Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Fairytale of New Auk - Brunnich's Guillemot

Picture the scene, Boxing Day lunch time. My extended family was on its way round for a day of board games, football on the TV and general festive merriment, when I decided to check Birdguides for the first time in a few days. I was a little surprised to say the least to see that a mega rare Brunnich's Guillemot, had decided to spend its winter holidays down south and had been bobbing around Portland marina for a few days, only having being formally identified from photos circulated via Twitter that day.

Luckily I had already arranged to keep Friday 27th free for a birding day out with Hawky (et al)  and like the vast majority of British birders having not seen this rare visitor, the decision was made to journey down to windy Dorset the following morning.

As with the Ivory Gull twitch just a few days earlier, at first it didn't look good. We expected early news, and with nothing half an hour after day light it didn't look promising. Eventually positive news arrived, phew, and we were only about 30 minutes away. We arrived in gale force winds to be told the bird had "apparently" been seen earlier but by very few people, and it had flown over the sea wall and out of view.

Almost an hour later there was still no sign of any rare Guillemots, but we were treated to horizontal freezing rain, as well as a Black Guillemot (my first in England) and a smart Great Northern Diver.

Then Hawky calls an auk flying in at distance, heading towards shore. We pick it up but it disappears from view behind the sea wall. It's again picked up at distance on the sea, and people are now calling it as our target.

All of sudden on mass around 300 twitchers are up and moving along the path the get a better view. 200 yards later, everyone lines up. It was getting closer, but was diving very frequently and moving amazingly far under water in just a short time. One minute it was to my right, 50 yards out, then it dives and re appears 50 yards to my left just 20 yards out. We quickly move along, get ahead of the bird and it re appears again much further away than anticipated. Just once did I guess right and was treated to about 3 seconds on the surface before it dived again.                        


Again the bird disappeared but this time it headed further out and settled for a rest in the relative calmness along side moored boats.  And there it stayed,    

Another exciting twitch and another mega seen that I thought I would probably never see.

Just up the road in Weymouth we stopped for a Glossy Ibis on a flooded football pitch which showed pretty well.       

We headed home via Hampshire's long staying Lesser Yellowlegs that again provided good scope views.

Surely that's it now for 2013? I am off to north Norfolk for a few days over new year so will enjoy some birding/walks up there.

Happy New Year to everyone!     

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Cracker - Ivory Gull, Padrington, East Yorkshire

Ivory Gull on my list, and my 400th BOU tick. Boom! However when we first arrived on site it looked like  it might all go badly wrong.

Me, Jono, Shaun and Nick set off on the 4 hours journey north bright and early, at around 4.30am. We planned to arrived just after first light to hopefully see the now long-ish staying Ivory Gull eating its pre-prepared breakfast of fish on the grass by the pumping station near Outsray Farm on the banks of the River Humber.  

We arrived to find around 100 birders staring at a pile of dead fish, no Ivory Gull in site. Bugger. Each of the previous days of its stay, the bird had been present at first light feeding on the fish. This didn't look good. Half an hour later, still no sign and people started drifting off. Oh ye of little faith. Admittedly as an hour approached and still no sign we began to wonder if 2013 was going to end on a big fat dip. Then............

One of the crowd says, "the bird's been seen off Spurn, (c1.5 miles away) heading our way! With that everyone done a 180 degree turn and scanned into the distance for  white dot! Two minuets later, someone calls a white dot! Could it be? It get closer. It's very white! Closer and closer it gets. Now at about 3 - 400 yards. Yes that's it. Whoohoo!     

Scanning for the white dot on the horizon 

The gull was heading straight for us and no doubt looking for some brunch. A few of us quickly moved to get a prime position on the grassy bank by the fish. Thirty seconds later, Bam! it appears from around the back of the pumping station and plonks itself down around 30 feet in front of us.       

Shaun in green, checking is full framers with the gull to our left
We enjoyed cracking views of this mega rare gull for around 30 minutes, until it had had enough fish for one sitting and decided to head off for a while. Many high fives were had. Especially for me being my 400th BOU tick. I am so pleased this milestones was achieved with such a smart bird and exciting twitch. 
On the way home we stopped off for a Velvet Scoter at Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire, which provided the best view I have ever had of the species.     

All in all what a brilliant way to round of the 2013 twitching calendar Merry Tickmas!.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Have you got a better bird on your garden list?

My work colleague, Leigh, has gone home to Boston, USA, for the Christmas holidays. This morning I got an email from her, with photo attached saying, look what she'd seen in her friend's back yard. I think the best I can do in my back garden is Waxwing! What a Christams cracker!

Sunday, 1 December 2013


I very rarely swear on my blog, but be warned, this post will make up for my previous lack of expletives.

I live in a regular suburban terraced street, and like many parts of outer London, the houses are crammed close together. I was slightly concerned yesterday when I awoke to see a huge marquee had been erected in the back garden of the house two houses down. 

I was amazed at 9.30pm last nigh there was silence. What was going on? By 10pm we found out. All of sudden, boom, music blared out from a DJ in the marquee. Live and let live and all that, people should celebrate big occasions. On my 40th I had a few people over, I had music, quite loud music in fact, but it was indoors, and I was very conscious of pissing off the neighbours, so invited then in and by 2am it was off.

So fast forward to 2am. The music was still blaring out and the marquee was packed. I started to get the hump. Do I go round there, tell, sorry ask, them to shut up? Phone the police, no that's over the top. So we decided in a very British way to do nothing just try and get some sleep.

By 4am with  no sign of any let up, I was so pissed off, I couldn't go round there as a) the house would probably be filled with drunk revellers and me barging through the house with a base ball bat to smash up the sound system probably wouldn't have been the wisest move.

So burying my head underneath the covers I just closed my eyes and tried to drop off.                

The music, still played as loud as it was when it started at around 10pm the previous evening eventually stopped at 6.07am! Un fucking believable.

So I would just like to say well done to my so called neighbours for winning the Selfish Fucking Bastards of the Year Award. What is the matter with these ignorant twats! Having a DJ in the garden is totally unacceptable. I don't want to hear Dancing Queen or Staying Alive at 4am at a million decibels from my fucking bed!

Maybe it's me and I am getting old and intolerant but come on people just think about other people for a change. Any way gotta go and get some sleep!