Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Tuesday 25th October

What a few months I have had! I will fill in the details for Shetland and Norfolk ASAP. Those that know me are aware of my lack of posts, it has been a rather hectic year so far which culminated in me turning 60 last week! I still can’t believe it!

Anyway, birding first, today was the first opportunity I have had for a while to spend some time over at Shustoke. I had seen the Red-breasted Merganser following a phone call from Steve Haynes last week. This morning I saw them again, although they can be a little elusive. Also present were 41 Pochard, 32 Shoveler, 1 Wigeon, 1 Goldeneye and a Scaup (not seen this afternoon).

It was a little quiet for passerines but I did unexpectedly find a Common Sandpiper. There were also two Kingfishers perched along the edge.

Last week at a local high point there was a bit of migration going on with lots of thrushes, pipits, buntings and a single House Martin. The next day I went and saw a Ring Ouzel, the fourth at this site of the autumn.

I will endeavour to keep the blog up to date but I’m off on a visit to Scotland next week, can’t wait.

Norfolk Weekend via Essington

After Shetland I was sitting at home chilling on Sunday when there was a fair bit of activity on the phone with messages from Bob and Tom (Julien was on for a second week). SIBERIAN ACCENTOR a first for Britain, gutting, the weeks of straight easterlies were paying dividends, I don’t suffer from bird envy, I was perfectly happy with Siberian Thrush, probably my most wanted species for the UK. I’d missed a first but you can’t see everything.

Joy and I had a weekend planned at Steve’s place at Thornham, so on Thursday I picked up Joy from work at 2.30 and we headed off. We had just got onto the A14 when my phone went, It was Bobby D in a panic SIBERIAN ACCENTOR at Essington on Spurn. What to do, Joy consulted the map, I though there was just about enough time to get there, we got off at junction 1 headed north then west to reconnect with the M1 and went as fast as was legally possible towards Spurn. It soon became clear that it wasn’t going to happen and when I hit the rush hour traffic in Hull we ground to a halt. The internet found us a hotel for the night which was really good value and only a 20 minute drive to Essington in the morning.

The weather was poor with heavy rain showers during the night and I was relatively confident that the bird would be there. At breakfast, it was all birders, some who had seen the bird and some who had not. I was relaxed (amazingly) and we arrived on-site at 7.00am, perhaps more importantly news had come through that the bird was still present! We were not the first and had to park about half a mile away. As we made our way to the bird, there was Bobby D sitting in the back of his car enjoying a coffee! I would have been happy at waiting 6 years to drag this species back, so 6 days was a Brucie Bonus if there ever was one! We queued and eventually when our turn came we saw said species.
Siberian Accentor, Essington
Siberian Accentor, Essington
The next four hours were special, I had had a great day on Unst but this was special as well. There were birds everywhere, at Sammys Point we missed Raddes Warbler, but saw four Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Woodcock, Wheatear with a steady flow of birds moving, it was stunning even if the weather wasn’t.

Next at Kilnsea we got the last parking space on the road, with birders everywhere, it was like the old days. The Guru that is Lee Evans, spoke to me about four times during the day, he was smiling so he must have been impressed. We followed a group to Church Fields, not quite sure why at the time, but the ringing station was having a good day, with Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler and a Dusky Warbler paraded before the waiting birders who numbers around 200!
Shore Lark, Kilnsea

Next down to the beach where there was a really showy Shore Lark and on the sea I had an Arctic Skua go past, but no Albatross! We were about to leave when a commotion to our left had me interested, Olive-backed Pipit – what a day!

By this time we really had to be making our way to Norfolk so just after lunch we headed down to Thornham, it took ages. We visited Titchwell before dark seeing a couple of Little Stint and Spoonbill then it was back to the cottage for a well earned meal.

The next day was hard we were both tired from yesterday but we managed a Barred Warbler and Dusky Warbler at Burnham Over Staithe. But being knackered we headed back bumping into Steve and Jeanette on the way. Apart from a visit to Titchwell where we saw a Yellow-browed Warbler, Med Gull and a few bits and pieces we called it a night.

The next day saw heavy rain so we headed home, completely satisfied with what we had seen.

