Tuesday 31 August 2010

New 'birders' B & B on St Mary's (Scilly)

Danni and Nigel Hudson have written to me informing that they are now offering a full bed & breakfast service to visiting birders to the Isles of Scilly from tomorrow at their new home at Carn Ithen in Trench Lane, Old Town, on St. Mary's. Nigel will be well known to many of you that visit the islands and is also Secretary of the 'British Birds' Rarities Committee.

Nigel's contact details are published below

T : 01-720 422-917 W : www.carnithen.co.uk E: nigel@carnithen.co.uk

Sunday 29 August 2010

Early autumn juvenile skua pitfalls


A fabulous portrayal of what is generally perceived of a dark or intermediate morph juvenile LONG-TAILED SKUA. Although clearly overlooked by the photographer, this image shows how easy it is to get caught out by these confusing juveniles - and in the single image the wings do look broad-based, a feature one would expect of juvenile Arctic Skua.

However, just look at the basal, cold-toned upperpart colouration, completely lacking in the warmth usually reflected in juvenile Arctic, and the shape of the central tail projectiles. The outer two primary shafts are clearly white but lacking in prominence in the next two, whilst the nape is pale, the rump is basally white and noticeably barred on the upper tail coverts and the bill relatively small - a classic LONG-TAIL.

Sunday 22 August 2010

CHIMNEY SWIFT in Southwest Ireland

News is just coming in of a CHIMNEY SWIFT being seen in COUNTY CORK, in SOUTHWEST IRELAND, at Ballyadeen, near Castletownroche - a remarkable record (1720-1808 hours at least).

Most of our previous Chimney Swifts in Britain and Ireland have occurred much later in the autumn, primarily between mid October and mid November. However, this is somewhat surprising when one considers that peak Chimney Swift passage on the Eastern Seaboard is between mid August and 11 September, with counts of over 1,500 birds in New York State at the end of August

Anyway, I had predicted Purple Martin to have arrived with this weather system, but I certainly wasn't expecting Chimney Swift. The wonders of bird migration and vagrancy........


An adult SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER has been discovered this evening on the high tide at Patrington Haven in East Yorkshire. Frustratingly, this is a site where few rare waders are ever seen again, so the prospects tomorrow are perhaps quite slim. The location lies between Hull and the Spurn peninsular

AQUATIC WARBLER passage in full flow

There has been a big movement of AQUATIC WARBLERS since last weekend in NW France culminating in a site record of 13 birds trapped today at Donges (2 ad, 11 juvs) plus at least another 2 individuals that I saw in the field en route to the nets that were un-ringed and gave superb views perched on rush stems and short reeds. At one stage 3 birds were calling from around me (today I described the call note as being a soft Blackcap "tuc" with a somewhat whip-like quality) and they were apparently quite happy to pose in the open with me in full view 10m away (luckily with bins but without scope or camera) . . . a memorable morning indeed !

On the European section of Surfbirds Julien Gonin has posed some photos of a bird he saw on the channel coast recently and the most striking features such as the open-faced appearance, big supercillium, black crown stripe, dark ear-coverts and black wedge on the back can all be seen well which is exactly what I noted in the field today.

I would encourage English and Irish birders to get out there and spend a few hours scanning the periphery of reedbeds in the first few hours of the morning - this is the peak period for Aquatics and the presence of 2 in Wales suggests some are well west of their normal migration corridor. They really are a stunning bird and worth every effort (Eugene Archer)

Friday 20 August 2010


There were two different SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLERS discovered this week - that superbly photographed by Dougie Preston on Unst (top 5 images) and that at Druridge Bay (Northumberland) (lower two images taken by James Hanlon)
Cleveland's WHISKERED TERN too still remains - Stephen Clifton capturing even better images than he did on a previous visit.

After putting on a good show for most of the week, the adult male LESSER GREY SHRIKE was nowhere to be found today in the Kelling Hard vicinity of North Norfolk, denying many an opportunity to see this handsome eastern vagrant this coming weekend. In fact, the region had little to offer today, other than the long-staying adult COMMON CRANE at Cley and a scattering of passage waders, including juvenile Little Stints and both Curlew and Wood Sandpiper.

The record-breaking juvenile WHISKERED TERN continues to linger in Cleveland at Saltholme Pools RSPB, whilst a juvenile WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN spent a second day at Hickling Broad (Norfolk). A wave of predominantly juvenile BLACK TERNS also swept across the southern half of Britain this afternoon.

