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


Monday, 18 May 2015

Cape May - the relaxing week... sort of!

The 2nd week in Cape May proved slow for passerine migration, but there's always a good variety of resident birds to see. The Painted Bunting showed briefly in foggy conditions on Monday 11 May and once the weather turned overnight, Tuesday 12 May saw a fall of migrants at Higbee's. My highlights were Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Yellow-throated Vireo and a skulking Swainson's Thrush. Waders increased along the Delaware Bayshore during the week and I fluked a White-faced Ibis at Stipsons Island Road at the end of the week, where the Black Rail called at dusk from the salt hay marsh.

A fantastic time. Many thanks to all who make NJ a most welcoming birding destination. Trip report to follow, but here are some photos to whet your appetite.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Cape May - the crazy week

Arrived NJ during afternoon of Saturday 02 May spending the first week scouting for our team 1000birds. Birding straight away checking Belleplain State Forest in the north of Cape May County, the northern edge of southern breeding specialities including Summer Tanager. Tanagers were on territory, Ovenbirds were everywhere and Yellow-throated Warblers were plentiful.

Returned to Belleplain a few times during the week and connected with the elusive Louisiana Waterthrush at Sunset Bridge, Pine and Worm-eating Warblers plus hidden Acadian Flycatchers giving their harsh "pizit" call. To the east of the forest the "Pee" fields held Eastern Meadowlark and a pair of Bobolink. Back in the forest Eastern Phoebes were on tertotory and stunning Wood Thrushes sang their melodic song.

The Delaware Bayshore marshes were rich in birdlife and would prove good for the birdrace. Northern Harriers and Bald Eagles hunted whilst nesting Ospreys chilled out on their nesting platforms and nearby snags. Clapper Rails scolded each other, Seaside Sparrows and Marsh Wrens sang from tbe marsh and edges respectively and Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere. The flood across the channel at Jakes Landing Road held 100s of waders and a dwindling flock of Green-winged Teal - 100 down to 20 midweek.

The Atlantic marshes stretching from Avalon the 15 miles or so to Cape May in the south held Hudsonian Whimbrel, Brent Geese, the speciality Night Herons, Little Blue and Tricoloured Herons plus a variety of waders.

Wintering birds lingering off shore or in the sheltered back bays included Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Blue-winged Teal and Red-necked Grebes. Scoters had thinned out with scattered sightings of Black and Surf.

Always nice to bird Cape May Point but the weather wasn't productive for migrants, easterly winds and the onshore breezes produced foggy conditions drom midweek. A fair selection of passerines.

Which birds scouted for the World Series of Birding would linger for us, would we have any nice surprises or disappointments?

Not going to go into much depth here about the birdrace, more to follow on the trip report, but we had a flying start. Virginia Rail at Jakes a calling Eastern Screech Owl down the road, and then the "biggy"... Black Rail calling at Stipson's Island Road at the north eest corner of Cape May County just before 1am. We spread the word via text, thanks to the brilliant rule change to allow folk to share sightings. In the day we connected with Painted Bunting at Cape May (lifer), but passerine migration was zero in the south of the state. We finished on 141 not good enough to take the Cape May County trophy. Congratations to the guys from Israel and local birding legend Tom Reed who retained said trophy. Many thanks to all including Tom for the help with scouting notes and sharing gen prior to and during the big day. Nice to catch up with friends across the pond. Cheers to Nick, Bob and Marc my teammates, and to Nick and Emy for putting me up for the week, it was nice to escape the UK election fever.

As I type this it's 0950 Monday 11 May and the fog is clearing but the winds are still from the SE.  Saw the Painted Bunting a couple of hours ago but otherwise quiet with Hooded Warblers singing at Higbees and a hidden Northern Waterthrush in song at the Bunting site. Time to go birding after a fine breakfast at George's Place on Beach Avenue, Cape May.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Moorland Magic (24/25 April 2015)

Birding the Barnsley Moors with my dad on a flying visit back home over the weekend and we connected with returning migrants such as Pied Flycatcher and Redstart in Cliffe Wood, Langsett and staging Ring Ouzels (4+ - 1 male) and Wheatears near Hartcliff Folly. Both views to the east and west were stunning from Hartcliff, to the 'east' you could see the triple set of power stations along the M62 and the contours of the Yorkshire Wolds beyond, whilst to the west the moorland edge of the Pennines looked stunning in the Spring sunshine, as shown in the photo opposite (Midhope Res. on the left and Langsett Res. on the right).

A check of Ingbirchworth Res. produced no passage Terns, and nearby fields not yet? yielding Dotterel. Always worth a look at this time of year.

Buzzards and Kestrels seen over the moorlands with a single Sparrowhawk, and 2 or 3 Ravens patrolled the uplands.

