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November 2013 sightings and blog

29 November 2013 Spent from 1100-2.00pm cycling or walking around the Forest of Dean exploring areas I have not covered of late. I settled down at a clearing to listen for crossbills and a Great Grey Shrike popped up. It circled the area trying it’s luck from various vantage points, at one point mobbing a Raven and pausing to hover over me. I just love watching these beautifully marked birds. It coughed up a pellet to rid itself of the useless parts of what it had eaten during the day. I eventually found some Crossbills with parties of 5, 19, 2, and 9 mostly around New Fancy View. Some may well have been the same birds as they were very mobile. In addition, also saw c30 Siskin, I believe I am seeing a pattern where by they arrive among feeding Crossbills perhaps to glean seeds from cones there larger relatives have conveniently opened. Likely to be a safety in mumbers issue also as it is easy to for Sparrowhawks to sneak up on them. A few Brambling were also vocal as they flew by but I saw none settled in this area.

Great Grey Shrike- Forest of Dean

Great Grey Shrike, FoD, MJMcGill 29 Nov 13 Great Grey Shrike, Staple Edge Wood, FoD, MJMcGill, 29 Nov 13

28 November 2013 A day out exploring the Forest of Dean with great results, I hardly noticed the overcast conditions as it was so still. At Edgehills I enjoyed the search and had success logging 4 Hawfinch, 50+ Brambling, 450 Chafffinch, 30 Siskin, 8 Crossbill (2,1 and 5). West of New Fancy View were 40+ Brambling, 200 Chaffinch and 3 Hawfinch. At Crabtree Hill the ever smart Great Grey Shrike was putting on a show. It was skipping from perch to perch and hovering over prey until it was disturbed by people walking across the middle of the heath. Quite a bird when you see it tail spread flapping in a hover.  To add to the experience a male Hawfinch showed very well as I chatted to Keith Vinicombe. I saw a single Crossbill but Keith had seen 7 plus at least 3 Two-barred Crossbill, they are getting much harder to locate. News came through of a possible Parrot Crossbill seen here yesterday which was what I was out looking for. More Forest forays are needed to relocate these birds or cross fingers that the forest birders manage to find them again.

Brambling and Chaffinch, Edgehills, FoD.

Brambling and Chaffinch, Edgehills, FoD, MJMcGill, 28 Nov 13 Brambling, Edgehills, FoD, 28 Nov 2013, MJMcGill

Hawfinch, Crabtree Hill, FoD

Hawfinch, Crabtree Hill, FoD Hawfinch, Crabtree Hill

27 November 2013 I attend the appointment at Southmead Hospital, Bristol for an operation on my toe and met with the consultant for a third time. Things had improved with regard to infection thus swinging the balance against proceeding with it right now. Opening up a new area is does add a risk of infection so the decision was made by me to leave it for now. I hope there is no return of any problem with my toe as I am keen to keep operations to a minimum. Overall this is good news, I still have at least one more operation in the  future but this allows a few months respite and to continue with a fitness programme which includes getting out and about walking as much as possible.

25 November 2013 Having got increasing counts of Wigeon on a date or two during the month it was a treat to log 2620 on 25th November. The cold weather and ice appeared to have moved all the Coombe Hill GWT birds down to WWT Slimbridge. Over 2000 were feeding on the Dumbles scrape Wigeon lawns. Although these are way off a record count (7000+) it is impressive to see them in large flocks. A male Teal looked a little bemused to be surrounded by the wrong species. It was a dark, overcast morning but here is an image of this little duck.

Teal among the Wigeon
“What am I doing among this lot”

Teal among Wigeon, Dumbles, 25 Nov 2013, MJMcGill

23 November 2013 A day out to the Hampshire/Dorset coast and heaths. See trip report page for details.

Spoonbills, Holes Bay
27 of them on a dusk high tide!

