Last birding day in 2013

Black-headed Gulls are always up to some easy snacks. Image taken by my wife. © Andrea Szimuly

Black-headed Gulls are always there for some easy snacks. Image taken by my wife. © Andrea Szimuly

The Caldecotte Lake is one of the few local birding sites I regularly visit. Today afternoon I walked all around both the south and the north lake and counted birds. The weather was stunning and conditions were ideal for a more than two hours walk.

I started on the south lake where a pair of Common Merganser was flying off the lake further south. In the bushes Redwings and a Song Thrush were feeding but a dog chased them away. The other notable bird was a male Common Kestrel.

The north lake was quite ‘ducky’. Lots of Eurasian Wigeon and Tufted Ducks were present. In the northwest bay there were another Common Merganser couple.

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The southern Caldecotte Lake photographed from the west bank. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The southern end of the lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only a few wild-looking Mallards can be seen on the Caldecotte Lake. The majority is domestic type. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only a few wild-looking Mallards can be seen on the Caldecotte Lake. The majority is domestic type. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Great Cormorants are roosting on the small island of the northern part of the south lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Bird feeding is a popular activity in Milton Keynes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Nice oxbow-like corridor with willow trees. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Black-headed Gulls roosted on the icy north lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Lots of Tufted Ducks and beautiful Eurasian Wigeons were actively feeding in the shelter bay. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Species list submitted to e-Bird: Caldecotte Lake (South/North)

Canada Goose 25/90
Mute Swan 18/13
Gadwall 2/13
Eurasian Wigeon 0/54
Mallard 8/14
Mallard (Domestic type) 42/46
Common Pochard 12/2
Tufted Duck 16/102
Common Merganser 2/2
Great Crested Grebe 10/21
Great Cormorant 33/11
Grey Heron 2/4
Common Moorhen 11/5
Eurasian Coot 75/127
Black-headed Gull 193/188
Mew Gull 7/8
European Herring Gull 18/12
Lesser Black-backed Gull 3/18
Great Black-backed Gull 0/2
Common Wood Pigeon 3/5
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2/0
Eurasian Kestrel 1/0
Common Kingfisher 0/1
Eurasian Magpie 4/4
Rook 0/5
Carrion Crow 6/23
Great Tit 6/3
Eurasian Blue Tit 8/6
Eurasian Wren 3/2
European Robin 9/5
Eurasian Blackbird 10/4
Redwing 9/1
Song Thrush 1/0
Dunnock 9/2
White Wagtail (British) 1/0
Common Reed Bunting 2/0
Common Chaffinch 2/1
European Goldfinch 4/1
House Sparrow 1/0

This was pretty much the end of my birding activity in 2013. I’m sure 2014 will be different and full of interesting birds and places.

With this image, about my lovely daughter, I wish my readers a Happy New Year. May your dreams came true next year! Thanks for your support.

Kea repeatedly expresses her love for birds. What else I could ask for? © Andrea Szimuly

Kea repeatedly expresses her love for birds. What else I could ask for? © Andrea Szimuly

My Tiny Year and Future Plans

Wintering geese over the Old Lake of my hometown, Tata in Hungary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Wintering geese over the Old Lake of my hometown, Tata in Hungary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Moving to another country always brings some excitements and as at least for a while it is like being a tourist. Moving to another country also means we have to sacrifice something what we leave behind. There is about 1,700 km between my homeland in Hungary and the place I have been living in the United Kingdom. Birding wise these two countries are not the same. Not totally different, but still not the same.

Since I have started birding I listened the beautiful song of Common Nightingales every spring but where I have been living now it is very scarce and not even breeding. The song of a nightingale and the Hungarian spring are inseparable to me. The list of the species I have been missing contains quite a few species (e.g. European Honey Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, European Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher, Tawny Pipit, etc.). All right I have moved to a new country where new things are waiting to be explored. I have no complaint. It is just an emotional thing to miss the resident birds of my homeland where my birding activity started. At least I have another reason to visit my home country every spring to feel the same spring atmosphere as many many years before.

Birding wasn’t a dominant activity for me in England in 2013. While large number of birdwatchers enjoyed completing their ‘Big Year’, I am to complete my ‘Tiny Year’. I could do some general birding in the spring, mainly in Buckinghamshire, but literally nothing happened in the second half of the year. I don’t blame anyone. I probably worked too much and no energy left for morning birding nor twitching. Luckily that is the past and it is time for a change. 2014 must be way different.

What are the plans then? First of all I’d like to buy my optics for a more pleasant birding.

As we unlikely move to a more exciting birding area in England, birding will be restricted to my WeBS areas. However, on the rarity front, there is a great potential for me in the UK. I am living a bit far from everything but on the other hand living in the middle of England has some advantages. I hope I find some time to go twitching.

