Tuesday 26 October 2010

The Last Day in Cornwall - Yellow-browed Warbler & Firecrest

The weather was pretty awful as we awoke from our slumber in Penzance.  It is always tempting to just stay in bed during those wet and windy Cornish mornings but to be honest I can never resist the lure of those nearby coastal valleys.  The first stop was Nanquidno where almost immediately I heard the distinctive call of a Yellow-browed Warbler.  Unfortunately though, it was nowhere to be seen in the blustery conditions.  After a thorough check of the plantation near the ford we decided to head further down into the valley where a few Goldcrests and the odd Chiffchaff was spotted.  Near Nanjulian a slightly different regulus call was heard and a few seconds later a stunning Firecrest appeared.  The bird was pretty elusive but showed well at times, especially when it perched up in a small Monkey Puzzle tree briefly.  Upon our return to the car the Yellow-browed Warbler (294) was heard again near the plantation. Eventually I managed to catch a brief glimpse of the elusive pest in one of the nearby gardens.

Firecrest - Nanquidno, Cornwall - October 2010
Photo loaned from Cornwall Birding

With the weather deteriorating we then headed down to Sennen Cove for a quick brew and a stroll up to Mayon Cliff overlooking a windswept Land's End.  Gannets and Kittiwakes passed by offshore as well as the usual selection of Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Shags, Cormorants and Rock Pipits but nothing more interesting was picked up.

Land's End viewed from the old coastal watchpoint at Mayon Cliff.

With time running out it was then time to make the long, depressing journey back to the Midlands.  A quick stop at the Hayle Estuary produced a sleepy Eurasian Spoonbill, a few Little Egrets and an adult Mediterranean Gull amongst the usual species.  

Once again my favourite County in Britain provided us with a few cracking birds, a whole load of stunning scenery, many great laughs and some precious memories.  I need to live down here as soon as possible, it is where I belong.

Monday 25 October 2010


'The Jungle' at the fantastic Lost Gardens of Heligan.

After a relaxing yet rarity-free saunter around Porthgwarra this morning, news filtered through that the GREEN HERON had been spotted at The Lost Gardens of Heligan once again.  The bird had been pretty elusive over the course of the past few days and was not seen yesterday at all until late in the afternoon.  We had met a birding couple in Sennen the previous day who had searched for the bird all day but to no avail.  With plenty of daylight remaining for our own thorough search though, we decided to take a gamble and take the ninety minute drive over towards Mevagissey without delay.

Upon arrival we were told that the transatlantic vagrant was currently showing on the top pond in 'The Jungle' section of the gardens.  After a short stroll through the sun-dappled woodland, past Heligan House and over the western green, we arrived to find a lone photographer rattling off shots.  After a quick glance towards where he was pointing his fat lens, we were soon enjoying the diminutive, first winter GREEN HERON as it fished around the perimeter of the small ornamental pool.   

GREEN HERON (1st winter) - The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, Cornwall.
All photographs by Adam Archer

After some tremendous views it was about time that I grabbed a few digiscoped shots of the bird myself. After a quick fumble around the trusty Sco-Pac though I discovered that I had left the camera in the car.... I was gutted.  Luckily a kind-hearted birder stepped in and volunteered to head back to the car park whilst I stayed with the bird.  During this time I started to receive more attention from passing members of the public than the heron was getting.  As the traffic along the narrow boardwalk increased I must have showed at least fifty curious tourists the bird through my scope.  All of them though were as equally impressed with the bird as we were.  I must admit that the looks of wonder on some of their faces were just as satisfying as actually seeing the rarity myself.  I must be going all soft in my old age. 

The GREEN HERON twitch!
Check me out as I'm swathed by curious pensioners.  Some of their facial expressions are priceless.

After about a hour of plucking several small fish from the pond, the bird decided to make a move.  It flew directly towards the crowd of admirers, gained height slightly just a few feet over their heads and headed further down into the well vegetated valley.  As the crowd collectively gasped and finally dispersed, we decided to try to and relocate it.  About fifteen minutes later whilst scanning one of the other ponds I detected a slight movement on a tiny island.  It was the GREEN HERON again and this time we had the bird all to ourselves.  As before, the bird continued to show very well just a few yards away.  To see an awesome bird like this in such beautiful surroundings is always such a great privilege.

