Friday 31 December 2021

Goodbye 2021

 What a struggle 2021 was; visit after visit of tedium and no rewards.  A hand full of full fat patch ticks included a little grebe, marsh harrier and spotted redshank.  A lack of migrants in either spring or autumn left big gaps in the annual totals with not even a yellow-browed warbler gracing any of the patch bushes.  

The year ended on 110 species and 91.67%

Thankfully, tomorrow we all start again.

Well done to Derek Nimmo for winning the mallard and congrats to Seppy for finding a bucketful of quality birds this year (...again).  A blackpoll on your patch is always going to win you Ol' snowy (...again).

Happy days and a Happy New Year.


Friday 24 December 2021

I'm a record breaker!

Evening all, just back from a couple of comedy recording session in the US, but managed to sneak in a few more species to smash the patch year record round here. Previously this had stood at 127 species, but I've come in with a resounding 131. In real money that's 116.27%.

The list of birds is long and glorious, including three full fat patch ticks (Black-necked Grebe, Iceland Gull and Quail), and loads of birds which are not annual (Woodlark, Yellowhammer, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, White-fronted Goose, Goosander, Kittiwake, Golden Plover, Rook, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Curlew, Nightingale, Cuckoo, Raven, Great White Egret and Wryneck)

I found the Wryneck as it happens, a glorious patch bird here in London, albeit only just about middling compared to the mighty east coast and cheeky south-west headlands. I doubt it will be enough to send Ol' Snowy southbound. But whilst I can't compete on the rarity front, in absolute terms I have had a belter. 

The final two species, #130 and #131, were very speshul indeed, both rare waterfowl and one-day wonders that I had to twitch in a big hurry. The first were a pair of Mandalorian Duck in late November, far less than annual here as they rarely wander from their stronghold of Epping Forest about ten miles away, as evidenced by this being only my fourth record in nearly 17 years of watching the patch. And then last week just before I had to nip to America again a Red-crested Pochard rocked up. There are breeding populations in the south-east and they're perfectly acceptable here even if they do sometimes look like absolute duffers. This is also really rare here, my fifth record ever, and was a patch tick for quite a few of the guys. So if these two are the ones that eventually land the Golden Mallard, itself a perfectly kosher species, I think that would be quite apt. Ideal actually. And then I could tick it on Jan 1st for a headstart. Oh wait I forgot, it won't actually get sent until about May or June.

I would just like to thank Covid for making this possible. And dedication obviously. Without being able to go to the recording studio or radio theatre very much, and with travel being such a pain in the backside, I've spent almost the whole year at home. So have all the rest of the birders that watch the patch, and this is the result. Almost everyone has bettered their previous high scores, and the overall patch list reached the dizzy heights of 145. So to Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron - hats off to ya!

Friday 26 November 2021

Lake of Fire

 Yes indeedy, for in the last 2 or 3 weeks I've barely looked beyond the lakes shores, yet have added five (count 'em) year ticks. Lapwing fell first, a lone bird flying over the garden heading to the lake. Next up were two brief whopper schwanns that all too quickly were scared off or eaten by the local mute pair. Fast forward to last monday and there was a male tufted duck and an imm male shoveler frolicking in the shallows, along with a whopping 21 (count 'em again to be sure) wigeon, albeit these weren't a year tick. And now today, to top it off, three fine gadwall have been added to the mix - where will it all end?

Wednesday 10 November 2021

T2006 shoots its bolt

In an unprecedented move, our metal friend T2006 (for it is he, er it) has blasted out of the mediocre mid-table peloton straight into outright 3rd place, even ahead of that be-spectacled Leith-based sunshine stringy singy duo! All of its recent year ticks have been "all gank" but with little other details forthcoming there is not much else to add.

Best get back out there I spose....

Monday 1 November 2021

Updates from the norf east

 A quick update on the lack of migrants in da norf-east. Royzah (for it was he), has been banging in a few bits here and there including ring ouzel, woodcock, and snow bunting, as well as a fine scaup no less. So he's over the near-mythical 100% barrier, with his best total since the heady days of 2011, back when he could still get a note out of his trumpet. Parp!

Unfortunately, bushveld is making heavier weather of things, and although he's bumped into siskin and merlin of late, he still hasnt managed a blackcap yet this year. Oh dear.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

A boni's and a blackpoll on patch

 Yes indeedy - its seems Galley truly is an unstoppable force this year in terms of rares! Hot on the heels of the previous large slices of luck, I stumbled into an adult winter bonaparte's gull down on the beach last week, whilst out with the Hound of Destiny. This is almost certainly the same individual that netted me Old Snowy last September. Exhibit A, taken in the fog a couple of mornings later...

A bonaparte's gull, yesterday

And as if that wasn't enough, the following sunday I banged into a blackpoll warbler, while trying to score a ybw

Not a yellow browed warbler!

Quite a surprise to say the least! Luckily I think most folk who came saw it, but it could disappear for ages at a time. It stayed a couple of days and then wasn't seen again. The first record for Galley I think.

Friday 10 September 2021

Quite a week on the patch!

Yes indeedy, the magic didn't wear off on Sunday but kept going right through the week. Monday and Tues were quieter though, with just a new pied flycatcher for me troubles. But things kicked off again on Wednesday when the conditions were very promising - nice light south-easterlies and a bit of patchy mist and drizzle.

With no evidence of anything new at Shite Lane and Marsh lane, I very nearly didn't bother doing the top lane, as I had a ton of brown envelopes to go through back in the office. However, it was very fortuitous that I made the effort.

After bumping into a couple of whinchats, I was scanning the fencelines in the mist when I was momentarily confused by a weird looking male wheatear on a post. But something didn't look right about it, so I edged a bit nearer....

Not a male wheatear...

The penny dropped. Grey shrike sp! Looked small and long-winged - shurely it had to be a lesser grey shrike! Then it flew and I lost it. And in trying to find it got distracted by a bunting going "pwit pwit"....

An ortolan, yesterday

Ortolan bunting! Huzzah! A classic early September score for Galley - we probably average one every couple of years here. Meanwhile where did the shrike get to?

By this time, Chris had shown up with a scope and we managed to relocate it at the bottom of the top lane, where we got better views

Look at the primaries on that! [Photo: C. O'Sullivan]

Whilst watching it, we noticed that it was colour-ringed - and once this news had gone out we were informed of the existence of a Spanish reintroduction programme, with eggs and chicks being reared to fledging and then released into the wild. More on the project here.

Lets leave that there shall we? Did score a bonus turtle dove on another late pm sortie....

Moving on to Thursday, and after the rain moved through I thought I'd have another punt around, only to bang straight into my first pectoral sandpiper at Galley, on the wee stream that flows out of Marsh Lane

A pec sand yesterday (uncropped)

It was really tame, and actually flew towards us at one point. I commando crawled over the shingle to get some closer shots, thinking of Derek Nimmo all the while!


A great wee bird! Twitching a fine wryneck this am surely brings this amayzing spell at Galley to an end? We shall see....

Still second last in the Golden mallard standings tho!

Monday 6 September 2021

Quite a weekend on the patch

Its been light easterlies for a good while now but things have remained slow and steady on the year list front, now that the autumn has officially started. The calm conditions at the end of August resulted in good numbers of waders going through, with two knot being the best, while I also had to twitch a spotted flycatcher found by Old Spoons just in case the autumn was as dud as the seawatching season has been. 

However, things picked up on the mig front on 1st September when both pied flycatcher and coot appeared; the former being more regular than the latter. Saturday morning saw me keen to avenge the painful miss of 3 stock doves and a flyover dotterel during the week and I duly scored with a fine whinchat on the lighthouse road - one that I missed last year.

Exhibit A - a whinchat

A while scanning the sycamores of Dirk produced another spotted flycatcher, plus a few phylloscs, when all of a sudden a bigger, warbler appeared in the foliage. Clearly a hippo, it didn't look "long-winged" and had no wing panel - melodious warbler! My 4th at Galley, and first since 2017. All good!

Another spotted flycatcher

However, things were to get even better on Sunday. Out again on foot, it was slow to start with, with the odd phyllosc here and there, until the blue house garden produced another spotted flycatcher and better yet, a fine redstart, my first for a couple of years.

blurred and on the huh, yesterday

Encouraged to push on, that was it for a good while, until I bumped into a small, pale warbler bouncing around a field edge. Luckily the camera wasn't still in the bag....


Fortunately the bird was very obliging, and seemingly oblivious to my presence. The way it was bouncing around suggested it hadn't been in long, but I was able to get a bit closer and confirm my suspicions that the bird was a booted warbler!!

Getting closer, and nearly in focus.....

It flipped back over the hedge and I was able to sneak up and point the camera at it for one more burst before it was away across the field and into a large sycamore bush, with literally masses of cover beyond...

Booted Warbler, Galley Head, 5/9/2021

I never saw it again, despite giving it a good while. Finding a rare is so often such a massive slice of luck that it does my head in! If I'd spent another five mins trying to get an even better redstart pic I would have missed the booted altogether! Sometimes everything comes together tho, and makes all those empty slogs round Galley worthwhile!

Monday 30 August 2021

Annual update

It has been a busy month, lots of shows to record. I've spent a bit of time in Fife - lots of comedians up there - and on my return to the big smoke I've been on fire. Literally smokin' - added Tree Pipit and Cuckoo on the patch after the 9 hour drive home, the following weekend a Garganey and a Raven (4th and 3rd for the patch respectively), and then yesterday a Great White Egret (probably under 10, though increasing) and finally Pied Flycatcher (annual but always utter bastards) all of which takes me to 122 species, or in real money, 108.28%. 

This is actually my highest ever patch total, beating last year's 121. Who says COVID is a bad thing? There are four months to go but only one 'gimme' in the shape of Bramblingfinch. Well, maybe Bullfinch but I'd have to loiter in undesirable places for one of those so it might have to go begging.

108.28% is also top of the leaderboard, so how 'bout we all just call it a day. Mrs Nimmo did mention that she was missing the Mallard, so there's a challenge for me. If Shaky could just stay at home for the autumn please?

Friday 27 August 2021

More from the Don

 Yes indeedy. In a rare burst of birding activity, I have some proof of life images of some of the wild, outlandish claims that have been emanating from the Don of late....

First up is a roseate tern - worth noting that this was actually found by T2006, not Royzah.

A roseate tern yesterday

And secondly, a fine blak tern which was apparently found by Royzah but he never sees blak terns so this can't be true...

A blak tern also yesterday

Hopefully thats the last Don-based excitement for a while....

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Pied Fly!

 First Pied Fly on patch for 8 years! Even got some ropey pics to celebrate...

Thursday 19 August 2021

Royzah's Rearguard Action

 Yes indeedy folks, miracles do happen and there have even been some birds on the Don. News from Big Royzah (for it was he) confirms that there has been manx and sooty shearwater, arctic tern, bonxie, whimbrel, short-eared owl and even an actual mig in the form of spotted flycatcher in his very garden.

To add insult to injury, Royzah sent a further missive this very morning proclaiming that he has gleaned a further three (count 'em) year ticks today, with tufted duck, pintail and a frankly outrageous little ringed plover! Of course, it turned out after some routine questioning that the LRP was actually found by none other than the estranged nano-bot T2006 yesterday, which was good news. [Ed's note - Still waiting for an updated digital printout from our shiny metal friend to ascertain what he's claiming to be on for 2021...]

All to play for then, Happily Royzah still needs another 27 species to close the gap on the leaders....

Late news - annoyingly, shakey is claiming an osprey over his ever-expanding patch yesterday, so Royzah probly needs 28 more species now.....

Thursday 12 August 2021

Here we go at last

 There's been precious little seawatching weather since the start of July, and what little there has been was last week when I was away. So I had little choice but to drag myself up to Galley for a early morning session this am, and although quiet, it was worth it for a few year ticks.

Best of the bunch were 8 (count 'em) great shearwaters, while 32 sooty shearwaters, 8 storm petrels and 2 arctic terns were also new for the year. Thought I'd gleaned arctic skua too, but I'd already seen that back in the spring apparently.

So, onto 80% at last - and hopefully things will start to pick up a bit now that we're finally into the autumn....

Wednesday 4 August 2021


There were no patch ticks in July! which I think is the first time that I've not managed to get a patch tick during a whole month.

not so happy days.


