Friday, 27 October 2017

Devon + Cornwall - 6.10.17

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Its that time of year again when you hope for rare birds turning up and so Myself, Brendon Fagan and Ricky Flesher headed down to the SW for our holiday to Scilly but not before a day trying to see what these 2 counties have to offer!

A 4am start saw us head firstly to Labrador Bay RSPB where quite quickly we had up to 6 Cirl Buntings in the hedgerows and fields.

Our next stop was Davidstow Airfield where for the 3rd year running we were hoping to connect with an American wader. Early signs weren't good with no news on the pagers. As we entered the area I finally picked up my first Wheatear of 2017! The next thing we saw was that 20th century Fox were filming their next blockbuster on the site! Apparently its called The boy who would be king. There were only 3 other birders present and thankfully they had found the bird in question and waved us over. We pulled up and almost ran over 3 tame Dunlin but on the edge of the grass with a few Ringed Plover was the juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It showed very well allowing some photos to be taken. Just along one of the tracks is Crowdy Reservoir so we popped in and had a walk along the north shore hoping to find the Spotted Sandpiper that had been present but it had gone.

From here we then went to Marazion where a quick glance over the water found us the Cattle Egret sat next to two swans.

Porthgwarra was our penultimate stop but it failed to produce the hoped for Yellow-browed Warbler but I did pick up a single Balearic Shearwater offshore.

As the light was fading we headed for a look over the Hayle estuary. 14 Little Egret, a single Ruff and a winter plumaged Black-necked Grebe were the notable highlights.

Scilly here we come!

Scilly - 7.10.17

Me (baldy) and Brendon (cap) on the boat to Aggy!

Rock Snowman

View from our flat

After yesterdays phone call about potential flight disruption we decided to go to the airport anyway rather than ringing and as we approached the fog hot and so it was the Scillonian for us! A coach transported us to Penzance to catch the ferry and 2 hours and 40 minutes of choppy seas awaited us! Good news was that I wasn't sick and after speaking to Lucy McRobert there was a boat waiting for us on arrival to take us to St.Agnes! Bad news was that the Cliff Swallow had left Scilly and was seen for 20 minutes at Porthgwarra where we had been the previous day! I'm beginning to think they don't like me!

We walked straight off the Scillonian and onto the smaller boat and after a power walk to St.Warna's cove we found out our target was still there but elusive. 2 hours later and with only a Wheatear for company a few people had had poor views of it deep in a bush but eventually it stopped raining and brightened up enough for the bird to suddenly appear at the top of the bush in full view for 10 seconds before vanishing again. My first ever UK CEDAR WAXWING! Happy we got any views we walked back to get the boat but just then a lot of small birds were flying around over us and Ricky said what's that? It was a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by the small birds and became my 200th species for the year!

Scilly - 8.10.17

Isabelline Wheatear

American Golden Plover

Our first full days birding on Scilly was a busy one with many sites visited so here's a roundup!

Morning Point - no sign of the Wryneck but 10+ dolphin sp offshore.

Porth Mellon - 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Pied Wagtail.

Dump - 2 Whinchat on slope.

Dump Clump - Firecrest was heard along with 6+ Goldcrest plus a pair of Blackcap.

Old Town - Greenshank and 2 Ringed Plover.

Airport - The Isabelline Wheatear was showing well albeit it distant in the fog! (scilly tick)

Porth Hellick Beach - The long staying juvenile American Golden Plover showed well. (scilly tick)

Higher Moors - 2 Yellow-browed Warbler

Lower Moors - 2 Yellow-browed Warbler were followed by a brief glimpse of the juvenile Spotted Crake and while watching that I said I can hear Pink-footed Geese and sure enough the 6 birds from Tresco flew over! (scilly tick).

Porthcressa - A Little Egret was on the beach and a female Redstart was flycatching from the rocks.

Scilly 9.10.17

Cedar Waxwing


The first CB message of the day was of a Spoonbill on Green Island again so without falling out of the flat window I set the scope up and managed to get it on the flat list!

