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