In North Lincolnshire, a worn adult 'peep' indicative of SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER continues at Alkborough Flats, being seen several times today but mainly at long range, whilst two PECTORAL SANDPIPERS arrived at the scrape at Low Newton (Northumberland) this afternoon. Large numbers of WOOD SANDPIPERS were also scattered around today, along with the first thrust of juvenile LITTLE STINTS and juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANKS.

SPOTTED CRAKES on offer include the showy bird at Shibdon Pond, Blaydon (County Durham) (favouring the muddy bay in the NE corner) and the 1-2 at Grove Ferry NNR (Kent) (from the David Feast Hide).

At Dungeness (Kent), an adult PURPLE HERON remains on Denge Marsh, along with the CATTLE EGRET and GREAT WHITE EGRET, with a further juvenile CATTLE EGRET still in Essex and roosting this evening at Wat Tyler Country Park.

Drift migrants such as BARRED WARBLER have been appearing since last weekend, with two on the Farne Islands (Northumberland) and another on North Ronaldsay (Orkney), with a juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE at Saltburn (Cleveland) with the only WRYNECK today at Beacon Lane, Kilnsea (East Yorks). Generally speaking, there has been a major arrival inland of Common Redstart, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher, spiced up by the occasional Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler.

After the SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLER on Unst (Shetland) earlier in the week (see Dougie Preston's outstanding images above), Scotland has quietened down since, with the 4 adult drake SURF SCOTERS off Blackdog Beach (Aberdeenshire) and the COMMON CRANE at Montrose Basin (Angus/Dundee) highlighting today, as well as the continuing PECTORAL SANDPIPER on Carden Flood at Vane Farm RSPB (Perth & Kinross).and the eclipse drake RING-NECKED DUCK there.

GREAT SHEARWATER passage has also been experienced in West Cornwall today with 1-3 seen (Porthgwarra and Lizard Point) and another 2 off Start Point (South Devon).

Seawatching in western Ireland today yielded a WILSON'S STORM PETREL and 2 GREAT SHEARWATERS off Galley Head (County Cork), the latter species also passing the Bridges of Ross (County Clare), along with 2 adult SABINE'S GULLS, as well as off Cape Clear (County Cork)


I have just spent the past month exploring the virtues of some new Birding Journal software I was kindly sent. I must say that I have been highly impressed by it and have found it an excellent addition to my Bird Recording. It is very easy to use and self-explanatory and allows one to methodically record each and every species of bird, mammal, butterfly, insect of flower that one has seen - hugely impressive.

For example, after adding my bird species of today and 1,878 entries down the line, at-a-glance I can see that I have now recorded 153 species during that time, that my highest day tally was 9 August with 97 species and that I have recorded 104 species in the past 7 days and 94 in the past calendar week.

It also has a mass of other functions and with each new location added, it automatically works out a site list and a cumulative county total, as well as constantly updating a calendar year total and a Life count.

There are five main function utilities, with ENTRIES (your personal sightings), GRAPHS (a drop down menu of graphs showing Year Species Count, Monthly counts, Locations tallies and Checklist counts), GALLERY (all of your uploaded images), SPECIES (all of the data you require on each and every species you have seen) and LOCATION (where you have seen each species).

Although the principle taxonomy used is that of Clements (World) and BOU (Britain), it can be easily customised allowing one to add in any list of one's choice, including that of the UK400 Club (full Western Palearctic Listing complete with all sub-species) and other custom lists such as those of British Butterflies or Moths or Mammals or a massive selection of country lists.

Bluebird Technology also offer a very helpful and useful birder's forum, where members can share lists and discuss add-ons and new functions and I have been customising a new database concentrating on Rare Birds recorded in Britain and Ireland. This software is revolutionary and adds a new dimension to your everyday birding exploits.

The software is available from http://www.bluebirdtechnology.com/ and there is a 15% discount on all orders up to 31 August. The Order Hotline number is 0845 094 6012 and is manned Monday-Friday from 0900-1700 hours (Lee G R Evans)

Thursday 19 August 2010

The annual MANX SHEARWATER spectacle in Wales

Marc Heath kindly sent me this note -:

I thought I'd bring your attention to what I believe is an amazing birding event that takes place in Wales each each, however hardly anyone knows about it.

