Not quite a lifer but still a cracking bird

I took my second ever visit to the Oare Marshes in Kent for seeing the long staying Bonaparte’s Gull which is now in stunning breeding plumage. It took a while to find it in on the mudflat of The Swale estuary. At low tide, it normally goes feeding on the mud but uses the Oare Marshes for roosting. Late in the morning, it left the mud an for roosting allowing birdwatchers to watch it from a close distance. Here are some not so impressive heavily cropped record shots.

The fine black bill, all black head and feather structure on the wings made identification rather straightforward.Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This Bonaparte’s Gull has been a returning visitor of the area for the last 7 years, according to local birders. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

At the roosting place, it landed on the closest mud islet and started preening immediately (second bird from the right). Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The views through the spotting scopes were cracking. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Northern Lapwing in its breeding territory. Sony RX10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

By now this is a very rare sight in England but still a few pairs of Eureopean Turtle Doves breed near the Oare Marshes. Sony RX 10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Watching purring European Turtle Doves reminded me to my childhood in Hungary where it was quite common. Sony RX 10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Red Fix is passing through the roosting flock of Black-tailed Godwit and Common Redshank in the Oare Marches. Sony RX 10 IV. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the eBird list from the area.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser anser) 18
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 7
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) X
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca crecca) X
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 4
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 2
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta garzetta) 10
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 3
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) X
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) 4
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) 29
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus ostralegus) 4
European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) 1
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 30
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus phaeopus) 1
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 6
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) 360
Ruff (Calidris pugnax) 6
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 2
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 138
Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) 1 ad.
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 190
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus argentatus) 12
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 9
European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur) 1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) 1
Common Swift (Apus apus) 1
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 2
Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus) 11
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 4
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 9
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 1
Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus scirpaceus) 13
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 1
Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) 1
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 26
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 5
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 1
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 6
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 3
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 3

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Sony announces a new super tele lens and it looks awesome for bird photography

Fellow Sony bird photographer, Christopher Dodds might agree with me that the newly announced Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS lens is a real game-changer for bird and wildlife photographers. I wasn’t lucky enough to put my hands on this new and long-awaited lens but based on the first hands-on reviews, it seems to perform superbly.

Amazing features for even faster focusing, like the new Power Focus mode. Image courtesy of Sony

The new Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS lens was announced today. Image courtesy of Sony

I’ve been shooting with Sony cameras (Sony a7RIII) for a few months now and I love it. I also love the whole concept of Sony how they target larger and larger segments of the market. I had been a Canon photographer before I started to use Sony, and I know what weight of the lens means. I often had to handhold the 500mm and 600mm lenses with a massive camera body and most of the time shooting were restricted to a few seconds only. Sony’s new lens is under 3 kgs (102.2 oz) and having any of the lightweight Sony mirrorless cameras attached would still be a lighter combo than the Canon or Nikon lenses alone. That’s a huge benefit for birds in flight photography.

Another advantage of this lens over the competitors is the autofocus speed thanks to the development of the linear autofocus system. Again, it is a huge benefit for fast moving birds. Tested in the field, it has an incredibly high rate of in-focus photos when shooting high frame rates with the a9. In Gordon Laing‘s preview you can see how perfectly the Sony a9 camera and the new 400mm lens combo is keeping the focus on the cyclists (see video bellow at 6:57 minutes).

The new Function switch allows to set the camera to APS-C crop mode what crops the image by 1.5 times and halves the resolution but on the a7RIII it still produces a 21 megapixel image what is more than enough for publishing purposes.

Yes, It is not cheap… $11,998 is a lot of money and a bit more expensive than the competitors’ similar lenses, but it is a superior lens (based on the previews!!!) what seems to outperform the big brothers in many ways. Eventaully, the price will drop anyway.

European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus argenteus) by Gyorgy Szimuly on 500px.com

This European Herring Gull was photographed by my Sony a7RIII camera with the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master lens. More photos in my gallery at https://500px.com/szimistyle. © Gyorgy Szimuly

 

Nightjaring

After a short distance drive in the middle of the night, we found ourselves at a never visited nature reserve near the Heathrow Airport. The Chobham Common National Nature Reserve is an ancient remnant of the formerly extensive lowland heath. We targeted to see European Nightjars and Dartford Warblers at the same place.

Beautiful mixture of habitats in the Chobham Common. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Cotton Grass patch in the Chobham Common. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Chobham Common is a beautiful nature reserve with a large variety of habitat types and amazing bird choirs at down. Out from the northern car park, we heard two European Nightjars churring. Just after a short walk, we saw one singing bird in the trees. Amazingly two birds were flying around us allowing to watch them without binoculars. They went quiet as it turned lighter. Two Dartford Warblers were singing at the lower part of the common. In the western corner of the reserve, a singing Woodlark perched on a dead tree and sang beautifully.

