Sunday, 28 April 2013


A quick spin around the flats and park before heading off to Amwell for the first time this year. A singing Sedge Warbler (the third this year) was on Alex and that was just about it.  Until that is Bob, fresh back from a little sojourn in Wales found a Garden Warbler singing and not holding still in the Esso copse, just as well as one who shall remain nameless fluffed his ID this week (and it wasn't me!).

Off to Amwell then for a Wood Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher just about on the border of the known world and the rest of Hertfordshire. The last prognosis was that the Wood Warbler was not in the the London recording area.  Never mind, it would be nice to see one at its best and a male Pied Fly worth going anywhere (near) for.  Immediately on arriving I met Marco, who had obviously had the same idea, who confirmed that both were currently outside "London".  The Wood Warbler was probably 10-20 yards outside when I joined a group of admirers watching it as it worked away through the trees.  Gradually it turned the right way and was heading towards the border. We followed. Suddenly it did the right thing and flew across the tow path and down the navigation and beyond the bridge from the view point, well and truly in London.  Trouble is I wasn't, but I am going to count it anyway, since I don't think, currently, I'll be breaking any records.

I did try looking for it, but to no avail, so I turned my attention to the Pied Fly.  Luck was with me again as it showed quite quickly through the trees.  No chance of getting this on the London list, but hopefully Wanstead should come up trumps, but this was only the second adult male I've seen - a wait of oh, er, too many years.

That done I took a train back to Broxbourne and followed the BirdGuide app until I got lost. It had been trying to take me to the middle of some glass houses.  I had thought I knew where I was going, but after a while it dawned on me I had never been here before, where I thought I was was 2 miles further north. After reading the details of the sighting properly I rectified me error, found the lake found the bird (Scaup).  Off course someone will now tell me its a hybrid.


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Rushed thrush saved by superb sub sub

Three of London's finest showing how to take a photo: Left to right James Lowen (preferred method kneeling),
Rich Bonser (reclined), Jono (poised)

My god an early start! Three hours sleep and I am careering over the flats to Jono's house for the pick up to go to Spurn.  But we never got there.  As we waited, circling a roundabout in Peterborough, on news, which when it did come was fairly negative, we considered our options.  Well just the one really.  A showy Sub-alpine Warbler (of an Eastern persuasion) was the only real option and as it turned out a shrewed move.

On our arrival we quickly joined the gathering following the little bird up and down the brambles just north of Icky Ridge,and what a little performer.  Not the least phased by the over eager amongst us, unlike it's other human admirers who could be heard mumbling distinctly about invasion of patches and bloody photographers. Did the bird care? Did it co-coa!

Oooh a Linnet!

Several hundred images later and we decide that we should have a look round the rest of Landguard just in case something had been overlooked. Around 20 Wheatear and an ouzel not for showing. The weather was not looking great so we spared ourselves the ouzel and the rain and hammered it down to Chigborough lakes where a female Ring-necked Duck was quickly dispatched, and for me my first Cuckoo of the year.  News of the Crossness green-winged Teal's relocation to the slightly more fragrant Rainham meant Jono and I had to go for it.  The irony being that Mr Bonser, our driver for the day, had found the bloody thing. More ironically still I had to find it for him on the target pools.

With some of the day left and a growing urgency to catch up with some of the birds I should have on the PLL I bade them farewell and stayed at Rainham.  Didn't help the pointless listing thing much with only a reeling gropper on the west side of the silts for all my leaden footed effort. I couldn't care though as I was absolutely cream-crackered.  Good day though.  Thanks Rich.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The smell of Crossness

After a rather successful but brief skip around the flats (Kittiwake) I met up with Mr Bradnum and along with Jono we ventured in to uncharted waters for me, Crossness and south of the river. There is an atmosphere to the place, which might have something to do with the rather large sewage works there, but the ducks love it and,, in particular, an yank duck with no sense of smell, or particularly choosy when it comes to where and what it eats.

 London's first Green-winged Teal for some time (thanks to Mr Bonser) and a London tick for all of us. Tick and run, but the place will live with me for a long time, or at least till I have a bath.  Next stop Rainham and another quick scurry around, culminating in me laying my Lesser Redpoll ghost with five feeding in a willow.  Another few Rainham ticks and a year tick in the form of a solitary Whimbrel and we are off again to the KGV and who knows a female scaup.  Well I know! It wasn't there, what there was there was persistent rain and a chill wind.  The hirundines didn't mind and amongst them was my year's first House Martin. On the way we had a little photo opportunity in the form of a pair of Mandarin on a small pond in Buckhurst Hill.  Yay no need to go to Connaught Water.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Finally and Uist about time

The team: Bradders, Jono and Bob

Too late to go out on the patch this morning because of the rain, so an extra couple of hours in bed to recharge the batteries and a bit of time to cover the trip to Uist and the magnificent duck wot frequent there.

The well oiled machine that is Bradder's Birding Safaris hummed into action transporting us once again to a Travel Lodge just north of Carlisle.  An early start the next morning for the first of our yank duck targets in Dumfries and Galloway. A tight schedule meant that there would have to be no faffing about, luckily Bob and I picked the bird up as it swam across the river while we were crossing the bridge to the little hide. I'd seen the arse end of one before as it flew off at Ouse Fen a couple of years ago so it was nice to actually get some good but distant views. The duck? A Blue-winged Teal that regularly winters in these parts.  While we waited for it to re-appear, after Jono scared the whole gathering of Teal, Wigeon and the yank while opening the hide windows, we picked up three or four Red Kite further up towards Loch Ken (a reintroduction I was not aware of).  Jono redeemed himself by finding the BWT on a bank, still too distant for anything bar record shots. Ching.

Next up a Lesser Scaup somewhere round Glasgow.  Apologies for not remembering any names, but that's age for you and a bad memory for names, and a lack of effort in research. Again distant views.  With the others discussing it's pedigree I was happy just to call it.

The weather had been a tad cold and windy so far but as we breached the mountains towards Oban the sun shone and incredibly it began to feel warm.  On the boat I even took my woolly hat off it was that pleasant on the leeward side of the ship.

A comfortable but not too eventful a crossing, bar Bradders spotting a White-tailed Eagle over Tobermory and me chipping in with the first Manxy, followed by several others.  We docked picked up the  hire car from a seemingly drunk or incoherent man, and drove south in the dark to find our bunk house. No expense spared then.
One is a stuffed toy the other a panther 

The bunk house, lived up to its name, a house with bunks in.  No matter we all slept well and arose early and enjoyed a rather beautiful South Uist morning.  Greenshank and Red-breasted Merganser in the bay below. Soon we were off for the main target on the north island at Balranald RSPB. These are truly beautiful islands, not as desolate looking as Shetland, but that could be the sun's effect. Mountainous-ish to the east while on the west side the famous machair, not looking at it's best as the islands had suffered weeks with no rain. Being Easter we had expected whole boat loads of birders to be there: just the one car and at the point where the duck liked to frequent, just a handful of like-minds. Oh the beaches, you'll never see their like in England: wide and long, clean, crystal blue waters and with no dogs, people or other nuisances - magnificent!

No problem with duck either,, just a bit too far out, but it did move a bit closer to the point, currently cut off by the tide, but that was falling. When we did manage to scamper across the still wet, slippy rocks it moved off again.  Arse, we retired back to the beach to see that ot had returned to the rocks.  Out we west again, this time it put up with up with shutter noise as we all happily snapped away. A lifer for us all, even old reformed-relapsing twitcher Bob. Job done.

Next up target: Snow Goose and on the way a brief stop to get an underwhelming female Ring-necked Duck on one of the roadside lochs.  Didn't even bother with a photo of the distant, rather dull looking individual. There was also a Richardson's Canada Goose to look for and miles of goose habitat and thousands of geese (Barnacles and real wild Greylags) to sift through.

After a few hours of driving around, in what to me appeared to be circles, we found the largest group of Barnacles yet, unfortunately sun-side of us. We patiently started working through them. It soon became apparent that we were having trouble remembering what a Canada Goose looked like, which must be a good thing.  A local driving his dog down to the beach put us out of our misery by scattering the whole flock, the air filled with their calls.  They wheeled and happily landed in inlet to the north of us, closer and giving better views.  Hooray for dog owners! We worked our way through the flock again, eventually Bradders, remembering what a CG looked like, found the diminutive bird.  Blimey it was small.

 Not yet accepted as a species in its own right here, so just a matter of time before it becomes an arm chair tick for us all, not that it usually stops me from having it.

 A few more stops to look for the AWOL Snow Goose or white-wingers before we headed north to our over night stop at Bernecray just off North Uist.  On the way a few Whoopers, a Short-eared Owl and wonderful scenery.

 Our lodgings were even smaller than the bunk house, but the view breathtaking.  Stuff dumped we headed off to a rather wonderful restaurant and got stuffed and well oiled. Slept well again.

Sunday morning and another brilliant sunrise over the bay. As we were leaving by boat in the afternoon we didn't have much time to linger at one spot and we still had one yank duck and the Snow Goose to find.

Driving up past some of the only plantations on the islands I picked up movement in the trees.  Hen Harrier, which became two, three and possibly four. A male soared down the valley did a bit of display stuff to a nearby female and sauntered off to the north, while we headed south.

Unfortunately we dipped the American Wigeon and the Snow Goose was not for giving itself up either and our time was up.  This place deserves more time it is truly awesome.

Back at the ferry port, the car handed back to the still incoherent/drunk man from the hire company we boarded the boat for the long crossing back to the mainland. Not a lot of birds about so soon gave up and headed for the bar, the restaurant and the lounge.

Bob shows the kids how to solve problems

Another cheap night in a hostel in Oban and an early start to look at the Black Guillemots in the harbour. You have to don't you, though I wouldn't have minded a toastie with my tystie. Then off for the long drive south with a quick pit stop at a rather placid and atmospheric Loch Lomond, and later a small detour into Cheshire to undo the wrong of not getting American Wigeon on Uist. At last a bird I've wanted for so long and have put no effort into finding one, yay!

 And so ends another BBT, another great trip, thanks lads.