Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Oxford Street... it's got a Circus (cyaneus) and a Lush (skydancer)

Next door to Vision Express east of Oxford Circus in old London town is Lush. It caught my eye as I ventured into Vision Express for an eye test this evening. Never been in Lush before but this time it was with purpose for a purchase. A skydancer bath bomb to buy after the eye test

Where would it be, would it be like looking for 'Fly Fishing' by J R Hartley? It was nothing of the sort, there they were pride of place by the entrance. Very pleasing to hear the staff in Lush talk about the significance of this item, very knowledgeable about the plight of the Hen Harrier. Go on, go and buy one... or two... or three.

Here's a record shot of the purchase.

What's the fuss? It's all about Hen Harrier conservation -

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

To Cornwall, back to Rainham and then a diversion to Pitsea (Late July/early Aug 2015)

Late July saw me in the south west primarily to join the celebrations at friends wedding in a stunning coastal location, and also gave me the opportunity to continue to the far corner of Cornwall for a seawatch at Porthgwarra on Sunday 26 July 2015. I love seawatching and overnight heavy rain with strong southerlies changing early morning to a blowy southwesterly as the front cleared the area mid morning had thoughts of a push of a few seabirds into Cornish waters. Cory's and Great 'Shears' already being seen over recent days in British and Irish waters. Whilst it was nice to see loads of Manx Shearwaters at close range, with a couple of Balearic Shearwaters thrown in, no large Shearwaters were seen between 09:45 and 12:00. A Great Skua and mid distance Storm Petrel plus lots of Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes added to the variety. I find it difficult to know where to focus on a seawatch at Porthgwarra. On this occasion it was easier to scan through the Manxies using bins as opposed to through the 'scope as the majority flew by just off Gwennap Head. When the front cleared the strong sunlight made viewing difficult on the 'silver' sea. It was instructive to see how the light changes the look of the Manx Shearwaters as they changed from clear cut black and white to a dusky brownish hue. Before the weather improved the Scillonian passed by making light work of the choppy crossing to Scilly.

Noted at Porthgwarra on the landward side were a pair of Choughs, a pair of Ravens, a pair of Carrion Crows and then the Jackdaws broke suit as a dozen flew over the cafe. Before driving back to London I caught up with the 1st Summer Ring-billed Gull and at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls roosting on RSPB Ryan's Field, Hayle Estuary.

Moving forward a week I was back at Rainham Marshes RSPB on Saturday 01 August 2015. On the long walk from Rainham railway station a nice look at a Garden Warbler in scrub at the SE corner was a nice find. Good to catch up with the gang at the reserve and the six of us (RB, BC, PS, VW, PD and yours truly), comprising members of three '2015 Rainham Marshes bird race' teams, were treated to 7 Hobbies, several Buzzards and passage waders including Black-tailed Godwit (18), Greenshank (12), Whimbrel (4), Dunlin (4), Common (4), Green (2) and Wood (1) Sandpipers and LR Plover. Over 100 Swifts moved through.

Having heard about Southern Migrant Hawker dragonflies showing at Wat Tyler CP, Pitsea over recent summers I twitched them on Sunday 02 August 2015 joining RB at this popular CP. We had stunning views of a confiding SM Hawker (aka Blue-eyed Hawker) by the Marina Kiosk pond, which would have an occasional 'barney' with another one who dared to enter this airspace. A walk around the CP produced 2 more SM Hawkers hunting along a path and at a small pond just west of the RSPB centre. Cheers to HV for advice in spotting them, check out HV's excellent photos and blog post.

More photos of this stunning dragonfly at the 'Dragonflies' tab accessible via the top of the page.

