Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Through the 300 barrier..........

Before we have even got to the end of March, the record-breaking temperatures and light SE winds have ensured the total number of species recorded in combined Britain and Ireland this year has now increased to an impressive 301 species with the addition and arrival of an impressive array of early migrants and outstanding vagrants..........

Ireland has stolen the show with recent BAILLON'S CRAKE and RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL occurrencies but SW Britain hit back with a EURASIAN SCOPS OWL on Scilly for at least two days.....

The list of incoming migrants has included Hobby (4+ reports), WRYNECK (on Bryher, Scilly), Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler (exceptionally early), Pied Flycatcher and EUROPEAN SERIN

If this weather continues, it must only be a matter of time before some more southern overshoots appear........Great Spotted Cuckoo well overdue

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


A RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL spent all day yesterday at Galley Head in County Cork - the first ever twitchable bird in Ireland. It was discovered by Ciaran Cronin but has not been seen today.

On the Isles of Scilly, the SCOPS OWL was seen again last night at Porthellick Pumping Station - at around 8.20 pm again

Monday, 26 March 2012

The first BAILLON'S CRAKE in Ireland since the 18th Century !

Photographer Derek Charles was among just 30 lucky twitchers that savoured this charming tiny crake on Sunday, showing down to just a few yards from observers on Great Saltee Island in County Wexford. There have been just two previous records in Ireland, with singles being obtained at Youghal (Cork) on 30 October 1845 and near Tramore (Waterford) on 6 April 1858. A real blocker and such superb shots.

'Higgo' finds a SCOPS OWL

Bird finder extraodinaire John Higginson stumbled upon a SCOPS OWL at Porthellick, SCILLY, just as it was getting dark last night, after he was alerted to its presence after numerous birds were mobbing it This followed an excellent day in the field for him, whereby he found both Wryneck and Tree Pipit amongst other migrants on Bryher.

Keep up to speed with all that's happening on Scilly on the superb local website

Saturday, 24 March 2012


Temperatures reached 72 degrees fahrenheit in southern England today, whilst a SE wind bathed most of the coastline. With exceptionally early migrants in the form of Common Cuckoo, House Martin, Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat, the list total for this year surged forward to an incredible 290 species.......

But it was IRELAND that stole the show with a whole host of southern overshoots turning up. Best of all was a very confiding BAILLON'S CRAKE on Great Saltee Island (County Wexford), favouring the ruins to the left of the Rickyard house. Boats to the island leave Kilmore Quay. A WOODCHAT SHRIKE was also discovered, with a twitcahble ALPINE SWIFT at Fanore (County Clare) and a BLACK KITE at Vartry Reservoir, Roundwood (County Wicklow). This follows a PURPLE HERON seen near Kilcoole yesterday.

Incoming migrants here included at least 4 HOOPOES, with two in the vicinity of Higher Bosistow Farm, Polgigga (Cornwall) and further singles on the Garrison, St Mary's (Scilly) and another at Tavistock (Devon). At the extreme NW of Britain, an ALPINE SWIFT flew up and down the gulley just SW of the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides).

In South Wales, the male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT remains at Rhiwderyn (Gwent), with the adult BONAPARTE'S GULL nearby in Cardiff Bay, the drake LESSER SCAUP at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER at Cydweli (Carmarthenshire).

The two first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS continue to show well on the drained lagoon 500 yards west of the Ashcott Corner car park at Meare Heath (Shapwick Heath NNR, Somerset), with 6 GREAT WHITE EGRETS still in the area and both drake LESSER SCAUP and SPOTTED SANDPIPER still at Chew Valley Lake (Avon).

The LITTLE BUNTING continues at South Milton Ley (South Devon), whilst ROSE-COLOURED STARLINGS are still in residence in Muirhead, Troon (Ayrshire) and in Hordle village (Hants).

A CATTLE EGRET is showing well at Home Farm, Springfield Bottom (Theale, Berkshire), with another at Lydney (Gloucs), whilst GLOSSY IBISES remain at Saltholme Pools (Cleveland), Marloes Mere (Pembs), Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) and near Chelmsford at Baddow Meads Pond, Great Baddow (Essex). Yesterday, a GLOSSY IBIS made it to Aird an Runair on North Uist (Outer Hebrides), whilst elsewhere in Scotland, 3 adult WHITE-BILLED DIVERS remain offshore of Port Nis, Lewis, and the GREATER YELLOWLEGS continues at Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire).

