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29 June – 8 July 2003
Sunday 29 June
Israel with Marc Holderied. Left at 04.15h for London heathrow. Flight at about 09.00h, arrived Tel Aviv ca. 16.ooh local time. Taxi to Ben Gurion University of the Negev at Sede Boqer. On the taxi journey saw cattle egret, spur-winged plover, collared dove, crested lark, yellow-vented bulbul, mourning wheatear, hooded crow, common mynah, house sparrow and hoopoe. Two kestrels hunting together may have been lesser kestrels. In the evening caught 2 unusual Plecotus bats (below) at Ben Gurion’s tomb. They are reckoned to be P. austriacus, but look different to me. (Note 2009 - now known to be P. christiei)
Monday 30 June
Travelled to En Yurge’am canyon after stopping at a point to overlook the Great Crater. New birds today included Egyptian vulture, ad and juv, barbary falcon at catching site, sand partridge, rock dove, laughing dove, desert lark, African rock martin, blackstart, graceful prinia (campus), Arabian babbler, Palestine sunbird, brown-necked raven, Tristram’s grackle, trumpter finch, including one caught in mist net (below). At the canyon caught Pipistrellus kuhlii and Eptesicus bottae (below), and Marc captured a beautiful agamid lizard (below).
Tuesday 1 July
Birds on campus photographed included laughing dove, Arabian babbler, blackstart and yellow-vented bulbul (all below). Also saw greenfinch and rufous bush robin. In evening visited Zin wadi below campus and saw scrub warbler, sooty falcon, chukar and 2 raptors that were later identified as Bonelli’s eagles.
Saw few bats in the wadi, but photographed the one we went to see (Otonycteris hemprichii) and also Tadarida teniotis in the lab (below).
Wednesday 2 July
New birds around campus today included turtle dove, desert finch, northern wheatear, blackbird and a pair of griffon vultures. Photographed crested and desert larks (below). Female house sparrows on campus have orange-yellow bills (below).
Thursday 3 July
Walked down to Zin wadi from campus – saw Egyptian vulture, large flocks (ca. 50) of sand partridges. Also chukars. Pallid swift overhead at supper time. Took photos of ibex, which are common and even graze on the campus.
Friday 4 July
Drove to Zin wadi to walk into Ein Avdat National Park. Saw griffon vultures, ad & juv Bonelli’s eagle (below), olivaceous warbler, northern wheatear, pallid swifts, rock martins. Lots of small frogs/toads present. Moorhen and green sandpiper also. Also photographed a large agamid lizard.
We then visited Avdat Byzantivne village, seeing brown-necked ravens and Egyptian vultures, then drove to Makhtesh Ramon, the largest crater in the world. During the late afternoon Marc and I walked east from the campus. I found a prehistoric flint axe, and we had excellent views of a lanner falcon.
Saturday 5 July
Dead Sea – floated at En Boqeq. White-crowned black wheatear here. Photographed Tristram’s grackles on descent. Drove to a cave at New Zohar where there was a Roman fort, and crawled into a cave full of hyrax dung where we saw Rhinopoma hardwickei. Little green bee-eater here. Then visited salt caves beneath Lot’s wife at Mount Sodom. Ended up aat a fish farm at Ne’ot Hakihar, where we caught and recorded Pipistrellus boderheimeri and P. kuhlii. Heard Rhinolophus hipposideros and Asellia tridens. Saw little bittern, night heron, and Dead Sea sparrow (nice male) here. Caught a mantis, bushcricket and a squeaking scarab beetle in the mist nets. A family of wild boar roamed nearby.
Sunday 6 July
Carmi drove us to two oases in the Zin valley. The first had palm trees and little water, the second had a beautiful cool pool for swimming in. We saw 9 griffon vultures in thermals, ca. 5 Egyptian vultures, 4 brown-necked ravens, and two sooty falcons at close range near the pool. Photographed the captive Rousettus (below) on 7 July.
Monday 7 July
Excellent views of griffon and Egyptian vultures over the campus.
Tuesday 8 July
Saw squacco heron and house crow (near campus) on taxi drive to Tel Aviv. In total saw 46 species, of which 28 were new.
