Saturday 30 December 2023

Remembering Dad

I have been thinking a lot about my Dad lately, after he very sadly passed away not long before Christmas 2023.

Dad's big passions were the English language, writing, and helping others learn English through his teaching with a characteristic twist of humour! When I was little, my Dad regularly featured on radio programmes such as "Start the Week" with Richard Baker and "Woman's Hour". Dad also wrote a book, "A Day in the Life of..." focused on a number of humorous short stories aimed at helping students learn English and grammar. He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities and carried on working throughout his retirement, helping teach students through a very successful English online website. I could go on as my Dad achieved so much, but modesty was another of his many qualities, despite having so much to brag about, but that simply wasn't Dad's style.

To me personally, Dad was simply the best father, both thoughtful and kind and always seeing the good in everyone. Despite him not having a huge interest in birds, he (and Mum) always encouraged me with my passion for birds as I grew up. Dad so often drove me to numerous RSPB and nature reserves, he would always be the dedicated driver on my annual 24 hour Herts county bird races with friends; and he also drove me specifically to try and see a number of rare birds. The Brill, Buckinghamshire Sea Eagle in Nov/Dec 1983 and the Holme, Norfolk Ruppell's Warbler Aug 1992 both spring to mind! On more than one occasion, he even picked me up after I became stranded as a result of me missing last trains or having failed hitch-hiking quests for my ever growing obsession to see new birds! I will always be hugely grateful for both Dad (and Mum's) encouragement and support for my passion for wildlife and so much more, which undoubtedly paved the way to begin my career with RSPB and start my own wildlife watching business.

I miss him greatly along with his characteristic infectious humour and I will ensure that my many happy memories with him and his humour, live long into the future.

Me birding with my Dad on a ferry near Isle of Skye around 1983

Thursday 26 October 2023

St Martin's, Isles of Scilly 2023

I have just returned from my usual stay on St Martin's Isles of Scilly. 
This time it was from 30 September - 23rd October and another very enjoyable stay on this beautiful island with the usual mix of weather, amazing scenery, great people and over 200 miles of walking!

The clear bird highlight for me was finding a beautiful juvenile female Pallid Harrier early on the morning of Friday 13th October! It was hunting on the heathland at the back of Middle Town Pines. Within 30 minutes of me putting out the news on the local WhatsApp group, the bird had already travelled across to St Mary's and was being seen by many other visiting birders and it also visited the island of Tresco later the same day. The following day it was seen flying south out to sea in good calm conditions. Other personal finds were far commoner and more expected with Wryneck, Common Rosefinch and Yellow-browed Warbler.

Exciting and very welcome rarities found by other visiting birders included an Arctic Warbler and Rustic Bunting and both appeared on the 11th October.

Photo highlights can be seen below. and E-Bird Trip Report:

Arctic Warbler behind Pool Green, 11th October.
Amazingly just 50M from where I found a bird in 2003!

Arctic Warbler behind Pool Green, 11th October

Arctic Warbler behind Pool Green,  11th October

Pied Flycatcher - Just one bird seen

Spotted Flycatcher - a number of individuals seen

Rustic Bunting at Perpitch, 12th October

Rustic Bunting at Perpitch, 12th October

St Lawrance's Beach looking towards Middle Town Beach

Birding with the Mrs

An unusually tame Heron at Little Arthur Farm

Common Snipe - Flocks of up to 50 birds seen

My good friend Viv Jackson

A drink in the Seven Stones Pub

Higher Town looking to Par Beach

Common Rosefinch at Perpitch, 14th and 15th October

Convulvulous Hawk Moth, Higher Town

Juvenile Pallid Harrier at Middle Town, 13th October

Juvenile female (dark iris) Pallid Harrier, 13th October

Juvenile Pallid Harrier, 13th October

Juvenile Pallid Harrier, 13th October - My first view!

Richard's Pipit at Higher Town cattle fields, 11th October

Richard's Pipit at Higher Town cattle fields, 11th October

Higher Town looking South West

Looking towards Round Island, St Helen's and Dean from Top Rock

Ruddy Turnstones - small groups on the beaches

Whimbrel - odd birds seen

Siskin - small flocks seen

Looking to the Bishop Rock and the SW Approaches from Higher Town

The Mrs in the Seven Stones Pub

The Mrs at Scilly Organic Veg Stall

The obligatory St Martin's Selfie

Looking towards White Island

Ring Ouzel - 1 of 2 birds seen

Ring Ouzel - 1 of 2 birds seen

Common Whitethroat at the Cricket Pitch

Sunset from the Karma Hotel Garden

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

Sunset looking across to Tean and Tresco

Thursday 14 September 2023


 Great to see this adult Osprey fishing in the newly created LORP habitat yesterday evening!

Friday 8 September 2023

Ortolan Bunting!

On Wednesday 6th September, I felt like I needed a break from my daily checks of LORP, as despite it looking great for waders it still seemed to be attracting very little in the way of passage waders. Therefore I decided to head up to the West Cliffs and Budleigh Golf Course.

Wryneck was very much on my radar, as there had been a large influx into the SW recent days and the hedgerows in this area of the Golf Course look so good. However, literally the first bird I saw in the hedge was a male Cirl Bunting, a species I have never recorded up here, so a great sign birds are spreading! It then became apparent as I walked along the nearby hedge that there were at least 10+ birds in the vicinity including many juveniles. Then in with the flock I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by a bunting with a striking eye ring, pink bill and clear creamy sub-moustachial stripe - Ortolan Bunting! 

This was a bird that I had always hoped to find on the patch, but I had always imagined it in the stubble fields to the east of Otter Head. It just shows how important it is to mix up your birding sometimes and try something different to your usual routine. I was certainly glad for the change of scene and what a great morning!

Cirl Bunting and Ortolan Bunting together on the patch!