Thursday 17 December 2009

Let's see if this works then

Having acquired a fancy new phone yesterday, I'm now going through the process of finding out what I can do with it!

I've already set up a Twitter feed for local bird news - - and now I'm seeing if blog posting via email from my phone works.

I'm not sure why I would want to, but it might be useful one day.

Apparently you can upload photos as attachments, so let's give that a go as well:

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Before the Drunkbirder beats me to it...

RAF Cottesmore in Rutland is to close as part of MOD cuts, it was revealed today. Whilst the news was greeted with dismay by those who depend on the base for their living, others welcomed the decision. Ms Dot Terel, spokesperson for the Union of Transvestite Waders said “this is excellent news for our members who have often attempted to stop at this site in the past, only to be tragically sucked into the engines of Tornados and Harriers or shot at by bored Military Police thinking they were Red-legged Partridges.”

Local birdwatchers were also jubilant on hearing that the base is to close. “Hopefully we can now set up our expensive spotting scopes and huge telephoto lenses and look onto the airfield without being arrested and interrogated as terrorists or mistaken for sad, socially inadequate plane spotters,” said Mr Eric Twatt of the Leicestershire and Rutland Otorhinolaryngological Society.

Cottesmore’s oldest resident, Ezekiel Clunge, 97, was more forthright. “That’s grand. Now I might get some fucking peace and quiet without those bastard planes thundering over all the time,” he said.

Their delight may be short-lived, however: scores of greed-crazed property developers have already been reported snouting around the area like truffle pigs, on the scent of obscene profits to be made from turning the airfield into ‘affordable housing’.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Should've stayed in bed

With increasing numbers of Leach’s Petrels and other seabirds being reported flying up the Severn yesterday, and strong winds overnight, it seemed like a good idea to get out and check a few local sites today. So I was out before first light this morning (I know, it's not difficult at this time of year!), and news of Leach’s at both Grafham and Staines this morning was initially encouraging. But despite thoroughly grilling Swithland, Cropston, Watermead and most of Rutland Water, I couldn’t even rustle up a friggin’ Kittiwake, let alone a frigatebird (or a Fregatta petrel). Oh well, at least I tried.

Highlight of the day was 'Harold' (well it's as good a name as any for a Whooper Swan) the ridiculously tame (but BTO ringed) Whooper Swan, still coming to bread with the Mutes at Watermead:

Sunday 8 November 2009

And again I say...

... arse.

Another county tick at Cossington Meadows heard about just too late to be able to get there before dusk! This time Leicestershire’s third (if accepted) Richard’s Pipit, which apparently flew over and then landed in Swan Meadow some time this afternoon. Both the previous records were one day birds – the first, at Cropston Reservoir in 1990, was only seen by the finder (Steve Close); the second (Bardon Hill, October 2006) was seen by a few people, but not me as I was in Shetland at the time. But to be positive, it’s getting quite late for Richard’s so hopefully this one might be thinking about wintering, or at least hanging around for a while. Or perhaps it’s a Blyth’s. And even if it isn’t a Blyth’s I’m sure someone will try and turn it into one if it’s seen again.

However, I shan't be there at first light tomorrow as I have to get some background reference photos for a couple of commissions I'm working on, and tomorrow looks like being the only day of decent light this week. Plus I've got a cold at the moment, and don't really fancy being anywhere other than in bed at first light. Which brings me neatly to:

Quote of the day from Morrissey, explaining why he has had to cancel several gigs recently: “I have endured a titanic struggle with an intolerable virus”. A pronouncement which reminded me of the classic Viz headline: Morrissey - still a twat!

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Flushing hell

I was at Eyebrook Res this afternoon, on the Leics side, looking over the ‘unlawfully trimmed’ section of the hedge*, when all the Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Dunlin suddenly got up. My first thought was naturally ‘Eleonora’s Falcon!’, and I scanned the sky excitedly, but no, it was just a pair of posh middle-aged twats strolling along with their brightly coloured jackets and stupid 'walking poles', inside the reservoir grounds.

As they approached I politely (honestly!) asked them if it was really necessary to walk on that side of the hedge when there was a perfectly good road to walk on that didn’t involve trespassing on a nature reserve or scaring all the birds away. And their excuse? ‘It’s better for our legs to walk on this side rather than on the road.’

After a further exchange of words, which I’m afraid was rather less polite on my part, I left and went to Rutland Water instead.

At Rutland Water I saw a Black-necked Grebe, 5 Common Scoters, 5 Whooper Swans and 7 Red-crested Pochards, all in the North Arm. Couldn’t find the Red-throated Diver(s) though, despite much searching.

* - ref the ongoing battle of wills between English Naturists, or whatever they’ve decided to call themselves this week, and local birders, who, whilst fully understanding the need to conserve hedgerows, would not unreasonably like to be able to see at least some of the fucking birds at Eyebrook!

Monday 2 November 2009

The Men Who Stare at Falcons

There was another report today of a possible/probable/putative Eleonora’s Falcon in ‘Area 51’ (also known as Dreamland). This was at least the eighth report in the area since the middle of September. At least three different birds have been involved – a dark morph, a pale morph and now a juvenile. Just what is going on down there? Is there something we’re not being told?

The Leicester Llama has obtained the following classified document which may shed some light on the matter:

Tuesday 27 October 2009

I think it may have been said before, but...


A phone call from Steve Lister this morning had me heading to Rutland Water (in my much improved car which no longer goes ‘clunge’ just before coming to a standstill, ‘rerrp, rerrp, rerrp’ when pulling away or ‘tikka-tikka-tikka-tikka-tikka’ when going round corners – thanks to Rob’s dad’s garage! *) hoping to see the county’s third ever Shore Lark. However, just like the previous two, this one had only shown itself to the finder before promptly buggering off. We searched all the shoreline around Whitwell where he’d seen it, and both sides of the Hambleton Peninsula before reluctantly accepting that it must have flown straight through.

Now, whilst obviously offering sincere congratulations to Steve on an excellent find, I do think this is just a little unfair after he gripped us all off with the Little Bittern the other week. Especially as I rang him about that and didn’t have to time to get there myself before it got dark! In fact I think I should be allowed to add one to my county list as well, as I would have seen the Little Bittern had it been identified as such when I first heard about it.

* – for anyone interested in the technical details, the clunge-ing, rerrp rerrp-ing and tikka-tikka-ing were apparently due to a broken tooth on the ABS reluctor ring on the front offside CV joint. I just nodded and tried to look like I knew what he was talking about.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Don't you just love the tabloids

Thanks to Matthew Berriman for alerting me to this gem:

'Cretin' is too kind a word for the journalist who wrote this and the picture editor who came up with that photo...

