Following on from yesterday afternoons Diver search I received a text this morning from Kev informing me of a Great Northern on the main lake at RV. Oh damn and blast (is that OK Colin) I was about 16 hours too early. On arrival it was showing fairly well but then the heavens opened so after a quick video session with a borrowed camera from the Rangers we left.

Once it had dried up I went back to try and get some more respectable photos as the first batch were a pile of excrement (again Colin).

Late afternoon I paid another visit to Pit-house West. The amount of rain that had fallen in such a short time was incredible and the levels on the Bittern Pool were around a couple of feet higher than normal. It was clear that the Bittern wouldn't be on the lower pools as they had turned into a temporary river. After wading across the slipway I picked up the Bittern sat in the open on the remaining bit of suitable feeding habitat. Despite it moving back in to the reeds it remained on view for about an hour. At one point it moved off to the right only to reappear from the left - two birds? The two bird theory was strengthened more when at dusk one bird ran strongly into the reeds only for a second (?) to fly up a few metres to the left and drop into roost.

28th November. Submarine Search

Spent the morning doing work stuff but even a blind man walking backwards couldn't fail to notice that a movement of Great Northern Divers was taking place with an impressive five birds at Grafham Water. By midday the overtime was put on hold and I was off out to search the local water bodies. Being able to view Orgreave and Treeton Dyke from the same spot (a recent discovery) It didn't take long to realise that there were no Divers to be had here. RVCP was the next spot and likewise also diverless. With this we decided on checking Pit-house West to see if any Bitterns were wintering. This time we were in luck as one bird showed briefly at dropping into roost at 4pm. Wandering back through the lower reed beds we hoped that we might get a snatch of Cetti's song but we didn't and therefore ended a reasonable afternoons birding and yet another dull blog post!

24th November. Pandora's Box

Hardcore stash!

I suddenly had the urge this afternoon to get the loft ladders out and have a good root around. Not to locate an old porno stash, as no doubt some of you are thinking, the Porn Fairy took those a long time ago. Butt to dig out my old collection of notebooks. Whilst reading some of them I realised that finding an old stash of GILF mags would have been less embarrassing! The first 'proper' notebook in there was dated from May 1985. This was the notebook that I entered for the YOC's Young Ornithologist of the year competition, which was won by my good friend Mr Fray - there's a photo somewhere in an old BB' of Mr R' sporting a very ordinary haircut and being leered over by a very suspicious looking Peter Holden.* Anyhow back to those notebooks. The contents are hilarious, though I'm not sure if I'm comfortable reproducing them on here but here goes...

There's a reason these were hidden in the loft, I just can't put my finger on it!! On the plus side how many 15 year old birders take notes these days? Come to think of it are there any 15 year old birders out there**

* By suspicious I wasn't implying anything illegal.
** I am just curious as to the future of birding

20th Nov. North Lincs

Taking advantage of all three of us being either off work or off school and taking a look at the weekends weather forecast we decided to bring our Seal trip a couple of days forward. Arriving at Donna Nook just after 10 it appeared that everyone else had done the same with the car park almost full. Of course seals are a little more predictable than birds and a couple of hundred plus young were spread out among the beach.

Now I know that I like to point the camera at almost anything that eats, shits and breaths but the amount of cameras at these wildlife spectacles is frankly getting out of hand. I'm not talking about hoards of little old ladies rattling off a couple of shots on the digital equivalent of a box brownie, I'm talking about 'wildlife enthusiasts' carrying serious amounts of quality gear. Don't get me wrong I am by no means jealous of their back breaking equipment, I'm more than happy with my 4 year old D50 and ancient sigma 50-500mm but one photographer was stood a couple of yards from a group of seals toting three Canon bodies each with a high spec Canon Lens i.e. 500mm, 300mm and a 100-400 zoom just in case. For Christ's sake why? They were 6 feet away. The point I was in the process of making is the fact that these lens carrying fiends were everywhere and up just about every orifice that the seals offered, to the point where they were hanging over the fence to get the money shot. This is the first time that I've seen such inappropriate behaviour here, usually the wardens would usually intervene perhaps today they were just looking the wrong way.

Further along the coast things weren't much better when a lone 'photographer' was watched kicking the Shorelarks at Theddlethorpe from pillar to post instead of settling down and letting them come to him. Even more amazing was his total lack of common sense. Whilst I was sat down photographing them he marched towards them flushed them then marched straight off to flush them again! I was going to post another blame and shame photo (as last November in Lincs) but I know who he is (it wasn't any of the well known Lincs birders/photographers though) and next time I might be quite so patient!

Following a fish and chip break in Mablethorpe (still as shit as it was in the old days when my gran used to take me) we headed to Barton for Far Ings. Eventually finding the right spot I was amazed to find the Red-necked Phalarope almost feeding at the feet of the already present birders. There was no danger of disturbing this bird but despite it being just a few feet away my photos were on the disappointing side in fact they were a right pile of wank!

We finished the day off at nearby Worlaby Carrs where at least 4 Barn Owls provided the entertainment until near dark.

