Saturday, 23 September 2017

American Redstart!! - 16/17.9.17

American Redstart

The last time an American Redstart put in an appearance in Britain I was 10 years old. I recently turned 42 so us birders had been waiting a long time for another one. So when one was found on Barra, W.Isles I thought it'd be another 32 years until I see one. But after a few days on site Craig Fulcher asked if I'd be interested in going. After last years dip of the Black-billed Cuckoo on the W.Isles I was in two minds but not for long and the evening of the 15th saw me take a drive to Suffolk where I joined Craig, Eddie Marsh and Nathaniel Cant (nice to meet you both) for the long journey up to Oban. We were about 15 minutes from Oban when the news we had been waiting for came through that the bird was still present. Once in Oban we had a couple of hours to kill before the ferry so after a fry up and a quick bit of birding which gave me a couple of year ticks in the shape of Hooded Crow and Black Guillemot we boarded the ferry for the near 5 hour crossing to the island of Barra.

As we passed through the Sound of Barra I got sight of 2 White-tailed Eagle sat on an island. Over Mull itself a Golden Eagle was avoiding the attention of the many corvids around including around half a dozen Raven. Once we had cleared Mull we were in a stretch of water called The Minch which produced some good birds many of which were year ticks. A Manx Shearwater was joined by 5 Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Grey Phalarope and I personally saw 2 of 6 Storm Petrels. Non birding highlights were a Basking Shark, Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin.

We finally arrived at Castlebay and after a short while arrived at Eoligarry church. We were greeted by the finder of the bird who kindly informed us of its presence. We got into position and within a couple of minutes 25 of us were watching the 1st Winter female AMERICAN REDSTART as it flitted around a Sycamore tree and twice perching on the wall giving great views and flashing its yellow tail panels. Over the following hour it became more and more elusive as the temperature dropped and the light faded. Happy we went to our digs for the night and headed out for dinner. The only trouble was that the 2 hotels in Castlebay stopped serving food at 8.30 and 8.45pm on a Saturday night! Thankfully a curry house prepared us a takeaway that we ate at our lodgings. The night passed too quickly and at &.50am the ferry left back towards Oban.

The return journey was less eventful birdwise but we did manage 2 more Golden Eagles and a mammal tick with brief views of 4-5 Atlantic White-sided Dolphins. I crawled into bed at 12.20am Monday morning exhausted but with a 6th for Britain on my list! Many thanks go to Craig for the driving and Eddie and Nat for the good company.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Herts Tick! - 12.9.17

White-winged Black Tern

During a drink break at work I checked Twitter and read that a Black Tern had been found on the fishing pit at Tyttenhanger GP's. A good record I thought as I'd only seen the one there many years ago. It was while having lunch the first photo appeared on Twitter and I immediately thought that doesn't look right for a Black Tern! Another photo was posted showing a black underwing. It was a White-winged Black Tern! Only trouble was I couldn't get there for another 4 hours so I had to hope it stuck around. Thankfully it did and on arrival I found it sat on one of the islands. It had a brief fly around before landing again. After missing the last 4 or 5 birds due to being at work or in Norfolk it was a relief to finally add it to my Herts list. A Yellow Wagtail flew over as I walked back to the car.
A big thanks to my mate Steve Blake for finding it!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Wilstone - 9,9,17

A wander around failed to produce the Knot, Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat that I hoped for but there was still an impressive list of species seen.

The Spotted Redshank and Ruff had been joined by 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlin, 2 Greenshank and 4 Redshank. the 4 Black Tern were also still present.

and as I've forgotten to post a visit there on the 31st August I'll mention here the highlights. a Pink-footed Goose that I picked up as it landed infront of the hide was unexpected, 15 Little Egret was a nice count and an eclipse drake Garganey made the notebook.

Wilstone - 6.9.17

Due to the ever increasing amount of mud the reservoir was now attracting good number s of waders. A Spotted Redshank was the highlight albeit distantly and 4 Black Tern were also new in.

Chipping Sodbury + Wilstone - 2.9.17

Woodchat Shrike + Whinchat

A few hours in Gloucestershire with George Moreton produced some great birds. Highlight of which was only my second ever Woodchat Shrike. My first was an adult male in Cornwall 15 years ago but this one was a nice scaly juvenile. It was a lifer for George. Closely following the shrike around were at least half a dozen or more Redstart and Whinchat. It was a pleasure to watch this sort of numbers of birds I don't see all that often.

On the way home George very kindly drove us to Wilstone Reservoir where distantly we viewed the juvenile Ruff that had dropped in that morning.

Back Garden - 28.8.17

Doing the back garden doesn't always pay off but recently Hawfinch and Wheatear have made it worth the while. Todays spot of gardening produced a Yellow Wagtail and the 2nd garden record of Tree Pipit overhead.

Birdfair + Wanlip Meadows - 20.8.17

Osprey + Pec Sand

I went along to the birdfair at Rutland Water with Ricky, Brendon and Steve and amazingly I only spent £18 on a book despite there being things costing a lot more that I wanted! Once we'd walked around we drove round to view an Osprey and get it onto the year list. Next stop was Wanlip Meadows about 18 miles to the west where after a bit of a wait we picked up the Pectoral Sandpiper that had been there for a day or two. Unfortunately due to poor signage and map reading skills the Spotted Crake that had been found earlier in the day was only seen briefly by myself which was a bummer.

College Lake - 30.7.17

Wood Sandpiper

After missing a couple of Wood Sandpipers during the year I was pleased that one had stuck long enough for me to get it on the way home from Norfolk. It was a bit elusive at first but showed well eventually. A female Common Scoter was a nice addition in the note book.