Thursday 22 October 2009

Christmas is coming...

...and I’m skint. Plus I need a new scope as my old one is terminally broken. So I make no apologies for advertising my professional services here, in particular my pet portraits, which make an ideal Christmas gift, as they say:

Prices start at a very reasonable £95 (unframed, including p&p) for an 8 x 8 inch head and shoulders portrait, but you can have any size you like (within reason – a 100 foot square picture would take me several years and cost you £144,000 at the same rate per square inch as an 8 x 8 inch one!).

Please see the pet portraits section of my website if you’re interested – but bear in mind you’ll need to order as soon as possible for delivery in time for Christmas.

And if you haven’t got pets I also have lots of bird pictures for sale, including the cover painting and line drawings from the recently published Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland. Again, please see my website for details.

That’s it – thank you for your time. Normal service will be resumed shortly...

Tuesday 20 October 2009


"St Mary's: Black Redstart - one of the paradoxus morph at Old Town today."

What in the name of fuck is the 'paradoxus morph' of Black Redstart? A red one with a black tail? Or is it more likely yet another 'trying too hard to turn a common bird into something interesting because we've run out of things to tick/write ID articles about in Birding World' type of thing?

Just stop it please - I'm too old to learn anything new. I don't want to know about Daurian this and Caspian that and weird new made-up 'morphs' of birds. And I don't like the ducks being at the beginning either. Everyone knows divers come first, then grebes. Ducks are somewhere in the middle of the non-passerines, just before the raptors and just after the herons.

And talking of herons (I knew there was some point to this rambling nonsense), there was a rare heron in Leicestershire yesterday, and it wasn't there today. Arse. I think I'd better go to bed now.

Sunday 18 October 2009

You couldn't make it up

I was told this Scilly story today by Andy Brett. I can't remember which island he said it was on, but I think it was St Agnes.

There was a crowd of about 50 or 60 people (I won't dignify them by calling them birders or even birdwatchers) watching a bird which none of them could identify. On asking a few people what was going on, Andy was told that some of them thought it was an Arctic Warbler, some thought it was a Bobolink and some thought it was a Philadelphia Vireo! Remember, all these opinions referred to the same bird. Apart from those who were there or who have already heard the story, I bet no-one can guess what the bird actually was.

I will reveal all in a day or two...

Thursday 15 October 2009

Last day

With low cloud and drizzle shrouding Sumburgh yesterday we thought we weren’t going to get off for much of the day, but fortunately the fog lifted for long enough to get our plane in (taking off in fog is a lot easier than landing). Several incoming flights weren’t so lucky, and throughout the day we heard planes going over without landing.

Yesterday morning’s birding was restricted to kicking around south Mainland for a few hours. We didn’t see much until we got to Sumburgh Head, when the following 'incident' occurred...

At about 12:20 Rob found a thrush skulking under the rose bushes, and after some manoeuvring Mark and I managed to get onto it as well. The views were terrible – the bird was sitting hunched up with its back to the wall, under the roses, and behind some chicken wire, but from what we could see we were certain it was a 1st-winter male Black-throated Thrush. Result! And bang in the middle of my ‘window of opportunity’ theory (otherwise known as ‘WOO’) that good birds turn up at the lighthouse around midday.

But then things went very wrong. While we were trying to get better views of it, a thrush came up out of the rose bushes and flew off towards the lighthouse. Assuming that this was the bird, we ran after it, but after about 15 minutes searching in the fog all we could find was a rather drab 1st-winter Ring Ouzel! Could this have been what we’d seen? Surely not, especially as it had a completely dark bill, and Rob and I are both sure that we saw a largely yellow bill on the original bird under the roses. But doubts had set in, and we were now beginning to wonder whether we had somehow fucked up big time. Confused, we fled the scene to try and collect our thoughts, using our flight off Shetland as an excuse for not hanging around longer. After some discussion we decided that, rather than try to push such a brief sighting, we could only honestly say that we now weren’t sure about the bird. Mark and I got on our plane and left Rob alone to face any ‘music’ that might be forthcoming (‘stringing in the rain’ probably).

However, on our arrival at Edinburgh airport the story was given a further twist when Rob texted to say that Steve Minton had briefly seen a Black-throated Thrush perched on the wall by the roses after we left! This gave rise to a variation on the ‘two bird theory’: presumably we had initially seen a Black-throated Thrush, then wrongly assumed that the Ring Ouzel which flew out was the bird we’d been watching and that therefore we'd made a mistake. But in yet another twist there’s strangely no mention of it on his blog, so I’m wondering whether he now isn’t sure what he saw either. Unless it reappears somewhere, it’s probably best forgotten about really, whilst remembering in future that the bird that flies out of the bush isn’t necessarily the bird you were watching in the bush!

Anyway, thrush stringing aside, the holiday list finished on an untidy 98, two more than last year, although the quality this year was in an altogether different league. Total haul for the 12 days was 7 BB rarities of 6 species: Taiga Flycatcher, Lanceolated Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper and 2 Arctic Redpolls. Scarce migrants consisted of: Short-toed Lark, 2 Little Buntings, 2 Bluethroats, 2 Common Rosefinches, Ring-necked Duck and about 15 Yellow-browed Warblers. Of course, the latter aren't really scarce any more, but I'm old enough to remember when they were, so they still feel like something good when you see one.

Had I been so inclined, I could have had another two ticks: Veery and Blyth's Reed Warbler, of which there were at least three twitchable individuals. And without even going to any other islands we could also have seen at least 3 Pechora Pipits, 3 Olive-backed Pipits and 3 Arctic Warblers.

In terms of numbers of good birds, this was my best Shetland trip ever, the only disappointment being that we found absolutely nothing ourselves. Although there have been over 50 BB rarities in Shetland since the beginning of October, for some strange reason hardly any were in south Mainland where we were based. And it wasn't just us – the area has been pretty well covered, but no-one else has found much either, the honourable exception being Steve Minton with the Lancy at Scatness.

I have no idea why south Mainland hasn't produced the goods this autumn – the weather has looked perfect several times, but each time there has been nothing here and rarities a-plenty further north. It just goes to show that you never can tell with rare birds. In 2007 everything was down here and there was very little further north. Maybe next time it will be the other way round again. And we’ll probably be going to central Mainland every day...

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Shock Shetland string scandal!

It is now my solemn duty to act as judge, jury and executioner in the matter of Shetland birders (both resident and visiting) v an unknown stringer.

