Annual Peak District spring trip


Once a year I try to get to a couple of sites in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire. Its 25 mins drive from my Dad’s house and I usually make the pilgrimage over the last weekend of April/first weekend of May. Arriving at Padley Gorge about 6.00 am I could hear a Pied Flycatcher singing before even getting out of the car. Ancient Oak woodland isnt quite totally in full leaf at this time of year so birds are easily seen. I think I saw about a dozen males and about 5/6 females, some of the females were carrying nest material about.





I had a Wood Warbler briefly in Song and briefer views which In havent seen there for a few years as well as a Spotted Flycatcher heard singing from the treetops and a Dipper was seen and heard in the gorge itself. 5/6 singing male Common Redstarts…


…and about the same number of Tree Pipits.



The next site is open moorland and gritstone cliffs and boulders – ‘Stanage Edge’ and the surrounding area is a good spot for things like Ring Ousel. (a female flew right over my head as I ate a packed lunch.)



Its also a great place for Cuckoo, Wheatears and Whinchats but the bird i enjoyed up there the most were Red Grouse. A species surrounded by controversy and the reason for the lack of Hen Harriers in this perfect habitat. You just don’t see Red Grouse away from moorland so I made a point of spending time watching these Incredibly plumaged birds.



Its hard to see all of these in one trip so i really happy. Its well worth the trip and only 3.5 hours drive from London. If anyones intrested in the gen contact me directly and i’ll happily share.


A return to winter with the Gulls and recent patch highlights.

Dante, Rich and I had one of our best days at Crayford today. Despite a brief interlude to dip a rare hirundine in north London. The weather was spot on for staring at Larids with icey winds and what felt like freezing temperatures for late April


Above and below are 2 of 3 second calendar year Caspian Gulls present between Viridor and Jolly Framers at Crayford.


There were 2 Iceland Gulls present, this 2cy and the following 3 cy. Both have beem seen elsewhere in London I’m pretty sure.



Next up was a beautiful juv Glaucous Gull, very special birds.


There were one or two 2cy Yellow-Legged Gulls.


Back to normal spring birding now and before too long I wanted to highlight a few species that arn’t always easy to see on the patch from the past week or so. Before the excitement around the Black Kite(s) last week I was planning to write a blog pointing out a couple of valuable moments.  The Ring Ousel that was present for a few days was a real highlight for me.



A small flock of 8 or so Brambling featured in morning walks, feeding on insects and towards the end of their stay included one or two singing males.


Yellow Wagails are much more common but rarely let you get close and I’ve had a handful of them on the deck. This bird was present with two White Wagtails during a rainy morning on the 27th.


Graham H found this Black Redstart on the paddocks. I took the silvery fringes to the innermost tertial to be an indicator that this was a 2cy male, although I see no moult contrast in the wing so im not sure really that its not an adult female… maybe the real question is – Who cares?


.. I do abit so let me know if you can age and sex it.

Black Kite Walthamstow Reservoirs!

Amazingly (after finding last weekend’s bird with LP on Beachy Head) I had a Black Kite! Fly west over Walthamstow Reservoirs on the morning of the 24th April.   The ‘In Profile’ and active flight views of a Kite sp left a nagging feeling as to ID, and the shorter looking tail appeared to lack any Reddish tones. As the bird disappeared west, I was left concluding the ID from Photos, which showed; 6 long primaries  (rather than 5 shown by Red Kite) the slight fork to the tail, the broad secondaries (longer than tail length and most obvious in third and fourth shots below), darker more diffuse primary window and mask can all just about be seen in this morning’s shots. I put the news out “Black Kite heading West…” this was followed by another 4 records of (surely the same) black Kite over a few sites in London. 





Its the first record for the site and nicely won back after a bird I had over my old house in Hackney 2014 that went unrecorded due to lack of photos. 




Black Kite, Beachy Head 21/04/18

A short trip down to stay with Laurence P was headlined by a Black Kite that flew East along the headland. LP picked it up initially and sounded it out as looking like a Black Kite. Our first views were probably the closest but involved me running like mad to get some diagnostic shots of the disappearing bird then some (legal) formula one style driving in an attempt to intercept the bird further down the coast. We parked up at Beachy head pub at the apex of the headland and sure enough the bird gave us more distant but in my opinion better views – Circling as well as some direct flight.


