Misty Whimbrel at Manor Farm

After a fun night sky shooting with my kids, I convinced Dani to postpone going to bed and to head out for a few hours birding before the heat comes. We targeted Manor Farm, (now Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve) at Old Wolverton just to enjoy the spring arrival of British birds. I would rather share some photos of the morning than leaving a long essay here.

Beautiful misty dawn at the Floodplain Forest LNR. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Wren song-filled river valley at dawn. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Beautiful dawn colours over the misty pasture. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Spider web on a Cutleaf Teasel plant is a perfect fog trap. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A view from the Farm hide towards the Viaduct. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A surprise arrival of a Whimbrel over the foggy waters. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Just after landing, the locally scarce Whimbrel started preening in the rising Sun. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Due to the rising mist, views were not satisfying at all but the trilling sound of this loner was a great compensation. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

20 minutes later it was ready to continue its journey towards the breeding grounds and flew off high to NE. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sunrise behind the willow trees. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

We found a pair of very relaxed Gadwalls at a small pool near the Viaduct hide. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Gadwall is one of the prettiest dabbling ducks despite modestly coloured. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Female Gadwall was right next to the drake. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

An alert pose of the drake Gadwall after a pair of Canada Goose approached them. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Feeding pair of Canada Goose. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Canada Goose is a quite aggressive breeder at the floodplain forest just like everywhere. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Red Campion is blooming everywhere along the river. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incubating Eurasian Coot next to the footpath. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

The cleared out valley. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Terns were flying in and out the floodplains. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Singing Common Blackbird. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Beautiful oak trees with the Manor in the background. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Water sipping Common Hoverfly on newly grown oak leaf. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Broken tree at the bottom of the valley is home for Little Owls. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A year ago wild Konik ponies have been introduced to the Floodplain Reserve to keep the vegetation under control. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Female Eurasian Kestrel. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

The herd of Konik ponies moving to new feeding grounds. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A well-underrated beauty, the Common Starling was intensively collecting food. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Very tame Common Starling in full breeding colours. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the eBird checklist of this morning:

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 23
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 8
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 2
Gadwall (Mareca strepera) 5
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 19
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 2
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) 2
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 3
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 3
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 6
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 11
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 2
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 1
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) 1
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus phaeopus) 1
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 1
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) 3
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 3
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 18
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) 1
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) 2
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) 2
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 2
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 5
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 10
Rook (Corvus frugilegus) 22
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 14
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) 3
Common House-Martin (Delichon urbicum) 4
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 8
Great Tit (Parus major) 5
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus europaeus) 1
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 12
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) 9
Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) 1
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 3
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) 1
Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) 6
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 5
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 9
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 2
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 8
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 2
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 4
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 8
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 7
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 15

Just a short note at the end… Being rised in the Hungarian countryside I always so much looked forward to watching the first swallows, house and sand martins in March. It wasn’t any different this year in England but these lovely summer birds have still very rarely been seen. I find it rather rather disturbing to vitness the slow but inevitable start of extinction of many bird populations. I know it sounds dark but without effective conservation steps our swallows will be gone forever…

Finally I want to express my gratitude to Viking Optical for leaving the excellent Viking ED Pro 80 spotting scope with us in the last 12 months. It’s a farewell to this scope and it will be greatly missed. It gave us so many great life birds but now I’m excited about the new adventures with Viking Optical.

This birding was kindly supported by Viking Optical. Thanks for this support!

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American Bittern at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk

The best possible scenario is for us when business and birding can be linked. This is what happened today and gave us a peaceful evening birding at a new place we have never been, plus a life bird for Dani.

There might be some birdwatchers in England who have never seen the European Bittern but ticked the American Bittern first. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

This little canal or stream was the feeding location of the American Bittern this afternoon. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Roughly two weeks ago a mega American Bittern was found at the Carlton Marshes in Suffolk. It’s not too often this species can so easily be twitchable on a daily basis. When we entered Suffolk we didn’t really think we would have a dry birding. Torrential rain and massive flash floods on the highway predicted the opposite but we were lucky (again).

