Saturday, 2 November 2019

The week

It has been very quiet this week with only the addition of a pair of Goldeneye the only highlight. A small group of seven Pochard were observed by they are far later than is usual, with the odd bird usually returning by late September.

Five Siskin were seen but that was about it. Today Saturday a walk around produced a group of 125 Canada Geese and an impressive 13 Greylag.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Shustoke Monday 21st October

Having not visited for a while I spent the morning at the Reservoir. I had just left the car park when a Rottweiler galloped past me. The owner quiet happily related a story of his dog being attacked by two Swans as it swan in the Reservoir! I pointed out that it would have happened if his dog hadn’t been in the water. He seemed to take exception to this statement, at that moment I noticed a Med Gull quite close in and my focus shifted. He carried on, then stopped turned round and asked me if I was all right!

Med Gull, Shustoke Reservoir
I returned to the car to get my scope then couldn’t find the bird for about an hour, they seemed to be disappearing to go and feed, they must be ploughing the field locally. At that point a steady drizzle started falling so I was just about to head off when I relocated the bird.

This was my 111 species of the year for Shustoke Reservoir, I have got a good chance of a few more. I am hoping for 120 but I think that might be a bit of a tall order unless Ladywalk evict a few Willow and Marsh Tit for starters, come to think of it a Cetti’s would be nice!

On Tuesday I made another visit with the best bird being a Dunlin, although there was a steady passage of Redwing and Skylark overhead.

Wednesday was a waste of time with the fog not lifting the whole time I was there.

Norfolk week 12 to 19 October


When we arrived on Saturday we went straight to Titchwell where it just so happened there was a Hooded Merganser a rare American duck. I didn’t get too excited as I have seen them before and it is unlikely that it will get excepted, although the date was spot on and it has the company in the UK of a lot of other “Yanks”. The fact that it departed the next day may well strengthen its credentials, but somehow I doubt it.

Then we walked out to Thornham Point in search of a Grey Phalarope but we missed it by minutes and although we waited for over an hour it failed to reappear.

During the course of the week we saw Bearded Tit, Grey Phalarope, Yellow-browed Warbler and the usual variety of species at Titchwell in about six visits.

The other site that we like is Burnham Overy Staithe were we walk out along the sea wall to Gun Hill then east to the Pine belt that continues on towards Wells-next-the-Sea.
Hooded Merganser, Titchwell


Today was a bit of a wash out, fortunately there was plenty of sport on the tele. I watched the Rugby in the morning and the Football in the afternoon, I managed to get out in a lull in the rain during the afternoon where I managed to get good views of the Grey Phalarope, it had relocated a few hundred yards away from where it was yesterday and it gave good views, due to the weather there were few people around.

On the walk back I bumped into Keith Warmington and his wife and I explained where the bird was located, then it was back to the cottage were we got ready for the main event.

Grey Phalarope, Thornham Point

Whooper Swan, Titchwell
Joy and I book tickets to see the 3 Degrees at the Palace Theatre in Hunstanton, it was ok but not really my bag. It was a little cringe worthy when half way through they asked a member of the audience to stand up as they had received a letter from his wife. She relayed that one of their songs was “Their Special Song” and they had been happily married for years! Then at the end she wrote that her husband had been recently diagnosed with cancer. After a round of applause they started singing their big hit, “When Will I See You Again”. I think “Take Good Care of Yourself” would have been a much more appropriate selection!


In the morning we visited Titchwell again as Joy wanted to see the Grey Phalarope, it had not been reported and everyone coming back said it had gone. I like searching through the Buckthorn for migrants so we carried on. I also thought the bird might have been overlooked, it wasn’t always on show yesterday when I was there and was apt to hide amongst the vegetation. And it proved to be and we picked the Phalarope up on another small pool. The bushes held a few Goldcrest but little else. We check the sea out on the return walk but it was quiet apart from a few Red-throated Diver.

In the afternoon we went to Burnham Overy Staithe where the intention was to walk out to Gun Hill. However, the weather was on the turn and although we saw the group of eight Cattle Egret we decided to return to the car, we just arrived as the heavens opened so we called it a day.


We parked at Burnham Overy Staithe and walked out to Gun Hill then to the Pine belt that carries on East to Wells. Bird wise it was quiet, but there was a light passage of Skylark, Redwing, Fieldfare and Chaffinch heading West. Amongst the Chaffinch we managed about six Brambling during the course of the day. The eight Cattle Egret were on show as well as four Great Egret. 

Cattle Egret, Burham Over Staithe
Other birds of note at Gun Hill were a couple of Ring Ouzel, but we could not find the reported Whinchat and just missed a Short-eared Owl.

In the pines we found a Yellow-browed Warbler and enjoyed the rest of the day birding then it was back along the sea wall on the return to the car.

In the evening Joy and I had tickets at the Palace Theatre for Wishbone Ash. I was never a big fan, like everyone my age into Rock I owned Argus, a best off plus a couple of the latter albums which I wasn’t that keen on. But I was pleasantly surprised and they were excellent.

Then as we walked back along the road to the car a Barn Owl appeared hunting along the cliffs, surprisingly it was to be our only one of the week.


Spent the day morning at Chosely Drying Barns walking the inland path that runs parallel to the coast, apart from a Blackcap and a couple of Yellowhammer it was rather quiet.

In the afternoon we went to Holme and walk the footpaths there, there was little in the way of migrants but we had a good number of species including a four Barnacle Geese and a Med Gull on the sea.


I didn’t fancy driving much as it was my birthday and I just wanted a days birding so we spent the day at Titchwell. We had a good day without seeing anything stunning with a Whinchat the highlight. Three Red Kite at Thornham Point were very confiding and circled over us for a while.
Red Kite, Thornham Point


We spent the morning at Burnham Overy Staithe where once we arrived it was obviously very quiet, so we cut our losses and returned to the car. Unsure where to go we decided on the reserve at Cley and parked at the East Bank where we circled the reserve clockwise.

The reserve at Cley is a shadow of its former self and for the first half of the walk we saw very little. On the sea there were a few Red-throated Diver, with a few Razorbill and a good number of Guillemot. A group of feeding gulls included a Little Gull and a Med Gull but apart from a Peregrine it was quiet. For the second time this week we got back to the car before the rain started.

Monday, 7 October 2019

4th October – Shetland Day 7

With the wind changing to light north-easterlies we were expecting some fireworks but the relality was that the weather was too good with bright sunshine.

We birded around Sumburgh with the highlight a couple of Snow Bunting, we then retired for a coffee and headed towards Quendale as an Arctic Redpoll had been reported.

We saw a Mealy Redpoll and a Yellow-browed Warbler and there were Redwing and unto seven Brambling plus a steady stream of Goldcrest that seemed to be coming in off the sea. Also seen were a group of Twite and a Chiffchaff resembling Siberian.

We drove to Sandwick/Hoswick to search again from Purple Sandpiper, this time we were successful. Then news broke of Hump-backed and Minke Whale off West Burra so we jumped into the car and headed that way. We found a suitable vantage point and eventually Keith picked up a Minke Whale at about three miles distance. We persevered for a while but the Hump backed could not be located so we left.

We decided to revisit Levenwick and bird the rest of the day there. We parked at the car park and quite a few other birders had had the same idea, but it was dead with little to see. Apart from a couple of Redstart it was dire.

We walked up to check out the garden the Rubythroat had been in a few years back, Bob and I  moved along to check up the drive and the edge of the field leaving Keith at the far end. I saw a movement to my left, turned and Keith had gone, I assumed he had jumped the fence into the garden! Then I saw the bottom of two boots appear in view followed by Keiths head peering at us! He had stepped back and had disappeared “Del Boy” like straight into a ditch! He seemed wedged tight and Bob and I helped him out, it was the funniest thing I have seen in years.

As we got back to the car we saw both Merlin and Peregrine it was a fitting end to a great week.

3rd October – Shetland Day 6

We started this morning at Skat Ness where we split up with Keith hearing a Lapland Bunting, but the best bird we could all manage was a Jack Snipe. A call from Bob who had done his own thing got us in pursuit of a warbler he had seen, we eventually tied it down and it was our only Garden Warbler of the week, the only other bird of note was a Whinchat.

We then had a trawl around the Sumburgh Head area with the Semipalmated still present on the beach at Grutness. We birded from the Hotel and scanned the bay north picking up a Long-tailed Duck. After a coffee we headed north, with nothing much to go for we though we would have another look at yesterdays Greenish Warbler which showed really well now the wind had dropped.
Also the Shrike decided to play ball and we all had good views of that as well.

Greenish Warbler, Cunningsburgh

Red-backed Shrike, Cunningsburgh
We then headed back to Hoswick and the Swinister Burn were we eventually got good views of the Olive-backed Pipit. We then drove down the coast to Levenwick where we saw a couple of Yellow-browed Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat.

2nd October – Shetland Day 5

After breakfast we drove to Lerwick where a Barred Warbler was present in the middle of the town, we arrived at the spot and were on the bird straight away as it fed in the sycamores on the edge of a bowling green.

Next we headed for Sandwick where were unsuccessful in locating a Purple Sandpiper. We then drove to Quendale where the only bird of note was the weeks only Fieldfare.

We were on the verge of returning to the chalet for a coffee when news broke of a Greenish Warbler at Cunningburgh, so fifteen minutes later we were out of the car and standing with a small group admiring this stunning little bird. Just 50 yards up the road was a Red-backed Shrike which was proving elusive and we only had a couple of brief views.

Greenish Warbler, Cunningburgh

News of a pod of Orca off the coast at Bigton had us heading in that direction, but a chance encounter with some birders driving the other way, saw us abandon our Whale hunt – for a while, later the same pod were relocated off Wester Quarff so we headed north again arriving there at the same time as a birding group from Heatherlea.

The Ocra had been seen heading north and it was assumed that they would turn when they arrived at the bridge from the Mainland to Tronda so we waited in the rain for them to appear, but it would appear the bridge didn’t discourage them and they must have passed under it.

With the light fading and the rain falling incessantly it was a visit to the chippy in Lerwick and then back to the digs for an early night.

1st October – Shetland Day 4

After breakfast there was nothing rare on the Islands that we hadn’t connected with so we went first to Loch of Brow and Loch of Spiggie where we saw Pochard, Goldeneye, Wigeon and Scaup and a single Slavonian Grebe.

