Sunday, 31 July 2016

Purple Swamphen?

1998 CUMBRIA Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve, first-winter of indeterminate race, 23-27 October (Rare Birds 4: 41-44; Birding World 10: 463-466; British Birds 93: 442-445)
I saw this bird.
Another has turned up at Minsmere, Suffolk. At the moment it stands as a bird of the nominate western race Porphyrio. If it more ways than one, I'll have a ride down tomorrow for an "insurance tick". Have to say though it doesn't get the blood a few others this year, unfortunately.
At least we had the bone fide BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

List tidying and hunting them down

Finally tallied my lists (viewable in detail via tabs at top, summary in right hand column) in preparation for the Autumn Birding. I'm still using my original Bird recorder programme purchased in ...1987! I tried hard to convert it to my new laptop but it's not compatible so I'm just using the old model to update periodically...and preying it doesn't blow! It would be a very sad day.

I'm trying to increase my daily walking distance so this morning I had a stroll along Skeffling bank and made it as far as Weeton. It was extremely quiet. I'm sure you've got the picture now, so time to move/stride on.

On my way back I stopped at a site at Out Newton were I'd had luck with Bullfinch (scarce on the Patch) previously. I'd checked it out a few times earlier in the year with no joy. This time within 10 minutes I'd had brief sightings of white rumps on 2 occasions. Far to quick for my camera. A satisfying addition to the year list (P.151).

Thursday, 28 July 2016


Not many posts I've not done much! Heavily into my physio' and hopefully it's paying off? A few returning waders about including a White-rumped Sandpiper at Beacon Ponds, found apparently by John McLoughlin. Great find pal! Maybe I'll find something one day?
My short term plan now is to get in some sort of shape for August 9th when we leave for our fortnight in the French Pyrenees. Time to have some fun after all this sitting around. My planning is more or less complete (lets face it, I've had plenty of spare time) so now it's just a case of relaxing and enjoying the mountain air with Louise...and the birds of course.
It's the only place (in Europe) I'd go in the summer heat. Temps should range from early to mid 20's which is hot enough for me. Superb scenery awaits us...
The walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie some top European birds...if I can find (some) of them. Below are some of the stars in no particular order...
Black Woodpecker - Lifer
Middle-spotted Woodpecker - Lifer
White-backed Woodpecker - Lifer (very hard to find)
Rock Sparrow - BVD

Black Stork
Egyptian Vulture
Golden Eagle
Booted Eagle
Golden Eagle
ShortToed Eagle
Black Shouldered Kite
Alpine Swift
Alpine and Red-Billed Chough
Alpine Accentor
Rock Thrush
Citril Finch
22 SPECIES OF RAPTOR POSSIBLE at Col Solour watchpoint!!!

That should keep me occupied. I'm just hoping I can manoeuvre myself around enough to see some of them. Fortunately the area has an excellent road system...
We'll be based near Argeles Gazost which give us access to the roads in all directions. South of Garvanie the road leads right to the top of the ridge of the Pyrenees (Port du Bouchard) where you can look over into Spain. I went there in the summer of 1996 when the lads were young and lucked into a family of Wallcreepers!! I also had families of Alpine Accentors hoping around my feet! Also seen was the magnificent Lammergeier. This is arguably the best area in the Pyrenees to see this species well...
Taken July 14 on the Spanish side
That would be nice.
So, that's the gist of it. I hope you manage a trip this summer or soon...Oh, if you've been or know anyone who's been this year and seen Wallcreeper...I'd love to here about it.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

CASPIAN TERN - Yorkshire tick!


After a few excursions to strategic watchpoints...well a couple of half hearted efforts lol! I finally connected this evening at Faxfleet. I had some luck, both good and bad. The bad was that I'd just got back home from taking Louise on a recce to Beverley regarding her driving instruction when the pager sounded. Back towards Hull then.

I drove again to St Andrews retail park and had a look at the map (old school). I also rang RBA who gave me directions to Aldborough Flats. Why? Well, that was were it was being viewed from...trouble was it's in Lincs!

Question is...can you tick a bird that is in Yorks when you're viewing it from another County?! I heard differing opinions on this later.

I set off from Hull intending to go over the bridge to AF. As I was approaching the bridge another message informing me the bird had flown west towards Blacktoft Sands. Plan B...but what was it? Back to the OS Car Atlas 1997. I could see a minor road ran along the north side of the Humber west from Faxfleet. I didn't know the area well but it was either here or try Blacktoft. Fortunately I decided on the former.

I had no idea what to expect on arrival but my hopes rose when I saw a decent number of cars parked. This was my first real walk without my crutches. Fortunately it was only some 400 yds and I didn't fall. I joined the small group of hopefuls which included some big County listers. Not surprising as this species has been hard to catch up with in the County.

