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Posted on June 26, 2016 at 12:35 AM









Fri 15th April 2016 (b)

Posted on May 30, 2016 at 5:00 AM

BUBO IN POLAND  -  part 2

After our breakfast we didn't waste any time and headed straight back into Bialowieza Forest. We asked Bogdan to take us somewhere which was good for woodpeckers, as we still had three of our four targets to tick off. So we parked up by the roadside somewhere (haven't a clue where exactly) and headed on down a track through the trees (see photo below). As with any walk through the middle of a forest, birds were not exactly everywhere you looked, but we soon came across a superb Wood Warbler singing from low down, giving stunning views. Usually, I've had to crane my neck up and see singing Wood Warblers up againt the sky, but this was perfect.

The "Woodpecker Walk"

We had walked quite a way down the track when suddenly there was a movement and one of us picked up a Three-toed Woodpecker on the trunk of a tree to our right. I frantically tried to see it through the trees, but I just couldn't get on it at all. Then, quick as a flash, it flew off again, across the track in front of us, and at speed. I managed to see it now but only had poor unsatisfactory flight views. It was identifiable to species but we wanted to see it again of course. Apparently Three-toeds have been difficult to find this year because of the spruce beetle infestation that has been happening. This has caused many of the forest's spruce trees to lose their outer bark, which means that the species has a lot more opportunities for feeding compared to what it usually has. So they are more spread out, rather than concentrated in certain favoured areas.

Wood Anenome Bialowieza

Wood Anenome - millions upon millions of these flowers carpeted the whole forest.

So, of course we headed sideways into the woodland to where we saw the Three-toed fly. We were quite confident of seeing it again as it didn't go far. However, we saw it flush again from low down and fly further away, and that was it - no more sign. It was very disappointing but at least we saw one well enough for the tick, and we knew we would have time to look for more. Whilst searching for this bird we split up a little bit and I was lucky to see two Firecrests moving through the trees, the only ones that were recorded on the whole trip.

We wandered back again along the track and, not too far away, one of the guys picked up a woodpecker high in the trees which appeared to be a Middle Spotted Woodpecker. I managed to get a good look at it high above me and then even better when I moved slightly to the side. As is typical of the species, it seemed to prefer feeding near the top branches of the trees and was usually difficult to see. That was three out of five ticks for me and it wasn't even midday of day one! I suppose that this was my number one tart species since it breeds less than 40 miles from my house, although I've never really had a serious chance of finding one before now.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker - Bialowieza (as can be seen, very difficult to photograph).

With two new woodpeckers for me in just one short walk, I was cock-a-hoop by the time we returned to the car. We had parked next to a fenced-off garden with large trees, and just as I had put my stuff in the boot, I saw something largish fly low across the carpet of anenomes. "I've got a Green-type woodpecker here!" I called out and, of course being in the middle of the forest, it was not really ever going to be a Green Woodpecker. So, after a few seconds of re-finding, we were watching a terrific Grey-headed Woodpecker feeding at the base of the large trees. My third woodpecker tick in just one walk! ker-ching!! It was showing beautifully, on and off, and we soon realised that we had two birds - a male and a female. And as we were watching these, another Middle Spotted Woodpecker flew in and perched on the same tree as the Grey-headed, and I had terrific views of it down the 'scope. We were in woodpecker heaven! I was punching the air.

Grey-headed Woodpecker - Bialowieza Forest

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a brief video of the GHWP (click Youtube link for better size)

This fenced off area where the trees had been deliberately thinned-out by the home owner was a real hot-spot. It shows you that it is often the edges of a forest where the biggest concentration of birds are. As well as the aforementioned woodpeckers, I had the best views of the trip of a couple of Treecreepers by the car. These were of the eastern/northern race and were definitely greyer than british birds, with whiter white bits. At one point I got a little excited and claimed a Collared Flycatcher, but I may have made a mistake with that, as it was quite a way away in the back corner and we couldn't relocate it. But searching for it, we came across a couple of Marsh Tits and also a lovely white-headed Long-tailed Tit. Whilst we were in this corner, one of the Grey-headeds came close to us and I managed to snap a single decent photo (above).

