Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Im on a week off and in that time with the addition of a day the previous weekend I have managed to add 17 patch ticks. Not gone mental at all and currently sitting on 76 species and 85 points (I think). Such luminaries as Moorhen and Greylag are now gracing the list and no less than three new patch ticks were acquired. The best of the three was undoubtedly a pair of Gadwall  which at present seem set on breeding in one of the ditches. A fly past Canada Goose was enough for me... May I see one of those each and every year but no more.

Gank. Honk.
There seem to be a few more of these guys breeding on patch this year.
The now very bleached Kumlien's Gull went past earlier in the month
The first migrants are in and a Sedge Warbler singing from a bush abutting the caravan park was probably the best so far. Nothing too crazy but House Martin also added yesterday. On the sea and a few Fulmars passing close inshore drew a Gannet along the shoreline. Usually the year tick is a spot on the horizon. Curlew and Golden Plover are both migrants on the patch so getting them both was a fillip.

Away from the patchwork and it has been upland forests including plenty of Schedule 1 action. I had an Osprey on the 1st April and several Goshawks which are always good. Locations obviously arent even going to be referred to due to work/their sensitivity etc. Not sure you can garner much from the sky here though:

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Craggy Island

Ok so Flamborough is more a headland than an island but it has held a Crag Martin for the last couple of days and Im generally an irritable drunk like Father Jack. After it reappeared yesterday me and the girls sped the short distance up the road to connect. Despite a slightly sweary Garry Bagnell effing and jeffing in front of my kids when the bird shifted from Thornwick to North Landing it was certainly a pleasant twitch with the bird showing to a couple of feet in front of the assembled throng of familiar faces. Crag Martin isnt a bird I would risk travelling far for as I have seen too many to recount in Spain but they are smart, sassy little buggers despite their dull hues and this one was no exception, feeding within a couple of feet of the watching birders. Cracker

This morning also saw my first trip to Barmston this month. I have permission to visit every weekend now until the end of spring. Which is awesome...the issues with being a parent! A massive nine year ticks were found, all one pointers alas but enjoyable none the less. Driving in a couple of singing Song Thrushes were a late addition to the yearlist. I heard many through the visit. As soon as I arrived at the cliff top it was obvious the Sand Martins were back with about 40 birds buzzing about in 6c. A quick check of the sea saw my first Shelduck since my debut visit to Barmston in 2008 resting amongst the Common Gulls.

Down the beach a couple of Grey Plovers were moving through. Weirdly the usual throng of Sanderlings was absent but passing Curlew and Golden Plover more than made up for it. Curlew occur occasionally in spring but dont really use the beach and Golden Plover are pretty scarce with only a single record last year. Amongst the gulls were a few returning Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  These breed in Bridlington a few miles up the coast.

After my jaunt along the beach I decided to have a quick check of the woods and low and behold the first warblers had returned. A Willow Warbler flitting along a fence was looking very much like a migrant but the singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcap were certainly staking claim to their territories. The chiffs were actually a patch tick. Number 132...

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Under the weather

Not been so hot these last five weeks - had the flu which has manifested into a hideous viral chest infection which I still haven't shifted. Managed to man up enough to visit Barmston this morning and it was well worth it. Also under the weather were a few seabirds desperately skirting a squall out in Bridlington Bay. Pretty standard were single Red-throated Diver and Guillemot. More exotic were a couple of Arctic Skuas and a Manx Shearwater the latter a full patch tick as they rarely get this deep into the bay. A juvenile Kittiwake, a distant Fulmar and two loafing Common Scoter were also patch year ticks.

On the land it was much quieter. No Littoralis pipits unlike last year and not a snipe never mind a jack. Totally different to 2013 when there were loads. I walked the ditch but the White-spotted Bluethroat didn't appear. Another patch year tick clucked in the reed bed as a female Pheasant put in a brief appearance. This takes me on to 57 species and 65 points for the year so far at Barmston. This week I also took delivery of a rather smart t-shirt...

Sunday, 9 March 2014


Im still hanging on here albeit by the skin of my fingertips as two weeks into a stinking virus I am still feeling pretty shoddy. Despite this I have seen some cracking stuff since I last checked in. I was in Somerset in late March and a trip to Shapwick Heath NNR coming in from the 'other' end brought with it a flock of 30+ Chiffchaff including 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs. In fact the first bird I laid eyes on looked great and then gave the very flat peep call which drew another classic buffy job with an all black bill in. Soon joined by reams of colybita we pushed on only to find a further bird in a big group round the corner. This didnt call sadly. We also managed three booming Bitterns and three Great White Egrets which are pretty standard down there.

The next day we were killing time waiting for our plane back to the North-east and had a meander up to Slimbridge. On a Sunday...good grief it was mental! Despite this there were massive numbers of decent birds with Bewick's Swans, European White-fronted Geese, Ruff and Barnacle Geese for the yearlist as well as a Little Stint I missed. One of the plastic cranes was stood in the middle looking like an escaped pet but a fly by Peregrine was pretty awesome. Some of the wildfowl were inches from the hides seemingly not bothered by the thousands on the other side of the shutters.

