The unsound approach

23-30 December

West Cornwall (RDM)

23rd December

Up and out the house by 03.30, dropping the French chicks off at St Pancras by 05.15 and scouring the Hayle estuary by 11.00, the (near) annual Cornish Christmas find nothing-a-thon was up and running...

A couple of Balearic Shearwaters in amongst a feeding 'frenzy' of 12 Gannets and some auks off mousehole in the evening were the days hightlight.

24th December

A Mousehole Peregrine preceded trips to Drift (Greenland White-front), Nanquidno, Cot and Kenidjack. Lurking Phylloscs were few and far between with this probable Sibe Chiff at Kenidjack the highlight.

I then zipped over to Marazion to look for the Pacific Diver. No joy, but did see a brace of Black-throateds and a single GND. The Water Pipit was on the seafront along with two Black Redstarts and another really pale Chiff.

25th December

Awoke to a sunny sub-zero day and decided to get the Pacific Diver out of the way so that I could properly concentrate on actual birding. Started at Sandy Cove, Newlyn with 2 GNDs and a brace of Eider, before moving on to Penzance where 31 Purple Sands, GND, Goldeneye and 2 Common Scoter were obvious. Some floating 'rubbish' off the train station materialised into a waking Harbour Porpoise which only moved when a GBBG went to peck its eyes out. Further out, a small diver feeding with a couple of GNDs aroused suspicion and was confirmed as pacifica when I got around to Long Rock. Got good views of Bittern at Marzion Marsh before I re-lived past glories at Trewey Common (only male Hen Harrier this time around). Drift held what I thought was a good count of Goosander (20 with only 1 adult drake), no doubt pushed south-west by the freezing weather further up country. A walk around Mousehole in the late afternoon produced two Black Redstarts on the rocks, GND and 4 Harbour Porpoises.


26th December

A seriously cold wind limited my ventures out of the car. A two-hour vigil at Sennen Cove waiting for a flyby Gyr didn't pay dividends, and a Bittern at Drift and the Pacific Diver off Mousehole were the best of a bad day.

27th December

The very strong wind showed no signs of letting up so I headed around the bay to see if anything had been blown in. Marazion Beach and Long Rock Pool held a few knackered Kittiwakes as well as 3+ Med Gulls. A Red-throated Diver off Mousehole was notable down here and my fourth diver species of the trip.

28th December

Nipped into Sandy Cove where a Grey Phal had been found off the back of the blow. A walk around Mousehole in the afternoon produced an adult Med Gull flying to roost on St Clement's Isle, 3 Purple Sands doing the same, 3 GNDs and 2 Harbour Porpoise.

Video here:

29th December

A thick fog clung to the chimney pots of Mousehole this morning, as did a 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull.

30th December

Last morning and just time for a quick walk around Mousehole where I re-found the Glaucous Gull off Penlee Point and a couple of Purple Sands.

22nd December

Whitlingham CP (RDM)

For one day only, the hybrid goose dropped into the Lane...

23rd December

Stainby, Lincs/Leics (AL)

Another day out in the South Kesteven. Back in November I had noticed that per LincsBirders Bob Wacey had found that the rubbish tip at Stainby had been pulling in up to 15 Red Kites – the first such congregation in Lincs. So, it was off to the dump again, kites were obvious even 3 km away, and on arrival the skies were mega busy with kites and gulls, with at least 17 of the former visible in one pan. At 11.20 I was photographing a solitary kite sat by the road when I noticed a large skein of geese approaching from the SW (from Sewsten, Leics). Assuming them to be Pinks, I raced down to intercept them (always the chance of some local blocker tagging along) and on flinging myself out of the car was somewhat shocked to hear White-fronts! The flock totalled 94 (counted after from images) passed away north, so I gave chase and intercepted them again just west of Great Ponton (Lincs). A local blocker unblocked (there was a one-day family party at Marston STW in the autumn) and the second largest flock ever recorded in Leics! Per Birdguides there has evidently been a considerable movement of cold-weather displaced WFGs in recent days...