So, we had the unusual scenario of knowing a bird was present in the County but we couldn't see it. We could see the Lincs birders looking at it though!! Some of the chaps were in contact which raised hopes and we were to be informed when the bird took off. A couple of hours passed and the group number increased slowly. I stood with John Hewitt, Richard Willison, Steve Lawton and Carl Dutton. Then around 6.50pm we got the call..."it's flying". Where? We soon picked it up fortunately flying north over the reedbed INTO Yorkshire. It was fairly distant but I could clearly see the large red bill and distinctive jizz of a large tern.

Brilliant...and what a relief!

So...opinions on tickability? Probably best to be IN the county WITH the bird. I can see the argument though for viewing a bird in the County from across the border. After all the bird is IN the County and you've seen it!?

As usual I will abide by the rules. Maybe this needs some clarification?

Anyway, this time it doesn't matter, although I would have had this dilemma if I'd gone to Aldborough flats!!!

Yorkshire Bird 381

Friday, 22 July 2016

Caspian Tern

Funny what us Birders remember.

May 13th 1993. I was in Swantail hide at Wheldrake when news came through of a Caspian Tern at Southfield Reservoir. I'd seen the Cheshire bird at Neumann's Flash in May 1992 but this would have been a Yorkshire tick. I have to admit I wasn't an avid County lister in those days but I would have "had a go" except that it was mid-evening and I didn't know were it was! Oh and I was a good half hour from the car.

I also missed the Spurn bird in April 2013 (as well as Rock Thrush and Baikal Teal at Flamborough)

What has this got to do with anything?

Another has been seen in the County...this evening! It had been near Bolsover for most of the day and flew north to Orgreave lagoon in South Yorkshire around 6pm. It didn't stay long and headed further who knows where?

I'll place myself strategically tomorrow and hope for the best...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Texas connections

THREE days to go to the verdict from my specialist. I can then hopefully begin my recovery. Anyway enough of that.
I've received a couple of extremely encouraging e-mails regarding a couple of Texas targets, one SMITH'S LONGSPUR being an ABA tick to boot. I tried for this bird on the Denali Highway in August 2007. I was too late as the birds had already bred. I couldn't go any earlier as I was teaching then. It was Louise's second trip with me. We'd not been together long and I had great difficulty getting her on the same plane. It worked out well however as I found out a few weeks later that we'd won a competition and her ticket would cost £1 instead of £900! Result.
Smith's Longspur is a cracking if rare and localised species. I would have loved to have seen it in it's summer Alaskan finery (maybe I still will?)...
It winters in Texas and adjacent states but is still difficult to find, so to receive an e-mail from a Texan Birder (Richard Kinney) yesterday informing me he was willing to help me find it was obviously great news. It won't look like the bird above though.
The second e-mail was from Lorna Clevenger. The great news is that "her" Calliope Hummingbird...Clyde had returned for another year!! You may recall I missed him by a day in March. This species is a West Coast bird that breeds in the north of the US and southern Canada and winters in Central America. This little chap (ABA's smallest breeding bird at 3.25 inches) has flown way east to New Braunfels.
I look forward to finally seeing him and adding him to my Texas list...

Friday, 15 July 2016

Local Crossbill

Got a call from my birding neighbour Richard Boon this morning (thanks for the shout pal) informing me he'd heard then seen a Crossbill in his garden. It didn't hang around but he managed a record shot...
Following on from his Hawfinch that's a pretty impressive garden double!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


As already stated I have a lot of enforced spare time at the moment. I make no apologies though for bringing my favourite film (I named my first GSD after it) to your attention. I've just watched it again for the first time in a fair while. I feel I enjoy it more with each viewing. It's hard/impossible to force your opinion on others, so I won't try.
All I'll say is this...
You may want to view it? It's a Western, yes...but it's MUCH more than that. It's Good v Evil. It's a masterpiece of cinema with an epic backdrop (Grand Teton N.P..) It has the ultimate "baddy" in Jack Palance..."He was so mean the dog moved when he moved". I could go on but you'll thank me not too! Some fantastic reviews here
Maybe you'd like to give it a watch...and if you already have won't be disappointed.
Just one personal indulgence (or another). Here's a photo of the Grand Tetons taken on our visit in August 2011...
Quite a sight, I think you'd agree!
My Big lad Shane with my Dad and his beloved Emma...great days...

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

BIG Year logistics

At the risk of boring you still further I thought I'd post a few thoughts about a topic that I've already flagged up as personally fascinating. I've got to do something while I'm sat here. It's your fault Phil!

I've been reading the main contenders Blogs these last couple of days, comparing their strategies. In some weird way it gives me a sense of (minor) participation?!

Money can't be an issue, neither can wife tolerance...they must be Angels!!!

Where to be...when?

