Friday, 30 October 2015

Chesnut Bunting - addendum

The bird has gone/disappeared/whatever...

Don't want to drag this out but I got a text from someone I respect, to inform me that yesterday the Warden had to pick this bird up to avoid it being crushed by a tractor!!!

I'll leave it there...

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Chestnut Bunting?

If you're not into twitching you might want to move on!

A Chestnut Bunting of "unknown origin" has been present on Papa Westray, Orkney since October 20th. NOBODY can say with certainty where this bird came from, whether it be it's breeding grounds or a cage.

Many people have spent considerable amounts travelling to see and provisionally tick this bird. It's even been added to Bubo (as the Acadian Flycatcher was to be fair). What REALLY matters is what the BOURC think! Certainly not me...

I can have an opinion though. As mentioned before I keep my thoughts to my Blog these days, steering clear of the on-line forums.

What is your opinion I hear you cry?

I've not been to see it...and I could have done straight away. It just doesn't feel right. It looks tame, it acts IS tame! Birders have been virtually treading on it. It's had plenty of time to feed up and move on BUT it's still there? I accept other rare birds can act this way and yet...

Having already dipped the WILSON'S WARBLER I'm keen to add something before the Autumn ends but it won't be this. A couple of experienced twitching pals of mine have drawn the same has a well known personality.  Maybe others have as well?

I/we could be wrong of course. It may get accepted eventually...never mind.

So there you go, for me, this is NOT a wild bird...

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Fresh in!

Out Newton in the mist this morning. Half a dozen throws of the ball for Bud...then I glimpsed a dark shape arrive and land near the front of the car.


Nice surprise. It soon moved on long before I could sort my camera out. It seemed to land at the far side of the derelict cottage garden? I managed to manoeuvre myself along the path (camera in hand). I'd gone about 20 yds when a SEO lifted out of the scrub and dis-appeared round the back of the cottage!!

Not bad for a short dog walk.

To finish things off, as I reached the car again another Woodcock came IOTS and landed in the garden! Visible migration.

No pics but a marvelous experience...

Monday, 26 October 2015

A (much) better day

After getting the provisions from Tesco I took Bud down to his favourite field by the Gas Terminal for his constitutional. As I opened the car door I heard a familiar sound...Snow Bunting!! (P.145, S.120).

As usual I didn't have my camera set up and by the time I had the bird had flown across the road and landed on the terminal fence. Using the car as a hide I maneuvered into position and managed a few pics...

Like a number of other passerines it has a long claw on the hind toe which is well illustrated in these images. Come to think of it I don't think I've ever seen one on a wire before?

Always special to find your own.

Next it was down to see my mate Phil's new pad on Sandy Beaches caravan site. It was good to see him and after a chat we made the thankfully short walk to the sea. As we scanned 3 Red-breasted Mergansers (P.146, S.121) shot past south, extremely close-in!

As we walked back to his caravan news came over the radio of a report of a Pallas's Warbler (P.147, S.122)in the Canal Scrape car park. It was gone 2pm now and I had a few things to do at home. As I left the caravan park a further update informed me it was showing well. It would be rude not to! I joined the small group of admirers and enjoyed a wonderful time appreciating this eastern jewel in the afternoon sunshine. Typically active but quite showy on occasions. Far better views than I had on Tresco.

Below are a series of images, again of varying quality that hopefully give a feel of the bird's alternative view you might say...

Sometimes things just work out. Timing I guess...

Always special

Saturday, 24 October 2015


I'm not a butterfly man BUT there's one species that rarely makes it over here from the States that is VERY special. It can even send the Scilly twitchers scampering for a peep at one. I once took a great pic of one at South Padre Island, Texas (I'll have to dig it out sometime). An acquaintance I met in west Texas some years ago posted this pic on her blog. She kindly said I could share it...

Migrating Monarch butterflys in Alpine, Texas
 Thought you might like to see it...Awesome!!!

