The unsound approach

28th October

Viewable from Wells East Quay (RoMa, ALe)

Hill tick in the form of Great White Egret today, and the Rough-legged Buzzard gave some good performances with the local Peregrines and Hen Harriers. Aside from a couple of flyover redpolls the trees weren't giving anything up.  Glad to see that the world still makes sense out on the marsh. The sprawk is dead.

left, shite (AL) right, news can be hard to come-by in Norfolk  (RMa)


Rough-leg (AL)

27th October

North Norfolk (JG)

James doesn't let man-flu keep him indoors - a late afternoon coastal sojourn started at Stiffkey Fen where a YBW put in an appearance, and then finished with a bang at Wells Dell. Whilst searching under the birches for a suitable place to lie down and die, salvation arrived in the form of a cracking Olive-backed Pipit, which popped out of some very long grass for a few tail-bobbing seconds. Adrenaline - a surprisingly good cure for feeling-a-bit-poorly-and-sorry-for-yourself syndrome. Unfortunately the beauty obviously sensed that it had been rumbled, and immediately did a bunk before the hordes of Spotfly admirers could come in and try to claim it as that Himalayan race.


Olive-backed Pipit being a bastard in the Dell.


18th - 22nd October

Cornwall and Scilly (RDM & AR)

A few days in the south-west produced little to get too excited about. Scillonian trip yielded 5 cetaceans including breaching Risso's Dolphin and Minke Whale. Blackpoll Wblr, Woodlark and other crap stuff also seen. The valleys produced several Yellow-brows.


21st Oct

Mainland Shetland team

The final day opens with a whimper with a final YBW at Garths Ness for Alex and Rob (of a total of circa 46) and rapidly decends into chaos and anarchy. Once that was out of our systems we got the evening boat home. Full report to folllow. Mark and Rick went to Unst...


20th Oct

Anglesey (DB)

1 pre family reunion YBW in Dan's parents garden


Mainland Shetland

Rob takes it easy on Sumburgh, has a lunchtime pint at the Hotel then returns to the Light to find Red-breasted Fly and Bluethroat within 50m of each other. Simon Mitchell sees the White-rumped and Buff-breast in the same group of waders in fields by Huesbreck for a matter of seconds and everyone else slogs their guts out for no reward. Rik finally sees the Killdeer.


19th Oct

A location shrouded in mystery (somewhere in Powys) Dan "Golden" Brown

More survey scarce for Dan with a confiding pair of Lapland Buntings atop a mountain. 


18th Oct

A location shrouded in mystery (somewhere in Powys) Dan "Golden" Brown

Whilst sitting on his arse Dan has a Richard's Pipit, hundreds of finches (of most known species) and too many kites to be able to concentrate flying over his head.


Mainland Shetland team

Rob proves he can find as many pipits in two days as there are days in a weekend with an OBP at Sumburgh, later he finds a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Quendale aswell! Alex keeps it scarce with a Glaucous Gull at Lerwick and six Yellow-browed Warblers.


17th Oct

Mainland Shetland team

A return to form: Rob finds a BLYTH's PIPIT at the airfield, a reminder of past glories; James pulls out a White-rumped Sandpiper at Quendale, where Rik and Si Mitchell have a small race Canada Goose.  Rik later finds a Barred Warbler at Sumburgh. 



16th Oct

Mainland Shetland team

Northern Bullfinch and a Common Rosefinch were scant reward for a day of hard work.


14th Oct

Mainland Shetland team

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll found at North Collafirth; SMi does well. 5 more YBWs...



13th Oct

Mainland Shetland team

p.m The lads twitch White's Thrush at Sumburgh Farm. James has nothing to do with it and gets dropped off at Scatness. He subsequently finds RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL! Knob

a.m. The lads pick up 17 YBWs in various places and a 1st/w Red-breasted Flycatcher at Boddam (opposite the Croft Museum) 


12th October

Shetland (JG, AL, SMi, MB, RA) 0730-0830

rest of the day spent finding 5 more YBWs and a Greenland Redpoll.

