26th December. Boxing Day Hunt...

Boxing day is traditionally the day of the year when everyone and their granny go out into the countryside for a walk, trying to kid themselves that by doing that they can wholly justify the previous days calorie overload. Obviously Orgreave was over run when we arrived mid-morning, mostly with dog walkers going abut their own business. However, at the edge of the 'plains' I noticed a couple with an inordinate amount of dogs and moving in an all too familiar way. Clearly their business was hunting Hares! As they moved around the edges of the young plantations at least three Hares sprang free immediately pursued by two Lurchers whilst another two strained on the leash while their master broke into a trot.  Too distant to photograph we moved to a position where I could get closer - the hunt was on.  After scrambling to the top of the hill I came upon them less than a 100 yards away, sat the camera on the tripod and pointed it at them! Instantly they knew I was onto them as they gave me a friendly two-fingered wave.

Unperturbed we carried on pursuing them, keeping a good distance between us as they moved away their faces away turned from the camera.

Based on the fact that I had never seen them here before I guessed that they had probably come by car. We watched which direction they headed - they had now restrained the dogs and were just 'walking' them - and left for our car to get to where I suspected they had parked. When you've observed scum like this regularly you get a feel for how they behave and what kind of vehicles they use - always wrecks! Quickly taking the registrations of the likely vehicles just in time before they appeared at the exit. No surprises what vehicles they got into, as we drove innocently past them - RESULT.  All details and photos have now been passed to  the Police, I doubt there's enough evidence for a prosecution, but enough for a knock on the door from plod! A very exhilarating Boxing Day hunt, we also managed a Short-eared Owl, two Waxwings and an impressive 44 Whooper Swans heading low south east.

Rather worryingly if the law preventing hunting with dogs is repealed by the current Government this behaviour will become legally 'acceptable' though objectionable to the majority.

I took this photo back in November of a Hare that had clearly not been quick enough......

25th December. All I Want For Christmas is Whoo...

For most birders December can be among the most grim of months and this one has been no exception. Yesterday, after yet another rain soaked visit I was pondering my final blog of the year, but I didn't get around to it..

Unprecedentedly I was allowed to go out birding on Christmas Day. I don't do religion and I'm just too old to believe in Santa Claus but someone somewhere was smiling down on me this morning when I was given the gift of an adult Whooper Swan. Probably the last patch year tick this year..

Truly an Angel from the North.

Merry Christmas One and All

8th December. Yuck Fou

Having heard nothing true or otherwise about the ridiculous 'Chinese Theme Park' for almost a year I was about to remove the 'save Pit-house West' page link above, when a story appeared on the Roth Biz website.

As you will see the post has now been removed, no idea why, except that it didn't make good reading if you were a Rotherham Councillor or the Chief Exec' of RMBC. Fortunately I read it before it was removed
 (I really wish I'd copied and pasted it now) and the general gist of it was that the Chief Exec' used his delegated powers (rather than through a more democratic process) to rubber stamp a lease agreement to ensure that the main financiers of the scheme didn't take their money elsewhere.

In my experience delegated powers are not used when the subject is contentious and the fact that this scheme has received letters of objection and a 200 signature petition surely makes it contentious? 

Reading between the lines of the Roth Biz article you could almost smell the shady backroom dealings. The excuse that the backer would withdraw their money if they had to wait any longer, as they would if they'd been made to wait until the next monthly cabinet meeting, stinks of lies and corruption. Surely if the backer is that serious they could have waited another month?

I'll make a prediction now. The Chinese Theme Park won't happen (it's an awful, fanciful, white elephant of an idea and everyone knows it), but now the developer has his hands on the land what will stop him using the site for housing, warehousing etc? Particularly with the new relaxed planning laws and RMBC' determined to wash their dirty hands of Pit-house West.

Foot It update

I've lost count of the number of birders wanting to take up the challenge of the January on foot year list, but there seems rather a few. In the next day or so I'll create a new blog specifically for the challenge. If entrants drop me an email I will add them to the blog where hopefully they can add their own targets and areas.

The full and final rules will appear on the new blog, once I have agreed them with Tom and Martin, which seems only fair as they were involved in the original throwing down of the gauntlet. One rule at this stage is that it is ON FOOT only i.e no driving to locations and doing a route around (the point is to see how many species you can record near your own home) and no walking to and jumping on a bus back.

This is the area that I intend to do, a 3.5 mile radius (though likely I will only be doing the blue-shaded area) from my house.

27th November. FOOT IT

One of the great things about Twitter as a birding source, is not only do you often find out about 'rare' before the major news outlets, you also get to keep in touch with birders worldwide.  Hearing about another birders success in the field can often spur you on to try just that little bit more, occasionally proving worthwhile.  I regularly keep in touch with Pugneys stalwart Jonathan Holliday @jonnybirder who's patch updates have regularly inspired me to keep on trying and hopefully on the few good days that I've had he's felt equally enthused.

During one such Twitter conversation with Martin @birdingfrontier I appear to have foolishly offered to challenge him to a January bird race, a bird race with a twist. The challenge was quickly taken up by several other Tweeters (hate that word) including Tom McKinney @tom_mckinney.  The challenge is to see as many species as possible in the month of January. Fairly straightforward except there is a twist. They have to be within walking distance of your house.

Now I am fairly lucky in that I live in a fairly bird rich area and could realistically bag about 80 species on foot in one month. However some unfortunate souls (like Tom and Martin) live in areas where the diversity is on the low side and the chances of them seeing such high numbers in a year, let-alone a month, is problematic to say the least.  So with that in mind it seems only fair to bring in a handicap system, though this relies on the individuals integrity (I'm sure some birders must have some).

Every birder has an idea of what species they are likely to see on any birding trip and none more so than a trip to their local area.

The handicap system will work like so; You calculate (as honestly as possible) a list of birds that you could realistically see in one month in a reasonable walking distance from your house.  In my case this is 80 species.  At the end of the month you take your final tally and compare it with your predicted list.  Working out the percentage of species you actually saw will give you your score e.g my predicted total was 80 my actual score is 78 therefore I scored 97.5%. Tom on the other hand predicts say 40 species (it really is crap around Glossop) and sees a total of 39 giving him an equal place of 97.5% . Martin on the other hand predicts 60 species (not including races, hybrids, or regional variations) and scores a wapping 63 -BOOM- giving him a winning score of - long pause whilst I get the calculator out.......105%.

There will of course be some kudos for the birder scoring the highest total, though implausible totals from the Little Chalfont area will be confined to the bin...

So I propose that the rest of the rules are:

1. Total number of species recorded on a journey on foot from home.

2. No plastic species i.e. dodgy ducks, parrots etc etc.

3. The extents of your area must be stated prior to starting your challenge.

4. Species seen from the house can be included.

5. There are no limits on how far you can walk, providing that you have allowed for the varying diversity in your target score.

6. All lists must be posted on BUBO under the subtitle 'JANUARY FOOT LIST CHALLENGE'

Why do it?

1. Don't know really, it seemed a good idea at the time!

2. If nothing else it will open your eyes to the wealth (or in Tom's case dearth) of bird life in your immediate  area.

3. Prizes Galore

4. Number 3 is a complete lie, there aren't any! Unless of course Martin wants to have a word with his friends at British Birds for perhaps a free subscription to the winner or one of those nice new Swarovski Scopes -mines getting a bit worn out now :-).

5. It gives us something to do in what is generally considered a crap month!

And remember this was found by a birder walking to post a letter in January 1989.......

14th November. Mad as a Hatter

I should have known better than to follow the antics of Lee Evans (not to be mistaken for the comedian Lee Evans, this one's far funnier) on Twitter, but I knew that sooner or later Lee would provide me with yet more blogging gold.
Aside from his comments, regarding the latest pop music scene (I shit you not), his regular birding updates often bring a chuckle. However last nights was a pure gem and the true work of a madman. For someone whose livelihood depends on birders, or arseholes as he states, that's one mighty big bite out of the hand that feeds!

2nd November. Love On The Rocks

With the apparent end of autumn and travelling to and from work in the dark, with absolutely no chance of any mid-week birding I'm suffering a bit with can't be arsed syndrome - certainly as far as blogging goes.  Lots of posts in my head, just too knackered to write them up in the evenings.  

In general it's been pretty quiet on the patch, though a few highlights have brightened things up.

The gull roost produced 3 Caspian Gulls last Saturday(27th) with a cracking 2nd winter bird quite possibly one of the nicest looking gulls I've seen - and I genuinely mean that...

Best viewed at 720p (HD)

The previous weekends gull roost produced a side show 3 Short-eared Owls hunting the southern plains, the first to stick around since the site officially opened.  Unfortunately UK Coal are currently cutting all the grass, though having spoken with them about the owls I'm hopeful that they'll leave a decent sized patch uncut.

A calling flyover Snow Bunting on the 28th was frustrating and came during a good movement of thrushes, pipits, skylarks and an obvious influx of Reed Buntings.  

A full six hours trudging around this morning produced nothing of note, apart from 2 SEO's flushed by the grass cutter.  On my way back for the bus I took a diversion past the boulder pile. A dog walker was coming away from the rocks so I wasn't hopeful of seeing anything in there, a chat flicked up and perched on the outermost rocks - and instantly made my six hours of nothingness vanish - it was only a bloody Black Redstart, not only that it was perched on the rocks that I anticipate seeing a Black Redstart on every time I walk past them. It instantly flew off and I spent the next hour trying to re-find it. Typically as I was again heading for the next bus I found it on another rock pile where it vanished again, quite possibly the most elusive Black Red' that I've ever seen. It reappeared on the original rocks but never gave itself for the camera. Yet another patch tick for me (one previous record from 2009) taking the self-found year list to 137  , with still a few 'easy' species to get140 or higher is certainly looking plausible.

As good as it got!!

16th October. Oh Flower of Scotland.....

So Dave the Tory Twat and Alec Salmond Rushdie have agreed to a referendum for the Scottish people  to decide on the future of their country i.e. either break political ties or stay with the status quo - come to think of it one of the conditions for breaking away should be that they must take Status Quo! I'm not going to go into a political rant, it's a democratic system and the people will decide.

So the country that brought us all things battered and a gazillion barrels of oil may sooner or later break away from Britain. This leaves birders in a bit of a dilemma. If Scotland was no longer a part of Britain would you still count the birds you've seen there on your British list? If I were to take the hard line view that my list is purely British (which for now it is) then I would lose twenty species.  Mouth watering blockers such as Pine Grosbeak, Grey-tailed Tattler and Snowy Egret would all go, those long journeys north seemingly futile. The sedentary birds, Capercaille, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill (though that'll probably go anyway) and Ptarmigan all impossible to get south of the border.  Independence or not this simply won't happen. For twenty five years I've chased 'rare' from Lands End to John O'Groats and occasionally further, a political decision won't change this and nor should it!

Ironically on the day that Cameron (isn't that a Scottish surname?) and Salmond make their announcement an Englishman makes history by finding Scotland's first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker .. Personally I found that story far more interesting.

6th October. We've Come a Long Long Way Together

Whilst out looking for Bitterns (without any success) this evening, I commented to Jo that I was sure that some of my Shetland trips had started as late as this weekend. A quick look back through previous posts proved that not only was I right but in fact that it was on this day in 2007 that this blog was born. Born during a depressive alcohol fuelled state brought on by my impending divorce.  Hard to believe that it's been five years and hard to believe just how much better life these days is. Happily married, birding more than ever and still putting the pies away (even managing recently to lose 1.5 stmne in the process) life is a world away from those dark bitter, drunken days.
Back then a day in the field meant just that!
This blog began life as an outlet for my frustration and anger, it's served its purpose well so is it time to put it to bed?  No chance, it now serves as journal of my birding life where I can look back and reminisce and sometimes cringe at some of the things I've written. So it's here to stay for a while yet - sorry.

My latest pie tick. A filling packed steak pie from Lileys Bakery, Hillsborough


3rd October. The Firsby Harrier Saga

I got a call from Andy D over the weekend, asking if I'd looked at the photos he'd emailed me of a Ring-tailed Harrier at Firsby on the Rotherham/Doncaster border?  Unfortunately he'd sent it to one of my many defunct email accounts so I asked him to send it again.  Initially reported earlier in September as a Hen Harrier and seen several times subsequently.  Andy, having received photos of the bird became suspicious when the appeared to show a four 'fingered' wing tip and was concerned that perhaps it could be something far rarer and asked a few of us what we thought - without mentioning his suspicions?  Now I'm no raptor expert - or any kind of expert come to that - but when I looked at the original pics I was concerned. Concerned that not only was it not a Hen but that it might infact  not even be a Monty's but a Pallid. My response to Andy suggested that it had a very obvious collar (ruling out Monty's) four 'fingers' with no evidence of any primary re-growth (ruling out Hen) the wings didn't look narrow and long like Monty's being broad and more Hen like but those 4 'fingers'?

