near miss

It seemed that Friday was a good day for a seawatch.   I mean, a Fea’s Petrel flew past the evening before.  How good does it need to get? What with the patch being by the sea, it seemed a good idea to then proceed to sea and watch it.  Getting ready for ‘the big one’.  The patch tick of patch ticks.  A rare seabird.  Lets go!

The first Brents of the winter, some Wigeon, some Scoters.  No shearwaters, certainly not any Cory’s.  Or Gannets.  Some gulls.  No skuas. Some terns.  Hmmm.  But then!   Hang on one a second there is a small dark bird with a white rump flying almost on the waves!!! Bloody hell!  It couldn’t be could it?  Where has it gone?  Find it find it!  Oh, what is that what has gone and landed on that there rock.  Oh, it is a Wheatear. 

Swallow anyone?

a swallow doing not long now


rainy double patch tick whammy

So I went out into the patch and it looked like this.

sky doing just you wait sonny

Understandably, I started getting rained on.  So I retreated to the shelter of a nearby motorised vehicle and by the magic of the internal combustion engine I found myself by an area of scrubland.  Actually it is desolate industrial wasteground, but scrub makes it sound all wild and authentic and everything.  Bored out of my patch mind by the lack of birds to watch I even ended up taking pictures of a bird I don’t like.

a wood pigeon doing rubbish

I muttered, and took the Lords name in vain with reference to the rubbishness of local birds etc.  I mean Wrynecks are stalking local dunes, but not mine.  Greenish Warblers are being found in bushes a mere few miles away, but not here.  All I have is a Wood Pigeon.  And those Sparrows.  And that Blue Tit.  FFS.  Blue Tit?  But that would be a member of an entire family of birds that do not present themselves around here at all.  Have I fallen into the complacency of the common place again?  Yes!  Patch tick! Niiiiice!  Better get the bins out then and look at it properly.  It’s a respect thing.  But hang on, what is that flicky thing that is with the Tit and Sparrows in that rubbish bit of scrub/wasteland.  Oh it seems to look like a warbler.  At 8x magnification it revealed itself to be no less than a Chiffchaff.  Another bleeding patch tick!  Shmokin!

One rain shower for me, two photos for you dear reader, and a rambling post about two patch ticks.  Splendid.

i saw stuff

Yesterday I saw a Swift in the afternoon.  First for a week or so.  At  lunchtime I saw  a juvenile Ringed Plove on the beach.  Nice.  More worryingly, later in the afternoon I noticed that the ‘gull with yellow legs’ is back.  Oh dear..

bus analogies are like buses

I predicted Skua.  If the magic realist patch situation had reared its head again that is what I would be reporting.  It didn’t raise its head, but sort of raised a lazy eyebrow.  Like an amateur Roger Moore or something, so I got a patch tick, but it was a Hobby rather than a Skua, which was nice considering I was trying to seawatch at the time.

So there am I yesterday, wittering on about how Kittiwakes are like buses and then I go back into the patch again today (cos that is what it is about, this patch watching) and lo and behold I get another patch tick!  Which is immensely satisfying Dear Reader.  And then I chuckle to myself about running with the patch tick and bus analogy a bit further for my own amusement and your enduring tedium no doubt.  In another universe, it seems that a blogger who may be known to some of you has made much the same observation in a very similar situation.

There you have it, not only are bird blogs very similar (another topic of ‘discussion’) but the same amusing analogies are independently used to illustrate a similar point.  I’m fairly sure that this is illustrative of very little, but noted nonetheless.

Anyway, the Hobby was chasing a Swift and it was abso-bloody-lutely first class.   You may be hoping for a photo, but from the moment I had it in the bins (close in and being shadowed by a couple of gulls while soaring) until it became a spec in the distance of the optics I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a second. In between this, it had changed from soaring to flat-out in an instant as it chased the almost unchaseable.   Tells you something about the quality of the spectacle I expect.

like buses

Kittiwakes are.  You never thought that before did you?  Well I can assure you that round here it seems that they are.  After a tip-off from a local birder that a juvenile Kittiwake had been seen flying past, I parked my derrier on the beach this morning for little ol’ seawatch.

Started off with a Guillemot feeding quite close in followed by a quintet of Common Scoter flying past – winter ticks  (not year ticks, but the first since before we pretended it was summer).  Then, would you adamandeve it, a bloody juvenile Kittiwake flew past!  And then a couple of minutes later, another juvenile Kittiwake flew past!  Buses you see.  Not having seen them in the patch before, this makes it a patch tick.  But then, another two flew into view!  I was, by this point, talking out loud and saying rude words about buses.

