Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Where was I?

Sting in the tail of the Autumn fun with a juvenile STELLER'S EIDER turning up on Westray, Orkney yesterday. Intermittent reports from different locations are confusing matters somewhat but it was reported at dusk again this evening at its original location...Loch of Swartmill...although it was flushed by some kids in a boat and flew towards Papa Westray!? All the very best to those who have travelled and are maybe going to do so. I won't be one of them.

Personal circumstances and a forthcoming trip next week to see my son in the UAE (more later on that one) means an attempt is impossible. I'm rather keen, as you know but I can say no...and I have done. Maybe it will winter there, so I can make the trip in December? There have been long-stayers in the past. There's optimism for you!!

Back to reality.

Yesterday I had a wonderful time at my beloved NDC. I figured the Derwent may have burst its banks after the recent rain and on arrival, I was pleased to see that it had ...

Taken from Bubwith looking NW
I NEVER get tired of the views here.

A Stonechat was a nice surprise just after I'd taken this picture...

Onto Duff...

There's worse views!
I set my stall out and watched. I was delighted to see some Whooper Swans were in residence which was quite surprising considering the flood was relatively "new". Water was still flowing on to the Carrs and I was hoping it wouldn't get too deep as this isn't beneficial to many species feeding. Decent  numbers of waders were present... hour vigil but I reckoned on at least 45 birds

Ruff 25
Lapwing 1500
Golden Plover 85
Curlew 5
Dunlin 10
Snipe 1

Different groups of Whoopers came and went during my 5 hour vigil but I reckoned on at least 45 birds present. They are truly wonderful birds. They called regularly throughout my stay...Magic!

It's always nice to see something "different". Today was such a day. After scanning back and forward many times from the Geoff Smith Hide ...out of nowhere...

Great White Egret
Distant (as most things are here) but satisfying to FIND. It later transpires that there had been three in the Valley for a while (thanks Haydn)...but I didn't know that. Ignorance is bliss!

...and then there were two!

They must have been working the ditch. After watching them for around half an hour (and putting the news out) the local farmers tractor flushed them and they flew North...

Far more records theses days but still a fine sight, especially here! To be honest it's nice to remember when they were much scarcer/rarer. You appreciate the sighting more!

The Whoopers stayed in there usual area...

...there calls were easily audible.

Mid-afternoon I was rewarded with a fly-by as a group made their way onto Bubwith Ings...

A fine sight indeed
...then another group...

Great stuff!

Obviously I'm biased BUT I love the fact that these magnificent birds have been returning to NDC/LDV since time immemorial and I've had the privilege to watch them for 33 years!

I'm back over tomorrow to meet Haydn on Skippy to try again for my York Area Raven. No doubt I'll be popping in to NDC again...

NDC Year 75

Friday, 25 October 2019


A quiet morning with no sign of any Whooper Swans... unfortunately! Grim weather was forecast but around 11 I got a message from Haydn informing me he'd seen a couple of Ravens on his patch (Skipwith Common).

As this would be a York Area tick for yours truly I decided to make the trip. I arrived around 1 and spent an hour with him but no luck. Pleased for him though, especially when he told me he'd had a couple of Whooper Swans over. TWO Patch ticks!!! He admitted that if I hadn't been coming over he'd have left sooner and missed them. So I like to think I contributed... in a way!? both actually, as I'd sent him the report on the Ravens being seen last Tuesday.

After he'd returned to work I pulled into the car park at NDC but the rain was now torrential and the visibility was poor, so I headed home to beat the rush hour traffic in Hull.

Haydn's BOC pic
I'll have another crack next week... on a fine day!

Thursday, 24 October 2019


A strange one this...

News broke after some photos posted on-line suggested that a juvenile LESSER KESTREL had been seen at Fraisthorpe near Bridlington. The photos were excellent close-ups and over time they gathered much support from experienced Birders that it did in fact show thus species.

I was snookered (again) yesterday having a work day but some negotiating aka begging meant I had a small window of opportunity early afternoon. After no confirmation early morning a positive message was posted around 11.30 so I set off up the Coast.

