Richard’s Pipit Beachy Head

A day spent birding Beachy Head with Laurence P started off nicely with a fly over Richard’s pipit that I picked up on call above our heads moments after getting out the car, we both quickly got onto the bird which called another 3 or so times and flew beyond belle tout. It seemed to go down near the set aside fields towards the track that leads to Cornish farm. nb: this bird was accepted by the Sussex rarities committee. dec.18


There’s a vast amount of habitat for a bird like this on Beachy head (above) and despite a good bit of time looking the bird wasn’t seen again. A satisfying record nonetheless and nice to share with a pal. 


Birding was abit ‘audio only’ after that, with a Ring Ouzel alarming, fly over Bramblingssiskins and Redpoll and then a Yellow Browed Warbler up Birling lane that was heard to call several times whilst we watched one or two Firecrests in the pines there.


A long day and a large percentage of the area covered on foot, other highlights were a ShortEared Owl flushed from the cliff near Cow Gap, a small raft of Common Scoter on the sea and a single Golden Plover over.



Another short work trip, this time to Bilbao. Id never been to the Basque country and was surprised how familiar the climate felt at this time of year, It was damp and windy and some of the near coast line resembled parts of Cornwall and the South West. The first morning I had off was spent at the coast near Sopela, 35 mins from Bilbao via Metro. initally Low cloud, a light northerly wind and lots of birds moving. Rough estimates of 10k Chaffinch, 1k+ of Song Thrush and Skylark, few hundred Redwing, similar numbers of meadow pipit, a Ring Ouzel, a few tree pipits and a surprise Richards Pipit! This bird flushed from grass 10 metres away on the headland, called a good few times and flew, quite far inland, I didn’t see where it landed and despite searching suitable habitat for 2 hours after the bird wasn’t seen again. I intially assumed that would be a good bird for the area but after doing abit of asking around I received this info from Daniel Lopez Velasco “Richard’s Pipit is a regular passage migrant and wintering bird in Northern Spain, about 100 birds or so each year.” Still was a nice satisfying event.



The Headland and surrounding area was teaming with things like Dartford, Sardinian and Fantailed Warblers




An area of pine forest held Crested tits, Shorttoed treecreeper, whilst the suburban streets and unfinished building sites were good for Serins, many Black redstart of course and Cirl Buntings which I really enjoyed. I wasnt able to get any gen for anything in particular so just looked on google earth for suitable looking areas. I often end up birding in these kind of quiet half finshed places when im abroad, quite like them.




Back on the metro and on to the next town: Plentzia. A quiet, affluent ,coastal town where I could see a harbour and was hoping to look at Gulls. Its apparent that most if not all the gulls here were ‘LusitaniusYellow Legged Gulls. They’re supposed to be smaller, Paler and behind in terms of moult.  Varying degrees of delayed moult was present in pretty much all the birds I saw, take this completly juvenile bird in October! If im honest It was a real eye opener.


The first winter birds are paler and much warmer toned, resembling some Herring Gulls. Overall I’d say more buff/grey/brown/dark brown than white/grey/brown/black



A failry standard looking first winter below, but with a noticeably delicate scapular pattern that these birds seem to be prone to.


A second winter without any adult grey toned Scapulars.


Paler toned adult Grey scapulars, this bird could easily go down as a Herring gull with brief views in the UK, the structure and head was spot on for YLG however.



A more standard 2nd winter in terms of moult advance, was ringed on a small island off the coast NW of Bilbao. I ‘ve written to the scheme asking for info about birds travelling north in late summer and waiting for a reply.



Not a bad trip really.

Scillies 2018



My fourth consecutive autumn Scillies, with the Roseveer gang: Laurence Pitcher, Lee Amery, Graham Gordon and ex-pat Paul Cook. A real comparison to the high of last year but thats Scillies for ya! The Scillonian crossing wasnt too bad at all with one or two Great Shearwater (completely new bird for me and calling a nice close bird out was a satisfying way of ticking it), a few Sooty Shearwaters, Pomarine Skua and a Grey Phalerope the highlights. LP and I had a look at the tame and beautiful Ortolan Bunting around Penninis head on st Mary’s before missing the last boat (second year in a row we’ve done this…) to St Agnes and having to pay through the nose with a private trip. Stylish.


