Thursday, 13 December 2012

Time


I’m sacking off now. International duty calls for the next three weeks so I have to throw the towel in early. Very reluctantly as you can imagine. Normally we’d have another week to run but they decided that a two week holiday wasn’t enough this Christmas so off we go. No flourishing finale, but a nice full circle loop with two Buff-bellied Pipits showing very nicely at Emirate’s Palace tonight bringing us right back to where we pretty much started on January 10th. Presumably the same birds and easy to find with only 3 Water Pips to hide amongst. Winter birding out here can be pretty much like that –just two shrikes today, but one was Masked, two Phyllos but one being Hume’s and a glimpse of the same Robin despite, still, a near general dearth of Song Thrush or Black Redstarts. A last desperate attempt was made for Starling yesterday to no avail and a hazy, distant glimpse of a presumed Spotted Eagle a few weeks back is now fully consigned to the gruelling near-miss bin, along with that feckin’ Dusky Warbler. Pacific Golden Plover, Glossy Ibis, Egyptian Nightjar, Streaked Weaver, Wood and Garden Warblers complete the list of targets not found, with the former letting me down for, I think, the first year ever. All the rest are fairly unreliable, presumably especially when you really need them and, anyway, there were plenty of stand-ins, including seven new birds on the island for me to take their place. Mind you, I guess it was my stupid fault not deviate off wheatear alley for 400m one afternoon back in March for Steve’s Pale Rockfinches. Good luck Nick; by my back-of-an-envelope calculation you need 172 to call this a tie. Would be a fitting ending, but I then guess we could then go with % self-found if you want to split hairs at the end. To save you reading through the whole blog again, my deficiencies are Robin and Blyth’s and Olive-backed Pipits (98.5%) which we could weigh up against your moral victory anyway…

Simon, don’t be telling us that this gives you an idea for next year…

Final total- 196 (109%)
Last additions – Olive-backed Pipit (23rd November), Eurasian Scops-Owl (28th November) and Eurasian Wigeon (5th December)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Back in the field - and five species added!

Embarrassingly, a check back through the list revealed two "easy" species which I saw back in the summer which I forgot to add to my NMYL - Sedge Warbler (146) and Common Sandpiper (147). Oops....

More impressively, I have three new species to add, all of them of at least some quality.

First up, I added a species not only to the NMYL but also the (and I say it myself) impressive garden list last weekend, when a Merlin (148, and 108 for the garden - cool!) flashed through at the back of the garden, scattering passerines in all directions.

Yesterday, I pedalled just 3km down the road to the flood just south of Ringwood, adding Glossy Ibis (149) to the list at Bickerley Common, along with the regular local Great White Egret! Positively Donana-eque. In fact, I manouevred myself into a spot where I could get the Ibis, the GWE, Little Egret and Goosander in the same field of view - and then a Kingfisher flew through to put a cherry on top!

And today, a short walk to Snails Lake turned up the male Red-crested Pochard (150) which was found there yesterday, plus two Green Sands and yet another stunning Kingfisher. Nice work.

Lazy bastard that I am, I drove for the White-rumped Sandpiper at Longham Lakes last weekend, and while it's still there this weekend, I simply haven't got the time to spend three hours pedalling over there and back....lightweight.

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Helter Skelter

That is what it has felt like in the last few weeks. The longest and most prolific glut of rarity arrivals I can remember here in the UAE is still ongoing, and earning a decent slice of the action hasn’t been too hard – all that’s been needed is to get out birding. Albeit mostly off island, and therein lies the issue. Not only have I been not finding anything fittingly monster locally despite hard grafting (and one very near miss), I am also been lured elsewhere to try my luck further afield, so reducing my time trying here. As a result, Common Starling is now looking very dicey and neither even Taiga Fly or Shikra (two of each far flung elsewhere recently and either a fitting placeholder for my AD 250th!) seem a shoo-in anymore. Hence a little more undignified twitching has been unavoidable, resulting in, after two attempts and much suffering, an ultra-elusive, willow-the-wisp Olive-backed Pipit crawling around under thick hedges (as, consequently, were its would-be observers). Still, these are cracking birds and despite being one that I hit almost annually somewhere in the UAE, in my book total show-stoppers so and so well worth chasing. And all that is quite apart from the fact that it was also my third new pipit on the island this year. Whilst chasing the pip, a Hume’s Warbler starting calling merrily and was soon giving great views (so another semi-hole now filled fully; the one back in March was technically a twitch as I was 20 minutes behind the pace that day) and, on a similar theme a few days later, I heard Red-breasted Flycatcher calling whilst out jogging pre-work. It took me a couple of visits to actually see it but, fired up by its discovery I trawled the island that afternoon to find my latest ever bloody Tree Pipit (i.e. it really should have been my own OBP) and, later, a species that that, whilst a target, I had long abandoned any hope of getting anywhere near at all – Scops-Owl! This was only my 7th in the UAE ever and came as a real bolt out of the blue, suddenly appearing as I investigated a frenetic mobbing party, expecting to find the no more than the usual malignant moggie.

So that was the next wave, but the subsequent trough was deeper than usual. Another 6AM start and another four hours of ultra-professional bush-kicking out on Lulu two days later looked like being the usual tale – some nice birds but nothing to get anyone cursing. Until, that is, my second pass of the lake produced a deliberate soft tekking, again and again. Everything was right – it was 30th November, rares were pitching in everywhere, the habitat was textbook (dense low bushes right alongside standing water) and the call was spot on. Unfortunately, so was the behaviour – two hours later, along a mere 50m of vegetation no amount of gentle imitation, enthusiastic pishing, patient waiting, restrained bush-juddering and ultimately violent thrashing made a blind bit of difference. Dusky Warbler, for that is what it surely was, avoided hitting the back of the net (although it glanced the crossbar once). By the end of all that, over an hour later than promised, I had to leave. However, I guess I achieved one of my regular objectives on each trip out here – there was one person cursing profanely…

Two Wigeon a few days later hardly seemed to count, despite being as statistically rare as Dusky Warbler at least in my experience, over the last five years here. Which would you rather have seen? Yep, me too.

Finally, and more predictably, the usual late autumn back-up case has not been too bad either, with plenty of Hypocolius available on tap, up to three Oriental Honey-Buzzards now in and appearing regularly and the first Pallas’s Gulls suddenly widespread from late in November. But with the latter settled back in, it’s nearly time to call Time, at least from my end.