Woodlark was singing from this dead tree next to the trail. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist:

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) 2
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 2
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 5
Eurasian Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) 5
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis viridis) 1
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 1
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 2
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 6
Wood Lark (Lullula arborea) 1
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 1
Coal Tit (British) (Periparus ater britannicus) 5
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 3
Great Tit (Parus major) 1
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 8
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 2
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 5
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 1
Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) 1
Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) 1
Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) 2
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 3
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) 2
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 13
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 10
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 1
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 5
Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) 1
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 1
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 1
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 2
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 4
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 3

Some thoughts about the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV camera for bird photography

I’ve been using the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 mark IV bridge camera for 4 months now and the more I use, the more I love this powerful camera in a compact house. Key features of the fourth generation RX10 are the 20.1-megapixel ‘one-inch‘ sensor, the super sharp 24-600mm (35mm equivalent) Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f2.4-4.0 zoom lens, 315 point phase-detection autofocus system for amazing movement tracking and 4K video capabilities. All these features are perfect for bird and wildlife photographers but utilising the exceptional lens sharpness, it has also been used for portrait photography by many.

The RX10 IV is my everyday camera for documenting birding for good reasons. I love its capability to track flying birds with the support of the very same processor used in the Sony a9 camera. I had a pretty gloomy and misty morning in the Peak District National Park a few weeks back, where I photographed territorial Eurasian Curlews. The tracking was amazingly accurate and I only lost the birds when I couldn’t manage proper panning. The result was a set of pleasingly sharp photos even at higher ISO. Tracking was tested on more distant subjects as well. The camera found displaying Common Snipes and Eurasian Skylarks high in the sky without any problem.

EurasianCurlew_PeakDistrictNP_June2018_0001_2732px Territorial Eurasian Curlew in the Peak District National Park flying into the mist. The camera managed to keep the focus on the bird perfectly. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

I use the camera in manual mode and shooting uncompressed RAW for higher editing flexibility. With the maximum resolution, the file size is 5472 x 3648 pixels what can give me a lot of cropping flexibility if it’s needed. This way the 600mm focal length can easily be doubled while still leaving a lot of megapixels for the final image. Just for the record, the resolution of my long-serving Canon EOS-1D Mark II N camera was just 8.2 megapixels and still created superb photos. Cropping half the RX10 IV files will preserve more megapixels than my Canon was in full resolution 13 years ago.

EurasianJackdaw_England_June2018_0001_2732px Out the camera, this Western Jackdaw photo was pretty sharp and only slight Lightroom adjustments had to be made. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy SzimulyEuropeanHerringGull_Dorset_0002_2732px A taking off European Herring Gull with a distracting background. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy SzimulyGadwall_England_May2018_0001_2732px A drake Gadwall with a busy background and a beautifully sharp duck. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy SzimulyMeadowPipit_PeakDistrictNP_June2018_0001_2732px I shot this calling Meadow Pipit from my car from a relatively close distance. The shallow depth of field (f/4.0) and the distant background created some very nice bokeh. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy SzimulyEuropeanHerringGull_Dorset_0001_2732px European Herring Gull against a dark background. Some chromatic aberration is visible but it could have been fixed in Lightroom. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy SzimulyCommonBlackbird_England_April2018_0001_2732px Food collecting male Common Blackbird in the local park. Despite distracting foreground elements, the camera tracked the moving bird. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

While the camera is capable to shoot at an astounding 24 fps rate, this feature is still to be tested.

The Sony RX10 IV sells for £1,799 in the UK (Wex Photo Video) and $1,698 in the United States (B&H Foto). It’s not the cheapest camera on the market but certainly the most powerful compact of all with professional attributes. Images out from this camera might not appear on the pages of National Geographic but in ideal shooting conditions, it is more than capable to deliver outstanding results. For general web purposes, it’s a simply perfect solution. I highly recommend this camera for every birdwatcher.

More detailed specifications can be found at Sony’s related page.

Curlew land

After a brief sleep in the car, I drove to the Ford car park and back again to the Upper Burbage Bridge at 3AM looking for night birds. Luckily I saw a Tawny Owl sitting on the drystone wall along the road but didn’t allow me to take any photos. Two Short-eared Owls and Little Owl with singing Ring Ouzels in twilight were the highlights of the dark.

The morning was very misty on the plateau of but it was still very enjoyable to walk. I took a 5.6 km trek from the eastern part of Stanage Edge to the White Path Moss. Apart from some sleeping climbers on the cliffs, I didn’t see a single human what was more than delightful for me.

Territorial Eurasian Curlew near its breeding site. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the plateau, I found a family of Red Grouse with eight chicks. The female was very defensive came out to the trail and literally touched my legs. Curlew songs in the dense mist were beautifully haunting and I just wanted to sit and listen to it all day.

