Into crowd sourcing

Having no computer in the last 9 months made my life full of hassle. Being restricted to a smart phone made progress of everything a bit slow. Now this old buddy is fixed, probably for the last time, and I jumped into multiple tasks to be able to catch up. Surprisingly, I made nice progress with the species accounts of the shorebird handbook and could manage to do some birding on the Global Big Day on 9 May.

For me, the most important ‘event’ of the past few weeks was the release of a crowd funding campaign for the handbook. As funds are limited and not available for many things, including participating shorebird conferences, I asked my friends and social media community for donating the project. I’m normally sceptic about the positive outcome of such donation campaigns, but since I’m quite frequently donating, I thought I could also be successful. The campaign proved to be a good idea and as of today I’ve got £475. I’m not only happy by the amount donated, but the feeling others think this project worth to ‘invest’ in. With this help I probably can attend an important conference to be held in Virginia in September. I still have some time to get the desired £2,000 for this travel. Here is my GoFundMe campaign for further details.

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The next couple of weeks will be spent working harder to be able to travel in September and also will be sitting in front of my laptop and finishing the oystercatcher accounts.

If you feel this publishing project is worth to support, please donate even with a small amount.

New to my British list: Common Nightingale

A Common Nightingale was reported yesterday from the nearby Blue a Lagoon Nature Reserve but nobody could relocate it since. I gave it a try this afternoon as it normally actively singing in late afternoon (also during the night).

I followed my usual, all inclusive routing, including the new pits (now waste land) near Newton Longville. The approximate location of the nightingale was in the last quarter of my route. While I had a glimpse of a Water Rail in one of the small pools, a familiar song hit my ears. A Common Nightingale was singing his heart out. It was a slightly different song I got to used to, but it was amazing to hear. Probably, this bird song is what I have missed the most from Hungary.

I quickly walked towards the bird and within a minute I spotted the bird singing from one of the trees. I had a great view on it and I was surprised to see a metal ring on its left tarsus. The ring was quite tall and still shiny.

Here is the sound (in video) recording I made with my iPhone:

Here is the location info on this Google Map for those who want to see this superb singer.

Red flag is the viewing spot, the green pin showing the parking lot.

Birding in general was very nice in such a gorgeous weather. Ride Kites, Common Buzzards and large gulls were soaring all over the place and songbirds were singing from every corner of the reserve. April rocks!

Gorgeous evening lights over the Blue Lagoon. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mixed vegetation is key for dicersity. Reed buntings, reed warblers prefer this havitat. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Complete checklist from today:

Canada Goose 1
Mute Swan 2
Mallard 8
Great Crested Grebe 1
Red Kite 13
Common Buzzard 5
Water Rail 1
Eurasian Moorhen 4
Eurasian Coot 6
Little Ringed Plover 1
Common Sandpiper 1
European Herring Gull 67
Lesser Black-backed Gull 33
Lesser Black-backed Gull (L. f. graellsii) 140
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Stock Dove 4
Common Wood-Pigeon 41
Common Kingfisher 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 2
Eurasian Magpie 8
Eurasian Jackdaw 127
Rook 48
Carrion Crow 244
Common Raven 2
European Skylark 5
Great Tit 11
Eurasian Blue Tit 12
Long-tailed Tit (A. c. europaeus) 6
Eurasian Wren 12
Willow Warbler 8
Common Chiffchaff 12
Sedge Warbler 1
Eurasian Reed-Warbler 4
Blackcap 19
Lesser Whitethroat 2
Greater Whitethroat 1
European Robin 33
Common Nightingale 1
Common Blackbird 16
Song Thrush 4
Dunnock 12
White Wagtail (M. a. yarellii) 1
Common Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 4
Eurasian Bullfinch 4
European Greenfinch 4
European Goldfinch 2
Eurasian Linnet 5

Little Terns at Manor Farm

Panoramic photo of the Manor Farm quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Panoramic photo of the Manor Farm quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Despite a Common Nightingale was reported from the Blue Lagoon Reserve, I decided to go to Manor Farm in Old Wolverton. I made my usual routing around the farm and the gravel pits.

It was quite birdy with some ‘new to the year’ birds like Common Sandpiper, Lesser Whitethroat (seen along the River Great Ouse), Common Whitethroat and Western Yellow Wagtail.

