Thursday 30 June 2011

Ste to hit number One on Sunday

Today, saw the long-awaited release of Puff Garry's tribute to the Notorious LGRE, adapted from The new lyrics were written by rapping artist Dickie Bo'. They are reproduced below for those who wish to sing along.........

Verse One and Chorus: Puff Garry aka Baggers (Yeah... this right hear... goes out to everyone who needs somebody to keep track of their list)

Seems like yesterday
Lee used to rock the show
He laced the track, for a long time I know
So far from hangin on the internet for dough
Lee, they got to know that
Listing ain't always what it seemed to be
Words can't express what you mean to me
Even though you may be gone, we still a team
Through your UK400 family, I'll fulfill your dream
In the future, can't wait to see
If you open up the inner circle for me
Reminisce some time, the night Bazooka J took my friend
Try to black it out, but it plays again
When it's real, feelings hard to conceal
Can't imagine all the pain you feel
Give anything to have half your list
I know I’m trying still to live your life, still ranked after Brett

Chorus: Baggers
Every step I take, every move I make
Every single day, every time I pray
I'll be listing for Lee

Thinkin of the days, when you went away
What a list to make, what mega may break
I'll be listing for Lee

Verse Two: Baggers

I miss you Lee
It's kinda hard with you not around
Know you in Chaffinch House smilin down
Watchin twitchers while I list for you
Every day I’ll list for you
Til the day we both twitch again
In my heart is where I'll keep you friend
Memories of that t-shirt in Cobh give me the strength I need to proceed
Strength I need to believe
My thoughts Lee I just can't define
Wish you could stop the internet and go back to the old listing times
Us in the ‘cressa, searchin for new yanks and ticks
Mike McDonnell and Keith Stone taking flicks
Makin lists, forums they receive you on
I still can't believe the list of lists is gone
Give anything to have half your ticks
You know I’ll still be living your life, after your data protection act death

Chorus: Baggers

Every tick I make, every mega to break
Every single day, every time John Lees and I go away
I'll be listing for Lee
Thinkin of the megas, when we twitched away
What a lot of trips to make, what to do when the next ‘Elegant Tern’ breaks
I'll be listing for Lee

Beaker (guest singer):

Somebody tell me why
One October Morning
When Baggers’ list is 550 UK400 or over
I knowI'll see Lee’s face

Baggers and Beaker Outro:

Every tick I make, every mega to break
Every single day, every time we twitch away
Every tick I make, every mega to break [Baggers]
Every mid 80s blocker that falls
Every move I make, every single day[Baggers] I
s a day that I get closer[Baggers]
To seeing you again

Every tick I make, every mega to break[Baggers]

We miss you Lee... and we won't stop
Every tick I make, every mega to break[Baggers]
Cause we can't stop... that's right

Every tick I make, every mega to break
Every single day, every time we twitch away[Baggers]

We’ll always love you Lee

Tuesday 28 June 2011


For those of you visiting Spain shortly, yesterday morning an active nest of WALLCREEPER was found and can be seen easily from a paved road. It is thought that they will still be around for at least three weeks and disclosure of the breeding site is safe for it is on a vertical inaccessible wall on a protected area.

Details and a video can be seen at Reservoir Birds website:

Aleix Comas

Dilemma faced by New Zealand vagrant EMPEROR PENGUIN


News Summary for Today Tuesday 28 June

Nick Littlewood went one further last night and located an apparent adult drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK SCOTER in with the 1,200 or so strong scoter raft loafing offshore for the summer off Murcar Links Golf Course, just north of Aberdeen (Aberdeenshire). It was only a matter of time this was going to happen, particularly with a nigra off Bamburgh and Stag Rocks in Northumberland much earlier in the year (and last reported on 16 June). The moulting flock still harbours at least 4 SURF SCOTERS but the first-year drake North American White-winged Scoter has not been seen since Thursday evening (per Nick Littlewood).

