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How Golden Eagles<br />

are spreading south<br />

World<br />

of Wildlife<br />

Become an all-round naturalist<br />

of advice on finding<br />

dragonflies, butterflies,<br />

16pages<br />

mammals, cetaceans and more<br />

WIN<br />


WORTH £1300<br />

Puffin power!<br />

Ruth Miller gets close<br />

to an old favourite<br />

Clever corvids<br />

Decipher the complex<br />

messages in a Raven’s croak<br />


David Tipling on why he’s swapping his<br />

DSLR for a micro four-thirds camera<br />

SEPTEMBER 2018 £4.50








Features<br />

22<br />

<strong>Bird</strong>fair<br />

Come and join us<br />

at the biggest<br />

event in the<br />

birding calendar!<br />

Contents<br />

September 2018<br />

67<br />

28<br />

Golden Eagles<br />

Numbers of this<br />

great bird are on<br />

the up in Scotland<br />

40<br />

Clever corvids<br />

Decipher the<br />

messages of the<br />

Raven’s ‘cronk’<br />

46<br />

Young birder<br />

Meet teenager Mya Bambrick<br />

– one of a new generation of<br />

young birders!<br />

64<br />

Ruth Miller<br />

Puffin power in<br />

all its glory on the<br />

Farne Islands<br />

67<br />

Super snaps<br />

<strong>Bird</strong> Photographer<br />

of the Year<br />

shortlist gallery<br />

80<br />

Sedge Warbler<br />

Dominic Couzens<br />

on a real life<br />

‘super-bird’!<br />

46<br />

16<br />


INSIDE<br />

4 September 2018



James Lowen suggests<br />

what insects to<br />

look out for in<br />

September. Page 12<br />

28<br />

6<br />

In The Field<br />

35<br />

Your <strong>Bird</strong>ing Month<br />

<strong>Bird</strong>s to find this month<br />

include Sabine’s Gull,<br />

Redstart and Barred Warbler<br />

ID Challenge<br />

Rise up to our monthly<br />

challenge and see how many<br />

garden birds you can identify<br />

News & Views<br />

14<br />

17<br />

Weedon’s World<br />

What does England’s World<br />

Cup performance and Mike’s<br />

year list have in common?<br />

Grumpy Old <strong>Bird</strong>er<br />

Bo Beolens wants better<br />

decisions made on<br />

countryside management<br />

53<br />

Go <strong>Bird</strong>ing<br />

Ten great destinations to<br />

choose from for a future<br />

birding trip!<br />

72<br />

Your View<br />

The best of the month’s<br />

readers’ photos and letters –<br />

is yours among them?<br />

74<br />

Q&A<br />

Your birding questions<br />

answered and mystery<br />

photos identified<br />

78<br />

Garden birding<br />

Measures to help protect<br />

our feathered friends from<br />

a visiting cat<br />

40<br />

80<br />

<strong>Bird</strong>ing Gear<br />

94<br />

96<br />

97<br />

Gear Review<br />

Photographer<br />

David Tipling on<br />

mirrorless cameras<br />

94<br />

Books<br />

The latest book releases<br />

reviewed, including<br />

<strong>Bird</strong>watching London<br />

Wish List<br />

<strong>Bird</strong>ing goodies this month<br />

include a 1,000-piece Tawny<br />

Owl jigsaw!<br />

114<br />

85<br />

92<br />

Back Chat<br />

Filmmaker and writer<br />

Ceri Levy answers our series<br />

of birding-related questions<br />

Travel<br />

99<br />

102<br />

Sun, sea and birds<br />

How the Spanish city of<br />

Valencia is putting itself on<br />

the birdwatching map<br />

Urban birding<br />

David Lindo continues his<br />

birding tour of London,<br />

heading south of the river<br />

<strong>Bird</strong> Sightings<br />

Rarity Round-up<br />

The best rare birds seen<br />

in the UK and Ireland<br />

throughout June<br />

UK <strong>Bird</strong> Sightings<br />

A comprehensive round-up<br />

of birds seen in your area<br />

during June<br />

SAVE<br />

UP<br />

57% TO<br />

*<br />


See page 18<br />

*when you choose the print and digital package option and pay by direct debit<br />

