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.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Day on the Uists


The day dawned very cold (just 5 degrees C), with a fresh NW wind blowing. We had all had a very good night sleep at Malaclete (North Uist) and breakfast was arranged for about 0900 hours.

Scanning the bay in front of the B & B chalets yielded a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, whilst the Committee Road produced a nice roadside SHORT-EARED OWL hunting.


A return visit was made to the RSPB reserve at Balranald where around the Information Centre, pure ROCK DOVES were a welcome sight and a couple of TWITE. The star attraction of course is CORNCRAKE and after hearing 5 or more birds calling, we eventually intercepted one showing out in the open by a neighbouring croft. The bird crept out from the safety of some wood piles and began ‘’crex-crex –ing’’ right in front of our two vehicles. Incredible – and such a difficult bird to see ! We were treated to about five minutes of view before he crept back into the undergrowth and disappeared. Chris Morgan obtained the image below.

We then took the sandy track out to the seawatching site at Aird an Runair. The sand-blasted fields were very attractive to a number of bird species including the localised CORN BUNTING but were particularly attractive to ROCK DOVE – at least 70 being recorded. I also discovered a trip of 3 DOTTERELS – two males and a female – this trio affording exceptional views as they fed alongside the track.


The bay held 5 or 6 transitional-plumaged GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS offshore (see image below), whilst the expansive sandy bay held a flock of Dunlin and up to 35 Sanderlings, many of which were in full breeding plumage. There were also 3 Common Shelduck and a single PALE-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE offshore, as well as numerous Fulmars and Kittiwakes. Several Atlantic Grey Seals were also offshore.

We did a seawatch for about an hour and a half and were highly rewarded – a total of 4 full-spooned adult POMARINE SKUAS flew north (a single bird then three together), 2 ARCTIC SKUAS, a GREAT SKUA, 6 Manx Shearwaters, a WHIMBREL and a Red-throated Diver.


Returning back to the B & B at Sollas for breakfast along the Committee Road we saw a few COMMON RAVENS and 25 European Golden Plovers and many Greenland Wheatears at Balemartin.

Following breakfast, we returned once more to the seawatching, but before that feasting ourselves on more crippling views of CORNCRAKES in the Balranald RSPB car park area.

Back at Aird an Runair, the undoubted highlight was when a single flock of 14 adult LONG-TAILED SKUAS came through at 1112 hours – a fantastic spectacle. The two hours also produced a further ARCTIC SKUA, 3 Great Skuas, a BLACK GUILLEMOT and a fine male White Wagtail on the beach.

Returning to the Committee Road later, a cracking adult male HEN HARRIER was observed, along with a pair of Common Stonechats and a pale morph ARCTIC SKUA. We also enjoyed some great views of TWITE as we drove around, Chris obtaining the beautiful image below.

Mike Robinson was mad keen on seeing the ‘Northern Eider’ at Stinky Bay on Benbecula, so after eventually giving in, we spent an hour or so trying to locate it. At least 27 Common Eiders were in the vicinity of the pier but nothing could be found of the ‘sailed’ individual. A mass of at least 60 Sanderling were in the bay and on the neighbouring landfill site, a minimum of 9 COMMON RAVENS could be seen.

Returning in good time back to Lochmaddy Harbour for the ferry, we were able to observe the resident GOLDEN EAGLES from the quayside and a beautiful pair of TWITE. More COMMON RAVENS too.

The return trip to Skye was fairly uneventful, with the usual seabirds encountered including good numbers of ATLANTIC PUFFINS, and once back on the island, Collared Doves in Uig were followed by a visit to Toravaig, where we overlooked Portree Bay and the island of Burray for an hour or more. We did not see the pair of White-tailed Sea Eagles in that time but did note COMMON RAVEN, HOODED CROW, 5+ ROCK DOVES, Goldcrest and REDPOLL-TYPES.