Little bittern Collared dove Graceful prinia
Night heron Turtle dove Scrub warbler
Squacco heron Laughing dove Olivaceous warbler
Cattle egret Pallid swift Arabian babbler
Egyptian vulture Little green bee-eater Palestine sunbird
Griffon vulture Hoopoe House crow
Bonelli’s eagle Desert Lark Brown-necked raven
Sooty falcon Crested lark Tristram’s grackle
Lanner falcon African rock martin Common mynah
Barbary falcon Yellow-vented bulbul House sparrow
Chukar Rufous bush robin Dead Sea sparrow
Sand partridge Blackstart Greenfinch
Moorhen Northern wheatear Desert finch
Spur-winged plover Mourning wheatear Trumpeter finch
Green sandpiper White-crowned black wheatear
Rock dove Blackbird
Sunday 12 July 2003
Chew Valley Lake –2+ yellow-legged gulls (1 ad) Herriot’s Pool, 4 common sandpipers and a red–crested pochard (probably a juvenile, but may be a hybrid with a pochard).
Saturday 26 July-Saturday 9 August
Summer holidays on the Isles of Scilly
Saturday 26 July
Arrived at St Mary’s at 18.00h after delay due to bird strike on earlier helicopter. Board stated that a solitary sandpiper was at Lower moors. I walked there, but no bird there or at Porth Hellick. Although the bird turned up at Tresco the next day, I wasn’t there and it disappeared afterwards.
Sunday 27 July
Saw male BLACK DUCK at Porthloo duck pond, and fed it a twix bar with the chocolate sucked off. It arrived on Tresco earlier in the year and was very timid. Now it is tame and apparently hybridising with mallards. In the evening met up (by chance) with my former PhD student Carol Williams, and John Kazacnow, Dave Mawers and his partner and helped them process two Pipistrellus pipistrellus near Porth Hellick. Also heard one on a bat detector near Lower Moors.
Monday 28 July
Rainy day. Greenshank at Lower Moors. 2 greenshank and kestrel at Port Hellick. Grey seal swimming off Portcressa.
Tuesday 29 July
Rainy again. 4 greenshank, 1 turnstone, 2 ringed plovers on Porth Hellick beach.
Wednesday 30 July
Tresco. 2 little egrets, 16 sanderling. Hummingbird hawkmoth at Garrison, St Mary’s.
Thursday 31 July
2 whimbrel over Porthmellon beach.
Friday 1 August
Relocated black duck at Newford duck pond. 3 ringed plover, 3 greenshank, redshank at Porth Hellick. Kingfisher at Lower Moors, and willow warbler singing. In eveneing did shearwater cruise around Annett. 42 Manx shearwaters seen at close range. Hummingbird hawkmoth outside our flat.
Saturday 2 August
Hot and sunny now. An amazing day. Cycled to Port Hellick. In the hide heard a birder talking about a bird with webbed feet, and discovered there was a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER! Cycled back to flat (of course it was the one day I didn’t have my camera!), photographed it, and cycled back in time for the pelagic. Sandpiper is amazingly tame and allows approach to about 3 feet. Had excellent views of 3 common dolphins, saw 2 sunfish, leaping garfish and people on board caught lots of mackerel and a large female blue shark. Birds were disappointing – storm petrels, manx shearwater, and 2-3 great skuas.
Sunday 3 August
Cycled to hides in afternoon – kingfisher at Lower Moors. Green sandpiper at Porth Hellick. Took more photographs of semipalmated sandpiper (below). In evening went to St Agnes and saw a juvenile shelduck and 2 common sandpipers.
Monday 4 August
Quiet – no new birds for trip. 4 turnstones, 3 ringed plover, 3 redshank at Porth Hellick beach.
Tuesday 5 August
St Martin’s today – raven and grey seal. Ca. 45 sanderlings spotted on return.
Wednesday 6 August
Lower Moors – willow warbler. Porth Hellick – sand martin, reed warbler, 40-50 swallows. On beach 1 common sandpiper, 12 ringed plover, turnstones, redshank, and the semipalmated sandpiper.
Thursday 7 August
Semipalmated sandpiper still at Porth Hellick beach. Sand martin at Carn friars. In evening went on pelagic – 4 great skuas, storm petrels, 1 manx shearwater. Saw sunfish (below) and crew caught 3 blue sharks (below), including one estimated at 80 lbs! (below) and a baby. Migrant moths were a Hummingbird hawkmoth and silver-Y moth which landed on our boat at sea (below).
Friday 8 August
Tresco – 10 greenshank, 3 redshank, common sandpiper at Great Pool. Little egret present, and juvenile Mediterranean gull seen off SE Tresco on return. Heard a bird which must have been a reed bunting. A red-rumped swallow was spoted briefly at Newford in the morning. I cycled around the island looking for it, and visited Porth Hellick in the evening to watch the roosting swallows – no sign. Meanwhile, the pelagic picked up 2 Wilson’s petrel’s which I’ve dipped on yet again!
Fulmar Curlew Rock pipit
Manx shearwater Redshank Wren
Storm petrel Greenshank Dunnock
Gannet Common sandpiper Robin
Cormorant Turnstone Stonechat
Shag Great skua Blackbird
Heron Mediterranean gull Song thrush
Little egret Black-headed gull Sedge warbler
Mute swan Lesser black backed gull Reed warbler
Canada goose Herring gull Willow warbler
Shelduck Blue tit
Gadwall Great black backed gull Great tit
Mallard Kittiwake Carrion crow
Black duck Sandwich tern Raven
Tufted duck Common tern Starling
Kestrel Feral pigeon House sparrow
Pheasant Stock dove Chaffinch
Moorhen Wood pigeon Greenfinch
Coot Collared dove Goldfinch
Oystercatcher Swift Linnet
Ringed plover Kingfisher Reed bunting
Sanderling Sand martin
Semipalmated sandpiper House martin 69 species (73 last year)
Sunday 10 August
Chew Valley Lake – water low. Ringed plover, greenshank, green sandpiper, 2 swifts. 10 black-tailed godwits on Herriot’s Pool (below). Then went to Blagdon lake – 4 ringed plover and 2 wood sandpipers at Top End.
Tuesday 12 August
Went to Chew in evening. In total 3 greenshank, 2 ringed plover, 11 green sandpiper, 2 common sandpipers, 1 ruff, 5 black tern, 3 garganey. Also blue x Canada goose and white goose with some features of snow (darker underparts). Just as I arrived at Stratford (ca. 19.20h), Rich Andrews told me that he had found what he thought was a female BLUE-WINGED TEAL. I digiscoped some pictures. Soon after 19.30h it moved behind an island not be refound, despite many birders turning up. Notes confirming identification are below. The bird was observed down to c30m, and brief, excellent views obtained. No rings on legs, wing pattern not seen).
Note loral spot and eye ring, but lacks ‘double pale stripe’ of female garganey. Slight fleshy tone on bill gape sometimes apparent. Leg colour, face pattern, belly colour and bill size eliminate female garganey. Only concern is female/juvenile Cinnamon teal. General colouration is not rusty however. Note that photos taken in evening sunlight which enhances reddish tones. When seen alongside female mallard however, general colour appears much less reddish, even greyish. Head pattern eliminates female cinnamon teal, (also contrast between neck and breast) but juveniles can be more problematic. However, juvenile cinnamon teal has grey legs (Madge & Burn 1988). Pale orange legs of this bird (Madge & Burn state legs yellowish to orange, yellow duller or browner on female) suggest adult female blue winged teal therefore (juv blue winged teals have grey legs also). Bill is large and slightly spatulate, but this does occur in blue winged teal.
Friday August 15th
Stopped briefly at Durleigh Reservoir near Bridgewater on way to field work in Devon. Saw juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER , noting smallish size, yellow legs and slightly drooping bill. Also present were 5 green sandpipers, 3 common sandpipers, 1 wood sandpiper, 3 greenshank and 3 little egrets.
Saturday August 16th
Quick early evening visit to Barrow Tanks – eclipse male ring-necked duck (tank 3), 4 common sandpipers, 2 dunlin. One of the dunlin had a bill considerably longer than the other – different race?
Sunday August 17th
Birdwatching with Michael Bosley – ring-necked duck still at Barrow, also 2 common sandpipers, and male ferruginous duck, greenshank at Chew. Also a female ruddy shelduck here that was so tame (near picnic area) it was presumably an escapee (below).
