Autumn is coming to a close

...and now sets in the arduous task of birding through the winter. Someone genuinely said this to me the other day, I asked if he was stupid, though fortunately he thought I was being sarcastic. I love winter birding... and with that in mind.

Autumn is dropping off at a slow pace, reaching it's gasp in to winter and if you believe the express we'll probably be in a new ice age by December. I must admit it's been a rather extraordinary Autumn, I've now experienced my first as an assistant warden, essentially birding everyday and it's gone from the truly sublime to the ridiculous, pardon the cliche but who'd have thought, a Radde's Warbler in Andover! So, the Autumn... I guess it's a case of highlights in pictures, most things have been written about, especially the night of October 1st. That was a very special night and will live with me forever, so good in fact that reliving that night for this post brought a tear to my eye just thinking about the excitement I was able to share with some of my best friends.

There were more birds, more finds, probably more pictures but this outlines just how good my autumn has been!

Dusky Warbler

Icterine Warbler

Melodious Warbler

Radde's Warbler

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Common Rosefinch

Sabine's Gull

 Semipalmated Sandpiper

 Spotted Crake

Undoubted Highlight - Thrush Nightingale

Short-toed Lark


Yellow-browed Warbler

Part of 180 Balearic Shearwaters in an hour

Richard's Pipit

Little Gulls with a Big record...

This morning dawned with an air of anticipation, the overnight rain was starting to abate and the first few hardy thrushes began to rise from their soggy roost. It was obvious from the outset we'd had an arrival of Blackbirds, appearing from the top of nearly every high bush, Redwing were fairly numerous too, their "seepings" a nice accompaniment to the morning. 2 hours in the field didn't really produce much more than a better idea of numbers, a walk along the east cliff in the hope of a rare Wheatear was also fruitless, the weather, improving all the time finally had cleared enough to see more than 100m, scanning the sea revealed a rather unexpected Great Skua, then another, and another followed closely by a Pom! I relayed this back to the obs where seawatching had begun with the increased visibility moments before, quite a large number of Kitts were moving westward, what i didn't notice was the numbers of Little Gull beginning to stream by (I wasn't being blind, just fixated on finding a rare passerine!) I finished the walk and returned to the obs. Some really large flocks of Little Gull had moved through, as had quite a few more Great Skua, another Pom and Several Arctics. Determined not to be gripped off Top fields were my next port of call, 35 Song Thrush, 8 Redwing, 3 Fieldfare and 22 Blackbird greeted me in Helen's Fields, A Golden Plover was grounded here too and the highlight, a Corn Bunting, flew from under my feet! Still reeling over the Gulls I continued scanning the sea from the top, 52 Common Scoter, several more Great and Arctic Skua were seen so I had to go back and seawatch for a bit. Taking over the "incoming" position from Martin who'd gone to the bill to photograph the passing birds I was immediately able to call a flock of 32 Little Gull, and then what seemed like and endless stream of 117! It continued in this vain until the weather closed again and visibility was limited. Our lunchtime tally stood at 1001, and with a Little Auk being found in Chesil cove we decided to leave just one person counting. A bit of jam used up and we were very fortunate to see the Little Auk as within a few moments of our arrival it flew off! We ended the day with a massive sense of achievement, the previous Bill record for Little Gull stood at a few over 100, so with today's count of 1138 it took a serious battering!

"Eastern" Lesser Whitethroat

Shortly after discovering yet another Yellow-browed Warbler yesterday at Avalanche Road, I was also lucky enough to find an "Eastern" Lesser Whitethroat, though if I'm honest my knowledge is very limited when it comes to the curruca subspecies, although a portrait of the bird was posted on the the PBO website, i've uploaded here a larger selection of images, showing a bit more detail. Unfortunately the bird was never heard to call, however, if it is still present today we will persevere with recording equipment.