Thursday, 30 October 2014


GRIMSBY-based birdfood supplier Haith's has today emailed customers with a message highlighting the risks to birds of  cheap birdfoods.  See below

Cheap is good, right? Does that make cheaper better?

It depends. If we can purchase the (exact) same goods cheaper elsewhere then cheaper could well be better, however, how many goods/products are “exactly” the same? (Four cans of Pepsi selling for half the price Tesco sells them means cheaper is better, but only if you like Pepsi!).

However, so few products are exactly the same that we need to be careful if/when we see for example adverts promoting “the cheapest bird food in Britain.” In my experience – cheap bird food isn’t that good and the cheapest bird food in Britain isn’t likely to be better, it’s likely to be worse.

Everything has a cost – even the tiniest of seeds has its place on the commodity market, and the market dictates the cost manufacturers have to pay for the seed. Things selling below their market price should set alarm bells ringing.

Take, for example, a high calorie Sunflower Heart - selling this seed for less than it costs in the first place is only achievable if it’s mixed (diluted) with a cheaper seed, a seed that costs less and is less desirable/nutritional. 

Continuing to dilute the original seed by adding cheaper seeds to the mix will make a mix ultimately cheaper; however, eventually, a point is reached where that original seed becomes almost unidentifiable and the mix has lost its original value.

When it comes to bird food – if it’s cheap, it’s (probably) because it is cheap. Avoid it.

Most of the cheap bird foods we inspect all have one thing in common: they haven't been cleaned.

There is a scientific reason to avoid cheap dusty seed, and that's because dust is harmful to a bird's respiratory system (Cooper) and dust can harbour harmful bacteria. 

How do we know? Please take a look at the work we’re doing at Haith’s PRO to eliminate dust and extraneous husk:

We're confident that our bird foods are safe and will delight your birds , and that's why we offer a full money back guarantee.


 PLANS  to revamp a seaside holiday  park adjacent to Spurn have sparked controversy.

Mr M. Bucholtz wants not just to redevelop his Sandy Beaches Caravan Park at Kilnsea but also to relocate part of it in such a way that it would border Church Field - recently enhanced by the local bird observatory group to the tune of £50,000.

He claims his initiative is prompted by an imperative to safeguard the park and its visitors from the threat of coastal flooding.

However, in advance of his proposal being determined by East Riding Council planners, birdwatchers from all parts of the country have lodged objections.

Among them is former RSPB conservation director Dr Mark Avery who writes : “I visit Spurn regularly to see birds.

“When there, I spend my money locally on fuel, food, papers etc. I am less likely to visit if this application is approved.

“It's a long way from Northamptonshire - I don't come to see a caravan park.”

Meanwhile, Dr Stuart Cox, of Merseyside, says: “The visual impact will be horrendous in this unspoiled picturesque landscape which is part of the Heritage Coast.

“Considerable habitat loss will occur. · it will without doubt have an adverse effect on a nearby  little tern colony.

Little tern - threat to local colony? (Photo: JJ Harrison, Wikipedia Commons)

“In addition, increased light and noise pollution will have a  profound effect on migrating birds.”

Although most of the comments lodged with East Riding Council have been opposed to the application, about half of those who attended a public meeting in Easington village hall on October 18 were supportive

Among those in favour is Peter Martin, a Kilnsea resident for the past 13 years, who says: “During the tidal surge in December last year, I witnessed the distress of some of those who had to be evacuated from their caravans by  the Fire and Rescue Service - I hope this never happens again. “

He continues: “In addition, I am aware that, if Kilnsea is to survive in the long term, it will need to be a thriving community - one where businesses can flourish safely and generate employment and where visitors can enjoy good facilities.

“The plans for the proposed site allow  for the retention of the current hedges and include tree planting and  the provision of new lakes which will enhance the site and should help deal with future flooding.

“It is clearly sensible to site the proposed club house as far away as possible from the rapidly eroding coastline.”

