Saturday 26 February 2011

The WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE in the Newnham and Old Basing area of North Hampshire

The juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE did a fine performance this afternoon, after being inadvertently flushed from its roost tree by one of the farmers in his landrover at 1300 hours. At around 1527 hours, the bird appeared from the Newnham direction and drifted north as far as Tylney Hall, being constantly pursued by 3 Rooks and often by up to 6 Common Buzzards. It was enormous by comparison but seemed unperturbed by any of their harassment. After some while of soaring, it started to flap westwards and approached as far as the Lyde River valley and then went south over the road and Deeplands Farm and disappeared behind the trees of Hodd's Wood at 1544 hours.

The Blackland's Farm estate is surprisingly alive with raptors, with at least 6 RED KITES noted, easily 10 different Common Buzzards and several Common Kestrels, whilst 85 Fieldfare flew NE and a charm of over 30 Goldfinches was by the farm reservoir. Most intriguing was the gibbet of 20 or so hanging Common Magpies adjacent to where we were all observing from - I thought this activity was now banished from our countryside

The bank of the farm reservoir just inside the entrance to Blackland's Farm offers would-be observers an excellent panoramic view, allowing easy location of the eagle once airborne. The bend at Deepland's Farm offers the opportunity of it flying over one's head but you are much more restricted on viewing. An outstanding bird and well done to the farmer in recognising it
ALAN HAYDEN obtained the exceptional images above

Good Birding Always

Lee Evans

Friday 25 February 2011

Spaces on EGYPT trip

I have two places on an EGYPT tour from 28 March to 4 April - taking in specialities such as Goliath Heron, Crab Plover, Three-banded Plover and the newly discovered African Mourning Dove - please email me for details (

Also places still available on an Azores trip in May and Canary Islands trip in July

Calling time at 33

Emma Cockburn at 33 The Leys emailed me this evening to say a very big thankyou to all that have donated to Daisy's Fund - £650 raised so far - but also to say that this weekend is the FINAL viewing opportunity from the rear of her garden. There will be no access after this. For many residents, as predicted, the novelty has worn off now and some are becoming quite aggravated

Steve will once again be allowing access to 41 tomorrow - dove prevailing

Lee Evans

Thursday 24 February 2011

First SAND MARTINS and NORTHERN WHEATEARS arrive as temperatures increase from the South

With temperatures in the south of Britain reaching 15 degrees centigrade today, it was no surprise that the first few migrants started to trickle in, with two SAND MARTINS arriving, as well as 3-4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS; an early STONE CURLEW was also recorded in Hampshire. With these new additions, the tally for species recorded in Britain and Ireland combined this year reaches 257.

On the rarity front, the first-winter ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE is still surviving in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, 20 miles to the west of Oxford, still visiting gardens of The Leys. To increase the Daisy Fund, Emma and Jebs are still welcoming birders to the rear of their garden at 33, where views of the bird can be regularly obtained, especially when it has had its feed at 41. Please donate £5 to this very worthy cause in return for such hospitality. Later in the morning, the bird usually relocates to the Ash trees on the opposite side of the road, where it can be observed roosting from the lane at the bottom of The Leys.

In Hampshire, the juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE that wintered on the South Coast in the New Milton area has now staged on its return migration to eastern Europe in the Basingstoke area, being seen several times today about a mile NE of Old Basing feeding on the ground in a field north of the minor road to Newnham, just west of the track to Blacklands Farm at SU 680 540 (Keith Betton, John Clark, et al). It was also seen circling with Common Buzzards over Tylney Hall late morning

A beautiful male SCANDINAVIAN ARCTIC REDPOLL (form exilipes) is present with over 70 Mealy Redpolls at Allerthorpe Common YWT (East Yorks) for at least its third day, whilst large numbers of the latter continue to be seen, particularly in the north of Britain.

An adult BONAPARTE'S GULL continues to show well at the river mouth in Ligwy Bay, Traeth (Anglesey) whilst the near-adult apparent SLATY-BACKED GULL was reported again from Rainham Landfill (Essex) around lunchtime.

The first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER commuted between Lodmoor Reserve and Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset) today, whilst in West Cornwall, the adult PACIFIC DIVER remains offshore at Long Rock, Marazion.

A drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK of unknown origin is at Horseshoe Point on Oulton Broad, Lowestoft (Suffolk), whilst the drake AMERICAN WIGEON continues with Eurasian Wigeon on the Windrush Valley reserve at Rushy Common, just SE of Witney (Oxfordshire). LESSER SCAUPS include an adult drake at Dozmary Pool, Bodmin Moor (Cornwall) and the first-winter female on the Rushy Pen at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucs).