Our next stop was the small hamlet of Duncansclett on West Burra were there was an American Golden Plover, on arrival it started raining. We had no information as to where the bird was and if it wasn’t for the fact that we saw a couple of birders about a mile west of us who were obviously watching something we may have given up. Anyway, after the rain stopped we trudged our way towards them. The hill side was alive with waders with Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew and an American Golden Plover! The scenery was excellent as it is throughout Shetland and we enjoyed 30 minutes enjoying the bird.

American Golden Plover, West Burra
As we sat in the car, a long staying Snowy Owl was relocated on Ronas Hill so we headed that way, we found the track up Collafirth Hill and parked by the masts. There were a steady stream of people heading back over the tundra. We started walking in the general direction and I met a birder I knew who gave me directions, 30 minutes later we reached the edge of a ridge but there were no birders. The scattered boulders and peat hag made for awkward walking, I was used to it but the others weren’t. We had a discussion about what to do and were undecided. A couple of birders on the next ridge appeared and I suggested we get directions from them and make a decision. We spoke to them and they said the bird had located even further away, I was happy to crack on – the others not so keen, but we decided to go for it. Although the terrain was confusing the mast was clearly visible so getting back wasn’t an issue. We headed off to the distant ridge and at the bottom of a drop I turned around to find the others had stopped. I tried to phone but there was either no answer or I couldn’t hear due to the wind. I decided to head for the next ridge and see how the land lay, on arrival it was still a good half a mile away.

With the others having stopped I though I had better head back abandoning the Snowy Owl. I could see the mast in the distance but I had no idea where I had come from, the terrain was that confusing. I walked back quickly, gaining height over the secondOK ridge, but could see no sign of the others. I tried phoning again this time getting an answer, they had gone upwards to get a better view but Bob had started to make his way back on his own, a bad move. I gained height quickly and saw Bob in the distance. I phoned him and told him I would catch him up, I then phoned to other to make sure they were OK with getting back and they said they were on there way. I then saw them pop up over the ridge, so I headed off in pursuit of Bob who was nearing the masts. As I rushed to catch him up I saw him fall. It seemed an age before he got up and waved at me, as I got closer I could see he was bleeding from a cut to his eye. Apparently he had fallen on three occasions bruising his knee and thigh. The atmosphere in the car seemed a little strained and I felt a little guilty at leaving them and relieved that Bob had made it back on his own. If he had fallen and been badly hurt it would have difficult to find him.

We decided to have another look at the Bee-eater but it didn’t play ball so we headed south, on route our luck changed with news of a Red-backed Shrike near Gott, we were the first to arrive with several cars arriving soon after, we managed to get a parking spot and had good views of the bird.

Red-backed Shrike, South Califf, near Gott

30th September – Shetland Day 3

We started around the Hotel and saw much the same as yesterday with the addition of a Red-throated Diver and a Great Skua.

We then visited Loch of Hillwell and Loch of Spiggie where we added a few padders to the week list including a family party of Whooper Swan. There were also a couple of Little Stint on the beach near the outflow.

Whooper Swan, Loch of Spiggie

We then visited Loch of Hillwell and Loch of Spiggie where we added a few padders to the week list including a family party of Whooper Swan. There were also a couple of Little Stint on the beach near the outflow.

Our next stop was Hoswick and the Swinister Burn, we parked in Hoswick and immediately saw a Yellow-browed Warbler which showed well briefly. At the start of the burn there was one, possibly two Pied Flycatchers. We walked up the burn meeting a couple for the Midlands on route who were into photography. Later we got talking to them and the male who professed to not being a birder showed us a picture he had taken of a Little Bunting, it was in fact an Olive-backed Pipit, which Julian knew was present but the rest of us had not idea of!

Then followed a couple of hours of frantic searching in which we all had brief views of the bird as it led us a merry dance.

News of a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Channerwick had us heading in that direction, the bird was present in a tree with at least three Yellow-browed Warbler and a few Goldcrest and a Blackcap all of which were hard to pick up.

With the light starting to fade we dropped into Pool of Virkie for a quick look through the waders where we picked up the Semipalmated Sandpiper again.

29th September – Shetland Day 2

We rose early and after a hearty breakfast we walked from the Sumburgh Hotel towards the Farm seeing Wheatear, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher on the track to the Farm. The walled garden held Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap. The two quarries were a little disappointing with just a couple of Redwing and a Song Thrush, earlier there had been a Short-eared Owl. Next stop was the beach at Grutness where we connected with the Semipalmated Sandpiper as it fed with a mixed flock of Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Sanderling.
Turnstone, Grutness

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Grutness

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Grutness
Our next stop was Wester Quarff where we saw a couple of Yellow-browed Warbler but there was no sign of the reported Red-breasted Flycatcher, but it was dull and there was a slight drizzle so it was probably just keeping low.

We returned to Sumburgh and had another look for the Little Bunting which we failed to see and had probably departed. It wasn’t all bad as we popped into the cafe at the Lighthouse for a coffee and cake. Whilst there news broke of a Bee-eater at Ollaberry up in the north of the island. When we established that the bird wasn’t a fly-over we decided to go.

