The unsound approach

30th September

Vietnam (SM, SB)

Did a bit of coastal migration at the weekend. Not all that much doing in terms of numbers (e.g. not many orioles and ashy drongos, just one brown fly, no Taiga, 2 Sibe Blue Robs, etc), but a high proportion of scarce migrants e.g. 2 Black-winged Cuckooshrike, 2 Wryneck, one Lesser Coucal, also one Scops (oriental). Appended below are some digi-scopy photos of a Brown shrike, Brown fly, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Black-naped Oriole (which is interesting because it is a likely vagrant to the UK in the same vein as Long-tailed Shrike, and a first winter female (which this is not) would be easily overlooked as a golden - check those photos of November Goldens! 


Oriental montage (SB)

29th September

Highland (DB, T. Lowe)

As if yesterday wasn't sparkling enough, the damn Sandhill has decided that, like everyone, it just wants to be near Dan. Refinding it just south of Wick, the pros are currently (12:20) driving south with the big sack of moldering grus flying alongside him. Still, now we know how it got over here. I'm sure that is Dan in the microlite.


28th September

Wick, Highland (DB, T. Lowe)

Dan shows his true colours (golden) with the first big skor of the autumn. As payback for feebly deciding to twitch the Sandhill Crane (which we're fairly certain is a fake anyway), the birding gods punished him with this self-found juvenile Upland Sandpiper. More details from the horse's grinning mouth to follow.


Yankee-doodle (DB)


24th September

Marston (Lincs), Kilvington (Notts)

Called in at some old stomping grounds en route to parents/airport. A good discussion with site staff at the former suggests we might actually be able to create some wader habo, of which there was virtually none today. Sole bird of nominal interest was my first Marston (the site's 3rd) Red Kite which went high north, of nominal interest as I'd already seen 5 that morning driving up the A1... Kilvington was looking sweet, but didn't produce, save for 'one o'dem fancy gulls' in a ploughed field nearby.

Kite, cropped 7 million percent or thereabouts; I love my new camera (AL)



check out the nuffulars on this beaut (AL)   


22nd September

Tiree (DB, HW)

Yank-raining conditions swept the island and despite staying well-clear of all seafood restaurants (not that there are any on the island) and even shunning the coffee shops (again, notable by their paucity) we failed to find anything new following on from the Bairds. The AGP was confirmed as being the same bird found earlier by John Bowler and showed spectacularly on the final day even giving a free fly around before landing right next to John and myself as we were exchanging info. The few key gardens produced nothing more than a handful of thrushes and a single Willow Warbler whilst every flock of Sanderling contained only Sanderling - disappointing. There were no Sandhill Cranes on The Reef, and the highlight of the southern stream was a solitary Snipe, unfortunately no need for capitals nor confusion with sandpipers. The return ferry journey yielded a Grey Phal just out of the harbour and a couple of Stormies before the light finally dimmed.
that AGP... again: quantum evolution in image quality... (DB)

Yarmouth South Denes, early am (AL, JG)

Prospective proactive vizmig sesh in the urban jungle: two hours dicing with death and dog sh*te produced a very healthy southward movement of hirundines - principally c. 600 House Martins, plus 120 Meadow Pipits, 10 alba wags and 2 Grey Wags. Not the hoped for Dick's Pips, Serins or GIs. Views weren't great initially as coasting birds kept turning inland before the rollercoaster, it was quickly apparent that a juv. Hobby was acting as gatekeeper and scattering the flocks across the town centre and into the stratosphere (wouldn't have minded if it was an Eleo). Three Wheatears were hopping around on the deck, but nothing of note materialised.

Britannia never missed a good passage (AL)


20th September

Tiree (DB per AL)

Gale force winds and torrential rain all day today. Birding harder than fending off a dozen hot naked girls. Jammed in on the same AGP along the roadside and secured slightly better shots than my digi-blasting efforts. Passerines were notable by not being present, but all suitable yank habo has been ear-marked for some bashing tomorrow.

If ever an AGP could look miserable (DB)


21st September

'nam (SM per AL)

Some recent excepts of 'letters to home from Si', hopefully he'll be furnishing us with gripping images of sibes soon....


21/09...I love autumn: storm hit Hanoi this morning and the sky started boiling - looking like CGI special effects. Clearly rain was on its way, and very rapidly - there was a heavy passage of plastic bags at around 200ft in a strengthening wind. A Blue Rock Thrush bailed out of the sky and onto a nearby roof, settling for a few seconds before flying on its way. I got really excited and went up to the roof to see what else would come down. Ten minutes only netted me a couple of swiftlets (we can't ever identify the ones that migrate over Hanoi in the autumn, but assume them to be Himalayan Swiftlets as they are the only migratory ones) and a columbid (probably Red-collared Dove). Then I went to work.

