Thursday 30 November 2017

Rarities in November 2017

This is my summary of records of rare birds from the UK in November 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 reported off Marazion on 4th November and was seen on and off throughout the month. This bird is often distant and seen off various locations in Mounts Bay, sighting the bird relies on calm seas.
Pendower Beach, Cornwall - 1 offshore on 26th November.

Pied-billed Grebe
Loch Feorlin, Argyll - The adult male first recorded on the 6th May 2016 and intermittently since was again recorded on 2nd November.
Loch of Spiggie, Mainland / Shetland - 4th - 30th November, the first for Shetland. An account of the finding of this bird can be viewed here on the Rare Bird Alert website.

There are 44 British records and 12 Irish records of Pied-billed Grebe. The first British record was from Blagdon Lake in Somerset on 22nd December 1963, a one day bird that was Cine filmed. The species has been found in all months with April and November being the peak months. The prime counties are Cornwall and Somerset with seven records from each.

Pied-billed Grebe - Loch Spiggie, Shetland by Richard Ashby. More of Richard's Shetland birding and wildlife images can be seen on his Shetland Storm Force Photography blog. He also has a general photography website fantastic images here Amazing Shetland

American Coot
Lough Gill, Kerry - 9th November

Long-billed Dowitcher
Skomer, Pembrokeshire - 2nd November
Saltfleetby NNR / Lincolnshire - 6th November

Lesser Yellowlegs
Maxstoke, Warwickshire - 2nd November

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Whitton Sand, East Yorkshire - 4th November

Wilson's Snipe
Porth Hellick Pool, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - Another bird, the third of the Autumn was found at Porth Hellick Pool on 3rd November and remained until 6th November.

Bonaparte's Gull
Largs, Ayrshire - 17th November
Exmouth, Devon - 16th November
Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset - 24th November

American Horned Lark
Staines Reservoir, Surrey - 19th - 30th November

American Horned Lark - Fabulous image of this bird by John Rowland. The key features of this subspecies are the brown streaking on the chest the white (not yellow) supercilium extending over the bill and the more rufous plumage tones.

A bird possibly of either subspecies alpestris or hoyti, if confirmed, would be the first for the UK of one of the New World subspecies. Neither HBW Alive nor the IOC split the Horned Lark into multiple species due to current lack of information. However, it is likely that multiple species are involved with, for example, a recent molecular study suggesting that taxa in the Old World break into five species (see Drovetski, Rakovic, Semenov et al).


Ferruginous Duck
Rutland Water, Leicestershire and Rutland - 6th November
Dinton Pastures Country Park, Berkshire - 2 males on 7th November
Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset - 8th November

King Eider
Whiteness Head, Highland - Eclipse drake on 1st November
Wester Quarff, Mainland, Shetland - Adult male on 4th November
Rough Point, County Kerry - Female on 16th November

Snowy Owl
Bryher, Isles of Scilly - 1 on 30th November

Common Rock Thrush
The adult male first recorded on 12th October was last seen on 2nd November.

Siberian Stonechat
Skomer, Pembrokeshire - 2nd November
Halstow Marshes, Kent - 19th November

Pied Wheatear
Skinningrove, Cleveland - Female on 6th November

Hume's Leaf Warbler
Dungeness, Kent - 1 trapped and ringed on 9th November

Italian Sparrow
East Budleigh, Devon - 12th to 30th November

A sparrow showing characters of this species was present in the town of East Budleigh and has been visiting feeders with House Sparrow. While the characters of this bird look good for Italian Sparrow it would take DNA analysis to confirm the identification as such. While largely sedentary, HBW Alive states 'recovery in Italy of individuals ringed in S France (Camargue) and recovery on Corsica of one ringed on Italian mainland suggest that there can be significant dispersal.' This would be a first record for the UK if accepted. A good account of where to see this bird is available on the Devon Birds website here.