Fortunately it was still present on Monday and Andy managed some
further photos, that I'm sure he won't mind me reproducing one below.

Fortunately it was still present this morning and following a couple of emails from well respected birders the general consensus was that it was an adult female Pallid Harrier.

The site is particularly sensitive in that it is only accessed by a very narrow road with little parking. Taking these factors into account news was released on the proviso that visiting birders respect the residents.

Photo Andy Deighton

A small gathered crowd late afternoon enjoyed good views in decent light as it circled the field before dropping into roost at 18:10. 

I suspect that we haven't heard the last of this yet and may even be proven wrong, a small group of conferring 'experts' as I left were studying books and video footage, though were  not particularly vocal!
The best I could manage distantly and at 1600 ISO

Talking with Andy this evening, neither of us could think of a British adult female Pallid Harrier record, surely there must be?

29th September. Pseudo Shetland

Enough of harking back to the good old days or moping around about not going to Shetland. It was time to get stuck into the patch, this is after all the first time I've ever had an October at Orgreave. So I did just that and got stuck in:

Two laps of the lakes didn't come up with much other than the Ring-necked Duck showing quite well.
In the absence of any Shetland pastry provisions my pie of choice for the day (and my current favourite) was this rather excellent Andrew Jones prize winning pork pie. Available in all good supermarkets and quite simply the most sumptuous pork pie you will eat from a supermarket shelf.  That ought to get me a few samples from Mr Jones (I'm particularly fond of the fidget pie).

This 'crop' field has in the last week produced two Tree Pipits, Whinchat, and a boat load of Skylarks and Mipits. The crop is the failed planting of willow, birch and the usual shit that they pass off as regeneration. 
Lots of Siskin, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Pied Wagtails on the move throughout the morning and on my way across the playing fields, to get the bus, this rather grey looking Yellow Wagtail.  Eastern influence?

So to sum up 1 yank, 1 flava (possibly with some eastern influence), some visible migration and a delicious pie - almost like a day on Shetland, though not really!

27th September. I'm Just a Jealous Guy....

It was Bill Oddie that wrote; Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting, boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and - above all - envious.  This evening I can just about identify with every single word of it.

If anyone has been following this blog, since it's birth back in that dark October of 2007, they will have been aware of my annual pilgrimage to Shetland. Annual that is until this year.  At the end of last years visit, and for various reasons, Andy and I decided that we would take a break this year. So if you're looking for daily anecdotal updates on days spent thrashing around in ditches, snaring my ball sack on barbed wire fences, drinking dirt cheap blended whisky and of course quaffing a selection of savoury pastries you're out (or in, depending how you look at it) of luck.

So as I write this, on what would have been the eve of the eve before our trip, Shetland is seemingly awash with 'rare'. Every Twitter alert makes my heart skip, I can't stop picking my phone up and refreshing the stream - remember the time when stream was just something you played in or a rather high piss up the school toilet wall? The competitive, selfish, unsentimental and definitely envious parts of me are hoping that this year is absolutely hopeless for rare and as such will scare people off going next year. But lets face it we're not going so it's going to be huge and they'll be even more birders next year - I suppose there's always Scilly....

Not the best photo but for me finding birds of this calibre is what Shetland's all about.
We of course didn't find this , we were never that lucky

The Last Day. 15th October 1987

Okay time to wind this up and jump to our last day on Scilly.

The morning of our departure from the Fortunate Isles came and Rob and I set out early. The two of us would always set out early together simply because we were both equally scared of the other one finding something, this still happens now!  As we set out past the Porthcressa taking a quick look at the   sightings board, a cry went up "Hermit Thrush on Agnes." As the rest of the house were still sleeping we thought it only fair to go and wake them with this piece of joyous news.  I ran into the house and screamed "Hermit Thrush Aggy." The general response was "ha ha nice try." The problem was that during our stay it had become the norm to wake the house with an amusing hoax e.g. Nighthawk on the Garrison etc etc etc..  This was funny for about five minutes and was now painfully backfiring. After several attempts I finally got the house to believe us. Everybody shot out of bed and out of the house heading for the quay.  As we came out of the junction with the main street (by the newsagents) James ran into the road and into the path of a moving Mini Metro, hitting the ground with a sickening thud. Everything seemed to stop. The old woman driver looked traumatised presumably thinking she'd just been involved in Scillies first fatal RTA. A few things flashed through my mind 1. How was I going to explain to James' mum and dad about how their son had met his fate and 2. Could we still make the boat in time to get across to Agnes? At that point James jumped up and carried on running.* leaving the poor old woman shocked and bemused.

*A short time after returning home it transpired that James had broken his collar bone!

We arrived on Agnes and joined the assembled crowd. The bird was no where to be seen since disappearing into thick cover. This twitch would become famous in birding folklore when the bird appeared the following day directly behind where the line of patiently waiting birders had been the previous afternoon. Presumably this was where it had been all the time, just sat there flicking a feathery finger at the gathered mass.

Photo Courtesy of Neil Morris http://www.tarsiger.co.uk/
We left it as late as we could possibly afford to and only had a couple of hours to get our returning chopper. Arriving at the quay we suddenly became aware that there were no available boats. Luckily a small boat belonging the the island doctor was preparing to leave. We begged the doctor and his pilot to take us back to Agnes (had we known James' bust collar bone would have come in useful at this point.) Eventually they agreed.

The previous day a  Parula had been found in Nanquidno Valley, Cornwall. That evening we were offered money for our flights from a couple of Leicester birders but we smugly refused knowing that a Parula at the end of our trip truly would have been the icing on the cake.

Making it back in time we headed back to the mainland.

After scraping enough money together (we were desperately low on funds by now) to get the car out of the Heliport car park we headed towards St Just.  We had a good couple of hours of daylight left, surely this would be enough. With only a couple of miles to go disaster struck, or to be more accurate we struck a Leyland Allegro. To be fair to Rob I rather suspect the doddery old bugger was equally in the wrong. Despite this he insisted on calling the Police asking us on more than one occasion if we had been drinking? We hadn't.  Eventually the local plod arrived. It was obvious how this was going to work out 4 youths in a 2 litre Sierra against an old couple with a dented Allegro and worst of all a broken Thermos.  Sadly the delay cost us the Parula but failed to put a dampener on the trip.  With a bust headlight and a double dip we headed home happy.

I don't remember everyone who was in that house during that classic week but those that I do remember are Fred Fearn, (Mad) Garry, Paul Derbyshire, Marcus Lawson and the late Martin Gilbert. The four of us and the aforementioned (though sadly not Martin) are all still actively birding.

