Gratuitous Beckton Iceland Gull photos.


Back in late December Dante had this Iceland Gull briefly on the Thames at Erith pier. The following day he and I saw it at Beckton Sewerage works where it seems to have taken up residence and is being seen regularly since. Today it came to bread and showed very well. Its the 3rd juv Iceland gull Ive seen at this small site.









I realised I hadn’t posted pics of any recent Caspian gulls so here a few nice 1st winters that have been on our part of the Thames recently.








Beijing new year 2020

Yet another exhausting work trip, this time Beijing and working right in the middle of the forbidden city. With no planned free/rest days I was hoping to just see a Naumann’s thrush at best in the freezing cold hour of light before the start of work each morning. Truth be told Naumann’s thrushes were common and could be seen and heard anywhere with large trees and I saw many in the grounds of the Forbidden city itself.




After the first couple of days I narrowed down my birding spots and figured out where to make the most of the predictably flighty thrushes. Once I was seeing larger numbers I started noticing a good few Dusky Thrushes amoung them.




I also noted several obvious Dusky x Naumann’s Hybrids like the one below.  the mix of red and black in the Harlequin pattern on the breast sides an flanks is cool.


Both Dusky and Naumann’s  regular call sounded very similar to me however a few times I heard a higher pitched squeakier sounding thrush and picked out both Red throated (on several occasioions) and Back throated thrushes (just twice during the trip) Poor pics below – photo was taken at first light.




Other birds seen around the grounds were the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree sparrows, Azure Winged Magpies, Chinese Blackbirds, Oriental Greenfinches, Large billed crows, Great spotted Woodpeckers, one or two Bohemian waxwings,  parties of Yellow-billed Grosbeaks and the odd Oriental Turtle dove.


We were ahead of Schedule with work in the end and I was able to get one free day out of the City, so a commercial tourist trip to see the Great Wall of China seemed like a decent way to see what ever I could.


On the drive to the wall we had many pit stops and whilst the other people in our party looked at The Ming tombs, a ceremonial tea house and had lunch I snuck off to look at a bit of scrub or check out a stand of trees.  The below Bluetail was nice, although quite a dull individual, a couple were seen along with more thrushes and things like Bramblings and one or two Elegant Buntings.



The Wall itself and surrounding landscape were remarkable, freezing cold and surprisingly devoid of tourists. I saw a small party of Silver throated tits, along with Marsh tits, Chinese Nuthatch, Grey-capped Woodpecker and many Godlewski’s Buntings and my other Target for the trip; Siberian Accentor.





They looked so great in the typical scrubby areas I saw them in, the eyestripe and throat looking golden against the foliage.




Short-toed Treecreeper Identification notes.

N.B this bird has been accepted by the BBRC in 2020 and is the 32nd record for this species in Britain.

I managed to get round to organising my notes on the Short-toed Treecreeper I came across at Langdon hole on September 21st 2020 and thought I would share them here.  I wanted the description to BBRC to be ‘water tight’ as its only field notes, a written description and photos compared to a bird in the hand and audio recordings of the voice. Although I have found each plumage feature to fit well with Short-toed and I believe my description of the voice to be a decent phonetic representation.  Short toed treecreepers can call abit like Eurasian treecreeper; a ‘waxwing like’ “srrri, srrri”, but also a ‘coal tit like’ call which Eurasian treecreeper does not make.  Below is an excerpt from the description of the voice followed by annotated images ;

“I had been hoping/expecting to hear the Coal tit-like call to confirm my analysis of Short-toed treecreeper from plumage features. A couple of minutes later and I saw the Treecreeper fly back to the eastern end of the fence and begin working its way down towards me again, I knew I needed better photos and was sitting in the grass waiting for it to emerge when – “duii…duei…tduiit” – it called loudly from right in front to me, three Coal tit-like notes with the last sounding fractionally longer. An adrenaline moment! These same notes were heard again moments before the bird flew off down the cliff face towards more suitable cover and not seen again.”

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I also think that the site and structure on which I found the bird should be mentioned; a rusty metal fence right on the cliff face above the port of Dover, not exactly an excellent place to be a treecreeper for any length of time and suggestive that the bird was fairly freshly arrived, feeds into the find and perhaps the ID nicely.

Sttc site

site 2

Back in the Zone with a lovely Casp

Today went to plan; I just wanted to see a nice Caspian Gull in the grey gloom of the Thames estuary after all those colourful Floridian birds in baking hot sunshine. Well we had some sun today but the Thames was grey brown as usual and a very elegant first winter Caspian Gull entertained Myself, Dante and Rich for a while at Erith.


