These three years, 1990 in particular, produced some real Megas, several of which remain "blockers" to this day.
I managed to see most of them, although missed out on photographing some, notably the Ancient Murrelet on Lundy.
Ann missed several, so we would be quite happy to see them occur again. (Not sure about the Sandgrouse though).



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Squacco Heron St.Marys Scilly March 1990
The Scilly year started early in what was to be one of the most memorable twitching years ever. Although not a "mega" nowadays, Squaccos can often be elusive, but this one chose a roadside pool and couldn't have been more obliging. It's on my birds seen from a bus list!

Great Spotted Cuckoo Shoreham April 1990
No longer a mega, in fact this was the second that year, but they often move on swiftly. I saw the first, at Dawlish, but got a much better shot of this one. Not always easy to pin down for really good views.

Tree Swallow St.Marys Scilly June 1990
In the hectic summer that followed (Shetland for Pallas' Sandgrouse, Isle of Wight for Alpine Accentor and Lundy for Ancient Murrelet), Scilly had to come up with something and duly obliged with this "first", which equally obligingly perched on a post right in front of Porthellick hide. Still the only twitchable example.

Alpine Accentor Isle of Wight June 1990
The aforementioned bird on the Isle of Wight, a bit of a "blocker" in those days. As we sat on the ferry news broke of the Ancient Murrelet on Lundy, sadly that bird wasn't quite as approachable as this. A number of subsequent records have lessened its status, but still a real rarity.

Pallas' Sandgrouse Loch Spiggie Shetland June 1990
I nearly didn't go for this, the last British record to date, but was offered a last-minute place on a charter. We then spent all day searching in vain and were actually driving back to the airport when somebody flagged us down to say it was in a new location, sheltering from the rain. Brinkmanship!

Yellow-throated Vireo Kenidjack September 1990
1990 just seemed to keep turning up mega-rarities, another "first" in the shape of this little gem in Kenidjack Valley in September. At the same time a Red-eyed vireo frequented Cot Valley but while they continue to turn up annually this remains the sole record of Yellow-throated .

Eyebrowed Thrush Tresco October 1990
Apart from a couple of records these are usually one-day birds, I'd dipped one on Scilly a few years previously, having gone to the mainland for a few hours for a Swainson's Thrush. Ann and I were about a hundred yards away when this was found, birders arriving from St.Marys that afternoon were disappointed, and it wasn't seen again. At the time the admittedly poor photo was the only one ever taken in Britain.

Parrot Crossbill Kirkby Moor Lincs. January 1991
1991 was never going to live up to the previous year, indeed this bird was part of a small flock which actually arrived before New Year. Never easy to photograph, this one dropped just low enough to show off its huge bill briefly before returning to the treetops.

Snowy Owl Wainfleet Lincs. January 1991
This is still a mega if you only bird in England, so still attracted crowds. Unfortunately this, and the nature of the terrain (flat and open), meant it was a bit unapproachable. It later moved to Norfolk briefly, where it was even more difficult, I got its head on my Norfolk list!.

American Bittern Marton Mere February 1991
A long-awaited return for this species which was actually first described from a specimen taken in Dorset in 1804. Formerly much commoner, it seems we have to wait ten years or more for each one nowadays, one was suppressed in Cornwall, and the last one wasn't exactly easy.

Lark Sparrow Waxham May 1991
The second Lark Sparrow in East Anglia finally put paid to the controversy over the first, at Felixstowe, and both were admitted to Category A. There seemed to be an assumption in those days that vagrants from the USA only occurred in Autumn, and of course if there was any suspicion of having been near a boat they were rejected. Doesn't detract from the bird itself though!

Isabelline Wheatear Gugh October 1991
A somewhat disappointing autumn on Scilly, especially as this species "mega" status had dropped, due to a bird on St.Marys almost exactly a year earlier which stayed long enough for many birders to twitch. This example actually came towards birders, thus giving unbeatable views.

Nutcracker Cocknedge Wood October 1991
Another species notable by its recent scarcity, but usually extremely tame, this bird frequented a garden at the edge of a wood, the owner being only too happy to allow people in to see it. About time for another "invasion" year!.

Pine Grosbeak Shetland March 1992
Another major rarity "unblocked" with the finding of this bird, the tenth record for Britain but to date the only really twitchable one. As is usual for this species, extremely confiding.This 1st winter bird stayed in Lerwick gardens almost exactly a month.

Greater Sand Plover Cley August 1992
Added to the British List as recently as 1978, there have been many records since, but at least two have been identified as Lesser's after leaving. This bird caused no such problems being a fairly classic example. The third Norfolk record, it spent three days in the area before disappearing and being refound in Essex.

Ruppell's Warbler Holme September 1992
Having gone to see a Subalpine Warbler, Ann & I were actually present when this bird was re-identified as Britain's first mainland Ruppell's. Thankfully we avoided having to queue, but photography was not made any easier as within half an hour we had to move to allow others to view what was a tick for most of us. Still only five records, the only other mainland sighting a one-day bird in Wales.

White Throated Sparrow Willingham, Lincs. December 1992
Originally trapped by a small ringing group, this is the commonest American "sparrow" to occur in Britain and represents one of two records of overwintering birds, the other being in Ireland. It was aged as a 1st winter.

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