Nice bird and a really fun 30 mins or so. We also had a female Ring Ousel but very few other migrants. I drove home that evening and missed out on an excellent following day which can be read about here



Hong Kong 2018

Another 10 day trip away with work and with a full day and a few afternoons off I managed to see abit more outside the city compared to last years trip.  The birding is brilliant out there, with such variation and abundance of birds. I tend to seek out birds with more of a relevance to western palearctic birding but also enjoyed alot of the resident and migatory sub tropical type stuff but apologise for the lack of shots thereof.


My time birding was separated into three habitat types really. These were:  The open grasslands and fish ponds surrounding the Mai Po nature reserve,(above)  The Estrine tidal mudflats viewed from the hides within Mai Po nature reserve (Below)…


 …and the densely wooded hillsides of Hong Kong Island itself (below) This was the hardest and least rewarding habitat, with with many things heard only or seen badly was abit of a pain. Not exactly coastal stunted sycamore, October elm on scillies or bare ancient oaks in early spring for seeing birds well.  Still, an incredible environment.


One thing that even the non birding visitors notice daily is the presence of Black-Eared Kites all over the city and surrounding landscape.








Other Birds of prey included: Japanese Sparrow Hawk, Osprey (below), Bonelli’s Eagle and Oriental Honey Buzzard, this last species are apparently uncommon migrants in the area.


Mai Po is ridiculous for waders. The following is a list of what i saw during the trip accompanied by some photos of birds that came within camera range. Its a list with some very exciting birds on it but these are all relatively easy to see over here of course: Rednecked and Temminck’s Stints, Common, Green, Marsh, Wood, Broad-billed, Curlew, Terek and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Black Winged Stilts, Little-ringed, Grey, Greater Sand and Pacific Golden Plovers, Great Knot, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Green and Nordmanns Green Shanks, Both Godwits, Avocets, Whimbrel, Eurasian and Far Eastern Curlew, Painted and common Snipe and Oriental Pratincoles.


Red-Necked Phalerope


Little-ringed Plover and Temminck’s Stint


Temminck’s Stint


Black-Winged Stilt


Painted Snipe


Greater Sand Plover


Marsh Sandpiper


Wood Sandpiper


Oriental Pratincole


Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper (a new bird for me!)

Next up are the birds I came across whilst wandering around the fish ponds and down the gravel tracks along side them. This is my preffered kind of birding. walking around seeing whats about; the pipts, wagtails, shrikes, buntings and stonechats were the most fun for me, and theres a kind of self gratification in identifying these birds from glimpses or on call alone that feels good and moving about in a cool unknown landscape too gets me going.


‘Sinensis’ Richard Pipits (above and below) these mostly rather short/weaked billed and short tailed, so much so that I had one down for a Blythes for a while. Despite the upright stance, tibia legnth and behavoir which was very much Dick’s like.



Below are a couple of Olive-backed Pipit shots. This time of year in Hong Kong all the individuals I saw were going through some moult. They all characteristically flushed into trees and over headwires and made both a tree pipit type call aswell as a high pitched alarm call.




Shame they weren’t abit brighter as their one of my favourite pipits in full effect. The Below Red-throated pipits were mostly smart.



‘Stejnerger’s’ Siberian Stonechats (Below) Common, flighty and all silent in my experience this and last year.





One of the most commonly heard calls around the ponds was that of Eastern Yellow Wagtail, with m.t.taivana (below) the most abundant and also two m.t.macronyx (following image) seen. The calls are really quite different to Flava birds, harsher and more pipit like than Citrine even, although when hearing Citrine in Abu Dhabi fairly frequently last Novemeber I commented on the similarity to Eastern Yellow Wagtail (having heard birds here previously and a bird on st mary’s in 2016). Here are some notes from the field on the call, ignore any nonsense its just a quick note! –

” Short little yikes! rasp… grainy and urgent tree pipit/western yellow wag combo.”




The most common Alba Wagtails are m.a leucopsis (above) with m.a ocularis (below) coming through on passage.




Long tailed shrikes were abundant and characterful. ‘Dusky Shrikes’, The variable melanistic dark morph (below) were pretty impressive too with a couple of individuals seen.


