27th December. 3rd Generation Scum

Whilst I pride myself on my left-wing values I cannot help but find myself slipping ever nearer to the right and todays events only confirmed this! Whilst waiting for the local chemist to open in order for me to aquire medication for my worsening man flu, another vehicle pulled up at the side of me. Nothing unusual in that I here you say - well no. The couple in it were sucking on a couple of fags (their choice) when suddenly from among the smog and off the female occupants knee popped up a very small child whose lungs by now probably contained the equivalent of an Embassy King Size. Finally the chemist opened and the female occupant went in and picked up a pregnancy test off the shelf WTF. It got better she handed it to the assistant and asked if she could have some cough medicine - for her two year old!!! I had to restrain myself when the assistant asked what kind of a cough it was, the voice in my head was screaming A F*@KING SMOKERS COUGH YOU MORON!!!! I pray to god that the test proved to be negative!
The problem with modern society is nothing to do with the credit crunch or the price of oil it's the amount of handouts that we give to these freeloaders who see children as a way of earning a living. This has been going on for too long now so much so that we now have three generations of scum spanning less than forty years - they see nothing wrong with what they do and our society continues to support them. Sterilise the bastards now before it's too late. Now back to my Daily Mail!

26th December. Boxing Day

Unlike the rest of the nation I did not feel the urge to stand outside some F'ing shopping centre on a cold boxing day morning in order to bag a 'bargain' sofa, TV etc etc. A walk round Pit-house West revealed that even the birds were having a lie in as in a 2.5 hour walk the best I could muster was a couple of Willow Tit's which unless you live down south is pretty crap. Having burned off the equivalent of a spoonful of trifle we went home and ate more food!

24th December. Merry Christmas

Due to another bought of this stinking cold any birding that I would have done today was put on hold.

So with mince pies in the pantry, made by Beth, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Mark

22nd December. Asking for trouble

I foolishly bought the latest edition of Birdwatch. Unfortunately as it comes in a sealed bag you can't have a flick through any more to see if it's worth buying. A couple of articles caught my eye The Punks selling out with their new column and a I.D check card for the identification of Slender-billed Curlew. I was curious at the logic behind this jointly published pamphlet as the majority of Birdwatch readers probably struggle with Whimbrels!! What this guide will not doubt do is ensure that the two listed contacts are constantly answering enquiries relating to 'funny curlews'. To save you the bother of parting with your hard earned cash (I could have bought a copy of Nuts and marvelled at the lovely Sophie's charms and still had enough left for a box of mansize tissues) I have reproduced the front page below - well sort of!


A full two pages has been dedicated to the Steppe Grey Shrike, featuring the finders account, a shot of a group of birders crowded round it like a group of middle aged British 'tourists' at the opening of a Cambodian orphanage and an abhorrent posting of the editor of a rival magazine trespassing in a field and being removed by the local constabulary.

21st December. In The Bleak Mid Winter

Well not so bleak really, though if all the Christmas Fairy has brought you so far is a P45 then things will be looking bleak. I suspect that who ever wrote this carol had more than a passing interest in birding as mid winter birding is very bleak indeed. I spent 3 hours at RV yesterday counting the wildfowl and given the mild conditions it felt like late march. Wigeon numbers were well down and Coots were struggling to get up to 200 compared with c.500 in previous years. Just a thought but has anyone ever seen a Coot (or a Moorhen) undertake flight of more than a couple of hundred yards? Do they undertake some bizarre overland migration? Have they discovered teleporting or are they smuggled across the Continent in huge trucks. Search the Internet for flight images of Coots, there's nothing showing a Coot more than a couple of feet above water. My conclusion is that they have the flying prowess of a chicken and are smuggled in overnight and dumped on large expanses of open water. A paper on this subject will appear in Birding World shortly - probably! The short birdless winter days are clearly affecting my sanity only eleven more weeks until the migrants start returning.

4th December. More moaning

A nice bright start to the day so rather than get the paint brushes out I decided on a wander around Pit-house West. Several Tit flocks to check with good numbers of Goldcrest among them. A Buzzard and a Woodcock were the best I could manage so I went home for a corn beef sandwich and a grumble.

In a time when we have government agencies exterminating introduced species (albeit accidental introductions) due to the apparent threat to a species that is undergoing a terrific comeback. We find other publicly funded agencies throwing our money around on publicity stunts such as the Rutland Ospreys and now Natural England’s pathetic White-tailed Eagle scheme in East Anglia. Why introduce Ospreys, White-tailed Eagles, Common Cranes and Great Bustards? Because they’re bloody huge and even the most myopic individual couldn't fail to see them through an old bog roll. They are Zoo attractions that will pull in the green pound. What the general non-birding public want to see are big birds eating things. The conservation industry knows this and sees the pound signs. There are of course some exceptions, for example several utilities companies have supported ‘proper’ conservation schemes in the north of England such as Hen Harrier protection. Sadly the little brown jobs don’t pull in the money – they’re just not impressive enough.


Natural England should mean just that putting in resources to help support our dwindling fauna and flora, not pissing about with species that never naturally occurred in these areas masked up as conservation projects!

28th November. Sitting Ducks

With a tip off that DEFRA would be on site from 6:30am a couple of us nipped down an hour before with the intention of flushing any wildfowl that might remain following the previous evenings flushing. Things looked good, lots of noise made and the remaining ducks eventually flushed. When we managed to flush a party of Canada Geese we were convinced that we'd succeeded in our mission.

