Friday, 31 December 2021

Last Post

That's that then. Having already done my Review I won't be repeating all of the highlights...maybe a couple!

Managed a last minute tick down the road in the form of a family party (4) of White-fronted Geese...

...culminating my Patch Year total at a modest 146...which is fine. Long gone are my "must try for 'em all days" especially in the current climate. I still get about when I feel the urge mind you. The Village total was a disappointing 132 and Duff finished off at 86.

You don't need me to pontificate (as if I would) about the World we're currently living in, suffice to say life it somewhat restrictive, limiting and still uncertain.  Hopefully things will improve but I have to say I'm not that optimistic. VERY frustrating in so many ways! That's enough of that also.

Create ....your own World, as much as you can...and LIVE it...

Happier New Year to you all and thanks for's appreciated!

I did say maybe a couple...

One from my boat trip from Bridlington with Phil

Classic Thrush pose

Take some beating those two...

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Dusky Warbler at Wheldrake

A York Area tick to boot...218. A brief visit (as I was in the area) enabled me to strike lucky with a totally underwhelming glimpse. Never a favourite of mine, along with Radde's but an excellent find by Jono Leadley. A nice nostalgic visit though.

Last knockings tomorrow, so time to get off my posterior (and semi-hibernation) and have a last rip around the Patch...a belated Christmas Bird Count! My lad departed for Dubai today; ironic that he really enjoyed the gloom...and mud lol!

I was hoping the Bewick's Swan would be available but the bird scarers sent it off East, unfortunately. The family of White-fronts are still around though...I think.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Review of the Year 2021

In the traditional manner...

British List (all reports are viewable by clicking on the bird)

Where to start then? Makes sense, at least to me, to have a chronological feel to it, so I'll start after the third Lockdown with my NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD sighting in Devon on March 29th . I was lucky how it turned out but I like to think I deserved it for being a good fact I know I did!

Onto Independence Day and a celebration in the form of an ELEGANT TERN in Wales at Cemlyn. A nice "grip back" after missing a few for various reasons.

Into the "Autumn" and a major surprise locally on September 10th in the form of a handy GREEN WARBLER at Buckton (news broke as I was watching the PLOVER). A bird usually associated with off-shore islands, so VERY handy indeed. Incredible to think you could possibly see this bird, the ALBATROSS and the PLOVER in East the same day!!! My decision to take THIS boat trip was one of my better decisions!

With the annual Scilly pilgrimage looming a long-overdue LONG-TOED STINT at St Aidan's RSPB, West Yorks increased the heart rate somewhat on October 9th. After a tense hour or so the bird materialized for all to enjoy. Probably the most over-due Wader on the British List after the 1982 Teeside bird.

Whilst firmly planted on the Fortunate Isles bombshell news broke on Wednesday October 27th. An almost mythical VARIED THRUSH had been found by David Roche on Papa Westray, Orkney. A species you dream of seeing when you flick through the Rare Bird annals. After my previous visits the combination of a fantastic bird on my favourite Scottish Island had me crossing everything for the next few days. I wasn't leaving Scilly though. Fortunately it hung on for me allowing me to connect on Sunday the 31st after an exhilarating late afternoon dash, followed by a far more relaxed FULL day with the bird on Monday in pleasant weather. A day that will remain in my memory forever. 

I was more than happy with my yearly haul but it wasn't over yet. Incredibly another top tier, longed for MEGA was found in Preston, Lancashire in the form of a BELTED KINGFISHER. This bird is still present as I write and seems to have settled in a more accessible area. It was still one of my better decisions to make the trip over the Pennines with Phil and Steve pre-dawn on November 26th, even if the access was a tad precarious. In many other Years this would have been Bird of the Year! Very satisfying to get this one "back".

I have one or two "Pending" records that I haven't added to my "Official List" yet, although I obviously have my own views on them.

Yorkshire List

A Turtle Dove at Easington in Rich Swales's back yard turned into an ORIENTAL on July 2nd. After a short period of tension the bird re-appeared and all connected with the help of the locals. A Spurn Tick to boot!

