9 February 2016

The MEGA year that was... 1996.

It's now twenty years since that epic year in the county and in recent days I've been reflecting on how good that year actually was and how things have changed, both in birding & in my personal life (mortgage, wife, dog & a child weren't anything I ever wanted really but shit happens).
The first highlight for me that year was a flock of 9 Brent Geese that flew over King's Mill Res' on 4th January followed by a White-fronted Goose half hour later. Ten days later at the same location, a single Bewick's Swan went NW followed by four Whoopers 43 minutes later. A Waxwing flew west over the site on 3rd February. The next day 11 Goosanders were present and 3 Corn Buntings (now very scarce/rare at the site). The same day I visited Nottingham to soak up some of the Waxwing invasion & bag a Ring Ouzel too in a 'rest garden' in the city centre. On the 11th I went to Norfolk and amongst good numbers of scarcities (that just doesn't seem to happen nowadays), I also connect with 8+ Arctic Redpolls & a Serin!
March 13th was the day I finally managed to get round to seeing the drake Redhead at Gibsmere & on the 19th I slipped over the border to see a Hoopoe in D*rbyshite.
April 1st I found a male Ring Ouzel in Sutton-in-Ashfield, only a few hundred yards from my house at the time. The 15th saw a drake Lesser Scaup at King's Mill Res (only the 2nd record for Notts at the time). I did some UK twitching too in spring but I'll omit these birds as I'd like to keep this post about Notts or close to Notts.
April 21st saw 2 Whinchats & 5 Wheatears at KMR (Wheatears being seen daily to the months end at least here - again, it doesn't happen anymore). On the 23rd I again sloped over the border for a mega Red-throated Pipit in D*rbyshite at Poolsbrook CP.
On the 5th of May I saw a Black-throated Diver at Bestwood CP & on the 9th 9 Dotterel & a LEO were seen at Gringley Carr.
On the 3rd of June, I decided to go on a bike ride with another local birder to the Dukeries (on a mountain bike with no brakes!). Species seen in those few hours included Pied Flycatcher, Redstarts, Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard and NINE Wood Warblers (2 males & 1 female feeding 6 young at a nest site in Church Warsop). On the 10th I dipped a Savi's Warbler at Attenborough.
The next Notts highlight was on 27th September when I visited Netherfield Lagoons. Here 7 Little Stints, a Little Gull, 9 Ruff & a Curlew Sand were witnessed (the Little Stints were part of a class influx with as many as 100 seen in the county during September, 26 being seen at Girton on 25th).
October was spent personally chasing mega's all over the UK (Waterthrush, Indigo Bunting, Great Knot, Little Bustard etc) but Notts also played ball too when a Long-billed Dowitcher rocked up at Lound & I saw on the 25th. A Grey Phalarope at Netherfield on 7th November continued Notts good run but that was the end of my personal sightings for the year.
Glancing thru the Nottinghamshire Bird Report for 1996, it is with no doubt that Notts had never seen a year like it and hasn't still, twenty years later. Birds recorded that year included - All three Divers, the three scarce grebes, Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, White Stork, 6 Little Egrets (they were rare back then), loads of Bean Geese & White-fronts, the aforementioned Redhead & Lesser Scaup. unfathomable numbers of Red-breasted Mergs by modern day standards with, up to 16 seen in Feb & 12 in Dec alone. Montagu's Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Cranes, Purple Sandpiper, The Long-billed Dowitcher, Grey Phal, Arctic Skua, Bonxie, Ring-billed Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Red-rumped Swallow, two Richard's Pipits, Cedar Waxwing, the incredible Waxwing invasion, Savi's Warbler, Wood Warblers reported from 13 sites(!) & 17 Pied Flycatchers recorded (both now ultra rare in the county), 4 Arctic Redpolls & 2 Lapland Buntings. I very much doubt Notts will ever experience a year like this, especially due to the general lack of experienced county 'Birders' nowadays and folk's general mindset to piss off to the coast when conditions are perfect instead of hammering their patch's. I guess they might actually lack the skills to find their own stuff & instead require others to point them out to them and let's face it, north Norfolk or the Yorkshire coast are normally dripping with such types.

