Little Bunting bonus


Grab-shot of Little Bunting, Snettisham, 26th April

We were on the final leg home of our Scottish sojourn when we decided to take a minor detour to try for the Little Bunting at Heacham Dam, Snettisham. A gentle stroll along the sea wall took us to the birds apparent favoured spot beneath a clump of Sea Buckthorn and after a twenty minute wait there it was, hopping about in the weeds. Often obscured, it did occasionally give good but rather brief views. A very well-marked individual providing a fitting end (well almost – we did go on to find a couple of Dotterel at Choseley) to ten days of outstanding British birding!

Another shot of this rather secretive little Bunting!


Duck or Grouse

We’ve ┬ájust finished a week-long birding trip to North East Scotland and the Highlands, stopping in Upper Teesdale & Forfar on the way up and Mussleburgh & Flamborough on the return leg, with ‘base camp’ at Aviemore. We had fabulous weather throughout with clear skies and warm days. We managed to see all of the regular specialities, together with a few ‘celebrities’. It’s difficult to pick out the highlights but duck and grouse species must be at the top of the list. We amassed a grand total species list of 160.

Top of the pops was this female Harlequin Duck at Sputie Burn. Not as glamorous as the male we missed in Aberdeen but a very nice bird in a fabulous location.


A spectacular male King Eider on the Ythan estuary – seen on our second visit


American Wigeon, at Holywell Pond, added interest on our homeward journey


Red Grouse, most common of the scarce ‘game birds’


Not seen in Scotland, Black Grouse – upper Teesdale


Capercaillie, seen on previous trips but not quite as well as this time!


Ptarmigan on the slopes of Cairngorm


Other birds of interest included, Greenland White-front, Udale Bay


Juvenile Iceland Gull, Arbroath harbour. I’m still trying to obtain ringing details – if anyone knows of a good website for non-European colour ringing schemes, please do let me know


Flock of Long-tailed Duck, Ythan estuary


Black-throated Diver, undisclosed site


Golden & White-tailed Eagle together, Findhorn valley


One of several Osprey seen – this one was at Loch of Kinnordy


Iconic Caledonian species – Crested Tit


Last of the interesting birds on our way home. One of two Blue-headed Wagtail, Flamborough




One of fifteen males – traditional lekking site, Teesdale

We’re on our way up to Scotland, so tonight we called in at the traditional Black Grouse lekking site in Teesdale. No sooner had we entered ‘the drop zone’ when we saw three males feeding in a field close to the road. Scanning around we eventually found three more in the adjacent field. We decided to press on to the lek site proper – cresting the hill, we looked down into the valley to see at least nine more males ‘strutting their stuff’. We only saw a couple of females further up the valley, apparently completely unimpressed with what the ‘fellas’ were up to. In total we saw an incredible 15 males and 2 females – just fabulous!

Traditional Black Grouse lek – Teesdale


What is this Aythya?.. now with Postscript


Aythya hybrid – Felbrigg Lake

I’ve seen this duck at Felbrigg Lake a couple of times over the last few weeks but never really looked at it! Yesterday, probably because it was rather foggy, the Tufted Duck flock was closer to the edge than usual, allowing better views and a few rather grainy shots. In the back of my mind I knew there was something odd about it but I’d written it off as a first winter male Tufted. Yesterday it clicked, surely this is one of those notorious Aythya hybrids – but which one? Looking at various plates in my admittedly rather limited bird book library I’m inclined to think that it could be a Tufted Duck x Ring-necked Duck, but I’d welcome a more expert view if anyone would care to comment.

A couple more shots:




I’ve had a couple of comments back with the helpful suggestion that this bird could in fact be Tufted x Ferruginous. That would certainly explain the dusky flanks, this far into the breeding season ( although there is the curious white edging to the upper flanks, reminiscent of Ring-necked ) and the suggestion of a white ‘rear-end’. Also the very pale eye and the absence of any white ring around the base of the bill. Seen in slightly better light this morning, there are definite chestnut tones to the breast, which would also fit with Ferruginous parentage. Here are a couple more shots to ponder:




Heading Home

Yesterday we went to Kelling Heath, combining steam trains for the grand kids with a bit of birding for the grown ups. We managed to connect with both trains and birds I’m pleased to say, including a pair of Stonechat. Up in the clear blue sky there were plenty of Common Buzzard circling over head. A single bird slowly making it’s way east, between the coast and the heath, caught my attention, the profile seemed a little different somehow- longer in the tail and a more prominent pale head, paler underneath but with noticeable dark belly and carpal patches. Occasionally I thought I could see a pale upper tail, but mostly I was viewing from below. When I did get a chance to down load my photos, I was certain that my provisional identification of Rough-legged Buzzard was right. I guess this would be one of our wintering juveniles finally heading home.