Saturday 31 July 2010


The Ballycastle LAUGHING GULL (Derek Charles)

What a delightful bird - a very fresh juvenile WHISKERED TERN on Teesmouth (Mark Newsome)

A presumed escaped adult GREY-HEADED SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio caspius) continues to show very well today in Clwyd (see the excellent shot by Nick French above), favouring a roadside vegetated ditch with Moorhens opposite the Morrison's supermarket building site SW of Chester at Saltney just south of the A 5104 (SJ 377 648). It is a very confiding individual and is in pristine plumage condition and has been present in the area for at least a month.

Most recent records of 'Purple Gallinules' in Britain have involved this highly migratory species from Asia, including those in Cumbria and Cambridgeshire. When last investigated, this species was fairly common in captivity, and breeding took place in at least 12 localities.

Nice to see some adult Nearctic waders appearing at last (although we could well struggle for juvenile waders, with Long-tailed Skuas and other Arctic predators having to feed on baby waders following another Lemming crash year - the 14th in succession), with a LESSER YELLOWLEGS (and 3 Wood Sandpipers) at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB (Cheshire) and a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER for its third day at Port Carlisle (Cumbria), showing well on the shoreline on the ebbing tides off of the layby opposite the caravan park (found yet again by area birding supremo Darren Robson).

Also present and very popular was the beautiful juvenile WHISKERED TERN at Reclamation Pond, Teesmouth (Cleveland), now present in the area for its 5th day, and superbly captured on film by Mark Newsome (see above images). Full juveniles are very rare in this country. The bird later commuted back to Saltholme Pools. Meanwhile, Staffordshire's moulting adult FRANKLIN'S GULL was relocated today, feeding in a ploughed field with Black-headed Gulls opposite the Fishermen's Car Park at Gailey Reservoirs (accessed east of the M6 junction 12).

In South Devon, the first-summer male HOUSE FINCH of ship assisted or captive origin continues to moult in East Prawle village, occasionally perching on the Shippen Cottages roof.

The colour-ringed first-summer GREAT WHITE EGRET of NW French origin continues its summer sojourn at Noah's Lake, Meare Heath (Somerset), with the summering bird at Dungeness Denge Marsh (Kent) and the continuing pair of PURPLE HERONS.

A family party of 9 RUDDY SHELDUCKS has now moved further south from Aberdeenshire to Angus, showing today from the Shelduck Hide at The Lurgies Reserve at Montrose Basin

In North Kent, an adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER is present, along with up to 21 Spotted Redshanks and a EURASIAN SPOONBILL, at Elmley RSPB Reserve (from the Counterwall Hide).

Over 30 EURASIAN SPOONBILLS were counted in East Anglia today, with 17 at Cley Marshes NWT North Scrape (North Norfolk) and 15 on Havergate Island (Suffolk), whilst a HOODED CROW has attracted a great deal of interest, being twitchable in the Kelling and Salthouse area for much of the day. The summering female FERRUGINOUS DUCK remained on Island Mere at Minsmere RSPB Reserve (Suffolk) today, as did the Fulvous Whistling Duck of captive origin at Loompit Lake, Trimley (Suffolk).

Quite a few OSPREYS are now on the move, with several taking up early autumn territories along the South Coast. Likewise, an influx of GARGANEYS is now apparent, and large numbers of juvenile MARSH HARRIERS are now being seen in the south.

A CORY'S SHEARWATER visited Thurlestone Bay (South Devon) briefly this morning, whilst good numbers of Balearic Shearwaters continue to move west off West Cornwall.

The annual northeast coast build up of post-breeding ROSEATE TERNS is now taking place, with up to 15 on Sandhaven Beach at South Shields (County Durham)

In IRELAND, the second-summer LAUGHING GULL continues to grace Ballycastle Marina (County Antrim), with the first-summer NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL still showing from the bridge at Blennerville Marsh (County Kerry).

Two EURASIAN SPOONBILLS are in County Waterford at Dungarvan, showing well from the Helvick Road at midday

Thursday 29 July 2010


Pallas's Sandgrouse in Eastern Finland on 28 July 2010 (Pekka Komi)

Following irruptive numbers in Kazakhstan and further west in June, a PALLAS'S SANDGROUSE was today discovered in Eastern Finland not far from the border at Askola in Lappeenranta region. The bird was showing very well on an old landfill site and was commuting back and- forth to a small muddy pool - Pekka Komi obtained an image of it - and was seen by many Finnish observers throughout the afternoon and evening.

