14/05/2015 Iona, Mull

Corncrake: Our second day on Mull and we booked on to another boat trip, this time from Fionnphort to Iona.

The day before while on the Lady Jane I managed to pick up some vital information from a fellow wildlife tourist, who advised me that the best place on Iona for the crake was behind the Spar shop near a phone box.

So as soon as Dawn and I landed on Iona we headed straight over to this view point and within seconds heard and saw our first crake.

However the sun was in the wrong position and we decided to knock on the door of the cottage adjacent to the field the crake where in. We asked if we could stand in their garden and they kindly let us.

From here the crake came in to full view and I never dreamed of getting views of Corncrake like this!

Iona is a stunning place full of charismatic Corncrake, white sandy beaches, good food and we also got Spotted Flycatcher and Cuckoo to boot.

So thats its, whats a great birthday treat! The day before I managed to get Golden Eagle on the list and picked up a lovely male Hen Harrier on the drive over to Iona. So this trip adds WTSE, Surf Scoter, WTSE and Corncrake makes it 300!

13/05/2015 Loch Na Keal, Mull

White-tailed Sea Eagle: As part of my race to 300 Dawn and I took a trip to Mull for my 31st birthday celebrations - and am I glad we did!

Mull has always been a place I have wanted to set foot upon, to see their WTSE, Golden Eagle and Corncrake!
We only had three nights in Mull so had a bit of a challenge to see all Mull had to offer.

The plan was to see the Eagles and take a trip to Iona for the crakes, while staying in a B&B near Salen and we took our own car.
I had a good start to the trip, while on the  ferry over to the island I stood on the open deck hoping for some cetaceans. I got some stunning summer plumage GN Diver, Black Guillemots, Fulmar, Gannet and a single Great Skua but no sign of any Whales or Dolphins.

Dawn surprised me with a great birthday present and booked me on to Mull Charters Lady Jane boat, where they take you out on the loch and bait the Eagle in with free fish.

Just as I stepped onto the boat two guys from the RSPB Liverpool Local Group stepped off, Neil and Ron. I was in a state of surprise, when people say its a small world I know what they mean.
This was a highlight of the trip, not only did I get some absolutely brilliant views of a stunning bird of prey, but I also picked up a male Surf Scoter in Loch Na Keal.

The WTSE put on an awesome display and came for three fish making seven passes.

See the link for Mull Charters - I would highly recommend them but book early!


And see this link for recent bird sighting around Mull - looks closely and there is a pic of the Surf Sctoer.


Take a look at Neil's trip report and images too.


10/05/2015 Blacktoft Sands RSPB

Marsh Harrier: Im now on the race to the big 300! So I've been thinking I need to start bagging all the easy birds and took a trip to see Yorkshires Monty's Damion.

Montagu's Harrier: As we just arrived we bumped in to Kenny Dummigan who told us he just had some crippling views of the female but the male has not been seen for about an hour!


Bust after a long weight Damion and I struck lucky with some great views of the pair.

02/05/2015 St Mary's, Scilly

Great Blue Heron: From Somerset we headed straight to Penzance, after getting stuck in bank holiday traffic - new rule don't travel 400 miles at the start of a bank holiday weekend.
We took a morning voyage on  the Scillonian III passenger ferry.

When we arrived on solid ground we made our way through the busy streets of St Mary's towards Lower Moors. St Mary's was hosting a popular boat race and live music event which was the reason for the island being full.
Once we arrived the bird was sitting at the back of a small pond, hey presto another UKMEGA and only the 2nd for the UK!
Initially the bird was a little bit too far for my liking but once Dawn and I left for some lunch at the nearby Juliet's Garden Restaurant, that I would highly recommend, we went back for our last look and this time the bird was down to a few feet from the hide.
The bird however was slightly obscured behind some reeds but once it came out it was like being at a red carpet event as the sound of shutters opened and closed, mine included.
Common Dolphin: Nobody told me how bad the ferry is, the sea was rough and we both felt a bit queasy so we sat up on deck and distracted ourselves by watching dozens of Manxies, Gannet and even a couple of Dolphins.

An excellent trip to see a great bird, very pleased indeed!

01/05/2015 Meare Heath, Somerset

Hudsonian Godwit:  April is starting to shape up nicely with another UKMEGA in the bag!

With only 2 UK expected records and the last one seen 1988 I was in tears that I had missed this bird when it turned up last weekend.

The bird usually summers in northern Canada and Alaska, migrating through the centre of North America in the spring, so I didn't think I would get another chance at the HudWit and was thrilled when it made another appearance.

As soon as we arrived the bird was showing incredibly well and we were treated to the booming sounds of Bittern, great views of GWE and drake Garganey. It was great to see the bird in flight and be able to pick out the black under wing coverts, great to see this bird in flight! 

Here is a nice comparison against a Black-tailed Godwit, note the HudWit (right) is much darker.

Off to Cornwall now - Great Blue Heron here we come!

26/04/2015 Leighton Moss RSPB

Marsh Harrier: Its funny how and when things turn up.

I've been doing some breeding bird surveys up in Cumbria and passing Leighton Moss every week for the past few months, and I never thought I would pick up a PBG here!
Great to see another UKMEGA and to bag another life tick, this was a bird I was looking forward to catching up with after missing the Hollingworth bird in 2010.

Tawny Owl: Great supporting cast too, including superb views of two male Marsh Harrier and Tawny Owl on the footpath right outside the hide.

Pied-billed Grebe:  Disappointingly this is the best I could manage considering the distance and using my iPhone and scope!  

However if you want to see some awesome images of the same bird just a few hours earlier have a look at Zac Hinchcliffe's blog


28/03/2015 Seaton Park, Aberdeenshire

Harlequin Duck: Sorry for the late posting, a change of jobs has put a lot more work on my plate!

Leaving things late for a 'typical' twitch yet again, I was thrilled to finally pick up such a great bird.

But I guess the bird matured and is looking more and more sexy every day, so perhaps it was a good thing that I twitched the bird a couple of months after it turned up. 
When Dawn and I arrived in the morning the weather was typical, grey, dark and wet!

Once relocated luckily for me the bird it was happily perched on the side of the river posing for some photos.

We watched it as it moved on to the river and started drifting through the nearby rapids before taking off and disappearing up the river.
We left the River Don for some lunch and some sight seeing then decided to check out Papermill Lane where the bird regularly goes in the afternoon.
With the breeding bird season well under way I will be even more busy surveying, but I will try my hardest to keep things up to date as best I can.

A great UKMEGA!

20/03/2015 Carr Mill Dam, St Helens

Common Scoter: I've seen thousands of Scoter off shore and half a dozen in some local lakes like Pennington Flash and Elton Reservoir, but I have never seen a Scoter showing this well before.
The bird was found yesterday at Carr Mill Dam, however it wasn't spotted loafing around on the main lake like I've seen them before but on an outflow stream on the south east side of the lake.
It looked like the bird, that usually migrates and flys through the night was brought down by the recent fog.

The bird then settled on the lake and drifted towards the outflow and down on to the stream.
When I arrived the RSPCA were there doing what they do best. It was feared that the bird might be unable to take off from the stream as they need a good running start, unlike a Mallard that can take off almost vertically like a helicopter!
It was Derek Hampson from the RSPCA who was chest deep in the murky waters trying his hardest to capture the bird and take it to Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre.
But the Scoter had other ideas and gave Derek the run around as it constantly dove under the water only to emerge behind him or at the other side of the outflow.

Another empty net!
It seemed like the Scoter was playing around with Derek and at times laughing!
But Derek kept his cool and patience getting closer and closer to the bird each time.

The chase was finally over.

With lightning reflexes the Scoter dove under water again but this time swam right in to the RSPCA's well placed net.

With a splash and a cheer the bird was safe and sound and on its was to Stapeley Grange.

16/03/2015 North Wales

Mediterranean Gull: First stop was Cemlyn Bay for the Lapland Bunting which has been knocking about there for a few days.

But after a long search, accompanied by some other local birders and no sign of the bird I turned my attention to the resident Med Gulls.
There was one pair in their summer plumage giving me a good show over the main pool.

Other birds of note included a single Whimbrel and a large flock of Golden Plover on the shore line and a Peregrine perched on the fence over the fields.
Iceland Gull: From Anglesey I headed home but I couldn't resist another visit to Abergele for the simply superb Iceland Gull.

And once again I wasn't disappointed as the bird was happy loafing around the small pools on the car park.

It was great to bump in to Alan and Ruth who were kind enough to show me a large flock of Scoter though their scope.

In return I gave Ruth a laugh as she snapped a few images of me laying on the ground getting some low angled shots of the gull.

12/03/2015 Silver Lane Pools

Black-necked Grebe: My first visit to these pools, I never really took the time to find out were they where.

I'm glad I did the place looks like it could be a place I would want to visit regularly. 

I had pair Snipe and three Grey Partridge along with the visiting BN Grebes.

Note to self, next time I go make sure to wear my wellies not walking boots!