Peak District Pied Flycatchers


A site that I try to get to each spring, and one of the first places I went “out birdwatching” Near Grindleford in the Peak District.




Situated just outside my Hometown of Sheffield an ancient oak and birch woodland set in a gritstone gorge thats nicely sheltered and summer home to good numbers of our scarcer breeding and most beautiful woodland birds.  Todays visit was really about Pied Flys which were in good numbers. I had probably 10-12 singing males and a single female.









Scores of Willow Warblers and two or three Redstarts were also singing high in the mostly bare trees and it was nice to see Treecreepers, Nuthatch and coal tits. Dippers and Grey wags patrolled the deep gorge itself.

Previously around the first weekend of May I have seen and heard Wood warbler in this spot and later in season it’s great for Spotted Flycatchers.



The open moorland above the gorge can hold Whinchats, Cuckoo, Tree pipits, Curlews and scores of Stonechats and Meadow pipits (below) Except for Whinchat I had all of the above on this occasion as well as a singing Ring Ousel.


Sunday night I made my escape back down to London. Hopefully I can come across something on its way here this week before the window closes until autumn.

Beachy Head, Easter Weekend

Another visit down south to see m’old mate Laurence Pitcher on Beachy Head was just the spring birdy injection I needed! We did the whole site on foot and tallied up 36km back and fourth over the 2 days.


On the Sunday we counted around 25 Willow Warblers (below), 7 Wheatears, 3 Common Redstarts, a Yellow Wagtail and single siskin over, a Black Redstart (above)…


… as well as many Black caps and Chiffies, a Lesser White throat and a few Common White throats (below). A firecrest was in the pines on Birling lane and over at West rise a drake Garganey and a couple of Water pipits were seen as well as fairly good numbers of all 3 Hirundines hawking insects over the water.


The highlight of the day was a female Pied Flycatcher that Laurence picked up in a dense and sheltered group trees at Went Hill. We spent a good while watching and photographing this welcome little beauty.



A female Merlin (below) was seen on both days.


The Monday saw winds turning more northerly and similar numbers of birds were counted, another 7/8 Wheatear, a Redstart etc , A white Wag (below) was hanging around the light house at Belle Tout…


… The highlight of today was an adult male Hen Harrier (below) that I picked up thermaling over the headland. It gained height and headed north, an apparently scarce passage migrant and a good bird for the area.

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Other than 20 or so Yellow Wags in off that flew over our heads that was about it for migrants, I managed a some shots of a local Corn bunting singing from the side of the road in nice light.  Great birds and other than my visits down here I don’t see them this well very often.





We checked west rise again on the way to the train station and saw the long staying Long Tailed Duck (below), the drake Garganey as well as the many Hirundines again.


Great couple of days, Cheers Laurence.

3 – 15 April

Its been fairly slow going, with my pre-work walks turning up the odd migrant or two. Handfuls of Willow Warbler, a few each of White Throat, Sedge and Reed Warbler and in the last couple of days the rattle of Lesser White throat has been noted. Sand Martins are on breeding grounds at the bottom of Lockwood and though I’m yet to see a House Martin I’ve probably seen close to 50 swallows go North over the week.


My first Yellow Wagtail of the year was on the East Warwick also a few White Wagtails have been noted including a small flock of 6 on the Lockwood on the 14th these are a particular favourite of mine and come through in small numbers most noticeably in spring.



The grassy banks of the aforementioned Reservoir held this Skylark for a few days, only the second I’ve ever seen grounded at this site. It was nice to take it in,



A Wheatear on East Warwick on the 13th came close enough to reveal several features of Leucorhoa or Greenland Wheatear, a likely much under counted sub species in Britain.


Leucorhoa  Wheatears migrate alot further and are longer winged showing 7/8 primary tips in the closed wing (Our native birds showing 5/6). 7 were counted on the East Warwick bird as well as warm buff tones reaching right down to the vent, brown marks in the Ear coverts and mask as well as a ‘dun brown’ in the mid mantle apparently fitting of a Greenland Male in spring.  Traditionally Greenland Wheatears were thought to come through later in the season but ringing records have proved this not always to be the case.  I tried to note size, structure and stance and although it was alone it did seem quite a thick set bird and when first picked up seemed very upright in posture,to be honest I think any wheatear in longer grass is likely to adopt this kind of posture so i dont think its of use really. I think my presence was noted and whilst photographing it stayed in a fairly similar ground hugging pose.