The DEFRA taskforce arrived on mass at 07:30, 6 4X4's and 6 motor boats. Dawn broke and the result of our efforts were revealed a raft of Pochard with 20+ Ruddy Ducks among them. The slaughter commenced!! By 8:40 the bulk of the Ruddies had been cleaned up with around 10 birds remaining. Having had to leave for parental duties at 7:20 I returned at 8:40, lost the plot a bit, stuck on my HI-Viz and jumped the wire fence and sat myself stubbornly at the waters edge taking photos of the ensuing massacre. At first it seemed to work the guns went quiet. After a short break the boats started to head towards me and it soon became clear that they intended to drive the birds away from me. This seemed to piss them off a bit but after an hour they had rounded the last one and started to pack up.

One of the few remaining in the foreground whilst another is scooped up




I think I was starting to get to piss them off a bit


Another one bites the dust




With just a couple left the hunters took to rounding then up and forcing them towards the hidden guns.


THE END




24th November. Goodbye Mister Tom

After over three years Tom has finally run out of swear words and stepped down as the birding worlds professor of profanity. No longer will we be entertained by the great man's wit and satire, where updates were more eagerly awaited than the bumper Christmas edition of Razzle.

R.I.P Skills and Bills

22nd November. RUDDY HELL

Just when I thought that there would be no controversy this weekend, in drops an alarming email in my inbox. Apparently the Bastards from DEFRA will be descending on RVCP this week to 'cull' the Ruddy Duck population! Now I've never witnessed any of DEFRA's tactics (if they indeed have any) but it strikes me that as soon as these 'bounty hunters' set foot in the reserve the whole range of wildfowl will take to the sky just how do they pick out the Ruddies from the rest. I could go on all night about how wrong this scheme is, you only need to Google 'Ruddy Duck Cull' to find out for yourself!

22nd November.

Following a blank year on the Bittern front at Pit-house West I was encouraged to here that one of the RV rangers had brief view last week. Rather fortunately I found it feeding at the edge of the reeds almost immediately and Beth and I had excellent views for around 40 minutes.


video

There two posts without any controversy, though rather quite boring!!

21st November. Local Birding

Having not been out locally in anger since my return from Shetland I took advantage of a day off and some sun.

First stop Orgreave Flash was just about devoid of life and noticeably the water levels had increased significantly and already in it's early life it's starting to look a bit sterile!

A surprise and a patch tick at Blue Man's Bower was a Green Sandpiper. Also there 10 Wigeon, 12 Teal, 2 Redshank and 2 Snipe.


I was then torn between staying in the Rother Valley or heading west, I foolishly decided on the latter drawn by a flock of Waxwings at Crosspool. On arriving at least 20 Waxwings were heading over the houses and appeared to carry on going. I couldn't be arsed hanging around as given the poor light and wind I was never going to get any decent photos even if they did come back into the trees. A Great Grey Shrike in the Leash Fen area had been present for at least a fortnight with the chance of a few Short-eared Owls and perhaps a Hen Harrier or two. Unfortunately none of the aforementioned were around though a couple of showy Stonechats provided minor consolation.

19th November. Shame

It would appear that naming and shaming is in vogue this month. Latest victims being the entire membership of the BNP. Unfortunately it was promptly removed from the net which is a shame as I'm sure that there would have been a few birders lurking in there somewhere, a bit like the police's list of wanted kiddie fiddlers several years ago! Can't understand why these far right Natzi's are up in arms about it? It could be a lot worse imagine the shame if the membership of the UK400 club was revealed!!

With a long (cold) weekend coming up I will hopefully have some birding to report on. Failing that there's bound to be some twat out there worth writing about. Who knows it might even be me!!

16th November. Tied Up With String

A much more pleasant mornings birding than last Sunday with the monthly WEBS count to do and a guarantee of no crowds and more importantly no badly behaved morons. The count at RVCP is never straight forward as it involves counting several lakes over around a three hour period, so the possibility of counting the same birds twice is always possible. However I persevered and by 11am had amassed a higher than normal tally of ducks various. I've a feeling that this winter is going to be a good one!

Glancing through the pages of the local groups website I couldn't help but notice that a number of interesting records are appearing from certain regular individuals. Now I'm no cynic but the word stringy keeps springing to mind. One record involves 3 Water Pipits at one site. Now I am familiar with this site and must say that a record of a Water Pipit at this site would not be remarkable - but three birds! Not impossible but what strikes me is the fact that the records states 9 Pied Wagtails and 3 Water Pipits - no mention of any Meadow Pipits which I suspect is what these birds really were. That's the trouble with birding websites that publish sightings along with the observers name (which I have been guilty of hosting in the past) - everyone wants to see their name in lights, though some a little more than others. However they do need a little policing based around local knowledge of local birders. I did say I wasn't a cynic and I maintain that - more of a realist!

13th November. Relax

Crop tramplers and trespassers can rest in peace this weekend as I'm stuck at home decorating!!

With no daylight prior and after work it was pleasing to get a female Peregrine, carrying a feathered rat, from the office window this morning.

13th November. Abhorrent Posting

According to 'Britain's Top Birder' posting pictures on Surfbirds of twats trespassing is abhorrent! Not surprisingly no one has asked me to remove this and 'Britain's Top Birder' has not contacted me regarding my stance on this. Taking 'Britain's Top Birders comments on board I have removed the identifiable images and replaced them with the image below.

Let's just look at the cute puppy and pretend none of this ever happened

10th November. Name and Shame

I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive comments regarding yesterdays posting. However many of the comments have mentioned how it was the kind of behaviour that I witnessed yesterday that forced them to pack in twitching. It seems a shame that this is the case and with this in mind I will endeavour to name and shame any future bad behaviour that I might come accross - you have been warned!