Spoonbill flock, Holes Bay, Dorset

Surf Scoter, Brand’s Bay, Poole Harbour

Surf Scoter, Brand's Bay,

16 November 2013 What can I say, after a few visits to look for them this autumn, I failed. I was however delighted when eventually two were located by one FoD resident birder (G. Black) and headed over to the forest on to try my luck. I had some intimate views of Common Crossbills but not the target bird. What were we all looking for? It is an invasion year and the species is the Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill. Saturday morning I had a message that Lewis Thomson had located five of these smashing birds so off I went with Neil to join many county birders who were delighted to connect with what turned out to be 17+ Two-barred Crossbills! Thanks to the forest birders for sharing these top birds, apparently the third largest flock ever noted in the UK. We continued birding and saw 2 Hawfinches, 2 Brambling, Willow Tit, 200 Siskin, 20 Lesser Redpoll and a lovely Great Grey Shrike, the latter at the same time as 12 Two-bars were perched on spruce on the heath, 14 flew off and returning to the original spot we saw 11 feeding together in the Western Hemlocks. A damn good morning out.

Two-barred Crossbill, Kensley Lodge, Forest of Dean

Two barred Crossbill, male, Kensley Lodge, MJMcGill Two barred Crossbill, female, Kensley Lodge

Great Grey Shrike, Crabtree Hill, Forest of Dean

Great Grey Shrike

Recent highlights for the month below.

12 November 2013 Migrant Hawker and Common Darter still on the wing today.

11 November 2013 Adult Little Gull flew downriver

10 November 2013 Connected with the two Glossy Ibis on the South Lake, WWT Slimbridge.

Purple Sandpiper on the Rushy
8, 10, 11 November 2013

Purple Sandpiper, Rushy, MJMcGill Purple Sandpiper, Rushy, 12 Nov 13 MJMcGill

Purple Sandpiper, MJMcGill

Green-winged Teal Top New Piece
I eventually caught up with this little duck that Gord Youdale discovered. I saw it among the thousands of Teal on a couple of dates.

Green winged Teal, MJMcGill

5 November 2013 A Barn Owl near to home in Whitminster, always nice.



Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 10:20 pm

Siberian Chiffchaff at WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013

I was pleased to be able to start the day in calm and sunny conditions, a Reed Bunting flew over heading SE when I got out of the car. After feeding the Rushy wildfowl I set off to unlock the rest of the reserve’s hides. I  passed Blackbird, Song Thrush and Redwing that were all out in the open enjoying the settled weather in the Rushy lane. At the Martin Smith Hide I looked out across the Tack Piece noting an increase in the Wigeon and Teal numbers at this site today.

I heard a warbler singing outside and was puzzled, so went out to look for it. No further sound. Steve Owen arrived and joined me. I have not seen Steve for a while so while we were catching up only a Goldcrest called.  I unlocked the gate to access the Holden Tower and walk down to the Holden Tower with Steve. Not far past the tunnel I heard the warbler again in the Elders and Field Maple so we retraced our steps, it sounded like a speeded up Chiffchaff with a different sound, hard to describe but more tutswee or tutsouee notes.

It took a few minutes to show and sang regularly for Steve and I. When it showed it was in the company of another Chiffchaff, this bird was clearly different. We had excellent views from below and I got a few shots, Steve was certain he had heard a Siberian Chiffchaff on Scilly singing the same song in recent years, I have to admit it was new to me. I have heard them call many times before but not heard the song. It was a distinctive as Iberian Chiffchaff, I recorded the call on my phone and then moved to get a clear shot from the bridge and succeded in taking some of use. It eventually moved off to the Decoy. About 50 minutes later I located again by song at the Rushy/In Focus end of the Decoy. I left Steve Owen and Geoff Moyser with it and carried on with my chores for the day.

It was seen near Robbie Garnett Hide at around 1040am by James Lees and in the afternoon near the Rain Garden, Big Pen by Bruce and Jean Pendlebury. I searched and listened at lunchtime 1340-1400 along the Holden Tower path but did not locate it there.

