Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Rocky end to the Year

Courtesy of Jim Hutchins

On the 27th of December news broke (well leaked) on to the internet of a Blue Rock Thrush that
had taken up residence in a suburban estate within the Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold.
Being just across the border in Gloucestershire I went to have a look at this mediterranean species.

Blue Rock Thrush Stow-on-the-Wold Glos Please view at 1080p HD

I encounter these fabulous birds each spring on Lesvos where their melodic and melancholy call
can be heard from a rocky outcrop echoing through a warming and waking valley, perhaps the
chimney pots and television antennae of this cul de sac were the next best thing.

There are the inevitable discussions regarding the provenance as a mid winter and an inland location
may perhaps suggest a captive origin.

A quintessential Cotswold scene.


Despite the festive time of year, I was expecting to encounter carnage 
on the morning of the 28th within the bucolic cotswold town but was 
pleasantly surprised by the welcoming residents of Fisher 
Close which saw one besieged homeowners kindly sharing a 
Christmas chocolate biscuit selection with grateful bird spotters.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Busy Weekend 17th/18th December

Courtesy of Elementerry

When this Masked Wagtail (Moticilla alba personata) turned up in a small village in Pembrokeshire a few weeks ago, a plan was formulated to go and see this first for the U.K. 
Masked Wagtail breed in central southern Asia from Iran to Mongolia and this bird should have been wintering in the Indian subcontinent.

Masked Wagtail please view at 1080p HD

Courtesy of Elementerry.

Severn Bridge on a misty winter morning.

200 miles from Oxford we found The Wickster continuing his walking list!

Wiltshire Sunday 18th December 

Cattle Egrets please view at 1080p HD

I simply cannot get enough of these charismatic diminutive Egrets wherever they are, I've been fortunate to encounter them several times over the years in the U.K as well as further afield in 
Lesvos and the Gambia. As a species Cattle Egrets are widespread throughout the world and the hope is that they will in time, follow in the footsteps of Little Egrets and colonise the U.K.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Dusky Derby

So the lure of this subtlety beautiful and rare thrush in Derbyshire saw myself the Mauve Hawk
and Elementerry hot footing it up north, circumnavigating the convergence of midland motorways
and on to slim b roads that wound their way through the winter sharpened Derbyshire landscape.

Please view at 1080p HD

The star of the show kept us waiting for a few hours before returning to a favoured orchard within
the village centre of Beeley, but it was worth the wait.

Dusky by Mauvey
So after great views of the main attraction it was on to some of the local specialities, namely
at least three Dippers and as it turned out Hawfinch.

The River Derwent the perfect habitat for the little blinky bobber.

Please view at 1080p HD

Elementerry looking uncharacteristically nervy near water.

 "Look heroic" I said...
I got grumpy Viking.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Oxon Birders Christmas Curry Night and the 2016 Mauve Hawk Awards for Birding Excellence.

So it was once again that most festive of occasions...
The shindig of debauchery...
The annual gathering of county bird spotters...

The 2016 Oxon Birders Christmas Curry!!!

What a motley looking bunch we are.

This event has grown steadily over the years with just under thirty of the county's finest
turning up in Abingdon this year in order to discuss all things birdie and to make merry.
Thank you to everyone who turned up and made it such a fantastic evening- but especially to Hugh Netley for making the effort to travel up from the south of the county and Gareth and John for the hour long round journey from Banburyshire.

For the first time ever (and possibly the last) we thought it was high time that the achievements of some should be recognised...

So it was with great pleasure that 'The Mauve Hawk Awards for Birding Excellence'
were handed out after the meal...

The first award for 'BIRDING MISSIONARIES' was given to Gareth Blockley and John Friendship-Taylor in recognition of their continued work engaging with, and educating people about bird spotting, often within violent and deprived urban areas namely Grimsbury Res.

Team G.B

The second of the night was the 'EDMUND HILLARY' award for time spent in a high chair and was given to Mr Terry Sherlock a.k.a the 'Bittern Umpire' and the newest member of the Otmoor Mile High Club.


The third accolade of the evening went to Mr Barry Batchelor for his near super human effort in securing a county tick at the first screen on Otmoor... 'THE USAIN BOLT' award.

The fastest birder in the county, Mr Barry Batchelor.


Mr Clackers

Our final award was the Patch Workers award for 'FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE' and despite his
recent determination to prove otherwise (by finding some great birds) this year the award went to Mr Mark Merritt and was presented by last years winner, the superlative Mr Tom Bedford.

Unfortunately Mark couldn't make the awards so (after some technical difficulties) we played a pre recorded acceptance speech...

Ladies and Gentleman I give you the prodigious, The stupendous and our watcher on the Downs...

Mr Mark Merritt.

The celebrations for this years 'Mauveys' continued well in to the night... 

Mr Bedford bone cracker and top bloke.
Mr Chivers machine-gunner and cider expert.
Mr Lowe our own northern powerhouse of Oxon Birding.
Oh FFS...

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Cornwall and the despair of the darkest season by badger.

I've been a very lucky Badger this autumn being able to enjoy some fab autumnal feathered action and somewhat indulge my bird spotting obsession, and with the shortening last throws of the years third season waning and giving way to...
Y'know i'd like to continue within my melancholy, marginally, dare I say somewhat poetic narrative of the changing seasons and enthuse about the crisp cold winter days that are soon to be upon us but, to be honest...


The invariably damp, wet and short grey days that will make up the majority of the next four months...and although winter can include some truly wonderful birds and birding there is but one comfort, one small but vital little crutch to make the shivering, sniveling bleak winter even remotely brrrrrrrrrrrearable.

Badgers little helper

So, I digress, as is my tendency and in the process managed to depress myself....

Last month I went to Cornwall!!
The beautiful coastline near Perranuthnoe.

With a smattering of good birds and some fine weather plus the opportunity of spending some time with my lovely aunt and uncle, saw myself and Mrs Badger pootling off down the M5 in search of pasties, good times and glory. 

I didn't want to just drive from one rare to another and so spent some very enjoyable days 
birding some of the Kernow valleys, headlands and coastline, I also visited a few sites that 
I had heard of but never explored such as the areas around Polgigga and Bosistow Farm, 
and I even managed to find a couple of Yellow-broweds and a smashing Black Redstart.

Birding in Cornwall October 2016

Included in my imaginatively titled little video are the following:

Short-toed Lark: These sandy coloured Larks are a favorite on Lesvos each year with this one
discovered feeding happily around the cliff top car park at St Agnes Head in north Cornwall. 

Snow Buntings: Four of these beauties arrived at Godrevy Point just NNE of Hayle whilst 
I was in Cornwall so I went to watch them as they fed amongst the heather.

Isabelline Wheatear: Another Lesvos speciality, this buff-coloured Wheatear spent a couple of 
days again at the coastal hotspot of Godrevy Point

Black Redstart: Having missed this species on all of the recent forays to the northeast, I was 
really glad to see this one as it popped up on to the roof of Bosistow Farm.

Dalmatian Pelican: This well travelled bird first arrived in Cornwall last May before embarking
on a tour of the county with even a brief visit in to neighbouring Devon.There has been much discussion regarding the credence of the Pelicans origins, I however just enjoyed seeing this incredible bird wherever it had come from,and had a very pleasant day walking the Camel Trail between Wadebridge and Padstow.

Spoonbill: This juvenile had been at Hayle Estuary for some time and at the time of writing (10th November) was still there and had been joined by another Spoonie chum.

Pink-footed Goose: This bird had joined a group of resident Greylag Geese at the Gwithian 
Sands Nature Reserve near Godrevy.

Hudsonian Whimbrel: Undoubtedly my bird of the trip. I've only ever seen one before,distantly 
at Walney near Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria and it was longer ago than I care to remember. This Cornish bird has been happily probing the southern coastline near Penzance for some time now and seems to favour Boat Cove just west of Perranuthoe. It did in fact take some finding as it had moved from Boat Cove, to a few miles further east along the coast, I spent a very enjoyable hour or so watching and digiscoping this stripy North American vagrant.

Please view at 1080p HD

All in all another enchanted and beguiling holiday in Britain's magical coastal county.

Monday, 17 October 2016

SPURNADO!!! (third time still lucky).

This autumn I have mostly been doing Spurn 
(and it's beginning to show).

I jest of course as this is actually a photo of  a character from the 90's sketch show
'The Fast Show' and the caption is a play upon his catchphrase. It seems that I am
currently enjoying something of a trip down memory lane within my references,
I must apologize, and I'm sure, in time, it will pass.

Just to recap...
I spent five days at the end of September staying at the new observatory and it
was a tad windy for the most part, Jean the ferocious landlady yes? 

Rustic Bunting, Arctic Warbler and a very confiding Bluethroat in the company
of The Mauve Hawk and Tezzer??

Well would you blooming well believe it if I told you that I was only back there again this last weekend dog garn it!!

After drooling over photos of the UK's first ever Siberian Accentor last week on Shetland, one only goes and turns up at Easington Spurn, it follows an unprecedented influx of the species in to europe this autumn with (at the time of one finger typing) four being found so far in the UK.

Siberian Accentor please view at 1080p HD
Siberian Accentor courtesy of the Mauve Hawk.

There was also a very good supporting cast including a Dusky 
and Pallas's Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, Shorelark, a lovely little Firecrest, loads of Ring Ouzels and Brambling, Redstarts, Pied Fly and even a low flying Woodcock.

Please view at 1080p HD

Confiding Shorelark courtesy of  the Black Audi Birder.
Below: the twitching throng. 

Whatever next!? 
Oxfordshires newest warden and our county recorder playing hooky!

Me  and Clackers even made the national press lovey!!




Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Rustic Charm up North (Spurn x2)


Twas a dark and stormy night when our petrol waggon finally rolled in to Kilnsea, a small windswept village nestled between the dark waters of the Humber and the unforgiving North Sea.

We sought out the only pub in the village whose lady of the land variety came with a fearsome reputation. I must admit it was with some trepidation that we perused the menu and any potential escape routes...

Below are genuine reviews left on Tripadvisor...


Apart from the very limited veggie options, the food was actually alright and even the fearsome owner Jean couldn't resist the twinkle in Clacker's eye and was indeed even convivial for the four evenings we ate, drank and made merry there.

And cue the Coldplay soundtrack...
Unfortunately the weather for the most part of our stay was very far from convivial with strong westerly winds sometimes gusting up to 40mph which for an east coast site really isn't good for the old bird spotting game.

Me scoping out the gate hopeful that a Bluetail would eventually land on it...
Jack Snipe who by Wednesday I was on first name terms with...I miss Stripey.
Photo courtesy of  The Mauve Hawk.
However, we were here and by the gods...(birding ones... who we pray to every time we go out birding in Oxfordshire to deliver us something really REALLY good...preferably something with wingbars...maybe a whopping great supercilium...)
we were blooming well going to make the very most of it.


Please view at 720p HD

With the recurrence of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (or so we thought) we made an excursion to Hatfield Moor, a strange landscape of mires and at one time mass peat extraction.
The Mauve Hawk likened it to the Dead Marshes in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Frodo & Bilbo 
Hatfield Moor
Alas, despite our epic adventures around the marshes we were unable to find the Buff-breast and after talking to a couple of friendly locals it would seem that the report was a little dubious.

Ahoy there Mr Urquhart, any sign of Buffy..?
Yep, all Buffy & breasty, there she is (as well as a random 90's reference). 

We also made a trip up the coast to the superb RSPB reserve at Bempton, famous for its breeding seabirds in the summer, however there were still quite a few Gannets around and at least two Puffins.

Despite conditions not being right for the birds it was absolutely perfect for the company...

Spurn Point courtesy of Andy Last.

SPURN RELOADED Saturday 8th October.

In contrast to my first autumnal trip to the birding mecca of Spurn, my second involved a horrendously early start from Oxfordshire and a very late return... and it was truly EPIC.

So, other than the camaraderie, laughs and shared fuel costs, another reason for myself and Elementerry to hang out with the numpty on the right is his seemingly insatiable desire to see new and rare birds in the UK, which in turn means that I get to see some species that I haven't seen for a long time and in some circumstances, a very long time.

First up was a very fine Rustic Bunting- a rare migrant from north eastern Europe which gave us the runaround at first, before being re-found in the Churchfields where it seemed to favour.
I've only ever seen one before on the Scillies in the noughties.

Rustic Bunting courtesy of Elementerry
Rustic Bunting courtesy of The Mauve Hawk
The whole area was dripping with birds, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and arriving Redwings with hundreds of Robins and Goldcrests seemingly to be found in each and every bush, it was absolutely brilliant to watch migration as it happens.

One of many Goldcrest courtesy of The Mauve one.
Chiffchaff courtesy of the Mauve one
Wheatear (one of many) courtesy of Mauvey
Ring Ouzel courtesy of Elementerry

We spent some time at Easington Cemetery listening to Yellow-browed Warblers and watching a wonderfully kinetic Red-breasted Flycatcher feeding voraciously amongst the treetops, this bird was one of five in the area on Saturday.

R.B Flicker (c) Mark Killeen.
With the afternoon now behind us and daylight soon to be usurped by the shortening autumnal days, we made the decision to act upon the news that a Bluethroat and an Arctic Warbler (an offering which has both a wingbar and indeed a whopping supercilium...just sayin) were still present about an hour and a half away at Bempton...
The odds were stacked...
The car was thrashed...
He who dares Rodders (ohhh now an 80's reference too) 

1st winter Bluethroat courtesy of M.H
1st winter Bluethroat courtesy of Elementerry
 And with dusk now upon us it was an anxious wait for the finale to what had been a brilliant day...   

Arctic Warbler (c) Andrew Huyton. 

I last saw one of these corkers in the late 80's, 
                where has the time gone?

Rustic Bunting, Bluethroat and Ring Ouzel please view at 1080p HD