Our Local raptors are all present and correct. Displaying Sparrow hawks and mating Kestrels in their nest tree. Peregrines have been active and are seen most visits as well as flyover Red Kites and Common Buzzards. 


Rain over night on the 14th meant I was down on the Waterworks first thing this morning and brief but close views of a Male Redstart were the reward. no pics unfortunately but Its a good feeling to get the Redstart find out of the way and set hopes a little higher before the end of spring. 

This Weasel was compensation for missing out on Redstart shots.






29 March – 3 April

A quick round-up from the patches. I’m hoping its the calm before the storm… with probably one of my last visits to the River for a few months and spring stuff arriving at Walthamstow.


I saw a nice Male Wheatear and some Sand Martins before leaving for Hong Kong on the 17th of March and since returning have had more of the latter, a couple of Swallows, lots of singing Chiff Chaffs, Black caps and a few Willow Warblers at Walthamstow on my pre-work morning walks, The above female Wheatear was one of two on the Lockwood on the 29th.




Little Ringed Plovers (above) are being seen regularly on the drained number 4 and 5 reservoirs which have also held Ruff, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Black-Tailed Godwit amoung a few more regularly seen local waders like Redshank and Common  and Green Sandpipers over the past couple of weeks. A walk round with DB, PW, LC, SW and LB produced a drake Gargeney on the West Warwick also on the 29th.


Fast forward to this weekend and sunday mid morning was spent at the O2. Myself RB,DS, DJ and MH enjoyed a single adult Yellow Leg (above) and some nice Lesser Black Backs but thats about it. the lack of Black-Heads meant the large gulls were resistant to come to the bread, so stayed pretty distant.


2cy Lesser Black-backed Gull


Bright adult Lesser Black- Backed


Very broadly notched wing coverts on this Great Black-Backed Gull. Striking bird in flight and on the deck.

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Dante and I spent the afternoon walking around Walthamstow, only to have a Red Kite and 2 White Wags on the Lockwood (above).

This Morning I had a 2 singing Willow Warblers and very little else. However there were two Cettis Warblers singing in close proximity to one another. Often at the same time overlapping in phrases one of which was very showy and allowed me to get quite close.





Hong Kong 17-27th March

10 Days in Hong Kong with work and my first bit of research was of course where to see gulls up close. The answer – No where. HK being maybe on of the only cities in the world without a single gull using the harbours to hang out or rubbish dumps to feed. This being said I still saw Pallas’, Saunders, a single 2cy Brown headed, an adult Slaty -backed, ‘ Taimyrensis’ Heuglins, what appeared, on primary moult to be a adult Vega and what the locals called Caspian which were Cachinnans Mongolicus.  Albeit abit too distant to get totally to gripswith the younger birds with exception to the Pallas’ of which I saw a two 2cys I wasn’t really able learn that much from the other non adult birds. But with all the other delights around in abundance the disappointment soon washed.


Oriental Magpie Robin

The photos here are mainly common things or birds that came close enough to make an interesting subject really,  there was a lot to take in as most things were new birds and I made the most of them through bins.


Spotted Dove

I did much birding in the city itself around parks and wooded areas such as ‘The Peak’, a lot of new asian birds to be seen including the Bulbuls, Starlings, laughing thrushes etc. I became a particular fan of the Oriental Magpie Robin and spotted dove which were common throughout the city and of course the constant calls of Yellow Browed Warblers just about stopped making me jump about a week in. This last species were literally everywhere even on a packed street in a single bare tree!


Red Whiskered Bulbul

The highlight of the trip was visiting Mai Po Marshes in the Northern Territories on my final day.  Weeks before I had come across Local Birder John Holmes’ blog , I contacted him and we arranged to meet and I am truly grateful for his local knowledge, patience and generosity and thanks to him the day at Mai Po was probably one of my best days birding ever.