11:15, The Blyth's is still performing for the team at Helendale Drive.  

09:50, Re-fuelled, the team continue to work Helendale - practising what they preach they produce a BLYTH'S REED-WARBLER and a juv. Red-backed Shrike. 

07:30, Team arrives in Lerwick and whilst waiting for the shops to open potters over to Helendale and unearths at least 7 Yellow-browed Warblers plus Garden Warbler, Blackcap, 1 NW Redpoll, Pied Flycatcher etc...


7th October

NE Norfolk (AL, JB)

After leaving an inconsolable Gilroy at Warham and trying to erase the memory of that little falcon from our retinas, we beat a hasty retreat to east Norfolk; Trimingham Cliff-top Wood was investigated first and held at least two Yellow-browed Warblers and a Chiffchaff (we met RDM on the way out and he had an additional bird in the next available cover). The sibe field at Paston was devoid of sibes but there was still at least one Lap with the Skylarks. A nearby wood held another YBW (a different brighter bird to the cliff-top individual the previous evening) but not much else. We blasted Bacton with the last of the light and succedded in finding Ilya and Tim and bonus getting arrested, but still no Blyth's Reed...   


The Hills (JG, AL, JB)

Another attempt to get properly involved in the monster autumn. Very active early on, with a huge movement of Reed Buntings, finches and thrushes, together with at least 10 Lap bunts plus a few Snow. Not so much on the deck though - a left-over RBF was still rattling but remained super elusive, whilst warblers were very thin on the ground. Big excitement came in the form of a GSW - first hills record for ages according to JMcC, together with a Mistle Thrush. The Brant family also made a tearful homecoming.



As disappointment was finally setting in, JG made a desperate attempt to drag back some value by grilling a migrating Kestrel that was drifting high west over the marsh. Big mistake...


So, the odds are vastly stacked in favour of this being a juv Common Kestrel. The young ones are getting very bleached by this time of year, and we know that structure in young Kessers can be pretty variable. But it did cause a bit of an adrenaline rush for a while. Check out the amazingly Redfoot-ish shape...



These pics are all underexposed, and hence a bit dark, but in life it was strikingly pale sandy-coloured above, and almost whitish below, with very little barring and a very plain whitish face (i.e. pretty normal for an autumn bleached juv Common Kestrel!). Though the lighting is bad, you can just see that the inner parts of the primaries are very pale and lack barring, whilst the dark on the outer primaries was very diffuse, which was obvious on the bird in life.



Structure was the main cause for interest - it's obviously very short tailed for a Common Kes. It was also sleek and small-faced. According to the Forsman bible, the clincher for in-flight Kestrel id. is the wing formula, with P10 being really long on Lesser, extending well beyond P7, and equal to P7 on Common. Sadly the bird was too high and distant for proper photos, but we managed one reasonable image of the outer wing:


photos all JG


Ok, so P10 is obviously not strikingly long. But it does seem to extend a bit beyond P7, so  it's kind of intermediate. Pics of Lesser on the web suggest that some of them have a P10 similar to this bird, especially juveniles. But the same could also be said for Common.


Like we said, there's no reason to think it's anything other than just an runt-ish juvenile Common Kestrel - just one of those irritating "odd" common birds that always crop up to get the imagination going. Funny how it happens most often when the country is full rares and you're massively frustrated that you're not finding any...  Still, it's a shame the bugger never came down, just kept on going high and west. A search of the Warham area afterwards produced a Great Grey Shrike just outsite Wells, but no Kessers, and it seemed like the bird was genuinely just passing through.


6th October

Holkam (SM, SB, parents of SB)

After greeting Ross the goose over some cake and strawberries, we strolled through the woods till we happened upon a small y-brow twitich.  SB found a Phyllosc which when she described it sounded like a Greenish, I looked at it and confirmed that it was.   Instead of finding a Hume's as well, we wandered off and I ate a venison pie. 


