Friday, 29 December 2017


Shustoke Reservoir has been very quiet, during the snow there was an increase in wildfowl but they soon dispersed when the weather improved. Over the Xmas holiday wildfowl numbers dropped to the lowest I have ever known, with no Pochard whatsoever!

These are sites I have visited locally in December:

I have paid a few visits checking the gull roost I have managed a single Yellow-legged Gull and a Woodcock.

Good numbers of common species with: c.200 Skylark, c.50 Meadow Pipit, c.25 Yellowhammer, c.30 Reed Bunting and a few Grey Partridge and unto 70 Golden Plover. The number of birds in the stubble fields is very impressive the counts only refer to birds seen perched up or in flight, there are probably significantly more feeding on the ground.

All the usual suspects plus Barn Owl, Raven, Chiffchaff and Brambling but no sign of any Green Sandpiper on the river which is unusual.

The influx of Hawfinch we had in the autumn resulted in a few birds taking up temporary residence in a handful of sites in the region. One of the easiest to view was a group of upto five in the churchyard in Berkswell.

Hawfinch, Berkswell Churchyard

Swanhurst Park, Moseley
A 2nd winter Iceland Gull has been present most of the winter and is very photogenic and it was joined by a 3rd winter Caspian Gull.

Iceland Gull at Swanhurst Park.

All-in-all it has been a reasonably autumn in North Warwickshire with Richards Pipit, Lesser Yellowlegs, numerous Hawfinch, Cattle Egret and Firecrest.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Wednesday 29th November

After seeing a Richards Pipit at Hartshill Quarry on Sunday I have been rather busy. I managed a morning at the Reservoir today seeing two Goldeneye, 7 Teal and just a single Pochard.

There are good numbers of Goldfinch and Siskin in the Alders I think a trip further down the river could pay dividends.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Monday 13 November

At Shustoke there has been an arrival of wildfowl with a single Goldeneye, 28 Pochard (all male), and twelve Gadwall which were all on the small pool.

The were good numbers of winter thrushes with c.150 Redwing, 40 Fieldfare plus a good scattering of Blackbirds and a few Song Thrush.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Hartshill Hayes Weds & Thurs

I visited two mornings on the trot ,Wednesday and Thursday and I have paid the price for standing on a lonely hilltop in cold temperatures in wellies, I have come down with man flu.

The total for the two days are as following:

                                       Weds                 Thurs

Stock Dove                           5                        8
Skylark                                 2                        –
Fieldfare                             25                        –
Redwing                               1                      56
Mistle Thrush                       2                        5
Chaffinch                            24                     24
Brambling                            2                        3
Goldfinch                           14                      18
Greenfinch                           5                        5
Redpoll                                –                        2
Hawfinch                             –                        4
Bullfinch                              –                       1
Siskin                                 66                       2
Reed Bunting                       –                       1

Other birds seen, which I considered not to be migrants include: Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Song Thrush and Yellowhammer.

Hopefully I will get another couple of days in before migration grinds to a halt, might even try the Fillongley Alps having had my head turned by Hartshill Hayes.


I have not forsaken the Reservoir, its just that there has been very little to report, Thursday Joy and I walked around the Reservoir seeing only three Shoveler and a single Pochard.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Sunday 5th November

I arrived early at Hartshill Hayes it had rained heavily earlier so I wasn't that hopeful. I stood overlooking the Leicestershire plains for nearly 30 minutes in slight drizzle before the first birds flew over – 3 Redwing. As the weather improved there was a trickle of Chaffinch but little else.

I was joined by John Harris and it was still quiet (if you know what I mean), eventually the weather started to improve and birds started to come through but not in great numbers.

After about 90 minutes a call above us, alerted us to a Hawfinch which promptly landed in the closest tree, it sat for about 30 seconds then continued its journey. Over the next hour we saw a further nine Hawfinch taking the tally to ten in total. By 11.00am my feet needed thawing out so I left, to my knowledge no other Hawfinch came through.

Totals for yesterday

Lapwing                    2
Wood Pigeon      c.350
Raven                        2
Skylark                      7
Starling                    41
Fieldfare                  54
Redwing                  38
Mistle Thrush            3
Chaffinch                 32
Brambling                 1
Hawfinch                 10
Bullfinch                    1
Greenfinch                 2
Redpoll                      1
Goldfinch                 16

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Friday 3 November

Joy and I made an early morning visit to Hartshill Hayes CP in search of Hawfinch, on arrival I wasn’t hopeful as there was virtually no wind and it was misty which restricted visibility a little. We joined the semi-resident John Harris who had arrived early but had had a quiet morning.

There was a trickle of birds coming through but no great numbers, the birds seemed to be passing quite high and good ears were needed. Most birds were silhouetted against the grey sky. Pretty soon we had good views of a Brambling which flew in and perched up in one of the nearby trees.

By about 9.00am Joy was loosing interest so I set a cut-off time to leave. Typically it started to pick up with a flock of c.30 Fieldfare flew in from the north-east. We were considering leaving when JH heard a Hawfinch go over, it was above my hearing limits but we gave it another five minutes, we were then literally about to leave when two Hawfinch flew in the the poplars behind us, one flew across the front of us landing in a tree that was partly obscured. Although I managed to get the scope on it the bird was facing away but Joy got a scope view.

Hartshill Hayes

Brambling                1
Chaffinch               29
Greenfinch               7
Goldfinch               17
Redpoll                    8
Hawfinch                 2
Mistle Thrush          4
Redwing              178
Fieldfare                67

After we left John Harris had a further 10 Hawfinch.

In the afternoon we went to Bubbenhall Meadows where we eventually saw the Dartford Warbler which was mobile and difficult.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Wednesday 1st November

I made an early morning trip to Hartshill Hayes for a spot of VisMig, I have done reasonably well for birds including Hawfinch on the Fillongley Ridge but Hartshill has proved to be the premier Warwickshire site for Hawfinch and VisMig in general.