Friday, 23 October 2015


My lifetime records are kept on my old computer...risky I know...but I've had issues transferring them to my new laptop. A consequence of age I guess! Old software doesn't like new hardware. It's obviously a deliberate ploy to get us to buy new stuff  but there's nothing that can be done. I did but the new version and managed to transfer my data to it (with considerable help from the programmer). However I just couldn't settle with it. The layout was poor and cheap looking. I'm sure it can do all sorts of wonderful things (including voice recognition) which frankly I don't need.

So, I'm staying loyal to the old programme...and laptop...and keeping my fingers crossed. I only use it briefly once a week or so to update my records so I'm hoping it's got a few more years in it yet?

Whilst updating the other day I realized that I hadn't seen American Golden Plover in the Spurn area. I'd tucked myself away most of the week doing exercises and static biking to try and improve my core strength I did 10K/500cal yesterday and never left the hall!! There are slight signs of improvement.

This morning I needed some fresh air so me and the boy went down to Kilnsea Wetlands to follow up on the latest report of the bird. I made my way to the hide and gave it 30 mins but there was no sign of the bird or any other plovers. I returned to the car and drove up to Long Bank and parked to give Bud some exercise while I scanned the surrounding fields. I picked up a small group of Lapwings drifting away down Easington straight which contained a smaller wader...

It looked promising.

By the time I'd got the car going they'd landed but they must have been fairly close by. It took me around 10 minutes to re-locate the flock at the far side of the field. The bird was extremely well camouflaged and the light was poor but the slim jizz of the bird was distinctive as it was in flight...

I was lucky to add this to my list as it had been around for quite a few days.

My Spurn life list now stands at 272 and I've added it to the tabs at the top of the Blog for quick reference. You may wish to take a peep?

Well the 23rd DID produce...

MEGA Shetland WHITE'S THRUSH Mainland at Gulberwick

A bit of a hike that one! Quite a coincidence on the day I added my Spurn list to Bubo as this awesome bird has surely got to be one of my best additions 10/10/2004. Handy too! 

Thursday, 22 October 2015


All these crackers have turned up on the magical date...

Fea's Petrel

Solitary Sandpiper

Common Nighthawk

Chimney Swift

Blyth's Pipit

Siberian Blue Robin

Rufous-tailed Robin

Siberian Rubythroat

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Red-flanked Bluetail


Common Yellowthroat

Cape May Warbler

Chestnut-eared Bunting

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Nuff said!!!

Lets hope this year's no different?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A bit of tidying

I've spent a bit of time updating my year of course my Scilly life list. All our viewable by clicking the tabs at the top of the Blog.

Now then, there's still plenty of time for some significant arrivals this Autumn and the weather looks favourable.


I've finally had enough regarding my mobility problems. Walking around the steep hills of Scilly was no fun (the Birding was) and it's reached the stage now were I need an expert opinion on what is happening to my body. So...I'm signed off for a while and I'll hopefully get an appointment soon to see my appointed surgeon. I never thought I'd buy an exercise bike BUT it's worth a try as it's not load-bearing and I hope to lose some of my excess weight which can't do me any harm!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Scilly 2015 - Summary

Well, I'm back home after my 9 day trip to my favourite British Birding destination. Yesterday was spent at my grandsons in Leeds taking it easy after all the travelling and excitement. It was a great extended week of typical Scilly birding.

Considering the excellent weather, some quality species graced the Fortunate Isles throughout our stay. I don't want to repeat what I've already written but I'd like to offer a few comments on my trip.

Firstly, I really enjoyed going "earlier". During my past life as a teacher my week was determined by half-term which occurred 7 or 8 weeks after the start of the school year. This meant my week usually started in the twenty somethings of October. A couple of years we were there after the clocks had changed which meant it was going dark at 5. This year it was light till 7ish...a big bonus. Don't get me wrong I've seen some great birds in teachers week including COMMON NIGHTHAWK and ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, it was just an improvement to have a long afternoon.

I met a lot of different birders. The atmosphere was great and even though there were more birders present things were relaxed and convivial. I even received a few favourable comments on my blog! The 3 star birds were...




