Saturday, 7 October 2017

Late September Yorkshire birding and a trip to see Otus scops

A week back home and lots of Yorkshire birding to be done plus an excursion out of county to the north east.

Sat 23 Sep and Friday's star in Barnsley's current birding purple patch was present early morning, a showy 1st w Grey Phalarope. It performed to all on the slipway off the dam wall at Worsbrough Reservoir, where a Grey Wagtail tried to photobomb this northern visitor. Ended the day nearby at Old Moor RSPB where 2 Bearded Tits pinged by the reedbed screen with at least one Cetti's Warbler singing from a hidden perch. A beautiful juv. Peregrine kept a beady eye on proceedings from a pylon before spooking the 'Lappies'. At the other end of the reserve the main marsh held the Lapwings, ca. 60 Golden Plovers, a dozen or so Ruff, a handful of Dunlin, single Greenshank and the reserves iconic Green Sandpipers were also on show. A lone Little Egret on the main marsh, and a 'cream crown' (juv) Marsh Harrier was present over the reedbeds.

Sun 24 Sep and afternoon birding on the South Yorkshire Moors at Ewden Cabin joining Cabin regulars and visitors to this remote spot from 1330 to 1700. On approaching the Cabin a couple of Ring Ouzels chatted in the heather, and a few minutes earlier a lone Crossbill had flown west up the valley calling in flight. At 'base camp' Buzzards were in the area throughout the afternoon, joined by a cc Marsh Harrier for a little while. A group of 3 Ravens showed regularly and Kestrels were ever present with Sparrowhawk noted in the valley. As time passed by 2 more cc Marsh Harriers flew in together and late afternoon one of their number was joined by an irate Hen Harrier (ringtail) which lead to lengthy sparring and a 'Circus' soar-off. A juvenile Peregrine joined in the fun having got bored of annoying the Ravens. Walked back to more chattering Ring Ouzels. What's going on with a late season gathering of these summer migrants? A milestone of 200 passage 'Mipits' for the day was reached on leaving and a tit flock in scrub, literally on the moorland edge, held Chiffchaff and perhaps surprisingly of all for this location, a Treecreeper. Not a bad afternoon's haul.

PS - Not to forget the waders that zoomed past us over the moors on packing up. After a bit of consultation they were identified as a group of 6 Ruff split into 2 groups of 3 (a total of 4m and 2f - striking size difference seen in flight).

Mon 25 Sep twitching Spurn. Late morning at Easington a Yellow-browed Warbler called and showed in the sycamores by the carpark at the SW corner of the Gas Terminal. Nearby on the coastal path a Redwing was fresh in off the sea looking for cover, its 'seeping' call betrayed its presence. At Kilnsea several Redstarts flitted about and Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitehroat noted in the 'Triangle'. The slow paced birding was broken when news broke mid afternoon of presumably the previous day's Radde's Warbler. It had now been relocated along the densely covered Beacon Lane. Perhaps to be expected it didn't show on arrival. Staring at gaps in a hedge for an hour only as limited appeal so off up Beacon Lane. To do something different and also as word was that there were Red-veined Darters up there. The 'dragon' shown below was very welcome. Soon back down Beacon Lane and noticed the 'Radde's' hopefuls had shifted position, it had shown a few minutes earlier. Set up shop and focussed on the bramble scrub where it was last seen, and after a minute or two there was movement in the scrub. The skulker showed, its bright yellow 'super' glowed as did the striking black eye stripe. This warm-toned chunky 'Phyllosc' soon revealed it's yellow vent in a couple of more views as it went back into the scrub. A Yorkshire tick (#337), my last (and my 1st) way back in North Norfolk in October 1991. After leaving Spurn caught up with a juvenile Black Tern at Broomhill Flash at dusk.

