Monday, 26 September 2011

More buzzards

Spurn with work, highlight being a fine Clouded Yellow by the Warren. One Wheatear came in off and thanks to the Obs guys, nice views of Lesser Redpoll and Tree Spug in the hand. A couple of Buzzards seen, with the lads having 10 over Sammy's Point at lunchtime.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Two raptors spiralling over the estate this morning got me running for the bins mid-child-dressing, and shorly I was enjoying two common buzzards thermalling. Sadly not honeys, but a nice garden tick. How times have changed. I don't think I saw a single Buzzard in the York area in my first 19 years of birding round here. They are all over the place now.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Birding is cool

Just been reading Richard Bonser's blog post where he worries that birding is less cool than surfing. You're so wrong mate! Birding is incredibly cool. What other pursuit can you do wherever you are (obviously outdoors) and whenever? You need little equipment, little skill (though increasing both definitely increases enjoyment for some!) and absolutely no neoprene. Also, birders tend to be massively less pretentious, though I suspect true surfers are too busy surfing to worry about their image and it's the wannabes that let the side down. In reality, surfing and birding have a lot in common. Surfers waiting for the perfect wave are no different from birders seeking the big rare find. Keen birders hang out in fantastic landscapes all over the world - just like surfers, though we go for much more diversity. And we all get drawn to the coast at certain times of the year and in certain weather conditions!

The issue with birding's 'coolness' is that whereas all surfers are seen by non-surfers as 'cool', all birders tend to be regarded as old men in khaki hanging about in wooden boxes. This is a myth perpetuated by the media and also not helped by birding's self-appointed spokesmen who do the reputation of birders and birding no good whatsoever.

When I read a lot of the 'cutting edge' birders' blogs etc and hear the stories of the older generations exploits when they were young in search of birds and new birding, they can only be described as cool, and very comparable to, and possibly even cooler than any surfing tale I've heard. In reality the vast majority of surfers are the equivalent of dude birders or beginner birders who claim to be surfers, but perhaps only do it every now and again. I doubt many have taken the whole lifestyle choice, particularly in this country, although a lot of wannabe surfers would like you to think they have!
Birders - and by that I mean serious birders out there patching, exploring, finding stuff - are the most committed people I know and many of them live their dream. For the rest of us though, who have opted for/been lucky enough to secure job-mortgage-marriage-kids, we live the dream in our minds and on the occasions where we can escape the shackles of the day to day life, rekindle our birding passion. Nevertheless for those of us in this situation, we are still absorbed in this passion round the clock one way or another - writing blogs for instance...

But why is birding cool? As birders we share many things, we find ourselves..
  • Hanging out in stunning, remote locations, often by the coast. 
  • Sensing the weather. 
  • Being in tune with the patterns of nature, the intricacies of the lives of thousands of species. 
  • Living in rough conditions. 
  • Being switched on to environmental and nature conservation issues.
  • Travelling light. 
  • Sharing the killer moment with your mates. 
  • Feeling immense cameraderie with our mates, yet thriving on solitude. 
And birds are inherently cool too!

It just depends whether you give a shit what other people think of you. If you are happy and birding gives you a buzz, however much you do it, or are into it, then it is cool. If you worry about what others think of you and worry that the hobby you have is uncool, then it is maybe because you are uncool! Richard, although I suspect you will never read this, please read back through your blog. Sleeping in barns, seeking windblown Arctic waifs, oozing enthusiasm, living your dream. That is pretty cool in my book mate and if others don't think that, more fool them.

And if all this fails, simply grow your hair and go birding in a wetsuit.

p.s. I blatantly borrowed these pics off the t'internet. If you want me to remove them, let me know.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Mere Birders

Enough of the Azure inspired craziness, check out the new blog from Mere Birders - Hornsea inspired bird action from the East of the county from Tony Martin and crew

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Castle Howard ain't Grafham Water

Spurred on by the report of two Grey Phals and a Sabine's Gull at my old patch of Grafham Water, I grabbed the lad and headed over to Castle Howard, the only decent bit of water in the York area. I was overwhelmed by the lack of seabirds grounded on the lake, though two late(ish) Swifts and ten Wigeon were nice. A fine gathering of all three common hirundines over the water and a couple of Buzzards was all I could manage. Popped into Hes East on the way back, where someone was walking around the western scrapes = no birds. Nothing doing at the east end either. Just need to see if this Sooty Tern gets pinned down this afternoon in Durham...
Grey Phalarope at Grafham Water in November 2001

Friday, 9 September 2011

I love waders me!

I just love waders me. Following droolingly-close passage waders (esp stunning Curlew Sands, which seem to have had a bumper season - lemming year anyone?) in Norfolk during the week, I today had chance to check out a bird I'd only seen in Australia previously.

Shot up to Greatham Creek mid-afternoon loaded on Haribo Gold Bears. and was soon watching a cracking adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, despite nearly having a heart attack when the departing Tim and Ollie told me it had flown off towards Saltholme! The chest pains continued for a while, but I think it was an overdose of gummy bears. The Sharpy was a really smart bird, often hanging out with the Dunlin flock, but sometimes doing it's own thing. Size, shape and behaviour like a Pec Sand, quite stealthily picking it's way around the muddy edges of the pool. Heard to call, very different from the Bee-eater-esque Pec, with a plaintive, though pleasant 'peep'.

General impression was of a rufous pec with a well marked head pattern, consisting of a distinct midbrown-rufous cap streaked with black, set off by a bright white super, which was buffy on the lores and where it ran onto the heavily black-streaked nape. Throat off white, before a complicated set of breast streaks over an orangey buff background. Buff breast quite demarcated but black barring and streaks extended on to white lower breast and down the flanks in apparently typical chevrons. Upperparts striped like a Snipe on the mantle, only really noticeable when the bird facing away. Upper scaps and tertials, black with orange edges and lower scape more worn, greyish with pale buff edges. Short primary projection. Yellow legs and short downcurved dark beak. Pale eyering less obvious an clear-cut than I would have expected. However, Adelaide summed it concisely, "a scraggy sparrow".

Check out some shaky videos here This was due to the wind, not the Haribo bears.

Kinda makes up for not being anywhere near the Little Bittern that turned up at Titchwell today, found by none other than the legend Kev Durose - nice work Kevin!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Great weather for Ireland

Just back from our week-long hol on the Northwest Norfolk coast. The day before I went, I twitched Tim's Little Stint at Hes East, although I think it was stuffed as it did not budge in the 15 minutes I watched it.

A fab week had, mainly indulging in family stuff, and meeting up with old friends, but a little birding done where possible. The birding started with a little madness, whereby I dashed to the nearest bit of sea to look for the Kilnsea Albatross. Sadly, it didn't fly past Titchwell before dusk. It didn't fly past anywhere else by the sounds of it. I did manage several Arctic Skuas and one distant bird that landed on the sea looking very like an adult Long-tailed Skua, but sadly I couldn't nail it.

The following day started well with Philip finding a Wryneck in the dunes at Holme at the same time as one was trapped at The Firs. 'Our' bird was very flighty which made it impossible to get a photo. A smart bird, which at one point perched atop a reed stem like some kind of freaky Reed Bunt. Not much else doing at Holme, apart from a fine Hobby, a Peregrine, Turtle Dove and several Lesser Whitethroats. A spectacular high tide roost was going down on Gore Point, with several thousand Bar-wits and Knot, some still in fine plumage. Later that day, we hooked up with Reg at Cley, for fine views of c15 Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Spoonbills etc.

Juv Curlew Sand. A fine bird.

The next day, the wind went heavily to the westward. Reg got excited as this was perfect timing for his Bridges seawatch trip. I, on the otherhand, got a bit depressed! Not a lot else seen all week, apart from more Spoonbills, lots of common waders, Little and Yellow-legged Gulls, and a few Wheatears. As we headed home today, got the gutting news that a Citrine Wag and Cattle Egret had appeared at Cley and a Buff-breasted Sand at Titchwell. Would have been nice to see these, but nevermind...

Little Gull, Simmond's Scrape.