I managed to add 4 species to my Scilly list, taking it to a still modest 208.

We're well established now in our excellent flat and I appreciated these wonderful islands probably more than I have ever done before. The down side was my lack of mobility which wasn't helped by the substantial hills on the islands. I still managed to around, it just took longer! There was a lot more time spent at one location, which to be honest I really enjoyed.


Now about that bird in Scotland?

When the WILSON'S WARBLER broke on Tuesday I was a tad frustrated to put it mildly, after my previous years disappointments. It should have been here! Thing is, there's always a risk of this scenario occurring in October (obviously). In fact I'm getting quite used to a masochistic sort of way! As we were travelling back on Saturday night along the M5, I was making arrangements for my attempt on Monday. I'd been offered a place on a charter for Sunday (academic now) but I declined as I was visiting my Grandson (as already stated).

I guess the BIG question for me is...would I leave Scilly?

I'm a loyal sort of chap and as you know I'm as keen as anyone to twitch a new bird. Splitting our holiday in half with a two day jaunt to the Outer Hebrides just wouldn't be the ticket, even though Louise later told me "You could have gone if you'd wanted". So...that's that. Still time for another before the end of the month...and hopefully still a few more years in me to get some of them back?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Scilly 2015 - Day 8...HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL

The above photo depicts the scene that awaited me when I arrived at the HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL twitch at Gimble Porth on Tresco. Just before I arrived and not being 100% sure of the way I saw one chap coming back past me who was on our boat. I asked him if I was going the wrong way, he replied "no it's just over the hill, I've seen it!" My word...I thought, that must have been a quick look!!?

I joined the crowd and the bird took off and flew out into the bay and landed on a rocky island...

The above being a typical last minute grab as the bird disappears? Here's another crappy one of the bird on the rock...

Thing don't know what your going to get...that's part of the fun?

I'd seen the bird on the mainland at Church Norton, West Sussex in the Spring as my British tick but the views weren't great to be honest. So I was hoping to enjoy better views this time...and I was prepared to wait.

The bird seemed agitated on the rock and sure enough after around 10 minutes it (thankfully) flew back towards the beach...pleased with this one which shows the diagnostic dark rump...

The crowd had already started to disperse but I wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to savour the sighting and observe this rare bird to the full. As the admirers thinned it started to move up the rocks towards the beach. I joined Pete Greaves at the far end of the bay hoping it might move closer. Unfortunately a lady going for a walk flushed it back down onto the rocks.

This one shows how much it blended in with the rocks. You can also see the head pattern.

Finally here's my favourite image. One of it walking up the beach. A distinctive jizz?

We made our way back to the Swarovski hide and had our lunch with Vaughn Ashby's group. Luckily they were looking at the Garganey not 40 yds from the hide...

The above image is heavily copped and the light wasn't helpful but it does show the distinctive face pattern and bill shape. Another Scilly last!

We then decided to start our walk to Carn Near which was going to take me quite a while. Fortunately as we passed the old heliport news broke of  a Pallas's Warbler at the Rowesfield crossroads. Change of plan. When we got there there must have been at least 100 birders looking high into the trees (c40ft) but there was no sign of the bird.

In summary it led everyone a merry dance for the next hour at least with only fleeting glimpses obtained if you happened to be in the right spot. This was the best I could manage (don't expect too much!) wasn't easy!

I did get a great, if brief view of it on a dead branch through the bins...eventually!

This detour meant we would now have to get the 4.45 boat from New Grimsby, which was good news as it meant a much shorter walk. I booked a taxi to pick me up from the quay as I wanted to try for the Siberian Stonechat up near telegraph. The continuing Osprey flew into the sun across the bow of our boat...

Many people had seen the SS by now but I was hoping to catch a glimpse before dusk. When I arrived Vaughn's group were present again and they'd all seen it but it had disappeared. There seemed to be three main vantage points for viewing and there were still birders present at all three. I made my choice and waited. It was now approaching 6pm and the light was fading. A Stonechat appeared briefly. Then another. Then a paler bird distantly. It did look "good". They were all very active and kept disappearing and re-appearing over the high hedges.

