Monthly Archives: November 2012

Today’s Gulls in Sheffield

30th November 2012

Ol’ Andy Deighton set the ball rolling t’other day. He found a loverly adult Caspian Gull. The new ‘spot’ for loafing is on waste ground in the middle of the former industrial heartland. You have to negotiate looking through metal fencing or (for short- arsed me) stand tiptoe on nearby wall. But its worth it.

This afternoon amoung the argies’ (argentatus) of all ages – some no doubt from Varanger, a few highlights could be found:

Adult Caspian Gull

Caspian Gull adult Neepsend 30.11.12Adult Caspian Gull, Neepsend, Sheffield, 30.11.12. This bird also had nice long white tongue on p10 and just looked gorgeous. A wee video of the same bird having a good burp:

2nd winter Caspian Gull

All the plumage is bang -on including little pale mirror on p10. It just looks incredibly short-legged. The belly feathering is somewhat droopy-looking. Any challenges on the ID?

Caspian Gull 2cy c Sheffield 30.11.12

Caspian Gull 2cy Sheffield 30.11.122nd winter Caspian Gull, Neepsend, Sheffield, 30.11.12.

1st winter Yellow-legged Gull

I think these are still largely overlooked, inland, in the UK, in winter… Can you see why it is one?

Yellow-legged Gull michahellis b 1cy Neepsend 30.11.121st winter Yellow-legged Gull, Neepsend, Sheffield, 30.11.12.

update 2.12.12. As some folk questioned the identity of the 1st winter michahelis above, here a video of the same bird. 3 more showing various aspects of the bird on the same channel on YouTube


JNA5 Lesser Black-backed Gull

LBB  Gullb JNA5 Neepsend 30.11.12Adult intermedius LBB Gull. This guy’s an old friend.  Now over 13 years old, hatched in southern Norway in 1999. Read more about him/her here

Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull – JX261

GBB Gull juv 1Juvenile GBB Gull ring number JX261 photographed at Neepsend, Sheffield on 3oth Nov. 2012, but from where?…

Fast track Update

Thanks to very swift response from Morten Helberg (also a collaborator on the Arctic Gullfest) we know this juv. GBB Gull was ringed on 6th August 2012 and has traveled 2206 km to reach urban Sheffield. See Morten’s comments below.  It was ringed here. Scroll back on the map to see where it is. Very cool.

Pipits, Pipits, Pipits

Shetland, Autumn 2012

You never know what’s wandering through the long grass… This is an Olive- backed Pipit which gave wonderfully close views in Hestingott, South Mainland on our first morning.

Never the same. I look forward to each autumn on Shetland. Because you never know…This year the weather was tough but the Shetland Nature groups tougher (really!). You ask ’em. We had a lot of fun. highlights for both groups seem to be, in no particular order:

  • The hunt – the chance to work as a team, hunting and finding our own rarities
  • Sharing in pioneering ID discoveries – live!
  • Seeing a host of really rare birds
  • Having a whole island to ourselves
  • Keeping our lively lists from trip totals to ‘seen from the van’
  • Gaining experience of bird families like many types of pipits or almost ‘all the redpolls’
  • Unbeatable moments like finding Yellow-browed and Barred Warbler in lashing rain or when a Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll landing on our van

Pipits were well represented  in autumn 2012.

My first morning with RR at the south end. Whatever lies ahead on a Shetland birding experience – it always comes good!

Soon after leaving Sumburgh head we found this Olive- backed Pipit at Quendale (more here). Having thoroughly thrashed around Quendale Burn we briefly each saw ‘bounding pipit’ on the return leg. My view was better- flying away, no call. Surely a ‘Richard’s type’ but not enough. A Richard’s Pipit was found 2 days later in the same area by Dave Fairhurst…

to compare with the soft pastel tones of the Olive-backed, the occasional Tree Pipit helped our learning both plumage and calls. this one was at Valyie, Unst.

One of the ‘top’ rarities this year was this Pechora Pipit which all of the first group saw well at Norwick, Unst. Photos by jammy finder (it was meant for us!) and Unst resident, Mike Pennington.

Making up for last year’s wounds Roger R. went a found a Buff-bellied Pipit on Rerwick Beach, which took us a couple of goes, but we finally got it. guys very happy after new bird, well seen, and without hoards of other birders.

Less buttery and more beautiful rich peachy-buff underneath: Buff-bellied Pipit. More on Roger’s find here

Buff-bellied Pipit on Rerwick Beach. Roger’s text began with the word ‘BOOM’! No wonder.

A special day (all alone) on Fetlar, got us a couple of very nice finds including a Richard’s Pipit. Seen and (just about) heard briefly just before we had to dash for the boat, we opted to return and secure the ID. Part of the challenge of ‘the hunt’.

Richard’s Pipit, Houbie, Fetlar, October 2012. We then went on and found another Richard’s Pipit at Norwick, Unst a couple of days later. Cookin!

Tree Pipit again. not so rare but always good to see.

Full pipit tally: Meadow, Tree, Rock, Olive-backed (2), Richard’s (2-3), Pechora and Buff-bellied. Not bad!

