Sunday, 26 June 2016

Birding in the UK in June... ain't that a bit daft?

Who says birding in June is rubbish/slow. I used to but saying that this year is daft! A couple of twitches put paid to such a negative thought.

Little Bittern Twitch

Back home for the weekend Sat/Sun 18/19 June 2016 to twitch the Little Bittern at Old Moor RSPB. I've seen 3 in the UK so why twitch this one. Old Moor RSPB is part of the legendary 'Wath Area' where I've kept a list since starting birding there with my dad in the late '80s. Can't twitch everything back home and enjoy birding most Saturdays miles away at Rainham RSPB. Decided not to twitch the LB last year and now had a chance of a second bite of the cherry.

Thanks to the RSPB for the 07:30 early opening arranged for the LB's second weekend on site.

Sat 18 June. Arrived at Old Moor for 07:30 remaining on site until 14:00. Not a sight or a 'bark' from a Little Bittern - present daily for the past 2 weeks!!! (In the 6.5 hours could have flown to Madrid drove two hours west to Saucedilla, parked the car by the visitor centre, walk to the channel by the first hide and seen a breeding pair - Spain May 2016 trip report to be posted soonish).

Word got out late am that a Little Bittern was reported from Swillington Ings, 20? miles due north. Hang on a minute, it did this last year vanishing from the best inland site in the UK and did a bunk up to Leeds for a few days before returning to Old Moor. Nice timing!!! All was not lost as the Swillington sighting remained unconfirmed throughout the afternoon. Birdguides then reported Little Bittern at Old Moor flying past the Bittern hide at 7pm. Did the Little Bittern fly overnight Fri/Sat to Swillington and return Sat eve to Old Moor?

Sun 19 June. At Old Moor from 07:30, word got round that it was seen by the warden in a limited access area first thing. Things were looking up.

Repositioned to Bittern Hide at 08:30 ready for a long wait. The theory being it would fly in from the unaccessible reedbeds area past the hide to the ponds and willow trees behind.

At 09:45 when sort of in a standby state, not quite asleep but with one eye open to save energy and the other focused on the reedbed horizon (a sort of in an 'inland' seawatch state of concentration), a birder beside my dad shouted

"Little Bittern flying over Reedbed Hide towards us"

Brilliant directions, soon we locked on to it as it whizzed past into the thicket surrounding the ponds past the Bittern Hide. Didn't see it in the area of the ponds where folk have got brilliant photos of it in the last 2 weeks, but could hear it barking (not very loud).

10 seconds of madness gave a tripple whammy - Wath tick (187), Barnsley tick (226) and Yorkshire tick (330) !!!

Great Knot not Great Dot

Sat 25 June. Awoke just before 05:00, questioned my sanity, got ready, questioned that this is a stupid hobby, got on the train just before 06:00 for the 25 min journey into that there London.

Obligatory McDonalds breakfast purchased at Kings Cross and soon onboard the 06:44 Kings Cross to Kings Lynn. Watched the first episode of the new Top Gear on my tablet - not impressed!

Arrived Kings Lynn 08:20 walked the few minutes to the bus station and caught the coasthopper with another birder present at 08:45. It stopped everywhere such as Dersingham, Snettisham, Heacham, Thurnemouth Hunstanton and then eastbound along the coast road. Where to jump off? Great Knot seen early am at Gore Point, Holme but had flown off towards Titchwell at 08:15.

Got off at Titchwell and walked down to the beach, now 10:00. Walked down to the news that the Great Knot was at Scolt Head Island. Made the mistake of walking along the beach eastwards not realising there was a channel separating Titchwell marsh with Brancaster. Wouldn't be safe to cross even at low tide.

Recognised a birder from UEA days, looking from the dunes, Dave Appleton. Check out Dave's website Had a natter with Dave and others spending a good few hours tide gazing but no flocks of Knot coming this way heading back west. Had fly over Peregrine and Med Gull and and got onto an albino Starling spotted flying inland, it looked liked a giant gravity-defying snowflake.

Repositioned on the beach towards the end of the boardwalk 13:30ish, now loads of birders on site anticipating the Knot flock to fly in when the mussel beds were exposed on the ebbing tide. Also saw Dune Tiger Beetle, they kept birders entertained. I think they're scarce. A flyover Hobby looked stunning and a Spoonbill flew onto the freshmarsh.

Met up with Nick Croft a birder I bump into from time to time at Rainham RSPB who travelled on a later London train/coasthopper combination. He tweeted earlier about twitching the Great Knot so tried to keep Nick updated earlier en route by twitter DM but as soon as I hit the north coast all mobile/internet signal vanished! More on that in a minute.

Hang on a mo, amongst the masses and in front of us were birders I know from back home in Yorkshire (home to the best birding spot IMHO 'The Barnsley Area' - Cape May being a very close 2nd). Despite being Knot-less we had a good laugh for the next hour or so.

Knot from the freshmarsh (not containing GK) did start to come in and onto the shoreline mussel beds. However, we were noticing that the Scolt Head birds that were starting to come our way were going straight through. At 3pm I made a rash/brilliant decision. I said to Nick and the Barnsley gang, I'm going get the bus to Holme and check Gore Point, as it could be doing a repeat of Friday. Nick decided to head that way but on the coastal path via Thornham.

Had/Chose to jog past a stunning Spotted Redshank feet from the path along the side of the freshmarsh to make the 15:32 coasthopper... sacrilegious! Bloomin' twitcher!

Got to the bus stop at 15:31 and a bit. All of a sudden a car pulled out of the entrance road and then pulled over. A birding couple asked if I wanted a lift. I explained my plan and they kindly dropped me off by Holme Golf Course of Rock Thrush fame.

Not knowing exactly where Gore Point was, and no bloomin' internet signal I headed for the beach and in hindsight realised I was doing the long approach going down 2 sides of the triangle as opposed to up the coast path diagonal. Never mind I was at the mussel beds at 16:05 after walking north along this moonscape.

OMG a massive flock of Knot, unsure of how many 1000? but clearly more than Titchwell beach had to offer. No groups of birders around, there were 2 or 3 folk with binoculars but unsure if they were birders or tourists at that stage.

Set up the scope and the line of Knot were grilled. Started from the lhs and within seconds I had the back on view of a 'large' Knot with dark and red/gold-centred wing feathers. Surely not. After what appeared an age it turned side on. Ruddy hell it's here!!!!!

This was about 16:10. The views and plumage of the bird were a million percent better than the Tees-side Great Dot of 20 years ago.

Panic, how to get the news out!

Phone completely useless but as if by magic I turned around and there were birders arriving 'on spec', almost like a horror movie when zombies suddenly appear from out of nowhere. They weren't groaning and didn't appear soul-less, so I i'deed them as birders not zombies. They arrived a little quicker as I indicated in no uncertain terms that it was here.

Fortunately one of the birders had a phone signal so got the news out and kindly let me call one of the Barnsley birders, went to voicemail but message left. Managed to text them as well (don't know how but my phone came to life), so they were on the way. Now, Nick Croft. Didn't have his number so sent a delayed DM tweet and tweet in general about the bird, hoping it would somehow kick into action.

Within 30 mins. Nick arrived having walked all the way around. I explained about the tweet situation. All was well, the bird was still present - many remarking on it looking like a giant Turnstone!

Still no sign of the Barnsley gang as Nick and I left aiming for the 18:00 coasthopper to Kings Lynn. Turns out they had a scenic detour. On walking through Holme village another birding couple driving by asked if we wanted a lift. We explained we were heading for the bus down the road. They would have none of that, said get in we'll drop you off at Kings Lynn railway station and arrived for the 18:32 back to London.  After getting on the train my delayed tweets finally made the airwaves!

Two hours later back in London town, absolutely shattered! A brilliant twitch. Cannot grumble over the cost either ca. £25 return Kings Cross to Kings Lynn + £9.50 day ticket on the coasthopper and the lifts from the birding community were very much appreciated.

Cyprus April 2016 - Trip Report

Finally got my Cyprus (April 2016) birding trip report on the web. Please take a look (pdf) by clicking on 'Birding Trip Reports - Other' and the pdf is available via the first link at the Europe section, or by clicking here.

It was a brilliant trip, 3 possibly 4 lifers, the 'definites' being Hooded Wheatear, Black Francolin and Cretzschmar's Bunting, the other right at the end of the trip - Laughing Dove. At the moment I'm unsure of the origin and 'tickability' of this species.

Enjoy the trip report and any questions drop me a tweet @JohnoGull. A few photos to whet your appetite below.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Birding in Germany - The Fischadler Strikes back - well, it nearly did

Spent a brilliant weekend visiting friends in Germany. Successful birding as well with a good variety of habitats visited and species seen.

First stop (Fri 29 April) the Kaiserstuhl in SW Germany just across the Rhine from Colmar in France, and to the west of Freiburg. This vineyard rich area with its distinctive sandy soil has a Mediterranean feel in looks as well as in its fauna. Hoopoes were showy and called frequently but Bee-eaters were not yet in. A pair of displaying Turtle Doves may have been also-rans in the past but, now, I gave them as much time as the Hoopoes and Black Kites present. A strikingly pale Common Buzzard was in the area.

A couple of visits (Sat 30 April and Sun 21 01 May) to the marshland reserve called Waghausel north of Karlsruhe held its goodies. Purple Herons attended their reedbed 'tower' nests but the Bluethroats were not as showy, only a couple of makes glimpsed from their reedbed song posts. Waders on the move with a dozen Greenshank, a couple of Spotted Redshanks and half a dozen Wood Sandpipers present, the latter down to one on the second visit. Raptors were good, 8 species seen with top billing going to an Osprey heading north mid pm on on the Sunday - flashback to 2003 when we also caught up with a passage bird. This one made three attempts to get lunch but left with empty wet talons. 6 Mediterranean Gulls present in the BH Gull colony comprised pairs at the 3 differing ages (1st summer, 2nd summer and adult summer) and a smart adult Little Gull slept before a Peregrine spooked the roosting gulls on the first pond.

Final day (Mon 02 May) and off to the Black Forest before flying home in the evening. A couple of Red Kites were noted and 1 or 2 Alpine Swifts briefly joined half a dozen or so Common Swifts feeding above an upland valley. A ski slope just off the 'Black Forest High Street' still sporting patches of unmelted snow held feeding Thrushes represented by: Mistle (12+), Blackbird (5+), Ring Ouzel (2) and Song Thrush (1). The Ouzels looked not to be local 'alpestris' birds but birds of more northern climes. A Wheatear added to the variety as did Chafinches. A little disappointing not to catch up with Citril Finch and Nutcracker as in years past, but birding sat outside a cafe eating cake and drinking hot chocolate with 'scopes primed cannot be bad. Perhaps we were just too lucky a couple of years? ago when we fluked an immature Pallid Harrier migrating through this Pass in mid April.

Cheers to Chris and Sue for their kind hospitality, looking forward to the next German pilgrimage. Trip report to be uploaded in the coming weeks.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Cyprus - Wagtails a plenty and likewise the Ficedulas

Thu 14th was a warm and sunny day temperatures reaching 28C inland of the south coast at Anarita 'Park', slightly cooler in the W/NW breeze on the coast. Started the day in the NW visiting Smiyies Picnic Site, the nearby Agios Minas area and a brief look at the Baths of Aphrodite in that order. At the first site caught up with Cretszschmar's Bunting, a singing male holding territory on the rocky slope. A female Collared Flycatcher was present in nearby pine trees, think I'm getting more confident about Ficedula id, and Serin was new for the trip. A singing male Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was by the church and the Baths of Aphrodite yielded Hoopoe and Chukar only. Off to Anarita 'Park' where up to 16 'Kestrels' flocked, presumed all to be Lesser Kestrels due to their flocking behaviour and subtle plumage characteristics. Not one adult male present, at least 1 imm. male amongst the female types. A ringtail Montagu's Harrier moved through and an adult male was in the southern end of this valley, plus a male Marsh Harrier. Another highlight being a pair of Bonelli's Eagle circling to the north for a few minutes. Ortolan Bunting showed well and an aerial feeding frenzy comprised Pallid, Common and Alpine Swifts with the 2 Swallow species in attendance. Nearby Aspro. Dam held Wood Warbler and a female Golden Oriole. Paphos Headland was ok, a noticeable presence of Northern Wheatears (15+) and 'Flava 'Wagtails (Blue-headed ones picked out). A lone part sum plum Red-throated Pipit minded it's own business walking along the Roman ruins area, and a nice Wryneck added to the mix at the northern end of the Archaeological complex. Bee-eater(s) called from somewhere up above. Ended the day at Cape Drepanum where the island's Yellow-legged Gulls were joined by a Mediterranean race Shag on the rocks. Of note were the 'Flava Wagtails probably over 80 present when they all flew up as the sun dipped, but no more than 20 in view at any one time. Most were Blue-headed with several Black-headed present plus the pair shown below. One being a candidate 'supercilliaris' not sure of their status here and the yellow as opposed to white 'super', and the other a female type Citrine Wagtail. Nice to study albeit briefly as dog walkers entered the arena.

Akrotiri church was birdy this morning (Fri 15th), many Pied and 2 male Collared Flycatchers. The chain link fence held Collared and Pied Flys, Redstart. Whinchat, Northern and Black-eared Wheatears at one stage! Shared the offerings with KH & RH. Tawny Pipit and Woodchat Shrike were a good supporting cast, and a Kingfisher flew by late morning, bizarre! Nearby Bishop's Pool held the flycatcher duo. Tried Kensington Cliffs and later the cliff face east of Aphrodite's Rock for Eleonora's Falcon without success. Both sites held Kestrel and Alpine Swift. Kensington Cliffs played host to a pair of Peregrines and a Griffon Vulture took to the sky. I was lucky to pick up a male Pallid Harrier flying fast in off the sea here at approx 14:30. Mandria fields east of Paphos saw me connect with more Northern Wheatears and a Spur-winged Plover. Ended the day again at Cape Drepanum to the north west of Paphos. Northern Wheatears shared the scrub with a female Black-eared Wheatear. A Stone Curlew flew by and sungles of Tawny Pipit and Short-toed Lark were present with many Created Larks and Sardinian Warblers in the area. Only 1 'Flava' Wagtail present this eve. Home tomorrow, trip report to come soon. A nice trip, got the impression lots of birds already migrated through, look forward to returning to check out the migration a week or two earlier.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Cyprus - Eastern gems and subspecies twitching

Overnight rain eased first thing and after breakfast I was off to Akrotiri arriving at 0930 at the church SW of the village on the edge of Akrotiri Plain (Tues 12th). Birded this area with an English/Finnish couple of Cyprus Brown-necked Raven fame, excellent company and it was nice to gain some birding gen for the area. Migrants were in but it was still slow, Woodchat Shrike and Wryneck showed nicely with Whinchat and Pied Flycatcher for company. Pipits and Wagtails called overhead and a group of 6 Tawny Pipits were in the dune like scrub. Next stop Bishop's Pool. The walk from the road was productive with 2 smart male Collared Flycatchers present and a female Pied Flycatcher. An Eastern Olivaceous Warbler sung by the entrance and Spanish Sparrows were mixed in with House Sparrows around the farm buildings. Overhead several Red-rumped Swallows joined (Barn) Swallows, Sand and House Martins. A majestic Alpine Swift mother ship drifted by flanked by 2 Common Swift fighters, rather apt for the location. The pool held chuntering Common Sandpipers, a Purple Heron trying to hide in the reeds and 4 Ferruginous Ducks a sleeping. At least 1 Pied Flycatcher, up to 2 Wood Warblers and a Willow/Chiff enjoyed insects in the trees by the steps leading down to the pool. Phassouri reedbeds next stop. Birders involved with local conservation kindly pointed to 3 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (took a while to enter this due to fighting Google Keep spell checker) perched on the remaining reedbed tops, the area has been desimated by fire. Nearby 6 Glossy Ibis mooched around grassland in their typical manner and close by the Akrotiri Gravel Pits were none discript in both looks and occupants, spooked a lone Little Egret. Black Francolins called, both close and distant. Mid afternoon headed back west and tried the cliffs near Aphrodite's Rock for Eleonora's Falcon, not in at the moment and fields by the coast at Mandria held a couple of Northern Wheatears only. Near Acheliea the soakway was arid and the 2 Alsatian wannabies running alongside the car near Paphos sewage works persuaded me to leave the area sharpish. Fair play the one keeping up with the car at around 30 kmh about to savage a wing mirror was in good condition. Ended the day near Mavro. Dam where at least 2 Scop's Owl called and one showed on wires for a minute in the fading light. Cyprus Pied Wheatears were everywhere, as were Sardinian Warblers and Chukars were easy to see. A male Collared Flycatcher that popped up in a bush was perhaps unexpected, and it look like it was going to roost here. A Little Owl added to variety as it sat near a cliff top taking in the cool evening air. I think it flew off before a Chukar (phonecoped below) trod on it. On arriving back at the hotel the local Scop's Owl pair were again vocal.