It took just over an hour to arrive on site where the biggest crowd of the week was watching the bird. With a steady drizzle falling we joined the crowd of about 20 to 30 people and were soon watching the bird which was resting in a local garden. Eventually it flew across the field and performed for 30 minutes. We walked down the hill into the village birding as we went, we met a birder who had been watching a pod of 20 Long-tailed Pilot Whales in the sound from the headland. With time getting on we headed towards the headland and picked up the pod of whales as it swam past at about three miles distance. On the way back we stopped at Brae for Fish and Chips at Freddies, which must be one of the best in the country.

Bee-easter, Ollaberry

Sunday, 6 October 2019

28th September – Shetland Day 1

Early start, Bob arrived just before 6.00am and after picking up Julian we headed to Manchester for our flight to Shetland. At the APH parking we met the last of our group Keith aka The Captain.

The flight was uneventful and quick and soon we had got our car for the week, booked into the accommodation and were out birding. Our first stop was a showy Little Bunting which we found immediately as it fed outside the cafe at Sumburgh Lighthouse.

Next up was a Isabelline Shrike at Levenwick, it fed along a fence line but unfortunately it was rather distant, it was pretty active and was feeding well, catching and eating a variety of insects.

The next stop was a small hamlet called Brake, which is near to Loch of Hillwell. We saw a group of birders in a field and made our way towards them. There were two birds on offer, Bluethroat and a Siberian Stonechat, we met up with some familiar faces and waited for the Bluethroat to show, unfortunately it didn’t put in an appearance, but some activity at the end of the field proved to be the Siberian Stonechat which we enjoyed, though again it was rather distant.

We then drove to Pool of Virkie with the hope of catching the Semipalmated Sandpiper, but it could not be found amongst the good numbers of waders. With that and all being a little tired we retired to the accommodation and after a good meal at the Sumburgh Hotel we turned in for an early night.

Isabelline Shrike

Friday, 20 September 2019

Friday 20th September

Had a rather busy week, so birding has been at a premium, although today for a change I visited Middleton Lakes RSPB. There was little on the feeders although there was a carpet of Brown Rats under them.

It was rather quiet with a pair of Hobby, one adult and a jug feeding over the reserve. We were scanning Jubilee when all the birds went up, I scanned for something overhead, but nothing, then I picked a Raptor up headed south-east over the trees in the distance. I was surprised to see a Marsh Harrier, how it managed to spook everything from that distance came as a surprise. It was a cream-headed bird and it just continued on its way.

On the North Pit there was a good variety of wildfowl including a Pintail, in all honesty it was too warm for birding so after a three hour stint we headed home.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Sunday 15th September


We had a rather eventful Saturday resulting in a loss of a few hours sleep, so it was a pleasant surprise that news broke of an Easter Olivaceous Warbler at Farlington Marshes, Hants. This is a bird that I needed so we decided to wait for news the next morning before committing ourselves to the drive.

As it happens it was seen very early so after a coffee we took a steady drive to the south coast and arrived in two and a half hours, with Motorway all the way. We parked up and made our way to where the bird was performing well. We were around 30 yards away but as usual some needed to get closer. What followed over the course of the next two hours summed up what is wrong with birding. Firstly, cameras outnumbered telescopes by about six to one, one or two photographers appeared not to even have binoculars! The fieldcraft/good manners was crap with people wandering between birds and the bird. At various times people were claiming the bird when it was Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Robin and even Blue Tit!

Joy and I got good views and relocated the bird in a Sallow, the assembled crowd then joined us forming an orderly line in front of us, as I said – no manners!

Having had a couple of interrupt nights sleep we left for home and I had a leisurely afternoon watching the conclusion of the cricket.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Friday 13th September

Started off with a walk around Shustoke but apart from five Common Sandpiper it was pretty quite, the stubble field has been ploughed over but the Linnet were still present, though maybe only c.80 present.

Joy and I then drove to Draycote for our first visit of the year, we used to visit monthly and probably will again in the future, now nearly all the road works are completed making it a little easier to access now.

We started off along the dam finding a Wheatear and then a Turnstone at the end of the dam there were two Ringed Plover and a Ruff feeding on the edge. Whilst scanning through the far bank a Greenshank flew through my field of view and it would be the only sign all day. There were around a dozen Teal from the hide and a single Common Sandpiper.

The next stretch was quiet apart from a pair of Raven closely followed by a pair of Sparrowhawk. Between the Valve Tower and the outflow there were eight evenly spread Little Egret taking the days total to c.15. At the Outflow there were three Shoveler, Wigeon and a Gadwall. Along the southern shore it was relatively quiet apart from three or four Common Sandpiper and another or the same Ruff.

Ruff, Draycote Water

Turnstone, Draycote Water

Wheatear, Draycote Water

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Wednesday 11th September

I visited the Reservoir in the morning specifically to check out the stubble field for potential Whinchat as I need it for my Shustoke year list. On arrival seven Shoveler were flying round, for a change I thought I would check out the River Blythe, birding the fields towards Ladywalk. It was a bad move as the path was very overgrown, it took ten minutes of pulling out Himalayan Balsam and brambles before I could cover the 20 yards to freedom. I needn't have bothered there was very little apart from a Little Egret.

I made my way back around the Reservoir where I couldn't locate the Ringed Plover, whilst at the east end there were two Common Sandpiper, also absent were the two Wigeon.

