No more Javan Plover? – Further mixing the Kentish Plover complex

The New Shorebirds Handbook Blog

The Kentish Plover have always have been the subject of taxonomical debates (e.g. Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus split from C. alexandrinus) and research outcomes were not always popular among birdwatchers (e.g. confirming the ‘White-faced Plover’ to be conspecific with Kentish Plover, Rheindt et al. 2011).

Recent paper published in Biosaintifika found no evidence of genetic differences between Javan Plover and Kentish Plover (Ashari & Astuti 2017). There are slight morphological differences between the two ‘species’ but Javan Plovers’ traits are way less conspicuous compared to Kentish Plover than that of to the ‘White-faced Plover‘. Genetic distance was found to be much smaller (1.2%) than other plover species (8-14%). Kentish Plover is widely overlaping in winter range distribution with Javan Plover (del Hoyo et al. 2017). Interestingly, this study didn’t include Malaysian Plover (Charadrius peronii) among the control sister species which morphologically and geographically is not too far…

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Elusive Cetti’s Warblers

Cetti’s Warblers Cettia cetti is the least common breeding warbler in England. In fact it is a bush-warbler and despite its unique and loud song, one has to be very patient to get a glimpse of this bird. I remember my first encounter with this bird in southwest Hungary where I spent a long hour near the bush it was singing. I could see the bush moving and shadows here and there, but after all it decided to perch for us for a little preening.

Cetti’s Warblers have been reported from a few locations only in Milton Keynes, including the Caldecotte Lake. Phot was taken with a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today I found two Cetti’s Warblers at Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. One was at the north lake, the other one in the south lake. Both birds were singing in their possible breeding territories. I couldn’t spot the north lake bird but I was lucky with the south lake one. It perched in front of me but became quite alerted by a singing Common Blackcap but it even allowed me to take a few shots but none of them rock the world.

Songs of waders in the mist

Weather forecast loked fabulous for today’s birding and Manor Farm in Old Wolverton just looked to be a perfect place to wander. It was a frosty and misty morning but as the Sun rose the fog lifted offering perfect visibility for the gravel pads. Bird sounds in the mist at dawn is truly magical and this time of the year, when birds start to arrive from wintering grounds, it is quite hard to isolate a single bird song. Rather than being in surveying mode it would have better just sitting  down and enjoying the spectacular dawn choirs.

Sunrise over the Manor Farm pastures. iPhone 7Plus. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Misty Manor Farm in Old Wolverton. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

By the floodplain we heard display songs of Northern Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and Common Redshank spread perfectly in the mist. Some Green Sandpipers and Common Snipes were also feeding on the muddy pebble pads, increasing the diversity of waders.

Another sunrise photo from the floodplain. iPhone 7Plus. © Gyorgy Szimuly

While the visibility was very poor it was just good to stay there for minutes and just listen and watch the shape of closer birds in the mist. That experience is definitely a good medicine for everything. iPhone 7Plus. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Classic photo subjects in misty mornings are the spider webs with beautiful water droplets. iPhone 7Plus. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I just cannot have enough of the trilling territorial song of the Common Redshank. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The beauty of the Northern Lapwing is much underrated. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Northern Lapwing were kept busy by Carrion Crows with territorial defense. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A pair of Canada Goose were feeding in front of the hide. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

As soon as the fog lifted we watched the acrobatic display of Northern Lapwing and the patroling flight of the Little Ringed Plover with its characteristic call.

I wouldn’t call it a bird photo but there is a Little Owl on that branch. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Just before we reached the hide where we planned to have a breakfast, I spotted a flying Little Owl which briefly landed on a tree nearby. I rarely come across this local breeder so it was a pleasure seeing it. From the hide there was limited visibility to the sky but we watched feeding Eurasian Wigeons, lapwings and a redshank landing in front of the hide.

