Category Archives: Twitching

Demons Of The Swamp Vol.3

Fans of The Cramps will get the title and if you don’t like The Cramps a. What is wrong with you? b. Why are we friends? Maybe we’re not.

Anyway, a blog post. First in a year? Does anyone still read blogs? If so read on.

Yesterday I went on my first twitch in absolutely ages. What did I twitch? A Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio, some call it Western Swamphen, I still prefer Purple Gallinule. Will it ever be accepted onto the BOU British List? I doubt it but then Chinese Pond Heron made so maybe.

Anyway one arriving at RSPB Minsmere we were soon watching Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station. I mean the Swampmonster.

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Sizewell B

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Purple Swamphen

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Purple Swamphen

After a while of watching the Swampdonkey walk round a pool a sort of purple haze descends on a man and it was time to head off to the visitor centre to buy some china tea cloths or something and a coffee and bacon butty.

Around the centre, as well as the stench of composting toilets, are lots of Buddleia bushes. These attracted a steady stream of insects and a steady stream of photographers.

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Migrant Hawker

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Migrant Hawker

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Migrant Hawker

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Peacock & Red Admiral

By now we needed to see more birds and better insects so yomped a whole 300m to look at the Stone Curlew, two adults and a chick. Can’t be too many places you can see Purple Gallinule and Stone Curlew in the same reserve.

Back towards the centre we dipped Pantaloon Bee but scored with the Beewolves and a bonus if somewhat shy Purple Hairstreak.

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Beewolf

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Beewolf

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Purple Hairstreak

We finished our day watching a pair of Honey Buzzard put on a full flight display over Westwood Lodge at Walberswick. The three lifers in the day Brian Moore’s granddaughter Rosie certainly hit a purple patch!

All photos were either iPhonescoped (still or 4K video) or taken using the camera on the iPhone 6S. Stills from video were taken using the StillShot app.

 

 

 

Otter Than Hell

Embarked on an ill-fated trip to Aberdeen and Northumberland this week with Colin and Steve. We should have known it was doomed when the M6 was closed causing us to divert up the A1 and A66.

Otter, Seaton Park, Aberdeen

Otter, Seaton Park, Aberdeen

Arriving at Aberdeen there was no sign of the Harlequin Duck despite a number of visiting and local birders scouring the area. Dipper is always nice to see but I don’t normally travel 450 miles to year tick one. This Otter though did provide some entertainment and did allow me to film it on the iPhone.

Goosander

Goosander

After finally admitting defeat we tried to salvage something from the trip by going for the Black Scoter at Cheswick in Northumberland. Again despite much searching we were again bitterly disappointed.

Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy

Before you think I’ve gone all Sooty and Sweep here’s actually another blog about birds… I know, amazing! This time a celebration of all things Isabelline Wheatear from Seaton Snook near Hartlepool. Isabelline Wheatear is one of my bogey birds, a few years back I even dipped two in six days so this time I wasn’t going without news. Andrew Kinghorn kindly messaged me early morning with Colin Green, Steve James and Dave Gray also texting and The Rare Bird Network getting twitter messages out.

Bundling Minnie into the car I headed North. I arrived about 11.00 to smiling faces heading off the beach… on the beach however the news wasn’t so good. The bird had been pushed a lot and had flown off and not seen for 30 minutes. 30 minutes turned into an hour with no sign. I walked to the Snook and almost to The North Gare. No joy.

Seaton Sands

Seaton Sands

It looked like atmospheric landscapes and industry would be the only photos I took.

I decided to head back to the car, give Minnie some food and water and have a quick drink myself. On the way I bumped into Rob Lambert, newly arrived and looking chirpy. Rob’s demeanor changed as I told him the sorry tale. Undaunted he strode off purposefully to the beach.

Back at the car another birder was heading down the road and as I updated him he casually said there’s a Wheatear on that telegraph post (next to the bloody car). There weren’t any other Wheatears around, surely. I got my bins on it and asked him, why he hadn’t considered Izzy… this was it! As I set my scope up it flew the 100 or so yards back to the beach! Isabelline Wheatear! I rang Rob and left and answerphone message to then receive calls from Andrew Kinghorn and Rob to tell me what I already knew. It was back on the beach.

Once again there was a danger of birders chasing and harrying the bird so after we’d all had a good look and it had moved, I suggested to the crowd we all back off and allow it to return to it’s favoured tree stump where we could all get great views and photos. Despite one woman having to be coaxed off the log after stopping for a sit down the bird soon flew in.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Even Minnie managed to get in on the act and made it to Twitter!

Minnie & Me

Minnie & Me

Unmasked Shrike

After almost 10 years of hurt I finally nailed down Masked Shrike for my British List… and at Spurn! It almost didn’t happen. I hadn’t really noticed that since I upgraded to iOS8 I hadn’t been getting birdnews messages from Birdguides, so on Saturday mid morning I was shocked to log on to facebook to see messages about a Masked Shrike at Spurn… arses! I sent plenty of urgent texts, Greeny and Jamesy had both gone, Archie wasn’t around he was in Norfolk. Bollocks! Suddenly a text back from Dave Hutton… he was up for the trip on Sunday. Yes! With Masked Shrike veterans Dave Gray and Archie both on board we had a car full.

Sunday morning was clear with stars littering the dark skies above Quorn as I took Minnie  out. Don’t get me wrong the County Council turning off streetlights pleases me… clear skies overnight before a twitch make me anxious. My last attempt at a Masked Shrike ended in disaster at Uttoxeter when Keith Allsop’s oh so reliable Saab 93 blew a head-gasket on the A50 near midnight back in 2004.

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The Bridge of Sighs

By the time we crossed the Humber Bridge we knew the bird was there and we were soon watching a stunning juvenile Masked Shrike. I love Shrikes, they’re my favourite genus and a new one on my British List is something special. My long range iPhonescoped shot was poor, in fact it’s a video grab that a took as the bird flicked its tail around in true Masked style.

Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike

After a while we decided to try and see some of the other great birds around but on the road we stumbled into the Shrike again giving superb views.

Masked Shrike © Dave Huttom

Masked Shrike © Dave Hutton

Here’s another shot, this time a digiscoped shot by Justin Carr.

Masked Shrike © Justin Carr

Masked Shrike © Justin Carr

In the Churchyard we couldn’t connect with the Wood Warbler or the OBP on The Canal but we had great views of the Red-breasted Flycatcher and this dancing Whinchat.

Kilnsea Churchyard

Kilnsea Churchyard

Whinchat

Whinchat

Spurn Point

Spurn Point

After a Pasty and Coffee it was where to go next. Sammy’s Point was decided upon to get far from the maddening crowds.

Easington Bound

Easington Bound

At Sammy’s we couldn’t find the Yellow-browed but another less showy R-b Fly gave us all the runaround.

Archie Plays With His Squeaker

Archie Plays With His Squeaker

Celebrating In Style... Lager Shandy!

Celebrating In Style… Lager Shandy!

 

By now we were ready for home and Archie wanted to listen to Manure demolish Leicester City on the wireless… 2-1 at half-time meant United were back… at 3-1 he was ecstatic… oh how the mighty fall!

Archie! What's The Score

Archie! What’s The Score?

With his pride having taken a battering the only option left was to join Dave and find peace in sleep… wrong!

Sweat Dreams

Sweat Dreams

Sweaty Dreams

Sweaty Dreams

A great day out with some brilliant laughs – almost all at Archie’s expense. Still he has the power to financially cripple the lot of us… what a banker!

 

Forgive Me Father

It’s been over a month since my last blog post. In all honesty I’ve just not been bothered by birding of late and even only the second County Glossy Ibis couldn’t tempt me out.

Today however a Twitter message as I finished work alerted me to a County first… a Pied-billed Grebe at Rutland Water. Well, it’d be rude not to. A quick dash along the A47 and I was soon enjoying a summer-plumaged adult. Get in!

After a few minutes watching it was time to get out the excellent Phone Skope iPhone adaptor marketed by Newpro. Clipping my phone in was quick and easy and there’s no way the phone is coming out once it’s in. The eyepiece ring is interchangeable depending on your chosen spotting scope. The fit on my Kowa 883 is perfect straight from the packaging. So, set up in seconds, I was getting some excellent results even at distance.

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All the images and video were taken at 60x magnification.

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Blade Runner Birding

This morning I headed back North for another bash at the Yellow-rumped Warbler at High Shincliffe in Co. Durham. Our car consisted of Brian Moore, Dave Gray and me and we rendezvoused with John Walters, Colin Green and Steve James for a McDonalds breakfast at Markham Moor before heading North. We passed through a snow storm near Scotch Corner but otherwise things weren’t too bad and we made our destination by 08.00.

Thankfully the Yellow-rumped Warbler was on show as we arrived and despite the Baltic conditions we enjoyed it for well over an hour. It never gave itself up for photos though. Here’s a rubbishy video grab.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler… Honest!

After having our fill we headed off to RSPB Saltholme. A cracking reserve in a very Blade Runner like landscape. The reserve staff were welcoming and we soon got ourselves into the café for a coffee and in my case a sausage bun*. Out on the reserve we failed with the Green-winged Teal (and dipped it again later) but the birds and landscapes kept us entertained.

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Little Egret, RSPB Saltholme

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Middlesborough Transporter Bridge

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Industry

Our next stop was Cowpen Marsh where Greeny picked out the Tundra Bean Geese at distance. They did fly closer but dropped out of view. A Short-eared Owl was very welcome as it hunted below the tip.

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Tundra Bean Geese

Alcid Trip

With the Brünnich’s Guillemot staying to Saturday another rare event took place on Sunday… Skev twitched a bird for probably the first time in three years. Meeting up at Mark’s e were down to Weymouth in good time and bumped into Jono Lethbridge, Dave Bradnum and the other Wanstead birders for a hearty McDonalds breakfast before heading off to Portland Harbour to score with an absolute mega.

Things didn’t go quite to plan as despite being seen early most days there was no sign early on. The Black Guillemot was still present as was a Common Guillemot. There were four Great Northern Divers and good numbers of Red-breasted Merganser. It was starting to look like my Alcid woes were set to continue. Skev noted another Auk dive but despite much searching we didn’t relocate it. Probably half-an-hour later someone thankfully picked up our target. Get in! Brünnich’s Guillemot on my list. A bird I honestly doubted I’d ever see in Britain. After performing well but in poor lighting we decided to try for the Glossy Ibis.

Now that was easy!

Glossy Ibis, Radipole

Glossy Ibis, Radipole

We decided to head back for second with the auk. By now it had moved a lot closer and in better light… the cameras rattled into action.

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

Brünnich’s Guillemot, Portland Harbour

On our way home Skev’s TwatNav was plaing silly buggers but I got a bonus sight tick… Weymouth FC’s Wessex Stadium. Look at those floodlight pylons. What a day!

Weymouth FC

Weymouth FC

Finally a bit of LSD inspired inspiration… who says drugs are all bad?