Monday 31 December 2012


Apparently, that's what Woodcocks are called in the US.

Anyway, it's only taken me all year to see one, but this morning it took me all of five minutes to find a Woodcock in my local woods. Makes you really wonder why I hadn't bothered to look until now.

So, that makes 161 for the year and a fairly 'average' self-found year for me when compared to the last few. It certainly felt a lot harder than that though this year! What with the gull roosts now gone, and Rookery being 'reclaimed' some easy things suddenly became quite hard or impossible. Still
It makes for a more interesting challenge going forward. On to 2013!

Best of luck folks!

Thursday 27 December 2012

Got my target

Finally, after scanning countless flocks of Tufties and Pochards during the last couple of months I find a 1w drake Scaup at Broggy.  This brings me up to my target of 160 for the year.  I still have to try and eak out a Woodcock from somewhere, so best not forget that one before the 31st!

That Bashford is very close behind mind you.  I'll have to watch him next year and perhaps bring in some sabotage...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Pleased with third - fingers crossed

Not counting my chickens yet. Saw DOM coming up on the rails and ran out a couple of times and snapped up some SFYT Waxwings and jammed in with a fly over male Goosander at Sandy Smith NR one afternoon last weekend. Hoping that should keep him at bay until year end. Next year might be harder to maintain position though unless I can get some decent work in around the wet spots in those first few hours after dawn before the scarcer stuff is found by others.

Here's hoping for one of these that I find and we can all see...

(actually digiscoped at Rainham a few years back - not MVCP 2012 I'm afraid)

Monday 17 December 2012

Solid second?

I've got just five more days in the UK this year.  I guess there is a chance I'll get a Woodcock if I get out of the office and into the woods.  And who know, I may even see a Waxwing (but I really don't think that will happen - they have avoided me so far this influx).  But otherwise, I'll end up a fair few behind Mr Blain.  Good to keep him on his toes and I'll see if I can do the same next year.  


Thursday 6 December 2012

Sunday 2 December 2012

Weirdie Beardies

Had a crispy walk round Broom this morning. Birds were fairly notable by their absence generally. That was until I got to G&M pits and I bumped in to a nice group of Redpolls. All Lessers unfortunately. A wander along a pit I rarely visit was inspired though, as at least three
Bearded Tits pinged to life on the icy edge - Marvellous!

Add the fly-over Waxwing just after dawn yesterday at Boughton End and I'm one off my target of 160. And I've still got an 'easy' one in the bag left to find...

There be Beardies in them there reeds

Friday 30 November 2012

Two-thirds of the Ivel Valley Dream Team Score Scaup

RIB: ''Darren! Have you got the other bird on here?!''
DOM (about 20 yards away, watching a female aythya swimming away from him): ''Hang on a sec', I think I've got a Scaup.''
RIB (with 'scope at the ready): ''OK, you can have this one then!''
DOM (now looking through RIB's 'scope, although it was actually SCB's 'scope, but that's another story): ''Excellent stuff!''
RIB: ''Ha! Steve will be pleased...I'll text him.''

It went something like that anyway...

R had found a huuuuge flock of five last weekend, so didn't 'need' Scaup, but he seemed pretty chuffed nevertheless, at what is a pretty scarce bird at Blunham.

High fives all round, and with a couple of Goldeneye found a few minutes earlier, takes my tally to 132.

Thanks again R,



A glorious afternoon around Potton Wood and the targeted birding pays off with my first Woodcock, around one of the Pheasant feeding stations. When flushed, it took off as slowly and laboriously through the scrub as Thunderbird 2. Woodcock are go!

130 for the year now, 120 of which on foot.


Saturday 24 November 2012


Didn't tick off Stonechat in September, so that brings me five shy of Mr Blain...

Lesser Lake Scaups

There were chaps with guns at Cuckoo Bridge Lake last Sunday, so I returned to do my WeBS count this morning and scored with another SYFT - Scaup - five of them.  Not perhaps the most likely of additions for me but I've found a few over the years in my favoured waterbodies.  This was a patch tick for me too.

Bearded Tit again

Had a couple of days off so have done some poking around the brick pits amongst other things, hoping to add a wind blown duck or something to the list which did not happen.
First added Bearded Tit to the SFYL 2012 on when surprisingly saw a male in flight and heard another while looking for warblers in April, then found again with more birds in October.  Now guaranteeing that I have used up all my Bearded Tit-finding-luck in one SFYL year, found another yesterday in one of the private pits (clue 1953).

Monday 19 November 2012

A cheap 'trill' in Caldecote

Well, It's not often they just fall into your lap- but I'll take it when it happens and to cap it off it was from the garden whilst working on the roof. Today's single Waxwing qualifies as carbon neutral and brings me to 122. A modest total compared to some and a late charge it certainly isn't....................but there are still a couple of gaps in the list I could fill.

Friday 16 November 2012


In this year of the Self Found Year List there can be no such thing as suppression. Keeping quiet about the good birds you find is merely good manners. It gives others the chance to self find the same good bird for themselves so boosting their self found list and self esteem. Indeed there can be no greater act of altruism than not promptly reporting the good birds that you find: anxiety in other birders will be greatly reduced, no more fretting about will it still be there and birders cost of living, well petrol costs, will be greatly reduced, no more dashing hither and yon around the county. Of course, your sightings should be reported to the proper authorities at year end but even this has an added advantage, the annual report will be full of surprises! 
And this explains why I am currently bottom of the SFYL list. It's not that I don't find good birds.....