23rd December

Grantham area, Lincs/Notts (AL)

So, after spending a large amount of money, and with not inconsiderable considerable logistical nightmares to surmount, I arrived back in Blighty late on the 22nd for my 'holiday' in the East of the Midlands/East of the Anglia. Sweet. Pleasantly, in this Northern Hemisphere dawn was extremely late and I was treated to crippling views of a adult male Blackbird foraging just outside my window in the half light. Having spent time away, I can confirm that as far as the genus Turdus goes, male Blackbirds are pretty mint, way better than the Cocoa Thrushes that do the same in the FLONA, but clearly not quite on the level of the Sibe Thrush currently in the mix in Poland . I enjoyed at least seven minutes of this forgetting about common European birds experience but once I'd re-seen Rook and Pheasant the novelty was wearing thin.  After spending about 40 minutes trying to find my cold weather gear, I managed to get out of the house, only to have to return immediately to get more clothes, as it was so freakin freezing: 45 degrees colder to that which I had been acclimatised. After another ten minutes, I returned but by this point I was wearing so many layers that I was unable to safely operate the car and was starting to feel sick. So, on the third attempt I left the house... and having travelled half-way round the world from one of the most beautiful and biodiverse places, I ended up visiting a sewage works, rubbish tip and cul-de-sac, in that order. Mmm, maybe I should have checked my priorities? Or maybe my mental stability? At any rate, there were a few birds around, some confiding Water Rails and a Woodcock at Marston, a 1st winter Glaucous Gull was new at Cotham Tip, and on the way back to Foston, I espied a solitary Waxwing by the roadside in Long Bennington. So I guess that's the British winter birding experience safely UTB for the year?  

A small hatch-year bird, presumably female? That's the crow I'm talking about; I can barely identify gulls, let alone age and sex them.... Maybe this crow could be ssp orientalis?    

Waxwing. No really (AL)

19th December

The Broads (RDM, RoMa)

We've all heard the horror stories over the years. Your dog falls through ice, you go after it, fall through and die and your dog makes it out. Don't be a hero! Well, Rob and I certainly weren't heroes today at Whitlingham when some mutt ran out onto the ice and skidded comically into one of ice holes currently sheltering most of east Norfolks wildfowl. Fortunately for the dog, its owner was braver/stupider than either of us and waded out through shattering ice to pull it out in the nick of time. Near drowning dog aside, it was all action down the Lane with the highlight being 9 Bewick's Swans that flew low east. Other stuff included the hybrid drake duck that resembles (a bit) Lesser Scaup, the two drake Red-crests, 3 Goldeneye, 51 Magpies and 108 Cormorants in the roost. Where's all the stuff we had last winter?! A similar polynya landscape at Wroxham Broad held a tight pack of several thousand gulls plus some Wigeon, whilst Station Marshes had no ice holes, just confused Moorhens.

Soz 'bout the lack of sightings recently. We have been trying, just not seeing a lot! Although these Waxwings outside my (RDM) house were pretty entertaining.

23rd November

Norfolk (RDM)

I'm not proud of this, but today I ventured into Blackborough End Tip. I thought I may as well seeing as I was going past. Not knowing the protocol I just drove in with hazards flashing, cut up a few aggregate-packed lorries, sped past security, secured some gulls and drove off again at high speeds just as the vomit was rising. I also did some more specialist birding at several other sites including one where I found 3 Mealy Redpolls and inland Common Scoter.  

21st November

Station Marshes (RDM)

My first Station Marshes Greater Scaup. Hurrah!

21st November

Eastern Amazonia (AL)

Early evening Sunday 14th November 2010, I’m lying in my hammock beneath a tarpaulin at our base camp for Bacia 324 (3°15'4.30"S, 48°11'14.65"W), a 40x80m clearing in tall terra firme forest on white sand.... As night fell the distant melancholic notes of a Slaty-backed Forest-falcon drifted across the forest, mixing with the muffled babble of voices from the adjacent camp as a bunch of weary loggers chattered over their Dark-winged Trumpeter stew (that would be the newly split Belem Centre endemic....). A time to reflect on three months in the 'forest' (or what’s left of it), the following months to be spent a couple of interfluvia away in Santarem, and how I was to remove the sand fleas then burrowed in my leg and feet. As dusk fell and the moon crested the horizon all day-dreaming was ended when my conscious-brain suddenly became aware of this whistled glissando emanating from the canopy of adjacent forest.... White-winged Potoo! Falling out of the hammock and hurling myself at the pick-up, I plucked Edirol, Sennheiser, LED-Lenser, Leica and Canon and with a blast of my complementary Cornell Alta Floresta CD and an anxious wait the bird responded and flew across the clearing landing on a stump about 35m up. Whereupon I was able to deploy the kit in approximately that order! I won’t say I was able to drink-in every detail of this only relatively-recently mythical species, as at that range even the Lenser can’t resolve that much but, still, it was a small potoo with a massive white wing-patch! Brilliant. Beyond that I saw load of other stuff, which wasn't half as exciting...  

