Thursday, 14 September 2023


 Great to see this adult Osprey fishing in the newly created LORP habitat yesterday evening!

Friday, 8 September 2023

Ortolan Bunting!

On Wednesday 6th September, I felt like I needed a break from my daily checks of LORP, as despite it looking great for waders it still seemed to be attracting very little in the way of passage waders. Therefore I decided to head up to the West Cliffs and Budleigh Golf Course.

Wryneck was very much on my radar, as there had been a large influx into the SW recent days and the hedgerows in this area of the Golf Course look so good. However, literally the first bird I saw in the hedge was a male Cirl Bunting, a species I have never recorded up here, so a great sign birds are spreading! It then became apparent as I walked along the nearby hedge that there were at least 10+ birds in the vicinity including many juveniles. Then in with the flock I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by a bunting with a striking eye ring, pink bill and clear creamy sub-moustachial stripe - Ortolan Bunting! 

This was a bird that I had always hoped to find on the patch, but I had always imagined it in the stubble fields to the east of Otter Head. It just shows how important it is to mix up your birding sometimes and try something different to your usual routine. I was certainly glad for the change of scene and what a great morning!

Cirl Bunting and Ortolan Bunting together on the patch!

Friday, 18 August 2023

Red-footed Booby

These days, I am motivated by putting my effort into finding my own scarce and rare birds rather than twitching. However, every now and again certain birds in certain locations do still tempt me. Since my first visit in October 1989, I have always had a very strong affinity to the Isles of Scilly and it is a place I really love to visit, so with the recent news of Britain's 2nd record of a Red-footed Booby (a pantropical species) along with huge numbers of Cory's Shearwaters and other seabirds present in the South West approaches, it just seemed too good an opportunity to miss!

Therefore I took a day trip on the Scillonian and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. To be honest, one of the best highlights for me was seeing so many Shearwaters at close range from a very calm Scillonian crossing! A good couple of hundred Cory's Shearwaters, 6 Sooty Shearwaters and thousands of Manx Shearwaters. Plus great views of numerous Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Risso's Dolphin.

A great day and fabulous seabird spectacle with a bonus rarity, albeit a reminder of the worrying trend of seabirds heading out of their normal range as sea temperatures rise....

Cory's Shearwater

Cory's Shearwater
Manx and Cory's Shearwaters

Sooty Shearwater

Common Tern

Common Tern

Bishop Rock Lighthouse

First views of Red-footed Booby on top of Bishop Rock Lighthouse

Light morph Red-footed Booby

Light morph Red-footed Booby

Light morph Red-footed Booby

Bishop Rock Lighthouse

St Agnes

Colour-ringed Great Egret

Pleased to catch up with this colour-ringed Great (White) Egret on LORP during the last couple of weeks. It was ringed as a chick in the nest on 23rd May 2023 at RSPB Ham Wall and has been on LORP since early August.

Tuesday, 4 July 2023

Spotted Redshank

A nice surprise today on LORP was this moulting Spotted Redshank. It is only the 4th record for me on the site, so very pleased to find this and the first time I have seen a bird on the patch showing any signs of summer plumage. 

My previous records were:

2nd September 2011, 12 Nov 2012 and 19th March 2018

Thursday, 15 June 2023

Spoonbill LORP

This adult Spoonbill was an unexpected surprise on the Otter today. 

First seen circling high over LORP and then later commuting between the southern section of LORP and the main estuary. An odd time of year and hopefully not a sign birds are struggling further south due to drought. Note the metal ring on the left leg.

My last Spoonbill on patch was March 2018 - See link below: 

Sunday, 11 June 2023

Savi's Warbler

At around 9.45pm on 31st May after having taken a small Devon Beaver Tours group to see our local beaver population, I arrived at White Bridge and was saying goodbye to everyone when I thought I heard a brief Savi's Warbler singing!! I said my goodbyes as quickly as I could and then headed closer to the reedbed not truly believing what I thought I had heard. Then, I heard it again, a Savi’s Warbler on the patch!

