January 2024

28th. I caught up with the Avon gorge peregrines. The orange-ringed female from last year is present, and the tiercel posed beautifully on a Spring-like day.

peregrine

Peregrine

Peregrine

Peregrine

Peregrine

Peregrine

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch: 11 species, and low numbers of small birds. the highlights were the usual male blackcap and a redwing.

27th. We paid a brief visit to the Rodborough Common waxwings this morning. We saw 31. A blue colour-ringed juvenile male in the penultimate photo (centre) was ringed at New Elgin near Inverness on 13/11/23, moved to Bakewell by late December, and arrived at Rodborough on 16 January.

Waxwings

Waxwing

Waxwings

Waxwings

Waxwing

We stopped at Newark Park NT, and I took some photos of a peacock. Red kite here.

Peacock

Peacock

20th: Purple sandpipers roosting near the Jubilee Pool, Penzance. About 10 visible, probably more present.

19th: Lelant Saltings: spoonbill, redhead goosander, 1 knot, adult ring-billed gull, 2 adult yellow-legged gulls, 1 adult Caspian gull (unringed). Colour-ringed Scandinavian rock pipit at causeway. Good numbers of common dolphins still in St Ives Bay, and 2 harbour porpoise too.

14th: Barrow Tanks - the male long-tailed duck is at Barrow Tanks, perhaps for its eighth winter. Female scaup, drake lesser scaup and a firecrest (Woodfood) at Chew.

13th: Four fieldfare over Bishopston near allotments.

12th: a record count of 67 goldfinch in the Bishopston garden.

9th: Slimbridge: dark-bellied brent goose, white-fronted geese, pink-footed goose, Bewick's swans, golden plover, water rail, and a spotted redshank (on Rushy). The presumed escaped Ross's goose is still present, though a wary adult snow goose that was briefly on Rushy Pen is of interest, especially as it arrived around the same time that several turned up in Scotland. It's strange that most of the geese at Slimbridge now are introduced together with a fair number of escapees!

Snow goose

The Bewick's swans were very late arriving this autumn in the mild weather. now there are over 100, though few were on Swan lake this evening.

Bewick's swan

3rd-6th. Cornwall. 6th: Hayle estuary causeway: drake green-winged teal, spoonbill, 2 adult and one second-winter Caspian gulls, 2 adult yellow-legged gulls.

Green-winged teal

Green-winged teal

Bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed godwit

Dunlin

Dunlin

Dunlin

5th: St Ives Island: 2 great northern diver, 1 black-throated diver, 2 great skua, 1 Mediterranean gull and 20+ common dolphins.

Hayle Estuary, Lelant saltings: 8 goosander, 2 pintail, spoonbill (Danish-ringed bird V463), 2 adult Caspian gulls (including yellow colour-ringed bird that appears to be P: T22 originally ringed in Poland in 2018 returning again for its third winter on the estuary), 1 second-winter Caspian gull, 2 adult yellow-legged gulls, 1 2nd-winter yellow-legged gull, adult ring-billed gull, peregrine, colour-ringed rock pipit EMN originally ringed in Norway.

Caspian gulls - ringed adult, and then second-winter

Caspian gull P:T22

Caspian gull

Second-winter yellow-legged gull

yellow-legged gull

Curlew

Curlew

Scandinavian Rock pipit EMN, ringed in Vigra, an island off the coast of Norway.

Scandinavian rock pipit

Marazion, Red River Mouth. I photographed one of the Bonaparte's gulls, which was very approachable in the evening light.

Bonaparte's gull

One bird feeds on small larvae (seaweed flies Coelopidae spp.?) around the tideline, associating with turnstones and corvids.

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Three chiffchaff included one potential tristis-type: apparently it responded strongly to tristis calls on subsequent days and became quite an attraction. One greenfinch around the river mouth, and 2 male eider offshore.

Presumed Siberian chiffchaff

Siberian chiffchaff

4th. Heavy persistent rain: Hayle Estuary, Ryan’s Field:  spoonbill, 3 bar-tailed godwits, grey wagtail.

