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...