Sunday 30 September 2018

Finds List

White-crowned Sparrow (Corvo, Azores 2005) 

I've been birding since I was 13 which means this is my 33rd autumn. My focus in birding has never been listing how many birds I can see  (although I've done plenty of twitching and listing and love it too) but rather how many birds I can find (local, national or WP- basically description species) and how many significant discoveries worthy of a scientific paper/write up in particular (publications here). I like a challenge and always thought that twitching and listing was not quite twisted enough for my liking; Exploration and discovery much more challenging and unpredictable.  However once you've been in this exploration game as long as I have I find you begin to loose the will to exist, especially with no tangible end game- at least in listing there is some kind of end game and a competitive league. I do keep a Beddington, Azores, WP and World List and also plan to start a WP Moth and Butterfly list, mammal list and perhaps herp list too, so I could always focus more on listing rather than having an existential wobble.

I've also taken on new groups in natural history, lepidoptera in particular, and found a fair few rare moths but nothing matches the challenge and excitement of finding a rare bird so I've been reflecting on what new targets I should set myself in bird finding.

So I've been referring to BB Scarce Bird Reports and Rarities Reports and the Netfugl WP list (to extract the vagrant species) to see what species I have found so far - so basically anything not on this list is still what I have to find i.e. loads of stuff. I've identified some targets at the end of the list.

A lot of these birds I've found/co-found with mates particularly Darryl Spittle, Sam Woods, Simon Buckell, Gary Messenbird, Lee Dingain, Chris Townend, Mushaq Ahmed and Kate Armstrong. All the records have been accepted by the relevant rarities committee (or pending) except an un-submitted  fly over Tawny Pipit at Beddington (no photos, no sound recorded so I wouldn't accept if I hadn't seen and heard it).  I might have missed a few out as Jacob keeps coming in trying to turn off my computer and hitting the keys.

National Rarities

Surf Scoter (1) 
Zino's Petrel (1) (Found on an Azores pelagic and identified by Bob Flood- First for Azores and one of the few at sea sightings outside Madeira)
Trindade Petrel  (1)
Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel (2)
Brown Booby (1)
American Coot (1)
Water Rail (1) 
Western Sandpiper (1)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (2)
Hudsonian Godwit (1) First for Azores
Hudsonian Whimbrel  (2)
Wilson's Snipe (1-2)
Solitary Sandpiper (1)
Wilson's Phalarope (1)
Bonaparte's Gull (2)
Laughing Gull (4) (Marie, Corvo airfield, flyover Corvo and Terceira air base) 
Short-billed Gull - a first for the WP (1)
American Herring Gull (10+) (First accepted for the Azores)
Forster's Tern (2) First for Azores
Whiskered Tern (1) First for Azores
Merlin (1) 
Mourning Dove (1) First for Azores
Common Nighthawk (1)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (3-4)
Chimney Swift (28)
Eastern Wood Pewee (1) 2nd for Azores and WP
Buff-bellied Pipit (2) First for Azores
Sedge Warbler (1) First for Azores 
Grey-cheeked Thrush (3-4)
Swainson's Thrush (2-3)
Wood Thrush (1) 
White-eyed Vireo- a first for the WP (1)
Philadelphia Vireo (1) First for Azores
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1) First for Azores
Northern Parula (1)
American Redstart (1)
Ovenbird (1)
Common Yellowthroat (1) 
Hooded Warbler (1) First for Azores
Summer Tanager (1) First for Azores
Scarlet Tanager (3)
White-crowned Sparrow (1) First for Azores
Indigo Bunting (10+)
Bobolink (2+)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5-6)
Baltimore Oriole (1)
Purple Gallinule (from photos) 
'Icelandic Redpoll' 
Common Redpoll (2) 

Pacific Golden Plover (in on the 2010 Beddington bird with Roger and Johnny)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (1 Tresco- someone else submitted this))
Tawny Pipit (1)
Brown Shrike (identified the first Scilly bird from photographs on internet)
Eastern Stonechat 
Also found White-rumped Sands, Red-footed Falcon, Red-throated Pipit and Citrine Wagtail which were BB rarities at the time (see national scarce migrants below). 

Eastern Black Redstart

Terek Sandpiper
Desert Wheatear (3rd for Bulgaria)
Little Bunting (5th for Bulgaria) 

Western Sahara
Eurasian Bittern

Steppe Gull 

National Scarce Migrants
Deserta's Petrel (4) 
Night Heron
Wilson's Petrel (record counts at time) 
American Golden Plover (11 including a flock of 10)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (several)
Least Sandpiper a few)
Lesser Yellowlegs (a couple)
Red-eyed Vireo (5+)
Sabine's Gull
Common Gull (a few) 
Carrion Crow
Common Redpoll
Lapland Bunting 

Green-winged Teal (1)
Cory's Shearwater (2)
White Stork (1-2)
Kentish Plover (1)
Temminck's Stint (8+)
White-rumped sandpiper (3) (BB rarity at time of finding)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1 and 2, Ireland*)
Pectoral Sandpiper (4)
Red-necked Phalarope (2)
Grey Phalarope (1 + multiple off coast)
Sabine's Gull (2)
Ring-billed Gull (1)
Caspian Gull (50+)
Kumlien's Gull (2, Ireland*)
Hoopoe (1)
Red-footed Falcon (1) (BB rarity at time of finding)
Red-backed Shrike (1)
Yellow-browed Warbler (4+)
Dusky Warbler (1)
Pallas's Warbler (1) 
Siberian Chiffchaff (3-4)
Barred Warbler (1)
Red-breasted Flycatcher (1)
Citrine Wagtail (1) (BB rarity at time of finding)
Red-throated Pipit (1) (BB rarity at time of finding)
Richard's Pipit (1)
Tawny Pipit (1) (Now a BB rarity)
European Serin (1)
Ortolan Bunting (2)
Black Kite (confirmed the one Johnny found in Beddington)
Olive-backed Pipit (had one going over the Ovenbird on Scilly but confirmed by someone else later)

Yellow-browed Warbler (Fuerteventura)

County Rarities 
 (not including national or scarce migrants above) 
London and Surrey
Long-tailed Skua
Arctic Skuas
Great Skua
Common Crane
Northern Fulmar
Honey Buzzards
Lapland Bunting
Snow Bunting
Bewick's Swan
Little Egret (first for Surrey)
Great Egret

Pink-footed Goose
White-fronted Goose
Brent Goose

White-fronted Goose
Black Redstart 

Little Auk
Local Rarities (not including anything from above) 
White-fronted Goose
Brent Goose
Red-crested Pochard
Black-necked Grebe
Little Tern
Sandwich Tern
Long-eared Owl
Bearded Tit
Wood Warbler
Dartford Warbler
Black Redstart
Blue-headed Wagtail
Common Crossbill

So basically a few major gaps- need to find an Eastern Mega and an African vagrant in the WP and also more BB rarities (doesn't help I've spent the last 20 years and most of my birding trips on the Azores in autumn and often in summer and winter too and also most of the ones I found before that have now been demoted to scarcities). Also would be good to find a mega outside the WP. Also still need to help in overthrowing the entire Capitalist's empire or else they are going to kill off all the birds making it harder to find anything new!

Here's a few more memorabilia posts:

Saturday 29 September 2018

New Birder's Hut

 We've been campaigning for years to Viridor to dip into their £5.2 billion reserves and develop some visitor facilities at the farmlands for the 1.4 million people that live in the immediate vicinity. Our call has finally been answered with this new birdwatchers hut. 
 A bit of movement today. Double figures of Cormorant, a trickle of Mipits, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Skylark and 3 Swallow. 
A distant first-winter gull looked good for a first-winter Yellow-legged 

Friday 28 September 2018

Autumn Moths

Here's a selection of moths from the trap over the last week or so at Beddington Farmlands. 

 Barred Sallow and Beaded Chestnut
 Brindled Green
 A very contrasting Small Ranunculus 
 Garden Rose Tortrix
 Acleris schalleriana
 Large Fruit-tree Tortirx (male) 
 Hypsopygia glaucinalis 

Oak Fields Locked on for Destruction

Wednesday 26 September 2018


So mission successful today. My list of cetaceans in the Thames is growing- Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin, Northern Bottlenose Whale and now Beluga. 

 Last time I saw Belugas was in a icy estuary in Svalbard. Actually had better views today. 

 A few Wall Browns along the estuary footpath 
Today brought back memories of the 2006 Northern Bottlenose Whale that made it up the Thames to Kew Bridge 

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Otmoor and the Beluga

So another balls up today. I wanted to twitch something for a change.  News of the Pallid Harrier in Herts didn't come out till after 2pm - which was too late for Jacob and I'd already hedged my bets on the Pallid and postponed going for the Beluga for tomorrow- just hope it's still there tomorrow or else it's going to be another mess. 

Went to Otmoor just to get out in the field. 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Hobby, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Whinchat, 5 Stoncechat, 60+ Swallow, 50+ House Martin and 10 Meadow Pipit.

 Juvenile Hobby
 Juvenile Marsh Harrier 
Small Copper- good numbers of insects in the warm conditions, mainly Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters with plenty of Caddisflies too. 

Monday 24 September 2018


Another defeat today, failing to find a Great Skua, Gannet or Grey Phalarope at Farmoor.  A few bits and had a good walk with Jacob. A new Grey Phal at Staines today too, so literally the target birds are falling around me but no connection yet. 

If things get desperate this autumn I'll have to fall back on claiming that I found some Spoonbills. Yesterday Roger found the flock but could only count 11. When I went round the edge I counted another 7 and Roger didn't see them. Then when they flew up the two Steve's counted another one to make 19. So if we need to really scrape the bottom of the barrel I can claim I've found 7 Spoonbills this autumn so far. 

Juvenile Arctic Terns (above and below, two different birds) 

Juvenile Ringed Plover 
 Juvenile/first-winter Dunlin (above and below, two different birds) 

 Yellow Wagtail- rather flava looking 
Pied Wagtail- rather nominate looking too 

Big Week ?

Was planning on taking some time off this week to do some birding and rarity hunting. Trying to work out where to focus effort. Here's some weather maps, jet stream chart, radar prediction and archived data to help with that. Of course the problem with weather forecasts is they can change quickly so the further into the forecast the less any confidence. Conclusion at the end. 

 With clear skies across the country and that light north westerly winds- this is perfect conditions for all those seabirds that have been disorientated over the past days to replenish reserves and re-orientate. Already Gannets over London and Great Skua over Surrey today so not a bad idea to check inland reservoirs. 
 Tomorrow looking rather uninspiring but with calm sunny conditions over the south of UK and an easterly air flow to the south , might be good for pushing some euro-scarcities to the places like Scilly and other southern sites. Might be good to try somewhere like Beachy Head, Portland, Kent etc. Might still be some seabirds re-orientating too. With westerlies over most of the North Sea wouldn't expect large numbers of drift migrants but with calmer conditions across part of the area could be a window for more local movements across the southern North Sea. Radar chart below isn't predicting much activity over next couple of days. 
 Wednesday looking similar to day before but with an increasing barrier to drift migrants across the North Sea but still calmer conditions in the South- so again more chance of passerine activity in the south. A bit of fog or some isolated coastal cloud would be useful to concentrate anything. Winds getting strong enough again for seawatching potential across the west of the country and with westerlies across the North Atlantic- maybe a chance for a yank in the Northern Isles region. However the westerly airflow is pretty weak so chances of that not high. With that light south easterly airflow Scilly could throw up something interesting. I'd stick myself somewhere on the south coast. 
 Thursday - overall weak structures. These high pressure systems can provide windows for vagrants moving across Eurasia- again Scilly and South Coast looking best. That airflow coming up from Southern Europe could be interesting. An Eleanora's, Rock Thrush??
 Friday- getting light winds across the north sea and then easterflies lower down- again without frontal systems a lot migrants will be just flying high over and may not be concentrating. 
 Saturday- high pressure and easterlies across Central and Southern Europe- again extreme vagrants traps like Scilly generally best places to be in those conditions. 

 Latest radar predictions across North Sea 

Jet stream for mid week- we are loosing that continuous jet stream so could well loose the recent trickle in of yank waders 
Excuse the graphic but hopefully the links work below (if you're a subscriber) to archived rarity data from Birdguides in this week over the last few years to check for what to expect where. If you view this blog in web version rather than phone version there's also a link of Bird Observatories and blogs that give day to day updates of migration at various strategic sites (as opposed to rarities and birding tourism which Birdguides focuses on). There are also links to other migration resources such as Trektellen. All useful tools in trying to predict where things are happening and/or are about to happen. 
2017 Live link

Monday: Considering I'm in Oxford I'll do Farmoor later
Tuesday: Considering the high uncertainty about this, might wait around to see if stuff starts turning up on South Coast sites. Might twitch something- maybe the Pallid Harrier if still around while waiting
Wednesday: Will move to South Coast if any signs. 
Thursday/Friday: Tough one- if nothing to respond to occurring will cancel my days off work and take them off next week and hope for some stronger patterns 

Sunday 23 September 2018


Got a phone call from Roger this morning that there were 9 Spoonbill on the North Lake so I did a U-turn on my way to Oxford. When I got to the lake we could see there were more than 9 but the flock was hidden behind the island. We waited for other birders to arrive and then as the torrential rain started to ease we made our way through the thick undergrowth on the west side of the lake to try and get some pics. They were still difficult to see through the trees but I counted 18 of them before suddenly they decided to take off and fly off south, where the two Steves in the hide managed to count 19 of them. Surely the same 19 birds that had flown west over Stetchworth Ley in Cambridgeshire yesterday.

 So despite there being 19 massive white birds actually on the deck we failed to get any decent pictures, in fact Roger didn't even see the whole flock, because we couldn't see anything through the trees we were hiding in when they flew. Overall I think we deserve an award for most pathetic local patchers performance of the year- failing to get a decent record shot of 19 Spoonbills on the deck for over an hour and the finder not actually seeing the birds he actually found. 

While we were on the Spoonbills news was coming in of large numbers of Skuas moving up the Swale and in the Thames with birds in as far as Rainham. So I postponed the journey to Oxford and we did a four stake out waiting for some skua action. Another fail. Some guy down the road in Worcester Park performed better with a Gannet over his garden. We did have a passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (150 S) that started after the rain stopped, a movement of House Martins (200 S),  30+ Meadow Pipit s and 1 Wheatear. 

So final fail of the day was trying to connect with some skuas on the way to Oxford so I stopped off at Staines and did a stake out with Franco. 4 Black Tern, 16 Common Tern, 1 Greenshank and 1 Common Sandpiper was our lot. Franco had already got lucky earlier with finding 3 Bonxie's at Queen Mary's. 

 Spoonbills- as far as we know 19 is a London and Surrey record 
 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the move. We had 150 flying south in small groups, relatively high. A regular migration event this time of year at Beddington. 
 Common Terns and Black Terns at Staines 
They fired up the Incinerator this weekend for the first time. It's actually like a giant wind sock- makes it a lot easier to see which way the wind is blowing now 

Saturday 22 September 2018

The People's March for Wildlife

Just in case you are not sick to death of this (literally not vomiting) here's another post about it to get you gagging.

Had a great day, travelled up with Tomos, Roger and Molly and met Sue, Andrew and Maeve and the Green Party up there. What with the manifesto to give some substance to all this, up to 10,000 people turning up and having a laugh today- hats off to Packham and Co for pulling this off.

I generally have deep reservations about the value of these kind of events but I did decide today that it is useful to remember that after we all go home back to our stations, fighting our own little wars, defending our own patches, loosing battle after battle, getting completely turned over and destroyed day after day, we are all  still part of a 10,000 strong army, albiet one that is spread out widely. Viridor only have 3000 employees. If there was some way of co-ordinating the people's conservation army into all focusing on one target at a time- the Capitalists would not stand a chance.

I just have to work out how we can get that focus on one occasion to be on Beddington Farmlands. That is how we will defeat the Viridor-Sutton Council axis against nature.

 Me and Sian Berry, Green Party Co-leader . Always wanted to meet this inspiring lady- highlight of the day. 
Left to right: Andrew, Sue, Cretin, Sian Berry and Caroline Lucas 
 The rozzers reckoned 10000 people on the march 
 Despite the rain