Saturday 31 August 2019


An early start at Brascote Pits this morning paid off. Luckily I looked closely at a group of Mallards, as hiding amongst them was a Garganey. The upper wing showed a pale grey area and the white bands are broad and so it looks to be an eclipse drake.

It was very wary and flew for no apparent reason, but only as far as the adjacent pit. 

Garganey and Mallard, Brascote Pits 31st August 2019

Garganey and Teal, Brascote Pits 31st August 2019 - photo Adey Baker

Short video

Sightings for South-west Leicestershire 
1976: two at Huncote Sandpits on October 9th (GAD).
2015: pair at Brascote Pits on April 14th (AP et al).
2018: drake at Brascote Pits on April 28th (CDB, ABa, CSG et al).
2019: female at Shawell Sand Quarry from May 15th to 18th (CDB, SN et al.) and an eclipse drake at Brascote Pits on August 31st (CDB, ABa).

Things were quiet at Shawell, but an adult and juvenile Hobby made the effort worthwhile.

Friday 30 August 2019

Shawell A5 Lagoons

Another session after work on Thursday at the A5 Lagoons proved good. I have found a way of getting a little closer to the gulls, and as a result the colour-ring reading is a easier. Plenty of familiar birds from previous years and some new ones for my ever growing spreadsheet were seen. I have now made 4000 colour-ring readings at Shawell. A moulting juvenile Caspian Gull posed well and amongst a flock of gulls that dropped in last thing was a first-winter Mediterranean Gull.

First Calendar-Year Caspian Gull

First Calendar-Year Caspian Gull

First-Winter Mediterranean Gull

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Another Redsart

Nick Sharpe found two Whinchats yesterday at Brascote, which continued the run of good birds in my local area. Adey Baker and I along with Nick looked for them early in the evening, but had no luck. However, David Mitchell stuck with it and saw three Whinchats and a couple of Wheatears after 8.00pm.

Before work this morning I revisited the site and was very pleased to find a male Redstart and two of the three Whinchats.

The photo of the Redstart definitely belongs in the record shot category.

Male Redstart, Brascote Pits, August 27th 2019

Whinchat, Brascote Pits, August 27th 2019

Sunday 25 August 2019


After yesterday's Pied Flycatcher it was great to see two Redstarts at Croft Quarry. It had been seven years since the last one at Croft Hill. Foolishly I had made the rookie error of forgetting to change my camera battery before leaving home, but luckily Adey Baker was on hand to record the event.

Male Redstart, Croft Quarry, August 25th 2019. Photo by Adey Baker

Female type Redstart, Croft Quarry, August 25th 2019. Photo by Adey Baker.

Below are the sightings for south-west Leicestershire.

1.            Redstart: a scarce passage migrant to the area with spring records being the least common. Records were more frequent historically. Breeding was recorded at Croft in 1945 and 1946 and at Hinckley in the latter year. Further breeding records came from Market Bosworth in 1951 and 1953 plus Stoke Golding in 1952. Breeding was also recorded at Market Bosworth in 1972. (Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland).

Modern Records:
1999: juvenile at Croft Quarry on August 26th (CDB), Huncote on August 27th (TK, GAD) and Croft Hill on September 22nd (CDB).
2000: single females at Frolesworth on July 30th and August 7th and 8th (GER) and a male at Croft Hill on August 19th (CDB).
2002: a female at Frolesworth Manor Lake on April 28th (GER), a male at Croft Hill between September 1st and 4th (CDB) and a female/juvenile at Fosse Meadows on September 19th (GER).
2003: single females at Hill Farm, Frolesworth between August 27th and 29th (GER) and October 2nd (GER).
2004: a male at Hill Farm, Frolesworth on April 19th (GER).
2006: a female at Fosse Meadows from April 23rd to the 25th (DMi).
2008: three 1st-winters at Croft Hill on August 24th and 25th (ABa, CDB et al.); also single 1st-winters at the same site from August 30th until September 2nd (CDB, DLT) and September 9th and 10th (BM, AP, DG, CDB).
2009: a female at Stoney Cove on April 28th (CDB) and two 1st-winters at Croft Hill between September 6th and 9th (ABa, RED et al).
2011: a male at Burbage Outwoods on April 8th (ABa) and single females at Frolesworth Manor Lake on September 3rd (GER) and Frolesworth Rectory on September 11th (GER).
2012: a male at Hill Farm, Frolesworth between April 13th and 15th (GER), a female at Brascote Pits on April 15th (CSG) and a female/juvenile at Croft Hill on September 29th (CDB).
2013: a singing male near Shawell on May 11th (CDB).
2016: a female at The Outwoods, Burbage on April 21st (RP).

2019: a moulting male and a female/1st-winter at Croft Quarry on August 25th (CDB, ABa).

Update from Shawell

During the last 10 days I've being having a colour-ring reading extravaganza at Shawell. I've made about 80 readings and for once I'm seeing the birds close. Norwegian Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) made up a significant percentage of the colour-ringed gulls recorded; including the first juvenile. Caspian (Larus cachinnans) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) are giving themselves up a little easier at present, as they are already carrying out there post-juvenile moult, whereas most Herring (Larus argentatus) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls still in juvenile plumage. Some of the latter two, however, are moulting a few scapulars, so care has to be taken.