Both the HUME'S LEAF WARBLER and RICHARD'S PIPIT remain at Wyke Regis (Dorset), whilst in IRELAND, a long-staying RICHARD'S PIPIT continues at Killard Point.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

HOODED MERGANSER identification and review of British/Irish records

Have finally finished with the Hooded Merganser file and have updated this species' status in Britain and Ireland, detailing those records which are acceptable and those which are not. I have also included an identification aid, lavishly decorated with Keith Vinicombe and Chris Holt's images and a superb plate by in-house artist Ray Scally. It is now available on the club's website (LGRE)

Statement released by the Badger Trust this afternoon

“ THE BADGER TRUST welcomes the Welsh Government’s science-based decision to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB). This is the only sensible, practical way forward; culling would have made matters worse at great cost to the Welsh taxpayer.

A culling proposal by the last Welsh Assembly Government was quashed in 2010 following judicial review proceedings brought by Badger Trust. WAG then produced in 2011 a new, even more risky culling proposal including free-shooting, which Badger Trust challenged alongside 4 co-claimants in the affected area. The Welsh Government’s revised plan was paused after last year’s election when the new Government agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of the science. “

Fantastic News - Badger cull reprieval in Welsh stronghold

Fantastic news. The Welsh Assembly has abandoned the coalition government's proposals for a Badger cull in Wales and have decided to go ahead with a vaccination programme instead. Let's hope that this attitude is followed through in England. Up to a fifth of the UK population actually dies on the roads as it is, so we can do without any additional carnage.

Years of scientific research has found that no benefit can come from culling Badgers - all it does is move the problem and spread the disease even more widely as infected animals are forced to retreat and relocate. All cattle should be vaccinated, despite the cost to farming - any costs incurred should be added and incorporated into what the supermarkets pay and eventually shared by the consumer. Badgers should be left in peace

Lee Evans

Sunday, 18 March 2012 relaunched

The UK400 Club online website has been relaunched and redesigned and is now up and running and available to browse by members. Subscriptions for the current year are now due. Email for details.

NUTHATCH comes off worse as he collides with car

Despite my best efforts, this cute little NUTHATCH sadly passed away overnight, after being hit by a car in the New Forest. The bird was so tiny in the hand. Such a sad end. Photographs by kind courtesy of my close friend Chris Holt.

Spring surges forward with LAUGHING GULL and ALPINE SWIFT new in

The total number of species now recorded in Britain and Ireland this year has risen to 279 with the addition of a first-winter LAUGHING GULL in Cumbria and an ALPINE SWIFT in Cornwall. Present for its second day, the LAUGHING GULL has been frequenting fields south of the A590 near Dalton-in-Furness, about 400 yards NE of the Dalton roundabout. The mobile ALPINE SWIFT was initially seen over Lizard Village (Cornwall) from 1500-1515 and again at 1605 before relocating to Caerthillian and Church Coves briefly at 1728.

Recent days have seen a big increase in migrants arriving with the first main thrust of Northern Wheatears, Common Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts and Sand Martins, whilst Garganeys, White Wagtails and the odd Ring Ouzel, Willow Warbler, Barn Swallow and Stone Curlew have also been turning up. Associated with this arrival have been several BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS, including up to four different individuals in a landscaped garden pond in Devon at Woolacombe and a long-stayer at the small pool in Polgigga adjacent to the Porthgwarra turning (West Cornwall)

On the Isles of Scilly, the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH continues to show intermittently in the thick Sallow 'woodland' just beyond the Shooter's Pool viewing screen on Lower Moors, St Mary's. Meanwhile in South Wales, the first-winter male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT continues to infrequent the brambles and scrub at the top of the field just outside of Rhiwderyn, NW of Newport (Gwent) (at ST 259 869).

In West Sussex, the male PADDYFIELD WARBLER continues to linger at Pagham Harbour, favouring the Phragmites and scrub 90 yards west of the Breaches Pool, most often between the 3rd and 4th benches on the North Wall. Please park sensibly at the end of Church Lane and follow the footpath for 500 yards. Not that far away in Hampshire, the adult male SPANISH SPARROW continues to display to House Sparrows in Calshot village.