Without checking I reckon I have found/seen over ten Siberian Chiffchaff at WWT Slimbridge, almost annually in recent years.  I had one overwinter in my Bristol garden when I was c 15 years old and have seen/heard likely birds in many SW counties and a few others in Glos such as Frampton Pools and CWP.

All images M.J.McGill

Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (7) copy

Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (16)_edited-1 Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (13) copy Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (10) copy

Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 10:09 pm

August, September and October 2013 sightings and blog

Red-veined Darter, Forest of Dean 3 August 2013

Red veined Darter, Forest of Dean, 3 August 13, MJMcGill

I took this image whilst out looking for a Keeled Skimmer, I was pleased to have reach the same spot as I did in June but this time without crutches. This is a rather one dimensional blog involving much talk of my injuries but it has totally dominated my life since April and wildlife experiences were often snatched but very much cherished. Some of the images during the period follow.

I became more mobile during the summer as wounds repaired and built my working days to five days a week on light duties. I was still suffering pain and restriction from part of the metalwork in my foot, after a consultation with the surgeons who re-built my foot I was booked in for another operation on 20 August. I was not looking forward to this as I knew it would be a step back and this time it was not emergency surgery. The summer weather was incredible and juvenile birds were still fledging well into the season. I had the operation on 20th August and it went to plan, excellent day case operation procedure and brilliant staff at Frenchay. I was really sore and bleeding but rested for a up week. The anaesthetic and subsequent medication really took it out of me again. I had to look after the stitches and the wound but also start using my foot to ensure it did not seize up. It took a long time to heal as it was the second time it was opened up and did not close over until late October. I had a few other problems with an infection in the toe and was back on antibiotics again in October. I did return fully to work but on lighter duties and will be using annual leave to have regular longer rest periods. I had a family holiday 24-30 October to Portugal and Spain which has done us all a lot of good. Blog of that trip is already posted. I still have a lot of recuperating to do and possibly more surgery to remove the support metalwork in my foot in future, weekly physiotherapy has been going well. Thanks to all of you who ask how I am doing.

Back to the birds….

Juvenile Robin at Hidcote NT and juvenile Green Woodpecker, Eastington.

Robin, juvenile, 7 Aug 13, MJMcGill Green Woodpecker, juvenile, 7 Aug 13, MJMcGill

WWT Slimbridge was full of passage waders and that makes me smile.
Snipe at the South Lake

Common Snipe, South Lake, 18 Aug 13, MJMcGill  Snipe, South Lake, MJMcGill

Little ringed Plover juvenile

Little ringed Plover, juvenile, 18 Aug 13, MJMcGill

Unseasonal Dark bellied Brent Goose remained at WWT Slimbridge

Dark bellied Brent

Painswick Beacon Blue

Blue butterfly, Painswick Beacon, 26 Aug 13, MJMcGill

Yellow Wagtails on the Dumbles, Severn Estuary.

Yellow Wagtail, Dumbles, MJMcGill 10 Sep 13 (4)_edited-1 Yellow Wagtail, Dumbles, MJMcGill 10 Sep 13 (5)_edited-1 Yellow Wagtail, Dumbles, MJMcGill 10 Sep 13_edited-1

Curlew Sandpiper on the Severn. Although not a record I did see 19 one day on the mudflats.

P1030129_edited-1 Curlew Sandpiper, Severn, 23 Sep 13, MJMcGill

23 September 2013
Whilst I was looking for the Buff breasted Sandpiper (did see it briefly the day before) with visiting birders a new, previously unrecorded Spoonbill arrived on the Dumbles edge, it was intially roosting among the Shelduck and gulls before heading north.

Spoonbill, Severn, 23 Sep 13, MJMcGill

6 October 2013
at Severn House Farm
I just had to go and have a look at Paul Taylor’s nice find especially as it was so obliging. I could have got some great images if it was not so busy along the footpath.

Wryneck, Severn House Farm, 13 Oct 13, MJMcGill (3) copy Wryneck, Severn House Farm, 13 Oct 13, MJMcGill (5) copy Wryneck, Severn House Farm, 13 Oct 13, MJMcGill (7) copy

7 October 2013
Although I was off I thought about going down to work to check the tide but decided on investigating the northern fields. I got a call from James to say he had seen a Baird’s Sandpiper on the estuary and joined him in a search for it. The tide was very high and it was with the small waders in the Top New Piece, views were distant and into the light, a couple of poor images follow.

Baird’s Sandpiper, Top New Piece, WWT

Baird's Sandpiper, WWT (21) copy Baird's Sandpiper, WWT (15) copy

In the afternoon I sadly attended the funeral service of the father of one of my closest friends in the Forest of Dean. I took a short walk at Woorgreens prior and I saw 14 Crossbill, 3 Wigeon on the lake, 40 Siskin, 2 Raven and 18 Meadow Pipit. Whilst the service was in progress a few Crossbills were calling in the trees above, a bird guard of honour, very apt as Bob was very much into his birds and we always talked about Forest of Dean avifauna or football when he and his wife Sue ’put me up’ for the night after a few pints with Tom. A thoroughly nice bloke who was into wildlife and will be missed.

11 October 2013
Thousands of Redwing over today, very impressive.

14 October 2013
A Brambling flying around calling over my garden was a nice start to the day, 2 Swallows were over at the same time. I picked up a Great Skua in my scope out on the estuary off Saul Warth during this gale/storm, it was creating mass panic among the gulls and waders. No pics sadly.

Common Gull ahead of the Severn squall.

Common Gull and rainbow, Severn, MJMcGill

15 October 2013

A sunny morning produced this Marsh Harrier on the Dumbles.It flew in persued by corvids and hid in the hedge before flying off toward the 100 Acre and then returning to rest on the pasture.

Marsh Harrier, Dumbles, 15 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy

17 October 2013
A confiding Stonechat in the 5 Acre, good to see them as this species has taken a hammering in recent cold winters and is not a regular wintering bird currently.

Stonechat, WWT 5 Acre,17 Oct 13,  MJMcGill (14) copy Stonechat, WWT 5 Acre,17 Oct 13,  MJMcGill (8) copy Stonechat, WWT 5 Acre,17 Oct 13,  MJMcGill (2) copy

19 October 2013
A walk with family and friends to Haresfield trig point produced 14 Crossbill over with a Merlin stooping at them and 2 Raven.

20 October 2013
A rather orangey and well marked Hen Harrier was over the spartina island on the Severn.

Hen Harrier, Severn Estuary, 20 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy Hen Harrier, Severn Estuary, 20 Oct 13, MJMcGill (2) copy

Autumnal Robin

Robin, WWT, MJMcGill copy




Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 9:35 pm

Eastern Algarve, Portugal and Huelva Province, Andalucia, Spain 24-30 October 2013

Eastern Algarve 25-26 October 2013

Sardinian Warbler, Tavira, Portugal, 30 Oct 13, MJMcGill 001copy

Male Sardinian Warbler-common bird of the region
All images MJMcGill

Ria Formosa-Quinta de Lago

A welcome family holiday, was late in the year due to my weekly hospital appointments (long story) during the spring, summer and autumn. We spent two nights at Quinta de Lago, one night in Seville (Seville province), a night in Galaroza, Spain, two nights in Castro Marim back in Portugal with day trips back into Spain.

