20th - 27th September
Isles of Scilly (JG, DG, RA)
The Scilly dream team gave it at least a high percentage but could only muster some nice scarce, details of which to follow. For the meantime Rick took some photos:
1st generation Aquatic Warbler X Curlew hybrid (RA)
Short-toed Lark (RA)
Ventry pelagic (DB)
22nd September-present (JB)
After the summer of love came the autumn of wet dreams. I´ve been avoiding those by clocking up the air miles and heading west side; first two weeks in British Columbia - spectacular, wet, wild and susprisingly a part of North America with a huge warbler list. East meets west with west coast beauties like Townsend´s and Black-throated Grey rubbing shoulders in summer with east coast legends like Blackburnian, Cape May and Canada to name a few.... I wasn´t there in summer! Still, scored new birds in Fork-tailed Storm-petrel and Boreal Chickadee and mammals in Orca, Black Bear blah, blah, blah (more details and less ´Blah´s´ to follow).
The 2nd in progress trip revolves around the BirdLife International World Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. With more Irish Bars than London, more Irish bars than Dublin, more delegates than delhi or gates, more beer drunk than in four years at UEA and more talks attended than in four years at UEA it´s been a big week. The bird continent has hit my unprepared mind with its full force - the dross is all mega (Vermillion Fly, Fork-tailed Fly, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Field Flicker....) and the mega´s all dross (Bay-capped Spinetail). Scored big today though with crippling views of Many-coloured Rush-tyrant. Photos and updates to come.
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Full update to follow, suffice to say I drew the short straw when it came to self-found Luscinia or Tarsiger. Lake Baikal arrived on Fair Isle but southerlies aren't doing us any favours, we aren't exposed to the south. Still hoping for trickle/vomit down. The fat lady hasn't sung yet........
Red-flanked Bluetail (AL)
Bluethroat (at last) ACL
Yellow-browed Warblers (ACL)
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Late afternoon on the 18th Sept saw me sat on the wall at Nether Linnay hoping in vain that the latest wave depression might yet dump a 'golden bird' on the Ron. The previous four, nay seven days had been both amazing - the biggest fall of Trans-Saharan insectivores that the island had witnessed in over 15 years - buckets of Redstarts, flycatchers, warblers, chats etc. Between me, Paul, Rael, Pete and Bob we thrashed the island senseless, but by the evening of the 17 could just muster some scarce - token Ickys, Barred Warblers, Wyrnecks, Rosefinches, Hawfinch and an obliging Pec but nothing big. Every text from Golden Holden or a refresh of birdguides in the evening was a big kick in the nuts, an island to the north of us might not have had many more migrants than us but it was creaming us with rares - Lancey, Paddyfield, Sprosser, Bonelli's etc. We had, nothing. We had been out dazzling on the night of the 17th/18th, the big front had come through and it rained like hell, by morning the wind was a gentle westerly. I got on my bike and went looking for waders, although the Pec and its entourage of 7 Little Stints were about the pick of what was on offer. A few Pied Flys, Redstarts, Tree Pipit etc, a couple of warblers, and a few new-in Greenland Redpolls. Late afternoon I took the phone call from Bob, Pete Donnelly had just come back from checking the lobster pots and had flushed a Grey-necked or Cretzschmar's Bunting from outside his house at Sangar. Bob picked me up and everyone converged on Sangar. He had seen it for 10 seconds and had now lost it. We wandered round for an eternity and then Paul and Pete relocated it by the house, only it flew off before Rael and I could get back. Three painfull minutes later I booted it out of the thistles and it landed on the wall. Fuck. CRETZSCHMAR'S, shit the bed. Events after that were a blur, a very pleasing blur.....
Isle of Grain (RoMa)
2 juv. Honey Buzzard (12:45 and 13:55), 1 Osprey (12:55), 1 Merlin, 1 Hobby over, having a go at crossing the Medway but mostly tracing the southern edge of Grain.
Blakeney Point, E. Hills (RoMa)
Excitement all round, but in the end I had to be content with just enjoying loads of Redstart, Wheatear and Whinchat. At Blakeney I also saw the pre-existing Barred Warbler at the lupins, 4 Spot Fly, 1 Pied Fly, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Song Thrushes. More flycatchers at Hills, as you'd expect: 7 Pied, 8+ Spot Fly, 3 Reed Warbler, a brief calling Ring Ouzel, several Garden Warbler, Short-eared Owl, 2 Tree Pipit. Great to just be wandering around as migrants scatter.
