Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Kicking off my year list

I went year-listing in Norfolk at the weekend. I think I may have left it a little late, as I was only on 195. After a successful day I am now on 203, but this is approximately the total I would hit in April if I were taking it seriously. Clearly I am not taking it seriously, and whilst at various stages I have both decried and embraced listing, 2014 will be my lowest ever total by a wide margin. I think I need to do better. I am not saying that I am going to go all out and smash it in 2015, but if you do at least pay a little bit of attention to listing, which patently I have not this year, then you will spur yourself on to see a few more birds. That’s the answer really – call it what you will, add a listing element if you want, but just go birding. If you do, you’ll see more birds than I have this year. For instance, my 200th bird was a returning Pink-footed Goose in a skein high above Warham Greens. How is this even possible, how did I manage not to see a Pink-footed Goose last winter? We were searching for a Red-breasted Flycatcher that the ever-productive John Furze had just found, and the sounds came floating down. I recognized it immediately of course – I’d seen hundreds of birds in Iceland relatively recently – but that’s not the point. It means that throughout the whole of the last winter period, I had not birded the coast. Not been to north Norfolk, not been to the Yare Valley. But it gets worse - Black-necked Grebe was a year tick too! In other words I have seemingly not been birding anywhere. That’s not quite true of course. I had been to Morocco – twice – and also to Cyprus during the winter period. It’s true that there weren’t many Black-necked Grebes and Pink-footed Geese, but there were outstanding numbers of Moussier’s Redstarts and Cyprus Pied Wheatears, neither of which we could find yesterday on the coast despite giving it a really good bash. Time is the killer, but still. 

Go. Birding.

Nick, Bradders and I had a relatively leisurely start, and didn’t arrive at Blakeney until about 9am. It was cold! I’d been told to expect a nice warm day, wandering around in shirt sleeves not seeing very much, but it was murky with a stiff breeze blowing and newly-arrived Wheatears clinging to the sea wall. We quickly located the juvenile Red-backed Shrike sheltering in a bush, and then went off to bird Friary Hills for a bit. Nothing much doing here, so we pootled off to Warham Greens, always a favourite place to go birding on an autumn easterly. We started at the Stiffkey end and gradually worked our way west, picking up a couple of Redstarts and a Pied Flycatcher. As we arrived at the most-westerly track, Garden Drove, we could see a group of birders moving cautiously down towards us. We stayed put as they pushed down, and saw a couple of Spotted Flycatchers in with various Tits, but the real prize was a Red-breasted Flycatcher that eventually showed very well indeed. Such smart little birds, I’ve now seen eight – simply by virtue of going birding, incredible! Remarkably I’d seen one down this exact track almost two years ago. I think it’s what they call a site having a track record. So almost impeccable timing on our part. Arriving half an hour earlier and finding it ourselves would of course have been perfect timing!

We birded our way slowly back to the car via various Buntings, Wheatears and Finches, and following a spot of lunch in Wells, parked up next to the track that led down to Burnham Overy and Gun Hill. The hope was that with the freshening breeze, more and more migrants would start arriving. Although we bumped into Nick, Clare and Tony who confirmed that this did appear to be the case, beyond a few more Whinchat, Wheatear and a Redstart, we couldn’t conjure anything better up. A few Yellow-browed Warblers further east raised our hopes a bit, but I think it’s probably all going to be about this week and next, it’s east all the way and Shetland could be immense. Seeing as it wasn’t heaving, we decided to devote a small amount of time to the Barred Warbler that had been there a couple days. Barred Warblers being what they are, there was nothing happening, and so after seeing a Garden Warbler, cynicism and boredom got the better of Bradders and he wandered off. He had however failed to appreciate the significance of eating a Double Decker. Nick and I both had one, and whilst I promptly fell asleep, Nick stayed awake and the subtle magic started to work. Thus almost imperceptibly I became aware of a very shouty man in the dunes…… “It’s there!” “In the Elder!!