Shetland 1st to 8th October

SATURDAY 1st October

The flight was an eventful one, at Edinburgh Julian and I had to go out of departures to book in again to get our boarding passes, then back through security and then get to the gate for departure! Unfortunately we only had 30 minutes to do this. Talk about panic, needless to say we did it – not quite sure how! We left Edinburgh and flew north, bizarrely we flew over Perth and I picked out my Mothers houses as we went over, it was strange flying over a part of the country I am really familiar with and seeing it from above, as it were.

On arrival in Shetland we made our way to Ocraquay where we saw a Red-backed Shrike, we then headed to our digs which was in a stunning location about a mile from the village of Aith, 30 minutes north of Lerwick. After sorting out the sleeping arrangements I ended up sharing with Bobby D, or he ended up sharing with me. We then hit the road again and in Laxo and the surrounding area we saw Bluethroat another Red-backed Shrike and a Red-breasted Flycatcher, It was then back into Lerwick for Fish and Chips and an early night.

SUNDAY 2nd October

I looked out of the bedroom window and picked up an Otter, I shouted downstairs and we all eventually got good views. A search of the plantation at the bottom of the garden resulted in a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers. We birding around in the general area when news broke of a Lanceolated Warbler at Boddam.

We arrived and birders we knew were coming away saying it was too crowded. We persevered and with around 80 to 100 birders looking into a very overgrown garden that sloped away from us it wasn’t looking good. Half a dozen lads to my left started getting excited, stretching necks and making sounds that to me are a bit of a memory, but the rest of us were clueless. I could only see into a foot square window (when I said it was Overgrown!).

After about an hour I noticed that along the garden there were around a dozen or so birders lying on the grown peering into the undergrowth, they appeared to be seeing something. One lad started to gesture to a mate of his that was standing by me, he was off, I was close behind!

Eventually I got to the front by the wire fence with Julien and Tom to my side, Bobby D had already seen the bird and had retreated. I looked down (bins were useless) and there it was creeping about like a mouse (click on the link, it really is mouse like). Julian was struggling and when I said it was right under his nose I wasn’t joking. At one point I’m sure it tried his shoes on! (now I’m joking). In the link, the bird actually walks over the photographers hand. We retreated and left the bird amazingly the best was yet to come.

Lanceolated Warbler. Boddam, Shetland 2nd October 2016

At times there can be a little friction between four Alpha Males in the same house and more importantly car. Primarily, where do we go next. Mostly its just a matter of communication. Anyway, communication broke down on our next destination.

News broke of four Killer Wales off Sumburgh Head so we headed there, or so I thought. As we were making our way there we detoured to Grutness to look for a Snow Bunting!!!! I’ve nothing against Snow Bunting but come on! We could see Sumburgh and birders on the cliffs looking out to sea. I assumed that the “IC number one” knew something I didn’t and that the Ocra where heading our way, but apparently not, there had been a Lapland Bunting a few days previous and that apparently was more important.

We got back to the car and made our way to Sumburgh where we were met with the news the Ocra had gone, but Hugh Harrop the resident birder said he was going to check out Scat Ness as they had headed that way. We checked the sea but apart from a couple of Great Skua it was 100’s of Fulmar and little else.

The pager went with the message that the Ocra were off Scatness there was no panic just off the main road was a small group looking out to sea. Then at about a mile distance there they were four Killer Whale, stunning I thought nothing would top this – I was to be proved wrong!

For the second time in two days we ended up at Quarff to look for a Hoopoe which again eluded us. We then drove to Scalloway where there was a showy Rosy Starling. We drove through the town and found the road it was on straight away. We made our way up the hill, it was looking bleak as unusually for Shetland there was plenty of cover, I looked down a small access track and there it was sitting on top of hedge I called the others and the bird performed really well. I back for my camera but the light was disappearing fast by the time I got back. With the light disappearing we went back to the accommodation where I was cooking for the evening.

Rosy Starling, Scalloway

At this point I was nearly sixty and I had agreed to cook a couple of nights. Easy meals, Chilli and a Curry standard fayre. We had done the shopping the day before and it soon became apparent I had forgotten the mince! Unfortunately the baked potatoes I had put in the over were nearly cooked so, a first for me we had Curry and Baked potatoes! A first for me but the others liked it.


It was a lot quieter today with the wind having started to pick up. We firstly checked out the plantation with a few Yellow-browed Warblers and Brambling to show for our efforts. We search another plantation where we saw a few Yellow-browed Warbler and obtained poor views of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. We then had a search for Hoopoe again at Quarff but drew a blank, Julian and Bob saw a Bluethroat. Next, Levenwick was our destination but it was quiet, news then broke of a Warbler at Quendale, so we headed there, but it proved to be a wasted journey although a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were seen. We then had another search for the Hoopoe with the same results. Back home early night.