In North Lincolnshire, the juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD is still showing well on fenceposts west of the cement factory at South Ferriby, whilst further south in North Norfolk, 3 birds remain in the Overy Marshes and Gun Hill area. Nearby, the juvenile Hen Harrier showing characteristics of the Nearctic form is still to be found over the saltmarsh just east of Thornham Harbour, with another seen again on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) in recent days, whilst elsewhere in the county, the 10 SHORE LARKS remain on Cley Beach, the first-year SPOONBILL on North Scrape, Cley, and up to 12 Lapland Buntings at Weybourne. In North Kent, the 3 SHORE LARKS remain on the beach east of Reculver Towers.

The BLACK-THROATED DIVER remains on the Pylon Pool at Willington GP (Derbyshire), with a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER still nearby at Carsington Water, whilst two GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS were again on the South Basin at Staines Reservoirs (Surrey). Two LONG-TAILED DUCKS are still present on the Sailing Pit at Barton-upon-Humber (North Lincs) with a RED-NECKED GREBE still on the Cove Farm GP at Westwoodside (North Lincs).

The CATTLE EGRET continues in fields by the River Taw at New Bridge (North Devon) north of the A377 at SS 568 285, as does the bird on the Fowey at St Winnow (Cornwall), whilst the 6 GREAT WHITE EGRETS continue at the Shapwick Heath NNR (Somerset). Another GREAT WHITE EGRET was again at Kirkby-on-Bain GP (Lincs) this morning, with another long-stayer on Worth Marshes at Sandwich Bay (East Kent).

There are still large numbers of EURASIAN BITTERNS and BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS around, as well as MEALY REDPOLLS in the north, whilst immature ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS on the move are appearing at new sites.

Very little news received from IRELAND this week although negative from Rossaveel where the juvenile Thayer's Gull was looked for and not seen. The CENTRAL ASIAN LESSER WHITETHROAT continues to visit the fat balls at The Priory gardens in Drogheda (County Louth), with all three adult RING-BILLED GULLS again on the slipway at Nimmo's Pier, Galway Harbour (County Galway).

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Ray Turley cremation

Ray's cremation took place in Goa shortly after he died, with 30 or so birders attending the hastily arranged service (many from Britain, including Tom Tams, Steve Rock, Tim Sexton, Ian Lawrie and Roger Davies). All had been with Ray and Janet at Backwoods Camp and Tom and others had been celebrating with Ray in to the late hours of 14 February after they had successfully tracked down both Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher and Common Hawk Cuckoo - two species Ray had never seen before. It was in the early hours of 15 February that Ray suffered the fatal heart attack. Tim's wife Gail supported Janet throughout the entire ordeal and was a tremendous rock to fall on.

Janet has now returned to Dungeness and it is hoped some sort of memorial will be devoted to Ray in the Observatory Area. Although the Dungeness birding fraternity held a small service for Ray just after news was received, I do not know at present whether Janet intends to hold a more general dedication to his life. If that is her wish, then I will broadcast any details as and when (Lee Evans)

Monday 21 February 2011

Spaces on my combined tour of Turkey and Georgia

I have a few limited spaces on my tour of Eastern Turkey and Georgia from 30 April to 11 May 2011 - please email me on for more details

Yet more sad news

If losing Ray Turley was not enough, further devastating news came when I heard that Ian Prophet had also died last week - on Tuesday. Like Ray, Ian will be very well known on twitching circles, and although he was a very quiet and unassuming kind of guy, he was extremely well liked.

Ian was originally from Somerset and had spent time living in both Wiltshire and Dorset during his career. For over 20 years he lived in Poole, where he was to be a very regular feature of the 'Portland scene'. Like many of us, he also loved Scilly, and after he became diagnosed with cancer in 2008, he relocated to Cornwall and spent the last couple of years birding frenetically in that county.

Ian battled with his illness until the bitter end. Our last meeting was in October of last year, when I combined a visit to both Scilly and West Cornwall - he was his typical cheerful self despite his difficulties. A real birding gentleman lost.....

Please send any tributes to Ian to myself at

Lee Evans

Pale SLATY-BACKED GULLS or hybrids in Japan


An interesting selection of images, either depicting pure but very pale Slaty-backed Gulls or individuals influenced by Vega Gull or Glaucous-winged Gull.

