22nd - 25th April
Cornwall (AL & IS)
Brief, ostensibly non-birding trip down (if such a thing exists) was notable for a lack of ornithological highlights, had to write off finding Cattle Egret on the peninsula as they seem now to have amalgamated (a cowabunga?) into two massifs at Sancreed and Chysauster with some interchange betwixt. Highlight was afforded by a day trip to Scilly (on the 23rd) - with some advanced networking (shout out to the Widerscopes' Pirate) we got a lift to Bryher on the Firethorn which took about 2 hours as it had to go via Samson and then the Bishop Rock, and returned on the Cyclone which was so fast we arrived before we left. A few migrants on this the most beautiful migrant trap in the UK with bird of the day going to a Spoonbill which flew down the Channel towards Mary's at 15.15. Loads of Manxies from the boat; they were passing Porthgwarra at 100 a minute the preceeding evening but precious little else. Otherwise just a few clifftop ambles and experimentation with history at Chysauster and Tintagel. All I wanted was a Rock Thrush....
View from Bryher (AL)
ten of the Chy 16, did primitive man watch Cat Egs foraging with Aurochs on this very hillside? (AL)
24 April - The Broads (RDM)
An evenings walk in The Broads produced a singing Spotted Crake, Otter, Red Fox, 5 Chinese Water Deer, Soprano and Common Pipistrelles, Noctule, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Hobby.
The scene that always goes through your mind when trudging across Winterton Dunes...
But against all odds it really did happen. Get some Melanocoryphication...
2nd June 2003 early am, Rob’s is passed out on a burning sofa somewhere in California, Alex is somewhere in the world’s largest tropical forest wilderness area, Rich is in bed, Si, Busta, Chitters and Dan are on Anglessey, James sits in his car on his own, turns the ignition key, turns it back again and gets back to looking at wagtails. 20th April 2008, Dan is on Anglessey (probably), Si is in Vietnam, everyone else is doing Sunday afternoon stuff. We know its was unprofessional, we know we told you all to go birding, but after a long winter of discontent the idea of a collective phase to normality seemed appropriate. There had been rumours of an assault on the Point, the rare-ometer screamed sibes, delivered an eastern Circus, but….
Sunday afternoon found Isabelle tending to my post PhD hand-in hangover, one that lasted over two days, James was in the cinema with Ellie, Rich was watching the cricket, Rob was rebuilding his house. The easterly breeze continued.
Then the text, Ilya rumbled in my pocket.
no time to hang around for this....
Always one step ahead of the pack, Ilya's gen saw us all come out of twitching semi-retirement and leave enough rubber on the A47 to significantly speed up deforestation rates in SE Asia. When I arrived at 1730 there were about 30 delirious faces, by the time we left the wardens were considering the significance of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis to the Winterton cryptogamic crust and the villagers were planting nail bombs. We dashed through the dunes to the expectant masses, the bird was on the deck somewhere, with the heads up from Allwood we waited and then the beast got up and started flying towards the gathering hordes, seemingly half the size of a florican, it cruised past at 30 m to a volley of swearing and pitched down right next to us. It wasn’t just mega, or mint it was f*ckingmintedmega3. Pretty soon everyone I had ever known had converged on the windswept amphitheatre, Black Lark; its like everything you ever wanted in a passerine.
Busta realised he didn't look so cool anymore... (AL)
But then he pulled something special out of the bag with these extra-fly shades...
Good to see Luke Skywalker unblocking this one.
the twitch and the neglected females (AL)
It was like, er looking at a Black lark... (AL)
Take home lessons:
1) Recent days have seen a small flush of sibes as predicted, if birders go looking in April with an October mentality then chances are we can nail a lot of this rares on their way back and outrageous eastern megas on walkabout.
2) Norfolk is underwatched: Black Lark, Subalp and Hoopoe on the same morning at Winterton, nothing elsewhere...
3) Going birding is better than not going birding. Last one down the point is gay.....
Winterton (RoMa, Busta, R. Mo., AR, ACL, IS, JG, EA, everyone else)
Monster convenient afternoon mega: BLACK LARK. Fabulous in flight, evading the hordes with Woodswallow style moves, then scurrying about amongst the marram the rest of the time.
