Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Saturday 27 July 2019

Cuckmere Haven 27/7/19

With the onset of heavy rain and at one of the peak times of year for passage of Waders, I opted on a mid-morning visit to the Cuckmere with Paula and our new addition to the family, Jasper.

The walk down to the scrape was generally quiet, but whilst at the scrape it all went a bit crazy. With a spell of persistent rain ending, the sound of many Shanks loomed from the dark skies above, and looking up was a flock of 106 birds, that in the end worked out to be 56 Greenshanks and 50 Redshanks. A flock of 11 Common Terns also landed on the scrape, which strangely is only the second time I've seen Common Terns in the Cuckmere.

The walk back down also produced my first Yellow Wagtail of the autumn, and another scattering of new Waders that were either flying through or landing on various water bodies on the west side.

Totals for the morning:

Greenshank - 56
Redshank - 50
Turnstone - 4
Common Sandpiper - 12
Dunlin - 4
Whimbrel - 4
Common Tern - 11
Yellow Wagtail - 1

On the 29th July a walk down the west side very early on produced a flighty Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and two Little Ringed Plovers being the highlights.

Black-headed Gull 2RFR ringed
as a 3rd cal/year on 02 Apr 2016
at Pitsea Landfill, Essex.

Common Terns

Yellow Wagtail

A mixture of Greenshank &

A flock of 44 Greenshanks

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Seaford Head 23/7/19

The first visit of the autumn and as expected, there were a few migrants knocking about but no numbers yet. The first juvenile Willow Warblers are always a treat to see, so six this morning was a welcome start to the campaign. The highlight was a Nuthatch in Harry's Bush that was picked up by its high-pitched contact call, this proving to be only my second patch record, with the previous also in July only a few years back.

Whiethroats are still in the process of feeding presumably their second brood of chicks, whilst Blackcaps appear to have done well with many juveniles around the area.

Migrant totals are as follows:

Reed Warbler - 3
Garden Warbler - 3
Willow Warbler - 6
Nightingale - 1
Nuthatch - 1 in Harry's Bush
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Swift - ca. 10 E

Reed Warbler

Garden Warbler

Willow Warbler

Sheep in the mist

Saturday 20 July 2019

Pett Levels 20/7/19

After a lengthy time away on the other side of the world, it was good to come back to a potential county tick. The Ferruginous Duck was still present this morning although I had actually got bored and left the site thinking I'd dipped, but thankfully Mike Booker was on hand to phone me promptly enough so I could get back and see the bird. Now I've seen it, lets hope the BBRC give it the thumbs up.

Lots of Bearded Tits about around the pools, and an eclipse Garganey was on the pool very early on.

Ferruginous Duck at Pett Levels
If accepted, this will be only the second record
this century, the previous being in 2001.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Papua New Guinea (Varirata Visit 2) & Australia - The Final Few Days July 2019 (Part 8)

This is the eighth and final blog post covering my recent trip to Papua New Guinea with Ian Barnard, Steve Greenfield, Adam Hudson, Tony Hukin & Paulo Paixao.

It had been an excellent trip finding some top quality birds along the entire way, and although the weather hindered some birding at the start of the trip and the penultimate day, we were very lucky with the weather. We were also lucky with the majority of logistics including the flight we had been bumped off of from the Highlands down to Port Moresby. The birding however was quieter than expected, not helped by the continuous hunting of many species, including the Birds-of-Paradise. Habitat destruction wasn't particularly noticeable, but with more birders visiting the hunting should in theory reduce.

Seeing the Birds-of-Paradise had always been a dream of mine for many years, and despite the cost of the trip being obviously higher then other trips, it was certainly worth the pain-staking year of saving as much money as I could. The help of Sicklebill Safaris was paramount to the success of this trip, and was the only money saving alternative. Going with a tour company would have easily pushed the cost of this trip over the 12K mark and no doubt much more, with this being such a comprehensive trip visiting regions that very few groups have visited meant that this affordable trip was also highly specialised in the species on offer, so it was just as well we saw said species.

I hope all have enjoyed reading the endless blog posts on this trip, and have hopefully got an urge for visiting this country.

Tuesday 16th July

This post follows swiftly on from leaving the Huon Peninsular (sadly a day late due to inclement weather). Our flight from Lae to Port Moresby was on time and after only an hour we arrived into the capital city for the final time, and had now completed all eight internal flights.