A couple of days in and we joined Joe Pender and a boat full of Mary’s birders on a Pelagic, I’m not much of a sea watcher but have always wanted to do a pelagic and with the numbers of Great Shearwaters being seen I was hopeful of some close views. It was basically incredible, with over 100 greats seen as well as many Sooty, manxies a Balearic or two , Bonxies following the boat and amazing Common Dolphin and Minke whale action.




On the way back the boat was followed by this first winter YellowLegged Gull, the only Scillies rarity bird I found,  The lack of interest from the locals goes to show this species are surely under recorded, but each to their own , do what you like you lucky buggers (I also had a sub adult on st agnes the following day.)



We had a long spell of NW winds and no new birds, however during my stay there was one exciting day for arrivals, LP found a Greenish Warbler (pic below)and then a RedThroated Pipit in the space of a hour, solid bit of birding that well done mate. Paul Cook picked up a Bluethroat on my last morning, i should add also.


My own finds were limited to a Rosefinch,in the garden of the house on Gugh on the 8th of Oct, the same day as the Greenish and Red-Throated pipit and a Wryneck on the morning of GKG’s Glossy Ibis and Neil wright’s Red-backed Shrike (5th Oct)







My last day held some arrivals also, things like Black Redstarts turned up on cue as well as a Little Bunting, found on Castella by Neil Wright.


I had to cut my trip short by a couple of days due to the weather. at the time this was very disappointing but I’m over it now and looking forward to next year, Gotta take the rough with the smooth etc etc.  Still love ya st Agnes.

As i write this I just received news from LP and GKG who are still there , they just found a GreyCheeked Thrush, well done friends, well deserved.




So Long September

Its been a pretty poor September so far for me. Highlights at Walthamstow were 4 Wood Sandpipers (v rare here!) that flew over David Bradshaw, myself and n0 5 on the 6th.  A trip down to Beachy over the second weekend of the month was pretty quiet except small numbers of things like Redstart and Whinchat etc, altough I did find a 1cy Caspian Gull above birling gap, which is only the second record for the headland.



Since then i’ve had a few yellow-legged gulls on the river and things like Spotted Flycatchers and yellow wagtails at Walthamstow, not much to get you really going but what do you expect with this glorious weather!



Who gives a shit anyway? Because on Friday at midnight I get the train to penzance and then the Scillonian for another 2 weeks with the gang, bashing about the scillies looking for who knows what? Not much by the look of the weather with the Azores high firmly in place… I’m an optimist though so hopefully the following blog post will be memorable.

Tracking an unringed Caspian Gull through time and space!

If you spend alot of time looking at Caspian gulls ,you start recognising them as you might do people. There are structure and plumage traits and patterns that register and become familiar despite their variability, you can devlop a sense of ‘taste’ with preferences, and opinions can be formed on whether you like a certain ‘type’ of Casp.  Individuals can remind you of other individuals etc.  Its one thing to recognise an regular bird frequenting a site over a period of time but a bizarre thing happened today: I’ve been looking back over Caspian gulls we had on the thames during the winter of 2016/17. Rich B had a 1st winter Caspian gull on the beach at Rotherhithe on the 19th of January 2017, and whilst looking at photos of this bird (taken 19 months previous to today) I somehow remembered a series of photographs taken by Mars Musse from the previous November showing 6/7 differnet Caspian Gulls on the Dutch coast. I recalled one fairly un memorable bird in particular that looked like this bird of rich’s (keep in your mind that i hadnt looked at the dutch images in over a year). I looked it up and its the same bloody bird!

