Wednesday 30 November 2016

Barnsley Moorlands and a Pugneys twitch

Weekend birding back home. Saturday 26 November turned into a crisp sunny day on the moorland after starting off foggy at Ingbirchworth Res. with visibility down to 50 feet early morning. It started to clear around 10:00, and the highlight here was the mobile flock of 70 or so Brambling in the Beech trees hugging the western side of the reservoir.

A few moments later over at Midhope the fog had cleared providing difficult viewing conditions against the sun, so my Dad and I drove to Ewden Heights where Ewden Beck was cloaked in fog but the moorland tops were clear. Decided to walk out to Ewden Cabin/Shooting Lodge along the northern side of Broomhead Moor. The 45 min walk provided dramatic viewing of the rolling fog bank in Ewden Beck which receded then grew and finally dispersed late morning. We didn't give it long at the Cabin as the birding was slow with 4 distant Ravens of note.

Sunday 27 November and a quick twitch of the 2 Long-tailed Ducks up the M1 at Pugneys CP was, instead, more protracted. Missed an elusive LTD on the boating lake but saw an equally elusive fem/imm on the western most pond over the road at Calder Wetlands, where a Sparrowhawk nearly had a Song Thrush breakfast. A good variety of wintering duck seen and earlier on at the main boating lake a cracking 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull loafed around with a handful of similarly aged Herring Gulls. It looked better and strikingly white headed in real life than shown in the photo below.

A quick look at the 500 strong Canada Geese flock to the west of Ingbirchworth Reservoir produced 2 birds sporting red darvic rings (BAZN and CAFK). With thanks to Kane B, Tom L and Martin W on twitter for help with their origin -

BAZN adult male 29/06/2014 Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. vv 27/112016 Ingbirchworth Reservoir. 123 kms SE. 2 yrs 151 days. CAFK adult female 29/06/2014 Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. vv 27/11/2016 Ingbirchworth Reservoir. 123 kms SE 2 yrs 151 days

Joined 'Upland Tyke' at Midhope Low Moor and we birded there until 1445. A few finches included a pair of showy Crossbills and 5 Bullfinches. At least 3 Ravens patrolled the ridge around Pike Lowe where a couple each of Buzzards and Kestrels were seen. A flock of 30+ Pink-footed Geese tried to sneak by heading west. More details of the sightings at

Monday 7 November 2016

Germany - Apr/May 2016 Trip Report

(Apr/May 2016) Annual long weekend visit to see my friends Chris and Sue in Germany. Birding around Kalrsruhe and over the years we have ventured north (Waghäusel and beyond) and south (Black Forest and Kaiserstuhl). Highlights added to my cumulative Birding Germany Trip Report updated at Birding Trip Reports - Other.

Some photo highlights below:

Friday 4 November 2016

Cyprus October 2016 - Trip Report

Cyprus (October 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.

3 new birds for me - Scopoli's and Yelkouan Shearwaters and White Pelican. The hot weather made migration slow, but it was still a fantastic place to visit.

Short video uploaded at my YouTube Channel (Jonathan's Birding Blog) - Desert Wheatear, Eleonora's Falcon, and Alpine Swift.

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

Sunday 30 October 2016

Rainham RSPB: A Snob, a Magician and a LBJ

Saturday 29 October

A visit to Rainham RSPB centre taking the long route from Rainham station to the centre via the Stone Barges returning to Rainham station via the Serin Mound.

Joined MM on the way down from the station and first off Rainham 'West' held several Stonechat, and along the path running parallel to the edge of the silts a passerine was flushed by a bird of prey. This was a cracking (silhouetted) Merlin which turned on the after-burners and within seconds belted it's way onto the silts and out of view. Stone Barges was quiet with wintering gull numbers building up and on walking down towards Coldharbour Point small groups of Redshank made their way upriver on the rising tide (50 in total). Stonechat and Reed Buntings were noteworthy in the bushes, if only we had paid more attention to the Stone Barges bushes :) (Nice one SH re the Dusky Warbler). A pair of Common Sandpipers were at the western most end of Aveley Bay and a pair of Avocets flew downriver. On the reserve a male Marsh Harrier tangled with a Buzzard as viewed from the riverwall, and a lone Ring-necked Parakeet flew north over Aveley Pools (5 others earlier south of the river opposite Coldharbour Point).

