Thursday, 22 October 2020

Bit Of A Mega! - 18.10.20

 Having spoken to my dad the previous afternoon and saying I'd come up and see him on the Sunday he told me not to bother due to Covid worries he'd prefer not to have anyone round which was fair enough. So with that news I gratefully accepted a lift up to Stiffkey with Matt, George and Kai. We arrived in the dark and rain along with a few other birders and realised the tide was still coming in and wouldn't be out far enough to walk out onto the saltmarsh to look for where the Scrub Robin roosted for over an hour so we decided to head into the campsite woods to try and see the Pallas's Warbler

We'd got almost to the end and hadn't see any warblers and so feeling demoralized we contemplated heading over to Holme until the tide was out. Just then news broke that the robin had just been seen to fly in off the Saltmarsh and land near the car park. With this we broke into a run which in wellies wasn't easy but after 2 minutes I reverted to power walking! I reached the car park to find no one there but thankfully I could see everyone in the stubble field above the car park. I walked in and joined the others and after a minute or so I picked up the bird feeding in a game strip on the edge of the field. It then perched up in full view for just over a minute and RUFOUS BUSH CHAT was on my list. (I don't like the new name!)

Rufous Bush Chat

We watched it for about 20 minutes before we headed off to Holme NOA in the hope for another lifer for the other guys.

From memory I've only visited Holme twice so when we arrived I wasn't entirely sure where to go so we just followed the crowd up to the edge of the golf course. 8 Little Egret were out on the marsh and flocks of winter thrushes passed overhead along with the odd lingering Swallow. 3 Brambling were seen and heard and surprisingly were a year tick but the star of the show took some finding but then did eventually show well. My 6th Red-flanked Bluetail perched up nicely and long enough for me to get some reasonable photos. This was a new bird for the other 3 so a 2 tick day for them.

Red-flanked Bluetail

After our fill of the bluetail we headed back home and just as we were approaching Kings Lynn Matt picked up a Great White Egret as it was flying over the local Sainsbury's! We then found out it'd been reported the evening before just across the A149.

A great morning out with a proper mega seen.

A Migraine, A Mega and an Ibis - 17.10.20

Glossy Ibis

Saturday morning I awoke with one of my migraines which was very frustrating as I was due to head to Norfolk to see my dad for his 70th birthday so that had to be cancelled. A short while later the UK's twitching fraternity went into meltdown as the first Rufous Bush Chat now called Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin for 40 years had just been found at Stiffkey in North Norfolk! A double blow with my head the way it was.

Around lunchtime I was feeling slightly more human and my wife was about to take the kids out to the park when news broke of a Glossy Ibis at College Lake. I was going to go for 40 winks but thought some fresh air would do me better! 25 minutes later and I was on site and watching just the 3rd or 4th Glossy Ibis for Buckinghamshire up on the small island at the far side of the main lake. I walked up for closer views and to try and get a half decent photo (which I'm not sure if I managed or not!).

I then popped to Wilstone for a quick scan. Here I found a Goldeneye and 11 Little Grebe.

Cornwall + Scilly - 2-10.10.20

 After last years successful trip George and Matt again joined me for a week on Scilly.

Chough (taken by George)
2nd October - A 4am start and before we knew it we were in Cornwall. Unfortunately this year the weather was pretty awful with very strong winds and heavy showers. We started at Godrevy NT just north of Hayle. My only previous visit to this site was back in December 2003 for my first ever American Robin. This year it was for another American bird a Semipalmated Sandpiper but it wasn't to be seen possibly moved on by the weather? 2 Chough were the highlight on the field car park.

We then moved onto the Hayle Estuary where I finally year ticked Mediterranean Gull with 8 adult winters present and I managed to pick out the Spotted Redshank.

A Great White Egret had been present at Stithian's Reservoir for a few days so we headed over to have a look. As we arrived the heavens opened again and the bird had vanished. I only noted 2 Little Grebe!

At 3pm the weather had made it un-birdable so we headed to our hotel and promptly fell asleep for just over an hour.

Merlin (taken by Matt)

3rd October - We were up before dawn and back at Godrevy for another try of the Sandpiper. The wind had died down but was still a bit blowy. Upon reaching the cliff edge I peered over and flushed a dark bird of prey. It pitched down on the beach so I moved round for a better look and saw it was a female Merlin. I called to the other two and they started walking towards me. Next thing I know they are on their knees grabbing at lots of bits of paper like they were in the Crystal Maze to stop it blowing off the cliff! It turned out George's wallet had fallen out his pocket and the wind had blown out all his spending money! All of it on the grass was collected and then George slid down the cliff past the watching Merlin and with our help picked up all the notes on the beach. Amazingly he didn't lose any of them. All the luck had obviously been used up as there was again no sing of the Semi-p.

