Scillies 2019

Looking back at this years Scillies, it was really good. If I list the headline birds it probably goes down as the best out of the past 5 autumns Ive been staying on st Agnes. Although there were several days with little change and very few migrants and the majority of the action happened on almost every other Island plus the word on the lips of every birder we bumped into “Agnes is quiet…”

Headline birds: Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Blue Rock thrush, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Red-eyed Vireo, Spotted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Blue Winged Teal,  throw in the birds we didnt see; Black and White Warbler and Buff-Bellied pipit on st Martins and a brief Swainsons thrush on Marys and thats a pretty good few weeks.

I arrived on the 5th of October, winds had been exclusively from the West although I was able to check in on a Red-breasted Flycatcher in the fruit cage on my first day on the island aswell as bumping into a Yellow-browed warbler and the usual Firecrests, Spot flys etc around and about but very little else.

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The following day was a similar story with no real new arrivals until a striking juvenile Honey Buzzard flew in from the West over Porth Killier flushing the waders and alerting Laurence, Lee and I to its presence.

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A Scilly tick for me and the bird was tracked over st Agnes and st Marys but not seen the following morning.

I had it in my head that I would be birding differently this year, I really wanted to find a Catharus Thrush and so spent more time sticking my head in bushes, behind sheds, checking the edges of fields throughly as well as sitting under the quiet pines and inside pittosporum hedgerows now and then. Imagine if it had paid off, sitting there whilst an Veery hopped out in front of me or imagine an Ovenbird walking into view … Graham found an Arctic warbler in our garden whilst having a smoke (and at first without bins!) Lee, Laurence and him saw it well but it wasnt seen again after.  More quiet days would follow with little of note, although the below Wryneck was sheltering under the next boulder over from me during a heavy rain shower on Wingletang one afternoon which was a nice moment.

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A real bit of excitement on st Agnes was in the form of a call from Neil Wright informing us that his brother Paul had found a Blue-winged teal on the pool, we all went and had a look , A UK tick for LP and I, and I learnt abit about splitting them from cinnamon teal…

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This Pink footed Goose was hanging around for my entire stay, seen some days to be feeding and other days flying around. It was nice to peek over the drystone wall and have a close look, its not often I get close to Geese!

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Our accommodation was abit split up with 7 nights on our beloved Roseveer cottage and our final 5 nights in the lighthouse garden gatehouse but the middle 2 nights were unknown. Graham, Laurence and I decided to upsticks and spend the 2 nights on st MArys where all the actiaon was happening. We caught up with the incredible Yellow Billed Cuckoo which showed down to 2 metres although partially obscured by sallows and almost impossible to get on at first. The Red-eyed Vireo (found by ex hackney birder Jonathon Nasir) was a treat, I really like Vireos and this bird showed well on a couple of occasions including coming into Grahams incredible pishing and calling back on occasion.

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We stopped in on the fearless Spotted Crake that was arsing around lower moors a few times, each one was worth it.

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later that day and Will Scott found a juv White-rumped sandpiper and If you can believe it, thats a world tick for me… So we made out way all the way to Bants carn where the bird was feeding and preening on a rotting pile of seaweed.

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The next morning we all managed views of the Blue Rock thrush, found by scilly local and extremely nice guy Ren Hathway. Later a mooch around between the airfield and porth Hellick area held one or two Lapland Buntings, some common dolphins from the turning circle and what was certainly the Richard’s Pipit Rob Stonehouse had seen on the airfeild the previous day flushing from one of the fields above porth Hellick.

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Whislt this had been going on the mega alert went of as news broke of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak on st Martins.. I knew it had to be the year of the next one since mine in 2017 and this was a 1cy male so we decided to carry on the twitching malarky and got the early boat over the next morning. An hour of standing around with the crowd waiting for the bird to show had Laurence and I considering packing birding in all together but as we walked away I picked up the bird in flight heading to the cricket pitch. 2 mins later and weve got it all to ourselves a couple hundred metres from everyone else, we put out the news and we made our way back to marys to return to st Agnes that afternoon.

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Back on st Agnes with 4 days to make the most of the rest of the holiday but not an awful lot happening, Paul Rhodes had found a hard to see Subalpine Warbler near the hump which we eventually saw, it like many birds of the week had been seen badly more often than well although did call for a while recalling western subalp type tacking and I think Lee has a shot of the spread tail which showed very little white to t5, which i guess in combo with call suggests western.

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One or two Snow buntings were seen and heard flying around wingletang and porthcoose.

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Our final morning and some adrenaline; the weather looked very windy and wet and we had prepared to be seawatching from some where. Graham had suggested checking the waters between islands and getting some shelter too.  Whilst walking around browtarth Graham Laurence and I flushed a small Actitis wader. Given the date, its short tailed appearance and inconclusive flight views of the wing bar, we knew we had to pursue the bird until we were confident of its identity.