Our driver Peter was on time as per usual at the domestic terminal, as were the hotel shuttle service that kindly collected all of our bags that were even taken to our rooms. Anyway, with Peter at the wheel we once again made swift progress to Varirata NP where due to the circumstances of the past few days, meant we now only had four hours of birding in this quite excellent national park, and our final hours of birding in this country.

Along the way a few new birds were found, best being a superb Blue-winged Kookaburra, plus a variety of Kingfishers and other woodland birds. We concentrated on the trail linking the viewpoint and the visitor centre, and were ably guided along this path by two locals. Of the targets we still had yet to see, we managed maybe half, and with the disappointment of missing a whole day here, we ended the trip in style.

The trail was slow going but a couple of Growling Riflebirds, Black-billed Brushturkeys and a bird flock containing a Black-faced Monarch and a couple of female Raggiana Birds-of-Paradise provided some interest, but it wasn't until we entered the far end of the trail our main targets emerged. A burst of playback resulted in a response from a Yellow-billed Kingfisher, and after a brief search I somehow spotted it high in the tree where the sound was emanating from. This was superb but next up was another top bird, and after a bit of shuffling near to the hole on our target tree, a Barred Owlet-Nightjar emerged and just stared at us. Prolonged views were had and it was agreed that the birding for the trip should end here, and we ended this part of the trip with our heads held high. Thought on exiting the park our first marsupial was seen from the side of the road, and it was bouncing!! An adult Agile Wallaby and its youngster showed distantly from the vehicle, and we were amazed it had taken this long to see a land mammal/animal of any kind. Our last night at the Citi Boutique Hotel was just as good as the other two stays, although the cheesecake had slipped in standard, which for me and Ian was a major issue, but we had the below standard one anyway.

Blue-winged Kookaburra

Yellow-billed Kingfisher

Final approach into Lae

A Brushturkey nest at Varirata NP.
Steve for size comparison.

Wednesday 17th July

Well it wasn't expected, but today turned out to be my last full day of the trip. I had booked a car from Brisbane Airport and two nights accommodation at O'Reilly's within Lamington NP, some form of luxury to recoup. Lamington is only two-three hours south of Brisbane, so an ideal getaway before the big flight home.

It was only myself, Ian, Adam & Tony who were to take part in this stage of the trip. Our flight from Port Moresby to Brisbane was again on time and we landed and swiftly got through immigration (despite a border force personnel having a go at me for separating from the group I was travelling with) and collected the very nice Audi Q2 with Hertz.

To break up the journey I had found a site just off the route to O'Reilly's, this being Tygum Park (Logan City), and this proved a worthy stop. Upon arrival, we were amazed after weeks of seeing few birds, to just see hundreds of birds around, mainly being Little Corellas although there were lots of waterbirds on the lake and passerines around the lake edges. It was a very enjoyable hour spent walking the perimeter of the lake, and with this being a new country, there were plenty of new birds on offer. The best of these being the spectacular Superb Fairywrens, Magpie-Larks and Comb-crested Jacanas. The sight of many hundreds of Little Corellas being spooked by a White-bellied Sea-Eagle was also excellent.

Highlights for Tygum Park:

Little Pied Cormorant - 2
Australian Darter - 1
Hardhead - 1
Comb-crested Jacana - 1
Superb Fairywren - 8
Magpie-Lark - 10
Grey Fantail - 2
White-bellied Sea-Eagle - 1
Crested Pigeon - 2
Australian Gull-billed Tern - 1
Pied Currawong - 1
Black Swan - 2
Blue-eyed Honeyeater - 2
Australian Wood Duck - 2

After this swift visit we stocked up on supplies for our time at Lamington NP, and made our way up the incredibly windy and narrow road up to O'Reilly's, with the undoubted highlight being our first Wallabies, with two species on the way up including White-tailed and Red-necked Wallabies.

We checked in at reception and then drove to our valley view villa, which was basically one of the best places I've ever stayed at. Two large bedrooms, large living area, large balcony with jacuzzi among various other home amenities, including a fully supplied kitchen. It was hard to pull ourselves away from the luxury, but we did and various trails around the campsite yielded many top targets for the area, the best being a superb Albert's Lyrebird. A Logrunner and a Bassian Thrush were also superb, and whole host of other brightly coloured birds that involved for example a male Regent's Bowerbird were found with ease. Red-necked Pademelons (small Kangaroo things) were bouncing around the campsite and showing down to a few feet.