The large fenced-off garden by the roadside.

So we were well ahead with our targets - 5 out of the 6 main objectives achieved. We still needed to find Pygmy Owl, but this was going to be difficult, and also very unlikely in the middle of the day. So we headed to a different part of the forest, slightly to the south, where it was a little bit higher, which was a decent spot for Nutcracker. This slight change in altitude changed the look of the forest as it was drier and more conifer-heavy, more like the forest I am used to in the UK. And it was heavy going, especially with our high levels of fatigue, with very little to look at. We couldn't find any Nutcrackers and we also failed to see Black Woodpeckers - it was quite birdless although we were pleased to find a Camberwell Beauty butterfly flying around the birch trees.

Camberwell Beauty Bialowieza

Camberwell Beauty - the only non-familiar butterfly we noted on the trip.

The last third of the circular walk did produce some decent sightings though. As we rounded a corner, we flushed a Hazel Grouse ahead of us on the track, and creeping round that corner, we saw another one walking along the road ahead of us, albeit quite far away. Although the species is quite numerous in the forest, it is difficult to find, so two sightings in one day was excellent. Also, we had a Willow Tit which was of one of the pale eastern races, plus a few Crested Tits in the conifers.

It had become rather sunny, and upon returning to the car we found out we were more than a little exhausted after a full day in the field on an hour's sleep. So we decided to take a break from birding and head back into the town to get checked in at the hotel and get our feet up for an hour or so. Our hotel was a great little place called Stoczek 1929 and I thoroughly recommend it. In the picture below, the red-roofed building on the left is the restaurant, and the blue cottage on the right is a small 3-room guest house. Great quality for a very cheap price. Parking up the car in the car park there, we had a singing Black Redstart on a roof - quite a common bird in the villages round here.

Bialowieza hotel

Our guest house at Bialowieza - Stoczek 1929

After a rest, we joined up again with Bogdan in the evening, who had been making some phone calls and arranged a owl-hunting session for us with a local guy who does surveying in the forest. So we all met up in a car park by a railway line and followed behind the Poles to our first destination. It was getting quite dusky now and it was very dark under the trees. As we trudged along, suddenly Ian shouts out "Three-toed Woodpecker" and one lands on a tree right in front of us! Right alongside the path! It was incredible views, as we watched it search for food on the tree trunks, and it certainly made up for the poor sighting earlier in the day.

We pushed on until we reached a hole in a tree which was a possible Tengmalm's Owl nest site. We all set up our scopes on the hole ready, and the guy walked up to the trunk of the tree and scratched it with a branch. We were not unduly disturbing any nesting birds since this was how the surveyors check the nest sites are occupied, and they would be doing this anyway as part of their usual surveying methods. If you scratch the trunk, an owl sitting in the nest will pop its head out and look down to see if a predator is climbing up. However, at this hole, nothing appeared.

We walked on through the trees again, to a second hole and we set up our scopes. The guy did the same, scratched the trunk, and immediately a Tengmalm's Owl peered out of the hole! Superb. It looked around for a minute to check we were not about to raid its nest, and when satisfied it was OK, returned into the hole. We couldn't have asked for better views - the bird filled the scope. However, I did not have time to set up my camera on the tripod, so I was unable to get a decent photo. It was too dark for anything hand-held (see below!). I have seen Tengmalm's once before, in Sweden, but those views were very poor, mainly in silhouette, so although this wasn't a tick, it felt like it.

Tengmalm's Owl, Bialowieza - this spectre peering out of the hole is, in fact, a Tengmalm's Owl (honest).

Chuffed with this bonus bird - we never really expected to see Tengmalm's on this trip - we made our way back through the trees. When we reached the surveyor's car, he pulled out a tiny ghettoblaster and played the call of Pygmy Owl into the half-light. We waited and waited on the track, then quick as a flash, this tiny bird flew right past me, from over my right shoulder, and into the tree in front. It couldn't be that easy could it? But I soon found it in my bins and was looking at a Pygmy Owl perched on a branch which was looking at me! It was so small, unbelievably small, even though I knew how small they are, it's ony when you see one you realise. It stayed where it was and I was able to get my scope on it. It then flew back across the path and perched right at the top of a tree. It looked rather odd there, pretending to be a pine cone, before it flew back from where it came.