Possible Italian Sparrow - East Budleigh, Devon. Note that the bird has an overgrowth 
on the upper mandible. Image by Steve Gantlett of Cley Birds. 
Steve's images from Norfolk and around the UK can be viewed and purchased on his website Cley Birds here

Parrot Crossbill
Following the mini invasion in the northern islands in October the first confirmed records reached the mainland this month as follows:

Santon Warren, Norfolk - 28 on 26th November until the months end.
Upper Hollesley Common, Suffolk - 6 on 26th until the months end.
Wishmoor Bottom, Berkshire - 16 from the 26th to the months end.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Andaman Islands - 29th November (Day 5)

Today we were up at 03:45 for a 04:15 departure from our hotel in Port Blair with a limited number of endemic birds to see. We headed back to the Government Secondary School in Port Blair to try for Barn Owl of the endemic subspecies deroepstorffi. Arriving just as the sun was rising we waited for 30 minutes and once again despite hearing the bird there was no sight of it.

We then headed around Flat Bay stopping at various wetlands looking for Andaman Teal. The water bodies held good numbers of birds with Purple Gallinule, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Intermediate Egret, Striated Heron, Pacific Golden-plover, Red-throated Pipit and Eastern Yellow Wagtail, but we had no luck with the Teal. We reached the main pool for the Andaman Teal located approximately 1.5km south-east of Tusnabad, this was a very large lake surrounded by rushes, sedges, reed and papyrus with extensive areas of open mud. There were many waders with the highlights being Long-toed Stint (55), Red-necked Stint (15), Oriental Pratincole (1), Wood Sandpiper (c.75), Whimbrel, Pacific Golden-plover, a winter plumage Broad-billed Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper (6). In the surrounding scrub we recorded Oriental Reed-warbler and Dusky Warbler but again there was no sign of the Teal.

Purple Gallinule - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Pacific Golden-plover - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Whimbrel of subspecies variegatus - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

White-breasted Kingfisher - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Great Egret - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Yellow Bittern - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Redshank of subspecies eurina - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Wood Sandpiper - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

Lesser Whistling-duck - Near to Chouldari, Andaman Islands

We then headed over the island to Chidiatapu Biological Park. It was fairly slow going but we had only two main targets. Walking past the pens containing various deer we recorded Grey-capped Emerald DoveGreen Imperial-pigeon and Changeable Hawk-eagle. There was a shout and a quick sprint and Jejo had found our first target, an Andaman Serpent-eagle soaring over the canopy. Wandering on we recorded Greenish WarblerYellow-browed Warbler and then Barry found our last target, three Andaman Wood-pigeon perched quietly within the under scrub and lower canopy.

Andaman Green Bronzeback - Chidiatapu Biological Park, Andaman Islands

Grey-capped Emerald Dove - Chidiatapu Biological Park, Andaman Islands

Andaman Serpent-eagle - Chidiatapu Biological Park, Andaman Islands

Andaman Woodpigeon - Chidiatapu Biological Park, Andaman Islands

Dragonfly species - Chidiatapu Biological Park, Andaman Islands

Changeable Hawk-eagle - Chidiatapu Biological Park, Andaman Islands

We headed back to the hotel for lunch and a siesta in the heat of the day before heading back out at 2:45 for another try for the Andaman Teal south-east of Tusnabad. We briefly scanned the first ponds making our way for the main pond. There were far more waders this afternoon with perhaps 175 Long-toed Stint and 25 Red-necked Stint with larger numbers of most of the other species we had previously recorded. Barry then located four Andaman Teal and we enjoyed rather distant views of this rare species as they preened on the edge of the pond. This was the last endemic species we needed. Come 16:30 we needed to head for the bus to get back to the Barn Owl site before dusk. Once again we were unsuccessful with this subspecies and all that we succeeded in was being eaten alive by mosquito. We headed back to the hotel to pack for tomorrows flight to Chenai and enjoyed our final Indian buffet and Kingfisher beers.

Distant shot of our last endemic, Andaman Teal - Near to Tusnabad, Andaman Islands

List of Birds Recorded in the Andaman Islands
We recorded 114 species, 22 of which were ticks for me (shown in bold). All ticks were Andaman endemics with the exception of Lesser Cuckoo and Indian Cuckoo. We saw all of the endemic species of the Andaman Islands.

