My UK Year List - 2014

  • 117-118) GREAT WHITE EGRET and LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Mary's Lake, Earls Barton GP, 9 January
  • 116) Barnacle Goose, Emberton Park, 9 January
  • 114-115) SMEW and Cetti's Warbler at Great Hardmead Lake, Amwell, 7 January
  • 113) Reed Bunting, Tyttenhanger, 7 January
  • 112) Tree Sparrow (32 birds), Tyttenhanger, 7 January
  • 111) Sparrowhawk, West Hyde, 7 January
  • 110) Mandarin Duck, Burnham Beeches NNR, 7 January
  • 100-109) Curlew, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Common Shelduck, Kittiwake and Mediterranean Gull at Church Norton, 6 January
  • 99) RUDDY SHELDUCK, Sidlesham Ferry, 6 January
  • 96-98) Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Rock Pipit in Shoreham Harbour
  • 95) Red-breasted Merganser, Widewater, 6 January
  • 94) GREY PHALAROPE, Hove Lagoon, 6 January
  • 93) Grey Partridge, Broom, 5 January
  • 92) Goosander, Woburn Lakes, 5 January
  • 91) Skylark, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 90) Yellowhammer, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 89) Corn Bunting, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 88) Water Pipit, Wilstone, 5 January
  • 87) SABINE'S GULL, Weston Turville, 5 January
  • 86) Common Scoter, Brogborough, 4 January
  • 85) GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, Stewartby Lake, 4 January
  • 84) Red-legged Partridge, Hatch, 4 January
  • 83) Common Kestrel, Langford, 4 January
  • 82) GLOSSY IBIS, Frensham, 4 January
  • 81) Goldcrest, Frensham, 4 January
  • 80) Green Sandpiper, Lynsters, 3 January
  • 79) Stock Dove, Lynster's, 3 January
  • 78) Egyptian Goose, Lynsters Farm, 3 January
  • 77) Common Chiffchaff, Stockers Lake
  • 76) SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF, Stockers Lake
  • 75) Siskin, Stockers Lake
  • 74) Dunnock, Stockers Lake
  • 73) Ring-necked Parakeet, Stockers Lake
  • 72) Lesser Redpoll, Stockers Lake
  • 71) Coal Tit, Chaffinch House
  • 40-70: Nuthatch, Greylag Goose, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, LITTLE STINT, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Wagtail, Goldeneye, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Marsh Tit, Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Jay, Red-crested Pochard, Wren, Collared Dove (all at Tring Reservoirs), Brambling (Ivinghoe), Herring & Great Black-backed Gull, CATTLE EGRET (Briarhill Farm, Calvert) & Green Woodpecker
  • 1-39 all local, Chess River Valley & Shardeloes Estate: 1 January 2014: Chaffinch, Common Starling, Woodpigeon, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Magpie, Mute Swan, Mallard, Moorhen, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Common Buzzard, Canada Goose, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Pochard, House Sparrow, Common Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Gadwall, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Little Grebe, Common Gull, Red Kite, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, WOODCOCK, Treecreeper, Greenfinch and Water Rail

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Year Listing in the UK

Lee Evans has been Year-listing in the UK since 1977 and has achieved annual totals of over 300 species ever since. Although he has recorded in excess of 360 species on some nine occasions, his record stands at 386 species - achieved in 1996. Adrian Webb in Year 2000 recorded at least 378 species, making him by far the highest-listing individual to compare with Lee. In terms of Life Listing, Lee has recorded 577 species in Britain and Ireland and 853 species in the wider Western Palearctic region.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Wow - what an awesome day ! A scorching drake BUFFLEHEAD and the BLACK KITE on the second attempt

After being present for over eight weeks, I finally managed to see this awesome bird, captured brilliantly on film by ace photographer Gary Thoburn.........


At 0500 hours at Chorleywood, it was minus three degrees C. I had arranged to meet Joan Thompson and Darin Stanley there as a trip to Dorset was planned. The reason - a drake BUFFLEHEAD had been discovered the day before, and had flown past West Bexington and been relocated on The Fleet by Steve Groves off Abbotsbury Swannery. I had spoken with Martin Cade at dusk, who was still watching it, so prospects of connection seemed good. For both DS and JT, it would be a new British bird.


This was my first trip to Dorset this year and it was absolutely freezing. A fierce and very cold easterly wind was blowing, making it feel incredibly raw. Much of the ground was still frozen when we arrived at 0800 hours and as we drove along the coastal road south of Rodden, we came across some 15 birders already searching, amongst them crews from Hants, Somerset and Oxfordshire. I was very pleased to see Edwin Welland, one of the original UK twitchers, but was concerned at his health condition. Several local Dorset birders informed me that the bird had not been seen, with some checking The West Fleet from the tank traps on the shingle beach.

The West Fleet beyond the Swannery held 100+ Mute Swans, several Common Shelducks and an assortment of commoner ducks including Pochard and as we were just about to drive away, a pair of fully-winged non-naturalised AUSTRALIAN BLACK SWANS flew in - my first of the year.

