The unsound approach

General sightings, activities and, progressively less crap record shots from the creme-de-la-menthe of Norfolk birding - First With Our News Most Of The Time!

Glorious past events:

2012 latest 2011  January-May | 2010 January-March | April | May-June | July-August | September | October | November-December | 2009 January-February | March-August | September | October-December | 2008 January-February | February-April | May-July | Spring Review | August | September | October-November | December | 2007 November-December | October | September | August | June-July |  April-May| March-early Apr| January-Febuary | 2006 October - December ¦ September | August part II | August  | July   

25th December
South Lincs/Notts (ACL, NGM)
More twitching after a pair (presumably not gay) of drake Smew at Cotham (plus a Peg on a pylon nearby) and then lots of time spent driving round looking for a Great-grey Shrike that was rewarded with little more than a Raven at Woodnook.
24th December
North Lincs (ACL, NGM)
Some seal twitching at Donna Nook took in a Rough-legged Buzzard en route and a wander around the marshes produced a Pale-bellied Brent, Waxwing, Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier. We had a look at North Thoresby on the way back where all 3 swans shared the field with 4 Tundra Beans and were buzzed by Barn and Short-eared Owls. Nice.
23rd December
Cotham Tip (ACL, NGM)
Hurrahh, back in Blighty! Just like I remembered it, cold, grey and lovely, no mosquitoes or people robbing me at gunpoint, splendid. Last week in Brazil included a brief excursion (24hrs) to Marajo Island (the massive deltaic island at the mouth of the Amazon) with Nárgila and Ian Thompson. Picked up two ticks - the rather dull Grassland Yellow-finch (sort of looks like Yellowhammer x Corn Bunting and you find it in similar habitat) and the emphatically mega marajoara subspecies of Black-masked Finch, which we able to photograph and sound-record perhaps for the first time. Back in England Nárgila was keen on seeing the species-rich winter community, which took all of about 3 days, but force me into going to see some cool stuff like the Cley Western Sand and some less cool stuff like Egyptian Goose. A quick peek at the dump produced a distant white-winged gull hazing around in the rain, I could have sworn it was a juv Glauc, but after loosing it I found a juv Iceland on nearby fields - presumably the same bird...
SEO at Cotham the previous week (ACL)
25th November
East Hills, Blakeney (RoMa, Guernsey)
Spectacular weather today and a particularly fine Rough-leg out around the tree belt today, well, both Rough-legs were spectacular but one was amazingly pale on the upperside. I suppose I could have just posted a crap distant photo and claimed a gyr, but I doubt that anyone would find that remotely amusing.
Little else among the pines, a few Goldcrest and 4-5 Robin still there. Also the Great Spot was still hanging around, well, some bits of it were...
First Hills trip for a while with no Laps and not even any Snow Bunts on the strandline.
Somehow Guernsey persuaded me to go to Blakeney after this, guess I thought it might be a good idea to look at the harbour and anyway he was driving. So I saw the Cattle Egret, 40 Barnacle Geese and some more White-fronts, then a single high altitude Tundra Bean heaved its way in from the west. The latter didn't fancy the selection of Anser on show and continued along the coast. A small group of Twite was pleasing on the saltmarsh just north of the boat parking.  
late Oct-early November
Brazil (Central & East) (ACL)
Some token news from out west; spent the last week of October in João Pessoa, Paraiba at a red list workshop, managed to persuade our hosts to give us a lift to a poxy forest fragment at the Mata do Buraquinho and found a displaying White-collared Kite. Some (very) naff images of what has been bandied around as the rarest raptor in the worldhere (3rd state record). Then spent last week in Goiás on a 'meet the parents' trip,  managed to get a couple of days birding in some nice cerrado and unblocked Blue Finch after dipping in my time in Mato Grosso... Final news item - saw  a Peregrine being bothered by a Bat Falcon over Belém yesterday to furnish a smart window tick (the Peg not the Bats)... 