The application is likely to determined at an East Riding Council planning committee meeting early in the New Year.

The comments so far submitted on the contentious application are listed at :


 AN opportunity to buy antiquarian bird books beckons next week at Sotheby’s salerooms in London.

The auction - with pre-sale estimates in brackets - will include the following titles:

Gould: Birds of Europe in five volumes (£40,000 – 50,000)
Dresser: Be-eaters (£5,000 – 7,000)
Sclater and Salvin: Exotic Ornithology (£4,000 – 6,000)
Bewick: History of British Birds in two volumes  (£500 - 700)
Meyer:  Illustrations of British Birds in four volumes (£6,000 - 8,000)
Yarrell: A History of British Birds in four volumes (£600 – 800)

The sale on Friday (November 4) starts at 10.30am, and the bird books will be first to go under the hammer.

Full details, including illustrations, at 
Henry Dresser's study on Bee-eaters is expected to bids upwards of £5,000      

Sunday, 26 October 2014


AUTHOR and blogger Mark Avery, who was guest at last year's  annual meeting of Lincolnshire Bird Club, is not having it all his own way in his outspoken support of the campaign to protect and promote the breeding fortunes of the hen harrier.

The decline of this impressive bird of prey has been attributed to the activities, sometimes illegal, of gamekeepers in Scotland and elsewhere seeking to safeguard populations of red grouse for the shooting fraternity.

But , without specifically  naming Avery, rural affairs writer Robin Page  has hit out at "certain conservationists" for being "fixated with raptors".

He says this derives from "a reaction" to Victorian times when they were widely persecuted.

Hen harrier ( Stephen Allen - British Wildlife Wiki)

His concern is that encouraging species such as the hen harrier is likely to lead to the loss not just of grouse but also of other birds  such as  grey partridges, golden plovers, skylarks and lapwings - one of his favourite species.

He believes a potential solution (suggested to him by an unnamed RSPB warden) might be to let one pair of harriers nest on every country estate and then allow any additional birds to be "moved on".

The outcome, he believes,  would be beneficial to a range of species - not just hen harriers.

The debate has implicatons for Lincolnshire - not because of the hen harrier, which no longer breeds in the county, but for the marsh harrier which is now widespread from the Humber to The Wash and south into East Anglia.
Marsh harrier (Wikipedia Commons)
As a result of the breeding success of the martsh harrier, increasing  pressure is thought to have been put on other marshand species, including waders whose chicks make easy targets in the breeding season.

As with the magpie versus songbird debate, it is a  tricky subject with no easy answers.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


AN interesting report and photo in the Spurn observatory blog (Tue Oct 21) about a juvenile storm petrel.

It was apparently brought in by the RSPCA after finding its way into Hull on board a P&O overnight ferry from Rotterdam.

The good news is that it is thought to have been none the worse for the experience because it flew off "strongly".

How regular is it for birds to take refuge on ferries or other vessels entering the Humber (or The Wash)? Are there any research papers?

In Birds of the Spurn Peninsula (Page 89), Ralph Chislett refers to a coasting ship piloted into the Humber (on Oct 29, 1948) which was said to have been  “covered with goldcrests” that had come aboard between Whitby and Flamborough.

Evidently, they all took off towards Lincolnshire  as the ship entered the estuary.

When the American robin was recorded in Grimsby a few years back, there was speculation that it may have "hitched"a ride on a vessel.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


CONTINUING tension in the Middle East has prompted a birding holiday company to scrap Israel from its itinerary - at least for 2015.

This was confirmed by Dave Read of Nottinghamshire-based Lanius Bird Tours in response to a query at Monday's meeting of Grimsby's RSPB Group.

"In the wake of the troubles, we have decided not to lead a trip there next year,"he said.

That is a shame. As Dave's illustrated presentation to a 60-strong audience at Corpus Christ church hall revealed, the country has a wealth of superb bird life, even in a popular tourist town such as Eilat.

