Monday, 11 December 2017

Snow at the Old Vic

Great to see the Old Vicarage in a quintessential winter theme. I was hoping for some good flyovers to add to the Old Vic bioblitz. There was a flock of Lapwing flying around and a flock of 25 Skylark flew over but I think they were probably just local farmland birds moving around rather than true hard weather movements. Also plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares but unfortunately no Hawfinches this weekend. 

The Laburnum tree fell down in the snow, which is a real loss. Planning on doing some winter works soon including sowing a wildflower meadow, upgrading the feeding stations and additional planting so can add a new tree then. 

 Adult Red Kite in the snow 
 Goldcrest- a ringed bird
 Long-tailed Tit
 Skylarks flying over the garden in the snow 
 Lapwings going over in a blizzard 
 The Old Vic in winter 
Jacob's first outing in the snow 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The London Bird Atlas

Proud to have contributed to and have some photos published in the London Bird Atlas produced by the London Natural History Society which has just been released this week. 

More information THE LONDON BIRD ATLAS

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Azores Nature Review 2017

Another great year, in fact one of the best ever with a record breaking vagrant autumn  SEE HERE with an astonishing 48 Nearctic species and 155 individuals recorded. The birding on Corvo just seems to get better and better. Plans are still in the pipeline to expand the birding effort to the neighbouring island of Flores so that more people can get involved in the best autumn birding in the Western Palearctic.

Yet again more success on the annual Pelagic trips, this year led by Pierre-Andre Crochet with Swinhoe's Petrel recorded again in addition the usual excellent suite of the regular seabird specialities and marine life. See itinerary of the pelagic HERE.

......and another successful natural history expedition led by Josh Jones (see below for details on an amazing discovery).

Thanks to everyone involved in the project, both project partners and participants for another exciting and successful year. For more details on the project SEE HERE

Hooded Warbler (Vincent Legrand) 


The highlight of the trip was the discovery of a Grey-tailed Tattler at Cabo da Praia. See finder Josh Jone's blog post HERE. The aim of these trips is to introduce guests to the natural history of the Azores while also collecting records and looking for interesting discoveries- so a great success. For an itinerary of the trip SEE HERE. If you would like to join next year's trip please email for further details. 

Long-tailed Blue. In addition to looking for the endemic birds, marine life, botany and volcanic origin of the Azores, the natural history trip also looks at the island's entomology for a complete INTRODUCTION TO THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE AZORES
Grey-tailed Tattler, Cabo da Praia (Josh Jones) Finders account HERE


For the background to these trips see the Birding Frontiers article HERE.

Another successful year with Swinhoe's Petrel recorded again. For the world lister this is the best way to see Monteiro's Petrel and for the WP lister there are several WP specialities . 

Swinhoe's Petrel - now seen on every trip since 2012. 


READ ALL ABOUT IT HERE and for a daily log through the autumn HERE

Highlights in the record breaking autumn included Bay-breasted Warbler (David Monticelli) and Blackburnian Warbler (below) 

Redhead (above) and Temminck's Stint (below) were highlights for WP and local birders on the way to Corvo through Terceira 

If you are interested in being a participant in any of the main events 1) The natural history trip 2) The Birder's Pelagic or 3) Autumn Vagrants  please email

For more information: AZORES NATURE 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Reports

Intended to get these on line and public a year after publication. Better late than never.
Will also post on AZORES NATURE.

Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Report 2014 by Peter Alfrey on Scribd

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Parrot Crossbills and that Lark

Was gutted to not catch up with the American Horned Lark at Staines despite a brief attempt over the weekend and then after managing to book some time off yesterday, the bird decided to do the bunk. 

However the Parrot Crossbills at Wishmoor Bottom were some consolation, especially considering we got them on the Surrey side which meant another tick for my Surrey List.  Found out recently that I'm in the top ten of Surrey listers (SEE HERE) which was a bit of a surprise. 

Great to catch up with Darryl and Greg and also met Polly for the first time. Also bumped into Mush, Mike and Brian from the south west. 

Male Parrot Crossbill
Male and female Parrot Crossbill
Immature male Parrot Crossbill, obviously less intense red colouration than adult male.
Male and female Parrot Crossbill. In all the photos the strong bull-necked appearance is apparent. Typically the bill has a strongly decurved culmen (parrot like) with the lower mandible very deep and bulging to the centre. Here's a couple of calls from Dave Lambert HERE and some song HERE. In comparison here are some Common Crossbill calls HERE. Overall the call of Parrot Crossbill is deeper and harder but there is a lot of overlap. 

Darryl, Greg and Polly


American Horned Lark, Staines by Shaun Ferguson . The streaking on the breast is one of the key identification features. Alpestis is also larger, has more rufous upperparts, has a narrow pale ear covert patch, has contrast between the flanks and belly and should have deeper yellow on the face. 

