31st December: Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to you all.

An unexpected turn around of fortunes (for me anyhow) already means that 2008 is looking good.
Next years blog will feature more bird related posts with the odd pie thrown in for good measure. No more bleating about how hard done to I am etc etc . Thanks to all my friends who've helped me through a very tough 6 months your all great. And as the saying goes what goes around comes around.



31st December: Pie Famine

Today was very wet but none the less we managed a bit of birding in the early afternoon. A walk along the beach at West Voe of Sumburgh produced a couple of Purple Sandpipers, 2 Long-tailed Ducks close inshore and a party of 30 ish Goldeneye.
A stop at the Toab shop produced a surprise Chicken and White Sauce Pie. Surprise? Due to the time of year there appears to be a bit of a pie famine at present. Hopefully this situation will change towards the end of the week when I hope to get my hands on one of those highly rated Macaroni Pies by Friday.
With the heavy rain in mind we stopped at Vatsetter and scanned from the road. After a few minutes the Wigeon flock flushed and landed on the water, where the American Wigeon was easily picked out. The light was very poor now so we headed home via the Pieless Mainland Stores.
Some more pics from yesterday:

A nice sunny day at Catfirth

Bloody Cold

30th December: Reasons to be cheerful Part 3

In the evening I dropped Rob off at the Sumburgh Hotel, for his 'shift' behind the bar, returned home to watch some telly and spend a considerable amount of time on the net. I went back to the Sumburgh at 10:30 and walked into a packed bar of 2 people. What was most bizarre was the sight at the bar. Mr Fray had challenged a young local chap to eat twelve extremely large pickled onions by midnight. The only snag being that this lad hated them. The prize at the end of this would be twelve pints of his choice and all onions paid for. Oh how these dark winter nights must sail by!
The evening took a turn for the worse when said local challenged Rob to wear a rather camp woolly hat hanging behind the bar. To cut a long story short Rob lost the bet to the tune of £29 - which he later blamed me for as I had eaten one.

Don't go into the Virkie willows alone!!

30th December: Reasons to be cheerful pt 2

Rob and I decided to take a round trip on the Yell - Unst/Fetlar ferry this morning. To see if we could repeat his trip earlier in the winter. Despite being a glorious day, at least as far as the weather was concerned we didn't see a great deal, namely: Long-tailed Duck (lots), Eider (Lots more than the former), Velvet Scoter 1, Great Northern Diver 3 and a single Red-throated Diver. As December days on Shetland are fairly short we only had time to visit the Shetland Catch factory adjacent to Lerwick Harbour. This paid off though with excellent views of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls (both first winters) and a small party of Long-tailed Ducks.

29th December: Back oop north.

After a very enjoyable Christmas period it was time to make my first winter Shetland visit. This was originally meant to help me get through what was going to be a very miserable time, by drowning my sorrows and seeing a few nice birds in the short daylight hours. So fate, being the amusing little shit that he/she is, goes and turns my circumstances around only to make me miserable about coming up here instead!! That's life, but I'm certainly not complaining.

So after leaving the house at 5am I arrived at Birmingham Airport around 6.30. The Aberdeen flight was slightly delayed as the plane had to fill up with Oxygen - surely it would be easier just to open a window! Due to being completely knackered I managed to fall asleep before take off and wake up just as we were landing. Because of the late departure I was unable to jump onto the earlier 9.30 Sumburgh bound plane, so a 3 hour wait at Aberdeen would be necessary. After mooching around this small airport I sat down and read the paper (I don't expect anyone to be still reading this crap by the way). After some 30 minutes an announcement for a Mr Mark Reeder to return to the security desk was made. Shit! I had visions of some dodgy looking security card looking into my case whilst snapping on the rubber gloves and applying a liberal amount of KY jelly on to the finger ends (if I was lucky)!!! Fortunately, depending how you look at it, this was not the case. I had infact dropped my boarding card in the duty free shop whilst purchasing a single malt for Rob. Boarding card back in a safe place I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back down and happy that that was still possible!
The Shetland flight was slightly bizarre in that the plane taxied on to the runway and then turned round and drove back to the terminal to pick up an engineer for a sick plane at Sumburgh. A responsible use of several gallons of aviation fuel Loganair, particularly as the engineer wasn't even there.
Anyhow I got to Shetland at 2pm and promptly cracked my head on the boot of Rob's car something I do once each time I come up here. With the stuff in the car and a dint in my forehead we set off to get some diesel (£1.20 a litre). The pies at Mainlands looked distinctly pre Christmas made and to be honest the Lasagne Pie, I bought was very poor. There was just enough daylight to have a quick visit to Loch of Hillwell. The Redhead Smew (probably the one that was present during my October visit) was still there and a Jackdaw on the fence, both Shetland ticks.
Followers of Rob's blog will be delighted to know that there is indeed green stuff in his fridge and it's not mould. He even has a cookery book!!
As it got dark we had a wander down the road to look at the roosting Jackdaws, apparently the biggest flock ever on Shetland whoopee doo. It started to sleet/snow so we popped back and opened the whisky.

23rd December: Christmas Eve Eve

With renewed enthusiasm brought on by a very nice early Christmas present I decided to plan my day. 1. Go birding 2. Do some work at the house 3. Either visit IKEA or go birding again. So I slung several changes of clothing into the car and headed to RV. About a mile away from RV I realised that I had forgotten to actually put any optics in the car so sadly it became another weekend of no birding. A few jobs in the house and a trip to IKEA and a stop off at Murderhell on the way home made for another uneventful Sunday, but it did get much better in the evening!


I've nicked this out of a local magazine for local people.
Answer this question: How many blackbirds (though strictly speaking it should be black birds) were baked in a pie?

Answers emailed to sales@excellemagazine.co.uk

21st December: Goodwill To All Men (with the obvious exceptions)

Thanks to all who have helped make this blog what it is over the last three months!! I couldn't have made this crap without your help. Apologies for the lack of bird stuff since Shetland but it's been hard to gather the enthusiasm, hopefuly that will change very soon.

Rob has provided me with a new Shetland Pie namely an Egg and Bacon. Followers of his blog will dismayed that he doesn't appear to be following doctors orders. Never the less he has awarded it 10 points. Tut tut Mr Fray a cheese and broccoli bake would have been a wiser choice.

16th December: Owt abart

Bloody hell I've just realised that it has now been three weeks since I raised my trusty Leicas in anger. To make matters a little more concerning I have not even looked at the pager in over three days. Am I phasing - well no it's the time of year dark all day and seemingly no birds around, though that may not be true as like I said I haven't looked at the pager, I'll go and have a look now.

Like I suspected not a fat lot, Desert White Arse, Scarborough and a Dusky Wobbler, Notts.

The decorating is going well and I anticipate moving in after my Shetland foray which is now only thirteen days away.

This is a Christmassy as I'm going to get

13th December: Drunken bum

The last few days have been pretty uneventful with all my free time spent stripping wallpaper and pondering paint colours and stuff.
However yesterday was good with a rather heavy drinking session (by my standards anyway) commencing at 3:30pm. By 10pm and following seven or so pints of Pedigree I was very pissed and craving the obligatory doner kebab. Actually I had been craving one all day but being pissed just seemed a perfect excuse. Apparently we got a taxi back to Kerrie and Tim's but I really can't remember that. I also can't remember Kerrie ordering kebabs but she must have as three arrived instantly or at least by the time they had woken me up, after taking photos of me in a drunken coma - bastards.

8th December: House

I've now got the keys back for my house so with great glee I went back this afternoon and will spend the next few weeks fumigating and decorating. The next birding I do will be on my next Shetland trip, which is only three weeks away. Stuart Maconi had a feature on the pies of Wigan this evening which will be available on listen again probably. Apologies for this post being crap I've just got too much on my mind. Normal service will resume shortly.

3rd December: Something to do on Google when your bored

Today was dull. In my lunch I was that bored that I decided to put my name in Google and search. This is what came up: HERE There were lots more as well but this was by far the best and most accurate. Though I'm not too happy with my fate :()

1st December: Not so drunk birders

Another Saturday of weekend dadness (made up word) before heading to Leicester for the annual Drunk Birders gathering. The evening got off to a good start with a couple of slices of a proper Melton Mowbray pork pie. Nice crisp non fatty pastry with a filling of very tasty cured pork a total of 10 points on the pie scale. A quick bus trip into Leicester and a seemingly circular walk around the cities perimeter found us frequenting a real ale pub that I've forgotten the name of and drinking some very nice real ale that I also can't remember. Another pub (The Marquis I think) and some Guinness followed by a splendid curry and more beer. The final pub of the evening was a bit like being in that bar in Star Wars though with slightly less attractive clientèle. With that very bloated too much beer and curry feeling we headed for a taxi. Thanks to Leigh and John for putting me up hope you got rid of that strange smell!!!
The rest of the day was spent looking at paint charts and burning off the weeks excess in the gym. On returning home I checked the messages on my phone only to discover that a terrible act of suppression had taken place. I remember in our drunken state the previous evening that Leigh and John said they had a surprise for me for breakfast. It turns out it was a home made breakfast pie containing bacon, sausage, black pudding and beans. I'd forgotten they had a surprise for me and probably couldn't have eaten a thing as I was still full from the Indian. I must apologise to Leigh who slaved making the pie whilst missing the omnibus edition of the Jeremy Kyle show. I am assured by John that it was delicious and award it the full 12.

The First Drunk Birders Annual Gathering