A Peregrine flew in off at Porthcressa beach.

As it was a nice sunny day we decided to head back to St.Agnes and try for better views of the Cedar Waxwing. As soon as we arrived I headed to the Post Office for a nice pasty to fill me up and then it was down Barnaby Lane where the previous 2 days a Hawfinch had taken up residence. Staring into the garden of Barnaby cottage I picked out some movement and was delighted to find it was a stunning Firecrest. After 20 minutes of no show Hawfinch I walked off down the lane and found a Yellow-browed Warbler in one of the hedges. Happy I walked back to the group to be told it had just shown briefly but dropped out of sight. a couple of minutes later what looked like a Hawfinch flew off towards the Parsonage so I decided to try my luck down there. Again no sign of it but I did connect with my first Spotted and Pied Flycatchers of the year! Back to Barnaby Lane and I found a small group looking intently into the garden. There it was feeding on berries of a Whitebeam Tree. For 5 minutes I had my best ever views of Hawfinch and a Scilly tick too.

After filling my boots with that I headed towards St.Warna's Cove but as I passed the post office I found 2 more Yellow-browed Warblers in a neighbouring garden. As I neared the cove I flushed a Whinchat from the beach but when I reached where we had seen the Waxwing on Saturday there was nobody there. I quietly walked through the bushes to the other side and found 4 people staring into a small group of trees. It had been showing well but had become elusive after stuffing itself! We were soon joined by a group of day twitchers who timed it perfectly as the Cedar Waxwing popped out and showed well for 20 minutes. Stunning! With time to spare I had a look at the Fruitcages area and found 2 Firecrest!

Scilly - 10.10.17

The ex-Bar-tailed Godwit!

A Peregrine seen from the flat heading towards Porthloo was a nice start to the day.

On arriving at Porthloo I was told if I'm looking for the Bar-tailed Godwit its down there. There on the beach was the barwit, dead, killed 15 minutes earlier by the very same Peregrine! It would've been my 199th species on Scilly.

As the other 2 were on a pelagic I did my annual wander around the top half of the island. I didn't see much as usual with 7 Canada Geese on Samson, 3 1st Winter Mediterranean Gulls in The Roads, a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver off of Innisidgen and a Yellow-browed Warbler at Newford Duckpond.

Scilly - 11.10.17

An injured looking 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull was on Porthloo Beach.

Red Squirrel

Portuguese Man o' War

After a call from Ricky we headed up to Buzza Hill where after a short wait we had good views of the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling despite the wind.

To boost the trip list we headed over to Tresco. The wind and rain made things tricky but we cleared up the stuff on the Great Pool. On Pentile Bay I counted 80 Sanderling and a lone Dunlin and as we were heading to the Abbey Pool I put up a Reed Bunting that was a Scilly tick for Rick. As we approached the pool everything took off including the 6 Pink-feet which was another tick for Rick! The drake Pintail flew behind us and onto the list. The only other notable thing we saw was some Red Squirrels including a young one found dying on a path. Probably fell out of a tree in the wind.

Back on St.Mary's another 1st Winter Med Gull was in Porthcressa bay along with my first ever Portuguese Man o' Wars.

Scilly 12.10.17

Wilson's Snipe (front bird)

The day started at Porthloo again but apart from a Peregrine sat on Taylors Island it was very quiet. 3 Portuguese Man o' War were on the beach.

On entering Old Town churchyard I picked out a Firecrest feeding in Ivy. This was my 50th in the UK!

Single Yellow-browed Warblers were at the southern end of Lower Moors and up at Shooters Pool.

On Porth Hellick Pool myself and Brendon finally caught up with the Wilson's Snipe that was in with around 25 of its Common cousins. A lifer for Bren and Ricky who'd seen it earlier and my second.

Up on the airfield the Isabelline Wheatear was still present though even more distant than the last time we saw it! 3 Swallow were around the terminal building.

The last bird of the day was another Yellow-browed Warbler behind Castle Cottages, Old Town.

