14th May 2017 – Spotted Sandpiper, Buttermere, Cumbria

An adult summer plumaged Spotted Sandpiper was discovered yesterday on the shores of Buttermere so this evening I made my way down into the lakes in the hope of seeing it. It had apparently been favouring the SW corner of the lake near Horse Close so I slowly worked my way along the path that runs alongside the lake scanning the shoreline as I did so. It was getting late in the evening and there were no other birders searching so I knew I didn’t have that much time to locate it before it began to get dark. As I scanned I noticed a couple with a dog on the shore in the area that the grid reference referred to – that wasn’t a good sign! After about half an hour all I’d heard and seen was one or two Common Sands but there was still no sign of the Spot Sand. Then, I raised my bins expecting to see another Common Sand and was ecstatic to clap eyes on the arse-end of the bird – get in! It was distant but I quickly grabbed a couple of awful record shots before it flew off round the corner out of sight. I looked at the back of my camera to make sure my eyes hadn’t deceived me, yep it was definitely still here!

I quickly legged it in the direction it had headed and after about 10 minutes or so I relocated it on the rocks. For the next 45 minutes I had absolutely terrific views,¬†it even fell asleep for a while and was completely at ease with my quiet presence. With patience and fieldcraft I was able to sit just 20 feet away. I was particularly interested to see and hear it displaying to a Common Sand, something that presumably hasn’t happened in the UK very often? In short – what an experience! Stunning bird, stunning location and stunning backdrop¬†– does it get any better?

Displaying to a Common Sand (which can be seen bottom right). What an unbelievable thing to witness in my home county…











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24th January 2017 – Pacific Diver in Northumberland

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3rd September 2016 – Citrine Wagtail, Longtown

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Photogenic Barn Owl and Mental Aurora! – 6th March 2016

This beautiful Barn Owl was flying around near Mungrisdale mid afternoon…

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And then some crazy Aurora action from 9pm til 1.30am…

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More pics from this amazing show here

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20th January 2016 – More Aurora over the Solway

Over Longburgh between 8pm -10pm…

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More here

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20th January 2016 – American Wigeon at Grindon Lough

When I arrived at Grindon Lough this morning I was the only one there, which is actually just how I like it. I kinda like the challenge of finding my own stuff rather than being put straight onto a bird by others. So I parked up and set about finding the Yankee Wigeon that had been there on and off for a few weeks. An initial look through my bins revealed that Wigeon were spread about everywhere – some were relatively close and others were as far away as they could be. I figured that if it was amongst the furthest birds on the very far northern side I might be struggling even with my eyepiece zoomed up to 60x. So with my scope set up I decided to go through the closer birds first. No joy. I then moved on to birds a bit further back and scanned through them. Still no joy. So unless I’d overlooked it or it was out of sight somewhere it had to be in the very distant flock of Wigeon that were grazing near some Canada Geese. With my eyepiece set at maximum it wasn’t going to be a great view that’s for sure. As I scanned through them at that distance I was really quite chuffed with myself when I did pick it out, it was actually pretty obvious even at huge range. I grabbed my trusty old coolpix 4500 and due to the distance and poor light began taking pics using a shutter speed of 1/8sec or sometimes 1/4sec! – these were going to take ‘record shots’ to a new level!… honestly it is in both of these shots below…

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And then another birder arrived from the northeast and asked me if I was on it. I gave him directions and he was soon watching it too. The flock of Wigeon then suddenly took flight, some landed in the water and others flew a bit closer towards us. I was amazed that I quickly relocated it again, it was still distant but the views were far better than they had been…

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And you know what, despite the dodgy, almost mocking looks I often get from folk with all their fancy new digiscoping gear and massive lenses I’m still happy with the results I get from my coolpix 4500. Yeah it’s 14 years old, but for getting record shots of very distant birds I think it still does a half decent job. I’ve always thought that any shot is better than no shot at all. So until it finally packs up I’ll continue to dust it down and bring it out. Anyways, with more and more birders now beginning to arrive I made a swift exit and headed for home.

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11th January 2016 – Snow Goose on my dog walk…

I think I said in a previous post that I’d tried for the Snow Goose that’s wintering on the Solway a couple of times so far and both times I’d dipped it. Such is the fickle nature of these things. Trying to find a rare goose on the Solway – even a great big chuffin white one, can often be – well, a bit of a wild goose chase. They move around the area all the time and are regularly flushed and spooked and just as they seem to settle into a routine of being seen in the same area for a few days they bugger off, sometimes disappearing for days or even weeks. Anyway, I’d joked with the missus that we had just as much chance of seeing this Snow Goose on one of our dog walks. To be honest it was half joke, half hope, we’re always seeing barnies on our walks on the marshes so I knew that it was always an outside possibility….

For once this morning it was a beautiful and sunny start to the day, and after the boy was seen off on the school bus the missus and I drove the few minutes to Easton to begin our walk with the pooch on the marsh. As we were walking back towards the car a small group of barnies flew close past us heading low west, and right amongst them was the flippin’ Snow Goose! I’m used to seeing the leucistic barnies in with the geese on the Solway but this bird was so close that the black primaries and structure was obvious even with the naked eye. I watched them until they disappeared out of sight in the direction of Drumburgh and Glasson. We’ve seen some half decent bits n bobs on our dog walks now, nowt too special but things like Kingfisher, Green Sand, Short-eared Owl, Twite etc, but this was without doubt our best ‘dog-walking tick’ so far!

However I cursed the fact that I didn’t have my camera with me, the light was superb and they were so close that it would’ve been a wonderful opportunity to photograph it. I had an idea where it might land, but equally it might just have continued flying west towards the Campfield/Cardurnock area. I remember a few years back when a Red-breasted Goose was watched at Drumburgh before flying off west. Minutes later it was seen by another birder heading west over Campfield Marsh, before eventually being located grazing in a field at Cardurnock. I headed home and quickly grabbed my camera before heading back to Drumburgh. The area I suspected it might have landed in can’t be seen from any roads so a bit of local knowledge and experience certainly helped here. Walking around the corner towards Glasson Point I noticed some barnies on the marsh and bugger me there it was! Get in! The last thing I wanted to do now was flush them so I kept right in amongst the gorse and hedge to keep out of sight, if anyone had seen me lurking amongst the bushes they must’ve wondered what on earth I was up to!….

IMG_9884-copyBut it paid dividends and the birds continued to graze undisturbed…

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IMG_9780-copyIMG_9882-copyIMG_9735-copyHappy with my encounter I decided to leave the bird in peace to feed, I certainly didn’t feel the need to purposefully flush it to get the flight shot…

As I wandered back to my car the plane reappeared but a bit lower than before and I wondered if this might cause them to fly off. I could soon hear flying barnies and just as I was nearing my car they came into view flying east along the edge of the marsh. I watched them until they were lost to view flying over the Solway towards the edge of Burgh Marsh/Rockcliffe Marsh.

IMG_9912-copyIMG_9915-copyIMG_9918-copyBirding always throws up surprises. Having specifically travelled to see this bird twice and failed it’s somewhat ironic that it flew over us on my local patch when I was least expecting it. I suppose I’ve gotta thank our mutley for this one, I’m certain I wouldn’t have seen it had we not been out taking him for a walk. Cheers Alfie.

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