Winterton-on-Sea - 29.7.17

I took my son up to my dads in Norfolk for the weekend and while he was still in bed I popped up the road to have a wander round my Norfolk patch. It was a bit too quiet for my liking with 3 Stonechat and a few Little Tern the only notable birds. I did however get a first in the shape of about 30 Grayling butterflies!

College Lake + Halsey Fields - 15.7.17

Yet another visit to the lake this time for a nice male Common Scoter which was frustratingly very distant.

That evening I joined a small group in north Hemel for an evening mothing and while there I heard my first Tawny Owl of the year.

College Lake - 10.7.17

A return visit again after work was worth the effort with good views of an Avocet on the small island at the far north of the reserve.

College Lake - 26.6.17

An after work twitch saw 8 summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit make the patch list.

Mega At Church Norton - 10.6.17

Record shot of the Elegant Tern

The day actually started off in the SE corner of Hayling Island where along with Ricky Flesher and Terry Smith we waited with a few others for a an hour or so hoping that the bird we'd come to see would show up. I then received a phone call from Cliff Smith informing me that the bird was now showing at Church Norton. Only an eight mile gap between th
e two sites but by road a 40 minute journey! We parked in Pagham Harbour car park and walked the 1.5 miles down to join the now large group over looking an island in the water. After a couple of minutes I got onto the bird and at last I had a lifer for the year. The adult ELEGANT TERN  had been ringed in France a good few years ago and confirmed as such by DNA results. It showed well in flight before disappearing in the long grass but then flew off west before the other two got a good view. after a long wait it returned and showed brilliantly in full view washing and preening. Other noteworthy birds were a Peregrine strangely nesting on the ground with 3 fluffy chicks and another large group of Mediterranean Gulls this time totalling 43!

Minsmere - 14.5.17

I joined the Watford RSPB group trip to one of my favourite reserves for the day out. Highlights included my first Suffolk Mandarin, a 2nd Winter Caspian Gull, a pair of Stone Curlew and my largest flock of Mediterranean Gulls totalling 51 birds! A pair of Bar-headed Geese added a bit of exotica to the day!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Hilfield Reservoir - 2.5.17

Slavonian Grebe

Due to the goodies up on the patch it took me 4 days to visit my old one for a pair of stunning summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes. Only my 3rd and 4th in Herts and my first full summer birds anywhere since Loch Ruthven RSPB in 1991! And for the first time ever I saw 4 species of grebe at one site at once in Herts.

Herts Mega - 1.5.17

Kentish Plover

As I was slurping my morning cuppa a Tweet came through about a female Kentish Plover on Pitstone Quarry! My tea was nearly splattered over the wall when I read that! I quickly gathered myself and headed up to pay my first visit to the site. On arrival I joined a group of familiar and some unfamiliar faces as this site is well known for having the Bucks/Herts county border running through the middle of it and so potentially providing a tick for both counties listers. Thanks to Lee Evans for getting my scope on this hard to see bird it soon became apparent that it was in Bucks and that it had to walk towards us to be in Herts. Thankfully that's just what it did and became a Herts tick for almost everyone. This was the 4th for Herts with the last record in 1976 when I was nearly 8 months old! As for Bucks it was only the 2nd for them with the only other one was in 1981.

After my fill of the plover I popped into College Lake to see what was about and secretly hoping that the previous evenings Greenshank was still about. Luckily it was even if it was in the far NW corner. It was sharing the corner with a Redshank and a Common Sandpiper. On the main marsh a Snipe and 2 LRP were seen as well as the Dunlin.

On Wilstone the Black Terns had increased to 3.

Back Again - 30.4.17

Today I spent a good few hours on patch and started off at College Lake where the highlight was a smart summer plumaged Dunlin.

A wander around the back of Marsworth Res failed to produce any sound of the 2 Grasshopper Warbler but not surprising due to the near gale force winds! A Hobby was upsetting some wagtails and as I reached my car a Cuckoo started cuckooing at the back of a nearby field.

A circuit of Wilstone didn't add anything to the list but I did have my best patch views of a pair of Raven over Rushy Meadow. From the hide a late female Wigeon and a hunting Hobby were noted and from the jetty 2 adult Black Tern were sat on the barley bales.

College Lake - 29.4.17

Jack Snipe and Yellow Wagtails

To get a bit of fresh air the 3 of us had a family wander around the lake. Phoebe decided to protest as soon as we arrived by screaming loudly but she soon fell asleep. 2 Lesser Whitethroat were heard and 2 LRP and an Oystercatcher were seen and that was about it until I had one last scan. On this scan a bird flew up and dropped into a weedy area and promptly was mostly hidden. But given time I managed to tentatively ID it as the Jack Snipe which had been present for a while. The only nagging doubt was its lack of bobbing! I wanted better views and so quickly walked around to the Octagon hide and thankfully got clinching views and even a bit of bobbing. It was then suddenly surrounded by 5 Yellow Wagtails. I can't recall seeing the two species together before! This is the last confirmed sighting of the Jack Snipe and so becomes Bucks latest ever.

Tring Again - 25.4.17

Yet another after work dash but this time for a pair of Black-Necked Grebe which were unfortunately on the far side of the reservoir so views were pretty crap!

Tring - 24.4.17

1 of the 2 Black Tern

A quick dash up once Carey had got home saw 2 adult Black Terns make it onto the year list along with Sedge Warbler and Swift.

Garden Mega - 23.4.17

5 hours of gardening was made more bearable when a Hawfinch flew NE over as I was putting the tools back in the shed. One of the best birds I've had on any of my garden lists.