Tue 26 Sep and an early morning trip down the road to Old Moor RSPB chasing my local patch nemesis... Cetti's Warbler! Regular in Yorkshire and connected at RSPB's Blacktoft Sands and Swillington Ings, as well as at Tophill Low and Wintersett over the last few years, but the 'Wath Area' birds have always been out of reach for me from a seeing perspective. On this morning one male gave it's songburst several times from the reedbeds before 10am, but it was distant and moved further away to the left from the Reedbeds Screen, where a couple of Bearded Tits pinged their way along a channel heading deep into the reedbeds. I decided to chance the 'Green Lane' part of the reserve as I saw on the web that a 'Cetti's' had been noted there the previous day. On relocating at about 1030 a male was singing from the ditch half way between the Field Pool West hide and the track leading up to the Wader Scrape hide. Approached with caution as it was singing from an overhanging Willow a few yards from the path. It was on show walking along a bough low down in the tree, singing all the time. It made its way into the reeds at the back of the ditch, probably the best views of 'Cetti's' I've had (Wath tick #189). A brief interlude as birded the Moors early afternoon where several Buzzards and Kestrels were on show as were many passage Meadow Pipits and Swallows. Back at 'Wath' (Old Moor RSPB) late afternoon scanning the waders at Wath Ings. Loads of Ruff (37), 2 each of Little Stint and Dunlin, several Green Sandpipers and amongst the Lapwings were 70 Golden Plovers.

Wed 27 Sep and news broke before 9am of a big (but actually a small) rarity in the form of a Scops Owl up in County Durham. Lucky to have seen the Morwenstow, Cornwall bird on the cliff face in the Spring of '95 but the chance of seeing this gem from the Mediterranean was a bit of a no brainer! Joined the locals and twitchers watching the 'Scops' roosting in an elder late morning, where it snoozed, stretched and preened on occasion. It was well and truly 'papped' at a respectful distance from the path. Driving back south taking in Hartlepool Headland which held at least one riduculously elusive Yellow-browed Warbler, heard only, a Redstart with a couple of Sandwich Terms lingering offshore.

Thu 28 Sep and off to Spurn where late morning an Arctic Warbler gave itself up in the hedgerow at the back of the fields to the north of the road between the Crown and Anchor and Beacon Lane. It shared the bushes with a Pied Flycatcher and a couple of Redstarts. A 'standard' Lesser Whitethroat was nearby with another along the Canal bank. Arctic Warbler 'twitchers' had the pleasure of a hunting Hobby, a passage cc Marsh Harrier, and a Short-eared Owl over the hill towards Kilnsea Wetlands. Next stop the bushes at the southern end of Kilnsea 'Triangle' home to a couple each of Redstarts and Whinchats with a single Spotted Flycatcher for company. A calling Yellow-browed Warbler showed in the Crown and Anchor car park and another called from cover near the Bluebell cafe. A couple of Brambling 'dweezers' heard during the day. At Easington 2 more 'Yellow-browys' called, one from near the church and the other from a 'field-locked' copse near the Riding School on the road to Sammy's Point, where a juvenile Red-backed Shrike frequented the roadside edge.

Fri 29 Sep and stayed local. Morning and late afternoon visits to Old Moor RSPB produced 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Dunlin, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 70 Golden Plovers, 3 Green Sandpipers, 11 Ringed Plovers, lots of Lapwings and many Ruff (site record broken today). Little Egrets squabbled, Kingfisher patrolled the Willow Pool, and a juvenile Garganey added variety to the increasing autumn duck population. A cc (juvenile) Marsh Harrier hunted Wath and Bolton Ings and this sighting as well as 4 Buzzards over the latter would have been unheard of not too many years ago! In between the lowland visits the moorland edge held Peregrine, Buzzards, Kestrels, Raven with flyover Crossbills (9) at one reservoir.

Sat 30 Sep and back twitching 'Spurn' in the afternoon, where the/a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling played hide and seek in an Easington garden. Nearby a juvenile Red-backed Shrike, presumably Thursday's continuing visitor, fed along a hedgerow west of the cemetery. A Sparrowhawk carried out a raid along this hedge but I think all the House Sparrows and the Shrike evaded capture. The morning's 'viz-mig' at Spurn was carrying on to a degree into the afternoon with 'Mipits', Swallows and Finches still passing overhead including Redpoll, one of which showed nicely at 'Corner Field'. The Crown and Anchor car park held a calling Yellow-browed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and singles of Pied Flycatcher and the rare Red-breasted Flycatcher. Instructive to hear the rattling call of the 'RB Fly' (with thanks to Johnny Mac and Tim S for help with the call).

