Sunday 28 December 2014

Christmas Birding 2014

Connected with Yorkshire's 1st ever Blyth's Pipit on Christmas Eve near Pugneys CP, flight views giving its quiet 'chup' call, and briefly in a tree. A Little Egret flew over the nearby wetlands.

A crisp Boxing Day and a look for raptors on the South Yorkshire moors produced 3 or 4 Common Buzzards, a few Kestrels and plenty of skittish Red Grouse only in the Broomhead Moor area.

Gull roost watching at Anglers CP in excellent viewing conditions from the hide on Boxing Day and Saturday 27 December produced decent numbers of Herring and GBB Gulls and the following specialities: Iceland Gull 2 (1st winters - 27th), Yellow-legged Gull (1 adult - 26th 'Psycho' & 2 adults inc. 'Psycho' - 27th), Caspian Gull (1 3rd winter - 27th) and Mediterranean Gull (1 adult - 26th).

Saturday 29 November 2014

Gulls with bling

Back at Rainham RSPB on Saturday 29 November 2014 birding on the way via the Stone Barges, which held 70 Black-tailed Godwits on the shore alongside Redshank and a flighty group of 15 Dunlin. Lots of colour-ringed Gulls here and at nearby Coldharbour Point - 4 Black-headed Gulls, 3 LBB Gulls and 2 Herring Gulls. All were wearing either orange or yellow rings and from previous experience this suggests birds ringed locally. A couple of examples shown here - imm. Herring Gull (U1GT) and adult Black-headed Gull (2CPK) plus an unringed adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst the roosting commoner gulls.

A walk around the reserve produced sightings of Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and the pair of Peregrines. A Brent Goose was dwarfed in flight by its Greylag friends over Wennington Marsh and a couple of Raven sightings both on the reserve and over the tip on the way back added to the mix. Stonechats and loud Cetti's Warblers were a good supporting cast. Again, no sign of SE Owls over/around the Silts at sunset, but 5 RN Parakeets flew east to roost.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Rainham long walk x2

I try to do the long walk (3.5miles or so) from Rainham railway station to the RSPB Rainham Marshes visitor centre when birding Rainham at the weekend, and normally take the much shorter route to Purfleet railway station on leaving. Today (Saturday 22 November) I did it both getting there and coming back, and birding was not too bad at all.

On the journey in connected with several colour-ringed Herring Gulls at the Stone Barges with the imm. in the photo the only one discernible with confidence - U0JT. Perhaps locally ringed. Wintering Ruff at Coldharbour Point, a now regular Raven overhead onto the tip and a male Peregrine over Wennington. A smart winter plumage Grey Plover called in flight at Aveley Bay where it added to the variety of waders present that included Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Lapwing.

We watched the river for most of the day from the centre's balcony. Not much movement despite or perhaps due to the dreary conditions. A Marsh Harrier crossed the river from Kent to Essex but was eclipsed by a distant Harrier on the Kent side that headed down river mid-afternoon in the mist. From what we could see we were leaning to it being a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier but it got away and out of view before we could give a positive id.

The long walk back ca. 3:30pm to catch the train just before 5pm at Rainham. A Raven was on the marsh near the MDZ and a Green Sandpiper called from out of sight on the landfill. Two imm. Marsh Harrier's frequented Wennington and a Kingfisher belted past at Rainham 'West' (no pun intended). Main reason for doing this route back was to look for SE Owls just before dark from the public footpath. None showed over the Silts or nearby. Bad timing or is it simply that they are either not in, or have they been lost as a 'winterer' in this area?

Thursday 20 November 2014

Marsh Harriers and the Wandering sentinels

How many Marsh Harriers at Rainham Marshes RSPB? Three 'cream crowns' on Saturday 15 November 2014 comprised 2 immatures and an orange/red wing tagged adult female type. The latter probably from the Stour Valley, Kent was not appreciated by one of the imms. and the local nagging Corvids. A 'cream crown' present a week before distinguished by missing inner primaries/secondaries was not on show, and the same goes for the adult male with the wonky leg.

A pair of Peregrines peered down on Rainham Marshes RSPB during Saturday, and on Sunday 16 November 2014 two of these white-breasted sentinels looked down on the hordes of tourists oblivious to their presence on London's South Bank. A male swooped on pigeons at Blackfriars station at dusk but was unsuccessful, heading back to its lofty perch in disgust.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Cyprus Sep/Oct 2014

Cyprus trip report added to 'Birding Trip Reports - Other'. Enjoy. It was a nice trip with lots of good birding, and the Eleonora's Falcons were simply superb!

