Thursday, 31 October 2013

Off again!

Two more birds I haven't Britain.

My work colleagues have helped out again with shift swaps to enable me to have a go. I will pay this back and more. It is very much appreciated.

So tomorrow I head south to try for the HERMIT THRUSH in Cornwall. I intend to travel down early to Exeter and wait for news. I just hope if it's still there that some of the chaps don't get to close and personal...if you get my drift. Let's just stay back and let the bird come to us.

I then intend to head north to try for the MOURNING DOVE on Rhum. I will take the ferry on Saturday morning from Mallaig at 10.20 (weather permitting of course!). I've booked a caravan (plus breakfast and evening meal) for 2 nights. I hope to see some Eagles.

I've received some great feedback regarding my trip to Unst. I'm flattered!

Wish me's a loooooooooooong winter

Here are a couple more photos of the CAPE MAY on the deck taken by Simon Slade...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

CAPE MAY WARBLER - my account

Here we go...

Made a few phone calls and after a bit of uncertainty I got a confirmation text that we were good to they say.

Arrived at Full Sutton airfield at 7.30am. The other chaps were already there, namely Franco, Simon Slade, Steve Smith and a chap from Nottingham who's name I didn't catch. No sign of Dave the pilot yet! Around 10 minutes later he arrived and preparations were made...Then the pager gave us the news we were waiting for...still present!

An event free 2 and a half hours later and we were dropping down on to Unst...

The weather had been great all the way up until we started our decent...then heavy rain, unfortunately. Very grim indeed...

Still we'd made it!

As we were dis-embarking I noticed the pilot looking at the wing flaps? More later! We waited for the other plane to arrive then into the arranged minibus and off to the favoured site with tension mounting...

Here it is! 2 sycamores!! After a few minutes one chap saw a movement, nobody else did? Much more scanning, still nothing in the heavy rain.  good ten minutes passed, still no sign.

The local Raven looked puzzled...

Then out of nowhere, there it was, acrobatically feeding ...amazing stuff...

Not bad at all considering the conditions. Some of the other lads got better images which I'll post later.


So, happy days? 

I'm afraid not. Sure we were all ecstatic with our LIFER but things were about to take a turn for the worse on Britain's most Northerly Isle!

We returned to the minibus and headed for the (very nice) cafe. Dave was there and informed us that the wing flap was jammed and we couldn't take off!!! Oh dear!
He explained that the other pilot would have to go to the mainland to fetch a mechanic. 

No joy here but he did improve things slightly enabling our plane to fly to the mainland for eventual repair. No use to us however! It was then decided that another plane would have to flown up from York!!! 

It was now mid-afternoon and starting to go dark. Still, the plane should arrive just after 6 so we would be back at York around 8.30 problem.

Just one last thing to check...the airport lights. Now then, bear in mind this is a dis-used airfield? My concerns were unfortunately confirmed when the local chap came back from his test to inform me that "the lights were not working" The other lads were oblivious to this problem by the way as that had gone Birding. I wimped out due to my mobility problems. That's my excuse anyway.

So. what to do?

The upshot was we had to get to the main airport at Sumbrugh on mainland Shetland...the only one with lights! I don't know how well you know Shetland but it's a fair length. We weren't far from the northern tip and the airport is at the southern...oh and don't forget the 2 ferries between the islands!

The ferry off Unst left at 5.55 pm. We had to get to the airport by 8.  According to Google maps it's 77 miles from Baltasound to Sumburgh Airport and they give a time of 3hrs 12 mins.

The lady from the shop/cafe was superb. She drove us to the ferry, crossed onto Yell and dropped us off by the second ferry  to go across to the mainland as foot passengers, were we would hopefully be met by our taxi? Many, many thanks!!

The taxi was thankfully waiting and we drove off into the darkness.


Then in the distance, the airport! As we arrived a received a call from Dave asking how we were doing. He gave us directions and met us at the arrival desk. He'd wisely primed the staff of our predicament and after an essential toilet stop we sped out onto the airstrip and boarded our plane just after 8 pm.

We'd made it!

My first charter twitch and it turned out to be a beauty.

        American Wood Warblers are special...very special. I've seen the bird described as dull? Not for me. I prefer subtle. A fantastic bird and an amazing occurrence. The first twitchable record in Europe I think I'm correct in saying. I just had to try for it. Yes, it was expensive, but it's 700 miles by road and sea and again Google estimate it would take 23 hrs!! I don't have that time to spare, plus I hate boats!!
        I promised myself that if I set myself up with a job out here I would go for certain "ultra-MEGAS" if possible. I'd missed a lot of birds whilst teaching and was determined to try and get some back now. It I did. No regrets, I loved the whole exhilarating experience. Great company, a fascinating place, very friendly and helpful people and an AWESOME BIRD.

