Back to Reality… 10 – 16 Oct

With the Scillies just behind me, I struggled to motivate myself on the patch, despite the fact that I enjoy vis-migging and there are Hawfinches everywhere, even in London, I just haven’t got it together before work.

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I spent from midday Saturday till practically dusk on the River, 7 Yellow Legged Gulls were present at Thames Barrier park.

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at around 3pm Dante and Rich arrived after successfully twitching the Rock Thrush in Wales and before too long a 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared right in front of us in the bread mele (as they sometimes just do!)

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X841 was ringed in may this year in the same site as previous east German birds we’ve seen here and at Dungeness; X307 , x090 , x309  X319 and is one of the better looking birds especially the greater coverts and Scapulars, perhap the high forecrown lets it down abit but im being picky. see below for info.

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Earlier in the week I had a pair of Stones Chats in the bomb-crater field on Walthamstow Marsh, probably here for the winter, a welcome addition to the patch year list and were photogenic in the warm sun of Sunday.

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Sunday’s Gulls drew abit of a blank bar a handful of Yellow Legs at the O2, in cluding this fairly subtle bird. The headstreaking resembles Herring at this time of year, but all else points to Yellow-Legged.

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The crowds that came to oggle at a sunbathing seal didnt take too well to my throwing bread all over the place.

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Scillies 2017

My third Autumn Scillies trip in a row, 2 weeks on st Agnes in beloved Roseveer Cottage with Lee Amery, Graham Gordon and Laurence Pitcher and for me at least, the best trip yet.  2 weeks earlier than last year with the last week of September and the first week of October was, luckily, at great period; a mix of genuine rarities, scarcities, lots of common migrants, met some new nice people,and spent time friends, good food and the best scenery.

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 1cy Bee-eater

After mixed weather for our first few days the winds settled in the West and South West with fronts moving through and clearing with rain over night and some very wet days. A blast of south in the wind on our first full day and a Bee-eater and Red-eyed Vireo were found within 20 minutes of each other. The Bee-eater (found by Lee) was seen and heard by most birders on the island eventually but the Vireo proved very elusive.

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Red-Eyed Vireo

Next, my personal highlight: The Scillies dream is really finding north American passerines and on the morning of the 29th of September a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak flew out of cover infront of me.  You can read finder’s account here . The moments surrounding the initial find will be with me for ever and the below image gives me the shivers, seeing it there on the granite looking like a real vagrant. Stoked!

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1cy f   Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

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The bird went from wingletang (where i originally found it, to a a field along Barnaby lane and then ended up opposite the post office where it was seen by most who came and twitched it over the 4 days it was present. By the end of its stay it was seriously tame and would hop around near bags of fertiliser and sit in a low bramble feeding, all under the watchful eye of the local cats….

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This was a great ‘warmer upper’ for the following American rarities. Another Red-Eyed Vireo in the parsonage, a Cliff Swallow, found on Tresco on the 2nd of Oct, which eventually gave LP and I great views and shared air space with 2 of the Bee-eaters whilst a Yellow Browed Warbler called behind – very memorable bit of birding.

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Cliff Swallow (above and below)

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Whilst we relaxed with a bonkers overpriced coffee moments after viewing the Cliff Swallow LP recived a text “Who found the Waxwing?”… excitement and frustration ensued but we decided not to get on the charter back to Agnes, where the bird had been found, and remained on Tresco to kick about and see what else was lurking there until our boat returned later in the afternoon. nothing really was the answer.  

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juv Cedar Waxwing

We got back just before the Cedar Waxwing was re-located and eventually saw it a few times away from the crowds and even in our little garden. (below)

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Other highlights were a day trip to st Mary’s to see the Isabelline Wheatear, which was a success with the bird showing down to 10 meters or so and although both distant the American Golden Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper were present around Porth Hellick.

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1cy Isabeline Wheatear

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Besides the Bee-eaters, Scarcities and less common migrants were reasonably well  represented however there were a few obvious things missing but between a couple of Wrynecks on Gugh, a Marsh Warbler that GG picked up, a migrant Hawfinch, couple of Lapland Buntings, Yellow –Browed Warblers (which were only really apparent towards the end of the trip) there were plenty of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, a Turtle dove and whinchats etc to keep us entertained.   

