31/12/2016 Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Blue Rock Thrush: Here are the best of a bad bunch, after a three and a half hour wait in the dense fog and cold the bird finally put on a show and came out in the open, albeit hidden behind a bush.

This particular bird is dividing opinion regarding it's origin as to many people this may well be an escaped captive bird due to it's time of arrival, place of arrival and it's very odd behaviour.
For example this little chap seems more confiding than it's wild counterparts I have seen in Cyprus and Spain.

Other people think (and hope) it's a wild bird and can be tickable as it is an adult male and Blue Rock Thrush do migrate and it has been an exceptional Autumn for eastern vagrants.
If accepted by the powers that be it would make this bird the seventh sighting of the bird in the UK, after it was first spotted in 1985 and the most recent back in 2007.

There is an old twitching philosophie - 'if you see the bird then it's a legitimate wild bird, if you dip and don't see the bird then it must be an escapee'. Now I've seen it, I'm certainly hoping it gets accepted and would make a happy addition to my UK life list.

29/12/2016 Walton Hall Park, Liverpool

Red-crested Pochard: This was another post-winter bird survey trip as I wanted to make the most of the blue skies and nice weather and after seeing Damian Young's and Dave Craven's pictures from Wally Park recently I thought I would make the most of the day's limited light and head over there.
Almost straight away I picked out 'Pablo' Wally Parks long recorded RCP loafing about with the manky looking inbred mallard and geese.
By all accounts no one knows where Pablo has come from but it's not ringed. I've been informed it's been there for about 5 years.

Don't ask who came up with the birds nickname, but I'm sure it has something to do with the birds Spanish connections.

Despite it's original origins RCP are always a smart bird, especially the males.  
Mediterranean Gull: While I made my way back to the car I was keen to check out the large flocks of gulls foraging in the muddy playing fields surrounding the park.
I'm glad I did as I picked out this stonking adult winter med gull loafing around the more common Black-headed Gulls.
The bird was pretty flighty and was often disturbed by the words of dog walkers that were constantly crossing the field.
Not a bad end to the day after a very cold three hour vantage point survey and transect where I was frozen to the bone despite several layers and thermals!
Here is a nice comparison shot between the two species, on the right the med gull showing off its clean white wing tips and dark mask behind the eye. On the left the Black-headed Gull with it's black wing tips folded along it's tail and black spot behind the eye.

28/12/2016 Ormskirk

Waxwing: Today was my first day back at work since Christmas and as I was carrying out a winter bird survey near Maghull, I thought I would treat myself to a post-survey twitch and check out the Waxwing that have been hanging around Coronation Park for the last week or so.
As soon as I parked up I could see a small gaggle of birders looking up in to a Rowan tree, so I headed over where eight birds were happily feeding on the last of the berries.
I've seen tons of Waxwing but never a flock so confident, these birds were hanging in trees with dogs walking underneath, traffic passing by and even me pointing my lens at them.
These birds were remarkably placid and put on a great show in near perfect light.
For me it's not only their striking personalities and the fact that they tend to turn up on supermarket car parks and suburban gardens. This is because of the abundance of berry-bearing shrubs planted to decorate the open spaces. But also their stunning plumage of crimson red feathers on their wings which look like drops of sealing wax.
Waxwings turn up so frequently in supermarket car parks that they have become one of birdwatching's most talked about phenomenons and one I look forward to seeing annually.
Starling: It wasn't just the Waxwing enjoying the last of the Autumn bounty, there were plenty of Blackbirds, Starling and even Chaffinch tucking into the Rowan berries.
There weren't many berries left on the trees so if you particularly want to see this flock I would go soon before they move on to better feeding areas.

23/12/2016 St. Asaph, North Wales

Black-throated Thrush: Finally caught up with this little Christmas cracker!

The Black-throated Thrush, which has taken up a winter residence in the small town of St. Asaph, was found back on the 16th of December.
Since then the bird has been extremely hard to pin down, with scarce reports, of which would usually consist of statements like 'brief views or 'seen briefly before flying out of view'. None of which fills you full of hope.

However over the last two days the news reports became more positive as the bird seemed to have settled better and started to put on a show.

Yesterday especially, as the bird was filmed drinking from the nearby River Elwy and photographed extensively perched up in the trees around the football pitch.

So for the second time this week I ventured out to North Wales in search of the BTT.

Upon arriving I bumped in to Iggo and his son Ben, two top blokes who accompanied me for the morning.

With a bit of luck, thanks to Iggo appearing to randomly walk off in what I thought was the wrong direction, we stumbled upon the bird down an alley perched upon a branch in a garden The bird then flew off into a nearby Hawthorn to feed giving us prolonged views if a little obscured by branches. Another great Thrush nicely added to the list.

07/12/2016 Trench Pool, Telford, Shropshire

Velvet Scoter: Another great trip out, this time to Shropshire in search of the  resident Velvet Scoter that has been wintering on Trench Pool.

The bird has been here for a few weeks now and seems happy enough amongst the Tufted Ducks, however it doesn't tolerate any gulls and several times I observed it attacking the gulls on the pool.

Tricky bird to get close to as it was extremely flighty and would be spooked easily by anyone passing by.

The bird seemed to spend time in the centre of the pool either preening or loafing and goes to the far end to forage and feed.

The best bet is to sit low on one of the fishing platforms on the eastern corner and wait for the bird to come to you.
Unfortunately I didnt have enough time to implement this strategy and the sun was always in the wrong position.

Still, despite the poor images it was great to see the bird and it's diagnostic features such as it's white speculum and distinctive white secondaries up close.

05/12/2016 Beeley Village, Derbyshire

Dusky Thrush: Yesterday saw three great birds turn up, the Dusky Thrush in Derbyshire, the Brown Shrike in Cumbria - that was soon downgraded to a Red-backed Shrike and the American Golden Plover, of which the only one I needed was the Dusky Thrush.
So after picking up positive news first thing this morning Dawn and I took off to the village of Beeley in search of the very rare vagrant. This is clearly the first recorded for Derbyshire but also appears to be the 12th for Britain after the bird on St. Mary's this October.

After joining the crowds around the village church we were tipped off that the bird had been feeding on apples in a nearby orchard so we moved off and set up camp there.

We didn't have to wait too long before the bird made an appearance and flew into an apple tree to feed.

Although the bird didnt stop long it did make another appearance after 40 minutes or so in the same tree.

I would like to thank the lady (Rachel Jones) who found the bird and put out the information in order for us all to go and view it.

28/11/2016 Blackburn

Waxwing: In the birding calendar there are some really great red letter days that I really look forward to, one of which is the Waxwing eruptions. When these charismatic little birds come to the UK in large numbers.

Of which there have been 25 Waxwing favouring the area around Go Outdoors in Blackburn. I like the fact Waxwings are attracted to urban areas and can be seen around town centres and retail parks, they are birds anyone can find anywhere!

In my humble opinion these are one of the best British birds, they are relatively scarce and can only been seen during one part of the year and they are stunning, with yellow waxy wings and tail tips and a rosey crest.

The birds have been seen regularly feeding on the berries of a Rowan tree opposite the Griffin Pub near the Tesco Express, however when I arrived all I saw at this tree was a gang of birders and photographers and no Waxwings.

Although I didn't see any birds on the Rowan, there were plenty in that area with plenty calling in a tree off Garden Street.

The birds eventually moved off Garden Street and flew across the road to Portland Street.
Here they spent the afternoon loafing around the treetops and occasionally coming down to feed on berries.
It was great spending the afternoon watching the birds as they flew around the houses and feeding on the berries.

When I got home I was gutted to read on Facebook that there was a small flock of Waxwings spotted in the car park of Toby Carvery in Lowton.
This is only 5 minutes up the road from where I live. I guess it goes to show that these birds can turn up anywhere!

I'm sure I will either be back in Blackburn or finding some Waxwings a little closer to home.

21/11/2016 Lytham St Annes

Desert Wheatear: Another grey day with more wet and windy conditions and I'm out again on the coast for another rarely-seen bird.

Thought to have come all the way from Sahara and the northern Arabian peninsula were the western race breeds.
If the weather dramatically improved and was hotter and dryer the long golden sandy beaches wouldn't be that far from its natural home.

Unfortunately the weather was typical for a dull November day on the Fylde.

The bird was like a wind up toy, scuttling across the windswept sand and was happily feeding within a cordoned off part of the beach and was away from the many dog walkers and other visitors to the beach.
Despite the prevailing winds and increasing rain I was really happy following the bird as it tried to outwit us birders and our cameras.  
This is my 2nd British Desert Wheatear in as many years and both were on the North West coastline but I think despite it's bedraggled windswept look the bird is a first calendar year male with its remiges and retrices very worn and the greater coverts showed broad buff all pointing towards

It was also great to catch up with Pete Kinsella who was out braving the November weather.

20/11/2016 Mistley, Essex

Forster's Tern: I got lucky this time, as while Dawn and I were visiting my mum in Essex, this little beaut turned up!

We only had to wait an hour in the grey and cold before the bird came into view giving us some brilliant flyby views and cheering up the waiting crowds.
Unfortunately I was too slow with my camera and struggled with the railings that obscured the auto focus, but excuses for the poor images aside, it was brilliant to be in the right place at the right time and to see the bird.

Dawn and I both hungry and cold then went for the best pizza I have had in a very long time at an Italian restaurant,  Lucca Enoteca is simply the best Italian restaurant around!!

15/11/2016 Little Woolden Moss, Manchester

Great Grey Shrike: This would be my third visit to see this bird, but you can't blame me it's an absolute cracker!  

The bird was still favoriting the farm houses and buildings at the end of Moss Lane and although it was still disappearing from time to time it would regularly reappear on the aerials on the cottages.
I also caught a glimpse of the female merlin that has been regularly seen in the same area, it flew low and headed over the polytunnels.

13/11/2016 Pennington Flash

Long-tailed Duck: I definitely wasn't disappointed after seeing todays LTD at penny as it came in pretty close, compared to its more distant movements yesterday.

While there I bumped into lots of familiar faces, Ste Culley, Paul Kurs, Laura Bimo and Jakie to name a few.
Yet another great find by John Tymon who picked out this drake LDT out yesterday afternoon, unfortunately I spent another day DIY shopping, this time for new wooden flooring.

I got more shots of the birds bum then I did of the actual bird, it was actively feeding and diving beneath the water and as soon as it came up and I raised my camera it was down again foraging.