9th November. Seals and some ranting!

The Seals at Donna Nook are an annual event in my calendar so having planned this trip over a week ago the added bonus of a couple of decent 'rares' made it more the worthwhile.
Not wanting to push my luck too much I decided to do the seals first (not in the biblical sense of course). As is the norm there was lots of "ooh"ing and "aah"ing at the baby seals. There were a few birds namely 4 Snow Buntings and a House Martin, flying around with a large flock of Starlings and a couple of skeins of Pink-feet.





First birding stop was the female Desert Wheatear at nearby Saltfleet Haven. Not the most obliging Desert Wheatear that I've ever seen but it did eventually come close enough for some record shots.
Now for a rant with some minor swearing

It's a long while since there's been a twitchable Steppe Grey Shrike in Britain, so a very obliging individual near Grainthorpe would have been tempting even without the seals. It sounded flawless, walk around a mile and half and the bird would be showing very well. There was even the 'view from a sensible distance' message on the pager. So after a slog across the floodbank we arrived where the bird had been showing well. Unfortunately my arrival coincided with the outing of the mentally challenged f**kwits annual birding trip. To me 'keep at a sensible distance' means don't chase the little bastard around all afternoon pissing off everyone else present. Which is why I only got this record shot.


Anyone who has decent frame filling images was definitely not keeping at a sensible distance. Apart from the flushing behaviour several birders thought nothing wrong with standing on the farmers kale crop, despite the path being wide enough to get a bus down. Bad behaviour at a bird really pisses me off it is an all too common occurrence these days, with larger than ever numbers of birders behaving like selfish morons. After a while I got pissed off with the flushing tactics but more so the blatant ignorant twats trampling on the crops. A suggestion (ok it was a little patronising) to a group crop tramplers that it might not be the best of ideas to walk all over the crops was met with a torrent of abuse particularly from a talentless fat bastard in a Manure FC hat. Well fatty I got a photo of you and your mates for my name and shame gallery below.

Image removed. Copies available on request!


Another Wanker

This also includes a photographer wandering around amiously who later had the shrike at his feet along with Lincolnshire's long standing flusher who despite agreeing with me re the crops wandered straight in to them oblivious to my dropped jaw. By now I'd had enough and decided to head back. Things picked up on the way back, a figure running towards us like the bionic man turned out to be LGRE on a year listing mission complete with his hangers on. This amused Jo and Beth as neither had ever met the 'legend' in the flesh confirming that he truly is not all there. However I'd rather have a bus load of Lee clones than the pricks I had to tolerate earlier!!

Edit

I was probably a little unfair in stating that all frame filling images were a result of getting too close. This bird does come close, but during my visit it was pushed right down the lane and would I'm sure have come close if people had stopped charging at it.



5th November. Bearded Tit

Back in the early eighties, when I first started birding, I used to look up to Odd Billie as the only proper celebrity bird watcher of the time. I read and read Little Black Bird Book until it literally fell to pieces never getting bored of it. Sadly now he's a annoying twat!!
Until last night I had managed to avoid Autumn Watch, but last night I stumbled across it quite by accident. The fat pompous turd started going on about the recent birding highlights of the autumn starting with an 'amusing' story about how birdwatchers were watching a 'rare' American Nighthawk when suddenly, in front of their eyes, a car ran over it! Hilarious tabloid humour Bill, though totally untrue. The Nighthawk was picked up dead at the side of the road having probably been run over and in fact was never actually seen alive by any birders. The next story was about how 5000 'twitchers' had dashed to West Cornwall for the Alder Flycatcher - 5000 my arse!! Bill finished off by twitching a pile of plastic shit at Radipole after embarrassing a group of birders at Portland.
Bill. Do us all a favour and phone up some old Seventies sitcom star claiming to have shagged their granny or something and piss off from our screens all together.

The clip below proves what a nob he's turned in to. Kate must have had one hell of an overwhelming urge to push him in.

2nd November. Simply Red

Getting up early this morning was not for the purpose of birding but to get cracking with the decorating. A wander outside revealed serious clag conditions with the presence of that rain that wets you through. A good day for decorating thought I. Wrong! My mobile ringing at 7:45 suggested that some brave sole had found something. Fortunately Duncan Bye had phoned to say that he'd got a Red-necked Grebe at Ulley C.P only five minutes away. On arrival it was half way from the dam wall but soon came nearer allowing for some record shots.


Arriving back home with warm baps ensured that I was still in the good books only for a Red-throated Diver to come on the pager at RVCP (I appear, probably deservedly, to be out of the loop these days). A cracking summer plumaged bird showing very well on the Northern Lake a new bird for me at RV and in the Sheffield area.

1st November. Playback

Finally got the opportunity to spend a day out birding and decided to check a couple of local spots. Pit-house West showed some promise with good number of Goldcrest among several large Long-tailed Tit flocks. This prompted me to do a spot of naughty tape luring, which worked well bringing the Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests close but no other scarcer phyloscs. Walking down towards the Chinese Bridge I heard the distinctive call of a Yellow-browed Warbler. I excitedly started to scan the surrounding trees before hearing a less familiar call - an Arctic Warbler! At this point It dawned on me that the MP3 player in my pocket had sprung to life - that'll teach me.