As there was no sign of the drake Bufflehead here, I urged Joan to drive back eastwards so that we could check other likely locations.


Perhaps the most obvious choice of relocation was The Fleet waters south of Langton Herring, where feeding conditions are very good and frequently attract sea-duck concentrations. Traversing the tracks out to the Coastguard Cottages from the tiny hamlet, we ventured out along the footpath and checked all points WEST and Rodden Hive. There were two groups of feeding Red-breasted Mergansers - totalling 17 in all - all in wonderful finery and drakes in full display. There were a few Common Goldeneye too, and 4 Little Egrets.

Hugo Wood-Homer and other local Dorset watchers were also scouring the area and as we departed for pastures new, Ashley Howe and his father arrived. I explained to him that we had searched the West Fleet and drawn a blank and thankfully he carried on straight down the track to search elsewhere.

No sooner had we rejoined the main Weymouth road than I received a call. Ashley and his dad had refound the BUFFLEHEAD on the east side of the Coastguards, in the very area that we did not check because of the light conditions. Drat!

We raced back down the potholed Coastguards Road and after five or so minutes, joined Ashley. The adult drake BUFFLEHEAD was amongst 12 Red-breasted Mergansers, 200 yards east of Langton Hive Point, and was diving constantly. What a gorgeous duck it was, with its dark head, large triangular wedge of gleaming white from below the eye to the back of the head, black upperparts and breast-band and white underparts, from fore-breast, flanks to undertail coverts. It was a striking bird, and both Joan and Darin soon got on to it.

To get better views, we all walked down to the Hive Point and then walked east for about 300 yards along the coastal footpath. With the sunlight in a much better position, we 'scoped back towards it, and enjoyed good views from 0910 to 1020 hours. It was constantly diving and associating with the Red-breasted Mergansers, the entire flock of diving duck gradually drifting with the tide towards Herbury Gore and its headland.

Within a very short time, crowds of birders converged on the site, including Grahame Walbridge and Pete Coe from Portland, Ian Lewis, Edwin and both Jonathan Lethbridge and David Bradnum from Essex. The bird represented the first record for Dorset and only the 11th record for Britain since 1950; it is my 6th occurrence, having seen five of the previous records, as well as a further two of unknown but probably captive origin.


Pre 1900 records of unknown provenance:

About 1830 NORFOLK Breydon Water, adult drake, shot, no date, specimen retained in Castle Museum, Norwich (Zoologist 1900: 532; Stevenson 1890; Seago 1977; Allard 1990). There are THREE different specimens in museums purporting to be this bird, thus warranting rejection.

1841 ORKNEY No locality and no date (Baikie & Heddle 1848; Witherby 1938-1946; Baxter & Rintoul 1953)

1864/65 EAST YORKSHIRE Bessingby Beck, near Bridlington, adult drake, obtained winter, specimen retained at Mansfield Museum (Zoologist 1865: 9659; Mather 1986);

1865 ABERDEENSHIRE Loch of Loriston, drake, shot, January (Gray 1871; Witherby 1938-1946);

1870 OUTER HEBRIDES Eriskay, South Uist, adult drake, shot, June (Scottish Naturalist 1951: 197; Baxter & Rintoul 1963);

These highly contentious 19th Century records were followed by two more occurrences prior to 1950 :

1920 SCILLY Tresco Great Pool, female, shot, 7 January (British Birds 14: 67; Bulletin of the BOC 40: 155; Penhallurick 1969; Evans 1998);

1932 NORFOLK Hunstanton, female, present for 'several days' in February (British Birds 26: 326; Evans 1998; Taylor et al 1999: 188) (very poor description)

More recently, there are ten acceptable records -:

1) 1961 BUCKINGHAMSHIRE Foxcote Reservoir, adult drake, 28 February to 8th March (British Birds 55: 569);

2) 1980 OUTER HEBRIDES West Loch Bee, South Uist, adult drake, 14-18 March (British Birds 74: 464; 85: 688);

3) 1994 NOTTINGHAMSHIRE Colwick Country Park, adult drake, 17-26 March (British Birds 88: 504, 516, plates 148-149; Birding World 7: 102-104)

4) 1994 CLEVELAND Coatham Marsh, first-summer drake, 1-7 June (British Birds 88: 504);

E1*) 1997 EAST YORKSHIRE Hornsea Mere, adult female, bearing metal ring, 6-22 January, relocated East Park Lake, Hull, 27 January, then Bransholme Waterworks, Hull, from 16 February to 18 April. It returned to East Park from 22 April to 29 May (Rare Birds 3: 53 & 79) (considered escape by UK400 Club and subsequently accepted on Category D1);

E2*) 1997 SUFFOLK Heveningham Hall Lake, near Halesworth, adult drake, 29 November until 21 January 1998 (Rare Birds 4: 88; British Birds 92: 568, plate 233) (Accepted by UK400 Club on Category D1);

