31 August 2010

August Bank Holiday weekend (part one)

''It's a bank holiday weekend, nothing ever seems to go wrong..'' sang the Mod band 'Seventeen' in March 1980 - Well, I can tell you this, They were a tad mis-informed 'cos August BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND 2010 saw a fair few things going wrong!! Early Saturday morning (28th August) saw myself, Mikipedia & Archer (collected from Potteric Carr, S.Yorks - Make of that what you will) at Spurn attempting to bag ourselves something along the lines of a Barred Warbler. Unfortunately, the weather had somewhat different ideas with an extremely gusty westerly keeping the majority of the birds well hidden deep amongst the foliage. A Spurn 'Belly-Buster Breakfast' was consumed at the cafe at the point and with our guts rammed, we headed out deep into the point dunes to try and find some scarce! Inevitably all we managed was a poxy Black 'n' White Flycatcher Sp., a Lesser Whitethroat and a Short Eared Owl which incidentally was flushed by the sound emanating from Mikipedias arse! We then headed back to the Obs area to do a spot of Seawatching. Nothing much was doing until a freak storm blitzed its way south and convinced a juv Hen Harrier (269) to come in-off and depart west (reports of a juv Montys that day refer to this bird!). A couple more hours of seeing sweet F.A (and watching Archer once again get seduced by the 'sandman') had the desired(?) effect and forced us to depart, Well an early return would defo put me back in the good books with the missus!! We booted Archer out the motor at Potteric and set off on the short drive home. Now it's at times like this, after a pretty wank days birding, tired & hungry, needing at least a bottle of 'Rouge Juice' and desperately trying to get back in the good books with the other half that you really don't wanna be hearing Mikipedia reading out the following message to you ''probable Kentish Plover at Eyebrook Res!!'' - Now me and that particular species had issues and if there was one bird I wanted to nail (apart from Liz Hurley) it was f*ckin Kentish Plover! Considering the bird was a mere c60 miles away I mentally prepared myself for a dash down to Leics should the next msg regarding it be a positive one! Well, the minutes passed by with no further news, I dropped Mike off at Kirkby and with a chilled out 'c'est la vie' attitude headed home...
Less than 4 minutes from my front door. I heard the pager go 'beep' and with only the Notts/Derbys/Leics channel set to do this, I had a sneaky glance at it and F*CK! There WAS a K.P at Eyebrook! Now to cut a pretty long and laborious episode short, I got the go ahead from the 'boss' (perhaps a bigger shock than the bird to be honest), re-collected Mikipedia and screamed down to Eyebrook! On arrival, we were met by fellow semi-yearlister reprobate, Al Northern who got us straight onto the target! No issues! A smart juv KP bagged at pace (270)! F*ck you Kent! F*ck you Sheppey!
We hung on for an hour or so, collecting our 2nd Pec' Sand of the year, and then retired home after a pretty mashed up day! Below are a few pix taken during the day (in reverse order) - As you can see, insomnia clearly doesn't affect my companions!

23 August 2010

Semi-Peed off...

