Monday 9 March 2020


Greetings folks. It's been a while. Sorry about that. Unfortunately my sense of well-being, humour and creative genius were all sapped from me by some kind of insidious viral infection. It wasn't SARS or coronavirus though. It was something just as physically debilitating and five times more mentally draining. I think it's commonly known throughout the world as 'marriage'. Oh well, lesson learned.

Anyway, I have a desperate urge to tell you all about our latest ridiculous birding adventure. Please bear with me as this post covers no less than four consecutive days and to be honest, I do tend to waffle on quite a bit.

WARNING: This blog post may contain nuts, images of an indecent nature, mildly offensive material, profanity and flash photography. Do not continue if you are under the age of 23, have a history of heart problems or you are generally a bit of a miserable bastard.

Due to recent mental health issues, my decision making abilities have been somewhat impaired. This probably resulted in me naively organising a trip to the remote Orcadian outpost of Papa Westray for myself and a trio of other loons (I'm allowed to use the word in such a mildly offensive context because I am technically a type of lunatic, just ask my doctor). The target of our doltish pursuit was a web-footed wonder from the high Arctic, a young drake Steller's Eider. This a species of duck that has failed to put in an appearance around the shores of Britain for nearly twenty long years. There have been a number of spurious claims since then but all of them have turned out to be about as reliable as a Tory promise.

This rarity had originally been found by Don and Sandra Otter on their home island of Westray, towards the end of October last year. After making a few brief appearances on that island, it then relocated to the neighbouring isle of Papa Westray to the east. It initially settled into a bit of routine for a while as it fed along its favoured stretch of the west coast. With the onset of winter though and some rather fucked up weather systems, the bird understandably became more elusive and erratic in its appearances. With a tiny population of around eighty hardy souls, 'Papay' also suffers from a lack of full-time birder coverage.

The finder's report - Birdwatch - December 2019

It was therefore not too surprising that there had been just a miserly eight confirmed sightings of the bird for the whole of 2020. Interspersed with those welcome nuggets of positivity there were quite a few negative messages too. Although Papa Westray is only a small island, there is still plenty of rocky coastline and surrounding ocean for a such a small non-descript bird to blend into. So, with the odds stacked firmly against any intrepid birder successfully relocating the bird, why the hell did we decide bother? Well, as most of you seasoned birders will know, the thrill is in the chase. Plus we would be visiting a far flung corner of these fabulous islands that we had never set foot on before. Twitch on.

Papa Westray preparations!

Day One - The Great Northern Road Trip

It was Friday night on the 6th March when Bart and I met up with Jase on the outskirts of Wolftown (the current home of a far more suspect species of duck). For some strange reason there was an air of charged excitement among us, despite the eider not being seen since Tuesday afternoon. On that occasion, my fellow air crash survivor Alan Whitehead had relocated the elusive bird on the second day of his second visit to the island. Despite further searching, there had been no further sign. It would be down to us to change all that. We were relishing the challenge ahead but prepared for the inevitable disappointment. After a brief stop over in Cheshire to collect the malt loaf scoffing scouser Paul Baker, it was time to continue the five hundred mile journey to the very north of mainland Scotland.

Day Two - The Highlands to Orkney

The arduous drive in the dark went relatively smoothly despite a few snow showers along the A9 between Perth and Aviemore. With plenty of time to spare, we decided to make a short detour to Embo for an early Saturday morning scan of the coastline. A drake Surf Scoter had been reported earlier in the week so it would have been rather rude to just drive past without having a quick glance at it.

Embo, Highland - viewing north from the pier.

Despite a thorough search for the freaky looking North American sea duck we drew a complete blank as we carefully scrutinised the huge raft of Common Scoter. It was the first 'duck dip' of the trip but fingers crossed, it would be the last. There was still plenty of birding action to savour though with a pair of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and small numbers of Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser. We also enjoyed an impressive group of over 500 Long-tailed Duck and over a 100 Common Eider. We wished we could have stayed longer but we still had over seventy miles to travel along the winding Highland roads before we reached Scrabster.

Welcome to Scrabster, Highland.

