Wednesday, 28 February 2018


A short visit in the morning revealed 28 Red-breasted Mergansers and five Great Crested Grebes on the sea and 50 Grey Plovers and 340 Dunlin on the beach. 27 Meadow Pipits were in the fields, along with eight Skylarks, the recently arrived female Stonechat, four Fieldfares, two Redwings and three Mediterranean Gulls (a 2CY and two adults). A fly-over Rook is also worth a mention.

Grey Plovers and Dunlin

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


A Great Northern Diver on the sea was the clear highlight offshore. The sea also produced four Teal, three Red-throated Divers, six Gannets, and an influx of 28 Great Crested Grebes, these perhaps pushed off inland water bodies by the ice. Also clearly affected by the conditions were Lapwings, with 30 birds seen during the day, all but one of which were seen to arrive directly off the sea, no doubt escaping inhospitable feeding grounds on the continent. A Curlew moving purposefully and distantly east might have had similiar story.

The weather had a noticeable effect on passerines, resulting in an arrival at the Gap involving two Chiffchaffs, 20 Meadow Pipits, 16 Fieldfares, eight Redwings and a new female Stonechat (the wintering male was also present). Some of the nine Skylarks noted were probably also fresh in. Other sightings included two adult Mediterranean Gulls and 32 Grey Plovers.

Highlights at Ferring Rife included a Kingfisher. a Water Rail and a Redwing, along with the wintering Buzzard and male Stonechat.

Chiffchaff at Goring Gap

Skylark at Goring Gap

new female Stonechat at Goring Gap

Lapwings over Goring Gap

Lapwings over Goring Gap

Monday, 26 February 2018


A flock of 47 Dark-bellied Brent Geese flying east may have signified the start of spring passage for this species. Other birds offshore during a short vigil included five Red-throated Divers, 13 Red-breasted Mergansers, five Kittiwakes and 11 Gannets. Among the daily waders were 31 Grey Plovers.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Santon Warren, Kelling, Euston, Happisburgh and Waveney Forest/Haddiscoe Island

Christian and I started the day at a tranquil Santon Warren, enjoying the array of common birds in the crisp winter air, a singing Reed Bunting and the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpeckers reminding us that spring is still trying to uncoil. A group of eight Bramblings sharing a tree with a Lesser Redpoll, a Siskin and other common birds was a real treat. We walked along the river, seeing three Marsh Tits and two Grey Wagtails before reaching our target area. After seeing a Goshawk fly over, we enjoyed listening to the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling and drumming, managing flight views and a distant look as it fed in the trees. This is the first that I have seen in almost a year! Satisfied, we moved on, calling in briefly at some woodland in Euston, Suffolk, where we heard a Marsh Tit.

Next up was Kelling. We hadn't timed our visit particularly well as the farmer had started working his field, favoured by the redpoll flock, just before we arrived. We eventually tracked a small group of redpolls down though, including at least three Mealy Redpolls and four Lesser Redpolls but there was no suggestion of a Coues's Arctic. Still, it has been a while since I've seen a Mealy and it was a lifer for Christian so we were happy.

Mealy Redpoll at Kelling

At a breezy and cold Happisburgh, scanning the fields south of the lighthouse resulted in us locating the seven-strong flock of Shorelarks, the biggest flock I've ever seen, and we enjoyed distant views as they busily fed before returning to Waveney Forest for another go at locating the Rough-legged Buzzard on the adjacent Haddiscoe Island. This time we were successful. Another birder, Ian, had picked out the bird on the ground miles away and we patiently waited for it to fly to roost, which it duly did, passing quite close to us and allowing superb views. The Barn Owl from yesterday put in a brief appearance but I was even more pleased to pick out a Merlin sat on a gate out on the marsh - another bird I don't see often enough! A Water Rail squeeled from behind us. On the drive back from this wonderful trip we were tuned in to Radio Two as always and Christian was delighted when Liza Tarbuck read out his text detailing our success!

