Monday 7 May 2012

Lucky Landguard

Being a saddo lister, I am able to tell you what birds I've seen where. Partly this is notebooks, but mostly it's the most amazing spreadsheet ever. Have you heard of Pivot Tables? They're great, I mean really great. A quick couple of clicks, and I can produce this:

Landguard NR, Suffolk5
Arctic warbler1
Booted Warbler1
Short-toed Treecreeper1
Tawny Pipit1

Those are all the rare birds I've seen at Landguard, and every single one of them - yes, all five - were lifers. Not a single one was any trouble at all. I bowled up and there they were, straight onto my list, spectacularly easily. I also keep a dip list, not that I dip very often, but it's always nice to reminisce. Landguard has no entries on the dip list. Every time I've been for a bird, it's always still been there, and I've always seen it, and seen it really well. So yesterday, even though I was nearly a hundred miles away in Cambridgeshire, I knew that if I went, I'd score the Tawny Pipit. Dipping was out of the question, no petrol would be wasted. And that's exactly what happened - Muffin and I arrived, bailed out of the car, walked calmly to the point, and immediately saw a Tawny Pipit.

I have similar luck at and around Minsmere. Hang on a sec. Click, click.

Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk4
Glossy Ibis1
Purple Heron1
Roseate Tern3
Audouin's Gull1

Dunwich, Suffolk2
King Eider1
Thrush Nightingale1

Westleton Heath, Suffolk2
Great Grey Shrike1
Lesser Kestrel1

It's never quite as nailed on as Landguard, for instance I recall a Spectacled Warbler dip, but my record here is still pretty good, and I'm always pretty confident of seeing what I set off to see. It's harder work though - although most were straightforward, the Thrush Nightingale required overnighting in the car followed by three hours walking around in a small circle, most of it in the pouring rain, for about a thirty second view. The less said about the Lesser Kestrel twitch the better, and the Audouin's Gull gave me a mild heart attack by flying off half an hour before I arrived, before doing the decent thing and returning to the scrape just as I arrived on the beach.

Anyway, enough stats. For now. I also do quite well at Dungeness. In fact, I do quite well everywhere, but I think that of the places I've been several times, only Landguard has a 100% unblemished record.

Today was a family day, and what better family activity is there than enforced birding disguised as a walk? Sheppey was the destination of choice, centered around lunch at the Harty Ferry Inn. But before the family were allowed into the pub, the were marched to the hides at Elmley Marshes, where yet another two Black-winged Stilts awaited us. Mrs L was delighted to get a tick, but the girls didn't even look!

The main problem is that the hides are miles away, and so small children lose interest well before half way. Much better is the entrance track to the reserve, where the kids can hang out of the window and observe Lapwings, Redshanks and others at point blank range. Today we had great views of these, as well as of Yellow Wagtails and cute Rabbits. A quick stop at Capel Fleet produced Peregrine and the ubiquitous Marsh Harriers, and a more prolongued stop at the Harty Ferry Inn produced both food and beer.


  1. That Minsmere list causes me some pain - it contains three of my worst dips.

    We have: the "hasty exit from work and fight through A12 traffic" dip; the "missed it by five minutes after driving from Dunge" dip; and finally the "almost 12 hours over three days" dip. The latter was partially compensated by a flyover Bee-eater... but it's still a bit painful.

  2. Ever considered making your spreadsheet publicly downloadable? Frankly, I need a decent one to copy.

  3. Trust me, you don't want this one! What you really want is a database. Proper nerdy.