Thursday 30 September 2010


We must stop this government engaging in yet another damaging BADGER cull. The RSPCA are working flat out to oppose this operation - check out

Exciting Weather System Approaching the UK

The Shetland and Orkney islands look set to take a major landfall of both vagrant and more regular passage migrants, whilst the entire East Coast of Britain could also score heavily. Near gale force South-Easterly winds will continue from tomorrow until Saturday, coupled with heavy rain, with the leading edge of the weather much further north where presumably many birds will be forced

I am fully expecting a deluge of vagrants over the coming days - very exciting (and frustrating) times indeed (LGRE)

NUTCRACKERS and JAYS in Denmark on 29-30 September

Rolf Skagen has kindly informed of a minor late September movement of NUTCRACKERS in Denmark (18 birds), along with a massive arrival of Jays (800 today)

With MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKERS still on the move, I feel it is going to be a very busy and exciting October in the UK

Monday 27 September 2010

410 and increasing daily......

The total number of species now recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2010 has now increased to 410, with the following additions since my last update -:

1) ROSS'S SNOW GOOSE (3 arrivals with returning Pink-footed Geese)

2) EUROPEAN ROLLER (a long-staying juvenile within the strictly private gas terminal compound at Easington, East Yorkshire)

3) ALDER FLYCATCHER (on Blakeney Point, Norfolk)

4) AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT (two on the Northern Isles)

5) RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL (2 arrived simultaneously on Fair Isle on 27 Sept)

6) WHITE'S THRUSH (a typically mobile bird on south Shetland Mainland)

7) SWAINSON'S THRUSH (an early vagrant on Fair Isle)

8) PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (typical arrivals on Fair Isle)

9) RADDE'S WARBLER (a very early individual at Stiffkey, Norfolk, on 26 Sept)

10) INDIAN HOUSE CROW (a ship-assisted adult at Cobh town centre)

11) NORTHERN PARULA (a twitchable first-winter female on Tiree)

12) BOBOLINK (a brief first-year at Eglwys Nunnyd Reservoir, South Wales)

Sound Recordings of Empidonax Flycatchers

I have been looking at the discussion of the possible Alder Flycatcher in the U.K. I read that a few observers heard it call. Alder Flycatchers have a few different calls and not all are found on some of the CDs or tapes available.

I live in south Florida in the U.S. and get to see lots of Alder Flycatchers that show up about mid-August, to perhaps the first week of October. This seems to be the only place in Florida where we get a concentration of Alder Flycatchers for some strange reason. Anyway, I have recorded calls and songs of some of these birds, perhaps one of the calls is what was heard from the U.K. bird.

Here is a typical call:

Here is another typical call:

Here is a less typical call with the song, this may be the call that was heard on the U.K. bird, the call is first and then the song:

Hopefully with all of the good birders present, someone will get a recording or video with a recording of the U.K. bird.

I have seen all of the discussion back and forth as to what it is, and everyone has a different opinion as to what it is. Photographs are always hard to I.D. a tough bird like a Willow or Alder Flycatcher. I would agree that it does not look like a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, but again photographs can be deceiving.

Larry ManfrediHomestead, FloridaU.S.A.

A worn adult ALDER FLYCATCHER in Wisconsin

For what it's worth, here are a few unedited images of a worn adult Alder Flycatcher I took on my property in far northern Wisconsin, USA, on August 7 of this year. This species breeds here while Willow Flycatchers do not occur this far north in the state.

Ryan Brady, Washburn, Bayfield County, WI

More excellent images of the Blakeney Point Empid on Penny Clarke's website

Click here and scroll down to view. Penny was busy taking photographs of me after I collapsed with relief. As Penny and others have acknowledged on their personal blogs, this was perhaps the hardest twitch ever - equalling my 9-hour marathon descent on one leg from Mount Kazbegi in Georgia !

More Continental MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKERS on the move

Steven Wytema has informed of a MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER being seen this weekend at the wadden island of Ameland - the first for the Wadden Islands and the first for Friesland.This sighting follows some remarkable observations of MSW in Utrecht,Zuidholland and Overijssel (just next to border of Drenthe).This all perhaps indicates the species is expanding its breeding range.

