Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bonxie variety + changing Puffins

Shetland week with Mrs G!

by Martin

This was one of the  first ever Birding Frontiers posts from 2 years ago. It was following a visit to Shetland with Mrs G and me celebrating 20 years of marriage . I am making plans to try and see South Polar Skua in the North Atlantic this year. Be great to compare much effort at learning Great Skua plumages over the years. Here’s hoping!

July- August 2010

Had a very special week with Sharon, celebrating  20 years of marriage this month! Shetland is not overrun with rarities in late July/ early August, but the scenery is constantly awe-inspiring, the people are a continuous blessing and the breeding birds are something else! (never mind Cetaceans i.e. Whales and Dolphins, Otters and wild flowers) Here’s a little selection from our trip:

Amoung thousands of Puffins on Sumburgh head, nearly all the adults were in full summer dress (as above) , apart from this one (lower photo) , which is well advanced towards winter plumage. An unusual opportunity to see the 2 plumage types side-by side.

Bonxie special

I have had a keen interest in Great Skua (Bonxie) plumages for many years, learning them partly in the vain hope of finding a South Polar Skua on some autumn seawatch. Hermaness on Unst hosts the 3rd largest Bonxie breeding colony in the world. If you can avoid being dive-bombed by these fierce predators, it is a great opportunity to view the great variety of adult plumages. Besides their intricate pattern with plenty of pale internal markings and evident warm, even rusty tones to the plumage, the head patterns come in 3 broad types: dark-capped, dark -masked and dark-hoodedHave a look through these photos to see what I mean:

many have white flecks on the head

Although not a great shot, this bird appears to have dropped the innermost 3 primaries simultaneously. There was  a time, due to its more rapid moult, that 3 simultaneously moulted inner primaries was considered to be more of a South Polar Skua feature. On many individuals on Hermaness the secondaries had already been renewed (see also photo at bottom).

Coming Soon: Discovery Day Events

Seabirds and Discovery Days 

by Martin

Booking Now! These One Day Events with me and Yorkshire Coast Nature, coming soon.  To book just click here

Spurn Discovery Days

Wednesday 29th August 2012

Wednesday 5th September 2012

Saturday 22nd September 2012

‘Discovery Day’ is a catch all phrase for some very exciting birding. Migration will be in full swing at one of Britain’s premier visible migration spot, waders and seabirds in numbers and great variety and scare and rare bird hunting is fully on the cards. Anything can happen! All done in an environment of shared learning, discovery and the full enjoyment of every moments birding; trademarks of ‘Birding Frontier’ guided events.

Booking NOW! £42 per person. To book just click here


Seabird Masterclass Days

Saturday 1st September

Saturday 8th September

The perfect recipe. Just mix the mighty Flamborough Head on Yorkshire’s East Coast with dates in early September and the seabirds are on! Skuas, Shearwaters, Divers, auks and all the possibilities of the scarce and rare species. Learn loads and have plenty of fun.

Booking NOW! £42 per person To book just click here

Congratulations to Steve Race, fellow team member at Yorkshire Coast Nature. His photograph (below) of 2 Gannets with a ‘flower necklace’ was featured on television on BBC’s Look North and in and national BBC Nature last week. He is bloomin good!


One Night with Batman

Last night in Hungary

One of the little extra wildlife treats was arranged by our guides. Bats! Unplanned a Common Noctule graced our teatime experience by flying and perching on one of the hotel walls. More ‘scope testing opportunities.

Once it was fully dark we were able to join a keen local bat researcher at a small lake, about 20 minutes walk from the hotel.

He regularly catches up to 11 different species here and in our brief visit we saw at least 5 :

  • Daubenton’s
  • Whiskered
  • Barbastelle
  • Brown Long-eared
  • Bechstein’s

Bat Sounds. Using a bat detector and listening to their sounds, and the unnerving roaring and growling noises of  other night-time insects is quite a different experience of nature.

We spent probably less than an hour there but managed at least 5 different species. Here are 4 of them. Hope I got the species right. Quite something on close views:

Bechstein’s Bat  a rare species in Britain

Brown Long-eared Bat. Above 2 photos – quite a looker!


Barbastelle Bat : another rare one in my home country

Whiskered Bat– I think that’s right for this one?

Nils van Duivendijk enjoys the very bizarre sounds

A mist net is set up on the edge of a small woodland lake. So many wildlife wonders around and not enough time to do it all!

Of course we were forced to engage in other nocturnal activities, like a visit to this wine cellar followed by excellent meal and about 7 wine types needed sampling. This monster ‘keg’ was the largest in the cellar. The walls were amazingly covered in a mould which was essential to the temperature control.

1st summer Caspian Gull

Not Easy

Thanks to Steve Arlow, of ‘Birders Playground’ here is a 1st summer Caspian Gull  he photographed in Essex last weekend (21st July). He comments:

“It was small and rather short legged so presumably a female but note the extremely long neck when the bird was alert”

These are not easy, but can be done with practice.This time of year is good learning ground with possibilities such as juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls, immature Baltic Gulls and Caspian Gulls of all kinds of ages to look out for and practice on.

2nd Edition Memory Sticks

£10 including p and p

The First Edition sold out last Autumn. Over the winter I did a second edition for speaking events which included 6 new articles not on version one. There are  25 of these left – plus few kept back for prizes ;).

For Full List of 25 Original Articles click here (and scroll down)

6 New Articles:

  • Finding a Lanceolated Warbler
  • ID of first winter Daurian and Isabelline Shrikes
  • Black-headed and Red-headed Buntings in 1st winter plumage
  • Finding a Buff-bellied Pipit
  • The Arctic Norway Adventure
  • Pacific and Eurasian White-fronted Geese ID

To get your Birding Frontiers Memory Stick now with 31 top drawer articles

Simply send cheque for £10:00 (includes P & P) made payable to ‘Birding Frontiers’ and send to the address below. Make sure you include your name and address when sending the cheque. Send to:

Birding Frontiers

16, Daniel Hill Terrace,


Sheffield, S6 3JE

(or to make a direct bank transfer contact me)

“The Birding Frontiers memory stick is a tremendous resource if you have an interest in bird identification and problem solving with articles to suit every birders taste from gulls to geese and raptors to redstarts. Martin builds on the articles upon which the stick is based with updates and opinion so that the content gives you much more insight into the birding frontiers approach and opens up challenges to the reader to approach. The writing style is accessible allowing all levels to gain an appreciation of the problems and the possible solutions. An excellent addition to every birders library.”   James Spencer (more here)

Continental Black-tailed Godwit

Adult North Norfolk

Now is the time and North Norfolk, one of the best places to see continental Black-tailed Godwits. Last July I had excellent tutorial seeing an unringed adult and Nene washes ringed adult, both in North Norfolk. From this summer, Jonathan Farooqi writes:

Dear Martin,
Your recent article on limosa Black-tailed Godwits came in very useful in identifying a Black-tailed Godwit I found at Titchwell on the 9th of June. The fact that it was ringed helped as well! We discovered that it was ringed as a chick on 05/05/1999 at the Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire. It returned to its natal site to nest during 2002, 2003 and 2004. It was also seen on 06/06/2010 at Titchwell. I’ve attached a photo of it that I took which you might like to see.
 Have a nice summer,
Jonathan Farooqi

adult Continental Black-tailed Godwit, Titchwell RSPB reserve, 9th June 2012, by Jonathan Farooqi