Luckily the bittern didn’t just walk towards us but produced some spectacular poses and views. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sometimes it was impossible to see it behind the vegetation. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

It walked quite cautiously assuming it was invisible but about a dozen pair of eyes were watching this yankee bird. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

This is the 3rd record of the American Bittern in Great Britain in the last 20 years. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Carlton Marshes was completely dry and very birdy. After a good mile-long walking we found a group people excitedly looking at the same direction. It didn’t take long to spot the American Bittern feeding along a little stream opposite the wet grassland. The bird was lurking in the tall grass but occasionally froze in its typical upright position.

As it was just about 30 meters away we had cracking views through the spotting scope and again thanks to the brilliant optics from Viking Optical, we could enjoy all the feather details despite disappearing sunlight and slowly decreasing lights. We had a chance to compare it briefly with the big gun SWAROVSKI modular scope. There is a noticeable colour difference and the modular scope produced a crispier image, however, that doesn’t mean the Viking ED 80 Pro let you down in image quality. The real deal with the Viking ED 80 Pro is the optical performance at this price point.

Canada Goose couple with a few days old goslings. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Hunting Western Barn Owl over the marsh scared the American Bittern for a moment. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

It was a very entertaining aerial performance of this Western Barn Owl just in front of us. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Newly arrived Common Cuckoos from the wintering grounds were already very vocal and active. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

This scene tells everything about this stunning evening.

To make the story short, I leave a few photos of this mega bird. It is a lovely birding location with diverse habitats like forests, swamps-like willows, extensive reedbed or wet meadows with pools. The reedbed was full of Sedge Warblers but quite a few European Reed Warblers were singing as well. Surprise bird was 3 singing Common Grasshopper Warblers and stunning views on Common Cuckoos. It’s worth to explore Suffolk a little more.

This birding was kindly supported by Viking Optical. Thanks for this support!

Ring Ouzels on the move

Following the morning news about 7 Ring Ouzels on the Beacon Hills, I got in the car and drove to this popular area. Out of the car, I heard my first of the year European Blackcap singing next to the car park joined by a ‘chiffing’ Common Chiffchaff. Birdwatchers were all over the place that made finding the Ring Ouzel spot easy.

First time I have seen Ring Ouzels in Buckinghamshire despite quite a regular migrant around the hills. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birds were flushed into the bushes by a hovering Common Kestrel. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

I had excellent views on these Ring Ouzels through the Viking Ed 80 Pro spotting scope. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Northern Wheatear is also a regular migrant on the slopes of Beacon Hill. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Male Ring Ouzel is one of the six birds I saw this morning. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

As trekking up to the Beacon Hill, I saw a Barn Swallow flying over the top. It was also the first-of-the-year bird. On the southern slope of Beacon Hill, I spotted a male Ring Ouzel popping on a bush. I set the scope and soon found two more Ring Ouzels. A hunting Common Kestrel flushed out 6 birds but soon they settled again allowing cracking views. While listening to Meadow Pipits territorial song, a male Northern Wheatear turned up just under the spot I was standing.

Territorial Meadow Pipit landed close to me. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

View to the slope where Ring Ouzels were feeding with the company of the excellent Viking ED Pro 80 spotting scope. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Since we have started using the Viking ED 80 Pro spotting scope, it delivered a lot of life birds what we could not have seen without it. We didn’t have a chance to compare it with the more expensive brands but safe to say that it is an excellent spotting scope for the money and its sharpness is brilliant. Low-light capability is very good as we tested it on roosting gulls. It’s a highly recommended piece of glass. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

After finished on the Beacon Hill, I walked over to Steps Hill for searching for more Ring Ouzels but I didn’t find any.

This birding was kindly supported by Viking Optical. Thanks for this support!

Crazy twitch to Scotland

When it’s been a while we had a chance for birding there is nothing to stop us from finding a sought-after bird. On Twitter, I saw ridiculously perfect photos of the mega American White-winged Scoter from Musselburgh by the local Ian Andrews. As soon as we got permission from my daughter, actually got inspired by her, we started our 6 hours drive to Musselburgh just east to Edinburgh.

Twitchers started to arrive at our arrival but few were already on the leave with a satisfactory smile on their face. The bird was found again despite being super difficult and distant the previous day. After a miserable weather in most of England in the last couple of days, it was a pleasant surprise to see the sun. With a very kind help by a local birder, I spotted the ‘AmericanWhite-winged Scoter among Velvet Scoters just in front of us. The low tide didn’t allow us having as close views as Ian’s had a few days back, but thanks to our brilliant Viking ED Pro 80 spotting scope, we had great and crisp views.