12-14th April (SM, JP)
Quan Lam, E. Tonkin, Vietnam
A pioneering trip to this attractive island to assess its potential as a migrant trap was hard work but ultimatly rewarding. The boat trip to the island produced Masked Laughingthrush on a limestone pinacle. Once at our destination mopeds allowed us to cover the whole island (I only fell off once), and although weather was not favourable for migrants until just before we left, we managed to find some good birds. Highlights were the constant passage of Black Drongos with smaller numbers of kingfishers, regionally notable numbers of Oriental Plover (flocks of 9 and 5, including some stunning males), perhaps the most northerly record ever of the globally Vulnerable, scarce and poorly known Pale-capped Pigeon, 11 Yellow-breasted Buntings, three species of Phyllosc in my bins at once, a mixed species flock which contained Red-throated, Mugimaki and Brown Fly in the trees and Forest Wagtail on the deck, the luminous Chestnut Bunting, tonnes of Richard's and Red-throated Pipits and some stunning spring waders including Long-toed Stint (in a three stint pool with Temmink's and Red-necked, as well as Wood Sand) and last but not least one of very few national records ever of Sharp-tailed Sand.
4th-11th April (ACL)
A week getting in the mix with the kids (160 ENV 1st years) at Slapton FSC was tempered by a modicum of birding worked around lecturing; an early Reed Warbler at Beesands Ley on the 10th perhaps most noteworthy. Migrants were in short supply, no Willow Warbler sang all week, and only a few flittered around the bushes at Start Point, 1000 Sand Martins over the Ley on the 7th was impressive (also 3 Scaup, LTD etc there). Dippers and Cirls were fairly easy on the eye, not unlike the plethora of nubile teen hotties. Tropical dream team won the battle for hearts and minds and all the kool kids (2/3 of students) were doing their one day of field work on some sort of rapid multi-taxa multi-landscape biodiversity assesment instead of climate change, soils, geology or any of that inorganic nonsense.....
presumed duck (AL)
7th April (RoMa)
Field in Cambridgeshire
Another spanner gull on surveys. This time a CM appropriately kitted out for the current spell of Arctic going on about my numb head. If you can stomach more, there's a video. VP's can be quite dull.
East Hills (RoMa)
The feet knew the path, the head knew how long it had been since I was last here. Must be some migrants by now, surely? No. Highlight was a female Goldeneye. About 6 Goldcrest could have included migrants but sounded like the unique local race. Still, good to be back out in the world of marsh, water and sky.
Quieter today still, guess the kids are grounded, the Glauc's gone for a wander and the Pom can't be bothered with the gulls today. A few groups of Sand Martin winging it straight north over the river and a singing Willow Warbler were the main concessesions to Spring on a marvellous sunny day.
Is this some kind of joke? No.
Glaucous Gull still around, now very bleached and one Pom was having fun today picking on the Common Gulls. Only 650 BW, 250 AV and 525 RK maxima today; other highlights were a gang of youth kitted out with a variety of hammers and a moped with no back tyre. I left just as their mums and the police were getting involved.
East Norfolk (RDM, AS, SMi)
A look at 'site B' produced White Wag, a few Brambling, and a reasonably heavy finch passage south including good numbers of Chaffinches, Siskins and Linnets. Whitlingham was poor, need a Fylde Bird Club Hide to view from.
Cuc Phoung NP (Vietnam) (SM, SB)
An enjoyable reminder of how slow/exciting Asian rainforest birding can be, and of how exciting things can be when that elusive brain - eyes - binoculars - bird connection is made. Early in the day a pair of Limestone Wren-babblers did thier charismatic stuff on some vines and er, limestone for us. Attempts to photograph the pair were abandoned when an Eared Pitta started vocalising, however on hearing the desired pitta I lost control of my faculties and we failed to see any birds of any species for at least an hour, maybe two, though not entirely due to my loss of faculties. Then we saw a big black squirrel, then a White-winged Magpie (actually 2), then a Sultan Tit (2 of those as well), then an Eastern crowned Warbler. You get the idea, here's a picture of a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher we found the previous day, sorry you can't see its rump, but neither did I and its not important anyway, just look at it and squint and imagine you are at Winterton and its November and you're loosing control of your faculties.
A look at the Great Broad produced a single Sand Martin so I moved to the new workings (trespassers only) where I found my first Whitlingham Rock Pipit (note unusually pink legs). Also present, a pair of LRPs, two Green Sands and a pair of Oycs.
