Thursday, October 20, 2016

Siberian Dream

Sunday 9 October and news came in of a Siberian Accentor (Prunella montanella) on Shetland – the first record for Britain. This is not a bird I thought I’d ever see here but just four days later another was found, this time on the mainland near Spurn in East Yorkshire on Thursday 13th. It was still there the following day. I had to go. So, on the Saturday my wife, our 21-month-old son and I set off on our second Siberian twitch of the year.

We hired a car and arrived at Easington in the early afternoon when the bird had begun to roam more widely than its favoured location of a school yard in suburban gardens adjacent to a gas terminal. While estimates the previous day put the number of birders up to 1400, there were just 50 or so watching now but the bird had flown behind a couple of fences in the gas works and was being rather elusive. Eventually it revealed itself, feeding like a Dunnock, but more furtive in its movement and a lot more colourful! After a couple of hours it returned to the moss-covered tarmac in the garden by which time the light was fading. Here it fed continuously just a few metres in front of us, sometimes in the company of a couple of Dunnocks (Hedge Accentors). In comparison with the common and widespread species, the Siberian stray appeared to be a smaller and neater bird. With a hungry toddler needing fed we headed to our hotel in Aldbrough (nearer locations were booked out) just up the coast, with a stop for fish and chips in Withernsea. We got an idea of just how many migrants were around when a brief look in a couple of trees in a small play park on the promenade here were dripping with Goldcrests, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a couple of Song Thrushes. 

Following a great sleep in a four-poster bed and a big Yorkshire breakfast we set off back towards Spurn on the Sunday morning. Problem - it was absolutely chucking it down, and it continued for most of the morning. The forecast was good for the afternoon so in the meantime we birded around Kilnsea and Spurn and as the rain eased, the magic happened. Birds everywhere. In a couple of hours we saw Pallas’s Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Radde’s Warbler and Dusky Warbler. Many other scarcities were being reported and the area was full of common migrants including thrushes, Robins, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. By two in the afternoon it was a different day with a big blue sky beckoning us back to the Siberian Accentor for better photographs. We enjoyed a couple of hours watching and photographing it before we had to set of home. 

Over the weekend, two further Siberian Accentors arrived in Cleveland and Durham, with a fifth in Northumberland a day later, a sixth on Fair Isle on 20 October. Six records in a week of a bird never seen in Britain before! These were part of unprecedented influx of 103 birds (as of 20.10.16 across Northern Europe and is generally thought to have been caused by persistent easterly winds produced by a high pressure system over Siberia and Fennoscandia. This is more than three times the number previously ever recorded. Perhaps some other factors were responsible such as misorientation at the point of departure from their breeding grounds. Whatever the cause, a number of other Siberian vagrants including Siberian and White’s Thrush, Pine and Black-faced Bunting, and Easter Crowned Warbler made this one of the most memorable autumns ever. For those of us less fortunate to travel to the extremes of the British Isles, the accentors in north-east England at least gave many another chance. It will be interesting to see what happens in subsequent years. Of course, we may never see another like it in our lifetime. I’ll certainly remember this year for our family trips to see both this and the Siberian Rubythroat. If our young son grows up to become a birder, he’ll only wish he could have remembered!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Birding trip report from Cádiz province, Spain

I've uploaded a trip report from Spain in April.

This was another university field course trip based around the small town of Zahara de los Atunes, situated on the Costa de la Luz in the Strait of Gibraltar in Cadiz province in south-west Spain. Much of the time was spent around Zahara de los Atunes, Barbate and the Valle de Ojén in the Parque Natural de Los Alcornocales. Some time was possible for birding but in general the following notes document the observations at the various student study sites.

Highlights included Balearic Shearwater, Night Heron, Great Egret, Purple Heron, Northern Bald Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Black-winged Kite, Purple Swamphen, Little Bustard, Collared Pratincole, Pomarine Skua, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Razorbill, Puffin, Black-eared Wheatear, Iberian Chiffchaff, Western Bonelli's Warbler, and Ortolan Bunting.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rainham Marshes Patch Listing 2016 March

March, the transition between winter and spring…..depending on the weather. March saw just four additions to bring my personal total to 107 as I waited for the start of the spring migrants at the month’s end. Our Bird Race team fared better with seven additions (including Goldeneye, Ruff & Bearded Tit) to 111. 