This was another one of those days, news broke of a Sykes Warbler or Booted Warbler at Sullom plantation. I was driving, we were well placed at Aith so we were the second car on the scene. At that point it transpired that the bird was now a Chiffchaff!!!!! This is where communication came in, with everyone wanting to do different things, so as I was driving, I summonsed everyone back to the car and we headed south, at Quarff we missed the Hoopoe and Bluethroat but it was good birding with Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and a couple Yellow-browed Warbler. Again at Quendale news broke of a Little Bunting so we headed there. People leaving told us how well it had shown, but it had flown. I got a glimpse of a Barred Warbler by the mill a couple of times, but it was a pain.

News broke of another Little Bunting at Quarff so we headed there but again drew a blank, off home Pinnie on second attempt at Chilli, Oh stopped off for mince, nearly forgot.


This was to be another one of those days. Julian, Bob and I birded the gardens down to the village, we had brief views of a probable flycatcher in a garden, a women in a car stopped and said just go in the garden. Bob and I did and suddenly the door flew open and an Irate gentleman asked if he could help me! I spluttered out an explanation and left, he was fine. An American Golden Plover had turned up at Eshaness in the north so we headed there. Now it gets windy at home, but in Shetland you soon learn what wind is about. On arrival at the lighthouse we found the flock but it was very mobile and looking through the scope was near impossible with my eyes streaming with the wind. We missed out and birded in the area seeing little, that is apart from a Common Tern (in joke).

We cut our losses and returned to the digs for coffee, sitting birding in the porch became a popular pastime and we saw a good number of species from here. Anyway it was decided to return to Eshaness for another go for AGP as we arrived news broke of a Black-throated Thrush in the Sullom Plantation, so we headed there hoping it wasn’t the same birder! Needless to say we didn’t see the bird. I had a confrontation with a Scottish birder who really pissed me off! I’ll have him in the future – Twat! (That’s a village in Shetland!). To compound matters we missed a Hawfinch!


With White’s and Swainson’s Thrushes both on Fetlar we headed north on the ferry, both the ferry for Unst and Fetlar leave from Yell, so we decided to wait for news before we made a decision. With no news either way we opted for Unst. This was to prove to be one of the best days birding I have ever had.

We arrived at Norwick just after 10.00am not bad going. We saw two rarities in the form of Goldfinch and Greenfinch, not quite what we were after, but! As we made our way along a track I was at the back when two birds flew past settling in the hedge by the house, I picked up my bins and it was Little Bunting, I was pretty sure the other bird was as well but, it was more important to get the others on the birds, eventually we did, there appeared to be three birds in total. Another garden held a Red-breasted Flycatcher and there were birds streaming in with Redwing, Skylark and Brambling all over. We stopped and located a Bluethroat and then Tom picked up another, it was proving a good day, but the best was yet to come.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Norwick
Next we searched unsuccessfully for another Blyth’s Reed Warbler before we headed to Haroldswick where we had great views of a Scarlet Rosefinch and missed another Barred Warbler. For the second time I got a flea in my ear. Honest misses it didn’t look like a garden to me! We also saw our only Arctic Tern of the trip in the bay, this time it was real and not plastic! (In Joke).

Scarlet Rosefinch
At around 4ish I suggested maybe birding a bit closer to the ferry terminal, the others agreed and with a Little Bunting at Westing that was chosen as our next destination. As we approached the turnoff Tom suggested Uyeasound as an alternative, so we went left instead of right. At a loch we checked out the wildfowl, this took us left at the sea instead of right – fateful!

We parked up and saw a few birders staking out a Barred Warbler in the garden of a large house, we joined them, one was the guy I was sat next to on the plane from Birmingham. We chatted and were joined by a few more people. I said I would go left and look into the back of the hedge another birder said he would do the same from the other side. I couldn’t locate anything, when I heard a shout from the other guy “White’s Thrush” I looked up as the bird with a distinctive underwing flew past landing in the only tree by the road. It was partly hidden, but didn’t look scaly, more dirty black, as I shouted “I’ve got it”, it broke cover, I had the impression of a supercillium, next I heard the same birder shouting “F***** H*** its a SIBERIAN THRUSH”.