Good to catch up with everyone on my travels. Yorkshire and north east birding is always good, especially when migration is happening, be it coastal or upland and lowland inland birding. Speaking of the latter, the 'blue and white' stripes on the giant deck chair at Old Moor RSPB look stunning. Always a winning combination 😊

More photos at the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' section. Please enjoy.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Mid September Yorkshire Birding

A couple of Flamborough Head (East Yorks.) seawatches on consecutive afternoons produced a nice variety of seabirds with several Sooty and Manx Shearwaters noted on each. Despite favourable NNW winds throughout, no 'biggy' went by. Arctic and Great Skuas were present having fun chasing Terns and Kittiwakes. Terms comprised 'Commic' and Sandwich varieties, with Fulmars showing off their flying skills in the windy conditions. A sign of the turn in season was the regular movement of Red-throated Divers and a few Wigeon, Teal and Common Scoter passing by. Would love to do further seawatching this autumn, favourable winds permitting especially as 2 or 3 interesting Skuas got away from me.

Another coastal visit this time to Spurn (East Yorks.) where an autumn 'rare' in the form of an Arctic Warbler (Yorkshire tick) had gone to ground on arrival at Easington. Later in the afternoon it showed reasonably well working the trees and hedgerow opposite the cemetery. A Brambling calling from way up high was my first of season winter bird, whilst a lone Swift, Swallows and House Martins plus a migrant Yellow Wagtail flying over reminded us that summer visitors were still to be seen.

This was reinforced by juvenile Hobby or Hobbies over the Warren at Spurn and Easington respectively. It or both putting on a bit of a show.

Autumnal birdies at Yorkshire's answer to Cape May also including catching up with single Yellow-browed Warbler and Pied Flycatcher at those respective locations.

This day (Sunday 17 September) saw many birders, friends and family gather at Numpties watchpoint (by the Warren at Spurn) shortly after midday to celebrate the life and contribution to Spurn made by Andy Roadhouse. A welcoming speech from Rob Adams and happy reminiscences from Lawy were enjoyed by all.

A quick visit to the South Yorkshire moorland edge the following day to twitch this inland Red-throated Diver at Scout Dike Reservoir.

Grouse shooting on Midhope (Barnside Moor) was not productive for raptors in the vicinity of Low Moor. Nearby Ewden Heights held flocking Mistle Thrushes and carried a smart Ring Ouzel which was a nice surprise.

More photos at the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' section. Please enjoy.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Aug (and a bit of Sep) - Hen Harrier Day, Arctic Terns and Ospreys everywhere

Saturday 05 August 2017 and back at Rainham RSPB for the first time in several weeks. It was Hen Harrier Day.

The message of the Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) Hen Harrier Day rallies was, is and continues to be simple - stop killing our Hen Harriers (and other raptors). Brilliant speeches by Rob Sheldon, Mark Thomas and Chris Packham, and a cracking performance from Peregrina EnChantica. Thanks to all for giving up their time to support this, one of many Hen Harrier day rallies.

I think the raptors knew what was going on as they put on a bit of a show. Just before the rally started they were much in evidence in the morning sunshine as a Kestrel sparred with a lively juv. female Peregrine over Aveley Pools. This was followed by a Marsh Harrier quartering the area a few minutes later and in turn a Sparrowhawk zoomed over the rally field. As Peregrina EncChantica reached a crescendo during their 2nd performance a Hobby towered over them having drifted over from the landfill. It continued high over the reserve. Magnificent.

Three more visits to Rainham RSPB mid month produced typical early autumn migration with waders moving about. On the 19th, a couple of flocks (approx. 30 in each) of Arctic Terns moved upriver within the space of an hour mid-afternoon. I picked them up from inside the Dartford crossing and they kept low hugging the Kent shore. Maybe nowt surprising here, but the weather was mild and sunny and the birds were flying into a light westerly wind at low tide. Clearly the birds hadn't been forced into the Thames estuary to seek shelter and perhaps were using it as a conduit to get from A to B. Akin to migration from The Wash to the Severn Estuary? Who knows? Passage Tree Pipit and Spotted Flycatcher were noteworthy sightings on the 20th, the latter drawing a stream of admirers to its favoured snags.