17/09... So, migration at the weekend, it began really windy and ended up hot and sunny. In the wind we couldn't get a boat out to the island we usually go to, so decided to make use of a small strip of casurinas along the coast. It was really amazing. The wind was really strong so everything was hiding in the bottom metre of each tree, with Yellow Bitterns shooting past sideways all the time. I got hit in the head by a Green-backed Heron which just fell out of the sky. Brown Shrikes were everywhere, we watched one taking off and being blown backwards into a pool of mud. Best thing I found, and best thing i've seen for a long time, was an Oriental Scops. I saw what looked like a dead bird wedged between a bundle of branches at knee level in a little tree, so walked up to it to take a look. It was rather unclear what it was - when my head was just 50 cm from it, and still puzzled, it turned to look straight at me and i realised it was an owl! It remained motionless as I swore at it for about five minutes. Then swore at myself - I had the camera but the memory card was at home. Really, really amazing bird - finding an owl in these circumstances is perhaps as exciting as it gets in this sort of birding. Also quite a bit of other stuff about, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Yellow-rumped and Blue and White Flys, lots of Tiger Shrikes (key id feature: mentally retarded facial expression), Sibe Blue Robins (don't think i'd ever get bored of those). Also experienced tattler for the first time, which was nice. It reminded me of Garden Warbler. All this fun was cut short when the army appeared and sternly led us away, making the hand cuffs signal which fortunately did not lead to actual handcuffs. So we went and looked at Painted Stork, which looked really silly.


20th September

Tiree (DB per AL)

No-one told me Dan was on Tiree. Will have sleepless nights now having seen the forecast. Anyway he found a Baird's Sand yesterday - in off at Balephetrish Bay, then inland across the island, and today a moulting adult American Golden Plover plus a Ruff at Loch a' Phuill (possibly the same bird as earlier in the month?).



East Hills (RoMa)

Early start to ride out the tide didn't work wonders and the hoped for switch in the weather failed to amount to anything. The return to glorious sun by early afternoon did throw a fine dark brown juv. Honey Buzzard across the marsh and out over the trees. I was miles away nearly at Wells and actually got excited about the prospect of it sat in the pines, but I just booted out the same Peregrine having legged it back through the sodden marsh. No tinitus from the Y-b today, in fact everything was in stealth mode, and I didn't discover that it was still present until hour 9 on the island. Lesser Whitethroat present, fewer Willows, a Blackcap, still lots of Robins and again a Common Buzzard passed over the marsh.

Juv. Honey. maxi-crop, mega distance. Maybe a digi-vidi-blast would have been a better option than the dslr in this case...

Titchwell (AL)

Called in on the way to work, the freshmarsh held 3 Little Stint, the remaining hide was a vintage Titchwell ID carve-up, 78% of waders were being confidentally identified as Curlew Sandpipers. There not being any didn't seem to be an obstacle to their identification. Escape to Thornham Point (colloquially known as the migraine skank) produced a Robin and pair of Snow Buntings. Welcome to autumn 2009....


can't wait for spring... (AL)

19th September

East Hills (AL)

Out once again onto the marshes in a fruitless quest for scarce and solitude. Some changeover in migrants, but nothing better than the used Inornate Warbler which nearly gave me tinitus. Should have been a Paddyfield somehwere.

Grounded migrants:

Robin 7, Common Redstart 1, Whinchat 1, Wheatear 10, Song Thrush 15, Blackbird 1, Garden Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 5, Common Whitethroat 2, Willow Warbler 2, Chiffchaff 4, Yellow-browed Warbler 1, Spotted Flycatcher 1

a little bit of the Urals (AL)

migrant medley. yes I checked it. (AL)

new common migrant and new notice (AL)


17th September

East Hills (RoMa)

First Yellow-brow of the autumn on the hills, also Redstart, at least 20 Song Thrush but no RbF today. Not a huge number of phylloscs either, just a couple of Willow and 6 Chiffs. 1 Buzzard over the marsh.



16th September

Lodge Marsh and environs (AL, JG)

Out across the marsh, migrants were not in evidence; across the dunes a haul of one Wheatear affirmed our fears. Why, what’s going on, are Wrynecks extinct? At least the pines would deliver RBF? The first trees were birdless, despite a good hoofing. Then bits and bobs appeared. Well, a few crests and Phyloscs. Down in the depths the two protagonists met up again, JG was optimistic, clearly there was more about than his last visit. AL, however was considerably more pessimistic, a train of thought quickly and perhaps quite predictably dispelled when a Red-breasted Flycatcher sallied out of the sycamores and into his face 10 seconds later. No big win, but it was a start, and with charisma in spades you can’t not love finding RBFs. Not the first time either ironically that despondency has been rewarded on here. Pushing harder, the trees gave up more secrets, wraith-like Sylvia warblers appeared and disappeared, James booted a Gropper (evidently a substantial arrival of these critters had taken place the day before) and more Robins and Song Thrushes made their presence felt.  The far section had better diversity, Spot Flys, a Redstart, Lesserthroat and the first Willows, of which two had an acredula feel to them; many Chiffs also seemed to have an hint of easterness about them. Then the Kent news reached us. A moment to pause and reflect, and then back to work... Despite pushing the envelope however, time and tide wait for no-one and we eventually made our way back fairly lethargically via more of the same. A half-arsed attempt at Stiffkey Wood delivered lots of wind, whilst the Fen wasn’t much better, although another Redstart was semi-notable.  Still, first blood...

Grounded migrants:

Robin 10, Common Redstart 1, Wheatear 4, Song Thrush 18, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Garden Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Common Whitethroat 2, Willow Warbler 3, Chiffchaff 10, Spotted Flycatcher 2, Red-breasted Flycatcher 1


putative 'eastern' Phyloscs (AL)

Spotfly, Wheatears and JG after discovering that the location of the creek sink holes have shifted (AL).


The S.H.I.T

I took a days leave for this rubbish – 5 Song Thrushes, 2 Robins, 4 Wheatears, 2 Whitethroats, single Stonechat and some crap skuas out to sea. I think I need to retire…

Inspired by Rich Bonser's recent 'Fringe Birding' pieces in Birdwatch. We think this is what he meant....


15th September

Blakeney Point (AL)

First day of the Norfolk autumn for me, with precious few available for birding, this had to count. Arriving at the Coastguards at 7am the Cley glitterati didn’t think the day was up to much - with the stretch between Cley and the Hood covered without a migrant I was beginning to agree. A Kingfisher (BP tick if I had a list) and a Curlew Sand certainly didn’t represent good value for time. Whilst sorting out arrangements for later in the autumn a Song Thrush careered through the periphery of my vision, followed by a Wheatear, then a Whinchat. Game on.... Pressing on, more Wheatears and Song Thrushes appeared, whilst overhead, House Martins were moving east in not insignificant numbers. The Plantation and Tamarisk delivered a pair of Robins, migrants sure, but not what I had in mind. Espying the a band of 6 highly professional Blakeney regulars I scampered to the far recurves, Wheatears were now everywhere with more of the same Robin/Song Thrush action, tired migrants hugging the scant veg. Then a Common Redstart flicked out of sueada at Far Point and a Merlin hurtled across the estuary.  Where was the aureola? The pros first found one then another Gropper, tough love as the charts favoured Lancy. I saw the second later by the boat landing, flight views whilst fielding dumb questions from grockles. "Are you looking for moths" (well, I was Locustella-ing), "Are the birds in the dunes Ring ouzels, I mean, I couldn't see any white on them, but you don't get Blackbirds out here do you?", "Can I have a look through your bincoulars?", "Can I pet the seals?". I tried to play dead, but to no avail. Scampering back to the Plantation, another Redstart kept company with an equally Common Whitethroat. Staring at the sea for ten minutes after news of big shears filtered through yielded a juv. Pom, but my heart wasn’t in it. With the sun dropping I started to hobble back, picking up a single Willow Warbler on the way, not a terribly just reward for 12 hours and c. 20 miles. Consider this: on Booted Friday, the ratio of common/scarce/rare was a staggering 6:2:1.  

Grounded migrants

Robin 20, Common Redstart 2, Whinchat 1, Wheatear, 30, Song Thrush 40, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Common Whitethroat 1, Willow Warbler 1.

main protagonists (AL)

key players on Near Point (AL)

plantation 'start (AL)

Wrotham, inland Kent (RDM)

You know it’s not your day when you identify a calling Phyllosc as a Greenish Warbler, it matches the Hannu Jannes recording on your Ipod precisely, consistently and with no deviation for 45 minutes, it responds with fervour when you blast out your Hannu Jannes Greenish recording on your Ipod, it doesn’t show itself (apart from a brief view of its head deep in the undergrowth), it’s raining incessantly, and then you have to leave site for a site meeting in Surrey. I cried for a while….