And finally NORTH UIST


Common Eiders: adult drake and female (Chris Morgan)


We caught the 1400 hours ferry crossing from Uig, the voyage taking just over two hours. The weather was glorious, with blue skies, bright sunshine and light SW winds. Just as we left Uig Harbour, two breeding-plumaged adult GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS were seen, and in the Minch, 400 or more ARCTIC TERNS, over 100 ATLANTIC PUFFINS, both Common Guillemot and Razorbill, a few Northern Fulmars, Gannets and a total of 13 MANX SHEARWATERS. The latter and Puffin were both year-ticks.

As the ferry approached Lochmaddy Harbour, a GOLDEN EAGLE was hanging in the air over the high mountain. We had arrived on North Uist. It was 1615 hours.


After sorting out our overnight accommodation at the Struan Catering Flats on North Uist (£25 per night), we quickly went out to visit Balranald. Sadly, the weather had deteriorated and it was windy – at least 2 CORNCRAKES were calling but as usual we could not see them. A pair of WHOOPER SWANS was nesting on the loch just south of the access track, with a drake Shoveler noted and large numbers of breeding waders including drumming Common Snipe, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Common Redshank. Driving back towards the bed & breakfast, four European Golden Plovers were at the roadside.

The view from our Bed & Breakfast on North Uist above (Chris Morgan)

And on to the ISLE OF SKYE


Broad-billed Sandpiper, Harrapol, Isle of Skye, May 2010 (Martin Benson)
One of the most confiding individuals I have ever seen

…….And – at long last – the Skye Bridge – two hours and 120 miles after we left Killiecrankie. How times have changed; we used to have to get a ferry across to the island and then this expensive bridge. The Scottish Parliament eventually waived the toll – making all bridges in Scotland now free to cross.



It was mid-afternoon when we arrived on Skye – and low tide. We pulled up into the Broadford Bay car park in the town and started scanning. I quickly located the Dunlin flock and then the BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER. The birds were feeding in some shallow rockpools about 50 yards from the car park and were affording excellent views. All of the salient field characters could be seen and for the next half an hour or more, the bird was kept under observation. Although I have seen this Scandinavian breeding species in Scotland before, I have never seen one on the West Coast and certainly never on Skye. It also represented my 274th species of the year. It was feeding frantically with 40 Dunlin and 25 Ringed Plovers. The bay also held a flock of 23 PALE-BELLIED BRENT GEESE (including a single ringed bird), 3 Northern Wheatears and 2 Common Cuckoos.


Excellent views were obtained of the resident pair of GOLDEN EAGLES over the cliff-face, the adult male showing particularly well. He flew short distances along the cliff, landing on the grassy slopes.


Scanning across Portree Harbour from the garage on the main road, we were lucky to pick up one of the resident adult WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLES. It was soaring over the eyrie cliff.


Whilst David, Mike and I went to sort out the ferry payment, the others scanned the harbour, where several Common Eiders, 6 BLACK GUILLEMOTS and 2 Common Terns were seen.




Another favoured location and a return to form following our abortive visit in May 2009. This time we had no trouble at all in locating PIED FLYCATCHERS – two singing males advertising their presence and inspecting the nestboxes. Some great prolonged views were obtained and very close by, also in the Birches and Oaks, was a beautiful trilling (and body quivering) singing male WOOD WARBLER. Both species were new to my Year List and cracking views were obtained of both. A singing male GARDEN WARBLER was also nearby, with Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Common Blackbird and Dunnock also added to the trip list.

It was very difficult to get a view of the Wood Warbler at Killiecrankie from above. Chris made do of this image from below.

It was now time to return to the road and this time we were to track the West Coast. Driving the Great Glen along the A82 yielded HOODED CROW around Loch Oich.

BLACK GROUSE on the menu



Braco Moor is one of my favourite locations in the lowlands of Scotland and always supports an excellent selection of moorland breeding species. Driving west along the B827 with the temperature hovering around 6 degrees C, 3 male Willow Warblers were singing from the pinewoods, a pair of Red-legged Partridges were by the roadside and the air was filled with the sound of displaying Meadow Pipits and Eurasian Curlews. Approaching Glenlichorn Farm, both Skylark and Linnet were noted, and then the first of 5 singing male WHINCHATS, between Longside Farm and the next 600 yards of road. These birds were just gorgeous and in fresh breeding attire. A single Northern Wheatear was also noted and the first of many displaying Lapwing.

