The unsound approach

29th July

Cantley BF (AL)

Pits starting to look hot: 3 Wood Sandpipers, 8 Avocet, 30 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Turnstone, 3 Greenshank, 1 Little Gull, LRP, Ruff, Green & Common Sands etc. 


Yare Valley Speed Dating anyone?


27th July 2008

Wedding season (AL)

Raven over the A43 just south of junct 15a of the M1 south of Northampton, en route Banbury-Norwich. Should probably dust off the bins soon, but fuel poverty is hurting....

3rd July 2008

des Étangs de Cergy-Pontoise (AL, IS)

Wanderings around the pits and woods produced a selection of commoninfrancebutlesscommininenglandstuffwhichisn'tactuallybirdsbutthisisthesummerlullseason. Note I wasn't intentionaly looking at these things but flowers and dragons are classic chick crack. Undoubted highlight was the discovery of a population of at least one Crimson Rosella, I didn't see any more but I only spent one minute looking, as I saw one in one minute of looking, careful extrapolation means that the estimated population size is in the 1-10,000 range (mean = 5000). A paper is in preparation for next month's Ducks, Gulls and Escapes World (Cage, Aviary and Tip monthy?).    

Greater Broomrape, Scarlet Darter, Silver-washed Frit. (AL)

Book your tickets, euro-superstar listers.... (AL)

'thoughts for autumn 2008' or 'painful shoe-horning of some aerial photos i took on the way home whilst bored'. Kid-listers that have just taken GCSE geography should be all over this quizz [hint: i have seen Red-throated Thrush at one site] (AL)

The Basque Country and Navarre, late June (RDM)

Myotis daubentonii                                                                                     Salamandra salamandra kicked out of the leaf litter

For our gay/girl fans - Black-veined White and some noncy looking horses

I may be no linguist, but I see why the Spanish spruce up their horses          Check out this Nazi imitating feline

Coto Donana and the Algarve, 16th -23rd June (RoMa, KB)

Great beaches, seafood and beer; and some accidental mopping up of some easy tarts like Western Olivaceous and more acceptable White-headed Ducks than the Hardley vagrant. Failed to avoid Melodious Warbler, and made scoring Red-necked Nightjar as exciting as possible by first getting the hire car stuck in sand two hours before dawn on the first morning then finally getting views in the headlights of a park officials' car as he was ejecting us from the track to La Rochelle three hours after it was supposed to have closed.

Lesser Kestrel while admiring Seville's mighty Cathedral from a cafe and a pair of rotund stifftails.

new ireland images... scroll down

21st June

Strumpshaw Fen (AL, DBe)

autumn is here, get in the mix.....

15th June

Ancaster, Lincs (AL)

Felt compelled to look at flora in a brief homeland visit. Use your time wisely, we suggest that you should restart birding in earnest in under 15 days...

left: Armeria maritima elongata growing at Ancaster, its only UK site. right: Man Orchid, at its northernmost outpost, deja-vu?

8th June

Lough Donnell (DB)

half summer Ring-billed Gull


Bridges of Ross (DB)

A Cory's accompanied 15,000 Manx Shearwaters, just pray he doesn't get a Pterodroma....

Cory's (DB) an admirable effort in getting a record shot, thank god for paintshop pro - by using 'one step photofix' we get a much better image*:

*photo by Göran Ekström, check out the amazing images from the Selvagems.... 

dan senesces early - Réal’s Wood White (DB)

4th June

Foula (RoMa, JG, AL, RA)

The biggest arrival of the trip, all day 5am to 9pm thrash notched up 7 Marsh Warblers, 5 Red-backed Shrikes, 5 Icterine Warblers, Common Rosefinch, Quail, Ring Ouzel and Grasshopper Warbler plus loads of common migrants. With the last of the light, JG deciphered that the only place we hadn't grilled was the NE cliffs. On arrival he promptly found and digi-wasted a Sprosser, which showed for all of one minute.

3rd June

Cambridge (RDM)

A quick phone call outside the office was interrupted by a tatty male Red-footed Falcon that flew over from the direction of the sewage works on Cowley Road.

2nd June

Foula (RoMa, JG, AL, RA)

Slower day with Bluethroat, 2 Icky, 2 R'finches, Rouzal, 2 RBS.

1st June

Foula (RoMa, JG, RA, AL)

1st day of what was apparently a 'secret mission. Dickheads!'. Everyone knew about it Keith, and stop slurring your words. Totals were nothing to write home about: Rosefinches: 8, RBS: 6, MarshWar: 2, Icky: 2, GH Wag: 1.

