Tuesday 29 January 2013

Hawfinch, Lesser Spot and Firecrest...

...I didn't find any of these this morning, despite trying very, very hard. I bloody well should do really, with all this time I have on my hands. If I don't find at least two out of this tricky triumvirate before the year is out, I might just as well pack it all in and take up origami, or quilting or something...

I did pass two milestones today though - my 2,000th BirdTrack record of the year (that should keep the report writers honest) and 200 miles walked.


Monday 28 January 2013

The dreaded Text

I went to Broom today, in the interest of finding possible scarce wildfowl species. It was a 'safe' time to go as Broom regulars, Martin and Steve were at a text arrives whilst perusing the usual stuff on Peacock's and before I'd read who the text was from it was too late. 3 redhead Smew on Gypsy Lane West! The unthinkable had happened; Martin was off work on a Monday and ruined my chance of a guaranteed SFYT. If I'd been 5 minutes earlier they were mine...ALL MINE (horror film type laugh).

So a bit disappointed really- still, cracking birds and a site record count!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Bewick's bonus

Decided to hit the wet stuff for the first time this year and had just ticked the easy Teal, Wigeon etc at Chimney Corner, when I noticed a greyish looking juvenile swan on the bank at the back of the lake. Instantly switching from ducks to swans, some other heads were seen to pop-up and Bewick's hit the back of the net. Not only a superb SFYL bird but also actually the first time ever I had found this species in Bedfordshire. Two adults and juveniles, initially two then three, and reports from later observers indicated that a fourth had been with them, presumably hidden by the bank as only ever saw three in one go.

Moving on to the Pillinge, a Med Gull was sitting very visibly on the front of the roosting gull flock. I admit to hearing about it sixty seconds before just as I approached the watchpoint but I am claiming the find none the less as it was impossible to miss on the first scan of the group. (Same rules as multiple finders on the lunchtime run...) Same bird as the one in the Stewartby roost previous weekend perhaps ?

The curse of technology caught me out however on the Slav Grebe at Stewartby, I had not found it on scans of the lake from the sailing club and near Lagoon Corner so text news of its presence in Marston corner before I set off for a look there and the sewage works means another decent self-find for the year had to go begging unfortunately, but still a nice clean bird to look at.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Two quality birds

Good today. Was working at the Lodge today but called in at Roxton where a flock of c200 Skylarks flew over alarming because they were being chased by a Peregrine. Then another look at Blunham produced the expected Smew. Expected if you go several times a week when it's icy anyway!

Thursday 24 January 2013

At last.

After weeks of driving through towns and villages looking for Waxwings, I finally got some after an uninspiring but ducky trip to Blunham. Back along Sunderland Road for about the 30th time this winter and a flock of likely birds flew from the side of the road. Back into Merlin Drive and there they were - 30, 40 and finally over 60.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

A couple of wildfowls

My first Goosander of the year on the Ouse at Wyboston, and a couple of Egyptians at a secret location.

Not Lance Armstrong

I have a confession to make. I do so with much guilt and a heavy heart and hope that I can be forgiven to compete again in the future - I have entered the zero-carbon challenge, but it has now come to my attention that I have been competing under the influence of non-zero-carbon products. I could claim ignorance, but if you kill someone accidentally, you have still killed them and should pay the consequences.

It is with great remorse that I confess that I have habitually been going out birding with a banana. Neither was this  a one-off, isolated incident. I conducted a systematic regime of perpetual snacking on imported fruit, some of it from as far away as the Philipines, India, Brazil and Ecuador. The illicit air miles must run into the tens of thousands. 

I would then covertly consume these products in discreet places such as Potton Wood, Biggleswade Common and the farmland around Wrestlingworth, disposing of the evidence in ditches, bushes or down rabbit holes.
I am sure I would never have been caught, but I felt I had to be a carbon consumer just to keep up with the competition. 

I mean, do my ‘zero-carbon’ rivals - Matt and Richard – really believe that the Shimano gears on their mountain bikes were manufactured in Bedford?

I would like to apologise to my fellow competitors, my family and friends. I am a disgrace to the zero-carbon, self-finding fraternity. *Weep*


Sunday 20 January 2013

Goose is good.

I do like looking through plastic geese just in case...even in a really rubbish year for wild geese. As you can see from this shot at Roxton, there were no goodies among the Barnacles and Greylags. But I finally caught up with Redpoll when one flew over this flock. My only SFYT of the weekend.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Birds with red bits - and yellow bits

I thought I ought to make a bit of an effort to make sure I did not miss out on bedssfyl Waxwing in January in case they moved on and no more came back during the year. Finally found a group of six on the Bushmead estate in Luton on a bit of footit this morning.

They always say the trick to a great bird photo is to catch the glint in the eye - got that bit right, should have taken a better camera out with me though.

Birds with red bits

Spot the red bit
After I left Darren this morning I headed to look at water.  I saw plenty, but not much on any of it!  Just as I was leaving Quest however nine Waxwings flew over heading towards Stewartby - my first of the year!  I eventually got to Stewartby to look through the small gulls and while sifting Common Gulls a bright red bill shone out from the flock - Med Gull.  Two bonus birds and Jay for today.  Will I make 100 by the end of Jan?


We had to give Blunham a shot in the snow yesterday. Unfortunately the snow won and we could hardly see any birds on the free water. Not because they weren't there, because we were in a blizzard!

Blunham's rubbish anyway...


One of the two
This morning started off well, with at least two Brambling amongst a Lesser Redpoll flock of c.30 just outside Potton. But it got even better about an hour later, when I  flushed two Woodlark from private farmland not far from Potton. ''**** me! Woodlark!''

Thankfully, no-one was around to hear me.

Now I had a problem, however. My mobile phone has recently decided not to let me into my address book. Consequently, the only person I can phone on it is the last person in my call log. That person happens to be my mother, who knows next to nothing about birds except that a Grey Heron likes to eat her goldfish. But...she has Steve's number! A quick call was made to my mother, asking her to phone Steve and get him to call me as soon as possible, which he does - arriving on site 20 minutes later. (My mother was a little...confused...shall we say.)

Both together
Veni, vidi, vici. Steve came, he saw, he...photographed. Hopefully, he'll attach one of the better images to this post later today.

Very, very pleased with my morning. I got my tactics right, having initially resisted the temptation to stay in the warm with a pot of tea, a packet of digestive biscuits and Jean-Paul Sartre's Age of Reason.


Thursday 17 January 2013

Duckin' and diverin'

Im having a nice little run looking at wet stuff.  The Great Duck Hunt managed to pull a Great Northern Diver in to view on a patch of water Id given up doing WeBS on as it was so duff.  So that was nice.  And this lunchtime I found two Pintail sat on the ice at Blunham none of the hoped-for Smew though.

Biggest gaps are Jay, Red Kite, Marsh Tit, and Mandarin, but as Ive got all year to find them Im not too worried.  But the big news is that a Woodcock zoomed out from under some scrub while out Duck Hunting - so thats in the bag already, 50 weeks ahead of last year.

Equally failed!

Spent a good long time grilling the wildfowl on the patches of open water at DWE Pits and Warren Villas for Pintail, Shelduck or Scaup this morning - no such luck either. Good numbers of the more common stuff though.

My only SFYT today was a Red Kite east over Biggleswade Common - then The Lodge - shortly after nine o'clock. Don't suppose my fellow competitors will be losing too much sleep over that one...



A wander around the wet bits of the Riddy near Sandy produced no Jack Snipe - just a couple of Snipe and some Red-legged Partridge.  I'd hoped to get to 80 species today.  I also failed to find Woodcock at the Lodge yesterday.  And then SCB nabbs some Pintails...  And I thought I'd be winning the duck cup.  Not on this form.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

LEO in the Snow

A fabulous five hours and 10ish miles in the snow around local farmland and woodland this morning: 9+ Marsh Tits and 4 Woodcock, followed by a most unexpected, flushed from an ivy-covered tree Long-eared Owl. It wasn't exactly on a public footpath, but there was nothing to say it was private either, so fair game in my book.

I have been kind of expecting Short-eared Owl around the Cockayne Hatley area, so it was a bit of a shock when I realised what species of 'eared owl' I was looking at. Fabulous. A self-found clean-sweep of the Bedfordshire owls is now a distinct possibility.


Sunday 13 January 2013

Whoop whoop!

A good day out in the field from 07.30 to 15.30. All my six WeBS sites covered and several satellite sites, all for the Great Duck Hunt. I'd finished Harrold-Odell CP and done Tustings when I looked over the flood meadows to see if there were any geese there. Thankfully there were so I stopped and raised my bins and got on nine flying swans. As they came closer I could see the were yellow bills. Hard to determine species but they had the good manners to fly over the lake and land. So I zoomed back to the park and there they were. So far, my only quality SFYT of 2013 and a species I didn't get in 2012.

Friday 11 January 2013

Keeping Dry

Am proud to produce a list today to get my BedsSFYL out in the open at a very respectable just over 50% of the number of the front runners but comfortable in the knowledge that I have not been anywhere wet yet. The list includes Water Rail, Moorhen and Mallard courtesy of a small spring fed stream in the north Luton suburbs but has left good gaps to allow catchup with the others like Tufted Duck, Coot and Canada Goose. Should avoid the former this weekend even with the Duck Hunt on my allocated patches in Luton. So far I have done the Winter Thrush survey, scouted lots of housing estates (unsuccessfully so far) for SFYL Waxwing and had a bit of a poke around in some fields trying to twitch the very elusive Great Grey Shrike (probably more of that in the morning when I can get down and dirty through all the back areas of its potential territory). Nothing of any real note claimed yet except Peregrine so roll on the 60 mark by the end of the weekend.

You know when young children hide their eyes behind their hands so they cannot see you and they think that means you can not see them… Peregrine on pylon north of Luton trying the same idea (HTC phone-scoped with the help of Darren Thomas’ Leica)

Thursday 10 January 2013

Late starter

First bit of birding yesterday following my Christmas and NY holiday.  I decided to check out Cuckoo Bridge Lake just in case the nearby Great White Egret had flown there.  It hadn't, and the lake gave me nothing remotly worthy of a SFYL gloat.  Still, at least I've started with 27 now on the list...!

And to confirm, the existing rules about self finding detail all we need to know except the "year" aspect.  We're doing this challenge per year, so we have an extra rule disallowing birds found in 2012 and then seen in 2013.  If you wanna self find it, you gotta self find it from scratch.

Here's to another enjoyable year!


Wednesday 9 January 2013

Keeping up with the Blains

I remarked to Steve yesterday ''I'm not competing against you, you know. That would be both foolhardy and unrealistic.''

What I may lack in mobility however, I can more than make up for in time, and as ''the devil makes work for idle hands to do'' this year, I am competing against myself. Birds aren't going to find themselves if I'm sitting on the sofa reading gritty Scandinavian literature or watching another Alec Guinness film - much as I love to do both.

No, this year is going to be a full-on, mega-bird-finding experience and I am heartened and encouraged by the start I've made. I think I can stay with Steve (and Richard) until February, but then I fear, they'll take off into the sunset like startled Nightjars.

I'll be very, very happy with 140. How about an enviro-challenge Matt?


Monday 7 January 2013

Timber-doodle tooo!

Another eco-powered few ticks as I headed out on the bike once more. I rode down Borden Lane near Old Warden and trampled around in some damp woods looking for a Woodcock. 1st attempt- nothing, then managed to flushed one whilst watching a Marsh Tit! A good start that got better when I found a male Brambling in a finch flock north of Southill in the rose fields................I'm struggling with the hotly contested Waterfowl Cup though as there is very little of note at Broom.

I see the usual suspects have raced into the lead already. The big question is will Darren do a 'real' eco list this year, or will he count hitching lifts with Steve as 'Enviromentally Friendly'? LOL!

Sunday 6 January 2013

Jack Stonesnipe

Stonechat, Biggleswade Common
Stomped round a few wet fields this morning and 'found' myself another Jack Snipe, along with 17 of its larger brethren.  Also popped along to Biggleswade Sewage Works where there were four Chiffchaffs along the fence line.  Also had a 'crest there with what I thought was an eyebrow, but it was too far off and I lost it - bugger!  Then went to see if the Stonechat was on the fallow field behind Furzenhall.  It was - a female type.

This afternoon I then popped over to Broom to try and see the Beardies - I heard them, but they didn't show.  Then back to the fallow field behind Furzenhall to try and see if the Barn Owls are still there.  No sign of the Barn Owls, but both a male and a female Stonechat were now on the reed stems - result!

Saturday 5 January 2013


Went twitching a shrike, and dipped, but found a Merlin.  Other than that just bits added today.  Hopefully more tomorrow.

Not a bad start...

At the end of day four, my total stands at 71, which is approximately 71 more than at this stage last year. Just working the local area - the Potton/ Sandy/ Biggleswade triangle - has allowed me to 'find' the majority of the commoner species. Highlights so far include four Ravens over West Sunderland Farm; a Brambling at an allotment near Potton and a shamelessly-tresspassed but tactically-astute found Woodcock.

I really like the challenges within challenges this year: waders, wildfowl, passerines...I may even have a shout on the latter. I'll just need to remain focussed and find a spring Wood Warbler, passage Black Redstart or better.

Good luck to all, and oh, Mr Grimsey - no six month head-start this year!

Right, off out now to do my BTO Winter Thrush Survey. Hope that my devotion to the conservation cause pays some personal dividends. ;-)


Wednesday 2 January 2013

Caspo; the ghost of Christmas past

Caspian Gull at Stewartby Lake
I had a relaxed January 1st – I began on Biggleswade Common where there were 80 Corn Bunts around the paddocks.  Next was Biggleswade Sewage Works where there were at least three Chiffchaffs flitting around the leylandi.  Then on to Broom where I appeared to dip everything on offer!  Ok, I saw two Shelducks, which is one up from what I was expecting so I’m having that.

The afternoon was spent twitching the Broggy Slav, and noting the apparent disappearance of over 1000 diving ducks in the last couple of days.  No Scaup to be found there today. I then tried to get to the MVCP car park but the place was shut!  The road outside the entrance was chaos as there were cars parked everywhere – why they closed the car park on perhaps one of the busiest days of the year for a country park is beyond me!

I then went to the Stewartby Lake layby – which was equally packed with cars – and looked at some gulls.  As if by magic, the first Caspian Gull in Beds for over a year popped out in front of me!  So that was the Beds mega for the day in the bag.  Not much else on the lake, so tried Willington GP for the roosting Bittern.  It was a no-show, but the Cetti’s pipped in to life.  Not a bad beginning to the year.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Back yard Merlin over Caldecote

Off the mark early with a fine garden tick. Apparently there have been a male and female around the Broom area today. Perhaps this was one of them, perhaps not.....................hopefully Richard won't try to wrestle it off me when he gets back from Thailand.