Thursday, 30 April 2015

GREAT BLUE HERON - Who says twitching is stressful?!

Last Monday a fellow Yorkshire twitcher Steve Lawton made his attempt to see the GBH. I knew he was "going across" and was rooting for him. I also knew from the lack of news from Bryher that things weren't going to plan. Anyway let Steve tell the story...

"Very stressful but ultimately rewarding twitch yesterday. Caught the 8.30 flight from St. Just with my brother, having stayed overnight in Hayle. Concerned at the clear cold night, but at least it was a beautiful morning for the flight. We strolled down into Hugh Town, giving Old Town Bay a quick scan, and waited for the 10.15 Bryher boat. Couldn't believe how busy the boats were; two full boats for Tresco/Bryher and another full one for St. Agnes, but only a handful of birders. We teamed up with two birders who'd got a slightly later flight, and were then joined by a third later still and the five of us scanned the Big Pool from the hotel, with odd sorties to Popplestone and Stinking Porth.
Other than a single Black-tailed Godwit, (carefully checked) and a few Gadwall there was little to excite, apart from being annoyed at casual birders constantly circling the pool. Fieldcraft! There was no heron to be put off from landing, but it added to the frustration. I amused myself watching a Wren build a nest all day as I steadily burnt and froze in the stiff breeze at the same time.
One of the crew disturbed a Night Heron on Stinking Porth and had earlier found a Woodchat at Porthgwarra. I had my Wren!
At 3.30 it was time to give up and make sure we were back in plenty of time for the 18.01 flight. Afterall it had been on the Big Pool every day at some point since the 16th, so it had gone.
After a cracking pastie on the quayide that weighed a ton and was crammed, it was time to head up to the airport. There's a plastic heron in one of the gardens as you leave Hugh Town and I snapped it to send to my birding mates as my best effort.
We boarded, handed our bags over and waited for the flight, already trying to fight off a headache and thoughts of the drive through the night back to Leeds. For the 50th time I tried to get signal and then eventually facebook popped up and a message from my mate Marcus said it had flown back in, (which I assumed to be the Big Pool on Bryher). My brother then announced it's on Lower Moors. He needed to be back home, but I effectively refused to leave. As the bags had already boarded, I contemplated running like hell down to Lower Moors, hopefully looking through someone's scope and running back up for the flight. Instead we asked for the bags back and tried to sort a flight or the Scillonian for the next day. Isles of Scilly travel were awesome and did all they could to accommodate. No issues or jobsworth approach with the bags. Reunited with them we ran down to Lower Moors.
Hoping to be on the bird staightaway and it wasn't the case. It had been seen by a local birder, but was out of view in a field with views into the sun. I knew what was coming next, a brief view of a heron sp. disappearing towards Old Town Bay, and not to be relocated. It couldn't have been further from the truth. Moments later it got up and flew towards the pools. We got to the screen and there it was, big ugly and "blue" and happily catching small fish with incredible success. Views were into the sun, until it flew again, and was now outside the hide fifteen yards away. Wow! Took plenty of snaps until it got up and flew to some hidden reeds.
Great accommodation was eventually found, a pint to celebrate in the Bishop, but the need to sleep prevented any further and longer drinking.
Full English this morning and an upgrade to the 9.50 flight out instead of the Scillonian. Mission accomplished.
I can only imagine the quality of the shots to come based on what it has done today. I'd have loved to have stopped and seen it again, but given where we were at 17.00 the day before I had to be happy with the outcome. In an earlier post I mentioned the Birding Gods. If news hadn't come out when it did, if Marcus hadn't have posted, if I'd not have got signal, if my brother had not got signal, if we couldn't have retrieved the luggage. From despair to joy. We could so easily have landed in St. Just, picked up a signal and seen that it was showing. Thanks to all who prevented that.
I don't do a blog so apologies for taking up the thread with my encounter with the bird. Good luck to anyone else going for it. When seen well and close, it's a cracking bird despite what some have said. Time to browse through the snaps!"