Tuesday 19 August
Evening visit to Herriot’s Pool , Chew with family (to look for spotted crake). One garganey, and nice views of a female sparrowhawk.
Wednesday 20 August
Called in briefly at Slimbridge after visit to Woodchester. One spotted redshank on South Lake.
Saturday 23 August
Chew Valley Lake: Villice Bay area – 2 lesser whitethroats (first of year), 5 common sandpipers (below), 2 green sandpipers, 4 black-tailed godwits. 5 snipe, 1 little ringed plover (juv).
At Stratford, had an excellent opportunity to compare blue-winged teal (top 4), garganey (middle) and teal (lower – presumed adult and juv?). Common sandpiper and 5 snipe here too. Greenshank in Villice bay.
Sunday 24 August
Barrow tanks – male ring-necked duck, 2 greenshank (no. 3), 2 ringed plover (no. 1) and 7 common sandpipers in total.
Monday 25 August
Slimbridge – went to see white-headed duck reported yesterday, but it’s gone, and the 3 ruddy shelduck eluded me three times. Nevertheless, saw ruff (below), black-tailed godwit (below), spotted redshank, green sandpiper (below), hobby, peregrine, sparrowhawk, ruddy duck and common terns.
Tuesday 26 August 2003
Chew Valley Lake in evening. Saw female/immature white-headed duck off Stratford. Put up by hot air balloon, ca. 6.30. Later relocted distantly in front of Stratford hide. Also female ruddy shelduck, 2 ruff, ca. 6 greenshank, green sandpiper, and a distant SPOTTED CRAKE first seen by Rich Andrews. Poor images of white-headed duck below.
Wednesday 27 August
A last birding trip with Marc & Victoria Holderied. Chew Valley lake – white-headed duck still present, also ruddy shelduck, garganey, 5 ruff, several greenshank (below).
Sunday 30 August
Chew Valley Lake – 2 snow x Canada goose hybrids, 7 greenshank, 3 green sandpipers, 3 common sandpipers, 1 dunlin, 15 ringed plover, 2 ruff, 3 black-tailed godwits, 6 pintail, 100+ house martins, 1 sand martin. White-headed duck still present.
1-13 September: China
Spent 1 September night in Hong Kong. Flew to the capital of Yunnan Province, Kunming on 2 September, and visited Heshang Cave, where we caught some neat bats including Tadarida teniotis and Aselliscus stoliczkanus. On 3 September we began a long drive to Dali, stopping at at a cave near Midu. Caught 10 Hipposideros pomona bats here. In a cave near Dali we caught a putative Rhinolophus osgoodii. On 5 September we went up to 4600 m on Jade Dragon snow Mountain by gondola, and then caught bats at a cave near Lijiang airport. Caught Rhinolophus rex here, and Pipistrellus abramus. Drove back to Kunming on 6 September, drove to Juxiang on 7 September, where we entered some spectacular caves. Visited Stone Forest on 8 September, then drove to White Dragon cave near Mile. Caught Rhinolophus marshalli here, and next day caught at a shaft with hundreds of bats in – mainly Hipposideros larvatus. On 10 September visted a cave in a town with 4 prisons, where we saw a neat Death’s Head hawk Moth.
Black drongo Cattle egret (Dali) Oriental magpie robin (Dali-Kunming)
Common kingfisher Intermediate egret Red collared dove
Long-tailed shrike Pheasant-tailed jacana Grey headed parrotbill (Juixiang)
White wagtail Spot-billed duck Masked laughingthrush
Barn swallow Red-whiskered bulbul Grey heron
Hoopoe Little egret Hen harrier (Stone Forest)
Dabchick Thick-billed crow (mountain) Blue rock thrush
Red-billed blue magpie (Midu) Stonechat Chestnut bulbul (White Dragon cave)
Brown-breasted bulbul Great tit Black-shouldered kite (near Stone Forest)
Burmese shrike Citrine wagtail (Lijiang) Chinese pond heron (prison town river)
House swift Grey-backed shrike Common sandpiper
Japanese white eye Brown-breasted bulbul
Tree sparrow Peregrine
Probably the most bird species we’ve seen in China! Birds still generally scarce however. Locations given in chronological order.