Upon arrival at the ferry terminal we were hoping for a lingering Iceland Gull or maybe a Glaucous Gull if we were lucky. Unfortunately we failed to find either so we had to make do with the odd Black Guillemot and a few small groups of 'real' Rock Dove. On board the MV Hamnavoe we settled on deck for a bit of sea-watching. Auks were well represented with plenty of Razorbill, Guillemot and a few more Black Guillemot here and there. It was bleak, cold and grey but the stunning location and the number of seabirds had already eclipsed anything back home had to offer. We reminded ourselves just how lucky we were to be able to indulge ourselves in such a pleasurable pursuit.

All aboard the good ship MV Hamnavoe.

As we approached the island of Hoy we witnessed huge numbers of Fulmar as they glided effortlessly amid the daunting shadows of some of the highest cliffs in the whole of the United Kingdom. There were also small quantities of Kittiwake out at sea along with the usual Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls. As we neared Stromness we encountered a single Red-throated Diver near the harbour and a few pairs of Red-breasted Merganser.

Paul with the snow capped hill of Hoy in the background.

As we disembarked the boat, the weather took a nasty turn for the worse. The strength of the wind increased and we were hit by heavy rain showers. Undeterred, we decided to drive north towards the village of Twatt (snigger) and the nearby Loch of Isbister. The first dapper Hooded Crows of the trip were spotted en route along with fields full of Greylag Geese and the occasional flock of Pink-footed Geese. Whilst surveying the area around the loch we stumbled upon a bird hide at the 'The Loons' RSPB reserve. It was here that we took shelter for a while and added a number of species to the trip list.  These included Whooper Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall and Shoveler. A Water Rail was also heard squealing away concealed among the thick vegetation.

The mural inside the hide at 'The Loons' RSPB reserve.

With the north shore checked we then decided to make our way over to the south and try our luck from the disused Twatt airfield. As we made our way through the driving rain I stopped to check out one of the many goose flocks. Almost immediately I picked out a single Tundra Bean Goose among a small group Pink-footed Geese. As we carefully negotiated the muddy tracks through the airfield we flushed a mobile flock of around 40 Twite, another year tick.

In order to escape the strong winds, we took shelter alongside the old control tower of what was formerly known as HMS Tern during the second World War. Great lumps of decaying concrete come in quite handy when you are trying to scope birds during adverse weather conditions. A drake Green-winged Teal had been reported from this area earlier in the week but yet again we failed miserably in our attempts to pick it out among the many Common Teal. To be fair, a lot of the wildfowl were hidden away around the perimeter of the loch as they attempted to shelter from the elements. I was now becoming concerned at this disturbing trend - 'duck dip' number two of the trip.

Species noted in this area included a flock of around 150 European Golden Plover, 5 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit and plenty of Lapwing, Curlew and Oystercatcher. In order to improve our chances of making a success of this trip, we decided to repent our sins and ask the Lord above for some birding assistance at the nearby 'Church of Twatt'. Our purest of intentions were scuppered though as we found the consecrated premises closed with a 'for sale' sign attached to it. This confirmed it for me. The trip was bloody cursed.

Access denied!

With mild exhaustion, foot rot and pneumonia setting in, we thought it best to head over to Kirkwall and find our accommodation for the night. We needed to rest up and conserve any energy we had left for our proper day of wildfowl hunting the following day. We soon settled into our quaint cottage, filled our bellies and sipped a few drams of single malt before turning in for an early (by our standards) night. My session of slumber was all going smoothly. As I lay there having erotic dreams about viking maidens skipping around stone circles while a pair of Ravens 'kronked' overhead, I was rudely awoken.

What the fuck was happening? As my bed vibrated beneath me, what can only be described as the sound of an asthmatic Walrus imitating the frantic call of a maimed Rook was consuming the whole room. In order to prevent any embarrassment I will not divulge the name of this horrible snore monster as I knew Jase was not intentionally disturbing my sleep. With my ear plugs failing miserably there was only one solution. I dragged my single mattress out of the bedroom, across the hall and laid it down in the only place in the whole cottage where there was adequate space. The bathroom. Fortunately there was just enough room to squeeze my makeshift bed into the wet area.

Surprisingly I was soon out for the count, that is until one of the lads needed a slash. Due to the occasional drip of the shower, I had positioned my head towards the toilet end of the tiny room. Big mistake. When a chap waddles into the unfamiliar surroundings of a bathroom while away from home and it's dark, the standards of piss accuracy are not quite as they should be. As a result, I received my second salty splashing of the day. The first was on the deck of the ferry on our way to Stromness.

