In the Telegraph

An exciting weekend for me. Today (Sunday) I have a feature in the Country Matters section of the Telegraph on learning bird song in January.







And then, delighted to be part of the “Saturday” section of the Telegraph yesterday, a short section on Red Squirrels. Alongside some classy company, including Stephen Moss, John Lister-Kaye, Miriam Darlington et al.


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What’s Been Seen on Trips Recently

This post tells you what birds have been showing on the trips that I run, either day trips or short Wednesday morning excursions. They are either a good memory or you’ll find out what you missed!

Tuesday 23rd January – Hayling Island, Hampshire
On a cold, windy day we began by scanning the water right by the Ship Inn, the latter drawing us, siren-like towards its log fires. There were a couple of Pintail here and, splendidly, some Goldeneye in the channels along with the usual Red-breasted Mergansers. Waders were well represented with all the expected species showing well. We moved east past the pond and on towards Conigar Point, following the Solent Way. We had great views of Greenshanks here, often comparing well with Redshanks, and eventually a Kingfisher showed itself. There were no Mediterranean Gulls or Sandwich Terns here, which there usually are. In then afternoon we transferred by car to the Oyster Beds area off the north-west of the island (West Hayling Nature Reserve). Although it was high tide a biting wind made viewing extremely difficult. We saw a few more waders, and more Goldeneyes and Mergansers, but failed entirely to find a single Black-necked Grebe. About 50 species were seen during the day.

Wednesday 17th January – Poole Park
On a chilly morning with keen winds and sunshine, we mingled with Poole residents enjoying Poole Park Lake. There were loads of waterbirds about. On which other urban lake can you enjoy the communal displays of ducks such as Goldeneye (“head-throwing”) and Red-breasted Merganser (“sky-pointing”), as well as getting good views of a wintering Great Northern Diver? Next door on Baiter Park there were 250 Oystercatchers, 20 Black-tailed Godwits and a flock of Brent Geese. The coffee in the Ark café wasn’t bad, either. 36 species in all.

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Wednesday Morning trips in Dorset and Hampshire

Would you like to join me for short birdwatching trips on Wednesday mornings this spring? We meet on site and everybody pays £8 per person per trip. Open to all. Please book by e-mailing me at


17th January – Poole Park
Meet at the main car park (e.g. for Poole Park cafe/ice rink (The Ark). BH15 2SF.

24th January  – Upton Country Park
Meet at the car park, signposted off A35 just west of Poole. BH17 7BJ.

31st January – Chesil Beach and Portland Harbour
Meet at (paying) car park for Chesil Beach Centre,  Portland Beach Road, Portland DT4 9XE (Grid ref: SY 668755)

21st February – Crichel Lake
A lovely spot just north of Wimborne with a range of farmland and water birds. From the B3078 Wimborne-Cranborne Road take the minor road signposted to Witchampton. Follow the road (Witchampton Lane) round to New Town and park between the gate and the end of the road – by the cricket pitch is ideal. ST 993072  BH21 5AL

28th February – Maiden Castle, Dorchester
Park at main car park, at end of Maiden Castle Road, accessible from B3147 (Weymouth Avenue) south of the centre of Dorchester. SY 668889 (approx. DT2 9PP)

7th March – Wilverley Inclosure, New Forest
Just south-east of Burley. Take turning off A35 for Burley, but instead of proceeding towards town, follow opposite direction towards Sway and Brockenhurst. After about a mile, turn left at T-junction and then park in car park on left beyond the plantation and triangle (Wilverley Plain). SU253010 (Burley Rd, Brockenhurst SO42 7UP).

14th March – Ballard Down, Swanage
Meet at Ballard Down Stores, Redcliffe Road, Swanage BH19 1NE (SZ 029803).

28th MarchHengistbury Head
Meet at the main (paying) car park by the Centre and cafe (BH6 4EN) at the end of Broadway, a road off the B3059 just south of Tuckton Bridge. SZ 163911

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Longham Lakes 2017 – a review

THE YEAR 2017 in review at Longham Lakes, Dorset

This year has been fantastic in just about every aspect for this site, for birding and wildlife-watching generally. The total of 134 species of birds is a record, just, but it was the quality that stood out, and a nice touch was that unusual species often came at the same time. Six bird species appeared for the first time: Bonaparte’s Gull (26th April), Red-rumped Swallow (27th April), Serin (29th April), Common Scoter (7th October), Velvet Scoter (16th October) and Lesser Scaup (23rd October) bringing the overall total to 186 species. Several made their second appearance, namely Grasshopper Warbler (27th April), Bar-tailed Godwit (13th May), Grey Phalarope (12th September), Little Stint (15th September) and Black Redstart (31st October), while Hawfinch (21st October) turned up for the 3rd time. Other good birds included Great Egrets, with 3 at the beginning of the year and 1 at the end, Bearded Reedling, Yellow-browed Warbler, Arctic Tern, Water Pipit, Firecrest, Coal Tit, Osprey, Merlin, Black Tern, Garganey, Whinchat and many others. Other eclectic bird highlights included gatherings of 1000+ Starlings, a Chiffchaff ringed here after a trip 770km down from Scotland, a summer when over 200 Tufted Duckings hatched, and superb numbers of ducks and other waterbirds present in the autumn.

Among other wildlife, 2017 will stand out as an exceptional year for dragonflies and damselflies. This included 2 new species for the site, which were Red-veined Darter and Britain’s 8th Scarlet Darter. In early July these two, plus Lesser Emperor and Small Red-eyed Damselfly, were all present, allowing an unprecedented spectacle of 4 rare or scarce species on this single site. On 9th July no less than 16 dragonfly species were present on one square kilometre. This could constitute the highest number recorded at a single location on one day ever in Britain. At the same time there were 16 species of butterflies on site, although no rarities among these.

