Sunday, 18 February 2018

Super Whoopers

I managed two patch visits this weekend. On Saturday, I only had an hour, so went to check out a field in Besthorpe that I had a quick look at last weekend, and which had held lots of birds. There were still good numbers of Chaffinches there (maybe as many as 150), plus a few Linnet and Reed Bunting, around 5 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Mistle Thrush, as well as Greenfinch and Coal Tit (the latter two new for Patchwork Challenge). I was hoping for a Brambling really... And Mark Dawson had a redhead Smew at Collingham, so perhaps I should've gone there! 

And needless to say, for the second time this year, a Sunday check of Ferry Lane Lake for a Saturday Smew failed to produce the goods. However, there were 21 Whoopers on the pit, with another 5 flying in a bit later (and all 26 flying off west just before 11). I do love these birds - they bring a real feel of wildness to the patch. Elsewhere on site, the usual four Curlew were on the Silt Lagoon, a Jay was new for PWC, and I booted a Jack Snipe out of their favoured spot at Meering, bringing the PWC additions for the weekend to four. A further 6 Whoopers were (still) on the fields to the north.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

More on the presumed Kumlien's

On Friday I had another look at the presumed Kumlien's at Cotham, meeting Mark Dawson there. We enjoyed nice views of the bird, including in flight, and I got some video of it. Importantly, the bird shows a distinct plain tail band, lacking any vermiculation. 

And it appears we may have a case of two (in fact three) bird theory going on here. Alan Clewes photographed a 2cy Iceland at Cotham on Saturday (as well as the Kumlien's), and Robin Brace sent me pics of what looks like it's probably the same bird from Cotham on Friday - darker bird (and certainly not the very white 2cy Iceland that's around), but with white outer primaries and a vermiculated tail. So hopefully that explains some doubts that I'd heard rumbling!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Kumlien's Gull

I haven't been to Cotham Landfill since mid January, just before going to southern Spain (which I must get round to blogging about...). I didn't manage a visit last week, and had planned to go yesterday, but got put off by heavy rain when I arrived. Today was much better weather-wise, and I started grilling the gulls at about 7.45am. There weren't actually masses present, but half of them were very close, and it didn't take long for the lovely white 2cy Iceland Gull that has been frequenting the roost at Hoveringham to appear - very nice. 

2cy Iceland Gull
2cy Iceland Gull
2cy Iceland Gull

And it wasn't much longer before I came across what I was really hoping for - what looked a lot like a  2cy Kumlien's Gull. One has roosted the previous two nights at Hoveringham, and 11 days previous. I got some pictures, including of the spread wing, and consensus on Twitter was that it looks good for one; John Hopper was happy it was the same as the Hoveringham bird. 

2cy Kumlien's Gull
2cy Kumlien's Gull
2cy Kumlien's Gull
2cy Kumlien's Gull

Doing some reading, mainly on Birding Frontiers, it is certainly at the less well-marked end of the spectrum in the spread wing, but fits the requirement of having an outer primary pattern with a brown wash centred on the primary shafts, spreading onto both webs and extending almost to the feather tips, plain and not mealy/spotted, with small subapical marks. It also shows one of the supporting tendencies, a dark bill, but lacks notable contrast between darker outer and paler inner primaries. I didn't see the tail properly to judge whether it had a distinct plain tail band. 

I finished a quality hour off with brief views of a nice 2cy Caspian Gull; most of the gulls then moved off following some disturbance, so I left and was into work by 9.30. Ideal!

2cy Caspian Gull
A strikingly white-headed and dark-bodied Herring Gull...

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

White-wingers on their way

I made my weekly visit to Cotham Landfill this morning (it's a pain having to go to work...). Having scanned the tip multiple time to no avail, I was giving it one last go when I noted what looked like a white-winger at the back, partly obscured. It soon revealed itself as a 2cy Iceland Gull; very nice too. However, it spent most of its time feeding just behind a ridge in the rubbish, making observing (and photo'ing it) problematic. And then I had to leave it. The fist white-winger of the winter here, and about time too!

Back to the weekend, and I managed two brief visits to the patch, adding Peregrine, Lesser Redpoll and Coal Tit, the latter two at Primrose Hill in Besthorpe village, a spot a only ever visit a couple of times a year...