Braco Moor: in recent years, the section of B827 beyond Langside Farm has been the most productive and this year was no exception. After glancing at a roadside Common Buzzard and a Goldfinch, the first male BLACK GROUSE came in to view – both strutting in the grass about 150 yards away from the south side of the road. These two birds provided fabulous views and as we drove further along, we located a further male.

Meanwhile, 50 or more Common Gulls had returned to the breeding colony on the moor, and a Common Snipe was noted. Three RED GROUSE were soon tracked down, as well as another speciality of the area – the SHORT-EARED OWL. This latter bird perched on a fencepost – and as we drove back towards Braco, our first COMMON CUCKOO of the trip was encountered.

Continuing north from Braco, we took the Muthill road and then the A822 into the Sma’Glen. The scenery here is simply stunning and just north of Newton we discovered a brand new Black-headed Gull colony. At the Newton bridge we also recorded LESSER REDPOLL, whilst 3 Willow Warblers were in full song from the riverside Birch trees. At Corrymuckloch, we recorded 5 cock BLACK GROUSE lekking in a newly planted conifer plantation, followed by a further two younger males, a cracking male RED GROUSE at the roadside and another WHINCHAT. A flock of 6 Atlantic Canada Geese too.

We then drove along GLEN QUAICH from Amulree, another great site for BLACK GROUSE. Looking back towards the hills on the left just beyond the burn and plantations, a further 9 male BLACK GROUSE were located (excellent views obtained), along with good numbers of Lapwing and Curlew, a few Common Redshanks and several Northern Wheatears. The bubbling sounds that the lekking grouse make is just so absorbing and melancholic and the deep blue in their plumage so intense.

In Amulree village, the House Martins were nesting under the eaves of the Lonely Inn Gallery; House Sparrows were also fairly common here.

Just east of Amulree, another lek of 5 male BLACK GROUSE was located in the River B’aan valley, close to ‘Glenfender’ cottage, between Amulree and Milton, with a male RED GROUSE and the first of many Roe Deer in Glen Cochill.

By mid-morning, a total of 24 BLACK GROUSE had been seen – about average for the April and May trips to the region.

After exploring Glen Cochill, we continued on to Pitlochry, where a pair of GOOSANDER were seen on the river.

Rather off schedule, we failed to visit Loch of the Lowes reserve for the first time in perhaps ten tours.

Frustration - as Lothian SPOT SAND is heard but not seen


We picked Mike Robinson up in North Lancashire just before midnight before continuing up the M6 towards Carlisle. The weather had taken a serious turn for the worse and was torrential rain. I decided to take another diversion to Lothian, where a summer-plumaged Spotted Sandpiper had shown up until dusk at North Berwick. It took me about three hours to arrive on site but the rain just did not stop. In fact, at dawn it was still pretty much torrential…..


After snatching just over an hour’s sleep, I ventured out in the conditions at dawn in an attempt to locate the vagrant. The others at this time chose to stay dry and sheltered in the van. I did a sweep of the rocky harbour but failed to find anything. The rain refused to stop but I was soon joined by the other four and frustratingly, as we walked out to the old coastguards, I inadvertently flushed the Spotted Sandpiper out from the rocks and it flew away calling. This was at 0500 hours and in such poor light conditions and driving rain, I was just not able to latch on to the bird.

An exhaustive search was made of the entire harbour but other than 4 PURPLE SANDPIPERS, a number of Oystercatchers and Turnstones and Common Eiders, nothing more was seen or heard. Offshore were both Fulmar and Gannet.


Our next dip was to be the adult drake Surf Scoter at Port Seton. Despite locating over 500 Common Scoters offshore on the near flat calm sea, the Surfie could not be found, although 50+ VELVET SCOTERS were noteworthy, as well as an adult drake LONG-TAILED DUCK and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers. A couple of Common Terns flew by, as did 8 Barn Swallows.

