Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Surprising Sweden...

Here's a feature written by my long-lost acquaintance, the wonderfully, incongruously-named Maria del Carmen Clegg: OUTDOORSmagic Features - Surprising Sweden....

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


There is a new kid on the digiscoping website block. Yes, WeedWorld has arrived! Watch out for the digiscoping and macro adventures of the Hapless Boy Weedon.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Pics from this morning's CES ringing session at Ferry Meadows.

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

Juvenile Kingfisher

Female Reed Bunting 'control' - originally ringed by someone else at another site - click here for details.

Somewhere around 120 birds were trapped this morning - Chris's 100th CES visit to FM - from about 4am to 12.30pm when we packed up. We had the first juvenile Reed, Sedge and Garden Warblers of the year, plus what seemed like the entire juv Great Tit population of Cambridgeshire.

The weather conditions were good to start with, since it was overcast and not too breezy. Unfortunately, the vegetation was dripping with rain from the previous day, and it got hotter and more windy as the morning went on. There was a lot of deep, squelchy mud underfoot - as usual - and the mosquitoes took a toll on us - as usual. No amount of insect repellent seems to make a difference.

I felt like I made huge progress today. Extracting birds from nets is really tricky and it requires patience, a bit of problem solving, dexterity and a cool head! Today I finally felt like I was getting there. I'm still very slow (Chris can do about ten birds in the time it takes me to do one), but now I feel like I've got the basic hang of it and from now on I'll be able to get faster. Something clicked today. Hurrah!

What's on my iTunes: Gold - Ryan Adams

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

RSPB Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk

With some time off work I decided it would be nice to go to RSPB Titchwell for some digiscoping. Everything's close there, isn't it? All the birds seem tame.

Highlight was this male Ruff which showed well close to the main path. That's a real ruffy Ruff. And if that's not a mullet, I don't know what is...

I made numerous attempts at photographing Avocets (which were plentiful), but in 90% of my shots, the birds had their heads underwater. Never mind.

A very showy Sedge Warbler perched by the entrance to one of the hides and sang right out in the open, until it was flushed. That's the only problem with Titchwell - it's very busy.

There wasn't a lot on the beach, except for a few Oystercatchers.

A couple of summer-plumaged Spotted Redshanks looked smart but were a little distant for me.

What's in my CD player: Being There - Wilco

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Macro at Houghton Mill

Gastrophysa viridula?

Went on an insect-hunting expedition to Houghton Mill, near Huntingdon. By the time we got there, it was very overcast and looked likely to rain, which I thought would work against us. But in fact the opposite was true.

Our chief quarry was White-legged Damselfly, Platycnemis pennipes, an uncommon species not present in the PBC area. I know next to nothing about insects so it was a good job that Steve was there to tell me what was what.

Since I bought my second-hand Nikon Coolpix 995 last year, I've become much more interested in insects because the brilliant macro function enables me, an unskilled idiot, to take excellent photos (even if I do say so myself). So please excuse me if I go over the top with my pictures in this post, because I'm delighted with them!

Female (top three) and male Banded Demoiselle, Agrion splendens

Male White-legged Damselfly, Platycnemis pennipes. The white legs are dangled in flight to attract females.

Freshly-emerged ('teneral') Scarce Chaser, Libellula fulva

Male (top) and female Red-eyed Damselfly, Erythromma najas

Blue-tailed Damselfly, Ischnura elegans

What's in my CD player: Grand Slang - City Slang label compilation.


Even I enjoyed last night's Holland v Czech Republic Euro 2004 game. I was rooting for our Czech friends throughout, but it did seem a bit harsh on Holland that they eventually lost. However, there was a total absence of mullets on either side, though several of the Czechs wore their hair in the 'lank, greasy-looking with bit of elastic tied round it' style, and there was mullet potential on a few more.

This picture of Sweden's Christian Wilhelmsson does not do his barnet justice:

What's in my CD player: The Diary Of Alicia Keys - Alicia Keys

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Football mullets

It appears I wasn't the only one to notice Fernando Torres' amazing mullet on Saturday.