Elsewhere in Scotland, we have the drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK DUCK on the north shore of Loch Sunart, 4 miles to the west of Strontian (Highland), and the gorgeous male COMMON ROSEFINCH still whistling away by the village hall, Spar shop and bowling green in the beautifully picturesque surroundings of Nethy Bridge in Speyside. Both drake RING-NECKED DUCKS are still lingering with Tufted Ducks on Orkney - at Loch of Bosquoy

On the Isles of Scilly, a BLACK KITE is lingering for its third day, commuting widely between the islands and especially liking both Tresco and St Mary's, whilst another WILSON'S STORM PETREL was seen from an offshore pelagic last night, in amongst 20 or so British Storm Petrels about six miles south of Scilly. A single EUROPEAN BEE-EATER also still lingers on St Mary's.

A GLOSSY IBIS was an odd late June arrival at Stodmarsh NNR (Kent) yesterday, where it performed in front of the Marsh Hide until 1955 hours and then flew SE., whilst an ALPINE SWIFT was seen several times about the Spurn Point peninsular (East Yorks).

Otherwise, a list of long-stayers to complete the species on offer at present: the GREAT WHITE EGRET and first-year GLAUCOUS GULL at Dungeness (Kent), the COMMON CRANES at Nosterfield (North Yorks) and Saxby (Lincs) and the juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE in Lincolnshire 6.5 miles south of Louth and 2.5 miles SW of the A16 near Burwell at Ruckland in trees by Ruckland Ponds.

In IRELAND, the summering adult FORSTER'S TERN is still to be found at Tacumshin Lake (County Wexford).

And now, apparent adult drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK SCOTER off Murcar

An apparent adult drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK SCOTER was this evening at Murcar. It was in the main scoter flock south of the clubhouse where the White-winged has been frequenting. It was first seen close in at 8pm, then after a minute or so it flew out and joined the main flock. It was then picked out a couple more times up until 9.20 pm (per Nick Littlewood).

There have been no confirmed sightings of the NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER since last Wednesday so it may have drifted north

Thursday 23 June 2011

Colour-ringed Spanish VULTURES make it to Northern France

Jonathan Williams has very kindly notified me of a flock of 40 or so vultures first seen in Lorraine, France, on Tuesday evening. Since then some more highly interesting information has come to light this morning from the original observer who went back to see them yesterday.

Firstly the group contained 1 EURASIAN BLACK VULTURE which is the first record for Lorraine. But perhaps most interestingly, 2 of the EURASIAN GRIFFON VULTURES were colour ringed and the combination has revealed a Spanish origin for the birds. Jon had assumed an origin in the Alps or massif central, but it would appear these birds, and perhaps maybe all of the more northerly European sightings could be of Spanish origin?

If they are coming from this far south and getting this far north then a British record is surely not too far away, if they can just survive that sea crossing?

Wednesday 22 June 2011


A first-summer female RED-FOOTED FALCON was discovered in Derbyshire yesterday morning and is still present today. It was showing well this evening NW of Long Eaton at Breaston.

DIRECTIONS: From Junction 25 of the M1, take Bostocks Lane south, then take a right at the roundabout along Longmoor Lane and take the footpath before the Breaston sign for 400 yards to the first horse field just beyond the stables.

The bird is typically confiding - just look at Tony Davison's magnificent shot above

UK400 Club Life List Submissions

In recent days, quite a few Life List submissions have been arriving on my computer, several of which being erroneously filled in.

Just to clarify, several Category E/I species are NOT COUNTABLE at present. Specifically, these are

CHILEAN FLAMINGO (this species is breeding in Germany with a population of at least 44 birds - some of these reach the East Coast of Britain as vagrants)

SACRED IBIS (large self-sustaining populations in southern France, Italy and elsewhere in Europe, some of which may occasionally stray to Britain or Ireland)

AUSTRALIAN BLACK SWAN (well over 100 pairs now established in The Netherlands where some of our birds derive; we also have 88 or more individuals currently with breeding taking place)

BAR-HEADED GOOSE (Again, large feral population in The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, flocks of which have arrived post-breeding in Britain; also increasing feral UK population)

MONK PARAKEET (non-naturalised UK population peaked at 77 birds but now being targeted for destruction by Defra)

All of the above species remain under review but for the time being, DO NOT COUNT towards any total, be it Life or Year

Many thanks


In Scotland, the first-summer drake NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER remains off Murcar Links Golf Course, just north of Aberdeen (see map above), consorting with 1,200 Common Scoter, 92 Velvet Scoter, 3 drake SURF SCOTERS and 2,000+ Common Eiders offshore. The seaduck form part of an annual moulting flock which generally remain until early September.

