Wednesday 27 August 2014

East Coast Fall 26th and 27th August 2014

The first significant fall of the autumn occurred on the east coast on 26th and 27th August. Driven by a switch from a westerly to an easterly airflow, Norfolk received the bulk of the drift migrants with Pied Flycatcher, Barred Warbler, Wryneck, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Corncrake, Red-backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler and Greenish Warbler (at least two in Durham and Yorkshire on 26th and at least four in Norfolk on 27th) being the key species.
On 26th August the easterly airflow was driven by the northern edge of a low pressure system (L993) and the southern edge of a high pressure (H1014)

On 27th this switched to the airflow being dominated by an east to north-east flow from the high pressure system (H1018)

Monday 25 August 2014

Pennington Marsh - 23rd August

It was a beautiful sunny and still morning at Pennington Marsh, the tide was almost high and there should have been many waders on the lagoons but it was remarkably quiet. Wildfowl numbers are still very low with perhaps 10 Shelduck, 5 Shoveler and around 12 Teal the only species recorded. The resident flock of Eider showed well off shore with 26 birds counted.


A juvenile Water Rail showed well along the muddy sedge bed edges where downy juvenile birds were also present indicating that the breeders successfully raised a series of broods this year.

Juvenile Water Rail

At least 15 Little Egret were present, many still carrying their summer plumes.  I watched one bird hunting for a while on Keyhaven Lagoon, the majority of prey that it caught appeared to be small prawns although it also took a fish which appeared to be a Pipefish.

Little Egret 

Wader numbers were low with around 200 Black-tailed Godwit, 10 Dunlin, 6 Ringed Plover, 12 Curlew and little else. Juvenile wader seem not to have arrived in any numbers yet and the Black-tailed Godwit flock only contained a small number of juveniles, the majority of birds being adults reaching the final stages of their moult to winter plumage.

 Black-tailed Godwit - The majority of birds are adults birds almost in winter plumage

Black-tailed Godwit - This bird is typical of those present at the site with just a scatter of rufous summer plumage feathers 

A few tern are still present in the Solent with 20 Common and 10 Sandwich Tern recorded. There were good numbers of passerine migrants present today with at least 30 Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat,15  Sedge Warbler, 10 Reed Warbler, 5 Willow Warbler, 2 Wheatear, 3 Tree Pipit and 2 Wheatear seen.

Cetti's Warbler - This juvenile showed fairly well, something pretty unusual for this species

Reed Warbler - Juvenile in Blackthorn near to Keyhaven Lagoon. This bird still showing the yellow gape.

Reed Warbler - Many of the adults looked pretty scruffy and are clearly in body moult

Sedge Warbler - A fresh juvenile bird with a Aquatic Warbler like pale centre to the crown

There were small numbers of Dragonfly on the wing with Common Darter, Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker seen.

Migrant Hawker - This male was patrolling the ditch along the south side of Fishtail Lagoon

A short stop at Denny Wood produced little with small numbers of Willow Warbler, a couple of Marsh Tit and 6 Stonechat the only birds of note.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Odds and Ends from Week of 18th August

Its been a very busy week at work but I did manage to get out and about a little. On Wednesday 20th I made my fourth visit to the Isle of Wight where I have been assisting with the wardening of the Bee-eater nest on the National Trust Wydcombe Estate. It was a fantastic day and the Solent crossing was mirror calm giving great views of Hurst Castle and the Needles. There was little to be seen but for a handful of Common Tern and a Whimbrel in the mouth of the Lymington River.

The Needles and Hurst Castle

The Bee-eaters were performing very well and during my stint from 09:00-13:15 I saw the final one of the four chicks fledge leaving the nest empty for 45 minutes before, in short succession, two chicks returned to the nest and entered staying there to be fed by the adults until I departed the site. It was fantastic to see the two adults, two first summer birds (the nest helpers) and four fledged chicks in the area. Unfortunately, the birds were always a little distant for photographs, but I managed this record shot of one of the adults in flight.

Adult Bee-eater

There seemed to be a great deal of antagonism between the Bee-eaters and Swallows with the later often attacking the former while occasionally the Bee-eaters would retaliate and pursue the Swallows.

Bee-eater and Swallows

On my way back I decided to go for a short walk at Beaulieu Road Station. Typically for this time of the year it was fairly quiet. A flock of around 30 Crossbill in Larches at Bishops Dyke included a number of juveniles.

