A selection of major rarities, plus a few other goodies, that we've photographed over the years up to the end of the 20th century.
The term mega may not apply to all of them nowadays, but remember that some recent megas were far commoner in the past, and vice versa. Many birds will have been overlooked over the years, and still are, but generally information, and thus twitching, is far easier now. The first bird on here I found out about from Teletext, and I know of a birder being told of rarities by postcard. (Think he dipped though!). The term "mega" itself comes from the use of Mega-alert on pagers.
Note that the quality of most photos isn't up to today's standard, especially as digital photography wasn't around, and they aren't professionally scanned, just copied to a digital format.



Select:- 1990-1992 1993-1995 1996-1997 1998-1999 2000-2009
List of
Rarities from 1985
Return to
Recent Rarities

Sora Rail Pagham Harbour October-December 1985
My first ever rarity photo, this bird caused a massive twitch at the time, making the national media - unusual in the mid-80's. Apart from a bird on Scilly it was the first twitchable example and in almost full breeding plumage.

Least Sandpiper Porthscatho Cornwall February-April 1986
This bird famously wintered in a Cornish field, the first such occurence, and moulted from 1st-winter plumage. It wasn't discovered until February but presumably arrived somewhere the previous autumn. This shot was taken at Easter, near the end of its stay, as can be seen from the number of breeding plumage feathers appearing.

Slender-billed Gulls Cley May 1987
Still a mega in 2012, despite range expansion and global warming which should increase the number of records. Unlike Audouin's Gull they haven't become any more common, although this and one of the following two records involved pairs, which obviously gives great expectations. Sadly breeding attempts haven't yet been recorded, indeed there has only been one sighting since the new millenium.

Great Shearwater Western Approaches August 1987
Sadly the pelagic trips run by Peter Harrison of "Seabirds" fame are no more, since due to the manouverability of the boat it was possible to approach birds such as this to within a few feet. The numbers are also smaller now due to changes in fishing practice, but we never saw Fea's Petrel!

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Sandwich Bay September 1987
Maybe no longer a mega, but still decidedly uncommon, this was my first in Britain, and I've only seen one other. Very common in Australia in winter, perhaps distance is a factor affecting vagrancy.

Aquatic Warbler Langton Herring Dorset September 1987
For many years one of only a few decent shots of this species in Britain, this photo was never published. Usually difficult to see, let alone capture on film, this bird in a small area of vegetation was very obliging on occasion.

Ross' Gull Poldhu Cove Cornwall March 1988
My first Ross' Gull, and still an uncommon plumage, this first winter bird was rather mobile, associating with a large Black-headed Gull flock. Most records nowadays seem to be adults, often in breeding plumage.

White-throated Needletail Orkney June 1988
Near the top of many twitchers "most wanted" list, a repeat visit by a needletail would be extremely welcome, but this bird stayed just long enough for the lucky ones to get to Hoy and enjoy it as it skimmed the crowd at head height. Probably my favourite twitch ever, helped by the hospitality of the Orkney birders, who provided transport from the ferry and a floor for the night. I was one of a lucky few who got a bed!

Solitary Sandpiper Porthellick September 1988
The last of a short "run" of records on Scilly, Solitary Sandpiper became a bit of a blocker until one in exactly the same spot in 1999.

Double-crested Cormorant Billingham February 1989
Still the only confirmed record in England, this least exciting of birds didn't do much when you did see it, surely with several "possibles" over the last few years one will eventually turn out to be the real thing. There has been one other record in Ireland.

Baillon's Crake Sunderland May 1989
This is the famous "Town Centre" bird which walked through shopper's legs; telephoto lenses were a positive hindrance for this one. Ann & I didn't even have to twitch it really, we were on our way home from Scotland to Suffolk! An equally obliging bird occurred at Stodmarsh almost exactly ten years later.

Roller Budleigh Common Devon June 1989
Commoner in the past, this species would probably still warrant mega status today, there have been a number of records but they often don't stay long and are difficult to twitch. This bird didn't come in that category, but we hadn't seen one since until this year.

River Warbler Boughton Fen July 1989
A real mega in 1989, since one was suppressed earlier in the decade and this was only the fourth record. There have been several since, although many aren't twitchable, and it remains a real rarity. Unlike the recent bird in Norfolk, this one was almost constantly on view when singing, at the top of an isolated bush.

Great Snipe Girton Notts August 1989
Dave Cottridge said "don't bother, you'll only get flight views", but this one didn't conform to the norm., walking around in the middle of the afternoon just a few yards in front of us. Probably still the most obliging example ever, although not now regarded as a mega, few show well.

Red-breasted Nuthatch October 1989 to May 1990
One of the biggest twitches ever, and still the only record in Britain. Due to its length of stay it was seen by just about every birder around at the time, as well as apparently Prince Charles. Elusive initially, this shot was actually taken in 1990, when it took to visiting the summerhouse roof regularly.

Killdeer St.Marys Scilly November 1989
It was once possible to see rarities without crowds, I spent two hours watching this bird alone, although it had been reported as flying off the previous day. I took a chance, and 30 minutes after I landed I saw it fly back to it's original field.

Select:- 1990-1992 1993-1995 1996-1997 1998-1999 2000-2009
List of
Rarities from 1985
Return to
Recent Rarities