Thursday 18 April 2024

Steppe Gull write up in Dutch Birding

Nice to see our short note in Dutch Birding this month about the Steppe Gull flock we discovered in Azerbaijan last year; the first fully documented record of this species for the country and a little piece in the puzzle of this species migration distribution. Also a stunning piece this month about a Swallow-tailed Kite on the Azores by friends - quite frankly much more exciting than gulls! Dutch Birding remains the premier birding journal for the Western Palearctic packed full of other excellent articles too.  

We've got another exploration trip to Az planned, leaving within the next two weeks which is pretty exciting- Spring migration and vagrant hunting on the Caspian Sea. 

I've added this month's dutch birding publication to this blog's publication page, our latest contribution to the great cosmic birding effort HERE

Monday 15 April 2024

Cuttlebrook Corridor

A break in the wet and windy conditions resulted in a flurry of migrant birds along Cuttlebrook and a few more moths in the light trap.  Ebird list HERE. Highlights included Yellow Wagtail, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, all new arrivals to the local patch.

Garden moth year list now on 51 species. 

Blossom Underwing- a bit of a worn one
Red Twin-spot Carpet- the first of the year and quite early too
Great Prominent- a couple of these recently 
Unidentified gelechid? 
Greylags over Cuttlebrook 
Found a patch by the brook with lots of animal tracks including these possible Otter tracks (in the area where I saw one in December). Will put up a camera trap when I get a chance
The rental new build not looking so bad with the adjacent farmland- they want to build on this field 

Saturday 13 April 2024

Easter Week Two- Trip to Devon

Just back from a cracking few days in Devon visiting Jaffa and one of Jacob's friends. We stayed in a really cool log cabin at Clifford Park Bridge and did some moth trapping every night there (three nights) which yielded a few moth lifers. On Thursday we visited Pennywell Farm with the kids and on Friday met up with Jaffa and explored the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) and twitched the local Beavers in the evening. 

Meanwhile over at Beddington, Mark Bravery found the first Woodchat Shrike for the site, which was a bit gripping! 

Male Goosander on the River behind the cabin- also had Mandarin and Dipper on the river 
Little Ringed Plover- on the newly created LORP habitat. Also had a few other summer migrants including Willow Warbler, Barn Swallows, Blackcaps, Sandwich Tern and Whimbrel.  
Eurasian Beaver on the Otter (an old male locally known as Gordon) 
Grey Birch-lifer
Early Tooth-stripe- lifer
I presume an Oak Nycteoline although I thought it might be a Semioscopis sp when I first saw it 
Marbled Pug- lifer
Water Carpet- lifer 
Great Prominent- several of these. Also had a few other nice moths including Scalloped Hook-tip, Lunar Marbled Browns, Lesser Swallow Prominents and Engrailed. 
Frosted Green
Birch Tortrix, Epinotia immundana (I think) 
Our log cabin at Clifford Bridge Park 
The River Teign behind our cabin
The Lower Otter Restoration Project has developed a lot since we visited last year with the breach now creating estuary mud flats 

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Northern Drab- Moth lifer

Had a good moth night over the weekend at the rental with 21 species (the best night of the year).

Highlight was a Northern Drab- a moth lifer for me (my 981st moth species) which was identified by Martin Townend (Oxon CMR) after I posted an uncertain Orthosia sp to irecord. The same night I had Pinion-spotted Pug and Chamomile Shark with other supporting cast of Pine Beauty and Streamer so a really nice little catch. 

Garden moth year list now on 45 species. 

Northern Drab.  Comment from Martin: The big thorax, gun-barrel straight costa on very angulated FW make it opima. Seems to be having quite a good year
Pinion-spotted Pug
Chamomile Shark - only the second one I've had of these (close up of diagnostic wing-tip below, showing intrusion of black lines into the outer wing edge) 

Frosted Green - a nice fresh one 

Thursday 4 April 2024

Easter week one

The flood waters are high again on the Cuttlebrook corridor and a couple of sessions there over the last week with Jacob have been very quiet- just singing Chiffchaffs. However we can't get very far along the brook due to the high flood waters so can't check the best spots. 

