28th September, Nawwwwfak

I haven't been to Norfolk for over a year and that was in circumstances that I'd rather not remember. So checking the pages of the RBA website I decided that there were a lot worse things that we could do than have a day on the North Norfolk coast.
First stop was the adult Lesser Grey Shrike at Weybourne which despite the pissing down rain showed quite well. Shrikes were the theme of the day with both Red-backed and Great Grey at Burham Overy Dunes both showing less well.

The Shrike photos were an improvement on Thursdays effort.

But things returned to normal later.

26th September. Some Recognition

At last some recognition for my photographic prowess.

After the excitement of yesterday it was always going to be difficult for today to live up to it. So it was no surprise that today was a bit of a damp squib. With a stubborn blanket of fog over much of Sheffield I decided to head for Blacktoft with the thinking that I would at least be half way to most sites on the Yorks/Lincs coast. Blacktoft was surprisingly devoid of spotters but also pretty empty on the bird front. However I did have a Bittern and several Bearded Tits. A mass clear out on the east coast was evident and no new birds were being found so the chance of a few juicy morsels was unlikely so I went home for a nap!

On the way to Blacktoft I called at the service area just off the M62 where I had a hot tip of hot pies. This tip off prooved right as hot pies were indeed on offer, albeit a whopping £1.55. I went for a Chicken and Mushroom. A tasty specimen with a light shortcrust pastry. I would have awarded it 10 points, instead of 8, however whilst trying to eat and drive it broke in two and the volcanic juices leaked out whilst it was on my lap and found their way into my groin!!

25th September. A Bit of Brown.

Being the cautious listing type that I am these days I thought it best to wait on news for the Shrike. Fortunately Filby's Magic Box sprung in to life at 7:15 and informed me of the birds presence so in a rather laid back manner we set off at 8am. We arrived at Flamborough at 9:30 and immediately picked up this fine bird perched a top a distant hedge. Unfortunately no pies were available so the celebrations of my first lifer this year were some what muted.

Prints available on request!!

Mean while on Shetland the shit was well and truly hitting the fan. A call to Rob revealed his whereabouts as "stuck on Fair Isle" - there's worse places. However A Sykes Warbler at Sumburgh Farm was quite frustrating for the poor lad - so much so that he couldn't be arsed to have a look at what would have been his 3rd Siberian Thrush (Git) but consoled himself in finding another Arctic Warbler.

Back at work for 1:30 meant I could keep on the right side of my very understanding manager. Though the same cannot be said for my ex who questioned the logic of taking Beth to see a Brown Shrike (she was off school with a nasty cough), for fu**s sake it's a Brown Shrike what more need I say?? For the record Beth ticked Red-backed Shrike after Brown - way to go!! Hopefully more of the same tomorrow as I'm off all day.

24th September. It's all kicking off.

Oh heck I knew if I kept saying it's going to be good from Wednesday that sooner or later I'd be right. It started off with a Brown Flycatcher on Fair Isle (stick that BOU) then late afternoon the east coast from Shetland to Norfolk was awash with 'rares'. Best of all a Brown Shrike at Flamborough which convieniently fits in nicely with my plans. Here's hoping - goodnight!"

21st September. Only One in Scunthorpe.

Leaping out of bed at 7am and flinging open the curtains to be greeted by a not too bad at all day we decided on a spot of birding. First locally and then where ever Mr Filby's magic box might send us. After a quick breakfast and grabbing some provisions (a couple of Morrisons steak pies) we headed for Orgreave OC. Every small bush was covered in cobwebs and little snails but typically the barren landscape produced nothing on the wader front as did nearby Whiston Meadows. I decided on heading to Blacktoft with the aim of calling at Hatfield Moors for a couple of Pec' Sands and possibly Alkborough near Scunthorpe for a Wilson's Phalarope.

Ickle Snail

Even at 9am Blacktoft was beginning to fill with noisy dudes whose presence was made even more annoying by their annexing of the Marshlands Hide. Fortunately the other hides were more or less empty but apart from a few Bearded Tits there was little of interest. Back at the car the steak pies were demolished and we headed for the Wilson's Phal'.

Hmmm Pie

Alkborough Flatts is only a mile, as the crow flies, from Blacktoft, but unfortunately 22 miles by road!! Unfortunately the phalarope had vanished and the heat haze made it very difficult to see anything. After 45 minutes of eye straining I'd had enough and decided to try for the Pecs. Hatfield Moors is a vast wasteland of post peat extraction land and like a giant maze. In short I got hopelessly lost and pissed off with the sun so we went home.

Charming greeting as you enter North Lincs

20th September. Paul Daniels Must Die

Not much happening this week. More Mega Alerts than you can shake a stick at, which would be daft as they'd fly off! Anyway they were either in foreign lands, remote islands or not megas at all (Greater Sandplover!). Great Snipes were not at all great and when a proper one was found access was pulled after a bunch of pricks trespassed.

This morning was spent ringing at Ramsley After setting 5 nets up we were put to work with a constant supply of Lesser Redpoll. In the end we had rung around 180 though interestingly none were re-traps suggesting that there is a hell of a lot of Redpolls going through there, over 300 had been rung this week prior to today. By 11am we were knackered and fortunately the nets were empty so we packed up.

I was awoken from my much needed afternoon nap with a call from Andy D informing me of a Honey Buzzard over Treeton. This prompted me out in to the garden where almost immediately the dark sillouette of a Buzzard was picked up over Aston Church. Unfortunately this bird was a Common Buzzard but encouraged me to spend a bit more time out there staring at the sky, even if I was pushing the lawn mower at the time!!

13th September. To Hull in a hand cart

Too much wine following some text hostilities with the ex ensured a lie in and subsequently no morning birding. However a trip to Morrisons for some Sunday essentials meant I could at least have a look at Orgreave O C. The Hollyoaks omnibus would have been better as the OC was typically crap - no I'm not trying to scare would be watchers away it really is crap. My will power stood up to the pie stall though I couldn't help staring like a kid at the sweet shop window.

The only birding planned for the afternoon was the monthly webs count at RV, however a phonecall from Pete W at 5pm changed things a little. The call went along the lines of "we've just trapped a Pallas's Gropper at Spurn etc etc" Having bizzarely decided not to go for the Blakeney bird a few years back I couldn't let this one go so having dropped off Beth we left for Spurn at 5.20pm. Arriving in Hull at 6pm (I'm sure the ticket will be on its way) I was informed by the pager that there was no further sign following release - bollocks. A quick call to Pete confirmed this and also that hardly anyone was looking for it! With this I decided to turn back. Unfortunately it was reliably seen again at 7pm though the views (according to a good source) were untickable - but like a friend of mine would say "Shit views are better than no views" - yes Roy but are they?

An unfortunate navigational mistake had me going too far along the M62 but paid off with a nice juv Osprey pearched on telegraph poles at Old Moor.

Almost as good as these shots

13th September. Knocking em off with a stick.

Well that was the prediction anyway but like most predictions it was bollocks - mostly. Fortunately the pessimist in me could see this coming so I had a walk round the usual shit holes and saw nothing. A Great Snipe at Flamborough was tempting though subsequent photos may yet prove some sightings were not so great.

12th September. Pie Squared

The benefit of working for such a caring organisation such as SCC is that they let you work a nine day fortnight. This in short means that I get every other Friday off to do as I please. So with an prolonged easterly draught forecast which migration hotspot would I find myself at? Spurn? Flamborough? Lincs coast? No - Orgreave, Catcliffe, Whiston and RV!! I decided that the east coast would be crap and by and large I was right - at least for today.

Orgreave held one migrant a Common Sand and 10 Teal. Whiston/Treeton Meadows was marginally better with a juv Whitethroat and several Chiffies, though a flock of around 30 Yellowhammers reminded me of ye old days.

Highlight of the morning was a visit to Morrisons to purchase two exquisite steak pies. These really were 10 pointers and enhanced by the fact that they were eaten whilst birding Orgreave from the footbridge.

Other sites were equally crap with two Snipe at Pit-house West being the only birds of note!

11th September. D.I.V.O.R.C.E

As the great Dolly once sang "My D.I.V.O.R.C.E becomes final today." Hurrah. I can barely believe it's been almost a year since this blog began (as a distraction from my trauma) how things change along the road that is life. My birding has quietened down as a result, though coincidentally it has been a very poor year on the whole. I have adopted a new patch whilst still paying the occasional visit to RV and the surrounding environs. It hasn't been an easy time but my new partner (why does that always sound gay?) is very understanding and sympathetic to my needs (the birding ones as well) and without Jo and my family and friends life would have been unbearable. This is starting to get a bit maudling!! For any other birders about to embark on a similar journey (and there's a lot out there) keep smiling and you'll get through it in the end. Ironically my birding has become more enjoyable over the last twelve months and will only improve.

End of sermon.

Three weeks to Shetland

Can't be arsed with all this predicting 'rares' nonsense, however I predict a large fall of pies in the Sandwick area around 10am on the 6th. Among the usual 'common' will be the odd 'scarce'( lasagne pie) and possibly the odd 'rare' (macaroni cheese pie) I doubt this year will see the appearance of any 'giga rares' (mushroom and tofu) but one never knows.

Talking of predictions

Me thinks that the Punks are hiding something.

Northwest string

The guys in the Northwest appear to have found a way around the 'credit crunch' simply stick out news of a couple of 'rares' and an 'ultra rare' to keep the phone lines bustling. Don't worry that they'll all turn out to be utter bollocks and that the Northwest will get a reputation for being ultra stringy the money will keep rolling in.

Recent Strings from the NW:

Cowbird = Blackbird
Whiskered Tern = Arctic Tern
Sharp-tailed Sand' = Ruff
Steak and Kidney = Mince and Onion


Awesome White Dog Shit found in the Canaries HERE

10th September. Large Hardon

As I write this twaddle there are just 52 minutes left of life as we know it. The Large Hadron Collider will be switched on at 8.30 ending all forms of life - possibly. With this in mind I decided to spend some of my last moments with a quick trip to the patch - which itself resembles a post apolyptic blast. Needless to say there was bugger all there apart from a Great Crested Grebe and a Tufted Duck (patch tick!). Clearly the birds are sensing the impending doom and have buggered off to another galaxy - or not.

7th September. Don't believe the hype.

This weekends monster fall between the Humber and Shetland failed to materialize with the Northeast getting the lions share of both 'rares' and rain.

A late morning visit to the patch armed with the Hubble Telescope proved worthwhile with, 8 Cormorants, 9 Grey Herons, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and best of all a Sanderling.

Yes it really is that far away!!

A brief spell of warm sunshine produced a few late summer dragonflies namely Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters, probably the most I've seen all summer.

6th September. Of Flies on Birds

With heavy rain forecast and a massive downpour in the night it seemed likely that my mornings ringing would be postponed. However a glance out of the window at silly o'clock revealed no rain. Arriving at Williamthorpe at 6am and the rain was still holding off, though with the forecast in mind only four nets were set up. This proved more than enough as a constant supply of specimens kept the three of us busy. Encouragingly most of the birds trapped were juveniles indicating that the breeding season had not been as bad as expected, though judging by the amount of growth bars exhibited particularly by the warblers it had been tough. Highlight for me was this Goldcrest.

For some reason I decided against wellies!!

The rain came around 9.00 so the nets were taken down and we moved on to Carr Vale to trap House Martins. The two nets set up proved ample for this and a constant stream of Martins kept us more than busy. Having never handled any hirundines before I wasn't prepared for the hideous looking parasitic flat flies which were duly removed and squashed. In all we rang around 60 House Martins in just over an hour with all but one being juveniles.

4th September. Eateries

At the risk of doing myself out of sustenance during my eleven day jaunt to Shetland I will attempt to show as many pie establishments over the coming months. Why? Because I'm bored and the birding is crap and it'll pass an hour or three!!

Pie stop Number 1 Sandwick Bakery

The Northern Isles premier pie stop. Beware they soon run out particularly around the local schools lunchtime and they don't open Sunday's. Near to Hoswick Hotel which always has a few specimens of interest in the garden.

Pie stop Number 2 Toab Post Office

The very friendly people of Toab Post Office http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/531829 always welcome birders and their appetites. For a small shop they sell a surprising amount of provisions including super noodles and string. Pies are supplied by Sandwick and Walls Bakeries http://www.wallsbakery.co.uk/ among others. A good variety of alcohol is stocked though the cheapest of the cheap whisky is usually out of stock by the 20th October. Certainly one of the most fruitful of birding areas with 2 Pechora Pipits being just a Scotch Eggs throw away in recent years.

Further pie establishments will follow with any additional (Shetland) stockists welcomed (photos would be good Rob/Russ)

3rd September. The countdown begins

Well my prediction of Willet fell flat on its arse. Seems more likely that the voice in my head was actually saying Willow Tit as that was one of the 'highlights' of my Saturday morning visit to Whiston Meadows.
With the onset of autumn now upon us it's only natural (from a birding point) to get excited about the coming months offerings and perhaps get all nostalgic about previous autumns. So will this years Shetland trip come up trumps again, 2005 was reasonable, 2006 was great and 2007 blew away the previous two. Surely sooner or later things will turn bad? However perhaps the real reason that so far there has been a year on year improvement is the number of visiting birders. If you're to believe the waffle on Bird Forum then this year the Northern Isles will be awash with birders. But just how active they will be remains to be seen. New visitors unfamiliar with the islands may be unaware just how much land there is to cover and how difficult the areas are to work. What always amazes me is the amount of people who appear, as if from nowhere, the minute a 'rare' makes an appearance. In comparison when the 'rares' are absent you can wander around pretty much anywhere north and south and see no one - where do they all come from? Another important fact that might affect the productivity of this year is the absence of the 'Punks' who after a couple of very successful years have thrown in the towel and headed south west!! Like it or not they found a lot of good stuff and I'm sure they will be missed. My main worry however is the apparent influx may affect the pie supply, with this in mind I may have to pre-order my provisions!! Anyway here's a few pics from the last two years to wet the appetite which incidentally were either found by us or the 'punks'.