04/02/2019 Wageningen, Netherlands

Spotted Nutcracker (slender billed): There are some twitches that you know you will remember forever, some that stand out as extra special and this one most certainly fits that narrative.
Dawn and I booked a mini-break to Amsterdam staying on a lovely house boat along one of the beautiful canals that cross-cross the city.
We arrived late on Sunday night and booked a hire car for Monday morning.
After a fun night out and a good nights sleep we picked the car up from Centraal Station and embarked on the short journey to Wageningen, located about an hour east and was on pretty easy roads to navigate.

We arrived on the quiet suburban streets of Wageningen and ran in to two local birders, their English was good and they told us that they hadn't seen the bird in over two hours!!!
I was alarmed, I know that bird has been in this town since well before Christmas, but it had moved from the edge of an housing estate further into town and with the prowling cat population and local sparrowhawks I did think, if only for a second, that it may have gone! maybe for good.
Luckily however almost as soon as Dawn and I arrived and I opened a packet of hazelnuts the bird came straight in, right past my legs and landed right next to me. Within touching distance. This was superb, what an excellent way to see my first ever nutcracker.

The spotted nutcracker has an extensive range forming a broad swathe east-west from Scandinavia right across northern Europe, Siberia and to eastern Asia, including Japan, inhabiting the huge taiga conifer forests in the north.
The Eurasian nutcracker (N. caryocatactes) has several subspecies, each occupying a different part of the range and depending on different conifer species. Some of the populations can be separated on bill size. This individual is classified as a slender billed (N. c. macrorhynchos), which occurs over most of Siberia and is the most widespread of the bunch.
Spotted nutcrackers are not migratory, but will erupt out of range when a cone crop failure leaves them short of a food supply.
This slender billed eastern race being the more likely to do this.
The bird happily and boldly went about 'caching' the nuts, burying them under in the soil besides a kerb and laying dead leaves over them.
Dawn and I along with the two other birders were soon joined by some passing locals one of which came prepared and brought his own monkey nuts.
Taking one from his pocket and extending his arm the bird jumped out of the tree and on to the mans hand. I was blown away.

The bird flew up and drank out of a blocked gutter before disappearing, we went off for some lunch in the town and came back only to have the nutcracker spooked off by a passing sparrowhawk.

(this image was taken on my iPhone)

Sparrowhawk: I was relieved to see that the bird of prey was after the local pigeons - but the nutcracker better keep a sharp eye out! This picture was taken in the garden where it spent much of its time.

This was such a great trip, Amsterdam is a lovely city full of great sights and good food and seeing the nutcracker just topped it off.

26/01/2019 Hope Carr Nature Reserve, Leigh

Blyth's Reed Warbler: Last Sunday while Dawn and I were out looking for Long-eared Owls in Cheshire the lads Whatsapp ground pinged in my pocket, it was Patrick saying that there was a Eurasian reed warbler spotted at Hope Carr nature reserve near of Leigh. He caveatted saying 'at this time of year its got to be rarer then a normal reed warbler.'

Patrick was spot on as later that evening a message was put up on MBF saying that the reed warbler is now thought to be a Blyth's reed after studying video footage.

This makes this bird the first Blyth's reed for Lancahire and a local mega that has been pulling in the crowds.

The bird however is not very reliable it showed well on the following Monday then went to ground for almost a week before coming out again on the following Saturday and doing a no show on all day on Sunday. Today, Monday, the bird put on the best show it has done since it was found.

When I saw it on Saturday all I could manage were these typical LBJ images with plenty of branches and 'bum' shots!

But today folk were able to get some crippling shots including Gary Crowder who was kind enough to share with me his cracking images of the bird (the first two images).

20/01/2019 Sandbach Flashes, Cheshire

Long-eared Owl: A bird not easily seen during the breeding season, when they are mostly nocturnal. But during the winter they can be seen much more easily at their winter roosts.

LEO winter roosts used to be much more common than they are now. In fact, in some areas where they appeared to be well established, they have disappeared altogether, and a winter LEO roost is now a rare sight.

So I can understand when there has been some displeasure and resentment via a Whatsapp group recently to people sharing the sightings of LEO roosts. I understand in certain circumstances that suppressing sightings is a positive move.

However there has been an historic roost at Sandbach Flashes, one that is pretty much inaccessible as they are found on the opposite side of a very boggy flash and well known.
All you have to do is type in on Twitter 'LEO Sandbach' and you will see tons of sightings, they even have them on their web page.


Brambling: Still, I would recommend practising good field craft, keeping quiet, don't wave your hands about or move them too quickly and respect the owls. And please check with County Recorders or other local bird watchers before putting LEO info on social media & out into the public domain.
Before going to see the owls Dawn and I headed over to Hanchrch Woods a bit further south near Stoke.

Here we watched the fantastic feeding station for these orange finches.

19/01/2019 Winwick Road, Warrington

Iceland Gull: This bird as been eluding me for the past few years. I have fond memories of chasing it across the town, from Tesco car park to the roof of Matalan and each time I dipped!
I even took Dawn with me once witch didn't go down too well, but nothing a McDonald's couldn't sort out.
Top local birder John Tymon found the bird last weekend loafing on the grassy field in front of Warrington Collage and reappeared yesterday afternoon on the grassy pitch in front of Decathlon.
This adult bird has been returning to Warrington for its 6th winter from it's Breeding grounds in Arctic Greenland.

Iceland gulls typically breed in the far north of Greenland that's a 2000 mile journey, a long, long way!
This morning I met up with Neil Wilcox and set off in search of the pure white gull, we checked its usual haunts, the grassy fields around the college, the playing fields of Orford park and the area around Decathlon.

For a long while I wasn't holding out too much hope, well until we bumped in to Liverpool birder Steve T. We were catting away when Steve spotted the white winged gull flying over Decathlon.
Here we got some good views as it flew around the area and perched upon the nearby Premier Inn hotel.

I was thrilled, after years of dipping I finally got some decent views of this local celebrity.

Kenya Trip Report

Mount Kilimanjaro: Here you go a new trip report from Kenya from way back in 2016.

First of all it took me ages to edit all the pictures and even longer to write up the report before I lost all my work by a computer error.
Kori Bustard: Yeah, can you believe it, losing all that work, I was devastated to say the least!
Its taken this long to get over the loss of all that work and have the will to continue.
African Fish Eagle: Well I am glad I did and here you go for all to enjoy.

Its been really good revisiting the images and the memories of the trip too.
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher: Dawn and I along with her sister and partner spent new year of 2015/2016 and stayed for 10 days.
Secretarybird: In this short time we managed to pack in a ton of safaris and I managed to bag a ton of birds.

We visited Amboseli National Park is located immediately northwest of Mount Kilimanjaro and 240 km southeast of Nairobi, right on the Tanzanian border.

African Lion: Then spent some time Lake Naivasha, a superb oasis to in Kenya and an African Mecca for all sorts of wildlife.
Marico Sunbird: We also visited Lake Nakuru National Park which is renowned as a bird sanctuary with over 400 bird species, including huge flocks of flamingoes and many other water birds. It is an excellent park for wildlife spotting and is home to many water-loving animals such as hippos and waterbucks.
Superb Starling: And our final destination was the wold famous Masai Mara National Reserve. Considered Kenya’s best park and one of Africa’s highest wildlife density region for predators. The reserve covers 583 square miles (1510 square kilometers) of outstanding wilderness in southwest Kenya.
Pale-bellied Bustard: Not only did we get tons of beautiful and exciting bird, but the large mammals, the vistas and the habitats were great.

Chin-spot Batis: Spending time enjoying wildlife with Dawn and experiencing Africa with her was defiantly a highlight.

It was a truly excellent trip.
Cheetah: It’s easy to see why so many visitors flock to Kenya from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations.


04/01/2019 Calderstones Park, Allerton, Liverpool

Brambling: Second stop was to Calderstones Park in Allerton, named after the ancient megaliths situated in the park, which are said to be older than Stonehenge.

This park is huge, and without the help from Gill and Paul Kurs i would still be wandering around the park, lost, looking for ginger finches.

They are best viewed from the entrance opposite Harthill Road, concentrate on the boundary fence to the allotments and the big holly near the gates.

There is a large flock in this area of around 20 birds. I happily spent most of the afternoon with these fine birds as they foraged on the ground amongst the beech nuts of the beech trees.

Their orange camouflage is suburb aganist the beech nuts and leaves.

Due to its stature the bird has a similar diet to the chaffinch and will was mixing with its commoner counterpart.

As I observed brambling enjoy feeding on beech nuts and we always get more of them in Britain when the beech trees in Scandinavia fail to produce sufficient seed but any cold snap.

04/01/2019 Lambeth Road, Liverpool

Waxwing: Today I ventured out to Gods country, Liverpool, and after yesterdays defeat to Man City it was nice to get out and enjoy what bird life Liverpool has on offer.

First stop was to Lambeth road were a small flock of waxwing had been reported. I've yet to catch up with one this year so it was great to see seven feeding so close today.

Its been a good time for waxwing as today there were reports from Lancaster, Manchester, Chorley and Liverpool - so no excuse to get out and see them.

03/01/2019 Starr Hills, Blackpool

Snow Bunting: One of my favourite birds (I may say that about a lot of birds) but snow bunts are great little things, pretty to look at and typically confiding.

There have been two birds that have been feeding in the area south of Blackpool Transport Tram Depot in the dunes off Clifton Drive.

Thanks to Neil G for the info on the directions.

Snow buntings are arctic breeders with a circumpolar distribution that winter in the northern United States, northern Europe, and central Asia.

Snow buntings typically begin arriving in Britain around mid-October and early November.
Interestingly I've read that they migrate at night. Experiments have shown they navigate by using the earth’s magnetic field in addition to the stars.
These two birds spent most of their either within the dunes foraging amongst the vegetation and on the highest tide line feeding in the debris before getting spooked by dogs and their owners.

Smart little birds.