Tyttenhanger - 17.4.17

A tweet saying that a Hooded Crow had been seen by my mate Ricky as it headed over Tyttenhamger GP's got me out the house and on site but despite a good bit of searching this county mega had obviously gone straight through. But I did see my first Whitethroat and White Wagtail of the year along with 4 LRP and 2 Yellow Wagtail.

Patch Again - 16.4.17

Yellow Wagtail

No sooner had I arrived at the viewpoint at College Lake than I heard my first Reed Warbler of the year singing from the path to the Octagon hide. As I walked around I heard some terns and once on them I was delighted to find they were 4 Arctic Terns. They didn't stay long and soon headed off towards the reservoirs. A Lesser Whitethroat was rattling at The Twist but the rest of the walk round was uneventful.

Wilstone was my next stop and from the hide I got onto the Common Sandpiper feeding out at the base of one of the trees on Drayton bank. At the jetty I almost stood on a stunning male Yellow Wagtail.

Startops had another Common Sandpiper and not a lot else!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cassiobury Park - 15.4.17

Despite it being a Saturday I was up fairly early and into (work!) but it was for a good reason. Last years Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that I'd found had reappeared in the same spot and drawing in birders from afar to come see it. Unfortunately on arrival a military fitness type group were nearby with a very noisy instructor which possibly lead to the bird being elusive and only being seen in flight. What was good is that I saw a female too which raises hope of breeding. Others had also seen another male! This became my 150th species for the year.

Cattle Egret! - 12.4.17

Cattle Egret

An after work visit to the patch proved to be very fruitful. On walking out to the viewpoint at College Lake I noticed a white bird on the left hand island. Thinking it's probably a Little I was stunned to find upon looking at it through my scope that it had an orangey bill and crown. It was a Cattle Egret! I quickly grabbed a record shot in case it flew and then ran into the centre to inform the staff of my find. A 1st for the reserve no less! Next it was to get the news out and inform the locals. Quite quickly they started to appear and get a view. It was flighty but stuck around until closing ending up on the tern raft on the far side of the reserve. It also became my first self found 3 pointer for the patchwork challenge thereby giving me 3 bonus points!Willow Warbler and 2 Little Ringed Plover also made it onto the year list.

Marsworth was my next stop. A House Martin was a year first as were the pair of Mandarin that I'd managed to walk past without seeing them. On Startops Common Tern and 3 Yellow Wagtail were also year firsts and finally a pair of Red-Crested Pochard were on Wilstone.

Summer? - 11.4.17

A single Swallow flew over Vicarage Road cemetery this afternoon.

Home - 29.3.17

A Sand Martin flew over the garden as I was sat looking out of the window. A nice garden tick.

Wilstone + College Lake - 11.3.17

Whilst trawling through my Twitter feed I stumbled across a post informing us of Garganey up at Wilstone. Soon I was on site and enjoying the sight of 4 Garganey (2 pairs). These were my earliest ever in the UK by almost a week. It was while watching these that a bird called from behind me as it flew overhead. It took the old brain a second or two to register that it was a Curlew! This was only my 2nd ever in Herts!

Before heading home I popped into College Lake and was rewarded with 3 new patch ticks for the year in the shape of Shelduck, Redshank and Oystercatcher

Wilstone Reservoir - 6.3.17


A message on Twitter came to my attention from @Tringbirds saying there were 35 Kittiwakes on Wilstone! Thinking it maybe a fat thumb moment and he meant 3 or 5 I headed up anyway and on arrival ! was told that there was at least 1 on show and that 35 was correct but almost all of them had flown of into Bucks! In the end I managed to see 5 birds of varying age and plumage and as a result get a Tring tick.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Hilfield Reservoir - 26.2.17

Iceland Gull

My first visit to my old patch in over a year was a brief one after getting a text from Steve Murray to say he'd just found an Iceland Gull in the roost. On arrival I picked it up as it took flight but despite a few attacks by LBB Gulls it settled onto the water long enough to grab some video of it. Only my 2nd in Herts with my first being 13 years ago almost to the day.

College Lake - 24.2.17

6 Bewick's Swan including a dark billed bird

After a couple of moans over Twitter about the lack of bird news coming from the site it was nice to receive a tweet informing us of 6 Bewick's Swans on the marsh. Within the hour I was on site watching them from the viewpoint. A good bird for the patch list.

A quick scan of Wilstone only produced a Black Swan of any interest!

Cassiobury Park + Tring - 21.2.17

As I was off work and was up early I decided to head into the park not only to see some birds but also see how the new hub and paddling pools were coming along. Despite being told of 6 Mandarin on the river I still managed to miss them a few minutes later and there was no sign of the hoped for LS Woodpecker but I did manage to see my first Little Owl of the year. The highlight though was an Egyptian Goose the flew south. This was just the third park record. Other notable birds were a Bullfinch, 2 male Pheasants and only my second Coal Tit of the year.

After a quick haircut I headed up to College Lake to try and add some more species to the patch challenge. From the viewpoint I found 2 Snipe and a showy Water Rail. All of a sudden all the birds on the main lake took flight. The reason was a Peregrine that headed over the visitor centre. On my walk around the whole lake a Yellowhammer appeared in a hedge before heading over the centre. At the half way point a scan of the cow field produced the female Stonechat. Only my 3rd on patch.

I then popped to Tring reservoirs where I had 3 Siskin fly over the hide at Marsworth. These were the first I'd seen on the patch since I started taking part in the challenge. From the hide at Tringford I managed to find the previous days Green Sandpiper.