The Iceland Gull was still present on the mud on the 1st otherwise it was only the regular wintering species to hold the interest until mid-month. Up to three Jack Snipe (104) appeared and I eventually located one on the Purfleet Scrape on the 17th. Thereafter I managed to observe this species fairly regularly with one on the MDZ scrape on the 25th. In fact the 25th, Good Friday, saw some beautiful spring weather but the hoped for Swallow, Sand Martin or LRP did not materialise. Nonetheless I spent the whole day around there reserve, opening with nine Common Scoters on the river, and ending with a Great Egret (106) first found by Howard earlier in the week, and a singing Blackcap (107) at the visitor centre. Spotted Redshank, Jack Snipe, two Short-eared Owls and Water Pipit contributed to a memorable day’s watching.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby

Being a fairly ‘green’ birder, mainly cycling and using public transport, I normally only travel long distances for one particular bird if it is exceptional and can be reached easily. I will make the 400 mile trip up to Scotland to add anything to my Ayrshire list, particularly if it is showing well for photographs. My last trek (unsuccessfully) was for the Glossy Ibis in October 2015. 

In mid-January a Siberian Rubythroat (Calliope calliope), one of the most-wanted of vagrants to the British Isles, was found by a non-birder in the village of Hoogwoud in Noord-Holland. Hundreds of Dutch birders travelled to see this ‘first’ for the Netherlands. Weeks passed and it was clear that the bird, aged as a 2nd calendar year, was wintering. I realised that this may be my only chance of seeing one in the Western Palearctic and I was really itching to go. 

Together with my wife and fourteen month old we flew from Southend to Amsterdam and stayed a couple of nights at the four star Van de Valk hotel in Hoorn. A couple of days would allow for extended viewing and also make a small family break without too much rushing. 

We arrived late on the 13th but the following day we were all up for breakfast at 06:30, ready for the short drive to Hoogwoud. As we approached the favoured site at Beukenlaan it was clear that area of gardens and greens held a lot of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Tree Sparrows and a singing Blackcap. After about 30 mins of waiting and talking to a couple of Dutch birders I was beginning to get worried. One guy went off to look elsewhere after three birders from Devon arrived. Not long later we were all rushing around the corner to a small patch of scrub at the end of Het Achterom and there it was. Feeding in a small mossy clearing was this rather plain bird except for the glittering, red throat – almost hummingbird-like in iridescence – topped with a striking white supercilium and submoustachial stripe, black lores and a fine black malar stripe. When you finally see a bird like this that you’ve dreamed about for years, when you see it for real in the flesh, it’s a magical experience. I always think to myself: “so you do exist”. The rubythroat packs a lot of charisma into its small size and its shy, furtive behaviour while foraging in the undergrowth seemed at odds with its unconcerned and very approachable nature once it broke cover and hopped to within a few feet of the gathered observers. I guess the bird is just not used to humans in its remote breeding area. However, a Sparrowhawk passing overhead, the occasional approaching cat and flocks of noisy Jackdaws did see the bird becoming very alert and returning to cover. 

Over the course of the morning its routine alternated between periods of subsinging and preening undercover to feeding forays through the block of low scrub to the mossy patch at the pavement edge. By lunchtime we decided to head for a bite to eat and some general touristy sightseeing. The following morning I returned early to Hoogwoud on my own. Again the Siberian Rubythroat was keeping to the scrub at Het Achterom and while showing very close at times, its position did not allow for images with nice, clean, out-of-focus backgrounds. Still, the mossy patch it frequented provided some more natural looking photographs. I spent most of the morning waiting and observing and at times it was subsinging just a few feet away, concealed in the low scrub, but with the dazzling throat revealing the source of its soft, squeaky warbles. Then it was time to return to the hotel and collect the family. I had one last look. This one could possibly be the last one I’d ever see. The rest of the day we did some more touristy things, visiting Edam and Volendam before our early evening flight. We looked for no other particular birds though there were plenty of quality birds around including Bufflehead, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck and Pine Bunting. We did enjoy hundreds of geese along most of the drives and we had a flock of Barnacle Geese in the fields opposite the hotel. We also noted Great Crested Grebes in almost every canal with pairs displaying in small roadside ponds, even in urban areas. Information updates were obtained from and

