Monday 22 September 2014

Keyhaven and Pennington Marsh 21st September

I was itching to get back to the patch yesterday but commitments prevented it so it was a bit gutting to hear the news of a Semipalmated Sandpiper and Richard's Pipit found at Keyhaven Lagoon so on the sunday an early start was made to see if I could catch up with these birds and to catch up on the birds at the patch. The weather was distinctly fresher than of late with a brisk north-easterly wind and a clear sky giving lovely bright conditions.

I parked on the corner at Lower Pennington Lane and walked west. There were thousands of hirundines, mainly House Martin, feeding over the fields inland from the corner and while there seemed to be a steady easterly movement of birds this didn't amount to a huge number of birds, perhaps a few thousand, maybe up to 10,000, through during my time I was on site. This movement in hirundines seemed to be reflected a little by Chiffichaff and as  walked the Ancient Highway westwards I had at least 15 birds moving in a definite 'viz mig' manner eastwards alone the hedgerow lining the track.

The work during the summer landscaping Efford Lagoon has created extensive bare areas around its margins and this is currently favoured feeding area for pipits and wagtails, today there were approximately 50 Meadow Pipit and 25 Alba Wagtails present, many of the Alba Wagtails appeared to be White Wagtail. Otherwise the Ancient Highway appeared fairly slow with a total of three Yellow Wagtail and two Whitethroat being the only birds of note other than the hirundines and Meadow Pipits moving overhead. 

White Wagtail feeding around Efford Lagoon

Chiffchaff - I recorded at least 15 birds moving east along the Ancient Highway

At Keyhaven Lake there was a single Sandwich Tern and in the scrub inland from the lake there were five Chiffchaff and a single Whitethroat. There were around 60 Turnstone roosting on the boats on the lake, they seem to favour the RIBS presumably as the rubber surface offers better grip than the fibreglass of the numerous yachts. They certainly make a mess of the boats!

Turnstone roosting on a RIB at Keyhaven Lake.

I eventually got to Keyhaven Lake and there were around 30 birders present scanning the lagoon. I bumped into Tim Parmister and he informed me that the Semipalmated Sandpiper had not been seen but that the Richard's Pipit had been showing on and off. So I set-up my scope and began scanning. There were a lot of birds on the lagoon with perhaps 250 Dunlin, 45 Ringed Plover, three Little Stint, 50 Grey Plover, 25 Knot, 75 Teal, 50 Wigeon and my first Brent Goose of the winter. At least three Wheatear were also present on the mud around the lagoon. I scanned the back edge of the lagoon in the hope of picking up the Richard's Pipit and after a while there it was, perched on a clod of mud along the edge of the sedges and grasses. After putting a few of the assembled birders onto it I tried to get a few digiscoped shots but it was a little distant and there was considerable camera shake from the wind.

Brent Goose - My first of the winter

Grey Plover and Knot - Good numbers on Keyhaven Lagoon today

Richard's Pipit - Very distant digiscoped shot taken in considerable wind. 

After an hour or so I wandered on and had a quick look on Fishtail Lagoon for the Semip. but no luck, there were a handful of Teal and Wigeon plus approximately 75 Black-tailed Godwit. Three Spotted Redshank were feeding in unison along the back of the lagoon, I am not sure there are many other waders other than Avocet that feed in unity like this. It was time to head back so I walked the scrub along the back of Butts Lagoon and then past the dry Shoveler Pools back to the car.

 Wigeon - A lovely chestnut male in eclipse plumage on Fishtail Lagoon

Spotted Redshank on Fishtail Lagoon

Saturday 20 September 2014

Madeira Seabirds - May 2011

Having a collection of around 30,000 photographs I find myself spending my occasional spare moment editing, sorting and cataloging my ever expanding library. This is not simply an arduous task it brings back happy memories of trips and great birds. Every so often, when the mood takes me/time allows I am going to post photographs that are either of a great bird or are of those that bring back happy memories. 