White-winged Scoter

This White-winged Scoter was photographed on the Detroit River in East Windsor, ON. © dwajnejava (Photo was legally embedded in from the photographer’s Flickr photo stream.)

male white-winged scoter

Drake White-winged Scoter. © Andrew Reding (Photo was legally embedded in from the photographer’s Flickr photo stream.)

A few twitchers lined up for the White-winged Scoter at the Musselburgh beach. © Daniel Szimuly

A view from the seawall to the Firth of Forth. The scoters must be somewhere there in the frame. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

The local birder, who already helped to spot the White-winged Scoter, now assisted in finding the long staying Surf Scoter that was a little further down to the town. It was a cracking adult drake with all its vibrant spring colours. Later it flew to off and landed just next to the White-winged Scoter. It was an exceptional experience to see the Surf, White-winged and Velvet Scoter in the same scope view. While watching these birds a vocal Snow Bunting flew over us.

Musselburg is a charming town at the Firth of Forth. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Kea was curious just about everything on the mudflat and picked up all sort of stuff. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

In bird taxonomy, I have been following IOC’s classification for many years where the White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi) is a full species. The eBird/Clements Checklist lists it as subspecies of Velvet Scoter, but names as White-winged Scoter (North American) (Melanitta fusca deglandi). I keep my life list at bubo.org and now it shows 2,198 life birds of the world. My Western Palearctic list moved up to 484 and my British list is at a modest 254.

Common Shelduck was a colourful addition to the grey goose flock. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

It is always enjoyable to watch these birds on the ground and flying as we don’t come across with them in Buckinghamshare very often. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pink-footed Geese in light snow storm. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

This must be one pf the last flocks of Pink-footed Goose before they are heading to Iceland or other breeding grounds. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A very approachable and cooperative European Robin. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the way home we had a few stops along the coastal scenic route south of Cove. We found a flock of Pink-footed Goose and two Common Shelducks on a field.

Moorland of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Sony RX10 IV © Kea Szimuly

Red Grouse (Red phase of Willow Grouse) seemed to be rather common in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

As we started our journey back home relatively early we decided to visit the south east corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park for a potential life bird for Dani. The Short-eared Owl was the target for him that I managed to find for him with the last decent lights. It was hunting along the road just south east to Grimwith Reservoir behind the Stump Cross Caverns. Our conclusion was that we had to return to this spectacular national park when all birds are back from wintering.

This birding was kindly supported by Viking Optical. Thanks for this support!

Birding from Nottingham to Norfolk and a bit of camera testing

Early morning we drove to the Holme Pierpoint National Watersports Centre near Colwick for finding a long staying first winter Spotted Sandpiper. It too a while figuring out where the bird was located but after all we found it at the White Water Rapids. It was a very confiding bird and often walked toward us when we sat down at the edge of the rapids. It was actively feeling and flew only short distances. On the way back to the carpark we enjoyed very close views of a adult female Long-tailed Duck.

Most of the time it was foraging but later it regurgitated this larvae. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Rapids became very busy upon our arrival. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

My previous encounter of the Spotted Sandpiper in England wasn’t as detailed and satisfactory as this one. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

All characteristics are nicely visible on this photo including the short tail, pinkish bill and finely marked coverts. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This bird wasn’t shy at all and came towards us as close as 5 meters. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It was very easy to spend one and a half hours with this bird. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Despite the Regatta Lake became very busy at the start line, this Long-tailed Duck preferred swimming in front of the tower. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It often let kayakers as close as two meters. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It was a rare opportunity to study this first winter drake Long-tailed Duck through the Viking ED 80 Spotting Scope. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It was a nice photographic experience with the Sony RX10 IV bridge camera and while the results are still not DSLR-like it is easily the best bridge camera on the market at the moment. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The long-tailed Ducks is one of the most beautiful sea ducks brings me memories about finding it at the Danube River where I was raised. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I hoped to spend less time at the watersports centre to have more time in Norfolk where we aimed more life birds for Dani. The Saturday midday traffic didn’t really help but eventually we got to the Holme Dunes Nature Reserve where a Short-eared Owl had been reported. That would have been new to Dani but sadly we couldn’t relocate the bird. To be fair the dunes and the coastal areas were very busy but it was a surprise to find two Snow Buntings at the beach.

