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Endearing European Robins were a regular sighting throughout the tour. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
After a long hiatus, we reintroduced the Birds of Britain tour to our schedule this year, with tweaks to the old itinerary to include some new locations and a few cultural highlights. England pulled out all the stops for our visit -- giving us gorgeous azure skies and balmy days for much of our stay, and offering up a raft of surprises among the more expected breeding species. Scotland proved a bit more chilly and temperamental, dumping rain on us on several mornings, but tempering that with some spectacular views and a sunny finale as well as some distinctly "highland" sightings.
We started with a 10-day exploration of East Anglia, venturing from the coastal reserves of RSPB Minsmere and RSPB Titchwell, and the remnant heathlands of Dunwich and Westleton, to the vast, flat Norfolk broads, the farm fields along Chalkpit Lane and the grand estates of Felbrigg, Blickling and Lynford (the latter's arboretum now part of Thetford Forest). We reveled in repeated encounters with many of "the regulars" -- breeding species such as European Robin, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Eurasian Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, House Martin, and multiple species of tits. Remember the line of eight just-fledged Long-tailed Tits huddled together on a branch, waiting for their parents to return with tidbits? We also had close encounters with some less common breeders. A Common Nightingale warbled from an open branch in a flowering shrub. A Eurasian Nightjar flashed past, its white wing and tail markings winking against the darkness. A Barn Owl danced over a grassy field, then dipped down to re-emerge with a mouse in its talons. A Corn Bunting sang from a crop field, just across the street from another field where nearly a dozen Eurasian Dotterels pattered back and forth across the plowed ridges. A pair of attentive Eurasian Thick-knees attended their two ball-of-fluff chicks. Dartford Warblers pinwheeled through the gorse scrub while sentinel Eurasian Stonechats kept an eye on things from above. Common Cuckoos shouted from the forests. Two Wood Larks trundled across piles of wood chips. A pair of Common Cranes circled against an achingly blue sky, trumpeting to each other.
Then it was on to the north, where we traded the flat coast and farmlands of England for the windswept moors, myriad lochs, extensive pine forests and stumpy mountains of Scotland. Though we struggled with most of our hoped-for grouse -- darn those Capercaillies and Black Grouse -- we had lovely close views of many "Red Grouse" (the endemic subspecies of Willow Ptarmigan). A pair of Arctic Loons floated on a choppy loch. Horned Grebes in snazzy breeding plumage paddled along a lake edge. Crested Tits ferried mouthfuls to an out-of-sight nest. Ring Ouzels chased each other back and forth over a ski station. A European Shag stood spread-eagled on a piling. Eurasian Curlews piped from moors and pastures. A juvenile White-throated Dipper stretched its little wings on a creekside rock while its parent hunted downstream. A Wood Warbler made repeated circuits on a windswept hillside. Tree Pipits sang from sapling pines. And who will soon forget the drama of our immature White-tailed Eagle, flapping ponderously over the highway with a procession of fired-up gulls in hot pursuit?
During the course of our tour, we notched 22 species of waterfowl, including a roadside pond full of Common Pochards and Tufted Ducks, a pair of spectacularly snazzy Mandarin Ducks, a few lingering Pink-footed Geese, and some unexpected Red-crested Pochards. The intervening years have proved productive for some species of raptors, and we saw Common Buzzards and Red Kites at numerous places in England -- where we didn't record them at all in 2002. Our 21 species of shorebird included a trio of foraging Temminck's Stints, some rusty-bellied Black-tailed Godwits, and a plethora of seriously sexy Pied Avocets. And it wasn't just the birds that we enjoyed. We had a marvelous guided tour of the barrows at Sutton Hoo (and a up-close-and-personal view of replicas of some of the treasures), and a leisurely rainy-day wander through Blickling Hall, a Jacobean manor house built on the property where Ann Boleyn was born.
Thanks so much for joining Willy and me, and serving as "guinea pigs" for the reboot of our Birds of Britain tour. It was good fun sharing our adopted home with all of you! We hope to see you again soon on another adventure.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
We saw plenty of youngsters during the tour, including this Graylag Goose with her train of goslings. Photo by participant Denise Hackert-Stoner.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BAR-HEADED GOOSE (Anser indicus)
GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser)
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus)
BRANT (Branta bernicla)
BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) [I]
Another new family: a Mute Swan pair with their cygnets on a pond on the Felbrigg estate. Photo by participant Scott Stoner.