Sunday 22nd August, mid morning, saw myself and Mikipedia (AKA The Marquis, Mike Feely) heading towards Alkborough in north Lincs. The West-Midlands Botanist, Archie Archer, was meant to be joining us but again cried off at the last minute, this time giving some lame excuse about a ceiling that needed a lick of Dulux and that we were going far too early (how wrong would he to be with that comment?!). Anyhow, we arrived at Alkborough Flats just after lunch (undoubtedly collecting a speeding fine on the M180 en route) and proceeded to scan the 'flats' for the Semi-P' Sand. Unfortunately after a good three hours of seeing mainly f*ck all I got bored and decided to do one home! Now here's where the bit of luck kicked in - Approaching Scunthorpe, my well trained & primed McDonalds radar located a gleaming 'Golden Arches' towering above the horizon and feeling a bit peckish I inevitably headed directly towards them! A good 20 minute feed was had before we proceeded along the M180, M18 and M1. As we approached J31 of the M1, Mikipedia informed me that the Semi-P had turned up at Alkborough! W*nk! I was in no position to turn around tho' as I had promised my other half an evening of food, drink and cinema. Approaching J30 however, at around 5.10pm, that sound that you don't really wanna hear when you've set a date with your missus began to fill the car! Mike then read out the message - ''MEGA SHARP-TAILED SAND at Patrington Haven''. Now being less than 10 minutes from Tibshelf, my missus at home pacing up and down awaiting my return, my clothes all ironed and the film at the cinema only an hour away from commencing, I had very little choice but to go straight home. Unfortunately for her, I kinda exited the motorway at J30, did a half circuit of the junction and re-entered the M1, heading back north. Now if we hadn't had that MC. Donalds stop, I would have been at home and would never have been able to escape! Lady Luck, you've got beautiful breasts, Mwah! x
Right then, we arrived at Patrington some time around 6.30pm, ran, jogged then walked the track east to the bank where the assembled birders were gathered and got stuck in! There were an awful lot of birds out there, mainly Dunlin and Curlew Sands (267), and despite the best efforts of quite a few twats to get us on to the wrong bird, namely several Dunlin, we eventually located the target. A few seconds of obscured viewing was cut short when the whole flock got up but luckily, they quickly settled and this time the Sharp-Tailed Sand (268) landed on a very small sliver of mud with two Dunlin and gave distant but decentish views for around 10 minutes. At around 7.15pm the flock again took to the air and I decided I'd better get back home to attempt to salvage the evening/my relationship! As we reached the motor, we found out that the bird had headed out on to the Humber and had been lost to view! Sweet!! The looks on the arriving birders faces as they read that message on their pagers said it all! Anyhow, it transpired that my 'arch' year-listing, albeit, friendly rival, Archer had decided after all to head NE and was currently NOT seeing a Semi-P' at Alkborough. He remained until dark I hear and was last seen climbing over the safety barrier half way along the Humber Bridge...

Sharp-Tailed Sand roosting and the assembled throng (centre bird)

15 August 2010

Flamboro' threesome

Last night after scouring the weather charts and various weather related websites, a decision was needed as to do either the NE Yorkshire coast or the North Norfolk coast. Despite the conditions looking favourable for the Norfolk coast to be dripping with some decent scarce, I decided to risk it and hit the already scarcity laden Yorkshire coast - namely Flamborough Head - although clear skies forecast for overnight over the NE of England didn't fill me with optimism! The Marquis (recently renamed and in future to be known as simply 'Mickipedia') and Archer were recruited and a dawn raid was planned before retiring for the night. This morning I awoke at 4am to be greeted by a message from Archer informing me that he had had a change of heart and would be instead tootling up to Old Moor RSPB in S.Yorkshire to indulge in a spot of Orchid Sniffing rather than joining us to greedily collect some tasty yearticks! So, myself and 'Mickipedia' arrived at Flamboro' early doors and to cut it short, were notching off Icterine Warbler (263) & Red-backed Shrike (264) within five minutes of exiting the motor! Game on! However, news of a Citrine Wag' 'down the road' at Spurn got to me so after a very hearty breakfast at The Headlands cafe, I started to cane it down the tourist infested roads south. About halfway, we received news that the Wag' had done one followed by news that a Barred Warbler and Wryneck had been found back at Flamborough! A decision to head back was put into motion and we soon screamed back into the car park adjacent to the lighthouse. Unfortunately after a brief search and some investigative quizzing by Mickipedia, it soon became apparent that the 'claimed' Barred was in fact most likely a Garden Warbler but that the Wryneck was showing up at the 'Icky/Shrike field'. We headed back up to the 'top' and whilst scanning the field for the Wryneck, we were amazed to hear that characteristic voice of 'Springwatch' finest Chwis Pwackham but alas it was merely a sound-alike, resmbling perhaps Pwackhams dad - ''Is this where the Wed Backed Shwike is'' he exclaimed excitedly. A kind bloke/woman (I'm not sure what it was) replied ''No, this is where the Wryneck is'' - ''WHYNECK! WOW, WHERE'' he said. He was soon directed to the other corner of the field and off he trundled. Myself and Mickipedia followed shortly behind him and soon we had notched our 3rd yeartick of the day (265)! Unfortunately, not a lot else was seen so around 2pm we did one back home towards Notts and dropped into Collingham Pits near Newark and joined fellow Notts Lister Nigel Davis where after a bit of hard work, we managed to dig out the lingering Wood Sandpiper (266). Also here were up to seven Greenshanks, a Ruff and a hand full of Green Sandpipers. A pretty enjoyable day, especially as tho it appears my luck as changed (after an undocumented series of events yesterday) and that Archer is now languishing 7 species behind me in our 'friendly' year listing duel!

