Revisiting some old pics

Grey-headed Wagtail
Kos, May 2008

Having trawled through some old photos taken when I visited Kos in May 2008, I came across the above shot which I must've clearly overlooked at the time. All of the Yellow Wagtails I encountered during my week trip were Black-headed Wagtails (Motacilla flava feldegg), or so I thought! The above individual clearly fits a migrant Grey-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava thunbergi) - click the photo for an enlarged image. All of this is personally significant as it's the first time I've encountered this race of Yellow Wagtail. The moral of the story - make sure you check any photos you've taken very carefully!

Close to home

With plenty of snow & ice on the ground I decided not to venture far, covering the area between Cleethorpes Leisure Centre to Tetney Marshes along with Tony Housman & Ian Shepherd. Weatherwise it was sunny and clear but bitterly cold. I was pleasantly surprised at the list we built up so close to home. Notable birds seen were: 4 Little Egret, 4 Whooper Swan, 40 Pink-footed Geese, 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 60 Common Scoter, Merlin, Ruff, 8 Snipe, Barn Owl, adult Med Gull, Kingfisher, Stonechat, Brambling & Bullfinch.

Adult Med Gull
Med Gulls have been particularly hard to come by this winter - normally at least a couple of birds are present in the Cleethorpes area

Scene from Svalbard? Nah...its Cleethorpes Boating Lake where the feral Barnacle flock now numbers 40+. They successfully raised young this year (believed to have been born on the boating lake islands - well, there isn't exactly much arctic tundra around these parts is there?). Also note the dodgy hybrid goose - a poss Barnacle x Ross's?

Winter sunrise

Tetney Marshes doing it's best to look like arctic tundra

19/12/09 - An old friend returns....

Having heard great news that the Canadian-ringed Turnstone had returned to Cleethorpes for yet another winter (seen by Bill Brooking 12/11/09), I was pleased to catch up with the bird for the 3rd successive winter at North Cleethorpes (Bill had seen the bird at the southern end).
Nothing else of note seen except for a Peregrine that went through and caused the inevitable panic amongst the waders.

Colour-ringed Turnstone back for at least it's 3rd successive winter. This individual was ringed at Alert, Ellesmere Island, Canada. Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world, being only 508 miles from the North Pole.

Tourists don't exactly flock to Cleethorpes in winter

Covenham Reservoir

First chance I'd had to visit Covenham to take in the two juvenile Great Northern Divers present there and both gave close views, often next to each other. A confiding Water Pipit was in the SW corner. Also present: 85 Pinkfeet through, a pair of Pintail, single Scaup, Common Buzzard showing well perched in a nearby tree, Green Sandpiper & 3 Grey Wagtails.

Horseshoe to Seal City 6/12/09

I need to shed a few pounds (no comments!) so decided to walk from Horseshoe and on to the patch as far as the Seal Mecca at Donna Nook. The weather was sunny but a moderate SW didnt help. Highlights were: 3 Pale-bellied Brents, 1 Peregrine, at least 1 Merlin, 2 Barn Owl, 102 Twite & a Lapland Bunting. A passerine that flew past giving the impression of hardly any tail had me thinking Woodlark but after working my way through a waterlogged field in walking boots and thus getting my feet and legs well and truly soaked, I managed to conclude it was just a tail-less Reed Bunting!
Sight of the day was watching a Merlin persistently trying to catch a small passerine, then out of nowhere a Peregrine appeared and had a brief swoop at the passerine. In the mayhem that ensued the passerine escaped and the Merlin, no doubt unhappy at the intervention of the Peregrine, went chasing the considerably larger raptor off it's patch - feisty little characters those Merlins!

The entrance to Donna Nook car park.
The pictures above & below show the reasons why I generally don't visit my patch in winter

How much for a seal burger?

