Monday 30 January 2012

Finnish birdwatcher enjoys himself twitching in UK

I was very pleased to share some birding time with visiting Finnish birder Matthias at the putative Parrot Crossbill twitch in West Sussex and delighted to add Brambling, (British) Bullfinch, Siskin and a few other species to his building life list. Hope to meet up again with him in Finland in the future. The enthusiasm of Finnish birdwatchers is undiminished and Matt was certainly keen on learning.


David Cooper very kindly sent me this link to a juvenile Eastern Common Crossbill trapped and ringed on Fair Isle in June 2005

See here

This illustrates the variability in the size of Common Crossbill bills and the Sussex female is very similar in proportions and forehead shape


A portfolio of Scandinavian Parrot Crossbills for comparison

Winter Weekend Trip to Scotland

I am putting together a winter trip (long weekend) in early February to witness the spectacular invasion of white-winged gulls and to see the wintering geese and wildfowl, as well as to search for eagles, Ptarmigan and other specialities. Please email me if you fancy it -

Sunday 29 January 2012

Apparent female PARROT CROSSBILL present for at least 4th day in West Sussex

David Cooper managed to obtain an interesting selection of shots of the female-type putative PARROT CROSSBILL at Black Down today and these can be viewed at

This bird was still present this afternoon but was very difficult to pick out from the rest of the flock in the Larches. It is noticeably greyer, especially about the head and nape, and has a bright pale lemon rump. The bill proportions are quite impressive but I have seen some Eastern Common Crossbills with bills like this. The lower mandible thickness is noticeable though and the bird itself does look bigger in proportion on occasions

The bird is present with at least 55 Common Crossbills at Black Down, 2 miles NE of Fernhurst. It is a 20 minute walk from the main car park and the flock favours the isolated conifers at the top of the hill

Walking from Land's End to John O'Groats for Butterfly Conservation

Seth Gibson and I are walking from Land's End to John O' Groats for our honeymoon after our wedding in May this year. It is going to take over 2 months and more than 1000 miles and we'll be trying to raise as much money as possible for Butterfly Conservation. We've set up a justgiving page to this end and would be absolutely delighted if anyone could sponser us

See the following link for details - (Sami Webster)

Thursday 26 January 2012


Anticipating the usual flood of Kumlien's-like gulls in the west and Thayer's-like gulls in the east, I've put together a proposed thayeri-kumlieni-glaucoides scoring system at

It's a first draft cut to develop some consensus about how we talk about and evaluate these things. Feedback is welcome. (I've already got ideas to improve it, but I want to hear more ideas.)

Basically, it's a 4-point scale:

0 = glaucoides
1 = in between
2 = kumlieni
3 = in between
4 = thayeri

evaluating 7 different features of first cycle birds. So a maximum score of 28 is a classic Thayer's, while a minimum score of 0 is a perfect nominate glaucoides. The key caveat is at the end: "even if we come up with a formula that satisfies most birders, there's still no guarantee we would be accurately placing birds in the correct category until further research, ideally tracking birds from the breeding grounds to the wintering grounds, is done."

Steve Hampton, Ph.D.


Just heard this, thought it may be of interest to the list.An injured male American Wood Duck has been seen near the RNLI Lifeboat Station, Pollawaddy, Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal since last Friday. Injured wing. Not really approachable, but can't fly, spents a lot of time out of sight in a rushy area along the shore. Finder may make an attempt to catch it in the next day or two to take it into care & seek medical/rehab assistance for the injury, but the bird seems very lively (apart from inability to fly). No visible evidence of injury/wound looks otherwise healthy. Seen today & yesterday. Two ferries operate from Burtonport several times a day apparently.Mícheál Casey

I am still sitting on the file of Wood Duck occurrences in Britain and Ireland as records of this species are incredibly difficult to assess. At least 20 records though are considered to be of wild vagrants and I hope to be in a position to list them in the not too distant future. As far as I am concerned, this individual is as good as they are likely to get, especially considering the weather conditions since last September

Lee Evans

Monday 23 January 2012

Arctic gull is latest addition to Year List

An adult winter-plumaged ROSS'S GULL in Ardglass Harbour, County Down, represents the 251st species to be recorded in Britain and Ireland combined this year. This comes on top of one of the largest influxes of Kumlien's and Iceland Gulls ever known in the region, including no less than 83 individuals in Stornoway Harbour on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) alone