Rainham Marshes RSPB - Aveley Bay (19 Aug. 2017) at low tide and benign weather conditions when the Arctic Terns moved through.

August Bank Holiday. For the last couple of years it fell right at the end of the month but was earlier this year. What's the significance? In 2015 and 2016 my dad and I were lucky to come across two passage Ospreys at or shortly after this weekend, both migrating on the South Yorkshire moorland edge just above Sheffield (01 Sep 2015 and 30 Aug 2016).

After drawing a blank on the Sunday morning this year (27th) I ventured off piste to the Flashes area up at Fairburn Ings RSPB east of Leeds where an Osprey was lingering. On reaching the roadside site, of Ring-necked Duck fame some 25 or so years ago, the Osprey was on the dead tree. It did eventually fly but was then buzzed by a Red Kite whilst a Peregrine looked on at the 'kerfuffle' from a lofty perch.

Eventually the Osprey drifted back and after a brief rest it was soon airborne and on its second sortie, now alone. At this time I was along the Lin Dike trail where this beauty gave a brilliant fly around. Of note were 3 or 4 Willow Tits 'dweezing' their way amongst the dense scrub, they were brilliant to hear with one showing well. Folk will be twitching these in years to come.

Osprey (with Red Kite (top)) - Fairburn Ings RSPB, Yorkshire (27 Aug. 2017).

So, I got my August Bank Holiday Osprey. For the third year in a row, would have loved to have seen one migrating over the Moors, but that would be greedy? I was still hungry!

At about 10am on the Monday Bank Holiday at Low Moor, Midhope 3 Buzzards were minding their own business gliding over the ridge out west when my dad picked up a long-winged raptor flying purposefully past them the 'scope view' equivalent of photobombing. I got onto it as it approached Pike Lowe. It was keeping low battling its way south in the breezy conditions sticking to the level of the horizon. It was distant but we could discern the long-angled primaries, brown upperparts and white underparts. As it reached the peak at Pike Low it started to circle revealing uniform upperparts and the distinctive light barring of the uppertail, which it fanned...OSPREY! We jumped in the car to try and chase after it in the next valley, and we were soon below Ewden Heights where my dad picked up the bird circling the Heights. Lovely views of this masked raptor but it was soon heading out of town as it went into a power glide heading towards Broomhead Reservoir and off south. Got the message out to locals asap but sadly nobody else connected as far as I'm aware. Rounded off the weekend nicely watching 2 Spotted Flycatchers on hillside bushes back at Low Moor (with thanks to DS).

Osprey - Ewden Heights, South Yorkshire (28 Aug. 2017).

First weekend in September. Light N winds veering to the W and sunny skies with good cloud markers for picking up any passage bird at Rainham RSPB. First stop the woodland but a radio message of an Osprey over the Darent across the river from the RSPB centre had us running back up the ramp. Another one!!! From the entrance I soon picked it up low over the 'sluice gate' with its large corvid entourage. It was leading them a merry dance and attempted unsuccessfully to gain height. Managed to get several birders onto the Osprey and after a fair few minutes it drifted fast and low east lost behind the power station near the Dartford crossing at 1010. It was seen by multiple obs on and off for about 20 mins. Cheers to Fraser and Howard. Most of the day was then spent skywatching with several wandering Buzzards, a couple of Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Kestrels noted. Best entertainment provided by the 5+ Hobbies hunting dragonflies over the reserve. Was struggling to age them with certainty but most looked like 1st summers, with one juv. that enjoyed accelerating to warp speed. One question though, how distinguishable are adult and 1st summer Hobbies to id in early autumn?

Hobby - 2 immatures had a bit of a row and zoomed over the reserve heading across the river.

More photos at the Latest UK Bird Photos section, click on the tab at the top of the screen.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

July Birding Summary - Essex, Kent, Essex and the South Yorkshire Moorlands

July - were we in the summer birding doldrums or was it the start of the birding autumn?