Other than a calling Warter Rail there was very little else at PHW I decided to pay one of my now less than weekly visits to RV where a couple of Dunlin and two Pintail were on the Reserve. Fortunately all was not lost as I had earlier purchased a couple of steak and ale pies from Morrisons which I scoffed - hmm pies.

26th October. Probable Birding

What a strange weekend for probables. Firstly the Little Blue Heron in Carmarthenshire. I'd planned to go for this today as yesterday was a no no, due to Beth not being interested in drab juv Herons. Fortunately my picky ticking tweenager did me a real favour as we would have spent Saturday getting very frustrated and seeing just Little Egrets. Nearby in Powys (which is not really nearby at all but it sounds better) was the report of a 1st winter drake Siberian Thrush, which had had some strange overnight gender swapover after initally being a female. RBA reported it something like this "In Powys an unconfirmed report of a possible Zoothera thought likely to be a probable male/female adult/immature Siberian Thrush. Probably present for c.4 days in a garden centre/coffee shop where a nice selection of potted plants/cakes may be purchased" I suspect this bird will never see the light of day probably!

Today there was a report of a possible Northern Flicker (Hampshire) seen flying up off a grass verge in to some woods- BOLLOCKS! Green Woodpecker feeding on a grass verge flying off in to woods more like.

As you will have now gathered no birding was done today, though I did have two probable Fieldfares over the house at 10:00hrs GMT. They of course weren't probables but by claiming them as probables I open up a whole can of worms (or can of moths as a colleague of mine once said) what if these probable Fieldfares weren't Fieldfares but something far rarer like er Ring Ouzels they have a similar call to Fieldfares well similar if your a bit deaf. Come to think of it I was talking to the next door neighbour at the time so I probaly didn't here them properly that's it then, today I saw two probable Ring Ouzels over the house at 10:00hrs GMT. See it's that easy 2 probables go out on the pager (though I wouldn't of course put out two Fieldfares) and everyone thinks I'm great*

The whole of the day was infact spent stripping wallpaper and as a result my right arm feels like it did when I was 15, but without the accompanying crusty sock**

* Actually anyone would think I was a total wanker claiming a probable Ring Ouzel.

** See scene from American Pie

16th October. Back to Work

Spent most of yesterday staring at the rain through Rob's window. However this did prove worthwhile in that I got Rob a new house tick, Goosander, and saw the Great Grey Shrike (much to the annoyance of Rob) that Andy found. A wander round Toab again saw me drawn to the shop where I purchased provisions for the journey home a egg and Bacon and chicken in white sauce. The village was full of tick hungry Shetlanders lucking for Rob's Coal Tit, so I wandered off in the direction of Exnaboe where I got very wet and ate the first of the 'way home' pies egg and bacon 6 points as it was more flan than pie! Andy departed at 11 and having got changed I decided that my trip was over and that I would concentrate my efforts on staring out of the window at the POV. This was until Russ Haywood had a selection of 'scarce' in a now birderless Toab. Rob and I wandered into Toab for a last look and managed just another Yellow-browed. I also ate the other pie!

So that was it another Shetland trip over, but I'll be back next October.

14th October. Tits Out, (but sadly not for the lads)

Another late start found us forcing ourselves out of the house at 10:15 in the general direction of Toab. Whilst walking past the Virkie Willows Andy spotted a roosting Long-eared Owl which we duly took lots of pictures of (remember the fact I own a camera does not make me a photographer). Rob appeared in a panic. Great I thought a 'rare' to twitch. This was true in that there was a Long-tailed Tit at the lighthouse. Now this might seem trivia but it was infact Shetlands 4th record. Ironically the rarest bird on the islands during our 12 day stay! Sadly however it was not seen again, so leaving Rob at the lighthouse Andy and I set off for Levenwick. On route we called at Mainlands where the hot pie selection included Steak Bridies (6 points awarded by Andy) and Cheeseburger Puffs. I awarded the latter 7 points though two of these were for the shear ingenuity of the product i.e a burger topped with cheese and relish and covered in puff pastry whatever next?

Cheeseburger Puff

We were a bit unfamiliar with the Levenwick area but headed for a spot where Andy had previously found a Firecrest. The initial walk around this garden produced just a couple of Goldcrests, but on the way back I noticed a small bird flit out and back in. This proved to be a spanking male Red Breasted Flycatcher my first such male. Also at Levenwick was a Whinchat.



It occured to us that new birds were in so we decided on heading back to the Sumburgh area. A call from Rob informed us that he and Helen had just had a Coal Tit near the Christian Youth Centre - hallelujah. Again another Shetland mega! We tried to show enthusiasm for it but unfortunately it, like its cousin, had buggered off probably towards Scatness/Toab. With this in mind we headed for the gardens of Toab. The lure of the Toab shop proved too much, I just had to check the pie situation. Amazingly they had been a massive fall of 'rare' and 'scarce' Chicken in White Sauce, Egg and Bacon and my all time favourite Cheese, Bean and Tattie. Despite not being the slightest bit hungry I bought the latter and consumed it immediately (10 points).
The pie distracted me somewhat from checking the gardens and we suggested rechecking the lighthouse and farm areas, which we did and saw nothing.

Note Mackay sneaking up for a look at mi pie

The day finished with the Long-eared Owl hunting the grassy edges of the POV.

13th October. I'm a Birder Get Me Out of Here

It's been another grim day with little on the bird front, Pied Fly and a Lesser Whitethroat were the highlights. However a very slight improvement on the pie front . A hot Cottage Pie (hot cottage! try googling that!!) purchased from Mainlands gave me some hope (9 points) and as I put in the last mouthful (that's half a pie then) we were alerted of a Richard's Pipit at Toab - scarce pie = scarce.
Unlike the pie the Richard's Pipit did not show at all so we buggered off to the Lighthouse and saw 2 Goldcrests which was crap to say the least.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at Hoswick and Fladerbister with the Pied Fly and Lesser W' at the former. A stop off at the Sandwick Bakery produced just 'meat pies' confirming my thoughts in that there is some kind of pie famine occurring.

Incidentally our finding rivals of the previous years have just returned from a foreign trip HERE Can't help but feel sorry for the boys, surrounded by 'Giga Rare' and just a few 'scarce' to show for their efforts.

The lack of 'rares' proved too much for the invisible man.

Cottaging Pie

12th October. Ten Point Plan

Well I said watch this space so here it is:

Yep that's it 8 hours in North and Northwest Mainland for a Pied Fly.

The day got off to a good start with a quick stop at the Lerwick Tesco where amazingly pies were being sold! A pack of Macaroni Cheese and a pack of Chicken Curry Pies were purchased.

Site 1 Lower Voe where we managed a mere 6 Goldcrests, 1 Blackcap and some Robins.

Site 2 err

Site 3 err oh F*** it it was crap we saw nothing and to make it worse there seemed to be birds everywhere else, including sites that we decided to leave out of the itinerey*.
The highlight was a scone and a cup of tea at the cafe at Esha Ness - though even here we managed to dip on the legendary 'Fine Breasts of Esha Ness' that Rob had fascinated us with earlier in the year.
In the end we had to go and look at someone elses bloody Ring-necked Duck though we did also have a Slavonian Grebe there.
The aforementioned pies weren't too bad, though the curried chicken was better than the macaroni 7 and 6 points respectively.

*.I must point out that Andy's Itinerey was flawless apart from the lack of birds

The flat tundra like area of Easha Ness



Two gentlemen of the art discussing 'rares' over a fag

11th October. ZZZZZ

After a week of relentless walking and ditch bashing in gale force winds and rain, today was a day of rest. This was mainly due to waking at 9am with a hangover. The previous evening had been spent with a large chunk of the Shetland Birders, the largest chunk was absent, in the Sumburgh Hotel until around 1am.

A party of Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on the POV as well as the usual small selection of waders were the only birds seen all day.

Tomorrow we have a plan and a strict itinerary, we're hitting the north and west of the Mainland - watch this space!!

10th October. Fuel Poverty

Can't be bothered to write today so view here if you really want to know what we've been up to.

Meanwhile

The current economic crisis coupled with an unprecedented fall of "Giga Rares" has lead to a number of high profile 'Twitchers' facing fuel poverty. This has resulted in at least one of them taking up demeaning jobs to fund their addiction.



9th October. Farewell my Fair Weather Friends

Birding on Shetland should not be compared to birding the Scillies. You have to work for your birds here. You can't just stay in bed with the CB switched on waiting for the other people to put out the news. Birders who come here should be aware that they are very much part of the finding scene. So it disappointed me somewhat this afternoon when the Nordagerdi crew informed us of their early departure. Andy L couldn't take the pressure of the Alder Flycatcher anymore and John and Dave were concerned that the weather wasn't going to be very nice for their return crossing on Saturday. However we have since learned that the latter two are already making plans for the flyca'. It was going to happen sooner or later that Shetland wouldn't come up with the goods and so far this October it hasn't. But with new birds still appearing daily you write it off at your peril. For instance Mr L had been dropped off at the airport only to learn minutes later that a probable Lancy had been found at Toab, this caused him to get a taxi from the airport with only 40 minutes or so before his flight only for the bird to never show.

Anyhow. The day started off well when I found a nice 1st winter Great Grey Shrike in the Sumburgh Hotel Garden, which typically showed well knowing that I had left my camera in the car. The lighthouse was poor with just a couple of Goldcrest and a Reed Bunting. The Toab area produced a Yellow-browed Warbler and best of all an obvious fall of Lasagne Pies in the Toab shop. These were very soon reduced to just two with none present at dusk.

Early afternoon seems the best time to visit the lighthouse as migrants often drop in before dark. Andy M commented that this was the first year that he hadn't seen Red-breasted Flycatcher there. Sure enough as we walked around the corner two birders had found one!


On hearing of the impending departure of our friends we were told to help ourselves to the remainder of their provisions. We didn't need telling twice and quickly cleared the fridge, we did however decide against the collection of magazines featuring elderly ladies in compromising positions - whatever floats your boat!

8th October. Better

A rather late start this morning due partly to apathy and partly to needing sleep. However even before the kettle had been switched on a Yellow-browed was spotted (by a hungover contact lens free Andy M) just outside the kitchen window. A good sign.
Following breakfast we headed for the birderless Sumburgh area. Rumours of South Mainland being awash with Birders this October appear to have been unfounded and we quite literally have the whole southern end to ourselves. The fields around Sumburgh Farm were alive with Redwings and news of a White's Thrush on Fair Isle filled us with enthusiasm. Another Yellow-browed was seen briefly in the Hotel garden and a Stonechat was by the quarry along with a couple of Chiffs. We got in the car and headed up to the lighthouse. A bunting dropped in the road and caused all three of us to call Little Bunting simultaneously. It immediately flicked over the wall and disappeared, fortunately returning to the same spot shortly afterwards. This helped soften the pain of the constant barrage of American Landbirds appearing on the pager and reminded me of why I come to Shetland. Geosetter being sheltered seemed a good idea but in reality there were less birds than yesterday. Channerwick produced several Blackcaps and at least two Yellow-broweds. A call from the Nordagerdi boys informed us that they had found a Sibe Stonechat suspiciously in the area where Andy and I had earlier had a Stonechat. Calling at Mainlands on the way back produced an excellent 9 point award winning Chicken and White Sauce proving my theory that scarce pies = scarce birds and so on.




Nothing better than a big dump after a long flight

7th October. Theory of Pie

Looking back to my trip last year one thing is immediately obvious, the weather was better and there were far more birds. However one other thing is clear there were far more pies of many varieties. There appears to be obvious correlation between the amount of pies and the amount of 'rares' . Today there was a light trickle of migrants in the South Mainland area namely Redwings, Fieldfare, Brambling, Reed Warbler, Ring Ouzel and Yellow-browed Warbler. This coincided with the availability of hot Scotch Pies at Mainlands. With the expected appearance of Lasagne Pie tomorrow we can indeed look forward to something of a rarer nature e.g Radde's Warbler. The discovery of the ultra rare Macaroni Cheese Pie could result in the finding of something within the range of Sibe' Thrush etc.

From the chart below we can see the affect that pie has on the occurrence of scarce therefore
rare = (pie10-)X(rare2 if 2 is - to crust x filling + heat) It has now been raining since 13:30 causing a retreat to Sunnydell where cooking, blogging and the consumption of alcohol has taken precedence. However the highlight of the afternoon was discovering computer birding which apparently rates me as an expert - hmm

6th October. Never give up

The day started off looking promising with a nice light easterly breeze and one or two obvious ‘new in’ migrants in the shape of a Barred Warbler in the Nordagerdi garden and around 6 Wheatears in the Toab area. However things went downhill from there. A walk to Scatness revealed nothing but a juv’ Brent Goose and a Grey Plover.

The Nordagerdi crew were having a similar day but managed to keep their spirits high by getting over excited about Peregrines etc. Returning to the Toab area I decided to pay a second visit to the shop in the hope that a pie delivery might cheer me up. Unfortunately they had only the ‘Meat’ variety that I tasted on my arrival so I complained to the management about the lack of suitable pastry provisions, bought a bag of crisps and left!

After a short tea break we set of towards Exnaboe and saw nowt. The remainder of the day was spent around the Sumburgh area where the highlight was a Hedgehog! Though the Nordagerdi lot found a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Greenland Redpoll. After spending eight hours in the field we gave up and returned to Sunny Dell for another curry thoroughly knackered and pissed off.

"Hello Birdnet, Hedgehog showing well at Sumburgh mate"

5th October . No Birds and No Pies

Twas God that said un to Moses "thought shall eat no pastry based products upon the Sabbath for thou are a reet fat bastard (as everyone knows God is from Rotherham)" This was of course the little known 11th commandment which is seldom published in the scriptures. As a result pies, on a Sunday, are a no no up here in the very god fearing Shetlands - Amen.

It would also appear that he has banished all birds from these lands and landed us with a plague of wind and rain to prevent us birding upon the Sabbath. Well it appears to be working as I'm sat here writing this rubbish. However I did have a walk around Toab and saw a few Skylarks and a fly over Great Northern Diver.

A slight improvement during the afternoon with a Red-throated Pipit reported in the Valley of Plenty. Unfortunately it's at times like this when you discover the true amount of Birders visiting Shetland. Being the only new good bird of the day this attracted a sizeable crowd with over 50 birders arriving, many of whom were happy to tick off a Meadow Pipit! We soon tired of the crowd and left to purchase provisions.

A Sabine's Gull was reported heading towards The Pool of Virkie, half way through cooking a curry, but unfortunately it couldn't be relocated. We decided to return to the Pipit and managed excellent views with just a crowd of 7.




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4th October. Three Degrees on Shetland

Surprisingly not Prince Charles's favourite Afro headed pop group but the temperature as we touched down at Sumburgh! On leaving the airport several cars were showing signs of snowfall - not a good sign. As well as hailstones, rain and snow there was also a biting northerly. Not ideal rare conditions. After Rob had picked me up I requested a stop off at the Toab shop. Unfortunately only two 'meat' pies remained I purchased these and reheated them. A very disappointing specimen that needed the addition of ketchup - 5 points!

Arriving at Rob's I decided to take Sparky for a walk and encourage him to walk along the shore in the vain hope that he might flush some sheltering vagrant, which of course he didn't.
Returning somewhat windswept and cold I decided to take the car and check the Golden Plovers around Fleck. There were lots of Goldies but not much else so I decided to check the pie situation at nearby Mainlands. Once again pie was in short supply and the only types on off were a Steak Brodie (which looks like a pasty) and a slice of Grosvenor Pie (which looks like Pork Pie with an egg in it). I opted for the latter an improvement on the earlier pies but only a 6 as it made me gip a bit.

Bad news of the day was the defection of our regular cook to the Drunkbirders, who have no doubt lured him with pornographic literature and a bunk up with young Dave! As a result we had to make do with a Fray Fry Up washed down with lager.

Tomorrow might be a bit better.






3rd October. North Bound


Tomorrow sees the start of this years Shetlandathon. Already my baggage is on it's way (wouldn't it be great if all baggage was this easy to get rid of?) in the boot of the trusty Drunkbirder. The weather charts are all over the shop with the only guarantee being that they will be some - weather that is! Rumours of crowds ten deep are as yet unconfirmed as is the vicious rumour of the shop selling out of pies by 7am! We'll just have to see what occurs and enjoy the atmosphere, I refuse to use that annoying word craic as it's for the Irish and twats that visit Scilly year in year out and see F' all i.e "we come here for the craic".


Regular updates and pie news will follow in due course.

I'm no Michael Fish but that looks nasty.

28th September, Nawwwwfak

I haven't been to Norfolk for over a year and that was in circumstances that I'd rather not remember. So checking the pages of the RBA website I decided that there were a lot worse things that we could do than have a day on the North Norfolk coast.
First stop was the adult Lesser Grey Shrike at Weybourne which despite the pissing down rain showed quite well. Shrikes were the theme of the day with both Red-backed and Great Grey at Burham Overy Dunes both showing less well.


The Shrike photos were an improvement on Thursdays effort.


But things returned to normal later.

26th September. Some Recognition

At last some recognition for my photographic prowess.


After the excitement of yesterday it was always going to be difficult for today to live up to it. So it was no surprise that today was a bit of a damp squib. With a stubborn blanket of fog over much of Sheffield I decided to head for Blacktoft with the thinking that I would at least be half way to most sites on the Yorks/Lincs coast. Blacktoft was surprisingly devoid of spotters but also pretty empty on the bird front. However I did have a Bittern and several Bearded Tits. A mass clear out on the east coast was evident and no new birds were being found so the chance of a few juicy morsels was unlikely so I went home for a nap!


On the way to Blacktoft I called at the service area just off the M62 where I had a hot tip of hot pies. This tip off prooved right as hot pies were indeed on offer, albeit a whopping £1.55. I went for a Chicken and Mushroom. A tasty specimen with a light shortcrust pastry. I would have awarded it 10 points, instead of 8, however whilst trying to eat and drive it broke in two and the volcanic juices leaked out whilst it was on my lap and found their way into my groin!!


25th September. A Bit of Brown.


Being the cautious listing type that I am these days I thought it best to wait on news for the Shrike. Fortunately Filby's Magic Box sprung in to life at 7:15 and informed me of the birds presence so in a rather laid back manner we set off at 8am. We arrived at Flamborough at 9:30 and immediately picked up this fine bird perched a top a distant hedge. Unfortunately no pies were available so the celebrations of my first lifer this year were some what muted.

Prints available on request!!


Mean while on Shetland the shit was well and truly hitting the fan. A call to Rob revealed his whereabouts as "stuck on Fair Isle" - there's worse places. However A Sykes Warbler at Sumburgh Farm was quite frustrating for the poor lad - so much so that he couldn't be arsed to have a look at what would have been his 3rd Siberian Thrush (Git) but consoled himself in finding another Arctic Warbler.

Back at work for 1:30 meant I could keep on the right side of my very understanding manager. Though the same cannot be said for my ex who questioned the logic of taking Beth to see a Brown Shrike (she was off school with a nasty cough), for fu**s sake it's a Brown Shrike what more need I say?? For the record Beth ticked Red-backed Shrike after Brown - way to go!! Hopefully more of the same tomorrow as I'm off all day.

24th September. It's all kicking off.

Oh heck I knew if I kept saying it's going to be good from Wednesday that sooner or later I'd be right. It started off with a Brown Flycatcher on Fair Isle (stick that BOU) then late afternoon the east coast from Shetland to Norfolk was awash with 'rares'. Best of all a Brown Shrike at Flamborough which convieniently fits in nicely with my plans. Here's hoping - goodnight!"

21st September. Only One in Scunthorpe.

Leaping out of bed at 7am and flinging open the curtains to be greeted by a not too bad at all day we decided on a spot of birding. First locally and then where ever Mr Filby's magic box might send us. After a quick breakfast and grabbing some provisions (a couple of Morrisons steak pies) we headed for Orgreave OC. Every small bush was covered in cobwebs and little snails but typically the barren landscape produced nothing on the wader front as did nearby Whiston Meadows. I decided on heading to Blacktoft with the aim of calling at Hatfield Moors for a couple of Pec' Sands and possibly Alkborough near Scunthorpe for a Wilson's Phalarope.

Ickle Snail

Even at 9am Blacktoft was beginning to fill with noisy dudes whose presence was made even more annoying by their annexing of the Marshlands Hide. Fortunately the other hides were more or less empty but apart from a few Bearded Tits there was little of interest. Back at the car the steak pies were demolished and we headed for the Wilson's Phal'.


Hmmm Pie


Alkborough Flatts is only a mile, as the crow flies, from Blacktoft, but unfortunately 22 miles by road!! Unfortunately the phalarope had vanished and the heat haze made it very difficult to see anything. After 45 minutes of eye straining I'd had enough and decided to try for the Pecs. Hatfield Moors is a vast wasteland of post peat extraction land and like a giant maze. In short I got hopelessly lost and pissed off with the sun so we went home.


Charming greeting as you enter North Lincs

20th September. Paul Daniels Must Die

Not much happening this week. More Mega Alerts than you can shake a stick at, which would be daft as they'd fly off! Anyway they were either in foreign lands, remote islands or not megas at all (Greater Sandplover!). Great Snipes were not at all great and when a proper one was found access was pulled after a bunch of pricks trespassed.

This morning was spent ringing at Ramsley After setting 5 nets up we were put to work with a constant supply of Lesser Redpoll. In the end we had rung around 180 though interestingly none were re-traps suggesting that there is a hell of a lot of Redpolls going through there, over 300 had been rung this week prior to today. By 11am we were knackered and fortunately the nets were empty so we packed up.