After reading this Jo asked me how I remembered all the details from 25 years ago? Well when a trip is as memorable as this one you just don't forget it...

Leave at your own risk.. 12th-13th October 1987

I can't remember much about the following day, we probably spent it catching up with a few padders on St Mary's; Rose-coloured Starling and Little Bunting spring to mind the latter in a field at Telegraph that responded very well to pishing - the Bunting not the field.  I remember Rob and I walking up to the field boundary wall, Rob did a loud pish and up it popped, I found a Little Bunting on Shetland in much the same manner a couple of years back.

The main news of the day was that a Swainson's Thrush had been found in Cot Valley, Cornwall. This was indeed a rare bird and the first since the last one*, For the old school twitchers this however was a tarts tick, but for kid listers like us it was a mega.  Several from the house (that by now had started to take on the appearance of a squat) decided that they would twitch it the following day. We unfortunately were too poor to contemplate this and pretended not to be bothered (though we really were).

*Before you think thick twat, I put that sentence in for comedy value and still maintain that it was Rob who said, when referring to the occurrence of a Laughing Gull, "there's not been many since the last one" He will deny this I'm sure! 

Sure enough the Cheshire guys left for Cornwall the following morning, whilst we moped apound a bit miffed that there was nothing tickable on offer. The next bit's a bit hazy, but I distinctly remember some bloke running past screaming " ...... Thrush." Obviously something good had turned up, either that or he was suffering from an uncomfortable rash  and in a hurry to get some medicinal relief! Immediately we began running in the same direction, then we stopped! Why were we running? Then some more birders, with a CB, started running and screaming "Eye-browed Thrush Longstones." We re-commenced running. The thrush had been seen in the area between the airfield and the sunken garden and was fairly mobile.  We spent a couple of hours chasing around desperately trying to get a glimpse.  Rob raised a cheer and applause from an assembled crowd whilst taking a hurried diversion across the sunken gardens compost heap, temporarily losing footwear and denting his pride in the process. Eventually it did give itself up and sat in full view for a minute or so revealing its buff peachy loveliness. Seeing this bird gave me so much pleasure that when I visited in '93 I never bothered looking at the one present near Porthloo - for fear of sullying that memory of '87. 
Our housemates who were on their way back from Cornwall failed to see the Eye-browed that day and I don't remember if they connected the following day. *How we laughed! 

Thanks to Jim Clift for letting me use his photo

*I'm sure Fred and the boys will forgive us for that spot of Schadenfreude.

That afternoon, whilst walking casually back towards Hugh Town, we became aware that there seemed to be an awful lot of birders heading in the same direction as us. As that sense of *Scillies paranoia set in a birder from a flat over looking the road raised the sash window and like a scene from a Dickens novel shouted out "where's everyone going cor blimey guvnor"  to which he got the reply "we set sail dor Tresco where Sir Richard of Filby has found a Blackpoll Warbler" of course the question was much shorter and the answer equally succinct, but I wanted to add some literary bollocks.  Once again we found ourselves running. 

*the feeling you get when you don't have a CB or are out of range. Doesn't really happen nowadays due to modern technology. Next time you visit leave your phone, pager and CB in the flat and head to Watermill - you'll soon know what Scillies Paranoia feels like. 

It was late afternoon by the time we docked and we were pushing our luck, fortunately the bird was on show as soon as we arrived,  in the pines next to the Borough Farm chalets.  
I couldn't find an image of the Blackpoll , the Google image search (for Blackpoll Warbler Scilly 1987) came up with some Blackpolls a picture of the lovely *Carmel Pentecost and a tin of Spaghetti Hoops. 
The Cheshire boys had made it back from Cornwall and to the Blackpoll, but their day was about to get worse when a nearby CB crackled "Swainson's Thrush Longstones"  How we laughed (again) though not too loud, remembering we were staying in their house!

It was nearly dark when we arrived at Longstones and not surprisingly there was no sign of the Swainson's. Fortunately the next morning it performed out in the open for all to see - even the Cheshire lads.
Photo by Dr Pete Wheeler

*Carmel is the girlfriend of Lee Evans and would deservedly have been classed as MILF in the 1980's (had that rather charming acronym existed back then).

In awe of the Vireo. 11th October 1987

So there we were, stood in a rapidly emptying Porthcressa. We followed suit and left for bed - at least that's how I remember it. 

The following morning we were up before dawn and heading our way to the quay. We didn't even spend time gelling our hair (which was where the Brat Pack name came from). Arriving at the quay, we were faced with sizeable crowd gathered in anticipation of the first boat loading - it was 5:30 in the morning and pitch black! I don't remember the journey much except that it was still dark and it was a beach landing - though some didn't actually wait for the boat to beach before disembarking. 

With dawn breaking we were dragged along with the crowd to the site of the vireo Borough Farm.  It didn't take long for the bird to be found, though it was distant, foraging along a hedgerow about 100 yards away. Despite crap views we ticked it (we had absolutely no morals back then), then stood around talking, waiting for it to reappear!  By now the crowd was huge, probably in excess of 400 though all impeccably behaved. In those days there was an unwritten rule that photographers were allowed at the front. This wasn’t a problem because in reality there was only a handful and most of them were established names in birding folklore, Cotteridge, Loseby, Tipling, Wheeler and Young – names you could trust.  They would ply their trade in the Porthcressa each evening selling prints of the latest rarities, indeed I purchased a fine pic’ that evening of the Vireo off Dr Wheeler.

Copyright Dr Pete Wheeler
Whilst waiting for the vireo to show again a Corncrake was found cowering or half dying, depending how you look at it and whether or not you needed it – we needed it so it was most definitely the former.  The only snag was that everyone wanted to see it and it only visible by crawling under a hedge with only space for two or three at a time.  Whilst waiting in the very orderly queue we were treated to stunning views of the Vireo as it picked around in the trees just a few feet above our heads. One memory that sticks in my mind is the huge mound of scopes and tripods that were piled up, whilst queueing for the Crake, it really was that crowded that you couldn’t queue with a scope. A bloke being dragged along the lane by a tractor and trailer (as it hooked itself to his rucksack) for a good few yards was an amusing distraction whilst waiting for our turn in the queue, fortunately only his pride was dented.  The Corncrake was a vision of health occasionally closing its eyes to have a little nap, during our viewing it appeared to be having a particularly long nap - I'm not sure that it actually ever woke up again!
Part of the Vireo crowd including us. Originally from an article in Birdwatching 
Having had our fill of the Vireo (if that were possible) and the Crake  we headed off for a further three ticks; Spotted Crake at the Abbey Pool, Richards Pipit on the Cricket Pitch and a cracking Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding on blackberries . All showed well with the Grosbeak even giving us a flash of its rusty red underwing. This truly was the Scilly that we had dreamed of, 7 ticks in 3 days. 7? Err yes; didn’t I mention I also ticked Stonechat?