Below: maybe we will find one of these in 2013? Do you know what it is?


The migration of birds during the spring and autumn months is very apparent. Most people look forward to the arrival of the cuckoo in spring and are aware of the large gatherings of Swallows and Martins in the autumn. A phenomenon that seems to take place just before their departure to warmer climates.

However, what seems to go by almost totally un-noticed is the migration of moths and these flights can be very impressive and just as awe-inspiring as the journeys made by birds.

Take the Silver Y for example, which is probably one of the most common and well-known migrant moths to Britain. It is so named due to the prominent white “Y” shaped marking within the central area of the forewing. (see above photo)

Almost completely without notice, the Silver Y arrives in Britain from Southern Europe during our spring and summer. Then during the autumn months, some individuals make the return journey back south. A remarkable statistic about this moth is that it can match, and in some instances beat, the speed of many small migrant birds, such as warblers and flycatchers.

According to some interesting information I have read recently, the Silver Y has a habit of waiting until the wind is blowing in the general direction in which it wants to migrate. It then flies up to an altitude of around 400 meters. By doing this it gains a tremendous momentum of speed from the tail wind and in some cases, gaining a real boost from the jet stream. This technique helps the Silver Y to cover a journey of 700 kilometres in around 8 hours of flying time. Putting this into some kind of perspective, that’s like travelling the full length of the UK in a single day. For such a tiny and delicate little creature, that is some achievement.

So, during next spring and summer, keep your eyes open for a Silver Y and when you see one, give some thought to how far it may have travelled.

The Workington Mediterranean Gull – an update

Back in January we published Chris Hind’s observations on the identification of a 4th winter Mediterranean Gull that has been returning to Workington Harbour. You can read the original article <HERE>

The same bird has returned in its 5th winter; Chris Hind gives us an update on his observations:

I commented on the Mediterranean Gull which has wintered at Workington in Cumbria since 2009 in a post on 12th January 2012.
This bird had dark lines on P8, P9 and P10 in its 3rd winter. It had a dark mark on P9 and dark line on P10 in its 4th winter – so I was keen to see the wing pattern in this , its 5th winter.
I photographed it on 21st November 2012. The wing is now typical of adult winter with a black line on P 10 only.

Adult winter Mediterranean Gull; Workington Harbour © Chris Hind

While I accept that these marks on P8 and P9 do not specifically age a bird, there has nevertheless been a progressive reduction in these marks with each successive moult in this individual.
Chris Hind

Your Comments are Needed by 30th November!

Saving our Moorland Birds

This is your opportunity to influence The National Trust’s High Peak Moors Vision and Plan Project. 

Local to us in Sheffield and highly vulnerable to mis-management of the countryside (e.g. see here), much of the Moorland is owned by the National Trust. Ordinary people can make a difference. This is a public consultation. Deadline for comments is 30th November so please act now.

read John Hewitt’s article below (originally published on the  Barnsley Bird Blog). Then read the plan, make a comment and hopefully make a difference. Thanks to Roy Twigg, John Hewitt and Ron Marshall

Red Grouse – Ron Marshall

This is probably a once in a lifetime chance to influence management of this critically important part of our area. It is vital that conservationists offer support and propose specific actions. We all know what goes on! So if you want to see more birds like this:

Hen Harrier – Ron Marshall

And this:

…………..Merlin – Ron Marshall

then please follow the link and take action

You can give your feedback online, or via a form that you can download from the website.
The deadline for comments is 30th November. to view the plan, or call 01433 670368 or email to be sent a copy through the post.

Birding in Israel

Reporting on The Hula Festival

The Hoopoe. Israel’s national bird, photographed yesterday fanning everything (crest, tail and wings) in the grounds of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament).

Only flew back in this morning from Tel Aviv after a really stunning 10 days. Surely Israel ranks as one of the THE top birding spots in the world. I have many stories to tell on the amazing Birds, the amazing Animals, the amazing Places and the amazing People.

For now a little flavour:

The Birds and the Light make taking photos a lot easier even for a duffer like me. This young male Hawfinch was at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory yesterday.

Smyrna Kingfisher. one of 3 species often seen side-by-side whose core ranges are the 3 major continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. Birds know no boundaries, and have already played a role in helping to bring peace initiatives in a divided region.

The sheer numbers and variety of species provides a genuine wildlife spectacle. These are White Pelicans which soar daily, in large flocks over the Agamon Park, Hula Valley.

The sight of up to 40,000 Cranes at dawn. Not only are the numbers staggering, it is the views of the birds that is unbeatable

Birds of Prey were amazing. Eagles,  Harriers, Kites, Vultures- and never-ending! The ID challenges and questions were there too, like: is this a Black Kite, a Black-eared Kite or what…?

and I personally made a big thing of looking at the Stonechats (4-5 different types occurring here)- with some surprising observations… What do you think this one was?

seeing this juvenile Masked Shrike was how Tristan Reid and I ended our visit. Now I need to start going through the pics and telling the stories!

For now a special moment for me was watched orange bellied Swallows (of the subspecies transitiva) over the Sea of Galilee at sunset. Stay tuned!