30th May

Girdle Ness (RoMa, JG, RA, AL)

With continued reports of scarce on our way north and a gripping call from Mitchell (who'd better lie low...) we managed an hour pre-ferry at Girdleness, a 1st summer Glauc was small compensation for the lack of scarce (should have looked harder and gone round-the-back), we narrowly missed doing Newton Hill.


27th/28th May

Norfolk (AL, JG)

Anyone thinking of trying to see birds on Hills in spring should seriously reconsider trying somewhere more productive, like Pensthorpe. Thrashing about in east Norfolk wasn't much better, dawn starts a prerequisite. All the while Mitchell was on Spurn taking us to the cleaners and MG showed us how not to chump the Point. Maybe as JM suggested 'sometimes its just not your spring', or else drastic times call for drastic measures....  

27th May

Rutland Water (TM)

Osprey Supremo Tim 'jammy tw*t' Mackrill shows the rest of us how it's done when he bumps into a Stilt Sand on his morning rounds. Finders account (hopefully) on the way.

24th May

Upton Fen (AL)

Deciding the best way to find a Red-foot was to try and double-up, I decided to try Upton where a 'male' had been seen the previous day. Arrived in the village late morning without a clue of how to navigate my way to the reserve and ended up walking out onto the marshes to the north of the Broad. Small falcons were immediately in evidence, up to six Hobbies were up at one time and after only a few minutes I got a glimpse of a silver-winged shape disappearing over the trees. Half an hour later this stonking adult male Red-foot reappeared but refused to come any closer than about 600m. I waited 45 minutes to see if it had any mates but none appeared, so I put it out and retained a vigil for another hour which produced little more than more of the same plus Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard. Arriving back at the car I found some confused looking birders looking for a bridleway (it transpired my directions were shite) and with the arrival of some ladies with a site guide it transpired that Upton did have visitor facilities; a swift relocation produced stunning views of the foot from the viewpoint. Good, but no Fochteloërveen.


22nd May

East Norfolk (RoMa)

Post BBS square near Bungay I trawled up towards and onto the east coast. Aldeby: 3 TD. Burgh Castle and Breydon South: 14 GV, 3 KN, 13 SS, 10 DN, 15 RP, 1 GK, some CU and RK. Breydon North: RDM (calidris lunch). Ormesby Broad: 1 Bittern. Horsey Gap to Waxham: ad. female Red-footed Falcon and Tawny Pipit! Literally the most I've ever found in Spring, and the more than I've ever found in a day in Norfolk. Might even be worthy of a diary entry...

Er, record shot? Still, if you squint you can make out the median coverts which really stood out against the plain sandy mantle. I would like to assure everyone that the bird did have a face.


Suffolk Sandlings 0700-1200 (AL, GP)

Flying visit early doors to score George the remainder of the EA specials (Monties bagged in the week) produced the expected Dartford, Woodlark, Stone Curlew, Crossbill combo. A Spoonbill south over Minsmere late morning was the only migrant of note.

19th May

Blakeney Point (AL, S. Piner)

Fresh out of ideas in a quest to save the East Anglian spring from ignominity (Winterton aside), we trashed the Point, again. SP gave it everything he had, unrelentingly kicking old-skool sueada with bare shins (shorts = school-boy error) and was only on the phone for five of the six hours out there. The walk is now all the more difficult after a) massive shingle depostion over the winter and b) the removal of the coastguards landmark, meaning you run the risk of overshooting on the way home and ending up in Overstrand. The result of the days efforts: 6 Wheatears, a used Wryneck (already Macleaned-up) and late 'grine and 'erlin might not have been worth the slog but I did find a full Bic pen near the Lupins which was useful. A 3-way summit with MG on the 'state of play' confirmed my worst fears: 1) Cley is now worse for waders than at any time since the end of the Devensian Stage of the last glaciation when it was under several metres of ice; the reserve pools are basically a waste of time* (apart from that cool video-game camera thing - the real Cley Spy); 2) scarce are the new rare 3) Ulex encroachment at some sites may require 'management' and 4) t.b.a.  

*where are plans at to mitigate against the loss of Cley NWT?

16th May

Minsmere (J. Terborgh, G. Powell, S. Palminteri, C. Peres, AL)

No pressure on the RSPB's flagship today with a visit by the Neotropical glitterati. Fortuitously the reserve delivered. A veritable cocktail of Arctic shorebirds included basic plumaged Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper with Black Tern and Little Gull thrown in for good measure. The Phrag specials were all safely UTB with multiple Bittern flypasts and basic Med Gulls enthusing even the most ardent larophobes. I didn't shirk on my guiding responsabilities and never checked the sluice bushes.... 

hopefully not the last Luscinia I find this week... (AL)

leuc. Dunlin (AL)

Bure Valley (RDM, AS, OR)

The valley has been quiet recently but a Pink-footed Goose and a Fieldfare indicate that autumn is well underway.

15th May

 Cambs (RoMa)

Some kind of Mole event today. Found 5 separate corpses on my way round a survey site and an actual moving live one scrabbling around in leaf litter. Guess the worms have all dried up. Also a fine male Whinchat.








12th May

Tilbury (RoMa)

Confirmation of madness today. Arrived, began first count, noticed a group of Ringos flying in with a stint amongst them. Before it landed I i'd it as Temms, but when it did land it was in the middle of the sun itself and I blasted some crap video whilst burning out my retinas. I was perfectly happy with that. Tried to phone Neal, who was down at the other end, but his went straight to answerphone. Then the breakdown. Turned around and looked back at it. Suddenly became completely convinced it was a Little Stint and sacked it off without a backwards glance.

It does appear to be Temminck's. I only looked at the photos again as I was updating this. Note that in reality this bird was far smaller than the Ringos; there is major size distortion on these shots. Also 2 Common Sand and one Whimbrel.

11th May

Muckleburgh Hill (AL, RoMa, SMi)

With the Netherlands threatening to sink into the north sea under the weight of rare raptors we decided to try something that many would consider the first sign of madness - a whole day on the Hill. We reached the periglacial wastes on the summit (climbing without oxygen) shortly after 0500 to be serenaded by Tree Pipits and picked up a few migrants on the camp below - Wheatears and an Ouzel (& a late Fieldfare in the afternoon). Using standardised big-sit protocols we spent most of the rest of the day within a 10m radius of the summit. Early morning 'highlights' included a fly-by of the Sacrosanct Ibis with Little Egrets and a first summer male Hen Harrier which passed east at below eye level at 0707 (later seen at Winterton in the early afternoon). Other raptors were hard to come by, a few Marsh Harriers over the distant marshes were probably non-breeders, although at least one high fly-through could have been a migrant, likewise Common Buzzards and a Hobby were also probbaly local birds. Vizmig was generally very slow, a single Siskin the pick of the finches with everything in short supply, the sea kept our attention with lots of scoter on the move (including 3 Velvs) and 2 candidate *******-****** ***** which we would all rather not talk about. Four Common Cranes headed west at 1020 and another was heading west and then east inland over the Cromer ridge at 11.45 (massively bullied by corvids). We sacked it off at just after 1820 with 96 species. On a good day you could probably get 110-115 from here.

Tree Pip, HH, Cranes and Ibis, or just some pixels in the haze...

9th May

Berney Marshes (AL)

With Red-foot far from the back of my mind I made the trek to Berney from Halvergate, this walk seems to become more epic every time, as the footpath infrastructure becomes increasingly degraded and the bullocks ever more militant (if you walk it then prepare for a lord of the rings style adventure and don't forget to use the earth's lay-lines to navigate your way past the windmills of doom).  Water Levels weren't ideal for passage waders, a few Whimbrels haunted the grazing marshes and a single Wood Sand kept a Dunlin company on the pools. Two Spoonbills were entirely predictable and at least Hobby on the way back raised the pulse for a pico-second. A text from Stu Piner was however of more interest, kept my eyes on the skies, but didn't get my eagle on.  

S-club 2, wannabe S-club and querquedula G-unit

8th May

Marsh Island (JG, RoMa)

Surfed out on the receding tide amid a sparkling array of summer Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Knot and some Turnstone before wading through a couple of Black Terns and a first year Little Gull at the channel. 5 Greenshank on the semi-sea once we were ashore, then the hard work began. Quickly found a Spot Fly then slowly spent the next four hours finding another, a couple of Chiffchaff and a Whitethroat. A Short-eared Owl was also still present. Final action was a fine summer Curlew Sand back on the mud and a couple of marsh Wheatear.

Bure Valley (RDM, AS)

Highlight of the day was a 1st year Montagu's Harrier that flew through to the north. The 'Pool of Hope' had lost all its waders after peaking at 4 Wood Sands, Greenshank, Golden Plover and Redshank two days previously. Curlew Sand in the Yare Valley.

