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.