Further south, areas of desert and other habitat provide a migration stop-off point and breeding territory for a range of species - en route to or from Europe, African and Asia.

Dave, who has been to the country on five occasions, said he would expect to record up to 180 species on a typical week-long trip.

These would include numerous raptor, wheatear, pipit, lark, shrike and bee-eater species, plus pratincoles, cream coloured coursers, Syrian serins and pied kingfishers. 

Pied kingfisher - widespread in Israel (photo: Lip Kee Yap, Wikipedia Commons)

But it would take a real stroke of luck to discover a nubian nightjar since, with only 20 pairs, it is considered to be one of  the rarest breeding birds in the Western Palearctic.

Dave revealed that he has missed out three times on glimpsing a black bush robin - once because he arrived a week too late, once because he was a week too early and once because the bird was on a site to which access was restricted.

He reckoned the best time to visit Israel was in the second half of March when migration was at its peak.Early-morning birding is preferable because, later in the day, heat haze impairs visibility and identification.

Unlike the situation in others parts of the Middle East, there is very little, if any, shooting of birds in Israel, and, as in the UK, birding is popular in the country.

Dave, who lives with his wife and children in Retford, has been a birder since being inspired as a boy on a family holiday to the Scottish Highlands.

His extensive travels have taken him to Kenya, Canada and the U.S. as well as many of the best birding sites in Europe.

His co-leader at Lanius Bird Tours is Andy Shooter who is also based in north Nottinghamshire.

Although Israel is not on the firm's 2015 itinerary, trips are planned to Greece, Spain, China, Bulgaria and the Canary Islands.

More details are available at:

Sunday, 19 October 2014


 A PLACE much loved by birders is Extremadura in Spain.

The pictures below are by courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and feature some of the sights that might greet a visitor in spring and summer.
 Typical dehesas habitat in spring - note also the white stork (photo:Ardo Beltz)
Cirl bunting – plentiful in this region of Spain (photo: Paco Gomez)
The bee-eater – beautiful to see, beautiful to hear (photo: Shah Jahan)
Rollers are encouraged by the provision of nest-boxes (photo: Sumeet Moghe)

The next best thing to going there is attending a presentation by Lincolnshire birder Steve Lovell who knows the area and its wildlife well.

Here is an account of the highly entertaining talk he gave to members of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust at Louth Library on Friday evening.

A LINCOLNSHIRE birder has described how he witnessed the tragic demise of one of Europe’s rarest birds of prêy.

While on a week’s holiday in late spring in the Extremadura region of central Spain, Steve Lovell and wife Elaine were tipped off by a couple of Finnish birders to the whereabouts of the nest of a Spanish imperial eagle.

As they waited in the expectation of soon seeing one of the adults returning to feed the two chicks, something bizarre and tragic happened.

The larger of the chick lost patience with waiting for its next meal and turned on its younger sibling - killing, then eating it.

Steve described the fascinating but tragic episode when he was guest speaker at Friday’s meeting of the Louth branch of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

“Before our eyes, two eagles became one,” he said with grim humour.

The Lovells have been to the Extremadura on three separate occasions - late spring, September and winter - and each one has been fascinating.

Known as “green Spain” it is one of the most heavily protected wildlife areas in Europe and its economy relies largely on birding tourists - which is why it is represented, every August, with extensive stand space at the annual British Birdwatching Fair which it also co-sponsors.

It is easy to see the attraction. It is home to some 300 species, many of them only very seldom seen in the UK.

The range of habitats includes Mediterranean forest, dehesas, rocky areas, heaths, rivers and streams, reservoirs, towns and villages, pastures/dry farming land and irrigated agricultural crops (including, unusually, paddy fields where rice is grown for risotto).

Steve and Elaine are also skilled photographers, and their presentation featured stunning close-up shots (see end of report for list of species).

