Tuesday 30 December 2008


A good day on the farm. The lake remained frozen all day. The 1st winter Iceland Gull (bottom) was on the ice, as was an adult Mediterranean Gull (above). A 1st winter Caspian looking gull was also present (below). Most of the Shoveler, Gadwall and aythya ducks had presumably found refuge else where. There were still 50+ Teal on the scrape.

Presumably if this weather keeps up we might see something in the way of cold weather displacement.

Checked in on the Long-eared Owls- there were still two or three on the bridge.

Lapwing on ice

Spent an hour in the evening trying out my new i-pod in Beddington Park. Called in a couple of Little Owls.

Monday 29 December 2008

Kew Gardens

Went to Kew Gardens today to have a look at the winter trees.
This Ring-necked Parakeet was one of several in the park.
Saw a Barn Owl yesterday hunting during the day at Fleet Head in Essex.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Darwin Exhibition at the Natural History Museum

I would thoroughly recommend the Darwin Exhibition at the Natural History Museum. The God Father of Modern Biology and the Greatest Brit ever (in my opinion).


Wednesday 17 December 2008

Gull sp. The Plot Thickens

Lee Evans kindly followed up on the gull sp (see below) and contacted gull master Peter Adriaens. It was good to hear from Peter again, who guided me on the identification of the Short-billed Gull on the Azores from 2003.

He drew my attention to these links from another gull expert, Visa Rauste: http://www.helsinki.fi/~rauste/gulls/hannu11.html and http://www.helsinki.fi/~rauste/gulls/parnu02.html

Peter says that the situation is complicated by eastern baltic argentatus herring gulls that can show features which recall Caspian. To make things even more interesting there is genetic evidence provided by Pierre-Andre Crochet et al that this variation of the eastern baltic argentatus is due to the presence of genetic material from an unknown perhaps even ancient gull species.

It really dont get much better than that in gull identification- a 'hybrid' with an extinct species.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Conservation Day at Beddington

We managed to clear the lake of birds today while we were clearing the islands and edges of willow scrub.
It was a good day, we literally pushed the boat out (click on below link for more):

Thursday 11 December 2008

Gull sp.

Here is another photo of a large white headed gull which I have chosen to label 'Caspian-type'. As this bird has generated a little bit of discussion I got a bit worried and gave it some more thought.

The reason why I think this bird is not a 2nd Yellow-legged Gull is as follows: a) Lacks a darkish 'eye' mask thus appearing distinctively 'white-headed'. b) p10 mirror in 2nd win is a Caspian feature and not Yellow-legged Gull, c) structurally I interpret this bird as being 'long-necked' and perhaps even small headed, not much of a tertial step and maybe even a hint of a full breast- all more Caspian features but I wouldn't put too much emphasis on my subjectivity with structure on a bird like this d) Also perhaps the dark tip, pale based bill and dark eye- maybe (?) pointers towards Caspian.

To my eyes, I don't think there is too much to suggest argentatus- the white head, dark eye, lack of blue grey in the upperparts, structure etc but some people have suggested they can see argentatus in it.

Therefore, as it shows Caspian features- why not a Caspian. Well, I would prefer not to call anything a Caspian unless it is a classic. Malling Olsen and Larsson's 'Gulls' deal with Caspian Gull- condensing a lot of independent papers and discussions into a concise summary- so I think Caspian Gull identification has become easier in recent years. Basically if it don't look like the birds in plates 42 and 43 it isn't one. I cant find this latest Beddington bird in this book- so...good night to that particular bird.

This book has even been endorsed as 'high standard' by the BOURC Taxonomic Sub-committee (TSC) (BB:101 pg 344) so I think can pass for 'scientific'. Although I am not too sure if my game of 'snap' qualifies as such.

That may be over-simplifying things but there are still gaps in knowledge about the variation within Caspian Gull and there appears to be hybridisation between Herring (argentatus)-Caspian at least in central Poland and also there are birds showing mixed characteristic from the Volga to Scandinavia. Therefore it appears a good idea to be cautious when assigning the name Caspian Gull unless it is a classic. The sink term 'Caspian-type' is a bit of a cop out but just points towards Caspian when it shows more features than say Yellow-legged so maybe a convenient way of logging these birds. Perhaps it is even more appropriate to call this bird gull sp. but personally I feel we can narrow it down just a little bit more. Of course, I could be wrong.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Fleet Head- Essex

Met up with Simon for some Essex birding. Fleet Head is pretty good in the winter- although it is difficult to photograph here as things are pretty distant. We had six Short-eared Owls, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Merlin, thousands of Brents, 5 Ruff, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, Corn Bunting, a few Rock Pipits and good numbers of other waders and water fowl including 200 Golden Plover.
As it was Essex also managed to bag a greasy spoons fry up and six fried donuts at Southend.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Beddington- Caspian Gulls

Above (two photos): 2nd win Caspian-type Gull. As there is a hybrid zone of cachinnans-argentatus in central Poland it is probably unwise to assign all Caspian-type gulls to specific identification. This bird looks good and even shows a mirror on p10. However the washed out 'dirty' upperpart markings are not something I generally associate with Caspian Gulls and even though it is quite possible that this is simply variation, I wouldn't know for sure.
This 1st winter Caspian Gull (botton one of the three gull shots) is more typical of what to expect of this species in this particular plumage.

Another one of these dark juvenile Herring Gulls (above). I don't know what is going on there- late birds or northern birds. It looks big- is this a juvenile argentatus?
Also on the farm today, birds of note included four Long-eared Owls still, one Peregrine, 2 Water Pipits on the enclosed beds, 32 Gadwall, 40 Shoveler, 100+ Teal and 10 Pochard. There are about 10-15 Long-tailed tits moving around the site with half a dozen Goldcrest.
It looks like Song Thrushes like the open areas of Fathen. I couldn't find the Stonechats or the Dartford Warbler but I flushed about 10 Song Thrushes from the same area.

Friday 5 December 2008

Beddington- a good winter's day

There are now four Long-eared Owls, which are clearly visible from the public area. A Peregrine went over causing a passing flock of Ring-necked Parakeets to dive into the trees alongside the lake. It took me over a decade to see Ring-necked Parakeet over the farm. Tonight there were flocks flying over, heading to a roost, somewhere. This is a very recent development. I heard that there had been some kind of disturbance to the roost at Esher rugby club where over 2000 used to roost, so maybe part of this population has relocated in this area somewhere.


Adult Lesser-black backed Gull- I think it is fair to say that this species is out numbered by Herring Gull by something like 500 to one.
There are some good winter birds on the farm at the moment. Four Long-eared Owls, two Barn Owls,, Dartford Warbler, Stonechats, Peregrine and hopefully soon a white-winger and Jack Snipe.

Tuesday 2 December 2008


I managed to see one of the three Long-eared Owls, which were found over the weekend, but couldn't get a photo.
A quick look on the lake didn't produce much. I could only see three Wigeon.
Managed to get this shot of a Common Gull 'pirating' a Black-headed Gull.

Tuesday 25 November 2008


Frank, Grant and Kojak found two Ravens today. I managed to see one of them as it flew off to the west. Only the second record for Beddington.
Raven (above) at Beddington Found by Frank Prater and photograph by Grant Prater

Sunday 23 November 2008

Beddington Farm

A very cold day, with snow showers and a moderate westerly. I missed a male Goosander which was present first thing in the morning.
Despite the landfill not operating there were still about 100+ gulls present including this Great black-backed Gull. The herring gulls were predominately first winters.
Also about 600-700 Jackdaws on site which were being pushed around by a female Peregrine.

Mute Swan

Sunday 16 November 2008


Female Reed Bunting (above)

A bit of a steady westerly with overcast skies, so not expecting too much today.

John and Nick found a Dartford Warbler near the enclosed beds. A very skulky bird which managed to avoid my camera. I think it is only the ten or eleventh for the farm but most of those records have been in recent years- looks like they might be trying to stage a winter colonisation. There were a pair of Stonechats and four Reed Buntings in the same area.

I don't know what the vegetation is in that area but it is certainly good feeding for birds. In addition to the Dartford Warbler, Stonechats and Reed Buntings there were Wrens, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks and Chaffinches feeding in it. Once again a nice little part of the farm which has just happened by accident.
I had a look round the old gravel pit and along the lake bushes- a few Goldcrests and quite a few tits.

There was a flock of Linnets (about 40+) feeding on the sides of the landfill with a couple of Chaffinches.

Seem to be good numbers of Starling- about 1500 feeding on the tip. About 300-400 mixed crows there.

On the lake, Wigeon numbers were up to six (a significant reduction since landfill operations has commenced) but I reckon there were 50+ Shoveler. Teal numbers are well down in recent years- only about 60-70 today. As usual a handful of Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Little Grebes.

Stonechats (female above, male below).

Not a lot else, a Water Pipit on the enclosed beds (John had three), one Meadow Pipit over, a Green Woodpecker by the Park and that's was my lot.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Beddington- winter is here

I have never seen so many gulls over the farm as I have today. I don't know how many thousands: twenty or thirty maybe.

Anyway all we could muster was one adult Mediterranean Gull and six Yellow-legged Gulls.

Lesser black-backs are still in very small numbers, maybe 50 or 60. There were about 10 Great-black backs.

A Buzzard went over putting everything up. It was a blizzard.

A typical 1st winter 'argenteus'. There is some kind of age segregation on the farm with predominately mature groups roosting in one area and immature groups in another.

The small gulls also choose different areas to segregate in to, with Black-headed Gulls generally keeping themselves to themselves.

Maybe a juvenile Lesser black-backed but structurally the bird seems quite heavy. It could be a dark 'northern latitude' herring gull, whose moult is retarded in relation to the earlier breeding and more southern distributed 'argenteus'.

Sunday 9 November 2008


Quite a still morning, before a westerly built so I went out listening for overhead migration. One Redpoll and the odd Siskin, a few Chaffinches. Quite a few Goldfinches around (maybe 30+) and also about six Goldcrests along the path.

100 or so Teal on 100 acre reminded me of the decline of this species on the farm over the last several years.

Not a lot else really of note. A Skylark on one of the mounds and about three Green Sandpipers.

Saturday 8 November 2008


Looks a bit like a Caspian Gull- not sure on the covert pattern.

Winter is here: back to looking through gulls. I noticed very few Lesser black-backed gulls today- less than 1% of the large gulls present. There were more Great black-backed gulls (about 15).

Juvenile/1st winter Med Gull. One of two birds present today. There were still some traces of juvenile plumage on the lower scaps and odd mantle feather on both birds.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Corvo 2008 Last Day 30th October

Riberia de Ponte. One of the famous Corvo eastern valleys. These sub-tropical valleys are the best location in the Western Palearctic for Nearctic landbird vagrants. This particular valley has hosted Black-throated Blue Warbler and Ovenbird.

In addition to these valleys there are other areas of habitat on the island- a lake, an airstrip, low lying dry stone walled fields, upland fields, cliffs and the ocean. This mosaic of habitats and the location of Corvo in the mid-Atlantic contributes to Corvo reigning supreme as the ultimate vagrant trap in the Western Palearctic.

With a vegetation type which is typically Macronesian/Mediterranean and residents birds made up Palearctic species (Blackbird, Blackcap,Grey Wagtail, Canary, Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Yellow-legged Gull, Woodcock, Snipe and Wheatear) the island is perfectly European- Europe's western most outpost.

Corvo on the eastern flank. This area is characterised by steep farmed slopes which are cut by wooded valleys. These wooded valleys are where the real hidden treasures lie. Vagrants include White-eyed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Corvo Island, the western flank. The precipitous wind swept cliffs are least productive for vagrants but provide possible nesting areas for petrels and shearwaters. Closer to sea level there are colonies of breeding Roseate and Common Terns .

Corvo Island. Southern flank showing the village and surrounding fields. Vagrants recorded in this area include White-crowned Sparrow, Summer and Scarlet Tanager, Yellowthroat, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Bobolink, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Arctic Redpoll, Killdeer, Hudsonian Whimbrel and other waders and gulls on the airfield.

Photos taken in July 2007.

The Caldera on Corvo. The main area on the island for ducks and waterbirds. Vagrants found here include Great-blue Heron, Wilson's Phalarope and other American waders and ducks.

Photo taken in October 2007.

On the way home Darryl, Simon and I stopped off at Cabo da Praia on Terceira. There were 2-3 Semi-palmated Plovers, 1 Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 2 White-rumped Sandpipers, 8 Whimbrel, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Little Stint and 2 Curlew Sandpiper.

Tuesday 28 October 2008


(above Yellowthroat again)

It has been pretty quiet over the last couple of days. A high pressure is well established over the Azores and most of the time has been spent looking for the sapsucker at Fogo. I suspect there is little in the way of new arrivals in weather conditions like this.

The Yellowthroats are still present and the only new bird has been an American Great White Egret which arrived yesterday. There is a Peregrine about too.

Monday 27 October 2008

Quiet Day

Apart from the Hobby- nada.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Re-found the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker today, which has been hiding in the valleys for the last two weeks.
Can't be bothered to write too much because this connection keeps crashing. Saw a couple of Arctic Skuas on 23rd and yesterday in addition to the White-eyed Vireo and 2 Yellowthroats there was a Peregrine and Whimbrel. A couple of Sanderling are hanging out with the Turnstones on the Beach.

Friday 24 October 2008

WHITE-EYED VIREO- The 2nd for the WP and the 2nd for Corvo

Common Yellowthroat- finally got to see these birds.

White-eyed Vireo

Thursday 23 October 2008

Black-throated Green Warbler

Got it. And Vincent got some photos which are quite simply mind blowing- quite un-like mine (above).

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Common Yellowthroat by Vincent Legrand- one of two birds which I keep dipping
'Azorean' Chaffinch

This internet connection keeps crashing so I can't be bothered to write this again. Basically Pierre found a Black throated Green and I didn't see it.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Western Palearctic cold spot

Hudsonian Whimbrel by Vincent Legrand

For Birdwatch article info:http://peteralfreybirdingnotebook.blogspot.com/2008/10/pioneers-birdwatch.html

Today is very quiet again on Corvo. Bird of the day for me is a juvenile Hobby (the first for the Azores) which has been present a few days. Just seen a Hudsonian Whimbrel on the airfield which is presumably the bird from Flores. The only other bird of note was a Wheatear. There is still a Yellowthroat about but I haven't seen it yet.

The wind is blowing from the south-east and despite extensive searching by a team of 12 pan-Europen birders there is no sign of any of the megas that were on the island last week (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Blackpoll and Yellow-throated Vireo).

Monday 20 October 2008

Corvo 20th October

Red-eyed Vireo, Corvo

Additional records 1 imm Pintail, 4 White-rumped Sandpiper, 5 Little Stint,

1 Red-eyed Vireo


American Great White Egret, Praia Pools, Terceira
2 Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Cabo da Praia

Juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper, Cabo da Praia, Terceira

'Azorean' Robin, Sao Miguel

17th October 2008
Sao Miguel
Lagoa Azul/ Sete citadades
Phyllo Woods
Goldcrest Blackbirds Chaffinches House Sparrows Starlings Woodpigeons Robins Blackcaps Grey Wagtail Feral Pigeon Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull
Lagoa Azul
1 1st w male Ring-necked Duck, 1 female Pintail, 1 female type Teal, 1 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron

18th October
Sao Miguel
Serra da Tronqueira
6 Azores Bullfinch
Terra Nostra
1 m Wood Duck (infamous dodgy bird still present)
Lagoa das furnas
f type Blue-winged Teal, 5 (2 f, 3 m) Ring-necked Duck, 1 f type Eurasian Teal, 20 Grey Heron, 8 Coot, 1 juv Osprey, 1 Ruddy Shelduck, 4 Common Tern, 1 Black-headed Gull, 2 Goldfinch
Ponta Delgada
10 Turnstone, 25+ Lesser Black-backed Gull,

19th October
Cabo da Praia Quarry
2 Semi-Palmated Sandpiper, 1 juv White-rumped Sandpiper, 2 Semi-palmated Plover, 3 juv Little Stint, 3 Knot, 2 (1 ad, 1 juv) Curlew Sandpiper, 40+ Sanderling, 30+ Turnstone, 25+ Kentish Plover, 2 Ringed Plover, 4 (3 ad, 1 juv) Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Whimbrel, 2 juv Dunlin, 4 Grey Plover, 4 Quail
Cabrito Reservoir
1 juv Lesser Yellowlegs
Praia Pools
1 American Great White Egret, 2 Little Egret