I am a massive seabird fan but definitely prefer sitting on a headland to sitting on the deck of a boat. However, from 6th to 10th May 2011 I visited Madeira with Mike Edgecombe, John Gregory and Pete Antrobus, I couldn't resist the chance of three days sea birding plus the island endemics. We booked the trip with Madeira Wind Birds who were very well organised and I would thoroughly recommend using them. We spent the first two days drifting off the north-east coast of Madeira and one day off Deserta Grande, a map of the islands can be viewed here. Here are a few pictures from the trip: 

Fea's Petrel

Zino's Petrel

Cory's Shearwater

Madeiran Storm Petrel

White-faced Storm Petrel

Bulwer's Petrel

Sabine's Gull - Adult summer and adult winter

Others in this photo archive 'series':
  • Cream-coloured Courser here

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Red-backed Shrike - Sandy Point, Hayling Island 15th September

I had a meeting nearby and couldn't resist popping in for a look at the 1st winter Red-backed Shrike that had been showing well, on and off, since 5th September on Hayling Island. The bird has been frequenting the Bramble and Gorse scrub in the south-east corner of Sandy Point Local Nature Reserve. There is no public access to the reserve due to the delicate nature of the dune flora and fauna and the bird is viewed from the beach. I arrived just as the bird had dropped out of view and after a 10 minute wait it appeared distantly and looking rather bedraggled having just been bathing. After a quick preen and a bit of a sunbath the bird headed to the eastern edge of the reserve closer to the beach and began feeding on craneflies and grasshoppers. Always a little distant for the camera it none the less showed reasonably well.

Also at the reserve were 1st year male Redstart and a Dartford Warbler. Offshore were at least 30 Mediterranean Gull, five Sandwich Tern and three Common Tern. I also had a nice chat with Martin Peacock at the site who's blog, Martin's Sussex Birding Blog, can be seen here, I am sure he will post his pictures of the Red-backed Shrike on the blog in due course

1st winter Red-backed Shrike - Always a little distant for the camera it nonetheless showed fairly well amongst the Brambles. The top image shows it with a grasshopper probably a Field Grasshopper or possibly Lesser Marsh Grasshopper

 First year male Redstart

Sunday 14 September 2014

Pennington Marsh - 12th September

I had a couple of spare hours on Friday morning so had a quick walk around Pennington Marshes covering the old landfill and Fishtail, Keyhaven and Butts Lagoons. The wind was more or less easterly  and light and while there was a thin mist first thing the sun soon broke out. There had been a further increase in Teal and Wigeon numbers since my last visit with now at least 120 Wigeon and around 270 Teal, these were mainly congregated on Keyhaven and Butts Lagoon. A large number of the Wigeon were males in their eclipse plumage, even in this more sombre plumage the males are fantastic looking birds with their rich chestnut tones.

 Wigeon - Eclipse males


Pintail numbers are still low with only five birds seen. I am not entirely sure how simple it is to distinguish females from juveniles but the latter are said to be more diffusely spotted and barred, while I am not entirely sure I believe that most of the birds are currently juveniles.

Pintail - Probably a juvenile

The tide was rising but still fairly low and so there were few waders on the lagoons. On Fishtail Lagoon there were two Little Stint and on Keyhaven Lagoon there were five Little Stint and 15 Ringed Plover. Otherwise there were no waders of any real note. Off Butts Lagoon there was a flock of 38 Mediterranean Gulls, these were mainly adult winter with approximately ten 2nd winters. A single Sandwich Tern was roosting amongst them.


 Part of flock of 38 Mediterranean Gull of Butts Lagoon a single Black-headed Gull is the left hand bird

There were relatively few birds in the bushes but I didn't spent long looking, two Whinchat were on the old dump, there were a handful of Whitethroats and Reed Warbler and a single Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes beside Shoveler pools. There were around 20 Yellow Wagtail in the area and a single Tree Piptit flew east. A very lost looking Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the bushes between the old dump and Fishtail Lagoon. It was looking decidedly lost with no trees present and would fly high and circle round before dropping back into the bushes. At one point a passing Peregrine chased it for a short distance but it seemed to readily out manoeuvre the Peregrine.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker looking a little lost in the Elders on the west side of the old dump