So I had to do with internet birding this bird but interesting doing a bit of reading up and the complexity of Horned Lark identification. As far as I can work out this is the latest on the situation ( see Jose Luis Copete's summary here: BIRDING FRONTIERS PIECE) . It looks like a taxonomic revision is underway with the suggested six splits as follows: (In the WP region the main splits would be Shorelark, Atlas Horned Lark and Caucasian Horned Lark with extra-limital American Horned Lark and possibly Steppe Horned Lark): 

1. SHORELARK flava, from  N Eurasia E to NE Russia (Anadyrland), S to S Norway, L Baikal and NW Amurland
2. AMERICAN HORNED LARK alpestris, for the whole of North America, pending further study, since in that continent there are around 30 different subspecies described, depending of the authorities.
3. ATLAS HORNED LARK atlas, from Atlas Mts in Morocco

Atlas Horned Lark from Morrocco Trip Report HERE. The main id feature is the rich cinnamon coloured nape. 
4. CAUCASIAN HORNED LARK penicillata, from E Turkey and Caucasus E to N & W Iran
 Caucasian Horned Lark, Georgia
Caucasian Horned Lark, Turkey Trip report HERE. The main identification feature is the obvious connection of the black mask and breast band. 
5. STEPPE HORNED LARK brandti, from  SE European Russia (lower R Volga) and N Transcaspia E to W Manchuria, S to N Turkmenistan, Tien Shan and Mongolia

6. 'HIMALAYAN HORNED LARK' elwesi, from S & E of Tibetan Plateau

Just to indicate the complexity of the situation here are the sub-species that HBW ALive currently recognise: 
Subspecies and Distribution
·  E. a. arcticola (Oberholser, 1902) – Alaska and NW Canada (Yukon S to British Columbia); winters in W USA.
·  E. a. hoyti (Bishop, 1896) – N Canada (N Baffin I S to N Alberta and W Ontario); winters in N USA.
·  E. a. alpestris (Linnaeus, 1758) – American Horned Lark – E Canada (W Ontario E to Newfoundland and S to Nova Scotia) and E USA (E from Minnesota and S to Kansas and N Carolina); N populations winter in E USA.
·  E. a. strigata (Henshaw, 1884) – W & WC Canada and USA (British Columbia S to N California and E to Idaho, Nevada and Utah); N populations winter in W USA.
·  E. a. leucolaema Coues, 1874 – SW & SC Canada (S Alberta E to Manitoba) S to WC & SC USA (S to New Mexico E to Texas).
·  E. a. rubea (Henshaw, 1884) – NE & C California.
·  E. a. insularis (Dwight, 1890) – Channel Is, off SW California.
·  E. a. occidentalis (McCall, 1851) – SW USA (S California and SW Nevada E to C New Mexico) and NW Mexico (N Baja California and NW Sonora).
·  E. a. adusta (Dwight, 1890) – S Arizona E to S New Mexico S in Mexico to Durango and E to Coahuila.
·  E. a. enertera (Oberholser, 1907) – C Baja California.
·  E. a. giraudi (Henshaw, 1884) – coastal S USA (S Texas) S to NE Mexico.
·  E. a. chrysolaema (Wagler, 1831) – S Mexican Plateau from SE Coahuila and Zacatecas S to Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Veracruz and NE Puebla; also C Oaxaca.
·  E. a. peregrina (P. L. Sclater, 1855) – E Andes of Colombia (Altiplano Cundiboyacense, N of Bogotá).
·  E. a. flava (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Shore Lark – N Eurasia E to NE Russia (Anadyrland), S to S Norway, L Baikal and NW Amurland; winters in W & C Europe E to Kazakhstan, Mongolia and C China.
·  E. a. brandti (Dresser, 1874) – Steppe Horned Lark – SE European Russia (lower R Volga) and N Transcaspia E to NE China (Inner Mongolia), S to N Turkmenistan, Tien Shan and Mongolia; N populations migrate S.
·  E. a. atlas (Whitaker, 1898) – Atlas Horned Lark – Morocco (Atlas Mts).
·  E. a. balcanica (Reichenow, 1895) – SE Europe (S Balkans and Greece).
·  E. a. kumerloevei Roselaar, 1995 – W & C Asia Minor.
·  E. a. penicillata (Gould, 1838) – Caucasian Horned Lark – E Turkey and Caucasus E to N & W Iran.
·  E. a. bicornis (C. L. Brehm, 1842) – Lebanon and N Israel–S Syria border (Mt Hermon).
·  E. a. albigula (Bonaparte, 1850) – SW Turkmenistan and NE Iran E to W Tien Shan and S to NW Pakistan.
·  E. a. argalea (Oberholser, 1902) – N Ladakh, extreme W China (W Kunlun Shan) and W Tibetan Plateau.
·  E. a. teleschowi (Przevalski, 1887) – C & E Kunlun Shan from S Xinjiang E to NW Qinghai and S to N Xizang (W China).
·  E. a. przewalskii (Bianchi, 1904) – Qaidam Basin, in N Qinghai.
·  E. a. nigrifrons (Przevalski, 1876) – mountains of NE Qinghai.
·  E. a. longirostris (F. Moore, 1856) – Himalayan Horned Lark – Himalayas from NE Pakistan and Kashmir E to Sikkim.
·  E. a. elwesi (Blanford, 1872) – S & E Tibetan Plateau.
·  E. a. khamensis (Bianchi, 1904) – SC China (SE Xizang, W Sichuan).

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Magic five minutes

Had a magic five minutes in Holly's garden this morning. First had a flock of Golden Plover go over, then cracking views of a Red Kite and then had two Hawfinches. Also a couple of Bullfinch and Redwings and Fieldfares. 

 Adult Red Kite 
 One of the Hawfinches- seen them every weekend over the garden recently 
Golden Plovers 

In the late morning took Jacob to Bernwood Forest (had Treecreeper and Nuthatch) but no Hawfinches there. Spent the afternoon doing a World of Twigg stand with Holly at a xmas market. 

Sutton Council announce this week that Beddington Farmlands is being handed over to industry

Not quite as bad as it sounds but not far off, Read more by clicking of facebook symbol.