I found the site easily as it was in (amazingly) the same area as the previous LITTLE BUSTARD record! Many familiar faces were present and "the bird" was fortunately showing well if distantly.

The rest of the day involved much debate on site and on-line as to what had actually been seen!

Which bird... which species... which expert?

Who knows... I don't! Let's see what comes out in the wash...

Monday, 21 October 2019


Various sightings from St Mary's had been posted since early October but "intermittent and VERY elusive" seemed to be the predictable scenario. Add to this the track record for longevity of this species and my chances of connecting remained slim, I felt. Ironic that one long-staying BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (North Uist, May 2016) has meant that most twitchers have this species on their list, including me, while some of us are still chasing the more frequently occurring YB! Oh and by the way, it's a lovely placid looking thing and one of my favourite species I enjoy watching in Texas.

A brief summary of earlier movements...

I drove through the night early Monday to Hentervene Holiday Park near Bude after an encouraging update late Sunday. After some initial confusion pre-dawn I found the site and parked up...

I think this is what you call an encouraging sign! I made a £10 donation to the Cornwall Air Ambulance. I have a link!
I had a good walk around the thankfully small site trying to figure out which tree the photo was taken in...

Around 9am I bumped into the manager. Nice chap who put me in the picture and led me to the area were it had been seen up until 11 yesterday. He said he'd seen and photographed an "unusual bird". After sharing the sighting with friends the scenario developed but not fast enough to allow a Sunday twitch. It was a lovely secluded spot but despite giving it till noon and covering the area thoroughly, I couldn't locate it...

News that the Scilly bird was still present didn't help matters!! You may remember my past track record? I was the only Birder present. Home James.

... I did consider an attempt but the combination of having my "friend" and working next day made this impossible.

Fast forward to Tuesday...

After the morning run, I was just leaving the Docs when the message came through that the Scilly YBC was still present! Of course, I wasn't at home and didn't trust the phone (an age thing) so I made my way back home, rather hastily, and reached for the laptop. Flights available early Wednesday...BUT...the website had frozen!!! Always relaxing twitching? By the time it was active again the flights had gone and I was looking at a 12.30 departure. Oh dear, I said! I took it anyway. Also, the late return had gone on Thursday, so now I only had till 2pm. My window had shrunk somewhat, just to add to the excitement?

I sorted the kennels, accommodation and shift change out before doing the afternoon run. Returning home around 4.30 I had a moment of inspiration and decided to have another look at the Skybus website for a cancellation...Wednesday available flight! No messing this time, I rang direct and grabbed the seat. I also managed to get a return flight on Thursday at 5.30. My window had just got bigger! The significance of this will eventually become apparent. After dropping Bud off I returned home to pack my gear. After having a meal with Louise I headed South West....again!

I parked up around 7.30am at Lands End airport (after grabbing a couple of hours kip) and made my way into the terminal. After making a forlorn enquiry regarding an even earlier cancellation (don't ask, don't get) I took a seat and waited for my flight. Positive news...
Scilly YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO still St Mary's at Dump Clump

I'd arranged a taxi to pick me up and I was soon walking towards the said "clump". It was now 10.10 but as I reached the DC it  became clear that the bird wasn't showing, in fact a birder with a radio told me it had been reported by Shooters Pool at Lower Moors! I set off again (with all my clobber). When I reached SP I was met with the same glum scenario. All my initial enthusiasm was starting to draining away...slightly. It didn't help when a couple of chaps informed me they'd been trying to see it for the past WEEK!!!

I walked out into the open from SP towards the Lower Moors hides and joined a small group of hopefuls on the boardwalk. The group included Sam Viles and Kro Malik. On the plus side the weather was excellent, sunny with little wind. It was now 11.15. Then an encouraging shout..."I've got it"!!! Sure enough there it was ,after all these years..."my"...