13 September 2015

Crippled Birding

Reading all these pager messages & tweets regarding all these delightful migrants cropping up on the coast is killing me. I had been seriously considering coming out of retirement this autumn & starting to bird/twitch further afield until...

Nearly two weeks ago I broke my foot (the fourth metatarsal half way down my fucking foot to be exact). I'd gone downstairs in the dead of night to grab a drink & had completely forgotten that my wife had moved the coffee table and thus ploughed into it with bare feet. It didn't hurt at the time but next day was bleedin' agony so a trip to A&E followed, an X-ray was performed and the result being 6 weeks off work. Not a bad time to be off work I hear you cry but not being able to drive/walk makes it as pointless/beneficial as a bottle of non-alcoholic rouge juice!
So I'm basically confined to the house & garden, which may not be as bad as it sounds; we moved here in mid April this year and since then I've recorded a quite impressive 62 species (Tree Pipit added today) which includes NINE species of raptor (HB, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Peregrine, Osprey, Hobby, Buzzard, Sprawk & Kestrel). Other highlights have been a few Cuckoos, a Garganey that flew south at dusk on 11th June, 2 Oystercatchers over on 24th June & 8 Crossbills that flew NE on 6th September - I suppose it helps being so close to farmland and The Dukeries/Sherwood Forest.

 As I stated in my previous post in late May, I'm now perfectly placed for twitching all four corners of Notts should anything rock up and in early June I manage to bag my first Notts tick since December 2013 with a snazzy Red-necked Phal at Langford Lowfields.

Unfortunately I haven't added another since despite a few 'wanted birds' occurring in the county since. I dipped a Gull-billed Tern at Lound, couldn't get to a Rose-coloured Starling in Nottingham before dark and a Black Stork was just too brief. In all honesty I've hardly birded at all during the summer and the Notts year-list resurgence I nodded to at the end of my previous post didn't happen. I simply lost interest in chasing after mundane species that I've seen loads of times before in the county plus the fact the guys who were ahead of me were managing to connect with everything & I just couldn't compete - even a county year list costs money (fuel) that I simply couldn't justify splashing out on.
Now since moving here I've spent many hours scouring Google maps looking for a new patch. I had started watching Budby Flash but with the place already well covered by the regulars, I felt like I was stepping on their toes and decided to concentrate my efforts on finding somewhere close by that is under watched but has potential. Unfortunately I really can't find anywhere like that so have chosen to cover an area of arable land just east of my house. It takes literally three minutes to get to walking (perhaps a little longer if I'm hopping) and is quite obviously under watched. In the pic below, my house is where the red dot is on the left and the patchwork of fields is where I hope to start watching.

 That said, I certainly won't be doing any stomping around those fields until early October at least due to this bastard broken foot so in the meantime I'm restricted to viz-migging from the garden but with a plentiful supply of coffee, shelter only feet away and a proper toilet instead of a convenient hawthorn bush, it's not all bad and at least I'll not be suffering from 'birding burnout' when the proper shit kicks off in October!

30 May 2015


Nine months ago I scribed some rouge juice influenced nonsense about year listing in Notts, I prattled on about how I was on course to break the record and also muttered some bollocks at the end of the post about perhaps doing some UK twitching again. Well I must have had three bottles that night cos I did neither of those things. I finished the year on 179 (adding just 7 birds in the last 4 months). These were Great White Egret, Little Stint, Golden Plover, Pec' Sand', Pink footed Goose & Black Redstart. It really was an appalling autumn. So, at the start of this year I vowed NEVER to county year-list but within a couple of days I'd forgotten all about that vow & was chasing all manner of shite left, right & centre....
It's now the end of May. My county year-list currently sits on a quite horrendous 153. I'm sat in my kitchen in my house in NOTTINGHAMSHIRE (Yes, I moved back to my homeland just over a month ago and god does it feel fucking good - probably more on that later) typing this, my vocabulary is being lubricated by a nice bottle of Tempranillo, the wife & babby are out at a party & Chief Brody is watching the FA Cup final. Now, my regular readers/fans/sycophants/lovers will no doubt be pondering why I've suddenly decided to scribe again after it seemed that I'd retired from this torrid stuff. Well it's primarily the fault of this guy...