He stood in the middle of the field with his arms in the air shouting “I’m F******** having that!” Meanwhile the bird flew down into a couple of gardens on the right down by the beach. Stupidly unlike everyone else I didn’t go for me camera, eventually 20 of us made our way down and the finder and myself agreed to make our way around to view the garden from the other side. Within minutes it flew up onto a washing pole and gave great views for a second or two, it was a 1st winter male. With that the bird flew circled the houses and disappeared into the same bushes. Over the next 20 minutes any birders on Unst made there way to join us and a small group of around 40 birders waiting in anticipation staring into a small hedge as the sun slowly melted away. Then without any warning the bird flew out straight at the eagerly waiting crowd the banked right. I saw tears, people dropping to their knees, sighs, yelps of joy, it was magical, it really was.

Our group were not going to get any better views, we had 15 minutes to get to the ferry so we left, the ferry approached and a minibus with the “Clams” in got off, they had been on Unst all day but had taken an earlier Ferry, fortunately they had enough time to get the ferry back. They pulled up at the side of us to checked we had heard about the Thrush. We were about to tell them where to go when the disappeared into the dust up the road! We met them the next day and they had seen the bird with 10 minutes of daylight left, I think the smiles they all had would have extended that by 5 minutes.

After yesterday, nothing was going to top this. However, a Brown Shrike at Voe was a good alternative. Eventually we all got good, if distant views. The rest of the day was leisurely with a few visits to sites we had visited previously, but it was a bit after the Lord Mayors Show.


Time for home but not before we saw a couple more Little Bunting and good views of Black Guillemot in Lerwick harbour.
Black Guillemot, Lerwick

Little Bunting, Lerwick

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Its Been a Month

Joy and I spent two and a half weeks on Tenerife where we basically chilled out in what has been a stressful year so far. We did a bit of birding but didn’t over do it as there are few bird species available. In fact we only managed 49 species – but as usual the quality was high.

Blue Chaffinch

Bertholts’s Pipit

In no particular order: Bolle’s Pigeon, White-tailed Laurel Pigeon, Spanish Sparrow, Monk Parakeet, Bertholts Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Plain Swift, Pallid Swift, Canary, Barbary Partridge, Barbary Falcon and thousands of Cory’s Shearwaters.

Back home and Tuesday saw me around the Reservoir where it was rather quiet. A phonecall from Bobby D regarding parking for Shetland saw us mulling over a possible trip to Cornwall for the day. Hudsonian Whimbrel and Dalmatian Pelican had been pulling at me for a while now, and the chance to share the costs proved too much. The outside chance of the Scillies Cliff Swallow relocated to Cornwall also played its part.

4.30am on Thursday we were off! Mammals were impressive with Bobby D seeing Badger, but the mammalian star was my and BD’s first Polecat which ran across the road near Maxstoke. The rest of the journey was uneventful apart from a Barn Owl which flew across the M5 somewhere in Somerset.

We eventually arrived at Helston at Loe Pool but as the Pelican had not been reported for a couple of days we weren’t particularly confident. We parked up and made our way to the south end where we searched in vain. We worked our way along the shoreline but drew a blank. We headed back to the car and were about to leave when I suggested that we try the north end on the off chance. Halfway down the hill we met a birder who had seen the bird, so it was just a straightforward walk and there it was beached up on a sand bar. Although the possibility that the bird will be accepted by the birding authorities is open to doubt, it was certainly impressive and worth the effort if in the area. Anyway, tick wise it is one for the back burner.
Dalmatian Pelican, Cornwall
It was only a short distance to the next site just outside Penzance where we parked on the street rather that pay £4 for parking! We worked out way around the coast and found the Hudsonian Whimbrel with two Bar-tailed Godwit feeding on the tide line in a small cove. The birds immediately took flight where the lack of a white mark on the back was apparent. Fortunately the birds returned within a couple of minutes affording us really good views.

Hudsonian Whimbrel, Cornwall

By this time – 1pm I was starting to feel a little tired and the prospect of the drive home looked a little daunting. We returned to the car discussing our options when there was a commotion amongst the local birds, we looked up to see a raptor flying low overhead, it immediately looked different and it was Bob (bless him) who shouted HONEY BUZZARD. It was the best views I have ever had of Honey Buzzard and it was stunning.

To cut a long story short we decided to call it a day. As it was Bobs wife’s birthday it was probably a wise move on his part! We were back home by 7.10pm and I passed my family a mile from home as they were heading out for a curry and my tea was in the dog.