Juvenile Crossbill

The local Stonechat are now looking a little scruffy as they moult and I noticed that someone had got their hands on at least one of the birds and clamped some rather unsightly coloured rings on its legs.

Male Stonechat

I then made a short stop at Shatterford Bottom where one of my favourite British flowers, the Marsh Gentian grows. This is a rare and localised species in the UK with its strongholds in the New Forest and Dorset.

Marsh Gentian

Close-up of internal tube of Marsh Gentian

On Friday 22nd I spent the day working in Gosport where the amazing sight of thousands of Autumn Lady's Tresses growing on the lawns of the site greeted me. While not spectacular this is a splendid little orchid who's flowers grow around a spiralling stem recalling twirled plats. The plant flowers in August and September and the basal leaf rosette can be found right through the winter.

Autumn Lady's Tresses

Tuesday 19 August 2014

An Autumnal August Day at Pennington - 17th August

On a bleak August morning I visited Pennington Marsh in a somewhat (as it turned out) optimistic hope of seeing a passage wader or two. The low tide, strong westerly wind and dense overcast made for a somewhat bird-less visit and I returned home early to gain a few brownie points much to the surprise of Sarah and Tobias; I don't think they expected me home early when time permitted a few hours of free birding time.

Wildfowl numbers are still low with no real sign of an arrival of the usual winter visitors, Shoveler numbers were up to 5 birds and with a single Wigeon being my first of the season. Waders were poorly represented presumably as birds were out on the mudflats feeding rather than on the lagoons. Ringed Plover numbers were up with around 30 birds present as were Grey Plover with around 15 seen including one superb, probable female, summer plumaged bird. Summer plumaged Grey Plover are stunning birds in the mono-chrome spangled dress and this bird gave good views even prompting a 'whats that bird' from one of the local joggers. Turnstone numbers were also up with around 40 birds present, many being in their summer plumage.

Otherwise, a single Northern Wheatear, two Whitethroat and a single Reed Warbler made for a rather poor morning.

Little Grebe feeding in dense Enteromorpha 

Little Egret 

Juvenile Shoveler

Summer plumage Grey Plover, this is probably a female with the slight pale feather scaling within the black underparts and uneven upper edge to this area 

 Ringed Plover, this is a male due to the extent and density of the black head markings. The upperparts and scapulars and wing coverts are very worn 

Summer plumage Turnstone

 First winter Northern Wheatear, identifiable as such due to its fresh apricot flushed plumage and fresh rich buff edges to the wing coverts and secondaries

Juvenile Whitethroat

Sunday 10 August 2014

Pennington Marsh 8th August 2014

I had a little bit of time before a survey today so popped down to Pennington Marshes for a couple of hours. The weather was warm and sunny with a south-west breeze and it felt distinctly like early Autumn with the Bramble loaded with ripe blackberries and the Blackthorn clad with sloes.

There are still very few wildfowl around with only 2 Teal and 3 Shoveler amongst the resident Mallards. The Shelduck chicks have now grown and shed their down and have replaced this with their juvenile plumage. In the autumn they will moult again to gain an adult like plumage, first years are still distinguishable from the adults by the white trailing edge to the otherwise black secondaries and primaries.

Shelduck, Pennington Marsh - Simon Colenutt
Juvenile Shelduck Fishtail lagoon

There were good numbers of wader on the lagoons with a total of 4 Greenshank, approximately 250 Dunlin, 350 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Ruff, 6 Little Ringed Plover and 10 Ringed Plover. The Pectoral Sandpiper was still showing well at the west end of Fishtail and at times was feeding alongside the Wood Sandpiper and Ruff.

Dunlin, Pennington Marshes - Simon Colenutt
Dunlin (mainly adult summer) with Black-tailed Godwit and Coot on Fishtail Lagoon. This lagoon is superb this autumn and is attracting large numbers of birds.

Ruff and Wood Sandpiper, Pennington Marsh - Simon Colenutt
Ruff and Wood Sandpiper on Fishtail Lagoon

There were few land migrants but the numbers of Sedge and Reed Warbler seemed high with many yellowish juveniles of the former in the Bramble and lagoon edge vegetation. Hirundines were in evidence with approximately 150 Swallow, 75 House Martin and 25 Sand Martin moving around the area. My first Wheatear of the autumn was present but frustratingly was flushed by two women with dogs as I tried to photograph it, they seemed completely oblivious as they talked nonsense to their animals. Around 15 Swift moved west through the area occasionally foraging low over the lagoons, it won't be long before they are gone.

