Monthly Archives: October 2011

Linosa: Italy’s Fair Isle?

On my way.

To this little volcanic island (expand it out to see exactly where it is):

Thank especially to Andrea and Ottavio for the invite. Hope to be able to report on my recce to this Mediterranean Birding Hotspot starting from Wednesday and following 10 days. With short but very impressive track history of Siberian, Asian and African rarities, its already sounding good…

I have to spend tuesday night on Lampedusa (island to the south) before catching ferry with Lucio on Wednesday morning.

Then when I get back (sorry for being slow- too many good stories) I will catch-up on an excellent Shetland week 2 and inspiring visit to Helgoland. More soon.


Answer to Mystery Shrike

1st winter Lesser Grey Shrike

But with strangely clipped wing tips. It does look odd doesn’t it?The normally strikingly long primaries are replaced by short truncated ones. What’s going on?

Chris Gibbins sent the pics taken in mid September this year in Azerbaijan. How strange. Looks like the primary tips have been neatly clipped off. Chris says it was the same on both wings. No surprise then that guesses included both Lesser Grey but other species too. No shame! Primary projection won’t always give you the right answer.

All pics copyright Chris Gibbins. Thanks buddy!




Helgoländer Vogeltage 2011


I arrived on evening of Thursday 20th Oct. after fairly long day’s travel. Spirit boosted as got ready to board little 6 seater plane (flying lawn mower) and met Eckhard Moeller, one of the most enthusiastic people you could hope to meet, who gave me a lovely warm welcome.

I had been invited as guest speaker on the Helgoländer Vogeltage 2011 (Helgoland Bird Days) by Jochen Dierschke and co. This is the biggest event in the calendar for keen birders in Germany and over one weekend in late October, annually attracts over 300 folk (virtually all the keen German birders apparently!).

Little 6 seater to Helgoland. Travel there involved car, plane (to Amsterdam), plane (to Bremen), tram, train (to Bremerhaven), taxi, plane (to Helgoland), bus, ferry (from Dune Island to main island), feet…arrive at B & B/ hotel!

Flying north over Bremerhaven. They have certainly embraced wind farms, with loads of them reaching into distance as well as bit’s of windmills wrapped in (what looked like) giant plastic shrink-wrap on the ground.

Helgoland ahead! Main island on left, but landing on smaller Dune Island on right. Bit rainy and windy and sometimes scary in such a little plane.

Landing strip ahead on ‘Dune Island’- and yes he actually came in at an angle that suggested we were going to ignore the runaway altogether.

Landed and got little bus/ taxi thing to the ferry. From the ferry the outline of the main island clearly visible and one very noteworthy features. A huge crater (or double crater) at the southern end. A massive gouging out of earth and rock. What caused it? The British made massive bombing raid in 1947 nicknamed ‘The Big Bang’. Result: really excellent migrant and rare bird habitat! Strange thing is, it used to be part of the British Empire. Bit more here.

Helgoland main island from Dune island’s harbour. The bomb craters can be seen left of the radio mast.

Helgoland: The 2 islands from above (off Wikipedia site)

3 Sprites

Spurn late October 2011

The highlights of the last few days at Spurn have been ‘sprites’. It’s been more relaxing, reading and family time than much birding. However even on ‘quiet days’ the bird variety here is as excellent as ever. A selection of tiny birds from the last couple of days:

Goldcrest, Spurn, late Oct. 2011 © Abi Garner

Pallas’s Warbler, Spurn, late Oct. 2011 © Martin Garner

Pallas’s WarblerSpurn, late Oct. 2011 © Mark Rayment

FirecrestSpurn, late Oct. 2011 © Mark Rayment




Magic Words- Eastern origin

Thursday 29th September

‘of Eastern Origin’ got applied twice today as our group scoured Britain’s northernmost isle. one to our delight a fascinating Lesser Whitethroat; the other to our chagrin (who uses that word anymore!) a grey and white flava wagtail.  I have cut and pasted from Shetland top news sight the log as written out for this day (most likely by Mssrs Pennington or Fray). We saw all of these apart from that pesky ‘Eastern Yellow Wagtail’. The Red-backed Shrike was great, the Yellow-browed Warblers starlit the day as ever and the Black-headed Bunting performed admirable. Gripped though by the wagtail!

UnstBlack-headed Bunting at Belmont, Lesser Whitethroat of eastern originYellow-browed Warbler and Common Rosefinch at Uyeasound, Yellow Wagtail of eastern origin at Baltasound,  Red-backed Shrike at Haroldswick, 4 Yellow-browed Warblers at Norwick and Northdale, Bluethroat at Northdale and Sparrowhawk at Burrafirth. 

This bird below landed on Robbie Brookes driveway as the daylight was ebbing away. Its raspy call and grey/white plumage made Robbie think of Citrine  (Robbie’s account). Being keenest on his photos he rattles off a few shots. Then upon inspection was unsure. The bird was right opposite (other side of Baltasound) from our hotel. What a belter. Unfortunately it was a no-show for my pre-dawn stake-out, and never seen again. Michael McKee also had one which stayed on the Out Skerries (photo). His recording of the call clearly shows it to be an ‘eastern’,

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Baltasound, Unst 29.9.11 © Robbie Brookes

Brown Lesser Whitethroat

is what I called it…

To start with.  Found on Thursday 29th September at Uyeasound, Unst. A day of exploring our island base.I quickly alerted our Shetland Nature group that this was worth a look at. Then quickly went and found Will, Tony and Richard, knowing they were just up the road. “Brown Lesser Whitethroat- might be an Eastern, only seen it briefly. Come and help us sort it…”

Well I think it is an ‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat of some type and plan to do a little more on it soon. Great to find and study birds like this because I learn so much more from the process of one real life encounter, than trying to digest tons of literature. I learnt a lot, so did our group and I think others did too! More soon…

‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat, Uyeasound 29.9.11. © Gavin Daniels

‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat, Uyeasound 29.9.11. © Tony Davison (Simply Birds and Moths)