birdwatching.co.uk 5





Before World War II, there were perhaps<br />

1,000 pairs of Peregrines in the UK. The war<br />

took a massive toll, though, as the perceived<br />

threat of the falcons to carrier pigeons<br />

bringing vital messages, led to deliberate,<br />

legalised extermination. More than 600 birds<br />

were killed and many nests destroyed, and the<br />

population was effectively halved.<br />

Though they made a decent post-war<br />

recovery, the plague of organo-chlorine<br />

agrichemicals in the early 1960s was to deal<br />

another terrible blow to the UK’s Peregrines,<br />

with the already reduced population having<br />

only 16% breeding success.<br />

The ban of DDT and similar chemicals was<br />

vital in the recovery of the falcon’s population,<br />

and by the 1990s there were already more<br />

Peregrines than before the war.<br />

Roll on a further 30 years or so, and these<br />

majestic birds now have a British population of<br />

some 1,500 pairs and growing. Peregrines<br />

are now breeding in cities across the country,<br />

as well as the sea-cliffs and uplands<br />

‘traditionally’ occupied.<br />

Peregrines are all about power and speed,<br />

and they look powerful and speedy even<br />

when perched. The flight profile is classically<br />

‘anchor shaped’, with a deep chest, thick set,<br />

shortish tail and broad-based pointed wings.<br />

They are larger, chunkier and shorter tailed<br />

than Kestrels, and much more thickly set than<br />

rakish, ‘Swift-like’ Hobbies. And they are<br />

much deeper chested and larger than Merlins.<br />

They are specialist bird hunters, and all that<br />

power is to chase down speedy prey such as<br />

waders, ducks and pigeons. Females are<br />

notably bigger and more robust than males.<br />

Plumage-wise, they are similar though, with<br />

steel-blue-grey backs, black heads and<br />

moustaches, and finely barred breast.<br />

Christopher Cook/Alamy<br />

6 September 2018

irdwatching.co.uk 7

FIVE TO FIND in September<br />

September is to autumn what<br />

April is to spring. Just as<br />

April hasn’t quite the same<br />

illustrious reputation as May,<br />

so September falls somewhat into<br />

October’s shadow. But both April and<br />

September are powerful players in<br />

the calendar. Indeed, some years,<br />

September can produce even rarer<br />

birds than the later month. For now,<br />

however, here are five birds to try for<br />

this month; five birds for which<br />

September is a peak period.<br />


Common, widely distributed<br />

Localised – always a treat<br />

Very scarce or rare<br />


twitter.com/<strong>Bird</strong><strong>Watching</strong>Mag<br />

facebook.com/<strong>Bird</strong><strong>Watching</strong>Mag<br />



1<br />

In autumn, juvenile waders (ie those<br />

hatched this year) tend to greatly outnumber<br />

adults. This is certainly true of the relatively<br />

scarce Curlew Sandpiper. Many of us were,<br />

in our birding youth, brought up with field<br />

guides that didn’t even address juvenile<br />

wader plumages. And, as a hangover from<br />

this, there is still a lot of confusion about<br />

juvenile shorebirds, which are often<br />

strikingly different from breeding and<br />

non-breeding plumaged adults. Don’t fall for<br />

the trap of thinking that juveniles will be<br />


speckled, fluffy birds, like young garden<br />

birds! Juvenile waders are usually handsome,<br />

very neatly patterned birds, with much<br />

fresher plumage than their adult equivalents.<br />

Juvenile Curlew Sandpipers have neatly<br />

scaled upperparts and wings and a peachy<br />

wash to the breast (leading to confusion with<br />

juvenile Ruff); the flanks are ‘clean’ white<br />

(not streaked or spotted), the rump is white,<br />

and the supercilium prominent. Also, they are<br />

longer legged, longer necked and longer billed<br />

than somewhat similar juvenile Dunlins.<br />

Nature Photographers Ltd/Alamy<br />

One of the ‘forgotten juvenile waders’ is the Knot. Most<br />

birdwatchers know Knots as dull grey ‘winter’ birds in<br />

far-from dull super flocks, or (less familiarly) as gorgeous<br />

brick-red visions of breeding splendour. But the juvenile<br />

plumage is also pleasing and distinctive. The supercilium<br />

(‘eyebrow’) and breast have a peachy wash and the<br />

upperparts (back and wings) are finely ‘scaled’ with fine<br />

black-and-white fringing to the feathers. All Knots are<br />

mid-sized, dumpy and short-billed, with juveniles and<br />

non-breeders in particular having pale greenish legs.<br />

2<br />

WILDLIFE GmbH/Alamy<br />

3<br />

Redstarts are summer visitors<br />

to the UK, and at this time of<br />

year, they are heading south<br />

to the wintering grounds. So,<br />

they turn up at coastal<br />

migration spots, as well as in<br />

smaller numbers at suitable<br />

inland areas, where they can<br />

find the magic combination<br />

of hedges, or lines of trees<br />

(or, indeed, fence lines with<br />

nearby cover) and short grass<br />

on which to pounce on<br />

insects. In the autumn, they<br />

are both in their freshest<br />

plumage and at their least<br />

striking. Like many<br />

songbirds, the freshly<br />

moulted plumage comes<br />

with buff tips to the feathers,<br />

which wear off before the<br />

spring to reveal the glories of<br />

the brighter feathers<br />

beneath. So, for instance,<br />

don’t expect autumn males<br />

to have black throats, but<br />

rather to have a ‘pale<br />

covering’ over that throat,<br />

so looking more like females.<br />

All ages have warmer<br />

underparts than Black<br />

Redstarts and all have the<br />

quivering orange tail that<br />

gives the bird its name.<br />

FLPA/Alamy<br />

8 September 2018

4<br />


It is September and rare birds will certainly<br />

turn up this month. That is a given. But<br />

which rarities will turn up? Here are some<br />

of our semi-educated guesses.<br />

DID YOU<br />

KNOW?<br />

Sabine’s Gulls are<br />

Arctic breeders,<br />

but may winter as<br />

far south as<br />

South Africa<br />


September is the month of high winds, gales from the Atlantic, often associated with<br />

the end of the hurricane season on the other side of the ocean. One spin-off from<br />

these high winds is the displacement of birds from the open sea to the inshore area or<br />

even the land. One such bird of the pelagic area is the Sabine’s Gull, one of the most<br />

sea-faring of ‘sea gulls’. They are lovely little gulls, half way in size between a<br />

