Best Birding Moments

Michael Murphy:

1. Seawatch from Whitburn, Summer 2012
This was the first time I had been to the obs at Whitburn (embarrassing as I am Durham born and bred!) but it really left an impression of me. I got to the Obs just after dawn, and soon birds were moving. Initially we noticed large numbers of Ducks moving, and I learnt from some of the more experienced seawatchers how to ID them at range. Soon a few Red Throated Divers began to move, soon followed by the terns- numbers of Arctics, Commons and Sandwich began moving just offshore, and a few Roseate terns patrolled up and down, calling. I spent a while watching these birds, getting my eye in on there shape, jizzand trying to learn their call. I was soon able to pick the birds out as they flew around with the other terns. By this point, the first manxies had gone through  and many Arctic Skuas were passing, mainly of the dark morph, but two pale morph birds landed on some driftwood and floated south. Soon the shout of Long Tailed Skua went up, and I soon managed to get onto it- a juvenile and a lifer, and what a beautiful one! It flew through, distantly before being lost on the horizon. Not thinking it could get any better, I scanned back across the sea and picked up an adult Pom Skua with full spoons flying north, where it proceeded to harras some gulls and give good views. I was choughed, and to cap it all a Sooty Shear soon followed the route of the Pom. Although not the most exiting day for some, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

2. Eastern Olivaceous and Radde's Warbler, Kilminning Castle, Fife
On the 20/10/2012 Andrew Kinghorn gave myself, JAck Bucknall and Kieran Lawrence a lift to Kilminning castle in fife to see the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler that had taken up residence there the previous Saturday. After getting slightly lost we arrived and headed to the bushes where it had been seen. Brief and UT views were had of the bird, although we were treated to its call- similar to Blackcap in many respects. We headed around to the back of the bushes where it had been seen earlier and within minutes we were treated to absolutely mega views of the bird, which, although a pale beige colour, was very attractive. We noted a suit of features used to identify this species from similar species, such as Isabelline, Booted and Syke's Warbler, including the regular tail dipping. What a bird! Soon after though, we were forced to leave as a Radde's warbler was found 100m away, so we shot off to see that which would be a lifer for all present aside from myself. JAck, Kieran and I were treated to very good views of this skulking siberian warbler on the side of the bushes, but sadly foghorn had gone around to the other side and dipped! As the bird had moved to a slightly denser area, Jack and I decided to go and see what else we could see as the area had lots of potential. It was obvious migration was in action with large numbers of blackbirds, greenfinch, chaffinch and goldfinch coming into the area and feeding in the bushes close to the cliffs, affording good views. A solitaary fieldfare came in, as did 2 siskins, a Brambling, a Jay and a Redpoll sp. We then headed back to where we originally had the Eastern Olly, and were afforded with good views of the bird feeding in the bushes infront of us, again distinctively tail dipping and calling. We then began to walk to meet up with ANdrew and Kieran who were watching the Radde's, but were waylaid with news of a Red-Breasted Flycatcher, a lifer for Jack and a flock of Whooper Swans flying south. When Kieran and Andrew returned, we headed down to see the flycatcher and had very good views of this rare passage bird. An amazing day!

Kieran Lawrence:

1 - Leach's Storm Petrel: I had often helped the ringers at Whitburn with their efforts to trap and ring storm petrels at Whitburn and had seen many Europeans in the hand. Unfortunately one night I could not make it and typically this would be the night they caught a Leach's! Damn. I went back the next night with no enthusiasm at all. I sat there not saying a thing until it was time to check the nets. Nothing, this was not helping the cause of cheering me up. Fortunately we decided to sit there as John Brown had seen a petrel flying around the net. Within a few minutes it was in the net. Immediately I could see a forked tail. This was a LEACH'S! Not only was it a Leach's, it was a separate bird to the day before! Truly amazing!

2 - Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker: Being a very rare bird in Durham, LSW was not a bird I expected to catch up with in the recording area very soon. I had seen them before in Notts, obtaining very good views, so I knew what signs to look/listen for. There was a place in Durham where they had been seen singing for a couple of years, however this was before 2010 (bearing in mind at the time of this day it was 2012). However me and my dad always checked in early spring if we were in the area. One time we were on a Durham Bird Club trip that we organise. However we arrived a bit early and decided to check. A short walk   produced nothing, until we got back to the car and there it was, singing! Amazing.

Joseph Nichols:

1 - Montagu's Harrier: I'm aged 10, sitting at Visitor Centre at Strathbeg. Male harrier passes across window. I shout to my Dad 'Hen Harrier!'. He looks, notices black bands along secondaries... 'No Joe, that's a Montagu's!' Great views ensued, both during twitch that assembled and by ourselves. Best birding childhood memory by miles.

2 -  Sandhill Crane refind. When news of this bird came through from Strathbeg we had dropped everything we'd been doing. I had pulled a very sudden sicky at school to try and get there to see this bird. On the way news come through that it has headed north from the reserve. Devastation. Most of the local birding community spent the next hour and a half searching around for it, demoralized and without success. We were on the verge of giving up, having driven down a labyrinth of small roads and scanned every field we could think of in search of it. Literally at the point of giving up the ghost I picked it out on the brow of a stubble field. We came to a grinding halt and leapt out the car with preternatural speed. News was duly phoned out; this would be the site in which many twitchers would connect with the bird. Probably my most exciting birding moment in recent years.

3 - Thrush fall of October 2012. The largest and most evocative fall I have ever witnessed. A sheet of fog covered the whole of the North Norfolk coast, so dense that at points you could see no more than 60ft in front of you, with trees and whole landscapes entirely obscured. Thousands upon thousands of winter thrushes were pouring out the skies, infesting every thicket, every tree, every field, landing on beaches en masse, exhausted. It was teeming. After fantastic views of a Red-flanked Bluetail, I spent 5 and a half hours alone at Kelling, with virtually just a couple of other birders seen during the entirety of that time. Was an absolute treat with: Black Redstart, over 15 Ring Ouzels, towards 150 Brambling, Short-eared Owl in off the sea, thousands of winter thrushes, hundreds of Robin and others; all in one place. The sheer amount of birds as well as the exclusiveness of the experience will stay with me for a long time.

Harry Murphy

1 - Pallid Harrier, 20/10/12. Stood on the track towards Doorman's Pool overlooking a load of scrub with about 50 other birders, the bird we were looking for had been left for 2 hours so no one was very hopeful. We waited for another half hour and then thought before we check the rest of the area we have to be sure its not in here. So Richard Taylor stepped into the scrub, walked about 3 feet and a juvenile pallid harrier flew up in front of us all and gave an amazing show. I then walked up to the top car park and someone shouted LOOK BEHIND YOU!!! so I did and and the pallid harrier flew past me within 10ft! I was a very happy person that night.

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