Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Amazon Kingfisher...NO!

No luck...trying again in the morning.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016


Writing this from the Best Western in North Houston. We're "good to go" they say. Louise's preparations (you know how it is lads) allow me time to do an update.

We've got a 5 hour drive to Laredo. Hoping to get off 8ish and have some luck with the rush-hour traffic!? At least we'll be heading OUT.

IF I connect we'll move on to Del Rio this evening to give us a head start tomorrow for my "far west" targets. I might even see a Golden Eagle in Texas?

Stay tuned...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

TEXAS - Latest

The AMAZON KINGFISHER was seen today so Laredo will be our first port of call on Tuesday...

Image result for amazon kingfisher

That's some bill...and a great name for a MEGA!!!

Friday, 25 November 2016

TEXAS - Final prep'

3 more Louise would say!
I think I've finalised my "wish list". You don't always get what you wish for you? The logistics of the trip are tricky and I hope to build our travels around my targets while limiting distances covered. This isn't easy in a State that's bigger than France! The infrastructure is superb however, as I'm sure you can imagine which helps with travelling time.
Our base will be McAllen in the RGV. I've allowed 3 days before we arrive and 4 before we head home on the December 19th. The more targets I can mop up in one area the better for me...and Louise!
Down Mexico way we should be feeling temps in the early 20c but further North as December wears on it could drop dramatically! Again a balancing act. I need ALL FOUR species of Longspur and SMITH'S is an ABA TICK...A LIFER in fact, having missed it in Alaska in 07. I dug into some old files and found some e-mail addresses. Miraculously they are all still good, so I've got some great contacts in various areas, if needed.
As stated many times (like most things I guess) eBird will be invaluable for up-to-date sightings. Internet access won't be a problem...and it's all FREE!
Ideally, I'd like some nice relaxed days just birding a site or two...I could spend a full day (or two) at Santa Ana were 397 species have been recorded! For an idea of the Valley specialities click here. We can reach far afield in a day if required. Corpus Christi is no problem and has some fantastic Birding spots. We can also range far up the Valley towards Laredo. I hope this will be my first port of call on Tuesday when I hope to see the AMAZON KINGFISHER...fingers crossed. San Antonio (of Alamo fame) is also "doable" and I hope to re-acquaint with Lorna Clevenger who has hosted a Calliope Hummingbird for the past 3 winters. Long time readers will be familiar with this and the fact I missed him by a day in March!! He even has his own Facebook page! He's called Clyde or little Lorna affectionately calls him.
One example of changing plans would be if the COMMON CRANE turns up in the panhandle (the area in north central Texas including Amarillo). That would need some serious thinking about.
My targets...
Calliope Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Common Merganser
Wood Stork
Golden Eagle
Rough-legged Hawk
American Woodcock
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Short-eared Owl
Sage Thrasher
Black-throated Gray Wabler
Fox Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Chesnut-collared Longspur
McCown’s Longspur

My Texas list stands at 451 and can be viewed above by clicking the link

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Yorkshire Coast

A few messages tempted me to travel up the Coast today. The forecast (for what it's worth) was good, so I headed for the harbour at Scarborough. Free parking on Marine Drive was a bonus. The sun was out as I walked along the harbour wall.
It took around 15 minutes before this little beaut popped into view...
As well as the Black-necked Grebe a Great Northern Diver was also present...bonus! This was probably the closest I'd ever seen one...
Next stop Scaling Dam were a Black-throated Diver had been seen early am. I called in at the hide and the chaps said it hadn't been seen for a couple of hours. I spent a good hour scanning from different viewpoints but alas, it wasn't to be.
I was only 30 minutes from the Eastern Black Redstart so I paid this cracking bird another visit. I was the only one there! The bird performed brilliantly but the light was poor by now...
I hope to remain local until Sunday as trip planning must now take priority...but you never know in this game!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Post 60...

After a wonderful weekend with the Family in Bury/Manchester it's time to focus fully on Texas. My treat was to visit the National Football Museum were I bumped into this lot...not a bad team...
I'm old enough to remember the Final...just!
We fly from Manchester on Monday lunchtime and I've been following reports on the various sites. This is an ever changing scene with some birds disappearing and others springing up. Our base will be in the RGV at McAllen but things could change...and usually do! I feel the COMMON CRANE will eventually settle in the Panhandle which could create a dilemma. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...I haven't told Louise yet!
The AMAZON KINGFISHER has thankfully re-appeared in Laredo, so I'm still in with a shout on that one. This will be our destination on Tuesday if it's still around. It looks like the NORTHERN JACANA has moved on from Santa Ana due to the high water levels...bad luck that. Maybe it will return?
Still, plenty to go at and a good chance of some new arrivals...

