Oct 282018

I recently received a social media message advising me of the discovery of a rare plant on my local patch at Staunton Harold Reservoir.

The Marsh Dock (Rumex palustris) the plant in question, hasn’t been seen in Derbyshire since 1976. So I checked out the plant on the internet, in order to know exactly what I was looking for and decided to go and search for it on Saturday 27th October 2018. All I had to go on was a rough grid reference. After searching the exposed gravel beaches at the reservoir for at least an hour, I eventually found the Marsh Dock. I discovered three separate plants all together. Two fairly close to each other and the third specimen, which was more isolated and some distance from the first two.

The extremely low water levels must be a reason for this plants discovery. I suspect that the seeds have been in the ground for all this time and the exposed gravel shores, drying out, have influenced the germination of the seeds. Whilst searching for the Marsh Dock, I also discovered Marsh Cudweed (Gnaphalium uliginosum) another plant that I have never seen before.

Marsh Dock – Above 4 images – Staunton Harold Reservoir – Tony Davison©

Marsh Cudweed – Staunton Harold Reservoir – Tony Davison©

Staunton Harold Reservoir – Extremely low water levels has exposed plant rich gravels that have not been seen for many years. Looking North East towards the dam

Staunton Harold Reservoir – Looking South towards Calke Park and Spring Wood

Staunton Harold Reservoir – 54% full October 27th 2018


 Posted by at 10:17 pm
Oct 272018

An “Eastern” Stonechat was discovered, a week or so ago, in fields at Salthouse in Norfolk. I decided to go and see this bird and managed to do that on Friday 26th October 2018.

The identification challenge – is it a Stejneger’s Stonechat (a potential third record for Britain) or the more regular and less rare, Siberian Stonechat? The complexities on the identification of “Eastern Stonechats” are well known, but not so well documented, as Stejneger’s Stonechat has only recently been split to a separate species. Since, there have been a number of papers published and an excellent account can be found in “Birding Frontiers Challenge Series” – Autumn, by the late Martin Garner. A pioneering article on the subject of identifying “Eastern” Stonechats.

Stejneger’s Stonechat breeds in north-east Asia and now seems to have an established pattern of vagrancy into Western Europe, with birds turning up from early October, peaking in late October, early November. 

Currently it seems that confirmation to species can only be validated 100% by DNA analysis, but as more birds are discovered, surely there will be a reliable method of field identification criteria established?

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Note the small orange-chestnut rump patch – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Note the darker markings on upper parts – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Note the prominent isolated white throat – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – As with both “Eastern” Stonechat species, note the “Whinchat like” appearance – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Note the fresh plain flanks

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Plumage tones changed in varying degrees of light – Tony Davison©

Probable Stejneger’s Stonechat – Salthouse, Norfolk – Tony Davison©


 Posted by at 7:40 pm
Oct 212018

My first BIG twitch of the year took place on Saturday 20th October, the target, a Grey Catbird, all the way from the US of A. This was the second record for Britain of this species, so a real MEGA and had been performing in small scrubby fields at Lands End for the past five days. I’d never seen Grey Catbird before, so a new bird for me, as well as being my 511th bird for Britain. Was it worth the effort, it sure was. A superb bird that was enjoyed by many birders from all over the country, in warm Cornish sunshine and in a stunning location. In my view you can’t beat seeing a North American bird in Britain, the ultimate rare. 

Grey Catbird – 1st winter, Treeve Moor, Land’s End, Cornwall. This was my very first view of this bird as it skulked around in a small sallow – Tony Davison©

Grey Catbird – Renowned to be skulking in their habits and located by their “Mewing Call’ reminiscent of a cat, which is where they get their name. This was the view I expected – Tony Davison©

Grey Catbird – Above 2 – But with patience I had some extremely rewarding views, as the bird was hunting for food along the hedgerow – Tony Davison©


 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Oct 152018

My trip to Shetland this year (2018) took place on 21st September 2018 till 29th September 2018. It turned out to be one, if not the, worst week we have had in the last 10 years of visiting Unst. The weather conditions were very grim, with a continuous strong wind blowing from the west or north west, with heavy rain on most days. There was simply very few migrant birds about and the conditions were very difficult for migrant birding. The conditions were the same across Shetland during our stay. The weather improved from the 1st October and several good birds were discovered, but alas too late for us.

We did manage to get over to Walsay Island on the 23rd September, to see a first winter Yellow-breasted Bunting, discovered the previous day, which these days is a mega rare bird. This was definitely the bird of the trip.

Other highlights were – 2 Common Rosefinch on 22nd Sept; Common Whitethroat on 22nd and 28th; Spotted Redshank on Walsay on 23rd Sept and 3 Arctic Tern; Wood Warbler on 25th Sept; Common Rosefinch on 26th Sept; Barred Warbler on 27th Sept and 28th Sept and White-winged Scoter at Musselburgh on 30th Sept.

1st winter male Yellow-breasted Bunting – Above 3 images – Walsay Island, Shetland – 23rd September 2018 – Tony Davison©

Drake American White-winged Scoter – Musselburgh, Lothian – 30th September 2018 – Tony Davison©

1st year Barred Warbler – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©

1st year Black-headed Gull – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©

Common Seal – “Chilling Out” at Baltasound, Unst – September 2018 – Tony Davison©

Eider or Dunter as they are called on Shetland – female and 2 offspring – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©

Gannet – photographed in a howling gale on 29th September at Belmont on Unst – Tony Davison©

Hooded Crow – Baltasound, Unst – Tony Davison©

Redshank – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©

Ringed Plover – above 2 images – Norwick, Unst – Lying amongst the smelly, wet seaweed for several hours paid off with some good interaction with common waders – Tony Davison©

Sanderling – above 5 images – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©

Shetland Wren – Juvenile – Lund, Unst – Tony Davison©

Turnstone – above 7 images – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©

Black Guillemot or Tystie as it is called on Shetland – Lerwick Harbour – Tony Davison©

Storm action at Skaw, Unst – Skaw beach is one of the most dangerous beaches I’ve ever been on during a gale. It is easy to get caught out by the waves – Tony Davison©

Willow Warbler – Lund, Unst – one of only half a dozen we saw during the week – Tony Davison©


 Posted by at 2:05 pm
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