Tuesday 30 December 2014

2014 Self-finding Annual Awards

‘’He’s so excited, he’s like a coked-up Meerkat on an electric fence.’’

Thus spoke James Nesbitt (below), in character as Police Commissioner Richard Miller, from Channel 4’s dark, dark, realistic but dark comedy, Babylon, when presenting the First Prize in the 2014 SFYL Challenge - a unique pot, kindly sponsored by Armitage Shanks - to this year’s winner, Mr Stephen Captain Blain.

The awards were held at Travelodge Marston Moretaine, in front of a boisterous audience of between eight and nine people - who had mistakenly attended - and Stephen Northwood, a vagrant, who wandered in because he couldn’t remember where he’d left his bike.

Accepting the award, Mr Blain commented ‘’Thank you James, I am truly honoured to have beaten my less than prestigious... or should that be prodigious?...opposition this year, and picking up this award.’’

He continued, ‘’some time during early-April next year, I am planning to pay a gang of Albanians to track down my fellow competitors, kidnap them all, then strip them naked, nail their bollocks to a wall, and spin them round continuously – sort of like human Catherine Wheels, if you like - until Spring passage finishes in June. ‘’ That’ll put paid to any thoughts they have of bagging a spawny southern overshoot. The bastards’’

Amongst the audience of A-list and 1st-division birders, was Leonard Godiva Rasputin Heavens, Chief Executive Listmaster of the UK Flying Objects Association.  He declared ‘’Steve has been chiefly responsible for me having recorded 183 species in the English County of Bedfordshire during 2014, including Eurasian Western Pink-legged Reed Warbler, which has now been admitted to the UK400 Official List as a full species, after thorough consultation with my elite committee of easily-swayed and impressionable young birders who are desperate for new UK ticks and half-pints of snakebite.’’ ''Personally, all I found this year was a rather damp copy of Penthouse in a layby at Brogborough and a shivering, hyperthermic Andy Grimsey at Pegsdon Hills.''

Also present was Martin Palmer - veteran local birder and self-findist - who lives in a hobbit hole on the edge of Stewartby Lake. Trimming his beard with the sharpened offshoot from a nearby willow, he said ‘’I have known Steve since we was six, and he fully deserves the recognition we won’t be giving him.’’ He continued, ‘’but we’ll see how big his balls are when a tricky 2cy Baltic Gull turns up at dusk on a damp February evening from my veg patch.’’

Also present was José Mourinho, Honorary President of the Bedfordshire Self-finding Committee. He belicosed ‘’for me, Steve has demonstrated the qualities I like in my players: big character, big ambition, big list, big cahunas. He reminds me a bit of John Terry, but unlike JT, he possesses high-end optics and and an i-Phone and lacks John’s blood-soaked head bandage and extra-marital affairs. If he wants to up his game another notch and be considered one of the all-time greats, he will have to acquire a serious head injury and start knocking off at least one of his competitors’ wives during 2015.’’

Richard Bashford, who came outside the top three for the first time since 1973, graciously observed to a transfixed crowd - ‘’I have enjoyed some truly memorable birding moments with Steve this year ‘’Lapwing at Broom, Dunlin at Broom, Chicken Sandwich at Sainsbury’s – the banter has been incredible. Ideally, I would like to relate to you some of the many anecdotes and bloke-moments that have passed between us, but unfortunately, half of it isn’t fit to repeat...and the other half isn’t fit to think.’’

John Lynch - a man of few words, but great deeds - from Grovebury Sand Castle, near Leighton Buzzard, rounded off the evening, and brought the house down with his closing comment - ‘’finding the Barred Warbler at Blows was definitely, definitely, my Ulrika moment. ‘’ he Freudian-slipped.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Best find, worse dip

As it's almost the end of the year I thought I'd post my best find of the year and my worst miss. I hope others will follow suit with theirs.

I might start with my worst dip as it seems easier! That would be Peregrine. I've seen plenty during the year but they are all the 'usual' resident birds. I just didn't manage to bump in to one unexpectedly while out birding. That said, this year I've done a lot more birding in the Ivel Valley which does poorly for Peregrines generally so perhaps not that surprising.

Now on to the good stuff! 'Best find' is a bit personal. If you're talking rarest then it has to go to the Great Skua which flew over Richard and I as we were off to Broggy to see Barry Nightingales bird. It being a county tick for both of us too made it quite special. However from my perspective it wasn't that memorable as I really only got views of it flying away from me as I was driving as it flew over the car and I was trying desperately not to drive in to the Ivel!

The two Lap Bunts should also get a mention in here, but I only really saw then as silhouettes as they went over calling. A bit unsatisfactory, and there weren't even a find tick, unlike the Skua!

Below the rarest there is a selection of birds which I really love seeing, and finding them locally is even better.  These included the juv Caspian Gull at Broom which stayed around for a couple of days and enabled a few other birders to catch up with it. A tricky plumage to id a Caspo in so that was very satisfying to pull of of the Broom roost towards the end of the summer.

