Friday 1 July 2022

Thirty Years Ago - June 1992

1st June:

James phoned to tell me that the White-throated Sparrow was back at Fagbury Cliff and so after picking him up in East Ham we headed to Colchester to collect Pete and Jill Pyke before carrying on. Needless to say it was a futile effort as it had once again disappeared leaving several hundred grumpy birders. James wanted to stay the night but I thought it best if I took him home or his Mum may have been a bit annoyed with me…

2nd June:

Last night I swore I not go back for the Sparrow but a call from Johnny Allen send Pete and I heading back up there for another Sparrowless afternoon.  We saw a Firecrest and a Spotted Flycatcher and frustratingly two new arrivals saw the Sparrow for a few seconds without realising that everyone else was out of view 30m further on.  They thought they were the only ones there!

5th June:

The poxy White-throated Sparrow had relocated a short way to similar habitat alongside the Trimley track and had settled in to a pattern so I dashed up after my Friday lectures and thankfully was not disappointed. What a cracking little bird.  There was no sign of the male Black-headed Bunting seen here the day before but at least I got the Sparrow after all the effort I had put in.

[Eds:  This was the golden period of Fagbury Cliff and Trimley with a wave of common and drift migrants and superb rarities that were lured down but the new and ridiculously bright lights of the new part of Felixstowe Docks -  when they were changed under public pressure I believe, this migrant hotspot once more just became a patch of scrub and trees that were not even really on the coast but it was great while it lasted. My notes also say that this is the day that I discovered the mistake in my life list tally mentioned in the May post – I seemed quite distraught!]

7th June:

Another visit to Trimley as part of a family visit to my grandparents in Felixstowe with the added bonus of a singing Greenish Warbler as well as the now showy White-throated Sparrow.  The Greenish was very showy and was bar far my best view of one ever.

8th June:

Sheer bloody madness! I got home from Uni in the afternoon and Stewart rang in a panic. A male Mamora’s Warbler had been trapped and ringed at Spurn and so after getting to Newmarket we sped north through rain and fog. About a 100 people had turned up in the still deteriorating weather and were stood staring at its chosen patch of Sea Buckthorn. 

It was about 150feet long by 30 wide and had been wisely taped off to stop ornithological incursions although the Buckthorn should have deterred most! It had been showing on and off before we arrived but had gone to ground. It was being constantly harassed by tape [Ed: yes, with proper tape recorders the size of a cereal box!] wielding birders but there was not a squeak in response.  At 7.30pm with visibility quite bad it suddenly appeared through the fog on top of a piece of burnt gorse sang loudly and then flew a short way before disappearing once again.  Phew.  Not exactly the best of views but…

Mamora’s Warbler

[Eds: in retrospect this was one of those occasions that we should have stayed over and kipped in the car as the fog lifted the next morning and the bird showed well]

11th June:

A fun day was spent dipping Rose-coloured Starlings in Essex at Manningtree and Layer Marny.

14th June:

Unbelievably a Booted Warbler had been found in the same clump at Spurn that the Mamora’s Warbler had been frequenting earlier in the week. I joined Peter G and Julian for the jaunt north but we tactfully started our day at Fen Drayton so that we would be a little closer if the bird was still there.  The lack of Red-footed Falcon and Red-necked Grebe meant that a phone call to Birdline at 9.30 had us heading north.

There was quite a congregation of birders on site and thankfully our quarry showed within seconds as it sat on top of the Sea Buckthorn singing its heart out.

It hated Lesser Redpolls for some reason and viciously defended its patch to the extent that it would fly all the way to the other end to duff one up! Leaving the Booted Warbler chattering away we headed back to the main car park where an elusive male Rosefinch had been for a week. It had not been seen for four hours but we were in luck and it appeared deep in the Buckthorn for a few seconds when the only bits seen were the vivid strawberry red head and upperbreast, steely grey bill and blackberry eye.


Julian had missed it and still needed Rosefinch so I left them to it and went back to the car, had some lunch, put the radio on and did some revision. When the lads returned they had been unlucky but had news of one a few miles up the road in Patrington.   On arrival at the petrol station we could not work out where to go but suddenly we could hear a Rosefinch singing but still not fathom a way in!  Fortunately two birders mysteriously appeared and showed us the secretive way in!

Once behind the buildings we could hear the birder better – a collection of five eerily beautiful notes but it took a further ten minutes to locate this 1st summer brown male.  It was nice to be able to actually watch one properly for a change.  All my previous sightings had been brief.  Another male started to sing from a Sallow further down the river and others had seen a female being fed by a male.  [Eds: We all thought that this was colonisation time but although the odd pair bred for a few years it never really happened].


We watched the Rosefinch for an hour and then headed for home via Fen Drayton where the immaculate summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe was swiftly found.  This was my first in such a plumage and well worth the wait.  We spent the rest of this beautiful day sitting around looking for Hobbies and talking to the Chapman family.

Red-necked Grebe 

21st June: 

Peter G and I headed down to St Margarets but although the wind was a little strong we still had great views of one of the singing Marsh Warblers.  A long walk along the cliff top did not produce any Peregrines but the Kittiwake colony was thriving. [Eds: is this even here any more?]

Kittiwake s

22nd June:

Paul Whiteman and I headed out on a purely butterfly based twitch and we spent the morning working out way through the trails of Salcey Forest near Milton Keynes.  Black Hairstreak was our main target and we got good views of several although they liked to stay high up for the most part. We also had White Admirals, Wood Whites, Large Skippers, Meadow Browns. Ringlets, Small and Large Whites, Peacocks, Red Admirals and Common Blues. Brown and Southern Hawkers were patrolling the rides.

A stop on the way home at Totternhoe Knoll near Dunstable with many Small Blues on the Kidney Vetch and we also added Small Heath to the day list.  There were huge poppy fields and swathes of blue Flax and three male Quails busily proclaimed their discrete presence while Corn Buntings jangled around the edges.

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