Kittiwake and a Little Gull, with distinctively patterned wings (divided into ‘triangles’<br />

of colour), and with a shallowly forked tail. Adults in breeding plumage have grey<br />

heads and distinctive yellow tipped dark bills. Juveniles have brown backs and<br />

forewings and black tips to the tail.<br />


All Canada Photos/Alamy<br />


Seen less frequently than annually and<br />

with fewer than 60 UK records, this quirky<br />

and charismatic North American wader is<br />

a much-desired rarity. Most records have<br />

come from Scilly, Cornwall or Shetland,<br />

but they do turn up elsewhere.<br />


The North American equivalent of the<br />

Green Sandpiper is an even rarer bird than<br />

the Upland Sandpiper, with a distinct bias<br />

toward Scilly in the UK records. Though<br />

similar to Green Sandpipers, they have an<br />

almost Wood Sandpiper-like jizz and have<br />

dark (not white) rumps.<br />

Steve Young/Alamy*<br />

James Mundy, Nature’s Ark Photography/Alamy<br />

5<br />

One of the most skulking members of a<br />

genus (Sylvia) which has some pretty shy<br />

members (think Lesser Whitethroat or<br />

Dartford Warbler), the Barred Warbler is<br />

often a very tough bird to see. They are<br />

also pretty scarce (borderline rare) passage<br />

migrants, which makes it even harder to see<br />

them! And don’t expect to see a well<br />

marked, beautifully barred adult, as just<br />

about all passage Barred Warblers which<br />

turn up in the UK are ‘this year’s birds’<br />

(juveniles/first-winters). These look like<br />

big, robust, chunky, thick-billed Garden<br />

Warblers, with crescents of brown on the<br />

undertail coverts, a scaly rump and a<br />

couple of buffy wing bars.<br />

Robin Chittenden/Alamy<br />


Siberian Thrush is a seriously rare thrush<br />

from Siberia (the clue is in the name).<br />

Males are blackish with a bold white<br />

supercilium, females dark brown with<br />

a heavily dark scaled breast. Nearly all<br />

recent records have come from Shetland.<br />

AGAMI Photo Agency/Alamy<br />

birdwatching.co.uk 9


Waders with webbed feet<br />

Most waders (or shorebirds, if you prefer), have three normal-sized<br />

toes pointing forward and a tiny fourth one at the back. There are<br />

exceptions to this general rule, such as the Sanderling or many<br />

plovers, which lacks that tiny hind toe. In most cases, the toes are<br />

discreet, making three-toed footprints (with occasional marks from<br />

the rear toe, if present).<br />

However, in a few cases, there is partial webbing between the<br />

front toes. These include avocets (which are accomplished<br />

swimmers; such as this Avocet with chick, right), stilts, and stonecurlews<br />

and one or two odd-balls within normally ‘unwebbed’<br />

groups, including a couple of rare American species, the<br />

Semipalmated Sandpiper and the Semipalmated Plover. In fact,<br />

these partial webbings can be used to distinguish these rarities<br />

from their close European relatives (eg Little Stint and Ringed<br />

Plover). Note that the most ‘aquatic’ of all waders, the phalaropes,<br />

which are habitual swimmers, do not have webbed feet. Instead<br />

they have lobed toes, more closely resembling (at least in shape,<br />

though not in size), those of grebes or Coots.<br />


2,100<br />

1,300<br />

Number of pairs of<br />

Arctic Skua nesting<br />

in the UK<br />

7<br />

Number of skua species<br />

in the world (if you recognise<br />

Chilean, South Polar<br />

15<br />

and Brown<br />

Skuas as separate species)<br />

Length in cm of the<br />

protrusion of the tail<br />

streamers of the<br />

Long-tailed Skua<br />

9,600<br />

Number of pairs of Great Skua (above) in the UK,<br />

nearly two-thirds of the world population<br />

Ian Butler <strong>Bird</strong>/Alamy*<br />



It is far from an original idea, but it is easy to forget (and<br />

get caught in a comfortable life of lie-ins and lazy afternoons):<br />

the more time you put into looking for birds, the more birds you<br />

will find. If you want to have the glory of finding birds on your local<br />

patch (or somewhere else for that matter), you need to be in it to<br />

win it (in the field that is).<br />

Finding birds is much more pleasurable than chasing ‘someone<br />

else’s birds’. So, get out early, stay out late and spend as much time<br />

birding as you can! Early and late birdwatching make more sense<br />

when you consider that birds are usually at their most active at this<br />

time. Also, birds may arrive overnight and so appear as if by magic<br />

first thing in the morning (and can also move on early) and can feed<br />

and prepare for departure late in the day.<br />



Of the three ‘smaller’ skuas, the Pomarine Skua is the largest,<br />

deepest chested and most robust; and the one which has the long<br />

‘spoon’ shaped central tail feathers. These smaller skuas are also known<br />

as ‘jaegers’, particularly in North America, from the German Jäger,<br />

meaning hunter. The word skua itself has an uncertain etymology,<br />

with some authorities believing it is somehow imitative of the birds’<br />

calls. Others point to its origin being the Faroese word skúgvur, used<br />

for the Great Skua.<br />

The Pomarine part of the name is curious, but at least not quite as<br />

obscured by history. The original name for this particular skua was the<br />

Pomatorhine Skua, literally meaning ‘lid-nosed skua’ referring to the thin<br />

plates which overlay the nostrils (at the base of the bill); although that<br />

feature is shared by all the skuas.<br />

Nature Photographers Ltd/Alamy MediaWorldImages/Alamy* Arterra Picture Library/Alamy<br />