As the sun goes down so the temperature plummets on the coast


With heavy, thundery showers this am, I only ventured our for 4hrs in the afternoon to Tetney when it felt like another day with clear skies, sunshine & mild temperatures. A handsome drake Goosander on the lock was the star bird. Other highlights were more typical coastal winter fare - 3 Whooper Swan, 21 Pink-footed Geese, 2 Pale-bellied Brents with 473 Dark-bellied, Peregrine, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, 4 Lapland Buntings & finally a pair of Bullfinches next to the chapel. A wasp that wouldn't leave me alone was the only remnant of summer. The Short-eared was actually my 1st of the autumn and only got up at virtually last light, gaining some serious height and was last seen heading towards Humberston Yacht Club - actively migrating?

Covenham Reservoir

With strong winds I thought Covenham was worth a visit today. A good selection of duck present with the best bird being the drake Red-crested Pochard that has been in the area for sometime now. Other highlights: 15 Goldeneye, 6 Wigeon, 5 Teal were noteworthy for here, 9 Redshank, single Dunlin and a high count of 161 Cormorant. Great-crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard all on the res as well.


With strong to gale force southerlies and frequent persistent showers, I decided not to venture far today. Checked N Cleethorpes first to see if a Purple Sandpiper had come back to winter but no joy. Only bird of real note in the difficult conditions was the female Scaup still present on the boating lake in the company of 16 Tufted Duck. 3 Pochard were also on the lake.


Pochard - smart duck

Greater White-fronted Goose or hybrid (with Greylag Goose left)

(click for larger image)
I think the council are aiming a little too high with the bird species they are hoping to attract to the boating lake, especially considering the size of the reedbeds (see below). I also don't fancy your chances of seeing the damselfly they have chosen to picture.

Shorelark surprise

Hit the coast with Tony Housman & Ian Shepherd today. On approaching Thoresby Bridge we picked up 3 Whooper Swans with 24 Mutes and then moved on to Trusthorpe to have a go at a seawatch in the (admittedly light) NE's. The sea was quiet and we gave up after just over an hour, totals were: 3 Red-throated Diver, 15 Gannet, 1 Pink-footed Goose south, 7 Eider, 12 Common Scoter, 4 Wigeon, 10 Teal & a Guillemot on the tide edge.
3 Bearded Tit were seen at Huttoft Pit along with 7 Whooper Swan on fields N of the pit. No sign of the Huttoft Cetti's.
We decided to finish the day at Brickyard Lane were there had been a flock of Snow Buntings hanging around. Having just got onto the beach I clocked a small group of birds crouched feeding with my bins, putting the scope on them expecting them to be Snow Bunts, a few expletives came out of my mouth as I realised I was looking at 5 Shorelarks! Seeing these reminded of some great winters gone by when I saw regular flocks in the Donna Nook area (including a flock of 90 birds at Pyes some 10 years ago. Sadly this species has been very scarce along the coast since, with these being my 1st since a single bird at Freiston in 2006. Let's hope this winter is a better one for them. We also saw 25 Snow Bunting & 10 Twite in the area to complete a very productive trip to the Brickyard Lane area.

Some absolutely dire record digiscoped shots of one of the birds

Kirkby Pits 7/11/09

Yet another dip, this time for the drake Ring necked Duck (which had been there for over a week up to and including the previous day). No Caspian or Yellow-legged Gulls on the tip. Highlights were 150 Pinkfeet south, 9 Egyptian Geese, 3 Common Buzzard, Green Sandpiper, Green Woodpecker & Grey Wagtail.

Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull & Carrion Crow give a doll the eye

Practising with the Swaro AT80 HD and Panasonic DMC LX3.
I was quite pleased with this digiscoped shot of this 1st winter Herring Gull on the tip, taken at some serious distance. It's good enough to ID the bird & I should be able to get a record shot if I come across anything scarcer on the tip.

Great Mullein

The big dip in County Durham

Setting off at 4.50am, I made the 300 mile round trip with Alan Daws & Steve Routledge to South Shields, County Durham to see the 1st Eastern Crowned Warbler for the UK - shame we weren't to know the bird had cleared off during the night. Welcome to the world of twitching, some you win and some you lose. 3 Redpoll & a Tree Pipit were the only birds we saw there. We did have better luck twitching the drake Blue-winged Teal at Port Clarence Pools - a long awaited UK tick for me. A Peregrine played with the local corvids and 2 Little Egrets were also there.

