Sunday, 31 December 2017

Rarities in December 2017

This is my summary of records of rare birds from the UK in December 2017, this is not aimed at being a comprehensive account of all the rare species in the UK in this month, for such accounts see the Birdguides review of the week or the Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up. I am largely writing this as a personal record of rarity records to aid my knowledge and feed my interest in UK birds. The dates provided under each species are only the date of the finding of that bird, 'megas' are shown in red and a full date range for these species is shown. I have only included confirmed records and, generally, have not included possibles or probables. The photographs that I used have been gleaned from the internet, I aim to provide the photographer with full credit and a link to their website or blog, if you see that one of yours has been used and you object to this then please email me and I will remove it immediately, alternatively if you would like to supply a better image or additional information or links then I will add. Contact me at


Pacific Diver
Marazion, Cornwall - The returning bird was present off Marazion until at least the 16th December.
Pendower Beach, Cornwall - One found offshore on 26th November remained until at least the 4th December.

Pied-billed Grebe
Loch Feorlin, Argyll - The adult male first recorded on the 6th May 2016 and intermittently since was reported up to 6th December.
Loch of Spiggie, Mainland / Shetland - Found on 4th November and present until at least 28th December.

St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - One found on 29th December between Parting Carn and the airport road could not be relocated the following day.

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Clogheen Marsh, County Cork - 7th December.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Kilnsea, East Yorkshire - 1st December.

Bonaparte's Gull

Lulworth Cove, Dorset - 1st December
Dargan Bay, County Antrim - Adult on 6th December.


Red-breasted Goose
Gilston, Moray and Nairn - 6th December.

King Eider

Castlegregory, Kerry - Female on 28th December.

Ross's Gull
Longhougton Steel, Northumberland - Adult on 31st December.

Desert Wheatear
Happisburgh, Norfolk - Male from 2nd to 4th December.
Whitby, North Yorkshire - A male showing well from 23rd-31st December.

Desert Wheatear, Whitby, North Yorkshire by Ian Bollen, more of Ian's fantastic images including a good selection of rarities can be seen on his Flickr site here

Pied Wheatear

Ballymacoda, County Cork - 1st winter 11th-15th December.

Pied Wheatear, Ballymacoda, County Cork by Gerard Murray, more of Gerard's images 
can be seen on the Rare Bird Alert gallery here

Italian Sparrow
East Budleigh, Devon - A sparrow showing characters of this species found on 12th November was present until the end of December.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Halligarth, Unst - 25th December.

Two-barred Crossbill
Hamsterley Forest, Durham - Male on 11th December.

Parrot Crossbill
Following the mini invasion in the northern islands in October many of the flocks recorded in November remained with the following new birds being confirmed:

Woodbury Common, Devon - Female on 8th December.
Broxbourne Woods NNR, Hertfordshire - 3 from 18th to 25th December.
Howden Reservoir, South Yorkshire - 12 on 28th December

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Eurasian Penduline-tit, Longford, Gloucestershire - 22nd December

A male Eurasian Penduline-tit had been present on the small wetland at Plock Court, Longford since 16th December and with a long break at our cottage in Cowley over the festive period I was keen to pop by and see this bird. Bearing a ring, it was ringed on the 28/10/17 on Alderney, Channel Islands as a first-calendar year female, see here. On my arrival at Plock Court the bird was skulking in the Greater Reedmace (these are not Phragmites or Reeds as most of the birders on site were stating) and I had fleeting glimpses before the bird flew to a new patch of Reedmace and showed well often associating with a male Stonechat. The bird then flew to the boundary hedgerow and showed well in the gloomy conditions for the next 30 minutes or so. This male is remarkably close to Horsbere Flood Alleviation where two males spent much of January and February 2016, these birds were the second and third birds recorded in Gloucestershire. The habitat at Plock Court is very limited in extent and it will be interesting to see how long this bird sticks.

