Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Sooo, blog not updated for several months, pretty much standard for me.
Basically, i've not done any birding to report on. I've just been too busy at uni with, errr, assignments, yes that'll do, i've been doing assignments all autumn/winter.
I have however found the time for some volunteering with the Dorset Wildlife Trust, which has it's many rewards, such as this Little Auk whichwas sat off the landing stage upon arrival at Brownsea Island a few weeks ago.

Excuse the shite picture, digibinned with a naff little compact from a moving boat!!

I finished uni for the year on friday and since then i've had a few days birding the Somerset Levels. I haven't looked around the levels properly for about 10 years or so, so I was surprised and very impressed to see how the reserves have come along there. The area of land now setaside for conservation around the shapwick/westhay area has increased massively and theres new paths everywhere, well done to the organisations involved. It was all pretty birdy too, with Bitterns and Cetti's Warblers in particular seemingly all over the place. Highlight however was watching 3 Otters at close range feeding along a frozen drove, pure magic.

Anyway, any recent sightings will pale into insignificance with what i'll be seeing over the next few weeks. After a long period of no travelling i'm finally back on the road, with a 3 week trip to Nepal beginning tommorrow. It's a family holiday so won't involve the usual reckless pursuit of exotic rares, but should still be good fun. There will of course be pictures galore and hopefully a trip report (if I can find the time away from those pesky 'assignments') when I get back. Until then, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Small Compensation

Missing the Point, MISSING THE POINT!!! Shit.
How prophetic those words turned out to be. 9 days after I leave and the lads go and find an empidonax flycatcher. OK, so its not the first for the WP Yellow-bellied that it was first put out as, but anyone who knows how dangerously obsessed I am with finding rares can imagine just how devastated I was when I heard the news.
At that point I realised that I had two options; to crawl into a corner and spend the rest of the autumn crying, or to bird my ass off for the rest of the season and try and find a rarity to match it, however unlikely that would be. Obviously the second option is much more appealing, and aside from spending Sunday volunteering down at Studland with the National Trust, i've been mostly birding during daylight hours. Hengistbury Head has been the site of choice of site for the last 2 days, and was particularly enjoyable today, as I found a Wryneck up on the heath on Warren Hill. Small beer indeed compared to the recent fare on Blakeney but its always nice to find something unexpected and is exactly the sort of thing I need to give me the motivation to keep getting out there over the coming weeks.
Back to the horrible beast that is the empid, I can only repeat what I said about the cornish bird at the time. Willow and Alder are pretty much impossible to seperate. We banded plenty of empids in Canada, Least and Yellow-bellied are pretty straightforward, but even in the hand, Willow and Alder just went down as 'Traills'. There are supposedly methods of seperating the two using biometrics but we tried them and they all turned out to be inconclusive. OK, so Alder is much more likely on probability but what sort of Rarities Comitee adds a species to a National List based on probability. As many people have suggested already, I think the best bet is to just recognise the birds as Traill's Flycatcher and hope that soon some clever bod comes up with a way of separating the two conclusively.
Anyway, and most importantly, massive congratulations to James and Paul for finding the bird. As all the twitchers who visited the point over the weekend will attest too, it is an absolute bitch of a place to bird. Imagine doing that walk pretty much every day over the course of the autumn! This find was a monumental reward for a monumental effort, top marks to the lads, you deserve all the glory you get, and I say that with only a smidgen of the bitterest jealousy.

Wryneck at Hengistbury

One of many very tame Stonechats

Ring Ouzel record shot

Another one of the Wryneck

Friday, September 24, 2010

Missing the Point

Having left Blakeney Point last week, i'm back in Dorset for my second year at Bournemouth Uni. Mylast few weeks up in Norfolk were pretty awesome, providing some of the most challenging, yet rewarding birding of my life. Although we had no more rares after the Booted Warbler in the last post, a constant stream of classic scarcities, and good numbers of common migrants combined to make it feel like the good ol' days of the '70s. As this was my first season on the Point, I feel extremely lucky to have been present for what the locals are calling the best August for decades. Here's just a few of the little gems that made all the suaeda bashing worthwile:


Bluethroat- 1 of 3 seen in a week, and I think before any others had been seen elsewhere in the country!!


Spotted Flycatcher- ticked by one happy visitor as the bird below, jesus wept!!