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Winter birds in the Florida Keys

I've uploaded an annotated list for January's trip to the Florida Keys

This was the seventh field work trip to the Keys. Specific birding was restricted to a look around Keys Marine Lab on Long Key before breakfast and short visits to Blue Hole on Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda State Park. Everything else was just noted on the kayaking trips to the field sites in the mangroves around Long Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and Big Pine Key, and the drives along the Overseas Highway. 

Highlights included Roseate Spoonbill, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, White-crowned Pigeon, Bald Eagle, and Cedar Waxwing.

A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) hunting crabs at dusk

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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Rainham Marshes Patch Listing 2016 – February

As expected after the initial rush of January to see all the regular wintering species, locate the scarcer visitors, and luck-in on the rest, February was always going to be a slower and steady month.  I personally added 12 species to bring my total to 103, with our Bird Race team (The Drift Migrants) reaching 104.

Cycling around the landfill on the way to work paid off when I located two Yellowhammers (92) in the scrub and grassland on the southern side of the concrete barge bay on the 2nd. It was actually a whole month before I eventually saw a Kingfisher (93) with one flying along a channel at Rainham West on the 3rd. Short-eared Owls and Water Pipits continued to be a regular feature on the reserve but continued searching of the river added Spotted Redshank (94) and Caspian Gull (95) on the 6th.

By the second week, Oystercatchers (96) started returning inland with one downriver on the 9th, however winter was very much still with us as a Grey Plover appeared on the river mud on the 13th. Later that day I found my first really good bird of the year, and a true sea bird. I couldn’t really believe I was seeing a Fulmar (98) but there it was drifting upriver on the rising tide past my living room window. I alerted Howard at mission control and several Rainham birders picked it up a few minutes later. This was only the third record.  After heading the short distance to the visitor centre upon news of a Brambling at the garden feeding station, which I failed to see, an adult Mediterranean Gull (99) was a welcome addition. On returning the following the day, the female Brambling (100) was more cooperative and showed very well at times.

The final weekend of February was all about the gulls. On the 27th I had ‘a nine-gull day’ including a 1st-w Iceland Gull (101), two Caspian Gulls (1st-w + 2nd-w), and a Mediterranean Gull (adult in summer plumage) and the following day, after many winter hours of observation, an adult (winter plumage) Kittiwake (102) flew downriver. February ended with an Avocet (103) in Aveley Bay on the cycle to work.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Rainham Marshes Patch Listing 2016 - January

So, I’m doing a Big Year! Ok, so not like in the movie but a year long list at RSPB Rainham Marshes. As well as my own personal year list for the site, I’ll be bird-racing all year long along with around 40 other teams. 

January the 1st dawned and I was out before sunrise. Howard opened the reserve at 07:00, still in darkness, but with mid-winter songsters ushering in the New Year: Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush. I initially spent too long hoping to find a Woodcock and after checking off all the regulars on the Purfleet Scrape (including singing Cetti’s Warbler and Marsh Harrier) and hearing Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker along the woodland trail, I arrived at the Ken Barrett hide to see the wintering Dartford Warbler and Stonechats. The Barn Owl was in its regular box and Common Chiffchaff was calling. Further waterbirds and wildfowl were added at Aveley Pools plus a Water Pipit and Short-eared Owl. A Water Rail was seen briefly in a channel at the Shooting Butts Hide and a further two Water Pipits were ‘scoped in the Target Pools. After a long session here I made my way up on to the river wall to view Aveley Bay, finding Rock Pipit and more waders including Black-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover. A look at the mouth of the River Darent/Dartford Creek provided Yellow-legged Gull. The short winter day was progressing all too fast so I headed to the raptor watchpoint at the Serin Mound but added only Linnet and Pheasant. Then it was back to the reserve centre for a coffee with some other team members where House Sparrow was reliably located at the garden feeders. We then headed back along the river wall, finding Raven, Jackdaw and Grey Wagtail, bringing the first day’s total to 76 species. 