Fast forward to August 26th when a dapper WHITE-TAILED PLOVER turned up at Blacktoft Sands RSPB. After the initial scramble the bird settled down and is STILL there as I write! It's been 14 years since I saw my first at Caelaverock WWT following an after work dash on June 6th.

GREEN WARBLER - already covered

As I was still getting my breath back from my Papa Westray escapade a or another TAIGA FLYCATCHER was located at Flamborough Head. One was initially seen whilst I was on Scilly so this was a major bonus, especially as I'd missed the Spring bird of 2003. A Red-flanked Bluetail was a significant bonus.

Holmpton List

I managed 4 Village ticks with the Black Stork on August 8th the undoubted highlight. I also added Greenshank, Tree Pipit and Red-necked Grebe. It would be remiss of me not to mention my SECOND record of White-tailed Eagle for the Village on May Day. Incredible really, as I'm still getting over the first one in November 18!

Spurn List

As well as the ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE I added Mandarin Duck (I know) and Purple Heron. A cracking Golden Oriole on May 6th is definitely worth a mention as is an adult Rosy Pastor in July.

York Area List

 Savi's Warbler at Heslington East in May was an unexpected but welcome addition.


The Spring holiday to Texas didn't materialize for the second year running which was obviously a massive blow. My first stay on Shetland in September was a quiet affair Rarity wise. I amassed a modest 65 species but included KING EIDER and Greenish Warbler early on with a sting on the tail on the final day, when my decision to visit Unst paid off handsomely with my 3rd ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.

Scilly is always special in my book (you've probably guessed that by now). No BIG ONE this Year but just a magical place to be in October. It was great to have a couple of weeks there this time. I managed to make 100 species and miles. I added Eider, Spotted Redshank, Hoopoe, Woodlark, Cetti's Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher bringing my Scilly List up to 232. I also saw my second Spotted Sandpiper. My June trip hoping to connect with the EGYPTIAN VULTURE would come to nothing BUT I did add Red-footed FalconPuffin and Iceland Gull. Oh and I saw a WALRUS!!!

The uncertainty of the Pandemic remains with us all but life goes on. I'm not opening that door here. Suffice to say that the future is uncertain. 2020 cost me some (3) Lifers as already discussed but I hope free movement will be permitted in 2022; time will tell. I've made provision for Texas in April and I've got everything crossed...third time lucky...hopefully?

So, it's time for my Bird of the Year. Yorkshire had one hell of a Year which kept the fuel costs down. An ALBATROSS is the Holy Grail for many, yours truly included BUT it was present, albeit briefly in previous Years and I had great views LAST year. It spent all Summer at Bempton this Year....and it could well return next Year! It was never taken for granted though, I can assure you!  

So, for me it just has to be.........

 The Zoothera VARIED THRUSH  


The combination of the adventure, the location, quality time spent, Rarity value and stunning looks, nails it beyond doubt...this Year or any Year...

Here's to 22...hope it's a good one for ALL of us...

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Holmpton Omissions

Still no late additions to my Holmpton Year List, although I admit I haven't been "hammering it" lately due to family commitments...even I can't be that unsociable! Below is a list of species that I haven't seen this year that I arguably should have. Some are long gone now but some are still more than possible in the remaining days...

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Red Knot (Calidris canutus)
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)
Little Auk (Alle alle)
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus)
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
Common Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
Siskin (C
arduelis spinus)

I'll have a "last blast" next week. Just wondering if there are any BELTED KINGFISHER photos about!!! Just kiddin'.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Feeding Time

The Station is fully stocked now and I intend to keep it that way. No excuses these days. Already I've had a Coal Tit (which I've never seen around the Village), 3 Tree Sparrows and 5 Goldfinches amongst the usual suspects...late update 7 Long-tailed Tits at 3.30pm. Easy Birding close to home. I've also just heard a Tawny Owl (2.10pm) from the lounge and I've seen Barn Owl the last two trips along Snakey, early evening. Fortunate indeed.