North Norfolk (RDM & AR)

Gun Hill produced a fleeting Great Grey Shrike and 4 Lesser Redpolls. Burnham Overy Staith Harbour held 3 Curlew Sands.


4th October

North Norfolk (RDM)

A works day out to the north Norfolk coast gave me the perfect opportunity to go to the north Norfolk coast. Dawn at Gun Hill produced masses of Reed Buntings, immature Merlin a few Fieldfares and 2 Lapland Buntings. Points west of here produced 2 Yellow-brows, 50 Reed Buntings, Short-eared Owl and a Chiffchaff.


Late September

County Kerry (RDM)

Rich went to Kerry for 4 days and didn't see much. He doesn't want to talk about it anymore.

Ringpiece - Black Rock Strand (RDM)                                             Irish Hare - Great Blasket Island (RDM)


Conger Eel - Smerwick Harbour (RDM)                                                             Blue Shark - Ventry Strand (RDM)


6th October
East Norfolk (AL)

The planned early start didn't come to fruition owing to the consumption of weaponized Polish vodka in a post-viva (not mine) celebration. Hit the coast by 11am and started at Happisburgh. The walk to Cart Gap produced a few Goldcrests (including some new-in on the bare cliffs), Stonechats, a Wheatear and a Redstart. A Great-spotted Woodpecker made a fleeting appearance (failing to find any suitable trees) and may have been a newly arrived  m. major. Happisburgh itself was quiet and after a further hour I drove north to Bacton. The peripheral plantation there held a single Redstart and plenty of thrushes but not a lot else. With only two housr of day light left I thrashed the clifftop fields at Paston for all there were worth. Tramping through the Lancy field I booted a Richard's Pipit which after a few more flushes and careful stalking gave cracking views, and whilst photographing this I noticed a Yellow-Browed Warbler was flitting between the docks in the same field of view. Thinking I was quids in I stamped round the rest of the field but nothing better than Rock Pipit got up; although a group of 5 Lapland Buntings accompanied Skylarks in an adjacent ploughed field.     

YBW - the only warbler I saw all day. (AL)


1st winter Richard's Pipit - note pointed adult-type median coverts (AL)


quite a small Blyth's esque bird (AL)


Lap with GPs (AL)


major downer "these English trees are shit" (AL)



4th October

north of Wells (AL)

Rapid visit mid-late am didn't add much to the tally, most stuff had cleared out although at least one RBF (the 1st winter) was still present and the Barred Warbler.  A Firecrest (the 1st here this autumn) may have been new in.    


3rd October

north of Wells (AL)

Worst decision making of my life, alarm set for 0630, wake up feel really tired, decide that nothing is going to happen after all - after all no change in wind vector from the previous day, thus go back to bed, get up at 0830, get on bike, roll into the office, switch computer on, check birdguides, switch computer off, get back on bike... By 1130 I'm back on the coast, tide is suboptimal to cross the marshes, Lesser Grey Shrike at Holkam provides a quick diversion and my first twitch (and British tick) of the year. Then its off to Warham, working my way west to Wells, the hedges are alive, loads of thrushes inc a couple of Ouzels and some vague quality in the form of a late Spot Fly. Bramblings and both Snow and Lap Buntings are rattling and pinging overhead; I had squandered a big morning. Tides were still sub so I made the crossing the long way and reached Hills to get distant views of JM. Its already 3pm and with precious little light I try a peripheral transect - fewer migrants apparently than the Warham fringe (many had already fallen victim to a medley of kezers, sprawks and 'grines). Lesser Throats still making their presence felt along with the Barred still and both Redstart and Pied Fly. Mac had seen 3 YBWs and an adult male RBF. I hear the later calling on the second pass and after a merry dance it shows well but fleetingly. While JM is making sketches we hear a second bird calling from behind us; a crisp 1st winter. With news of the Brown Fly already upon us we redouble our efforts in the last of the light but no Gray's Grasshopper Warbler is forthcoming...     

Wells minor (AL)


1st winter RBF. (AL)


(RoMa, N. Gates)

Tilbury calls, this time with more numbers. I did the Coalhouse Fort area today, usually the side with the most birds, while Neal took the western end around the port etc. My side produced the numbers, with over 1400 BW present, and the Turtle Dove is still present but Neal had the luck. Within minutes of arriving he found a 1st year Great Grey Shrike around Tilbury Fort, then after the survey was over and I'd begun the journey back to Norwich he phoned again with a juv. Sabs. on the Thames. It's ok, just save up the 'run of form' for Shetland...

2nd October

Wells Marshes (JJG)

Back out for another slog of the hills. Lots of vizmig happening this morning, with finches and thrushes moving in all directions but down. A fair bundle of newly grounded song thrushes  suggested that something good might happen, but the highlight ended up being a might-have-been - a group of three very big-headed and heavy-billed Crossbills that came in-off and headed due south over the marshes, giving very abrupt, non-metallic and deep "chup" calls. What a day to leave your remembird at home... A single Barred Warbler remained, but everything Sylviid was still very difficult to see in the brambles. Approximate totals were as follows: Redstart 3, Pied Fly 1, Lapland Bunting 2, Snow Bunting 2, Ring Ousel 2, Lesser White 4, Blackcap 3, Chiffchaff 3, Garden Warbler 1, Redwing 200, Song Thrush 400, Chaffinch 75, Brambling 100. That's numberwang!


1st October

North Wales (DB)

After a clear moonlit night i woke to a dull, grey and damp morning and knew this would be the day for finding something. My instant thoughts were to head down to the end of the Lleyn and check Porth Meudwy, the headland and so on. Aftter dropping Hannah off for her first day back at Uni, and wiping away that tear of envy, i started on the road to somewhere. I hadn't even got two miles when the phone rang and Mike Hoit left a message alerting me to the presence of a Bluetail on Bardsey. I had enough time to make it down there so put my foot to the floor and slowly reached 33mph along the slow welsh roads. As is always the case, when you're in a hurry everything goes even slower and after multiple tractors and several near death experiences i made it to the valley and the waiting boat.

I was soon joined by Chris, Simon, Reg and Adrienne and we sped across the sound to Bardsey. A brisk walk up the hill and we were soon watching the stunningly gorgeous Bluetail. I'll let the pics do the rest of the talking...(Prints available on request)

As a low-key supporting cast the island also held a Yellow-browed, Spotted Fly and hundreds of hirundines all passing south.

RFBeauty (DB)


Hills (AL, SMi, JG)

Running out of ideas, we hit East Hills shortly after dawn. The exodus of migrants was immediately apparent, although vizmig included some more Laps and Grey Wags and Siskins. Grounded migrants were few and far between, although Sylvias (4 sp.) predominated – though we couldn’t be sure if both of the Saturday’s Barreds were still around. Goldcrests had all but shipped out and there wasn’t a Phylosc to be seen. Little Stints again enlivened proceedings but no better wader was forthcoming.  

Grounded migrants:

Sparrowhawk 1, Skylark 5, Meadow Pipit 20, Rock Pipit 8, Dunnock 5, Robin 8, Stonechat 3, Northern Wheatear 1, Blackbird 4, Song Thrush 11, Redwing 35, Barred Warbler 1-2, Lesser Whitethroat 3, Garden Warbler 1, Blackcap 1, Goldcrest 30


Called in briefly at Kelling Hard en route back to Norwich, a quarter-arsed search revealed a confiding Snow Bunting and a dead Puffin but nothing worth writing home about.


One of Saturday's left-over Barred Warblers (AL)


left: marsh hobbit, right this was hiding under a bramble at the Quaggs (AL)