View from the top of the dunes. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Wigeons, Eurasian Green-winged Teals and Northern Shovelers were feeding on the brackish pools. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Adult male Snow Bunting turning into breeding plumage. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The adult was accompanied by a first winter bird. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dani missed the Short-eared Owl but was happy about the lifer Snow Bunting. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Two Brant Geese were feeding around but the walkers flushed them. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

They soon returned to the same place for feeding. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another good opportunity to test the Sony RX10 IV bridge camera. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This Brant Goose couple moved together all the time. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another shot of this elegant goose. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dani’s next target was to see his first Pink-footed Goose and for this we visited the place where I was guided by my dear Facebook friend, Andrew Goodall. The Holkham National Nature Reserve supposed to be a good spot for wintering Pink-footed Geese and the place didn’t disappoint at all. As the weather was nice this popular reserve with the giant sandy dunes was very crowded, but out of the car we immediately found a larger mixed Pink-footed Goose and Brant Goose flock, much for Dani’s happiness. There was a nice bird activity with the first Ruff of the season. Watching Northern Lapwing flocks felt like spring.

Common Snipes were feeding just next to the car park. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pink-footed Geese were coming to feed on the fields. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Acceptable photo taken by the Sony RX10 IV of the Pink-footed Goose flock. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We probably caught a good weekend to see Pink-footed Geese as their numbers will soon drop. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pink-footed Geese and Brant Geese landed on this field upon our arrival. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Wigeons were feeding just meters away from the car park. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another test shot from the Sony RX10 IV camera of a perching Eurasian Jackdaw. That bokeh looks pretty nice considering this is a bridge camera. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Jackdaws are pretty underrated birds. I love them. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Rubbish photo of an overflying Red Kite. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird list from the fields adjacent to the car park:

Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) 600
Brant (Branta bernicla) 350
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) 3
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 1
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 700
Eurasian Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  5
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) 1
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) 1
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 3
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 5
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 2
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 198
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 4
Ruff (Calidris pugnax) 1
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)  26
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 16
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 34
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 3
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 285
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)  1
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 6
Great Tit (Parus major) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 1
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 13
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 1
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 1

A plan of an easy evening walk at the Titchwell RSPB Reserve was quickly cancelled when we checked the BirdGuides app for local news and found a report of at least eight Lapland Longspurs east to Weybourne. Two other birdwatchers arrived to the same spot and they were happy when I found 5 Lapland Longspurs. They fed together with beautiful Yellowhammers and Eurasian Skylarks. I couldn’t take good photos of them as lights were already very poor. On the way back to the car 140 European Golden Plovers were flying over the neighbouring fields.

Record shot of one of the Lapland Longspurs. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Beautiful coastal area with the longspur location on the right. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

This birding was supported by Viking Optical.

Twitching an ‘American’ Horned Lark

A few weeks ago a female American Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris alpestris, praticola or hoyti subspecies) have been reported from the Staines Reservoirs, Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey and stayed on the same place ever since. This morning I had a business appointment just 15 minutes away from the reservoir so we gave it a go. The bird had again been reported in the earlier hours and the weather looked okay to visit the area.

Other twitchers were already watching this rare bird upon our arrival so it wasn’t too difficult to find it while feeding on the bank of the reservoir. Lights were rather unpleasant but we had great views of the bird. For me this species wasn’t new but the subspecies was (whichever it was). I saw wintering Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris flava) in eastern Hungary thousands years ago. Dani scored another lifer, the 9th in just 8 days. Some bad quality backlit photos tells the rest of the story.

This American Horned Lark was constantly feeding at the bank of the reservoir. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It often looked up for the observers and checked the sky for predators. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Very harsh lights and backlit didn’t really help in taking better photos. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It rarely came out to open areas although we didn’t have much time to spend with this rarity. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

 

This birding was supported by Viking Optical.