Flights from Britain via RyanAir are still relatively inexpensive as I write and may well be worth it considering just how rare this species is in the Western Palearctic......

Edinburgh House Crow - most likely odd variant corvid

More images have come to light of Saturday's Edinburgh City corvid and it now appears to be some weird juvenile variant rather than a House Crow. Not sure what species it is but Angus Murray has informed me of a population of Hooded Crow/Carrion Crow intergrades in the city which actually take to bird feeders and have been regularly recorded in city back gardens. It could be a throw-back of this unique population (Lee G R Evans)

Wednesday 28 July 2010


A range extension of GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL that I was unaware of in Galicia Region..........

It's Cosme Damián Romai, from Galicia (NW Spain). In relation to breeding GBBG/KG in Morocco, I attach further information of breeding GBBG in Spain:
check pages 69-73 (in Spanish) and page 87 (English abstract).

More breeding evidence was noted in 2008 and 2009, with photos: and

Thus, breeding is confirmed in Galicia since 2006, with scattered pairs in the N of SW of the region.

Click also here:

page 10, breeding evidence in 2009 in Asturias.

Damián-- C D Romai Cousido, Meloxo, s/n 36980 O Grove (Galicia)

Apparent HOUSE CROW in Edinburgh

What appears to be an INDIAN HOUSE CROW was photographed in an Edinburgh (Lothian) garden this past weekend (see attached photo). The location and further images of the bird are being sought.

This would be a British first if confirmed, although of course the species has occurred in Ireland. This is one ship-assisted vagrant that is fully acceptable on UK400 Club rulings, despite the fact that it is largely a sedentary species

More information will be announced as soon as received......


Tuesday 27 July 2010

Young KING EIDER now reaches Norfolk coast

The immature drake KING EIDER that was first seen by Brett Richards flying past Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, and later relocated with moulting Common Eiders off Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire (see Dave Mansell's superb images above), has now relocated much farther south in North Norfolk.

After initially being seen off Sheringham sewatching shelter mid morning, it has now drifted further east to West Runton, from where it can be currently seen swimming and diving offshore of the pay and display cliff car park

The King Eider is a very rare bird in Norfolk with the following previous records -:

1) An immature drake which was obtained off Hunstanton on 7 January 1888 and is on display at the Castle Museum in Norwich;

2) An immature female was shot off Hunstanton on 3 November 1890, with apparently a second bird - an adult female - also obtained there just a week later on 10 November 1890;

4) An eclipse drake remained with up to 200 moulting Common Eiders between Scolt Head Island and Holkham Bay from 5-15 September 1986;

5) A first-year drake remained off Holkham Bay and Wells Harbour mouth from 19 January until 4 April 2002;

6) A first-winter drake remained off Titchwell Beach from 11 December 2004 until 1 January 2005.

Monday 26 July 2010

COOK'S PETRELS galore and this autumn's pelagic trip itinerary from CALIFORNIA

Howdy, Seabirders,

Stop the presses! Astounding offshore reports from Peter Pyle and Abe Borker who have been surveying seabirds at the Davidson Seamount, about 60 miles from Monterey harbor, have included counts of over 3000 COOK'S PETRELS! On 23 July, they reported hourly totals: "50, 65, 85, 500, 450, 1000, 450, 250, 50, 15, 15, 25, 60. The weather was very calm. Flocks of 100-300 sitting birds observed. Photos of up to 90 individuals." Other species recorded on this date included: Arctic Tern (29), Xantus' Murrelet (12 scrippsii and 1 hypoleuca), Leach's Storm-Petrel (1,745), a variety of shorebirds and 2 Cuvier's Beaked Whales. On 24 July, Peter reported 1,395 COOK'S PETRELS with "hourly counts of 40, 250, 350, 175, 100, 200, 20, 5, 100, 100. Fewer flocks of sitting birds, but more flying birds in broad fronts, heading generally NNE. Some flying high, 10-20 m above the water and flapping like gulls." They tallied 666 Leach's Storm-Petrels, 6 South Polar Skuas and 2 Xantus' Murrelets (scrippsii), to name a few of the species.Cook's Petrels heading NNE— this means, if weather conditions are kind, we have a great shot at finding some of the thousands on the JULY 31 HALF MOON BAY trip! A few spaces are still open on this trip. If you would like to join us, please contact Debi Shearwater as soon as possible by email.

