Thursday, 17 September 2009

Had to do a mammoth shop today for the 6 of us who are going onto Foula, car was totally overloaded with tesco bags! Dropped the food and beer off at walls ferry terminal, the use of the word terminal here may surprise anyone who has been there! Hopefully it will have been taken across by the boat, we'll find out when we get there tomorrow!
After sorting out our nosebag for Foula we went to Unst caught up with a Barred Warbler at Valyie and a Pied Fly and Chiff but they seem to have been there since the last sniff of east which seems like sometime last nov! Caught up for quick chats with The F, Penno and Rory before getting back to Lerwick. Developed a chest infection since being up here so went to the hossy to try get some antibiotics, had a really nice evening in Lerwick A&E for 3 hours not being seen to! Finally got sorted, good excuse to keep off the beer next week and spent more time in the field, having said that the weather looks shite it's gonna be hard keeping up the enthusiasm, reckon it's gonna be a septic or nowt!

Barred in typical Shetland habbo, potatoes!
Last nights curry seems to have been a bit of a mistake, been had to pay 5 visits today, it's not pretty!
Birded around Virkie and Scatness early afternoon but a Little Gull on the pool at Virkie was the only bird of note.
Picked Gav up at the airport at 3pm and went to Sumburgh hotel and up to the head but not a single migrant! How come Fair Isle had Arctic Warbler and a spattering of scarce?

Tuesday was a bit quiet on Ron with one Pec remaining and a new Lesserthroat about the only things of note. Got the plane off in the evening and finished the day with a cracking Jalfezi in Kirkwall whilst waiting for the ferry to Lerwick.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Ron delivers! Weather looked half rare today so we were expecting a few birds early on it came in misty and drizzly walking the walls (they're not dykes, you don't get wet when walking them!) nr the obs it seemed a bit quiet, just a willow to show for the first hour. Towel got a call from one of the islanders about some good seawatching, a change of plan was clearly in order as we made our way back to the obs we flushed a group of Snipe and a Redshank, whilst checking thru them I got onto a Pec, just as I was about to call it out Towel said there's a Pec calling, yeah I know I'm on it here turns out the bird he had was sat in the field at the side of us and mine flew off and landed on Gretchen loch.
Half an hour later we were ensconced in the seawatch hide with almost zero visibility, the murk lifted and highlights were finding 1 Great Shear (a really good bird in Scotland, some of the top listers still need it) 60 odd Sooties and 3 Great Northerns plus a big Minkie Whale. A good walk round the south end later we saw the two pecs again and possibly a 3rd bird otherwise pretty quiet with just 1 Lesserthroat and 1 Whitethroat plenty of Wheatears and 1 Merlin.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Saturday was a bit of a write off strong winds and constant drizzle, the only birds we could find were 2 Willow Warblers and a Lesserthroat. The sheep do appear to eat the seaweed tho!

Sunday we had light northerlies so went seawatching, didn't get the hoped for mega close views of stuff North Ron gets when the wind is stronger but 21 Sooties included some close-ish if not mega views, the Fulmars are amazing tho right in front of the hide and looking in thru the flaps. Other notables were a Basking Shark and 2 Black Guillemot and a few Stormies. Normally seawatching involves calling stuff out with directions relating to flags, ships or drowning swimmers but I reckon calling stuff out as "just in front of Fair Isle" is pretty cool. On the land we had 2 Willows and a Whinchat.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Quest for the BIG ONE!

This is it the start of my month on the northern isles. Drove up to Scrabster throught the night then got the ferry across to Stromness, saw a few manxies and lots of Bonxie from the boat but not a lot else except the "old man"!. Got the plane over to North Ron and met up with Towel. After a few hours of gently thrashing the haul was a Crossbill, a fine Drake Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Wryneck and apparently best of all a Black Tern, rare as rocking horse shit on here. Best for me though were the ridiculous sheep that live on the beach and allegedly eat seaweed!!! I'll be checking out the validity of this claim! Not bad for a first afternoon but with reports coming in of rare hippos either side of us expectations are high for tomorrow.