Nearby, the drake KING EIDER remains on the Ythan Estuary, generally roosting on the duneslack opposite Inches Point or the Golf Links (see Darren Robson's superb image above).

Over in the west of Scotland, a drake AMERICAN BLACK DUCK is in residence with Mallards at Sunart Loch, 4 miles west of Strontian and visible from the hide at Garbh Eilean on the north shoreline (Highland Region) (accessed from the A861), whilst much further north at the extremities of Shetland on Unst, a GREATER SHORT-TOED LARK was at Lamba Ness on 21st.

The first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON continues a long sojourn in East Norfolk, commuting between the Hickling Reserve and the Nelson's Head track at Horsey, whilst on the Isles of Scilly, a single EUROPEAN BEE-EATER remains on St Agnes in fields below the Parsonage.

ROSE-COLOURED STARLINGS are a regular feature of June and this week has seen the presence of a beautiful male in gardens 3 miles NNW of Barnstaple (North Devon) on the west side of Kingsheanton on the feeder in the front garden of 'The Old Barn House'. Park near the 'Ring O' Bells' public house then walk NE before bearing left (SS 551 372). COMMON ROSEFINCHES too frequently turn up with an immature male yesterday in Northumberland near Druridge Country Park and another at Beacon Lane, Kilnsea (East Yorks).

In what has been the most productive years for many for RED-NECKED PHALAROPES in England, today has seen the arrival of a breeding-plumaged female at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucs), where it is showing well from the Zeiss Hide.

In Suffolk, up to 7 Spoonbills have been visiting the main reserve scrape at Minsmere RSPB, where an elusive female FERRUGINOUS DUCK is also present at Island Mere.

The long-staying GREAT WHITE EGRET remains at Denge Marsh, Dungeness RSPB (Kent), with the female BLUE-WINGED TEAL still to be found at Chew Valley Lake (Avon) at Hollow Brook from the Fishermen's Car Park. In much the same vein, the BONAPARTE'S GULL remains on the River Exe at Mudbank Lane, Exmouth (South Devon).

Whilst many of our COMMON CRANES are breeding, loafing first-summers include singles at Nosterfield (North Yorks) east of Lingham Lake in fields viewable from the tarmac road at Ladybridge Farm (SE 290 807) and at Saxby All Saints Carrs (Lincs) in setaside east of the New River Ancholme viewed NE from Saxby All Saints Bridge (SE 975 167).

Not much to report at the Summer Solstice in IRELAND apart from an adult RING-BILLED GULL at Ballycastle Harbour (County Antrim)

Vagrant EMPEROR PENGUIN in New Zealand

Press release here -

Tuesday 21 June 2011

GREY PHALAROPE still on the Ythan

Another stunning bird. Karol Zubb photographed this full breeding plumaged GREY PHALAROPE on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, on Friday - the bird reappearing in the tern colony again today

Monday 20 June 2011

Should we continue to turn a blind eye to this annual slaughter (GANNET destruction on Sula Sgeir)

Permission is given on an annual basis for islanders in the Outer Hebrides to catch, kill and slaughter 2,500 young NORTHERN GANNETS per summer on the remote island of Sula Sgeir, 40 miles NNW of the Butt of Lewis, Lewis. The young birds are killed, boiled, salted and smoked and then offered for sale around the island of Lewis for around just £12 per bird.

If this were not bad enough in itself (and it makes my blood boil that this continues in this day and age), the islanders responsible for the carnage are now lobbying to increase their annual take by a further 1,000 birds per year.

Instead of killing innocent Ruddy Ducks and Monk Parakeets, perhaps this current Lib-Con government could take time to review the certificates given out for this annual carnage. There seems to be a legal loophole in UK and EU Law that they are exploiting and no-one seems to have the will to do anything about it.

