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From Flamborough Bird Obs: Welcome!

If you are visiting…


Flamborough. A very warm welcome from the Flamborough Bird Observatory if you have or are planning to visit this weekend or soon! We are keen to hear about your sightings too. If you see anything of interest please let us know. Twitter is a good way send a message to @YCNalerts or to @birdingfrontier or  text me, Martin Garner on 077899 82226

Yesterday (Saturday 12th April) besides Crag Martin and Tawny Pipit, there were Black Redstart, Mealy Redpoll, Ring Ouzel, Yellow and White Wagtails. Never mind the spectacle of thousands of breeding seabirds!

Lots more info on recent sighting >>> HERE<<<

Crag Martin, Thornwick Bay, Richard Willison

Crag Martin, Thornwick Bay, Richard Willison

Tawny Pipit, Gorse Field. Andy Hood.

Tawny Pipit, Gorse Field. Andy Hood.


Good Birding!



The White-billed Divers off N.E. Scotland

Last years revelations has been followed by 10 being seen already this March, 2014, hence a reblog of last years discovery:

White-billed Divers off Portsoy, North-east Scotland: discovering a new birding spectacle

Paul Baxter, Chris Gibbins and Hywel Maggs

In April 2011 Peter Osborn contacted HM to say that he has seen what he thought could have been a White-billed Diver off the harbour at Portsoy, North East Scotland.  At this time White-billed Diver was a very rare bird in the region, with only a handful of records, so the sighting was well worth checking out.  After work on Monday 25 April CG and HM drove up to Portsoy and arrived to find a flat-calm sea and perfect viewing conditions.  Much to their amazement they counted 5 White-billed Divers in the bay, mostly in or approaching summer plumage.  Wow!  They were all rather distant, but unmistakable with their ivory ‘tusks’ shining out in the early evening sunshine.  The distance meant that photographs were impossible, so HM and CG made some field notes and sketches (Plate 1) and alerted local birders to the spectacle unfolding on their doorstep.


Plate 1. Field sketches of Portsoy White-billed Divers on 25 April 2011.  Chris Gibbins.

PAAB went up at the weekend, just four days later, but no birds were present. So, what was going on? Were the 5 birds a one-off event, or were White-billed Divers present off Portsoy each Spring? Or perhaps they were present all winter?  The Spring passage of White-billed Divers on the Western Isles is of course rather well known, so the three of us agreed to start going up to Portsoy regularly to try to establish what the true situation was.

For the remainder of Spring 2011 and over the following two winters we made regular trips to Portsoy.  We only had a single bird in the winter of 2011/12 (from 17th March until 17th April, a bird in active wing moult) and there was certainly no clear evidence of a Spring peak.  In the 2012/13 winter the first bird was not seen until 18 March, when three winter-plumaged individuals were present.

From the time of the first sightings in 2011 we discussed the possibility of chartering a boat, so after the three birds on 18 March 2013 PAAB made contact with Gemini Charters at Buckie (a harbour just West of Portsoy) and made plans for some off-shore forays.  Two trips were arranged initially (one on 14 April and another on 21 April), with a different group of birders on each one. All available places were taken on each trip, and each had an entirely different group of birders. The three of us were scheduled to be on the first trip but unfortunately this was cancelled due to bad weather.  The second trip (i.e. on 21st) therefore became the first, but as it was already full there was no room for us; there was nothing we could do but reschedule our trip and wait to see what the others saw on 21st.  They scored, with between 7 and 10 birds seen in the bay just off Portsoy harbour.  It was gripping stuff – up to 10 White-billed Divers in one spot in North-East Scotland!

Our trip was rescheduled to 28th so we waited nervously for news of the weather.  The weather for 28th was not looking good so the trip was changed to a narrow window in the early afternoon of 27th.  As it turned out, this window could not have been better – we had 13 birds over the course of the 3 ½ hour trip.  The majority were close to full summer plumage so it was a spectacular day, although the rolling sea made viewing and photography difficult. The photos were little better than record shots, but we managed complete a looped survey route and secure GPS coordinates for the birds

 wb2Plate 2.One of the closer birds seen on 27th April.  Most birds were in a similar plumage to this, close to but no quite in full summer dress. Chris Gibbins

 wb3Plate3.The same bird as plate2. Chris Gibbins

wb4Plate 4.  Watching a White-billed Diver from the MV Gemini Explorer, April 2013. Paul Baxter

wb5Plate 5.  Watching a White-billed Diver from the MV Gemini Explorer, April 2013. Paul Baxter.