An evening arrival to Faro in wet weather the night before never allowed any birding but we settled into an apartment in Quinta de Lago and a noodle and rice dinner from the local Chinese takeaway. It rained all night and most of the day, very heavy at times and caused a bit of flooding. I went out early to check out some pools and saltpans I have been to before, all sites are well known to birders. First birds of the day were Azure winged Magpies, flocks are constantly on view in this part of Iberia, flying across the road in mobs. Arriving at Lagoa de Sao Laurenco and adjoing saltpans I was greeted by a Caspian Tern, a few were about including a juvenile begging for food. On the lake were Little Bittern, egrets, the intoduced Black headed Weavers, plenty of Gadwall, Little Grebe and Coot plus Purple Swamphens, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe and gulls drinking including 2 Audouin’s. On the golf fairways 2 Glossy Ibis, Black tailed Godwits, White Storks and 3 Snipe fed. Hoopoe, Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, Crested Lark, Stonechat and Zitting Cisticola were abundant and formed the daily species line up for the rest of the trip. Grey Plover, Dunlin, Spotted and Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Whimbrel were all noted. Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher and Sandwich Tern were also seen.

We spent the afternoon in a very wet, rainy Vilamoura Harbour where a Common Tern fished.

I returned to Quinta de Lago later when the sun came out as did the birds. One of the highlights was watching a Black-winged Kite hunting in flight and from the tall trees to the east of the lake (open area with line of tall trees, bird favoured one with two storks nests in it). The kite was still present next morning in the same area. Lots of birds came in to roost at dusk including the Black headed Weavers. A selection of images are shown below.

Hoopoe sheltering from rain, Quinta de Lago (3) copy Bluethroat, Rio Formosa, 25 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy Glossy Ibis coming in to roost, Lagoa de Sao Laurenco, MJMcGill copy

Images above
Hoopoe sheltering from torrential rain using the bushes above the wall as an umbrella. They are very common in the Algarve and provide the classic call as an audible backdrop. I was surprised how many Blackbirds were present, migrants from the north?
Bluethroat- this is a dull 1st winter bird, they are a common wintering species in the saltpan salicornia scrub. I did see some blue throated adults including a bird that appeared to have a lime green ring on the right leg. I noted at least eight. The adult males were busy chasing off territory intruders.
Glossy Ibis- at dusk at least 50 came in to roost at Lagoa de Sào Laurenco along with hundreds of egrets.

Little Bittern at dusk, Lagoa de Sao Laurenco, MJMcGill (3) copy Purple Swamphen in the rain, Lagoa de Sao Laurenco, MJMcGill copy Sunset Bar tailed Godwit and Little Egret, Quinta de Lago, MJMcGill copy

Images above
Little Bittern- I saw at least three, mostly in flight but this bird came out at dusk.
Purple Swamphen-ten plus were busy ripping up roots of the bullrushes.
Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Egret on the saltpans at sunset.

Spoonbills, Quinta del Lago, 26 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy Purple Swamphen, Quinta de Lago copy

Images above
Spoonbills and Purple Swamphen.

26-27 October
We left Quinta de Lago (saw 2 Red-rumped Swallow near Tavira) and used the small car ferry at Vila Real de San Antonio to cross the Guadiana to Ayamonte, Spain. The first time I have arrived in Spain from the water. An afternoon, night and morning in Seville was all about food, architecture and historical sites but I did see what was probably a Lesser Kestrel over the cathedral/Giralda at dusk and parakeets were everywhere. Tapas bars and a visit to the stupendous Alcazar and Museo were the main focus. I was somewhat distraught to find out the football match between Seville and Osasuna was a midday kick off. I saw the away team coach arrive in the morning as we stayed in a hotel next door. I believed it to be an evening kick off otherwise I would have got a ticket. The atmosphere and sound in the stadium was amazing to hear. Seville won 2-1. On the way to our next accommodation in the Western Sierra Morena we stopped off in the Zufre, Sierra de Aracena. Griffon Vultures soared above and Crag Martins fed around the church. It was hot and sunny and this was a great Tapas stop, also good for butterflies.

27-28 October

A night in a chestnut coppice forest was a new experience, it was a very rural place in a traditional cottage. Often the only sound, apart from birds was of chestnuts (castãna) falling to the ground. I did wonder if this word had anything to do with castanets and found after investigation they were indeed made from chestnut wood and look a little like them. We spent the night next to the chetnut wood open fire roasting chestnuts. This tree was dominating our days, we saw plenty of chestnut sellers in Seville and lots of families collecting them en route. A few Woodlark were in song around the woods and other notable birds were Cirl Buntings, Firecrest and Griffon Vultures.

