Wednesday 2 December 2015

October 2015 Cape MayTrip Report uploaded

Located at 'Birding Trip Reports - Cape May, NJ, USA'. Enjoy!

Aren't American Herring Gulls brilliant !!!

Some photos of American Herring Gulls photographed in New Jersey in October 2015, mainly on the beach by the Avalon seawatch.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Cape May: 4th time lucky for the Goldie

My final 2 days at Cape May were quieter than the stunning movement on the Thursday, perhaps I was spoilt. Higbees held a smaller variety of reverse migrants, the Dickcissel continued at the Hawkwatch platform where the drake Eurasian Wigeon lingered on Bunker Pond, where a noticeable build up of dabbling ducks was occurring. American Bitterns migrated over the Point at dusk and the local Great Horned Owls became vocal. Additions to the trip list included a juv. White-crowned Sparrow with the Hawkwatch Spuggy flock on the final day and the best to last, just 15 minutes before I left on that day (Saturday 17 October 2015). It was a graceful immature Golden Eagle flying over Bunker Pond having been seen a few moments earlier by a local birder over Cape May town. The 4th seen migrating at Cape May during my trip, but proved to be 4th time lucky for me for this breathtaking species.

Trip report to come in the following weeks - nearly 150 species (not chasing after everything) but connected with 3 lifers (Bell'sVireo, Western Kingbird and Rusty Blackbird) and a 2nd (Swainson's Hawk). This birding magnet offers one of the best birding experiences in the world. It's not just due to the birds, but to the cracking birding community it holds.

Friday 16 October 2015

Cape May: Getting better and better

Wed 14 Oct 2015.

Started by twitching the Western Kingbird at Cox Hall Creek WMA, the former Ponderlodge Golf Course near Villas a few miles north of Cape May on the Delaware Bayshore. The visitor from out west had been seen late the previous afternoon and had roosted overnight. It showed well by the car park overlooking the lake. (BOC photo below) A lifer and much hoped for bird for this trip. Spent the rest of the day on Cape Island connecting again with the Bell's Vireo at Higbees, the to be expected Yellow-rumped Warblers pluse the briefest of views of a Tennessee Warbler. Chilled out at the Hawkwatch and took in the Point gardens where a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was glued to a Siberian Elm on the Point which held a Pine Warbler amongst the busy 'Butter-butts'. Eastern Phoebes patrolled a nearby fence line. During the day took time out to look for butterflies in the vicinity of the Triangle Park on Lighthouse Avenue, connecting with a scarcity in the form of a Sleepy Orange plus Variegated Fritillary and the irruptive Ocola Skippers amongst the commoner species. Back to birding and a visit to the Meadows at dusk yielded a variety of ducks- American Wigeon  flock (10) with its lone drake Eurasian Wigeon friend, both the east coast Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall and American Black Duck. A Common Nighthawk flew over as the light fell.

Thu 15 Oct 2015.

Wow, where do I begin? The start is normally best... Left the motel shortly before 07:00 and on driving to a coffee stop birds were on the move flying in front of the car and hopping from tree to tree. The overnight and continuing NW winds sparked a movement. Only on arriving at Higbees could I begin to take it in. Birds were everywhere and birders were congregating by the platform on the edge of the first field, where the Bell's Vireo favoured. It duly showed well but briefly during the couple of hours I was glued to this spot but it was overshadowed by the reverse migration that was taking place. Wave upon wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers filtered northwards through the trees and bushes along the field edge. Lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets on the move as well as Palm Warblers. Only saw a single Golden-crowned Kinglet. Sparrows were in, dominated by Swamp but Song and White-throated Sparrows were noticeable and connected with several Dark-eyed Juncos in the mêlée. A variety of other Warblers including Tennessee, Nashville, Black-throated Green, Blackpoll, a late Black-and-white, and Common Yellowthroats were at ground level. Up above Eastern Phoebes were regular in the tree tops. Cedar Waxwings and Red-winged Blackbirds flew by and squadrons of Northern Flickers were joined by a lone immature Red-headed Woodpecker. American Robins noted migrating and pair of Rusty Blackbirds alighted in the tree tops before being spooked by one of the many Sharp-shinned Hawks looking for breakfast. The Rusty Blackbirds- a lifer! Singles of both Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos made it 3 Vireo species for me, but I could not get on a Red-eyed Vireo.