Driving west along the M8 and continuing north up towards Stirling Services, we eventually joined up with Mike and Chris – both newcomers to LGRE tours. We had planned to meet them at 4am but because of the last minute diversions, it ended up being four hours later. Several Common Swifts were seen as we drove along the motorway.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

GREAT REED WARBLER - a stunning performer and a first for DERBYSHIRE

Great Reed Warbler, Straw's Bridge Ponds, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, May 2010 (David Hutton)



That time of year again and the second of my 2010 tours to Northern Scotland. As usual I was joined by Lincolnshire father and son team David and Matthew Roberts, as well as Colin Oram from Piddington. Mike Robinson was to be picked up on route in North Lancashire and the other two (Mike *** and Chris Morgan) were to be met at Stirling Services in Central Scotland. It was to be a four-day trip and we departed Little Chalfont at 1540 hours as there were rarities to see on route……


We picked up Colin Oram at his house in Piddington village, virtually on the Oxon/Bucks border. Close to his house was a female RED KITE sat precariously on her nest in a tall Poplar.


Utilising the daylight hours available, we diverted just off of the northbound M1 near Derby for a FIRST FOR THE COUNTY – a singing male GREAT REED WARBLER that had been discovered a few days earlier. We arrived in good time and after parking the van up, walked the 250 yards or so to the location. Skirting the first pond visible from the car park, we crossed under the railway viaduct and then turned left to the next pool. There was a small patch of reedbed in the NW corner and it was here that the bird had taken up territory. There was a small crowd on site including both Alan and Geoff Clewes.

After an anxious wait, and with the bird only making brief snatches of song, it finally appeared briefly at the bottom of the reedmace at 1850 hours. Over the next ten or so minutes, it then became quite active and eventually gave very good views as it bleated out its loud, penetrating song from low down. It was a large warbler, with a pale-ish brown complexion, a striking supercilium and a bright red gape.

In addition to the Great Reed Warbler, species also noted at Straw’s Bridge Ponds included Mute Swan, Atlantic Canada Goose, Tufted Duck, Coot, Song Thrush, Moorhen, Blue Tit, Common Swift, Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

Just before 2000 hours, we continued our journey northwards, linking up with the M61 around Manchester and eventually the M6. For a change, we actually got to Mike’s castle in Beetham, Milnthorpe, before midnight……


In any normal year, the 12th May would be traditionally 'Dotterel Day' but with cold northerly winds now almost in their third consecutive week, migrants of this ilk are still being held up much farther south in Europe. In fact, many areas had experienced a frost overnight, particularly in Scotland and Northern England, but even in this area, temperatures once again struggled to 12 degrees C, well below average. It did remain dry though and the combination of wind and sun ensured that the ground was crusted hard in many areas.

After a very successful day in Bedfordshire on Tuesday, yielding three new 2010 birds including SANDERLING and COMMON QUAIL (the latter, one of my earliest ever in Britain), I returned again today, after Jim Gurney found two Turnstones........It was also another good day at Wilstone, with two more Marsh Harriers - the best year on record.

(1220-1300 hours)

The two near full breeding-plumaged TURNSTONES were still present this afternoon, feeding together and busily turning over vegetation at the far end of Peacock's Island - my first of the year after missing out on the 7 or so that have already passed through the county in this past week or so.

There was little else of note other than 58+ pairs of nesting Black-headed Gull, 32 Common Terns, the Oystercatcher pair and large numbers of Common Swifts.


Another belated catch-up bird - COMMON GREENSHANK - was feeding alongside a COMMON SANDPIPER on the southern shore, whilst Lapwing pairs had fledged at least 8 youngsters and Common Redshank and LITTLE RINGED PLOVER were still displaying. A Mallard was with 14 ducklings, whilst the island held 6 Common Terns and 5 nesting pairs of Black-headed Gull. At least 16 Sand Martins were feeding.


A HOBBY flew over the Poplars at the A6/A507 roundabout.