Chestnut forest, Galaroz (4) copy Chestnut forest, Galaroz copy

Images above- Chestnut coppice with ploughed soil below. Most of the forest had an understory of scrub but this image shows the trees better.

Chiffchaff in the Chestnuts
A greenish bird with a short rapid hweet call.

Chiffchaff, Galaroz, Huelva, 28 Oct 13, MJMcGil copy

Images below- Crag Martins play around the marvellous Mezquita at Almonster de Real.

Crag Martins, Almonaster la Real, Huelva, 28 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy Crag Martins, Almonaster la Real, Huelva, 28 Oct 13, MJMcGill (8) copy

29 October
Castro Marim salinas, Portugal and Odiel Marshes, El Portil Lagoon, Punta Umbria beach, Huelva, Spain
It is so easy to pop across the border for a few hours or the day. I went out for an hour in the morning, spent the afternoon at Huelva and a quick visit to El Portil. We had lunch on the beach at Punta Umbria where I saw the only Southern Grey Shrike of the trip as it flew west. El Portil had Flamingo, waders, Black-necked Grebes and a Black and Whiskered Tern as well as duck including Pintail in numbers.

Cattle Egret, Odiel Marhse, Huelva, MJMcGill (2) copy White Storks scrapping, Castro Marim, MJMcGill

Cattle Egret and squabbling White Storks (above) at Castro Marim

Caspian Terns (below) Odiel Marshes, Huelva.
At least six were fishing the creeks and channels with the visitor centre area being best for viewing them. I watched one mobbing an Osprey.

Caspian Tern, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, MJMcGill (2) copy Caspian Tern, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, MJMcGill (4) copy

Caspian Tern flies past Recreativo FC ground. Where Spanish football began in 1889.

Caspian Tern, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, MJMcGill copy

Cattle Egret (below) Odiel Marshes, Huelva

Cattle Egret, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, MJMcGill

Hoopoe (below) delightful to see them regularly especially from the car.

Hoopoe, Odiel Marshes MJMcGill

Ospreys (below) were re-introduced to the Odiel Marshes. They show very well as they hunt for fish or perch on exposed places with a view. I saw at least four. The image with Greater Flamingos also shows a Black-necked Grebe, dozens were on the salinas. I also searched the creeks which had plenty of waders roosting at high tide but only the longer legged species. The smaller waders were out in the salinas somewhere but began appearing as the tide dropped. This site is probably better at low tide for variety of species and close views.

Osprey, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, 29 Oct 13, MJMcGill (5) copy

Osprey, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, 29 Oct 13, MJMcGill (4) copy Osprey, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, 29 Oct 13, MJMcGill (3) copyOsprey, Odiel Marshes, Huelva, 29 Oct 13, MJMcGill (7) copy

Shovelers and Stilts, Odiel Marshes, Huelva

Shoveler and Stilts, Odiel Marshes, Huelva copy

30 October
Castro Marim castle gave excellent views over the salinas, a great way to see where the action is and work out a plan. I was not really out birding but saw Marsh Harrier, White Storks, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel over the fort, Crag Martins and plenty of familar species.

Tavira, Portugal A last afternoon out after eating in the town and exploring was to the Ria Formosa and saltpans of Tavira. Flocks of Flamingo, Mediterranea Gulls, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and other wetland species were to be seen but the highlight was a ringed (but unreadable) Slender-billed Gull adult. Bluethroat, Sardinian Warbler (below) and close wader watching at lower tide. I noticed small boats doing trips along the tidal creeks, they allow close and quiet access to birds on the sandbars and mudflats, well worth a go for photography.

Greater Flamingo, Tavira, Portugal (2) copy  Sardinian Warbler, Tavira, Portugal, 30 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy

Filed under: Trip Reports


at 12:39 pm