Black-throated Saltator (ACL)
Blue Finch (ACL)
14th November
Trimingham, East Hills (RoMa)
Migrants still arriving, Redwings and Blackbirds in the main, but at Trimingham first thing at least 8 Bullfinch dropped from the sky into the hedges and a flock of 20 Laps headed towards the newly ploughed field. 2 Chiffs and a Blackcap also around. With the 'news' of a thrush I figured it might well be worth hitting the hills but while pleasant it failed to deliver on the new migrant front. Kicking along the strandline revealed an unusually lonesome Snow Bunt, until 5 cracking Shore Lark flew in. These proved to be the highlight of the trip with otherwise just a couple of Chiffchaff and plenty of Blackbird, Song Thrush and a few Redwing, also some good Robin. 16 Snow Bunt on the way back on the beach. Still half-a-dozen Laps around the saltmarsh, and Short-eared Owl, 2 ringtail Hen Harriers as the evening drew in. 
11th November
Hills (RoMa)
Well, no wheatear at all today. A first winter Black Redstart at the end of Garden Drove on the way back took top honours, but it was a promising day with stacks of Blackbird and Robin out on the hills along with a Short-eared Owl, a couple of Chiff, 16 Snow Bunt and at least 10 Laps dotted about. Plenty of Redwing and a few Fieldfare arriving through the day and at least 8 Woodcock kicked from various parts of the dune arc. A Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Mistle Thrush were the East Hills rarities of this session. Plenty of little piles of feathers scattered around as well, marking the end of the journey for several Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrush and a racing pigeon. And there are still two decomposing Barn Owls present, along with various bits of goose and wader. Autumn is definitely progressing towards its sharper end.
10th November
Minsmere -Sizewell (RoMa)
This was the "highlight" of a return to Minsmere in the hope of resurrecting that Phyllosc or finding another somewhere along this great stretch of coast, considering that north-east Norfolk was now completely in the hands of the masses. Well, I got a couple of Chiffs I suppose. This is the seventh Wheatear I've found this week, still just the one species... 
9th November
Trimingham (JG)
A harsh lesson in faith today. I didn't have enough of it... Decided to avoid Happisburgh given the potential for a Melodious crowd, so I hit Trimingham for my two hour pre-work early session. As expected, the November migration spectacle was still in full swing, literally buckets of birds filling the sky, fields and bushes at dawn. Laps and waxwings passed overhead, the clifftop wood was ringing with the sound of crest, and the scrubby area on the edge of the village was heaving with thrushes, finches and robins. A smattering of chiff and blackcap suggested better things might be in the offing. After about ten minutes of solid pishing I was starting to think I'd exhausted the spot, when suddenly a smart Pallas's popped up. Sadly the little bugger gave me less than ten seconds before it dropped out of sight and never re-appeared. Almost immediately, I heard a call a little further back that sounded distinctly like downslurred "type B" Hume's call... A few seconds later I heard it again, and spotted the culprit right on the far side of a willow. Typically hyper, it was bouncing back and forth too fast to get a decent look, and all I managed was a glimpse of dull underparts and a hint of wing bar, before it flicked down. I couldn't tell which direction it had gone, so I waited... An hour later, neither it nor the Pallas's had made a peep, and I was seriously late for work... So I gave up. To be honest, I probably should've sacked work and stayed longer, but my faith had ebbed. A 'swee-oo' Chiff had appeared in the same bushes, and I was beginning to doubt my aural memory. Bummer... Well done to whoever eventually found it, anyway.