That evening we celebrated our tick fest with an evening in the Porthcressa.  We were probably a little less honest about our bumper haul when the tick tin was passed around, admitting only to the Vireo and the Grosbeak.  The Porthcressa log call was followed on a couple of nights each week by the now legendary Porthcressa Disco.  This consisted of a basket meal, bar and a cheesy disco playing the current hits of the day (which being an isolated island community was around 1982). The thing with birding Scilly in the 1980’s was that it was predominantly a male dominated environment and this extended to the disco. Any outsiders to the birding community stumbling on this salubrious night spot would be forgiven for thinking that they had wandered into the Isles of Scilly's one and only gay bar, even more so if they had spotted the white suited gent in slip-on shoes gyrating among the more common wax jacketed revellers!

We probably slept well that night, though I don't recall whose turn it was to sleep on the bed....

Tune in next time to see why leaving Scilly for a rare on the mainland can cost you dearly.

Four Go Mad On Scilly 8th - 15th October 1987

Sad news recently that the Scillies helicopter service will cease from November.  Whilst reading of its fate I was thrown back to my first Scilly trip, 25 years ago in October 1987.

 In those days birding magazines consisted essentially of British Birds and two 'new kids on the block' namely Birdwatching and Birding World.  Pagers, mobile phones and the Internet were practically unheard of. Birding entrepreneurs, Millington and Gantlett, had a stranglehold on information with the premium rate service Birdline. Many birders Dad’s must have been disappointed when they discovered that the 0898 numbers, that ran to several pages of the phone bill, were in fact the aforementioned rare bird service and not madame X’s naughty talk – perhaps young Johnny was gay after all? With a combination of limited funds and the lack of literature I often took to reading old back numbers (usually obtained free) of British Birds. Among these was the 1985 rarities report and for a 17 year old possibly the most exciting magazines I had ever held – hardcore porn was not freely available in 1987! The whole report was dominated by the October '85 Scillies rare fest – still regarded by many as the greatest fall of American land birds ever.  Positively drooling I just had to go there.

Black and white pictures was as good as it got back then.
So it was, that after a spectacular late August Norfolk trip in 87’ (a classic in its own right) we set about booking our flights to Scilly. Even in 1987 the chopper was an exorbitant £65, a full two weeks money for a YTS at Rumbelows , my occupation at the time.  The ‘Norfolk four’ were now reduced to three with my old school pal John discovering that girls were better than birds (as if) and packing in birding. In his place we were joined by James (nowadays Jim) Clarke, with whom I’d enjoyed a great Speyside trip earlier in the year.  The Scillies 87’ team consisted of me, the Fray’s and James, or the brat pack as we were later christened!

A few days prior to the trip Rob’s car engine seized, fortunately Rob’s Dad Mic (top bloke) had a garage and loaned him a 12 month old 2.0S Sierra, Rob and I were only 17 with James 16 and Richard only 14!! We surely must have been the coolest looking kids to hit the southwest that October, though 4 scrotes in a stolen Sierra would have been more accurate!

The evening, before the trip, we stocked up on provisions from Tesco. As everyone knows there are no shops on Scilly, in fact everyone lives in upturned boats and feeds only on food salvaged from the shoreline – or so we thought.

 Being on a budget our chosen accommodation for the week was a luxurious 4 berth tent that we would pitch on the sheltered Garrison camp site.With a few good birds already on Scilly and a crippling Black and White on the way in Devon we were on our way……

Due to the youngest member of our group being blind, and subsequently dipping,  we spent too long at the Black and White and a speedy dash across Devon and Cornwall didn’t stop us missing our Scilly connection. Fortunately we managed to get on the last flight, though by the time we arrived at the camp site it was pitch black. No worries we would pitch our luxury 4 berth tent then relax after a delicious meal of corned beef and tinned tomatoes. Except the tent was actually a two berth and the meal tasted like shit! After a dreadful wet, windy and cramped night in the tent we awoke to our first birding day on Scilly….

The order in which things happened is a little muddled, but I'll do my best.

A Red-eyed Vireo had been present on the campsite for a few days and after a while finally showed in the large Garrison pines. The highlight of the day though was Rob bumping into a couple of birders that he'd met at Spurn in the spring. Turned out they were renting a house in Hugh Town and as Rob had shown them mercy and given them a lift from Spurn to Hull back in the spring, they returned the favour by offering the four of us a room in there cosy rented house. Cosy in the sense that there were now fourteen of us sleeping in it.  Compared to the tent it was indeed a palace and after pleading with the campsite owner for our money back we moved in.

That night we attended the obligatory Porthcressa log call.  The log consisted mostly of smelly men (and some smelly women) in waxed jackets, some still wandering around curiously with their birding equipment around their necks. Mike Rodgers systematically went through a list of the days sightings pausing to add observers counts and occasionally inject some humour into the proceedings. At the end Mike made an announcement, which went something like this;"This evening I've had a call from Dick Filby on Tresco. He has found a Philadelphia Vireo" The room fell silent then emptied quickly, as though someone had removed the lid off a biscuit tin of dog shit.......

To be continued...

10th September. Expect the Unexpected

With unsuitable winds, high water levels and a general feeling of apathy, birding of late has been tough going. The latter being a major contributor to the recent lack of posts. The will to write has been there, in fact during these slow spells of birding I've come up with many post ideas complete with cheesy titles and humorous* content. The problem is that once I sit at the computer it all vanishes and the moment passes.
*my dad always says only crap comedians laugh at their own jokes

This mornings pre-work patch visit was one of these virtual blog post ramblings - kind of like talking to yourself but without saying the words aloud.  I'd decided that as the sun wasn't shining I'd take the anti-clockwise route and take in the new spillway. I thought to myself "that's where they'll be a Pec or a Buff-breast, but more likely a Pec."  My mind then started to wander, making up post titles such as Pec's Appeal and show us your Pec's - both of which are making me cringe as I write this.  I didn't find a Pec or any other wader for that matter, a familiar story for over a week now.

One thing that has been noteworthy is the continuing increase in ducks.  On Saturday I counted 175 Tufted Ducks, a site record and a notable count anywhere in the Sheffield area.  Having a scope gave me a good opportunity to have a good look through them. There's been a few 'scaup-faced' tufties of late but that's all they were. I didn't visit Sunday due to other arrangements i.e. doing a car boot sale (is there any sane reason why they start at 5:30am?) and some urgent pointing around the upstairs windows.