“Cirl buntings and crested larks are everywhere,”enthused Steve. “In winter, you see and hear cranes, with their extraordinary bugling calls, until you are blue in the face. Their population is said to reach as many as 120,000.”

The Lincoln man, who runs his own successful garden landscaping business, revealed a special admiration for the various vulture species that are widespread.

“As well as their role in cleaning up nature, their flight is breathtaking,” he said. “They are truly masters of the sky.”

Steve evidently also has a spot for rollers whose breeding success is encouraged by dedicated nestboxes, and for bee-eaters - not just for their beautiful plumage but also for the sound they utter.

“It’s a wonderful bubbling call,”he said. “It blows you away.”

The couple’s portfolio of photographs also included expanses of French lavender and other herbs and flowers, various reptiles and amphibians plus such insects as the oil beetle and the epaulette strimmer.
One particularly impressive shot was that of four swallowtail butterflies settled on the ground where they were evidently seeking some kind of sustenance from minerals in the mud.

“Normally you only see swallowtails flying powerfully away into the distance, so this was something memorable,”said Steve “It was too good to miss!”

Spanning 250km from north to south and 200km from east to west, Extremadura is larger than some countries, for instance Belgium, Denmark and Holland.

The Lovells had flown to Madrid from the UK, then hired a car, but the region can also be reached in about the same time (about three hours) from the airports at Seville and Lisbon.

Steve also sounded plaudits for the unspoiled “Spanishness” of the towns and villages,  and he clearly enjoyed both the local wine (vino tinto lagares) and the Iberian pork (acorns from the numerous oaks are voraciously gobbled up  by the black pigs and help to give their meat its unique flavour.)

Anything else? “Yes, the cherries are the best I’ve ever tasted,” he chuckled.

Before concluding, he also offered a couple of tips to prospective visitors:

* Be forearmed by doing some research before you go.

* Restaurants where there are cloths on the table are likely to be more expensive than those without!   

The meeting above Louth Library was attended by 31 Trust members including branch chairman Ray Woodcock who provided an appropriate thank-you to the Lovells. “Muchas gracias!”he exclaimed.

Though they missed out on seeing eagle owl and Bonelli’s eagle, the list of species photographed by Steve and Elaine was awesome. It  included:

Red-spotted bluethroat
Spanish sparrow
Cirl bunting
Black-winged stilt
Little ringed plover
Ortolan bunting
Purple heron
Squacco heron
Cattle egret
White stork
Black stork
Rufous bush robin
Sub-alpine warbler
Pallid swift
Rock bunting
Great spotted cuckoo
Lesser kestrel
Short-toed lark
Cassandra lark
Crested lark
Montagu’s harrier
Black kite
Spotless starling
Black-shouldered kite
Temminck’s stint
Red-rumped swallow
Whiskered tern

·       For more info about Extremadura,

Friday, 17 October 2014


Today I received through the post a copy of Haith's new bird food and accessories catalogue - and very good it is too.

Its warehouse used to be based on Park Street in Cleethorpes where neighbouring residents were understandaby unhappy about the large population of mice it attracted.

A few years ago it moved to purpose-designed new premises at Genesis Way on Europarc business park on the outskirts of Grimsby from where it seems to have gone from strength.

In their catalogue  preface, David and Rachael Haith reveal that reduced prices have sometimes  been possible across the range thanks to strong harvests in countries where its produce is sourced.

They continue: "During our research, we have noticed some of the bird food now on display in garden centres and high street stores has been mixed and packed many months ago and, with the warm summer, has led to less than ideal storage conditions.

"Our seeds and foods, however, are cleaned, mixed and packed on a daily basis, and our dispatched goods are as fresh as possible."


Absent from the front of the Haith's catalogue is any picture of the firm's long-time promoter, Bill Oddie - so has his  14- year partnership with the firm  come  to an end?

When I phoned Haith's, they assured me this was not the case and referred me to their  website for more details:

On the subject of Oddie,  I always enjoyed his wildlife documentaries and was disappointed when the BBC axed him from their Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes.