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [I]
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)
EGYPTIAN GOOSE (Alopochen aegyptiaca) [I]
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna)
MANDARIN DUCK (Aix galericulata) [I]
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
Britain now holds a significant population of Mandarin Ducks -- a species in decline in eastern Asia, where it originates. Photo by participant Scott Stoner.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (EURASIAN) (Anas crecca crecca)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (Netta rufina) [I]
COMMON POCHARD (Aythya ferina)
TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula)
Willow Ptarmigan (aka "Red Grouse") proved to be quite common in Scotland's highland moors. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
COMMON EIDER (Somateria mollissima)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (Alectoris rufa) [I]
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]
GRAY PARTRIDGE (Perdix perdix)
WILLOW PTARMIGAN (RED GROUSE) (Lagopus lagopus scotica) [E]
LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis) [N]
HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus)
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia)
STOCK DOVE (Columba oenas)
COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus)
Guide Willy Perez snapped this shot of the group leaving Blickling Hall -- a Jacobean gem in Norfolk.
EUROPEAN TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia turtur)
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto)
COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus)
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
EURASIAN NIGHTJAR (Caprimulgus europaeus)
Little Grebe was the smallest of the three grebe species we found on the tour. Photo by participant Denise Hackert-Stoner.
COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus)
EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra) [N]
COMMON CRANE (Grus grus)
Two Common Cranes, calling as they circled against the blue, blue skies over our heads, were a thrilling highlight of our visit to Hickling Broad. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
PIED AVOCET (Recurvirostra avosetta)
EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus ostralegus) [N]
We saw plenty of Pied Avocets, the RSPB's flagship species, at coastal reserves all across East Anglia. Photo by guide Willy Perez.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus)
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius)
EURASIAN DOTTEREL (Charadrius morinellus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)
EURASIAN CURLEW (Numenius arquata)
BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica)
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa limosa)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)
TEMMINCK'S STINT (Calidris temminckii)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
COMMON SNIPE (Gallinago gallinago)
A Eurasian Oystercatcher nesting in the parking lot of our Scottish hotel provided particularly nice opportunities for study! Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos)
COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia)
COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus)
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)
BLACK GUILLEMOT (Cepphus grylle)
Participant Denise Hackert-Stoner got this lovely shot of a Peacock Butterfly.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla)
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
MEW GULL (EUROPEAN) (Larus canus canus)
HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)
There's nothing like a pair of hunting Hobbies to focus group attention! Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus fuscus)
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus marinus)
LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata)
ARCTIC LOON (Gavia arctica)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
EUROPEAN SHAG (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BITTERN (Botaurus stellaris)
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea)
We found a handful of Temminck's Stints poking around a muddy islet at Cley Marshes, and guide Willy Perez managed to get some video of one of them in action.
GREAT EGRET (EURASIAN) (Ardea alba alba)
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
EURASIAN SPOONBILL (Platalea leucorodia)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus)
Red Kites have made a huge recovery in England since being reintroduced several decades ago. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
RED KITE (Milvus milvus)
WHITE-TAILED EAGLE (Haliaeetus albicilla)
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo buteo)
BARN OWL (Tyto alba)
Little Owls were introduced into England back in the 1800s. Photo by Jeanette Shores.
LITTLE OWL (Athene noctua) [I]
TAWNY OWL (Strix aluco) [*]
COMMON KINGFISHER (Alcedo atthis)
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos major)
Participant Ed Legrand got this moody shot of Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness -- with not a monster in sight!
EURASIAN GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis) [*]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus)
EURASIAN HOBBY (Falco subbuteo)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius)
We saw Eurasian Jackdaws every day, but the ones yanking hairs from the shedding cows at Felbrigg were among the most entertaining. Photo by participant Scott Stoner.
EURASIAN MAGPIE (Pica pica)
EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula)
ROOK (Corvus frugilegus)
CARRION CROW (Corvus corone corone)
HOODED CROW (Corvus cornix)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
Our first morning, and even in the parking lot, there were new birds in every direction! Photo by guide Willy Perez.