The Broads (RDM, JBr, OR)
A couple of Wheatears near Acle, Sand Martins at Ormesby Great Broad, and a single Swallow and a few Sand Martins at Whitlingham. No sign of the scoters.
Cambs - Whitlingham CP, Norwich (RDM)
Scored with Egyptian Goose over the A14 by Cambridge followed by 29 GCN in a pond nearby. After this I roared up the A11 to get to Whitlingham before dark and found this party of Common Scoters. They floated around like chumps until it got dark, got a bit restless, then flew off east at high speeds.
Marston STW Lincs & Blackborough End (ACL)
Classic sewage farm, rubbish tip double produced 4 Green Sands at the former and lots of gulls at the latter. Was going to find something amazing then some dude rocked up and started actually blasting them. Maybe they were attempting to get a holotype of the new species of Herring Gull - L. argentatus argentatus thayeri* I discovered...
East Norfolk (RoMa)
Pre-dawn Cambridgeshire GP vp then post-return NE Norfolk actual 'birding', and dirty twitching a White-spotted Bluethroat at Winterton.
More video, have the kleenex ready (what?.. no, not like that). An epic depiction of the tragic fate that awaits us all, expressed through the medium of black-headed gull. Dunno about you, but I think I'll probably die a lingering disease-ridden death being gently bashed against the sea defences at Mucking. Maybe next week.
Cambs (RDM)Adult male Marsh Harrier flying high west over Godmanchester. Also had a Red Kite at Lode yesterday.
Dartford Marshes (RDM)
Stonking views of European Water Vole by a ditch and Bill Oddie driving past on the A206 (Bill, if this wasn't you please email in - by the way, I thought your last series was completely mental!).
Thurly Pit (Lincoln) (ACL)
12 Sand Martins hawked over 21 Goldeneye and a 2nd/W Yellow-legged Gull, snow stopped play and a thorough attempt at getting in on the small yankee gull action.
Wroxham Broad (RDM)
A brief evening sojourn in amongst the blizzards to Wroxham Broad proved to be quite a stressful end to a relaxing Easter weekend. It started with gulls, they were everywhere, and no matter how hard I tried not to, I felt I had to look through them. Feeling a bit queasy following several scans through the assembled throng I decided to have a sit down. However, my rest was interrupted by an unsavoury pack of geese that dropped in at the east end. Consisting mainly of hideous Canadas and Greylags this unappetising bunch held within their ranks a single Barnacle Goose and a single Pink-footed Goose. I let out a little bit of sick and drove home.
Ba Vi NP, East Tonkin, Vietnam (SM, SB, T de B, SL)First morning out of the office and into the field: rain, fog and dipping on Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush was the order of the day. No need to be down hearted though, Fujian Niltava, Silver-eared Mesia and Red-billed Blue Magpie reminded me how great Asian birding was, and Olive-backed Pipit and Great Tit reminded me of home, or would have if I had ever seen the former in the UK and if the latter had looked or sounded anything like a Great Tit.
Gorleston (RDM, AS, OR)
Got lost at lunchtime trying to find Tesco and ended up looking at a Glaucous Gull on the River Yare. Dave Holman was there, feeding it mouldy sandwiches, having a great time. That man who goes on about Crete constantly was also there, going on about Crete, constantly. Ollie told me this was better than working at Argos. I'm less convinced...
Fontainebleau, France (AL, IS)
A 3h walk* in these most famous woods produced all the winter woodpeckers (minus Grey-headed) including stellar views of 3 pairs of Middle-spotted, a few migrants - Blackcaps, loads of Chiffs, Siskins and a couple of Bramblings. As I only go into woods these days either in the Neotropics or with the prefix 'cliff-top', such peramblations are always a joy....
* we tried the area ENE of the town accessed from the station.
