Thursday, 30 July 2020

Still here!

Nothing much to report or (hopefully) entertain you with at the moment. A quiet spell involving much family and private business. Just thought I'd let you know I'm still at it!

Groups of migrating Swallows starting to gather on the wires outside the Cottage, always a nice sight. Trevor had a Wood Warbler at Bempton which was a good "find".

Waders are moving now, so there's always the (slim) chance of something good...stopping off briefly...if you're on your toes?

A few Mediterranean Gulls still lingering.

The LAMMERGEIER is still "about" (thankfully) but has started to explore further South...

Friday, 24 July 2020

Pacing myself

A late cruise down Snakey yesterday paid off when I found "Richard's" Golden Plover flock tucked away in a field near Trinity Farm...

44 in total

I also had distant views of a Med' Gull.

This morning started with a visit from our resident Wood Pigeon (almost a pet now)...

It's totally unconcerned by our presence and will spend significant amounts of time around or in the Bird Bath!

After breakfast I took Bud a walk along Skeffling Bank. It was high tide.Very few waders present although I did count 24 Whimbrel which was was c500 Shelduck. My main quarry was Reed Warbler...yes Reed Warbler! I like to spread my Year ticks out! A combination of "Lockdown" and "something to go for" saw me scanning the Reeds from the bank...a bit of fun. I could hear them...still singing fortunately but "seeing" is a different matter. Eventually one gave itself away...


Maybe a Holmpton record one day?

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Around and about

Toning things down somwhat after recent galavanting, I spent some time locally. Firstly, yesterday afternoon down Snakey and then this morning...a good walk along the beach to "the Sewage"...soon to become Sewage 2!

A decent flock of Gulls had been lingering down the Patrington end of Snakey and as already metioned I'd seen 5 Mediterranean Gulls briefly on my way back from the Peak District. The farmer was still turning his fields over, so the gulls were still "following the plough". I did a proper "grill" this time and of course I couldn't find any. A Pectoral Sandpiper had turned up at Kilnsea Wetlands and I was tempted but decided to try and "find my own". I wasn't expecting to find this species here...I hasten to add! I was thinking more...Med' Gull.

The farmer moved onto a different field and the Gulls duly followed. They were coming and going but many just rested on the brow of the hill...distantly of course. I persevered. Eventually, there it adult...

Took some finding!

Luckily, it decided to have a stretch and I followed it until it landed, fortunately closer. I watched this smart Larid for around 20 minutes as it had a thorough preen before suddenly taking off and flying high East...

So, to this morning. It was a cracker, so we made good progress towards the Sewage. Plenty going on there at the moment, as work is well underway developing the new site and the outfall...

In the distance, work continues on the sea defences which will hopefully save the road to Withernsea...

As I approached I could see some Gulls loafing on the beach and I was hoping (as always) for something "good". A Tern would do! No luck as I scanned the small group. Then, a dark bird flying towards me then out to sea...

I just managed to catch the distinctive jizz of a Whimbrel. I'd reached the work site, so we turned to head back. Another "bird"...another Whimbrel? Again, the bird flew my way, low over the beach...and fortunately...landed! A Black-tailed Godwit (P.121, H.105) in summer plumage no less...

A lovely bird

The bird was some 50 yds away and was on the ground for no more than 10 seconds (I was on form with the camera) before flying off strongly South. They don't tend to linger here! I messaged Richard and it turned out he was down at Old Hive but he didn't pick it up, unfortunately.

All sightings are "in context" I guess. This is only my third record for Holmpton in 8 years and gives me as much pleasure as any Rarity!

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

LAMMERGEIER - Paying Homage

Phil was going on his travels again so I thought I'd meet up with him before he departed. What better place to meet than the Cutthroat car park (not again I hear you cry!)  He hadn't seen the LAMMERGEIER, so the opportunity for a final look and a chance to help him to see it, seemed like a plan. In my defence my OCD is mild compared to some...I like to think! Also it was a leisurely stroll rather than a yomp, although some learned figures consider the walk to the roost site a "modest hike"!