7th November. More Cetti's

Continuing from yesterday we decided to walk the majority of the Rother Valley, that is from Whiston through to RVCP. It was in the back of my mind that there's quite a few likely Cetti's spots along the river and if the invasion was as anticipated then at least a couple of sites should come good. Whiston Meadows was not one of the likely sites but held a flock of 34 Wigeon and several Snipe. Bolehill Flash however was one of the likely sites having a good mix of phragmites, rush and damp willow. Sure enough just as we were about to leave a male Cetti's gave us a quick loud blast only a few feet away. Several more short burts of song and a few sharp calls I still hadn't seen it. A quick blast from the ipod did nothing to encourage it out but amazingly drew the attention of another male about 25 yards behind us, frustratingly neither bird showed so we headed off towards Catcliffe Flash via the Railway Pond. Unfortunately we didn't spend enough time here and by the time I got to Treeton Roy was ringing me to let me know he'd found one there! Further sites i.e. Treeton, Woodhouse Washlands and a brief look at Pit-house West failed to produce, but news of another male at Blackburn Meadows suggested that there's no doubt lots more to be found yet.

An evening visit to Pit-house West failed to produce any Cetti's and no Bitterns but at least three Water Rails.

6th November. Invasion of the Bush Wobbler

Having managed splendid views of Andy's Cettis's Warbler on Monday I decided on spending some time at Pit-house West as I suspected that there might be at least two birds involved. This was based upon the distance between Andy's original sighting and subsequent sightings and not on the spurious claim of two together yesterday - presumably they were nest building or feeding young or just very good friends. Arriving at just after 8:30 Andy and Pete were already on site having had the original Cetti's calling just before I arrived. I hung around for a short while then wandered off to check out an old Long-eared roost, which held no Owls in fact there were no birds of any form. A flock of around 60 Lesser Redpolls buzzed over, hopefully they will build up for the winter, but everywhere else was pretty dead. The stream that runs through Pit-house West is prime Cetti's habitat so it was not so surprising that I heard the familiar about a 1Km from where it had been seen an hour ago, a different bird? As I subsequently frustratingly failed to see or hear the earlier bird It's impossible to be sure, but the fact that it was so far away from the earlier sighting and that they appear to be turning up in every suitable bit of habitat it does seem pretty likely.
A woeful shot but as far as I'm aware the only photographed Cetti's in the
Sheffield area.

2nd November. Pointless Stats

For no reason whatsoever and at the risk of turning a little LGRE I decided at the beginning of October to keep a tally of the distribution of rares throughout the UK during October. There were one or two shocks at the bottom of the table with Yorkshire, the South West and Scilly/Cornwall equalling just four rarity species each. The Southeast came out as the top English area though curiously it is also the 'stringiest' district with Eleanora's of every description being claimed. Not surprisingly the Northern Isles came out on top, closely followed by Ireland (North and Eire) though Shetland on its own managed almost as many total individual rarities as the whole of England and Wales combined and twice as many as Ireland. The Midlands fared well beating many traditional autumn sites though like many English areas it's individual rares total was boosted somewhat by the Glossy Ibis influx.
So what does all this prove? Well if you were based on Shetland during the first two weeks of the month it was great, though there was distinct north south divide and Fair Isle was generally grim. Presumably birders in Norfolk were throwing themselves in to the sea by the time the Fieldfares started moving and at Spurn the Crown and Anchor's owners are Carribean bound following record takings this autumn.*
The Scillies are now clearly the place for birders to get away from it all, get ripped off, get a nice suntan and to listen to tall stories of how good things used to be. Scilly fans shouldn't take much from any of this, at the end of the day it's about how much you enjoyed yourself. The fact that you spent a months salary on flights, accommodation, beer, boat trips to see whales and had to do a 250 mile detour to Surrey on the way home just to salvage something from the autumn was all part of the fun, I think.

Whilst Ireland came second it was pointed out to me by one Irish Birder that things were pretty bad most of the time and that seeing as much as a Blackcap on some days was good!

Will next autumn tell a similar story, probably not. But I for one will be back up north regardless, I just hope the crowds don't follow suit!

EDIT. Wales added and totals for Nortwest amended

1st November. Who ate all the Pies?

Due to some weather I was unable to get out birding today, in fact I've been unable to do any for the last week or so due to one thing or another - mainly apathy! A few visits to Orgreave have produced nothing and I really mean nothing the fact that the footpath is now open probably doesn't help at all.

The biggest event of the week was me hitting 40! Whilst I am by no means on the verge of a mid-life crisis I couldn't help but step on the scales and check my weight and at 13+ stone I was bloody shocked - no more pies from the foreseeable future. This was not helped when earlier this afternoon, whilst discussing the whereabouts of a local Cetti's Warbler with Pete, a voice in the background was heard to shout "he (meaning me) won't know he'll be in Morrison's eating pies!" Well that's it salads from now on - though I suspect that reviews on the quality of salad ingredients will not be as well appreciated as pies!

Back to that Cetti's. Andy D found a Cetti's Warbler yesterday in the exact spot at PHW that I have always fancied one. Presumably there will be some self found rules out there that let me count that one - despite not even seeing or hearing it!

What could prove to be my last pie a Steak and Ale triangular pie from Morrisons, fittingly a ten point pie.