I also try to increase the coverage of European birds and get some awesome views on those birds I have never seen. On the top of this list there is the Ural Owl, my nemesis bird, which is actually the last breeding species in Hungary I have never seen. Yes, it is shameful, but I can’t change it. I plan a visit in April to northeast Hungary where it is a regular breeder.

Untitled by Boris Belchev on 500px.com

Ural Owl by Boris Belchev

Another plan is to make a late spring visit to Spain where some potential lifers are waiting to be seen. The Iberian Peninsula is the last region in Europe I have never visited so its time to explore its specialities, like the magnificent Azure-winged Magpie and possibly to meet some of my close Facebook friends like Peter Jones, Stephen Daly or David Smiff just to mention a few of them.

Azure-winged Magpie by Yuji Nishimura on 500px.com

Azure-winged Magpie by Yuji Nishimura

There is a foggy plan to go to The Gambia in the Summer as there are some extremely cheap packages available here. I have already bought the field guide… just in case…

I would like to spend long hours at my desk and working seriously on my bird related projects. It would be nice to reach being independent by the end of the year and working fully for birds.

On the competition side I want to be the number one eBirder in the UK so I will submit as many complete checklists as possible. At the moment I am ranked 21 on the Top 100 eBirders in United Kingdom with 54 complete checklists submitted in 2013. Hopefully I can pledge new eBirders from Hungary where it is greatly unknown. My son has already started using the BirdLog app.

All in all 2014 must be way different from the very depressing 2013 and it should bring some lifers as well as more awesome views and not only ‘armchair’ ticks.

Happy Birding Everyone!

It’s flown off!

IvoryGull

It is not particularly a comment one wants to hear from a twitcher who is actually leaving a scene where a mega bird have been seen for days. I secretly hoped it was just a very bad English joke by an old chap so we continued our 1 mile long walk to the place where possibly hundreds of birdwatchers have already ticked a first winter Ivory Gull.

We joined my only British birding friend, Rick and his lovely wife, Elis (in a word, the Wader Quest couple) for a long desired birding day. Not an average birding day though! We wanted to give it a chance to see the long staying Ivory Gull reported from Patrington Haven, East Yorkshire several of days ago. Being a Hungarian the Ivory Gull always seemed to be impossible to see in Hungary and for me it soon became a sought after species. As the bird had been seen daily since 15 December there was some hope in the middle of the current week that it still would be there on Sunday. I have a comfort preference while birding but despite the awful weather forecast, I desperately wanted to go there and see this mega bird.

And then this comment at our arrival. It wasn’t nice to hear while others happily showed their thumb up from their car. Anyway we carried on.

Rick an me walking to the watching point. Andi and Kea didn't really enjoy the long walk. © Elis Simpson

Rick an me walking to the watching point. Andi and Kea didn’t really enjoy the long walk. © Elis Simpson

From the car park we had to walk a bit but from a distance we already saw two groups of birders. One group looked to one direction while the other one to the opposite side. It didn’t seem promising at all. Then we read everything from the face of a welcome birder who pointed to a distant rock where the bird landed.

So it proved to be a joke… Partly true but not completely. The bird had flown off but just to the other side of the viewing spot.

iPhoneScoping attempt without any adapter. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

iPhoneScoping attempt without any adapter. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

The tidal zone where the bird was roosting and preening. The bird is on the image. Somewhere... Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

The tidal zone where the bird was roosting and preening. The bird is on the image. Somewhere… Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Honestly, the view through the binoculars wasn’t even enough to say, it was an Ivory Gull. It was definitely whitish and gullish but wouldn’t have been enough if I was alone there. Luckily there were some very nice birders who offered viewing through their scope. Thanks to them. One of the happy Swarovski owners let me watch the bird for minutes without kicking off his scope.

The view was splendid. Even the juvenile Ivory Gull is such a beautiful bird. While it was preening I could watch nice feather details. I think its moulting was quite advanced and close to its first complete summer plumage. Based on Rick it was the whitish of all the first winter Ivory Gulls he had seen before. The preening lasted for about one and half an hour and after a few wing stretchings it started flying short distances over the rocks. We had not waited too long until it flew towards us providing a spectacular view in gorgeous lights. I tried to follow it with my iPhone and managed to take some HD video slow motion clips.

Close-up image of the Ivory Gull. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Close-up image of the Ivory Gull. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Another close-up of the Ivory Gull. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Another close-up of the Ivory Gull. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

The Canon PowerShot SX50 proved to be a nice equipment of the everyday birding for making nice record shots of anything. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

The Canon PowerShot SX50 proved to be a nice equipment of the everyday birding for making nice record shots of anything. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

The bird then landed on the site where the other group was waiting. Those were the photographers who had been waiting patiently in the chilling wind. It was there just a few meters away from everybody. An amazingly confident Arctic mega soon started feeding on the previously thrown off mackerel (possibly from the local market) ignoring anyone sitting or walking around. I could manage to take some images of the bird by a Canon PowerShot SX50 megazoom what Rick lent me.