I arrived around 8 and Phil was already in situ, although I failed to recognise him initially, with his hat on! I had my friend who was extremely excited to see him. Not sure some of the already growing group of hopefuls shared his enthusiasm. Fortunately, this obviously wasn't a "bird in a bush" the whining was tolerated...I think?!

Around 8.30 a familiar face came walking up the path. It was Trevor! A nice surprise and great to see him. We set our stall out and waited. Bud wouldn't settle unfortunately, as he's forgotten to grow up! I've always admired his enthusiasm though.

Then just after appeared...over the ridge to the North West...

My initial impression at distance (c1 mile) wasn't that of a huge bird (I've always struggled with scale...and other aspects to be honest!) but as it drew nearer (fortunately) the size of this magnificent bird became much more apparent. I was really pleased that Phil and Trevor had connected so quickly, especially after recommending this site to Phil. The LAMMERGEIER was in view for around 5 minutes as it drifted over the A57, circled a few times and then disappeared over the ridge to the South...

A dramatic silhouette

We waited a couple of hours but no further sign or subsequent sightings from elsewhere by 11.30. Trevor decided he'd had enough so we said our goodbyes and I remained with Phil. We decided to give it till 1.

It was now 12.30. Then a shout..."it's here"!

This time it appeared from the South. We were treated to another decent show, albeit distantly, as it continually circled the distant crag. It was time to for us to make our move so we headed back to the car park which was now full. Again, I said my goodbyes and wished him well for his journey South. After packing away, I had a last look over the ridge to the South, in the direction from which the bird was last seen (as us Birders do). I noticed a distant "speck". However, a "speck" at that distance HAD to be something BIG!

Yep, it was BACK! I shouted to Phil and a few others who were present. It was still very distant and high but eventually I think most people got "on it". Fortunately, it was gliding towards us and eventually became (slightly) easier to pick up...

Love the profile as it came closer

...and eventually right over us!!!

I have to say I was chuffed to pick it out at this extreme distance...especially without my bins! The Vulture continued in a South-westerly direction and eventually disappeared over the Northern ridge. A fantastic end to the morning and this was definitely my favourite experience with this bird...all things considered.


The occurence of this bird has given great pleasure to many people, not just twitchers/birders but also many "ordinary people" who have just wanted to see it. National exposure has meant people have travelled from far and wide hoping to "get lucky". I helped a couple get "on it" as it soared over the car park. The pleasure they showed at "their sighting" was uplifting indeed. Some "snobs" won't lower themselves to travel to see it, as it's Cat E (at the moment). That is their prerogative of course BUT they're missing a special/possibly unique occasion IMHO. The chance to view a wild (and it IS wild) LAMMEGEIER in Britain is priceless. Ticking ISN'T the priority here...enjoyment and appreciation IS. Again, the very idea that I would ever see this species in Britain has always been deep in the realms of fantasy...until recently. There may be another...there may not...but to miss out on it would be a great shame...

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Spurn Tick!

I was nearly home from the Peak District on Friday and had just entered Snakey. The farmer was ploughing the cropped pea field which had attracted large numbers of Gulls. As previously mentioned Richard had seen a decent number of Mediterranean Gulls (P.117, H.104) here a few days previous, so I stopped for a brief look, as I was knackered after a long day.

I soon picked up at least 5 birds and rattled a few pics off before continuing home...

Not the best but nice to see.

Onto today.

Three Cattle Egrets passed through Spurn on Wednesday but hadn't lingered (as is their won't). No twitchable far as I'm aware? I realize they're on the increase in Britain and are now breeding and spreading North. So, I was hoping for another "stab".

Maybe not so soon positive social media early doors in the form of Bird Information on Twitter and Whatsapp...

8.48 Cattle Egret circled the Warren then flew South

Another fly-by! I prepared for our morning constitutional along the cliff top.

9.00 Cattle Egret landed in Well Field viewed from Sykes's field.

A chance! I gave Louise "the look" and I arrived at Kilnsea sharpish but my rusty knowledge of the local geography counted against me (no excuses). Where was Sykes's Field? It's strange as the years go by you can lose touch with the latest developments...or at least I can. I rang John Hewitt. He gave me directions (thanks John) and I arrived at the access point. I made my way through the gate and saw the small group of local admirers. The bird was still present but wasn't viewable in the long grass. After around 5 minutes I got a brief but conclusive view. I had my tick (Spurn 308).

I messaged Louise and returned for our walk.

12.19 Cattle Egret still on Canal Scrape

I hadn't managed a pic' earlier, so I returned to the triangle and "parked up"...eventually! I didn't fancy the hide ...for obvious reasons, so I made my way along the canal bank hoping it would be viewable from there. It was. Still tough to see through the reeds...but I managed...

A touch of judicious manoevering (without losing my balance) enabled me to get a slightly more satisfying view...

A quality addition.

I only really started taking notice of my Spurn List after we moved to Holmpton in 2012. Living so close now, I started to take more notice of the gaps in my list. Just a bit of fun. The Green Woodpecker of March 19 definitely sticks in my mind...

Another quality Spurn tick
Hopefully a few more to come?

Phil's having a go for the BIG 1 tomorrow. Tempted to join him?

Saturday, 18 July 2020


The mighty bird has lingered all week and is still in "fine fettle" thankfully! So, a quick look at the forecast for yesterday tempted me to have "another go". However, I wouldn't be taking the same route!!!

Ma boy and I set off around 5.30am, as I wanted to "suss out" the Cutthroat Bridge (great name as is Strines, Back Tor and Lost Lad) site and be there fairly early. It had been seen in this area at 9.30 (Thursday). Made sense to me. When I arrived it became clear (or so I thought at the time) that the area was a pull in, with limited parking and views? I gave it 30 minutes and then decided to drive Mortimer road to the Strines Inn. After returning with no sightings, I drove down to Ashopton then along the road to the Visitor Centre. There were a few viewpoints and I stopped at a couple but still no luck...or news.

I finally settled on a viewpoint near Ashopton with a panoramic view over the hills and valley...

Beautiful morning

After a swim and drink for Bud, we lingered here for an hour. It was now 9. The limited view at Cutthroat puzzled me (easily done). Then...

9.20 BEARDED VULTURE 1st summer over Bamford Moor 800m from Cutthroat Bridge car park then drifted South


Of course, no sign on arrival as I managed to find a space at the eastern end...just. I STILL found the site puzzling, regarding views? I couldn't see any Birders either? I gave it till 10 and then returned to my original vantage point. Cutthroat Bridge was still niggling me though.

It was now 10.30 and I snapped. Once again I made my way back to Cutthroat. As I reached the pull in yet alert...

10.42 BEARDED VULTURE 1st summer again viewable from A57 from Cutthroat Bridge, slowly drifted North between 10.30 and 10.40

Handy! Panic now ensued. Where was it? Again, no sign of any Birders. Fortunately on this occasion, my parking spot (miracle in itself as the pull in "looked" full) was at the western end, from where I could see a short elevated track! I gathered my stuff...and dog...and headed for the track. Just a guess but worth a stab.

As I reached the crest the view definitely "opened up". I could then see around half a dozen people, a few with bins! They were...focussed...always an encouraging sign. I looked to the North across the A57 and there, hunting the hillside...

was the LAMMERGEIER...

Must have been a sight crossing the A57!!!
It flew directly towards us, over the road and South towards this Crag...

It almost felt like cheating after my previous attempt a week ago...but I'll take it! This was certainly more leisurely...eventually.

I'd managed to inadvertantly/clumsily change my camara setting to manual, so it's a wonder I managed anything really. Not up to my usual standard lol! Incidental really as I enjoyed eyeball views as it flew right over my head and away. Anyway, a few more of dubious quality to give a flavour of the fly-past...

We stayed until 2.30 having lunch and a snooze (that's my mate)...

This is a rare sight, even as he goes into his tenth year!

...but the Vulture didn't re-appear...

A great day...

Wednesday, 15 July 2020


A couple of noteworthy sightings today. A pair of Oystercatchers calling close in by the Cliff on the morning walk.

A trip to the Post Office at Ottringham produced two Yellow Wagtails attracted to a puddle by the road on Snakey...

