29th December. Last Of The Year

That's it, this afternoons visit was my final to the patch this year. It, like much of the 400 or so visits throughout the year was pretty uneventful and I failed to add any more species to the self-found year list. The list stalled at 131 back in November and despite much leg work I just couldn't get another. I'm not complaining though, I managed 11 more species than last year. A total of 141 species were recorded at Orgreave this year - which given the habitat isn't half bad.

Three records of Black-necked Grebe this year - all in cracking summer plumage. This bird was found on my first bus visit after ditching the car.

Even the detritus strewn River Rother produced some good birds.

Some new additions to the site list were a little underwhelming.

Despite the at times constant disturbance breeding birds did remarkably well, with success from Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, L R Plover, Tufted Duck (4 broods) and Common Tern - the latter species' presence and persistent patrolling against predators no doubt helped the other breeding birds.

A total of 24 species of wader were recorded throughout the year.

One of my personal favourites this year was this totally unexpected Arctic Tern flock on the 29th July.

A good year for Wheatears with 'flocks' in double figures and an unprecedented number of Greenland birds.

So it all starts again on Sunday - or in my case Monday. I'm feeling a little negative at the moment, I always do at this time of year, but the excitement of a new challenge is already starting to fuel my enthusiasm - maybe this year I'll find I'll get my first BB rarity on the patch.

19th December. 12 Days

With only twelve days of the year left, I can already feel the new year bells ringing in their anti-climax marking the end of one of the best years local birding that I've ever had. But a lot can happen in twelve days and it's perhaps a little too early to feel the chill of Old Father Time. One of the glaring omissions on the Sheffield area list is Lesser Scaup and with the Orgreave Pochard flock reaching almost 200 birds it's surely only a matter of time before it falls, and something that is well and truly at the top of my Christmas list.

Meanwhile I spent a good chunk of the weekend tracking down the Redpoll flock and with a little help from Jean C Roche and the magic of MP3 I managed to keep them in one spot long enough to find at least one Mealy among them, though there were probably at least two others. Something to keep me busy in the coming weeks.

The gull roost is still coming up with the goods with Martin scoring a putative 1st year Caspian or hybrid (see his blog for details) and at least two Yellow-legged Gulls and the green-ringed Med' Gull still roosting most evenings.

It seems a long time since some quality pies featured on the pages of this blog, so here in all it's naked pie porn glory is a quality Huntsman Pie purchased, from Cannon Hall Farm Shop in Barnsley, by a very kind colleague who understands my need for savoury pastry products.

Stuffing, Turkey and Pork - Pietastic

14th December. Good Evening

The lack of blogging lately has been down to one or two things; like most working birders the general lack of daylight at this time of year restricts us to weekends, occasional days off and er sick days. Managed to miss out on a fine herd of seven Bewick's Swans at the weekend due to me being a nesh lazy git! Hence the self-found list remains stagnant at 131.

There's also been an appalling lack of scandal of late, though having recently thrown myself off Facebook my source for gutter birding news has all but dried up. I did attend an interesting bird group meeting recently where the speaker was like a cross between Eric Hoskings and Bernard Manning - and that's where we'll leave it....

"......Tits like coconuts"

28th November. Not Available In The Shops

Those of you who've been worrying about the health/sanity of LGRE need fear no more. Since his disappearance from the birding scene (well since he got kicked off Bird Foru...Blah Blah Blah) rumours of his dwindling health have been rife. Thankfully it became clear on Friday that it was in fact his lesser known doppelganger a Mr George Michael that was indeed ill and that aids (shouldn't that be aides?) close to LARGE knew his whereabouts.

Turns out LiaRGE had shut himself away in the cupboard under the stairs of his Little Chalfont home, with his Fisher Price tape recorder and a months supply of chicken cup o soup, to bring you his latest musical offering 'Praise Me'. Remember this is not available in the shops and stock is shifting quick (ten copies were dispatched to an address in Crawley this lunchtime) Order now in time for Christmas....

26th November. Snubbed

A quiet weekend on the patch, though another (or the same) Caspian Gull was found by Andy on Saturday. I rudely snubbed it by staying in and cleaning the oven! But he did oblige me with some nice photos again!!

Photos by Andy Deighton

20th November. Performing Seals

Almost too foggy to bird this morning, but given that I only had an hour I opted for a quick walk on the patch. Visibility was that poor you could hardly see the waters edge so I opted to check the bushes and river side trees. Not surprisingly woodland birds don't feature too highly on the list at Orgreave so a Treecreeper calling set the pulse racing almost as much as the earlier Smew and being a new species for the site equally valuable!

The seal colony at Donna Nook has long been a favourite late autumn day out so having promised Beth and her friend that we'd go we went. It's always been popular but thanks to that twat Packham and his hit man and her sidekick it's gone nuclear! The overflow car park was overflowing and the constant train of people trudging over the dunes was like a scene from dawn of the dead - but with white tracksuits and baseball caps! The seals performed but the whole thing was about as enjoyable as being dragged around Meadowhall by my testicles - still the girls seemed to enjoy it.


18th November. 130

Having turned down two lifts for the Eastern Black Redstart this weekend I was bound to feel a little gripped off. Fortunately you can't tick it (yet) so I didn't mind missing out. How many of us are still counting the cost of a similiar attitude towards the Essex Red-throated Thrush all those years back? Cough splutter - me for one!

However my extended weekend got off to a cracking start on Friday when I found a red-head Smew on the patch. Self-found patch year bird number 130 and a new bird for the rapidly expanding Orgreave list.

13th November. Predictable

I left the house this morning with one particular species in the back of my mind - White-fronted Goose. Nothing exciting, but locally scarce and given a notable number of inland records over the last few days surely a contender for the next patch tick. After a couple of hours counting ducks and grilling the Meadow Pipit and Linnet flocks I wandered over towards the 'plains'. Some newly seeded areas had recently proven popular with the roaming Canada/Greylag flock. Finding the flock I instantly found two White-fronts feeding on the edge of the flock. Incredible if only finding birds was always this easy and predictable.

Andy Deighton managed, as is becoming the norm, far better shots than me.

Some disturbance from the locals

And they were off!!

Back down in the evening and there was no sign of the geese. The White-fronts brought the self-found patch year to 128 and a Water Rail below the Rother bridge was another. Hoping that the 130th will be something special...

8th November. What An Ugly Bunch We Are

Glancing at Eric Didner's Long-toed Stint photos I noticed a couple of things; One of which is that our Gallic neighbours can sort out Long-toed Stints a damn sight quicker than we can. The other ,even more obvious, was that the majority of French Twitchers don't quite resemble us Brits. I present my evidence below:

French Specimen 1 - Handsome Bastard!

British Specimen 1. The Elephant Man thought it best to cover up

French Specimen 2. One glance at this Clooney esq specimen will have Mrs Bagnell heading for the Ryan Air ticket desk.

British Specimen 2. And it'll take a bit more than a big list to lure her back!!

French Specimen 3. The bloke in the hat is clearly an English birder.

British Specimen 3. Dumb, Dumb and Dumber

French Specimen 4. "Bonjour Carmel"

British Specimen 4. Another Brit birder clearly too embarrassed to show his grotesque features, or is he merely secreting a pie!

So there we have it British birders are ugly. Our near European neighbours, whilst lacking in the number of rare, are clearly a bunch of handsome gits that must spend the best part of their time literally beating the birds off with a shitty stick.

I must point out that I was assisted with my research by my ever loving wife Jo and I am most definitely not on the turn, that said, specimen 2 is a bit of a looker.... Oh eck!!!

3rd November. Gripping Stuff

The problem with being a working birder is that sooner or later retired/non working birders are eventually going to grip you off. Today proved to be one of these days, when I got a call saying Ray Platts had found a Grey Phalarope below the earth mound.

edit: It seems that Ray wasn't the original finder see comments below.

Fortunately I did manage to get down to Orgreave in my lunch. But the gripping (at least on a not finding things myself basis) continued when Andy found two Twite feeding exactly where I found last years Snow Buntings. Fortunately these also hung around long enough. Two species that would have fitted nicely on the SF Patch List - bugger!

Continuing the theme of me not only being unable to find anything (apart from stringy laridae) but also losing the ability to take decent photos (or any for that matter) here are a few crackers from Andy.

Tales Of The River Bank

Bloody Hell it's all gone a bit Mods V Rockers down in the East Midlands, with disgruntled birders sparring with unhappy fishing folk. Talk of fishing trolleys getting lobbed in the river and birders cars threatened with vandalism. It must be true I read it on Birdforum

Since finding that dead Water Rail Tom had become an angry young man

Alongside some excellent birds this autumn has been one of conspiracy, violence, suppression, back stabbing, ridicule and hatred, well it has if you believe one particular individual!

31st October. Goodbye Ruby Monday

Well it looks as though the Rubythroat has finally left the building or should that be garden. I can't lie, every single update on this bird has caused the bile from my stomach to rise to the back of my throat in an attempt to choke me. I started off being pleased that the bird had charmed my friends on Shetland, genuinely chuffed for them. Then it started to take the piss, parading around for anyone - totally de-valuing itself. In short it became cheap! I conjured with the idea of going this weekend gone but, despite offers from Russ to pick us up from the ferry and look for the bird on the Friday prior to our departure, it all turned to rat shit when the driver (for whatever reason) couldn't make it. So that was it I spent the last week getting gripped by long standing twitching mates and updates on Twitter.

So sorry if you left it until today and dipped but I for one am pleased that I can get on with my bloody life now.

Gulls galore

Rather pleased that the patch appears to be gathering a decent gull roost over the last couple of weeks. Saturday night produced a nice Caspian Gull - though given the high rejection rate (in Yorkshire) getting it past a committee will be a bigger challenge than the ID. Fortunately it put in an appearance at Redmires this morning (picture below at Redmires by Richard Hill).

Sunday night was more predictable with less large gulls though a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, found by Andy, was nice and I managed to pick a 2nd winter Med' Gull out of the black-heads. Photos below by Andy Deighton.

I've a sneaky feeling that this autumn might have one more major surprise up it's sleeve, fingers crossed

23rd October. Happy Birthday Beth

Today I officially became the parent of a teenager. A good (birding) friend of mine once questioned my decision to have a child in October! This was something that crossed my mind when this weekend I simply couldn't consider either the Rubythroat or the Tanager. I wouldn't swap Beth for the world - she's a wonderful daughter so much so that even if I'd gone for either the aforementioned birds she'd have understood completely well deep down she's a birder at heart!

At just three she'd got to grips with the scope

Digiscoping at Seven

The day she renamed phalaropes as 'turnaround a bird'

Grilling a Citrine Wag' earlier this year.

Now is anyone up for that Rubythroat next weekend - if it sticks of course?

22nd October. Back for the Winter

No twitching for me this weekend. Neither the Tanager or the Rubythroat were available to me. I didn't have the bottle to go for the former and with Beth's birthday on Sunday no time for the latter.

So again it was left to the patch to take my mind off everything else. First visit produced very little though 67 Pochard were notable. The afternoon visit was slightly better with a single Wheatear (my latest local bird ever) and that gull again! It still looks good for 4th winter Caspian Gull but I'm just waiting on a second opinion!

Pit-house West came up trumps in the evening with a male Stonechat and the Bittern heading to roost at dusk, the ninth successive winter for Bitterns at this site.

20th October. Back on the Patch

First visit to Orgreave since before my Shetland trip, and one that I was very much in need of. The continuing presence of the Siberian Rubythroat (on Shetland) was starting to get to me and I very much needed to put my mind into something else, rather than the logistics of heading north again!

Orgreave was alive with birds - though mainly ducks and gulls so I set about scanning through the increasing flock of gulls. A nice adult Yellow-legged Gull appeared briefly and then shortly after I picked up a near adult Caspian Gull - it wasn't as straightforward as that though. I had left the camera in the house, the battery on my mobile was dead and worse still I literally had no lead (or at least very little) lead in my pencil! It ticked all the boxes i.e head shape, bill shape, primary pattern, wing length, eye colour (dark at a distance). I did manage to make some notes and hopefully should be able to put a decent description together for the YNU.

Despite the frustration it was good to get back on the patch.

18th October. KKK alive and well in Cornwall

Shock revelations this week from the policeman of birding (and not a birding policeman) that the Kernow Killjoy Klan have once again been operating in the north of Cornwall. Apparently this 'crime' was committed in the Davidstow/Crowdy area where an apparent Semipalmated Plover slipped beneath every visiting twitchers radar, whilst it hid among the tundrae Ringed Plovers.

A full investigation by the IQ 40 is currently being carried out into the alledged activities of cult leader Christ Stanley.

"Psst Get yourself off to Rame in the morning my lover"

Personally I'd like to thank the KKK for helping me keep another British blocker on my list!