Manx Shearwaters congregate in Borth Bay during mid-August and this year's numbers have been truly spectacular. Despite putting the word out only four birders have witnessed the event up to now! An estimated 50,000+ Manx Shearwaters feed in the bay with many feeding in the surf only yards from the beach. This year 15+ Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 200+ Gannet, Great Skua, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns, Auks, Cormorants, Gulls, Fulmars and Ocean Sunfish were present.

The videos below show a snippet of the action on a short stretch of the beach at Borth, however the spectacle stretches for 3 to 4 miles without a break along to the mouth of the Dyfi estuary.I know videos can't do justice to the real event but I hope this gives you a flavour of this spectacular event...



Wednesday 18 August 2010

First LESSER GREY SHRIKE of the year

The first LESSER GREY SHRIKE of the year - an adult - was discovered at Kelling Hard (North Norfolk) yesterday afternoon and was still present today and showing well. Chris Morgan took these superb shots above

Displaying SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPER in Russia - outstanding and hugely gripping !!

See video here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmEaCj60mF8

Monday 16 August 2010

SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLER in Northumberland

Sykes's Booted Warbler, Hadston Carrs, Druridge Bay Country Park, Nortyhumberland, 15 August 2010 (Duncan Watson)

A SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLER (rama) is present in Northumberland for a second day and showing well. The bird was discovered yesterday afternoon and was eventually seen by about 45 local observers before dusk. Duncan Watson obtained an excellent series of shots of the bird.

Duncan also kindly supplied these directional details. ''The bird is in bushes in the dunes, east of Druridge Bay Country Park. Best access is via the minor road to Hadston Carrs, off the A1068 about 1km north of the country park entrance. Turn right at the end and follow this south for about 750m. Approx grid reference is NU274002''

Sykes's Booted Warblers are a very rare vagrant in Britain with few confirmed records; they are also a trzky id and some occurrences have been left unrecorded.

Friday 13 August 2010

Lean Times

An exceptional long-stayer - the juvenile WHISKERED TERN at Saltholme Pools RSPB, Cleveland (Tristan Reid)

LESSER YELLOWLEGS on the Big Pool, St Agnes, Scilly (Robin Mawer)

The long-staying LAUGHING GULL in Northern Ireland at Ballycastle, Antrim (Chris Baines)

The COMMON CRANE that spent several days at Hoveringham Railway Pit, Notts (Mark Stirland)

The juvenile CATTLE EGRET now present near Earith (Cambs) (David Hutton)

Last weeks Alpine Swift on Orkney, photographed by Paul Higson

This is the UK400 Club Rare Bird Alert for Friday 13 August 2010 issued at 2100 hours and published in close association with Rare Bird Alert Pagers, whilst utilising additional information gleaned from the Regional Birdlines, BirdGuides, Birdnet, local email groups and websites and individual observers.

A touch of North-easterly wind this afternoon saw both a WRYNECK and an ICTERINE WARBLER appear on the East Coast - at Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland) and Blakeney Point (North Norfolk) respectively.

A sub-adult GLOSSY BIS first discovered in Christchurch Harbour (Dorset) yesterday left its roost-site with Little Egrets at dawn and visited Parky Mead Rail Marshes early morning at Stanpit. It remained until mid-morning but then disappeared.

The first 'twitchable' SPOTTED CRAKE of the year continues to show well at Grove Ferry NNR (Kent), favouring the narrow muddy reedbed margin to the far left of the David Feast Hide, with 10 or more GARGANEY in the area and a long-staying WOOD SANDPIPER.

An adult BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER was seen at Snettisham RSPB (Norfolk) today, on the beach just south of the beach huts (Titchwell individual perhaps?)

In Cleveland, the long-staying juvenile WHISKERED TERN continues to show well at Saltholme Pools RSPB, gracing the causeway and pools either side of the main coast road, with the adult Black-necked Grebe still there and large numbers of ROSEATE TERNS along the coast, best observed either at South Shields and Whitburn Steel (both County Durham sites) or on Bran Sands, South Gare.

In Cambridgeshire, a juvenile CATTLE EGRET continues, by day feeding NE of Earith on the Ouse Washes NE of the Industrial Estate in one of the cattle fields at TL 393 755 (please park carefully and courteously on Short Drive). A different juvenile CATTLE EGRET also remains at Dungeness (Kent), still commuting between the north end of ARC Pit and the sheep field at Boulderwall Farm, whilst the ever-present GREAT WHITE EGRET continues at Denge Marsh. The nesting Purple Herons seem to have moved on.

