Tuesday, 28 December 2010

2011 Patches

2011 Local patches
Ely Local patch
Corton/Hopton Local patch (bottom three marked squares)
Aberlady Local patch
My work Local patch

Admitting defeat!!

December has been pointless as I have spent most of the month in Cornwall or Aberdeenshire so have added no new birds to the patch list leaving the way for Johnboy to thump me by almost 20 species, 157-138, I think. Its Johns first ever victory in any bird list type challenge and has left me thinking up as many excuses as possible (offshore too much, in a birdless area of the UK etc etc) but none have been believed!

So, I will congratulate John on his victory (and try and avoid paying for the prize) and look to 2011. How can I beat someone who lives and works on his patch? First, invite more people (less chance of coming last at least), so welcome Stu (Ely patch) and Dave (Yellowcraig patch). Secondly, reduce the size of the patch (3km squares) and thirdly a points system so that you get rewarded for finding good birds and penalised for twitching.

The points system is based on the status of the bird on birdguides website:

Status Points
Common =1
Local =2
Scarce =3
Rare =4
Mega =5

Double points for all scarce birds found and triple points for all rare and mega birds found. Minus the equivalent points for any birds twitched.

Finally, too stop the inland birder from moaning seabirds will get double points if seen in an inland site (Ely!).

Hopefully all these pointless new rules will stop Aberlady running away with it this time!!!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Office birding again (and Cornwall)

Its been a while since I last posted, mainly due to two reasons, I have seen no new birds on the patch and........I've been to lazy to keep up to date! All my local patch birding has again been done down at the beach near work but it has sadly been lacking in quality. The 15th had the unusal sight of a Grey Heron sat on the beach, the 17th had a bit of passage going south, 100+ Cormorants, 20+ Brent Geese, 2 Common Scoter and 10+ Med Gulls while on the 18th there was a bit of duck passage, 75 Wigeon, 2 Common Scoter, 12 Teal and 3 RB Mergansers (patch tick) all flew south.

On the 25th my office moved briefly to Reading, Red Kites from the train making the journey bearable. Since I was almost there (4 hours away) I decided to take a long weekend in SW Cornwall. NOt much birding was done and too much drinking but I did get out on Sunday and walked from Marazion to Drift Reservoir.
It was very cold and Marazion marsh was frozen, pushing out 40+ Snipe into the open and a Bittern made a brief appearance. Several Chiffchaffs feed busily, mainly at Long Rock pool and along the path on the eastern side of the marsh. Also along that path I found two Firecrests, almost a guaranteed spot for them in winter when I lived down there.
Out in the bay several divers were quite distant but I managed to pin down 2 BT, 1 GN Diver and a Slav Grebe. A Swallow hawked over the beach, hopefully stocking up before fleeing the snow that came the day after.
The walk along the coast to Penzance was pretty uneventful with a small flock of Common Scoter offshore and three Black Redstarts on the rocks as you enter PZ. Walking along Penzance Prom I picked up half a dozen Purple Sands on the beach and a Kingfisher flew past. Another Kingfisher was feeding in Newlyn Harbour and another Slav was out at sea just off the harbour.
I finished the day at Drift Reservoir and managed to pick out the BN Grebe that had been reported.
Kingfisher (honest)
Number 3OV2

Horsey Seal

A couple of Saturdays ago I went to Horsey to see some seals and guess what........I saw some. Mostly grey although one common slipped in amongst them. Other than the seals there wasn't much happening, a flock of 60+ Common Scoter offshore and a Green Sandpiper in the field near the entrance. As we left at dusk we were greeted by several hundred Pinkies coming into roost, so it seems winter is finally here!!

Common and Grey Seal

Friday, 12 November 2010

Office Birding

Now that I am stuck in the office birding time is limited but this week I have made a concerted effort to check the beach near work in Yarmouth before work. The vast amount of Med Gulls keep me entertained (still!!) and on Tuesday the strong easterlies brought in a 1st winter Little Gull feeding along the surf, while a Common Scoter has stayed near the coast all week and a flock of 35 Sanderling have been present. Wednesday moirning was especially good, bringing about two patch ticks, a flyover Snow Bunting and a Grey Phalarope flying south. Further out there was a bit of movement with a couple of male Common Scoter, two Brent Geese and 6 RT Divers all heading north and a Fieldfare flew in off the sea looking thoroughly exhausted. As the winds turned westerly the rest of the week was quiet with no new birds apart from a pale phase Arctic Skua heading south on Thursday. Oh, and the Waxwings are still here.