Friday, 18 November 2016

BIG 60

Off to the home town Bury, Lancs in the morning for my 60th Birthday celebrations...whatever they are?! So there will be a break in reports until Monday at least. 60 is the new 40 apparently. Just glad I'm still here!!!

Planning for Texas (leaving on the 28th) will take up much of next week but I'll try and post something of interest locally.

A MASKED DUCK was reported at Santa Ana yesterday and the COMMON CRANE I chased in March is in Oklahoma today and hopefully heading South? At least I know what I'm up against.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, 17 November 2016


A post from the Alaska forum yesterday...

Welcome clear skies corresponded with cooler temperatures down to 20º last night, rising to 39º this afternoon. A brisk NNE wind blasted the feeble heat from an apologetic sun as it dashed across the sky in a low arc.

Shortly after dawn at 9:30 am, the ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD flashed between the spruce tree and lighted feeder, having survived another cold and windy night.


Spent the first couple of hours down at Welwick. Arrived at sun up but the PALLID HARRIER had already departed west towards Patrington. We had a good walk and left at 9. There was another report at 9.30!

I had an hour at Spurn and tried for the Richard's Pipit and a Long-tailed Duck on the sea but dipped on both. The afternoon deteriorated and that was that.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Snow Bunting

Buntings are not my favourite family...well at least "old world" ones. I am partial to Painted and Varied, it has to be said!
I do like a Snow Bunting though. There's just something about them. They cheer up a short day.
News came through on the pager around that the juvenile PALLID HARRIER had re-appeared at Spurn, obviously crossing back North over the Humber from Lincs. It had drifted north over the Gas Terminal and then out to sea at 9.25?
Needless to say it was all over by the time I got there. Never mind. I returned home for my friend and took him another walk.
After lunch I returned to the Gas Terminal and decided to go for a long walk along the clifftop. The weather was great for the time of year. As I approached the manure heap I saw a flash of white from a bird disturbed by Bud. It had to be a Snow Bunting. It disappeared around the back of the heap. I made my way to the area I thought it had landed in and waited. No sign. I returned to the path only to find the bird was right in front of me.
I spent a pleasant hour watching this little cracker and was joined for a while by Richard Boon my neighbour who I'd texted. The bird fed constantly and was very active.
Below are a few images which hopefully do the bird justice...
So, another example of quality on the East Coast even at this late stage of the year. As if to emphasize this...the PALLID HARRIER was seen again late afternoon at Welwick!
This was today's star though...

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Bohemian Waxwing

I like to see this charismatic bird well at least once during the winter...if possible. I'd seen one well but very briefly at Spurn as already posted. News came through that the large group at Pickering were still off I went.
I arrived at the swimming baths area around 11.30. The birds were soon spotted but they were high in a tree on an adjacent estate...
There were already a few admirers present in various locations. It was the usual scenario of residents asking questions and photographers changing positions. The light was fair but the birds kept their distance. You try to follow them and they end up at the spot you've just left...or stay and wait? The flock was VERY mobile. This was the first time I'd witnessed Waxwings fly-catching. This was undoubtedly due to the mild conditions.
This species must be the most photographed of all birds but I never get tired of seeing and spending time with them.
I stayed until 2.30 when the light started to fade. A few of my efforts...
Just what's needed post migration November...

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A wonderful November day?

Can't say that very often, especially after yesterday!
A four mile walk this morning with Louise from Skeffling to Welwick...and back, produced decent views of a ring-tail Hen Harrier (at the Welwick end)...

Disappearing towards Skeffling
After some lunch out I dropped Louise back home and headed for the current entertainment centre that is Stone Creek. Quite a few admirers there when I arrived around 2pm. I'd spent a good 30 mins cruising the Sunk Island roads in a vain search for the RLB, consolation was found in the form of 5 Whooper Swans in a brassica field...
The sun was still "out" so I positioned myself along the minor road with the sun behind me and enjoyed a nice hour watching the 2 ring-tail Hen Harriers. They performed brilliantly...
The SEO's are always impressive as well...
Supermoon preview on the way home...just in case it's cloudy tomorrow...

Friday, 11 November 2016


Tried hard to re-locate the Rough-legged Buzzard but to no avail. It was reported early morning over the "mitigation fields"...whatever they are?
My last view at dusk yesterday...