County seabirding: Looking at the results of last year's trips, some of our Monterey departures covered three counties: Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo. Trips departing from Half Moon Bay (new this year), have a chance to cover San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. Trips from Bodega Bay typically cover both Sonoma and Marin Counties. Trips from Fort Bragg almost always stay in Mendocino County, but sometimes dip into Humboldt County.

Below, I list Shearwater Journeys' upcoming pelagic trips and the leaders. Trips denoted * have a good chance of finding COOK'S PETRELS. Trips denoted ** have an excellent chance of finding HAWAIIAN PETREL.

*Jul 31: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Peter Pyle, Wes Fritz, Gerry McChesney, Matt Brady, Debi Shearwater

Aug 6: Monterey Bay with Brian Sullivan, Steve Howell, Robin Welch, Clay Kempf, Debi ShearwaterAug 8: Farallon Island with Steve Howell, Alan Hopkins, Debi Shearwater- SOLD OUT

*Aug 11: Bodega Canyon & Cordell Bank with Peter Pyle, Wes Fritz, Steve Howell, Oscar Johnson, Matt Brady, Debi Shearwater

**Aug 13: Fort Bragg: Hawaiian Petrel Search with Abe Borker, Wes Fritz, Jennifer Green, Todd McGrath, Oscar Johnson, Matt Brady, Debi Shearwater

**Aug 15: Fort Bragg: Hawaiian Petrel Search with Todd McGrath, Peter Pyle, Wes Fritz, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Tristan McKee, Matt Brady, Abe Borker, Debi Shearwater

Aug 27: Monterey Bay with Jennifer Green, Robin Welch, Wes Fritz, Ted Chandik, John Hiles

Sep 9: Monterey Seavalley with Wes Fritz, Ted Chandik, Marcel Holyoak, Debi Shearwater

Sep 10: Monterey Bay with Wes Fritz, Jennifer Green, Robin Welch, Adam Searcy, John Hiles, Debi Shearwater

*Sep 11: Albacore Grounds: Offshore Monterey with Wes Fritz, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Tristan McKee, Rod Norden, Debi Shearwater

Sep 12: Monterey Bay with Wes Fritz, Jennifer Green, Clay Kempf, Adam Searcy, Vaughan Ashby (Guest Leader), Debi Shearwater (limited spaces available)

*Sep 13: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Wes Fritz, Tristan McKee, Alan Hopkins, Debi Shearwater

*Sep 15: Bodega Canyon & Cordell Bank with Peter Pyle, Steve Howell, Wes Fritz, Lisa Hug, Debi Shearwater

*Sep 17: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Wes Fritz, Marcel Holyoak, Jennifer Green, Debi Shearwater

*Sep 18: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Wes Fritz, Steve Rottenborn, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Debi Shearwater

Sep 23: Monterey Bay with Wes Fritz, Terry Hunefeld, Jim Danzenbaker, Debi Shearwater

Sep 24: Monterey Storm-Petrel Study Tour with Wes Fritz, Jennifer Green, Terry Hunefeld, Jim Danzenbaker, Debi Shearwater

Sep 25: Monterey Seavalley with Wes Fritz, Abe Borker, Terry Hunefeld, Mark Rauzon (Guest Leader), Michael Parr (Guest Leader), Debi Shearwater

Sep 26: Monterey Bay with Wes Fritz, Terry Hunefeld, Jennifer Green, Debi Shearwater

Sep 27: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Wes Fritz, Terry Hunefeld, Debi Shearwater

Oct 2: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Todd McGrath, Wes Fritz, Lisa Hug, Peter Pyle, Debi Shearwater

Oct 3: Monterey Storm-Petrel Study Tour with Wes Fritz, Todd McGrath, Jennifer Green, Denise Wight, Clay Kempf, Debi Shearwater

Oct 9: Monterey Seavalley with Todd McGrath, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Clay Kempf, Debi Shearwater

Oct 11: Half Moon Bay Offshore with Todd McGrath, Wes Fritz, Peter Pyle, Debi Shearwater

Oct 17: Monterey Bay with Jennifer Green, Wes Fritz, Todd McGrath, Denise Wight, Clay Kempf, Rod Norden

We have a full slate of exciting pelagic trips ahead! In fact, it is the most extensive schedule of pelagic trips on the west coast. Its not all about the rare birds— we should see a good variety of shearwaters (up to 10 species); storm-petrels (up to 6 species); alcids; all three species of jaegers, South Polar Skua; phalaropes; terns, and Sabine's Gulls, among others. Who knows which trips will turn up the rare seabirds?

