Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Lough Arrow

The next day, no sign of the Buff-bellied Pipit around Lough Beg (on the off chance it was still there!).Driving down the M2, a large flock of Waxwing were in trees by the side of the Motorway. We came off at the next junction about drove back to find the birds, about 300, feeding by a car park in Newtownabbey.

A small fraction of the Waxwings besides the road © Ashley Howe

We had a brief stop in Belfast city centre before heading south to Dublin to catch the ferry back.

A big thanks to Steve for all the driving over the last few days (even though he gave me his bastard cold!! argh!!)

Monday, 29 December 2008

Nimmo's Pier

After a cooked breakfast we scraped the half an inch of frost off the car and headed back to Galway for one last stab at Nimmo's.The 1cy Iceland Gull from day 1 was on the slipway, as were two ad Ring-billed Gulls.

Again from Nimmo's Pier © Ashley Howe

We decided to call it a day in Galway. Despite a couple of tries, we'd not managed to connect with the Surf Scoter and there was no of the Smithsonian Gull while we were there, at least not that we saw! Up in Sligo, there was no sign of any Lesser Scaup at Lough Arrow (although we were beaten by the light and didn't have time to check every bay).

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Nimmo's Pier

Totals from Nimmo's on the morning of 28th were one 2cy Iceland Gull, two ad Ring-billed Gulls and two ringed Black-headed Gulls (both ringed as nestlings in June 07 in Co. Mayo, thanks to Chris Benson for the information).

One of the two Ring-billed Gulls this morning © Ashley Howe

We took a walk along the shore were we found a small flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a host of passerines feeing in the seaweed along the strandline, including Chaffinches, Wrens and a horde of Rock Pipits (no Buff-bellied, despite checking every one!). A colour-ringed Bar-tailed Godwit was by the causeway to Mutton Island, all the way from Holland (thanks to Bernard Spaans for the data), and, on the way back, the Forster's Tern was on the beach with two Sandwich Terns.

One of the Iceland Gulls at Low tide, and the returning Forster's Tern on the beach © Ashley Howe

The afternoon was spent along the coast to the west of Galway again, this time a little further along. A 1cy Glaucous Gull was on a small lough between Ballynahown and Rossaveel with a Little Egret on a stream just across the road, and in Rossaveel harbour there was a second 1cy Glaucous Gull and another Little Egret.The stretch of water off An Bothar Bui held about seven Great Northern Divers, a Black Guillemot and a handful of Long-tailed Ducks.

1st winter Glaucous Gull, looking for scraps in the harbour © Ashley Howe

That night we managed to find a B&B and, after a hot shower, headed off to bed... only to wake up the next morning to find water dripping on us from the ceiling!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Nimmo's Pier

What better way to escape the post-Christmas depression and turkey sandwiches than a trip to Ireland? Steve Menzie any myself left Holyhead in the early hours of the 27th, arriving in Dublin that morning. Unfortunately, Steve was just starting a heavy cold with a constant dripping nose which, combined with about an hour of sleep, resulted in a drive across to the west coast that dragged a little. A couple of hours and a full box of tissues later, we arrived in Galway. A wander along Nimmo's pier was quite good with 3 adult Ring-billed Gulls, a 1cy Iceland Gull and a couple of Sandwich Terns off shore and an adult Iceland Gull. It was FREEZING though, Steve retired to the car soon, while i walked the beaches, with the addition of an adult Iceland Gull and a few other bits and bobs.

From top: Wren, Rook, Rock Pipit and Hooded Crow © Ashley Howe

A drive along the coast to the west of Galway provided little of note. The afternoon, back at Nimmo's, was much the same as the morning with the addition of a 1cy Glaucous Gull. After failing to find a B&B that was open over Christmas, we spend a long cold night in the car.

1st winter Glaucous Gull at low tide at Nimmo's Pier © Ashley Howe

Friday, 26 December 2008

Moore NR, Warrington

Meeting up with Steve Menzie in the morning after my Dad quickly drove me up there. Where we both kipped a couple of hours, before heading out to Moore NR, to see what white-winged Gulls we could get. As expected there weren't any masses of Gulls because the dumps were closed...being just after christmas and everything.

However the only really decent bird of note was a Willow Tit, a quality bird for, now they are becoming such a declining species back home. Amongst the other common bird feeder birds, which was nice. Tomorrow we're off to Ireland!

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker from the feeding station © Ashley Howe

Sunday, 21 December 2008


A few trips down to Pennington of late, to try and get the Red-breasted Goose have been fruitless. Mainly because I have waited till after work, and time is pushing on before i get down there and the main Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock has either dispersed or flown off to keyhaven etc.

However when ever I have gone down there, besides the few local goodies like Common Scoter and Slavonian Grebe. There have been some impressive sunsets:

Sunsets over Oxey Marsh © Ashley Howe

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Bordon, and Fareham

Convincing, both, work that I needed to finish work at midday, and then Emma (the gf) that we should go to Bordon followed by Fareham was the plan for this afternoon. Leaving an hour later than expected, because women can never get anywhere on time, meant that I was now in more of a rush against the light.

Immediately finding the 1st winter drake Ring-necked Duck at Passfield Pond, showing well under bad light, which meant I did not even attempt to photograph the bird. Leaving within 10 minutes, heading back South. I met up with Dan Houghton where the weather continued to worsen, the Firecrest which always seems to have its tongue out was soon picked out in a very limited tit flock of no more than 20 birds.

Time was pushing on further, and it was looking doubtful that the Yellow-browed Warbler was going to make an appearance. But on heading back to the car the bird appeared beside one of the lakes, showing well before continuing on its circuit of the two lakes there.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


Woooo, finally some Waxwings in Hampshire, and they couldn't get any closer if they tried. So friday i whipped out the bike, and road down to Botley from Hedge End with bins and my camera on my back. On arrival they were fairly distant, favouring the tops of the Oaks, but were also mobile.

Eventually, they made it down to the small Rowan Tree between the School and the first house....these birds do turn up in great places - 'honest miss, i was photographing the bird behind your son'. (c) Ashley Howe

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Millenium Bridge, Gosport

An after work, local twitch with Lee Fuller. There wasn't much time left, and was already beginning to get dark. The Black-throated Diver on arrival was showing very well, for a single photographer, and once we had positioned ourselves, it continued to show well.

It's nice birds, like this which are keeping me ticking through what is turning out to be a quiet November for me (c) Ashley Howe

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Horse Shoe Point, Saltfleet, and Reighton Sands

Travelling up with Dan and Ant, the first time since the Thrush Nightingale during the spring. And another very successful twitch. Arriving at Horse Shoe Point, just before first light, we walked the lengthy distance down to the bale fields where the Steppe Grey Shrike was yesterday. No sign by scanning, but walking around to the broken line of bushes revealed the bird coming out of roost right infront of us. Already showing well on top of Hawthorn the bird then flew down on to the track to feed. Where it picked on Worms avoiding drowning in the soaked soil. I approached the bird, but gave it some distance as not to flush the bird. However once i had settled and sat in the mud. The bird gradually approached me coming within a metre from me. An unbelievable moment!!

The Shrike showing down to a ridiculous distance, simply amazing (c) Ashley Howe

Taking the 30 minute walk back to the car park. A group of Redpolls, could have possibly held an Arctic Redpoll. But to me there only seemed to be Mealy's. Then to Saltfleet, where yesterdays Desert Wheatear was also still there. On the beach it showed very well. Another bird which seemed to approach the crowds, rather than the crowds hounding the bird. Like what seemed to be happening at the Pied Wheatear.

Yet another bird today, that showed very well. 1st winter female Desert Wheatear (c) Ashley Howe

At Reighton Sands the Pied Wheatear showed well settled in the long grass around the base of a bush. However the large crowds soon flushed it, as it was chased over the edge of the cliff. We left the bird as it made its way right down to the bottom. Not knowing whether it ever come back up again. And was surprised to found out it was still there the day after, after looking very knackered.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Nosterfield, and Pickering

At first light there was no sign of the drake Canvasback at Nosterfield on any of the Quarry Pits there, though it must be around that general area somewhere. However looking over the other Pits, there looked to be a distant Pectoral Sandpiper, later with Dunlin it soon flew off high, without being properly IDed.

Giving up on this bird after a couple of hours searching, we then moved on to Pickering, driving through the Moors with Red Grouse showing generally well close to the car. Once at Pickering (the set of Heartbeat). We made our way into the valley, to photograph Dipper. A certain individual showed well, but because of the light, and mobility of the bird made photographing it considerably harder than expected.

A few Red Grouse were viewable from the car in the freezing cold through the Moors (c) Ashley Howe

An hour or so spent with this bird, and still no sign of the Canvasback, we decided to go home, just in time for a Halloween party.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Rainham, Hythe and Dungeness

First port of call of the day was Rainham Marshes, a bright sunny morning with reasonable sized flocks of Finches near the tip perimeter fence. However scanning could not pick out 1 of the 3, possibly 5 Serins supposedly in the area. Typically as I was looking in a different area, Lee and Mick found a juvenile, which managed to disappear by the time i had made my way back up the hill. Some concellation was a Dartford Warbler, apparantly a rare local species.
Down the M20, and the Green Heron showed inevitably well at Hythe along the canal. Where is fished surprisingly well, catching some impressively sized fish. We stayed with the bird, in constantly changing lights, and always staying on the other side of the canal.

A selection of Shots of the Heron. Nearly constantly on show. However my most favourite shot being the stunner at the bottom as it walked across the fallen branch © Ashley Howe

Once the Heron settled down after fishing, we went South to Dungeness where yeserdays Red-breasted Flycatcher was still in situ. Showing well in gorse by the lighthouse the bird allowed decent photo opportunities, but nothing compared to the male, I photographed last month at the Crown and Anchor Pub at Spurn.

This Red-breasted Fly still showed amazingly well © Ashley Howe

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

County Galway

Once i had finished work, i made some calls, got myself a lift to Eastleigh train station, where i began to travel North. Tackling the underground with ease, and my timings were smack bang on the knosser!! Arriving at Stanstead airport at around midnight, i then kipped in the airport till 7am where i was allowed to check-in. I accidentally fell a sleep and almost missed my flight, thankfully minutes before i woke, and i dashed to the gates.

Once on the plane it was a doddle, i got to Shannon before schedule, but had to wait another 3 hours before Garry could pick me up enroute to the Little Blue Heron, he was coming from the Tanager in the South, which i really wanted to see, but i wasnt willing to pay £220 for a single flight. Meanwhile i kipped on yet another bench...i think im going to start getting a reputation for sleeping in random places, maybe i should be named the 'tramp birder' or something. So then, a kip, 3 hours and a full stomach after a lovely full irish breakfast later, i was on my way with Garry, John, Vince and Tony to the Heron. It took about 2 hours. Where on arrival the bird was showing amazingly well. We were stood on the pier, and the bird was basically metres away beneath me.

However this wasnt good enough....i went further up the beach to where the light, was better. The bird fished closer and closer towards me. And not stopping. Before long i was within about a metre of the bird fishing. it walked straight passed me, and once it had caught a couple more fish, flew right over the other side of the stretch of water. There was no point in sticking around longer, i wasn't going to get better views. So we headed back to Shannon Airport.

Showing distantly...(c) Ashley Howe

Back to Stanstead before we know it, where we said by to Tony, the rest of us headed South, dropping off Vince around the M25 and myself at Gatwick airport. Where i was stuck for 2 hours before Lee Fuller can and saved me, awww my night in shining armour, at 2 in the morning. At this point i had just turned 18, and what a start to Adulthood ha ha....we got back at myhouse at about 4 in the morning.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Nanjizall Valley & Cornwall

Paul Welling as the driver, James Hanlon and Dave ? as passengers picked me up from my house in Hedge End, at 1:45am. Driving down to Cornwall to make sure we arrived just before first light, stopping in various services, none of which open. Yesterdays Empidermix Flycatcher was thought to be Alder or Willow. But how do you tell? apparantly un-seperable even in the hand, although there are some minor differences there is dfinately an overlap between the two.
On arrival, we waited for it to get abit lighter before the field load of people made there way down to Nanjizal Valley. Where we was all alined, it wasn't long before it was picked up with all them eyes.

Showing well, but at range still allowed the crowd to see what was needed (c) Ashley Howe

The bird showed well flicking around ferns and a particular seperated bush at the top. We watched the bird for a few good hours. Where we saw all we could see on the bird. And yes, i agreed with they guys from yesterday, Alder or Willow...probably leaning more towards Alder.

In the time, we departed off to Nanquidno, where reports of a Yellow-throated Vireo seemed bollocks. Then off down to the Lizard where we searched for the Nighthawk. Of course we didn't ecxpect to see it, but hey, youve gotta look for these thing, one day i will get lucky. However a showy Merlin made me happy. In this time, the Flycatcher was trapped and confirmed to be an Alder. Not that i didn't care what it was IDed as, because it was going on my list as Trails regardless.

There something about photographing birds of prey (c) Ashley Howe

Friday, 3 October 2008

Mainland Shetland; Day 7

The weather wasn't that great....Pied Fly, a few Phylluscs and 2 Redpoll Sp. were about the best we could find around Hoswick in strong winds.

That evening we were up at the Sumburgh Hotel, doing what we had done every other evening that week, getting pissed...well Dan and I had anyway. This time a little more eventful with the Shetland local birders, a few games of pool, Garry on the darts...what more could you ask for?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Mainland Shetland; Day 6

The morning spent around Hoswick again, Siskin, and Garden Warbler was the best we could muster up.

At Kergord, 2 Yellow-brows were picked up, and a Sparrowhawk.

At Sumburgh there was a Snow Bunting, a showy Lesser Whitethroat, but we dipped the Red-breasted Flycatcher.

Sitting out of the fence for a few seconds allowed some pleasing record shots (c) Ashley Howe

At Sumburgh Hotel Dan and I watched a Wheatear escape the claws of a Merlin several times, before becoming its victim.

Grutness held a Knot and a Blackcap. Virkie had 4 Barwits, 4 Linnets. Old Scatness hadn 2 Arctic Terns off shore. Quendale had a fly over Peregrine, 4 Siskin, and a Reed Warbler - wa sthis the bird people were saying was a Marsh?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Mainland Shetland; Day 5

A brief look around Hoswick didn't hold much. Garry, John, Liz and myself went out looking for a Pec Sand somewhere, while Dan searched the Hoswick - Sandwick area. Neither of us had anything, until the pager started to release the news on Fair Isle that morning, Lanceolated and 2 White's Thrush, i needed both, Garry and John needed a Lancy, and Dan needed none of them. We booked ourselves straight onto a flight mid-afternoon - returning the following day. Unfortunately winds were high, so didn't fly. We arranged for flights to go the next morning if still present.

Meanwhile time was pushing on, and reports of a Hornemann's rctic Redpoll were coming through from Unst, at Norwick, once we realised we couldnt fly, we bombed it up to Unst. Actually taking a fair while, considering the ferry links, and a fully full car. It took a few minutes, but when it almost landed on Liz, it made itself easy to pick up on.

The Hornemann's showed down to just a couple of metres at time feeding in the cattle feeders with Greenlands (bottom). Couldnt have asked for anything better (c) Ashley Howe

It showed unbelievably well with 5+ Greenland Redpolls, a Brambling was on the wires, a Spotted Fly was along the fence and a Lesser Whitethroat showed well.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Mainland Shetland; Day 4

There was nothing around the Hoswick and seemed to be a clearout. I followed a Finch fock for some time to photograph the Twite. After that we headed straight to Kergord plantations. Around Kergord House we had 2+ Yellow-browed Warblers, 5+ Pied Flys, 5+ Blackcaps. A Redpoll Sp, 2 Crossbill (1 male) and a Lesser Whitethroat. A Buzzard flew out of the 2nd plantation behind, and a possible Brred Warbler briefly.

Eventually got close enough for some decent shots (c) Ashley Howe

Over towards the farm there was a Grey Wagtail, more Pied Fly, Blackcapetc. And a Barred Warbler which showed very well feeding in the sycamores.

Although always looking up at this Barred Warbler, it remained out in the open for ages feeding, some other shots show it, flicking off the Aphids (c) Ashley Howe

Monday, 29 September 2008

Mainland Shetland; Day 3

At first light, we were walking up to the quarry to look through the Finches. On the way up i flushed a Crake sp, from a roadside drainage ditch. Resembling either Little or Baillons, i quickly got Dan and Garry as it ran up the left hand-side of this ditch. Totally dark in appearance, and very small. We followed the ditch up to the end, where it seperated into three ditches. The bird has disappeared, presumably up one of the pipes. As some of the group stayed put watching the entries to the pipes, i went back down to the house with Dan to get torches etc. I got down in the ditches looking up the pipes, but i couldnt see anything. Very mysterious. We checked the ditche at various times of the day, to see whether the bird had come back out.

Also in the area was 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, Garde Warbler, Slavonian Grebe, and Siskin.

Scatness provided 2 Purple Sands, 6 Wigeon, 4 Sanderling and Red-throated Diver. At Quendale there was a Barred Warbler in the dunes. 2 Ruff were at Hillwell. A Common Rosefinch at Spiggie, 11+ Whoopers and c120+ Wigeon.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Mainland Shetland; Day 2

Up early at the crack of dawn, and a Yellow-browed Warbler was the first bird was saw in Hoswick. Another was found just abit further up the road. But there was possibly more or just the same two birds touring the Village. Twite were around but that was about the only other birds worth mentioning.

A pretty quiet day...A flushed Water Rail at Clumbley from one of the many burns. An unidentified washed out Acro at Quendale. Chiff-chaff, Redwing, and Song Thrush.

At Dowsetter, there was no sign of the Yankee Golden Plover, but apparantly there wasnt as many Golden Plover as in recent days. But there were 20 Black Guillemots in the bay.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Mainland, Shetland; Day 1

Beginning the holiday, seemed abit chaos. My alarm didn't go off till Dan phoned me to say he was outside. Roadworks meant we had to take on the mother of all diversions and we were abit late getting to Garry's house. But still managed to get to Heathrow on time. Our flight to Aberdeen was easy. But cock-ups with check-in the other end meant me and Dan had to stay and wait for the next plane. Garry, Liz and John got the all clear. Typical, the only ones who dont need a Western Bonelli's Warbler.

Eventually we got on a plane to Shetland, surprised to see the sun still fairly high in the sky, we ordered Garry to get back in the car up North. Where on arrival the bird was at the back of a sycamore. But then coming very close to abit of scrub infront.

A cracking Fish and Chips in Lerwick, possibly the best i have ever had ever! And we went back to the Beach House where we were staying, and then to the Dolphin Inn for a few pints. Gotta get the holiday going the right direction, right from the start.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Flamborough Head & Spurn Point

There wasn't alot of point going to bed, so i stayed up till 1am for Kelvin Pierce, followed by Lee and Mick Fuller to come pick us up. A quick trip up to Flamborough Head, only some 6 hours! And we were there before first light, not really knowing where to go, we wandered the area with a hundred others, before we eventually found where the bird had apparently gone to roost.

Immediately i felt doubtful, but thankfully i was wrong, and the bird was on the other side of the hedge. Dashing up to the road to view the Brown Shrike sat low in the hedge at mid-range, nearly constantly on view we left the bird, to let others see it, not before a few record shots:

Walking down to the Old Fall Plantation, there were as many as four Yellow-browed Warblers and an elusive Red-breasted Flycatcher to be seen. Another look at the Brown Shrike was nicer now the crowds had spread and calmed down, but alot further away now. Sat next to a Red-backed Shrike it was nice to compare. Rarities of more rarities down South we then began to head that way.
Already a glorious day, we passed off reports of the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler in Lincs (good decision in the end) and went to Spurn, where the Crown And Anchor Pub car park was the first stop. Together was a male and female Red-breasted Flycatcher, the male showing very well at times.

A stunning male Red-breasted Flycatcher, showing a bit better than the female (c) Ashley Howe

Entering the point we were informed about a Great Grey Shrike that had just been trapped, we stuck around a few moments to see the bird, and its release. A newly arrived Brambling was also there.

Male Great Grey Shrike in the hand, (c) Ashley Howe

Further down the point the summering Shorelark was picked up, and a peculiar Warbler, which seemed to be a funny coloured Willow Warbler. Getting better all the time, we headed back up to the Pub where there was another Yellow-browed Warbler showing well, another Great Grey Shrike and Red-backed Shrike in the same scope view. Not bad aye!

One of the showy Yellow-Browed Warblers (c) Ashley Howe

Reports of a Greenish Warbler in Green Lane, Easington related to a Yellow-browed Warbler calling weirdly. Before heading home and getting back at around midnight.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Hook-with-Warsash and Weston Shore

Carrying on the run of Grey Phaloropes, another one nearby wasnt a hard decision to make, i simply wanted to see another of these blinding birds. On arrival, we managed to walk straight past it, walking further up to a recognisable face; Dave took us to where it was. Not showing as well as what we had hoped, but it was there all the same. This bird was still North of the Main Scrape.
A second bird had just been found on a similar pool but South of the Main Scrape, this bird showed better and closer, but it still wasn't good enough for high quality shots. A few Med Gulls fed out in Southampton Waters, and Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears followed the Cows.
A brief visit to Titchfield Haven resulted in an hour long seawatch with nothing of note but a Black Tern and a Mediterranean Gull, though there evidently was some movement this afternoon as the pager says.

This Mediterranean Gull showed very well from the beach, picking insects off the still water © Ashley Howe

A final bit of twitching to the day, came when a juv Sabine's Gull was found at Weston Shore. Not having a clue where that was, we phoned Steve Menzie, who comfirmed our thought and sent us towards Hythe. Little did we know that both of us were wrong! Once in Hythe we couldnt find a single soul and no Sab's Gull.

A call from Simon Ingram, revealed the bird was exactly the other side of The Solent. Racing back through Southampton, picking up Simon and then to Weston Shore we finally clinched this quality Hampshire bird.

Juvenile Sabine's Gull in poor light off the jetty © Ashley Howe