And then I remembered that pointy clicky thingy, and took what we would call a record shot.  Patch tick in the bag.  Skuas next then…


a bus doing patch tick

a post mostly regarding birds

No really, a small update on patch birds.  Common Tern nesting.  However, due to the proximity of lots of hungry LBB chicks and knowing how tasty these gulls find Common Tern chicks, this breeding attempt will fail.  Starlings, post breeding murmuration in situ – 50+ birds and rising.  Goldfinches, Swifts and House Sparrows daily.  Herring Gulls breeding.  Bird X (or was it Y?) has successfully fledged young.  The other night there were four cracking full summer plumaged Meds between the piers in Yarmouth.  Nice. Ringed Plover this morning.  More nice.

The patch list has picked up a couple of ticks, but that might more accurately be a couple that should have been entered already – it’s the complacency of recording the common species situation again.  Subsequently the year list probably needs updating.


There has been talk, or perhaps type, on various internet fora lately regarding the phenomenon known as pan-listing.  For those of you are unfamiliar with this term it is not a listing of pans (whether this is for cooking or otherwise) but another use of the word – pan-listing is the listing of every living thing that you have seen.  Absolutely everything.  Without exception.  What an idiotic admirable task you might think.  Listing everything that you have ever seen (within a Natural History framework of course) in a little book or on some check-sheets or whatever.  Simple eh?  Well the chap that has the most pan-ticks in the UK is at a little over 10,000.  Does that sound a lot to you?  It does to me, especially after I thought I’d put some stuff together to see where I was up to, and once I totted up my list I realised that I have seen bugger all.  Honestly, absolutely bugger all.  I thought that I’d seen a few things –  I like to try and identify the odd insect, or an interesting plant, the odd sea gooseberry here and there so my thinking was that there would be a fair few ticks on my list, but how wrong I was.  Even less than bugger all.

However, not being unfazed so easily I gave the matter some thought and wondered if it would be a practical thing to do.  The theory sounded easy at first; just go around identifying everything and then writing it down in a book.   Easy.  With a little bit of thought it occurred to me exactly what everything actually meant and with a little bit of investigation the numbers started to come in and the size of the task began to dawn on me.  Everything.  Flowers, reptiles, plants, molluscs, trees, birds, mammals, moths, butterflies, flies, beetles, arachnids, crustaceans, fungi, lichen, moss,  etc etc.  Want some numbers?  14,000 + fungi in the UK.  600 + birds, hundreds of spiders, thousands of insects, 2500 moths, and the list goes on.  There are literally tens of thousands of ‘stuff’ to identify, all of which I haven’t got a clue where to start (other than flicking through a book of bugs – got, got, need, got, swap etc).  And to put a specific name to some of them you need to get them under a microscope and piss about with their genitals before you can be sure.  No, really.  The question then raises its head – can I really be bothered with all that?  Joan Collins reportedly said that life is too short to stuff mushrooms.  Well I have come to the conclusion that my life is too short to be dissecting the genitalia of Lepidoptera.  And that is the end of it.  No pan-listing for me. No way.

 But hang on a one Gossypium-picking minute.  Without doubt the journey would be interesting, but the road is like too long and wide, yah?  So what if the pan-listing thing was downsized a bit?  Would it be more sensible then?  Limit it to just Norfolk perhaps?  Still daft, Norfolk is bloody big and there is loads and loads of stuff in it, still a stupidly stupid endeavour.  No Norfolk pan-listing for me.  No way.

But.  Isn’t there always a but?  But, perhaps downsize it a bit more??  What if I put two and two together.  Go for a spot of pan-listing, but limit it to the patch!?!?!  Ooooh – identify and list every single species that can be found in the patch!  Even then it really is a stupid thing to do.  Have you any idea how many different types of grass there are?  Nah, not doing it.  I’ll stick to the birds.  That is plenty.  Small, insignificant, but plenty for me.

Not that easy now though is it?  It’s out of the bag now.  The creation of a bird list brings out the Lister Demon and his evil temptations, but pan-listing brings out the demon, all his little helpers, the demon’s boss and most of the rest of the hordes from listing-demon-central.  The temptation is difficult to resist.  The whole idea has the potential to be a stupid tempt filled crusade.  In fact I would go as far as to say that it is verging on lunacy.  Stupidity.  Folly.  Trying to identify everything in a patch when you don’t know the first thing about botany or zoology, and not much about birds.  Truly, truly stupid.

Bollocks.  I’m in.  Lets get listing!

In the spirit of the insane new quest, here is a picture of a grasshopper (which I have yet to identify).

a grasshopper doing knee high to what?