It has come to our attention that, over the last week or so, one person has been responsible for all of the following single observer records: Lanceolated Warbler, Pechora Pipit, Black-throated Thrush, Arctic Warbler, Black-bellied Dipper, Red-throated Pipit and Firecrest (which is considerably rarer than Lancy, Pechora, Arctic Warbler or Red-throated Pipit in Shetland).

Other people have looked for most of these birds, but not one has been confirmed by anyone else. Now, it's been a pretty good October in Shetland, with around 50 BB rarities so far (compared with one [Long-billed Dowitcher] in Scilly – just thought I'd throw that in), but for one person to have found all that lot would be amazing. To have claimed all that lot with a single observer rate of 100% is nothing less than utter bollocks.

Apparently when someone met this bloke and showed him an Arctic Warbler at Wester Quarff the other day he said “Oh, that's an Arctic Warbler is it? It doesn't look like the one I saw at Kergord yesterday.” No, because that was a Chiffchaff.

Verdict: guilty as charged. You are hereby sentenced to spend all of next October on Muckle Flugga with no bins or mobile phone.

Twitching in the rain

The general plan today was to see the Spotted Sandpiper and Bonelli's Warbler first thing this morning, then work our way north and try to find something. But the weather had other ideas. It was raining heavily when we woke up this morning, and it's still raining heavily now as I type this at 18:30. In between – it rained heavily. Constantly. All day. Without a break.

What we should have done was either stay in bed or start building an ark, but we foolishly thought there might be some birds around in the south (it was also south-easterly this morning), so we had a good look around Grutness and Sumburgh Farm. Whilst getting soaked we realised that yet again nothing new had arrived. After drying out and drinking tea we went back out and headed for Ellister, between Maywick and Bigton. Despite the pouring rain, the Western Bonelli's Warbler was feeding unconcerned in the sycamores and showing well. Sort of a tick for me, as the only other one I've seen (on Bryher in 1995) was only accepted as Bonelli's Warbler sp when the two species were split.

We then drove round Loch of Spiggie, adding Moorhen to the holiday list (yes!) before walking in the rain to Burn of Garth, where we easily found the Spotted Sandpiper feeding along the burn. If it had been nice weather, and if I had had my camera with me, I would have got some award-winning photos, but as it was I had to be content with just watching it.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is for more rain, plus Rob has had a letter telling him that the electricity will be off from 9 till 3 tomorrow. I don't fancy getting soaked again before packing and going home, so I shall probably stay in bed and leave the ark building to Gary.

Monday 12 October 2009


It's become clear over the last 9 days that we can't find our own arses with both hands, let alone any rare birds, so rather than go home having not seen much we decided to twitch a few things today. First off was the Taiga Flycatcher at the splendidly named Gloup (pronounced gloop) on Yell. This was a British tick for me, so I was pleased to find that it was still there and showing well. It was 'doing a circuit' as they say, but eventually it stopped flitting about long enough to get some photos:

This is my kind of twitching - a third for Britain with just three of us watching it! A Lapland Bunting flew over calling, and there were 5 Bramblings in a nearby field, but that was about it, so we headed south, checking various gardens on Yell, which were mostly devoid of birds. At Mid Yell we stopped at the leisure centre car park, and were just about to leave when Rob spotted the Arctic Redpoll feeding in a weedy patch by the car. We leapt out again and got a few shots of it feeding with its friend the Mealy Redpoll. The size comparison was interesting, the Arctic appearing about a third bigger!

A stop at the aptly named Graven (which consisted of a graveyard and a house) produced a nice Bluethroat, a Yellow-browed Warbler and this Pied Fly:

Next on the twitching agenda was a Red-flanked Bluetail at Sandgarth, which we saw but didn't manage to photograph as it was flying around all over the place and never staying still for very long. Always a nice species to see though. Finally on the way home we caught up with an old favourite, the drake Ring-necked Duck at Loch of Tingwall.

We also had a half hearted go at the Catfirth plantations, but it was getting dark by then, and the most important thing was to get to the shop before it closed. There we found a splendid selection of pies, including the 'Holy Grail' – the fabled macaroni pie (see Mark's blog for a full write up with photos). I had a very nice cheese, bean and tattie pie, which rounded off the day nicely.

Tomorrow is our last full day; we intend to continue with the twitching, the targets being the Quendale Spotted Sandpiper and the Bigton Western Bonelli's Warbler if they're still there.

Sunday 11 October 2009


I took the first train to Toabsville this morning, and witnessed an interesting phenomenon. Well I thought it was interesting anyway. As I walked up the road through the village, the gardens were (relatively) leaping with birds – a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, a Redstart and several Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Robins, Goldcrests etc. But they were all moving steadily north, feeding in a garden for a few minutes and then flitting on to the next one. And when I walked back down the road an hour or so later, they had all gone, apart from one Yellow-browed which has been in the same garden for several days.

I presume these were birds which arrived in the strong SSE wind and heavy rain yesterday and overnight, trying to find shelter and/or suitable habitat in which to feed.

After this promising start, as usual we looked in various places, and as usual we saw pretty much bugger all. Highlights were a couple of Ring Ouzels at Levenwick and this obliging Little Bunting at Sumburgh Farm:

Rare birds were once again appearing in front of other people, and around mid afternoon we attempted to twitch the Blyth's Reed Warbler at Hoswick, just so we could say we'd seen something, but there was no sign of it.

Tomorrow is the 'Glorious 12th' and once again we shall be having our 'change of scenery' day. Last year this involved seeing fuck-all at Eshaness; this year's itinerary is as yet undecided, but will probably involve seeing fuck-all in central and north Mainland. Or we might just decide to stop being whingeing martyrs and twitch all the rarities that are around.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to have a rant about this piece of utter idiocy seen on one of the news services today: why the fuck is a pair of Cape Shelducks in Herefordshire of any interest whatsoever to anyone? They even included directions on where to park, for fuck's sake. What kind of fucking imbecile thinks that's worth reporting to the news services, and more to the point what kind of arse-witted twat is going to twitch them?! Answers on a postcard please. Unless you're the person who reported them, in which case don't bother.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Last Train to Toabsville

Take the last train to Toabsville,
And I'll meet you in the crop field.
'Cause we've seen a skulking warbler
With some contrast in the tertials.
Don't be slow, oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!

'Cause we've only had some flight views
And I must see it again.
It's looking like a Lancy,
But it could be just a Wren.
Well I don't know, oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
And I don't know if I'm ever coming home.

