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

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Birding rares in Avon, Somerset, Devon and Dorset

Just in case any of you are considering twitching any of the many rarities on offer in the south at the moment, here are a few tips following my own recent experiences......

On a tour of several sites today, I enjoyed great views of the first-winter LESSER YELLOWLEGS in Somerset, the two first-winter drake RING-NECKED DUCKS at Chard Junction and the juvenile SPOTTED SANDPIPER in Dorset at Lyme Regis

The Yellowlegs is favouring the two pools immediately west of the mouth of the Brue Estuary and is very territorial towards the Common Redshanks there. Drive as far as you can go south along the Beach Road at Burnham-on-Sea and then walk 300 yards south along the sea wall to view. Great views - and a very vocal individual

The two RING-NECKED DUCKS are with 11 Tufted Ducks on the recently landscaped lake at the east end of Chard Junction GP and afford excellent views - easily visible from the quarry track adjacent (the site is a mile east of the railway crossing)

The SPOTTED SANDPIPER is back at Herriott's Bridge Pool today at Chew Valley Lake (Avon) and on the south coast at Lyme Regis, the long-staying juvenile there was showing exceptionally well today. In recent times it has been favouring the EAST BEACH, particularly at low tide, and seems to like the company of the 16 wintering Purple Sandpipers thereabouts. Park in the myriad of parking spaces near the seafront (close to the museum), then walk east along the promenade for 200 yards to the East Beach lookout. At high tide, the bird has been getting on the rocks either side of the river mouth

Also in Dorset, both the wintering Richard's Pipit and Hume's Leaf Warbler remain at Wyke Regis. The latter is extremely difficult and best located either at dawn (up to 0915 hours) or at dusk (after 1615 hours) as it becomes quite vocal at these times of roosting.

Park in Camp Road, Wyke Regis, in the dip, before walking to the entrance to the Bridging Camp on your right (west of the road) and take the public footpath just before the gate. Follow the barracks fence around for 350 yards (checking inside for the pair of Common Stonechats, young male Black Redstart and Richard's Pipit which is often with them on the short grass inside the compound) before it comes out into an open grass field. This field is where the Richard's Pipit mostly favours and it is usually in the lower section of the field about 50 yards in from the middle track.

For the warbler, continue across the middle of the field, cross the stile, then continue to the next stile. Turn right and follow this wide track along for another 90 yards before dropping down the steps towards the caravan park. This brings you out to an open clearing where you will see a number of dog litter containers. These are numbered and between 13 and the caravan park below is an area of thick scrub. This is where the Humei is now feeding and if one is lucky, it can be seen from the road that runs around the back of the caravan park. Very infrequently now, it returns to the Sallows by the ringing ride where it was first found (in the area of very thick scrub behind Post 13 - on the slope)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


A total of 82 birdwatchers gathered from dawn at Calshot this morning, gradually swelling to just 110 by mid-morning - a far smaller turnout than I had envisaged for a vagrant that has not been twitchable in Britain since 1998. As expected, the bird appeared in the hedgerow opposite the cul-de-sac just after 0800 hours and then spent an hour moving between the two hedgerows either side of the road and the larger Hawthorn. It afforded outstanding views and many photographs were taken. Everyone was impeccably behaved and adhered to on-site instructions. Local birder Bruce Gwynn acted as management and did a sterling job, eventually escorting small parties down the private road once the sparrows started feeding. Certainly whilst I was there, everyone parked where they were supposed to.

The bird typically became elusive after 0900 hours - primarily visiting the chicken coup and feeding out of view. Occasionally, he returned to the roadside hedgerow but these visits were few and far between. From 1000 hours, he generally retired from view and some observers had over three hours wait before they got a glimpse. As I stated in a previous posting, to be sure of seeing this bird well, plan to arrive early and give yourself a 0800-0900 hours time slot.