I had wondered off on my own and was enjoying photographing many species at close range, something that hadn't been done all trip, and I certainly made the most of it, with the Bassian Thrush thinking it was hidden from me......it wasn't.

That evening Mr Nocturnal/Adam enticed us out to search for night birds. I really wasn't keen and left the camera at the mansion, which of course ended up being a horrendous idea. Soon after entering good habitat, playback resulted in a tense wait for our target to fly in, and we were treated to fine views of an Australian Owlet-Nightjar. Some Common Brushtail Possoms also kept us entertained for a while before we retraced our steps and back to the reception area, and Adam spotlighted a superb Australian Boobook.

The walk back to the mansion produced some Eastern Yellow Robins feeding around the porch lights, but that evening for me things turned upside down. I had a call from home asking me to try and get the next flight back to the UK due to mum being rushed to hospital, and I had no hesitation in doing so when I woke up in the morning. I reluctantly abandoned the others and drove to Brisbane Airport. Singapore Airlines were brilliant in transferring me for free onto a flight, 24 hours earlier then my originally planned departure. Thankfully my mum was recovering by the time I reached home, although a tense first sector from Brisbane to Singapore with many thoughts occurring in my panicky head was hard to take. All was well when I returned and mum happily went home a week later.

Highlights for Lamington NP:

Crimson Rosella - 10
Lewin's Honeyeater - 2
Regent Bowerbird - 1
Australian Logrunner - 1
Bassian Thrush - 2
Satin Bowerbird - 4
Eastern Whipbird - 5
Australian Brushturkey - 1
Albert's Lyrebird - 1
Yellow-throated Scrubwren - 10
White-browed Scrubwren - 15
Brown Thornbill - 5
Eastern Yellow Robin - 10
Wonga Pigeon - 1
Australian Owlet-Nightjar - 1
Australian Boobook - 1

No doubt one day I will return to Australia, and potentially very soon as the birding was just superb, and the long flights weren't actually as bad as I thought they would be.

So that's that. It will now be a long time before my next trip (6 months), but who cares when PNG is now well and truly under the belt!


Little Corellas

Aus. Pelican

Aus. Darter

Superb Fairywren

Aus Wood Duck

Red-necked Wallaby

Aus. Logrunner

Bassian Thrush

White-browed Scrubwren
Tygum Park

O'Reilly's Valley View Villa

Thursday 11 July 2019

Papua New Guinea - The Huon Peninsular July 2019 (Part 7)

This is the seventh blog post covering my recent trip to Papua New Guinea with Ian Barnard, Steve Greenfield, Adam Hudson, Tony Hukin & Paulo Paixao.

When I first started putting this trip together, (almost 18 months before the actual departure), I knew I wanted to visit the Huon Peninsular, not just for its sheer remoteness in the fact that so few birding groups had ever visited here, but also that it holds three species of Birds-of-Paradise found nowhere else in New Guinea, and it just so happened that one of these species for me is the best looking BoP.

Once again the logistics (not just for here) to get in and out of the Huon was left to Sicklebill Safaris who dealt with things expertly. What no doubt made things slightly easier is that the owner of the very plush camping based at 2800m just above the village of Satop, was Australian. Cheyne owns Walindi Resort on New Britain but in recent years has explored the Huon and after negotiating land with locals, has managed to set up a very nice campsite, whereas in his first few years the accommodation was a school hall much further down the ridge, and far away from the altitudinal endemics. Not only is the accommodation better now, but the camp is situated very closely to all the available Birds-of-Paradise on offer. Cheyne also speaks the local lingo which is a huge bonus, and our successes on the Huon could not have been achieved without his help and local knowledge. If interested visit huonbirding.com .

To get into the Huon, we had to get a charter plane from Lae, and landing at the small town of Kabwum. Weather is critical in the operation of the small plane, and although arriving we had no issues, departing was a different issue with heavy rain on the day of our planned departure. This led us to stay in the village of Kabwum and re-arrange our flight(s) for the next day. Although it was very touch and go for a period on our second attempt, we did finally leave, but more on that later.

The birding in general, like most of PNG, was very slow and the first two hours of the day were critical, as bird activity waned by mid morning.

Thursday 11th July

We left the Crossroads Hotel in Lae very early and arrived at the North Coast Aviation charter office in Lae Aiport roughly half hour later. We got directed straight through after having our luggage weighed (10kg for our four day adventure) and dropped our main luggage in the office (with me leaving my wet laundry on top of my bag). The plane was a 12-seater so a few locals also boarded with us.

I got priority seating (perks of being tour leader I suppose) and of course chose the co-pilot seat, and it's fair to say the half hour plane journey was superb. The views were clear and we passed over the mountain ridge not more then 300m above the highest peak. The land up here was very boggy with many evergreen trees, and is no doubt the haunting place for the Huon Melidectes, a species that is very rarely encountered. Anyway we soon descended over the ridge and eventually had perfect valley views as we landed onto the rocky airstrip of Kabwum.

Our driver Daniel was there to pick us up and we enjoyed an albeit bumpy journey up the very steep track ascending yet another high ridge, before dropping over the other side. The Huon for me was the place I was most concerned about regarding the security issues, however I was far off as this whole area was so friendly and welcoming, it turned out in fact to be the safest area we visited.

At the campsite we met up with Cheyne and had a quick lunch before walking a trail to view an open area. Our first Huon Astrapias and Wahnes's Parotias were found, and with few other birds around, we dropped down into the village of Satop (Daniel was our driver for our duration and would happily take us anywhere we wanted) where we met up with a female worker. She knew a display tree of the Emperor Bird-of-Paradise that no one had visited before, and upon arriving after a very sweaty walk, we were treated to a fine spectacle of this most dramatic BoP I had personally encountered this trip, with the mixture of a cream upperparts, chestnut and florescent green creating the most eye catching BoP. This was my main target of the entire trip, and with everything having gone to plan, that evening I sat outside of my tent and with sheer delight, watched the sun go down.

Highlights for today:

Papuan Harrier - 2
Pesquet's Parrot - 2
Red-collared Myzomela - 5
Rufous-backed Honeyeater - 2
Spangled Honeyeater - 4
Tit Berrypecker - 8
Northern Fantail - 1
Huon Astrapia - 1
Wahnes's Parotia - 1
Emperor Bird-of-Paradise - 6
Island Leaf Warbler - 1
Black Sunbird - 1

Tit Berrypecker

Spangled Honeyeater
Endemic to the Huon

Amboyna Cuckoo Dove
Our charter plane


Flying over the high ridge,
responsible for Huon endemics.

Add caption

The ridge we had to cross to reach
the camp.

Emperor helpers kipping

Satop villagers

The Emperor valley

Friday 12th July

This morning me, Ian and Adam were in the Huon Bowerbird hide, situated only a five minute drive away, and then a steep and tricky track for five minutes. We arrived in the early morning gloom and sat uncomfortably for two hours with not a sniff of the Bowerbird, although the bower seemed to be active which was promising for the remaining time we had here.

With nothing of note from the hide, we walked the road and came across some really good birds, one of which ended our quest to find all the endemic families PNG has to offer, this being the Mottled Berryhunter, which in the book looks rather drab, and in all honesty its not a looker, but still a class bird in its own right. Other nice birds found included a Cinnamon-browed Melidectes and our only Marbled Honeyeater of the trip.

After re-convening with the other who hadn't had any luck at the Parotia hide, we walked the road back to the campsite with the main highlight being a superb adult male White-eared Bronze Cuckoo. The remainder of the day was spent wandering along the road after the heat of the day had passed.

After another sumptuous meal put together by the local chefs, some of us walked the road at night where a superb Moon halo was on offer, and then a semi responsive Feline Owlet-Nightjar started playing, and winning with us not even catching a glimpse of this monster nocturnal bird, and this trend continued on for many nights here.