It occupies a commanding view over the Leicestershire countryside with a glorious vista taking in a large area. I was a little late and there were already three birders present on my arrival. Two Hawfinch had been seen earlier by John Harris and there was a steady stream of birds passing overhead.

A few birders joined us at various points and we attracted the interest of the local dog walkers keen to know what we were up to. It was quite late on when I just happened to glance behind picking up three birds dropping into the treeline, a quick look confirmed they were Hawfinch but by the time I had sputtered out HAWFINCH they had dropped down. We scanned the trees and Steve Haynes located one sat in the tree tops, it was only there for c.20 seconds but long enough for everyone to get on it.

In the afternoon I received a call from Steve Haynes to say he had found a Lesser Yellowlegs on a private site he has access too. He had been given permission to invite a handful of birders, fortunately I was one of the handful. I arrived with a boot full of shopping and enjoyed good views of the bird though it was about as far away as it could be.

Thursday morning saw me up early on the Fillongley Ridge, when I arrived there was very little wind and it seemed quiet, I gave it an hour but there was very little movement. In the afternoon Steve had arranged access for birders with the landowner, for a small fee which was to go towards conservation at the site. I offered to help with the parking arrangements. On arrival an old friend who I haven’t seen for nearly ten years was there so me managed to have a bit of a catchup.

There was a steady stream of birders and over £100 was raised, we even had a visit from birding Royalty with Lee Evens arriving at c.3.00pm he didn’t stay long as he wanted to get to Rutland Water for a Cory’s Shearwater. I recon he had around 90 minutes to get there, I thought he had no chance, but apparently he made it.

Steve has received some stick in some quarters about inviting friends to view the bird on Wednesday. Comments were made that I think were below the belt, there really are some people out there full of there own self-importance.

Unfortunately a local birder broke the news of the bird before Steve had a chance to arrange access which wasn’t helpful. Access was arranged for Thursday afternoon so birders in general could enjoy the bird. Steve was there at first light to make sure the bird was present and I went down myself to help with parking. Everyone that came seemed to enjoy the bird and everyone left happy.

Somehow I even got involved in an argument on the internet with a birder who was critical of how Steve handled the situation, seems he doesn’t like criticism himself.  I don’t know him and don’t wish to know him, I find it strange that a lot of the people have forceful opinions and say things they would never say face-to-face. I think until they find themselves in the position as Steve they wouldn't know how they would react, I certain would want my friends to enjoy the bird. Maybe they should keep there opinions to themselves.

This person called me Obnoxious and Ill-educated, it seems he knows me!

I haven’t been called Obnoxious since we used to play the rich kids at football! As for Ill-educated I’ve made the best of what I’ve got.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Tuesday 31st October – Hardingwood Hill

For the fifth time in little over a week I found myself at Hardingwood Hill. I arrived at 7.30am and made my way to a suitable location in which to view the events to come! There is no one place that is better than another, it all depends on which way the wind is blowing and which way the birds choose to migrate.

At least it wasn’t as cold as yesterday but still a little parky. I had my hat on which helped. Although I was regretting not bring my gloves. After about 90 minutes I pulled my hat down a bit, wondered what the obstruction on my head was then realised my gloves were inside my hat!

I stayed for two hours and for the third time in a row drew a blank with Hawfinch, but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately a lot of the birds were passing downhill of me but at a distance of 1k so a lot of the finches went unidentified. Anyway, todays totals:

Wood Pigeon          1,125
Stock Dove                  19
Redwing                    203
Fieldfare                    182
Mistle Thrush                5
Skylark                          8
Chaffinch                     36
Goldfinch                      2
Starling                      239
Brambling                     1
Siskin                            4

I had various other species including Raven, two Sparrowhawk, tit flocks which included a Treecreeper and several Yellowhammer.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Monday 30th October – Hardingwood Hill and Shustoke

At Hardingwood Hill doing a little VisMig, I probably should have gone to Hartshill Hayes, I knew there would be more birds but also that there would be more birders. Even though this place isn’t ideal I tend to get it to myself.

I was hoping for a few more Hawfinch but it wasn’t to be. It was cold this morning but bright and the wind had swung round a little more and was more or less straight westerly. The birds today were heading in a west apart from the Wood Pigeons which continued on there South-west path.

Fieldfare           168
Redwing             14
Goldfinch           15
Starling             209
Chaffinch           20
Skylark                 2
Wood Pigeon    622

I walked around today finding my first Goldeneye of the autumn, there was little else of note apart from a single Redpoll and four Meadow Pipit.

Norfolk for three days

Travelled to Norfolk for a few days staying in Thornham. The journey was the worst for years taking four and half hours. There were roadworks on the A47 with the traffic jamming up the Island causing the delays.

When we eventually arrived we spent the afternoon at Titchwell seeing a good variety of species the highlights of which were: four Spotted Redshank, two Little Stint, one Ruddy Shelduck, one Water Pipit and a fly past Bittern.

We went to Burnham Overy Staithe walking out to Gun Hill. On the way we saw quite a few species, mainly in flight, as a woman dog walker lost complete control of her dog which spent the subsequent hour chasing the waders and wildfowl across every corner of the salt marsh!

In the dunes at Gun Hill we came across a group of six Grey Partridge and then nearly stood on a Short-eared Owl. There were small groups of Chaffinch heading along the coast and there was at least one Brambling in with them. We met another birder and as we were talking to him something caught my eye on the sea. It was a Leach’s Petrel and it was really close, we ran towards the edge of the dunes to get a better look but lost it in the waves! We then saw another or the same Short-eared Owl and a couple of Bonxies and Red-throated Diver. We made our way back but apart from Red Kite and distant Marsh Harrier we left the highlights behind us.

In the afternoon with no news on any birds of note we caught the bus into Hunstanton and walked the coastal path back to Thornham. It was quiet but we still chalked up over 60 species, including seven Greenshank, 40 Fieldfare, 1one Brambling and back at Thornham a Woodcock.