Sunday 20 February 2011

SLATY-BACKED GULL well and truly unblocked - and DOVE lives on to see in another week

After remaining incredibly elusive and erratic, gull expert Steve Arlow cannot keep away from Essex's SLATY-BACKED GULL now, relocating it once again on Saturday at Pitsea Landfill and obtaining yet more exceptional images (see top three above).
At the opposite end of Ireland, Dermot Breen photographed this juvenile THAYER'S GULL at Rossaveel in County Galway.
In Essex, the near-adult SLATY-BACKED GULL has been appearing with much more frequency than before, today unusually visiting a closed tip at Rainham from mid-morning. It soon lost interest in the tip and roosted on Wennington Marsh with other large gulls before moving to the reserve Target Pools to wash and bathe. It returned to the tip just after 1300 hours and remained in the area until 1454 hours at which time it flew east along the River Thames. In recent days, it has also visited the strictly private Pitsea Landfill again, where it loafed for a short while later in the Wat Tyler Country Park roost. The bird has now been successfully twitched by in excess of 1,800 birders.

Meanwhile, the first-winter ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE was still to be found in Chipping Norton (Oxfordshire) today, ranging the gardens in the vicinity of The Leys and roosting in the treeline just west of the houses best viewed from Lord Piece Road or the lane just along from Jewson.

Please park sensibly and courteously and support the community by donating £5 towards the Daisy Fund, either by dropping the money through the letterbox or by sending a cheque to Emma Cockburn, 33 The Leys, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Alternatively, help Birdlife Malta put in position 30 volunteers this year in an effort to safeguard the dramatically declining European Turtle Dove - full details of pledge support on my main UK400Club blog.

The adult winter PACIFIC DIVER remains distantly off Penzance Harbour (West Cornwall), moving between the Jubilee Pool area and the Long Rock beach car park

Two CATTLE EGRETS continue to be seen in the vicinity of Perry Farm House, between Alderholt and Ashford in Dorset; park on the B3078 and take the footpath west for about 200 yards to view north from the metal gate. Also, in West Cornwall, a single CATTLE EGRET continues to be seen on the Fowey Peninsular, just NE of St Winnow church, with another in North Devon just downstream of New Bridge.. All six GREAT WHITE EGRETS roosted at Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset) this evening, being visible from the first viewing platform at dusk.

A drake AMERICAN WIGEON remains with 98 Eurasian Wigeon at the new Windrush Valley reserve at Rushy Common (Oxfordshire), situated between Stanton Harcourt and WitneyThe adult female SURF SCOTER remains off Dawlish Warren (South Devon), with a long-staying female COMMON EIDER still to be seen at Lockwood Reservoir, Walthamstow (London).

The first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER that was showing ludicrously well at Poole Park (Dorset) has now moved back to Lodmoor NR 20 miles to the west, where it can be viewed from the Perimeter Trail and screens overlooking the lagoons.

In North Norfolk, the juvenile Hen Harrier showing characteristics of the Nearctic form hudsonicus continues at Thornham Harbour, whilst the juvenile seen on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) a week or so ago reappeared today with a male Hen Harrier in the Loch Barvas area. At least four ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS remain along the North Norfolk coast, feeding by day as far west as Scolt Head and then roosting in the secluded plantation on East Hills, Wells-next-the-Sea, overnight, whilst the long-staying juvenile continues to be seen at South Ferriby on the Humber (North Lincs).

There was an unusual inland movement of LITTLE GULLS today and yesterday, with 8 birds at Port Meadow, Oxford, on Saturday being followed by two adults at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) early this morning and two more on the River Thames at Belvedere (London),

In West Cornwall, the first-winter ROSE-COLOURED STARLING continues to visit the garden feeders and birdtables at the Weethes Cottages in Penalverne District, West Penzance, whilst at the feeding station at Rainton Meadows DWT (County Durham), two very well-marked SCANDINAVIAN ARCTIC REDPOLLS continue to visit with up to 85 Mealy Redpolls.