Posted with Steve's kind permission. VERY well done pal. PHEW!!!

...and here's what the fuss was all about...

Monday, 27 April 2015


Today's session started at the triangle (Spurn for the uninitiated). On the way down a deer was seen near the Blue Bell, not an uncommon sight in these here parts...

After a walk down the floodbank I had a scan along Big Hedge to see if any Ring Ouzels were still around. Couldn't see any birds at all for a while. Then a few Skylarks appeared, followed by Meadow Pipits. Half a dozen or so Blackbirds arrived. Then out from the hedge it popped...

First onto the fence...

Then feeding out in the open...

Love this image (even though I say so myself!)
I had the pleasure of watching this bird for over an hour in the area around "the hedge". My best ever experience with this usually elusive species. I was even treated to the distinctive stony chacking call. In my previous life I used to dip regularly on my day trips to Spurn. Much nicer to have time to study the bird at leisure, especially in bright sunshine.

Late afternoon found us down at Sammy's Point. A nice surprise, although bang on cue date wise, was a lone Whimbrel (P.87, S.60)...

Sunday, 26 April 2015

They're back!

Great to see the Little Terns at Beacon Ponds this morning on another fantastic Spring morning. I counted ten birds. They've done really well the last couple of years, lets hope it continues with the sponsored protection.

Other birds included a couple of Greenshanks and a Whinchat...

The Hudwit didn't re-appear this morning which must have been VERY frustrating for those that had travelled. I'm sure there'll be many scanning Godwit flocks in the coming days. The 1981 bird was re-located in Devon after leaving Yorkshire! Must have been a Nancy's Cafe job.

One of the things I enjoy about rare birds is the surprise element. Not just the fact that they appear but also the timing. To think a second and third for Britain would turn up in such a narrow time window is least to me! Fortunately, I had the time to go and see them both.

As well as triumphs there are tragedy's, some self inflicted. I read on-line that a couple of twitchers read the message as Hudsonian Whimbrel (a bird I haven't seen) so didn't go. Whoops!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

HUDSONIAN GODWIT - a tale of two twitches

Quite a week!!!

The cornflakes went flying this morning when I reached For my readers to see the MEGA alert.

MEGA Somerset HUDSONIAN GODWIT between Meare and Ashcott at Shapwick Heath NNR

My thoughts immediately drifted to the Blacktoft Sands record...yes, I'm that sad. It was seen in the Autumn of 1981 and it amazingly returned in the Spring of 1983!!

Before my time.

Another thought was my summer trip to Alaska in 2007 were I added it to my ABA list.

I sent a text to Tony Dixon and within 5 minutes he'd called. I asked if he was going and he said yes. There was some hesitancy in his voice however? I took Bud out while I waited for him to arrive. It was my turn to drive.

Ten minutes later the mobile went again. It was Tony. It was his grandson's birthday, hence the reason for his hesitancy. So, I was on my own. I left at 8.30 and I arrived at 1. A large but full car park greeted me. After eventually finding a space (of sorts) I made my way to the spot. It wasn't hard to find!

I wasn't sure what the viewing situation would be. Queuing for a hide wouldn't have been ideal. Luckily the Godwits were viewable to all from a path. I reckon around 300 were present. Obviously some had been and gone and others were arriving by the minute.

Now here's the weird bit. I saw the bird, an extremely rare bird, a 3rd for Britain in fact. Compared to the GBH twitch though it was a bit of a damp squib. I prefer an adventure, this certainly wasn't that. It was a matter of getting there and viewing the bird. Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY pleased with another addition to my British list, it just wasn'

Twitches come in all guises. This one won't be going into my top ten RUSH BIRD ( see left hand column).

By all accounts it's a superb reserve but 8 hours plus of driving didn't allow for much exploring. Wimp!

Hope it's there tomorrow for Tony...

Here's one of his digiscoped shots of the GBH...

Nice to brighten a post up with a pic. None of the Hud God from me, as I left my card in the laptop!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Oh what a beautiful mornin'

Have to confess I didn't make the intended early start this morning on the second of my 6 day break. I blame it (justifiably?) on events earlier in the week!

Anyway, it was a glorious day so grabbed some breakfast and the dog and made my way down to Kilnsea Wetlands, arriving around 10.

It was obvious migrants were about from the start...

Wheatear (P.78, S.50) on Kilnsea Wetlands hide!
Fortunately it hung around long enough for me to get a better pic...

I counted 8 birds in the immediate vicinity of the hide. Not bad!

Here are 3 together...

A couple of Plovers whizzed in. The hoped for LRP's didn't materialize but smart just the same...

Ringed Plover
The Avocets (P.79, S.51) were looking dapper too...this one was a cracker feeding by the hide.

News then came over the radio of a Whinchat (P.80, S.52) by the listening dish. It was showing on the fenceposts but became more distant by the time I'd arrived...looking into the sun didn't help...not that I'm complaining about sunshine you understand!!

Jewel of a bird
More news, handy these radios! 2 Ring Ouzels (P.81,S.53) at Big Hedge.Took a while with a few stops but I eventually made it. Bud helps as he pulls me along! Almost immediately I had a female in the hedge...


Really pleased with this sighting as I don't seem to have much luck with this elusive species. Better was to come as they hung around the area feeding out in the open for a good 30 minutes. Then both together...

I was having quite a morning.

I then picked up a Hobby (P.82, S.54) over the Crown and Anchor as I was walking back to the car! It drifted off towards Sammy's before I could get a pic. I also picked up Cuckoo (P.83, S.55), Blackcap (P.84, S.56), Lesser Whitethroat (P.85, S.57) and 3 Buzzards drifting north (S.58).

Mornings like this make me realise how lucky I am to live in such an area.

To top it off I'm driving past the Gas Terminal when a large thrush lifts out of the grass and lands on a light...

Mistle Thrush (P.86, S.59)
No big deal area record wise BUT I don't see many migrants, so well chuffed!

Thursday, 23 April 2015


News broke last Tuesday as we were nearly home from Dorset after collecting my almost vintage V70. I'd swapped my day off to allow us to do this. The combination of a long drive and no further days off that week made a journey back south impossible.

My mate Tony Dixon travelled down and went across on the Spewlonian Wednesday morning. Conditions weren't great as fog lingered throughout the day. Unfortunately it flew off from Old Town Bay at 11am before the boat arrived. I can imagine the mood was pretty grim by early afternoon with no further sightings!

2.41pm and a message saying the bird had been re-located in a weedy field in Holy Vale. Tony later told me that the scene was somewhat confusing with birders strung out along the path. Some gaining much better views than others in the still foggy conditions. Fortunately for Tony the bird flew close by him and he was able to confirm that it was indeed the GREAT BLUE HERON. Others weren't so fortunate including both his travelling companions!

Yours truly was working the weekend and through till Thursday (today) so hopes of connecting were slim. I then received a text of Tony saying he was thinking of returning on Monday to try and get some photos. Could I get a shift swap? Managed it at the third attempt!! Otherwise today would have been my first chance.

Tony picked me up Sunday evening and we drove down to Penzance for the Monday morning boat. I reckon there were 100 plus birders on the Scillonian. An inter island boat was waiting for us as we docked and we all piled on.

The journey across was a strange one as we moved very slowly and approached to the west of Bryher. This was obviously due to the tides. It meant however we couldn't land at any of the quays. The boat stopped around 50 metres from the shore. Surely not? Then we saw the dinghy! 

5 trips were needed before we all made landfall. The slow crossing and staged landing certainly added to the tension even though we'd received messages confirming it's presence. 

So, we're on Bryher but is it still there?

A tense 10 minute walk ensued before it became obvious the bird was still present. PHEW!!!

Glorious day with a MEGA bird showing well. Nice.

Some of the following pics in the sequence are not great but I thought it might give a flavour of the day...