The BELTED KINGFISHER has given itself up on the shortest day, which is a great early Christmas present for some who are late to the party. It doesn't diminish our escapade, although I may have another peep if it lingers into the New Year.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

A Couple of Things

As the Year draws to a close, a "couple of things" spring to mind. Firstly, my traditional Review of the Year which I will give the attention it deserves. Inevitably much debate on Bird of the Year; I obviously have my own opinion and will be sharing it presently. A clue for me is..."Year". The BELTED KINGFISHER is still being reported from ever-widening locations. I can't help feel this record is being somewhat undervalued? It's an elite status rarity in my book and having missed the 2005 bird while ironically being in Texas (watching one as the news broke!!!) it has special significance for me.

I also aim to my version of a Christmas Bird Count of my Village and Patch. I like to put it down in writing so it commits me to it. When is another matter, as I have my son Robert here at the moment from Dubai and I intend to have some quality time with him. 

I've just stocked my feeders and already have Tree Sparrows (4) in attendance. I also had some Winter Thrushes on Snakey yesterday as I drove along, they looked like Fieldfares at a glance. The striking pale Buzzard is still about but infrequent.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Finishing Straight

Not much of the Birding Year left now, especially with family commitments and all. Still, there's time for an addition or two yet. I used to check "what I needed" but I don't bother anymore...I'll see what I see...or not! My lad Robert is over from Dubai on Thursday; it'll be great to see him. We have a quiet Christmas these days but I still enjoy it...not like many of my peers.

It's very mild today and the forecast looks favourable for the coming week, so no excuse not to get out there and find something...decent...or even better!

Still the odd report of the BELTED KINGFISHER but nothing definite. I noticed an on-line poll that had the WHITE-TAILED PLOVER beating the afore mentioned? Not in my book!

Monday, 6 December 2021

Wind Down

I'm keen but not totally obsessed,,,thankfully! There are other things in my life; important things. I find this time of year a time to take, I won't be doing my annual review yet! However, I admit I have found myself starting to look back on some memorable moments. 

No luck locally with WW Gulls, although both Iceland and Glaucous have been seen down the road recently. We've had some grim weather here recently with another Storm (Barra) forecast for tomorrow. I haven't given up on a few late Year Ticks but I don''t think I'll be venturing far tomorrrow!!

Still no further sign of the BELTED KINGFISHER on the dark side, which makes our spontaneous effort more and more rewarding by the day. I still feel it could be around though. It will also be finding its way into my Top 10 after further thought. After much deliberation the VARIED THRUSH goes in at joint No I can't really split the top 3!!!?

Friday, 3 December 2021


I combined a visit to "me Mum's" with a walk on the Ribble...funnily enough! The forecast for Wednesday morning was poor and that's how it panned out. My decision to arrive at Noon was a good one. It still wasn't great but our walk along the Riverbank from Brockholes was a pleasant one. When I arrived there were a few hopefuls present...

I gave it till 3 then headed back to Bury.

Onto Thursday morning. A much better forecast had me up and out at 6am. This time I headed for the area above the dreaded Red Scar Wood BUT there was no way I was decending the slope. I continued along the footpath and ended up in the same spot by the River at the old weir...

A crisp morning

As you can see I was on my own this time...well almost! A few more hopefuls came and went but I'd had enough by 11 and I was taking my Mother out for lunch so once again I left the site. On the way back to the car I paid my respects to "the slope" I'd slid down then grappled back up last Friday morning...

A slippery slope indeed!

Seeing it again felt good in a strange sort of enhanced the achievement...and success somehow?  I passed a few Birders and a couple asked me about the slope. I didn't underestimate my description!! No further sign as of writing. For me, it's probably still about but obviously very unpredictable in its movements. One thing for sure, whoever sees it will definitely have earned it...we did!!!

BELTED KINGFISHER - River Ribble 26/11/21

Monday, 29 November 2021


Once upon a time in the West...Preston to be precise!