Not just a picture of a grasshopper anymore is it?  No, it is sitting on some lichen! AAAaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

what bird bloggers do in the summer

If you have been reading bird blogs for a while, you will notice the seasonal changes.  It goes a little something like this.

Autumn – wow! Birds are brilliant and my patch is full of migrants and stuff!  I’ll write about it!  It’s windy!

Winter – wow! Birds are brilliant and my patch is full of winter birds and stuff!  I’ll write about it!  It’s cold!

Spring – wow! Birds are brilliant and my patch is full of migrants and stuff!  I’ll write about it!  The days are getting longer!

Summer – Oh, all the summer birds are breeding and I can’t see them for the trees.  Boring.  Have you seen my butterfly/moth  photos?

For the sake of compliance in my little theory, here is another blue butterfly with a massively overexposed background.  I think it is a female blue one, but it would seem that my bug book is a little sexist and doesn’t  like pictures of certain female butterflies.

butterfly doing girly blue

tick and a bug

Patch tickeroo today, but hardly the most exciting.  While the twitcherati are going mad for a brown job with bits of white on it in Cleveland I am making do with a dozen Canada Geese flying over.

What I need to do is actually spend a bit of time in the patch, and see some more birds.

In the meantime, here is an incredible picture of another Damselfly from my garden.  I think it might be the female version of the one that I had before (Large Red), although I am happy to be corrected.  Either way, nothing exciting outside of the garden but massively important within it.

damselfly doing female

x, y, z

You may be wondering what has been going on in the patch and so, for that matter, have I.  
Not only has my activity been sparse, so has the action when there has been activity.  And then, when there has been action and activity combined, the species in question cannot be named.  Nor can some of my recent birding activities either, so although I’ve done stuff, chuffing on about it on here it is quite the wrong thing to do.  There has been a minor furore amongst the birding community (well, twitchers and photographers to be honest – everyone else is reasonably sane and can see both sides of an argument) regarding Birdguides’ excellent decision to stop uploading pictures of  Schedule 1 breeders, regardless of the context.  Good move I say.  I understand that bloggers shouldn’t be chuffing on about Schedule 1 breeders either, so being a fan of the moral high ground I shall cease to chuff.
So in summary, I recently went to not very secret location X to see bird Y but didn’t see it, and I’ve recently been homing in on bird Z to see if it is breeding.  I have also seen a marked increase in bird A in the patch, which is not surprising really.  I had been hoping to see bird B, but this also has been elusive.
See?  Interesting for me and the county recorder, but for you dear reader – dull as dishwater. 
To counteract this dullness – have a picture of a mammal what I took!  In my garden!  Sitting on a rock! By the pond! For no apparent reason!  At night! 

a hedgehog doing nervous

no surprises

Patch list and year list updated.  As the title says, no surprises within.

Although the Chaffinch was nearly missed.  You know what it is like at the beginning of the birders year, well for those that like to keep a year list anyway.  All the common birds have to be firmly identified, and ticked with all the excitement of the years first Wheatear.  Blue Tits, Wrens, Blackbirds all put in the book with a satisfied tick.  Then as the year goes by, they are relegated to the ‘oh, it’s only an X’ box and largely overlooked.  This kind of attitude nearly cost me a patch tick last week.  I arrived in the patch and the House Sparrows where chipping about the bush that they regularly haunt and just above them a male Chaffinch was frantically pinking away.  Oh, it’s a Chaffinch thought I.  I haven’t seen one of those since I ws in the garden this morning .  And I continued to scan the area for Siberian Rubythroats.  The Chaffinch persisted.  ‘That is a very persistent Chaffinch’ I thought, while the bird continued to pink.  And then the penny dropped.  A quick mental recap on what I have seen in the patch, and blow me down if it wasn’t a patch tick.  Easily overlooked, but pretty uncommon for the patch.  Thery’are, as they say round here.

feeling like a dead duck

And so to the patch. 

Several days of easterlies.  It is May.  That means migration.  The patch is on the coast.

What should this equal?  Birds – and lots of them.  What do I get?  The same Gulls and Pigeons that I always get and four Swallows.  This will not do!  If this does not improve I shall complain.  And then write a letter.  I’m not entirely sure to who, but I shall write it nonetheless!

The only item of interest on the beach today was this.

spitting out pieces of his broken luck



If you are not interested in the finer points of Gull identification, feel free not to read this post.  I won’t mind.  There is no hidden message in this post, no flourish at the end, not even a piss poor pun to reward your dedication at the end of all the discourse on primary feather configuration.

For those that have decided to commit, here goes – it’s like the Yarmouth Pleasure Beach in ornithological form!

The irregular reader will have been aware that a Yellow-legged Gull Larus micahellis had been found in the patch, and that its image had appeared on this here blog.  Not a quality image, but with notes taken the identification was reasonably certain.  I didn’t think that it would hang around, and there is no shortage of gulls around here to aid distraction/confusion.  Nonetheless, it is still knocking about and it is still seemingly paired up with a Herring Gull.  I don’t know who is Martha, who Arthur.  Neither bird is obviously bigger than the other.   But, because it is still around and still paired up, I wondered if the Gull with yellow legs might be a Herring Gull sub-species as this would make the pairing more likely.  Actually I didn’t really but thought that at the very least, it would be interesting to go through the process of making sure. 

I had heard tell of these beasts referred to as omissus.  So, I had a look in the big-scary-gull-book to find out the finer details of this omissus thing, and started with the index.  It isn’t there.  No really.  I read every single word in the index of that book, and omissus isn’t there.   It is on the web, this link for example, but no reference to it in the index of the Gullists bible.  I did eventually find reference to it on page 263.  Omissus is an occasionally used name for birds that populat(ed) the Baltic Sea.  But it’s not that simple.  All round the Baltic States and Southern Finland it turns out that Herring Gulls often have yellow legs, and can have orbital rings and primary tip markings that can confuse the unwary, albeit this is often going hand in hand with a paler mantle.  So rather than carry on with the possibility that I could end up sobbing in the corner with little nuances of the Kodak Grey Scale going around my head, I thought I’d attack it from the other side.  Definitive proof of ‘micahellisness’.

Ready for a picture yet?

yes, I know about the fence


To do carry out this ID quest, of course, requires better pictures.  And pictures of the open wings, nothing else will do.   No gull ID can be 100% these days without decent images of the primaries.

Check it out.

yes, the fence again. I know


So we have a picture of a darker mantled gull with yellow legs and its wings open.  What do we need to see?  It’s  all about P5, innit.  From Malling, Olsen and Larsson –  “unlike typical Herring, black markings solid on P5”  and “Shows extensive black subterminal bar on P5; if present in Herring it is narrower and mainly restricted to outer web”.  Which looks like this.

from the left...

 Also note “white mirror on p10 and small white mirror on P9” which points to western rather than eastern population origin.

So, as far as I know, by the book it is a Yellow-legged Gull, but the P5 on the link at the beginning looks much the same.  Which is stated with confidence as an omissus.  Bollocks, I’ve done what I didn’t want to do and argued myself into a self-created corner.  Based on the P5 argument, one of us has to be wrong – or am I missing something?

I’ll have to get to watch it some more, take more photos and read some more. 

Either way, as I stated previously, it might be about to breed with a Herring Gull.  You thought this post was dull.  Wait until the young start getting in reach of the camera!

made up names

So there I was, perusing the notices on Birdguides to see what was about.  Got.  Got.  Need.  Got.  That kind of thing, when my eyes fell on two words which have left me in an occasional funk of ornithological despair.  Channel Wagtail.  Never ‘eard of it you say.  Nor me.  I’ve been reading field guides of various sizes and quality for over thirty years, and have yet to see reference to such a beast until yesterday.  For your elucidation, here is a screen dump from Birdguides (other news services are available)…

birdguides doing screen dump. is this theft?


Oh, I see now.  It is an intermediate form between two sub-species of a normal bird that has been given a name so it can gain validity and then get put on lists as another tick by desperate List addicts.  In other words it’s been made up.  Nonsense.  I’ll have no truck with that.  If I should see one of those, it will go down in the book as a funny looking Yellow Wagtail.  Channel Wagtail my arse.

I might go and see some Dotterel today.  I might not.

third time lucky?

Well, dear reader, you come here with bated breath.  Your heart rate rising at the possibility that you are a regular visitor to what might possibly be a blog with magic properties (posts passim for newcomers) the likes of which only exist in fiction.  How exciting is this all!


Osprey then.  Big bird, all brown and white and stuff.  Likes fish.  Can be seen in this area on it’s way from Africa to Scotland.  Being seen ‘oop’ north  already.  And in Scotland too.  Has to pass through the south to do that.  Big, white, brown.  Likes to perch on tall things. 

Hey presto and abracadabra!

I give you – Osprey!

You’re not buying it are you?

Nope, nor me.

I knew I should have said Black Redstart…

Yarmouth.  It’s sure purdy ain’ it?

Anyway, enough of all this nonsense, I’ve got a patch to watch.

And I’m off to go and see Sand Martins…