Thursday 31 January 2013

Additional Scottish Weekender and other forthcoming BBA trips

Due to demand, I have put on another SCOTTISH WEEKENDER tour - this one running from 3-6 May 2013. There are 3 places left at the moment - please Email for details and bookings. Target birds will include all 4 grouse species (Black, Red, Capercaillie & Ptarmigan), White-billed Diver, King Eider, Surf Scoter, White-tailed & Golden Eagles, Osprey, Peregrine, Raven, Ring Ouzel, Crested Tit and Scottish Parrot and Common Crossbills. Trips depart Junction 18 of the M25 on the Thursday evening at 1900 hours and return about midnight on Monday; are generally dawn until dusk ventures and with overnight stops in Bed & Breakfast facilities.

My NORTHERN GOSHAWK trips will take place between 1st and 16th March this year (first wave) - Monday to Friday Weather Permitting (dry, crisp & clear, with relatively light winds are optimum conditions for viewing). The trips cost £20 per person, departing Junction 18 of the M25 at 0700 hours each trip. Pre-paid vouchers will be issued on a First Come/Fisrt Served basis with a maximum of 5 persons per trip.

This year's LADY AMHERST'S PHEASANT feeding station visits are entirely fully booked up until the end of April, just three males currently surviving.

Still have places on the May trip to OHIO for migrating North American Warblers, American Woodcocks and Kirtland's Warblers, as well as spaces on the SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPER trip to CHINA in September; also perhaps 1-2 spaces on CAPE VERDES ISLAND trip, 4 on MADEIRA seawatching/endemics and possibly 1 or 2 on SCANDINAVIA tour for Owls, Seaducks, etc.

Plenty of space available on SPANISH trips, and that to the AZORES for the BULLFINCH. ALGERIAN trip currently in preparation, with 1 place on EGYPT tour for the 'famous four' and several places on combined MOROCCO/WESTERN SAHARA trip.

South Coast AUK disaster

Large numbers of COMMON GUILLEMOTS and RAZORBILLS are being washed ashore along the South Coast between Hampshire and South Devon, all congealed by a thick sludge believed to be some sort of vegetable oil and most likely offloaded by a passing cargo vessel. Volunteers are working round the clock to pick up the birds and take them back to the RSPCA centres to be cleaned up, although 20% have actually already been found dead.

Monday 28 January 2013

Round Britain Tour of January 2013 - Really hard going due to the extreme weather conditions

This year's trip was particularly testing, mainly due to the extreme weather conditions. We literally got snowed in in Norfolk for four days before hitting gale force winds and torrential rain in both Cornwall and South Wales. As such, we really struggled to hit the high numbers, and this year's total of 174 species fell well short of last year's 192 and 2011's 178. Despite these setbacks, we had a really enjoyable trip, and it was a fantastic team that really gelled well - just under 2,000 miles was covered.

Amongst the many highlights in Norfolk included the Black-bellied Dipper, 31 Taiga Beans, Stubb Mill Common Cranes and roosting harriers, Slavonian Grebe, 40 Mediterranean Gulls, Waxwings, Bittern, 36 Snow Buntings, Rough-legged Buzzard, Lapland Bunting, Twite, Golden Pheasant, Red Kite and Wild Swans in the snow, whilst Suffolk afforded fabulous views of a juvenile Great Northern Diver, as well as exceptional numbers of Barnacle Geese and Red-breasted Geese. Hertfordshire in deep snow allowed us to closely examine no less than 67 Grey Partridges, with the added bonus of Merlin, Hen Harrier and 2 Great Grey Shrikes.

A trip first was the American Buff-bellied Pipit at QMR, with that area adding Siberian, Scandinavian and Common Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, some lovely Smew and Goosander, Black-throated Diver, Water Pipit, Stonechat and a nice selection of birds at Staines. We failed to see the Pallas's Leaf Warbler though.