Certain decisions are simple...
  • Go for EVERY MEGA asap
  • Visit all Alaskan hotspots with Tours
  • Sort out your Pelagic schedule and book early
Ah, but maybe not so simple? You can't chase birds in the lower 48 when your stuck on Attu but then again your racking up some MEGA's that you won't get anywhere else in your Year. So what's the biggest component after good planning...



Fly-by Seabirds - Tropicbirds
Owl/Nightjar stake outs

Comparing lists with past attempts is futile for me as many things have changed since Sandy Komito's two attempts many moons ago. I have both books and have met the guy on numerous occasions in Texas. The ABA list has increased due to splits and information is far easier to obtain today. So let's just enjoy the Blogs of these two intrepid listers, not judge them or be jealous and may the best man win...

Oh and you also need plenty of Stamina...
You won't be surprised to hear that I won't be participating in a Big Year! However I will continue to try and increase my ABA life list on subsequent visits. My current total now stands at 685 as I collected an armchair tick the other day in the form of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. Western has been split into this form and California. I have my own views as always but follow the powers that be even if they publish quotes like this...
"geography plays a huge role–perhaps the only role–in the ID process"

Quite an ID challenge!?
Below is a list of birds I still "need"...
Category 1
Red Crossbill
Category 2
Emperor Goose
Himalayan Snowcock
Greater Prarie Chicken
Common Ringed Plover
Wood Sandpiper
Bristle-thighed Curlew
Bar-tailed Godwit
Thayers Gull
Iceland Gull
Red-legged Kittiwake
Least Auklet
Whiskered Auklet
Crested Auklet
White Wagtail
Smith's Longspur
McKay's Bunting
White-winged Crossbill

Category 3
Bean Goose
Whooper Swan
Common Pochard
Tufted Duck
Masked Duck
Lesser Sand-Plover
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Gray-tailed Tattler
Common Greenshank
Black-tailed Godwit
Red-necked Stint 
Temminck’s Stint
Long-toed Stint
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Common Snipe
Black-headed Gull
Ross’s Gull
Ivory Gull
Black Noddy
Common Cuckoo
Yellow-green Vireo
Gray-headed Chickadee
Siberian Rubythroat
Eyebrowed Thrush
Rufous-backed Robin
Olive-backed Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Rustic Bunting

Alaska in Bold - some of the others possible there but could also be seen elsewhere
SP - Saint Paul Island (Probilofs)
Red Crossbill is what the Americans call a nemesis bird for me...I just can't connect with one!
So, there you are. My future trips will be based around these birds plus obtaining additional ticks in my beloved Texas starting on Nov 28th. A three week pre-Christmas break should be just the ticket. I have a few winter birds to chase for my State list. I might even fluke an ABA tick...if I get some LUCK!
PS. I would love to experience the adventure to ATTU before I pop my clogs...

Sunday, 10 July 2016

ABA Big Year Challengers 2016

I've belatedly found some Big Year listers. A consequence of endless surfing on the net while laid up I guess! You may...or may interested. Click the link to view the Blogs.
John Weigel   743
There are a couple of others but these are the main men. I'm going to add them to my Blog list which updates automatically. Again you may wish to follow their exploits, I certainly will. It's the nearest I'm going to get to participating...unless I get the six numbers of course! Must cost a fortune, especially when you include the mandatory Alaska visits both for specific breeders and twitches!
To be approaching 750 species by mid-July is pretty impressive!!! There's a nice summary here.
I find the logistics of these attempts fascinating...

Friday, 8 July 2016

Stateside MEGAS

Latest from over the pond...Arizona is the place to be...if only!

"Arizona continues to be the rarity capital of the ABA, as continuing Pine Flycatcher (ABA 1st), Tufted Flycatcher (5), and Slate-throated Redstart (4) continue, with the latest of those three successfully fledging young this week. They are joined in that state by the return of the Berylline Hummingbird (4) and Plain-capped Starthroat (4) at Madera Canyon, both last seen several weeks ago.  The Little Egret (4) in Maine has certainly made itself at home, and a Siberian Rubythroat (4) continues to sing on the infrequently birded St George Island, Alaska."

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Additions to the British list

News today from the BOURC regarding new decisions on the British list. I agree with the SLATY-BACKED GULL verdict (which I saw) but strongly disagree regarding the Chinese Pond Heron (accepted) and Mugimaki Flycatcher (rejected)...both of which I didn't see.
Still who cares what I think!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Escape to Bempton!

Finally had a trip out today as Louise had the day off. Where to go? Fresh air needed. I know...Bempton!
I always try to fit in a visit at least once a year. It was much busier than I expected for a Monday but I managed to make it to a few viewpoints with the aid of the crutches.
The seabird spectacular didn't disappoint plus there were more young present as it was later in the season than my usual visit. We were VERY fortunate to have decent weather.  Anyway, here's a few pics of the usual suspects...

VERY fortunate to have these special birds just "up the road"