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The bird was flighty and would flush around corners, was keeping low and didnt give its self away initially. We stealthily pursured it over around 1km of coastline back and fourth however despite the rain, wind and terrain the distant views and photos I had taken were beggining to show the features; very short back end, be-spectacled appearance on a strongly patterned face, fringe barring confined to the wing coverts, plain tertials, smooth breast side ‘streaking’ and legs that against the darker seaweed looked a warm yellow, in flight the wing bar fell short of meeting the body of the bird – disappearing under the greater coverts: A 1cy Spotted Sandpiper. We put the news out on Twitter aswell as the islands whatsapp group. The bird ending up showing very very well and was enjoyed by most of the island.

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later in the day rumours of the bird having been seen the day previous were emerging and it seems that someone had seen the bird but for whatever reason had not been able to clinch the id.  It had probably arrived on the weather system of weds night thurs am.

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I usually have a causal glance through the Gulls on st Agnes and occasionally pick out a Yellow Legged Gull this year I had one or two adult birds (below) and LP picked out a second winter.

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Were booked again for next year of course although I should really try and get to Shetland too over the autumn…

 

Short Toed Treecreeper!

On Saturday the 21st of Septemeber I found a Short Toed Treecreeper at White cliffs NT/ Langdone hole in Dover after some stong overnight Easterlies. An account of the finding is up on the Birdguides website but heres a couple of pics for now as I work on the full and detailed description submission for the BBRC. If accepted it will be the 29th or 30th record for Britain so you can understand why Im v happy with the find! More soon …

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Shanghai, September ’19

My second work trip to Shanghai this year. The first, back in March was excellent birding – basically a wintering, therefore almost captive bunch of target species for me to look at. This time its early September and the focus was on migrant passerines in urban Century park.

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Eastern Crowned Warbler

Upon arrival the city was shrouded in low cloud and bouts of prolonged heavy rain made it pretty much unbirdable. Having said that I was keen as mustard so braved the rain and got out to century park. Numbers of warblers were probably the highest at this point of the week and after 20 mins looking I stumbled across a spot with seemingly native trees and warblers;  Yellow Browed, Pallas’, Arctic, Eastern Crowned and later a couple of Pale legged/Sakahlin leaf warblers. The following mornings were spent birding before work from 6.30 -09.30 every day.  Numbers of migrants went up and down but generally a downward progression through the week as the wet weather gave way to occasional dry periods over night . Wednesday was a brilliant morning for migrant flycatchers, the crown of many large trees held perhaps one or two flycatchers, namely Grey streaked, yellow rumped and Asian brown

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Asian Brown and Yellow Rumped Flycatchers

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Phylloscopus warblers were really my focus. I was perhaps falsely under the impression that the commonest warbler would be Yellow Browed, however this wast the case during my stay, I saw one or two at the beginning of the week along with a single Pallas‘ but infact the most commonly seen birds were Arctic Warblers.

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Arctic Warbler

Often vocal and mostly in the higher foliage I saw and heard many. Aware of other ‘Arctic Types’ being a possibility I was cautious to hear birds call before ID’ing them which most did to be honest. Kamchatka leaf warblers is the most likely other Arctic type and of this sp Im sure I had at least one individual. Based on call which was heard on my final day out in Binjang forest park – a bird high in the canopy appearing as an artic warbler in all respects (perhaps a longer more pointed bill) giving a loud almost disyllabic call, like two Arctic Warbler calls in very quick succession, something like ‘d-dzit’ 

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Arctic Type

I’d been salivating over the idea of seeing Eastern crowned warbler and luckily they were fairly common and certainly the most enjoyable bird to watch, slightly sluggish movements punctuated by the occasional flycatch that seemed to crash through patches of foliage quite unlike smaller phylloscs. It struck me that they were perhaps the phyllosc version of a Red eyed Vireo and wasn’t too surprised to read someone else’s agreement with that in a Bird guides finders report for a bird in Cleveland in 2014.

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Eastern crowned warblers

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one of the more stand out features is the concolourous lower mandible, quite bizarre if you catch it at the right angle.

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I saw perhaps 7 or 8 Pale legged/ Sakhalin Leaf Warblers during the trip, I found them to be quite grubby little birds, dark about the face and crown, pale pink bill base and cutting edge, some quite short billed, pale pink legs were obvious and often feeding low down in the dark foliage .

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Birds were dipping their tails as if writing a letter U it seemed. The call sounded closest to PLLW to me but its probably abit beyond human hearing to separate the two. 

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Pale legged/Sakahlin leaf Warblers

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Other migrants were things like Brown Shrikes, many Eastern Yellow Wagtails, both Red-rumped and Barn Swallows. Also a special moment when a female Siberian Thrush flew across an open area in front of me at Binjang Forest park, with the light on the other side of the bird to me its underwing pattarn was lit up, I got onto it for 3/4 seconds but that was enough to make it the highlight of the day. 