Shorelarks at Happisburgh
adult male Rough-legged Buzzard flying to its Waveney Forest roost

Friday, 23 February 2018

St. James's Park and Waveney Forest/Haddiscoe Island

I joined Bill H for a session of Coot-catching at St. James's Park in the morning - with a yield of 12 birds - before meeting up with Christian C to head to Norfolk. We had time just for an hour-and-a-half at Waveney Forest, overlooking Haddiscoe Island, before night fell. We failed to find the Rough-legged Buzzard but did note a Short-eared Owl, a Barn Owl, two Woodcocks, a handful of Marsh Harriers, six Pink-footed Geese and three Water Rails.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Juniper Top/Bramblehall Wood, Richmond and Holmethorpe SPs

I'm not one for whistle-stopping but planned a three-site tour for the day. I started by parking at the Whitehill car park and Mickleham, hearing Hawfinches calling as soon as I opened the car door. Making my way to a reasonable viewpoint over Bramblehall Wood, around 20 birds were showing in the trees on the other side of the jumping field. I began to wonder whether I wasn't quite in the right place for big numbers, and/or was too late, but at 08:35 I looked back at the trees to see them brimming with Hawfinches. I took a quick photo but as soon as I started to try to count the birds they exploded into the air and revealed that the numbers were immense. They disappeared to the east too quickly to get an accurate count, and I was a little too stunned to try to make sense of the numbers but there were easily 300+. Five minutes later, up to 100 more flew in the same direction - at the time I remained cautious and kept the count at 300+ but seeing Steve G's count of 420 the next morning vindicated my true feeling that I had seen in excess of 400 birds. With such a spectacle, the figure is by the by. At least four Marsh Tits were also noted, including a couple of singing birds.


I moved on to Richmond where Franko kindly helped me see the eastern-type Lesser Whitethroat around his garden, along with Tony Q. In the afternoon I picked up Josh B to head to Holmethorpe Sand Pits for an experimental check of the gull roost there, yielding a 2CY Yellow-legged Gull.

eastern Lesser Whitethroat

2CY Yellow-legged Gull

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Holmethorpe Sand Pits

A walk around with Kojak, putting the world to rights, we came across a couple of Siskins, eight Wigeon, nine Snipe, 18 Yellowhammers, two Reed Buntings, a Meadow Pipit and 15 Lapwings of note.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Goring/Ferring and Worthing

It was a somewhat dreich morning but I walked the entire patch anyway. Highlights at the Gap included an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Redshank, 63 Grey Plovers, 10 Sanderlings, 20 Ringed Plovers, 225 Dunlin, four Skylarks, a Moorhen, five Redwings, two Green Woodpeckers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The two Greens provided a couple of entertaining minutes of observation as they engaged in a tense territorial face-off. Ferring Rife added a female Stonechat, 19 Redwings, eight Moorhens, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Little Egret.

Later on, in Worthing I heard a Grey Wagtail over the seafront.

Saturday, 17 February 2018


A seawatch early morning was soon aborted when it became clear that nothing other than singles of Gannet and Fulmar was moving in the hazy conditions. 13 Red-breasted Mergansers and five Great Crested Grebes were on the sea. Later, eight Mediterranean Gulls were in the roost field and a Moorhen was feeding in the field with the copse. The high tide wader roost really didn't materialse for some reason.


Stock Doves

male Stonechat

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Another 2-hour seawatch first thing produced a Red-necked Grebe which passed east then back west, as well as a Common Scoter, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, five Red-throated Divers, two Great Crested Grebes, two Gannets and two Kittiwakes. Six Mediterranean Gulls, a 2CY and five adults, were on the green.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


A 2-hour seawatch produced a Great Northern Diver, five Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers, 16 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, a Curlew, seven Fulmars and a Guillemot. The high tide field contained 59 Grey Plovers, 20 Dunlin, eight Ringed Plovers, 12 Sanderlings and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Two Redshanks were on the verge by the beach and three adult Mediterranean Gulls were on the green.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Falmouth, Dozmary Pool, East Budleigh and Blashford Lakes