There are still quite a few passage WOOD SANDPIPERS lingering on, whilst ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS inland include a healthy number of juveniles.

A BLACK GUILLEMOT flew west past Sheringham and Blakeney Point (Norfolk) this morning, whilst an impressive watch off Flamborough Head (East Yorks) yielded two adult SABINE'S GULLS and a Long-tailed Skua amongst an excellent selection

Scotland continues its quiet run although the moulting adult PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER remains on South Uist at Loch Bornish, Ormiclate. The eclipse drake RING-NECKED DUCK continues at Angle Park GP in Fife (NO 293 113) whilst up to 4 adult drake SURF SCOTERS are loafing off Blackdog Beach (Aberdeenshire).

In IRELAND, a EURASIAN SPOONBILL is still present on the Shannon Airport Lagoons (County Clare), whilst a GREAT WHITE EGRET was showing well on Lady's Island Lake (County Wexford) (first seen at Ring Marsh on 11 August). The LAUGHING GULL continues to show very well at Ballycastle Marina (County Antrim) as does the first-summer NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL at Blennerville (County Kerry). The first-summer GLOSSY IBIS remains at Tacumshin (County Wexford).

Looking back over Week 32 (9-12 August), the adult BAIRD'S SANDPIPER remained at Lound Chainbridge Scrape (Notts) until 10th, an adult WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER was at Bran Sands, South Gare (Cleveland), on 9-10, a juvenile KENTISH PLOVER was seen at Seaslater (Kent) on 9th and an adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS spent four days on the Big Pool, St Agnes (Scilly) from 9th (see Robin Mawer's images above). The Inner Marsh Farm RSPB (Cheshire) LESSER YELLOWLEGS remained present all week but was typically elusive visiting the new reserve scrapes far from view.

The 9 August saw a GREAT SHEARWATER fly west past Porthgwarra (West Cornwall) (scarce so far this autumn with no more than singles seen) and the most recent WILSON'S STORM PETREL seen around Scilly, with a GREAT WHITE EGRET at Drift Reservoir (Cornwall) (to 10th) and a MELODIOUS WARBLER trapped and ringed at Portland Bill Bird Observatory (Dorset). ICTERINE WARBLERS appeared on Out Skerries (Shetland) on 11th and Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory (Kent) on 12th, whilst a GREENISH WARBLER was at Queenamidda (Orkney) for a few days and another was at Sumburgh Hotel (Shetland) on 11th.

A couple of adult PECTORAL SANDPIPERS appeared on 11 August (at Cley NWT and East Chevington Pools, Northumberland, respectively), with an adult DOTTEREL with European Golden Plovers in the Aldbrough area (East Yorks).

Saving the RUDDY DUCK

I should just like to take the opportunity to thank the large number of you that have written in support of my campaign to ensure the safety of the Ruddy Duck - it is very greatly appreciated. It is very heartwarming to know that so many of you are fully against the ongoing cull being undertaken by Defra (or Fera as it is now known) and I am particularly grateful for all of the records that you continue to supply me of this species.

As most of you know, I was incensed to hear of Defra's plans to extend the murdering until 31 March 2011 and was even more incensed when Defra's insider spies got to hear of one family of Ruddy Ducks in the first week of August and immediately sent in a hit squad. This particular site was used as a nursery by over 350 water birds, including Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Northern Pochards, Little Grebe and Common Tern, and on 3 August, the entire population was forced to endure five hours of attempted killing. This follows on from previous killings and untold disturbance at both the breeding and wintering sites of a Schedule One breeding species - the Black-necked Grebe. To this day, the RSPB continue to support this cull and have had the disgrace to allow a single cull on one of their reserves - the popular Dungeness RSPB reserve.

The eradication programme is implemented and financed by EU-Life Nature Unit and Defra, who claim that no extra finance is being used in the extension and falls within the original budget of £5.4 million pounds. There is no denying their success, as at the start of the campaign in 1998, my assessment of the UK population was of 6,322-7,300 birds. They have slaughtered many thousands of birds in the 12 years that have passed, so much so that the population is now a paltry 200 birds.

A total of 738 Ruddy Ducks were killed at 37 locations between 1 April 2009 and 30 June 2010 (note how Defra shamelessly kill during the breeding season of our other waterbirds) but the extreme weather Britain experienced this last winter meant that Ruddy Ducks were a sitting target at the few large reservoirs remaining unfrozen and a further 174 were killed (incidentally, proving that British Ruddy Ducks prefer to winter at Traditional sites rather than emigrate to Spain).

I know of only 2 Ruddy Duck records in Spain since January 2009 and there have been no hybrid records for a number of years now. Two Ruddy Ducks of presumably North American origin made landfall on The Azores at the same time as many other Nearctic species last October continuing evidence of natural arrival of vagrants. Conversely, the population of the White-headed Duck continues to thrive, with better protection afforded to both the breeding and wintering sites of the species, with an estimated 4,000 or so individuals in Spain, Portugal, Tunisia and Morocco this summer. Northward post-breeding dispersal by this species is also still taking place. The numbers of White-headed Ducks in Asia has also remained stable.

Please continue to send me all of your Ruddy Duck records and images so that they can be entered into the database (Lee G R Evans)

Wednesday 11 August 2010

RUDDY DUCK shot dead on 3 August

This adult drake RUDDY DUCK was shot dead by Defra (Fera) on 3 August, whilst all around large numbers of post-breeding Gadwall, Tufted Ducks, Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebes were made to flee and were petrified.
I want to save the Ruddy Duck from this carnage so PLEASE :-
I am closely monitoring the remaining Ruddy Duck population and would be grateful for any information that can be supplied, so that I can make contingency plans for their safety - email LGREUK400@aol.com
Lee Evans

Saturday 7 August 2010

Defra go on killing despite baby ducks and grebes everywhere

Last Tuesday, Defra (or Fera as they are now known) visited a private nature reserve with the intention of wiping out a family of Ruddy Ducks, as part of their ongoing disgrace - the UK Ruddy Duck Eradication Programme. Sadly, a serious error with the Hertfordshire Bird Club website, revealed the location of a breeding pair and within days, Defra were on the case.

Now, not content with shooting and killing at both the wintering and breeding location of Black-necked Grebe, this time they visited a nature reserve absolutely crammed full of breeding wildfowl and other waterbirds, including over 150 Gadwall, broods of both Tufted Duck and Pochard, numerous Little Grebes and nesting Common Terns. I am incensed that the governors of the reserve allowed them in to the reserve but they claim that they had no choice as the reserve is owned by the water company who ultimately have the last word.


I must let it be known that EU LIFE-Nature Unit and Fera have extended the killing until 31 March 2011. This is being done within the original £5.4 million pound budget and reflects savings made earlier in the project. As a consequence, I plead with you all to make NO PUBLIC RECORD/ANNOUNCEMENT of any Ruddy Duck at a given location in the next eight months, particularly now that Defra are ACTIVELY TARGETING individual birds as and when they hear of their presence.

A total of 738 Ruddy Ducks were shot on 37 sites between 1 April 2009 and 30 June 2010 and controls took place on 16 sites for the first ever time during this period. Direct targeting is actually happening. In fact, since January 2010, Fera has culled a further 174 birds, the population as I write is now down to 200 birds.

Meanwhile, the population of Iberian White-headed Ducks goes from strength to strength, with hopefully more than 4,000 individuals to be found at the end of this current breeding season. Only two Ruddy Ducks have been recorded in Spain since January 2009, and no hybrids were recorded last summer. Two presumed vagrant North American Ruddy Ducks reached the Azores last October.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Problematic Peep Showings...

Juvenile Whiskered Terns such as this are a real rarity in the UK - Steve Clifton obtaining these cracking shots

The juvenile Cattle Egret at Eyebrook (Dave Hutton)

The adult Semipalmated Sandpiper at Port Carlisle - record shots - Darren Robson

Moulting adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS in early autumn are always a finders nightmare and this August has been no exception. Darren Robson's bird in the North West of England at Port Carlisle (Cumbria) still remains this afternoon whilst another adult, this one present for its third day, was at Lodmoor (Dorset) until mid-morning, when it was flushed and flew strongly east. Martin Cade managed to obtain a selection of images of the bird before it flew off and these can be browsed on the Portland Bird Observatory website. Both individuals are very similar in plumage but note how attenuated this species can look from certain angles. The Dorset bird is a paler individual.

In Cheshire, the adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS remains for a 5th day at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB Pools (intermittently showing well from the main hide), whilst on the opposite coast, the very long-staying juvenile WHISKERED TERN continues to grace Saltholme Pools RSPB (Cleveland).