A wander around Wilstone added Little Egret and a couple of Raven. 12 Snipe were on the edge of the reeds and on the water 3 Goldeneye. The gull roost came up trumps (sorry to use that word!) with 4 Mediterranean Gulls of which I saw 2 (2nd and 1st Winter).

Pacific Diver - 19.2.17

Pacific Diver

Almost 10 years ago to the day I took the day off work and headed north to Farnham GP's in N.Yorks to see a bird that I'd never even heard of the day before! The Pacific Diver on a small lake showed very well and became the rarest bird I'd ever seen in the UK being not only a first for the UK but a first for the Western Palearctic.

Fast forward to today and I joined up with Brendon Fagan, Steve Blake and Ricky Flesher on a trip up to Northumberland. Despite somehow coming off the M1 and ending up driving around Leeds we made good time and arrived at Druridge Bay CP and was amazed to find the car parking was free! The first good bird of the day were a couple of Tree Sparrows by the car park followed by a RB Merganser on the main lake. After getting our bearings we walked down to East Chevington pool where a quick scan produced 2 male Scaup and some more Mergansers. We entered the hide and soon found out it was one of the crappest hides we'd ever been in. The openings were so low down than you broke your back stooping down to view out of them but if you sat on the benches the openings were too high to view out of using a scope! Despite this we eventually came across our desired bird. The juvenile Pacific Diver swam out in front of us allowing us to take in all its subtle features and thus allowing the other 3 to claim their lifer. This bird is roughly about the 8th for the UK and one of 3 currently in the country. The other notable bird seen was a winter plumage Slavonian Grebe.

After getting some info from one of the locals we then headed further south down to the beach where the first bird we came across was a male Reed Bunting! While waiting for our target birds to arrive we scanned the sea and found 11 Red-Throated Diver. Suddenly I heard a finchy type call a sure enough in came around 40 Twite which showed down to a few feet at times. They were soon joined by our other target when 7 Shorelark flew in for a few minutes.

On our way home we made a detour to Skinningrove in Cleveland where quickly we had decent views of the long staying Eastern Black Redstart which I'd seen back in December.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tring - 24.1.17

On the 19th I had an operation on my nose as I'd somehow managed to snap the cartilage in my septum which was causing me trouble breathing and sleeping at night, Being housebound is only so much fun so with boredom creeping in I headed up for my first look around the patch. Wilstone was almost fully frozen over so it made scanning through the waterbirds easier. A female Goldeneye was the pick of the ducks and on my walk around Skylark and Yellowhammer kept the year list ticking over as did a Treecreeper up on the dry canal.

Tringford failed to add anything bar 2 Goldcrest for the patchwork challenge.

Mistle Thrush and House Sparrow were the highlights from Startops but Marsworth proved more fruitful with around 50 Corn Bunting coming into roost and a brief fly past of a Bittern meant I didn't have to stay till dark to see one!

More Waxwings - 16.1.17

After Twitter alerts I headed home a different way via Garston where after a bit of driving around I connected with the 7 Waxwings but unfortunately only in flight.

Cornish Weekender - 8.1.17

After a good nights sleep it was up and out early and back to Perranuthnoe. A pair of Stonechat was a nice start to the day and eventually I came across the Hudsonian Whimbrel and called the others over to finally see the bird at their 3rd attempt! Such a pity that as I write this news of the new list we will be following from January 2018 is the IOC list which doesn't count Hudsonian Whimbrel as a separate species and so we all lose it from our own personal lists!

Long Rock was our next stop to try for the Pacific Diver but apart from 2 adult winter Mediterranean Gulls on the sea and a singing Cetti's Warbler from the pool there was no joy with the diver.

At Marazion RSPB we had over 20 Snipe and a Chiffchaff that popped up in front of us.

The title post is Cornish Weekender but after cutting our loses we headed home via a couple of sites in Devon! First stop was Matford Marshes RSPB. This was a new site for all of us and after a bit of gathering details on Twitter of where to go we parked up and walked down to the viewpoint where we almost immediately got onto the 1st winter drake American Wigeon. A lifer for the other 3 but my 3rd. Another Chiffchaff greeted us on the way back to the car.

News of a Long-Tailed Duck at Topsham took us there but despite a good scan from behind the auction house we failed to see it. A flock of 40 odd Avocet were some consolation as were the first Black-Tailed Godwit and Red-Breasted Merganser of the year. With a bit of time left I showed the lads around Bowling Green Marsh. It must've been a while since I last visited as there was a lovely new hide in place of the old brick one! A good scan of the estuary from the viewpoint added our final new year tick of the day with a couple of Knot. 200+ Pintail was an impressive sight.

A great weekend and I ended on 123 species for the year.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Cornish Weekender - 7.1.17

After the success of the trip to Rutland I joined the other 3 on a weekend down to Cornwall with many lifers possible for them. First stop was a drizzly Dozmary Pool where after a muddy walk we had good if dull views of the drake Lesser Scaup. Only my 2nd and my first since 2002!

Next stop was Perranuthnoe where last year I'd seen the Hudsonian Whimbrel on the way down to Scilly. We had been told by a birder that it was still here but had just flown round the corner so typically despite looking for nearly an hour we didn't see it! 2 Purple Sandpiper were some consolation as we re a Great Northern and 3 Black-Throated Diver.

From here we headed to the strangely named Mousehole where straight away we connected with the Eastern Black Redstart. This was not as brightly coloured as the Cleveland bird but it was a bit soggy after the rain. A few Fulmar on the cliffs were number 100 for the year.