Birds in the reed beds were mainly Plain Prinia and Yellow Bellied Prinias but i did see many ‘personata’ Black-faced Buntings that all gave ticking type calls -something i didnt hear last year. A few Zitting Cisticolas were seen and brief but still incredibly exciting views of a male Siberian Ruby throat




Views were better than the photo describes. The same goes for the many many Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers that I heard at regular intervals through each of my days birding. For some reason I just couldnt take a picture of hardly any of them! heres my best dusky shot and all my YBW shots were from directly underneath so got binned. I was hoping to see some other Phylloscs but other than hearing something very like Arctic once or twice and a very brief view of what i think was most likely two barred greenish, I saw none.


Mai Po is famous for the variety and numbers of Herons and Egrets I was glad to see the Yellow Bittern, the eastern palearctic version of little bittern a couple of times and one or two Purple Herons flying about as well as all the Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets and Chinese pond herons.




Black-faced spoon bills (below) are a globally threatened speices but occur at Mai Po in decent numbers.


Another bird with low numbers globally is the Saunder’s Gull. Most of the adults had gone north but this and a dozen or so other 2cy birds were feeding around the mudflats at Mai Po. Sadly for me the only gull that came close enough for photography and a very distant flock of large gulls was basically not even worth looking at 😦



The Saunders Gull sat amoung avocets whilst the water was higher along with Caspian and Gull-billed Terns (below)


Here’s a handful of commoner east asian birds from the trip.  


Asian Koel (fem)


White-breasted Water hen


Pied Kingfisher


Spotted Dove


Azure winged Magpie (introduced here i think)


Collared crow. One of the best corvids out there.

Thanks to Matt Kwan for his help and to the Mai Po staff.










Kumliens Gull and more.


Another weirdly brilliant Sunday for London birds. Richard B , Dante S and I had decided to tackle Creekmouth first thing, I should mention that the previous day i’d had a Hawfinch fly NE and Calling, over the main path near the entrance/exit. (I’m starting to really like the place).  I picked Dante up from a deserted ASDA carpark at 07.30, there were a few large gulls milling about and maybe one or two blackheaded, on our way out Dante says “isnt that a 1w Med Gull?!” Bizarre place for one but very welcome.


Med Gulls are seriously scarce round here and everyone loves a first winter.  We then meet rich at Creekmouth and before long are watching a juv Iceland Gull on the river Roding where it meets the Thames, I firstly took this to be the bird i’d had a couple of weekends before. It showed well and even came to bread.




this presumption was however wrong and the bird i’d seen previously was picked up by Rich on the shingle bar near the outfall.


Turn over was pretty good and we had a great mix of Gulls with 2 2nd winter and a 3rd winter  Caspian Gulls, at least 4 Yellow-Legged Gulls of differing ages (1w below)…


An adult Med as well as an intresting lookig Hybrid bird, Probably Glaucous x Great BlackBacked monster.



Poor shot of one of the 2nd winter Caspians above, nice bird though with large p10 mirrors.  The distance of some of the gulls had been abit more than we lucky lot are used to so we crossed the thames and spent some time at Crayford. We strangley arrived at the same time as Andy Lawson and then Mick Southcott and half an hour later Rich pulls out this amazing adult Kumliens Gull!!!


It took a change of light and some fresh eyes (MS had gone and come back) to spot the faint grey in the primaries, which was really not apparent at first to any of us. What a bird and the only adult White winged gull ive seen this side of Cornwall or west Ireland!



Some grey tones in the primaries seen in the closed wing just about visible and below is the open wing shot, (stolen from Dante) unbelievable really!




Dungeness 10/03/18





LP and I spent the morning by the fishing boats and scrabbled together a small group of gulls from none at all – The wonders of brown bread. First bird of interest was this 3rd winter Yellow-Legged Gull, they look fantastic when the bare parts get their adult summer brightness.


There has been 2 regular juv Glaucous Gulls about. We had distantly seen one sat amoung Great-Black Backed Gulls by the puddles but it had flushed before we got close. 25 mins later and it (or another) was in front of us on the beach.






I caught a whiff of Caspian gull in a distasnt 2nd winter bird so left LP and got closer to investigate, my suspisions were correct and the below bird stood on the beach for a moment before it flew onto the sea but was gone before too long and couldn’t be temtped back to the bread bath. Sorry you missed it Laurence …


We had a quick look on the reserve for a Sand martin of Little Ringed Plover during a rain shower – no luck but we did see one of the Glaucous Gulls in the roost by the track. Back to the fishing boats and we were joined by Mick S, Richard S, Richard B and Andy L.  Almost instantly there was an adult Caspian Gull in front of us! It flew around a few times showing very bright almost yellowish legs, that white leading edge to the wing where it spills over onto the upper wing is delightful. I really enjoyed it.



I knicked the below pic from LP’s twitter, lovely intricate pattern in the outer primaries and those tounges were mainly hidden in active flight.


I’d seen a very small dark Lesser Black backed gull, long winged with an interesting head shape and expression, this was the closest i got to it but it looks like or similar to a bird Martin C had a week or so before.  Its reminiscent of Baltic Gull…more likely Intermedius but not much one can do without a ring.


A different, darker Glaucous Gull was hanging around offshore and a near adult Med Gull was flying around too. The lighter Glauc is pictured below, it was so nice to see flying around at close range and also at distance, very short winged and barrell chested.


I’ll be out before work for the rest of the week so my next post will hopefully mention a Wheatear….


Now that there is just about ample light in the mornings and since the 1st of March the gates have been opening from 7am (to strictly permit holders ONLY i should add)  I endeavoured my first pre-work walk around the patch of the year.  I met David Bradshaw and we walked round the lockwood. The Knot was still there, as was a Redshank, 6 Lapwings, 3 Jackdaws and 2 Meadow Pipits all flew north and a Stonechat was in an unusual spot, surely some movement.



I had just enough time to have a look for the Little Bunting and check the low levels of the East Warwick and in doing so passed the large Linnet flock, a quick scan and I briefly had the partially obscured flanks, primaries and rump of what was surely the Serin! (found more than 3 weeks earlier and not seen since, forgive me i don’t know the name of the finder).  2 minutes later and it was perched out showing the face pattern, bill and overall vibes for David and I to see in one of the bare willows. It stayed distant but David saw it again after i left followed but no sign all day after that.  Perhaps its an early morning thing but I will have another look tomorrow. Another new bird for the site, madness…



The London Wiki page says that the Little Bunting was seen again, as was the Scaup. Whats going on, all these birds on my patch, a patch which i’ve cursed (lots) and Loved (a few times) over the years. Bloody place

Feb 24/25

My weekends continue to deliver a mix of nice London finds and excellent birds twitched. Another excellent weekend with a mix of a couple of local surprises and a successful twitch in nice surroundings.  A fruitless check of Crayford (despite high numbers of gulls) was followed by a walk up and down Creekmouth. The below Juv Iceland Gull flew down the Roding and out onto the exposed mud at low tide.




I’m not sure if ts the bird from Crayford and I’d like tho think with this current situation in the country that there are more than one or two Icelands in the area.   The all too familiar large gull ‘raptor’ call alerted me to this 2cy Marsh Harrier . Missing a primary or two but seemed to be doing ok, Both birds were new for that area for me!


After a 5am rise on the Sunday, Rich B, a ridiculously dressed Dante and I headed down to see the adult Ross’ Gull on the south coast. A bird i’ve always wanted to see and after an unlucky miss of the bird on the mud at Ferrybridge we got good views of it at Radipole Lake. I think this species is the perfect small gull, all the features get me going, my pics don’t quite do it justice. A new gull species for me. Nice to catch up with a few people and meet some new! Condolences to old Filby who had his massive Swarro scope robbed, Urban birding…





After this we headed for the long staying Stilt Sandpiper currently at Stanpit (thanks Chris Ball for gen) and enjoyed scope views of it feeding across the inlet, flying about abit too, another new species and a wader i’ve wanted to see for some time. The below adult Mediterranean Gull was nice to take in too.


After that we were in the hide at Blashford Lakes for the gull roost where we saw the Ring Billed Gull, a nice 2nd w Caspian that rich pulled out and the bird that many are calling a Thayer’s Gull. With NO field experince of Thayers anywhere I’m not the person to make the call on it but it doesnt sit well with what I do know about the species and does resemble Herring Gulls that ive seen in the past. Not to disrespect the finder and thats all i can say really. No pics from this part of the day and to be honest i struggled with this way of viewing gulls as its miles (litterally) from how I like to study Gulls. Big thanks to Richard Bonser for driving and being sound whe it came to my Mcdonalds ordeal…