No obvious migrants at the church on Akritori Plain this morning (13th) but nice to catch up with Cyprus Warbler - 1 or 2 singing males. Decided to venture north to the Troodos mountains to see the speciality subspecies around Troodos village. Alpine like scenery and a sharp temperature drop from 22C at Akrotiri to barely 8C at an elevation of over 1700m. A stop at a picnic site 2km east of Troodos village had patches of unmelted snow! This quiet spot held several 'Dorothy's' Short-toed Treecreeper, the sooty bellied (Cyprus) Coal Tit  and the (Cyprus) Jay. The latter was very shy and to be honest from the briefest of views it looked like how a Jay does back home. A silhouetted (Cyprus) Crossbill flew over calling. Wren, Blackbird and a pair of Masked Shrikes were present and a Cuckoo called in the distance. Nearby at Troodos village it was possible to see the specialties and Swifts over the village, well in the cloudy and drizzly conditions I couldn't safely identify them. Back down the road to Limmasol and a stop at the comparatively sweltering Zakaki Marsh produced looks at a male Little Crake and a Squacco Heron (boc photo below) was on the brown island at the back of the pool. Drove west arriving late afternoon at Aspro. Dam to the east of Paphos. As to be expected Sardinian Warblers scolded from scrubland bushes, a Willow/Chiff flitted about the trees north of the car park which held an elusive Pied Flycatcher. Venturing through the trees to the open area looking north over the Dam was a wise move. A flock of 80 Yellow-legged Gulls on the water or circling the Dam contained a subad/adult Baltic (LBB) Gull. A grey shape floating over the cliff edge looked interesting but it was passed off as another gull because it disappeared and an adult Yellow-legged Gull appeared from that location soon after heading out over the Dam. Glad I looked skywards a few minutes later as the grey shape was in fact an adult male Pallid Harrier. It circled with the gulls for several minutes and departed in a fast glide north. Wow, a stunner! A small flock of Short-toed Larks (15-20) fed in a stony field which was patrolled by a male Marsh Harrier. A female had drifted by earlier and to the south 3 or 4 Alpine Swifts were in the sky to the east of Mandria. Trip list ticking over.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cyprus first observations

Back on Cyprus for the second time, first visit in Spring. Staying again in the north west at Droushia and first day (Sun 10th) spent in roughly the north west area. Having been rudely awoken by a pair of duetting (Cyprus) Scop's Owls at 01:00 the day, how dare they :)  , the day turned into a pleasant yet warm one with temps in the low 20s. Early cloud cover gave way to sunny afternoon skies with a gentle westerly breeze. The skies dominated by (Barn) Swallows and the land by Sardinian Warblers. The Baths of Aphrodite held few migrants early morning, but a Red-rumped Swallow was noteworthy and at least 2 male Cyprus Pied Wheatears showed well giving their 'electric' song, trying their best to be heard over the monotonous Sardinian Warbler background. Several lone Long-legged Buzzards took to the air in the north west, big beasts (one shown below together with its smaller cousin - boc). A colony of Spanish Sparrows at Theletra Gorge were nice to see as the 'House' variety were all over the towns and villages. Nearby a Squacco Heron crossed Evertou Dam and a Wood Warbler was feeding up in a tree by the track to the Dam. Late afternoon visit to Cape Drepanum produced a flock of 50 Glossy Ibises north and on terra firma bucket fulls of Crested Larks, singles of Whinchat, Fan-tailed Warbler and Woodchat Shrike. A couple of skittish flocks totalling about a dozen 'Flava' Wagtails comprised Blue-headed and Black-headed. Brief looks at a Wheatear (Northern/Isabelline). A few hours earlier at Droushia near the hotel a different ID challenge, a female Ficedula sp. Big white wing panel and decent white wing 'drop' patch but no 2nd wingbar. Mournful peep call when alarmed. Absence of 2nd wingbar suggests Collared Flycatcher? The day ended venturing a little south to connect with another (Cyprus) Scop's Owl- one calling bird near 'Mavro' Dam at dusk and it's mate seen in flight crossing the valley. A flock of 10 'kwoking' Night Herons flew high overhead and Chukar seen here on the tops.  This cracking location held Cyprus Pied Wheatear and a Common Buzzard (boc photo (bottom) below, points to Steppe?) attracted the attention of a Kestrel and Hooded Crows. Not to forget those pesky Sardinian Warblers that seemed to be in every bush!

