Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Historically, Portuguese rarities were considered by the Iberian Rarities Committee, but since 1 January 1995 the Comité Português de Raridades (CPR), or Portuguese Rarities Committee, has fulfilled this role. The CPR has published a run of reports documenting rarities from the mainland and islands, the most recent being that for 2011 which was published online in SPEA's Anuário Ornitologico (see here). However, with the sudden departure of the last Secretary, a deluge of records from the Azores and the need to appoint new members, it is no secret that a major backlog of work has built up - hence last weekend's meeting in Lisbon.
It was an extremely productive two days, the results of which will be reported in detail by the CPR elsewhere. Suffice to say here that we now have a talented and experienced line-up of new members, a new Secretary and some exciting new initiatives in the pipeline. Importantly, voting has since taken place on some on significant rarity records relating to species not only potentially new to Portugal, but also to the Western Palearctic. While it will inevitably take time to catch up, the CPR has started as it means to go on, and I'm sure there will be more news to report soon. Watch this space!
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
|Cork oak woodland at the Sado Estuary near Lisbon.|
Most subsequent visits have been all-too-brief transit stops en route to and from the Azores, but back in 2012 I had the opportunity to make the most of a longer airport lay-over by teaming up with João Jara of local specialists Birds and Nature Tours Portugal. A few very worthwhile hours on the Tejo Estuary produced some excellent birds on that November trip, not least Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Kite, Iberian Grey Shrike and two countable ‘Category C’ species, Black-headed Weaver and Yellow-crowned Bishop, for which the Tejo's rice fields and marshes are well known.
|Crested Myna - an established exotic restricted to the Lisbon area.|
|One of many Purple Herons encountered at close range around the Tejo Estuary.|
|Second-calendar-year Audouin's Gull - a rarity this far north in Portugal.|
|Male Yellow-crowned Bishop feeling the midday heat as temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|A party of Scaly-breasted Munias. Another naturalised exotic, this species is a potential addition to Category C.|
Sunday, 8 January 2017
It’s a thankless annual chore, but there may be some advantages to filling in tax returns just ahead of January’s deadline. Six years ago this month, just after handing in my tax return, I drove on afterwards to my local patch at Rainham in east London and found Britain’s first Slaty-backed Gull.
While I would be lucky to improve on that personal best, yesterday I had another welcome find while sorting out my tax papers. Glancing out of the window from my desk to keep half an eye on the male Blackcap that is intermittently visiting our garden, I glimpsed a distant bird sally almost vertically out of the top of a large tree. No regular garden bird should be behaving like that in north London in January, so I reached for my binoculars and, sure enough, it proved to be a flycatching Waxwing – one of two, no less. (The fact that insects are still on the wing in mid-winter is surely a sign of how mild it is currently).
The birds were only on view briefly, but I managed to fire off a few quick shots to document the record. Fortunately they returned later on, and since then have been reasonably settled in the vicinity of a fruiting berry tree in a neighbouring road. Waxwings are always noteworthy in southern England, and particularly in the capital – none have been in this area for a few years, but I did have up to 26 around the garden just after Christmas back in 2010. These latest birds were the crowning glory on a garden day list that ended on 27 species, the equal second-highest total I’ve had here in just over 15 years, with other highlights including 2 Fieldfares, 17 Redwings, a pair of Blackcaps and - numerically rarer than Waxwing in my garden in recent years - a single House Sparrow. You can read the full list on eBird.
|One of the two Waxwings getting 2017's garden list off to a flying start.|
|Waxwings have been slow to reach the south this winter - hopefully these two are a sign of things to come.|
Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Has there been another autumn as good as this for rare birds in Britain? Probably not – at least not in recent memory – after the westerlies in September which brought the country’s first-ever Eastern Kingbird, and then October’s easterlies which were accompanied by unprecedented numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers and no fewer than two (at the time of writing) Siberian Accentors, another new British species. And that’s without mentioning the national ‘lifer’ which preceded these two, a splash-landing Red-footed Booby on the Sussex coast, or the Black-browed Albatross which gate-crashed an Eastern Crowned Warbler twitch.
Such extraordinary experiences will live long in the memories of those lucky enough to witness them. They also combine with other newsworthy events to make 2016 a stand-out birding year on many fronts. The hot-spot reserves seemingly never out of the news, from the record Curlew Sandpiper invasion at Frampton Marsh RSPB to Springwatch and ‘that’ swamphen at Minsmere RSPB; the scientific discoveries helping to rewrite our understanding of bird migration; the viral e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting which attracted 123,000 signatures and earned a parliamentary debate; the campaigners exposing the illegal persecution of raptors by elements of the shooting community; and the new technology, optics and books which have all helped advance our ornithological knowledge in so many different ways.
The best – and indeed the worst – in birding all feature in the third annual Birders’ Choice Awards, which we are again proud to launch. It’s your chance to vote for your favourites, or even nominate your own. Voting is quickest and easiest online but you can also do so by post (see the November issue for details), and we’re keen for every reader to take part and help us make these the most popular and democratic birding awards yet. The results will be announced in our January issue.