Auld Lang Syne

I was going to sit down and trawl through my birding year but frankly I can't be arsed. My year started like everyone else's in January and finished in December. In between I saw some birds, found some birds and dipped some. Birding highlights of the year included finding some local scarce namely Long-tailed Duck, Little Egret and three Cetti's Warblers. National birding trips were few and far between with the two of the three trips for lifers ending in failure, Crested Lark and Royal Tern. Shetland again came good with self founds in the shape of Little Bunting, 2 Bluethroats, Common Rosefinch and several Yellow-browed Warblers. Highlight of the trip however was helping to nail the I.D of the Scatness Lancy with some rather unorthodox field techniques which basically involved rattling off some record shots then whilst still in the field downloading comparison images via the iphone enabling us to make a positive I.D of this particularly tricky little bugger. Was this the first instance of cyber birding in the field - maybe not but certainly not the last.

The first 'cyber' Lancy

Low points of the year were the aforementioned dips, that 'thrush' at Sumburgh and missing what would have been my fourth Cetti's. But the lowest point was up until now known only to me and takes us back to Shetland at the beginning of our trip. The Llama picked up a pipit calling overhead which dropped in to the edge of the Virkie crop field almost immediately I got on to it and dismissed it as a Tree Pipit it hopped straight into the turnips and only came out when I played the ipod at it - which with hindsight was a bit dumb as it immediately shot up in the air and vanished! I suspect that I screwed that one up as as it turned out October 2009 was somewhat of a record year for Olive-backed Pipit on Shetland and as most birders know OBP's do call like Tree Pipits and don't always look... well... olive! Sorry Andy I suspect I dropped a bollock - it's been on my mind since that claggy day in October and now I must cleanse my soul before this year ends.

A few people (and it is only a few) have said they enjoy the blog but that they don't get the pie thing! The pie thing goes back a few years when Rob first moved up north and had an uncanny knack of finding 'rare or scarce' whilst walking from Sunnydell to the Toab shop usually to purchase fags and a pie. One occasion involved Rob walking out of the Toab shop clutching a half eaten chicken in white sauce (a particular favourite of mine) whilst picking up an overhead flying crane - and that's just about it really we (I) like pies they're more compact and tastier than sandwiches and can in times of trouble be used as weapons. I won't be surprised if you still don't get the pie thing!
A few less of these won't hurt.

Well I said I wasn't going to trawl through the year and I haven't much have I?
What will 2010 bring? How the hell do I know but one thing's for sure there will be more patchwork and even less twitching. The Shetland flights are already booked as are a couple of mainland trips, Cornwall in August, Northumberland in May. One thing I hope is certain is that I'll continue to enjoy my birding more as I have done for the last couple of years.

Christmas Birding

Following a long calming down after the previous 'fishermen' rant I had a spot of writers block coupled with a lack of birds and the start of a two week freezing spell. Unfortunately the writers block cleared, though the weather stayed freezing and disappointingly didn't seem to cause any hard weather bird movement.

Christmas week stared with a night out with a selection of local birders where we spent the evening putting the world of local birding to right and somehow getting roped in to writing a set of rules for a forthcoming local self-found league. Hopefully by the following morning everyone had forgotten about any commitments that I had made.

For a change this year Jo and I decided on a different Christmas day location - Scarborough! Nothing flash just a day out in Scarborough with perhaps a little bit of birding thrown in. A walk around the harbour produced no birds of note - apparently gone are the days when you could rely on an Iceland or Glaucous Gull being present. A walk up to the castle and a quick look at a dead Bronte's resting site was followed by more unintentional Ice skating session around the harbour. Around midday we ended up at Scalby Mills scanning through the gulls and scanning the sea for divers/grebes and sea duck. What we didn't expect was a White Stork, that appeared over the bay being mobbed by gulls at 13:00hrs
Wild or not it was certainly a nice change from Turkey

Riding our look we decided to head home via Holbeck where we picked up at three smart Med' Gulls.

The three days following Christmas day were poor with nothing of note, despite a five hour stint around Pit-house West and RV on the 27th.

With the 28th probably being my last birding day of 2009 I dashed round the house like Mary Poppins cleaning etc to earn some vital afternoon birding brownie points. Unfortunately the birding gods were not pleased (clearly they thought that I should have been out sooner) and unleashed their wrath on me - in short whilst walking down the track towards the Chinese Bridge at Pit-house West I went arse over tit and landed right on top of the Sigma which implanted itself in my ribcage. The next thirty minutes were spent hobbling round holding my ribs. I then decide it might be a good idea to pop to A&E and get them looked at having failed to do any real birding - though through my agony I did have a brief snatch of Cetti's Warbler by the Chinese Bridge.

Fortunately the ribs were just badly bruised, probably saved by the protective layer of excess pie fat! More importantly the camera and lens are still in one piece!!

Many thanks for reading this rubbish for the last 12 months.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


13th December. Crest of Fire

Much the same as yesterday with a walk around RV taking up all of the morning. The Great Northern still present but I failed to find the Scoter.

My afternoon nap (another post 40 thingy) was disturbed by Pete Wragg informing me that he'd found a Firecrest a Pit-house West by the Chinese Bridge. Well you can never see too many Firecrests and it would have been rude not to pay it any attention. The resulting photos however were pretty crap dull conditions combined with hand held at 1/30th using 1600ISO was not ideal.

FISHERMEN ARE .....................

One of the reasons that I stopped visiting Pit-house West was the fact that locals had taken it upon themselves to start up their own F'ing fishery within the much needed reedy pools favoured by Reed Warblers and the wintering Bitterns and setting fire to the adjacent scrub used by breeding Linnets and Yellowhammers. I simply couldn't cope with the frustration of discarded beer cans, carrier bags, discarded tackle and blatant habitat destruction. It's not as though there's no where else to fish, less than a mile away there's a perfectly well run fishery - but no these 'former German striker' continue to f**k up this locally important wildlife site. They have no right to fish here - it is illegal, but then so is killing Cormorants!

Like the rest of RVCP Pit-house West is no longer managed by Rotherham Borough Council but by Oak Holdings a property development and consultancy group who's master plan is to build the YES PROJECT Of course those good old turd polishers* at Rotherham Town Hall all fell for these southern charmers and gave everything away complete with planning permission. But as my dad often says you can't polish a turd and if one single brick gets layed on this site I'll smear my bell end with Marmite and feed it to next doors dog**. Consequently and as a result of the new owners there is absolutely no management work undertaken at PHW, fences are broken down, gates removed and those 'former German strikers' get carte blanche to cut down, burn and generally trash any habitat that gets in the way of their maggot drowning sticks. Infact the only 'management' work that I have seen carried out in recent years is the clearing of trees from the paths so Oak Holdings could get there vehicles down to show prospective YES Project tenants around the site. In short Oak Holdings don't give two F'cks what happens to the wildlife on their site as long as they get their tenants for (which they won't) this white elephant - call me cynical (or whatever you like) but I suspect that Oak care not for this site and would be more than happy for the dereliction to continue, until I see a change here my opinion of these charlatans and of RMBC will not change.***

Rant over.

* Turd Polishers - see here

** My next door neighbour does not have a dog, but they do have a couple of pretty rough looking daughters.

*** This does not include the current manager and employees at RV.

12th December. Third Time Lucky

RV's seemingly the only local spot worthy of a visit at the moment so once again I found myself smiling nicely at the bloke on the gate in an attempt to gain access. For reasons known only to me I have neglected this place for the last couple of years to the point where I completely stopped going all together. Having watched fairly birdless sites for a while returning here truly has been a breath of fresh air and with my tail well and truly between my legs I return to my 'local patch'. As I stated in an earlier post the wildfowl numbers at present seem much higher than normal most notably close on 300 Pochard with most other common winter visitors present. Add to this the long staying Great Northern Diver, 2 Bitterns, Cetti's Warbler and the chance of some local 'rare' (Lesser Scaup is well over due) there are few sites locally where you can have a better days birding. A female Common Scoter was found on the Main Lake whilst counting Great Crested Grebe (38) and the Great Northern finally gave itself up for a decent photo albeit digiscoped with my rapidly failing eyesight - it's true that everything starts to pack up once you get to forty. Another visit (I just can't keep away) mid-afternoon produced nothing new but gave Jo the chance to get to grips with duck I.D and a new bird in the form of the Scoter.

6th December. Merg

First job this morning was to get the decorations out of the loft. Second job to get the hell out of the way whilst Jo and Beth played about with baubles and lights and stuff.

I called at the usual car viewable spots i.e Orgreave, Catcliffe and Blue Mans Bower and saw very little before deciding to have a rare wander round RV. Good numbers of duck this winter with at least 240 Pochard on the Reserve and around 30 Goosanders among the more notable counts. Also among the Goosanders was this fem/imm Red-breasted Merganser decent bird these days at the valley being almost as scarce as Smew.

5th December. Me No Leica Very Much

With some work and other duties to carry out this morning birding was going to be difficult but I did at least manage a visit to RV to take some more 'record' shots of the Great Northern Diver.

Arriving home to the usual pile of junk mail I was briefly pleased to open a letter from Leica. What could it be? Had I won a competition? Had they sent out a product recall for the notchy focusing on my Ultravids? Had I bollocks. Had they bollocks. No this was an attempt, by them, to get me to fire up the credit card and plunge myself into some more debt. In what I can only describe as a 'begging letter' those generous soles at Leica were giving me and only me the chance -wait for it- to purchase a lovely pair of Ultravids for the princely sum of just seventeen hundred and fifty quid!! In return they would give me a 8X20 Monovid free of charge. Tight bastards. Not only do they hike up the price of their 10X42's (don't give me all that HD rubbish, that's the binocular equivalent of the Emperor's new clothes) by almost 100% - my 10X42's cost me £900 - they have the cheek to offer me just half a pair of binoculars. Do I look like a bloody cyclops? Well thanks but no thanks Mr (or Mrs) Leica I'll stick with the two pairs I already have. Leica seem to have lost the plot of late, their prices have shot through the roof cf. their near £3000 scope and almost £2000 bins' who in their right mind wants to spend that kind of money? Probably the same tits that take up birding and instantly get a twelve grand optics package i.e. Bins, Scope and huge up arse lens but forget that you can't buy fieldcraft and I.D skills, but that's a rant for another whisky/gin fuelled evening...

4th December. Shopping, a pie and some fudge.

A planned shopping trip to Leeds this morning held little promise of anything avian, so it was even more frustrating that the weather favoured birding much more than shopping! We even managed a bit of pie action from a pie shop in Morley. However the Huntsman pie was distinctly average and in no way warrants me plugging the shop - bet their shitting themselves now! Fortunately Jo's no hardcore shopper, so a quick dash through Ikea and we were on our way home. Pugneys was on the way back so with the Ferruginous Duck appearing to have shed any jewellery that it might have had not calling in would have been rude. However the 'fudge' (where the hell did that come from) duck wasn't in the mood for showing well and insisted on hiding behind the near island unlike the Bittern which was perfoming well in the reed bed.

Following on from yesterday afternoons Diver search I received a text this morning from Kev informing me of a Great Northern on the main lake at RV. Oh damn and blast (is that OK Colin) I was about 16 hours too early. On arrival it was showing fairly well but then the heavens opened so after a quick video session with a borrowed camera from the Rangers we left.

Once it had dried up I went back to try and get some more respectable photos as the first batch were a pile of excrement (again Colin).

Late afternoon I paid another visit to Pit-house West. The amount of rain that had fallen in such a short time was incredible and the levels on the Bittern Pool were around a couple of feet higher than normal. It was clear that the Bittern wouldn't be on the lower pools as they had turned into a temporary river. After wading across the slipway I picked up the Bittern sat in the open on the remaining bit of suitable feeding habitat. Despite it moving back in to the reeds it remained on view for about an hour. At one point it moved off to the right only to reappear from the left - two birds? The two bird theory was strengthened more when at dusk one bird ran strongly into the reeds only for a second (?) to fly up a few metres to the left and drop into roost.

28th November. Submarine Search

Spent the morning doing work stuff but even a blind man walking backwards couldn't fail to notice that a movement of Great Northern Divers was taking place with an impressive five birds at Grafham Water. By midday the overtime was put on hold and I was off out to search the local water bodies. Being able to view Orgreave and Treeton Dyke from the same spot (a recent discovery) It didn't take long to realise that there were no Divers to be had here. RVCP was the next spot and likewise also diverless. With this we decided on checking Pit-house West to see if any Bitterns were wintering. This time we were in luck as one bird showed briefly at dropping into roost at 4pm. Wandering back through the lower reed beds we hoped that we might get a snatch of Cetti's song but we didn't and therefore ended a reasonable afternoons birding and yet another dull blog post!

24th November. Pandora's Box

Hardcore stash!

I suddenly had the urge this afternoon to get the loft ladders out and have a good root around. Not to locate an old porno stash, as no doubt some of you are thinking, the Porn Fairy took those a long time ago. Butt to dig out my old collection of notebooks. Whilst reading some of them I realised that finding an old stash of GILF mags would have been less embarrassing! The first 'proper' notebook in there was dated from May 1985. This was the notebook that I entered for the YOC's Young Ornithologist of the year competition, which was won by my good friend Mr Fray - there's a photo somewhere in an old BB' of Mr R' sporting a very ordinary haircut and being leered over by a very suspicious looking Peter Holden.* Anyhow back to those notebooks. The contents are hilarious, though I'm not sure if I'm comfortable reproducing them on here but here goes...

There's a reason these were hidden in the loft, I just can't put my finger on it!! On the plus side how many 15 year old birders take notes these days? Come to think of it are there any 15 year old birders out there**

* By suspicious I wasn't implying anything illegal.
** I am just curious as to the future of birding

20th Nov. North Lincs

Taking advantage of all three of us being either off work or off school and taking a look at the weekends weather forecast we decided to bring our Seal trip a couple of days forward. Arriving at Donna Nook just after 10 it appeared that everyone else had done the same with the car park almost full. Of course seals are a little more predictable than birds and a couple of hundred plus young were spread out among the beach.

Now I know that I like to point the camera at almost anything that eats, shits and breaths but the amount of cameras at these wildlife spectacles is frankly getting out of hand. I'm not talking about hoards of little old ladies rattling off a couple of shots on the digital equivalent of a box brownie, I'm talking about 'wildlife enthusiasts' carrying serious amounts of quality gear. Don't get me wrong I am by no means jealous of their back breaking equipment, I'm more than happy with my 4 year old D50 and ancient sigma 50-500mm but one photographer was stood a couple of yards from a group of seals toting three Canon bodies each with a high spec Canon Lens i.e. 500mm, 300mm and a 100-400 zoom just in case. For Christ's sake why? They were 6 feet away. The point I was in the process of making is the fact that these lens carrying fiends were everywhere and up just about every orifice that the seals offered, to the point where they were hanging over the fence to get the money shot. This is the first time that I've seen such inappropriate behaviour here, usually the wardens would usually intervene perhaps today they were just looking the wrong way.

Further along the coast things weren't much better when a lone 'photographer' was watched kicking the Shorelarks at Theddlethorpe from pillar to post instead of settling down and letting them come to him. Even more amazing was his total lack of common sense. Whilst I was sat down photographing them he marched towards them flushed them then marched straight off to flush them again! I was going to post another blame and shame photo (as last November in Lincs) but I know who he is (it wasn't any of the well known Lincs birders/photographers though) and next time I might be quite so patient!

Following a fish and chip break in Mablethorpe (still as shit as it was in the old days when my gran used to take me) we headed to Barton for Far Ings. Eventually finding the right spot I was amazed to find the Red-necked Phalarope almost feeding at the feet of the already present birders. There was no danger of disturbing this bird but despite it being just a few feet away my photos were on the disappointing side in fact they were a right pile of wank!

We finished the day off at nearby Worlaby Carrs where at least 4 Barn Owls provided the entertainment until near dark.

7th November. More Cetti's

Continuing from yesterday we decided to walk the majority of the Rother Valley, that is from Whiston through to RVCP. It was in the back of my mind that there's quite a few likely Cetti's spots along the river and if the invasion was as anticipated then at least a couple of sites should come good. Whiston Meadows was not one of the likely sites but held a flock of 34 Wigeon and several Snipe. Bolehill Flash however was one of the likely sites having a good mix of phragmites, rush and damp willow. Sure enough just as we were about to leave a male Cetti's gave us a quick loud blast only a few feet away. Several more short burts of song and a few sharp calls I still hadn't seen it. A quick blast from the ipod did nothing to encourage it out but amazingly drew the attention of another male about 25 yards behind us, frustratingly neither bird showed so we headed off towards Catcliffe Flash via the Railway Pond. Unfortunately we didn't spend enough time here and by the time I got to Treeton Roy was ringing me to let me know he'd found one there! Further sites i.e. Treeton, Woodhouse Washlands and a brief look at Pit-house West failed to produce, but news of another male at Blackburn Meadows suggested that there's no doubt lots more to be found yet.

An evening visit to Pit-house West failed to produce any Cetti's and no Bitterns but at least three Water Rails.

6th November. Invasion of the Bush Wobbler

Having managed splendid views of Andy's Cettis's Warbler on Monday I decided on spending some time at Pit-house West as I suspected that there might be at least two birds involved. This was based upon the distance between Andy's original sighting and subsequent sightings and not on the spurious claim of two together yesterday - presumably they were nest building or feeding young or just very good friends. Arriving at just after 8:30 Andy and Pete were already on site having had the original Cetti's calling just before I arrived. I hung around for a short while then wandered off to check out an old Long-eared roost, which held no Owls in fact there were no birds of any form. A flock of around 60 Lesser Redpolls buzzed over, hopefully they will build up for the winter, but everywhere else was pretty dead. The stream that runs through Pit-house West is prime Cetti's habitat so it was not so surprising that I heard the familiar about a 1Km from where it had been seen an hour ago, a different bird? As I subsequently frustratingly failed to see or hear the earlier bird It's impossible to be sure, but the fact that it was so far away from the earlier sighting and that they appear to be turning up in every suitable bit of habitat it does seem pretty likely.
A woeful shot but as far as I'm aware the only photographed Cetti's in the
Sheffield area.

2nd November. Pointless Stats

For no reason whatsoever and at the risk of turning a little LGRE I decided at the beginning of October to keep a tally of the distribution of rares throughout the UK during October. There were one or two shocks at the bottom of the table with Yorkshire, the South West and Scilly/Cornwall equalling just four rarity species each. The Southeast came out as the top English area though curiously it is also the 'stringiest' district with Eleanora's of every description being claimed. Not surprisingly the Northern Isles came out on top, closely followed by Ireland (North and Eire) though Shetland on its own managed almost as many total individual rarities as the whole of England and Wales combined and twice as many as Ireland. The Midlands fared well beating many traditional autumn sites though like many English areas it's individual rares total was boosted somewhat by the Glossy Ibis influx.
So what does all this prove? Well if you were based on Shetland during the first two weeks of the month it was great, though there was distinct north south divide and Fair Isle was generally grim. Presumably birders in Norfolk were throwing themselves in to the sea by the time the Fieldfares started moving and at Spurn the Crown and Anchor's owners are Carribean bound following record takings this autumn.*
The Scillies are now clearly the place for birders to get away from it all, get ripped off, get a nice suntan and to listen to tall stories of how good things used to be. Scilly fans shouldn't take much from any of this, at the end of the day it's about how much you enjoyed yourself. The fact that you spent a months salary on flights, accommodation, beer, boat trips to see whales and had to do a 250 mile detour to Surrey on the way home just to salvage something from the autumn was all part of the fun, I think.

Whilst Ireland came second it was pointed out to me by one Irish Birder that things were pretty bad most of the time and that seeing as much as a Blackcap on some days was good!

Will next autumn tell a similar story, probably not. But I for one will be back up north regardless, I just hope the crowds don't follow suit!

EDIT. Wales added and totals for Nortwest amended

1st November. Who ate all the Pies?

Due to some weather I was unable to get out birding today, in fact I've been unable to do any for the last week or so due to one thing or another - mainly apathy! A few visits to Orgreave have produced nothing and I really mean nothing the fact that the footpath is now open probably doesn't help at all.

The biggest event of the week was me hitting 40! Whilst I am by no means on the verge of a mid-life crisis I couldn't help but step on the scales and check my weight and at 13+ stone I was bloody shocked - no more pies from the foreseeable future. This was not helped when earlier this afternoon, whilst discussing the whereabouts of a local Cetti's Warbler with Pete, a voice in the background was heard to shout "he (meaning me) won't know he'll be in Morrison's eating pies!" Well that's it salads from now on - though I suspect that reviews on the quality of salad ingredients will not be as well appreciated as pies!

Back to that Cetti's. Andy D found a Cetti's Warbler yesterday in the exact spot at PHW that I have always fancied one. Presumably there will be some self found rules out there that let me count that one - despite not even seeing or hearing it!

What could prove to be my last pie a Steak and Ale triangular pie from Morrisons, fittingly a ten point pie.

23rd October. Eastern Gem

I hardly slept last night, stomach churning, panic and on top of this Beth's cough kept us all awake. Browsing the Internet at silly o clock did nothing for my insomnia and the photos of the Eastern Crowned served only as a laxative (I kid you not). By 4am I had hatched my plan. I would get up at 6am and wish Beth a happy birthday, give her the presents and leave around 7. This was met with some objections from Jo, but I assured her that I would return for 2pm to collect Beth from her lovely mother. Everything went to plan I even managed to throw myself around on the Wii Dance Mat for a couple of minutes, just to show willing. With this I was on my way north. An hour into my journey and with positive news of the warbler I pushed on and arrived at South Shields by 9:30. After around ten nervous minutes I picked it up and got excellent scope views of this subtle eastern gem, further excellent views and I was happy with my lot and left returning home at 1pm with no damage done.

Quite a modest crowd for a first for Britain

National Pie Day

Today is National Pie Day. With this in mind I called at Morrisons and bought a steak and ale pie, which I ate whilst having a walk round Orgreave. Rather unfittingly this was not a good pie, it was full of gristle and the mixture was far too sloppy causing it to fall apart. A rather disappointing pie scoring just 5 points, though this was the only blip of an otherwise perfect day.

22nd October. A Sign

Back to the usual rubbish after a few bird filled weeks. In what appeared to be something of an exchange of pie porn between myself and Rob I received a shot of this monster nestling in the chiller of the Toab shop. At £6.49 it had to be something special, though sadly Rob declined to purchase it. Given that we recently proved the link between rare pies and birds this specimen could mean only one thing - something monster rare was about to be found............

The rest of the day was rather uneventful that is until I went to bed! At around 10:45 I was woken by the mobile making all sorts of strange noises - it was my old twitching pal Roy who had kindly phoned to tell me the news of an Eastern Crowned Warbler at South Shields. I woke up suddenly, like you do when you receive disturbing news of that calibre and mustered the logistics. Work wasn't a problem I was already off, no the problem was it was Bethany's birthday the following day and there would be presents to give and fatherly duties to carry out. Rob always used to joke that having a child in October was a bad move and that one day it would come back to bite me and that day was now here................

18th October.Spurnuda Triangle

Whilst still having that bird finding bug in me I decided yesterday that a trip to the east coast was in order, but where? With a Radde's and a Blue-tail at Spurn it was a bit of a no brainer. We arrived at Sammy's Point just after 8:30 and worked the horse fields for an hour or so. Plenty of thrushes and four Bramblings over were all it had to offer. With the Blue-tail being reported at the point e decided to get it over with. Arriving at the point I noticed a crowd of birders and immediately filled with a sense of dread. Fortunately the Blue-tail stupidly got itself stuck in the Heligoland Trap for all to see albeit impersonating a caged behind the wire mesh. Having seen it well enough we left for the less populated parts of the peninsular. At Beacon Pools I picked up four Bearded Tits as they dropped into the reeds buy saw little else throughout the day. Despite the crowds it was an enjoyable day.

On the way home I sneaked back onto my old patch, RVCP and picked up the Slavonian Grebe among the Coots on the Main Lake.

Rarity Stats

During a period of boredom I began to think what the distribution of 'rare' might look like this month. This was inspired by the lack of BB rarities on Scilly, which is apparently nothing to do with the lack of birds but more to do with the place being over run by pensioners new to birding and loved up middle aged couples. Trawling through RBA's superb website I managed to come up with the following graph though a pie chart would have been more appropriate. This shows new rares during the first 16 days of October and no hangers on from September. It's fairly straightforward, indeed it was created by a ten year old and failure to understand has nothing to do with me it's just that you're probably thick. I might update it at the end of the month, I might not!

Click on it if you're blind

17th October. Back to the patch

Rob was right in predicting that within a week or so I would be back writing about birding on slag heaps and eating supermarket pies. The latter came sooner than I had expected when Jo presented me with a Morrisons pie as she collected Andy and I from the airport. Amazingly I declined it!

It was however back to the slag heaps this morning with my first visit to Orgreave. The footpath at this site is now open and will no doubt encourage bastard dog walkers to get their stinking beasts as close to the water as possible. Despite this there were birds on - gulls, cormorants, Great Crested Grebe and two Goldeneye and that was just about it. Fortunately I had been watching Autumnwatch last night and was tipped off by the astute Chris Packham that there would be Redwings moving and amazingly there they were. Personally I can't wait until Springwatch when Chris will be tipping us off about Swifts coming through. Speaking of Autumnwatch I have often wondered why it is on so late, though having now watched it the answer is clear. This program is slowly degenerating into some kind of live sex show - personally I can't wait until week eight when Chris finally gets to rummage around Kate's bush whilst spying a pair of Great Tits on his fat balls.

Shetland 2009

So that's it another Shetland trip over. Before I set off I was not surprisingly pessimistic, after all Rob really had seen very few migrants let alone 'rare' so far this autumn. The weather prior and indeed during never looked promising from any direction but at least it was changeable. Eastern 'rares' did turn up even in the most unlikely winds, infact during a period of exciting looking south easterlies very little was found. surely this year will prove to be the best for species such as Pechora Pipit. There was a clear north south divide with the south suffering something of a migrant drought, despite how good pager news appeared to be it was bloody hard work with many no bird miles covered on foot. Fortunately we did find one or two birds personally I found Little Bunting, 2 Bluethroats, Rosefinch and several Yellow-broweds, though the real highlight was getting the I.D clinching shots of the Lancy.

On the whole we managed to resist the temptation to 'twitch' anyone else's birds, which with the quality on offer was difficult. Twitching on Shetland however is not the stressful affair that occurs on the UK mainland. Where else could three of you and a dog twitch a third for Britain and be the only ones there, infact the largest crowd was for the Lancy with a massive ten present!

With dates for next year provisionally booked I'm already counting down the days.

The worse pie - I daren't eat this one cold

The Yell Ferry

Team Sunnydell.

The Llama

The Bell


Twat in a hat

Fitful Head

From Sumburgh Head looking towards Scatness

14th October. Irritating Thrush

Today's forecast was for yet more wind and rain, however we awoke to very light wind and clag. Keen to get out for the final push I headed the crop field behind Sunnydell. It was obvious that an arrival of thrushes had occurred with at least sixty Redwings poking their heads through the turnips. A couple of Chiffchaffs flycatched and a couple of buntings alighted on some dead doc, one of which was a Little Bunting - surely the same bird that I thrown away earlier in the week. It stayed on the doc for several minutes until flying off over Sunnydell. Several further laps of the field proved worthwhile with Redstart, Yellow-browed and Jack Snipe.

With a six hour power cut, retreating to Sunnydell seamed futile so we decided on a final thrash around Sumburgh. The crop held the usual Bluethroat but at the head newly arrived thrushes were abounding. Walking along the roses flushed a dozen or so Redwings but I noticed Rob peering into the dark depths of the roses. Still peering he announced that he was pretty certain that he had a Black-throated Thrush! After a few seconds of panic Andy and I got a glimpse of what certainly looked like a winter male Black- throat showing an obvious gorget of throat/upper breast streaks. Sadly this was all we did see of it as a thrush came out of the back of the roses and flew straight towards the fog horn. We assumed that this was our bird and dashed off up towards the fog horn. At this point the fog closed in and with failing visibility we had lost the bird. We spent a while looking for the bire but unfortunately had to leave as both Andy and I had a plane to catch. We really hadn't seen it very well and unless somebody else manages to relocate it we will never be able to complete a frank and honest description and will have to put it to the back of our minds forever.

13h October. The Last Post

Last full day today meant we were full of good intentions about getting out early and finding us a rare. Sadly the weather had other ideas. Strong south easterly wind and heavy rain greeted us. Never the less we soldiered on as best we could. Firstly checking the crop behind Rob's house and then giving the Sumburgh area a thorough going over. All this effort, in pissing down rain, gave us the sum total of nothing of interest. Depressed and wet we returned to Sunnydell to get dry and refuel.

We decided that the only way to rescue the day was to try and clear up on the remaining south Mainland 'rares' namely Western Bonelli's and the Spotted Sandpiper at Quendale. Fortunately the former showed immediately saving us from a soaking, however the latter required the use of legs so it was inevitable we were going to get soaked again. The Spotted Sand' had returned to it's favourite spot after, apparently being flushed several times yesterday and at first seemed to be particularly wary though it eventually settled down in front of us. The following 'image' was taken with my 'prosumer' SLR hand held at 1600 ISO which is why it is shit!

12th October. The Holy Grail

It has become somewhat of a tradition (well for the last two years) that we venture further north in the hope of something different. This was actually a thinly veiled disguise to do a spot of filthy twitching. Having resisted the urge to go for the Taiga Fly' when it was on Fetlar the chance to see it nearer on Yell couldn't be ignored. Things went to plan i.e. Andy managed to get us all up at 07:30 in time for us to get breakfast and make the 09:40 ferry. More importantly hot pies were available at Mainlands (a good omen). Arriving at Gloup around 10:30 we immediately located the bird around the farm where it performed very well.

Having 'murdered' the flycatcher we then tried some of the suitable looking gardens on Yell. Unfortunately there had been something of a clear out and even finding a Goldcrest in them proved difficult. A Sheep at Cullivoe needed our assistance as it had got it's head stuck in the wire - lucky for the sheep that we came along and that no Welsh birders were in the vicinity There had been an Arctic Redpoll at Yell Leisure Centre so with the absence of anything else we went there. A walk around the small planted area revealed just a few Bramblings but whilst we were sat in the car waiting for Rob to finish off yet another phone call he banged on the window pointing out the Redpoll just a few metres away. We duly 'slaughtered' it and it's little cousin the accompanying Mealy Redpoll.

After getting the 2pm ferry we decided on checking a few plantations on our way south. First stop was a new to me site at Graven with a small attractive looking graveyard. The field at the end of the graveyard held a good flock of Redwings, single Pied Fly' and a Bluethroat which unlike the previous two showed very well. Whilst I'massacred' it news of a Blue-tail at Sandgarth came through. Not wanting to be rude we thought it only polite to pay it a visit.

Sandgarth s an excellent spot and has turned up some top draw rarities in the past including on this day in 2003 the second Taiga Flycatcher (pointless fact lifted from RBA). Mark Chapman (not the one that killed that Beatle) was watching the Blue-tail as we arrived, but it was a further twenty minutes before we caught a brief glimpse followed by several more brief views. With the light dimming we tried to salvage something for the found list at Catfirth. Again another empty plantation so we headed to the shop where.................

We found these........

Following Rob's review of the Macaroni Pie a couple of years ago I made it my quest to sample this holiest of pies. Sadly last year none were located. However today was the day and I reached into the fridge at Catfirth stores and pulled out what can only be described as the premier of all pies. It's not much to look at, just macaroni topped with cheese, but hidden inside are beans, not magic beans or jumping beans but baked beans. Cheese, Macaroni, Baked Beans all enclosed in a pie - genius. But how would it hold up cold. Bloody marvellous that's how. The combination of working class ingredients pulled together to make this one truly upper class pie and a ten point rating would do it no justice. My quest is over, never will I eat a superior pie. Amen.

We called in at Tingwall on the way home and picked up the Ring-necked Duck, it wasn't very happy at being picked up so we put it back down and left.