Sunday 27 February 2011

Norfolk part 2

So there I was watching 50,000 birds roosting up by Snettisham and I was bored rigid. It was pissing with rain and mostly I had watched a digger. Occasionally things would get spiced up by an F15 or two and a Tornado. I had got to know my lonely Knot who unlike the rest of his ilk pratted around the margins of the dune system.Odd Curlew, Brents & Grey Plover bummed about but mostly it was the same birds passing through.

Three days of watching a box of sand across a tide gave me an insight into roosting behaviour with Barwits in at high tide and Herring Gulls just after. Turnstones and Redshank were always first out and their was a bizarre passage of Black-headed Gulls. Shelduck were ever present although their was turnover of birds. Plus Dunlin and two pairs of territorial Ringed Plover. The morning flight of 20,000 Pink-feet was a sight to behold although it was only on the third day they left en masse.

Fortunately we got a 2 hour break at high tide and we used this wisely on the second and third days vising first Snettisham and second a local reserve. Snettisham afforded my first Egyptian Geese of the year plus a very confiding Barn Owl although not much else was noted.

The undisclosed location was much more productive with a Brimstone in the dappled sun and a flukey stumble upon a Dartford Warbler whilst looking at Stonechats. Hence the un-named site. Now I dont know for sure how Dartford Warblers are doing ( and this spanking male was doing fine) but im guessing overall, not so good so very lucky I was.

From where I was working was a large lagoon which held a number of Goldeneye and Pochard. Sadly nothing more exciting but I kept checking. Overall a good three days 'working'.


Over the last three years I have had two records of Siskin in the garden. The first, two years ago was a single male briefly eating cake on the birdtable and the second a flyover this winter. Imagine my delight when I had two yesterday on the feeders, both males. One was quite heavily marked and bright whilst the second less so - I'm guessing adult and 2nd CY.

I will finish the norfolk report tonight...


Paler bird

Brighter bird. Apologies for dodgy photo - not in the ideal place for photos.

Saturday 26 February 2011


This week I was being paid to birdwatch in Norfolk. Absolutely awesome stuff. What it entailed was watching the Snettisham high tide roost from a car monitoring some some stuff. For obvious reasons I cant say exactly where I was or what I was doing but rest assured it was alright. 3 days of sitting in a car staring at waders can however get a little dull - thankfully my colleague was my equal in wittering shite and thus we whiled the hours away. At high tide, due to springs we shutdown for a couple of hours affording us a chance to explore and we had a decent amount of success.

We travelled down on Tuesday and stayed in Hunstanton. As we arrived mid morning I made the first of 4 unsuccessful attempts at Golden Pheasant at Wolferton triangle. Of this we shall no longer speak but rest assured I will never try again. Until I'm next in Norfolk. We spent the afternoon checking out Titchwell on the premise that I was running a wader workshop for my colleague. Here before we had even reached the fresh marsh we managed to stumble upon a Water Rail in a ditch. It was extremely secreted so you guys get this Moorhen instead.

Not a Water Rail

We pushed on to the freshmarsh allowing me to year tick Pintail and Shoveller. Further scrutiny also revealed a Little Grebe & Dark-bellied Brent Goose (a.k.a. high arctic pale-bellied brent goose according to some tee hee).

Best looking duck. No questions. Smew? pah
The brackish marsh held lots of passerines with plenty of Skylarks and Twite in the vegetation plus rather bizarrely, two Grey Partridge. My first Avocets of the year were pratting about in a ditch. A pipit bobbing about proved to be a very pleasant Water Pipit, my first for a couple of years.

'I told you Geoff, the sign said left!'
Argh! Grainy
The saltmarsh held little of interest and we checked the beach out. Apart from being followed by a tame BHG we managed a handful of Red-breasted Mergansers and a massive flock of scoter but no obvious Velvets as they were pretty distant. Shame.

Time was pressing so we bugged out.

Next installment tomorrow.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Colour Ring In

Numbers of Black-tailed Godwits have increased at Killinghome which means the usual collation of records. Fortunately now I can get straight onto the scheme managers. 4 birds were reported this time. I have already got a return on one although it isnt the most interesting one out there. It was a bird ringed at Killingholme in November as an adult female and this is the second time it has been seen since, all in the same place although it is likely that it did leave the locale during the big freeze and has only returned laterly. My other three birds appear to be from an Icelandic scheme which has given me several previous sightings. At least one of the birds is over 5 years old so hopefully we can get a more interesting history there. Every sighting counts though.

Yesterday I did my second of two monthly visits to Killingholme. It wasnt exceptional but numbers are creeping back up with passage birds starting to evidence themselves. A couple of Ringed Plovers at the high tide roost were the first since late summer and the first of the local Oystercatchers are back. My best guess is that all these birds are males trying to get territory or get back to territory prior to the females returning. There was little else to jump up and down about and nothing came within photographing range sadly.