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A short review of 2017

Patchwork Challenge

I haven’t got the time (or really the inclination) to do a month-by-month review of my year on the patch; it was unspectacular, lacking a top-notch bird... In total, I recorded 140 species, amounting to 166 points – my second highest species total, but only my third highest points score. Of these, 21 were two-pointers, and one was a six-pointer (Cattle Egret). This compares with:
  • 2016 – 153 species and 193 points (29 two-pointers, a three-pointer Temminck’s Stint, a four-pointer Glossy Ibis which I didn’t claim finders points for as it had been seen at Langford the evening before, and one six-pointer for a self-found Great White Egret).
  • 2015 – 139 species and 157 points (18 two-pointers, and nothing higher)
  • 2014 – 135 species and 162 points (14 two-pointers, a three-pointer GWE and a twelve-pointer self-found Glossy Ibis)
  • 2013 – 136 species and 167 points (15 two-pointers, a six-pointer self-found Pec Sand, and a twelve-pointer self-found Pied Wheatear – crazy that this gets the same points as a Glossy Ibis...)
Highlights for this year included not one, but two Cattle Egrets, Spoonbill, and Hawfinch (all patch ticks), as well as other notable species like Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes and Eurasian White-front. Other potentially tricky or erratically occurring species which I scored included Smew, Scaup, Little Gull, Black Tern, Arctic Tern, Bar-wit, Raven, Redstart, Spotted Fly, Whinchat and Gropper. A bird I know I dipped was Great White Egret (the first when I was on a stag do in the spring, the second over two dates at the end of November according to the sightings book in the hide – these weren’t reported at the time). Other misses included Ruff and Tree Sparrow (seen in all four previous years). Add to them Bewick’s Swan, Med Gull, Merlin, Red Kite, Sanderling, Tawny Owl and Turnstone (seen in three out of five years). We'll see what 2018 brings...

The second of the patch Cattle Egrets


2017 was one of my better years for finding my own. As well as two patch Cattle Egrets (the first being something like the 6th or 7th for Notts, the second still less than double figure), I had a Red-rumped Swallow in Suffolk in April and a Red-footed Falcon in Cornwall in May. Two weeks on Unst with Paul Eele produced co-found Red-throated Pipit, 2 Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls and 4 Parrot Crossbills. Finding the latter, a first for Unst, was probably my most memorable birding moment of the year!

Red-footed Falcon
Red-throated Pipit
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Parrot Crossbill


I only added four species to my British list in 2017. One of these was the aforementioned Red-throated Pipit; the other three were the Pacific Diver in Northumberland in February, the Blue Rock Thrush in Gloucestershire in March (which I finally went to see for insurance purposes - which proved to be the correct decision), and the Elegant Tern in West Sussex in June. With the change to IOC taxonomy come 1st Jan 2018, I also gain a Bean Goose, but very frustratingly, lose a bona fide Fea's Petrel.  

Pacific Diver
Elegant Tern

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Starting over

I finished Patchwork Challenge for 2017 on 140 species, totalling 160 points - having failed to add anything new since Freya was born... more in another write-up. And despite the new arrival, I was allowed out for several hours on New Years Day (missing lunch with the in-laws), after dad duties had been completed in the morning. 

I didn't see anything of particular note, but notched up 70 species in 5 and a half hours, with highlights including 6 Whooper Swans still on the fields just north of Meering Marsh, a Stonechat on the western side of Mons Pool, 4 Curlew on Ferry Lane Lake, and a Barn Owl at Meering. Jack Snipe and Woodcock didn't show in their favoured haunts though, unfortunately. 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Hawfinches at Rufford

New Years Eve, we had a walk at Rufford Country Park with some friends. I'd negotiated that we could arrive a little earlier so I could have a quick look for Hawfinches. After checking the yews nearest the abbey, I tracked them down in the yews furthest away, on the start of the exit road. They were feeding quietly, but then flew up into the tree tops in two groups totalling at least 11. With a baby strapped to my front, bins over my shoulder, and scope in one hand, I failed to get any shots (at least, none in focus!). Four more Hawfinches flew over as we walked through the Wilderness - more, or some of the same?