Wednesday 20 February 2013

The Shetland Grosbeak

Original Clams Jason Oliver and Gary Prescott picked up Steve Allcott and Kevin Clemments and by 6.30am Saturday 16th February were heading up the M6 for Aberdeen. Weather fine all the way, traffic increasingly sparse and with conversation brisk, the journey seemed shorter than the 400 miles driven. Aberdeen being reached early, so a rest upon the ferry for Lerwick before the smoothest, calm sea crossing ever had us playing cards for blueberries and a restful night's sleep.Well, it would have been for most except those near to Kev!

Lerwick after 14 hours sailing and hire car soon collected. Almost no wind and definitely no traffic as we headed north for Collafirth. Reached the area after a brief stop to look at a red-throated diver on a loch. The first planatation was scanned by around 15 or so like minded twitchers but no pine grosbeak here. Then a dash as the bird had been found not far away.

A short walk down the hill around the back of tall pines and there was the reason for travelling so far. Pine grosbeak UTB and very close.

Everyone happy with the main bird, with black guillemots for the year list and a distant otter, we set off to explore the main island seeing as we had 7 hours before the returning boat was to leave. Next it was down to Scalloway and a ring-billed gull on the opposite bank to us by the castle.

Next to the fish packing factory by Lewrick harbour and immediately 2 large glaucous gulls close by on the water.

Purple sandpipers, eider, ravens, long-tailed duck and then the closest otter we'd ever seen. A large male, dragging the evidence beneath him, crossed an area of tarmac close by before going through the sea defence rocks and coming even closer on the surface of the nearby water. Brilliant!

Down to Sumburgh Head after fish and chips with a stop to view over Virkie. Bar-tailed godwits and redshank, snipe and shelduck but no passerines at the nearby Sumburgh Hotel except starlings. In fact the lack of small birds was very noticable so a single twite next to the car on a gate at Grutness was a bonus.

Next to the lighthouse at Sumburgh with ranks of guillemots and fulmars with the occasional gannet passing. A single robin tried to hide beneath a digger. Massive amount of work being carried out on the buildings here. Could be a superb information centre in the making.

Back to the fish packing factory and an iceland gull to add to the day list. Also 34 long-tailed ducks and the same 2 glaucous gulls.

So back onto the ferry and another very smooth relaxing crossing with cards for peanuts this time.


Sunday 17th February

A large breakfast from the all you can eat at £10 and off to Rattray Head for the desert wheatear that has been here for weeks.

Very easily found too as we got to the beach in brilliant sunshine and with fabulous views. The bird perched atop a tyre and showed all the salient features.

Red-throated and great northern divers offshore with eider, long-tailed duck and shags; stoat and fox tracks in the sand.

A quick look in at the RSPB reserve at Loch of Strathbeg and then the long jaunt home. So 3 days, 1500 miles, a lifer for all and a great supporting cast, beautiful weather and views. Who could ever prefer tv over such a trip? And they say we're mad........

Wednesday 30 January 2013


Sunday 27th January 2013.

The Clams haven't been out for a few weeks now and we were all in the need for a day out Birding, so I sent a text around to the lads and we arranged to go down to Dorset for the day.

First on the agenda was reports of some Tundra Bean Geese and Bewick Swans nr Abotts Swanery. We arrived at the site a grassy field close to the river and there was a good number of Swans feeding on the grass, so we grove down the narrow lane along side the field and started looking through the Swans.

There was some Birders already here and they said there was no sign of the Bean Geese but said there were some Bewicks. They left us looking but there was no Bewicks here just about 30 Mute Swans, some Greylag Geese and a small group of Egyptian Geese (Year Tick).

After half an hour we packed up and made our way over to Blashford Lakes as a Green Winged Teal had been seen the day before. At Blashford we parked up by the visitor center but it was closed and so were the hides so we started walking down to some screens over the other side of these large gravel pits. Plently of Wildfoul here, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye & Large numbers of Teal .