Another 'species' I've had a little crush on this past year or so is Siberian Chiffchaffs. Wintering Chiffs in general are probably under recorded and these colder looking birds are probably further still under recorded amongst them. Since October 2013 I've found at least four of these birds locally but each of them have been interesting in their own right. It's clear there is much still to uncover about these birds and there is opportunity for everyone to contribute to our understanding. So if you see a chif in winter, just take a second look at it, just in case.

I have four other species on my list: Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Tree Sarrow, and Hawfinch.  All these provided a good dose of enjoyment or surprise for different reasons.  Two of them were satisfying as I found them while actually looking for them: Firecrest at The Lodge and Tree Sparrow at Upper Caldecote.  The other two were complete surprises as they flew over. The Rozel went over chuckling with a load of Fieldfares while Darren and I were looking for the Lap Bunts at Warden Hill, and the Hawfinch went over as I was crossing the car park at The Lodge on my way for a pee! It pays to keep your ears open.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and a healthy new year


Wednesday 3 December 2014

Nearly all over!

With just a short time to the end of the 2014 competition, things are looking fairly certain for another Steve Blain win.  Darren Oakley-Martin clearly deserves to win as most of his ticks he walked to.  Andy Grimsey really has got the hang of this birding thing and is a strong third place at this time.  John Lynch has achieved his total by virtually hammering one site - Grovebury.  Myself...well, hopeless.  Missing some easy birds in the spring really has put me out of the race, despite finding a few scarce species.  Martin too has found some significant birds and would surely add to his tally if he birded the brick pits as much as Andy has or as much as Steve covers Broom.  Roger and Matt, largely specializing in Broom birds only have fine totals for such a small area.

Martin saw a Sawbill

One more for MJP's SFLY.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Black Redstart

Photograph courtesy of MJP:

After frustratingly and fleetingly glimpsed what I thought felt like a Black Redstart yesterday on farm buildings at Everton Heath, this one this morning at Portobello Farm, Sutton, was a little more obliging, (photo courtesy of SCB here):

Glad others saw it, as usually my finds are in the arse-end-of-nowhere!


Saturday 8 November 2014


Three years running I have found these somewhere around the brick pits; not content with just one this time though as there were six males together flirting with the edge of the reeds in Quest Pit, HTC-phone-scoped to ensure quality image

Saturday 1 November 2014

Rarity is relative

Pretty much all of what we call rare is not really rare, just a bird that is in the county that is at least common in the place or habitat where it is normally found. Bonxies and Gannets were numerous off Sheringham the other day and Lesser Grey Shrike and Hoopoes, well plenty of those seen in Turkey in August. My best birds of the last week or so fall well into this category also, a flock of 12 Ring-necked Parakeets would not turn a head even as close as Rickmansworth these days but the birds seen on Thursday was by far the largest group ever seen in the county and a rarity as far as Beds SFYL is concerned, rarer in fact than the species that I was really looking for, Black Redstart. In a similar vein, there are hundreds of Pochard in the brick pits, but this one in Wardown Park was a first for the site as far as I am aware, and I have been looking in there regularly now for 14 years. What's next, Red-billed Quelea anyone ?

Wednesday 29 October 2014


After two rather unsatisfactory birds in flight at Steatley the other week I found a splendid Tree Sparrow this lunchtime. This one was in a game strip just north-west of Upper Caldecote.

It seems game strips are the places to look for these chaps, and late October seems to be a prime time to find them as they move around before settling down for the winter months. I've seen Tree Sparrows regularly in this one over the years, but none of them stay for very long.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Monday 20 October 2014

Finding but not ticking

Four decent birds found on the vismig morning Sunday, the one of the four I found was the one of the four that I had already found. Sad face. But always good to get an autumn Ouzel as they are at a premium, certainly compared with Spring. Smiley face again sort-of.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Lots of seagulls Broom GLW, so scanned for about half an hour before this Med showed up.

Tuesday 14 October 2014


Well, after adding Brambling and Steve grabbed a Jack Snipe out of mid air, we were both feeling viz mig SFYL happy. But adding a Bonxie was somewhat of a bonus for the self found challenge...and a county tick

Bramble finches

Two in clear view here from this morning's Viz Mig session at Sandy Pinnacle.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Dotting the eyes

Been grim lately but the birding has picked recently up thanks to others finds.  Did my bit to extend the purple patch today with this supercillia-ed beastie. Makes up for the Ruff I'm taking off my list from last month, as it was calling as it flew by me and better ornithologists have reminded me Ruffs don't call.  Guess I just misidentified a Pec so no great loss...

Thursday 2 October 2014

Grey Plover

Wednesday 01 October...Sandy Heath Quarry...0700hrs...Darren Oakley-Martin (soliloquy):

''Grey Plover?''

''Grey Plover!'' (this time with emphasis)

'Plover' then seen...flying off. (an adumbration only)

''Get in!''

Wednesday 01 October...Home...1900hrs...

''This doesn't sound quite right.''

''Neither does this...''

''...or this...''

It is two years since I heard Grey Plover, and as convinced as I was that I had one before me yesterday morning, I can't say that I don't now have my doubts. The problem is though, that I don't know what else it could possibly have been. It sounded like a GV, it looked like the flight silhouette of a GV, but I can't quite assuage these doubts that it might have been something else.

Sometimes, you should go with your gut instinct. Icarus once had a gut instinct about something, but look what bloody well happened to him.

That is now three species in as many days that I have talked myself out of.

Exit stage left.


Sunday 28 September 2014

Having a chat

Two different chats this week. Firstly a chat with the top Beds listers at the Barred Warbler twitch Saturday morning, only my second Beds twitch of the year following Glossy Ibis. I had not intended to be out Saturday as it was my wedding anniversary and I had committed to staying home...mmm. Secondly, a jump on the Stonechat bandwagon with the discovery of a group of three at Brogborough Tip on a Sunday morning scout around some pits (all three pictured). Great to see these are back in force after some barren years, only found one individual in both of the last two years.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Waiting for the autumn big one

Poking around Pegsdon Hills area again looking for something with an "I've been to Spurn" anklet. Just the usual unfortunately. To maintain the image quality on the blog, here is a hand-held, declining evening light, phone-binned Whinchat from mid-week as there was nothing suitable to snap today.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Retrospective Ruff

As there appear to be new rules, I am going to shamelessly claim the Broom GLE Ruff as self-found, as 'according to my sources' no one had seen it for at least ten minutes. Also, can anyone say with 100% certainty that it was the same bird? ;-)

Yours, tongue-in-cheekily, D

Friday 12 September 2014

Chat double

Looked at the cracking Yellow Wag flock on Biggy Common this lunchtime - its up around the 55 birds mark!  As I was there I thought I'd just check the fencelines for errant chats.  BOOM!  A Whinchat and a Stonechat together.  Nice.  I think I can claim the Whinchat as 'new' as none have been see there for the last couple of days according to my sources.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Whin' and 'Grin

After quite a few short dips into suitable habitat over two weeks, a Whinchat finally came my way at Sandy Smith. They seem to have been hard this year and those found on the hills near Luton seem to be around field hedgerows rather than on the fences, slopes and dips themselves where I have found them previously and where I have been peeking in short spells before and after work. Also expected each year, a Peregrine on a pylon near Streatley was the first I have found this year, all other sightings relating to the Stewartby "chimney" birds. Other than Med Gull, I am now running out of targets so it's all down to the right place, the right time and watching the weather forecast for the run-in.

Friday 5 September 2014

MR and PT

Scored a couple more with SCB this lunchtime. A f Marsh Harrier over Broom and an eclipse drake pintail at GLE. Steve trying here to phonescope a flying raptor...

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Even blind squirrels eventually find a nut...

... especially if they are searching for between 7-10 hours per day.

Deepdale Quarry, Potton,

Curlew 1
Black-headed Gull 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Stock Dove 2
Woodpigeon 88
Collared Dove 3
Green Woodpecker 6
Great Spotted Woodpecker 3
Magpie 9
Jackdaw 29
Rook 19
Carrion Crow 11
Goldcrest 7
Blue Tit 52
Great Tit 43
Coal Tit 10
Swallow 9
Long-tailed Tit 17
Chiffchaff 3
Blackcap 11
Whitethroat 10
Treecreeper 1
Wren 10
Starling 2
Blackbird 22
Song Thrush 5
Spotted Flycatcher 1
Robin 32
Whinchat 1
Dunnock 18
Chaffinch 35
Bullfinch 3
Greenfinch 12
Linnet 4
Goldfinch 91

Monday 1 September 2014

Ring-necked Parakeet: Potton recent history

Is it tickable? Taking the below into account - I'm afraid that yes, it is, much to my disappointment. ;-)

From: George, William
Sent: 06 June 2014 16:04
To: _Bird News;

Friday 30th May

·         Ring-necked parakeet – flew northwards over Everton road, Potton, squawking loudly at c.8:30pm (Benedict Gove)

rbashford@ [bedsbirds] bedsbirds@
reply-to: rbashford
to: bedsbirds
date: 1 September 2014 07:38
subject: [BedsBirds] Ring-necked Parakeet, Sandy Heath Quarry

                                                                     Flew towards Oak Farm Deepdale per Darren O-M

Punkbirder s/f rules:

Time Category 1: highly transient species. These are species which are almost always on the move. When individuals are seen, they usually disappear fast. Once disappeared, you don’t really expect them to re-appear in the same place. We therefore reckon you can count these species TWO DAYS after a sighting at the same place.

Time Category 2: Medium transient species. These can be counted FOUR DAYS after a previous sighting at a given site.

Time Category 3: Everything else. Most species can occasionally disappear for long periods, and then re-appear at the same site. Your birding behaviour will change if you’re at a site where you know a rarity was present recently. You’ll be specifically looking out for it. It wouldn’t be a pure find. We therefore think that SIX DAYS is a sensible time period before you can count one of these species.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In some cases, long-staying rarities may not be reported very regularly, for example wintering ducks on remote Scottish lakes. Discretion may be required in these cases, but generally speaking we think a gap of at least a month is required before a sighting of such a long-stayer could count as a self-find. For rarities that return to a known site each year, the first person to find the bird in a given season can count it as a find.

If you find yourself in situation 2, you need to check the Distance Re-finds categories to see if you’ve got a self found tick.

Distance Category 1: Large and mobile species. You’d probably start scanning the sky as soon as you hear one of these species has been seen nearby. Consequently your birding behaviour has changed, thanks to the news. There is an extra complication here: many of these species follow the coastline when migrating, making it possible to track their movements along the coast. On a given day, it may be possible to "pre-emptively twitch" a bird by guessing a point on the coast that it will pass.We therefore have two thresholds for claiming these species as self found: for birds which are being tracked along the coast (i.e. seen previously at another site or sites on the day of your sighting), you must be at least 50km from the most recent report. For birds that are not being tracked along the coast, you’ve only got to be 25km or more away.

Distance Category 2: Intermediate species. Again, these species may follow the coast when migrating, though they are less predictable. The threshold for counting birds that are being tracked along the coast on the day of your sighting is 25km, and 10km for other records.

Distance Category 3: Small, cryptic and less mobile birds. For the species listed here, we reckon 5km is enough to constitute a find, and they are almost impossible to track along the coast so that situation is irrelevant.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Out of the rough?

After loads of birding, including around 20 visits to Gadsey Brook, my first two SFYTs since June with a  Yellow-legged Gull and a Ruff.

Monday 18 August 2014


So, this was nice to see at Broom tonight.  I'm guessing most of you don't know what it is though...

Not Dun yet

Still plenty to find for me this year. Two Redstarts at Pegsdon on Saturday morning were nice, an adult male and an immature male while on Sunday, as well as the surprise of getting very wet, it was good to see that Brogbrough No.2 is attracting some waders again this autumn with this Dunlin one of two present along with three each of Green and Common Sandpipers. Nothing new but some promise for the next few weeks... Wryneck please

Saturday 16 August 2014

Mind games...

José Mourinho has hailed Bedfordshire self-findist and County Recorder Steve Blain as the heir apparent to his unofficial position as the 'World's Most Accomplished Mind Game Specialist', after a shocking revelation conclusively failed to make headlines...until now.

Yesterday, Friday 15th August, it is alleged that Mr Blain remarked to Mr Darren Oakley-Martin - current SFYL leader - that ''you really should win it now'' whilst both men were at Broom GP...spectacularly finding bugger all.

Six small words, but with the huge implication that anything less than finishing in first position will represent a sensational failure for Mr Oakley-Martin. The seemingly off-hand remark also successfully served to alleviate the pressure on Mr Blain, who has been SFYL champion every year since he was six.

It has been rumoured by 'a source close to Mourinho' that Chelsea FC will be making Mr Blain a contract offer as the new Club Psychologist. Who knows, he may even be able to get inside the head of Fernando Torres.

At the time of going to press, neither Mr Blain nor Mr Oakley-Martin were available for comment.

(Copyright, Self-findists Monthly, August 2014)

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Reward points

My reward for counting almost 400 Mallards at Broom last night were these five spankers.  Blackwit has been a long-time coming on my SFYL this year.

Monday 11 August 2014

Creeping along

Bloody hard work out there.  Roll on autumn.  Still, at least I bagged my first SFYL addition for a couple of months the other week - 5 Egyptian Geese at GLE, and just in case anyone else claims them as their own, I found another one at Gadsey a few days later.  Still need lots of  'common' things though, so plenty to go at.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Poking in pits

I did make comment about "you guys standing by your pits and waiting for waders" while I hit the hills and got the proper birds up there, but hypocritically decided to try Grovebury for two easier needed Gulls on Sunday. This proved to be worthwhile with SFYT two full summer plumage Black-tailed Godwits dropping in and three Yellow-legged Gulls on the boom, one of which is illustrated here with colour rings. A probable Marsh harrier got away though as a bird coming towards me almost out of the sun was lost from the scope view and frustratingly could not be refound, presumably dropped down somewhere. Will be back in the pits of course for Med and potential waders, but rather be finding Wryneck in a few weeks time...

Saturday 26 July 2014

A bit more of the red stuff

While you guys all wait by your pits for some waders, I'll go get a few more of these, and hopefully a black one later. Redstart at Pegsdon 26th July (presumed same as 13th July).

Friday 25 July 2014

Cricket Teal

AG is not in joint second place.  Garganey yesterday at Derek's pulled me level again.  However, that all seemed irrelevant for a few hours as Mr Bashford pulled out a Blue-winged Teal at Gadsey later that evening.  Good job it was found to be plastic.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Grimsey in second place shocker

With a flush of red, one species ahead of Mr Blain...

The rest of us waiting by our pits for some waders.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Autumn has (red) started

I guess by now we are all seeing the first signs of autumn with returning gulls and the odd wader. I have picked up only Green and Common Sandpiper so far in that department but a nice early bonus, and sneak preview of what's to come, was a male Redstart at Pegsdon on the early date of 13th July. Not worried about getting that species each year for SFYL, but good to get it in early in case of any mishaps. Good luck to all for the big push...

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Made it to July...

The slow month.  With most of us hoping to find a Quail, apart from the relentless Mr Grimsey who already has that one under his belt, there is little to find and add in July.  Maybe some failed breeding or early returning waders, a Garganey could slip in, there are loads in the Washes.  Other than that it is really making it through to August and then into make or break September.  Can anyone catch Darren?

Right then, butterflies it is for the time being....

Thursday 19 June 2014

Further nailing the wildfowl cup...

My first Mandarin of the year.  Catch me if you can landlubbers!  And still got Pintail to find (as well as Velvet Scoter of course)

Monday 16 June 2014


For the greater quantity of birders in Bedfordshire, strolling through barley on a quiet late evening in hope of finding Quail is a quixotic dream, In fact, even hearing this species in the county for me is a less than quadrennial occurrence. Having eaten well and quenched my thirst, I set out once more on my quest on Tuesday last. With a handful of Quorn Buntings to keep my company, I followed a plotted quadrilateral of field boundaries in search of my quarry. After some three quarters of an hour with a brightening moon, I heard first one call then after a ten minute wait and a closer approach, a second call, a typical straight quartet of qwik-we-wic notes. After  making my notes on the record, realising the lack of light remaining, I moved quickly back to Streatley village for the five minute drive back home, my nightly (medicinal) quota of red wine and the comfort of my quilt. Quality tick and no quibbles on this one for a heard-only record. 

Common Scoter 31/05/2014

Called in to Grovebury for a quick look round. The lake was unusually calm, like a mill pond in fact. Sat on the lake in a very tight group were five Common Scoter, my second site first this May. The closest I had got previously was finding a freshly dead male just a stones throw away in July 2011.

Saturday 14 June 2014


Bee-eater. Potton. Friday 13th. Ambivalence.

During the past fortnight or so, I have spent an awful lot of time sky-watching, horizon-scanning and ear-cupping, but I was not quite expecting this.

My lightweight description is now in the hands of the Rarities Committee, although it is firmly implanted in my personal records. My notebook entry reads ''BE!! heard once, ''prrr-rrrii!'' rolling, disyllabic, not seen.'' I have since found out that the BTO code for European Bee-eater is MZ, not BE, obviously. MeropZ. Silly me.

30+ hours per week in the field was sure to eventually bring a reward, but I wish I had seen it...and it been twitchable. How many are though?

Strangely, I was thinking about Bee-eaters a month or so ago, and thought the most likely SF'er to get one would be John at Grovebury. I have only been there three or four times, but it always strikes me as looking quite rare and quite possibly to a Bee-eater's liking.


Monday 2 June 2014

Thursday 29 May 2014

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Birding economics

During 2013, I averaged one new bird for every 108 records that I submitted. So far during 2014, the average is one new bird for every 70 records submitted.

However, as the year progresses, the law of diminishing marginal returns takes effect, whereby marginal utility (or new ticks, in birding terms) decreases despite an increase in output (or records submitted, in birding terms).

If I continue submitting records at the current rate (approximately 64 per day) until December 31, and I add one new species for every 108 records submitted, I am forecast to have a county self-found year list of 216 for the year.

So this exercise proves conclusively that some macro-economic theory, when applied statistically and selectively, by a monkey, is a load of old bollocks.



Thursday 22 May 2014


Having got battered by the hail storm earlier I called in to Grovebury hoping something might have been forced down, a gull or tern maybe. No unusual gulls or terns, but three Sanderlings were a site first for me, alongside a Dunlin and an over aggressive LRP

Saturday 17 May 2014

Av it!

An early morning start at Broom paid instant dividends in the form of these beauts!

The birds were only twitchable for around 15 minutes before flying south. But not before birding royalty in the shape of Lee Evans got them on his '14 Beds List.
I must say I'm please with my grainy photo too, as this is a phonescoping 1st attempt and is at least in keeping with the ethos of this blog. Later on Spotted Fly, Nightingale and Cuckoo also seen/heard this morning. The zero-carbon gods are certainly smiling today................................

Tuesday 6 May 2014

A couple more fair fare

Nice lunchtime stop at GLE with SCB produced this little beaut.

Then an evening trip to Gadsey to find lots of waders produced nothing of the sort but a nice "find back" after SCB nicked my Harrold RCPs earlier in the year.  This will do though.

Wednesday 30 April 2014

End of term reports

Four months in (or a full term) and here are the eagerly awaited end of term reports for 2014 SFYL competitors, comments gratefully provided by Leonard Godiva Rasputin Heavens, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of the UK Finding Organisation, referred to occasionally as ‘The UFO Club’ by knowing wags and those who can’t be arsed to keep a self-found list.

Richard Bashford

Richard began 2014 with high hopes for the year; his arch-rival and self-finding nemesis Stephen Blain having acquired a pocket-sized person during the latter stages of 2013. Would he ever have a better opportunity to claim the no.1 spot? Unfortunately, Richard’s mind has wandered somewhat this term, namely to Thailand, Morocco, Yorkshire. One feels he will need more than one vagrant seaduck to make up his losses so far. C+

Stephen Blain

By his own exemplary standards, this has been a poor start to the year for Steve. He may justify this by way of recent family additions, but he must appreciate that personal lives must be left at home, or at least upon entry through the self-finding door. Fiercely proud, he will not give up his crown without a fight, but by way of mitigation, is getting his excuses in early. C+

Matthew Burgess

Following his habitual slow start, it has been an excellent second part of the first term for Matthew and he has handed in some excellent fieldwork. Popular with his fellow adversaries, many harbour fears that he will have his eyes turned in the coming months, namely to a moth trap situated in an Upper Caldecote garden. B+

Andrew Grimsey

Andrew has spent the latter part of this term occupying the naughty step, with persistent rumours of psychological harassment towards other competitors tainting his excellent results. There is a suggestion that Andrew is operating within his comfort zone, but there is no doubting the quality of his work. Must grow out of his Machiavelli hero-worship. B+

Roger Hicks

Roger is another who knows his subject area (Henlow and environs) intimately and has unearthed some excellent finds, but he must realise that he is allowed to find birds outside of TL13. Perhaps he needs to buy my book ‘Finding Birds in Bedfordshire’, signed copies available from LGRH Publications for the discounted price of £149.99 + £35.16 postage and packaging. BiHH

John Lynch

The class ‘quiet man’, John has produced some excellent finds so far this year, but has found the ‘easier’ work more taxing. Some commentators believe that he has missed several key birds this year, due to receiving persistent text messages about mixed–singing Chiffchaffs, hybrid aythya ducks and Common Gulls at Marston Vale Country Park. If he can avoid these unwanted distractions, John could have an excellent year and be a serious contender. B+

Darren Oakley-Martin

No-one is more surprised to be top of the class than Darren, but he must understand that texting kisses to his teacher will not be tolerated. There is also a suggestion that his score has been achieved with an element of subterfuge and by copying the previous years’ work of his fellow competitors. May succumb to perennial seasonal adjusted disorder or habit of disappearing up his own arse for prolonged periods. B

Martin Palmer

Martin started the year in the manner of a startled hare, but has been rather lax of late and has been quietly reprimanded by fellow competitors for keeping his work close to his chest. As a result, I have marked him down for this infelicitous secrecy. There is also a suggestion that his recent self-finding form is directly correlated with the sympathy he feels for the erstwhile manager of his pet football team. Until he hands in his work, judgement is suspended.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Chat set

Add tonight's Whinchat to my Stonechat seen at Thurleigh Airfield earlier in the year and I've got the set.


Sunday 27 April 2014

Turtle Power

Another decent 'selfy' in the bag. I didn't even see a Turtle Dove in 2013 and at Broom they're becoming very rare indeed. Unfortunately, like others this one just carried on through. Breeding TD at Broom is now a distant memory............................

No Curlews at Thurleigh shocker!

Just three of these. Never mind eh....

Saturday 26 April 2014

Thursday 24 April 2014

The curious case of the pot and the kettle

In a staggering display of pomp, Portuguese reverse-psychology master, José Mourinho, has again expressed his opinions over the latest controversy to court this year's self-finding competition.

Above: Mourinho makes it known where he believes this year's competition will be won and lost

Last night, 'a source close to both parties' revealed that 3rd placed Mr A Grimsey - aged 41 3/4 of Luton, Bedfordshire - had texted the surprise leader, Darren Oakley-Martin, with news of a White-fronted Goose that may or may not have landed at Derek White's Eggs Pits, thereby scuppering any chance of the latter self-finding it the following morning.

Mourinho commented ''as I understand, Grimsey has never texted Oakley-Martin before. I do not even know how he got his number.'' He continued, ''this was a clear attempt to destabilise his competitor. If I had ever played mind games like this, I would have been bloody well fined. Or something. Very clever...blatant, but clever...he must have read my autobiography.''

''I would never, ever admit to committing an act of deliberate and calculated psychological manipulation.'' he untruthed.

''This is a bit like an owl telling a sparrow it has a big head.'' he somewhat bewilderingly concluded, clumsily using a birding idiom.


Tuesday 22 April 2014

Little Gull Surprise

I called in to Grovebury early evening today hoping I might  have a chance with an Arctic Tern. Searching back and forth through the distant Common Terns there was no sign of an Arctic amongst them. I then picked out a lone Little Gull (a site first for me) sat on the water. After a few minutes the Gull flew up on its own and began circling and gaining height until it was barely visible, it then left towards the north east. A fabulous bird.

The 'Green' Hundred Up

Sir Chris Hoy- pretty good on a bike. But can't find birds for toffee.

After a tiring week of early starts on my iron horse, this morning yielded a few goodies. Having missed all of the decent waders at Broom and electing for the guilty, easy Ouzel tick at Pegsdon (sorry for my defection, Mr Stevens!). I finally stumbled into some birds. Today's Broom ticks were-

Great Black-backed Gull- very good away from the Bedford Pits.
Wheatear on Gyspy Lane West flood area- can be hit and miss in this part of the world.
Garden Warbler- just a matter of time.
Arctic Tern- Another early morning did the trick at GLE+ 3 more later in the day.

This brings up a satisfying pedal-powered ton and despite missing the waders so far, up on last year. I'm not going to win any medals- but enjoying the experience all the same.

Matt- Birding's answer to Sir Chris Hoy

Turtle Dove

So far this Spring, I am averaging eight hours and 10+ miles birding per day. Putting this into context, you boys spend about this amount of time working, looking after children/ grandchildren and/or placating other halves. However, despite these hours, I am finding - or not finding - scarce birds about as tricky as advanced calculus at the moment - time plus effort does not equal rares.

Firecrest, Tree Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Arctic Tern and today Turtle Dove are really very nice birds, but they are not exactly SFYL game-changers. So far, Steve's Bar-tailed Godwit and the Green-winged Teal that Richard will undoubtedly find at Meadow Lane or Radwell this week are the only birds that I think could fall into that category.

What someone needs is a Hoopoe, Serin, White-winged Black, Roseate or Little Tern, Montagu's Harrier, Savi's Warbler, Bluethroat or something of that or greater magnitude.

Being 'number one' means bugger all and is not synonymous with 'best' - just ask David Moyes, Sebastian Vettel or Enrique Iglesias or the myriad other shite that inhabits the number one spot in the record charts.



Wednesday 16 April 2014

'One good Tern'

(Actually the Common Terns were excellent as well). Very pleasing to bump in to a Black Tern after a brief visit to Grovebury this afternoon. Desperately trying to find a quiet resting spot, but constantly moved on by the gulls present. Particularly pleasing as I didn't manage to SF Black Tern last year.

Saturday 12 April 2014

What's happening?

Not much.  The wonderful migrants are appearing each day but lovely as they are, don't really help in the league table.  We've all added a warbler or two, a hirundine or two.

Nah, we need Redstarts, Garganeys, Sandwich Terns and decent passage waders to break away from our rivals.  The main change is the powerhouse of Mr Carbon - DOM has hot stepping his way into the lead over Mr Palmer's early winning streak.

Not much difference to the rest but its just about key Self finding time!

Let the passage begin...

Thursday 10 April 2014

Mediterranean Cruise

Stopped off at Grovebury on the way home today. I thought I'd give it an hour to see if the 2nd summer Med. that had arrived to roost a few times recently was going to put in an appearance. No sign of the Med., but Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail and Dunlin were pleasing additions to my SFL.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Tale of woe

I had a Rock Pipit this morning. Which was nice.

Problem is that having got home and looked at two different maps, it was about 50m into Cambridgeshire and I don't recall it flying into the 'right' county. Even if I look at the maps and squint and make my eyes go funny, it would still have been in Cambridgeshire.

I feel a complete and utter knob-biscuit, as they say in Amsterdam.

Know your county boundaries.


Monday 31 March 2014

Scaup bonus

Oi, come back I'm bigger than you.

Drake Scaup following Tufties at Chimney Corner South on 29th March. Nice to get this one after potentially overlooking the first winter female found there earlier this year (she must have been asleep if present!). Interestingly I also had male Scaup at this site last year on 23rd Feb and 2nd March. Any bets on a "Lesser" soon ?

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Rare trash

I'm not proud of it, but I'll add it to my list.  Mainly because I've not found a Green-winged Teal yet this year for some reason.  So this will have to do - about as rare...

Monday 24 March 2014

WTF goose

WTF Goose is that you may ask looking at these photos.
I did not have a camera with me, only an HTC Wildfire phone and it was quite breezy at 27x mag
But obvious white blaze and orange legs is enough for a classic BedsSFYL Blog record shot and matches the quality achieved from a similar distance on the GND recently.
A second decent grey goose this winter and slightly less debatable perhaps for the purists than the last

Saturday 22 March 2014

True Pink at Harrold

This is the way to do it. New bird, new site, that certain look in its eye. And not the injured bird nearby. Pink-foot on my SFYL  '14.

Friday 21 March 2014

'SFYL Table is fake'

Above: José Mourinho's reaction when asked if DOM could maintain his challenge in the SFYL Championship.

In an exclusive interview with Self-finders' Digest and several hundred other quality periodicals and blogs throughout the English and Portuguese-speaking worlds, Mourinho gave his opinion on the chances of the key SFYL players, as we approach the crucial spring migration season.

In his trademark broken English, when asked about DOM's chances, Mourinho's opinions were surprisingly reminiscent of his thoughts when asked if his Chelsea team could win the Premiership.

''The self-finding table is fake'' he fibbed. ''Look behind...big players are close...and if you think I use the words 'behind' and 'big' in the same sentence and am thinking of 'someone'....well, you would probably be wrong.'' he further untruthed.

''These are big players, big champions, big characters, big personalities, big lists.'' he monotoned. ''Look at Senhor Palmer - he has been self-finding birds in Bedfordshire since the late 19th century, I think. Big experience. He know that marathon is not won in first 100 metres. He also know that marathon is not a chocolate bar.'' he snickered.