GREEN HERON fact file
  • The Green Heron is the American counterpart of a complicated complex that was once referred to as the Green-backed Heron when they were lumped into a single species.  Since 1993 however most authorities have split the main trio. They are commonly classified as the Green Heron of North and Central America, the Striated Heron that ranges from West Africa across to Japan and down to Australia and finally the Lava Heron of the Galapagos Islands.  Amongst the three separate species there are also over thirty different races.
  • Some races of Green Heron in the States are non-migratory however the race that occurs as a rare vagrant to Europe - Butorides virescens virescens is not.  This race is longer winged than the other sedentary populations.  It breeds from south-eastern Canada down to the southern United States and across to the east side of the Rocky Mountains.  It spends the winter in the southern most States of the United States and down into the northern edges of South America.
  • The Green Heron is one of a very few species of bird that uses tools to aid its hunting technique.  It often drops bait such as insects, pieces of vegetation and sometimes even bread onto the surface of the water in order to attract small fish.
GREEN HERON in Great Britain

Coincidently the first ever record of Green Heron for Britain turned up just a short distance from the current Cornish individual.  In 1890 a fellow called Mr Murray noticed a mysterious, small, stuffed heron specimen in the shop window of a taxidermist in Bath, Somerset.  After making further enquires he discovered that the bird had been shot by a gamekeeper whilst searching for Woodcock near Penrice, St Austell on the 27th October 1889.  The bird was presented to the Linnean Society the following the year and was later admitted to the British List.  After several debates throughout the subsequent years, the species was later removed from the British List in 1915 by the British Ornithologists Union who doubted the species ability to cross the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1971 however the record was reviewed once again and the species was added to the British List once more.  

The full history of the species in Britain is as follows:
  1.  1889 - Cornwall - Penrice near St Austell - immature - 27th October - shot and now on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro (see above).
  2. 1982 - Yorkshire - Stone Creek - immature - 27th November until 6th December.
  3. 1987 - Lothian - Tyninghame - 1st winter - 25th October - found freshly dead and probably killed by a fox.
  4. 2001 - Lincolnshire - Messingham Sand Quarry - immature - 24th September to 2nd October.
  5. 2005 - Anglesey - Red Wharf Bay - immature - 7th November to 20th November.
  6. 2008 - Kent - West Hythe - 1st winter - 19th October to 9th November. 
  7. 2010 - Cornwall - Pentewan - 1st winter - 6th October to present

AMERICAN GREEN HERON at The Lost Gardens of Heligan

An excellent video sequence of the famous Heligan Green Heron by Cornish birder - John Chapple

Sunday 24 October 2010


After an early start from Warwickshire we finally hit a sun-drenched Cornwall during late morning.  The first stop was the Hayle Estuary where I had hoped to add Whooper Swan to my 'Kernow List'.  Unfortunately yesterday's small, family party could not be located but a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was nice to see showing well near the causeway bridge.  Other species included 6 Common Shelduck, 475 Eurasian Wigeon, 120 Common Teal, 4 Little Egrets, 20 Oystercatcher, 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, 15 Eurasian Curlew, 18 Common Redshank and 6 Dunlin.

Hayle Estuary, Cornwall - October 2010

After grabbing a tasty vegetable pasty at the bakery in Marazion we took advantage of the low tide by taking a leisurely stroll along the cobbled causeway to St Michael's Mount and out over the sandy beach of Mount's Bay.  Due to the presence of the dog-walking fraternity not a great deal of birds were spotted other than the usual Cormorant, Shag, Herring Gull and Oystercatcher.  It was then over the road to Marazion Marsh RSPB where a Bittern had been spotted earlier on in the morning.  It failed to appear whilst we were there though and the only species of note was a single male Common Stonechat and the odd singing Cetti's Warbler.  A quick visit to the ancient fishing hamlet of Mousehole produced 9 Ruddy Turnstone around the harbour and the odd Goldcrest around the back of the village but nothing else of note.  Despite being in one of my favourite places on the planet during a most gorgeous spell of autumn weather, the birding was not really matching the occasion.  It was time to move it up a gear.