I must mention the staff at work for there help and support. The biggest thank you, as always, goes to my wonderful Louise for not just supporting me but actively encouraging me and celebrating my success on my return. I am a very fortunate man.  I thank you once again.

Has to go down as my number one RUSH BIRD (see left hand column)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


It finally got to me! After all my previous pontificating!!! Not much time now ...just to say I'm posting this from Unst!

Many reasons which I'll bore you with later...

Here's one or two for starters:-

1. Iconic American Wood Warbler

2. Probably a Lifetime opportunity

3. Always wanted to experience this type of twitch


Monday, 28 October 2013

White's Thrush St Agnes

As already mentioned a WHITE'S THRUSH has been found/re-found on St Agnes. We spent the day there on Thursday. I hasten to add we didn't see the bird as it was only reported on Saturday. I fortunately saw the Spurn bird in 2004.

This superb footage has appeared on Youtube...

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Scilly...and general reflections

Well, that's it. Very enjoyable as always. Not a classic year but still some great birds seen and more wonderful memories. Plenty of time to reflect now during these dark nights.

What are your priorities? Anyone reading my blog is obviously interested in birds, but which ones? I like ALL aspects of Birding from garden to twitching MEGAS. I'm greedy!

Can't be too greedy though. I've just had a wonderful week on Scilly with Louise, who fortunately also loves the islands. I was fully appreciated. That gave me 7 days in a prime location for a MEGA. I did see one in the form of a SORA... wasn't a tick however, as I saw the St Mary's bird in 1991 (my first visit) which was initially thought to be a Spotted Crake. Another came in the form of the VERY elusive WHITE'S THRUSH. The bird  was found (in my opinion re-found) on St Agnes in the parsonage. A quiet year? Add to this a FEA'S PETREL seen from the Scillonian on Wednesday by the fortunate and hardy few and maybe things weren't so bad after all.

This example sums up perfectly the vagaries of birding. This bird was only the 12th record for Britain in (modern times) and  6 have been on Scilly! There have been a few long-stayers on the mainland but it is still a quality MEGA.

Many birders I feel expect too much from the islands. I can understand this entirely with it's track record and expectations are understandably very high...I include myself here! If your holiday revolves solely around LIFERS and you don't get one depression will soon set in.

To find one you also have to obviously be out in the field...looking! I tried hard, very hard. Mobility was limited, but a combination of heel lift, pain killers and taxis enabled decent coverage. What a brave soldier. Unsurprisingly, I couldn't find one!!

Then, on the predicted "MAGIC 23rd" a MEGA...


Unfortunately it was found at the furthest possible point from Scilly, on Unst, the northern most point of the Shetland Isles. To give you an idea of it's position it's at the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska! It does question the limits of "tickability" but it IS still Britain. Just a hint of envy showing through there! Seriously though, fair play to all who make the effort and can afford the TIME and/or MONEY to make the journey to see the first (twitchable) bird of this species. Many congratulations...I mean it.

Some not so personal thoughts...

Would I have liked to see it? Oh YES.

Would I sacrifice my Scilly holiday for one LIFER? Oh NO.

Ah, but it's still there!

Charter flight...£600/£700!!! Maybe not. That's more than our flights and flat for the week! I could possibly get 2 flights to the States for not much more?

OK. Drive to Aberdeen and ferry?

Second bus tomorrow at 5.45!


It's all about priorities. Nobody is keener on getting a British tick than I am. Sometimes however,  it's just not feasible...

There, I feel better now.

During the week I'll post some highlights from the trip. Another great bird seen well was this Subalpine Warbler on St Mary's...

It's not ALL about MEGA'S...far from it...they are great though!

STOP PRESS:  RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET in Ireland. A first! No worries on that one as I've never been to Ireland (even when the list was Britain and Ireland) and have no intention of doing so in the future...that should save a few quid!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Scilly - my turn

Firstly a few comments about today...

I stuck to my mantra and stayed in the village...well for most of the day! A combination of sitting and short walks. No luck with anything "special" but I enjoyed it just the same on a fantastic clear and sunny October day.

The best I could manage was a male Blackcap with a supporting cast of Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and winter thrushes.

This is were the rare warbler should have been...

Late afternoon I did weaken and had a ride down to Kilnsea to see the Whooper Swans near Long Bank...

...always worth seeing. Superb birds.

On the way back home a BIG bonus came in the form of four Mealy Redpolls (H.97) seen near Out Newton.'s here!

We set of tomorrow for a week on Scilly. The lad's coming over to look after the big man. We're on the first plane over on Saturday morning...always best to maximise the time I feel!

