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My 2004 Year List (1 Viewer)


My 2004 Year List

Much as I would love to keep everyone up to-date by posting a lovingly detailed trip report for all my days out – I just can`t keep up! Time being of the essence I`ll just post a potted dairy of my highlights and try and post a trip report where I can!! I`ll try and keep this up to date by editing this to include all of my trips as and when I can ;)

So far (as of Feb 16th) I`ve suffered a bit with bad luck and bad weather, I`ve also been trying to trim back my birding to appease my all-powerful spouse or as I prefer to call her the TPO (tick prevention officer!)

Friday January 2nd

My first day out of the year was a trip down to the far south-west, starting with the American Robin at Godrevy point, the bird showing stunningly around the cattle troughs hopping about and feeding as if it hadn`t got a care in the world. The stunning vista of St Ives bay produced few birds just some kittewakes passing offshore.

Heading off our next stop was the sewage farm at the head of the Kendijack valley, just outside St Just. Hopping about on the rim and rotating spreaders of the sewage tanks were 2 Common Chiff-chaff, after a while the long staying Siberian Chiff-chaff hopped into view, it was surprisingly different; pure white and grey with no hint of green tones, a faint wing bar and it looked to have a longer tail – same species no way!

Driving back into Penzance we stopped off at the Jubilee Pool on the sea front, a traditional site for Purple Sandpiper , sure enough over a dozen were roosting amongst the rocks. Also present were a couple of dark and streaky Rock Pipits and a lovely Grey Wagtail roaming over the rocks pumping its extra long tail. A nice bonus bird was a super Black Redstart taking advantage of the winter sunshine to sit out in the open on the boulders and make short flycatching sallies which showed off its rufous red tail. Looking out across Mounts Bay a stream of Gannets were passing distantly offshore whilst looking towards Eastern Green Beach there were a number of Slavonian Grebes and Great Northern Divers sat on the sea.

Our next stop was the Hayle Estuary, a site which seems to have been something of a rarity “hotspot” recently. From Lelant Station on the north west side of the estuary the Lesser Yellowlegs was showing at close range in the creeks opposite the station platform with a number of Redshank for a handy comparison, a couple of Greenshank were also present. Careful searching amongst the parties of Wigeon failed to reveal the American Wigeon – the family parties being very mobile as the tide ebbed. Driving round to view from the causeway we connected with the American Green-winged Teal which showed at ridiculously close range in a channel with dozens of Eurasian Teal. A drive round to Copperhouse Creek produced a few Gadwall and two Bar-tailed Godwits but no sign of the American Wigeon. Nor was it to be sighted from the Causeway round Carnsew Basin, although 1 male and 2 female Red-breasted Merganser where present in the main flow of the river. A final check of the estuary from Lelant Saltings station din`t produce any new birds but did result in a sighting of fellow "BFer" Andrew and his friend Peter, no point lingering here if there was anything to be found i`m sure eagle-eyed Andrew would have picked it up!

A whistle stop at the Boating Lake at Helston quickly turned up the resident Ring-billed Gull perched on the metal railings with Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, looking butch and aggressive with a mean expression and heavy bill – it was the first to muscle in on the scraps of bread we cast upon the waters.

Driving down the windy lanes and through the up market villages near the Helston river we pulled up onto the beach at Feock to find a number of birders already present. Offshore was the female type Surf Scoter the angular head profile and wedge shaped bill quickly identified it, also offshore here in the sheltered waters were good numbers of Black-necked Grebes and Red-breasted Merganser.

Due to having friends round for a meal that evening we started to head back, the journey east down the A30 did turn up a field full of Redwings and Fieldfares behind a petrol station on Bodmin Moor.

No journey to the south-west would be complete without a visit to Bowling Green Marsh to see the long staying Glossy Ibis, from the hide “Izzy” was showing intermittently in front of the reedbed looking like a large glossy green-purple Curlew, good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits were also present along with a variety of dabbling duck and common waders.

The viewing platform gave excellent views of a single Spoonbill predictably asleep for much of the time thought it thoughtfully woke up to preen briefly revealing its big spatulate bill and a couple of Avocet feeding on the exposed mud.

Friday 16th January

Another windy day saw me in Suffolk and Norfolk for the first time in 2004. First point of call was the tiny nature reserve at Lower Holbrook – viewing from the path into a scrubby Oak tree in the middle of the reedbed turned up 3 Long Eared Owls – all sheltering from the high winds lovely streaky buff and black with dark ear tufts, 2 birds were quite co-operative, one even woke up and looked around at one point revealing those big orange eyes, the third bird just sat with its back turned, partly obscured by branches!

From the A14 we turned into the minor roads at Kirton – a drive round revealed a distant flock of Brent Geese in a newly sown field. The best vantage point turned out to be a layby on the main road, amongst about 200 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were 2 Black Brant dark backed with a bold white flank flash and a broad neck collar.

More geese were on the agenda next – a ploughed field opposite the leisure centre in Leiston soon turned up a party of 7 Tundra Bean Geese their bright orange legs and brown back immediately separated them from Pink-feet while their somewhat shorter fatter neck, smaller bill and bold white fringes to the mantle and scapulars separated them from their closely related Taiga cousins.

Pressing on we headed to Sizewell, joking that we`d easily be able to spot the birds as they`d be glowing! We walked onto the shingle beach to scan the gulls congregating around the outflows. Loads of large Gulls were present Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backs & Greater Black-backs but careful scanning of both outflow platforms and the beach came up blank for the Iceland Gull, the only birds of note were a couple of Red-throated Divers offshore.

Our next point of call was the famous RSPB reserve at Minsmere, I have not got good memories of this reserve having been chased off on a number of occasions by over officious reserve staff for trying to walk through before 9am!! In the bushes around the car park were a pair of Bullfinch a rosy breasted male and a drabber female which drew attention to themselves by flashing their bold white rumps before perching deep in the hawthorns. High in the willows and alders around the toilet block were mobile groups of mixed finches, mainly Goldfinch and Greenfinch but also a goodly number of Siskins. Walking round to Island Mere hide we shunned the scrape – looking barren in the strong winds apart from a few windblown Gadwall, Shoveller, Teal and Lapwing and concentrated our attention on the reedy pools and ditch behind the hide. Despite a patient wait there was no sign of the Ferruginous Duck just a couple of Tufted Duck, we actually dropped in here a second time on our return to the car park but to no avail. Walking further on we reached a third hide (whose name escapes me!) in front was a large wet area of recently cut reeds it was teeming with birds loads of Snipe and Teal, while careful scanning revealed 2 Water Pipits brown above, white below, well streaked with dark legs and a bold supercilium. The large lake also held a couple of Goldeneye and a distant Marsh Harrier.

The earlier sunlight had faded out and the grey overcast meant that running out of daylight was a very real concern so we pressed on to Cantley double quick! A quick stop off on the A143 near Beccles was productive; scanning the trees near the Mcdonalds we quickly picked up 4 Waxwings. Dropping down from the bare trees to feed on the berry laden hedge beneath – they gave stunning views we easily able to see the little red waxy drops on the ends of their secondaries which give them their name!

After negotiating the narrow track down to the end of Burnt House Lane at Cantley we pulled up and scanned across to the marshes from the railway crossing – the whole area was alive with busily whistling Eurasian Wigeon and good numbers of feral Canada and Greylag Geese. The proper wild geese seem to have an uncanny knack of hiding themselves out of sight in any fold in the ground but eventually a decent sized party of Taiga Bean Geese walked into view, at least 20 birds, longer necked and more elegant than their Tundra cousins accompanied by half a dozen Eurasian White-fronts.

Sunday 18th January

Today started well with a ghostly pale Barn Owl illuminated by my headlights in a roadside field. From there I headed south, starting this bright and bitingly cold morning at Stockgrove Country Park near Bedford. Mandarin Duck were on the menu here and they didn`t disappoint we quickly located about a dozen stunning males and half a dozen females perched or in the water around the wooded edge of the lake. The males are ridiculously gaudy with a bold crest and two sails, the females whilst drabber are still attractive – a pencil grey delicately marked with white. The surrounding woodland held a variety of woodland birds including Jay, Nuthatch and Treecreeper a Green Woodpecker was “yaffling” regularly but couldn`t be seen.

Crossing back over the M1 we came to Elstow clay pits, which despite the freezing temperature was busy with fishermen huddling in their shelters. A search of the first pit gave good numbers of Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Great-crested Grebe but we had to press on and search the second pit to connect with the female Ferruginous Duck it was accompanied by a good number of Pochards and managed like them to spend most of the time asleep. A deep burgundy brown colour with a bold white patch on its undertail coverts it also seemed slightly smaller than the accompanying Pochards.

From Elstow we headed south to a new site for me; Fairlop Waters in North London, after listening to its call on my new Eastern vagrants CD we were confident we could pick out the Humes Leaf Warbler. We cut across the waterlogged pitch and putt to the row of conifers at the end of the driving range – from a long way off we could hear the bird calling, a low pitched di-syllabic pitch-ouu. Scanning the conifers we quickly picked up the Humes Leaf Warbler, it was very mobile amongst the fir trees but showed incredibly well – being able to watch it in the scope meant we could see its drabber olive-grey plumage tones and single bold wing bar meaning it looked like a “faded” version of its Yellow-browed relative.

Time was pressing but we had time to detour up the M40 towards the Chilterns – the blue skies made it a good opportunity for viewing the Red Kites. By the time we were approaching Junction 5 we had already seen a couple of Red Kites from the motorway. We pulled off and walked to view from the motorway bridge. At least 5 Red Kites were up in the air, over the town, the motorway and one passed directly overhead affording excellent views. They really are one of our most majestic raptors with a long forked tail, long slim kinked wings giving it a “stuka” dive-bomber appearance, their colour a lovely mix of chestnut-rufous, cream and grey. Heading home up the M40 we continued to see more Kites, some stunningly close to the car and a couple of Common Buzzards

Sunday 25th January

This morning a trip to north-west Norfolk beckoned, my first point of call being the minor roads around Wolferton west of the A149. A slow drive down carefully scanning the undergrowth and clearings was unsuccessful but parking up and scanning the trees resulted in a close encounter with a large party of Long-tailed Tits tumbling acrobatically through the canopy constantly announcing their presence with their high-pitched contact calls. Driving back up towards the main road I was rewarded with excellent views of a male Golden Pheasant in the open on the grass verge, compact bodied with a long tail held in an elegant arc it was an absolute riot of colour; deep reds and bright yellows catching the eye – surely one of our most beautiful birds how can they prove so elusive?

Pressing on towards the NWT reserve at Holme we walked out to view the sea from the beach. A Little Egret was seen in flight over the saltmarsh before settling out of sight in one of the creeks. A few Redshank were around the edges of the tidal pools along with a few Teal & Ringed Plover. Once on the beach proper we began to scan the (surprisingly) choppy sea. A couple of spiky crested Red-breasted Mergansers were viewable offshore but it took more persistent scanning to pick up a party of about half a dozen male and female Long-tailed Ducks bobbing up and down amongst the waves. White and brown, they were most visible when they took flight; their white shoulder patches standing out along with the males elongated tails. A small group of Grey Plover were standing on the tideline.

Driving towards Titchwell one of the roadside stubble fields held good numbers of Curlew feeding. A daylight flying Barn Owl was also feeding over an area of rough ground.

At Titchwell RSPB a female Sparrowhawk was in flight over the car park along with the usual selection of Robins, Great Tits and Chaffinches awaiting scraps dropped by hungry birders! Careful scrutiny of the scrubby woodland adjacent to the track to the visitors centre didn’t produce any roosting Woodcock, I’m sure they were there I just couldn’t spot them! The feeders were quiet, mainly good numbers of Greenfinches and Chaffinches hogging the food! Walking up the main path we were hopeful that the sun and lack of wind might mean a sighting of Bearded Tit in the reedbeds before the main lagoon, but a patient wait produced only a distant Marsh Harrier and a Reed Bunting beginning to acquire the bulk of its summer plumage. The new pool on Thornham Marsh held the long staying Black-winged Stilt looking as out of place as ever, its ridiculously long, thin legs and fine, needle sharp bill gave it the appearance of a bird far too frail to survive the hardships of a Norfolk winter. A flash of bright white revealed a Little Egret feeding on the saltmarsh. Tucked in on one of the pools on Thornham marsh were a pair of Pintail surely our most elegant dabbling duck the chocolate-headed male with its elongated tail feathers and the warm, creamy beige female. The main Freshwater and Brackish Lagoons were relatively quiet, holding good numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plover on the sandy strips and islands along with a few Snipe and a mix of wildfowl including Teal, Shoveller, Shelduck and a small party of Dark-bellied Brent Geese. On the Saltwater lagoon searching the waders carefully, revealed the presence of three Spotted Redshank, their behaviour giving them away as much as their plumage; they were quite happy to wade right up to their bellies and even swim Phalarope-like across strips of open water, whilst their pale grey plumage and longer, finer bill set them apart from their stockier, less elegant Redshank cousins. A delightful sight was a large flock of about 50 Twite, initially settling openly on the path and giving excellent views they became more flighty and settled on an open patch of ground just west of the boardwalk allowing close observation. Dark, streaky brown finches with a buff/mustard wash around their face and throat, their dark beady eyes and tiny pale coloured triangular bill were obvious ID features. Continuing onto the beach a scan of the shoreline revealed good numbers of typical open-shore waders; Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover and Sanderling all dotted around and a few Turnstone too. A scan of the sea revealed a very distant raft of Common Scoter, too far out to pick up if there were any Velvets with them. Other birds on the sea were a couple of Red-breated Merganser and a few Great-crested Grebes.

Saturday 31st January

Despite absolutely appalling weather conditions (heavy rain and strong gales) we set off in the early hours, heading towards the South Hams of Devon.

Upon arriving at Slapton Ley we parked by the stone bridge separating Higher Ley from Lower Ley. We got out of the car and walked north past the ringing hut. The Ley itself looked like a miniature sea with high waves being driven across the water and the local Tufted Ducks and Coots were taking shelter against the reeds! The only birds visible were large numbers of Rooks feeding on the turf of the Sheepfields inland from the Ley, a few Robins could be heard tacking but that was about it! We continued north along a very muddy footpath before crossing the Reedbed by way of a boardwalk and began to search the reeds for any sign of the Penduline Tit. It was really a bit of a hopeless task – the high winds meant any small birds would be cowering deeply in cover and the reeds were constantly in motion – as heavy gusts blew through they would be bent over almost horizontally and a constant driving rain meant we were having trouble keeping our optics clean! Despite the appalling conditions a Cetti`s Warbler began to sing close-by its explosive burst of song was unmistakeable, it was probably in one of the small trees or scrubby bushes growing within the drier parts of the reedbeds but we couldn`t spot the elusive little warbler. Having no luck we split up to cover the area more effectively – but with no greater success. The Penduline Tit had usually been seen feeding on the tops of the Reedmace stems and I really couldn`t visualise it managing that in these conditions! The bird has been reported as quite mobile and having failed at this end of the Ley we retraced our steps and began to search the area between the Ringing hut and the slipway, again apart from a few windblown Chaffinches and a single Stonechat we briefly (and bravely) perched atop a bush adjacent to the coast road, there was little to be seen, even a moral boosting Snickers bar couldn`t lift my spirits and after a while we trudged back to the car for a coffee to defrost before trying again. Leaving the car a second time a Cetti`s Warbler could be heard repeatedly singing from a dense bramble patch adjacent to the stone bridge but despite waiting patiently it refused to show itself. Another assault on the two reedbed areas were unsuccessful and having spent the best part of three hours on site decided that we should push on – perhaps an inland site would be a little more sheltered!

The Dartmouth – Kingswear ferry provided us with great views of a shag attempting to swallow an Eel about two sizes to large for it and its constant grappling and shaking amused us as we headed across the river!

We pressed on to Clennon Valley, just outside Paignton to find the rain was coming down even heavier. After mistakenly pulling into the adjacent YMCA carpark (and leaving hastily in case any village people look-alikes came out!) we parked at the leisure centre and walked across the football pitches. Good numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls, grounded by the wind and rain were resting on the grass. A brief circuit of the three lakes produced a few confiding Pochard and Tufted Ducks alongside the commoner Coots, Moorhens and Dabbling Duck. A very noisy rookery was on a wooded slope to the west of the westernmost lake whilst on the grass below was the largest flock of Magpies I have ever seen – there were at least 22+ birds, I hadn`t realised they could be that social even in winter. The dense cover of birch, hawthorn and willow at least provided some cover from the wind and small passerines were very active including 2 Goldcrests (my first of the year) and a mixed party of Blue and Great Tits, noisy Wrens scolded us from the undergrowth and a couple of territorial Robins faced off against each other on the same branch for our entertainment. We returned to the end of the East Lake, the area that our target bird Dusky Warbler had been frequenting and began to search. Hopefully its distinctive metallic Chakk call would help us locate it – the previous Dusky`s I have seen have all proved very elusive except when calling! Walking down along the ditch and searching the scrub we instantly saw 2 Chiff-Chaff feeding actively and mobile amongst the branches of the willow trees running along the branch tips and flitting out to “flycatch” they seemed unconcerned by the damp conditions, small, olive with dark feet and legs and an understated supercilium they obviously weren`t our quarry though! We walked the length of the stream a couple of times but never heard a single call, though at one stage another Chiff-Chaff did its best to convince us it was a Dusky Warbler – this individual was much more grey and white and was very terrestrial in its habits, creeping in the lowest vegetation and on the ground – it was also very confiding, not flushing even as we approached it quite closely. If anything I would have said this was even tinier than the other two and with an extremely fine dark bill – no doubt one of the grey and white Chiff-Chaffs which can cause so much debate as to their possible Scandinavian origins! We were by now wet, muddy and miserable! Another blank under our belt we headed off to Exminster; surely that wouldn`t let us down!

There was no let up in the near gale force winds as we crossed into the field at Exminster - a circuit of the field following the line of the hedge only produced a party of Chaffinches in the bare trees before we reached the bottom of the slope. Good numbers of finches and buntings in mixed parties were commuting between the new housing estate and the set-aside at the bottom of the slope. The dense, weedy cover made viewing difficult on the ground but the birds were easily observed in flight and consisted of good numbers of Chaffinches and Linnets with a few Reed Buntings thrown in for good measure. Searching along the bottom of the field our attention was called to a gentle sipp call from the undergrowth - a Cirl Bunting! The bird continued to be invisible as we approached slowly and eventually it flew up and over our heads into the housing estate behind us. In flight the lemon and chestnut colouration was obvious, but unfortunately we were unable to relocate it. We trudged up to the top of the hill enjoying a large party of boldly coloured Goldfinches before we managed to locate two Woodlark, which flew in and settled elusively on the ground. In flight their distinctive short-tailed appearance instantly drew our attention but it was harder work locating them on the ground, even at close range. Eventually we picked one up stood motionless only twenty or so yards away in front of us. The stong supercilium stretching round to its nape, chestnut-brown earcoverts and “scaley” plumage appearance being its most note-worthy features.

We had spent so long both at Slapton and at Paignton that my plans for the day had gone completely awry, so abandoning thoughts of Yellow-browed Warbler and Great-white Egret we headed down the A33 & A35 towards Poole Harbour – perhaps the long staying drake Lesser Scaup would enable us to finish the day on a high note! We arrived at Studland Heath to find the wind seemingly even stronger – we had to lean forward into it to make any progress as we walked across the heath towards the raised bund on the west side of the lake. If conditions had been more clement we would probably have seen or heard Dartford Warblers amongst the gorse but we clenched our teeth and continued before setting up our scopes to scan the water. The water here was living up to its name of “Little Sea” as large waves marched across the surface – most of the birds apart from a few hardy Pochard and Tufted Duck still diving in the centre were tucked up in the shelter of the leeward bank and the leeward side of the Island. 8 boldly coloured Shelduck immediately caught our attention, but careful scanning revealed at least 4 tightly packed groups of Duck, mainly Pochard but also including good numbers of Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Pintail – both boldly plumaged drakes and the more delicate but still elegant females. Despite viewing the lake from a couple of points there was no sign of any Goldeneye or Scaup and we dejectedly walked back to the car before the light failed completely and made the walk back dangerous.

Monday 9th February

Another trip to the South-west beckoned and after an early start I headed west to Cornwall, the weather started off dull and grey but did brighten up as we went through the day. As we entered Cornwall a riot of Daffodils and Crocuses brightened up the roadside verges and gave it a “spring-like” feel.

My first stop was Penzance, where after much searching we parked up by St Johns Church and walked round to the adjacent grounds and gardens. After a little bit of searching we quickly located the wintering, first-winter Rose-coloured Starling which was roosting alone in a hawthorn tree. It seemed completely oblivious to our presence and we were able to obtain fabulous views as it perched directly above our heads. It was beginning to acquire its summer plumage with some of the pinkish and glossy black feathers beginning to come through its duller faded brown feathers, the bill was largely yellow – with some pink coming through and its legs and feet where already surprisingly bright pink. We then moved on to Morrab Gardens a very sheltered and somewhat tropical looking ornamental park, just off Penzance seafront. My target here was Blackcap and it didn`t take too long to locate a fantastic male Blackcap actually in almost full song, cream below, grey-brown above and with a lovely glossy-black cap it was obviously responding to the unseasonable warmth. Further searching of the undergrowth here produced a few Goldfinches, a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiff-chaff feeding actively and making numerous flycatching sorties from one of the trees. We then made the short journey to the other side of the promenade to check the Jubilee Pool rocks and scan the waters of St Mounts Bay. We quickly located the Black-throated Diver offshore, it was in winter plumage and identified by the isolated white flank patch and smaller size and more “elegant” bearing, also further out towards St Michaels Mount were 3 Great Northern Divers larger, block headed with chunky bills and good numbers of both Shag and Cormorant. The rocks around the Jubilee Pool held about half a dozen roosting Purple Sandpipers.

Moving on to our next stop, the RSPB reserve of Marazion Marsh where we tried and failed to connect with the wintering Bearded Tits and the extremely unseasonable House Martins. The whole reserve seemed to be alive with Common Snipe, 100`s of them feeding, roosting and flushing as we walked down the muddy path. From the five bar gate we obtained excellent views of the Water Pipit feeding in the open on the short turf allowing us to see all the relevant ID features – the clean white neatly streaked underparts, white wingbars and bold supercilium, whilst the trees at the back of the reserve held numbers of Grey Heron already beginning to reconstruct their nests. Also in the reedbed where at least two Chiff-chaff whilst a single Little Egret was feeding in the shallow water. An extremely good find was a Eurasian Bittern in a stand of reeds, extremely hard to spot as it stood motionless its cryptic buff, beige and black plumage blending in perfectly with the reed stems we watched it through the scopes before it faded out of sight once again.

At the Hayle Estuary we stopped off at Lelant Station, but despite an extensive search couldn`t locate the wintering Lesser Yellowlegs, a couple of Greenshank were present along with Little Egrets and a selection of common waders. Carefully checking the gulls revealed the presence of a second winter Mediterranean Gull loafing on the exposed sandbanks mid-channel its larger size, chunkier bill, paler plumage and just tiny individual black tips to its primaries allowing us to ID and age it. Whilst there were numerous parties of Eurasian Wigeon we couldn`t locate the American Wigeon and so drove round to Copperhouse Creek where there can be good numbers depending on the state of the tide, we drew a blank here but noted more Little Egrets, some Gadwall and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit. Walking out along the causeway adjacent to the Carnsew Basin our attention was caught by a flash of bright turquoise darting low across the water – a Kingfisher whilst the pool itself had a good number of Little Grebes. Eventually amongst the tidal channels in the river itself viewable from the end of the causeway we were able to connect with the American Wigeon its plumper size, pinker body and cream-grey head with bright green eye mask immediately separating it.

The drive into Devon was disrupted by roadworks and the closure of the Tamar bridge which necessitated a detour across the Torpoint Ferry and through Plymouth itself. The key bird of the trip for me was waiting to be found at Slapton Ley so it was frustrating waiting in traffic and crawling along the country lanes before we finally arrived. The only consolation was the sighting of two more Chiff-chaff in a reedbed at the south end of the Ley as we waited at a temporary traffic light! We parked up by the bridge and ringing hut in the centre of Slapton Ley and walked north to view the extensive reedbed from the slipway. Unlike on my previous visit, conditions were excellent and I was quickly rewarded with excellent views of the long staying Penduline Tit – brilliant! My first lifer of the year! It was busily feeding in a cluster of bulrushes, perched on one of the brown reed heads single-mindedly pulling the seed heads out and then discarding them. I t remained on view for about 20 minutes – I savoured every second, this male bird looking like a mini Red-backed Shrike with its chestnut wings, silky-grey crown and black eyemask. A check of the bay from the car park by the monument produced a Slavonian Grebe, a raft of Common Scoter and half a dozen winter-plumaged Razorbills.

Time had once again closed in on me and it was with a heavy heart that I had to discount thoughts of the Paignton Dusky Warbler, heading up to the A39 with only a quick stop at a Dipper site on the River Dart near Dartington, which came up blank apart from the sighting of seven Common Buzzards soaring high over a wooded ridge. Our final stop of the day was to be Exminster Marshes, scanning the main lagoon from the raised canal towpath produced a single first-winter drake Scaup loafing with a small group of Tufted Duck and Pochard but no sign of the Lesser Scaup. This bird had also been seen in an adjacent drainage ditch but could be elusive as only a small section of it is visible from the path. Waiting patiently (yeah right!) we were rewarded as firstly a couple of Tufties swam into view followed by the first-winter drake Lesser Scaup it was obviously smaller than the Scaup we had been watching earlier and had a “bump” at the rear of its crown which gave it a completely different headshape, its scruffier appearance caused by the more coarsely marked upperparts and a dirty brown-grey wash to its flanks along with the tiny black nail on the tip of its bill allowed us to identify it confidently. That was really as much as we could squeeze into the day with the fading light, so it was back to the motorway and onwards for the long journey home!

Saturday 14th February

Valentines day – and what self-respecting spouse could decline the request for a very brief local session? Well mine could for starters, but when you`re sent out to buy building materials who knows where you`ll end up? I ended up at Eyebrook Reservoir hoping to pin down a Smew before the warm weather encouraged them to move on! My first stop was the feeding station at Egleton Reserve on Rutland water – a guaranteed site for Tree Sparrow and sure enough at least a dozen of these smart little birds were coming and going from the heavily stocked feeders, their chestnut crown and black cheek spot were instantly distinctive. Plenty of Chaffinch & Greenfinch were also feeding –though they were all momentarily disrupted when a Grey Squirrel came to raid the feeders! Time is of the essence if you`re pretending to be at B&Q so it was swiftly on from here to Eyebrook.
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Great potted account of your travels so far this year, glad to have seen you on one of those travels.

I almost got on a train to London for the Fairlop Hume's Warbler.

What is your stance on the Sibe Chiffchaff? I have seen one but am fearful of the "Listing Police" dismissing it as non countable. Do you count the three Brent geese separately? I discussed this on BF but have learnt a few do count them as ticks.
Good point Andrew - i`ve just "edited in" my meeting with you at Lelant Saltings station!
With regards to Sibe Chiff-chaff and the various Geese (Black Brant, Tundra/Taiga Bean, Eurasian/Greenland Whitefront etc) I don`t count them in my "official" totals - but I do keep a list which includes them all ready for the day when they are split!

I do believe that Sibe Chiffchaff and the Bean Geese and Whitefronts are probably good splits - a proper "Sibe" Chiffchaff really is so different from ours that it must be a different species! After all if they look different, sound different and act different then as far as i`m concerned they must be different! I`ve heard one singing here in the UK and its at least as different as the Iberian Chiffchaff you had down in Devon! I think part of the confusion with sibes is caused by people who see Scandanavian Chiffchaffs and call them Sibes - which leads people to think they are more similar than they really are.
Greenland Whitefronts and Eurasian Whitefronts are very different in plumage and have completely seperate breeding and wintering grounds - Tundra & Taiga beans are more similar in plumage but seem to have very different habitat requirements on their wintering grounds - Tundra tend to be associated almost exclusively with arable fields whilst Taiga like wet grassland - they have different breeding ranges too - and thats good enough for me!
Not sure about the Brents - the way they associate in winter and seem to hybridise regularly is a bit of a black mark against them for me!
A much belated update! A bit of a cheat really - its just a concise version of an earlier report cut and pasted in ;) But hopefully a proper update will follow later today!
Hi Jason,

An inspiring report for amateur birders like me who tend to hibernate in winter. Your January travels were awesome! Just shows what you can do if you're prepared to brave the elements and put in the miles. Such fabulous ticks! Really looking forward to the next instalment...
Up until Valentine's Day I can safely say I have seen specifically the same bird as you sixteen times. They are as follows . .

Godrevy's American Robin, Hayle's Wigeon, Lesser Yellowlegs & Green-winged Teal, the Helston Ring-billed Gull, the Carrick Roads Surf Scoter, Topsham's Izzy & Spoonbill, Fairlop's Hume's, Titchwell's Twite, Spotshank & Stilt, Exminster's Woodlark, Scaup & Lesser Scaup and Slapton's Penduline Tit.

You did not mention any Shorelark or Cranes, have you got them?

I now see on surfbirds that you have cleared 200 and are ahead of me.

Damn it!

It is not fair. If only I lived somewhere good. Mind you, Nottingham...
Well thanks alot Grampy - I kind of assumed that people might be interested in a series of trip reports - The fact there is a whole category on the forum entitled "My birding Day" is a clue that thats the kind of content people are interested in - if you`ve nothing useful to add why not p * s s off and not bother reading it instead of slagging something off thats taken alot of time and effort to create - its obviously only you that thinks its pointless and plenty of people have given me positive feedback about the content and interest in my trip reports!
The East Midlands area seems to be missing your efforts...how about covering your local area instead of thrashing round the country? I'd much rather see a Pied Fly in my local wood, than someone elses BB rarity.
Don't worry I won't waste my breath, and I'll p*** off and annoy somebody else... :h?:
Grampy Bustard said:
How pointless is this..... :h?:
As it reads you are actually say the content of your post is pointless and that is bang on cos not everything on BF is for everyone so you only have yourself to blame for reading it in the first place then making it worse by posting that!
I am left almost speechless by how ill-mannered and rude "Grampy Bustard" is....let me make a suggestion - don`t bother reading it, don`t bother reading anything I post, save your time for something more worthwhile than repeatedly coming online and posting rude, critical and negative comments on a posting that has taken a hell of a lot of time and effort to create.
I enjoy sharing my birding experiences with the people here on this forum and I sincerely hope that other people enjoy reading about them. If its not someones cup of tea - well this forums big enough to accomodate everyones interests if we all rub along with a bit of tolerence, patience and good manners.
Luckily i`m sensible enough to brush it off as sour carping from someone who doesn`t know any better way to behave, what I sincerely hope is that he doesn`t put anyone else off sharing their thoughts, knowledge and experiences or Birdforum will be poorer overall.
Rant over - normal service resumed shortly.....
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