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A brighter day

After yesterdays wash out I was hoping for a better day...I got one in spades.
News came through of a Slavonian Grebe at Heslington East Campus, York University. I wasn't and still aren't sure if this species is a York Area tick (I'll have to crank up the old laptop to check that!). I parked up and made my way down to the main lake. I found the bird made my way down to the edge of the lake. It was showing reasonably close in poor light...
 I gave it an hour or so but the bird drifted out into the middle of the lake as there were lots of students passing. Guess I was lucky to get a decent pic.
I returned through Hull and reached the Humber Bank around 3. Fortunately/miraculously the sun was out. There was plenty of activity in the area with 2 Hen Harriers...
More photos than usual I know but I wanted to try and give a flavour of the bird in the habitat. Hope I succeeded?
At one time the 2 SEO's were almost locking talons above my car (too slow for a pic). Also, much screeching was heard, a first for me...
The Owl performed brilliantly in the diffuse light and eventually I managed to get the shot I wanted...
The day was going very was to get even better. I left around 4 and headed east. As I approached the Sunk Island area I noticed a large silhouette in the adjacent was hovering? It was getting dark now but I was reasonably confident of the species (Buzzards hover sometimes). I turned down the minor road. The bird stayed along the road and hovered again giving great views down to 50 yds. Fantastic!!
Now then, the pics are poor but I feel they're worth an airing, again, to hopefully convey the occasion...
Now then...age and sex? Using my catchphrase technique, I see white wing patches, diffuse tail band and streaked breast. I say juvenile...
My first self-found RLB. Great days can still be November...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

They think it's all it now?

Still time for a surprise or two but to be honest hopes are fading now. As I sit here watching the light disappear at 2pm, it's time to turn my thoughts to my 60th birthday present...
Image result for texas map
We depart from Manchester on the morning of the 28th and arrive in Houston via Heathrow around 7.30pm. As I write the AMAZON KINGFISHER (Laredo)
Image result for amazon kingfisher
Image result for northern jacana
have disappeared, which is an obvious blow. Maybe they will re-appear?
The bulk of our time will be spent in the Rio Grande Valley and I'll be keeping my eye on this website. I also aim to chase some Texas ticks throughout this enormous State probably The extent of my searching will depend on Louise!
Modern technology aids birding these days in many ways. eBird is invaluable for current sightings, although I hope to stumble on a great many species under my own steam. My Texas list stands at 451. I've never visited during the Winter so I should pick up a few a few rarities...hopefully?
Main targets
Common Merganser
Brown Booby - multiple birds present at Port O'Connor at present
Wood Stork
Eurasian Wigeon - State rarity present at Laguna Atacosta at the moment
Rough-legged Hawk
Golden Eagle - need luck!
American Woodcock
Short-eared Owl
Calliope Hummingbird - State rarity present at New Braunfels at the moment
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Sage Thrasher

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Chesnut-collared Longspur
McCown’s Longspur

Smith’s Longspur - ABA tick
To connect with all these species will take a lot of luck and a lot of miles. Time will tell. I intend to do a diary of my may (or may not) want to follow my travels? This will be my 11th trip to my favourite place and every visit is very special.
I hope you get to where you want to be soon...

More evidence of a Waxwing winter. Eyes peeled...


Monday, 7 November 2016


Dukadale area, Orkney, 1995...a second summer male was (debatably) the first truly twitchable PALLID HARRIER for Britain. On June 23rd I drove from York to John-a-Groats. An organised twitch had been arranged involving a boat crossing plus coaches to the site. Bear with me, as it was over 21 years ago! A decent crowd of over 100 twitchers waited until a few minutes before we had to connect! Quite a relief I can tell you. I drove back again.
Since then there have been several records BUT it's still a prime bird to see.
I couldn't visit Welwick yesterday for reasons already apparent so I made sure I was down there early this morning. I parked at the start of the path and walked down with you know who. As I reached the Humber bank I could see more cars and a group stood on the bank. I figured Bud wouldn't be to popular so I made my way passed the group with a quick "good morning" to John Harriman and Gary Dayes. I walked him down towards Skeffling whilst scanning the marsh frequently. It soon showed albeit distantly. Murphy's law dictated it showed closer for the attendant group than yours truly. It ranged widely over the marsh and along the foreshore in the early morning light...
We continued. It kept on patrolling the saltmarsh...
At one point it flew quite close to the assembled group but I was "miles" away! I had to take what I could get...
By 10 it had moved along towards Skeffling and disappeared. I gave it till 11.30 scanning from the car park. Then, a pager message...Richard's Pipit at Long Bank Marsh. Might as well. As I approached another message, this time over the radio...something was flying South past the Warren. You guessed it...PALLID HARRIER. With the help of Lance Degnan's scope I managed to add it to my Spurn list (S.278). My second record on the Patch having seen the Patrington Haven bird in May 12.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The last twitch?