On both boat trips the birds were concentrated into a remarkably small area; all 13 on the trip of 27th were in the area between Logie Head (just east of Cullen) and Portsoy.  We have checked the coastline a few miles either side of Portsoy on several occasions and not seen any birds, so it does seem that all the action is concentrated around Portsoy.  The relatively small number of birds seen on our mid-winter visits suggests that it is primarily a Spring passage phenomenon, but for the moment we do not know what is so attractive about Portsoy Bay to these birds, nor how long into the Spring and early Summer they remain.  Whether this is a new phenomenon or whether birds have been overlooked in the past also remains unclear.  Prior to our regular visits to look for divers the area of coast around Portsoy was very underwatched, at least relative to the areas further west (towards Spey Bay) and east (around Banff and Fraserburgh) so divers may always have been there in Spring.  Alternatively, their presence may be a recent phenomenon caused by changing environmental conditions elsewhere. We simply don’t know.  However, what we know for sure is that ‘discovering’ that White-billed Divers occur in such numbers off our coastline has been a great experience.

Paul Baxter, Chris Gibbins and Hywel Maggs, Aberdeenshire

The Secret Seven Bird Quiz

Double Book Prize! 

Thanks very much to the lovely folk at Princeton University Press we have this double prize:

Check out reviews  and plates from these books at the end. Then enter the Quiz!


Welcome to the ‘ Secret Seven’ Mystery Bird Quiz.


  • It’s a fun quiz- have a go. It’s a little easier than the last one. Designed around the quick views of browner birds that the Birding frontiers team need to ID quickly on the 24 hours birds race- The Champions of the Flyway! Hence 7 photos all taken in March in southern Israel.


  • Completion runs until 9:00 am on Wednesday 26th March (when the Birding Frontiers Team flies to Israel)


  • Winner takes all- No Tie break.  If more than one person with all correct/ same number correct then winner drawn from hat.





7 photos. Each identified to species level.


Either in comments box below (for all to see) or privately via email: martin.go ‘at ‘ Answers must be in by 9:00 am on Wednesday 26th March.


In the event of more than one person with same number of correct answers  the winner will be ‘drawn from ‘the hat’.

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD ONE

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD ONE

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD TWO

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD TWO


Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD THREE

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD THREE


Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD FOUR

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD FOUR


Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD FIVE

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD FIVE


Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD SIX

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD SIX


Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD SEVEN

Secret Seven, Mystery BIRD SEVEN


Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and BirdLife International are pleased to announce that the first recipients of funding generated by the Champions of the Flyway Bird Race will be Bird Conservation Georgia (BCG) – an NGO that was established through a merger between the Georgia Centre for the Conservation of WildLife (BirdLife in Georgia) and the Batumi Raptor Count


The  Prizes. Both are easily amoung the most popular books for birders to have been published in recent months.

The Warbler Guide 

Lots of reviews >>> HERE <<<

book-review-warbler-guide-2 (1)



Rare Birds of North America

another must have. See more >>> HERE <<<






Bit of news from me

Martin Garner


A bit of news.  Some folk will be aware that my health took an interesting turn this year.  As I would normally be at the Arctic Gullfest in Varanger and this year at the inaugural Champions of the Flyway bird race in Israel I hope some information is helpful.  Especially I don’t want friends who already know what’s happened, having to struggle to ‘explain’ to others. So …


After a couple of months of acute pain from mid-December and a week’s stint in hospital with the wrong diagnosis – five weeks ago I marched into the local doctors to insist on an MRI scan – Valentine ’s Day 14th Feb.  The MRI scan showed up a tumour (presumed cancer) which had produced a crushed vertebrae and was sat on the spinal cord. That explained the ouch!  The presenting issue besides the big C was damage to the nervous system.  Remember never give a bloke with a big mouth a good story!!  Several days of weighing odds and uncertainty as to best course of action, I had a biopsy and soon after my legs started to go and I was unable to walk, so a decision was quickly made for spinal surgery (secure the spine, protect spinal cord, remove good chunk of tumour).