I'm hardly surprised that the subsequent twitch ended up generating a big Sibe phyllosc haul today... But I'm seriously surprised there hasn't been more stuff found elsewhere in East Anglia. What's going on? This has been one of the best late autumn falls in ages, with stacks of late insectivores - surely there must be more rare warblers out there? I mean at sites other than Happisburgh and Trimingham? Seriously makes you wonder whether everyone is just supressing everything these days.....? Come on, do you know something we don't?

I was keen to get in on the recent trend for 'classic' retro camera skills...
Minsmere (RoMa)
Pre-arranged trip with the folks and suddenly it looked like a rather good idea. I headed straight to the sluice bushes with barely a sideways glance at three Bewick's on the scrape and immediately booted a Reed Bunting that sounded like a Yellowhammer. Well that wasted a good section of the day, as did a single Phyllosc note in the bushes proper but nothing was to come of any of this nonsense. 2 Blackcap in the bushes, a Black Redstart seen very briefly before we agreed that going to the cafe was for the best. To restore a modicum of sanity we had a walk up on Dunwich Heath where we were somewhat surprised by 18 Waxwing, then less suprised by a couple of Dartford's.

8th November
Happisburgh (RDM + JG, JA and later RoMa)
Well, this was the last species I was expecting to find today.... An uncooperative Hippo caused some initial headaches for a panicked RDM but with help from JG and JA we managed to get it sorted. I even phoned it out in time for people to get there. Melodious Warbler - 5th for Norfolk, get in. Rob was quick on the scene for a British tick, he must have been twitching something nearby.....
East Norfolk (RoMa)
Actually I was once more hitting the east coast, Great Yarmouth northwards. My highlights were 2 Wheatear along the beach boulders north from Caister and a couple of Woodcock, Blackcap and Chiff in Yarmouth Cemy. So yes, I did fancy twitching Rich's Melodious. After learning that it had headed off into 'Thatchers' I was slightly pessimistic about refinding it as this is the massively dense jungle garden in which the invisible Golden Pheasant lives. However, after about half an hour of wandering around I heard some bill-snapping and was surprised to see the hippo hop up into an ex-Christmas spruce a few metres away. Fortunately the few that had turned up by this time were quickly assembled and good views were obtained by all. I tried Sea Palling after this, but after finding another Northern Wheatear in a fabulous recently fertilised field it was clear this wasn't my day. I stuck it 'til darkness enveloped all, including the Woodcock I flushed from the dunes.
6th November
Great Yarmouth (RoMa)
Early South Denes action: Woodlark, 1 Lap Bunt, 4 Snow Bunt, a Shag and a single Chiffchaff. Stacks of Blackbird in the marram as well. 
Yes, it flew off. Was just thinking that the photos had been a bit good recently...

1st-3rd November
Cornwall (RoMa)
Keeping the autumn alive, I took a gamble on the promise of a fast-tracking double low system due to hit Britain this week and headed southwest. Unfortunately this didn't pan out, as the second and most interesting system stalled after delivering a bunch of exhausted herons on the Azores. Still, Cornwall's nice isn't it? Firecrests, Black Redstart, and a mass arrival of Chaffinch on the 2nd (up to a thousand arriving in the Cot Valley between dawn and 11:30, and 300+ at Kenidjack). One Water Pipit was near the end of the valley at Kenidjack, and a Whimbrel got me briefly excited as it flew in off the sea at Cape Cornwall. Final action was a fabulous close view of a Short-eared Owl at Nanjizal on the morning of the 3rd, but no interesting doves in that great looking bulb field that I spent about an hour scanning for Upland Sand when I was there... 

13th-15th October
SW Ireland (RDM)
Birding's really shit now. I wait all autumn for some non-westerlies to get out birding in Norfolk, and for the exact time period it goes all 'Tomsk', I am in Ireland. Despite this, the 14th was really amazing. My first ever visit to Dursey Island, and fortunately, it was that sites best day of the autumn. New heroes Kieran Grace and Tony Lancaster do the island and nearby Garinish/Firkeel etc every day for 4 weeks each autumn and have racked up more megas than you could shake a stick at. They strategically have a car on the island so any visiting birder who has to get about by shank's pony is always last getting to the hotspots. So it transpired at the first and second villages, but just as I thought that I was going to beat them to the most westerly village, they sped past me, got out their car and promptly found the first Grey-cheeked Thrush for the island and TLs tenth Yank landbird find (all of them different species!!!!). With an RB fly in the next garden and a flyover Rosy Starling, it was a hot five minutes. Pied Fly, Black Red, stacks of Blackcaps and Chiffs, a brief Acro and some other stuff completed my scene though KG had a Barred Warbelr and twitchers had flyover RT Pipit after I'd gone back to the mainland.
The other two days involved hikes around the Iveragh and Dingle peninsulas with highlights being Semip Plover and little else.
16th October 
Trimingham (RoMa)
Birding's really great now. A couple of hours around Trimingham produced nothing mega, but a very pleasant morning haul of a Yellow-brow, Firecrest and a Lap Bunt. The first two were around the village, the Firecrest showing particularly excellently. The Lap Bunt was flushed from the massive stubble field to the west of the wood. Amazingly there weren't any big pipits in here, or really many pipits at all. 

