Wise Birding Holidays

Monday, 16 November 2015

Cirl Buntings

Good to find at least 6 cirl buntings today have returned to the same feeding area as last winter, though just off patch. Woodpigeon flocks seen heading SW over the house this morning too.

On Sunday evening (15th), the Mrs and I headed onto the Commons and were pleased to see the presumed same male Merlin has returned for at least the fifth winter and a short-eared owl was hunting at dusk, first for a few years at this site.

Male and Female Cirl Bunting - at least 6 birds today

Monday, 2 November 2015

Wise Birding Northern Pantanal Tour October 2015

Haven't had time to post any photos from the recent Wise Birding Holidays to the Northern Pantanal as there has been too much birding excitement on the local patch! So finally, here are a few of the highlights below. It was a great trip with superb birding but the mammals often eclipsed the birds. We saw an incredible 26 species of mammals and over 300 birds. Always a real privilege to be able to return to this wonderful area as it is always an amazing place with first class wildlife. I shall be returning in July 2016 with a strong focus on Jaguars and birding. For anyone who may want to join me, please contact me through the website www.wisebirding.co.uk
Male Jaguar

Giant Anteater

Male Jaguar

Male Ocelot

Maned Wolf


Brazilian Tapir

Hyacinth Macaws

Large-billed Tern

Toco Toucan

Yellow-billed Tern

Band-tailed Manakin

Blue-crowned Trogon

Immature Boat-billed Heron


Red-legged Seriema

Male Sungrebe

Birding the River Claro

Sunset over the River Cuiaba

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Pallas's Warbler Re-visited

Pallas's Warbler is a quality rarity, an exciting find and straight forward to identify. However, so often when faced with finding a rarity the reality is quite different. Wind, rain, lighting conditions, vegetation cover, behaviour of the bird etc etc often hinder what on paper should be a straight forward process of identification. You may only glimpse part of a bird, or only hear a call and at this point that you make the crucial decision - follow it up or disregard and move on? A great find or you miss your opportunity!

Thanks to everyone (especially Mike Langman) who made comments to me personally and on the blog regarding my previous post, on the id of the "wing-barred phyllosc." Opinions were fairly mixed between YBW and Pallas's and perhaps not that surprising given the poor quality of the photos! I have now come to the conclusion that it would appear to be the Pallas's Warbler. If I am honest to myself, even after thinking YBW in the morning after views in poor light, there was always something that niggled me about the bird throughout the day, so much so that it forced me to return in the afternoon!

I have enlarged a couple of the original photos below. The first photo would clearly seem to show a very yellow supercilium, (I wasn't convinced at first) and more importantly a central crown stripe would also seem to just be visible. The second photo shows a clear thick strong black fore-supercilium and maybe just a hint of a yellow rump.

Moral of the story: Always follow up anything that niggles you! I am just glad I did, though I wish it had stayed a little longer for more people to enjoy.

Of interest to me personally, was the monosyllabic call that I heard  just once. At the time, it seemed to match the less known YBW call that I have heard in the field on previous occasions. It did not sound like the typical Pallas's call. However, I have since learned that Pallas's Warbler can also give a single note call that is somewhat similar. See links below.

Less known monosyllabic YBW call

Single note call of Pallas's Warbler at start of recording

Pallas's Warbler, Otter Estuary

Pallas's Warbler, Otter Estuary

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Crazy Pallas's Day!

This morning I was eager to get back out on the patch after the influx of Goldcrests and Firecrests. I headed out along the east side of the Otter and stopped at an area where I have had Wryneck, Pied Fly and Redstart in the past and almost immediately I was onto a Goldcrest flock and then a small warbler with obvious double wing bar and supercilium. Bingo, a Yellow-browed Warbler! I got some very poor record shots which were not great as I was always looking towards the sun and it was never that close. I was also very aware that I really did not want to 'throw away' the possibility of a Pallas's Warbler on the patch! I saw the bird briefly a couple more times and even heard a subdued single note call that seemed a little odd, but similar to what I have heard YBW's sometimes give and that was that, I was happy. A Firecrest was also a nice addition. I rang Doug and spent a bit more time looking for the YBW though my gut feeling was that it seemed as if it had moved through as it headed from the coast and it seemed to be on a mission heading inland. After an hour or so, I gave up and headed to the top fields where the usual Skylark and Linnet flock was present, but nothing new.

I then decided to try my luck again with the Pallas's Warbler at Orcombe Point and after about an hour or so, I got lucky with a close but brief view and even managed a photo too. Good to see Dave Stone, Dave Boult and Andrew Cunningham there too. 

Late afternoon, I decided to return to the area where I had seen the YBW in the morning, as I guess it was still niggling me just slightly that I had not seen it as well as I would have liked to. At about 15.45hrs whilst walking to the same area, I stopped to check some Goldcrests in the large Sycamores and immediately I got onto a cracking Pallas's Warbler, it then hovered and showed of its lovely golden rump! I was totally made up to find one on the patch. I rang Peter and Doug and despite staying until dusk, had no further sightings of it.  

Then of course, I began to think back to the YBW this morning and started questioning whether it was actually a Pallas's Warbler after all!? Still a bit confused about it to be honest, though it wouldn't be out of the question to have both YBW and Pallas's closeby. My gut feeling was that it was a YBW, the jizz seemed right for YBW and also one photo seemed to show an extensive pale base to the lower mandible which is also meant to be pro YBW (though Pallas's does have some pale). It just seems outrageous to find both in a day on the patch! Let alone seeing two Pallas's Warblers just 3-4 miles apart in a day!