Marazion, Red River mouth: 2 1st-winter Bonaparte’s gulls, ca. 20 sanderling, chiffchaff. St Ives: 2 purple sandpipers on Island, female-type black redstart, Barnoon Cemetery. About 10 common scoter seen from window flying west.

One of the Bonaparte's gulls has a broken tail band and less brown on the carpals (lower photo from 5th).

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte's gull

Stonechat

Stonechat

2nd. Greylake during Storm Henk. The Baikal teal that had shown well over the last few days seems to have moved on. Two common cranes and a marsh harrier were present, and large flocks of dabbling duck.

1st. Male blackcap in the garden. We saw a firecrest, 2 goldcrest, bullfinch, and a great spotted woodpecker on Clifton Downs, and had very close views of the tiercel peregrine in the Avon Gorge.

2023 was an excellent year by my standards of birding. I saw 10 new species for the UK for me (8 in Cornwall or Isles of Scilly)- Hume's leaf warbler, Isabelline wheatear, serin, white-spotted bluethroat, Scopoli's shearwater (identified from my photograph), red-footed booby, melodious warbler, lesser grey shrike, northern harrier and white-crowned sparrow. I managed to get decent photos of 8 of these. Standout bird was the lesser grey shrike, which approached us while catching hornets in a fairly wild landscape on the edge of Bodmin Moor. My second favourite was the white-crowned sparrow, which I missed on my first visit, and which then showed brilliantly on my second. Both of these last two birds were shared with only one other birder close by. We had superb weather on our Isles of Scilly holiday - in addition to the 3 lifers, I found a woodchat shrike, and saw a second bird and a red-backed shrike. We saw two wrynecks, photographed an amazing Milky Way with a dim aurora, saw an ocean sunfish have its parasites removed by gulls, walked between Tresco and Bryher on a Spring tide and searched rock pools with many crystal jellies. The views of shearwaters on the pelagic trips were spectacular. In Cornwall, I saw 2 Alpine swifts from the house that then roosted on St Ia's Church. Seawatching from Island produced 3 skua species, 5 shearwater species (including my best views of great and up to 16 Cory's) and a glaucous gull. Other highlights in West Cornwall included two little buntings, night heron, Azorean yellow-legged gull, upland sandpiper, 5 lesser scaup, green-winged teal, and a tame red-throated diver and ring-necked duck. I saw glaucous, Iceland, ring-billed, Caspian and Bonaparte's gulls in West Cornwall. It was great to catch up with willow tits after many years, and to compare them with marsh tits close by. Other Cornish highlights included a flock of 30 choughs, and 64 red kites passing over Rosewall Hill on their annual Spring passage. Another ring-neck duck was at Blagdon, and an American wigeon frequented Shapwick Heath. A great reed warbler showed well at Ham Wall. Slimbridge highlights included a white-rumped sandpiper, black-winged stilt, and an approachable short-eared owl. An Iberian chiffchaff sang in the Forest of Dean. I saw some distant food passes by the peregrines in the Avon Gorge and had great views of the nesting kestrels there. Wintering firecrests remained on Clifton Downs. The local Bristol highlight was undoubtedly finding up to 25 waxwings close to our Bishopston House just before Christmas, and seeing them from the house. As I prepare for my 40th year at the University of Bristol, I enjoyed a productive year of publications, and the field course at Dale Fort was also enjoyable in great weather, and included another wonderful trip to Skomer Island. I also has brief views of a short-toed lark at Dale airfield. There was lots of other amazing wildlife in 2023: the close-by humpback whale in St Ives, and large pods of common dolphins too; an otter that walked past us at Ham Wall; by-the-wind sailors and my first Portuguese men o'war in Cornwall; red-veined chasers and vagrant emperor dragonfly on the Lizard; my first monarch butterfly in the UK on the Lizard; death's head and convolvulus hawkmoths on Scilly, and photographing insects with the Canon 100mm macro lens.

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