Category Archives: 16) Dippers, Waxwings to Accentors

A Grand Day Out in Yorkshire


Martin ST 1

Adult male Surf Scoter. Filey Brigg. Martin Standley. To see more of Martin’s awesome pics go to Martin’s East Yorkshire Wildlife Bog.

640RSPB & Biotope tour poster MGA thoroughly invigorating and inspiring evening had already been had last night (Friday) at the Flamborurgh Golf Club. So let’s  have a proper mañana day.

Last night’s gig went well:

After inspiring us at the soirée, the RSPB’s Graham White (Chief Ecological Officer) and Tormod Amundsen (Biotope) came by this a.m. after hearty local ‘Big Breakfast’ and we headed to Water Lane. Bingo! The adult Greenland White-front was there and then flew  off and then  was there again. Which stimulated a nice local twitch for several regulars who had not yet seen this first record for the Head.

Greenland wf MG 15th feb

The Adult Greenland White-front– and a source of some fascinating and disturbing issues in the species breeding biology.  P.S. Why is this a subspecies?

Local Twitch!

Local Twitch!


A hugely useful couple of hours with Graham explore the inspired work of John Beaumont’s team efforts at Thornwick as the new pool is raw and spring-action ready.



John Beaumont (Flamborough Bird Obs), Graham White (RSPB), Keith Clarkson (RSPB), Tormod Amundsen (Biotope) and Craig Thomas (FBO) planning and dreaming!

John Beaumont (Flamborough Bird Obs), Graham White (RSPB), Keith Clarkson (RSPB), Tormod Amundsen (Biotope) and Craig Thomas (FBO) planning and dreaming!

Back and home and a Patchtick in the garden- First Brambling seen this year at Flamborough. Even when photo crap, if it’s a tick…



Black-bellied Dipper

Post lunch ‘Smooth Phil’ called by and we headed over to to check out a taxon, unusually for me, which I have not encountered in Britain before. A lovely performing Black-bellied Dipper. Slung low in darkish cover on dull afternoon. It nevertheless showed marvellously.

Black-bellied Dipper  at Kelk Beck, Harpham, East Yorks. Photo by  Brett R. who pinned it down and passed on the gen.

Black-bellied Dipper at Kelk Beck, Harpham, East Yorks. Photo by Brett R. who pinned it down and passed on the gen.


Surf Scoter

Finally up to Filey Brigg for the hottie of the day, a newly found adult Male Surf Scoter.

Martin Standley and I had been messaging to try and get him on the Greenland White-front. Rather glad he gave up and went and photographed the scoter! You can see why:

More at Martin’s site East Yorkshire Wildlife Bog.

Surf+scoter+(1+of+10)ms ss

We didn’t go as close as Martin to the Surfer, viewing for the cliff top instead. Still amazes me where we have come and what we can even video from such a range…


Not the same but OK at de lonnnnnge range 🙂

surfer digi MG one

Gambell, Alaska in September 2014

Outstanding outpost for North American Birders

Paul Lehman

Paul’s been writing of rather gripping exploits once again on his favourite autumn patch on Gambell. And if you fancy an ID challenge there’s one of those giant Bean Geese thrown in to the mix. Of course it’s ‘carrier’ species isn’t the same as ours 😉  read on…

“We have all sorts of good photos of stuff this fall  both Asian and North American…

Red-flanked Bluetail. 30th September 2014. Gambell, Alaska. Paul Lehman

Red-flanked Bluetail. 30th September 2014. Gambell, Alaska. Paul Lehman

There has also been a slug of good birds farther to the south at the Pribilofs, also with excellent photos,  (things like Siberian Chiffchaff, Red-flanked Bluetail, Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Dusky Warbler, Jack Snipe, Garganey, Common Rosefinch, etc.–though not any great North American strays like we have had).

BTW,  we’ve had some very good Asian species this year (e.g., 2 Tree Pipits, Yellow-browed and 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Brown Shrikes, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Hobby, the goose, juvenile Red-necked Stints) and even some better North American waifs–which would obviously make big Eastern Palearctic news if someone ever saw them in Russia:  NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, Red-eyed Vireo, Mourning Warbler, Least and Alder Flycatchers, Rusty Blackbird, Townsend’s Warbler, etc.