Have a hankering to see Blue Whales, the largest animals on Earth? Jump on board our August 6th Monterey trip!

I hope that you can join us!

Shearwaters forever,

Debi Shearwater

Debra Shearwater
Shearwater Journeys,
Inc.PO Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024831.637.8527

South Georgia: Oct 18- Nov 4, 2010;
Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Islands: Nov 4-22, 2010

Friday 23 July 2010

Petrel bonus in fresh NNW winds off North Norfolk coast

The adult summer FRANKLIN'S GULL remained at Chasewater (Staffs) for just under a week (top image, photographed by Steve Nuttall) but did not fly in to roost last night; up to 12 WOOD SANDPIPERS are present in Britain today (this juvenile photographed by Phil Bishop at Rye Meads RSPB) whilst this first-summer drake KING EIDER is moulting at Filey Brigg, North Yorks (Dave Mansell's superb images)

This is the UK400 Club/British Birding Association Rare Bird Alert for Friday 23 July 2010, issued at 1900 hours, and published in association with Rare Bird Alert Pagers whilst utilising additional information gleaned from BirdGuides, the Regional Birdlines and local email groups.

The WHITE-TAILED PLOVER of recent weeks was last seen on Dungeness ARC PIT (Kent) on Wednesday and has not been seen in Britain since.

Bird of the day was undoubtedly the WILSON'S STORM PETREL that passed west along the North Norfolk coast this morning; initially seen and identified off Sheringham at 0820 hours (Kevin Shepherd), it later flew slowly west at less than half distance past Cley Coastguards from 0905-0911 hours, where it was seen by James McCallum (finder), Richard Millington, Mark Golley, Dave Holman, Christine Stean, Baz Harding and very briefly by Tony Aberdein and Trevor Davies. Reasonable 'scope views were obtained as it flew between the troughs. A fresh NNW wind had blown up overnight, with large numbers of Northern Gannets displaced and a few Manx Shearwaters. It represents the first record for Norfolk.

Much farther north, similar sea and wind conditions produced Sooty Shearwater and 225 Manx Shearwaters off of Whitburn (County Durham)

A first-summer male KING EIDER is summering with Common Eiders in Filey Bay (North Yorks) and can be found at falling or low tide feeding on mussels at the Brigg (see Dave Mansell's excellent images above)

At Dungeness RSPB (Kent), the GREAT WHITE EGRET remains on Denge Marsh, as does the breeding pair of PURPLE HERONS. Two juveniles have apparently now fledged the nest. The female LITTLE BITTERN is still attending to her fledged young at Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset) but remains very elusive and a very confiding GREAT WHITE EGRET has spent the week just downriver of the Ornamental Bridge at Clumber Park (Notts). Up to 15 EURASIAN SPOONBILLS are on Havergate Island (Suffolk) with a further 10 at Cley Marsh NWT (Norfolk).

There is a scattering of WOOD SANDPIPERS around the country including a long-staying juvenile at the RSPB Rye House Marsh Reserve in Hertfordshire (see Phil Bishop's image above) whilst the two Norfolk PECTORAL SANDPIPERS remain, at Titchwell Freshmarsh and Welney WWT respectively.

A few RUDDY SHELDUCK of perhaps continental origin are appearing, including a flock of 9 in Northeast Scotland at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire)

There is also a widespread influx of COMMON CROSSBILLS

In IRELAND, a first-summer NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL is at Blennerville (County Kerry), whilst the summering immature GLOSSY IBIS remains at Tacumshin Pools (County Wexford).

Tuesday 20 July 2010

GREAT BLACK-BACKED and KELP (CAPE) GULLS at Kniffiss Lagoon, Southern Morocco

See Discussion here -

Josh Jones has proven beyond doubt that both GREAT BLACK-BACKED and KELP (CAPE) GULLS are resident alongside each other at the Atlantic coast wetland of Kniffiss Lagoon, some 400 or so kilometres south of Agadir. This is a remarkable revelation, particularly when one considers that GBBG breeds no further south than a few rocky islets on the Brittany peninsular in NW France. Josh photographed two different adult KELP GULLS but it seems likely that the other eight adults usually seen by Western Palearctic visiting birders are actually GBBG.

Monday 19 July 2010

EAGLE OWL success in Tyneside

After the sad demise of one of the Lancashire pairs of EURASIAN EAGLE OWLS, it is encouraging to report that another pair which nested on the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale, near Brampton (Cumbria) successfully reared two young, with both birds fledging. These birds were studied intensively by the society wardens and it is pleasing to note that 90% of the diet was made up of Rabbits rather than endangered birds. After the debacle of Bowland in the early summer, I would like to commend the RSPB and this reserve's staff for protecting this pair so well and for ensuring a good news story for once with respect to this species.


Once again, Seawatch Southwest are partaking in daily seawatches from Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra, West Cornwall, for the fourth year in succession, predominantly in the task of counting and documenting the BALEARIC SHEARWATER passage off of there. A summary of daily sightings can be found here -

Interestingly, following on from last year, YELKOUAN SHEARWATERS, possibly of the Minorcan form, are being seen with some regularity, with at least 5 reported in the past week.

Mega July seawatch for SW IRELAND - MADEIRAN PETREL

On Sunday 18 July, weather conditions were just right to cash in on a bonanza seawatch from headlands in the southwest of IRELAND and Galley Head certainly did not disappoint...

The day's haul included a MADEIRAN PETREL (at 0815 hours), no less than 10 WILSON'S STORM PETRELS and an immature LONG-TAILED SKUA

The final counts for the day were as follows (taken from Owen Foley's website) -:
10 Wilson's Storm Petrels
12 Sooty Shearwater
7 Balearic Shearwater
9 Great Skuas
3 Arctic Skua
1 Pomarine Skua
1 Long-tailed Skua
1 adult Common Tern
1 juvenile Arctic Tern
4 Sandwich Tern
30-40 Puffin
13 Common Scoter

With the general warming up of the ocean currents around the British Isles and Ireland, species such as this will no doubt appear more and more and prospects for Pendeen Watchpoint in West Cornwall have never been as exciting. To be in with a chance though, careful study of the frontal systems is essential.....

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Tally for year increases to 373 species

The total number of species now recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2010 has now climbed to 373 species, thanks to four new additions in the past couple of weeks. Ireland has produced two of these - a splendid 2nd-summer LAUGHING GULL in County Antrim and a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER at Ring Marsh in County Wexford. Also added is LEACH'S PETREL (a couple trapped in the North East) and RIVER WARBLER (singing male at Thorpe Marshes, Haddiscoe, Norfolk)

Midsummer Review

The first twitchable LAUGHING GULL of the year, captured brilliantly on film by Derek Charles, and the bird of the summer - WHITE-TAILED PLOVER - pictured by Andrew Lawson

In East Kent, the WHITE-TAILED PLOVER remains for a third day at Dungeness RSPB ARC Pit, showing very well on occasions when it visits the mud to the SE of the screen hide at the north end of the pit to feed on the rare and endangered Medicinal Leeches that the site partly acquired SSSI status of. Once fed or disturbed by Oystercatchers, it takes to flying out to the well vegetated islands and can remain out of view for long periods. The reserve is easily accessible from the main coast road south out of Lydd.

Nearby, the pair of PURPLE HERONS seem to have abandoned the nest and no longer appear to be feeding young, whilst a long-staying GREAT WHITE EGRET remains as elusive as ever in the extensive reedbed at Denge Marsh.

In Somerset, the pair of LITTLE BITTERNS continue to visit their reedbed vegetation nest and can be encountered flying in and out low over the Phragmites at Shapwick Heath NNR Loxton Marsh site, whilst CATTLE EGRETS remain nearby and EURASIAN BITTERNS have bred in record numbers. A first-summer colour-ringed GREAT WHITE EGRET (from France) is still present on the Noah's Lake, visible from the hide on the east shore.

On the wader front, WOOD SANDPIPERS are now returning southwards, as well as ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, GREEN SANDPIPERS and COMMON SANDPIPERS, with the summer-plumaged adult BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER still gracing the Freshwater Lagoon at Titchwell Marsh RSPB (North Norfolk). A party of 8 EURASIAN SPOONBILLS remains at Cley Marsh NWT (Norfolk).

In IRELAND, the TEREK SANDPIPER is still present at Blennerville (County Kerry), just west of the bridge, with the second-summer LAUGHING GULL still in County Antrim. A single EURASIAN SPOONBILL is at Tacumshin Lagoons (Co. Wexford).

The Lundy 'LITTLE SHEARWATER' - Sound Recording summary

Reprieve for Welsh BADGERS for now

Pembrokeshire badger cull halted after appeal - see

A controversial cull of around 1,500 badgers in south-west Wales has been halted after protestors won their legal challenge to stop it. The Badger Trust appealed against Welsh Assembly Government plans for a trial cull to reduce TB within cattle. The trust had questioned the cull's effectiveness, though farmers losing diseased stock wanted action. The assembly government said it was "disappointed" with the Court of Appeal's judgement.

