Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Scant Reward.

The morning was spent checking various crops, gardens and ditches, the reward for all this effort - 7 Chaffinch at Grutness, 9 at Hillwell and a Snow Bunting on Mossy Hill ! Sod birding i'm off down the boozer...

Snow Bunting.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Taiga Flycatcher.

Up 'n' at 'em at 4am, to catch the early ferry across to Fetlar for the Taiga Flycatcher, the bird showed fairly well at Tresta, but with the strong wind and occasional rain shower it kept pretty much to the wooded garden - i.e. in the darkest, most sheltered bits. Having seen (and co-identified) the bird in 2003, means that I've seen two thirds of all British records ! May not sell my bins after all now things seem to be looking up.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Long Walk.

In light of the Yanks that seem to be turning up elsewhere (Orkney in particular), did my now annual 'big walk' - from Fleck, through Quendale Dunes, up the Eel Burn, around Quendale Mill, up Quendale Burn, the lower slopes of Fitful Head and out to Garth's Ness - and for what...? 10 Swallows, 370 Pink-footed Geese and a Merlin !! To be fair I wasn't expecting to see much, but with all these westerlies I was hoping for better than that. If the autumn continues like this on Shetland there may well be a pair of Leicas and a camera going on ebay !!!

Pink-footed Geese.


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Sandhill Crane, Orkney.

An out of county twitch to Orkney, I usually wouldn't bother leaving the islands in September, but being as the forecast keeps saying 'more westerlies' and the best bird at Scatness at the moment seems to be a Lesser Whitethroat, I decided to go for the Sandhill Crane on South Ronaldsay (plus there is a day-return flight to Kirkwall). Arriving in Kirkwall around 08:30, we (Myself, Jason & Dougie) picked up a car, lent to us by the Crane's finder, Paul Higson, and then headed south. On getting to the site, the bird was immediately on show, fairly distantly, a couple of fields away, feeding in a stubble field with Curlews, Lapwings, Gulls and a few farmyard Geese. After a couple of hours, and getting marginally better views, we headed off to Kirkwall for some fuel and a celebratory fry up ! Then a quick stop off at Deerness for the American Golden Plover, which, no matter where we parked, was always on the other side of the field. It was just after this that things started to go a bit wrong, as we set off for another go at the Crane, it was a struggle to get the car in first gear, but Jason persisted and we made it back to South Ron, then the car wouldn't go in any gear at all unless it was put in reverse to begin with and finally, whilst we were watching the Crane again, the car got stuck in first gear and finally died, it was left, abandoned, in a layby at the south end of South Ron. Not all was lost though, as Jon arrived in his hire car, with 3 spare seats. The day ended with some fairly descent views of the Crane roosting with Gulls in a field just inland from the beach and some rather dodgy chips from Kirkwall.

Sandhill Crane.
American Golden Plover.
When the Crane wasn't on show, visiting birders scanned through the herds of cattle, in the hope of finding a rare bullock.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

More of the same.

More of the same nothingness - just a Lesser Whitethroat in the garden, probably the same one that's been in there since Tuesday !

Curlews at sunset last night.

Lesser Whitethroat.

Friday, 18 September 2009


Out every day this week, and for what....? Stonechat in Lerwick on tuesday and Lesser Whitethroat at Scatness on wednesday - useless ! A Pearly Underwing in the Moth trap on wednesday was new for the garden.


Pearly Underwing.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Blackburnian's all connected...

Now that the wind is firmly back in the west, it wasn’t really that much of a surprise to hear the news that there was a Blackburnian Warbler on St Kilda at the weekend. I have a bit of a connection with Blackburnian Warbler, no I didn’t see the one on Fair Isle in ‘88 (I was at Portland successfully twitching a Parula at the time) and I wasn’t even born in 1961 when the one was on Skomer, in fact, the only Blackburnians I’ve seen have been in the States. So, what’s the connection ? Jump back to when I started Birding in 1977, the first place I can remember doing regular was Orford Park in my home town of Warrington in Cheshire, turns out that this is the former site of a stately home, Orford Hall, which was demolished in the 1930’s and was the former home of the Blackburne Family. John Blackburne was a wealthy salt merchant and the father of two children - Anna and Ashton, and had studied natural history. Inspired by her father, Anna also studied natural history, in particular Insects (with Peter Pallas) and Birds (with her brother Ashton), Ashton moved to America and sent many bird skins from New York and Conneticut back to Anna at Orford Hall, one of these skins was of a bird never described before - Blackburnian Warbler - named in Anna’s honour by Thomas Pennant. Moving on, in 1979, I started high school and at dinner time a lot of the pupils would get pasties from the ‘out-sales’ of the nearby pub - the Blackburne Arms, this was the former stables of Orford Hall and is still there today. So, in conclusion, Blackburnian Warbler was named from a specimen in Warrington, and after the owner of the park where I started Birding - it’s all connected……

The Blackburne coat of arms in Bridge Street, Warrington.