Fast forward to Saturday. I decided after tea to take a walk over Shustoke with Joy as the rain had stopped. We made our way round and picked up a 1st winter Little Gull the first good bird I have had for ages. We were up early on Sunday and the Little Gull was still present as we made our way around we found a Ruff and a Wheatear, so all in all not bad.

Spotted Flycatcher, Middleton RSPB
Having cancelled Sky Sports (too expensive) we went to Middleton RSPB where we saw a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Dunlin, 2 Curlew Sandpiper and a variety of other birds.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Thursday 11th August

Joy and I took a walk around the Reservoir in the evening and a juvenile LRP was on the western shore, whilst we were watching it a Wheatear flew in and joined it. Then to round off a magical few minutes a Hobby flew through. After months of nothing a few good birds all at once.

We continued round until when scanning through the Lapwing I picked up four smaller waders, two were definite Common Sandpiper but it was too far away to be sure of the other two. I made my way along the south shore the waist high grass but unfortunately the Lapwing flock went up and all I could find were three Common Sandpiper. Although it was too far away to be sure the one bird looked good for Green Sandpiper but that is just an educated guess.

I went over early Friday morning, this time armed with a scope but apart from an adult LRP and three Common Sandpiper I saw little else.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Wednesday 10th August

On Tuesday, I cycled into Birmingham along the canals in search of Black Redstarts,  checking out all the sites we found held the species when the WMBC carried out the Black Redstart survey over 25 years ago. All bar one have now been developed, unfortunately it is the wrong time of year for singing birds but in four trips I have not come across the species. I did however, see a cracking Lesser Whitethroat in the Aston area about a mile from the city centre. I cycled through Birmingham to Edgbaston Reservoir where there were a couple of areas that looked promising, but again I saw none.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went over the Reservoir and picked up a Great Black-backed Gull coming into 2nd Winter plumage. I carried on around and it was obvious that there were a lot more birds around with Warblers feeding with the tit flocks. In the north-west corner in the bushes by the river there was a Lesser Whitethroat my first for the site this year, as was the GBBG.

There were also c.400 hirundines with around a dozen Swift high over the fields to the south. Again the area between the two pools held a few warblers as well. Severn Trent have had to put up a high fence to stop people messing with the controls on the weir! It looks awful and a potential death sentence for Kingfisher using the river, it must be eight foot high.

I checked out the small pool on the other side of the Railway where there were a couple of Raven but not much else. Then on my way back I saw a Hobby making its way to the Reservoir for lunch!

In the evening Joy and I went to Middleton RSPB where there was still a single Wood Sandpiper, we also saw Green Sandpiper, 2 Dunlin, Ringer Plover and 4 Little Ringed Plover.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Early August

The Reservoir has been quiet yet again with just a couple of Common Sandpiper to hold any interest. A Kingfisher was observed carrying food, so it would be reasonable to assume they have bred on-site, there have been a scattering of common Warblers but it has been really quiet. Today saw two Common Terns fly through but they didn’t linger.

Tuesday I visited Middleton RSPB where there was Garganey, Dunlin and two Willow Tit which were seen near the Canal Scrape but I later saw them over the border in Warwickshire at Fishers Mill Pool.

Wednesday saw me at Ladywalk where a Green Sandpiper and Dunlin were the highlights as well as a ride to Riverwalk hide in the Wardens four-wheel drive!

Friday saw Joy and I travel to Minsmere on the Suffolk coast where we had an interesting day which included seeing the Western Purple Swamp Hen a potential first for the UK. Perhaps more interestingly we saw Honey Buzzard, Spotted Redshank, Stone Curlew along with a host of waders. Also I bumped into Lee Johnson who used to run this blog, he has recently become a father – that will be a reality check if there ever was one. Good luck with the twitching in the future Lee – oh and all the best!

Purple Swamp Hen, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk


Whilst we were making our way to the Purple Swamp Monster we observed a dragonfly lying on the ground with its wings flapping, we couldn’t make out what was wrong, that was until we saw it had caught a Wasp! The Wasp was in the Dragonflies jaws but the Wasp had managed to deploy its sting and both were locked in a macabre embrace.

There were a lot of Butterflies at Minsmere and I saw my first Grayling. At Shustoke today I had eight species with a Brimstone a little unexpected.