I met Phil at 5.35am at the Humber Bridge Country Park. After an initial hiccup regarding access he found a spot and joined me. We headed for Eggborough to pick Steve up. No problems there, so the 3 of us headed over the Pennines on a busy M62. The M60 was mercifully kind and we arrived at Preston by 8.

With a little help from Google Maps we negotiated our way towards the River Ribble, although we weren't 100% sure of the access. We were definitely aware of the difficulty we were about to experience getting to the River!

As we walked a bit further down the footpath a Birder appeared out of the Woods. After a brief chat he confirmed that the bird was still present, so we took his route through the trees. We found a path of sorts and followed it. It soon became steeper and slippier. After my third fall I decided to slide down certain sections on my backside...plenty of padding there! Eventually we all made it to the riverbank. Steve was there first and gave us the news that we were in the wrong place, as he could see a group of Birders at the confluence of the Tunbrook further East!

As Steve turned I suggested we gave it a while here just in case we could pick it up from our current vantage point. To be honest I didn't fancy climbing back up straight away...more on that later!!!

He started scanning as we attempted to join him. Then came the momentous shout..."I'VE GOT IT"! Somehow the difficult terrain was forgotten as Phil and I ended up next to him and within seconds we were all viewing the BK perched on a large branch some 80 yards East of us, on our side of the River...

First sight at 8.59

It was overcast so the light was poor...but who cares?! After a short period of back-slapping we settled down to enjoy the bird...

Last of the Summer Wine!

...which remained in view most of the time between the odd fishing sorte...

The morning progressed and more admirers made it down to the River. It was past 10 now and the bird had flown across to the other bank a couple of times before returning to its original spot...

At 9.55 the bird flew down the River...

A record shot!

The bird was still viewable distantly till 10.40 when it flew further down the River towards Brockholes. We gave it till Noon but we didn't see it again. We decided to leave and face the steep climb which we had all been dreading but had put to the back of our minds. This was going to test the knee replacement! The initial few feet  involved a steep step which I was struggling to say the least. I grabbed a vine to try and pull myself snapped...sending me backwards with a thump! It gave some entertainment to the waiting crowd including Paul Herrieven (hope you finally connected pal). A couple of chaps helped me to my feet and I managed to find another way up the intial rise.

The next 45 minutes or so were a challenge to say the least. A slippery slope indeed...

At times we (mainly yours truly) were on all fours...

Steve seemed to be doing OK to be fair!

...grabbing any decent sized tree we could to pull ourselves up the steep hill. Eventually we made it...quite a relief...helped by the fact we'd connected.

So, success after two previous failed attempts, which made it even sweeter. The vagaries of twitching are amazing. After last months unforgettable trip to Papa Westray it would have been inconceivable to think I'd be looking at a BELTED KINGFISHER less than a month later!!! Rather nice though.

Despite an hour plus delay on the M62 on our return journey we made it back over the Pennines before dusk. A brilliant day with great company, a positive outcome...and a good laugh to boot.

Brothers across the Pond

Friday, 26 November 2021


Full write up next week (Wedding this weekend) but just to say today was a good one. Stupid o'clock start but we (Phil, Steve and I) were rewarded with great views of this very special bird...

Brothers across the water

Thursday, 25 November 2021


We have confirmation...

That's shut this Old Cynic up!!!

They say things happen in 3's. I've had about 10 in the last week including my beloved Volvo V70 being written off in an unfortunate accident...not my fault I hasten to add. Anyway, shit happens. Tomorrow I'll be making my third attempt for this Belter (couldn't resist). Over the Pennines with Phil and Steve with everything crossed. I've got my crampons for the descent to the river!

Wish us luck...

***Late afternoon I was sorting out another issue regarding our heating. The "up side" was I had a decent view of a "dull" Chiffchaff on the magic Bird Bath. Looked good for Siberian to me***

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Sloooooooow Birding

Deep into November now. Significant sightings hard to come by...but always possible! Richard found a Lapland Bunting on the coast path yesterday. Unfortunately I couldn't re-find it. I did see 6 Ringed Plovers and 4 Sanderlings. 