Nice to be home.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Rainham Marshes RSPB - 18/19 April 2015

Spring birding in full flow at Rainham RSPB on Saturday and Sunday 18/19 April 2015. Swallows moving through and the occasional Sand Martin, with Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers in song. Several Wheatear along the riverside path and 'Rainham Ridge' plus a stunning Whinchat. A handful of Whimbrels noted flying on to the reserve at high tide on the Saturday and along the Thames shore on the Sunday. A Bar-tailed Godwit changing into 'sum plum' was on the shore in the company of 2 Black-tailed Godwits (one bright 'sum plum') and Whimbrel on Sunday. A lone Greenshank and a few Dunlin (5) added to the passage wader mix on the reserve the day before. A Hobby twisting and turning after insects over Wennington Marsh / Serin Mound on Saturday was a delight and would have been the highlight for me. However, it was overshadowed by the Great White Egret seen flying from Kent into Essex by the Dartford Crossing shortly after 2 pm on Saturday. Excellent directions being called helped me to get on this monster, and even at distance the mass of trailing feet was impressive. Sadly it was only briefly in view as it soon disappeared behind the estate heading north. Adult Mediterranean Gulls flew downriver on both days.

Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Green-veined White butterflies showed well in the sunshine along the Thames path on Saturday. 

Several more photos from the weekend added to the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' and 'Butterflies' pages.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Some Winterers and some Spring arrivals

A flying visit back home over Easter gave me chance to connect with a female Common Scoter and the wintering drake American Wigeon, both in West Yorkshire. The latter at Swillington Ings where I was lucky to see a flock of 20 Whooper Swans in flight heading west in the evening of 04 April 2015, presumably on their way to Iceland. A nice flock of 35 Sand Martins flew over just before dusk on the same date, but neither Iceland Gull nor Glaucous Gull, seen by others on site earlier, were present in the evening gull roost.

Birded the South Yorkshire moors with my dad and saw 3 Mountain Hares on Pike Lowe (scoped from Midhope) and lots of Common Buzzards ranging from Langsett down to Strines. Finally after many hours of watching I found a passage Osprey over the moors in Derbyshire. The Osprey powered its way north through Howden Reservoir during the morning of 07 April 2015. The Midhope Great Grey Shrike decided to vanish over the Easter period and it resurfaced on the day of the Osprey, but we missed it by less than an hour around lunchtime. Snipe drummed and chipped on the moorlands which held a sizeable flock of 500+ Golden Plovers at one location, One bird in display flight down the road at Cowell Flats as well. The ringing notes of 'bubbling' Curlews dominated the moorlands as did calling and parachuting Meadow Pipits. Chiffchaff's called throughout and Swallows were back around moorland farms on 07 April 2015.

Back at Rainham Marshes RSPB, London on Saturday 11 April 2015 and the highlights were an immature Spoonbill on the Target Pools, a pair of Garganey, singing Willow Warbler and Blackcaps, and more surprisingly a 'wintering' Jack Snipe still present. It showed fairly well from the southern boardwalk mid afternoon.

More photos from this period now in the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' area. Enjoy.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Late Winter Birding, Rasher-gate and Beach Football

Slow changes in the birding at Rainham RSPB late February to mid March. The weather remaining dull, windy with rain in the air on several visits, but one weekend offered a glimmer of Spring. Gull numbers dropped during the period did the wintering ducks. Marsh Harriers put on a nice show with at least 4 different birds present on any visit. Peregrines continued and the local Buzzards took to the skies. Cetti's Warblers became very noisy and Chiffchaff's more obvious. Noteworthy was a single flock of 110 Fieldfare on Rainham 'West' with 33 more flying east early morning on a cold Saturday 28 February. Spring was around the corner as a Sand Martin flew over the same site on a 'balmy' Sunday 08 March. Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies were in flight the first weekend in March. Oystercatchers came in during this period with at least 3 pairs along the Thames during the March WeBS count. More sign of Spring with the reserve's first 'Lurp' (Little Ringed Plover) of the year occurring over the weekend of 14/15 March. A Raven 'cronked' its way onto the reserve in the morning of 15 March and a smart looking 'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit was seen all too briefly from the Butts hide. Would have loved to have got a photo of this bird.

Last month saw 'double yolkers' cooked on the stove for breakfast, this month has seen 'Rasher-gate'. Was I lucky enough to be presented with 2 rashers, or is it just an optical illusion?

Beach football in Sheffield on Saturday 14 March. Owls drew 1-1 at home to Fulham. It felt like a loss, given the way Fulham were allowed to equalise... must play to the whistle! The pitch was bare, very bare! En route saw 5 Red Kites over the A1 near Peterborough and half a dozen or so Kestrels throughout the journey.