To be honest it was a bit of both at the start of the month as a couple visits to Rainham Marshes RSPB over the first two weekends produced southbound Whimbrel and Green Sandpipers, and yet plenty of time was spent taking in breeding Bearded Tits and the Lepidoptera and Odonata of the season. Always wanted to see the aptly named Scarce Emerald Damselfly, but despite the Thames estuary being a hotspot for this recent coloniser from the continent it's not easy to connect with along the public trails at Rainham Marshes RSPB. Tried to convince myself of one Damselfly on site being of this type, but following a RFI and further thought I reckon it was probably the Common Emerald Damselfly. Please judge for yourself, it's shown below.

A mid-month wandering to Kent as I've wanted to see the next twitchable (for me) and within reason 'local' Marsh Sandpiper. Not seen this rarity for many a year, checking up and it's just shy of 9 years. When an opportunity arose with a very good supporting cast it was one not to refuse, even if twitching by train, bus and Shank's pony were the only options.

Firstly using a return train ticket from London town to Faversham (for Oare Marshes) allowed me to break the journey at Rochester (for Cliffe Pools RSPB). The Marsh Sandpiper at 'Cliffe' was showing at distance soon after arrival, but it spent most of this one hour visit out of view. Then it was time for some but not all of the breeding Black-winged Stilts to steal attention (3 ads and 4 juvs of varying sizes). Not to forget the mass of passage Black-tailed Godwits and scattering of Mediterranean Gulls. After leaving the site I sadly made no time to take in the delights of Rochester Castle and this picturesque town/city on arriving back there by bus, was soon on the train heading east to Faversham. It was now mid pm but timing was good as I did not have long to wait for a bus at Faversham Railway Station to Oare. I was soon walking down the lane at Oare village to Oare Marshes which lies opposite the Isle of Sheppey to the north. First impressions was that this could be and probably is a gem of a birding site. A group of birders were watching and 'papping' the visitor from North America I was chasing after, the returning adult Bonaparte's Gull. It showed very well to the backdrop of camera clicks and a 'purring' Turtle Dove from a distant hedgerow. I hope future conservationists will not be writing about this Dove species in 100 years time along the lines of Dr Mark Avery's excellent yet sad summary of the plight of the North American Passenger Pigeon. The odds are not looking good though! Back at the flood lots of roosting Black-tailed Godwits (300+) surely all islandica. Begs the question 'Have I ever seen the limosa subspecies in the UK?' A couple were colour-ringed, but I could only get partial readings due to the annoyance of their one-legged synchronised roosting technique! A Black-headed Gull sporting a yellow colour-ring (2FPX) had the hallmarks of a Thames Estuary ringed bird. It had been ringed by the North Thames Gull Group at Pitsea, Essex in December 2014 and seen on one other occasion at Oare Marshes in March 2015. A female-type Garganey swam by one of the islands minding its own business. Another day this could have been the focus of attention, so I tried to give it equal viewing. Not a bad day's twitching.

Secondly, a week later on Sunday 23 July saw me do a similar double whammy this time taking the train to Southend but stopping off at Benfleet en route to twitch the beautiful Southern Migrant Hawker, a recent Thames Estuary visitor and potential coloniser. A ditch south of Benfleet Railway Station over on Canvey Island and just to the north of the A130 held double figures of this stunner. Personally they played second fiddle as the same ditch was home to similar numbers of the Scarce Emerald Damselfly. Nice to have close and prolonged looks, but after a good hour or so on site I left for Southend as shower clouds approached.

Arrived at Southend where the mission was to take a walk down the pier to check out its Mediterranean Gull offering. Turned out not too bad, approx 20 birds present mainly adults with a couple each of juvs, 1st summers and 2nd summers. One adult with a white colour-ring was probably of Belgium, Dutch or German origin. Details just in - 'E494' ringed in Belgium in 2010. A dozen or so Turnstones in an array of partial summer plumage supported the notion that the birding autumn was here.

A quick visit back home to see mum and dad at the end of July. Birded the South Yorkshire moorland edge with my dad and we bumped into loads of locals giving the area good coverage. The decent numbers of Kestrels on view throughout thee weekend was pleasing to note, 3 sites covered yielded double figures at each. Also, a young Peregrine was already mastering the glide forever technique characteristic of this wanderer, before showers kept raptors low. A couple of upland Hobby sightings with one taking a dislike to a Red Kite patrolling one site. Buzzards and Sparrowhawk were present and evidence of the start to autumn passage came in the form of a juvenile Marsh Harrier. It dropped in from high to the east at one site. Away from the raptors an adult (prob 3rd winter) Mediterranean Gull was elusive amongst Black-headed Gulls feeding in fields near Ingbirchworth Reservoir. Elsewhere Little Owls had bred well as a family sunbathed in the shelter of the prevailing winds.

More photos at the Latest UK Bird Photos section, click on the tab at the top of the screen.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Birding Videos Update

A couple of birding videos uploaded to my YouTube channel. Please enjoy.

Bonaparte's Gull (

The adult returned to Oare Marshes, Kent again this summer and showed very well on my visit in mid July. I would like to think the clicking in the background is the Black-headed Gull having a good scratch, but no it was the North American visitor being well and truly 'papped'. A cracking site, loads of Black-tailed Godwits on show and a Garganey, but the Gull was the centre of attention.

Cape May Compilation (

Another brilliant visit to the best birding site in North America IMHO, second best site in the world but it's almost on equal terms with birding the Barnsley Area! Highlights include Northern Harrier, Shorebirds, American Herring Gull and lingering Ducks as well as loads and loads of Bald Eagles with one clip showing an adult rob an Osprey of its fish supper. A good variety of other birds shown from common ones to scarce visitors to the eastern seaboard like the White-faced Ibis.

More videos at YouTube, please click on the Birding Videos (YouTube) section at the top of the page.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

World Series of Birding 2017 and Cape May, NJ, USA - early May 2017

The sun was setting over Ocean City, NJ on a cool Friday night in early May. As the series of bridges linking the mainland with the New Jersey barrier islands came into view it was time to contemplate the task ahead.

'Was the plan in place, will the schedule work, what's the back up and what's the destination at the end game? Did 'The Captain' pack the T-shirts for all? So many questions, but the most important of all...would the 'B' word be mentioned?' ...Brigantine!

Thoughts returned to the immediate journey as the lights turned green at the Parkway intersection (Garden State not Sheffield). Soon crossing the back bay as the neon glow began to take hold of the eastern seaboard, shattering the leaden sky. Most birds were flying to roost whilst for the night herons it was showtime. The driver received the instructions a few hours ago and was now near completion of this first set of tasks:

  1. Locate the base a block north of 5th and 2nd
  2. Park by the exit
  3. Take the equipment out of the trunk
  4. Head to the north of the building
  5. Find Room 1867 don't forget the equipment (and sandwiches)
  6. Remember the secret code, 'Gotta have a WAWA!'
  7. Be there for 1930

The downtown location was easy to find. Scaling the steps in a manner that would make a Mountain Goat jealous the recipient arrived at Room 1867 (that's the necessary Sheffield Wednesday reference dealt with). Rapped on the door in the style of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and after passing on the wisdom of buying a hoagie at WAWA, the base was revealed. A dim light coming from a side table captured the gathered souls in its path. Most of the gang were in place preparing for the 'Big Day' as it is known by some. The instruments for the next 24 - 30 hours strewn across the room- notepad with tables full of timings, the obligatory DeLorme and 'roof prisms' on the table. A bleeping cell phone alerting us that 'The Captain' would arrive in 30 minutes. Were we all ready?

As 'The Machine' and 'The Cyclist' scrutinised the DeLorme, last minute route calculations being thrown into the mix, all hell was suddenly let loose. On receiving another message 'The Deputy' who up to now was sitting calmly and silently by the window suddenly exclaimed, " 'The Captain' wants to go to Brig!"...