Below is the original photo Mars Musse took in November ’16 on the Dutch Coast


…and here is Rich’s shot of it in Rotherhithe, London ,Jan ’17…


A couple of months wear and some paling to the bill tip are the only differences I can see. The differing angles reveal more of the scapulars in the second pic.

Its bizarre to think that it’s possible to do this and strange that i hadn’t looked at either image for so long yet something registered! Who needs rings eh?

South coast Bank Holiday get away.


Saturday and Sunday were spent birding Beachy Head with Laurence P. The main highlights were the Melodious Warbler he’d found a few days previous, a Turtle Dove that we flushed from the old trapping area (both of these went un-photographed by me) and a Wood Warbler, only seen by Bob the Ringer. There was a good number of migrants over the two days:


…18 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart, c50 Wheatear, 7 Whinchat, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher…


…c50 Willow Warbler, c40 Common Whitethroat, c15 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler, c6 Reed Warbler…


… c10 Blackcaps, 2 Tree Pipit, c100 Yellow Wagtail, c50 Barn Swallow, 3 Sand Martin, 1 Swift, 1 Merlin, 6 Sparrowhawk, c12 Common Buzzard,  Short eared Owl


Bank holiday monday morning was spent with Rich B down at the White Cliffs/ Langdon Hole area near Dover. The site is above the port there and is as good a headland as any in my mind. Rich mentioned the attraction from the harbour lights and despite it not being totally heaving with migrants a decent total was achieved in our visit. I think were planning to put some more hours in there over autumn.


Whinchat, Black Redstart, Spotted Fly, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, 2 Wheatear, 2 Garden Warblers, 3 Reed Warblers, 30 Lesser Whitethroats, 15 Whitethroats & 5 Willow Warblers.


Mid morning Rich and I headed to Dungeness where a juvenile Caspian Gull at the fishing boats had been reported by David Walker .  A few fellow ‘gull connesuerrs’ have commented on its uglyness and perhaps its from somehwere west of the Polish/German border, but it was a nice bird to watch and tonally very Caspian. There seem to be a few more juv Casps turning up in the south now so roll on September (where were likely to have our first 1cys on the Thames)




I completely forgot to mention the American Black tern, We had a look at that, it was great.




Romania Part 2 – Other bits

A belated post about the other birds I saw during my recent ‘non birding’ holiday to Romania.  When I wasn’t looking at Juvenile Caspian Gulls, my early mornings were spent wandering around a body of freshwater that I just found on Google Maps. Conclusion: Romania is stacked full of birds! I had flocks of Whiskered TernsPygmy CormorantsPurple HeronsLittle Bitterns and Glossy Ibises, plus Golden OriolesTurtle Doves, large numbers of dombrowski Yellow Wagtails, Beeeaters and one or two Redrumped Swallows.





The litter-strewn farmland surrounding our accommodation was also excellent for birding and became my local patch for the week. Isabelline Wheatears, Tawny Pipits, Redbacked and Lesser Grey ShrikeBlackheaded Buntings, many Crested and a single Greater Shorttoed Lark, more Golden Orioles in the woodland where I also had MiddleSpotted Woodpecker and the ‘croak’ and ‘whistle’ calls of Thrush Nightingales were often heard.







Much of the rest of my time was spent doing actual holiday stuff as well as looking at gulls, mentioned in the previous post.  Our final day was spent at the legendary Vadu. The drive down was continually interrupted by me pulling over to look at birds: Blackeared WheatearBlackheaded Wagtails and 18 Redfooted Falcons chasing insects kicked up in the wake of a farmer’s tractor were among the highlights, while the non-birding members of our party (i.e. everyone but me) were entertained by the frequent roadside Bee-eaters and Rollers.







The below Short Toed Eagle was a consalation prize along with a pair of Long-Legged Buzzards at a site which I was sure was the Pied Wheatear site, but I’d buggered up the map and sent us to the wrong place, next time…



Ive missed off a few things through lazyness but as ‘not a birding holidays’ go it was pretty good. Thanks to a group of my best friends for your patience xxx