The unsound approach

Early June

Southern France (RDM, AR)

France is amazing, birds everywhere, more insects than you can shake your new stick at, more bats than you can shake your new Opinel towards, it just highlights how awful much of GB is. I took some photos of the local birds, most of them were awful so are not shown here, instead some incredibly dull, and slightly less awful insect pics... 

Knapweed Frit a common roadside butterfly sharing the verge with another three species of Frit, Scotch Argus, Large Copper, Large Torts etc

Rubbish photo of Large Pincertail

Scotch Argus, zzzzzzzzzz

Southern White Admirals (yawn....)

13th June 

Western Norfolk (RoMa)

Nearing the end of a somewhat ridiculous spring survey season I finally persuaded my scrambled brain that it was possible to derive some enjoyment from looking at birds when not contractually obliged. Thought it might be good to see some of the show-stoppers that I'm meant to be looking out for while EcIA'ing so first dropped in on Great Ryburgh. Arriving with some surprise to a deserted viewpoint a Little Owl, Hobby and fly-through 2nd cal. Med Gull left me struggling to suppress the feeling that I should be recording flight lines, but the overall experience was pleasurable. Inevitably the minibuses appeared by midday and soon the viewpoint was packed with eager 'speciality seekers'. The fourteen Buzzards dotted around gave them plenty to chew on, but it seems that h-b's here are somewhat unobtrusive at the moment. I slipped off, munched on a Morrison's pie then went back to looking for breeding lovelies. I found them more easily than expected, not only some nice Tree Sparrows but also a 2nd cal and adult male Montagu's Harrier. Like a good provider the latter had just popped out for some shredded wheat. Perhaps these sites I spend my life walking around are just crap.

 

Enough of that, I sauntered around Titchwell for the rest of the afternoon, until the dramatic clouds and lighting proceeded predictably to a dismal soaking. High tide gradually forced the beach onto the freshmarsh in the form of a decent wedge of a couple of thousand Knot and Bar-wit. These joined good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, a few Dunlin and 5 Little Gull (including some good singing from one of the latter, but all were first years). Shortly before the downpour a Bittern gently exploded, which I took as a good cue to leave.

    

Notable was the absence of any fluffy AV's at Titchwell, perhaps explaining why the Bittern was so happy, but they're still trying. 

9th June

Blakeney Point (AL, JG)

A flying visit by JG into UK territory permitted just-about-enough time to squeeze in a quick try for a British first on Point. With the June mantra firmly instilled after countless past June frogmarches we were pleasantly-pleased* enough with 2 Reed Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a Blackbird, quite a haul of common for the time of month. Noteworthy was a big push of 'critters' with loads of Silver y-fronted moths and Painted Ladies everywhere...  

*not really.

    

Reed Warbler at the Hood, note how this is a more exciting experience than the one below (AL). Should probably have saved it for a mystery photo competition...

 

Reed Warbler at Strumpshaw a day or so before (AL)

britannicus Swallowtail: marginally more exciting than Reed Warbler, massively less exciting than this possible June combo.

2nd June

Shetland (HW)

Hannah has been getting some practice in digi-scoping scarce; anyone else think Mousa might be a good Needle-tail spot?

(HW)

1st June

North Norfolk (AL)

Getting back in at 10am and preparing to do some work I got in, turned on the computer, opened up Birdguides, closed it, turned off the computer and headed north. After driving past the RBS, kidnapping Cockram and dropping him off in the middle of nowhere where he couldn't do any more damage, I called in at his finch. Ostensibly  to see if watching my first BB rarity in nearly a year would help me find one of my own, or fine-tune my search image for Saharan megas. As it happens it was well worth the effort in its own right, although I didn’t find Tristram’s Warbler in the next five minutes. From there I had to escape from the totally rammed 10 km square. Esacpe to Hills; the perfect venue for albicollis. In fact it was pretty quiet out there, 2 Lesser Whitethroats included one out on the marsh, the same or a new Spot Fly was ranging widely and 2 Chiffs were still on territory, plus a single silent Cuckoo. Even Acro-king Furze couldn't 'sort it out'. A couple of seconds of sub-song from a distant Hippo/Acro was frustrating and even a Dendocopus proved elusive (and unseasonal). Walking back across the marsh a Spoonbill flew past distantly and dropped in, only to get up again, fly right at me and then eyeball me up - whether it had me pegged as predator/mate/food item or nesting material was not entirely obvious, but it was certainly a ‘moment’ with nature. Called in at Walsey Hills on the way back, crawled under the bushes round the back and heard the Luscinia sing briefly about 2m from my face but couldn’t see the damn thing...

Top Trump, splurging on Euphorbia (AL)

Lesserthroat out on Lodge Marsh (AL)

Distant Spoonbill (AL)

Not so distant Spoonbill (AL)

30th May

Kesteven Uplands, Lincs/Leics (AL, PL)

A day around the homeland botanising produced a nice haul of regional scarcities including Green-winged and Man Orchids plus Red Kites, Ravens, Peregrines (with the chance discovery of new breeding sites for the latter two) and a couple of pairs of Curlews – including one in Leics.

 

Green-winged, Man and Early Purple Orchids (AL)

Rave-on (AL)

28th May

North Norfolk (AL)

With the north-west haul more out of control than Piner’s hair, I decided to put some serious legwork in to up my chances. Out of the house at 0345 it was onto Hills and a pre-dawn channel crossing first; I spent an hour out on the flats where there was an obvious arrival of Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Sanderling but no rarer Calidrids kept them company...  In the trees, migrants were obviously not going to be abundant, but patience revealed a few titbits in hiding. A Reed Warbler gave a couple of seconds of song from an elderberry bush in the first section and my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year was typically willow-the-wisp through the Sycamores there. The Gropper was still reeling away and a couple of Chiffchaffs were holding territory with a bonus Lesser Whitethroat. Crossing back I had to strip down to get over the creek at waist height and after a quick check of the Greens tried Stiffkey Fen. No rare warblers today. With the weather having now broken I decided to do Cley reserve and sat around in Dauke’s Hide waiting for Needle-tailed/Pacific Swifts but had to make do with a Temminick’s Stint. Suitably rested it was time for the Point. After twenty minutes I was soaked to the skin from wet Suaeda, but managed to battle to the end for 1 Wheatear. The rest of the 4-man crew who had been working it all day could add an extra Wheatear, 2 Reed Warblers and a Nightjar to that tally. I had walked a long way.

(AL)

wet Tem (AL)

30th May 2010
Portree, Skye (DB)
Whilst slogging up a hill the distinctive silhouette of a kite glided towards me. Collapsing into the heather it took a proper grasp of the bird and to realise it was a moulting adult Black Kite! Typically the SLR was 500m in the car so I opted to keep watching it through the 'scope. A wise choice as it quickly u-turned and headed out of sight south over Portree and down over Loch Portee. The 500m descent was done in cheese-rolling style, followed by some high speed granny bashing through the streets of Portree. 15mins later it was relocated and I enjoyed another 10 mins of watching it cruising along a bluff alongside Golden and White-tailed Eagles. It finally flicked up and over the bluff to the west and was not seen again. The following record shots at least give the general impression...!
 
 
(all DB)
 
24-26 May 2010
Scotland (DB)
Three days out on the water in NE Scotland proved fruitful. Highlights included 6 L T Skua on 24/5 and 1 L T Skua, 1 Pom, 3+ Orca on 26/5. Additionally 10 Minke Whales, BND's a Purp Sand on the boat and a few passage waders added interest. What will the summer/autumn yield!?
 
