Frampton Marsh visit

The RSPB Frampton Marsh is one of the key roosting sites in the area. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The RSPB Frampton Marsh is one of the key roosting sites in the area. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It’s been a busy weekend with the BirdFair at Rutland Water, but birding somehow wasn’t on the priority list. As expected, by Sunday afternoon I couldn’t stay indoor anymore, so I decided to explore another new coastal birding site. We visited the RSPB Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire.

From the seawall beautiful salt marsh can easily be watched. © Gyorgy Szimuly

From the seawall beautiful salt marsh can easily be watched. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Plenty of Ruffs were feeding in the area. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Plenty of Ruffs were feeding in the area. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only a part of this vast area is accessible, but it still holds a nice number of birds including many waders. Birding was rather challenging today due to the strong wind, what made holding the binocular steady nearly impossible. The most abundant species of the marsh was the Black-tailed Godwit with both Icelandic and Europen subspecies. Northern Lapwing, Mallard and Eurasian Teal (Or Eurasian Green-winged Teal) was the most abundant species. Among the rarities I saw two unseasonal Brant Geese and a long staying Glossy Ibis, which was feeding just next to the footpath. While the visit was short, it gave me an impression of the birdlife of Frampton Marsh. It definitely worth for more frequent visits as this is one of the closest coastal areas to my home.

There must be a Glossy Ibis on this image. © Gyorgy Szimuly

There must be a Glossy Ibis on this image. © Gyorgy Szimuly

List of birds seen:

Graylag Goose 3
Brant Goose 2
Barnacle Goose 1
Canada Goose 183
Mute Swan 14
Common Shelduck 33
Eurasian Wigeon 4
Mallard 317
Northern Shoveler 9
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) 83
Common Pochard 1
Tufted Duck 9
Little Grebe 4
Great Crested Grebe 4
Great Cormorant 6
Gray Heron 4
Little Egret 7
Glossy Ibis 1
Eurasian Spoonbill 1
Eurasian Moorhen 22
Eurasian Coot 49
Pied Avocet 15
Northern Lapwing 101
Common Ringed Plover 3
Common Redshank 6
Eurasian Curlew 3
Black-tailed Godwit 396
Ruff 27
Dunlin 2
Common Snipe 8
Black-headed Gull 127
Lesser Black-backed Gull 4
Stock Dove 1
Common Wood Pigeon 3
Common Swift 1
Common Kingfisher 1
Bearded Reedling 1
Bank Swallow 280
Northern Wheatear 1
European Starling 398
Western Yellow Wagtail (Yellow) (M. f. flavissima) 10
White Wagtail 2
Meadow Pipit 3
European Goldfinch 1
Eurasian Linnet 8

Pectoral Sandpiper at Manor Farm

Most probably as a result of the remnants of the Hurricane Bertha, hit southwest England early Sunday, a local mega turned up close to my home. Rob Hill, the local expert of Manor Farm spotted a Pectoral Sandpiper on the west end of the quarry.

As weather improved slightly, we left for some birdwatching, targeting to find the reported male Whinchat. A few minutes after our departure, I got the news about the Pectoral Sandpiper. Sharp turn and I was on my way to Old Wolverton, hoping that Rob Hill, the finder, was still there.

Manor Farm quarry in late afternoon. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Manor Farm quarry in late afternoon. © Gyorgy Szimuly

He was there and another birder was coming next to me. I’ve never met any of these local birders before, so it was nice to see some of them. Rob was very kind and let me watch the bird through his spotting scope. One of the guys thought it was an adult bird, but I thought it was a fresh juvenile. The bold rufous-creamy edges on the scapulars and the whitish line on the sides of mantle made it a juvenile bird.

The last Common Swifts soared against these beautiful clouds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The last Common Swifts soared against these beautiful clouds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I didn’t walk on the route as I used to, but enjoyed the beautiful sunset with dramatic clouds on the sky. Among the regular shorebirds, Northern Lapwings, a Ruff, a Dunlin, Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plovers were present, but the Pectoral Sandpiper was feeding alone and separated from other birds.

