Thursday, 31 October 2019

Cornwall + Scilly - 4-12.10.19

My favourite time of year had arrived but this year my usual companions on the trip to the SW had other plans and so this year Matt and George were joining me on their first autumn visit to Scilly.

4th Oct - 4am and off we went heading for Church Cove on the Lizard. Upon arrival we parked up and wandered into the churchyard and immediately connected with a smart Pied Flycatcher. I wandered off in the hope of finding the rare one but then suddenly Matt came running round the corner saying it was showing in the car park. I legged it round and hey presto my second Red-eyed  Vireo was sat in the open preening. A Firecrest was flitting about in the tree behind it.

 A visit to Porthgwarra provided nothing of note so we headed off to Nanquidno Valley but due to the strength of the wind 7 Chough were the only birds showing.

We finished off the day at Hayle Estuary where I found a distant Curlew Sandpiper.

Red-backed Shrike

5th Oct - The morning brought fog and so we headed to the airport to double check if flights were going. Thankfully it cleared as we were there and our flight left on time. Peninnis was the first place to visit and straight away we saw a Spotted Flycatcher followed by a showy juvenile Red-backed Shrike from the farm trail.

Spotted Crake

6th Oct - News the previous evening of a Spotted Crake at Lower Moors gave us our first place to go in the morning and despite my crappy photo (screen grab from my phone) it showed ridiculously well totally unfazed by our prescence. An adult Yellow-legged Gull on the rocks in Porthcressa Bay was a nice bonus before we headed over to Tresco.

Ortolan Bunting

On the boat we met 2 young lads both of whom were called James and one of them said he'd got the 6 Spoonbill on Green Island as we sailed past. 12 Mediterranean Gull were at New Grimsby and at the old heliport we connected with both the Short-toed Lark and Ortolan Bunting. It was while watching these two that a broken CB message came through with the words American Cuckoo. It turned out one had been seen at Lower Moors and that a unscheduled boat was on its way over and if we could make the quay we could get on it. A 20 minute walk back but only 15 minutes to do it in meant I had to break out into a run which by the time I arrived at the boat I was on my last legs! (I must get fitter next year!)

Yellow Billed Cuckoo (Thanks to Ellis Lucas for use of his photo) He was just to the right of me when he took this.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Thanks to Chris Griffin for use of his photo)

Back at Lower Moors we'd just missed a sighting but it was sounding like an extremely elusive bird and so it proved that after a couple of hours of narrowly missing it and only Matt having had any sort of view of it we took a walk up to Porthloo Beach to clear our heads. A Whimbrel on Taylor's Island was a nice year tick and feeling refreshed we headed back to the mayhem! Again I narrowly missed it only to find George had gone into the woods and had had scope views of the top half of the bird before it flew again after one of the James's had pished it out into view!. I went back onto the road but after another 20 minutes or so I said sod it I'm going into the woods. Matt joined me and suddenly I picked a bird flying into the favoured tree. A nervous minute or so passed before it moved again until eventually it sat out on a dead branch in full view bar a couple of leaves partially obscuring the head but when the wind blew them out the way I finally laid eyes on my first ever YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO! It'd only taken 5 hours but in that moment it was all worth it. It soon vanished again and with that we left to join George in the pub for a celebratory beer! But the day wasn't finished as on the walk back a pale morph juvenile Honey Buzzard soared over Lower Moors viewed from near Porthmellon Beach. What a mad day!

Green-winged Teal?


7th Oct - After yesterdays craziness it was a more subdued day. It started with me finding a Firecrest at Sunnyside on the way up to Newford Duckpond. Here we quickly saw the putative female Green-winged Teal which if accepted would be only the 2nd female to be seen in the UK. Next we walked to Porth Hellick where we saw 3 Whinchat in the first field and then by the start of the loop trial the Cetti's Warbler was singing its head off but remained invisible.

