Saturday, 24 December 2022

Review of the year 2022

As readers of my blog will know I've been a little tied up this year. My wifes health issues continue, my father in law needs more of my time and of course I now have three grandchildren following the birth of Amelia and Emily earlier this year. Little George is now four and has started school and I very much enjoy my moments in his company. I've seen my good lady hit a milestone birthday and we enjoyed a quiet 40th wedding anniversary too so outside of birding quite a busy year and all of this presents just some of the reasons for my slow birding year in 2022.

My total species seen this year is only 246 but I suppose I should be glad I managed to see more than last years 240. Days out have been very limited and I've tried to save the free time more for new birds. This has proved a decent plan and has delivered ten new birds this year so the review will focus largely on these ten having previously posted about the ones I've missed.

American Robin

The first of the new birds was the American Robin in Eastbourne on 9th February. It was so good I went back for seconds . There have been many previous records and many more unproven reports but this was the first twitchable bird for me since I started listing.

Belted Kingfisher

Snow Goose

Next up was a delayed visit to Lancashire where we were successful in connecting with the long staying Belted Kingfisher, having seen them in the states we were in no rush to make the long journey but in the end the twitch got the better of us. Whilst in the area we also visited Banks Marsh were we ticked Snow Goose having seen many this was perhaps the best "wild" candidate and makes my list as such.

Eleonora's Falcon

The next was a real surprise as news was circulated of an Eleonora's Falcon seen at Worth Marsh in Kent and we didn't hang around getting there. The bird was stunning and performed really well, so well that I visited it twice and like the Robin I got an even better show on the second visit. The day after this second visit I was back in Kent getting what is my worst tick of the year and by that I mean I had the worst views of it than any other bird this year. I was on site for six hours and saw the bird three times for a total of no more than a minute or so despite it calling often. It's s a tick but I'd very much like better views of one at some point.

Turkestan Shrike

My next new bird didn't come until July when a trip to Bempton Cliff in East Yorkshire gave me the chance of seeing my first ever Turkestan Shrike and I do love a Shrike so I was never going to pass up this opportunity. 

Kelp Gull

Whilst digging in my sons garden in early August news broke of a first for Britain just up the road from his house so I made my excuses and successfully twitched the mega on it's first day. I returned again the following day with the camera and the Jims.

Greater Sand Plover

I had to wait until almost the end of August for the next opportunity and it was quite a drive away in Cleveland but a great bird and well worth the effort put in to see it. I'd spent time at this site previously enjoying a very obliging Pom Skua.

Common Nighthawk

My next new bird came as a complete surprise but I was lucky as again this one was quite local and I made it on day one. The bird sat on an urban garden fence all day for all admirers lucky enough to get there.

Alpine Accentor

My last new bird of the year and again luckily local on the Suffolk coast, a site I'd ticked Hournemann's Redpoll before. The Alpine Accentor was on my dipped list so it was great to see this one as there's no better tick than one you've previously dipped. 


and if you're reading this then may I wish you and yours a great Christmas and a bird filled new year

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

BOU UK life ticks missed in 2022

Although 2022 has been kind in giving me ten new birds it's also presented me with some big misses.
Don't get me wrong I've not dipped a single bird this year but there's been some pretty good birds that were either out of reach for the time, distance and money factors that always play a part in my decision making process or just didn't hang around long enough to be twitchable.

I'll start with the big ones despite them both being out of my twitch zone on Shetland and Scilly

Least Bittern: Shetland 7th October found at a beach car park and taken into care but sadly didn't make it through the night. Around a hundred or so birders on Shetland connected with the bird in various fashion. Some saw it alive at the site some saw it alive in the hand and it's rumoured that some travelled to connect with it whilst in care. Maybe some even saw it after it had expired and some of those may even still tick it, I'm not here to judge or police anybody else's list though. The bird was a first for Britain that I wouldn't have twitched if it had stayed a month being Shetland and outside my budget of money and time. I have seen one in Florida but would obviously like to add it to my British list at some point. 