DIRECTIONS: Follow the B 3053 SE to as far as it goes into Calshot village, 5 miles SE of Hythe. Continue into the one-way system and take advantage of up to 200 free car parking spaces in this vicinity. Walk back 500 yards to the junction with the private MOD cul-de-sac, clearly marked with ''Police No Parking'' cones and observe from the verges. The bird is favouring the thick hedgerows either side of the main road, particularly that section adjacent to the boat with flowers.

Not that far away, at Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest, the first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO was showing at regular intervals, moving between 3 or 4 fallen pines and perching readily out in the open. The clearing is just 100 yards NW of the parking area.

This site is also very good for COMMON CROSSBILLS and a male WOODLARK was singing there today.

Elsewhere in the New Forest, the regular wintering GREAT GREY SHRIKE was showing well today at Beaulieu Road Station at Bishop's Dyke, in birches and scrub 400 yards beyond the bridge south of Shatterford car park. This forest area also yielded both DARTFORD WARBLERS and WOODLARKS and a number of early Small Tortoiseshell butterflies

At HARBRIDGE WATER MEADOWS, the EGYPTIAN GEESE pair were on the main flood and both the adult WHOOPER SWAN and the 3 BEWICK'S SWANS were with the 203 Mute Swans in the first field beyond the church.

Ibsley Water held 11 GOOSANDER, 7 PINTAIL and the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, whilst the juvenile female BLUE-WINGED TEAL and redhead SMEW remained on the south lake at LONGHAM LAKES

Monday, 9 January 2012


Well with 2011 now nine days hence, a plethora of mega-rares from Hampshire has seen that year's list total rise from 452 to 455........

Firstly, we had news of the Old Winchester Hill WHITE-THROATED SPARROW surviving in its favoured car park until at least July 2011 being released by the warden, then news of a first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO that was wintering close to a car parking area at Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest, first photographed on 24 December 2011 and still present and showing today.........

Now, news has reached county birders of an adult male SPANISH SPARROW that has been living in Calshot village, in the south of the county, for some considerable time, probably at least since last spring (although the finder only made a mental note of it from early December 2011).

The latter is favouring suburban gardens in a quiet cul-de-sac and arrangements have been made for visitor access from Wednesday morning of this week. All on-site instructions will have to be adhered to, including the designated parking areas, and a period of about two weeks will initially be on offer to cater for those that wish to see the bird. I will release access instructions tomorrow evening.

The bird is moving between a roosting hedgerow and some peanut feeders/bird tables and is very reliable, showing at frequent intervals. There will be no panic requirement to rush to see it if you want to save a day's holiday from work. The presence of at least one hybrid bird suggest it has been present for at least one breeding season and it is likely it was initially a ship-assisted vagrant, like the other two species mentioned above

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A windy day spent birding in HAMPSHIRE - LGRE DIARY NOTES


The period of stormy weather continued its trail of destruction today with winds gusting up to 77 mph in the south of England and over 100 mph in Scotland (Isle of Bute). Although mainly dry and clear, temperatures struggled to reach 9 degrees C in the brisk westerly - and often felt much colder.

Chris Holt and I decided on a day out today and targeted Hampshire as our destination. Despite the weather, we were fairly pleased with our results........


We arrived in Church Lane at 1020 hours, at the same time as some heavy rain. Fortunately, the CATTLE EGRET and 2 Little Egrets were readily visible from the metal gate on the right just yards from the church and we were able to obtain views from the comfort and shelter of the car. This is the bird previously present for many months on Thorney Island and was in full winter plumage.


A short way away was Bedhampton but with seriously strong winds hampering viewing and the tide high, our visit was brief. A total of 6 BLACK-NECKED GREBES was located, along with 2 Little Grebes, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 100+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 12 Common Shelduck, 8 Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of Pintail, several Oystercatchers and a few Eurasian Curlews


Our main reason for choosing Hampshire as an excursion was the continued presence of a wintering DARK-EYED JUNCO, first photographed by novice birdwatchers on 26 & 30 December 2011. The bird, initially seen in the car parking area, had relocated to an open clearing just 80 yards NW of the main parking area and pines, and with the subsequent seeding of an area by helpful local birders, was frequenting where several pine trees had fallen in the last two days.