193 species in one week - Winter Birding in the UK

A total of 193 species was recorded on my Round Britain tour of last week with a mouth-watering list of species recorded, a whopping 14 species higher than on my trip in January 2011. Amongst the many highlights were Long-eared Owl, Lapland Bunting, Golden Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Scandinavian Arctic Redpoll, Spotted Redshank, Long-tailed Duck, Ross's Snow Goose, both Tundra & Taiga Bean Geese, Lesser White-front, Shore Lark, Firecrest, Woodcock, Western Sandpiper, Rough-legged Buzzard, Black Brant, Great Grey Shrike, Twite, 34 Common Cranes, 91 Snow Buntings, Mediterranean Gull, Iceland Gull, Black-throated Diver, Black Redstart, Waxwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Smew, Glossy Ibis, Bittern, Ruddy Duck, Short-eared Owl, Cattle Egret, Ring-billed Gull, Spanish Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Crossbill, Hawfinch, Caspian Gull, Dipper, Water Pipit, Bufflehead, Swallow, Siberian Chiffchaff, Slavonian & 45 Black-necked Grebes, Little Gull, Balearic Shearwater, Ring-necked Duck, Cirl Bunting, Red-breasted Goose, American Wigeon, Surf Scoter, both Yellow-browed & Hume's Leaf Warbler, Richard's Pipit, Spoonbill and Little Auk.

I shall be repeating this tour again next January so if you would like to reserve a place, please email me at

I will also be conducting a Round Britain tour in May of this year commencing on Thursday 17 May, the first four days in Scotland and then moving south - possibly two spaces remaining

Other forthcoming tours with vacancies include my February trips to Egypt (5 days) and Spain (for Spanish Lynx, Wallcreepers, Spanish Imperial Eagles and bustards - 24-27 Feb), Israel (March), Goshawk display (March), Georgia, Morocco, Estonia and Cape Verde Islands in April and Turkey in early July

Springwatch MALTA 2012

Birdlife Malta have released the dates for Spring Watch 2012 conservation camp in Malta and have a promotional video on YouTube at: .

Please check it out and help out if you can preserve the many thousands of migrating birds using Malta as a gateway to Europe

Wednesday 11 January 2012


see link


A total of 82 birdwatchers gathered from dawn at Calshot this morning, gradually swelling to just 110 by mid-morning - a far smaller turnout than I had envisaged for a vagrant that has not been twitchable in Britain since 1998. As expected, the bird appeared in the hedgerow opposite the cul-de-sac just after 0800 hours and then spent an hour moving between the two hedgerows either side of the road and the larger Hawthorn. It afforded outstanding views and many photographs were taken. Everyone was impeccably behaved and adhered to on-site instructions. Local birder Bruce Gwynn acted as management and did a sterling job, eventually escorting small parties down the private road once the sparrows started feeding. Certainly whilst I was there, everyone parked where they were supposed to.

The bird typically became elusive after 0900 hours - primarily visiting the chicken coup and feeding out of view. Occasionally, he returned to the roadside hedgerow but these visits were few and far between. From 1000 hours, he generally retired from view and some observers had over three hours wait before they got a glimpse. As I stated in a previous posting, to be sure of seeing this bird well, plan to arrive early and give yourself a 0800-0900 hours time slot.

DIRECTIONS: Follow the B 3053 SE to as far as it goes into Calshot village, 5 miles SE of Hythe. Continue into the one-way system and take advantage of up to 200 free car parking spaces in this vicinity. Walk back 500 yards to the junction with the private MOD cul-de-sac, clearly marked with ''Police No Parking'' cones and observe from the verges. The bird is favouring the thick hedgerows either side of the main road, particularly that section adjacent to the boat with flowers.

Not that far away, at Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest, the first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO was showing at regular intervals, moving between 3 or 4 fallen pines and perching readily out in the open. The clearing is just 100 yards NW of the parking area.

This site is also very good for COMMON CROSSBILLS and a male WOODLARK was singing there today.