Just a perspective shot to get an idea how close I was to the bird. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Just a perspective shot to get an idea how close I was to the bird. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Twichers enjoyed the close view of the confident bird. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Twichers enjoyed a closer view of the confident bird. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Even I could have taken acceptable record shots with my iPhone 5s. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Even I could have taken acceptable record shots with my iPhone 5s. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Another part of the group. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Another part of the group. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Elis was so happy by her new lifer. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

Elis was so happy by her new lifer. Image by Gyorgy Szimuly

This stunner became the 2,175th lifer in my IOC life list under revision. Interestingly the last lifer, a Buff-bellied Pipit was seen almost completely a year ago at The Queen Mother Reservoir. Since then I have deleted some species from my lists but got some armchair ticks as well.

Not forgetting the waders present on the site, here is a list of birds I could identify:

Northern Lapwing
European Golden Plover 500+
Black-bellied Plover
Northern Curlew 10
Bar-tailed Godwit 2
Red Knot 10+
Dunlin 500+

Birds were quite distant as it was a low tide.

Thanks to Rick and Elis for the excellent company, the chocolate and nice tea. We all enjoyed the day.

Another huge goose record

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Today we went out again for our usual morning birding to the Old Lake of Tata. The team met in the observation tower. The whole morning was misty with limited visibility in the beginning what slightly improved later. Our goose expert, Laci Musicz predicted a possible record for today. Yesterday morning he counted 49.100 geese but Saturday night he heard huge flock just over his home flying towards the lake. They came from the north and obviously they were an additional flock to the already present birds.

Multiple countings resulted a mind-blowing number what have never been recorded before at the Old Lake. After all 53,000 wild geese roosted in the drained bed of the lake. The sound they generated at the blast off was truly incredible what I will never forget.

Large Greater White-fronted Goose flock overt the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Large Greater White-fronted Goose flock overt the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incredible blast off the roosting geese on the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incredible blast off the roosting geese on the Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A part of the morning team from left to right: László Musicz, Péter Csonka and Norbert Riezing. © Daniel Szimuly

A part of the morning team from left to right: László Musicz, Máté Szabó and Norbert Riezing. © Daniel Szimuly

Other notable birds:

Lesser White-fronted Goose 1 ad.
Red-breasted Goose 7
Common Shelduck 11
Possible Greylag Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid 1

In the afternoon another local birder, Attila Lengyel, found another juvenile Lesser White-fronted Goose next to the adult. Could this number still grow by the end of December? Based on Laci there is still some room on the lake for about and additional 20,000 birds.

My other blogs

Not many of my followers and friends know that I have been running other bird related blogs. Let me share those with you now.

CommonGreenshank_002_1000HU

WorldWaders News Blog
My most important blog is the WorldWaders News Blog which I set more than three years ago on Posterous. Since Posterous is dead I moved all its content to WordPress. My idea was to collect all the actual news on waders/shorebirds in a single website and popularize this group of birds. The blog is well received by many readers and is a nice tool to raise public awareness for the conservation of waders.

Link to WorldWaders News Blog: http://worldwaders.wordpress.com

Birding tech Radar
My newest blog is the Birding Tech Radar what is aiming to provide up-to-date information about the products we, birders use or can use in the field. It has just started and aiming to post about new releases when they appear.

Link to Birding tech Radar: http://birdingtechradar.wordpress.com

‘The New Shorebirds Handbook’ Blog
The publication project, I have been working on has a blog as well. ‘The New Shorebirds Handbook’ Project blog will have more updates when the project is over the financial difficulties and will be restarted.

Link to ‘The New Shorebirds Handbook’ Blog: http://thenewshorebirds.wordpress.com

Spectacular mega flock video of grackles and blackbirds

Megaflock of grackles and blackbirds in Indiana. Image courtesy of Steve Gifford

Megaflock of grackles and blackbirds in Indiana. Image courtesy of Steve Gifford

I came across this truly unimaginable video posted on Facebook today, showing a real birding spectacle what not every day one can witness. Steve Gifford’s caption tells everything.

This is just a 60-second clip of a flock of grackles and blackbirds that took 20 minutes to pass by.

This short video was taken at the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge near Oakland City, Indiana.

When I watched this video I tried to imagine the what that famous Passenger Pigeon migration could have been. A single giant flock was thought to be 1 mi (1.5 km) wide and 300 mi (500 km) long. The flock was passing over an area in southern Ontario in 1866 what took 14 hours, and held in excess of 3.5 billion birds! I have no idea how many birds flew over the Patoka Rover WR in this video but this was just a fraction of the spectacle.

Video possibly doesn’t appear under Safari but works fine with Chrome!
Mega flock of grackles and blackbirds