 The next few days before the return to work were slow but the 2nd saw five Dark-bellied Brent Geese (77) on the reserve with another in Aveley Bay followed by even more interest shortly after when four adult Little Gulls (78) passed close by me. They appeared to come off the reserve and fly straight into the bay. At the landfill I added Feral Pigeon (79). Why did it not record this yesterday? On the 3rd a Peregrine (80) flew over the River Thames from Rainham to Dartford Marshes in Kent. Monday the 4th dawned and it was back to work. Cycling along the river wall to catch the train at Rainham I picked up a Sparrowhawk (81) dashing low over the salt marsh at Aveley Bay and then eventually caught up with the Egyptian Goose (82) from the Serin Mound. A pair of Mistle Thrushes (83) were to be the last birds to be added for a while. I was then out of the country for a couple of weeks (in Florida Keys) and by the time I returned, several good birds had been found by others. The rest of January was obviously a slow but steady catch-up. The 23rd provided Lesser Redpoll (84) and Corn Bunting (85) at the Serin Mound and Goldcrest (86) in the scrub along Coldharbour Lane, followed by Bullfinches (87) in the Cordite on the 24th. After a few blank days I eventually saw a Buzzard (88) on Wennington Marshes and two Green Sandpipers (89) over Coldharbour Lane on the 28th. The last weekend of the month saw the fine spectacle of a female Merlin (90) terrorising every small passerine over Wennington Marsh, followed by a wintering Common Sandpiper (91) at the mouth of the River Darent.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

100 species from the house observatory

Many birders keep lists, some more prosaic than others. A local patch list or British list are among the most popular. For others, the garden list can either be their main connection to birding or an aside while having breakfast. From a young age, I kept a list for the garden I grew up in in Scotland but frustratingly I missed the most exciting addition to that list – a Rose-coloured Starling – found by my dad. I shouldn’t complain. That day I was in Peru watching Andean Cock-of-the Rocks.

Four months ago I moved to the side of the Thames near Rainham Marshes and immediately began listing from the living room window and unimaginatively termed the balcony The Observatory.  The garden list in Scotland followed a simple but precise rule for counting. Birds had to occur within the boundary of the garden and below the level of the room, thereby allowing species like Swift to sneak on to the list. Now I am counting anything visible from the Obs which can be a mile or more away when viewing at 60X through the field scope. But most birds are either on the mud, heading up or down the river, or over Dartford Marshes. In four months I’ve already made it past the magical 100 species. The potential here is great and anything could turn up. True woodland species may be more difficult to see though and I’m still waiting on adding Song Thrush to the list – maybe I should listen for nocturnal migrants instead.

Here is a month-by-month summary of what’s been on view with the latest list here:

The 5th was the first day of proper observation and a male Marsh Harrier was the first good bird indicating the potential here. Passage or summering waders included Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling (19th), Curlew, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and the first returning Lapwing on the 26th. Numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls increased as the month progressed, peaking at 88 on the 30th. 

New wader species this month were two Avocets the 3rd, a Green Sandpiper on the 4th and a Bar-tailed Godwit on the 16th. Ringed Plovers peaked at 21 on the 25th. Tern passage on the 9th included 18 Arctic and 3 Sandwich, with Little Tern on the 15th and 23rd, and Black Tern on the 24th bringing the total to five species for the month. The first Barn Owl was recorded at dusk on the 26th.

The 1st brought the first returning Wheatear, Hobby, Great Crested Grebe, Long-tailed Tit and Grey Wagtail on the 2nd, and Snipe on the 6th – all new additions in the first week. Following another Black Tern on the 19th, two Avocets returned for the rest of the month, with four on the 29th. Five Whinchats dropped in on the 23rd, two Jays flew past on the 25th and the first Golden Plovers of the autumn were recorded on the 26th. Marsh Harriers began to make a more frequent sight this month.