3 weeks in hospital on a bit of a roller coaster ride. I’ve been home a week and a ½ now.

Local like Rich Baines soon had me out and a hobbling around North Marsh at Flamborough

Local like Rich Baines soon had me out and a hobbling around North Marsh at Flamborough

I have a very treatable form of cancer- as an outpatient I’ll just get treated and monitored.  I am also bionic now!! I have metal screws and rods in my spine and the bigger job is just getting the muscles and nerves all rebooted and working again – and that’s progressing well.  This afternoon I walked from the Flamborough car park to the Fog Horn station with local birding mate Phil C.   We dipped a Black Redstart but found a windblown Chiffchaff – my first of the spring!  So I won’t be going far from East Yorkshire of the next few months as I undergo rehab and recovery. You can imagine it’s going to be tough as East coast spring migration steps up (Baikal Teal and Iberian Chiffchaff headlined this time last year)!


Of course it’s been a shocking time for family and close friends but at the same time there has been some wonderful ‘gold’ in the midst of the crap and scary stuff that I wouldn’t have missed.  We feel hugely loved and supported.  Sharon and I and our girls are more aware of how precious family, community and friendships are.  Some pretty cool things are going on- with and in spite of us.

Meanwhile whilst I can’t make it to two of my favourite events this year, I’m cheering on the Gullfest in Varanger and a Birding Frontiers team of Roger, Adam and Paul will hopefully make waves in Israel. Meanwhile I have lots of time to write a new ‘Birding Frontiers book’ and I already have new plans for the summer and autumn…


One other thing. We were all extremely and continually impressed with the NHS staff. Castle Hill Hospital, Hull is where was treated most and continue as an outpatient. Flippin, utterly amazing. My very lovely sister Helen has decided to raise money for this hospital. Helen has her own health stuff so its inspiring she is going for the 24 hours 3 peaks  challenge with Evolution Outdoors. If you would like to know more and give a little that goes towards to the work at this cancer unit, I’d be chuffed for Helen and  delighted for the folk who Castle Hill for whom there are simply not enough superlatives.


 >>>> 24 Hours 3 Peaks Challenge by Helen Garner <<<<




Early Spring Moths & Butterflies

By Tony Davison

Recent warm spring weather brings out early Moths and Butterflies

The recent warm spring sunshine has seen the first few spring butterflies emerge from their hibernation. The past few weeks Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell have all been on the wing 

It is amazing that such delicate insects as butterflies and some moths, can find a warm dry place and then hibernate for some four months during our winter, only to reappear in the spring as if by magic. One of the wonders of nature.

Early spring moths are now appearing in our moth traps. These are usually the first moths that one encounters when first getting involved in the fascinating hobby of “Mothing”. As spring progresses and the evenings become a little warmer, the species count will improve. Here is a selection of common spring moths to look out for.


Clouded Drab – Extremely variable in colour


Common Quaker – A small moth and easily recognised by rounded tip to the forewing, rounded, pale outlined kidney mark and oval. Quite variable in colour.


Hebrew Character – The black mark in the forewing, from which this moth gets its name, is unique to spring flying moths.


March Moth – A distinctive looking moth that is triangular shaped, grey in colour and the obvious over-lapping forewings are diagnostic. Delicate in build. The females are completely wingless.


Oak Beauty – A large spring moth, easily identified by the two broad brown cross-bands running through the forewing. Ground colour varies. As the name suggests, this moth is a real beauty. The male has feathered antennae.


Twin-spotted Quaker – The two black spots, roughly half way along inner edge of the faint outermost cross-line, are distinctive. Ground colour often a tawny brown. A rather broad and curved forewing. Dark centre to the pale outlined kidney mark.

Good “Mothing”