Had intended to go to Snettisham RSPB but whilst birding at Hunstanton the cold wind put me off that idea. Joy wanted to get home early as she had a big week at work so we headed back via Welney where there was a large flock of Tree Sparrow. Some of the surrounding fields held unto 200 Whooper Swan but there were not many Geese to be seen.

Wednesday 26th October. Hardingwood Hll

Reasonably VisMig session with the highlight another two Hawfinch going through.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Monday at Hardingwood Hill, Fillongley

I thought I would participate in a little VizMig at Hardingwood Hill near Fillongley, Joy and I had paid a brief visit yesterday on arrival it was clear that it was way to windy. This morning, before I had even pulled my boots on it was obvious it was going to be good as there were good numbers of Redwing and Skylark passing overhead.

At the high point I stationed myself looking west towards Birmingham whilst the birds made there way south. Most birds were taking the same line South-south-west and not particularly high-up. For that reason I relinquished some of the height and repositioned myself on the other side of hedge for a unrestricted view.

There was a steady stream of Wood Pigeons just how many of these were actually local birds or birds on migration I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess. The sky was quite busy, I didn’t ID everything and there were birds passing behind me as well. Then I heard a call from behind me that was unfamiliar, by the time I got on the bird it had passed and going away from, I was as near certain as I could be that it was a Hawfinch. I was disappointed and thought I had missed my chance. Less than half an hour later another group of finches flew past this time in front of me. I put my bins to my eyes and there they were seven Hawfinch, they didn’t stop they just continued on they journey.

I was in communications with Steve Haynes (Harthill Hayes) and some of the Sutton Park Group on Twitter and they were having a similar day to me. Rough totals for the day at Hardingwood Hill were as follows:

Cormorant               2 north
Sparrowhawk          1
Wood Pigeon       800 South-south-west
Jay                           2
Skylark                  35 South-south-west
Long-tailed Tit      14
Goldcrest                 1
Starling                  60 South-south-west
Fieldfare                  2 South-south-west
Redwing               235 South-south-west
Meadow Pipit           8 South-south-west
Hawfinch                  7 (probably 8) South-south-west
Redpoll                   22 South-south-west
Goldfinch                18 South-south-west
Yellowhammer     c.12
Reed Bunting            3 South-south-west

By mid morning it had started to tail off and I decided to meet up with Steve H and Bobby D, one because I have never visited the Hartshill Hayes before and two I like their company! When I arrived there was still a trickle of movement going on. It was mainly Skylark, Starling, Siskin, Redwing, Chaffinch and a few Fieldfare. We were joined by Pete Softley who picked up a calling Brambling somewhere over Leicestershire!!!! Oh to have the hearing of a Bat!

Steve and I then searched around the rather impressive Quarry along the edge of a disused Golf Course, the habitat was impressive and I can see me making a few more visits. We saw a good sized flock of Linnet and a few Skylark but hunger pangs started to kick in and it was time for home.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Saturday through to Monday

Joy, June and I had a good walk around Cannock Chase, mainly in search of the reported Crossbills. We parked by the TA centre and walked the trails down towards Seven Springs. We had great views of a good sized Adder that slithered across the path in front of us.

We eventually encountered some birds with c.30 Siskin plus some of the more common finches in Abrahams Valley. Eventually eight Crossbill flew across the trail but carried on flying into the sun and lost to view.

We had nearly got to the end of the Valley when we could hear Crossbills calling they were drinking down in the undergrowth but eventually gave themselves up before flying back down the Valley.

With all the reports of Hawfinch around the country I though I would try my luck at Wishaw, I wasn’t expecting much, and I wasn’t disappointed. I did however, see c.40 Skylark and two small groups totalling 10 Golden Plover.

I decided that I would have a go for a long staying Grey Phalarope at Blithfield Reservoir. I arrived early and searched along the north shore and the Causeway. I then drove to the dam where I picked out the bird feeding along the base of the dam. It was ridiculously close and spent the entire time I was there going long the waters edge feeding.

The sky was really weird with the sun having a reddish tinge, I found out later this was due to the forest fires in Portugal and sand from the Sahara. It felt like there was a imminent Eclipse coming!

Around lunchtime the wind started to pick up so I made my way home.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Friday 13th October

With news of a Rock Thrush breaking late on Thursday it was a no brainer that this would be a target for us today. The bird was in South Wales at Blorenge a site which hosted a Mamora’s Warbler a few years back.

As I went to bed it was a clear night, not a good sign. So when the next morning there was no news we decided we would walk the Malvern ridge and wait for news. With a possible twitch on, we parked in the middle and climbed the Worcestershire Beacon first where there was a Wheatear and returned to the car. We then headed south to do the rest of the ridge. However, we hadn’t gone far when I received a message to say the bird had been relocated. So it was back to the car and with less than 50 miles to go we were there within the hour.

We arrived without too much difficulty and soon found a parking spot. It was a little windy, but having been along the ridge we were used to it. It was about a mile walk and there were a small group of birders watching the bird which was happy feeding on rocks near to top of a ridge just past a small quarry. After about 20 minutes the bird disappeared over the ridge as more and more birders started to arrive. I had a quick hello from Lee Evans when he left, and I saw an old mucker Darren at the end of the line. A birder from the other direction said he had seen a Black Redstart around the other side of the hill, so using this as an excuse (I needed a pee) I carried on round, there was a Wheatear and a few Meadow Pipits and it was a good area, very rocky with lots of cover and isolated bushes.

I was on my way back when I saw the Black Redstart briefly fly into the boulders, I was scanning the rocks but could not relocate the bird, whilst doing this I saw some movement and for a second I was perplexed, then realised that I was watching the Rock Thrush. I gestured to someone 100 yards away and within seconds I was surrounded.

Happy with the views Joy and I left and decided to return via Malvern and finish off the ridge which we did. All in all a great day, although the football didn’t finish as I would have liked.