Time to concentrate on Winter Birding now...which I love. Short days concentrate the mind. I have some cracking sites locally especially on the Humber plus NDC of course.

Got a few personal issues to deal with at the moment, including losing my beloved V70. Not having the best of luck...but that happens to us all at some time or other. 65 today as well! Time for a day out tomorrow to celebrate. Strange how you percieve things at different stages in your life. My Dad only made it to that IS bad luck. Miss you Dad...

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Local Hero

A stroll North this morning with my lad. I wasn't expecting I wouldn't be disappointed! On the return leg a small chunky bird flew up from the path and disappeared over the Cliff. I only saw it briefly but it was "interesting". Luckily, it soon returned and landed in the plough...

It soon flew back to the path and it became apparent that it was unconcerned by my presence. The low sun to the South probably helped...

Love this one through the grass...

Sooooooo fortunate to have this species locally...

Snow's actually a Longspur!

Monday, 15 November 2021

Melted Kingfisher?

A bit of light relief on a dark November evening...

As you know I've "had a go" at the ghostly BELTED KINGFISHER of Preston on more than one occasion. So have many others but there have been NO confirmed sightings...from Birders? The sightings have been from fishermen. There's an inconclusive photo and a video apparently (which I haven't seen). A genuine error? Don't get me wrong...I'd rather things were "flagged up" than suppressed, although it can lead to wasted expense of time and travel.

I saw a report of some unfortunate chaps injuring themselves scaling the steep slopes of Redscar Wood. Access obviously an issue and some areas private. However, I find it hard (impossible) to believe no-one has seen this bird over the recent period? Yes, it can be wide ranging BUT I've seen plenty in the States and they are conspicuous when present. It's not a small bird (14" in length with a 2' wingspan). It also has a loud distinctive call. The repeated cycle - search - negative news...doesn't inspire confidence...does it? Decent numbers of Birders searched significant adjacent areas all afternoon on Sunday. The only conclusion I can come to wasn't there in the first place.

Hope I'm wrong...I really do!!!


Friday, 12 November 2021


Plenty of long dark evenings to come now (a cheerful start) so I need to find some topics to share with well as continuing to report sightings of course!

I've just updated my Yorkshire List (click to view) spreadsheet and I've also been looking at the gaps in that List. So, below is a list of Birds I need that I could/would have seen except for circumstances e.g. Holidays, Family and Work commitments...

BAIKAL TEAL - Holiday (Spurn bird rejected - a decision I don't agree with)


RED-NECKED STINT - I'd just started and could possibly have seen this bird with more experience


PENDULINE TITI'd just started and could possibly have seen this bird with more experience

CRAG MARTIN - Twice!!! Family commitment then Holiday


LANCEOLATED WARBLER - Family commitment

PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER - missed by seconds at Spurn. I blame myself for not radioing ahead!

MAMORA'S WARBLER - I made it to this one at Spurn but the light was fading and I couldn't be sure of the ID in a brief view.


PARROT CROSSBILL I'd just started and could possibly have seen this bird with more experience

A few to look forward to and maybe something new? 2 to go to my target...

A PINE GROSBEAK would be nice...

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Belter (2)

Back to Preston for dawn. I tried the River Ribble further West at Walton-le-dale. I walked East along the North bank for 3 miles...and back of course! Another great walk in fine scenery...

I gave it till 1pm when the rain yet again arrived...a regular occurrence in Lancashire as I remember well! Love my County of birth BUT don't miss the weather.

I never saw another Birder but plenty of Fishermen. I had a good chat with quite a few of them. None of them could shed any light on the report or the reporter.

A forlorn search? Not in my book. In it to win it...and all that. The thought of finding the bird, no matter how remote, was enough to motivate me. Also, if someone else had found it, I was handily placed. Maybe this particular story isn't over yet but it is for me...for now.