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said it would need to consider the judges' decision in detail before deciding the next steps. However, Badger Trust solicitor Gwendolyn Morgan said: "Welsh Assembly Government has indicated that they will accept today's decision and will not appeal to the Supreme Court."Three law lords announced the trust's appeal against a judicial review was successful and quashed the order. Lord Justice Pill said the assembly government was wrong to make an order for the whole of Wales when it consulted on the basis of a Intensive Action Pilot Area (IAPA) which only supported a cull on evidence within the IAPA.

Plans for a pilot cull of badgers within a 288 sq km (111 sq miles) area of south-west Wales were outlined in September 2008. The go-ahead was given in January. The exact area of the proposed cull had not been given; but it was known to lie mostly in north Pembrokeshire, extending into Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. More than half the TB compensation paid out across Wales goes to farmers in the area. Under the cull, badgers were to be trapped in cages and shot.

Anti-cull protesters, led by the Badger Trust, argued it had not yet been scientifically proven that badgers are implicated in the transmission of TB within cattle and it doubts a cull would help eradicate the disease.

On 11 June, the trust won leave to appeal against the outcome of a judicial review that backed the assembly government's plans..

'Sources of infection'

Ms Jones said the assembly government remained committed to eradicating bovine TB.?

"I am disappointed with this judgement particularly as the court recognises the serious impact that bovine TB is having in Wales and the need to tackle the disease," she said."We will now need to consider the judges' decision in detail before deciding our next steps."It is however clear that if we don't tackle all sources of infection we will not eradicate it."Farmers, their families and our rural communities are suffering from the devastating consequences of this disease and I remain committed to its eradication."

Rare plover has a taste for rare Medicinal Leeches

The WHITE-TAILED PLOVER remains at Dungeness ARC Pit this morning, where it continues to feed on the endangered Medicinal Leech. Andrew Lawson obtained these excellent images above.

Monday 12 July 2010


The wide-ranging WHITE-TAILED PLOVER is now present in East Kent. It arrived there from its last haunt at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucs) during yesterday and is still present this morning, showing very well from the screen hide at the north end of the ARC Pit at Dungeness RSPB

Saturday 10 July 2010

LITTLE BITTERNS breeding in Somerset

On Tuesday 6 July 2010, I visited Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset) early morning. David Bradnum and Jonathan Lethbridge had very kindly provided me with specific details of where they had seen the male LITTLE BITTERN the day before, and almost immediately, I saw the adult male in flight.

It flew towards me from a line of trees and was in very purposeful flight. It disappeared into a dense patch of reeds and in the early dawn, I could hear what sounded like baby birds being fed. After just over a minute, the male reappeared and flew strongly away. Four minutes later, a much drabber and streaked female LITTLE BITTERN appeared from exactly the same direction as the male and again flew to the same area. Naturally, I assumed that the birds were breeding. Just a few minutes later, the male appeared again, and over the next hour, it returned on numerous occasions, and was not always picked up when arriving.

From the activity, it was clear that breeding had taken place and that the young were being fed in the nest. I contacted RBA, Birdline Southwest, several local observers and the RSPB to inform them of my discovery.

Little Bitterns have successfully bred previously in Britain (at Potteric Carr in South Yorkshire at least) and Ham Wall RSPB and Shapwick Heath NNR are perfect for this species and Eurasian Bittern (at least 12 territories this year) (Lee G R Evans).
The image at the top of the page was taken by Jonathan Lethbridge

Friday 9 July 2010


Today's Images: WHITE-TAILED PLOVER at Rainham RSPB (Matthew Deans), the male LITTLE BITTERN at Walton Heath (Jonathan Lethbridge) and LAUGHING GULL in County Antrim (Derek Charles)

The fabulous WHITE-TAILED PLOVER that spent all day at Rainham Marsh Aveley Lagoons (Essex/London) on Wednesday (7 July) relocated today to Gloucestershire, where it moved from the Dumbles to the Top New Piece and showed well from the Zeiss Hide for much of the afternoon. Access to this WWT reserve is free to members but £9.25 to non-members so join tomorrow if visiting.

