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Charlesworth and Mooney - UK Birding Adventure!

Some English cuisine at the Anchor Pub
It's been nine years since I last saw my good friend and old birding pal Chris Charlesworth; so we had a lot of catching up to do! Chris, owner of Avocet Tours, and a senior leader with Limosa Birding and Wildlife Tours was attending the Rutland Bird Fair.

Chris Charlesworth and Rich Mooney - Texas 2005
7th August 2014
Buckinghamshire / Surrey
After picking Chris up at Heathrow Airport we didn't waste any time getting down to business...within 2 hours we were hiking up Quainton Hill in Buckinghamshire and looking at a stonking adult male Red-backed Shrike! This scarce visitor to the British Isles had been reported on Rare Bird Alert and seemed a great way to kick off our week long UK birding adventure. En-route Chris nailed a few lifers including Red Kite, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Redstart, Robin and Spotted Flycatcher!

Red-backed Shrike
Back in Surrey we made stops at Ockham Common, Boldermere Lake and Cobham Park Lake where we continued to add to Chris's life list with Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Whitethroat, Kingfisher, Linnet and Kestrel to name a few. Though not a lifer, we did get Wheatear at Ockham Common.

8th August 2014
East Sussex
An early start put us at Dungeness Nuclear power station and view point some time after 08:00 am. Within minutes we nailed our target species: Black Redstart! Both male and female were foraging in a nearby cottage garden which afforded us crippling views.

Black Redstart (adult male)
After getting our fill of this unique and stunning bird we spent some time on a sea-watch adding a few more species to our trip list including a stunning adult Black Tern! Next stop: Dungeness RSPB Reserve - this produced some real crackers! ARC pit was a great stop with Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler,  Garganey, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe, Water Rail, Greenfinch and Marsh Harrier being the highlights.

Water Rail (both adults were feeding two chicks on tadpoles)
Further around the reserve we connected with a few other 'top wish list birds' for Chris including brilliant looks at Yellow Wagtails (15) feeding amongst cattle, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting but best of all was an unexpected look at a juvenile Cuckoo!


Chris watching Yellow Wagtails
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was another quality stop where we finally snagged an Avocet! I couldn't believe it was so tough! Only a few weeks before the mud was peppered with them...oh well, it just took one to get the heart racing!! Other waders included Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Little Stint and a flock of 60 Golden Plover! Seeing, hearing and watching the Golden Plover was the highlight for me as well as seeing Chris's face when the Cuckoo landed!

Golden Plover
Note: If you are birding Rye Harbour Nature Reserve make sure you stop in at Bosun's Bite! The food was EXCELLENT! Literally the best all-day breakfast I have ever had and the staff were fantastic - FACT! Here is the trip advisor review.


 9th August 2014
Cambridgeshire / Norfolk
Another silly o'clock alarm call put us at the Ouse Washes RSPB Reserve some time after 08:00 am to twitch a mega rarity for the UK: Black-winged Pratincole! (Hobby, Green Woodpecker and Red-legged Partridge seen just outside reserve) As we were already heading to Norfolk it seemed crazy not to go for this bird, though I had got it the previous week. Effort vs reward paid off and the 5 mile round trip (+ blisters) was worth it...not only did we get the pratincole we also added Common Crane (2), Green Sandpiper (2) Shelduck (1) and Dunnock to Chris's growing life list.

Chris and Rich at the Black-winged Pratincole twitch - Ouse Washes RSPB

Weeting Heath - Norfolk
The Breckland flora of Weeting Heath didn't disappoint and within seconds of being in the first hide Chris was looking at his lifer Stone Curlew! This is one of the top locations in the UK to see these unusual birds of which we saw 8 + 2 chicks. A quick walk around the woods produced Spotted Flycatcher, Coal Tit, Chaffinch and Long-tailed Tit!

Stone Curlew
We finally arrived at Titchwell Marsh RSPB Reserve late afternoon which worked out nicely - perfect light and loads of birds!

There were many highlights here starting with a VERY hard to see bird and lifer for both Chris and me - Spotted Crake! This individual hadn't been seen for several hours prior to our arrival, however, luck was on our side, as we got it within about minute of turning up. Luckily Chris also snapped a cracking record shot!

