Hudsonian Godwit. Meare Heath, Somerset, 2nd May 2015

News broke on this as i was in Ataturk airport in Istanbul, waiting to lead a week long tour of Georgia for Sunbird. The tour went well, and i made a point of not torturing myself and not checking birdguides for the entire week. I was so surprised and delighted to see that it was still there on May 2nd when i got back to Heathrow. The Somerset Levels are nearly on the way back home from London, so it was an easy decision to go for it. My first visit to the Levels in years, and what a superb place. Even though i just went straight to the Hudwit and spent about 90 mins with it, still had at least 2 Bitterns flying around! Need to go back there. Here is some rather dodgy video of the Hudwit. The 5th record for Britain, but only the 3rd individual. Really interesting to see the structural differences to Black-tailed Godwit, including the longer primary projection.

Israel, March 2014 (photos from Sunbird tour)

There’s no great secret as to why I love going back to Israel. The birding is first rate, so check out the following selection from my recent Sunbird tour to Israel. We started off in the Negev, taking in Nizzana, Ovda, Sde Bokur and Mitzpe Ramon, then moved down to Eilat for five nights followed by a night near the Dead Sea and two nights in the Hula Valley. Epic migration and some great local specialities. The photos are in no particular order.

Yellow-vented Bulbul (8) Yellow-vented Bulbul. Very common all over Israel.

Common Cranes (53) Common Cranes (39)

Common Cranes. Approx 250 fly over us near Nizzana.

Collared Flycatcher (18)

Collared Flycatcher, male. Our first decent migrant.

Arabian Babbler (5)

Arabian Babbler feeding juvenile

Steppe Buzzards (92)

A small number of the thousands of Steppe Buzzards that flew over us in the Eilat mountains one morning.

Steppe Eagle (38)

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Buzzard (40)

Steppe Buzzard 

Spur-winged Plover (10)

Spur-winged Plover

White Stork (16)

White Stork 

Wryneck (22)

Wryneck

Yellow Wagtail (hybrid feldegg x lutea) (14)

Yellow Wagtail. I presume this is a hybrid feldegg x lutea, given the rather “taivana” like appearance.

Tristram's Starling (138) Tristram's Starling (99)

Tristram’s Starlings

Spanish Sparrows (9) Spanish Sparrow (11)

Spanish Sparrows

Slender-billed Gull (36) Slender-billed Gull (26)

Slender-billed Gulls

Semi-collared Flycatcher (1)

Semi-collared Flycatcher

Ruff (7)

Ruff

Pied Bush Chat (94) Pied Bush Chat (81) Pied Bush Chat (74) Pied Bush Chat (61)

Pied Bush Chat. This was approximately the 12th record for the Western Palearctic, and we were lucky enough to get great views of this mega as it hunted from the irrigation pipes at Neot Semadar.

Pallas's Gull (1)

Pallas’s Gull

Palestine Sunbird (42)

Palestine Sunbird

Oriental Skylark (7)

Oriental Skylark in Ovda Valley. A scarce winter visitor to Israel, this is the first I’ve seen but was followed by three more at Yotvata!

Bimaculated Lark (28)

Bimaculated Lark

Ehrenburg's Redstart (8)

“Ehrenburgs” Redstart (Caucasian race of Common Redstart)

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (1)

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Bluethroat (68)

Bluethroat

Red-necked Phalarope (13)

Red-necked Phalarope

Mourning Wheatear (11)

Mourning Wheatear (14)

Mourning Wheatear

Little Egret (20)Little Egret

 

Lesser Spotted Eagle & Steppe Buzzards (5)

Lesser Spotted Eagles (1)

Lesser Spotted Eagles

Hume's Owl (8)

Hume’s Owl. A pair performed admirably for us, with this bird perching close enough for happy snaps in the torchlight. Nit really visible is the large rodent it as carrying in its bill.