Once again, this is a strong candidate for natural vagrancy on the British East Coast and always worth a double-take on those many migrant Great Spotted Woodpeckers we will see arriving over the next 6 weeks (Lee G R Evans)

Megas ongoing

On Blakeney Point (North Norfolk), the North American empidonax flycatcher remains for its third day this morning, favouring the two short Sycamores in the Plantation not far from the point end. This involves a boat trip from Morston Quay or an hour-plus hike out on hard shingle west from Cley Coastguards. Not for the frail or faint-hearted and certainly not in the conditions as experienced over the weekend - that there were no fatalities was a sheer miracle ! The identification is far from resolved and detailed discussions with experts in this field are ongoing. The bird differs in several respects from the ALDER FLYCATCHER that was present near Porthgwarra in early October 2008, not least in the wing formulae.

At the opposite end of the country, the island of Tiree (Argyll) continues to host a first-winter female NORTHERN PARULA for a third day, commuting between the gardens and the few trees on Carnan Mor, at the SW end of the island. The bird is showing exceptionally well on occasions and is a typically bright gem. Access is best arranged by travelling the thrice-weekly ferry from Oban (0900 hours departure and just £17 foot-passenger), staying overnight and returning midday the following day. Taxi costs £11 per one-way hire from the Tiree ferry terminal or you may prefer to walk the 6-mile distance each way - overnight bed & breakfast accommodation from £30).

Shetland's best offering over the weekend was a dazzling WHITE'S THRUSH - the first of the autumn and year but bang on cue - followed by another PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER on Fair Isle. Much more to follow in the next four weeks I am confident.....

Meanwhile, with clearing skies and much lighter ENE winds, large numbers of passerine migrants are befalling North Norfolk and elsewhere on the East Coast, particularly of thrushes, finches and warblers. It is only a matter of time before more rarities put their heads out of those Elders, Birches and sueda bushes. Yesterday saw both RADDE'S WARBLER and WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER appear, the latter enjoyed by over 300 enthusiasts

The exciting autumn continues apace.....

Detail on the Empid wing.......

Alan Lewis's close detail of the Blakeney Point empidonax wing formulae, carefully annotated by Brian Small

A nice take on the Blakeney Point twitch and another great selection of images - taken by Julian Bhalerao

Click on David Norgate's personal blog and scroll down

Confusing EMPID....

Another nice shot of the Blakeney Point empid - taken by Kevin DuRose

Sunday 26 September 2010

EMPIDONAX FLYCATCHER species in North Norfolk

Wow, this was some find by outstanding Norfolk birder James McCallum. In an attempt to locate a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll on Blakeney Point in the gale force NNW winds which were forecast, James braved the conditions and spent Saturday morning scouring the area closest to the point and in shelter. Little could he have known that he was going to stumble on this most of unexpected vagrants - the second ever North American empidonax flycatcher to reach Britain. After 45 minutes of pondering over an identification, news was eventually released advertising the possibility of four species - and then, with the arrival of the first of 260 or so twitchers, thoughts switched to it being a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher rather than Least, mainly because of the lemon yellow tones to the throat and underparts, the overall structure and the relatively indistinct eye-ring. Debate ensued throughout the afternoon and evening and after solicitation of approval from North America, ALDER FLYCATCHER became the more favoured option.
With the further arrival of another 600 or more observers today, the bird was eventually heard to call - a rather emphatic, anxious ''pwitt'' repeated call-note. Alan Lewis also provided photographic close-ups of the wing formulae.
Over the next few days, I shall gather together a portfolio of images but for now, here are two excellent shots taken by Jim Lawrence. In bright sunlight, the bird is yellowest on the throat, with a pale lemon wash to the underparts......

Thursday 23 September 2010

A very endearing WRYNECK and a particularly special one being on my home turf.....

Quite unexpectedly, the Bacomb Hill WRYNECK refused to take advantage of last night's calm weather and relatively clear skies and was still present this morning when Mick McQuaid paid homage to this very welcome visitor. It had to brave some very torrential rain and electric storms though but was still present at dusk this evening and once more roosted in its favoured Beech tree. This is its fourth day of residence. Martin Parr obtained another selection of great images today, which are uploaded above.