Cley Square (AL)

Another dawn start, quick recee at Salthouse produced half the Wood Sands from the previous evening and a Spot Fly calling from the village. Thenceforth straight down the Point where 7 Black Terns east through the harbour mid morning were noteworthy. Didn't see a migrant afrotropical passerine until coming across a Common Whitethroat and a Wheatear near the seawatch hide. The plantation delivered a few Willow Warblers but I had to cut my losses and head for home to prepare for impending viva action and get some news for the rest of the contingent on an island further west...

4th (AL, JG, SMi) & 5th May (AL, RoMa)

North Norfolk

It was tough, hope springs eternal but we gave it 110% and got very little. Two days on Hills with token presence at various other sites didn't deliver. A token Whinchat on Hills its best offering and a single Black Tern on the roadside flash hopefully a portent of whiter-winged things to come. Big grilling of cows produced 3 Blue-headed Wagtails around Salthouse on the 5th but not the yearned for thunderbirdgeii. With team and associates blazing the whole coastline from north of Burnham (RDM) to the east coast (TA) no-one triumphed in apparently ideal conditions. What do we know. Team Millhouse's relayed news of Subalp on the point was too painful after a 4am start and mega-thrash of Cley Square. Waders were conspicuous by their absence, we had one fly-through Spotshank and no Tems or Wood Sands, presumably a legacy of the high salinity of the Cley/Salthouse area after the winter floods. Something has got to give.... 

ornithological lowlights

weekend highlights: beached black petrel (Melanitta nigra), Cley hedge-face and germanic drift migrant 

3rd May

North Coast (AL, RoMa, SMi)

Expectations were high, and a Common Buzzard over Rob's house (off Dereham Road) did nothing to lesson them (CB is probably rarer in East Norfok than anywhere else in the UK, that is to say the final leg in their recolonisation). Arrived at Cley coastguards to find there werent any coastguards, only some guys from the NWT handing out leaflets (see News). We hit the point, made it feel it, and the on the approach to the Watch House clocked up 4 Willow Warblers and a Song Thrush - (good going for May without rain!), the point is typically all or nothing and ratios of common to scarce in past years have been as high as 3-1, particularly later in the month. Spirits weren't crushed by our arrival in the plantation with little to show for ourselves. The wardens and JM confirmed it was quiet although Whinchat and Gropper has also been notched up. Auntie had got the wind wrong last night as we were reliably informed it was NW at the time. As the day progressed the wind picked up from the east and raised thoughts over the morrow. Probably a day spent best concentrating on the flyover, BP isn't your place for those as birds tend to coast along the ridge, though lots of Swallows and a few Yellow Wags headed down the point as did a Peregrine. No scarce was forthcoming and a brief stroll around Kelling in the evening produced a late Fieldlfare on the pitch; not quite 'back of the net', yet.      

BP grounded migrants:

Northern Wheatear: 6, Song Thrush: 1 Common Whitethroat: 2,  Willow Warbler: c20.     


2nd May

north of Wells (AL)

Gloves off and a quick test of the pulse in the calm before the storm, i.e. the imminent swing to monster. Suprisingly busy in and around the pines, nearly 40 warblers, mostly Lesser throats and Willow Warblers, no scarce as was probably to be expected but evidently a small fall and judging by the number of washed out pale Willow Warblers probably of drift origin. Not much vizmig, just a few hurindines, Yellow Wags and finches. Best bird a Firecrest all on its lonesome (presumably shunned by the resident Goldcrests for being too good-looking), though an obliging Short-eared Owl shadowed me the entire morning (with a Tawny proving less confiding on the Greens). 

Grounded migrants: 

Northern Wheatear: 3, Blackbird: 3, Reed Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat: 14, Common Whitethroat: 1, Garden Warbler: 1, Willow Warbler: 15, Chiffchaff: 2, Firecrest: 1.    

Drove along the north coast afterwards, making a half-hearted attempt for Dotterel in random stony fields and dropped in on Salthouse where I should probably have got out of the car judging by the GWT found about an hour after I left. Found Richard Millington wandering around pioneering freestyle birding with only the clothes on his back and a cup of coffee. Respect. Having carried around 10kg of stuff all morning - (btw thanks to Cley Spy for fixing and weaponizing my 'pod with big nasty Suaeda-shredding spikes) this new tactic sounded quite appealing.

Tried to get gen all morning off my usual sources, I guess they hand other problems.