Sunday 26 June 2016


The annual pilgrimage to The Farnes, Northumberland, made all the more special by being with me Dad, that's Dave. At least two (possibly three) Roseate Terns were loafing on the rocks near the jetty with a big gang of Arctic Terns. They seemed sleepy - it must be hard looking that gorgeous! Another one was seen from the boat on Brownsman. Besides the usual beautiful Arctic/Common/Sandwich Tern-fest, enjoyed some great moments with a Razorbill family, and then bumped into fellow Yorkshire nutters Rich, Dan and Steve from Yorkshire Coast Nature.


Thursday 23 June 2016

Meeting my Hero

Friday 17th June was a special day. For six months I had been working (with my team) on a 70th Birthday Celebration Event for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and on Friday, it all became a reality. This was by far the biggest event of this kind I have ever organised with 1,200 paying guests, a reception for 70 important friends of the Trust and one truly special guest.....Sir David Attenborough!

The day went incredibly well -apart from the delayed trains -and everybody in the staff team and the membership who came along seemed delighted, so all the stress was worth it. For me, it was an incredible day and at times quite emotional. I will never get over the powerfully-moving standing ovation Sir David received at the end of his part in the proceedings. It felt like we were channelling the whole nation's love, respect and gratitude for him at that moment, and in a melancholy sort of a way, it also felt a bit like our personal farewell, as many of us will never have the opportunity to meet him again. He was and is a true gentleman and inspiration.

I have so many highlights from the day. Meeting Sir David off the train at York station, walking him into a hall to greet all of my YWT colleagues, helping show him round Askham Bog during the afternoon, where I conducted an interview in front of the cameras (bit scary that bit!) and of course his speech and then Q&A session. He was simply brilliant.

Here's me and Alastair Fitter with David in Askham Bog.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Kronk Kronk

As usual, when my mate Duncan Bye finds a good bird in the York area, I am somewhere else! This time, Duncan's efforts had revealed an amazing find of a family party of five Ravens at Castle Howard. A much-desired York tick for me, I was gutted to be at Potteric Carr all day, helping at a work event. Duncan kindly accompanied me up there this morning to see if the birds were still around, and sure enough, as we approached, the characteristic croaking of young Ravens could be heard from a small wood. After a few minutes an adult flew past and landed in the top of a fir tree, where it stayed for ten minutes, kronking away. A little while later, we refound the three young birds happily bouncing around in a pasture. Their napes were quite brownish in the strong light. The other adult flew in from the west, possibly with the food. This is a great record and possibly one of the first modern breeding records of this species in the York area. Nice find Duncan!

Also noted were a Cuckoo, Marsh Tit and Grey and Yellow Wags.

Cornish butties

Thanks to some friendly local birders, we found the spot in Greenscombe Woods, Luckett, where beautiful Heath Fritillaries live. It was a lovely, sunny day, perfect for butterflies and we soon found about a dozen individuals, most of which were pristine. Lots of Common Cow-wheat was flowering thanks to the efforts of Cornwall Wildlife Trust to keep the habitat suitable and the food plant abundant for the butterflies. On the way back, we enjoyed some aptly-named Beautiful Demoiselles flicking about the stream by the Luckett car park. An awesome end to our Cornish adventure.

 Male demoiselle
Female demoiselle

Cornish Choughs

Lovely to see several Cornish Choughs along cliffs at The Lizard and at Porthgwarra. Lovely birds, looking smart among the clifftop flowers. Not much else about, save Stonechats, Peregrines and Ravens. Nice to see Spring Squill again, the first time I have seen it since the day I saw the Anglessey Black Lark!

Cornish Pasties and Dalmatian Pelicans

Switched our family holiday from Kent to Cornwall at the last minute, as the prospect of a Lammergeier and a Dalmatian Pelican at large seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. The main species I had been hoping for was Heath Fritillary and it seemed there was a chance of those in Cornwall too...

Our drive across Dartmoor failed to turn up the elusive Lammergeier, though I was perhaps a little over optimistic. More successful was my Monday morning twitch to Drift Reservoir to check out the other avian colossus of rather suspicious origin, a Dalmatian Pelican. This bird arrived on a big warm southeasterly which brought in a wide range of other rares, including Great Bustard in Kent. It is thought to be a bird that was previously in Poland. Unlikely to be accepted, but as good a candidate as any, being unringed, wary and arriving in mid May with a great supporting cast. The bird has given a lot of people the run around, but in recent days has been spending much of its time on Drift Reservoir. After a bit of a run around myself (as the bird seemed to have disappeared) another birder tipped me off, and I scooted over the dam and round into the northeast arm, where this giant was happily standing on a tree stump preening in the early morning sun. Escape or not, a really stonking bird, with a bright tomato-soup orange throat pouch and curly mop top. Smart.

 One of the Mallards is saying to the other "Don't go near it. They eat Pigeons you know!"

Post Script. This bird has been accepted as a wild bird by the British Birds Rarities Committee and is therefore the first record for Britain. Bonus!

Super Giant Acrocephalus

Spent the weekend before last with the inlaws in Herts. A quick dawn visit to Paxton Pits was in order to get Great Reed Warbler on my waning Cambs list. As I approached Washout Pit (thanks for gen Mark!), a loud 'Trak trak trak....Eeek Eeek' announced that the bird was still there. Reed Warblers chuntered relentlessly in the belt of reeds fringing the pit and every so often the giant Acro would let loose a salvo of epic proportions, making up for its brevity with sheer volume. Churk churk churk, swee swee, chirra chirra. Etc. Awesome! Stupidly, I didn't have my scope, so had to take some long range shots with the DSLR, once the whopper decided to inch up a reed stem to give me a view. Cuckoo and Garden Warblers also noted, but surprisingly no Nightingales.