25 September 2011


Spent this weekend in Bedfordshire visiting friends Steve Blain and Caroline Geary. An hour or so yesterday evening sorting through the gull roost at Stewartby Lake failed to find the putative Azorean Yellow-legged Gull found by Steve on 21st (pics here). However, an adult Caspian Gull and at least 3 Yellow-legged Gulls (1 ad & 2 1st yrs) in amongst several thousand Lesser Black-backs, Herring and just a single Common Gull, provided some compensation. Much more successful was a couple of hours owling from 23:45 to 01:45, with a Barn Owl and 4 Tawny Owls (photos below) seen at very close range. Amazing birds! About 5 Muntjac Deer were also seen.

Tawny Owl, Old Warden, Bedfordshire, tucking into a Grey Squirrel. I didn't know Tawnies took prey as large as this. Perhaps this
bird had scavenged some road kill?

Tawny Owl, Old Warden, Bedfordshire

23 September 2011

Pallid Harrier, Burpham, West Sussex: 23 September

Throughout the week I'd managed to put the idea in my head of twitching the juvenile Pallid Harrier in West Sussex if it hung around (I'd seen Pallid Harrier in Britain before but never seen a juvenile anywhere). Despite my valiant efforts at resisting a flithy twitch, this afternoon I found myself scanning a huge area of the South Downs just north of the village of Burpham. After about an hour the bird was found sitting on the ground at the edge of a field preening.

Even partially obscured on the ground, the well defined pale cinnamon-buff neck collar contrasting with the dark brown 'boa' and facial markings and crown was obvious. In flight the plain rich cinnamon underparts and under wing-coverts contrasting with the blackish secondaries and the white, blackish barred primaries and black and white barred tail made for a striking bird. On the underwing, the secondaries looked so dark at times that it was difficult to see the barring on them (on Monte's the barring on the secondaries is more obvious), but the inner primaries didn't appear as pale as I expected, being grey rather than white, and actually appeared quite dark at times (compare photos 1 and 3). The buff scapulars and pale tips to the upper wing-coverts were also obvious in flight.

Throughout the afternoon the bird covered a huge area and would disappear for long periods, sometimes appearing quite high overhead (even mobbing a Red Kite at one point). When it did show at close range the heat haze prevented me from getting any sharp images, but what a fantastic bird!

Also seen were 1 male Hen Harrier, 6+ Red Kite, c10 Common Buzzard, 4 Kestrel, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Northern Wheatear, c20 Meadow Pipit, 6 Chiffchaff, c100 Barn Swallow moving south, c20 House Martin and a Sand Martin.

As nuts as I feel for driving for 1.5 hours for a bird I don't even 'need', when I could have been seeing bugger all at the moor instead like a normal well-rounded individual (?), at least I can console myself as not being as far gone as the good friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) who sent me this text this morning: Am considering flying Bristol to Inverness on Sunday lunchtime returning Monday lunchtime for crane. Cost would be £120 rtn plus hire car and fuel split plus Travelodge room share, probably with three, £170 quid. Any takers, or have I lost the plot?

That's crazy talk!

18 September 2011

Passage migrants at Staines Moor

A reasonable number of common migrants around this afternoon. A Whinchat (poor record shot below) associating with 5 Northern Wheatear (photo 2) on the open grassland on Staines Moor was the highlight, where 11 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark and 40 Goldfinch were also logged. In the bushes 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Common Whitethroat, 15 Chiffchaff and 8 Blackcap (gorging themselves on blackberries) were seen, and overhead a light trickle of hirundines heading south in a very light westerly totalled 76 Barn Swallow, 15 House Martin and a Sand Martin. Also seen were 10 Linnet, and a Little Egret and Kingfisher along the Colne.

16 September 2011

Dungeness, Kent: 16 September

A three hour seawatch in the morning found very little moving despite the fresh south-easterly. A mixed flock of 12 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 3 Wigeon and 2 Teal heading south west was nice to see (photo below), and 7 Common Scoter, 40+ Sandwich Tern, 30 Northern Gannet, and a Marsh Harrier heading south out to sea were the only other notables. An adult Little Gull, a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull, 1 Kittiwake, 1-2 Juv Arctic Tern, 20+ Common Tern and 15+ Sandwich Tern were at the Patch and the 2nd cycle Glaucous Gull was following fishing boats offshore.

Migrating Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal.

Common migrants were in evidence on the land. At the point 6 Northern Wheatear, 1 Stonechat and 5 Pied Wagtail were noted. At the RSPB reserve, Chiffchaffs (photo 3) were seemingly in every bit of cover with at least 30 seen and many more heard, along with 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Common Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap and a female Pied Flycatcher that appeared briefly on the Willow Trail trying its utmost to avoid being photographed (top photo). 5 Whinchat (photo 4), 3 Stonechat, 2 Northern Wheatear, 1 Yellow Wagtail and small numbers of Meadow Pipit were also noted as well as 2 Common Buzzard and a Hobby overhead.

On the ARC pit, 2 Little Gull (1 ad & 1 juv), 2 juv Black Tern, 2 juv Arctic Tern and 1 juv Common Tern were flying around, and 2 Little Stint, 3+ Ruff, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ringed Plover, 5+ Dunlin, 200 European Golden Plover and 4 Wigeon were logged. A steady southwards movement of Barn Swallow (about 20 per minute) and Sand Martin from late morning onwards probably involved thousands of each.

Other notables seen were a 1st winter Shag and an injured Ruff on Burrow's Pit, the Great White Egret on Denge Marsh, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Peregrine, 3 Marsh Harrier, 5 Common Snipe, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Eurasian Wigeon, 5 Black Redstart, presumably the local breeding birds, feeding along the power station perimeter fence (photo 5), 4 Stonechat, 1 Cetti's Warbler seen well for a change (with several others heard), c80 Linnet and a Raven.

3 September 2011

Dungeness, Kent: 3 September

A fairly productive day with a steady trickle of migrants. 1 Hobby, 26 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Whimbrel, c70 Barn Swallow and 3 Sand Martin were all logged heading south-west, and over the mid-afternoon high tide, 59 Red Knot (photo 1), 11 Dunlin, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, c200 European Golden Plover and c30 Oystercatcher were at the ARC Pit. A 40 minute seawatch this evening produced 1 Balearic Shearwater, c80 Sandwich Tern, and small numbers of Common Tern all moving west, c80 Northern Gannet and a Guillemot lingering, and 2 Little Gull (1 ad & 1 juv) and an adult Black Tern feeding at the Patch.

Other notables seen include the long staying Great White Egret, 1 Spotted Redshank, 2-3 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1+ Marsh Harrier, 7 Common Tern and an odd-looking leucistic Grey Heron (pics here) all on Denge Marsh, 1 adult Little Gull, a female Goosander and an eclipse drake Pintail on the ARC Pit, and c800 Lapwing, lots of Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Northern Shoveler (in eclipse plumage) around the RSPB reserve, and 3-4 Sparrowhawk. Also, 6+ Harbour Porpoise were milling about offshore at the point and lots of Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum were about (photo 2 - male & photo 3 - female).