Caspian Tern

Here’s a rough list of birds with a focus on a relevance to birding in the western pal but there were lots of other amazing birds omitted. I’m not really a fan of lists like this on trip report type write ups so I’l punctuate it with Photos to keep you awake!


Pied Kingfisher

Black-faced spoonbill, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets, purple, Grey and Chinese Pond Herons. The vagrant Siberian Crane (cool),  Both Sand Plovers, LRP, Grey headed, Kentish and pacific Golden plovers, Marsh, Wood, Common, Broadbilled, Curlew and Terek Sandpipers…


Far Eastern Curlew

…Both Redshanks, greenshank and Nordmans Greenshank, Temmink’s and Red-necked Stints, Eurasian and far Eastern Curlews, Oriental Pratincoles…


Intermediate Egret

…Gull billed and Caspian Terns,  Pied, Common and White-Throated Kingfishers, Black Kites, Osprey, Bonelli’s Eagle and Eastern Marsh Harriers. Red-Rumped and Barn Swallows, House Swifts…


Chinese Pond Heron


Black Faced Bunting (personata)

… Yellow Browed, Pallas’ and Dusky Warblers, Durian Redstarts, Asian Brown Flycather, Long Tailed Shrikes, Stejneger’s stonechat, Black Faced Bunting,  Eastern Yellow Wagtails, Richards and Olive-Backed Pipits…


Eastern Marsh Harrier


Female Durian Redstart

… and loads more, Basically a amazing day trip and the best day at work I’ve ever had!


Marsh Sandpiper


Richards Pipit


Plain Prinia


Red-billed leiothrix/Pekin Robin

Thats about it. Hope to go back same time next year, and many thanks again To John Holmes.


Black Eared Kite






Tristis Chiff Chaff and Gulls from both patches

I found a Siberian Chiff Chaff at Walthamstow last week whilst out with the other local lads. It wasn’t until a few days later that I heard it call which it did so 5 or 6 times and strangely only during brief rain showers. Ive seen it again most mornings and noticed its also undergoing body moult, a good feature for Tristis at this time of year. More (and better) pics to follow hopefully. Paul and I also had a first winter Caspian Gull on the Coppermill filterbeds that day.


With the arrival of March and early opening times at Walthamstow Ive been walking around the Lockwood before work hoping to see an early Wheatear or Sand martin but also there are good numbers of Gulls loafing on the NW bank. This 2nd winter Caspian Gull bombed past me, looked good in brief fly by but it wasn’t till I got home and processed the images that I noticed the small mirror on p10 confirming the ID.



Other birds of note this week have been a Rook calling and circling the Lockwood before drifting NW and a Skylark over N this morning too. There are Green Sandpipers around in the Channel, a few Goldeneyes displaying, 3/4 singing Cetti’s Warblers and a flock meadow c15 pipts loitering on the Lockwood banks. Long tailed tits seem to be concentrating on nest building but this one posed nicely for me


Possibly my final weekend of Thames gulling as I’m away on the weekends now till April. Irish birder Niall Keogh was visiting London and keen for some Caspian and Yellow legged gulls so joined a mob of gullers; myself, Rich Bonser, Dante, Dave Johnson and Martin Hallam. Yellow Legs were the highlight of the day for me.






This giant 1st winter Casp hung around the bread at the Thames barrier, Lovely legs and wings but feather wear let it down abit, but its march and to be expected.


Birthday Casp

On the First of March I turned 31. I took the day off work and my girlfriend Amy and I spent the afternoon by the fishing boats and puddles at Dungeness. Romance.








Despite the high numbers of gulls around the only Casp I saw was the above, Known as ‘the regular’ , also present was an adult Yellow Leg an enormous adult Argentatus and a Juv Iceland stayed distant on the sea by the boats.


Frequent readers may have previously noticed that I have a ‘thing’ for 2nd winter Herring Gulls. Its abit difficult to articulate why, I think Its mainly about personal aesthetics but sometimes they just happen to look beautiful.


Thanks to Amy for some gracious and noble bread throwing.