In Broadland Norfolk, the singing male RIVER WARBLER remains on territory at Thorpe Marshes, where special access restrictions operate for this evening and over the weekend (for full details of these, visit the Rare Bird Alert Pagers site at The car park field is situated to the NE of North End Road at TM 435 985 - £2 per person admittance.

In Somerset, the LITTLE BITTERNS continue to show frequently, flying in and out of the reedbed every 20 minutes or so. Park at Ashcott Corner car park at Shapwick Heath NNR, then walk east for 0.7 miles to the gate and viewpoint overlooking Loxton's Marsh. Nearby, on the opposite side of the main road, the long-staying GREAT WHITE EGRET remains on Noah's Lake, often viewable from the hide.

In South Devon, one of the adult-type GULL-BILLED TERNS remains about the Exe Estuary, roosting on a sandbar viewable from Mudbank Lane in Exmouth early morning and then later off Exton Railway Station.. Throughout the week, it has made repeat visits at high tide to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Topsham. In the same area, the very long-staying adult summer-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE can be found on the estuary off of Cockwood.

The BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER continues its summer sojourn at Titchwell Marsh RSPB (North Norfolk), favouring the well vegetated northern part of the Freshwater Lagoon. Every now and again it ventures out in to the open and feeds with the Ruff, Spotted Redshanks and other waders on the mud to the north of the Island Hide. A single SPOONBILL visited the pool today, with 6 nearby at Pat's Pool, Cley NWT.

An adult TEMMINCK'S STINT remains at Saltholme Pools RSPB (Cleveland) whilst in neighbouring County Durham, a female DOTTEREL is still present at Crimdon Dene beach. Meanwhile, in Kent, the PURPLE HERONS are still nesting and feeding young and a GREAT WHITE EGRET is present at Denge Marsh.

A KING EIDER in eclipse plumage was discovered amongst loafing Common Eiders this afternoon at Filey Brigg (North Yorkshire) and is presumably that which passed Flamborough Head to the north last weekend.

Three RUDDY SHELDUCK and a Black Tern were noted at Egleton Reserve, Rutland Water (Leics), today.

Scotland remains relatively quiet, with between 2 and 4 drake SURF SCOTERS off Blackdog Rocks, north of Aberdeen, and a PECTORAL SANDPIPER and 3 Green Sandpipers at Rossie Bog (NO 273 115), 2 miles east of Auchtermuchty, in Fife. The eclipse drake RING-NECKED DUCK remains one mile NW of Ladybank (Fife) at Angle Park GP.

The first LAUGHING GULL in Britain and Ireland this year concerns a second-summer individual present for a second day at Ballycastle (County Antrim) (see photographs above).

Monday 5 July 2010

Summering LONG-TAILED SKUA on Shetland

This adult summer LONG-TAILED SKUA, fabulously photographed by Dougie Preston, frequented an Arctic Skua colony at East Hogaland Burra on Shetland for a second summer running and was first seen in mid May. The bird was quite aggressive and chasing away all other skuas in the area, apart from one dark morph Arctic Skua that it didn't seem to mind being close to. The bird fed on the short grass of the moorland, and was seen eating small mammalian items on the ground frequently.

East Prawle MEXICAN HOUSE FINCH restrictions

Mexican House Finch, East Prawle, South Devon, June 2010 (Chris Holt)

I have been contacted by East Prawle residents who, after a week or so of visiting birders, have now tired of the excitement the bird has created. The Old Cider House gardens are now COMPLETELY OUT OF BOUNDS and access will no longer be forthcoming.

This has consequently had a knock-on affect for viewing and obviously means that the bird will be much more difficult to see and will require many hours of diligent watching of the grey roof behind the Piglet Stores by the village green.


The big breaking news of the weekend was of a singing male RIVER WARBLER in Broadland Norfolk. It had first been heard singing on Tuesday of last week (29 June) and then confirmed by Chris and Alison Allan on Friday (2 July) but was on private land. The couple then informed the owner of the adjacent field (one of their neighbours) and planned an 'opening night' for the public on Sunday, after he very kindly agreed to allow birders to park in the field.

The bird was singing from an area of reeds and sedges on Thorpe Marshes and with this typical crepuscular species, sang most strongly and persistently towards dusk. It had shown well on the Saturday evening but on the Sunday, kept quite low down in the reeds in the windier conditions. Fortunately, however, all of the 320 or so visitors managed to obtain 'scope views of the bird.

