Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rose Tinted Spectacles

So.....after a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a mega rare yankie passerine, was discovered slutting all over feeders in Hugh Town yday I have been severely tense. It's weird on the Farnes, birds are so accessible and visible (if you live there!!) so a bird in gardens was extraordinarily frustrating to persue.

After promising myself I'd be there for first light I somehow managed to miss it leave the roost after dipping the day before...blast! However after a 6 hour vigil the news broke that I'd not seen the bird because it had taken a liking to a garden round the corner! A frantic rush remeniscent of bygone Octobers later and there it was, 10ft away, frantically feeding in the fading light. Thanks Joe for the kitchen access! Crippler times 2.

Worst photo ever? I've surely taken worse....and better! Will give it some time in the coming days so stay tuned people.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Silent Assassin

Woopsy daisy. Been a fair while since any sort of verbal word-vom splattered over my blogspace. Reasons for such disembodying silence include not much happening...and loads of stuff happening!


Last Friday my second season on the Farnes finished in a final booze filled fury. Needless to say I felt suboptimal the following day, as you do.

Anyway birds and shiz. The final weeks of the Farnes consisted of alot of wind, mainly from undesirable directions that saw a few highlights of Snow Bunting, Short-eared Owl, Waxwing forms as both numbers and variety of birds decreased incrementally with the temperature and vegetation!

Classic winter seas off the Farnes.
And there were victims of these conditions, besides Seal pups, this male Eider came onto Inner Farne to shelter and was later found dead. Handsome boy eh?!

Since the Farnsenally of my 2012 northern adventure I have returned to a southwesterly flex for christmas on Scilly. I tell you it's noticeably warmer down here, that's a good small-talk point I feel is working well for me at the moment - feel free to use it. Anyway I digress again.
From one island to another...

Birds. Yes. Birds. First weather. The domination of blustery SE veering WSW winds over the past few days have kept temperatures reasonably high along as with rain volumes. Understandably bird life is thin on the ground but a trip to Porthellick yielded the White-fronted Geese plus some Chiffchaff trying to be rare, a metric f##kton of Rock Pipit.

The rare sight of grey geese on Porthellick
The wintering Chiff population seems well, lots of morphs including this smart pale nominate bird.

The Longstone patch has been fairly productive with daily Woodcock, Blackcap and sprinklings of Redwing. However a major highlight came this evening when a (seemingly wintering) Long-eared Owl came millimetres from taking a cocky Blackbird about 10ft to love birding for such amazing experiences, a new one for me at that!

Crested nugget. Gold nugget!

Other wanderings in pseudoclonic weather produced mre Chiffchaff, Snipe along Porthloo Lane and a cracking Firecrest at Lower Moors that absolutely blew my trousers off! Which was embarrassing for everyone concerned. An unfortunate shoe malfunction meant the woodland carr dwelling Dusky Warbler eluded my for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Olly! Olly! Olly! Oi! Oi! Oi!

So the severe bird withdrawal had set in. And temptation loomed near. So we went and saw a grand grey nugget of glorious Olivaceous tendencies! For the confused among you I am, of course, talking about the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in Fife, a relatively short drive away.

So we headed out in standard Farnes style: Zod then car. Beers and banter, upto Kilminning where upon being shown the birds favourate bushes by a helpful local, it showed brilliantly allowing me to get some hurried record shots inbetween prolonged bins grip sessions.

What a bird to see on a cold November afternoon!
From there we just couldn't handle any more passeriformes action due to chronic monster fatigue syndrome so went and saw some birds almos as big as an Olivaceous Warbler:

Some Whoopers produced a quality emergency stop while leaving the Olly site.
Loching good...haha..oh dear. Loch Leven and some geese.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Duck and Cover

Corr blimey. Chuffing ruddy duck cold up here! My stinit on Brownsman has ended and Im back on 'the patch' Inner Farne. It was so good out there! Living with Seals for me is one of the highlights of my year. Being a lifelong birder I've experienced many a close, awe-inspiring and giblet rotting encounter with ball busting rares as well as canny common but none of those have the capacity to bit your giblets off! In testament to this here's some more big fat Farnes mammal action...just be thankful you cant smell 'em!

