Thursday 30 December 2010

Bittern-tastic at Berwick

I had my best ever view of a Bittern today. Jamie (my 10 year old) and I dipped the Waxwings in the rain at Pitsea so stopped off for the 3rd time in 4 days at Berwick Ponds to try for the Bitterns. At the road end we had brief flight views as one seemingly dissappeared into the reeds. We spent 20 mins searching for it before finally viewing from the road, and there it was, amazingly camoflaged but right out in the open for at least 15 minutes. Crack on!

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Berwick Bitterns

I took my non birding mate John for a walk to Berwick Ponds late yesterday afternoon to try for a Bittern as he had never seen one and we were not dissapointed. At the road end we had 2 almost straight away, proving good flight views.

John also added Water Rail to his list with this obliging little fellow!

Friday 24 December 2010

Upminster Waxwings

Great views were had of 6 Waxwings in and around the car park at The Optimist pub in Upminster late this afternoon. With berries in abundance in Alder Close expect them to stay and gorge themselves and hopefully be joined by one or two (hundred) others!

Merry Christmas!
Thanks to Shaun for the tip off.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Come back all is forgiven!

Look who Jamie and I bumped into on Monday night in IKEA! Yes ex West Ham United manager, Gianfranco Zola! If only he was at the healm at West Ham now and not the clueless Avram Grant. Come on you irons - pull yourselves together and get out of this mess!

November in Nolfolk

Some pictures from our long weekend in north Norfolk, with our good friends Barry, Clare and Aimee. I promised Julia there would be no birding and by and large that was the way it went.

"Is that a Shore Lark?"
The three amigos

Ok, ok, had to get some pinkees in somewhere

Sunday 14 November 2010

Dirty Twitching - Pied Billed Grebe

It really was a case of tick and run this morning for me and Jono as we made the long trip north for yet another yankee mega. I picked Jono up at 5.30am, arriving in the frozen north some 3.5 hours later. Luckily the bird was easy to locate and showed well, down to 15 feet for a few seconds, allowing some good photo opportunities (life tick #385). Unfortunately with Jono needing to be home by mid afternoon there was no time for any birding and we hit the road again to head home. This is certainly not ideal, but in this case needs must, as I would not have been able to get up there for at least 2 weeks after today.

Monday 1 November 2010

Flushed with success - please note no American Bitterns were hurt in the production of this story

Ok, ok, technically the bird was flushed. Big deal. If you were there and objected fine, but just in case you weren't let's get some facts straight. One birder walked along a fence line, slowly, quietly and carefully. That's it. There was no line of people sweeping the field, no kicking of bushes or other disturbance of any kind.

100+ birders had waited patiently on the road side for over 3 hours, and in my case for the 2nd time in 2 days for a glimpse of this yankee mega and in my opinion the end justified the means. I didn't see many people there objecting at the time.

I headed down to Cornwall with my son Jamie (10), my non birding friend, Ray, and his son's Matt (12) and Adam (10). Matt is a keen birder just getting into the hobby so a lads and Dads weekend away/twitch to Cornwall must have been very exciting for him.

Jamie and Adam - enjoying lunch at St Agnes beach

A 5am start saw us make good time and we arrived in Zennor, 360 miles and around 4.5 hours later. The bird had flown to some pines about a quarter of a mile away after being harassed by a Peregrine. Was it still ok? Well, almost 3 hours later I was none the wiser as there was no further sign. With the boys getting a bit bored I decided to let them run off some steam so we headed to St Agnes to run around on the beach. A school boy error.

As we arrived in St Agnes just 30 minutes later I got a text from Bradders Jnr informing me the bird had been seen again flying over the pools (where I had been standing) and off into the distance and out of sight! Nooooooo!

After a couple of hours on the beach we headed back. The weather had turned and it was raining heavily. Another 2 hours were spent unsuccessfully up on common. Jono, Bradders Jnr, Dick and Nick arrived late afternoon, to be on site for first light. Tail between my legs we headed to the digs, arranging to meet up at 6am for another bash.

6am came and Matt and I joined the lads, and 120+ other birders in position back up on the common. nb - when I say on the common I mean on the side of the road, on the right side of the fence!

Jono, 5 minutes before seeing the bird

A cold, damp and hungry 3 hours passed before, to be honest much to our surprise, there it was. We were pretty much convinced it had gone. Therefore when Mr Bloggs asked if we minded if he carefully walked the fence line, of course we didn't, and the rest is history. American Bittern on my list (life tick #384). Unfortunately Matt had left just 30 minutes earlier. I didn't blame him. I was tempted but had to stick it out.

Crap pic, as enjoying the flight views in the bins before grabbing the camera at the last minute as it disappeared into the pines

Ray, Adam, Jamie and Matt, full of breakfast picked me up and we headed off to another beach to run around for a bit. It was still only 11am so we decided to head to the Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell to try and see our another American mega, Green Heron. I saw the Kent bird not long ago but was happy to see another, and we couldn't have Matt coming away with nothing when he could have got 2 yankee megas on his first ever twitch.