10 September 2018


Here are three chats you may encounter in autumn. Note that the bright plumage of all<br />

three is ‘masked’ by the buff tips of the freshly grown feathers.<br />


A small species, which habitually<br />

perches high up on weeds or small<br />

bushes, or on fence lines, searching for<br />

food on the ground below, The broad,<br />

pale supercilium (‘eyebrow’) and white<br />

on the sides of the base of the short tail<br />

are useful ID features.<br />


Large (for a chat), slightly smaller than<br />

a Starling, the Wheatear is usually a bird<br />

of the ground, liking ploughed fields and<br />

short-cropped grassy areas on<br />

migration. Males, females and<br />

first-winters are all more or less pale<br />

brown on the upperparts, with fringed<br />

dark wings. The rump is white as are the<br />

tail sides, while the centre and terminal<br />

band are black.<br />


A scarce passage bird (and rare resident<br />

breeder), autumn Black Redstarts of<br />

both sexes and all ages are grey brown<br />

all over except the striking orange tail,<br />

which is rapidly quivered on landing or<br />

moving. These are birds of rocky terrain<br />

or something similar, like buildings,<br />

readily perching on boulders or roofs.<br />

Nature Photographers Ltd/Alamy<br />

Simon Dack/Alamy<br />

UK TIDES<br />

September<br />

The times below are<br />

for high tide, when<br />

waders and wildfowl<br />

will be pushed closer<br />

to dry land...<br />

Find the location closest to<br />

your destination and add or<br />

subtract the hours and minutes<br />

from the high tide time at<br />

London Bridge, below.<br />

Date Time m Time m<br />

1 Sa 05:02 6.61 17:16 6.69<br />

2 Su 05:39 6.38 7:56 6.55<br />

3 M 06:22 6.16 18:45 6.39<br />

4 Tu 07:18 5.93 19:49 6.19<br />

5 W 08:39 5.80 21:22 6.17<br />

6 Th 10:12 5.97 22:46 6.46<br />

7 F 11:30 6.36 23:59 6.86<br />

8 Sa 12:35 6.77<br />

9 Su 01:00 7.21 13:28 7.06<br />

10 M 01:52 7.43 14:15 7.26<br />

11 Tu 02:39 7.52 14:57 7.39<br />

12 W 03:21 7.52 15:37 7.45<br />

13 Th 04:02 7.40 16:15 7.39<br />

14 F 04:40 7.15 16:53 7.18<br />

15 Sa 05:16 6.79 17:30 6.87<br />

16 Su 05:51 6.41 18:10 6.50<br />

17 M 06:30 6.06 18:57 6.12<br />

18 Tu 07:18 5.74 19:59 5.79<br />

19 W 08:27 5.51 21:17 5.67<br />

20 Th 09:55 5.55 22:37 5.88<br />

21 F 11:15 5.92 23:45 6.28<br />

22 Sa 12:11 6.34<br />

23 Su 00:35 6.62 12:55 6.65<br />

24 M 01:16 6.82 13:33 6.82<br />

25 Tu 01:51 6.91 14:08 6.94<br />

26 W 02:24 6.99 14:40 7.05<br />

27 Th 02:56 7.05 15:12 7.13<br />

28 F 03:29 7.05 15:45 7.13<br />

29 Sa 04:03 6.92 16:20 7.04<br />

30 Su 04:38 6.70 16:56 6.89<br />


Weston-Super-Mare<br />

(+5:05)<br />

Barnstaple (+4:30)<br />

Newquay (+3:32)<br />

Falmouth (+3:30)<br />

Plymouth (+4:05)<br />

Torquay (+4:40)<br />

Bournemouth<br />

(-5:09)*<br />

Portland (+4:57)<br />

St Peter Port<br />

(+4:53)<br />

Swanage (-5:19)*<br />

Portsmouth (-2:29)<br />

Southampton (-2:53)<br />


Ryde (-2:29)<br />

Brighton (-2:51)<br />

Eastbourne (-2:48)<br />

Dungeness (-3:05)<br />

Dover (-2:53)<br />

Margate (-1:52)<br />

Herne Bay (-1:24)<br />

Southend-on-sea (-1:22)<br />

Clacton-on-sea (-2:00)<br />


Felixstowe Pier (-2:23)<br />

Aldeburgh (-2:53)<br />

Lowestoft (-4:23)<br />

Cromer (+4:56)<br />

Hunstanton (+4:44)<br />

WALES<br />

Colwyn Bay (-2:47)<br />

Holyhead (-3:28)<br />

Barmouth (-5:45)<br />

Aberystwyth (-6:11)<br />

Fishguard (+5:44)<br />

Swansea (+4:42)<br />

Milford Haven (+4:37)<br />

Cardiff (+5:15)<br />


Whitehaven (-2:30)<br />

Douglas (-2:44)<br />

Morecambe (-2:33)<br />

Blackpool (-2:50)<br />


Skegness (+4:29)<br />

Grimsby (+4:13)<br />

Bridlington (+2:58)<br />

Whitby (+2:20)<br />

Hartlepool (+1:59)<br />

Blyth (+1:46)<br />

Berwick (+0:54)<br />


Leith (+0:58)<br />

Dundee (+1:12)<br />

Aberdeen (-0:18)<br />

Fraserburgh (-1:28)<br />

Lossiemouth (-2:00)<br />

Wick (-2:29)<br />

Lerwick (-2:50)<br />

Stromness (-4:29)<br />

Scrabster (-5:09)<br />

Stornoway (+5:30)<br />

Ullapool (+5:36)<br />

Gairloch (+5:16)<br />

Oban (+4:12)<br />

Greenock (-1:19)<br />

Ayr (-1:44)<br />

Campbeltown<br />

(-1:12)<br />

Girvan (-1:51)<br />

Kirkcudbright Bay<br />

(-2:25)<br />


Londonderry (-5:32)<br />

Belfast (-2:47)<br />

Donegal (+4:20)<br />

FLPA/Alamy<br />

*Approximate times due to large variance between the<br />

month’s neap and spring tides. All times are GMT.<br />

birdwatching.co.uk 11


September is still summer, suggests James Lowen, so insects should top your agenda this month<br />