So three paragraphs later and I'll get to the point of this post.

After scanning the western edge of the lake then the edges of the small lake and noting no waders I started to scan through the ducks. A few more Pochard had arrived, since the Saturday visit, and as I scanned through them a tufted type, but with an obvious clear white band on it's bill after the nail, hit me between the eyes. Shit, Ring-necked Duck? Only having binoculars it was difficult to appreciate it and I erred on the cautious side not convinced that the bill or the head shape were 100%. For Gods sake it was only a Ring-necked Duck not something tricky like a female Lesser Scaup. To be frank I've  never seen an eclipse Ring-necked Duck nor a female for that matter (not that that's relevant). Luckily I did have the camera and rattled off a few record shots. Having to leave for the bus didn't help matters nor did the duck going to sleep. On the bus I had the chance to review the photos and by the time I was halfway to Sheffield I was happy that my initial gut feeling was right. It would have been a different story if I'd had the scope and photos never give you that 'in the flesh' feel, but I usually find that if you stick with your gut feeling you'll seldom go wrong..

Easy now, zoomed up and sat at home in front of the PC

But in reality this is what it looked like through just bin's

I needed one more species to equal last year self found patch list, I have a list of things I expect to find but this wasn't on it. A birding friend said last week that I should expect the unexpected. Perhaps I should disregard the list, from now anything goes!

24th August. The Cruel Sea

They say that the sea is a cruel mistress, I've never had a mistress - too middle class - but I dare say if I had she'd be cruel.

Enough waffle. Today was not a good day. Heavy rain throughout the night continued into the morning, past Heir Hunters, beyond Homes under the hammer eventually slowing mid-way through Saints and Scroungers. With wind forecast to swing southwest  and strengthen mid-afternoon the obvious choice was to head to Porthgwarra, as I had done the previous day in less than ideal conditions.  After a brief shopping session in St Just, I got in the car and headed out to Nanquidno!!

The wind had dropped and the sun was out - surely not sea watching weather? I saw nothing in this charming valley and went back to the caravan in Kelynack. I hadn't even got out of the car when a twitter alert informed me of this.....

I moaned, cried and let out a small quantity of wee. A similar last minute change of mind had earlier in the week cost me a delicious crab sandwich after changing to a rather bland hot pork, though this was obviously worse! To make it worse earlier in the week I hinted to the finder, Mark Thomas, that coming down this weekend might be a waste of time!
Another birder staying on our site called round to the caravan catching me in a state of despair complete with head in hands, he was equally (and more deserving) distraught having left PG just an hour before!

Jo didn't help matters by offering her sympathy in the form of the comment "it's only a bird......"

7th August. Hare Brained Fools

Some months back I posted a series of images featuring Hare Coursing activities at Orgreave. After reporting this to the Police and following several arrests I opted to remove the images and all reference to the events, mainly for my own safety but also to avoid jeopardising the case. Rachel, the Wildlife Liaison Officer, put in a great deal of work, taking statements from me and from the landowner (Harworth Estates). These statements, along with my damning photographic evidence, were passed to the CPS. Everything went quiet for a while and following several arrests there has been no Hare Coursing action.

A couple of weeks back Rachel called to say that the CPS were uncomfortable with the Hare Coursing charge, but would support a charge of poaching. This was a bit of a kick in the teeth, as it would effectively free two of the accused, but at least a conviction for poaching would be enough to discourage any further coursing. A successful prosecution hinged on one further piece of evidence - that an independent witness could identify the animal being pursued, in the photographs, as a Hare. As the RSPCA had declined to get involved (apparently it's not their kind of thing) they suggested contacting the Sheffield Wildlife Trust. I wasn't concerned, a blind man walking backwards could see that the animal in the photos wasn't a Rabbit but a Hare. Wrong! Rachel called this morning with bad news. It would seem that the so-called expert witness identified the fleeing Lepus as a Rabbit. To take any doubt away from their ID they even threw in a "there are no Hares on that site" comment.
With one swift kick in the balls the whole case has now been thrown out. It was never going to be a major sentence, no custody and no doubt a nominal fine, but it would have sent a message out that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. Incidentally the four accused confessed to hunting Hares which makes this even more sickening!

I can only assume that if that's a rabbit that the four dogs are actually Jack Russell Terriers

I can't describe how I'm feeling right now but the words angry, frustrated, disappointed and bewildered would go part of the way. I don't know who they spoke with at the Wildlife Trust but I do know that they are clearly incompetent when it comes to the identification of medium sized furry animals and making uneducated comment about a species distribution is frankly inexcusable.
Rachel should be applauded for her dogged determination, as should Harworth Estates for giving the time to give a statement. However the local Wildlife Trust need to get their act together and a close inspection of their 'experts' competence is much needed.  I could have used a few swear words but that would have been childish, I could withdraw my membership of the local wildlife trust but that would equally spite me as much as them. But what I will do is offer someone at SWT an early morning session on how to identify Hares from Rabbits! The urge to swear the very worst of swears is coming over me so I better end right.....

On a lighter note I photographed this delightful Badger in the garden yesterday.....

2nd August. Gulls Galore

5th August Going For Gold

Despite not being an athlete of any sort (though speed eating pies is surely worthy of a place at Brazil 2016)I have been pretty engrossed in the whole Olympic thing. Let's face it we've paid for it, we'll be paying for it for many years to come so why not enjoy it whilst it's here. In between events I managed a few patch visits and struck bronze this morning with a cracking juv Med' Gull - one of my favourite plumaged gulls. Only needing one more species to equal last years personal self-found best it would seem appropriate to equal or even beat it in Olympic fortnight and Goldcrest (surprisingly) would do it!

A late start at work on Thursday meant that I could comfortably spend a couple of hours on the patch at the more realistic time of 8am. With activity on the building site in full swing the gulls were settled on a large bare area at the side of the 'plains'.  A quick scan of the flock (of some 400 gulls) through binoculars showed at least 10 herring gull types. On closer scope views there were at least 13 Yellow-legged Gulls. The video below shows the entire flock with at least 14 candidates and possibly more. How many can you see?

30th July. "I've had worse"

"I've had worse." That's the phrase I seem to be using on an all too regular basis over the last month. On the whole it's been pretty grim and with no useful weather predicted and the water levels remaining stubbornly high I suspect I'll be saying it a few more times in the coming weeks. That said I really have had worse, but with only a Yellow-legged Gull, two more Common Scoters and a site first in the form of a Coal Tit not much worse!

30th July. New Developments

A while back, whilst on the bus ride home, I noticed one of those yellow and black roadsigns that are generally used to guide contractors vehicles to a specific development site. This sign however filled me with doom and despair, it said "Waverley New Homes". Waverley, for the uninitiated, is the Tory developers friendly name for Orgreave. After all a sign saying "Orgreave new homes" would instantly remind anyone (old enough) of the infamous battle during the miners strike - but enough of that.  Development commenced way back in April, just as the ground nesting birds were getting down to it.  Did the developers take this in to consideration? Did they bollocks. Herras fencing was hurriedly erected and an army of earth moving vehicles moved in.  Harworth Estates (HE) later claimed that their ecologist had walked the site and found nothing - this was a complete lie and a poor attempt by HE  to cover up their cock up. I do believe that it was a cock up and not a deliberate act but ignorance is no excuse! HE's only saving grace was that in the subsequent weeks the wet weather screwed up just about all the local ground nesting birds seemingly saving their blushes. I do hope that any subsequent developments (and there will be lots more in the coming years) take into account the ground nesting species.
The first three houses are under the right hand wind turbine
The development has moved on at a very quick pace and already the first (show) houses are up. Approximately one quarter of the northern plains area has now gone. This first phase will create 250 houses with a further 2750 planned over the next 25 years! I'm not going to moan about it, people need places to live and this part of the site was always earmarked for a development of this nature. Orgreave will see many changes over the coming years - some good some not so good. Work on the lakes as a flood defence has been carried out recently and we now have a overflow for the River Rother and an open culvert and spillway that will carry all surface water away from the new development. Both of these new habitats will hopefully improve the biodiversity of the site.

The new spillway and open drain 

Gyr Crakes. Scillonian Pie

Quite possibly the greatest Gyr Crakes video yet, featuring birds and more pies than this blog has in the last 6 months

10th July. Deadlock Broken, Breaking Bad

Last nights brief visit to the patch, between heavy downpours, produced a much expected year tick with five Common Scoter on the largest of the two lakes.

Another wet visit this morning revealed that the summer doldrums were truly over with an obvious movement of waders taking place and another Common Scoter. A total of 7 Dunlin, 7 Ringed Plover, 2 Common Sand', 3 Black-tailed Godwit and a very nice partial summer plumage Ruff.  Seems other local sites also noted wader movement, perhaps returning failed breeders?

The last month quiet spell gave me the chance to feed my current TV addiction - Breaking Bad. In a nutshell it's the story of a chemistry teacher who, following being diagnosed with terminal cancer starts to 'cook' Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine) as a way of supporting his family once he's gone.  That probably sounds a bit crap, trust me it is by far the best US drama I've ever seen.  Unfortunately it's not available in the UK except via Netflix (series 1-3) and by illegal streaming of series 4. The whole story is as addictive as the Crystal Meth' that Walter (the main character) produces, that by series 3 you will do anything to get your hands on series 4 - anything..

8th July. Fifty Shades of Gary

Birding's pretty dull at the moment so I wrote this bit of literary filth.........

                  Fifty Shades of Gary (see what I did there?) 

Gary was just like any normal guy, but he had an obsession, his obsession was making lists. Even at an early age he'd made lists, he was the champ of his EyeSpy group, the under 7's South-east Martin's News Group League even though secretly he was almost 8 at the time. Lists were his passion. Saturday mornings were spent dashing up and down the aisles of his local Tesco as he frantically crossed items off his mum's shopping list as they flew off the shelves into the trolley. Recording a personal best of fifteen minutes, including packing he quickly grew tired of the mundane listing. Following ejection from the EyeSpy Group - for an incident involving the ticking of a number of Llama species in the Big EyeSpy Book of Farm Animals (he was a renegade, who made his own rules - screw what anyone else thought) he moved onto bigger things - planes!

After years of hanging around public viewing areas with a jotter, Biro, Polaroid Instamatic, and a copy of Razzle (for those moments when the planes just weren't hitting the spot) Gary again began to grow tired. He had a longing for total fulfilment and those giant metal birds just weren't doing it for him. One  quiet afternoon whilst browsing the 'specialist' magazines in the Gatwick branch of WHSmith Gary spotted a magazine that would change his life forever. As he quietly asked the assistant to pop it in a brown paper bag a euphoric feeling came over him, resulting in a tiny damp patch in his undergarments.  Dashing home and up the stairs, almost tripping on the uppermost step as it had begun to fray, Gary headed for the spare room, slammed the door and locked it behind him. As he placed the brown paper bag upon the bed it opened, spilling it's contents onto the flannelet sheets the words 'Bird Watching' clearly visible.  Gary fell to his knees and flicked slowly through the pages, tits, shags, boobies drew his eye but his breathing fell silent when he read about a birder named Lea who had smashed the year listing record for the fifth consecutive year... Gary let out a short sharp yelping sound threw the magazine under his bed and went down for his tea.... A look of shame on his face as he sat down to his Findus crispy pancakes and potato waffles, he couldn't get the contents of that magazine out of his mind.....

Pulling off the road Gary opened the boot of his trusty Vauxhall Chevette, rummaged around pulling out an industrial looking pair of Mark Scheffel 10-30x50 binoculars, a Peter Storm cagoule and his trusty Thermos flask. Heading down the muddy track to a small wooden hide clutching the magazine he had purchased earlier in the week, his thoughts were on just one thing how many species of bird would he see?
The hide was deserted when Gary entered, fumbling around he found the catches and slowly opened the flaps. The bright light caused him to squint and he reached for his binoculars, first removing the lens caps then adjusting the flimsy vinyl strap before raising them to his eyes.. Birds were there, but what were they?  Gary had made a bird list from the index of an old bird book he'd picked up at a boot sale, but he hadn't a clue what any of them were, never mind what they looked like.  He needed to put a name to them, he needed to add them to his list but what the Hell were they? As he screwed up his eyes for another look through the Mark Scheffel's (approximately £12.25 plus postage from the Sunday People) the hide door creaked open and day-glow figure in a purple shell-suit entered and sat quietly in the corner.
Gary reached for his flask and as he put the purple rim of it's cup to his mouth a voice in the corner murmured "Is that a Vogue?" Gary looked up from his chicken cup o soup and clocked the polyester clad figure in the corner. "Do you come here often" said Gary. "No mate just here for the year-tick" replied the bejewelled (a crucifix glinting in one ear) 80's throw-back. Conversation blossomed between the two. Gary was getting more and more animated and as he clocked the silver wellingtons that his companion was wearing he realised that this was the 'legend' he had read all about in that magazine. Flush with excitement Gary pulled his Peter Storm over his head revealing his binoculars to an incredulous Lea. "Jesus what a massive pair you've got, can I hold them?" Gary stuttered "of course help yourself." As Lea held them in his hands he playfully flicked the rubbery eyecups, swinging them too and fro as they hung below Gary's neck.  Gary was enjoying the attention of his new found mate when he spotted something poking out of his Tacchini tracky bottoms "what the Hell is that?" said Gary. "that's my Hertel Reuss" replied Lea. "Can I hold it?" said Gary breathlessly. "help yourself" said Lea. Gary reached for the hard cylindrical object protruding from Lee's pocket and clasped his hands around it, "hold on" said Lea "you need to make it longer before you can use it." There was no protective rubber and Gary extended it to almost a full two feet in length and slowly moved his head towards it. As he looked down the end the image of a large shiny wading bird appeared before him "isn't this a Glossy Ibis?" he said "year tick" said Lee.....