This month was all about waders and owls in addition to several new species. Peak wader number included 151 Golden Plover on the 31st, 531 Lapwing on the 27th, 205 Redshank on the 24th, and 34 Black-tailed Godwit on the 26th. The first Short-eared Owls arrived on 17th, with two on the 23rd, and three on 25th and 31st. New additions included Redwing on the 8th, Kingfisher on the 10th, Stonechat on the 13th, Ring Ouzel on the 19th, Fieldfare on the 20th,  Cetti’s Warbler on the 25th and Rock Pipit on the 31st. 

A persistent thick fog on the first few days prevented any observation. Four Knot appeared on the 3rd, a Spotted Redshank was at Dartford Creek mouth while a Shoveler flew upriver on the 4th, and a Brambling flew south on the 12th. Wader numbers remained high with peaks on 224 Golden Plover on the 13th, 180 Dunlin on the 3rd, 176 Redshank on the 5th, and 445 Lapwing on the 18th, but the highlight was six Grey Plovers on the 24th. Other new additions included Little Grebe on the 3rd, Mistle Thrush on the 22nd, four Pintail on the 22nd, and a Lesser Redpoll on the 26th.

As the days shortened and the dull weather persisted, there was little light in the mornings before work to observe. Weekends were occupied by other matters but as the winter solstice approaches I look forward to the new year… with more light and birds. Update: Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier, Raven and Rock Pipit were noted on several days. A total of 108 species recorded between July 2015 and the year-end finished with three Goosanders upriver on Boxing Day. Lapwing peaked at 1063 on the 24th and Black-headed Gulls reached 3000+ on the 26th.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Goldeneye at Hogganfield Loch

A pencil drawing of Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) at Hogganfield Lock. This loch in Glasgow is close to the city centre but attracts many interesting species in winter including Whooper Swan, Goosander, Smew and white-winged gulls.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Drawing Dancing Cranes

Pencil drawing of dancing Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus) at Hornborgasjön in Sweden. Lake Hornborga is the main spring staging site in Sweden, where I have visited a number of times to photograph them.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Short-eared Owls at RSPB Rainham Marshes

A pencil drawing of the Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) at Rainham Marshes. Large numbers of these messenger birds have arrived in the British Isles this autumn from Scandinavia and possibly beyond. 

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Mellow Heron

Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) photographed through autumn leaves.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Summerland Key Birding Trip Report

I've uploaded a trip report from my recent field work in Florida Keys (8-15 September) which was based around Summerland and Cudjoe Keys, with a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Highlights included Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Black Noddy, Brown Noddy, a host of migrant warblers, and oh, an Acadian Flycatcher

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dry Tortugas

Earlier this month my job took me back took to Florida Keys. On our last day of field work we decided to have a break and head out to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Traditionally, this US birding hotspot is visited in spring but if your non-birding colleague is up for going, you will go anytime! This site is up there with must-see locations such as Cape May, Attu, SE Arizona, Hawk Mountain, Point Pelee and The Everglades. US-1, the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, ends at Key West. But the Keys don’t end at Key West because 70 miles further out in the Gulf of Mexico lies the Dry Tortugas. Are these keys any different from the rest? You bet! Long Key and Bush Key have breeding Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern (all departed by mid-September). Hospital Key has breeding Masked Booby! And there are always a few Brown Booby around too. Where else in the ABA region can you see all these species at one site? But the birding was better than this as I saw a Black Noddy as well. 

We landed on Garden Key and explored Fort Jefferson but eventually we were distracted again by our particular interests. My colleague went off to snorkel in the beautiful tropical waters and I looked for the bird bath. Yes, September is the fall migration and the Dry Tortugas are a refuge for birds migrating from North to Central and South America. In an ocean of salty water the fresh water fountain is a magnet for small birds (and Glossy Ibis, White Ibis and Cattle Egret too on this visit) and as I sat and watched the procession of wood-warbler, tanagers and orioles coming to drink I was almost in a dream-like state. Sure, I’d seen many of these species in Florida, Arizona, Maine and New York but it was the ease of observing them here in the open. No patiently waiting for views of them in their breeding habitat – they were flying out into the open and revealing themselves as perfectly as they appear in the classic North American field guides. At least 17 species of wood-warbler were seen. When I was young I used to have vivid dreams about birds like Hoopoes and Northern Cardinals… and wake up so disappointed. 

