Tuesday, 31 December 2013

That's it!

I'll do a brief review of the year (in traditional blog style) when I get chance.

I just wanted to flag up the BIG YEAR 2013 for the last time. Neil Hayward has just seen his last bird! There's much debate over whether or not he's beaten Sandy Komito's record? Like great players and teams I personally don't think it's possible to compare eras. Neil couldn't visit Attu which was a big disadvantage yet Sandy didn't have the modern technology bringing with it faster info'. A nice write up here.

They are both fantastic efforts. I wonder how much it cost!!!

Full list here

Sunday, 29 December 2013


News broke on Boxing Day. This must have caused much soul searching amongst the countries twitching community!!

Being a good lad I spent the day with the family. I was at work Friday with no chance of swapping shifts...but Saturday? Two of the lads were off. Both would have swapped (bearing in mind it's the Christmas holiday). Only one could and did! Much appreciation was conveyed.

Set off at 2am. I reached Bristol around 6. The Sat Nav suggested I came off but the previous evening Google maps suggested going on to Taunton. I came off...I should have stayed on! This move delayed my arrival time. News came through at 7.50 that the bird was still present (great news) but I was still 20 miles away. I couldn't help but think back to my HERMIT THRUSH nightmare! I still felt (reasonably) confident it would wait for me.

The scene when I arrived at 8.30am...

I nipped down to see if it was showing...always a good idea...it was,albeit briefly and distantly...and I had a peep through a chaps 'scope. I returned to the car to get all my gear and give Bud a walk (playing it cool?).
When I returned to the car things were livening up...

When I returned to the quayside...

A few tense moments and nearly disaster...

The next hour was spent shuffling up and down the quayside trying to get a decent picture. It would surface, then immediately dive and re-surface in a different area, sometimes c100 yds away!

By 10.30 I estimated the crowd to be around 1000...

Quite a sight!

Eventually I managed a few decent shots...

I was tempted to pop down to Devon for the White-billed Diver but extra mileage and lack of sleep made me see sense...just! So I decided to set off back. As I passed through Weymouth I checked the pager. Good job I did as there was a GLOSSY IBIS not 2 miles away! I struggled to find the exact location but spotted a group of birders on a car park (there were plenty around). As I was asking them for directions they pointed out a Med' Gull...

Five minutes later I was looking at this fine bird...

A great day...

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

David Coleman RIP

No doubt the greatest in his field. This man made so many great sporting moments even greater...
Thanks David
Steve Ovett, whose many middle-distance battles with Coe were commentated on by Coleman, praised the latter's ability to spice up any event.
"He had a unique gift of saying the right thing at the right time," said Ovett. "I think that is the difference between a commentator and someone who enhances what you are seeing. That is the difference between an average commentator and someone as good as David."
Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton was on the pitch for one of Coleman's most memorable pieces of commentary, the amazing save from Gordon Banks to deny Pele during the 1970 World Cup.
"He was spot on. He knew what he was doing," said Charlton. "Pele headed the ball and Gordon Banks somehow or other got his little finger on the ball and pushed it over the bar. He just kept talking about it. He couldn't believe it."

Monday, 23 December 2013

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Last session before Christmas

Started on the clifftop and found three Snow Buntings. Here's one of them...

Sunk Island loop again. Nothing major but love this Kestrel image...

Then...guess where? Yep, Patrington Haven! Arrived on site around 2.30. Still 30ish birders present. Weather was sunny but very windy...

view over Welwick marsh towards Spurn
Patrington Church
The superstar was in it's usual position out on the rocks...

This impressive anvil was looming in the distance...

Two problems now. Sun about to disappear and fair chance of getting soaked! Never mind, it might blow over...it did! Time passed , no movement. The wind chill factor was kicking in big time by 3.45. Then in it came. I'd set the camera up for some (hopefully) cracking flight shots. I fired away as it flew right over my head. Great stuff! It then landed to feed so I made my departure.

Back at the car I had a quick look at the results.

Disaster. A combination of gloves, then cold hands and of course bad luck had combined to magically transform my settings to ISO 6400!!! This isn't easy to do by mistake...but I managed it.