Barred Warbler

Lapland Bunting. This was the first bird to be seen in England and possibly the UK this autumn, and appears to be spearheading an impressive invasion.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bootiful Day

You're probably thinking something along the lines of "What!! Joe's Birding Blog has been updated, that can only meant that he's found something rare and wants to brag about it to anyone who cares to listen"

Well, thats pretty much spot on. Autumn on Blakeney Point has been absolutely brilliant. With 2 Icterine Warblers, a Barred Warbler, a Marsh Warbler and a Bluethroat over the last few weeks making this August the best for a long old time.
Searching for the Bluethroat this morning, we were delighted to find a Lapland Bunting, the earliest record ever for The Point. We were pretty chuffed with this and assumed it would be taking the 'bird of the day' slot.
A last gasp tramp around the Long Hills soon trumped this however, when we flushed a small, sandy warbler with white outer tail feathers from the suaeda. Logic decreed that such a bird could only be a Booted or Sykes's Warbler, and soon enough the bird jumped up onto the suaeda tops, showing off its short bill, relatively strong head pattern and contrasty tertials, definately a Booted Warbler, GET IN!!!!!!

The bird proved to be very elusive and mainly only gave flight views, though it did perch up a few times, giving some reasonable looks to the few birders who came along to see it.

My best attempt, possibly qualifiable as a record shot?! This shot is pretty typical of the views we got.

The Lapland Bunting on Far Point

Barred Warbler from a while back.

One of a good number of Pied Flycatchers so far this autumn.

I dont generally twitch these days, but this Lesser Grey Shrike at Kelling made a nice day trip for me and a visiting birding friend from Canada with the excuse that he needed it for his world list.
On a totally different topic. I have managed to totally break my phone recently (too much birding in the rain in), and having recently lost most of my e-mail contacts, and Facebook being blocked on the work internet server I use, I am pretty much un-contactable with the outside world. If you're a friend of mine and want my new number, or think I ought to have yours, just drop an e-mail to my usual address.

Monday, May 31, 2010


You slave away all spring, you trek back and forth over every dune, you slog through every yard of sueada, you peer into every bramble, and you see naff all. Just one thought keeps you going- It only takes one moment, just one bird.
And as Spring fades into Summer, you start to think, will that moment come, has it happened already, and slid away unnoticed, has it....., but you carry on.
And then, just as you start to lose hope, and just as you least expect it, as you're yakking away on the phone, you glance out of the window, and KA-POW, a pale thing with pink bits on it flits past, and you remember that feeling, the feeling that just has no equal, and it all becomes worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fair Weather Birder

After a lengthy period of gross inactivity I was finally lured out yesterday by the glorious weather and the imminent onset of spring. A trip across the harbour to Studland was the order of the day and turned out to be very pleasant indeed.
With a total lack of wind, the bay was mirror calm and produced decent counts of 18 Black-necked and 4 Slavonian Grebes, along with a Common Seal, which I think might be a Dorset mammal tick for me.

Slavonian Grebe

Black-necked Grebe

I should have been getting angry at this beast scaring the grebes but I was too busy drooling with jealousy and trying to work out a way I could get my hands on one. I'm still thinking.

One of five Purple Sands on the rocks at Sandbanks, typically confiding.
My first proper spring migrant came earlier this afternoon as I took a run along Poole seafront and spotted a Sandwich Tern roosting with the block-headed gulls on Baiter Park, spring truly is on!!!!
I've got plenty to look forward to at the moment, first up being a ski trip to France next week with the my university TA unit which should be cool, hopefully i'll find time to digibin a few snowfiches and alpine accentors.
Most exciting however, is that I've got a job on Blakeney Point, Norfolk, for the summer. I'll be starting early April and that will see me returning to a more pro-active state of birding, and hopefully i'll manage to find a few goodies during my time there. I really can't wait to get properly 'back in the game' again, once you've lived on site at some migrant hotspot like that, its impossible to be totally happy when you're not!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

First attempt at blogging a video

After a promising start to the year i've turned lazy again. Apart from turning my head towards the shoreline whilst jogging along the front at Baiter park i've not been birding at all. Still, the starling roost in Poole has been good value. This evenings gathering wasnt particualrly impressive numbers wise, but there were a few cool little manoueveres and I happened to have nothing else to do at the time so thought i'd try out the video functionon my digital compact on them. this was shot from my bedroom window a few minutes ago.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The reason I own a DSLR....

....to leave it home assuming that it would just be more of the same stuff.
Holes Bay was excellent again today. A slightly late start following a heavy night at the mighty Sound Circus got me to the site as the tide was starting to come up. Loads of waders right in close to the path. Luckily I had the compact (just in case i needed a record shot of the Baikal Teal i'm blatantly going to find there before the winters up) so I could resort to digi-binning.


Adult Yellow-legged Gull ,a 1st winter was over at Kerry Foods with a load of mixed commoner gulls who had managed to get into the bins.

2 of the three Spoonbills present
Also had a Jack Snipe and 4 Spotted Redshanks which gave ideal photo opportunites for the DSLR but evaded being digi-binned.

Yesterday I only managed a quick look down Baiter and Poole Park before heading up to campus for a revision session. Nothing unusual down there and no sign of Barney G. Apparently theres been a few other Barnacles turning up along the Dorset coast, potentially wild birds from Holland fleeing the cold. I was counting it anyway but that information helps ease the guilt.


Buzzard causing the whole harbour to go apeshit

This Med Gull should be looking rather fine shortly

One of c40 Siskins in the park

The lotties were a bit more lethargic than usual in the cold

Pied Wagtai looking for a drink

Friday, January 08, 2010

Once Bittern.......

OMG, WTF!!!! Yes, I just went birding ,and guess what, I really enjoyed it.
Last year, after moving down to Poole/Bournemouth, my birding effort was embarrasingly pathetic. Having spent half the year living on the Farnes, with all sorts of cool seabirds and potential rares literally on my doorstep, it came as a bit of shock to find myself in a situation where I would have to catch a bus or walk for a while to get into a decent bit of habitat, this, along with plenty of other uni-based distraction resulted in me going birding about 5 times in the last 3 months of the year, a very poor show.

Now, i'm not really one for New Years Resolutions, all this bollocks about turning over a new leaf, becoming a better person and shit like that .If youre a rubbish twat in 2009 ,chances are you're going to be a rubbish twat in 2010. However, before I came back down here from Somerset a few days ago, I did promise myself that i would get out and about a bit more, and even decided to do a self-found year list to help motivate me. I got bored of the list somewhere between writing in Great Tit and Blue Tit (probably at Coal Tit come to think of it) so i've sacked that off, but the reasoning is still there.
Yesterday I went out to Holes Bay, where I was happy to see that it was low tide, Dorset birders will know that Holes Bay is never at low tide, somehow, its always lapping around the footpath and hence has shit all waders there, but yesterday it was absolutely rammed with birds. 500 odd blackwits, nearly 300 avocets and crawling with redshanks and dunlins. Unfortunately, I didnt take any gloves and my fingers actually stuck to my tripod so I cried off home earlier than I should have but I had seen enough to tempt me out again this morning.

Avocet at Holes Bay

This morningI went down to Baiter Park, where there were 14 spanking Med Gulls, all but one of which (a 2nd winter) were adults, like this one.

A greenshank was showing nicely right next to the path

Over the railway line this Barnacle Goose was sat on the ice with Canada Geese at Poole Park. A little bit dodgy maybe, fuck it, if i was still keeping a self-found year list I'd have that straight on there

After a six-pack of hot cross buns from sainsburys for lunch (my way of banishing any remainign thoughts of christmassy times and looking forward to easter), it was off to Hatch pond for a spot of filthy twitching. The goal was to see the Bitterns that have been hanging around all winter and started showing well now that the ice is forcing them out of the reeds. Shortly after arriving, one bird flew over and into the reeds:

Probably the worst photo of a Bittern ever, and my first (and still only) shot of this species ,as it dropped into the reeds.
After landing ,the bird only gave occassional glimpses of eye or bill from deep in the reeds. Walking around to the other side of the pond, a second Bittern was sitting on the edge of the reeds but quickly turned around and crept back in.

Little groups of teal were whizzing around the place. My favourite duck I think

This Goosander wsa fishing close into the edge of the pond, at one point it tried to pikey a fish off a Cormorant, but quickly got told where to go.

And finally, in an attempt to get ove the cold, heres a pair of Scarelt Macaws patrolling the rainforest in a toasty southern Costa Rica pretty much this time last year.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Costa Rica Pt 1

After Nicaragua it wa on to Costa Rica, via an overnight ferry crossing of Lago Omtepe.

Conditions on the boat were far from luxury

But were compensated by a nice sunset

First birding stop in Costa Rica was La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano. A day trip up to the grounds of Arenal Observatory Lodge produced a few nice sightings:

Spotted Antbird

Black-cheeked Woodpecker

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Green Honeycreeper

Crimson-collared Tanager

Violet-headed Hummingbird

Broad-billed Motmot

White Hawk