Thirty minutes passed, 'The Captain' arrived on cue and we were soon making our way out of the coastal resort heading north. As we crossed the nearby Cape May/Atlantic County line all of our phones went off simultaneously, each of us receiving the same message. The anonymous messenger demanded the following code be cracked before the midnight Great Swamp rendezvous!


Yep, it was that time again, another attempt by Team 1000birds at the World Series of Birding. The above text may be a million miles away from a novel by Clancy or Forsyth (Fred not Bruce) and would even make Dan Brown cringe.

If you do want to find out how Team 1000 birds fared at WSB 2017 then please check out my trip report at 'Birding Trip Reports - Cape May, NJ, USA'.

Alternatively, please click on the following link - Cape May and World Series of Birding 2017.

It's a full trip report covering the birding week both before and after WSB as well, mainly in and around Cape May, NJ, USA. Birding video compilation to follow soon on my YouTube channel, enjoy.

  • Did Captain Nick go to Brig during the World Series of Birding? Click on the link to find out.
  • Go on, crack the 7-worded code!

Team 1000birds in action during the World Series of Birding 2017 - dipping a Red-headed Woodpecker! Captain Nick is happy - he's determined to go to Brigantine :)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Twitching by Train eventually Terned out nice again

Back in 2002 I dipped the putative/possible/probable/definite Elegant Tern at Dawlish Warren, with my first sightings of this enigmatic species occurring on a Birdfinders tour of California (USA) some 10 years later. The finding of a colour ringed adult Elegant Tern on the British south coast this June was therefore very tempting from both listing and learning perspectives, especially given the news that this individual was identified as one of the summering birds found in European tern colonies over recent years. See the excellent Birdguides article, amazing records considering they are even rare on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, e.g. there's only one accepted record to date in New Jersey. Keen to learn more on these 'carrot-bills', familiar with Caspian Terns in Europe and North America as well as a couple of UK sightings, many (American) Royal Terns from trips to Cape May and California, a couple of Lesser Crested Terns in the UK in the 1990s, as well as the Elegant Terns nearly 5 years ago now, in California.

The weekend unfolded by 'playing it by ear', the bird seen briefly Friday afternoon. I did the usual Rainham RSPB birding on Saturday, and on this day the Elegant Term had now found its way to the Tern colony at Pagham Harbour RSPB, West Sussex, and seemed 'twitchable'. Checked out the travel options and a twitch by train, tube and bus was on the cards.

Sunday morning - arrived early at London Victoria after 45min travelling north to south across London via train and tube to then catch a train to the south coast shortly after 0800. All going well so far but a third of the way in the train was unexpectedly terminated at Three Bridges. Bemused passengers left to wait on the platform for the next train nearly one hour later, along with another birder
heading for the Elegant Tern who also had to leave the cancelled train. Despite the travelling hassles the countryside was pretty smart, crossing the picturesque South Downs and the view as Arundel Castle came into sight being particularly noteworthy. After arriving at Chichester (over one hour late) we got a taxi to Church Norton with the last half a mile being a walk down a gridlocked lane, reminding me of the scene on approaching the East Yorkshire Little Bustard twitch on its first afternoon a year or so ago.

Joined the crowds watching the Term colony from the base of the churchyard and had brief looks of the Elegant Tern within a few minutes. This was my only sighting of it on the deck, the colour, distinctive shape and length of the bill reminded me of the birds seen in California. Soon moved down the line of twitchers for a different angle in better light and over the next hour saw the bird several times in flight before watching it head out over the seawall when the local Peregrine paid the terns a visit (1240). Before being spooked it spent nearly all of its time out of sight, and when not focussing on the area below the 'silver car', 'pink house' or the 'basketball hoop' (or was it a satellite dish?) the "cawwing" Mediterranean Gulls were a nice distraction, but they very much played second fiddle on this occasion. Bit of an understatement to say that the Elegant Tern was a nice bird to see, it's not yet sunk in as to how rare this sighting was, perhaps a first for GB given the difficulties of getting this species accepted.

The journey back by similar transport means except for catching the bus from the reserve entrance back north to Chichester. Made time to look at an adult Peregrine devouring a pigeon at Chichester Cathedral before the train back to London town.