Below - Chwis Pwackhams 'dad' gets all exited about a Wascally WHYNECK!

Below - Some South Yorkshire bruisers keep the peace

11 August 2010

Baird's Sand' in Notts

Last Thursday as we left Notts en-route for Scilly. a pager message was noted stating that a Little Stint was present at Lound. I recall musing to The Marquis that it would prob turn out to be something sweeter! Friday morning as I stood at Penzance awaiting to board the Scillonian, I received a call from Mark Dawson informing me that he had sorted out the ID of the Stint at Lound! Mint! Altho' I didn't need it for a county tick, it was a juicy year tick and throughout my four days on Scilly, the Baird's was always at the back of my mind. Fast forward to Tuesday morning (10th August) and after arriving home at 3am, a good few hours sleep was followed by collecting 'The Marquis' and swiftly heading to Lound. Almost immediately upon squinting thru the slots at the Chainbridge viewpoint, the target was bagged!! A cool adult (beginning to moult into winter plum') Baird's Sand (262) (with a pretty striking supercillium almost as bright as Mikes!!). Also present here were a single Dunlin and a Black-tailed Godwit. Archie Archer arrived on site and duly had his share of the bird. I later heard that as Archer was leaving Lound, he was accosted by a member of the Lound Gestapo who for some bizarre reason believed that he was me (we think). Come on tho, he's old enough to be my dad...by West Midlands standards! Due to the distance between us and the bird, the following shoddy shots should be excused!

Mike's super' is equally as bright & striking!

IOS Aug 6th - 9th

from left to right - Archie Archer, me & Mike 'The Marquis' Feely.

I really can't be arsed to write a load of bollocks about our 4 day trip to Scilly. Apart from some memorable non-birding moments, the trip as a whole was a wash-out. Lowlights included 'chartering' a taxi to twitch a Grey Heron that some cunt had put out as a Squacco, No decent sea-birds on a 9hr pelagic SW of St Marys plus having no photographic equipment due to my battery dying the night before and having no pissing electricity supply on the camp-site, a tent that was designed for Dwarfs (and leaked!), stupidly over-inflated prices for food, Wilson's & Great Shears being seen on the pelagic trips we didn't do and the timely appearance of a Spotted Crake & Lesser Yellowlegs moments after we had left the archipelago. I'm sure there's plenty more to gripe about but I'm trying to forget the whole episode. Highlights, if that's what I'm to call them, include (just) six year-ticks - Sooty Shearwater, Bonxie, Storm Petrel (6th August), Grey Phal' (7th August), Balearic Shearwater & Arctic Skua (9th August) - taking my total to 261, daily sightings of Basking Shark including one beast that swam just yards alongside the Sapphire on our Saturday pelagic, a Blue Shark that was expertly caught, landed, tagged & released on board the Sapphire, an Hummingbird Hawkmoth on St Marys, the daily quest by all three of us to locate plug sockets in various Scilly establishments in order to illegally steal electric to power our mobiles, some extremely memorable laughs, Mikes sunburnt mush, and perhaps THE highlight of the trip - Adam Archer being 'spooked' in the dark by a 'demonic voice' on the campsite! I'm pretty sure Arch will pen a more in depth & entertaining account of our trip so best to check there if you feel the need to know more.

above - ASBO birders base-camp and below the Hummer on St Mary's

above - The Red Baron & Arch hunt for plug-sockets and below the object of our desires on that first evening on Scilly! If YOU found this and rptd it has a Squacco, you owe me £5.50 for a wasted fucking taxi!

