Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Olinguito – Discovery of a New Species of Mammal

and my small part in the story

by Steve Blain

I know this isn’t ‘Mammal frontiers’ but I thought this would be of interest.

Mark Gurney and I photographed this ‘Olingo’ while birding in the Tandayapa Valley in Ecuador in July 2005. At the time we didn’t think much of it, apart from it being a nice encounter with a rarely seen mammal on the west slopes of the Andes. In the two years I lived in Ecuador working as a bird guide, I only saw this one Olingo. Seeing any mammals was a rare thing indeed, especially on the heavily populated western slopes. The discovery, with Mark’s photo of the same individual is reported here.

Our ‘Olingo’, but actually an ‘Olinguito’ – the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years! Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador, July 2005. Digiscoped with a Contax U4R, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x zoom.

However, a few months later Mark put an image of our ‘Olingo’ online. It wasn’t long before he received an email from the Roland Kays saying that it appeared to be of an undescribed species they were working on – Amazing!  They’d hoped the research would be complete by the end of 2006.

That was the end of the trail and Mark hadn’t heard a thing since. That was until last week. It was only when Mark popped his head around my office door asking me to look online that I knew of all the excitement surrounding the mammal we had seen back in 2005. So the ‘Olingo’ we had seen whilst birding at Tandayapa wasn’t an Olingo at all, it was an Olinguito!

Olinguito, Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador, July 2005. Digiscoped with a Contax U4R, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x zoom.

I was very grateful to be in to digiscoping and to play my small part in its discovery. If it hadn’t been for my Swaro scope, and my little Contax U4R then I probably wouldn’t have ever got these images – maybe some of the best ever taken of this new-to-science species. I even managed a short video clip if it looking at us then scooting up a tree.

A couple more images can be found here.

Olinguito, Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador, July 2005. Digiscoped with a Contax U4R, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x zoom.


Juvenile Caspian Gull

Scary one- 25th August 2013

Steve Arlow sent these photos of a  juvenile Caspian Gull from last week in Essex, including shots of the distinctive long call posture. As Steve points out, this is still a rare plumage to see in the U.K. It’s rather unusually heavily marked over the under and upper tail coverts.

08-25-2013 Caspian Gull juvenile Pitsea Tip WEB 089

08-25-2013 Caspian Gull juvenile Pitsea Tip WEB 119

08-25-2013 Caspian Gull juvenile Pitsea Tip WEB 133

08-25-2013 Caspian Gull juvenile Pitsea Tip WEB 054


Red-billed Tropicbird and friends

off Lanzarote

by Martin

I am away this week with friends. This is where I will be 🙂

Reporting when we get back. 2 days and 2 night at sea. Not been done before. A frontier birding experience all round!

Some old posts with past highlights: here  and here .


The pioneering pelagics will be continuing off Lanzarote. I’ll be joining the guys Dani and Juan for a ‘Birding Frontiers’ special 2 day gig over 27th-28th of August.

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

What They Are Saying…

About Britain’s First Migration Festival…

As well as all the events already publicised HERE  there will also be:

* an multi-artist exhibition in the old lighthouse (and a chance to go right up to the top!)

* active radar station monitoring bird migration- one off the only ones in the country

* bat migration studies using bat detectors and dusk time bat walks


See You There!

“Spurn is THE place in Britain for bird migration, overhead, in the bushes, on the sea and in the bird ringing room – learning and admiration of the sheer spectacle go hand in hand. The Migration Festival promises to be electric from dawn until dusk, see you there!”

Mark Thomas, RSPB

“Spurn is one of my favourite sites and a premier bird migration hot-spot – I have been privileged to enjoy visible migration there on a massive scale, and also some of the top-class rarities that such movements can bring. This festival definitely has the potential to be one of the key events in British birding calendar.”

Dominic Mitchell, Managing Editor, Birdwatch magazine and

Spurn is synonymous with migration so there’s no better place to celebrate and explore this amazing aspect of birds’ lives! With migration is at the core of what BirdTrack is all about it’s fantastic to be involved in the inaugural Spurn Migration Festival. Many other BTO projects such as Cuckoo and Nightingale tracking and our fieldwork in Africa are revealing some of the mysteries of migration and the festival will be the perfect way to inspire and engage birders with these mysteries!  

Nick Moran, British Trust for Ornithology

Spurn Migration Festival is getting right to the heart of what makes birdwatching so endlessly fascinating. There’s nowhere better than Spurn to appreciate the sheer scale of the ongoing miracle of migration, something that touches every aspect of the birdlife you see around you. Go along to be educated and inspired by one of the natural world’s great spectacles, and by some of the experts dedicated to unravelling its mysteries.