Duck galore in Cornwall and Devon

Following a proper sleep and a delayed breakfast we headed down to Penzance to find a life shorebird for Dani. Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones were reported from the Battery Rocks. It’s been a while I have seen a Purple Sandpiper so it was an obvious move. Around the rocks we soon found a bigger flock of Ruddy Turnstones and a few Purple Sandpipers. They were very close for providing amazing views even by binoculars. As the high tide receded the flock started feeding on the bottom of the rocks.

A flock of Ruddy Turnstones and some Purple Sandpipers at the Battery Rocks. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Roosting Ruddy Turnstones waiting for receding tides. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mediterranean feeling of the Yacht Inn in Penzance on this picture but in real it felt we were at the Varanger Fjord. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bird list of Battery Rocks from this morning:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)  3 overflying
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) 63
Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima) 21
Herring Gull (European) (Larus argentatus) 42
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 2
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 2

Our next destination was the Lower Porthpean Beach south of St Austell where I hoped to find a long awaited rarity. The Surf Scoter was long on my wish-list but logistically it has been always very difficult to manage one to see. This time we had great chances to find them off the Lower Porthpean Beach. It didn’t take long to spot a group of seaducks. A female and two first winter drake Surf Scoter with an adult female Velvet Scoter was followed by adult female Long-tailed Duck. They were frequently feeding but when popped up we had perfect views on higher magnifications. Northern Fulmars were all around both offshore and sitting on the cliffs. As my dearest friend from Ohio, Barb, would have said, it deserved a “happy lifer dance” from both of us. Dani collected his second and third lifers on this beach.

This is the Lower Porthpean Beach at low tide. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dani in birding model mode after a successful find of two life birds. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the Porthpean Beach:

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) 3
White-winged Scoter (Velvet) (Melanitta fusca fusca) 1
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) 1
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)  24
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)  1
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) 8
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 2
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 24
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 4
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 2
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 1

What a day we had so far and we still had one life bird to find for me, three for Dani on the way home. The next stop was at the Walker Quay near Antony west of Plymouth. Five minutes before our arrival a birder had seen a long staying adult drake Green-winged Teal. It took a while we found the bird among Eurasian Teals as they moved down to the river bed as low tide peaked. We didn’t have perfect views but was good enough to enjoy it for a few minutes. Life bird for both of us!

Very bad quality phone scoped photo of the drake American Green-winged Teal. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

List of birds from this spot:

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) 97
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 4
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 4
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) (Anas crecca crecca) 14
Green-winged Teal (American) (Anas crecca carolinensis) 1
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 3
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) 92
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 2
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 10
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 2
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 4
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 4
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 17
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 9

At the next stop near Exeter, Devon we aimed to find a reported American Wigeon. The Matford Marsh RSPB Reserve is a little wetland along the main train-line south of Exeter. We arrived about 90 minutes before sunset and we still wanted to get to Exmouth before total darkness. The first pond hold a good number of Eurasian Wigeon that was disturbed by a wandering fox but the rarity wasn’t among them. After multiple browsing the area we quickly walked to the viewing point of the other lake where Dani spotted an adult drake American Wigeon. It moved with the Eurasian Wigeons and we could confirm that this individual wasn’t ringed. Another life bird, the 5th for Dani and 8 new for the whole trip.

Matford RSPB Reserve photographed from the carriageway. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bird list from the Matford Marsh RSPB Reserve:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 1
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 10
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 116
American Wigeon (Mareca americana) 1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) (Anas crecca) 35
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 3
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 3
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 6
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 3
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 16
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 117
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 14
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 5
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 4
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Magpie (Eurasian) (Pica pica) 3
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 6
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 3
Great Tit (Parus major) 3
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 1
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 2
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 1

We had no time for finding another long staying bird, a Bonaparte’s Gull at Exmouth, but we have nothing to complain about at all… My life list moved up to 2,197, Dani’s to 344.

Productive birding in Cornwall

After a ‘birdingless‘ January, we finally managed to escape to the wilder corner of England for finding some rarities. Potentially, I had 5 life birds to see within a relatively small radius in the magical Cornwall. As usual we sacrificed quite a bit of sleeping for an earliest possible start at the Pendower Beach in southern Cornwall. On the way we had several cracking views on Western Barn Owls perching on roadside fences.

