Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Been heads down since the CB twitch. That did include a massive Yorks tick in the form of GBT!

One more day then Barcelona here we come. After seeing the sites we'll be heading for the Hecho Valley in the Western Pyrenees for a 4 night mini-break away from the toil...and the horrendous weather!

Below is a list of species, in no particular order, which I will be targeting...

Black Wheatear
Eagle Owl
Scops Owl
Egyptian Vulture
Golden Eagle
Bonelli’s Eagle
Short-toed Eagle
Black Woodpecker
White-backed Woodpecker
Alpine Accentor
Rock Thrush
Alpine Chough
Snow Finch
Citril Finch
Rock Sparrow

Not too shabby...

Thursday, 18 June 2015

CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING - the full account

Following on from the confirmation I was "good to go" I contacted Tony and we had a chat about departure time. We decided on 12.30am at my place. It was a difficult one, as I was sure some chaps would sleep in their cars on site...but how many? Also, I had confirmation via Birdforum that it was 12 to a boat not 24!

Still that was it, we were committed. It WAS a Monday, although it transpired that only 36 made the trip on Sunday despite numerous trips, which I found amazing! I think there might have been a few more queuing if it had been on an East Coast island!!

When Tony arrived I was delighted to see Trevor Charlton sat in the back. I've known Trevor a long time. He began his birding in the York area, made several trips to Scilly and elsewhere in the 70's racking up some amazing MEGAS. He went on to become RSPB warden at Hornsea Mere and Bempton. He is now involved in wind farm monitoring. We added Des Roberts to our crew near Wakefield and headed west.

The trip was uneventful with Tony driving the full distance (I did offer to take my car). After a few hiccups along the beautiful Llyn peninsular...

...we were approaching the car park. I was holding my breath here as I was apprehensive as to what we would find. My fears were confirmed as we turned into a granted, small, but full car park.

The mood darkened somewhat at this point.

Not a soul in sight

We gathered our gear and took the track down to the beach. This was the sight we were greeted with...

...a long line of birders was present...at least 70! So much for the Monday morning theory.

12's into 70ish = Many trips.

It was still only 6 am and (not surprisingly) no sign of the boatman. The atmosphere was fairly convivial with many re-acquainting themselves with other twitchers. There was obviously some tension in the air at the uncertainty of what was to come regarding transport to the island.

Then we noticed Mr Evans who was writing names down in groups of twelve. Seemed like a good idea to me. Encouragingly we'd made boat six. The slightly disappointing news was we wouldn't be going until 4.20pm!!!

The first three boats would be going at 7.30, 8,30 and 9.30 but would have to spend many hours on the island. So, you go early, your wait is "over there", you go late, your wait is "over here". Things were complicated further by the fact that groups of school children were visiting the island therefore taking up boat trips and heightening the concern of disturbance.

The main thing was WE WERE GOING! More positive vibes flowed shortly after with the news that the bird was still present. Great stuff! Once the boatman arrived and received the confirmed lists off Lee we were happy to leave the area and try and grab some breakfast.

It's a very remote area, as so many twitching sites are, so I wasn't hopeful. How wrong I was. We found a wonderful bakery complete with patio tables and chairs. An oasis! The list of fresh pastries was extensive and I have to admit I tried a few. It helped pass the morning as did Trevors excellent anecdotes. These included finding a STELLAR'S EIDER! His birding knowledge is immense. Tony had a well earned kip in the car. Des roamed around nervously.

Around 2.30 we made our way back to the boat ramp and waited.

Our group
Returning birders had encouraging news, telling us the bird was returning to the seed approx' every hour.

Group returning with good news
It was our turn.

Out to Carreg ddu (Black Rock). A brisk and enjoyable journey was enhanced by views of Manx Shearwaters and various Auks. On arrival we made our way up to the Lighthouse area. I was walking with Tony and as we got nearer it was obvious they were looking at it. We found a space, which wasn't easy in a tight viewing area and there it was, well at least it's head!