The Eurasian Penduline-tit often associated with this male Stonechat

Friday, 22 December 2017

Barred Warbler, Titchfield Haven - 20th November

First found on 19th November a Barred Warbler had been showing very well at Titchfield Haven but I had not had the time to visit this bird having been tied up with work since my return from India. Today I had a spare couple of hours and so took the opportunity to visit the bird. After a short while it showed well feeding on Cotoneaster berries at the rear of the visitor centre. The bird looked rather tatty and perhaps not in the best of health, probably because it should be in Kenya now and not on the English south coast! While the bird is being reported widely as a 1st winter this bird is actually an adult bird based on its moult sequencing (Trevor Codlin per comm). This was the last day the bird was seen and I suspect it may well have succumbed.

Barred Warbler winters in East Africa, mainly Kenya and also, less frequently, in southern Sudan, eastern Uganda and North Tanzania.

Breeding (yellow) and winter range of Barred Warbler from HBW Alive

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Western Ghats - 3rd December (Day 9)

We were up at 05:45, loaded the car and then drove to Cairn Hill Park just outside of Ooty to get better views of a couple of the endemics to be found here after our last visit on 1st December when the weather was terrible. As we entered the park there were three Black-and-Orange Flycatcher showing very well, albeit in rather dark forest conditions. We also caught up with Nilgiri Robin and Nilgiri Laughingthrush once again but the light levels were far too low for decent photographs – it was nice to see the birds when it was not pouring with rain through. We then headed for the Ooty Botanical Garden for around an hour, this is where a Kashmir Flycatcher usually winters but we had no luck with this bird but did see Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Greenish Warbler, Oriental White-eye, Nilgiri Flycatcher and Nilgiri Flowerpecker amongst the well-kept gardens with local people enjoying Sunday and taking innumerable ‘selfies’.

Black-and-Orange Flycatcher - Cairn Hill Park, Ooty

Black-and-Orange Flycatcher - Cairn Hill Park, Ooty

Nilgiri Robin - Cairn Hill Park, Ooty

Greenish Warbler - Ooty Botanical Garden

Greenish Warbler - Ooty Botanical Garden

Nilgiri Flowerpecker - Ooty Botanical Garden

Oriental White-eye - Ooty Botanical Garden

Oriental White-eye - Ooty Botanical Garden

Large-billed Crow - Ooty Botanical Garden

Large-billed Crow - Ooty Botanical Garden

Great Tit of subspecies mahrattarum - Ooty Botanical Garden

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch - Ooty Botanical Garden

Nilgiri Flycatcher - Ooty Botanical Garden

Greenish Warbler - Ooty Botanical Garden

 Ooty Botanical Garden

Outskirts of Ooty

Bonnet Macaque - Mettupalayam viewpoint

Lady selling flowers at the Mettupalayam viewpoint

Wild Gaur outside of Ooty

Wild Gaur outside of Ooty

Entrance to Anamalas Tiger Reserve

Asian Elephant in the Anamalas Tiger Reserve

Playful young Bonnet Macaques - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Green Imperial-pigeon - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

 Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

We then headed on the long drive to Munnar in the knowledge that we had probably faffed around too late in the park to get to Munnar at a sensible time. We passed through spectacular mountain landscapes clad with tea plantations, and plantation forest but sadly with little remaining natural forest. We stopped at Chinnar Wildlife Park just across the state border in Kerala. This is a site where roosting Spot-bellied Eagle Owl is seen but we had no luck and it materialised that the bird had not been seen for a few weeks. We did see Green Imperial-pigeonBrown-headed Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-browed Bulbul and brief views of Yellow-throated Bulbul but we were a little disappointed that the Eagle owl was not present. From the Chinnar Wildlife Park we had a 56km drive to Munnar, this took around 2.5 hours due to slow winding road with moderately heavy traffic and the whole journey was a bit of an ordeal so we were glad to arrive at the Hotel Tea County in Munnar at 20:30.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Western Ghats - 2nd December (Day 8)