The juvenile BLACK-THROATED DIVER continues to show well on the Pylon Pool at Willington GP (Derbyshire), where nearby a herd of 16 BEWICK'S SWANS remains in the field by the A5132 at Egginton, just west of the A38 bridge. Two more of the latter were an exceptional record on Shetland, making landfall on the Loch of Hillwell in the south of the archipelago. Three GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS are still wintering on Carsington Water (Derbyshire), where today they could all be seen from Lane End Hide, whilst at King George VI Reservoir in Surrey (permit access only), two GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS remain, as well as the VELVET SCOTER, RED-NECKED GREBE and SLAVONIAN GREBE. Another RED-NECKED GREBE is inland at Westwoodside GP in Lincolnshire, on the pit just NW of the village

Up to 10 HAWFINCHES are visiting feeders with other birds in the Wyre Forest (Worcs), providing visitors with amazing views at the Lodge Hill Farm feeding station; view sensibly from the bridge to avoid unnecessary disturbance and to allow the birds to settle.


The first-winter AMERICAN COOT is still to be found on Termoncarragh Lake, on the Mullet Penionsula (Co. Mayo), whilst in County Galway, Dermot Breen and others have been studying and photographing a superb juvenile THAYER'S GULL which has been present in Rossaveel Harbour and Fish Farm for the past three days. A new first-winter BONAPARTE'S GULL was identified in Sligo at the Quay Street car park, whilst a juvenile KUMLIEN'S GULL remains at the same location..

The RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE that has spent all winter with Barnacle Geese was seen again this morning in the Raghley area(Co. Sligo) whilst the adult female BLUE-WINGED TEAL remains with Shoveler south of the causeway at North Bull Island (Co. Dublin).

The drake RING-NECKED DUCK remains on Carrowmore Lake (Co. Mayo) whilst two drake NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEALS were seen at tacumshin Lake (Co. Wexford) today

RING-BILLED GULLS include two adults at Nimmo's Pier, Galway Harbour (Co. Galway) and in Sligo Harbour (Co. Sligo), and singles at Cuskinney Marsh, Cobh (Co. Cork) and O'Callaghan's Strand in Limerick (Co. Limerick), whilst the adult BONAPARTE'S GULL was today back in the vicinity of the Pilot Camber in Cobh Harbour (Co. Cork). A few more GLAUCOUS GULLS than of late are being discovered, with two birds in Youghal (Co. Cork).

The INDIAN HOUSE CROW remains in Cobh Town Centre (Co. Cork) whilst in County Louth, the CENTRAL ASIAN LESSER WHITETHROAT continues to visit bird feeders at The Priory in Drogheda. Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork) recorded its first EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOW of the year today.

Friday 18 February 2011

Birdlife Malta - Spring Watch 10-24 April 2011

Those visiting the Chipping Norton Oriental Turtle Dove (photographed above by local birder Pete Barker) are indirectly helping this birds close relative - the European Turtle Dove. Your donation of £5 will go a long way in helping financing over 30 'spotters' this spring

10-24 April 2011

Europe's birds will soon be returning from their wintering grounds. Many will fly over MALTA, facing a real threat of persecution from illegal hunting and trapping.

To counter these illegalities, Birdlife Malta will be this year again running its annual conservation camp ''Spring Watch'' between 10-24 April. The camp will monitor bird migration, maintain a strong presence in the countryside to deter the illegal killing and trapping of wild birds, and report illegalities to the local police.

The European Court of Justice in 2009 ruled that Malta breached the Birds Directive by opening a spring hunting season from 2004 to 2007. However, the Maltese government, succumbing to pressure from the hunting lobby, opened a 6-day hunting season in 2010 and adopted legislation making longer future seasons with larger bag counts possible.

The Commission last October renewed legal action against Malta over spring hunting, to which Malta's Prime Minister reacted by stating that Malta is 'prepared to go all the way' for an open spring hunting season - even if this means the country must pay fines.

Birdlife Malta intends to monitor and document the extent and impact of spring hunting through Spring Watch - an important part of the campaign against this unsustainable and illegal practise.

To find out how you can help - please visit or contact

Chipping Norton ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE - weekend directive

The ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE put in a very good showing this morning, flying in on cue at 41 The Leys at 0740 hours and then showing on and off for the next two hours. Steve and Sharon Akers very kindly extended their hospitality and over a period of an hour or more, we managed to get 170 birders through - many of whom enjoyed excellent views of the bird on the grass and on the birdtable. It then became more mobile and was better viewed from the rear garden of number 31, often in the hedgerow, in the Apple trees and in the tall Ash trees. Once again, I am indebted to Emma and Jebs Cockburn for allowing me to arrange further access into their property. After this, the bird flew across the road and roosted in a favoured Ash tree to the west of the houses and sat there for at least two hours resting and preening - a further 80 or so late arrivals saw it here.