Almost 85% of the European population of Gannet breeds in Wales, Northern Britain and Scotland, with St Kilda in the same archipelago harbouring the WORLD'S largest population of this seabird - almost 60,000 breeding pairs. We have three other gannetries exceeding 20,000 paitrs

Yes, the lobbyists may argue that Gannets are continuing to do well and increase despite their 'cull' but under what pretense are they still being hunted - is there not enough food to go round on Lewis? Ban this slaughter NOW

Lee Evans


Martin Collinson responded by saying

Paper in British Birds (Wanless S, Murray S, Harris MP. 2005. The status of Northern Gannet in Britain and Ireland in 2003/4. Brit Birds 98: 280-294) dealt with this and other issues. Upshot is that the Sula Sgeir colony stands in stark contrast to all other gannet colonies around our coasts because it has shown a substantial decrease in numbers rather than the expected increase. 33,690 young were taken between 1985 and 2001 and it is likely that other chicks are lost due to the prolonged disturbance associated with the hunt. The harvest represents about 30% of the annual production of chicks at this colony and is the only identifiable reason why the colony would be doing so poorly. As the number of licences remains stable while the number of chicks declines, the implication is that the hunt is not sustainable.

As I understand it, licensing for this is under control of the Scottish government and SNH. The SNP government is apparently OK with the cull ( ) and the more it gets English people annoyed the more they will support it

Martin Collinson. Reader in Biomedical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, School of Medical Sciences, Institute of Medical Sciences, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD

SCOTER eventually seen by all at weekend

Just under 200 birders braved the poor weather at the weekend and travelled up to Aberdeen to see the first-year NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER at Blackdog. All were eventually successful, with the bird being picked out in the rafts in line with or south of the Murcar Links Golf Clubhouse. Tony Dixon (upper two) and Lee Woods (lower two) kindly sent me their images of the bird.

Just a memory now......

It was top billing last week but now Dornoch Point's stunningly beautiful GREATER SANDPLOVER is just a fading memory. For many, it frustratingly disappeared Friday night.....

Marcus Conway of Inverness obtained this magnificent set of images and more of his formidable work can be browsed at his website at Ebirder -

Raptor Protection Autumn 2011 (Malta) - VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

BirdLife Malta Raptor Camp 2011

BirdLife Malta have just announced the dates for Raptor Camp 2011 and called for international volunteers to join locals in countering the killing of protected birds in Malta this autumn. This year’s Raptor Camp will be taking place from September 14th to the 2nd of October and bookings are already coming in from international volunteers.

Raptor Camp forms an integral part of BirdLife Malta's campaign against illegal hunting in Malta. Each year, birds of prey and other protected species become the targets of illegal hunters in Malta as they return to Africa for the winter.

The camp serves to both monitor the migration and to maintain a presence in the countryside to document, report and deter illegal hunting. When teams witness illegalities reports are immediately placed with the police and photo and video evidence is collected to help with police investigations.

Species seen during last year's camp included Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eleonora's Falcon, Red Footed Falcon, Eurasian Hobby, Black Kite, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Golden Oriole, Isabelline Wheatear, Purple Heron, Red Rumped Swallow, Turtle Dove, Peregrine Falcon, European Bee-Eater, Honey Buzzard and Pallid Harrier to name just a few.

Every year around 40 volunteers, both local and international are based in a hotel in the North of Malta where they go out in small teams each day to birdwatch and to document and monitor illegal activity. As Joe Cockram, previous BirdLife Malta conservation camp attendee, said “It may at times be tough, but you will have some great birding, meet legendary people, and most of all, play a major part in protecting Europe’s finest birdlife.”

For more details see

Why are we telling you all this? We need more volunteers!

Friday 17 June 2011

Scotland dominates the Birdlines

Twitchers will be flocking to Scotland this weekend as two exceptionally rare vagrants continue to keep pulses rating today.........

Firstly, the first-year drake NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER remains offshore at Blackdog, just north of Aberdeen (Aberdeenshire), consorting with 1,200 Common Scoter, 90 Velvet Scoter, at least 2 adult drake SURF SCOTER and upwards of 2,000 Common Eider. Beware of contusion with an assortment of first-year Velvet Scoters and plan to observe the flock in the afternoons, when the light conditions are often more favourable. Park either just east of Blackdog in the designated beach car park and walk up to 1.5 miles to the south along the dune-slack or ask for permission to park by the clubhouse of the Murcar Links Golf Course and carefully negotiate the track to the dunes from there.

Just six miles to the north, the adult drake KING EIDER remains on the Ythan Estuary, where this afternoon a full breeding-plumaged GREY PHALAROPE was present in the ternery. View from the hut just up from the estuary mouth, adjacent to the golf links. Five summering first-year Little Gulls also remain in this vicinity.

