Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016 Birding Summary

2016 will remain in the memories of birders for time to come, after an incredible string of autumn vagrancies. In under a month, Siberian Accentor went from a bird never before seen in Britain, to nine records, and seen by every twitcher (it would seem) who lived on the East coast. Indeed, one bird drew in a crowd of 4000 over a week, but it wasn't only Siberian Accentors which hit the headlines. Earlier in the year, two  new species for Britain were recorded, with a Lammergeier seen in Wales and Devon, and a Dalmatian Pelican in Cornwall. A large influx of Pine Buntings went largely unnoticed along the South coast, and Britain's first breeding Little Gulls provided something other than vagrants causing a stir. However, how did I do in 2016?

In total, I recorded 155 species, but missed out on what would've been easy ticks, such as Bewick's Swan and White Fronted Goose by simply not visiting Slimbridge. However, there were some "lifers" (which are highlighted in bold) as well as a few notes about the more notable species!

Great tit, Blue tit, Coal tit, Starling, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, BH gull, Herring gull, LBB gull, GBB gull, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Jackdaw, GS Woodpecker, Rook, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Buzzard, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mallard, Song thrush, Mistle thrush, Dunnock, Jay, Long-Tailed tit, Goldcrest, Kestrel, Cormorant, Stock dove, Collared dove, Pied wagtail, Wren, Sparrowhawk, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Coot, Raven (Mendips), Tree Sparrow, Kittiwake (Sand Point), Guillemot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Shelduck, Curlew, Blackcap, Linnet, Siskin, Stonechat, Short eared owl (three in the Uphill area in early 2016), Grey wagtail, Rock pipit, Ringed plover, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Teal, Sanderling, Lapwing, Great White Egret (Axe estuary and Ham Wall), Wigeon, Merlin, Skylark, Dartford Warbler (Sand Bay-a possible pair, until the council cut back the bushes...), Water pipit, Mute Swan, Peregrine, Pheasant, Meadow pipit, Canada goose, Tufted duck, Greylag, Red Kite, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Redstart, Willow warbler, House Martin, Sand Martin, Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Common Scoter, Tree pipit, Wheatear, Pied Flycatcher, Garden warbler, Gropper (Sand Point), Ring Ouzel (Sand Point), Whimbrel, Yellowhammer, Chough (Lizard point and Land's End), Black Redstart (Land's End), Shag, Fulmar, Gannet, Red Throated diver, Iceland Gull (Marazion), Pacific Diver (Marazion), Great Northern Diver, Razorbill, Bar Tailed Godwit, Whitethroat, Mediterranean Gull. Manx Shearwater, Sandwich tern, Common tern, Little egret, Hudsonian Whimbrel (Perranuthnoe), Swift, Treecreeper, Puffin, Green Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Bearded tit (Ham Wall), Reed bunting, Bittern (Ham Wall), Water Rail, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Glossy Ibis (Ham Wall), Cetti's Warbler, Pochard, Garganey, Lesser Whitethroat, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Shoveler, Marsh tit, Corn Bunting (Rowberrow), Ring-Necked Parakeet (St. James' Park), Pintail, Ruddy Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Woodlark (found at a still undisclosed site in N. Somerset, due to the possibility of breeding), Roseate Tern (waterway near NOC-ending of river Solent), Eider (Keyhaven and Marine Lake), Storm Petrel (Solent), Black tailed godwit, Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Turtle Dove (New Forest), Wood warbler, Knot, Ruff, Kingfisher, Yellow browed warbler (Worlebury woods), Lesser Yellowlegs (Cheddar Reservoir), Mandarin, Scaup, Little Grebe.

2016 was my best total so far, in terms of species, and Yellow legged gull went down as "Probable."

However, not all has been good for birds in Britain this year...
A recent outbreak of bird flu (avian influenza) caused the closure of WWT Llanelli, and the situations on the uplands is dire. Despite the petition to ban driven grouse hunting putting pressure on Westminster for change, it seems unlikely to happen, mainly due to lack of motivation from MPs who support the ban, from both the government and opposition. The problem does not lie in the act of shooting grouse; there is no difference to other poultry raised and killed for food here (other than the lead!). The problem lies in the illegal activity which sustains the population of the soon-to-be-slaughtered birds, such as killing birds of prey,

Chris Packham's petition to "Introduce a moratorium on the hunting of critically declining wading birds" is gaining momentum, and I urge you to sign using the link below.   



Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Lesser Yellowlegs #2

Hello all,
Here are a few more photos of the Cheddar Lesser Yellowlegs, but in much better light, and a photo of murmurating Starlings at Ham Wall...

 Note the difference in the bottom two images. The warm glow that can be added by increasing the temperature of the image adds to the atmosphere, and making for a traditional view, but it doesn't document the conditions. Beware photo editing!!


Friday, 28 October 2016

Glastonbury Tor, Ham Wall, Cheddar Reservoir and a WHITE TAILED EAGLE!

Hello all,
This post is somewhat of a jumble of sightings, ranging from a dipped local mega, to an American wader that showed absurdly well, and a few bits in between. Despite the end of Autumnwatch for this year (it hasn't suffered the fate of the Bake Off!) there was still plenty of wildlife locally, some of which was also seen on the programme. I have yet to take the liberty of placing a bucket on my head to listen for migrating birds, however.

Glastonbury Tor and Ham Wall
As it is half-term, we decided to visit somewhere fairly local that I have seen but haven't been to. Glastonbury Tor has fantastic panoramic views over the Somerset levels, with a limestone batholith (although this usually applies to igneous rock, you get the idea) forming the hill, due to it not being eroded. There was one bird of note on the top: a Kestrel.

After the Tor, we stopped off for an hour at the nearby Ham Wall, which was very quiet. 30+ male Shoveler, in smart winter plumage, were nice, as were three Wigeon. 10 Teal and 50 Mallard were the other ducks on show. A Cetti's Warbler was quite nice, if a little startling, and a Water Rail was also heard. A Marsh Harrier flew over, but otherwise, little else.

Cheddar Reservoir and LESSER YELLOWLEGS
At Cheddar Reservoir, there was a Lesser Yellowlegs. This is a very elegant wader that is a vagrant in America. With between 5 and 10 records a year in Britain, it is certainly a rarity. This bird is definitely Lesser, rather than Greater, due to a) the bird is the same size as a redshank, not larger, b)the bill is, relative to the head, small and c) the bill is straight, with no upward curve towards the end. The Lesser Yellowlegs showed very well at the edge of the reservoir, just a few metres away, at times. It probably had never seen a human before, and showed almost TOO close at times!

Also present at the reservoir were large numbers of Mallard, Teal and Gadwall; Shoveler and Wigeon were also present. A Great White Egret and a female Mandarin was of note as was a Red Breasted Merganser, which I didn't see, but had been reported.

The local mega
At 11:30 today, I noticed an unbelievable sighting on RBA NewsMap Lite and on Birguides: White Tailed Eagle, Blagdon Lake!!!! This is the fifth record for the area, but the most recent was in 1927. The bird was a juvenile, and probably from the East, helped here by the recent Easterly winds. I arrived at the lake at 13:35, but, alas, it had long gone. The bird was either a) in trees, but out of sight nearby or b) had headed off. After many fruitless hours, it emerged that the bird was last seen in the Mendips, at Black Down. Once I heard this news, it was dark. However, few birders could connect with the bird, so if it remains, it will be very popular indeed. Scaup,  6 Great White Egret, 4 Little Grebe, 4 Buzzard, 10 Great Crested Grebe and a Kingfisher were all present at Blagdon, whilst we waited!

Hopefully the Eagle will land!

Below are some more Lesser Yellowlegs images...

Monday, 24 October 2016

Weekly sightings: Sunday 16th October-Monday 24th

Hello all,

Sightings for Worlebury gardens
  • 11 Jay sightings in this time period; is it just the same one going back and forth?
  • 2 Male Sparrowhawk and 1 female Sparrowhawk, both in flight, both being harassed by corvids.
  • Probable common Pipistrelle sighting, or another small bat species.
  • Probable Noctule before this week, or larger bat species.
  • 1 male BLACKCAP in the garden. These are technically summer visitors to Britain, but many are overwintering, and it is only October.
  • Plenty of gulls and corvids.
  • Few "smaller" birds in recent weeks, but numbers are beginning to pick up again. Probably because of moult, and also due to birds getting the best out of autumn: berries and scraps from the harvest.
  • No Redwings or Fieldfares yet...
  • An unusual record: 1 fly-over cormorant
  • 1 Kestrel
  • 1 Buzzard floating through