Friday 23 July 2021

Overdue update

A break in our busy recording schedule has given us a chance to update scores. Unusually for us we are number one. A quick check indicates that in recent weeks we've added quail (fourth patch record), Canada goose (second patch record) and house sparrow to the list. Best of all was whinchat, the first for a while. All this brings us to 85 species, or 105%. Rockin'

Thursday 15 July 2021

 Stork on!

A full fat patch tick this morning when, following a tip off that a Black Stork was headed my way over Dover, I managed to secure it for the patch before tracking it westwards and managing a few heavily cropped record shots. 

Tuesday 22 June 2021


 That’s 100 species and not percent...  which is a shame really.


After a ridiculously cold, windy and wet May the weather has at last improved a little, but only a little.  Patch birding hasn't been a whole lot of fun but to be fair it has been a solid enough start.  Highlight this spring was a Nordic jackdaw which hung around on patch for about 10 days, but as Seppy scoffs it’s still only a jackdaw.  A Marsh Harrier on 23 April was though a full fat patch tick and does count.  The few other bonus birds to be had include an Iceland gull on 2 May and

a pair of garganey on 12 May both of which were only second records. A gadwall on the 9th is a ‘fifty-fifty’ species.


June is as always a quiet affair.  Typically scoring only one or two patch ticks for the year and so far this June it has been the same, with a ringed plover (quite a good bird here) and a few swifts passing over the last few days.


Totalling up a 100 species by 21 June is though a whole month earlier than last year, so things are looking strong for the rest of the year.  


100 species = 83.33%


Happy days


Tuesday 4 May 2021

A real live rarity (almost)

Summer migrants trickling in, most of the usual suspects have arrived though still waiting on garden and sedge warblers and house martins (the last being sadly rare in my patch now). Much excitement today though when on a quick visit to my flooded fields (they had filled up again after yesterdays rain) I spotted a small brown wader type on the muddy margin in amongst the cattle footprints. It appeared to be a ringo but inland and never having been here before it needed a better look. Not having my scope I had to take some very zoomed in photos which revealed it to be a little ringed plover. A decent species anywhere in Scotland but particularly good in West Lothian. While they have bred twice in the last 10 years somewhere in the county those oddly seem to be the only recent records. Certainly a very pleasing find for my patch. Went back with my scope and got some pleasing views, though no better photos.

No ringo goes like a little ringo goes...

Swift addition to my April list

An earliest ever patch record of swift on 29th April, with whitethroat a few days back, a fly over tree pipit early Sunday morning (together with  a pair of ring ouzel; Figure 1) and sand martin just 15 minutes ago bring numbers up to 80 species or 99.17%. 

Figure 1. Ring ouzel was on the menu on Saturday.

Well done to Mr Stevens for over a hundred before the middle of the year.

Ton up!

Ton up (100.40%) in record time with the first Manxies this morning. I'm sure they show better off Galley but these are the first ever record shots that I've managed from the Kent coast...


Monday 26 April 2021

Long time no update

It has been a while, all too long indeed, since we updated you. Winter has gone and spring has come to our patch, and the birds reflect this. A brief summary of goings on: second and third cormorant record for the patch, fly over whooper swans, a stonking count of eight ring ouzels at the beginning of April together with curlew and wheatear, and willow warblers returned in force last weekend. All settled now, with whitethroat and swift about the only summer migrant to return. All this bring us to a rather incredible 76 species, or 94.21%.

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Mid-April Musings

 Indeed and we are nearly halfway through the spring already! And its been pretty quiet at Galley - a trickle of the usual, expected summer migrants but little in the way of anything more exotic.

I've managed to claw me way up to 88 species or 67.69%, which is bang average to be honest. Still a long way to go....

A wheatear, yesterday

Thursday 15 April 2021

Marching on

 A belated update for March.

eight patch ticks for the month the best being the previously mentioned long-eared owl.

Instead of birding I've been playing around with the spreadsheet to see what make believe stats I can come up with, to encourage me to keep going...

The good news is that eight patch ticks in March is my highest ever March total! contributing a whopping 7% of my annual total.  Which is considerably better than the five year average which is only 2% of my final total.  So things are looking good.

The bad news is that in April I get, on average, 15 patch ticks and so far this year I have none...

Time to either give up or get out more...

