Auld Lang Syne

I was going to sit down and trawl through my birding year but frankly I can't be arsed. My year started like everyone else's in January and finished in December. In between I saw some birds, found some birds and dipped some. Birding highlights of the year included finding some local scarce namely Long-tailed Duck, Little Egret and three Cetti's Warblers. National birding trips were few and far between with the two of the three trips for lifers ending in failure, Crested Lark and Royal Tern. Shetland again came good with self founds in the shape of Little Bunting, 2 Bluethroats, Common Rosefinch and several Yellow-browed Warblers. Highlight of the trip however was helping to nail the I.D of the Scatness Lancy with some rather unorthodox field techniques which basically involved rattling off some record shots then whilst still in the field downloading comparison images via the iphone enabling us to make a positive I.D of this particularly tricky little bugger. Was this the first instance of cyber birding in the field - maybe not but certainly not the last.

The first 'cyber' Lancy

Low points of the year were the aforementioned dips, that 'thrush' at Sumburgh and missing what would have been my fourth Cetti's. But the lowest point was up until now known only to me and takes us back to Shetland at the beginning of our trip. The Llama picked up a pipit calling overhead which dropped in to the edge of the Virkie crop field almost immediately I got on to it and dismissed it as a Tree Pipit it hopped straight into the turnips and only came out when I played the ipod at it - which with hindsight was a bit dumb as it immediately shot up in the air and vanished! I suspect that I screwed that one up as as it turned out October 2009 was somewhat of a record year for Olive-backed Pipit on Shetland and as most birders know OBP's do call like Tree Pipits and don't always look... well... olive! Sorry Andy I suspect I dropped a bollock - it's been on my mind since that claggy day in October and now I must cleanse my soul before this year ends.

A few people (and it is only a few) have said they enjoy the blog but that they don't get the pie thing! The pie thing goes back a few years when Rob first moved up north and had an uncanny knack of finding 'rare or scarce' whilst walking from Sunnydell to the Toab shop usually to purchase fags and a pie. One occasion involved Rob walking out of the Toab shop clutching a half eaten chicken in white sauce (a particular favourite of mine) whilst picking up an overhead flying crane - and that's just about it really we (I) like pies they're more compact and tastier than sandwiches and can in times of trouble be used as weapons. I won't be surprised if you still don't get the pie thing!
A few less of these won't hurt.

Well I said I wasn't going to trawl through the year and I haven't much have I?
What will 2010 bring? How the hell do I know but one thing's for sure there will be more patchwork and even less twitching. The Shetland flights are already booked as are a couple of mainland trips, Cornwall in August, Northumberland in May. One thing I hope is certain is that I'll continue to enjoy my birding more as I have done for the last couple of years.

Christmas Birding

Following a long calming down after the previous 'fishermen' rant I had a spot of writers block coupled with a lack of birds and the start of a two week freezing spell. Unfortunately the writers block cleared, though the weather stayed freezing and disappointingly didn't seem to cause any hard weather bird movement.

Christmas week stared with a night out with a selection of local birders where we spent the evening putting the world of local birding to right and somehow getting roped in to writing a set of rules for a forthcoming local self-found league. Hopefully by the following morning everyone had forgotten about any commitments that I had made.

For a change this year Jo and I decided on a different Christmas day location - Scarborough! Nothing flash just a day out in Scarborough with perhaps a little bit of birding thrown in. A walk around the harbour produced no birds of note - apparently gone are the days when you could rely on an Iceland or Glaucous Gull being present. A walk up to the castle and a quick look at a dead Bronte's resting site was followed by more unintentional Ice skating session around the harbour. Around midday we ended up at Scalby Mills scanning through the gulls and scanning the sea for divers/grebes and sea duck. What we didn't expect was a White Stork, that appeared over the bay being mobbed by gulls at 13:00hrs
Wild or not it was certainly a nice change from Turkey

Riding our look we decided to head home via Holbeck where we picked up at three smart Med' Gulls.

The three days following Christmas day were poor with nothing of note, despite a five hour stint around Pit-house West and RV on the 27th.

With the 28th probably being my last birding day of 2009 I dashed round the house like Mary Poppins cleaning etc to earn some vital afternoon birding brownie points. Unfortunately the birding gods were not pleased (clearly they thought that I should have been out sooner) and unleashed their wrath on me - in short whilst walking down the track towards the Chinese Bridge at Pit-house West I went arse over tit and landed right on top of the Sigma which implanted itself in my ribcage. The next thirty minutes were spent hobbling round holding my ribs. I then decide it might be a good idea to pop to A&E and get them looked at having failed to do any real birding - though through my agony I did have a brief snatch of Cetti's Warbler by the Chinese Bridge.

Fortunately the ribs were just badly bruised, probably saved by the protective layer of excess pie fat! More importantly the camera and lens are still in one piece!!

Many thanks for reading this rubbish for the last 12 months.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


13th December. Crest of Fire

Much the same as yesterday with a walk around RV taking up all of the morning. The Great Northern still present but I failed to find the Scoter.

My afternoon nap (another post 40 thingy) was disturbed by Pete Wragg informing me that he'd found a Firecrest a Pit-house West by the Chinese Bridge. Well you can never see too many Firecrests and it would have been rude not to pay it any attention. The resulting photos however were pretty crap dull conditions combined with hand held at 1/30th using 1600ISO was not ideal.

FISHERMEN ARE .....................

One of the reasons that I stopped visiting Pit-house West was the fact that locals had taken it upon themselves to start up their own F'ing fishery within the much needed reedy pools favoured by Reed Warblers and the wintering Bitterns and setting fire to the adjacent scrub used by breeding Linnets and Yellowhammers. I simply couldn't cope with the frustration of discarded beer cans, carrier bags, discarded tackle and blatant habitat destruction. It's not as though there's no where else to fish, less than a mile away there's a perfectly well run fishery - but no these 'former German striker' continue to f**k up this locally important wildlife site. They have no right to fish here - it is illegal, but then so is killing Cormorants!

Like the rest of RVCP Pit-house West is no longer managed by Rotherham Borough Council but by Oak Holdings a property development and consultancy group who's master plan is to build the YES PROJECT Of course those good old turd polishers* at Rotherham Town Hall all fell for these southern charmers and gave everything away complete with planning permission. But as my dad often says you can't polish a turd and if one single brick gets layed on this site I'll smear my bell end with Marmite and feed it to next doors dog**. Consequently and as a result of the new owners there is absolutely no management work undertaken at PHW, fences are broken down, gates removed and those 'former German strikers' get carte blanche to cut down, burn and generally trash any habitat that gets in the way of their maggot drowning sticks. Infact the only 'management' work that I have seen carried out in recent years is the clearing of trees from the paths so Oak Holdings could get there vehicles down to show prospective YES Project tenants around the site. In short Oak Holdings don't give two F'cks what happens to the wildlife on their site as long as they get their tenants for (which they won't) this white elephant - call me cynical (or whatever you like) but I suspect that Oak care not for this site and would be more than happy for the dereliction to continue, until I see a change here my opinion of these charlatans and of RMBC will not change.***

Rant over.

* Turd Polishers - see here

** My next door neighbour does not have a dog, but they do have a couple of pretty rough looking daughters.

*** This does not include the current manager and employees at RV.

12th December. Third Time Lucky

RV's seemingly the only local spot worthy of a visit at the moment so once again I found myself smiling nicely at the bloke on the gate in an attempt to gain access. For reasons known only to me I have neglected this place for the last couple of years to the point where I completely stopped going all together. Having watched fairly birdless sites for a while returning here truly has been a breath of fresh air and with my tail well and truly between my legs I return to my 'local patch'. As I stated in an earlier post the wildfowl numbers at present seem much higher than normal most notably close on 300 Pochard with most other common winter visitors present. Add to this the long staying Great Northern Diver, 2 Bitterns, Cetti's Warbler and the chance of some local 'rare' (Lesser Scaup is well over due) there are few sites locally where you can have a better days birding. A female Common Scoter was found on the Main Lake whilst counting Great Crested Grebe (38) and the Great Northern finally gave itself up for a decent photo albeit digiscoped with my rapidly failing eyesight - it's true that everything starts to pack up once you get to forty. Another visit (I just can't keep away) mid-afternoon produced nothing new but gave Jo the chance to get to grips with duck I.D and a new bird in the form of the Scoter.

6th December. Merg

First job this morning was to get the decorations out of the loft. Second job to get the hell out of the way whilst Jo and Beth played about with baubles and lights and stuff.

I called at the usual car viewable spots i.e Orgreave, Catcliffe and Blue Mans Bower and saw very little before deciding to have a rare wander round RV. Good numbers of duck this winter with at least 240 Pochard on the Reserve and around 30 Goosanders among the more notable counts. Also among the Goosanders was this fem/imm Red-breasted Merganser decent bird these days at the valley being almost as scarce as Smew.

5th December. Me No Leica Very Much

With some work and other duties to carry out this morning birding was going to be difficult but I did at least manage a visit to RV to take some more 'record' shots of the Great Northern Diver.

Arriving home to the usual pile of junk mail I was briefly pleased to open a letter from Leica. What could it be? Had I won a competition? Had they sent out a product recall for the notchy focusing on my Ultravids? Had I bollocks. Had they bollocks. No this was an attempt, by them, to get me to fire up the credit card and plunge myself into some more debt. In what I can only describe as a 'begging letter' those generous soles at Leica were giving me and only me the chance -wait for it- to purchase a lovely pair of Ultravids for the princely sum of just seventeen hundred and fifty quid!! In return they would give me a 8X20 Monovid free of charge. Tight bastards. Not only do they hike up the price of their 10X42's (don't give me all that HD rubbish, that's the binocular equivalent of the Emperor's new clothes) by almost 100% - my 10X42's cost me £900 - they have the cheek to offer me just half a pair of binoculars. Do I look like a bloody cyclops? Well thanks but no thanks Mr (or Mrs) Leica I'll stick with the two pairs I already have. Leica seem to have lost the plot of late, their prices have shot through the roof cf. their near £3000 scope and almost £2000 bins' who in their right mind wants to spend that kind of money? Probably the same tits that take up birding and instantly get a twelve grand optics package i.e. Bins, Scope and huge up arse lens but forget that you can't buy fieldcraft and I.D skills, but that's a rant for another whisky/gin fuelled evening...

4th December. Shopping, a pie and some fudge.

A planned shopping trip to Leeds this morning held little promise of anything avian, so it was even more frustrating that the weather favoured birding much more than shopping! We even managed a bit of pie action from a pie shop in Morley. However the Huntsman pie was distinctly average and in no way warrants me plugging the shop - bet their shitting themselves now! Fortunately Jo's no hardcore shopper, so a quick dash through Ikea and we were on our way home. Pugneys was on the way back so with the Ferruginous Duck appearing to have shed any jewellery that it might have had not calling in would have been rude. However the 'fudge' (where the hell did that come from) duck wasn't in the mood for showing well and insisted on hiding behind the near island unlike the Bittern which was perfoming well in the reed bed.