I once interviewed him at Haith's but stupidly forgot to ask a crunch question: Is there any species on the British list that has always eluded him?

Here is the interview:

Do you recall how you first  became interested in birds?
Through egg collecting, sadly. I was aged about eight or nine. That's how I first became familiar with birds and their behaviour.

Was there any  incident or sighting of a particular bird that transformed you from being an egg collector to a birdwatcher?
No, it was probably a gradual thing. By collecting eggs, I learned to identify different species, their songs, their callnotes and their choices of  nesting sites. I do recall being particularly pleased at coming across a cuckoo's egg in a dunnock's nest in  a privet hedge ouside our house in Rochdale. Maybe that was a turning point. Another time, while fielding in a cricket match, I was fascinated by the behaviour of a a skylark which obviously had its nest in the outfield. Later, as my enthusiasm increased, my father bought me  a pair of binoculars. From then on, my egg-collecting days were over.
What's your favourite bird?
I'll stick with the swallow. It has a graceful flight, a sweet little face, an attractive plumage, a cheerful song and it builds an intricate nest. It also carries with it the mystery of mgration - I've seen swallows in all sorts of places, skimming over oceans, in deserts and even once over a volcanic island off Iceland where it is a very rare bird.

What other species do you particularly like?
Stonechats and whinchats rate highly. So do wheatears  - though they are birds of  upland pasture and coastal cliffs, they can turn up anywhere on migration,  even in Hampstead Heath near where I live. When they look out on an urban scene, they have a kind of quizzical look as if to say: "All very interesting but what am I doing here? Isn't it time to move on?"

Do you think there are any birds that tend to be underrated?
That's probably true of certain  groups of birds such as waders in winter plumage - what the Americans call "peeps". The same sometimes applies to warblers. Because they are predominantly brown and indistinct,  people sometimes give up on them. But I like them - they're the worth the challenge.

Do you have a favourite habitat for birdwatching?
Reservoirs. After we moved to Birmingham when I was growing up, my birdwatching patch used to be Bartley Reservoir. They may not be the most pleasing of landscapes. but you never know what might turn up at reservoirs - all through the year but especially at migration times.

Are there any species that you are not so keen on - or may even irritate you? How about magpies, for instance?
I'm not anti- any birds. All species  have their own special appeal. In my garden I feed jays and the parakeets which have now become common  Sometimes, they make an awful din and I tell them to shut up - but really I'm only saying it to myself. It's a pleasure to have them - especially the jays within just a foot or so away.

Ring-necked parakeets have become established in breeding colonies in parts of London after escaping from aviaries. Do you have any misgivings  about the spread of non-native species.
As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that parakeets compete with other species or cause crop damage as they are said to do in Asia. Actually, as a species, they are a bit "wet". Despite their aggressive appearance, they are  timid - even woodpigeons frighten them off.

Do you enjoy watching birds overseas?
Yes, but it's a different sort of pleasure. I remember a visit to Kenya and seeing lots of different species. I thought I'd never get the hang of them all, but after a week you more or less work things out - for instance, which are the more common ones.

Finally, did you see any unusual birds on your rail trip up from King's Cross to Grimsby?
Not on this occasion. I do look out for birds through train windows but, apart from the last stretch, this is not the  most interesting of lines. One of the  best routes is the one from Paddington to Penzance. It was  on one trip that I saw lots of little egrets - it made me aware how widespread they were becoming since their arrival only a few years ago.


ON Wednesday, there were 500-plus Brent geese on the field of emerging wheat adjacent to Tetney Marshes - but yesterday and today there was none.

Has the farmer taken decisive action?

Thursday, 16 October 2014


A RETURN visit yesterday evening to Cleethorpes coastal nature reserve was not enjoyable.

More "habitat management " has been undertaken by North East Lincolnshire Council's maintenance team - the site has been given a right haircut!

Much wildlife will have been devastated, but not carrion crows and magpies - they were having a field day on whatever creatures had been exposed by the extensive mowing regime.

I submitted a letter of protest to the  Grimsby Telegraph - wonder if they will publish it.


WHERE have all the golden plover gone?

In most years, they are plentiful from August onwards  - both on inland fields and at coastal sites such as the saltmarsh off Cleethorpes leisure centre.

But in my experience this autumn , numbers have been well down.

That's regrettable - I love their darting, acrobatic flight and evocative call note.

Also in sort supply this autumn - lapwings.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


A FORMER Horncastle schoolboy has pursued a successful international career - despite suffering a catastrophic injury when he was shot during a holiday in Guatemala.

The  life-changing experience for Dr Stuart Butchart came on New Years Day in 2001.

"As I was  birdwatching in a nature reserve  with a girlfriend, we  were confronted by four  bandits,"he said."We turned to run, but I was shot in the back."

The bullet  penetrated his rucksack and caused irreversible damage to his spinal nerve.

As the 28-year-old lay on the ground, in shock and unable to move, one of the thugs stole everything of value, including his watch and a ring from  his thumb.

His girlfriend was able to escape and raise the alarm, and, after a terrible hour on his own, Stuart was carried by villagers to a clinic, thence to be flown to a jhospital in Houston, Texas,  where he was told the grim news - he would never walk again.

Stuart, an ex-pupil of Horncastle's  Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, only touched briefly on the incident when he was guest speaker at the annual meeting of Lincolnshire Bird Club at Horncastle's Admiral Rodney Hotel (on March 18, 2014).

Instead the father-of-one  focused on his  work at the Cambridge-based nature conservation organisation, BirdLife International, where he is head of science.

The charity  focuses much of its work on seeking to ensure a future for some 200 critically endangered species that are on the brink of extinction - the likes of the hooded grebe, sociable lapwing, Puerto Rican nightjar  and New Zealand storm petrel - in the face of  climate change, human population increase and loss of habitat.

"You have to be a blind optimist to work in nature conservation,"he said. "It's a never-ending war, but you strive to win a few battles along the way."

Among species saved from extinction, at least for the time being, have been the black robin, the Mauritius parakeet, the Raratonga monarch and the Lear's macaw.

Stuart  revealed that his introduction to birdwatching came, aged six, when he was shown a spotted flycatcher by his grandfather, and  his growing interest was later encouraged by his QEGS biology teacher, Robert Carr, who was a keen birder and took pupils on field trips.

He lamented that some native species, such as the turtle dove, which was common when he was a boy, had now declined in the UK  by 90 per cent - partly because of intensive agriculture and partly because many are shot for sport on their migration through Mediterranean countries.

Despite  being restricted to a wheelchair, Stuart still travels the world , sometimes to remote places in Africa and Asia, never allowing himself to be deterred by jungle, marshland, mountains or other wheelchair-hostile terrain.

As his illustrations revealed, he  has even snorkelled among whales in freezing waters off Norway!

However, his most remarkable wildlife experience came in  Rwanda when he encountered mountain gorillas.

"It was an incredibly moving experience," he said. "One of them was so fascinated by my wheelchair that she came up and touched both the wheel and one of my toes.

"It is something I will never forget."

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


WHAT a great day (Monday October 13) at Spurn!

The north-easterlies blew in a juvenile bluethroat (which sheltered from the wind behind the Riverside Hotel) and a juvenile great grey shrike at The Warren.

Meanwhile, there were also sightings of black redstart, redstart, wheatear, firecrest, yellow-browed warbler and, out to sea, skuas and shearwaters galore.

Alas, I didn't see any of them - I wasn't present. I have just taken this info from the observatory's daily log!

However, suitably inspired, I took  a sortie today along Cleethorpes foreshore and the first 300 metres of the sea bank from the yacht club towards Tetney.

