Thursday, 30 June 2011

Summer trip - more detail...

Things have really quietened down thoughts are now turning to our Summer break, especially as it's the 1st July tomorrow.

If you've followed for a while you'll know my thoughts on Spanish logistics and Cuisine...not impressed!
So, it's back to the good old US of A! Below are my target birds i.e. ABA ticks.

Gunnison's Sage Grouse
Dusky Grouse
White-tailed Ptarmigan
Greater Prairie Chicken
Boreal Owl
Flammulated Owl
McCown’s Longspur
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Brown-capped Rosy Finch
Black-Rosy Finch
Gray Vireo
White-winged Crossbill
Red Crossbill
North Dakota
Gray Partridge
Baird’s Sparrow
Himalayan Snowcock

We will be travelling extensively as usual, taking in 6 States. Interestingly (to me anyway!) John Vanderpoel's blog has been helping me with my planning as he is visiting some of the sites that I'm interested in. Another American guide Stuart Healy is also in "my area" (he was born in Bury!) so I'll be tapping into his journal when he gets back on-line.

26 days to go...BRING IT ON!

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Heat is ON!

Played Cricket for the Staff team yesterday. Steaming day and got a good baking while batting...good laugh though. Fresher weather moving in tomorrow and plans building for the Summer trip.

OK...I'm off to the States again! We'll be touring Colorado, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada.
Not cheap, but we can afford it (just) while we're both still working...we deserve it!

I'll post some details of my target birds later this week. I'm hoping to top 650 ABA. The more I read about this area the more impressive it gets...Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park and of course The Rocky Mountains...

Everyone needs a break...hope you're having one...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Evening update

Spent a nice hour tonight down the patch tonight chatting to a couple from Manchester. We enjoyed at least 4 Barn Owls. If you want to photograph would be a good time! No sign of Hobby or Gropper...

Big (medium-sized) Sit pays off!

Had a steady morning following a Drovers Arms (Steak Pie plus Black Sheep) last night. Got a text of Haydn around 12.45. He'd had 3 Green Sands and a couple of Lapwing chicks on Skippy. I said I'd meet him at Duff car park. We went to the G.S.Hide and started putting the Birding world to rights! He told me about his Crete trip and the views he'd had of ELEONORA'S FALCON. Large numbers of Swifts were noted plus a few Curlews, Snipe and a foraging female Blackcap. Around 3.20 I had a very brief view of a raptor shooting down towards Garganey hide. Presumed it to be a Sparrowhawk but something was niggling me?

Haydn had to leave around 3.45 but I decided to stay for a while longer. Then it appeared...sat in the bush at about 100yds a superb HOBBY!!! (103). Quick phone call to Haydn required. Caught him just before the A64...straight around the roundabout. Also texted a few of the locals and Elaine from the village managed to make it down. Fortunately the bird performed superbly preening in the bush for over 30 mins allowing Haydn to get these shots through his 'scope...


Absolutely made up with this sighting. My first "find" at NDC and something of a pay back to Haydn for getting me my NDC Lifer 21/9/2008. Just shows that even during "quieter" periods a quality bird can liven things up significantly...especially on your own "patch".



Having breakfast this morning with Louise listening to the Sounds of the Sixties (one for the teenagers!) on Radio 2. Then it happened. You know what it's like... a Blast from the Past! A song that hits the spot.

Not Motown not even Soul. West Side Story is still my favourite musical and this song is simply BRILLIANT. Not the film version but a version from an American from Houston, Texas.

Still performing and a great sample here in collaboration with Marc Almond.

A random post but I make no apologies (after all it's my Blog!)

I give you the much-underated and largely unrewarded P.J PROBY...take your girl there...

P.J. Proby Somewhere

72 Years Old!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Big Sit plus more Survey "work"

Forecast poor for tomorrow, so depending on the rain I'll combine sitting in the hide at Duff seeing what comes my way with more tetrad breeding bird surveying. Records hard to come by but perhaps more rewarding?

Major floods in the US at one of my prime target locations (Minot, North Dakota) for the summer hols. Hope I can still find my BAIRD'S SPARROW?...Much more to come...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Local update

My pal Barry Bishop e-mailed me today to let me know he'd had a Gropper at NDC today! Never seen one myself! Had a look tonight but no joy...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Welcome back Pal

My pal Haydn has just returned from a break in Crete where he managed to connect with his dream ELEANORA'S FALCON...