Wednesday 10 September 2014

An evening at Normandy Lagoon, Lymington - 8th September

On Monday evening after work I went back to Normandy Lagoon to try to get better views of the Lesser Yellowlegs on a sunny rather than foggy visit. I parked on Kings Saltern Road and walked through the Yacht Club to the eastern seawall of Normandy Lagoon before walking around to the north-west corner of the lagoon where the Yellowlegs has been hanging-out. There were a few migrants around including at least four Wheatear, two Whinchat and around 40 Yellow Wagtail. I loitered for the Wryneck which was seen yesterday and this morning but with no luck.

Kingfisher fishing in a tidal channel to the east of Normandy Lagoon

Possible Greenland Wheatear (1st winter) being large and rich peachy buff below

1st Winter Wheatear

The Lesser Yellowlegs was still present in the north-west corner of Normandy Lagoon but was generally more distant than yesterday and despite the better light there was a heat haze in the 23C temperatures and my photographs suffered as a result. Anyway, here are a few shots that are okay.

This is as close as the Lesser Yellowlegs got this evening and a heat distortion is still evident

Wing stretching

Mixing with the Dunlin

On alert as a Kestrel passed over

Also on the lagoon were two Little Stint, including yesterdays ringed bird, a juvenile ruff and a Common Sandpiper amongst the usual common wader species. As I left for home I was intrigued to see this starling roost which numbered 270 birds on the masts of the expensive looking yachts in the marine.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

August 2014 Rarities

This is my summary of what I consider to be the most exciting records from the UK in August 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 August 2014 can be found here.

August 2014
August was a fairly slow month with few major rarities but there were good numbers of seabirds to be seen for those based in the west with, for example, Cory Shearwater numbers including 200 from the Scilly Pelagic on 8th, 51  past Porthgwarra on 11th and 488 past Galley Head, Cork on 28th and with Great Shearwaters including 40 from a pelagic of Galley Head, Cork on 4th, 30 past Pendeen, Cornwall on 10th, 12 from a Scilly Pelagic on 24th, 27 past Galley head, Cork on 28th and 14 past Pendeen, Cornwall on 29th. A Fea's Petrel was seen from a Scilly Pelagic on 18th with some fantastic photos being obtained by Joe Pender, an account of this record can be read here along with a selection of Joe's fantastic images.

Fea's Petrel by Joe Pender from the Sapphire Pelagics. Joe's pelagic trips onboard the Sapphire are an excellent way of getting to grips with some great seabirds and Blue Shark

The megas of the month started with the Swinhoe's Storm-petrel being trapped on the night of 1st August on Fair Isle for one last time. There were also reports of the species at Bridges of Ross, County Clare on 25th August and at Kerry Head, County Kerry on 28th August. Could these records all relate to the same individual?

The Black-winged Pratincole seen on the Ouse Washes from 19th-27th July was relocated on 2nd August and had clearly been present throughout. It was last seen here on 9th August.

Thereafter, the month was filled with possibles and probables with possible Short-toed Eagle report in East Sussex and Lincolnshire on 9th and 22nd respectively, a possible Scopoli's Shearwater photographed off the Isles of Scilly on 8th, a possible Greater Sand Plover at Meath on 13th, a possible North Atlantic Little Shearwater at Flamborough on 23rd, a possible Bulwer's Petrel at Old Head of Kinsale on 25th, a possible Eleonora's Falcon at Thetford on 27th and a possible Isabelline Wheatear on the Outer Hebrides on 29th but none of these materialised into a good solid record.