A thorough check of the new plantation resulted in the finding of 5 Meadow Pipits (2 breeding pairs and an additional singing male, displaying and pirouetting from the sapling tops) but disappointingly no Tree Pipits. Two singing male Common Whitethroats were on site, as well as two singing male Yellowhammers and a nesting pair of Linnets. At least 15 Common Swifts were winging over the village.

This new reserve is part of the Marston Vale Reclamation Project and has been supported by the local residents and is carefully managed. Pedestrian access only is obtained from Houghton Conquest village opposite Broadway and along the trail adjacent to 'Preachers Place'.(TL 049 416). There is ample parking in the village.

HORTON (BUCKS) (SP 925 194)

Within a mile section of the B 488 just north of Horton village, I located two Common Kestrel pairs, including a pair breeding in a dead Elm.

(joined by Mike Hirst and later by Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell and Chaz Jackson)

After hearing that Mike Hirst had discovered yet another MARSH HARRIER at Wilstone - his third this spring - I stopped off there on my route south. Mike's bird - a first-summer male - was showing well over the reedbed, between the hide and the Drayton Bank 'Boatshed Corner', occasionally being attacked by corvids. Whilst watching it through the 'scope, a second MARSH HARRIER flew in to view - a dark first-summer female - and for a while the two birds flew around hunting and scattering wildfowl and Coot. I lost track of the male at around 1610 hours but the female reappeared from the reeds on at least five more occasions and flew around and hunted.. At one stage, she was physically attacked by one of the nesting Grey Herons and had to take evasive action, plunging into the reeds to escape. She kept on showing until 1715 before dropping out of view in the reeds, presumably to roost, and did not reappear. MH joined me later and I was able to show him this additional bird, Wilstone having its best ever spring for this ever-increasing and very successful raptor.

HOBBIES were the other big story with at least 13 flighting back and forwards over the reedbeds and Drayton Bank. They afforded magnificent views from the hide and when not feeding took advantage of the many posts to rest. The majority of birds were adults but there were the odd first-summer with them.

Other raptors included Red Kite and Common Buzzard.

Otherwise, the following were noted:

Great Crested Grebes (8)
Continental Cormorant (9 active nests)
LITTLE EGRET (two birds flew in to roost at 1905 hours)
Mute Swan (the 16 regular birds present joined later by 5 new arrivals)
Greylag Geese (two pairs with goslings, both broods numbering 5)
Gadwall (12)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (pair still present)
Tufted Duck (83)
NORTHERN POCHARD (10 present, including 6 adult drakes and a nasal-banded female from France - pale blue band marked =P - see Dave's image above)
Black-headed Gull (adult winter still loafing just off the bank - presumably suffering botulism - but present for its 13th day; interestingly, a pair nearby constitute the first breeding attempt for the area)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 immatures)
Common Tern (52)
Common Swift (constant passage overhead, numbering at least 330 birds)
European Barn Swallow (64)
House Martin (14)
SAND MARTIN (late passage - at least 53 counted)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (a male flew east at 1905)
Blackcap (male singing by new overflow)


Two European Barn Swallows were on the wires by the Black Horse Inn.

A cool NE wind blew for most of the day but it did remain bright. Temperatures reached 12 degrees C..

The star attraction here were my first Bedfordshire SANDERLINGS of the year – two freshly-plumaged individuals showing well on the islands. Other waders noted included 2 Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Redshank.


I moved on to Thurleigh Airfield where at 1800 hours, I listened to a COMMON QUAIL calling from a barley field – my first of 2010.

The fields adjacent to the airfield held several YELLOW WAGTAILS, a jangling male CORN BUNTING, several Common Swifts, Stock Doves, a total of at least 11 pairs of Lapwing (several with small chicks) and Skylarks.

Joining Clive Harris overlooking the disused runway, we both searched for the Short-eared Owl that had been seen in this vicinity recently. No joy with this species but we did enjoy views of BARN OWL, the resident pair of EURASIAN CURLEW, 3 Common Buzzards, 2 Green Woodpeckers, a splendid male GREY PARTRIDGE, 3 Yellowhammers, a single singing male Willow Warbler and 4 Common Whitethroats.