Also received a thank you via Birdforum from Alan and Jane who I met at Duff a while ago (3/4/2011). I took them to see the Great Grey Shrike at Skipwith. I suppose it's an excuse to post my pic again!...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Hoping to find an American Wader (Peep) this year?

Try this masterclass from my pal Cameron Cox. He knows a thing or two about Optics too! I share his views...A post on Birdforum discussing Leica and Ziess 7x42's...

"First let me make it clear that I work for Leica. I am, however, in an excellent position to answer your question as I have used the 7x42 Ultravid HD everyday for almost a year. I also worked as Morning Flight Counter for Cape May Bird Observatory a couple of falls back, a project sponsored by Zeiss, and used the FLs all-day-every-day for three months. I’ve also compared them side-by-side at a number of birding festivals.

In choosing between these two binoculars you are choosing between superb and extraordinary. Meaning that there is not a bad choice here. Either way you are getting an incredible tool that will serve you well for years. In my opinion if you want to bird like your hair is on fire, 100%, all the time then you should be using one of these two 7x instruments. If size/weigh are an issue or other pursues such as butterflying or odeing also capture your interest then you can consider other options, but for the serious birder you are in the right place.

I’d agree with other members that the feel in the hand is an important aspect of this decision as they feel quite different. Only you can assess what feels better for you. Personally I prefer the balance of the Leicas and the feel of the more rounded eyecups against my eyes.

I’ll also agree that the different in FOV is apparent. It isn’t huge but you do notice it.

The area where I believe Leica has a significant edge is durability. Both binoculars have excellent warranties, but the best warranty is the one you never have to use. Leica has the highest degree of waterproofness of any company that lists their specs (to 5m). This speaks to the care that goes into sealing the Ultravids and to Leica’s use of all metal body. Those seals are particularly important when birding in the tropics. Internal fogging is the last thing you want to see once you’ve plunked down your money for a trip. The Ultravids also receive a 100G shock rating.

If you have the opportunity at a field trip, convention, or birding festival, ask other birders with high-end optics how they feel their investment has held up. Has the rubber armor bubbled? The eyecups broken? Plastic pieces fallen off? Ect.

Color rendition is another difference that is apparent to many people that try both of these excellent binoculars. To me this is a very striking difference but it may not matter to you. I’m sure engineers from both companies would go to the mat swearing that their optic provides the most accurate color, but it comes down to what the individual user prefers. Personally I prefer the color rendition of the Ultravid. Others like the Zeiss. I won’t describe the differences for you. Take a look for yourself. If you can see the difference then decide which you prefer, if you can’t see the difference then it doesn’t matter.

As to the question of sharpness, it almost seems that whichever binocular an individual expects will be sharper when they pick them up is the binocular they perceive to be sharper. When comparing them side-by-side most people see little difference in sharpness, while some decidedly see the Leicas as being sharper and other perceive the FLs as sharper. One way or the other, in the field there will never be a situation were the difference in sharpness will cost you a bird ID. To me that is always the bottom line.

Both are great. Some dealers will let you buy both to try for a week then send the one you don’t want back. Testing them side-by-side is by far the best way to make this decision. Often someone immediately gravitates to one or the other for very subjective reasons that may have never entered their mind until they tried both for themselves.

Cameron Cox, Florida
p.s. Just a thought from yours truly. Have you ever noticed (I'm sure you have) if you've a zoom eyepiece, that the brightest, sharpest image is on the lowest mag'. In fact I leave mine (Leica APO 62 with 16x48 eyepiece) on lowest mag and therefore widest FOV most of the time, just bumping it up when required.
As far as I'm concerned you'll know (if you've followed for a while) that I prefer a wider, brighter image. If something is further away...I'll use my 'scope!

Monday, 20 June 2011

A Great Day and Result

Set off at 5.15 and arrived at Andrews at 6.45 due to the dreaded average speed camera scenario on the A1. We continued on through Newcastle into Northumberland and picked up Alan Giloney. Talked birds through Edinburgh and onto Aberdeen. We followed the advice of the pager and headed east through Blackdog to the car park. The scene wasn't as I expected. Hardly any cars, dodgy track and stray animals.
After a brief discussion we decided to head back to Murcar Links Golf Course. The locals were VERY friendly and helpful. A situation that isn't always the case on Golf courses, a refreshing change. We joined a surprisingly small group of Birders scanning the sea. One chap informed us the bird had been seen well early morning but had then flown out to sea with no further sign (12.30).

The weather was good, backing up my judgement to leave it till Sunday (very poor Saturday apparently). The problem was yesterday's wind had churned up the sea and made it very choppy. We eventually moved down level with the main group of birds (c1000) and hunkered down for a possible long watch. More Scoters were arriving all the time...great!

A few more chaps arrived making the group around 40. Time passed...still no sightings. I was still very confident it was still there but it was difficult as the birds were tightly packed and there was quite a swell. A drake SURF SCOTER livened things up but even this distinctive bird could disappear in an instant (3 seen altogether). Still no sign of the "BIG ONE". Just after 3...BINGO!

Eventually everyone managed to get on the bird due to excellent directions by a few of the chaps. Not a stunner but a fine prize. Back home for 11. Not everybody's cup of tea...but I love it!

Great company and a good crack. Just needs to get accepted now! What's next?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Got it...eventually!

Full report tomorrow...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Saturation coverage!

Early positive message regarding "The Scoter". I'm sure many will have travelled through the night. Good luck to them...well deserved. Not for me though (showing my age!). Just checked the ever changing (and varying) weather forecasts. The general consensus seems to be heavy rain and strong wind around Aberdeen. MUCH better tomorrow. It's not going anywhere soon...I hope!?
G.S.P. departed?

Local survey work today. Looking forward to eeking out some decent breeding records from my tetrads....

Friday, 17 June 2011

Rain Check...

Plans on hold regarding the W.W.S. I've decided to go Sunday as the forecast tomorrow doesn't bode
well for pleasant viewing! Trying to pick it out on the sea in strong wind and rain doesn't do it for me...
I'd arranged to go with some lads from the NE but looking at the forecast at lunchtime...

...sorry just got distracted by my first viewing of Lady Gaga!? I used to love Star Trek!

...I decided to contact them a.s.a.p. to cancel. Forecast much better for Sunday. If I'm honest there are some birds I want to see and some I have/need to see. This bird definitely fits into the latter category. Pity it doesn't look like this...yet!

...but it doesn't. Rarity value only I'm afraid...but, it's got to be done.

So, off at 5 on Sunday...seats still available...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Something for the Weekend...again...hopefully?

W.W. Scoter still present and the weekend is approaching. Louise hair do day, fits in nice, although it might take an hour or 2! 363 miles apparently. Still the days are long and it's a probable first for Britain, so it's got to be done. It's obviously all academic if it disappears. Hopefully not another Friday night departure...WTR!

If you fancy going and want a lift (for a "small" petrol sharing fee of course) give me a ping or leave a comment? I'll be leaving (very) early Saturday...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Been a while!

Three lesser known sounds from the Motown stable circa '66. Play 'em loud...

This is the Business!

Contours - Just a Little Misunderstanding

Martha Reeves and The Vandellas - Nowhere to Run


Thanks to James for putting me straight regarding the W.W.S. in Aberdeen (see comments). Might be a long trip on Friday/Saturday if it hangs around? Could I have made it yesterday...mmmmmm!

Binoculars 2
Like I said yesterday I'd never looked through a 7X before! I love my Trinovids. However, we do live in a dull (lit) country and I spend a lot of time out there in cloudy/low light conditions. My trinos are classics but they're not that bright. Enter the Leica Ultravid 7x42HD. Yes the image is obviously (slightly) smaller but the view is simply stunning. The brightest, sharpest image I have ever seen. Have you ever looked at your car body work in bright sunlight? Just had to get them. Can I afford them...time will tell!!!

Not a MEGA rarity but a MEGA bird...great find in Suffolk today...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

2 MEGAS then maybe 1?

Been over to my Mothers this weekend as Louise was on a course in Manchester on Saturday morning. I fell into the trap (which I often do) of trying some Binoculars out at Focalpoint near Warrington. My main reason for visiting was to try out the new Swarovisions. They only had to 10x42's and they were nice but not stunning compared to my trusty Trino's (8X32 BN). I then tried the Zeiss Victory's 32's and 42's which I found very sharp but surprising lacking in depth of field? Finally I thought I'd try the Ultravids, they only had a 7x42 however. I wasn't going to bother as I'd never looked through a seven before. Anyway, it was in the display cabinet so why not...


In a nutshell the best view I've ever had through a Binocular (and I've looked through a few). More thoughts tomorrow...

A double blast of MEGA's today. I was just telling Louise that a Booby looks similar to a Gannet when it became one! The other being a spectacular looking bird but not on the BOU list. An insurance tick? It won't be an issue for me until Saturday...

Here's a shot of the WTR taken by my pal Richard Willison. Nice 1 Rich...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Moving on...

It appears that the Star Bird has departed. Natural departure/Cat/Sphwk. Who knows? Already I've seen less than charitable comments regarding this situation...along the lines of...shame for the weekend crowd. I've never understood this attitude and frankly I find it childish. I prefer the camaraderie I experienced on Monday and on Blakeney Point. Maybe idealistic but it does happen...and Twitching is better for it...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Why not...eventually?

Having come down from the WHITE-THROATED ROBIN another bird from a similar area sprang to mind. This one...

The history is dodgy with the escaped cage bird scenario BUT why couldn't this species occur naturally here? I wouldn't have travelled to Monreith on...when was it...oh yes 9/6/2004!!!

It's on my personal list!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Getting a head start!

Love this one!

Made the Nationals as well.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Better late than never!

Well, what can I say! Last nights post was as much to lift my own spirits before the summer doldrums kick in. Anything further is going to sound to smug! Suffice to say that the 6th June will now always be considered a red letter day. I even got a text of Haydn telling me he made the trip for the Mamora's last year on the 6th!

Never in my wildest dreams would I have called this Species...who would!

My story

I was just making my way to lesson 1 when I received a text from Haydn saying "it's arrived". I was puzzled as I'd read the message about the Red-flanked Bluetail only minutes before? Had something else arrived? A quick look at the magic box revealed the truth...Oh dear I said.

Fast forward to this evening. I joined the troops surrounding the bowling green and waited...and waited. After around 45 minutes I noticed a "movement". I decided to follow, just to see. I ended up down the bottom of the street, as I turned the corner I say an amazing sight! There were 4 vans pulled up close to the high wall (c15 feet) of the Doctors Garden. The roofs of all the vans were covered with birders looking over the wall. The footpath was quite wide (fortunately) and the rush hour traffic was enjoying the entertainment!

Viewing was still difficult due to the trees lining the wall, but people were starting to connect, slowly but surely. The mood was excellent with birders helping each other on and off the van roofs. Obviously, we all owe a great deal to the van owners...I offered "mine" a tenner which he declined to accept...thanks pal. I really was a unique situation...hilarious! The things we do to see a bird!!

Recent pager messages have added ladders to the scenario. Full marks to the re-finder whoever it was. Hopefully everyone will go home happy. This twitch, like the Alder Fly' on Blakeney Point and the Rufous Turtle Dove at Chipping Norton brings out the best in birders. Great to see!

So, that's it. The spring wasn't a washout after all. Just what the Doctor ordered...sorry, couldn't resist!

British List 473 (added to Bubo)...strictly BOU of course!

Just found this...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Lest we forget...

As we drift into June and the chances of a MEGA fade, I just thought I'd cheer us all up with a list of birds that have occured on the 6th June. I just hope I can make it after work!

Not seen
PALLAS'S SANDGROUSE - 1908 (amazingly 3 records on this date!)
TREE SWALLOW - 1990 (yes please!)

Seen these...but still special
SCOPS OWL - 1953, 1982
BLACK LARK - 2003 (not first day but still present)

So...there's still hope!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

England Football Team!

I know this is a (mainly) Bird Blog but having just watched another England debacle I feel whilst the birding scene is quiet I would vent my will be brief!


There, that didn't take long...

Friday, 3 June 2011


Just like to endorse LGRE's post (see Blog list) regarding the now active Swift site. I'd love to put a box up but my location and the fact I live in a Bungalow prevents this.
We must all help to preserve these unique birds

PLEASE send in all your sightings and breeding records and try to help protect the sites we have left!


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Keeping the Faith

Don't know if any of you have been following John Vanderpoel's BIG YEAR Blog (see Blog List) but above is a sample of the quality birds they're connecting with on Gambell.

Maybe reading his adventures compensates somewhat for the dire Spring we have experienced this year! Still, got to keep things in perspective and make the most of what we've got right!

There's still plenty of good birding to be had here in Blighty, you've just got to work at it...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Scaling Dam

Took Louise to Whitby today. Made a detour to Scaling Dam in a feeble attempt to see the lingering Osprey. No joy, but the apple crumble ice cream in Whitby was divine!