My plan for the morning was scuppered as soon as Liam and I managed to lock ourselves out of his flat the previous night, leaving my car keys, phone and other essentials out of reach. After an aimless stroll around Falmouth, producing three Blackcaps and a Rock Pipit, things were sorted out mid-morning and I made tracks. My first stop-off was Dozmary Pool, where the adult drake Lesser Scaup showed distantly. So far, so good. Next was East Budleigh - I spent a quite pleasant but slightly awkward hour hanging around the village. A nice set of garden birds included a male Blackcap but sadly no Italian Sparrow. I may have to return. Time was running out in order to get to Blashford Lakes for the gull roost. Arriving on site to see Franko and Dom P scanning from the mound behind the Tern Hide, the target gull had not been seen and the light was fading. It was a huge relief when I picked the 2CY 'THAYER'S GULL' out on a distant island on Ibsley Water. I'd like to see it better, so may double in up with the sparrow for another trip southwest. Many Pintails and a handful of Goosanders and Goldeneyes were present on the lake, but was concentrating too hard on the gulls to count them, and three Yellow-legged Gulls were in the roost.

adult drake Lesser Scaup

2CY Thayer's Gull in the melee

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Porthpean, Newquay, St. Ives and Hayle Estuary

Liam and I started at Porthpean on a fine morning indeed, enjoying wonderful views of three Surf Scoters (two 2CY drakes and a female), a female Velvet Scoter and a Long-tailed Duck, as well as two fly-over Siskins and several Fulmars and Gannets. Next up was Trenance Pool in Newquay, where the long-staying 2CY Ring-billed Gull afforded close-up views. A seawatch from St. Ives Island produced three Great Skuas, 15 Red-throated Divers, a Razorbill and several Kittiwakes, Gannets and Shags. Finishing at Hayle, the five Goosanders showed well, three Greenshanks were noted and Dunlin numbers had increased to perhaps 150.

Surf and Velvet Scoters off Porthpean

2CY Ring-billed Gull at Trenance Pool

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Hayle Estuary, Penzance and Mousehole

Much later than initially planned, I caught up with my good friend Liam L mid-afternoon and we headed to the Hayle Estuary, seeing five Goosanders and a scattering of waders including Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlews, before heading to Penzance. From Jubilee Pool we had five Purple Sandpipers, two Great Northern Divers, a Rock Pipit and a Great Skua, plus a few Guillemots, Shags, Kittiwakes and Gannets. We finished at Mousehole, where a 2CY Glaucous Gull roosted on St. Clement's Isle.

2CY Glaucous Gull at Mousehole

Friday, 9 February 2018

Staines Reservoir and Sovereign Harbour

I took Christian C for an early morning dash for the 'AMERICAN HORNED LARK' at Staines Reservoir before heading back to Worthing. The weather was much more agreeable than during my last visit, so the bird could be properly enjoyed. A drake Scaup among a nearby gathering of Tufted Ducks was a nice bonus.

'American Horned Lark' at Staines Reservoir

Scaup with Tufted Ducks at Staines Reservoir

Later on, Ingrid and I visited Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne and enjoyed close views of the wintering 2CY Black Guillemot.

2CY Black Guillemot bothering a 2CY Black-headed Gull at Sovereign Harbour

2CY Black Guillemot at Sovereign Harbour

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Lee Valley Park

A dawn look at Seventy Acres Lake produced highlights of a 3CY Yellow-legged Gull and a flock of 17 Siskins.

3CY Yellow-legged Gull

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Banstead Woods and Lee Valley Park

I returned for more Surrey patch Hawfinch action, joined by Adrian S and Ian M. We did see one but unfortunately only as it flew out from Coneyboro Hill. It headed south and continued for at least a mile before being lost to sight. A Lesser Redpoll dropped in by the railway line at Fames Rough.

A visit in the afternoon/evening at Seventy Acres Lake in Lee Valley Park was rewarded with a few Siskins and a flock of 59 Lapwings.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Banstead Woods, Canons Farm and Beddington Farmlands

I started at Banstead Woods, hoping for better views of Hawfinches. To my delight, three showed well at distance in the beech trees at the back of Coneyboro Hill. A Grey Heron flew over, too. I joined Geoff B for a stroll around Canons Farm, the highlights being two Little Owls 17 Skylarks, 80 Linnets and a Mallard. Common Gulls have been extremely thin on the ground here this winter, so one was notable.