Pygmy Owl, Bialowieza - I was amazed that I managed to get any pics using the phone through the scope - there was not one of my photos where it was facing in my direction.

And that was that. We'd hit all of our 6 pre-trip priority targets in just the first day - 4 woodpeckers, Pygmy Owl & Bison - we couldn't believe it. There were no realistic lifers that we still had to search for, so we looked forward to a few days of more relaxed birding. Our plan was to have one more day in the Bialowieza Forest area, then a couple of days further north in the marshes.

We returned to the guest house and had our dinner in the restaurant next door. I had vegetables and "dumplings" - which was to become a bit of a theme, since vegetarianism does not seem to be high on the agenda in this corner of Europe. A couple of beers later we were zonked out on our beds with the alarm set for another early start in the morning.

Fri 15th April 2016 (a)

Posted on May 28, 2016 at 12:50 AM


Bialowieza at dawn

The BUBO lads overlooking Bialowieza Forest at dawn.

So, in the late afternoon of Thursday 14th, Andy and I checked in for our flight to Poland. We thumbed our noses at Ryanair's extra charges by sharing our hold luggage and packing our bag right to the limit. As usual, my hand luggage was double-checked by security and they did that test thing for explosives - every single time! - and the guy seemed rather dubious that I was going birdwatching in Poland. But apart from that, everything went smoothly and we touched down at Modlin Airport, Warsaw around 9 30pm. All went smoothly for Ian too on his flight from Glasgow and we greeted him in the terminal. We sorted our car hire at the desk and walked out into the night ready for the adventure ahead - and immediately epic-failed when we couldn't find the car. Almost 20 minutes later we eventually located it and we set off eastwards.

I was happy to sit in the back whilst the other two drove the car - I was barely used to driving in the UK, never mind on the wrong side, abroad and in the dark. Our first mission was to find Bialowieza Forest, about a 3 hour drive away, and I had some printed Google-map sheets to follow, which worked pretty well and we never got totally lost. Although some of the "major" roads we were following suddenly turned into little more than dirt tracks and we wondered whether we were correct, but they always turned back to normal. Our first Polish bird was a White Stork perched up in the headlights. After a difficult drive we finally made it to Bialowieza village at about 2 am.

Of course, with our expected arrival being so late in the night, we didn't book any accommodation for this first night, and since it wasn't going to be light for a couple of hours we found a suitable lay-by and made an attempt to sleep in the car. When I was more flexible, curling up in the back seat for a kip may have been nice and easy, but now into middle age, I struggled somewhat. By ramming my face into the back of the front seat and with my feet resting on the parcel shelf, I think I managed an hour's kip before the first of the sun's rays began to light the horizon. I think it took almost as long to unfold myself and straighten to my full height.

After we sorted ourselves out, we drove to our hotel (for the next 2 nights) where we had arranged to meet Bogdan. We had decided to organise a local guide for our time in Bialowieza Forest, not especially to find the birds for us - cos clearly we are more than capable at that aspect - but to show us where the best places were to look. Hiring a guide was not something I had done before, but we were well aware that birding in large forests can be a nightmare. Even if there are birds there, unless you are in the 'hotspots' you can easily spend hours seeing almost nothing. The hotspots will vary from year to year and so local knowledge is useful, and we had a few target species that we simply had to see. So we decided that it was worth the cash, and Bogdan had superb knowledge and was a good guy, and I thoroughly recommend him if anyone else was thinking about it.

Even though we were pretty tired from very little sleep, we wanted to get out birding as soon as possible, and the first place we checked was some fields on the edge of town where Bison are often seen early in the morning (see photo above). It was all very misty and evocative, and despite no Bison being visible it was a beautiful sight, with the forest looming behind the wet, sweeing fields. We did hear a Cuckoo calling through the dawn.

It was soon light enough to do some proper birding and we headed deep into the forest proper, Andy and I following Ian and Bogdan in his car. We suddenly pulled up at the side of the road and Ian creeped out back towards our car. He pointed sideways into the forest, and 30 yards into the trees stood a brute of a Bison looking at us!

