Tuesday, 30 October 2012


28th October 2012.

After the strong easterly winds last week, we decided to go to the North Norfolk coast, during the week there had been quite a few good birds seen comprising of - Dusky & Artic Warblers , a Red Flanked Bluetail, Olive Backed Pipits and a White Rumped Sandpiper, but by Saturday news of these birds had gone! But undeterred we set our alarms and headed east, LETS GO FIND SOMETHING!

We arrived at Cley at 08.30 and headed down to Cley beech as now the winds were coming from the north a spot of sea watching was on the agenda.

Parked up the Clam mobile and walked over to the "Hotel" (This is just four large benches with a roof on, called the hotel as in the Eighties I have slept there a few times!) We set up our scopes and stright away 2 Little Auks flew past! Fantastic ( a tick for Bearded Clam).

We stayed sea watching for about an hour, during this time we had another 3 Little Auks pass, 6 Red Throated Divers, 6 Kittiwakes, 25 + Common Scoter, 2 Long Tailed Duck, 5 Gannet (all Juvs), 50+ Wigeon, 30+ Brent Geese, 7 Teal , and Starlings comming in off the sea exhausted! But no Skuas, but a Year Tick and a Lifer so not a bad start.

Time was now 10am so we headed back to the centre at Cley for some hot chocolate to warm us up and to decide where to go next.

                           A rare find, the 5th Clam, Steve Alcott ( Cripple Clam ) hes got a bad back!

Warmed up we headed down to the Dawkes Hide on the reserve at Cley as during the week there has been a White Rumped Sandpiper, we entered the hide and starting scanning through the Dunlin on the scrape, but no joy! There were also good nimbers of Teal about 150, Gadwall & wigeon and a single Avocet, also 3 Marsh Harriers which are always a joy to see, but no White Rummper.

While in the hide we had heard news of a Barred Warbler at Saltholme so we packed up a headed down the coast.

15 minutes later we arrived at Saltholme, parked up by the duck pond and walked over to a small crowd gathered in front on a house by the side of the road, lifted up our Bins, and there it was- Barred Warbler and a Life Tick for Tom Clam ! It showed well for us, it looked like a 1st Winter bird , only showing faint barring on the undertail coverts, 3rd one for me this year but always nice to see.

Off to Wells now to get fed in our regular cafe, and then off to Holkham to see if we can find some Waxwings or Pallass' Warbler , which had been reported earlier.

                                         Beared & Chatty Clam, Skulking in Holkham Woods!

We arrived at Holkham at 13.15 parked up on Lady Annes Drive and walked along the woods towards the Joe Jordon Hide, contantly checking the woodland trees for Tit flocks but not a great ammount a few Coal Tits , Chaffinches , Great Spotted Woodpecker, Olly clam then noticed about 8 Blackbirds feeding on the grass to the left of us , started to scan through and picked out a Male Ring Quzel and then a Female, called over the other Clams and viewed for about 20mins , nice year ticks for them.

We serched the woods for about 2 hours but didn't have a lot else appart from , Robins , Gold Crests, a Treecreeper, and Blue, Great , Coal Tits. Then on our way back the pager buzzed saying the White Rumped Sandpiper had returned to Cley, so off we set back to Cley.

                                               Dawkes Hide Complex at Cley Marshes 

Back in the hide now at Cley the light was starting to drop but luckly the bird was on show, WHITE RUMPER UTB! (A tick for Olly Clam ) The bird showed well feeding along the edge of the scrape about 35 yards away, showing well its long primary projection , supercil, and flashing its white rump on occasion.

Juvenile White Rumped Sandpiper.

The light was now going so we packed up and started our way back home, another great day and nice to see the 5th Clam Member again Wham Bam Thankyou Man Clam ( AKA Steve Alcott , the rasberry Ripple) , KEEP ON CLAMMING !

ATB - Olly Clam.

Monday, 22 October 2012

15 Hours In a Tin Can - God There's Got to be Another Way!

2.30am, The Birding Clams started to get together in order for the long, long drive to Fife to begin. Saturday 20th October. M6 and onward, arriving at Kilminning at around 10.00am.

Immediately the target bird was seen! Eastern olivaceous warbler, a new bird for three clams easily seen and close too. Even when out of view it was easy to follow as it constantly, gently gave a soft, lesser whitethroat like call.
So grilled and utb to the satisfaction of all it was off to another great rare warbler; this time a radde's. Not too far to go either with the bird being hidden within some very nearby rose bushes about 100 yards away.

Now this one played hard to get for an hour or so but did eventually allow us to glimpse the diagnostic features. What a super bird!
Waiting for the Raddes to show
                                                        View over to the Isle of May

Off to Leven for fish and chips but sorry to say that the standard of the food fell well below our expected fare. Then over the Firth of Forth road bridge to get onto the road for Lancashire and a small garden being used to watch a Pallas' warbler. Obviously the garden of  birder with a mist net installed diagonally across the lawn, it gave views over to a garden two doors down where thick conifer bushes and a sykamore concealed the avian prize. Still the hat trick of rare warbler ticks was not to be denied and the bird flashed its rump, tossed its stripey head and flicked its wing barred wings. Three new birds - lifers for Chatty and Malteser Man. Another successful birding day but maybe one where the amount of time spent in the car was a little too much! [What am I saying? I slept most of the way there and back - Captain]
Clam on!!!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Wednesday 10/10/2012.

I have now managed to download some of the pictures taken last week on Shetland, they are still not very good as Phone Scoping on Shetland is hard as there is always a constant strong wind! , but as promissed here they are-

                                                                   Isabelline Shrike at Toab.

Little Bunting at Sumburgh Farm.

                                                        Siberian Stonechat at Hoswick

                                                 American Golden Plover at Veensgarth.

                                  And now just some general pictures of us and the Shetland Isles.

                                              View from behide Sand Lodge (By Gruntnes)

                                        Captain & Malteaser Head walking down to Gruntness.

Over looking Loch Spiggy.

Spiggy Beach.

View from Quarry at Sumburgh.

Virkie .

On the Ferry over to Unst.

Ferry leaving the Island of Yell.

                                               Just a typical view you see around every corner.

Errol Brown (AKA Malteaser Head, Bart) On Unst.

Well thats it, what an absolutely great place! ROLL ON NEXT YEAR!


Saturday, 6 October 2012

Quiet Day with Sunshine then Day of Rain and Goodbyes - Birding Shetland

Bart [M & M] can be seen here looking through the previous day’s blog entry, unaware that the final bit about a special new birding location was non other than his workman’s butt!

Bart uses his keyboard skills to navigate the blog

Bart finds the offending photo - Crack Man!
Friday 5th October

A beautiful, calm, sunny day with few birds available and even fewer found.

A wood warbler at Hoswick started the day, followed by more views of the siberian stonechat.

Down to the beach at Norness - Sand lodge and a purple sandpiper on the low tide rocks beside a mill pond sea bathed in sunshine. Stunningly beautiful views.

The possibility of a rosefinch had us going back yet again to Unst, not that we needed much persuasion to head back that way. A lift was given to a young Shetland lass, Felicity, hitchhiking her way to Lerwick for a job interview.

Bramblings, four of them, were found in the derelict gardens behind the Post Office in the village of Baltisound and a couple of goldcrest but no rosefinch.

To the sycamores of Halligarth with a blackcap, a few goldcrests, 3 chiffs, including one with damaged head feathers, a willow warbler and a couple of Shetland wrens.

The clarity of the scenery was amazing, with Sumburgh Head being visible from Unst!

News of a possible pallid harrier back at Hoswick, so back in that direction we went.  A great northern diver was flying past as we docked back onto the mainland.

A Norfolk birder texted us to say he’d seen a strange wheatear; described as having a grey head and an all dark tail so we tried to relocate it with him, alas to no avail.

The day finished with egg and chips!

Saturday 6th October

A blackcap in our garden to start the day with a north wind and some sunshine but yesterday’s clear views gone.

To Virkie for waders and an immature long-tailed duck. Then to Grutness where Bart [M & M] found the red-backed shrike, a first year bird.

With the aim of finding our own, we searched Sumburgh quarry, Quendale valley and Channerwick. Nothing of note really; just a redstart at Channerwick and a swallow at Quendale, with a superb merlin chasing a hooded crow near to the latter.

Over to Hoswick as the weather closed in and rain fell. No views of the Siberian stonechat and no purple sandpipers at Norness.

To Lerwick for fish and chips, with black guillemot and eider close to in the harbour.

Next to Veensgarth to look for the American golden plover. A dozen snipe flushed along loch edge, with a female goldeneye, a few wigeon and two teal there also.

4 wood pigeons and 5 collared doves brought up the ‘50’ species for the day. Another merlin flew by quickly in the strong wind. No sign of any golden plover in this area, we drove over to Breiwick where the special one was located amongst its European cousins.

And so The Clams Shetland Adventure ends. Lifers, year ticks and great birds for all of us.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Birding Shetland - Clams Explore the West

Stiff westerly as we left the lodge with the intention of exploring an area new to us. Turning south just before Scalloway we drove down Burra. With a distant Foula seen to the west and superb views down the sea lochs south, the area was beautiful in the sunshine, clear due to the wind. Exploring dry stone walls, sea lochs, grasslands and stoney beaches brought us a variety of waders including ringed plovers, turnstones, redshanks, curlew and a couple of dunlin, a couple of wheatears, 49 wigeon and a good number of eider.

Exploring the village gardens of Hamnavoe didn't bring anything unusual but surely this is the most beautiful shed in Britain ......
All with real shells. Beautiful!
A whooper swan was flying along the harbour edge at Scalloway as we drove around towards the main road.
Down to Sumburgh, parking by the hotel. Walked to the farm and quarry but nothing too special bird-wise. A robin and a goldcrest in the quarry, about 60 skylark and a few twite in the potato field. Coffee and cookie in the hotel lounge and a great northern diver seen flying past through the window.

The weather now including quick passing rain showers accompanied each time by a rainbow or two.
Over to Spiggie beach, at the north side of the Loch of Spiggie RSPB reserve, and a fruitless search for the previously seen American buff-bellied pipit. A superb beautiful beach of pure white sand with the usual nosey seals popping up near us to check us out.

Captain overlooking Spiggie Beach

To Channerwick and a razorbill on the sea and a few seals, with two seals playing together and a young one coming very close.

One of the seals kept jumping up and slapping its back feet on the surface of the water. Strange and if anyone can explain what it was up to I'd be grateful.
No birds of note here today; just a snipe and a lot of blackbirds, together with a couple of goldcrests.

Up to Wester Quarff and great views of a very mobile red-breasted flycatcher, together with a yellow-browed warbler
M & M [Tony Barter] Looking at the R B Flicker

Now to Veensgarth to see the American Golden Plover that we'd seen before but wanted closer and hopefully more active views. M & M found it with a few golden plover and lapwing in a field near the cemetry and we filmed it and photographed it.
Once again once we've got Jas' photos downloaded we'll have better images.
A stop and search of a large garden nearby, once permission was granted by the owner, didn't give us anything better than a couple of collared doves and the nearby loch had a group of 24 tufted duck.

The daylight ended with us walking through an area of tall sycamores near to a superb Broch on an island in a loch near Tescos at Lerwick. Nothing seen in the trees and rain started to fall heavily. Another whooper swan and more tufted duck were on the loch.

Another day of hard searching and good birds but will another special turn up before we leave on Saturday evening?

One last thought - a new site has been seen; a deep valley, full of massed vegetation, rather damp, probably slippery underfoot and aromatic ........

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Undetered by Rain - Clam On Shetland

Up and out to a dry and almost windless morning by 7.30am. No wind! Now there's a rare occurance here.

Not much in the garden, blackbirds, starlings and house sparrows, so off to Channerwick. Down the slope and goldcrest, female blackcap, a robin, a dark Shetland wren and a yellow-browed warbler in the sycamore there. More goldcrests in the willowherb patches and a snipe on the beach. Enjoyable thrashing in such calm conditions.

To Sandwick and a long time spent searching the fields and cliffs for a reported red-backed shrike. Not seen unfortunately but an otter floating on its back eating a small, long, thin fish was good to see; as was the garden warbler and pied flycatcher in the Laird's garden ["No" being the firm response from the Laird's wife to my polite request for entry. It looks a fabulous area for migrants and I wonder what goes unseen amongst the high stone walls and trees]

Two purple sandpipers were with a number of turnstone on the beach with rock pipits and pied wagtails on the stranded rotting seaweed.

More searching of the fields and an invite into a cottage for coffee from Wally and Margaret after we'd been shown around their beautiful garden. In the wonderfully cluttered kitchen, with walls covered with family photos and aerial photos of the cottage and how its garden changed over the years, we sat and enjoyed their company for an hour or so. Lovely people, as Shetlanders are. 53 years married and so warm and friendly.

Back to Papa - Glover Lodge for lunch as rain, predicted for 10.00am finally arrived at 12.30. Heavy rain that soon turned to drizzle so out again with the intention of searching the Quendale area. This we did, mostly in further rain, and after M & M had slept and snored for a short while, finding 4 song thrush, a wheatear, 8 swallows, a robin, 6 redwing, c.100 skylark, 5 pied wagtails, 7 oystercatchers and a number of meadow pipits and twite, as well as the everywhere starlings.

News of the previously seen Isabelline shrike back nr Toab in a garden had us driving around to the spot where a small gathering were staring at a small sycamore against a house wall. The bird was found tucked deep down amongst the dying autumn leaves and everyone had great views of the perched bird, well at least a back view anyway. After an hour or so, the bird decided to stretch itself a couple of times before popping down onto the unviewable path. Captain [He who is typing this!] had poor photos digiscoped with the camera focussing on a leaf as below.

Better photos will be provided by Olly Clam once he can download them.

A rush to Scalloway for a reported little auk was to no avail but enjoyable to see yet another area of these fabulous islands.

So no lifers for the Clams today just good fun birding and great company.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Clams On Shetland - Pechora Pipit UTB!

Rain stopped at 8.00am and on opening the door to our lodge, a yellow-browed flew into the small bush in the corner of the garden. Great start to the day.

Up towards North Collafirth to look at a Blyth's reed warbler; stopping to look around a bush-filled valley nearby. Knocked on the door to ask permission which was duly granted by the dressing gown clad owner. No birds unfortunately but felt good looking.

Bylth's reed showed extremely briefly; actually flew out from the bushes at us, circled and disappeared into the undergrowth. Chiff, redwing and goldcrest being the other birds there.

Next stop, the surf scoter, a male easily found and seen well with its attendent flock of eider.

Back to Unst so that Captain could tick the Pechora's. Parked the car and a barred warbler was found immediately. The Arctic Redpoll flew over the thistles as we searched for the rare pipit and common redpolls tazzed around.

Captain had a long chat with Hazel, one of the local crofters and then with the owner of the fields where the Pechora pipit has spent its Shetland days.

With permission to walk the fields, Captain and Malteser Man [M & M] carefully entered the three main areas and, with a small crowd gathered on the road, the bird was seen well  by all as it briefly perched up on a couple of fence posts and then some wire before diving back into cover. With stripes, streaks and wing bars everywhere its a good candidate for the best looking pipit. Great CLAM teamwork to the fore, Olly Clam being the crowd coordinator. All thumbs up and a small donation given to the crofter who said that she was going to give it to Cancer Research.

Olly and M & M had been looking in a nearby garden and found brambling, goldcrest and blackcap; whilst snow bunting and great skuas were seen nearer the village.

Captain also had the Arctic Redpoll sitting on a post about 1 metre away. Beautiful snowball filmed and photographed.

Back to the mainland and another superb Shetland Birding Day ends with a new bird for M & M, an American Golden Plover. Not that he seemed to spend long grilling it, prefering to have a laugh with other birders. Still undoubtably the bird was what had been reported, sitting in the company of 26 other golden plover.

Lifers so far :-
M & M - 8 lifers,
Olly Clam - 5 lifers    and
Captain Clam - 4 lifers