Monthly Archives: February 2012

Smew Central

To Texel and back

Having attended and  spoken morning and afternoon at the Dutch Birding Vogeldag on 11th Feb, I got to spend the next day with top Dutch birders, Nils Van Duivendijk, Diederik Kok and Jeroan de Bruin . The place was under an arctic ice blast. So following early pick-up we headed north to the famous Dutch island of Texel- Holy ground apparently for Dutch birders!  Arriving at the port of Den Helder I was hit by the Smew- quite a few. The guys with me were keen to get on Texel as both Smew and Goosander were potential island ticks. In the end over the next 3 days I saw Smew (and Goosander)- EVERYWHERE. And the boys got their Texel ticks. Some could even be found on the tiniest wee garden pond. A true Smew fest. Fantastic!

You could ‘knock yourself out’ on Smew watching. Early views I thought were great at Den Helder of small flocks


However over the next couple of days views just got closer and closer.



Very nice to see this 1st winter male Smew, a plumage I don’t recall seeing in the UK. This bird was on tiny patch of water in front of someone’s house!




Derby this Friday

I will be speaking at a meeting of the

Derbyshire Ornithological Society

on “Frontiers in Birding” at the Society’s meeting on Friday 24 February 2012 (7.30pm) at The Evergreen Club, Cornhill, Allestree, Derby, DE22 2FT

Meeting begins at 7.30pm, doors open from 7:00pm.

More information here

Hope to see you there!

New Gull Masterclass Days

Coming Very Soon…

North Wales,  Saturday 3rd March

Saltholme, Teesside,  Wednesday 7th March

Moore N.R./ Richmond Bank, Cheshire, Saturday 17th March

Places very limited (N. Wales already fully booked) £35 per person.  Join me  for a day from 9am to 5 pm. See your confidence and skills in identifying gulls grow and have lots of fun along the way!.

How to Book: Simply send an email to and let’s get you booked in.

“I couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction to ‘Advanced Gulls’ and I can’t wait to get back out again, armed with a bit more knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, the inspiration to continue discovering…” R. Webb

Maybe we will see one of these?

adult Russian Common Gull (ssp. heinei) Texel, Netherlands, February 2012

female Green-winged Teal identification

side by side comparison 

Identification of female type Green-winged Teal has been a little pet interest of mine for a while. Have even written about it a few times elsewhere. Here then a nice refresher and update from Slimbridge WWT warden, James Lees, comparing adult females of captive Green-winged Teals and Eurasian Teal, side by side: Can you see all the little, but helpful differences? YES you can identify them in the field!

Great job James, ta very much. All photos copyright James Lees at Slimbridge WWT, Feb 2012

captive adult female Green-winged Teal, Slimbridge WWT, Feb 2012.

Bird atlas7

Upperwings: Green-winged Teal (above) with Eurasian Teal (below)

Undertail region: Eurasian Teal (left) with Green-winged Teal (right)


Thank You Kent!

Plenty O’ birds

Just  over a week ago (9th Feb.), had an excellent day out with Marcus Lawson followed by very enjoyable evening with the Kent Ornithological Society. Spent most of the day birding in the Dungeness area, warm welcome from obs warden, David Walker and a wonderful variety of birds seen included plenty of Smew, geese, included Eurasian White-fronts, a locally scarce Pale-bellied Brent, a bunch of Woodcock, a Bittern in flight, couple of Chiffchaff, 3 Bearded Tit and  best, an obliging  Cetti’s Warbler feeding out in the open.

Cetti’s Warbler, Dungeness ARC hide, 9th Feb. 2012

Thanks to Marcus for warm welcome, hospitality, sharp eyes and lots of organising and for the folk I met and chatted with in Maidstone.


DNA of Kent Eastern Black Redstart

If bird poo can…?

…it’s looking good! Martin Collinson has done the first round of analysis. These is more to come but the initial results on DNA analysis of the Kent bird from November 2011 are stated by Martin as:

“We got the first results through today and it is most similar to database DNA sequences from China.  We’re going to do a bit more work but at least we can confirm that genetically it was a bird of the P. o. phoenicuroides subspecies group.”

1st winter male Eastern Black Redstart, Margate, Kent, November 2011 © Mark Rayment.