It was a very approachable Eurasian (British) Wren. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The British race of Eurasian Wren was the most abundant songbird in the area. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

European Robins were actively holding territories and already busy with building nest. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The most obvious change in the birdlife of this popular birdwatching area since my last visit from March, is the arrival of breeding birds. The number of singing Eurasian Wrens, Blackcaps, European Robins, Song Thrushes and Common Reed Buntings was a clear sign of the beginning of the breeding season. I saw the first Willow Warbler of the year along the river.

Flused Little Owl in the willow. This record shot was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Grey Wagtail fed on the shore of the river. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Just behind the Aqueduct another Little Owl was flushed by the growing number of walkers. When it landed next to the canal an Eurasian Magpie disturbed it and flushed again into the woods. Further along the river a beautiful pair of Grey Wagtails provided excellent views in wall to wall sunshine.

In the afternoon I took a visit to the nearby Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve where more Willow Warblers were singing. Over the new landfill area 14 Red Kites, a Common Buzzard, 2 Common Ravens and an European Kestrel were soaring with Lesser Black-backed Gulls. At Knot Hole pond I saw the first Common Redstart of the year.

Birding on the eastern Ridgeway hills

Birding along the eastern end of The Ridgeway always seemed to be very exciting in Spring based on former bird reports. As birds had already started to return from their wintering grounds I thought it might be good to explore the area even by using public transport – what I don’t like at all.

A view from the top of Aldbury Nowers. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

The day didn’t start flawless as the train was delayed by 20 minutes with a ridiculous explanation: no one was available to drive the train. Anyway, even with a half an hour delay I was fine starting my birding just after dawn. Off the railwaystation I was on The Ridgeway straight away. I had to walk through the Aldbury Nowers SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) which was filled by the song of European Robins, Dunnocks, Common Blackbirds, Eurasian (British) Wrens, Common Chiffchaffs but I also saw Mistle Thrush, Fieldfares, Redwing, Song Thrushes and a couple of stunning Stock Doves.

One of the several Red Kites gliding and hovering over the ridges. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

In sunlight these Red Kites looked amazing. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pitstone Hill top. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Coming out of the forest I reached the ridge of Pitstone Hill with a nice view to the surrounding gravel pits. I had very close encounters with stunning Red Kites. On the other side of the hill I saw a larger flock of European Golden Plovers flew high then soon descended to the plow land. As I was looking at the golden plovers a Merlin flew over me towards the west with a company of a chasing and mobbing Carrion Crow. Not an everyday bird for me.

Loose flock of European Golden Plovers on the plow field next to Pitstone Hill. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

European Golden Plover in beautiful breeding plumage. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

The song of Yellowhammer brough some very nice memories of my childhood when these birds were much commoner than today. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

Lower end of the Pitstone Hill with the golden plover field. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

A poor record shot of a small Corn Bunting flock. Photo was taken by Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the lower end of the hill I found the feeding flock of golden plovers. Some males were in stunning breeding plumage already. I counted 84 birds and some Corn Buntings feeding among them. European Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Meadow Pipits were singing all around. A real spring feeling.

A view to the Steps Hill. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

The next hill was the Steps Hill from where Ring Ozel were frequently reported during spring migration in previous years. I kept my eyes on the slopes and bushes but didn’t find any. European Blackcaps, Common Chiffchaffs and European Robins sang everywhere. On the north end of the Steps Hill I heard and found two Marsh Tits fast moving from one bush to another. These birds are getting really hard to find.

The hillside of Steps Hill might be a potential place to find migrating Ring Ouzels. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

If only I had a proper camera for these spectacular birds of prey. A view from the top of Aldbury Nowers. Photo was taken with a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Meadow Pipits were ruling on Beacon Hill. Photo was taken with a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy

Beacon Hill provides lovely views to Leighton Buzzard and as far as to Central Milton Keynes. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the top of Beacon HillI realized I left my drinks at home and I already felt dehydrated. I decided to go down to Ivinghoe village for buying some drinks before heading towards The Grand Union Canal. After getting some drinks I found my first Barn Swallows of the year. What a difference they can make in my mood with their aerial songs.