All birds look this good when you've just found a mega!

14th-16th October
Salinópolis, Pará (AL, NM)
A long weekend on the coast in search of mauri again didn't deliver any vagrant waders (apart from a lost-looking AGP) but did produce 19 wader sp plus 7 tern sp - including my first Gull-billeds in Brazil and enough effort in the mangroves finally produced Little Wood-rail. Got back to the city and checked punkbirder on a whim before Birdguides which was exciting... 
still waiting for news of one of these in North Cornwall (AL) 
Mangrove Cuckoo (AL)
South American Snipe + juv. Semi (AL)
token world tick... (AL)
14th October
Party like it's my birthday! Warham Greens(RobM)
So, if this is what it is like to turn 30, why have I wasted all this time being youthful? 
I found a first for Norfolk today, and it made me go all wobbly and need a lie down. Fortunately I hung in there and pinned an i.d. to this amazing and impossible beast. It's what you carry bins for... Fullish account here

8th October 
Cantley, Yarmouth, Caister, Breydon (RoMa, SMitch)
Finally managed to get outside and look at birds. A much anticipated session at the wonderful world of beet was surely guaranteed to deliver a slew of yank waders creeping amongst the beet mudscape in the mega pit. Actually there were 5 Dunlin, 4 Ruff, 4 Green Sand, a Greenshank and 28 Snipe. In an unlikely twist it was actually thrushes that provided some excitement, with a 1st year Ring Ouzel bouncing around the scrub patches and my season-first couple of Fieldfare and several Redwing heading west. A Redpoll and Lesser Whitethroat completed the passerine interest. Unfortunately the cemetery at Yarmouth failed to reflect this apparent arrival of migrants, with just one Goldcrest. Caister was slightly better, with further groups of Redwing totalling about 50, and one more Fieldfare. Late session at Breydon Water provided a really lame tide and ultra-distant Golden Plover flock and some Med Gulls but no little ones in with the Dunlin.  

3rd October
Filthy twitching, Suffolk. (RoMa)
Yes, I was on my way to London and it's kind of en route so I couldn't help but take a couple of minutes to check out the Sandhill Crane. Well, it was a Sandhill Crane, miles away and I admit to just spending about 3 minutes looking at it before leaving. That would be a great beast to see homing into view over Unst, but it was somewhat underwhelming doing exactly what Birdguides said it was doing and not looking half as good as it did in the mega photos online. Kinda feels like actually going to see a bird is a redundant action these days.
18th-26th September
County Kerry (DB, JG, AL, RMa, RMo, MO)
Not a bad haul, report here.
17th September
Leadenham Tip, Lincs (AL)
After three days of project meetings at Lancaster Uni I was beginning to get pretty edgy, token glances at synoptic charts suggested I should have been elsewhere. A text from Andy Chick about his 1st class local find was met with more glee the following morning when the bird was still there and I had an opportunity to pay my respects on the way back. A future Kesteven blocker no doubt. 
14th September
The Fylde (AL, S. Piner)
With Nearctic waders now apparently more abundant than Palearctic ones on west-facing coasts, the opportunity to repeat Rob's feat had some considerable appeal. So after no sleep on a trans-Atlantic/trans-hemispherical flight I got no sleep the following night and went to bed with an alarm set for 0400 (followed by no sleep the following night due to drinking commitments with Barlow et al.). Re-acquainting myself with the British autumn replete with new-in Pinks, Whinchat, a Garganey on a flash-flood and some smart Curlew Sandpipers was sufficient compensation for setting the bar too high. And I got to meet family Batty and chickens.
13th September
Donna Nook (RoMa)
The fickle finger of ecological survey decreed that I would spend this week performing dusk/dawn bat survey somewhere in Lincolnshire. Turned out it was just down the road from that fabulous coast that sits perpetually in the shade of some big spit or other. Accordingly after a bit of a snooze I popped over to Donna Nook to find a bunch of dog walkers, no birders and a cracking Buff-breasted Sandpiper. 
I'd checked the Golden Plover and any other waders I could find out towards Pye's Hall, then scoured the bushes to little avail and got back to the car park a bit early to drive back. In a rare moment of motivation I struck out east, finding a mostly bald Blackcap and a Lesser 'throat. Turning round I was delighted by the coastal scenery, a marram-studded dune ridge with a flat expanse of dark red salicornia stretching out beyond. Just like Lodge Marsh. And among the salicornia Ringed Plovers, lots of juvs, and Sanderling, and Dunlin. In fact a whole busy autumn flock, just like that time James and me found a Buff-breasted Sand on the way out to hills all those years ago. Just like that Buff-breasted Sandpiper right there. Now. Quick check on the boundary of imagination and reality (you don't get much sleep with bats). Yep, this is real, whip out the mobile and take some terrible photos. Here's one;
6th September
Vigia, Eastern Amazonia (ACL)
Dispatched to the mpst degraded bit of forest in Amazonian Brazil to compare the effects of having crap forest with having no forest was never going to be terribly exciting, but four days in the field did at least provide some insight into extinction debt and get me a few wikiaves 'photo ticks'. Like this Buff-throated Woodcreeper....
17th-22nd August 2011
Western Ireland (DB, T. Lowe, M Hoit, K. Langdon)
The annual pilgrimage to Bridges, for a section of the team. The Lighthouse accommodated our late arrival on the first night, as always, and saw the usual sinking of a few black ones whilst contemplating which S-Club song I could sing when it got to my turn at the weekly ceilidh/fiddle session. In retrospect we should have stayed propping up the bar rather than venture out the following day as it proved almost entire fruitless with not a single national bird –rubbish. It did provide a chance to top up the tan pre-Ibiza though. From there on things picked up. A slight increase in the winds soon bought stuff closer in (ie within visible range), and over the following four days we clocked up some crippling views of Great Shears as close in as 100m off the slabs, including a moulting (presumed) adult as well as the usual juveniles, some cracking adult Sab’s, a couple of Long-tailed Skuas and Pom’s, the usual pick ‘n’ mix of Balaerics and some good counts of Sooties.

