Monthly Archives: April 2011

Lesser Whitethroat

In the hedge and in the hand

Lesser Whitethroat are intriguing. I can still remember finding (well at first hearing) my first ‘rattling’ Lesser Whitethroat in north Cheshire a very long time ago (about aged 12). With the growing interest in the ‘eastern taxa’ as well, I think we probably overlook some returning eastern birds in spring of the halimodendri/ minula type. But they are enjoyable without that incentive for rare hunting too! This one was probably the bird I could hear from my Caravan as it sang on Beacon Lane. The other, a bird trapped at the Warren enabled us to see the very dark pigmented (western) outer tail feather.

Black Duck. Half a self-find?

Shetland, October 2010 and April 2011  

Last October as I co-lead a Shetland Nature tour on Unst (Britain’s northermost island). I noticed a dark Mallard- type, whose dark body contrasted strongly from below with bright white underwings. It was also picked out independently by Brydon Thomason, by members of our tour group and by Unst resident Mike Pennington. From below it looked promising, but from above revealed obvious white borders to its dark specula. We speculated that it might be a Black Duck hybrid but that’s where we left it. See here:

About 2 weeks ago Mike P. found the bird again on Unst. This time Robbie Brookes (thank you!) got some on-the-ground shots, revealing more about its appearance and perhaps identity. I do think it’s most likely a Black Duck/ Mallard hybrid (perhaps from the Faeroes).

One thing that struck me was the specula. The pattern of the specula is split between black lower and  bluish upper sections with sharp divide between the two, particularly towards the outer part.  Seems a tendency at least for Mallard to average more blue and less black. Here’s some wing shots of Black Duck and Mallard to compare: P.S. can I have a half-find ; )

Black Duck:


Spurn Discovery Day

Sunday 29th May 2011

Join me and the Spurn Bird Observatory for a Day of Discovery.

8 hours of guided birding done in 2 segments:

6:30 – 10:30 am and 12:30 – 4:30 pm. While it is an early start this optimises the time periods when most bird discoveries and bird arrivals are seen at Spurn with space to explore for yourself or just take a break!

Cost £48 per person

  1. Amazing Visible Migration 
  2. Scarce and rare bird hunting
  3. Bird Identification Masterclass
  4. High Arctic breeding waders in full breeding plumage
  5. Full access to Observatory Bird ringing
  6. Wonderful variety of other wildlife
Lunch not provided but light refreshments (tea/coffee, toast etc) available through day.

Places strictly limited to 6 people on first come first served basis. To register interest contact me soon!

Upgrade to Spurn Visible Migration spot

What have these got in common?

3 Red-rumped Swallows

1st summer Purple Heron

2 Bee-eaters

White-tailed Eagle

Collared Pratincole

2 male Blue-headed Wagtails

and thousands of migrant birds of many species

Answer: They were all visible from the Spurn migration watchpoint at the Warren,  just in April 2011. Thanks to Rich S. and co. a favourite little corner of mine (and others) has received an upgrade. Designed to protect from certain wind directions as well as a place to seat flasks and cameras. What will be the next headlining fly-by?

Being built and next day getting first testing by Spurn regulars

Spurn Spring Special


The 3 days in May are now fully booked and oversubscribed. We are hoping to do shorter late May/ early June event. Info to follow soon.

3 Days at Britain’s Premier Migration Hotspot.

Tuesday 24th- Thursday 26th May 2011.  £190:00 per person 

Places limited to 6 on first-come, first-served basis. .N.B. This is a one-off special rate introductory offer.

Garganey sunrise

April 25th, last day of the Easter break,

and not a bad one at all. Sunrise at the Warren was beautiful. 2 Roe Deer could be seen racing out on the mud of the Humber- a buck with half-grown horns chasing the doe below. A single Velvet Scoter was all that remained of the previous day’s 7 birds. A Little Egret ‘blogged about’ before heading south, Tree Pipit, Fieldfare, Yellow Wagtails and Brambling called overhead and my first Turtle Dove of the year almost escaped detection. Bird of the day however went to a pair of Garganey that began hidden in the reeds of Canal Scrape but eventually came right out in to the open. The best shots below (2 and 3 of the Garganey) belong to John Hewitt.

Sunrise at the Warren. Spurn. April 2011. 2 sunspots were visible (I think) just below the mid-point.

Doe Roe somewhat exhausted by the attentions of amorous Buck.

Below, Garganey, initially part-hidden, eventually in full view.