As of 10 November 2015, a total of 430 species have been recorded this year

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

''SUBALPINE WARBLER'' at Holland Haven Country Park in Essex

After hearing from Simon Cox and Adrian Kettle, I made the effort and went over to Holland Haven Country Park today and saw for myself the male SUBALPINE WARBLER present for its third day in the main hedgerow backing on to the car park. As on previous days, the bird was favouring the Sloes, Elder berries and other fruits in the bushes behind the northernmost two picnic tables. Prior to the wind getting up, it was showing quite well, occasionally feeding out in the open in the sunshine. After about 1145 hours, it ceased showing, and had not reappeared until at least 1500 hours.

In all honesty, this is a very difficult bird to assess - it is a male in extremely fresh plumage with what appears to be fresh primaries and therefore most likely an adult bird rather than a first-summer. As others have already expressed in litt, this bird has heavily contrasting underparts, with the rich orange-red chin, throat and breast sharply demarcated mid-breast and paling into whiter lower underparts. On a prolonged view however, these lower underparts (belly, flanks, vent) were seen to be quite sullied with an overall light pinkish or light fawn wash - and certainly NOT the gleaming white of a typical adult Eastern Subalpine (albistriata). However, more prominent still, was the white sub-moustachial stripe, remarkably broad and flanging - a definite feature of Eastern.

The entire upperparts were greyish with the head particularly blue-grey and the mantle and scapulars darker and infiltrated by more brown feathering. The lesser and median coverts were uniform grey, the rest of the upperwing being similarly coloured, with some pale fringing to the inner primaries, secondaries, greater coverts and tertials. The eye-ring was largely pinkish-orange.

So, in summary, a bird with somewhat mixed characters, which could be either/or Western/Eastern. I did not hear it call today but cantillans (Western) has a Lesser Whitethroat-like low-pitched, monosyllabic, single ''tukkk'' contact note whereas albistriata (Eastern) has a louder, often repeated ''trekk-trekk'' note (Moltoni's Subalpine of course having a very distinct Wren-like churring scolding call-note). Anyone hearing it could assist with the identification.

My gut feeling is that it is a male Western Subalpine Warbler but in any event it is extremely similar to a male Subalpine Warbler that was present on the John Weston Reserve at The Naze from 15 August until 2 September 1993 (see photograph in Birding World 6: 354), although this individual was more uniformly coloured on the underparts.

The hedgerow today also held several Lesser Whitethroats, Common Whitethroats and the odd Willow Warbler, whilst when the wind picked up from the south, Common Swift passage seriously took place (with some 64 birds flying south in just half an hour). Hirundines too were on the move, with 150 or so Barn Swallows heading south and a much smaller passage of both Sand and House Martins.

On the neighbouring Holland Haven scrape, there was an excellent selection of waders present and visible from the hide: highlight was the 3 juvenile WOOD SANDPIPERS, along with 4 Pied Avocets, 9 juvenile Ruff, 7 Common Sandpipers, 1 Common Greenshank, 2 Dunlin and 29 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits.

Lee G R Evans

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Summering BLACK KITES are somewhat unusual in Britain but an adult in some moult continues to afford excellent views as it drifts about the skies in the Carn Brea area adjacent to St Just Aerodrome (West Cornwall). A second more heavily abraded adult is present in South Devon near Kennerleigh, lingering in the Ashridge Farm vicinity (SS 824 063). Even more exceptional is a summering WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE in England, but the juvenile just cannot leave the Ruckland Pond area of North Lincolnshire where it has remained throughout since April.

The transitional-plumaged adult STILT SANDPIPER is still present after a week or more at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset), commuting between the various scrapes on the reserve. It often disappears out of view for long periods, particularly when feeding on the reed-fringed scrape east of Beachdown Way.

The adult MARSH SANDPIPER continues its long summer sojourn at Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve in East Yorkshire, whilst an adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER continues to be seen from the main layby on the A178 along the causeway at West Saltholme Pool in Cleveland (a long-staying adult TEMMINCK'S STINT is also there). For its third day, an adult summer WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER is to be found on the high tide roost gravel pits at the south end of Snettisham RSPB reserve (Norfolk), whilst in Essex, an adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER (perhaps a regular returning bird) remains at Holland Haven wader scrape (Essex). A further PECTORAL SANDPIPER is at Frampton Marsh RSPB (Lincs), where also a SPOTTED CRAKE is present, with another at Dungeness ARC Pit (Kent) with a TEMMINCK'S STINT (where the summering GREAT WHITE EGRET remains nearby at Denge Marsh)..

A male RED-BACKED SHRIKE continues for a second day in Suffolk at Carlton Marshes SWT reserve just NW of the visitor centre, whilst in NW Derbyshire, the male WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER remains on territory at Arnfield Reservoir near Tintwistle. Another unusual summering passerine - a first-summer WOODCHAT SHRIKE - remains in Gloucestershire for at least its 4th day on Sodbury Common, NNE of Chipping Sodbury (take Horton Road NE from Chipping Sodbury and park carefully by the first farm buildings and walk west along the common footpath for half a mile to view).

The female FERRUGINOUS DUCK remains at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) whilst off Aberdeenshire, the drake NORTH AMERICAN BLACK SCOTER and 3 drake SURF SCOTERS remain off Murcar Beach and further north.

CATTLE EGRETS have successfully nested again in SE England with an adult and single juvenile on Two Tree Island, Southend-on-Sea (Essex), commuting between the saltmarsh just north of the Canvey Island Rugby Club (Tewke's Creek) and the cattle field 400 yards west of Hadleigh Castle, with two different adults ranging widely along the South Coast - the bird in West Sussex recently being on Hayling Island (Hants) yesterday evening.

The post-breeding gathering of Northumberland ROSEATE TERNS is gathering pace again, with at least 6 birds roosting at high tide on rocks at Ferny Ness car park (Lothian) and up to 15 in South Shields (County Durham). Interestingly, 29 were logged flying south past Church Point, Newbiggin (Northumberland), this morning.

In Dorset, the immature RING-BILLED GULL has shown up again at Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch Harbour, this evening

IN SW IRELAND, the country's fourth-ever RED-NECKED STINT - an adult - was still present in County Kerry today (3rd day), showing well on Reenroe Beach with Ringed Plovers and Dunlin at Ballinskelligs - a superb find by local birder Patrick McDaid.

In Scandinavia, the TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL invasion continues, with vast numbers on the move southward. So far this autumn just a handful have reached Britain, including a female and an immature male on Unst (Shetland) and a juvenile briefly at Kilnsea, Spurn (East Yorks).