Penzance was the next place and despite scanning Mount's Bay for a couple of hours we failed to pick out the returning Pacific Diver. Another 12 GN Diver were seen along with another 19 Purple Sandpiper. A drake Eider and Velvet Scoter were good year ticks and further along the coast I picked out a nice male Black Redstart at Longrock.

Green-Winged Teal

While we were eating a lovely pasty at the Hayle Estuary we picked up Shelduck and Kingfisher and when we moved around to the causeway we had Spoonbill and a nice Green-Winged Teal that had a ring on its leg so we are waiting to hear where it was ringed.

We finished the day marvelling in the Starling roost at Marazion RSPB. What a noise!

Back To WOrk - 3.1.17

It was back to work after the Christmas break and while up at Oxhey Grange I added Nuthatch and RN Parakeet to the year list.

Rutland Water - 2.1.17

Surf Scoter

After many attempts of a day out with fellow Hemel birders George and Matt Moreton we finally organised a trip and along with young Kai Gordon we spent the day at Rutland Water trying to boost the year list. The first stop was the dam end where in with a flock of Tufted Duck was a nice and showy juvenile Surf Scoter. This was my 3rd in the UK but it was a lifer for the other 3 so a good start to the day. We then stopped off around the water quickly adding more and more birds to the list with the highlights being 7 Goosander, 2 Green Sandpiper, 7 Smew, 9 RC Pochard, GW Egret, Peregrine, all 5 Grebe species, Common Scoter,
2 Scaup and my first ever January Whimbrel.

A quick visit to Deeping Lakes NR on the way home added a partially obscured Long-Eared Owl to the list. The day ended for me on 84 species.

A New Year - 1.1.17

The first days birding of the year was a bit of garden watching. A Coal Tit and a Rook were among the 25 species seen.

2016 Review

So another birding year has come to an end. It ends on 235 species which is my second highest year list total since I started keeping a year list. I finished with 12 lifers. 6 full ticks and 6 species that are hopefully future ticks. As for Herts just 2 ticks were had with Bonaparte's Gull and Purple Heron.

Yes Or No? Another Mega?! - 29.12.16

The Pale Stonechat

A day after seeing the thrush I joined up with Ricky and Terry again and headed down to Dungeness for another controversial bird. This time a washed out grey and white Stonechat had been found just south of the ARC pit and ID'd in the field as a possible Stejneger's Stonechat which is a race of Siberian Stonechat. A sample of poo had been DNA tested and the result came back saying it was indeed Stejneger's. With this news quite a few birders headed down to see this bird but doubts raised by some saw the DNA test re-done just after Christmas and it came back as just a normal Stonechat. Somehow the sample got mixed up with a sample from a bird at Spurn!

After seeing the Stonechat we had a quick sea watch which produced a Great Skua and 19 Red-Throated Diver go past. Just inside the entrance to the RSPB reserve we saw 3 Great White Egret, Bearded Tit and a drake Ring-Necked Duck and on the feeders a Tree Sparrow. On the way back home we stopped off in Lydd and I added my last species to my year list with 29 Bewick's Swan out in a field.

Yes. Another Mega! - 28.12.16

Blue Rock Thrush

If you'd have asked any birder what the next Mega would be I very much doubt that anyone would have predicted a Blue Rock Thrush in December in a housing estate in Stow-on-the-Wold but that's exactly what happened! A couple of photos appeared on Twitter asking for help ID'g this bird and straight away the ID was made. A bit of detective work was then done and the location was worked out. Luckily the bird was still present but because of the time of year and location it had an escape tag looming over it. Despite this many birders had been to see it and along with Ricky and Terry we went to pay our respects to it and straight away we had great views of our first ever BLUE ROCK THRUSH as it sat on the chimney pot of one of the houses. Here it sat for 15 minutes before heading over the rooftops into another of its favoured gardens.

Waxwings! - 8.12.16

After popping into the Paddock Road, Oxhey depot we were driving down the road back to work when 2 birds flew over the van and landed in a tree allowing just long enough views to pick out their punk hairdo's! 2 Waxwings from this years invasion was a start.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Yet Another Mega! - 26.11.16

Forster's Tern

Due to it being my weekend with my son and plans with family I had to forgo a twitch to the Suffolk/Essex border for the first twitchable Forster's Tern since 2000. The following weekend I was sat in bed having a cup of tea when I was made aware of the very same Forster's Tern having just been found down in Hythe, Kent. I was soon up and dressed and on the road south. The traffic was kind and I was on the beach just after 1pm but had to wait 10 minutes before it took flight from its hiding place. We watched it fly along the beach a few times dropping down for a fish before it landed on the beach with some gulls including 4 Mediterranean Gulls. Here I could take in the bandit mask of my first ever FORSTER'S TERN. I was bigger than I expected and was a bird I was hoping to see at some point seeing as one has been wintering in Ireland for many years. A Purple Sandpiper was seen on the rock further down the beach.

Back North Again - 19.11.16

Eastern Black Redstart

I was offered a lift with Brendan Glynn, Paul Frost and Dave Johnson up to see another product of the Eastern filled autumn. We had a  4 hour drive to Skinningrove, Cleveland ahead of us and all the way we received no news on the bird until we arrived and bumped into Chris Gooddie who was walking back to his car. It was still here and within a minute we were watching our first ever EASTERN BLACK REDSTART as it flew between the rocks and beach. Totally unconcerned by our presence  this stunning black and red bird at some points got within a few feet of some people. Not yet a full species it's one for a hopeful future armchair tick.

From  here we headed to Hartlepool but despite searching the area south of the Jewish Cemetery we couldn't find the Shorelark. 2 Grey Partridge were a strange site on the rough ground though.