It was not spectacular for mammals in 2017, but there were at least 5 records of Otters, plus a Mink and a Stoat, and at least 6 species of bat, including Nathusius’s Pipistrelle.

This year, perhaps not surprisingly, saw a sharp increase in the number of birdwatchers visiting Longham, and there are now almost 200 pass-holders that use the car park. As a visitor and regular, I have been really pleased to see how the dog-walking visitors have almost invariably kept their pets under control. Unfortunately, the kayakers in the DUCKS group have regularly been seen violating their exclusion zones, particularly around the island in North Lake.

I will give the last word to Martin Wood who, along with Lorne Bissell, has visited Longham more often than any other birder this year, taking up the Patchwork Challenge, as did Darran Jones (

“It has been a great year patching Longham with a list of 112 species seen with some wonderful lifers and site firsts for me, and it has been a pleasure and good fun sharing these birds with other Longham Birders and others. As I reflect on the past year some of the best moments were seeing my first Bonaparte’s Gull, which led to an exciting hour or so watching the Bonaparte’s with Terry Elborn and a Mike Gibbons, only for a Red-rumped Swallow to arrive, another first for me. Then on another day seeing Bearded Reedlings and the Lesser Scaup on the same day.  And of course I cannot forget that magic moment when my picture of a dragonfly, which I assumed was a Red-veined Darter,  was re-identified as a Scarlet Darter.

“There is something I have learned on this journey, and that is I need to learn more about how to identify bird calls during visible migration, as this is one part of my birding that lets me down . Also get to grips with the Dragonflies, more Butterflies and one new hobby I started this year, Moth-trapping (thanks to Mark Andrews.)”


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Britain’s Mammals is also ‘book of the month’ in the British Birds subscriber e-newsletter – issue 32. Very rare (if unique?) for a non-bird book to achieved that accolade!
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Twin Peaks

Here’s something a little different from your usual bird reports…

I have taken my son Samuel up Snowdon a couple of times so, with the spring half term approaching this year, we decided it was time to launch on assault on the other peaks that make up the well-known Three Peaks Challenge, namely Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, at 978m [3209 feet] the highest “mountain” in England; and Ben Nevis (1245m) [4411 feet], the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK. It would thus be a Twin Peaks Challenge. In contrast to the genuine Three Peaks, we would not be trying to do the whole thing in 24 hours, not with just me driving.

The very worst place to begin such a challenge is Poole, Dorset, where we live. As the old Irish farmer is supposed to have said when asked the way to Dublin: “Well, you wouldn’t want to start from here”. The nearest peak is about six hours drive away. Continue reading


Champions of the Flyway 2017 – the Media Birders’ race day


CotF Media Birders

The Media Birders 2017 team. Andy Swash (left), Dominic Couzens (middle), Tim Appleton (right).

This year I was fortunate enough to take part in the annual Champions of the Flyway international Bird Race in Israel. 34 teams from around the world assembled to compete in a 24-hour Bird Race on Tuesday 28th March, seeing who could see and hear the most species in a 24 hour period in a defined part of Southern Israel, beginning and ending in Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

The following is a detailed account of our race day. It is written to thank our many sponsors and supporters for their help.

The reason behind Champions of the Flyway is to raise money to try to put a stop to the widespread illegal slaughter of migrant birds on the eastern Mediterranean flyway. Incredibly, more than 20 million birds are shot or trapped in various countries along the flyway every year. In 2017 the money raised will go to Birdlife International’s partner in Turkey, Doğa Derneği (Birdlife in Turkey) so that they may focus on halting the illegal killing of birds on migration. For more  information see


04.20 – We meet in the lobby of the Agamim Hotel, the starting point for all teams. Birdrace Organisers Dan and Jonathan are there and tell us that most other people are already out – have we blown this already with a late start? Ten minutes earlier a Common Whitethroat had struck the lobby windows, but had recovered from the blow and was released. That delay has cost us; we missed it and didn’t see another all day.

Downtown Eilat (04.30-04.45)
We go into the night of southern Israel; downtown Eilat is our first destination, where there is a roost of White-eyed Gulls by a shopping mall. A House Crow calls and the House Sparrows are well awake, but we cannot see the gulls. Let’s hope this starts to go better…

Then a Striated Heron calls out of the darkness. That’s a good bird.

1- House Crow 2- House Sparrow 3- Striated Heron Continue reading

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Hot off the Press!

Three years in the making, my new field guide to Britain and Ireland’s mammals is finally out!

Britain's Mammals Cover

Fully comprehensive, there are stunning photographs of every mammal recently recorded in Britain, including all 26 bats and 30 cetaceans (whales/dolphins etc).
There are detailed notes on how to identify every species, together with up to date distribution maps and notes on behaviour. It’s a must for every naturalist!

328 pages, 500 colour photos.

Signed copies are available from me on request (postage payable), and other copies can be bought through Amazon, NHBS and, in a few weeks time, from bookshops.
Only £17.95

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New book – out in April

A narrative book, it combines some of my birding experiences with lots of science about how birds live and survive.SOLAW Jacket



Wood Cow-Wheat (Melampyrum melanosum)

Wood Cow-Wheat (Melampyrum melanosum), Laelatu wooded meadows, Estonia, 12/6/15 (Dominic Couzens)

I have just been fortunate enough to visit Estonia for a few days. The flowers, as well as the birds, mammals, butterflies and dragonflies, were amazing. More details to follow in due course.

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