Discover<br />

more wildlife<br />

in our centre<br />

section<br />



Although most common in south and<br />

east England, Ruddy Darter is<br />

spreading north and west. It also both<br />

disperses and migrates, so keep an eye<br />

out for it anywhere. This compact<br />

dragonfly is more of a habitat-specialist<br />

than Common Darter, favouring<br />

well-vegetated waterbodies, canals and<br />

ditches. The attractively scarlet males<br />

are neatly proportioned, with a narrow<br />

waist and clubbed tip to the abdomen.<br />








In Britain, Grey Bush-cricket is at the<br />

northern end of its range, which<br />

probably explains why it occurs<br />

particularly along the coastlines of<br />

southern England and Wales. This is a<br />

shy species, preferring dense cover and<br />

fleeing at the first sign of danger. It is<br />

also tricky to track down by ear, as its<br />

timid, chirping song is barely audible<br />

above the sea breeze. When seen<br />

well, however, its ‘urban’ colour<br />

scheme of taupe, iron and charcoal<br />

is subtly attractive.<br />



One of my favourite late-summer sights is a Brown Hawker<br />

patrolling the edge of a shrubby-fringed gravel pit. The amber<br />

wings of this large, distinctive dragonfly quickly catch the eye.<br />

But it also repays close inspection, being striped with lemon or<br />

lime and having surprisingly blue eyes.<br />

Pictures: James Lowen<br />



I find it rather pleasing when pretty<br />

moths are common. Granted,<br />

Burnished Brass is amply garbed<br />

brown, but that coloration fades into<br />

insignificance when sunlight glints and<br />

glimmers with unending variation off<br />

the two brassy green-gold stripes<br />

adorning its wings. Widespread across<br />

the UK, this moth inhabits overgrown<br />

locations, from woodland margins to<br />

neglected gardens, with a particular<br />

fetish for Stinging Nettles. September<br />

sees the year’s second brood take to<br />

the air and grace moth-traps.<br />



We think of chalk downland as a spring or early summer<br />

habitat, but September typically sees an impressive final<br />

flourish. Among late-flowering plants, look for Autumn<br />

Gentian. In southern England, the second brood of<br />

Adonis Blue joins the first of Chalkhill Blue and, in<br />

favoured locations, Silver-spotted Skipper.<br />



This month features the second coming<br />

of our most attractive ‘brown’ butterfly.<br />

The Wall (aka Wall Brown) flashes<br />

burning orange in its rapid flight, often<br />

making you think you’ve come across<br />

a fritillary. Once it pauses and opens its<br />

wings, however, ‘eye’ spots on the wings<br />

reveals its true identity. For reasons<br />

unknown, Wall has vanished from many<br />

inland sites in England. Fortunately, it is<br />

holding its own on the coast and in the<br />

north. It favours short, sandy grassland<br />

smattered with open ground.<br />

12 September 2018


Mike has been struggling to keep football-related superstitious<br />

behaviour out of his mid-summer birding...<br />

I<br />

try to be a rational person, fighting<br />

off the temptations of superstition.<br />

But there are some aspects of my<br />

life, where I suspend disbelief and<br />

become a fool, riddled with<br />

nonsense. Take football, for example. No,<br />

I don’t have lucky pants, but I do<br />

somehow believe that my support while<br />

watching the TV or listening to the radio<br />

will make a difference. And if someone<br />

walks in front of the telly, while I am<br />

watching footie, I believe my team will<br />

concede a goal. Ridiculous!<br />

Take the World Cup. Remember that?<br />

The dear lovable lads of England did<br />

rather better than expected, and I<br />

attributed a fair proportion of their good<br />

fortune to me not shaving my beard<br />

between games. I’m ashamed to say<br />

things fell apart against Croatia after I<br />

had got rid of my itchy beard following<br />

the Sweden quarter-final.<br />

What has this got to do with<br />

birdwatching? Well, remember all that<br />

‘Football’s coming home’ stuff? For a<br />

short while it looked possible that<br />

England could really really win that<br />

lovely, iconic, gold trophy. Well, this<br />

year, my Peterborough area year list is<br />

going better than expected. Much better,<br />

in fact, and it really looked like the year<br />

list record was going to be beaten. Until<br />

England got knocked out of the World<br />

Cup, that is…<br />

As you may recall ‘The Record’ is<br />

189 species of bird, set<br />

back in 2008. As the<br />

World Cup started, my<br />

2018 Peterborough<br />

<strong>Bird</strong> Club recording<br />

area (PBC) year list<br />

stood on 181. Less<br />

than half the year<br />

gone and only nine<br />

species needed for a new record!<br />

And remember this was the year of the<br />

Beast from the East, which froze up a big<br />

chunk of March. And this is the year of<br />

the Weird Spring, when wader passage<br />

seemed non-existent or at least<br />

exceptionally late. Swifts and House<br />

Martins seemed to come so late that<br />

serious questions were being asked. And,<br />

around here, the spring flooding made<br />

huge lakes of the washlands in the local<br />

Fens, seemingly ruining the wader<br />

breeding season. But, against the odds,<br />

