Friday, 30 June 2017


Many different groups of people take the time to read my Blog...for which I'm grateful.

The twitching fraternity know the ups and downs of chasing birds. I've had a particularly rough run lately, culminating with being at work on Wednesday. However, no sulking here...maybe just a touch of frustration!

You can have all the money, time, strategy etc etc. The biggest ingredient you need is...


Thursday, 29 June 2017

BBA - Poor views

Gave it from dawn until 9.30. A couple of lads from Liverpool were present having stayed locally overnight. John Hewitt and his mate Kev joined us.

As you can see visibility was less than optimal, coupled with a sighting flying North past Whitburn Coastal Park, Co Durham early doors.

A double whammy.

With an uncertain forecast (as usual) it seemed a futile exercise to remain.

I feel there is a reasonable chance of a return...BUT can I get there in time..or at all!

I have given up on the ELEGANT TERN...

Need to see something decent, so I'm off for the Sabine's Gull at Nosterfield

Seen somert...

Back home via Kilnsea Wetlands and this stunner...

White-winged Black Tern adult

Horrendous weather again but great to connect. A Spurn (280) and Patch tick. Almost made up for Albert...but not quite...

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


The BIG 1 returned to Bempton this afternoon. I was working...of course.
any thanks to Tony (Dixon) and Trev Charlton for an early shout.

I have to be honest here and say I wouldn't have gone on the initial "sighting"...(cynic). By the time the bird was confirmed I wouldn't have made it before it departed. My only (small) consolation.

Another "after the Lord Mayor's show" session tomorrow then...

My luck must change soon?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

French Pyrenees 17 - Review


In line with the British heat wave the temperatures high in the mountains were well above average. Still better than heavy rain or low cloud for that matter. Still, the scenery was slightly different...and so were the birds!

The area to travel is reasonable. We could reach Gavarnie (the southern most point) from St Savin (our base) in less than an hour. The scenery is simply stunning and thankfully the traffic was VERY light which makes a hell of a difference to the quality of your holiday.

Main Highlights

- Being privileged to see (with help) Lammergeier, Eagle Owl and Golden Eagle nests adults and juveniles. Not bad!

- Finally obtaining crippling views of Rock Sparrow (thanks Charles).

- Seeing a pair of Black Woodpeckers on my final morning.

- Connecting with the Snowfinches at the Col du Toumelet.

If you're looking for big numbers this isn't the place for you. However, if you're looking for iconic species this IS an area to consider. I don't want to repetition...if possible! So, I thought I'd start my summary with a trip list...

Little Egret - seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
Snowy Egret - seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
White Stork -  seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
Black Kite
Red Kite
Lammergeier - Adult and juvenile seen at nest at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue, also seen at Gedre and Cirque du Troumouse.
Egyptian Vulture - pair seen at Pibest,
Griffon Vulture - seen in both higher and lower areas of the Gave Valley
Short-toed Eagle - Charles picked one out at the Luz Eagle Owl site, 2 at Pibeste
Common Buzzard - pair seen above Bareges
Golden Eagle - both adults and juvenile seen around nest at Gavarnie
Booted Eagle
Common Kestrel
Woodpigeon - only one bird seen at Bareges
Collared Dove
Eurasian Eagle-owl - Adult and juvenile seen at Luz nest site
Tawny Owl - juvenile on road at dusk as we returned to St Savin
Common Swift
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
BLACK WOODPECKER - 2 birds seen at Leinz above Bareges on my last morning. LIFER!
Crag Martin - fairly common. Nesting sites in Luz village
House Martin
Water Pipit - widespread at higher altitude
Tree Pipit
White Wagtail
Black-bellied Dipper
European Robin
Black Redstart
Whinchat - only a single bird at Sague
Northern Wheatear - widespread. Great to see singing and displaying
Blackbird - abundant in woodland
Song Thrush - many seen in woodland, nearly all briefly in flight
Mistle Thrush - only a single bird seen above Bareges
Melodious Warbler - family party at Pibeste
Garden Warbler - singing birds on path to the Cirque de Gavarnie
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Crested Tit - single bird seen on 2 occasions at Leinz above Bareges
Coal Tit
Common Treecreeper
Red-backed Shrike - Male seen at nest site at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue
European Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Red-billed Chough - only seen at Lac du Gloriettes
Yellow-billed Chough - widespread at high altitude
Carrion Crow
Common Raven
House Sparrow
ROCK SPARROW - major sighting at Llane. LIFER!
Snowfinch - Seen well eventually at nest site at Col du Tourmalet
Eurasian Serin
Yellowhammer - one singing male at Lac du Gloriettes
Rock Bunting - seen well on 2 occasions at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue

65 species

A selection of photos to follow...