Steve and Sharon have very kindly agreed to open up their living room for one final day and from 0730 hours will be allowing access. Emma & Jebs have also agreed to allow access and we will try to accomodate everyone that intends to visit. Please note that this will be the LAST DAY OF ACCESS and the residents have requested that NOBODY turns up on Sunday.


Access is granted on condition of donating £5 to charity - to Birdlife Malta in Steve's case and for young Daisy who is seriously ill for the Cockburn Family.

At ALL times, please be courteous and respectful to all of the residents and try not to block the road too much, particularly when the bird chooses to roost on the opposite side of the road

Many, many thanks

Lee Evans

Wednesday 16 February 2011


Ewan Urquhart obtained this fantastic selection of images of Chipping Norton's star turn as it fed on one of the small lawns of The Leys

SLATY-BACKED GULL reappears at Rainham Marsh RSPB and Landfill whilst Oxfordshire ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE remains ever elusive

Andy Tweed relocated the near-adult SLATY-BACKED GULL at Rainham Landfill Site this afternoon (at 1320 hours) but almost immediately one of the local Peregrines moved in and scattered the large number of gulls present. Pete Merchant then found it again at around 1410 before it then moved over to Wennington Marsh and sat with the vast number of gulls gathering there to rest and preen. It finally moved over to the Target Pools on the RSPB reserve, where it remained on view until 1640 hours, at which time it flew east. With a total period of stay of 200 minutes, it was no surprise that just over 70 birders connected...

Meanwhile in Oxfordshire, the first-winter ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE remained for its fifth day in The Leys, Chipping Norton, initially visiting the favoured garden of number 41 for a period of ten minutes to 0830 and then an array of different gardens up until mid-afternoon. It remained incredibly mobile and elusive throughout, tending to roost for long periods in Ash trees and thick hedgerows

Access to gardens is at the total discretion of residents

...And more condolescences from close friends Anna and Charles, Chris Abram and the Hamiltonss

Ray will be remembered for a long time as a truely inspirational birder. He did not keep his enthusiasm and enjoyment to himself, he shared it with all of us. He was optimistic, upbeat, knowledgable, kind and very very funny. Many a newcomer to the hobby will have gone home from a day at Dungeness inspired and encouraged because Ray had engaged them in conversation and explained things to them. As a friend he was warm, generous and interested, as a husband utterly devoted.

We will remember some classic often hilarious moments, a hot rum and coffee offered from his flask on a freezing wet Scilly sea watch, a day the three of us spent trapped on Bryher in torrential rain with just a snow bunting for company, and a moment others may remember when during one of the many sea watches shared at Dungeness a glorious close flock of poms had a particularly well endowed huge individual fourth in line. " Sabrina " Ray called out, and Sabrina flew on.

We were so privileged to be two of his many friends (Anna and Charles)

''I am still coming to terms with the tragic news that Ray is no longer with us. Annie and I will miss him more than words can express having been his friend since 1976. He was, as others have pointed out, a quite unique person, a caring and very loyal friend and a loving, dedicated husband. His sense of humour was fantastic. One story I’ll share with you. He used to travel frequently across to France to buy wine. Once he told me that when he entertained he started off by giving his guests the 50p stuff. It was only after the first bottle that he started on the cheaper stuff! Dungeness will truly never be the same again and we are devastated for Janet and can’t imagine what she must be going through as I write this. However, I’m sure that she will be comforted by the support and love of her many friends when she returns (Chris Abrams, Sharrington, Norfolk)

Hello Lee. We would like to add our sincere condolences to Janet for the terrible loss of Ray. We have many happy memories of Ray on Scilly and also at Dungeness. Whenever we went to Dunge we would always pop round for tea and cakes with Janet and Ray, or even a beer or two in the garden if the sun was shining! Ray and Janet always made us so welcome and we would admire Ray's paintings as well as his models (of which we have 4 or 5, as well as earrings). Our only sighting of a Camberwell Beauty butterfly in the UK was on the white buddleia in Ray's garden. Ray was always happy to share his knowledge of local birds and will be sorely missed by all who visit Dungeness. It was a sad day when he gave up visiting Scilly in October as he was always ready to impart information on his CB radio. We're sure many people have very fond memories of Ray and will also miss his presence seawatching and trying to point out the Purple Herons. (Chris and John Hamilton)

Tuesday 15 February 2011

.......And more

I only met Ray Turley on a few occasions, mostly at Dunge of course and although he didn't know me from Adam he was instantly approachable, extremely helpful, contagiously enthusiastic and of course exceptionally knowledgeable.