ACCESS INSTRUCTIONS: The parking field is located at TM 435 985, adjacent to North End Road, in Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe village, and is best approached via Crab Apple Lane, a minor road running north from the B1136, 4 miles east of Hales. At the T-junction turn left on to North End Road, and then follow the well-marked white 'River Warbler' signs to the designated field. There will be another viewing session from 1900 hours this evening where special access has again been kindly granted. As the bird sings into darkness and begins showing best from about 2100/2130 hours, PLEASE DO NOT ARRIVE BEFORE 1900 HOURS, as there is no room on North End Road to park and any incidents will jeopardise further viewing of this bird and perhaps influence of further news releases.

I would like to thank the many birders who visited and behaved impeccably last night, particularly those that went well out of their way to direct others on to the difficult bird and to kindly share their 'scopes when it was out on view. I would particularly like to thank the farmer for his granted access to the field, as well as Chris and Alison, Dick Filby and Denise for their sterling work in management. At least £600 was raised for charitable purposes.


A very elusive adult BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER is present on the main freshwater scrape at Titchwell RSPB (North Norfolk), feeding on its own amongst the emergent vegetation flanking the north side of the lagoon. It is showing perhaps once or twice a day and is present for its third day but is generally exceptionally elusive and hard to detect. A fabulous flock of summer-plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANKS are also present on the marsh, a massive flock of RED KNOT at high tides, 27 or so adult male RUFFS, a few LITTLE GULLS and an excellent array and selection of commoner marshland species.

In Somerset, the adult male LITTLE BITTERN was seen several times flying over the reedbed at Loxton Marsh at Ham Walls RSPB reserve (accessed by walking half a mile east of Ashcott Corner car park - ST 460 395) (the GREAT WHITE EGRET remains on the opposite side of the road and drove at Noah's Lake, Shapwick Heath), whilst in South Devon, one of the two GULL-BILLED TERNS remained at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Topsham, at the north end of the Exe Estuary (high tide best).

Also in South Devon, the MEXICAN HOUSE FINCH of unknown origin or provenance continues in East Prawle village (South Devon), favouring the feeders in the garden of the Old Cider House and the vicinity of the Piggery Stores (please respect the privacy of residents)

In East Kent, the pair of PURPLE HERONS continue to feed the young in the nest at Denge Marsh and can be best viewed from Denge Marsh Road nearside Brick Wall Farm

Up to 4 adult drake SURF SCOTERS are summering with the massive Common Scoter raft 4 miles NNE of Aberdeen off Blackdog Rocks, whilst the drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL bearing a metal ring is still present at Berry Fen, SW of Earith (Cambs).

In IRELAND, an adult BONAPARTE'S GULL was present west of the bridge at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) and the first-summer GLOSSY IBIS remains in residence at the east end of Tacumshin (Co. Wexford)

Saturday 3 July 2010

YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSS: new to Britain (Implications of wrecked mega-rare seabird vagrants being bought in to Seabird Rescue Centres)

I have just had a chance to read the July 2010 issue of British Birds, especially its article - ''Yellow-nosed Albatroos: new to Britain (103: 376-384). Within its pages, it has an account written by Pauline Kidner, which is full of contradiction.

The bird had been taken to the Secret World Wildlife Rescue (, which rescues over 4,000 animal casualties every year and survives PURELY ON DONATIONS. On 30 June 2007, a local resident Hugh Harris contacted them to say that a Fulmar was blocking his driveway and appeared to be in ill-health. Hugh took the Fulmar to the centre and left it there and when Pauline and two members of staff eventually got to deal with it next morning, they quickly realised that it was an Albatross, most likely a Black-browed Albatross. On realising this, they informed many of the locals, and later in the day a crowd of at least 50 excited people witnessed the release at Brean Down.

In the account, Pauline states that many people were upset when they finally got to hear about the bird and she replies by saying that they did not appreciate the significance of the record at the time. But they did in reality, because they believed it to be the Black-browed Albatross from Scotland and invited everyone in the Brean area to come down. Whether it was a Black-browed or an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, it would have attracted HUGE crowds. The sad part of all of this was the failure to utilise the bird to raise what would have been an exceptional amount of money for the Rescue Centre as well as perhaps raising a large amount of money for the worldwide Albatross protection campaign. From reading Pauline's comments, I cannot say that I have confidence in hearing of another mega rare seabird bought in to the site (Lee G R Evans)

Thursday 1 July 2010


The first BLACK-HEADED BUNTING of the year - a male - was seen at Kinlochbervie (Highland) briefly today, perched on stone walls at Oldshoremore