Bison Bialowieza

Bison - Bialowieza Forest

This was great stuff. Apart from the birds, the famous Bialowieza Bison was the main thing we wanted to see here and we saw one straight away. It didn't want to move and spent all of the time just stood there munching on weeds. It had a pretty good shaggy mane and impressive horns, but it was difficult to appreciate the size as it was hidden behind the trees. It was difficult to take any kind of photograph of it as there were twigs in the way and it was so dark still. The above photo is much better than I imagined.

Photography itself was quite difficult on the trip altogether. The birds were often in the dark forests where light was a problem, and of course they were not generally on the first tree in front of you, but a few trees back. Everything in the woods seemed to spook very quickly and it was difficult to get close to the birds before they scarpered. Away from the woods, especially on the marshes, the areas were so vast that it was difficult to get close enough to the birds for good pics. I was pleased I decided to bring my scope as I was using it all the time as a lot of the things we saw were far away. The weather whilst we were there was nearly always cloudy and so light levels, in general, were poor. So, with these problems and our priority being the birding, a lot of the shots in these posts are 'record' type shots. But I did get a few pretty nice ones when conditions were more suitable.

Roadside birding in the forest.

After watching the Bison for a little while, we decided to do some general birding in the immediate area, along the roadsides (as in the above photo). I was surprised by the number of conifers in the woods as I had always assumed Bialowieza was mainly deciduous, but perhaps in the proper reserve this was more the case. One of the most common species in these woods was the Hawfinch and, although most of the sightings were brief and flyovers, I watched a pair along here really close - a superb species. Jays were common and we heard lots and lots of woodpeckers drumming all the time, although we hadn't seen any yet. Bogdan bumped into an old friend here and a short while after they had parted, he phoned Bogdan to tell us that he'd just had a singing Hazel Grouse just down the road from where we were! Obviously, we rushed down that track but it had already disappeared when we got there. Hearing a loud call above us though, we looked up to see a large, dark bird fly across the tops of the trees - a Black Woodpecker. Unfortunately we didn't see it very well, but it was obvious what it was.

We carried on birding for a while, having a few Crested Tits calling in the tree tops, when Bogdan got another call, about a calling Pygmy Owl near where we had parked the car. Again we hurried there at speed, but again there was nothing to be heard. We were chasing shadows at the moment. Along this stretch of track we had a nice Wood Warbler singing in the trees. This was a good sign because, I had presumed that we were going to see very few new migrants, but if the Wood Warblers were in, then we stood a chance at seeing many of the summer birds. The others saw a Goshawk here flying past but I was in the bushes having a pee!

Bialowieza WBWP habitat

White-backed Woodpecker habitat in the swampy areas of the forest.

We moved on to a different part of the forest which Bogdan knew was very good for White-backed Woodpecker. This area was very swampy and looked quite different from the dry woodland we had just left, and we had a Marsh Harrier patrolling an open area behind the trees.

Bialowieza birding 1

WBWP hunting.

We strolled up and down the road, looking and listening for woodpeckers. After a short while we saw a woodpecker fly in and land on a roadside tree. It appeared similar in size to the familiar Great Spot as it flew across, and luckily we could see it on the tree where it landed, and it just clung there. I managed to get the 'scope on it and it was indeed a superb male White-backed Woodpecker. The reason that it was staying there on the tree became evident, when it suddenly popped inside a nesthole. The good views showed all the plumage details as well as the larger size compared to Great Spot, and the bill was noticeably longer and more pointed. After a while it flew out onto a tree which was a bit further away, but with better light.

White-backed Woodpecker, Bialowieza Forest

White-backed Woodpecker Bialowieza2

White-backed Woodpecker, Bialowieza Forest (phonescoped)

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Phonescoped video. (click Youtube link to see in a better size)

Bialowieza birding 2

BUBO lads thrilled with the White-backed Woodpecker, the first tick of the trip!

We didn't have much time to celebrate, since Bogdan got his third call of the morning as his friend was watching a singing male Hazel Grouse! We hurried on up to a different part of the forest - where exactly it was I haven't a clue - and followed Bogdan through the trees. After a while we stopped because we could hear a really high-pitched, 'penny-whistle' song coming from the trees ahead of us - not what I was expecting at all. It sounded more like a passerine song. It then seemed to move away from us a bit and we moved further in.

Bialowieza HazelG habitat

Deep in the forest - Hazel Grouse habitat

I was looking ahead on the ground to try and see this gamebird, then all of a sudden the Hazel Grouse flew over us and landed near the top of a tree - it was singing from high up! We tried to get a view of it and then we saw it really well as it glided through the tops of the trees away from us. I thought that it was going to quickly disappear and was so pleased that we even saw it. However, it didn't carry on, but landed on a high branch ahead of us. I managed to get the scope on it quickly and could see the intricate barring and spots of its plumage, the jet black face and breast, bordered with white, and even the red comb over the eye. I had seen brief Hazel Grouse before in Sweden, but this was a million times a better view. It stayed on the branch for ages although from my position it was partially obscured, but I didn't want to start moving in case it startled. I managed a bit of phone-scoping to get record shots and a video, which was more than I'd ever expect from such an elusive creature.

Hazel Grouse Bialowieza

Hazel Grouse, Bialowieza Forest

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video of Hazel Grouse (click on Youtube button for larger view)


Walking back to the car we were still hearing woodpeckers drumming all the time, mostly Great Spotted Woodpeckers of course. However, nearing the road one was drumming slightly differently, and after a short search we managed to find a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker searching the tops of the trees for food. We had reasonably good views as well. I cannot remember the last time that I'd seen a Lesser Spot.

We were all now rather flagging even though it was still only early morning, so we decided that it was important that we got some breakfast inside of us. We headed back into the village and found a nice place to eat where I scoffed on bread, cheese, eggs and tea - pretty much the same breakfast that I was to have the whole trip. Fully nourished, we headed out into the forest for more birds.

Toothwort Bialowieza

Toothwort - an unusual flower found in the forests

Thu 14th April 2016

Posted on May 5, 2016 at 1:25 PM

A mysteriously quiet first ten days of April on the island with very few species to excite. I managed to add an extra couple of species for the year list but, perhaps I was saving my energy, since I was about to go on my annual birding trip. However, this year I was stepping up from a few measly days plodding round the UK and was about to embark on my first proper foreign birding trip since 1994. Andy, Ian and I were going to the forests and marshes of eastern POLAND!!!

However, a trip starting off in Guernsey isn't totally straightforward. I am always quite paranoid about getting stuck on the island due to the weather, and missing my flights. I literally have nightmares about it if my connections are quite close in time. When I first went to Iceland, with quite a tight turnover time, I spent literally months panicking that I would be stranded. So, to alleviate my concerns, and since it was the Easter holidays from work, I decided to book a flight to the UK a full 48 hours before our flight to Poland was due to leave. Some might say I was a little too cautious but I know it was for the best, as I was totally fine for the preceding few months. So, this meant that I had to occupy myself in the Stansted Airport area for nearly 2 days....

The flight, in the end, had zero delays as the weather was great, and I arrived in the Premier Inn hotel room in Stansted in less than 3 hours since leaving my home - which is pretty impressive. Rather than spend the rest of the evening just hanging round the room, I caught the bus into Bishop's Stortford as I had booked a seat at the cinema to watch "Batman vs Superman". I had planned this sojourn meticulously, and so was mortified to find out, after the film had finished, that the summer bus timetable had started the day before, and I had the old times, and so I was not able to catch a bus back to the airport! So I had to actually pay for a taxi back to the airport - something I hate with a passion! I would rather walk miles than pay someone to drive me - and often do!

Misty Essex morning

A misty early morning in Essex, as viewed from my room window

After a fine, all-you-can-eat breakfast in the hotel, the next day I jumped on the train to London. I was thinking about doing some birding in the local Stansted area, but I decided it was worth a trip down into the big city. Apart from a very quick couple of hours in the Natural History Museum a few years ago, I had not been to London since my early 20's and so I was looking to do a bit of touristy stuff for the day. I stepped off the train in Liverpool Street and was immediately confronted by a wall of people - gulp! I dislike St. Peter Port on a Saturday lunchtime as it is far too busy, so I found all this quite disconcerting! I made my way through a large banking district, where the famous modern architecture was immense and very impressive.

Lloyds Gherkin Willis Tower 1

Lloyds of London, The Gherkin & Willis Tower

The Leadenhall Building

The Leadenhall Building


The Gherkin

Pudding Lane

In case it happens again?

I wandered on down towards the Tower of London and the weather was now gorgeous. I had never been inside before, so I forked out some dosh and joined a Beefeater-led tour of the place. I was so glad I decided to, as it was a truly great experience, seeing all these things in real life, rather than just reading about them. Just walking around the main castle in the middle where the Kings and Queens lived for centuries, I found quite bizarre. Leaning on the same walls as they leant on, climbing the same spiral staircase as they did every night, sitting on the same "throne" as they sat on...

Beefeater talk

Mr. Beefeater Man giving his talk

ToL 1

The White Tower built in 1078 by William the Conkerer

ToL Raven

A Tower Raven - (potential split?)

ToL throne room

The throne - and yes, I did try it out for size...

ToL Mullet

Mullets were still very fashionable in this part of London.

I was in the Tower for a few hours, and I hadn't realised that the sun had been beating down on me, and I hadn't drunk for ages. So I had the startings of a monster headache that got progressively worse during the day. I headed back to where I had come from to get a tube. One of my favourite things about London has always been the underground. Just the simple way it works and how easy it is to work out where to go, I find it delightful. Even that classic tube map is just a joy to look at. As I made my way to the station I needed to be at, I wandered past a watering hole that was being utilised by a herd of bankers. I hoped that a passing pride of lions would perhaps decimate the silly 'bankers'.

And they're not even sorry!

The tube took me to Tottenham Court Road and I wandered off northwards to the British Museum. It's weird how, despite me never going there, so many places and streets sounded so familiar to me - no doubt due to a lot of the things I listen to on the radio/podcasts are clearly londoncentric. The museum was of course full of terrific sights but spoiled by the sheer numbers of people there. Too much to take in in one short visit. I know it represents a bygone era of Empire, but seeing all these treasures - some of them ridiculously huge in size - plundered from all corners of the world, it was a little sad they were miles from home. Just when is England going to return the Elgin Marbles back to Scotland?

Ancient Egyptian Sugababes

The ancient Egyptians were massive fans of the Sugababes

I left the museum mid-afternoon and meandered through the streets of London to the south, passing Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column. This was a most unpleasant place, full of "street entertainers", which apparently nowadays means dressing up in a costume, standing still and expecting payment for this. I carried on towards Westminster and saw all there was to see around there, along with at least a trillion other people it felt like.


The streets of power and history - of heroes and legends - of criminals and shame.


London Eye

The London Eye

London riverside flats

Riverside apartments, no doubt full of "Yuppies" (if they still exist)

large ben2

Detail of Big Ben's clock - (or 'Large Ben' as I genuinely heard a tourist say)

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, discussing the ageing of Herring Gulls, on the balcony of the Houses of Parliament.

After taking in the Houses of Parliament, I crossed the road to head to Westminster Abbey and suddenly there were sticks raining down on my head. Looking up, there were lots of Ring-necked Parakeets stripping a tree of its pods of seeds. I didn't recognise the tree but it was very impressive the way they just snipped off the pod, took it in their foot and emptied the seeds in just a few seconds. The pavement below was covered in the pods and were raining down on the tourists. You can easily see how these birds can destroy tree crops in no time at all and become real pests.

Parliamentary Parakeet

Ring-necked Parakeets 01

"Parliamentary Parakeets"

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

By now it was pretty much rush hour and I was seriously feeling sick with my headache. Rather than battle back to Liverpool Street at such a busy time, I just sat down on a bench in St. James' Park, and watched all the Londoners heading home. I wandered around for a while, not in any rush, until round about 7pm, I thought I'd better head off back to Stansted. I assumed that this was be a nice relaxing ride back and I'd be in my room in less than 2 hours, where I could rest my thumping head. How wrong I was!!!