Friday, 23 June 2017

ET phone home. In the interests of remaining topical I'm writing this during my break on my phone.

I'm afraid yesterday's attempt ended in failure and frustration. Great fun though?!!!

Left home at 3am (Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and 4 Hares on Snakey Lane) and after the joys of the M1, M25 and M3 ( crammed from 6, what a life) I arrived at Sandbanks at 9.15 for the first ferry to Brownsea Island at 10.

The bird left it's roost at dawn, returned once and was now missing. Around 15 birders made the journey. The hide was a decent size so everyone got a decent view. The breeding islands were VERY close, so all we needed now was "the bird".

Late morning...a message...

Seen flying over Sandbanks terminal  (where we had sailed from) towards the island.

Everyone in full focus now. Then a shout..."I've got it!". No-one else did. A difficult moment.

Around 1 the claimant from the terminal arrived. A brief account was given.

We had to leave at 5. Another report at 4 from "Poole Harbour".

I gave it till 6.30 and headed home arriving back just after mid-night.

Seeing is believing...

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Back in Costa del Bury. It seems we've brought the heat with us. No complaints though, I just think of the cold, dark winters!!!

Took my Mother out for a nice meal to the brilliant Pack Horse last night. Great to visit a proper pub.

I'd arranged to try for the ELEGANT TERN tomorrow with Tony Dixon...and maybe Phil Jones but as I news.

I'll try to do a summary of my trip as soon as time allows...

Update: ET has been seen this evening on Brownsea Island (Dorset) webcam. Do you think anyone would mind if I took it as an armchair tick?! Just kidding...leaving at 3.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 9. Pic Noir

On site at 6.30...

...but no evidence by 10.45. I did see my first Woodpigeon of the trip though! I also saw a Treecreeper sp briefly and another Crested Tit.

10.50 (I was flagging a bit by now)...I heard one! I drove round to the area I thought it was coming from... nothing. I gave it 15 minutes then drove back to my original site. As I was doing this I saw a black shape darting through the trees. It had to be? It was, in fact TWO together!! They flew behind the car. I got out as one landed some 70yds away up the steep slope.

I could just see it clinging to the tree. By the time I'd lifted my camera it had flown off. I saw them both again through the trees before they disappeared down the slope. I didn't see them again.

Well pleased with what I got. You can always wish for full frame pics. SEEING the bird is paramount, especially when it's a LIFER. I was especially chuffed to find them away from a nest and without a tape.

I returned​ to St Savin to pick Louise up and we headed for Bilbao.

I'll put some meat on the bones of the trip when I get back.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 8. No Creeper

The morning was spent at Plateau Sauge, a wonderful alpine meadow overlooking Gavarnie and Gedre...

A few Griffon Vultures were seen distantly but not much else. On the way back down to Gedre I did manage to fluke a Whinchat, which perched on a fencepost briefly.

The afternoon was spent at Col du Soulor. It was another attempt at finding Wallcreeper...and alas, another failure! I tried hard though. You can only scan rock faces for so long...

A last thrash in the morning as I try for my life BLACK WOODPECKER while Louise has a lie-in...

Pyrenees 17 - Day 7. Golden Day

Saturday wasn't busy at every day here! Even with a cycle race?

We returned to the Valle d'Ossoue at a more relaxed time of 10. Yet another beautiful day (we've been very lucky with the weather). Much more Lammergeier action today including views of the youngster in the nest... should fly anytime now. I also had great views of Rock Bunting but no Thrush still.

I bumped into Flavien (a friend of Charles), one of the wardens for the area. Nice chap who told me some interesting stuff ( more later). During our natter he mentioned a spot to view the Golden Eagle nest...ears pricked!

After a picnic lunch we took on the trek...and it was SOME trek. We climbed high above the town on the east side. It was far steeper than anticipated... quite warm as  next 3 hours recowell. We made it though... eventually!

We spent the next three hours recovering. The youngster was seen clearly for extended periods and we had one brief pass from the parents.

It was time to go at 6.30. Yes, it happened. Both adults appeared circling the nest several times...magic!