I have two memories of him; once at Walland Marsh where he went out of his way (some 40 minutes!) to find me some Tree Sparrows simply because I commented I was interested in seeing some that day, and on the last occasion when we tried to relocate Glossy Ibis near the ARC pit. On this occasion Ray took me on a wondrously winding route across shingle and scrub, through brambles and even across the sleepers of the railway line, all the time commenting how overgrown it had become since his last visit! We never did find the birds but it didn't matter somehow, Ray was so at ease that day and made such pleasant and entertaining company I couldn't have asked for a better afternoon (Adam Whitehouse, Kent)

Sveta and I were in Goa leading a tour and Ray & Janet were in the same block as us at the Biera Mar. They were in Goa for 5 weeks and we regularly met and exchanged quite a bit of information before saying our goodbyes as we headed to Backwoods Camp. Just before we left, Ray had been unwell but seemed to be on the road to recovery so I was totally shocked to hear this devastating news. Having known Ray & Janet for nearly 30 years and enjoyed their company on Scilly in the 80's, this is a huge loss to the birding fraternity in the UK and my thoughts are with Janet at this difficult time (Vaughan & Svetlana Ashby, Birdfinders)

Lee, we were shocked to read your posting last night. Tony originally knew Ray from the 1960s Dungeness days. Over the years we had some lively chats with him when we were all on the Isles of Scilly. We last saw him at Dungeness when we went down for the Crested Lark.

Could you please pass on our sincerest condolences to Janet (Elizabeth & Tony Smith, Holt, Norfolk)

Tremendously sad and surprising news at such a young age. I will also remember his skill as an artist (I am fortunate to have a couple of his 'model' birds), his infectious sense of humour, his bottomless pitof enthusiasm and endless patience with novices, his tremendous effort to completely transform my garden (which as a result attracts many more birds than it used to) but above all his miraculous fieldcraft (on one occasion accurately identifying a rarity from the back seat of my car from a brief glimpse through the sun roof). He will be sadly missed.

Condolences to Janet who now has to deal with a difficult situation in a foreign land. I hope all that goes as smoothly as possible (Stan Kirk, Kent).

I first met Ray down at Dungeness over 10 years ago while on a visit with mine and Ray's good friend Bob Harris and was almost immediately in awe of Ray and his birding and seawatching talent when he picked out a couple of very distant white blobs and said Little Terns! Almost every visit down there i'd see his distictive light green VW Polo and even if I was on my own he would remember me and ask how my son was and if i'd seen Bob recently. I had the pleasure of spending a day with him on Tresco while on my first visit to Scilly in 2002 and again I was in awe when he heard a bird call and said Yellow-Browed Warbler (i'd only seen my first a couple of days before) and then showed me a Woodlark which other Scilly regulars had not seen on the islands before and were a tad jealous of! I last saw him on a windy day last year while watching the Purple Herons on Denge Marsh and he was telling us of his trip to Goa later in the year. I was shocked to hear of his passing and my heart goes out to his wonderful wife Janet who shared his wicked sense of humour. (Ian Bennell, Watford)

Dear Lee. I was saddened to read the news of Ray Turley’s passing – I was leaning on a gate with him on St. Agnes whilst debating over the final ID of the Yellow-browed Bunting – what a day that was!!! I will always remember my day on St. Agnes and the mayhem that followed when he put the news out over the CB !!!! His meticulous attention to detail with his models never ceased to amaze me..

With sympathy –
Tony Davison –

Hi Lee, Just thought I had to share my condolences at the death of Ray via your site as you asked...

I was much saddened to hear of Ray’s sudden death… I couldn’t believe it at first. Although I haven’t seen him for a good few years since I stopped visiting the Isles of Scilly in October I remember with much fondness selling my artwork on tables next to him and his sculptures in the ‘cressa etc, with him enlivening proceedings with his excellent sense of humour. One thing I regret is never actually getting round to purchasing one of the sculptures! I regarded his talent for sculpting with awe and not a little envy. I remember very well those days on Scilly, and through his kindness, seeing several excellent birds through his ‘scope (including I seem to remember the St Agnes Whites Thrush……)!

I remember him as a warm, kind and enthusiastic man, he was a fabulous birder, character and gentleman and I extend my condolences to Janet at this difficult time (Stephanie Thorpe (Hicking). Derbyshire)

Please send all of your tributes to Ray to me at - many, many thanks, Lee (I shall announce the funeral arrangements and details as soon as I have them

Another tribute to Ray Turley

The passing of a treasured friend and a first-rate birder

It is with great sadness that I have to announce the sudden death of RAY TURLEY whilst on holiday in his favoured destination of recent years Goa. After a short period of illness, he died from a heart seizure.

