Monday, 16 October 2017

Saturday through to Monday

Joy, June and I had a good walk around Cannock Chase, mainly in search of the reported Crossbills. We parked by the TA centre and walked the trails down towards Seven Springs. We had great views of a good sized Adder that slithered across the path in front of us.

We eventually encountered some birds with c.30 Siskin plus some of the more common finches in Abrahams Valley. Eventually eight Crossbill flew across the trail but carried on flying into the sun and lost to view.

We had nearly got to the end of the Valley when we could hear Crossbills calling they were drinking down in the undergrowth but eventually gave themselves up before flying back down the Valley.

With all the reports of Hawfinch around the country I though I would try my luck at Wishaw, I wasn’t expecting much, and I wasn’t disappointed. I did however, see c.40 Skylark and two small groups totalling 10 Golden Plover.

I decided that I would have a go for a long staying Grey Phalarope at Blithfield Reservoir. I arrived early and searched along the north shore and the Causeway. I then drove to the dam where I picked out the bird feeding along the base of the dam. It was ridiculously close and spent the entire time I was there going long the waters edge feeding.

The sky was really weird with the sun having a reddish tinge, I found out later this was due to the forest fires in Portugal and sand from the Sahara. It felt like there was a imminent Eclipse coming!

Around lunchtime the wind started to pick up so I made my way home.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Friday 13th October


With news of a Rock Thrush breaking late on Thursday it was a no brainer that this would be a target for us today. The bird was in South Wales at Blorenge a site which hosted a Mamora’s Warbler a few years back.

As I went to bed it was a clear night, not a good sign. So when the next morning there was no news we decided we would walk the Malvern ridge and wait for news. With a possible twitch on, we parked in the middle and climbed the Worcestershire Beacon first where there was a Wheatear and returned to the car. We then headed south to do the rest of the ridge. However, we hadn’t gone far when I received a message to say the bird had been relocated. So it was back to the car and with less than 50 miles to go we were there within the hour.

We arrived without too much difficulty and soon found a parking spot. It was a little windy, but having been along the ridge we were used to it. It was about a mile walk and there were a small group of birders watching the bird which was happy feeding on rocks near to top of a ridge just past a small quarry. After about 20 minutes the bird disappeared over the ridge as more and more birders started to arrive. I had a quick hello from Lee Evans when he left, and I saw an old mucker Darren at the end of the line. A birder from the other direction said he had seen a Black Redstart around the other side of the hill, so using this as an excuse (I needed a pee) I carried on round, there was a Wheatear and a few Meadow Pipits and it was a good area, very rocky with lots of cover and isolated bushes.

I was on my way back when I saw the Black Redstart briefly fly into the boulders, I was scanning the rocks but could not relocate the bird, whilst doing this I saw some movement and for a second I was perplexed, then realised that I was watching the Rock Thrush. I gestured to someone 100 yards away and within seconds I was surrounded.

Happy with the views Joy and I left and decided to return via Malvern and finish off the ridge which we did. All in all a great day, although the football didn’t finish as I would have liked.

Rock Thrush, Blorenge

Monday, 9 October 2017

Shetland Week (Tuesday to Friday)


With the winds stuck in the West it wasn’t looking that promising, but at least we managed to get some birding in. We connected with the Little Bunting at Grutness but failed to connect with a Bluethroat in the same area. We saw the Common Crane a couple of times at Loch of Hillwell and it was whilst watching this bird that we heard of an American Buff-bellied Pipit at Grutness. I had seen two previously but it was a good bird so as we were pretty close we headed there and had good views of the bird before it flew off.

American Buff-bellied Pipit, Grutness

It was a pretty miserable day, we started dodging the rain whilst a Rustic Bunting dodged us. Soaked we went back to the digs for a coffee. The lure of Parrot Crossbills in a Lerwick garden proved too much of a pull. It was still raining most of the time and we set up a “Stake Out” on a lone Spruce at the end of a row of houses. During a brief lull in the rain I got out to check some other nearby trees behind the houses, on my way back I picked up a bird flying in. I called the others but the bird dropped into dense cover and it was hard to see. At this point birders were appearing out of the woodwork and there were soon upwards of 20 people milling around. The bird then dropped down and showed really well. Its a sign of the times that Joy was the only person not clicking away with a camera. I had words with one camera man who seemed to want to climb the tree! Another male joined the party but a female flew in but saw the crowd and carried on. We had another go for the Rustic Bunting but just got another soaking.

Parrot Crossbill, Lerwick

The last day saw an improvement in the weather, so Joy and I got up early and birded around the house and beach we had a Whincat and a few bits and pieces, but it was really enjoyable not to be in the car. We then had a fruitless search for a Booted Warbler at Bigton, which did yield a Hawfinch, Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck. In the afternoon we birded around Sumburgh and although enjoyable we saw little apart from a Redpoll which may or may not have been an Arctic. But poor views and its ability to disappear at will proved too much for us, so we had a coffee in the stunning Cafe at the lighthouse and called it a day.

The next day we flew to Aberdeen stopped briefly in Perth then despite the motorway being closed as we approach Glasgow we were home just after 8pm. Sunday I was mostly knackered!