legend (AL)

Potoo base-camp (AL)

Great Jacamar (AL)

Fiery-tailed Awlbill (AL)

Black-faced Anthrush, no flash, or playback... probably why the photo is rubbish... (AL)

Rufous-necked Puffbird being weird (AL)

18th November

Happisburgh (RDM)

Big duck day at sea with Goosander, Goldeneye, Shoveler, Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Eider, Common Scoter, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall all seen in a 20 minute stint. A single "tack" call from the trees by Beach Road didn't materialise into anything and the source was hopefully anthropogenic and I didn't sack off something really good.

17th November

East Norfolk (RDM)

After a few days spent in the Broads getting confused by Poecile tits and not finding any Arctic Redpolls nor Penduline Tits, it was back to the coast to try and unearth, probably literally given the amount of sand-blow, a Desert Wheatear. I started at Second Avenue, Caister, scene of one back in '05. No joy here aside 22 Snow Buntings and wind that could only be regarded as "Christ on a bike!! That's cold!". I then decided to walk along the beach from Winterton to Horsey Gap, notching up Purple Sand on the last rock groyne and a further five Snow Bunts. EA/NE/NT now put in place a "voluntary beach closure" around the seal pupping area which means complete disregard for the dune system which is now taking a severe pummelling. Best of all, you are actually thanked for your help in this rapid coastal erosion event. The walk back along the inland side of the dunes into the headwind is best forgotten, as quickly as possible. Moving north, I bumped into several thousand geese feeding on a semi-harvested beet field and despite all my best efforts, I ended up looking through them. A single Barnacle Goose and a party of 7 Eurasian White-fronted Geese provided some sort of interest.

15th November

Isle of Grain (RoMa)

Yes, I still get to visit this marvel of coal-fired engineering. Did you know the chimney is 244m tall, second only to Drax? Wow. Fortunately today I had some more interesting distractions with a Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat appearing on Birdguides as I drove down the M11 this morning. After a busier than usual foreshore trawl I had an hour of so in the coastal park. Fortunately it was rather easy to find with the LT flock, and looked quite central Asian halimodendri type at least. Not quite like James' mini monster from a couple of years ago on hills though.

Norfolk (RDM)

When the north wind doth blow - we shall go to the east coast and see far less than at Sheringham or Cley. Knowing that there'd be loads of sea twitchers on the north coast, it was back to Happisburgh for a quick sesh between 07.45 and 10.05. Pick of the bunch was a juv-style Glaucous Gull that flew south a fair distance out at 08.30 (ish). 2 Poms went the same way at long range along with a single Sooty. 26 Little Gulls, 38 Eider and 2 prob GNDs were the best of the rest. A walk around the village afterwards yielded 8 Laps. Wroxham Broad was as sh*t as ever so I headed to Ranworth where I notched the female Ring-necked Duck, first seen here about 3 weeks ago but which had gone missing in the interim. A further highlight was a Willow Tit by the boardwalk - now a description species in Norfolk (mental, but possibly the first I've seen for 5 years....)! The 2 RCPs were still on the Little Broad at Whitlingham but biggest score here was a Dunlin. Now that there is less edge than Tom McKinney's new blog I had long given up on any waders down the Lane so it was with surprise, to say the least, that I picked up the aforementioned trotting around on weed in the middle of the broad! Back home, I thought my birding day was over - wrong, as I stuck my head out the back door I was greeted by 30 Waxwings sitting on a TV aerial, marvellous. 

Oh yeah, I found the American Bittern. Did I mention that?!

early November, Eastern Amazon (AL)

Four months in, memories of the green and pleasant land starting to fade, can barely remember a time when I wasn’t either standing in a wood writing bird names down or standing in a bare field without a birds to write down. Certainly can’t remember what Hedge Accentor looks like any more. Not sure that that is necessarily a major issue though. The Project is ticking over nicely and we are set to leave Paragominas in two weeks or so, just the small matter of trying to get access to some control sites... Nobody has died yet, which is obviously a bonus, a fact greatly appreciated by the guy who was bitten on the head by an arboreal Bothrops whilst walking down one of our trails. Actual headf*ck. Avian highlights include something small, green and potentially undescribed from the canopy (maybe check Auk in two years time), plus another trans-Tocantins range-extension (Large-headed Flatbill). So that’s 430 species (from three months) and counting; not bad for one site in the ‘species poor’ eastern Amazon.  