Panuridae (Bearded Reedling)
BEARDED REEDLING (Panurus biarmicus)
WOOD LARK (Lullula arborea)
EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis)
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)
Guide Willy Perez models the latest in Saxon battle wear, compliments of the museum at Sutton Hoo. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon urbicum) [N]
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
COAL TIT (Periparus ater)
CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes cristatus)
MARSH TIT (Poecile palustris)
EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus) [N]
GREAT TIT (Parus major)
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)
LONG-TAILED TIT (Aegithalos caudatus)
EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Sitta europaea) [N]
EURASIAN TREECREEPER (Certhia familiaris)
EURASIAN WREN (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Finding a couple of just-fledged White-throated Dippers and their parent along the creek in Scotland's Fairy Glen was a treat. Video by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
WHITE-THROATED DIPPER (Cinclus cinclus)
GOLDCREST (Regulus regulus)
COMMON FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla)
Scotocercidae (Bush Warblers and Allies)
CETTI'S WARBLER (Cettia cetti)
Britain has plenty of species of tits to enjoy. We saw six species, including a few jaunty Coal Tits. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
WOOD WARBLER (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
WILLOW WARBLER (Phylloscopus trochilus)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (Phylloscopus collybita)
Acrocephalidae (Reed Warblers and Allies)
SEDGE WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
EURASIAN REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
We had a great show from a point-blank Sedge Warbler along a path at Minsmere. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
Sylviidae (Sylviid Warblers)
EURASIAN BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla)
GARDEN WARBLER (Sylvia borin)
LESSER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia curruca)
GREATER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia communis)
We found a pair of Eurasian Nuthatches ferrying food to some out-of-sight chicks in a nest hole at Felbrigg. Photo by guide Willy Perez.
DARTFORD WARBLER (Sylvia undata)
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa striata)
EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula)
COMMON NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia megarhynchos)
COMMON REDSTART (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
Quite a few of the Eurasian Blackbirds we saw were already feeding chicks. Photo by participant Denise Hackert-Stoner.
EUROPEAN STONECHAT (Saxicola rubicola rubicola)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus)
SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos)
EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula)
FIELDFARE (Turdus pilaris)
RING OUZEL (Turdus torquatus)
The handsome Ring Ouzel (aka "Vicar Thrush") is declining across Scotland. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)
DUNNOCK (Prunella modularis)
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
WHITE WAGTAIL (BRITISH) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
MEADOW PIPIT (Anthus pratensis)
TREE PIPIT (Anthus trivialis)
We had some great looks at European Greenfinch right in the parking lot of our first hotel. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs)
EURASIAN BULLFINCH (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris)
EURASIAN LINNET (Linaria cannabina)
LESSER REDPOLL (Acanthis cabaret)
SCOTTISH CROSSBILL (Loxia scotica) [E]
A couple of bathing Eurasian Bullfinches put on a nice show in Scotland's Fairy Glen. Photo by participant Jeanette Shores.
EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)
EURASIAN SISKIN (Spinus spinus)
Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)
CORN BUNTING (Emberiza calandra)
YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella)
REED BUNTING (Emberiza schoeniclus)
A couple of pre-breakfast visits to Felbrigg Hall brought us Red Kite, and Little Owl and out-of-season Fieldfares. And some very curious cows! Photo by participant Ed Legrand.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus)
OLD WORLD RABBIT (Oryctolagus cuniculus) [I]
EUROPEAN BROWN HARE (Lepus europaeus) [I]
NORTHERN (BLUE) HARE (Lepus timidus)
Participant Scott Stoner got this cute shot of a bold Bank Vole checking out the scraps under the feeders at RSPB Titchwell.
EUROPEAN RED SQUIRREL (Sciurus vulgaris)
EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis) [I]
BANK VOLE (Clethrionomys glareolus)
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)
STOAT (SHORT-TAILED WEASEL) (Mustela erminea)
GRAY SEAL (Halichoerus grypus)
CHINESE WATER DEER (Hydropotes inermis) [I]
The underside of the Orange-tip Butterfly rather belies its name! Photo by participant Denise Hackert-Stoner.
MUNTJAC (BARKING DEER) (Muntiacus muntjak) [I]
FALLOW DEER (Dama dama) [I]
RED DEER (Cervus elaphus)
ROE DEER (Capreolus capreolus)
Totals for the tour: 161 bird taxa and 14 mammal taxa