...Dave Morton. Budby Flash & Notts stalwart. This morning at Budby Flash (my new patch - although I ain't stepping on no ones toes I hope) he was telling me how he enjoyed reading other birders blogs and particularly enjoyed some of my older posts, when I used to blog regularly. We chatted about folks scribing stuff & it inspired me to dig the laptop out & start banging these buttons again (I've so far missed all the goals in the FA cup cos of this!). He does remind me of a Brummie twitcher whom I used to have a lot of time for - purely in the way he dresses and his beard. Birding skillz wise, Dave is in a different league. Look at this pic of the infamous Brummie and you can see what I mean...

Anyway, I digress, so, 153. Last year I finished April on 158 so you can see I'm way behind. The current leader of the pack this year is on 168, 2nd position is on 165, 3rd is 160 & then me. I was in 1st or 2nd position throughout the year until mid April when I foolishly jetted off to Cyprus for 11 nights and thus killed all hopes of topping the table. Now Cyprus was pretty special, I saw some pretty snazzy birds, drank lots of booze, ate some pretty tasty grub (and some not so tasty) & got a decent tan.Predictably tho', the shadow of Notts Life Listing enveloped me a few days into my holiday when I was bombarded by loads of smug, childish, gloating Notts bastards informing me that a Night Heron was showing its tits at Attenborough. I knew it would happen though. Last September I went to Bulgaria & having not had a county tick for 9 months, on my first full day in the Balkans, the first twitchable Bonxie for 20+ years decided to loaf about at Hoveringham. 

I was looking at this when I started getting texts about the Attenborough bird - Kick in the balls!
Putting Cyprus (& that heron) aside, it's been a rather horrific spring for me. Both Monty's & Red-necked Phal have occurred in the county but untwitchable. I dipped the Ring-billed Gull despite putting in a few hours in torrential rain, only for it to reappear once I was at home. I've now not added a bird to my Notts list since December 2013. Somethings got to give soon. Being based now almost centrally in the county I'm in a perfect base to hit all corners of Notts, my gear is always primed ready to be launched into the motor, I now only work three days a week thus giving me 4/7 days free and emergency fuel funds are stashed but I still ponder where my next tick will come from....

Anyway, this year-list. I'm still missing Common Sand, Gropper, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Nightjar, Spotted Fly', Greenshank, Whinchat, Black Tern, Kittiwake, HB, Little Gull & Crossbill. I did consider (& almost did) jacking it in but in recent weeks I've slowly started climbing back up the rungs. I very much doubt an assault on the lead is possible but as I learnt at the beginning of the year, I'll Never Say Never Again... 

Steve Dunn will return.... 

27 August 2014

Spring, Summer & the future...

So, we're half way thru the year. Those first 6 months have flew by. I'm currently typing this whilst sat on a fence overlooking a large expanse of cereal fields in west Notts in the vain hope that a Quail might just start singing. Ya see, I require Quail this year for my Notts year list. It currently stands at 170, not bad for an inland county in 6 months. However, my desired target of 200, only 30 more species, seems well out of reach. The reason being that I had such a good spring which saw me mop up all of the regular stuff & a fairly decent chunk of all the rare & scarce but that's the issue. There just wasn't alot of the 'R&S' to attack. It's gonna have to be quite some autumn if I'm gonna snatch the year list record (which in my personal opinion is held jointly by Mike Hodgkin & Paul Naylor with 198 - 1995 & 2012 respectively).
Here are some of the highlights of my year so far...

