Thursday 31 May 2012

Ticking Bonanza!

3 Yorkshire Ticks in 3 days. 2 UK Lifers and 1 World Tick. Today I caught up with the Marsh Warbler at Blacktoft Sands which despite showing its nuts off to all and sundry was meek and mild for me. Probably due to the copious amounts of liquid sunshine experienced concurrently. I also managed to get up to Fairburn Ings for the Black-winged Stilt.

I was getting concerned that the standard of photography had improved on the blog. I neednt have worried.
A morning of WeBS counts produced a single Whimbrel and half a dozen singing Lesser Whitethroats but little else. I had planned to visit whichever sites held onto their scarcities and whilst the Thorne Moors Gull-billed Tern disappeared I had the chance of the Stilt and the Warbler. I opted for the Marsh Warbler first as while it is an easier bird for Yorkshire it would be a world tick and I have seen several hundred (thousand?) in Spain/Cape Verde plus a single at Frampton last month. When I arrived it was totalling down. Cats and dogs!

I hid and quietly caught up with Little Egret and Reed Warbler amongst the commoner birds plus a soggy looking male Marsh Harrier carrying food. A lull and I made my way to singleton only to be told I had over shot and the bird was in the freshmarsh behind me. One lucky punter had just had it singing a few metres away at the top of a reed stem. The next half hour was a game of cat and mouse until as the rain ebbed and flowed but eventually a more sustained break arrived and we piled out of the hide en masse. Despite some birders with limited field craft (loud, talky) the bird did some brief sub song and showed in a Willow briefly before another snatch of song and gone. 5 minutes later and it was back about 20m away. Its grey brown rump was evident and so was the yellowness of the underside which until I read Martin Garners blog I didnt realise was a good fieldmark for spring Marsh Warblers. The biggest give away was the shiny BTO ring. I wonder where it acquired that? Soon it had flown into the umbelliformes and was leading the others a merry dance. The rain hardened and I bid the other birders adieu.

I arrived at Fairburn quickly and after a brief tete a tete with Mr Dickinson I knew where I was at. 10 minutes of scanning the appropriate flash left me blank and the only other birders were dudes. As you can see from the photo the bird was pretty distant and it emerged from behind a few tussocks of grass to show well. A nice bird which I watched for about 20 minutes before time caught me up. The stilt was actually quite interesting, hunting actively which is more than can be said for the Frampton bird.

In other birding news I found displaying Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Curlew on patch whilst running and they continue to call tonight. I even saw the gropper last night when I walked along the river bank. Excellent birds.

My running continues unabated. Up to 29 minutes non-stop/3.5km which is pretty pleasing.. Only walked 150m tonight of the 4km total which made me feel good. Im getting there and my race jersey arriving proved it. Crack on.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

You gotta Roll with it

Awesome Gripback today - my first uk Roller. And it was in Yorkshire. I dont have too many issues with this species - it has shown well to me in Spain a number of times BUT the last getable Yorkshire Roller inconveniently turned up a couple of days before I was due to get married and apparently twitching it would have been A BAD THING. No idea why...

So this morning I get a message at half 8 that there is a Roller at Spurn and an Orphean Warbler at Hartlepool Headland. The latter can wait. I dragged my girl off with me and we headed south east. Arriving at 10 I noticed a forlorn Martin Garner stood by the gate. This didnt look good but I pressed on only for my debut outing with my Spurn radio relaying the news that the bird had flown north and had been relocated at Kilnsea Wetlands. I raced back (well 15mph feels like racing at Spurn) only to miss again. Me and Izzy played on the beach at Easington building sandcastles but I was quite irritable thinking that I had dipped and the bird was gone. Thankfully it was relocated on wires by the Blue Bell. Again we raced south but again too late. It had flown but not past the warren and not north. The Roller was either on a post around the Blue Bell or Clubleys or was in the Triangle. I joined a group of birders scanning from the Blue Bell and then blammo someone called it on a post the far side of the pools. I got it and it looked ace.

In the dull light it looked green and seemed settle so whilst the others opted to stay put I went round with my camera. Izzy wanted to watch from the car which was a blessing. I was starting to get into record shot range when...a member of the public get too close and flushed it into the triangle where it appeared to ditch on the far side of canal scrape. I was very happy with my views and decided it would be wise to pander to my daughters hunger rather than chase the bird. My final views were of the violet blue underwings making good its escape. Great days.

Yesterday whilst Izzy was at Nursery I thought I would have a bash at the Marsh Warbler at Flamborough but it was nowhere to be seen or heard - on Saturday I dipped but heard the East Chevington bird in Northumberland doing its Blue Tit impression amongst others. At Flamborough I did find a singing male Lesser Whitethroat but again came away with no snaps and whilst at East Chevington I managed to year tick Reed Warbler, Common Tern and a brief look at a distant Spoonbill which even woke up briefly for me.

