Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Missing the coast

I'm three weeks into the new year and with the national lockdown still in place I'm still restricted to local exercise to get my birding fix. I'm taking advantage of the fact that I'm allowed out and unlike last March I am taking binoculars with me. On the odd occasion I'll also pop the camera over my shoulder too but the with stories of birders getting warned by the police for stopping to use the scope I'll be leaving that at home for a while.

I'm trying to stay local but the guidelines do give mixed messaging and I find it a little confusing but have adopted the principal that anything under ten miles is local but I try to stay within 5km where I can. I'm around 40 miles from the nearest coast and find myself really missing the usual trips to places like Wallasea, Dunge, Cley, Titchwell, Minsmere etc and of course Abberton is too far even if it is in Essex.

That said I haven't had much to write about with my daily walk mostly being from the front door down to the motorway and back and along the River Roding until that flooded and I had to look a little further for my exercise. I've walked the Lee Valley country park trying to find quiet areas like the farm track etc and had a single trip to Wanstead park where again I find myself walking away from people in order to maintain an extra social distance. Epping Forest would be nice but it's just so incredibly busy with everybody staying local.....guidelines should include the phrase "find somewhere quiet for your walk"

With all this going on I've managed to add a few ticks to the year list.

Lesser Redpoll at Lee Valley along with a Mistle Thrush on the way home

Med Gull and Little Owl from my walk around Wanstead park 

Skylark and Red-legged Partridge from yesterdays walk to the farm and back and a Sparrowhawk in the garden on 19th was a first for the year followed by two more on my walk to the farm in the rain.

A Cormorant coming into it's breeding plumage

Little Owl that saw me a long time before I saw it

The wintering Med Gull on Jubilee Pond

Med Gull

The local Parakeets have decided they do like my feeders now adding both colour and noise

Great spotted Woodpecker a more welcome visitor to the garden

Just a single look at the local Shorties this year but good to know they're still there and feeding well


The year list sits at 101   (down 46 on January 20th 2018 pre Covid.)

I'll try to stay around 5km from home if possible on my walks but have produced the map below to highlight just how restrictive that  guidance is when I'd usually be taking a drive to the coast on a weekly basis.

That tiny green dot is my new focus as opposed to my old two hour rule



Thursday, 14 January 2021

Latest BBRC work in progress summary

As I did back in July last year I've reviewed the latest WIP report and put together the below summary mainly to help me digest the report. 

First thing of note for me is that the Lancashire Eastern Black-eared Wheatear I have on my life list is still in circulation so remains vulnerable as part of my life total. I remain hopeful that this will eventually be accepted and I can then underline it unlike the Cackling Goose I had pencilled in and had to remove once the BBRC eventually refused to accept the particular record.

Is it an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear?

The oldest record now still in circulation is a Northern Treecreeper from Spurn in October 1959

The oldest record accepted in this latest update is an Alpine Swift from 1964.

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HELD RECORDS (Waiting on taxonomy or ID criteria)

Black-eared Kite .Siberian (Eastern) Common Tern, Great grey Shrike (Homeyeri)

All of which are currently not evaluated

and there's also two Eastern Yellow Wagtail records from 2016 being held by the BBRC

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NOT PROVEN RECORDS

Thrush Nightingale reports form the Isle of May 2018 and Shetland 2019

A Lesser Grey Shrike report from the Highlands in May 2020

The 1996 Dawlish Warren South Polar Skua was finally deemed Not Proven 

A Booted Eagle report from Worth Marsh in Kent from April 2020

The Brown Booby reported 100km from Edinburgh at sea also fell into the "not proven" bracket

Four different reports of Barolo/Boyd's Shearwater from Lancashire, Scilly and Caithness all failed to convince the panel and remained not proven. These being reports from 2018/19

A Pacific Diver report from Hampshire didn't make the OK list and the same outcome was handed out to a Fudge Duck in Hertfordshsire and a Blue-winged Teal in Cornwall all from 2020.

A total of thirteen NOT PROVEN reports.

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The OK'd reports

Only one report was put into the holding zone of Category D and that was the Bufflehead in Hythe Kent on 19th April 2020. The bird will be moved to Cat A or Cat E depending on the panels views on how it came to be at Nickolls Quary.

The Paddyfield Pipit from Sennen in Cornwall has been accepted to species by the BBRC and sent to the BOURC to be considered as a FIRST FOR BRITAIN. The obvious concern is how did it get here and that as a first will be left for the BOURC to establish if that's at all possible. 

A Giant Petrel seen at two places along the north-east coast on 2nd July 2019 has been accepted to group and forwarded to the BOURC.

The Brown Booby seen at Swalecliffe in Kent on 19th August 2019 is now accepted and as such should be confirmed by BOURC as a first for Britain taking the title from the Cornwall bird.

The 1996 South Polar Skua record from Dawlish Warren was found to be not proven however the record from Dorset later in the January of 1996 has now been accepted and forwarded to BOURC.

Two records from 2001/02 have also been accepted.

Two Eastern Yellow Wagtail records have also been sent to the records committee  and also OK'd and sent to BOURC are aged records of North American Night Heron (2017) and North American Horned Lark (2001)

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The other accepted records of note include the Staines Reservoir North American Horned Lark of 2017/18 which has been accepted to group status. I'll take it on my list as accepted to group tho and await IOC recognising it as a split.

The Scopoli's Shearwater that was seen well in between the 9th and 11th of August between Fife and Lothian. Another two reports from Norfolk on 15th August were also accepted. 

A Barolo/Boyd's type Shearwater was accepted from Cape Cornwall in September and a Zino's/Fea's/Desertas Shearwater was also accepted as passing Filey earlier in September. There remains fifty reports of Barolo/Boyd's in circulation dating back to 1967 and a couple of Zino/Fea's/Desertas remain on the IC list from last year.

The Zino's seen on the Scilly Paleagic in July last year still sits in the in circulation group but has been submitted to specific species as opposed to the group above.

The July sighting of Black-browed Albatross was accepted from Filey Brigg whilst three reports from 2020 remain in circulation along with one from 1985 and one from 2016.

The Yelkouan Shearwater report from Dawlish Warren in July remains in circulation whilst the earlier bird at Portland is strangely missing from the WIP report. I dipped this bird but had a fantastic day at Portland all the same. I wonder if the report has yet to be submitted as it was a headline bird as a potential second for Britain.

Other noteable accepted reports that would be life ticks for me include:

White-throated Sparrow (Cornwall)

Terek Sandpiper in Lothian and Linclonshire

The Killdeer on Lundy back in March last year

The Greater Sand Plover that was in Lothian from June 27th to July 6th last year.

American Herring Gull in Devon was a two day bird  on 25th and 26th January although the bird was seen again on 14th Feb.

Sooty Tern was accepted from four sites last year one being the Sizewell sighting that I dipped.

Calandra Lark and River Warbler on Fair Isle in June and they also had a Song Sparrow accepted from April.

Sardinian Warbler in Cornwall in April (I note also no reference to the Winterton sighting)

Shetland had an Eastern Subalpine Warbler back in April the only accepted from last year at this point with another eleven still in circulation although only six are from 2020. A bird I still need following the recent IOC split and having dipped one at Landguard in the past.

A Cackling Goose was accepted from Loch of Skene in February 2020.

Of course many others reports have been accepted with a total of 130 OK's on this latest WIP report.

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In terms of  IN CIRCULATION which is the reports that the committee is still considering there are still a total of 460 on this latest WIP.

The biggest one as far as I'm concerned is the Lammergeir which forms five of the 460 reports as it was sighted first in Oxfordshire back in June before the summer sightings in Derbyshire where I first connected with it. It was then reported in Leicestershire, Norfolk and Sussex where it eventually set off back to France. I note that no reports for Lincolnshire are pending which is strange as that's probably where it showed best in all it's travels across the UK.

There's clearly no issue with ID here. DNA has even proved the birds parentage and it now just leaves the powers that be to decide if being born in the wild to a wild father and a mother that was released fourteen years ago and has since raised four broods in the wild is wild enough. 

We know what it is and where it came from..we even know where its parents came from.

Other interesting IC's include 

Five seperate Cackling Geese dating back as far as 2011 with just two from last year pending.

Three Band-rumped Storm-Petrels from Pendeen and Porthgwarra dating back to 2009.2018 and 2020

Porthgwarra also has a report of Trindade Petrel ending from July 2018.

The exciting White-chinned Petrel report from Orkney back in May is still in circulation and I guess will involve all ten members.

The Frigatebird from October 2018 on the Isle of Wight still remains in circulation.

Lundy had a Sora in September and that too is still being circulated along with Cornwalls Sociable Lapwing.

Two Upland Sandpiper reports remain in circulation from Cornwall in 2019 and Skokholm Island in 2020 and again I note no report yet of the Suffolk sighting from last year.

The Hudsonian Godwit that spenT most of November in Fife is yet to be accepted and remains in circulation with the 460 other reports.

A report of Long-toed Stint submitted back in 2011 from Sussex remains in circulation still. 

Royal Tern is another bird still in circulation from June 2019 on the Hayle estuary in Cornwall.

A Bridled Tern on Lundy last August is still being considered.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the New Forest last November is being circulated too as are both the Kent and Sussex reports of Nighthawk from last year.

The much debated Lesser Kestrel report from Yorkshire in 2019 remains in circulation and is joined by the spring bird on Scilly from last year which should see a quicker route to being OK'd.

One of the most interesting reports is that of Eleonora's Falcon at Heacham Norfolk from 7th October until 4th November 2020. I'll follow this one with interest after dipping the Winterton bird that as yet hasn't made the official report file. I don't recall any published sightings of the Heacham bird and to my memory we could still travel to Norfolk back in October so I'll be interested in seeing more detail of this report. Many a lister would have welcomed the chance to add this elusive bird but let's see how the circulation goes.

The Tiree Yellow-bellied Flycatcher has been submitted and remains IC. as does the Tennessee Warbler on Yell and the Blackpoll Warbler on Mainland Shetland.

The House Crow that spent time in Kent last year remains IC too.

Green Warbler was reported from Fair Isle in June last year and that remains IC at this point.

Three different Aquatic Warblers are IC from last year. Lundy, Dorset and Hampshire all represented here.

Sykes's Warbler have two reports still being considered. One from my home county of Essex dating back to 2002 and another from Caithness in 2017.

No fewer than five Lanceolated Warbler reports are being considered along with Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers.

Scotlands crowd pleasing Western Orphean Warbler forms part of the 460 records still being debated or still to be debated as is the Nothumberland Asian Desert Warbler.

Eleven Eastern Subalpine Warblers remain on the IC list dating from 2004 - 2020

A Moltoni's Warbler on Shetland is awating it's acceptance as are any of the four reports of Short-toed Treecreeper all from Dungeness in 2020.

Thrushes account for seventeen of the 460 reports that remain in circulation and include Black-throated,  Siberian, White's, Swainson's and Eyebrowed. with no 2020 records yet moved to OK.

Two Thrush Nightingales remain IC from June 2020 and August 2020.

Shetlands East Siberian Wagtail from October last year is added to a list of Wagtails in IC that includes another fourteen birds.

Two Tawny Pipits have made the WIP with one in Sussex and one in Porthgwarra last year being reported.

White-throated Sparrow and Rose-breasted Grosbeak make up the last of the more interesting reports.

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So that's my summary of the latest WIP file

I found it interesting to study and make the above notes and await the next one.

I am left wondering why some reports take so long to gain acceptance and why some are left so long in circulation ...can that much really change over time?  I guess if you're waiting for DNA results then yes or if you've put it out to an overseas expert more familiar with species maybe but I would have thought many of the 460 could be agreed upon without too much debate.

You can view the full WIP report here ......BBRC








Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Another year another list another lockdown

I had considered not blogging this year but then having looked back over previous years I found the diary format I adopt quite good in terms of refreshing my memory of days out, places visited and birds seen  so for now I plan to continue purely for that reason and if somebody else gets any pleasure from it then that's great too.

And so to the year of 2021.

We moved into the new year with Essex sitting in Tier 4 with a reported high case level of Covid-19 and that's had a marked effect on the family over Christmas and New Year and made for a very quiet and at times lonely festive break. The tier system has also impacted on my birding activity. The tier four restrictions permit local exercise and so my year started locally and not at the coast as is usual. I expected a much lower day one count but by birding the Lee Valley CP I managed a respectable 64 species with the highlights being Cattle Egret on Hook Marsh, a pair of Smew on Seventy Acre lake, a flock of White-fronted Geese at Holyfield farm a couple of Peregrines and a Short-eared Owl at Gunpowder park. On the way home I picked up another three year ticks with Kingfisher, Goosander and Mandarin on Connaught Waters in Epping Forest to give me a total day one list of 67 different species seen.