Saturday 1 November 2014

Rainham Kronker

Back at Rainham on Saturday 01 November 2014. Highlights being what I thought was a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull at the Stone Barges, but feedback suggests Caspian or Caspian influence. A photo below, and more at the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' page, Also, of note was a resting Fox on the landfill, several Stonechats, double figures of Cetti's Warblers and not to forget my first London Raven which appeared flying over the centre then made a beeline for us on the riverwall as it flew upriver towards the landfill.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Surfing Holkham Bay

Saturday 25 October 2014 and back on the train followed by Coasthopper bus to north Norfolk. Arrived at Holkham at 11am and headed for Holkham Bay. The drake Surf Scoter present at distance with a couple of Velvet Scoters for company. Single Common Scoter nearby plus Auks and RT Divers. A lone Snow Bunting flew over west calling. I walked west as well and inland to Burnham Overy Staithe. Over the marshes were several Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and an imm. Red Kite made an appearance. Pink-footed and Brent Geese flocked.

Coasthopper to RSPB Titchwell. Wigeon and Teal dominated the freshmarsh and there were lots of Ruff there as well alongside roosting Golden Plovers as well as Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and 4 remaining Avocets. The sea was quiet but the shoreline held a variety of waders inc. Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover.

Noticed in the log book a flier for Richard Crossley's book signing (of The Crossley ID Guides fame) on Sunday 26 October at the reserve. Well worth taking in if you are in the area.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Lost in Leuven, Melancholy in Mechelen and Legging it in Liege

A non-birding weekend watching footy with fellow Owls in Belgium. Friday 17 Oct saw us based in Leuven for the weekend. A beautiful university town east of Brussels. A few beers and a snack in town during the afternoon and then off to see OH Leuven v Excelsior Vitron in the evening. Arriving just in time for KO, after walking the scenic route. OH Leuven let a one goal lead slip and a 1-1 draw resulted from this 2nd Division clash which was noteworthy for a very vocal "shrieking" supporter sat just behind us!

Saturday 18 Oct and on the train to Mechelen. Looked bigger than Leuven but very similar in style with the main square being a draw for tourists and locals alike. It was warm at least 20 degrees, very unseasonal. Word coming in on the interweb of the Owls poor performance at home to Watford. More Belgian beers cheered us up and we were off to see a 1st Division match (Pro League), the locals KV Mechelen hosting Anderlecht. Another 1-1 draw resulted and as the night before the home side let the game slip. A cracking atmosphere.

Checked out of the Park Inn and soon off to Liege on the morning of Sunday 19 Oct. No time to see the city of Liege as after the rail trip from Leuven we legged it the couple of miles or so from the out of town railway station to the further out of town stadium home to Standard Liege, located in an industrial estate. The stadium was more typical of the modern day compared with the previous two venues, but this one was vertigo inducing. Very steep and we were right at the top! Standard Liege were poor and after the goalie dropped a cross in the first half they were 1-0 down in this match against bottom of the table Zulte Waregem. The locals weren't happy. We left after about 70 mins in order to make the train back to Brussels and then the Eurostar to the UK with some of the gang staying a further night in Genk instead to see them play later that evening. Not sure on the outcome of the Standard Liege match because after we left two stoppages followed due to protests by some of the home fans against their manager. Standard Liege were 2-1 down at the end, but did the result stand as the last stoppage was at 90 mins?

A non-birding trip but I did note a decent movement of Redwings and Song Thrushes overnight on the 2 nights.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Rainham on Saturday & Burnham Norton on Sunday

Rainham had a nice variety on Sat 11 Oct 2014. A walk from the Stone Barges area produced Ringed Plover (15) and Redshank (50) on the mud to the west of the Barges, and Coldharbour Point held a single Ruff amongst the rocks. A minimum of 9 Stonechat on the walk were noteworthy (inc. 4 at Rainham West). The marshes saw us connect with 2 Peregrines and 4 Marsh Harriers (3 cream crowns)  and roosting Greenshank. Migrant Hawkers continued and 7 Harbour Seals rested on the Kent side of the Thames.

I was tempted by twitching the  Norfolk Steppe Grey Shrike despite the timetable for Thameslink and Coasthopper doing their best to thwart me on Sun 12 Oct 2014. It came on as negative then back on as being seen at around 08:30. I took the plunge, well the train from London's King's Cross (10:04) to King's Lynn, then waited ca.1 hour for the Coasthopper arriving after a walk from Burnham Market at 14:15. I had one hour with the Shrike, a stunner in the picturesque backdrop of the north Norfolk coastal marshes. Pink-footed and Brent Geese were in the air and Cetti's Warbler sounded off by the coast road. Made it back in time for the new series of Homeland! Back of the net!