Sunday 14 September
Chew Valley lake – still quite a few waders about, including 4 green sandpipers, 8+ greenshank, 1 redshank, 6 ruff, 3 dunlin, 7 black-tailed godwits. One garganey in Heron’s Green bay, 12 distant black terns, and a super spotted crake (below) and a water rail in the reeds on the south side of Heron’s Green Pool.
Wednesday 17 September
Chew Valley Lake – 4 ruff, 4 black-tailed godwits, 3 green sandpipers, 4 greenshank, redshank, ringed plover and a hobby that flew close to Stratford Hide. Ruddy shelduck on Heron’s Green Lake.
Saturday 20 September
Chew valley lake – 1 common sandpiper, 9 green sandpiper, 7 greenshank, 10 black-tailed godwits, 5 ruff, 3 ringed plover, 1 garganey, 1 whinchat, 1 stonechat (both near Heron’s Green Pool), 1 spotted crake (below), 7 water rails. Missed pectoral sandpiper here, but saw one (juv.) at Blagdon top end, together with a wood sandpiper.
Tuesday 23 September
First visited Chew, and saw garganey, goldeneye, spotted crake, 2 water rails, little stint, 16 black-tailed godwit, common sandpiper, green sandpiper, 3 dunlin, 2 ringed plover, 3 ruff, and a pectoral sandpiper (below).
Then went to Meare Heath, and saw little egrets, 3 pectoral sandpipers (below), 3 little stint, 3 ringed plover, ca 140 knot (below), c200 black-tailed godwits, c15 greylag geese, and a kingfisher. Also clouded yellow butterfly.
Finally, onto Steart Point, Bridgewater By. I was the only person here at high tide, and it was a wild and desolate place. Saw a little egret, and hundreds of shelduck (below).
Saturday 27 September
In afternoon went to Severn estuary between Old and New Passages to see the juvenile BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER. It was tame, and had long yellow legs and a streamlined appearance (below).
Sunday 28 September
At Berrow had sightings of 8 bearded tits, including at least one adult male. Also possible curlew sandpiper and heard Cetti’s warblers here. Then drove to Meare Heath – 1-2 curlew sandpipers, also golden plover, and usual waders seen last Tuesday (no pectoral sandpipers however). Also saw a hovering kingfisher, and a superb juvenile peregrine which flew down and sent the waders flying. It stooped, but left the area unsuccessful.
Monday 29 September
Wheatear in Ashton Court (golf course).
Tuesday 30 September
Chew, late afternoon. Black-necked grebe, juvenile peregrine flew past hide, dunlin, green sandpiper, 14 black-tailed godwits, 4 ruff, 4 water rail seen.
Sunday 5 October
In morning went to coast beyond Kingston Seymour, between Clevedon and Yeo estuary, as Lapland buntings seen there over the past two days. No sign of them, but did see a male merlin, 4 stonechats, 7 little egrets, swallows, and about 5 reed buntings. Cool in NW wind, but sunny and clear. Went to Blake’s Pool hide, which looks an interesting spot.
Friday 10 October
Morning trip to Marshfield after collecting wax moth larvae in Downend. Walked S from ST 761 773 towards West Littleton. Lots of red-legged partridges in area (ca. 30 in total), also yellowhammers, skylarks and linnets. Ca. 100 common gulls in fields.
Saturday 11 October
Chew. Lovely warm, sunny, still day. Black-necked grebe, imm. Peregrine, 6 green sandpipers, 6 swallows.
Sunday 12 October
Walked up Bourton Combe and W above quarry. First 7 fieldfares of winter seen. Also marsh tit, great-spotted woodpecker, coal tits, goldcrests, and heard a raven.
Saturday 18 October
Chew. Male scaup in Heron’s Green Bay, 3 Green sandpipers at Villice, kingfisher, goldeneye and redshank from Stratford.
Sunday 19 October
Redwings over Flax Bourton. Went to Westhay in afternoon looking for bittern (3 sightings in last week), but only saw kingfisher. Fieldfares on the Mendips. Flock of 5+ swallows through Flax Bourton on return.