The 'old man'

Loca mega!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Well seems I had one pint too many last night! Slept in and didn't get to Flamborough til half 8ish about an hour too late as all the sooty's had dried up and I missed the Cory's! Had a steady trickle of Manx and a few Bonxie and Arctics, one Skua was probably a Long tail but a bit too distant. After not seawatching at Flamboro for about 7 or 8 years one thing that did strike me was how different stuff looks to Spurn. Must be due to looking down on them, the Skua for instance wasn't that far out and at Spurn I'd have seen the shape of the chest and belly (which I always think is the best feature shape wise) but due to the height I was at just couldn't see this. Anyway hoping some of the stuff is still in the NW tomorrow as I'm working in Wales Monday and will be driving past, also don't start on Monday til noon so gonna try seawatching off somewhere like Strumble.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Been a bit busy all day sorting a few things out so didn't get out birding til this evening, with the winds from the north and the west coast getting a few early Leach's and some Sabs Gulls seawatching was obviously in order so Hornsea it was. I didn't get there til just before six so only managed about an hour and a half but it was pretty impressive totals were 27 Arctics, 7 Bonxie, 8 Heron!!! 4 Teal, 7 Fruitbashers, 1 Snipe, 3 Dunlin. I'll be in Brid tomorrow so I'll be setting off early and doing a few hours at Flamborough, fingers crossed.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

You know when you wake up and you know a day is gonna be shit? Well Tuesday was one of them days! We woke in the tent on the Garrison to heavy rain, Arse, it did stop but the tent was still wet as we packed it away, the chopper was delayed by about half an hour which didn't seem to be important at the time.
When we made it back to Penzance we made the short dash to Marazion for the Cit Wag which had been showing everyday since we went onto Scilly, no sign, nobody had seen it all day. 3 hours later it came on the pager showing 20 mins after we had left, Arse.

We made good progress along the A30 and up the M5 not really getting held up too much at all, then whilst taking a detour to Farmoor res for the Septic Tern we hit standing traffic, Arse
What makes people suddenly lose the ability to drive? Fucking wankers, it took us nearly 2 hours to get through it. With about an hour before dusk we made it through the jam but still had 35 miles to go it was gonna be tight.
Finally made it to the res, some bloke checking permits in windscreens made me a bit edgy so Mel (with a little persuasion) volunteered to stay with the car just in case he produced a wheelclamp. I shot off up the bank, and nearly got blown back down again, fuck it's windy!
I walked along to the causeway to some birders who seemed to be watching something, but when I got round the sailing club they'd fecked off half way along the causeway. Time to scan for it myself then, getting shelter from a horse box full of canoes and Little Gull, Med Gull, Yellow legged Gull and 2 Hobby's later I'd come to the conclusion it wasn't on that res so I turned round into the full face of the wind. This wasn't going to be easy it's a big res! Finally after about 5 mins (seemed longer) I'd got the birds high up in the sky silhouetted against the clouds, Arse.
They eventualy came down over the water but there were so many sails going throuth my scope I was getting seriously pissed off trying to keep track of them. I moved about halfway along the bank (and the birders went to the far end!) and picked them up again, I could easily see the WWBT but the septic was proving difficult I could see it was obviously darker above and could just about convince myself it had dusky flanks but that's about it. Then it got dark, Arse.

I made my way back to the car really pissed off 2 1/2 hours I'd lost on the way which would have given me plenty of time to really grill it. I hate Farmoor res I'M NEVER GOING BACK THERE AGAIN!!!!

As soon as we set off I knew fuel was gonna be an issue the warning light had been on for a while on the last leg but I couldn't waste the daylight filling up, I just about made it into the services on the Oxford ring road without having to resort to Mel pushing! And the services were shut, Arse.
All the lighs were on but it was all coned off. I figured the guy working there had gone for a shit so we went for a Burger King (other fast food meat based products are availabe) and fortunately he'd finished by the time we came out! Things did get a little better after that, I found a tenner on the floor of the forecourt and the journey home was uneventful.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The rest of our time on Scilly was pretty uneventful, we visited St Agnes and Tresco saw hardly any birds, the highlight being 13 Greenshank and 2 Blackwits on the Great Pool which to be honest isn't that great, actually it's a bit shit, it should be called the 'a little bit shit' pool, then we got soaked on the boat back from Tresco which was probably karma for slagging off their pool!!!
Well today was just as quiet as yesterday walked most of St Mary's today and saw 1 Willow Warbler in Holy Vale, and the Ruff on Porthellick but nothing else!

I've only been to the Scillies twice before once for the day to twitch the Courser the other year and in 87 for two weeks. I'd either forgot or was too young to realise how gorgeous the place is, they really are beautiful. I also liked the look of some of the places for birding such as Lower Moors and Holy Vale I really could imagine a monster yank lurking in them.

Well Saturday evening 5pm and we were on the quay waiting for the evening shark fishing trip Mel was really excited about the prosect of seeing one, I however was more concerned about seeing a Wilson's. off we set and after about an hour we killed the engine and started to drift. I hadn't mentioned the 'chum' to Mel so I think it came as a bit of a surprise to her when they opened a bucket of teh most foul smelling rotting fish known to man, I was fighting back the contents of my stomach honestly it was foul and the wind blowing the smell straight back towards us. I managed to hold down my dinner a couple of peoople, who have to remain nameless, didn't manage it!!!

After about 2 hours I was begining to think I'd dipped when a shout went up and a Wilson's went passed the boat and investigated the chum slick briefly. About half an hour later I picked up another bird over the chum and shorltly after another flew passed the back of the boat at about 4-6 feet raange but was too quick for the camera, actaully it was too quick for the useless feck behind it!

I reckon there were at least 3 if not 4 birds in total but they only claimed 2. We also saw a Grey Phal but not much else, which was a bit surprising considering the amount of stuff seen off mainland Cornwall.
Got over to St Mary's after a delay of about an hour, set the tent up and went for a walk along lower moors and across to Porthellick for the lesser legs, got that safely in the bag, just in time as it turns out, it had fecked off by the following morning. I didn't flush it honestly!!!

Being on Scilly just after a hurricane obviously expectations were high so a podgy looking distant bins only actitis Sandpiper got me going for a while until it disgraced itself and called!! Didn't see a great deal else in fact a Ruff and 2 Greenshank were the only bird of note, bumped into another couple who'd seen a Wheatear but also thought things were quiet.
Well drove down to Penzance through the night thursday ready for the flight across to the Scillies. We got there at about 7.30 but the chopper didn't go til about 11ish so we took a look round marazion in the hope of an Aquatic which I was hoping for, spoke to a local who said basically forget it they don't get them anymore. I'd heard the RSPB had altered (read fucked up) the habitat but the bloke reckons the haabitat is pretty much the same as it always was, they even do a lot of ringing there but just don't catch any!! Bizarro.

Did get a consolation in the form of a stupid Spot Crake really approachable, at one point it was only 2 foot from my feet, reminded me of the famous Sunderland Baillon's.

Spent Thursday afternoon packing stuff up for Mel and my trip to the Scillies managed to get it in two bags with a bit of squashing, they're a bit tight on luggage allowance on the helicopter so had to be a bit strict with how many pairs of shoes I let Mel take! I wasn't popular, so off to a good start then!!!

Anyway just as I put the cooker on for us tea a message came through of a juv White winged Black at Hornsea, bastard that's two good birds in two days (after Great White Egret yesterday, OK so the Egret is a bit shit but it's still rare), why don't I ever find owt at Hornsea? I was there for an hour yesterday morning and nothing! So anyway a quick dash over and it was safely utb, even got a couple of records shots which should help Roy with his description.