We spent a couple of days recently down at Selsey getting quotes for the reburb before we move in next month. We had a quick visit to Arundel WWT.  Highlights included my first summer migrants for the year, a couple of Sedge Warbler and a Sand Martin, also Green Sandpiper and a calling Tawny Owl. Ebird checklist HERE. Gave me an opportunity to try out the new lens- results below.

The moth trapping picked up this weekend after a lull due to relentless rain and cold night temperatures. It was warm today with a pulse of saharan dust laden air bringing in bird and moth migrants to the south. No such luck here but a few NFYs. Garden year moth list now on 36 species. 

Male Mandarin- a free flying bird
Male Chaffinch 
First-winter Mediterranean Gull with first-winter Common Gulls 
More rain at the rental 
Siskin on the garden bird feeders
Powdered Quaker
Frosted Green
Lunar Marbled Brown
MV at the rental garden 

Tuesday 2 April 2024


As I have neither a decent garden or a decent local patch at the moment (our move date is set for late May) I've resorted to living in the past and updating my world lists and been revising what I've seen and where. 

I'm mainly using Ebird and i-Naturalist and been transferring data from spreadsheets into the central hub of iGoTerra which seems to be the best global pan species listing platform. Natural history is infinitely complex and we all reluctantly have to draw some lines around small parts of it in order to focus so I've more or less limited myself to just recording Birds, Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians, Moths and Butterflies and Dragonflies which is basically the highly visible groups which can be seen while Birding is the primary objective.  

It's still a work in progress, still got lots of butterfly and moth records to take across but so far my stats show that I've recorded 4535 species across 45 countries of the world. I reckon I've still got another 500 to add so should be around the 5000 mark. I've done loads of plant recording and other taxa too but I'll keep them out of it- might add orchids at some point maybe. 

So going forward, I'm very conscious that most of my life is behind me and I've spent a lot of it doing local patching, project work, campaigning and research and not so much Eco-toursim (aka window licking) so basically I've only seen a very small part of the natural world (there are at least 2 million species on Earth). So it's definitely time to start getting through the bucket list before it's too late. 

So looking at my map there are some clear gaps in South America, Central Africa, Middle and Central Asia and particularly the Far East and China. We are going to Australia this summer so that will be a good start. It will be great when Jacob and Isaac are old enough to travel properly too.

In terms of targets I'm hoping to get to 5000 bird species (half of the world's birds), 500 mammals (its a round figure- there's 6500 global species) and I'm going to set myself a tidy 10,000 moths and butterfly species target (there are 160,000 moths and 17,000 butterflies on the planet). For herps and dragonflies I'll make it up as I go along. The main framework going forward will be to target iconic species across the taxa I look at it i.e. looking for Narwals, Fossas, Polar Bears, Birdwings, Tropical moths, Albatrosses, Ground Rollers and Pittas rather than number crunching micromoths, cisticolas, babblers and furnariids.

Will see how I get on! Assuming I don't get conscripted to fight the Russians and can keep running from the rising Global Authoritarianists and have a bit of health luck on my side- I have a life expectancy of another 25 years or so- not very long at all and of course I could have much less time than that. Better get moving. 



Saturday 30 March 2024

New Toys


Around this time last year I bought the Canon R7 and finally this week I managed to let go of the money to complete the combo with the RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1L IS USM. This seems to be the new Canon mirrorless standard set up for birders/naturalists. Weighs in at just over 2kg, which for a 500mm quality lens is brilliant.  The main appeal for me is the quality zoom which enables an instant shift from photographing butterflies/moths and reptiles in macro to zooming out for birds. Of course the zoom also means it's suitable for photographing large mammals and cetaceans too. This is a birder/naturalist-photographer's ideal set up. Even for real photographers this is a decent bit of back up kit. I waited for the lens to get near the £2K mark before I could force myself to part with money that I could otherwise spend on travel/kebabs and last year the camera itself cost me about £1.5K so the whole combo is around £3.5K so not cheap but I split the payment over a year by buying the camera last year and just using my old lenses (with a cheap adapter). which has been great anyway. and then stepped up all the way now.   