Large, Presumed Male, Post Juvenile Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Small, Presumed Female, Post Juvenile Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Juvenile Caspian Gull (German Ringed X18J) Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd - Slow Moulting Bird
Second-Summer Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 24th 2019

Post Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 17th 2019
Presumed Herring Gull Already Moulting Some Scapulars, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 17th 2019 

The gull below gets me going every time, as I think I have a Yellow-legged Gull with a colour-ring. However, A+G is a hybrid (parents LBBG and LBBG x HG). Ringed in Gloucester as a chick in 2014.

Hybrid, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Juvenile Herring Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Pale Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 20th 2019
Dutch Ringed (KBDK) Lessser Black-backed Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Norwegian Ringed (J760L) Lesser Black-backed Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019

Saturday 24 August 2019

Pied Flycatcher

A quick visit to Croft Hill yielded a longer than expected stay and a lovely female/1st-winter Pied Flycatcher.

Croft Hill has proven to be attractive to this species over the years. Below are all the records I'm aware of from south-west Leicestershire (some might be south Leicestershire but they fall within my personal boundary for south-west Leicestershire.

1.            Pied Flycatchera locally scarce passage migrant.
1901: one at Cotesbach Hall on April 19th (Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland).
1912: a male at Burbage on April 28th (Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland).
1944: a pair at Kirby Mallory from June 6th to 13th (Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland).
1950 –1954: during the period five singles were recorded on Croft Hill (Eric Pochin).
1961: one at Higham Grange on June 5th (Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland).
1978: a pair at Market Bosworth on May 3rd (Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland).
1986: one at Cadeby Quarry on August 17th (DT).
1996: one atBurbage Outwoods on September 27th (ABa).
2000: a female at Fosse Meadows on July 25th (GER).
2004: a male on Croft Hill on April 24th (CDB, ABa).
2008: a male on Croft Hill on April 18th (DT), plus two female/immature at the same site during September: one from 8th to 10th (NWH et al) and another on the 27th (ABa, CDB).
2012: female/immature at Croft Hill on September2nd (ABa).
2015: female/immature ‘types’ at Croft Hill on August 7th (CDB, ABa, RBa) and August 16th (CDB, ABa).
2016: female/immature at Croft Hill on August 21st (CDB, ABa, DT).
2017: female/immature at Croft Hill on July 30th (ABa, CDB) and a male on August 19th (CDB).
2019female/immature at Croft Hill on August 24th (CDB et al.).

Thursday 15 August 2019

Juvenile Caspian Gull

Another good session at Shawell after work tonight.

Juvenile/first-winter Mediterranean Gull, a new juvenile Caspian Gull and 13 colour-rings read.

The photo below shows some nice features that aid identification of juvenile Caspian Gull. A plain pale head with just a slight darkening around the eyes (not a mask); a long and fairly thin bill (this one had an obviously long bill, but many juvenile Casps don't have exceptionally long bills); very plain brown coverts with its greater coverts being very dark; already replacing some scapulars with grey second generation feathers; a whitish breast and belly and spindly legs.

Juvenile Caspian Gull (centre), Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 15th 2019

Here a splendid video of the Caspian Gull (change to HD quality if not automatically done):

Friday 9 August 2019

News from South-West Leicestershire


Gulls are a winter thing aren't they? Wrong, the summer can also be a good time. The 'white-wingers' are much easier to identify than the summer collection, but it's the ID challenges that make it fun. Lots of fresh juvenile gulls are arriving at Shawell at the moment and amongst them are some young Caspian Gulls. Juvenile gulls are challenging to most birders, but with a little practice many can be identified. there are around half a dozen juvenile Caspian Gulls visiting the area at present - maybe more.

The beauty below was there on Wednesday evening, but it never quite posed perfectly. You can just see that it has replaced some scapulars with grey second-generation feathers. The plain brown coverts are also obvious, which is a feature of juvenile and first-winter birds. 

A colour-ringed German bird was also present. X18J was OK as far as the plumage goes for a Caspian Gull, but structurally it wasn't quite on the money. They can alter of course as they age, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

The sandpit on Gibbet Lane is flooded at present, which is frustrating as far as colour-ring reading is concerned. As a result I have been visiting the A5 Lagoons and luckily so have the gulls. A few evening visits have netted 30 colour-ring readings.

Lesser Black-backed Gull YAUT.

Amongst the colour-ringed birds was this one that breeds in The Netherlands. It is a failed breeder, so has started its wanderings already. It was a good sighting for the scheme co-ordinators, as it is wearing a data logger on its back (not visible in the photo, but I did see it). This sighting helps to support the results from the logger.

Brascote Pits:

I have also squeezed in a few early morning visits to Brascote Pits. Staying with gulls there was a nice collection there on Thursday morning, which included six Yellow-legged Gulls and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull.

There are also good numbers of Small Red-eyed Damselflies there and for the first time I saw one that wasn't out of floating plants.