This incredible late Autumn continues with a NUTCRACKER reported in far NE Scotland at Dunnet Bay. No further sign as of writing. Fortunately I saw the extremely tame Staffs bird in 1991 which saves me another potentially long trip North. 

Phew...I need a rest!!!

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Would have been a BELTER!

Combined a visit to my Mother's with a search for the reported BELTED KINGFISHER on the River Ribble at Preston.

No joy but a nice walk for Bud. The adrenaline rush came when he decided to jump into the rapids and then couldn't get out for a few minutes!

Surprisingly few hopefuls present. Just a handful of locals. News came out early afternoon that the finder had checked some inaccessible areas also. Heavy rain then set in.

It would have been a nice re-find!!! Maybe I'm being a bit greedy?

I'll try again tomorrow...

Monday, 8 November 2021

Back "On Patch"

A leisurely stroll North this morning with the team. Gavin had mentioned a flock of Snow Buntings South of the Sewage. Always a pleasure to see. No sign as we headed North but after enjoying the superb Autumn weather some more, we returned South and there they were, bobbing around the stubble, then ending up on the beach...

I can't recall many occasions when I've seen SB lingering on a beach. As we continued South the birds took flight then once again dropped down onto the beach...

There were 17 birds in total; a decent flock that I'm hoping will linger for a while yet. They always brighten up the short day. As we started to head West along the Runnel towards the car a large white bird rose up over the hedge...

Little Egret!


This was my first record for the Village since January 1st, 2017 and my first Year Tick for over a month. The bird landed further down the ditch briefly before flying high North.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

VARIED THRUSH - Zoothera!!!


If you've followed my ramblings for any length of time you'll know I dont "do" long-winded BUT on this occasion it WILL be a long post. I'm a bit late to the party due to circumstance but I've finally sorted myself out...and got my breath back.  All the superlatives have been shared by now (rightly so). I have to do the occasion and the bird justice, hence the delay in my post. I hope you'll find some interest here, whatever your particular interest in birds is. 

I'm 65 this month (my birthday present came early) and I've been chasing Rare Birds ever since I became aware of this wonderful pastime in the late 80's. My age and the magnitude of this particular record make this a time for reflection. I'll keep it relatively brief...

It all started when I tagged on to John Walton and his mates from Stallingborough, Lincs as they made their Sunday trips to various locations. My first major dip was the GREAT BUSTARDS that roamed East Anglia. If you're going to dip...!!!

Despite this disappointment (I didn't realise the enormity of it at the time) I got the bug I guess. On the other side of the coin I joined them for the DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT at Charlton's Pond, Billingham in February 1989. As my two boys grew I started to spread my wings (sorry) further all twitchers do. I saw the RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH in Norfolk yet thought the GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER in London was ...too far!!! Another big regret. However, I did snap out of it for another MEGA Thrush, namely NAUMANN'S THRUSH. My full chronological list is in the left hand column. Enough name dropping. 

My RUSH Birds list (again see left hand column) has different personal criteria for inclusion. Twitchers know that they're all ONE but some are far more memorable than others...for various reasons. Many are frankly....dull; some can't even be identified in the field! Rarity value. Views can range from "tickable" to "crippling". Some you just turn up and see, others appear as if by magic. The latter is obviously far more exhilerating...hence my decision to have the BBA at Number 1 and the NIGHTHAWK at Number 2. Click for full story. More on this later.

Emotions range widely when twitching...excitement, surprise, uncertainty, frustration, exhilaration, crushing disappointment aka DIP...a sickening feeling indeed. 

Over the years I've twitched birds far and wide in Britain (I don't do Ireland). Some before work, some after work but never instead of work...which has cost me quite a few ticks. I've missed birds through Holidays and Family situations. I also missed some through COVID and I've even turned birds down that I didn't fancy...this wasn't going to be one of them!

