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Your birding

month When, where and how to see more birds


tickets to RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

jargon buster

And a copy of the Bradt guidebook to the Azores This year, for the first time, the Azores Tourist Office will host a garden at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show (July 3-8), supported by specialist tour operator Sunvil Discovery. Sunvil is delighted to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to the show and a copy of the Bradt guidebook to the Azores, worth £72.99 in total. For your chance to win, visit and answer this question: Which European country are the Azores part of?



The later summer months are a time when this year’s generation of Ospreys may go wandering, seeking feeding areas away from the nest site. Though they are still rare breeders, they

are becoming less so, and now is as good a time as any to have a fly-over. Keep your eyes peeled and look to the skies for the distinctive long kink-winged flight profile.

birding top ten Sports stars 2 David Chapman

Have a Nightjar night Nightjars are summer visitors and midsummer is a great time to stay out late and risk the mozzies for a chance to hear or see them. Step one is to find a site where they occur (a heath with wooded rides is ideal; check a site guide to find your spot). Step two is to wait in a good spot until you think it may be getting too late to see anything. Step 6 Bird Watching 2012

three, listen carefully and keep your eyes peeled. Optional step four is the Bill Oddie trick of waving a white handkerchief… The song is a very pleasing, trilling purr, which shifts in pitch slightly, rather like a Grasshopper Warbler song as performed by a bird, not an insect disguised as a bird. ■ David Chapman’s Nightjar portfolio, page 70

Barn Owls are famed for being daytime hunters (a feature they have in common with some Short-eared Owls and Little Owls), but for most of the year, most are largely crepuscular (out and about in the twilight hours). However, when breeding birds have young to feed, they are more often seen out hunting (as they need to get as much food as possible to feed their growing broods). So, take advantage of the long days of the summer months to go looking for Barn Owls. Some birds habitually feed near road verges, so you could get an opportunity to use your car as a hide, with a beanbag for a camera rest.

Gary K Smith (Alamy)

Melvin Grey (NHPA)

Wandering Ospreys

Barn Owls out in daytime

The slightly derogratory term, used by some hardcore birders, for people who like birds, but don’t really know much about them. Just as the term twitcher encompasses a range of birders from simple tickers to some of our most knowledgeable and expert field twitchers, so Robin-strokers can in reality include a wide span of birdwatchers who don’t take their birding incredibly seriously. The name, of course, derives from a sort of cartoon caricature.

1 Eden Buzzard 2 Duncan Goodsmew 3 Billie Jean Kingfisher 4 Jo-Wilfried Tsong Thrush 5 A P Macaw 6 Swanny O’Sullivan 7 Sir Matthew Pintail 8 Sir Steve Redstart 9 Noquack Duckovic 10 Roger Featherer Thanks to Paul Casey, Jim Murray, Paul Oswick, Judy Owen and everyone else who took part. Next issue, we’re after your birding book puns, such as Crake Expectations and Catcher in the Wryneck. See more of your classic bird puns at topten and send your entries to birdwatching@ or share them on Twitter, using the hashtag #birdbooks

Your birding


4 for the list We are moderately well endowed with corvids in this country and given the right locality and a bit of skill it can be possible to see most, if not all, of them in a day. Most are widespread, but you will need to be in certain areas in the west to see Chough and in the far north-east to have the best chance of Hooded Crow. David Chapman

Oliver Smart


Hooded Crow

Our smallest ‘black’ crow, the small, compact Jackdaw is not much bigger than a Mistle Thrush. It has a small bill, pale eye and unique grey nape. This crow nests more closely to human habitation than other crows, including chimney pots! They’ve even been known to turn up in fireplaces!

The Hoodie is a common bird of Scotland west of the Great Glen, as well as the Scottish islands, Ireland and the Isle of Man. It has black flight feathers, tail and head/breast, the rest of the plumage being grey. Around the Glen, hybrids with mixed plumage characters of Carrion and Hooded are numerous. Alan Williams

Alan Williams


The giant among our crows has made a great surge eastwards in the last decade, descending from its western upland habitat to cities and woodland sites as far east as the edges of East Anglia. It is a huge bird, the size of a Buzzard, with a huge bill and long wedge-shaped tail.


