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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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)


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

My Christmas Bird Count

In my very active years I always went birdwatching on Christmas Eve and if I could on Christmas Day as well. It’s been a tradition just like birding on the first day of the year.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/30f/40695063/files/2014/12/img_5596.jpgI only had chance to walk out today to the nearby local nature reserve, the Blue Lagoon. It was cloudy and temperature just over zero celsius. For the first time I mapped my trekking with Trails app for iOS. I wanted to try how drastically the battery is draining during use. It definitely won’t allow all day recordings without extra battery pack.

I saw and counted the anyway frequently seen birds, but a few of them were more abundant than on any previous visits. Eurasian Blackbird were the most abundant among songbirds. It was a pleasure to watch them after having days without recording any. Not in mind blowing numbers, but Eurasian Bullfinch provided a couple of perfect views.

All in all, I enjoyed walking even if I struggled with my bad knee. It was my contribution to the popular Christmas Bird Count. I hope I still have time to finish this year with some more birding.

Recorded birds:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 4
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 2
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) 1
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 2
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 5
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 18
Herring Gull (European) (Larus argentatus) 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) 29
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 10
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 19
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 2
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) 3
Eurasian Magpie (Eurasian) (Pica pica) 26
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 11
Rook (Corvus frugilegus) 9
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 16
Coal Tit (British) (Periparus ater britannicus/hibernicus) 1
Great Tit (Parus major) 4
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 17
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 24
Eurasian Wren (Eurasian) (Troglodytes troglodytes) 16
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 23
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 49
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 1
Redwing (Eurasian) (Turdus iliacus iliacus) 2
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 14
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 15
Gray Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) 1
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 12
Eurasian Bullfinch (Eurasian) (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) 16
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 8
Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) 2
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 6

A short note at the end: i have never seen as many Grey Squirrels in the Blue Lagoon NR as today. They are obviously great competitors to wintering thrushes. Apparently they have killed most of the winter berries what is in short supply by now. I wonder if the day is coming when authorities start controlling the population growth of this invasive mammal species. The cute factor cannot be the reason to deter it.

Perfect travel companion: thoughts on Opticron’s MM3 50 ED travelscope

Opticron MM3 50 ED travelscope.

Opticron MM3 50 ED travelscope.

Just before the World Shorebirds Day I got a package from Opticron with the new MM3 50 ED travel scope in it. Prior to it Chris Galvin introduced me this tiny but very promising optics at the Opticron Day at the nearby College Lake.

The World Shorebirds Day was a good chance for me to test this optics in wide variety of light conditions. While I didn’t do any hardcore lab test for a sophisticated review, I still have a few thoughts probably worth to share.

It is extremely portable and tiny.

It is extremely portable and tiny.

The MM3 50 ED

The MM3 50 ED was a perfect companion for shorebird counting.

Tiny, yet powerful. This palm sized spotting scope is an ideal companion for a traveling birdwatcher. We all know the feeling when packing for a long-haul trip and we have yo make compromises to find places for important stuff in our luggage. Many times we end up leaving the heavy and large spotting scope at home hoping we don’t really need it. With the MM50 we don’t need to make such compromises. It just a bit longer than a toothbrush and fits easily in any pocket. Suspicious minds would think that poor optical performance comes with such tiny dimensions. Well, I first tried the MM3 50 ED from the Parrinder Hide of Titchwell RSPB Reserve in Norfolk. I arrived in complete darkness and enjoyed being alone surrounded by the mix of shorebird calls. Well before sunrise I spotted a Little Stint in the south west corner of the freshwater marsh. It was feeding with Dunlins in subdued lights but this tiny scope managed to provide enough details for positive identification. As lights improved it became more powerful with surprising clearness and sharpness.

The MM3 50 ED travelscope is incredibly small and lightweight.

The MM3 50 ED travelscope is incredibly small and lightweight.

Tripodless. It is hard to believe that the MM3 50 ED can be held in hand while observing. With a little practice and breath control it can be held steady. The close focus feature definitely widens the target groups in terms of sales. Back in the College Lake, Chris pointed to a nice moth inside the hide and asked me to try close focus. I held the scope in my hand just 2.5 meters from the moth and I could focus on it! It could be a brilliant solution to butterfly lovers.

This palm sized spotting scope easily fits in any size of travel bags.

This palm sized spotting scope easily fits in any size of travel bags.

I finished the Global Shorebird Counting Program on the World Shorebirds Day at the River Blyth Estuary in Suffolk and stayed until dusk. Hundreds of shorebirds were present and I didn’t have to leave because the travel scope wasn’t capable to handle decreasing lights despite having a 50mm front lens. This product is highly recommended not only for traveling birders but every bird enthusiast. The amazingly low £299 (body only) and £199 (HDF zoom eyepiece) price tag makes it an affordable spotting scope.

Huge thanks to Opticron for letting me using this product on the World Shorebirds Day and many weeks after.

Charles Duncan about the World Shorebirds Day

Former director of Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, Charles Duncan wrote an excellent article about the World Shorebirds Day for the International Wader Study Group Bulletin. Charles has been one of the great supporter of World Shorebirds Day and I just hope his article encourages other organisation leaders to celebrate shorebirds in 2015.

Please find the article here. Full text can be accessed here.