DIRECTIONS: Leave Wendover town centre westwards on the Ellesborough Road and just after passing the last few cottages on the right, park sensibly and courteously at the first bend in the road (at SP 864 074) (please note that there is only room for five cars to park here, so if full, there is a further parking area 70 yards further east). Take the chalk track towards the Bacombe Hill Nature Reserve and opt for the steeper left hand track which takes you to the tumulus after a hefty 250 yard uphill climb. The Wryneck is favouring the tumuli, where generally it affords viewing at less than 15 yards range (SP 862 072)

Wednesday 22 September 2010

...And yet another ASIATIC BROWN FLYCATCHER...

Following on from the SWAINSON'S THRUSH on Fair Isle of last week, today saw more mega's on Shetland today - in the form of the first PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER of the autumn on Fair Isle and an ASIATIC BROWN FLYCATCHER at Sumburgh Head (south Shetland Mainland). The latter was discovered by the foursome of the moment - including one hailing from Ireland. Almost immediately after arriving on Shetland they stumbled upon a RIVER WARBLER at Quendale Mill..........

Addendum: Photographs subsequently appeared of the ''Brown Flycatcher''. It was actually a misidetified first-winter SPOTTED FLYCATCHER........

Monday 20 September 2010

More Mega's roll in

Quite unexpectedly, a local MEGA - a North American BOBOLINK - was discovered at Eglwys Nunnydd Reservoir (West Glamorgan) this afternoon, frequenting the grassy area east of the gate at the east end of the reservoir. Despite skulking mostly out of view on the ground, 35-40 observers managed views of the bird before it roosted just after 1915 hours.

In the North East of England, an adult SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER was discovered this evening on the pool to the SE of Greatham Creek, Teesmouth (Cleveland), about 150 yards east of the main coast road. Park in the designated car park 140 yards south of Greatham Bridge.

In the Northern Isles, an AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT was discovered on Fair Isle today, with a RIVER WARBLER on south Shetland mainland at Quendale Burn and a continuing flush of very early first-year HORNEMANN'S ARCTIC REDPOLLS.

Friday 17 September 2010

County Cork INDIAN HOUSE CROW - LGRE's first new bird of 2010 and Garry Bagnell's 500th

The Cobh HOUSE CROW feeding on bacon kind courtesy of Papa John's and roosting on its favoured section of guttering.
Garry Bagnell (middle) celebrating his 500th bird in Britain and Ireland with LGRE and Chris Heard

Following on from my previous statements made about the veracity and 'countability' of the Cobh Harbour INDIAN HOUSE CROW (Corvus splendens), the Dutch Rare Birds Committee also make special 'exception' for this species. Arnoud B van den Berg writes ''Although the CDNA does not accept records of ship-assisted birds, House Crow is the (only) exception; in this species, ship-assisted passage is considered a normal way of dispersion (Dutch Birding 17: 256-257, 1995)''

I must also add that a similar criterion has been applied to an assortment of AFRICAN PIED CROW (Corvus albus) records in Europe, where individuals of this species have been discovered close to ports.

(Detailed Directions)

Driving from the Rosslare Harbour in County Wexford, keep on the N25 all of the way signposted towards Cork. This road is vastly improved with an excellent new bypass around Waterford and it should take just over two hours to reach the turn-off to Cobh just west of Midleton. Take the R624 south on to the Great Island, remembering to bear right after the humpback bridge. This eventually brings you in to Cobh proper and continue around until you reach the town centre and the main Westbourne Terrace and Lusitania monument. Parking is very limited here and by special disc and the House Crow itself can be easily located in the vicinity of the Papa Johns restaurant, currently being refurbished. It favours the drain pipe cover above and the sheltered rim and commutes between there and the grass adjacent to the toilet block on the harbour front. It is frequently vocal and does mimic Jackdaws.