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Ham Wall

Hello all,
Hopefully there will be some more on this (and photos!) but...
At the weekend, I spent a morning at Ham Wall. The bird of the day was unquestionably two Kingfisher at the Avalon Hide-a new species for me! Although my photo can be, at best, described as a record shot, it was a great sighting!
Great White Egret could be classed as Common, with four (a very low number for HamWall) seen throughout the morning. Two Cetti's Warbler sang from a bush at us, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen in the same place as the nest last time. Four buzzard were nice editions, and Water Rails were calling. Gadwall and two Kestrels provided two more species, as did coot and moorhen. To finish off, 30+ Red Admiral and three Comma were on some ivy, as was a Painted Lady and a mystery bird...

Saturday, 10 September 2016

House Martins and Feeders

Hello all,
First off are the House Martins. When I visited a friend's house recently, we discovered that one of the nests was still in use on the side of his house. This provided us with some excellent photo opportunities; some of the results were better than others. With many of the photos, I found myself thinking "this would be fantastic if the House Martins weren't flying past the nest at 40mph!" Not all were meaningless blurs, however...

 We (Ed and I) have also continued with the coloured bird feeder experiment, and I have been trying out digiscoping to get some closer up photos of the birds. Namely, in this case, a juvenile Goldfinch and a Great Tit


Sunday, 4 September 2016


Hello all,
I have recently returned from a two week holiday on the south coast! There, I reached 150 bird species for 2016, and saw some great wildlife as well.

Bird Summary
The first weekend held a new bird for 2016. On 31st July, a flock of 8 Eider flew past the cliff; their dark colour makes me say that they are eclipse males. This was a good sighting, but the following morning was even better. A morning seawatch produced a new bird for me: a Storm Petrel! It was a little distance out to sea, and at first I thought it to be a swallow, then a bat (?!) before it clicked! Not the best of views, I will admit, but it is nice to have seen a relatively scarce bird. Other species at the seawatch were Black-Headed, Herring, Lesser Black Backed, Great Black Backed and Common gulls as well as a flock of Goldfinch and a couple of cormorant!
The following day included a visit to a small section of Keyhaven marshes. Oystercatcher were abundant, as were linnet, cormorants, mallards, mute swans and starlings. There was also an excellent view of a group of turnstone available, just metres away at some points! Redshank came and went as did Black-tailed Godwit and both common sandpipers and green, which hung around for a little longer. To round off the day, a small group of Avocet flew by!

Thursday saw a visit to a different habitat: the New Forest. Undoubtedly, the star of the show was a Turtle Dove, the first I have seen in some time. Wood warbler was also great along with a Reeve's Muntjac deer, Treecreeper, Sedge warbler, Cetti's Warbler and a Buzzard secondary feather, as well as the chaps in person!

A visit to Keyhaven marshes again proved fruitful. Wheatear and Whinchat both showed well, along with 10 Oystercatcher, c.20 Lapwing, c.20 Redshank, 6 Little Egret, 1 GREAT WHITE EGRET, and a Mediterranean Gull. Near a small flock of Sarnies, as one calls them, there was an adult summer Common Gull, looking very smart if a little chilly, sat on the scrape in front of a group of juvenile Shelduck. A huge count of 51 Turnstone on a groyne out to sea was pleasing, and five Knot on a scrape inland was my 150 species of the year! A Ruff later on added to my totals, as well as a small group of Black-Tailed Godwit nearby. Finally, a Raven flew over, and the total for the day was 58 species!!

That was it in terms of birds, but mammals were also there: rabbits were constant at the place at which we were staying, and a Muntjac in the New Forest was nice to see. There was certainly fox evidence, as well as marine life, namely whelk egg cases and crabs!

Anyway, a picture tells a thousand words, depending on the complexity of the passage, so here we go...

Black Headed Gulls

BHG in amazement!

Common Gull ad.summer
Feral Pigeon

Common Scoter

Common Tern

Buzzard, Tawny, Pheasant, Rabbit, Corvid, Gull

Black-Tailed Godwit
Flock of male eclipse Eider

Little Egret

Sarnies-Sandwich tern

Spot the Treecreeper