Birding along the canal was rather boring and long. I underestimated the length of this leg of my walking. I have already had 15kms in my feet before I got there. The only notable bird was a year new Sedge Warbler singing briefly in the canalside vegetation. At the Grove Lock I saw my first Sand Martins circling over the lock. From there I speeded up to catch a bus to Milton Keynes. A cup of caramel cortado was a pleasure at Costa.

My activity summary according to the Apple Health app.

It is needless to say that early in the afternoon a Ring Ouzel on the Ivinghoe Hill and a singing Wood Warbler on Steps Hill were seen by other birders. Anyway I enjoyed birding on the hills and will return in a few weeks.

Ticking a long chased bird: Little Bunting in Bedfordshire

In 2002 when I was on a Scandinavian birding trip, I thought the Little Bunting wouldn’t be too difficult to add to my life list. The only morning when I got exhausted and some fever the team located a bird around Kuusamo, Finland. I failed to find one later on the very same spot. I also missed several opportunities to see trapped birds in the last couple of years.

A couple of weeks ago a Little Bunting was reported from the neighbor county, Bedfordshire. I simply wasn’t able to find a clean weekend to get there, but this time everything was perfect for a good birding trip. I took a train to Bedford and a cab to Willington. Unfortunately, the location info in the BirdGuide app wasn’t correct and I just realised it later that the grid reference points to the other side of the river. First challenge was to find a bridge near Great Barford.

After a bit of trek I manged to find the footbridge and a single birder at the spot. He couldn’t see the bird during his one and a half hours stay. This wasn’t something I wanted to hear. Luckyly, I didn’t have to wait another 1.5 hours to see the bird. 10 minutes later Common Chaffinches and Common Reed Buntings started to feed on the seeds followed by an indeed little, neat-looking Little Bunting. I asked the birder if he had seen it but he wasn’t sure. As female Common Reed Buntings were also feeding closer to the bushes making it was easy to see the differences in the plumage traits of the two species. What a bird it was.

The characteristic head pattern and bill shape made this bird easy to pick. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

The Little Bunting fed on seeds and wasn’t mix with the aggressive Common Reed Buntins. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

I have to say, this is a loveable little taiga visitor and it was well worth the very early wake up and 10 miles walk. Just after the birder left the sun came out and I could enjoy the perfect views of this rarity.

The colours and patterns of the Little Bunting perfectly blends with the habitat it was feeding on. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

The Little Bunting became the 2,186th bird species on my life list. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

It wasn’t easy to locate this bird once in the bush. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

This is the small bush area where the Little Bunting and other birds fed on the seeds. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

Here is the list of birds I added to eBird at the spot:

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) 2
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) 2
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 1
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Eurasian) (Picus viridis viridis/karelini) 1
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 8
Eurasian Skylark (European) (Alauda arvensis) 4
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 4
Great Tit (Parus major) 3
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus europaeus) 2
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 2
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 1
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita collybita) 4
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 4
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2
Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla) 1
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 7
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 9

Planning birding trips with the help of birders around the world

When I launched my self-publishing project on the world’s shorebirds I knew travelling w would be the hardest part to fund and sometimes organise. Then a lot of my Facebook connections, and good friends, offered help in case I am planning to cross their local pathces. Indeed some of them are living in the vicinity of top birding hot spots and the local knowledge always bring some excellent and elusive birds what, otherwise, might easily be missed.

The idea is now to map those kind and helpful birders who I can count on during trip planning as well as in the field. Signing up on the map is voluntary and it doesn’t mean any commitment. I also put myself on the map first. I’m more than happy to help traveling birders either here or in Hungary.

Anyone feels happy to support me this way, please share the location of the hometown and make a marker on this open map. Don’t share your exact address just the town of your residence. Please make sure you add your name so I can see who is linked to the map marker.

Me watching Dunlins and Ringed Plovers around Chesil Beach of Weymouth in Dorset.

Me watching Dunlins and Ringed Plovers around Chesil Beach of Weymouth in Dorset.

One of my targets to see the stunning American Avocet. This photo was taken by Ilya Povalyaev and was legally embedded from the photographer's Flickr account. All rights reserved by Ilya Povalyaev.

One of my targets to see the stunning American Avocet. This photo was taken by Ilya Povalyaev and was legally embedded from the photographer’s Flickr account. All rights reserved by Ilya Povalyaev.

Here is the map and the direct link to it.

New eBird hotspots self-challenge

One of my birding resolutions for this year was to submit at least one full checklist every day. I’ve been on target so far but I also made another resolution. I try to submit at least one new hotspot every month. It was a bit late in the month, but today I managed to visit a new habitat with my son close to my home. My initial target was to find the habitat of the Eurasian Woodcock around the Aspley Woods near Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire. I heard good birds reported from here including Dartford Warbler.

The trail runs along the pine forest belt. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The trail runs along the pine forest belt. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The southern end of the woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The southern end of the woods. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Favourite feeding habitat for Goldcrests. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Favourite feeding habitat for Goldcrests. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This heathland and mixed forest habitat provided nice bird movements even in this rainy and gloomy morning. We had the usual winter bird community in the forest. The number of British Coal Tits were probably undercounted although we recorded every single calling birds but it wasn’t easy to see them in the canopies. A few Eurasian Siskins and Eurasian Bullfinhes made difference.

By reaching the lower end of the woods we found a wet scrubby area along a temporary-looking brook with wet mossy logs all around. I immediately asked Dani to be quiet and move carefully for a chance to find a woodcock. As we got closer to the ditch of the brook a Eurasian Woodcock was flushed from the spot I was just about to start scanning for it on the ground. It again landed just 30 meters from us and then it flew again an additional 20 meters. I saw it on the ground where it carried on feeding. It might be worth to spend a couple of evenings to find out if this was an isolated record or this is a wintering site.

Eurasian Woodcock

Eurasian Woodcock in Finland. This photo taken by Pasi Parkkinen. The photo was legally embedded from the photographer’s Flickr portfolio. All rights reserved to the photographer.

Records from Aspley Wood:

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 2
Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) 1
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 53 (overflying)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 3 (overflying)
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 1 (overflying)
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 28 (overflying)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) 1
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 4
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 9
Coal Tit (British) (Periparus ater britannicus) 5
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 7
Great Tit (Parus major) 2
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 6
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 6
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 12
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 12
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 1
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 2
Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) 3
Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) 3
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 2

After leaving Aspley Wood we carried out crossing the Old and New Wavendon Heath forest habitat to reach Bow Brickhill village through the Bow Brickhill Heath. We saw good number of passerines in a few flocks. 33 British Coal Tits, 2 Eurasian Nuthatches, 19 stunning Goldcrests, 4 Fieldfares, 1 Mistle Thrush and 10 Eurasian Siskins were of mention.

Next door life bird: Ring-necked Duck

A drake first winter Ring-necked Duck was first reported on 19th October 2016 from the Wilstone Reservoir near Tring, and despite it was at a close distance from my home, I had no chance to visit the area until today. Yesterday a kind local birdwatcher, Mal McGar offered us a lift to the reservoir.

Upon arrival I spotted a nice flock of European Golden Plovers circling over the lake. We walked to the jetty where other twitchers had been looking for the duck. They couldn’t find the bird despite it was feeding just next to them. Mal found the bird within seconds and we enjoyed the close view through his scope. On the. Way back to the car we checked the golden plovers and Northern Lapwings. We found some Common Snipes as well.

I could take a few quite bad photos due to low lights but good for the record.

First winter drake Ring-necked Duck, a long chased life bird. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

First winter drake Ring-necked Duck, a long chased life bird. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

My Global Shorebird Counting contribution

Work and family duties didn’t allow too much time in the field but I managed to get out to the nearby hotspot. It wasn’t particularly shorebirdy but I enjoyed to see some birds.