Secondly, the gorgeous summer-plumaged adult GREATER SANDPLOVER remains for its fourth day at Dornoch Point, 1.5 miles SSW of Dornoch (Sutherland) - about an hour's drive north out of Inverness. This bird is a real stunner and is cohabiting with a small flock of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plovers - check out Marcus Conway's outstanding images on my blogs. Please keep away from the tern colony so please park by the aerodrome and follow the tracks through the gress to the dunes - about a mile walk.

On North Ronaldsay (Orkney), a pair of RED-BACKED SHRIKES were new in, with a SHORE LARK also there - and a COMMON NIGHTINGALE trapped and ringed.

Now, back to the other rares perhaps on offer this weekend.....

A summer-plumaged SPOTTED SANDPIPER appeared at Thorpe Lake at Whisby Nature Park, SW of Lincoln (Lincs) this morning close to the visitor centre and showed for the rest of the day, whilst not that far away, the juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE remains at Ruckland Ponds

Dungeness RSPB (Kent) continues with its double-heron offering, with both SQUACCO HERON and GREAT WHITE EGRET on the bill. The regular GWE favours the reed-fringed Denge Marsh to feed whilst the SQUACCO is commuting between there and Hooker's Pit.

In East Anglia, the first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON continues to attract a steady stream of admirers at Horsey (East Norfolk) where it is favouring fence posts to the far end of the Nelson's Head track. Meanwhile, a male RED-BACKED SHRIKE was seen briefly in this area this morning. In Suffolk, a drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK is showing occasionally from Island Mere hide at Minsmere RSPB. At dusk, a CASPIAN TERN roosted in Thornham Harbour (North Norfolk).

In the South-west of England, Chew Valley lake (Avon) harbours a female BLUE-WINGED TEAL and at least 3 drake Garganeys - all best observed from the Fishermen's Car Park at Hollow Brook. Nearby, the drake RING-NECKED DUCK and several Garganey remain at Walton Heath, Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset)

The breeding-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE remains in the Walgrave Arm of Pitsford Reservoir (Northants), with another remaining on the Exe Estuary, off Starcross (South Devon). At this latter site, the first-summer BONAPARTE'S GULL remains.

The South Coast has seen some unusual seabird movements today, with 3 SOOTY SHEARWATERS past Portland Bill (Dorset) and 56 BALEARIC SHEARWATERS and 11 SOOTIES past Berry Head, Brixham (South Devon)

.........And WOW, just look at Marcus Conway's selection from Dornoch - simply outstanding

........And a few more GREATER SANDPLOVER images taken yesterday

Although taken in fairly heavy rain, Shaun Coyle did well in obtaining these shots at Dornoch yesterday evening

GREATER SANDPLOVER still present today

Alastair McNee obtained these nice images of the Sutherland GREATER SANDPLOVER yesterday evening - the bird continuing to show well on the sandy beach at Dornoch Point in Sutherland. It is probably a bird of the most westerly form.

Thursday 16 June 2011


Attached are my, very poor 'digi images ' of the GREATER SANDPLOVER at Dornoch Beach today. Originally I, along with Dean MacAskill, Bob Swann and Alastair McNee believed that this bird was found by Dean MacAskill, who I believe independently discovered the bird today, Dornoch Point being his local patch. However, I now understand that it was seen last night by Chris Chapman, a visiting birder from East Sussex, although not identified. The bird showed very well today at Dornoch Point NH 80750-87325 between 11:00 hrs and 16:00 hrs. It mainly fed on its own but was loosely associated with Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin.

Dave Tanner - Portmahomack

SANDPLOVER at Dornoch - breaking news......

A SANDPLOVER said to be in full breeding plumage was discovered at Dornoch Point, 1.5 miles SSE of Dornoch, yesterday (Chris Chapman) and has been seen again this afternoon (local observers). The bird is on a beach right at the tip of the point and is in with Dunlin, Ringed Plovers and Sanderling and showing well, at 1400 hours at least. It is being reported as a GREATER SAND PLOVER at present but I am hoping images will be available soon, knowing the intracacies involved in separating these birds......