5) 1998 DEVON Roadford Reservoir, adult drake, bearing metal ring, 20 November 1999 until 13 March (British Birds 92: 568; 93: 525);

E3*) 2002 SUFFOLK Great Livermere Lake, adult female, 11-20 June, 7-9 July, then at Layham from 22-29 September and 8-9 October (British Birds 97: 566) (considered likely escape by UK400 Club and accepted on to Category D1);

6) 2004 GREATER MANCHESTER Astley Moss East Pools, adult drake, 11 April, relocated at Pugney's Country Park, WEST YORKSHIRE, from 12-22 April (British Birds 97: 638);

7) 2004 OUTER HEBRIDES Balranald RSPB, North Uist, adult drake, 10 May, relocated, Loch Branahuie, Lewis, 20 May (British Birds 97: 638);

8) 2004 STAFFORDSHIRE Croxall GP, Drayton Bassett Pits & Whitemoor Haye GP, adult drake, intermittently from 24 May until 9 June, relocated Fisher's Mill GP, WARWICKSHIRE, 4-6 June, Clayhanger Pits, WEST MIDLANDS, 16-19 & 21-25 June and Barrow GP, DERBYSHIRE, 20 June (British Birds 97: 628) (probably same as April 2004 drake);

9) 2006 SHETLAND Loch of Snarravoe, Unst, adult drake, 12 November to 20 January 1997 (British Birds 100: 700, plate 335);

10) 2007 HIGHLAND Glenbeg, Ardnamurchan, 7 June, relocated, Loch na Muilne, Lewis, OUTER HEBRIDES, 8-9 June (British Birds 101: 524);


1999 COUNTY CORK The Gearagh, Macroom, 18 January to 8 March (Rare Birds 4: 88; Irish Birds 6: 386)

Alan Lewis obtained the record shot below, Bufflehead breeding in the forested regions of North America from Central Alaska throughout Western and Central Canada to Hudson Bay and south to Montana and NE California. Winters throughout North America, from the Aleutian Islands and coastal Alaska south along both seaboards to northern Mexico, with small numbers wintering inland.

The only other bird seen on The Fleet was a PEREGRINE which sat and landed on the shingle ridge.

We had a very brief look around Portland Harbour and Lodmoor, failing to locate either the Black Brant or the two Eurasian Spoonbills.


Rather surprisingly, I was able to cajole Joan into driving 202 miles north from south Dorset to central Wales, in another attempt to see the wintering BLACK KITE. We left Weymouth at 1120 and arrived at Rhayader at 1415 - excellent timing I felt.

We were greeted by Colin Mackenzie-Grieve and others, who wasted no time at all in informing us that the Black Kite had already been and left, literally minutes after the food had been placed out at 1400 hours. It had disappeared high off to the west but had not fed.

RED KITES were absolutely everywhere, and frenziedly dropping down on to the scraps. I started scanning the skies and within a few minutes located the BLACK KITE high in the sky with four Red Kites. I informed all of the others and very quickly, 20 or more observers latched on to it. It then remained on view, high in the sky, until when it drifted away SE at 1440 hours. It afforded some fabulous views, wheeling back and forth over the feeding area, and occasionally dropping or swooping low down. It appeared to be operating a piratical system, quickly snatching food from other kites, and then carefully transferring the food from its talons to its bill. On several occasions, it was altercating with the 5 year-old leucistic Red Kite, and was frequently chased by other birds. Not once did it land or take food from the ground.

It was fairly easy to pick up due to its striking upperpart and upperwing pattern, and was also smaller, much shorter and squarer-tailed and more pale on the underparts. It had a very obvious dark eye-mask and had six visible primary fingers. It was still in very fresh juvenile plumage, perhaps unusual for a western bird, and certainly to me showed features more akin to eastern clades of Black Kite and certainly approaching Asiatic Black-eared Kite.

Although the Hawk and Owl Trust at Andover (Wilts) refute reports of recent escapes, they do admit to losing a single adult from the facility in March 2009. The bird, a male, was never recaptured, but did have a white plastic ring and two closed metal rings when lost. There were also 5 'Black' Kites lost from the Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo during a storm in 2008. I personally have grave reservations about the origin of this particular bird but as it is unringed, in immaculate condition (apart from expected wear in the tail), I guess it must be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, a vagrant European Black Vulture wintered in this area in winter 1977. As such, it constitutes my first record for Wales and a new species for the year.

Below and on the following pages is a photo gallery devoted to the many outstanding images taht have been taken of this bird.

The Feeding Station also yielded large numbers of Common Buzzard and COMMON RAVEN again, and the weather this time was fabulous - calm, clear and bearable.


The rest of the day was spent dipping the returning adult Bonaparte's Gull in Cardiff Bay. Although 200 or more Black-headed Gulls came in to view and roost in the bay, the North American visitor was not with them. A single female Northern Pochard was in the River Taff section opposite the flats.

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