Monday, 9 June 2014


Soon after my last post re the Hawfinches and Biakal Teal adventure, you may have heard, I was a victim of theft.


The day of the Craig Martin at Flamborough Head, Sat 12 April. I awoke early for the journey up to Yorkshire and was planing on staying up there overnight should the need be. First thing was to put my gear into the vehicle, whilst doing this I noticed that my new Swarovski ATX 95 and my Canon 100-400 L series lens were missing. They had been taken during the Friday and I hadn't even noticed. I was choked, distressed and was beginning to believe that I had left the the vehicles back doors open. Once the police had finally arrived they did confirm that the vehicle was broken into and showed me a small hole just below the lock between the lock and the vehicles body. Relief that I had not left the doors open but still choked abouthas the loss.


The equipment taken had a value of £4,600.00 and I had foolishly refused to pay the extra £140.00 per year for the privilege of insurance. People were great, really helping by Re-Tweeting my tweet about the loss and sharing my Facebook status. I was hoping that posting about what had happened may have helped in the recovery of the equipment, but that in hindsight was very unlikely to happen. 100's of you did share my tweet and I'm very grateful. A friend Paul Hackett was over to my house within 2 hrs with a scope for me to borrow, a really lovely gesture. Martin Garner another friend and well known bird expert had shared my tweet so it was being seen by many people. Dominic Mitchel shared my tweet and also messaged me the same day saying how sorry he was and he gave me some good advice and contacts to research re insurance.


Needless to say I never made the Crag Martin that day despite Mike Ilet ringing me and offering me a lift up on the Saturday night. I was just not in the mood and I thought I would not be the best company for Mike on the 4hr drive up to Flamborough. Again is hindsight, I wished I had gone. I deceided to go up after the first sighting on the Sunday but the first sighting was the only sighting that day. I had dipped the bird but did see a Tawny Pipit which was very nice. I managed to slide my iPhone over a colleagues scope and get these images.


(Tawny Pipit)

(Tawny Pipit)

The next great thing to happen was that Swarovski and especially Dale Forbes contacted me and had arranged for me to have loan equipment of the equivalent scope and digiscoping adaptor that I had lost. Further more it was allowed to keep the eyecup adaptor that I had stolen after the loan period. That was the most wonderful gesture and again I was truly grateful as this is well beyond the normal great service Swarovski always give. I was back in action but going slow as I still felt concerned about having the equipment with me. Of course should the loaned equipment be lost I would be in a even more difficult and costly predicament. I treasured the equipment that had been loaned to me till the end of June. So I still have it as I write. Below are a few of the shots I got at my local patch Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire all digiscoped.
(Little Ringed Plover)
(Ringed Plover)
(Common Sandpiper)

The holy grail for digiscoping has to be flight shots. Digiscoping being the practice of attaching a camera onto a spotting scope to get images. I've always thought that flight shots with a digiscoping setup were impossible and I had seen some pretty awful attempts on the net through Facebook and Twitter. Then out of the blue I noticed a few digiscopers pulling some pretty smart flight shots that you could have mistaken for being taken by a normal camera and lens setup. This really intrigued me and I just had to have a go. I discovered that to do this I would need a cable release, so that exactly what I got. My first try out was at Amwell NR as always and below are a few of my first attempts. I'm looking forward to improving on these and the technique over the summer months.
(Black Headed Gull)

(Common Tern)
(Common Tern)
(Common Tern)
(Black Headed Gull)

Thought I would finish this post with a few of the rarities I have seen during the period. Some nice birds and two MEGA's. A Short-Toed Eagle at Morden Bog, Dorset. A Spectacled Warbler at Burnham Overy, Norfolk and a Ross's Gull at Bowling Green Marsh, Devon. Oh and I can't resist showing my Swift photo as apart from the fact that I just love them, its the best Swift photo I've managed so far.
(Short-Toed Eagle)
(Short-Toed Eagle)

(Ross's Gull)

(Ross's Gull)

(Spectacled Warbler)
(Spectacled Warbler)
(Spectacled Warbler)
(Common Swift)

Happy birding in what ever birding you do, enjoy every minuet of it, that's what it's all about.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


28th-30th March.

I started by looking for Goshawks at a site in Norfolk and it wasn't long before we had our first sighting. I had been told that the best time was between 9am and 10:30am and right on cue two appeared and flew East. Staying on site till 10:30am did give a further two sighting's but as they were not seen at the same time it's not possible to say that they were 4 different individuals.



Next stop was Lynford Arboretum were I was greeted by two singing, flighty Firecrest's and an equally chirpy Colin Wills. The target birds were Firecrest, which was seen in the car park as soon as pulled up, Hawfinch and Two-barred Crossbill. The Hawfinch have been seen under the feeding area near the entrance to the arboretum.



Now, to me it doesn't matter how many Hawfinch's you see, they always take your breath away as they are just such stunning birds. We had 6 in total seen at the same time and I manged to digiscope the images included here. The light was not great so I was extremely pleased with the results.