Red-throated Pipit

One bird that was starting to annoy us was a Wryneck by the lighthouse on Peninnis. 3 times we'd missed it so when it was reported again we headed up to try again. 5 minutes after arriving and again not seeing it the radios told us of a Red-throated Pipit in the pig field on Peninnis. We shot down there and got into position but only a handful of Meadow Pipit were showing. A few minutes later they took off and showed there was over 20 in the field and as they came back down one landed on an electric fence and it was the Red-throated Pipit. But not just any old RTP, this one actually was a lovely red faced adult! We'd all been expecting a stripy 1st winter type. It sat there for about a minute before dropping into the long grass. It showed again briefly at the far end of the field and with that we headed to the Standing Stones field near Old Town and added 2 Yellow-browed Warblers to the trip list.

Blue-winged Teal

Red-eyed Vireo

8th Oct - Late news from yesterday reached us of a 1st winter male Blue-winged Teal on St.Agnes. An early boat was organised for 9am so despite me saying it'll be on Porth Hellick or Tresco we went over anyway and no sooner had we set our scopes up and scanned the Big Pool it was found at Porth Hellick! With that news we decided to stay on aggy to see what was about. As it turned out not a lot with just 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a female Merlin of note. We got the early afternoon boat back and chose to be lazy and got a cab to Porth Hellick as time was running out and there was one more bird to go see. From the hide we had ok views of the Blue-winged Teal as it occasionally swam into view with 2 Eurasian birds. The other bird I mentioned was back on Peninnis so we joined a large group in one of the fields and had my best ever views of the Red-Eyed Vireo that my good friend Jonathan Nasir had found a couple of hours earlier. The bird was obviously fresh in as it looked totally


9th Oct - An early start in the hope of catching up with the mega elusive Blue Rock Thrush didn't work but we were handily placed for the Wryneck to eventually give itself up in Old Town Chruch yard. Up at the airfield I finally added Dotterel to my Scilly list with a nice juvenile bird in between the downpours. a stupidly showy Snow Bunting was on Peninnis and at Sandybanks Farm the Turtle Dove finally gave itself up for us. New broke of an American Buff-bellied Pipit on St.Martin's but was elusive. What was probably the same bird was then found at Borough Farm on Mary's so we went to try and see it. Just a Whinchat was seen for our troubles.

10th Oct - We started the day by walking around the Garrison hoping to spot the Blue Rock Thrush but again drew a blank. We were approaching the Star Castle when a broken message on the radio came through. The others turned and said did you get any of that that. I replied "all I'd got was an excited Will Scott and the word thrush!). We carried on down into the high street and we found out that it was a Swainson's Thrush at Carreg Dhu gardens. Off we went and on arrival it was pretty packed in there. Once we were ready Will walked through the shrubs to try and force it back out into view but it had vanished and everyone left empty handed. A Firecrest was seen well though and only 2 other birds made my notebook. A Whinchat at Higher Moors and a nice moulting adult Great Northern Diver in Porthcressa  Bay.

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue-winged Teal (both taken by George Moreton)

11th Oct - Our final full day started at Morning Point at silly o'clock hoping to finally pin down the Blue Rock Thrush. The wind and rain weren't helping much and so after an hour or so we walked back towards Morning Point. We were a quarter of the way along the Lower Broome platform when a radio message said the thrush was showing from morning point! We turned and ran and as I jumped down into position it flew back into the trees above the rocks. George had just seen it but we had missed it. Thankfully a kind Kingfisher obviously took offence to it being there and harassed it enough to push it onto the rocks where I finally got a decent view of my second ever Blue Rock Thrush. Happy with that we had a celebratory cuppa and headed off to try and see the 2 Pink-footed Geese near Salakee. It was then the heavens opened and heavy drizzle started. Our plans changed and we went and hid in the hides at Porth Hellick. This turned out to be a good idea as the Blue-winged Teal flew back into the pool and proceeded to show very well! It then stopped raining so we headed to the Dump Clump in the hope of seeing a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Unfortunately we could only manage 2 of its Spotted cousins before we headed back to the flat to pack to come home.

