Monthly Archives: September 2013


1cy female

Called in at Spurn to catch up with the guys, and drop  in on the lovely Wells at Westmere Farm meant I also jammed in this Hawfinch which dropped in to the Warren.

It’s the sort that eats human flesh (with thanks for the personal sacrifice to Adam Hutt). It appears to be a first year (1cy) female.

Hawfinch Spurn 20.9.13

Hawfinch Spurn b 20.9.13

Hawfinch Spurn d 20.9.13

Hawfinch Spurn e 20.9.13

Hawfinch Spurn c 20.9.13


White-faced Storm Petrel: Juvenile plumage

Rarely photographed

by Martin G.

One of the less headline making observations on our Lazararote pelagic in August was of the first apparent JUVENILE White-face Storm Petrel seen on these trips. Do you remember when they were called the mythical sounding ‘Frigate Petrel’? It was alongside a worn adult type and both fed in-between our 2 boats.

Below –  photo showing the 2 the apparently different ages classes together. First time captured on camera?

ad and juv White faced petrel aug 13 2

apparent worn adult (left) and juvenile (right) ‘Frigate Petrels’, off Lanzarote, August 2013. Martin Garner

Which taxa?

There are 2  forms described for the North Atlantic, though it’s debated whether they are valid or not. I found the literature a little conflicting in describing differences. I also couldn’t resolve in my mind which population a fresh juvenile in August would have come from. Suggestions welcome.

I checked with other’s on our boat and Johannes Dag Mayer and Florien Straub (thanks guys!) both got shots of what seems to be the same juvenile:


White-faced Storm Petrel DJ 3 (1 von 1)

White-faced Storm Petrel DJ 5 (1 von 1)

White-faced-9747Above apparent juvenile White-faced Storm-petrel off Lanzarote, August 2013 by Johannes Dag Mayer and Florian Straub.

To finish off some beautiful photos of a White-faced Storm Petrel showing typical wacky feeding mode from the same trip and captured by Johannes. See more of Johannes photos on his Flickr stream >>>HERE<<< (worth clicking on photos below to see larger sizes 🙂

White-faced-9914 JDM


White-faced-9927 JDM.


First winter Caspian Gull at Flamborough

and 1cy Yellow-legged Gull…

by Martin G

POSTSCRIPT: Now 2 first year Caspian Gulls on outer head at Flamborough (5:00 pm on 19th Sept.)

…and the first Northern ‘argentatus’ Herring Gull of the autumn. Fearful of being type caste 🙁 , I have nevertheless (with so few migrants around in last couple of days) taken to watching ‘other things’.

A near adult (sort of 3rd summer to 4th winter) type Herring Gull I saw yesterday (18th Sept) was notable for having dark/ blackish isolated large spots on the tertials. 3 obviously ‘spotted tertials’. A weak brown wash over the greater coverts and in flight a few tiny isolated black spots in the tail feathers. Such sub/near adults with isolated black tertial spots are worthy of closer scrutiny: viz American Herring Gull. I got RB onto the bird before it flew off. Views were poor, distant and mostly asleep lying down. Curious to follow it up and at least learn something I revisited the same field mid morning to drop straight on to a 1st winter Caspian Gull. RB soon got it before flying. Later on we picked out a first winter Yellow legged for added value and an adult (still moulting outer primaries) humongous looking Northern argentatus type, which Brett R. ad seen a couple of days earlier.

Gulls do have a way of providing birding entertainment when the more popular stuff is out-of- town.

Video of the Caspian Gull is >>> here <<<  

1cy Caspian Gull Flamborough 19.9.13

1cy Caspian Gull, 19th Sept. Flamborough. Light poor and it’s raining. Not ideal for photography!

and the young Yellow-legged:

1cy michahellis flaamborough 19.9.13


Spanish Digiscoping


with Justin Carr

Following on  from his more detailed posting, here are some of Justin’s digiscoped shots from Spain this August. He gets  stunning results with his combo using a micro four thirds camera.

To read full details of how he gets his photos go  >>>here<<<

His current set up: Panasonic GH2 with 20mm lens on a Swarovski 80mm HD with 30x wide angle lens using Swarovski’s DCB1 bracket plus hahnel combi tf wireless remote.











To read full details of how he gets his photos go  >>>here<<<

Barolo Shearwater

“get on… this… small shearwater!”

the other boat

The other boat- do you know  the geezer with the wacky hat, perched next to mast and looking through bins? This was his best ever pelagic: “Never seen anything good on a pelagic” said he as we set sail.

We thought it was over all over. Late afternoon and we were only couple hours off docking back in La Graciosa. Nevertheless the sight of an ‘at sea’ Eleonora’s Falcon chasing a small bird- probably a Grey Phalarope was till startling enough. Until one Marc Hughes sat next to me released a nervous stream of words: “get on….this…. small shearwater”.

He never said “Is this a Manx”, ” Look at this funny Manx”- etc. etc. On clocking the bird- Manx Shearwater never even entered the thought process. Once again sharp-eyed Dani called it large: BAROLO! Unfamiliar blunt whirring wings/ rapidly flapping (much more so than Manx), whole different jizz, and then as it turned that open ‘white face’. Amazingly Johannes got some photos of the bird as we sped along and the bird twisted and turned. Very cool. The first Barolo Shearwater on the Lanzarote Pelagics- a species in series decline with Canaries population on verge of extinction.