Day Three - Papay Here We Come

Finally, Sunday morning was here. It was time for the main event of the trip. Before heading off to the airport just outside Kirkwall, we traveled the short distance from our accommodation down to Peedie Sea (quite an appropriate title after what I had endured the night before). There are always a few birds to keep you entertained here and because it is the equivalent of a town park, most of those present are quite obliging. Today was no exception with at least 15 Long-tailed Duck showing very well indeed.

There is nothing as dapper as a male Long-tailed Duck.

Most of those loafing around on the water were handsome males trying their best to garner the attention of females with their gull like display calls and whopping tail erections. Other species showing well included small groups of Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser, 42 Wigeon, 50 Oystercatcher and a few Redshank. Around the perimeter of the lake there were feeding Rooks, Hooded Crows and Rock Doves. This is definitely a birding location not to be missed if you are passing through Kirkwall or heading there to pick up supplies.

Check out those tail streamers.

It was then onto the airport for our 10.30am Loganair flight. It was at this point that my flight anxiety started to concern me a little. I have always been a nervous air traveler but funnily enough the smaller aircraft never really bothered me too much. That was until a few years ago when I was part of a misguided 'charter flight' for an American Redstart. Instead of safely flying over to the island of Barra on the Scottish west coast, a few of us on board a Cherokee Piper, nose-dived into a soggy potato field on the outskirts of Manchester. I was determined to make the journey though. This time were we in the hands of responsible professionals. I kept telling myself that it would be fine.... as I dripped copious amounts of CBD oil into my dry mouth.

Britten Norman Islander - Twin Engine.

I will not lie. I was absolutely petrified. The lads did a sterling job though in order to keep me as relaxed as possible. Due to the high winds, the twenty minute journey was a little bumpy but the pilot assured us that this type of plane that could easily limp back to safety, even if one of its twin engines failed. I was not sure my heart would have survived that type of scenario though. As we neared Papa Westray I did start to enjoy the experience, that is until we started to descend rather quickly to land. I closed my eyes and muttered a quiet prayer. As the tyres hit the concrete I breathed a huge sigh of relief. With that test of mental resolve behind me it was time to start searching for that pesky, little duck. Our window of opportunity was small. Every minute mattered.

Loch St Tredwell, Papa Westray.

Our first port of call was Loch St Tredwell towards the south-west end of the island. This was the very last location where the Steller's Eider had been seen. The trouble was, that was five long days ago. Where the hell had it been in the meantime? As we approached the site, it suddenly dawned on me just how tough our job would be. The loch was pretty huge with lots of well vegetated shoreline and sheltered nooks for a roosting duck to take refuge in. On top of that we were surrounded on all sides by plenty of rocky coastline. All ideal eider feeding habitat.

South Wick, Papa Westray.

As we all silently scanned the north end of the loch, keeping our scopes still in the fierce wind was a huge challenge. It was due to these conditions that a very distant female Goldeneye got our hearts racing momentarily as it seemed to be sporting a bit of a stiff tail. Were we seeing things or was that tail just the tip of a wing as the bird preened? As we continued our search, a ringtail Hen Harrier effortlessly jinked past. It is always a privilege to see one of these magnificent birds of prey, especially in a wonderfully wild location such as this. To the east of us on the sea we picked out a few Common Eider, a trio of Great Northern Diver and small numbers of Black Guillemot.

At this stage Jase and I parted company with Paul and Bart as we decided to meticulously work the west side of the loch. The other two lads would head up to the coastal area around the airport and St Boniface Kirk, another of the bird's previously favoured locations. The conditions under foot were challenging to say the least. The huge amount of rain that had fallen over all parts of Britain over the past month seemed to have turned transformed every grassy field into a quagmire. We were up to our shins in mud for a lot of our hike around the loch's perimeter.

With just scattered groups of Wigeon, Teal and Goldeneye and smaller numbers of Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall and Red-breasted Merganser we were confident that the target bird was not on the loch. This did not mean that it could not drop in for a feed or a bathe at any time of course. With this location covered we continued south-west and picked up the coastline south of Backaskaill. From here we made our way north keeping an eye along the shore and further out to sea. It was here that I saw my first pair of Raven of the trip, a bad omen for some but usually a sign of good fortune for me.

