31st - a siskin over Flax Bourton, then a late afternoon visit to Stratford Hide at Chew Valley Lake where I saw 2 black-necked grebes, a water pipit and a jack snipe.
30th - caught up with a couple of local birds on a day trip to Glastonbury - the Cheddar red-necked grebe (red-breasted merganser also present) and the Shapwick great grey shrike. Both birds were distant, and at each site friendly birders offered scope views, as I only had binoculars.
25th - red kite on the outskirts of Reading, ring-necked parakeets and free-flying Egyptian geese with small goslings in Regent's Park, London on my way to a meeting.
I had to return to get some decent shots of the Clevedon Lapland buntings on 24th, so I took the 500mm with 1.4x converter, tripod, and took these in nice late afternoon light. I only saw 2 birds, though others saw up to 4. The birds were very approachable, and crept mouse-like through the grass making them challenging to photograph.
Chew Valley Lake on 23rd - a first-winter little gull, 2 black-necked grebes, a ruff, a ringed plover and 5 green sandpipers.
Backwell Lake black-headed gull (17th).
One of the highlights this autumn has been an invasion of Lapland buntings, so on 16th I decided to try and find some locally. The Clevedon-Yeo area seemed like the best bet, given that birds had appeared there previously, and I thought I heard one there about 2 years ago. I was lucky and found a group of 3 on the marsh inland of the tidal pool between Channel View Farm and the Yeo Estuary. I also saw a redstart, 4 grey plover, and pontificated over a pale wheatear for a while before deciding it was a northern wheatear (2 present in total). I also heard a spotted redshank. I only had my 400mm lens, and took photos without a tripod. Top bird is a first winter (fine breast streaking) female (grey hind neck), bottom two are males with rufous-brown hind necks, if this interesting book is correct.
The garden moths are distinctly autumnal now - yellow-line quaker and a barred sallow, caught on 13th.
Some quality birds around in the south-west at present. Juvenile SOLITARY SANDPIPER, Black Hole Marsh, Seaton (bottom photos show diagnostic tail pattern slightly) and first-winter GREEN HERON, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, Cornwall, 11 October. We also saw a little stint, ruff, knot and wheatear at Seaton.
I went to see the Cheddar redhead red-breasted merganser on 10th. It was a bit more distant than expected, and I had to settle with using the 2x converter.
On 28 September I travelled to Boston, seeing a red kite near Reading on my way to Heathrow. On 29th I collected the 2010 Ig Nobel Prize in Biology at Harvard University for this paper. The award is for science that makes you laugh and then think, and the events were tremendous. I gave a one-minute acceptance speech at Harvard, and a 5-minute lecture at MIT on 1 October. I had time for two whale-watching trips from Boston Harbour, and a walk in Mount Auburn Cemetery before returning home on 4 October. I took the 1D4, the 400mm f5.6, 1.4x extender, and the Canon S5 for snapshots. The weather was >30C and muggy when I arrived on 28th September, and then the tail of Tropical Storm Nicole arrived making it very windy on 1 October, and cold (<20C) afterwards. Bird list here.
Whale watching - click on the humpback whale.
Gulls and seabirds - click on the ring-billed gull.
Mount Auburn Cemetery - click on the Eastern chipmunk
Boston and the Ig Nobel ceremony - click on the Boston view.