Here's the thing. I did see "the bird". Many had seen it and went away happy BUT it has now been re-identified from photos as a (pale) Stonechat. My views through the bins were distant and brief. Still I shouldn't have presumed just because many had seen it previously. Will I never learn? No Scilly tick there then!

Still a great day.

I'm writing this as we wait for our taxi to the airport. That's it for another year. I hope you have enjoyed my Scilly diary. I enjoyed writing it and will do it again next year all being well.

Here's to Scilly 2016!


Friday, 16 October 2015

Scilly 2015 - Day 8


I've had a full day and just got back from the pub. We had a great day but I just haven't got the time or energy to write it up tonight!!

All Scilly ticks

Pallas's Warbler

My full write up of today and tomorrow will be completed on my return home...promise.

Last thing tonight. The WILSON'S WARBLER is still present on Lewis, Outer Hebrides for it's 4th day. I return to the mainland tomorrow afternoon BUT I'm committed to visit my first grandson on Sunday...which I will enjoy immensely. However if the bird is still present on Monday I will be looking at it. There, that should get rid of it?!


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Scilly 2015 - Day 7

We decided to go over to Bryher today as a few"good birds" had been seen there yesterday. Principally Melodious Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher, Louise being quicker than me these days made her way to the Quay and joined the queue for the tickets. Unfortunately we wouldn't be able to get back till gone 4 due to the tides. We had a quick chat and decided (it was me to be honest) not to bother as I didn't want to be stranded on Bryher if something BIG broke.

News came over the radio of a couple of Ring Ouzels in the allotments on Penninis. I decided to try for them. Louise stopped off at Dibble and Grub (cafe) for a Mocha and I clambered up into the allotments. Not before we'd enjoyed the spectacular view over Porthcressa Bay...

St Agnes, the Garrison, Hugh Town and Buzza Tower
As I entered the allotments the Royal Navy helicopter that had been present for a day or two now flew over...

A fine sight...unfortunately it was the end of my chances of a sighting of the RO as I later found out that it had flushed it off the wire below Buzza Tower minutes before I arrived! As we were on Penninis we decided to spend the morning there. I t would have been rude not to stop for a further peep at the BLYTH'S PIPIT. How soon a great bird becomes "yesterday's papers" as we were the only two there!! I managed to find it fairly quickly and it was reasonably close to the footpath.

I enjoyed a marvelous hour with the bird all to myself as it fed in the three fields on the west side of the headland. My current state has enforced prolonged patience and has allowed me to study birds at much greater length. Basically I can't move far so I watch longer!!

The thing that I really noticed was how long-legged the bird was. It would stride easily through the grass and regularly stand tall for a look around.

Below are a series of poses I manged to catch the bird in...

Nothing new was breaking so we enjoyed a full day around the headland. I didn't bother trying to see the Red-throated Pipit, I'd had enough yesterday! There was a report of a Hen Harrier flying high over the Garrison but I couldn't get on it. We decided to walk back down King Edwards Road and fortunately found the SEO, my third sighting in 3 days...

Things hotted up late afternoon with news of a Siberian Stonechat along Pungies Lane. I could have tried to get a taxi I guess but to be honest I'd had it by now (6pm). This news was followed shortly after by a MEGA alert. A HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL on Tresco!

Hopefully 2 birds to try for tomorrow...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Scilly 2015 - Day 6

Back up to Penninis Head this morning. We were greeted by this sight...

A double twitch!

Red-throated Pipit to the left and BLYTH'S PIPIT to the right. I wanted to try and get a better picture of the latter as I knew how difficult RTP's are to see well on the deck (usually). When I eventually got round there the bird was on view but was still distant (100yds), the light was better though...