Thursday 23 October
Drove with girls to Gigrin Farm red kite feeding centre, near Rhayader, Powys. Amazing – saw ca. 100 red kites – there are about 60 in one of the photos below. Also 10+ buzzards, ravens, marsh tit. On return saw kingfisher and dipper on Wye S of Builth wells (near chain bridge at Trericket?).
Friday 24 October
Most surprising bird of the year. Michael Pocock emailed me to say there was a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER at Clifton Downs (had been present for 10 days!) We went at lunchtime, and saw it foraging in holly bush. Reasonable views through my old binoculars, and heard disyllabic call also.
Saturday 25 October
Severn at Kingston Seymour. Walked along to Blake’s Pool. 6 Little egret, reed bunting, c30 wigeon.
Sunday 26 October
Two sparrowhawks high over house. Chew. 5 goosander, 3 Bewick’s swans, pochard x canvasback hybrid, water rail, 18 snipe, 3 dunlin, peregrine.
Tuesday 28 October
An early morning trip to Weston sewage works, looking for short-eared owls. No owls, only 2 little egrets, a green sandpiper and a stonechat.
Saturday 1 November
Drove to Kenfig Pool, Glamorgan, looking for redhead. Spent over two hours in the new south hide, and only saw Mediterranean gull, female scaup (looked small!), 2 water rails, kingfisher, 100+ golden plover, and a dark-backed pochard-type that may have been a hybrid. On my return to the car, I stopped at the bay, and saw the male REDHEAD (below; left bird on left photo), which has returned for its third winter (3rd British record). As I was watching it, a bittern flew out of the reeds. Back in Bristol, I heard of an American golden plover at Blagdon. Drove there with the girls, only to miss it by about 30 mins. Saw a goosander, and at least 7 black-tailed godwits. Nevertheless on the way back, saw a barn owl foraging around Heron’s green pool at 16.30h, my first of the year.
Sunday 2 November
Up early. First went to Cheddar reservoir, little about. Then Blagdon. First to find AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER today. Marked on photographs below. It was a juvenile, and features included prominent supercilium, slimmer, smaller size than golden plovers, longer legs, relatively long bill, buff underwing, and greyer back. Primaries extending beyond tail ruled out pacific golden plover. Also present were 5 Bewick’s swan, and a goosander.
Then went to Brean Down, looking for firecrest, but didn’t see it. Did see black-tailed godwit, little egret, stonechat, 2 peregrines and a sparrowhawk. Next stop was Weston sewage works, with peregrine and little egret. Got home to see on Rare Bird Alert that there was a juvenile spotted sandpiper at Barrow Tank no. 1. Rushed off to see it (second ever, one in Monmouthshire over 20 years ago). Photos were poor, but main features were bright yellow legs. Adult Mediterranean gull over.
Thursday 6-Sunday 9 November
Riccione, Italy. A dire place – lots of closed hotels, a bulldozed beach and lots of rain. Saw a Mediterranean gull and several yellow-legged gulls at the beach.
Monday 10 November
Stopped at Long Ashton on way to work. Up to 6 woodlarks reported in fields W of Warren Lane since last Weds. I saw meadow pipits, ca. 6 skylarks, and then on return, in second filed, a woodlark flew over – short tail, broad wings and flight call very distinctive. My first for perhaps 20 years!
Saturday 15 November
Cheddar reservoir, morning: Nice juvenile great northern diver (photos below). Also little egret, goosander and 2 Bewick’s swans.
Sunday 16 November
Severn W of Kingston Seymour, towards Yeo Estuary. Looking for Lapland buntings, seen yesterday, but no luck even though other birders heard one briefly. Saw 3 stonechats, 4 little egrets, 4 grey plover, 10 turnstone and 2-3 short-eared owls, one of which was flushed by Anna at about 3m.
Saturday 22 November
Severn W of Kingston Seymour, towards Yeo Estuary. Brent goose (adult – not sure if pale or dark-bellied), 24 Canada geese, c5 oystercatchers, 12 grey plover, c200 dunlin, 2 stonechat, 2 goldcrests, 2 little egret.
Sunday 23 November
Catcott Lows – little of note in pouring rain. Wigeon, teal. Meare Heath – at least 2 brambling (199th year tick) among chaffinch flocks; also 2 green sandpipers, and a chiffchaff.
