Archive for Oct, 2020


Not so Little Bunting

This Little Bunting was frequenting the paths around Porthellick Bay on our recent visit to the Isles of Scillies this October. It was just one of several we heard/saw but was by far the most confiding.


Living Gem

A stripy bright gem of a bird in a dull Autumn. A Pallas’s Warbler has to brighten anyone’s day. Seven stripes balanced by a lemon yellow rump, hanging under leaves, picking out the protein it needs to sustain a migration that seems impossible for such a small, tiny Siberian bird!


The Easterlies Continue

The unprecedented Easterly winds that have occurred so far in October have dropped a few more scarce and rare birds than we would normally get.

Having arrived back home from Scillies on Thursday evening I thought on Saturday there might be a few more additions for the year list that would be around. Little did I expect to see a new British bird. My first for two years since the Grey Catbird in Cornwall.

When the message came out regarding the Eastern Roufous Bush-chat at Stiffkey it filled me with elation and then dread. This was a very rare bird. The responsible thing would be to keep away as parking difficulties and poor social distancing was almost inevitable.

Photos of crowds and stories of police giving out fines reached us. We decided to spend the morning at Holme watching a Pallas’s Warbler and Red flanked Bluetails and see how the situation lied later in the day when the initial surge of birders moved on. This was a good decision as we when we arrived we had no difficulty parking and social distancing was easy. Although I would have liked to have seen more birders wearing face masks we decided it was safe. A swift walk out across the ‘mud-rink’ of the saltmarsh (Tania decided to wear a mud facepack on two occasions) and 10 minutes later we were watching the bird.

We didn’t stop long. Just long enough to ‘scratch an itch’ that was 40 years in the making.


Sitting Tight

Anyone that comes with me to Scillies knows we usually take a trip to the island of Tresco. So it was again this week. The draw was two or three Little Buntings that had been seen around a large sallow growing at the edge of the Abbey Pool.

We stood more than a short time waiting for the buntings to show. They called and we even saw one in flight but they wouldn’t come out onto the path to feed. As usual when waiting for something that is being one stage up from elusive our eyes began to wander. In among the pool edge vegetation was a smart Nearctic wader; a Pectoral Sandpiper.

It fed around the pool most of the time we were there and if you were cautious, quiet and still, it ventured close. Smart birds these. As with most high Arctic breeders not at all conscious of humans.

As for the Little Buntings, we had to wait a further day for a similarly elusive bird back on St Mary’s to give itself-up.


Bloody Photographers!

As I pulled up at the Hoopoe site in Norfolk I could tell it had recently showed well, but was no longer present. There are certain things that give the situation away. Everyone is not looking in one single direction, some people were climbing back in their cars and photographers had their heads down ‘chimping’ (looking at the back of their cameras reviewing the photos they had taken)

As I was putting on my coat and piecing together my camera gear a chap, who had seen me arrive, paddled through 15 metres of mud and seemed to take more than a little schadenfreude in telling me the bird had ‘just’ flown off down the field. Apparently, I was told it went ‘way’ into the distance. My heart sank in my chest. I’d followed the coast hopper for a full 10 miles in third gear at no more than a crawl to get here. It was only a short outing I’d managed to squeeze into my day to take a few photos of the Hoopoe and it seemed it had been for nothing. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained. I mustered up a ‘thank you’ and positioned myself behind the hedgerow viewing the muck-heap where the bird had obviously been frequenting. Just another very polite couple and myself now remaining.

A rather noisy threesome then arrived (birders) who seemed to think they needed to almost stand on the muck heap to have any sort of connection with the bird. I muttered under my breath, but said nothing. Anyways as they moved away the Hoopoe came back. Much loud talking ensued and the lady in the threesome who couldn’t see the bird started walking towards it. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any more. The situation elicited a comment from me that if she went any closer she would be stood on the bird. More loud shouting ‘Where is it?’ ‘Is it still there?’. Of course the bird flew off again. Even the polite couple had enough. We rolled eyes at one another, they thanked me, and they left. So did everyone else.

As the Hoopoe was not present and I was alone I walked to look at the other side of the muck-heap and then I’d have to be off home. A Wheatear. Oh and what’s that? A Jack Snipe! A photographer arrived. He walked in front of me … the Jack Snipe walked off into the vegetation. He didn’t see it. As he got back in his car the Hoopoe flew back in. Almost within touching distance of him. He got out of his car and started photographing the bird. The closer he got the more it shuffled away from him … towards me. Result. As long as he didn’t flush the bird. A birder who had just arrived asked him how close he needed to be. That halted his advance but the bird remained on a shuffelling course for me. I went rock still. I froze. I’d got myself into a position where I’d got the light behind me, the bird close, and getting closer, but I couldn’t move not even to get a better lower angle. The last thing I wanted to do was flush the bird. I’d got myself inadvertently into an awkward position. If I moved a muscle, made a sound, I’d be no better than those who I’d been slating. Sometimes it hid itself in vegetation and I could see others moving to get a better angle. I’ve been in situations like this before with cetaceans; when on a boat remaining the respectful 200m distance from a whale. Sometimes the whale doesn’t read the same guidelines, does its own thing, and makes a close approach.

I remained back breakingly still. The Hoopoe stayed for around 30 minutes and, after eating the largest leather jacket I’ve ever seen, departed over my head and away. I left.

Photographers nearly always get a bad name with birders from getting too close. Sometimes getting close is not the photographers fault. The bird may do the approaching. Sometimes a good photographer can spend a long time carefully approaching a bird only to have a birder or another photographer flush it by just bowling-up and standing next to the photographer.

What I’m getting at here is sure some photographers feel a need to get close when they shouldn’t or get close in the wrong way. However, so do some birders. More often than not it’s not down to ‘are you a photographer or a birder’. It’s down to how sensible you are.



On Saturday and Sunday my guests were treated to a ‘Migration Weekend’ in Norfolk like no other. We couldn’t have hit the weather better. This was, as the county bird recorder said to me on Monday, ‘Norfolk at its best’

Easterlies streamed in from far parts of the continent and carried with them migrant birds in their droves. Driven down to our shore and hinterlands by the incessant rain the migrants pored in. Common birds stole the limelight. A fall of Blackcaps were obvious with seven on one branch at one point. Song Thrushes, Redwings, Siskins and Meadow pipits came in low off the sea. At one point even a Robin joined us briefly in the ‘Beach Hotel’ at Cley as it flew from the surf, over the shingle and away to safety.

Wildfowl too were on the move with big skeins of Brent and Pinkfeet coupled with large flocks of Wigeon.

Among the prizes were a brief Barred Warbler. A couple of Yellow Browed Warblers, one of which was very ‘shouty’ and showed well; the other silent and demure. It was almost like watching two different species. And what about that Common Swift we saw at Wells? As Tania said “That one had hit the snooze button too many times”.

… and then there was the bird that flew out over us in Wells woods. The last time I saw a Cuckoo in October it was a vagrant from America sporting a Yellow Bill.

Next years October Migration weekend is already up for booking on the website.


In the grass

How can anybody not love a grass snake?


Wreck of the hesperus

Strong Northerlies push birds circulating in the North Sea closer to shore. Some get buffeted onshore and sit it out on coastal pools. Producing a wreck. A wreck of seabirds. So it was a few days ago with a a party of around forty Little Gulls … with a Grey Phalarope thrown in for good measure. The Little Gull in this shot was photo-bombing the phalarope … or is it the other way around?

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Oct 2020


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