Ray had been on the UK birding scene since the mid 1960's and was part of the earliest, mad keen twitching brigade from the London Area, which comprised the likes of Dave Holman, Baz Harding, Paul Dukes, Pete and Dick Burness, John Clements, Cliff Davies and Chris Goodfellow. In those days, Dungeness was the main target for weekend visits, particularly at migration times, and of course a place that Ray quickly fell in love with and later moved to.

Ray and I hit it off with our like-minded obsession with seawatching and I would look forward to early May each year to join him and others sitting on Dungeness Beach waiting for the Pomarine Skuas to come through. We spent endless hours together seawatching and then much later in the 1980's, helped rejuvenate his passion for the Scilly Isles in October. Carmel and I spent ten fabulous years or more sharing a flat with Ray and Janet on the archipelago in what were undoubtedly some of my most enjoyable in my birding career, Ray relentlessly rising at dawn come rain or shine and remaining in the field until very last knockings; he found many, many rare birds and scarce migrants in his long career and was outstanding in the field and was passionately keen until the very end. He will be very sorely missed indeed and Dungeness Beach and its environs will never seem the same without him

Carmel and I extend our sincerest condolences to Janet in this difficult time

Lee Evans

Rare DOVE refuses to play ball

480 Birders forming an orderly queue in Chipping Norton today -

Some 600 or so twitchers turned up today in Chipping Norton in the hope of connecting with the first-winter ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE that has spent the entire winter in the village. It was not to be however as without warning or expectation, it disappeared swiftly after access was allowed to its favoured garden.

Just as Steven and Sharon had packed the children off to school, the Oriental Turtle Dove arrived on cue at the garden birdtable at 0830 hours. It started to feed on the seed and was showing well from the dining room window. A queue of some 50 or so would-be observers had already accumulated and the first 15 were kindly allowed in by Steve and quickly ushered in by Ewan. As it was only 5 degrees C outside and over 25 degrees C inside, optics quickly steamed up and hampered viewing. The dove flew from the table and landed in one of the garden Apple trees and sat there for a few minutes before darting off over the fence and into a neighbouring garden. Those 15 obtained brief and frustrating views and as they emerged from the house, the bird then darted across The Leys with two Collared Doves and disappeared behind the houses at 0845.

Everyone remained expectant that it would swiftly return but it just did not happen and despite the extreme generosity of many residents in the neighbourhood, it failed to reappear for the rest of the day.

The only differences from yesterday were the rise in observer numbers and the drastic change in temperature - and of course the change from dry, bright and clear weather to wet, dull, cold weather....

More great shots of the ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE - Roger Wyatt

Local birder Roger Wyatt obtained these stunning images yesterday, as the bird fed just feet from Steve and Sharon's dining room window in The Leys, Chipping Norton. The bird was present from 0900 to 1415 hours throughout yesterday, allowing 43 observers to connect before dark

Monday 14 February 2011

ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE relocated in Chipping Norton, OXFORDSHIRE

The first-winter ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE that first appeared in Chipping Norton (Oxfordshire) in mid December 2010 was relocated on Saturday morning in a different garden and was still visiting today. It has been feeding with Collared Doves and Woodpigeons on seed placed on the lawn and has been showing down to just 10 feet from the occupant's window.

The owner of the property has very kindly agreed to allow access tomorrow Tuesday 15 February from 1000 to 1600 hours at a charge of £5.00 per person.


The bird is situated in Chipping Norton in the back garden of 41 The Leys. Please park in the town centre and walk to the site and then wait patiently in a queue for your turn inside the living room. If over 200 people queuing, you may be limited to just 5-10 minutes per viewing and there will be no special dispensation to photographers whilst the pressure is on to get as many people possible to see it.

Lee G R Evans

Large flock of SOCIABLE PLOVERS found in OMAN


Wednesday 9 February 2011

Places available on March 2011 ISRAEL tour

I have a tour running to Israel this spring from 13-24 March 2011 which still has a few places left on it; it is a comprehensive tour covering both northern and southern Israel and includes all specialities

Please email me on if you would like to join me or for further details

Many thanks

Lee Evans

Thursday 3 February 2011

SLATY-BACKED GULL reappears in Essex

Steve Arlow, an obsessive larophile, relocated the adult-type SLATY-BACKED GULL today that I and 33 others saw at Rainham Marsh RSPB two weeks ago. The bird was feeding on a private landfill site (with NO ACCESS) this afternoon and Steve did remarkably well in obtaining an excellent set of images

See his excellent website here and trawl the most recent images -
These are some really educational images and I welcome further comments from those that know Slaty-backed Gull well

Lee Evans

Wednesday 2 February 2011

The variation in KUMLIEN'S GULLS - a photo essay

The KUMLIEN'S GULL is highly variable with no two alike. Toronto on Lake Ontario is a great spot to study them. Here are photos of 21 different individuals photographed in late January 2011. They include adults, third and second winter birds, but only one first winter bird. Perhaps this is random due to a small sample size or was 2010 a poor breeding season because first winter birds are normally more frequent than second and third winter birds combined. See three pages of photos.

Jean Iron and Ron Pittaway, Toronto and Minden, Ontario

Have Nyger - have redpolls - one of the biggest invasions for years

Redpolls just love Nyger seed and many gardens this winter are attracting Lesser, Mealy and even Scandinavian Arctic Redpolls. The Clyde area where these two evocative images were taken is currently attracting many thousands of garden-visiting redpolls as well as Siskins and Bramblings.

Revised Category C and Introductions Listings from BBA

In terms of the BBA/UK400 Club, the rules for inclusion of a Category C introduction are such

A) That the species must be completely self-supporting in a natural environment for a period of no less than 10 years;

B) That the population of self-supporting in Britain or Ireland exceeds a total of 100 individuals

Once the population dies out due to interference by man (eg Ruddy Duck, Lady Amherst's & Golden Pheasant), one may still count those birds that were admitted to Category C during a given period of time but those subsequent records revert to Category E

Category C Species currently accepted and fully countable by UK400 Club/BBA rulings -:

1) Egyptian Goose (population of over 2,000 individuals)
2) Atlantic Canada Goose (50,000+)
3) Barnacle Goose (1,000+)
4) Mandarin Duck (4500 birds)
5) Red-crested Pochard (325)
6) North American Ruddy Duck (225 and decreasing)
7) Golden Pheasant (42 and decreasing)
8) Lady Amherst's Pheasant (3 males)
9) Red-legged Partridge (50,000+)
10) Northern Goshawk (800+)
11) European Eagle Owl (100+)
12) Little Owl (1,000+)
13) Ring-necked Parakeet (7,500)

Category C Species not accepted or still under review; some records may relate to vagrants from Category C populations elsewhere in Europe; number in parentheses represents UK population at large -:

1) Sacred Ibis (self-supporting populations in France and Italy)
2) Chilean Flamingo (Germany)
3) Muscovy Duck (very few genuine Muscovy Ducks in Britain, mostly hybrids)
4) Australian Black Swan (66 currently at large in Britain and breeding; The Netherlands)
5) Bar-headed Goose (28; The Netherlands)
6) North American Wood Duck (39)
7) Red-tailed Hawk (5)
8) Monk Parakeet (UK population hovering around 75 individuals)
9) Reeve's Pheasant (5; France)
10) Chukar Partridge (35)
11) Alexandrine Parakeet (5; Turkey)
12) Black-headed Laughing Thrush (5)


By current rulings, the following species from successful introduction schemes may be counted -:

1) Golden Eagle (Ireland)
2) White-tailed Sea Eagle (Ireland and Britain; 85 individuals)
3) Capercaillie (Scotland)
4) Grey Partridge
5) Common Crane
6) Cirl Bunting
7) Red-billed Chough

Great Bustard cannot be counted, whilst the status of Scandinavian Lesser White-fronted Geese remains under review

Lee G R Evans

Tuesday 1 February 2011

ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE in Oxfordshire garden in December 2010

Breaking News from

Last night I received the following photos of an unidentified pigeon taken in a Chipping Norton garden during the snowy period before Christmas.

They clearly show a 1st winter ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE of the race orientalis. The bird was present on 15th, 16th and 18th December 2010 but has not been seen since. The tiny garden it visited is not viewable but the large trees it rested in can be seen from Foxfield and Fox Close. It was looked for today with no joy but I guess it could easily still be in the area. There is a free car park off Albion Street.

Obviously this is the first record of OTD for Oxfordshire. It's about the eighth record for Britain but the first ever of the nominate race. Oxon scores again!

It would be good to get the whole town checked out over the coming days but it may well remain the one that got away (Ian Lewington).