Author Archives: Martin Garner

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit

Eastern Black Redstart

Andrea Corso has been in touch. Though he’s not on this special island,  but Ottavio Janni is. A couple of days ago was Ottavio’s first day on the island. Result: 1 Little Bunting, 4 Yellow-browed warblers and THIS Redstart.

Nice one Ottavio (all his photos). Looks a very good candidate for the eastern phoenicuroides. The buff fringes to wing coverts and the emergent black bib make it a first winter male.

I was a bit wary about the whiter looking fringes to secondaries but a scroll through photos and chat with Andrea seem to make it ok.

Remember this guy? These are stunning birds. Maybe more in NW Europe this autumn?

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Brünnich’s Guillemot off Flamborough

and Fly-by Records

Martin Garner

One week ago today, the weather was a bit more lively. Weather charts indicated strong to near gale winds (force 6-7) coming from the north. Seawatching!

A few shearwaters, a Blue Fulmar, ‘flocks’ of Great Skuas moving south and Pomarine Skuas in good numbers. Northward moving auks, mostly Razorbills with smaller numbers of Guillemots were the most visible feature. It wasn’t long before Lee J. called the first hoped-for Little Auk. Then I picked up another trailing a flock of the larger relatives. Around 9:15 I was now routinely checking the auk flocks when, in a closer range group (few hundred meters out) I picked out what looked like a ‘stick-on’ Brünnich’s Guillemot, hard to put into words but the whole look of the bird appeared spot-on for the species. The head pattern was the most eye-catching feature. I then immediately called for other observers to ‘get on this auk’. Then zooming the ‘scope up to see the head and bill better  I clocked a fat head, much more extensively dark then other auks with white throat patch surrounded by dark, but most importantly the head shape was long flat 45 degree angle into… no bill. At least the bill end came to point with slightly down wards tilt, so that the bill almost disappeared into this long slope on a fat head. All in a few seconds, so very quickly after the ‘get on the auk’ call- I yelled (something like) Brünnich’s , it looks like a Brünnich’s , it’s a Brünnich’s – with some considerable enthusiasm.

With 8 plus observers present, very windy conditions and auks spread out individually and in flocks over the sea it wasn’t going to be easy. The Brünnich’s was initially trailing a closer group of auks straight out- in full profile. As folk asked what to look for I shouted to look for the group of auks it was trailing and the distinctive head pattern. Unfortunately the bird then peeled off and I was now tracking it as a lone auk. Lee J and Dave T managed to get on to it though from their accounts after it was ‘going away’ with bill not fully visible but head pattern just discernible as well as the birds colour and shape “definitely  black and white and tubby looking with isolated white throat patch surrounded by dark“. It all happened rather quickly. No-one else got in it.

Vagrancy of Brünnich’s Guillemot in Europe

Read the paper by finders of Dutch fly-by HERE.

Read this paper on ringed Brünnich’s and their movements (with maps).

Data includes the SW migration of from breeding grounds in the North and North-eastern part of the WP.  Primarily young birds moving SW toward the NW Atlantic (off e.g. Newfoundland) in area north of Britain in October. Self-evidently northerly winds with the kind of reach to bring Little Auks into the North Sea (we had 7 on the 13th October and c 15 on 14th October) can also bring Brünnich’s  from the same vector.

Fly-by records in Europe

As of 2008 there were 7 accepted fly-by records in Sweden 1 in Denmark and subsequently  1 (photographed) in the Netherlands but none so far in Britain (what do they know that we don’t?)

This account of a fly-by in the Netherlands is a great read and they did mange a photograph. The same bird is written up in greater details in Dutch Birding 35:2 after it was accepted.


Below some of my shots of Brünnich’s Guillemots in the mouth of Varanger Fjord in March 2013. I have really studied them closely over 3 early spring seasons in succession. I actually think they look pretty darn distinctive with practice.

One of my question is I wonder if Razorbills can ever really show a very similar plumage to the typical winter pattern of in mid-October? Maybe though I am not aware of it.

Anyway enjoy the photos. Most shots chosen to convey the classic winter appearance of Brünnich’s . The odd Common Guillemot (arctic ssp. hyperborea) is alongside. Check out the fat heads, long sloping forehead, small pointed bill tip and white throat patches surrounded by black. The white throat patch can be variously larger and crisp white or smaller and sullied with some dark. First winter birds (most likely to reach the north sea in October) have small/ shorter bills than adults.

Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 11 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 15 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 4Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 14 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 13 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 12 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 4 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 1 Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 5

Brünnich's  and Common Guillemot side-by-side

Brünnich’s and Common Guillemot side-by-side

Brunnich's Guillemot in flight 6

some have a head pattern resembling winter plumaged Common Guillemot

some have a head pattern resembling winter plumaged Common Guillemot

some have a more yellow tomium stripe

some have a more yellow tomium stripe

and then they come back into summer plumage...

and then they come back into summer plumage…

The DVD – Premier Night – Saturday 25th October

Spurn Migfest


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When: Saturday 25th October 2014

What time: 6.30pm for pie and peas, then around 7:15 for special premier showing

Where: The Barn at Westmere Farm, Kilnsea (base camp for the migration festival)

How Much: £6.00 per person unless e.g. couple sharing one video

 No need to book. Just turn up. Bring a drink. See you there!



To launch the DVD we are having a special Premier Night on Saturday 25th October at Westmere Farm

Sue and Andrew Wells will host us once again with pies and peas at 6:30 pm (bring your own drinks) followed by the grand Premier starting around 7:15!

£6.00 gets you the whole evening that’s pies and please and your own very smart-looking copy of the DVD. For a couple sharing a DVD- it’s just £7.00 (that’s two pie and peas and one DVD)


Olive Tree Pearl

Palpita vitrealis and other migrant moths

Martin Garner

At last. Living now at the and of Flamborough Head I expected some interesting moths. Catches in my first few weeks have been poor. However no rain and some south-easterlies overnight on 16th-17th October spurred me on together with visiting birders next door. Only a few moths but what a selection! Thanks to Burnley’s Graham Gavaghan for his ID’s.

Best of the moths was the beautiful white and delicate micro moth called Olive Tree Pearl. Billed as a migrant that normally only reaches southern coastal counties in Britain- it is therefore very rare as far north as Flamborough.

Check out this bit of info on the species from UK Moths

Two more migrants included the scarce Rusty-dot Pearl and a couple of Rush Veneers. I thought Goldcrests crossing the North Sea was pretty staggering. These things crossing such large bodies of water. Well I am into the incomprehensible zone. Just wow.

Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis 1408

Olive Tree Pearl  Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014

Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014


Olive Tree Pearl  Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014

Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis. Flamborough 17th October 2014

This map below from the excellent Yorkshire Moths show the status of Olive Tree Pearl Palpita vitrealis in Yorkshire.


palpita vitrealis


Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis 1395

Some info on the species form UK Moths.

Rusty-dot Pearl Flamborough 17th October 2014

Rusty-dot Pearl Flamborough 17th October 2014

rusty dot pearl

Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella 1398

Rush Veneer, Flamborough 17th October 2014

Rush Veneer, Flamborough 17th October 2014

Better go switch the trap on…

Brünnich’s Guillemot

a quick comment

Martin Garner

It was me what picked this bird up 2 days ago (13th October) on a lively seawatch off Flamborough Head. Been meaning to blog about it, though somewhat nervously. It has however been a bit mad the last couple of days with lots to see here at Flamborough and a hacking of the web site to spice things up (apologies if you were affected by that).

The bird was seen by myself and less well by two other birders. More to come.

For now a Brünnich’s Guillemot in Varanger Fjord in March 2013. Not in flight.

Brunnich's in Varanger



Northern Treecreeper at Whitburn Coastal Park

13th and 14th October 2014

Thanks to Dave Foster who send photos yesterday afternoon soon after this bird was trapped by John Brown and Jason Thompson at Whitburn Coastal Park. It was re-trapped this morning. These images by Dougie Holden show a nice Northern Treecreeper. Some are even more obvious than this one, but nevertheless the big flaring white supercilium, bright white underparts with very little visible buff smudging in the nether regions and white scapular vanes make for a good ID. There have been a small number in Shetland so far this autumn but not heard of any others on the British East Coast.

More to come?

More on the separation of Northern Treecreeper and British and Continental Treecreepers in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN (of course!)

N Treecreeper Whitburn October 2014N Treeecreeper Whitburn October 2014

Siberian Chiffchaff

as the wind turns east

Martin Garner

It was already late in the day this afternoon with light beginning to fade. A few of us were hoping for some more views of the Radde’s Warbler. Walking back up the last hedge at Flamborough I heard a call. My mind flitted momentarily with a wader overhead (like Golden Plover) and tristis Chiffchaff. No not the wader. The cogs were whirring in the brain. It’s surely that familiar sound of a note perfect Siberian Chiffchaff.

Can’t remember declaring one on call before even seeing any kind of a bird. Eventually the pale warbler appeared- loverly!

More of these please.

(photos on high ISO in rapidly fading light)

siberian Chiffchaff 12 oct 14.b.jpg v siberian Chiffchaff 12 oct 14.d siberian Chiffchaff 12 oct 14a