Steph' Thorpe. Bird Artist and Illustrator

Painting the waifs and strays of the avian world that visit the UK

Field Sketches

On these Field Sketches page's will appear some field sketches from the sketchbook, some from the past, some more recent and hopefully the latest too!

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Sketches of the bird present on Walney Island, Cumbria during the summer of 2007.

Brown Flycatcher

Sketches of the Brown Flycatcher at Flamborough Head, in Old Fall Plantation in October 2007. Present for only 2 days mid-week this bird frustrated lots of birders by leaving quickly....

White crowned Sparrow

Sketches of the bird at Cley in early 2008


Brown Shrike

The adult Brown Shrike which was at Flamborough Head in late September 2008. Like the Brown Flycatcher of 2007 this bird was a short stayer, in mid-week, only found one evening and present the next day before leaving much to the disappointment of many birders. It was always distant during its stay in the hedge at the bottom of a large field, which it shared with a first winter Red-backed Shrike!

Alder Flycatcher

The first record of Alder Flycatcher (an American Empidonax flycatcher species) for the UK. Present in Nanjizal Valley in West Cornwall for 2 days in October 2008. Yet another bird present in mid-week causing problems for those birders with jobs!

This species is almost impossible to separate in the field from its close relative Willow Flycatcher, indeed they were, up until recently, considered the same species, Traill's Flycatcher. Indeed some US birders still use this name for these two species. Fortunately this bird was trapped and ringed and identified in the hand.
In the field this bird did show some features, such as a thin eye ring which is thought may point to its identity as Alder.

Steppe (Saxaul) Grey Shrike

Sketches of the Steppe Grey Shrike at Grainthorpe Haven in Lincolnshire in November 2008. An amazingly confiding bird!

Glaucous winged Gull

Sketches of the adult Glaucous winged Gull that appeared on the North Tees Marshes in the first few days of 2009 and pleased many birders....a lot of whom had, like me, searched in vain after the first record for the UK a couple of years ago....


American Black Tern (juv/1stwinter).

The juv/1st winter bird present for a few days in late August 2009 at Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire. Amazingly alongside a White-winged Black Tern and Black Tern too!!!

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Sketches of the Eastern Crowned Warbler at Trow Quarry, South Shields on the 23rd October 2009. The first record of this species in Britain, and only the 4th for the Western Palearctic.

Possible Mew Gull, Leicestershire.

Possible 3cy Mew Gull at Albert Village lake, Leicestershire. If this is just a nominate canus rather than brachyrhynchus its like no other one I've ever seen in my years of gull watching... yes canus can show tail bands and retarded moult etc... but to have all the features on one bird is interesting. Its just a pity that it didn't show the grey shawl to any great extent... this is quoted as being "virtually diagnostic" when present.

Marmoras Warbler. Blorenge, Gwent. June 2010.

Sketches from the 3rd and 6th June of this 5th for the UK. An unusual species this one, a limited range short distance migrant from the Mediterranean islands. It has turned up in odd spots before, especially the first, which was on Midhope Moor near Sheffield in 1982. Not that far from home....and I didn't see it despite it being present for at least 2 months!  We then dipped for various reasons the following 3 records, so it was great to finally catch up with this fantastic bird!

House Finch (yellow variant male) East Prawle South Devon 3rd July 2010

Sketches of the male House Finch that has been frequenting East Prawle village in South Devon over the last few days of June/beginning of July 2010. This yellow variant plumaged male bird is almost certainly the same individual that turned up in May at Lands End in Cornwall and caused much controversy then and is doing again..... it could be a 1st record for the UK which could have come over from the USA by hitching a lift on a boat, then again it could be an escape...... the different plumage variant could be more prevalent in an escape as it is thought to be diet related then again, the Varied Thrush that still resides on the UK list was an even rarer plumage variant........ However there apparently have been at least 2 other records on Fair Isle of House Finch... and all in spring/early summer....

I don't actually care, it provided a unique opportunity to study this US resident finch alongside our old world sparrows and finches etc.


White tailed Plover. Slimbridge 9th July 2010.

Finally I caught up with this species for my UK list.... I saw the species many years ago in the middle east but never managed to catch up with this extremely rare bird in the UK until now, despite dipping it at least 5 times over the last few years.....

This bird first appeared at Seaforth docks this year where it was distant due to the permit only nature of the reserve these days. It then disappeared before reappearing at Slimbridge on the 9th July, then it vanished again before having a brief sojourn at Dungeness.


Syke's Warbler. Druridge Bay CP. 16th August 2010.


This little known ID challenge turned up on the 16th August at Druridge Bay CP in Northumberland. The separation of this species from Booted Warbler is a challenge to say the least. However this bird in the field seemed to show all the ID points and was surprisingly different in appearance to the standard Booted's we see on the east coast.


Citrine Wagtail at Ogston Reservoir, Derbyshire.

A first for the county this Citrine was a real pain to see spending most of the time in the Mayweed with other wagtails but made the occasional visit to the waters edge where it could be seen.

White-throated Robin (fem) Hartlepool Headland.

This was an unexpected mega.... I was very twitchy when this came on the pager at  breakfast time on the 6th June 2011. It had been caught at Hartlepool Headland and when the ringer pulled it out of the net he thought it was a Red flanked Bluetail! He soon changed his mind! The bird was ringed and released on the Bowling Green area at the headland... I was already on the road north! I arrived in time to see the bird feeding on the grass and under bushes on the inner bowling green, but it soon went into the Doctors garden which has no access! Luckily it returned to the bowling green a couple more times and I left.... only to miss incrediable scenes as birders laid siege to the Doctors garden with ladders and white van roofs etc! Happily the locals took it all in their stride and even joined in opening their gardens, balcony's etc and supplying ladders and tea etc! The Doctor kindly opened his garden the next day!

Western Bonelli's Warbler Derbyshire

This was not a bird I ever expected to see in Derbyshire! A message late morning on the 3rd July 2011 saw us make the long drive to the north west extremes of the county and the area of Arnfield Reservoir near Tintwistle. We enjoyed good if fairly brief views of this worn adult male as it fed and sang near a small wooden bridge over a stream flowing into the reservoir. It is a very pale, worn bird with limited, fairly dull lemon yellow feather fringes on the tertials and secondaries and the lemon yellow rump patch.
For some reason the scanner has not picked up the lemon yellow very well on the sketches but you can see the overall dull pale look of the bird with worn looking plumage.

Sandhill Crane

This adult Sandhill Crane is the 4th UK record, and has treated many birders to the first mainland twitchable individual after it arrived in Aberdeenshire and has journeyed down the east coast of the UK before settling in Suffolk.

Northern Waterthrush St Mary's Scilly.

This fine Northern Waterthrush has been on Scilly since September and has been delighting Birders at Higgo's Project pool near the Dump Clump on St Mary's at dawn and dusk. This, I think, is the 9th British Isles record of this North American species of warbler. The last before this was a bird on Cape Clear island in Eire in September 2008 I think.

Common Yellowthroat - Gwent.

This 1st winter male Common Yellowthroat from the USA was found wintering in an area of Gwent just inland from Newport and Cardiff. At Rhiwderyn in some field hedges alongside a small stream. Although covering a large area it showed well when we visited but was very elusive for most of the time, keeping very low in brambles and bracken. It is the 8th or 9th record for the UK.... I saw one previously on the Isles of Scilly in 1997.

Flycatcher, Flamborough. 1st May 2012

This unidentified flycatcher was present in the South Landing ravine at the beginning of May 2012.