Richard had a "flock" (c15) of Med Gulls feeding on a newly harvested pea field...but they've departed.

The Giant in the Peak District is still present, although news of sadly predictable disturbance is coming to the fore, with reports late yesterday of "people" close by the roost site! Low cloud prevented early news today, suggesting it may have departed ...but it IS still present...or it was till mid-afternoon?

The Irish BROWN BOOBY has been taken into care. Hopefully it will recover and be released at a later date.

A late report of a BBA in Northumberland gives hope that it may yet be "twitchable"...again...

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

LAMMERGEIER - Reflections

Just about recovered...I think!

It's impossible to avoid social media these days, although as you know, I do try to limit my involvement. It does have some uses? For every opinion there's a counter position. Modern terminology passes me by...thankfully.

I won't harp on but here's an example of how differently people see things (hope you've picked up my understated irony here..and elsewhere come to that).

I refer to my "walk". Hopefully I've graphically illustarted how difficult I found it. Some however, found it "no problem". I'm a wimp! Granted I'm knocking on these days and I've had the odd mechanical alteration but I still consider the walk to the roost site...a challenge. Also my fitness levels are (definitely) not what they once were! However, I do know what effort feels like...or at least I can remember it...having been "in sport" most of my life. There you go...there's some right wags out there!?

My other point is regarding the "worth" of the occurence. Again, opinion. Some "not bothering" because it's Category E. Fine. However, in my opinion they're missing out on a spectacular bird and a special occasion.Many have voted with their feet!

Back to the bird...

Still present and roaming the area as I write, giving great pleasure to many people. What an occasion it is. I may be tempted back if it lingers BUT I won't be visiting the roost site...unsurprisingly!!

Theories still abound about its provenance but hey...lets just enjoy its presence, eh?

I hate negativity and I really hope there's not a tragic end to this tale...

Sunday, 12 July 2020


News of a LAMMERGEIER (Bearded Vulture these days apparently but not in my book) roaming the Peak District pricked my ears up! As you may recall, I spent some time with Trevor Charlton in the South West in 2016...without success. The problem was the sightings were intermittent and wide ranging. Would it settle this time?

This species is special to many Birders and my two trips to the French Pyrenees always had this bird high on my list of targets. The opportunity to see one in Britain regardless of its Category was strong for me.

News came through on Thursday that the bird was frequenting the Strines area, an area I am familiar with from many trips in the past, to try for Goshawk.

More news from the same area on Friday. I nearly set off at lunchtime but didn't as I felt the uncertainty and time remaining was restrictive.

So, it was time to formulate a plan for Saturday. The issue was I had to back for 11 as we were expecting a delivery and Louise was working. Information is easy to obtain these days with many online resources available. I weighed up access and parking possibilities before hitting the sack at 10.30. I must confess I still had reservations as again, time was limited.

The alarm went at 1am, I felt positive, so I packed the car and headed for Sheffield. I arrived at the Strines car park around 3.15. I knew parking was limited and unsurprisingly there were no spaces as the overnight brigade had filled them all. I had planned to park further down the road anyway and approach from the North. This was thwarted when I saw the road closed sign! I returned to the Strines area and fortunately found a space. As I opened the gate Lee Evans appeared out of the darkness along with a few other hopefuls. I was hoping to be at the roost site for 5am? The start was steep, very steep. A real tester for my three replacement joints and dodgy back! I was puffing like a steam train as I started the ascent...

The daylight view of the start on my return

There are not many hills around Holmpton. The others soon disappeared into the night (fair enough) as I slowly but surely gained altitude in the now half-light.

Pre-dawn view over the Moors

Fortunately the increasing light gave me a view of the trail of Birders heading onwards. Something to hang onto. The walk along the ridge was obviously easier but it still seemed to take forever (due to my sedentary pace). Thankfully the path was lined with flags...a truly amazing achievement!! At one point a chap (of similar age) passed me and we had a brief chat. He casually dropped into the conversation that he'd broken his back last year! All of a sudden I didn't feel as tired, just humbled.