Take the last train to Toabsville,
I'll be waiting in the crop field.
And I'll blast it with my i-pod
Till I get some clinching photos.
Oh... Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!

Take the last train to Toabsville,
It's just popped up on the wall.
And it's got no sign of breast streaks –
It's a Gropper after all.
I'm feelin' low. Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
And I don't know if I'm ever coming home.

Take the last train to Toabsville,
Take the last train to Toabsville,
[repeat and fade]


I could probably sum up today in one word: wet, but as this isn't Twitter I suppose I ought to pad it out a bit.

Taking my regular morning walk around Toabsville it was obvious that birds had arrived overnight, with Redwings everywhere and a few Goldcrests. This seemed a good sign, so we went 'down south' to do the Grutness/Sumburgh area. There were even more Redwings and Goldcrests here, most of the latter searching for food on the cliffs, but not much else. Robin was new for the holiday list, and the old faithful Bluethroat was still in exactly the same spot in the Grutness crop.

After that... um... I can't remember what we did after that – went back to the house and drank tea probably. Yes, that was it, and then round Toab again. While we were in Toab Rob had a call from Steve Minton who had seen another 'interesting' warbler just behind the beach at Scord. I had to change my trousers at this point, not because of the excitement, but because I hadn't put my waterproofs on before going out.

We arrived at Scord and proceeded to walk the area of marram grass where Steve had seen the bird. The first thing we flushed was a Long-eared Owl which jumped out of the marram and flew off across the bay towards Toab. What happened next is slightly embarassing – seven of us, including two ex Fair Isle wardens, flushed something that none of us could put a name to. Our excuse is that is was absolutely pissing with rain, combined with a strong south-south-east wind, and it was only visible for a second or two in the thistles before disappearing, never to be seen again. It looked like a dark Phyllosc, and was most likely either a Radde's or Dusky Warbler. Or it could just have been a wet Chiffchaff.

Back to the house to change clothes for the second time (my 'waterproof' trousers aren't) and put coats in the tumble dryer, after which I really couldn't be arsed to go out again. The weather of the last two days must have brought something in (White's Thrush on Fair Isle today); it's just a matter of finding it if and when the wind drops and it stops fucking raining.

Highlight of the day: stew and dumplings for tea. It's still raining, by the way.

Friday 9 October 2009

It's only a theory

Halfwit 'creationists' are fond of dismissing Darwin's theory of evolution with the phrase 'it's only a theory', as if that were good enough justification for taking everything in the Bible at face value. Well maybe they're right and it's actually God who makes rare birds turn up in Shetland, as the 'theory' that south-easterly winds = good birds has been proved to be false (or at least an over-simplification) today.

It was south-easterly when we got up this morning, and it's still south-easterly now, but despite thrashing the Toab/Scatness/Sumburgh area to within an inch of its life all day, absolutely fuck-nothing new has been unearthed. There was a brief scare with a report of a Lancy in Toab early afternoon, but that turned out to be someone jumping the gun as it was later re-identified as a Gropper. It was nothing to do with us, by the way!

Perhaps some rain will help, in which case tomorrow could be the day, as it's forecast to be strong south-easterly and wet overnight and for most of tomorrow.

Never mind – here's a nice photo of a Snow Bunting at Sumburgh Head:

And we're having a consolation Chinese takeaway tonight – one of the restaurants in Lerwick is doing a 'Chinese night' at Boddam village hall, so we've put our order in.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Maybe not

I suppose after yesterday's excitement it was too much to expect anything else today. The only thing that turned today was the wind, which went northerly. Consequently it was fucking freezing with wintry showers. It seemed like good weather for finding an Arctic Redpoll, but the most interesting things I saw today were a Dunnock and a Peregrine at Sumburgh (both valuable holiday ticks), the regular Grutness Bluethroat and a Yellow-browed Warbler which wouldn't sit still long enough to photograph in the Grutness garden.

In between these megas we sat in the house drinking tea, making inroads into the 'Virkie bread mountain' (the result of a serious shopping duplication incident... peanut butter was also involved) and cleaning up cat sick.

An early night seems like a good idea as the weather looks truly 'monster' for the next two days. If we can't find something in that we should all have our bins confiscated.

I need to come up with some sort of gimmick to get my Fatbirder counter up – Mark is miles ahead of me now with his crop cam and Lancy shots/links on Surfbirds, Fuckbook etc. A free slice of bread with every page view perhaps? Or maybe I should just try and make this crap more interesting.

Just be thankful I'm not offering some free cat sick with every page view...

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Is this the turning point?

Last night's westerly gale gradually subsided over the course of the day, encouraging us out into the field. As usual we didn't see a great deal – just a Yellow-browed Warbler in the willows, and a Jack Snipe in the ditch by Rob's house (not the Ditch of Despair, the one right next to the garden). A flock of 33 Bramblings in Toab was nice, and 2 Snow Buntings were at Sumburgh Head. By early afternoon though we were bored, so we decided to twitch the Arctic Redpoll at Aith. This was quite tame, and even I managed to get some reasonable shots for a change:

Around 14:25 Rob had a phone call from Steve Minton to say he'd flushed what he thought was a Lanceolated Warbler twice from thistles at Scatness. We went straight there, and after about an hour of brief flight views we finally saw it well enough to satisfy ourselves that it was indeed a Lancy. Mark got a couple of good record shots, but I didn't even try, preferring just to see it well rather than end up with a load of blurred crap and not having seen it properly.

After rushing back to the house to look at the photos on the computer and check that it really was a Lancy we went back to Scatness and had further excellent close views of it as it perched on walls and crept around in the grass. I left my camera in the car this time, as it was raining, but I doubt I'd have got much anyway as it was getting distinctly dusky by now.

A splendid British tick, not only for me but also for Rob and Gary, and something I always hoped I'd see in Shetland one day. Thanks Steve!

Remember those two words at the beginning of this post – westerly gale... and the next day a Lanceolated Warbler turns up. So birds are arriving even in apparently 'adverse' conditions and given that the weather for the next few days looks more easterly, this probably is the turning point.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Day of partial rest

Strong westerly wind and heavy showers this morning. Walked up to the Toab shop to get milk so I could have some tea and porridge. After breakfast walked round Toab and saw nothing. Spent the rest of the morning sitting on the sofa with a farting cat, drinking tea, eating fried eggs and messing about on the laptop while listening to John Shuttleworth on BBC7.