Just before light started to decrease, Rick and Elis Simpson arrived to see this rarity. It’s always nice to see the Wader Quest couple, especially in the field.

It was my first Pectoral Sandpiper seen in the United Kingdom, but unfortunately no image is available to illustrate.

A bitter taste conclusion

I don’t consider myself a big ‘give-uper’, but sometimes I just can’t figure out what step would be necessary to move forward. Today I made a decision to stop working on the WorldWaders News Blog. I don’t feel good at all as it was my child and my passion at the same time. A bit more than 4 years ago I set up this WordPress site driven by an idea to collect news about shorebirds from around the world and publish them in a single website. I thought it was a good idea to offer a more comfortable way to learn more about shorebirds (or waders if you like).

Despite it didn’t get much attention by wader scientist and larger conservation bodies, I carried on and kept asking permissions re-posting news. I failed to find co-authors who could help making this news platform more diverse and colourful. Finally the numbers, the cruel numbers made my decision.

The blog was born in May 2010. During the 51 months I posted 254 news, what is 4.9 news per month. It is definitely not enough for keeping the audience awake, although I didn’t really run the blog in 2014. In 51 months the blog got only 70 followers. A part of the followers have nothing to do with shorebird conservation or research and not even the birds in general. Since the site moved to WordPress from Posterous it got 30,855 clicks. There were about an additional 70,000 clicks when the site was running under Posterous, which was later stopped offering blogging service. So, the blog altogether got about 100,000 clicks, which means 65 clicks a day. One of the clicks always made by my dear Son. Haha… The best ever day in its history was earlier this year, when a Slender-billed Curlew was supposedly seen in Serbia. On the day we released the news, it got 6,419 views. The total views on this single news exceeded an unbelievable 10,000 views. If I deduct it from the 100,000 total views, the number of daily visits is just 58.

These are the numbers. Let’s say, it had a quite modest publicity despite my best efforts, social media sharing with a potential reach of about 5,000 friends/followers (90% of them are connected to birds). I must have done something wrong or the failure might be related to my personality, I don’t know. It definitely pulls me back from shorebird conservation in general, but the devotion of loving shorebirds will never be taken away. However, I’m still hoping that the World Shorebirds’ Day can make a difference and it can be a success. I enjoy organizing it, and at least I’ve got some encouraging feedback. Despite I’ve got some quite frustrating feedback from leaders of some national bird conservation societies, I keep working on this event. I know, it never will be a boom event until a big organization is offering an ‘umbrella’ (not financially), but I keep working on it.

I’m very sad about the WorldWaders News Blog. I keep the blog open for anyone who wants to read old news, but I stop posting items.

I don’t blame anyone, not even myself…

This image is about patience and faith, what I seem to have lost somewhere. © Andrea Szimuly

This image is about patience and faith, what I seem to have lost somewhere. © Andrea Szimuly

Manor Farm Quarry at dawn

In the last few months I simply couldn’t manage to wake up early to spend some precious time with birds. When I finally decided to go to sleep, it had already started to dawn. The Manor Farm Quarry seemed to be a good choice for an early morning birding. When I arrived European Robins started to sing and call, Canada Geese flew off to feed on nearby fields and Western Jackdaws left their roosting site next to the Aqueduct. Opposite the manor the resident Little Owls were ready for daytime roosting. Surprisingly, I found 4 birds around the big tree.

East end of the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The east end of the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Manor Farm from the east end of the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Manor Farm from the east end of the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Gravel quarry now used by birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Gravel quarry now used by birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I enjoyed the four hour walk with finding many mixed songbird flocks containing mainly European Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits, but every flock had a few European Blackcaps or Common Chiffchaffs as well. I saw a lot of European Green Woodpeckers assuming at least 3 successful breeding pairs in the area.