Very lucky...

Friday, 16 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 6. Gavarnie area

Managed to sneak a few words down waiting in vain for a Lammergeier to show...

Early start at 6. After a slight scare we were having croissants and coffee in Gavarnie at 7.30. Then it was back to the Valle d'Ossoue. I managed​ another view of the Red-backed Shrike but no sign of any Lammergeier's as the cliff was shrouded in mist. So we decided to try and climb above it and headed for Gavarnie Ski Station. This was my No 1 site for Rock Thrush. I gave it 2hrs plus on the switch backs but not a sniff. Disappointing.
      After lunch (crepes and ice cream) it was time for a Golden Eagle stake out while Louise visited the village shops. Nothing in over an hour. After she re-joined me we sat in the shade by the church and scanned the crags.
            Then... there one was, carrying prey. It was hugging the slope but the powerful jizz was apparent...and the huge frame.
             Unfortunately the camera wouldn't play at first (rather disappointing) costing me a better image. In fact I thought I'd blown it completely as it disappeared into the trees before I could get "on it". VERY fortunately​ it took off again some 15mins later allowing me to get a record shot. It's many years since I've seen this species, so this was another special moment.
              We spent the last couple of hours back at the Lammergeier site which was now bathed in sunshine (a wonderful 20c today with a cool breeze). No show but I did see my first Rock Bunting of the trip.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 4/5. High and Low Country

Wednesday - Today we headed for the Cirque du Troumouse area. We stopped at Gedre and I scanned the enormous cliff to the west. I was soon looking at a distant Lammergeier patrolling the ridge. We moved on to the picturesque Lac du Gloriettes. My targets here were Rock Thrush and Wallcreeper (very optimistically). Neither were seen but the walk was lovely amongst superb scenery. I did add Yellowhammer and Red-billed Chough to my lists.

Then it was on to the Cirque. We stopped off at Haus for a much needed cool drink…and a Magnum! We then started the ascent to the Cirque. The scenery as always was spectacular. My dream then came true as I spotted a Lammergeier patrolling the nearby slopes. This time it was close…real close! The beast then landed on a rock some 200yds away. As I was setting my scope to show Louise it unfortunately took off…but fortunately flew right towards us and over our heads!!!

A truly memorable moment, especially after my lack of success on my previous visit. The close pass was what I was after...and boy did I get it!

Thursday - A mercifully cooler day today...only 21c. A blanket of cloud covered the Gave valley so it was time to bird low. It was also time to try to put to bed one of my nemesis species...Rock Sparrow. Locally common...but not where I've been! Charles once again had some great info' on a site just north of Lourdes. I was up at 5.45 and on site by just after 7. Excellent directions had me walking towards the correct spot soon after. A bird landed on a wire, I lifted my bins...ROCK SPARROW!!!
Thanks Charles!

I spent the next hour obtaining some pics and just enjoying the success. It was good to study the species in detail and FINALLY catch up with it. I was going to head further north to try for Black-shouldered Kite but the weather closed in so I returned to St Savin to pick Louise up.

We tried a couple of spots locally but as soon as we gained any height the weather predictably deteriorated. It was time for Pibeste. This is an area just north of Argeles-Gazost. As we left the town I looked to my left and c50 Griffon Vultures were circling low over a wood! Some even landed in the trees...quite a spectacle. Also present were at least 15 Black Kites and 5 Red. With further help from Charles we eventually found another site by a dis-used quarry. Within 10 minutes I was enjoying extended views of a family of Melodious Warblers. I couldn't locate the hope for Bonelli's however. Our final stop was at the north end of Agios Vidalos. We pulled into a large car park by a visitor centre. In the next 30 minutes I enjoyed views of Egyptian Vulture (2), Short-toed Eagle (2), Booted Eagle (2) plus more Black Kites, Red Kites and Griffons.

Tomorrow we head for a big day out around Gavarnie. There won't be a report as I'll be er...knackered! Also you'll have noticed the lack of pics. Again due to internet speed...or lack of it, I've decided to leave it until I get home when I'll do a summary of sightings and sites. I'll also post a detailed trip list which may help you or someone you know if/when you visit this area in the future.

HP 66

Trip 55

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 3. EAGLE OWL

A slow start today (June 13th) as I was writing up days one and 2! Louise enjoyed the patio at the hotel while I slaved it out on the laptop in the room...with the fan on of course!

After lunch we headed for Leinz which is just east of Bareges. I had reliable information from Charles that this was my best shot at connecting with my LIFE BLACK WOODPECKER. t was another HOT one, way above average for the time of year (31c). Yes, we are in the mountains!? This obviously affected this Northern Europeans movements somewhat. The good news was I found the right spot but alas not the right bird. I DID see a Crested Tit though, which was a miracle under the circumstances.

It was now 4pm and we had to return to Luz as I had a very important date with Charles. He'd kindly said he'd show me the EAGLE OWL nest site despite only having limited time between appointments for his daughter. Many, many thanks pal. After connecting we made the short trip south along the gorge to the site. He gave me excellent directions to the correct area of the cliff. After he was sure I was looking in the right place he said his goodbyes and left me to scan.

Just before 6pm a large dark brown shape flew in from the left and landed...

What a moment...truly memorable...and quite exciting!!! Another "right up there" moment in my Birding life.

It got better as a youngster then emerged from the undergrowth...

Not an award winner but you should be able to make out the adult with prey and the youngster behind...just!.

The cliff was in deep shade but it was still 28c. I reckon the distance was around 400yds across the gorge. I texted Charles the good news and thanked him again. Within 10 minutes he was back! "I couldn't resist!" were his words. He obviously couldn't stop long but a she left for the second time he said he'd give me a shout if the adult was showing from further down the road. It was...

To see an adult and a youngster in broad daylight plus a food pass, was something very special indeed.

I'll be back...



Pyrenees 17 - Day 2. Valle d'Ossoue and Cirque du Gavarnie

Earlier start today as we headed way up to the far south of the valley. We arrived at the famed and very beautiful Valle d'Ossoue around 9.30. It was already hot (24c). I've convinced Louise to do an earlier start later but today was just a recce. I had some excellent information off Charles regarding a LAMMERGEIER nest site and I just wanted to see if I could locate it and get some decent views.

As we found the spot to park I could see a large crucifix shape drifting along the ridge!!!
After finishing fingers and thumbs mode I managed to grab a single record shot...

Not the best I know but it was way up and the heat haze was significant. At least I'd seen one. It eventually drifted off up the Valley and then landed in the nest hole...therefore confirming the site...which was handy! I gave it another 3 hours while Louise read her novel but it didn't re-appear. I did see another great bird though. I noticed something shoot out of a gorse bush near to where we were parked. It looked "interesting". However, I couldn't relocate it in a 30 minute search. Then I saw it again albeit distantly...

A superb male Red-backed Shrike
The weather was again very kind so I suggested to my new wife that we did the walk to the Cirque du Gavarnie. This is no pleasant stroll I can assure you, Especially at 28c but you do daft things on holiday...don't you?

The scenery, as you can imagine is spectacular...

No significant sightings were made on the ascent which was hardly surprising in the circumstances but we had a testing walk and a much needed drink at the Hotel. On the way down though I saw a bird that I hadn't seen well for quite some time...a Garden Warbler! I picked up the superb song and after a roasting scramble I managed a photo through the vegetation...

By the tme we reached the car park we were all in. We found a nice Pizza place and enjoyed the evening view, which wasn't at all bad...

Haute-Pyrenees LIFE 58

Trip 45

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 1. Col du Tourmalet

OK. I'm up and running!

Briefly...the wedding day (Thursday) was great but we over-indulged a tad and the recovery time for both of us isn't what it used to be...

For the record...

Mr and Mrs Whitehead in front of the Whitehead Clock Tower, Bury 8/6/2017
Friday morning and early afternoon was spent recovering at "the Mothers". We flew to Bilbao from Manchester arriving at 10pm. A taxi to our Hotel saw it sorted for 11.

Breakfast at 8 and car picked up at 9 (pleasantly uneventful), we were heading for France. After a bit of fun negotiating San Sebastian we arrived in France early afternoon and cruised into the Haute-Pyrennes region for an evening meal in Argeles-Gazost. Then onto St Savin for an early night.

Friday morning I opened the shutters at dawn to this rather nice view...

Looking North up the Gave Valley
Anyway...what about the birds?

An early morning stroll around the Village proved surprisingly fruitful...and quite a relief to connect with some excellent woodland species...

However, my first sighting wasn't avain...

Red Squirrel
Jay, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Great Spotted (tried hard to string a Middle) and Green Woodpecker. I also had great views of a Red Kite...