We weren't the only ones who stared at Eastern Crowned Warbler-less bushes

South Shields

I guess she's new to birding

Alan "Sheepie" Daws (with Steve in the background looking in vain for the eastern gem)

Those little gems - Firecrest & the Seven-striped Sprite

With rain in the night and winds remaining SE, hopes were high that some good birds would have made landfall along the coast. For once I gave the Donna Nook/Pyes area a miss and concentrated on the Sea View & Saltfleet areas. Today highlighted how birding can be a hobby of ups & downs. The morning was poor. I dipped on a Firecrest that had been showing 20 mins previously and then a Shorelark that flew off when I was within 5 mins of it. After covering plenty of ground, birds of note at this point were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Redpoll & 3 Brambling. In the afternoon it was onto Toby's Hill and a calling Chiffchaff was soon picked up, from then on the day got better & better - a calling Firecrest was soon pinned down & soon revealed a 2nd bird with it - what stunning birds, especially when one raised it's crest to show how the bird gets its name. Then news of a Pallas's Warbler at a private site (where I had access) in Humberston eventually had me on my way back up the coast. After a worrying spell when it seemed like the "Seven-striped Sprite" had moved on, the bird gave itself up and gave some great views. A Grey Wagtail & House Martin were also noted at Humberston.

Donna Nook/Pyes Hall 20/10/09

Walked from the car park to Pyes but didn't stay long as it soon became clear that the strong SE wind hadn't brought anything in. A Pale-bellied Brent was the best on offer in the company of 240 of it's Dark-bellied relatives. Peregrine, Merlin & 5 Pintails also seen.


A Barn Owl was between Conisholme & North Somercotes at first light.
Between Donna Nook RAF base & Pyes Hall: Yellow-browed Warbler at Pyes, 12 Whooper Swan through, 250+ Brents out on the mudflats, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Merlin, Whimbrel, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, 2 Chiffchaff, single Goldcrest, 2 Brambling & a flyover Twite.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Sea View along with a Merlin & 2 Redpolls in off.
A Peregrine tried to catch a Redshank off Sea Lane, Saltfleet, but eventually gave up the chase.
The annual seal circus began today with the car park full by dinner and the burger van back for business - a reminder that the time is fast approaching when I look for somewhere quieter to bird, as the hordes of seal worshippers descend on Donna Nook.

Noon Flies (Mesembrina meridiana) basking in the sun at Sea View

Donna Nook/Pyes Hall

I was unable to get out yesterday when there was clearly an arrival of thrushes, Yellow-browed Warblers & Firecrests, so today I was on the patch for first light. 2 Yellow-browed Warblers & a Black Redstart were the top birds of the day. Also seen: 11 Whooper Swan & 120 Pinkfeet went south at exactly the same time either side of me, 24 Little Egret, 55+ Brent Geese, Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Grey Wagtail, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 2 Brambling, Snow Bunting as well as a few Redwings & Song Thrushes dotted about.
No Firecrests were reported in the area today.
Nearly forgot, I had a Barn Owl close to Tetney village at first light this morning.

Horseshoe Point to Pyes Hall

Walked from Horseshoe to Pyes today. The winds were westerly which meant nothing in the bushes but there was a good showing of raptors with 2 Common Buzzards together, 2 Marsh Harrier (inc one that gained height & drifted south), Peregrine & Merlin. 72 Pinkfeet went through & 6 Brents headed upriver. Also seen: Greenshank, Whimbrel, Kingfisher, Stonechat & a Siskin through. A weasel showed well in Horseshoe Car Park & several Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing today.

Mablethorpe Seawatch

With moderate NW's forecast for one day, myself, Tony Housman, Adrian Royle & Ian Shepherd all descended on Mablethorpe & stared at the sea for a total of 6 hours. Star bird was an adult Glaucous Gull (my earliest ever) that drifted south with Herring & Great Black-backed Gulls. Also seen were: 3 Pomarine Skua, 1 Great Skua, 14 Arctic Skua, 14 Manx Shearwater, 35+ Red-throated Diver, 191 Pinkfeet, 12 Brent Geese, 93 Common Scoter, 10 Wigeon, 22 Teal, 3 Shelduck, Peregrine, plenty of auks & Gannets, as well as good numbers of Sandwich Terns heading north with at least 5 Common Tern. A Common Snipe, 28 pipits & 3 Skylark came in off.