So, that's how this post should have begun. I scribed that bit above at the end of June on my tablet and was hoping to continue it when I got home later that day. Luckily I saved it because on returning home I discovered that my WIFI hub thing had gone to live with the Hubs in the clouds. For the last c2 month I've managed to scrape by checking Twitter & posting shit on that Facebook by utilising BT's pretty abysmal Wifi-with-Fon (whatever that means) but I've been unable to have a connection long enough to watch the first five minutes of an online porno (ya know that bit where they chat shit for a while, setting the scene etc) never mind sit here scribing bollocks about my birding adventures... Birding adventures, yes, that's what they were, Spring 2014 was pretty eventful from what I recall. I'd managed to acquire three & half months off work for paternity leave, It began on Feb 14th & terminated at the end of May. Anyway, the blog post prior to this gives you all that starting info, covering Feb & March. This one is about April etc although it's not gonna be that concise cos for one, I really can't be arsed, two, I've forgotten loads of what I did and three, the wife & baby are gonna be home soon so my peace is gonna be shattered...
So last time we ended on March 25th, I think, I'd just year ticked Sand Martin. What followed for the next cfour weeks was truly memorable. March 31st saw me & Isabela snooping around at Lound (Yes Lound, I don't go in for all this ridiculous Idle Valley Nature Reserve shit, far too pretentious & long winded for me). Here I managed to self find a Sanderling & Red Kite, two huge bonuses for any inland county year-lister!

Sanderling, LOUND, March 31st. 
On the 1st April I added Little Gull at Attenborough and on the 2nd Knot & a very welcome Black-throated Diver were ticked off (The BTD being my fourth in Notts!). From here on-in, the year ticks came thick & fast. Excluding the obvious common summer migrants, other highlights during the month included  (remember this is Notts!) Slav Grebe, Jack Snipe, TURTLE DOVE, Common Scoter, Ring Ouzel, Black Tern, Bittern, both Godwits, Whimbrel, Lesser Scaup, Lesser 'Pecker, Wood Warbler, Wood Sand & Greenshank (some pics below).

BTD (Mike Hill)

 I finished April having added 42 new bird and with my total on 158 I was feeling pretty chuffed & confident that, with the usually expected classic month of May in front of me I was on course to smash the Notts year-list record...
Of course, I was overally optimistic because May was a complete & utter bag of wank - I added just 8 new birds but a fair few of them were proper inland quality (Grey Plover, Whinchat, Dunlin, Barnacle Goose, Marsh Harrier, Turnstone, Sandwich Tern & Scaup). Unfortunately I dipped Temmincks Stint, Little Stint, Great White Egret & Spoonbill. Finishing May on 166, my passion for this challenge was beginning to diminish.

Then, to cut a long & tedious story short, over the next three months I only added six more birds (Spot' Fly', LEO, Nightjar, Woodcock, Quail & HB - 4 in June, 2 in July, NONE in August!).
So, here we are at the end of August, My Notts year list currently stands at 172. I very much doubt now that I'll hit 190, never mind 200 especially with me being in eastern Europe for ten days in mid-September.

As I write, I haven't twitched a bird outside of Notts since late April 2013 (Rock Thrush, Spurn). This Notts list had seduced & manipulated me. Too scared to leave the county in case an horrendous needed year tick rocked up. Too nervous to travel too far for fear of missing 'it'. County year-listing is a nasty game but certainly worthwhile and I have everything crossed for a very rewarding autumn; however, in recent days, a dark cloud has been rebuilding inside my head, filling my thoughts & dreams with memories of what has gone& days that are yet to pass... a cloud in the shape of UK Twitching...

25 March 2014

The Adventures Begin

At the beginning of the year, I wrote this  - ''So, a new year and new stuff to scribe bollocks about. Well, this year's a bit different. In wack on four weeks, I'll be breaking up from work for three months to take primary daily care of my daughter (she'll be 6 months old). I've also decided to stick religiously (birding wise) to my beloved Notts and attempt to see/near/imagine as many species as possible in the county in 2014. Now county listing is quite possibly the realm of only deranged psychotic nutjobs due its habit of forcing one to drive ridic' miles for the most shit birds eg if a Spot Red rocks up at Misson, c40miles away, I'd have to go for it. Now I'm not going for the record (held by Palmer, 208 in 1996) but I'd like to get somewhere between 190 & 200.
As of February 14th, I'll have a nice juicy three months off work to indulge in some serious county ticking... I'll also have the company of a 6 month old little girl. Christ knows how I'm gonna combine the both but I'm gonna give it a good go. I've got the weird 'kangaroo style' carrying pouch, the top of the range, hooded, gortex covered, polar bear fur insulated rucksack thing and a four wheel drive, rugged, all weather, cairngorm tested pushchair. I've also got myself one of those snazzy chunky Nissan Qashqui things to transport us to & fro locations. It'll be an adventure I'm sure...''

So February came & went pretty swiftly didn't it. I didn't actually manage that much birding during the month (a lot less than I expected certainly) what with beginning my paternity leave on Valentines Day - I'd inexplicably underestimated what it would involve & how my birding time would be reduced. I only managed to add three birds to my county year-list during the month, the first two falling on the same day, at the same place. February 9th I was at home minding the baby when I began to get calls & texts. I was feeding Isabela so ignored them initially but after one too many missed calls, I checked my phone to see that Wayne Collingham had found a Gannet at King's Mill Res, my old local patch & just a swift 10 minutes drive away! I quickly chucked some sort of coat thing on Izzy & strapped her in her car seat, grabbed my gear and spanked it down to the res. Ditching the car, we ran (well I ran, carrying Izzy) to the apron in front of the sailing club and immediately locked on to the adult Gannet bobbing about on the water, like some huge albino, bath tub, rubber duck! After a very enjoyable half hour of watching this beast (seeing such a maritime creature flying around very urban habitats is always incongruous), the weather took a turn for the worse so I decided to stack it (purely for Isabela's sake I might add) but minutes before we left, Paul Naylor picked up a Kittiwake flying around amongst the B-h.Gulls virtually over our heads! Class, King's Mill currently rivalled Bempton in terms of sea birds, sort of, maybe... Ok it didn't but it was bloody exciting and I left pondering at what stage on my journey home that I'd get the phone call to say a Puffin had dropped in. That didn't happen & I spent the rest of the evening having some RJ (Rouge Juice = Red Wine). The Gannet was only the second one I'd ever seen in Notts and only my 3rd ever in an inland county.
The montage above was taken by my none birding mother (Michelle Dunn)
This stunning image was taken by Mike Hill
And a rather shabbier effort by yours truly (mobile phone papped). 
There then followed a period of birding inactivity (only punctuated by seeing the usual mundane dross on my walks out with Chief Brody in the meadows behind my house) until on the 19th Paul Naylor informed me of the presence of a Stonechat at Sutton-in-Ashfield which I duly went and spied on (Yes, I twitched a bleeding Stonechat, on a shitty bit of set-aside, sandwiched between two revolting housing estates). I finished the month on 104 species for Notts, well below what I had envisaged being on. On the plus side, I'd just done my first two weeks paternity (with many many more to come) and was starting to get the hang of it. With March knocking on the door and the promise of warmer days & early spring migrants, I was looking forward to many more adventures with Isabela Oriole & Chief Brody!

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March (already!)