Hawfinch at Coneyboro Hill

Joining Peter A and Kevin G at Beddington in the afternoon, a 2CY and a 3CY Caspian Gull showed on the North Lake. A 2CY Glaucous Gull flew through. Two interesting Aythya hybrids were also there, including one which looked quite like a Ferruginous Duck superficially, and a brief drake which was probably a Tufted Duck x Pochard. Other birds noted included two Egyptian Geese, two Shelducks, a Water Rail and a Reed Bunting.

3CY Caspian Gull

2CY Caspian Gull

Monday, 5 February 2018

Canons Farm, Banstead Woods, Headley Heath and Juniper Bottom/Top

With more meetings this week, I'm spending a little time back in Surrey. I walked with Geoff B through Canons Farm and around the southern part of Banstead Woods. It was the latter site that made the day, us finding two Hawfinches around the yews and larches at Fames Rough, distracted by a pair of Ravens as they flew by. A female Stonechat was in Hither Field and a Grey Heron was heard cawking as it flew over. At the farm, two Red Kites entertained us as we packed up, a Little Owl was on view on the side of Horse Pasture and flocks included 20 Skylarks and 80 Linnets. A Great Black-backed Gull flew over.

Jamie McK and I parked at Headley Heath in the afternoon and walked to the Juniper Bottom/Juniper Top area. A pleasant walk, standout moments were the flushing of a 2cy female Sparrowhawk from its Woodpigeon kill at the heath, and a calling Marsh Tit at Juniper Top. A Meadow Pipit was also on the heath.

Raven at Banstead Woods
Red Kite at Canons Farm

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Thorncombe Street

Up in Surrey for the records committee meeting in the afternoon, I spent the morning at Ed S's Thorncombe Street patch. My personal highlight came when a flock of five Bramblings alighted at The Ridge, but it was a pleasure to see a couple of Ravens and at least 10 Red Kites in the area. A Crossbill flew over and a flock of around 20 Lesser Redpolls was also at The Ridge, along with a Reed Bunting. Around 15 Meadow Pipits were seen.


Saturday, 3 February 2018

Buckland Sand Pits

Ian M kindly escorted me for a circuit of Park Pit. Buckland is always an interesting site and it's hard to understand why certain ducks are rather prevalent while others remain scarce. A flock of 60 Siskins in a stand of alders was the clear highlight, while decent counts of 20 Mandarins and 92 Wigeons were made. Other bits included two Egyptian Geese, a Great Crested Grebe, three Snipe, two Mistle Thrushes and two Lesser Redpolls.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Purley, Sovereign Harbour and Southease

In the morning, a stop-off at Maidenhead Aquatics in Purley co-incided with a fly-over redpoll. I dropped Ingrid off at Devil's Dyke for a hike and headed to Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne in a failed attempt for the long-staying Black Guillemot, a Raven and a Redshank being the only notable species observed. Before picking her up at the end of her route, I spent a little time by the River Ouse at Southease, noting two Little Grebes, two Little Egrets and one each of Redshank, Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Grey Wagtail.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens

Under a day's employ in London and with several hours to kill in the middle of the day I took a stroll in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I tried to resist the urge but ended up counting the waterfowl, reaching 127 Mute Swans, 74 Greylags, 78 Egyptian Geese, 11 Gadwall, just eight Mallards, four Shovelers, 66 Tufted Ducks, 11 Cormorants, two Grey Herons, four Great Crested Grebes, 11 Moorhens, 110 Coots, 40 Common Gulls and six Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A flock of 90 Redwings afforded wonderful views in nice light. The most notable birds otherwise were a fly-over redpoll and a Nuthatch, while I casually observed the tourist antics with the tame Rose-ringed Parakeets.

I also did a little ring-reading, getting the details of an Egyptian Goose, three Mute Swans and - best of all - an adult Polish-ringed Black-headed Gull.