Alan's 2006 photos were key to this identification, since careful comparison with more recent images (thanks also to Bruce) suggests it is the same bird, it just dropped a colour band between 2006 and 2008 (and they are not closed bands, just a wrap round plastic ring like off a ring-binder, so they could easily be lost).

In addition, the zoo inform us that a bird with metal ring and red right, red-lime-blue left, ringed (and transpondered) in 1983 was definitely still at the zoo in 2000.

In summary, it is likely that the current ages of remaining two are 16 and 23 yrs respectively, and the metal-ringed bird was 17 yrs old in 2000, but without catching the former two are strictly unconfirmed. The current published longevity records I can trace are 16 yrs in Europe and 21 yrs for N American race (hoactli), the zoo birds are of course the latter.

Zoo not sure if they will try to catch birds, though it does not look to difficult a job to me given their regular occurrence (apparently routine at sealion feeding 11:15hrs) and if there are any volunteers (ringers?) for such I would happily pass on!

Finally, it is remarkable that these birds are probably out of the zoo in the local area for most of the time yet are hardly ever reported (Mike's sighting last New Year's Eve excepted, the only other adult in Lothian since 2001 was the bird at Bavelaw in Feb 2007, with a juv in Haddington in 2002 per BirdGuides only). Anecdotal info per zoo staff is that their birds "winter on the Water of Leith", also a report of one "seen regularly in Haddington", but these are unconfirmed and undated. Thus all further records of Night Herons in or out of the zoo, preferably with colour band details, would be most welcome!

Many thanks to all who have assisted - Stephen Welch

Escaped EUROPEAN SERIN on Shetland

A male EUROPEAN SERIN had been present on the Out Skerries on Shetland for some weeks but on a recent visit, David Gifford obtained some excellent images of it and it became apparent that the bird was bearing a violet metal ring. Some further detective work by Richard Broughton, utilising the information that could be gleaned from the ring, found that it was a bird from Belgium (BOF = Belgische Ornithologische Federatie), 09B being 2009 and B the ring size. 233 is probably the breeder's number. 038 will be the ring sequence).

Once again, this episode shows just how vigilant we all need to be, An unknown percentage of our 'vagrants' may well actually be escaped birds.

Monday, 22 November 2010

WALLCREEPER in the Netherlands - 2nd record

One now in the southern part of the Netherlands. This bird is in the outskirts of Maastricht and sometimes in view with an Eurasian Eagle Owl. For the exact location see for example:

Only the second record for The Netherlands - Justin Jansen, The Netherlands

STONE CURLEW reaches Orkney

Just to follow up on Eric Meek's email, Paul Brown photographed the amazing beast (see link above).

It was only present the one day but once again favoured this vagrant magnet that is the triangle of fields close to the Observatory. A first for the Island

Interestingly, British Stone Curlews are changing their migrational habits somewhat. For the first time, flocks are now spending the winter in East Anglian breckland. For example, only very recently I recorded respective flocks of 83 and 102 birds

The Kent one-day RUSTIC BUNTING - a brilliant selection of images taken by Andy Lawson

Sunday, 21 November 2010


A RUSTIC BUNTING has been present all day in North Kent just SW of Whitstable at Lower Island on Seasalter Golf Course. It has been feeding in the vicinity of the 8th tee and has been showing well


North of the A290 Canterbury Road, take the B2205 Oxford Street and then turn left on to Nelson Road. Finally, turn left into Island Wall and park sensibly and courteously at the end.

This bird represents only the SEVENTH in Kent following adult males at Shellness, Sheppey, on 9 April 1962 and at Northward Hill RSPB on 2 June 1983, an immature at Shellness on 5-6 October 1984, a first-winter male trapped at Dungeness on 19-20 October 1983, an immature at Port Regis, near Kingsgate, on 25-29 October 1990 and one well inland at Wierton Hill, Maidstone, from 19-28 March 1993.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Tom Tams obtained these outstanding shots above - firstly the male DESERT WHEATEAR that spent three days earlier this week at Seahouses (Northumberland) and the GREAT WHITE EGRET that was not far away near Alnmouth.

Peter Beesley's spectacular close-up shots of the PIED-BILLED GREBE

What may well be Northumberland's first-winter male DESERT WHEATEAR was discovered in North Yorkshire today, showing well three fields to the north of the seawatching hut at the Long Nab, Burniston, until dusk (at TA 025 947. Please view ONLY from the Cleveland Way and DO NOT access fields in this vicinity.

Meanwhile, in Greater Manchester, the confiding first-winter PIED-BILLED GREBE is still performing well often directly in front of the hide at Hollingworth Lake Country Park - walk 18 minutes SE of the main car park and Visitor Centre to the far SE corner of the lake. See photos above.

At the opposite end of the country in West Cornwall, the Lost Gardens of Heligan still retain their greatest attraction in the form of the confiding first-winter AMERICAN GREEN HERON.

A PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER was trapped and ringed at Kew Villa, Kilnsea (East Yorks), early morning, with another on Bardsey Island (North Wales) and a further in Horseshoe Plantation, Beachy Head (East Sussex) (and following one recently at Gibraltar Point NNR, Lincs), with a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER at Caerlaverock WWT (D & G) and a very late WRYNECK in South Devon at Sheldon, east of the A379 in scrub below the car park at Labrador Bay.

The juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER was still present at Lodmoor (Dorset) today, commuting between the pools in front of the viewing shelter and those at the east end of the main marsh adjacent to Beachdown Way; a female SMEW was also at the reserve. In East Anglia, the juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER remains in Blakeney Harbour (Norfolk).

The first-ever STONE CURLEW for North Ronaldsay (Orkney) was a surprise find today and typical of the avian gems that any South-easterly blows in. Likewise a WOODLARK on Inner Farne (Northumberland) was exceptional.

The typically confiding GREY PHALAROPE remains for a fourth day on the tiny flash south of the River Aire, at Bradley Ings, close to the footpath at SD 998 469 at Cononley (North Yorks) with another in Lancashire at Walney Island. A SURF SCOTER was in Fishguard Harbour (Pembs) today, lingering between the inner breakwater and the Fishguard Fort

Both the adult and juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD continue to forage the Burnham Overy Dunes (North Norfolk) with another near Willingham (North Lincs) and at least one on the moorland near Guisborough (Cleveland).

The COMMON CRANE continues at Castlemartin Corse (Pembs), with another at Nigg Bay (Inverness), with GLOSSY IBISES at the River Otter, Budleigh Salterton and at Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon) and the GREAT WHITE EGRETS at Pitsford Reservoir (Northants) and Humphrey Head saltmarsh (Cumbria). That at Brancaster Saltmarsh and Titchwell RSPB (North Norfolk) failed to show today whilst yesterday's Starcross CATTLE EGRET relocated to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB (South Devon) today.

Inland LONG-TAILED DUCKS remaining include single immatures at Pugney's Country Park, Wakefield (West Yorks), Rockford Lake, Blashford Lakes HWT (Hants) and at Swavesey Lake, Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB (Cambs), whilst a RED-NECKED GREBE is present for a second day at Cutt Mill House Pond (Surrey) and SLAVONIAN GREBES at Audenshaw Reservoirs (Greater Manchester) and at a number of sites in NW England. At Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon) this afternoon, a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was new in, whilst the Broadwater Sailing Club Lake (Middlesex) juvenile drake VELVET SCOTER remains, as well as immatures at Filby Broad (Norfolk) and King George VI Reservoir (Surrey). A drake SMEW was on the Motel Pit at Far Ings NR (North Lincs) today, with a redhead on Crookfoot Reservoir (Cleveland) and another off of the dam at Belvide Reservoir (Staffs). Much farther north, a redhead is on Loch of Kinnordy RSPB (Angus/Dundee).

The wintering flock of at least 55 LAPLAND BUNTINGS is still to be found in the winter stubble fields just inland of the coastal footpath at Happisburgh (Norfolk), whilst on the north coast, at least 20 SHORE LARKS are roaming the saltmarsh at Holkham Gap.

The Yare Valley TAIGA BEAN GEESE are very early back this winter, perhaps a precursor of another severe winter to come, with 37 today at Cantley Marshes RSPB (Norfolk). Up to 221 are back in the Slammannan area of Forth District in Central Scotland.

In IRELAND, a first-winter SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER is showing well at Ballycotton (County Cork) but the recent AMERICAN COOT in County Mayo did not get reported today.

A party of 6 BEARDED TITS remains at the Lingstown Reedbed, Tacumshin (County Wexford) where the juvenile NORTH AMERICAN HEN HARRIER can still be found as well as the elusive CETTI'S WARBLER. In neighbouring County Waterford, the three EURASIAN SPOONBILLS were again in Dungarvan.

Also, the INDIAN HOUSE CROW continues at Cobh (County Cork)

Breaking News - British EURASIAN EAGLE OWLS get reprieve - commonsense prevails at last

I am delighted to see that at last officials are listening and welcome today's announcement by the government that there will be no action taken against the population of EURASIAN EAGLE OWLS currently at large in the British countryside. Canvassing opinion and campaigning on their behalf certainly made people listen and the RSPB's Dr Mark Avery has concluded that there is no firm evidence to suggest that these birds are having a detrimental affect on any of our native birds of prey, including the endangered Hen Harrier.

Whilst on the subject and after becoming embroiled in a bitter feud with the RSPB over the destruction of an entire family of Eagle Owls in Cumbria, are the RSPB now in a position to be able to tell me just who was responsible for the deed, after I inadvertently accused them of it after receiving a so-called witness email? Six months down the line I have seen no announcement made.

Also, on the subject of breeding Hen Harriers in the UK, I was chastised for massively under-estimating the population - me claiming a paltry few hundred or so and officials stating that 700 or so pairs were nesting. As a result, I changed my statistics accordingly and re-published but lo and behold I am being chastised again and being given totally contradictory results. Those charged with monitoring this very endangered species are telling me that Hen Harriers have been virtually wiped out from the moors of Northern England, the Borders, Eastern Scotland and from north of Inverness - and that my figures are wholly over-estimated. They claim it is truly dire straits with this species. I am dumbfounded !

Monday, 15 November 2010


The AMERICAN COOT was still present in the outflow stream up to 1700hrs. Either view from Termoncarragh graveyard or from the field near Annagh Marsh where access has very kindly been granted. Access via taking road to Annagh just before Annagh Marsh and after two new white houses on right and newly built one on left, turn right along a track and park off the track at the end. Go through right hand gate up onto the "hill" overlooking the outflow stream. ENSURE TO CLOSE GATES AS SHEEP ARE IN FIELD.

Dave Suddaby also had an AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT at Belderra Strand today just below the car park. This is just over a mile west of An Geata Mór. Take the first right beside the school and Church. This was his 250th Mullet bird, an incredible hallmark (kindly contributed by Dermot Breen)


Once again IRELAND is really reaping rewards from the recent deep Atlantic depressions. Firstly, an AMERICAN COOT was discovered on The Mullet in the vicinity of the outflow on Termoncarragh Lake (County Mayo) and secondly, two AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS are on offer - a new bird just below the car park at the Belderra Strand at Belmullet, on the Mullet Peninsular (County Mayo) and a continuing bird at Clonea Strand at Ballinclamper in County Waterford. This same latter site also hosts a confiding juvenile WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. Yesterday, the regular returning FORSTER'S TERN appeared at Doorus Pier in Galway.

The AMERICAN COOT represents the 434th species of the year in Britain and Ireland in 2010, equalling that total achieved in 2009.

In Britain today, some interesting late scarce migrants were discovered with an ORTOLAN BUNTING on Skokholm Island (Pembrokeshire) and a first-winter BARRED WARBLER for a second day in the wood by the B5268 Fleetwood Road opposite the Cala Gran Haven Holiday Park in Fleetwood (Lancs). On the Isles of Scilly, a DUSKY WARBLER still remains by the road at Higher Moors, St Mary's.

Meanwhile, there are still two main stars of the show - the first-winter PIED-BILLED GREBE in Greater Manchester and the first-winter AMERICAN ROBIN in South Devon........

The grebe is at Hollingworth Lake Country Park just south of Littleton and not that far north of the M62. It is favouring the extreme SE corner of the lake where it commutes between the bank and the islands and shows very well at times from the small hide. This is a good 15 minute walk from the designated car park by the Visitor Centre, following the footpath round to the right.

The AMERICAN ROBIN is still ranging widely in the hedgerows west of the main access road to the Turf Hotel at Exminster Marshes RSPB, being seen from anything up to 300 yards north of the hotel. It has now become generally elusive, favouring to feed on Hawthorns well back from the lane, and for best results, keep to the raised bank of the canal when searching. It is best to park in the RSPB car park just beyond the railway bridge as strict restrictions are being implemented at the canalside parking bays. Many birders have suffered a very expensive surprise on site!

Not to be outshone however is the Lost Gardens of Heligan AMERICAN GREEN HERON (looking set to winter on site) and the first-year SQUACCO HERON in Angle Bay (Pembs)

In the north of England, the SQUACCO HERON continues to perform well on the River Wansbeck in Morpeth town (Northumberland), ranging up to 100 yards west of the blue footbridge, with a GREAT WHITE EGRET still frequenting ditches and dykes on the saltmarsh between the railway station and Humphrey Head at Kents Bank (Cumbria). Northamptonshire's long-stayer of the latter continues at Pitsford Reservoir

We are now seeing an arrival of Mealy Redpolls from Scandinavia and with them the odd SCANDINAVIAN ARCTIC REDPOLL, Dan Brown locating one such mixed flock of birds in Strath Brora, well NW of Golspie in Sutherland. He estimated the flock to be in the region of 1,400 birds, moving between Birch scrub. In the same vein, 6,000 or so BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS continue to invade southwards from their initial arrival in Scotland.

The long-staying juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER is still with up to 2,000 European Golden Plover in Blakeney Harbour (North Norfolk), best viewed from the 5-bar gate on the seawall, whilst not that far away at Burnham Overy Dunes, two juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS are still roaming the farmland and a male TRUMPETER BULLFINCH continues in Holkham Pines.

A further juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was still in the South Ferriby (North Lincs) area, with 2-3 still at Sleddale (Cleveland), whilst a 'new' juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER involves a bird for its second day at Trevorian Pool near Sennen (West Cornwall), in fields just west of the pool viewed from the footpath between Trevorian Farm and Trevear Farm 200 yards NE of the school at SW 373 264. In South Devon, after an absence of four days, the first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER reappeared on the flooded field opposite Axmouth Football Club on Sunday afternoon.

Recent gales have seen an arrival of windblown seabirds, with juvenile Great Northern Divers at Chew Valley Lake (Avon), Angler's Country Park, Wintersett (West Yorks), Astbury Mere CP (Cheshire), Big Mere, Marbury CP (Cheshire), Fleetwood Marine lakes (Lancs) and Carsington Water (Derbyshire), a Slavonian Grebe in Savages Creek at Grafham Water (Cambs) and another on Pine Lake (Lancs) and a first-winter drake Velvet Scoter at Broadwater Sailing Lake (Middlesex).

A first-winter GREY PHALAROPE continues to show very well on the roadside pools at Pett Level (East Sussex), whilst another is present for its third day at Lytham Moss (Lancs), in the flooded field just west of the southern end of North Houses Lane at SD 344 298. A long-stayer is still to be found at Rutland Water (Leics) off of the Green Bank on the Hambleton Peninsula.

The CATTLE EGRET remains at Saltholme RSPB (Cleveland), showing intermittently from the Haverton Viewpoint, with the recent Guyhirn (Cambs) bird relocating to Welney WWT (Norfolk), where the GLOSSY IBIS can still be seen feeding in front of the Lyle Hide. Two further GLOSSY IBIS from the early autumn influx still survive in South Devon - on the west side of the River Otter at Budleigh Salterton and just west of the canalbank car park at Exminster Marshes RSPB.

Kevin Shepherd located a RICHARD'S PIPIT whilst surveying this morning at Lendalfoot (Ayrshire) whilst a couple of late YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS include singles at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) and at the Clennon Valley Lakes near Paignton (South Devon).

Suffolk's drake KING EIDER has now moulted into more adult-type plumage and is looking typically dapper and continues to range between Minsmere RSPB beach and Dunwich beach car park, whilst bucking the recent downward trend, wintering SHORE LARK flocks include 15 between Dunwich and Walberswick (Suffolk) and at least 24 in Holkham Bay (Norfolk). Six more were also at Landguard NR (Suffolk) today, with 10 on the saltings at John Muir Country Park at Dunbar (Lothian)..

A juvenile COMMON CRANE is present for a second day at Nigg Bay, Cromarty, favouring a stubble field just beyond the turn off to Nigg village - the field with bales of straw in black plastic. When disturbed it flies down to the bay just in front of the hide (per Bob Swann), with a further vagrant COMMON CRANE at Castlemartin Corse (Pembs), visible from the Corseside Nursery entrance.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

AMERICAN ROBIN precedes deep Atlantic low

Wirral birder Ian Fleming discovered a first-winter AMERICAN ROBIN late yesterday afternoon at Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon), the bird still present this morning and showing well on and off all day (see Gavin Haig's superb image). The bird is frequenting the roadside bushes just north of the Turf Hotel, ranging 50-75 yards to the north as you walk back towards the canalside car park about 800 yards away. It represents the 433rd species recorded in Britain and Ireland this year, just one species short of last year's final tally.

This past week or so has also seen the addition of AMERICAN BITTERN (1-2 in Cornwall), NORTH AMERICAN HEN HARRIER (Tacumshane Lake, County Wexford), YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (found dead on Orkney) and DESERT LESSER WHITETHROAT (trapped and ringed at Sumburgh Quarry, Shetland - see Roger Riddington's superb images above)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Adult BLACK-TAILED GULL in California - hard on the heels of the IVORY GULL


PINE GROSBEAKS once more in the frame

This autumn's irruptive behaviour is not exclusively confined to redpolls, Siskins, Blue Tits, Northern Long-tailed Tits and Bohemain Waxwings as we now have PINE GROSBEAKS to contend with....

Large numbers of these bountiful beasts are now moving westwards with at least one flock of 60 heading SW out to sea over Utsira - this could be the year for us - but I have lost count how many times I have written an email like this, they all seem to drown in the North Sea before they reach Norfolk and Lincolnshire (Lee G R Evans)

PIED-BILLED GREBE in Greater Manchester

A Little Grebe out of character at Hollingworth Lake Country Park since last Wednesday was reidentified today as a PIED-BILLED GREBE - and continued to show until dusk, being visible from the main footpath just before the hide.

The Country Park is just south of Littleborough, just north of the M62. It is signposted from the B6225 and the bird is favouring the inaccessible SE corner. Park at the Visitor Centre and walk SE along Rakewood Road before taking the path to the hide (SD 940 150)

It is almost a decade since the last Pied-billed Grebe in Britain but Ireland was treated to two separate occurrences earlier this year, with singles in County Clare and Galway.

What may have been yesterday's Lodmoor/Radipole LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER appeared today at Axmouth (South Devon) north of Boshill Cross in the marshy field opposite Axmouth Football Ground.

There have also been several PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLERS located today in the NE wind, as well as a large displacement of LITTLE AUKS (including 1,731 south past the Farne Islands and a similar number off Dunbar)

In IRELAND, a juvenile WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER remains at Clonea Strand, Ballinclimper (County Waterford), with a CETTI'S WARBLER at Lingstown Reedbed, Tacumshin (County Wexford)

Pitsea THAYER'S GULL - more positive responses from across the water

Lee, I can see nothing in these photos that suggest otherwise. It looks to me in all respects like a classic adult Thayer's Gull. We see many like this in the southern interior of British Columbia. The amount of black on the primaries is somewhat reduced but well within the range for a typical Thayer's Gull. Nice photos! - Happy birding, Michael Force, currently aboard NOAA ship McArthur II, about 180 nmi south of Midway,

As no one from the west side of the pond has responded, I'll chime in to say that "no dissenter here". Here in North Carolina, Thayer's is a rarish bird, but I see an adult every few years at Cape Hatteras, and review others' photos for the state records committee. If this were in NC, it's an obvious Thayer's: dark eye -- the first character that "flags" a possible adult Thayer's (or California), legs usually rich pink ("bubble-gum" color as often stated) as opposed to flesh or pale pink of Herring and Iceland; medium-sized bill (usually a tad shorter and thinner than Herring and slightly larger than Iceland forms, but sometimes not really a field mark), pale gray mantle close to Herring, and much reduced black in the primaries when seen in the air, above and below (from below, wing tips are often nearly white). I'm not a classic lariphile that knows and remember the black/white/gray ratio on each flight feathers. But, as this is a first apparent record for Great Britain, I suppose it will need to go thru some scrutiny (hybrid possibility, etc.); but, looks like a good Thayer's to me. Harry LeGrand. Raleigh, NC, USA

And more from Steve Hampton....

Okay, I'll chime in from the West Coast. Looks very good to me. The bill is on the bright side, but the brighter tip, trace of green at the base, and rather small red spot are fine. The dark eye is fine. The extensive head and breast smudging is fine. The hint of cross-barring on the breast is suggestive of Gl-W but is also found on Thayer's, especially in this exact patter with streaks on the head and thicker blotching at the bottom of the breast. See for a similar example.

The mantle shade seems right-- slightly darker than Herring, although some comparison shots would be nice to a control for camera lighting. The primary pattern is, of course, excellent, with black extending to P5. The pale underside of P10, except for the little black subterm band, looks good for Thayer's as well. Dark pink legs are excellent. Size and shape seem fine. The bird is probably a male based on the bill size. The obvious things to rule out are Gl-W x Herring, which is rather common in southern Alaska and, at least around here in northern Calif in winter, and "Kumlien's". The black in the primary pattern, black to P5 and even a tiny black band on P10, seem good to rule out Kumlien's. Also the shade of mantle gray. Ruling out a petite female Gl-W x Herring might be trickier, as they could potentially mimic the plumage and bare parts. I could see folks commenting on the gonydeal angle and dark mark in the bill as indicative of Gl-W traits... I'd be interested in others' thoughts on how to rule out this possibility. The structure of the bird, with the long primaries, small rounded head, large eye, etc. are all consistent with Thayer's and probably beyond the range of Gl-W x Herring. Steve Hampton

THAYER'S GULL - a response from Newfoundland gull guru

No hint of a Kumlien’s Gull in this bird. This looks like a pure bred Thayer’s Gull. Wonder if it came from the west or east to reach Britain? You cannot question the identity of this bird. Everything is perfect. The combination of black iris, heavy bill, strong head streaking, relatively heavy build of the bird and classic wing tip pattern make this a text book, ‘type specimen’ example of Thayer’s Gull. Finally!!! Lots of birds by default labelled as Thayer’s on the Great Lakes and other areas on the periphery of the published range don’t look this good (it doesn’t mean those birds are not Thayer’s). This bird is a very solid and strong Thayer’s (Bruce Mactavish, Newfoundland)

Monday, 8 November 2010

The AMERICAN MARSH HAWK in County Wexford - a selection of images taken over the weekend by Michael O'Keefe

Ignoring the minutia of the primary pattern and the number of visible bars on the outer primaries, this bird can be safely identified on a number of characters. It is uniformly dark on the upperparts with just a contrasting buff patch on the carpals, there is little hint of a pale collar and the head is very sooty and hooded-like, particularly when head-on in profile. There is restricted pale around the eye and in flight, the wings are overall more rounded and far more accipiter (Goshawk-like) in shape. The underparts are heavily saturated with orange or rusty-buff, extending on to the flanks and belly. It shows a full suite of characters. A percentage of juvenile Hen Harriers may share some of these features but for one individual to possess all of these features surely justifies its unequivocal identification (Lee G R Evans)

The Latest Round Up from Britain and Ireland

The MARSH HAWK (or NORTH AMERICAN HEN HARRIER) continues its residency in the Tacumshane and Tomhaggart Lake area in County Wexford, roosting overnight in the extensive reedbed at the Lingstown end of the reserve. It seems to have a well rehearsed pattern of roosting overnight with the 7-9 Hen Harriers in the area and then spending the day roaming the locale, visiting both the East End and the Forgotten Corner area.

DIRECTIONS: If twitching from Rosslare Harbour, continue on the N25 for about 3 miles and then take the SECOND turning left in Tagoat - the R736. Continue west along this road towards Tomhaggart and after 4 miles turn left on to the L7113. This brings you down to a crossroads where you turn right for the roost-site or left to the main Tacumshane Lake proper. Turn right (west) and after 0.6 miles, there is a left turning opposite a 5-bar metal gate. This is the narrow lane that takes you down to the extensive reedbed and park after 0.8 miles at the end of the lane (there is an old trailer with a few wooden stakes on it on the other side of the electric fence here). There is a slight rising to the ground here where the reedbed can be overviewed. The Marsh Hawk tends to hang around this area from 0800-1000 hours and return again just after 1600 hours and is the most reliable location in which to see it.

At other times, it may be seen from the East End car park or Forgotten Corner. For access to both of these sites, drive back to the road from the Lingstown reedbed and turn right. You are aiming for Tacumshane Castle which is just three miles to the east. Continue along this road until it eventually merges with another road from the left and after driving through the small hamlet, look out for a turning on the right marked 'cul-de-sac'. From here, you will see the ruined castle on your right. Forgotten Corner is at the end of the road that goes straight down whilst the track off to your left (east) leads down after about a mile to the East End car park. The Marsh Hawk is frequently seen from both locations. A long-staying GLOSSY IBIS favours a dyke close to the East End car park.

Marsh Hawk is an exceptionally rare bird on this side of the Atlantic with the only previously photographed juvenile being recorded on St Mary's (Scilly) from 22 October 1982 until 7 June 1983. There are a number of other records purporting to be of this form, the most convincing of these being the juvenile that spent a day touring St Mary's (Scilly) on 16 October 1979.

Elsewhere in the Republic of Ireland, the second-year INDIAN HOUSE CROW remains in residence in Cobh Town Centre (County Cork), showing well in the vicinity of the monument and the Papa John's restaurant. The regularly returning adult SABINE'S GULL is also a major attraction, often to be located on Cobh Harbour quayside.

Well the weekend saw a spice of activity in the UK, with the Walmsley Sanctuary (Cornwall) first-winter AMERICAN BITTERN doing an unpredicted bunk overnight on Saturday (after showing exceedingly well from the Tower Hide since the middle of last week) and yet another late autumn SQUACCO HERON making an appearance - this time in Northumberland at Morpeth town centre (residing on the river upstream of the old mill accessed from the Whorral Bank and ranging between the library and the blue footbridge at Low Stanners - NZ 204 862). The other bird remains present in Angle Harbour in Pembrokeshire, often showing down to a few yards.

Another big surprise on Sunday following the switch to NW winds was the discovery of yet another first-winter ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE in Britain - and the second for Yorkshire. It spent the afternoon frequenting scrub skirting the golf course, about 800 yards north of the clifftop car park. It disappeared overnight following very cold, clear conditions in the first half of the night.

Another star bird was yet another RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL - this time in East Kent and at Denge Marsh Road for most of Saturday - the 30th to be recorded this autumn. A PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER was trapped and ringed at Kew Villa, Kilnsea (East Yorks), today, with another seen briefly at Titchwell Marsh RSPB (Norfolk)

Also fresh in was a juvenile/first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER at Lodmoor NR (Dorset) - which moved today to the North Pools at Radipole Lake RSPB, whilst other Nearctic waders include the first-winter LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Port Meadow, Oxford (Oxon) and juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVERS at Blakeney Harbour/Cley NWT (North Norfolk) and on the Exe Estuary, just south of the Turf Hotel near Exminster (South Devon).

Another milestone discovery was an adult THAYER'S GULL at Pitsea Landfill in Essex, where gull enthusiast Steve Arlow chanced upon and photographed this bird whilst sifting through many thousands of feeding birds on Saturday morning. The Landfill is strictly private with no access outside of the North Thames Gull Ringing Group.

In Cornwall, the first-winter AMERICAN GREEN HERON continues to attract admirers with its continued residency at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, often favouring the pool overlooked by the hide (for full directions, ask at the entrance kiosk and obtain a detailed map).

In Southwest Norfolk, the long-staying and very confiding GLOSSY IBIS remains at Welney, frequenting the tiny decoy pool just north of the power lines. From Welney village, drive north for a mile to the first sharp right hand bend and then follow the track alongside the Hundred Foot Drain for a further mile to view. Not that far away, in Cambridgeshire, the CATTLE EGRET continues at the fields adjacent to Red Gate Farm at Guyhirn. Other CATTLE EGRETS include a long-staying bird by Withybush Airfield at Poyston (Pembs) and that in the cattle field opposite the parking place next to the yellow half-mile car park sign at Donna Nook (North Lincs).

The BOHEMIAN WAXWING invasion continues unabated, with the Inverness area of Northern Scotland harbouring 2,500 or more birds. The total number involved far exceeds 6,000 and as the weeks progress and berries run out, many flocks will drop further south and west.

RED-NECKED GREBES are hard to come by these days and at present the only bird inland is that at Cheddar Reservoir (Somerset). Meanwhile, Suffolk's major attraction throughout the autumn - the drake KING EIDER now moulting into its second-winter plumage - continues to get seen daily offshore, generally between Minsmere Sluice and Dunwich Beach car park.

A few rare wildfowl are on offer including single drake North American Green-winged Teals at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) and Cley NWT Reserve (Norfolk), the pair of SURF SCOTER off Ynyslas car park (Ceredigion) and both FERRUGINOUS and RING-NECKED DUCK at Chew Valley Lake Stratford Bay (Avon). A female NORTH AMERICAN WOOD DUCK of unknown provenance was with a large number of Mallard and Common Teal on the sewage works pool and adjacent Pwll Penarth NR pool (Powys) this morning, whilst the adult RUDDY SHELDUCK which arrived with Dark-bellied Brent Geese in Langstone Harbour (Hants) is now consorting with Eurasian Wigeon at Farlington Marshes HWT.

A GREY PHALAROPE still remains on the West Scrape at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) today, with the two first-winters still at Cley NWT (Norfolk).

A RICHARD'S PIPIT continues for a second day at Sleddale (Cleveland), frequenting fields by Sleddale Farm, whilst gathering for winter perhaps are the 24 SHORE LARKS in Holkham Bay (North Norfolk).

A few ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS are still surviving in Norfolk, including one near Abbey Farm, Flitcham, and another in the Burnham Overy Dunes area, whilst northerly winds produced some heavy movements of LITTLE AUKS in the North Sea, with 147 in just over an hour south past Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) and 800 past Fife Ness (Fife)..

In NORTHERN IRELAND, a drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK was at Corbet Lough (County Down) today.

RON JOHNS back in there

It was great to see Ron Johns getting back into the twitching spirit this weekend, finally adding the Indian House Crow that has taken up residence in Cobh town centre in County Cork. This was his 577th species recorded in Britain and Ireland and places him just one bird behind the joint Norfolk-based leaders - Steve Gantlett and Mel Billington. Ron certainly deserves the crown having been mad keen on rare birds and birding in general since at least the late 1950's.

Whilst on the subject of the Listings, a FULLY REVISED list is now available to download from the UK and Ireland 400 Club website, to enable those that wish to - to submit their current Life List. Please remember that old copies of the list are not compatible with this version so for me to accurately reflect your latest totals on the Master Spreadsheet, this most latest update (November 2010) must be used

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Apparent adult THAYER'S GULL in Essex

Saturday visited Pitsea Landfill tip in Essex with the gull ringing group where I was able to check out the gulls nearby in between netting sessions. As I approached the commercial tipping site I stopped to check the first group of gulls nearest to the track. It was here that I immediately picked out the bird in question. It just stood out from the crowd, given the size, shape, rather long looking primary projection, hooded appearance to the breast which came to a sharp demarcation, dark eye and bright bubble gum coloured legs.

IThe bird was slightly against the light so I decided to get some record shots of it before moving the vehicle to get a better lighted position. I took about 10 or so shots before moving but unfortunately in doing so disturbed the bird and it flew towards the tip face and out of view behind the mud mounds. As it flew I could see the the lack of large amounts of black in the wing tip and a lot more white. As I was moving the Landrover I didn't have my camera to hand at that time.

I parked up over looking the tipping area, well most of of, and within 2 minutes I picked out the bird at the back of the flock, again it was instantly obviously different. I again started taking pictures but most of these were over exposed and once I had changed my settings the bird had turned to face away thus I was only now able to get shots from behind. It then took flight and I rattled a number of shots off as the camera struggled to focus on the bird, I was left with only about 4 usable shots, though only really two of these showed the upper wing pattern, which on review of the bird got me very excited. I lost the bird as it flew down into the large gathered flock of gulls beneath the tip face and that was that. Despite searching for it for many hours after this I didn't see it again.

I also returned to the ringing group where they were set for a second netting but unfortunately the bird was not amongst the birds present.

Pitsea Tip is 'strictly' No Access however gulls visit the following locations to bathe and Roost:

Wat Tyler Country Park scrape - TQ737867. Large numbers can visit the scrape viewable from the main hide. Key access to the hide can be obtained from the Boat Museum.

Vange Wick - TQ77854. Very large numbers can be seen roosting here, viewable distantly from Wat Tyler Country Park or from the seawall at Vange Wick but bird cans be flighty in the exposed area.

Bowers Marsh - TQ755865. Large numbers gathering on the fields here, there is not many paths here and work is currently underway on the RSPB reserve here thus a lot of disturbance

West Canvey Marshes RSPB reserve TQ765845. Large numbers of large gulls visit the main flood and scrape here where viewing is possible from hides/blinds.

Hole Haven Creek: TQ747842. two mile walk from Lobster Smack pub to the north end of the creek to view towards Fobbing Horse. Site is tide dependant and numbers here unknown as not visited for a while but generally there are several hundred birds present when tide is low.

There is no Sunday tipping on the Landfil and there is usually only a fracton of the usually 7000+ large gull numbers present at the above locations. The above sites are best checked Mondays-Saturdays.

Steve Arlow

A putative THAYER'S GULL in Essex

Putative adult Thayers Gull at Pitsea Tip

Yesterday I visited Pitsea Landfill site with a gull ringing group where I was able to look through the gulls present. I have built up over the past few years a relationship with the site staff and have access to the landfill on Saturdays only and I MUST stress that there is 'strictly' no general access to the Landfill. Anyone trying their luck at the security gate will get turned awa.

I have access as I have undertaken health and safety inductions due to the hazardous nature of the tip, safety and high visitibility clothing and I have my own high clearance and appropriately kitted out vehicle.

Because the bird is at a 'No Go' site and that Sunday is a none tipping day with most gulls well away from the area I was going to take the opportunity to do a little more research on the bird from which I would decide whether to either release the bird as a 'good' candidate for a Thayers or not and leave it as unidentified or as whatever it may turn out to be, such as a hybrid. However the news of this putative bird has somehow made its way onto RBA without me putting it out there.

The bird was seen only twice for a total of aroud 5 minutes, on both occaisions photos were obtained which show features that would be described as Thayers Gull, though some are not sharp shots. These images have been passed onto a number of gullers with greater experience of the species than I have for comment, which I am still waiting feedback.

After speaking with Will at RBA this news has apparantly come from the Gulls Yahoo Group where I had asked for comments on the bird, thus Rare Gull and my name = Pitsea Tip.

I have detailed the locations where the bird may be looked for but be mindful of the large numbers of gulls present in the area, also the large numbers at Mucking, Rainham and Barling Tips of which there is some interactions, thus this bird could easily be at Rainham next week or at Barling. It is rare that any decent gull I have had on Pitsea is seen again there, I have had very few duplications on the Caspian Gulls I have seen there.

Pitsea Tip is 'strictly' no access however gulls visit the following locations to bathe and Roost:

Wat Tyler Country Park scrape - TQ737867. Large numbers can visit the scrape viewable from the main hide. Key access to the hide can be obtained from the Boat Museum.

Vange Wick - TQ77854. Very large numbers can be seen roosting here, viewable distantly from Wat Tyler Country Park or from the seawall at Vange Wick but bird cans be flighty in the exposed area.

Bowers Marsh - TQ755865. Large numbers gathering on the fields here, there is not many paths here and work is currently underway on the RSPB reserve here thus a lot of disturbance

West Canvey Marshes RSPB reserve TQ765845. Large numbers of large gulls visit the main flood and scrape here where viewing is possible from hides/blinds.

Hole Haven Creek: TQ747842. two mile walk from Lobster Smack pub to the north end of the creek to view towards Fobbing Horse. Site is tide dependant and numbers here unknown as not visited for a while but generally there are several hundred birds present when tide is low.

There is no Sunday tipping on the Landfil and there is usually only a fracton of the usually 7000+ large gull numbers present at the above locations. The above sites are best checked Mondays-Saturdays.

Steve Arlow

Bird and Wildlife photographyvisit my Website at -

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

AMERICAN BITTERN at Walmsley Sanctuary - revisited

I am on the committee for the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society. We manage the Walmsley reserve at Wadebridge, where the American Bittern is currently residing. I would just like to make some small points regarding the reserve, the hides and the parking.