A CATTLE EGRET spent a couple of days with Little Egrets at Eyebrook Reservoir (Leics) this week (3rd-4th) with another still present in the Dungeness are (Kent). Dungeness RSPB also still harbours the GREAT WHITE EGRET and 3 PURPLE HERONS (the two adults and one of their juvenile offspring), whilst in Somerset, at least 3 LITTLE BITTERNS remain at Ham Walls RSPB on Loxton Marsh.

The moulting male HOUSE FINCH of ship-assisted or captive origin continues in East Prawle village (South Devon), favouring the gardens behind the Shippen and the Piglet Stores

A COMMON CRANE has been intermittently visiting fields by the Railway Pit at Hoveringham GP (Notts) in recent days, with another at Cley NWT Reserve (North Norfolk) today, favouring stubble fields NE of Walsey Hills and south-east of the Serpentine Meadows. Nearby, the adult HOODED CROW remains close to the Eye Field.

It is all set to be a bumper autumn for EURASIAN SPOONBILLS with the Norfolk colony flourishing but for now 14 birds still remain at Cley Marsh.

The passage of WOOD SANDPIPERS is now increasing, whilst OSPREYS are reaching the South Coast in numbers, including four in the Poole Harbour area (Dorset). Return migration too of common warblers, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits, Whinchats, Common Redstarts and Pied & Spotted Flycatchers is now underway, with good numbers at South Coast coastal locations.

In Orkney, a long-staying ALPINE SWIFT continues to linger on South Ronaldsay, flying to and fro over Burn Farm and environs close to the Tomb of the Eagles at Burwick. Much longer staying is the BEARDED SEAL near Bibb's Pier at Finstown.

On Shetland, an adult drake SURF SCOTER remains at Trondra, whilst in the Outer Hebrides, a moulting adult PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER was seen.

After reports of its recapture on Sunday afternoon, it transpires that the adult Grey-headed Swamphen is still in the roadside ditch at Saltney (Clwyd) and was today the victim of children throwing stones at it. The National Media have also shown a great deal of interest in the bird.

In IRELAND, the first-summer NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULL remains at Blennerville (County Kerry), the LAUGHING GULL at Ballycastle (County Antrim) and the first-year GLOSSY IBIS at Tacumshin (County Wexford).

Tuesday 3 August 2010

......And further comments on ageing

Greetings All

Indeed, it is true that many finches do not attain adult male plumage until after their first year... the most important point being that female Red Crossbills are yellow, and female House Finches are not.

Male Purple Finches in their first year are streaked, like females, not pallid red, pink, or yellow. I do not know much of House Finch biology, but it is my suspicion that first year HOUSE FINCHES that do not attain adult male like plumage, look rather like females instead of yellow or pale males (a glance at Peter Pyle's tome would likely tell, but I am not at home). One could argue that a first year bird might not be as successful at obtaining food, and thus more likely to be yellow, but then we are starting to stretch a bit.

The data on Fire Island, New York, are quite interesting (as are the data from Veit's study), but on the other hand, it should not surprise us; nearly all finch species have a tendency to wander widely, including other Carpodacus finches.

The thing that bothers me most about the UK bird is that it is in a plumage that is much more common in captivity than in the wild. If the bird had arrived in the common plumage (of either a first year male, or an adult), a ship-assisted bird would not seem so unlikely (Steve Mlodinow)

More on HOUSE FINCH movements

The migratory behavior of HOUSE FINCHES is conspicuous at outer coastal sites where they are absent or scarce as breeders, such as Fire Island, New York and Block Island, Rhode Island. Beyond that, this species is known to be prone to long-distance dispersal (= vagrancy) independent of seasonal migration. Dick Veit’s paper on the westward colonization of eastern and central North America by the birds naturalized in the New York area (Dispersal, population growth, and the Allee Effect: Dynamics of the House Finch Invasion of eastern North America, The American Naturalist 148: 255-274, 1996) is a classic in the scientific study of vagrancy. This study showed that the observed rate at which House Finches spread across North America could not be explained by models using average dispersal distances but depended critically on long distance dispersal events (vagrancy). In addition to demonstrating that House Finches undertake long distance movements, this study further suggests that individuals predisposed toward long distance movements are probably over-represented in the recent ancestry of eastern North American House Finches, perhaps having been rewarded demographically for pioneering previously unoccupied sites.