After a rest at the RSPB centre and a brief river watch (nowt moving) decided to head back along the riverwall. A Green Sandpiper called from the reserve and the foreshore held 3 or 4 Rock Pipits. Set up shop at Serin Mound and it was fairly quiet for the first 30 minutes, but things were about to change. About 13:45 a Brambling flew west calling but I could not pick it out against the leaden sky. Shortly afterwards a male Snow Bunting went through, this one I did get onto, more on the sighting later. At about 14:20 a small dark Falcon flew low over the old riverwall and landed straight out on Wennington Marsh about 300 yards away, a stunning fem/imm Merlin, fair to say the bird from earlier in the morning. I managed to get the phonescoped record shot of the Merlin below before it took off and was lost to view neat the silts. Sadly it didn't return in the next hour but another birder and myself were treated to nice views of Kestrel, 3 Marsh Harriers (ad male and 2 cream-crown juvs) and distant Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. A handful of Chaffinches migrated over as did a lone Redpoll. Then it was time to walk back to Rainham station. A cracking day.

Snow Bunting notes
A few minutes after a Brambling dweezed somewhere overhead at around 13:45 (interspersed with its supplementary soft 'sup-sup' calls), a piercing 'teu' rung out from over Wennington Marsh. Not a call I was familiar with but quickly tried to remember from the 'Collins Guide' - Snow/Lapland Bunting sprung to mind. The bird repeated the call with same ferocity and I picked it up, a long-winded passerine flying over the marsh which had now started to turn and was making a 'bee-line' for the landfill. I tracked it and as it passed level with me (100 yards away and not very high) I could see extensive white wing flashes of a Snow Bunting and almost simultaneously it gave it's more typical 'trolloping' ripple call, a call I'm familiar with from birding the north Norfolk coast in winter.

The bird flew towards the top of the landfill appearing to make heavy weather of it, with slow wing beats revealing the wing flashes in detail confirming it as a male. To be honest the contrast looked like a giant male Banded Demoiselle damselfly (ok the bands do not cloak the end of the wing). The white wing markings were extensive and stretched from leading to trailing edge contrasting with dark wingtips. At one stage the bird was flying with a Skylark in tow, allowing for comparison of the Bunting and Lark shapes. The Snow Bunting being slightly smaller, looked long-winded but they were more slender and the underparts were more streamlined than those features on the Lark. The rest of the body of the Snow Bunting was silhouetted.

Light conditions were ok, reasonably neutral with 8/8 cloud cover and hardly a breeze. The bird almost flew back towards the Serin mound but regained it's flight path to the southwest and over the tip. I stayed in the area for a further hour and half, but no further sign.

Sunday 30 October

Back again at Rainham RSPB, caught up with SH's excellent find, London's 2nd? Dusky Warbler . It was typically elusive but over a long waiting period managed to have excellent flight views and saw it well in the bushes on 3 or 4 occasions. Calling 'tic' fairly frequently.

Walking down to the RSPB centre what must have been yesterday's fem/imm Merlin took off from the slope up to Rainham 'Ridge' west of Aveley Bay car park. It perched on a hillside post and launched itself in pursuit a couple of times, ending up back on a post. After a few minutes it flew off with purpose towards the landfill. I managed to get a few photos (mainly phonescoped). One shown below, much better than yesterday's effort!!! More at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'.

A short video of the Merlin uploaded to my You Tube channel, enjoy.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Vis-migging- Rainham twinned with Numpties, Spurn?