 
 
(all DB)
 
21st May 2009
Minsmere (AL, GP)
I can't resist Minsmere at least once each spring, whereas our classic Norfolk patches usually don't have any birds, the 'jewel in the crown' can always be relied on to deliver diversity. Booming Bitterns, wailing Stone Curlews, singing Firecrests, Woodlarks, Nightingales... Altogether Schedule 1 mungus with the reedbed specials, marshland species, the heathland and 'Breckland' specials all present and a token seabird 'city' on the Riggs who needs to go anywhere else? Well, today me, 'cause I would have swapped my stellar views of all the stars for four seconds (and a record shot) of a fly-through Bee-eater. Shallow, I know, but anyway it was probably a better choice than the Point, here's some nice pics...  
Bittern from the aptly named Bittern Hide, George nearly lost it with the cacophany of noise from the shutters of about 10 DSLRs at work in the hide, somone else did lose it when 'Joe Public' walked under the hide and into view... (AL)
 
(AL)
 
Circus summer, saw my first here in 1988 (AL)
 
(AL)
 
Deer browse line, I guess they've got some exclosures but given that in one morning I saw 120 Red Deer and 9 Muntjac surely its time to produce some Avocet-brand venison?
 
11-13 May
Orkney (DB)
The monthly trip to the far north yet again failed to turn up any real avian surprises. A quartet of Dotterel at Tankerness showed reasonably well a few fine Blackwits added a splash of colour but the real highlights came in the form of marine blubber. A pod of 6 Orca's initially gave us brief views but a quick chase revealed the group to have caught an unfortunate seal or porpoise which was quickly devoured. The group are already well known to the North Atlantic Killer Whale project (http://www.northatlantickillerwhales.com/) and are apparently one of the first groups to reappear in the Northern Isles each year. This year a calf added some extra entertainment. One inquisitive female even came alongside the boat and gave us all the once over crumbling even the most masculine of surveyors. The final cetacean event came as we were berthing alongside Scrabster key when 8 Risso's Dolphins cruised by. A quick disembarkation and we quickly relocated the pod which including two calves all busy tail slapping and generally frolicking at the surface. Still, I have dipped the bloody Bearded Seal FIVE times now!
 
 
 
 
(all DB)
 
15th May
Norwich (AL, EA)
Circuitous route home from the Belle produced fly-by-night Common Sandpiper and then Common Redshank between 0120-0130; should have done dawn Breydon but didn't manage to get out of bed before noon.
 
14th May
North Norfolk (AL, GP)
With a massive swing in wind direction a team was rapidly assembled and expedited to the coast in the hope of a big push in afrotropical migrants. Arriving in NW Norfolk it was evident that this hadn't really happened even if there did appear to be plenty of common warblers and Arctic shorebirds around. After calling in at a few sites we headed for the Hills, which was in fact hosting an impressive arrival: eight species of warblers there is a pb for me - variously 1 Reed, 1 Grasshopper, 1 Garden, 2 Blackcaps, 3 LesserThroats, 5 Greaterthroats, 5 Chiffchaff and 5 Willows. Not much else though, variety provided by Hobby, Cuckoo and 3 Wheatears. Afterwards we toured the Stiffkey and ridgeline areas but nowhere really delivered. Scarier still was the state of the Surfbirds Scarce gallery, now predominantly populated by birds formerly considered at least 'regular'. Given that I haven't seen Whinchat yet, this may be less of an observer artefact than I first thought. Bad times.   
 
Pro-level bush-stalking (AL)
 
Arctic Calidris magic (AL)
 
  
went looking for Dotterel and could only find Avocets, when do we consider control measures? are they driving Corn Bunting declines too? (AL) 
5 C-sand on Hills, a good look (AL)
Saw three of these today, guess they are the new Goldcrest now (AL)
 
11th May
Lincs, Notts (AL)
Quick tour round various sites in the Kesteven area didn't produce very much, had an overwhelming feeling that I was about to find Lesser Scaup at Thurlby Pit, this instantly crushed when I scanned the water and saw this minger:
duck x duck (AL)
 
7th May
Blakeney Point (AL, RC)
Quiet. 1 Song Thrush, 1 Chiffchaff and 7 Wheatears wasn't exactly an inspiring tally, we drove around a bit afterwards and saw some small gulls. Not worth the 0430 start.... 
 
The Chiff in the Plantation was so dull it was vaguely interesting, but per Dave and co. it sang like a standard... (AL)
 
5th May
Station Marshes (RDM)
Who needs mega yank passerines when you've got dullards like this? Anyway, only my second Whitlingham Wheatear, I enjoyed it a bit....