At Seaton Snook we dodged the many dog turds littered around and had good views of 18 Snow Bunting as the fed along the dune edges and on the beach.

Long-Eared Owl

Our final stop was at Salthome RSPB reserve. Here we failed to see the Long-Tailed Duck but we did eventually get cracking views of a roosting Long-Eared Owl once one of the wardens told us where to go to view.

Double Duck Delight - 26.10.16

Ferruginous Duck

Ring-Necked Duck

Thankfully the next two good birds that I went for were only 20 minutes away up at Tring. First stop was Wilstone Reservoir where after nearly 30 minutes I finally picked out the sleeping drake Ferruginous Duck. After getting everyone onto it it finally woke up allowing us to get a proper look at this smart bird. Only my second in Herts with my first also being at Wilstone. After enjoying the fudge duck I popped into Startops where after no time at all I picked up the drake Ring-Necked Duck. Most likely its the same bird as last year returning. A female Scaup was also noted.

After news came to me I stopped off at College Lake and managed to see one of the two adult Yellow-Legged Gulls for the patchwork list. 

Another Mega - 24.10.16

Isabelline Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

In the autumn that keeps on giving I was back on the road again this time to North Norfolk. Typically the day after I paid homage to the Siberian Accentor an Isabelline Wheatear turned up literally down the road but I couldn't face another 8 hour drive 2 days running! But after a week I was up for the drive and what I knew would be a long walk to Gun Hill after twitching the Spectacled Warbler there. Once on site I heard those horrible words of it was over there 5 minutes ago but has just flown off! In the time spent waiting for it to return I was kept busy looking at the other rare wheatear at the same site. A female Desert Wheatear showed very well and was only the second I'd seen. My first was back in 1997 at Snettisham which I found on the beach while on a Watford RSPB coach trip! 2 hours later I was just about to head back to the car when a wheatear flew up from in front of me and headed to the beach. Thinking it was most likely the Desert again I wandered to the dune edge out of curiosity and found the bird feeding on the tide line. I got my scope onto it and was delighted to find it was my first ever ISABELLINE WHEATEAR. I called the others over and we all watched it albeit a bit distant for the next 15 minutes before I had to head back. 6 Grey Partridge were a nice sight in the last field before my car.

The Mega Mega - 16.10.16

Siberian Accentor!!

If you've just read through the older posts from Scilly you'll have read about the Siberian Accentor that had turned up in East Yorkshire. Everyday since there had been positive news and so despite getting back Saturday afternoon I was up at stupid o'clock and headed North. I pulled over just before the Humber Bridge and grabbed a bit of sleep. I was awoke
n just before 7.30am by a bleep from my pager with the news I'd been hoping for. It was still present! I was on site within the hour and joined a fairy big crowd but rather than favouring its favoured area by the now famous yellow skip it'd flown into the gas works with no access. After a nervous few minutes I finally clapped eyes on this mega mega SIBERIAN ACCENTOR!! For the next 30 minutes it showed well feeding along the fence line of the gas works before I had to leave for home. But what a 30 minutes! From there never being a record in the UK an amazing 13 turned up across the east coast.

Scilly - 15.10.16

The only notable bird of our last day was a Black Redstart at the airport outside the terminal building and as there wasn't anything worth going to see on the drive home we headed straight back after a fabulous week.

Scilly - 14.10.16

I headed back up to the Garrison in the hope of more views of the previous days Pallas's Warbler but before I reached there I scanned the sea from the Star Castle and quickly picked up a diver that looked good for Red-Throated. A few people gathered around and had a look and eventually It came a tad closer and could be positively ID'd as my first Scilly Red-Throated Diver. Happy with that good start I carried onto the football pitch but there was no sign of the Pallas's but my 20th YB Warbler of the week was a nice consolation.

As the others were on a pelagic I chose to do my usual walk around the North of St.Mary's starting off at Porth Thomas where I came across 3 Black Redstart flitting around the beach.

Porthloo beach saw my 3rd Curlew Sandpiper of the week with a dozen Dunlin and a Whimbrel.

A good count of 10 Stock Dove were in a stubble field at Carn Morval soon followed by another Whimbrel at Tolls Porth.

Up at Bar Point a good size thrush flock contained 2 male Ring Ouzel. The YB Warblers were still present at Watermill and Newford Duck Pond and the final bird of the day was the female Redstart on Porthcressa beach at the 4th attempt!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Scilly - 13.10.16

Another day of visiting various site with 12 visited today.

Porthcressa beach had a Greenshank on it.

The Dump Clump added a further 2 YB Warbler to the list.

I finally caught up with a Redstart with a female on Old Town beach with another Greenshank seen.

A Short-Toed Lark was on the airfield (my 3rd there).

Porth Hellick saw another YB Warbler penned into my note book as well as a Firecrest and Willow Warbler.

Carn Friars is one of my favourite areas on the island and today 3 Whinchat, Fieldfare and a leucistic Song Thrush were noted.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

I had a Lapland Bunting fly over me at Porth Hellick Downs and soon after my radio died so I called Steve to ask if he heard anything over the radio could he call me. He agreed to do so but then asked if I'd heard about the wagtail at Lower Moors. I said no what is it to which he replied either Citrine or Eastern Yellow! As by now I'd walked over 40 miles this week I called a cab and got dropped off by Old Town café and wandered up to the Standing Stone field to find nobody there! I was soon joined by a couple of birders including Cliff Smith. I then had a call from Steve. They had re-found the bird from the hide on Lower Moors. The hide was full when I arrived so I viewed from the screen and was treated to great views of what had now been identified as a (probable) EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL. After a few minutes of watching this ghostly grey bird it took off uttering a raspy Yellow Wagtail type call. A small number of this species had been seen throughout the UK this Autumn so here's hoping for acceptance!