After much fumbling I managed a pic!
I reckon the bird was around 40 yards away and constantly moving through the vegetation. I guess you can imagine how I felt!!! The bird was present on and off for around 5 minutes before disappearing in the direction of SP. As far as I'm aware this was the last reliable sighting of the bird on the day and it hasn't been seen subsequently. Now you see the significance of my good fortune regarding the flights! I'm trying not to think about not getting the time changes and arriving at 1pm!!!!!!

After sharing the euphoria with the Birders present I made my way down to the quay for the 1pm boat to St Martin's. The second part of the twitch was about to commence, if in a far more relaxed fashion. On arriving the group disembarked and subsequently disappeared at a good pace. I still had all my clobber (I was beginning to think I'd brought an anvil with me!) and I've lost a yard or two over the years! My main focus had been the YBC as I'd seen the second target once before on St Agnes in October 2008....but that's another story!

Fortunately I managed to figure out the area concerned and started the yomp to the other end of the island (still carrying...). I was rather tired (aka knackered) on arrival, so I picked a spot near the Bakery and waited. The ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK had been seen at numerous locations in the area but didn't hang around at any of them. A challenge! After a few shouts and half-hearted attempts to get to where the bird had been seen I remained determined to "sit it out". The return boat was at 4.30 and mercifully it was from the higher quay, just across from the adjacent cricket pitch. However there was a significant descent to said cricket pitch apparently. I then bumped into the Harringtons. After a chat we swapped numbers and said we'd let each other know if we got lucky. They headed for the cricket pitch while other Birders were still at the quarry.

Around 3.45 a group of Birders passed in a bit of a hurry. News of a sighting by the cricket pitch. Despite the aforesaid slope, for some reason this time, I decided to join them. Another piece of luck/good decision. I just managed to get on the bird before it flew off yet again. The Harringtons had rung me but I was halfway down the hill at the time. Thanks anyway!

Things were going well you might say! I made the mercifully short walk to the Quay and enjoyed a wonderful journey back to St Mary's in the late afternoon sunshine still glowing from my success...

On returning to St Mary's I was going to call it a day and check in...but no...I headed up onto the west side of Peninnis Head to try for the BLUE ROCK THRUSH which would be a Scilly tick. Well, got to make the most of the available daylight and fine weather. I gave it till dusk before retiring defeated to the mighty Atlantic pub for the celebratory fish and chips plus pint (or three) of Tribute.

Celebratory Atlantic meal...

I then needed to charge my phone to see where I was staying for the night. Other things had taken priority. A VERY good nights sleep was had followed by an excellent breakfast.

So, what to do on Thursday? I decided to have a walk up Peninnis Head...

Fine scenery

...and sit and wait for the BLUE ROCK THRUSH...hopefully? I wasn't as lucky today achieving one brief fly-by sighting thanks to another Birder. Good enough to get my Scilly tick. A BIG bonus was a lovely Wryneck which showed well briefly by the lighthouse...

I bumped into John Mahon and Luke Harman who I'd met at the RBG yesterday. We had a good chat about this and that before moving on. I said I'd give John a mention as he was complimentary about my Blog lol!

I left Peninnis around 1pm (I had given it 5 hours) and headed for Hugh Town for some lunch. I received a phone call from an unknown number. I don't normally answer but for some reason I did. It was Skybus asking if I wouldn't mind leaving earlier as the weather forecast was poor. Yet more luck. Bottom line was I flew off at 4.30 instead of 5.30 which allowed me to get home earlier. Nice.

Future thoughts...

While I was having my celebratory meal I came to a decision. Time for us to return and resume our October holiday. It's an unbeatable experience for me. Yes, I might miss something elsewhere BUT I'll see many more "good birds" in a small area while enjoying fantastic scenery and good company. I might even FIND something!! Hope Louise agrees!?

To finish...after being in the wrong place on a number of occasions I had finally connected with my most wanted at my favourite location.

Personal Twitching Utopia had been achieved.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The perfect day

YBC Lower Moors, St Mary's, IOS

Full write up on return. Boy, do I love these Islands!!!

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


I had a cunning plan, which is continuing?

I'm hoping for a happy ending...not too much you understand!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, 13 October 2019

RED-EYED VIREO 2 - Closure

Great to hear the news that the little jewel was still present this morning which meant Steve Lawton, Haydn Paterson and Phil Jones were able to connect. However, the weather was horrendous which meant I wimped out and stayed at home!

Louise has a course in Stockport tomorrow, so she left just before noon allowing me to enjoy the World Cup Rugby match between Japan and Scotland. I'm not a big Rugby follower but it WAS a truly memorable game with the passing skills of the Japanese truly mesmerising. Home support is so important and a great advantage.

The forecast suggested the rain would relent around didn't! By 3.15 I'd had enough and I drove down to Easington anyway. I  figured by now most would have had their fill of the bird and the crowd wouldn't be too large. It turned out that way and I joined around 40 Birders waiting to get views of the Star bird. There were two distinct groups which I found quite amusing as I didn't initially want to ask which one was for the REV! Steve had mentioned an Elderberry bush, so I positioned myself at the rear of the crowd and waited....and waited!

This little lane at the south end of the Gas Terminal has produced some great birds over the years. I think there was a SIBERIAN ACCENTOR there once!!!

A Yellow-browed Warbler...then a Pied Flycatcher. Siskins shooting overhead  and plenty of Thrushes. Great stuff!

Where was the main attraction though? A bit of a scurry ensued. A bird had just shot into the bush...Robin! Then another...

Classic leaf in the way!
Not great in the continuing gloom and drizzle but I'd got an image. The bird soon shot off into the distance. News then came through of a GREAT SNIPE on Beacon Lane. You've got to be on the ball at Spurn in October. This signalled the departure of most of the Birders, which was handy as I then had a better view of the bush enabling me to get some better pics...

Spurn just kept on giving as I had a brief peep at the GREAT SNIPE tucked into the long grass by the path on Beacon Lane. I did see the head pattern! On the way home I noticed a group of Whooper Swans by Long Bank...

Always nice to see
The BIG treat was our visitor from across the pond. A truly special bird...

Many thanks to the lady who first spotted the bird resting on the branch.

A report of a mainland YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO this evening in Cornwall. My Nemesis bird. Mmmm...decisions, decisions...?

Update: 21.23

Cornwall repeat; YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO SW of Bude at Crackington Haven at Hentervene Holiday Park (for second day)

Game on...

Saturday, 12 October 2019


I thought I'd try a different slant on this one...

11.40 E.Yorks Red-eyed Vireo on Vicar's Lane Easington

I was soon hearing a knock on my door. It was Richard. I told him I'd got a few things to do and I'd pop down later (playing it cool!?) He said he needed a lift, so I took him down to Easington and then returned home. Why?

Well, I saw the 1990 bird in Kilnsea...September 30th to be exact...and that's from memory!

My story...

I'd been birding around 4 years but was still on a steep learning curve...maybe I still am! It had been raining hard all morning and I'd positioned myself in the Canal Scrape hide. It was early afternoon when I heard some heavy footsteps running along the road. I also heard some shouts but couldn't make out what was being said. Anyway, it was definitely worth investigating!

I followed them down towards the Blue Bell were a small crowd had already gathered. Obviously curious, I asked one of them what all the fuss was about. It's a "RED-EYED VIREO". I said..."Oh", not wanting to show my ignorance. I didn't have a clue what it was BUT I figured it was RARE.

It had turned out to be a VERY good decision to travel through from York that day. A superb LIFER and Yorkshire tick (although I wasn't Yorkshire listing then) to boot. So, 29 years later, a second record and a superb find by Mick Turton.

I did pop down mid-afternoon for a peep but couldn't manage a decent pic. A few of my pals couldn't make it today for one reason or another, so if it sticks I'll go down again tomorrow for another go, although the forecast isn't good.

A quality bird no matter how many turn up, and there are quite a few records this Autumn...not on the East coast I hasten to add! The species has got somewhat de-valued (by some) over the years. Not by me. It's a superb species and a hardy one.