Lesser Whistling-duck
Cotton Pygmy-goose
Andaman Teal
Rock Dove
Andaman Woodpigeon
Red Turtle-dove
Andaman Cuckoo-dove
Grey-capped Emerald Dove
Andaman Green-pigeon
Green Imperial-pigeon
Andaman Nightjar
Brown-backed Needletail
Glossy Swiftlet
Edible-nest Swiftlet
Pacific Swift
Andaman Coucal
Western Koel
Indian Cuckoo
Lesser Cuckoo
Andaman Crake
Purple Swamphen
Common Moorhen
Yellow Bittern
Cinnamon Bittern
Green-backed Heron
Chinese Pond-heron
Cattle Egret
Purple Heron
Great White Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Pacific Reef-egret
Pacific Golden Plover
Lesser Sandplover
Greater Sandplover
Eurasian Curlew
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Long-toed Stint
Red-necked Stint
Pintail Snipe
Common Snipe
Common Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Redshank
Wood Sandpiper
Oriental Pratincole
Whiskered Tern
Common Barn-owl
Hume's Boobook
Andaman Boobook
Andaman Scops-owl
Oriental Scops-owl
Oriental Honey-buzzard
Black Baza
Crested Serpent-eagle
Andaman Serpent-eagle
Changeable Hawk-eagle
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Brahminy Kite
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Oriental Dollarbird
Common Kingfisher
Stork-billed Kingfisher
White-breasted Kingfisher
Black-capped Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Andaman Woodpecker
Freckle-breasted Woodpecker
Common Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Vernal Hanging-parrot
Red-breasted Parakeet
Long-tailed Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet
Black-naped Oriole
Scarlet Minivet
Andaman Cuckooshrike
White-breasted Woodswallow
Andaman Drongo
Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo
Black Drongo
Black-naped Monarch
Brown Shrike
Andaman Treepie
Large-billed Crow
House Crow
Oriental Reed-warbler
House Swallow
Barn Swallow
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Andaman Bulbul
Yellow-browed Warbler
Dusky Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Oriental White-eye
White-headed Starling
Common Myna
Common Hill Myna
Orange-headed Thrush
Oriental Magpie-robin
Andaman Shama
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Asian Fairy-bluebird
Plain Flowerpecker
Olive-backed Sunbird
House Sparrow
Red-throated Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Andaman Islands - 28th November (Day 4)

We were again up early at 04:00 and caught the 05:30 ferry from Port Blair across to Bamboo Flat. We birded the mangrove area at Kalathang and onto the same forested track that we birded yesterday. We saw much the same as yesterday with a good range of endemics, the highlight being seeing a large flock of around 60 Andaman Treepie mixed with Andaman Drongo and Andaman Cuckoo-shrike. This large roving flock was quite a site and we followed the birds for some time before they disappeared into the forest. Also here was an Indian Cuckoo while a Pacific Swift overhead was debated as Blyth’s Swift until we realised that this sub-species of Pacific Swift is not known to occur on the Andaman Islands. We then headed to an area of forest at Ferrgungh on the main road from Bamboo Flat back to Port Blair, by now it was very hot. The birding was fairly productive and we saw two stunning Andaman Crake which came into tape, Orange-headed Thrush, Oriental Dollarbird, Asian Fairybluebird, Long-tailed Parakeet and Andaman Shama. We caught the crowded 11:30 ferry back to Port Blair and had lunch and siesta in the hotel before heading back to the ferry to Bamboo Flats.

Andaman Treepie - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

White-breasted Kingfisher - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

White-breasted Kingfisher - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Grey-fronted Green-pigeon - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Indian Cuckoo - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Drongo - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Crake - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Drongo - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Oriental Dollarbird - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

By now the only diurnal bird species we needed were Andaman Teal, Andaman Wood-pigeon and Andaman Serpent-eagle and so our attention was focused on locating these species. In the afternoon we once again caught the Port Blair to Bamboo Flats ferry and birded at Kalathang. We again birded the roadside and mangroves and to the forested track with no luck with the wood-pigeon or serpent eagle seeing only Green Imperial-pigeon, Andaman Bulbul and Andaman Shama. We birded here until dusk and then loitered around waiting for darkness to fall and time for night birding. At 18:30 Jijo played an Andaman Scop’s-owl recording and almost immediately a bird responded close-by, after a little bit of to’ing and fro’ing we eventually had great views of the bird perched above our heads ‘mantling’ the branch. Then a Brown Boobook began calling and after a short while we found this bird perched over the track while two other birds called nearby. Finally, Jijo played the Hume’s Boobook tape and after a very short period a pair appeared in the trees over the track and showed their dark plumage in the torch light. Andy then called us, he had an Andaman Scop’s-owl beneath the canopy and no more than five metres away at head height. We had birded a stretch of no more than 100m and had recorded three owl species and with around seven individual owls present. We headed back to the hotel via the ferry in good spirits for an Indian buffet and beers.

Andaman Scop's-owl - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Scop's-owl - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Brown Boobook - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Hume's Boobook - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)

Monday 27 November 2017

Andaman Islands - 27th November (Day 3)

We were up at 04:00 and headed to the ferry that crosses the mouth of Flat Bay from Port Blair to Bamboo Flat. The ferry shuttles constantly back and forth for much of the day and we were on the first ferry at 05:30. The ferry was fairly empty and we had great views of the bay area as we took the 15 minute journey seeing Edible-nest Swiftlet, Pacific Reef-heron and Peregrine during the short crossing. We birded an area of forest along a short dirt track through forest and scrub at Kalathang and saw a good selection of endemics including Andaman Sharma, Andaman Cuckoo-shrike, Andaman Coucal, Andaman DrongoAndaman Woodpecker, White-headed StarlingAndaman Cuckoo-doveFreckle-breasted Woodpecker and Andaman Bulbul. Other species here included Alexandrine Parakeet, Long-tailed Parakeet, Red-breasted Parakeet, Lesser Cuckoo, Brown-backed NeedletailGreen Imperial Pigeon, Black Baza, Dusky Warbler and Pacific Swift. Come mid-morning we birded the road up to Mount Harriet Forest Reserve mainly looking for Andaman Woodpigeon but it was very hot and we saw little but for Green Imperial Pigeon and so headed back to the hotel via the, now crowded ferry, to the hotel for lunch and a siesta.

Andaman Cuckoo-shrike - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Bulbul - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Bulbul - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Scarlet Minivet of the subspecies andamanensis - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Brown Shrike - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Lesser Cuckoo - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Lesser Cuckoo - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Alexandrine Parakeet - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Woodpecker - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Coucal - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Black Baza - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Black Baza - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Black-naped Monarch - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Long-tailed Parakeet - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Bengal Clipper Parthenos sylvia - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Sharma - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Andaman Mormon Papilio mayo – Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Thai Cruiser Vindula erota - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Betel Nut - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Brown Shrike - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Plain Flowerpecker of subspecies virescens and a potential split as Andaman 
Flowerpecker- Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Green Imperial-pigeon - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

In the afternoon we birded the road near the biological park at Chidiyatapu mainly looking for Andaman Crake. It was exceptionally busy with traffic and we spent more time dodging the vehicles than looking at birds and failed to see Andaman Crake despite entering the forest to tape for it. As the light faded we headed to an area of scrub to the west of Chidiatapu where after a short while taping an Andaman Nightjar flew low overhead and away. We spent the next couple of hours birding this road and heard Hume’s Boobook, Andaman Boobook, Andaman Scop’s-owl and Oriental Scop’s-owl but failed to see any. There was a remarkable density of owls in a very short stretch of road with Oriental Scop’s-owl being the most abundant with around eight heard. We then headed a short distance to the Chidiyatapu Biological Park entrance seeing a distant Hume’s Boobook on telegraph wires but we failed to get any decent views. At the entrance to the biological park we eventually had good views of Oriental Scop’s-owl and heard another Andaman Boobook but failed to connect with this bird despite it being very close-by. We headed back for dinner rather despondent at 21:00 and crashed at 23:00 after another curry dinner and much welcomed beer.

Collared Kingfisher of subspecies davisoni - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Bat species  - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Oriental Scop's-owl of the subspecies modestus and a potential future split as Walden's 
Scop's-owl - Kalathang, Andaman Islands

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)