and by some big slices of luck, my year<br />

list has gone very well. I have even added<br />

three new birds to my PBC all time list:<br />

Against the odds,<br />

and by some big slices<br />

of luck, my year list has<br />

gone very well<br />

American Wigeon, Montagu’s Harrier and<br />

Bluethroat (the former two thanks to top<br />

Cambs birder Steve Cooper). Highlights<br />

have included Red-throated Diver, Roughlegged<br />

Buzzard, Black-winged Stilt,<br />

Temminck’s Stint, all five grebes in<br />

breeding plumage and Kittiwake. And my<br />

top personal local finds, this year, have<br />

been Goshawk, Green-winged Teal, Cattle<br />

Egret and Bluethroat.<br />

Like England’s route<br />

to the semi-finals,<br />

things have been going<br />

almost too smoothly.<br />

The irrational part of<br />

my brain is telling me<br />

that something is<br />

bound to go wrong.<br />

Of course, the World Cup itself has<br />

rather got in the way of year listing. How<br />

are you supposed to go out birding when<br />

there are two games a day to watch? To<br />

add to this, the weather has been<br />

absurdly hot and dry, hardly good<br />

birdwatching conditions.<br />

But, in early July, as the World Cup<br />

was nearing its conclusion, the Nene<br />

Washes were still somewhat damp.<br />

Despite the spring flooding, the Blacktailed<br />

Godwits had their most successful<br />

breeding season for ages; and the<br />

numbers of long-legged wading birds<br />

enjoying the concentrated food in the<br />

retreating pools is staggering.<br />

Spot the Cattle Egret.<br />

Little Egrets, Grey Herons and<br />

a single Cattle Egret vie for<br />

space in the flooded fields of<br />

the Nene Washes, July 2018<br />

In gap days between games, I was<br />

there, looking (unsuccessfully) for a<br />

reported Purple Heron. On one evening,<br />

around a single, partially-flooded field,<br />

I counted more than 160 Little Egrets,<br />

more than 100 Grey Herons and a single<br />

Cattle Egret. Elsewhere on the washes,<br />

there were more than 100 other Little<br />

Egrets, three Great White Egrets and a<br />

Spoonbill (year tick 182). Scenes<br />

unimaginable in the UK the last time<br />

England reached a World Cup semi-final.<br />

I found myself saying that the World<br />

Cup was an omen. If England triumph<br />

and bring back the World Cup, then<br />

surely this year I will break the<br />

untouchable 189. But, sadly, England fell<br />

for the curse of my shaven beard and<br />

came a hugely respectable fourth. The<br />

dream was over, and so, logically and<br />

reasonably, my year list was doomed.<br />

But this is all poppycock. Now the<br />

footie is over, I can come out of my<br />

superstitious trance and start to<br />

concentrate on things I can influence.<br />

I need to go and find birds again. There<br />

are still plenty of tap ins (Whinchat,<br />

Merlin, Hen Harrier etc) to get me to the<br />

magical 190. Come on, birds!<br />

Mike is an obsessive patch lister and keen wildlife<br />

photographer in his home city of Peterborough, where he<br />

lives with his wife, Jo, and children, Jasmine and Eddie.<br />

You can see his photos at weedworld.blogspot.com<br />

Mike Weedon<br />

14 September 2018




Mirrorless cameras have a<br />

huge advantage in the ‘silent’<br />

shutter, so disturbance to<br />

sensitive birds is minimised<br />


Top wildlife photographer David Tipling discusses the<br />

pros and cons of mirrorless vs DSLR cameras<br />

Photography: Daivid Tipling<br />

Earlier this year I was offered the<br />

loan of a mirrorless camera<br />

system. Although sceptical that<br />

it could replace my DSLRs,<br />

I gratefully received the kit and promised<br />

I’d give it a good test. After shooting a<br />

first few frames of a Barn Owl floating<br />

towards me that evening, then<br />

scrutinising the results back home on my<br />

computer, I was an immediate convert. It<br />

was a wrench to give the loaned kit back.<br />

Within a week, I had sold my 400mm<br />

f2.8 lens and with the proceeds invested<br />

in a body, two lenses and a converter and<br />

still had change. I am not alone. A quiet<br />

revolution is sweeping through the bird<br />

photography world – the switch to<br />

mirrorless cameras and notably the micro<br />

four-thirds (MFT) format.<br />

The DSLR could soon be yesterday’s<br />

tech. The major difference between a<br />

DSLR and a mirrorless body is the lack of<br />

a mechanical mirror. Instead a mirrorless<br />

camera has an electronic viewfinder. The<br />

big advantage of this is that mirrorless<br />

cameras are silent, no loud shutter sound<br />

to annoy grumpy birders in hides or scare<br />

off shy birds. Because they do not require<br />

a mirror system they are much slimmer<br />

too. The MFT format developed by<br />

Olympus and Panasonic helps reduce<br />

the cameras size even more owing to a<br />

smaller sensor, giving a 2x crop factor<br />

compared to a full frame DSLR.<br />

This means a 300mm lens becomes a<br />

600mm lens, an attribute that is a perfect<br />

fit for bird photography.<br />

Hunting the hunter<br />

For the first three months of the year,<br />

I guide photographers in the field, with<br />

our most sought-after target being<br />

hunting Barn Owls. Although I have<br />

worked with the occasional owl that will<br />

tolerate camera shutter noise, a prolonged<br />

burst of more than half a dozen shots is<br />

likely to send the owl off in the opposite<br />

direction. With a silent shutter, this<br />

does not matter, and couple this with<br />

a blazing 18 frames per second on my<br />

model of camera, and it’s like stepping<br />

from a Ford Focus into a Ferrari.<br />

For birders, it is the size and weight<br />

coupled with high image quality that<br />

makes this system so compelling. With<br />

a 300mm lens and 1.4 x teleconverter,<br />

I have an 840mm f5.6 combination that<br />

is almost as light as my old DSLR body<br />

without the big heavy lens1 My monopod<br />

and tripod are suplerfluous, as both<br />

Olympus and Panasonic have built-in<br />

camera stabilisation, allowing handheld<br />

shots with no blurring from camera<br />

shake. I have handheld my 840mm<br />

combination and made tack sharp images<br />

at 1/15 sec. Having a light setup means<br />

you can walk all day hardly noticing you<br />

are carrying camera gear, and it makes<br />

you very nimble, giving the ability to<br />

swing into action at the blink of an eye.<br />

So, what are the downsides when you<br />

compare against a DSLR? The electronic<br />

viewfinder does take some getting used<br />

to in mirrorless cameras. The<br />

viewfinder’s electronic refresh rate is not<br />

high enough to avoid the image becoming<br />

a little unclear when panning to keep up<br />

with a flying bird. I have got used to this,<br />

94 September 2018

David bumped the<br />

ISO slightly to freeze<br />

this snowy battle of<br />

Fieldfare and<br />

Blackbird<br />

Swallow in full light<br />

The adapter gives<br />

you a solid base from<br />

which to work<br />

Great Spotted<br />

Woodpecker<br />

but the odd flight shot is missed;<br />

following Swifts is particularly<br />

challenging! This is a part of the<br />

technology which I would expect to<br />

rapidly improve.<br />

Image quality is for me of paramount<br />

importance. As a professional, I rely on<br />

reproduction fees from the web,<br />

publishers, advertisers and calendar<br />

companies. I shoot pictures for<br />

commercial catalogues and for packaging<br />

on boxes and labels and these same<br />

pictures are then often used on point of<br />

display materials and posters. I also sell<br />

my pictures as fine art prints up to and<br />

sometimes beyond A2 in size.<br />

So, I need a camera that will output<br />

files good enough to cover all these<br />

eventualities; something my DSLRs<br />

A young Blackbird<br />

captured ‘mid-beg’<br />

would do with no worries. It stands to<br />

reason that a smaller sensor is likely to be<br />

compromised in some way. At low ISO up<br />

to 400 ISO, I would challenge anyone to<br />

spot the difference between pictures<br />

taken on a MFT camera and DSLR.<br />

Consider the ISO<br />

Smaller sensors do suffer at higher ISOs,<br />

though; noise becomes more apparent in<br />

shadow areas and overall image quality<br />

is degraded. Some users will find pictures<br />

taken on ISOs as high as 3,200 ISO<br />

acceptable. However, I do not like to go<br />

above 800 ISO and will stick at 400 ISO<br />

or lower when I can, but I am keen to<br />

keep the quality as high as possible for<br />

reproduction. The image stabiliser offsets<br />

this for static subjects, as you can shoot<br />

at very low shutter speeds so keep your<br />

ISO low. It is more challenging if trying<br />

to capture action in low light.<br />

However, in March, when snow blanketed<br />

the ground and the light was poor, I had<br />

a territorial Fieldfare chasing Blackbirds<br />

away from apples in front of my<br />

woodland hide. To capture the action<br />

required a shutter speed in excess of<br />

1/1,000 sec which could only be achieved<br />

by using an ISO of 1,600. The resulting<br />

pictures were more than acceptable. So,<br />

in scenes where there is snow or light,<br />

background noise is far less prevalent.<br />

Videoing birds is becoming ever more<br />

popular and these cameras perform<br />

admirably, offering detailed 4K footage.<br />

The Panasonic GH5 can even capture<br />

slow motion sequences in high definition.<br />

A tripod is essential for rock solid video<br />

with a telephoto lens and, although the<br />

screen on the back of the camera offers<br />

all you need, I attach an external monitor<br />

to assist in seeing more clearly what I am<br />

filming. I also use a fluid tripod head to<br />

aid in lining up and following my<br />

subjects. Having said this, if you simply<br />

want to grab some video on the go<br />

without carrying extra gear, and don’t<br />

mind shaky bits, then the stabilisation<br />

offers the ability to capture video<br />

sequences that can be fairly steady if the<br />

camera is propped up against something<br />

or held really still.<br />

Taking stills from 4k video clips is<br />

possible, too, and the quality is excellent.<br />

It is an exciting time to be a bird<br />

photographer. As technology advances, so<br />

does our ability to push the boundaries.<br />

With mirrorless MFT systems being so<br />

portable, photography is being embraced<br />

by some of my birding friends who<br />

I never imagined would catch the bug. BW<br />