Blackburnian Warbler: A long staying bird on Scilly first seen on 13th October saw many on the island connect and with it staying until 29th October most that wanted to travel for it could. Again it was outside my mainland boundary but I must admit I very nearly made my first ever Scilly trip for it. The bird has only ever been seen three times before in Britain and all were short staying island birds. Skomer 1961 5/10 - Fair Isle 1988 7/10 - St Kilda 2009 12/9 - 14/9

And a few mainland misses.....

Yellow browed Bunting: One was trapped and ringed at Sandwich Bay obs in Kent on 10th October but sadly not seen after release. I was on standby awaiting news for this one. Only five previous records and all island birds apart from the 1975 one day Norfolk bird.

Black faced Bunting: One trapped and ringed at Nanjizal in Cornwall on 19th November and again wasn't seen after release. Only seven previous records three of which were mainland birds.

American Purple Gallinule: One was seen by a builder and photographed on 16th November at Dunster in Somerset. News circulated after the image appeared on facebook but sadly the bird couldn't be refound and may have expired. Just three previous records, two found dead and one that died in care.

Lesser Sand Plover: This one hurt as it was found locally at Cliffe Pools in Kent on 1st September and I was in the car on the way there within minutes only for the bird to depart soon after being found and reported. Only six previous records with the last one being 2013.

White-crowned Sparrow: This one is on my dipped list for a few years back so when news broke of one photographed in a garden in Devon I was on standby but sadly the bird wasn't seen again and I don't think hoax was totally ruled out. Thirteen previous records.

Terek Sandpiper: Another from my dipped list but this this year has seen just two "possible" reports. One at Spurn on 18th May and one in Aberdeen on 31st July.  

Tawny Pipit: This remains my real bogey bird and top of my target list but this year it didn't give itself up for me. Just four reports all year with one on Scilly for three days in May. One at West Runton in Norfolk for a couple of hours on 11th May, a fly over at Weybourne and another at Gramborough Hill on 6th May 

Black Scoter: This one is pulling the twitch strings a bit but it's around six hours from home and views are sure to be distant so I'm waiting for two options....a) one to turn up closer to home or b) to be closer to the area at some point to attempt the twitch. The bird returns each winter and it was seen all year until 19th April and then returned on 23rd September so it gives me plenty of time to connect. Another was seen in Aberdeen on 31st July until 28th August so I suppose they could be the same bird, not sure if this is the considered opinion.

Cackling Goose: Another that is gettable most years but I just can't put in the miles for it. I connected with one in Norfolk once but it wasn't accepted. Birds have been seen in Lancs, Argyll and North Uist this year.

Wilson's Storm Petrel: I could do the Scilly pelagic and tick this bird but I also have the chance of seeing one on a sea watch in Cornwall so hope to be in the right place at the right time one day.
This year the Scilly pelagics connected many times between 6th June and 29th August and there were over twenty sightings from the Cornish coast too.

Blackpoll Warbler: One at Nanjizal Valley Cornwall 2/10. There are many records but as far as I can see the last twitchable mainland bird was back in 1994.

Aquatic Warbler: Dorset Lytchett Fields 7/8, 12/8 and 13/8 and at Abbotsbury 14/8 one in Devon on 14/8 and another on 22/8 one at Nanjizal 25/8 and one in Gwent 13/8 (All trapped and ringed apart from the Abbotsbury one which was seen in the field) 

Birds seen only on the islands and therefore out of my twitch range were 

Thrush Nightingale : Fair Isle 20/5 Bardsey Island 2/6 Lundy 3/6
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper: Isle of Man 29/8
Collared Flycatcher: Fair Isle 20/5
Baltimore Oriole: Lundy 8/10
Swainson's Thrush: Scilly 6/10 - 12/10  Barra 28/9 Yell 29/9 - 1/10
Wilson's Snipe: Scilly 14/10 - 21/11
Pechora Pipit: Shetland 3/10 - 5/10 Lewis 16/10 Scilly 19/10 (possible on 20th too)
White's Thrush: Orkney 27/9 and 23/10 Shetland 9/10-10/10
Lanceolated Warbler: Fair Isle 9/9 North Ron 1/10-2/10 Shetland 4/10
Tennessee Warbler: Skokholm 12/10
Siberian Rubythroat: Shetland 20/10
Siberian Thrush: One found dead on Papa Westray 27/9 Yell 1/10
Eastern Subalpine Warbler: Lundy 26/4 Skokholm 17/5-18/5 Foula 5/6-6/6 
Possibles and Probables

Long-legged Buzzard: Reported in Cornwall on four occasions by single observers between 30/5 & 1/6
Trindade Petrel: Porthgwarra 24/8
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler : a heard only possible on 21/10 at Winterton
Sooty Tern: Papa Westray 4/5
Gyr Falcon: Lewis 27/9 &28/9 Conwy 26/10 (one of unkown origin Dumfries 6/6)
Little Swift: single observer in Feltham London 26/5, Seahouses 1/6 Wangford Suffolk 21/6 and one reported in Bristol 30/10

So after having this little look back on the misses I have just two that I realistically would go for, The Black Scoter and the Cackling Goose. Maybe I could have tried a sea watch to jam on the Wilson's petrel too but the others are either out of my range or moved on and weren't twitchable.

Late news of a Stejneger's Scoter found in Lothian on 10th December. A first for Britain no less, six hours from home but like the Black Scoter I can't bring myself to do the 12 hour return journey for a very distant underwhelming duck  I suppose there's every chance this bird will spend the winter in the area so if I'm up that way I may take a chance and have a look for it in a similar fashion to the Black Scoter but a long distant twitch isn't going to happen. Whilst I like to see new birds, I'm still able to perform these little sense checks before shooting off for anything and everything unlike some more competitive souls but as I always say, "each to their own".

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Rarest birds

A short indulgent blog post to highlight the rarest of the 436 species I've seen to date.

The first bird I ever twitched was the 1990 Naumann's Thrush in Woodford. At the time this was a first for Britain but there has been a second which was strangely enough seen in 1997 in South Woodford.  Little did I know I wouldn't twitch my next bird until 2011 after giving up the hobby to raise my family. I worked long hours to give my boys everything I could and spent all my spare time running them to various football training and matches. I became a qualified referee and took the FA coaching course before a decade of coaching which took up all my spare time.

The Pond Heron in Hythe Kent 2014 was another first for Britain which I saw the day before it expired. Since the first there have been another subsequent accepted record of a bird that was seen in Norfolk and Hampshire. Despite the second bird this remains the bird that most other listers on Bubo have as a target species. I think like me many didn't think the Hythe bird would be accepted and I only twitched it as an insurance tick as I was driving by.

The Brown Booby I connected with in Cornwall of 2019 was a first for Britain until later a record from Kent was submitted and predated the Cornwall record by a week although they were probably the same bird. There has been another record since with a bird seen at sea in 2020 off the Isle of Wight.

I connected with Siberian Accentor back in 2016. At the time this was a first record for Britain and another was seen in 2017. 

Western Swamphen was a first for Britain back in 2016. It remains the only British record and I was lucky enough to see it during it's time in Linconshire having missed it's brief stay at Minsmere.

Short-toed Snake Eagle was only the third for Britain when I connected in Ashdown Forest back in 2014. There have only been two records since.

The Grey Catbird was only Britains second record when I made the long journey down tot Cornwall to see it in 2018 and we haven't had the third record yet.

Sandhill Crane was only the fourth for Britain when I saw my first back in 2011 and we've not seen another since. 

