15th June 2017 – Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Siddick Ponds, Cumbria

Blimey. Two Cumbrian rarities and two successful ‘twitches’ in the space of a month…what’s going on?

Yesterday afternoon/evening, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler was found and identified singing at Siddick Ponds near Workington. A 1st for Cumbria. And big congrats to the finder.

Of course I was predictably at work yesterday evening when it was identified, and frustratingly I was also working most of today too. Basically my window of opportunity was unfortunately restricted to a rushed evening visit. But at least it had done the decent thing and stopped overnight and after hearing that it was still singing and showing well this morning I set off after work in high hopes – thinking that this would be a straightforward twitch. Think again Darren!

The drive from Carlisle to Siddick took us through monsoon-like conditions, torrrential rain and gusty winds….hmmm, this wasn’t looking good at all. Bloody annoying when it’s been nice all day whilst stuck at work. Anyway it was still raining when we arrived at the retail park so it seemed pointless rushing to the bird. After all it would most likely be hankered down out of this grotty weather so my first priority was food seeing though I hadn’t eaten since lunch!

We then made our way to the spot where the bird had been favouring and even as we approached the birders it became obvious from their body language that the bird wasn’t showing. I soon identified some familiar faces amongst the birders, Dave Thexton, Ronnie Irving, Colin Raven and Gary Agar, and it was really good to catch up with them, but I was also dis-heartened to learn that some birders had been present since 3pm and still not seen the bird…it was now 8pm…

Anyway, to cut a long story short the bird had become what birders say as ‘extremely elusive’. This basically means it was being a skulky little b@:*#d! It hadn’t sang for a considerable time and was only calling occasionally and I’d resigned myself to dipping out. Then, I got the sign from Colin that they had it, and for the next 45 minutes or so I caught occasional and brief views of various bits of the bird – kind of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together – a head here, a primary projection there…and then, just as the scrub and reeds caught the last burst of low evening sunshine the bird preened in view. Well sort of. Even then it was mostly obscured. I hoped it would clamber up just a few more inches of the vegetation and burst into song but alas it did not. Instead it buggered off back into the undergrowth and was gone again. Maybe it had decided that Workington was not to it’s liking, it certainly seemed an odd and sudden change in it’s behaviour from earlier in the day and yesterday. And with negative news from the site so far today it does maybe seem that it has chose to move on. Maybe, for the latter half of the day it was concentrating on feeding up for it’s journey rather than singing and showing off.

Here are two really crap record shots… better than nowt I suppose. Just.

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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…






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




More pics from this amazing show here

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20th January 2016 – More Aurora over the Solway

Over Longburgh between 8pm -10pm…


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…



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…





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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