A Hoopoe tried to give me a race as it flew alongside the car near Kathikas on returning to Cape Drepanum early morning (Mon 11th). At the headland it looked like an overnight clear out, very quiet. Of note a Greenshank eluded me as it called overhead going fast north, but a male Spanish Sparrow was seen present by the small harbour. Off to Paphos Headland and there were several Brit birders on site. Quiet for migrants at first, seemed like more birders present than migrant birds, but it seemed to pick up as the morning progressed. A couple of flocks of Bee-eaters (6 and 9) moved through and a Nightingale showed well. 'Flava' Wagtails flew around the headland producing no opprtunity for racial id and a couple of Red-throated Pipits offered brief looks only, and would have been easily overlooked if they hadn't given their distinctive 'spee' call. A flock of Spoonbills/Egrets remained unidentified as they disapoeared north and into the heat haze. 2 Whinchats showed and most bizarrely on leaving the site a pale phase adult Arctic Skua flew nonchalantly high west over the headland. A couple on site had told me earlier of a Hooded Wheatear, a rare visitor to Cyprus, they had found the previous day on the coast by Paphos airport. I decided to check it out as it was only 15 mins or so away, and after no sign it was picked up on the coastal fringe. A stunning bird, nice to see it in good light and at close quarters, interesting feeding behaviour very keen to hover in pursuit of an insect. Boc comparison photos of Cyprus Pied Wheatear (top) and Hooded Wheatear (bottom) below. Nearby a Black Francolin called but would not show itself. Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening an hour's drive to the east on the Akrotiri peninsula. The church near Akrotiri village held a lone male Pied Flycatcher but by now a strong westerly winds had developed making birding uncomfortable and no doubt keeping passerines down. Lady's Mile held Kentish Plovers and Little Stints plus 3 Greater Flamingoes, whilst a Northern Wheatear moved along the shingle/scrub across the road. Zakaki Pools held Water Rail, 7 Ferruginous Ducks, 5 squabbling Little Egrets and an onlooking Cattle Egret amongst other species. Again the strong wind wasn't helping and it got a bit parky as dusk approached. The scrub produced flight views of Black Francolin, a scolding Spectacled Warbler and a more peaceful Hoopoe. 4 Glossy Ibis roosted on the salt lake edge, which seemed miles away, the lake also sported a quartering cc Marsh Harrier. A nice way to end the birding day. As I type the overnight rain has started, thundery showers expected through the day tomorrow.

Friday, 18 March 2016

'It's a falcon, Jim, but not as we know it'

The title inspired by The Firm, it was a toss of a coin between that one and 'There's Short-eareds on the river wall, riverwall; there's Short-eareds on the river wall, riverwall, Jim'.

Last weekend the big brown falcon lay siege to Wennington Marsh/ Target Pools taking up base on the nearby pylons. A big brute and it looked like the falcon seen a few weeks ago. The question is, what is it?

Is it a pale big immature female Peregrine or a hybrid falcon, say a Saker cross? I've got no experience of Saker so cannot add to the hybrid debate. A couple of record shots above. Having seen it on the pylons and then later staring out a Buzzard and Marsh Harrier on the deck from the Serin mound noted:
  • Closed wing seen briefly to judge wing tip to tail tip. Looked like wing tip approached or was equal to the tail tip.
  • Pale underparts with dense but fine brown streaks
  • Pale trousers looked streaked.
  • Pale cheeks looked considerably whiter than the underparts.
  • White supercilium stronger behind eye forming a wrap around.
  • Crown pale with feathers above 'super' looking a bit chestnut in strong light, but looking really white crowned in dull light.
  • Dark moustache stripe extensive looked black and appeared to be broader at the tip. Black extending to behind the eye.
  • Upperwing brown and uniform.
  • Underwing barred and appeared to be uniform, didn't note a contrast between underwing coverts and rest of wing. Pattern close to immature Peregrine shown in 'Collins' guide.
  • Tail paler than upperwing and tip looked dark but not black.
  • Hunting style. Low level attack frightening anything in its way. Does this style of hunting betray it's identity or parentage?
Keep an eye out for it. Answers on its identity on a postcard to...

The Short-eared Owls were as stunning as ever showing well mid morning last Saturday as the mist gave way to low cloud. Several photos below. Less than 100 yards away 3 Avocets graced Aveley Bay and 10 Black-tailed Godwits fed quietly. Later a group of 70 + 4 'Black wits' flew onto the reserve, some acquiring summer garb.

Of note in warmish conditions on the Saturday (12th) was the clear out of say between 500 and 1000 Black-headed Gulls heading high east continent bound during mid afternoon over a couple of hours. A full days count would have revealed a much bigger movement. Similar but colder conditions on Sunday saw no such movement at all.