The rarest of our corvids, the Chough is also their champion flier. Though Ravens can tumble and roll with the best of them, there is an elegance and grace about these broad-winged beauties. There are fewer than 500 breeding pairs, nearly all in western Scotland and Wales and a few pairs in Cornwall. 7


DartforD Warbler A closer look at a bird that almost seems out of place in Britain

espite the name, the Dartford Warbler has always been more at home in southwestern Europe, especially Spain, than in the distinctly chilly garden of England. As Sylvia warblers go, its looks are closer to the sharper, more colourful Mediterranean members of the family, such as Subalpine, Sardinian and Spectacled Warbler, than the duller (or subtler) northern Europeans. It got its name after ornithologist John Latham recorded it for the first time in Britain on Bexley Heath near – you guessed it – Dartford in Kent in 1773. The same man caused further confusion by also naming the Kentish Plover a few years later (it’s also a species more often found further south on the Continent). But the Dartford Warbler stands alone in other respects, too. Although it’s exclusively insectivorous, it doesn’t migrate south, unlike all other British warblers save the Cetti’s (a relative newcomer) and a small number of Chiffchaffs. That means that cold winters can affect its numbers considerably, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the hard winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 have reduced

numbers from the estimated 3,200 pairs in 2006, particularly in their ‘core’ areas, the lowland coastal heaths of southern England, and the heathland of Surrey and northern Hampshire. It’s been far from as big a catastrophe as the hard winters of 1961-63, when the breeding population was reduced to around a dozen pairs. Interestingly, the recent hard winters don’t seem to have had such an impact in recently colonised areas, which include Suffolk and north Norfolk, South Wales (especially on the Gower) and even the Midlands – breeding has been noted on Cannock Chase. There’s even the prospect of the species spreading further, partly as a result of climate change – in recent years it has been seen around World’s End, Denbighshire, on Anglesey, and on the Wirral. In ID terms, it’s an unmistakable bird – dark, slaty grey above, and wine-red below, with some white spotting around the throat, a red eye ring, and yellow-brown legs. It’s particularly fond of gorse and broom, and is sometimes relatively bold, perching on top of bushes with tail cocked, and sometimes extremely shy.

Behind the camera This photo – and the one on our cover, was taken in Denbighshire, by Craig Jones. He said: “It spent long periods concealed in the vegetation, offering only the briefest of glimpses, his bright red eye peering at me from the thorny thickets. Every so often he’d appear and gain the highest vantage point from which to sing. “The challenge was to second guess where he’d appear, allowing me a clean, full-length photograph of him. “The result is a wonderful moment on that beautiful sunny day on the moors.”

Craig Jones




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in your garden


wAyS to booSt youR GARDen wiLDLife

As the temperature rises and summer gets into full swing, here’s how you can help the birds and other animals in your garden s we write, the non-stop rain of early spring has been replaced by temperatures hotter than the Mediterranean, with the prospect of more to come. So, if the promised long, hot, dry summer has materialised by the time you read this, what should you be doing to ensure your garden birds enjoy the fine conditions as much as yourself?


Splash out It’s essential to provide a supply of clean water for your birds to drink, and to bathe in, when other sources such as puddles, small ponds and even streams may be dried up. A purpose-made birdbath is best, but even something like an upturned bin lid, strategically placed, can do the job. Change the water daily.

Keep feeding While young birds need live food, such as insects and worms, their frazzled parents will appreciate the easy availability of high-energy, nutritious food, so now isn’t the time to ease off. Keep your feeders topped up with the usual seed and nut mixes, and you could even provide the extra boost of live mealworms (particularly appreciated by the likes of Robins and Blue Tits).