There we are then. A great day. As fellow twitchers will know only too well, things don't always go as smoothly as this! The bird even flew by us on it's way to Tresco as we made our way back to St Mary's.

BIG thanks to my workmate for swapping shifts. Also to Tony Dixon for driving both ways allowing me to get some vital sleep.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

GREAT BLUE HERON - Where there's a will...there's a way!

Full write up when I've recovered. You could say I'm quite chuffed!!!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Twitching handicaps!

Statement: Nobody want to add a Lifer to the their list more than I do.


BUT I (like many of us) have commitments.

Brief personal lowlights...

Tuesday April 14th 8.21pm...MEGA GREAT BLUE HERON St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Yours truly on his way back from Dorset feeling very chuffed after finally finding a Mark 2 Volvo V70 in great condition with low milage. 12 years old but only 52,000 on the clock! Swapped shifts to do this, so working Wednesday...therefore snookered!

Wednesday April 15th 6.30am Still present in Old Town Bay. 
                                       2.41pm Present again in Holy Vale for c5 minutes.

A few fellow twitchers connected through the mist

Thursday April 16th 7.17pm Refound on Bryer at the Big Pool

I finished work at 8pm and tried in vain to do a shift swap for Friday...obviously not much time to arrange this! Scillonian website crashed so couldn't check availability. One driver had put down for overtime on Friday and I had a number?

In hindsight (that wonderful thing) I should have rung him to see if could do my shift. If he could've I'd have just driven down to Penzance hoping to get a place on the boat. If this had worked out I'd have seen it! However, as well as commitments there's fatigue to key in here. Feeling fresh while writing this...not so fresh on Thursday evening.

Friday April 17th Present again around the Big Pool

Worked the day shift.

Saturday April 18th 10.15am Still present on Bryer around the Big Pool.

I've got today off. So why aren't you there I here you cry? Well, it's my younger son's 30th birthday party tonight and I'm not going to miss that for a bird. Commitments.

The twitching playing field isn't a level one. As stated previously some can go at the drop of a pager, so they're always in pole position. Must be great that...or is it? I've tweaked my life to give myself greater opportunities but there's still occasions when I just can't go (can you hear the gritted teeth?).

Just another species that I've had to add to my retirement list...when and/or if I get there!

So there's my tale of woe...but hang on...could it possibly hang on till Thursday for me?

Optimistic as ever!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Busy times...but not Birding!

Lots on at the moment but nothing bird related...well hardly anything.

Solicitors, Surgeons, Cars and plenty of travelling! All very important BUT it's MIGRATION TIME!!!

Monster bird on Scilly (strikes back) in more ways than one in the form of a GREAT BLUE HERON 

I know a few who made the trip and I don't know any details but it seems it disappeared before the boat arrived and then it was seen briefly mid-afternoon. I'd have been there if I wasn't on the bus.

Second record for Britain and Scilly (not what it used to be?) found by the same birder.

Can't get to the birds at the moment...but...sometimes they come to you...

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Needs must

No car till Tuesday. No fun when your limited! So, I've hired one. Means I can get out Sat morning and Sunday. Getting serious withdrawal symptoms. Haven't seen a migrant yet!!

I've continued following the Mallorca thread on Birdforum. Just read one regarding Crag Martins. "They breed in the mountains but winter in good numbers". I was fortunate enough to see c100 low over Tucan Marsh on our one and only rainy day. Quite a sight!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Deja Vous?

Bit busy this week with the old hip situation. News of a CRAG MARTIN over the Isle of Wight raised hopes of a possible belated Yorkshire tick! I missed last years due to work and holiday prep'. Wonder if it's heading for Flamborough Head? Stranger things have happened...but not often!!

No migrants seen locally yet...but I haven't had time to look much to be honest...and won't have for the rest of the week...

Hope you can get out and find something...