Loads of Yellow-rumped Warblers at Cape May Point State Park and the Cedars by the Hawkwatch platform held singles of Pine, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll and Black-throated Green. However, despite not being present for yet another Golden Eagle, the highlight of the day for me was the first of the season light morph juv. Swainson's Hawk that made 3 passes of the hawkwatchers, often joining a kettle of Turkey Vultures. The elegant wing shape of this rare wanderer from out west (grainy BOC record photo below) was evident as were the characteristic underparts/wings in the field. Of note were two adult Bald Eagles talon grappling in mid air, a spectacle drawing gasps from the onlookers. Connected with most of the other raptors on the move, but a lot were miles high in the blue sky that made locating lone birds tricky. Nearby loads of Arctic Skuas (ca. 50) were chasing Gulls/Terns in the rips off the Point late afternoon. This number being very noteworthy for Cape May.

Dusk at the Meadows saw 6 American Bitters heading west (3 groups of 2) joined by a couple of Green Herons. First time I've heard the grunting call of migrating American Bitterns.

What a day, enjoyed by many! I heard that 10,000 birds were tallied at the morning flight.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Cape May: Off the 'island' and back again (x2)

Mon 12 Oct 2015. As is standard started off at Higbees first thing. I gave it one hour and there were the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warblers, but several other warblers were showing, namely singles of Black-throated Green and Nashville, plus 2 or 3 Blackpolls. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds flew over giving their quiet call and several Sparrows were present, mainly around the central track - Song, White-throated, Swamp and Field varieties. Around noon and the wind switched to a southerly direction so I ventured off the 'island' taking in the Atlantic marshes up to Avalon. Firstly Nummy's Island then Scotch Bonnet followed by the Wetlands Institute all within the vicinity of the town of Stone Harbour, with a detour to the beach at the beginning of Stone Harbour Point en route. Low tide meant not seeing many waders, American Oystercatcher and Grey Plover easily seen at Nummy's and a flock of 20+ Sanderling at Stone Harbour held singles of Western Sandpiper, Dunlin and Semipalmated Plover. Little Blue Herons present throughout the back bay marshes at most stops, and the Wetlands Institute yielded 2 Tricoloured Herons and a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the car park. Approaching Avalon the Night Heron rookery held a couple of Black-crowneds. Nearby I spent about a couple of hours seawatching at the Avalon seawatch, well worth a visit when in Cape May. Saw both Surf and Black Scoters, not big numbers at this stage of the season say a dozen or so of each, but one mixed flock of about 20 birds held perhaps surprisingly a drake American Wigeon and 2 Green-winged Teal. Forster's and Royal Terns lingered offshore and American Herring Gulls gave good photo opportunities. Then off to one of my favourite places, Jake's Landing Road on the Delaware Bay marshes for the final hour of daylight. At least 6 Northern Harriers patrolled the marshes, min. 4 juvs, 1 ad female and 1 ad male 'grey ghost'. A Peregrine flew by and rested on one of the many snags as a Merlin flew inland. As dusk approached 2 or 3 imm. Bald Eagles made their way along the skyline to their respective roosts. American Black Duck noted and loads of Great White Egrets present. A flock of 100 strong Night Herons landed on the marsh across the channel. All I could make out were Black-crowneds. Hidden birds at this location were calling Clapper Rails (elusive and quieter than in Spring), Marsh Wrens and a lone distant Seaside Sparrow. A Savannah Sparrow in the car park was noted but not unusual for this locality.

Tue 13 Oct 2015. Higbees again first thing. Southerly winds and warm, migration slow but the Bell's Vireo continued for its 3rd day and showed briefly but well. A quick look at the Hawkwatch, blue skies and all quiet on the raptor front. Back to Stone Harbour for a couple of hours mid pm, and a walk along the Point. Many waders on the sideline and shallow beach pools. Sanderling dominated and were joined by half a dozen Western Sandpipers scattered across a mile or so of beach plus occasional American Oystercatchers. The stunning Piping Plover, precious to this coastline, were present (2) and several Semipalmated Plovers could be found. They were skittish at first as an Arctic Skua took a fancy to the nearby loafing gulls spooking all before heading north over the sea. On the beach pools Grey Plover, Dunlin and Knot were present and a group of a dozen Short-billed Dowitchers bathed briefly before flying to the marshy side of the Point, betraying there identity by calling in flight. Looking on the marshy side more waders shimmered in the heat haze including distant Dowitchers, Grey Plovers and American Oystercatchers. 500 Brent Geese congregated here and both Caspian and Royal Terns were seen with Forster's Terns patrolling the beach. Of the gulls there were a couple of groups of GBB Gulls (20 each) joined in decreasing numbers by comparison of American Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. A couple of adult LBB Gulls could be found as well. Back to the Hawkwatch at Cape May Point and had missed another Golden Eagle. However, it was nice to see a pair of Bald Eagles soaring over the town, plus a Dickcissel feeding with the platform's House Sparrow flock. A juv. Northern Harrier hunted over both Bunker and Lighthouse Ponds, and a Common Nighthawk was flying around well before sunset. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker frequented a Siberian Elm at the Point which also hosted a single Pine Warbler and the obligatory Yellow-rumped Warblers. As day turned to night a front approached bringing lightning on its leading edge drifting closer and closer to the Point.

Monday 12 October 2015

Cape May: Weekend birding - The Big Sit (many birds, you will see) and a rare Vireo

The Cape May birding Big Sit took place on Sat 10 Oct 2015 at the Hawkwatch platform of the State Park. The object was for birders to see/hear as many birds possible from a single location in 24 hours. My first Big Sit. A little lazily I arrived in the dark at 05:30, it was cold and windy, and I wasn't sure if I was in the right place. Birders were clad in duvets and blankets to keep out the chilly wind and looking more like giant Yodas. Had I arrived at a Jedi Knight convention? I'm sure one of them said "12 am have been here we have. Approx 25 species have we heard. The force is strong (i.e a favourable NW wind)".

Soon I was able to identify birders on call, and then the birds woke up around dawn. I did a stint up to 08:20 and tried to help where I could claiming Brent Goose, Arctic Skua and Gannet over the sea, but I could not help with identifying many of the flyover warblers on their reverse migration. Much respect to those who could and likewise to those souls who arrived at midnight for the start. It was nice to observe migrating Great Blue Herons and several American Bitterns in the early morning light, and connect with a variety of species as varied as Brent Geese, Eurasian and American Wigeons, Pine Siskin, Eastern Meadowlark and what seemed to be a precession of Dickcissels. Returned after a break at 09:30 continuing until 14:00. The list was building, but I regretted taking the 2nd break returning at 16:20 as a Golden Eagle was seen in that interim, more importantly it was on the list. I stayed until dusk having noted additions to my own list for the day throughout including for example in the final session, Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows and Lesser Black-backed Gull plus the 2 commoner Scoters. Also of note-  Yellow-breasted Chat drew attention as did both American Coot and Common Gallinule (Moorhen). As dusk fell Common Nighthawks were in the sky and several American Bitterns flew out into the bay past the lighthouse.

The wind kept with a northerly component throughout encouraging migration and the group's list totalled 149, 1 short of the record. (Presuming details to follow on local websites.). I reckon I observed about 60% of the species noted by the team. It was nice to take part. As Yoda would say, "Enjoyed the day, did I."

Sun 11 Oct 2015- Spent the morning birding with Nick K, captain of the brilliant World Series of birding team - 1000birds. We saw the Common Nighthawk perched up near the car park at Higbees and the rare visitor, Bell's Vireo, on the edge of the first field. Moving on, we didn't find many migrants in checking out the State Park and the trees at CMBO Northwood, but a few raptors were overhead back at the State Park Hawkwatch platform including a 'Grey Ghost' - adult male Northern Harrier that joined a very high kettle of Turkey Vultures. Slow birding the rest of the day, hanging out at the Hawkwatch and checking the Point gardens for warbler activity. Only Yellow-rumped Warblers on show, bucket fulls of them, but noteworthy at CMBO Northwood were a late-ish Blue-headed Vireo foraging in the same tree as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with a White-throated Sparrow feeding in the leaf litter below.

Back of the camera photo of the Bell's Vireo.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Cape May: The first 2 and a bit days

Arrived at Cape May late afternoon on Wednesday 07 October 2015. The Point had been spared the flooding caused by a nor'easter and the weather was warm and dry. An early evening visit to CMBO  Northwood produced several Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo and the marshes of nearby Cape May Meadows yielded several American duck species with plenty of Swamp Sparrows and a lone Bobolink in the grassy edges.