Matt Merritt, Birdwatching Magazine

“We are delighted to be involved in Britain’s first Migration Festival, a great and pioneering initiative. We hope to provide a helpful and encouraging environment for visiting birders keen on learning more about digiscoping”

The Swarovski Optik UK team.

Richard and Steve of Yorkshire Coast Nature are excited to be part of the first-ever Migration Festival in the UK at Spurn. They are looking forward with great enthusiasm to the many and varied walks and talks, workshops and demonstrations not just about birds but about moths and other insects, plants, fossils and lots more.

Yorkshire Coast Nature

See You There!

For more on how to book a day or weekend ticket and accommodation. Go HERE


Rare Seabirds at Spurn

Long-tailed Skua, Sabine’s Gull and a breach migfest-logo-2

“Highlighting some of the excellent seabird passage that goes on each year in late August/early September- here’s a post from 2 years ago that gives a flavour in advance of the Migration festival … “

(from 2011)

NW winds brought great seabirds past Spurn and especially past my caravan. Background has included Sooty and Manx Shearwaters each morning and evening, lots more Arctic Skuas, many terns including several Blacks and a few Great Skuas. Top spot goes to a juvenile Long-tailed Skua which flew close inshore off the Garner caravan 2 night ago. The last night (29th August) an adult Sabine’s Gull flew south. Fantastic! Overnight also though, the road south of the warren was breached by the high swells and high tide. It took out a chunk of sand dune and ripped up the road. Check it out, photo from this morning (30.8.11):


Shetland is coming up at the end of September . Still some places available on Taiga Flycatcher week! I met one of our clients from last year at the Birdfair and as soon as we meet he was reminded how much fun we had a booked again. Go on- take the plunge!

more from Spurn ‘island’ this morning

Spurn Migration Festival. Past Glories!

6th to 8th September over the years

by Andy Roadhouse

Here is a brief summary of the last 10 years on the dates of the migration festival. This will give you a feel for what has happened on these dates and shows the diversity of bird activity at Spurn no matter what the weather conditions. As you can see, something good has turned up or there has been good visible migration or sea-watching on every weekend – what will happen in 2013?


you can read the full account at:

………………………. >>> Spurn Bird Observatory <<<


Monday 6th

A brisk NE wind and misty and drizzle in the morning, had the thoughts there was going to be a good arrival of drift migrants or at least some seabirds on the move. But it never really happened, over the sea highlights were 2 Scaup, 24 Fulmars, 30 Arctic Skuas and 12 Little Gulls. Grounded migrants were few and far between: a Redstart, 4 Whinchats, a Wheatear, 2 Willow Warblers, a Goldcrest and 7 Pied Flycatchers. There was a lot of disappointment that it never happened, but conditions were remaining good over the next few days, so there was some anticipation.

Tuesday 7th

It was a bright and sunny start with a fresh NE wind and sea-watching started off the day, with better numbers than yesterday, with 10 Wigeon, 38 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 10 Red-throated Divers, 107 Fulmars, 3 Sooty and 11 Manx Shearwaters, 188 Gannets, 32 Arctic Skuas, 13 Bonxies, 316 Little Gulls, and 47 Kittiwakes.

After an hour or so, it became apparent that birds were starting to appear in the bushes and everyone split up and started searching for migrants, it wasn’t long before a Wryneck was found amongst the chats, warblers and flycatchers, and soon after a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Birds continued to arrive and be found throughout the day and by the end of the day migrant totals were 3 Wryneck, 2 Rock Pipit, 17 Robin, 16 Redstart, 49 Whinchat, 27 Wheatear, a Redwing, 6 Reed Warblers, 8 Lesser Whitethroat, 16 Whitethroats, 9 Garden Warblers, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, 21 Willow Warblers, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Red-breasted Flycatchers, 40 Pied Flycatchers. It was a satisfying day with plenty to show for all the effort put in.

Wednesday 8th

Another nice sunny day with a decreasing easterly wind. It was much the same as yesterday with many migrants moving on, but still a Wryneck and Red-breasted Flycatcher were still present as were good numbers of all the common drift migrants. New arrivals included a Short-eared Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Fieldfare.

While over the sea a Cory’s Shearwater flew south and 3 Sooty Shearwaters flew north. Other birds seen during the day included a Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and 4 Greenshank.


Tuesday 6th

A foggy start and a light SW to SE wind, very few new migrants had arrived but ones remaining from the previous few days included a Wryneck, Tree Pipit, 5 Whinchats, 9 Wheatears, 2 Garden Warblers, 7 Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, 6 Pied Flycatchers and 5 Siskins.

In the evening tern roost a Mediterranean Gull, 134 Sandwich, 760 Common and 4 Roseate Terns flew south.

Wednesday 7th

A gusty SW wind, kept migrants low but still included a Rose-coloured Starling and 2 Wrynecks and similar numbers of common migrants as the previous day. However, southerly passage was excellent, the best of which was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper which flew over the Narrows, but also a good selection of ducks, 6 Sparrowhawk, 2 Ospreys, 12 Kestrels, 82 Sand Martins, 4016 Swallows, 451 House Martins, 16 flava Wagtails, 64 Tree Sparrows and 195 Siskins.

The tern roost produced 3 Mediterranean Gulls and 7 Roseate Terns and a Pectoral Sandpiper was found at Beacon Ponds in the evening.

Thursday 8th

A much quieter day but still a nice spreading of common migrants and light passage of birds moving south including the first Pink-footed Geese of the year (102).


Wednesday 6th

A moderate SW-W wind, produced a few common migrants and also induced an excellent passage which included 125 Teal, a Marsh Harrier, an Osprey, 6 Kestrels, 3 Curlew Sandpipers, 21 Snipe, 150 Sand Martins, 4720 Swallows, 2700 House Martins, Tree Pipit, 228 Meadow Pipit, 67 flava Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, 41 Linnets and a Corn Bunting.

The sea produced a Sooty Shearwater, 38 Arctic Skuas, 3 Bonxies and in the evening tern roost there was a record 23 Roseate Terns, 10,000 Common Terns, 89 Arctic Terns and 17 Black Terns.

Waders present included a Little Stint, 24 Greenshank and a Wood Sandpiper.

Thursday 7th

Fresh northerlies meant more attention was spent sea-watching and produced 36 Red-throated Divers, 35 Fulmars, 30 Sooty Shearwaters, 18 Manx Shearwaters, a Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua, 78 Arctic Skuas, 16 Bonxies, 63 Little Gulls, 200 Kittiwakes, 5 Roseate Terns and a Black Tern.

Passage was reduced but did include a Hobby and waders present included 5 Curlew Sandpiper, a Ruff, 8 Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper.

Friday 8th

As the wind switched from northerly through to south-east during the day, it livened things up even more. The early morning northerlies meant it was sea-watching to start and although nothing out of the ordinary there were 1109 Fulmars, 37 Red-throated Divers, 50 Sooty Shearwaters, 36 Manx Shearwaters, 650 Gannets, 57 Arctic Skuas, 15 Bonxies and 16 Little Gulls.

However once the wind started to swing to the east, migrants started to appear, most notably a male Bluethroat at the Warren and a Common Rosefinch in Church Field, and an increase in common migrants – a Tree Pipit, a Redstart, 4 Whinchats, 22 Wheatears, a Garden Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, 15 Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, and 15 Pied Flycatchers.

Some light passage included a Common Buzzard and 400 Meadow Pipits.


Thursday 6th

A light NW wind veered NE in the evening. A day of light passage with very little out of the ordinary but a nice sprinkling of common migrants, a trickle of seabirds moving over the sea and a Little Stint on the Humber. Of moth interest was a Convolvulus Hawk-moth trapped in the moth traps.

Friday 7th

The wind veered back NW but still produced some reasonable passage including 8 Pink-footed Geese, a Hobby, 125 Swallows, 228 House Martins, 720 Meadow Pipits, 4 flava Wagtails,

Waders were in good numbers on the Humber with 40,000 Knot, 3 Curlew Sandpipers and 5 Greenshanks.

Saturday 8th

A light NW wind and veering NE by the afternoon. The day’s highlight was Spurn’s first SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER found by wader guru John Grist at Sammy’s Point! Grounded migrants were few and far between and passage included 149 Swallows and 600 Meadow Pipits.

Over the sea were 8 Fulmars, 42 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 18 Arctic Skuas, 1 Pomarine Skua, 1 Bonxie, 132 Little Gulls and 4 Puffins.

to read lots more details of falls, rare birds, seabird highlights and large-scale movements of the likes of Swallows and Meadow Pipits read the rest of this account at:

………………………. >>> Spurn Bird Observatory <<<


Spurn Migration Festival. Focus on:

Base Camp at Westmere Farm 

Less than 3 weeks to go to the Spurn Migration Festival and we are delighted with progress. So for those already booked either with a day ticket (Saturday/ Sunday) or with a whole weekend ticket, or for those thinking about booking and wondering  what to expect: here’s a picture of the ‘base camp’ at Westmere Farm.

Don’t miss the secret pond!

To book all the info is here and here.

For camping at Westmere Farm. Go here.

Enjoy the video. Please use you’re imagination a bit as it’s all in the process of being set up! 🙂

Westmere Farm gets ready