Beautiful purplish lights on the Pendower Beach near Portscatho. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Small strean with a cafe in the background. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Any animal death makes a wildlife lover sad but seeing a dead dolphin is deeply touching. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

We couldn’t see any injuries on this Common Dolphin but it might have stranded with high tides. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Compositional send-off of this gorgeous animal. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

With the first lights we reached Pendower Beach from where a long staying Pacific Diver was planned to find in the Gerrans Bay. At dawn European Robins, Dunnocks and Song Thrushes started to sing around the little cafe with low key and as I scoped the beach for two louder Eurasian Oystercatchers, I saw something I wasn’t really prepared to see. A Common Dolphin washed out by high tides. We quickly went to the beach to see if we could do anything for this incredible animal but it was too late. We have never seen a dolphin as close as this dead one. This was a fresh carcass and touching the poor thing was more emotional than I thought I would be. Locals told us later that this was the second dead dolphin on this beach within a week.

After this emotional experience we tried to focus on seawatching. As reported by others, we saw many loons on the calm waters including good number  Great Norther Divers (or Common Loon) and Black-throated Divers. Three Slavonian Grebes (or Horned Grebe) was feeding together but separated from Black-necked Grebes (Eared Grebe). Also Red-necked Grebes were feeding separately. Hours of eye-tiring scanning resulted no Pacific Diver but then a local birdwatcher joined the search and after a hour of searching he managed to pick our bird. He kindly invited us to see the bird through his Swarowski scope. We both had great views on it but we lost the bird when dove for feeding. Just before we left an Arctic Jaeger (Arctic Skua) flew inshore providing great views in the scope.

Here is the complete bird list from the bay:

Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) 5
Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica) 6
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) 1
Common Loon (Gavia immer) 14
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) 3
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) 4
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) 4
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 12
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 6
European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) 9
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 1
Common Buzzard (Western) (Buteo buteo buteo) 1
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 6
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 1
Arctic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus) 1
Common Murre (Uria aalge) 6
Razorbill (Alca torda) 9
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 4
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 125
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 1
Mew Gull (Larus canus) 18
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 134
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 11
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 1
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 13
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 6
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 3
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus europaeus) 1
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 4
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 5
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) 2
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 2
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 2
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 6
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) 1
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 2
Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) 1
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 3

I still don’t give up finding an adult Ring-billed Gull. Phone scoped with the Viking ED 80 Spotting Scope and an iPhone 7 Plus © Daniel Szimuly

After the successful but time-consuming twitching we drove to another location where a long-staying Ring-billed Gull have been reported. It was an hour-long drive which was enough to warm up a bit. At the Trevemper Lake in Newquay we soon found the first winter Ring-billed Gull. It was perching on a fence but later made some attempt to pinch some bred from the greedy European Herring Gulls, without any success. It often landed just next to us and Dani managed to take some acceptable phone scoped photos with my iPhone 7 Plus through the excellent Viking ED 80 Spotting Scope. It was very useful to see the structural differences between the North American visitor and resident gulls.

Godrevy Island with the lighthouse surrounded with a grumpy Atlantic Ocean. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

A bit of rainbow over the ocean. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

This photo probably gives something back about the conditions we decided to birdwatch under. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Visually the Sun was nice to be out but that didn’t made us feeling much more comfortable. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Moving down to the sandy beach offered some kind of protection against the strong cold wind making Dani thrilled. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

As Dani have never seen an Iceland Gull we headed southwest towards Lower Boscaswell but first we stopped at the very stormy Godrevy Beach where Glaucous Gulls have been reported. After having parked it started to rain heavily what turned into sleet straight into our face. Walking on the top of the seafront wasn’t short of danger as winds picked up massively and even standing was a great challenge. We enjoyed these extreme conditions and on the way back to the car we saw one of the three reported Glaucous Gulls flying just meters away from us.

Birds recorded from the seafront:

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)  4
European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)  35
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)  44
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)  16
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)  22
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  1
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii)  2
Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus)  1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)  14
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)  1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)  3
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)  14
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)  1
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)  36

Nice lighthouse at the Pendeen Cliffs. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breathtaking view to the stormy Pendeen Watch. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Hi-tech gear was a must all day and Daniel seemed to be prepared for the worst. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

As we were about to run out of time we quickly headed towards Pendeen Watch, a stunning viewing point from the Pendeen Lighthouse. It was extremely windy with very rough water but that didn’t stop Northern Gannets to feed just meters away from the coast. I soon found the first winter Iceland Gull for Dani’s happiness. Soon after a first winter Glaucous Gull joined the gull-fest.

