From my notebooks

All my life I have been watching and recording birds. Sadly all the countless pages, pieces of paper and old school exercise books that I kept as a kid have somehow got mislaid during one of my many house moves. However, notebooks that I have slavishly kept for the last 26 years are still around and I thought it might be interesting to delve into them from time to time, to see what I was doing, at about the same time of year, in any one of those past 26 years.

23rd & 25th July 1988

My notes were not always sensible or very thorough I have to admit. Back in those days I still needed Red-rumped Swallow for the UK. There had been, the previous year, a huge influx of them into the UK and I had missed them all. So, when one turned up on Dorset I just had to go.

Needless to say, on the 23rd I dipped, the weather was terrible and I had a bad journey to get there. DNE means Does Not Exist! I tried to get a consolation bird with the Terek Sandpiper. I had seen one the month before in Norfolk so it wasn't a tick. I can't even remember where that was now, and clearly I didn't think it was worth noting at the time! Sadly that too required a DNE in the notebook.

The swallow remained and two days later I went again and this time was successful. My relief I think is evident from the notes; a simple YES presumably accompanied by a punching of the air, and RRSOML to follow. (Red-Rumped Swallow On My List!) The numbers below referred to my list, 381 was my list but I had two pending acceptance by the rarities committee; I was a good boy in those days and stuck to the rules.

The orange mess on the left page is where the double-sided tape on the reverse side of the page, has deteriorated over the years. This has caused many good birding days to become unusable on this blog page. In this case nothing was written behind it so it didn't matter too much. The writing there is the stamp that the photographer, Dave Cottridge, put on the back of the photo that was stuck there showing through. The photo was of a Bridled Tern that I saw at Cwmlyn Bay on the 9th of July.

24th - 26th May 1992:

A rant about ringing rarities here. I had whizzed up to Filey in North Yorkshire twitching a Spectacled Warbler, that had been performing well along the sunny hedgerows, then they trapped it with a view to ringing it. I couldn't see any real reason scientifically for ringing the bird. Whether or not ringing lost birds is a valid pastime or not, the most spectacular cock up occurred; in their excitement the ringers released the bird without actually putting a ring on its leg... priceless!

Inevitably the bird went to ground having been harrassed and handled, and so we latecomers left disgruntled and tickless as a result.

I was also upset to find that an Osprey had been present at Tring for 5 days!
You'll notice that the next day started with a visit to Tring, dipping on not 1, but 2 Ospreys and a Montagu's Harrier! Great start! I heard that the Spectacled Warbler was still present so off I set once again up the M1.

Happily I was successful this time and enjoyed excellent views of the bird in good weather as it performed well once again along the hedgerows, even found the time to do some dodgy drawings of it.

The next day found me bimbling around the North York Moors. But was I happy? Not a bit of it, I discovered that after I left the Spectacled Warbler site a European Bee-eater put in an appearance and there was a Red-footed Falcon also in the vicinity. Bah!

I did however enjoy seeing a glorious Common Redstart male, this picture was taken of me as I watched it. Look at those lovely legs, and all that hair!!!! Sigh!






19th - 20th February 1984:

The Sparrowhawk at the top of the page was seen on the 13th at Little Britain Lake in London. I was down in Rye in Kent, can't remember why we went there, but we didn't seem to see much in any case, moving on we went to Dungeness, this Black-necked Grebe was moulting into summer plumage so was a little more interesting to look at that the usual winter birds.
Some interesting winter duck here, Red-breasted merganser and 10 female Smew, shame there were no drakes, they are such lovely looking birds. It seemed I noted 4 Ruddy Ducks. After the culling I don't expect they'll be featuring quite so much in my current notebooks when I'm in the UK. The Mediterranean and Glaucous Gulls were on the 'patch', the famous warm water outlet by the nuclear power station. The bird of the day though went to the Great Grey Shrike at Stodmarsh. This was a new bird for me, and what a bird it is. The supporting cast there was pretty good too with a female Hen Harrier, Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler which was seen well.
On then to Folkestone for more gulls, another 1st winter Glaucous and no less than 6 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 adults, 2 2nd winters and a 1st winter seen along with Black-headed and Common Gulls.
The next day at Tring I twitched a Shag, to get it on my Hertfordshire list (sad or what?)

4th – 5th February 1984:

undefinedWells car park in Norfolk. There had been a small group of Parrot Crossbills that bred there that year (see note bottom right of the page about 4 young being bred). Also note how small my list was! Three ticks on these pages, Parrot Crossbill, Barnacle Goose (which was probably dodgy in hindsight) and Pink-footed Goose. This really illustrates how little birding I had done away from my landlocked local patch in Hertfordshire at that time. This trip was made in the company of Tony Clark who was delighted at finally getting me into twitching, he had no wheels of his own!
Two more ticks on this page, oh how it was fun birding in those days, everything was a tick! The Red-breasted Goose was great, a really exotic bird in amongst the rather drab Brent Geese, of course these are now split, and the species we saw that day was Dark-bellied Brent Goose. The Snow Goose was another that could be a bit iffy. But at the time everyone treated it as wild, it was partially white and partially in the blue phase.
After ticking off the Snow Goose I got carried away and tried ticking the Lesser canada Goose that was also there, as you can see I saw sense at a later date and changed it.
undefinedOn the way back to Herts. we stopped at Welney and enjoyed the wintering Swans there.
Although, these swans were not a tick, I think this was the first time I realised that the bill was important for telling them apart when size was not useful, for example on a lone bird.











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