Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A NON Birding week in the West Country

As has become a tradition over the past few years Lou and myself have been visiting the South West in September for a week to stay at a cottage. Acting as a substitute Scillies as that has become very expensive we've managed to coincide with some good Lou weather and some good me birds!
This year we stayed at Botallack near St Just allowing me an opportunity to explore some of the Cornish valleys a bit better as well as stopping at Davidstow on route to see the 'hoped' for Buff breasted Sand.
The week was superb throughout, nothing turned up in Kent, Scillies was quiet, I wasn't at work and most importantly dog walking, relaxing beaches and some great birds thrown in as well. Above is one of six Golden Plover that we drove up to at Davidstow just before Pc Plodette arrived informing us we were on private property and not permitted to drive on the airfield.........that's news to me and to every other birder I've spoke to.
At Marazion a Pec showed well through the scope but not the camera

On an early morning walk this Wryneck showed brilliantly a few mornings at Botallack pre breakfast, and testament to the fact that this really is a great part of the UK and warrants lots of attention from birders that can rival Scilly sometimes
On the way back home two Dotterel showed well by the car at Davidstow and even better no Pc plodette
Buff breasted Sand the star of the show and one of my most wanted 'close views' birds. Davidstow ranks as one of the better places in the UK for this species and as expected the views were mega
A juv Spotted Sand at Turf near Exminster was equally approachable and worth the twenty minute walk from the car park. Add to this a Rosy Starling at Lands End on the Tardis, Lap Bunts, Sooty and Balearic Shears, Red backed Shrike at Treeve Common Lands End and a pair of Choughs not a bad non birding week
As usual the blog is behind once again but will be updated ASAP with more Yank waders, a corking ShoreLark in East Kent and a chance meeting with Kent legend Dave Gilbert in a cemetery! All to be revealed soon when life allows

Monday, 27 September 2010

What's the (Blakeney) POINT !!

Why oh Why oh Why!
I've been asking myself this since my first wanderings into the Birding World beyond the local area way back in 1981. I've virtually given up twitching but will venture away from Kent for the odd twitch and this certainly fulfilled both of those short words. My association with Blakeney Point is very limited and from an age when I was young fit, very keen and had some good mates living in Norwich, namely Alan 'Huey' Lewis and Pete (trendy) Morris. It was ages of Nancy's cafe, sleeping overnight in the car in Wells car park awaiting the moving on questions from the local constabulary. Marcus and Andrew Lawson often were part of the crew and Bryan Blands beard was made available to the breeding Parrot Crossbills to make their nest more comfy. Birders that were simply names to me then became good friends, Pete Milford, Neil Bostock. Over my few visits to Blakeney I'd seen a few good birds with a White-billed Diver offshore in 1985 having not seen a Lancy that was reported and in 1987 following a few days seawatching in Cornwall and seeing very little, Pete, Alan, Rob and myself drove in my old orange Chevette to Petes' house in Norwich to recoup before heading up to the coast to look for migrants.
Barred Warblers, RB Shrikes, Ickies then on to Blakeney Point for a Great Snipe that showed very well and I distinctly remember two things that remain etched in my mind. The bird landed on the shingle and a guy next to us couldn't see the bird but Alan decided to assist but was struggling to find it 'allegedly' whilst he grilled it through the scope unbeknown to the poor soul who had yet to see it!. The second was a young Dick Filby proclaiming that the bird should be left in peace now , and those words of Bob Geldof uttered from his lips, 'the lesson to day is how to die' !!
Anyway back to Sunday 26th Sept 2010, a walk up Blakeney Point in reasonable weather for an Empidonax flycatcher that had settled in the plantation on the point the previous day. It was going to be a hard walk whatever and Guy and myself set off from the car park with the intention of walking to Halfway house and waiting for news. Just before we got there news came through that the bird was still there and so off we set the 40 somethings heading towards the point still another 1.5 to 2 miles away. It was now that I realised why I rarely walked up Blakeney Point, in fact Barbet Moutain in Peru seemed somewhat easier but nonetheless the adrenalin cut in, the legs moved forward and apart from a dead seal on the beach the journey continued. The crowd was eventually reached, the legs ached and the shingle was merciless but there we were and there it was after a tense wait an unidentifiable American Flycatcher!

About to leap off it's perch
Hiding in the vast wilderness that is the plantation (on a par with the vegetation at the Captain Digby Margate)!
A great little poser, showing all the salient features to prevent it's identification
I'll leave the ID to the Demi Gods of birding and can add little to the discussion but felt happy to see the bird and see some old mates. I sincerely hope I'm fully retired from this young mans game by the time I'm 60 but all credit to the lads out there that were in their 70's
The photos above show the bird and the almost snow like beach caused by the spray and foam at high tide. A good shot here of some bald patches and what looks like a guy praying on the left. The weather is deceptively sunny, but that was soon to change !The plantation as you can see is tiny and fragile but home to an amazing bird
The walk back was horrendous, cold, wet, wetter and even wetter. A scene akin to the front line in Afghanistan with the troops moving up through the field
One picture tells a thousand words!
Sitting in the car with no trousers in says it all(the pic is carefully cropped)
Was it worth it?
Would I do it again?
Of course I would but hopefully in drier conditions
My heart goes out to those that missed it Saturday and returned Sunday to score
After that a difficult Bonelli's in Wells and memories of a great bird (I even saw the bill) and wet day
Ce'st la vie

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Birds, yes I do still see a few!!

RCP at Reculver, a Reculver tick and well worth the wait.............. more medication please!
The last few weeks, and I finally managed to escape the grip of the NHS and relax birding locally. A flying visit to Cliffe produced the hoped for Shelducks plus a bonus Pec Sand, a regular visitor to Kent but one I don't see every year. Also here was a Wood Sand, 2 Greenshank and a soon to arrive KP from Essex, by which time I was at Elmley.

A small group of Curlew Sands part of a flock of nearly 50 birds

Willow Emerald at Reculver, (cheers Derek) a small colony is present hopefully the start of something bigger in the County

At Reculver this 'common' Mipit put on a good show once it settled down and I'd failed to string it into anything else beforehand with it's sneaky habits!

Red-backed Shrike at Reculver, always a good one to see and this was a particularly showy individual.