Firstly we have to be very grateful that there is any parking. The local farmer has allowed access with no extra cost to the society. I think it is very lucky that the field will be ploughed very soon. It is also worth bearing in mind that under normal circumstances 3 or 4 cars is all that can safely be parked at the reserve.

The hides are very well maintained and kept tidy. The main tower hide is a fantastic high level vantage point. It holds around 20 people comfortably, of course this is going to be the best place to view the Bittern. However I had fantastic views of the bird from the other hide late this afternoon were I was alone for over an hour. So use your intellect instead of getting gently irritated by the crowds.

Could all visitors please stick to the outside of the fields and not walk straight through the middle. This will help our relationship with the farmer who owns these fields. There are major works happening at the far edge of the reserve at the moment in which they are re-routing a river. We have just had a new scrape put in to the right of the Tower hide so the reserve is not at its most attractive at present. But my point is the heavy machinery is there for a reason, and does not seem to affect the Bittern. Lastly please respect that the reserve is a members only site, and I’m sure all of the regular patch watchers will be more than accommodating and helpful. Please be polite and return the favour, let’s keep Walmsley the attractive reserve that it is.

Kind Regards and Good Luck

Peter Roseveare and All from CBWPS


I took this morning off work to go and see the American Bittern and thought I would post a few notes for those hoping to go and see it. Please note this information is based on one visit and chatting to others present on site – don’t blame me if it’s not 100% accurate.

The bird can show well but depending on where it is feeding the viewing can be very restricted. I arrived at 0830 and had to wait nearly an hour (in the hide) before I could even view the area the bird was favouring. This was despite, during that hour, the bird showing half a dozen times briefly, then in flight and stood out in the open.

The Tower Hide can hold around 20 people (maybe a few more) but if the bird continues to favour the area it did this morning (and yesterday apparently) then perhaps only half this number stand a chance of satisfactory views. There were a few fractious moments resulting from people moving around when the bird showed, blocked views, those who hadn’t seen it getting nervous etc. Nothing serious, just the usual stuff from those who seem unable to remain chilled, think logically and be polite. If there are numbers at the weekend then it might require people keeping a cool head and/or some sort of queuing/rotation system. The bird seems to be favouring an area northwest of the Tower Hide. This means only those in the left hand end of the hide and seated at the front row can view it satisfactorily. I definitely advise taking a scope as the bird can be at a reasonable distance (c100-150m) and many were struggling to pick it up in bins despite it showing well in the scope. Perhaps if going with friends then just one of you take a scope as there isn’t a lot of spare room. The big advantage of the Tower Hide is the height, allowing the bird to be seen more easily when feeding in ditches. It did this a lot. From dawn to around 1000 it was rarely out in the open for more than a few seconds to a few tens of seconds at any one time. After the numbers in the hide decreased (just after 1000) and there were 10-15 of us left, we watched the bird feeding, sometimes out in the open, for over half an hour (and it was still doing so when I left).

If you can view the area it’s favouring, you use a scope and actually spend time searching for it (rather than playing with your phone, drinking tea or chatting) then you should see it. Patience is the key (both in terms of waiting your turn and in searching for the bird). The wait is well worth the reward – cracking bird! If you get the chance to see it then check out the snake like head movements when it’s feeding …

A few other comments:- There is viewing potential from the screen beneath the hide, but of the gradients involved and vegetation, the bird would have to be clear of the ditches for this to give a reasonable chance of any views.- I was told the other hide holds 5 people but having not visited I won't comment on suitability for viewing. - The entrance to the field used for parking is on quite a steep slope and with the recent rains is now rather churned up. A number of people struggled, with some failing, to get their cars into the field. There’s a lot more rain forecast this week. Good luck! (Paul Bowerman)


Graham Ekins obtained these absolutely stunning HERMIT THRUSH images when he and 15 others twitched this bird - one of two in the Outer Hebrides at the same time, the other on South Uist - at Castlebay on Barra.

And another selection of this October's Pick of the Best on Scilly - GARY THOBURN GALLERIES

Well worth the £7.80 boat trip to Bryher was this first-year SUBALPINE WARBLER - one of perhaps two birds that visited the archipelago this October.

The odd RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER made it to the islands, including this first-winter on the Garrison.

A great showing by these small Sibes - LITTLE BUNTING - with perhaps 5 or 6 birds in total. Two such individuals spent the best part of a week affording excellent views as they consorted with a flock of Meadow Pipits in a grass field just inland of Porthellick Bay

No visit to Scilly in October is complete without seeing the annual JACK SNIPE migration at Lower Moors and Porthellick. A good crop of cut-reeds ensured a bumper crop of occurrencies - peaking at 8 birds early in the month.

Highlights of a Scilly Autumn

For many visitors to Scilly this October, their only 'new bird' was this EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL from Siberia, typified by its very grey-and-white plumage tones, buzzing quality to its call notes and long hind-claw. Jim Lawrence obtained the large images and Keith Vinicombe the image on the roof. It was one of three flava wagtails that were present at the time, this bird eventually giving itself up for two days at Pelistry.

The undoubted star arrival of this autumn's Scilly season was this first-winter female BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR on the Garrison rocks on St Mary's. Supremo bird photographer Gary Thoburn captured these beautiful images of the bird as it flycatched from the rocky boulders, the bird remaining for just under a week. It had initially been found by Lee Woods and other Suffolk birders on the Thursday but its identification was not clinched until the Saturday. St Mary's also hosted a first-winter PIED WHEATEAR for a brief period and was photographed by Graham Etherington.