I joined Steve in a walk up to Carreg Dhu gardens and added a Firecrest to the list and as we were resting our feet news of a Barred Warbler broke from Pelistry in a hedgerow I'd been looking at an hour before! Dave Hall kindly led the way up there and within five minutes we had satisfactory views of the bird. Steve and I then said lets go get some strudel! Tucking into our strudel a case of Deja Vu occurred as the pager mega'd and again the bird in question was another Siberian Accentor but this time in E.Yorkshire! Would it stick for another 4 days? Only time would tell.

The final bird of the day was up on the Garrison. A stunning Pallas's Warbler was gracing the trees around the football pitch and campsite flashing its lemon rump to the crowds. A great end to the day.

Scilly - 12.10.13

The double log taking it's toll on poor Terry!

Today I headed over to St.Agnes. After getting off the boat I chose to take a path I'd never taken before around Cove Vean. A Raven and another YB Warbler were noteworthy but it was a tad too windy for much else. The famous Parsonage was my next stop where I had yet another YB Warbler showing well by the school and both Red-Breasted and Spotted Flycatchers in the Parsonage grounds. Up by the church 3 male Blackcap were foraging in brambles and 2 Water Rail were on the big pool. Porth Killier was my final stop hoping to see the previous days Caspian Gull that had been photographed which was a 1st for Scilly. Very few gulls were about so I scanned along the beach edge and saw Sanderling, Greenshank and a new Curlew Sandpiper while out at sea were a couple of Razorbill and a Manx Shearwater. My scan of the sea was interrupted by the shout of a Little Bunting! sure enough one had flown in front of us and perched briefly on a rock before flitting around the corner and disappearing.

Scilly - 11.10.16


Today we decided to head over to Tresco for the day to see what we could see. But before the boats sailed I popped into Lower Moors where I had a YB Warbler followed by another in Carreg Dhu garden but unfortunately no sign of the Vireo.

On Tresco the Great Pool had Shelduck and a female Pintail and at the start of the pool road we saw the 2 Cattle Egret again in with their namesakes. On the Abbey Pool 2 YB Warblers were in the poolside vegetation and a Curlew Sandpiper was on the mud. Walking along the pool road added another 3 YB Warbler and only my 2nd ever Scilly Hobby which flew overhead pursued by a Kestrel. A brief stop at the shops for some lunch saw the days 8th YB Warbler go onto the list! We then headed around to the far side of the Great Pool where 20-30 minutes of searching was rewarded by distant views of the juvenile Sora that had been present for a week or so. This was my 3rd UK Sora and my 2nd on the Great Pool!

Scilly - 10.10.16

Today myself and Steve decided to head over to Bryher hoping to connect with the juvenile Common Rosefinch. Before the boats set sail we had another look at the Subalpine Warbler and got much better views of it this time. 2 Skylark flew over while we were there.

We then ventured back up Peninnis Head where after a bit of a wait we saw 2 of the 3 Lapland Bunting feeding amongst the rocks. Here I picked up another Scilly tick when I found a Tree Pipit as it flew over head.

Red-Eyed Vireo (photo by Ian Williams)

9 Little Egret were in the Tresco channel and once on Bryher we headed for the area opposite the Fraggle Rock café but despite over an hour on site there was no sign. In fact there was no sign again! It was feeling like it was going to be a very quiet day and not even finding a male Ring Ouzel at the dump and seeing only my second Scilly Buzzard could lift the mood. We chose to get the early boat back as there was so little to see and that decision turned out be a very good one indeed! Half way back to St.Mary's the pager bleeped and upon checking it I was amazed to read that a Red-Eyed Vireo had been found in Carreg Dhu garden! I informed Steve that we may have to do a bit of power walking once we had docked! Once the boat had been tied up it was a mad scramble to get off and rush to the garden. It took us about 15 minutes to get there passing Tring birder Ian Williams on the way but we eventually arrived just before Ricky and Terry had arrived in a taxi. A nervous minute wait was had but I finally got onto the bird but I was only seeing the underside of it as it was high in the trees but it then moved and I got a side view of the head showing off the distinguishing features allowing me to tick my first ever RED-EYED VIREO in the UK. It also became my 450th species on my UK list. No sooner as we had good views it flitted off out the back of the garden and vanished just as Ian, Ricky and Terry arrived in position. Happy and exhausted Steve and I headed on a slow walk back to the house. But as it turned out the others did see the bird in fact having better views than we did as it appeared lower down for a few minutes soon after we had left.

Scilly - 9.10.16

I visited 20 different site on St.Mary's today!

3 Swallow over Porthcressa beach were the first of the week.

Lower Moors held 3 Jack Snipe, 23 Redwing, Reed Warbler and 2 more Yellow-Browed Warbler.

Old Town Bay had 5 Ringed Plover roosting.

Up at the windsock by the airport runway I added 2 Ruff to my Scilly list.

Porth Hellick had 5 Greenshank and another Jack Snipe from the hide.

In Higher Moors I had my first Fieldfare of the Autumn.

On entering Holy Vale I found a brief pale looking Chiffchaff and a Yellow-Browed Warbler.

At the riding stables there was no sign of the 2 Cattle Egret but there was a Whinchat.
Cattle Egret

At Four Lanes End I finally caught up with the 2 Cattle Egret. Scilly tick number 5 and met up with Steve.