At Marazion Marsh the only thing of note was a Little Egret as the reedbeds have virtually taken over all the water.

It was then time for our flight and this year we'd splashed out and booked onto the helicopter. A smooth if noisy flight saw us on the islands in no time. Due to Covid-19 precautions we couldn't get into our flat until 3pm so we took what we needed out of our bags and headed straight to the dump. Here we bumped into some familiar faces and had a quick catch up but our talking was interupted when a bird flicked out onto a bush, paused briefly then onto another bush before heading into the allotments. The bird in question was a Scilly tick Nightingale which my first anywhere for at least 7 years! Some who'd been coming to Scilly for 30+ years said that's only their 2nd bird in autumn on the islands.

Pied Flycatcher

We walked through the dump clump and at the school we stumbled across a nice Pied Flycatcher that was joined by a female Blackcap.

At the Standing Stones field 5 Siskin flew over and a pair of Blackcap were in the brambles.

Porthloo Beach saw another Merlin high overhead and 3 Sandwich Tern were fishing out at sea. On scanning the waders I found a Bar-tailed Godwit as it flew in and landed. Only my second on Scilly.

Barred Warbler (taken by George)

News of a Barred Warbler up by Porthloo Lane/Telegraph Road area saw us heading that way. As we passed Sunnyside I had a quick look into one of the fields and picked out the group of 5 Pink-footed Geese that had been around for a few days and then we joined the small group of birders and saw the Barred Warbler showing very well which is unusual for the usually skulking species.

4th October - Another quiet day due to strong winds coming in from the NW. Porthcressa saw 3 Sandwich Tern and 4 Mediterranean Gull on the rocks and the unusual sight of Greenfinches feeding in the seaweed.


Up at Peninnis we were treated to great views of a Lapland Bunting before it flew off out of view.

Lapland Bunting

In Old Town bay I year ticked Greenshank with 2 birds present.


At the airport turning circle George picked out a Golden Plover on the runway itself and my first Wheatear of the year!

The final notable bird of the day was another Pied Flycatcher that George picked out as it hunted out of a Pine tree.

Pied Flycatcher

5th October - Yet another quiet day but at least with some noteworthy birds seen. Down near Higher Moors I saw my first Whinchat of the year in the same field we had 3 in last year. While walking in Higher Moors 6 Crossbill took off from nearby trees. It was only when we got back to the flat that evening that I realised these were a Scilly tick!

Walking through Porth Hellick we picked up a calling Yellow-browed Warbler and 2 different Cetti'sWarbler. On the pool a sleeping Jack Snipe made the year list.

Our second juvenile Red-backed Shrike of the Autumn was seen just north of Longstones cafe. Shame we were up by Maypole and even through our scopes it was not a lot more than a dot given the distance!

6th October - The wind had finally died down enough for us to venture off St.Mary's so we headed over to Tresco to build up the trip list but despite the lower wind speeds the sea was still choppy as Matt found to his cost when his waterproof trousers failed! Castle Down was our first stop and we quickly joined half a dozen birders in watching 2 Golden Plovers and a juvenile American Golden Plover. This was a lifer for the other two so they were happy. On the Great Pool the highlight if you can call it that was finally catching up with the 3 Black Swans that had appeared last year! A Pectoral Sandpiper had turned up at Porth Hellick so the other two went back for that but I stayed on Tresco in the hope of seeing the Great Spotted Woodpecker along Pool Road. I walked up and down 7 times but only heard it call twice. I then got soaked on the boat back!

American Golden Plover (right hand bird) 

7th October - We started the day with a quick look in Standing Stones field. A Raven flew over calling and doing its rolling display flight and on one of the small pools 4 Wigeon were seen before they flew off. In the SW corner I had a look into the weedy field across the channel but didn't see anything. 

Up by the turning circle 3 Wheatear were seen along with a group of 10 Great Tit which flew across into some bushes adjacent to the runway. A female Blackcap and a Chiffchaff were also in the same bushes.

On the way to Porth Hellick Pool I heard a Yellow Wagtail go over and then caught up with the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper at the far end of the pool. Another 7 Crossbill went over Carn Friars. 

Pectoral Sandpiper (taken by George)

We then headed for the Garrison for a reported Siberian Lesser Whitethroat but on the way we stopped for a pastie and drink by Town Beach. I was half way through my food when Ellis Lucas walked up to us and said his dad was in Standing Stones field and has found this but isn't sure what it is. He showed us a blurry back of camera shot on his phone and there in front of me was a photo of a Swainson's Thrush!! We grabbed our stuff and power walked through the dump clump and round into the field. To my horror it had been seen perched in a tree in the weedy field I'd looked in just a couple of hours before! A bird took off from the field just before I got into position which was probably it but it wasn't seen again. So close and yet so far!