It was now around 4.30. Understandably I was now looking for "the group". I couldn't see them? I could see the trail of walkers bending around a valley into the distance. This was some walk. Of course, it turned out that the roost site could only be viewed (without potentially flushing the bird) by doing nearly a full circle around the valley. At least there was a path (or so it seemed). WRONG!!!

The next 45 minutes or so were some of the most difficult movements I have ever made. There was no path...just a series of large spongy tufts, pot-holes, bog and heather...oh and a stream to cross! I'd have struggled at 36, at 63 this was hell. I lost count of the number of times I fell. I've questioned my sanity many times when twitching but this particularly morning took the biscuit. At last I could see the troops but I was still (frustratingly) a few hundred yards away, which felt like a couple of miles in my now exhausted state. My legs felt like jelly. Another fall and as I looked up at the sky I heard voices..."It's flying"!

I'd nothing left.

When I eventually got back on my feet it was obvious the bird had drifted down the Valley away from the roost site...and out of view......and possibly on to pastures new?

The roost site at Howden Edge from Crook Clough

Sickening doesn't cover it. If (a little word with a large meaning) the terrain hadn't been so incredibly difficult I'd have made it for 5 and seen the bird. It was surprising (and rather disappointing) that the Vulture left its roost so early...but there you go.

I'd made the effort, so I walked the remaining yards and sat down on the grass with the chaps/and a few lasses...exhausted...and gutted!

The highs and lows of twitching...guess which one this was!

As I gathered my thoughts and my breathing rate decreased, I became aware of some interest in the far distance. Hope?

It was still present!!!

Trouble was my bins (understandably) were steamed up and I couldn't see anything. My attatched lens cloth was also saturated but eventually I managed to clear them. There it was, circling the distant Tor! RELIEF!!!

So, at least I'd seen it...and I definitely thought I'd earned it. It had been quite a challenge.

It was now around 6. As mentioned earlier I had to be home for 11 and the return journey to the car was going to be another challenge...and take at least 2 hours. I decided to stay till 7.15 hoping it might return or at least come nearer? I was slowly recovering and my spirits lifted further when it became apparent the bird was drifting back this way. I raised my camera and then realised it to was fogged up! I detached my extension, gave the lenses a wipe and managed a few images...

Pre-wipe at 5.53am


The next 30 minutes were simply wonderful as I was treated to the FULL show. My effort was rewarded after all. The LAMMERGEIER drifted, then circled around the valley in the diffuse early morning light...

...before alighting on a chosen pillar of rock to enjoy a meal...and a preen...

The trek had been horrendous but the views justified it...I think?

Birders online have debated this record is the case these days. That's fine...everyone's entitled to their opinion. You have a choice...go...or don't go! The status of this bird is irrelevant to me...I just wanted to SEE it. I will say this. The populations in the Alps and Pyrennes are increasing and more "wild" young are fledging. This is the second bird to have made it over the channel. I guess its origin will remain a mystery.

I've now seen an ALBATROSS (WS 235cm) and a LAMMERGEIER (WS 275cm) in Britain...and more so EIGHT days. Pure fantasy. Who'd a thought it?!!!

I won't dwell on the return journey but it was equally as challenging and frankly dangerous. At one point my leg went down a crevasse up to my hip! My surgeon did a great job...thankfully!

I made it back to the car for 9 and made it home in time to score some points.

It was like a who's who of Birders proving the phenominal interest in this bird regardless. I bumped into Andrew Kinghorn and Tom Middleton on "the bog" and John Harriman and Gary Taylor at the Tor then Adam Archer and Jason Oliver on the descent. I didn't have much breath for conversation, unfortunately.

The power of motivation is I prove on every holiday lol! Some days I struggle to get up the stairs, so I'm amazed I made this slog. Glad I did though. It was great to feel alive and at the limit of my endeavours. The thrill of the chase will always be with me and once I've "locked on" I'll give it my best shot.

There may not be "a tick" here BUT it doesn't matter a was ALL about the experience.

Last word to the Bonecrusher. Not the best image but I feel it grabs the essence/jizz of the BIG ONE...surveying its domain early morning...

LAMMERGEIER...a far superior name!