Along the South Coast, we mopped up Ring-billed Gull, Common Sandpiper, Great White Egret and Bewick's Swan, enjoying a stonking flock of 30 Hawfinches in Hampshire and 3 Tundra Bean Geese in Dorset. More additions came in the form of Spoonbill, Velvet Scoter, Curlew Sandpiper, Rose-coloured Starling, Cirl Bunting, Lesser Yellowlegs and Greenshank before we lost over a day to the inclement weather. Before we had left Cornwall, we had managed to connect with Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal and Greenland White-front, but the Common Tern never gave itself up.

Despite dipping the Bonaparte's Gull twice in South Wales, Pembrokeshire sufficed with Surf Scoter, Chough, Long-billed Dowitcher and Glossy Ibis.

Although many of the same team are booked on next year's trip, spaces are available for up to 5 more - email me for details and bookings ( Dates are now confirmed for an additional Scottish Long Weekender this spring - 3-6 May 2013 - whilst spaces remain on the Summer Round Britain Tour. Email for details

Friday 18 January 2013

GOSHAWK SPECIALS this early spring


I shall be running a series of Goshawk Watching trips from late February to 12 March. At least four trips per week will be running, costing £20 each per person. Booking is now taking place for these trips, the weather of course, being a significant factor. Contact me on to reserve your place. Departure place is Junction 18 of the M25

Lee Evans

Tuesday 15 January 2013

The cracking PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER at Moor Green (Paul Rowe)

Thetford's very popular BLACK-BELLIED DIPPER (Jim Lawrence)

Perhaps the most confiding BEARDED TITS of all time -showing at just feet distance in the centre of London on the Serpentine in Hyde Park (Andrew Moon)

Seabird records are often incredulous and yet again this week we see another such occurrence. On 6 January, a dead WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD was found on the tideline at Mowbray Bank, SSW of Siloth (Cumbria), somewhat rotting but still relatively fresh. However, determining whether it was a bird washed overboard from a ship or a natural vagrant dying of starvation, is impossible to ascertain. The species has been occurring with more and more frequency in the Azores and Cape Verde Islands of late, so could be a realistic possibility for vagrancy to the UK or Ireland.

As we complete two weeks of January, the tally for 2013 stands at a fairly respectable 238 species. Lead rares include an overwintering PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER at Eversley GP on the Berkshire/Hampshire border, roving back and forth with Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests along the Blackwater River (county boundary) between 200 and 350 yards west of the footpath that leads down from the car park on Lower Sandhurst Road, NE of Yateley and NNW of Sandhurst, and a female DESERT WHEATEAR in Aberdeenshire on the beach by the lighthouse at Rattray Head. Most watched birds of this winter have been the two AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS that are commuting between the banks of Queen Mother Reservoir and the puddles of Kingsmead Quarry, east of the B376 north of Sunneymeads Railway Station (Berks).

An adult BONAPARTE'S GULL is being seen regularly on the Ogmore Estuary (East Glamorgan), 300 yards downstream of the Portobello House at around SS 865 765, with another being seen sporadically in Cardiff and an adult in North Cornwall at Padstow.on 14th.

An extremely confiding BLACK-BELLIED DIPPER in Norfolk has been particularly popular this year, favouring the River Thet in Thetford in the vicinity of the Three Nuns Bridges.

Just two GLOSSY IBISES are reliable this winter, those being at Marloes Mere (Pembs) and at Bickerley Common, South Ringwood (Hants), whilst GREAT WHITE EGRETS number up to an incredible 35 (including up to 7 in the Dungeness Area of Kent alone). A single CATTLE EGRET is wintering on the Somerset Levels.

East Anglia is currently offering a good crop of geese, with up to 4 Red-breasted Geese of unknown origin at North Warren RSPB, Aldeburgh (Suffolk), a party of 5 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE in fields near Westleton village (Suffolk), up to 63 TAIGA BEAN GEESE in the Yare Valley at Buckenham RSPB (Norfolk) and BLACK BRANTS at Cley NWT (Norfolk), Holkham Fields (Norfolk) and Levington Creek (Suffolk). The only Ross's Snow Goose of this winter remains that adult of suspect origin with 5 Barnacle Geese, widely ranging with Pink-footed Geese in Norfolk Broadland. Elsewhere, vagrant CANADA GEESE number up to 8 birds in Scotland, with the South Coast adult RED-BREASTED GOOSE now with 1,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Thorney Island (West Sussex).

Rare ducks include both drake LESSER SCAUPS at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) and Colliford Lake (Cornwall) respectively, 8 different RING-NECKED DUCKS, a few SURF SCOTERS including a very confiding juvenile female in Broad Haven (Pembs) and drake KING EIDERS on Shetland and in Aberdeenshire.

Few rare waders this winter to see outside of a LESSER YELLOWLEGS in South Devon at Ernesettle Creek, a TEMMINCK'S STINT at Stockland Reach, Steart (Somerset) and a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER in South Wales on the Gann Estuary (Pembs).

A RICHARD'S PIPIT is present for a fifth day on the Somerset coastline, on the seawall near Dowlais Farm on the Yeo Estuary at Clevedon, whilst the UK's first-ever overwintering WESTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER continues elusively in gardens on Princess Street and Pleasant Terrace in St Just (Cornwall). It is a good winter for SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFFS with perhaps as many as 45 birds overwintering.

In Central London, two juvenile BEARDED TITS, initially trapped and ringed at Rye Meads (Herts) last autumn, have been wowing the crowds in Kensington Park, performing at literally just yards range on top of the pamphus seedheads along the Serpentine edge adjacent to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Although parking is very expensive in the vicinity, walking from a variety of tube stations takes only minutes, with the views these two birds are giving, simply irresistible. You will never see Bearded Tits better.

A host of scarce waterbirds are currently to be found at freshwater inland locations, including Great Northern Divers at Carsington Water (Derbyshire), Alton Water dam (Suffolk) and at Chimney Corner South Pit (Beds), a Black-throated Diver on Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks) (Members-only access), Slavonian Grebes at Farmoor Reservoirs (Oxon), Brogborough Lake (Beds) and Theale Main Pit (Berks), a Velvet Scoter at Steetley Quarry (Derbyshire) and Long-tailed Ducks at Angler's Country Park, Wakefield (South Yorks), Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) and Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks).

In IRELAND, a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER remains for a second day at Lady's Island Lake (County Wexford), the long-staying CATTLE EGRET remains at the organic piggery at St Johnston (County Donegal), the adult BONAPARTE'S GULL is in Sandy Bay at Larne Harbour (County Antrim), the AMERICAN COOT continues on Murloch (County Galway) and the FORSTER'S TERN by the Mutton Island Causeway near Nimmo's Pier (County Galway). There are easily 12 different RING-BILLED GULLS on winter territories in Ireland.

Lee Evans

PremierBirdNewsForTheUKandWP - the New Bird News service from the UK400 Club. On special offer for a limited period only at just £12.00 per year. Allows full access to the club's database, with full details of where and when to see some 190 individual scarcities thus far in January 2013.


Monday 14 January 2013

WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD found dead on Cumbrian tideline - First record for Britain

Peter Scott of Workington found a WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD on the tideline at Mawbray Bank on 6th January. We collected the body and it is now in the freezer at Tullie House Museum. The specimen is intact but very smelly and shedding patches of feathers (per Stephen Hewitt)

Sunday 13 January 2013

Berkshire's sprite draws in big crowds


Winter is back with temperatures today really struggling to climb much above 3 degrees C and the wind from the Northeast pretty biting, despite being fairly moderate. A bright day though, with some sunshine.

BERKSHIRE was my main destination this morning, trying to unravel the mysteries of the two-bird theory and securing a County Tick........


There was an impressive turnout at Moor Green this morning, with no less than 250 birders making the pilgrimage. I parked along Lower Sandhurst Lane opposite Blackwater View at SU 806 627. It was then a 250 yard walk south to the Blackwater River and then a further 250-300 yard walk west along the riverbank to SU 804 621 or thereabouts - very, very muddy too.