With time pushing on I decided to go and have a look at the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat by the Garrison Pottery. I arrived to find nobody else around and after a few minutes the bird flew into its favoured Sycamore tree and showed well for a few minutes before flying off again.

'Siberian' Lesser Whitethroat

8th October - We started the day off looking for the Swainson's Thrush but again failing. It was seen by 5 people in the morning and a few more in the afternoon then never seen again. On the walk back I found a Yellow-browed Warbler calling from trees at Carn Gwaval just above the school. The other two headed back over to Tresco for an Arctic Warbler that had been found the previous day by fellow Herts birder Barry Reed as they both needed it as a lifer. I decided to stay on St.Mary's (which could've been a huge mistake). I was on my way for another view of the Lesser Whitethroat when the radio burst into life with news of a Scilly Mega that was flying over St.Mary's towards St. Agnes. I bumped into Dave Hall so we both walked up towards Star Castle but frustratingly our view was obscured so we walked through the campsite to get a view of St.Agnes. The bird had last been reported past Peninnis but lost to view. A nervous few minutes was soon forgotten as Dave said he'd got a dark blob over Gugh. I got my scope onto the blob to find 2 geese circling the island and one of them was the Mega. It was a Greylag Goose!! 2 had been on the island until a couple of days before we arrived so to get a chance at seeing another so soon was most welcome. Dave had told me he'd had the original 2 as a Scilly tick the week before and he'd been visiting for 31 years! The second bird turned out to be another Pink-footed Goose.

We parted ways and I carried on around the Garrison. I was just about to sit down for a quick seawatch at Morning Point when news of the Swainson's broke. Another power walk ensued down to the dump clump but as I passed Lower Broome another Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling. I arrived at the clump to find a large gathering of birders and no chance of getting near the field it'd been seen in let alone being able to look into it so I turned round and headed to Porthloo Beach.

Here I sat on a bench and picked up two adult Mediterranean Gulls just offshore followed by a lovely smart male Black Redstart hopping about on some boulders.

Black Redstart

I then headed towards Lower Moors and as I'd just passed the ISBG hide I had a check of my phone to see what had been reported on the Whatsapp group. I scrolled passed a message that didn't sink in then I put my phone back in my pocket. I then got it back out and looked at the message again to see the words black and white warbler tresco along pool road. FUCK! A boat was leaving at 2pm which gave me 20 minutes to do a 22 minute walk back to the quay. I called George to see if he knew about the Warbler and he told me they'd just been watching it point blank for 3 minutes as they had been about 200yds away when it was found! I asked them to stay on it till I arrived. My second power walk of the day saw me arrive at the quay with 6 minutes and 4 seats on the boat to spare! I sat next to another Ian who'd I'd got to know via Twitter and who'd been laid up in bed most of the morning with a bad back but had suddenly made a recovery! 

People who follow me on Twitter know that my most wanted bird on the UK list had just been found and were sending me messages of good luck which was nice of them so when we arrived at Carn Near quay my third power walk of the day saw me trying to keep up with the front runners but failing miserably! We turned the corner onto Pool Road and saw a group of birders staring into the trees near one of the hides. Here I bumped into George and Matt looking nicely relaxed about it all! A large gap in the trees is where I positioned myself and waited for it to come to me. George tried to show me a photo of it on his camera but I said i'm not looking at it until I've seen the bird! A couple of minutes later and I suddenly laid eyes on the stripy humbug as it flicked around in the lichen covered branches and even better it was a stonking male. At last I'd finally seen a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER in the UK! I had further views by the track to the hide before it headed back down through the woods. Once everyone had seen it the happiness of the crowd was amazing and I found out that it was the most wanted of quite a few other people too including Kit Britten who had missed 5 previously so his cancelled trip to Shetland was all forgotten! A Yellow-browed Warbler was also noted but pretty much forgotten. 

3 images of the Black-and-white Warbler. Many thanks to Marc Read, Alison Allen and Ellis Lucs (again!) for use of their great photos.

Most people then headed back to the quay with a spring in their step but even before we got back there another black and white bird finally made my Scilly list (my 3rd tick of the day) when the Great Spotted Woodpecker decided to sit atop a tree calling! 4 Pink -footed Geese were in a nearby field and 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were out near Samson.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Pink-footed Geese

Once back on St.Mary's we again tried for the Swainson's down at Old Town but we failed again (I'd have seen it had I not gone to Tresco as I'd have been down there for its two showings around 3pm but I know what one I'd rather see!). We did however have the Greylag and Pink-foot fly over. What a day that was, I managed to walk 30,000 steps which is the most I've ever done before!