Eh? What’s an Elder? I think I need to work on my bush identification skills. By now fully awake due to shouty man, I managed to work out which bush it was, namely as it was the only one with a bloody huge Warbler in it. Ah, so that’s what an Elder looks like. The Warbler actually moved with surprising grace for a large lump – much like me – and was in complete contrast to the Garden Warbler, which basically performed a series of large belly flops in a bramble. I took a series of piss-poor shots with which to grip off Bradders, and we proceeded back towards the car as it was now approaching 6pm – no wonder I was tired….. On the way back we finally saw the elusive Black-necked Grebe (a likely Norfolk tick for me, except it wasn’t as I had seen one in exactly the same place six years and day ago), and then performed our good deed for the day by pushing a Merc off a bank following a parking fail by another birder that had left one of the rear wheels spinning in mid-air and the body of the car grounded on the grass.


Totals for the day were a Red-backed Shrike, a Red-breasted Flycatcher as well as Pied and two Spotties, double figures of Wheatear, about five Whinchat, a Barred Warbler, several migrant Goldcrest and a whole host of other things. Without bothering to look at Waders and Wildfowl we ended up at 89 species – eight of which were somehow new for the year. Thus demonstrating that if you go out birding, you end up seeing birds. I must do it more often.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Captain Cook discovers Wanstead

Yesterday was one of the most enjoyable days I can recall for a long time (PS, no birds...). It's Alistair Cook's benefit year, and as he's an Essex cricketer, and several of the Essex side came from the Wanstead Ranks, he brought the team over to Overton Drive for a morning of coaching the kids (my three included), a T20 match vs Wanstead in the afternoon, and then a gala dinner in the evening. We only attended the first two, but were there for something like eight hours - for a man of his stature to give up his Saturday and come out and inspire all these kids is simply phenomenal - and he was so nice too, so normal, no sign of the pressure he must be under. And hats off too to the Essex team that contained the likes of Bopara, Foster, Topley and Panesar, they were all brilliant with the children, and really that's what the day was all about. 

The match itself was won by Essex on almost the final ball, and it was perhaps the least competitive cricket I've ever seen, and all the more fun for it! One of the Wanstead guys had won an auction to keep wicket for Essex, and had a whale of a time. A ten year old kid came out and bowled an over at some point and won man-of-the-match for doing so, Kishen Velani (local boy done good, played for England under-19s) tonked Monty for four sixes in a row, and Cook himself was the victim of a fantastic one-handed catch out at deep mid-wicket.

Wanstead Cricket Club has been superb from the moment we joined it some years ago. It is made up pretty much entirely of volunteers that give up their time to coach the kids, and the whole setup and atmosphere is all you could wish from a local club, and we are fantastically lucky to have it on our doorstep. All three of ours go there every week, let's hope they stay interested for a long time. Especially if it means that I can have great days out too!

Captain Cook asks my child a question - will she bat or bowl. It takes her an eternity to answer. 

Cooky and Trevor, head of Junior Cricket

Monty takes a wicket and goes off to high-five the entire crowd!

James Foster

Nick Browne on his way to a fine score



The centre of attention!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Meanwhile in Belgium...

Yes, I know. Another foreign trip. In my defence it was only Brussels, and seeing as we're all European, I'm not even sure it counts as a foreign trip. A somewhat hectic day, with a trip to the Isle of Wight tagged on afterwards - now that really is foreign...... Anyhow, arrived in the capital of Belgium nice and early to be greeted by a damp grey day. It is probably like this every day in Brussels, even if the rest of Belgium is bathed in sunshine. But it didn't stop a staunch Brit Eurocitoyen like me from having a bit of a look around, as my last visit had been inexplicably brief. Ostensibly the plan could have been to have had lunch with a friend, but she was unaccountably absent, so I reverted to beer. A trusted correspondent, when asked what fun could be had in Brussels for a few hours, had given me a list of "must-dos" that only involved bars. No mention of the Atomium (I saw it from the bus and reckoned I was 98% done), no mention of the quite adorable albeit very tiny statue of a small boy urinating (Le Manneken Pis), just booze - so naturally I followed these precise instructions and spent the majority of my very short visit sat in various drinking holes nursing absurdly strong beer whilst watching the world go by. Which mainly involved other people drinking beer, numerous weddings and pre-wedding frivolities, and a fair old portion of gloom. I also took in some culture at the death, and you won't be escaping that. Needless to say, I took a camera, so here is a pictorial essay on my day.