Back to birds. Yeah. Those fluffy feathered things that can fly! Speaking of flying, I saw one fly in the sea the other day. I heard it first, sounding like a Dunnock on helium. And picked it up zooming between Seals and Great-black Backs. Finally it perched, looking grey, still emtting that darned drugged up Dunnock call. Its a Chiff! Well possibly a Sibe Chiff I thought, then shouted! But alas once pinned the bird started calling a weird hybird Collybita x Tristis call that just didnt match any of the Bullfinch type calls I've previously heard. The plumage also, tho grey, was more dusky, especially on the underparts while paleness in the bill and feet had me sold on Abietinus or some other freaky continental. And I'm still waiting for it to make a decent coffee the rude sod.

Anyway if you have an opinion let me know. It acted so rare, and was simply joyous to watch a new/different bird for once! Damn SW winds. You've had your fun now please do the proverbial.

Other recent latest stop press sightings include Long-tailed Duck and Kestrel. I'll let RBA know, yeah?

Bonny Seaduck being rare!

Male Kestrel being greater.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012



Well firstly I should say sorry for the lack of updates post fall. To be honest I needed some time to re-attach various appendages after they were blown off by our rampant run of rabid rares. Snapping and chewing our optic nerves into crippled soup! (much like the above if given half a chance).

Purple Sand are an ever-present source of entertainment as passage begins to fizzle out.

Lately its been getting wintery. No surprise. I know. BUT. With winter comes changes, and with change come migration! And what do we love more than anything on the Farnes? MIGRATION! Witnessing that shiz first hand is forehead rubbingly good. Unfortunately our old friend westerly has raised his voilent choppy hairstyled head restricted any migration on sea or land and also put a big finger in the arsehole of the autumns main event - Grey Seal monitoring.

So we spray these cute buggers every four days with alternate colours to track site-specific birth rates and mortality rates as well as handily ending up with a precise pup count. This is unique to the Farnes as most other sites use sea counts (from boats..obviously) and aerial counts (from planes...obviously). Anyway I digress. The sprays we use are extremely sensitive to wind, to use an erotic analogy, spraying with any wind above 'breeze' level is like pissing into the wind as they say.

But this is all far to serious isnt it? I am selling out my blog content with all this soft-porn science? Nope, because these little guys are flipping cute. And even the big, smelly, weird sounding and often aggressive adults are very nice too. Especially up close.

Grey Seals taking over! They're not a bird, they're not rare, but man they are amazing. And such a privilege to be so close.

As you can tell I have been living with the Seals, on Brownsman to be exact, no Curlew Sands or Sabine's Gulls this time though (see for a dose of pelagic). However despite an island covered in Seals gradually wearing vegetation away, killing gulls and so on there has been some surprising highlights...

Snow Bunting - Bull Grey Seal combo.

Flyovers include a few Waxwing, the odd Mistle Thrush etc while grounded birds are gradually waining with Blackcap and Fieldfare the only 'new birds' I've seen in days. While the resident Blackbirds are slowly declining due in most part to the plethora of predators bounding about (Peregrine, Kestrel, Merlin, Sparrowhawk). Birds with nuts bigger than any given Snickers bar, that decided sitting amongst the Seals was a good idea include Bonxie (killed by cow seal), Pomarine Skua (soon to be killed by cow seal), Woodcock, Snipe and perhaps most endearingly some lovely Snow Bunting.

Snow Buntings with Seals.....may have got carried away!
In other news those pesky Leps keep showing themselves with November Silver Y notable while a Herald found hibernating above water tanks on Brownsman. A massive crippler.
So maybe the weather is changing next to something different from westerly, maybe, possibly. PINE GROSBEAK C'MON!