After a short drive west towards Land's End, we parked up just east of Sennen near the entrance to Trevedra Farm and took the short farm track south.  Taking care not to spook the flock of 120 European Golden Plover and the odd Northern Lapwing, I carefully set up the scope and began to scan the nervous group.  On the first scan through nothing unusual could be located but upon the second a delicate juvenile BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (292) strolled into view before quickly disappearing over the brow of the hill.  As more birders arrived on site, the flock was flushed by a marauding Common Kestrel.  As the pack swirled around in the early evening skies I eventually picked out the much smaller American vagrant.  Luckily a short while later, the flock settled back down in the same field and this time the BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER showed well until we left.

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (juvenile) - Sennen, Cornwall.
Photo by Adam Hartley of 'Pendeen Birding'

Buff-breasted Sandpiper fact file
  • The first documented record of Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Britain was a bird that was shot amongst a trip of Eurasian Dotterel during early September 1826 near Melbourne in Cambridgeshire.
  • This species breeds in the open arctic tundra of North America and is a very long distance migrant.  It spends the winter mainly in South America, especially Argentina.
  • In its native United States this species is often referred to as a 'grasspiper' due to its preference for grassy areas rather than the coastal mudflats favoured by most other wading birds.
  • This species is unique amongst North American shorebirds in that it uses a lek for courtship displays.  Females select a mate and then leave to raise their chicks elsewhere.  In Europe a similar mating system is used by the Ruff.
  • During the late 1800's and early 1900's this was a very abundant species with population estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions.  By the early 1920's however, widespread hunting had decimated their numbers, resulting in near extinction.  Due to urgent protection measures the species recovered remarkably quickly but it is thought that the species is now in decline once more.

After receiving a tip-off from Cheshire birding pal, Mal Curtin at Trevedra Farm we then headed the short distance north to Nanquidno Valley.  He had seen a very vocal Yellow-browed Warbler down there earlier on in the day and as it was a species I needed for the year, I decided to give it a quick bash before the day ended.  Despite a thorough search of the area the bird could not be located amongst the many Goldcrests in the area.  Before making our way back towards Penzance to find our accommodation we popped in at Pendeen to watch the sun go down.  A LITTLE SHEARWATER had passed by this very spot the day before but even that special seabird would fail to equal the beauty of a typical Cornish sunset.    

Sunset at Pendeen - the slight peak on the horizon to the left of the photo are the distant Isles of Scilly.

Saturday 16 October 2010


Port Meadow Floods, Oxford - looking south towards the River Thames.

After a rare lie in this morning, I headed the relatively short distance over into a neighbouring County for a new year tick.  Thanks to some excellent directions I managed to find the spot without any problems at all.  Port Meadow is situated on the outskirts of the historic city of Oxford and is adjacent to the famous River Thames.  Before today I knew absolutely nothing about this area but I since found out some interesting information.  The meadows are an ancient area of grazing land, still used for horses and cattle, and has never been ploughed. In return for helping to defend Britain against the marauding Danes, the Freemen of Oxford were given the 300 acres of pasture by Alfred the Great who founded the City in the 10th Century. The Freemen's collective right to graze their animals free of charge is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and has been exercised ever since. 

Upon arrival, the sights and sounds of circa 600 Eurasian Wigeon, 29 European Golden Plover and a scattering of Northern Lapwing were enjoyed amongst the odd passing train, the grazing bovines and the posh joggerettes.  Soon enough I was watching a trio of waders consisting of an adult Ruff, a Common Redshank and a juvenile LESSER YELLOWLEGS (291), the reason for the trip.  The American vagrant showed well if not a little too distantly for a decent photo during the time I was there.  It was disturbed occasionally by a pair of Carrion Crows but would always return back to its favoured feeding area along the northern section of the floods.      

LESSER YELLOWLEGS - Port Meadow Floods, Oxford - October 2010
Photographs kindly provided by Stephen Burch

Sunday 10 October 2010


The impressive yet misty Huntcliff area just east of Saltburn-on-Sea, Cleveland.

With the east coast set to continue its decent run of rarities, I decided to stay overnight in Yorkshire again on the Saturday night.  Early on Sunday morning I heard that the East Midlands ASBO crew were on their way to hit Spurn... at pace.  Although tempting, I envisaged that the better quality birds would be making landfall slightly further north.  As I made my way up the A1 my instincts proved correct when news of a RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL in Cleveland came through on the pager.  With Steve Dunn and Mike Feely currently watching a superb Pallas's Warbler at Sammy's Point, had I made the wrong decision though? 