Common Ringed Plovers are regular migrants in the Manor Farm Quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Ringed Plovers are regular migrants in the Manor Farm Quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

There were some shorebirds (waders) in the quarry, but way less than on the coastal wetlands. The most numerous species were the Northern Lapwing roosting at the eastern end of the quarry. Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers were feeding in the middle of the area. Despite the site could be good for migrant shorebirds, it rarely holds a larger number of birds. All in all, it was good sitting down in the far corner of the quarry and watch birds peacefully. Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Common Coots still had just a few days old downy ducklings and ‘cootlings’.

Common Sandpipers were calling frequently on the edge of the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Sandpipers were calling frequently on the edge of the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Green Sandpiper. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Green Sandpiper. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the list with numbers:

Graylag Goose 37
Canada Goose 178
Mute Swan 11
Gadwall 6
Mallard 86
Green-winged Teal 3
Tufted Duck 41
Gray Partridge 1
Little Grebe 3
Great Cormorant 4
Gray Heron 6
Little Egret 16
Common Buzzard 1
Eurasian Moorhen 30
Eurasian Coot 66
Northern Lapwing 206
Common Ringed Plover 2
Little Ringed Plover 5
Common Sandpiper 4
Green Sandpiper 4
Common Redshank 1
Ruff 2 (one was overflying)
Black-headed Gull 425
Lesser Black-backed Gull 43
Common Tern 36
Common Wood Pigeon 43
Little Owl 4
Common Swift 31
Common Kingfisher 5
European Green Woodpecker 8
Eurasian Magpie 15
Eurasian Jackdaw 52
Rook 2
Carrion Crow 67
Bank Swallow 6
Barn Swallow 11
Common House Martin 28
Great Tit 10
Eurasian Blue Tit 32
Long-tailed Tit 21
Eurasian Treecreeper 3
Eurasian Wren 27
Willow Warbler 1
Common Chiffchaff 4
Sedge Warbler 3
Eurasian Reed Warbler 3
European Blackcap 19
Garden Warbler 1
Greater Whitethroat 1
European Robin 28
Eurasian Blackbird 27
Song Thrush 8
Mistle Thrush 2
European Starling 8
Dunnock 6
Western Yellow Wagtail (Yellow) (Motacilla flava flavissima) 1
Gray Wagtail 2
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 10
Common Chaffinch 7
Eurasian Bullfinch 5
European Greenfinch 8
European Goldfinch 56
Eurasian Linnet 9

White-rumped Sandpiper is my new Western Palearctic shorebird

We were just about to go out somewhere for having fun, when a news about a White-rumped Sandpiper was posted via BirdGuides mobile app. As I have never seen White-rumped Sandpiper in the Western Palearctic, and it is a shorebird, it was obvious to jump to the Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire.

Adult White-rumped Sandpiper in breeding plumage in its Canadian Arctic breeding grounds. © Shiloh Schulte

Adult White-rumped Sandpiper in breeding plumage in its Canadian Arctic breeding grounds. © Shiloh Schulte

Thanks to a rater slow Monday afternoon driving, we arrived late to the Tennyson’s Sands, a part of the massive nature reserve. I first went to the northern hide and spent some time alone. I enjoyed watching and listening shorebirds undisturbed. The view was something I have been dreaming about for a while. Wonderful and colourful waders were in front of the hide, including a flock of adult Dunlin, Sanderling, but also many European and Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits and a few Red Knot, all still in breeding plumage. The numbers were not big, but still it was a pleasant and tranquillizing half an hour.

I was focusing on the small Calidris group feeding in front of the hide. Counting birds also helps in the careful separation of different species. It didn’t take too long to spot a bird with different jizz. A silvery sandpiper with a horizontally elongated body, longer tail and wings popped out from the flock. I could watch them for about 15 minutes while they moved from a little muddy island to another. It was feeding intensively and stopped for preening for a few minutes only. Then, by some reason, the whole mixed flock flushed off and landed in the southern end of Tennyson’s Sands.