My Blocker (a bird seen that many other haven't) has gone. No matter, great for others to add it to their list. I still have CLIFF SWALLOW...for Yorkshire/Spurn.

Friday, 11 October 2019

RND - No

No sign of the reported Ring-necked Duck nor the Hen Harrier that was at Wheldrake yesterday. A pleasant morning was spent in the Geoff Smith Hide with Ian Richardson, a pal of Karl Dutton. Nice bloke.

Only a few puddles on the Carrs which didn't encourage much avian activity! Having said that, there wasn't much on Bubwith Ings either with a flock of 13 Tufted Ducks the only noteworthy sighting...yes, I checked them thoroughly.

The highlight "Duffwise" was a couple of Stonechats (69) that were added to the Year List.

I had a nice chat with a couple of youngsters who were tidying the reserve for the winter season. During our conversation they asked me how long I'd been coming here? I told them 33 years! I felt old all of a sudden...

Thursday, 10 October 2019


A drake Ring-necked Duck was reported at Bubwith Ings today. Sounds like a good excuse for a trip over to NDC. You never know, it might pop over the river... if there's enough water on. It would make it a personal hat-trick of drakes for the reserve, following birds in 2003 and 2006.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Closer to home

After all the dreamy posts of Rare Birds far and wide, It was back to earth this afternoon, with a sighting just as pleasurable from the kitchen window...

Not doing much for our Pyracantha berry display...but I'll let him off!

Tuesday, 8 October 2019


By their very nature...there's always an opposite one...or ten! Some are definitely more informed than others...IMHO lol!

Deep into the heart of the prime time MEGA/ Rarity season now...exciting stuff tinged with apprehension. Trying hard not to repeat past thoughts here!

Now I've opened the door on "Twitter" an extent, I am (believe it or not) enjoying some of the mild banter between Birders throughout the land, especially regarding Scilly (no surprise there). As it stands I do favour actually being there, although the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO has moved on/expired (I prefer the former scenario). A long pull of Westerlies blasting across the Atlantic heading for the Fortunate Isles, let's hope they live up to there name this season? Unfortunately there's bucketfuls of rain associated with them! The same damp prospect appears to be in store for Shetland. I've experienced both!! However, fortune favours the brave...and all that.

Had a bit of a blow at weekend when my friend got a bit excited and bit me while I was trying to separate him from next doors Akita...

That's the thanks you get!

A tetanus jab, two syringes of neat Iodine and some plastic surgery has meant the wind has been taken out of my sails...temporarily. I still love him though...I think?!

I have a follow up appointment in the morning, so I'll know more then where I stand regarding the coming days.

I have pals on Shetland (Steve Lawton) and in Cornwall (Trevor Charlton)and I'm trying to send positive waves. Be great to see one of them sooner rather than later , if you get my drift...


Of local interest today...

A impressive flock of Starlings at Skeffling (c2000) plus cc Marsh Harrier and Buzzard...

3 Stonechats in the ruins at Cliff Farm...

Monday, 7 October 2019


Co Antrim COMMON NIGHTHAWK 2mls West of Ballymena along River Maine

The first twitchable bird for the British Isles for 20 years. NOT Britain! I've never considered Ireland in my twitching. Saved me a few bob over the years! Handily the lists were separated some years ago.

Gives me an excuse to post my favourite moment again. Without doubt THE best bird and experience I've had twitching in Britain. What a day that was!!!

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Finding the BIG 1 - You pays yer money...

Horrendous weather here this morning, so a few final thoughts regarding the "best" month.

Being a fairly new and somewhat reluctant participant of Twitter, I've tried to tailor my feed to POSITIVE topics! Not easy. I do like to follow and greatly respect the adventures of the various teams/squads etc of Birders dreaming of MEGA GOLD. It's cheaper!

Common phrases like "lots of potential" are banded about, with good reason. Thing is, there are so many places with lots of potential and so FEW MEGAS...obviously! Finding 'your own" is the ultimate dream in Birding.