Healthy numbers of dabbing duck were encountered on Backaskaill Loch itself as well as around the thick kelp beds offshore. Our first Moorhen and Coot on the island were also seen here. Then, as I was scanning out to sea, a small, solitary, dark duck zipped past heading away from us. Due to the powerful winds I could not get enough on the bird to clinch the identification. I was willing it to land on the choppy water but unfortunately it just steamed on and disappeared around a distant headland. It was certainly worth following up. We continued north in slow, lumbering pursuit.

Knap of Howar, Papa Westray.

As we continued on we stumbled upon the impressive Knap of Howar. Incredibly, this is just one of sixty important archaeological sites on this tiny island. These stone built dwellings are thought to be the oldest standing buildings in the whole of Northern Europe and date from approximately 3,600 BC. Only this wonderful hobby of ours would bring us into contact with such fascinating sites as a by-product of our efforts. From a birding perspective I could just imagine the Neolithic people of the island, struggling to work the land while the now extinct Great Auk fished offshore and Fulmars glided past throwing a curious eye their way.

The last British pair of Great Auks were killed on Papay.

As the late afternoon turned to early evening we reached the 8th Century church at St Boniface Kirk without relocating our mystery bird. A quick call to the other lads confirmed that they too had failed in their quest with an equal amount of effort expelled. As Jase sat viewing the bay to the north, I thought I might spend a few minutes tracking down my first Norse 'hogback' tombstone in the graveyard and check out the interior of this historic place of worship. As I sat quietly on one of the simple wooden benches I must admit to praying for a bit of divine intervention. We only had a few hours remaining on the island before our flight back to Kirkwall in the morning. We needed all the help we could get and I wasn't too proud to beg a little.

A Fulmar glides past at St Boniface Kirk.

As we made our way back to the hostel, we were filthy, exhausted and ravenous. We had not eaten a morsel of food since our early breakfast. Going hungry would have been a small price to pay for seeing a Steller's Eider though. That's just the way us birder types roll. As a final kick in the gonads, the heavens opened as we hobbled south. We met up with the other pair and exchanged thoughts. We had another small window of opportunity tomorrow. We had no alternative but to dry ourselves out, grab some scram, have a good night of sleep and remain positive. We were not going to throw in the towel without a fight.

The Great Auks are long gone. The Fulmars remain.

After a quick change of clothes and a brew, our most excellent host Jennifer agreed to head over to the hostel and open up the community shop especially for us. I was amazed at the choice of provisions on offer and there was even plenty of choice for an awkward vegan such as myself. As we all ate like Norse kings and knocked back a few drinks, we all agreed how remarkably lucky we were to be doing what we were. We had not found the eider but we vowed to head back up to Papay if the bird settled into a more reliable pattern later in the year. Yes, it was 'duck dip' number three of the trip but as the stars shone brightly above us and as Oystercatchers squabbled noisily in the dark, none of us were downhearted in the slightest.

Before heading to bed I asked one of my pals back home, what the chances of finding the bird in the morning were. She channeled all of her mystical, Irish gypsy energy and reached for her tarot cards. The first one she turned over was the 'Answered Prayer' card. Even she was pretty taken aback by it. By drawing this card we had to be extra observant, take notice of our thoughts and take heed of our intuitive feelings. I dropped off to sleep with a broad grin on my face.

Day Four - A 'Steller' Effort

First light on Papa Westray.

Well rested, we were up and making our way towards Normandy at first light. After a brief discussion around tactics we decided we would stick together as one group for our remaining time on the island. We had about three hours of precious birding time before we needed to head back to the hostel, tidy our digs and drag ourselves up to the airport for the 11.31am flight back to Kirkwall.

It was decided that we would initially concentrate on the area around Backaskaill Loch and the coastline in that area. This was where I had seen a possible candidate for the Steller's Eider fly past the day before. It also had the highest concentration of wildfowl that we had encountered on the island. There were even greater numbers of birds than before, including increased numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal.

Jase scans Backaskaill Loch.

Once again we drew a blank but we remained positive, especially as the wind had dropped considerably and the sun was shining. It was truly glorious and it made searching everywhere so much easier than the day before. Satisfied that we had covered the area thoroughly we then retraced our steps back up to Normandy and made our way back down towards Loch of St Tredwell for the final throw of the dice. Instead of heading straight around to the extreme north-east corner, I beckoned the lads towards a track that Jase and I had ventured down before. Positioned at the northern tip of the loch this location afforded a reasonable view of the vast majority of the water surface.

Similar numbers of the same species were present this morning as there were yesterday. There did however seem to be a increase in the amount of Goldeneye using the loch to feed. As we all scoured the area from different vantage points I suddenly began to notice Jase acting slightly more animated than usual. I was in a position higher up the hill than he was, but I could see through my binoculars that he was gesturing us all towards him. As we squelched our way over the soggy field towards him I heard those words every desperate twitcher hopes to hear... "Lads, I think I've got it!".

Unfortunately the bird in question was continuously diving in a small area between us and the low morning sun. With Jase's instructions I was quickly locked onto the bird. Despite only seeing it in silhouette, the size, distinctive shape of the bill and flat crowned look all pointed towards it being the Steller's Eider. It then dived showing the arched wings as it threw itself forward. Fuck. It had to be the bird. No, it really was the fucking bird. You can imagine the scenes. Smiles. Laughter. Big bear hugs. More laughter. A surge of adrenaline rushed through every part of my body. We had done it.

Nearly a third of a century to the day, way back in 1987, Jase, along with a couple of other infamous West Midland birders had found the first Lesser Scaup for Britain and Europe. The unlikely location for that particular bird was Chasewater in Staffordshire. All these years on he had struck wildfowl gold once again.

Steller's Eider (first-winter male) - Papa Westray.

Not satisfied with the viewing conditions, we needed to head back up to the main road and make our way around to the north-east corner of the loch near South Wick. That way we would have the sun behind us for a while. We could appreciate a bit of feather detail and savour the improved views. After what seemed a lifetime, we all made it around to our original viewing position from the day before. There it was in all of its subtle glory, the first Steller's Eider in Britain for nearly twenty years.

Despite the distance, we could now make out the double wingbars either side of the dark speculum. These seemed rather more pronounced than in the initial photos of the bird from last year. It also showed a pale arc above the eye and the odd 'bumpy' looking bill shape was evident. Granted, this was not the most handsome of birds but to us it certainly felt like we were watching a full adult drake in all of its splendour.

Celebrate good times..... come on!

The bird spent most of the time diving for food, mostly on its own. There were however a few Goldeneye feeding in the vicinity before a pair of Common Eider dropped in as a useful comparison. The smaller compact size, distinctive shape and darker coloration of the Steller's Eider alongside the female Common Eider were all very obvious indeed. At one stage the bird bathed and preened for a while showing us the stand out pale underwing.

We studied the bird for over ninety minutes and attempted some rather poor record shots between us all. To be honest though we were not too bothered about obtaining any frame-fillers, we were just grateful with our scoped views of such a rare and elusive little beast. We had succeeded in our quest. Whether it was having the courage to go ahead with the trip, the hard graft, an element of luck or maybe a little help from the birding Gods, who knows?  I do know one thing for certain though. I will definitely be reducing the amount of sinning I get up to in future. I will also be having a quiet word with Her/Him/Them upstairs a bit more often.

The Steller's Eider location.

Before heading back up to the hostel we walked the short distance up to the northern section of South Wick. After a quick scan of the sea I managed to pick out a very distant White-billed Diver that had been resident in the area for a while. Other species included a trio of Great Northern Diver, a few more Common Eider and a scattering of Black Guillemot. With the clock ticking we had no choice but to return to the hostel and prepare for our flight back to Mainland Orkney.

The lucky pants!

It was such a beautiful day on Papa Westray that it was hard to leave the island behind. Skylarks were in song around the airfield and a modest flock of European Golden Plover passed over, calling as they went. At 11.30am our plane arrived to pick us up on its way from North Ronaldsay to Kirkwall. Upon boarding the aircraft we found a cheerful looking couple occupying the front two seats. Coincidentally it was the original finders of the Steller's Eider, Don and Sandra Otter. As we flew low over Westray, Don pointed out Loch of Swartmill where they had found the bird on the 29th October 2019.

Upon arrival back at Kirkwall airport we thanked Don and Sandra for providing such a quality rarity  to coax us this far north. We also wished them the best of luck in locating future feathered gems. Maybe they could find us a Spectacled Eider one day or perhaps a Redhead.

Looking towards Rousay from Aikerness Burn.

With a bit of time to spare before our ferry back to Scrabster we drove up towards Evie in the  hope of meeting up with Orkney based artist Tim Wootton for a bit of birding off the Broch of Gurness. Unfortunately he was back at Kirkwall working in the gallery but he did provide us with some up-to-date bird information. Within a few minutes we were watching a flurry of 32 Snow Buntings without even leaving the car, one of which was a colour-ringed bird. Other species of note included both Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Diver as well as 8 Slavonian Grebe, with one sporting its fine summer plumage. There were also healthy numbers of Black Guillemot as we scanned the channel towards the island of Rousay.

The Ring of Brodgar.

Before making our way south to Stromness we had just enough time to circumnavigate the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar. As with a lot of the historical sites around Orkney, this incredible structure dates back to the late Neolithic period - between 4000 and 4500 years ago. It is thought that a henge such as this would be used as a meeting place for important ceremonies involving feasting and commemorating the dead. A new bird species was also added to our trip list when a Stonechat popped into view briefly.

As we were waiting to board the NorthLink ferry back to mainland Scotland, I received a message from Tim to see if we were making our way back over to Kirkwall to meet him. He said that he had something to show us before we continued our journey south. As we had to get the car checked in and onto the boat, we did not have the time to make it over to the gallery and back. I was gutted. A few minutes later he sent me a picture of a strictly limited edition piece of artwork he had worked on for us. We were absolutely blown away by his generosity. What a great guy and what a wonderful souvenir of an epic trip none of us would ever forget.

A Tim Wootton limited edition.

If you have enjoyed reading this post (or even if you haven't) and could spare a bit of loose change, both Tim and I would be grateful if you could make a donation to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. This charity is always in need of funds to support their vital work around our treacherous coastlines. Those who volunteer for this organisation put their lives on the line during every call out. We really appreciate your support.

To donate please click here: RNLI - Donate Now

Thanks a million.

The Steller's Eider in Great Britain

This Arctic species breeds along the coasts of Siberia and Alaska and is definitely a duck in danger. Recent estimates indicate a global population of just 110,000 to 125,000.00 birds, most of which are confined to the northern Pacific Ocean. The population has undergone a severe decline. As recently as the 1960's there was thought to be a total world population of around 400,000 to 500,000 individuals. The species is thought to be affected by the reduction in the Arctic ice pack. Other causes of decline include both legal and illegal hunting, the ingestion of lead shot and the impact of oil and gas installations.

Britain's first Steller's Eider, a sub-adult drake, was shot at Caister, Norfolk on the 9th February 1830 by local gunner George Barrow. It was purchased by Isaac Harvey, a well known taxidermist at the time who mounted it. It was then sold on to the Rev George Stewart, the Rector of Caister. Stewart's collection was later gifted to the Castle Museum in Norwich where the specimen remains and is still in remarkably good condition for its age.

For further information on this and other rarities, please refer to the excellent book 'First for Britain and Ireland 1600-1999' by Philip Palmer.

Britain's first Steller's Eider from 1830.

If accepted, the Westray and Papa Westray bird will become just the 16th record for Britain. A full list of all previous British records of Steller's Eider are as follows:

2000 - Moray - Hopeman - female from 16th to 18th November.
1996 - Shetland - Fetlar - wing only of a male found on the tideline on the 31st March.
1976 - Orkney - North Ronaldsay - female from 16th to 17th April.
1974 - Orkney - Westray & Papa Westray - male from 25th October 1974 to 1st July 1982.
1974 - Western Isles - Voran Island, South Uist - two females on the 13th April only.
1972 - Western Isles - Voran Island & Dremisdale - male from May 1972 until August 1984.
1971 - Shetland - Fair Isle - female from 9th May to 13th June.
1970 - Aberdeenshire - Rattray Head - male on the 8th November only.
1959 - Highland - Loch Fleet - female or immature male on the 22nd September only.
1949 - Orkney - Deerness, Mainland - male on the 13th November only.
1947 - Orkney - Wide Firth, Gairsay - adult male & immature mate from 5th to 19th January.
1845 - Yorkshire - Filey Brigg - male shot on the 15th August.
1830 - Norfolk - Caister-on-Sea - sub-adult male shot on the 9th February (see above).


  1. What a brilliant read Arch, and really pleased it all turned out for you guys.

    1. Cheers pal... now get back up there for that pesky Owl!

  2. I was lucky enough to get close views of the Hopeman bird on the last Saturday. Most of my birding is done on a Sunday but by then the bird had departed. Sometimes you just make the right decisions...

  3. I couldn't get up there in time for that one Stewart. I'm glad the 'birding angels' were with you for that one.