Thrushes are top birds. Even the humble (male) Blackbird is a cracker in my book. Zoothera's are enigmatic birds from far away. The two Siberian visitors are much sought after and hard to "get". So, to have this New World counterpart, which seems to be a composite of all classic field marks, hopping around in the open on an Orcadian lawn was er...AMAZING!!! Better looking also.

Below then is my complete account of my twitch...

I guess this yarn was kicked off with this news on Wednesday (October 27th) evening, as we were preparing to head from the Atlantic pub on St Mary's...

6.32pm MEGA Orkney VARIED THRUSH Papa Westray

species of almost mythical status in British Birding circles. Even more so when you consider the plumage of the 1982 Cornwall bird. One of those birds you dream of seeing when you first flick through the Rarity publications, to consider what you might see one day. I've two records of three birds in the ABA area. I saw two birds briefly in thick cover at Sue-Meg SP, Northern California in August 2005. I also had a brief view of one in Homer, Alaska in August 2007. I was hoping to get better views on this occasion. It breeds in dense coniferous forest and is a notorious skulker. Whilst on Papa Westray I heard a rumour a wealthy admirer had flown across from the States to see it! I don't know how credible that story is?

"Wallop" was the message I sent to pals. One of the true greats had arrived!!! I decided to select this one. 

We had a lovely meal and I sunk some Tribute. Thursday dawned and the bird was still present. I wasn't leaving...especially by plane, as it was foggy. However I took a punt and grabbed the last flight from Kirkwall to Papa Westray on Sunday afternoon. I also provisionally booked a couple of nights in the Papa Hostel which I'd visited on two previous occasions you may recall. The Scillonian sailed in the afternoon but I didn't feel pre-occupied and we had another great day on the Islands. We were leaving on Friday on the 3.25 flight...hopefully.

Friday started with us packing before heading for a coffee. Here's a thought. Within a mile or so of Hugh Town before I returned for our taxi at 2pm the following birds were available...on foot.

Sub-Alpine Warbler sp
Olive-backed Pipit
Rose-coloured Starling
Yellow-browed Warbler
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Water Pipit
Siberian Chiffchaff

Scilly isn't what it used to be?

We thankfully left on time and were soon coming in to land at Lands End...

...after some "fun" with the "improved" car park payment system we filled up the car in Penzance and headed East. Some congestion in Bristol then onto the services for a meal. Driver swap at the services, then North up the M6 towards Bury...and into horrendous lane restrictions due to Smart Motorway upgrade work. THREE one lane sections which meant we arrived at my Mother's at 2am. We spent Saturday morning and early afternoon catching up with family before Louise drove us home. I was focussing now on more positive news. Maybe I'd get a shot tomorrow afternoon?

The Journey

After sorting things out and having a couple of hours rest I set off West then North with the full backing of my wonderful wife Louise. This journey was mercifully uneventful and I arrived at my chosen lay-by North of Perth around 11.30pm. I managed to get some kip and woke to my alarm at 5am. After an Inverness pit stop...

A McDonald's dawn

...I continued North for the Ferry from Scrabster to Stromness at Noon. I reached my destination in plenty of time, parked up and boarded the Ferry...

...after checking my Taxi would be waiting for me...twice!

The Taxi driver was great company and he made good time across the Mainland to have me at the Airport at 2.30. After checking in I turned to sit down and met...two other Birders! Namely Douglas Bowker (quite a character) and Marcus Brew. I'd messaged David Roche the local Birder and finder, to ask if he might be able to pick us up. He said he'd do his best but he also had to take some chaps down to the Quay for the boat. It was going to be tight as we'd lost an hour with the clocks going back. The flight passed quickly giving spectacular views of the Islands...

Coming into land...

Thankfully David pulled up just as we arrived! We threw our gear in the back of his truck and he drove us quickly down to the track to the Bungalow saving us a precious 20 minutes. 

We walked the short distance to the site. This was the moment then...crunch time. If we didn't see it before dusk it would be a tense and uncomfortable night in the Hostel wondering if it would remain for us!? David joined us to look for the bird which was appreciated...

