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.