On arrival at the stubble field I walked into the middle, then made my way along adjacent to the road, there was no sign of yesterdays Wheatear but in the distance I saw the flock of c.120 Linnet flying round.

I though I might as well check them in case they might have dragged something good in with them.  I did see a bird perched on stubble but it was too far away to have an idea what it was. I made my way closer when the flock took to the air in panic and I was astonished to see a female Merlin making its way at speed through the scattering Linnets. It appeared to have been unsuccessful but nonetheless passed quite close giving great if brief views before it carried on over the Reservoir, I lost sight of it as it made its way westward. In 20 years I think its my 4th record and a fitting bird to be my 110th for the year!

In the afternoon I visited Wishaw again, but it was far too windy, a few each of Meadow Pipit and Skylark was the best I could manage. I did though connect with a Hobby that I disturbed from an Oak tree as it was enjoying lunch, it flew off with what looked like a Swallow hanging from it talons.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Tuesday 10th September

After a good day yesterday I found myself visiting the Reservoir again, on arrival a Common Sandpiper flew from the edge. The Ringed Plover was also still present together with two more Common Sandpiper, unfortunately it was soon flushed by a dog and as far as I’m aware it carried on going. Yesterdays two Wigeon were still there as were a pair of drake Gadwall.

I checked around the small pool seeing Treecreeper (missing from Saturday) then decided to check out some of the areas I had covered on Saturday on foot. I carried on towards Furnace End and checked out the churchyard, then worked my way through the fields back to the Reservoir.

The stubble fields on Bixhill Lane still held c.100 Linnet and c50 Goldfinch and today a single Wheatear, why could I not have connected with this on Saturday.

In the Afternoon I visited the Wishaw area where I saw 2 Whinchat, there were c.50 Swallow, Yellowhammer and a few of both Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

Two Common Sandpiper

Ringed Plover

Two Wigeon

Monday, 9 September 2019

Monday 9th September

I worked on my bird notes this morning as it was raining, but I was itching to get started, so after lunch I made my way to the Reservoir.

From the car park there were a lot of hirundines, mainly composing of House Martin, with smaller numbers of Swallow with about 20 Sand Martin. I started my walk but was disappointed that there were so many dogs off leads with their owners shouting and screaming at their Mutts that were not well trained. I wouldn’t mind but most don’t bother to pay for parking which makes my wonder why I have purchased a permit!

Anyway, surprisingly I had four Common Sandpiper fly in and land briefly (flushed by dogs), then further along I picked up a Ringed Plover my first of the year (109). A Hobby was perched in a tree just the other side of the river and showed really well. At the far end a couple of Wigeon were the first of the Autumn. I made my way along the path beside the railway line and was annoyed to see three Pheasant, try as I might I could not find any on Saturday.

Light rain started to fall so I changed my plans and made my way back to the main Reservoir rather than my initial though of trudging down the back lanes. The fields off Bixhill Lane held an impressive c.120 Linnet, then I heard a Greenshank calling, my second this Autumn, it took ten minutes before I actually saw the bird as it circled round for a little while before heading off in the direction of Ladywalk.

Back at the car park I could only locate Common Sandpiper along the edge, but at least there were a couple of Shoveler resting below the car park to end the trip.

All-in-all a good day with four species that I failed to see on Saturday.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Saturday 7th September


I decided that I would participate in the West Midlands Bird Club “All Dayer” covering Shustoke Reservoir and surrounds.

I started at 7.00am and it was a damp start although the weather did improve during the course of the day. From the car park I saw an unexpected Shoveler, whilst a pair of Hobby spend the next two hours trying to catch one of the near 200 hirundines.

In no particular order I saw Kingfisher, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Common Sandpiper before heading off towards Hogrills End near the Tamworth Road to check the fields for Wheatear, Redstart, Whinchat etc., were I saw none of said birds. The damp meadow alongside the river at Furnace End produced my first unexpected species whilst checking out a roving tit flock I picked up a Spotted Flycatcher, my first on site for the year. Bixhill Lane didn’t produce the expected Meadow Pipit or Skylark.

I arrived back at the car at 11.00am on 50 species, I went home for breakfast/lunch and watched the cricket for an hour. At 1pm I headed out again checking the roads behind Hogrills End where I picked up Kestrel, House Sparrow and Starling! None of the fields held much at all and I was surprised not to find any Rook amongst 100s of Jackdaw and Carrion Crow.

I then drove to Shawbury Lane and followed the footpaths down to Shustoke and back. I added a few species including my first Yellowhammer for the year, I also added Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and a Herring Gull. I also found another Spotted Flycatcher which was unexpected.

I finished on 62 species but still hadn’t seen a number of regular birds. I got home and watched a little more cricket before heading out hoping for a few species of gull at the Reservoir. Unfortunately the gull roost was poor but I did pull back Bullfinch and Greenfinch so I ended up with a reasonable total of 64 species, which considering I was on my own I was happy with.

I then arranged to meet Steve Haynes at the Griffin to swap notes and have a well earned pint.

It was feasible to have added, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rook, Pheasant, Swift, Treecreeper, Little Egret, Common Gull and maybe another wader or wildfowl species so it was quite possible to have reached 70 species.