It was also great to see so many Swifts zooming around the village.

After breakfast we headed for Luz and the Col du Tourmalet (famous for the Tour de France). The weather was superb on the tops.

Typical birds seen here included...


Water Pipit...

Black Redstart...

My main target for the day was to get decent views of SNOWFINCH. I'd seen them eons ago in their finest, when on a school ski trip in the Alps in the early 1990's! I missed them when we came in August 15 as they'd departed their breeding areas. I felt I had a good chance to connect today. What I didn't want was views around picnic tables or cafes, which they are inclined to frequent!

As always I had some information regarding best sites so I headed for the eastern car park at the CdT. I'd been reliably informed that the SF nested in the ski lift supports! After around 45 minutes I hadn't had a sighting. We had lunch and enjoyed the stupendous view...

...and one of the locals having a scratch...

Then I saw one in flight, showing the extensive white on the wings. Once it landed vanished!?  I then noticed a drainage pipe...

I'd seen Black Redstart and Linnet drinking and bathing there, so I decided to see if the star turn would appear. Eventually, it did...

As you can see, a well camouflaged bird, very difficult to pick out against the terrain. It only stayed for a few seconds but this time I was on the ball and managed this pic.

A few Ravens and YB Choughs drifted over but no raptors? I then picked up another SF high on the grass bank...

Later in the afternoon I got my closest pic from the car...

Really pleasing to spend some quality time with this species. A good start.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - slow start!

Extenuating circumstances have meant my posts have not flowed this say the least!

The wedding day went very well and the honeymoon is in full swing. The weather has been kind and the birding has been excellent. I've even managed a glimpse of a Lammergeier.

I hope to post an initial report tomorrow with a few pics. We're having a slower day after our walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie today

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

ELEGANT TERN...for the worse!

MEGA Hants ELEGANT TERN ad (colour-ringed) Hayling Island at Fishery Creek at high tide with 8 Sandwich Terns

Something had to turn I'm out of the picture. It's flown off but hopefully STILL in Britain somewhere. Hope it summers and I get a stab on my return? Now that IS positive thinking!!!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Frampton Marsh RSPB

I like it...a lot! It's my type of spot. As soon as I laid eyes on it during my visit with Phil, I felt it was a place I was going to visit. It will be my "go to" new site form now on. Pity it's not a bit closer!

I can visit regularly however and it's within reach...just (under 2hrs). I much prefer natural habitats, especially enhanced ones. Don't get me wrong, any habitat created for wildlife is fantastic, I just prefer to spend my time watching in scenic surroundings. Also, I LOVE a good hide, always long as it's (reasonably) quiet.  I guess that's developed from my 9 years at NDC and Wheldrake Ings prior to that. Plus I'm getting soft in my advancing years. The thing I really like about a hide is that you can just sit and watch bird ever changing scene.

FM gives opportunities for walking my dog, getting great views of a wide range of species in superb surroundings. It gives me spectacle. There's also the chance to find something..."good". On my last visit I had 2 Cattle Egrets, male Garganey, Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swan, 4 sp Ruff, c 20 sp Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, 2 Mediterranean Gulls plus countless Avocets.

A fine view...

Very pleased to pick out a pair of Med' Gulls among the hundreds of Black-headed in the colony...

Later I got a brief fly-by in poor weather...

Great to see some...Birds!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

More Bonecrushers!

At the risk of sounding obsessed with this species I stumbled on THIS great news today. Maybe I'll get another chance in Britain?

At least chances next week seem high...

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Eagle Owl

Great news from Charles in the French Pyrenees. Confirmed breeding...

Hoping to get a peep next week?

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Ruff at Frampton

Not something you see everyday...

...and a Black-tailed Godwit through the reeds...

Part of a great day at a great reserve. More later...

Frampton Marsh

Just a quick they say.

Having a day out in South Lincs at the superb RSPB reserve.I needed a change of scenery and boy have I got it here!

Writing this while I recover from extensive walking with Bud. I don't have access to all areas but I have enough to see most things.

Highlights so far...

Ruff c12...3 young males in fine dress and lekking. Not something you see everyday.

Garganey drake

Black-tailed Godwit sp

Whooper Swan... injured but now recovered

Green Woodpecker



No luck with the reported CATTLE EGRETS or Turtle Doves.

I have some pics which I'll add later but it won't be tonight.