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

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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!