A popular Eastern Subalpine Warbler was at Landguard Nature Reserve on 30th and 31st an interesting write-up can be viewed here on the Felixstowe Birding website under the account for these two days. While on 2nd September this interesting report of DNA studies of two Subalpine Warblers on Fair Isle in Spring 2014 showed that a bird identified as an Eastern Subalpine Warbler was of the race cantillans, the first of this race from southern Italy to be confirmed in the UK. While another bird tentatively identified as a Western Subalpine Warbler was identified as Britain's second Moltoni's Warbler, the only other accepted record being a bird from St. Kilda and subsequently identified from DNA from 1894. Moltoni's Warbler breeds on Corsica, Sardinia and northern Italy. The results of the Fair Isle DNA analysis surely begs the question of how certain can we be of some of these less clear cut Subalpine's appearing in the UK, surely a cautious approach and preferably DNA sampling is required?

Eastern Subalpine Warbler by Trevor Charlton from the excellent Felixstowe Birding Website which features a well maintained account of bird records and a great deal of excellent information on the site

Previous Monthly Accounts Can be viewed here:

Sunday 7 September 2014

Pennington and Keyhaven Marshes - 5th and 7th September

Two dreary mornings on the marshes started with a morning of heavy overcast and light mist on Friday and thick fog in still conditions on Sunday.

On Friday I walked along the Ancient Highway and back past the lagoons but there was remarkably little to be seen. There had been a fair arrival of wildfowl since last weekend with now at least 220 Teal, 40 Wigeon and five Pintail but waders were in short supply, presumably out on the salt marsh roosting and not on the lagoons due to the high water levels. Additional records included 1 Great Crested Grebe, 25 Eider, 15 Sandwich Tern, 3 Common Tern, 60 House Martin east, 70 Swallow east and 25 Sand Martin east, 2 Wheatear, 8 Whitethroat, 5 Blackcap, 6 Reed Warbler and 10 Chiffchaff. Here are some rubbish photos from the mornings murk:

 Eider flock off Butts Lagoon. Mostly females with at least three eclipse male and one juvenile.

Some of the 40 Wigeon present on Butts Lagoon today. 

Juvenile Common Tern off Pennington Lagoon

Adult winter Sandwich Tern off Pennington Lagoon

Reed Warbler on the Ancient Highway

On Sunday I was up at 05:30 and despite the murk in Romsey I was optimistic that the coast would be bathed in brilliant sunshine but it was not to be, visibility was barely 50m in thick fog until at least 10:30 when it improved to 100m of foggy, murky light. As I was time limited my main aim was to head for Normandy Lagoon where a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs had been found on Friday PM. On my arrival I parked at the corner on Lower Pennington Lane  and headed east to the lagoon. The Lesser Yellowlegs was showing well in the north-west corner of the lagoon on my arrival and I spent a couple of hours watching it and scanning through the gloom across the lagoon. As well as the 'Legs' there were at least 2 Little Stint, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 200 Dunlin, 150 Redshank, 50 Black-tailed Godwit and 15 Yellow Wagtail not the lagoon. The bushes and marshes on the walk back produced 2 Wheatear, 30 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Redstart, 5 Whitethroat and 10 Willow/Chiffs. More murky shots from todays birding:

Dew covered spider webs

Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs on Normandy lagoon

Colour ringed juvenile Little Stint on Normandy lagoon

This birds yellow ring appears to bare the inscription of 'SEX', or is that my eyes?

Monday 1 September 2014

Pennington Marshes 31st August

The mornings are really starting to feel autumnal now and despite the warm start to the morning there was definitely more of an autumn than summer touch to the air. The Hawthorn, Bramble and Blackthorn fruits are fully ripened and the movement of birds is certainly in full swing. It was a lovely mornings birding at Pennington today with fair numbers of hirundines, Yellow Wagtail (30), Tree Pipit (2) and Meadow Pipit on the move plus a few more waders and wildfowl than recent visits. I just wished that I had longer to spend on the marshes this morning.

I decided on a slightly different route this morning and rather than walking from the car park at the end of Lower Pennington Lane out to Fishlake and the around Keyhaven Lagoon before backtracking I walked west along the 'Ancient Highway' from the car park at Lower Pennington Lane out to Keyhaven Yacht Club, around the coast via Iley Point and back past the lagoons. Its a great way of seeing more of the area taking in more trees and bushes at the back of the lagoons. This maybe my new regular route.

The lagoon (Efford Lagoon) on the old dump at the end of Lower Pennington Lane supported its usual small flock of gulls and a few Tufted Duck but there appeared to be more pipits around with at least 15 Meadow Pipit and 20 Pied wagtail on the mud to the south of the lagoon. Overhead there were good numbers of Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin but these appeared to be ranging the site feeding rather than moving in a concerted direction. Amongst these suddenly appeared a Swift which fed back and forth along the Ancient Highway before disappearing to the west. This was clearly a juvenile with clear whitish edges to the secondaries and upper and under wing coverts. The tips of the primaries were very abraded probably as a result of the bird rubbing its wings against the sides of a confined nest site.

Juvenile Tufted Duck on Efford Lagoon

Sand Martin over Efford Lagoon. The rusty-buff fringes to most of the feathers show this to be a juvenile.

Juvenile Swift over the Ancient Highway. Note the obvious white secondary and greater wing coverts.

As I wandered down the Ancient Highway the morning sun shone and the colours of the Hawthorn and Bramble in the bordering hedgerows were distinctly autumnal. I had nice views of a female Roe Deer and her fawn browsing in the marsh. The bushes were hopping with warblers, mainly Sedge Warbler (5), Whitethroat (C.15), Blackcap (5), Willow Warbler (5) and Chiffchaff (3) and a single Spotted Flycatcher was only my third of the year.

 Roe Deer and fawn

 Sedge Warbler on the Ancient Highway

 Whitethroat on the Ancient Highway

  Whitethroat on the Ancient Highway

Willow Warbler on the Ancient Highway

Spotted Flycatcher on the Ancient Highway

My first two Pintail of the winter circled over the pond at the western end of the Ancient Highway. This pond is quite secluded and difficult to view and appears to be used as a fishing lake or possibly a wildfowling pond. The adjacent tall Oak, Sycamore and Ash provided a nice sunny south facing treelike and good numbers of warbler were foraging here. 

Juvenile Pintail

I then birded the creek by the Keyhaven Yacht Club. It was low tide and there were many waders here including good numbers of Dunlin (c.150), Black-tailed Godwit (C.200), Turnstone (C.25) and Greenshank (2). Most of the Dunlin were adult birds moulting to winter plumage although there were fair numbers of juvenile birds present. Juveniles amongst the Black-tailed Godwit were still few in number. The birds were showing well and it was easy to get relatively close by walking across the shingle to the edge of the mud. There were walkers here and I guess that the birds are relatively used to people walking past.

Dunlin moulting to winter plumage

Juvenile (left) and adult (right) Dunlin moulting to winter plumage. The juvenile bird retains the dark spotted belly, chestnut fringed mantle feathers and a trace of the white braces typical of this age.

Adult Dunlin moulting to winter plumage

Juvenile Greenshank wing stretching

Juvenile Greenshank wing stretching

Close-up of Greenshank wing showing the fresh wing feathers with no sign of moult yet

Adult summer Turnstone

I wandered along the sea wall and at Iley Point I bumped into Tim Parminter and Marc Moody who put me on to a ring-tail Montagu's Harrier that they had watched drift over the marshes and out over the salt marsh. When I got onto the bird it was pretty distant and was gaining height as it crested Hurst Spit and headed west out to sea. A slow walk along the seawall to Butts Lagoon produced relatively little, the lagoons are quite full after the recent heavy rains and there were few waders. A Hobby flew north over Fishtail Lagoon and numbers of Yellow Wagtail (perhaps 30 in total) were moving back and forth across the marshes. On Fishtail Lagoon there were 30 Teal and 15 Shoveler, a good increase in wildfowl numbers since my last visit. A single Tree Pipit flew high to the west. At the point at Butts Lagon there were two Wheatear and the Grey Plover flock has now swollen to at least 25 birds, many of which are in breeding plumage. Mixed with these were five juvenile Knot. A quick scan of the Solent before I had to make a move produced eight sandwich tern and five Common Tern as well as the usual Eider flock.

Grey Plover with Knot and Turnstone on mudflats of Butts Lagoon