The final evening saw us analysing a dismal looking forecast and contemplating sacking off Bridges and heading south, however by the time we had come to a decision I had already sunk too many pints and we had to stay. The following morning dawned calm and grey. Shearwaters milled around here and there, many heading east past the Bridge, some feeding close inshore and a few heading back west. By 8am things were picking up and those that had earlier been heading east were all now filtering rapidly back west. The light was fantastic and the wind virtually non-existent. It was not meant to be this good in these conditions. Our attention was held and the usual count of Sooties commenced. At 0938 my voice trembled into action. The ‘scope was locked onto a beautiful, pristine, dinky shearwater and the bird was already west of the slab. Directions poured out and MH was rapidly on to the bird. An immaculate Barolo! TCL and KL also soon got onto the bird.
Everything about this bird was different. We had encountered Barolo’s, Boyd’s, North Island and Subantarctics before but never with Manxies. As hoped for, this bird smacked of class and not as one of those occasional ‘strange manxies’. Persil white, plain, and extensive underparts contrasted with glossy jet black upperparts, The large white face gave it an open and endearing appearance and the flight was dainty and fluttering as it made several figures of eight whilst foraging. The wings seemed permanently down-bent, never seeming to come above the horizontal, the hand was paddle-shaped, in fact almost reminiscent of an inverted Little Gull! This was the moment we had been waiting for for a long time – pure avian ecstasy. And to think we could have sacked it off!

After some substantial celebration we headed back for a fine full Irish and then opted to head south to check out the Kerry beaches. The tide was dropping by the time we got to Blennerville but a plethora of waders greeted us. Luckily TCL managed to locate an adult White-rumped Sand which all of us got on to before it departed around the bay with four Dunlin. Another bonus bird! Carrahane proved pretty quite other than an obliging Ruff and Black Rock held a Curlew Sand. Definitely worth the drive. We headed back to Shannon to drop KL and MH. having done so DB and TCL checked out the airport lagoon/reedbed. Once again fading light worked against us and the best we could manage was a Pec-like silhouette. Unfortunately there was no way to get closer to this potential mega…so close but so far! (incase you're none the wiser the Sharpie turned up four days later) Still we’re not complaining.

