Tuesday, 3 June 2014

What's been going on?

Just a quick note for anyone who might be wondering why I've been much quieter lately... I am still as keen as ever on birding but I simply haven't had time to keep this blog up to date. I have instead been spending my evenings keeping a written logbook and submitting my records to BirdTrack, both things which I feel have more value. To be honest, I've been growing increasingly tired of the internet and social media and so haven't even been using Twitter or Facebook much at all, call me old-fashioned but I prefer living in the real world. In the daytime I've obviously been birding a lot and going to university, although for how long the latter will continue is perhaps starting to look doubtful. The course has been a disappointment to be frank and as such I've been struggling to focus on it; I'm weak in that I have a one-track mind and if something doesn't excite me or seem as though it's going to reap fast, worthwhile rewards my attention soon wavers. I'd like to stay in Brighton for a while longer though, I've made many new friends and had so much fun and even if the course doesn't work out I might try to live down here for a bit longer and perhaps work on getting a career going. I'll no doubt pick up on this blog once things have become a bit clearer.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Fair Isle

I had an awesome first visit to Fair Isle on Wednesday with two lifers, two new forms and a whole set of other quality birds.

Our mode of transport
Our first views of the famed isle

The male Cretzschmar's Bunting showed distantly in rough grass at Boini Mire on arrival

And just down the road was this dazzling male Caspian Stonechat

Red-breasted Flycatcher - my first spring sighting

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Short-toed Lark, left, with Skylark - an overdue lifer

Blue-headed Wagtail - my first non-flavissima

Possibly my first spring Wryneck

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Recent stuff

Lots and lots to be getting on with so just a quick catch up on what I've been up to this month.

A trip to Scotland on 10th and 11th didn't go as well as planned, with a speeding ticket and no American Herring Gull in the Campbeltown area, although we did find the drake BLACK DUCK at Strontian.Other highlights from the trip included two Snow Geese, three Iceland Gulls and good numbers of Greenland White-fronted Geese.

Drake Black Duck at Strontian with female Mallard

Snow Geese with Greenland White-fronted Geese near Tayinloan

Greenland White-fronted Geese near Campbeltown - the skeins were a breathtaking sight and sound

Last Thursday saw me connect with my 400th British bird, the GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO which was discovered at Giltar Point near Tenby. I've especially wished to see one of these since I was about ten so I was delighted to catch up with one and it was such a spectacular-looking thing, a great one for 400.

Great Spotted Cuckoo at Giltar Point - number 400!

Just before the Scotland trip, the 9th provided some good birds near to home in Surrey with two summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe on Mercers Lake, Holmethorpe Sand Pits and a Firecrest found by Paul Goodman in Banstead Woods, the species is surprisingly rare at CFBW and this was my second sighting there. The grebes were a fantastic addition to my local area list.

Black-necked Grebes on Mercers Lake, Holmethorpe Sand Pits

Firecrest in Banstead Woods, a cracking find by Paul Goodman

A drake Pintail was something of a surprise at the Ouse Estuary Project reserve at Newhaven today.

Drake Pintail at Newhaven today

Drake Pintail (second from right) at Newhaven today

Thursday, 27 February 2014


On Saturday I spent an enjoyable day birding around Dungeness with Josh Burch and Pete Denyer. Highlights included the two male PENDULINE TITS, although they were distant, along with a juvenile Glaucous Gull on Burrowes Pit, Great White Egret, two Black-necked Grebes and three Smews.

This juvenile Glaucous Gull dropped in or a brush-up on Burrowes Pit

One of the two male Penduline Tits viewable from the ramp

The Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes Pit

Redhead Smew on Burrowes Pit
One of two Black-necked Grebes

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Another day of conditions too uncomfortable for trudging around Canons Farm led to me spending much of the day at Beddington Farmlands, although I was not out of the wind and rain even there seeing as the hide was flooded! Anyway, the stake-out paid off with an adult Kittiwake which flew north and other highlights including Little Egret, Shelduck, Peregrine, two Egyptian Geese and a Greylag (uncommon there). When the weather calmed a bit in the afternoon I did have brief walk around Canons but there was little to show for it. Of note, Liam, Paul and I headed down to see the putative Chinese Pond Heron in Kent yesterday - it was very flighty and I'll go back for more prolonged views if it reappears.

Storm-blown Kittiwake

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Ross's Gull dip

Following the success of the Myrtle Warbler, I was excited to continue the good run with the Ross's Gull in Glamorgan. Unfortunately, I didn't think to check the weather forecast before setting off and it turned out to be a day of violent weather. The first part of the morning was just about 'calm' enough to search for the bird but conditions worsened and we called it a day around lunchtime, with only Colin having seen the bird (while I was looking the other way!). Oh well, it doesn't work out every time... Six Little Gulls, an adult Mediterranean Gull and a handful of Kittiwakes did put on a pretty good show as they tackled the wind off the end of Jackstone Pier, but they couldn't be fully enjoyed with hail hurtling into my face at 80kmh; four Purple Sandpipers and a Guillemot were also present.

Adult Little Gull

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Myrtle Warbler

I went up with Liam Langley, Rob Stokes and John Benham early yesterday morning for this bird, discovered during the Big Garden Birdwatch, which was frequenting the suburbs of High Shincliffe, County Durham. We arrived to find that we had missed it by minutes, but patiently awaited its return to the fat balls and coconuts put out for it. It took about an hour and a half but the MYRTLE WARBLER announced its presence with a loud, hard call and showed for a minute or two in the trees near the feeders before deciding to fly off to nearby gardens. For the remainder of the morning the bird performed on and off around the estate, often quite high in a number of different trees and sometimes low in the scrub as it gorged on the offerings hanging out for it. In a poor winter for Waxwings, it was nice to be able to walk just around the corner to see three by the roadside. Early afternoon, and with negative news of the adult Ross's Gull in Lancashire, we thought it might be worth a punt on the apparent 'Central Asian' Lesser Whitethroat a relatively short drive away in Tynemouth which, luckily, performed during our short visit.

Myrtle Warbler
One of the three Waxwings
Apparent Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat

Thursday, 6 February 2014

A rainy day's gull-watching

Being back in Surrey, and the weather being too horrible for walking around Canons Farm, I chose to spend the day grilling the gulls at Beddington. This proved productive, as I found an adult Glaucous Gull and two Caspian Gulls (an adult and a first-winter), although I missed the Iceland Gull which gave a brief fly-by. A Shelduck was on the main lake and two Egyptian Geese flew through.

Above three: adult Glaucous Gull

Above two: adult Caspian Gull

Above three: first-winter Caspian Gull

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail

It didn't take much persuading on the part of Liam to have me setting off early this morning to Gloucestershire where the Red-flanked Bluetail showed well near Marshfield. The only other bluetail I've seen was two or three years ago now on the day of the Rufous-tailed Robin dip in Norfolk, when one was at Holme; the Norfolk bird was very flighty and difficult to get a prolonged view of, especially as everyone was running around after it like mad. So, it was a pleasure to spend a laid-back couple of hours in the bird's company this morning in a peaceful patch of countryside.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Purple Sands

There were thirteen Purple Sandpipers on the East Arm at Newhaven this afternoon including three that were particularly photogenic. Other highlights included good numbers of Dunlin, Curlew, Common Snipe and Lapwing.