Don’t mow

Let it grow A scorching summer will have the same effect on other plants as it does on grass, meaning weeds will start to die off or at least grow much slower than usual, so if you can bear it, leave them to grow as best they can, at least around the fringes of your garden. They’ll provide vital seed food for birds. Later in the summer, try to leave

Re-arrange your feeders It is a matter of trial and error where is the best place for birdfeeders. Where you currently have them may be good for you to view but may not necessarily ideal for the birds. If the feeders are too exposed they may be vulnerable to predation from Sparrowhawks and if too near a fence, cats may be able to access them. Ideally, there should be a degree of shelter near the feeder, or they should be placed partly in cover. Try a few positions and see what is best for your birds.

Clean your feeders It’s essential all year round, but high temperatures will mean bacteria and parasites breed and spread even quicker than usual, carrying with them diseases such as trichomoniasis. Disinfect your feeders and birdbath in a nine to one water-bleach solution, rinsing it thoroughly, once a week, at least. Clear away any uneaten food from the ground below your feeders, and spread your feeders out – overcrowding just expedites the spread of disease.

Get rid of pesticides Resist the temptation to add poisons to your garden ecosystem. Not only are some pesticides poisonous to other wildlife than the target, but for every invertebrate you kill, you are depriving a bird of potential food. Kill off all the insects and there is nothing for parent birds to feed their young. Kill snails and you are depriving Song Thrushes of a meal they greatly need. So, shelve, bin and get rid of any poisons.

Make a bughouse A healthy garden is a garden rich in insects. Plants and insects are the mainstay of any terrestrial ecosystem and crucial for a wildlife garden. One way to encourage insects is to offer refuges for them to rest and hide in. Similarly, some species such as solitary bees need tubes in which to lay their eggs. You can buy ready-made insect homes, or make your own. You can tie together bunches of cut (eg six-inch lengths) narrow bamboo cane or even have bundles of dried cuttings of, for example, the hollow stems of umbellifers. You can

Add a log pile

Ashley Cooper (Alamy)

Hot, dry conditions will mean that the grass naturally starts to scorch and die off, so keep the mower in the shed, and leave the lawn alone. This will preserve a good supply of live, protein-rich insect food, for young birds. In prolonged dry spells, keep patches of your lawn well watered too (you can reuse washing-up or bathwater if you’re unlucky enough to be in an area with a hosepipe ban), to allow thrushes to get at worms.

even drill holes in a block of wood and wait and see.

plenty of hedges and bushes unclipped, giving your birds plenty of safe hiding places while they’re going through their moult period.

All garden species benefit from log piles. Piles of branches and trunks of wood preferably placed in some kind of cover, offer not only cover for vertebrates such as frogs and toads, Slow-worms, Grass Snakes, voles and even nesting Wrens, they also are the ideal habitat for a whole range of larval insects which feed on the rotting wood. Insects such as the glorious Lesser Stag Beetle flourish in wood piles.

Add refugia The sort of corrugated metal or roofing felt or bitumen/Onduline/Coroline material used in reptile surveys can be make great places for amphibians and reptiles to hide/ bask beneath. Some small mammals, such as voles, also like to rest and make nut stores beneath the sheets. The material is relatively cheap (with a sheet of Coroline costing less than £15 for a 2x.95m sheet which can be cut into several refugia). It takes a few minutes to prepare them and you can provide instant invaluable habitat.

in your garden

Getting your garden in great condition will mean you attract more birds, such as Great tits, above (Image by Erica Olsen FLPA Images of Nature)

Sponsored by

go birding july

Walk 06: Avon


branDon hill

Site guiDe Sam Twiddy

A classic urban birding spot, with vast potential Peregrine

commoner resident passerine species – Longtailed Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins, Dunnocks, Wrens, Blackbirds and even Mistle Thrushes have been seen nesting here. Alex Rhodes

Wildlife GmbH (Alamy)

green oasis in the middle of the city of Bristol, Brandon Hill is a well-known spot for lunchtime picnics, with its notoriously tame Grey Squirrels the most obvious wildlife, but how many people know about its reputation for birding? Viewed from above, it is no surprise that the network of woodland, lush wildflower meadows and many thick bushes concealing drinking pools make this the perfect place for passing migrants to stop off on their long journeys. Both Firecrest and Waxwing have been recorded in winter, while the patch highlight was a Yellowbrowed Warbler in 1993! In light of this, the Cabot Tower Bird Study Group (CTBSG) was formed last autumn to monitor the visible migration over the city, being launched by BW’s own David Lindo and local birder Sam Twiddy. A cracking first season held good passage of Meadow Pipits and ‘alba’ Pied Wagtails right over otherwise unobservant city-goers, with winter thrushes and Siskin appearing later on. In summer, expect a good range of the


Grid ref: ST 579 729 Postcode: BS1 5PY How to get there: Brandon Hill can be accessed on all sides from the Floating Harbour via Jacobs Well Road (B4466), and from Clifton/Tyndalls Park via Park Street (A4018). Where to park: Parking can be found along many of the streets surrounding the park, but Charlotte Street (see the postcode) is the best for access to the Tower. Parking tickets operate on most roads and please take care not to hinder locals’ access. Distance & time: Due to the size, the site can be covered in under an hour. Terrain and accessibility: Although on a hill, there are several tarmac paths allowing some wheelchair access, but small gates and steps are present, too. Facilities: Park Street has many cafes, bars and restaurants and public toilets are situated just below the Tower. Public transport: Bristol is well served by public transport. See First Bristol for more Sites nearby: Leigh Woods, Durham Downs, Blaise Woods and Ashton Court. Websites: Brandon Hill Nature Blog, Cabot Tower Bird Study Group. Club contacts: Bristol Ornithological Club, Membership Secretary Judy Copeland,, Bristol Naturalists’ Society, Hon Secretary, 0117 924 3352, membership@bristolnats., County recorder: John Martin, Maps: OS Explorer 154, OS Landranger 172.

Cabot Tower, rising 32m over Brandon Hill, is the focal point, offering 360-degree panoramic views across the city and surroundings. Join the CTBSG one morning on a migration watch to experience the spectacle at head height over a sleepy city. The tower is open to the public during the day, but check timings. The Avon Wildlife Trust has a small reserve near their headquarters to the south of Brandon Hill, encompassing the woodland and grassland; alive with insects in summer. In winter, Redwing and Fieldfare gorge on the many fruiting berries, while Peregrines can fly past at any time hunting the Feral Pigeons.

1 V5 OS 1:50,000 Region 1 Southern England 0870 743 0121

1 2

2 59

Uk bird sightings RaRity Round-up Kentish Plover, marazion, Cornwall, may

Featured photographers Rich Andrews, Steve Ashton, Bill Baston, Phil Boardman, Paul Brewster, Graham Catley, Joe Cockram, Chris Downes, Hugh Harrop, Andrew Jordan, Craig Round, Richard Stonier, Steve Wilce,

88 Bird Watching 2012

Can’t find your patch? If you’d like to cover an area that isn’t currently covered, please email matthew.merritt@ or telephone Matt Merritt on 01733 468536 Taken a great shot? If you’ve taken a photo of a rare or scarce bird in the last month, send it to mike.weedon@ – please include ‘UKBS’ in the subject line