Today we were up at 06:15 to a rather overcast morning with light drizzle. We had time for a coffee and biscuits in the Jungle Hut lodge then headed out to area of grassland and scattered trees and scrub at Mudumalai. It was a very enjoyable morning with good numbers of birds to be seen. The highlight was Indian Nuthatch plus Hill Swallow, Bay-backed Shrike, Indian RobinYellow-wattled Lapwing, Plum-headed Parakeet, Syke’s Warbler, Blyth’s Reed-warbler, Lesser Whitethroat (of the subspecies althaea, sometimes split as Hume's Whitethroat)  Pallid Harrier and Pale-billed Flowerpecker. Having seen the Nuthatch, the main target here, we headed to a bamboo dominated gully at the back of the lodge. By now it was sunny and fairly hot which was a welcome change to the recent wet weather. In the bamboo we found Tickell’s Blue-flycatcher, Malabar Whistling-thrush and Orange-headed Thrush but the main target Nilgiri Thrush, gave only poor views, briefly on the ground and in flight. Nilgiri Thrush is not yet split by HBW Alive and remains a subspecies, neilgherriensis, of White’s Thursh albeit that it is recognised as a potential future split given further study and evidence to suggest a separate species. After a superb breakfast we headed back into the bamboo for the Nilgiri Thrush which eventually gave good views as it fed on the ground amongst the bamboo stands occasionally being chased by a Malabar Whistling-thrush. In addition, we recorded Puff-throated Babbler, Indian Blackbird, Common Tailorbird and Oriental Magpie-robin.

Bay-backed Shrike - Mudumalai

Indian Robin - Mudumalai

Lesser Whitethroat of subspecies althaea - Mudumalai

Indian Nuthatch - Mudumalai

Blyth's Reed-warbler  - Mudumalai

Pale-billed Flowerpecker - Mudumalai

White-browed Wagtail - Mudumalai

Yellow-billed Babbler - Mudumalai

Yellow-wattled Lapwing - Mudumalai

Habitat at Mudumalai

Northern Lime Swallowtail Papilio demoleus - Mudumalai (see here)

Hoopoe - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

Indian Pond-heron - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

Greenish Warbler - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

Tickell's Blue-flycatcher - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

Oriental Magpie-robin - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

Orange-headed Thrush - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

White's Thrush of the subspecies neilgherriensis, a possible future split as Nilgiri Thrush  - Forest Hut, Mudumalai

We packed our bags at 13:30, loaded the mini-bus and began the drive back to Ooty. We stopped at the small but colourful village of Kallatty for Painted Bush-quail where a flock of five with two chicks quickly gave fairly good but brief views amongst the scrub and rock on the outskirts of the village. We then walked up the road above the village through plantation woodland and secondary growth seeing Nilgiri Flycatcher, plus Greenish Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Bar-wing Flycatcher-shrike, Pied Bushchat (of the subspecies nilgiriensis), Dusky Crag Martin and Tickell’s Leaf-warbler. We then drove back to Ooty arriving at 17:30 and checked back into the Taj Savoy hotel where we had stayed in on 30th November. We relaxed for a while and then had dinner but were disappointed to find that there was a religious festival ‘Milad Un Nabi” and no alcohol was being served. Fortunately, Clive had brought with him a stash of Famous Grouse and so we retreated to his room to do the log and savour a ‘wee dram’.

Kallatty Area

Kallatty Area

Kallatty Area

Kallatty Area

Kallatty Area

Kallatty Area

Bonnet Macaque - Kallatty

Red-whiskered Bulbul - Kallatty

Red-whiskered Bulbul - Kallatty

Nilgiri Flycatcher - Kallatty

Blyth's Reed-warbler - Kallatty

Crested Goshawk - Kallatty

Pied Stonechat - Kallatty

Pied Stonechat - Kallatty

Pied Stonechat - Kallatty

Doom and Gloom at dinner time

Whisky and the log