Wheatear, Pennington Marsh - SImon Colenutt
My first Wheatear of the Autumn

All to soon it was time to make a move and after a short while trying to get onto the M3 which was clogged with traffic due to an accident I abandoned my survey and went into the office.

Saturday 2 August 2014

July Rarities

This is my summary of what I consider to be the most exciting records from the UK in July 2014, this is not aimed at being a comprehensive account of all the rare's 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 UK records and sightings to aid my knowledge and feed my interest in UK bird records. I aim to publish the previous months records in the first week or so of the following month. 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

A summary of the weather for July 2014 can be found here.

July 2014
The month started relatively slowly with the Bridled Tern and Short-toed Eagle lingering from June. The Short-toed Eagle was last seen in Ashdown Forest on 29th June before, remarkably, being once again relocated at Pig Bush in the New Forest, where it had previously spent a brief period in June, before relocating to Ashdown Forest. The eagle lingered at Pig Push and the surrounding area showing well at times and allowing Hampshire birders a chance to get the species on their county list after showing to a small crowd earlier. It was present at Pig Bush until 2nd July and then at Thursley Common, Surrey on 12th when it finally disappeared having spent almost six weeks touring the south-east of England.

The Bridled Tern, as it did last year, began touring more widely in July. It was last seen on the Farne Islands on 8th July and was then present at Port Seton and Seacliff, Lothian on 9th and 10th July, respectively. It was then seen again on the Farne Islands on 12th before relocating to Cleveland where it was seen off Hartlepool Headland on 13th before disappearing although there was a report of it from Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk on 19th. Will it return next summer?

On 5th July amazing news of a Black-browed Albatross flying east past Portland Bill, Dorset in conditions that one would not normally associate with a classic seawatch. It then appeared to pass the length of the south-east coast of England and was reported from a boat off Durlston Head at 08:30, and off Worthing, Sussex and finally off Dungeness, Kent at 11:00, the latter two as possibles. This was no doubt the bird from Helgoland, Germany that thrilled visitors in June. The amazing photograph below is of the bird taken by Jochen Dierschke of the Birding Frontiers team. More can be read on the account of the bird in Germany here and an account and a photograph off Portland here.

There are 27 records of Black-browed Albatross for the British Isles, 26 of these since 1950. Obviously, many of these are birds recorded as fly-bys on seawatches but also includes the long staying bird which spent 1972 to 1995 in the Gannetry on Hermaness, Shetland and a bird that followed a fishing boat off Peninnis Head, Isles of Scilly on 21st September 2009. The Black-browed Albatross occurs in seas throughout the southern hemisphere and ranges widely across these oceans. A distribution map can be viewed here.

Black-browed Albatross - Helgoland, Germany 
by Jochen Dierschke of the Birding Frontiers team

Both Black-winged Pratincole and Collared Pratincole are fantastic birds to see and when both began to tour the east of England some birders were able to see both on the same day. The Black-winged Pratincole was found on 5th July at Hurworth Burn Reservoir, Durham (see below for photograph) where it remained until 6th before relocating to Hoywell Pond, Northumberland on 7th where it remained for only the morning. It was then not seen again until 14th July when it was relocated at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire and remained for a morning. next stop was North Norfolk where it was seen at Cley Marshes, Stiffkey Fen on 15th until 17th. It was then relocated on the Ouse Washes, Cambridgeshire where it settled (relatively speaking) from 19th-27th although at times it was very elusive during this period. Finally, what would seem to be a different bird was seen way to the south at Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex on 30th July. In contrast the Collared Pratincole found on 15th July at Minsmere was a far more sedentary creature remaining at the reserve, often on the East Scrape, until 27th before it was relocated, surprisingly, to the north at Castle Island, Northumberland where it remained for the day before disappearing.

There have been 103 records of Collard Pratincole and 36 records of Black-winged Pratincole up to the end of 2012 in the British Isles. The Collard Pratincole has a more westerly distribution than Black-winged nesting from Spain east to Pakistan and wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. Black-winged Pratincole breeds in a more restricted area from Romania east to northern Kazakhstan it winters in South Africa and in smaller numbers in West Africa. This more easterly distribution accounting for its greater rarity in the UK, Collard Pratincole regularly occurring as a spring overshoot and summer wanderer to the UK. A distribution map for Collard Pratincole can be viewed here and Black-winged Pratincole here.

Black-winged Pratincole - Hurworth Burn Reservoir by Martyn Sidwell. There were many shots of this bird, many distant, Martyn's was one of the best I have seen and shows the key field characters well. More of Martyn's photographs can be seen here.