This was a dream come true. Over 55 species were seen exceptionally well on a tiny island in less than four hours. Other highlights included a Black Skimmer, Least Bittern, around 120 Magnificent Frigatebirds, Dickcissel, Bobolink and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (get it in my scope, a birder once said!).

Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, Dry Tortugas National Park
South Coaling Docks ruins - location of Black Noddy
Interior of Fort Jefferson
Water fountain attracting many migrant birds

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Moving to the marshes

At the beginning of July we moved out of London and just into Essex. We’re living right next to Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve now, our living room overlooks the Thames estuary and I still cycle to work in central London, albeit with a train journey in the middle. Not surprisingly the birding is good on all fronts. In just over a month I’ve recorded 64 species (list in the side bar) from our living room window (aka the Observatory) including 16 species of wader (shorebird) and highlights like Little Ringed Plover, Marsh Harrier, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Mediterranean Gull, Common Scoter, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Sanderling, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Avocet, Sandwich Tern and a peak of 88 Yellow-legged Gulls. Morning and evening I cycle along the sea wall, overlooking Rainham Marshes, catching the train at Rainham town and seeing many good birds on the way including Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Bearded Tit, Hobby and Corn Bunting. It’s been a great change for us and our 7 month old is getting some fresher air!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ayrshire Bird Report 2012

The 2012 edition of the Ayrshire Bird Report is now available priced at £5.00. Essential reading for anyone visiting the county, it contains the most important bird sightings recorded in 2012 as well as informative articles on Ayrshire's avifauna. It is published by the Ayrshire Branch of the SOC (Scottish Ornithologists' Club). Details: 114 pages with 8 full-colour inner pages of photographs, plus artwork and b&w photos. Please visit the Ayrshire Birding website for details of how to obtain your copy or e-mail me. 

Fraser Simpson (Compiler & Editor)

Kindrogan Trip Report 2015

Earlier this month I returned from my thirteenth trip on an undergraduate university field course to the Field Studies Council's Kindrogan Field Centre near Enochdhu in picturesque Strathardle, Perthshire. Mammal highlights included an Otter on the River Ardle as well as the regular crepuscular visits by the Pine Martens. In terms of birds, it appeared that Crossbills had a very good breeding season and Red-legged Partridge was a new addition to my Kindrogan/Strathardle list. 

On two mornings the alarm clock was set for 02:55 to experience the dawn chorus. I now have times for about 25 June mornings since 2003 and the figure below shows the first song of six common and regular participants.

A full trip list, including records of Goosander, Red Grouse, Osprey, Woodcock, Green Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Whinchat, Redstart, and Ring Ouzel, can be found on the main site at:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ambience with a hint of birds

Here are a couple of new ambient tracks I've created recently, routing my synths through a Strymon Big Sky. Keeping it bird-themed, I've added a few sound recordings here and there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

South-west Spain birding trip report

I've uploaded a birding trip report to the main website for the area around the small town of Zahara de los Atunes, situated on the Costa de la Luz in the Straits of Gibraltar in Cadiz province in south-west Spain on 8-18 April 2015. The highlights this year were two Lesser Crested Terns at Atlanterra on 12-13 April, and a Greater Flamingo and migrant Ortolan Bunting at Marismas del Barbate.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yellow-crowned Night Heron drawing

A pencil drawing from the weekend of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). This was based on a photograph taken in the mangroves of Cudjoe Key, Florida where it was hunting crabs as I paddled past on a kayak. More at

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Blackbird (and Jack)

Here is a 10 minutes recording of an urban Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing from an internal garden courtyard, with four walls on either side enhancing the reverberations (plus some background contributions from my 8-week old son). Recorded at 05:35, 10 March 2015.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Red Kite drawing

Well, birding activity has been low since the turn of the year due to the arrival of a new hatchling in the family. This weekend I found some hours to do my first drawing in a long time, a Red Kite (Milvus milvus). March is typically the start of the peak period for this species in London (wanderers from mainland Europe?) and in fact two birds were reported over Hampstead Heath yesterday.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grey Herons in low winter sun

Grey Herons seem to exhibit an endless amount of poses which makes them an inexhaustible subject. I've been photographing these birds since 2005 but it now seems more difficult to obtain something new and different.


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