During a break from counts I was eating a cookie and scoping the north bank at Paull Holme Strays when I noticed three swans flying over the foreshore there. A quick spin up to max zoom and I could see their quick wing beats, short necks and black with a hint of yellow bills. I was definitely chuffed as Bewick's Swan is hard to come by in Yorkshire. Two were adults with the third a 2nd calender year bird so presumably a small family party starting to get ready to head back to Siberia. Sadly that was it for highlights but I always enjoy my surveys down there as you never quite know what your going to get.

Todays sightings revolve around my trip into work. A Barn Owl in Skerne village itself is surely a different bird to the Wansford one and as such notable. I finally managed to year tick Stock Dove when c400 exploded out of a field flanked by three times as many Woodpigeons. Lastly c2000 winter thrushes, seemingly all Fieldfares were flying east. Someone is going to tell me its spring soon...

I am going to Snettisham for the week with work so not sure when I will be able to update but hopefully I can get something of interest for you and if the Dove/Gull combo sticks for long enough maybe my twitching juices will start to run...

Sunday 13 February 2011


I spent most of today with the Yorkshire BF boys and girls. Sadly it was awful weather but we managed a few decent birds although we had our schedule severely curtailed and several targets failed to play ball. I set off at 7.30 to pick up John & Mike. En route a couple of Barn Owls provided entertainment at Bracey Bridge - the male being the palest bird I have ever seen with no evident markings. I picked the boys up and we headed on.

We arrived at Filey at 8 and left by half-past. Winds being surprisingly easterly and F6. The only things picked out were Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and a few Common Scoter.

Wykeham was but half hour away and we decided to regroup at Forge Valley feeders. This provided the de rigour Marsh Tit & Nuthatch year ticks as well as a Peregrine for most of the group. A raptor watch in the next valley produced 3-4 Buzzards including a bit of 'mewwing' and some half arsed display. The oxbow at Hilla Green failed to produce the hoped for Mandarin despite literally seconds of effort. As we crossed the river we failed to see any Dippers as the water was too high. The winds were much less in the valley but it was still pretty dank. A decision was made to head for the Great Grey Shrike.

We gave the shrike 20 minutes to reappear - enough time for a few flyover Crossbills and some distant Siskins. No sign alas of the shrike and lunch beckoned. We were all getting pretty bummed out by the dipping and the rain.

Scarborough was its usual lovely self but as we were purchasing our chips the Iceland Gull appeared. It then decided to show really well. Unfortunately in near dark conditions I managed to overexpose most of my photos. Here are the best thus far...

After we had our fill of this we called in at a final stop...Holbeck car park. It held 5+ adult Mediterranean Gulls. I managed a few shots in the rain including the following. Whilst at Holbeck we scanned the sea picking up Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and a few Porpoise in the bay.

If you make this bigger, note the rain. And not the slightly fuzzy bird.

This was enough excitement for Mike, John and myself and we retired as the others hit Tophill Low.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Linc'd In

Was back at Killingholme today - it was a glorious day but sadly the birds on survey didn't seem to agree... Very poor numbers which I can't disclose for legal reasons. The light was amazing for photographs but sadly I managed to break my camera (temporarily, thankfully).

Black-tailed Godwit was the one bird to buck the trend with returning birds certainly doing that. I would have known where they were returning from BUT the colour-ringed bird decided to stay out of range. Nothing of note on the pits either which was a disappointment.

I was happy to be out with the wearther - reaching a scorching 12 degrees. Last time 12 was on my cars thermometer it had a minus in front. Rather bizarrely a number of walkers passed through my site today - all 60-something tall men with beards accompanied by weathered, spindly spouses. I wonder if there was some sort of formal 'thing' in the doing as walking through post-industrial waste-land, flanked by car park wouldn't be my idea of a good walk. Birdwatching I get, boat watching I can understand, but walking when there is a deficit of 'pretty'. Hmm.

I moved on to South Ferriby before I headed back over the bridge for another crack at the Rough-legged Buzzard. This took a while to show but quickly my eyes were drawn to a small harrier - a ringtail Hen Harrier in fact being chased into the distance by a Carrion Crow only marginally smaller than itself. Rather closer and somewhat disproving my theory that they had gone extinct was a very showy Barn Owl hunting the rough ground 100 metres away. It landed and as I was getting ready to take shots of it on the deck it was away, leaving the unfortunate vole on the ground (not flushed by me I can asure - traffic seemingly). I managed to squeeze off a few photos and the following was the best of them.

I'm not dead!

Whilst waiting for the buzzard to appear I noticed the 'Roe' Deer on Read's Island had plate like antlers. DOH!!! I'd not noticed that they were in fact Fallow Deer last time out. Very distant views were had. A small skein of Pink-footed Geese overflew. Then bosh the Buzzard was back. It seemed to just slip in although in truth it then spent ages farting around on the floor so may well have been just out of site. It stayed pretty distant the whole time but a brief foray out of silhouette allowed me to get a slightly better shot than last time out.

Better but still not worth a click really.

The light was failing so I pushed off. Apparently there are Waxwings at uni. Will take the camera to work...