I was awoken from my much needed afternoon nap with a call from Andy D informing me of a Honey Buzzard over Treeton. This prompted me out in to the garden where almost immediately the dark sillouette of a Buzzard was picked up over Aston Church. Unfortunately this bird was a Common Buzzard but encouraged me to spend a bit more time out there staring at the sky, even if I was pushing the lawn mower at the time!!

13th September. To Hull in a hand cart


Too much wine following some text hostilities with the ex ensured a lie in and subsequently no morning birding. However a trip to Morrisons for some Sunday essentials meant I could at least have a look at Orgreave O C. The Hollyoaks omnibus would have been better as the OC was typically crap - no I'm not trying to scare would be watchers away it really is crap. My will power stood up to the pie stall though I couldn't help staring like a kid at the sweet shop window.


The only birding planned for the afternoon was the monthly webs count at RV, however a phonecall from Pete W at 5pm changed things a little. The call went along the lines of "we've just trapped a Pallas's Gropper at Spurn etc etc" Having bizzarely decided not to go for the Blakeney bird a few years back I couldn't let this one go so having dropped off Beth we left for Spurn at 5.20pm. Arriving in Hull at 6pm (I'm sure the ticket will be on its way) I was informed by the pager that there was no further sign following release - bollocks. A quick call to Pete confirmed this and also that hardly anyone was looking for it! With this I decided to turn back. Unfortunately it was reliably seen again at 7pm though the views (according to a good source) were untickable - but like a friend of mine would say "Shit views are better than no views" - yes Roy but are they?


An unfortunate navigational mistake had me going too far along the M62 but paid off with a nice juv Osprey pearched on telegraph poles at Old Moor.

Almost as good as these shots

13th September. Knocking em off with a stick.

Well that was the prediction anyway but like most predictions it was bollocks - mostly. Fortunately the pessimist in me could see this coming so I had a walk round the usual shit holes and saw nothing. A Great Snipe at Flamborough was tempting though subsequent photos may yet prove some sightings were not so great.

12th September. Pie Squared

The benefit of working for such a caring organisation such as SCC is that they let you work a nine day fortnight. This in short means that I get every other Friday off to do as I please. So with an prolonged easterly draught forecast which migration hotspot would I find myself at? Spurn? Flamborough? Lincs coast? No - Orgreave, Catcliffe, Whiston and RV!! I decided that the east coast would be crap and by and large I was right - at least for today.

Orgreave held one migrant a Common Sand and 10 Teal. Whiston/Treeton Meadows was marginally better with a juv Whitethroat and several Chiffies, though a flock of around 30 Yellowhammers reminded me of ye old days.

Highlight of the morning was a visit to Morrisons to purchase two exquisite steak pies. These really were 10 pointers and enhanced by the fact that they were eaten whilst birding Orgreave from the footbridge.

Other sites were equally crap with two Snipe at Pit-house West being the only birds of note!

11th September. D.I.V.O.R.C.E

As the great Dolly once sang "My D.I.V.O.R.C.E becomes final today." Hurrah. I can barely believe it's been almost a year since this blog began (as a distraction from my trauma) how things change along the road that is life. My birding has quietened down as a result, though coincidentally it has been a very poor year on the whole. I have adopted a new patch whilst still paying the occasional visit to RV and the surrounding environs. It hasn't been an easy time but my new partner (why does that always sound gay?) is very understanding and sympathetic to my needs (the birding ones as well) and without Jo and my family and friends life would have been unbearable. This is starting to get a bit maudling!! For any other birders about to embark on a similar journey (and there's a lot out there) keep smiling and you'll get through it in the end. Ironically my birding has become more enjoyable over the last twelve months and will only improve.

End of sermon.

Three weeks to Shetland

Can't be arsed with all this predicting 'rares' nonsense, however I predict a large fall of pies in the Sandwick area around 10am on the 6th. Among the usual 'common' will be the odd 'scarce'( lasagne pie) and possibly the odd 'rare' (macaroni cheese pie) I doubt this year will see the appearance of any 'giga rares' (mushroom and tofu) but one never knows.

Talking of predictions

Me thinks that the Punks are hiding something.

Northwest string

The guys in the Northwest appear to have found a way around the 'credit crunch' simply stick out news of a couple of 'rares' and an 'ultra rare' to keep the phone lines bustling. Don't worry that they'll all turn out to be utter bollocks and that the Northwest will get a reputation for being ultra stringy the money will keep rolling in.

Recent Strings from the NW:

Cowbird = Blackbird
Whiskered Tern = Arctic Tern
Sharp-tailed Sand' = Ruff
Steak and Kidney = Mince and Onion

STOP PRESS

Awesome White Dog Shit found in the Canaries HERE

10th September. Large Hardon

As I write this twaddle there are just 52 minutes left of life as we know it. The Large Hadron Collider will be switched on at 8.30 ending all forms of life - possibly. With this in mind I decided to spend some of my last moments with a quick trip to the patch - which itself resembles a post apolyptic blast. Needless to say there was bugger all there apart from a Great Crested Grebe and a Tufted Duck (patch tick!). Clearly the birds are sensing the impending doom and have buggered off to another galaxy - or not.

7th September. Don't believe the hype.

This weekends monster fall between the Humber and Shetland failed to materialize with the Northeast getting the lions share of both 'rares' and rain.

A late morning visit to the patch armed with the Hubble Telescope proved worthwhile with, 8 Cormorants, 9 Grey Herons, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and best of all a Sanderling.

Yes it really is that far away!!

A brief spell of warm sunshine produced a few late summer dragonflies namely Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters, probably the most I've seen all summer.