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Brown Shrike

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Eastern Yellow Wagtail – Motacilla tschutschensis

A decent find in the form of a Himalayan Swiflet over Binjang Forest park in the mouth of the Yangtze River, a perhaps annually recorded sp for Shanghai.

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Himalayan Swiftlet

2 completley Urban Richard’s Pipits were seen on the deck early one morning in Century park.

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Richard’s Pipit

Hoopoe is a common bird throughout the year in Century park as far as I can tell.

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Hoopoe

So thats early Autumn in Shanghai for me, I probably could have been luckier with the weather and number of migrants but it was pretty good. My next trip will probably be February next year and I must try and get to the coast!

Again thanks to www.shanghaibirding.com , a really excellent resource for birding the area.

 

 

 

 

Pied fly Springfield park

I have been including a small section of Springfield park into my occasional morning walks over the marsh. Ive known that it gets birds but as its off the patch technically ive always over looked it, foolishly it seems now as after 4 visits i bumped into this Pied flycatcher, high in the large oak near the bandstand on the morning of the 30th

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Its taken me over ten years to find a Pied fly locally, thats madness. at least one spot fly was also present too.

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August Bank Holiday Weekend

For the past few years I have made sure Im free for the bank holiday in August, mainly to see common migrants in decent numbers with fingers crossed for something scarcer down at Beachy Head.

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The bird of the trip was an Ortolan Bunting, found early on by Kris Gillam. We just about got onto it before it flew off east calling.

My personal Highlight however were 4 Honey Buzzards (three together on in the early part of the weekend and then another lone Male bird the following day) that Laurence and I picked up between us over the headland.

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we’ve seen HBs before on these dates at Beachy Head but to get 4 in 24 hrs was great. An Osprey headed east along the coast on the Saturday about midday and a Hobby was seen once or twice probably attracted by the 1000s of Swallows that lingered around the headland and seemed to thin out towards sunday.

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Common migrants were present in good numbers rough totals are as follows for the two days: 23 Wheatear, 15 Whinchat, 15 Redstart, 10 Pied Flycatcher, 6 Spotted Flycatcher, 10 Robin, c50 Willow Warbler, c65 Whitethroat, 10 Lesser Whitethroat, 25 Blackcap, 2 Grasshopper Warbler,  c70+ Yellow Wagtail, 35 Tree Pipit,

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We spent saturday evening’s sunset on the headland hoping to glance a Nightjar in the gloam. LP picked one up from the car whilst driving home and we saw it a couple of times hunting around the lights of the pub.

Early Sunday morning and we heard of new of a Tawny pipit over west just a mile or two down the coast, abit of a blow as we were totally primed to find one, next time.

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Sometimes looking at the size of the place I’m amazed that anything is found at all, there is so much cover and potential, I wish I could be there more.

Walthamstow 3rd – 16th August

From about the 3rd onwards Ive been doing the odd morning at Walthamstow before work. Its been quiet with very little in the way of waders beyond a handful of Common Sandpipers. Passerines fairly quiet too with again handfuls of Willow warblers (below), one or two Garden warblers but otherwise good numbers of Reed, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff seen daily. Numbers (in the 100s) of Martins are using the site daily and still between 30-60 swifts

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The Bomb crater field on the Marsh is well known for its propensity to attract Chats, particularly Whinchats (and Wheatear ) in August and later in the year Stone Chats. There are currently 2 Whinchat on in the field and Im sure this number will rise before the end of the month, They are really a highlight for me locally.

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Im still waiting to see: Wheatear, Spotted flycatchers, yellow wagtails etc  this autumn, these can all be expected in my brief ‘mind clearing’ walks before work often accompanied by Walthamstow’s most vigorous and intrepid local David Bradshaw. He and I bumped into the 2 Garganey that were found the evening before on the Lockwood by RE on the 14th.

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Strong SW winds are waylaying plans i had made to be looking for passerines on the south coast this weekend so it will be the London Gulls i’d imagine.

Juvenile Caspian Gulls from Erith.

This blog has been a little quiet of late. Fear not however! with last weeks arrival of a handful of juvenile Caspian Gulls (found by Rich Dante and Josh down Erith pier) I have snapped out of my june/july lack of inspiration and caught up with a couple of them over the weekend.

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Above and below, a nice pale bird that was present on saturday to an audience of Rich, Richard, Josh and I. A striking bird that I really hope sticks around to see what it looks like in a month or so.

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This next bird showed well for Rich and I on Sunday, a small, dark a delicate bird with a nice deep tail band.

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Besides the Casp today there was a particular theme to some of the YLGs: White headed and pale underwinged, slightly gingery.  

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Now that its almost mid August I will be posting with more regularity. expect trips from the south coast for the next few weeks untill I go back to Shanghai for the first 9 days of September!