Ringtail Delight (Sat 22 October 2016)

Migration in evident at Rainham RSPB on walking down to the Serin Mound on Saturday morning with Chaffinches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits moving through west. Most were up high and some silent. Variety was provided by a group of Redpoll and back near the centre a group of 6 calling Tree Sparrows shot by (local rarity). Vis-miggers stationed at the bottom of the ramp were logging the birds and a Short-eared Owl entertained on occasion when spooked from the centre of the marsh by corvids or an adult male Marsh Harrier. Into the afternoon it was becoming evident that Common Buzzards were moving through singles or in groups, with the largest being a group of 7, and lesser numbers of Sparrowhawks. The star was way out west from the watch point, namely whilst watching a pale Buzzard over Wennington Marsh PS picked out a ringtail Harrier heading strongly north-east from over that area. Scoping it revealed it to be a Hen Harrier with the warm underparts and small size suggesting imm. male. It was good that several folk got onto it as this beauty was heading out of town at a fair pace.

Egrets... We've had a few! (Sun 23 October 2016)

A return visit on Sunday saw a group of us (AT, RB, PS and myself) head down the riverwall. Aveley Bay was quiet so encouraged by AT we carried on to Serin Mound mindful of Cattle Egrets recently reported (a day or so ago?) a few miles east at Thurrock. Setting up the scope on the mound mid morning and I soon picked up a small Egret flying from the south-west corner heading out towards the A13 flyover. First noted all dark legs and feet (which looked strikingly black). This set alarm bells ringing and I quickly noted that the wings appeared rounded and then straight onto the bill, it was short. As the bird was flying away only when it turned right to head east towards the reserve did it reveal details of the bill - a short orange bill. I quickly got the others onto it and it looked like it was heading out east but turned around and landed by Aveley Pools. All were happy on its 'id' and news was put out over the radio, text and Twitter airwaves. It wasn't settled as soon afterwards it took off and landed back on Wennington Marsh by a distant group of cattle, where it showed well but distant for a bit, then viewing was obscured by the vegetation as it moved at the feet of the cattle. After a while and with this bird still out of sight, a Cattle Egret was picked with a more distant group of cattle. We watched it for a while and then established that 2 birds present, confirmed by others later in the morning. FS arrived quickly by cycle power and was one of many who could share in this sighting during the day.

On leaving and by the Aveley Bay car park AT got onto 3 Egrets in front of us heading fast downriver. We scoped them, 3 Great White Egrets and watched them flying east and lost to view beyond the RSPB visitors centre. Found out that others at the centre were able to see them fly by as well. Not a bad tally, but it took me an hour to add the commonplace Little Egret to the day list!

Caught up with one of the Cattle Egrets (flight view) in the afternoon in the company of a Little Egret near Aveley Pools. Other highlights include the cracking male Marsh Harrier and a distant big Peregrine over the Silts. A Kestrel mobbing it looked tiny by comparison, a brave/foolish Kestrel!

Phonescoped video of one of the Cattle Egret (at distance) uploaded at:

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Cyprus Birding mid October

A quick note on a recent birding trip to Cyprus (08 - 15 October 2016). Migration was steady at best and hard work given the hot temperatures (25-33C).

Connected with White Pelican near Larnaca and other highlights include Desert Wheatear (Paphos Lighthouse), Scopolli's and Yelkouan Shearwaters (Cape Pomos), not forgetting the stunning Eleonora's Falcons NW of Akrotiri Peninsula. The dragonflies and butterflies were worth studying when the birding was slow. A trip report to follow.

Here are some of my first photos sorted out from the trip. Looking forward to returning soon. It was obvious that there has been a severe lack of rainfall in Cyprus, badly needed for irrigation... thought he worked on BBC Look North ;-)


Arrived back late on Saturday 15 October, how to spend the Sunday? Sort out the washing, get the shopping in, ease back into things... Not likely when these Siberian Accentor beauties have been turning up in Blighty.

Twitched the Easington (East Yorks.) Siberian Accentor with my dad and also caught up with Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warbler at the Crown and Anchor, Kilnsea and the Bean Geese between Kilnsea and Easington. Now, that's a proper way to spend Sunday afternoon. Plus, Wednesday won at Huddersfield!