This chance meeting lead to one of the most beautiful pairings in British Birding and that continues to this day.........

The End

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. 

Hertel Reuss 

26th June. Problematic Pork Pies

For the last few years I've been birding in denial. No denying the fact that actually I'm a fairly average - or even below average birder - who occasionally gets lucky with a few scarce and the very occasional rare. No. Denial that I am getting old (er) and that my eyesight is rapidly failing. Whilst you can pay for the finest optics in the world there's not a fat lot you can do when your eyes - the finest pair of optics you will ever own - start to pack up.  Recently it's got worse. Without bin's birds now appear as fuzzy images and after just 10 minutes of birding my distant vision gets frustratingly bad to the point where birding really isn't enjoyable. Digiscoping is difficult even when wearing my 'readers' and I suspect my degrading vision contributes to my generally crap photos. So having to accept that my eyes are pretty crap, and will get worse, I now have to learn to combine binoculars with glasses!
Should have gone to Specsavers!
Despite my near myopic state I've still managed some birding, but not much.  Seemingly, and no thanks to the wet weather, the waders on the patch are not doing too bad with Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and LRP all enjoying suacess. A few signs of return passage with Curlews,Dunlin and Ringed Plover moving through hinting that it won't be long before things start happening again. Hopefully my corrected vision will help me get the sites first and much awaited (and deserved) proper rare!

10th June. Swapping Rollers

Spent the last week almost housebound wrestling with brushes, rollers and paint and only visiting the patch on a handful of dates and not once in the last couple of days.  Finally cracked at midday and took the ladies and me off to Aldbrough for a look another kind of Roller. An absolute stunner, as they always are, feeding in the field and then posing on its favourite post for a few minutes.
Disappointing to see that the requests to park only in the Bewick Hall Car Park and to keep out of the field (photographers again) were largely being ignored (at least between 3 & 4pm). The resulting rutted verge was not a pretty sight, but that's some Birders for you arrogant, lazy and tight (the car park was a couple of hundred yards away, free, though with a donation bucket for those with a conscience!).  No doubt these will be the first to start moaning at the next big suppression!

2nd June. DIY Flyover

The Door of Fortune
Traditionally I take it steady once May is out, scaling down patch visits until around the second week in July when the waders and gulls start moving again. In the middle of decorating half the house and staying in bed until 7am, for the second successive morning I opted to stay at home.  To keep the dust down I decided that it would be easier if I sanded the doors outside.

Our house is at the highest point sandwiched between RVCP, Ulley, Treeton and Orgreave and decent fly-over birds are not too uncommon with highlights such as Whimbrel (21 whilst I was laying the patio in the above pic), Whooper Swan, Hobby and almost daily Common Terns in the summer. Anyway back to the door. I had almost finished sanding one side when to the north I noticed a group of four birds flying lazily west.  They were fairly distant and I assumed (without binoculars) that they must be large gulls!  As I looked at them more closely I realised that they weren't gulls but something bigger, probably herons. Herons that were flying on almost flat wings! At this point I ran for the bins' hung up in the hall.  Leaping back into the garden I raised the bins and was hit with the almost surreal view of four White Storks- shiiiiiiittt....  I then went a bit nuts, ran back through the house screaming "get out to the front" to Jo and Beth, who assumed that (by the noise I was making) some scumbag was halfway down the road carrying our TV.  I grabbed the camera, stood in the road in bare feet and couldn't see them - was I imagining it all.  Fortunately I wasn't as I then picked them up over the neighbours houses still drifting slowly west. Raising the camera I then pealised there was no memory card in it!!  Fortunately the compact was in the car and did have a card in it. I managed a feu record shots before they disappeared over the roof line of the houses opposite.  The next 30 minutes was a blur. I made a few phone calls, drank some sweet tea, did a little dance around the house and contemplated that actually these birds were most likely the first genuine wild White Storks that I'd seen in Britain!  These were presumably the same birds that had been seen at Lakenheath on 28th May and likely four of the original six (wild birds) that have been touring the south since April.  Whatever their provenance the sight of them over the house was pretty spectacular.

29th May. Bus, Train and Automobile

Today started off in the usual fashion i.e. 6:30 start on the patch, off to work on the 8am bus and at my desk by 8:20. As the wheels on my chair came to a halt and my knees slid under the desk the bloody mega alert went off "Cleveland  Eastern Orphean Warbler (Though it was later corrected as a Western) Hartlepool Headland" Shit the bed!! I had a problem my usual birding friends were either in South America or old enough to have seen the last bird in 1983 and the car was twenty five miles away at Jo's work!

I had horrible sense of deja vu and was thrown back to 6th June 2011 when I received the mega alert of the White-throated Robin, whilst scanning an area of Spanish Steppe and feeling completely helpless.

Never ceases to amaze me how many birders get out of work in an instant
I was just on the verge of doing something desperate - like begging for a lift via the bird info service and running the risk of other birders thinking that I'm some kind of Billy no-mates (even if it's true, it still hurts) - when I hatched a cunning plan. I was to catch a train to Mexborough, pick up the car and dash up the A1. If all went to plan I would be on site by 3pm.  Actually, and without dragging this out any longer, I left work at 12, got the train, picked up the car and by 2:30 was parked up on Hartlepool Headland. The bird however was skulking and left it almost an hour before popping out in the sun.

Came across this nice bit of birding nostalgia whilst looking for the Orphean.

And as ever the Police were there to ensure that everyone's particulars were taken down...