This male Ring Ouzel almost lost in the mist. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Curlews were breeding along the public trails and they escorted me until I left the area. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

The United Kingdom has lost almost 50% of the breeding population of Eurasian Curlews and this trend is continuing unless further conservation efforts take place. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Main British bird conservation organisations unite to reverse the negative trend of breeding populations of Eurasian Curlew. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A classic picture of an upland grassland with curlews and sheep. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Roadside breeding pair of Eurasian Curlew. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Curlew in its nesting environment. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Patroling curlew over the breeding territory. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A recent study linked the increased predation, among other factors, to the decline in breeding numbers of curlews. I observed Carrion Crows chased away from the nesting territory. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Guarding adult Eurasian Curlew at the nesting area. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Meadow Pipit is the most abundant breeding bird of the moorland. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

I took this shot from the car as it was calling on this gate. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Sony Cybershot RX10 IV camera performed really well and I just can’t recommend it enough for documentary bird photography. Pictured a Meadow Pipit. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another Meadow Pipit landed next to me. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Livestock and upland waders have a nice symbiosis. In this field, a pair of Eurasian Curlew and at least one family of Northern Lapwing, with 4 chicks, was seen. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Upland nesting habitat of Common Snipe. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Beautiful colour of the moorland with Welsh Mountain Sheep, I believe. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the morning trek:

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) 2
Willow Ptarmigan (Red Grouse) (Lagopus lagopus scotica) 22
European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) 1
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 7 (3 ad + 4 pullus)
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 16
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 7
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 3
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 3
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 1
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) 2
Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 1
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 3
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 31
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 2
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 2

After leaving this area I visited another moorland targeting to see a White-throated Dipper which was reported on several eBird checklists in the past. I followed the trails of Shelf Brook east to Old Glossop up to the Mossy Lea Farm bridge. At the bridge, I managed to find an adult with a juvenile White-throated Dipper searching for food in the brook.

This white-throated Dipper fed a fledged young at this section of the brook. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

It is not the best dipper photo of the world as I could not come closer due to access restrictions. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Recently fledged White.throated Dipper in its habitat. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

White-throated Dipper gularis subspecies, restricted to Scotland (except w Scotland), Wales and England. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

It ‘s been the first time I saw a dipper in England since I’ve moved to the country. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Feeding Common Wood Pigeon in the meadow. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the 3.6km long trek:

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 6
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 2
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 2
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 1
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 19
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) 2
Common Swift (Apus apus) 15
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)  1
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 2
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 189
Rook (Corvus frugilegus) 29
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 2
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 1
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) 7
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 1
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 5
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 2
White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) 2
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) 3
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 2
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 4
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 2
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 1
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 1
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 1
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 2
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 6
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 4

An overnight in the Peak District National Park

This time I travelled up north to the Lake District National Park what is another never visited region of England for me. Prior to the Saturday afternoon photo shoots in New Brighton, I spent the overnight in the moorlands near the picturesque Hathersage village, fought with the annoying midges(?), slept a few a hours in the car, but it was worth. The scenery and birdlife are just spectacular and the lack of anthropogenic noises made this stay really memorable. Despite choosing a wrong walking shoe, and the massive blister on my toe, I trekked about 11 miles combined.

First I trekked from the Ford car park to the High Neb then at the western side of Stanage Edge I walked back to the car. The tranquillity of the moors with the song of Eurasian Curlews was just something I have always been long for. I wasn’t prepared to write a novel here so again let the photos tell the story.

A view to the Hig Neb moors from the car park with a small patch of woods which was surprisingly bird rich. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Close up photo of a resident breeder Mistle Thrush. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Mistle Thrush in its breeding territory near the car park. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

European Siskin was displaying and and feeding in the woods next the to car park. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

The plateau of High Neb in glorious sunset. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Meadow Pipits, Red Grouses and high-flying and drumming Common Snipes were the most frequent birds on the summit. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A small shed with beautiful cottongrass field. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Black-faced Sheep is part of the moorland. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

A view to the western slopes of Stanage Edge. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Black-faced Sheep in the cottongrass field. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Cottongrass gives a special tone to the moors. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

To my biggest surprise a stunning Eurasian Woodcock was sitting on the drystone wall in the middle of the might. Sony RX10 IV © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the area:

Willow Ptarmigan (Red Grouse) (Lagopus lagopus scotica) 11
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 1
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 7
Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) 4
Common Swift (Apus apus) 1
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 1
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 2
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 2
Coal Tit (British) (Periparus ater britannicus) 1
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 1
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) 6
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) 1
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 1
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 1
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 1
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 14
Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) 1
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 3
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 3
Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus)  2

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!

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!