Med Gull - Great Yarmouth

Common Scoter - Great Yarmouth

Little Gull - Great Yarmouth

Friday, 5 November 2010

Med gulls and Waxwings

After missing the most of the autumn while offshore it was good to get back to the patch this week. On Tuesday I found 3 Waxwings at Camden Road, GY while walking to work. This was somewhat surpassed by the 100+ on Pasteur Road which I managed to get a few photos of. I stopped in past the beach to have a look at the increasing numbers of Med gulls arriving in GY for the winter. On Thursday I stopped in past Breydon Water at high tide. There was an amazing amount of birds (2000+ Golden plover, 285 Shoveler etc etc) and the highlight was a Jack Snipe flying close past the hide before disappearing into the salt marsh.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Sh*t list continued....

More crap pics! Dartford Warbler, Brent Geese and GG Shrike
Miserable drizzly weather greeted Hicklywick and myself to Minsmere but that did not stop some good birding. Having been told of a Great Grey Shrike we were soon watching it (onto Hicks sh*tting list!) on the north bank along with a Rouzel and female Redstart. Onto Dunwich and a Bittern flew into the reeds nearby and a family of Dartford Warblers showed well. Brent Geese were continually flying south, there were a few migrants about and a Cetti's showed very well. Back at Minsmere, south of the sluice we soon picked out the King Eider thats been hanging around. A couple of local birders told us of 5 RB Geese and that they must be wild as 5 can't have escaped together!!! We didn't bother looking for them! Minsmere ended with a Marsh Tit while eating lunch, Hicks 5th tart tick of the day.
We visited a few other places but the majority of yesterdays migs seem to have left or the rain kept them down. Kessingland had a 4-5 Redstarts, several Song Thrush, Redwings, Wheatears, Whitethroats but nowt special except the wooden cut out of a pom skua that had the Hick very very excited!!
The day ended with Avocet joining Hicks 'sh*t' list at Burgh Castle. I seriously have to stop speaking about sh*tting lists!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

What a Day!!!

Awful shots of Barred Warbler. Copyright Hicklywick

Yet more awful photos. Red-flanked Bluetail.

After a brief stint away offshore I was back in the office today. At lunch I decided to check out the wasteland near work. Straight away it looked good as birds were flying about all over the place. Robins were everywhere, a couple Goldcrests showed, a female Blackcap hid in brambles, a Redstart flitted through the site, we flushed 5 Redwing and a Snipe and 3 Siskins flew in. While following yet another Robin a large warbler flitted up and I soon got reasonable views to ID it as a Barred Warbler, a nice find for the site and Hicklywick snapped off a few record shots.

We then heard of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Corton, some 5 miles from work so after a meeting we set off there. We soon got great views of the bird, definately a bird I want to find one day. Also there we found a flock (8+) Bramblings, Snipe, a Knot, Blackcaps, dozens of Wheatears, Redwings etc as well as 26 Brent geese flying south. The area was packed with migrants! Definately taking tomorrow off. Unfortunately the day slowly went downhill soon after as Hicklywick started reciting his bird shitting list! Almost as long as his shit bird list! The only man I know who has Pallas's reed bunting, Dark-eyed junco and RFBluetail on his list but yet to see long-tailed tit! Tart!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sick as a Seal!

My plans today were to have an early start and walk from Gorleston to Corton along the coast to see what was left of this weeks 'fall'. However, as I reached Gorleston beach I noticed a small seal on the beach not looking too lively. I approached it slowly and it seemed not too concerned at my presence so I called a work colleague who saves seals in his spare time and we discussed what to do. I monitored it for another hour and in that time it was chased into the sea four times by Yarmites and their dogs but it kept coming back. I managed to send photos to my colleague who thought it was looking ok and obviously too mobile to catch to take into care at the moment. I went back later in the afternoon but the beach was too busy and I could see the seal out in the sea out of harms way. A early visit tomorrow morning will hopefully bring good news about it. All this distracted me from birding and I saw bugger all except a few Med Gulls, a Wheatear and a Sandwich Tern on the beach near the seal.

Common Seal, Gorleston Beach

The bit of waste land near work emptied by the end of the week although a wasteland tick was found in the shape of a Spotted Flycatcher on Thursday 9th.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Upstaged up north!!!!

With strong easterlies all week I had hoped the patch would produce but although I have picked up a few patch ticks it seems everywhere else has up staged here, even the birdless 'Ness up north! Things are bad! On the 6th there was severe east/south easterlies which made passerine hunting nigh on impossible. At lunch time I checked the scrub neear work and amongst the wind blown bushes I managed only a single Goldcrest. On the beach there werea couple of Wheatears and 5 Med gulls while out at sea 2 RT Divers, 6 Teal and a pale phase Arctic Skua flew south.

In the evening I decided to walk from Corton to Hopton. It was bloody hard work in the wind with only a Spotted Flycatcher near Corton and a dozen Wheatears on the pitch in putt course between the villages to show for my efforts. I decided a seawatch might save the day but again things were slow although I did add Razorbill and 2 Manxies to my patch list. I later found out I missed a Balearic flying past earlier!

Storms at Corton on the 6th
On the 7th the waste ground near work was its most productive I have ever seen it, with 2 Wheatears, 2 Whitethroats, a Whinchat and a Chiffchaff, a massive fall for the patch! The next day most had left with only a single Wheatear and Whitethroat about. The day (8th) started promisingly with a Lesser Whitethroat near my house. A walk through Beacon Park in Gorleston in the evening was little better with again only Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat on show. And to think Girdleness, Abdn has had Lap bunts, Y Wags, Barred Warbs, Redstarts etc!!
Whinchat at the wasteground near work

A friendly dragonfly

Friday, 3 September 2010

Missed Chances

Having been away most of August in Cornwall and then frying my brains for a week on a course in St Andrews it was good to get back to the patch. On the 30th I managed a seawatch at Hopton but didn't catch up with any of the skuas that the north coast was enjoying. Sooty shearwater was new for the patch and 6 med gulls, 2 arctic terns and 4 common terns passed by flying south. The only migrant that appeared in the windswept dunes was a Whinchat. I checked the same dunes on the 31st and flushed a Gropper in fading light.

Seawatch Southwest

Small pearl bordered Fritillary

In the middle of August I headed west to Cornwall to volunteer for SeaWatch Southwest at Porthgwarra. Free accomodation and a week seawatching at one of the best seawatching sites in the UK sounded a good deal to me so it was to my suprise when I was there to find out they find it very hard to find volunteers. Visit the website http://www.seawatch-sw.org/ and have a look and help if you can. To try and convince everyone here is brief breakdown of what I saw during my week:

210 Balearics
3500+ Manxies
28 Sootys
6 Great Shears
32 Stormies
27 Bonxies
5 Arc Skuas
1 Pom Skua
10 Med Gulls
1 Roseate Tern
1 Little Gull

Adult Med Gull

Crap photo of a Sooty

Ocean Sunfish

Crap photo of Balearics

Sunday, 8 August 2010

African Cricket

An away trip to Cottishall CC gave me one of the most unusal sights I have seen on a cricket field. It appears that Cottishall has more africans on the pitch than the England test team, thankfully for us it was in the form of 12 Helmeted Guineafowl!!

Unfortunately while playing there I missed a Kentish Plover at Breydon but did pick up a Black Tern there today (124).

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Cley, Minsmere and Breydon

White Admiral



A busy week has seen me touring a few of East Anglia's best known reserves. Firstly, I visited Cley on the 1st and was rewarded with a good mix of waders, several Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sands, Green Sands and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. The highlight of the day for me had a topical feel to it as news of a breeding colony had just been anounced, a group of 14 Spoonbills. Cley is one of my favourite reserves and it always has some birds to watch no matter what time of the year. A quick visit to Breydon that evening was rewarding as there were large numbers of roosting birds including 400+ Avocets, a Greenshank, Whimbrel and a Green Sandpiper (121). A Hobby flew over the hide chasing Swallows with no success!

A brief visit to Gorleston gave me the rare opportunity to do some local patch birding and an adult Yellow-legged Gull (122) at the river mouth was my first patch tick at Gorleston for a long time. The next one came along tenb minutes later when a dark phase Arctic Skua (123) flying south.

On the 4th I met my parents and took them around Dunwuich Heath and Minsmere. We cleaned up on the usual suspects, Dartford Warblers, Bittern etc and a couple of butterfly year ticks in Grayling and White Admiral (a new species for the UK for me) added up to a good day out. The most boring looking bird may also have been the most interesting of the day when we found the female Ferruginous Duck that has been hanging around. What a dull bird!!!!!!

And finally a brief visit to Breydon on the 5th produced a suprisingly early female Merlin.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Triglav NP, Slovenia

Scarce Copper

Large Wall Brown


I have just got back from a hiking holiday in the Triglav mountains in Slovenia. It wasn't a birding holiday but saw some nice birds and lots of great alpine butterflies. July wasn't a great time for birds, most had stopped singing and it was hard work! Feel free to correct my butterfly ID, I know bugger all about alpine species.
Alpine Chough

White Admiral

Scarce Swallowtail