The unsound approach


Romanian letter from Dan (DB per AL)

Going to Carpathia is all the rage these days and we are still awaiting Rob and Katherine's return from points east. Dan typically had a monster time:

"The annual Romania experience occured once again this August and in true Sunbird Style failed to dissappoint. The  mix of superb carpathian birding combined with some leisurley delta action and finally a blitz on the rolling steppes secured a superb list of eastern european megas. Topping the list was a spectacular assortment of delta species including: 20 Dalmatian Pelicans, 10,000 Pygmy Cormorants, 6,000 Ferruginous Ducks, 2-3000 White Pelican, 12 White-tailed Eagles in one day, 2 Little Crakes, all the marsh terns, 200 Caspian Terns together, and a plethora of herons, waders. The Black sea coast proved no less exciting. The wader pools of Vadu and Navadori held the usual assortment including 12 Red-necked Phals, 25 Broad-billed Sands, 20 Marsh Sands, 11 Stone Curlews, and a super supporting cast of stints, tringas and limosa's. Terns and Gulls backed up the main cast with many Gull-billed & White-winged Black Terns and even a Baltic Gull thrown in for good measure. The highlight here was a fall of migrants ahead of several huge storms. A single tree at Histria held 2 Red-breasted Fly's, 15 Spotted Fly's and 7 Red-backed Shrikes whilst the car park next to the museum here was drippig with exhausted birds. Several hundred Yellow Wagtails streamed overhead with a Red-throated Pipit mixed in for good measure and a Citrine Wagtail showing down to 5m along the lake shore at Histria. Inland the rolling steppes threw up a scattering of Red-footed Falcons, Montagu's Harriers and Tawny Pipits, but careful searching pulled out not only Isabelline Wheatear but also Eastern Black-eared and Pied all with the space of  1/2 hour. The dry deciduous woodland revealed two very obliging Sombre Tits, a tonne of Hawfinchs and just about every woodpecker imaginable, not to mention 3 Levant Sparrowhawks overhead. In total contrast the trip had started with five showy Long-eared Owls and advanced to the likes of Black Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Crested and Willow Tits, Great Grey Shrikes and Carpathian Crossbills. Even up in the Carpathians Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers were moving whilst Icterine Warbler replaced the Phylloscs. Oh and did i mention the caspian gulls...?"

Micro-bittern (DB)

Little Crake (DB)

Micro-cormorant (DB)

Remiz remiges (DB)

Presumed Pteranodon (DB)

Levant predating HB (DB)

Red-nex (DB)


Lesser Spot (DB)


31st August

North Sea (JG)

yes, the actual North Sea this time. Four and a half days of bog standard seabird survey boredom, of the kind regularly experienced by stacks of willing dudes on RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruises. But today the skua monotony was broken briefly by a real bird. Unfortunately, I'm contractually obliged not to say exactly where it was, but suffice to say we were sailing less than 20 miles away from several top east coast watchpoints. Whilst trying to ignore a Pom, I noticed a small warbler appear high above the deck. It dropped in and started flitting about the railings and wires, flashing some promising bright greens and whites, and finally settled on a bit of chain railing about a yard from my face. Kapow! as The McKinney would say. A stonking whitle supercillium and a bazzonking great wingbar. If you've never found yourself in this position before, let me tell you that there are two options available to you: 

Option A: Calmly and quietly reach into your immersion suit and pull out your compact camera, lift it to your eye and quickly secure a pin sharp record shot;

Option B: Stand up, wave your arms about and yell "GREENISH!!!" as loud as you can, straight into the poor bastard's face.

Well, I went for option B. Surprisingly, after that it became rather mobile, embarking on a tour of all the boat's best available perches. It particularly favoured my hat, as well as Pete's legs, our observation bench, the wheelhouse and the big pile of fishing gubbins at the back. It even called a few times, as if that might somehow help its predicament. After about five minutes of bounding around, having realised that there weren't any sycamores, it lifted up and headed high north, apparently to try its luck on a passing tanker. And no, I didn't manage a record shot. But it was bloody brilliant. All that stored-up misery and pain from  August 07 (and June 08 - mitchell you bastard!!) has finally lifted from my shoulders. At long last I can look at that page in Collins without feeling ashamed. Autumn - definitely much better than spring.   

North Ronaldsay (AL)

A really slow day today, just a handful of Pied Flycatchers, Willow and Garden Warblers. My own highlight was a 1st yr Greenland Wheatear I caught in the Obs heligoland, a species that isn't ringed often at the NRBO. I should have made more of a song and dance about them, but leucorhoa are brilliant, this one with a wing of 107mm is probably of the Greenland population (which are longer winged than the leucorhoa on Iceland) and has thus travelled a minimum of 2200 km over the ocean. Thorup et al. (2006) have recently presented evidence that leucorhoa does in fact make regularly make a direct sea-crossing from Greenland all the way to North Africa -  a 4000 km non-stop flight. Certainly the birds arriving in-off in that fall on the 28th seemed quite healthy.... 

Greenland Wheatear (AL)

30th August

North Ronaldsay (AL)

A few more odds and ends today, light SE winds drifted a Wryneck and a Common Rosefinch onto the island but other migrants were in short supply - a few Willow and Garden Warblers and a Lapland Bunting. The PGP was giving as crippling a views as PGPs can.

PGP, Merlin and Purp (all A.Lees)

28th August

North Ronaldsay (AL)

Morning seawatching produced a few Sooties and a single Manx, more interesting were the 21 Greenland Wheatears in off, part of a fall of at least 200 on the island, obviously choosing to leave Greenland with the favourable tailwinds that the passage of the wave-front produced. Also associated with this movement were at least 22 Icewits and a Greenland Redpoll.

27th August

North Ronaldsay (AL)

With La Nina promising much, a month with the good folk at NRBO seemed like a good plan. Arriving after midday I had a wander round the island in the afternoon to get my bearings and had a look at the long-staying Pacific Goldie and tried to rout a few other migrants but couldn't do better than a few Willow Warblers. The island, for the benefit of anyone that hasn't been, looks amazing.... 

Summer 2008

Erythromma viridulum at Strumpshaw, if Guillermo del Toro designed an invert... (AL)

Peg above nest in eastern England

Mad Gull at Warham (AL)

One of 8 Ferruginous Sandpipers at Frieston (AL) 

Its scientifically proven that everyone loves baby seals, well maybe apart from this one (AL)

So that was summer 2008. What a load of bollocks.

19th August

Foston, Lincs (ACL, AJL, IS)

Osprey SW over Foston interrupted a garden ping pong sesh. The 8th Raptor for the garden, eclipsed only by the (legendary) Red Kite/Sedge Warbler double on a trip home in September 2002.  

early-mid August

Norfolk, Lincs and Madeira (AL)

Well, apologies for the lack of news on here of late, I'm just back from a week of Pterodroma action, James is visiting Si in Vietnam, Rob is with Katherine in Romania and Rich is playing cricket but is 'really excited about going birding soon'. I have no idea where Dan and Jez are. The autumn is fast approaching, we have been to one of our 'favourite coastal spots' but only found post juvenile dispersal. I saw some Curlew Sandpipers, which was nice. I'll stick a pictorial summary of my last few weeks  weeks imminently with a promise of some hot shots of Desert Island Petrel in due course (these currently still interned within my archaic SLR). For the mean time I had a great time here:

listening to this: New Folder/dan ireland winter/A. Lees, Zinos's Petrel, August 2008.mp3