Then on 30th September on the ABA blog:

“News from western Alaska, Paul Lehman and company found a number of noteworthy birds highlighted by an ABA Code 4 Red-flanked Bluetail and also including Rustic Bunting (3) and two Little Buntings (4), at Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island. Read more


Bean Goose Identification:

We found a Bean-Goose this afternoon (16th September), below Troutman Lake, flying by
with an Emperor Goose.  See one of my photos, attached. The bird was
HUGE–seemingly 1-1/2 times the size of the Emperor in both body bulk
and wingspan when observed in the field. And the bill shape looks

BIG Bean Goose with Emperor Goose. But which taxon  (or even which species?). 16 September 2014. Paul Lehman

BIG Bean Goose with Emperor Goose. But which taxon (or even which species?). 16 September 2014. Paul Lehman


juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman

juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman

juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman

juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman


Wood Warbler, 19th September 2014. Paul Lehman

Wood Warbler, 19th September 2014. 

Siberian Accentor, 19th September 2014. Paul Lehman

Siberian Accentor, 19th September 2014. Paul Lehman


Radde’s Accentor

Magical Moments 2013 #1

by Martin G.

This is the first in what will be a little eclectic set of birding memories from 2013. No way will I get all of the special moments of 2013, in before the New Year cometh. These are a just a few. As much as anything it’s the sense of gratitude I feel for the people in our lives, the opportunities I have and the ongoing wonder of nature that still grabs me (especially with a biggish birthday looming). My memories are nearly always the birds and the people

Radde's Accentor Mt hermon  15th nov 2013 dWhat: Radde’s Accentor Prunella ocularis

Who: Yael Lenhardt. Running across the dry scree-like terrain in clear excitement. What on earth had she retrieved in ringing bag from a nearby copse of trees. Her first loud, breathless words were… in Hebrew.  Which left Mick Cunningham and Sander Bot and I, even more on the edge of seats. Finally the word came through Radde’s!

Where: Mt Hermon, Northern Israel, as part of the Hula Valley Bird Festival

When: 15th November 2013

Why: I have never seen any rare Accentors before. So apart from book illustrations and photos I didn’t really a have a sense of what, say, Siberian and Black-throated Accentors would look like. Now I do! Radde’s is closest to Siberian in appearance but with white (not yellow) supercilium and grey (not browner upperparts). Very cool! Sander was also keeping a world bird list during 2013 and he was on 999 when we arrived in the very early hours at Mount Hermon that morning. The Radde’s had been seen few days earlier coming to drink at the pool. It was an outside chance. A very cool 1000th  bird species for the year for Sander.

Radde's Accentor Mt hermon  nov 2013 1

Radde's Accentor Mt hermon  15th nov 2013 c

Radde's Accentor Mt hermon  15th nov 2013 b

Yoav Perlman nov 13 mt HermonYoav Perlman tried hard to get us the Radde’s first time around on his excellent Mount Hermon tour. Here is his cool-as-you-like James’s Bond impression on the Mount Hermon chair lift. He is also a friend I am grateful to know.

15th nov hermon riningersYael Lehnardt and Yosef Kiat very hard-working and proficient ringers. Grateful for their time and input.

early on MOunt Hermon nov 13It was unbelievable early start- but so glad we went for it.


The Hebridean Hedge Sparrow

Irish, Scottish and British Dunnocks

by Martin

Love those English bird names in ‘The Handbook’. Credit to  Meinertzhagen also whose deeds of  infamy are usually more familiar. He catalogued the different Dunnocks of the Outer Hebrides and the Handbook records ‘Birds obtained in Antrim. Nov. 1934. appeared to be migrants of this form’. In fact they were the resident birds of Ireland also. BWP gives a more up-to-date picture of the various forms of Dunnock (or Hedge Sparrow when I started) which occur in Ireland and Britain:

 P. m. hebridium (Meinertzhagen, 1934), Ireland and Outer and Inner Hebrides; occidentalis (Hartert, 1910), eastern Scotland, England, and Wales, grading into hebridium in western Scotland and into nominate modularis in western France; nominate modularis (Linnaeus, 1758), central and northern Europe, from central France, Netherlands, and Norway east to Ural mountains, south to Alps, central Yugoslavia, and central Rumania

Dunnock n Ireland jan 2013 dGaelic Hedge Sparrow? ssp hebrideum Since it occurs across Ireland as well, can’t really call it a Hebridean Dunnock, so how about  a Gaelic one (or even Meinertzhagen’s Dunnock??!) ? Whichever, I photographed this one in Antrim (where they were first recorded !) in January 2013. Rich almost rusty brown tones give then darker upperparts than the British birds, the colour also very apparent on the breast sides.

BWP again describes them thus:

Irish and Hebridean race, hebridium. Upperparts much darker than nominate modularis, with rich rufous tone to brown plumage and streaks blacker; head and underparts darker grey, with almost purple tone on head; belly less white. (3) British race, occidentalis. Intermediate in appearance between hebridium and nominate modularis…

British race: occidentalis

Dunnock 2 Conway RSPB Jan 2013

dunnock 4Dunnock 5British Dunnock, ssp occidentalis, Conway RSPB reserve, January 2013

Dunnock n Ireland jan 2013 eGaelic Hedge Sparrow? ssp hebrideum. Co. Antrim, N. Ireland, January 2013

Waxwing Show-off’s

On the School Run

Last couple of mornings have enjoyed between 70- 90 Waxwings on the school run (Crookes, Sheffield). Just dropping Abi off, we have to walk the last part. Shame! Eating snow from house roofs, aerial berry picking and  generally looking superb.

All photos, 9 December 2010. Waxwings, Crookes

Record Snow Fall

Snow way!

Out street yesterday (1st Dec), with Geoff clearing and my Abi looking on- Deep Snow Baby!

38 cm recorded at the weather station in Weston Park. Just up the road from my house. Makes sense. Sharon (Mrs G), Emily and Abi have never seen snow this deep in their lives. Only neighbours over 60 years old can remember similar snow depths. Interesting birding just walking about locally.

A flock of 200 plus Waxwing on 30th Nov- amazing local record just off the end of our road

Just small part of flock of over 200 birds– feeding on berries at the back of my office in Upperthorpe.

This was one of the BIG FLOCK- had a funny little cotton wool white patch on the lower belly. Shame it wasn’t on the undertail coverts!

15 Waxwing today (2nd December) over Infirmary Road.

2 Snipe over, 1 Lapwing and 1 Skylark (with Redwing) all over my area in  the last couple of days

When common birds look rare. Female Blackbird wanting to be a ‘Sibe’. One of these fooled some birders on Scilly in 1984- anyone remember?

aaaaaaaCollared Dove hiding from the snow. Pretty Pink lookin’.

Had to cancel the London Gull Day due to weather. Watching this his sub-adult  Scandinavian Herring Gull in driving snow on tin roof near Mecca Bingo said it all.

Benches at Graves Park Lake (by Weston Park) where an all time record of 38 cm of Snow was recorded today.

Waxwings -over the house


Getting in the car just before 9 am this morning, 10 Waxwing flew over the house. I have seen them once here before though non have yet landed in the garden. With some 300 in the Sheffield area, it’s going to be a trilling winter.

Popped over to Herries Road where a flock of 30 were feeding among industrial  busyness and in the shadow of Sheffield Wednesday football ground, some might say they have style in choosing where to feed. Non yet report near the United ground then?

1st winter Waxwing, Herries Road Sheffield 19th November 2010

Thought I might try to get photos showing ad male/female and first winter of both in identifiable plumages. What’s this one? Well seems to be a first winter- no white curving round tip/inner web of primaries, and yellow outer fringe is white on the longer primaries. 4 ‘red waxy tips (which spawned the word ‘shocking pink’- allegedly) means I don’t know if its male of female as both can show this many. It’s quite bright in parts so my wild guess is it’s a male.