Thursday  08 October 2015 dawned to light NW winds, the direction birders at Cape May pray for in autumn. A 2 hour stint at Higbees Dike saw a decent and varied morning flight. Whilst it was dominated by Yellow-rumped Warblers, as is typical for the time of year, I picked out Northern Parula, Blackpoll, the 2 'eastern' Black-throateds and Palm Warblers. Other Warbler species were noted by birders with much more experience. Northern Flickers were on the move as were 2 or 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Small groups of Cedar Waxwings, Red-winged Blackbirds, a 'farting' Dickcissel, single Dark-eyed Junco, a Baltimore Oriole, both Kinglets and a couple of American Pipits added to the variety of the visible migration. Later at the Hawkwatch platform within Cape May Point State Park  Northern Harrier and Merlin offered close views to the masses, and the skies held many Cooper's Hawks with a few Sharp-shinned Hawks as well, all mixed in with the Turkey Vultures. An adult Bald Eagle to the north could well have been a local bird. The pond by the Hawkwatch platform, Bunker Pond, held American Wigeon,  both Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail and Gadwall. A 'twitch' on the island to the Cape May Meadows mid afternoon to take in the juv-1st w Hudsonian Godwit. It had arrived earlier in the day and then survived a Cooper's Hawk attack. At times other goodies, namely either a Wilson's Snipe, Yellow-crowned Night Heron or a visiting Eurasian Wigeon (that joined a small group of its American cousins) were in the same field of view as the Godwit. An adult Caspian Tern with a begging youngster in tow distracted the onlookers as they gave several close passes allowing for a few flight shots to be taken

Friday 09 October and 10 mph S winds, not good for visible migration. Slim pickings during the day. Higbees was quiet early morning but an excursion to the old Ponderlodge Golf Course at Villas, now known as Cox Hall Creek, produced perched up Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and White-breasted Nuthatch. Back on Cape Island and the Hawkwatch was slow during the hour or so I was there mid pm, but 3 passage Peregrines were nevertheless nice to see. A Ruddy Duck on Bunker Pond added to the trip list. Nearby a Brown Creeper was on show and I managed to pick up single Blackpoll and Pine Warblers amongst the marauding Yellow-rumped Warblers hanging around Cape May Point. The trio of 'Hudwit', YC  N Heron and Eurasian Wigeon continued at the Meadows which also sported an imm. Little Blue Heron trying to pass itself off as a Snowy Egret. A Common Nighthawk was in the air just before dusk here. Lightning to the south west as dusk fell heralded a cold front on its way, which soon encroached and knocked out power on some/all? of Cape Island at around 8.30pm during an electrical storm. Thankfull, power now restored.

It was also nice to catch up with the Cape May birding scene, good to be back. Saturday is the big sit, hope I can help.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Yorkshire Birding mid September

A week back home mid September and the birding was varied and all right. Despite favourable winds the east coast wasn't on fire with rarities and scarcities given the time of year.

Caught up with the Black Stork in East Yorkshire (Yorkshire tick) as it flew into roost on the eve of Sat 12th after drawing a blank for several hours in the afternoon. Whilst waiting for the Stork a Marsh Harrier hunted Sunk Island and the crazy movement of Siskin into Great Britain included 2 flocks over, with 2 or 3 (ad/2nd w) Mediterranean Gulls following the plough amongst several hundred Black-headed Gulls. A trip to Spurn (Kilnsea) the day after produced flight views of the Black Stork en route mid morning and Kilnsea yielded Red-backed Shrike and at least 2 hunting Short-eared Owls in the evening.

The moorlands near Barnsley held Buzzards and Kestrels aplenty. An imm/fem Merlin zoomed by at Midhope late afternoon on Sat 19th and a male Peregrine drifting east from the same area on a cold Sun 20th, when 2 or 3 Ravens graced Pike Lowe. On the 'lower' uplands 2 Hobbies hawked Swallows in tandem at Ingbirchworth Reservoir just before lunch on Tue 15th. Lots of hirundines over the Res. on a couple of visits with Sand Martins still being seen. Loafing Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving between the res and nearby fields numbered 265 on Tue 15th and a moulting adult Yellow-legged Gull also present was nice. At least 750 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, along with similar numbers of Black-headed Gulls, roosted with 2 Yellow-legged Gulls at nearby Langsett Reservoir that evening. One of the 'Yellow-legs' looked like the Ingbirchworth bird of earlier in the day.

During the period Old Moor RSPB held the long staying Great White Egret with several Little Egrets, Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Ruff and the seemingly ever present Green Sandpipers also in attendance. Barn Owl hunted one evening with a male Sparrowhawk sneaking by. The returning Lapwings and handful of Golden Plover roosted on Wath Ings and a juv. Garganey flew in from Bolton Ings onto the Willow Pool.

