Wednesday 27 February 2013


Not what I expected my century bird to be...

With SCB this lunchtime at Broom was instructive in a number of ways; not least comparing our differing scanning tactics. As this is Steve's local patch, he seems to intuitively know where to look first and consequently, often gets onto birds before I do. I, on the other hand, tend to always scan a site from right to left. The logic being that as we are principally a 'left to right' culture, by scanning (counter-intuitively) in the opposite direction, our brain is 'forced' to take in more - or work harder  for - the information it assimilates. It seems to work for me and there is sound psychophysiological evidence to support  the theory.

The Dunlin was dull and about three-quarters of the way across the site from the right. But, when eventually I did scan across to it, I knew what it was and that is - after all - what counts.


Monday 25 February 2013

'Scoping Scaup and Picking 'Peckers

Two more nice SFYT this weekend, neither of which I got last year.  

On Saturday I got out at first light and having seen the two well-watched male Scaup at Brogborough and found nothing of any interest in a look at the Pillinge, Stewartby or Quest, I had more luck again at Chimney Corner South when my third male Scaup of the morning was found swimming around not far off the shore from the watchpoint with the Tufties. Back home for elevenses and some brownie points remained in the bag.

A nice bright one of  my own (above), much much better than the two sleepy ones that I twitched... (down below)

So Sunday gave the chance to go looking for some redpoll sp to scrutinise and I thought I would give Flitwick Moor area a try, lots of Siskins about but only a handful of redpoll found, all pretty standard ones too. Highlight though was a female Lesser ‘Pecker in the treetops of the wood itself which called a couple of times and was then found and lost and refound again on three occasions as it fed and flew in the uppermost branches around the central drain. And home for more elevenses…

Thursday 21 February 2013

Mealy Redpoll and Peregrine

On my walk back to Potton after a productive visit to Roxton and Great Barford with Richard, (more below), I finally gained good views of a redpoll flock on the Old Bedford Road that have been giving me something of a runaround. I first saw this flock of up to 60 individuals in early January and on January 19th, thought I had a good contender for a Mealy, but could not 'tick all of the boxes.' I even remarked to Steve about the possibility! Today, the flock was settled and feeding/ preening/ resting in a silver birch. Overcast conditions didn't provide ideal viewing, but at least one bird (a first-winter/ female) showed all the diagnostic features of Mealy: overall paleness to underparts, crisp, white wingbars, greyish brown upperparts and head, contrasting nicely with the mantle, and when preening, a nice, obvious, whitish rump. Another bird could also have been a Mealy, but could not be 100%. c.45 Lessers were accompanying them, allowing excellent opportunity for comparison.

At Roxton, RIB and I enjoyed a fabulous flyby immature male (I think) Peregrine, which obligingly sat up on a pylon for R to obtain some video. Near Great Barford, six Egyptian Geese and 68 Mute Swans held our attention for a while.

A photograph of the Peregrine will follow...

That puts me on 99. What will be the landmark bird?


Tuesday 19 February 2013

Lesser Spotting

Kind of an apt name for a niche, often fruitless birding activity...

...but that is what I found myself doing with Steve on Sunday morning. Predictably, we didn't see or hear any, but enjoyed a pleasant morning nonetheless. The Firecrest at Swiss Gardens (found by Pip) still hurts a little...especially as we had walked past the spot 30 minutes previously, and I had commented ''this looks a great spot for a Firecrest'' at precisely the spot where it was later found. I guess if we hadn't been bimbling and talking about babies, we might have found it ourselves. No hard feelings though - such a great, showy bird that I went back twice to see it yesterday.

My only weekend SFYT was Oystercatcher, with one at DWE Pits and  a pair at Warren Villas, which will not exactly worry my fellow competitors...I'm told I could have claimed the seventh Shelduck which has appeared at Broom, but with birds having been seen there since New Year's Day and six until recently, for me to claim the seventh as self-found would be cheeky in the extreme.

Spent Monday with John O'Sullivan (thought I should go out with a proper birder to aid my quest for self-found stuff), but didn't find anything. Thought I'd found a Scaup at Brogborough, but have now realised I saw several there on January 13th, so I can't have that either.



Sunday 17 February 2013

Just a tit

It was a lovely weekend, but pretty naff for new SFYL birds.  I saw Fudge Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Bittern, Firecrest, Short-eared Owl, Tundra Bean Geese all in Beds, but the only new species for this list was a Marsh Tit in Palmers Wood while out dipping Lesser Spots.  Darren and I even walked straight past the Firecrest in Swiss Gardens, only for Pip and Stuart to find it half an hour later.

Still, spring's nearly here...

Friday 15 February 2013

Get shortie

It's quite nice when something just flies over your car and in to your SFYL isn't it!  This SEO was a bonus on a quiet weekend for me.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Nailed some Pins.

A slightly late WeBS count from Wyboston because I can't raise them on the phone to get access.  I resorted to viewing from across the river from Little Barford - not the best view but reckon I can see about 70% of the water and probably 90% of the birds.  Well, it came up trumps with some wonderful Pintail and a calling Little Owl.  Add these to the Oystercatcher and I'm past 90 species - still lagging behind a bit though.

As for photography - despite owning a nice big Blain-style scope now, I'm still pushing out my usual standard of 'record' shot.  And excuses - long distance and 4pm tonight...

 The View
 The Pinners
Roxy Oyc

Monday 11 February 2013


Though I'm not setting the world alight, it was nice to see a few waders. Ringed Plover was expected- a single last week was joined by another for my WeBS count on Sunday.
But a smashing single Black-tailed Godwit was a bonus- and pretty early in the year compared to previous records.........................and I'll take only being 19 species behind Blain as a moral victory!

Saturday 9 February 2013

Red, some more Red, some really good Red and some whopping Big Brown

Saturday mornings at this rate all year will be most welcome. Another good few hours out with four more SFYT. Started right at base level when I finally walked past some Red-legged Partridge at Hollington, then more red legs on show at Stewartby where my first Redshank of the year was on the yacht slipway. Was quiet otherwise both there and the Pillinge so moved off to the lesser watched pits, usually a good move for self finding. Scanning the south end of Quest, where the water level has risen significantly up the reed stems, I was most pleased to find a red-head Smew which subsequently got up and flew right past going up towards the north end of the pit. Chimney Corner South had an increased number of diving ducks but no good swans for me this week so went for a look in the North pit. As I came over the bank at the north end, a Bittern rose out of the reeds just in front and flew round in a sweeping curve over the near part of the lake before dropping back into the reeds on the western side where it could be vaguely seen moving through the reeds before being lost to view. He's in here somewhere...

Friday 8 February 2013

More red stuff

I've been a bit slack on keeping this blog up to date with new stuff.  I've had one or two nice bits over the last couple of weeks to keep the SFYL ticking over.  Most recent has been the Mealy Redpolls at The Lodge - perhaps a little surprising given the dearth of Mealy records this winter, however the views at The Lodge are outstanding at the moment which makes picking through tricky Redpoll id easier.

Other stuff includes a bonus drake Scaup at Blunham one lunchtime.  Three Red-crested Pochards were at surprise at Broom GP the other weekend, and I also managed to jam a Brambling a few minutes later too.  Hopefully they won't be as scarce next winter.

May be now I'm coming to the end of my 'red' period?

Sunday 3 February 2013

Utter s*ite

Well, compared with AG, my weekend was a washout for SFYTs. A damn good look around the best wildfowl site in the county failed to produce anything new yesterday. And 30 miles cycling today may have bumped up the zero carbon tally but provided zilch for the main list. I resorted to watching a bird scarer because it looked a bit like a harrier.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Another good Saturday morning

Another go through some brick pits this morning on the way up towards Priory for a look at the Fudge duck. A bit of deja vu at Chimney Corner south; last week's family party of Bewicks gone but this week a group of 12 adults in the middle of the water. Only new things from the pits for me were Lapwing, Great Blackback and a Green Sandpiper on a flooded bit of field.
Earlier I had been through some likely habitat in my wellies near the A507 and picked up a couple of nice Jack Snipes and a flyin then flyout male Mandarin at the same site before finally adding a male Shoveler to my SFYL at Flitwick STW further down the road.
A Barn Owl this evening north of Luton makes it seven for the day so not a bad haul but the best, the Bewicks Swan did not impact the list. I was almost temporarily disappointed at the point when I knew they weren't Whoopers ! Crazy thing this listing and numbers game...

Friday 1 February 2013

End of month tally

Well I ended up on 87 which is the same as last year.  Quite pleased as I was aboard for a third of the month.  We have some great enthusiasm out there and even from the no show's.  John L is working on google account hell with SCB (been there myself), so we'll get some contributions from him soon, and Martin P is (allegedly, doing well in the SFYLing stakes) but has had to replace his computing system. 

Here's to Feb!