Fan-tailed Raven (63)

Fan-tailed Raven

Hooded Wheatear (1)

Hooded Wheatear

Black Stork (12) Black Stork (4) Black Stork & Steppe Buzzards (8)

Black Storks

Black Kites (11) Black Kites (2)

Black Kites

Pied Kingfisher (13)

Pied Kingfisher

White Pelicans (24) White Pelican (3)

White Pelicans

Vinous-breasted Starling (21) Vinous-breasted Starling (16)

Vinous-breasted Starling

Greater Flamingo (17)

Greater Flamingos

Glossy Ibis (17)

Glossy Ibis

Hoopoe Lark (9)

Hoopoe Lark

European Bee-eater (5)

European Bee-eaters

 

St Agnes, Isles of Scilly Oct 2012

Again, this is a catch up post from last year. After a hiatus of too many years, I got myself down to the Isles of Scilly last autumn. I’d always said that if I went back, I’d want to stay on St Agnes, so when Ken Shaw offered me a bed at his place I jumped at the chance. There was even space for my old Finnish friend Janne Aalto and his mate Oriel Clarabuch from Catalonia. A pretty international team! The weather forecast looked amazing in the preceeding few days, with a fast moving air stream coming straight to Scilly from the good ol’ USA. A Solitary Sandpiper on St Mary’s and a Blackpoll Warbler on Bryher were only a taste of things to come…

Except they weren’t. We dipped the Solitary and the Blackpoll (twice!), but had a great time on St Agnes over the week. Nothing absolutely outstanding, but I got a find tick in the pallid form a Booted Warbler, and we had some good birding.

Cove-Vean-from-Gugh

St Agnes, as viewed from Gugh.

Richard's-Pipit-(1)

Richard’s Pipit.

Coal-Tit-(4)

Coal Tit. Up to about 24 were on the island, and this was the outstounding ornithological event of the autumn on St Agnes. They were an Aggie tick for many birders who’d been going there years!

Car-&-lichen

Local transport links were an issue at times.

Booted Wblr, Cove Vean, St Agnes, 20 Oct 2012 (4) Booted Wblr, Cove Vean, St Agnes, 20 Oct 2012 (5) Booted Wblr, Cove Vean, St Agnes, 20 Oct 2012 (6)

Booted Warbler. The highlight of my autumn I think, as find ticks are hard to come by nowadays. Really good to compare this to the Sykes’s Warbler we had on Foula in September, and the differences should be obvious…

Booted-Warbler-twitchers-(1

Booted Warbler twitchers. A nice small group of Aggie birders.

Booted-Warbler-twitchers-(2

Then the masses from St Mary’s arrived!

Rose-coloured-Starling-(2)

Rose-coloured Starling. I’d been looking for this all morning after failing to be the one to find it. Then I sat down for some lunch in the cafe and it flew in right next to me!

Marsh-Wblr-(2)

Marsh Warbler. Always nice, and rounded off my acro autumn quite nicely.

Greenshank-(3)

Greenshank on Lower Moors, while dipping Solitary Sandpiper.

Common-Snipe-(grey-looking-

Two rather grey-looking Common Snipe. (Un)fortunately, they lifted their wings to reveal perfectly standard Common Snipe patterning.

It was great to be able to properly work St Agnes, and I’ll certainly be going back in 2013. Hopefully we can recreate the glory years of Aggie then…?

Yellowthroat!

SInce news first broke of this on Feb 16th, bird nerds up and down the land like myself have been salivating at the prospect of seeing this little Canadian beauty. Myself, Nick Crouch and Carl Cornish (aka the Folkbirder from now on, just incase he ever gets himself a blog and calls it that) decided to play it cool and made the nice jaunt over to Wales this morning. Arriving on site, i must admit to being a little suprised at just how close many people were standing to the clump of brambles the bird was skulking in. Unsuprisingly, it didn’t come out. I don’t think it was bothered by the entourage, but it certainly wasn’t going to give great views with folks so close it. I should know, I tried going over there as well…

Over the course of the next few hours, it gave brief and mostly obstructed views as it did a small circuit of the large hedge and bramble patches it favoured today. Almost always on the floor, it could run mouse-like through the leaf litter and between grass tussocks. Eventually we all managed decent views, but these were achieved by standing back and scoping. I even managed a couple of quick videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/Frenchy1290?feature=mhee#p/a/u/0/26K7IL2K0c8 and http://www.youtube.com/user/Frenchy1290?feature=mhee#p/a/u/1/yBHZHXiTA4s.  What a little cracker, and my first Yankee warbler in Britain. Happy days!