Gray Catbird – Lands End.

Gray Catbird.3

On Sunday 14th October news broke of a new bird for the UK, White – Rumped Swift at Spurn. It being `a bird on the wing` species, a twitch would be unpredictable, yet a few people went on the Monday and dipped.

Monday 15th October, Evening news then broke of a Gray Catbird at Land`s End, Cornwall. An American species which is found down through the US, Eastern & Central, and Canada, but not Northern Canada, and winters in Mexico down into Central America.

Shock waves hit the birding community with this news, even I thought ” gotta see it “, even though I have had the species in the hand before ( In Canada ). The Birding Community then questioned the find, and when the first photo appeared, the rest is History. This was a second for UK after the first on the 4th October 2001 at Anglesey, which was twitched but seen by a very few properly. With this in mind, this was going to be a Big twitch.

All week the news kept coming through on RBA, Showing well, Elusive, not seen for 5 hours, morning is best or as it goes to roost, the weather being a factor. My friends had been and seen it, it was getting to the point of, “Please stay !” My Son Ryan (RAP), was bending my ear, when could we go ? I had thought Friday afternoon, but the traffic had got to 5.5+hrs travel and the thought of a Dip and coming home was not going to happen.

Friday 19th October night at 22:00 we left. It was due to take 4.5 hours to drive down but it was only 4hrs 10 mins and we were at Lands End. We found the car park, parked up and got sleeping bags out and got our heads down. At 07:00 we were up, and got the gear together and were off to the wall of the car park as per the directions given on BF.

The Sunrise was stunning and it did look like an Unlucky Saturday may happen until, At 07:47hrs, one of the Welsh lads standing by the side of us called the bird ” on the wall by the bramble” and then gone. And then again a couple of frantic minutes of constantly scanning the small wall and Boom ! There it was, Gray Catbird….. Awesome and Relief ! The Catbird then dropped out of site, Ryan hadn`t got onto it as it was really brief on the wall, but then it was in the small Sallow bush. I then heard the camera go off and Ryan say “got it”. I was like ” What ? ” and there on the camera screen was the below photo. ” Wow” how quick was that. Just a record shot, but job done really.

Gray Catbird.RAP

The Catbird then disappeared and about 20 minutes later the Birders on the other side of the field were watching what we presumed was the Catbird. It popped up a couple of times in various locations and was on show sometimes and calling it would sit up for a good 5 minutes at a time and then vanish, it seemed to me that it was on a circuit of the field.

A couple of times other so called Birders decided to get in a better postion and were soon told to get back, much to their disgust from the look on their faces. Is it that hard to work out that 50 People are stood in one postion for a reason, it appeares that it is, Pillocks !

Gray Catbird.2-crop


The circuit theory soon proved correct as it then appeared on the other side of the Birders at other end of the field, and at 08:55 the Catbird had comeback round to its roost site by the tyres. I said to Ryan ” hope it pops out on top ” and sure enough it appeared in the middle of the Bush and then sat on the top in full view about 50 feet away absolutley mega views of a Mega bird. We couldn`t have wanted for better views. We left after the Catbird dropped down as anything would not of come near those views.

Gray Catbird.4


A Mega Bird in a stunning location and just what October is all about.

Photos: Sony A77ii with Tamron 150-600mm mk1.


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At Last, Zorro,again at TH !

I found out ,just as i walked out of the door to work, that 3 Penduline Tits had been found at Titchfield Haven NNR on the 7th December `15. Found by Ian Calderwood in front of the Spurgin hide. A male & 2 female/imm. A stunning bird when adult, resembling a miniture Red Backed Shrike, with a call that can easily catch out people being close to sounding like a Reed Bunting but higher pitched and more  ttswwuuu. Breeding in Europe and extremley rarely in UK.


Now i have a thing with `Zorro` at TH. My first that i saw was on St.Agnes in October 1988 with the late Tim Lawman, oh boy were those the days !!!   It was mid afternoon when news broke when as i walked past somebody ran out of the `Cressa` shouting `Penduline Tit` Aggie………. the rest is history !

Well a year later i was stuck on Scilly and due to start work as a Countryside Ranger at TH. I managed to get off with Paul Stanbury on the Tuesday and was at work on the Wednesday at 0830z.

And so a week or so later i had been brush cutting at the Hook with Warsash reserve when the cutter stopped working. Driving back to TH little did know what was going to happen. I pulled up in the yard and as i got out of the van all i heard was ” MARK ” and Barry Duffin came hurtling around the corner of the cottage with a bird bag in his hand. ” i`ve caught it ” he said ” Come on into the cottage” Stunned and silent i followed him into the Cottage kitchen where he gave me the bird bag and proceeded to close the doors and windows. ” You`ll have to take it out ” he said ” What is it ? ” i asked ” You`ll see” he said. And so i put my hand in the bag and could feel a really small bird i gripped it and then peered into the bag . As Ingrid ,BSD`s wife, was also present i looked at both of them stunned and pulled out Hampshire`s 3rd Penduline Tit ,BSD had 2 on call a few days earlier at TH.

Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus (0, 24, 11)
Hampshire Titchfield Haven, two, 28th October (B. S. Duffin); juvenile, trapped, 9th
November (B. S. & Mrs I. S. R. Duffin, M.J. Palmer).

Excert from the 1989 BB

My next run in with ` Zorro` was a group of 5 that were seen on the sea front at TH. I was in the yard when that news came in but by the time i had got around to the front they had flown off. Then a few years ago i was at TH and could see Barry, Richard & Ed in the reserve, but i started looking out to sea and missed the 2 Penduline Tits that the others were watching by the side of the Meon Shore hide and which then flew across the river and over the harbour. My luck with ` Zorro` has not been good since the first one,maybe i was spoilt then.


I missed them on the 7th Dec but managed to see a Male on the 8th Dec`15 in front of the West Hide, a perfect location for these stunning birds. He was easily lost to view as he went to the back of the Bulrush and then you found him when he did this !


PS : Hoping they stay into the New Year.

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A quick Pit Stop.

A couple of weekends ago i was driving past Blashford on my way to Christchurch for work, but this time, time was with me. And so as there had been a Black throated Diver knocking about and a Ferruginous duck wintering i couldnt let the oppurtunitie pass.

Black Throated Divers are normally a sea going species, and in Hampshire a fairly scarce bird seen in the Solent every year but to see one this close was unheard of and inland as well. The weather had been pretty bad for the past 2 weeks and this was the probable cause of it appearing inland. This bird was not a new bird for Blashford but still, a close bird like this, gotta be done.


Their it was on Northfield Lake, Poulner. What a stonker ! Its been along time since i had seen one this close, a 1st Winter bird i believe, the only thing that was nagging at me was it slept alot, which was possibly a pointer that the bird may of also not been very well. But very nice,still.


Note : The diver had disappeared by the 15th, when i went next.

My next stop was Kingfisher Lake, home of the Fudge ( Ferruginous ) Duck for last few winters in Hants. Now this Duck i have seen once before at Blashford on North Lake and that was really only briefly and the only other Hants bird was at Titchfield Haven NNR 2000ish and that was on the way to work aswell, as i had dipped it the day before. I have seen a Pagets Pochard ( Pochard M x Fudge F ) at Titchfield Haven before 11th Feb 2010.


Peering through the fencing that surrounds the lake is always going to guarntee crap decent views, but this was going to be really crap views if i saw the Duck as the bird loves the island that it about 200 metres offshore. You are not allowed in the grounds as it is Fishing right protected, they are now erecting a Green hecen type fencing obscuring what was bad enough views, to now being No views unless on your Mates shoulders peering over the top of the fence.


After a few minutes, i wandered down the footpath, and then back up the footpath,and back down the footpath,and then back up the path and then, their it was smack bang in the middle of the the lake diving like food was in shortage. A half decent Bino view came next and then gone. I tried to put others on it but to no avail. Then a birder a came hurtling along the path saying its showing in the middle of the lake, turns out it had been for 10 minutes and was digiscoped and digivideoed. We moved down the path but was told the Duck had gone behind the island.

And so on this note i left, planning to come back.

Randomly it was on 14th December that i had the good fortune to pass again. The Diver had gone, but the Fudge Duck showed really well, shame the weather was raining and it stayed fairly far out but at one point i had it under the bank. As normal by the time i had got the DSLR out it had vanished and i was left with far digiscoped views.


Still nice to see a cracking pair of Rare Hants Birds.