After parking up in the quaint seaside town of Saltburn, I hiked up and along the clifftops to Huntcliff.  As I plodded on, I was hearing the same sounds as I had during the previous day at Spurn.  Goldcrests were calling from the sparse sections of scrub and Redwings were streaming in off the sea.  The odd Brambling was also seen along the coastal footpath.  As I arrived on the scene I was disappointed to be told that the target rarity had just been ringed and released.  I was worried that the bird would either become very elusive after its ordeal or even worse, would disappear completely.  I need not have worried though as I soon picked up the gorgeous RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL sparring with a European Robin at the base of a broken line of bushes.  

The Huntcliff RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL prior to its release.
Photo kindly provided by Damian Money

After a while, the RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL became more elusive as more ramblers made their way through.  I then noticed a single bird fly from cover and land in a ploughed field behind where the small group of birders had congregated.  It was either a Robin or the Bluetail and I was delighted to see through my bins that it was the latter.  The bird showed well hopping around in the open with just a single Song Thrush and a Northern Wheatear for company.  Whilst enjoying the bird, I noticed a couple of immaculate Lapland Buntings walk into the same field of view.  I eventually concluded that there were at least five birds present.  What a great start to the day! 

Have the Samaritans erected this sign to prick the conscience of potential cliff jumpers or is it aimed of weary, insane birding year-listers like me?


I have only visited Hartlepool once before and that was to watch the mighty Tamworth FC create a 'giant killing' shock and knock Hartlepool United out of the FA Cup.  Would my second visit to this town prove just as memorable and enjoyable?  As I made my way to the headland, news of a RADDE'S WARBLER came through from the Jewish Cemetery.  I decided to head to The Croft first though in order to check out a long staying Lanius species.  Every birder loves a shrike!  Upon arrival there was no sign of the bird amongst the plethora of Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs but after a short while the juvenile WOODCHAT SHRIKE (289) finally made an impressive entrance.  To my surprise it flew straight towards me with a freshly deceased Goldcrest in its bill.  It then tucked itself into cover where it could be glimpsed decapitating its prey, wedging the body in between two small branches and ripping it to shreads.  It was like a scene from the movie 'SAW'!  

 juvenile WOODCHAT SHRIKE - Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland - October 2010
These excellent photos were kindly provided by Tristan Reid

With no sign of the Yellow-browed Warbler or the Firecrest which had been present in The Croft earlier in the day, I decided to head across to the Spion Kop Cemetery where the RADDE'S WARBLER had been re-identified as a DUSKY WARBLER.  As I arrived on site it did not look good.  I was told that that the bird had been disturbed by over eager twitchers and had promptly disappeared from its favoured feeding area.  Undeterred I decided to take a stroll further along the track overlooking the rugby club and within a few minutes I detected a distinctive 'tak.... tak.... tak' call.  With the help from another birder I managed to catch a glimpse of the bird responsible for the sound, a fine DUSKY WARBLER (290).  After a bit of patience the bird showed very well indeed but was easily spooked and disappeared for long periods.  As with the previous day at Spurn, my day of birding had ended with a bang.  I now have just ten species to go until the target of 300 is smashed!  

DUSKY WARBLER - Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland - October 2010
Photo kindly provided by Steve Clifton

Saturday 9 October 2010

A Spurn Spectacular - RUSTIC BUNTING in East Yorkshire

With the weather conditions looking pretty good over the previous few days for a bit of an east coast fall, I decided to head over to Spurn today.  As I headed towards Kilnsea I sensed that I was in for a busy time.  All along the lanes I had to slow down with caution as I weaved through tired pipits, finches and thrushes resting on the road.  As I pulled into the car park it got even better with European Goldfinches and Eurasian Siskins literally dropping at my feet, hungry for seeds and completely unconcerned by my presence.  Looking to the sky, Redwings passed over in their hundreds and Skylarks headed south a dozen at a time.  The thought of rarities and silly year ticks did not even interest me, I was in birding utopia.

A hungry Goldcrest peeks out from a roadside hedge, no more than a two feet away!