I was lucky. Chris Heard was watching the bird as I got to the crowd and he and others very kindly and quickly got me on to it. It was highly mobile, moving within a very short space of time along a 150-200 yard section of trees on the south (Hampshire) side of the river; it was quite difficult to keep on and difficult to keep up with. The reason for its mobility was its total reliance on Long-tailed Tits for company and safety. Wherever this flock of 9-12 birds went, the Phyllosc and two associating Goldcrests followed, moving back and forth along the riverine scrub. From the outset, I fully understood why a mistake had been made, the pale lemon median crown-stripe being particularly dull and difficult to discern. Furthermore, despite seeing the bird on many occasions, in good light and often close to the 'deck', it was very difficult to make out the pale lemon rump. What you could see though was the diagnostic face pattern (the broad black loral stripe extending back to the crown, along with the peppered olive-grey ear-coverts) and the marginally shorter tail. It also had a very short, black bill and distinctive pale feet. It was definitely PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER rather than Yellow-browed Warbler but in any event, a fabulous find for local birder Ian Paine on 3 January (and of course confirmed by photographs taken by David Rimes on 12th).

The crowd during the morning were treated to some particularly fine views on occasions, especially when it dropped down to the riverside and fed in scrub well below eye-level. John Dixon obtained some outstanding shots. Although it spent most of its time in Hampshire, there were times when it fed midway in river vegetation and in trees on the north (BERKSHIRE) side. I was very pleased to meet Ian on site, as well as many other faces from the Hampshire and Berkshire birding communities. It was a County Lifer for me on both counts.

In addition to the small birds associating with the feeding flock (including Blue Tits), I also noted Nuthatches visiting the feeding station, with Robin, Wren, Jay, Common Magpie and Red Fox also encountered. To the north of the gravel pit complex, 15 Barnacle Geese and two hybrid Branta were feeding, whilst other waterfowl included Mute Swan, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Coot; 82 Lapwing also.


I then arranged to meet Allan Stewart in Central London. Muswell Hill birdwatcher Alan Gibson had discovered 2 BEARDED TITS on the Serpentine on 14 December 2012 and incredibly they were still present. I was not expecting them to be as easy as they were though, especially knowing how elusive this species generally is, but this was truly incredible - some of the best views I have ever had. Favouring a narrow stretch of reeds just adjacent to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, the two birds (both ringed juveniles) were showing at point-blank range, feeding away unconcerned at the top of the seed heads. They were literally just yards away and drawing substantial numbers of interested observers, a mixture of city dwellers out for a Sunday walk and tourists passing by and enjoying Hyde Park and its winter attractions and restaurants.

I then made a short, sharp visit to QUEEN MOTHER RESERVOIR (BERKSHIRE), where yesterday's BLACK-THROATED DIVER was still patrolling the North bank of the reservoir mid-afternoon, before ending up at STAINES MOOR (MIDDLESEX), where up to 6 Short-eared Owls are wintering. Again, if its slushy, slippery mud that you like, then the footpath from Hithermoor Lane is the one to take, eventually bringing you out at the north end of the moor. At around 1530 hours, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were performing, along with an excellent BARN OWL just as the track meets the moor proper. A further bonus was a pair of COMMON STONECHATS.

Lee Evans

Saturday 12 January 2013


See finder David Rime's account and images here -

Berkshire really hitting the big time

The BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS at Queen Mother superbly photographed by Graham Jepson

Quite incredibly, there is both a PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER and YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER in the same tit flock at Moor Green Lakes NR, a mile NW of Yateley (Berkshire) this afternoon, the former being captured on film by David Rimes. The birds are by the river 100 yards beyond the old conveyor belt bridge, this location straddling the county boundary with Hampshire.

At the same time, both AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS are to be seen, commuting between the banks of Queen Mother Reservoir and an area of waste ground just NE of Sunnymeads Station east of the B376 on puddles within the Kingsmead Quarry area