Whilst Captain Clam scanned through the screen Olly, Tom & Bart looked across the pit behind us and we soon picked up two Black Necked Grebes (Year Tick) and on our walk down we had another year tick a Treecreeper so a good start to the day. We scanned through the Teal for a hour but didn't see the GW Teal so we packed up and headed to Upton by Hamsworthy for a Hoopoe.

The Hoopoe had been seen earlier today but it was favoring a housing estate which makes access poor as you can't go walking around peoples back gardens! After an hour we hadn't seen it so we decided to head to Ferrybridge by Portland as there was a Snow Bunting there!

                                                 Maltesser Man & Tom Clam at Ferrybridge.

It was blowing a gail here but at least the sun was out so we started looking for the bunting, checking the areas around the Center here , we had a few Skylarks , Pied Wagtails, Brent Geese , then Captain asked one of the guy's in the Center when the Bunting was last seen and to our suprise he said it's over there on a man made pebbley rockery infront of the center. (We had nearly stood on ot!) Bang Snow Bunting!

                                                           Very tame Snow Bunting.

We viewed this little cracker down to about six feet and it wasn't at all bothered about us at all ! After a coffee in the centre we headed back to Hamworthy AGAIN as the Hoopoe had been seen . Not to bore you this was a case of Deja Vu ! We didn't see it, never mind thats Birding.

As the sun was starting to become low in the sky we headed to a place called Martin Down to try and see a Great Grey Shirke & Short Eared Owls. After getting lost a few times we finnally found Martin Down and Bart found a Short Eared Owl , Class! But no sign of the Shrike, so as it was nearly dark now we packed up and headed home.

A Great day out with the Clams and some good birds seen!

ATB - Olly Clam.

Sunday 6 January 2013

3 Clams on an Outage - Hampshire January 5th 2013

Off early doors down to Hampshire, arriving at Farlington Marshes in drizzle and murk. Year ticking began as the light improved - brents, shelduck, little egret, waders and a stonechat. Tom, Ollie and I [Captain] walked around the long sea wall perimeter but couldn't find the regular red-breasted goose here.

                                                 Farlington Marshes , looking over to Hayling.

I met the warden whose name escapes me as he towered a foot higher than I. He told us of the bird's favourite haunt at Tangier Field nearby. We soon found it and Ollie was heard to shout those wonderful birder's words, "I've got it!"
Red-breasted goose UTB and a lifer for Tom.

Breakfast/lunch for all and then 2 loaves of bread to entice the ring-billed gull at Gosport. It remained unenticed so we went down to the nearby creek to see if it was there. It wasn't but 4 Med' gulls were. Met Martin from Milton Keynes who we'd last met at last year's short-billed dowitcher at Lodmoor.
We were walking back to the car when it was to be my turn to shout those same words. Ring-billed gull on the causeway; here for it's 12th winter with the original finder there as well.

Off to Lakeside Country Park near Eastleigh and 3 hawfinches easily seen.

Day ended with 63 bird species seen. All happy with good quality birds, company and food. Shame Malteser Man wasn't with us. Get well soon mate!

Wednesday 2 January 2013


Tuesday 1st January 2012.

Got up at 9am and the sun was out so I thought I'd better get out and start the year list off. Captain Clam was out already so I sent a text out to Tom & Bart, no reply from Tom but Bart called me saying that he was already out with his Farther in law and he was currently looking at a Long Tailed Duck on Lea Marston Lakes, so I arranged to meet him there in 30mins.

Arrived at the Lakes and located Bart and soon got onto the Long Tailed Duck, great! On the same lake we also had a Female Greater Scaup. There were also good numbers of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard , Coot, Great Creasted Grebe , the usuall Wildfowl.

Next on the agenda was reports of Waxwing about 2 miles away so we packed up and set off. Five minuets later and after a short walk Two Waxwings were on the list!

                                                       Waxwing taken with my Phone.

We watched the birds for ten mins or so at close range, showing dog walkers the birds as they passed by. As time was against us we pressed on to the next bird, a Great Northern Diver at Shustoke Lake.

At Shustoke now we scanned across the lake and soon picked up the Diver over on the far side of the lake, another good bird for the Midlands and the Year List. Now on the way over to Shustoke my pager rang out saying that there had been a Firecrest seen at Coleshill , how lucky can we be as it's only 15 minuets away! So off we went!

Parked up at Coleshill Parkway and walked down to a small group of Birders gathered around. Met up with Dave Hutton ( Who found the bird) said that it hadn't been seen for about an hour so we started scanning through the small trees in the area. At least 5 Chiffchaffs here , Long Tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Redpoll, then after about half an hour searching a small Crest flew into the tree in front of us , Boom ! Fircrest ! What a stunner. The bird showed well for about five mins then flew out of view.

                                               Picture Courtesy of Dave Hutton (Finder).

We said our goodbyes and headed to ladywalk Reserve which is only a couple of miles away. On arrival we met up with Martyn Yapp, who said that he had seen a possible Siberian Chiffchaff , so we started checking the area . Then it called , very similar to a Bull Finch call, a few mins passed and then the bird flew up into view very briefly then flew arcross the river. A very pale bird indeed but that all we could get on it! Martyn had got some photos earlier which showed very pale edge's to the Tertials which formed a pale pannel to the wing, but with the call bang on a very good contender for Siberian. Nice one Martyn.

Now with the light starting to fade we headed off to Chasewater for the Gull roost. On arrival the roost was very impressive, large numbers of Herring , Lesser B Back , Greater B Back, Black Headed Gulls. We scanned through the gull untill dark, We had no joy with seeing any White Wingers, but we had 3 Adult Yellow Legged and a 2nd Winter Caspian. Fantastic Day ! with the Firecrest being the star!

Total number of species for the day - 59 , not bad at all !

Clam On - Olly Clam.

Monday 24 December 2012


                                                  HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !!

Thursday 20 December 2012


Wednesday 19th December 2012.

At work today I was out and about visiting Clients dropping off Xmas goodies. On my way back to the office I thought that I would drop into Stubbers Green near Aldrige, Walsall , as its small pools are along side the main road and easily viewed. I was hoping for a Caspian Gull as I STILL need it for the year.

I set up my scope and started scaning through the 100+ Gulls gathered on the grass by the small pool. Plenty of Herring Gulls , Lesser Black Backed, 12 Great Black Gulls , Common & Black Headed Gulls, but no Caspian !

Had another scan just incase I had missed anything , then from behind a Herring Gull appeared a white winger , Iceland Gull , full Adult , NICE !

Sorry couldn't get a good photo.

Well that was well worth stopping for! With work calling I packed up and headed back to the office.

ATB - Olly Clam.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


Sunday 9th December 2012

Yet another cold morning but the sun was out so I set out to have a look over Essington Quarry Pool as last week the Wildfoul numbers were very good

Parked up by the Pig Farm looking up at the wires overhead where it only seems five minuets since they had Swallows on them, I walked down past the orchard good numbers of  Blackbird , 33 counted , House Sparrows, 2 Mistle Thrush , but not a lot else very quiet.

On approaching the pool there was about 400+ Woodpigeon feeding on the field so I had a quick scan through, in amongst them was 12 Fieldfare, Carrion Crow, no Golden Plover ! 20 years ago we had large numbers of GP upto 1000 but how things change, never mind let's see whats on the pool.

Arse end view of Little Grebe.

What a change fro last week , bloody dead! 1 Mute Swan, 7 Little Grebe, 5 Tufted Duck and 49 Coot!
My only assumption is that the Wildfoul Shooters must have been up here blasting away ! C**Ts is all I can say about these people, unfortunately for us who watch this pool the owners are bloody shooters! , this would be a really good place to watch if it wasn't for the disturbance!

I continued to walk around the pool for another hour and had a single Buzzard, so I packed up and headed back home.

Angry Olly Clam!!  Keep the Faith - Clam On!!