It seems to be a Bird Dante had at Rainham last week so hopefully will stick around.






There were more waders on the exposed mud at Erith than ive ever seen: Perhaps 100+ Dunlin, c75 Black Tailed Godwits and many Redshank.


Dante and I went to check if the Penduline Tit was still at Crossness and after a while waiting was heard to call and in fact came into pishing close to the Hide/screen. Nice light and great to watch, in fact my closest views of this species in the uk.




Miami Dec ’19

Back to Miami for work at what I now think is the perfect time to get out of the uk for 2 weeks. Similar birds and in some cases the exact same individuals but a few differences and more of one thing, less of another for example I saw no swallows last year but this year I saw a flock of 200 Northern Rough-winged and perhaps 150 Tree Swallows. Its such a great place to watch incredible birds all before work in the morning or on the occasional half days off from hard graft.


Unsurprisingly my focus was on Warblers and again it was relatively easy to see the common wintering species in the parks and green spaces. I beat my total of 15 last year with 16 species this year.


Black-and-white warbler



Northern Parulas



American Redstarts


Fem Black-throated Blue





Prairie Warblers



Yellow-Throated Warblers


Myrtle Warbler



Pine Warblers


Common Yellowthroat



Orange-crowned Warblers


Nashville Warbler


 (Western) Palm Warbler

Cape may, Magnolia, Black throated Green were also seen a few times but no photography thereof.

I enjoyed the following Hermit Thrush for about 20 minutes, the only one ive seen in Miami, Its crazy to think at that moment there was Graham’s bird on st Marys making the same movements, lovely bird.


The below Summer Tanager was a tick for me, I saw it in the spot where I found a Western Tanager last year – a Florida Rarity.


I recognized a buzzy little call from spring in Ontario – Indigo buntings, a small flock not exactly in their finery but still nice (below)


An Inqusitive White-eyed Vireo came in to some pishing.


The only sparrow Ive seen in Miami itself, a Chipping Sparrow was present in my ‘warbler spot’ one morning


Broad-winged (Below), Red-tailed, Short-tailed and Red-shouldered (following pic) Hawks were seen as well as Coopers and Sharp shinned.








(Above) The same Yellow-crowned Night heron that I saw every day last year on my walks into work, along with an Eastern Phoebe along the same fence line as last year and a Ringed Royal Tern. Its mad to think these are the same individuals, especially the phoebe which will no doubt migrate north for the summer and return next winter to the same spot, abit like me!


Tricolored Heron


Some nice 1st winter Ring-billed Gulls for good measure.


The waders are special, mostly very tame and in good numbers.



Short-billed Dowitchers


Semi-palmated plover (showing off its 2 best close up id features in this pic: the white in the throat coming above the gape line aswell as the palmations, just about)



Least Sandpipers




Piping Plover



Spotted Sandpipers

Again I didnt make it to the everglades but lazily wandering around bumping into warbler flocks is exactly what I had the energy for this trip.




East Norfolk mid November

A weekend away to see family and what better place than to meet half way (my fam all live up north) than coastal Norfolk. A cheap and cheerful cottage near Hembsy right on the beach was our base for 2 nights and I did my best to fit in abit of birding here and there.



Saturday morning I was up and out on the beach at first light and happened upon a mobile flock of 43 Snow buntings. the long and empty beach was perfect for them and its contours allowed some close viewing.




After breakfast we got in the car and headed north west to Holkham where I was able to covertly twitch the Humes Warbler and a juv Rough Legged Buzzard near by.


I really enjoyed the warbler, it was vocal and showed well enough. Chameleonic at times but the overall tones were noted, aseemingly warmer individual compared to the bird i saw last year in Sussex. I love the call and really hope to come across my own one day.


The following day was started in a similar way with a smaller number of Snow buntings, a Firecrest near the cottage and 2 waxwings (that had been seen flying the opposite direction just before dusk the evening before) fly over head to and from an unknown location. Norfolks great, Ive not been up for a few years and might try again before spring.


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.




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.


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.


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…


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!


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.


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


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.


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.




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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


Asian Brown and Yellow Rumped Flycatchers


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.


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’ 


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.


Eastern crowned warblers




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


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 .


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. 


Pale legged/Sakahlin leaf Warblers


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. 


Brown Shrike


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.


Himalayan Swiftlet

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


Richard’s Pipit

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



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 , 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


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