Masked Shrike have only made the British list five times and I was lucky to connect with the third and fifth. First in Yorkshire in 2014 and then in Kent in 2020

Spanish Sparrow was the eighth record for Britain when I twitched one in Hampshire back in 2011 and there have only been two since.

The Green Heron in 2018 was only the eighth for Britain, there's not been one since.

Common Yellowthroat was the tenth record for Britain when I connected in Gwent during 2012 and we haven't had another since.

American Barn Swallow was only the tenth record for Britain when I connected at Minsmere back in 2016 and there have only been a couple of records since.

I connected with the White winged Scoter that's been wintering in Scotland since 2016. This bird would appear to be the second record for Britain as another bird in the same area was seen in 2011.


The evening of 11th December saw six inches of snow fall locally. A neighbour had lost her dog so being at home I went for a local walk to see if I could bump into it and return it home. In two hours I didn't find it but shortly after returning home the dog was found and returned to it's owner.

Whilst walking I grabbed a few images to record the snow day.

As for birding opportunity, well that still plays second fiddle to my other duties as a husband, dad, son and grandfather but the cold snap did bring both Song Thrush and Redwing to the garden so I should be grateful for that I suppose.

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Wallasea Island

Today was a free day, a luxury I've not enjoyed much of late so after a few calls to the Jims and Rob with no interest in a day out I set off alone down the A127 to Wallasea Island.

I arrived at lunchtime and walked out to the far east corner of the reserve hoping to find a Hen Harrier and I eventually found one possibly two ring-tailed birds quartering the far field with three Marsh Harriers. On the walk back I flushed a Hare which in turn flushed a Short-eared Owl. The Owl quartered the islands for a while but was constantly harassed by a Kestrel so eventually moved off towards the car park area but not before giving me a quick chance of a few pics as it flew passed.


As I continued, I had brief views of another Hen Harrier (probably the same bird or one of the two I'd seen earlier) and a Spoonbill flew over. The estuary held thousands of waders that gave a few nice displays as they were spooked by a guy driving along the sea wall and no doubt some raptor activity.

At the car park I found a Dartford Warbler in the brambles by the portaloo but the view was brief and despite a good search I couldn't relocate it. Corn Buntings and Skylarks were seen along with a couple of Stonechat but despite waiting until around 3.45pm I didn't see another Owl.

It was great to be out again and nice to bump into a couple of locals for a catch up too.

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Bittern hide Lee Valley

With a spare couple of hours on Wednesday morning I popped over to the Lee Valley and enjoyed a few brief views of the Bittern from the discovery centre hide along with a few flight views of Kingfisher. The Grebes were busy catching perch and a Cormorant and Heron watched on from a safe distance. Water rails were heard and seen quite often, and a Cetti's showed quite well in the reeds.

Bittern at Lee Valley

The view from the Bittern hide



Great crested Grebe with Perch 

Perch for lunch

After leaving the hide I walked down to the farm watching a Red Kite as I walked. The finch flock feeding on the set aside numbers well over a hundred now and I managed to find a couple of Brambling amongst the Chaffinch and Goldfinch. On the walk back a pair of Stonechat sat up asking for their picture to be taken.



All in all, a very enjoyable couple of hours to clear the head and set me up for the afternoons tasks.

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Sabines gulls in Kent

I haven't managed a day out birding for over a fortnight now but have had an eye on the Sab gull at Lympne in Kent all week. A combination of caring duties for Suzanne, the grandchildren and my father in law all prevented me travelling and of course the protests on the M25 wouldn't have made the journey very enjoyable this week so with a free day Saturday I did make the journey with the Jims.

I started the day at Dunge where I walked far too many miles up and down the shingle in search of the Grey Phalarope that was seen by others but never allowed me a glimpse. The sea was calm and therefore quiet. We had two drake Eider to give the Jims a late year tick but otherwise the usual sea birds although we did spot what looked like a distant Sabines Gull. 