Despite the horrendously windy conditions, the gathered crowd of 35 were able to eventually enjoy quality and substantial 'scope views as the bird perched up in one of the fallen pines for no less than 9 minutes. Prior to this occasion (at around 1300 hours), sightings had been very brief and basically in flight, as the bird moved with up to 10 Reed Buntings and a single male Chaffinch the 90 yards between the two fallen pines in the clearing. It appeared to be a fairly drab first-winter bird.

The car park is situated just north of the B3055 at SU 350 020 and has ample space. Unless seed is scattered in a more open area, the bird is likely to remain extremely elusive. After we left at 1315 hours, the bird was not seen again today - the grass and understorey where it is feeding not being generally visible. I suspect, like most New World Sparrows and Juncos in Britain, it is a ship-assisted vagrant and will remain until the spring.

Other than the main target bird, the pinewood at Hawkhill Inclosure produced nothing more than a Common Treecreeper and 7 COMMON CROSSBILLS.


Viewing from the South Hide, the drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK was present with 48 Northern Pochard just west of one of the north bank hides, mainly sleeping. Other wildfowl present included an impressive 130 Gadwall, 400 Wigeon, 13 Shoveler and 25 Tufted Duck.

Neighbouring ROCKFORD LAKE held 33 Mute Swans

There was no sign of the colour-ringed adult Great White Egret in the area - not at Spinnaker, Roach, Rockford or Mockbeggar Lakes


It was barely possible to birdwatch at Ibsley Water as the wind was so fierce. Consequently, we failed in our quest to find either the redhead Smew, 86 Goosander, Black-tailed Godwit, Caspian Gull or Yellow-legged Gulls. Of note were 1,027 Coot, 303 Wigeon, 23 Shoveler, 6 PINTAILS and 144 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


Alas, no sign of the wintering party of 5 Bewick's Swans just one herd of 103 Mute Swans and an additional 6 birds nearby.


Birded here from 1530-1610 hours and managed the tail-end of the evergreen HAWFINCH roost. Five birds came in, a couple conveniently perching at the tops of the trees before diving into thick canopy cover and out of view. Fortunately, they were typically vocal, announcing each arrival with a loud ''tick''. Marcus assured me of some outstanding winter numbers, peaking at 44 in December 2011 and 28 early January - the highest numbers of roosting Hawfinches anywhere in the UK.

In addition to one really 'beautiful' bird that happened to pass by, other species noted included a BRAMBLING, MARSH TIT, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit, 9 Chaffinches and an extremely confiding European Robin that took biscuit crumbs from my hand

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


The GREATER YELLOWLEGS is still present Wednesday morning, just south of Loch Fleet on the big flooded pool at the start of the track to Coul Farm, side-by-side with a Greenshank - NH 801946. Also a wintering Black-tailed Godwit in the bay at Loch Fleet NH 797950 (Alastair McNee)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Plenty to keep oneself occupied as a New Year is unleashed.........

Well with two days into 2012, a total of 235 species has been recorded in Britain and Ireland with numerous long-staying vagrants keeping New Year visitors busy......

In addition to the DARK-EYED JUNCO in the New Forest at Hawksley Inclosure, two first-winter male DESERT WHEATEARS remain at Beacon Point, Newbiggin-on-Sea (Northumberland) and Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorks) Staple Neuk Viewpoint respectively.

