Three records of Black-necked Grebe this year - all in cracking summer plumage. This bird was found on my first bus visit after ditching the car.
Even the detritus strewn River Rother produced some good birds.
Some new additions to the site list were a little underwhelming.
Despite the at times constant disturbance breeding birds did remarkably well, with success from Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, L R Plover, Tufted Duck (4 broods) and Common Tern - the latter species' presence and persistent patrolling against predators no doubt helped the other breeding birds.
A total of 24 species of wader were recorded throughout the year.
One of my personal favourites this year was this totally unexpected Arctic Tern flock on the 29th July.
A good year for Wheatears with 'flocks' in double figures and an unprecedented number of Greenland birds.
So it all starts again on Sunday - or in my case Monday. I'm feeling a little negative at the moment, I always do at this time of year, but the excitement of a new challenge is already starting to fuel my enthusiasm - maybe this year I'll find I'll get my first BB rarity on the patch.
Meanwhile I spent a good chunk of the weekend tracking down the Redpoll flock and with a little help from Jean C Roche and the magic of MP3 I managed to keep them in one spot long enough to find at least one Mealy among them, though there were probably at least two others. Something to keep me busy in the coming weeks.
The gull roost is still coming up with the goods with Martin scoring a putative 1st year Caspian or hybrid (see his blog for details) and at least two Yellow-legged Gulls and the green-ringed Med' Gull still roosting most evenings.
It seems a long time since some quality pies featured on the pages of this blog, so here in all it's naked pie porn glory is a quality Huntsman Pie purchased, from Cannon Hall Farm Shop in Barnsley, by a very kind colleague who understands my need for savoury pastry products.
There's also been an appalling lack of scandal of late, though having recently thrown myself off Facebook my source for gutter birding news has all but dried up. I did attend an interesting bird group meeting recently where the speaker was like a cross between Eric Hoskings and Bernard Manning - and that's where we'll leave it....
Turns out LiaRGE had shut himself away in the cupboard under the stairs of his Little Chalfont home, with his Fisher Price tape recorder and a months supply of chicken cup o soup, to bring you his latest musical offering 'Praise Me'. Remember this is not available in the shops and stock is shifting quick (ten copies were dispatched to an address in Crawley this lunchtime) Order now in time for Christmas....
The seal colony at Donna Nook has long been a favourite late autumn day out so having promised Beth and her friend that we'd go we went. It's always been popular but thanks to that twat Packham and his hit man and her sidekick it's gone nuclear! The overflow car park was overflowing and the constant train of people trudging over the dunes was like a scene from dawn of the dead - but with white tracksuits and baseball caps! The seals performed but the whole thing was about as enjoyable as being dragged around Meadowhall by my testicles - still the girls seemed to enjoy it.
However my extended weekend got off to a cracking start on Friday when I found a red-head Smew on the patch. Self-found patch year bird number 130 and a new bird for the rapidly expanding Orgreave list.
Andy Deighton managed, as is becoming the norm, far better shots than me.
British Specimen 2. And it'll take a bit more than a big list to lure her back!!
French Specimen 3. The bloke in the hat is clearly an English birder.
British Specimen 3. Dumb, Dumb and Dumber
French Specimen 4. "Bonjour Carmel"
British Specimen 4. Another Brit birder clearly too embarrassed to show his grotesque features, or is he merely secreting a pie!
So there we have it British birders are ugly. Our near European neighbours, whilst lacking in the number of rare, are clearly a bunch of handsome gits that must spend the best part of their time literally beating the birds off with a shitty stick.
I must point out that I was assisted with my research by my ever loving wife Jo and I am most definitely not on the turn, that said, specimen 2 is a bit of a looker.... Oh eck!!!
The problem with being a working birder is that sooner or later retired/non working birders are eventually going to grip you off. Today proved to be one of these days, when I got a call saying Ray Platts had found a Grey Phalarope below the earth mound.
edit: It seems that Ray wasn't the original finder see comments below.
Fortunately I did manage to get down to Orgreave in my lunch. But the gripping (at least on a not finding things myself basis) continued when Andy found two Twite feeding exactly where I found last years Snow Buntings. Fortunately these also hung around long enough. Two species that would have fitted nicely on the SF Patch List - bugger!
Continuing the theme of me not only being unable to find anything (apart from stringy laridae) but also losing the ability to take decent photos (or any for that matter) here are a few crackers from Andy.
So sorry if you left it until today and dipped but I for one am pleased that I can get on with my bloody life now.
Rather pleased that the patch appears to be gathering a decent gull roost over the last couple of weeks. Saturday night produced a nice Caspian Gull - though given the high rejection rate (in Yorkshire) getting it past a committee will be a bigger challenge than the ID. Fortunately it put in an appearance at Redmires this morning (picture below at Redmires by Richard Hill).
Sunday night was more predictable with less large gulls though a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, found by Andy, was nice and I managed to pick a 2nd winter Med' Gull out of the black-heads. Photos below by Andy Deighton.
I've a sneaky feeling that this autumn might have one more major surprise up it's sleeve, fingers crossed
So again it was left to the patch to take my mind off everything else. First visit produced very little though 67 Pochard were notable. The afternoon visit was slightly better with a single Wheatear (my latest local bird ever) and that gull again! It still looks good for 4th winter Caspian Gull but I'm just waiting on a second opinion!
Pit-house West came up trumps in the evening with a male Stonechat and the Bittern heading to roost at dusk, the ninth successive winter for Bitterns at this site.
Orgreave was alive with birds - though mainly ducks and gulls so I set about scanning through the increasing flock of gulls. A nice adult Yellow-legged Gull appeared briefly and then shortly after I picked up a near adult Caspian Gull - it wasn't as straightforward as that though. I had left the camera in the house, the battery on my mobile was dead and worse still I literally had no lead (or at least very little) lead in my pencil! It ticked all the boxes i.e head shape, bill shape, primary pattern, wing length, eye colour (dark at a distance). I did manage to make some notes and hopefully should be able to put a decent description together for the YNU.
Despite the frustration it was good to get back on the patch.
A full investigation by the IQ 40 is currently being carried out into the alledged activities of cult leader Christ Stanley.
We covered lots of ground on Unst some real cracking habitat with form. It wasn't the lack of rare it was the seemingly complete lack of everything. The truer picture is that apart for the aforementioned rares and to the best of my now hazy memory we saw just the following (migrants) throughout the entire trip; 7 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, singles of Whinchat, Redstart, Pied Fly, Spot Fly, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Garden Warblers, 6 Willow Warblers (a marked increase) and significantly less Blackcaps. Thoroughly working plantations or gardens when there's is no sign of life is just so bloody sole destroying.
Things got worse when we headed south, when not only was there a lack of migrants there was a massive increase in the number of 'twitching' birders. Never in my seven autumn visits have I seen so many visiting birders, to quote Andy it was like Scilly with cars. This brought our moral down even more but the dream team of Harvey, Riddington, Small and Garner finding a nearby Buff-bellied Pipit both raised our expectations and helped concentrate the rampant tickers in one place. We headed in the opposite direction!!
The following morning after listening to constant lashing wind and rain we eventually ventured out after a rousing call to arms from Martin who informed us of masses of thrushes arriving. Not quite the 'thousands' that we had expected but certainly an arrival. We spent the next few hours getting a proper battering around the familiar territory of Sumburgh Head and Farm for scant reward - in fact no reward.
The rest of our stay was pretty much the same i.e. no migrants and no new rares after HRSG's pipit and I can honestly say that by Wednesday morning I was glad to get on that plane (eventually) to Glasgow. However on reflection that's just the magic of Shetland you never know what your going to get and to be fair I've had much worse years. Perhaps It would be a little hasty for me to say that I won't be back next year?
Currently wandering around Warham with a miriad of expectant birders; though sadly most have already given up and others are wasting time blogging about it. The Rufous-tailed Robin& has probably either done one or - following a frost- is laying on it's back with it's feet in the air.
The rumour mill is already running with a story of how it was kept quiet and how more birders could have connected with it. Blah blah blah more shit for the forums.
In my experience the finder is a top bloke - the nicest of the Punkbirders - and deserves nothing but high praise for getting the news out. Had it been me it would have A taken me several hours to come to my senses and B significantly longer to scrape the shit from my underpants.
Birders! Some of you are just vile spiteful bastards!!
I'm off to walk to Wells for a nice cuppa and a spot of breakfast.
So how was Unstd? In one word - windy. Never have I experienced such prolonged westerly winds whilst staying on Shetland. Consequently birds were few and far between and any hope of a Yank (sorry) was shattered by the amazing statistics quoted by my friend the Llama, who informed me that only three American land birds have ever been recorded on Unst.