Elsewhere in the New Forest, the regular wintering GREAT GREY SHRIKE was showing well today at Beaulieu Road Station at Bishop's Dyke, in birches and scrub 400 yards beyond the bridge south of Shatterford car park. This forest area also yielded both DARTFORD WARBLERS and WOODLARKS and a number of early Small Tortoiseshell butterflies

At HARBRIDGE WATER MEADOWS, the EGYPTIAN GEESE pair were on the main flood and both the adult WHOOPER SWAN and the 3 BEWICK'S SWANS were with the 203 Mute Swans in the first field beyond the church.

Ibsley Water held 11 GOOSANDER, 7 PINTAIL and the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, whilst the juvenile female BLUE-WINGED TEAL and redhead SMEW remained on the south lake at LONGHAM LAKES

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Calshot SPANISH SPARROW directions

Frustratingly, prior to full arrangements being made with the residents, the location of the Calshot SPANISH SPARROW has been released and broadcast. As a result, Sue (the owner of the house where the bird is favouring mostly) has now changed her mind about access and that will now not be forthcoming.

The consequence of this is that the bird will now be only likely viewable at the sparrow roost, from about 0800-0900 hours and from 1500-1600 hours.

There is sufficient parking in the free beach car park for about 200 cars. Walk back NW up the road for just over 500 yards to view the obvious hedgerow by the flower-filled boat at the junction of Calshot Close and the B 3053 at SU 476 015. PLEASE VIEW ONLY FROM THIS DESIGNATED VERGE WATCHPOINT, where the cones have been placed, and do not enter the private residential area unless invited to do so.

The House Sparrow flock numbers some 40 individuals and includes amongst their ranks the adult male Spanish Sparrow and an additional male and female showing intermediate Spanish x House Sparrow characters.


See more images of this stowaway 'chirper' at -

About 70 birders turned up for yesterday's ''trial run''. News of its location will be released after dark today

Monday 9 January 2012

Those rares just keep on coming for 2011

Well with 2011 now nine days hence, a plethora of mega-rares from Hampshire has seen that year's list total rise from 452 to 455........

Firstly, we had news of the Old Winchester Hill WHITE-THROATED SPARROW surviving in its favoured car park until at least July 2011 being released by the warden, then news of a first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO that was wintering close to a car parking area at Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest, first photographed on 24 December 2011 and still present and showing today.........

Now, news has reached county birders of an adult male SPANISH SPARROW that has been living in Calshot village, in the south of the county, for some considerable time, probably at least since last spring (although the finder only made a mental note of it from early December 2011).

The latter is favouring suburban gardens in a quiet cul-de-sac and arrangements have been made for visitor access from Wednesday morning of this week. All on-site instructions will have to be adhered to, including the designated parking areas, and a period of about two weeks will initially be on offer to cater for those that wish to see the bird. I will release access instructions tomorrow evening.

The bird is moving between a roosting hedgerow and some peanut feeders/bird tables and is very reliable, showing at frequent intervals. There will be no panic requirement to rush to see it if you want to save a day's holiday from work. The presence of at least one hybrid bird suggest it has been present for at least one breeding season and it is likely it was initially a ship-assisted vagrant, like the other two species mentioned above

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Exminster Marshes LONG-EARED OWL is unnecessarily harassed by photographers

Sadly, news of a roosting LONG-EARED OWL was broadcast on an assortment of news services which in turn attracted an element of undesirables travelling quite some distance to see it. Two particular individuals decided that they wanted to get to within a few feet of the bird, despite being challenged, and photographed it from a very close distance, causing it to wake up and be alarmed. A number of local observers asked for them to move away but were quite seriously threatened by one particular individual. He was photographed and appears to be a character I witnessed disturbing Stone Curlews at a nest. His vehicle number plate was taken but as he returned to his car, he became very violent and abusive towards those present and threatened to 'do' some of them over. This behaviour can not be tolerated and I urge those of you that witnessed it to report the incident to the police. I have photographs of the two individuals involved which can be used to help identify them.

My policy now, because of such repeated behaviour, is to suppress all Long-eared and easily disturbed Short-eared Owl locations - both species seem to act as a magnet for such behaviour

Monday 2 January 2012

A New Year.............

Well with two days into 2012, a total of 235 species has been recorded in Britain and Ireland with numerous long-staying vagrants keeping New Year visitors busy......