Rock Thrush, Blorenge

Monday, 9 October 2017

Shetland Week (Tuesday to Friday)


With the winds stuck in the West it wasn’t looking that promising, but at least we managed to get some birding in. We connected with the Little Bunting at Grutness but failed to connect with a Bluethroat in the same area. We saw the Common Crane a couple of times at Loch of Hillwell and it was whilst watching this bird that we heard of an American Buff-bellied Pipit at Grutness. I had seen two previously but it was a good bird so as we were pretty close we headed there and had good views of the bird before it flew off.

American Buff-bellied Pipit, Grutness

It was a pretty miserable day, we started dodging the rain whilst a Rustic Bunting dodged us. Soaked we went back to the digs for a coffee. The lure of Parrot Crossbills in a Lerwick garden proved too much of a pull. It was still raining most of the time and we set up a “Stake Out” on a lone Spruce at the end of a row of houses. During a brief lull in the rain I got out to check some other nearby trees behind the houses, on my way back I picked up a bird flying in. I called the others but the bird dropped into dense cover and it was hard to see. At this point birders were appearing out of the woodwork and there were soon upwards of 20 people milling around. The bird then dropped down and showed really well. Its a sign of the times that Joy was the only person not clicking away with a camera. I had words with one camera man who seemed to want to climb the tree! Another male joined the party but a female flew in but saw the crowd and carried on. We had another go for the Rustic Bunting but just got another soaking.

Parrot Crossbill, Lerwick

The last day saw an improvement in the weather, so Joy and I got up early and birded around the house and beach we had a Whincat and a few bits and pieces, but it was really enjoyable not to be in the car. We then had a fruitless search for a Booted Warbler at Bigton, which did yield a Hawfinch, Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck. In the afternoon we birded around Sumburgh and although enjoyable we saw little apart from a Redpoll which may or may not have been an Arctic. But poor views and its ability to disappear at will proved too much for us, so we had a coffee in the stunning Cafe at the lighthouse and called it a day.

The next day we flew to Aberdeen stopped briefly in Perth then despite the motorway being closed as we approach Glasgow we were home just after 8pm. Sunday I was mostly knackered!

Shetland Week – (Sunday/Monday)

With predictions of the weather varying from bad to very bad (biblical proportions) we woke up not expecting to be stuck in the house for most of the day. But it was at least dry when we got out in the morning. We headed north towards Melby where there was a Rustic Bunting, we arrived to be told that the bird had flown off over the hillside in the distance.

Julian and Bob marched off in that direction whilst I waited for Joy who had received a phone call as we arrived. By the time she finished we walked alongside the beach road when a movement at the side of the road turned out to be the Rustic Bunting. We managed to get the others attention by waving and we all got quite good views, although Bob was a little despondent as he had left his camera in the car. As what was to be a recurring theme during the week the bird flew as photographers encroached just a little too much. As we were expecting rain, we moved on to Dale of Walls just a little way down the coast to continue our day. The wind by this point had started to increase and the sky was darkening quite alarmingly. We saw another Great Grey Shrike and a Redstart and a couple of Yellow Wagtails, plus a scattering of commoner migrants.

Rustic Bunting, Melby
Rustic Bunting, Melby
Short-toed Lark, With
There was a report of a Short-toed Lark at Aith, this was the village that we stayed in last year and I was keen to show Joy where it was and the views. As it turned out the bird was exactly directly across the bay from our digs of last year. We found the site immediately and went in different directions to find the bird which I flushed from the roadside before I had gone ten yards. It flew across the road before circling back and landing back on the road. The next group of birders nearly drove over the bird but it was never close and by this time the wind was starting to be a bit of a problem.

Whilst we were deciding what to do next reports of a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler in the north of the island broke. We headed north, we arrived and there were about 50 birders present, nearly all with beaming smiles and telling us how well the bird had shown. The bird was sitting in the middle of an Iris bed and was not showing. There was to be an organised flush which because of the deteriorating weather was brought forward. We took up our position and the finder and Dan Pointon slowly made there way through the undergrowth the bird flew up and straight at us banked and dropped into another clump of vegetation. It briefly shown at the top of the clump before moving back into the Iris beds just as the rain started. That was our cue and we got back to the car before the rain really got heavy. But that was the end of the days entertainment, the wind that night was something else.


We decided that as we had cleaned up that a Red-throated Pipit and Parrot Crossbill on Unst would be the targets. What followed was bad luck to a great degree we pulled up at the Ferry as it pulled out, resulting in a 45 minute wait. We fared little better with the Yell to Unst ferry. We eventually arrived on Unst at midday. We drove straight to Skaw which is the most northerly habited property in the UK. The Red-throated Pipit showed immediately and gave good views although the rain had started and we got soaked before we cut our losses and headed to the car. On the way up we had spend an hour at Baltisound for the Parrot Crossbills without luck. We returned and again it took nearly an hour before the birds were flushed from cover and gave us good but brief views on the other side of the small copse. Again it started to rain, we ran for the car, but although it was only 50 yards away we were soaked by the time we got into the car. Again some bad luck with the ferry timings left us sitting in the car for nearly an hour. It was late by the time we got back to Lerwick so Fish and Chips was the order of the day then back to the digs.

Shetland Week (Friday / Saturday)


Drove up to Perth for an overnight stay as we were flying direct from Aberdeen this year. Bob arrived at ours at 9am and we made our way arriving mid afternoon. As we had some time on our hands I suggested we visit a site I know close to Perth where I am guaranteed Black Grouse. It wasn’t much of a detour, we stopped on the way to look down a glen where I briefly had views of Golden Eagle twice, unfortunately no one else got onto the bird. We did however have a lot more success with Black Grouse with several birds seen close to the road.

On the evening we paid a visit to the Cherrybank Inn for a couple of pints. The walls of the bar were full of St Johnstone memorabilia. I found myself reciting the names of the players from the early 70s team. I got most right!