Happy days 



Wednesday 14 April 2021

Spring has sprung (with added snow)

After my last post resulted in gross slanderous accusations from old eight eyes (Remember the dotterel, eh? What have you ever found for me on my patch?) I am pleased to say that the trickle of species has continued meaning I am happily crapping on the Boghall total, long may this continue.  

Summer migs have started to appear, chiffchaff, sand martin, willow warbler and blackcap so far along with loads of passing meadow pipits. Nothing outstanding yet and redshank still the only patch tick this year. Doesn't really matter as long as we stay ahead of the Midlothian muck raker.

Monday 8 March 2021

Livin' on a prayer

 Thankfully February is now behind us, Spring is just around the corner (Actually spring is another couple of months away really) and the patch is picking up a few birds.  

Best bird over the last few weeks was a long-eared owl in the migrant bushes and the first one I've seen on the patch which hasn't been ringed.

Other, not so quality, patch birds have included the likes of lapwing, oystercatcher, shelduck etc etc. I won't go on but we have to hold on to what we've got.

Patch total now at a whopping 60 species, that is 50% and we're half way there...

Happy days


Sunday 7 February 2021

Too much too soon? (or Have we shot our wad?)

Perhaps its due to the pandemic and spending more time on my patch rather than going elsewhere to actually see some birds but the start of 2021 has been unprecedented in comparison to previous years. A whopping 67 species have already been seen including one patch tick in the form of a brief visit by a passing redshank (to feed on the one square metre of open water on the frozen flooded fields). Not really any other highlights though a few uncommon species such as brambling, coot and kingfisher have been nice to see. Peregrines are becoming regular and oddly my patch seems (according to recent Bird Reports) the best place in West Lothian to see them. 

Snowy is rightly concerned that we may have peaked far too soon and have well and truly shot our wad. We shall see over the next few months. At least at the moment we are keeping ahead of the Proclaimers on their rival birdless agricultural wasteland.

Monday 1 February 2021

one month in

 Following three years of record breaking totals my patch average has increased by a whopping 12 species compared to what it was three years ago, making the reclaiming of the mallard a near impossible challenge.

Having said that, the year has started better than ever with a grand total of 44 species (36.67%) recorded on my, almost daily, dog walks.   No real bonus birds, but wintering jack snipe are always welcomed and saves waiting until September.  A mistle thrush on the 19th and snow bunting on the 23rd are probably the best of the bunch and the only two species which haven't been annual.  Everything else has been as expected, including being in last position which is the norm for this time of year.  Luckily still 11 months to go to try and catch up.

Happy Days.


Thursday 7 January 2021

And the anser is

 white fronted geese - two of them on our patch this lunchtime with a flock of 19 greylags. Boom - first full fat patch tick of the year, and not a bad record for Lothian either. No photos unfortunately as we didn't have scope or camera with us, and they were flushed by the time we'd nipped back to the recording studio for them. That and brambling and tawny owl takes up to 48 species, which is 59.5%

Tuesday 5 January 2021

And the winner is...

The votes are in, counted, re counted and checked again because you just can't be too safe, and we have a winner. Bonaparte's gull has taken Ol' Snowy for Seppy at Galley. This also means that Ol' Snowy remains at Galley for the third year (FFS), saving anyone a trip to the post office. Bonaparte's gull is no stranger to winning either, having previously won on Blackdog in the days before Statto was driven south. 

Some votes yesterday

Thanks to everyone who voted, although some of you do need to get out more (would rather find a quail over a Baird's sandpiper or a Blyth's reed warbler?) We specially thank those who voted two or even three times - you know who you are, and we've a fair idea too...  #StopTheCount

Friday 1 January 2021

Sunshine near Leith

 2020 has been a weird old year, with nothing weirder than the Proclaimers emerging as top of the heap and winning the Golden Mallard hands down! Here's the final 2020 scoreboard for yer scrutiny...

A scoreboard yesterday....

The Shakey King of Kent managed to keep himself in 2nd place in the last month of the challenge, while Bushveld, winner from the last two years had to content himself with 3rd place on the podium. His combined three year target for this year must be about 360 species so shurely he'll be found languishing in last place this time next year! he said sportingly....

Anyway - all to play for once again....