Meadow Pipit from Flamborough yesterday
Comedy Black Guillemot marching past me in Oban on Saturday
Puffins on Lunga taken with my 18-55 lens
Sum Plum Twite on Lunga

Saturday 26 May 2012

Friday 25 May 2012


The first few photos of our Puffin Trip to Lunga on the Treshnish Isles. Awesome is the only word.

Security Issues

Weirdly it seems my security for the blog has been issued as not .com as I have always accessed it. Seemingly it gets flagged if you put .com on so I would be grateful if people could update their links. I can assure you there is nothing wrong with the site. Cheers James

Wednesday 23 May 2012


Serious post - £375,000 of our money has been put aside to research ways of disuading Buzzards from taking Pheasants. A native bird with a population of 41,000 pairs vs a non-native of 4 million birds put out every year. The trial includes translocation, capture and nest destruction. I find it disgusting and urge you to contact your MP. Here is a description of the meeting that precipitated this ILLEGAL study.

'Meeting with Richard Benyon MP,
Minister for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs

... 9 November 2011

It was encouraging when the Minister opened the
meeting saying, “This is a subject close to my heart.”
Three Trustees of SongBird Survival made a short present -
ation to Mr Benyon and his team from Defra outlining the
aims and activities of the Charity and describing our
research projects. One of the suggestions made to the
Minister was that a small fraction of the £500 million
cost of agri-environmental schemes should be spent on
research and that the inclusion of predator control should
also be considered to enhance effectiveness.
The Minster and his colleagues were presented with
copies of the review of predation research published by
the University of Reading in 2010. In the opinion of the
Trustees this study casts grave doubts on the quality of
much of the research on which Defra policy is based.'
Please write to your MP to register your protest. I will be.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Super Eagle!

I got some shots! White-tailed Eagles and Otter. Still a bit low quality BUT they look not too bad for me!

Monday 21 May 2012

Glorious Mull

Quiet morning today with the new guests out in the field with Marcus, I was watching the cricket and enjoying the sun after a jog up the lane. The sun is shining and my exercise revealed a male Grasshopper Warbler enjoying the clement weather just beyond the gate of the estate. On my return I managed to get some shots of the now resident Garden Warbler.

As I was setting up for lunch I heard a Buzzard alarm calling. Knowing this meant eagle I legged it down the lane and watched an adult White-tailed Eagle soaring over the bottom of the garden being mugged by Buzzards and Hooded Crows. Very nice. Hopefully I am going to get out this afternoon for some proper birding.

Saturday 19 May 2012

More Wader Watching

I was back at Duart Bay this afternoon to have another look at my Curlew Sandpiper but sadly it was absent. In its place was another island scarcity - a winter plumage Knot. Presumably a 1st summer bird to not be orange by now. We also caught up with plenty of Whimbrels. At Grasspoint a pair of Whinchat were very sexy. We came back via Lochdon and a dog Otter narrowly avoided digital rendering from point blank range before it went into its holt.

Baby Stonechat
We also came across this ex-Hooded Crow. Not a nice way to go...

And here are my shots of yesterdays waders.

Friday 18 May 2012

Robbing the togs

Just robbed this pic of the Curlew Sandpiper off the back of
Marcus' camera!


I appear to have found the 4th Curlew Sandpiper for Mull this afternoon. I assume it is massively under recorded as all records are in the last 10 years. Not a particularly smart individual - it is just turning pink. Alongside it were a much smarter band of 40 tundrae Ringed Plovers and 46 Dunlin of at least 2 races. 21 Whimbrel were also present on the beach. This was all going down at Duart Bay in the south east. I tried my luck at Grasspoint round the corner with limited success. This time I just managed a couple of spanking summer plumage Great Northern Divers and twos of Whimbrel and sum plum Turnstone.

Marcus managed to twitch the Curlew Sand so Im not bothering with my record shots for now but will pop his bad boys on tomorrow. A couple of White Wagtails were a bonus as was a singing Sedge Warbler. This morning we had Garden Warbler singing in the garden and a male Hen Harrier hunting the moor above us. Lovely! 

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Eagles Galore

I had a couple of hours to kill and I decided to head along the south bank of Loch Na Keal. This as it turns out was a good thing. I stumbled upon a Golden Eagle bringing prey back to territory (and apparently just missed it taking a Buzzard). Above me there was a White-tailed Eagle, with another across the loch in a tree. Taking great exception to the large raptors were innumerable Rave, Buzzard with reinforcements in the shape of Kestrels. Excellent. Enjoy my rather distant eagle...

