Friday, 31 December 2010

Year comes to a close

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 27 December 2010

Another garden mega

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

Saturday, 25 December 2010

And now an AMERICAN ROBIN in County Kerry

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

Sunday, 19 December 2010

AMERICAN ROBIN in County Sligo (Ireland)

The story as I know it is:

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

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

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

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

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

The maps are at

(contributed by Mícheál Casey)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Huge WAXWING gathering in East Kent

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

Monday, 13 December 2010

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

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

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

Best wishes

Lee Evans

WAXWINGS today in Belfast City Centre

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

Aberdeen WAXWINGS getting around

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

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Frozen continent forces young SEA EAGLE to move west

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Vulnerable and rare shark targeted in Egypt after 5 attacks

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

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

Monday, 6 December 2010

Dark-hooded COMMON GULL resembling Laughing Gull

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

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The south experiences a thaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Identification of Lesser and Mealy Redpolls

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

Click on the Download link at the website at

ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE in California - first image