No rarities, sadly, but highlights included two redwings (my first of the winter) on the Thorpe Park golf course ) at Humberston (Spurn had 132!), 1 kingfisher, 1 male blackcap and goldcrests galore (pretty well two birds per bush).

There were also numerous robins - is anyone old enough to remember the famous "robin winter" of 1951 which is sometimes mentioned in books?

And the numbers of brent geese feeding on one of the cereal fields adjacent to the sea bank has  exploded - the flock has now reached 300-plus. The farmer will not be at all happy!

But back to the splendour that is Spurn - for the benefit of birders, please will  someone with a deep pocket launch a twice-daily hovercraft service across the Humber!

Climate change has encouraged more blackcaps to overwinter in the UK. This bird was photographed near his home by Ron Knight of Seaford, East Sussex (Wikipedia Commons). Mine was feeding in a tree off the bridleway at the back of Humberston's Thorpe Park caravan park.


DOWNSIDE of this morning  was the sight of heavy mowing activity by a North East Lincolnshire Council maintenance team along the stretch of the coastal nature reserve that runs from Cleethorpes leisure centre to Humberston fitties.

Historically, that has been a great place to catch up with flocks of goldfinches, linnets and other songbirds feeding on the seeds of long grass and weeds such as dock.

Today, none was to been or heard - just magpies, carrion crows and woodpigeons.

The work has doubtless given the reserve a more "manicured" park-like appearance and  made it  more
accommodating to dog walkers - but does  the expanse of adjacent beach  not provide space enough for letting dogs run free?

The site was designated a "nature reserve" - so what about the welfare of its birds and other wildlife such as voles, rabbits and hedgehogs?

The mowing under way - pity it couldn't have been left, at least until  the goldfinches  had had time to benefit from the food crop

And shouldn't this sort of work be undertaken with scythes and other hand equipment  by wildlife volunteers who would have monitored how individual  plant, bird and animal species  were being affected?

 Nice and neat - but since when has tidiness been a prerequisite of a nature reserve?  

THE goldcrest - now there is a species that never lets anyone down!

Just when the migration season starts to turn quiet, it is the turn of huge numbers of this superb little bird to announce their  presence.

Offhand, I can  think of no other birds (not even chiffchaffs or whitethroats)  which are quite as persistently vocal -  even as they simultaneously hunt for something to eat.

Unfortunately (through lack of patience), I've never knowingly encountered  its cousin, the firecrest, but  I've vowed to try harder this winter.

Ever active and ever-vocal, the goldcrest. Photo: Missy Osborne, New Forest (Wikipedia Commons)

Incidentally, the British company behind such hit movies as Local Hero, The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi was Goldcrest Films which was set up by a Canadian banker, Jake Eberts in 1977.

Alas, it was unable to repeat the success with Revolution, The Mission and Absolute Beginners which were all box office flops.

But there are hopes that  Goldcrest will enjoy  renewed success with forthcoming movies, Slumber, a supernatural thriller, and World's Greatest Explorer, which will document Mike Horn's attempt to circumnavigate the globe from North to South in under a year. 

His expedition is set to begin in September 2015.


WHAT good news that the corncrake recovery in Scotland shows no signs of losing momentum!

According to the RSPB, no fewer than 1,289 calling males - the highest tally in 45 years - were recorded north of the border between May 20 and July 10 this year.

The progress is attributable to farmers agreeing to leave certain hay fields uncut and ungrazed during the birds' breeding season.

Lincolnshire was possibly  once a breeding stronghold of corncrakes, but not within the  living memory of most of us.

When did they last breed widely in Lincolnshire and could there ever be large-scale  co-operation (posssibly funded) between the county's farmers and conservationists to revive its fortunes here?

Few birds are as elusive as the corncrake but Rachel Davies managed to capture this great shot (Wikipedia Commons)


A PUBLICAN who supports Premier League club Crystal Palace (nickname: The Eagles) has incorporated a golden eagle into the new thatch on his re-roofed pub in Sussex.