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Wryneck

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ad Hawfinch

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Lapland Buntings

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Yellow Browed Warbler

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Pied Fly-catcher

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1cy Mediterranean Gull

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The original site of the Grosbeak find, a granite formation I’ve always loved aesthetically 

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Looking West from Perigilis beach st Agnes

The return crossing on the Scillonian wasnt bad either and thanks to the help of a group of young(er) birders who were doing a count the following numbers were recorded. 100+ Balerics, 10+ Sooties, 1 Pomerine, 5 Arctic, and 10 Great Skua. thanks to Jake G/Micheal M for figures.

Added bonus – a finders report in the back of the 2016 Scillies Bird Report for the Caspian Gull last year, 1st for Scillies (hence the fuss!) 

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28 Aug – 10 Sept

Last Weekend was spent doing mainly other things but Rich, Dante and myself spent a few hours at Thames Barrier Park where Rich picked out this first Calendar Year Caspian Gull, the first ‘new’ bird of the season! Also present was a first summer bird that last winter we reffered to as ‘Mucky’ and a handful of Yellow-Legged Gulls.

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With the Lockwood Levels still dropping I’ve been up there after work eveyday. The Spotted Redshanks are unbelivably still around, a number of Common Sandpipers are also present joined by a couple of juvenile  Dunlin but nothing else of interest… still time! My first 1cy Yellow Leg of the year was with other large larids on the 4th (below) If you look carefully you can see about 3 replaced inner median wing coverts, the first bit of wing moult I’ve seen this year

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Willow Warblers are drying up as Chiff-Chaff numbers build. a few Common and a Lesser White throat have been present. An Adult Spotted- Flycatcher was in willows between number 1 and 2 on the 31st Aug. I’m still seeing one or two first winter Wheatears on the Lockwood and one or two Yellow wagtails over and now a small trickle of Meadow Pipits has begun.

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Swifts were present in ones and twos untill at least the 4th House Martins have been coming through early monrings and flocks of 2-300 have been feeding high over the southern reses. Hobbys have been present on a couple of mornings in conjunction with this.

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The marsh has been quiet on my visits, but the local male Kestrel has switched his preferred morning hunting spot from the cow field to horse paddocks.

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Saturday 3.00 am and I’m on my way to pick up young Dante in a hire car. The final round of the Matin Garner young Birder of the Year was being held at ‘Migfest’ , Spurn. No suprises he won! well done lad.  450 miles driven and 23 hours awake were worth it.

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There were some good birds turn up on the peninsular, which mainly we didn’t go and see except a tired Wryneck first thing. We had more of a ‘finding’ agenda…so birded away from the crowds but the finding only extended to a few Whinchats down the point and an ad male Redstart up by the Easington Gas terminal-I had ear marked a small group of trees here as a perfect Red-breasted Fly spot Shame it wasn’t something more fitting to the date .  Great place though and good vibes.

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25 – 27 August Beachy Head

 

A well-timed weekend visit to Beachy Head, staying with Laurence P.  We birded the entire headland over the two days and covered c22 km on foot.  Pretty careful and concentrated bush bashing revealed great numbers of common migrants but the highlights were 2 Honey Buzzards, moving east two hours apart.

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The above adult Male bird went straight over our heads a couple of hours after the below bird  (looks ad female) had been picked up as a speck in the distance. Both heading east and gaining height, probably in order to cross the channel on a perfect day for it.

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Totals were as follows; 23 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart (juv), 13 Whinchat, 18 Wheatear, 9 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Pied Flycatcher, 19 Tree Pipit, c60 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Alba Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 8 Meadow Pipit, 44 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 8 Lesser Whitethroat, 100+ Common Whitethroat, 33 Blackcap, 12 Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler & a Reed Bunting. Around 2000 hirundine were seen and along with them, 10 Swift.

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The below juv Pied Flys were particularly settled and I watched them feeding in the hedgerow behind the pub regularly whilst we skywatched on the sunday. A particular favourite of mine and I especially like them like this, preferring autumn plumage or spring females to black and white males.

