Monthly Archives: May 2013

UK Butterflies Suffer Another Set-Back

With 2013 recording one of the coldest springs for 50 odd years, our British Butterflies have suffered a further set-back. Many have been late to emerge and our rarer species are now on the wing anything up to several weeks later than would be expected.

Butterfly Conservation have stated in an article I read recently, that the Pearl-bordered Fritillary did not emerge until April 27th (usually this species is on the wing by April 1st). The rare and endangered Wood White was first seen in early May (On the wing in 2012 by April 10th) and the Duke of Burgundy was only on the wing in late April, (up to three weeks later than 2012).


Grizzled Skipper


Pearl-bordered Fritillary


Duke of Burgundy


Wood White

2012 was a complete washout year and one of the worst years on record for our British Butterflies. Many species are in decline. How will they fare this year with such a cold spring? Lets hope  that the weather improves and they have a successful breeding season, in order for their ever dwindling numbers to show some signs of increase.


High Brown Fritillary

During 2012 the critically endangered High Brown Fritillary saw its population drop by 46% and the Marsh Fritillary by 71%. Populations of many butterflies and moths are depressing and species that were once common during the last decade or so are now showing dramatic reductions in their range & numbers. I can’t bear the thought of not seeing a Small Tortoiseshell grace our British Countryside.

For further reading see – Butterfly Conservation’s publication “The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013” and “The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland”.


Small Tortoiseshell

Asian Black-shouldered Kite in Turkey

Following the birds in Israel last 2 years this must represent the westermost record yet of the Asian form ‘vociferus’. Been around for a month or so in Turkey. Seems the first to clock these as Asian birds was Birding Frontiers team member, Dani Velasco. The 2nd Western Palearctic record?

Invitations to Birding Frontiers Stuff

Coming up.

Contact me here to find out more about any of the events below:

Digiscoping and photographySunday 9th June at Bempton photo flyer RSPB

Come and join us for spectacular scenery, great birding and chance to learn and polish up on one of our favourite aspects of birding. All levels of experience welcome! More HERE.

Lanzarote Pelagic – 27th-28th August 2013white-faced-storm-petrel-5

Special one-off. A handful of places available to join in pioneer seabirding. 2 Black-bellied Storm Petrels have now been seen at this time of year – never mind all the excellent ‘regulars’ -PETRELS = White-faced, Bulwer’s, Madeiran, Wilson’s, Storm. Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters. Sabine’s Gull and commonest Skuas being Long-tailed and Pomarine. Whales, Dolphins and Turtles thrown in and the hoped for Red-billed Tropicbird 🙂

fregetta-y-rabero-bfBlack-bellied Storm Petrel and Long-tailed Skua- from Lanzarote pelagic, August 2012

The Birdfair, Rutland – 16th-18th August 2013

News soon on stuff ‘Birding Frontiers’ at the Birdfair. Birdfair Website

Spurn Migration Festival – 6th-8th September 2013

The BIG New Event of the year. Worth getting in the diary now. More info coming soon. Spurn Bird Observatory.


ShetlandMay/June (that would be now!).

Meanwhile for the next 2 weeks I will be in Shetland guiding 2 groups with Shetland Nature. Hope to put up a few posts on sightings and stories.

red-necked-phalarope-w960-h800Red-necked Phalarope – one of Shetland’s spring specialities

Contact me here to find out more about any of the events above.

Flamborough catch-up

May 2013

Been a fun first May in Flamborough. I won’t return from Shetland until June so here, just a few highlights.


2013-05-21_150534Red-spotted Bluethroat– excellent find for Mark Thomas at Buckton Pond. Digiscoped at longer range in the wet- he trapped it later that evening.

2013-05-21_145742Plenty of flycatcher action with several Spotteds and Pied’s including this first summer male
Red-breastedFly Flamborough JB 19-05-2013This Red-breasted Flycatcher stayed mostly up in the canopy but John Beaumont secured a beautiful shot with his ‘tight Yorkshireman’ digiscoping set-up of old battleship grey Swarovski, home-made securing ring and Canon S95 (same one I use)

2013-05-21_145641same Red-breasted Flycatcher using DSLR- sometimes digiscoping wins even with small active birds.

garganey four4 (2 pairs) of Garganey together on Buckton Pond earlier in the month were a fine treat.

Osprey Holmes Gut 24.4.13This Osprey was a bonus flying past Homes Gut with a male Ring Ouzel flushed 2 minutes later.

Stonechat  hibernans May 2013 ThornwickFemale European Stonechat ssp. hibernans. Not rare. one of the pair on my daily walk but the subject of stuff I am writing at the mo.


Red-billed Tropicbird and August Pelagic

Lanzarote, late August.


The pioneering pelagics will be continuing off Lanzarote. Some old posts here  and here . I’ll be joining the guys Dani and Juan for a ‘Birding Frontiers’ special 2 day gig over 27th-28th of August. There are a few spare places.

Dani writes: “For the first time the plan is to take  2 sailing boats out to the Banco. and we will be staying overnight! That will be very exciting, as we will be able to chum in the late evening and early morning in the best areas, when there’s much more bird activity. I am really excited with it! We could probably give a couple of short lectures with photos, etc…the day before, and maybe some birding in the island the day after.”

For now I’m wowed by Juan’s photos of Red-billed Tropicbird around the harbour from which we sail… Guess I am hoping they are ‘gettable’ in August.







All photos above by Juan Sagardia, Lanzarote, May 2013

Eastern Grasshopper Warbler – are they do-able in the hand?

Now that I’ve rediscovered the login details for the BF site, here’s another bird from Shetland, a Grasshopper Warbler trapped last weekend (11th May) in my garden in the south mainland.



I was chuffed with my first locustella in the garden – looking forward to the next species (and hoping it won’t be too long). The next day I caught it while I had the nets open for migrants in general. When I got it back to the ringing bench I was surprised to find that it was surprisingly short-winged. Plumage-wise it didn’t look like anything other than a fairly standard spring gropper but I rebagged it and went to check the critical biometrics in the BB paper on Eastern Grasshopper Warbler by Paul Harvey and Brian Small – read it here.

I measured the key features: wing 60.5, tail 55, tail/wing thus 0.91, tail graduation 20.0. P2 fell level with P4, and P4 was slightly emarginated. All of which means that it looks better for straminea, if not conclusively so (proportionately, it’s very long-tailed for a small naevia; and both the tail/wing ratio and the tail graduation measurement are close to or beyond the limit for naevia in the various sources given in the BB paper). Paul Harvey nipped down the road and checked my measuring.


Following the bird on Fair Isle last autumn, which was confirmed as straminea by DNA analysis, some lab work on the one flank feather I found in the bird bag afterwards is going to be the acid test for this bird too.

If it proves to be just a nominate gropper, it does raise the question of how useful the biometrics are, and suggests that all you can reasonably do without a DNA sample is identify the extremes – i.e. that a large majority of straminea might go unproven, even in the hand. All of which reinforces the cautious approach that the authors of the BB paper took I guess.