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?