Hong Kong 17-27th March

10 Days in Hong Kong with work and my first bit of research was of course where to see gulls up close. The answer – No where. HK being maybe on of the only cities in the world without a single gull using the harbours to hang out or rubbish dumps to feed. This being said I still saw Pallas’, Saunders, a single 2cy Brown headed, an adult Slaty -backed, ‘ Taimyrensis’ Heuglins, what appeared, on primary moult to be a adult Vega and what the locals called Caspian which were Cachinnans Mongolicus.  Albeit abit too distant to get totally to gripswith the younger birds with exception to the Pallas’ of which I saw a two 2cys I wasn’t really able learn that much from the other non adult birds. But with all the other delights around in abundance the disappointment soon washed.

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Oriental Magpie Robin

The photos here are mainly common things or birds that came close enough to make an interesting subject really,  there was a lot to take in as most things were new birds and I made the most of them through bins.

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Spotted Dove

I did much birding in the city itself around parks and wooded areas such as ‘The Peak’, a lot of new asian birds to be seen including the Bulbuls, Starlings, laughing thrushes etc. I became a particular fan of the Oriental Magpie Robin and spotted dove which were common throughout the city and of course the constant calls of Yellow Browed Warblers just about stopped making me jump about a week in. This last species were literally everywhere even on a packed street in a single bare tree!

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Red Whiskered Bulbul

The highlight of the trip was visiting Mai Po Marshes in the Northern Territories on my final day.  Weeks before I had come across Local Birder John Holmes’ blog , I contacted him and we arranged to meet and I am truly grateful for his local knowledge, patience and generosity and thanks to him the day at Mai Po was probably one of my best days birding ever.

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Caspian Tern

Here’s a rough list of birds with a focus on a relevance to birding in the western pal but there were lots of other amazing birds omitted. I’m not really a fan of lists like this on trip report type write ups so I’l punctuate it with Photos to keep you awake!

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Pied Kingfisher

Black-faced spoonbill, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets, purple, Grey and Chinese Pond Herons. The vagrant Siberian Crane (cool),  Both Sand Plovers, LRP, Grey headed, Kentish and pacific Golden plovers, Marsh, Wood, Common, Broadbilled, Curlew and Terek Sandpipers…

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Far Eastern Curlew

…Both Redshanks, greenshank and Nordmans Greenshank, Temmink’s and Red-necked Stints, Eurasian and far Eastern Curlews, Oriental Pratincoles…

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Intermediate Egret

…Gull billed and Caspian Terns,  Pied, Common and White-Throated Kingfishers, Black Kites, Osprey, Bonelli’s Eagle and Eastern Marsh Harriers. Red-Rumped and Barn Swallows, House Swifts…

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Chinese Pond Heron

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Black Faced Bunting (personata)

… Yellow Browed, Pallas’ and Dusky Warblers, Durian Redstarts, Asian Brown Flycather, Long Tailed Shrikes, Stejneger’s stonechat, Black Faced Bunting,  Eastern Yellow Wagtails, Richards and Olive-Backed Pipits…

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Eastern Marsh Harrier

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Female Durian Redstart

… and loads more, Basically a amazing day trip and the best day at work I’ve ever had!

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Marsh Sandpiper

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Richards Pipit

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Plain Prinia

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Red-billed leiothrix/Pekin Robin

Thats about it. Hope to go back same time next year, and many thanks again To John Holmes.

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Black Eared Kite

 

 

 

 

 

Tristis Chiff Chaff and Gulls from both patches

I found a Siberian ChiffChaff at Walthamstow Reses on the 27th of last month whilst out with the other local lads. It wasn’t until a few days later that I heard it call,( which it did so 5 or 6 times), each time a highpitched “eeeiiip!’ and strangely only during brief rain showers. Ive seen it again most mornings and noticed its also undergoing body moult, a real good signifier for Tristis at this time of year. More (and better) pics to follow hopefully. But the below pic shows the white underparts, buff (not yellow) super, rusty toned ear coverts. The yellow and green tones were exclusively in the wing and tail and a little around the alula. Other people have seen and heard it and Pete Lambert has actually heard the bird singing as Siberian Chiff, Something i’d describe as a fast jingling of chiff type notes mixed with many alternating higher and lower syllabels. this is the second Siberian Chiffchaff Ive found that has ended up staying around long enough to get some song in before leaving as the waterworks bird did the same in 2016. Paul and I also had a first winter Caspian Gull on the Coppermill filterbeds that day.