Thursday 27 November
Photographed fieldfares from bedroom window.
Sunday 30 November
Barrow – ca. 10 goldeneye (below). Chew – peregrine adult, 8 dunlin, ca. 75 golden plover, 2 black-tailed godwits, 2 snipe, 4 green sandpipers, 26 goosander, 7 bullfinch (flock), chiffchaff (heard) and 2+ water pipits.
Saturday 6 December
Exe extuary with Euphrasians (same as on February trip). Went on Stuart Line cruise from Exmouth. Grey and quite cold. Lots of waders, including redshank, greenshank, dunlin, sanderling, golden plover, grey plover, curlew, lapwing, turnstone, knot, avocets, black-tailed godwit and bar-tailed godwit. Also little egrets, about 6 kingfisher sightings, rock pipit, 6 eider, red-breasted mergansers, brent geese, shags, and a grey seal. Later, at Bowling Green marsh, the glossy ibis was still present, many wigeon and teal, and large numbers of waders came in to roost towards high tide.
Sunday 7 December
Quick visit to Barrow Tank no. 3 in late afternoon – 300+ jackdaws and many black-headed gulls in to roost. Otherwise only 5 shoveler and 3+ goldeneye. Water level suddenly high again.
Saturday 13 December
Chew Valley Lake – up to 4 water pipits, ca27 goosander, 1 black-tailed godwit.
Sunday 14 December
Went to Berrow to see a reported Hume’s warbler. Searched around with ca.30 birders for ages (it disappeared 10 mins before I arrived). Then, just as it was getting dark, the bird appeared and showed briefly in the top of a bare tree. It looked quite bright, though the 2nd wing bar was brighter than the first. Couldn’t see any colour or detail. The next day, the bird apparently ‘responded’ to calls of yellow-browed warbler, but not to Hume’s calls! It was therefore my second yellow-browed warbler of the year. Produced sonagrams of calls (low quality) recorded by James Packer to prove it.
Saturday 20 December
Chew Valley lake to try out new Nikon D100 digital SLR with old Nikkor 300mm lens. Worked really well, as photos below show. Only bird of note was the Egyptian goose at Herriot’s Bridge.
Sunday 21 December
Winter soltice – left Flax Bourton at 06.45 for Cornwall rarity hunt. First stop was Godrevy, near Hayle, where an AMERICAN ROBIN had been present for most of the week. Apparently it was a first winter female. Got some decent photographs of it – about no. 31 to ever be seen in Britain.
Next stop was Hayle. Grey plover and bar-tailed godwit in Copperhouse creek, then to river at bridge near Quayhouse pub. Drake green-winged teal here, with best views on return stop. At Lelant station got distant views of AMERICAN WIGEON drake, and some nice views of first winter LESSER YELLOWLEGS. Also greenshank, peregrine and 2 kingfishers in estuary.
Final stop was Helston boating lake, where I just caught up with the second winter RING-BILLED GULL. This was a tricky bird to identify – eye still dark, but note massive, banded bill, and single spot on outermost primary in flight. No tail makings either. Drake Wood duck here also.
Overall an amazing day – only 53 species, but 5 yanks, including 4 lifers!
Monday 22 December
Morning trip to Chew. Nice weather, but very quiet. Only birds of note were drumming great spotted woodpecker and the long returning red-breasted merganser. Photographed gulls. Common gull first winter in flight below.
Friday 26 December
New Passage – also visited on 23 December and missed 2 black redstarts. Today saw female/first winter black redstart (my 2nd ever in UK), and some nice dunlin flocks. On return visited farmyard on RHS opposite housing estate on the way to Hand Stadium, Clevedon. Tree sparrows breed here, and I was rewarded with the sight of one.
Sunday 28 December
Brief visit to Barrow Tank no. 3. Only birds of note were a pair of goosander.
Monday 29 December
A rainy, grey day. After hesitation, drove to Oxford to see the first winter male BALTIMORE ORIOLE at 36 Northfield Road, Headington. Very nice views from the back garden, as it fed on oranges. Present for last 2 weeks or so. 21st British record. Also a female blackcap present.
Tuesday 31 December
Brief visit to Chew late afternoon – little of note except some goosanders.
208 species, including 20 new birds for me in Britain in 2003.