Although it seems very unlikely that a House Finch would survive an unaided trans-Atlantic crossing, a ship-assisted crossing seems perfectly plausible to me. If I understand descriptions of its subsequent movements in Britain (moving around and even crossing water barriers), these would seem more consistent with those of a wild-born bird than a cage bird. I think we sometimes give cage birds a bit too much credit for being able to survive and regulate in the wild and give wild birds too little credit for being able to get up in the air and out over unexpected horizons (Shai Mitra, New York)

Monday 2 August 2010


The North Norfolk EURASIAN SPOONBILL colony at Holkham Freshmarshes has this year broken all records with as many as 10 youngsters expected to fledge before mid August. The thriving egret, spoonbill and heron colony at the National Nature Reserve is really reaping rewards, with such a colony of tree-nesting Spoonbills not being recorded in Britain for over 300 years. For more information, see the Rare Bird Alert website.....


A total of 40 Purple Gallinules of unknown origin have been recorded in Britain, with 34 prior to 1913 and the majority in Norfolk.

1863 HAMPSHIRE Rowner, 10 August (Zoologist 1865: 9418; 1867: 829)

1863 COUNTY DURHAM Boldon Flats, August (Hancock 1874, Natural History Transcriptions of Northumberland & Durham)

1864 HAMPSHIRE Redbridge, February (Zoologist 1866: 279; 1877: 295)

1864 STRATHCLYDE Campbeltown, shot, no date (Zoologist 1864: 8961)

1873 NORTHAMPTONSHIRE Near Wellingborough, no date (Zoologist 1877: 252)

1873 NORTHUMBERLAND Near Ponteland, caught, August (Hancock 1874)

1875 SOMERSET Tarnock, near Badgworth, caught, 25 August (Zoologist 1877: 178, 227, 252, 339 & 379; 1879: 127-128)

1876: CUMBRIA Grange-in-Furness, Lancashire, shot, 25 September (Zoologist 1877: 228 & 381; 1887: 195)

1876 NORFOLK Tatterford, killed, 10 October (Zoologist 1877: 253 & 433)

1877 NORFOLK Hickling Broad, 7 September.

1877 NORFOLK Near Barton Broad, 1 November (Zoologist 1879: 458)

1877 PERTHSHIRE Erroll, shot, mid-September (Scottish Naturalist 1877: 37)

1879 NORFOLK Barton Broad, female shot, 23 August (Zoologist 1879: 458)

1881 MORAYSHIRE Clunie Hill, caught, 'summer', skin retained at Forres Museum (Cook 1992, Birds of Moray & Nairn)

1885 NORFOLK Horning, shot, 16 October (Zoologist 1885: 482)

1892 NORFOLK Stoke Ferry, shot, November (Zoologist 1893: 105 & 192)

1892 SUFFOLK Horringer, near Bury St Edmunds, shot, 10 January (Zoologist 1893: 428)

1892 WEST SUSSEX Westbrook, near Horsham, shot, 4 August (Zoologist 1893: 105)

1893 TAYSIDE Loch Leven, shot, 21 August (Field 22 September 1893: 454)

1894 SURREY Bury Hill, Dorking, September (Zoologist 1896: 475)

1896 HAMPSHIRE River Avon, killed, 15 September (Zoologist 1896: 434)

1897 LEICESTERSHIRE Near Uppingham, November (Field 5 March 1898: 358)

1897 NORFOLK Martham Broad, male shot, 23 June, with another shot on 3 July (Zoologist 1898: 111-113)

1897 NORFOLK Barton Broad, 21 July, 3 August & 11 September (Zoologist 1898: 111-113)

1897 SUFFOLK Wickham Market, late December (Field 8 January 1898: 60)

1898 LANCASHIRE Gisbourne Park, Ribbleside, early February (Field 5 February 1898: 180)

1898 NORFOLK Potter Heigham Sound, 14 June, presumed same, Barton Broad, shot, 14 July (Zoologist 1898: 122)

1899 NORFOLK Sutton, 21 October (Field 21 November 1903: 119)

1902 NORFOLK Hickling Broad, shot, 11 October (Zoologist 1903: 135)

1903 NORFOLK Stalham, 1 July (Zoologist 1904: 208)

1908 NORFOLK Horsey Mere, 3 June (Zoologist 1909: 127)

1908 NORFOLK Barton Broad, 7 August (Zoologist 1909: 127)

1913 NORFOLK Barton Broad, 13 October (Riviera, A History of the Birds of Norfolk)

1965 ABERDEENSHIRE Aberdeen, adult of Indian race, found dead, February.

1971 CHESHIRE Field Farm Pool, Sandbach, sub-adult of race porphyrio, 13 August to 26 September,

1978 NORFOLK Cley Marshes NWT, adult, probably of Asiatic race poliocephalus, 20 July to 19 September (presumed escape from Kelling Aviaries)