birdwatching.co.uk 95

GEAR<br />


More stuff to spend your hard-earned cash on this month<br />



The new Viper HDs<br />

focus closer and have<br />

a wider field of view<br />

than their<br />

predecessors<br />

– 1.5m/7.8° for the<br />

8x42, and 1.5m/6.5°<br />

on the 10x42. They<br />

are a bit heavier, but<br />

not heavy – 690g<br />

and 700g<br />

respectively, and<br />

have “outstanding<br />

edge-to-edge clarity”. The package includes a Binocular<br />

Harness Pack – a protective case that can be carried in four<br />

ways. And they are the same price as the older version. Watch<br />

out for a full review or grab a Viper at the <strong>Bird</strong>fair.<br />

newprouk.co.uk<br />


The Aura is a polyester fleece glove that can be used on its<br />

own (ideally with other clothes) or with a shell glove over the<br />

top for added protection. Each one is supplied with a bit of<br />

dexterity, so you won’t have to keep taking them off to dig into<br />

your pockets for example.<br />

The fit is close and<br />

comfortable with an<br />

elasticated<br />

cuff. One<br />

glove weighs<br />

20g and both<br />

are covered<br />

by Alpkit’s 3<br />

year ‘Alpine<br />

Bond’. Available<br />

in black or black.<br />

S-XL.<br />

alpkit.com<br />



Here’s a low-priced t-shirt that’s designed for walking in the<br />

mountains, but I bet it works at<br />

lower altitudes, too! It’s<br />

lightweight, quick-drying,<br />

breaths, and will resist<br />

wear and tear from a<br />

backpack. The main<br />

fabric is 82% polyester<br />

and 18% elastane for a bit of<br />

stretch, and polyamide mesh<br />

inserts under the arms ‘limit<br />

odour’, so lifting your bins to your<br />

eyes shouldn’t be too<br />

embarrassing. Available in five<br />

colour options. XS-2XL.<br />

M weighs 110g. Two-year<br />

guarantee. decathlon.co.uk<br />


£120/£135<br />

Designed for 8x32/42s (Galbin 8) and 10x42s (Galbin 10) this<br />

high quality product will provide a high level of protection for<br />

a very long time. The main flap has a contoured fit and a<br />

quick-release clogball fastening. A drawstring closure provides<br />

additional internal protection. The Galbin has a detachable<br />

shoulder sling, leather belt loops and a slip pocket to stash a<br />

notebook or your phone in. In sage fibrenyte with chocolate<br />

leather trim or black canvas with black leather trim. Five-year<br />

guarantee. billingham.co.uk<br />

NIKON MONARCH HG 8X30/10X30<br />

BINOCULAR, £899/£949<br />

These new Monarchs are compact, lightweight (about 450g),<br />

deliver a “sharp and clear view all the way to the periphery”<br />

have ED glass, a field flattener lens system, a 60.3°/62.2° field<br />

of view and a 2.0m quoted close-focus. They are waterproof<br />

and fogproof, have scratch-resistant<br />

coating on the<br />

outer lens<br />

surfaces, and<br />

long eye-relief<br />

so should be<br />

good for glasses<br />

wearers. And<br />

there’s no lead or<br />

arsenic in the<br />

glass – that<br />

sounds good to<br />

me. nikon.com<br />

TAWNY OWL JIGSAW, £11.99<br />

They’re not too hard<br />

to hear, but not that<br />

easy to see, and this<br />

one isn’t that easy to<br />

put together… This<br />

Tawny Owl is<br />

surrounded by<br />

autumn leaves and the<br />

whole scene has been<br />

carved up into 1,000<br />

pieces. If there’s a<br />

jigsaw addict in your<br />

life, especially one that<br />

likes owls, you could<br />

buy them this. The<br />

completed puzzle is<br />

58cm x 58cm, and, completed or not, it has FSC certification.<br />

shopping.rspb.org.uk<br />


These Muck Boots are available in black or moss for men (size<br />

6-14) and women (size 3-9). They are tough, easy to clean,<br />

handcrafted from natural rubber and totally waterproof.<br />

There’s an adjustable waterproof gusset for a decent fit<br />

around the calf, the toe and heel are<br />

reinforced, and there’s additional arch<br />

support and a steel shank; 5mm<br />

neoprene provides flexibility, and<br />

breathable air mesh helps keep the<br />

boot temperature down when the air<br />

temperature goes up.<br />

muckbootcompany.<br />

co.uk<br />


This credit card sized tool has a notch for removing big ticks,<br />

another one for small ticks (or splinters, thorns or bee stings)<br />

and a 3x magnifier. It’s easy to carry and if you get ‘ticked’, you<br />

could be very glad to have it with you. It works on people, and<br />

it works on pets, too. You don’t want Lyme Disease – buying<br />

one of these could be a small amount of money that proves to<br />

be very well spent.<br />

smidgeup.com<br />



FROM £3.69<br />

Keep your feet dry and odour-free on<br />

future birdwatching trips with a foot<br />

and shoe spray which promises to<br />

“destroy odour under the toughest<br />

conditions”. To do this, the spray<br />

apparently “utilises one of the best<br />

anti-perspirant ingredients,<br />

Alumiunum Chlorohydrate, to stop<br />

excessive foot sweating”. The<br />

company behind the product say<br />

protection lasts for 24 hours and use<br />

daily for best results. It comes in two<br />

versions, with the Sport variant ideal<br />

for those whose pursuits are a bit<br />

tougher on their feet.<br />

boots.com & superdrug.com<br />

birdwatching.co.uk 97

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