Osprey over the cricket pitch as we won the cup final.
north of Winterton North Dunes (RDM)
Juvenile Honey Buzzard in off the sea, Whinchats, Redstarts, Spotflys, Blackcaps, Short-eared Owl, Wheatears, Whitethroats blah blah blah....
12 & 13th September.
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Holy cow, or words to that effect, big squared, cubed etc. Brain is too fried by common migrants to really do an account of the last 48 hours justice but suffice to say it was monster. Started the 12th by cycling north from the obs and had to swerve to avoid a Locustella running across the road in front of me, apparently unable to fly. It was making a bunting like (distress?) call and promptly disappeared after giving me a second to get a hand-held record shot sat on the fence. We eventually kicked it out and caught it whereupon it proved to be a fairly obvious Gropper. I went up to Torness and relocated Rael's Buff-breast which was now keeping company with 2 Little Stints. Progressing eastwards migrants were very much in evidence with loads of Pied & Spotted Flys, Redstarts and Whinchats, with loads of ace multi migrant fence combinations on offer. Still, big thrashing failed to deliver even scarce although I had the Turtle Dove again and managed another Reed Warbler (after one at the top) in the nets which Rael and I ran for 2 hours in the evening.
After 11 hours in the field and 4 hours working in the bar I was knackered the following day and everyone was hoping for a lull. Cycling up to the church and kicking out Redstarts, Tree Pipits, Pied Flys, Song Thrushes and a Lap with token effort suggested otherwise. A flava wagtail flew over and spurred me on to check Westness. On arrival there I got a call from Bob for an odd warbler and cycled across the headland and up to the light where Bob's bird turned into a Reed. I set off back to Westness and on arrival got a phone call from Rael who had a Locustella in the same ditch..... so cycled all the way back and we managed to out the Locust as another Gropper. Bastard. In between times we realised that a very significant arrival was under way and Redstarts and Garden Warblers were just dropping into zero habitat - the middle of grass fields, the tideline etc. Westness, when I eventually got there was amazing, one nettle bed held 1 Sedge Warbler, 6 Garden Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, Common Whitethroat, 3 Redstarts, 5 Willow Warblers, 4 Song Thrushes etc. An Icky was skulking around by the old ruins and Tree Pipits kept company with a Grey-headed type Flava. Pied Flys and Redstarts were everywhere, Robins and Thrushes flusing from any patch of cover. Over by Torness one bed of composite sp had 6 Willow Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat, Wood Warbler and 4 Siskins. I could go on but I've got to go to bed...................................
Burnham Overy Dunes (JG, DG, JG, EA)
More family birding; less hardship and more picnic this time in the sundrenched dunes. Not exactly a fall, but a good scatter of common migrants, with more seemingly arriving all the time. Two common redstart, singles of pied and spotfly, plenty of whinchat, willow, whitethroat, lesserthoat, blackcap, a few gardens and more stacks of wheatear and meadow pipit. After a few texts featuring the word 'Honey' we started paying more attention to the skies; no raptors appeared but we were well placed when a juvenile Dotterel headed due west over our heads, piping all the way. Everything was looking very promising, but the clock ticked down and eventually we had to leave. Got the feeling we missed the best of it... We did get one final bit of excitement on the way home, in the form of a juv Honey Buzzard, complete with full corvid entourage, just north of Great Witchingham.
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Full update on the most tiring day of all time tommorow (or whenever I get time):
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (AL)
Grasshopper Warbler (AL)
Little Stints (AL)
Wheatear, Robin, Whinchat, Redstart, Willow Warbler (AL)
Willow Warblers, Wheatears, Whinchat (AL)
Reed Warbler (AL)
Blakeney Point (JG & DG)
A bit of family birding like so many fine days of yore. We sniffed the charts, felt the gentle patter of westerly-drifted rain on our faces, and decided that there was only one place to be - the Point. The first mile was as promising as it was drenching. Buckets of meadow pipit were repeatedly emptied over our heads; amorphous brown shapes flushed from all angles and turned miraculously into wheatears. The sueda heaved with sodden reed bunting, but proper migrants were hard to come by. By the plantation we'd managed to wring out a couple of reed warblers, several goldcrest and whinchat - an odd assortment, but the promise was there. The lupins provided a lesserthroat, two gardens and three more whinchat, while Far Point was literally flooded out with meadows but little else. The sodden trudge back down Near Point finally provided the real value - a fresh juvenile barred warbler flushed from the salicornia. It took one look at the dripping sueda and decided it was better off on the path, where it revealed some surprisingly nifty chat skills, happily bouncing around with a couple of skylarks. We redoubled our efforts, but another grilling of the plantation didn't provide anything better than a black redstart, and the route back was surprisingly devoid of new stuff, despite the relenting rain. Still, it was a promising start. Looking forward to tomorrow...