Photos of the Shrike uploaded at 'Latest UK Bird Photos' and video now on Surfbirds 'UK Birding Videos (Surfbirds)'. Enjoy.

Sunday 5 October 2014

September 2014 Birding Photos and Videos

Photos and Videos from September 2014 uploaded as below. I was lucky to be back in Yorkshire when the Masked Shrike appeared.

  • Latest UK Bird Photos - Masked Shrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Barred Warblers and Caspian Gull.

  • UK Birding Videos (Surfbirds) - Masked Shrike and Barred Warblers.

Cyprus - ID help please! from Sep/Oct 2014

  • 1x Wheatear species
  • 2x Dragonfly sp
  • 1x Lizard species
  • 2x Butterfly species

Northern Wheatear or Isabelline Wheatear? (4 photos of the same bird)

Feedback so far is of a typical Isabelline Wheatear.

Red-veined Darter?

Feedback so far is for Red-veined Darter.

 Photo A Darter
Photo B Darter

 Photo C Darter
 Photo D Darter
 Photo E Darter
 Photo F Darter
 Photo G Darter
 Photo H Darter
Photo I Darter


Skimmer species

Feedback points to Keeled Skimmer anceps.


Skink sp

Is this an Ocellated Skink?


Grayling sp?

Is this an Eastern Rock Grayling?


Meadow Brown sp?

Is this Cyprus Meadow Brown or Oriental Meadow Brown?


Cyprus Final Day

Friday 03 October 2014. Checked a few sites in the NW but nothing of note apart from the field nr Droushia which continued to host a pair of Cyprus Wheatears with 2 Northern Wheatears for company and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

After checking out of the superb Droushia Heights hotel headed towards Paphos airport, birding in the vicinity. Mandria held Red-footed Falcons  (10) resting in a ploughed field with a Northern Wheatear present. 2 Long-legged Buzzards circled the fields. To the west of the airport the area around the Sewage Works produced 2 trip ticks - Cattle Egret (2) and a lone Hoopoe. The hills above Mandria were bird less in the heat of the day but a Lesser Grey Shrike, also new for the trip, hunted from roadside wires a few kms north of the motorway.

A few photos from the trip below. It'll take me a while to put together the full trip report.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Cyprus Days 4&5

Revisiting sites focus on photography. Nice views of Long-legged Buzzard local to the hotel at Droushia and back on the south coast to see the Eleonora's and Red-footed Falcons near Aphrodite's Rock and Mandria respectively. Chukar seemed to be everywhere and I connected with Cyprus Wheatear more easily, but they were still camera shy. A Fan-tailed Warbler looked out of place in upland scrub. A particular highlight being the flight of Alpine Swifts (70+) and (40+) on the 2 days flying west then dispersing south from the north west corner of Cyprus around 09:00 both mornings. Spur-winged Plovers at Paphos Sewage Works and Paphos Lighthouse held Spanish Sparrows, Crested Larks and a Wheatear (Isy or Northern - bins views only but got photos to check thro') and a juv. Red-backed Shrike.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Cyprus Day 3

A bright warm start and raptors were moving around in the NW part of the island. I did a watch for about 90 mins from 09:00. A ringtail juv. Harrier went so high over I was lucky to get bins on it let alone give it a name. A cc Marsh Harrier was lower down. Several Kestrels appeared to move in from the coast about 10km to the north and similar in offs were singles of Hobby and Peregrine. In the unsure if locals or migrants category were 2 adult type Bonelli's Eagles that put on a superb show (though the local Jackdaws may disagree) and 1 or 2 Long-legged Buzzards. At least 2 Alpine Swifts seemed to set the altitude record making the flocks of Bee-eaters look cumbersome in flight by comparison.

Nearby scrubland (within 10km) held Cyprus Wheatears and Cyprus Warbler (Sards dominate), Northern Wheatear and an out of place Cetti's Warbler. Nailed Chukar! Evertou Dam looked birdless but a Whiskered Tern, Little Egret, Snipe and Spotted Flycatcher were present plus rattling Sards!

Wow factor of the day surely the 200 Red-footed Falcons at Mandria near Paphos of all plumages. They shared the fields with 2 or 3 Rollers and nearby Whinchat (10), Northern Wheatear (3) and Short-toed Lark (5) sat sentinel like in a ploughed field by the beach.