Regional Mega - EUROPEAN ROLLER on the island of Mull

At 0730 hours this morning, BIRDLINE SCOTLAND broadcast news of a EUROPEAN ROLLER discovered on the island of Mull (Argyll) two hours earlier - 4 miles NW of Salen at Glen Aros on overhead cable wires by the log piles 2.5 miles west of the A848 road junction.

Roller is a rare vagrant to Scotland with perhaps one twitchable bird per decade

Satellite tracking of COMMON CUCKOOS

BTO are satellite-tracking 5 male COMMON CUCKOOS tagged during late May in East Anglia. Surprisingly, two have already left the UK - one currently in Belgium and the other in southern France.

You can follow their journeys and see full details of the project on the BTO website.

Almost six months down - total climbs to 377

As at 15 June, the combined total number of species recorded in both Britain and Ireland this year has now increased to 377 species.....

Since my last update at the end of May, the following species have been added -:

1) WILSON'S PETREL - in the SW Approaches, from Scilly Pelagics

2) SQUACCO HERON (2 - the first for Shetland at Urafirth and another at Dungeness)

3) AUDOUIN'S GULL - an adult present at Minsmere, Suffolk, for an afternoon

4) EUROPEAN ROLLER - a twitchable adult in Suffolk for one day

5) WHITE-THROATED ROBIN - the third for Britain at Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland, for 5 days, eventual;ly seen by 2,600 observers

6) BLYTH'S REED WARBLER (several early June records of brief staying individuals)

7) Marsh Warbler (a very poor June passage so far, with little more than a dozen noted)

8) GREENISH WARBLER - a spring occurrence on Fair Isle

9) BLACK-HEADED BUNTING - a female on the Farne Islands followed by a garden-feeding male in Highland Region

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Identification of NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER in first-year plumage

Here is a young drake photographed in Wisconsin, with Redheads and Buffleheads (Eric)

David Cooper kindly emailed these superb images of a first-year HORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER taken this May off Point Pelee in Canada. Although the head and bill profile are very similar to our Aberdeenshire drake, it is interesting how extensive the white patch is around the eye.

Rare Seaducks top attraction

The main event, Aberdeenshire's NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER - but make sure you see the correct bird when visiting - the bird depicted here by its finder Chris Gibbins.

June is always a month of surprises and this year has been no exception. Despite many of our breeding species either attending fledged young or busy sitting, a number of more northern latitude species are still turning up and some very rare birds are being identified......

Of most interest at present to twitchers is Britain's first photographed NORTH AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (form deglandi), loafing with over 1,200 Common Scoters, just over 90 Velvet Scoters, at least 3, perhaps 4 drake SURF SCOTERS and over 2,000 Common Eiders at the traditional moulting site offshore of Murcar Links Golf Course and Blackdog Rocks, just north of Aberdeen (Aberdeenshire). The bird, a first-year drake, was outstandingly first found by local observers Chris Gibbins, Paul Baxter and Hywel Maggs on Saturday (11 June) and later confirmed by images sent on to Martin Garner.

The bird is best looked for in the afternoons when light conditions are more favourable. Leave the A90 dual carriageway about two miles north of the outer Aberdeen ring road to the right, signposted 'Blackdog'. This is a narrow lane taking you down to a small car park and cottage after a few hundred yards. Park here, ensuring to avoid destroying the vergeside crop of Northern Marsh Orchids on the left, and walk around the gate and down towards the shore. Cross the wooden bridge over the stream and then continue walking south along the dunes for between one and 1.25 miles - in the vicinity of the black pole in the dunes. The bird seems to be best located from here or up to 500 yards walk further south.

Please note that the difficulty in locating this bird cannot be underestimated - print off images of the bird from the internet and be well aware of several first-year Velvet Scoters only marginally different in plumage, especially at long range.

Other birds within close proximity include the drake KING EIDER on the Ythan Estuary (usually roosting on the dunes opposite Inches Road/Point or wandering as far east as the estuary mouth) and a drake AMERICAN WIGEON at Starnafin Farm, Strathbeg RSPB.

Perhaps relating to the topsy-turvy June weather involving some very warm conditions in the SE of England in recent days, a SQUACCO HERON appeared in East Kent today - spending much of its time in Hooker's Marsh, viewed from the observation ramp on the reserve path - it later moved to Denge Marsh. That very same reserve still continues to host the regular summering GREAT WHITE EGRET - also on Denge Marsh -

Another unexpected find was of a male RED-SPOTTED BLUETHROAT at West Runton (North Norfolk) - initially in the ditch by the clifftop car park and shelter before moving into an adjacent weedy field and then barley. Norfolk has also hosted two RED-FOOTED FALCONS in the past week with a first-summer male again today feeding over fields 600 yards north of the 'Nelson Arms' footpath, often to be found perching on fenceposts between the track and the Horsey Corner car park

It has been an excellent spring for EUROPEAN BEE-EATERS on the archipelago of the Islands of Scilly, with a party of 3 birds lingering this week, perhaps one of which flew from St Martin's to Tresco today.

Two drake RING-NECKED DUCKS were an unexpected turn up on Orkney Mainland last night - at the Loch of Bosquoy - whilst in Avon, a female BLUE-WINGED TEAL is to be found in the same vicinity as 2 Garganey at Hollow Brook, Chew Valley Lake, where they are best viewed from the Fishermen's Car Park.

A suspected longipennis form of Common Tern was seen in the Breydon Water (Norfolk) roost this morning, most likely the bird Sean Nixon photographed at Minsmere scrape (Suffolk) last month.

Although no sign today, a female RED-NECKED PHALAROPE has bizarrely been repeatedly returning to Upton Warren Flashes (Worcs) this summer - one of two birds originally present !

The summering first-year BONAPARTE'S GULL is still being seen on the Exe Estuary (South Devon) (off Starcross again today), where also the beautiful adult Slavonian Grebe can be seen mid-channel. Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset) has an adult ROSEATE TERN roosting in between fishing visits to Portland Harbour still, whilst the first-summer CASPIAN GULL is still being seen at Lower Test Marshes (Hants) at Redbridge Wharf..

A number of EURASIAN SPOONBILLS are to be found, including 3 long-stayers on Saltholme West (Cleveland), 2 at Blackoft Sands RSPB (East Yorks), 6 on Jackson's Marsh, Gibraltar Point NNR (Lincs) and a single in SW Wales at the National Wetlands Centre in Camarthen. The long-staying COMMON CRANE remains in its favoured setaside field at Saxby All Saints (Lincs)

There was no sign today of the GREAT WHITE EGRET that had spent a few days at Carr Vale NR, Bolsober (Derbyshire) (see Tony Davison's images above), whilst Monday's EUROPEAN ROLLER stayed just one day at Upper Hollesley Common in Suffolk.

Many unseasonal PALE-BELLIED BRENT GEESE have been seen around our coastlines of late, whilst BALEARIC SHEARWATERS have been appearing in numbers along the South Coast, particularly off Portland Bill (Dorset). Unusual was a breeding plumaged adult lingering for a second day at Beacon Ponds, Kilnsea (East Yorks).

In IRELAND, a drake DRESSER'S or NORTH AMERICAN EIDER (form dresseri) has been attracting some interest, showing very well with Common Eiders offshore of Carrickabraghy Castle in County Donegal (see the outstanding set of images taken by Aidan Kelly above)

Twitching the American White-winged Scoter

Martin Collinson did exceptionally well last night getting these images of the Blackdog White-winged Scoter - clearly shows the well-defined head shape and bill and bill colour.

I spent the day at Blackdog/Murcar Beach yesterday and can confirm that this is a very difficult bird to twitch and to eventually see - there are a number of first-year Velvet Scoter lookalikes which have been causing immense problems.

It was first seen shortly after dawn yesterday morning and then not again until Chris Heard relocated it just after 0750 hours. I managed to get on to it briefly, as did two other observers, but then we lost it again. It then took the best part of three hours to locate - Adrian Kettle, Graham Ekins, Colin Mackenzie-Grieve and Andy Field stumbling on to it as they walked north along the beach at 1015 hours. Frustratingly, news was slow in spreading, and when eventually the 80 or so birders at the black pole end got to know, we managed just eight minutes of tail-end viewing before we lost it in the scoter flock.

It was then not seen again until 1633 hours, when on a receding tiide, the entire flock of scoter had flown back in from deep water roosting and were again busily feeding - at a reasonable range. It took an age though to relocate (almost two hours) and was later seen with Common Eider before attaching itself for a short time to a raft of 6 Velvet Scoter. At best, it came to within 450 yards offshore but was always very distant.

We are talking very big numbers of scoter here - upwards of 1,200 Commons, just over 90 Velvets and 3-4 Surf Scoters - as well as over 2,000 Common Eiders - and if the light conditions are rhe same as when I was there - bright sunshine and hazy - this is a very difficult identification indeed. Added to that, there are at least 11 first-year Velvet Scoters present in the flock and it is these that are causing a major identification headache. With 140 birders present yesterday, it was a major challenge to say the least.

You must make sure you get on to the right bird. The American White-winged Scoter is only subtly different to the first-summer Velvets. It is about the same size as Velvets, perhaps marginally longer in the body, but distinctly, has very obvious contrasting brown flanks, with darker, more black upperparts (the Velvets are similar but less contrasty). The head and bill shape are unusual in that the head is held forward and there is this 'two step effect', with the slight protrusion on the bill and the heavy feathering extending further down. The bill, at distance, always appeared greyish (perhaps greyish-pink at closer range) wheareas all of the younger Velvets were markedly yellow or occasionally bright pink in certain lights. The white wing bar did not seem as obvious as that on the Velvet Scoters and when flapping, it was seen to be in heavy moult (perhaps the reason). The key feature though, in both poor and good light conditions, was the shape of the head combined with the bill profile - and it must be remembered that this is the key feature separating this bird from a Stejneger's Scoter.
Many people yesterday were caught out by very similar-looking Velvet Scoters and if you are going to make such a long pilgrimage, make sure to print off the images of the bird beforehand and get on to the right bird.

Just to reiterate, take the Blackrock turning from the A90 dual carriageway north of Aberdeen, drive to the end of the narrow lane and park after 400 yards either in the designated car park or on the grass verge (making sure to avoid the nice spread of Northern Marsh Orchids). Walk down through the yard to the bridge across the stream and then continue south down the dunes for up to 1.25 miles to view offshore (in the vicinity of the single black pole or up to 500 yards further south)

Monday 13 June 2011

ROLLER in Suffolk

The adult summer-plumaged EUROPEAN ROLLER was showing very well this afternoon, sallying down from the MOD perimeter fence for beetles it was catching on the ground.

At the fork on the B1083 after leaving Melton, take the Hollesley road (clearly signposted and actually called ''The Street'') and continue down this road for just under 2 miles to Upper Hollesley Common, just beyond the fence. There are three areas to park off-road 150 yards further on, ample for 30 cars. Try to avoid parking on the verge there as I had to retrieve two vehicles today which got seriously stuck in the rain ditches; it is also a very busy road and tempers flared with passing drivers. It can be amply observed from the road or from the footpath that leads across the heath towards the fence

The bird was found by a couple who casually wandered into Minsmere RSPB reception and announced the news ! Birding Suffolk mastermind Lee Woods obtained the excellent images published above. Fabulous bird as always.......

Sunday 12 June 2011

SCOTER present late evening

Big respect to Chris Gibbins, Hywel Maggs and Paul Baxter for finding this fascinating bird.

A few hints for anyone making a long journey. As has been stated, light conditions tend to be more important than state of the tide and so afternoon and evening are usually best. Choppy seas will make things harder and there is virtually no shelter if conditions are bad.

Access by turning off the A90 north of Aberdeen at the turn signed Blackdog. Drive down past the village towards the sea. The lane turns sharp right. Park sensibly at this turn, or follow the lane down to the left (gravel track) and there are some areas where parking is possible of the verge, or else a small very rough car park accessed just off where the lane takes another turn right to the house. If all this full, park sensibly back at the village. Walk straight down onto the beach and then south along the beach. Cross a burn that flows out across the beach and continue another 500 m or so. The bird spent most of today about a mile to the south of Blackdog, off Murcar Golf Course, where there is an old red salmon net on the beach. Best views from on the dunes. It was often not in the main scoter flock but a little closer instead, alone, in among Eiders.

Peak scoter number at this site are from now through to August. Good chance it will stay for a few weeks to moult. At least three Surfies present too (usually in with main scoter flock). Good luck!

Nick Littlewood