In addition to the DARK-EYED JUNCO in the New Forest at Hawksley Inclosure, two first-winter male DESERT WHEATEARS remain at Beacon Point, Newbiggin-on-Sea (Northumberland) and Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorks) Staple Neuk Viewpoint respectively.

A good list of waders includes the first-winter GREATER YELLOWLEGS still at Skelbo, near Loch Fleet (Sutherland) (on flooded fields opposite the entrance to Coul Farm) and a first-winter LESSER YELLOWLEGS with a Spotted Redshank at Burnham-on-Sea (Somerset). Last year's Somerset LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS are now both together at Lodmoor Country Park (Dorset), whilst another is in South Wales at Kidwelly Quay (Carmarthenshire) and the first-ever wintering PECTORAL SANDPIPER remains at Dundonald Camp, Barassie (Ayrshire). Three SPOTTED SANDPIPERS are to be found, with the adult at Chew Valley Lake Herriott's Bridge causeway (Avon) and juveniles at Lyme Regis West Cobb (Dorset) and at the north end of the River Plym at Plymouth (South Devon). Perhaps best of all, the first-winter WESTERN SANDPIPER continues at Cley NWT (Norfolk).

Of the remaining ''good birds'' on offer, the CATTLE EGRET remains at Warblington (Hampshire), no less than 21 GREAT WHITE EGRETS at widely scattered localities, GLOSSY IBISES on the Isles of Scilly at Lower Moors, at Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon), at Stodmarsh NNR water meadows (Kent), at Fingringhoe Wick NR (Essex) and at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs).

Rare geese include the continuing RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE with local Canadas at Torr Reservoir (Somerset), the adult LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE of unknown origin with the Taiga Bean Geese at Buckenham Carrs RSPB in the Yare Valley (Norfolk) and first-winter RED-BREASTED GEESE at Tollesbury Wick (Essex) and Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon), whilst rare wildfowl are represented by at least 4 AMERICAN WIGEONS (the easiest being drakes at Kirk Loch, Lochmaben, Dumfries & Galloway and at Wintersett Reservoir, West Yorks), 12+ AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEALS, a juvenile female BLUE-WINGED TEAL at Longham Lakes (Dorset), an adult drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK on Ivy Lake, Blashford Lakes HWT (Hants), SURF SCOTERS at Dawlish Warren NNR (South Devon) and in Penzance Harbour (Cornwall), the juvenile female BUFFLEHEAD on the Loe Pool at Helston (Cornwall) and the ever-present drake Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset).

East Anglia maintains its stranglehold on ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD occurrences with at least 6 birds being regularly seen (others remain on Shetland and in North Yorkshire) whilst Orkney enjoyed a very brief visit from a glorious white morph GYRFALCON just before 2011 ended.

A HOOPOE has brightened up the Lake Lothing area of Lowestoft (Suffolk) with its appearance whilst that same county continues to harbour virtually all of the nation's wintering crop of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS (about 100 birds in total, mainly frequenting Ipswich Hospital and Martlesham Heath. Four SHORELARKS are at Holkham Gap saltings (North Norfolk) with a RICHARD'S PIPIT wintering at Wyke Regis (Dorset) and the HUME'S LEAF WARBLER at the same locality.

In IRELAND, the rarest offerings are the regular wintering adult FORSTER'S TERN in County Galway at Kinvara, 1-2 NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULLS, a drake LESSER SCAUP at Lough Gill and the surviving HOUSE CROW at Cobh (County Cork). A LONG-BUILLED DOWITCHER is at North Slob WWR (County Wexford) and a RICHARD'S PIPIT was located Killard Nature Reserve in County Down

DARK-EYED JUNCO in the New Forest

On Boxing Day 2011, non-birdwatchers noticed and photographed an odd 'chaffinch' feeding with other birds in the car parking area of Hawkhill Inclosure, 2.5 miles west of Beaulieu, in the New Forest (Hampshire) at about SU 350 020. They saw the bird again on 30 December and then notified Keith Betton by sending him images of the bird. It turned out to be a first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO and consequently the 453rd species to be recorded in that record year.

Although not seen on New Years Day, an enthusiastic attempt was made at seeding an area of the car park and this quickly did the trick - the bird showing well today on a number of occasions, feeding alongside Dunnocks, Robins, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches.