27th February. Three Dull Days

A weekend of typical March like weather, that is mild and dry one minute wet and cold the next. The type of weather where you ought to sneak an early migrant, but invariably don't because at the end of the day it's still February, it's just Mother Nature screwing with your mind!

Friday. A couple of patch year ticks this morning, namely Curlew and a pair of Peregrines terrorising everything - but I wasn't complaining.

I think even I might shit my pants if I saw this coming straight at me!

November's Red-crested Pochard returned last weekend - presumably the bread, it had been enjoying elsewhere, had now dried up.


An Oystercatcher, on the smallest lake, was self-found patch year tick number 83 and the highlight of an otherwise dull couple of hours.


More birders than birds this morning with at least three on site at 07:50 and before me. With this in mind I walked the grassland to the north of the site, enjoying the cacophony of Sky Larks but apart from a couple of 'boxing' Hares and a dead 1st winter GBB Gull (one for your collection Martin) not a lot else!

17th February. Two Tick Day

There I was, Wednesday night, settled in front of Hollyoaks whilst simultaneously surfing the world wide web, when a horrible feeling came over me , not the sight of Myra McQueen bending over the sofa (non Hollyoaks fans won't have a clue what the Hell I'm talking about) but the overpowering urge to twitch. Not just one lifer but possibly two - Oriental Turtle Dove and Slaty-backed Gull, or as my mate Andy subtly put it an escape and a hybrid!

The chance of a lift, with a couple of Leicester birders (Dave and Neil), was too good a chance to turn down, so I took it.
I didn't rate our chances highly. There was no access to the favoured garden of the dove and the gull was touring the tips like an Essex Pikey. Arriving mid-morning at the dove, to just a handful of observers, we were delighted when immediately a group of birds flushed in to a large ash with Neil picking the OTD up straight away. Jammy buggers!! We watched the dove for a good ten minutes occasionally through borrowed scopes (thanks Colin aka Beast) before retreating to the car for our own scopes. Typically once armed with our own equipment the bird failed to show! Positive news from Essex had us heading east.

Exactly a month back I was moaning about the fact that I had no urge to see this gull - so what had changed my opinion? I was actually inspired by Andy Lawson's shots of the bird. Whilst not the best, actually gave you a decent comparison against the other LWHG'. What an impressive looking brute of a bird.

Unfortunately it had left the marsh and headed back towards the tip when we arrived. However in keeping with or run of luck it was back on the marsh within a few minutes of us arriving. Despite being relatively distant views at 60x were excellent.

This was the view at 500mm.

Note the bubblegum pink legs and comparative massiveness almost the size of the accompanying heron!

So that was it, a filthy days twitching where I scored two lifers in the same day. Incidentally the last time I had two lifers in the same day was way back in 1996 Northern Waterthrush and the Great Dot.

11th February. Imagine If

The Catholics coming kicking and screaming in to the 21st century gave me an idea for a new iPhone based birding app...

Open the app and you'll be greeted with the confession page:

Just tick your crime and click 'Tell Lee'. Instantly all you're embarrasing birding moments will be given absolution and you'll be free to go back to your old ways.

Just an idea, don't expect it on iTunes any time soon.

11th February. A Tantalising Glimpse

I had a couple of options available today. Being my fortnightly flexi day, I had the choice of spending it birding or doing a bit of birding and showing my face in the office for a few hours, leave mid-afternoon, do the school run and then an hour or so birding.
The weather didn't look too promising with light drizzle and awful light so I left the camera at home.

Arriving at Orgeave a quick scan showed very little on the water, so this looked like it would be a short visit then four or five hoursin work. However a Shelduck on the shore raised moral, being a year tick. The Skylarks were well and truly back on site with several birds singing their hearts out and it was starting to feel like one of those days when you get a frustrating tantalising glimpse of spring. A Kingfisher on the Rother was my first of the year - they seemed to clear off during the freezing spell and a Dunlin heading south give further evidence of movement. Scanning through the gulls I picked up the 'dipped in ink' wingtips of an adult Kittiwake, which circled a couple of times before going south. This was becoming a good day. With movement evident I headed for 'the post' in order to scan the area. This turned out to be a good idea as I soon picked up the sites first Ringed Plovers of the year. The black-heads suddenly lifting up off the shore in panic revealed bird of the day - a female Merlin - which sped north with a couple of black-heads escorting it off the premises, a patch tick. Two further Dunlin went north and a cracking drake Pintail accompanied by a drab (but equally welcome) female circled, then also flew north another welcome patch tick.

Can't honestly remember a February day (well 2.5 hours) when there's been so much movement at least this far inland anyway. Oh and I never actually made it to work!

5th February. England's Shame

It's all too easy these days to sit back and point the finger at other countries, whose crimes against wildlife are constantly within the pages of the myriad of bird/nature magazines currently available. But when you read this article you, like me, might be forgiven for thinking that certain factions in this green and pleasant land are no better than those in Malta or Cyprus.

The work of the South Peak Raptor Group should be applauded. The fact that were it not for their selfless dogged determination not one single Goshawk would have fledged. Despite that since their formation there has been no let up in the persecution of these magnificent birds, this band of 'not so merry' men continue this thankless task of surveying and protecting our most threatened of birds. Next time you're stood at Windy Corner, in the Upper Derwent, and glimpse this most spectacular accipiter give thanks to the unsung heroes of the South Peak Raptor Group.