A quick trip to Barmston on the last Monday of February marked the start of me feeling cack but despite this I managed to add a few species to my PWC list with Mallard, Teal  and Grey Partridge all falling to my point scoring cannon. Best though was a Kingfisher flying up the drain...maybe they will breed this year.

Last week I was in Somerset again and again some free time saw us twitching. First up was some pretty epic dipping with Great Grey Shrike, Ring-necked Duck, Glaucous Gull and Kumlien's Gull all missed with the recompense of a couple of first winter Iceland Gulls, my 4th and 5th of the year. The following day and we headed to the Forest of Dean where driving along we had scores of Mandarin. Loads of Boar sign failed to produce any sightings but doodling along Serridge Ridge proved productive for me if not my colleagues as I managed to see two Two-barred Crossbills  flit down to the valley below. Sadly the others got arse end views. Plenty of Brambling including the beast pictured above and a couple of Common Crossbill. My finchy fumblings werent finished as a Hawfinch bounded towards its roost at dusk. John B managed to see that thankfully...

Me and John dipped the Richard's Pipit that had been knocking about but I managed a brief video of a Short-eared Owl at the new Steart reserve. All pretty awesome. Which brings me to today where I have moaned and groaned about how crap I feel. Im so cool.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail

Dirty post work twitching. I am down in the South West at the moment and a prompt finish meant plenty of time to see my 4th individual of this formerly cosmic rarity. Pete and Chris were taking the googly-eyed chat in for the first time so a little dell aside a stream seemed an unlikely spot for a significant twitch. Only a couple of muppets in day glo jackets breaking the skyline and blocking in the bird were noted. With L series lenses naturally...

The day before a quick trip to Ham Wall/Shapwick etc revealed three Great White Egrets and 3 Marsh Harriers plus the showiest Cetti's Warbler I have ever seen. It really was a cracker.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

PWC January at Barmston

I managed another visit last Sunday briefly to Barmston in the hope of adding a few more species before the end of January to the Patchwork Challenge score. I was going to have a look at the woods to clean up on common passerines but this got postponed when the passage on the sea looked decent. Not a million birds a minute but a few Red-throats and Cormorants passing. Close in the first patch tick of the year, a lunking Great Northern Diver. Only a single previous record for me here and that was in the spring last year. Similarly scarce here are large auks so when a Razorbill went past at close range I was glad to have added it to the yearlist. It again was a single record job last year. The gull passage came thick and fast but no hoped for Little Gull.

I went for a paddle down the beach, aware that time was pressing as I had an urgent appointment with copious amounts of beer. Sat in the middle of the beach 300 yards north of the caravan park was the Kumlien's Gull which had been missing for 16 days. A strong three points (seems they have been downgraded since last year) but no find as it is wintering again despite filling the time criteria. A brief Dunlin south was also a new one but a pretty easy one. Still no Oystercatcher (or many other things). A quiet start to PWC 2014 with a few decent birds. Totals are 40 species and 45 points.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Yesterday after a little persuasion by my colleague John we headed down to Brixham for some post work birding. We being Pete, John and myself and we were in the south west working. We were still a good distance away and finished work at 2. Not a lot of time to be honest and the weather looked rubbish. Some valiant steering by John and we were soon at Broadsands. I mentioned to Pete that we were going past a bang on Cirl Bunting site and that it would take seconds to connect? Thankfully I was right as time was ticking and and the rain was tipping. On the usual gravel were 5 birds, 3 males and 2 females and there were several other birds in the hedge. It started bucketing down and so we legged it to Brixham after the lads both got tick able views with them being a lifer for Pete.

Soon we were parking at the harbour and even before we had stopped we had a couple of Great Northern Divers. Jumping out the car Pete called 2 Black-throated Divers while John was pointing out another 2. I was busy ignoring them and pointing to the Iceland Gull. Pete getting bored with umpteen Great Northerns which seemed to be appearing everywhere we looked and got us on to a Slavonian Grebe. This was crackers and we hadn't even seen the biggy yet.

Round by the marina we disembarked with some hot gen and sure enough amongst a smorgasbord of Great Northern Divers was a ... Black Guillemot. This was a little bit distant so our attention briefly flicked onto a Red-necked Grebe in the marina inflow. This was very brief as I picked up our main quarry - the White-billed Diver not 50 yards away along the breakwater. A quick sprint when the bird was under water and we were getting point blank views. Awesome stuff indeed! We watched the diver for some ten minutes before moving along the breakwater as it drifted out into the main harbour.

We started looking outside the harbour with Torbay pretty flat thanks to the shelter of Berry Head. A few common seabirds were quickly ignored when John shouted 'DOLPHIN!!!'. Expecting a Porpoise I was shocked to see a Bottlenose Dolphin feeding very close to the breakwater around lobster pots. After a few minutes it charged out across the bay towards Berry Head, scattering a knot of Great Northern Divers before disappearing from view. A cracking sighting and one which was completely unexpected in Devon. 

 This was little more than an hour of excellent birding and I completely recommend heading down there. Apparently there was a Black-necked Grebe today as well. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me which is a sickener as the birds all showed beautifully.

Ornithological Idiocy

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive