The unsound approach

The Daily Grind

All "007          Spring 2006
Autumn 2006



Monday 2nd

Went to Cantley again, bit of a longer walk round including the lagoons to the north of the railway just produced more GE's, 19 in total, with 8 CS, probably the same 2 Ruff and a single juv Redshank. 70 Lapwing didn't contain anything of interest.

Sunday 1st

Dared venture out into the Yare valley this morning. Seem to have completely forgotten how to do any of this birding malarkey. Pestered the crochety crossing guy for a pass to Buckenham first, only to discover that the greylags appear to have sucked every gram of water from the pools. A Barn Owl was desperately hunting along the river bank, obviously trying to push out another bunch of ghostly gawky Tyto's into the Norfolk countryside. Cantley was little better, 2 Ruff, 6 Common Sand and 8 Green Sand on the lagoons, the edges of which were completely infested by swarms of juv. moustachio'd tit-babblers devouring reed seed in the manner of a rampant horde of hungry orthopterans.

Summer selection

31st July. Moth of the night, as I've got my trap out and working again, was this Crescent. First for the garden. 

26th July: First migrants, unfortunately still on the odonata twist, and baby's getting bigger...(pic below was 20th July) 

My life in pictures, ain't it a blast...

Perhaps too much responsibility for a Kestrel? Surely it's not safe to let all these Woodlark wander all over a colliery?

Next generation 'throats.

Odonata special: Emperor, Downy Emerald in Dorset and Scarce Emerald Damselfly on the Isle of Grain.

Give it some song, it's your last chance this year.




Saturday 5th 

Slow start, faltering. Managed to get clear of duties for an assessment of the north coast and found that Ortolan still exists, thankfully, and that despite one having made it to Cley westerlies do still result in no migrants on the hills. A Willow Warbler and a Wheatear were present, along with a dispersed family of Pied Wags and a Robin which may have been around all summer. Whimbrel were moving it all around the marsh with Common Sands and Greenshank scattering from any channel I chose to poke my boots into. Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl and the much depleted Kestrel family were the only raptors to be seen today. Did get a significant new mammal tick for my island list in the form of the unusually approachable Muntjac, pictured below:


Yeah, dslr...


Wearily rubbing his sore bones, our protagonist drags fraying ligaments across the gravel driveway up to the great mahogany door. "Anything about?" " Oh, I see you're back. Well, it's about time you did some work lad. Brass need rubbing, door needs shooting and the car needs a good grouting. Hop to it. Tomorrow you can get yourself to the shops and fill your boots with waders. Hmm, hang on a second. No, actually that's all. It's better that you don't know."


Saturday 15th

Went to the coast on a mission to destroy and recover. Habitat management if you will, laying the foundations for a Norfolk based assault on finders kinders autumn 2009. With sharpened machete I set about the task and Rubus fruticosus agg. was soon flying through the air as paths untrodden since '06 reappeared under my flashing blade. Unsuprisingly there was little by way of bird life to distract me. Three of this year's Marsh Harrier were patrolling the saltmarsh bothering this year's Kestrels while I bothered this year's Wrens. A Blackcap and a Willow Warbler counted as migrants, but the Turnstone out in the middle of the marsh was in exactly the same place as one I left there in May, more a saltmarsh ornament than a functioning member of the TT massive. Half a dozen Greenshank tuuted along the creeks. Quiet out here now, but the groundwork's done and across the palearctic a billion slightly rubbish passerines are feeling a bit restless and setting off for the horizon and crappy bits of bramble on the east coast of England. We'll see them soon...      


Autumn '08

Let's try it again from the top. No, it's still wrong. Shoot the drummer. At least the computer will be in time. Maybe we've gone too far, extended the limb beyond control and now we're lost over the horizon. Morally bankrupt, financially quagmired and lost in dry ice. When I embarked on this solo they were all cheering. Now the stage is empty, the live feed cut and the singer complains about arthritis. Even the feedback's gone mouldy. We broke the frame. They built a cage.

September 26th-28th

The thought had crossed my mind that there might be a few birds around when Katherine organised this trip to the meet up with some folk in the Netherlands and catch some swarming bats with them. I hadn't reckoned on there being a hyper deluge of quality however, so I may have grumbled a bit as we boarded the bus to the station. Katherine did make the very good point that if was in Norfolk this weekend I would just spend all daylight hours frustrating myself in sodden sueda and fail to find anything, again.

So we got the train to glorious Harwich on Thursday evening in time for the overnight sailing to Hoek von Holland. A flat sea and comfortable cabin considerably foreshortened the apparant duration of the crossing and at half-seven on Friday morning I stood on dutch tarmac watching two House Crows. A rather underwhelming addition to the WP list. The very efficient rail network transported us almost the entire width of the country into Maastricht by midday. An afternoon of wandering around the old town and drinking a variety of beers was good preparation for the evening ahead.

House Crow
P. auritus

Rene Janssen met us by the station and drove us out to cave where we met Jaap and Wesley with the nets already in place. Sure enough the bats came and started hitting the nets.
These caves are all about Myotis species. Stars of the night were Bechstein's Bats M. bechsteinii, with at least 7 caught, showing off their ridiculous ears. A couple of Whiskered Bat M. mystacinus and Geoffroy's Bat M. emarginatus were also completely new for me. Several Natterer's M. nattereri and Daubenton's M. daubentonii were also plucked from the nets. Along with Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipestrellus flying around not a bad first night. After finishing at two we finally got some sleep sometime after half-three, with the others on the mission (10 people in total) in one of their friend's rooms (he was away; probably for the best).

l - r: dark M. emarginatus, M. bechsteini, M. brandti, M. bechsteini and M. natereri, M. emarginatus (after Bobbitt?)

During Saturday we joi
ned Rene on his project checking out churches around the Limburg region in order to establish the location of some sort of species limit between Grey and Brown Long-eared Bats Plecotus austrinacus and P. auritus. We checked three churches in villages to the east of Eindhoven, finding 6 P. auritus but sadly no Grey. Pretty cool just to be clambering around in the space above the vaulted ceilings in the churches though.
Second evenings
trapping was at Bemelen, just to the east of Maastricht. It was just us and Jaap so Katherine and I extracted most of the bats while Jaap processed them. No Bechstein's tonight, but a Brandt's Bat was new and we had around 16 Geoffroy's Bats. A couple of Brown Long-eared Bat were great to handle and there were more Natterer's and Daubenton's to get to grips with. One of the Geoffroy's was a very dark individual. Tonight was a night for odd occurences: not only were two Geoffroy's Bats found (presumeably!) fighting in the net with the result that one ended up partly Bobbittised; also one young Daubenton's Bat had a most unusual growth on the hind foot as if hairs growing from the toes had keratinised. Hopefully this is the case, rather than it representing some new fungal disease or similar. Finished at two, finally made to sleep via whisky and photos sometime after 4. Back to Norwich on Sunday, 18 Bonxies from the ferry after seeing a couple of House Crow distantly from the dock in Hoek von Holland. Excellent indictment of the british railway network when we stepped onto the platform at Harwich: no screens, no info, no clocks, no staff, no trains. How can it be this much worse than in the Netherlands? Home to Norwich by half-eleven, then broke into my sister's house to feed their cat because I couldn't find their key. Obviously. No, I'm fine with the sleep deprivation, honestly.

Manky toes, M. daubentonii. I think Si had this once.

September 24th

O.K. maybe I've been out before this, but then maybe I don't want to tell you about it. Blakeney loomed large today as I was hurriedly shoveling smooth newts out of buckets in Essex. I knew I could get up there in time for a rapid assessment and the weather was screaming rare louder than I can remember. Straight out of the pool car and into the fiesta, up the Holt road and into beach car park at two. Huge black clouds were overhead, clearly they'd just deposited their contents directly onto the point. But what was the content? Within half-an hour it was clear that the cloud had been mostly full of Goldcrest, Robin and Song Thrush, with a light sprinkling of Redstart and Redwing. A Whichat appeared amongst the first dozen of more than 40 Wheatear seen along the shingle. Spot on. I was almost giddy at the thought that I'd managed to finally get the timing right. All the migrants had just been dumped into my lap. I knew that there would be other birders out here but this was as exciting as Blakeney gets. More redstart, a Spotted Flycatcher (while I was daydreaming about Brown Fly) then Richard Porter headed past at Halfway House. "Good numbers, but we've not found the rarity yet. Leaving it to you". Yeah right. Kept on kicking every bit of sueda, passing Ilya (also sounding a little disappointed) then got to the Hood where one of the wardens inadvertantly began the collapse of my birding mentality. "Richard Porter's just found Melodious Warbler by the blue boat". +$@#!
It wasn't like I'd blasted past that area, ignoring warblers flitting ahead. I'd kicked virtually every bit of sueda. I even went up to the ridge and criss-crossed the shingle around the marrams area. I'd spent about half an hour trying to get all the 'crests in case of phylloscs. My timing was just out. I felt a bit like Richard Porter had just kicked me in the gut. I bet he could kick really hard with those calves. Right, it's only a Melodious. But Melodious is rarer than Bluetail in Norfolk.
I stayed true and bashed on, all round the Long Hills, across to the dunes and out to the plantation. Looking directly into the sun at the plantation from the tamarisks I picked up a male Black Redstart, which landed on the metal buoy embedded by the perimeter fence. Frustratingly the glare was all-encompassing, but it looked somewhat rufous on the lower belly. A white wing patch was evident, but with the bird largely a silhouette I tried moving around. I saw the bird head into the plantation, then up high and off towards the lupins. This was too much for me, and with the bastard sun setting I decided I really ought to see the melody. I blasted back, arriving completely knackered just as the last three birders left. Just caught one of them "Yeah, it's gone into the sueda over the channel to roost". No hope, I wasn't going to boot roosting birds out of sueda at dark, let alone cross the channel to do so for a selfish Norfolk tick. I scanned the sueda, finding a Robin and 2 Goldcrest just visible jammed into the branches. No Hippo for me though.
Felt crap. Birding's out ta get me.      


Thursday 22nd

Finally got a day off and got myself together to get out and do one of my BBS squares. Uneventful square, a Turtle Dove flew through and a couple of Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat singing away. So, out on the east side of the county with time and good conditions, I decided to trawl a few sites up towards the coast. In a rash move I took the turning to Aldeby tip and spent a few minutes scanning the marshes from there. No raptors, kites or otherwise, just a flight of three Turtle Dove and some gulls. Moving on across Haddiscoe Marshes to Burgh Castle where the tide surprise was that it was high. 3 Avocet and some other breeding stuff were here. I moved around to the rugby club where a selection of waders included Grey Plover, Knot, and Sanderling in cracking summer plumage. After exchanging pleasantries with Rich, on his lunch break during a hard day's lizard chasing, I ignored the waders I'd already seen and drove to Ormesby Broad. No marsh terns but a Bittern flew up from adjacent to the main road and plonked itself down into the reed fringe at the west edge of the broad. Further north at Martham a couple of Hobby were chasing four-spotted chasers and a Ringo was on the broad. Hit the coast at about quarter past one at Horsey Gap. Some feeling persuaded me that north was where it's at, so I shuffled off under the baking sun. No migrants at all, just nervous pairs of Stonechats and Whitethroats. Then, when attempting to get a couple of shots of a fine male Stonechat I kicked a big pipit. It went off with just one "tszshreep", flying inland but just before I thought it was lost it swung around and seemed to drop down onto the far fields of the caravan park. I ran around there, scoping each field in turn (three in total along the southern half of the site). Nothing. Not sight nor sound. I spent about an hour checking these fields, then widened the search by heading north through the dunes towards the pipe dump. Still nothing, then at the dump at 15:50 I picked up a falcon flying in fast from the south west. I guessed Hobby, got it in the scope then saw a bright ginger head contrasting strongly with very dark upperparts. It rolled as I followed it revealing a beautiful orange belly, and an isolated spot of dark for an eye. Female Red-footed Falcon. It almost made it up to the dunes just to the south of me, but about a hundred metres away it turned back inland and slipped over the hen barns. I lost it when it got somewhere over to the road. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. 

I phoned it out then after skirted around scoping in the vain hope the pipe dump held more of interest than the thousands of acres of prime wetland crammed with dragonflies, then mooched back to the caravan park. May as well check those fields again, I thought. Nothing in the first field then I got to the play area just into the second field at 15:30, scanned, scanned back and stopped the scope on a pale, plain-backed large pipit walking around. It was clearly the same bird, and clearly a Tawny Pipit. I tried to get some shots but the haze was hideous and the distance was too great. I got a bit closer and tried again, but still crap. I moved closer, stopped but then couldn't see it. I scoped, but it still didn't appear from a divot. All the other birds present a couple of moments earlier were still there, unconcerned. But the pipit wasn't. I phoned it out, figuring that if it had been here for at least 2 hours it would still be around somewhere.      

So yeah, I never got better photos...


Wednesday 26th

Sleep deprevation is finally getting to me. A half-two am start in some random Cambridge student's pokey bed followed by a damp and chilling pre-dawn vp (Time of first Skylark 04:55, almost 30mins earlier than 2 weeks ago) got me in the mood for some prolonged sitting once I got home. Having done that and produced possibly the most moving Black-headed Gull short ever seen (  Er, hello? oh, channel four you say. Three minute wonder? Thanks, but I'm holding out for Countryfile...) I looked at Birdguides, then the weather, then Birdguides again. White-spotted Bluethroat. South-easterlies with rain. Winterton. I felt giddy. 3 hours and one Hen Harrier later along the NE coast the giddiness was subsiding into clay in the stomach, lead in the legs and mercury in the brain. So I wandered on along the lane leading out of Winterton past the paddocks and found a handful of highly respectable observers observing a cracking male svecica in a ditch. It is just great to see something rare, engaging and smart now and again. 

The ever reliable Loomes store gave a further lift with the stocking of Euro-booze-cruise ‘Energy Drink’ for 35p, surely a open incitement to mass caffeine and taurine abuse in off-season Norfolk coastal villages. I wholeheartedly embraced the product.

Thursday 21st
I think the numbers are dropping at Mucking. Only 1300 BW, 550 AV and 580 RK today, though Wigeon were pushing the boat out with about 350. This was a high tide survey though, so it was only busy at either end of the day and in the middle I could relax with my two new found Wheatear friends as they hopped around the rocks. Like the bird at Tilbury on the 5th these were both males still with remaining first winter wing feathers and scattered brown mantle and crown patches. Too keen by about 20% I reckon. Still, good luck to them.

Wednesday 5th
Spring really does come earlier in the south, with a not so fine male Wheatear appearing out of a trough in the plough to actually make me feel pretty good about the gloriously sunny day. Not much by way of the birds I was supposed to be counting but 2 Water Pipit still hanging around the water tower were starting to look a bit smarter and were a reasonable distraction while I was hanging around that end.

Tuesday 4th
Bit of Abberton, freezing cold with ice on the western section and 2 Sand Martin doubtless loving the crisp bite to the air.


February went rather fast, as it does even with the bonus day. Began some extreme early mornings for pre-dawn vp work checking out sites for GP manoeuvres in the dark, did some more Mucking, a bit of Southend and even some Tilbury, but without seeing a lot of note.

Here's the video of some dudeing wit' me Dad from New Year's Eve. Big production values, high quality soundtrack and bonus Shag at the end. Great.

Friday 1st 
Too many Avocet, too much wind, not enough sushi, not enough Tesco value shortbread rings and 4000 Dunlin. That's Mucking. After the hideous weather for the same survey yesterday at least today I could stand up. 8 hours of 1250 AV, 600 BW, 1 BA, 90 GV, 1 KN, 4000 DN, 220 WN, 170 T., 500 RK, 150 SU or thereabouts, all nicely spaced. Great stuff.  

Everything is solved. Just take control. Lose the beer, the wine, the vodka, even the whisky. GO: to the gym, to the park, to the shops, to Southend-on-Sea. EAT: fruit, rice, beans, potatoes, otters. YOURSELF: deafer, myopic, arthritic, balding, numb, degenerate, incontinent. The world is fed up of waiting and will have it's egg foo yung with chips now.

Sunday 6th
As described amongst our lastest sights I actually found reserves of enthusiasm for a pure twitch, the ingredients of which were White-crowned Sparrow and Cley village. I like White-crowned Sparrow more than most yank Emberizids, which presumeably is why the prospect of a scrum twitch tittilated rather than repulsed as it has frequently in the recent past. I also haven't been on a twitch for a good while and wasn't doing anything of interest. Jolly good, it was. A fine air of general satisfaction was present, with few threats of violence and only a couple of requests for the removal of heads/telescopes. I got some views over a couple of hours and met some fine folk wot I had not seen for a period of time not longer than years but no shorter than months. Grand and charming indeed.

Friday 4th
Lincolnshire again, wandered around the sight and pulled a Barn Owl out of an old pumping house it was trying to get some rest in. I had no sympathy, I kind of wanted to climb into the snug little gap behind the old water butt and sleep myself. I dragged my claggy boots round the fields then began the vp. I was softly accosted by a sneaking mass of mist, and was forced to abandon after only an hour and one Buzzard. 

Thursday 3rd
Back at work immediately this year, with yesterday in the office and now out in the Lincolnshire grand fens. Not much going off this time, a couple of Barn Owl and a few flights of Golden Plover but quieter than last year/two weeks ago.