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Black-tailed Godwits feeding in the Tennyson’s Sands of the Gibraltar Point NNR. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Later the flock was relocated by a local birder, but most of the birds stayed out of view behind a larger vegetated island. As lights decreased fast I left the area, but remained satisfied what the Gibraltar Point offered me.

It’s not possible to define the origin of the vagrant White-rumped Sandpipers in Great Britain. Most probably they are coming from the Canadian Arctic, but westward movements from far northeast Siberia is also possible (like the Great Knot(s) appearance two weeks ago in Norfolk or in Poland).

Plumage colour pattern and the colour tones of its nesting habitat allows the White-rumped Sandpipers a perfect camouflage. © Shiloh Schulte

Plumage colour pattern and the colour tones of its nesting habitat allows the White-rumped Sandpipers a perfect camouflage. © Shiloh Schulte

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The White-rumped Sandpiper is such a finely marked shorebird making it an elegant member of the Calidris group and one my favourite sandpiper species from the Americas. © Shiloh Schulte

Huge thanks to Shiloh Schulte for his lovely images, who recently returned back from the Arctic Canada where a group of scientists studied shorebirds. Also, thanks to BirdGuides for spreading the news.

Shorebird numbers:

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) 32
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 29
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 4
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 1
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 6
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) 3
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) 159
Red Knot (Calidris canutus) 5
Sanderling (Calidris alba) 19
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 46
White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) 1 ad
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 6

Update: the other morning the sandpiper was found again with another rare shorebird, a Broad-billed Sandpiper!

Rarity finding accomplished

It was another impressive birding day in England. We headed very early in the morning to Dorset to find another long-staying rarity, a 1st summer Ross’s Gull. This red-legged Little Gull-like bird was first reported on 21 May from Bowling Green Marsh near to Topsham.

The rain stopped by our arrival and weather turned to be very pleasant. The Bowling Green Marsh Hide was empty at 9AM allowed me to watch the gorgeous feeding Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage. A Green Sandpiper, Common Redshanks, already in winter plumage, and Northern Lapwings were the representatives of waders. Gulls seemed to be somewhere else, so I decided to walk to the other hide.

RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is one of the roosting sites of the birds of the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is one of the roosting sites of the birds of the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The hide is offering an open view to the Exe Estuary and its mudflat. The tide was coming so it was just a question of time for the birds being pushed back to the roosting site of Bowling Green Marsh. On the mudflat I couldn’t spot the Ross’s Gull, so as the high tide was progressing, I decided to return back to the other hide. Not surprisingly, it was full of birdwatchers. They knew the bird would come with the high tide as many times for weeks now.

Incoming tide in the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incoming tide in the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It took a while till all the gulls returned for roosting. The first excitement emerged by the arrival of a 1st summer Little Gull, which was claimed as a Ross’s Gull by one of the birders. A pro birder, means really skilled, birder corrected the identification and suddenly people got quiet again. After all, the Ross’s Gull appeared with the last flocks of gulls. It provided a very nice view both in flight and on the mud. After landing I had a chance to watch it through an incredible Swarovski modular scope of that keen birder. What a view it was! The resident Carrion Crows often flushed the gulls, what the Ross’s Gull didn’t tolerate too well and flew off the area.