With the reappearance of the Glossy Ibis in the Lowdham/Gonalston area, I took the first opportunity I could to go and add this bird to my Notts year-list. The 9th saw me up & away early doors and on site by 7.15am. Initially it was a bit daunting as I wasn't too sure the exact location of the bird and there were no other birders about either! After a bit of grubbing about, creeping along hedgerows & popping my head over, clambering up trees (I didn't clamber up any trees actually but if I had to I would have done, I like to climb a tree every now & again, makes me feel young), peering into fields I eventually located the bird, snaffling around a muddy flooded corner of a field, about 20yds away from me. It was feeding away busily, quite unconcerned about me perving on it. It was such a relief to connect after missing it on its only other visit to the county this year on January 5th.
Glossy Ibis (S.Dunn - mobile phone papped) 
From Gonalston I drove the short distance to Hoveringham and spent an hour or so scanning the 'Super Railway Pit'. Nothing that unusual was picked up but a few boisterous (amorous?) Oystercatchers were new for the year. Being stood next to this huge expanse of water on such a gorgeous spring morning was quite superb and something I'll definitely be doing again when the proper spring action kicks off in mid April (easterlies & drizzle, that'll be just fine!).
Hoveringham's 'super railway pit' 
I was then spoilt for choice on what my next location would be. I was tempted to head to Lound for a Slav' Grebe but with the weather as it was, I plumped for Budby Common/The Dukeries. Within 10 minutes of being on Budby, I could hear Woodlarks calling & singing and it wasn't too long 'til I found one perched on the edge of a tree, doing a spot of whistling. With the sun ahead of me though, it was tricky to get a decent pic so it was with a little surprise that I soon located another bird, rooting about on some short turf 4 metres away from me! Such a snazzy looking creature when views are this good...
Woodlark, Budby Common (S.Dunn mobile phone papped)
Leaving Budby, I nearly headed off home for some grub but chose to have a quick peek at Welbeck, just in case. Luckily, upon arrival, Alan Clewes was present & informed me that he'd had three sightings in the last 45 minutes so I decided to give it a shout. Within fifteen minutes, a Gos' was located over the estate and showed reasonably well for more than 10 minutes, an excellent end to a pretty decent few hours in the county. On the 11th I visited a local site to do a bit of old fashioned 'patching' and to add Black-necked Grebe to the year list. A pair were present along with a Raven & some more Woodlarks.
BNG, undisclosed site (S.Dunn, mobile phoned papped)
The 13th saw my first Blackcap of the year singing from the wood behind my house and on the 14th, a major surprise was had - I had decided to go for a stomp with Isabela & The Chief along the five pits trail which my house backs onto (sadly in D*rbyshite). Prior to leaving, I decided to have a smoke on the garden. As I was sparking up, I heard Buzzards calling (a common enough sound round our way) and upon casually glancing up saw three birds, two of them seemingly interested in the 3rd. The 3rd bird looked slightly larger with the naked eye & I thought I caught a glimpse of a decent amount of white on the inner tail so I rushed inside, grabbed my bins out the kitchen, back out onto the front garden and spent the next ten  minutes watching a fabulous adult Rough-legged buzzard being all nonchalant & cool above my house, despite the seemingly unwanted attention from the two Common Buzzards. Eventually at around 1215hrs, it began drifting off SE and I lost it behind distant trees. A cracking garden tick but sadly, like anything I have from my garden, it was in D*rbyshite! Later in the day, news reached me that a RLB had passed east thru Rufford, Notts, some 30 minutes after my sighting. Anyhow, after the excitement of that, The Chief, Isabela & I went on our yomp thru the local countryside. We didn't see anything of real note, although plenty of singing Chiffchaffs told us spring had truly sprung. One slight peculiarity that we (well, I ) encountered was a snippet of song that I heard. It was a very brief but loud acro type of chugging emanating from some very dense hawthorn & bramble tangle about 50yds away. Unfortunately with Isabela on my back and The Chief in tow, I wasn't in a position to be scrambling down old railway embankments to investigate. I stood & scanned the area with my bins, seeing nothing but hearing three more brief 'chur' calls, almost as if it wanted to start singing again. Unfortunately, Isabela required feeding so I had to evacuate and return home. I checked out the area very briefly the next day but heard nothing more...
The Chief, Isabela & I on our March 14th stroll
March 16th saw me & The Chief at one of my local D*rbyshite stomping grounds. We'd arranged to meet D*rbyshite birder Dan Martin for a mornings birding at Doe Hill Flash. Thankfully The Chief was on top form & produced three Jack Snipe from the northern end of the flash.
Chief Brody looking pleased after accidently disturbing 3 Jacks.
On the 20th March, news came thru of a drake Garganey at Eakring Flash. I was unable to visit that day but early on the 21st, Isabela & I arrived at Eakring and swiftly bagged the truly gorgeous duck. I really want a pet Garganey for my garden pond (and a Turnstone for my living room, there'd be no need for a hoover, it'd just scuttle around, grubbing up any stray crumbs Izzy spills).

Izzy bags her first Notts Garganey @ Eakring Flash
Sunday 23rd March saw me out and about scouring local Notts sites just over the border. Very little sign of any spring migrants but Willow Tits were very obvious with 2 at King's Mill Res', 3 at Brierley CP & 5+ at Silverhill CP. The next day, I bagged another Notts year tick with a single measly Sand Martin at King's Mill Res.
Tuesday March 25th, I didn't go birding, I forgot to feed my dog & neglected my paternal duties - instead I wrote this blog post for all of you to peruse, 'cos I'm good like that.
Hope you enjoyed it.
Now, which room did I leave the baby in....    and where's my dog????

27 January 2014

Notts Rose-coloured Starling fiasco

This morning, I got a FB notification informing me that Andy Hall, the Notts county recorder, had posted something on the Notts Birders Facebook group. It concerned a possible Rose-coloured Starling at Bilsthorpe. I immediately text Paul Naylor ti inform him of the news. He then contacted AH for more info and promptly made his way to the site. 90 minutes later, I received a phone call from PN excitedly telling me they'd 'had it' albeit very briefly & views weren't conclusive. My heart sank. I was stuck at work and had no chance of getting til the weekend... unless......

My boss allowed me to take an extended dinner break in return for working late. I spanked it over to Bilsthorpe and spent an agonising 40 minutes scanning a very distant swarm of c1500 Starlings via my average glove box bin's. Nothing!

I returned to work feeling pretty gutted but my mood was lifted somewhat when I received a text from PN informing me that he'd spied a very convincing RCS lookalike albeit it was a standard council estate Starling with albino style RCS patterning. The story then became muddled when a chap who had apparently seen the RCS mid morning informed PN that the dodgy bird knocking about no way resembled the creature he & his mates had seen. Hmmmmmm, two bird theory????
Then, PN alerted me that he'd then found another partial albino Starling with dodgy patterning but this didn't resemble a RCS. Now, I ponder whether that other chap, had also seen the second dodgy bird and when quizzed by PN if his initial sighting was actually an aberrant Starling that is knocking about, the chap thought PN was referring to the '2nd' dodgy bird and NOT the RCS lookalike that was knocking about (I know, complicated isn't it).

It just seems too much of a coincidence to me that there is a partial albino RCS lookalike Starling knocking about in the area AND a genuine RCS, bearing in mind Notts has had two genuine records of RCS in the last three years after a gap of c50 years. Has Notts suddenly become the RCS capital of the midlands??
I don't think so.

26 January 2014

January 2014... the result.

Last Saturday, 18th Jan, I'd just dropped Isabela Oriole off at her grandma's for a couple of hours and on the way back home I was contemplating which 'chore' to crack on with when I got back. As I turned onto my street, my phone must have picked up some signal as I suddenly received an handful of texts regarding a Brent Goose at Attenborough. Now, I've seen loads of Brents in Notts (dark bellied & pale) but due to me stupidly 'doing a Notts year list' this was a bird I HAD to get due to them not being at all common c85mls inland. I collected Paul Naylor from Sutton in Ashfield and tanked it down the M1 to J25. On site, armed with just bins due to each of us assuming the other would bring a scope, we headed for the visitor centre complex initially to scan the sailing pit but with no sign of the bird we decided to scour other pits. Still nothing. Returning to the visitor centre, we happened across Chris Galvin & Tim Sexton who were doing a bit of an optics demo where they informed us that they'd spied the Brent only 30 minutes before but it'd now 'vanished'! Mint! Another major county bird dipped.
Attenborough in late afternoon light - I once saw a Hoopoe beneath one of them cooling towers. 
Dawn the next day saw me heading into the Dukeries with a few targets in mind. As I approached the entrance to Clumber Park, a Barn Owl (89) drifted over the car, swept into an adjacent horse paddock and pounced onto some unfortunate critter. Being here so early, I was able to slip into the confines of the park before the gestapo arrived and thus saving me £6. At 'The Ornamental Bridge', in the half light, 6 Mandarin (90) were picked out as they snaffled around the overhanging bankside branches. Over the next 25 minutes, more and more Mandarin dropped in, small parties of between 3 & 6, whistling in, landing in the centre of the 'river' and insidiously slithering away into the darkness of the adjacent watery tangle. I reckon more than 25 birds arrived from their roost sites somewhere within the forest. Also in the Clumber area I added Marsh Tit (91), Jay (92), a mobile flock of c40 Brambling (93) & a few fly-over parties of Common Crossbill (94).
I then headed to Budby to search for the now highly elusive Great Grey Shrike. I met a few birders upon arrival & whilst I was on site & upon enquiring whether they'd seen it, I was unfortunately met with the same response "Sorry, we haven't been looking for it, we've been watching the Parrots". Anyhow, I avoided them & their watchers and scoured the western quarter of the common, alas to no avail. I was rewarded however with 4 performing Ravens (95), some Linnets (96) & a covey of Red-legged Partridges (97). The only other highlight of the day came as I was leaving. I had stopped to scan a fizzing flock of finches & buntings in a set-aside area (well, ya never know, Little Bunt & Pine Bunt are long over due in Notts) when I was approached by a bunch of randoms who excitedly asked "Are you watching the Parrot Cross Billed Finches?" to which I replied "I was but they've just been eaten by a marauding badger!". They soon fucked off.