Blackrock sands (Gwynedd) (DB)
Stopped off for some yank wader finding this afternoon at Blackrock, no Yanks but a duo of delightful Phalaropes, slightly more obliging that the last quartet. I particularly enjoyed the Phalarope obstacle course over which they tested each other including swimming through the pipe (pictured).
Red Phalaropes (DB)
My House, Hanoi, Vietnam,
After a day of work at home I looked out of the window and was surprised to see a 1st winter female blue rock thrush on a nearby rooftop. This was briefly joined by a male of the same age and is the first migrant I have seen in the avian desert I can view from my house. Suitably enthused, I spent an enjoyable hour on the roof the next day viz-migging, during which I logged 3 Grey-faced Buzzards, 1 Japanese Sparrowhawk, 5 Chinese Pond Herons, 1 Grey Heron, 20 White Wagtail, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 25 Barn Swallows all heading south.
Blue Bog Brush (SB)
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Screaming nor-easterly overnight promised much, after tending the bar till midnight I extricated myself at 6am and headed out. Early indications were disappointing - a few Willow Warblers, Robins and a House Martin on the west side and a Spotted Redshank south didn't meet expectations but a text from Paul about a presumed Citwag flyover spurred on hopes. An excited call from Rael suggested that birds were now arriving, but Gravity Thistles only delivered a Lesserthroat and a Hen Harrier. I quickly relocated back to the west side and suddenly drift migrants were in evidence - Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Pied Fly and Willow Warbler along one wall alone. Clearly nothing had filtered into the interior of the island yet and the corners were holding the birds. Working my way through Westness, Garso and the Easting produced another 10 Common Redstarts and 9 Pied Flycatchers with about 15 Willow Warblers. A new Wryneck flushed in front of me a couple of times, and pushing on two Spotted Flycatchers took up exposed positions. Warbler diversity was low, a couple of Gardens only breaking the monotony of Willows. By late afternoon with 10 miles already chalked up fatigue was setting in, and still no Great Snipe or Greenish. Further thrashing just produced more of the same selection, although a Turtle Dove was the second for the island for the year (= as common as 2barxbill) which was a little galling. A Peregrine terminated a hapless Turnstone right over my head; after a couple of valiant attempts to gain height the stoner just turned into the wind and appeared to commit suicide...The rain restarted late pm and I retired after 10 hours in the field; the best day on here yet but still not much to show for it.... Finals totals on the NRBO blog...
8th & 9th September
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Still waiting for Orkney magic, but at least Fair Isle isn't skinning us alive. 3 hours seawatching on the 8th produced 108 Sooty Shears along with lesser numbers of Manx but no biggie. A good thrash round the bushes unearthed a presumably new Barred and I managed to luck in to extract and ring a Rosefinch at Holland House (after only showing up for 1/2 an hour), same net as the Barred - certainly beats ringing in Lincs. The 9th was also pretty quiet though birds were gravitating to Holland in a big way with at least 6 Willow Warblers, 3 Gardens, a LesserThroat and a hyper elusive Wryneck - presumably the same bird that Paul had seen flying over the top end in that direction the previous day. The Grotfinch like the Barred was also pretty fat suggesting that not much was actually arriving and a thorough thrash of the north seemed to confirm as much with just one Pied Fly for the effort. SE wind strengthening and front on its way....
Common Rosefinch (AL)
Pied Fly (AL)
Norfolk coast and marsh (RoMa & JG)
Quags early on only fueled the sudden resurgence in excitment: a group of 6 Long-tailed Skua headed east along the landward side of the shingle ridge, including at least one adult with intact tail, encouraged us to ignore the sea and thrash some bushes. A Whinchat was at least a migrant, but overhead it looked good for much more. Several tired looking Wheatear knocked about the place and a Little Stint flew west with a Ringo.
The old site furthest north on the coast reminded us once more not to get too excited. 5 Whinchat together in one small bush was good, and Redstart, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and 4 or 5 Tree Pipit appeared and just as quickly disappeared as we walked round and round. Was abundantly clear that after four hours of working the site we'd probably seen ten percent of the birds. Next time it's the machete.