4 Swallow were at Carreg Dhu garden.

Off of Porthloo beach was a female Common Scoter.

Town Beach had 5 Sandwich Tern.

Newford Duckpond was very productive with another YB Warbler, Firecrest and 3 species of flycatcher. Red-Breasted, Pied and Spotted. The strangest site though was of a 4x4 Capri!

At Watermill we had a brief Common Sandpiper and I found a YB Warbler.

Spot The Wryneck!

As we passed Borough Farm we had half decent views of the Wryneck. We then stopped off at the German eatery for Apple Strudel and that's when the mega alert went off telling us that it'd finally happened and that a Siberian Accentor had reached our shores albeit typically on Shetland! Our friends up there were in for a treat!

A quick pop in at Trewince had us pick up the Osprey again as it flew over the north of the island.

Turtle Dove

In Hugh Town we finally connected with the Turtle Dove in the salubrious surroundings of the alleyway behind the museum! My first in the UK for 3 years.

Just as I'd sat down with a cuppa back at the digs news crackled over the radio of a Redstart on Porthcressa Beach. As it was a minute walk away I went to look for it but still managed to dip it! But as I was chatting to the Rugby lads a Wryneck was found by the quarry at the end of the beach. After looking at that I was just about to turn for home when the radio burst into life again with news of a Subalpine Warbler just round the corner! We legged it there only to have just missed it but after a 20 minute wait we had good views by the old school. This was my 3rd attempt at a Subalp on Scilly. A great day and about 10 miles walked!

Cornwall + Scilly - 8.10.16

With a couple of hours to spare before our flight we headed to Pendeen for a seawatch in the hope of a Balearic Shearwater for Terry. Alas that proved fruitless but we did have 20+ Manx Shearwater, 2 dark morph Arctic Skua and a Puffin. While on the land a Ring Ouzel was the highlight.

Red-Backed Shrike

Our trip back in 2014 was a very very quiet one on Scilly with Whooper Swan being my only Scilly tick. That poor showing is why we headed to Shetland last year but we managed to pick the worst year for rares up there in 10 years! So it was back to Scilly this year and our first stop was Porthcressa beach where just offshore was our first Scilly tick of the week with a Black-Necked Grebe. A Sandwich Tern was on one of the rocky lumps too. From here we walked up Peninnis Head. Nothing of note on the east side but walking down the west side I picked up my first two Whinchat of the year closely followed by 2 Wryneck! Not a bad start. The Garrison was our next port of call and here Myself and Steve had a juvenile Red-Backed Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher in the dead pines area and looking out towards the off islands we had 2 Pale-Bellied Brent Geese and an Osprey both of which were Scilly ticks! 3 times as many Scilly ticks in a few hours than an entire week already! We ended our day down on the Lower Broome platform where we got our first Yellow-Browed Warbler of the year.

Devon + Cornwall - 7.10.16

My Caspain Tern (not my photo)

Dalmatian Pelican

Its that time of year again where it was time to head SW. I joined Steve Blake in his car and headed for our first stop of the day to Fremington Quay in Devon. Here we met up with the other car load of Ricky Flesher, Brendon Fagan and Terry Smith. When we arrived it was still dark but as soon as we were able to see we started scanning over the water hoping to see our intended target. After an hour or so there was still no sign but we had seen 18 Little Egret, Greenshank, Barwit and a couple of Common Tern. It was just before we were about to descend of the café to warm up that I picked up a bird as it hit the water. It was a tern but the speed at which it hit the water made me say to the others I've got a Caspian Tern! I got the others on it and watched it as it hit the water a few more times but it was unfortunately heading away from us and after a few minutes it vanished into the River Caen. This bird was most likely the bird that had been on Scilly a day or two previously?  I phoned the news out and we went for breakfast. I finished eating first so I left them to eat up and went outside. There was no sign of the tern but there was sign of our first and the UK's first ever DALMATIAN PELICAN! I called them to get outside and they soon joined me watching this huge bird start preening. The views weren't exactly great due to distance and murk but worth the effort. This bird had been found in Cornwall c.150 days earlier in the year and had flown around the county visiting various sites before heading into Devon. It had been seen in Poland and France before it reached our shores and so its now a waiting game to see if its accepted as a wild bird or not. I then found an adult Mediterranean Gull which was embarrassingly my first of the year and my 200th species for 2016! Happy with our lot we climbed back in the cars and headed into Cornwall.

Baird's Sandpiper

Our next stop was Davidstow airfield where after getting slightly lost we found ourselves looking over the small pool at 3 Dunlin, Ruff and only my second ever Baird's Sandpiper. It gave great views before flying out of view. By now news had reached us that the Caspian Tern had been re-found on the River Caen and stopped any lingering doubts about whether I'd made a cock up of the ID! Turns out it was only the 4th for Devon!

Hudsonian Whimbrel

We then headed for the village of Perranuthnoe just East of Penzance where after getting slightly lost again we walked along the coast path noting Peregrine, Stonechat and a Common Sandpiper before I finally re-found the long staying Hudsonian Whimbrel. This bird had originally been found on Scilly in October 2015 before moving and has now spent over a year on site. It was also a lifer for Brendon and a second for everyone else after the Pagham bird.

Little Stint

From here we decided to pop into Marazion. Here I walked down to the beach in the hunt for a Little Stint but saw no sign of it. This was until I re-joined the others who had stayed near the car park and picked up the stint just below them! They hadn't mentioned it because they thought it was a Sanderling 😉!!

Spoonbill (left)

Our final stop of the day was a quick look over the Hayle Estuary. Here we added Spoonbill to the trip list. Time for dinner and bed.