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Pallid Harrier? Give me a singing Wood Warbler any day!

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Well it is a little tongue in cheek. Last weekend's unexpected delight was a fantastic male Pallid Harrier which had taken up residence on the Bowland Fells where there should really have been a few Hen Harriers. Sadly none of the latter but the Pallid gave us some superb views and aerial displays together with several Ring Ouzels. It's really got to be one of the most exquisite visual spectacles I've seen in the avian world.

A run of very strong easterly winds for over a week now has halted a lot of migration though the onset did bring in a few Black Terns. Only now are we starting to see a few Swifts and House Martins in the village. There have been several good birds on the coast and so I paid Marshside a visit yesterday and jammed in on a very obliging Wood Sandpiper as well as a Ruddy Shelduck and a very orange-breasted Swallow.

These birds together with my first singing Reed Warblers of the year together with a singing Lesser Whitethroat and passage of a few Swifts k…

Good Friday farewell to Hong Kong with some excellent birds

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Having enjoyed a few days sightseeing and birding around Hong Kong, it was to 'work' for me and the preparation for the Hong Kong 7's tournament followed by a trip to a factory in Dongguan, China. I've got to say that our preparation for the event must have been good as everything went as planned and Bernie and I got some splendid views of Red-billed Blue Magpies from the back of the Stadium as well as a fleeting glimpse of a Blue Whistling Thrush as it dived for cover. We also managed to watch quite a bit of Rugby 7's too! :)
Bernie had headed back to England whilst I was in China but upon my return to HK, I had a day before my flight so arranged with Matt for another day's birding. I hadn't done any forest birding at all before - just had headed for Mai Po - so the promise of Tai Po Kau's established forest was an instant draw.
Matthew kindly collected me from my hotel in Kowloon - the roads were quiet on a holiday morning as we made good time to the …

Po Toi Island

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On our continued desire to explore off the tourist beaten track, we took an early morning ferry from Aberdeen to Po Toi, a migration hot-spot for Hong Kong in the company of Matthew again and his girlfriend Hoi Ling.


The ferry across was generally uneventful apart from a fly-past Red-necked Phalarope. The ferry was very busy as it was a public holiday ("Tomb-sweeping") and the day was fine - not ideal for migrants.
Indeed much as we tried, there weren't many birds to be seen but we did see a few goodies - Crested Goshawk, Besra, Grey-headed Buzzard, Daurian Redstart, Pacific Swift and the main rarity, a Brambling!

Return to Mai Po

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Following on from last July's trip to China, I had a follow-up trip planned for April combining it with the Hong Kong Rigby 7's tournament for which my company, Kukri, do all the merchandising. Of course, such a trip gives me the opportunity to do some birding in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar (and some more recognisable) birds. So I decided to go a little earlier with my wife, Bernie, to explore the area.

The first couple of days were spent acclimatising and doing some of the touristy bits, enjoying the Star Ferry and some of the parks amongst the stunning skyline. Bernie was surprised about how hilly and verdant the territory was. Common birds in the parks were the ever present Chinese and Red-whiskered Bulbuls alongside Oriental Magpie Robin, Crested Mynas, Black-collared Starlings and Masked Laughing Thrushes. We got some decent view eventually of Red-billed Blue Magpies at the HK Stadium but the bird that we came across all over the place was Yellow-browed Warble…

December Thrushes bring 2016 to a stupendous finale

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2016 has got to go down in the birding annals as one of the best years ever. A scintillating autumn with perpetual easterlies brought hundreds if not thousands of waifs from east of the Urals. My previous post was drooling over the run of birds on the east coast - finally, the west and middle England got in on the act.
On 5th November, as I was tidying up the garden, I heard my first Waxwing of the autumn flying overhead - the unmistakable trilling call was to become even more familiar over the coming weeks as small flocks started to infiltrate this side of the Pennines with double figures in Blackburn and recently large counts in several places around East Lancashire.
On 20 November, I went to see this little beauty - a Desert Wheatear on St Annes beach - my third along this stretch of the coast and a fitting end to the autumn, or so we thought


But there was more. News broke in mid December of a Dusky Thrush in Derbyshire and after much nervous anticipation, we decided to put the Chr…

East Yorkshire birding at its best

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Normally I have one or maybe two trips to the east coast in the autumn, especially if south-easterly winds are blowing. These past two weeks, a high pressure system has sat over northern Scandinavia and drawn winds from central Russia across northern Europe and across the North sea; at this time of year, these winds influence the migration of thousands of birds. Normally a light south-easterly is all that we require but we've had really strong easterlies for several days. So I, like many others, looked to do some birding on the east coast with the hope of bumping into one or two scarce and rare birds.
I have a few favoured spots but even a died-in-the-wool Lancastrian like me has to admit that East Yorkshire is the best place to be in these conditions so last Wednesday John Wright and I decided we'd have a days birding around Flamborough Head. The news of Britain's third Eastern-crowned Warbler at Bempton late on Tuesday certainly gave us a target to start with having seen…