Friday 13 October 2023

Thirty Years Ago - July, August and September 1993

5th July:

Barely home from the Pyrenees and off out to Abberton for a Whiskered Tern which performed very well for Roy W and I as it picked food from the surface.  Much darker underneath than I expected and slightly bigger than I thought it would be.  There was very little else to see other than a couple of Ruddy Duck and a female Red-crested Pochard.

Whiskered Tern 

10th July:

A Lesser Crested Tern had taken up semi-residence amongst the Sandwich Terns on Scolt Head so Paul W booked ourselves onto a boat and thus joined many other birders happily dipping it as it had buggered off out to sea before we even got out there!  It was freezing!  We got the boat back and headed to Kelling where a Woodchat Shrike took almost 90 minutes to find but as usual with these delightful birds it was worth the effort.  My 9th in the UK.

Woodchat Shrike

As we were leaving the pager bleeped into life rather conveniently informing us that the Lesser Crest was back on Scolt and so off we sped in the knowledge that there were no boats out as the tide was low.  En route we and five other cars were overtaken on a bend and up a hill but two cars driven by well known twitchers and they must have been pushing a ton.  Scary!  We arrived in one bit and trudged along the beach from the golf club so that we could overlook the colony but it was too far and hazy. Some people were getting a bit twitchy  and decided to get across by alternative means.

Soon we all followed suit and nearly a hundred birders took their shoes and socks off and rolled up trousers and waded through the waist deep channels, over wet sand, through sticky shell filled awful smelling mud and finally through needle like Marram and prickly Sea Holly. Scopes were held high above heads as we made our way across looking for all the world like a platoon of rather ragged soldiers storming an enemy beach.

Fortunately the tern was still there and with a little perseverance excellent views were had of the orangey bill and shaggy crest.  A lone Arctic Skua and Brent Goose added a touch of early autumn.  With the tide about to turn we made the unpleasant trip back with some people foolishly still going the other way.  It was damp, smelly but happy journey home.

Lesser Crested Tern

19th-24th July:

A week of dissertation work in Wales with Kate on the mighty Cader Idris.  We had a grand laugh.  The weather was atrocious but there were Ravens galore, Dippers, Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers.

Kate H, some sheep, my trusty Vango and even more trusty yellow Fiesta

The rest of 1993 is very poorly documented.  The wording is pieced together from memory to go with my somewhat spartan notes.

30th July – 2nd August Torsk Pelagic

Andrian Wander arranged a pelagic on a small shark fisher out of Mevagissey in an attempt to see if there were Wilson’s Petrels to be found offshore.

We headed out at 9pm on the 31st and I can remember trying to get some shut eye on the deck only to be awoken by the sea suddenly glowing green and phosphorescing around us as the plankton was churned up.  Fulmars and Gulls followed us.

It was a memorable day and we saw five dancing Wilson’s amongst 184 Storm Petrels down to the yellow of their webs.  In fact Adrian’s pics were the first ever taken in the UK of this feature.



Wilson’s Petrel

Wilson’s Petrel - mmm

Wilson’s Petrel

European Storm Petrel

Twelve Greats, eight Cory’s, two Balearic, 13 Manx and four Sooty Shearwaters gave spectacular views and we also saw seven Great Skuas and an adult Sabine’s Gull.  A pod of Risso’s Dolphins came by and Sunfish flopped along.  Blue Sharks came into the chum (of which I helped provide my own) and I can remember watching them taking gross scraps from the broom that I dangled over the side into the crystal clear water.  They would come in and turn their heads to one side and close the white protective eyelid before snaffling a morsel.

The journey home the next day gave us 15 Little Egrets and two Common Sandpipers on the Teign with a male Goshawk overhead to add to the Honey Buzzard, Cirl Buntings seen on the way down around Exminster.

3rd August:

Pete and I headed down to Cliffe where a Marsh Sandpiper was the highlight amongst many other waders.  There were several Marsh Harriers around and a female Montagu’s Harrier drifted through.

6th-8th August: The second Torsk Pelagic

This one was a little more adventurous with the best part of two days out at sea safe for a meal in the Bishop on St Marys and a few hours kip in the harbour.  The weather was choppy by fair and my insides were actually better on this one but the birding was very poor with just a few Storm Petrels and a Balearic Shearwater.


Great Skua and LBB Gull

However there were other long living memories created with a Fiesta sized Leatherback Turtle turning to look over its ridged back before sinking slowly back under the swell, some more great Blue Shark and Sunfish encounters and the double sonic boom as Concord went overhead invisibly when we were over 100 miles off shore.

16th August:

A superb [Western – Eds: I added that bit] Subalpine Warbler showed in the far bramble clumps at the Naze.

17th August:  

The notes just say ‘Wicken Fen – family – dragonflies.  I can remember them well but also seeing a Daubenton’s Bat catching insects from the water surface in broad daylight and a Great Crested Newt coming up for air.

20th August:

A quick dash down to Beddington SF where we allowed in for the juvenile Citrine Wagtail that was tottering around the edge of the first lagoon.  There were still many Tree Sparrows back then too.

Citrine Wagtail

1st September:

Kate and I went to Cavenham Heath for a walk and I can remember the groups of Stone Curlews.  They still use the same couple of field to this day.

2nd September:

Andy Tweed and I dashed to Norfolk for an Arctic Warbler on Blakeney Point was very successful and we had it almost to ourselves as it fed around our feet in the Sueda.  Long-tailed and Arctic Skuas were seen on the walk back.

10th September:

After a lengthy wait the Black-winged Pratincole at Livermere decided to appear in front of Ken B and I and hawked energetically over the lake and surrounding fields.

Black-winged Pratincole

14th September:

A superb seawatch at Sheringham with Andy T and Paul W with a large Skua haul of 96 Great, 82 Arctic, a Long-tailed and two Poms, Black Guillemot and Puffin amongst hundreds of Guilles and Razorbills, four Sooty Shearwaters, two Manx Shearwaters, one Balearic, thousands of Fulmars including four dark ones, three Leach’s Petrels, one Sabine’s Gull and 40 Little Gulls.  Three Red-necked Phalaropes at Cley rounded up proceedings.


16th September:

Lots of stuff on the move for Roy and myself at The Naze with six Redstarts, four Whinchat, three Tree Pipits, 150 Meadow Pipits, two calling Red-throated Pipits [Eds: just a casual throw away comment!], 20 Yellow Wagtails, 35 Lesser Whitethroats, 15 Whitethroats, Grasshopper Warbler and even a Buzzard. 

There were three special birds too with a Yellow-breasted Bunting near the Tower that we saw at very close range and submitted although for some reason it got rejected.  No camera with me that day – had run out of film.

A striking acro that may well have been a Paddyfield Warbler and a beautifully pale 1st winter Common Redstart with a big creamy wing panel resembling the samimisicus form.

18th September:

A superb day out at Spurn with a big fall of birds and the continued presence of the Demoiselle Crane in the stubble fields.  [Eds: I am still not quite sure why this bird was rubbished as being an escape – happy to be educated]

Demoiselle Crane

Adrian Wander and myself saw three obliging Bluethroats, three Barred Warblers, Red-backed and Great Grey Shrike, Wryneck and Icterine Warbler.  There were lots of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, winter thrushes, Meadow Pipits, Blackcaps and even a Little Egret.

We moved up to Filey where an organised flush of a field gave us good flight views  of a Great Snipe along with another Red-backed Shrike.

19th September:

I just got home from Adrian’s in Cambridge when he rings to say that a Blyth’s Reed Warbler had been trapped and ringed at Fagbury Cliffs [Eds: the new huge dock lighting system at Felixstowe Dock temporarily turned Fagbury into the trapping Mecca for East Anglia until protest over the brightness had them reduced in some way thus ending its run of amazing migrants].

Off I zoomed and after a wait it came into view and all the salient features were seen including the ring!

21st September:

Roy and I headed down to Sidlesham where the Buff Breasted Sandpiper was eventually found with a flock of Ruff in a ploughed field where good views were had.  There were lots of Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails and both Meadow and Tree Pipits over.

No comments:

Post a Comment