Thursday 8 November 2012

Jack Snipe

Arriving at DWE Pits mid-morning, a group of Snipe were lined up along the north eastern shore, one of which was smaller, (relatively-speaking) short-billed and with striking, golden 'braces' and unbarred flanks. Nice...and with nine (Common) Snipe for comparison in beautiful light, an easy clincher, even at c.60m. That brings me level with Mr Palmer on 128, for the time being.

After lunch, spent until after dusk looking for Woodcock and Short-eared Owl at a couple of sites near no avail...yet.



Well, gentlemen,

It would appear that here's another species we should all be adding to our notional 'to find' lists. My money is on The Lodge...

Good luck,


Wednesday 7 November 2012

A six thrush day

Monday 5th November, Tithe Farm/ Deepdale Tree Nursery, Hatley Road, Potton: a rapid-fire 'tack'-ing at the foot of a hedge and a fine, male Ring Ouzel - in characteristic fashion - nervously and erratically flies out and over some rough ground to the sanctuary of the far hedgerow. As with many SFY-ticks, quite unexpected, but very welcome. A fine bird and certainly within my top five to find and see locally.

Following last week's Rock Pipit, which the 'two wise men' have told me I can have, this takes my total to 127. I refuse to tick the Pink-foot I saw with RIB though - there is no way I could have scored that with bins alone.

Not much to go for now - a total of 130 would be 'respectable' without transport (notwithstanding Blain's Cabs and Bashford's Taxis). My mind is now already wandering to 2013. I missed a lot of the start of this year, so target 2013 is 140 and to kidnap SCB during April and May.


Monday 5 November 2012

Clerical Oversight and Elusive Ton

On 26 September 2012 I noted a lone Lapwing flying north over the fields near Poppy Hill Farm. I did not realise at the time that this was the first I had seen on my local patch this year and did not add it to my Self Found Year List (SFYL).

When the Self Found Year List (SFYL) challenge was made in March 2012 I decided I would concentrate on my local patch of Henlow Grange as I knew I did not have the time nor, possibly more importantly, the energy to compete with the big boys. By the time the challenge was issued, I had already recorded 70 species, of which 52 species had been found on New Year’s Day. I quietly set myself the target of 100 species, a target I hoped to reach by the end of the spring migration.

Henlow Grange is in east Bedfordshire, immediately east of Henlow village. My local patch includes the area around the Grange, stretching from the A507 in the south to Langford village in the north. The East Coast Main Line forms the eastern boundary while Henlow village and the River Ivel are on the western edge.. This area falls in atlas tetrad TL13Z and comprises two 1km squares TL1838 and TL1839. The River Ivel and its tributary the Hiz flow from south to north with disused gravel pits, now converted to fishing lakes, alongside. Sadly, none seem particularly attractive to waterfowl. There is some woodland in the grounds of Henlow Grange, not open to the public, and along the banks of the river including small conifer and poplar plantations. The fields east of the river are mostly arable, growing oil seed rape, wheat and barley with some areas of set aside and a few remnant hedges. This area supports a reasonable population of farmland species, including Corn Buntings, Yellow Hammers, Linnets and Yellow Wagtails.  Alongside the railway are some horse paddocks with short cropped grass which are favoured by thrushes and Starlings during the winter months and Wheatears and wagtails on passage. It is possible to walk a loop round Henlow Bridge Lakes in the south and another loop round the fields in the north, but there is only the one bridge over the River Ivel. I usually walk either the southern loop or the northern loop, preferring the latter as there is less disturbance from the traffic noise generated by the A507.

NERVOUS NINETIES: By early May I had recorded 90 species including most of the common summer migrants and was looking forward to notching the elusive ton. Another five species, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Sedge Warbler and Hobby were added in mid-May, all summer migrants that had been recorded elsewhere in the county up to 10-days earlier. A pair of Shelduck flying over and a single Spotted Flycatcher in the lime tree avenue leading to the Grange were the only additions in June. And then nothing new until the end of September. I tried hard to turn fly over gulls into the Yellow-legged variety but lacked the conviction to make a confident id. I scoured the remaining hedgerows hoping to turn up a migrating Redstart but to no avail. A pair of Ravens, cronking as they flew west took the tally to 98 or so I thought.   

Only when extracting data from BirdTrack to write an article titled ‘Nervous Nineties’ did I realise that the lone Lapwing had not been includied in my local patch total. This clerical oversight meant that the adult Mediterranean Gull seen on 25 October, which I originally thought was number 99 became number 100. Not a bad way to bring up the ton!

Highlights of the hundred have been the Woodcock flushed from beside the track on a snowy morning; the male Merlin perched on the wires, which I originally thought was a Mistle Thrush until I lifted my binoculars (my excuse is my glasses were misted with the rain); the spring passage of Wheatears on the horse paddocks with associated Whinchats and the pair of Kingfishers nesting along the River Ivel.

There are a few species recorded in previous years that I have yet to see this year, so hopefully still a few more for the list.

Sunday 4 November 2012


Not a bad last-gasp bird for this weekend. I was really hoping for an American Goldie, but I suppose my 21st self-found Dotterel in Beds will have to do.