I bumped into an old friend (Ian) later in the day who I'd met 24 years ago when I first visited Scilly and camped on the Garrison (never again). It was the year of the SORA. I admit I didn't recognize him at first but we soon connected and shared stories of past times. It was great to see him again after all those years...amazing really! During our chat he told me that the BP had showed down to 10 yds around lunchtime when the crowd had dispersed.

I spent the late morning wasting my time trying to get a decent view/pic of the RTP on the ground. It didn't happen, although I did get 2 decent flight views of the distinctive jizz. I'd have been better employed back at the BP.

After lunch we had a stroll down to Porthloo beach which is always "birdy". Today produced a couple of Stonechats, Wheatear, Whimbrel and 4 Black Redstarts.

Black Redstart
Just as I was about to leave Ian news came through of a SEO over the Golf Course heading towards Samson. We started to scan over the bay and sure enough the bird appeared and headed off north. 2 sightings in 2 days after waiting 24 years to add it to my Scilly list?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Scilly 2015 - Day 5

I managed to get up at dawn this morning. I know...lazy...but I have issues at the moment, mobility wise. Won't mention it again...promise!

As I left the flat my new addition, namely my GXT Midland radio informed me of a 1w Med Gull on Porthcressa beach. That's handy. I made my way down there and found the bird almost immediately amongst the Black-headed's...

I also picked out  an adult that had just left the beach...unfortunately.

I then made my way up onto the Garrison again and plopped myself between the Broome platforms again. Maybe the Arctic Warbler would re-appear? It didn't, but the Yellow-browed Warbler was still present, toing and froing along a 30 meter stretch of trees. The BIG plus here was that at times it was at eye-level or below. With patience (I wasn't going anywhere and louise was still driving them home) it was possible to obtain crippling views (as they say) of this generally elusive species.

I'm going to buck a trend here. I'm going to post more photos than normal as I want to mark the best ever experience that I've ever had with this bird in 25 years of birding. They're of varying quality and in no particular order...but I feel they portray the character of the species. I hope you enjoy them...

Mid-afternoon news broke of a Short-eared Owl on the rocks off Penninis Head. A Scilly tick in the offing! I'd missed out on this species on more than one occasion over the years. I succumbed to my first taxi of the trip on this occasion. We walked down from the Garrison and waited by the chemists...

The driver kindly drove us the majority of the way down. When we reached the end we soon found the group looking at the bird on an offshore rock...

Congrats to the birder who picked this out!!

As we were making our way down to view the Owl news came over the radio of a "large pipit" in one of the fields on the western side of Penninis. I'd just been telling Louise how sometimes something else gets found in the area with so many birders around...honest! It was then confirmed as a BLYTH'S PIPIT and the MEGA alert sounded. Decision? It had to be the Owl first as I'd seen the Tresco BP at Old Grimsby in 2007. The pipit was mobile but we didn't have difficulty locating the group...

Unfortunately at my reduced rate of knots the bird had flown north down the headland by the time we got down there. I did pass a birder from Cheshire called Ian Barber who informed me he read my blog! I'm flattered Ian. I noticed he had a Magee Marsh hat on, a prime US migration hotspot and somewhere I haven't been...yet. We exchanged thoughts on our forthcoming trips stateside and said farewell. The group was now dispersing as most had seen the bird.

It was then I noticed a single bird fly high south over the fields and land briefly in a hedge before disappearing? I was stood with Louise a fair way from the remaining birders but something made me start scanning for it in the corner of the field. I couldn't locate it but a few minutes later someone else did and we all enjoyed albeit distant views of the bird as it fed at the far side of the field.

This is definitely a record shot/dot in the increasing gloom! It was 6.40pm.

Another mighty fine Scilly day.


News broke mid-afternoon of a WILSON'S WARBLER on Lewis, Outer Hebrides. A mighty MEGA indeed! It's obviously always a possible scenario in happened last year with the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO at Porthgwarra. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me BUT I am compelled to visit Scilly EVERY year because I/we love the islands and will always return. I've managed to break the 500 now and I'll still add new birds when I can. You can't see 'em all.

...and I've still got 4 days for something BIG to turn up HERE!