This is Albert. Most people in Belgium are called Albert or Jacques, so this isn't particularly special. What was special was a statue opposite of who I assume was Mrs Albert, gazing lovingly up at her mounted beau. Of note is that he is looking off into he distance, and not down at her.

This man was a tourist attraction in his own right. He ignored everyone. Like an aged Depardieu/Halliday, well before lunchtime he was content with fag, rag, and killer beer. Possibly he actually was a tourist attraction.

Selfie. Not really. I have no idea who this is, but I am going to hazard a guess that he is American. No reason really. He is headed towards "Le Cirio", a very charming brasserie with fab decor that served far more beer than it did solid food. I sat next to an old Belgian couple who ordered all the ingredients for a sandwich, and then proceeded to make it up at their table. It was probably the highlight of their week. It was very nearly the highlight of mine.

This is presumably the man above's reason for visiting Belgium. Or perhaps emigrating. Anyhow, much as I really would have liked to have partaken, on top of a number of fine brews, somehow I couldn't stomach it. They were, however, selling like hotcakes, particularly to Japanese tourists no more than half as big again, who would then stagger off down the street and collapse onto a bench or bollard and proceed to stuff their faces. One or two actually died.

In La Grande Place couples were getting married at the rate of one every 35 seconds, it was literally a procession. The bride on this occasion chose the traditional blue, perhaps it isn't her first time? The only reason I took it is because they had invited a Trappist Monk along, who as you can see is looking less pleased than everyone else, no doubt due to missing out on five minutes of ale-drinking and thus unable to build up an appetite for lunch.

I can't remember much about this place, I think it was called Galeries Hubert. Basically a bit like the Burlington Arcade, but a lot bigger and with a ratio of nine chocolate shoppes to one of anything else. Tourist magnet. I purchased chocolate. As gifts.

An interesting display of books. On the left you have book on wild ducks, by Jean-Jacques. On the right you have a book on fortunate hair placement, by Jacques and Jacques. That the two should be side by side shows that this is clearly Belgium.

To the Woodcock! This was yet another pub serving deadly beer. I did not partake.

Here however I did, because it is supposed to be an experience. In an ideal world the waiter would have yelled at me or something. That is what had been promised, and whilst there was a certain frisson, I can't say it was any worse than places in London where staff basically view you as an unfortunate necessity.

I could not visit Brussels without getting a dose of culture. These are some owls by Magritte. It is of course forbidden to take photos in the museum, so I have no idea where these came from. Anyway, way back in the dim and distant past I wrote a dissertation on old René and his surrealist pals. I have forgotten all of it, and one brief visit round a museum isn't going to bring much of it back. I recall a train coming out of a fireplace, but could not find it. Instead there were gazillions of paintings of owls, and a mildly unhealthy obsession with breasts.


My final piece of culture before heading back to the UK. I was most pleased to find this, and it will come as no surprise that it had about ten times as many admirers as the Magritte exhibition I had just come from. A thousand tourist cameras and iPhones have approximately this photo on them, the key difference being the presence of the owner in the foreground. Me? I couldn't even bring myself to place Snuffi in front.....