1978 NOTTINGHAMSHIRE Trentside river bank, Attenborough GP, individual probably of Indian race, 25 August to 14 October.

1998 CUMBRIA Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve, first-winter of indeterminate race, 23-27 October (Rare Birds 4: 41-44; Birding World 10: 463-466; British Birds 93: 442-445)

1998 CAMBRIDGESHIRE River Ouse at Earith, adult of seistanicus/caspius type, 11 July onwards (found to have escaped from Hamerton Wildlife Park, near Sawtry, during damage to an aviary) (Rare Birds 4: 288-289), survived at large on the River Ouse at Fen Drayton until at least 1 April 2006 and subsequently at Needingworth (on River Ouse near Pike and Eel) until 5th November 2006.

2010 CLWYD Saltney, adult female poliocephalus, about 8-31 July (found to be local escape)

Dillon & Ripley (Rails of the World) recognise at least 13 races of Purple Gallinule in the World (see distribution map in Dutch Birding 20: 18, figure 2) whilst George Sangster has recently published a paper suggesting that the Purple Gallinule complex be split into six different species (see Dutch Birding 20: 13-22). These races are as defined below -:

porphyrio: Northern Morocco, extreme NE Algeria, southern Portugal, southern Spain and Sardinia

madagascariensis: The Nile Delta (including Egypt and Israel) and Africa south of the Sahara from Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia south to the Cape, Pemba Island and Madagascar.

caspius: Shores of the Caspian Sea, NW Iran, NW Syria and central south Turkey

seistanicus: the southern Caspian coast, eastern Iran and adjacent region of Afghanistan'.

poliocephalus: Iraq, SW Iran, Pakistan, the Indian peninsula south to Cape Comorin, Sri Lanka, Assam, Bangladesh, Burma, northern Thailand, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

viridis: From Burma and the Malay Peninsula east through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China

indicus: Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, Sulawesi and Indonesia

melanopterus: Timor and Key Islands, the Molluccas, Ceram, Aru Islands, Vogelkop and NW Irian eastwards to the island of SE Papua New Guinea

chathamensis: endemic of Chatham Islands

melanotus: Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Kermadec Island

pulverientus: The Phillipines

pelewensis: The Palau Islands

samoensis: Islands of the western Pacific from the Admiralty Islands east of Samoa, Niue and south to New Caledonia, including New Britain, the Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz, New Hebrides and Fiji


The nominate form porphyrio is characterised by being purplish-blue above and on the wings, but brighter on the sides of the head, throat and upper breast.

The race madagascariensis is predominantly pure green on the upperparts with a slight wash of blue on the mantle, scapulars, rump and uppertail coverts. The head and neck are purpluish-blue, as are the wing-coverts.

The Indian form poliocephalus has pale grey lores and hind-crown, sides of head and sometimes throat and neck. The upperparts are purpluish-blue, the upperwings greenish-blue and flanks purple.

The race seistanicus differs from the above in its larger size, more stout bill, larger frontal shield and larger legs and feet. Otherwise the plumage is identical, with greyish head and throat and greenish-blue wings.


Purple Gallinule is fairly scarce in captivity with just 31 birds traced in November 1997 (Roger Wilkinson, Zoo Federation Register), with the largest group concerning ten birds at Letherton, Leeds (West Yorks). Most belong to the Indian form poliocephalus, with the odd madagascariensis also kept. Elsewhere in wider Europe, a further 50 birds was located in zoos.


Evans, L.G.R., January 1998, The Purple Gallinule in Cumbria, Rare Birds 4: 41-43

Evans, L.G.R., September 1998, An escaped Grey-headed Swamp-hen in Cambridgeshire, in Rare Birds 4: 288-289

Sangster, Purple Gallinule Taxonomy, in Dutch Birding 20: 13-22

Sunday 1 August 2010

SWAMPHEN retrieved......

The unusually confiding adult female GREY-HEADED SWAMPHEN that has spent the best part of a month in a roadside ditch NW of Chester was captured today by Saltney resident Robin Williams, after he claimed that it was one of four individuals he was keeping at his residence (two birds - a pair - originally escaped, the male returning after just a few days on the run). His story was verified and just goes to show what type of bird species are being kept privately. Thanks to Phil Woollen and others for the information (LGRE)