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With the arrival of March and early opening times at Walthamstow Ive been walking around the Lockwood before work hoping to see an early Wheatear or Sand martin but also there are good numbers of Gulls loafing on the NW bank. The below 2nd winter Caspian Gull bombed past me, looked good in brief fly by but it wasn’t till I got home and processed the images that I noticed the small mirror on p10 confirming the ID.

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Other birds of note this week have been a Rook calling and circling the Lockwood before drifting NW and a Skylark over N this morning too. There are Green Sandpipers around in the Channel, a few Goldeneyes displaying, 3/4 singing Cetti’s Warblers and a flock meadow c15 pipts loitering on the Lockwood banks. Long tailed tits seem to be concentrating on nest building but this one posed nicely for me

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Possibly my final weekend of Thames gulling as I’m away on the weekends now till April. Irish birder Niall Keogh was visiting London and keen for some Caspian and Yellow legged gulls so joined a mob of gullers; myself, Rich Bonser, Dante, Dave Johnson and Martin Hallam. Yellow Legs were the highlight of the day for me.

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This giant 1st winter Casp hung around the bread at the Thames barrier, Lovely legs and wings but feather wear let it down abit, but its march and to be expected.

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Another German Ringed Caspian Gull – X309, Dungeness

 

Rich and I gave the Thames a go first thing and had pretty much Zilch so burnt rubber to Dunge and found this ringed first winter Caspian Gull.

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It was ringed last June at Grabendorfer See , Germany near the Polish Border, the same day and same colony as two other Casps I have seen this winter at Thames Barrier Park.(x307) and (x090) . We were joined by Mick Southcott who confirmed it was a new bird.

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The Same 2nd Winter Yellow Leg that Laurence ad I saw last Saturday was lurking about. (also pictured with the casp above)

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This Adult Kittiwake also came in to check out Mick’s fish bucket.

 

Another Dunge and East Sussex Weekend

A weekend Trip down to see friend Laurence P began with a full day at Dungeness. Things were fairly slow to begin with but we did see the 2 Juv Iceland Gulls and a couple of first winter Caspian gulls by the patch. The tide was out and there were very few gulls by the puddles and fishing boats so we took in a/the Long eared Owl and Ring necked duck (for the 2nd or 3rd time recently) on the reserve.  This and a hearty veggie breakfast at the cafe killed some time before returning to look at the Gulls. The below 2nd winter Yellow-Legged Gull was nice, I like them this late in the season, beginning to brighten up in the bill and iris also.

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I basically wasted pretty much all the bread trying to keep a group of gulls close with nothing of interest, however as the last fishing boat came in (followed by loads of gulls and thick fog!) This absolutely bonkers 1st winter Caspian flew infront of us.

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Originally seen 5 days before by Paul Watts and ringed in Poland last may.

As the fog thickened this dark 1st winter Casp also flew about abit but never posed in the same fashion.

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A nice adult Kittiwake flew by close in

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This dark eyed ad Yellow Legged Gull was present too but flew off before any closer inspection.

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The Next day was spent birding a few sites closer to Eastbourne. Prince’s park held a Black head ringed in Denmark that we’d seen there back in July whilst photographing some of the first Juv Yellow legs in the country and a NTGG 1st winter herring. Holywell held zero gulls, but this rock pipit posed with 90’s blurring Gerhard Richter painting as backdrop!

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Then on to Cuckmere Haven. Which holds one or two large and often distant gull day roosts, great scope views and a nice way to see many birds from one spot, we had 4 Med gulls of all all 3 ages, 5 First winter and a one third winter Caspian gulls.  Photos were pretty shocking from this distance here’s 4 of the 6. The third winter was the bird of the trip for me

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4 of 5 Local Caspian Gulls

 

I arrived at Lyle Park in the rain. Rich and Dante had already seen all four of the most regular 1st winter Caspian Gulls, one of which I missed, and recent cold weather seems to have made them more attracted to the bread and fearless in their approach coming close in and giving good views. Below is ‘Lyle’, still my favourite bird on the Thames and present most trips.