As I made my way up towards the Crown & Anchor, hundreds of Goldcrests filled the roadside hedges along with impressive numbers of European Robins.  In the adjacent fields, thousands of Redwings were feeding along with smaller numbers of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds as well as the odd Fieldfare.  A scan of the berry laden hedgerows soon produced the first of six Ring Ouzels I would see during the day.  It was whilst watching one of these fine birds that I picked up a handsome Great Grey Shrike surveying the busy scene from deep within a hawthorn.  Luckily the bird soon started to show off in true Lanius fashion by perching up in the open and providing superb views.

After a thorough search of the Canal Zone I noticed that most birds seemed to be heading south along the peninsula.  I therefore took the decision to head to the Point and see what I could find.  As soon as I left the car the sound of calling Brambling and Eurasian Siskin filled the air.  The atmosphere was electric and to make it even better there were hardly any other birders about.  The Point was full to the brim of Goldcrests and Eurasian Siskins and around the trapping area at least 30 Brambling were a delight to see.  There were also smaller numbers of Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Common Redstarts.  A real treat however was finding a Barred Warbler clambering around in the buckthorn behind the VTS tower.  Along the high tideline, a first winter Black Redstart (286) was good to see, especially as it was my first of the year.  It was at this stage that news filtered through off a PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER further north in County Durham.  A quick look at my watch confirmed that I would never make it there with enough daylight remaining.

A male Eurasian Siskin feeds on roadside weeds no more that a foot away from the camera!

With a LITTLE BUNTING having been trapped, ringed and released at Kew I decided to head back down to Kilnsea to see if I could relocate the bird.  With no sign of it, I eventually gave up and headed back down the lane for a second helping of the Great Grey Shrike.  Whilst enjoying the bird, I picked up a radio message to say that another rare bunting had been found along Beacon Lane.  Within ten minutes I was watching a fine RUSTIC BUNTING (287) feeding along the footpath.  The bird initially showed quite well on and off but as more birders arrived and the light deteriorated the rarity began to get a bit more elusive and flighty.  Even so, I was ecstatic with the end to a another very memorable day in Yorkshire. 

Thursday 7 October 2010

SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER & Pectoral Sandpiper in Essex

Prime Essex birding habitat - Abberton Reservoir
See that island in the middle?  There's a SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER on it.

WOW!  At the moment this ugly looking 'rezza' near Colchester is possibly the wader capital of England.  Due to a load of construction work taking place, it has been drained in order that they can raise the water levels.  The first stop for Steve Richards and I was along the causeway where we soon picked up a nice juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper feeding on the muddy margins, our first Yank of the day.  Other highlights in this area were 10 Red-crested Pochard, 13 Northern Pintail, 8 Little Egret, 25 Black-tailed Godwit, 10 Ruff and 3 Spotted Redshank

 Pectoral Sandpiper - Abberton Reservoir, Essex
Photo thanks to Sean Nixon

We then moved up to the Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centre where we were soon scanning through the hundreds of shorebirds on site.  After some careful scrutiny we eventually picked up the main target of the day, a juvenile SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER (284).  Due to the distances involved it was a pretty tricky task to keep relocating the bird amongst the flighty groups of Dunlin.  With patience though you could identify the American vagrant by its podgy, hunchbacked jizz and its less hectic and more methodical feeding action in comparison to the 8 Little Stints that were also present.  Other notable sightings included 3 Egyptian Geese, 7 Northern Pintail, 3 Little Egret, 10 Avocet, a single European Golden Plover, 320 Ringed Plover, 75 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Spotted Redshank, 2 Curlew Sandpiper and 2 Black Tern.

juvenile SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER (right) with juvenile Little Stint - Abberton Reservoir, Essex - October 2010.
Photo thanks to Adrian Kettle

RING-BILLED GULL & Mediterranean Gulls in Essex

 The famous Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour at Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.

There had been no news regarding 'Rossi' the adult Ring-billed Gull since the middle of September but after receiving a tip off from a friendly, local birder that the transatlantic scarcity was still present we headed down to Southend during the afternoon.  We arrived at the gull's usual haunt near the ice cream parlour and began the search.  Initially only Black-headed Gulls were attracted to Snapper's sandwich scraps but soon afterwards several Mediterranean Gulls (adult & 2 first winter birds) flew in to feed too.

Luckily, a local then appeared further down the seafront and dumped a huge pile of bread and cake on the sea wall.  This soon brought in a few larger gulls including Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull and finally the returning adult Ring-billed Gull (285).  The bird showed well for a while before flying off down towards the pier to roost on the roof of the casino.  It was in this area that we enjoyed further views it along with another 5 adult Mediterranean Gulls.