Our Pendeen Watch eBird list:

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) 2
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 210
European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) 8
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 14
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 15
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)  1
Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus)  1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)  76
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)  1

It was already dark when we went back to the car and it was just about time to book a cheap bed & breakfast room somewhere nearby…

Supporting locals we decided to try the Pale Cornish Ale before we had a traditional English dinner at the Wellington Hotel in Saint Just. iPhone 7 Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dani ended the day with 3 life birds while I had 2.

An emotional surprise

I’m not sure I can recall the exact year but somewhere around 1977/78 my Dad got me the most sought after and the only available bird identification book in Hungarian language, A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (in Hungarian, Európa Madarai) by Peterson, Mountfort and Hollom. It’s still a mystery for me how he managed to get a copy for me, but surely his birdwatcher colleague’s must had helped him. That book played a fundamental role in the development of being a decent(?) birdwatcher. I never forget those times when I endlessly browsed the book and dreamt of seeing an Eurasian Oystercatcher live one day. That page with the oystercatcher caught my eye and that was the date when I fell in love with shorebirds for life.

This inarguably was one of the decisive bird books of my life. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Unfortunately, most of the books of my childhood, including this important one, was lost or damaged during my multiple moves of my life. To make this story short, a few weeks ago I got a parcel from my amazing Hungarian business partner, living in England. Prior to the arrival of this parcel he texted me that it would require some explanation. When I opened the parcel in the taxi, I was left speechless. He sent me a copy of the very same edition of the book, that determined my early years of birding, without knowing I had lost it many years ago. After the death of his enthusiastic bird lover grandfather, he saved this book for me. Such a lovely gesture. I’ll be always grateful for it.

This page from the book made me fall in love with shorebirds for life. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Needless to say, by browsing this book again 40 years later, wonderful birding memories emerged, and it made me remember the way I learned identifying birds on my own.

Thank you my friend.

Caspian Gull at the Blue Lagoon LNR

Blue Lagoon with roosting gulls. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Several viewing spots allowed perfect views on these roosting gulls. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Utilizing my recreational day off, I had a stroll to the nearby Blue Lagoon Local Nature Reserve in Bletchley. The morning was sunny and chilly but the wind from yesterday calmed down. I haven’t been at the reserve for a while and it was about time to have my first visit of the winter.

Bird composition was as usual all along my path but this time larger number of wintering gulls were roosting at the main lake (Blue Lagoon). I watched them for about half an hour and one bird was different from others with its black eye, clean white head and somehow flatter forehead. It was a 3rd winter Caspian Gull what is an uncommon bird in Britain but more regularly seen during winter.

Red Kites glided from Fenny Stratford towards the waste land. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Other birds of note were a flock of 17 Red Kites over the land fill, a smaller overfying Fieldfare flock and a few European Siskins but I was expecting to see some Redwings as well.

Here is the eBird list from today:

Mute Swan 2
Mallard 2
Great Cormorant 1
Red Kite 17
Common Buzzard 1
Eurasian Moorhen 3
Black-headed Gull 162
Mew Gull 34
European Herring Gull 136
Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 250
Great Black-backed Gull 15
Common Wood-Pigeon 8
Common Kingfisher 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker 3
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jay (Eurasian) 2
Eurasian Magpie (Eurasian) 8
Eurasian Jackdaw 4
Rook 65
Carrion Crow 45
Common Raven 1
European Skylark 1
Eurasian Blue Tit 13
Great Tit 4
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus europaeus) 28
Eurasian Wren (British) 7
Goldcrest 2
European Robin 11
Common Blackbird 28
Fieldfare 23
Song Thrush 1
Mistle Thrush 1
Common Starling 8
Dunnock 5
Grey Wagtail 1
White Wagtail (British) 1
Meadow Pipit 2
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 2
Eurasian Bullfinch (Eurasian) 5
European Greenfinch 2
Eurasian Linnet 5
European Goldfinch 14
Eurasian Siskin 5