Monday 7 February 2011

Spain in April

I am currently in the logistics stage of another trip to south-eastern Spain. I'm drawing up my targets and trying to  generate the gen. Whilst doing so I stumbled on this blog for Aquila Bird Tours which seems to be based bang in the area I visit. Their blog is regularly updated with stuff from the Costa Blanca, Murcia and further afield. I am unlikely to book a trip as I know the area now and am preparing for a days birding out of area but thoroughly recommend them on the basis of access to El Hondo and the grasp of the local scene if you happen to be out there.

The effects of Steroid Abuse

If you have any gen on anything bar wetland species (pretty much got that covered on previous trips) send me an email or something. Albacete & Murcia are my prime targets for steppe stuff. Back to the planning...

P.S. going to Killingholme tomorrow so a proper blog post then.

Sunday 6 February 2011

More Garden Birds

Im going potty round the house and as such have taken to watching the garden a lot...

The Bullfinches have increased to 6 birds (4 males, 2 females).

Only a little fuzzy today - god I can't wait for some decent light

Also had my second record of Yellowhammer in the garden - this time a cracking male in the hedgerow. My Reed Bunting seems to have become a regular fixture turning up at least 5 times now. Also managed a fuzzy picture (bad light causing focus and ISO issues).

Here are a few more of the bird table stuff.

Gyr Crakes

Friday 4 February 2011


Im hopefully heading down to Snettisham for some monitoring work soon and I have every intention in the course of 3 days nailing Golden Pheasant at Wolferton. Obviously I will have a dabble at the Northern Harrier and anything else that I can get to grips with.


I didnt notice that I deleted this paragraph - doh. Basically it waffled on about Golden Pheasant being one of 10 or so easyish birds still for me to get for my British list and explained I was going to have a babble about these over the coming paragraphs.


Other targets include the obvious Stone Curlew (got a few sites with more successful hit ratios) & Firecrest (god knows what I'm going to do for this - anyone got any summer sites. Actually no - dont post those... My absolute nemesis). My only outstanding 'British' seabird is Long-tailed Skua - I must deserve this. The two surveys I missed scored this year.Beyond that we are talking Wilson's Petrel and unless I'm uber lucky that isnt happening this year. In terms of coastal birds Surf Scoter and White-billed Diver continue to elude me. The diver especially galls as I see many, many great northerns and check each and every one.

I dont think I need any of the other regular breeders - scarce breeders Spotted CrakePurple Heron & Little Bittern shout out. Icterine Warbler & Bluethroat are the passage birds that I haven't connected with and then I'm struggling.

I decided to hit Bubo up and see what it could tell me beyond these 11 species. Checking this it re-inforced that Firecrest and Stone Curlew are my next 2. Surprisingly Black-winged Stilt is my 'next' bird I need although I guess this is skewed by Sammy who died 6 months before my first visit to Titchwell. Another of my forgottern birds is Snow Goose which unless a twitchable one turns up in Norfolk when I happen to visit remains difficult to envisage. Same with Red-breasted Goose although perhaps I should drag my sorry carcase to Lancashire to see their 1st winter. A couple of obvious ones escaped my memory - Sabine's Gull and Quail. Again Sab's should fall eventually with my survey work. Quail needs some attention although it breeds locally. Beyond these lay those birds that need to turn up in my path to see - twitches that are limited to about 15-20 miles such as Long-billed Dowitcher, Rosy Starling etc.

So plenty to go at BUT I'm starting to look at effort to secure ticks. Ho-hum...

In terms of Yorkshire my 'easiest' target are Spot Crake, Marsh Warbler and then Icterine Warbler so nothing easy left here...

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Garden Tick and the South Bank Show

I participated fully in this years Big Garden Birdwatch - did you? For posterity my totals were Bullfinch 3 (2 males 1 female), Blackbird 8 (7 females 1 male), Chaffinch 2 (pair), Coal Tit 1 (although im sure its a pair - male seems to have brighter/bigger nape stripe), Great Tit 2 (pair), Blue Tit 2, Collared Dove 4, Dunnock 2, Goldfinch 9, Carrion Crow 1, Tree Sparrow 2, House Sparrow 1, Robin 2 & Starling 2.

Not terrible considering its through a window

After I had finished a further 3 species rolled up within 20 minutes. The Woodpigeon was an unexpected miss whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was my first decent garden view and 2nd garden record. A first garden record of Reed Bunting whilst not unexpected was welcome (the second record was this morning - a nice winter male under the feeder) although it hid up in the hedge.

Im a Reed Bunting - honest guv

Yesterday I headed over to the south bank of the Humber for another survey of Killingholme. No Smew today but a new site tick in the form of a pair of Wigeon swimming along the front.  The first Black-tailed Godwits were filtering back although they didnt come in to roost due to a pathetic tide and ice on the pits. A dark mantled Herring Gull seemed to tick all the boxes for argentatus

Today I took Izzy to Tophill and we saw not a lot. It was great - we jumped in puddles and she played with mud. She loved the hides, espcially running up and down them. And then she looked over D reservoir and tried to label every bird she could see as "birdie". This went on for some time and when she finished both of us were in hysterics. My little girl is a cracker.

My little girl

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

Record, share and compare with BUBO Listing at