Two-Barred Crossbill were found a little further into the arboretum. There has been lots of talk and controversy regarding these birds with many discounting some individuals. The tertials white tips ware but length and shape remain. My opinion is that they are Two Barred, even the one with the lesser bars pictured at the top here. The lower bird is a complete stonker.
Cavenham Heath was going to be my last stop to see Stone Curlew until a certain mega alert re a Duck at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB drew my attention, which we will discuss a little later. There were 6 Stone Curlew seen on the Heath early morning although I only managed to see 5. Always very distant and perfectly camouflaged when siting still. The warm sunshine that had developed in the afternoon was adding to the difficulty getting decent images, the heat haze causing much distortion. This is the only recognisable digiscoped image obtained.
The mega alert that I had had earlier was then really brought to the forefront of my mind by means of a phone call from a good friend Ron Cousins. He was already on site and had seen the BAIKAL TEAL, texting me "It looks good and has no rings". I left the Heath and dashed to RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes. Arriving to see Ron waiting for me, he helped to point me in the right direction before having to go off.
Whilst walking down a few birders were walking back and they stopped to tell me "Its flown off round the spit and can't be seen from the hide, it may have landed down the western end". My heart did sink a little but I carried on and completed the long walk to the far south western tip of the lake in record time. I was very happy to relocate the bird there sunning its self on the bank with several Wigeon obtaining these images, again digiscoped.
Now wether this bird is a genuine vagrant is debatable and I'm sure there will be people who believe in both views, genuine and escape. The bird is fully winged and has no rings so it may well get excepted. If it stays all summer it will be less likely to excepted by the powers that be, but its in beautiful plumage and is worth going to see.
All in all another absolutely cracking days birding.


Monday, 17 March 2014


Thursday 13/03/14
Another rare day off, well thats what some of my friends seem to say to me. I don't really know what that mean? @;^) but this was a great little journey.

Alarm set for 4am I finally hauled myself up, got fed and watered and headed out by 4:45am. A long drive to Pembrokeshire in Wales for a GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO. Arriving at around 9:15am, a good friend of mine Paul Hackett was already there and on the beach looking at the bird. As I dashed along the sand following Paul's directions towards the small gathered crowed, I noticed them slowly packing the scopes up and closing the legs on their tripods. My heart sank a little as I knew that the bird had flown.

As they came closer they confirmed that the bird had indeed flown and must have flown right past me. I of course was head down, heart racing heading towards them. It was thought to have flown over the small ridge and drop into the scrub there. However this was not the case.

My heat ache was short lived as we caught up with bird on the golf course and watched it feeding really well. It took around 6 large grubs/caterpillars in the first 5 mins we watched it. This bird really did bring me great joy, an absolute stunner. It was lady's day on the golf course and its was quite busy, this I think helped as the bird was moving around a lot, offering great but sometimes distant views.

The Images I did obtain, included here, were a mixture of iPhone/scoped ground shots and some in flight shots with my Canon camera.

Again, another thoroughly enjoyable day out and great to spend the hrs with Paul Hackett who's is a gent and always has the birds welfare at heart.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


A trip up north for the AMERICAN COOT at Loch Flemington was a great chance to spend a few days up in delightful Scotland, a place I've not birded for many years.



Day 1-2: Leaving on Saturday morning at 11:30am, driving the 535 miles from my house and arriving at around 7:30pm at Boat-of-Garten, I managed to book into the Boat hotel. First thing on the agenda for the morning was the Coot. Only 36 miles from where I was staying and on arrival I was greeted by Pete Morris and Alan Lewis. Amazing how you can bump into people you know in the wildest of places. The weather was poor with these being the best and only images of the AMERICAN COOT I could obtain. These were taken with the iPhone and scope and in the extremely dull wet conditions.


After I had had my fill of the Coot I then took the short drive to Loch Garten where my target bird was Crested Tit. A bird I've seen before but had never been able to get any decent photos of. As Tits go this has to be the finest on our shores, although confined to the Pine Forests of the extreme north. Another target species was Scottish Crossbill but I was unable to locate any in the usual haunts. The Crested Tit was an absolute joy to see and really great to finally get some decent images of this charming little bird.


The area was good for many species including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch and the wonderful Tree Creeper.



Day 3: I was planning to tackle the Findhorn Valley but the low cloud and rain put pay to that. Although I have since heard from a friend that both Golden Eagle and White-tailed Sea Eagle were seen that day. I however drove out to a known site for Black Grouse only to find that the field that they had fed in previously was no longer as they required it. No sign of the birds at all. I did see an immature Golden Eagle on the mountain pass near Dirdhu, which was a great bit of luck. The only grouse on offer was the rather glorious Red Grouse.

My next target was Capercaillie, a real beauty and sadly declining grouse. I had been given some infomation by a friend of mine Christopher Bridge. I was unlucky on the morning of my visit but I know three were seen the following morning, due to a call from another good friend Paul Hackett and in the very spot Chris had mapped out for me. I went to another location later that afternoon and was totally amazed and privileged to get the selection of images below.

The most amazing, exhilarating, scary and truly a wonderful experience. Certainly one of the top highlight's of my birding years. I've seen Capercaillie before but never managed great views like this. Sadly the Capercaillie, according to the RSPB are down to less than 280 individuals. We really must try to do what ever we can to save this our largest and possibly the most beautiful of all grouse.
Day 4: Was final days birding and was a morning looking at Black Grouse at Tulloch Moor and then on to Caingorm and unfortunately failing to locate any Ptarmigan. A nice addition to the list of sightings was this beautiful Roe Deer that stared at me for at least 3mins before deciding it may be best to depart back into the deepest parts of the Forest.
All in all, a great few days. I do hope to go back to wonderful Scotland before the end of May this year, fingers crossed.