9th October - The day after the main event and we were still not quite believing we'd all got B+W Warbler on our lists! A few birders from the mainland had come over to see it but it wasn't seen again after we'd seen it. In fact I think it'd only been on show for a little over 3 hours.

Another try for the Swainson's again proved to be a waste of time but the 5th heard only Yellow-browed Warbler of the week called briefly. 

The first Peregrine of the week was seen hovering Kestrel like in the strong wind along Porthloo lane.

The final bird noted in my notebook was my 6th and final Scilly tick of the trip when I re found the elusive Water Pipit on the football pitch on the Garrison with a small group of  Meadow Pipits. Annoyingly it took off after a couple of minutes and wasn't seen again.

So another trip over and while it for the most part was a fairly quiet week birdwise compared to last year the certain stripy bird from across the pond made the whole week. the total for the trip was 109 species (2 less than last year) and personally had 1 lifer, 5 further Scilly ticks and 16 year ticks. Thanks to Matt and George for their company (though I wouldn't have been saying that had I dipped the warbler!) and of course it was good to see old friends and make a fair few new ones. Also thanks to those who've allowed me to use their photos.

10th October  - Last year we'd just got back to the van to head home when a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was found on St.Martin's. This year we were just queuing up for some Philp's Pasties at Hayle when a Swainson's Thrush was found on Bryher and decided to show itself off for a few days!! Can't see em all eh :/ 

Monday, 28 September 2020

Home - 21.9.20

 As my two young kids were on a screaming meltdown I went and sat outside for a brief bit of peace and I was very glad I did as just before 7pm a Rock Pipit flew SW right over my house calling! A most unexpected garden tick and amazingly my 3rd pipit specie of the month!

North Norfolk - 20.9.20

Red-breasted Flycatcher (thanks to James Hanlon for his pic)

Brown Shrike

A few decent birds had been blown over the North Sea into Norfolk the best being only the second county record of Brown Shrike. George asked if I fancied joining him, Matt and Kai for a quick trip and so at 5am we were off. 

We arrived around 7.30am and grabbed a parking spot along Garden Drove in Warham Greens and walked up to join a small crowd looking at the bird. This was a lifer for the other three but it was my second after the Staines Moor bird back in 2009. It showed well if a tad distant and after our fill we walked back to the car and about half way back I picked up some movement in the neighbouring field and once in my bins I identified it as a Redstart which was my first of the year. A juvenile Spoonbill made the year list soon after as it flew over.

Next stop was Wells Woods were quite quickly we had very close views of the Red-breasted Flycatcher followed shortly followed by the one eyed juvenile Red-backed Shrike. As we had to be back around lunchtime and we'd seen all our target birds by 9.30am we headed home after a very enjoyable and successful morning.


Home - 13.9.20

 After the success of the Hertfordshire garden list challenge the club have decided to do it again for September and October. A Chiffchaff seen and heard on 4 occasions was a good record for the garden but on the 13th I had 2 Tree Pipits fly south over the house. My 3rd and 4th record in 6 years!

LAMMERGEIER!! - 31.8.20


A few years back a young Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) was filmed by a man out for a walk on the welsh side of the Bristol Channel and was then relocated in Devon where it hung around albeit elusively for a few days. Unfortunately it was rejected and not submitted onto the British list as it was most likely from a re-introduction scheme in the Alps. It seems this bird is also from the same scheme so we will just have to wait and see what happens to it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and another young bird was seen just across the channel in Belgium and France the seen flying over Alderney on the Channel Islands. It was then seen again passing over the midlands and was amazingly and expertly found roosting in the Peak District by Dan Pointon. It  stuck around at various sites for a few days at a time and at one such site at Crowden it seemed settled so Matt Moreton called me on the Saturday (my birthday!) to see if I wanted to go and see it. 

An early start saw us heading up the M1 and just as we were about to turn off one of Matt's friends Dave Woodhouse rang to see if we could pick him up. This was handy as he'd been the previous day so there was no chance of us getting lost! As we drove through past the village of Hazelhead we spotted a handful of Red Grouse perched up at the side of the road which was a nice year tick. We eventually reached Crowden and parked up. The walk up only took about 25 minutes but showed me how unfit I am as I struggled to catch my breath! We socially distanced ourselves with a few others and got straight on the big one as she perched on a rock about 1/2 mile away. There I was watching an impressive LAMMERGEIER in England!Frustratingly on the few occasions it took flight it never came close enough to give us the proper scale and size of the bird but you could see some small bird (Pipits?) mobbing it an looking like specks of dust next to it!

Other noteworthy birds were 4 Bullfinch, 9+ Mistle Thrush, an untickable view of a Marsh/Willow Tit but best of the rest was a flock of 20 Ring Ouzel flitting between the Rowan trees on the walk back. This was almost as many as I've ever seen!