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Old Hive

Had a stroll down the cliff to Old Hive this morning on an uplifting bright Spring morning. Hopes high (as usual) for an early migrant. Wheatear, Sand Martin, maybe even a Swallow? How about something "better"...Firecrest, Black Redstart?

Best I managed was a couple of fresh looking Pied Wagtails!

Back in the woods...a Chiffchaff?


4 Goldfinches on my feeder though...

Friday, 3 April 2015

Mallorca postscript

As promised few final thoughts on my trip to Mallorca plus a full species list.

Loved it! It's a beautiful island with little traffic, excellent roads and wonderful scenery. Oh and it's got some excellent habitat and superb birds! I would definitely return. Before it got to hot of course.

My final photos are of that Gull. As mentioned already it's still a comparatively rare Gull although there have been significant increases in recent years. This pair were great entertainment at Cap de ses Salines. Thay appeared as a couple settled down for their lunch...strange that!

...and they finished off with a duet...

Class birds

Species seen in 8 days

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
European Teal (Anas crecca)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Garganey (Anas querquedula) - seen at s'Albufera, Depuradora and Salobrar
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)  - common at s'Albufera and Tucan Marsh
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - surprise addition at s'Albufera
Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) - c10 at Bassa de can Guidet
Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) - numerous of Formentor peninsular c100, c10 of Cap de ses Salines
Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan mauretanicus) - as above
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) - 1 seen off Cap de ses Salines
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - easily seen on approach track to s'Albufera
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus) - seen briefly at s'Albufera and Albufereta
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) - s'Albufera, Albufereta and many (c50) at Salobrar
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - 4 seen in the Arta mountains
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) - seen at close range at the mirador Torrent de Pareis
Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) - seen at close range at the mirador Torrent de Pareis
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - s'Albufera, Albufereta
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) - seen over Palma Cathedral!
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio porphyrio) - only a single bird seen at Sa Roca pools, s'Albufera
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) - easily seen at s'Albufera
Coot (Fulica atra)
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - 50+ at Salobrar
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) - 2 seen in fields at Albufereta
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) - Albufereta
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) - only a single sighting at Salobrar
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - only a single sighting at s'Albufera
Little Stint (Calidris minuta)  - s'Albufera
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) - c15 at Salobrar
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - 3 at Depuradora
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) - a surprise migrant group (c15) at Sa Roca pools
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) - 1 at Salobrar
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) - 1 at Salobrar
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) - 2 at Depuradora
Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos)
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii) - Puerto Pollensa, Cap de ses Salines
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans [argentatus])
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) - a very early migrant opposite the resort on the 2nd March
Rock Dove (Columba livia)
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) -  a single bird at s'Albufera
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae [malabarica])
Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) 3 at Tucan Marsh on the 4th
Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - 4 at Tucan Marsh on the 4th
House Martin (Delichon urbica) - 1 at Tucan Marsh on the 4th
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta) - 2 at Sa Roca pools
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
Blue-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava flava) - 1 at Sa Roca pools
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)
Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius) - Formentor Peninsular, Cap de ses Salines, Cap Blanc
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) - 1 seen well at s'Albufera
Fan-tailed Warbler [Zitting Cisticola] (Cisticola juncidis)
Moustached Warbler (Acrocephalus melanopogon)
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Balearic Warbler (Sylvia balearica) - Porto Colom
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) - Lluc Monastry
Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus)
Great Tit (Parus major major)
Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) - seen from track at north side of Albufereta
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Eurasian Serin (Serinus serinus)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) - a single bird at Ermita de Betlem, Arta Mnts
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) - one at Son Real
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) -  rare Mallorca race seen at s'Albufera
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra)

106 species

Marbled Duck
Alpine Accentor
Ferruginous Duck
Little Bittern
Egyptian Vulture
Bonelli's Eagle
Scops Owl
Pallid Swift
Alpine Swift
Dartford Warbler
Rock Sparrow

There we are then. Some species probably hadn't arrived yet. I'll just have to go back sometime and try again!

Now it's time to resume Patch birding...starting tomorrow morning