L to R David, Douglas and Marcus

After a few anxious minutes we had the bird...there it was...on the lawn!!!


The relief pic at 3.42pm

We moved around the perimeter of the property and enjoyed further views in the fading light...

A twilight BOC shot at 4.09pm...

What a Bird!!!

Michael McKee was also present having also made his way up from Scilly and managing to get across on a returning Charter boat. Top Work! He was also staying at the Hostel.

Initially I'd booked a single night in the Hostel and a return flight Monday morning. I was now so glad I'd extended my visit till Tuesday...I just needed the bird to remain overnight? At least I'd have a relaxing evening having connected. David drove us back to the Hostel and opened the shop for us. After settling in I joined the chaps and even shared a bottle of red wine with Marcus, not my usual tipple but this was a VERY special occasion!

Monday November 1st - A Special Day

I have to admit I didn't shoot down to the site first thing. After covering the length of Britain and having seen the bird yesterday I decided to play it (relatively) cool! Waking to the fact I was possibly 400 yards from one of the rarest and most stunning birds you could wish to see in Britain, was somewhat surreal. 

News came through...

07.33 MEGA Orkney VARIED THRUSH still Papa Westray at Links by house

I had ALL day. 

Again, if you're into this game, you'll know how stressful the logistics and unpredictable nature of the bird can be....amongst other considerations. I've done my bit over the years and now it's my turn. Time to relax and enjoy without having to rush back for whatever reason. I was going to make the most of this momentous occasion. Appreciation being the key.

I arrived on site just after 9...

The first boat load had just arrived...The bird was showing on the lawn at mid-distance much to the relief of the new arrivals. The light wasn't great and the forecast (for what it was worth) dodgy. Still, it was fine for now and everyone was happy. I'm not a fan of "death by photograph" but I thought on this occasion I'd post a selection of pics I took throughout the day to give a flavour of the occasion. Hopefully not too OTT!

A (relatively) early view at 9.29am...

The bird was active and looked in good health as it flew to different areas of the garden, including walls and gates...

The bird put on a fine show but kept its distance in the dull conditions. The morning progressed and more twitchers came and went... 

Imagine the numbers on the Mainland!

The bird did disappear on occasions into the long grass to the East of the property, adding to the tension for those with limited time but happily, everyone saw the bird eventually...


It was nice to finally meet Cliff Smith, a solid chap. It was now past Midday but the sun just wouldn't break through, as I was hoping. Michael had the same hopes as I did. There was a hint that the clouds were breaking up as 1pm passed.

Just prior to 2pm the sun broke through just as the bird gave its best views of the whole day. It was like the curtains opening at the theatre! It was "as good as it gets". 

I've tried hard to narrow down my photos of this amazing bird and give a range of poses...hope you like the pic...

The approach...

An elongated pose...

A classic Thrush pose

A rear view...

...and away..

I returned to the Hostel for 3pm to get some much needed refreshment before returning for the last hour. Three Geordie Birders left for the boat at 4 leaving me alone with the bird till I left at 4.25pm. I made my contribution to the bucket and headed back to the Hostel. My final image...

It departed overnight as the wind swung NW making me the last Birder to see the bird...until the next one!

Two debates as old as the hills...Yank v Sibe and Scilly v Shetland. You know my position, the former on both counts. Ironically this jewel turned up on Orkney! It was brilliant to visit Papa Westray again...

...and renew some old acquaintances. It was great to see Jennifer again, a great host and thanks to Ann for giving me a lift to Kirkwall from the Airport on my return. Douglas was a fascinating character and we hope to keep in touch. The friendly atmosphere on the Island only added to the experience. The fact that the Airport, Hostel and bird were all within half a mile was...handy! I'm aware there's always a "gripping" element to a tale like this but I like to think I put some effort in here. Arguably some as good...but none better in my book. A magical, mystical memory.

Some prefer subtle and that's fine, I don't mind myself! However, I also like stunning...

Still not sure where to put it in my Top 10...but it's right up there!