The weather turned far worse as we arrived. We walked in torrential rain for 30 minutes trying to find the bird after being told to go to the wrong place by some birders, and arrived soaked to the skin. Half decent scope and flight views were had but to be honest we were so wet through it spoilt it a bit. The bird was too far for decent photos and I just wanted to get back to the warmth of the car. A mega for Matt though! See here for decent photos:, or

"Yeees, I've seen a Green Heron!"

The journey home was much more stop start taking about 6 hours eventually arriving home, tired but happy around 8.15pm. I couldn't do too many twitches like that a year.

Thanks to Ray for driving and congrats to Matt on his first mega!

Sunday 24 October 2010

A hint of Red Flanked Bluetail

I took a welcome break from decorating the new extension to have a day out birding with the lads; Shaun, Hawky, Jono and Bradders Jnr, in Suffolk.

First stop was the now long staying, and very smart, Red Flanked Bluetail, in Lowerstoft, Suffolk. Luckily we located the bird, which showed well on and off, quickly and enjoyed great views. I have now been lucky enough to see three of these cracking little birds, with this one probably being the brightest in colour.
Next stop Reydon for Rough Legged Buzzard. After a lot of searching and waiting eventually we were rewarded with distant views. A pleasant surprise were 2 Waxwings, my first of the winter.

On to a long walk along Southwold beach for Shore Larks. 10 were reported, we saw 3. A flock of Twite were seen on route, and on the way back Hawky spotted a Short Eared Owl coming in off the sea being harassed by gulls.
We gave the Great Grey Shrikes a go at Westleton Heath with no joy, with a few Dartford Warblers seen.

A great day as usual with some of Essex's finest!

Sunday 17 October 2010

Red KIte Cafe

If you are a fan of bacon sarnies and/or Red Kites, get yourself down to Chris' cafe, in Stockenchurch, Bucks. At 12pm each day (closed Sundays) scraps are thrown out into the car park and a Red Kite feeding bonanza ensues, providing plenty of photo opportunities. Enjoy!

Sunday 10 October 2010

Shetland Birds - October 2010

A few pictures from my recent trip to Shetland. A fantastic trip that included 6 life ticks (see post below) and many other good birds.

Lanceolated Warbler - Unst

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll - Unst

Glaucous Gull - Lerwick

Buff Breasted Sandpiper - Eshaness

Red Breasted Flycatcher - Out Skerries

Black Headed Bunting - Out Skerries

Citrine Wagtail - Out Skerries

Black Guillimots - Vidalin

Otters - Vidalin

Raddes Warbler - Sumburgh

Thursday 7 October 2010

Shetland update - six of the best!

Six days, six ticks! The highlights: (new birds) Sykes Warbler; Swainsons Thrush; Black Headed Bunting; Buff Bellied Pipit; Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll and Lanceolated Warbler! As well as this impressive bunch also seen were Citrine Wagtail, two Buff Breasted Sandpipers, Red Breasted Flycatcher, Barred Warbler, Yellow Browed Warblers, Raddes Warbler, Glaucous Gull and Short Toed Lark. Four Otters were also seen well.
Full trip report to follow soon.

Friday 1 October 2010

Shetland Bound

Does anyone know where I can by a re inforced umbrella? Tomorrow I am off to Shetland with a few of the lads and apparently Mr Weatherforcasterman is saying Shetland is going to be battered today and tomorrow with at least a million mile an hour south/easterlies, and therefore Mr UK400man is suggesting that we will be triping over megas. This being the case I expect to have common muck such as Barred warblers, Rosefinches, Bluethroats, Yellow Browdes, PG Tips etc raining out of the heavens, hence the need for the umbrella.

So far, bar the Norfolk yankee flycatcher sp. it has gone somewhat spectacularly wrong this autumn bird wise, missing out on lifers; Arctic Warbler, Isabaline Shrike and Icky (yes I still need icky!) so I am hoping to put it all right with a haul of megas on Shetland so impressive, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel! (I love Blackadder as well as birding)

Watch this space!

Monday 27 September 2010

No Pain No Gain - Flycatcher sp. Blakeney Point

Yankee Flycatcher sp. (thanks Shaun for pic)

Walking the three arduous miles of Blakeney Point with Shaun in driving rain and gale force winds was extremely hard work but worth it for this yankee rarity, although I must admit I will be quite pleased not to have to do that walk again for a while. A single Brambling was also present in the plantation. Two hours after setting off from a flooded Cley beach car park we were heading back, soaked to the skin but very happy. The return leg was made easier along the beach, and we were rewarded with Arctic Skua and Grey Phalarope flying along the beach and within 20 feet over or heads.
Hopefully some clever clogs will be able to decide if it's an Alder, Willow, Least, Yellow Bellied etc, so until they do Flycatcher sp. goes on the list (#373)

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Return of the Dip Monkey

Two days, three dips. Three times I've twitched East Yorkshire, three times I've dipped. This time Brown Flycatcher, previously it was Pechora Pipit and Brown Shrike. On Sunday I dipped an Icky (my 5th Icky dip) at Landguard and the least said the better about the Brown Fly and subsequent R B Fly dip day yesterday. Some pics from the weekend: