Sunday, 14 November 2021

Year list top targets

Having looked at what Bubo listing thinks of my top life tick targets I thought I'd run a year list target report too.


Having run the report it highlights some relatively easy targets I should still connect with like Whooper Swan, Merlin, Hen Harrier etc but also several summer migrants that I have clearly missed now like Wood Warbler, Black Tern and Roseate Tern.

It also names a few residents that I have failed to see mainly due to lack of travel in this strange post lockdown year. These misses include Dipper, Manx Shearwater, Red Grouse, Black Guillemot, Hooded Crow and Willow Tit.

My car died on the return leg from the Taiga Flycatcher so I'm in the process of sourcing new wheels which is holding me back a bit but I hope to be able to get out and about and close the year by adding a few of these targets to take my year list above that lowest ever of 238.

Some of these missing birds require some travel which I hope to still enjoy if possible.

Abberton alone currently holds Bewick's Swan, Red Crested Pochard and Red-necked Grebe which I failed to find on my last visit but haven't ruled out another go.

Whooper Swan, Hen Harrier and Merlin are all birds I usually stumble upon during my winter days out with visits to Stiffkey, Wallasea and Capel Fleet all on the cards before Xmas.

So the above six are my main targets to get me above that pointless 238 lowest year target and anything else I stumble on between now and the year end will help.

Onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Year list targets at Abberton

We had considered a trip to Abberton yesterday but circumstance meant we left it to this morning and arrived in wet grey overcast conditions with very poor visibility which is far from ideal when scoping the vast reservoirs.

We started at Layer Breton and scanned the hundreds of ducks there to reveal that most were Tufted with lot's of Shoveler and Pochard in the mix plus small numbers of Goldeneye. We found the Teal/Baikal hybrid and a few Teal too. Greylags and Egyptian Geese continue to increase in numbers and a Great Egret flew low across the reservoir before we moved off towards Layer de le Haye causeway. On the way we noticed eight Catte Egrets feeding in the cow field by Garr farm and at the causeway we scanned through the murk and mist to find more Tufted and Teal plus lots of Great-crested Grebes and a possible Red-necked Grebe but it remained too far out in the murk to ID for sure. Two Great Egrets, Goosander, Grey Wagtail, Lapwing, Redshank and several Blackwits made up the best of the rest before we left for Wigborough bay.

Cattle Egret

Baikal/Teal Hybrid at Abberton

At the hide we were at least covered from the drizzle but it remained difficult to scan through the mist. We failed to see any Bewick's Swan or Red-crested Pochard which I had hoped would give me year ticks today but the bay held lots of Pintail and Mute Swans. On the banks were a flock of Lapwing which also held a couple of Dunlin and on the far bank our third Great Egret of the day. We heard that yesterdays Long-tailed Duck was now showing close to the causeway so set off to look for it only to find it had now flown to the far side of the reservoir near the pumping station. This was now looking like a washout in terms of year ticks but we soldiered on walking round to island hide. Thankfully Paul W was in the hide and had picked up the Long-tailed Duck by the pump house with several Goldeneye and with his help we managed to finally connect with a year tick. I then spotted four Slav Grebes which were again quite distant and another three Great White Egrets before we set off hoping to get home to see England beat New Zealand but I guess when it's not your day.......It's really not your day.

Year list now 233 and only five away from that worst ever total I'm now chasing down.


Sunday, 7 November 2021

Taiga Flycatcher at Flamborough

I missed last years Taiga Flycatcher that spent four days in Durham due to Covid travel restrictions so was excited to see another turn up at Flamborough on 16th October but sadly the bird was missing the next day so the twitch was called off but then the bird was refound on 4th November at South Landings Flamborough and when it was still there on the Friday I called Jim and arranged to go first thing Saturday. We stopped at North Caves on the way up and year ticked Green-winged Teal and as we left North caves the news from Flamborough was negative so we changed plans and decided to finally visit the long staying White-tailed Plover at Blacktoft Sands. On arrival we parked up and walked down to Xerox hide where the Plover was busy feeding in full view with some Redshank and Dunlin. Whilst admiring our second White-tailed Plover (1st at Rainham in 2010) Jim got news that the Taiga Flycatcher had been refound at Flamborough so we returned to the car and made haste arriving at South Landings car park at about 11am. A walk of about 50 yards followed before we found a small group of birders admiring a Red-flanked Bluetail so with some directions from the crowd we too were soon admiring the little cracker.

Green-winged Teal at North Caves

White-tailed Plover at Balcktoft Sands

Further along the path another group where searching for the mega that we'd made the trip to see and itwasn't long before I'd got my eyes on it in the canopy. It performed quite well but remained busy and high in the canopy all the time we were there but was heard calling several times. A true mega with just three previous accepted records. The first in 2003 was also at Flamborough with another on Shetland that year too. The last accepted record was on Shetland in 2009 and of course the Durham bird last year should be accepted making this years bird Britains fifth.

Taiga Flycatcher at South Landings Flamborough

On the journey home we had car trouble requiring a Greenflag rescue that saw us get home at 2.30am almost 22 hours after leaving home. The car will need attention, maybe even replacement but the tick will live long in the memory for sure.

BOU (mainland only) list is now 425 (includes Black-eared Wheatear that's still pending)

Year list now 232 and just six short of that worst year ever that I'm trying to avoid if possible. 

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Larking about in Norfolk for Jims 400

At the start of this year I made a commitment to help my brother Jim get through the 400 BOU tick barrier and although on paper he got there with the Long-toed Stint he has one bird on that list which is yet to be official accepted (the Black-eared Wheatear). so when a Greater Short-toed Lark was reported in Norfolk I watched it with intent until yesterday when my first opportunity to travel came along. A call to notify the Jims of my intent had them ready to go at 5.30am and we set off hoping the bird had stayed overnight.

The journey north was horrendous with a closure to the M11 diverting us across the A120 we were forced to travel up the much slower A12 to West Runton and what should have taken just over two hours took almost four hours but on route we had atleast had the birds continued presence confirmed. Arriving at the small car park and eventually sorting the confusing daily parking fee we walked the short distance to a small gathering of birders. I saw the Short-toed Lark straight away but it flew before I could get the Jims on it. The bird returned and this time we all managed to get good scope views and Jim had finally got his 400th UK mainland tick. A quick high five and we were back enjoying the bird as it ran around feeding with a few Skylarks and some Linnets.

The Greater Short-toed Lark was always a little too far for anything other than a record shot

Moving on we decided to head for Holkham and see if we could find the Shorelarks there for another year tick stopping on route for a short sea watch at Cley. We ticked Bonxie at Cley as three flew by in the 40minutes on site. Also noted Gannets, Razorbill, Guillemot, Knot, Brent Geese, Teal and Wigeon during our stay. At Holkham we again added to the estates profit pot with our parking fee and walked out to the roped off area of beach to search for the four Shorelarks reported to be there. It didn't take long to find them and although they remained quite distance the scope views were good and they're always a great bird to see and they nudged the pointless year list to 228 leaving me just ten short of my worst year totals.

Shorelark hiding at Holkham

Pinks at Holkham

Onwards and upwards and congratulations Jim on the first target reached .....now let's get  to 450.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Life ticks: Top targets


I thought I'd run a list of my top targets (life ticks) according to Bubo listing and it produced the following results in order of what is considered the easiest tick based on the fact that more listers on Bubo have seen this species. I've added a little data to each to make for a more interesting blog post.

SNOW GOOSE

44% of people that keep a British list on Bubo have reported that they've seen Snow Geese but only around a third have added any detail with regards to date and place of their sightings. I too have seen Snow Geese but nothing considered or indeed accepted as of truly wild origin.

Snow Geese are reported annually and nothing but a winter visitor would be expected yet some have ticks listed in June/July and August. Some listers even put "escape" or "feral" next to their listing which I have no problem with as each list is the listers own record and I suppose better to list it as escaped or feral if that's what it is but for me I try to list only BBRC accepted records. The bird sits in category AC2E* with the BOU meaning it is recorded as A: OF TRULY WILD ORIGIN  C2: Species with established populations resulting from introduction by man. E*: Basically escapees but the E for escaped and the E* for those that have been known to breed in the wild from these escaped birds that are still not considered self sustaining. 

People on Bubo have listed birds as local to me as Lee Valley and Abberton and I guess with the bird being accepted as category C2 these could be listed in the same way many list Greylag Geese in this category whilst I'm lucky enough to have seen genuine migratory birds in the highlands. Ticking a genuine cat A Snow Goose is not as easy as the "my targets" would have me believe.

TAWNY PIPIT

This according to Bubo is my next easiest tick. I've dipped a couple, one in my home county of Essex and one this year down in Dorset so I'm trying but again it's a more difficult tick than the stats suggest.

Only 31% or 673 of the 2040 listers on Bubo have ticked Tawny Pipit so I'm in good company with the other 69% of listers that use the site. In the last decade which is the timeline that interests me most Tawny Pipit has been ticked by no fewer than 119 people with most as expected spring vagrants in April and May and again as autumn vagrants in Sept/Oct with the odd ticks in Nov/Dec and a single tick for January. So I can say that my best chance is in the four main migratory months and that the best areas to encounter a Tawny Pipit would appear to be on the south or east coasts. BBRC records show Tawny pipit to be annual vagrants to the UK with c6 records per year in the last decade. Records between 2009/2019 show the islands have a good share: Scilly 8 Shetland 2 Fair Isle 2 Orkney 4 South Uist 1. Also a record on the Isle of Wight. As for the mainland no fewer than fourteen counties have accepted records including my dipped bird at Barking Creekmouth. The best county for records is East Yorkshire followed closely by Norfolk, Cornwall and Suffolk although Kent and Dorset aren't far behind and Beachy Head in East Sussex has three records that I can see in this period. Birds seem to move on quickly which adds to the difficulty catching up with one but I should get one or two chances a year for a  mainland twitch so look forward to adding this to "the list|" in the near future.

PACIFIC DIVER

Listed by 29% of all Bubo listers. The first dated tick is 1997 in a West Yorkshire gravel pit followed by another two listers ticking in Yorkshire in 2000.(these three before the first accepted record) The first UK twitchable bird arrived in 2007 when the first record was accepted in Yorkshire along with other birds in Pembrokeshire and Cornwall. 276 listers connected in 2007 which means 45% of all listers had their first in 2007. 2008  saw 37 other ticks in Yorkshire and Pembs. In terms of accepted records since and including 2007 we have a total of 18 accepted records 10 of which are from Cornwall with Pembrokeshire holding three records from 2007/08/09. and Yorkshire, Northumberland, Gloucestershire, Devon and Shetland all holding one record each. The Cornwall bird seems to be a returning bird but reported much less and as such makes connecting with it harder as it's six hours from home. Maybe I'll get lucky one year holidaying in an area one gets reported but I can't see me making a long drive to scan the sea for a distant diver any time soon. (but never say never)

TEREK SANDPIPER

Another bird I've dipped as I tried for the Rye harbour bird of 2018. Only 27% of listers have seen a Tereks Sandpiper so again I'm in good company having not seen one of these. The first recorded tick on Bubo is at Minsmere in 1972.  A two day bird at Pagham in 2015 was an obvious missed opportunity to connect and a two day bird in Lincs during 2014 another miss. Rye saw another one day bird in 2013 and Yorkshire had a three day bird in 2011.  The first accepted record dates back to 1951. In the last decade we've seen no fewer than 23 accepted records with most being one or two day stayers with the longest stayer a bird in 2015 that was seen over six days in Norfolk but the bird was in an area with no public access so not twitchable. Terek Sandpiper is a bird that gives you less than one chance a year to see and stays for just a day or two so remains high on my wanted list way higher than Snow Goose and Pacific Diver for sure despite the data from Bubo target lists. 

IVORY GULL

Seen by 558 listers on Bubo (27%) with 32 feeling they don't need to provide dates and places for their sighting which is fine as it's their list but frustrating when looking at this data. First recorded in 1822 there have been many records since but I'll focus here again on the last decade as that's where my most realistic chances of connecting have been as that's when I really started thinking of building a life list. As for bubo the first dated tick is 1990 in Inverness. The only twitchable bird in the last decade was the one that was being supplied with fresh fish encouraging it to stay in Yorkshire throughout December of 2013 and this bird accounts for around 8% of all ticks for the species on bubo in a year that saw no fewer than nine records but all bar two in Scotland and the islands. I still kick myself today that I didn't make the effort to see the Yorkshire bird but hope that another will turn up in the next few years maybe even closer to home like the 1999 bird that spent almost all of December in Suffolk. 