Pavonine Cuckoo, both Dromococcyx are terminally camera shy, in fact generally terminally shy. To get this photo I had to hide in a Giant Armadillo burrow for two weeks, sustaining myself on raw caecilians. Actually that's a lie, for once with a modicum of fieldcraft and a slice of luck, the Edirol delivered it to the clutches of both the DSLR and my list (of which it was a conspicuous omission from the latter...) (AL)

Juvenile Grey-headed Kite, this bird was looking lost in some degraded second growth and was almost certainly the same bird that flew in front of my pick-up about 4km north of this location the previous day; the only one we've recorded. Presumably a recently-fledged bird trying to find some good quality forest. Good luck to it, considering we haven't been successful in the latter endeavour.... (AL)

White-browed Hawk, a pair used to frequent the forest fragment 400m from my room in Mato Grosso, but this species never disgraces itself in being so easy that you could get bored of it. Not that you would mind... (AL)


Final raptor in the 'three-in-a-row' and this is the real deal in case you wondered, actual adult male Orange-breasted Falcon, note bulk, massive tarsi and claws, anything else (even the orange collar doesn't appear to be diagnostic in males) isn't that useful in males. For instance this male Bat Falcon has has a coarsely-barred belly, restricted vest and extensive orange at the neck-sides but is otherwise a typical rufigularis structurally.

Saguinus midas niger (AL), keep them out of bright light, don't get them wet and whatever you do, don't feed them after midnight.

9th November, Happisburgh (RDM)

Winds looking good for a seawatch - I was so enthused by the prospect that I got to the coast at 1.10pm. However, it was actually quite exciting despite the fact that my 2-hour tally doesn't hold any real blasters. A cracking Sooty Shear south was a beauty, but the Balearic that went past just off Denmark wasn't enjoyed so much. Big collection of duck on the sea included at least 10 Velvet Scoters and single drake Scaup, and only 4 adult drake Common Scoters amongst 350+ scoter. An Avocet looked  a bit confused as it dropped onto the water for a while about 800 metres out. 10 Little Gulls, 2 Arctic Skuas, 70 Eider, 300 Kittiwakes, 175 Gannets and 80 Wigeon made up the rest. Between you and me, I did enjoy it.....

7th November, 

Norwich, East Hills (RoMa)

Some great looking charts for this weekend and I finally got out across the marsh after the tide for the whole of Sunday afternoon, after at least 45 waxwings cruised over my house in the morning. I can hardly look out of my back bedroom window without a few of these beauties flycatching across my view. Main excitement on hills today came in a game of woodcock minesweeper, whereby while walking the dune arc I would periodically detonate one or more rotund scolopacids from their undetectactable hiding places. On two occasions I almost received woodcock in face; we said it was a dangerous place.

Stacks of Blackbird, a few Robin, 2 Chiffchaff, more Long-tailed Tit than previously, at least 3 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, some Song Thrush and 14 Snow Bunts on the tidal wrack. I picked up a fifteenth Snow Bunt flying in at treetop height, causing me to stop and wonder what made it look so much like it was fresh-in. Tired, deep bounds in flight maybe, or just the slow and regular flight pattern. I wasn't the only one to notice that it looked off-colour though, as within a few seconds a Sparrowhawk dashed out and collected it, the Snow Bunt barely trying to evade the psychopathic killer. I almost felt emotional. Vis-mig consisted of this hapless Plectrophenax, some Goldfinches, a redpoll, 2-3 Twite (though they might be hanging around on the marsh), Chaffinch and Greenfinch, some pipits, skylark and some duck. That's about my level, there's no way I could maintain sanity if faced with the situation linked by James below. 

Shaken by my snow bunt empathy near-hippie experience yet more woodcock thrust themselves in my face on the way back. Obviously when I got my big white lens out they beat a hasty retreat, but this one got blasted pretty good...


The Internet (JG)

Viz-mig,  Cape May style... Unfortunately I wasn't there for last weekend's 'once in a generation' migration event, but luckily Steven Bauer managed to capture six minutes of it for posterity. Hunstanton anyone?