17th October. The Bigger Shetland Picture

Black-headed Bunting, Pallid Harrier, Olive-backed Pipit, 2 self-found Barred Warblers, 6 Self-found Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Rosefinch, Citrine Wagtail, American Golden Plover, Isabelline Shrike, Buff-bellied Pipit.... Not a bad haul really and if you'd just read that on Birdguides you'd probably be quite envious. That's not the true picture though. If you want to chase around looking at birds that someone else found then that's absolutely fine and as a result you could quite easily have seen all of the above and a few more besides. However if like Andy and me you like to try and find your own birds and explore new (well newish) ground then Shetland this year was a big let down.

We covered lots of ground on Unst some real cracking habitat with form. It wasn't the lack of rare it was the seemingly complete lack of everything. The truer picture is that apart for the aforementioned rares and to the best of my now hazy memory we saw just the following (migrants) throughout the entire trip; 7 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, singles of Whinchat, Redstart, Pied Fly, Spot Fly, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Garden Warblers, 6 Willow Warblers (a marked increase) and significantly less Blackcaps. Thoroughly working plantations or gardens when there's is no sign of life is just so bloody sole destroying.

Things got worse when we headed south, when not only was there a lack of migrants there was a massive increase in the number of 'twitching' birders. Never in my seven autumn visits have I seen so many visiting birders, to quote Andy it was like Scilly with cars. This brought our moral down even more but the dream team of Harvey, Riddington, Small and Garner finding a nearby Buff-bellied Pipit both raised our expectations and helped concentrate the rampant tickers in one place. We headed in the opposite direction!!

The following morning after listening to constant lashing wind and rain we eventually ventured out after a rousing call to arms from Martin who informed us of masses of thrushes arriving. Not quite the 'thousands' that we had expected but certainly an arrival. We spent the next few hours getting a proper battering around the familiar territory of Sumburgh Head and Farm for scant reward - in fact no reward.

The rest of our stay was pretty much the same i.e. no migrants and no new rares after HRSG's pipit and I can honestly say that by Wednesday morning I was glad to get on that plane (eventually) to Glasgow. However on reflection that's just the magic of Shetland you never know what your going to get and to be fair I've had much worse years. Perhaps It would be a little hasty for me to say that I won't be back next year?

Some of the usual favoured spots were this year very much out of bounds.

Norfolk in Chance

Currently wandering around Warham with a miriad of expectant birders; though sadly most have already given up and others are wasting time blogging about it. The Rufous-tailed Robin&amp has probably either done one or - following a frost- is laying on it's back with it's feet in the air.

The rumour mill is already running with a story of how it was kept quiet and how more birders could have connected with it. Blah blah blah more shit for the forums.
In my experience the finder is a top bloke - the nicest of the Punkbirders - and deserves nothing but high praise for getting the news out. Had it been me it would have A taken me several hours to come to my senses and B significantly longer to scrape the shit from my underpants.
Birders! Some of you are just vile spiteful bastards!!

I'm off to walk to Wells for a nice cuppa and a spot of breakfast.

To HellUnst and Back

Pay little attention to the previous two posts, they were written in the half light of a candle and uploaded using only a couple of rusty cans and a bit of string that I found discarded on a beach - that however doesn't excuse the content being crap.

So how was Unstd? In one word - windy. Never have I experienced such prolonged westerly winds whilst staying on Shetland. Consequently birds were few and far between and any hope of a Yank (sorry) was shattered by the amazing statistics quoted by my friend the Llama, who informed me that only three American land birds have ever been recorded on Unst.

Anyway technological difficulties aside Unst was challenging but mostly enjoyable. Lots of cracking rare bird habitat, but without the err rare birds - or in the case of some sites any birds. We managed to find a few minor scarce namely Rosefinch and Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers but that really was it. Unst is very nice, the people are very nice and welcoming some openly inviting you into their gardens.

We did see a couple of other people's rare finds.

A couple of trips to Fetlar - to relieve the tedium produced very little, though we did have cracking views of the juv Pallid Harrier as it hunted around Loch of Funzie (apparently pronounced finnie).

So as I said in an earlier post Unst will either be a triumph or a disaster, or something like that. Personally I don't think it was either just somewhere in between.

Still four days of this Hell trip to endure go and the weather is looking f***@ng awful isn't looking too favourable.

On the plus side some pastry delights were to be found, firstly en-route at Yell and on display in the Baltasound shop. The appearance of a Lasagne Pie in Brae raised moral, but like the rarities in south Mainland it had been around for a while!

Dr Llama being all optimistic on the way north

Though that all turned to rat shit when the wind set in!
Unst survival kit