As you can see it was behind the concrete block. That's all we got on this visit and I'm afraid that's all that group 5 got as they had to leave. The area was a sun trap and we were looking into it which didn't help. Thankfully it wasn't too low BUT it was hot!

Half an hour went by. We were joined by group 7. An hour, then 75 minutes, it still hadn't returned. The above photo was taken at 5.04 and it was now 6.40. We didn't have long left. Then out of nowhere it was BACK...

It stayed in view for around 4 minutes, plenty long enough for great scope views and a few pics. A stonking male CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING. Happy days indeed!

Obviously there was much relief at the great views we'd all enjoyed and the atmosphere became very relaxed with much shaking of hands and smiles all round...

The warden and his staff were great and a healthy donation was made by the group. I met a few birders from previous twitches including one chap I'd twitched the MOURNING DOVE on Rhum with in 2013. Apologies for not recognizing you pal if your reading this.

It was now time to leave...

Trevor and Tony very happy on the return journey
So. a very long but eventually successful day. On the return journey we were discussing why we continue to do this. We decided we just like it!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015



Oh Yes...

Courtesy of Richard Willison

This amazing Spring just goes on and on! Still recovering!!

Write ups tomorrow...

Sunday, 14 June 2015


Severely tempted by the EASTERN BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR in the New Forest. It's being mooted as a possible split. I saw a Western in Norfolk at Stiffkey in 1993. In the end I declined and as it turned out I didn't miss it as it departed overnight...as many previous records of this species have. A cracking, truly beautiful bird though...

Then it happened. No sign for the unfortunate troops yesterday BUT at 8.08 am this morning...

MEGA: CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING male again Bardsey Island at south end 6 - 7.30am on and off.

What to do?
Initial thought as always...GO!!!

Hang on though. I'm 5 hours away and many others will be closer and will therefore get there sooner. Rumours of only twelve not 24 per boat Only 2 going at 12.30 and 1.30. Would be tight/impossible.

So, after much deliberation...NO!

Then at 9.40 news of more boats in the afternoon! Relaxing hobby this? To cut it short I reckoned I'd still struggle to get across. It's a Sunday and a BIG bird, so as already stated, plenty ahead of me in the queue.

My only chance though?, I'm at work tomorrow! A period of stewing ensued.

Time to ring a few workmates to beg for a shift swap. Phone call number 4 was returned a tense 15 minutes later in the affirmative!! The twitch is on..providing boats are going tomorrow of course.

At time of writing boats have been confirmed from 7.30am and the bird is feeding on seed around the lighthouse.

Wish me luck...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

THE Spring?

Managed to squeeze in a trip for the HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL. Have to say it's not an inspiring addition to my list but it's deemed a species now by the BOU, so that's good enough for me. I have my personal view but never mind.

This Spring has been incredible for MEGA birds.

I don't have a monster total, but it's decent. Yet I've added FIVE new birds to my British List...Amazing!

Plus there's a (fading) chance of a SIXTH with troops looking for a stunning male CRETSZCHMAR'S BUNTING on Bardsey Island, Wales as I write. Some stunning pics here

...AND a breaking male BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR this morning in Hants!!!


You may have gathered by now I'm pretty keen on twitching! I realize not everybody who follows this blog is interested in this area of Birding...but migration is coming to a close now.

Some of my pals have jacked it in for various reasons...stress being one of them. I can understand that, but for me it gives me adventure and a challenge, which I love. I've invested a LOT of time and effort...and (obviously) money in chasing birds throughout Britain (I don't do Ireland). So it would be rude to give up now. In fact I'm more determined than ever to "catch up" on birds I missed in my past due to commitments.

Roll on AUTUMN...after some holiday birding of course. Off to Spain later this month so I better start planning, as I've been too busy twitching (and working) to sort it out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

SWAINSON'S THRUSH - better late than never!