Left home at 4.30am and headed South. The usual dilemma. I could have "gone for dawn" but it wasn't a tick, just a photo opportunity and a chance to refresh memories of Spurn 23/10/95...a great moment. I digress. News came through at was still there.

Onward from Cambridge.

My new techno phone has a VERY impressive Sat Nav which took me straight to the car park at Minsmere via an excellent route. I was slightly worried when I saw a dead end sign...that was until I realised I was actually IN the reserve!

It was 9.30am by now. It was cold but clear. The car park was full...not all twitchers of course but there was still a healthy crowd of hopefuls. The dawn crowd had obviously scored and thinned. Very wise. Still it was on show ALL DAY (on and off)...yesterday. Alas, not today.

I gave it till noon and headed home. Never mind. Hindsight nagged again...but only slightly. No news on the EBT, although there probably wasn't a great gathering. My pal Steve Lawton missed it for his British tick by 10 minutes...gutted for him!

Is that it for the year then? Who knows. If something does arrive, I hope it gets here before the 28th Nov...or after the 20th Dec.

A juvenile PALLID HARRIER at Welwick Marsh with a RLB as support didn't help the drive home. That's the way it goes...sometimes.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

In out, in out...

Spoilt for choice this morning. Glad I didn't "need" either MEGA as it would have been a very difficult decision. Fireworks?

1. A superb Eastern Thrush in a heavily wooded area?

2. An American Swallow that MAY have gone to roost?

A highly unlikely double twitch with limited daylight? My pal Haydn went North and I would have done the same. Unfortunately it turned out to be the wrong decision as the EBT wasn't relocated and the CS did roost and stayed in the Minsmere area all day!! Again an AMAZING double in early November. A superb extension to the season.

Me? I drove to McDonalds for a double sausage muffin and large Latte! The Swallow news was already out but I waited for news on the Thrush. By 10 (and after a chat with Haydn) I reckoned hope was fading.

The Swallow? Minsmere is a nightmare to get to and the days are short now. On the other hand it might be my last chance of the year to see a star bird. Off we go then. I got to Doncaster when the previous conformation turned to an erroneous message? U-turn. Nearly back to Hull...seen again!
Had it!

I spent the afternoon on the Humber shore again, being entertained by Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls in between wintry showers.

I wonder if it will be there tomorrow? Mmmmm

Friday, 4 November 2016

A sting in the tail

Early November can produce some late has done!
MEGA Northumberland EYE-BROWED THRUSH 7.5 mls WSW of Morpeth at Bolam Lake Country Park on north side in hawthorn late afternoon.
MEGA Suffolk CLIFF SWALLOW reported still 4.10pm Minsmere RSPB over visitor centre
Quite a double!!! I've seen both in Britain but I wouldn't mind another peep at either/both!
...and if you include THIS amazing treble. There, I've done it now. Wonder if it will hang around for me for another TWENTY FIVE days?!!!
Spent a very enjoyable afternoon down by the Humber Bank today. Plenty of Raptor/Owl action.
Kestrel 4
Sparrowhawk 2
Buzzard 3
Hen Harrier 2
Short-eared Owl 2
Barn Owl
I have a few pics ...but it's late now...and I might be off to Northumberland tomorrow?
A mixed silhouette...SEO with prey

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Waxwing - BVD

A better view desired, an old chestnut I know!
I had my radio this morning...which helps. It might have helped yesterday when Spurn's 3rd Cattle Egret flew North!!!
News was filtering through that Waxwings were still in the area. I didn't want to chase one...I wanted to find one. I decided to try the Canal scrape bushes and car park area. There were still large numbers
of thrushes around, mainly Blackbirds. Always an impressive sight. A couple of Woodcocks flushed as I walked the footpath. 30 minutes passed. I decided to walk through the car park...and I got lucky...
I think I'd been spotted...
It was present for around 30 seconds, so I was on form with the camera on this occasion. I moved slowly round to try and eliminate the stems...
Always a special moment. Let's hope it's a Waxwing winter?