Sunday 20 November 2016

Forster's Tern in Essex

For anyone who took up twitching after the early 2000s, Forster's Tern has been a real British blocker. This bird, found yesterday on the Stour Estuary, is the first to linger anywhere in Britain since 2003 - and in fact the last widely twitchable bird was a couple of years further back than that. As such, this bird attracted quite large crowd on a bleak November day.

I've seen two Forster's Terns in Ireland (the regularly returning bird in Co Galway and a first-winter in Co Mayo in February 2014) but it was hard to ignore the temptation of heading up to Mistley this morning for a British tick, particularly given how well the bird was reported to have shown on Saturday afternoon. Eventually it did one close fly-by but in my haste I didn't notice my camera settings were a little awry and the meagre offerings below are about as good as it got for me. Weather conditions and light were absolutely awful and as anyone with a camera will know, photographing a grey bird on a grey background is never particularly easy - particularly as it bombs past at high speed.

Forster's Tern, Mistley, Essex, 20 November 2016

Saturday 19 November 2016

American Tree Sparrow in Sweden

Awful photos (ISO 5,000) of a brilliant bird in near-darkness late on Friday afternoon. Amazingly it did a Friday night bunk and a crowd of 400 (including Brits, Finns and Germans) all dipped. I think just about everyone had assumed that this bird was well settled and many seemed to think it might even stay all winter. It seems I was very lucky!

American Tree Sparrow, Staffanstorp, Sweden, 18 November 2016

Saturday 5 November 2016

Cliff Swallow

November rarities often come right out the blue, and such was the case with this Cliff Swallow at Minsmere, Suffolk. Found on a miserable Friday afternoon, it was clear that the bird wasn't going far that evening and as such it was with a high degree of confidence that up to 300 or so birders gathered on the reserve at dawn the following morning.

Some, myself included, were duped by a message of it reportedly roosting in reeds by Bittern Hide and spent the first 45 minutes of daylight there. No swallow, but great views of an Otter fishing just in front of the hide as well as a couple of fly-by Bitterns and a spectacular flock of Starlings.

The bird was first seen shortly after seven but proved a bit of a nightmare for the first half hour, almost to the point that we thought we'd dipped given that it had been seen gaining height over South Hide. Happily it came back, settled down and showed very well with up to eight Barn Swallows in bushes just north of the reserve's north wall. At times it was just overhead, though it spent most of the morning sat in hawthorns, presumably warming up, until we left a little while before 08:30.

American Cliff Swallow, Minsmere, Suffolk, 5 November 2016