4th - 6th September
Co. Kerry (RDM, AR)
Back to Kerry and this time with a good excuse (AR) if I didn't find anything. However, ARs sunbathing obsession meant that we spent ages at Black Rock Strand, long enough for me to trawl through the flocks of shorebirds over and over until I stumbled across something of note....
Baird's Sand, Black Rock Strand, Co. Kerry (thanks to Josh Jones (left) and Rich Bonser for these shots)
The rest of the three days was pretty quiet, with a Grey Phalarope briefly wandering about on Ferriter's Cove beach the pick of the rest.
Lligwy Bay, Anglesey (DB)
Four Grey Phalaropes surfing until flushed and flew off north...
Dan attempted to relocate the Phals but was last seen as a hazard to shipping on the Porcupine Bank... (DB)
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Painful morning, with the north east coast drowning in scarce we (Paul Brown, Rael Butcher & Jack Ashton-Booth) gave it the big'n and scoured the island till it was raw. The result, nothing. The Barred Warbler was recaught and has gone from fat score zero to fat score 6 in 4 days, the PGP is still kicking around as is yesterday's Wood Warbler and a Lap was around Holland but otherwise it was bollocks. Fortuitously, I'm here till the month's end with a short-term forecast so mega that I'm likely to run out of clean pants within hours. Half and hour looking at the sea produced 8 Sooties, some of which were coming in over the tideline, once the wind drops the north sea should empty back past here....
world's ugliest Lap (AL)
North Ronaldsay (AL)
Slow morning, a traipse round was rewarded by an early Fieldfare and a subsequent seawatch was fairly uneventful. Everyone struggled for birds so as per normal I sacked the afternoon off to work on a forthcoming book project. Refreshing birdguides it was evident that the easterlies were delivering a fall across NE England and just at the death Rael and Jack managed to pick up a few birds. I dashed out after dinner to twitch a stonking Wood Warbler along the sheep dyke by the obs; I've probably only seen 5 in the UK in the last 10 years (as opposed to about 300 YBWs), never having set foot in WW breeding grounds in that time. Here's hoping the next will be a wood warbler rather than a Wood Warbler if hanna and associated wave fronts come to fruition... Time to make a plan for the morrow.... east side of the beach or west side of the coast?
17th August - 2nd September
Sumburds alternative Romania (RoMa & KB)
If you want to know why people go with tour companies it's because they know where they're going, don't have to ask whole towns if they have jump leads for their Daewoo Matiz and see more birds in less time. Still, I see no space for Ursus on Dan's trip. Actually saw almost everything that Dan did, though in smaller quantities and no Citrine, Little Crake or Red-throated Pipit. Did sleep with the Rb Fly photographed below at Histria though.
Meet the locals, Sinaia; and Roller, Pied Wheatear and Long-legged Buzzard: some run of the mill to add to Dan's mega shots.
North Ronaldsay (AL)
An interesting 3day spell on the top of Orkney, big SE winds on the 31st failed to deliver owing to thick fog but Shetland, Fair Isle and Ron got a haul of birds on the 1st. Typically we were all ready and rareing to go, in fact we were so excited we were drinking until 4am. At least one 'AW' was not seen until the middle of the afternoon. I managed to get up by 9 and though suffering from still being drunk managed to decipher a modest fall with Skylarks all over the place and many new Willow Warblers. A brief Marsh Warbler added a modicum of excitement - not as much as another which needed a team to pin it late pm at Westness. Pete found an Icky and we were blessed with a trio of Pied Flycatchers and loads of Garden Warblers. A Goldcrest in Holland was the first of the year (as was a Robin the previous evening) but the biggie didn't appear. The next day was just generally disappointing, naff winds and crystal clear conditions. Fair Isle loomed large on the horizon and had a stack of scarce - maybe filtering down off the cliffs or maybe new in as it was bleedin obvious. I thrashed around for much of the day for not more than a few Lapland Buntings and 5 Swifts; Paul, Rael and Jack couldn't do much better. The 3rd was another beautiful day, so clear that Foula was visible as a distant lump, we ran the nets in Holland and I picked a Barred on the 2nd round (the only warbler trapped apart from 1 Willow). A Tree Pipit flew over and added to the excitement, but four hours in the field afterwards only delivered Goldcrest, Garden and Willow Warblers and a Lap for me, though Paul had another Barred at the top end. Conditions looking so good for the weekend that we may need to sedate Jack.
Barred Warbler, Holland House, (AL)
Garden Warbler (AL)
Fair Isle, from Holland House, North Ron, competition? Nah....