5 August 2010

CRANE in Notts!!!

Last night I received a phonecall from fellow Notts birder Alan Clewes informing me that a pal of his had just found a Crane at Hoveringham! This was at c8.40pm! I had time to bomb there before dark, no problem.....except that I appeared to have lost 2/3 of a bottle of the old 'Rouge Juice' and thus was a tad over the limit to be careering along the country lanes of Thurgaton at pace! So the alarm was set, the remainder of the bottle gulped.......and then decided to start on some White & stay up til 12.45am like a c*nt! Anyhow, 4am, the alarm goes off, I stagger, still pissed, into the kitchen, black coffee swamped and out into the humid early morning air! Surprisingly, by the time I reached Kirkby-in-Ashfield to collect The Marquis, I had was relatively sober and with the target in mind we headed to The Trent!

We arrived at Hoveringham at 5.10am and immediately I received a text from Mark Dawson that the bird was still present! After a bit of confusion regarding which way to walk (east path or west path, NOT forwards or backwards!) we were soon staring down our scopes at a cool Crane (255) and cheesily grinning like two schoolboys who had just found a porno mag on the park! The fact that it was a year-tick to me was massively overpowered by the better fact that it was a much longed for, over-due County Tick! Having had our fill we decided to do one and has we headed back to the car, the Crane wished us farewell as it too flew off SW calling! (see further down for a pretty shoddy bit of video footage...in fact, don't bother!)

1 August 2010

One good Tern deserves another!

Saturday 31st July saw me and The Marquis up at Saltholme RSPB in Cleveland early morning where upon parking in the layby alongside the A178 we immediately connected with the juv' Whiskered Tern (252). The bird was mainly roosting alongside a Little Gull on a band of rocks in the middle of the Western Pool but did make a few feeding forays over the pool where I managed this extremely fortuitous shot using my mobile phone up against the scope!!

A decent year-tick and my 15th of this species I've seen in the UK. Unfortunately another 'wanted' year-tick - Wood Sand' - had done one overnight. A few other bits 'n' bobs on site included 7 Black-wits, 2 Little Gulls, 3 Little Egrets, 30+ Dunlin, 4 Ruff & a Greenshank. Nearby at the Teesmouth NR a single Avocet and loads of babby Shelducks were noted. A 'Golden Arches' breakfast was called for before heading further north. Arriving at South Shields, we parked up and walked the short distance to the metal gates along the south pier and immediately bagged Roseate Tern for the year (253) in amongst c50 Common Terns and c25 Sandwich Terns. Slightly embarrasingly was the fact that Roseate Tern was also a UK tick for me but less said about that the better. Anyway, in all I counted 8 adults and 2 juvs all showing very well down to 25yds. A small doseage of seawatching was put into practise here and despite not alot happening out there, we still managed to bag 3 Manx Shearwaters (254) heading north along with the usual commoner stuff.

With nothing much else doing locally we made a decision to head down to Hartlepool Headland and try for some more seawatching action. Unfortunately there wasn't alot happening apart from a Whimbrel heading south, 7 Manxies south and a host of terns & gulls. As is usually the case, boredom was relieved slightly with a different type of birding!

The only downside(s) of todays events were the lack of some decent seawatching and the fact my motor seems to be drinking far too much fuel - Over £60 from Derbyshire to Teeside and back is a tad too much I reckon! Oh well, Scillies next weekend, should be eventful....and expensive!