Thursday, 18 July 2019

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Black Grouse in Wales somewhere

And so for our second week of our big Autumn birding bash, we decided to play it safe and wait for the news to roll in and we would simply head off. We had no plans. Our social diaries were empty. It was just a case of waiting and being patient.

By Thursday, Lord Lichfield decided we were simply wasting our holiday and a trip was in order. And in emergency where do you head? No, not the nearest Oatcake shop, but North Wales.

It was my turn to drive, and we had a large list of target species. First stop was in Wales for Black Grouse. We'd never seen Black Grouse in October before, and we didn't really know what to expect. But oh my, we were blown away by what we found. My largest number ever of Black Grouse seen in Britain plus a full on lek of 16+ males in full display. An amazing sight.

Lord Lichfield nailed the action. 

Black Grouse in Wales by Lord Lichfield

Next stop was Flint Castle for two BLACK REDSTARTS. As is always the case when we visit Flint Castle we dipped. But we did spot three Spoonbills on the other side of the estuary.

Next stop was the Fish Quay in Holyhead which again failed to produce the hoped for BLACK GUILLEMOT but there was a nice Razorbill instead.

Razorbill by Lord Lichfield
And so we spent the next two hours wandering around our secret "local patch" on Anglesey and as we said on Twitter, we were looking for an American passerine. You can close your eyes when you are walking around this place, open them again and you could be on Scilly. We intend to visit again  as and when we can this Autumn. 

We visited a few other sites on Anglesey but it was drizzling and windy and so we headed for home. The day had been alright but we had missed a few target species. We decided to visit two more sites and see if we could drag defeat from the jaws of victory or could we in fact salvage the day.

We called in at Llanfairfechan. The tide was out. On the point there was a Sandwich Tern roost with in the end over 50 birds flying in. We also saw a RTD offshore. But our target bird was hopefully on the stream we had missed in the very dry stream at the secret Black Grouse site.

A quick scan of the stream and there was a Dipper sat for us.

Back onto the A55, through the roadworks and our last stop for day. Llanddulas. We were aware that the long staying GLAUCOUS GULL had been seen "recently" and so we called in on the off chance. We parked up and walked down towards the river mouth, checking the gulls on the sea and beach but there was no sign. Well it had been a nice day out. We'd seen some nice bits and bobs and it was better than staying at home on your sofa stuffing endless oatcakes and bags of sweets down your throat.

We wandered back to the car and Lord Lichfield pointed. There, by the car, sat on the wall, was the Glaucous Gull.

Glaucous Gull....taken by me

 And so to the bit at the end. This week we are very fortunate to have a small contribution from the Berry Hill stalwart himself Mr Rusil Toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon. Following on from yet another sighting of a 1w Mediterranean Gull at that gull hotspot Trentham Gardens, we asked Mr Rusil Toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon how manages to see each year more Med Gulls than the rest of the good Stoke birders put together. He sent us his simple useful guide he carries round with him and has allowed us to reproduce it here.

Next week we speak to the county recorder himself Mr Nick Cluelesskowski as he discusses how to identify Great White Egret flocks in flight. 

Friday, 5 October 2018

American White-winged Scoter in Lothian

Well after last years Autumn holiday where it simply fizzled out, we decided this year to have an earlier fortnight, namely at the end of September and the first week of October. And the Autumn of 2018 has certainly delivered so far this year. 

Anyway, we realised that this was a holiday and so Lord Lichfield decided that we needed a trip out. And so we popped up to Lothian and Musselburgh on 28th September, with a few target birds in the area available.

Having been busy with alternative projects, Lord Lichfield very kindly agtreed to drive, and we arrived at the very picturesque Musselburgh at just after 9am on a gorgeous morning. Now for those joke birders who spend time just sitting on sofas, well let me set the scene. The sky is blue, there's no wind, and overhead you have flocks of Pink-footed Geese flying in, probably flying straight through the night from Iceland and at the height they are, then they are probably still heading down the coast to Norfolk....sorry...bit over your head isn't it.

So we walked round the small headland, checking the small flocks of Velvet Scoter offshore, mixed in with the odd juvenile Gannet and flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers feeding away. Then a flock of Barnacle Geese fly over. Eventually we located a flock of 40+ Velvet Scoter and slowly sift through them  until Lord Lichfield expertly picks out the American White-winged Scoter showing quite well....its head shape is totally different and we watch it diving away. Our first target bird of the trip is under our belts and by far, these are the best views either of us have had of this bird. 

While watching this bird, we also find a Red-necked Grebe and a juvenile Pomarine Skua flies in and performs in front of us. Quite a nice little spell.

Edinburgh in the distance. Blimey we should have stayed at home eating more and more oatcakes
After a brief check of Musselburgh lagoons, we headed off to Barns Ness. There were two target birds here and the first one, and a Scottish tick, was a juvenile Woodchat Shrike showing well by the car park. 

The lighthouse at Barns Ness

Juv Woodchat Shrike at Barns Ness by Lord Lichfield
Its just full of shit....

Unfortunately, despite waiting for over two hours, the ROSE-COLOURED STARLING did'nt reappear during the afternoon, and so we headed back to Musselburgh lagoons and saw the Pectoral Sandpiper and juv Curlew Sandpiper from a hide that had been built upside down. We kid you not.

A fantastic day was had and many thanks to Lord Lichfield for doing all the driving when I wasn't at 100% as per usual.  

Finally, hopefully we will bring you the full story behind the amazing claims by a Fenton Sofabirder that he is approaching 500 BOU. We bring you exclusive pictures of the listing police as they practise for the day when he makes his claim. 

 And a little song for you all.....

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Semipalmated Sandpiper in Lancashire

Quick Sunday afternoon trip up to Lancashire to see the juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper that had reappeared. I picked Lord Lichfield up from his favourite nightclub at 11am and following a walk of over a mile along the Wyre Estuary we were soon having excellent views as it fed just on the shore below us. Having been with Lord Lichfield on two previous occasions when we dipped, it was good finally that he was able to add this dainty wader to his British list at possibly his 7th attempt at seeing one. 

And as we stood there watching the Semi-p, news came through that a Pallid Harrier had been found less than ten miles away. It was turning out to be a fantastic small trip out.

The Wyre Estuary

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Wyre Estuary Lancs. 16th September (c) Lord Lichfield
Pallid Harrier at Cockerham Lancs (c) Lord Lichfield

Next week we tell the full story of the Sofa Birder's attempt to see the Westport Whinchat. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Sooty Tern twitch

So we'd made plans all week to make the long trek back up to Aberdeen to see the SOOTY TERN only for there to be no sign of it all day on Friday 27th July. We wiped the tears off our cheeks and immediately made alternative plans. 

Lord Lichfield has a great fascination with SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS and tries to see them whenever they turn up. He has already made one trip to Co.Durham this year already to see one - yes he's that keen and so it was an easy decision to head off to Spurn to see the SEMI-P that was on our favourite wader haunt the Kilnsea Wetlands. 

Lord Lichfield was busy partying the night before as usual at his stately home, and so we didn't head off for the coast until 4am. Grizz was already in the car and en route we picked up The Stalker to make up the classic foursome again.   

The journey was going well, Lord Lich was sipping his champagne still, The Stalker and Grizz snoozed in the back, we screamed up the M1, M18, onto the M62, the same as many many times before.

Then Lord Lich said......err "The Stalker".....the Sooty Tern is there again...we've got a decision to make.....

We slammed the brakes on, did a u-turn on the M62 and hurtled north. 

Well that's almost true. It was a tough decision but it was an unanimous one. We drove and drove until after about six hours of driving I became tired and Lord Lichfield took over the driving (well he made his butler drive) and then it started absolutely pissing it down. But every hour or so news kept coming on and it was still present. 

We parked up by the Ythan Estuary at 1330hrs, only nine and a half hours after leaving home. It had been a mammoth journey. And it was lashing down. As Lord Lich had come straight from a party, he had no coat and was only in his shirt. I emptied all my pockets, put my bins in their case and placed them in a plastic bag. You remember previous soakings you see.  

We walked briskly out to the hut and joined a small band of birders already present. We'd missed it by 30 minutes. It had flown out over the dunes.

We stood and scanned, it stopped raining and I went back to the car with The Stalker for Lord Lichfield's camera and my scope. But while we were away......

Ha I had you going there. When we returned four more birders had joined the crowd. Amazingly when we started chatting to them we discovered they went birding too....and used a car for transport. What a coincidence hey.

Then the shout went up.....The Sooty Tern was flying in from the left on the far bank. It was enormous, it was black, it was awesome. With a few flaps it was already opposite us and flying right.

It was a huge collective sigh of relief, it was a huge back slapping session, it was hand shakes all round. The gamble had paid off.

As the sun came out the Sooty Tern kept coming and going, eventually settling down with the other terns. 

And then the moment came. We were stood basking in the afternoon sun, surrounded by our fellow travelling colleagues. And the Sooty Tern flew left, and banked, and then flew straight towards and did a regal fly past on our side of the river. It was a simply magical moment. 

We drove back, stoppped at Dundee Macs and arrived home at 0010am, having covered 800+ miles. Another epic trip. 

And guess who we met....Yes Jacko, Robbo, former FBI agent Andy "M" and Grant "Granty Grant" "where's my lift" "Granty Grant Grant" Grant

Lord Lich was on top form and nailed it

The Crew
The master at work

Another fantastic video from Lord Lich

We discovered chatting to a local birder who shouted it out and kindly took the photo of all eight of us, and who we found out was Sir Roger of Tixall's lad, that the beach we were on was known as Echo Beach. So far away in time hey....

oh and a photo of the Skerries that I took in where's my sketchbook...

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Snowy Owl on Anglesey July 2018

North Staffordshire's elite birding team were resting on Saturday 7th July, as during the afternoon it was England v Sweden in the World Cup quarter finals. As always during these long hot summer months, we never took our eye off the pagers, and news came through from Anglesey that the summering SNOWY OWL had been refound. 

Along with the Shropshire LITTLE BITTERN, we discussed a potentially decent days birding on the Sunday, but I did point out that the SNOWY OWL didn't normally stay in the same place overnight. I made the suggestion that we could pop up after the kick off. I agreed to drive, and after picking up The Stalker and Lord Lichfield, we headed off to Anglesey. We arrived at South Stack at 1930hrs and it was still baking hot. A short walk to the moors and there was a small band of birding brothers watching a hot Snowy Owl roosting. 

We stood for an hour or more watching her, until she flew down onto the valley floor. A quick sea watch off the cliffs saw a few Manxies fly past plus a single Puffin and we stood and watched the sun go down to end a fantastic evening trip. 

The only other trip of note recently was to Kilnsea Wetlands to see the fine Squacco Heron. Our colleague Grizz kindly stayed overnight and waited for me to arrive and even saved me a parking space. Now thats commitment for you. 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Norfolk Moltoni's Warbler - When we met Nobby

The spring came and went. We saw some bits but when you try and rattle them off you realise that the quiet spell from Autumn 2017 had continued. Since the last post, we'd seen a few bits at Wesser, another blinged White Stork at Whitemoor plus the midweek Crane there, Little Tern at Rocester,  Red-necked Grebe at BGP and the Belvide Red-rumped Swallow but that was all. It hadn't been too bad a spring in Staffordshire, but nationally there was little to excite us. 

And so late spring came, and we had our shoes on constant standby just in case. When a MOLTONI turned up at Duncansby Head, the top NE corner of Britain, we finally started to make plans for a long distant twitch. We even got to the stage of allocating seat numbers in the minibus but it decided to flit before the weekend came.

And so to Saturday 2nd June 2018. A day of anniversaries.

It was fifteen years ago to the day since this photo was taken......

And four years ago since this photo was taken...

And two years ago since....ah well, we move on

The day started off at Westport as per usual, but this time we had our coats and a sandwich in the hope that something would turn up somewhere for us to see. After Wesser we toured some of North Staffordshire's birding hotspots but we found them to be shite and birdless. No wonder the regulars who visit these places are so angry and bitter. The drizzle came down, we didn't know where to go, arguments started, tears flowed...and you thought being a member of the Clayheads was glamorous.

We returned home to do our regular Saturday jobs.

Then at midday day, I rang Lord Lich who was sipping champagne in his jacuzzi. The conversation went..


"Not enough time"



Amazingly, another MOLTONI'S had been found on Blakeney Point. It was still present during the evening and we decided to head off at 0400hrs the following evening. The twitch was on.

Lord Lich volunteered to drive, and we picked up The Stalker en route. The soft top Range Rover simply ate the miles up, and the on board hostess made sure we were well looked after. We parked up at Cley Coastguards at 0730hrs, already aware that the MOLTONI'S was still present. We headed off while the rest of the Staffs birders were still asleep.

Lord Lich and The Stalker yomping out to the Point

It was a little bit misty
Following a long winter visiting the gym daily and practising on the special shingle covered tread mill, we found the walk to the point very easy this year, and within 20 minutes we were stood with the 20+ birders on site who also hasn't had a lie in and made the correct call.

It was a long hours wait before we had any action. A Blakeney stalwart soon spotted us and came and stood by us, and asked us how Westport was doing this spring. It was good to compare the two sites and it was amazing to hear how similar the sites had fared. He said there had been very few waders on Blakeney this spring, exactly the same as Westport would you believe.

Then a little further down the line, a shout went up. We moved down and we were soon watching the drake Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler perched up in a bramble. We found out the bloke shouting out the directions was called Nobby and he even made sure we had all seen it. What a true gent and we decided that Nobby is going to be made a honorary member of the Clayheads.

We watched it feed and flit around on and off for about an hour, and Lord Lich managed to get some video. Then at 10:15hrs, it became restless and flew over to the Alder Fly plantation before flying off into the distance down the point and lost to view. It was a most unexpected end to the visit

It wasn't the largest crowd at first

We headed off back to the car, and as we were walking downhill, we were back within 15 minutes of setting off. The Staffordshire Birding Club minibus had finally arrived, and we said hello to the Steve twins...Steve Belvide and Steve Gailey, I shook hands with Mr Chairman...Sir Roger Tixall-Broadbent, a nice brief chat with Clayhead Richard Sutton whom I hadn't seen in ages and finally Young Billy Bateman  was folding away his duvet and getting the grass out of his hair as we passed. So good to see warm friendly faces and we wished them well.

The Stalker was very pleased with his visit and struggled to contain his excitement. 

All videos in the blog are taken by the Lord Lichfield Video Company and are produced here without his permission.

And so after a very short break for a short healthy snack and re hydration, we headed down to Salthouse where we met up with our old friends Richard M and Steve G and stood with them listening to a Common Rosefinch singing. Eventually it was located in the hedge at the rear and we had brief but fantastic views in its brown-morph plumage.

One more stop and that was to Kelling where we had views of the white-spotted red-spotted Bluethroat while feeding in a ditch. By now the temperature was in  the early 30's and we spent time distributing water to the elderly.

Kelling Water Meadows - well the beach by it

And then we went home. My first tick since October 2017 and three Norfolk ticks in the bag too. A fantastic day was had by all.