We decided to shoot off and check out Appledore as the Osprey had been reported and we hadn't yet seen one in 2022. Pulling up at the bridge we walked down the track and found the Osprey sat in a field, after a while it flew and landed close to us on a telegraph pole before flying to its favoured dead tree.


Back at Dunge and we had another go for the Phalarope but missed it again by a few minutes so we set off up the road for the Sabines gull at Lympne. As we drove down the entrance track we saw the gull feeding alone infront of a small gathering of admirers and were told to park on the grass close to the gates. From the safety of the fenced pull in we enjoyed the bird hanging out on its newly found territory as it pulled worms and called along with chasing any Black-heads that got too close. It was only 1pm and we had a descision to make, do we go down to Foreland and look for the Pallas's Warbler or do we go back to Dunge and give the Phalarope another go.

Back at Dunge we set up at the Sea watch hide and sat it out for a couple of hours. We failed to see the Phalarope which had flown from the sea watch hide just before we got there. The Sabines gull that I'd seen at distance this morning was now flying along the tide line constantly giving great views. An Arctic Tern was at the patch and later flew along the tide line too. Lots of Med gulls flew up and a few Sandwich Terns but little else of note.

Enjoyed being out and clearing the old cobwebs even if we did miss the Phal but we did add three very late year ticks.

Year list now 246 (nothing new for Kent|)

Friday, 28 October 2022

Alpine Accentor at Slaughden in Suffolk

News broke yesterday of an Alpine Accentor being found by Mark C on or around the Martello towers at Slaughden beach near Aldeburgh in Suffolk. The first reports were around 1.30pm which would usually have given me plenty of time to travel but yesterday I was on grandad duty, and it was impossible to travel so I watched the news in envy all afternoon but was pleased to see reports that the bird had roosted on a pipe of the tower. I called the Jims and arranged to travel up to be on site at 7am today with sunrise scheduled for 7.40am I assumed if the bird had stayed, we'd at least see it leave the roost.

We arrived at 6.55 and walked up to the tower in darkness to find around thirty birders on site and reports that a thermal imager had picked up a heat source on top of the pipe which was promising. Within ten minutes with the light improving, we could make out the shape of the Accentor on the pipe but by 7.15 it had a big stretch flew up onto the wall of tower then flew off around the back of the tower and out of sight.

The Martello towers

The enthusiastic scrum

It took around 40 minutes to locate the bird again. It was a bit of a scrum and I found myself at the back and although I managed to see the bird the views were poor until a guy next to me with a better placement let me look through his scope. When the crowd moved, I remained distant with three others and eventually had a magical reward when the bird flew back down the beach landing on the large boulders briefly before flying up onto the path close to me. Better still it then walked towards me giving views down to about ten feet or less.  Quickly the crowd gathered around the four of us, but the bird seemed unconcerned and continued to feed giving everybody the opportunity to enjoy it.

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor Slaughden beach Suffolk

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

I have previously dipped Alpine Accentor so this means I can remove it from the "dipped list"

My year list now stands at 243

My life list now stands at 436 (Mainland Britain only/BOU)

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

couple of local trips

My time birding remains limited, but I have managed a couple of local trips of late. Firstly I spent a morning at Grafham water in Cambridgeshire where we enjoyed a year tick with a drake American Wigeon that was difficult to pick out in the large duck flocks especially as they kept getting put up by a fishing boat that had very little regard for the wildfowl on the water. We picked out a Pectoral Sandpiper on the shoreline and a couple of Little Stints. Curlew Sandpipers were also present along with Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover. 

We've also visited Lemford Springs for a couple of hours. Here we found several Green Sandpipers three Snipe, Water Rail and Kingfisher to name a few of the highlights. There has been a Jack Snipe reported but we failed to see it on our visit. 

Year list now 241

Grafham water

Green Sandpiper

Little Egret




Water Rail

Water Rail