Distant view of the Cattle Egret on Hook marsh

On day two I walked around King George Reservoir with Neville S. My reward for the long treck around both north and south basin was two drake Scaup, lots of Goldeneye, two Black Redstart, a Grey Wagtail and a fly over Common Buzzard to bring the year list to 72. 

A drive past Eagle pond also gave me this years first view of the wintering adult Caspian Gull.

One of the two Black Redstarts on the west side of King George V

Black Redstart

View from the far end of the reservoirs

One of the two drake Scaup in with all the Tufties and Coots

On day three I walked down to Beckton sewage works meeting Shaun H and another local birder along with two dog walkers so socially a very quiet place which I'll return to soon hopefully. As for the birds I picked up a few ticks with at least ten Chiffchaff including one very pale bird that Shaun H. managed to photograph later and the other birder heard to call and thought was a good candidate for Siberian. A Peregrine flew through and sat on a pylon, Cetti's Warbler called and a Meadow Pipit added another tick before a flock of twenty plus Linnet added another. At the outfall I found a couple of Common Sandpipers, single Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit along with several Redshanks. I checked through the gulls finding one Herring Gull with an orange ring which looked like Y5ST which if I read it correct was ringed by the North Thames group in 2018 but not seen since. Great Black-backed added a year tick but otherwise I struggled to find anything else among the hundreds of gulls present on the mud, the sewage works and over the tip. On my walk back I looked again for the pale Chiffchaff but didn't see it. At the feeders by the blue container I found a single Brambling hiding among the Chaffinch flock.

Beckton where the Roding meets the Thames

The Brambling thinking I can't see it 

A short drive down to Rainham and having parked by the Serin mound I first scanned Wennington Marsh adding Barnacle Goose then a scan of the riverside added Avocet to the year list. The walk along the concrete path towards the reserve kept me distanced from most other people and gave good views of both Rock and Water Pipit. There are good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing at Rainham but none came very close as I walked down to the reserve and back. I scanned the reserve from outside to keep a distance again and picked up Pintail and yet another Peregrine which was sat on the grass for a while before getting up to put everything into panic. It just shows how well Peregrine are doing as in three days I've seen five birds. Whilst scanning for Raven I picked up a single Rook but somehow missed the Raven. As the tide came in a flock of Dunlin flew over pushed onto the reserve and as I was packing up to leave a Marsh Harrier flew over putting up all the Lapwing and Wigeon.

The view across Rainham marsh

The view across Wennington marsh

I had a days rest Monday waiting on the PM's announcement which delivered the news of another national lockdown and a move to threat level five on the pandemic. Today I watched the garden a lot whilst staying at home and my prize was first a Fox strolling about then a fly over first for the year when a Red Kite came through really low checking the local gardens for scraps. A walk along the local field gave nothing new but I did find a couple of Hare which I'd never have imagined being present so close to the house.

Not sure where I will draw the line in terms of LOCAL but I hope to get more birding done within my daily exercise "allowance" which will be good for the soul. I can walk to the farm fields and Epping forest , I'm a couple of miles from Lee Valley and a short drive gets me to places like Wanstead, Beckton or Rainham so I do have options and will try to keep the year list ticking along if at all possible whilst trying hard to stay within the "local exercise"guidelines.

After five days the year list sits at a modest 91 and I really don't know how this latest lockdown is going to go but I do know I need to get out locally so I expect a few more birds to be seen before our freedoms of travel return.

Stay safe and well guys


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Year listing in 2021

As we approach the new year comes a build up of excitement as we plan our New years day outing to maximise our chances of a big first day, depending on the weather we usually head to Norfolk or Kent and aim to see around 80 to 100 species on the first big day but this year we're restricted by the Covid stay local message so the Lee Valley looks likely to be our day one meet up.

I'm hoping that the vaccine currently being rolled out will help us find some normality later in the year but of course we have concerns about the latest new strains of the virus and will have to see how these changes respond to the vaccinations. I wouldn't say 2020 has been the worse year of my life as I've had a few tough ones in my life but it's been strange and mentally challenging at times. 

As for listing I'm going to remain positive as I need birding in my life and I need to get out in the country so without concern for the slower start in variety that I expect I will chase a year list again in 2021 and look forward to the different approach that the Tier system will bring and refuse to let it spoil the chase too much.

Might not be the biggest big day I've ever had but I reckon I could get Mallard on the day one list

My ten year average total is 274 last year saw a slight drop to 271 so the aim in this challenging year ahead will be to keep my nose in front of the average and hope a few life ticks present themselves in places I can get to.

The Bubo listers pole positions for 2020 and  remarkably I'm still eight as I draft this on Boxing Day


My biggest wanted birds for 2021 would have to be..........

Snow Goose or maybe a tickable Cackling Goose having had my previous one scrubbed off by BBRC but unless I can get north that will be a difficult ask. The Black Scoter in Northumberland might not be doable in the first part of the year but maybe I'll be able to travel north if it returns in the Autumn/Winter. There's not too many that don't have that bird so it's about time I followed suit with it.

It'd be nice to take Terek Sandpiper, Collared Flycatcher orTawny Pipit off the dipped list if possible.Tawny Pipit being my new bogey bird having finally added Brown Shrike to my life list in 2020.

Travel to Cornwall next winter might finally give me a chance to see the long returning Pacific Diver of Penzance and maybe I'll finally get to Scilly and see one of those Wilson's Petrels and who knows what else. Maybe an Eastern Subalpine Warbler will make it my way following last years split and could Dunge get another Short-toed Treecreeper this spring and will the restrictions allow me to travel for it this time. Of course I'd gladly take a couple of Mega ticks too if they turn up within striking distance

I'm also quite desperate to visit the Highlands again in 2021 and with my brother looking for five ticks to break the 400 I hope I can help him achieve that goal too, in fact we're banking on it.

More than anything tho I want to be able to get out and enjoy the hobby in good health with the Jims again. I'm also hopeful that Robert may join the three musketeers on our travels when it's allowed just like the good old days.

However you plan to enjoy your birding in 2021 I hope it delivers for you too and I wish you all a very happy new year!


Sunday, 27 December 2020

Good for the soul

I had to get out today having hardly left the house for ten days I needed a walk, some fresh air and some birds. I headed back to the local park. With us being in Tier four still I shouldn't be travelling far for my exercise so the park is ideal. I only had an hour or so but was pleased to see the Owls still about and performing quite well and for a change the light was quite good too.


Until today I had resisted the sitting on the teasle shot but it was there as I walked past...be rude not to!
Heavy crop as taken from the footpath!  Most people are thankfully now keeping out of the fields.

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Ready to hunt

SEO

Showed quite well

Eyes on the prize

Fully focused

A close pass as the light faded away

These Owls continue to brighten my winter as they've now been here over two months and seem to be doing well for food and have tolerated the unfortunate early disturbance well so hopefully will stay into the new year now.


Saturday, 26 December 2020

Best pics of 2020

 A few birding images from the year that was 2020 and may we never have another like it.

Black-throated Thrush that wintered in Whipsnade park

The Lammergeier in the Peak District

Bearded Vulture in Lincs

Caspian Gull in London

Cirl Bunting in Devon

Cormorant in Valentines Park Ilford

Desert Wheatear at Cart Gap

Local Foxes

Great Crested Grebe chicks at Lee Valley

Great Crested Grebes

Great Egret at Abberton

Greater Yellowlegs at Dunwich Pools

Grey Partridge 

Gull-billed Tern at Alton Waters

Hoopoe in Norfolk

House Sparrow in the garden during Lockdown

Iceland Gull at Newlyn in Cornwall


Lapland Bunting at Thornham point

Lesser-Yellowlegs at Cley

Mallards at Lee Valley CP

Masked Shrike in Kent

Nuthatch at Lynford

Radde's Warbler in Suffolk

Red-backed Shrike in Kent

Ring-necked Parakeet in the garden

Ring-necked Parakeet in Wanstead park

Robin in the garden

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin at Stiffkey

Russian White-fronted Goose at Wanstead

The scrub Robin twitch

Sedge Warbler at Oare Marsh

Shore Lark in Kent

Short-eared Owl at Gunpowder Park in the Lee Valley CP

Short-eared Owl in the Lee Valley CP

Sparrowhawk on a kill in Loughton

Spotted Flycatcher in Kent

Sparrowhawk in the garden

Wheatear at Oare Marsh

Whinchat at Wanstead

Wilson's Phalarope at Keyhaven Marsh in Hampshire

Wilson's Phalarope

Wryneck at Burnham Overy

Not such a bad year with the camera after all.