Monday 9 December 2019


A few bits and bobs including greylag goose brings us up to 75 species, or 96.56%. Still not enough to catch the leaders. Not that we want to cast aspersions, but I hear a lot of their anti-doping files were accidentally been deleted.....

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Astounding happenings at Philpstoun*

Since my last post things have hotted up on the patch. On the day of my last post extolling the lack of its virtues the patch produced an avalanche of black-tailed godwits. 42 turned on on my normally quiet flooded field. This peak was never reached again but the blackwits have continued to visit along with an influx of snipe which now seem to be regulars. Since then a number of good birds have turned up: a flyby peregrine and kingfisher and dabchick on the canal for the first time in a few years. To cap this glorious renaissance of the patch today I finally found a nuthatch, a long awaited coloniser taking the patch list to 94 and 85 for the year. Clearly this purple patch will merely mean future dreariness but at least I can momentarily ride on an ornithological high.

*Astounding is relative obviously.

Thursday 31 October 2019

Last ditch autumnal efforts

Last day of Oct - last day of SE winds for the foreseeable and I was reduced to floundering in Old Spoons's wake as he turned up both Lesser Whitethroat & Firecrest in Dirk. Sadly his Bramble finch had left by the time I got there but I managed to turn the tide with a fine Shoveler on the lake afterwards - a three year tick day rounding off a fairly dismal October on patch!

Sunday 13 October 2019

twitching the nighthawk

Me & Ross Geller took a punt that the Common Nighthawk up in Antrim would remain for another day on Friday - it certainly did!

A common nighthawk yesterday
The fly-bys along the river at dusk were incredible, but sadly my recording technology was not up to the task of capturing any footage - brilliant bird!

Did manage a flyover lapland bunting on patch early doors on Friday, plus merlin today moves me over the near-mythical 80% barrier.....

Sunday 6 October 2019

Autumn Fillers

Looks like Ol' Snowy will be staying at Galley for another year, well done to Seppy for a cracking find.

As for Longhaven, there have been no major (or any) surprises so far this autumn, with just the usual autumn fillers pushing up the yearly total.

Recent birds are as expected YBW, Brambling, Jack Snipe, SEO, Whinchat, Redwing and Siskin.  I should really do some seawatching, which could easily get me another 5 species or so.  But until then my total is on 116 species (my highest ever) and a ridiculous 109.43%

Happy days


Saturday 5 October 2019

REV in Dirk

Been easing back into Galley, adjusting to the severe changes in vegetation levels after Shetland. After a rainy morning, a pre-school pick-up wander down Dirk last monday was proving very fruitless, when all of a sudden, as if by magic, a red-eyed vireo appeared in the tree that I was scanning. Almost as quickly, it vanished again, and I was left wondering if I'd imagined the whole thing.

Luckily, after a few heart-stopping minutes, I managed to relocate it in the adjacent tree, and it did the decent thing, and performed in full view for a few seconds, before heading off again, towards the big clump of sycamores at the bottom of Dirk. I had to go and collect the wean from school, but on returning to the scene of the crime, complete with camera, I drew a total blank. It was like it had never happened - Dirk was back to normal again! After an hour, I could take no more, and headed home to celebrate!

So I never did get a photo, but here's a blurred and on the huh shot that Ross Geller took of the Mizen bird the previous day instead...

A red-eyed vireo yesterday by Ross Geller
As for Dirk, well, who knows what could be in there - if only there was a bit more cover to actually hold stuff!

Dirk Bay, yesterday

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Still here

After a  long absence from the blog I am back. Unsurprisingly for the avian paradise that is Philpstoun there are no exciting (or even half exciting) birds to report. A meadow pipit this morning was the first year tick since July and as about as mega as it gets. This takes the year tally to 80, one off last year and 88.89% of the all time figure (don't have three years to compare against here yet). I'm sure you'll all be rushing here to partake in the ornithological delights but if you do please let me know so I can put the kettle on.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Smashing through 100%

Following the 100th species in early June there's been a steady trickle of patch birds with 8 new species in the last 8 weeks...

Swift 22/6
Coal tit - 29/6
Grey wag - 1/7
Great spot woody - 8/7
Greenshank - 30/7
Green Sand - 2/8
Manxie - 5/8
Ruff - 5/8

With autumn just around the corner things should start picking up.

108 species

Happy days


Tuesday 30 July 2019


2013 was a good year for whinners. Andy Murray won Wimbledon, and Chris Froome won his first Tour de France (although we all know he could have beaten Wiggins in 2012). It was also the last time we recorded whinchat on our patch. A mega, partly due to the non coastal location, this species used to breed on the patch in the days when we released our first album. But no more. However, we were delighted to find a juvenile on patch on Sunday. That, plus fillers, brings us to 71 species, or 91.42%. Hopefully our career will return soon too.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Thursday 6 June 2019

Spring continues...and so do the birds

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post and the birds keep on coming.

