Friday, 28 October 2016

Top Ten Autumn Birding Moments

I have skillfully managed to not see anything of great significance in what is being heralded as the 'Greatest Birding Autumn Ever' in Europe. After missing Sabine's Gull on the patch in September, I then missed a Yellow-browed (a first for the site) the day after I left for the Azores. I then spent two weeks looking at flotsam and jetsam in the mid-Atlantic while an exodus of Russian exotics and beauties moved through Europe like a travelling magical circus which left town the day I checked back into Blighty. Needless to say as I arrived in Blighty the yanks began to appear in the Azores. Thereafter to appease the growing frustration I did some gardening and trod in a massive pile of cat shit.

Not to be defeated (Wailing HERE) I decided to take solace in reminiscence. So here's my personal top ten best autumn birding moments- EVER:

10 Beddington, early autumn 1987

A influx of waders onto the patch during north-easterlies, my baptism into fronts and easterlies.

One of my earliest notebooks when I was 15. A long time before affordable cameras, word processors and the internet.

9 Gibraltar, Bay of Biscay, Scillies and Honey Buzzards 2000

A great autumn ringing in Gibraltar, pelagics across the Bay of Biscay on the Portsmouth to Bilboa Ferry, Scillies and the national Honey Buzzard invasion. The same year I decided the only way I was going to fund and get time for birding was to set up a business with the sole aim of the bottom line being birding output- hence Little Oak!   

 One of the highlights of ringing on Gibraltar with Darryl and the Hersham Ringing Group was catching these Red-necked Nightjars
 Gribraltar ringing trip
Gibraltar ringing trip
Scillies 2000

8 First time on the Azores 2001

My first trip to the Azores and a visit to the Cabo do Praia quarry (off the back of trips by Tony Clarke and some of the Swedes beforehand). Found a Western Sand and saw a load of yank waders- which seemed good at the time. Around this time doing loads of birding with Sam Woods looking for a mega in UK- which basically drove me to the Azores, seemed a lot easier!

7 Azores Pelagics, Thames and Ireland 2007

A great autumn with Simon Buckell pioneering pelagic trips in the Azores, vagrant hunting on the Essex side of the Thames (found Pec, White-rumped etc) and a trip to Tacumhsin (found Buff-breasts etc). The pelagic expeditions went on with others, Rich Bonser etc to find the Bank of Fortune on the Azores- a seabird vagrant hotspot.

6 Cornwall and Little Bustard 1996

An excellent autumn birding with Sam, Lee, Jaffa and Kate trying to find a mega while at University. The mission failed but we learnt life's most important lesson that hard work rarely pays off and also did see the Little Bustard on the Lizard. Best find was a Little Auk in a flock of Golden Plover.

By the looks of it in 1996 I was having a go at writing up my notes in story fashion. I've tried a few things over the years- finally converged on the only thing that other humans are interested in is pretty pictures, lists and dumb arse strap lines. 

5 Twitching 2004

For some reason in 2004 I fancied doing a bit of twitching. Saw Cream-coloured Courser and Ovenbird on the Scillies, Masked Shrike in Scotland, Western Sandpiper in Dorset and the Minsmere Slender-billed Cock-up. It was great fun- I was minted at the time, everyone was (Tony Blair had just unleashed the credit banks and we were on the road to global economic collapse) and I was getting planes across the country.  

My note taking around now started getting a bit out of hand. It took me down me a dark road that ended up writing a ground breaking gull identification paper for Dutch Birding- which about three people read and took me eight years. 

4 Scillies 1999

Say no more!

Scilly 1999- Short-toed Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, White's Thrush, Siberian Thrush and Yellow-billed Cuckoo- saw the bloody lot.
Also went to Spurn ringing that autumn
  Ringing at Spurn and exploring those peculiar late autumn Lesser Whitethroats

3 Corvo 2012

Golden Winged-Warbler- that was enough. Missed a Prairie Warbler and Caspian Plover but seeing Golden-winged Warbler in the WP was a top life long wish lister.

 Golden-winged Warbler
 Dicksissel with House Sparrows 

2 Corvo 2005

Exhausted to boring now but has to go in there. BIRDWATCH ARTICLE HERE

1 Corvo 2015

Unlike 2005 which was like being the only person watching the greatest show of all time, 2015 was an epic yank fall on Corvo and this time there were other people and friends to enjoy it with too. Absolutely epic. More HERE

 Blue-winged Warbler- what a beauty
 Eastern Wood Pewee- the first and second for the WP that year. I made a trifle before going to see one and then found the second one. Nihilism Birding. 
 Blackpoll Warbler
 Philadelphia Vireo 
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks 

(Concluding comment: I've been to the other side and back with a worrying conclusion as my prize:


Chris Townend (Jaffa) said...

What about the REV on Gugh whilst eating a Cherry Bakewell!?

Peter Alfrey said...

Epic bromantic moment - what year was that?
Can think of a few other times on Scillies e.g. The Eye-browed Thrush and Isabelline Wheatear year (Can also think off the odd time- e.g. Kovorna that I would like to forget!)

Lee Dingain said...

Greatest Birding Autumn Ever? Naffest Birding Autumn Ever as far as I'm concerned. Locally, June was more exciting.

Chris Townend (Jaffa) said...

The year was 200 Pete - 16 years ago! The same year as the Spectacle Warbler on Tresco that we also saw. Luckily the Kavorna story was pre mobile phone cameras, so you are safe! Be great to return there with you some time and spend a week in the late Autumn.

Chris Townend (Jaffa) said...

That should be 2000!

Peter Alfrey said...

It was 2000!- I ballsed that up. Spurn was 1999 and Scillies was 2000- the same year we did Monfrague, the Bay of Biscay twice (the first time we had Orcas and second time we had the Sabine's in the Solent, we did Tenerife and La Gomera, I did Gibraltar with Darryl and then you and me on Scillies. Good times!