Spotted Crake
The great thing about this site is the close views and volume of birds. We spent a few happy hours picking through the waders and other species, wracking up a few more trip birds and lifers: Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank, Red-crested Pochard, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper and Swift.

Curlew Sandpiper (2)
After leaving Titchwell Marsh we headed to Norwich where we stayed for the night. The following morning, after a nice fry-up, we headed to Cley Marshes. The weather was looking very ominous. We scanned from the three central hides first of all getting 56 species including 15 Spoonbill! We then headed for the east bank where 'pinging' Bearded Tit gave away its presence and brought Chris's World Life List to 1999 species!! That was about 10 minutes before the heavens opened on us - In the time it took to walk back along the east bank to the car we got soaked to the bone!

Chris Charlesworth's initiation to the joys of British birding

Chris at the famous Cley boozer
We both agreed that best thing for two soaked birders was a pint and a roast dinner - apologies to any of the locals who might have witnessed the gong show of us changing outside the probably did not look good. Imagine the steamed up windows of a Vauxhall Astra with the driver struggling to take his trousers off. Seconds later the passenger emerges stripping his shirt off outside. We got the tongues wagging somewhere in Cley! haha.. With clear skies we headed back to Titchwell Marsh to finish our day off but on arrival the rain came down again. Time to head home...but a nice surprise was waiting for us around the corner..

Happy birder - No. 2000 on Chris's world list!
En-route we discussed the possibilities for Chris's 2000th bird - Little Owl? Mistle Thrush? Dartford Warbler? All worthy candidates but we didn't have to wait long - propped on a tree on a quiet country road was the winner - YELLOWHAMMER!!! This stonking male Yellowhammer was singing its head off the whole time we were there; which wasn't long as the Police drove by and 'encouraged' us to move along..but what a bird!!!! And what a way to finish the day!

12th August 2014
West Sussex / Surrey
We took a day off on the 11th and visited London. There were a few new species but figured no one would except Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Barnacle Goose or Red-breasted Goose from Green Park!

Mooney and Charlesworth in London
Today, however, we started at Ash Ranges near Pirbright. Unfortunately the red flag was flying on this military land, which basically means live firing and DO NOT ENTER. So, we headed south to Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve. We tallied 45 species there including a scarce vagrant : Pectoral Sandpiper

Long-tailed Skua
Our next stop was between Church Norton and Selsey Bill where an extremely cooperative and scare Long-tailed Skua was parading for some very fortunate birders. When we arrived, we got the same story we've all heard time and again- "it was here earlier...hasn't been seen for a while...etc etc..." I decided after a few scans across the sea to get comfy and wait. I was just dropping off when Chris shouted: "ITS HERE!!!" I shot up scanned everywhere it wasn't then bang! There it was, right in front of us preening: Long-tailed Skua!

After about an hour of ogling this petite pirate of the sea we headed back to Surrey.  Here we made a second attempt to gain access to Ash Ranges; this time there was no red flag. It didn't take long to start getting birds. First good looks at both Green Woodpecker then Great Spotted Woodpecker. Next a family of Stonechat (5) followed shortly after by Chris's most wanted bird: Dartford Warbler! First an immature then killer looks at an adult male. We watched these heathland endemics for a while before finally heading home. Another great day with some very cool birds.

Chris Charlesworth at Ash Ranges Surrey - Dartford Warbler!
13th August 2014
Today has been a slower more chilled day. We headed out the door for some slow paced local birding around 10:00 am. Luckily, we connected with both our target birds. We got a great view firstly of a Little Owl near Newark Priory, followed by finally catching up with Nuthatch at Ockham Common. And if that wasn't enough we went out to Papercourt Meadows at about 21:00 where we got Chris's 70th lifer of the trip: Tawny Owl!

Little Owl
14th-17th August 2014
While Chris attended the British Bird Fair in Rutland I took care of some chores, chased a Terek Sandpiper in Kent and DIPPED then traveled up Sunday morning to spend the day at the fair with Chris. For a change the weather man got it wrong and it stayed sunny most of the day. I went to one lecture which was by Dr. Debbie Pain who works for Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The talk was about the progress made on 'Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper'. Absolutely brilliant talk, wish it could of gone on longer! It made me very proud to have contributed to this amazing cause. : Fan Dance Challenge / Rich Mooney

I also met up with my old mate and birding pal from Vancouver Island; Jon Carter! Jon was there representing the RSPB. We had a great catch up together which was brill as we haven't seen each other since the last fair - this needs to change - Leighton Moss beckons Jon!!

Rich Mooney and Jon Carter
When Jon's lunch break finished I hooked up with Chris for his. We had some lunch and a poke around the fair. Chris finally got off at 15:00 and we hit the road back to Woking. This morning I ran Chris up to Heathrow Airport for his flight back to Canada.

Chris Charlesworth and Arnoud van den Berg - Omani Owl
It was so great to see Chris again. 9 years is too long. Time fly's when your having fun? It sure did, but we have some great memories from of our adventuree...and I very much look forward to the next one!

Rich Mooney and Chris Charlesworth - Rutland Bird Fair 2014
Chris Charlesworth's Uk Trip Report  - Avocet Tours

Species List:

1. Mute Swan
2. Geylag Goose
3. Canada Goose
4. Egyptian Goose
5. Shelduck
6. Wigeon
7. Gadwall
8, Teal
9. Mallard
10. Pintail
11. Garganey
12. Shoveler
13. Red-crested Pochard
14. Pochard
15. Tufted Duck
16. Red-legged Partridge
17. Pheasant
18. Gannet
19. Cormorant
20. Bittern
21. Little Egret
22. Great White Egret
23. Grey Heron
24. Spoonbill
25. Little Grebe
26. Great Crested Grebe
27. Red Kite
28. Marsh Harrier
29. Sparrowhawk
30. Buzzard
31. Kestrel
32. Hobby
33. Water Rail
34. Spotted Crake
35. Moorhen
36. Coot
37. Crane
38. Oystercatcher
39. Avocet
40. Stone Curlew
41. Black-winged Pratincole
42. Little Ringed Plover
43. Ringed Plover
44. Golden Plover
45. Grey Plover
46. Lapwing
47, Knot
48. Sanderling
49. Little Stint
50. Pectoral Sandpiper
51. Curlew Sandpiper
52. Dunlin
53. Ruff 
54. Snipe
55. Black-tailed Godwit
56. Bar-tailed Godwit
57. Whimbrel
58. Curlew
59. Common Sandpiper
60. Green Sandpiper
61. Spotted Redshank
62. Greenshank
63. Wood Sandpiper
64. Redshank
65. Turnstone
66. Long-tailed Skua
67. Black-headed Gull
68. Common Gull
69. Lesser Black-backed Gull
70. Herring Gull
71. Great Black-backed Gull
72. Little Tern
73. Black Tern
74. Sandwich Tern
75. Common Tern
76. Feral Pigeon
77. Wood Pigeon
78. Collared Dove
79. Ring-necked Parakeet
80. Cuckoo
81. Barn Owl
82. Little Owl
83. Tawny Owl
84. Swift
85. Kingfisher
86. Green Woodpecker
87. Great Spotted Woodpecker
88. Red-backed Shrike
89. Magpie
90. Jay
91. Jackdaw
92. Rook 
93. Carrion Crow
94. Goldcrest
95. Blue Tit
96. Great Tit
97. Coal Tit
98. Bearded Tit
99. Skylark
100. Sand Martin
101. Swallow
102. House Martin
103. Long-tailed Tit
104. Chiffchaff
105. Willow Warbler
106. Blackcap
107. Lesser Whitethroat
108. Whitethroat
109. Dartford Warbler
110. Sedge Warbler
111. Reed Warbler
112. Nuthatch
113. Treecreeper
114. Wren
115. Starling
116. Blackbird
117. Song Thrush
118. Mistle Thrush
119. Spotted Flycatcher
120. Robin
121. Black Redstart
122, Redstart
123. Stonechat
124. Wheatear
125. Dunnock
126. House Sparrow
127. Tree Sparrow
128. Yellow Wagtail
129. Pied Wagtail
130. Meadow Pipit
131. Chaffinch
132. Greenfinch
133. Goldfinch
134. Linnet
135. Bullfinch
136. Yellowhammer
137. Reed Bunting


  1. Jesus! What a visit for Chris, and some amazing birds there! It was ace to see you at Birdfair Rich, and you're right we need to meet up more often than over a lunchbreak once a year in Rutland :-)


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