Tuesday 18 March 2014

Pink-footed Goose

(definite article/ indefinite article)

Recently, I was reminded that we are playing by Punkbirder rules.

This morning (18 March) there was a Pink-footed Goose with Greylag and Canada Geese at DWE Pits. According to the Punkbirder website, this would be a valid self-find; satisfying both the time and distance criteria:

Unless, of course, someone is able to cite an obscure and esoteric self-finding by-law from 1856.

Just to be on the safe side, I thought I would check for recent, local records:

i) 04 February 2014, Henlow Grange, (RH)
ii) 12 January 2014, Southill Park, (BJN)
iii) 19 January 2014, Wardown Park, (AG)
iv) 06 January 2013, Warren Villas NR (DOM)
v) 02 November 2012, Broom GP's (RIB)

(NB - I cannot find the 2013 SFYL spreadsheet and the only records on the Bird Club BirdTrack account are from Cainhoe and the presumed injured Harrold bird.)

Barry doesn't self-list (ii) and I did not count iv, but why have records i, iii and v been counted as self-finds? The particularly galling point about record v is that I was with Richard at the time but refused to tick it. As I said to him ''I'm not claiming that because there is no way I'd have picked it out, at that distance, and with bins only!''

So, I think that everyone should be able to tick PG's or no-one should, in the same way that we deal with Barnacle Geese.

Also, I am sure I am not the only one to question some claims (I question my own!), so perhaps we should hold votes on the veracity of certain disputed claims as they arise?

Thoughts please gentlemen?


Monday 17 March 2014

Untickable stuff

Done ok in March particularly finding Crossbill in Maulden Woods and Merlin at Sandy Smith NR as well as added a few padders such as Green Sandpiper, Golden and Ringed Plover, Shelduck etc typical for time of year - but also come across a few untickables in one way or another

Black Swan - a pair in Chimney Corner South, same day as a pair reported attending a nest in Woburn so four in the county that day at least.

Black-winged Stilt showing still at Meadow Lane on Sunday 16th March - how are any of us going to tick a real one unless we can show no ring

Goose showing signs of cross between blue and white phases of Snow Goose but guessing from bill shape and the company it is keeping has some Barnacle as much else

Saturday 15 March 2014

A couple of Oycs

Had a good week with five additions to my SFYL, one of the few Corn Buntings in territory in the south west of the county was in full song, and Tawny Owl is always good to see. Two Oystercatchers at Grovebury today will hopefully stay for a while.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Bedfordshire ZC100 Club

I am usually rubbish at waterbirds.

The first person to mention that the w, a, t, e and r in the statement above are superfluous, is going to get a punch in the face....although you would probably have a valid point.

I am rubbish at waterbirds because the nearest decent bodies of water are about a four mile walk away. But since I gave up smoking six months ago, the trek down to the Ivel or Tetworth is no more onerous than a walk in the park. ;-)

My 100th zero-carbon tick this morning with a smart drake Pintail at a fog-bound DWE Pits. As I mentioned in my post to the message group, I am pleased that it wasn't something more challenging.

I expect to score higher in the wader and wildfowl categories this year, but will still probably come in around last place.



Sunday 9 March 2014


With the report of three Glossy Ibis nearby, and the assumption no one has bothered looking for them, I headed to Radwell yesterday.  Loads of birds!  But no Glossy Ibis.  It doesn't matter because it was a nice walk round, with no other birders in sight.  I managed to score four Pintail, Whooper Swan, two Goldeneye, and a whopping flock of 250 Goldfinches (only one SFYL addition in that lot).

As it was so nice, I thought I'd check on Harrold too - not as many birds but glorious views of the Goldeneye there, and the pair of Red-crested Pochards are always lovely to see.

I also had a quick sneak over the border to Summer Leys - what a fantastic site this is!  I wish the Wildlife Trust would create a reserve like it in Beds.  Just tons of birds, excellent views, and loads of visitors.  The two Great White Egrets were easily seen within five minutes of getting out of the car.  Beds is a very poor relation.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Co2 be, or not Co2 be...

...that is the question.

I think I know the answer to the first, but it raises another issue:

i) public transport is presumably low-carbon, not no-carbon. However, this raises a wider issue - offsetting. I think it would be justifiable for those who use public transport and cars to claim birds as zero-carbon finds if they offset their emissions (and can prove it). Thoughts please.

ii) if I visit relatives in Bedford, who live a few hundred yards from Fenlake Meadows, and I walk to the site from my relatives' house, is this zero-carbon? Would I need to get to Bedford by zero-carbon means, or just from my relatives (if I stayed overnight, for example)? Thoughts please.



Wednesday 5 March 2014

Curlew Pair

I stopped off for a brief look at Grove on my way home yesterday (4/03/2014).
Nothing unusual, until two strangely silent Curlews flew in to view. They flew around the lake looking for somewhere to land, then eventually landed on one of the raised sand banks beside the lake before being frightened off east by one of the passing earth movers. The water level is so high again this year I'm going to struggle for waders again.