Sunday, 7 September 2014

More patch Whinchats

The perfect number of Whinchats to have on the patch is one. A Whinchat, rather than Whinchats. One Whinchat is often fairly cocky, quite brazen sometimes. Several Whinchats stir themselves up into a apoplexy of intense fear, feeding off each other, and thus whilst it might be pleasing to the urban patch-worker that there are multiples of this smart little bird - and indeed I was pleased, for as many as six graced Wanstead Flats this morning - for the urban patch-worker who carries a camera with the intention of committing Whinchats into a pleasing series of zeroes and ones, any more than one is a complete disaster, as the moment one sees you even a hundred paces away, all of them fuck off into the middle distance.

Thus were two hours wasted this morning in a pleasant if frustrating attempt to outsmart these little corkers. It didn't work, or at least not very well. Six soon turned into two that I managed to follow around reliably, but they had been very well trained in how to look out for each other, to the point that I wondered if they had known each other before meeting on Wanstead Flats. They appeared at times to share a single mind, disappearing with perfect synchronisation, popping up again exquisitely. It would make a fine Olympic sport in a parallel universe. Here's the best of what I managed before I gave up and went to Suffolk to dip a Wryneck and successfully twitch a Lesser Grey Shrike - this latter also kept an impressive distance between it and the assembled watchers. Maybe it had just eaten a Whinchat?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Fear of Flying Buzzards

You will not be surprised to hear that flying holds no fear for me. It did, once upon a time, shortly after September 2001. I think I went to the US and the Caymans in 2002, but then I didn't get in another airplane for about five years. Oh how things have changed....this year any fear I may have had has gone out of the window, and I am on about a flight a week, having discovered that a) the world is a very small place, b) the birds are better almost everywhere else and c) and anyway, it isn't all about birds. The pace slows down for the rest of this year, a family holiday and a couple of bird trips, but it's just so easy if you can be bothered to get up off your arse, do some research and work out the logistics. And whilst it isn't free, it certainly isn't as expensive as you might think. 

In fact I would say that I positively like flying, the opportunities it brings are superb. For instance listing. If, for example, I were a really geeky kind of guy, I could tell you that this year I've flown on one Boeing 737, one Boeing 757, one Airbus A321, two Embraer 145s, two Boeing 747s, two Airbus A380s, two Boeing 767s, four Embraer 190s, six Airbus A319s, and ten Airbus A320s. If I were exceptionally sad, I could tell you that the same planes that took me to Iceland and on one of my trips to Morocco also brought me back again, and that the same plane that returned me from Helsinki also took Bradders and I to Copenhagen 26 days later.Obviously there is no way that I would ever actually know that information though, and anyone that says that plane spotting and twitching are basically the same hobby is massively wide of the mark.

This weekend I have not taken to the skies, and instead looked up at them. Those that are thinking the perimeter fence at Heathrow should be ashamed of themselves, as I have been birding in Wanstead. As per the title of this blog. Despite my jests yesterday of not knowing how to find the Flats, I had no trouble at all in locating the migrant trap that is Long Wood. It also traps other things, of which there was a small amount this morning, but with Tony I felt completely safe and he only tried to hold my hand once. We were joined by Dan, Bob, Tim and gangsta Nick (his cap was on backwards, that qualifies surely?). It was slow to start, but kicked off once it warmed up, with my personal tally being a Redstart, a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, three Yellow Wagtails, three Spotted Flycatcher and four Whinchat, as well as innumerable Phylloscs and Blackcaps. Not a bad haul all things considered, and with the Med Gull the other day, and Dan's Red-Crested Pochard (a type of Wader) on Heronry, I am back on the tick trail. OK so I missed the action last weekend due to being in Brussels and on the Isle of Wight, but I have rebounded strongly from the dual disappointment of missing out on what sounded like a great session, and also from missing the 12 Bee-eaters by a few days. As my son now reminds me daily, he's seen seven in the UK (the kids spent a fortnight on the Island with relatives, I was doing the pickup), and I've only seen one. Ah, but have you seen Blue-cheeked?! Ha! No you haven't, but your sisters have! Now go and tidy your room.