Working Monday to Friday in a standard 8.30am - 5pm at this time of year obviously gives no time for birding so it was with great excitement that I awoke Saturday morning (25th Jan). My plan was to head to Cotham Tip in the east of the county to snare a white winger. As I approached Newark at around 8am, I realised I would be a tad bit early for the gulls so I diverted and hit Collingham, a few miles further north. The pits looked in excellent condition & with lots of standing flood pools and muddy fringes, it was no surprise that I picked up a snazzy Green Sandpiper (98).
Collingham looking awesome, especially with no other birders about. 
I thorough search through the many Wigeon, Teal & Gadwall failed to pull out anything too interesting although a couple of Little Egrets & Shelducks were pleasant enough. Moving along the lane towards the Trent, a quick scan of the 'last pool' resulted in 10+ Redshanks (99) and another covey of Red-legged Partridge. I then headed to Langford where after carefully traversing the most rugged, unkept, huge-crater & building brick infused lane in Britain (I seriously feared for my motors life) I began to scour this magnificent site. A huge distant constellation of Lapwing promised Golden Plovers surely but no, not a single GP! Speaking with Notts artist Mike Warren on site, he revealed that they're now very rare here and hadn't seen one at Langford for weeks, bizarre!! Where are they?? I didn't add any new additions here but a massive swarm of Yellowhammers & Chaffinches deserved attention as did a huge congregation of winter thrushes.
Langford, this pic doesn't do the site justice. 
Arriving at Cotham, I managed to find 'the cycletrack' and began the long trek to the viewpoint overlooking the tip. I then picked up a twitter message regarding two Iceland Gulls in a field between the tip & village. That field was currently on my left but only Black headed Gulls resided so a quick convo with local birder Nick Crouch revealed that the IGs had actually done one 20 minutes previous and had headed back to the landfill. I began straining my retinas, scouring the melee of scruffy gulls. Nothing & no other birders to help out either.
Cotham Tip & its 'white' Crebain wannabes
I rolled a smoke and was casually watched the comings & goings with the naked eye when a flash of white wings in a group of squabbling gulls caught my eye. Rising my bins, a gorgeous 1w Iceland Gull (100) was collected! Choosing not to switch to scope in case of losing the creature in the mess, I watched it for about 5 minutes before it slowly drifted off over the ridge and presumably down into the fields to the east. Happy with that, I was about to stack it when suddenly all of the gulls got up. Seeing many more in the sky now than I had done for the last hour, I realised I'd been missing loads of them and recalling that another white-winger sp. had been seen in recent days I waited for them to settle in order to have one last scan now they'd been shuffled. They settled, I jammed my eye to the scope, panned to the left to begin a sweep thru and landed immediately on an adult Glaucous Gull (101).

Simple as that. I hung about a while and enjoyed this brute as it stood proud, ruling the pack. A bit of gen from another local had me wasting an hour scanning some nearby weedy fields where apparently up to three SEOs have been performing recently  but my luck had ran out and so had my time. I traipsed back to the Notts/Derby's border (thru a pretty vicious thunderstorm) pretty chuffed that on my last possible days birding in January I'd hit and surpassed my target for the month.
February, I'm ready for you!