The Blackburne Arms - seller of fine pasties in the early '80s.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Yellow Browed.

After another night of light north-easterlies, got out early and did a Basil Fawlty on Scatness and gave it 'a damn good thrashing', after more than 2 hours of bush kicking and thistle stomping - the reward - 3 Snipe and a Green Sandpiper !! Went back out mid-afternoon and did the same circuit again, this time things got a little better with 10 Swallows, a Whimbrel and a Lesser Whitethroat, a text from 'The Bell' stating that there was a Yellow-browed Warbler and an Icterine Warbler at Geosetter didn't help matters, so I gave up and went home. On opening the garden gate at home, justice was done - a Yellow-browed Warbler in the garden, along with a Willow Warbler (the garden was totally birdless all morning). The Yellow-browed took the garden year-list up to 119 - and the return of the 10 bird gap over the competition.

Yellow-browed Warbler.

Lesser Whitethroat.


Sunday, 13 September 2009

Crossbills & Garden Tick.

After the wind went to a light NNE last night, I felt pretty sure there would be something kicking around today. It all looked good as I looked out of the kitchen window first thing, to find 9 Crossbills in the garden, munching on the rose-hips (looking at the state they were in, they must of been through some crappy weather to get here). Fired up, I then checked Scatness - nothing ! apart from a lot of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks moving south, again, with a Merlin having a pop at them every now and then. After the Italian Grand Prix, got a phone call from 'Mr Bentos' saying there was a Harrier heading my way, as I have not got any Harriers on the garden list, it didn't matter which species it was, it was going to be a garden tick. Pretty easily picked up, thanks to the Starlings going nuts, a Marsh Harrier, heading slowly back north towards the Pool of Virkie and eventually lost to view somewhere around Exnaboe. This now takes the garden list to 171, and to 118 for the year.


Marsh Harrier.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Booted Warbler.

Eventually went up to Channerwick for the Booted Warbler, spent two and a half hours there and only got 3 good views ! The bird spent most of the time in the Japanese Knotweed, and not showing very well at all, but on occasion moved into the Angelica and Mint and showed a lot better (if only briefly). Also at Channerwick - 2 Swallows and a Common Sandpiper.
Yesterday's post seemed to upset a few people (tho' I suspect they're the sort who need a daily moan anyway) and most seemed to miss the point anyway. See -
So, if there are no postings here in the next few days, it probably means that I've been burnt at the stake, by some Vikings in Lerwick !

Booted Warbler.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Remembering September 11th 2001.

The events of this day in 2001, will remain in the memory for a long time..... it was the day I managed to photograph the Pallid Harrier at Brow Marsh, as this was the first twitchable Pallid for ages, there was quite a bit of interest from 'down south' with a least 2 charter planes coming in to Sumburgh. I seem to remember standing ankle deep, out in the marsh for about 2 hours, before the bird came in to roost - got these shots just before it went dark. Also on this day in 2001, there was a Citrine Wagtail, also near Brow Marsh, wandering around on a small pool near a chicken pen.
Would it be wrong to refer to this day as 'A Blast from the Past' or ' A Towering Success' ? Hmmm......

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Hoping for a Buff-breasted Sand or AGP or something similar, spent the morning around the headland at Scatness, there were birds out on the cliff tops - but everything seemed to be in singles - i.e. one each of Golden Plover, Ruff, Knot, Sanderling and Arctic Tern, the only thing that wasn't in singles was Meadow Pipits, about 150+ per hour heading south and being harassed by a single Merlin. Curiously, late this afternoon, they were moving north at about 45 per hour. Alas, not a sniff of any Yanks.

Golden Plover - doing it's best to try and look rare by being on its own.

Merlin - in hot pursuit.


Whimbrel - sadly with a white rump.