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A few waders were heard and seen, all flyovers including a Wood Sandpiper at night on our way to the pub! 3 Dunlin, During the day singles of Golden Plover and Ringed Plover were also noted fly overs.

 

19 – 28 August

A trip to Oare Marshes with Rich and Dante was succesfull in that we caught up with two returning American birds – the Long-Billed Dowitcher was present, although distant amongst a group of Golden Plover on the East Flood (a new bird for me). Also present was the returning adult Bonaparte’s Gull which I saw in 2015 aswell.

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After Oare we visited a Kent Honey Buzzard site and after 20 minutes of scanning we had mediocre views of what seemed to be a male and a female – based on size alone really as the birds were completely silhouetted.

The week was spent birding Walthamstow Marshes and the Waterworks in the mornings before work.  Highlights were 2 gounded Tree Pipits on the 22nd,(rare here and my first for a couple of years on the patch, the eventualy moved on south calling) 3 Whinchats on the 23rd aswell as a couple of Wheatears and yellow Wagtails over and present on most days. Common Warblers still coming through in no great numbers.

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David Bradshaw found a Spotted redshanks on the now well-drained Lockwood on Saturday. another was found shortly after! First on the patch for a few years and new for my patch list.  I was down visiting Laurence P at beachy (and seeing some great birds, more on that later…) and i was convinced they woudn’t stay however upon my return I broke free from the tropical temperatures in my flat and caught up with them, and David.

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We will regain access in the mornings during the week soon and I will be up there every day. it looks fantastic.

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1 – 15 August

 

A few times a month my strange (non birdy) job takes me to rural Norfolk, near ten mile bank which is over the Ouse from Welney WWT.  Over the years I’ve found a few nice birds there, highlights being a flock of six Common Cranes one winter, an out of place Hawfinch over one spring and things like Brambling, the occasional Hen Harrier and fields full of Yellow wags on passage.

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With abit of fieldcraft and abit of luck I got close to this (first year?)  Kingfisher at the bottom of a standard fenland ditch on my lunch break recently. I spent probably 15 mins getting close and 10 mins shooting and watching through bins as the bird changed position, perch and stretched its wings.

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This photoshoot came at an interesting time, especially shooting pictures of a Kingfisher – quintessential ‘Nature Photographer’ species. I had just read the recent British Birds article about birder-photographers.  (and spent some of the earlier part of the year cursing ‘no bins’ camera heads in hides in Hong Kong)  I often think about how using a camera as part of my birding affects it, I think its generally a good thing; It can be sort of used as a scope, It can allow me to appreciate commoner species more… it prolongs the experince and makes the birding more visual. Getting into position for photography and taking in a close up wader for example is indulgent in a great way (if the bird doenst mind) and akin to looking at an amazing living illustration in a bird guide… More on this another time.

Fast track to today in London, a visit to the patch before work and a fairly disappointing session although almost all the commoner warblers present.

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Willow Warblers, Common and Lesser White throats , below.

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The below male Kestrel is half of the local pair and may be the reason why the cow field has not yet yielded its annual Whinchats so far.

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After work a quick circuit of the Lockwood turned up 2 Greenshank, an adult and a juv (pictured below) a Juvenile Little ringed Plover, c10 Common sandpipers and my first Wheatear of the autumn. Showing 7/8 primaries in the closed wing and buff panel mid wing sort of points to Greenland but perhaps too early?. dunno.

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Strangely, this Kingfisher allowed me to get fairly close this evening. There are 3/4 birds hanging around, the others I suspect are first year birds. This and last weeks shots are the closest I’ve been to this species for a prolonged period, funny its happened within a week. Nice though.

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Lockwood to be Drained? :)

There are plans to drain the Lockwood Reservoir. This is a dream come true for all of the regular patch watchers at Walthamstow…however there is currently no access during working hours due to a gravel track being laid around the top edge.  Draining hasn’t begun yet but fingers crossed it will soon and they will get the track out the way. I think it WILL get some decent waders. A brief visit last night with water levels higher than I’ve ever seen I had a Redshank, c18 Common Sands and a tame adult Dunlin, with David B adding Turnstone and Greenshank to that the previous evening – Not bad for Walthamstow. Hopefully much more to come before work on the Lockwood is refilled in December.

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