Following the bluethroats, a wood sand made a brief evening visit (only my second for the patch) and few days laters a couple of Temminck's stints along with a dunlin also graced the not so great pool.  Another full fat patch (the stints that is, not the dunlin).

A seawatch on the 27th produced a stunning summer plumaged white-billed diver ... yet another full fat patch.

A ringed plover on the 28th was the first record since August 2016.

And that was the end of May.

Luckily it's still spring up here and still birds to be had, two more full fat patch ticks today in the form  of a male red-backed shrike and (believe it or not) 12 Canada geese...

quite simply a stunning spring with seven full fat patch ticks.  99 species (93.40%) puts the Procs back in their place.

Happy days


Wednesday 29 May 2019

Briefly on top

Its been a while since we last updated our score. The return of summer migrants has boosted our total a bit, including garden warbler in the garden and an early swift. Other news includes the now regular occurrence of house sparrow on the patch. This species is barely annual but it appears to be making a small come back, foraging beside its arboreal cousin. We await being knocked off the top spot by Bushvelt, and whatever he has found of late...

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Big Royzah's Fully Fat

Not to outdone by Senor Bushveld, Big Roy was delighted to report that it has only taken him 20 whole years (count 'em) to actually manage to see a bluetroat on the Don - verification provided below....

A male bluetroat yesterday
Not that he bothered to focus the image before taking it, nor could he be arsed downloading it off the camera but hey, you get the general idea.

I myself failed to see any bluetroats, but did manage a swift and an amazeballs flyover grey plover, which was only my 5th evah at Galley or something equally amazin....

Monday 20 May 2019


Just managed to get the seven patch ticks yesterday.

A couple of bluetroats were a full patch tick and a nice honey buzzard was a second for the patch.  The others were spot fly, redstart, common sand, whimbrel, black-wit.  Having added a few other odds and sods during the last week or so, my total of 91 species and 85.85% puts me comfortably in poll position.

Happy days.


Thursday 2 May 2019

Catching up

Not to be outdone by those in the Norf-east of Scotland who are currently enjoying cripplers on patch, I too have been banging them in at Galley, its just they've all been gank. Still, collared dove was one I missed last year, whilst bankers like spotted flycatcher, gropper, and sarnie tern have also all been bagged.

87 species or 65.58% - gettin there....

Monday 29 April 2019

A Mega find by Reg

Thankfully Reg no longer plays this game, otherwise we'd be hanging up our bins and Ol' Snowy would be looking forward to yet another year in Collieston.  A MOLTONI'S WARBLER on Reg's patch gave crippling views for the whole of yesterday afternoon but unfortunately stayed mute until late on when eventually it gave itself away and, in the process, made Reg a very happy man.

A brilliant find and great perseverance by Reg to nail the identification.

In the mean time the patch keeps giving and I keep taking.

The best of the bunch being a drake garganey on the 'not so great pool' was a full fat patch tick.  Aside from that nothing of significant note but plenty of fine birds to keep the tally rolling forward.

Total so far 80 species, 75.47%.

Happy days


Tuesday 23 April 2019

Blowing away the cloud of apathy

The arrival of the Golden Mallard was a welcome first for the Longhaven patch and quickly filled the space left by the departure of Ol' Snowy.

Since the beginning of the year a cloud of apathy has hung over the patch.  A few birds of note (the best being a merlin in February and the first for the patch since 2016!) hasn't encouraged me to venture out with any great enthusiasm.  However, over the last week or so the arrival of the first migrants along with a spell of south-easterlies has lifted the spirits somewhat and I've stopped looking at my feet and started looking up.  An uncommon afternoon trip onto the patch with the two hounds today was producing the normal selection of patch monotony until the very end when from a ditch out flew a locustella.   Any locustella would be a patch first but fortunately this individual decided to land on a bush some 10 metres from me, where upon it posed like a porn star, leaving nothing for the imagination it proceeded to give full on views of every feature needed for it be nailed as a full on SAVI'S WARBLER.

Totals so far.  66 species,  62.26%

Not so good but still plenty of time and the cloud of apathy now blown away.

Happy Daze


A flurry of spring patch gank

Well, the usual suspects have arrived in force... resulting in some much needed, if hardly unexpected year-tickage.

Nothing extraordinary, but the return of regulars like chiffchaff, willow warbler, sedge warbler, blackcap, gropper and whitethroat to the patch, along with the usual hirundines, puts me on 72 for the year or 82.44% in real money.

That's just enough to slingshot me back to the top of the leaderboard... for now. The worrying thing is we're still only in April... and with the exception of one or two sitters (perg and jay still to get, for example) leaves me with precious little to look forward to.

It's going to be a long, long summer!

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Breakfast birding

The bird feeders outside the recording studio window have proven productive at 7:35 the past two days. Yesterday there was a smashing drake blackcap, while today there was a hen brambling. What will it be tomorrow? 56 spp / 72.10%

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Banging them in

A chiffchaff in the garden prompted us to review our scores, and we found we'd been a bit lax of late. An update including snow bunting (less than annual), mallard (not golden) and perg brings us to 53 species or 68.24%. All good stuff. Just behind Shaky (who was on tour recently I saw) and that pesky upstart Tintin. How did he get out in front??
And in other news we bumped into our absent friend Statto a couple of weeks back in the studio. He passes on his best wishes even if he can't be arsed joining in the competition.