For what it's worth I have added the poor photos of the morning bird but always wary that such poor images can be misleading. They have been lightened and there are a lot of shadows creating additional light. See what you think. 

Regardless, it was fantastic to find a Pallas's Warbler on the patch!

Pallas's Warbler - Orcomboe Point a great find by Dave Hopkins yesterday

 Yellow-browed Warbler 1?

Yellow-browed Warbler 2?

Yellow-browed Warbler 3?

Yellow-browed Warbler 4?

Yellow-browed Warbler 5? showing seemingly obvious pale base to lower mandible of bill

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Dripping with Crests!

I haven't been able to get out on the patch for the last couple of days due to various building work taking place and with the first proper rain in weeks, I was keen to get out! A call from Doug at lunchtime informed me of a Pallas's Warbler just a couple of miles along the coast on Matt's Patch, but I resisted and it made me all the more determined to find something of my own. I managed to get out for a couple of hours this afternoon. The West Cliffs seemed to be dripping with Goldcrests and it felt very "birdy" indeed. However, despite my best efforts, the best I could muster were two Firecrests (cracking nonetheless) but sadly nothing rarer. I finally gave in at around 15.45hrs and headed over to see the Pallas's Warbler, but dipped! Never mind, Tomorrow is another day!

Other birds at the weekend (24th/25th) on the patch included:

1 Short-eared Owl, 140+ Skylark, 80+ Linnet and a single Brambling

One of the Firecrests seen today - I have had up to three birds in recent days

Brambling seen at the weekend

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


A walk around the west cliffs and top fields felt very "birdy" today. Highlight was at least one Firecrest and a Dartford Warbler beside the golf course - the first I have seen here.

Dartford Warbler

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Exmouth Cackling Goose

The Exmouth Cackling Goose has been around for a few days now.  I first saw it with good friend Matt Knott (the finder of the bird) on the evening of the 29th September though it was a little distant. Therefore today I returned and managed to get a few record shots just off Exmouth Station where the bird fed with 350+ Brent Geese until it was flushed by a helicopter! 

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii is the small-bodied form of Canada Goose that breeds in the arctic tundra. There are 4 recognised subspecies. The bird at Exmouth is thought to belong to the smallest subspecies of the four, Branta hutchinsii minima or Ridgway's Cackling Goose. This subspecies has a very small bill, short neck, relatively long legs and typically very dark brown plumage. Ridgeway's Cackling Goose is stated to have a strictly Pacific population in the States with very few records east of the Rockies!  

Regardless of its origin, it is still an interesting bird and even more interesting that it has joined mostly a Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock. An unlikely carrier species??

As Matt has mentioned on his excellent Blog, it is always best to keep an "open mind" regarding its true origin, though it seems unlikely to be a true vagrant.

I am not at all certain of the bird's age, but it looks to possibly be an adult? Obviously a juvenile would be better for a "wild" candidate!

Useful links HERE to ageing Canada Geese by Sibley and more HERE by Brandon Holden.

Also check out the great photos of a bird in London last year taken by good mate, Peter Alfrey HERE

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - seems to show a strongly barred pattern on the back
with straight pale lines as well as contrasting dark and light flank lines, indicative of adult? Also wary of harsh light......

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

"Ridgway's" Cackling Goose - Exmouth

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Unringed and fully winged!

Still pretty quiet for migrants on the patch today, though Alan did well to find a Turtle Dove early this morning. The highlight this afternoon was a Barnacle Goose in with the Canada Geese. The bird was first found yesterday by David White. This is the first one I have seen on the patch. Perhaps a shame in the same flock there is a Bar-headed Goose and a feral White Goose, but who knows where the Barnacle originates from.....

Barnacle Goose on the Otter Estuary

Barnacle Goose looking a little less wild in with the Canada Geese!

Male Stonechat on the Top Fields

Peregrine along the coast today

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Keeping it Cornish

The Mrs and I headed to deepest darkest Kernow on Saturday for a change of scene. The weather was glorious with not a cloud in the sky and wall to wall sunshine!

First stop Saturday evening was the Hayle Estuary where we tried out Birdies Bistro for tea, cake and millionaire shortbread. A great spot well situated for the high tide roost at Lelant Saltings where a couple of Garganey were the highlight whilst sipping tea from the garden. Then onto the Cot Valley Youth Hostel which was to be our stop for the night. This is a cracking spot and the location of my very first Red-eyed Vireo back in 1990! 

On Sunday we were up early and did a big stomp from the Cot to Nanquidno and onto Sennen and back. Nothing outrageous on the birding front, but a great walk. Once back in St Just, we popped in to see good friend Nigel Wheatley (check out his great website on where to watch birds and wildlife around the world HERE) and his family. Here we enjoyed a fine Cornish cup of tea with Saffron Buns and Cornish butter - Lovely! It was great to see Nigel and Alice and catch up on news. We also discussed the finer points of Dinosaur id with young Ned! Great to meet Tom too!

An afternoon foray back into the Cot after a tip off from Nigel produced the best birding of the day with 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, a Firecrest and 2 Chough being the highlights. All in all, a fabulous area and one that reminded me how I really should get down more often. Watch this space.....
Mr Wheatley - After being a little elusive on Saturday night he finally showed well on Sunday complete with Saffron Buns!

The lovely Cot Valley - local patch of good friend Nigel Wheatley

Glorious Sennen Cove 

Sennen Cove looking north towards Cape Cornwall

One of the Yellow-browed Warblers in Cot Valley

Sunday, 13 September 2015