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The following bird is the paler regular Casp, very beautifully marked.

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Next up is a murkier bird that I originally had at the O2 in November.

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We crossed the River where the above bird was waiting on the beach. A quick scan through the surrounding gulls and I had a new 1st winter Caspian in my bins.  As the tide was about to engulf the entire beach we climbed the fence to view the birds at the same level.

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This regular Yellow Legged gull was bobbing about off the beach as the tide came in. Also standing with the new casp for comparison.

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Dante and I stopped in on some Islington Waxwings for dessert.

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Cyprus Part two… The Gulls!

Here’s the real reason for my trip.  The photo below was taken at Lady’s mile – a furiously potholed dirt track just south of Limassol with pools to the right and the sea on the left. Birds loaf around the puddles and lagoons but also come to bread on the beach. I did most of my Gulling here and also spent time at Larnaca Sewerage works and a couple of Harbours along the south coast.  I saw many birds and have included ones which are particularly nice looking or came close enough to get decent, useful photos.

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Black heads were in good numbers at Lady’s Mile and scanning through them revealed a few Slender billed gulls.

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The most common large gulls were Armenian.  Quite unremarkable as first years,  overall resembling a small  delicately marked Yellow-Legged Gull but sharing a few more caspian like features like overall whiter underwing more delicate and sometimes silvery replaced scaps and wing coverts.

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Many were quite bleached and worn in the wing.

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The bird below more Yellow-Legged appearance,  but was size and shape of Armenian, and note scapular pattern and propensity to show silver grey.

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The Second winter birds were more contrasy and, like many more easterly taxa often moult a high percentage of wing coverts in their post juv moult so have an almost complete grey mantle by the time they reach this age group.

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Adults are smart.

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Yellow Legged Gulls seemed to be present on the north coast mainly during my stay. I had a few adults and first winters however Caspian Gulls were much more common, with only first winters coming to bread but many adults and a few other aged birds seen in flight around the island and distantly at the Sewerage works.

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Square headed small billed bird above resembling barabensis, and darker bird below, quite unfamiliar in uk context, with same age Armenian,

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Classic bird against the bright blue east med sea rather than our usual muddy waters in the SE.

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This very large billed presumably male bird, below, had beautiful replaced scapulars and median covert pattern giving it a second winter appearance on the water but a closer look reveals the coverts to just be plain grey 2nd gen feathers, Ive seen this in only a few first winter birds birds before. Note first gen tail band also.

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Adults were mainly fly-bys or birds present in the few areas of Military Land where photography was forbidden.

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I saw 2 different Common gulls, both at Lady’s Mile. This bird, with its clean white head and underparts, dark 2nd generation, pale fringed and browner centered scapulars, long primary projection and pink base of bill suggests the Russian sub-species Heinei.

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I also saw what must have been Fuscus LBBs but again distant and no pics better than this…

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Thanks to Phil Saunders (who spent a good amount of time out there studying Rollers during the summer months) for his help with sites etc.

Cyprus Part One

 

A four day trip over New years with beloved girlfriend was a great way to end 2016 and start 2017. I wanted to be somewhere where nearly all the large gulls are either Caspians or unfamiliar and exciting.

As far as other birds go, I had a few things I wanted to see ; Finsch’s Wheatear, Wall creeper, Cyprus Warbler, Moustached Warbler and most of all Great Black-headed Gull. Unfortunately /amazingly I failed to see any of these birds.

I was going for more of a ‘bins over camera’ approach to passerines and waders but some of the more photogenic and willing subjects were worth a brief blog post.

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Lazy Birding around Paphos headland and other similar habitat revealed a Stonechat or Black Redstart on every perch, Sardinian Warblers in every bush and mixed flocks of Crested and Skylarks (woodlark were noted elsewhere too) One or two Red-Throated pipit calls heard but birds flushed ad unseen among meadow Pipit flocks.