Highlights for today:

Great Cuckoo Dove - 1
White-eared Bronze Cuckoo - 1
Brown Falcon - 2
Australian Hobby - 1
Yellow-billed Lorikeet - 2
Marbled Honeyeater - 1
Black-throated Honeyeater - 2
Spangled Honeyeater - 2
Cinnamon-browed Melidectes - 1
Buff-faced Scrubwren - 1
Brown-breasted Gerygone - 4
Fan-tailed Berrypecker - 2
Black-breasted Boatbill - 1
Mottled Berryhunter - 1
Brown-backed Whistler - 1
Regent Whistler - 3
Dimorphic Fantail - 1
Huon Astrapia - 5
Canary Flyrobin - 2
Papuan Grassbird - 1
Olive-backed Sunbird - 1

Brown Falcon

Friendly Fantail

Island Leaf Warbler
Huon Bowerbird's bower

A small part of the Huon Birding complex

Saturday 13th July

Due to no activity from either hide yesterday morning, it was decided to give them a miss this morning just in case the birds were spooked.

So in the morning we drove a distance uphill and then walked back to camp. This took most of the morning but the birding was extremely slow. A fantastic viewpoint took our minds of the lack of birds for a short time. A top bird was found however, this being a pair of Streaked Berrypeckers, whilst an Ornate Fruit Dove perched in the distance. Some bird flocks were too shy for us and most species remained out of sight.

After a tiresome morning, some of us (maybe me) got a lift back to camp where once again the heat of the day was surpassed by either sleeping or trying to sleep. For the second afternoon running, the cloud rolled in but we decided to re-take our positions in the hide, though this time swapping. Myself, Ian and Adam were now making our way to the Parotia hide, just around the corner from the camp. Excitement soon commenced along the path when Adam spotted a quite spectacular male Wahnes's Parotia showing off it's incredible plumes and long tail (this being the longest-tailed Parotia) on top of a nearby tree. This was a great start, and upon entering the small wooded area, another male Parotia expressed its disgust at our arrival, but somehow our obvious presence in its territory failed to put the poor fella off. Instead the four of us (Cheyne included) were treated to a once in a lifetime display of this amazing bird from the comfort of a hide. A male Wahnes's Parotia entered its arena (only a few metres in front of us) and started to clear the area of leaves, before 'lifting up its skirt' and putting on a full dance display. The show according to my recording lasted more than 15 seconds, and is possibly the best 15 seconds of birding ever. Cheyne who has birded the Huon for a few years now at the appropriate times of year, had never witnessed this display, and I wonder just how many people have actually witnessed this.....not many I reckon.

With light still remaining we retreated back to camp and celebrated by chilling out and gripping everyone else of with my now very gripping footage of a dancing Parotia.

Another try for the Owlet-Nightjar only resulted in a few trucks full of people with machetes exclaiming they love us......being a Friday night this could be expected in any drunk atmosphere, but being in a very remote and potentially unsafe place, we called it a night and retreated back to camp.

Highlights for today:

Great Cuckoo Dove - 1
Ornate Fruit Dove - 1
Brehm's Tiger Parrot - 1
Yellow-billed Lorikeet - 2
Rufous-backed Honeyeater - 10
Black-throated Honeyeater - 2
Streaked Berrypecker - 2
Black Fantail - 1
Wahnes's Parotia - 3
Black-throated Robin - 1

Our lovely tents

Sunday 14th July (Ian's birthday)

Our last full day on the Huon, and what a day it was!! We were basically all given a free day to do what we wanted, and with this in mind me and Ian stuck together and did our best to persuade others not to follow in our footsteps, though not because we're unsociable (well we are), but because our target birds would require some form of stealth, and in a group of more than two, this can't be achieved.

So we set off to a nearby trail and worked hard to find our targets. First up was a Kingfisher that flew through the canopy when it was hardly light and disappeared, though the fact it responded very quickly to my Mountain Kingfisher playback, the views were completely un-tickable, but this downside didn't dissuade us from the other targets on offer.

Eventually after some time, we heard our main quarry, a Spotted Jewel Babbler. We stalked the bird and despite only being a few metres away it was clearly invisible being just off the narrow path in deep foliage. A quick burst of playback resulted in a very brief view for myself, but Ian missed it so the mission was certainly not complete. I then walked down a side trail to a recently cleared area and for no real reason started playing Forbe's Forest Rail, and a few moments later one responded. Ian quickly joined me and I placed by Bluetooth speaker on the opposite side of the path from where the bird was calling, and the waiting game commenced. Thankfully Rails being Rails meant that soon the vegetation was rustling and sure enough we glimpsed this fantastic bird, but it wasn't until a short time later that we had mind-boggling views of the Rail showing off on a log pumping its tail up and down for maybe ten seconds, no doubt urging to impress my Bluetooth speaker.

The fun didn't end there, a very distant Jewel Babbler had now merged into a very close Jewel Babbler, and without making too much noise we re-positioned ourselves ever so slightly into the forest. A quick play of the recording and just below our feet a Spotted Jewel Babbler ran past. Its sheer speed and agility was quite superb as we tracked the bird running around us, but it gave itself up by pausing in the dense understorey in my line of sight for a few brief seconds.

The morning had been brilliant, but now it was time for the late morning/afternoon session down at the ridge west of Satop where the Emperors were displaying the other day. Again it was just the two of us, and after waiting around for three hours with just a brief view and constant calling, three males flew into the tree and over maybe twenty minutes they sporadically went into full display, this display being rather unique due to this species hanging upside down and fluffing out their tales (rather reminiscent of the Blue Bird-of-Paradise). This ended a quite brilliant last day (last day, or so we thought) on the Huon, and although we tried for the Feline Owlet-Nightjar again, it sadly didn't play ball despite us pinning it down to a tree.

Papuan Harrier - 1
Forbes's Forest Rail - 1
Brehm's Tiger Parrot - 1
Stella's Lorikeet - 3
Spangled Honeyeater - 5
Mountain Mouse Warbler - 1
Buff-faced Scrubwren - 10
Tit Berrypecker - 2
Spotted Jewel Babbler - 1
Black-breasted Boatbill - 2
Black-bellied Cuckooshrike - 3
Rusty Whistler - 1
Little Shrikethrush - 1
Grey Crow - 10
Crinkle-collared Manucode - 1
Huon Astrapia - 8
Wahnes's Parotia - 1
Emperor Bird-of-Paradise - 3
Slaty Robin - 1

Spangled Honeyeater

fem Regent Whistler

Stella's Lorikeet

Emperor Bird-of-Paradise
The Emperor valley

Sunset at the campsite

Monday 15th July

From here on in our time on the Huon was slightly stressful. Due to heavy rain and low cloud, our charter flight couldn't land at Kabwum, and despite standing around at the lounge (a tiny shack with a leaky roof) and wandering up and down the runway, it was clear we weren't leaving the Huon today. This was a huge downer as our full day at Varirata was now cancelled for tomorrow, and our flight from Lae to Port Moresby would also have to be re-arranged, something that Sicklebill did with ease.

We needed accommodation , but no chance were we being bashed up and down back up to the camp, so we were kindly offered what looked like someone's house, and that someone obviously wasn't informed of our imminent arrival, as we clearly woke him up as we entered the beaten up and quite offensive looking joint. We had hit rock bottom and it didn't get much better when a loud pumping sound informed us that the already destroyed toilet wasn't flushing, and had to be done manually.

Mercifully Adam and Steve managed to arrange new accommodation for us further up the hillside (courtesy of North Coast Aviation....or so we thought), and it turned out to be pure glamorous compared to our last dump.

To calm the nerves about getting out tomorrow, a few of us walked up the track for maybe an hour, but once again there wasn't much on offer, although a White-bellied Cuckooshrike and an all white Variable Goshawk made it semi worthwhile.

Tuesday 16th July

I woke at 4am to the most horrific noise going, the sound of rain lashing down outside. And it continued for quite a few hours after, and the hopes of even leaving PNG on schedule for our time in Australia was looking severely doubtful. As you do in such situations, you look for any clear bit of sky to try and bring some confidence back into the misery, and it was working. The clear bit cleared some more, and some more, then the rain stopped and it was all starting to look dandy. We got confirmation from the airline that the plane had now left Lae, but this wasn't us home and dry (definitely not dry) yet as a large cover of low cloud had developed over the runway. The wind was blowing thankfully and to cut an already long story short, we departed Kabwum (though I was without a seat and had to wedge myself between two Papuans and hold on due to not having a seatbelt), climbed to the proposed altitude, and left the rugged and untouched mountains behind us.

To be continued...……..


Getting clearer

We're going home

Me wedged between two Papuans
as I didn't have a seat