This tale begins last Tuesday when news broke of a SWAINSON'S THRUSH on Skokholm, an island off the SW Pembrokeshire Coast. There have been 30+ records of this Catharus Thrush in Britain but I hadn't seen one. Many had been one day jobs on distant islands in Autumn. There had been a few long stayers. I missed the 2000 bird on Scilly by a day!

It's always been a species that I'd told myself I'd get "one day". Trouble is I've been saying that for over 20 years!

I was on a course on Wednesday so communication was difficult as being a good lad I'd turned my phone off (although the trusty pager was on silent). News came of a boat trip on Thursday, so at lunchtime I rang and reserved a place. Tony Dixon also said he was going so the plan looked good. I contacted work and the lads arranged a shift swap to enable me to go (much appreciated chaps).

I then received a text from Tony that said he was having reservations as the "time window"  to see the bird was short. I had to agree. To cut a long story short I rang the depot back and told them I wasn't going now. They were fine and I resigned myself to wait for the next one on Scilly this Autumn?

Tony then contacted me again to say he'd changed his mind and was now going. That was fair enough as it was my decision not to go. I wished him luck and that was that.

Another trip was arranged for Friday and all connected. I couldn't go. No trips Saturday or Sunday as the weather was bad. Surely it would go, wouldn't it? A Spring bird.

Saturday...still there. Sunday...still there!

Another boat trip Monday and guess who had the day off. I reserved a place and the trip was on.

I traveled down to Newport and stayed in a Days Inn for £25 (getting soft in my old age). Up at 5 Monday and drove the 2 hours to Martin's Haven.

Troops assembling
Then the news came through...STILL THERE!!! Always a relief.

We made our way down to the boat launch and waited for departure at 8.30. There were a few other groups around some going over to Skomer, the sister island. Disappointingly we were told that the boat would be taking people to Skomer first and we would have to wait until it returned around 9.15. Still it was a superb day, the bird had been reported, so hopefully no problem. The tension mounted slightly as the wind increased considerably during our wait and the sea was getting lively.

I also bumped into Steve Lawton who'd also travelled down from Yorks. He'd sent me a message on Facebook but not having a smartphone I hadn't seen it. Pity we could have come down together. Maybe next time pal.

When the boat returned we loaded up the luggage, chain style and boarded...

Not having sea legs I was concerned about the crossing but it was fine in the fast boat. The sea was interesting though...

As we approached the Island we could see Grassholme in the distance. The large Gannet colony looking like a Glacier...

This was the scene as we approached the buildings...

The wardens were understandably keen to remind us to stay on the main path and not to wonder off amongst the breeding birds. Everyone behaved impeccably.

So, we were shown to the target area and everyone set up there stalls...

As you can see we were viewing through a narrow gap between a wall and a building into thick vegetation. On closer inspection there was a gap in the bushes with some bare branches. This was the spot we were assured the bird would appear. The warden reckoned about every 20 minutes!

OK...let's wait.

There were a couple of false alarms regarding Blackbirds flitting around in the shadows but after around...yes...20 minutes...out popped the bird right on cue...

Preening and difficult to see at first
Better now
The bird kept mainly in the shadows
Finally managed one in the sun...

So, success! My 25ish year wait was finally over.

We all decided we'd had our fill so the warden arranged for the boat to pick us up early. We thanked all the staff, made a contribution and made our way back down to the jetty. We enjoyed some great seabird action while we waited...

It wasn't all birds...

Once back on the mainland I said goodbye to Steve and made my way up onto the headland as I hadn't finished birding yet. I had another target. Not a MEGA but a very localized species and a rare bird indeed...

First a youngster
Then a parent
You could say I was Choughed! Couldn't resist.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Guaranteed Cuckoos!

As stated previously we only moved out here in 2012. There are many aspects of coastal birding that I like although I have to admit I miss sitting in the hide at Duff on occasions. 

The fact that I've been able to view Cuckoos on the canal bank at Spurn EVERY time I've took Buddy down there has been a joy. This morning I was hoping the Bee-eater that had been around might re-appear...it did but only a fly by very early morning and again mid afternoon. 

There were THREE Cuckoos in view simultaneously around 10.30 a fine sight indeed. The wind was strong, meaning the birds were moving swiftly. I had some dubious fun trying to get some decent flight shots...and generally failing.

Over the houses...

Then the bushes...

Over the path...

and finally into the Buckthorn...

Friday, 5 June 2015


A report of one North through Spurn sent me to the cliff this evening. Managed a couple of Fulmars (H.67, P112). I also checked Out Newton and the Gas Terminal but no joy.

Nice Yellow Wagtail at Out Newton though...

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Relative MEGAS

As you can see I've seen a few over the years. Not as many as some yet more than others. I started at 33 so my lists spans 25 years. I missed some through family commitments and holidays...amongst other excuses.

My intention is to "enjoy" many more over the coming years. I've had a bad trot over the past few years regarding American passerines missing SCARLET TANAGER, HERMIT THRUSH, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO and now SWAINSON'S THRUSH.

The Tanager and the Cuckoo involved me being at the wrong end of the lands end peninsular. The HT was an error in planning and the ST I just didn't go for!

What's my point?

Well...it's this. I want some to go for in my later years, which will hopefully include retirement (a movable target) when I can go at the drop of a hat. All the above I feel will occur again in the not to distant future (he hopes). Many of the "young guns" are chasing around gobbling them up, which is totally understandable in these modern times of super fast information and ease of transport. They have many years ahead.

Recently my personal situation has improved dramatically (I'll spare you the details) which does give me the option of semi or full retirement. My "problem" is I like to travel...a lot! Luckily so does Louise! More on trips later in the month.

The problem with my twitching plan is....I don't know how many years I've got. Then again...who does! One more thought...when the years ARE gone...it doesn't matter anyway!!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A few bits...

I got a text from Phil (cheers pal) yesterday morning to say Tim Isherwood had found a Mandarin Duck of unknown origin, as they say, at Hilston. The weather was poor but I made my way up to the pools to find a saturated male...

It didn't look like clearing up so I headed down to Spurn hoping 1. the weather would improve and 2. the RNP would still be present. It was...

Neeeeearly went to South Wales tonight. Long story but in the end I decided to let it go. I even booked a place on the boat this morning and my boss had arranged a cover for me (much appreciated).

SWAINSON'S THRUSH is an overdue potential addition to my list. I guess it'll have to wait a while longer. Good luck to those going across tomorrow. Scilly this Autumn!!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Unpredictability - 2 PATCH ticks in a day!!

One of many things I like about this great pastime of ours is exactly this. Quiet periods then BOOM!!!

I made  two visits today. The first was to try and see the American Wigeon drake that I'd failed to find previously. As I made my way along the canal path I bumped into Barry Spence who told me it was still present but distant. It was good to see him as I hadn't seen him for quite a while. He also told me "I'd need a 'scope" which would be a problem as I'd left it at home!

The wind was VERY strong which obviously didn't help locate a bird that was around 100 yds away on a pool with plenty of vegetation. I tried various points along the path but there was no sign of it. At least it wasn't raining.

Another 10 minutes or so past and I was beginning to think about my Hospital appointment in Hull when ...there it was!

Really chuffed to connect with this bird. I know many birders don't like ducks. I do! So, an addition to my Patch/Spurn life lists (P.110, S.88). It was time to leave for Castle Hill now. All went well and as I returned to the car I got a text off my pal Gavin to say he'd found a Red-necked Phalarope (P.111, S. 89) in Holderness Field while looking for "the Wigeon". Great find Gavin!!

I arrived at Kilnsea Wetlands car park to a continuing strong wind but not the torrential rain I'd just past through, thankfully!

I past Mick Turton who told me the bird was still present. Gavin was still on site and put me on the bird immediately. The views were again distant and the light was very poor. The bird was fighting the strong southerly wind remaining in the same area of the pool throughout my stay...

The extra habitat in the are is certainly paying dividends and no doubt plenty more to come!

Quite a day...despite the weather.