Up at 4.30am jumped into the car and up to Aberdeen. We found the parking we booked easily and the bus dropped us at the terminal where we had to wait for nearly an hour for the desk to open. Then it was on the plane and an hour later we arrived. Joy had never been before and was unaware of what to expect. The weather was dull and it was windy and I think she found it a little bleak. Julian Allen picked us up, as he had arrived earlier and we travelled the mile or so to Grutness where we saw a Great Grey Shrike by the toilet block as we walked along the road we had poor flight views of a Little  Bunting. Next was a short drive to Toab where a Wryneck was performing in one on the gardens, it was proving a good start, although the weather forecast predicted a change in the weather.

Next was Loch of Hillwell where we connected with the Common Crane which was feeding on the opposite hillside. At Spiggie we saw Whooper Swan and some of the more common birds. Then news of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Sumburgh Farm came through and we headed down there. We searched the fields at the farm seeing Lesser Whitethroat, loads of Chiffs and a couple of Willow Warblers but not the bird we were looking for. Then we noticed a lot of people visiting the small quarry, we joined them and the bird was showing well. However, I was not convinced it was a Blyth's, it just looked like a Reed Warbler to me. There was a good natured discussion and we agreed that with all the pictures that were being taken that its identity would be firmly established later. By late afternoon it was confirmed as a Reed Warbler.

We next drove to the accommodation which looked bleak from the outside, but inside it was really good and very spacious. Moreover a Yellow-browed Warbler in the garden was a bonus, mainly as we were only to see another couple during the trip.
Bright blue skies on arrival, with Bobby D heading the wrong way!

Great Grey Shike, Greatness

Reed Warbler the bird that was thought to be Blyth’s Reed Warbler

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Saturday 23 September

A quick visit yesterday added Shoveler and Little Egret to the year list,. Whilst on Thursday I saw a Yellow-legged Gull so after being stuck on 92 species for a while I hopped forward by three.

Hope to get a bit of birding in locally next week before a week in Shetland.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Quick Catch Up

In the two weeks since I returned from Majorca I have done a fair bit of birding – all local(ish).

Shustoke this year has been poor, in recent years the quality of birds has dropped but this year has seen a real slump in fortunes. Normally I see 105 to 120 species this years despite numerous visits I am stuck on 92 species! I can only hope it improves as I have purchased a parking pass.

Since I moved Joy and I have had to lower our expectations for our garden birds. The previous house had a tremendous garden and outlook, this house however, is nowhere near as grand. The garden is about 5% of what we had before. We join a horse paddock to the rear and on Saturday there was a Spotted Flycatcher on show which bodes well for the future. Sitting writing this there are still a few House Martins around.

In the four visit there have been no highlights at Shustoke, the Lapwing flock stands c.50 but there have been no other waders at all. There were good numbers of hirundines towards the end of last week but these have largely moved on. There were still a few Chiffs and the odd Blackcap and 18 Greylag (god I’m scraping the barrel).

Middleton RSPB has been a little better, although there is not much habitat for waders at the moment there have been two Great White Egrets and a Cattle Egret (which I missed). Last evening (Tuesday) Joy and I had a Bittern fly into Fisher Mill pool. There have also been Barn Owl on show and a scattering of warblers which are slowly petering out.

Today I travelled up the M6 to the Sandwell Valley, mainly to see Rose-ringed Parakeet for the year, but also to see a lingering Little Egret which is a patch tick (It used to be my patch). The reserve was quite good and I saw my targets straight away, so I decided to venture out. I walked to Swan Pool then over the M5 to Salters Lane and around Ice House Woods and back.

I was surprised how much cover there is, it was difficult to see the sky in places, I have to say there is loads of habitat but few birds. This was probably down to the time of year rather than an actual lack of birds. Although it won’t happen I would like a few more open areas just for variety. All the pools are surrounded by trees, with little in the way of shoreline.

Also I counted c.80 Magpies during my walk, which can’t be good, but don’t expect a cull soon, It will upset a Magpie lover somewhere on Twitter and we can’t have that! (Bloody Social Media – every idiot has an opinion – including me) More CULLS.

Oh and the football pitches my football team used back in the 80s are now a Bloody Caravan Park!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

A week in Majorca

We had a family holiday at the Porto Pollenca in the north of Majorca. It was never a birding holiday but I would manage to get a bit in most days. I decided not to hire a car as the Boquer Valley was a 20 minute walk and we were on the edge of some fields that looked promising. Also the Albefera Park National was easily accessed by public transport.

We flew on the Friday having booked the holiday through Jet2 who we went with last year. The hotel was adequate borderline good, the food was plentiful (buffet style) and the drink was free being an all inclusive, (dangerous).

I visited the Boquer Valley three times and although it was not the best of conditions we saw several Booted Eagle, Balearic Warbler, numerous Sardinian Warbler and a few small groups of Crag Martin, several Eleonora’s Falcons and four Redstart.

Another site lay on the edge of town and although it didn’t look promising the small orchard held c.12 Stone Curlew also in the general area I saw distant Griffon Vulture, Corn Bunting, Thekla’s Lark, Mediterranean Flycatcher (split from Spotted), Hoopoe, Tree Sparrow and a couple of Redstart.

We found we could visit the Albefera by catching a bus from near the hotel, so one afternoon we decided to go, we arrived at 4.45pm only to find out that the reserve closed at 6pm. It was a good mile to the visitor centre so by the time we got there it was nearly time to leave. We dived into the nearest hide where we saw Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Osprey, Wood Sandpiper, Shoveler, Teal and Western Purple Swamphen.

On Thursday we agreed to pay a visit earlier but a torrential rain storm early in the morning delayed our arrival. However, with more time we visited more areas and it was really good and if in Majorca it is well worth a visit. Highlights included good numbers of Kentish Plover, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Swamhen, Cetti’s Warbler and the highlight seven Flamingo.

We visited the same hotel last year and walking down the front a gull flew past which I though was probably Audouin's Gull but I never connected again. So I wasn’t entirely surprised to find several resting on rocks that lay 400 yards off the beach. So on Tuesday when we had a day on the beach I decided to Swim out, much to my surprise they were completely unbothered. With just my head above water I sat amongst then at no more than a couple of yards distance, truly brilliant.

A Week in Scotland

Had a week in Scotland, on the Saturday Joy and I went to the Football and then on Sunday I had a day out birding on the Angus coast looking for Roseate Tern in the Carnoustie area. Unfortunately the birds didn’t appear although there was a good selection of birds on offer.

On Monday we climbed a Corbett just north of Braemar called Carn na Drochaide (818m). We parked in the Linn of Dee at Allanoquoich where the bridge over the river was washed away a few years ago. We managed to find a new footbridge further up the glen and from there it was a straight forward climb up to the summit cairn.

The summit of Carn na Drochaide with the Cairngorms behind.

Me in the same place

Carn na Drochaide from Braemar
Managed to fit in a little more birding during the rest of the week seeing little really, mostly because I didn’t fancy driving far. Short-eared Owl, Knot and Osprey were above the only birds of note.

Then on the Thursday we climb another hill, this one I had fancied for a while, it was long, close to Perth and its also the area of Scotland that my cousin traced our ancestry back too! It was beautiful but I wouldn't mind betting its cold in the winter.

We parked at Bridge of Tilt near Blair Atholl walking up the pleasant gorge over Gilberts Bridge after close on two hours we emerged from the trees onto the open hillside we crossed another old stone bridge which must have been used for cattle droving before after another mile or so crossing another stone bridge in the middle of nowhere with the hill Being Mheadhonach (901m) dominating the skyline behind it.

There was a faint path to follow which went straight to the summit. We could see the weather was deteriorating so we managed to get back to the bridge before a short sharp shower hit, where we managed to get a degree of shelter. Then in bright sunshine it was back to the car.

Summit of Being Mheadhonach

The view south from the summit of Being Mheadhonach

Down with the kids with a selfie

Being Mheadhonach with the aforementioned bridge.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Tuesday 1st August

Popped over last night but on arrival it started to rain so I didn’t linger, however, there were six Common Sandpiper together just off the car park.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Monday 31st July

A couple of trips today with good numbers of the common warblers in family parties or mixed up with the roaming Tit flocks.

c.100 Swift were around in the morning with c.200 mixed hirundines enough to attract a Hobby which was unsuccessful in its attempt.

Kingfisher was seen twice and there was a single Common Sandpiper. Yesterday a family party of four Raven flew over.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Thursday 27th July

Have been over the Reservoir a few times since my return from holiday, but it has generally been quiet. On Tuesday, however, although there were not many birds it was interesting.

A man pushing a pram who seemed to spend most of the time on the phone had not one, neigh not even two or three but five Pit Bull type dogs which were running all over the place. They were harassing other dog walkers, they were in the water and generally causing a nuisance. Fortunately they appeared good natured but the one girl who had been pestered look quite shocked, god only knows what they result might have been had the dogs been aggressive.

Anyway, back to birds, this morning saw me connect with Hobby for the first time this year at the Reservoir, but generally it was quiet, although c.150 Swift dropped in ahead of the rain.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Thursday 20th July

Another day another walk, this time this was one I had been looking forward too as it was close to Perth and involved a good path straight to the col between the two hills.

This was a long way and the climb up the slopes of Creag Mac Ranaich was very steep, Joy was not a happy bunny. Fortunately there was an old fence which we followed and it had the semblance of a path besides it. There were three tops on the summit with the most northerly i.e. furthest away being the target. We decided to get the other hill out of the way before we stopped to eat so we made our way steeply down to the col.

The second hill was the highest of the two but it was much more straightforward and we were soon sitting at the cairn for lunch. Rather than cut the corner off and work our way through a mile of so of peat hag we retraced our steps back down to the path and arrived back at the car just before 5pm eight hours after we started. In total we did just over 40,000 steps during the course of the walk. Strangely it looked promising for birds but in actual fact apart from Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and a single Ring Ouzel we saw very little.

Meall an t-Seallaidh from the approach road

Creag Mac Ranaich from the approach road

The summit of Creag Mac Ranaich

The summit of Creag Mac Ranaich
Meall an t-Seallaidh from Creag Mac Ranaich 

Creag Mac Ranaich from Meall an t-Seallaidh

The summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh

The summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh with Loch Earn behind

Wednesday 19th July

Picked Stuart up from his house in Carnoustie and we headed up the road to Fishtown of Usan, one of the premier sea watching spots in Angus, it lies just north of Lunan Bay and juts out into the North Sea as much as anywhere along this part of the coast.

We were straight away into a steady flow of Manx Shearwater, most of which were close and all heading north. Added to this was a steady stream of common sea birds with Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gannet all in good numbers. Added to this were 5 Bonxie and a single Arctic Skua. There were also a couple of Whimbrel added to the mix.

Conditions were dry but it was very dull and visibility weren’t perfect but as I always do I enjoyed myself.

TATTIE HEID (in joke)

Monday 17th July

Panoramic from the summit of Culardoch.

Carn Liath (862m) & Culardoch (900m)

Today was one of those days where the birds were nearly as good as the hills. We were up at 7am and it was only about an hour drive to the Inverclaude Estate which lies around 6 miles east of Braemar. It was also unusual as the weather was stunning with hardly a cloud in the sky, fortunately there was a stiff breeze which help to cool us.

We parked up in the P&D car park at Keloch and within 100 yards had a couple of Scottish Crossbill there were numerous Spotted Flycatchers in the paddocks before the forest started, this wound its way uphill for a couple of miles before we emerged on the hillside. The track ahead of us was good and went up to the Beach Dearg which was the highpoint between the two hills.

We pretty soon saw a couple of Merlin which put on a show for us and enlivened the walk, after another mile or so we left the path and took a direct route towards the summit of Carn Liath and its other tops (all of a roughly similar height. We were at the summit in good time visiting the other tops and, more importantly for me we saw Dotterel and Ptarmigan.

Joy at the summit of Carn Liath
A selfie at the top of Carn Liath, must remember the position of the sun next time.

Me at the summit of Carn Liath
Culardoch from the summit of Carn Liath
The route to Culardoch was straightforward and the climb up was relatively easy and we were there in no time. There was a trig point which gave enough shelter for us to sit down and enjoy our lunch. The visibility was tremendous and we enjoyed really good views. All that was left was a good hike back out follow a good path. In total we walked nearly 38,000 steps by the end of the day!

Joy on Culardock

Carn Liath from Culardoch

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sunday 16th July


I’ve known Stuart for over ten years now and usually manage to get a days birding with him on my trips north, this week would prove no exception.

We arranged to meet at his home in Carnoustie at 10am where we went to check out the the shore line at East Haven on the edge of Carnoustie. There were around 20 Dunlin but few other waders around. There were a couple of distant Arctic Skua out in the Tay and a couple of stunning Little Gull. A Wheatear would prove to be the only passerine of note, but it wasn’t really the right time of year.

After a quick coffee back at his we decided to try Barry Buddon a Military training area that juts out into the Tay narrowing the channel between Angus and Fife creating quite a fierce current. In previous years we haven’t been able to go here as exercises have been taking place and the “Red Flag” has been flying.

As we were in his car and not mine I realised that I had left my hat behind. I am still suffering a week later (did I get sunburn or what). We saw a reasonable selection of birds considering the time of year with Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, 5 Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits and more Little Gull.

The best was an unusual bird which I picked up, I wasn’t too sure what it was at first as it was rather distant but it turned out to be an albino Sandwich Tern, it was a youngster and was begging for food from adults.

With the heat and the near six miles of walking I was knackered by the time we got back to the car and for the third night I a row I slept like a log!

Albino Sandwich Tern with two adult Little Gull

Friday 14th July

Beinn nan Imirean (849m)

Up at 4.30am and left home heading for the Highlands, we reached Glasgow by 9.30am and where caught up in a jam caused by a five car shunt. We eventually arrived at the start of our walk situated on the A84 near Auchessan. I have been here in the past whilst climbing the Munro Meall Glas and the route follow the same path for the first couple of miles. Our target was off to the west and at the top of the path as it passed a lower shoulder of Meall Glas we headed west across an area of peat hag and rough going, we eventually got to an outlier Meall Garbh from where Being nan Imirean rising in front of us.

By this stage we were both quite tired and although it looked steep it wasn’t far away and we were soon at the top which afforded good views of the surrounding Munro's most of which we had climbed a long time ago. As we had still to drive to Perth we didn’t hang around and made good time on the way down to pick up the path to the day’s starting point.

Bird wise we saw very little, I have had Golden Eagle here before but apart from a couple of Wheatear and the numerous Meadow Pipit the hill was bare.
Being nan Imirean from Meall Garbh

Joy at the summit

Me at the summit

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wednesday 13th July

It would appear that the parking charges at Shustoke Reservoir has had an effect of reducing the number of visitors, certainly visitors using the car park. I have noticed that rather than pay a whole POUND people are parking in the residents lay-by just outside the gates. Also (as I have been there early) it seems to be gathering a reputation for overnight stays by camper vans.

Conditions, though look good, the water level is dropping fast and there is a good growth of blanket weed, which should, if left provide a bit of habitat for waders over the coming months. Yesterday I had my first Yellow Wagtail of the year – a stunning male. Whilst, later on I saw another Common Sandpiper. The Lapwing flock is up at c.80 birds and I saw my first Sparrowhawk on-site for a while.

On the negative side, where have all the Common Tern gone, over the last few years we have seen upto 40 birds summering and feeding the young, this summer I have only seen the odd bird and they don’t stay. Also I am yet to connect with Hobby a bird that in previous years are relatively regular.

Anyway off to Scotland for a week, to drag my increasingly weary body up a few hills.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Monday 3rd June

A couple of walks today netted 50 species with the first Common Sandpiper of the Autumn. The post breeding Lapwing flock numbers c.50 and there was an Oystercatcher in the morning.

Although it is relatively quiet there are a few family parties with broods of Tits, long-tailed Tits and a brood of Goldcrest noted.

Kestrels have bred this year and the adults are feeding at least two young on the meadow by the railway line. There were a couple of young Green Woodpecker seen as well.

Butterflies were disappointing with only five species noted, the best of which was a couple of Comma Butterflies.

A few trips to Ryton Woods last week saw us see Marsh Tit, Sparrowhawk and Tawny Owl but we were really there for the Butterflies with Marbled White, White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Speckled Wood, Wood White and a few commoner species.

Saturday saw Joy, June and I travel the short distance to East Leake in Notts where there are around c.7 Bee-eaters summering at a local gravel pits. Although they were a little distant we got good scope views.

Two Bee-easters, East Leake, Nottinghamshire

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Catch Up

The week in Scotland went well but we only managed to climb one Corbett near Aviemore named Meall a’ Bhuachaille as it destroyed my legs for the rest of the week. We saw in excess of 100 species in the week with Great White Egret the only rare bird. I saw Golden Eagle, Ring Ouzel, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and I caught up with the common auks on a day out with Stuart Green.

At the summit of Meall a’ Bhuachaille

Meall a’ Bhuachaille
Great White Egret, Backwater Reservoir, Angus

Joy and I also spent a long weekend in Norfolk where it was rather quiet at an exciting time of year. Staying at Thornham we didn’t travel far birding most of the time at Titchwell and Holme where the best birds were Spoonbill, Turtle Dove and Nightjar.
Turtle Dove, Titchwell

Sedge Warbler, Titchwell

I have been over to Shustoke but there has been little around although locally there was a Corncrake at Alvecote and a Red-necked Phalarope at Middleton Lakes.

Joy and I had our first twitch of the year travelling down to Church Norton in Sussex for the Elegant Tern which we eventually saw.