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Greater Sand Plovers seem to be a feature of the headland there, I also had Grey Plover, Whimbrel , common sandpiper and a single Dunlin as well as fly-by Caspian and Armenian Gulls.

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This Blue Rock Thrush darted about near our accommodation in between short bursts of song and performed nicely in the morning light.

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Hen Harriers were seen in a few sites as well as well as Long legged Buzzards were the raptors of note.

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Gulls up next…

2nd Winter Caspian and Tristis Chiff

A few days ago young Dante found a 2nd winter Caspian Gull at Lyle Park. The first of a bunch of new-in Casps to the area recently. Fast forward to this morning, I got to Thames barrier park first thing and as soon as the bread was out the bag a huge 2nd winter Caspian Gull flew very close to where I was throwing from. I assumed it was the same bird as it flew towards the 02. After an hour or so between there and Lyle park (and 3 first winter Casps, none new i think) we headed over the river where Dante picked it up loafing on the beach.

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As the tide was coming in and the birds were very soon to go off on their own accord, we hopped the fence and viewed the bird from ground level. A nice change from the elevated view at O2. Its an enormous Bird and fairly square headed.

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Below – P10 showing a faint Mirror, Not so visible in flight unfortunately.

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Below – a well built 2cy Yellow Legged gull. As we left i’m pretty sure this bird flew over us. Dante also may have had the same bird earlier in the day

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As the tide came in we made a move to Beckton Sewerage works. Yesterday we’d seen a first winter Caspian on one of the roofs near the plant, today however  gulls were pretty thin on the ground but I picked out this Tristis Chiffchaff was amongst around 20 collybita chiffs feeding along the outflow channel. Photos were taken into the dying light and through a chain wire fence but bins dealt with that well enough to see the buff (not yellow) supercillium, rusty ear coverts, buff/white underparts, olive green and yellow tones exclusively present in the Remiges and Retrices, faint wing bar and very black legs.

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I thought I heard it a few times whilst scanning the mobile group of birds but not well enough to be happy. After about 15 minutes I heard it clearly call exactly as it should. Apparently Local Paul Hawkins has seen it also so hopefully it will stick around. I was lucky enough to find a bird early spring 2016 at the waterworks that was in full song and performed nicely for most people who looked for it over a couple of weeks.

Still on the Thames Gulls…

With Low tides and daylight hours working in our favour. Myself Dante and Rich agreed to meet up and stay local. I was first on the scene at Lyle park on Saturday morning and had a new very large first winter Casp with a pale based bill on the foreshore. I think this puts the number of Casps up into the teens since sept. The very distant shots are beyond shit so staying off the blog. Later one of the guys picked up my favourite first winter ‘Lyle’ who put in an appearance (below) and came reasonably close in the fog.

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The following bird is a different individual, it was seen on both days and in better light on the Sunday. Its a shorter legged, squarer headed and slightly bulkier . I’m happy its a Caspian Gull but has some slightly a-typical nuances all within variation .

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The below first winter Yellow Leg is a bird I’ve not noticed here before, and caught my eye several times with its brightly contrasting replaced tertials and wing  coverts.

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This Familiar 1cy Caspian was lurking about from time to time putting the count up to 4 Casps seen this weekend. It behaved well for Sean Huggins and Dominic Mitchell who came along today.

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These 2 first winter, apparent northern Argentatus Herrings were quite striking.

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In other news, we had a Black tailed Godwit come off the mud at woolwich ferry on saturday, 2/3 Redshank and a Dunlin today at Thames barrier park, aswell as good numbers of Teal and Shelduck on the river.

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Although were getting many good looking first winter Casps I am ready to see some birds of different ages and abit of tweeting about today reveals that other people arn’t seeing many elsewhere in the south east.

A new Caspian at the O2

 

 

I began feeling a little better so spent an hour by the River. Luck would have it there was a new first winter Caspian Gull at the O2.

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A slightly murky and quite small bird, although aggressive albatross posture and long call were adopted a couple of times. Plain greater coverts with the pale tips giving a strong wing bar in this individual, and a hint of one across the median coverts too. This bird is the 5th first winter I’ve seen in the area since September and contributes to 7 different individuals seen between the O2 and Thames Barrier Park this season. (Click on images to enlarge)

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