Marc Hughes sat next to me on our wee yacht, knifing through blue sub-tropical seas, shares the moment (sorry ’bout the wind noise):



Barolos_Shearwater-0444Barolo Shearwater– all photos by Johannes Dag Mayer (with thanks). The photo directly above nicely shows 2 rows of white-tipped coverts ( greater and median) a key feature if you get to see or photograph them.

See more on Johannes photos on his Flickr stream >>>HERE<<<

gang on lanza

Huge thanks again to  Juan and Dani who set the whole thing up, here with my travelling companions from North Wales, Rob Sandham and Marc Hughes.


Another great wee adventure on the Lanzarote Pelagics…


Fea’s or Desertas Petrel?

by Martin G.

2nd or 3rd photographed record for Spain

One off the early highlights  on our 2 day Lanzarote Pelagic in late August 2013: a Pterodroma. I think it might also be one of the first ever seen in Canarian waters. Around mid morning after an overnight sail on our 2 ocean- going yachts we were 50 miles north around the Banco de La Concepción. I picked up a ‘different seabird’. Skinny winged and rather small but rolling/ shearing high. Already at a little distance and flying away from us I called a nervous ‘Look at This’. Dani Lopez-Velasco who knows these much better than me quickly locked on and confidently verbalised my suspicions: PTERODROMA!

Thanks to radios the guys on the other boat also got on it, and more remarkably Tony Blunden actually got some photos.

our boatsView from ‘my boat’ across to the other guys. Two 12 berth boats at sea for 44 hours. Party on!

Initial views of the Pterodroma, it looked  skinny winged and rather small and seemed to show some white in the underwing. We surmised perhaps it was a Zino’s. However Toni’s photos do capture the jizz well but amazingly show rather large bill, so a Fea’s/ Desertas seems better call. Of course these things are not easy!

Wind in our sails feels great but makes for bad sound recordings. Marc Hughes’ narrative at lunchtime of the first day gets better as you listen 🙂


Below- the bird in question. All photos by Tony Blunden (with thanks!)





2013 – A Butterfly Revival

According to a number of recent publications, the long hot summer of 2013 has helped to revive many of our species of British Butterfly. The recent Big Butterfly Count that was conducted by Butterfly Conservation during the summer, recorded four times the number of butterflies this year as during the same period in 2012.

More than 44,000 people took part, recording a staggering 830,000 butterflies. Not surprisingly, due to the extreme numbers that I saw during the summer, the whites did very well with both Large White & Small White numbers up by more than 300% on 2012.

In top place was Small White, with Large White second and Peacock in third place, quiet a surprise. The Small Tortoiseshell that has suffered in recent years, seems to have made a come back and came in at sixth place in the rankings. Some 15 of the 21 Big Butterfly Count species increased in numbers this year and 12 were up by at least 50%.  Although there are still many species that are struggling, it is fantastic news to see that some of our British Butterflies have bounced back in such a way, thanks mainly to a hot and sunny summer. Long may it continue.

With late autumn approaching, there is still time to observe several varieties of our favourite winged insect and if we get any warm southerly winds, that often bring a few rare migrant birds to our shores, keep a look out for one or two rare butterflies. How about a Queen of Spain Fritillary or a Short-tailed Blue, maybe on the Isles of Scilly in October. Clouded Yellow can still arrive in good numbers in favourable weather conditions.

The Isles of Scilly has a sub-species of Speckled Wood which is on the wing throughout October and in the warm autumn sunshine there should be plenty of Red Admiral and Peacock, maybe Comma and Painted Lady and the odd Small Copper to brighten up the day and enjoy before the approach of winter.


An immigrant Painted Lady at Spurn during the weekend of 25th August, when there was a huge fall of  migrant birds along the East Coast of England. Records of Painted Lady often coincide with bird migration – Tony Davison©


There were small numbers of Painted Lady at Spurn on 25th August 2013. Tony Davison©


The Peacock  can be on the wing into October if we have an “Indian Summer”.


This Red Admiral was feeding on Buddleia at Spurn Point. This could also have been a migrant. An incredible record of  a Plain Tiger, a first record for Britain of this stunning African species, was also recorded at Spurn during this period of high bird migration activity from Southern Europe. . Tony Davison©


A migrant Queen of Spain could easily turn up in late autumn. Tony Davison©


Look out for Clouded Yellow on the south coast & Isles of Scilly in October. Tony Davison©


The rare Short-tailed Blue can often arrive on the south coast during the autumn. This one has lost it’s “Tails” making identification rather tricky. Tony Davison©


The Small Tortoiseshell has seen somewhat of a recovery this year. This one was photographed at Spurn during the weekend of 25th August. There were many on the wing at this time. Tony Davison©


Small Tortoiseshell photographed in Dorset during early September, again there were many on the wing enjoying the late hot summer sunshine. Tony Davison©


The Isles of Scilly has a sub-species of Speckled Wood – Pararge aegeria insula, which has more orange markings than the nominate and other sub-species P.a.tircis that occur in BritainTony Davison©