Sunday 24 March 2019

Another little bunting sighting

Following my badly seen but calling vigorously fly-by little bunting across the garden and down the lane in a force 8 gale last month, Old Spoons jammed into presumably the same bird on Galley this afternoon, and he got shots too, before it inconveniently disappeared again for the rest of the afternoon!

Old \Spoons, this pm (Ciaran Cronin)
Presumably both sightings involve the same bird seen in the same area by one lucky observer back in October, but I guess there's no way of knowing. There can't be many (if any) spring records of little bunting in Ireland, so chances are its the same individual, Hope it finally settles down a bit!

Quiet otherwise, although 2 chiffchaffs and a black redstart indicated a bit of movement through the crease - missed the latter last year too, so that was a welcome year tick! 70 species up for the year...

Thursday 28 February 2019

Snowy migrates to Galley

Following the use of VAR Seppy gets the prize...

A much deserved winner with a cracking flycatcher.

Sunday 24 February 2019


An almost tropical wander this afternoon in the sun produced a flock of 16 crossbills over high, and a jay. A very early peacock butterfly was also notable but doesn't count. 46, and onto the podium.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Random flooding

of a patch of ground delivered me 9 teal. Every little counts.
44, or 56.65%

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Checking in

It has been quiet so far, but we have finally checked in for the year, with 55.36% of 77.67 meaning we are in 4th place.
Dipper singing in the garden this morning is perhaps the highlight of the year.

Monday 14 January 2019

The second week of 2019 goes well for the T-2006. Nothing unexpected but nice to get potential tricky species such as whooper swan and woodcock in the bag. A host of other species sees the wheels of steel roll up to 65 species and 51.18%.

The T-2006 shall now return to mission control satisfied. Yes, it's as happy as fish, and gorgeous as geese, and wonderfully clean in the morning.  

Saturday 12 January 2019

It is I, Tintin


Thank you most heartily for allowing me to enter that most hallowed of competitions, the Golden Mallard. I can't claim I will bring you tales of cripplers and megas, rarities and vagrants, days spent scouring the seas for errant petrels. In fact, if I bring you tales of anything even half interesting I'll be surprised.

I must correct an error. I see "Winchburgh" has been listed as my patch. Winchburgh? That washed up, former shale mining village with no more birds than a crappy urban park! No, my fabled patch is around Philpstoun, a former shale mining village with no more birds than a crappy urban park. Quite different I'm sure you'll agree.

To introduce this avian paradise here it is...

The highlights? The Union Canal, some fairly poor woodland, and a flooded field. Stunning I'm sure you'll agree.

Best bird by some considerable margin was a hobby that shot over on my birthday several years ago.

So far this year the patch has probably already shot its bolt with a couple of waxwing, better birds may be hard to find. A singing dipper this morning added some winter delight but we shall see how the rest of the year goes. 

Snowy! Here boy!

PS Did The Proclaimers mention that I found the best bird on his patch in recent years?
Greetings insects,
Tis the T-2006 here. Once again back from the future to bring metal claw to human behind with an amount of force equal to its mass times the acceleration that the T-2006 will deem necessary. More on that later.

Anyhoo, at the end of the first week of 2019, 47 species were logged, which equates to 37.01% based on an (old) estimated average of 127. Let battle commence!

Meantime, to let the field catch up, the T-2006 shall return to its bunker, to recite three lullabies in an ancient tongue for the court of the crimson king.

Thursday 10 January 2019

New Year brings New (and returning) contenders

Yes indeedy, laydeeez and germelmen - out from the distant annals of time, still wearing its spangly cape and with a Hi-Tec trainer dangling from each er, camera, please welcome back the re-booted T2006....

T2006, yesteryear
It may look shit, but this particular device won the Golden Mallard (worth £50 on ebay) in 2009 and has also challenged for Old Snowy before now, with a fine Desert Wheatear in 2008 (which was, quite frankly, waaaay better than the crappy buff-bellied pipit that did win that year). Its been fully re-wired and made field-ready, and is fully functional, ready to go, or your money back!

Also, new to the competition, but with patch scores for the last two years as validated and vouched for by the Proclaimers, please welcome TinTin to the competition....

Tintin, yesterday
Yes, he's that good that he doesn't even need bins - or maybe thats just because his patch is crap? lets find out.....

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Bushveld by a nose!

Yes indeedy - after several years of claiming that his Longhaven patch was rubbish and that there are never any birds, Bushveld turned things around this time, and while everyone else was floundering in his wake, he continued firing in year tick after year tick.

There will probably have to be an enquiry.

However, in the meantime, here is the final 2018 scoreboard, for posterity....

some scores, yesterday
So thats it for 2018 - presume everyone will be back in action for 2019 and blogging updates imminently....