Saturday, 25 November 2017

Red-necked Grebe...

Great find by Dave Helliar this evening, Chard Reservoir's 2nd record of Red-necked Grebe!

Red-necked Grebe, Chard Res: Dave Helliar

Red-necked Grebe, Chard Res: Dave Helliar

Red-necked Grebe, Chard Res: R Harris 

The first and only previous record was one found by myself way back in 1978 so this is the first for nearly 40 years!

Prior to this discovery, I'd been visiting Portland Bill with my father-in-law. He'd never been beyond the prison (no reflection on his character, that's just a far as he'd ventured on to Portland), so he was keen to have a stroll at the southerly tip of the Isle.

The (lower) Lighthouse Portland Bill

West cliffs with Purbeck coastline in the distance.
It was very windy and there weren't many birds but a Short-eared Owl, flushed by a dog walker, was the best on offer. Back at Ferrybridge we found a handful of Brent geese, 15 Mediterranean Gulls and this Ketrel, which hovered in the wind just a short distance from us.


Mediterranean Gull, Ferrybridge

Mediterranean Gull, Ferrybridge

Brent Geese, Ferrybridge

The Red-necked Grebe was a brilliant end to the day.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Plume-toed Swiftlet...

It looks as if the Glossy Swiftlet's I saw in Malaysia last year have now been split (along with 9 other new species), following MDNA analysis of this broad ranging species. The species found in Peninsula Malaysia (as well as Borneo, Sumatra, Natuna and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands) has been renamed Plume-toed Swiftlet Collocalia affinis according to findings published here by the ICO.

Plume-toed Swiflets, Bukit Fraser
Unfortunately the differences between the new 'splits' are not obvious in the field. Such is the complexity of birding in modern times.

Straw-headed Bulbul.... still cause for concern

It seems the plight of this beautiful species is still a huge cause for concern. This article was published today:

My original post on the subject can be seen here:

Monday, 20 November 2017


2017 will be remembered by birders for many things, not least the current Hawfinch invasion that's taking place throughout the country due to a shortage of food in other parts of Europe. Hawfinches are an impressive species, our largest finch. These normally scarce, shy species are appearing anywhere and everywhere at the moment, including around the village where I live. I'm still seeing one bird fairly regularly in the mornings as it pitches-up on top of a tree at the rear of the house before calling and departing to wherever it's feeding during the day. Despite extensive searching, I haven't found out where that is yet.

Hawfinch, Whitestaunton: R Harris
Hawfinch, Whitestaunton: R Harris

You can never have enough of a good thing, so I went to see the half-a-dozen or so Hawfinches at Shute Church near Axminster just across the Devon border on Saturday morning too. Unfortunately they didn't show well enough for decent photos while I was there but on a walk by the sea with Jacob at Seaton Hole we saw this lovely Little Egret on the edge of the beach. I can remember when these were rare visitors to the UK and I twitched my first at Sutton Bingham Reservoir in the early 80's!

Little Egret, Seaton Hole: R. Harris

Little Egret, Seaton Hole: R. Harris

And it looks like we are experiencing the same phenomenon with other species too. A drive around the Blackdown Hills over the weekend produced around 100 Brambling! In recent years we have struggled to find more than half-a-dozen among the local Chaffinch flocks but this year is a complete reversal of fortunes.

Brambling: R. Harris

Brambling: R. Harris
Brambling: R. Harris
It looks like the weather is going to change a little this week and become wetter and windier but the recent prolonged dry spell has been very welcome and has certainly brought some beautiful November days for a change.

Incredible sunset from Seaton on 17th November

Sunrise from Whitestaunton at 07:30 on 18th Nov
was incredibly pink/purple to begin with...

...before turning a fiery orange 5 minutes later
All photos in this post taken with the Nikon P900.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Lyme Regis...

One of the benefits of my son's new secondary school being in Axminster is that on stunning mornings, like today, I can nip down to the coast after dropping him off to take advantage of the peace and quiet that early morning brings.

After dropping him off this morning I popped down to Lyme Regis for a quick walk around the Cobb Wall and gardens. I was rewarded with 5 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Ringed Plover, a single Guillemot, a few Turnstones and half-a-dozen very tame Rock Pipits.

Lyme Regis, looking beautiful this morning and quiet for a change too!

View of the town from the Cobb

Lyme's famous Cobb Wall, which shelters the harbour

Rock Pipit: R Harris

Rock Pipit

Rock Pipit: R Harris

Guillemot: R Harris

Turnstone: R Harris

Purple Sandpiper: R Harris

Saturday, 4 November 2017

(Another) Black Redstart...

After dropping my son off in Axminster for his drama club this morning, I decided to take a walk around nearby Trinity Hill LNR. I often visit the site, for reptiles in the spring and summer and for birding just about anytime. Today it was pretty quiet though. After navigation large waterlogged sections of track (and nearly loosing my wellies twice to the mud), all I had to show for my efforts were 4 Snipe, a couple of Stonechat, half-a-dozen Reed Bunting, a few Meadow Pipit and a Yellow Hammer.

As the weather was still good, I decided to take Jake to Seaton for a walk along the beach (I promise you, he's my son, not the family pet). As we neared The Hideaway cafe at the western end of the promenade we decided we didn't want to head straight back and instead chose to continue along  the beach to Seaton Hole and walk back to Seaton along the main road. A hundred meters along the beach a small bird flitted up onto the boulders placed at the base of the cliff to act as a sea break. Before I even lifted my bins, I knew it was going to be a Black Redstart but I wasn't expecting it to be a cracking male!

Black Redstart, male, Seaton: R Harris

Black Redstart, male, Seaton: R Harris

Black Redstart, male, Seaton: R Harris

Black Redstart, male, Seaton: R Harris
Black Redstart, male, Seaton: R Harris

This is my second Black Red this week and males are always a treat to see, what a handsome little bird.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Garden List...

It's been an unusual week to say the least. Having now lived at Whitestaunton for nearly three years, it's not often that I can add a new species of bird to the garden list. Red kite was the first addition for nearly a year back in the summer and then nothing. Until this week. Last Sunday I added Hawfinch and Firecrest to the list, amazing! Two new birds in one day. Then today I got home after the morning school run, walked into my office and saw this...

Black Redstart, female, Whitestaunton 
Just 4ft away, sat on the apex of the conservatory was a smart female Black Redstart - another 'first' for the garden! I ran to get my camera and managed a single shot before it was chased off by a Robin. I headed outside and relocated it sitting on the tv ariel.

Black Redstart, Whitestaunton 
Black Redstart, Whitestaunton 
At this rate I predict the next new bird on the garden list will be Yellow-browed Warbler...but only time will tell.