Twitched the juv. Woodchat Shrike at Nosterfield, North Yorkshire on Fri 18th and drove east to Flamborough Head for an afternoon/eve seawatch. The 'northerly' winds produced 3 or 4 Sooty Shearwaters north plus a single Manx Shearwater, a few Arctic Skuas and a noticeable movement of Red-throated Divers south (30 south 15:30 - 18:10). The seawatch was cut short to take in the male Subalpine Warbler (eastern type) viewable from Old Fall. Nice to jam in on this Yorkshire tick.

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

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Rainham 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwits

The sign that autumn birding was on its way came in the form of the passage of waders through the UK over recent weeks. Rainham Marshes RSPB, London held a variety including a long staying Wood Sandpiper during August 2015 with Common and Green Sandpipers sharing Aveley Pools. Dunlin and LR Plover completed the small ones here and Greenshank, Ruff, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits were bigger ones present. Not forgetting a handful each of Whimbrel and Curlew favouring the Thames shore or Purfleet Scrape.

Main focus on the 50 or so strong flock of Black-tailed Godwits roosting and feeding in the shallow water of Aveley Pools sporting a variety of plumages. A turn over of birds during August with at least 4 colour ringed individuals. It's been fun and a challenge at times to identify their combinations as the strong light, heat haze and distance to the flock proved problematic.

With thanks to the help of JG and JA - UEA, BP - Iceland, HTV and RB - Rainham Marshes RSPB, and apologies for any omissions,  here is a summary of the colour ringed birds with a couple of record shots thrown in. Check out the excellent work carried out by the ringers at

Bird 1 (Red Lime - Green Lime)

Debate about the lower ring colour. Looks like the above combination is favourite. Female ringed in Iceland in May 2010 wintering mainly in Sussex, UK with sightings in Hampshire, Kent, The Wash and the inner and outer Thames Estuary. Seen at Rainham Marshes RSPB in August 2015.

Bird 2 (Yellow Blue - Green Green flag)

Debate on combination as well, likely to be as listed above. Male ringed in November 2012 in Portugal, wintering there in subsequent years. Observed in Dordrecht, The Netherlands in March 2015. Seen at Rainham Marshes RSPB in August 2015.

Bird 3 (Lime Green - 'Dark')

Possibilities being considered. Await further details.

Bird 4 (Red White 8 - Yellow Red)

Adult male ringed in Iceland in July 2010. Wintering on the Swale Estuary, Kent, UK since. Seen at Rainham Marshes RSPB in August 2015 (and still present on 05 September 2015).

Sunday 6 September 2015

A secretive big Egret, slow East Coast birding and Moorland Raptor magic

August Bank Holiday saw me twitching in Yorkshire:

To the south I connected with the long staying Great White Egret in the Wath Area, 'Wath tick' number 186. It was hiding away in the eastern corner of Wombwell Ings, a ridiculous feat in itself in this flood basin.

Two trips out east 1) 'Spurn' produced Red-backed Shrike at Kilnsea and Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits near the main Beacon Pond. Passage slight, nice to see a couple of Spotted Flycatchers. 2) A late afternoon/early evening seawatch at Flamborough once the rain had cleared was slow on Bank Holiday Monday despite the wind having turned NNW overnight. A lone Manxie, 3 or 4 Arctic Skuas, several waders including Whimbrel south were highlights.

The best to last as on Tuesday 01 September 2015 'skywatching' on the South Yorkshire moors saw my dad and I connect with 9 species of raptor, the star being an Osprey slowly gliding south over the moorland edge drifting towards Sheffield (11:35-11:45) at our first stop. Earlier a passage 'cream crown' Marsh Harrier lingered for a while. Buzzards, Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were present and an immature Peregrine was perched up at distance. Joined by DS at the second stop early afternoon and as the air warmed more raptors took to the sky. At least 4 Buzzards regular around a peak with attendant Kestrels. A Hobby skimmed the tops of the heather for insects occasionally catching them at height as well, eating them on the wing. A stately Peregrine glided by not flapping once. A 'speck' persistently mobbed it. This was a feisty Merlin and was ridiculously tiny when side by side with the wanderer. It persisted with its dive bombing for several minutes before exiting stage right in a fast glide down towards 'Terra firma'. Just before leaving the Red Kite shown below gave us a fly past heading away from the moorlands. Fantastic to see a variety of raptors in an area that has suffered from a decline of these stunning birds. No doubt the change in weather to a partly sunny day, warmer than the weekend and a light NW wind prompted a bit of passage.

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To come: Black-tailed Godwit 'colour-ringing' sightings from Rainham Marshes RSPB, London, UK. Watch this space!

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.

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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


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.