It represents the second record for IRELAND following the first European record at Dunmore East and elsewhere (County Waterford) from 3 November 1974 until at least December 1976 (Birding World 7: 258; Dutch Birding 18: 8-9; Evans 1990, Rare Birds in Britain and Ireland, page 442 and 1974/75 Waterford Bird Report). Further reports suggest it was still alive in 1980 (per Harry Hussey)

Thursday 16 September 2010

Shame of new coalition government - another round of BADGER culling

I was warned from certain quarters that this would happen if conservatives got back in power but today I am reeling from the news that the coalition plans to allow yet another Badger cull to take place - on the bizarre pretext that the charming and most beloved mammal is spreading tuberculosis amongst cattle. This nonsense has been expensively proven time and time again to be erroneous - scientists have painstakingly provided the evidence that it isn't true. Badgers do NOT occur on the Isle of Man but cattle there frequently contract the disease.


Lee G R Evans

(with thanks to Queen guitarist Brian May for his heartfelt words of support)

Sunday 12 September 2010

.......And some more video footage (Cobh HOUSE CROW)

A second video clip provided by Jim Wilson which is of better quality than the first.


The Cobh INDIAN HOUSE CROW photographed today by the finder Jim Wilson. In Holland, where House Crows have been present for over 10 years, the birds are being captured and repatriated in a captive environment. They can prove to be detrimental to local bird populations.

More on the HOUSE CROW......

Youtube footage...distant but the call can be heard.

Mark Carmody--

My first Book: Shorebirds of Ireland (
General Photos:


Mark Carmody has very kindly provided me with the following information -

''Lee, The INDIAN HOUSE CROW was seen today in Cobh, County Cork, by Jim Wilson, the original finder who first glimpsed the bird without binoculars eight days ago. The bird was photographed. When entering Great Island, over a small humpback bridge, take theright turn and follow this road in for approx. 6km. You will pass a nowredundant dockyard on your right and further up the road a garage on yourleft. Follow the road through a cross-roads and keep on this road. You willsee the sea on your right as you enter into Cobh town front. The firstsquare on your left with a large monument is where the bird has been seen.It is very vocal and has been seen sitting on the window sills of thebuildings there. The town is disc parking and the traffic warden is usuallypatrolling. Discs can be purchased in the shops close to this square.Best Regards, Mark''

Under UK400 Club rules relating to ship-assisted Vagrants, this individual is FULLY ACCEPTABLE, with special license given to this species due to its frequent utilisation of vessels

Thursday 2 September 2010


This was one of at least 70 Lapland Buntings that arrived on the Brough of Birsay, NW Orkney, this week, picked up dead by Phil Barnett and photographed by Paul Higson. Biometrics certainly suggested a first-year female from Greenland, with a wing length of 92.
An unprecedented arrival of LAPLAND BUNTINGS (for August and early September) is currently taking place with huge numbers arriving in Iceland and in the Northern Isles of Scotland. The highest count so far is that of over 180 birds on Fair Isle but many sites are now into treble figures and the total number displaced must be in the many thousands.

The arrival of these birds followed a very deep Atlantic depression that tracked over Greenland last week and this may have had some influence over their displacement. It is likely that they are of West and East Greenland origin but the separation of this form is highly marginal and in reality, Lapland Buntings are most likely a clinal species, like several Northwestern Redpoll types. The reason for this irruption is not fully understood but may relate to a bumper breeding season following a late spring arrival. Generally speaking, tundra nesting species are having a hard time, with yet another Lemming failure year affecting the feeding activities of predators such as Foxes, Long-tailed Skuas and Northern Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, with baby birds (particularly waders) being targeted. However, conversely Voles were particularly numerous this summer in the taiga forests, so perhaps any damage will be limited.

It is expected that many of these Lapland Buntings will migrate further south, so locations such as Spurn Point, Gibraltar Point, Blakeney Point and Landguard Point may well see some impressive passage numbers. I expect Scilly will also receive some exceptional numbers.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

EASTERN OLLY - 391 for year

With the further addition of 10 new species since my last update in July, the total number of species now recorded in 2010 in combined British and Irish land, air and sea space has now risen to 391 species.

The new additions are as follows -:

RED-NECKED STINT (a crippling adult in summer plumage at Ferrybridge, Weymouth)

SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER (a well-twitched adult on the River Humber at Kilnsea, East Yorks)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (a briefly seen very early individual in County Cork)

CITRINE WAGTAIL (a wave of juveniles/first-winters this past week)

AQUATIC WARBLER (about 10 so far, none of which have been twitchable)

EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER (today's bird at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire)

BOOTED WARBLER (late afternoon bird on Blakeney Point, Norfolk)

SYKES'S BOOTED WARBLER (two individuals, with singles on Shetland and in Northumberland, the latter yielding the first lifer of the year for many British twitchers)

LESSER GREY SHRIKE (three-dayer in Kelling area, North Norfolk)

BLACK-HEADED BUNTING (brief male in Scottish Highland)

Easterly winds hotting things up

This afternoon, an EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER (elaeica) is showing very well in the warm afternoon sunshine in the hedgerow just beyond the Old Fall Plantation on the south side of Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) - the first twitchable individual to be recorded in that county. Although initially elusive when Craig Thomas and others first found it, it has more recently started to perform well and has been less skulking.

VIEWING INSTRUCTIONS: Park in the specially designated stubble field car park on the north side of the main access road to Flamborough Head (Lighthouse Road) just west of Old Fall Hedge and then follow the footpath south to the plantation and just beyond.

Also in Yorkshire, the apparent first-winter COLLARED FLYCATCHER remains at Spurn Point for a third day, showing occasionally just north of The Warren in bushes between Posts 11 & 12.and a COMMON ROSEFINCH is there at the south end of the sheep field by the Heligoland Trap. Up to 5 BARRED WARBLERS have been seen in the area in recent days.

The other big talking point is the unprecedented August arrival of LAPLAND BUNTINGS in Britain, with birds of unknown origin flooding into the Northern Isles, including an incredible 160+ on Fair Isle, 120 on North Ronaldsay (Orkney), 74 at the Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and up to 40 on the Brough of Birsay (NW Orkney Mainland).

Elsewhere in the drift migrant camp, we have RED-BACKED SHRIKES at Bamburgh Castle (Northumberland), Waxham Sands Holiday Camp (Norfolk), Cliffe Pools RSPB (North Kent) and at Biggleswade Common (Beds), with BARRED WARBLERS on Blakeney Point (Norfolk), in Kilnsea Churchyard (East Yorks), an ICTERINE WARBLER remaining at Walsey Hills, Cley (Norfolk) and WRYNECKS at Dungeness (Kent), Benacre Sluice (Suffolk), Middlebere Heath (Dorset), Tidmoor Cove, The Fleet (Dorset) and at Wall Common, Steart (Somerset) (now dead). Single GREENISH WARBLERS have recently been at St Mary's Island (Northumberland) and East Hills, Wells (Norfolk) and a GREATER SHORT-TOED LARK on Blakeney Point.

In the West Country, Cornwall has recorded HOOPOE at the south end of The Lizard, 2 DOTTEREL at Porthgwarra, whilst on the Isles of Scilly, a CITRINE WAGTAIL is today on the Big Pool on St Agnes, a MELODIOUS WARBLER on Bryher (with another on St Mary's at Harry's Walls), MONTAGU'S HARRIER on Tresco

The juvenile RED-NECKED PHALAROPE remains at Elmley Marshes RSPB (North Kent), whilst a juvenile WHISKERED TERN that spent nearly 5 weeks in Cleveland and was at Venus Pool in Salop on Sunday is now at Rutland Water (Leics) for its second day (on Lagoon III and visible from Gadwall Hide)

In Scotland, the adult COMMON CRANE remains at Montrose basin (Angus) whilst the juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER continues at John Muir Country Park at Tyninghame Haven (Lothian).

1-2 GREAT WHITE EGRETS continue to be seen at Meare Heath NR, Shapwick (Somerset), with another long-stayer at Denge Marsh (East Kent), whilst the two adult WHITE STORKS that arrived near Sutton Bingham Reservoir (Somerset) yesterday evening remained in the area until 1000 hours this morning before flying high north when the temperature heated up.

The weather conditions have been conducive to both Common and EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARD arrivals, with large numbers of the former and the first few dark morph juveniles of the latter.

In IRELAND, there is a generous crop of Spanish-born juvenile GLOSSY IBISES scattered about, a BARRED WARBLER on Tory Island (Co. Donegal), the rather scruffy first-year AMERICAN HERRING GULL at Blennerville (Co. Kerry), the resident SNOWY OWL and AMERICAN BLACK DUCK in County Mayo and good numbers of arriving LAPLAND BUNTINGS.