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Yorkshire Birding mid Sep inc. Spurn MigFest

Wath Area 6-3 Kilnsea.

Not a footy score between a couple of non-league teams but the number of visits I made to each birding area one week in mid-September, a summary below.

Three visits to Spurn. Attended the Spurn Migration Festival (Migfest) on the Saturday, a day of persistent rain. Birding a little slow but the diminutive Kentish Plover at Kilnsea Wetlands was a big draw, a good Yorkshire tick for me and many others, and the first in the Spurn area for over a decade. The Mig Fest was well organised and well attended and looking round the fantastic displays at the Westmere Farm base and meeting up with folk took the mind off the bad weather. The talks in the day and evening lecture were top class. Fascinating to hear about Cellular Tracking Technologies being used across the Pond to track bird movements and the potential for using miniature tracking devices on smaller species (Michael Lanzone). The evening lecture 'A Tale of Two Peninsulas' was well entertaining and informative. Even though I've been to Cape May nigh on 20 times I'm still learning about the place, and got a good answer was forthcoming as to where the blooming Route 9 Cattle Egrets disappear to on World Series of Birding day!

Happy to talk on and on about Cape May to the cows come home, here's a taster, check out my trip reports from both Spring and Autumn and a couple of recent birding videos.

Cape May Trip Reports (2000 - 2015)

Cape May Birding Video (May 2015)

Cape May Birding Video (Oct 2015)

Falsterbo has always been described to me as a bit like Cape May, would like to visit one day to see the raptor migration spectacle. Nice to have a side by side comparison with the NJ counterpart,The lecturers David La Puma and Bjorn Malmhagen from Cape May and Falsterbo respectively, surely The Two Ronnie's of the birding world!

Good to catch up with the Spurn folk from Wath days of old, plus friends from Cape May. Hope they enjoyed the Yorkshire hot spot and cemented the formal Friendship Agreement of the three Capes. Cheers to all who made the event a continuing success and especially to Andy R for signing a copy of his cracking book - Birds of Spurn.

Visited Spurn on the following Wednesday and Friday. The least said about the latter, let's say I'm sticking to Tetley and Yorkshire Tea, not the one beginning with 'P'. The former was more enjoyable as friends Ruth and Mark from Rainham were in town, birded Kilnsea and down to the Chalk Bank with them. Nowt moving passerine wise, but we had cracking views of a Merlin at Kilnsea Wetlands, it spooked the long staying Wood Sandpiper, and a brief Hobby flew past the nearby radar dish.

Wath Area
Six visits to the 'Wath Area' only a few miles from home. Highlights included loads of Little Egrets at both Broomhill Flash and Old Moor RSPB plus 3 Garganey glued together, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Ruff, cc Marsh Harriers  and a marauding Hobby. The near resident Green Sandpipers always good value!

Interesting spread of temperatures as low as mid teens on some visits at the end of week but one day mid week it was touching blooming 30! Birded the area with my dad and saw a nice variety of resident and passage birds. One day saw a strong southerly movement of Swallows, one of which evaded a lightening strike by a Merlin. A probable Hobby too distant to clinch in a dogfight with a Kestrel and another visit produced a Peregrine tracking a Buzzard over woodland before gliding away into the ether. Kestrels were numerous throughout as were Buzzards, and one day at the end of the week saw a noticeable appearance of Sparrowhawks, 3 over one hillside. Raven sightings on all visits and a passage Marsh Harrier added to the variety on the Sunday (18th), it was moving through very very high up! Mistle Thrushes flocking, Meadow Pipits calling overhead and a flock of Wigeon through were signs of autumn. Nearby on the upland edge an immature Yellow-legged Gull tried to hide itself amongst a flock of LBB Gulls at Ingbirchworth Res. and a pair of Little Owls sunbathed at one location as a cycle race passed along the criss-crossing country lanes.

Caught up with Baird's and Pectoral Sandpipers at Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, the former another Yorkshire tick of this trip back home. A Peregrine flew over and Black Darter dragonflies along the track to Packards were new for me. Relatively close by was Alkborough and it's attendant Western Swamphen. It showed briefly at distance from the Horse Paddock with up to 7 Spoonbills frequenting the main pool.

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

Saturday 3 September 2016

Bank Holiday Birding - Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire... plus a bit of Lincolnshire

Saturday 27 August saw me birding at Spurn, East Yorkshire. Migration highlights included a cream crown Marsh Harrier south over the Humber with the Kilnsea Triangle holding several Whinchat, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and a Redstart. Waders were plentiful with a walk over to Kilnsea Wetlands/Beacon Lane Ponds producing loads of Dunlin with others of note including Greenshank, adult and juv Curlew Sandpipers, Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint. Beacon Lane itself was quiet although nice to see Wall Brown butterflies. Prior to a late afternoon seawatch an immature Skua spooked the waters on the Humber shore and headed out to sea at The Warren. Immature Arctic methinks, photo below. It looked big to the observers, but I'm favouring Arctic. It was a question of getting a photo and analysing the photos or studying the bird as it flew over, the former won out. The seawatch produced a slow trickle of Common and Sandwich Terns south and a Black Tern was amongst them, but heavy rain soon set in and ended the show for me.

Sunday 28 August and an afternoon seawatch at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. A slow session despite NW winds but connected with about 10 Arctic Skuas and a handful of Great Skuas heading south, with no more than a handful of Manx Shearwaters noted as well. Waders on the move included Whimbrel, Curlew and Golden Plover. Nice to catch up with the locals et al. Love seawatching and always learning!

Monday 29 August and birded the Barnsley moorlands with my dad. Spotted an adult Caspian Gull amongst a group of LBB Gulls resting in fields near Ingbirchworth Res., South Yorkshire, and nearby watched for migration along the moorland edge at Ewden Heights and then at Midhope Moor. Simmo and Upland Tyke were watching from the Cabin up the valley and connected with an Osprey which eluded us at Midhope Moor. Other highlights included Marsh Harrier and Hobby plus Buzzards and Ravens.

Tuesday 30 August and a repeat of the above, except birded from Ewden Heights only after visiting the Ingbirchworth area. The Caspian Gull was again near the Res. before flying high east about 10am ish, leaving the area? Simmo again birded from the Cabin. At about 11:30 I picked up what I thought was an immature 'Gull' over the ridge leading East from Ewden Heights and I was about to move off it as it seemed to be going away when something kept my interest in it. A nagging doubt on its id. It soon turned and revealed itself to be an Osprey. It then came towards us (photo below) and I managed to call Simmo who got onto the bird before it bombed south towards Agden. Soon afterwards a 'new' Marsh Harrier appeared and went high south, at least 1 or 2 others lingering here.

A relaxing afternoon at home before driving to London was stopped in its tracks when news of Purple Gallinule (OK let's be fashionable and call it 'Western Swamphen') at Alkborough Flats on the Lincolnshire side of the south Humber shore to the north of Scunthorpe. Connected with this beast just before 17:00, it dwarfed a Moorhen. The scrape held a nice selection of waders with many Avocets and Spotted Redshank noted amongst others.

As always a fantastic stay back at home.

More photos from the long weekend at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'

Sunday 14 August 2016

Immature 'Large' Gull - Rainham Marshes RSPB, London (13 August 2016)

This large gull was present on Aveley Pools at Rainham Marshes RSPB mid pm on Saturday 13 August 2016.

Help please, can it be identified to species? How old is it? Is it correct to say 2nd calendar year as opposed to advanced juvenile (1st calendar year)?
  • Does profile suggest 'Yellow-legged' as opposed to 'Caspian'?
  • Do the pale grey mantle feathers point away from 'Yellow-legged'?
  • Can 'Herring' be ruled out?