Final tallies:
Barolo Shearwater 1
Great Shearwater 144
Balearic Shearwater 11
Sooty Shear 899
Sabine's Gull 12
Long-tailed Skua 2
Pom 4
Arctic Skua 57
Bonxie 42

August 23rd

East Norfolk (RDM)

Following bits and pieces of good action further up the coast I got out east for a bit late afternoon. Three hours of trudging turned up a grand total of 2 Wheatears, one on the beach and one in a beet field. Exciting stuff. A check of the news on the mobile revealed more of interest so I kept going. Whilst I was looking at the belt of trees by the cricket pitch a jogger flushed a warbler which flew down the line of pines at tree-top level. I waited around. Eventually, it called. GREENISH!!! It took another hour to get a view, and another 45 minutes to get photos. The wait was worth it though as the excitement built to a crescendo.

Migrant Totals - 2 Northern Wheatears; 1 Greenish Warbler.

August 19th

Thetford (RDM)

Ah, back just in time. Three weeks in baking Mexico had nothing that could match the excitement of an inland Wryneck, just hours after landing at Gatwick.

June-July and 12th August

UK (RoMa)

Hmm, must have dozed off for five minutes. Did I miss anything? Nevermind then, seems like I woke in time for autumn. Still took some photos, some of which might appear below. More importantly East Hills today felt awesome, a steady east breeze holding a bank of cloud back against Warham Greens and the first drifting scarce peppering the Yorkshire coastline. Added bonus that drift this year seems likely to include Double-barred Twistbill and I was so excited I spent a good half hour learning the subtle nuances of the call by playing it loudly to myself as I wandered into the pines. Unfortunately pesky endemic breeding birds were still in evidence, like East HIlls Crest which seem to have done pretty well this year, as has the local Wren. But things were rescued somewhat at the end of the arc by a scruffy 1st W Pied Flycatcher. Aside from that, totals were 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Whitethroat, 6 Willow Warbler and 6 Swallow hanging around. Yep, think that it's time to fall back off the wagon...

Hopefully this will be replaced by Red-breasted in three weeks, if we all survive 5 days in San Antonio.


Everyone's highlight from UK based ornithological science in summer 2011, with a Norfolk connection. This is 'Martin', one of the BTO GPS-enabled Cuckoo's. Along with rising pop superstar Dan Watson I saw the antennae-dragging parasite at Winterton on the 7th of June. I didn't see anything else. This bird is now in SW Chad, having crossed the Sahara in 2 days at 49km/h. Nice.

Brazil, UK, Finland (ACL)

Bulk update. No idea if anyone actually bothers to check this site anymore, actually that's not true, I know my Mum looks, as she keeps complaining that there's never any updates. Sorry Mum. If you're not my Mum then 'Congratulations you're the 5th reader this month and your IP has won a prize'. Can't speak for everyone else but I've been busy. I guess by the lack of updates everyone has as well. How do these bloggers keep up their momentum? We can't do more than 3 updates a year between about 15 people. Anyway, in chronological order at the end of May I managed to drag my team over the finish line and completed the largest ever survey of birds in an impacted tropical forest landscape. In early I went to Cuiaba, Sao Paulo and Piracicaba for meetings/workshops, conferences. Saw a Rufous Gnateater in some shitty riverside skank. Which was nice. Then flew to England and looked at some common birds and less common butterlies. Indulged in cooked breakfasts and Parus tits. Flew back to Brazil via Finland for a wedding (not mine). Now currently waiting for autumn to kick-off and Dan to sort out accomodation on Rockall. Lets see you chopper on to there Bagnell....

Red-and-black Grosbeak. Black-and-Red Grosbeak? Try and find another field photograph of a male in existence. I can't.... They sound likethis. Check out this video of a total tosser. And if you liked that, have a listen to this.

Minsmere, one good tern.

Expensive heron.

reintro tick in Northants

Staple Island

another good tern, this time on the Farnes.

perimeter fence of Tampere airport. Can't wait for autumn... 

also Finland. one forgets how good these are...



East Sussex (RDM)

I'm sure this happened, can't really remember much about it... After many years not getting a sniff of a Rumper, I find three in a week, piece of p*ss...