I purchased them from HDEW cameras which are not only based in Hackbridge/Beddington Farmlands but also seem to be very well (the best I could find) priced HERE

I also recently bought a Zoom H5 handy sound recorder (thanks for the recommendation Arjun) as I've got sick of getting wrapped up in wires while carrying round a shotgun mic. It's very cheap (only about £160) and seems to do the trick- I can just attach it to my camera bag and have it recording without it getting in the way at all. The push on wind guard is the only annoying thing as it's easy to knock off. 

Thursday 28 March 2024

Estonia Sounds

Here's a few sounds from Estonia using my recently purchased Zoom H5. More sounds on the trip report HERE.

The first time I've encountered many of these Northern WP species since a visit to Finland in 2014 with was equally epic HERE

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Estonia Days Five and Six - The bogs and forests around Parnu

Spent the last couple of days exploring the forests, bogs and coastal marshes around Parnu. Highlights have included Great, Lesser and Middle Spotted, Grey-headed, White-backed, Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Eagle, Ural, Pygmy, Tawny and Long-eared Owls, Hazel and Black Grouse, Capercaillie, Goshawks, Great Grey Shrikes and Crested, Marsh and Willow Tits. Furthermore we've had singing Green Sandpipers and Snipes, roding Woodcocks and on the coast there are thousands and thousands of wild geese. 

It's been pretty sensational. 

Not so much luck on the mammal front, although Noel saw a Raccoon Dog from the car that I missed and we found Elk and Wild Boar tracks, a dead Badger on the road and just a couple of Arctic Hares and Red Foxes in the flesh.

Trip report HERE. 117 species in total which is good for this time of year, in fact so good that I'm the second highest Estonian year lister for 2024 which is amusing. Not for long. From the looks of the photos below the photography suffered for the list. One world tick (Steller's Eider- 728 WP list, 90 ranking, 947 False WP list, 41 ranking, 3208 World List) and also had white-headed Long-tailed Tit and Northern Treecreeper as subspecies lifers, also nice to see good views of Northern Nuthatches and Northern Bullfinches. The numbers of birds out here is mind blowing- we totted up 21,000 White-fronts and 11,175 Bean Geese , 1620 Long-tailed Ducks, 664 Goosanders, 73 Smews and 20 White-tailed Eagles and we've only looked at a tiny fraction of the coastline and bays. 

What with the vast open and silent spaces filled with abundant wildlife it is certainly an enchanting and magical part of the world. Apparently it is even more amazing in high Spring when all the waders, Little Gulls, Terns and Eagles etc arrive to breed in the bogs, forests and coastal marshes.

I jumped on (literally last minute, a few hours before, after a bargain popped up after a cancellation) the Early Spring trip with Birding Uppsala HERE (a Wise Birding partner) and our guide was the famous Estonian concert pianist Sten Lassman HERE who does a few weeks a year as a bird guide to get out in the field. The only other person on the tour was Noel from London who also owns a wildlife gardening company so did a bit of unplanned networking too. We all had a great trip (including moments of impromptu private piano concerts every time we passed a grand piano). Thanks to Tarvo who owns Birding Uppsala for sorting it all out and for Chris at Wise Birding for the tip-off. 

Trip Report HERE

White-backed Woodpecker- an Aspen and mixed wood specialist
Three-toed Woodpecker - a Spruce specialist but here in Aspen. Black Woodpecker prefer Pine forests. Grey-headed like mixed with deciduous.  
Eagle Owl - a singing male out in the open in a Pine forest was pretty impressive 
An appalling photo of a Pygmy Owl 
Great Grey Shrike
Parrot Crossbill by the looks of it but there were Common Crossbills around too
Bewick's Swans
White-fronts, Bean and Barnacle Geese (above and below). There was a Lesser White-front in this flock a week ago but despite extensive searching, before two White-tailed Eagles flushed them all, we couldn't find it- feel free to check this lot! (Click and zoom in). 

Found a few Taiga Bean Geese candidates (above and below) amongst what predominately looked like Tundra Bean Geese. The bird above appeared to tower above the surrounding birds and had more extensive orange on the bill and the two birds below had more orange on the bill compared to the more Tundra looking centre bird. The outer birds appear a bit larger too. 

The Northern Forests (above and below)