Bird news: The Wryneck and Meadow Pipit that were in Rob's freezer last year are still present, and have been joined by this Crossbill (gratuitous knob gag coming up) – a nice red cock:

This afternoon Mark and I got Rob to drop us off at Grutness, and we had a kick around there for a couple of hours but saw nothing of any note. Arriving back at the house, Gary told us he had had a Little Bunting at Channerwick so we went there and saw it almost as soon as we got out of the car. Mark & Gary got some good photos of it, but I completely fucked it up as my camera was still set to +2 exposure compensation after photographing some Greylags flying over earlier. By the time I'd sorted the camera settings out the bunting had flown off.

I then went round the back of where it had come down, only to fall over a fence and land on my arse. Just as I finally made it to where Mark was now getting more photos it flew off high down the valley and we didn't see it again. The old cliche that owning a camera doesn't make you a photographer certainly applies to me. In my case owning a camera usually turns me into a fumbling incompetent fuckwit whenever there's something worth photographing right in front of me.

Monday 5 October 2009

I'm too old for this

Went to bed at the ridiculous time of 02:45 this morning, woke up still pissed at about 8 o'clock, had a shower to wake me up a bit, staggered outside, saw another Yellow-browed Warbler (3 out of 3 now) and ate some porridge. What I should have done then was go back to bed. But the weather looked promising (warm, sunny and flat calm first thing, becoming light south-easterly and cloudier later) so we gave it about 78.5% and saw a few bits and pieces around south Mainland.

An annoying moment occurred early on as I was walking up the road towards Toab. Mark rang to say that the Rosefinch was in the big crop field; as I was on the phone to him a pipit flew over calling. Now, in early October, in Shetland with a south-easterly wind it really should have been an Olive-backed. But no – it landed right in front of Mark, who gave me the bad news that it was just a fucking Tree Pipit. Arse.

Then up to Sumburgh Head for the lunchtime 'window of opportunity' when birds seem to arrive. Today nothing at all arrived, although there were 6 Snow Buntings, and I even managed to get a half decent shot of one:

Levenwick is very underwatched and always looks good so we spent a couple of hours checking the various gardens there. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was crap.

Back down south late afternoon we relocated a few scarce migrants that had been seen earlier at Grutness: a nice but unapproachable Bluethroat, another Rosefinch and a Short-toed Lark flying around with Skylarks. The Twite in the Grutness garden are often very approachable, and with lovely afternoon light I got a few photos including this one which I was particularly pleased with:

Dinner was again provided by Mark, a nice chicken stew with dumplings. The cats were very interested in the preparation of this. No idea why – I didn't even know cats liked leeks.

Shut up or you'll be going in the stew

No alcohol tonight, and hopefully an early night if I can get up off the sofa.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Doctor, I have this feeling I'm being watched

Not much to report in the way of birds today – there were 'rares' all over the place, but not in south Mainland. Possibly something to do with the fact that the wind was mainly northerly, or more likely the fact that we spend too much time drinking tea and pissing about with webcams etc.

Actually we did try fairly hard today, but for very little reward. The day got off to a promising start, with a brief Yellow-browed Warbler in Rob's garden. Only the second Sunnydell garden record and I've found both of them. And both times Rob hasn't been here! Encouraged by this and news of good birds elsewhere I went off to tramp through the Ditch of Delights or whatever it's called (the one where Marcus found the Paddyfield and Thrush Nightingale last year), only for Rob to see an even briefer Bluethroat in the same place the warbler had disappeared into. Needless to say there weren't any birds in the ditch. In fact I've yet to see a bird of any species in that fucking ditch. Ditch of Bollocks would be a better name.

After this we covered the Virkie/Exnaboe/Toab area thoroughly, but saw very little. After getting some essential supplies at the shop, Rob had the 'leftfield' idea of driving up to the top of Fitful Head. You're not really supposed to go up there, but we did, past the 'no unauthorised vehicles' sign and up an incredibly steep slope to the top. The view from here is amazing, but there was very little in the way of birds apart from 4 Snow Buntings which flatly refused to be photographed. I did, however, have a moth tick on Fitful Head – a Haworth's Minor, which was nice.

An unusual view – looking down on Sumburgh Head

Looking north from Fitful Head

And that was about it, apart from the strange experience of being watched eating my tea (a very nice chicken biryani cooked by Mark) on Mark's 'crop cam' (see yesterday's post) which had inadvertently been left on, and was broadcasting a reflection in the window of Rob's living room! When we found out this was happening, we briefly considered turning the camera round to face the room in a sort of 'Birders Big Brother'. However, we quickly decided that this would be immensely tedious for everyone, watching three blokes sitting around drinking whisky and typing on laptops. And there's no sound on the webcam. In fact it would be worse if there was sound, as it would probably lead to a lot of libel actions.

Weather forecast for tomorrow is monster again, but this time the winds are from the south-east, so something might actually make landfall here rather than further north.

02:20 update: another moth tick - 2 Brindled Ochres in Rob's moth trap. Yes, I'm still up, and the bottle of Jura is empty.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Welcome to sunny Shetland

Having only had about three hours sleep last night, I'm not actually sure what I did today, but I seem to be sitting on Rob's sofa typing this, so I assume I travelled to Shetland via Mark's car, a couple of planes and Rob's borrowed white van. Or I could be dreaming of course. No I'm definitely not dreaming – I can smell the cat piss. Actually that doesn't help, as one of our cats kindly pissed on my suitcase before I left, so I could still be at home.

Let's assume for the sake of sanity that I'm not dreaming. The passengers on the Edinburgh – Sumburgh flight seemed to be mostly twitchers heading for the Whalsay Veery/Fetlar Taiga Flycatcher, and the weather when we arrived was surprisingly nice and sunny, with just a light north-westerly breeze, although this later deteriorated into 'heavy clag' – a descriptive Northern term for drizzle. My notebook tells me that we saw a couple of Wheatears in the Toab fields and a Snow Bunting at Sumburgh Head. We thought we might have heard the Pechora Pipit over Toab, but were more likely hallucinating from lack of sleep.

Highlight of the day was watching Mark set up his much anticipated 'crop cam' in Rob's garden. Yes, there really are crops (of a sort) in Rob's garden, planted with the sole intention of attracting birds, since Rob famously shuns vegetables and usually lives on fried egg sandwiches. The camera initially gave crippling views of a drake American Wigeon skulking among the onions (anyone who knows Rob's garden will understand), but these were later replaced by crippling views of the inside of a plastic jug keeping the rain off the camera.

Aha – I can prove I'm not dreaming – here are some photos of a lovely Shetland Starling (juvenile/1st-winter female), and the Island of Fair (adult male – no I don't know what I'm talking about either), showing well this afternoon from Toab:

The weather forecast is promising, veering monster, and there are rare birds all over the place apart from in south Mainland (very mobile Pechora Pipit somewhere, probably). A bottle of Jura has been purchased for consumption later, assuming I can stay awake long enough to open it.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Three days to go

Weather websites have been perused. Pants have been ironed (actually I’ve still got a few more pairs to do). The entrails of a weasel have been consulted. And I’ve come up with the following detailed itinerary for the first few days of this year’s Shetland trip:

Saturday afternoon: drink lots of tea whilst looking out of Rob’s window and hoping that something gets blown across his garden in the force 8 south-easterly/north-westerly, depending on which forecast you believe. Comment frequently on how cold it is up here and how like last year the weather is. Possibly accompany Mark to the Toab shop to check on the pie situation. Early night after tedious day's travelling.

Sunday: eagerly head out into the field with ‘first full day of holiday’ enthusiasm, kidding ourselves that just because it’s blowing a north-westerly gale and snowing, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a good bird to be found somewhere. Repeat the mantra that ‘the biggie travels alone’, even though at that moment any biggie with any sense will be staying in a nice hotel in Norway (in a single room of course) rather than trying to battle its way across the North Sea. Give up fairly quickly, telling ourselves that there’s plenty of time yet. Evening: drink large amounts of whisky. Write bollocks on blog.

Monday (when it looks like the wind may briefly drop below gale force): encouraged by news of rarities on Fair Isle/Foula/Unst/Out Skerries, spend every second of the daylight hours combing every square inch of South Mainland for migrants. Walk miles; see nothing. More whisky. More bollocks on blog.

Tuesday: stay in bed sulking, regardless of the weather. Get up in a hurry when someone else finds something interesting in the Virkie Willows (or Rob’s garden). Stay out till dusk trying in vain to find something else. Whisky. Bollocks to blog.

Wednesday: drink whisky in bed. Delete blog.

Um - I don't think I'd better plan much further ahead than that at this stage.

OK, OK, don't start saying "well why bother going then?" Last year the weather looked really promising and I predicted I'd find a Siberian Accentor and look what happened...

Sunday 27 September 2009

They're getting closer!

With records in the last few days from West Midlands, Derbyshire and now Notts, Leicestershire's first Glossy Ibis must be imminent, but where will it be?

Most likely at Rutland Water, and I think there would be a nice symmetry to it if Matt Berriman were to find it...

...but then I've been awake since about 3 o'clock this morning, so I may just be losing it slightly.

Just some routine enquiries, Sir

Many thanks to [name withheld] for sending me the following photo, and to The Drunkbirder for his caption suggestion:

I'm sorry Sir, but if you're going to take that attitude I'll have to ask you to accompany me to the feeding station...

Saturday 26 September 2009

A Leicestershire Mega

Although twitching on a national scale does nothing at all for me, I am as manic as anyone when it comes to adding to my county list. So the news this morning of a Common Rosefinch trapped and ringed in Andy Smith’s Thornton garden had me displaying all the symptoms. A piece of shit in Shetland or Scilly maybe (although embarassingly it’s still not on my found list), but rosefinches are fucking rare inland. This was a first for Leicestershire, and not one that anyone ever really expected to see, least of all in a back garden in Thornton!

Due to various domestic chores (yet more pants to iron) I couldn’t get out for a couple of hours, but fortunately it was still present and showing on and off when I arrived at about 12:50. Scope views were excellent, but my photos are distinctly in the ‘world’s worst rarity photos’ league:

As expected, the ‘cream’ of Leicestershire’s spotters were there, but this visitor was a most unexpected addition to Andy’s garden list:

El Presidente helpfully points out to everyone that it's the bird on the left

Huge thanks are due to Andy Smith and his family for allowing everyone into their back garden to see this bird, and I hope NO-ONE left without putting a quid or two in the bucket...

Thursday 24 September 2009

Ironing my pants

With just nine days before I go to Shetland I’m in a frenzy of anticipation and preparation. There are pants to be ironed, medications to stock up on (how fucking hard should it be to get a new inhaler out of the fucking NHS? No, we can’t just give you another repeat prescription, you have to come in and waste both your time and the nurse’s going through the motions of having a ‘review’ even though she knows full well that your asthma is very mild and you don’t need an inhaler very often. Cutting costs? I could make some suggestions...) and of course weather websites to be checked every few seconds.

I wanted to put one of those countdown gadgets on the blog, so I could sit staring at the screen 24 hours a day and watch the seconds ticking down, but I couldn’t get it to work properly. A not uncommon problem, apparently. Sort it out, Blogger!

Meanwhile in Shetland Rob appears to be heading for a breakdown, with no end in sight to weeks of continuous westerlies. But there are birds there, even if he can’t find them. Nothing massively rare it’s true, but bits and pieces – Arctic Warblers, Citrine Wagtail, Woodchat Shrike, R-b Fly, Bluethroat, Barred Warbler, Rosefinch etc all in the last week. And all arrived on the aforementioned weeks of westerlies.

Marcus arrives on Saturday – he’ll find something whatever the weather’s doing. And that’s the one and only ‘prediction’ I'm going to make after last year’s monumental failures (see here, here and here). However, the infallible and omnipotent Law of Averages clearly states (subsection 43887, paragraph 4301, clause 7c) that since Marcus had a good trip last year and ours was crap, the tables will be turned this year. That’s not my prediction of course, it’s the Law of Averages. And that’s never wrong. Or is it? Surely the Law of Averages says that the Law of Averages will be wrong about 50% of the time? Bugger.

Thursday 17 September 2009


Somewhat predictably, my resolve not to go to Shetland this year lasted about as long as one of the Drunkbirder's resolutions to give up twitching. A combination of Sophie getting fed up with me being 'a bit grumpy' and the very kind offer of a lift to and from the airport from Mark and Jo was enough for me to crack and book flights last night.

So readers of this blog can look forward after all to another instalment of 'the Shetland Llama' from 3rd - 14th October. And even if it's a crap autumn that's got to be better for everyone than me getting cross about what I'm missing!

I shall have to live on bread and cheese for the rest of the year though, so it had better be good...

Pot of gold or crock of shite? Only time will tell...

Monday 14 September 2009

Give us all your money

Whilst flicking through a wildlife magazine the other day looking for something to take the piss out of (yes, I’m in that sort of mood) I came across a couple of perfect targets. Needless to say, both were adverts...

The first offending piece of marketing bollocks was for a ‘High Powered Telescope’ with 60x magnification. Every time they mentioned the 60x magnification it said ‘6000%’ in brackets. Three times in a full page advert. Who ever measured optical magnification as a percentage? No-one (at least no-one sane). That figure is there simply to impress idiots.

There was also a little inset bit that read ‘Observe wildlife, sports, the night sky, in detail, from a distance.’ Question: how the fuck else are you going to observe the night sky other than ‘from a distance’?

But the advert got better. If you buy this amazing 6000% magnification scope from them (for a mere £79.95, saving £120 on the price it was being sold at three years ago), you also get a FREE SPY SCOPE (worth £9.95)!! This appears to be a pen, but no, wait, it has ‘precision-engineered optical lenses, so powerful you can see up to 7 miles away!’

Only 7 miles? I can see further than that through a fucking toilet roll. I can see about 230,000 miles if I look at the moon through my precision-engineered bog roll. And if I look elsewhere in the night sky (yes, even from a distance) I can see objects up to a couple of million light-years away through my 1x magnification (100%) cardboard tube. And I can wipe my arse on the ‘special paper’ that came with it – bet you can’t do that with your ‘spy scope’!

There was one more item in the magazine which caught my jaundiced eye. I’d better not name it, but it was some sort of clip to stop your bins swinging while you’re walking along with them round your neck. The description said ‘A new “must-have” accessory... a device which is fixed to the binoculars or camera and then clipped to the user’s coat or shirt preventing the inevitable bounce and swing...’

This sounds like exactly the sort of pointless invention that regularly gets laughed out of Dragons’ Den. I can just imagine Duncan Bannatyne (if he was a birder, which as far as I know he isn’t, and if he was allowed to swear on the programme) saying: “The only person who would find this useful would be someone who hardly ever uses their binoculars. I want to be able to get my bins up to my eyes in a fraction of a second; any longer than that and the bird I want to look at might have moved or disappeared. I don’t want to be pissing around undoing a fucking clip before I can lift them, and for that reason, I’m out.”

Thursday 10 September 2009

You’ve Been Papped 2 – World Exclusive Celebrity Pics!!

So there I was in Lapwing hide at Rutland Water this afternoon (overlooking the south arm, for anyone who doesn’t know the reserve), when I noticed what appeared to be a film crew on the far bank. A quick peer through my scope revealed the unmistakable figure of Bill Bailey, presumably filming for that new birdwatching series he’s doing for Sky1 (to be called Bill Bailey’s Big Bird Watch according to my secret showbiz sources).

Bear in mind, by the way, that all these were taken from about 600 yards away, which is a bit far even for my long Llama-lens. But I suppose that just adds to the authentic ‘papped’ feel.

Bill Bailey looking through binoculars

Bill Bailey not looking through binoculars

How exciting, I thought. But then I’m afraid things started to get slightly naughty. First of all the cameraman climbed over the fence and started walking towards the bund, flushing some ducks in the process:

Never mind, they're only Mallards (actually I think there are a couple of Gadwall in there as well)

Then the rest of them followed. Bill does look a bit guilty on this one:

Eventually they all disappeared through a gap in the bushes, heading towards the back of Lagoon 3:

So what happened next?

Er, um, (quickly consults libel lawyers) oh yes, I know – did a Marsh Harrier fly over and flush EVERYTHING off Lagoon 3? (this is only about a fifth of the flock by the way)

Now, I’m a big fan of Bill Bailey, but if he’s going to do the ‘celebrity birder’ thing, he (or to be fair, his birding ‘advisers’, of which there appeared to be two or three with him in addition to the film crew) ought to be aware of a few generally accepted rules, one of which is that you don’t go traipsing around the back of nature reserve lagoons in case you flush everything. And also that, especially somewhere like Rutland Water, the chances are that someone will be watching. And that someone may well have a long lens. And a blog.

Tuesday 8 September 2009


... would be a polite way of putting it. ‘Arse’, ‘bollocks’ or possibly ‘fuck’ would be more appropriate to the usual tone of this blog, but people might complain if I used words like that in the title. I know it appears on a few other blogs with the time it was last updated. It’s probably called a ‘feed’ or something technical like that.

Anyway, why arse, bollocks and fuck? Well, due to a combination of the recession (and therefore being skint), not booking earlier in the year when prices were cheaper, and those bastards at flybe pricing themselves out of the market (not that it actually is a market as such – ‘monopoly’ would be a more accurate term) I can’t afford to go to Shetland this autumn. Which means that it will no doubt be a fantastic October for those who are going. Which as far as I can tell is just Mark ‘Pieman’ Reeder (who sensibly booked his flights in January and got a return from Birmingham for about £150. It’s now over £300 for the dates I wanted to go, plus another £75 for parking).

I shall therefore be having a ‘staycation’, a horrible non-word which should be banned, except that it describes perfectly what I shall be doing, i.e. literally staying at home. In bed, with the duvet pulled over my head, my phone turned off and the computer disconnected so I can’t look at Birdguides and the Shetland latest bird sightings website to see what I’m missing.

Looking on the bright side though (why not, just for once?) I certainly shan’t miss hanging around airports for hours on end, all that pointless checking-in and ‘security’ bollocks (“Did you pack this bag yourself, Sir?” “No, this complete stranger kindly offered to do it for me, what did he say his name was, Al something...”), taking your shoes off, putting everything through the scanner etc, et-fucking-c. And perhaps we’ll get some nice easterlies here instead and I can go to the east coast for the day and see a Yellow-browed Warbler. Or maybe I’ll go out and string a fly-over Richard’s Pipit or Lapland Bunting for my county list. See, it’s not all bad. I won’t miss Shetland at all really.

Friday 28 August 2009

Board silly

Hands up how many Leicestershire birders noticed the new interpretation board at Burrough Hill Country Park whilst twitching the Montagu’s Harrier this week? Just in case you missed it in your haste for a county tick, I took this photo of the ‘points of interest’ section:

This is how I imagine the meeting of the County Council Parks Department went when they discussed this:

“Right, none of us knows anything about birds, so we have two options for this new board. Either we could contact a local bird club, or perhaps the RSPB and see what they suggest we put on it – I’m sure they’d be happy to help out, and they’d probably have some relevant photos we could use, OR we could use this random photo of a bird which I think might be a falcon (or possibly a hawk), crop out the falconer’s gauntlet it’s perching on, and bung that on. No, you’re right, the second option would be much quicker. I’m sure no-one will ever notice.”

And then there are the classic ‘information’ boards at Watermead Country Park South, which look like someone’s traced some of Thomas Bewick’s engravings and coloured them in. They include helpful species such as Eider and Bean Goose (actually there was an Eider there once), but very few of the species people are actually likely to see around the park. And even if the bird you’re looking at is shown on the boards you wouldn’t be able to identify it from the grotesque parodies of living birds they’ve used for illustrations.

I’ve lost the photo I had, but the best example of this sort of thing I ever saw was in Ireland a few years ago. It was advertising boat trips off County Galway, and had photos of Galapagos Cormorant and Sea Otter on it (or it might have been a sea lion, I can’t remember). Impressed, we went on the boat trip, but sadly didn’t manage to add either species to the Western Palearctic list...

Monday 24 August 2009

Two posts in one day!

Just a quick one - this headline on the Grauniad website amused me:

Oh yes, and the recession is 'at an end' according to the same site. Funny - I'm sure the BBC were saying it was 'worse than previously feared' only last week...

Birdfair Ramblings

I never used to be a great fan of the Rutland Water Birdfair – we satirised it on the original Llamas site as ‘the usual sad old mix of over-priced optics, splinter groups, bird seed, wax jackets and special birding breaks in Shropshire.’ (click here to see the original ‘Birdspotting fair’ advert)

These days, there’s not quite as much bird seed in evidence (anyone remember the enormous Trill stand?!), the waxed jackets have been replaced by even more expensive breathable fabrics, and bird tour companies (yawn) now make up well over half the stands in the main five marquees. The optics, it goes without saying, are even more over-priced than ever. Four and a half grand for a Zeiss scope with built-in camera anyone?

But I’ve gradually realised over the years that it’s more about the people than the actual ‘attractions’ of the fair – catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. In the former category I was especially pleased to see two ex-LROS Committee members I hadn’t seen since they left Leicestershire: Chris Measures and Mark Holling, neither of whom seemed to have changed at all in 20-odd years!

Sadly, I was unable to see most of Alex Horne’s ‘Birdwatchingwatching’ show on Friday due to badly-timed book signing duties on the LROS stand, but I caught the last ten minutes of it and it was good to meet Alex and have a beer with him afterwards, in the company of John Hague and Dave Gray (and Dave’s Dad of course!). Another new face was Alan ‘Dusty Bins’ Tilmouth, who has posted his own thoughts on the Birdfair on his blog.

Alex on stage in the Events Marquee

The Beast was spotted prowling around, but I was unable to get any incriminating photos of him. Maybe I should have dressed up like this to avoid him seeing me:

Johnny Kingdom (the theme park the Vatican tried to ban?) hopes no-one will spot him in his camouflage gear as he tries to sneak into the ‘Wildlife Film-making for Beginners’ talk in the hope of picking up some tips

But most of the day was spent on the LROS stand, signing books and posing for silly photos like this:

Rob studies his contract carefully, claiming that appearing in the line-up might infringe his image rights

Tuesday 23 June 2009


Has it really been a month since I updated this load of crap? Where does the time go these days, I don’t know, seems like only yesterday, still, mustn’t grumble, you’re as old as you feel, at least I’ve got my health, that’s the main thing....

So, what have I been up to in the last month? Not a lot really, although I did have the following salutary experience recently:

I had to go to Norfolk to pick up some paintings from the Picturecraft Gallery in Holt, so I thought as I was passing I’d have a quick look for the Black-winged Pratincole which had been hanging around just south of Thornham for a couple of weeks. Obviously this wasn’t real “fucking hell – I NEED it, let’s go NOW!!!” twitching, but still near enough twitching to remind me of one of the reasons why I don’t do it any more, i.e. not seeing the bird and thus wasting time that could be spent doing some proper birding.

Fortunately, since the bird had been present for weeks, I wasn’t reminded of the other reason I hate twitching (crowds of utter wankers talking bollocks and comparing the size of their cocks lists). On the contrary, there was only one other bloke looking at the pratincole-less field when I arrived, and he kindly informed me that it had been seen first thing at Titchwell, but not since, in stark contrast to every fucking day for the previous two weeks, when it had been sat in that field most of the time.

So I went to Titchwell (which I was going to do anyway, so that’s not really twitching either). I saw two distant Spoonbills (which were predictably asleep), plus the usual Titchwell fodder – Little Gulls, Bearded Tits, Cetti’s Warbler, Marsh Harriers and scores of incompetent dudes misidentifying everything in sight – “What’s that?” “Dunno – it’s got a curved beak like an Avocet, but it’s brown. I think it might be some sort of sandpiper” (it was a Black-tailed Godwit); “Did anyone else see that falcon? Was it a Merlin or a Peregrine?” (it was a Hobby); “Apparently there was a pratincole here this morning” “What’s a pratincole – a type of seabird?” etc, etc. But no pratincole.

As I walked back to the car I recalled that in my twitching days I was cursed with a pratincole jinx, having missed both the 2nd and 3rd British Orientals (the Norfolk one twice), and dipped on Collared and Black-winged two or three times each before I finally saw them. And when I did eventually see a Black-winged it was an unsatisfactory distant speck buggering off over the horizon with some Lapwings. Which is why I would quite like to have seen this one.

To cap things off perfectly, when I got home I looked on Birdguides, and of course it was seen at Titchwell about half an hour after I left, and then showed well for the rest of the afternoon. In fact it must have appeared while I was eating my lunch back at the car. Fuck knows who spotted it, as I didn’t see anyone at Titchwell other than the aforementioned dudes, none of whom would have recognised a pratincole if it landed on their shoulder, turned to the page of pratincoles in their spotter’s guide and said “That’s me! I’m a pratincole, you blind cunt!”, whilst pointing to the picture of the Black-winged Pratincole.

Twitching? You can stick it up your arse.

Saturday 23 May 2009


Until recently, if you Googled ‘Andrew Mackay’, my website (the sensible one, not this one) was usually second, after that of the Tory MP for Bracknell with whom I unfortunately share a name. It was top for a while, but he obviously pulled strings to get it relegated to second place.

But now, since that weird-eyed, slimy piece of shit (is that libellous or just satirical?) fiddled his expenses to the tune of some £140,000 (allegedly, he added quickly), my website has slipped to a poor fourth on Google. At least it’s still on the first page though, which I suppose is something given that the MPs’ expenses scandal is the top news story at the moment and that Andrew Mackay MP is one of the chief offenders.

But how many journalists have clicked on the link for my website, wondering if it’s the same person, doing a bit of moonlighting in addition to his MP’ing and expense-fiddling? And what would they think if they found this load of nonsense whilst digging for dirt on Andrew Mackay?

Oh well, perhaps I'll get some pet portrait commissions from journalists...