Shetland Week – (Sunday/Monday)

With predictions of the weather varying from bad to very bad (biblical proportions) we woke up not expecting to be stuck in the house for most of the day. But it was at least dry when we got out in the morning. We headed north towards Melby where there was a Rustic Bunting, we arrived to be told that the bird had flown off over the hillside in the distance.

Julian and Bob marched off in that direction whilst I waited for Joy who had received a phone call as we arrived. By the time she finished we walked alongside the beach road when a movement at the side of the road turned out to be the Rustic Bunting. We managed to get the others attention by waving and we all got quite good views, although Bob was a little despondent as he had left his camera in the car. As what was to be a recurring theme during the week the bird flew as photographers encroached just a little too much. As we were expecting rain, we moved on to Dale of Walls just a little way down the coast to continue our day. The wind by this point had started to increase and the sky was darkening quite alarmingly. We saw another Great Grey Shrike and a Redstart and a couple of Yellow Wagtails, plus a scattering of commoner migrants.

Rustic Bunting, Melby
Rustic Bunting, Melby
Short-toed Lark, With
There was a report of a Short-toed Lark at Aith, this was the village that we stayed in last year and I was keen to show Joy where it was and the views. As it turned out the bird was exactly directly across the bay from our digs of last year. We found the site immediately and went in different directions to find the bird which I flushed from the roadside before I had gone ten yards. It flew across the road before circling back and landing back on the road. The next group of birders nearly drove over the bird but it was never close and by this time the wind was starting to be a bit of a problem.

Whilst we were deciding what to do next reports of a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler in the north of the island broke. We headed north, we arrived and there were about 50 birders present, nearly all with beaming smiles and telling us how well the bird had shown. The bird was sitting in the middle of an Iris bed and was not showing. There was to be an organised flush which because of the deteriorating weather was brought forward. We took up our position and the finder and Dan Pointon slowly made there way through the undergrowth the bird flew up and straight at us banked and dropped into another clump of vegetation. It briefly shown at the top of the clump before moving back into the Iris beds just as the rain started. That was our cue and we got back to the car before the rain really got heavy. But that was the end of the days entertainment, the wind that night was something else.


We decided that as we had cleaned up that a Red-throated Pipit and Parrot Crossbill on Unst would be the targets. What followed was bad luck to a great degree we pulled up at the Ferry as it pulled out, resulting in a 45 minute wait. We fared little better with the Yell to Unst ferry. We eventually arrived on Unst at midday. We drove straight to Skaw which is the most northerly habited property in the UK. The Red-throated Pipit showed immediately and gave good views although the rain had started and we got soaked before we cut our losses and headed to the car. On the way up we had spend an hour at Baltisound for the Parrot Crossbills without luck. We returned and again it took nearly an hour before the birds were flushed from cover and gave us good but brief views on the other side of the small copse. Again it started to rain, we ran for the car, but although it was only 50 yards away we were soaked by the time we got into the car. Again some bad luck with the ferry timings left us sitting in the car for nearly an hour. It was late by the time we got back to Lerwick so Fish and Chips was the order of the day then back to the digs.

Shetland Week (Friday / Saturday)


Drove up to Perth for an overnight stay as we were flying direct from Aberdeen this year. Bob arrived at ours at 9am and we made our way arriving mid afternoon. As we had some time on our hands I suggested we visit a site I know close to Perth where I am guaranteed Black Grouse. It wasn’t much of a detour, we stopped on the way to look down a glen where I briefly had views of Golden Eagle twice, unfortunately no one else got onto the bird. We did however have a lot more success with Black Grouse with several birds seen close to the road.

On the evening we paid a visit to the Cherrybank Inn for a couple of pints. The walls of the bar were full of St Johnstone memorabilia. I found myself reciting the names of the players from the early 70s team. I got most right!


Up at 4.30am jumped into the car and up to Aberdeen. We found the parking we booked easily and the bus dropped us at the terminal where we had to wait for nearly an hour for the desk to open. Then it was on the plane and an hour later we arrived. Joy had never been before and was unaware of what to expect. The weather was dull and it was windy and I think she found it a little bleak. Julian Allen picked us up, as he had arrived earlier and we travelled the mile or so to Grutness where we saw a Great Grey Shrike by the toilet block as we walked along the road we had poor flight views of a Little  Bunting. Next was a short drive to Toab where a Wryneck was performing in one on the gardens, it was proving a good start, although the weather forecast predicted a change in the weather.

Next was Loch of Hillwell where we connected with the Common Crane which was feeding on the opposite hillside. At Spiggie we saw Whooper Swan and some of the more common birds. Then news of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Sumburgh Farm came through and we headed down there. We searched the fields at the farm seeing Lesser Whitethroat, loads of Chiffs and a couple of Willow Warblers but not the bird we were looking for. Then we noticed a lot of people visiting the small quarry, we joined them and the bird was showing well. However, I was not convinced it was a Blyth's, it just looked like a Reed Warbler to me. There was a good natured discussion and we agreed that with all the pictures that were being taken that its identity would be firmly established later. By late afternoon it was confirmed as a Reed Warbler.

We next drove to the accommodation which looked bleak from the outside, but inside it was really good and very spacious. Moreover a Yellow-browed Warbler in the garden was a bonus, mainly as we were only to see another couple during the trip.
Bright blue skies on arrival, with Bobby D heading the wrong way!

Great Grey Shike, Greatness

Reed Warbler the bird that was thought to be Blyth’s Reed Warbler