Monday, 30 December 2013


I planned to go to Canons today but the awful weather ruled that out and I spent most of the day at Beddington. It was a pretty productive and enjoyable day, some of which was spent catching up with Cliff Allan and Ian Jones. A pair of Pintail on the main lake early on was a good start and the rest of the day produced the long-staying juvenile Iceland Gull, 1-2 Caspian Gulls and two Jack Snipes.

Pintail is a scarce bird locally

Caspian Gull

Iceland Gull

Sunday, 29 December 2013


Paul Goodman and Josh Burch wanted to check out my uni patch so we headed down there for a look today. I managed three 'away patch' ticks: Black Redstart, Little Grebe and Pheasant. There was a pair of Black Redstarts and both the male and the female were rather obliging. There were still four Eiders between the piers.

female Black Redstart

male Black Redstart

Friday, 27 December 2013

White-billed Diver and a second helping of the Brünnich's

Ian couldn't get away yesterday so I jumped in his car as he headed southwest early this morning. An unpromising start at Portland Harbour saw the BRÜNNICH'S GUILLEMOT eventually show well, adding itself to Ian's list. After enjoying this bird we made our way to Devon for the bird that I was really there for which had taken up temporary residence in Brixham harbour. We soon picked up a Black-throated Diver and the odd Great Northern Diver but it turned out we were in the wrong part of the harbour as Liam Langley called to say that he was watching it in the inner section. We rushed round there and were soon on the White-billed Diver which showed spectacularly well at times; the bill truly was something to behold! How great it has been seeing this run of Arctic birds this winter in Britain. As a tag-on we called in at Broadsands to see the Cirl Buntings on the seed put out for them, a nice finish to my and Ian's first twitch together for too long!

White-billed Diver in Brixham harbour
Black-throated Diver in Brixham harbour

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day Brünnich's

Josh Burch and I rushed down to Portland when news broke late this morning of a BRÜNNICH'S GUILLEMOT in the harbour. It had just gone out of view when we arrived, but the Black Guillemot that has been around for a few days was showing distantly. It wasn't too long, though, before we moved a little further along and the bird bobbed up in front of us, very close. We were treated to excellent, albeit usually fairly brief views, between the bird's frequent dives (during which it typically moved a considerable distance). A fantastic late Christmas present!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A year to remember...

I doubt I will ever have as good a year for twitching as 2013. It has been utterly insane. Mental. Ridiculous. But it's been great fun, here's a video I knocked together featuring all of the rarest birds I've seen this year across the country...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Ringing and Iceland Gull

A ringing session at Leith Hill this morning was enjoyable with the highlight being a female Brambling. I met with Ian Stewart and Peter Alfrey at Beddington in the afternoon where we located the first-calendar-year Iceland Gull on the tip.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Caspian double

I made the most of my first non-twitching and non-working day since coming home from uni for Christmas and caught up on some sleep today, only getting up early in the afternoon. I figured the best use of my time might be a quick look at the gulls at Beddington, with the primary target being the recent first-year Iceland Gull (or any other white-winger). I didn't have any such luck, although the bird was seen by someone else. I was quite content, though, with the two first-winter Caspian Gulls that I picked out on the landfill site. Both rather different individuals, the first being quite large and thickset in the body, with dark wing coverts (as well as a stain on its throat) and the other bird being a little daintier and less dark on the wings. Apologies for the crap record shots, I'm still stuck with the Mighty Midget for the time-being and it's hardly the best for digiscoping...

The chunky one with darker wing coverts
The smaller, paler bird

Monday, 16 December 2013

Ivory Gull

A punt on leaving in the early hours paid off with the IVORY GULL showing for Liam and myself straight away this morning, only the bird was perhaps two miles away! The views were far from satisfying and the gull was barely discernable as an object of any kind even at high magnification when perched, but in flight its identity was discernable. After waiting in vain for it to come a little nearer, we decided to fetch some lunch and come back, in the hope that it grew tempted to come in for the offerings of fish as an evening meal. This paid off, with the bird flying nearer and perching on the rocks at the edge of the saltmarsh, offering great scope views but we really couldn't have asked for much more when it proceeded to fly around the crowd then show for some time as it ate the fish before flying back towards the Humber. A special Arctic visitor indeed...

Initial views...

...until it came in for a feed

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Newhaven again

In what will probably be my last visit to the uni patch until I get back from the Christmas holidays in early January, I spent a few hours either side of my only lecture of the day in the Newhaven area. This time I actually saw a Bearded Tit, adding the species to my patch list, while the day's other addition came in the form of a female Common Scoter that flew east.

Turnstone on the East Pier
Also a the juvenile Spoonbill, five Eiders, a distant probable Red-throated Diver, Chiffchaff, Red-legged Partridge (heard), eight or so Common Snipes, Chiffchaff, Sanderling, two Water Rails (heard), two Little Egrets, Skylark, Turnstone, 22 Teal, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, around 250 Lapwings and 26 Curlews.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Spoonbill and Eiders at Newhaven

In a bid to grow my uni patch list at Newhaven, I spent much of the day in the area and added several new species including Red-throated Diver, Teal and Guillemot. Other highlights included the first-year Spoonbill that was back in the main channel and six Eiders offshore, two of which came very close to the East Pier. Heard but not seen were at least two Bearded Tits and a Water Rail while a freshly ploughed field by the car park attracted around 270 Lapwings and two of the day's six Common Snipes.

The Spoonbill showed well near the bridge over the main channel
The Eiders made short work of some of the numerous shore crabs around the East Pier
Nine Red-throated Divers passed distantly east within a few minutes

Nine Teal
The day's tally:

Common Snipe 6
Lapwing c270
Teal 9
Redshank several
Meadow Pipit
Pied Wagtail
Little Egret
Jackdaw several
Eider 6
Red-throated Diver 9
Rock Pipit
Fulmar 32
Grey Wagtail
Long-tailed Tit 3+
Bearded Tit 1+
Reed Bunting c3
Mallard 3
Green Woodpecker
Water Rail
Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Only a twenty minute drive from my Brighton flat and with potential for most things to turn up, I've decided on the Newhaven area as my university patch. With attractive coastal scrub, rough fields and wetlands there are plenty of birding opportunities and I look forward to spending some time there over the next three years. Today I enjoyed good views of some of the wintering Purple Sandpipers as well as six Eiders which have been in the area for a little while now, but I failed once again to find the Iceland Gull that has been seen on and off.

Purple Sandpipers afford good views on the East Pier

One of six Eiders today

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Little Egrets over the patch, and an afternoon on Sheppey

Today started at the local patch where I fitted in a couple of hours' birding before the trip to Kent that I had promised Josh Burch. This was worthwhile as it resulted in great excitement when I clocked two high Little Egrets making their way over the farm, the third site record and a patch lifer for me!

Little Egrets moving high over the farm this morning

At Elmley NNR, Josh and I enjoyed superb views of a Short-eared Owl, three Barn Owls and a Peregrine behind the toilet block. It was the first time I'd been at the reserve since the management handover and it was interesting seeing the work being done along the entrance track which will hopefully lead to the site becoming even more appealing for birds.

Short-eared Owl quartering the marsh behind the toilets at Elmley