13th September

The S.H.I.T

Some good seabird action including a juvenile Sab’s, Sooties and stacks of skuas including a marauding pack of 15 Bonxies coming over the beach. Passerine-wise it was super-shit with a single Wheatear the highlight.

13th September
East Hills (RoMa, JJG)
Change in the weather, change in the birds. They've gone. No Pied Fly, no Spot Fly today. Passerine wise it was tough going. single Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whinchat, Stonechat and 2 Wheatear (possibly 1.5 as one was less than the whole Oenanthe, spannering around in the sea lavender and crouching in preference to moving). Stumbling on a Hugh revealed that seawatching was actually possible from hills, as he racked up a pile of 'useful for your site list' kind of species, of which I (RM) saw a spoony Pom and a couple of Sooty Shears. Leach's would have been good though... JJG had a snooze in the pines. No photos today, that's the way with seabirds.
12th September
Same old Hills (RoMa)
Similar to yesterday, but different. Notable Buzzard event today, with at least a dozen seen. These were mostly notable for six of them actually being sat out on the endless sands when I stuck my head over the dune parapet late morning. Got that Falsterbo feeling for about ten minutes as they rose wearily up and away over the pines. Anyone got a handle on 'vulpinus'? Aside from the raptor fest a Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat were different, but everything else was nearly the same: 4 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Chiffchaff and 3 Willow Warbler. Coal Tits and Chaffinch still in residence, as were 2 Robin. 
11th September
Them Hills (RoMa)
Should have been great. Actually, it was really great. 4 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Coal Tit, a Chaffinch, flyover Yellow Wagtail, 4 Pied Wagtail, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and a seawatched ad. win. Black Tern. Who needs RbFly anyway? Have some photos that look really mega but are not.
Chiff and Willow. On East Hills. Today. No, really.
5th September
Sheringham (AL)

With desperation at the rubbish weather and general lack of opportunities for birding I lost touch with sanity for a few hours and went seawatching at Sheringham. Usually I hate seatwatching, unless its somewhere good like Long Reef Point, Sydney. I usually hate Sheringham; as a car-less undergraduate it promised much and delivered next-to-nothing, a Richard's Pipit here and there, and a pathological hatred of the 'Bittern Line'. However the lure of a 5-shearwater seawatch encouraged me from my desk for five whole hours. I spent my precious five whole hours sitting in a crowded concrete bunker that smelled of wee, where I had to contend with the usual teenage mums pointing and staring at me and the Norfolk Old Guard. In this whole five hours of my life, I was subjected to the sea bird passage, i.e. some very distant Manx Shearwaters and skuas and the wonder of visible migration of ducks and waders, sage reminders of winter, which made me really depressed.  A situation not helped by the fact that most of my tally of passage birds could have been notched up within one scan of Cley's North Scrape. Constant news updates kept us posted about the various scarce seabirds that evidently pass inland at Sheringham, or through a worm-hole or something. Am considering writing an open letter to Gaia to sort out some easterlies, failing that there is always the Samaraitans. And, generally, sorry for the lack of updates on here, no-one has time to go birding any more. Really. I'm considering outsourcing my life to buy me some field-time. Rob could be our only East Coast hope. Ilya is sure to Maclean-up though. For the meanwhile here are some pictures of little interest that I took whilst engaged in pro-birding fieldwork recently...

desperate times call for desperate measures (AL)
Mid August
Kerry (RDM, JJG, RA)

A minimal team was despatched to Kerry for a brief trip in the hope of securing Leonardo’s/Frank’s Gadfly. Normally, any combination of the words "watching" and "sea" would have us leaving the table, but there's something about the prospect of land-based Pterodroma that can't be ignored. Sadly there was nothing doing. Cory’s, Greats, Meds, Sabs, all the skuas, a probable flyby Buff-breast with some whimbrel (too far out to claim for shizzle), Atlantic White-sides, American Mink (considering the location, probably genuine vagrant) and bycatch Basker were the best of the haul off the Creek. Literally no waders to text home about, but at least we acquired 4th degree tiredness, 1st degree alcohol dependence (what’s new?) and hot gen about a place we can’t mention here. In a moment of madness, I did find Atlantic Gull (maybe, in fact who gives a shit?) at Ventry on Thursday…




These shots were the best I could do – it’s hard to keep your hand steady when you’re retching/crying violently. James was with me but he refused to get his mega camera out….or show particular interest……or even look at it…..
Rik, pictured about six hours after discovering a random bit of Ibiza on the outskirts of Dingle. Who knew?