long-billed dowitcher, livermere lake, suffolk, may

Bill Baston

rare eastern vagrant; with Kentish Plovers putting in appearances at Ferrybridge (Dorset) on 2nd-3rd, Pegwell Bay (Kent) on 2nd, Rye Harbour (East Sussex) on 3rd-6th, Hickling Broad (Norfolk) on 6th, Marazion Beach (Cornwall) from 9th-13th (two birds) and from Holy Island causeway (Northumberland) on 15th-19th. The Thames Estuary off Crossness (London) attracted two different first-year Bonaparte’s Gulls incredulously from 18th-30th with an adult on Shetland at Tingwall Loch on 30th Laughing Gull noted at Severn Beach (Avon) on 1st. A Gull-billed Tern appeared for a few hours at Thorne Moors (South Yorks) on 30th, with a Caspian Tern flying south past Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh (Aberdeenshire) on 27th. A flutter of White-winged Black Terns appeared, too, with one on Tresco Abbey Pool (Scilly) on 18th, two on the main lagoon at Stodmarsh NNR (Kent) on 26th and another at Saltholme Pools (Cleveland) on 27th.In Ireland, the adult Forster’s Tern at Tacumshin (County Wexford) throughout. There was also a large arrival of Bee-eaters in southern Britain from mid-month including flocks of up to six birds, with well-twitched birds at Patrington Haven (East Yorks) on 17th and at Wiveton (Norfolk) from 18th-20th. Rollers put in an appearance, too, with one briefly at Haldon Forest (Devon) on 1st May followed by a cracking adult at Spurn Point (East Yorks) on 29th, relocated in a recently-tilled field just to the north of Aldbrough on 31st. A number of Short-toed Larks appeared, with an influx of Red-rumped Swallows involving perhaps 25 birds, and including well received individuals at Goldcliff Pools, Gwent, on 4th-6th, Farmoor Reservoirs, Oxon, on 5th-6th, Grafham Water, Cambs, from 7th-12th, Greatstone-on-

Andy Jordan

(Northants) on 24th and then over Emberton Park (North Bucks) next day. There was no shortage of Glossy Ibises either, with at least five recorded in Ireland, the three still lingering at Marloes Mere (Pembs), two in Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) and singles at various sites in Hampshire and Dorset, all month. Three staged a short visit to Strathbeg RSPB on 2nd (these having previously visited Aberdeen on 1st). A dapper drake Blue-winged Teal pestered a pair of Shoveler at Bridgend Farm Pools in Clyde from 6th-22nd May, presumably the same bird that overwintered in Dumfries & Galloway and appeared at South Gilmorton Pools (Clyde) from late March to 16th April and Loch Leven (Perth & Kinross) on 22nd-23rd April. As expected and traditional, the drake King Eider remained off Inches Point on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) all month before moving to Blackdog to moult, with at least one drake Surf Scoter off nearby Murcar Golf Course and another regular drake in the Firth of Forth off Gosford Bay, east of Edinburgh (Lothian). A female King Eider swam past Rubha Ardvule on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 1st, while a drake was an excellent record for Co. Donegal being seen off Portnoo from 18th-22nd. Twenty or so Black Kites crossed the channel and cropped up here and there (but were never twitchable) and more Pallid Harriers were identified, including a regular juvenile in East Yorkshire at Sammy’s Point, Kilnsea, on 5th and in the Patrington Haven area from 14th-17th, another over Cley and Blakeney Point in North Norfolk on 5th-7th and perhaps another at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 8th and an adult male over Long Buckby, Northants, on 28th. There was a welcome wave of Red-footed Falcon arrivals in the warmth of the third week, with a male at Stodmarsh (Kent) on 16th, a first-summer male at Jubilee River, Taplow (Bucks) on 20th-21st, a female near Elmswell (Suffolk) on 28th-29th, a first-summer male at Abberton Reservoir (Essex) on 30th-31st, a female at Minsmere and Westleton Heath (Suffolk) from 30th, a female near Aberfeldy (Perth and Kinross) on 30th-31st and a male at Vange Marshes RSPB (Essex) on 31st. Black-winged Stilts continued to be a daily event, with perhaps the same April arrivals being responsible for the multitude of sightings across the country. A Black-winged Pratincole at Burton Mere Wetlands (Cheshire & Wirral) on 3rd-4th was an exceptionally early record of this

RaRity Round-up Uk bird sightings

Bee-eater, strumble Head, Pembrokeshire, 19 may 89

Richard Stonier

Gary Thoburn

Great reed Warbler, Weston-super-mare, 19 may

Rich Andrews

squacco Heron, Blagdon lake, avon, 6 may

Bird Watching July 2012  
Bird Watching July 2012  

The July issue of Bird Watching magazine