Donna Nook/Pyes Hall 30/9/09

140 Pinkfeet, Whimbrel, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kingfisher, Redstart & 5 Wheatears were on the patch today.
It's not often I see the RAF practising their bombing runs at Donna Nook as this is done on weekdays when normally I'm at work, so I couldn't resist having my first ever go at photographing a plane...

Harrier GR.9 from 41 (R) Squadron, based at Coningsby, Lincs

bombs away!

Common Darter - these & the Small Copper below are still on the wing in good numbers in more sheltered spots.

Sea View

Gave Sea View some stick for a few hours. Skeins of 18 & 70 Pinkfeet through, 2 Peregrine, single Redstart, Reed Warbler & a Grey Wagtail over - a poor return, but then it was far from ideal conditions with light westerlies on a clear sunny day (but nice weather to be out in all the same).
Plenty of Migrant Hawkers & Common Darters also enjoying the warm sunshine today.


Put plenty of effort in today covering Stonebridge to Pyes, Sea View & Rimac to Churchill Lane but with not much reward. 107 Pinkfeet south, 2 Greenshank, Common Buzzard, Merlin, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Stonechat, 3 Whinchat, 5 Redstart, 3 Chiffchaff & a Lesser Whitethroat were the best of the day. 160 Linnets at Pyes was a good count. A possible Icky was seen briefly by fellow birders at Sea View but soon disappeared. Interesting by their absence, I didn't come across a single Whitethroat or Willow Warbler today.

Not often you see high tides as big as this on the patch - looking north & south from Stonebridge

12 things that will happen along the Lincs coast this autumn

1. You will have a skulky LBJ that won't give itself up, you jus't cant make much out on it, an eternity passes by & finally, to your utter frustration, you realise it's just a...

...Garden Warbler

2. Someone will claim a Little Bunting and no-one else will see it.
3. A flyover Red-throated Pipit will be claimed on call but never even heard again, never mind seen on the ground.
4. 1000's of turdidae will pour in off the sea and through Lincs but no rare thrush will be found.
5. You will have another skulky bird that just won't give itself up, you spend ages on it only to eventually find its just one of these...

6. This will turn up on Seacroft golf course at Skeggy...

7. The winds will be howling westerlies on the week you have booked off work.
8. One of those dull, boring, possible eastern-type Lesser Whitethroats will be claimed by someone, somewhere.
9. A quality Sibe will be found on your patch the day after you've worked it.
10. The "Tasty Treats" burger van at Donna Nook will start to once again make a killing.
11. Hardly any Bluethroats will turn up & old school birders will recollect days when they were a common sight in autumn.
12. Another autumn will pass by without me adding this to my Lincs List...

Stonebridge to Pyes Hall

In contrast to yesterday when the weather was sunny & warm with light winds, today was dull with a strong, chilly N - NE breeze. Unfortunately it soon became clear that nothing had come in on the winds, what few birds there were kept a low profile. Best I could manage on the Stonebridge to Pyes stretch was a single Pink-footed Goose (my 1st of the autumn), 1 Greenshank, 1 Chiffchaff & 2 Lesser Whitethroat.
In the next 2 months Donna Nook/Pyes should come into its own & show why it is one of Lincolnshire's top migrant hotspots & weather forecasts show Tues & Wed could see the first goodies of the autumn making landfall.

Barred Warbler

Plenty of birder coverage on the coast today. Donna Nook & Pyes were generally very quiet with nothing of note being caught in the nets north of the RAF base nor at Quad 3. I managed only a Tree Pipit, Whinchat & a Kingfisher. A Pied Fly had been seen at Pyes.
I dropped back onto Horseshoe to take in the Barred Warbler found by Dave Bradbeer & Steve Meek. The bird proved to be a typical Barred - very skulky! I saw the bird briefly perched but otherwise I only had several flight views. The bird never called. This was my 5th Barred & my first since the very late Covenham bird back in Dec 2004. 2 Marsh Harriers were also seen from Horseshoe & a Whimbrel heard.


Had a look at Cleethorpes after work this evening. An adult & 1st-winter Med Gull were present, the latter bearing a green ring, the code couldn't be read but the bird was ringed in either Belgium or France. 174 Common Scoters went upriver while only 6 Common Tern & 2 Sandwich Tern were noted.

The King finally pays a visit to Lincs

Having heard stories of strange folk in the deepest, darkest south of the county including the one about brothers & sisters being far closer than they should be, I had successfully managed to resist visiting the area so far this year. However, when an eclipse drake King Eider (a 1st for Lincs) had been found the previous evening & was still there today, my resistance finally crumbled. The eider was never close but close enough to see the diagnostic orange bill with swelling at the base. The bird also showed a whitish breastband & small white patches could be seen on the forewings. It only loosely associated with the Common Eiders, always keeping a little distance from any of this species. It is in heavy moult and appears unable to fly.
Also seen: 3 Marsh Harriers, Peregrine, Merlin, Barn Owl, 5 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, 10 Little Tern, 4 Wheatear & 35 Yellow Wagtail. Finally, a remarkable 240 Little Egrets roosted - the most Little Egrets I've ever seen in one place.
This brings my half-hearted Lincs list to 292, not bad considering I work Mon to Fri, 9 to 5 + I've missed birds like Collared Pratincole & White Stork because I quite simply couldn't be arsed to make the trips at the time.

On arriving in the Lincolnshire fens, the locals started coming out to greet me.
The chap below was particularly keen...

Dark-bellied Brent Goose - my 1st of the autumn

The most remote bird hide in Lincs?

The Boston fleet return up the River Witham

Black-tailed Godwit (race islandica) - wonder what movements this colour-ringed bird has made

Finally, a big thanks to Six Fingers Steve for giving me directions when I got a bit lost...

Covenham Reservoir

Moderate SW's with rain this evening meant that taking cover at Covenham Res Watersports Club was the sensible option. An adult Yellow-legged Gull & 8 Black Terns were the star birds. 1 Common Tern, 2 Common Sandpiper, a flyover Little Egret, 1 Swift & 1 Yellow Wagtail were the other noteworthy birds.

Stonebridge to Pyes Hall 31/8/09

Strong SW's again! An Osprey was out on the humber to mid pm at least, a Marsh Harrier came in off while another was over Grainthorpe Marsh. 2 Greenshank were down the haven at Pyes. 3 Wheatears & a Swift in off were also logged.

Donna Nook 30/8/09

Moderate to strong SW's didnt bode well for there being much in the bushes and that proved to be the case. Walking south from Stonebridge to Quad 3, I only managed 2 Whitethroats, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers & a Spotted Flycatcher. 6 Wheatears were on the saltmarsh. 2 Marsh Harriers were soaring in the distance above Grainthorpe Marsh.
I then joined Graham Catley and Neil Drinkall out on the tide edge for 3 hrs until the rain came down to add to the strong winds and we called it a day. In that time c4,000 Common Terns arrived from the SE but bizzarely heading up river rather than south. What few Sandwich Terns there were all went south. Also seen: a few Gannet heading upriver, 1 Fulmar, 1 Arctic Tern, 7 Black Tern, 1 summer plumaged Red-throated Diver, 10 Common Scoter, 4 Teal, 1 Whimbrel & the surprise of the night - an early juv Purple Sandpiper which landed very close to where we was standing - click here for a photo of the bird on Graham's Blog.

I think this Whitethroat has seen better days

Little Egret - more common than Grey Heron along the Lincs coast these days

Redshank - sentinel of the marshes

Pied Fly

With brief SE's forecast in the night I took a 3hr walk this pm from Stonebridge car park to the southern end of Donna Nook (Quad 3). It was generally quiet, though a Pied Flycatcher was picked up calling and then showed in sycamores at the RAF base. Apart from a flyover Yellow Wag & 4 flushed Snipe there was nothing else of note.

British Birdwatching Fair

Made the annual pilgrimage to the British Birdwatching Fair today. I invested in a few books but undoubtedly the most useful item I got was a free chart showing how to identify a Slender-billed Curlew, just in case one day one of those Lincolnshire Curlews looks a bit odd.
Birdwise, I did manage to see 2 Ospreys (including one low over our car park), Green Sandpiper, 3 Ruff, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, Common Tern & Yellow Wagtail.

Although Ospreys are without doubt cracking birds, the bird I had really hoped to see at the fair today didn't show...

Bird fair no-show

Cleethorpes 19/08/09

The high tide at Cleethorpes this evening was quite disappointing. Only 24 terns in total - 23 Common & a solitary Sandwich. A Med Gull moulting from juvenile to 1st winter plumage & juv Marsh Harrier in off from Spurn were the best birds. 2 Little Egret, 22 Curlew, 220 Redshank & a single Yellow Wagtail were also noted.

Horseshoe Point

Did the high tide roost at Horseshoe this evening. 1000+ Common Tern with c200 Sandwich Tern there. Bizarrely I couldn't pick out a single Med amongst the throngs of gulls. A Spoonbill flew over the marsh briefly before disappearing down a creek. A Little Stint was with a 50-strong mixed flock of Dunlin & Ringed Plover. Also seen: 2 Marsh Harrier, 7 Greenshank, 10+ Whimbrel, 2 pale-phase Arctic Skuas & a Corn Bunting (the latter singing in the same area as 5/8).

Back to the patch

It was dead for wildlife at Pyes Hall today
Can anyone put a name to this? If so, they seriously need to get out more.

Back on the patch today after a 2 month absence. Late June to mid-August is generally quiet at Donna Nook/Pyes, but from mid-August the 1st Pied Flys & Redstarts of the autumn will start moving through, with the chance of a rarity in amongst them (Red-backed Shrike, Greenish & Icterine Warblers etc). Still early, I didn't expect much today. 2 Marsh Harriers were over Grainthorpe Marsh, 4 Greenshank were down the haven at Pyes along with 2 Common Sands. 2+ Whimbrel, 2 Yellow Wags & a Kingfisher also noted. There were signs of some passerine migration with 2 Willow Warblers calling in the bushes.
Went to Paradise to check for waders and found 5 Common Sands there with a further 10 down Saltfleet Haven. Greenshank & 3 Whimbrel also seen at the haven.

Horseshoe Point

Had a look off Horseshoe this evening where the main highlight was the number of Common Terns present - 1160 in total with regular groups of birds ranging from 30 - 90 birds gaining height & heading high inland. 250 Sandwich Tern were also present. 3 adult Med Gulls were in the roost & waders for the night were: Green Sandpiper, Greenshank & 6 Whimbrel. My first Merlin of the autumn was on the marsh. Hirundines were moving south with a mixed martin flock of 50 birds & a 30-strong flock of Swallows through. A Corn Bunting was singing next to the airfield.

Covenham Reservoir

I had planned to check waders off Horseshoe but with persistent rain I opted for the cover of Covenham instead. Wader highlights were 5 Common Sandpipers & 2 Green Sandpipers. 2 Common Terns had been forced down by the weather but soon departed when there was a break in the rain. 2 adult Med Gulls were logged as the gulls stopped en route to their evening roosts on the coast. Plenty of Swifts & hirundines were also feeding low over the reservoir. The only passerine of note was a solitary Yellow Wagtail.

Cleethorpes 22/07/09

Checked the evening high tide roost & in between heavy showers results were: 2 Little Egret, 15 Common Scoter offshore, 4 Little Ringed Plover, 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Whimbrel, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, 60 Common Tern & 7 Sandwich Tern

Scotland - the final chapter

The Swamp Thing
You can just make out how deep I sunk by the swamp line below the water bottle

Northern Spinach

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Another Red Cyril

Green Tiger Beetle

Who says all moths are dull & boring? - introducing the Garden Tiger Moth

all pics courtesy of Dave Wright