AMERICAN ROBIN

Listed on bubo by 541 people. Despite listers on Bubo having records dated 1900/1950 and 1967 there is no official record for any of these dates. The first record accepted in the UK dates back to 1891. The first true dated record I can find that relates to Bubo listers is the bird on Scilly of 1976 with five people ticking that bird. Another lister has a Yorkshire bird ticked that hasn't been accepted from 1982 and another lister has a Grampian bird from 1986 that wasn't submitted/accepted. Another seems to have the wrong date of 1987 on a bird seen by 31 other listers and accepted by BBRC. Three listers have a 1994 bird/birds that are not accepted records and another has an unaccepted record from 1996.  A bird spent two days on Scilly in 1998 and this allowed 16 people to tick it. Ten people then list unaccepted records until the next accepted record in 2003 when 23% of all listers connected. Even in 2003 a couple of people have northern birds ticked that were never accepted whilst only one lister managed to get the Bardsey Island bird of the same year. A bird in Grimsby in 2004 was a long staying crowd pleaser until a Sparrowhawk took it but not before 56 Bubo listers had ticked it and another in Cornwall was also ticked by 11 listers. Five listers have ticked 2005 birds which I suppose could be them getting dates mixed up. Fourteen people listed the Scilly bird of 2006 which spent two weeks on the island and nobody has listed the two other accepted records of 2006 from London and the Highlands.49 listers saw the 2007 Bingley bird and somebody ticked an unaccepted bird on Scilly. 2008/09 sees another six unaccepted ticks before the Exminster bird of 2010 allowed another 41 listers to finally connect although again a couple of listers have birds from 2011 and 2012 that show no accepted records.  Four listers got the 2014 Scilly bird and there's only been one other record since then which was on Lundy in 2018 which nobody ticked. Since 2014 ten listers have ticked birds that don't relate to any accepted records making American Robin one of the most overclaimed ticks I can find and I find it hard to work out why but I'll do a bit more work on it and try to understand the issue better. In the last decade since my real listing days started there have been no twitchable birds which explains why I haven't connected to date. I am also well aware that many people will have seen the accepted records and aren't using Bubo to keep their records.

BUFFLEHEAD

Like the American Robin 541 listers have ticked Bufflehead with a few more happy to include date and place details (only 24 haven't). Again I noted many Bubo listers with ticks against unaccepted records. First accepted in 1920 there have been 20 records accepted since but only four in the last decade. The 2010 Dorset bird allowed 81 listers to tick it and in 2011 Fourteen listers connected with a bird in Cornwall. The Cornwall bird lingered into 2012 and another was seen in Lincolnshire also giving a few new listers a chance to tick the species. From 2013 onwards there is just one record on Orkney which nobody has ticked but 49 listers have since ticked the bird with the majority hoping their 2020/21 records will be accepted. (20 listers have ticked birds from 2013 to 2019 that have not been accepted)

SORA

First recorded in the UK in 1864 there have been 22 records in total although only seven of these records are mainland birds and only five in the last decade with just one mainland record being a bird being found dead in Devon. The most recent twitchable mainland bird was in Lincs in 2006. As for listing stats on Bubo, 37 chose not to share their dates but luckily 492 have provided that detail for me to look at. Although most sightings are on Scilly or the northern Isles the few mainland records account for a majority of the ticks. With nothing twitchable in the last decade I haven't yet had a real chance to connect with a Sora.

SARDINIAN WARBLER

First seen in the UK  in 1955 and with over eighty records since this bird doesn't appear too rare and yet it's ticked by only 509 of Bubo's 2014 life listers. In the last decade records have been limited with just six records accepted and three being twitchable although distant (Scotland/Cornwall and Devon) at a time my birding was self limited to two hours drive for the most part, a rule I've had to relax in the search for life ticks and I guess may have to be relaxed further if I am to finally connect with this target.

SOCIABLE PLOVER

First accepted record dates back to c1860 and the last accepted record is from 2008 although I'm sure last years Cornwall bird will be accepted and would be on my list if not for Covid travel restrictions. In all the UK boasts 50 accepted records (51 with last years bird) and although none have occurred in the last decade there are a couple of noteables for me with one at Rainham in 2005 and another at Old Hall Marsh in Essex in 2001 with the Rainham bird being present for most of December its a missed opportunity for sure along with the Covid restricted bird.

So these are my top targets according to Bubo listing and it's made for an interesting (for me anyway) reflection which highlighted how diluted the list totals are in general and that a look behind the top end stats was worthwhile.

If this was a question of most wanted then that would be a different list for sure with such treasures as Varied Thrush and Siberian Rubythroat topping that list but that's perhaps for another rainy day.


Abberton

I had a decent visit to Abberton on Friday. As winter approaches the duck numbers increase and there's always the chance of finding something odd among them. 

I found four Cattle Egret in the cow field before getting to the causeway and with the scope up I scanned the ducks which are mostly Tufted and Pochard with smaller numbers of Gadwall, Teal, Mallard and Shoveler. There's lot's of Great Crested Grebes, Geese and Swans too along with the odd escapee or strange looking hybrid.
Nothing stood out despite reports of some Red-crested Pochard being present which I still need for a pointless year tick. From the main causeway at LDLH I picked out lots of Pintail and six Goosander before moving my attention to waders. A move to Wigborough bay added to the wader count which now included Lapwings, Golden Plover, Blackwits, Dunlin, Redshank and several Ruff. A Fox was a strange site as it walked through the Lapwings without putting them up.

Two of the four Cattle Egrets

Fox walking through Lapwings at Wigborough bay

Goosanders

Great White Egret

Great White

Great Egret.....We dropped the white when we adopted IOU names 

Great Egret

An enjoyable visit and a nice little fix to take my mind off all the images coming through of the Varied Thrush on Papa Westray which is unfortunately way out of my twitching zone and budget.

I'm still looking for those elusive year ticks to prevent me setting a new low to my year listing totals.


Monday, 25 October 2021

A day out at Titchwell

I called the Jims and arranged a day out at Titchwell but needed to be home early as my Grandson had promised me a visit so we left at 5.30 to arrive for first light in Norfolk. It was a joy to be out but the weather has turned and with the coastal breeze it was quite cold. We set off down the west path to view the new scrapes recently created on freshmarsh and it would appear they are going to get lot's of use from the many waders that use the shorelines to feed. A large flock of Golden Plover rested on the new islands along with Lapwings, Avocets and small numbers of Knot and Dunlin. In the distance we could pick out Ruff, Barwits and Blackwits along with a few Redshank. A Grey Phalarope gave us all a year tick as it swam in circles reasonably close to the footpath. A couple of Pink-footed Geese flew over calling to add a frustratingly late year tick. A single Marsh Harrier quartered the marsh and a Snipe was flushed. The volunteer marsh had high water levels and held very little birdlife but there was a decent roost on Tidal marsh which included Curlew, Greenshank, Knot and Turnstone before I spotted a Guillemot preening close to the bank. The bird started to dive and would swim quite a distance under water before finally making its way back to the sea.

Titchwell and the new scrapes

At the beach we walked towards Thornham hoping to chance upon the Purple Sandpiper that's been seen and it didn't take long to find it. I plotted up behind a small boat and waited hoping the bird would come closer and sure enough the plan worked and I managed some very satisfying shots of it. I also got lucky when Jim called a Snow Bunting in the distance and this too came running down the beach and got very close to where I was sitting before another flock of eleven birds dropped to the beach but quickly took flight again towards Thornham point. The Sanderling entertained as they do running along the tide line feeding and a couple of hours watching the sea gave us another year tick with a smart Slavonian Grebe among the many Great Crested. A Small flock of Scoters were seen and a few Gannets, Mergansers and Red-throated Divers. Two small birds flew past in the turbines that were most probably Little Auk but distance prevented a positive ID on them. Hundreds of Starling came in off in small groups but sadly only appeared to be carrying a few Mipits with them.

Me hiding behind the boat for the Purple Sandpiper

My reward as the Sandpiper came ever closer

Purple Sandpiper

Snow Bunting

Sanderling

Sanderling

Purple Sandpiper

The walk back presented another Marsh Harrier and good views of the Phalarope. A Water Rail popped out briefly as we sat watching the Phalarope to make for a splendid day out on the Norfolk coast. To be honest I can't wait to do it all again.


A tiny Grey Phalarope on freshmarsh

A Guillemot on Tidal marsh

Guillemot

So confiding this guy had put don the camera and use his phone

Water Rail

Year list now 225 and still 13 short of my all time worst of 238 in 2010

Nice chatting to Ray who is a volunteer at Titchwell and has good stories of life on the Norfolk coast and the birds he's encountered there especially with his time as a golf pro which gave him garden ticks like Leach's storm Petrel, Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Little Auk actually in the garden one year. (think he said his garden list for the golf house was 225)