Rough times

I knew the forecast was going to be bad but you can't leave a site like Radwell alone and expect to get more juicy SFYTs.  So, with raincoat on, I searched the site getting wetter and wetter.  I've good memories of the flooded fields by Radwell bridge - I've seen Ruff here before in the winter - probably pushed our way from the Ouse Washes proper when they flood.  A good look for American Golden Plovers and Bono Gulls here but no joy.  Then a couple of hours around the lakes and a quick check of Harrold-Odell CP produced nothing for the all important SFY list.   But the flood was worth another look from the car.  Many more Golden Plovers and five fine Ruffs too.  Here's one of them, almost in focus...

Extension hampers SFYL action...........

Well, I think I've just about shot my bolt for this year. Watching the days and months go by whilst making cups of tea for builders and helping with the donkey work. Hopefully, enough has been done to seal the place up before the worst of the Winter weather.
This however has played havoc with my SFYListing potential and with DOM's inclusion, have now dropped further down the leaderboard. It's only the powerful frame of Roger Hicks propping me up!
Anyway, having done most of my totally carbon free list from my bike or sat at home looking out of the window, I was thrilled to add a long awaited Merlin to my list. It flew over my back garden just before I set off to The Pinnacle for only my 2nd Vismig trip of the campaign.
The only 'easy' gap left is Brambling- but if I want a green one, I will probably have to cycle up to Sandy and Vismig one- but negotiating  the A1 in the dark isn't going to be much fun...........

Saturday 3 November 2012

Is it christmas - 3rd November ?

A long walk around the hills this morning with dreams of shrikes and harriers. Did not find any of those but a pair of birds seen from the B655 just east of Barton-le-Clay were self found for the year - but I am not intending to count them on the list. I don't think they were wild vagrants from the US and were probably too fat to have made the trans-Atlantic crossing but they were wary and scarpered off through the hedge when I got out of the car...

Christmas did come this afternoon though with the sight of a Tree Sparrow on my garden fat ball feeder, a garden mega ! and a Beds self found year tick too which will save me a lot of potential walking in trying to collect before the year end. Hopefully it will stick around, can I then count it for next year too please ?

Friday 2 November 2012


About the right time for some proper geese and reckon this will do for the SFYL.  Sure there will be more with several records from Cambs this week.  Oh and a nice Hawfinch from the Pinnacle yesterday adds another...

Monday 29 October 2012

A bit finchy

The autumns going ok so far.  Filled in a Brambling sized hole in my list with regular vismig birds.  A run of Rock Pipits at various pits and even over The Pinnacle seemed to make them easy this year.  And the cream of the crop recently have come in the form of three Hawfinches also on vismig.  Now up to 155, with just one obvious gap to sniff out, and hopefully some unexpected additions.  Best of luck everyone...

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Rocks and mud

As can be clearly seen here, a fine Rock Pipit perching about as far away as possible from me, through the mist.  But that'll be another on the list...

Sunday 21 October 2012

Merlin Magnificence

Reward for freezing my arse off for three hours whilst vis-migging at The Lodge this morning was a magnificent male Merlin, which flew directly over my head and over two Ravens I was watching at that very moment.

Merlin - the thinking man's Peregrine.

That takes me to 125 SFYL.


Monday 15 October 2012

Yeah whatever...

Bramble Finch for me too.  Hard work adding birds these days.

Woodlarks right on cue

Vis-migging with Mark Gurney at The Lodge yesterday morning (14 October), amazingly we had one (or possibly two) fly over us us at the watchpoint. It wasn't necessary amazing to see Woodlarks (although fabulous of course), but more that it was precisely one year to the day that we had two fly over us at exactly the same spot.

So if you want to see Woodlark in Bedfordshire, stand by the gate on the new heath at The Lodge between 07:13-08:33 on 14 October.


Saturday 13 October 2012

Brambling too

Getting a little practice in for the Big Mig tomorrow and fortunate enough to have Brambling call over, then one calling in a bush and then one feeding on the ground in stubble with a mixed flock. Not only a Beds self found year tick but a UK year tick after the complete lack of them earlier in the year. First time out on the hills for a while without a chat but as usual the fenceposts looked inviting...

Fenceposts... good for chats and good for putting your tea on while vismigging.

Monday 8 October 2012


It was rubbish for them during the first winter period, but promises to be better during the second. Not entirely unexpected, a vis-mig Brambling this morning at The Lodge takes my total to 123.


Saturday 6 October 2012


A Little Owl and one of two Black-necked Grebes...showing well...

Friday 5 October 2012

Class act

He may have been doing a little less birding of late but Martin P shows us how it's done and pulls out a corker at Stewartby Lake!

"I had just completed my first scan through the gull roost at Stewartby Lake when I happened across the same "little grebe" just beyond the middle of this large lake as I reported for Wednesday evening. It was 6.25 and this time I looked at it properly! The clue on Wednesday was, of course, that it was alone toward the centre of the lake whereas Dabchicks here generally hug the fringes. It was clearly blackish grey and smoky white with an erect neck and slopy dark crown descending below the eye - classic BLACK-NECKED GREBE!  Unsurprisingly, it was too distant and too gloomy to attempt a thro' the 'scope shot of the BNG at Stewartby Lake.

 Yellow-legged Gull

My pocket Lumix around with me is paying dividends! After Wednesday's Stonechat and Whitchat shots at Woburn Road Wetlands, Kempston, here are a couple of shots of the Northern Wheatear and Yellow-legged Gull from y'day evening. I've even got the A421 roadsign in one shot in proof of location!

It always pays to have something handy in you pocket when you find something unusual whilst out birding!"


I found a Whinchat accompanied by a Stonechat c5.30pm y'day at Woburn Road Wetlands - I'd already got Stonechat as a sfyt at this site back in spring of course but Whinchat was a welcome addition.

Its been a long time finding something - June to September busy with family and house improvement reasons have seen me hardly get in more than a couple of hours local birding/butterfling/dragonflying this summer but now that all those nasty tiny singing birds have gone I can get down to finding a nice fat duck or gull for my list!! I've not knowingly self-found a Gypo or a Mandarin this year - yet!

And adding in the Wiles Wood Short-eared Owl (I never did find a Spot Fly this year - just twitched the Tempsford ones when they first arrived).  MJP

Tuesday 2 October 2012

My low hanging fruit

September has allowed me to pick off a couple. Not had a lot of self-found waders this year so a Greenshank in Quest Pit on the 9th September was welcome and also added Egyptian Goose with a number of sightings of the flock at East Hyde both on family drive pasts and while parked up to clear the scrape out as part of support to my sons DofE award volunteering experience. For any other prospective tickers of these Gypos, make sure you are not looking for them specifically as you drive down the B653 and watch out they are not in Herts. A female Stonechat at Pegsdon on 29th Sept completed the month (and the list of the chalk hill migrants that I was aiming for this year), anything left now is difficult.

So what are my low hanging fruits to pluck in the last few months of the year...?

I could not justify any of my Goosander this year for the SFYL so that has got to be one, also Med Gull, Brambling, Short-eared Owl and Kittiwake are dangling out there somewhere. That leaves me with two from Bittern, Tree Sparrow or Lesser 'pecker to make 140. Any other hits when visiting the wet stuff will be a bonus. SO Target set... brownie points in the bank... and a new flask for vis mig mornings... now where is my SFYL rarity ?

Thursday 27 September 2012

Stone the chats

Not really a problem to find, but you've got to get out there. Here's Mr Blain phone-digi-scoping one of them.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

What's left?

So...I think I'm in with a shot of around 20 more species (given my normal birding habits and sites)
Black-necked Grebe - always possible at Radders and H-O CP, P F and W F Gooses at Radwell - almost annual.  Whooper too would not seem unlikely.  Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl around Thurleigh - maybe a Marsh Harrier but running out of time - likewise Osprey.  Waders - might get a Little Stint, Ruff, Curlew Sand or Black-tailed Godwit on a lunchtime trip to Broom - but that isn't going well having missed out on finding the Pec (SCB and I went to GLE at lunch in the rain, just before Martin found it).  Woodcock - no problem in the winter woods.  Med Gull - might get one if I can find some gulls to look through.  Rock and Water Pipit are possible if I crank up the visits to Willington and Broom - wandering the edges of the lakes.  Waxwing, Woodlark, Ring Ouzel, Brambling - all possible if I do a bit of Viz migging (which I don't generally!) and assuming we get an influx.  Stonechat - unlucky not to find one but not always that easy. 

Plenty to look for and winter is about the best time for my sites - I'd swap all the above for an American Wigeon at Radwell mind you...

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Stuff left to find...

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote out a list of birds I consider it still possible to find/ jam in on before the year end:

  • Water Rail
  • Merlin
  • Ring Ouzel
  • Stonechat
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Hen Harrier
  • Goldeneye
  • Woodcock
  • Jack Snipe
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Yellow-legged Gull (time running out!)
  • Brambling
  • Woodlark
  • Rock Pipit
If I give Messrs. Hicks, Burgess and Palmer a run for their money and get to 130, I will be quite pleased. What's on our other correspondents' hit-lists?


Thursday 13 September 2012

Making up for lost time...

Having missed the key Spring migration period through illness, I am more than making up for lost time this autumn. Once again, little-watched backwaters are reaping the dividends for me. This morning, the disused quarry on Common Road, Potton (site of recent Tree Pipit and Peregrine) again produced the goods with a fly-over, unseen but unmistakable, calling Grey Plover.

P-yuu-eeet!..........p-yuu-eeet!........p-yuu-eeet! (with perhaps a German umlaut over the 'u' to be precise). Sounding exactly like Volker Arnold's recording here.

Very, very pleased with that one. But serendipitous indeed.

SFYL: 120
On foot: 107

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Potton Peregrine

A dawn walk around a local disused sand pit (site of a Tree Pipit two weeks ago), yielded a flyover Peregrine. It was a misty morning, but it was a large bird, with an apparently full crop. A nice surprise and 119 for the year now - 102 of which were found on foot within a three mile radius of Potton.

I'm hoping I can give Roger, Matt and Martin a run for their money, but I don't much fancy my chances as the autumn progresses...


Saturday 1 September 2012

Dabbling in dabblers

Decided to have a poke around the brick pits to see whether any of the mass of Garganey from the Washes had found their way into Beds with our first arriving winter ducks. Did not get a garg but a dabbler was Beds self year ticked none the less when I found this Pintail lurking in Quest Pit, looked most like a young bird.
Maintaining the quality of record shots on this blog... here it is,

Spooning at Broom

SCB 150th? Darren.  The way the sunlight catches the wings in this photo is magnificent (Mr Blain really has an eye (phone) for a photo.  A shock to us all but very welcome and very rare.  The second record at Broom and another notable record for Gypsy Lane East.

Remember kids, it's not the site, it's the coverage...

Friday 31 August 2012

The 150?

The landmark beckons for SCB. What is going to be the milestone bird?

My money is on Spoonbill...

Monday 27 August 2012

Catching up

No picture, but I managed a reasonable sound record of my two Tree Pipits from The Pinnacle this morning.  Not a bad reward for my first 45 min vismig session this autumn.  Quite chuffed with them!

Sunday 26 August 2012

Target secured

This weekend, I undertook a monumental tour of outlying villages around Potton, taking in farmland around Everton, Tempsford, Sutton, Eyeworth, Cockayne Hatley and this morning, Wrestlingworth finally struck gold. Not just one Whinchat either, but three in the same field. Persistence finally paid off, although I estimate it took about 20 miles of walking, several litres of water and a potassium overdose through too many bananas to get there. But it was worth every minute, with many other (non-counting) highlights along the way.

That takes me to 116 - 97 of which were on foot within a three mile radius of Potton.

Saturday 25 August 2012

One more for the list.

The mighty Radwell and virtuous WeBS volunteering paid back kindly this morning with a handy SFYT with a couple of Garganeys.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Hills

Two more nice SFYTs and an ace bimble too. Dragged my son up and also Mr Oakley-Martin to give him a break from Potton.

First was a Tree Pipit calling overhead as we reached the summit, followed by another. The first perched as you can see clearly from this photo.

Near the trig point, a male Redstart flew in front of us. Also two Wheatears and a Red Kite.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Tree Pipit

I thought joining this challenge would be fun and motivational, but boy are half-decent, self-found birds hard to come by when you have no transport. This much I have already discovered. Then add to this the lack of any significant waterbodies.

To date, the 'only' birds I have 'found' are a co-found Purple Heron with Steve (and I wouldn't have been there to bask in reflected glory if he hadn't offered to take me out birding for the day), a Lesser Spot, Whimbrel, Cetti's at a new site only a stone's throw from my mother's house (where I happened to be staying) and erm....some Mandarin on the local brook.

So having only been involved for a few days, I decided upon a suitable, un(der)-watched local site for Whinchat and went along to a disused quarry north of Potton. The quarry floor is crammed with ragwort: suitable look-out points, I thought.

I had scanned for about half an hour I guess, when behind me, I heard an explosive, high-frequency and drawn-out call. Instinctively, and despite being alone, I intoned ''Tree Pipit!'' I could now see the bird, bouncing nervously from its perch. It called again, seemingly looking for somewhere to settle, before with one last call, it rose and was gone.

Not what I had expected, but when is birding ever thus?


Sunday 12 August 2012

The policies

Following Mr Grimsey's fine piece in the Hobby about self-finding and whether it was possible to find 150 species in a year, I thought I'd write something on the subject.  Without ever having done such a challenge, I too wondered.  As Mr Blain is showing (on 147 by August), it certainly is possible.  I'm even thinking I should be able to do so - there are plenty of species to get still.

Before running through possible species left (for another post), I thought I'd muse on the different policies of those of us contributing to this challenge.  Feel free to contribute if I've made incorrect assumptions on your birding habits!  I think, to stand a chance, you either need to go birding all the time, or consider what you need to do to find the species you wouldn't normally find in a year.

SCB - very active - lots of free time before and after work (no kids) and very active.  No site really out of the question for him but lives near to Broom.  Also undertaking some decent ornithology and thinking about birding that contributes to the county - like looking for breeding Firecrests.  Did I mention he was very active?

RIB - less time but keen on regularly hitting some hotspots at the weekend early in the morning and with the opportunity to hit the Ivel Valley sites at lunchtime from work.  Also a serial surveyor - particularly WeBS, which is a useful policy for finding wildfowl.  Has been encouraged to look at gulls this year.

MJP - active birder but more so outside of summer, living next to some fine habitat and frequents one or two of the top county sites.  Also an active year lister so uses that as a driver to get out and about - in doing so, finds good birds.  Expect some serious late season action when the pollen disappears...

AG - Like RIB above - aware of the importance of making the most of birding time - good access to the hills and and make useful dents in the passage migrant list by doing so.  Tactical birder (claiming you need to be living in Luton, where water is rationed) will hit some of the wetter sites when others least expect it and find a fair crop of wildfowl and waders.  One to keep an eye on.

MB - Policy of no car, preferring bike and foot and mainly around Broom.  WeBS surveyor and often very active at key times - at one of the best sites to find your own birds (if you beat the others to them).  Impressive total so far considering no discernible carbon footprint.

RH - Also a local patch worker, sticking mainly to the home area - wanders for long periods of time, notebook at the ready, collecting valuable self found birds though handy local knowledge built up over time of the 10km square he lives in.

DOM - A late entry but joining in the fun of the game showing us what is possible solely on foot and mainly wandering around unpromising farmland, far away from any water - rarely finding any waterfowl but generating fabulous records for the county (and Birdtracking them all).


Wednesday 8 August 2012


One more for the SFYL but no closer to SCB's total, as he was standing next to me when we found a Whinchat at Furzenhall Chat Emporium today. This is a photo of the bush it was on a second before I pressed the button.

Monday 6 August 2012

More large gulls

How about this one then, a quick bit of low quality phone scoping and you can call whatever species you like!  Go on then, dare you make a suggestion?

Not only Grimsey can do gulls...

Many, many gulls on the airfield tonight.  Among them, a fine adult Yellow-legged Gull - maybe a couple of juvs but will spare the public those shots.  Also another adult gull with pale yellow legs which would be great to call a Caspian but I need a second opinion...

Saturday 4 August 2012

Waiting again...

Well, I've driven by a few but thought I should find my own flock of gulls with a YLG or two. So with a trip to Tesco (Eynesbury) on the agenda, I went via Thurleigh where some big gulls loaf. None there but a distant tractor doing some churning was worth following up. Twenty one LBB gulls and a Common Gull. Next time.


Matt and Richard just waiting for Andy G to turn up to an Avifauna meeting. As you can see, they found the perfect seat for him.

And yes, as you might have guessed, there are no birds around to find at the moment!

Friday 3 August 2012

michaellis delays beer

Heading down the Barton cutting for Silsoe with a pint of Wherry beckoning, the beer had to take temporary second place to the sight of my first bit of ploughing of the autumn. Pulling up it was clear that a good flock of gulls was feeding and roosting on the fields and after a few barren minutes I was able to pull out an adult and sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst a hundred or so Lesser Blackbacks and five Herring. So one for the SFYL and a site now found to check over the weekend for a Med or a Caspo. I did find an adult Med Gull around this time a few years ago on a field at the top of this hill opposite Streatley so feeling confident... just as likely to find a juvenile these days with so many in the UK

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Pegsdon: Autumn Visits 1 Migrants 1

Last Sundays start to autumn did not materialise as a result of being asleep in bed so it was this Saturday for the off. So far a 100% hit rate. After spending half hour or so around the side and top of Deacon Hill I decided to move off and was almost 200yds south beyond the lone tree and the hole, scanning the terrace below, when I heard a keen "hueet" behind me, which sounded interesting. So a quick run across the top to a position to be sunny side of the bush tops and a nice male Redstart was revealed. The calling and prominence of the bird on the bush top suggested it had just come in and it was not long before it moved from the east side of the hill towards the trig point, where I could not locate it, so I can only assume it had flown on westward somewhere. Maybe starting to get some of the luck that eluded me during searches for waders in the spring.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Autumn starts tomorrow

Not a lot to report from me the last few weeks as birding activity has been somewhat put on the back burner in an attempt to build the value of brownie points in time for the autumn by getting wom jobs done. Will be out tomorrow on the hills with my first attempt on the returning passerines and maybe a fly over.
My only real autumnal find of the year so far was a group of nine Shelduck flying south over Luton early-ish morning on 6th July between rain showers, presumably a movement from the north of England to the moulting grounds. Not one for the SFYL though which would have benefited more from a couple of Curlews  but the flight of Shelduck is more bizarre, more interesting and certainly more memorable.

Tuesday 26 June 2012


While bioblitzing at MVCP on Saturday I bumped in to a pretty scruffy drake Red-crested Pochard.  He was a real crowd pleaser for all those present on my bird walk late afternoon with everyone keeping tabs on where he went.  Otherwise fairly quiet during the day, with other highlights mostly being breeding stuff confirmed Common Terns, Lesser Black-backs, and the only breeding Black-headed Gulls in the county this year.  Also found a female Pochard with four ducklings on my way out of the site, which was nice.

What next I wonder?

Monday 18 June 2012


I've taken my time to get one of these on the SFYL and wasn't finding a tickable one at my usual haunts. So good to find one flying to a pylon south of Duloe. Still need it for my house list, less than a mile away.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Big and purple

Well bloomin heck!  I was only showing Darren the vismig potential of the Boughton End picnic site when I glanced over at Broggy.  And there it was flapping down the lake a big cinnamon brown bird with blackish wing-tips.

Theres a heron flying over Broggy sh!t!  Its a Purple Heron!!

Even at the distance we were viewing from (and only using bins) we could easily see it was orange. Luckily it was flying below the horizon as if had gone in to the clouds we would probably have been none the wiser.

It flew down the lake to the southern end, before starting to circle.  Unfortunately, it was drifting away from us and was getting harder and harder to see against the trees in the background.  We both eventually lost it and phoned a few people in case it dropped in to anywhere local.

Totally unexpected and totally awesome.  That is never a bird I expected to get on my SFYL this year!

Saturday 2 June 2012

Night time noseying about

I went into a couple of reedbed areas in the brick pits after dark friday night. It was something I had meant to do for a couple of years but with mouth-watering SFY ticks possible such as Savis and Spotted Crake, it was long overdue and I will probably go in again later in the month.  Needless to say I did not get this pair but an estimated four pairs of squealing Water Rails were actually SF ticks for the year as my normal search places in the south in winter were both too dry to hold any of them. One pit had a singing Nightingale continuously for an hour and Barn and Tawny Owls also heard. Now I am wondering what was that heron sp. that I flushed from the reeds in the early hours of this morning ?

Wednesday 30 May 2012

A very sociable Peregrine

Those of you who still need to find Peregrine this year should have come to the Birders Social at Silsoe last night. We found this one after only six pints each. We still can't work out why it didn't fly off...

Monday 28 May 2012

The only way to find stuff at Broom

Andy desperately trying not to find out what I've just seen...


After Mr Bashfords Quail sucess at the weekend I thought I'd spend this evening having a listen myself. I didn't quite expect to find one after only my second stop though!

My bird was at the top of the hill just outside Wrestlingworth, about 200 meters from the crossroads heading towards Guilden Morden. Also Corn Bunting here, and a reeling Gropper just below the water tower at Cockayne Hatley. A great evenings birding.

The last easy one?

I cycled out to some villages this morning to get Spotted Flycatcher on the SFYL and scored with two or three calling/singing birds in Colmworth.  I've now reached the late 130s but wondering what the next will be.  I think it is likely to be a couple of months away unless I get lucky with any other late passage waders or perhaps and Osprey.  Otherwise it will just have to be a major rarity...

Sunday 27 May 2012

Spot Fly Success

After seeing everyone streak ahead over the past month. It was nice to actually self-find something.
After seeing a pair of Spot Fly at Broom Moat House (which I didn't count), I finally found another pair at the southern end of Old Warden. A far more satisfying tick in a place I have found them many years ago before.
However, still no luck with Gropper, Nightingale and Turtle Dove. Also the search for calling Quail is now on- all pedal assisted of course......................

Been quiet but...

...this morning was better.  Failed with Quail after a couple of stops at Hatch Lane, Thurleigh.  Amazing then to hear one (maybe two) calling when I stopped at the A6 pit, Radwell.  Also some Greenshanks.
Then the third SFYT of the morning with a couple of Grey Plovers on the Viaduct Pit.

A little bit of irony for y'all.

Monday 21 May 2012

Lots of the same

With the challenge of getting a few more for my SFYL, I have put slightly more birding effort in the wetlands and slightly less in the hills for the second half of the spring with the hope of a few scarce wader ticks. Unfortunately they have all eluded me by not appearing in the first few hours of daylight at the weekends in the places where I have been. I have recorded more common wader numbers than usual a result of this effort with Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Common Sandpipers all over the place and good flocks of both of the first two.
Better SFYL Ticks achieved as a result of this early rising have been Turtle Dove (flyover), Hobby and latest a Black Tern at Broom this Sunday though missed out on the Greenshank that SCB grabbed.
Also seen plenty of Wheatear around this year and was pleased to capture this digiscope image on a tree guard near Gypsy Lane West pit on 13th May.

Thursday 10 May 2012


Running out of easy ones now so things will grind to a halt any day.  But nice to see my first Turtle Dove flying from Broom village to Southill. 

Wednesday 9 May 2012

On a Whim

A four-way self find this lunchtime with a calling Whimbrel heard by four hardy souls at Broom.  Steve picked it up over Peacocks and down it came into the field.  A Hobby on my way home tonight gets me into the 130s.  No nearer SCB's total though...

Monday 7 May 2012

Black-necked Spotted Turtle Gropper

After bumping in to three wonderful Black-necked Grebes at Dereks the other day, I thought I'd spend today looking for more regular migrants.  First off I tried Tempsford for Spotted Flycatchers and soon found a male singing and zooming around looking for a suitable nest site.  Next I thought I'd try Waterloo Thorns for Turtle Dove.  After a few minutes looking at various spots unsuccessfully I'd just got back to my car pondering what to do next.  A minute later and the loud buzzing of a Gropper piped up - SFYL tick number two for the day.  After spending a few minutes trying to photograph it I looked up to see a dove heading towards me - as I raised my bins I could see it was gloriously multicoloured - Turtle Dove. Bingo!  It was obviously belting north at speed, but my heart sank as I realised they're getting harder and harder to find locally.

Thursday 3 May 2012

The Grimsey bid staggers into May

Thought I was keeping up until the last few days… With the winds and rain last weekend, I recognised that I needed to spend some time by the water in my bid to keep up with the leading lights of Beds SFYL and started off well with Arctic Tern at Stewartby at 5:45am on Saturday but after just hirundines coming in for company in two hours on the stone steps, I decided it was time to move on for a while as there was clearly not a big passage going on. Just as I was considering taking the walk along to the Pillinge, I then committed the ULTIMATE SFYL SIN of checking the text message that I had just received. "F… and B…" Grey Plover at the Pillinge. Change of plan, somebody is already there and they’ve got the bird, so off into other parts of the pits keeping an eye on the sky. Slight recovery on finding a Nightingale in a private area was a consolation but then nothing else in any of the wader habitat elsewhere.

With all the birds reported on the move, a couple of lunchtime outings and two other passes through Broom area this week have found me just a flock of 13 Dunlin with no other coastal waders or different terns. So the long weekend beckons and my early morning calendar is set with a target of three in the spring passage specials category so I look forward to posting the tales of my Godwits, Whimbrel, Plovers, Sanderling, Little tern etc on Monday evening !

Note to self: If you have a plan, stick to it and do not answer text. If it is rare enough to be worth deviating for, I would hope to be getting a phone call

Here Kitti Kitti!

