Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Top Winter Birding

Overall, winter is a bit of slog. In fact most of my blog posts in January have been about stuff that has happened before or is going to happen. So continuing that theme here are my personal favourite winter birding adventures that I have been on and a quick think about what winter birding adventures I would like to go on. 


You cannot beat a hard weather movement on the patch. The excitement of witnessing the epic drama of escape movements in the face of a potentially deadly Arctic blast is fantastic. The physical endurance needed to get out and stay in the field adds to the drama and adds to the empathy (a little bit) of what the birds are going through. My first experience of a hard weather movement was in 1987 at 15 years old which resulted in my younger brother almost ending up in A&E with hypothermia- luckily we carried his limp near-corpse to the local cafe and warmed him up by the grill.

 Notebook entries from the 1987 hard weather movement at Beddington Farmlands. The first time I'd seen escape movements of 100s of Golden Plover, nearly 2000 Lapwing, Jack Snipes concentrating in the waterways and rarities such as Curlew. 
Notes from a 1991 Arctic blast and hard weather movement. A female Smew swimming around a hole in the ice was a fantastic sight. 
 Golden Plovers moving South in 2010 
 Snow Bunting in 2010- a Snow Bunting in the Snow on the patch - it's all relative and on the patch it doesn't get much better than that 
 Yellowhammers are a typical hard weather migrant to Beddington 
 Lapland Bunting in 2010
 Grey Plover on ice 2010
 Ruff on ice 2010
 Iceland Gull on Ice 
 Glaucous Gull on the rocks 
 Adult Caspian Gull
 Three Scaup in 2010
 The three Scaup with a Tufted Duck 
 Whitefronts overhead 2010- in 2010 there were hard weather movements at the beginning and the end of the year making it one of the best winter birding years at Beddington in recent times
Pintails on the move 
 Little Gulls in the gloom 
 Fox in the Snow 
Ice Age at Beddington Farmlands 


 I'm heading off back here next week! 
 African Pied Hornbill in Ghana 
 Kakum in Ghana. What a winter destination! Here's one of our trip reports HERE
 Malabar Pied Hornbill from Sri Lanka- another epic winter destination. Here's our trip report HERE
Sloth Bear in Sri Lanka 
 Blue-tailed Bee-eater with Lesser Sand Plovers, Sri Lanka 

Get me there now! (writing this from South Croydon in winter aka a turd on top of a turd). 


I've done exploration winter trips to the Azores in several years since 2002 - the best we discovered was a Short-billed Gull (a first for the WP) HERE but there's been plenty of other highlights that we discovered and saw too. 

 The Yellow-crowned Night Heron that fed at night at Angra do Herosimo harbour in 2011 was magical
 What a flock- Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup and Tufted Duck. There was a Ring-necked Duck just out of sight. 
 The Beach at Praia da Vitoria is a famous pre-roost gull site with up to 50 Ring-billed Gulls together having been recorded in the past (yes Common Gull in there too and this is where the Short-billed Gull was). 
 Adult Ring-billed Gull 
 Second-winter American Herring Gull with Lesser Black Backed and Azores Gulls 
 First-winter American Herring Gull- one of many we discovered over different winters 
 Ring-billed Gull and Forster's Tern in 2003 
Extract from the notebook (pre-digital i.e prehistoric!) 
The 2003 Short-billed Gull
Greater Yellowlegs in 2011 


Wish I could have done more wild geese birding (not many round here!). One of the best winter trips ever was to Islay with Darryl and Martin. Also Slimbridge is epic in the winter and really would like to do the geese in the Netherlands. Also would like to go back to Bulgaria and do the winter geese there in a big goose year. 
Bewick's at Slimbridge
Red-breasted and White-fronted Geese in Romania- we had to country swap from Bulgaira to Romania to find these 
Notebook from a visit to Islay- would have got some awesome pictures nowadays- need to go back fully armed 


When all the tips have gone and gulls are a lot harder to find, I think we'll look back on these un-appreciated beauties in a different way- a real end of Capitalism phenomena with blizzards of birds on mountains of waste- the stuff of future legends. 

Still need to do a winter gull trip to Japan. 

 Iceland Gull at Beddington 
 Trips to Killybegs and Ireland in the 1990s were some of the best winter birding memories
 Gull watching in Plymouth in the Uni years of the  1990s
 The Azores again of course in the early naughties 
Pre-digital facebook album! 
Notes from Ireland and a couple of self found Kumlien's 
Armenian Gulls in Turkey 2009 
Great Black-headed Gulls and Armenian Gulls in Turkey 2009 


Really need to spend more time in the Middle East in winter- Kuwait, UAE etc. Did a trip in 2009 to Syria and Jordan but a great part of the WP to be in during the winter TRIP REPORT HERE .  

 Red-breasted Geese in Romania 
 Great Grey Shrike at Shipka (Shipka Monastery in background) 
 White Pelicans (above) and Dalmation Pelican (below) in Bulgaria 

 White-backed Woodpecker in Bulgaria 
Sombre Tit in Bulgaria 
Calandra Larks in Turkey 


Arjun Dutta said...

These are my least favourite posts of yours!
Great pics though!

Arjun Dutta said...

SO many more birds yet to see; the best trip I've been on was to Malaysia in 2015. Incredible experience.

Peter Alfrey said...

I need to get out in the field and see something new! (Although I do enjoy the nostalgia). Off to Ghana on Saturday so looking forward to that.
Malaysia- brilliant destination.

Arjun Dutta said...

Malaysia was incredible.
I hope Ghana's good, I'm going to Greece in January - hopefully there's something good there.

Peter Alfrey said...

Cheers Arjun- Greece should be good- look forward to reading about it.