Sunday, 12 October 2014


HIGHLY impressed by Anderby Creek 's rare visitor from the north.

Even in the murk and mist of Saturday mid-morning, its plumage looked superb - pleased that it was an adult bird, not a juvenile.

On arrival, I  looked in the wrong place - the caravan park close to the foreshore car park. Plenty of starlings on an overhead wire, but not a pink'un among them.

However, I didn't have to wait long following a 300-metre walk inland to Occupation Lane. After three or four minutes, it flew out of a garden and perched for several minutes on wires above the first bungalow at the junction with the  street known as The Court.

That seemed to be its favourite vantage point for most of the morning except visits to bird tables in  neighbouring  gardens.

It didn't behave like a rare bird - ie, it didn't skulk!

In fact it made itself so conspicuous that, to be honest, it offered no challenge at all! But it was still a memorable sighting.

Unfortunately a leaf or two got in the way and the light was poor - but it's definitely a rosy-coloured!

The rare visitor attracted a steady stream of visitors over the weekend


In the hawthorn hedge  on the other side of the road from the entrance to  Occupation Lane was a partially white blackbird,  feeding on berries. The bird was remarkably tame.


ANDERBY Creek isn't really on the radar of many birders, but there's a lot going for it.

The expanse of  buckthorn surely provides temporary refuge for plenty of  migrants and it seems a good place for sea watching (but not on a misty morning).

What's more it provides two viewing points for birders - the "cloud bar" and the "bird hide".

Both were probably devised as cultural rather ornithological "projects", but they offer birders the opportunity for a bird's eye view of birds - useful, for instance,  if you want to assure yourself that a goldcrest isn't a firecrest.

Re the "bird hide", were any bird/wildlife organisations consulted about  its design and location?

The bird hide - decent panoramic views, especially from the top

The cloud bar - not as well located as the bird hide but it provides good views over the buckthorn

A warm welcome offered to  all - Anderby Creek's shop and cafe

Helping to promote eco-tourism  - the county council's coastal country park project

One of the fine Nantucket-style  houses looking out over the North Sea  from Anderby Creek


Twenty  years ago, sightings of buzzards were relatively few and far between in East Lincolnshire, but how times have changed!

Just last  week, I saw three together soaring over plough fields at the coast end of South Sea Lane in Humberston, one over the Cleethorpes saltmarsh and and another over the Station Road allotments in Waltham.

Great news (except for rabbits). But is the success of the buzzard blocking the progress of the red kite, a species whose expansion seems to have faltered, at least in North East Lincolnshire?

Are the two species in competiton for nesting and feeding habitat?


Do any birds eat sloeberries?

Even though Lincolnshire's numerous blackthorn bushes are full of distinctive white flowers in March and April, those bearing sloes seem few and far between.

Are they being eaten in late summer by wood pigeons, magpies or other birds - or is it just a fact of nature that few blackthorn flowers develop into sloes?


Has the song thrush  been lost as a breeding species to some parts of Lincolnshire - notably in the north-east of the county?

Tragically, I fear this may be the case. Back in February, I heard one singing near Pleasure Island amusement park in Cleethorpes, but have neither heard nor seen one since in the resort.



By contrast, its much brasher and feistier  cousin, the mistle thrush, seems to be holding its own.

At this time of the year, two or three are often to be seen feeding on the golf course at Bourne Leisure's Thorpe Park holiday site adjacent in Humberston.

The blend of grey and brown plumage is somewhat reminiscent of the wryneck. In fact, if the mistle thrush was smaller and barred instead of speckled, there would not be so much difference between the two species.


Happy to see  no fewer than seven little grebes on Friday at the nearby Fitties pools bordering the RSPB's  Tetney Marshes reserve. Here's hoping that the onset of winter will see a return of rarer cousins such as Slavonian or even the black-necked that spent  a few days at the same site in early spring.