The first-year GREATER YELLOWLEGS was once again today at the Starnafin Farm Loch of Strathbeg RSPB reserve (Aberdeenshire), after being absent all day yesterday, whilst present for at least its third day was another Nearctic vagrant - female BLUE-WINGED TEAL - at the Walmsley Sanctuary CBWPS Reserve (Cornwall) (viewable from the Tower Hide).

The adult SPOTTED SANDPIPER is once again feeding along the concrete banking of the Herriott's Pool at Chew Valley Lake (Avon), whilst that same reservoir harbours a drake LESSER SCAUP from the Bernard King Hide and a long-staying LONG-TAILED DUCK at the dam. Not that far away in Somerset, a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER was with Common Redshanks at Greylake RSPB until 0930 hours.

Many GLOSSY IBISES are still to be found including four birds at Cantley Marshes RSPB showing well from the gate in Station Road, Cantley (Norfolk), the immature at Island Mere, Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk), two still in the first meadow west of the oxbow lakes at Stodmarsh NNR (Kent), two still in the vicinity of the North Hide at Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset), that in flooded fields at Saltholme Pools RSPB (Cleveland) and 3 still at Marloes Mere (Pembs).

Numerous GREAT WHITE EGRETS remain, including singles at Campfield Marsh RSPB (Cumbria) (at NY 201 606), on the Harty Marshes, Sheppey (North Kent), at Crossens Outer Marsh (Lancs), at Llanrhidian Marsh, on the Gower (Glamrgan) and up to four in the Somerset Levels area, whilst CATTLE EGRETS today include singles at Redhill House on Watery Lane in Lydney (Gloucs) (at SO 625 030) and that in the cattle field at SY 719 914 at Kingston Maurward, Dorchester (Dorset)

Wintering YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS still to be found include one of the four at Carnon Downs Sewage Works, Truro (Cornwall) and that in the dense evergreen shrubs by the entrance to the Paraxel building on Worthing High Street (West Sussex) as well as the more recent migrant in bushes along the cycleway between Berkeley Way and Skipton Crescent in Warndon, Worcester (Worcs) at SO 884 570. whilst all 3 wintering ROSE-COLOURED STARLINGS are to be found, with that in Holyhead (Anglesey) and singles in Muirhead, Troon (Ayrshire) (most frequently in Bruce Kerr's garden with the Scottish flag opposite the Activity Centre) and in Hordle village (Hants) (generally in the vicinity of the memorial, just down from the village post office). A flock of 4 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS still remains on berries by the roundabout at the south end of Asda's car park in Blyth (Northumberland)

Lots of GREAT GREY SHRIKES are still to be found including popular singles near Fakenham (Norfolk) parallel to the A148, one in the middle-of-nowhere near the Craig Bron-banog aerial mast in Clocaenog Forest (at SJ 018 520), the singing male near the footpath to Doles Farm at Lower Layham (Suffolk), the long-stayer near the sentry box on Prestwick Carrs (Northumberland), one in the clearing opposite the hide in Montreathmont Forest (Angus/Dundee), that present for its third day between Green House Farm and Twelve Acre Farm at South Leigh (Oxfordshire), that long-stayer in the hedgerows near Hinton Organic Farm at Queen Charlton (Somerset), at Ibsley Common and at Pig Bush in the New Forest (Hants), in hedgerows opposite ElyRailway Station in Little Thetford (Cambs), on the slope west of the car park at World's End (Clwyd), in the central clearfell in Cross Inn Forest (Ceredigion), along the Ackling Dyke at Sixpenny Handley (Dorset) still, two still on Thursley Common (Surrey), in the clearfell at Langridge Fell (SD 660 404) (Lancs) a kilometre along the main forestry track off of the old Clitheroe road and still near the loch at Old Kinord (Aberdeenshire).

In North Wales, a build-up in scoter numbers has resulted in the finding of no less than four SURF SCOTERS (3 adult drakes) offshore amongst the estimated 25,000 Common Scoters at Old Colwyn (Conwy), with another drake in Largo Bay off Ruddon's Point (Fife).

Other rare wildfowl lingering include drake AMERICAN WIGEONS on the central lagoon at Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon) and at Angler's Country Park, WakefIeld (South Yorks), the drake RING-NECKED DUCK still on the Par Beach Pool, St Austell (Cornwall) with another at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park (Lancs), and the drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL on the River Chelmer in Maldon (Essex) and that on Dorman's Pool, Teesmouth (Cleveland). Two 'new' drake RING-NECKED DUCKS were discovered on Loch Davan (Aberdeenshire) this evening.

Meanwhile, a white morph SNOW GOOSE remains with Greylag Geese in fields left of the Douglas Water junction in Clyde and the RED-BREASTED GOOSE with Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Old Hall Marshes (Essex)..

Nottinghamshire had an interesting overland wader passage today, involving both Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit but more interestingly a PURPLE SANDPIPER at Kilvington West Lake; also at least 6 Black-legged Kittiwakes through..

One of the two LITTLE AUKS remained in Scapa Flow off of Scapa Pier (Orkney) today.

Not much news from IRELAND today but the female RING-NECKED DUCK remains at Cross Lough, Killadoon (County Mayo), the female SIBERIAN STONECHAT continues on the South Slob NR (County Wexford), a GLOSSY IBIS for its second day at Mullaghmore Lake (County Galway), both first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS at The Cull (County Wexford), drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL at Tacumshin (County Wexford) and the first Swallows and Willow Warblers of the year

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The mysterious WOODCOCK

One of my favourite birds of all time - the enigmatic WOODCOCK

Saturday, 10 March 2012

SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER makes landfall yet again in East Kent

Following on from a few early OSPREYS and the first wave of GARGANEYS, temperatures of up to 64 degrees fahrenheit today induced a vagrant SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER into East Kent at Samphire Hoe Country Park - the 275th species of the year in combined Britain and Ireland. Found shortly after midday, the bird remained on view until late afternoon, generally favouring the Birches and small plantations alongside the railway, up to 300 yards away from the Information Centre. Simon Knight managed a few record shots, published above.

Otherwise, it was very much the same as it has been - the showstoppers all still in situ

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT still moving about the hedgerows adjacent to Rhiwderyn village in Gwent (South Wales) (but much more difficult now to locate due to the small number of people now visiting the site), the male SPANISH SPARROW in Calshot village (Hants) (Bruce Gwynn still putting in a sterling effort and allowing access to his girlfriend's house to view the feeders - please note though that Bruce will soon be away for 6 weeks), the male DARK-EYED JUNCO in the clearing NW of the car park at Hawkhill Inclosure, New Forest, west of Beaulieu and the singing male PADDYFIELD WARBLER in phragmites in the vicinity of the third bench west of the Breaches Pool at Pagham harbour's North Wall.

And now for the rest.......

Still numerous GREAT WHITE EGRETS to see, including up to 5 in the Shapwick Heath NNR area (Somerset) but no recent reports of the Kirkby-on-Bain Landfill Site (Lincs) White Stork of unknown origin.

GLOSSY IBISES continue to make headlines and one must now ponder on why several flocks are migrating/dispersing even further north in spring; up to 5 remain on the island of Eigg (Highland) with 3 in the Gibraltar Point area (Lincs), the long-stayer at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs), 4 together at Reedham (Norfolk Yare Valley), the singleton at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk), 8J9 in Essex at Lofts Farm GP, Maldon, 2 at Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry NNR (Kent) and the 3 still at Marloes Mere (Pembs).

Rare wildfowl include a SNOW GOOSE with Greylag Geese at Douglas Water (Clyde) (most wintering Ross's Snow Geese have now departed NNW with Pinkfeet), up to 10 singleton vagrant GREENLAND WHITE-FRONTED GEESE remain at various sites from Hampshire to Suffolk, several TUNDRA BEAN GEESE flocks including 15 at Maidens Hall Lake, Red Row and 3 RED-BREASTED GEESE of probably genuine origin: a first-winter with Barnacles in Dumfries at Southerness Point, a first-winter with Brents at Needs Ore Point (Hants) and an adult with Brents at Kirton Creek, north of Felixstowe (Suffolk).

The drake AMERICAN WIGEON remains at Angler's Country Park (West Yorks), as does the drake at Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon) but there was no sign today of the drake at Marlingford Mill, Norwich (Norfolk) that has been present the past week. No less than 12 NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEALS are to be found, with the first-year drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL on Lower Moors, St Mary's (Scilly), drake LESSER SCAUPS at Cosmeston Lakes CP, Cardiff (Glamorgan) and St John's Loch (Caithness), drake RING-NECKED DUCKS at both Par Beach Pool and College Reservoir in Cornwall and SURF SCOTERS at several sites, including the long-stayers at Penzance (Cornwall) and in West Wales. The juvenile female BUFFLEHEAD from Helston Loe Pool (Cornwall) seems to have moved on, whilst there ha sbeen no further sign of the adult female Hooded Merganser of unknown origin in Kent since 5th March.

Several ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS remain on winter territories, the easiest to see being the juvenile at Burpham (West Sussex), whilst 2 COMMON CRANES on Worth Marshes, Sandwich (East Kent) are likely continental migrants.

On the wader front, Scotland's first-year GREATER YELLOWLEGS is now at Starnafin Farm, Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire) (since 7th) with the long-staying LESSER YELLOWLEGS in West Cornwall near Saltash. Avon's adult SPOTTED SANDPIPER is now showing again at Chew Valley Lake, with sporadic appearances of both the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS in Wigtown Bay (Galloway) and Lodmoor CP (Dorset). The wintering PECTORAL SANDPIPER also remains in Ayrshire.

The adult BONAPARTE'S GULL continues to be seen in Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) with further birds at Stornoway, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and Dunnet Bay (Caithness), with up to 6 different CASPIAN GULLS gracing Minsmere RSPB East Scrape (Suffolk). Martin Scott's record flock of ICELAND GULLS in Stornoway Harbour (Lewis) reached a staggering 88 birds on 9th.

Surprisingly, despite the temperatures, no Hoopoes have yet been found on the South Coast of Britain, but Sand Martins are now starting to arrive in numbers as well as the odd Barn Swallow. An incredible 37 WATER PIPITS are gathered at the water meadows beside the Stour river at Stodmarsh (Kent) with Black Redstarts arriving in good numbers and dribs and drabs of Northern Wheatears. I expect the first White-spotted Bluethroat any day now.

At least 6 YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS remain from the winter with perhaps a migratory bird at the Paraxel buildings in Worthing (West Sussex) for two weeks now. Three different ROSE-COLOURED STARLINGS have proved popular with singles in Holyhead, Muirtown (Ayrshire) and Hordle village (Hampshire)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

COMMON CROSSBILLS with significant bills

Sean Nixon has photographed COMMON CROSSBILLS wintering at Upper Hollesley Common in Suffolk this winter and this shows the variation within the bill size of this species. Some of the males here have lower mandibles not disimilar to the female being touted as a putative Parrot Crossbill in West Sussex this winter.

The putative PARROT CROSSBILL in West Sussex

Some excellent new shots I have just received of the Sussex putative Parrot Crossbill from Mike McKee. Is the forehead extent and bill size within the variation of Scandinavian Parrot Crossbill or is it more likely a variant Common Crossbill or a vagrant Scottish Parrot Crossbill?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Protecting Canada's POLAR BEARS


Private Member’s Bill in the works for Ontario, home to almost 1,000 polar bears

TORONTO, CANADA (March 6, 2012) – At a news conference today in Toronto, international entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson called for greater protection of Canada’s polar bears, announcing that legislation to protect the hundreds of polar bears living in northern Ontario will soon be tabled at Queen’s Park.

“The majestic and powerful polar bear is an iconic symbol of Canada around the world,” Branson said. “With their habitat increasingly threatened and their very survival in jeopardy, now is the time for action. We owe it to the next generation to ensure that these magnificent animals will live on in the Canadian north.”

Branson was in Toronto with his foundation Virgin Unite, in support of the Canadian chapter of WildAid, an international wildlife conservation organization leading the development of a Polar Bear Protection Act for Ontario. It will be tabled in the Ontario legislature as a Private Member’s Bill this spring.

Branson called on the business community as well as the general public to support greater protection for polar bears online by visiting

“Ontario is home to as many as 1,000 polar bears – we have a responsibility to protect this important species of our province’s wildlife,” said WildAid founder Peter Knights. “Manitoba already has a Polar Bear Protection Act, and the federal government recently named the polar bear a ‘species of special concern’ under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. We need Ontario’s leadership on this.

”Ontario hosts the southernmost population of polar bears in the world, estimated at 700 to 1,000 bears. The loss of arctic ice is a significant threat, forcing an increasing number of bears to move ashore earlier in the year and for longer periods of time. Body mass, litter sizes and total numbers of bears are in decline, and renowned researcher Dr. Ian Stirling has predicted the extinction of the southernmost populations within the next 20 to 30 years unless current trends are reversed.