Pools near Paphos Sewage Works held dragonflies and a Spotted Crake and the day ended watching Kentish Plover, Turnstone and Common Sandpiper at Paphos Lighthouse.

Monday 29 September 2014

Cyprus Days 1&2

Stunning scenery and easy to travel around, my immediate thoughts of Cyprus. Based to the NW at Droushia. A few lifers so far inc. Cyprus Warblers in company of a pair of Sards, brief looks at a winter plum. Cyprus Wheatear and Spur-winged Plover. The best to last. Eleonora's Falcon. Wow!!! Seen at least a dozen at 2 sites between Paphos and Limassol today. Not enough adjectives to describe them, surely the ultimate Falcon, what a flyer! Disappointed with the sea watching, looks a waste of time at this part of the year.

Monday 22 September 2014

Wath-on-Sea strikes again

Sat 20 Sep 2014. Went to Sheffield Wednesday ticket office to get the fast selling out tickets for today's game at home to Reading. Then sent out this tweet.

Within half hour something 'daft' had turned up with news breaking of Britain's 3rd (and Yorkshire's 1st) Masked Shrike at Spurn (Kilnsea). Always regretted not twitching the first GB record in Scotland. Twitched the Spurn bird with my dad (and saw G G Shrike). We got back to Hillsborough just as the match kicked off - ended up a scrappy 1-0 to the Owls.

Sun 21 Sep 2014. Back to Spurn and got some photos and video of the cracking Masked Shrike and connected with R B Flycatcher and Barred Warbler. Probably heard Y B Warbler around Kew but it sounded off just once late pm. A last hour seawatch produced a handful each of Sooty and Manx Shearwaters north, several R T Divers south, and loafing Little Gulls inc a flock of 40 at distance. Good to have a natter with a few faces from days of old.

Friday 19 September 2014

Yorkshire long weekend via Norfolk

Friday 19 Sep and off to the Yorkshire coast. Castle Hill at Scarborough (13:00 - 14:15) held a striking Firecrest and calling but elusive Yellow-browed Warbler. The multiple Red-breasted Flycatchers had gone to ground. The one nearby at Crooks Ness, Burniston (14:40) showed well (photo below) and this gully hosted Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap and Whitethroat. At Flamborough (16:30 - 18:10) saw 2+ RB Fly's within walking distance of the headland car park and a couple of Yellow-browys. Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher added to the variety.

Thursday 18 Sep and up to North Norfolk. Warm inland on the drive up and a Hobby was hawking insects over the road near RAF Lakenheath, Buzzards soared over the A148 nr Fakenham but on approaching Cromer the sea mist and drop in temperature hit home. By the pier the adult Caspian Gull (Photo below) joined Herring Gulls briefly on the beach before resting offshore. Heard mutterings of hybrid on t'internet but can't Caspos be variable like Herrings? Off to Salthouse and the Barred Warbler (photo below) showed reasonably well at Gramborough Hill. Final stop Stiffkey. A couple of Bramblings were in trees by the saltmarsh car park with Chaffinches. Little Egrets in the salt marsh as was a Spoonbill.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Rainham Marshes RSPB, London 13 and 14 September 2014

A double visit this weekend. Weather dominated by a NE wind lasting both days and stronger on Sunday. Essentially dry but at times partly cloudy with sunny intervals in the afternoons.

Highlights from Saturday included brief views of single juv. Arctic Tern and a lone juv. Common Tern moving upriver in the afternoon and hunting Hobbies (adult and immature) over Aveley Pools. Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier present plus a Peregrine drifted over, briefly in the company of a (brave) Kestrel. At least 10 Black-tailed Godwits in Aveley Bay with some on Aveley Pools alongside Green Sandpiper and Snipe. Duck numbers building up with Teal everywhere, 4 Pintail and double figures of Wigeon on Aveley Pools. One of the last of the Tall Ships visiting London headed downriver.

Highlights from Sunday included a "long-billed Dunlin in Aveley Bay sharing the mud with Teal and the 10 Black-tailed Godwits and for me a stunning Yellow-legged Gull at Coldharbour Point alongside a colour-ringed Herring Gull (white ring A7HR). Marsh Harrier and Buzzard seen again plus a flyby of a Clouded Yellow and a slightly more obliging Painted Lady in the vicinity of Aveley Bay. The 2 Lancaster Bombers flew north from Kent heading past the Dartford crossing during the afternoon.

Back in London I had a look at the sea of poppies in the Tower of London moat, pretty spectacular, as was the Tour of Britain which was coming to an end in the capital.

Photos uploaded to 'Latest UK Bird Photos' and 'Butterflies'