Almost in disbelief, I made the following recording on my phone using the Merlin App:

Despite the bird being very close, I never actually saw it and concentrated on obtaining a recording rather than using my binoculars as there was very little light. I returned the following morning at around 5am but there was no sight nor sound up until around 7am, so I assumed it had simply moved on.

1st June Evening
I had another evening beaver walk and returned to White Bridge at 9.50pm and amazingly, the bird sang briefly again, but similar to the previous evening, it was just giving very short reels. This time I recorded the bird using video on my phone below, but again did not see it other than in my thermal camera! However, I did manage to leave out my sound recording equipment at the site.

In the above video, you can even hear the "start up" notes preceding the "reel"

2nd June Morning
I returned very early the following morning but once again there was no sight nor sound, but on checking my sound recorder I discovered the bird sang very very intermittently between 03.25hrs and 04.13hrs when my battery died.
The final time I heard the bird with my own ears was on the evening of the 2nd June when it simply gave a total of just three very very short reels at 9pm and 9.30pm.

3rd June
Below is one of the longest continuous songs that the bird gave, but again, only ever giving very short reels. It was recorded using equipment left overnight on the 2nd/3rd. It mostly sang very, very intermittently (mostly for just a few seconds) between 03.07hrs and 04.38hrs. Despite leaving my sound recording equipment out for the next few nights, this was the last time I recorded the bird on site. The recording below was at 04.33hrs 3rd June

It was very exciting to find such a rare bird on my local patch, but I did feel very frustrated!
1 - I never saw it, other than a thermal red blob on my thermal camera!😂
2 - Nobody else was likely to ever see it because it never sang in daylight!
3 - I was unable to release the news far and wide as it was in suitable breeding habitat and behaving quite strangely in terms of not ever breaking out into "full song". Some literature even suggested “short reels” were sometimes indicative of breeding activity.

In hindsight, with the bird now gone, it is perhaps easy to say I could have released the news?
I always get a buzz when I find a rare bird and for me, much of that buzz comes from sharing the excitement when others can enjoy the bird too. However, the bird's secretive behaviour, late time of year and reluctance to sing fully (possibly suggesting breeding) made me cautious. Also, let’s be honest reedbeds in the UK have been producing all sorts of exciting breeders in recent years, so stranger things have happened! Then there is the advice from the Rare Bird Breeding Panel which made it clear to me that the responsible thing to do was to keep it quiet.

The RBBP believes that Savi's Warbler are one of a number of species that are:
"especially vulnerable, and we suggest that no records of these species in circumstances suggestive of breeding or potential breeding habitat are shared in the public domain during the breeding season, unless public viewing has been arranged."

Previous Savi's Warbler Records from the Otter Estuary:
1979: 22 April and 4-8 May
1990: 28 April

Most recent Savi's Warbler records in Devon
2012: Exe Reedbeds 11-25 June (20th Devon record)
2013: Mansands 30 May (21st Devon record)

Savi's Warbler - Sadly NOT the Otter Estuary, but from Armenia in May 2023

Savi's Warbler sonogram taken from 3rd June recording, Otter Estuary

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Nocmig Scoters and Godwits

Nice to get some Common Scoters and Bar-tailed Godwits migrating over the house a few days ago. I particularly like the Tawny Owl in the background to add to the mood!

Both species were recorded during the early hours of the 17th April.

Common Scoter at around 01.42hrs and Bar-tailed Godwit at around 02.30hrs

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Night Heron

Found this adult Black-crowned Night Heron on the lake at the Bicton Park Botanical Gardens yesterday! No sign today despite two visits in and around the grounds of the Botanical Gardens, but I will try again.....

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
Adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Bicton Park Botanical Gardens

Saturday, 8 April 2023

More Lesser Yellowlegs

Great to see the Lesser Yellowlegs still remain on the patch for its third day today and it even came a little closer for a brief time. Other notable species on site included 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Green Sandpipers, 1 Grey Plover, 8 Tufted Duck and 3 Gadwall.

Grey Plover

Black-tailed Godwit and Shelducks

Cormorants and Grey Heron