Other sightings included a single Little Egret and 4 Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

 adult Ring-billed Gull (above & below) - Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex - October 2010
Photos by Adam Archer

 adult winter Mediterranean Gull (above) & first winter Mediterranean Gull (below) - Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex - October 2010
Photos by Adam Archer

It's official, year-listing drives you mental! BAIRD'S SANDPIPER in Essex

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (juvenile) - Holland Haven Country Park, Essex.
Photo kindly provided by Matthew Deans

Whilst enjoying some hot Laridae action near Southend-on-Sea, news filtered through of a probable BAIRD'S SANDPIPER over at Holland Haven Country Park.  There was no way we were going to bother contemplating a visit until confirmation of yet another American rarity was received though.  Whilst nearing the M25 and making slight in roads into getting home at a reasonable time, the sighting was confirmed.  We turned around and made our way over to Clacton-on-Sea as the daylight began to fade.  Upon arrival we sprinted down towards the pool and entered the fire-proof bird hide, cunningly fashioned out of a couple of old shipping containers.

Luckily, the birding Gods were smiling down on us.  There was a trio of extremely helpful Essex birders already watching the bird and they were happy to let us use their scopes of the light quickly deteriorated.  The vagrant showed well as it picked its way around the Northern Lapwing flock until it was too dark to see anymore.  We had arrived in the nick of time to see our FOURTH American rarity of the day.  It was also yet another addition to my year list..... or was it?

Whilst updating my 'BUBO Listing' tally, I frowned as it failed to let me input BAIRD'S SANDPIPER as a new sighting to my '2010 British Year List'.  Maybe there was a bug with their server or maybe I had already added the species in error?  I then realised I had already seen an adult bird up at Lound in Nottinghamshire during August!

It is therefore official, this year-listing nonsense f*cks up your mind completely!  How could I forget such a memorable species?  I fear that I shall soon be sectioned under the Mental Health Act 2007.  I will see you all after I have undergone an extensive course of electroconvulsive therapy.

Wednesday 6 October 2010


 The view from 'The Observatory' at Welney WWT, Norfolk - can you spot the WILSON'S PHALAROPE?.... Nah me neither!

Here it is! A splendid first winter WILSON'S PHALAROPE just about to get 'ruffed' up whilst 'widgeoned' in between two ducks.
Photo kindly provided by Matthew Deans 

It was a toss up today between a trip to Essex for a SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER or a slightly shorter twitch to Norfolk for a WILSON'S PHALAROPE.  With 'school run' duties and a new windscreen to be fitted there was no way I could do both birds in a day.  With none of the usual suspects willing to join me, I opted for the easier option of Welney WWT.  I arrived just after opening time and headed straight down to view the main lagoon.  Within a few minutes I was scoping a first winter WILSON'S PHALAROPE (283) as it fed at pace amongst a flock of roosting Eurasian Wigeon and Greylag Geese.  This transatlantic vagrant was a most welcome addition to the old year list and completed a nice hat trick of Norfolk Phalarope species this year following the Red-necked Phalarope and Grey Phalarope I was lucky enough to see at Kelling at the end of September.

Other sightings included 2 Barnacle Geese (feral), 3 Northern Pintail, Marsh Harrier, 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Common Snipe, 8 Dunlin and 2 Little Stint.

Monday 4 October 2010

FERRUGINOUS DUCK in West Yorkshire

 Wintersett Reservoir, Wintersett, West Yorkshire - October 2010
Photo by Adam Archer

After a search of the southern end of this reservoir on Saturday afternoon, I had failed to locate FERRUGINOUS DUCK that had been been present the day before.  In fact all I had seen during the pretty depressing visit was a Red-breasted Merganser over the road at Park Lake.  After a two day absence I was thankful that the bird was located again, especially as I was only twenty-five minutes away from site at the time.

Despite the time of year, the weather was more in keeping with a spring day in May as we meandered our way through the sun dappled woodland to the north-west corner of the reservoir.  Upon finding a suitable viewing area and after a quick scan through my bins it was not too long before I managed to pick out a handsome drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK (281).  The scarce visitor from Eastern Europe continued to show well, it not a little distant amongst the Tufted Duck, Common Pochard and Common Coot until the lure of another local rarity proved too much.       