A single Common Sandpiper was feeding along the muddy edges of the gravel islets. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A single Common Sandpiper was feeding along the muddy edges of the gravel islets. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Shorebirds were in territory and counted a couple of incubating Northern Lapwings and at least one Little Ringed Plover. Eurasian Oystercatchers were aggressively defending territory from a raven sized Carrion Crow. On the eastern side two Common Terns occupied a small gravel islet.

Food number of Northern Lapwings were keeping territories in the quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I spent half an hour for counting birds from the southern side bridge. Suddenly a Common Tern and two gorgeous Little Terns appeared from the Aqueduct. This is not an everyday sighting. Little Tern is quite rare in Buckinghamshire. Unfortunately, I couldn’t report it from the scene as I run out of credit. Anyway, half an hour later I could talk to Andi who sent the message out. I was still questioned by the operator of the local rare bird alert about a slightly late reporting.

Low water level offers nice nesting habitats for shorebirds, but also offers easy access for predators. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the list of birds reported to eBird:

Greylag Goose 2
Canada Goose 18
Mute Swan 5
Gadwall 2
Mallard 29
Northern Shoveler 3
Eurasian Teal 4
Common Pochard 3
Tufted Duck 46
Common Pheasant 1
Little Grebe 1
Great Crested Grebe 2
Great Cormorant 1
Grey Heron 2
Little Egret 1
Common Buzzard 2
Eurasian Moorhen 11
Eurasian Coot 13
Eurasian Oystercatcher 2
Northern Lapwing 24
Little Ringed Plover 13
Common Sandpiper 1
Common Redshank 7
Black-headed Gull 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Little Tern 2
Common Tern 3
Common Wood-Pigeon 22
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 2
Eurasian Magpie 26
Eurasian Jackdaw 38
Rook 56
Carrion Crow 23
European Skylark 3
Bank Swallow 17
Barn Swallow 2
Common House Martin 8
Great Tit 11
Eurasian Blue Tit 24
Long-tailed Tit (A. c. europaeus) 6
Eurasian Treecreeper 3
Eurasian Wren 13
Goldcrest 2
Willow Warbler 2
Common Chiffchaff 7
Sedge Warbler 1
Blackcap 12
Greater Whitethroat 3
European Robin 7
Common Blackbird 11
Song Thrush 2
Common Starling 21
Dunnock 5
Western Yellow Wagtail (M. f. flavissima) 4
Grey Wagtail 1
White Wagtail (M. f. yarellii) 7
Common Reed Bunting 5
Common Chaffinch 10
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Greenfinch 2
European Goldfinch 15
Eurasian Linnet 3

Solar Eclipse 2015

As of writing the Solar Eclipse is under way. It is now of 69% coverage. We could manage to take several good photos with an iPhone through my binoculars. Nice stuff.

Solar Eclipse viewd from Milton Keynes with a Lesser Black-backed Gull in front of the Sun. Photo was taken by an iPhone 6 through a Zeiss Victory HT 10×42 binoculars. © Andrea Szimuly & Gyorgy Szimuly



Brand new birding toy: Nikon CoolPix P900 megazoom


The Nikon CoolPix P900 has not only have a list of extraordinary features but is looking impressive. Image courtesy of Nikon Rumors

The mega zoom war has been up and running For a while and we, birdwatchers, are very happy about it. There are a couple of decent competitors in the market but the newly announced Nikon CoolPix P900 bridge camera is beating all of them in terms of focal length. It has a 83x optical zoom equivalent of 2,000mm focal length, but with the Dynamic Fine Zoom system it can be doubled to 4,000mm (166x zoom). If this is still not enough the digital zoom doubles the already extended focal length once again to an insane 8,000mm.

While no pictures are expected to appear on the covers of National Geographic taken by a P900, it could be a great gear supporting everyday birding or travels. On a £499/$599 price tag it is much affordable than any DSRL system. It doesn’t offer RAW editing yet JPEGs can still be widely used. It could be ideal for bloggers as files can easily be transferred to mobile devices via the built-in WiFi. A tripod is always useful for such a massive focal length, but the Dual Detect Optical VR system enables taking unblurred images while handholding. To mention one interesting area of use for birdwatchers and researchers is documenting leg flag or neck band codes on birds.

More info on Nikon’s website.

I’ll give it a go.











Orange feet among pink feet

Snettisham never ceases to amaze me! No matter which season I visit this spectacular place, it never disappoints!

Today my Hungarian friend, Attila Seprényi (who’s living in Sweden) picked me up early in the morning and we drove to North Nortfolk for a day long birding. We got to the Snettisham RSPB Reserve still in the dark.

The incoming tide was on our side and birds were getting closer and closer to the shoreline in improving lights. As usual gulls took off very early and within a few minutes literally none left on the mud. Call of Black-bellied Plovers an Eurasian Curlew traveled quite far at dawn. This atmosphere I’ve been missing so much since World Shorebirds Day last September. The tidal mudflat holds thousands of wintering Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot and Dunlin, several hundreds of Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Common Shelduck and Northern Lapwing. Murmurations of mixed flock of shorebirds is something I cannot stop watching. The speedy fly and sudden turns of massive flocks form a flashy silver ball over the mudflats. It is simply breathtaking.

However, this time, the biggest spectacle was a massive roosting flock of Pink-footed Goose. It was one of the targets of this short trip to get perfect views of the ‘pinkfeets’. There were about 50,000(!) roosting birds and a large majority of them came closer as the tide approached its peak shortly after 8AM.

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High tide at the Snettisham RSPB Reserve with roosting Bar-tailed Godwits and Eurasian Oystercatchers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the compelling list of birds and numbers from Snettisham:

Pink-footed Goose 50,000
Graylag Goose 1,500
Canada Goose 14
Mute Swan 16
Common Shelduck 670
Eurasian Wigeon X
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 2
Eurasian Teal X
Red-legged Partridge 1
Gray Partridge 2
Little Grebe 1
Great Cormorant 13
Grey Heron 1
Little Egret 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Eurasian Moorhen 5
Eurasian Coot X
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1,300
Black-bellied Plover 150
European Golden-Plover 225
Northern Lapwing 630
Common Ringed Plover 3
Common Redshank 270
Eurasian Curlew 552
Black-tailed Godwit 5
Bar-tailed Godwit 4,000
Ruddy Turnstone 28
Red Knot 1,500
Sanderling 1
Dunlin 3,000
Black-headed Gull X
European Herring Gull X
Mew Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull 10
Common Wood Pigeon 46
European Robin 1
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Dunnock 1
Meadow Pipit12
European Goldfinch 4

At the end of our Snettisham visit we met my long time Facebook friend, Andrew Goodall, who guided us for the rest of the day.

Before having a coffee at the Hunstanton cliffs we enjoyed close views of Northern Fulmars. They already occupied the best spots on the cliff.

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Hunstanton Cliffs are home for nesting Northern Fulmars. Bellow the spectacular cliffs Eurasian Oystercatchers and Ruddy Turnstones foraged. © Gyorgy Szimuly

20 minutes stay produced this list:

Eurasian Wigeon 9
Northern Pintail 1
Northern Fulmar 37
Eurasian Oystercatcher 130
Common Ringed Plover 3
Ruddy Turnstone 7
Black-headed Gull 42
European Herring Gull 65
Mew Gull 12
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Eurasian Wren 1
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Common Starling 7
House Sparrow 1

On the way to Holkham we stopped at Mill Farm near Burnham Horton where 456 Brent Goose fed on a grassland joined by 2 Egyptian Geese and 22 Eurasian Curlews.

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These Tundra Bean Geese were photographed a little bit further east at Clay Nature Reserve by the renowned author Nik Borrow on the same day. © Nik Borrow

Our next stop was at Holkham Estate Reserve which proved to be a very good place for Pink-footed Geese. It offered a fantastic opportunity to watch large flocks from a close distance. Through the spotting scope every fine detail was visible. While browsing the flock, I spotted two Tundra Bean Geese which is an uncommon winter visitor in North Norfolk in very low numbers. A hunting Barn Owl in front of us was a nice bonus. We found and a white morph Common Buzzard what had been reported at BirdGuides multiple times as Rough-legged Buzzard.

Tundra Bean-Goose 2
Pink-footed Goose 4,000
Graylag Goose 60
Eurasian Wigeon 1,000
Mallard X
Ring-necked Pheasant 7
Red Kite 1
Common Buzzard 2 (one almost all white)
Eurasian Moorhen 5
Northern Lapwing 450
Common Redshank 36
Eurasian Curlew 42
Black-tailed Godwit 18
Black-headed Gull X
European Herring Gull X
Barn Owl 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jay 3
Eurasian Wren 2
European Robin 2
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Fieldfare 55
Mistle Thrush 3
European Starling 28

Many thanks to Sepi for the great company, to Andrew for guiding us around north Norfolk and to Nik Borrow for permitting using his photo. I can’t wait to return!

Snowy woodpeckers

The snow covered estuary of Által Stream was full of bird songs. ©) Gyorgy Szimuly

The snow covered estuary of Által Stream was full of bird songs. ©) Gyorgy Szimuly

I met Dani at 7AM and we headed to the Old Lake in Tata, Hungary, for a snowy morning birding. It was a chilly morning with no clouds, no winds, and the landscape was wonderfully painted white by the fresh snow. Having no scope with us, we targeted to look for songbirds in the embracing woods of the lake. Anyway, much of the lake was frozen, but still a large area was free of ice.

The frozen Old Lake before sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The frozen Old Lake before sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Fresh snow covered the riparian forest around the lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Woodpeckers were super active in the woods along the stream. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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We had an absolutely fabulous morning with great lights and sunshine. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Reeds are empty now but soon will be filled by reed warblers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As expected, birds were rather active after a day long snowing on the previous day. Some species provided excellent views and were present in surprising numbers while some, like Goldcrest, was totally absent. The biggest surprise was the unusually high number of Hawfinches seen mainly in the western side of the lake. They were flying all around in the town, but mostly preferred feeding on Common Hackberry with mixed flock of winter thrushes (Fieldfares, Redwings and Mistle Thrushes).

The early morning blast off of a large flock of wintering Rooks and Western Jackdaws is always the first event at the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The early morning blast off of a large flock of wintering Rooks and Western Jackdaws is always the first event at the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another highlight of the day was watching the incredible activity of woodpeckers. We managed to see 7 out of 7 local breeding woodpeckers and 7 out of 9 Hungarian breeding woodpeckers. (The White-backed Woodpeckers is breeding in the mountains, while the Eurasian Wryneck is a summer visitor in Hungary.) Especially Great Spotted Woodpeckers were quite territorial and we saw several courtships and territory defences. Personally, I was very pleased to see the long seen Grey-headed Woodpecker and the powerful Black Woodpecker.

Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were rather active and territorial mainly in the southern woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were rather active and territorial mainly in the southern woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This the combined eBird list of 6 completed checklists consisting 53 taxa.

Tundra/Taiga Bean-Goose 2,500
Greater White-fronted Goose 400
Greylag Goose 8
Mallard 1,270
Northern Pintail 8
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) 38
Common Goldeneye 1
Great Cormorant 106
Pygmy Cormorant 3
Grey Heron 16
Great Egret 5
Common Buzzard 2
Black-headed Gull 140
Mew Gull 95
Yellow-legged Gull 12
Common Wood-Pigeon 1
Common Kingfisher 2
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 21
Syrian Woodpecker 2
Black Woodpecker 4
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 5
Grey-headed Woodpecker 2
Eurasian Jay 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 300
Rook 3,000
Hooded Crow 28
Common Raven 2
Marsh Tit 2
Great Tit 85
Eurasian Blue Tit 60
Long-tailed Tit 35
Eurasian Nuthatch 25
Eurasian Treecreeper 4
Eurasian Wren (Eurasian) 2
European Robin 6
Common Blackbird 66
Fieldfare 352
Redwing (Eurasian) 20
Song Thrush 1
Mistle Thrush 29
Grey Wagtail 1
Yellowhammer 1
Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 7
Eurasian Bullfinch 1
European Greenfinch 15
Eurasian Siskin 3
European Goldfinch
Hawfinch 104
House Sparrow 11
Eurasian Tree Sparrow 5

After sunset I counted from my window 525 Fieldfares and a few Redwings flying for roosting. Altogether, over a thousand wintering thrushes must be present in the town.

Personal birding highlights of 2014

Such annual reviews are normally posted before the end of the year, but I was busy with the preparation of a new and exciting project of World Shorebirds Day (to be announced soon).

2014 was an interesting year with waves of ups and downs. Birding wise the first half of the year was good with a nice amount of days in the field. It drastically reduced after selling our car in mid September.

One of the most important events of the year was an idea, born in February and came into reality on the 6th September. The World Shorebirds Day was celebrated for the very first time on hundreds of different locations around the world. This definitely was one of the biggest success in my life, and it encouraged me to come up with new ideas, all supporting shorebird conservation.

Bellow are the facts and figures of 2014.

Life birds in the United Kingdom (4):
Sooty Shearwater (Portland, Devon),
Manx Shearwater (Portland, Devon),
Pink-footed Goose (Colne River Estuary, East Mersea, Essex),
Ross’s Gull (RSPB Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham, Devon),
Parrot Crossbill (Budby Common, Nottinghamshire).

Life bird in Hungary (1):
Ural Owl (Zemplén Hills, Sátoraljaújhely)

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A long desired and my most sought after bird, the Ural Owl was the last of the regularly breeding bird species in Hungary, what I could only manage to see after more than 30 years of birding. Illustration by Szabolcs Kókay

1 Self found rarity: European Bee-eater (Otmoor RSPB Marshes, Oxfordshire)

• 184 species seen in the United Kingdom;
• 52 new species were added to the British list;
• British list is up to 193;
• Hungarian list is up to 345;
• World life list is up to 2,182;

• 460 complete eBird checklists were submitted in the United Kingdom;
• I was ranked 2nd on the Top 100 eBirders (based on the number of submitted complete checklists) in the United Kingdom.

New birding equipment: Zeiss Victory HT 10×42 binoculars.

Other milestones

Relaunching my publication project, The New Shorebirds Handbook with a new and talented artists from Thailand.

2015/01/img_5574.pngBuilding up partnerships for a new fundraising project for the protection of shorebirds.

Thanks for Szabolcs Kókay for the excellent Ural Owl illustration. Special thanks to anyone who helped me in any way!

5,350 birds from the window

I wouldn’t say I’m going crazy by our actual home, but at least one aspect definitely makes it lovable. It is very ‘birdy’, especially in winter. We are living in a big block in the middle of the daily route of thousands of birds. While living next to a massive wasteland doesn’t sound pleasant, it doesn’t harm our life in any way. (I wish I could tell the same about our neighbours and the incredibly noisy and busy roads.)

The view from the window.

The view from the window.

Birds, mainly gulls and Corvids, fly several times a day between the wasteland and their nearby night roosting sites. They fly within a very close range from our window, sometimes they are as close as 30-40 meters.

An hour before sunset I started counting birds from the window of our livingroom. It was warm, comfy and the window provided about 160° field view to the south.

Black-headed Gull numbers have been up since the last counting in late December. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Black-headed Gull numbers have been up since the last counting in late December. © Gyorgy Szimuly

So this was the bird list from this afternoon:

Great Cormorant 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Red Kite 2
Black-headed Gull 2,163
Mew Gull 418
Herring Gull (European) 504
Lesser Black-backed Gull 971
Great Black-backed Gull 23
Common Wood-Pigeon 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 808
Rook 213
Carrion Crow 176
European Robin 1
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Redwing (Eurasian) 1
European Starling 43
White Wagtail (British) 23
Common Chaffinch 2

Happy bird filled 2015

As in many, many years in the past few decades, I started the year with birding. I didn’t start early as allowed myself a little bit extra time in bed following an intensive shift on New Years Eve.

As public transport was on limited availability, I took the first bus and headed to the Grand Union Canal. It became one of my favourite birding sites in Buckinghamshire. Today I covered a bit more than 11 km long section of the canal and added a few new ebird spots.

Covered section of the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes. Map generated by Trails app.

Covered section of the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes. Map generated by Trails app.

Due to gusts and dark clouds, bird activity and detectability was limited. Anyway, I managed to see 37 taxons. Considering that mainly songbirds were seen and the major water bodies were not visited, it doesn’t seem to be a bad start. 37 species of today is 20% of all species I saw in the United Kingdom in 2014.

Here is the trip summary:

The Grand Union Canal (Section 74-90B), Milton Keynes

This is a combined list of 27 submitted eBird checklists from today. Continue reading