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Another Black Redstart – Hill Head

Sunday was turning out to be another boring day at work, and then a friend of mine, Paula, text me to say that she had a Black Redstart in her back garden. Nice, but this was a bit surreal as on Friday when Paula & Myself were at Richard Levett`s leaving party at Titchfield Haven, one of her neighbours , Melvyn, said to her, when we talking about the Black Redstart from last year that was on the roof of her house, don’t worry one will appear in the next couple of days i have had them the last 2 years in my garden and on the roof of your house. I live about 50 metres away from Paula but across a green area with trees on it, but i have had a Black Redstart , found by the wife, and a Common Redstart on the same day before.

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

So surreal it was, but it was needed as a garden tick for the year. I did what i had to do in Lee, and shot home to make a brew before i set off for Christchurch with work. My son Ryan had been looking for it but had not had any luck. We walked across the green towards Paula`s house , where we met Paula. She explained the bird had been seen around 1130`ish but not since. Not good. Looking back across the green i noticed that Andy Collins and his wife had turned up to have a look. Saying my goodbye`s to Paula, Ryan and myself walked back to Andy. I explained to him the situation and we decided to have a look for it in the area. Within 30 seconds a small bird flew on to a roof some 150 metres away showing in a gap between 2 roof`s. As soon as i saw it, the `jizz` was unmistakable, i pointed it out and all of us could see it. We walked across the green towards the bird when it flew towards us and landed on Paula`s roof and flipped over the top back the way it had come, NO ! but luckily the Black Red had only moved to the other side of the roof and so when we went around the back of the house, there it was, and it was a little Stunner, a full Adult Male Black Redstart.

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

It was fly catching and hovering along the eaves of the house, after it a couple of minutes the Black Red flipped over the roof and we went looking for it but it had vanished. Calling it a day and with photo`s taken by Ryan i left to carry on with work, what a cracking 15 minutes.

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

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Black Redstart – Hill Head

I had been up on Brownwich most of the late morning, from 1030z. It had a rare feel about the day, but despite a whole load of searching and waiting , 3 hrs of Nowt ! I could only find 3 Goldcrests and there where a few Meadow pipits moving over but not what i was expecting.

And so this afternoon i left it till late to go back to TH & Shanty Town in the hope that something would be calling or hunting. The normal drive is down Plymouth drive & Knights Bank Road which has produced a Eurasian Bittern and not a lot else.

As i got to Pond House i noticed a `Grey looking bird` land in a tree followed by a Eurasian Robin. Screeching to a hault in Little Gays , i jumped out Bins in hand and the only thing i could see was the Robin but carefully looking through the foilage i could see a Grey tail but also Red, No !, then the bird flew and landed on one of the house`s nearby. Yep, a Black Redstart it was. Year Patch tick, Kerching !

Black Redstart, Knights Bank Road

Black Redstart, Knights Bank Road

I grabbed a quick record shot and then got down to TH just as the rain started. I had a walk up along the botttom path and then up through Shanty town but still couldnt find anything.

i-want-to-believe-x-files-590x347  It must be out there !!!!!

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Siberian Stonechat – 1st Record for Hook with Warsash LNR.

On Friday whilst scanning through all the Birding paraphanalia avaliable nowadays, i noticed that local Hook Birder/Rare Finder Bob Marchant had mentioned, about a Stonechat that was possibly of an `Eastern swathe` being present between the Meander pools and the Scrape on Goingbirding and that photos had been taken. No photos appeared that evening, strange!

My Son`s Football was on Saturday morning,they won 6-0, and so during this time i kept an eye on GoBird and RBA in the hope that the bird would be confirmed. Absolutley `Diddly Squat` appeared to my amazement about this bird. The description given sounded like a Siberian Stonechat, a bird that had given itself up last year at Titchfield Haven NNR to most Hants county listers, surely somebody was interested it was a 3rd Hants record. That be No then. By the time mid – afternoon had arrived and no news, I decided to pop over to Hook and have a look, not a bad place to be in October, there will be that `Yank` one day !, so worth giving it a go.

At 1420z Ryan and I were at the Hook with Warsash LNR and looking. The location had been given as between the Meander pools and the Links Scrape. As we walked along the upper shore, from Cowes Lane, we arrived in roughly the half way point between the 2 locations. I noticed a small pale bird at a distance of 150 metres sat on a Bramble bush. By the time i could scope it, 1 second view, it was gone. It was Pale ! For the next 10 minutes Ryan kept saying ” their it is ” and each time i just kept seeing a glimpse, i was getting frustrated,Ryan was getting frustrated, and then we lost it… NOO ! for about 10 minutes there was no sign and then Ryan said ” on the Bramble again ,next to that other Stonechat, BOOM ! And there it was. It looked `Good` for one. Very pale in colour compared to the Common Stonechat next to it. A dark thin mask through the eye, and a mirror on the tertials where the white edging mask`s the dark inner edge. The other good pointer was that the Common Stonechat kept attacking it. I just couldnt get the rump though. At this point i phoned Dan Houghton, he had found the Quendale Sibe Chat on Shetland 2 weeks prior, and explained to him about this bird and that i was convinced 100% that this was a Sibe Chat, but couldnt see the rump, i have seen roughly 8 others over the years including the TH bird of last year. He didnt have a clue about this bird being present, but still said he would try to come over. At this point the bird had flown into a small reed bed and out of view. Using this to my advantage i skipped down to the reed bed and waited and sure enough there it was sat on the fence post not 50 feet away. It started flycatching right in front of me as i sat there and ` Kerching ` ! Pale unmarked rump ! Get in ! I skipped back up to where Ryan was, as Dan had said he was on his way. After about 20 minutes Dan, Amy Robjohns and Alan Butler rocked up, but the bird had gone to ground. Ryan and i had had the bird on the fence during the 20 minutes at distances of about 50 metres but each time the Common Stonechat gave it a boot. And then it showed to all of us,, sat on the gorse, then the fence this was then its set routine as it was  `booted` about by the Common Stonechat. Dan was happy with the ID, always nice to get a second opion of rare bird like this, and the confirmed news put out via Twitter and FB & RBA.

Sibe chat.4      Sibe Chat.2

As far as i am aware only about 8 people connected with the Sibe Chat, Dave Ryves running along the beach as the weather was closing in, and a couple of others. Corking !

Sibe Chat.3.3

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At long last…. White Stork in Hants !

On 24th June news broke of a White Stork just down the road at Hedge End. Now normally i would just go but as i found out on my way to work that wasnt possible.


As has been my luck with these birds in Hampshire,they have a habit of being one dayers or flyovers or i just cant go,this seemed to be going the way of the latter. My nearest miss was some years ago at Titchfield Haven,when i had walked away from another birder who then saw one soaring over the reserve and didnt bother to tell me,i was only 100meters away,until 3 days later.


The news that the Stork was showing well was grating as i was only 20 minutes away, but the news that it had gone to roost in an old Oak tree was far better. As is normal, time decided to stand still or so it seemed at work,but at 0700z i was off. I decided to head to the field where it had been the previous evening as it was light by 0400z and knowing that they leave their roost early morning to feed i thought that was the best move. It was the best move as there was only one person there, and the Stork ! An unringed Adult bird walking amongst the cut hay that had been turned ready for baling. Marvellous !!! or words to that effect. The bird was about 200metres away but who cares. In the hour i was there the Stork proceeded to wander closer up to 100metres away which gave me the chance to use my new camera Sony HX400V superzoom for the first time in the UK,i only bought the day before i went to the Dominican Republic. It would of been used on the Short-toed Eagle but that thing didnt play ball.


Randomly i left at 0835z and the Stork departed a few minutes later at 0840z, must of been waiting for Me ! before continuing its journey to other fields else where.

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Murder !

Back in February i was driving past Eastney in Portsmouth when i noticed a big black blob,for want of a better word,on the sea. The Black blob turned out to be a Great black backed Gull and a Eurasian Shag having a bit of a set -to on the water. I stopped the car,grabbed the bins,and had a look,never realising what i was going to witness next.


The Eurasian Shag had a fish in its mouth/gullet it also had a Great black backed Gulls beak almost shoved down its throat aswell for good measure. The fish appeared to have spines on its fins and these spines had dug themselves into the side of the Eurasian Shag`s inner mouth caused i would think by the GBBG trying to pull the fish out of the Shags beak.

Image  Image

Both birds were really going for it  with the GBBG blatantly the stronger sometimes almost lifting the Shag out of the water,meanwhile the Shag was trying to dive to escape.I grabbed the camera and fired off some shots,should of put it on video in hindsight,the GBBG had by this time got a really good grip and almost lifted the Shag clear, when next it really did get the Shag clear of the water. It was at this point that i realised that the GBBG had got the Shag by the head,what the GBBG did next i could not believe,it shook the Shag and twisted its head at the same moment,i would say snapping the Shag`s neck in one movement,the Shag`s wings that had been wide seconds before, just dropped to its side.Both birds dropped back on the sea with the GBBG still trying to pull the fish out of the now deceased Shag`s beak.

Image  Image  Image


After a few more pulls the GBBG sat on the sea occaisionly pulling the fish but really not getting anywhere.After about a minute the GBBG just got up off the sea and flew away leaving the dead Shag`s body just bobbing around on the water. The complete calmness that the GBBG had killed the Shag made me realise yet again how violent the life of Nature really is.

Image  Image  Image

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Lesser Yellowlegs,Lepe Country Park.


I had to take my little Kowa 613 into be cleaned at Action Optics in Hythe this morning. And just 15 minutes away down at Lepe Country Park was a Lesser Yellowlegs.It has been present about 2 months or more now but having seen a Hampshire one back at Titchfield Haven in 2005 i wasnt bothered about going to see this one,but as i was just down the way it would be rude not to !

Point B is the car park and Point C is the pools at Stansnore point.

Lepe is not an area i have been to before,the words `Country Park` says it all,Grockles !Dogs! hence the reason for not having been there before.A nice car park,decent views,would be good for seawatching as you could stand on the small cliff edge and get better views across to the island, and so the inevetiable parking charges were paid ,£2 for 2 hours,atleast some of it will go into the funds to keep these places going i suppose. I walked East along the beach heading towards Stansnore point,after about 250m i came across the pools that the `Legs was frequenting. And sure enough there at the back of the pools was the `Legs with a Common Redshank in attendance.


This `Legs was in classic 1st Winter attire and it was easy to see how juv Common Redshanks get misidentified as Lesser Legs.The bill was covered in soft black mud making it look bill heavy instead of the gentle thin bill that they should have.The smooth grey look of the plumage in the sun light showed how different it is to the Redshanks brown plumage,and those long Yellow legs made for a very nice bird,very worth popping along to see. My 2nd in Hampshire and my 5th in the UK. The Greater Yellowlegs,its larger cousin, is a lot rarer than Lesser Yellowlegs in the UK and these resemble Greenshank in structure and they also have a habit of being misidentified.


A nice hour, but i dipped the 3 Slavonian Grebes that had been reported off shore the day before.

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Brunnichs Guillemot

The Birding world in the UK  got turned up side down on Boxing day with a Brunnichs Guillemot at Portland Harbour,Portland. Now normally with a bird like this,and close, i would of been off like Usain Bolt, but due to Xmas,family & work until the freedom of the New Year,i was kinda Knackered. I was getting more and more pissed off with not being able to go and the bird being reported each day and it showing down to less than 20 meteres. That was it New years day was to be the big BG day ! except something told me not to wait, but just go,NYE i was off with Ryan,i had decided to go on news but, Nah, Go just Go !.

A good drive down,cold on arrival with the wind and the rain. A quick walk and i could see an auk bobbing around by the edge of the old concrete pier,a quick look and there was the pale strip along the side of the bill,a bill that it is a bit of a cross between a juv Razorbill and a Common Guillemot,it was black and white, *#*# me,KERCHING !


Whilst talking to Nigel Jones, we watched the bird paddle itself across the mouth of the marina and then into the marina were it just disappeared amongst the boats. Some 30 minutes went by until i refound it way past the marina and in an area with no entry. After 10 minutes the bird was back in the marina,incredible how fast the little critter could move.When it dived it could appear about 100 meteres away in what seemed like seconds,amazing. At last the bird was close enough to scrutinise properly with views down to 15 meters amazing !! And this time it just hung around showing superbly. It would swim along with its head under water looking for fish and then dive.WOW!


The supporting cast were good with my 3rd South Coast Black Guillemot,Why not in Hampshire i say,but the day is coming i can feel it ! Great Northern Diver,Razorbill,Red breasted Merganser but not good for Ryan as he just couldnt get to grips with all the different species but appeared comfortable iding Merganser.

After leaving the BG we headed to Radipole where a Glossy Ibis has been playing football on the local football pitches. Except that it wasn`t playing football but wadering around on a very flooded football pitch. The Ibis showed at the back of the pitches but was okay to view.

Ryan`s Photo of the Radipole Ibis

Ryan`s Photo of the Radipole Ibis

We went to look for the 2 x 1st Winter Common Cranes that had been seen near Tolpudddle but we dipped,that`s Birding !!!!!

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