The Tube to Liverpool Street was nice and easy, but as I reached the main station, I saw worringly red-coloured screens with the words 'Stansted Express' on them! They'd only cancelled ALL the trains to Stansted that evening!! I suddenly panicked and wondered how the hell I was going to get back. I read the smallprint and it said that passengers to Stansted had to re-route via Kings Cross and Cambridge. This was especially concerning as it was now well into the evening and I had no idea of the time of the final trains. So I ran back onto the Tube and dived on a train to King's Cross. I reached the main train station and frantically searched the boards for a train to Cambridge, and luckily one was leaving very soon. As I showed my ticket to fella to get onto the platform he says "oh no - we're not covering those tickets any more". My frantic looks and sudden inability to produce human words must have indicated to him that I was about to implode, so he very kindly let me on anyway. Top bloke.

So, now I am sat on the train, my head getting worse, but at least I am heading in the right direction. However, this was the slowest train journey ever thought of, stopping at every single village station on route, and after a million Little Sniffingtons and Upper Kiplings, I wondered if I'd ever get to Cambridge. Finally, approaching 10pm, we were pulling into Cambridge Station, but I had no idea when or if there would be another Stansted connection that night. Just as I stepped onto the platform, I saw a Stansted train pulling away - oh bum! That's it I thought - sleeping rough on the Cambridge streets tonight it is then! Luckily, it was only the penultimate train back to the airport, and after another half hour wait I got onto the last train, followed by the bus back to the hotel, where I dragged my sorry ass to bed after what was a horrific journey.

After the traumas of the previous day, I was keen for a relaxing last few hours before we set off for Poland. Andy arrived late morning to pick me up and we went off for a few hours relaxing wildlife hunting in Hatfield Forest, which is just south of Stansted. We saw plenty of interesting stuff and I had at least ten new species of insect, plant or fungus. We also had a really early Lesser Whitethroat which we saw very well as well as heard.

Then, mid-afternoon, we checked into the airport and we were soon on our way to POLAND!

Dark-edged Bee-fly Hatfield Forest 14Apr16

Dark-edged Bee-fly - Hatfield Forest - my main target species today, easily ticked off.

bee sp Hatfield Forest 14Apr16

Andrena sp - Hatfield Forest

Esperia sulphurella Hatfield Forest 14Apr16

Esperia sulphurella - Hatfield Forest

Thu 31st March 2016

Posted on April 9, 2016 at 12:55 AM

Another brief resume of a full month for this blog post. Again, I have had a quiet time with birding and I don't want to babble on about nothing! One has to be extrememly patient being a birder here on Guernsey. There can be long periods of quietness punctuated with sudden bursts of extreme excitement. Even though March is the first month of spring, it has mostly felt cold and chilly, with any migrants making it through only flocking in small numbers.

I suppose the most notable bird was the drake Shoveler that spent a few days on Pulias Pond which was a new species for my 'patch'. Even though they are present all winter on the island, I have never seen one within borders of my official patch. Not a terribly exciting highlight but a highlight nevertheless.

Shoveler - Pulias Pond, 21 Mar 16

It wasn't until 21st March that I happened on my first Wheatears, a really late date. I was unlucky probably, but there seems to have been a lot less than usual reported from around the island during the month. Swallows seemed to be in nice and early and I saw my first fly through the houses near the Grande Mare on 25th. Although again, hirundines in general were few and far between during March, I suppose because, mostly, the winds have been against them.

There has been Great Northern Divers showing well at both Grandes Havres and Cobo and Black Redstarts have been noted at Hommet and Pulias. The Firecrests which have been wintering at Le Guet have been regularly seen all month.

Wheatear Pulias 21Mar16

The year's first Wheatear - Pulias, 21 Mar 16

Kestrel FtHom 30Mar16 a

Kestrel FtHom 30Mar16 b

male Kestrel - Fort Hommet, 30 Mar 16

Green Tiger Beetle FtHom 31Mar16

Green Tiger Beetle - Fort Hommet, 31 Mar 16