Les Étangs de Cergy-Neuville, France (AL, IS)
I'll cut to the chase (or should that be la Chasse?) a walk round said lake complex, which looks a bit like Wrasbury GP, only with less Smew and more french people was punctuated by 5 Barn Swallows and 1 Eared Grebe. However this summary would cut a long story short, this is a classique tale of rarity-finding woe. Although, thoughts of Nearctic vagrants might never be that far from my mind, this visit was not ostensibly an ornithological one. However no matter how passionately one refuse to check out ones gravel pit, the dyed-in the wool bird-finder is never off-line. A disturbance in the force did lend my eyes away from a young lady's and out onto the expanse of water where a duck succeded in catching my eye. Cripes, its come to this. The sudden rarity finding frisson was tempered by the realisation that it was just an American Wigeon, this was further deflated by the fact that I was in France, and then all hope was lost when it swam up to the bank, stole bread from a musk rat (which at least had the decency to be a generation nth escape) and then flashed some left leg bling. Can somone buy me a nintendo Wii?
Ireland (DB, MH, KL per AL)
Dan and co. are recently back from some sort of work-related mission to Eire. Details are sketchy but my inbox has just been crashed by a large number of high quality images appended below. We wouldn't normally post photos of AHG on PB (unless it was a picture of one being eaten by a vagrant sub adult Bald Eagle) but make an exception here because the image is aesthetically pleasing. As far as we can make out they saw: Buff-bellied Pipit 1, Iceland gull 62, 'Kumliens' Gull 5, Glauc 16, American Herring Gull 2, Ring-billed Gull 10, Forsters tern 1, Black Duck 1, Ring-necked Duck 2, Surf Scoter 3, Cattle Egret 1 although this was mostly by flithy twitching.
Redbarn rubescens (D. Brown) must be loads of these out there still....
seagull (D. Brown)
taxonomic mess gull @ Dingle (D. Brown)
one good tern (D. Brown)
Cork City Kumlien's (D. Brown)
1W Glauc var. rufescens
Crack out the lotion, it's gonna be a scorcher. My earliest ever Wheatear sat around in a newly ploughed bit of the great set-aside field near Coalhouse Point, lounging in the sun amongst the Lapwing and Pied Wags. 2 Water Pipit still around the water tower and up to 160 Teal along the foreshore.
Spring back on, everyone get excited for three minutes. 2 Sand Martin were virtually the first thing I looked at today, scooting around above some Coot with the temperature hovering around freezing. 5 Smew, a drake Scaup and 20 White-fronted Geese present and correct.
On the train, Ouse Washes, Cambridgeshire (JB)
Fortunately, having contented myself recently with moving, working, playing, drinking, driving, stressing and relaxing I managed to stay thoroughly cocooned away from any bird news, so the sight of a Great White Egret from the train as it (the train) crossed the Ouse Washes came as a pleasant surprise. Being a pretty laid back fellow, the realisation that this bird has been reported regularly on the pagers (and that Golden Brown saw one in Wales a week earlier) hasn't dampened my spirits. It's on like DK. Next update scheduled in six months time (just after my next dentist appointment) and probably involving a scarce to rare heron spp.
Caersws, Powys (DB)
Whilst driving back from Mid Wales I had a Great White Egret flying alongside the car so i slammed on the breaks, caused a minor hold-up. reeled off some pics and proceeded to a slightly less dangerous place for continued viewing. The bird then did a second fly-buy and dropped into ditches near the railway track. A pleasant surprise* with bonus 2 Greenland White-fronts, 30 Whoopers and a Peregrine. A second stop at Trawsfynydd revealed 9 Scaup, 1 Goosander and some fresh spring waders back in. A dusk drive found 9 Short-eared Owls hunting over one moorland area! *Presumably the same bird was seen unbeknownst to Dan a week previously whilst he was in 'nam.
Great White Egret, Powys (Special D)
Vietnam (D. Brown)
Sunbird’s first, and highly successful, trip to Vietnam turned up some real rarities. Endemics included great views of Grey-crowned Crocias, Vietnamese Cutia, Vietnamese Greenfinch and likely splits such as Annam Barbet. Range-restricted and elusive species such as Bar-bellied, Blue-naped, and Eared Pittas all gave themselves up as well, and we were afforded stonking views of Short-tailed Parrotbills, and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl. Tragically the cold weather up north resulted in the death of many birds. On one walk alone, three Mountain Scops owls, White's Thrush, Blue-rumped Pitta, Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama, and Green-billed Malkoha were all found dead.
Dan (left and behind) spots a crocias and radios it in to the rest of the group...
Grey-crowned Crocias (D. Brown)
Blue-naped Pitta and Vietnamese Cutia (D. Brown)22nd February