A good list of waders includes the first-winter GREATER YELLOWLEGS still at Skelbo, near Loch Fleet (Sutherland) (on flooded fields opposite the entrance to Coul Farm) and a first-winter LESSER YELLOWLEGS with a Spotted Redshank at Burnham-on-Sea (Somerset). Last year's Somerset LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS are now both together at Lodmoor Country Park (Dorset), whilst another is in South Wales at Kidwelly Quay (Carmarthenshire) and the first-ever wintering PECTORAL SANDPIPER remains at Dundonald Camp, Barassie (Ayrshire). Three SPOTTED SANDPIPERS are to be found, with the adult at Chew Valley Lake Herriott's Bridge causeway (Avon) and juveniles at Lyme Regis West Cobb (Dorset) and at the north end of the River Plym at Plymouth (South Devon). Perhaps best of all, the first-winter WESTERN SANDPIPER continues at Cley NWT (Norfolk).

Of the remaining ''good birds'' on offer, the CATTLE EGRET remains at Warblington (Hampshire), no less than 21 GREAT WHITE EGRETS at widely scattered localities, GLOSSY IBISES on the Isles of Scilly at Lower Moors, at Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon), at Stodmarsh NNR water meadows (Kent), at Fingringhoe Wick NR (Essex) and at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs).

Rare geese include the continuing RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE with local Canadas at Torr Reservoir (Somerset), the adult LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE of unknown origin with the Taiga Bean Geese at Buckenham Carrs RSPB in the Yare Valley (Norfolk) and first-winter RED-BREASTED GEESE at Tollesbury Wick (Essex) and Exminster Marshes RSPB (South Devon), whilst rare wildfowl are represented by at least 4 AMERICAN WIGEONS (the easiest being drakes at Kirk Loch, Lochmaben, Dumfries & Galloway and at Wintersett Reservoir, West Yorks), 12+ AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEALS, a juvenile female BLUE-WINGED TEAL at Longham Lakes (Dorset), an adult drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK on Ivy Lake, Blashford Lakes HWT (Hants), SURF SCOTERS at Dawlish Warren NNR (South Devon) and in Penzance Harbour (Cornwall), the juvenile female BUFFLEHEAD on the Loe Pool at Helston (Cornwall) and the ever-present drake Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset).

East Anglia maintains its stranglehold on ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD occurrences with at least 6 birds being regularly seen (others remain on Shetland and in North Yorkshire) whilst Orkney enjoyed a very brief visit from a glorious white morph GYRFALCON just before 2011 ended.

A HOOPOE has brightened up the Lake Lothing area of Lowestoft (Suffolk) with its appearance whilst that same county continues to harbour virtually all of the nation's wintering crop of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS (about 100 birds in total, mainly frequenting Ipswich Hospital and Martlesham Heath. Four SHORELARKS are at Holkham Gap saltings (North Norfolk) with a RICHARD'S PIPIT wintering at Wyke Regis (Dorset) and the HUME'S LEAF WARBLER at the same locality.

In IRELAND, the rarest offerings are the regular wintering adult FORSTER'S TERN in County Galway at Kinvara, 1-2 NORTH AMERICAN HERRING GULLS, a drake LESSER SCAUP at Lough Gill and the surviving HOUSE CROW at Cobh (County Cork). A LONG-BUILLED DOWITCHER is at North Slob WWR (County Wexford) and a RICHARD'S PIPIT was located Killard Nature Reserve in County Down

DARK-EYED JUNCO in the New Forest

On Boxing Day 2011, non-birdwatchers noticed and photographed an odd 'chaffinch' feeding with other birds in the car parking area of Hawkhill Inclosure, 2.5 miles west of Beaulieu, in the New Forest (Hampshire) at about SU 350 020. They saw the bird again on 30 December and then notified Keith Betton by sending him images of the bird. It turned out to be a first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO and consequently the 453rd species to be recorded in that record year.

Although not seen on New Years Day, an enthusiastic attempt was made at seeding an area of the car park and this quickly did the trick - the bird showing well today on a number of occasions, feeding alongside Dunnocks, Robins, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches.