Sunday, 10 December 2017


And so that was 2017.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog over the last seven years or so and sharing the good times we all had together.

Take care, enjoy your birding and goodbye.

....and to end with a bit of humour

Friday, 17 November 2017

Birding with the Clayheads - The Future

Well its November and this Autumn has turned odd, or maybe we have been spoilt by the last two Autumns...I don't know. Anyway, a few weeks / months ago, myself and Hilda's nephew came to a decision (on some long journey somewhere or something). 

Unfortunately, the Clayheads are taking a rest. No...its not the end of the Clayheads. Once you are part of the elite North Staffs Birding group, the title cannot be taken away from you. 

There needs to be a rule clarification as to what constitutes a Clayhead. To be a Clayhead, you have to share a car trip with the rest of the group. The current list of Clayheads are - Shirley, Hilda's nephew, pops, PJ, PL, RSu, Bob the Builder, Grizz, The Stalker and JSu. These are the only current members. 

So what plans are there for the next year. Well, after two years of extensive tripping, we realised we can't go on as we are. Life has changed. My life has changed. Next year, we are birding locally and returning to birding in Staffordshire. We have a target and an aim that we want to achieve. Obviously, if anything turns up then we will go and see it, but, for the majority of Saturdays, we will be hitting Staffordshire. 

There will be far fewer blogs so you'll just have to wait and see what we are up to. So hopefully we will see all of you at Wezzer and at another location after we come up trumps and find something.

I'd just like to thank PJ, PL and The Stalker for your support over the last few months. But most of all, thanks to Hilda's nephew for your support and for forcing me to carry on birding. Don't worry, you are still coming out for the next four months. I'll fookin sit outside your house and peep my horn till you come out. 

You see, birding is far more than just ticking a new species and waiting for the next tick. 

Till next to you all (except the county recorder, wrong trousers, duck-on-a-rope-man...)

Sunday, 5 November 2017

St Aldhelm comes up trumps

So after our trip to Northumberland, we came back and planned a few quiet days at the start of the holiday. However, with news from Blithfield of a Staffs tick for Hilda's nephew on Monday 16th, we were soon off on our travels again.

The Grey Phalarope was performing well off the dam, and proved an easy subject for a videoman of Lord Lichfield's standards.

And so the following day, Tuesday 17th October we again planned to do nothing and we hoped something would turn up later in the week. The day started off well with a fly over Hawfinch at Westport. We went back home, only for news to appear late afternoon of a LEACH'S PETREL at Chasewater. News was vague but we screamed down, knowing that it was a race against the fading light. Confusion reigned as to where the bird was until I managed to contact Graham, Lord of Blithfield who was on site watching it. We made it with about fifteen minutes of light left (we did use the M6 toll or else we just wouldn't have made it). It was amazing to see the Leach's Petrel flying all over the place, usually with a flock of 30+ BHG's constantly chasing it. Again another county tick for the St Helen's kid (he's got a bigger Billinge and district list than you but does he brag about it - well of course he does).

Lord Lichfield did well to get this video with very little light left .

And then news reached us of another bird for us to go and see. It was none stop birding and this was the reason why we had chosen to have this fortnight off. In Dorset, there was a Two-barred Greenish Warbler and a trip was planned the following day. Unfortunately with work commitments, no one else was able to join us. 

We arrived on site, parked in the field and walked down to join the crowd overlooking St Aldhelm's Quarry. We had been led to believe the bird was showing every 20 mins or so. But this was just not the case. It was a cold, damp day and it was keeping well tucked in. Eventually when we worked out the best place, we had brief fleeting glimpses of it. It was also incredibly active, and made a YBW look inactive. Over a period of about half hour, we finally had decent views as it lingered in one particular area. A nice second tick of the year and a nice bird to see.

Unfortunately, Lord Lichfield stood no chance with this one, but I did manage some photo's.

This was the best place to see it. More sheltered here

Spot the 2bar Greenish (its just a shot of the bush actually but of course you can look for it. Ain't on the photo though)
Having seen a Firecrest as well, we headed off to do some more birding. We had a brief look for a DARTFORD WARBLER and then spent sometime in the hide looking for the STILT SANDPIPER. Some big birders were in the hide with us, and they were making claims that they could see the roosting, sleeping wader in long grass behind the other waders. We weren't convinced and after an hour or so and when everything was flushed and there was still no sign of it we headed off. 

On the way back to the car we spotted some good DARTFORD ish habitat, and a little walk around the area and bingo

The "Lich" nailed this one
Then it was off to Lodmoor. A nice walk around the whole reserve saw us eventually find the Lesser Yellowlegs, along with a few Little Stints and a GWE.

My video this time!

And we though that was it. Until we saw that the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was still on Portland Bill. We knew the name of the quarry, and we found it on a map and we found the site. But it was an access road to a huge working quarry. I wandered up the track and met an wonderful elderly gentleman. I asked him if he'd seen anything to which he replied "Well yes", but he'd lost sight of it and was walking around to find it. This bloke was possibly in his 80's, and took me to the small copse where his wife (who used two sticks) was watching the Red-breasted Flycatcher flitting around. As I walked in, he pointed out every stone that I could trip over and made sure I kept on my feet as we walked in. What a gent.

This marvellous helpful gentleman is awarded the coveted Honorary member of the Clayheads.
Lord Lich moaned about the colour of leaves and the fact that it was late afternoon on a dull day, but I think that's the best time to watch a classic autumnal Red-breasted Fly.

Portland Bill R B Fly by "Lich"
Last bird of the day were three Black Redstarts feeding along a fence at the Great Spotted Cuckoo site. It had been an awesome days birding.

And so on with the rest of the holiday. We did this Dorset trip on the first Wednesday, leaving us with another week and a half to go. But unfortunately this is where the story ends. We actually, apart from visiting Westport, we haven't been out birding since. We did have some cracking days viz migging at Westport seeing another Hawfinch and an amazing flock of 62 Barnacle Geese over.

An amazing flock of 62 Barnacle Geese over Westport. Slimbridge bound? 
Its now November, and autumn has simply dried up. And so until the east wind blows, its goodbye for now in this strange Autumn 2017.

Friday, 20 October 2017

October 2017 - Gwent, Spurn and Northumberland

October wasn't go well for me, but there was always the two weeks holiday I had booked off for the last two weeks. Amazingly, Hilda's nephew was off for exactly the same two weeks. Unbelievable.

My holiday actually started off earlier than expected. On Thursday 12th October, a ROCK THRUSH had been found in Gwent. We tentatively made plans to head off early if it was re found, but at first there was no sign. We also had our scout Grizzly on site to provide us with updates. And it wasn't looking good until just before 11am, when it was located again. When you are sat at work, having had no time off for virtually seven months, and your boss is out of town, it was a very difficult decision I had to take. 

Hilda's nephew picked me up at 1130am and he kindly drove to Gwent. As I was being chaufferered down, it occurred to me on my last visit to the same area, I was kindly driven as well, by PJ. A little bit ironic I thought, don't you think

We parked up on a desolate hillside and calmly walked along a path to a quarry face. We stood with a small crowd, waited about twenty minutes until one member of our group located the male Rock Thrush perched behind a boulder. Eventually it came out into the open and we watched it flit from rock to rock. And there was my first tick of the year. Only a ten month wait, and a bird I'd dipped once and was thwarted on two other occasions. Unfortunately, the wind was howling and the drizzle turned to rain, and we walked back to the car.

Bunch of amateur dudes to be honest. More interested in chatting and one mistook a Wheatear for the Rock Thrush

We returned home, and the next morning we headed off to Spurn armed with our bins and suitcases. First stop was in Easington where we soon found the immature Rose-coloured Starling that was cavorting around with the resident Starling flock. We always think its important to get the first bird of the day under the belt. Next stop was Kilnsea, where we eventually saw the Arctic Warbler in the churchyard. The area was actually quite quiet, and so we went for a wander down Beacon Lane and to the Wetlands. It proved quite productive with two Whopper Swans over, a Great White Egret, six Little Stints and a Slavonian Grebe. But by mid afternoon we decided to head home.

It had always been the plan to head up to Northumberland after Spurn, stay overnight and then look for the RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE in the morning. However, there had been no news on it all day, and that's why we were heading for home. We were heading back to Hull when Hilda's nephew noticed that it had in fact been on. We pulled over, booked a hotel and headed north.

Well it wasn't as simple as that. We tried to book a travelodge, but the prices were different to what we were led to believe they were. Then "the nephew" found a cheaper one, £35 a night, en suite and our own rooms. It was booked and sorted. Then he started to read the reviews of it. 

Well we survived the night. The shower was the sort you'd keep your boots on in, my bathroom had a few mold free walls, the rooms were tiny, I had coffee making equipment, my door handle came off, and I was outside by 630am. "The Nephew" had a worse night than me. But he chose which key to have.

So we headed up the A1 and stopped for breakfast at Macs. We were soon on site in Budle Bay. It took us a while to sort the area out. There were thousands of Barnacle Geese flying out from the roost, but very few were going into the fields. It appeared that only when the tide came in did they finally go into the fields. We found a nice spot, and spent nearly two hours scanning through thousands upon thousands of Barnacle Geese and Pink-footed Geese. As you stood there, you spotted flocks high in orbit dropping into the bay, obviously fresh in on migration. Unfortunately, no one had spotted the small one yet. 

At 10am, we made the short distance to Gosport Golf Club where the obliging immature Long-tailed Skua was still in residence.

By the time we returned, the tide had come in and the vast majority of Barnacle Geese were now in a field, distantly viewable from the Harper's Heugh layby. After a few false claims, we eventually were watching the Richardson's Canada Geese. It is actually an England tick for me, and a British tick for "The Hilda". It looks like some of the new wannabe's let this one waft over their heads even without noticing it. Apprentices my feckin arse.

I borrowed this picture from twitter and I thank the original photographer from the bottom of my heart, and if you are ever in England's finest city, I'll show you on a map where Westport is. 

And so we headed home. In the first two days of our holiday, we'd had a decent start. 

September 2017 - some more

It has been pointed out by senior members of Hilda's nephew's management team that I managed to miss off two trips that were made during September. I don't quite know how this unfortunate error occurred, but hopefully this additional blog will prevent the matter from going to the courts.

On September 2nd we headed off on our first official trip of the Autumn, starting off at Bempton Cliffs where a GREENISH WARBLER had been lingering for a few day. As we stood and stared at the bushes without seeing a single bird, we suddenly realised there might have been a massive clear out of birds. We did see Gannet though.

 After a quick sea watch from Flamborough we headed down to Nottinghamshire and Lound GP for six Red-crested Pochard, then finished the day at Rutland. After another run around, we found the s/pl Red-necked Grebe from the fishermans car park, and from the reserve, we had good views of the eclipse drake American Wigeon.

Great White Egret at Rutland

Eclipse drake American Wigeon

Video taken by Lord Lichfield

The other trip I forgot about was to County Durham for the Scops Owl at Ryhope. Hilda's nephew had a day off in the week and went then, and so when it came on again on the Saturday, it was too good an opportunity for me to miss and I made the solo trip north. Not a bird you see everyday in Britain, and looked better in daylight this time than by torch light.

Video by Lord Lichfield
The Co.Durham Scops Owl

Well I think that is September covered now. You never know, I may get the trips in the right order on the next blog.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

September 2017

Quick catch up blog with a quick overview of September. On Saturday September 9th, I was doing my chores around the house when news came of a juvenile Wilson's Phalarope in Lancashire. It was an easy trip and I enjoyed good views at Alston Resv, a new site for me too. Unfortunately it only stayed the one day.

The only other trips of note were down to the Weymouth area. Hilda's nephew shot down in the week to see the Stilt Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper at Lodmoor, followed by the Wryneck on Portland and the Woodchat Shrike in Gloucs. With nothing else around for the Saturday trip, Hilda's nephew came down again for an almost repeat trip with myself and The Stalker (no lying on the settee whinging his balls off for the lad - Hilda would be so proud). Unfortunately, the trip was to end in bitter disappointment and arguing, as there was no sign of the Stilt Sandpiper. However all the other birds showed absolutely fantastically and it was a belter of a trip.

This video is taken by Lord Lichfield. I have to point this out as I'm sick of getting threatening letters from his management company now when I don't credit his videos.

This video is by me. 

Other than a trip to Norfolk for the PGTips dip, when there were a total of five Clayheads on site, nothing much else happened. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Purple Heron in Lancashire

August just fizzled out really following the first two weekends. I managed to join the "I dipped the Caspian Tern twice" club but it wasn't until the Bank Holiday weekend that we all popped out again.

Saturday August 26th started like any normal Saturday used to at Westport. As soon as news broke, The Stalker joined us and we headed up to Leighton Moss. We walked straight to one of the hides and there was the juv Purple Heron feeding away in the reeds. The hide was packed, and there were even some birdwatchers among the crowd.

Struggling as to where to go next, I suggested a Black Grouse site I had visited in 2001. Obviously a sunny afternoon at the end of August is prime time to see Black Grouse so we didn't really know what to expect. The drive took over an hour, but the scenery was nice and it was part of the world we don't visit very often. And when we arrived there were two Black Grouse sat in a field. Result!

And finally to catch up we headed off to Bempton on September 2nd to photograph some Gannets. And amazingly we found some. Not in the bushes as expected, but on the cliff face.

On the way back home we called into Lound GP for six Red-crested Pochards and then to Rutland for the summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe and an eclipse drake American Wigeon.

Oh and then there was this.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

To Murcar and beyond....

A quick advert from our unofficial sponsors tonight.

And a little bit of music to listen to while reading the blog. 

Apologies for the last post. A real low point in Clayhead blog history. Even lower than the blog about Mr Wrong Trousers and Mr Duck-on-a-rope Man (showing well hey - tug it in a bit to get it closer).  

Anyway, back to Murcar. I can't even remember where I got to. Oh yes, that dreadful song...

Right. We headed up to Murcar with the intention of if we didn't see it on the Friday, we could stay the Saturday. Just to recap, it was Shirley Not, Hilda's nephew and The Stalker who headed north. We parked up by the now very familiar Murcar Golf Course and walked out to the beach.

Hard to know what to caption for this photo but here goes - Entrance sign to Murcar Golf Club
We met two birders coming the other way. As often happens, they instantly recognised us and started chatting, asking for photo's, autographs, merchandise, you know the usual stuff. Anyway, they had seen the WWS and told us where to view from, and what else was in the flock. Result. We almost started grinning, but it did put a spring in the step of The Stalker (wow he can jog on a sandy beach. Olympic standard beach walker) and Shirley Not. Unfortunately Hilda's nephew decided to admire the view and do a bit of beach combing. 

We walked down the beach to the first pill box. Yes there were a few Scoter but The "Mo Farah-esque" Stalker decided it was the next pillbox that we should walk to. It was a Blakeney Point type walk; constantly looking for some hard sand. We must have walked nearly 15 miles down that beach to the 2nd pill box. 

We set our scopes up. It was a decent sized Scoter flock. We scanned expectantly. We soon found a Surf Scoter which was good news - the two birders we met told us there was a Surfie in the same flock.

We scanned that flock for hours. We made a decision to head off up to the dunes to gain a bit of height and this made viewing slightly easier. It was amazing to see an active Scoter flock in action. What amazed us was that all the Eider were grouped together, all the Velvets were together and the rest was on the edge. We watched the whole flock go to sleep. We watched a small group of Velvets start to feed, then after over three hours of scanning, we spotted a Velvet with a slightly more pronounced eye patch. And we all watched it. And we all saw it. And we all knew it was the adult White-winged Scoter. And the we sort of breathed a sigh of relief. It was tough birding.

Celebrate? Not really. Late to the party? Not really. Some of us saw it in 2011 so if anyone was late to the party it was the 2016 tickers! For one of the group it was the 3rd time he'd seen the bird.

The "late to the party celebration" photo.  
It was a relief more than anything. The afternoon turned into an attempt to re find the bird for more birders who turned up but despite repeated scanning, we never saw it again. We did see a fine juv Pomarine Skua and a Bonxie fly past, but by mid afternoon, we were fu@@ked, sorry flagging.

After a quick break in Macs, CJW headed south and managed to carry on driving to the borders. He did a sterling job and showed he was amongst the second best drivers in the car. Unfortunately, the Clayheads main driver had to bail him out. As it was, we arrived home well after 1am, due to a complete closure of the M6 in Cheshire. It caused mayhem. 

But it was a job well done.  

Sorry for lack of photo's and video's this time from Lord Lichfield. You should have heard RBA shouting down the phone at him. All I could hear were the words incompetent, fraud and amateur being said. Anyway, here's the only other picture taken that day

But at least you didn't have to listen to the world's worst song again. When I'm driving, that was the sort of music we listen to. Fantastic hey!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Murcar Golf Course - Hilda's nephew follows last years birders and turns up late for a party

Following our long weekend off in Penzance, I had the following weekend extended-off type thing too. There was only one place to go. And that was to get the Monkey off Hilda's nephew's back. So we headed to the vets...

The Aberdeen WHITE-WINGED SCOTER had been seen on a fairly regular basis, but only at weekends, but we realised this was probably only when anyone was looking for it. 

We decided to head up on Friday 11th August, give it a go and if necessary, stay overnight and look again on the Saturday. We knew there were rooms at the Travelodge/Premier Inn for £35. 

This would be the 4th attempt Hilda's nephew had made for the WWS. The first, in 2011 when it was first seen was bizarre to say the least. Here is what I wrote about it at the time -

"I walked out of the house at 01-50hrs and received a text from CJW. He had arranged for someone to come round and pick his dog up as we were probably going to be out all day. However, the person had not turned up. CJW was walking up and down the street looking for anyone to who could help, but, not surprisingly, there was no one about. Reluctantly, having waited to see if the dog sitter turned up, at 02-30hrs we had to set off without CJW. "

He also missed it twice last year, and so we needed to break the cycle and get this bird in the hat. The trio of Shirley, Hilda's nephew and The Stalker set off at 2am or 3am, I can't honestly remember. But we set off at a ridiculously early hour with Hilda's nephew driving. 

After 3hrs, he put his flaming music on again, including this song which I think is the worst song ever written in the history of popular music. See if you can listen to all of this without turning it off. There's a free seat and all expenses paid trip courtesy of the Clayheads the next time we go to Rothwell for those who manage it!!  So six mins and 29 secs of this turgid monotonous tripe. Good luck. 

No point carrying on with the blog now cos everyone has gone. 


Anyone still reading...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Penzance Weekend - August 4th and 5th 2017

My birthday usually happens around the same time of year, but for some reason, this year it fell in August. Apparently its due to the alignment of Saturn and the Sun which was unusual for this year. If you want anymore information just Google it.

Anyway, we planned a sea watching weekend this year in Cornwall. It was very touch and go at times, as the Clayheads Chief hotel finder was having great difficulty this year in finding any suitable accommodation. Eventually it all came together following about three weeks of planning. 

Six of us were assembled to head down. The advance party of Shirley, Hilda's nephew and The Stalker set off early on Friday morning heading for Porthgwarra. Sea-watching had been excellent this year from here but towards the end of the week, when we were due to arrive, the winds switched to westerlies and eased off a bit. We thought about going to Pendeen instead, but then I had a brainwave. Why not go across on the Scillonian instead. It gave us two sessions of sea watching and we felt we would stand a better chance of seeing the "Big Three". 

Incredibly, we found out that the boat was full for the return journey, so it was out of the question. We decided on Porthgwarra as we felt there would be more eyes there. We arrived at 08:45 and set out our chairs and settled down. We were told it had been "quiet".

And so we sat there until just before 17:00. Occasionally we each wandered off for a stretch of our legs and a change of scenery. And at the end we realised we had also been baked to a crisp. We were all bright red. The issue was we had no Plan B. The rest of Cornwall was dead with absolutely nothing to go for. So our sea watch produced a Bonxie, a Puffin, we dipped Minke Whale twice but what we did see were about 500+ Manx Shearwaters and a final count of 99 Storm-petrels (I checked my note book as we were walking back to the car and it was exactly 99).

We did see a Clouded Yellow and we were told there were Grayling along the cliff. Sure enough we found them and that's my 50th butterfly species in Britain.

Grayling at Porthgwarra

My birthday present off Hilda's nephew
Hilda's nephew amazingly managed to find some accommodation for us in St Ives, and it took about half an hour to get there. Fortunately there was a chip shop in town and we all restocked our energy levels. We all hobbled around; our legs had seized up. Then we all started laughing as we realised we'd been sat on our arses all day and done no walking.

As it was my birthday, I won the competition for having the single room all to myself. It was fantastic to finally have some peace and quiet.

After an early night, we were up by 5am and drove back down to Penzance. We had booked on the Mermaid for a pelagic off Penzance. Following the poor sea watch the previous day, none of us were really up for it, and we accepted we weren't going to see much at all. At least the forecast was alright and we could enjoy the boat trip.

It was in Penzance that we met up with the other three. Grizzly had driven down through the night with former MI5 secret agent Andy "M" and Grant "Nemo" "Captain Birdseye in his early days without a beard" "Granty" Grant. They had tried unsuccessfully to sleep in the car park, and we found them still in their pyjamas, dragging their sleeping bags and pillows along the pavement. It was a distressing sight.

As we sat there waiting, Grant "Nemo" Granty Grant even then said he started to feel sick. He complained of the chair rocking side to side and he started to go a funny colour. A few moments later and the captain allowed us to get on the boat.

We sailed out. The sea was ok. We managed to muscle our way to the back of the boat. It was a good position. What happened next and for the next six hours was absolutely incredible. But enough of Nemo fumbling around the boat looking for his sea legs that he hadn't even packed.

When you don't expect the trip to produce, and then it does, well we all just stood there grinning. The chumming started and the Storm-petrels came in. At one stage we had thirty dancing over the churning boiling sea. Then the big boys came in. We had up to six Great Shearwaters around the boat - four in view together on one occasion. There were a few Sooty Shearwaters, 100's of Manxies, Gannets overhead, and a few Balearic Shearwaters on show. We had feeding frenzies on occasions when the sea seemed full of birds in every direction. We had Dolphins a few feet away swimming under the boat. We had a sunfish. I was holding Hilda's nephew for dear life just so he could keep RBA off his back for not producing any videos recently. It was a class pelagic. Some of our party had four lifers, some three, even Hilda's nephew scored with one tick. The Stalker and myself just enjoyed the whole experience. As inland birders, its not something you see everyday.

Conditions were tough for videoing, and Hilda's nephew realised that he was actually missing the action and so stopped. Even so, the following video gives you a taster. This video made me feel more sea sick watching it than the actual boat itself. The Great Shearwater video is when I was holding Hilda's nephew still.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Ha! Just when you thought....

Well having been inundated with emails as to what has happened to the blog, I've decided to continue and start again. Also I have a new laptop as you can see and doing a blog doesn't take me a whole week anymore. So what's been happening to the Clayhead's I hear you say. Who has Shirley fallen out with now I wonder?

So what have the Clayheads been up to since the last blog which I think was the QUEEN EIDER trip. Well on 16th July, Hilda's nephew and Shirley decided to pop over to Cambridgeshire for the CASPIAN TERN that had spent a few days frequenting a quarry there. Upon news we left Blithfield where we were waiting and headed off. Unfortunately when we arrived, stood next to the last bloke in the queue and asked "Which island is it on you Cambridgeshire southern softy" he replied it hadn't been seen since the first sighting. Ah we thought, an erroneous sighting then. 

Plan B was quickly formed and we headed over to Cley for the s/pl Long-billed Dowitcher that had been found earlier. We felt this was a decent Norfolk bird and in the end it turned out to be correct. A useful addition to Shirley's Norfolk list, which now stood at 14 species.

We amazingly found a space at the bottom of the East Bank (you must ask Hilda's nephew of the time when he sat on Richie Richardson's lap and listened to his stories of identifying Britain's first Ringed Plover before he went back to his Aunt Nancy for some bread and butter pudding) and walked out to the small crowd gathered further down. We were soon watching a virtual full s/pl Long-billed Dowitcher and the day wasn't a complete failure after all.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley by Lord Lichfield

We then went to Titchwell where I pointed out to my accompanying camera crew a few juvenile Bearded Tits feeding on the mud. Fortunately, Lord Lichfield again got all the plaudits for his fine videoing. If only RBA knew who really was behind these videos.

We also saw 5+ Med Gulls, Spotshanks, Pochard with young was a good brief visit.

On Sunday 23rd July, the trio of Shirley, Hilda's nephew and The Stalker headed off to Kilnsea Wetlands again, this time to see the adult WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER - another bird beer bottle collectors wouldn't leave their settees for. We were very fortunate as waders were zipping all over the place, flying from the Beacon Pools to the Humber. The small flock of Dunlin that contained the White-rumped Sandpiper decided to stay putt and feed. We also saw a Brent Goose - a July tick for Shirley. Our brief stay at Kilnsea ended with three distant Manx Shearwaters off the Bluebell. You are right, we could have stayed on the sofa but then again a quick dash to Spurn on a summer Sunday morning.....

And that completes July. Next blog will be about the amazing story of Nemo on the Penzance pelagic to celebrate Shirley's birthday.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Why do I effin bother?

That's the question many of you may have asked yourself. I certainly have recently. This morning at 7am I was walking along the beach at Borth Sands, Ynyslas overlooking Cardigan Bay. The sky was blue, the sea was flat calm and there was not a breath of wind. There were c3000 Manx Shearwaters showing offshore. Indeed why do I bother? I could have been sat on my sofa looking at my Old Scrotum.

Anyway the story goes like this. Hilda's nephew was working this weekend and The Stalker was away with the TA on live fire training. The AMUR FALCON had buggered off so I resorted to plan A and that was the QUEEN EIDER at Ynyslas. An early morning journey through central Wales with nothing much on the road was completed in about two and a half hours.

I parked up and walked along the beach towards the mouth of the estuary, marvelling at the thousands of Manxies flying past. They were even on the river itself showing down to a few metres. The scenery was stunning. It was an idyllic scene. But I couldn't find QUEEN EIDER.  I began to panic that this idyllic scene was going to bite me back.

Looking towards Aberdovey
 In the far distance i saw a birder who I'd spoken to earlier watching the Manxies. I walked towards him. It turned out there were two rivers in the estuary and I was looking at the mouth of the wrong one.

It had only taken me an hour and a half to find the Queen Eider but there she sat on a grassy island, preening away, occasionally stretching up and showing her head. This is my first ever Queen Eider and what's more it's a Welsh tick too.

As I stood there waiting for it to swim, the sun was beating down and I was slowly joined by more birders. You can't go far without meeting someone you know, and I was soon joined by the apprentice Clayheads Grant "Granty Grant" Grant and former MI5 agent Andy "M". They stood and watched the Queen Eider sat on the grassy island and more birders joined us and we all stood and watched the Queen Eider on the grassy island. For two hours she never moved!

It was at this point I gave up and we wandered over to the sea with the apprentices and saw a few more Manxies going past. A quick pop into the Dyfi Osprey centre and the day was done. A fantastic easy day in a beautiful part of Wales I don't visit very often. And you wonder why I bother?

As I stood talking to the apprentice Clayheads, Grant "Granty Grant" Grant mentioned he was a massive Barry Manilow fan. I never knew this and it turns out he's got every album he's released and has seen him 24 times in concert. He even showed me his Barry Manilow tattoo covering his entire back. An absolute work of art. Ask him next time you see him. So Grant "Granty Grant" Grant, here's the song you requested.

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Right I'm back. Let's carry on the story...

So Saturday 17th June was a baking hot day. Hilda's nephew was working all weekend so I went out to get a few cheap year ticks just so I could edge forward in the big race. I popped into BGP for some reason or other, I forget now. I've never experienced heat like it in Britain before. I think it was the combination of the grass, high vegetation and no wind and I just stood there with the sweat pouring off me. It was incredible. I soon left and it took me some time, even with air con to get myself back up and running. I did see the Doxey Spoonbill later.

The following weekend, 24th June, well there wasn't much to see, and to be frank, I just couldn't be arsed to go out. I told CJW I was having a weekend in. On Saturday morning I started cutting the hedge, and every so often I'd check my phone. On one occasion, there was a missed call, and a text saying did I want picking up.

Some forty minutes later, we were marching round Belvide. Steve Nuttall had found a quite surreal three SABINE'S GULLS, but two had already left. We reached the hide, and soon we were watching a 1st summer Sabine's Gull at Belvide in June on a flat calm summers day. A bird / occurance like this creates more questions than answers I'm afraid. The whole experience was actually quite entertaining. We shared a hide with two characters we'd never met before. One chap spent the whole time trying to find the bird despite quite a few very useful pointers being given to him. Use your bins first Mr Muppet, not your scope!

So if you remember, this was a weekend without birding. Following a call from someone, we headed out Sunday morning after Westport to another site. A low a behold we bumped into something else....a second for me in fact. An unbelievable weekend when you've planned no birding.

And so to this week. I managed an afternoon trip down to Blithfield during the week, and accidently bumped into none other than "Big" Dave Robinson, our year listing competitors. I pretended to be his friend and chatted away to him, but all the time I was picking his brains, trying to get as much info out of him as possible about future trips. I told him we were planning to go for South Wales on Saturday for the CASPIAN TERN and QUEEN EIDER, knowing all along that both birds would do a Friday bunk. I lulled him into a false sense of security, and he spilled the beans. They were going for HONEY BUZZARD over the weekend.  I'd got him. If only Tony "Big List" Jackson knew what "Big" Dave had done.

Come Saturday morning we headed over into Nottinghamshire, and we were soon enjoying the five Bee-eaters that have appeared to have set up home there. The place was busy.....possibly the largest crowds we've seen this year.    

There was no time to loose. We'd got a busy scheduled to keep to. Kilnsea was the next destination, but unfortunately it was Hilda's nephew's turn to drive this week. He insisted on playing a full 2hr long Genesis album at full blast for the entire trip. I fell asleep during one track, woke up 45 minutes later and it was still the same morose track. By the time we arrived at Kilnsea, both myself and The Stalker were goggled eyed, mumbling to ourselves, rocking with saliva dribbling out the corner of our mouths. You are right, the music didn't affect us one bit. And thanks to Hilda's nephew's for playing the entire Duke album by Genesis for two whole hours.

We were a bit worried about our next target bird, as the sun was out, the sky was blue and it had become quite mobile. We screeched into the car park, grabbed our stuff and ran hell for leather down to the gate at the corner of the car park, and we walked the rest of the way. The full summer plumaged WWBT was an absolutely fantastic bird. It performed very well for us. I do like WWBT and its always a pleasure to see them. For you "seen one once wonders" sat on your sofas, well this is my 13th WWBT and 6th full summer plumage bird. And I know you are wondering, yes, it's my 3rd in Yorkshire.

Lord Lichfield at his best - watch this in HD

Videograbs by myself
 It was baking hot, the grass was green, my eyes were running and I wanted the sneeze. Oh the joys of summer birding. One last target bird. One last site. It was another two hours journey. Lord Lichfield put some music on this time, and even he had to skip over the crap tracks. Unbelievable. At least its another three weeks before we ride in his juke box again.

Our final destination was the Wykeham Raptor Watchpoint, and CJW did another sterling drive. Just as we arrived we received news that three Honey-buzzards had just been seen, but by the time we were in place they had gone. In fact we had to wait probably an hour and a half before we had one bird wing clapping directly overhead. We also had three Goshawk.

Well with another five year ticks added today, it was a useful but extremely long day. Over 16hrs in the saddle, but we saw some decent stuff.

But where were Tony "Big List" Jackson and "Big" Dave Robinson and even Gladwyn "The third member" Bould? Nowhere to be seen. I'd fooled them with my fake South Wales trip, and they were in fact playing crown green bowls. When they saw our day tally, they hastily organised a trip on Sunday, starting off at Wykeham and then down to Kilnsea. They even resorted to Twitter, but it was obvious we had won the weekend, and they are getting very worried now. The gap now is less than 50. The Clayheads are marching on and they are too scared to turn around now, because they know we are coming.