Wednesday 4th September

I don’t twitch often but I have been tempted by a Brown Booby in Cornwall. The bird has never been reliable and I had correctly decided not to travel twice as the bird had been rather elusive.

However, an apparent 2nd bird was located on The Lizard and had been playing ball for a couple of days, I couldn’t make Tuesday but with the bird going to roost on Tuesday evening, Joy and I decided to travel early Wednesday in an attempt to get my first UK tick of the year. We were due to take a passenger but he failed to find my house and ended up somewhere near Shropshire!

The journey down was uneventful although it was a little nervous as there was no news until 9.00am by which time we were only 30 minutes away. We parked on the National Trust car park to find the bird had landed out of sight on an offshore island. We walked down to find a spot to view from when a sudden squall hit. An hour later and there was still no sign, a few birders had walked a mile or so along the coast to view the far side of the island. It became apparent that they were watching the bird, so Joy and I decided to walk that way, there was a surprising amount of climbing involved plus we had to negotiate a couple of Devil Dogs at the rear of the cafe! We had just got to the top of the climb to be met by birders coming back telling us the bird had flown – Joy shot me a look and we made our way back.

The light looking south into the bay was challenging, with lots of glare and reflection, after a while someone picked the bird up and we continued to watch it in poor light for a while before the bird flew past the headland where we were and gave great views as it flew past before it disappeared back to its perch out of sight.

We hung around hoping it would come back, whilst doing a little Seawatching, where several Manx Shearwater and a single Balearic flew past. It was rather windy and the light was poor so at 1.00pm we decided that we had better start making our way home.

Near Exeter we decided to visit Alyesbeare Common where we eventually connected with a single Dartford Warbler but little else. We eventually arrived home at 7pm and slept really well.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Monday 2nd September

I was at Shustoke early, but it was quiet, I scanned the Reservoir from the car park but apart from a couple of Gadwall it was dead, even the large number of gulls present recently must have been off foraging. I dropped down of the embankment having decided to cross the river and go round the back of Hoggrill’s End. The field on the other side of the river is starting to fill with Willow Scrub which held good numbers of Chiffchaff and a couple of Whitethroat but the hoped for Whinchat never materialised.

This year has been notable for biting insects and mosquitoes, I have suffered badly with bites and walking through this field, again saw me on the menu!

Again, as with yesterday Yellowhammer have proved elusive and I still haven’t seen one yet for Shustoke. I followed the Tamworth Road, then dropped down walking through the sheep paddocks, under the railway then along the southern perimeter of the Reservoir. Back at the car park I got the scope out and picked up a distant Peregrine and a couple of closer Common Sandpiper.

I returned late evening to search through the gulls which had returned and there were loads, but try as I might I could not find a Med Gull, although there were double figures of Herring Gull.

Sunday 1st September

I spent the morning walking around the Wishaw area starting at Blind Pit Lane where the first bird of note I saw were three Grey Partridge which I put up from the edge of a stubble field.

With most of the fields having being harvested I though there might be a few birds around, there were certainly plenty of hirundines which in turn led to a Hobby early on. There were small flocks of Linnet, Goldfinch and small numbers of Meadow Pipit and whilst it has been a couple of years since I have seen Corn Bunting in the area, I have been disappointed with the fact that Yellowhammer appear not to be present. I have covered this route a few times in 2019 and have yet to locate any singing birds.

Joy and I mulled over going to Cornwall for the Brown Booby but the bird has been very sporadic, and having so much on at the moment I couldn’t get a couple of days away. As it happened it proved a good move as the bird has not been seen.

I walked up around the church and down the the Cock Inn where the same or another Hobby passed overhead. I then headed down Wiggins Hill Road before cutting along the lane to cross the canal onto the Kingbury Road. I saw a few Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff plus another pair of Hobby, I was hoping for Wheatear but I could not find any.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Saturday 31st August

An early morning walk around the Reservoir produced six Common Sandpiper and Raven. Gull numbers have been building up in recent days as have numbers of Cormorants.

Other birds noted were two Grey Wagtail, five Gadwall, Whitethroat, Blackcap and a flock of c.80 hirundines mainly consisting of House Martin.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Wednesday 28th August

There was a report yesterday of a Black-necked Grebe at Shustoke so I went this morning to see if the bird was present. I scanned from the car park but couldn’t locate the bird. I decided to carry on round the Reservoir with just a single Shoveler (first of the autumn). From the west end a scan of the distant pylons revealed an adult Peregrine while the recently harvested field produced a flock of c.40 Linnet.

In addition there were two Common Sandpiper which I saw on a couple of occasions and c.50 Lapwing, there were also c.80 Great Crested Grebe. The only other bird of note was a Lesser Whitethroat.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Tuesday 27th August

I took my usual walk around the Reservoir and it didn’t look promising, there was little on the water and I could not pick out any waders along the shoreline. I started to make my way around and in the bushes at the edge of the car park picked up a large warbler bouncing around, I got on quickly to find I was looking at a Reed Warbler my first since the 28th August 2003!

The rest of the walk was uneventful with the wildfowl number pretty stable although the Gadwall numbers have risen to five birds.

Middleton Lakes RSPB

Took Joy for a look at the Wryneck this evening and the bird was performing very well, we had half an hour and left the bird at the Mosquito’s took their toll again.

