Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Yet another New Bird For Britain!!

Thanks to an identification query by Jon Hudson and a rapid interception by RBA's Stuart Piner, the birding fraternity was informed of its first-ever MASKED WAGTAIL last night, a male that had been present in and around Jon's Pembrokeshire garden since at least Sunday morning (27th November 2016). This incredible long-distant vagrant from Kazakhstan is seemingly on winter territory and is showing exceptionally well - favouring the rooftops and gardens of Croft Villas, in the picturesque, tranquil hamlet of Camrose, just NW of Haverfordwest (SatNav SA62 6JF). I and around 60 twitchers made the long journey this morning to SW Wales today and were afforded an excellent display, with the bird showing virtually non-stop. Jon's neighbour was particularly hospitable and invited many of us into his garden so that we could get better and more prolonged studies and were able to sound-record it. Other neighbours were equally as accommodating, especially a couple making tea & coffee for visitors, while the Neighbourhood Watch local police girls came over from Haverfordwest to see what all of the fuss was about!
Masked Wagtail breeds in Central Siberia, from Kazakhstan to NW Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan to NW China, and winters primarily in Northern India (Assam in particular). It is a pretty abundant species but has only reached the Western Palearctic on just 5 previous occasions, with the most recent photographed in Burgas (Bulgaria) in September 2015 and by the southern Dead Sea (Israel) on 23rd March 2016 (that country's third occurrence in fact).
As the UK400 Club/BBA follows the PSC principles, it recognises '7' of the 11 types of alba wagtail as morphologically distinct species -:
1) White Wagtail Motacilla alba
2) Pied Wagtail Motacilla yarellii
3) Moroccan Pied Wagtail Motacilla subpersonata
4) African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp
5) Masked Wagtail Motacilla personata
6) Chinese Amur/White-faced Wagtail Motacilla leucopsis
7) Kamchatka Pied Wagtail Motacilla lugens

The taxonomical position of other forms such as Swinhoe's, Hodgson's, Streak-eyed & Indian White remain unclear, vexing and more clinal in variation, with wader ranges of overlap and hybridisation

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

SIBERIAN ACCENTOR irruption in Autumn 2016 and first British records

Autumn 2016 - the Year of the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR irruption
When news of a Siberian Accentor trapped & ringed on Utsira (Norway) on 6th August 2011 hit the headlines, no birder could have foreseen what was to follow just five years later in October 2016. With a protracted period of strong East/NE winds starting late September and continuing well into October, indications of something incredible happening began in Finland on 4th October, when another Siberian Accentor was discovered, followed by several more in Scandinavia over the next few days. It seems that because of a particularly bumper breeding season in Arctic Russia, presumably due to a startling bloom in insect matter, this tiny but beautiful Dunnock-like bird has irrupted. So much so, that by 24th October, a staggering 153 had been discovered in Europe, including 56 in Sweden, 45 in Finland, 10 in Denmark, 7 in Germany, 6 in Estonia, 6 in Poland, 5 in Latvia, 5 in Norway, 3 in Lithuania and a single in The Netherlands. With such a huge arrival, it was inevitable that the UK would share in, that being achieved when a brightly marked individual was discovered by Judd Hunt in a small quarry at Scousburgh (Shetland) on 9th October - the first record for Britain & Ireland. As one would expect, that sparked off an epic twitch, with no fewer than 177 observers connecting during its two-day stay. However, for those with less money or time to spend on the hobby, the prayers were answered on 13th October, when Spurn stalwart Lance Degnan discovered a first-winter feeding at close range with up to 4 Dunnocks on hard standing opposite Easington Gas Refinery in East Yorkshire. Being at such an accessible location for many, this bird was a real top drawer, attracting over 4,000 observers in its week-long stay! In fact, the irruption proved remarkably kind to the home range, Britain reaping 9 different records between 9th and 24th October - truly sensational!
1) Scousburgh, Shetland, 9th-10th October;
2) Easington Village, East Yorkshire, 13th-19th October;
3) Huntscliff, Saltburn, Cleveland, 15th October;
4) Hendon South Dock, Sunderland, County Durham, 16th-18th October;
5) Holy Island, Northumberland, 18th October;
6) Troila Geo, Fair Isle, 20th October;
7) Lund, Unst, Shetland, 22nd-24th October;
8) Fair Isle, 22nd October;

9) Sandside Bay, Deerness, Orkney, 24th October

My images of the Easington bird below -:

Thursday, 8 September 2016

RED-FOOTED BOOBY washes ashore in St Leonard's and in doing so becomes UK's first record

This adult brown morph RED-FOOTED BOOBY washed ashore at St Leonards Beach (West Sussex) shortly after midday on Sunday 4 September, constituting the first record of this seabird for Britain & Ireland. The bird sat on the beach for a couple of hours before a concerned member of public contacted a local wildlife charity. They unduly arrived and took the bird away to their rescue centre. Realising the enormity of their find, the bird was later transferred to a rehabilitation RSPCA unit in nearby Hastings for specialist treatment on Monday morning. As of today (Thursday), the bird remains in care but is improving. Release details will be announced at a later stage

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

And yet another PURPLE GALLINULE.....

PURPLE GALLINULE in North Lincolnshire
An adult has been discovered this afternoon at Alkborough Flats NR, 8 miles north of Scunthorpe, showing at 250-300 yards range at the reed edge from the first hide. Use the car park off of Whitton Road DN15 9JG. This record comes very hard on the heels of our first considered genuine Purple Gallinule at Minsmere RSPB Reserve (Suffolk) on 31st July to 4th August and associated with a widespread dispersal from breeding grounds in France due to severe drought.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Severe drought in southern France forces PURPLE GALLINULES to disperse north....

A severe drought this summer has seen an exceptional number of PURPLE GALLINULES in southern France having to move, particularly in the Languedoc Region. As a result, a minimum of 7 individuals has been displaced much farther north than normal, including one just south of the Brittany peninsular at Morbihan since 20th July. Nine days later, in coastal Suffolk at Minsmere RSPB, an adult made its way as far north as East Anglia, showing well on the reed-fringed pool behind South Hide until 1st August at least. This represents the first 'considered wild' Purple Gallinule for the British Isles, following some 5 or so records of previous likely escapes (and many records of the closely related Grey-headed Swamphen). The bird has been feeding naturally on the pool, spending most of the day feeding on reedmace. By dusk on Monday 1st August, no fewer than 1,000 birdwatchers had flocked to the site.