Monday, 5 March 2012



Wow, this exciting tome thudded down onto my doormat at the weekend and what a publication it is. With heavy rain all day on Sunday I was able to absorb its contents without worrying what I was missing outside. This is a Photographic Guide by an acclaimed field ornithologist and writer and is a collaboration of the minds and field-skills of J. Brian Patteson, Kate Sutherland and Debra Shearwater. It is a well-produced, neatly presented and nicely formatted hardback running at just under 470 pages and fully details the large shearwaters, small shearwaters, Atlantic Gadfly Petrels, Pacific Gadfly Petrels, North Atlantic and vagrant Albatrosses and both the white-rumped and dark-rumped storm petrels.

Each group of birds is introduced by a summary of its characters, at times with overviews and photographs treating in detail some of the more challenging identifications, followed by individual species' accounts. Each species documented is enlightened by an excellent field identification section and then supplemented by annotated images where appropriate. Easy-to-read and use maps enhance the main text as do sections on status and distribution, fully utilising all up-to-date information.

The Introduction section runs for 50 pages and is an essential ingredient of the publication, being excellently written and produced in a format which is easily understood. There then follows the main meat of the publication - the species' accounts. No less than 58 species are featured, some six pages on average being devoted to each one. A large selection of photographs are featured and these, in the main, are well chosen and highly representative. Frustratingly, some of the images have come out a little darker than expected in the printing process but this is a minor quibble.

I cross-checked a few entries with peer-reviewed identification papers (Scopoli's Shearwater for example) and was very pleased with the results, the information being offered being of a high quality and seemingly accurate in fine detail. The authors have certainly done their homework with this guide. I was very pleased too to see all of the proposed taxonomic changes incorporated and these highly distinct forms treated separately and well documented (eg, the Fea's Petrel group).

Although I know it is essentially a Photographic Guide, I do feel the publication would have benefited further by the inclusion of plates, such as the exceptional and outstanding one of the small shearwaters on page 147.

This is a truly essential guide for seawatchers and keen birders on both sides of the Atlantic, even though it is written in the main for a North American audience. It is a particularly well-written guide that should be used as a primary reference for those studying these mysterious sea-dwellers.

It is published by Princeton University Press and is available direct or from retail outlets - the UK price at present £31.00 plus postage & packing.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The thorny problem of GREEN-WINGED TEAL identification - the responses

Dave Appleton of Norfolk responded ''For me these are perfectly good Green-winged Teals, or at least the two features you note as perhaps being indicative of an intergrade are in fact perfectly acceptable for pure Green-winged Teal.

When you asked about the Connaught bird last year I pointed out that a pale lower border to the green facial area below and behind the eye is well within normal variation for Green-winged Teal – in fact although there is some variation in the extent and prominence of this feature the birds you are querying do not seem to me to be at all unusual in this respect.The hint of a pale horizontal stripe is, I believe, also well within normal variation for pure Green-winged Teal. I suspect its appearance is partly dependent on light as it appears to vary between different photos of the same individual in some cases. You’ve noted that Keith has found photos of birds in North America showing this feature and I’d support that – it seems quite frequent indeed.

I don’t think these birds are intergrades, but pure Green-winged Teals.However if they are intergrades then it cannot be as you suggest,“generations of European birds are hybridising following the vagrancy of some pure North American individuals”. If it were that then hybrids would be mating with Eurasian Teals in the main and would be closer in appearance to Eurasian Teal than Green-winged Teal. The only way the intergrade theory can possibly be the answer is if there is genetic introgression from vagrant Eurasian Teals in North America to large parts of the North American population of Green-winged Teals such that many of the Green-winged Teals there are in fact intergrades, and these intergrades are crossing the Atlantic. But I think the simpler explanation is that they are pure Green-winged Teals and this is normal variation''

Bruce Mactavish, birding in Newfoundland, offered

In St. John’s, Newfoundland we annually have a dozen or two overwintering teal more or less equally divided up between Common Teal and Green-winged Teal. In an exceptional winter like 2010/2011 there were four times more Common Teal (50+ individuals) than Green-winged Teal. Overall there are far more Common Teal occurring in eastern Newfoundland than observed elsewhere in eastern North America. In my 4+ decades of birding in eastern Newfoundland I’ve only once seen a male teal suspected of being a hybrid Common X Green-winged Teal. It had a blurred, dulled out white vertical and horizontal bar. The vertical bar was stronger than the horizontal bar but neither bar was as crisp white as a purebred.

This being said I’ve seen drake Common Teal in St John’s area joining bachelor flocks of dabbling ducks in late May that one would normally presumed bred locally. Did they breed locally???

The teal in the photo could be a hybrid. The gray horizontal stripe is faded compared to the vertical stripe. The white border on the green face patch is suggestive of Common Teal but is actually within range of Green-winged Teal.

Unlike the Alaskan vs Russian coast I think there are few chances for Green-winged x Common Teal to be happening in the North Atlantic''

Another 'Teal' website -

Nick Lethaby noted ''I don’t think the presence of some yellow rimming around the green on the face is indicative of a hybrid. The pale horizontal bar is definitely suspicious but subtle. I need to look at more bird here. Generally the bird I call hybrids have a more obvious horizontal bar but that doesn’t of course mean that GW Teal show a ‘ghost bar’ like this with any regularity''

Friday, 2 March 2012

PADDYFIELD WARBLER showing much better now

Dave Barnes got these excellent shots of the North Wall, Pagham, PADDYFIELD WARBLER this week. The bird has been showing very well in the sunshine and calm conditions in the Phragmites bed, often flycatching for long periods. It is favouring the ditch 50-100 yards beyond the Breach Pool, usually in the area between the second and third benches on the sea wall.

Britain has had quite a few wintering Paddyfield Warblers now and this individual has been present since last November


I had a look at the drake Green-winged Teal in Maldon today and noticed that it is the same bird as recently at Alton Water in South Suffolk. Although it has striking pure white vertical white foreflank lines, it has a hint of a white horizontal scapular stripe and golden-buff edgings to the lower part of the green facial stripe. Last autumn, a drake at Caerlaverock WWT shared similar features.

Now is this within the natural variation of carolinensis or is it evidence of intergradation? Keith Viinicombe has kindly trawled the net for me and found similar examples in North America.

Of course, this drake is much more convincing in plumage to last year's undoubted hybrid at Connaught Water, Epping, but is it really pure?

David Acfield's selection of images of today's bird are posted above

David Sibley has written a nice piece on this subject - see

Thursday, 1 March 2012

HOODED MERGANSER of unknown origin in Kent

Female-type Hooded Merganser at Whetsted GP today (Graeme Leckie)

I made the effort and went and saw this bird today - it was showing well on the left hand gravel pit at Whetsted GP. It seems to be a first-winter female, with little noticeable white in the coverts and rather restricted white in the tertials; the eye is dull orange-brown, the upperparts dark chocolate-brown and the crest long, shaggy and auburn coloured. The bill is extensively yellow on the lower mandible.

The bird is not that approachable, diving almost continuously and staying at around 80 yards distance. It is feeding naturally, often, is fully-winged and appears to be unringed. The habitat and location is typical for the species and full of an assortment of wildfowl, including Smew, Tufted Duck and Northern Pochard


Park in Five Oak Green village sensibly and courteously and walk towards the bridge in Whetsted Road and continue towards Moat Farm. Continue for 250 yards to the farm and skirt around to the right, always keeping to the farm buildings immediately to your left. Follow footpaths 158 & 159 and after the farm, continue 300 yards across open farmland towards the lefthand edge of the distant trees, the three gravel pits then becoming apparent. The bird is on the largest pit to the left of the causeway.

Lee Evans



I am now running my regular NORTHERN GOSHAWK day trips in March, on which numerous vacancies exist

I also still have spaces on trips to Egypt (5 days), Spain (5 days) and Israel (up to 10 days) in March and in Morocco (7 days) and Estonia (5 days) in April; also possibly 1/2 spaces on trip to Georgia in third week of April (5 dayer)

The Round Britain tour in May is now fully booked, although I am taking advance bookings for next years January trip

Please email me at for further details

Good Birding Always


Exceptional record - BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS from research vessel west of IRELAND

Seen and photographed about 160 nautical miles SW of Mizen head, yesterday

and the lads that saw it....

Kindly contributed by Brian Small