The first Juvenile Yellow-Legged gulls of 2019

The arrival of juvenile Yellow legged gulls in early July is a nice snap out of birdless june for me and something I look forward to immensely.  This year it was old Laurence P who struck gold on July the 1st with a juv down in east Sussex (the first uk record of a juv ylg in 2019) I went to visit him on the first weekend of July, as is out custom for the past few years and we notched up another different bird (below) in the same spot aswell as a flyover along the coast abit.


Since returning to London Ive been far too busy to check the river until this weekend where Thames Barrier park revealed my first London Juvenile YLG of the year in the form of a distant bird on the water edge. Generally there are more other aged birds around during this late summer period and a first summer (below) 2 second summers and an adult were also lined up among the local herrings and Lesser black backs.


I had more free time today and ventured down to Erith where I was greeted by a greedy juvenile Yellow leg almost instantly . It was very excited by the bread and dominated the melee as they often do.




As per there were a couple of other YLGs about aswell as 1 first summer and 1 juvenile (below) Mediterranean Gulls. 


Nice to properly kick off the summer gull season with a showy couple of birds, I will however really be keeping my eyes peeled for the first juvenile Caspian gulls to turn up in the Thames in the next few weeks.

Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 4- …and the rest

The time has come to wrap all this Long point business up.

No more living in the past.

That was then this is now.

A post for the remaining birds, with much missed off as usual but highlights etc. Please excuse the hair-brained jumping between taxa in no particular order but thats how things come and go and maybe this post can reflect that truth.

Swallows were an enigmatic presence with huge movements on some days and very little on others. Almost every local tree hole or garden nest box had a Tree Swallow within and Barn swallow flocks harboured the odd feeding Cliff Swallow particularly towards the end of the trip. Local Purple martins with their gaudy looking man made abodes were great to watch and listen to and both Bank swallow and Northern Roughwing were seen most days in smaller numbers.



Cliff Swallow


Tree Swallow


f Purple Martin

We’d hoped out daily topping up of bird feed at our garden feeder would attract a migrant Redheaded Woodpecker but alas the birds We saw were away from the house. Some on territory in a small patch of older trees aswell as one or two migrants. Our visits to Backus Woods and the Wilson tract were occasionlly soundtracked by the drumming and calls of Hairy and the mighty Pileated Woodpeckers.


Red-headed Woodpecker


Solitary Sandpiper

Our encounters with Wading birds were few and far between with no real number of birds but ones and twos of things like Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs. Kildeers were in every carpark puddle or gravel driveway and a couple of fly over semipalmated plovers. I ticked Hudsonian Godwit on our final morning with a flyover and a flock of 16 Shortbilled Dowitchers flew around a waterbody in the rain a few times before continuing on their journey. Woodcocks were heard every evening and a we visited a local bird on several occasions who would call and display as the light disappeared.


Lesser yellowlegs

Heres a few random Passerines;


Eastern Kingbird


Eastern Bluebird



Ruby-throated Humming birds were a daily occurrence at our feeders.


Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Herons, egrets and bitterns were well represented with American Bitterns supplying a daily soundtrack.


Green Heron


Least bittern


American Bittern

Raptors were a little quiet, lots of Turkey Vultures and a good few Ospreys and Bald Eagles, Broadwinged and Red –tailed Hawks, Sharp Shinned and Coopers hawks aswell as one or two Kestrels and a single Merlin. Northern Harriers were seen every so often.


Northern Harrier

Last but not least the gulls! Not my focus for the trip but a nice bonus. We saw small flocks of Bonapartes Gulls flying around aswell as a close up handful of them at a local pier. Accompanied by Ring Billed Gulls. I probably saw 2 American Herring Gulls per day but never very close.


Bonapartes Gulls


So thats that. an immense trip with so much new information and birds for me. I really loved it and will be visiting again .



Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 3-Vireos, Grosbeaks, Tanagers and Cuckoos


I keep thinking Im almost done with Long Point images and then I remember something like Scarlet Tanager or Philly Vireo, how could I leave them out? Im trying to be brief for my own sake (although I know i’ll look back at these posts fondly) THE VIREOS were excellent birds to watch, with most encounters providing prolonged views of birds sometimes stationary for lengths of time.  The most common were Blueheaded and Warbling Vireos, followed by smaller numbers of Philadelphia  and smaller still (perhaps only 5)  Redeyed and Yellow Throated, Whiteeyed were seen by others but not me.  Again a great range of personality, colour, subtlety and expressions aswell as both bizarre calls and sweet tuneful songs.


Blue-headed Vireo


Warbling Vireo


Yellow throated Vireo


Philadelphia Vireo

alas, no shots of Red-eyed Vireos but they were probably the most exciting to watch. There was very little on the trip that didnt get me going and the OTHER PASSERINES, were no exception. It was very nice to catch up with Rosebreasted Grosbeaks, particularly the females, and I certainly appreciated seeing them in context, made me like them even more, their ‘squeaky shoe’ call was often heard.


Scarlet Tanagers were shocking things to look at, I had a high count of 15 one day and some were very approachable.


We had both Black and Yellow-billed Cuckoos within 20 mins of each other and that was pretty much all we saw of them.



Expect the next post to be everything else in a ‘last but no least’ style.




Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 2 – Thrushes and Sparrows

A post detailing some of the comparatively subtle north American passerines that we encountered at Long point.


Graham talked about the north American avifauna providing these birds to perfectly compliment the bright and gaudy warblers, and he’s right with THE THRUSHES in particular; Their appearance, tentative movements and the dappled light you often see them in go perfectly together, add something like Wood thrush song to the equation makes such a good birding experience. In fact the whole suite of Catharus thrushes are definitely something I focused on and enjoyed, and managed to see 5 species thereof. Swainson’s and Veerys were the most common throughout the 10 days, with Hermits in better numbers towards the beginning and only one Grey-cheeked briefly towards the end.  Wood thrush were consistently present in small numbers throughout our time there.


Swainson’s thrushes






Hermit thrushes



Wood thrushes



Gray-cheeked thrush

THE SPARROWS were something I’d lazily neglected to really study up on before hand but a very enjoyable group of birds with fluxes in numbers throughout the trip but often high numbers of Whitethroated, Chipping and Whitecrowned present. We also Saw Swamp, Field, Lincolns, Song and Savannah fairly regularly around Long point itself and both Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows at a local farm nearby.


White Throated Sparrow


White crowned Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow


Lincolns Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow


Field Sparrow


Song Sparrow


Grasshopper sparrow


Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 1- Warblers

Its almost 2 weeks since I came home from 10 days in birding in Ontario, southern Canada. Staying a stones throw from Long Point Bird observatory as the base of Long Point national park –  a spit of land some 40km long jutting out into lake Erie.  Graham Gordon, Fred Fearn, Laurence Pitcher and myself slowly walked round and round a small area staring at the *worlds best migratory birds in varying numbers and varieties as the eb and flow of their north bound migration was helped and hindered by weather, timing and their need to feed up. Basically the best birding trip I’ve ever done abroad and something I’ll be doing again.  The place we stayed in was owned by local birder Adam Timpf. Its a perfect spot for 4 people to stay and concentrate on the birding around Old cut and in the park. Heres the link to it on Air b&b if you’re interested in staying there yourself


Graham has written a nice run down of the trip, including details of the fall days for Birdguides have a look here.  

I took something like 1500 images and have edited them down to a lot less but heres the first of a few posts – So Warblers first! All together we saw 26 Species of Warbler. Things like Blackpoll warbler were probably missed as a result of the dates rather than regularity but the following were more than enough and many were new to me completely and the main focus of the trip.


Black & White Warbler


 Northern Parula


 Blackburnian Warblers



Cape May Warblers



Yellow warblers



Canada Warblers




Nashville Warbler


Tennesse Warbler


Chesnut-sided Warbler


American Redstart


Palm Warbler


Northern Waterthrush


Black-throated Green Warbler


Magnolia Warblers





Common Yellowthroat


Prothonotary Warbler


Bay-breasted Warblers



Yellow Rumped Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Golden Winged Warbler


Black-throated Blue Warblers


I think I went without getting decent shots of the following: Pine, Orangecrowned, Bluewinged, Wilsons

Next up thrushes…

Easter Weekend ’19


I spent the bank holiday weekend birding my regular sites away from Walthamstow. The 19th and 20th were down at Beachy head with LP.


Blue skies, blazing sun and NE winds didn’t spew birds all over us but a smattering of nice migrants kept us going.


Over the two days we saw: c20 Willow Warblers, c25 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Tree Pipit, 5 Yellow Wagtail, …


…2 White Wagtail, 10 Wheatear, 2 Redstart, 7 Whinchat, 1 Spoonbill east 1 Hobby, a single Red Kite bearing a wing tag, all three hirundines were seen arriving in off the sea, 2 very high presumable migrant Marsh Harriers were picked up over near by West rise on the 19th as well as a first summer Yellow legged gull.



The sunday was spent doing normal boyfriend stuff with Amy but Monday morning Rich Bonser and I set off for Dover at 5.45am and by 7.15 we were birding Langdon hole and the surrounding area.  The Highlights were 4 Ring Ouzels, (three in the field above Langdon hole and the other found later on in the shrubby area above the carpark) This last bird was very showy and a real treat for us both. There were around 15 singing Lesser whitethroats, 10 Common Whitethroats, a single Willow warbler and a few Swallows and sand martins.





Back to London and Erith pier yielded 2 first summer Yellowlegged Gulls and this nice first summer Caspian Gull. Its the first Casp ive seen for a couple of months.




We gave a site up river a go and again 2 yellow legs and a Caspian showed up, all different birds from Erith, with this Caspian giving more of a east German vibe, still pretty nice though.



April up close.

One of the advantages of grass-verged concrete banks lining your local reservoir is you can get fairly close to migrant birds without disturbing them. Crawling on your belly and sticking your bins or camera over the edge is a much used technique on my patch and the results are often both good photographically aswell as carrying the satisfaction of moving away from the bird after without it flushing. Below a White Wagtail from a couple of years ago taken with ‘the old crawly belly’ method, abit random but I like the photo.


Ive used this technique on a few approachable individual migrants in the past couple of weeks too. This Blacktailed Godwit present on the 6th was very approachable and seemed more perturbed by my belly crawling to get close than it did the scores of visitors strolling by, oblivious to its presence on a busy Saturday afternoon.


The same goes for this Littleringed plover, present on the 18th.



Above and below: a handsome drake Gargeney that DB picked up swimming into the middle of number 4 reservoir on the 16th. I fully expected it to give us the run around but our efforts to remain out of sight for the bird were slightly unnecessary and it swam around back and forth infront of us, aware but not alarmed.


Sometimes you don’t need reservoir banks! This almost summer plumage male Brambling, one of 3 birds currently sticking around at the south end of the central path seemed non threatened and stayed put in nice light. Not exactly  the norm for this species as the majority of my records here are vismig fly- overs in late Oct or as the past two springs have played out, part of a small number hanging on after winter and occasionally singing.


Away from Photography and onto the subject of finds, We’re all still waiting for the stand- out bird so far this spring. With a Black Kite find on the patch last year for me after a run of incredible birds for a London Reservoir (all found by others) I have fairly high standards to beat for myself this year.


The above 2cy male Black Redstart popped up on the 13th 100m from where I’d had a male Common Redstart the week before. Its still around apparently in the Riding stable paddocks on Walthamstow Marsh. Id be made up with adding Ring Ouzel or Pied Flycatcher to London birds I’ve had on the patch this spring but heading to the south coast in the next couple of days to try my luck there for hopefully something more exciting!