Ross's Gull is a unique-looking gull with red legs. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Ross’s Gull is a unique-looking gull with red legs. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

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Another unique feature of the Ross’s Gull is the long wedge-shaped tail. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Records from Bowland Green Marsh:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 1
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) 4
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) (Anas crecca) 4
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 1
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) 1
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 3
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 2
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 9
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 7
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 1
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 8
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 1
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 9
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 19
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 55
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) 132
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) 3
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 550
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) 1
Ross’s Gull (Rhodostethia rosea) 1 1st summer
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 5
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 6
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 4
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 3
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 4
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 7
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) 2
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
Common House-Martin (Delichon urbicum) 6
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 2
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 4
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) 7
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 2
Eurasian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) 3
European Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 1
Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 6
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 1
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 2
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) 1

On the way to Portland Bill I came across a large mixed flock of Common Swift (360), Common House Martins (24) and Barn Swallows (12). I have never seen such a large Common Swift flock and it surprised me to see it in the beginning of July. I know very little about their biology and life cycles, but must have finished breeding. Along the East Yorkshire coast 5.200 birds were counted today.

At the Portland Beach Road at Wyke Regis I stopped to check Mediterranean Gulls at the lagoon. They were in various phases of moult into their winter plumage. Gorgeous Little Terns, summer plumaged Dunlins, Sanderlings and Common Ringed Plovers made the tiny mudflat exciting.

East end of the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

East end of the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the east end of the lagoon:

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) 12
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 1
Sanderling (Calidris alba) 1
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 13
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 18
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 69 (two colour ringed birds with green with white codes)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 19
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2
Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) 21
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 3
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 3
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 63
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2

Portland Bill was very crowdy, but I was hoping to find some seabirds, following  the exciting morning news about the observation of a Black-browed Albatross. As I entered the cliffs, I picked 3 fast flying shearwaters just meters from the shore. They were my very first Manx Shearwaters ever. I sat down on a rather comfortable cliff and enjoyed birds flying by for more than an hour. Off-shore, I counted some more Manx Shearwaters, but no skua or other shearwater species was seen. I tried hard to spot a European Storm-Petrel, but I couldn’t find one.

Sea view from Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sea view from Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The lighthouse of Portland Bill is one of the popular attractions of the south coast. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The lighthouse of Portland Bill is one of the popular attractions of the south coast. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Records from Portland Bill:

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) 1
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) 22
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 19
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Common Murre (Uria aalge) 18
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 6
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 17
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 9
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 4
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 42
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarellii)
Rock Pipit (Western) (Anthus petrosus petrosus) 1
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) 14
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 1

Many thanks to the unknown birder in the hide who allowed me to watch the Ross’s Gull through his spotting scope. Special thanks to Steve Roger for allowing me to use his photos of the Bowling Green Marsh Ross’s Gull.

Life list increased by two and now is at 2.182!

Sign of fall migration

I put another site on my eBird map today. I walked 2×5.5 km along the Grand Union Canal from Stoke Hammond to Three Locks, also from Three Locks to the northwest edge of Leighton Buzzard. The birdlife of this section of the Grand Union Canal has proved to be surprisingly interesting. The first 5 km I walked in pouring rain, although I wasn’t really equipped for that massive rain. Anyway, I tried to enjoy it as much as I could. Using a wet touchscreen iPhone wasn’t always easy (sometimes even the rain drops clicked on unwanted parts of the screen).

British weather requires efficient protective clothing for birding, what I apparently lack. © Gyorgy Szimuly

British weather requires efficient protective clothing for birding, what I apparently lack. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The site actually holds the usual bird community that can be expected for such a habitat. Amongst the unexpected, there were quite a few Mandarin Ducks; both male, female and a duckling. This could be a regional hotspot for this introduced exotic duck species.

The long boats are very popular not only for traveling but for living. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The long-boats are very popular not only for traveling but for living. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the boatman said, "This weather is for digs". Indeed it was dreadful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the boatman said, “This weather is for dogs”. Indeed, it was dreadful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I think from now it is worth checking bird flocks as we are approaching fall migration. It’s time to think about post-breeding dispersal of tit flocks a bit differently, following my observation at km 99. I started watching a Long-tailed Tit flock of 16 birds (mainly juveniles) followed by 12 European Blue Tits and 9 Great Tits. Together with the tit flock 3 European Blackcaps and 9 Common Chiffchaffs were flitting between bushes. At least two of the chiffchaffs seemed to be worn plumaged adults. I think as the migration progresses, this area could be really attractive for birds moving south.

British White Wagtail families were feeding on a horse field. © Gyorgy Szimuly

British White Wagtail families were feeding on a horse field. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I had perfect views on preening and feeding (British) Western Yellow Wagtails, beautiful Stock Doves, a hovering adult Red Kite, differently aged adorable downy chicks of Common Moorhen and singing Lesser Whitethroats. A lonely, about a three weeks old Mute Swan cygnet were continually calling for its parents, but they were not visible anywhere close. I also saw a Common Cuckoo flying very high over the canal. I have never seen a cuckoo flying that high. Was it already on the move south?

Mandarin Ducks occupied this woody parts of the canal and raised their ducklings. Image was taken by an iPhone 5s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mandarin Ducks occupied this woody parts of the canal and raised their ducklings. Image was taken by an iPhone 5s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Boat is crossing through the special sluices. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Boat is crossing through the special sluices. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As I walked on the towpath, a boatman (towman) kindly greeted me from his long boat and expressed his feeling about the amazing birds living along the canal, including the gorgeous Common Tern which was just flying over his boat. Then he mentioned, that he had seen a turnstone further south towards Leighton Buzzard. I asked twice whether that was really a turnstone, but he was confident in his observation and apparently seemed to know the birds well. I walked all along the canal from that point, but I didn’t see it.

Here is the combined eBird report from two checklists:

Mute Swan 1
Mandarin Duck 14
Mallard 16
Gray Heron 3
Red Kite 1
Common Buzzard 1
Eurasian Moorhen 19
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Northern Lapwing 19
Black-headed Gull 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull (graellsii) 29
Common Tern 3
Stock Dove 16
Common Wood-Pigeon 46
Eurasian Collared-Dove 1
Common Cuckoo 1
Common Swift 24
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Magpie 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 12
Rook 5
Carrion Crow 22
European Skylark 7
Barn Swallow 24
Common House Martin 8
Great Tit 11
Eurasian Blue Tit 17
Long-tailed Tit 16
Eurasian Wren 15
Common Chiffchaff 17
Sedge Warbler 1
European Blackcap 8
Lesser Whitethroat 2
Greater Whitethroat 10
European Robin 11
Eurasian Blackbird 32
Song Thrush 7
European Starling 23
Dunnock 12
Western Yellow Wagtail (Yellow) 4
White Wagtail (British) 21
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 10
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Greenfinch 8
European Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 3

Kea and her bird-of-paradise

Last summer, probably exactly at the same time I bought a book for my best friends’ birthday. It was the National Geographic Birds-of-Paradise. As usual, I had to browse it with Kea as she loves birds. She only focused on the birds and turned ‘boring’ pages (means containing no bird) quickly. She was amazed by the transformation of males when displaying. Then I took the book for the birthday party and she never seen it since.

A few weeks earlier I came home from work and I was greeted by Kea with a drawing in her hand. I was shocked to see a Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise showing its basic characteristics. She painted this by hard without using any photos or references. I was speechless and just tried to understand this. It is so heartwarming to witness her development and the tiny achievements she is capable to reach day by day. She is just 5!

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Common Quail on Beacon Hills

I’m sure, England will offer me hundreds of new sites to be exported for the next few decades. I try to find new places worth to visit and today I chose the Beacon Hill (or Ivinghoe Hills) near Ivinghoe village, which is part of the 136 km long national trail, The Ridgeway.

Panorama photo of the hills and the view to the northwest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Panorama photo of the hills and the view to the northwest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The southern hills is perfect for Yellowhammers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As I missed waking up early, the popular area was rather crowded. It probably didn’t affect the species richness, but the site could be more enjoyable without loud people. The southwest, Mediterranean-like, slopes seemed to be perfect for Pyramidal Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids.

Common Spotted Orchids were still blooming. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Spotted Orchids were still blooming. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Apart from the common birds, this place holds a few pairs of Meadow Pipit and Yellowhammer. A male Common Kestrel and Common Ravens were of note. As I walked towards the eastern slopes, a Common Quail was calling very close to me. Based on BirdGuides there was another record of this uncommon bird just north of the hills.

Meadow Pipits were actively singing and carrying food. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Meadow Pipits were actively singing and carrying food. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I’m not a big expert of butterflies, but the place is pretty good for them. I could identify Small TortoiseshellSpeckled Wood and Meadow Brown.

Dozens of Small Tortoiseshell fed on Wild Thyme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dozens of Small Tortoiseshell fed on Wild Thyme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

All in all, the site is very nice and could be attractive during migration. Ring Ouzel and Common Redstart have been reported from here numerous times.

eBird report:

Common Quail 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Common Buzzard 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Common Wood Pigeon 10
Common Swift 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jay 1
Eurasian Magpie 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 11
Carrion Crow 5
Common Raven 4
Eurasian Skylark 6
Eurasian Blue Tit 7
Eurasian Wren 2
Willow Warbler 1
Common Chiffchaff 4
Eurasian Blackcap 5
Greater Whitethroat 7
European Robin 2
Eurasian Blackbird 4
Song Thrush 1
Meadow Pipit 7
Yellowhammer 9
Common Chaffinch 5
European Goldfinch 3
Eurasian Linnet 8

In search for the Short-toed Eagle pair

In a hope to find the previously seen Short-toed Eagle pair in the northern part of the Gerecse Mountain (Süttő, Hungary), we climbed to the top of the Nagy-Teke Hill. A very talented birdgirl, Hanni, a professional and well experienced raptor expert, Peter, Dani and myself tried to overlook a large area from the hill.

The survey team on the way to the top of the hill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The survey team on the way to the top of the hill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The morning started slow allowed us to talk about birds and their future locally and globally. It is always nice to learn something from each other. In the meantime, a Tree Pipit was endlessly singing next to us. Despite we had a rather hot weather (34°C) birds didn’t show up before 9AM. The first Common Buzzards were followed by European Honey Buzzards, providing amazing views by flying just above us. We could enjoy seeing different plumage variations in perfect light conditions.

The working team. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The working team. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Unfortunately, the Short-toed Eagles didn’t show up, at least until we left the hill shortly after 12PM. However, I spotted a pair of Black Stork, showing territorial behaviour over the Great Gerecse Hill.

Compared to the previous years’ raptor-watch, the species richness was much lower. No Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle nor Northern Goshawk were seen. There could be multiple reasons, including the extreme weather during the breeding season, as well as the lack of food resources, but the increasing breeding population of Peregrine Falcon could also result ‘cleared space’ areas. We witnessed the local breeding pair of Peregrine Falcon chasing away every bird of any size around the Pisznice Hill.

The hill top is scattered by Downy Oak. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The hill top is scattered by Downy Oak. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cow Parsley covered Mediterranean-style hilltop. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cow Parsley covered Mediterranean-style hilltop. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding habitat of Tree Pipits. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding habitat of Tree Pipits. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birds detected:

Black Stork 2
Gray Heron 1
European Honey-buzzard 3
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2
Common Buzzard 15
Stock Dove 2
European Turtle Dove 1
European Bee-eater 1
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Golden Oriole 3
Eurasian Jay 2
Common Raven 5
Common House Martin 1
Great Tit 3
Eurasian Blue Tit 6
Long-tailed Tit 3
Eurasian Nuthatch 2
Eurasian Wren 1
Blackcap 2
European Robin 2
Collared Flycatcher 1
Eurasian Blackbird 2
Song Thrush 1
Mistle Thrush 1
European Starling 4
Tree Pipit 1
Yellowhammer 3
Hawfinch 4