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 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!


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.

Italian Sparrow split accepted – a new lifer

It’s been a while I have been waiting for a split of the italian race of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus italiae). Now the International Ornitholgists’ Union (formerly IOC) has officially accepted the split and raised the subspecies to a species level as published in the update V3.3 on the IOU’s website. The Italian Sparrow (Passer italiae) split is another example of hybrid speciation and probably more will come.

Male Italian Sparrow in Cornino, Italy.

Male Italian Sparrow in Cornino, Italy.

Male Italian Sparrow at the Mediterranean coastline at Viareggio, Italy.

Male Italian Sparrow at the Mediterranean coastline at Viareggio, Italy. Images were taken by a Nikon CoolPix V1 compact camera.

I have seen this species for several times in northern Italy (Cornino) and western coastal Italy (Viareggio).

This species became my 2,179th lifer.

This is a way better photo of an Italian Sparrow by my Italian friend and bird photographer, Daniele Occhiato.