Distant shot of Red-necked Phalarope, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Wednesday 10 May

Off to Scotland tomorrow climbing and birding for a week, looking forward to it.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Monday 8th May

Dropped Joy off at work and headed to the Reservoir. It was the Big Bird Race at the weekend but due to circumstances I sat this one out. Maybe next year I will cover Shustoke but I will need a handicap.  Middleton RSPB won this year with a total number of species topping 100 which is pretty good going.

On arrival there were in excess of 1,000 mixed hirundines mainly Swallow and Sand Martin but there were still c.50 House Martin. There had also been an arrival of Swift with c.300 during the morning. There were also 14 Common Tern and six Gadwall as well as several broods of Mallard the chicks of which are making the Lesser Black-backed Gulls lazy as well as fat!

I was half way around when I picked up a Whimbrel it flew in from the west, had a look and continued on its way, I think it is my first for several years. Again, it was rather cold and there was very little singing. Warblers were represented by 4 Blackcap, 3 Whitethroat and 4 Chiffchaff. I haven’t had sniff of anything else, there are usually at least one Lesser Whitethroat around.

Around the back of the fishing club I thought I could hear a distant Cuckoo, I stopped but could hear nothing I had just started to walk back when I heard it again. I headed under the railway towards the sheep paddocks and it got louder, then I picked it up in the top of an Oak singing away. I was pleased as I had failed to see one last year.

On the way back there were two pairs of Skylark, Mistle Thrush, Red-legged Partridge but not a lot else.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Wednesday 3rd May

It appears that parking charges have been introduced at the Reservoir, I wasn’t aware as the only machine is in the main car park. I always park by the entrance – Oh well!

There was a good north-easterly blowing today and the water was quite choppy. There were at least 34 Common Tern present at one point the all came together and circled the Reservoir, I thought they were going to depart but they settled down and carried on feeding.

The bird of the day was a Dunlin my first for at least two years, I doubt it stayed long after I left as two ladies past me with two dogs complete with ball throwing apparatus, still I enjoyed it. Two Shelduck flew past as I was changing my footwear but I didn't relocate them.

I was hoping to perform an assessment of singing birds but there was little activity, although there were two Whitethroat but they were difficult and staying low in the wind.

I had my first Grass Snake of the year, first Dragonfly and a few species of Butterfly including Brimstone.

I received an email from Paul Reay who early afternoon saw two Dunlin, a male goo sander and c.30 Swift.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Wednesday 26th April

Spent the morning at Shustoke where from the car park I could see there were c.30 Common Tern, there were c.600s hirundines with the majority Swallows, before I finished for the day I upped the estimate to closer to 1000.

I hadn’t walked far before I came across my first White Wagtail at Shustoke for a few years, bizarrely it was with a Meadow Pipit. I continued round but it was quiet with very few birds singing, but it was rather cold which was probably a contributing factor.

I decided to check out farmland on the other side of the railway and a recently ploughed field yielded two fine Wheatear and a Stoat came dancing along the road towards me apparently unaware of my presence before heading into the undergrowth.

I have a new site on the outskirts of Curdworth which looks promising it is the footpath that runs towards Water Orton through the old Sewage beds, it is very overgrown but is good for warblers and I would imagine it will be good in the Autumn. It is a large area, but unfortunately access is limited to the footpath so you are only going to see a fraction of what is available but so far I have heard/seen 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 5 Chiffchaff, 8 Blackcap and 1 Garden Warbler. The best bird so far was a rather brief Cuckoo which disappeared from sight over the bank never to be seen again.

Yesterday in a brief visit to Wishaw I saw a further 2 Wheatear but was driven back by the rain.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tuesday 25 April –A busy few weeks

Firstly, on a personal note, Joy and I have finally moved from our house in Shustoke, in a way I will miss it, but it was way too large for us. With the kids having both left home we really were rattling around. Also the garden was a full time job with nearly an acre of garden to look after. Whilst I can copeat the moment, in a few years time it may have been a different story.

I saw a total of 96 different species in our 15 years, with highlights being, in no particular order: Woodcock, Osprey, Goshawk, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, 3 Whinchat, 6 Stonechat, Wheatear not to mention breeding Spotted Flycatcher and annual Hobby.

Anyway back to birding, Shustoke (I still intend to cover it) has had nothing unusual, over the last month there have been steady passage of Sand Martin with, in recent weeks more and more Swallow and during the last few days a scattering of House Martin and yesterday a few Swift.

Warblers have been slow with Blackcap appearing at the beginning of April with several singing birds now present. Chiffchaff, an earlier arrival peaking at six singing birds. Whilst yesterday saw my first Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. Normally there would be several Common Sandpiper but the water levels are the highest I can ever remember with very little open shoreline to attract waders. A CS was reported over the weekend and I saw one yesterday on top of one of the green floats by the car park.

RSPB Middleton has been good and over the past month there have been good birds on offer with nearly 100 Black-tailed Godwit in the past week. There have been showy Grasshopper Warblers and a good showing generally of warblers. But the bird of the year so far for North Warwickshire was a male Green-winged Teal which I missed despite spending the morning on-site – I did have a Osprey over. When news broke I returned in the evening and eventually the bird showed quite well if distantly.

I used to bird down Castle Lane but as the years moved on it became a bit of a rat run and I never felt save walking along the lane. Now I have Wishaw on my doorstep with a network of paths and quiet lanes I am looking forward to exploring this site further. These fields are well known by birders, mainly for two species that appear to be no longer present or at best very difficult Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge.

On Sunday Joy and I walked along Blindpit Lane and saw both Whinchat and Wheatear.  I returned yesterday afternoon but there was no sign of the Whincat. I walked through the field towards the Cock Inn and in a vast field with stubble had seven Wheatear on it. There could have been any number as I only had my binoculars. There were 100s of mixed corvids and 40+ Stock Dove. I carried on walking to return via Hempit Lane, it was rather windy so I didn’t find any warblers but a Peregrine went over and as I got back to the main road there were a further 5 Wheatear and 3 Yellow Wagtail.