I managed a few before the camera thought for itself!

Probably my last view as Christmas looms. Although you never know. Maybe I'll add it to my 2014 list?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Snowing Owls Stateside

A Snowy Owl on your car or house roof. No way!

Check this out. Amazing stuff!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Can't get enough

Some amusing tongue-in-cheek stuff on the forums...but it has to be said this is probably a once in a generation/lifetime event in Yorkshire. I admit I'm not a Gull fanatic but this is no ordinary Gull. Another example of a VERY tame bird from far afield. Love the way it floats around with a distinctive jizz...feather-like?

So, after finishing my (very) early shift I went to see it yet again! I was hoping for some more flight shots rather than fish eating ones! The sun tried to break through but was soon swallowed up by increasing cloud. A new development (at least for me) was it's decision to land on the Pumping station roof...

The best flight shot I managed...

Bumped into Barry Bishop on the way back to the car. Glad you managed to see it after a tense week of waiting (and hoping) pal!

REALLY hope it stays for the Weekend chaps and doesn't become another in the long line of Friday departures!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A quality hour with a quality bird

Planned to get down there for dawn. All packed up and off no problem. Stopped for Bud's 1's and 2's and a quick stretch on Outstray lane. I'd thought the car sounded "noisy" on Snakey lane...looking at the nearside front tyre I could see why. Almost completely flat! What to do? Get some air in it NOW.

So, back to Patrington garage...no air, not even a foot pump which I'd used previously. Luckily I caught the mechanic who said I could use his from the garage...result!

Back down to "the Haven". Unfortunately I was now at least 30 minutes behind schedule. Needless to say the bird had been feeding on the supplied fish from first light but had now drifted off onto the Humber! I met Big Phil and we had a good chat while waiting hopefully for the bird's return. Also bumped into Steve Exley who told us about the damage at Spurn...sounded horrendous. Many caravans written off completely and many houses damaged.

I gave it till around 10.30 then walked back to the car with Phil. I had to get back home as Louise was having problems with her car. Not a great day for cars!!

As stated previously I'd decided to go down early as the forecast for the afternoon was poor. By 1pm though there was no sign of rain so I decided to pay another visit. Previous form suggested it would return around 3 so I had a drive around my Sunk Island loop looking for Raptors/Owls. The Buzzard was still hanging around the top of Outstray lane.

By 2.30 I was parked up and walking back down to the pumping station. I bumped into Chris a pal of Barry Bishop who told me it had just been flying round the pumping station! So much for my strategy!


As I approached the area I could see around 15 birders, some by the Pumping Station and a few out on the saltmarsh obviously looking at "the Gull".

Can you see it?
I moved closer and managed this shot against the dark rocks...

Time was marching on and it looked like my "flight shot" plan was doomed. I decided to return to the P.S. and wait, hoping it would return to the fish to feed. The light was poor now as the predicted rain clouds were creeping in from the west. It was now past 3 and still no sign of movement on the rocks. A young lad was checking his photos out of the strong wind when I noticed the gull had taken off. The devil in me decided to wait a few moments before telling him as it was obviously heading our way, no doubt to return to the fish. As it arrived over our heads I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed up! I won't quote his comments but I thought I'd have to catch his camera!!

Several birders had unfortunately left before it's arrival and only 4 of us remained. We enjoyed a superb ending to the day in the company of this Arctic wanderer...

on the deck...

feeding time

and in flight...

not bad at 100th sec

Then it was gone...

...and only 10 minutes from home!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Here's hoping...

One more day...or night. Will it be there tomorrow? Time will tell. Superb winters day today...viewed from the Bus...unfortunately!

Forecast poor for tomorrow from lunchtime so an early start for yours truly...

Monday, 16 December 2013

IVORY GULL reflections

courtesy of R.Willison
So, the Arctic star hung around. Maybe it'll stay till Wednesday...my day off? A fair chance I reckon as some of the admiring crowd took fish for it to feed on! 
Some nice shots here and here. Some great sketches here

A truly monumental record IMHO.