Having had a few cracks over the years I can speak from personal experience how difficult, frustrating and tiring this can be. I scoured the Cornish Valleys a few years ago with Trevor Charlton seeing very little indeed. Once I arrived on Scilly for "Teachers Week" to meet some Birders from the NE who were almost suicidal with the lack of "good birds". I had a similar week, in fact I've had a few!! Still great to be there though, I must add. A beautiful place. I've also "done" the Outer Hebrides with Barra being my favourite spot.

Expectation levels are understandably sky high in October, possibles and probables abound and can frankly get rather wearing as the messages come through.

As you know I personally prefer the SW to the Northern Isles which I find bleak, colder and on average wetter. I also have a lot of great memories from Scilly which will always produce. Oh and there's no chance of the good lady going North! I would love to go back to the Fortunate Isles one year, if circumstances allow. Even though I've been marooned a couple of times!

Some great birds are being found on Corvo in the Azores at the moment. Western Palaearctic Listers having fun. Not my cup of tea.  British or ABA for me, not in-between. Birds found on Corvo have no significance regarding what might arrive in Britain. Depends on your preference I guess.

Like life, there's no justice in Birding. You can slog an island/s for week/s and find very little. You can go for a pee and find a MEGA!!!

Whatever you do this month, all the very best and...enjoy it...before the clocks go back!!!

P.S. A topical example: In all my trips to Scilly I never got a sniff of a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. There's one present today, albeit elusive and I missed the Porthgwarra bird due to being ON Scilly!!! You've got to laugh!?

Friday, 4 October 2019

South of the Humber

Had a day over the bridge with Phil in North Lincs yesterday. On the way to our first site we saw a group of Swans in a tight group by the roadside. Whoopers!!

Great to come across a flock having a breather on their migration. There were 13 birds in total.

Buoyed by this piece of luck we continued to North Killingholme Haven. A nostalgic visit after first going there with John Walton from Stallingborough in 1986! I had my first and still best views of a Bittern here. I'd been told there was one present by John but didn't expect to walk right past it, in the reeds in a characteristic upright pose, not 15 feet away! John was my first Birding buddy and introduced me to Norfolk and twitching. We saw the DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT together. We also dipped on the last wild GREAT BUSTARDS!!!

Anyway, we arrived, parked up and entered the hide.When we opened the flaps we were greeted with a fine sight. A high tide roost of at least 500 Black-tailed Godwits...close! The light wasn't great but the spectacle certainly was...

...and then they were gone... were the Whooper Swans on our return.

We then checked out a few sites around Phil's house before ending up by the Humber bridge at Far Ings. Unsurprisingly, no luck with Bittern here! 8 House Martins were notable. Also of note was the large number of skeins of Pink-footed Geese...THE sight and sound of Autumn for me...

A good day...

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

MEGA (near) misses

France has scored recently with an OVENBIRD and a BLACKBURNIAN less!!!!!!! Yes it's France BUT the point is they made it over the Atlantic. Far more relevant than the Azores records IMHO.

"We" have had a couple of YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and RED-EYED VIREOS in the South West.

No more comments about stick or twist...promise! Just enjoy what you connect with.

Phil scored with the (trapped) BOOTED WARBLER first thing. Otherwise a quiet day finishing with a flourish at Welwick with great views of a couple of Short-eared Owls (6 present altogether).

Tuesday, 1 October 2019


Yes, it's here (but you already knew that).

Strong NE wind today. Theoretically good for a Seawatch. So I did one and notched a couple of juvenile Long-tailed Skuas (P.122, H.102) VERY close in...just!

Clear as a bell!
Good job, or else I wouldn't have ID'd them! I also has a "flock" of Arctics (6) again, close in. A lovely Wheatear was a bonus as I left...

The local farmer has trimmed the hedge opposite the Cottage opening up no end of possibilities for the coming month? Today, I counted 2 Blackcaps ...

6 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest from the bedroom window.

RUSTIC BUNTING and BOOTED WARBLER (was hoping for SYKES'S) down the road. Phil's over tomorrow, so I'll be joining him first thing. A glorious Autumn day in prospect...