Above: adult male FERRUGINOUS DUCK (top bird) with male Common Pochard (bottom bird) - Wintersett Reservoir, West Yorkshire.
Photo by Adam Archer

Above: adult male FERRUGINOUS DUCK (middle bird) with two male Common Pochard - check out the snowy white ass!


After adding FERRUGINOUS DUCK to my year list with relative ease, the birding was to become a bit more difficult as the afternoon went on.  It is always a bad sign as you pull up on site to find every bird in a five mile radius flapping around in panic as a Peregrine passes through.  In situations like this though it is always advisable not to replicate the mood of the fleeing birds by taking a deep breath and remaining calm. As the swirling flocks of Northern Lapwing and European Golden Plover started to settled back down in the corner of a flooded field near Great Heck, it was time to get scanning.  

A single Egyptian Goose was found amongst a small group of Greylag Geese and a covey of 8 Grey Partridge was nice to see.  The only other wader though was a single juvenile Ruff.  As I continued the search I eventually picked up part of a face and the tail tip of a very pale plover species.  The trouble was, the mystery shorebird was 90% obscured by a huge clod of mud.  Luckily though there was an obvious European Golden Plover standing just a few feet away as a useful comparison, it had to be a moulting adult AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER (282).  I managed to get all other birders onto it before I headed further down the lane to gain an improved perspective and the identification was finally clinched.  

The bird refused to stroll out into the open while we were on site but after another walk further along the road, the offending clod was eventually neutralised. The bird did not really associate with the nervous EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flock while we were on site.  It also seems more camouflaged amongst its muddy environment than its Eurasian counterparts.  To add to the elusiveness it also spent times crouched down low especially if a raptor passed overhead.  If you are looking to pay the bird a visit my advice would be not to give up and try to view the plover groups from different sections of the lane.

Rustic Bunting Slips Through the Net!

A great day was spoiled a little by the decision to head over to the east coast.  The only reason was to check out a RUSTIC BUNTING that had been popping up in a set-aside field occasionally in the North Landing area of Flamborough Head.  Upon arrival we spotted Josh Jones and a selection of other glum looking birders.  There had been no sign of the bird for most of the afternoon.  Due to the elusive nature of the rarity and the fact that daylight was at a premium an organised 'flush' was soon arranged.  A gentleman volunteered his services and in he went...... & out came a Bunting!  Instead of it obligingly perching up in a nearby hedgerow, the bird flew off into the distance never to be seen again.  A few folks claimed to hear the fleeing bird call and clinched the identification as RUSTIC BUNTING, unfortunately though I did not.  Needless to say this is one species that will not make it onto my year list.

On the way back home we took a short detour down to a small hamlet called The Land of Nod, just for the craic.  Honestly, this is real place in East Yorkshire.  Look HERE if you don't believe me.  We were gutted that there was no place name sign to have our picture taken with.

Sunday 3 October 2010

LESSER SCAUP in Warwickshire

Draycote Water looking north-east from Hensborough Hill
Photo by Adam Archer

Today was one of those frustrating autumn days for birding.  No doubt there was a load of top notch stuff lurking around on the north east coast but the torrential rain meant that viewing them would not be easy.  We therefore abandoned a proposed trip to Flamborough Head for a RUSTIC BUNTING and instead decided to stay dry at home.

The trouble is I find it difficult to be cooped up indoors even in the most evil of weather so I decided to don my water-proofs and head to Draycote Water for a cheap year tick.  Luckily upon arrival at the Hensborough Bank area of the reservoir the downpour had subsided slightly.  After a quick scan of the Tufted Ducks and Common Coot I soon managed to pick out the target bird, a drake LESSER SCAUP (280).  The American rarity showed well during the duration of my visit but spent 99.8% of the time fast asleep, as did the other Aythya ducks.  The only other highlights were a group of 7 Ringed Plover and a Rock Pipit amongst the Pied Wagtail flock.

For further birding news regarding Draycote Water please see the link to John Judge's website in my 'bloggers links list'.  John has also crafted an excellent map that pin-points all of the main birding areas of this reservoir.  Check out the red marker for the current favoured area of the LESSER SCAUP.  Please see HERE for further details.    

LESSER SCAUP (male) - Draycote Water, Warwickshire - October 2010
Photo by Adam Archer