Total so far - 196 (109%)
Last additions – Olive-backed Pipit (23rd November), Eurasian Scops-Owl (28th November) and Eurasian Wigeon (5th December)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Spinning Around

5 hours of scrub clearance at the Nunnery Lakes this morning failed to yield the hoped-for fly-over Peregrine, or any other outside chances of an addition to the list. 4 Waxwings did fly over instead but unfortunately they chose to do so when we were wielding loppers rather than bins, resulting in less-than-satisfactory views.

As I wandered, daydreaming, back home in the stunning afternoon light, a phone call from Pete Wilson suddenly shook me into action: he was watching a Grey Phalarope at Livermere!! I believe the phrase is 'Shit the bed!'. It was 2:23pm. I was 15 minutes walk from home, 35 minutes pedal from Livermere. Factoring in 'Lycra-donning' time, I knew this was going to be close! At least it was sunny, so I'd have until 4ish.

Fortunately the morning's exertions - and the run home - meant I was warm enough to face the 15mph windchill factor on a day when the frost still hadn't melted by mid afternoon, and I was at Livermere by just after 3:30pm without getting frostbite. Better still, the Grey Phalarope (167) was performing swimmingly, spinning like a whirling dervish in a circle no bigger than a dinner plate. Awesome!
More phonescoping magic... this time courtesy of Jonny Rankin

Operating on the descretion/valour principle, I decided to leave before 'last knockings' at the gull roost. Saddling up was interrupted by a shout from Jonny though, and - bang! - Peregrine (168) was on the list, at long last!

The ride home was second only to this one in coldness - if any local birders (or anyone else) saw me standing by the roadside trying to warm my hands by shoving them down my cycling shorts, I can only apologise.

ps A little more eclectic musical reference in the post title than some of the offerings we've had this year, though I guess one or two Jerkers may have to Google it!

Percentage of target to date - 108%
Distance cycled - 646.2mls / 1,040.0km
Latest addition -  Peregrine (168) 2 December

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Echoes (a.k.a. Pulling Teeth)


So October came and went, without too much to show for it, unless you count a little flush of quackers that started with Shoveler, exactly as predicted last time round (but only my third on the island and my first addition in 23 days) and culminated in two Ferruginous Ducks along with a grubby Pochard, arriving next day and still present at the time of writing. That latter appears to be the first island record, as far as I can ascertain, and hence rarer than Little Crake, if you take the parochial view. By any standards, November has somewhat stumbled along too, and, despite some great birding and significant finds to be made elsewhere in the country, most of it has passed us by here. So desperate have times become that I am now reduced to having to go chase other people’s birds, but, with seemingly half the BTO breathing down my neck, I can’t be complacent. Hence I sent Steve out to work his magic on Sunday and followed in his slipstream once I could make an early get-away today: I didn’t need his Hume’s Warbler thanks to this (which was a good job, as I failed this time round) so could concentrate on a recalcitrant and grouchy Red-breasted Flycatcher (at last – was starting to think I was cutting it fine on that one) and, miles better, a wicked Robin that, after a lot of teasing, eventually came out to the tape and showed brilliantly. And was still singing half an hour later when I went back through again. This will hardly seem ground breaking if you are based in the New Forest or Norfolk but out here Robins are ethereal, very scarce and near-invisible chats and, being pale, grey-tinged eastern birds, not bad looking either once you finally get to grips with one. My last on AD was September 2008, and I’ve only seen two others elsewhere in the country since. The last was one I found last December in the west, then twitched by Steve for his year list this January, so some sort of faintly resonating justice there in the end.

I guess 20 Hypocolius aren’t too be sniffed at either, and other decent local records have included a few more Spoonbills, another Pintail, Night Heron again (more this year than ever, by some margin), a few late-running Tree Pipits and the first stonechats and Daurian Shrikes back with aplomb.

Total so far - 193 (107%)
Last additions – Red-breasted Flycatcher and European Robin (13th November)

Waxwing lyrical

Whilst out dirty carbon twitching (or dipping, more to the point) on Saturday, I got the inevitable call that there was a patch tick on my doorstep. Abandoning a frankly impossible American Golden Plover somewhere in darkest Cambridgeshire, I was back home in time to jump on the bike, pedal a couple of miles and enjoy 4 fine Waxwing (166), before they disappeared off into the setting sun.

Percentage of target to date - 107%
Distance cycled - 629.5mls / 1,013.1km
Latest addition -  Waxwing (166) 10 November

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dipper for breakfast

Late autumn has already outstripped early autumn by some margin in the Brecks, as my last 3 posts (and a Dusky Warbler for a very lucky few) show. In the last 24 hours things have got even better. Mid afternoon yesterday, a civilian* but 'countryside savvy' colleague presented a photo of a Dipper he'd taken on his iPhone 915m from my office a couple of hours earlier... without fully appreciating the significance of it! An immediate evacuation followed but the 7 of us who spent our coffee break along the river dipped.

Dawn Balmer and I took our stations at 6:45am this morning... and to my great relief, a dapper Black-bellied Dipper (165) appeared at 7:10am. Several BTO birders saw it over the next 30 minutes, including Mike Toms, who has kindly allowed me to post one of his pics (taken at the last place I saw it, about 200m southwest of Melford Bridge):
Not dipped!

Attempts to keep tabs on it were thwarted by a great show from the local otter(s) - thanks to Neil Calbrade for this one!
Normally the highlight of a walk along the Thet


*There are 2 types of humans: birders and civilians. One type appreciates the significance of a Dipper in Thetford. The other doesn't.

Percentage of target to date - 106%
Distance cycled - 595.5mls / 958.4km
Latest addition -  Dipper (165) 7 November

Monday, 5 November 2012

Snow rest

Sunday was a day to stay inside: grim weather and an even grimmer D&V bug I'd picked up from my nephew during half-term hols in Cornwall. So it was that I was languishing in my sick bed at 11am when a text alerted me to a serious sighting reported on the local news group the previous evening: a male Snow Bunting less than 6 miles away! Cycling – in the driving rain – in the state I was in was out of the question, though I did manage to drag myself out of bed and drive over to see it. 

Snow Bunting in classic puddle-in-beet-field habitat

This morning, after a couple of Panadol to quell the lingering light-headedness, I set off on the bike. It was a spectacular autumn morning and the 16.8 miles weren't too bad, all things considered. The return leg was particularly easy, given that Snow Bunting (164) was now safely OML! 


Percentage of target to date - 106%
Distance cycled - 593.3mls / 954.8km
Latest addition -  Snow Bunting (164) 5 November

Monday, 22 October 2012

Ditto

Black gold. Again! This time rolled into one bird... a drake Common Scoter (163)!!! I'm never normally one for multiple explanation marks but if you've ever birded the Nunnery Lakes, you'll appreciate that it is no Grafham Water: a true seaduck here is mega! As my typically bad luck would have it, I was 10 minutes into a lunch-break-ruining meeting with several 'externals' when the text came through from Neil Calbrade. A whole four nerve-wracking hours later (no thanks to the "It's looking flighty" text from another Lakes listing colleague!), and as the gloom rapidly descended, I hurtled down to the lakes, where the boy was still in residence. Wot a burd!

Patch magic
(still present 24 October, still gloomy)

(still present 25 October, less gloomy...)


Percentage of target to date - 105%
Distance cycled - 576.5mls / 927.8km
Latest addition -  Common Scoter (163) 22 October

Friday, 19 October 2012

Black Gold

September may be a great time to be birding on the coast but it's a different story inland, particularly in 'passage wader habitat impoverished' areas like the Brecks  as you can see from the flat-lining species accumulation that both TEAL Cup teams experienced last September. October, on the other hand, seems to bring interest even 45 miles from the nearest coastal migration hotspot...

First up, news on the local forum of a returning shoo-in on the recently sown arable of West Suffolk. A carbon reccy on a wet Tuesday morning, and a Thursday afternoon off later, and Golden Plover (161) was belatedly on the bike list.

Better still, and with a bit more help from my friends, a typically animated Black Redstart (162), in classic Black Redstart habitat. BTO Nunnery Lakes warden Chris Gregory found it — an unappealing 24 mile round trip away  on Sunday, and I dirty-carbon-twitched (and phonescoped) it a few hours later. 33 miles in the saddle on Thursday, however, saw it safely on the only list that really counts!
More phonescoping magic

Other rewards for my efforts included my latest-ever Stone-curlew (4), an I-can't-see-you-so-you-can't-see-me Little Owl, and the first Fieldfare of the autumn.

Percentage of target to date - 105%
Distance cycled - 575.5mls / 926.2km
Latest addition -  Black Redstart (162) 18 October

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Suspect device


I get really fed up with Acrocephali. It’s not that they scare me (the effect they have on most sensible and well-balanced people); I actually quite like pitting my wits against them and have hit the net a couple of times during my time in the Middle East. However, they are an unremitting, inevitable and literal pain in the neck here on Abu Dhabi island. With practically no ground cover of any quality whatsoever, any self-respecting (or hungry) warbler is shurely to be found 20 feet up in the Ghaf trees and that means you are always going to struggle; finding one does little more than give you a sinking pit in your stomach. And this was the case with my only small Acro so far this autumn; picked up yesterday, it had me straining and cursing as I tried and failed to piece together views beyond a seemingly longish thin bill running off the end of a decent (for an Acro) supercilium, unsettlingly colourless underparts and a wispy, flattened general shape. Not a hope of primary projection, remex edges, tertials or emarginations on this one and so predictably all I had to show was severe warbler neck and a stubbed toe on a thorn, to remind me that I still had feet (not having seen them for 30 minutes). Menetries’s, Olly and Chiffy all materialised and gave killer views in that same tree, but not a bit of what I was really after.

Equally boring and featureless, yet much, much easier, we have also had a decent, early arrival of Plain Leaf-Warblers. I am now on six for AD this October; we always get a few autumn birds that cross the Gulf and hit the coast instead of the mountains directly but this year they have been especially obliging. In contrast, wheatears and shrikes have been at a low ebb locally and so I am still waiting for my first isabellinus. However, perfectly timed with previous years, Nightjars came through in a strong wave last weekend, with scores of seven on Friday and four or five more next day. One of the latter was the most perfectly posed I have seen for many years; it is easy to be blasé about kicking these hauntingly evocative birds out of dusty scrub here in the UAE, so one like this at 10 feet every so often is a necessary re-calibrator.


Other good birds have included the first Pin-tailed Snipe just back in, returning Heuglin’s Gulls and White Wagtails (found five Masked not far off island last week but none so far where it counts), my second Rosefinch of the autumn, up to two Wrynecks in a day (it’s been my best year ever for these) and the marvellous spectacle of eight Black-crowned Night-Herons circling at dawn; I have only seen one other suspected migrant here in six years. Less rare but more welcome was a Northern Pintail; Shoveler next?

Total so far - 188 (104%)
Last additions – Plain Leaf-Warbler (5th October)


Beauty and the beast to finish with...





Sunday, 30 September 2012

State of emergency


Well, it wasn’t a bloody Baillons, but it took us a few days to get on top of it. My assembled crack team (particle physicist, doting father, Yorkshire comedian and itinerant drifter of no fixed abode) invested much time and effort next day trying to pin it down, and despite mp3s, a ghetto blaster, garden shears, matches and a 5 litre canister of kerosene, it was all to no avail save for a 5 second glimpse for Simon, whose instant response was LITTLE. No luck for me, that day or the next, although I did somewhat limit my chances by sticking to the plan and clearing off to Lulu on Friday morning for a bout of more active hunting. At least out there if I found a bird that I couldn’t see, nobody else would be able to either. There has been plenty of migrants coming through throughout the second half of September, and Lulu, as usual, gave me a great sampling: three each for Golden Orioles and Nightjars plus the usual drizzling of Sylvias, wheatears – including my second Red-tailed of the year, shrikes and co. Plenty more this week have included a most unusual autumn Whinchat, a rather early Bluethroat and daily Spotted Flycatchers and hirundines, especially Sand Martins which are probably having their best ever September. All that has been great, but hardly in the league of

 yee gods - Little Crake

and an early start on Saturday morning, my fifth attempt at the time (and I have failed again a few times since), finally produced a countable, even decent view. Once we cleared that little urchin up, the temporary deadlock was well and truly broken and the year ticks started flowing again: Namaqua Dove within 30 minutes (only my 3rd ever on AD), next day Eurasian Spoonbill (was confident this one was coming eventually) and, a few days later, Temminck’s Stint, another target, but only just. A seemingly more secure target when all this began, Thrush Nightingale had long since been written off due to a miserable May, as I have just one autumn record, as opposed to ten spring ones in the entire country but the finding of one or two off-island on Friday last gave me hope and this culminated 24 hours later when one scudded across the road at the racecourse and was then professionally pished out off a dense bougainvillea for a wicked and educational view. Caspian Plover and Egyptian Nightjar, both also seen off-island last week (within 30 minutes of each other!;:-) have yet to appear closer to home, although represent real and rather long shots respectively. However, proof that I still was on a roll yesterday came when we found a roosting Barn Owl at Emirate’s Palace – my closest ever as I have never got within 6 feet of any in Norfolk – and only my fourth on the island plus the first, for anyone as far as know, since 2008. 

So I was over the hills and far away, until I decided to concur with Nick and revise a few targets. Moorhen, two Marsh Terns and Red-tailed Wheatear all doubtfully missed the cut back at the start of the year, so adding them to the expected total, now revised to 180, seems reasonable and means that for almost everything left that isn’t a target, I have seen two times (or less) locally in six years of hard slogging.

OSCAR


Total so far - 186 (103%)
Last additions – Thrush Nightingale and Barn Owl (29th September)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The song remains the same


Another night, another boot. The golf course had flames licking round the edges rather nicely on arrival; my old friend, that Whiskered Tern had pulled in two more marsh terns tonight and one was a marvellous, neat juvenile White-winged that gave terrific views; only my 5th ever locally and not one I was sure I would get on the current campaign. Soon after that, I turned to find a Hobby steaming across the lake towards me, then for it to settle on the closest large boulder and give the best (i.e. most static) view I have ever had of the species; here in the Emirates they are usually hyper-kinetic. It was my 15th in 6 years here on AD and, marginally, my earliest ever in the autumn. As if that wasn’t enough, a long-awaited pratincole also materialised, an easy juvenile Collared giving great close-ups and nice, instructive flight views. The only fly in the ointment (or date in the chocolates, to introduce some local flavour) was a glimpse of a crake, seemingly – but not certainly - a snapper, crashing into the reedbed. A 45-minute stake-out produced Purple Herons, both bee-eaters, Yellow Wagtail, Clamorous Reed and a Turkestan Shrike and two wonderfully spotty Jiffy-jiffies striding round on the fairways (Chris – take note, if you are still with us) but no crake. So that is tomorrow’s project, with reinforcements called and tapes ready. Would it be fair to say you’ll be joining me in hoping that, if it is a snapper, it isn’t a bloody Baillon’s, Nick?!

Total so far - 180 (102%)
Last additions – White-winged Tern, Hobby and Collared Pratincole (19th September)

OSCAR

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Basket case


a.k.a 100 + a whiff of VAT, whatever that is.



I think I have commented before on the effect of year-listing on your brain and I found myself in the middle of another egregious example this afternoon. Furiously thrashing round to find some material in which to bury the fact that last week’s Scaly-breasted Munia was #173, I found myself scanning through a flock of 200 mynas trying to find a Bank, which would have been # 176 i.e. 100.00%. Luckily I failed, leaving that coveted position open for another hour when a Golden Oriole – yeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaa – flicked across in front of me and then sat up for a nice view. In between munias and la oriole I had the double whammy of Garganey swimming through the legs of a Little Egret out on the golf course during a busy evening of waders and, straight after la oriole I came up with one of the best, most workable shorebird flocks I have found on Abu Dhabi island, eventually culminating in 2 Broad-billed Sands, only my second ever AD record. My third Green Sandpiper (and second Garganey) was in the same flock and other goodies in the last few days have included decent waves of Isabelline Wheatears, Tree Pipits and Swallows, the odd Roller and Ortolan, a nice sprinkling of shrikes of four flavours, and bee-eaters daily, including up to 15 Europeans coming in to roost on a couple of evenings. Rarest of all, at least nationally, was my second Great Reed Warbler of the year, memorably thudding around on a lawn and traumatising the Whimbrels. No bother counting the primary tips on that one!

Total so far - 177 (101%)
Last additions – Golden Oriole and Broad-billed Sandpiper (18th September)

OSCAR

Sunday, 16 September 2012

You Whin some...

Having succumbed to the temptation of carbon-twitching - and subsequently dipping - Barred, Baird's and Baillon's in the last 7 days, it was time to banish the demons and get the bike out for an altogether more wholesome twitch. 36 miles later and a species that was in danger of sneaking under the radar was safely bagged: Whinchat (160). It was being chased around by the local Stonechats when I got there, only to vanish when I started trying to do something I thought I'd never do: take pictures with a mobile phone!

The reason for this about-turn was the arrival in my life of a smartphone. Yes, I have a camera. And yes, it takes OK pics. But no, I didn't have space in my minimalist cycling bag for it (nor the inclination to add any more weight / bulk). And no, it can't do something seriously cool that my smartphone can do: download the BirdTrack app so that I can log my lists electronically in the field, then click a button to upload them when/wherever there's network coverage! No more deciphering lists of 2-letter codes and counts when I get home (or worse still, trying to guestimate the tallies on those 'can't-be-bothered' days) - fantastic!

Phone-scoping isn't going to win me any prizes but then I'm not after any (otherwise I'd be selling my birding gear... and likely the house, too). However I reckon it captures the 'mood'... and if there had been something mega with the mipits, it would've captured that too.

 Autumn is here

...plus the other 53 that wouldn't fit in the frame


Percentage of target to date - 102%
Distance cycled - 542.3mls / 872.7km
Latest addition -  Whinchat (160) 16 September

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

500 Club

Great to see that Oscar is back in the game... or at least as much as he can be, competing in Abu Dhabi by car ;)  I was just beginning to think this was a one-horse race - Simon seems marooned on the 88% mark, Chris has chucked in competitive-birding-by-bike in favour of pavement-head-surfing, and Pete was last seen in pursuit of a suite of September rarities that fell just outside his circle...

A quick 8 miles this lunchtime failed to produce the hoped-for Whinchat. 9 Stone-curlews were the bird highlight, though a fox was slightly better value (let's face it, Stone-curlews don't exactly do much in the middle of the day). The big milestone, however, was pedalling past the 500 mile mark. Hardly outstanding - nor anywhere near Chris and Simon's totals in their county-wide non-motorised years - but it equates to around 50 hours in the saddle instead of the driver's seat, which is a start...

Percentage of target to date - 101%
Distance cycled - 504.0mls / 811.1km
Latest addition -  Caspian Gull (159) 2 September

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sanatorium… home again


Back to the blast furnace for the next campaign and have spent a fair bit of time pounding the golf course since returning. Seven visits in the 11 days of September so far is fairly thorough, especially given a few other (birding) balls to juggle but is quite necessary as, much more so than in spring, things tend to drop in for an evening, an hour or, in the case of five Wood Sands yesterday, about 15 seconds. Waders are generally the most obvious movers in September, especially in the first half of the month, but it has actually taken a little while for the smouldering to start. Finally started to fly yesterday with 11 species in an hour (out of 13 all month so far), which isn’t bad for nasty bit of pesticide-ridden grassland a stony-edged pool. I’m still in need of Pacific Goldie and Collared Pratincole, both sparse but regular at this time of year (and, at this rate, this means that Caspian Plover or a Broad-bill is now pushing it a bit) but have (finally) added Ruff and Green SandpiperRinged and sand plovers have also been showing nicely, with the latter represented by lots of demanding juveniles, as the attached will attest. Any takers?



Whiskered Terns in and out for a few nights have been nice and there was eventually some heron action tonight with three Purples flying around for ages. Passerines have been mostly slack, but Steppe and Lesser Grey Shrikes nearly side-by-side tonight was pretty classic and a very handy couple of not-so-Common Rosefinches have freed up the rest of the month and October for looking for something much more memorable. Or maybe merely Golden Oriole. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are currently daily as usual and Kingfisher was only my 3rd patch record, all of which have been in September down the years. Plenty of time yet; autumn runs until mid December out here...

OSCAR

Total so far - 172 (98%)
Last addition – Common Rosefinch (8th September)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Not to be outdone....

And Simon too has added another new species - a juvenile Garganey loafing with the Shovelers on Ibsley Water this morning - and yes, I did eliminate juv. Blue-winged Teal.....

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Snouty

What a beaut (?!):


Caspian Gull (159) OML! Better still, t'was in the first 'gull field' I came to, having decided to pedal the gauntlet that is the A134 in the drizzle yesterday afternoon.

Percentage of target to date - 101%
Distance cycled - 496.0mls / 798.2km
Latest addition -  Caspian Gull (159) 2 September

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Glorious Twelfth

No Red Grouse for me but something almost as unlikely for Thetford: Sandwich Tern (158), over calling during a garden ringing session this morning!

Percentage of target to date - 101%
Distance cycled - 482.6mls / 776.7km
Latest addition - Sandwich Tern (158) 12 August

Monday, 16 July 2012

Nirvana

Profound peace of mind acquired (thanks for that, Wikipedia): a leisurely Saturday morning pedal and 100% of (revised) target achieved: Yellow Wagtail (156) and Corn Bunting (157)! Telling that it took until mid-July to find these once-common species but that's another - less happy - story...

Percentage of target to date - 100%
Distance cycled - 482.6mls / 776.7km
Latest addition - Corn Bunting (157) 14 July

Monday, 9 July 2012

WHIMBREL!

All quiet in the office on Friday afternoon - that was until Andy Musgrove came running through shouting "WHIMBREL!!" at the top of his voice! Whilst some colleagues grabbed bins, ran downstairs and dashed outside, I opted to stay on the first floor, open the window, climb on the windowsill and stick my head out as far as I dared. Fortunately I made the right choice, as I managed to catch 3 rounds of flight calls from my elevated position: Whimbrel (155) OML!

NB: To keep things interesting (for me), I've decided that Black-tailed Godwit and Red-crested Pochard ought to be included as annual in my 15km radius, so my target moves up to 157...


Percentage of target to date - 99%
Distance cycled - 465.8mls / 749.6km
Latest addition - Whimbrel (155) 6 July

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Wet-my-list... Wet-my-list... Wet-my-list...

Can you tell what it is yet? Yet another 20 mile evening pedal but this time a double reward: first a Marsh Harrier (153) dropping in to roost in a cereal field - it helps if you know which one to stand near - then better still, the unmistakeable sound of a Quail (154) quip quip-quipping into action.

(Belated) Happy Independence Day, y'all!

Percentage of target to date - 99%
Distance cycled - 465.8mls / 749.6km
Latest addition - Quail (154) 4 July

Monday, 2 July 2012

Gripped

Although Lakenheath RSPB is just outside my 15-km radius, Lakenheath airbase is not, so this pic - taken there by a 'civilian' on 13 June - is somewhat gripping:
Having never fluked one, nor lowered myself to twitch one, Black Kite is a bit more galling than various other species that have been within my radius this year but just not feasible by bike, for various reasons: Bewick's Swan, Black-necked Grebe, Wood Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black Tern, Wryneck, Pied Flycatcher and Ring Ouzel, to name a few. 
(I blame my missing the other two Black ones on Mr Mills, who dragged me away to Speyside for a week in early May.
 Still, it could've been much worse: the Long-billed Dowitcher was found the evening before we headed north!)

Percentage of target to date - 98%
Distance cycled - 446.4mls / 718.4km
Latest addition - Turtle Dove (152) 23 June

Thursday, 28 June 2012

NO SLEEP ‘TIL…




Right; I am through with hostilities for a bit. A half-hearted effort for Streaked Weaver earlier this week was a waste of time, and after the enforced June lay-off, it is now time to move up a few gears. I expect to be plenty busy for the next month, before touching down in BELFAST at the start of August. Before you ask, Simon, this summer’s ace of spades can be found right here. And it is (almost) as guaranteed as a toaster – well, sort off. I guess 1883 was quite a long time ago…

Ciao!

OSCAR

Total so far - 169 (96%)
Last addition – Still Eurasian Reed Warbler (19th June)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

On the second day of Christmas...

Averaging 10.8mph for the 13 mile pedal to Lackford Lakes yet 16.2mph for the return can mean only one thing (given the Breckland topography): a serious southwesterly blow! Not ideal conditions for birding but three welcome ticks for my efforts: 3 Green Sandpiper (150 - YE HA!), a rather belated pair of Common Tern (151) and, as I was chucking in the towel and saddling up to ride home, a last-gasp pair of Turtle Dove (152) that shot through! Fortunately another did the decent thing and perched up right in front of me on the reserve access track, dispelling any lingering UTV worries! Other niceties included Hobby and a couple of Little Ringed Plover.

Might be time to revise a few targets to keep this interesting, eh Oscar?!

Percentage of target to date - 98%
Distance cycled - 446.4mls / 718.4km
Latest addition - Turtle Dove (152) 23 June

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Comfortably Numb


Ok. (Ok, ok). The general consensus, easy to get bogged down in and held by me at least on and off, that June more or less sucks out here isn’t actually (quite) true. Some enforced rest from the grind of spring is actually (very) welcome and there are plenty of other things to be getting on with ranging from paperwork and books (three so far this month) to the odd seabirding trip and running Attenborough and The Wall on continuous loop (not simultaneously…); then there is plotting your next birding move on a global level, etc etc.

After what felt like a pretty damn hot and steamy May, June has actually been pretty mellow in contrast – once you’re over the mental hurdle of actually getting out into the field, it has actually felt pretty pleasant most of the time (well, before 0900 and after 1700 anyway). Four year-additions in three weeks i.e. one more than the whole of May, is a pretty damning indictment of the latter month. The first was easy with a bit of ‘scope work: Bridled Tern, my last slam-dunk, fell within seconds of seriously looking and so allowed me to spend most of the rest of the time poring over the only accessible bit of freshwater on the island, the Phragmite-fringed pond in the middle of the golf course. This has proven pretty good value; two Little Bitterns on the first crack, a Purple Heron (only my second in spring on the island) on the next, then both Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Sand Martin the following weekend. A lot of waiting for dragonflies eventually yielded a small Acro next time round and a pre-work return two days later with the tape instantly pulled out two Reed Warblers, one of which eventually started to sing. Although not really surprising, this was handy enough – I only have one previous record for this species on AD. Other odds and sods included Barred Warbler and Common Whitethroat as late as June 9th, up to 23 Caspian Terns trundling past the balcony on two separate nights with Osprey on another, Sooty Gull with a gang of Lesser Crested Terns, Oriental Honey-Buzzard(s) still hanging around and up to 40 Socotra Cormorants in one place at one time.

I won’t say I won’t be glad to be able to start to run like hell come next weekend, but for now the above doesn’t strike me as too bad a haul.

OSCAR

Total so far - 169 (96%)
Last addition – Eurasian Reed Warbler (19th June)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Nil return

Forsook the predictable Euro 2012 Group C outcome in favour of 19 late-evening miles in West Suffolk farmland. Any one of Quail, Marsh Harrier, Turtle Dove or Yellow Wagtail would've been gratefully received; as it was I had to settle for a few calling Grey Partridge, a Lesser Whitethroat and a race with a Roe Deer (I got to 20mph, it won).

Percentage of target to date - 96%
Distance cycled - 415.3mls / 668.3km
Latest addition - Long-eared Owl (149) 12 June

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

If you went down to the woods last night...

I see - well hear, actually - your fern-owl Simon, and I raise you a squeaking trio of recently-fledged catyogle (149)! Also several roding muckle snippeck, and two noisy brown owl families on the way home - a decent evening's work, all told.

Percentage of target to date - 96%
Distance cycled - 389.8mls / 627.3km
Latest addition - Long-eared Owl (149) 12 June

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fern-owl nailed

A hit and run ride just 10 minutes up the road, and Ibsley Common produced the goods - distant song and good close views in something like daylight of Nightjar (144) - a smart male.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A drowned rat

Mega Hampshire news this morning of a singing male Marsh Warbler just up the road at Harbridge! Foul weather by the time I was on the bike, and even though it was only 3km away, I was drenched by the time I got there, and got thoroughly cold and wet. The bird was hardly showing well, but a few brief glimpses, coupled with an entirely convincing soundtrack of mimicked Great Tit, Chaffinch, Nightingale, Paradise-whydah (?) and god knows what else had Marsh Warbler (143) firmly and very unexpectedly on my year list. And not just my year list - this was also a Hampshire tick (only about the 25th modern county record)!

Friday, 1 June 2012

eez-tick

...Spotted Flycatcher (148) on the list, thanks to a tip-off from Neil Calbrade about a pair along the river near Thetford town centre (somewhere I tend to avoid)! Most low-key twitch of the year?

Percentage of target to date - 95%
Distance cycled - 374.1mls / 602.1km
Latest addition - Spotted Flycatcher (148) 1 June

Monday, 28 May 2012

Not JUST in the UAE...

A bit of excitement to finish the weekend / start the week.

First, a carbon-powered revisit to Micklemere to tackle the plovers again. When I was bins-only, by-bike on Saturday, I'd nailed Little Ringed (2-3 displaying) and 'left' a few other Charidrids that looked suspicious (as opposed to dubius!) but were just too distant to clinch. Later that evening I noticed a local forum post about the same site from a 'scoped' local who'd seen 5 (Tundra?) Ringed Plovers, just 2 hours before I got there! Returning with scope on Sunday evening, 7 Ringed Plovers were immediately obvious (followed quickly by a Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper - where's the justice?!) so after some thought - and a consultation with the boss - I decided a retrospective tick was in order.

Then to follow up on news of a very interesting unstreaked Acro, found on Sunday morning at another local site. By 9pm MARSH WARBLER (146) was 'carbon-clinched' and - YE GODS! - it was showing knee-tremblingly well1 when I arrived again by bike at 5:30am today! And the icing on the cake: another - non-motorised -  Greenshank (147) calling then watched flying off high into the blue.

Keen to cash in on the purple patch, I took the pre-work tripometer to 23 miles by hitting Micklemere too - needless to say, the Greenshank and 2 Little Ringed Plovers were still there, but not a sniff of a Ringed Plover or a Green Sandpiper. Didn't take the shine off a great morning's pedalling though: I'm sure today will be a very strong contender for 'Monday of the Year' (if such a thing exists) - and it's only lunchtime!

1Crippling views, though the knee trembling may have been down to the pre-dawn cycle ride

Percentage of target to date - 95%
Distance cycled - 372.6mls / 599.6km
Latest addition - Greenshank (147) 28 May

Arse....

25 miles in hot sunshine yesterday produced none of the hoped-for HBs - simply too hot for them to get up and about? Three Goshwaks were still displaying, surprisingly, and there were also Cuckoo, Redstart, Woodlark and the "usual" funny-sounding Chaffinch at ******* (mystery raptor site....) which does a Great Spotted Woodpecker "chink" at the very end of its song, just like Scandinavian birds. Perhaps I'll submit it to the HOS Records Panel (on which I sit - first meeting today as well, thrashing through lots of interesting and soem very duff recrds. We did reject the Golden Oriole in the end, by the way....)

Also a monstrous 2cy female Peregrine over the garden in the afternoon, plus Garden Warbler and Cuckoo in song. Additional garden ticks this weekend were a tiny baby Grass Snake (now in the pond after I rescued it from the cat....) and (for Julia....grrrr) a Downy Emerald on the pond.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Back on top!

Has Oscar been keeping something quiet? Last I heard, he wasn't qualified to comment on what having kid does to your brain... but then he was always a bit of a dark horse! Anyway, back to the business in hand (important or otherwise). After a taking a day off for a S.H.I.Ton Friday (which was only marginally better than Lulu by all accounts: 3 Spoonbill, a late Short-eared Owl and one each of Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear and Lesser Whitethroat being the best of it), I hit the road yesterday afternoon.

Being out of the office, I'd missed the local news on Friday - turns out Livermere was having another mini-run of waders. Common Sandpiper (141) didn't put up any resistance, but I was more than a little surprised to find that one of the two near full breeding plumage Knot (142) was still present. Buoyed on by this success (and the glass of ros√© that accompanied the fine picnic Becca, Phoebe and another family had brought along!), I decided to head to Micklemere via some likely-looking spots for Turtle Dove, to 'kill time' before chancing my arm with the 2 remaining nocturnal targets.

No joy on the dove front but Little Ringed Plovers (143) were displaying as I arrived at Micklemere, 3-4 Ringed Plover (144) made it onto the list [see 28 May post] and a Barn Owl took my breath away when it landed on a post 2m from the hide where I was sitting, so close that it filled my bins view entirely! I couldn't find the Dunlin that had been reported, and was struggling a bit without my 'scope. A point proved when I read the forum today - someone else had recorded 2 Little Ringed and 4 ('probable Tundra') Ringed Plover there a few hours earlier - looks like a return visit is in order!

Cycling round Kings Forest in the dying light was an interesting experience - deer bounding out in front of me left, right and centre, a dodgy transit van and caravan parked in the middle of nowhere, and countless unseen tyre-destroying objects littering the tracks. I made it through unscathed though, and it was worthwhile: a couple of r(h)oding Woodcock and 4+ Nightjar (145) - 2 seen, plus several churrers and a wing-clapper heard. A noisy family of recently-fledged Tawny Owls on the way home had me convinced they were Long-eareds for a while, until I got stuck into xeno-canto...

Finally staggered in through the front door at 11.20pm, 35.7 miles on the clock and 4 species to the good - but it didn't stop me carbon-birding Lakenheath from 4:55am today, did it Pete?!

1Scolt Head Island Trudge


Percentage of target to date - 94%
Distance cycled - 343.0mls / 552.1km
Latest addition - Nightjar (145) 27 May

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Back in Black


Question: what does having kids and doing a year-list have in common?

I thought I knew the answer to this one, especially after a week like the last one at work but, to be sure, I asked Steve James, who is far better qualified – on both counts – to answer. And, even if he wasn’t, could be relied on to answer convincingly nonetheless. As expected, Steve replied instantly, straight from the hip and with his characteristic supreme confidence. Most unusually, I actually agreed with what he said just for once.2

As further evidence of the veracity of this, I found myself, on 25th May, on Lulu Island. Buoyed up by a Great Reed Warbler before work a few days earlier (only my 5th in spring on the island), it seemed like a good idea the night before; a last chance to sort out Golden Oriole (and so be able to worry about other things come September), flush a Little Bittern from the lake then kick a Sprosser out from somewhere (I saw one in the wild west in early May but this will be the first May I miss them on AD unless…) and, just maybe, following on from last weekend’s bolt from the blue, find a Didric Cuckoo on the back strip and so make up for the near-total dearth of migrants this May on AD in one fell swoop. Well, anyway, that was the plan.  I arrived on cue at 0600 armed with my largest hat and three litres of steadily thawing ice, and, five minutes later saw a Marsh Warbler. At 0845, just before I left, I again saw (the same) Marsh Warbler and in between, absolutely nothing. No migrants, no other birds1, no shade, no clouds, no greenery and certainly no indication that this was anything other than complete lunacy. So I paddled back, seeing Lesser Crested Tern and Socotra Cormorant from the kayak and pretty much sacked off (for the spring). The tipping point was adding insult to injury with a 2-minute boot of a flowerbed alongside the nearby mall instantly producing, er, a Marsh Warbler.

So the moral is… quit while you are ahead. After the May 18th Ye Gods! Calidrid incident, where shurely I used up most of this year’s luck in one go, the writing was clearly on the wall. It said River Warbler? Get real!

OSCAR

Total so far - 165 (93%)
Last addition – Great Reed Warbler (23rd May)


1 With apologies to those four fine Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse.
2 Both totally screw up your brain.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Back on the bike

Far too long without any proper action - fencing, GCSE teaching, laziness, cold May weather - take your pick!

Swift (135) was nailed some weeks ago, and there were Reed Warbler (136) and Hobby (137 - two hunting over the garden) to count, too, but this morning was the time to plug several glaring omissions in the year list.

So it was off and away to Redshoot Wood/Milkham Inclosure in the Forest, and with hardly any trouble at all (after a flyover Hawfinch and some singing Firecrests), the targets fell into my lap. First up were three singing Wood Warblers (138), shimmering their way through the oaks, plus numerous Redstarts (139). Much less easy these days was a Spotted Flycatcher (140), and it was good to find a singing Tree Pipit (141) without too much trouble. The icing on the cake was a Whitethroat (142) down by Highwood - a scarce bird in/near the New Forest, although presumably not too hard when I head west later in the week into the farmland again.

So now up to 86% - and still some summer migrants to find - Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Honey-buzzard and Nightjar spring to mind - and gallingly Julia had one of the latter feeding over the garden a few nights ago  -when I wasn't here!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A great Hobby

One perk of walking to work - office fly-overs count! In this case it was a smart, if belated, Hobby (140). Must be something about being the day before I leave for Scotland - did I mention what I added last time I was about to leave for Scotland?!

Percentage of target to date - 90%
Distance cycled - 307.3mls / 494.6km
Latest addition - Hobby (140) 17 May

Monday, 7 May 2012

Daily grind


Well, March exploded and April roared but so far May… is definitely spluttering. As April fizzled out into relative obscurity after an admirable innings that lasted right up to the end (culminating in 3 White-throated Robins in an hour one evening, and a whopping 21 Rollers on the next, plus a handy Sedge Warbler in pretty much the same flowerbed as last year) early May, which can often be really good, is still struggling to get going one week in. There have been good, if short-lived arrivals elsewhere, but 20 Nightjars in Al Ain resulted equated to just one for me on the same morning (and I have only seen one other since, and no Golden Orioles yet) and, although Marsh Warbler turned up on cue on 1st May, an avalanche of them in near-biblical proportions 250km due west of my circle on Friday failed to translate into even one next morning back here. It has also got suddenly really hot, and after a long, deceptively pleasant spring so far and that has made evening birding a bit slow, even though there seem to be lots of Sylvias about: I'm regularly hitting 10-15 individuals of up to five species on morning walks when they are all singing but almost none at the end of the day. I've seen more Blackcaps and Barred Warblers than ever before this spring and the usual late, maverick Menetries’s appeared as expected about 5 weeks after the majority had gone through. Whinchats were also well up in numbers last weekend with up to 7 at one site and a sprinkling elsewhere but almost all have gone now. A final little bonus this evening came from the Golf course lake, very disappointing of late, but boasting a silky-smooth Whiskered Tern floating over it tonight. Only my fourth on the island, and first ever in spring but never mind that: almost seven years ago to the day since your Lakenheath bird, Pete!

OSCAR

Total so far - 164 (93%)
Last addition – Whiskered Tern (7th May)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Parting shot

After a week of pre-5am get-ups for (no) Nightingale and Breeding Bird Surveys - in miserable, cold, grey conditions - plus mountains of work stuff to do before hitting the Speyside trail with the mighty Mr Mills, I was looking forward to a quiet evening in, a bit of telly and maybe a glass of wine. However as I walked in through the door, the a-fore mentioned (all-hail) Jonny Rankin rang me in something of a panic: Dowitcher sp. being watched at Livermere, now!

I lost my cool, jumped in the car and only after safely grilling it for 10 minutes did I wise up, drive home, then wheel out the bike! It took me 2 seconds longer than the Arctic Tern run (there was a stiff northerly that day) but before 8pm I'd swung my 'scope past the full breeding plumage Bar-tailed Godwit (138) and on to an absolutely spanking Long-billed Dowitcher (139). Bitchin'!!

You cud nae script it - a few hours later and I'd have heard about it as Chris drove me hastily in the wrong direction! I'll leave you to savour this one lads... see y'all in a week.

Percentage of target to date - 90%
Distance cycled - 307.3mls / 494.6km
Latest addition - Long-billed Dowitcher (139) 4 May

Monday, 30 April 2012

Sylvia, borin and otherwise

Was already cycling down to the Nunnery Lakes when a text came through from Neil Calbrade about a Lesser Whitethroat (136) that was awaiting my arrival; whilst we were trying to get more than a glimpse of it, an equally uncooperative Garden Warbler (137) piped up. A nice male Wheatear on the adjacent fields didn't have any obvious brown tones in the mantle or a particularly conspicuous white supercilium...

Percentage of target to date - 88%
Distance cycled - 291.5mls / 469.1km
Latest addition - Garden Warbler (137) 30 April

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Chatting about (in) the weather

Given that Saturday was supposed to offer the best weather of the weekend, I chose to ignore the fact it was cold, grey and looking sure to rain at 6.30am, and bike up to our ringing site near Santon Downham. Nice mix of Siskin (including several juvs), Lesser Redpoll and other common finches caught, though the 20-odd Crossbill that kept bombing over refused to drop in.

Rain stopped play by 10:30am but I decided pushed on anyway. 20 miles later and I'd somehow managed to scoop up all three of my targets, despite the conditions: Nightingale (133), Tree Pipit (134) and Redstart (135) - a fairly decent return, all things considered!

Percentage of target to date - 87%
Distance cycled - 291.5mls / 469.1km
Latest addition - Redstart (135) 28 April

Friday, 27 April 2012

Bonxie x Ant-thrush = ?????

Remember I asked you what you get when you cross a Bonxie with an Ant-thrush? Here's the answer - Brown Dipper! Swifts now back - but I'm in Winchester, 28 miles from my circle....grrrrr!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Swift walk

With ominous rain clouds gathering and wind speeds hitting force 7, I made a lunchtime dash for the (now aptly-named) flood on the west side of the Nunnery Lakes, over which 2 Swift (132) were doing their thing - exhilarating!

The high water levels were probably responsible for a P.B. in the form of 3 Little Egret, the most I've seen together on the reserve. Cue reminiscence about when I were a lad, men were men, birders were birders and Little Egrets were as rare as rocking horse shit.

Percentage of target to date - 85%
Distance cycled - 266.1mls / 428.2km
Latest addition - Swift (132) 26 April

Wednesday, 25 April 2012



Percentage of target to date - 85%
Distance cycled - 266.1mls / 428.2km
Latest addition - Cuckoo (131) 25 April

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Skip post below...

... just read this.

AE, not A&E

So yet another low pressure system pushes through and a certain globe-trotting angel appears at gravel pits across England on the back of it. John Marchant nipped down to Lackford at lunchtime, scoring 9, whilst I held out for the predicted arrival at Livermere - sure enough, by 3pm the news came through and after a post-work record-breaking dash, Arctic Tern (129) now graces my list - and 20 of the sumptuous beauties at that! I believe my text to Mr Mills may have included the word bitchin'. NB: I would have found 'em, Pete, had they chosen to do what they never do and appear at the weekend - predicting from my desk then hitting the tarmac at the first available opportunity was the next best thing though!

A casual glance at the sky then paid off as a typically Corvid-harassed Short-eared Owl hove into view, my 3rd non-motorised one of the year (this one being entirely self-found, Pete!). And having been greeted on my arrival by a hunting Barn Owl, I finally got directions to the regularly-mentioned 'stunted oak between the 2 plane trees' (easy to find - when you know where to start looking!) for a 3-owl evening, thanks to the resident Little Owl (130).


What's the post title all about though? Well for the infidels among you, AE = Arctic Tern in BTO 2-letter code. The potential irony of ending up in A&E in pursuit of AE didn't escape me (again I find myself thinking back to those quiet Abu Dhabi dawns and wondering if a gentle cycle over to the Mushref Palace Gardens, via the back streets, of a Saturday morning is any worse than - or even remotely comparable to - running the weekday evening rush-hour gauntlet down the A134...). Other post title options included "Livermere or Die" [all hail Jonny Rankin].


Percentage of target to date - 84%
Distance cycled - 266.1mls / 428.2km
Latest addition - Little Owl (130) 24 April

Reeling 'em in

Took the kilometres pedalled past the 400 mark yesterday, thought the target bird (Sunday's Redstart) failed to oblige. Hardly surprising really, given that it was a lunch hour blast up to East Wretham, leaving me <10 minutes to try to locate the bird(s), and in a stiff breeze at that. Another time.

A very damp mooch down to the flood (of dipped Whimbrel fame) this morning revealed more activity than the weather might have predicted, including several Whitethroats finally finding their voices, and a Grasshopper Warbler (128) barely finding his.

ps Simon - are you reelly telling us that gropper isn't annual in your circle?!

Percentage of target to date - 83%
Distance cycled - 249.7mls / 401.9km
Latest addition - Grasshopper Warbler (128) 24 April