Hopes of flocks of feeding waders on the fine looking flooded fields near Begwary Brook were thwarted this there weren't any.  But there was this - which is only my third ever in the county - Self found one in 1988, one at Stewartby a couple of years ago, and now this one.

Right then, that's me off abroad for the next four days.  Very best of luck to my fellow listers...honest.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Sandwiches for Lunch

Having gotten up later than a late thing this morning, I eventually got to Stewartby Lake at 11.45 where it was of no surprise to find that Keith Owen's 2 Kittiwakes had already moved through (unmedically speaking), however his summer plumage Sanderling was still along the concrete slipway by the sailing club, albeit only for a few minutes as, when I looked for it again about noon, it was not to be seen and thereafter both children and boats arrived!!
At noon, I was scanning the lake to be certain that the Kittys had definitely gone and had only seen a distant single Black-headed Gull and a Common Tern resting on a closish buoy when I heard a tern calling - but what a treat! Eric had arrived!!
I reverted to bins and quickly found not one but three Sandwich Terns flying about in the nearest quadrant of the lake to by position toward the level crossing, east corner end of Green Lane along the north-east shoreline. They appeared to be a pair and a single as the two kept apart from the third bird and landed on a mid-lake buoy together. I promptly 'phoned the news out - it was 12.05. Sandwiches for Lunch indeed!!
One of the birds seemed to have gone within ten minutes but two were still present when I'd relocated to the breaker's yard, north corner. This "pair" then moved off as well and had gone by 12.23. I took this photograph, the best of a few taken, at 2x thro' my 32x 'scope lens and then blew the resultant shot up rather a lot more on the computer. Even at the near kilometre distance snapped, the large size, shaggy black cap, black legs, white body and long "dipped in butter" black bill are all clearly evident.....honest!
Later, I enjoyed further views of the long-staying Slav Grebe in the same 'scope view as the recent drake Common Scoter. The Nightingale sang sporadically at the north corner but my singing Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler of recent days were far easier to see. At 2.15 with TP, LC and BC, I enjoyed nice close views of the Turnstone found at Millbrook Pillinge a little earlier by DHB, then it was back for another half hour or so at Stewartby.  

Martin Palmer

Flo Jo working

Following a fairly standard BBS at Pertenhall this morning, I decided to briskly trudge the forty minute there-and-back to Spanoak Woods to try for Nightingale. Bingo, with two, maybe three singing.

Tuesday 1 May 2012


Egg sandwich on my face.  I've checked my Observer's Book again and reckon it was actually a Marsh Warbler (a well known mimick), doing a perfect impression of Reed Warbler song.   I've not got the time to fill in a rarity form so marking it down as Reed Warbler.


Looking at the list totals, it seems that RIB has seen a Great Reed Warbler! As it's only a 2nd county record, surely he could have told others about it!


Monday 30 April 2012

Florence OTL

I managed to add Nightingale to the ol' SFYL tonight with two near Sandy.  Unfortunately I was a few seconds too late to add Barwit though - Martin Stevens picked one up flying in at Broom this evening, and a lovely brick-red male too.

The shot of Matt above is him all ready for the in coming storm.  Fireman Sam to the rescue!

Thurleigh godwits

Well I never!  My fifth SFYT of the day and one I might have expected at lunchtime at Broom. Arriving at Keysoe Row West and scanning with bins, four waders. Flying away the blighters...but landing. Trouble was, about a km away at the end of the runway. But were they Bar wits or Whimbrel? So with just 30 mins to go before I had to take Frankie to cubs, I ran, yes ran, coat on and and scope in hand, down to the end of the airfield where I found four fabulous Bar-tailed Godwits feeding with the Wood Pigeons. Even managed a quality iPhone shot as the flew off.

Four Warbs

Failed Nightingale survey this morning at Wyboston but the trip got me Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler for the year.  A stop off at Waterloo Thorns on the way to work gave me Whitethroat and best of all, a Grasshopper Warbler - not a species I was expecting to get as I don't generally see/hear them in my usual birding haunts. 

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Sandwich filling

Some decent birds at last - but by the skin of my teeth.  After spending an hour at Roxton last night and an hour at Wyboston this morning, there was no sign of any gull or tern movement for me despite there being hundreds at Grafham and a fair few at Broom.  So after an appalling lunchtime (but thanks for the company Steve...), Mark Ward was sent on an errand to get some pet food by his other half.  Stopping off at Derek's he finds some Arctics (where we had none) and then on to Broom and finds...some Arctics (where we had none).  And we got wet.  Seems like after the rain, the birds flooded in.  I watched the messages of quality birds appear on my screen for about 20 minutes before cracking and taking another lunch break and heading to Broom (passing a tern filled Derek White's).  At Broom, lots of Arctics on show, and a considerable passage carrying on for the 90 mins I was there.  But best was the large white tern I saw on arrival - a nice 'grip back' after last week's near miss - a fine Sandwich Tern.  Also here was the county's first Sanderling of the year which didn't stay.  A couple of Swifts added another.  But no Little Gulls.  Can't be too greedy I guess...

Here's a shot of some Arctics and a bigger one.  Nice aren't they.

On my way back home and with 25 mins to get to the school to pick up the kids, I reckoned I could check Roxton in just five.  I did, and scored an adult Little Gull.  That's more like it.

Now then, House Martins...