More amazement was to come later in the day, when an excited Nick phoned me to say that he had 20+ Buzzards in the air together over the Park, and some of them looked different. I was poorly placed being in Ilford on a party run, and without binoculars, but I managed to get back to Wanstead in time to commando roll out of the car near the golf course and see an astonishing 23 Buzzards flying vaguely north and then kettling above Wanstead village. It was like Falsterbo all over again. Unfortunately I only saw them with the naked eye, but if somebody tells me that there was a Honey in there, it would of course be on my list quicker than immediately. When I got back to the house yet another one flew over. If I were a massive retard, I could tell you that in all the years I've lived in Wanstead I've seen 45 Buzzards, so a further 24 is an increase of over 50%. I also saw one of the Embraers heading off from City. It was a 190, which is slightly longer than a 170. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Falsterbo Trip Report - day 4

Day 4
The final day - another lightning trip, I like these. We elected not to go down to Nabben and instead checked out the sheltered side of the Obs compound, which in this instance was the eastern side. As this was with the rising sun, it was warm and pleasant. Note that you are on a fairway at this point, so it is best that if you want to check it out you do so early morning before the golfers turn up. That said, we didn't do this and a hugely polite man walked the length of the fairway to explain to us what to do if we heard "Fore" shouted loudly. Most impressively dealt with, in the UK we would have just been yelled at I expect, such are tolerance levels these days. But I digress, the birds were great. We had previously seen Pied and Spot Fly in here, as well as Redstart and Garden Warbler, but we really wanted Icky. This took a while, but eventually we had blinding views, and whilst searching another dodgy Osprey Buzzard flew over - this is where my photos came from. To be fair, when we got flummoxed and outdone by the first one, I did say it didn't feel like an Osprey, even if it looked like one. I think we saw four in this plumage, so if you think that on some days you can get over 1000 birds, the locals will see perhaps a dozen a day, so it really isn't an uncommon plumage variation. Indeed it's illustrated in the Collins. Including this bird, another 16 flew over, as well as an impressive 240+ Crossbill, typically in groups of 20-30. We actually recorded a much higher count that the chaps at Nabben on this day, mainly because the birds seemed to come across the Golf Course, over the Obs garden, and directly out towards Denmark. Birds this small could easily be missed at the far end.

We then walked north to Flommen to check out the reedbed. This was mainly in a pathetic attempt to get Reed Warbler onto the trip list, and as such was a great success with three birds found in very breezy weather. Little else though. Retrieving the galactic hyper-cruiser Nissan, we drove a short distance up the coast to Lilla Hamars (1 on map below), a small spit of land only a bit north east of the Falsterbo Canal. I have never seen so many Wagtails in my entire life, mainly all in a single field with livestock, it was quite sensational. Many Whinchat here also, quite a few waders, and then on an outlying island, a pair of Sea-eagles terrifying the local Greylag population. 

A spot of forest birding at Yddingesjön proved fairly unproductive, and with the plane looming we went out to Klagshamn (2 on map above), just below the Malmö bridge - another spit of land. This was a bit of dump to look at, but we secured some valuable birds for the list including a couple LBB Gull in the quarry and a Merg in the bay, and then Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting and Water Rail in the small reedbed south of the stables. Here another another bird tower afforded great views back towards Falsterbo, and allowed us to peer into corners of the reeds which would otherwise have been obscured. A few more HBs streamed through, and Bradders strung a Merlin to get us to 134. 135 when you count my Two-barred Crossbills!

Klagshamn. 4 - Quarry, 5 - nice sheltered glades, 6- Reed Bed, 7 - Bird Tower.
Another gnashing of teeth, wailing etc as we crossed back into Denmark. Hard to bear.

Trip List
Mute Swan - huge numbers around the coast between Malmö and Falsterbo
Greylag Goose - ditto, as well as Vombsanger.
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose - on sheltered side of Varanger pensinsula
Gadwall - many in the car...thankfully a proper flock at Krankesjön
Pintail - in the lagoon at Nabben
Garganey - single birds in two locations
Tufted Duck
Eider - small numbers off Nabben and elsewhere
Common Scoter - off Nabben occasionally
Goldeneye - Nabben
Red-breasted Merganser - Klagshamn
Pheasant - hyper-rare until we found a field of 50....
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Red-necked Grebe - 2 family groups south of Börringe
Cormorant - gazillions off Nabben
Grey Heron
White Stork - a migrating bird from Nabben, and 8 ringed birds near Vombsn
White-tailed Eagle - numerous in the interior, a family near Skanorsljung
Osprey - common migrant (!)
Red Kite - numerous at Börringe
Black Kite - 1 Börringe, 1 Skanorsljung
Marsh Harrier
Montagu's Harrier - 1 at Skanorsljung
Pallid Harrier - 1 near Borringe
Common Buzzard - rare
Honey Buzzard - dirt bird, approx 350 seen
Sparrowhawk - constant migrant at Nabben
Goshawk - Börringe
Hobby - 3 near Trelleborg
Merlin (ahem)
Water Rail - said to be numerous in the reeds at Flommen. 2 at Klagshamn
Crane - 300+ at Vombsanger
Ringed Plover
Grey Plover
Golden Plover
Turnstone - rare, only 2 seen
Curlew Sandpiper - always a few present in any Dunlin flock
Broad-billed Sandpiper - east of Skanors revlar
Temminck's Stint - near Börringe
Wood Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Spotted Redshank
Bar-tailed Godwit
Arctic Skua - 3 off Nabben
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull - Klagshamn
Little Tern - Nabben and near harbour
Sandwich Tern - Nabben
Common Tern
Arctic Tern
Caspian Tern - 14 at Krankesn
Black Tern - Nabben lagoon, and interior lakes
Rock Dove
Stock Dove - rare, be sure to check all those flocks of Woodies carefully!
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Swift - constant passage
Kingfisher - Vombsn and Krankesn
Great Spotted Woodpecker - near Börringe
Sand Martin
House Martin
Meadow Pipit - rare, but some at Lilla Hamars
Tree Pipit
White Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Robin - 1 seen in four days!
Song Thrush - 1 in Falsterbo Park
Mistle Thrush - 1 at Obs
Blackbird - uncommon
Garden Warbler
Reed Warbler - Flommen
Icterine Warbler - Obs
Willow Warbler - most common Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher - fairly common, especially in Falsterbo Park
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Crested Tit -- woods south of Vombsn
Marsh Tit
Bearded Tit - reedbed at Klagsham
Red-backed Shrike - Falsterbo Park
Nutcracker - 2 at Obs
Hooded Crow
Raven - around Börringe
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
(Two-barred Crossbill)
Reed Bunting

No trip report would be complete......

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Falsterbo Trip Report - day 3

Day 3
Once again we departed Trelleborg at around 0600, arriving at Nabben (about a 15 minute walk from the small car park) for around 0700, and once again there were a number of the local crew already present and in full-on click counter mode. I am sure they were pleased to see us, with our Honey Ospreys and so on. As with previous days there were Tree Pipits going over all the time, and plenty of Yellow Wags - these two species are easily the most numerous of birds, and makes the handful I get in Wanstead annually seem rather pathetic. We received the happy news that there were two Nutcracker in the Obs garden, and sure enough they soon came up out of the pines having a think about migration - climbing up and up and up, with Jay-like wingbeats - before deciding they didn't like the idea of migration involving a sea crossing and diving vertically back into the plantation. So, we've now seen an explanation for why we don't get many Nutcrackers in the UK. Amazingly these are only the second and third birds I've ever seen, following a single bird in Finland last year.

More of the same basically, including a group of Crossbill that the local birders insisted had at least two Two-barred in. I saw the flock, but Bradders says I can't them, though whether this is because he didn't even see the flock I cannot possibly say. Counts from this morning session included 52 Honey Buzzard, two Osprey, 4 Marsh Harrier, 27 Sparrowhawk, 74 Crossbill, the two Nutcracker, and our first Whinchats, perching up on the wild roses. We also regained a modicum of credibility by showing off our Pallid Harrier photos. Shame we said it was a Kestrel

White Wagtail with Falsterbo accoutrement

At around 11am we left Nabben, and after a brief poke around the Obs, where we added our first Linnet, Goldfinch, Whitethoat and Spotted Flycatcher, hit Falsterbo Park (6 on this map), in the hope that a change in habitat would see our trip list increase. This it did immediately, with Goldcrests, Coal Tits, a Song Thrush and a Red-backed Shrike. It was a relief to finally get some shelter from the unrelenting wind that was making small birding so difficult, and in the sheltered glades we found stacks of birds such as Pied Flycatchers in groups of six or more. All this while Honey Buzzards and Ospreys continued to pass overhead.

Back at the heath at Skanorsljung, Black Kite was another highlight, and in only a further half hour we racked-up another 57 Honey Buzzard, 4 Osprey, an adult WT Eagle, eight Sprawk and a Marsh Harrier. For those paying attention this meant that our count of Honeys for the trip was now at 313, though this pales in comparison to those sitting all day at Nabben, where the final counts for this day (Aug 24th) alone were close to 700. Still, 313 Honey Buzzards is many multiples of what I have previously seen, and the views have been mostly phenomenal - to see birds coming in a long line, like planes Heathrow, is mind-bending. Occasionally they stop and start circling, leading to games to see how many you can get in one scope view etc. This was a particular facet of the trip, with not only amazing quantities, but birds seen extremely well. I may never go birding in the UK again. Mind you I say that most every time I come back from a foreign trip. And then I go abroad again, so it could be true!

1-4 Borringe area as described in day 2, 5-9 Vombsjön area

In the afternoon we once again headed into Skåne, this time heading for a lake called Vombsjön (8), and some nearby meadowland, Vombsanger (6). More staggering birding, with thousands of real Greylag Geese in the fields, and 300+ Common Crane. My keen eyes (ahem) also picked up two Caspian Tern heading east, probably commuting between Krankesjön (9) and Vombsjön, though when we explored the latter we could not find them. We did however add Arctic Tern, Black Tern, and our first Kingfisher and Yellowhammer as we explored the eastern side, with the woods below the lake (7) holding Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and others.

Moving west to Krankesjön to outrun a particularly vicious storm (one of many that we managed to dodge), we hit upon the birding moment of the trip, or mine at least. A pair of adult Sea Eagles were hunting on the northern side of the lake (viewed from the east side, where there are some hides and a bird tower). It missed whatever it was going for and so sat up in a tree for a moment. The next thing I knew, it was flying straight down the barrel of my scope, huge wingbeats with the bird completely in profile. Wonderful light, it was like being in a wildlife documentary as it flew towards us. At the last minute, getting bigger and bigger, it peeled off left, and legs and talons extended, glided to the surface, coming up with a huge huge fish, hooked on one claw. This it then dropped with an almighty splash, and did not bother coming back for it, choosing instead to go and land on the small islands that had until recently been occupied by stupendous Caspian Terns. Did I mention there were 14? No? Well, the Eagle experience pretty much outclassed everything else there, including a fabulous group of these monster Terns. We had watched them fishing too, none of the elegant dipping of marsh Terns, none of the precision dives of Arctic Tern. Think instead bellyflop - a huge splash and then back up. More Humpback Whale than bird. I've twitched a bird in Norfolk, and seen birds in Finland, but nothing like this - it was wonderful, a true wildlife spectacle. Krankesjön was teeming with birds - another Kingfisher, another Garganey. Four Ospreys at the far end, our first Gadwall, birds galore, and possibly one of the best place we visited on the trip. Oh, and 200+ Coot as well. What's not to love? And as we drove back, some White Stork from the reintroduction project.

Trip List: 124