I've probably made a similar statement before but for me it's the only place to go. Always a great selection of birds to see and always the chance of a BIG 1.

A few other reasons why I go...birds I have been "fortunate" enough to see...

American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)
Sora (Porzana carolina)
Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor)
White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago gallinago delicata)
Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)
Spotted Sandpiper (Tringa macularia [hypoleucos])
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla [cinerea])
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
Richard's Pipit (Anthus richardi [novaeseelandiae])
Blyth's Pipit (Anthus godlewskii [campestris])
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni)
Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens [spinoletta])
Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
Bluethroat (red-spotted) (Luscinia svecica svecica)
Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
Grey-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola)
Blyth's Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum)
Booted Warbler (Hippolais caligata)
Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta)
Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata)
Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans)
Pallas's Warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)
Radde's Warbler (Phylloscopus schwarzi)
Dusky Warbler (Phylloscopus fuscatus)
Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)
European Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus)
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata)
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus)
Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis)
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

I WOULD like to go to Shetland/Fair Isle one day...

Wish me luck...updates if possible?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Gripped off - but happy?

Checking my pager during a rest period at work, I read a message I'd been dreading. A "good bird" in the village!

A VERY good bird in fact...Pallas's Warbler!!

No chance of having a stab with one of the longest shifts on the rota. Just proves though that great birds do like Holmpton...that's the happy bit.

I contacted a couple of mates who searched for it (Rich Willison and Phil Jones) but neither saw the bird. I also received a text from Tim Jones...much appreciated pal.

Congrats to the just makes me more determined to "find my own". It's not easy I can tell there's the constant temptation of a certain site down the road...
Late news of a couple of Hawfinches in "Kew gardens" yesterday. I spent some time scanning but just Thrushes and Blackcaps for me...

2 to go...then 11 off...hope that MEGA'S on the way?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Work and Play

Proper fall at Spurn today. 

Terrible weather (for birders) till around 11 when the torrential rain eased off. Then plenty of birds...details here

My ears pricked up with a shout of possible Parrot Crossbills but no more was heard. 

I was balancing birding with work today and managed it OK.

Saw at least 3 G.S.Woodpeckers including this sodden individual feeding in Kilnsea Churchyard...

Goldcrests were everywhere. Such a cute species. No apologies for posting a series of albeit "soft focus" images! It WAS raining and VERY dull...

I must have seen double figure Blackcaps plus hundreds of thrushes including 3 Ring Ouzels. I didn't have time to "twitch" the Dusky Warbler or see it when it was trapped but no matter, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had. I even popped back for an hour between runs mid-afternoon!

3 full days now so I'm out of the picture until my big break starting Thursday. I'm not going to mention the possibilty of a MEGA during this period. Whoops...I just have!

p.s. I wasn't going to post this and to be honest I'd forgotten Id took it. While I was sat in my car waiting for the rain to ease off this morning, a Woodcock nearly hit the windscreen and landed right next to the car! In my haste to get a pic I inadvertently had the camera on the wrong setting. Here's the picture anyway..

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Great Grey

Very strong NE wind this morning (Friday). Torn between a sea-watch and a mooch around Spurn. Should have done the former but went with the latter.

Tried to get to some sheltered spots, which wasn't easy! No luck in the churchyard, so I tried Cliff farm by the estuary.

Immediately, it was obvious that a decent number of Gannets had been blown in...

...many were seen inland, maybe patch ticks for a few?

There were also decent numbers of Goldcrests about, feeding and moving constantly through the vegetation. News then came over the radio of a Great Grey Shrike (P.164, S.136) behind Rose Cottage. That was handy! I picked it up briefly before it dis-appeared into the bushes. As already mentioned the wind was very strong and viewing was difficult.

I continued along the canal and after around 15 minutes I found it again in an isolated bush...

c80 yds
An even poorer super-zoom effort!
This morning Sat I connected with a Northern Treecreeper (P.165, S.137), Mealy Redpoll (P.166, S.138) and Long-eared Owl (P.167, S.138). Rather brief I know...Work and Birding time to Blog!

More detail later...

More detail!

Northern Treecreeper

Long-eared Owl through the drizzle
I saw the Mealy Redpoll being ringed but didn't manage a photo

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Common big deal?

...but then again...depends where it's seen

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Currying favour

On a lighter note...

Why did I make such a hasty decision? Take your time Alan...will you never learn?!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Answer - A date with Louise...7pm Sunday at Ottringham's Indian Restaurant . Still, it was rather nice!

That's enough excuses I feel:

I've updated my Yorkshire list on Bubo. Some of you may have noticed it wasn't as it should be.