"Torres has an unbelievable peroxide blonde mullet - sort of American truck driver meets Limahl, but he can certainly play. Within 10 seconds he swivels sharply before firing a volley that's blocked." - The Guardian

Amongst the Spanish side, Fernando Morientes also has a tremendous mullet. Do they pay good money to have their hair cut like this?

Why does the mullet persist among football players? Dan's Mullet Haven may yield some clues.

What's in my CD player: Fuzzy Logic - Super Furry Animals

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Euro 2004

I was alerted to a van Nistelrooy goal for Holland against Germany (now 1:1) by triumphant hoots coming from somewhere down the street. I don't usually pay much attention to football but sometimes you get sucked in.

Euro Mullet Watch
I have been scouring the Euro 2004 website for more mullet action, but it's been sadly lacking so far. I haven't even spotted any mullets on TV this evening - oh, hang on - there's one - Bastian Schweinsteiger - see those tell-tale curls creeping down his neck?

The ref is sporting a terrific, shaggy coiffure, but I am undecided as whether van Nistelrooy's wig counts as a mullet or not. Somehow he manages to get away with it. I think for it to be a mullet, you need fairly short 'sides'.

There is something nice about the European nations getting together to play football in the Portuguese park; it makes a nice contrast from the 60-year-old images of D-Day the other week. However, some idiotic Engerland fans cannot resist the temptation to smash some things up, be it at home or away...

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Nene Washes walk

This evening I helped on an RSPB guided walk at Eldernell. It was good fun. There were 24 people keen to find out more about the birds and environment of the washes and I think they went home happy. Bob and Emily, who showed me the Slow-worm at Bedford Purlieus, were there.

We had good views of Barn Owl, Grey Heron, Swift, Swallow, Cormorant and Meadow Pipit and more distant views of Long-eared Owl and Marsh Harrier. We watched a Hobby hawking for dragonflies over the pit, which was nice. All these are taken for granted by most birdwatchers but it's great to look at them in a different, fresh way...

Euro Mullet Watch
I am desperately trying to find the owner of the fantastic Spanish mullet I saw on TV earlier. I think this is the man - Fernando Torres.

Jeff Tweedy: We are trying to break your heart
With A Ghost is Born, Wilco's origins are becoming an ever-more-distant memory. The band's leader, Jeff Tweedy, tells Kevin Harley what drives them on.

What's in my CD player: If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Breckland Nightjar evening

The Nightjar is one of Britain’s most intriguing birds. They have an air of exclusivity – you aren’t going to see them unless you go to special sites in peculiar habitats at certain times of year; they aren’t birds you can just bump into.

It was for these reasons that I hadn’t seen one until last year, at the advanced age of 23 – I simply hadn’t been anywhere where there were any. When I was younger, I listened to tape recordings of ‘churring’ and thought what a bizarre, un-bird-like sound it was; they remained one of those mythical birds which were really interesting but that I might never see.

So last year’s experience was pretty amazing. But nobody told me they were going to fly around my head at barely an arm’s distance!

A year on, it was time for a return visit with Steve Dudley, former Brecks resident and repository of local knowledge. The Brecks, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, have some of the country’s largest Nightjar populations in the heathland/open pine forest. On the way, we stopped at Cavenham Heath and saw a family party of Wood Larks, a hunting Hobby, a pair of Little Owls and a Red Fox trotting around, watched by Rabbits.

Onto the main event. As we walked along the forestry track to the Nightjars' arena, numerous 'roding' Woodcock flew over (click here to hear what that sounds like). At about 21:30, we heard the first 'jar of the evening... a hollow, distant, whirring, rattling, rasping buzz, dipping and rising in pitch every few seconds...

Perhaps I don't have to labour too hard to describe it to you, because you can listen to an MP3 here!

Soon, we saw a bird floating against a backdrop of cloudy sky and dark pines... a male, with white wing flashes. Walking further along the track, a young Brown Hare lolloped along towards us next to a timber stack. We heard more churring, saw males flying around and into the forest, before another, much closer bird started up. It's only when you get really close to a Nightjar that you get the full impact of just how... strange the sound is. It doesn't sound like a bird at all, more like something mechanical.

Most of the churrers... churr for a minute or so, then just stop dead. It's when there's a female in the vicinity that things get really exciting. It's all about sex, of course. The churring goes on for a while as normal, before breaking down, coming to a clattering, squawking halt, with exuberant wing-clapping (and probable mating). That's pretty special to hear.

One of the ways to attract a male Nightjar's attention is to mimic his wing-clapping. We tried it, with immediate results... we watched as the male flew towards us, silhouetted against the darkening sky, calling, and flew in a small circle around our heads, having a good look before vanishing back the way he'd come.

The late birder gets the worms, too...

What's in my CD player: Noyoucmon - Lambchop

Monday, June 07, 2004

Mark Radcliffe

Got bored doing some work while it's too warm to get to sleep and somehow I ended up listening to Mark Radcliffe's new show on BBC Radio 2. I used to fall asleep listening to Mark and Lard when they did the Graveyard Shift (22:00-00:00) on Radio 1 in the mid 1990s.

Ah, happy days... They used to do what could loosely be described as 'comedy', in the form of Sh*t Agent, the Rabbi Lionel Blair, Fish or Fowl etc etc etc. In about 1997 they moved to the breakfast show because they got fed up of not being able to go out in the evenings, and the world of radio was all the poorer. I used to enjoy listening to poetry from the likes of Simon Armitage and Ian McMillan, and the show provided me with a supply of musical inspiration. I'm pleased to say that this new show seems to be taking some of the old one's elements, which can only be a good thing.

I've never listened to Radio 2 before...

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Quail on Black Bush

Mike Weedon phoned at about 21:25 to say he was listening to two Quail singing from a wheat field on Black Bush Drove. By the time I got there, only one bird was singing. It didn't seem worth staying too long... after you've heard one Quail, you've heard them all, haven't you?

Black Tern duck broken

Word broke this morning that a Black Tern was at Welland Bank Pits! Couldn't resist the lure of another PBC tick, so I headed up there and there it was, number 191 on my list. After last weekend's disaster, it was a relief!

I enjoyed watching it hawk for insects for about an hour... it spent quite a lot of time flying high over the water, presumably where its prey was. The size and flight differences with Common Tern were interesting. I've seen a few Black Terns in Northants before but these were my best, most prolonged views.

A Hobby dashed around, grabbing insects and having a pop at young Starlings.

What's in my CD player: Mighty Joe Moon - Grant Lee Buffalo

Saturday, June 05, 2004


Despite the sunshine, today's CES (Constant Effort Site) visit to Ferry Meadows was much more productive than the previous two. A whopping total of 107 birds were processed between 05:00 and 12:30, with the two most numerous species being Blackbird and Blue Tit. Usually, Reed and Sedge Warblers are the most commonly trapped birds at FM, but Blackbirds and Blue Tits have probably just fledged their first broods whereas the warblers are still sitting on theirs.

Highlight were probably a smart juvenile Reed Bunting and a juvenile Mistle Thrush, which was a site ringing 'tick' for Chris. Though willow carr and alder/birch woodland isn't really typical habitat for Mistle Thrushes, the bird had probably been feeding on the nearby golf course with its family, and happened to drop into a net! A very striking bird indeed.

I continue to make slow (but steady) progress with ringing. I'm still getting the hang of extracting birds, which I don't find easy at the moment. Some extractions are fairly straightforward, but others are extremely complex! With the addition of deep mud underfoot, the attentions of mosquitos and sweaty, humid conditions, it all adds up to bloody hard work, though ultimately satisfying...

What's in my CD player: Being There - Wilco