12th Oct - We got off ok and headed straight to Nanquidno Valley. Within 2 minutes we'd seen the Red-breasted Flycatcher that was present for its 3rd day. Matt's 5th lifer of the trip! After stopping for some Pasties we visited Steart Marshes WWT in the hope of another lifer for the brothers in the shape of an American Golden Plover. It wasn't seen but an adult Spoonbill was noted.

So another trip finished. An excellent one all round. A total of 111 species was seen between us and personally I had 1 lifer (YB Cuckoo), 7 Scilly ticks and 20 year ticks. Thanks to Matt and George for their company and the lift! Hopefully we'll do it all again next year?!

Farlington Marshes - 15.9.19

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

There I was on the 14th hallway through painting my shed when I get news of a mega rare warbler in Hampshire! I looked at the traffic and decided against sitting in it and chose to finish painting. I hope I hadn't made a big mistake!

5am Sunday morning and I joined George and Matt on the trip down south. We arrived at 6.20 and walked over to where it had been showing the previous day. A Kestrel sat atop of a neighbouring bush wasn't exactly the start we wanted but that soon flew off quickly followed by Matt saying he'd got a bird moving in the bushes. I got on it and amazingly it was it. The second bird of the day was my first ever EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER! The pale, large billed bird flitted around and occasionally disappeared but soon showed again and pumped its tail downwards as if to say hello!

Booby Hunting part 2! - 7.9.19

As expected the day after the dip of the Brown Booby near St.Ives I went back to work and boom the mega alert sounds and sure enough the Brown Booby had been re-found this time at Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsular! As the reports came in it transpired that it was a completely new bird due to age and plumage differences. For the next 5 days it was reported showing well sitting on rocks and flying around hunting for fish.

So along with Matt and George we headed down on Saturday morning making great time on our journey. The walk up to where people were positioned nearly killed me but I made it and set up my scope waiting for the time it usually made an appearance. That time came and went and by 10.30 it was obvious it wasn't there. I jokingly said that's probably the only time I've hated Boobies!

7 Chough, Sooty Shearwater and Great Skua made the year list but they didn't really cheer us up and not even a year first Firecrest by the toilet block helped. To make matters worse we were almost home when a report of the Booby came through having flown past the café distantly. Oh well :(

Watford - 3.9.19

Whilst clearing up litter in Radlett Road rec I was suddenly alerted to a familiar call overhead. I looked up and was please to see a Tree Pipit flying over heading SW. What was even more pleasing was the fact there 2 birds! A most unexpected year tick.

Booby Hunting! - 1.9.19

For some reason there was a sudden explosion of Brown Booby sightings in Western Europe with Spain and France having birds on show and then the UK got in on the act. A possible past North Kent was followed by a bird see around St.Ives in Cornwall. It was a bit erratic in its showings but when it did show it really showed well.

Western Bonelli's Warbler (Thanks to Lee Fuller for use of his photo)

So on the Sunday I joined Dave Johnson, Geoff Goater and Brendan Glynn down to Gwithian just east of St.Ives. Almost immediately the shout went up it was flying past but nothing came of it. While we waited we did some seawatching and I added Shag, Arctic Skua, Manx Shearwater and Great Northern Diver to the year list but after about 5 hours we'd had enough and headed SW to Trevescan where after a bit of cat and mouse I had lovely views of my 3rd UK Western Bonelli's Warbler half way up a large Cedar tree. Our decision to leave Gwithian was the correct one as it wasn't seen all day.

Birthday Birding - 30.8.19

Another year older but probably none the wiser! Wilstone was my chosen site for the afternoon and surprisingly there were a few birds to be seen. From the hide I was treated to stunning views of 4 hunting Hobbies and a juvenile Peregrine. A Garganey was asleep on Drayton Bank and round near the orchard I had quick views of a hunting Spotted Flycatcher.

Tyttenhanger - 24.8.19

Due to a long term service award at work I had some money coming to me so I decided to spend it on a battery powered UV moth trap so I could go mobile in my mothing. Ricky had asked if I could bring it to his patch to see what we could catch. In the two hours we were there we caught a few moths including a new one for him and birdwise we heard 2 Tawny Owl and both Common and Green Sandpiper.