Last Yorkshire record was a juvenile at Saltburn (now Cleveland) in 1986. This high Arctic wanderer is a very rare bird indeed. Long overdue and much hoped for. To connect so close to home is a dream come true! 

Got me thinking again...

There's always a chance of finding something "good" no matter what the date. That's if you're out there of course...and have the stamina...

Roll on Wednesday...

Sunday, 15 December 2013

IVORY GULL!!! - Christmas comes early

Computer issues (that I won't bore you with) this week but all seems well again...for now? Bet you've missed me...not.

Anyway...back to the topic in question. The year is sliding to an end. Shortest day next Saturday...then things are on the up? I decided to have a drive up to Barmston to look for the Kumlien's Gull. We had a stroll but I couldn't find it. I thought I saw it from the car flying along the beach but I couldn't be sure.

Arrived back at Holmpton around 2 and had a look along the clifftop. Having just finished 4 long days I must admit I was flagging by now. I returned to the house around 3 and prepared to watch the Spurs/Liverpool game (no contest). Settled down with a cuppa, everything nice and relaxed. This time of year is obviously not primetime for rarities, so I must admit to not checking my Yorkshire messages instantly...

Fortunately...no fortuitously, I did check a message at 3.09 (I must have inadvertently cancelled the MEGA alert)...lucky boy!

"East Yorkshire IVORY GULL Patrington Haven!!!"

3.12...OUT THE DOOR...in sandals!

It's 7 miles to Pat Haven. When I arrived there was only one car in the car park. I grabbed my Camera and Bins and waddled off down the path. I'm not as quick as I used to be (and that wasn't very quick to be fair). Even slower in open-backed sandals plus limp. Light fading fast.

Eventually I saw a figure out of the gloom in the distance. I didn't even know if it was a birder but that's where I was heading. Closer inspection revealed Geoff Dobbs. A very good sign! As I joined him he informed me it was still present and feeding by the Humber Bank. A quick scan and there it was...BRILLIANT!!!

A marvellous, hoped for and well overdue YORKSHIRE TICK. I managed a few record shots but they're on the camera memory as I forgot my card and I've lost the USB link. I've ordered another so I'll post them when it arrives. Tim Jones has posted some pictures. Other birders to connect were Adam Hutt, Steve Webb, Mick Turton, Ian Smith, Tim Isherwood and his other half. Think that was it...apologies if I missed anyone out.

When I've had chance I've been scanning the local beaches hoping to find one ever since the 2 birds were found further north. I'd considered going down there today instead of Barmston...I should have gone!!!

So, a MEGA just down the road. Hopefully many more to come on the bird-filled PATCH. I'm fortunate to live so close which allows me to connect at short notice. That was the idea however when I moved out here!

A long time since my British tick. A summer record at Inverness...22nd July 1995. Takes me to 170 for the Year on the PATCH.

Many thanks to Geoff for releasing the news so quickly.

Hope it's there tomorrow so the rest of the chaps can connect...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Spurn Island!

Amazing pictures here and here

IVORY GULLS in Northumberland. An unbelievable double record. Some great pics here. Praying for them (one will do) to move South!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Blow out!

First day off ruined by winds as strong as I've felt for a long time. It was virtually impossible to walk any distance comfortably. Needless to say sighting were at a premium even in sheltered areas. Most seabirds will probably be in Denmark by now!

Curlew braving the gale

I see SLENDER-BILLED CURLEW has been removed from the British list...more here. It did stretch the realms of probability that the last remaining bird would turn up in Northumberland!!!

An excellent account of the sighting here

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The bird has flown...hopefully?

"Hopefully" meaning it hasn't expired! They do have a poor track record in the survival stakes.

It leaves a few mixed feelings...

A typical scenario...

Firstly there's the "wait for news" while you're at work. Always a tense time riddled with mixed emotions. You want it to be there...and yet...you ain't gonna see it!!

Then, if it is there (which in this case it obviously wasn't) you have another night to wait or maybe even till weekend.

What a relaxing pastime?