Incoming Canada Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Preening Greylag Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Good numbers of Greylag Goose and Canada Goose arrived from the nearby fields for preening and drinking. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A few Northern Lapwing among Black-headed Gulls and large flock of Canada Goose. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incoming Greylag Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Successful fishing of Great Crested Grebe. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Adult Great Crested Grebe was peacefully approaching the pool in front of the Viaduct hide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Sandpipers are peak on migration. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Juvenile Common Sandpiper was just in front of the hide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Calling juvenile Common Sandpiper. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is what I found at Manor Farm, Wolverton.

Greylag Goose 170
Canada Goose 638 (Large flocks arrived from the nearby fields)
Mute Swan 16
Mallard 86
Northern Shoveler 23
Green-winged Teal 8
Common Pochard 1
Tufted Duck 5
Little Grebe 6
Great Crested Grebe 2
Great Cormorant 6
Gray Heron 3
Little Egret 6
Water Rail 1
Eurasian Moorhen 26
Eurasian Coot 51
Northern Lapwing 18
Common Snipe 3
Common Sandpiper 6
Green Sandpiper 3
Black-headed Gull 469
Common Wood-Pigeon 20
Common Kingfisher 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 3
Merlin 1
Eurasian Jay 2
Eurasian Magpie 15
Eurasian Jackdaw 8
Carrion Crow 15
Barn Swallow 9
Common House-Martin 2
Eurasian Blue Tit 20
Great Tit 6
Long-tailed Tit (A. c. europaeus) 24
Eurasian Treecreeper 2
Eurasian Wren 16
Common Chiffchaff (P. c. collybita) 3
Eurasian Blackcap 1
Greater Whitethroat 1
European Robin 18
Eurasian Blackbird 5
European Starling 1
Dunnock 11
Gray Wagtail 1
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 7
Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 2
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Goldfinch 9
Eurasian Linnet 2

125,000th ringed birds


A moment from Tibor Krúg’s life long passion for bird ringing. © Daniel Szimuly

Two days ago a fantastic milestone has been reached by one of the most experienced bird ringer from my homeland in Hungary. Tibor Krúg, a Hungarian ringer had his 125,000th ringed bird, a Barn Swallow, which was an extraordinary achievement of an individual bird ringer.


Tibi with his 125,000th ringed bird, a Barn Swallow. © Daniel Szimuly

I met Tibi in the late 80s for the fist time when a few of us decided to start organised summer bird ringing at the local wetland, the Ferencmajor fishponds near the village of Naszály. Tibi has been playing key role in the Ferencmajor Bird Ringing Camp (now a ringing station) since the beginning. In the 90s I had the privilege to work with him and to enjoy his special storytelling and he always made us laugh. His enthusiasm for bird ringing is unquestionable and we would fail to mention a case when he said, “it is impossible to trap that bird…” If he failed, he tried again and again.


Barred Warbler is one of Tibi’s favourite birds to ring and it is a regular visitor in the bird ringing camp. © Daniel Szimuly


A day like this could help Tibi to reach his next milestone. This image was taken a few days ago when the ringer marked more than 400 birds. © Daniel Szimuly

Born in 1952, he ringed his first bird back in 1979. It was a Rook, as he remembered, but ringing data was only available from 1980. Twice in his bird ringing career he ringed over 10,000 individual birds within a year. According to him, the best ringed birds were Arctic or Black-throated Loon, White-backed Woodpecker and Yellow-browed Warbler. He also have some remarkable recoveries including a Little Stint ringed in the far Siberian Russia.

During the 36 years of bird ringing he inspired a lot of young birders to start ringing and also taught dozens for proper identification and handling of birds. From here I would like to congratulate Tibi for this great achievement and I wish him to be able to reach the next major milestone in a few years time.


New technologies, like this special canopy net, helped Tibi to easily get some special birds, like European Golden Orioles, which otherwise would be very hard to trap. © Daniel Szimuly