On Fair Isle on the 9th July during annual European Storm-petrel trapping sessions a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel was caught in the nets, this was the same bird as was trapped on the island between 27th July and 3rd September 2013, being first heard on 22nd July. The bird is evidently frequenting the European Storm-petrel breeding colonies on the island and may well return in future years. A write-up of the 2013 record can be found here. In 2014 the bird was being trapped on a regular basis to the end of the month.

There have been five records of Swinhoe's Storm-petrel in the British Isles to the end of 2012 with the first off County Clare on 15th August 1995. The most remarkable being a bird that returned to Tynemouth, Northumberland between 1989 and 1994 being trapped in a similar manner to the Fair Isle bird during European Storm-petrel netting sessions in July. The occurrence of Swinhoe's Storm-petrel in the British Isles is remarkable given its distribution, it occurs only in the north-west Pacific and northern Indian oceans although it is increasingly believed that the species breeds in the north-east Atlantic given recent records in the UK and others on the Canaries and Balearic Islands. A distribution map can be viewed here.

Swinhoe's Storm-petrel - Fair Isle 27th July - Photo by Tommy Hyndman a Fair Isle resident, Tommy's blog can be viewed here. It provides a nice account of birding and life on Fair Isle

On 12th July news broke of a Great Knot seen in the evening at Breydon Water, Norfolk. Fortunately, the following day the bird was still present and remained at the site until the 15th giving many birders the opportunity to catch up with this fantastic long distant migrant. The bird would show well if a little distantly either side of high tide but at low tide would become mobile or very distant and at high tide would disappear amongst salt marsh vegetation at a high tide roost.

There have been four records of Great Knot in the British Isles to the end of 2012. These are:

  • Scatness and Pool of Virkie, Shetland 15th September 1989; 
  • Greenabella Marsh, Cleveland 13th October to 5th November 1996;
  • Swords Estuarty, County Dublin 25th July 2004; and
  • River Wyre, Lancashire 31 July to 17th August 2004.

Great Knot is a far eastern species breeding in North-east Siberia and winters in south-east Asia and Australasia. It is a long distant migrant but its migration route is poorly known. A distribution map  for Great Knot can be viewed here.

Great Knot, Breydon Water, Norfolk - Joshua Burch. 
View more of Joshua's fantastic images here

In mid-July a pair of Bee-eater were found breeding on the Isle of Wight by Ian Ridett on the National Trust Wydcombe Estate just north of Niton in the south of the Island. The birds are nesting in a shallow scrape just a few centimetres above ground level. A 24 hour surveillance operation was quickly established and a public viewing area created. The breeding pair are being assisted by up to two helpers which are presumably failed breeders and/or young birds related to the breeding pair. This is the third record of Bee-eater breeding in the UK previous records were a pair in County Durham in 2002 which successfully raised two young and two pairs in Sussex in 1955 which raised seven young. A Birdguides article can be found here and the National Trust article here.

Bee-eater - Morocco - Simon Colenutt

Previous Monthly Accounts Can be viewed here:

Friday 1 August 2014

Pectoral Sandpiper at Pennington Marsh - 1st August

I spent a couple of hours at Pennington Marsh this morning prior to a survey in Dorset. There were many waders around and while I did not count them I would estimate around 350 Black-tailed Godwit and 200 Dunlin on Butts and Fishtail Lagoons alone. As I scanned across Butts Lagoon hoping for a Dowitcher or a Stilt Sandpiper I came across a semi-familiar jizz amongst the Dunlin flock, a Pectoral Sandpiper, nice! I watched it for a while before it took flight and headed towards Fishtail Lagoon so I headed that way. I was pleased to see my first Wood Sandpiper of the autumn at Pennington feeding on the Enteromorpha rafts on Fishtail Lagoon.

Wood Sandpiper - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh - Simon Colenutt

As I got to the far west corner of Fishtail there was a high number of Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit and then on the near bank, there it was, the Pectoral Sandpiper showing brilliantly. The bird fed on the near shore amongst the Dunlin but unfortunately the light was not great for digiscoping but I could a few reasonable shots. The lower photo shows the bird crouching as a Kestrel flew over.

Pectoral Sandpiper - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh - Simon Colenutt

There was much argie-bargie amongst the Black-tailed Godwits presumably as they vied for space on the lagoons as new birds arrived. The bird below is in a threat display as another bird encroached into its feeding space.

                   Black-tailed Godwit - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh - Simon Colenutt