Now, if you're not a twitcher there's no problem. You just enjoy the birds in whatever context you choose.

Personally I'm greedy and want to enter into all aspects.

I've reached my mini-break. SIX glorious days off! I'll be checking the Holmpton seafront early tomorrow. Now then, I wonder if that Guillemot has moved south...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Brunnich's Guillemot - Double Whammy!

News broke late afternoon of a great find by Mark Pearson at Filey. It would be a British tick for me and obviously a new bird for Yorkshire. A few frantic phone calls failed to secure a shift swap...unfortunately!! I'm off Thursday, so I'm in the hands of the birding Gods...

seen in Alaska

Monday, 2 December 2013

ABA BIG YEAR...coming to a head

Exciting times Stateside. Neil Hayward is now on 738 (plus 2 provisional) for his BIG YEAR having just added Dusky Thrush in Anchorage! Not bad!!!

My friend Sandy Komito achieved an amazing 745 (plus 3 provisional) in 1998.

Swings and roundabouts regarding the time difference of 15 years. Sandy was able to go to Attu, the furthest west island of the Aleutian chain for several weeks which Neil was unable to do. However, Neil I feel has had better and faster information due to the advent of the internet.

He heads out to Nome to try for McKay's Bunting then he's off to Adak next Thursday were Whooper Swan, Whiskered Auklet and Smew are all possible.

It's going to be a close finish...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Happy Birthday Big Guy

Would have been his 11th birthday today. Happy Birthday pal. Always in my heart...

Saturday, 30 November 2013

ABA Owls

Whilst searching through my pics for the Great Grey Owl and Hawk Owl from past US holidays I uncovered a few more from days gone by. Any Owl day is a good day.

15/4/2006 - Ferruginous Pygmy Owl - Bentson S.P, Texas

The bird had been around for a few days and I travelled down from Galveston (c400 miles). After a night at McAllen I arrived at dawn. The bird was calling as I reached the site but I couldn't locate it...rather frustrating! I was concerned it would stop calling but I managed to find it eventually. It was very tame and completely unconcerned by my presence. A very rare bird and a cracking ABA tick...

26/7/2007 - Snowy Owl - Barrow, Alaska

We spent a memorable afternoon down the aptly named Gaswell Rd! We saw at least 20 Snowy Owls at various distances out on the misty tundra. Barrow is the northernmost point of the North American continent and the 9th northernmost city in the world. The whole trip was amazing. My trip report is here if you're interested?

I've already mentioned Hawk Owl but just to re-iterate, I spent many hours with my good lady taxiing me around the conifers of the Anchorage area. I found one (only one) AT LAST...

8/8/2007 - Hawk Owl - Glennallen, Alaska

10/8/2008 - Northern Saw-whet Owl - San Gabriel Mnts, California

A truly amazing experience with Lance Benner from Los Angeles. I met him at dusk and we headed north into the San Gabriel Mountains. We tried a few sites but didn't have any luck. It was now around 11.30 pm and my pass out had nearly expired! One last site. Lance disappeared off into the woods with his flash-light. "Can you hear something" he asked. "No" I replied. "THERE!". He shone his torch up into a tree...

Believe me...it was VERY impressive!

So, there you have it. I've seen all the ABA Owls except Whiskered-screech Owl. I hope to return to Arizona one day to complete the set.

My favourite?..

I rest my case...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Out and about

Started down at Kilnsea Wetlands. Made our way up to the floodbank to get the "double view". Nice bright morning and very mild for the time of year...

Sorted "his Lordship" out with the ball...

The ponds looked well...

A sleeping Greenshank on the far bank was a nice surprise...

Three Goldeneye were present, never surfacing at the same time...

A Redshank came close at Kilnsea Wetlands

While having lunch down at Patrington Haven a Curlew passed close by...

Finished off at Welwick hoping for a Raptor or an Owl. I got the latter x2. Picked one up perched on a distant post just before dusk...

...a poor quality digital image to show a closer silhouette...

The second bird drifted along the floodbank to join it...

It was 3.45!
...and the there was (you knew it was coming) the sunset...