Monday 26th August

Middleton RSPB

I had been around Shustoke in the morning but there was nothing of note.

News broke late morning of a Wryneck at Middleton Lakes RSPB, It was seen briefly at 11.00am but not after, I wanted to go but it was far too hot, so I though I would pay a visit early pm when it had cooled down.

At 5.00pm I ventured forth, but with little expectation that the Wryneck would show as there had been no news since the initial sighting. I walked out past the west screen were the bird had been seen and I searched thoroughly all along the fence line towards North Pit. Drawing a blank I went into the hide but apart from several Little Egret and a single Great Egret I had seen very little.

From the hide I saw Shoveler, Teal and a couple of Green Sandpiper, then a flock of 14 Snipe took to the air before landing again. At the benches I picked up two Garganey but they were badly backlit.

I followed the path to the East Screen where I met Julian and another birder. They had seen good number of Snipe and a Common Sandpiper but little else, then Julians phone went off, the resulting message was that the Wryneck was showing 200 yards east of where we were. We made our way quickly towards the East Screen and could see a small group watching something! Unfortunately we were looking directly into the sun, but a bird flew from the fence line into the Willows and it look about the correct size.

We edged closer as we were still a good distance away, after five minutes the Wryneck flew down to the fence line again and we picked it up feeding on the ground. After a while it returned to the Willows so we walked briskly past it to join the others. Again before long the bird returned to the fence line and we had great views of the birds and it fed.

I was unfortunately wearing shorts and the insect life was getting a taste for my blood so I left before anyone else, when I got home my legs were like Pin Cushions. There are far better pictures available of the Wryneck but this was the best I could manage through my phone.

Wryneck, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Sunday 25th August

With a hot day in store Joy and I visited early, unfortunately not early enough, the Reservoir was rather busy, mainly with dog walkers. It wasn’t looking promising and for the first time in a while I couldn’t locate any Common Sandpiper. However, there were around 30 Lapwing and the same number of Cormorant.

We were about half way round when we picked up the call of a Greenshank overhead, I located above the Reservoir, eventually it just headed off in a southerly direction. Apart from a Kingfisher and a few common warblers it was a little disappointing.

I dropped in early evening and there was little change, but there was a single Common Sandpiper feeding in front of the Sailing Club.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Monday 19th August

A walk this morning was not fill with any great expectations, the wind has been in the west for a while and things have been quiet for a few days. I managed to locate a couple of Common Sandpiper feeding along the Reservoirs edge. An adult Hobby flew overhead whilst there was a youngster perched up on a nearby Pylon.

There were still two Swift and c.100 hurindines and an impressive 78 Great Crested Grebe. I checked out the fields on the north of the Reservoir but was driven mad by flies.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Jamaica Thursday to Saturday

Thursday 10th January
Green Castle Estate

Keith and I were up early and after a coffee on the porch watching the sun come up we headed to Waterfall Trail where I was anxious to see Worm-eating Warbler and avoid any marital harmony. We missed the bloody Warbler but had an enjoyable morning birding before returning for breakfast minus said warbler.

After breakfast Joy and I were joined by Darleen as we walked down the access track towards the sea in an attempt to bird a different habitat, we walked for about 90 minutes and got as far as the Lookout Tower before there was a little clear ground. We saw a few good birds on the walk including Northern Mockingbird, another Mangrove Cuckoo and a few American warblers.

The afternoon was spend reading and swimming in the pool, before at 4.00pm Keith and I went for another session birding where we saw Antillean Palm Swift but not a lot else.

After dark we were joined once again by Dwain for a night walk were we saw Jamaican Owl and had great views of Northern Potoo perched on a stump and striking a pose.

American Kestrel

American Wigeon

The beach

The pool and view

Jamaican Mango

Keith and I

Joy and I

Friday 11th January
Green Castle Estate

Another early morning session with Keith saw us find an American Warbler which we got poor views of and remained unidentified! On the way back a Ruddy Quail-dove flew past us!

We decided to go to the beach travelling in the back of a flat bed truck on a mattress which was strangely enjoyable. The afternoon was spent reading and swimming. Keith, Joy and I revisited the Reservoir where we added a few species and best of all Keith found a Worm-eating Warbler which I saw!

Saturday 12th January
Green Castle Estate to Montego Bay

We awoke early and partook in our habit of drinking coffee on the porch watching the world go by which included 13 Olive-breasted Parakeets. Too soon our transport arrived, so we said our goodbyes to the staff and headed to the airport to drop off the Ann and Darleen who had earlier flights, which then left us with a few hours spare, we visited Montego Sewage Ponds which added a few species to the holiday list, with a few waders on view before we ourselves had to head to the airport catch our flight home.

In reflection it was a great trip, we saw all the endemics plus a view other species, plus more importantly it was at an easy pace with plenty of time to relax. Green Castle Estate is the place to stay, it is the best of both worlds and the holiday will live long in the memory.

Least Grebe
Green Castle Estate staff
Red-billed Streamertail
The sunset

Jamaica – Tuesday & Wednesday

Tuesday 8th January
Green Castle Estate

This morning we explored yet another trail to try and find the two further endemics that were available on us on the Green Castle Estate, these were Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and Jamaican Pewee which we located without too much trouble. A single Pewee and two Cuckoo responded to a tape lure and showed really well in the trees above our heads, unfortunately this back breaking birding was taking its toll on Dudley and he had to retire to his room to rest his back.

After breakfast we followed the access road before taking a track to the John Davy lookout which is a historic site where some of the original inhabitants of Jamaica lived, it is apparently an important archaeological site and has been excavated in the past, although now it has been reclaimed by the jungle. Dwain was very informative and as we looked down at the Orchid sheds he told us that it had been very successful until a Hurricane caused a lot of damage, then when they were repaired that disease had then effected the Orchids which resulted in them being abandoned!.

After lunch we made good use of the Swimming Pool and generally relaxed in a wonderful venue. The staff were brilliant and couldn’t do enough for us , the food was good, healthy and plentiful and barely four hours passed between meals! The Estate House was so quiet during the day, you could hear a pin drop, at night it was a little different when the wildlife started up!

In the afternoon we revisited Waterfall Trail where to cut a long story short I missed out on a Worm-eating Warbler which Joy managed to get on, it didn’t cause a problem, some you win, some your lose.

Wednesday 9th January
Hardware Gap, The Blue Mountains

Another early start involving two breakfasts, the drive though was not as long and we met up with Roger again in his home territory of the Blue Mountains. At this point we only needed to see a further three endemics which were all on today’s agenda. The first proved no problem, we saw uptown 30 Ring-tailed Pigeons immediately. We basically birded alongside the road with the van following all the way up to Hardware Gap, we saw a single Blue Mountain Vireo leaving just the Jamaican Blackbird to compete the set, but this bird was proving elusive. We were giving up hope so we stopped for lunch, we were checking out a few promising trees when Roger located a single Jamaican Blackbird feeding low down in a tree.

By the time we made our way back down to the coast it was time to return to the Estate for a quick dip in the pool and a relax having seen all the endemics that Jamaica had to offer. The next couple of days were down to us to bird on our own which I was looking forward too.

Jamaican Pewee
The Blue Mountains
Jamaican Blackbird
Ring-tailed Pigeon

Jamaican Pewee

Jamaican Tody

JAMAICA – Saturday to Monday

Saturday 5th January
Manchester to Jamaica

Dudley and Mary travelled up from St Albans and stayed the night as we had an early start his morning. We arrived in Manchester a little after 8.00am parking the car and catching the shuttle bus to the Airport where we met up Keith and Lyn the remainder of the UK contingent in the terminal. The flight was fine and I watched on of the worst films I have ever seen “The Meg” avoid at all costs.

We landed in Montego Bay nine hours later where the two Americans Ann and Darleen had been patiently waiting for us. I first met Ann in Brazil in 2005 and being a long-standing friend of Dudley and Mary I had met her in the UK a few times. Darleen (a friend of Ann’s)  a lady in her 80’s was as fit as a butchers dog, during the course of the week she left most of us standing and was amazingly resilient. I felt so sad when see told us about coming home from a weekend away to find her house had been burned to the ground during the Californian fires a couple of years back.

At the airport we saw a couple of Magnificent Frigatebirds and Zenaida Doves. Our driver Raymond got us loaded up and started on the three hour drive to Green Castle Estate which lay 100 miles to the west along the north coast of Jamaica. After what seemed forever we turned off the main road and followed a rough track for about three miles with a brief stop for a Barn Owl before we arrived at the Estate House which was our base for the next week.

The staff were waiting for us and showed us to our rooms, which were well equipped and very pleasant. We then returned to the dining room for a light meal to be joined by a Northern Potoo that flew in to take advantage of the insects attracted to the lights around the complex.

Sunday 6th January
Green Castle Estate

We were met by the resident guide Dwain, after a pre-breakfast at 7.00am he took us for a walk around the gardens. The birds came thick and fast with Jamaican Spindalis, Red-tailed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Vireo, Sad Flycatcher, White-crowned Pigeon, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Oriole and Loggerhead Kingbird, most of which were endemics.

After breakfast we explored the Waterfall Trail one of many trails on the estate. We saw further endemics plus a Mangrove Cuckoo, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Orangequit, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit plus a good scattering of American Warblers were Parula Warbler and American Redstart were surprisingly rather common.

Jamaican Spindalis
Loggerhead Kingbird
Sad Flycatcher
The view from our room

Monday 7th January
Eccesdown Road, John Crow Mountains

We had an early rise this morning rising at 4.00am were the staff had provided tea and coffee and some fruit (pre-breakfast) before our drive to the extreme west of Jamaica to the John Crow Mountains, we stopped on the way to pick up our guide Roger who was our guide for trips away from Green Castle.

We arrived at Eccesdown Road a little after sunrise where we partook in our second breakfast of the day with some rather tasty porridge! Again the birds came thick and fast with both Black-billed Amazon and Yellow-billed Amazon seen before we had walked far. The rest of the morning was spend searching for endemics and dodging the frequent rain showers. One of the hardest endemics to find is Crested Quail Dove and most of us managed to get views of a perched bird.

The other restricted range endemic was Black-billed Streamertail which we saw really well, very similar to Red-billed Streamertail apart from the obvious. The most impressive bird was a Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo one of two endemic Cuckoos that Jamaica has to offer.

Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo
Sad Flycatcher