Scilly - 13.10.17

Friday the 13th today so it was bound to be an unlucky last day in the field! How wrong was I?!

A pager message the previous evening was saying that a probable Orphean Warbler sp had been seen on St.Agnes but was elusive. The early boat over there left at 8.45 but we chose to not to go. Instead we went up Penninis for a wander. A dozen Snipe flying over was the birding highlight and a brief Minke Whale was the highlight on the sea! We headed down towards Old Town and had a spot of brunch. The 10.15 boat came and went and a bit later news filtered through that the Orphean Warbler had been re-found. With this news we walked towards the quay to get in the queue for the 12.15 boat but as thee were so many birders waiting they organised it to leave early. I had texted Cliff Smith who had been on the early boat to find out some news and he'd replied he'd seen it 4-5 times but briefly each time. It sounded promising!

We arrived on site and the narrow lane very quickly became filed with around 200 birders! Cliff came over to me to say that one birder had had very good views of it when it was re-found and that it had dark chevrons on the undertail which surely meant it would be an Eastern race bird and a 1st for Britain! After over an hour of waiting and only having Blackcaps to keep us on our toes it suddenly appeared out of nowhere flew over our heads and back again and vanished into the large hedges. Another 20 minutes or so passed before it showed again, this time zooming into a Tamarisk in the corner of the field but showing off its back,rump and tail very nicely including the white outer-tail feathers. Another wait ensued before I picked it up in flight only for it to vanish again! Will Scott then radioed over the CB that he had it in a hedge behind the fields we were looking at so we all had a mad rush round towards the church to try and get a viewing point through the gap in the tack side hedge. I walked up from the main group and joined Brendon at a small gap where after a nervous wait I picked it up showing the brown colouring on the head etc but it again quickly disappeared. With this most people were happy with their views and headed back to get the boat but not before a celebratory pint in the Turks Head!

As I type this 2 weeks later things have changed dramatically with regards to this bird. Photos a couple of days after our viewings showed a spread tail shot and it was believed to fit the Western race. But then more photos emerged especially 1 from Adrian Webb that showed the dark undertail chevrons mentioned on the first morning. After a bit of digging from Bob Flood and Ashley Fisher and an email exchange with Lars Svennson it was then confirmed as an EASTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER and with it a 1st for Britain! What a finish to our trip to Scilly!

ROCK THRUSH! - 14.10.17

After misreading of the time of our flight we arrived at the airport 20 minutes earlier than we needed to but thankfully our flight wasn't cancelled this time! We landed and packed up the car and headed for home. Via Gwent!

Rock Thrush

7 Years ago I headed to the Blorenge, a lovely bit of South Wales for a Marmora's Warbler and after dipping the first weekend I was successful the following weekend. Never did I think I'd ever go back there but as it was only a short detour it would have been rude not to! After 4 hours or so we arrived on site and headed off for the mile or so walk. Eventually we found the gathered group of birders all peering up the cliff face and there it was my first ever ROCK THRUSH! Even with a hint of orange and blue it was pretty well camouflaged but not well enough to avoid the unwanted attention of the local Meadow Pipits and Wheatear who kept moving it on. Due to my wife being home alone with the littlun and having been struck down with the sickness bug that had been doing the rounds we couldn't stay too long as I had to get back and take over!

Both Rock + Blue Rock Thrush falling within 11 months wasn't something I had even thought of happening and to get another chance at Rock Thrush so quickly after not being able to get down for the Scilly bird in the Spring was a real bonus. I got home about 6 pm having had an excellent 9 days with Ricky and Brendon. The total for the trip was 114 species which included 3 Mega lifers.

Wilstone - 2.10.17

The hoped for Knot, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher had vanished and it was much the same on the every increasing mud. The only thing of interest was a Bar-headed Goose from the jetty!

Wilstone - 30.9.17

A Raven over the car near Bourne End was a nice surprise and on Wilstone itself were 6 Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sand and a male Pintail. But the group of 7 Ruff was my largest count of this species ever in Herts.

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.