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