Slow day today after the excitement. I've got a seven day stint starting tomorrow which isn't ideal in THE month but I have some daylight hours to play with. Following that it's ELEVEN...yes ELEVEN days off. This includes a week on Scilly starting on the 19th. We've got a flat this year to try and keep costs down. Time will tell if that pans out!

I'll try and send some updates from the fortunate Isles if Louise's Iphone will co-operate.

Monday, 7 October 2013


I'm afraid I didn't get my village lifer after all! See comment in previous post. Thanks to Paul Doherty for clearing it up. This bird did fool a lot of people however.

Tricky those Buzzards...

I saw it at 1.20pm. Was it the same individual seen over Spurn at 2pm?


I would like to retract the "fooled a lot of people" quote...It fooled me! I feel the Spurn bird is definitely a different individual...which could have confused some?

I agree with Geoff Dobbs that... "tail is key". I was never totally happy with this feature and I'm afraid I was swayed (wrongly) by the bird reported at Spurn some 30 minutes after my sighting. Two of my pals (who will remain nameless!)...both experienced birders, were also fooled.

In my defence I never studied the bird as I was in a hurry and presumed it was just a Buzzard (which it turned out to be). Watching the movements of the bird and it's jizz would have helped. I still maintain plumage features vary dramatically, especially when relying only on a few snapshots.

The power of suggestion is strong as many a mis-identified MEGA will testify...

Thanks again to Paul and Geoff for their input.

Hopefully, a lesson learned...

Finally, it seems the right time to declare I'm no expert. Just a bloke who enjoys blogging, is an enthusiastic amateur who enjoys Birding and learning. I like to think I know what I'm looking at most of the time! I've enjoyed the whole episode, especially the support I've received.

Nobody knows it all...time to move on...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

An honest tale

Decided to spend my day off down at Spurn after the obligatory dog walk and dearth of birds on the clifftop bushes.

2 hours around the south side of the Gas terminal proved fruitless.

Then a report of a Little Bunting seen by Mick Turton on the north side...but no further sightings as far as I'm aware.

Home for lunch rather late as I bumped into my mate Vince and his pal.

As I turned the last corner before the village I spotted a "Buzzard" drifting slowly south in the distance. I'd put my bins in the case but the camera was handy and I managed to rattle a few snaps off. No specs in the car...but no probs, I'll take a look later.

Back down to Canal scrape car park were I bumped into Vince again. "Did you see the Rough-legged?" he asked!!

Even then, me being me, the penny didn't really drop! I said this was an honest post.

I spent mid-afternoon around Kew and the churchyard. I did have good views of a Firecrest but not as good as when Adam caught it/one...

So, great stuff. Another sighting of one of my favourite birds. I was feeling the pace a bit now so I decided to head home.

I downloaded my photos. Lets see what I managed on the "Buzzard"...

Oh dear!

Just shows...never assume anything, as a young colleague at work once told me!!!

My defence has already been posted. Feeble I know, but there it is...

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Collared tale

I was watching my lad playing footy for Tad'. It was around 3.40. "Possible Collared Fly Spurn" reported the pager. I had to leave!

Arrived at the gate entrance and within 5 minutes I'd had excellent views. Insurance tick?

So it proved with yesterday's news. Doubly pleasing as I missed the cracking male at Sammy's due to being away on holiday. I won't mention this Spring's triple dip...whoops, I just have!

So, that puts me on 372...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Collared Fly - Late result!

Just heard that the Spurn Collared Fly from 2010 has been accepted! Glad I made the dash...more tomorrow.


After a quiet time on the cliff with just a few Song thrushes and Redwings, I decided to head down to Easington and spend some time on the south side of the Gas terminal. No sign of the R.B.Fly but I soon found a few Bramblings...

Then a flycatcher...Spotted...

An alternative view!

Likewise yesterday's Firecrest...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Great morning

Down the road this morning before the afternoon shift. Started around Canal scrape car park. I soon picked up the sound of crests! To cut a long story short after a good root round I found this gem...

Yellow-browed Warblers are smart, so are Pallas's...BUT Firecrests (S.115, P.159) are the BEST!

A couple more...not brilliant, but I like them!?

and then it was gone...

I overheard a couple of chaps chatting about the Jack Snipe (S.116, P.160) they'd just seen in the hide. That will do me.

Rather distant at first...

then luckily, it flew closer...

I finished off at Easington on the south side of the Gas terminal. Steve Webb informed me he'd just seen the RB Fly. After a good 30 minutes scanning I managed to pick it up in a sycamore. I also found a group (c6) of Brambling (S.117, P.161) through the drizzle in the tree tops...

Wonderful stuff...

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Olive-backed Pipit (S. 114, P.158)

Saw it well but briefly by the Warren. Saw it much better in the hand!