Tuesday 15 May 2012


This morning I was taking part on the eBirder photography trip aboard Mull Charters (excellent - do the eagle trip!). I am the help rather than a punter and this was my sweetener... I got to watch two dives by a male White-tailed Eagle and we also saw the female flying about. As we were waiting for the male to reappear a Great Skua put an appearance a long way up the loch. Initially it was trying to predate the gulls but soon it was harrying them for food. Much easier work. The Eagle soon put in an appearance to push the Bonxie off and then I took the video in the previous post. The first dive I had a bash with my camera but my autofocus is too slow to track. I did get a couple of passable record shots which make me happy though.

At Ulva ferry we bumped into a trio of three Otters playing. Sadly they were too far away for anything bar a record shot.
As we left the harbour a male Hen Harrier crossed from the mainland onto Ulva and hunted the grassland immediately. We also caught up with lots of Red-throated & Great Northern Divers in summer dress with the eerie call of the latter ringing out across the loch. When we got back a Golden Eagle worked the ridge behind the cottage briefly before heading back inland.

Before we started the boat trip we stalked a strange population of Mountain Hare which live in bluebell carpeted birch woods. Safer than the high peaks round here!

and lastly a Siskin from our feeders


Saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles today

We also had 6 Otters around the banks of Loch Na Keal

Monday 14 May 2012

Mulling it over

Not the best photo but this little rascal was chasing Twite in the gloom this morning. I cant think the last time that I had a decent view of a male Merlin - it always seems to be females in winter. A couple of Twite were feeding amongst a big flock of Linnet in a sheep field. Also in the vicinity were a lot of Wheatears. Sadly none would let me take their photo.

Aside from these guys it was pretty quiet with a few hormonally imbalanced Common Sandpipers displaying beside Loch Na Keal and the odd Buzzard but the showers this morning have driven me back to the warm/dry palace. This morning when I got up it was a stark contrast with bright weather and high cloud inviting a couple of Tree Pipits to sing from the moor above my chalet. Yesterday was not a day for being outside with 45mph westerlies and buckets of rain. Not nice but thankfully the forecast is for much better.

The journey up here on Saturday was relatively uneventful - the raptor game revealed 2 Kestrels, 2 Sparrowhawks and three Buzzards. Very poor although a brief stop in Clyde failed to reveal and rare ducks with blue wings. A few sizeable Red Deer  were passed but the only other sighting/s of note were on the ferry crossing from Oban with 2 Twite on the slip amongst the House Sparrows  and a sprinkling of very smart Great Northern Divers in full dinner jacket and suit attire. Some distant auks included 3 Puffins but that was it.

Now I must do my chores and cook breakfast for the guests before a couple of hours free time and then baking this afternoon. I enjoy work.

Friday 11 May 2012


Hello Everyone!

Apologies for the none birds post but I have special reasons. As you may/may not have gleaned from the blog before, my dad has terminal lung cancer (thankfully in remission at present). Because of a combination of this and my desire to be a little healthier (I am too fat and too lazy) I have decided to run the Jane Tomlinson York 10k for Macmillan Cancer Support. Please check out my just giving page and I would be stoked if you could support me.

A fortnight on Mull

Tomorrow I am going to Mull for a couple of wildlife photography holidays. Sadly not as a punter but as a guide/cook. I am totally psyched and to top it off I am going with my brother from another mother (to steal a necro phrase) Marcus 'eBirder' Conway. We are going to see some cool shit and be in a cool place with hopefully the finding of some cool shit as well. I havent actually seen Marcus for some time so it will be good to catch up. Hopefully the wifi in the cottage will be working and thus I can update regularly but I fully anticipate gripping you all off something wicked. Here are a few moments from our awesome trip to the Highlands four years ago which featured in the eary days of the blog plus a few shared moments with cool birds.

Taken with my point and click!

From the top of Carn ban Mor. My one and only Dot

Alder Flycatcher - Nanjizal
Darts in Devon on the way back from the Alder Fly
The old idiocybirding header with Marcus's Gear proving that it is my lens that is the issue...
Fairburn Ings Whiskered Tern
Barred Warbler at Flamborough that Mr Conway found
Flyby Manxie from the same day as the wobbler
So despite Marcus living in Inverness for the last few years he was there in the creation of the Idiot Birder (well if you can have Punkbirders and Drunkbirders Im having Idiot Birder. It has been 4 years of this shite).
So...Corncrake, White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle etc etc here I come!

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

Record, share and compare with BUBO Listing at