Back to Rainham Marshes RSPB where similar number of waders were still on Aveley Pools, hoping to nail the colour-ring combinations on a couple of passage Black-tailed Godwits. More on them in due course.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A big Red bird, a little Red damselfly and a very smart dragonfly from the south

Typical summer pickings at Rainham Marshes RSPB on Saturday 18 July 2015 with passage waders present in the form of singles of Black-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel flying onto the reserve with the afternoon rising tide. Before this a walk to the Serin mound in the morning was quiet with a few Common Terns working Aveley Bay. The birding soon livened up as a couple of Buzzards circled the Silt Lagoons / Wennington Marsh, and then a glance upwards produced a nigh on immaculate Red Kite gliding west. It started to circle Wennington Marsh, quickly gaining height before changing to a fast glide following the Thames up towards London at 10:30. Departed Serin mound with a Hobby zooming through onto the reserve.

Back on the reserve dragons and damsels were the order of the day. A smart looking Southern Hawker patrolled a part shaded area of the woodland boardwalk before resting allowing for further study and photos. Black-tailed Skimmers and Emperor dragonflies shared the Dragonfly Pond and Small Red-eyed Damselflies were present along the southern boardwalk channel. Vying for attention were Marsh Frogs who got noisier as the day warmed up.

More photos on the individual tabbed pages

  • Latest UK Bird Photos
  • Damselflies
  • Dragonflies

Video of the Red Kite as well on Surfbirds linked to at 'UK Birding Videos (Surfbirds)'.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Emperor trumps Ratty at Rainham

Autumn bird migration is starting though not obviously in full swing. A couple of Avocets, a handful of Black-tailed Godwits on the reserve at Rainham Marshes RSPB with Whimbrel roosting on one of the poles by the Thames from the visitors centre - Saturday 11 July 2015.

A cracking view of a Water Vole at the far corner of the northern boardwalk deserved more attention than I gave it as news broke (early afternoon) over the radio of a Lesser Emperor Dragonfly present at the Dragonfly Pond. A nice find by Jerry H. Possibly a site first? We were soon at the Pond where it wasn't on show but luckily it flew in and around us after a couple of minutes where it remained on show on and off until 13:20. One of the first looks before it established a circuit of the pond was seeing it perch briefly on a twig by the platform, observers reached for cameras and guess what, it flew off and didn't appear to land again whilst it was on show. A distinctive Dragonfly characterised by the blue abdominal segment that stood out like a lantern at most angles. In flight it did spar with a female Emperor Dragonfly and Black-tailed Skimmers. It's disappearance coincided with the larger male Emperor Dragonfly showing up. Would the male Emperor Dragonfly have shoved it off? Although it was also getting windy, could that have been a factor?

My 2nd sighting of this rare visitor to the UK from Europe, having seen one in the 1990s whilst twitching a Squacco Heron in Cambridgeshire which may have been one of the first UK records? Saw several in Cyprus (Oct 2014) and Germany (June 2015).

Whilst it was clearly doing a circuit of the Dragonfly Pond it was impossible to follow with the camera. I tried a couple of shots and I believe I've got a very poor record shot of the Lesser Emperor Dragonfly shown below, next to the photo of 'Ratty'.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Wheatear sp, but which one? Northern Wheatear - libanotica

Thanks to everyone who fed back helping me with the id of these pale Wheatears. They are Northern Wheatears, and very probably examples of the southern form 'libanotica'.

Some 'Wheatear' photos from Spain (Sierra de Gedos) of a week ago. Very monotone. Can these be identified to species, Northern Wheatear or bleached Black-eared Wheatear?

Not sure if all are of the same bird.

Trip Reports from May and June 2015

In May and June 2015 I was lucky to make 3 birding trips visiting friends in Cape May (USA), and friends in Karlsruhe (Germany) and then a trip to the dry, hot and wonderful dehesa dominated habitat that is Extremadura (Spain). These trip reports to be found on my blog at

  • Birding Trip Reports - Cape May, NJ, USA
  • Birding Trip Reports - Other

I hope they are both enjoyable and helpful for anyone planning birding visits to New Jersey and Europe respectively.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Overseas Birding Videos (Surfbirds) - updated

Updated the 'Overseas Birding Videos (Surfbirds)' area with a couple of compilation videos from recent trips to Cape May, NJ, USA (May 2015) and Germany (June 2015). Trip reports being worked upon. The videos can also be viewed directly at