Pete and I started off at Abberton Reservoir where there
were hundreds of geese and ducks including over 800 Canada Geese, three Barnacle
Geese, a Pinkfoot, four Bar-headed and a solitary Egyptian. (Ed: We did
wonder at the time if the Bar-heads could have been continental in origin and
Gypo was still a good county bird back then!). The first two Wigeon were back and four male
Ruddy Duck were noted. Waders were represented by 12 Green Sandpipers, five
Common Sandpipers, ten Ruff, Greenshank, Turnstone and two Ringed Plovers while
Yellow Wagtails were everywhere. On to East Mersea next where there were
70 sum plum Golden Plovers amongst the Sea Lavender and about the same of
Dunlin out on the mud. Little Terns were
all around us and two juvenile Black Terns were steadily heading south.
We spent the next four hours at Fingringhoe watching the
tide rise with many waders roosting up on the rapidly submerging saltmarsh with
600 Black-tailed Godwit, 1000 Curlew, 150 sum plum Grey Plovers, 15 Spotted
Redshank and 27 Greenshank, 350 Redshank and a single Turnstone. Several
Emperor Dragonflies and 15 species of Butterfly were seen including many Wall
East Tilbury was the spot for a walk with the Woodward
brothers although I am slightly perturbed by the casual mentioning of ‘many
Small Blues’ which have not actually been recorded in the county for over 100
years. It was a species I was familiar with so I am still puzzled by what we
actually saw. I now live less than ten
miles away in a straight line across the river and have the species on my
doorstep so to speak so who knows. It
was not a time of everyone having a camera let alone a portable phone that
could do amazing things! We shall never know.
Anyway we also saw Brown Argus amongst the 15 species seen
along with a good selection of waders on the foreshore and three Yellow-legged
Gulls. A Wheatear and lots of Yellow
Wagtails were along the river wall.
Cornwalll and the Scillonian Pelagic
James H and I headed down at 5am and by nine were we at Exminster Marshes and had bagged a male Cirl Bunting in record time as he sat in a hedge making plaintive little chip noises. This was a welcome year trip and saved the long diversion down to Prawle. A couple of Spotted Flycatchers were added before we moved on.
Our next stop was Haldon were two Honey Buzzards were poorly seen in the rather overcast conditions along with a pair of Peregrine, five Buzzard, two Raven, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipits and a single Crossbill. However it was the sight of a Fulmar weaving in and out of the tree tops that made the visit! Ed and Chris P arrived and joined us for a while before we moved on south to Stithians Reservoir but it was very quiet and we only found eight Dunlin and four Snipe. An hour later we were through Penzance (Ed; roads were poorer back then!) and on our way down the wiggly lanes to Porthgwarra. It was the first time I had driven down here and I never realised what a test it would be. Sooty and Manx Shearwaters were both year ticks before we retired to Mr Shea’s back in Penzance for the evening.
(Ed: We used to
stay with the Shea’s in their B&B on a side road off the high street in
town for £8 a night for those first few years of Cornish visits and him and his
wife always looked after us lads with a hearty breakfast at whatever ungodly
hour we decided to get up and go out, dried wet clothes and generally made sure
we went back to our parents in one piece.
I suspect that both are long gone now but will always be remembered
We were back at Porthgwarra by 9.30am and had a good couple
of hours seawatching with 395 Gannet, 20 Kittiwake, three Storm Petrel, 83 Manx
Shearwater, one Balearic Shearwater, one Sooty Shearwater, 60 Fulmar, four
Scoter and singles of Arctic and Pom Skua. A female Peregrine cruised around.
(Ed: there were no Choughs back then). We drew a blank at Pendeen and the Hayle
with only a family a Peregrines being taught how to hunt with a single
beleaguered Bar-tailed Godwit taking the brunt of the terrifying practice runs.
The day was rounded off with a couple of hours at Marizion where we found no
Aquatic Warblers but did hear several Cetti’s and watched Great Green Bush
Crickets and Oak Eggar Moths.
We got up at six to spend a few hours at Marazion again but
still found no Aquatics. The Grey Herons were returning from their nightly
sorties and there were a few other warblers and two Swifts before returning to
breakfast. With the winds swinging north
west we went back to Pendeen where we had 1650 Manx, single Balearic and Sooty
Shearwaters, hundreds of Gannets and Fulmars, 12 Whimbrel and James found a
winter plumaged White Winged Black Tern going by (Eds: my notes are quite
extensive and it even says that it was James’s first BBRC rarity although I can’t remember if we submitted it!).
Down to the Hayle where the same Barwit was still getting
hounded by the Peregrines although they ended up catching a male Sparrowhawk for
lunch but we were soon lured away to Loe Pool for and eclipse male Ring-necked Duck
that was bobbing around with some Tufted Duck.
Back in Penzance we searched for Med Gulls in Mounts Bay
opposite the Heliport and found a winter adult along with a Sandwich Tern and a
single Dunlin. Some birders told us of
an Icterine Warbler at Porthgwarra so off we dashed once again but saw nothing
before giving up and sewatching off Pendeen once again where a Cuckoo was the
With the pelagic looming an early night was called for…
‘Beep beep beep!’ was followed by a the crash as I leapt out of bed at 3.27am to ready ourselves for the Pelagic. We were on the Scillonian by 5am and soon underway on what was to be another memorable trip despite the fact that not as much was seen. It was still packed with excitement, laughs, disappointments, mistakes, chum, and above all a great crowd of people. Shearwaters were thin on the ground but performed superbly with six each of Great and Sooty, single Cory’s and ten Manx. About 150 Storm Petrels were noted along with a the appearance of a dark rumped Leach’s type that appeared alongside before soaring away from the ship and yet produced a strangely mixed response of disbelief and complacency.
(Ed: Several years later I answered a BB request for notes on all DRSP
especially given the subsequent occurrence of North Atlantic Swinhoe’s and at
the very least the record found its way into the records as such and leaning
heavily towards this mythical species.)
Gannets were actually quite low in numbers and several near
Albatross were encountered by those of wishful thinking along with the regular
Cory’s Gannet. Amongst the Gulls were ten Bonxies, four Arctics and a single
moulting Pomarine along with a smattering of Terns including a possibly
Roseate. Two Grey Phalaropes came up
from alongside the ship Sanderlings and Golden Plover were also seen while two
Wheatears and a Willow Warbler landed on board.
Forty Harbour Porpoise were encountered in small pods as
well as four Commons and ten sparkling White Sided Dolphins and a single bull
Grey Seal. Six wobbling Sunfish fins
were seen and a Blue Shark and four large Basking Sharks were noted too.
During the quiet spells which sometimes lasted hours, we amused ourselves with talking about a scratch and sniff pelagic car sticker as the chum this year was particularly foul and appeared at one point to contain a pair of tights complete with attendant legs. One newcomer almost fainted when she saw one of the crew remove his hands from the dustbin thinking that they potent soup had stripped the skin from his hands and not realising that he was wearing some shocking pink Marigolds.
We disembarked happy and tired and
although it was not a ‘classic’ we were all happy as we ambled back to Mr
Shea’s but not before I was offered a lift to Aberdeen for a Greater Sandplover
which I declined as who needs it anyway?!
A last hearty breakfast and then down to Marizion for one
last look for an Aquatic Warbler.
Thankfully one was seen well if briefly along with an equally brief
Spotted Crake and Water Rail. A Green
Sandpiper lifted up from a pool and a Cetti’s Warbler flicked across the path.
Stithians Reservoir next where we found two Green and a Wood Sandpiper, two
Garganey any my first ever Med Gull in juvenile plumage. A last look at Haldon as we headed for home
was too hot for anything bar a female Goshawk but it rounded up a fantastic few
days away with about 130 species seen and 831 miles on EMU’s clock (Ed: my
first car… a white K reg Morris Marina).
Dad had been raving on about a place called Wicken Fen for
ages and so we visited it as a family with James H on board on the Bank Holiday
Monday. It was beautiful weather but birds
were almost non-existent. However, dragonflies and butterflies were abundant
with Painted Lady, Brimstone, Emperor and various Hawkers and Darters. A Short-winged Conehead was a new cricket
species for me. The highlights for me were
a day flying Daubenton’s Bat catching insects just above the surface of one of
the lakes, a bright Grass Snake in the margins and Great Crested Newts in the ditches.
After a spot of lunch we phoned Birdline and a Pec Sand at
Welney tempted us north a little way.
The scrape in front of the hide was in superb condition and there was a
good selction of waders to be seen with the well marked Pec, 25 Ruff in various
plumages, six Dunlin, five scaly, peach breasted Curlew Sandpipers, six Green
Sandpipers, three Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpiper and lots of Lapwing and
There were plenty of eclipse ducks and Mute, Bewick’s and
Whooper Swans made an unseasonal trio while a Glider obviously missed his
landing site and crashed way out in the middle of the floods.
The Woodwards, James and I paid our traditional late summer
visit to The Naze and it was immediately obvious that a small fall of birds had
taken place and during the visit we logged 15 Whinchat, ten Wheatear, Redstart,
four Spotted Flycatchers, 30 Willow Warbler, 25 Lesser Whitethroat, ten Whitethroat,
two Garden Warblers along with many Yellow Wagtails and finches. An Icterine Warbler was seen very well in the
Elders and a completely sandy cream leucistic Skylark had the pulses racing.
Thirteen Sandwich Terns was an Essex high count for me and
37 Sanderling and two Whimbrel were on the beach while offshore nine Wigeon
After lunch at Fingringhoe with Butterflies and a
Nightingale for company we headed to Abberton where the feral Goose collection
had just got weirder with seven Bean Geese with pink – not orange – bare parts. On consulting my books it would appear that
these variants are called Sushkin’s Goose.
Where the came from who knows but they also has a pair of Fulvous
Whistling Ducks for company too so someone had obviously dumped a new batch on
the causeway! (ED: I have just Googled Sushkin’s and in fact they even once had
their own name of Answer neglectus but I have heard no mention of the form ever
Five Wigeon, 13 Ruddy Ducks and 18 Black Terns were located
and 13 Ruff, Green and Common Sandpipers and 14 Black-tailed Godwits were seen
around the edges. Via a mistake on the way home we ended up at Hanningfield
where we saw nothing!
A quick visit to Dagenham Chase resulted in three site ticks
with a Dunlin, Wigeon and a Redstart along with a side order of six Teal and 110
A Sabine’s Gulls that went past Canvey earlier in the day
never materialised at West Thurrock Power Station as we hoped but we did see 44
Common Terns and two Arctics on the river and 28 Grey Herons standing around
I took myself down to Canvey for a seawatch produced a few
Skuas- well in fact three Skuas of three species with singles of Arctic, Great
and a frosty juvenile Long-tailed. There was little else bar a few Terns that
included 25 Sandwich, eight Little and a single Black.