Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Insight into the mind of a twitcher

'Which clown decided to release a message that a Siberian Rubythroat is present in Sunderland and has been for 2-plus days but states that there is no access nor identifies the site. These types of messages really piss me off. I would much rather not know at all, than to be wound up knowing there is one in the country and some folks have seen it to positively ID it...

'That message totally ruined my Sunday. A twitchable mainland Siberian Rubythroat, My God, I quiver like a Redstart’s arse just thinking about it. Only it’s not so twitchable because no one KNOWS where it is. This is the kind of bird grown men dream about, who needs Kelly Brook or Angelina Jolie when you can find Luscinia calliope in your garden.'

Poor old Otis Bilious...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Autumn at Woodwalton



Result of some kind of gall wasp infestation?

Red leaves

Common Darter - the only dragonfly species we saw today. Most were going around in tandem


Sunlight shining through a bit of bark peeling off a branch


photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Saturday, October 21, 2006

All change

Interesting post at The Birdchaser here:

In case you haven't heard this yet, there is a proposal to get rid of the common names of some familiar North American birds, including Common Loon, Eared Grebe, Ring-necked Pheasant, Dovekie, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, Bank Swallow, White-winged Crossbill, and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

In Frank Gill and Minturn Wright's new book Birds of the World: Recommended English Names, the names of these birds are replaced by Great Northern Loon, Black-necked Grebe, Common Pheasant, Little Auk, Common Pigeon, Common Starling, Sand Martin, Two-barred Crossbill, and Saltmarsh Sparrow.

Interesting, because you'd think from the way that some British birders go on about it, that it was one-way traffic. That we Brits were being forced to adopt weird American names for our common birds.

Read more about it here

(Winter Wren is really stupid on this side of the Atlantic, though)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lunch at The Ivy

Not the London restaurant, but a clump of ivy in the Memorial garden, now in flower and attracting insects of all shapes and sizes.

The Hornets (above) were the most impressive diners today - they were about an inch long but seemed fairly docile and allowed a relatively close approach with the camera.

More about Hornets here.


Red Admiral

One of the last few Common Darters I'll see this year

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Sunday, October 15, 2006

East coast in the Yorkshire style

Just back from a weekend in Yorkshire with Mark (oops, wrong one) and Jenny.

Though I suffered from a variety of ailments throughout, even I had a good time.

Friday evening. Went to put some mist-nets up (the original intention of the weekend was to go ringing, but that got shelved in favour of birding) at Mark's secret site. Appropriately enough, it was foggy.

As we walked to the net rides, a Merlin flew towards us after a Meadow Pipit. The falcon dodged away from us at a range of about 15 feet and the pipit melted into the hedge.

A couple of Grey Partridges 'krrrrrr'd from the surrounding fields, and a skein of Pinkfeet oinked from somewhere overhead. All atmospheric stuff. Back into Brid for a curry to be consumed in our luxury static caravan...

Saturday. I finally got out to Flamborough Head in the afternoon (the boys were out all morning). Our team of five (we were joined by Mark and Gareth) had a pretty successful time. Starting off at the steps on the way to Old Fall, Darren picked up a Yellow-browed Warbler in the hedge. Nice work!

At the plantation, there were a few Bramblings and dozens of Redwings made themselves heard. I was trying to string a Blackbird perched at the back of a tree into a Ring Ouzel (were those really pale wing markings I could see?) when it flew off. Left the wood and MT emerged from round the corner: 'Did you get the ouzel?'

Lots of Redwings and Blackbirds shifting about along the hedges, fresh in from their North Sea crossings.

Along the way to the lighthouse, the Marks heard a Richard's Pipit fly up from an adjacent field. I completely failed to hear any pipits calling. I seem to be getting quite good at that. Short-eared Owl on a fencepost.

On our arrival back into civilisation (the lighthouse area), the place was heaving with birdwatchers who'd arrived in a bus. MT spotted something flitting about in a sycamore in someone's back garden. The something turned out to be another Yellow-browed. We alerted a few nearby birders, phoned the news out and moved on.

Someone told us of a Black Redstart just a little further along the road. A fine male, sitting up on a barn roof, which was then joined by a second, female-type, bird.

'There's a Black Redstart here', a birdwatcher informed us, helpfully. He then saw something flit past us, low to the ground, towards the barn. 'Pied Wagtail'. That was the male Black Redstart...

Sunday. Drove home via Blacktoft Sands and the Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Went along expecting to see two birds, but by the time we arrived, they'd multiplied into three birds! A nice bonus.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Autumn's here


Graphocephala fennahi (rhododendron leaf-hopper)

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Monday, October 09, 2006

And while I'm here...

This headline in The People today:


MILLIONS of potential killers carrying deadly bird flu are heading to Britain.

More than three million birds have started their annual migration from Scandinavia, Russia and Canada to spend winter in our milder climate.

That's the cream of British journalism for you. It can only get worse from now.

'Sod them. Let's fly.'

I feel like I'm treading on Charlie's territory slightly here, but anyway: I was puzzled by a full-page ad in yesterday's Observer which brought me here: http://unlimited-spurt.org/

Worried about climate change?

As an ambassador of the British aviation industry, SPURT shares your concerns. It is a grave threat to our profits and an inconvenience to our PR people.

But I am happy to set the record straight.
  • Climate change is probably not even happening
  • A warmer planet is good for the holiday industry
  • The 150,000 people dying from climate change each year mostly live in Africa
So stop thinking and keep flying!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Half a day's holiday...

... and for what?

While we were in Cornwall last week, a juvenile Pallid Harrier turned up in east Norfolk, at Winterton. D spent all week going 'I hope it hangs around until we're back!' and since we were too knackered to go for it on Sunday, he opted to take an afternoon off work today.

(I had to follow suit really, or I wouldn't have been able to get home.)

So, we wound our way through the lovely country lanes of Norfolk (mostly on the A14 and A47, actually) until we found the spot where the harrier had been seen last.

There was a small encampment of around 10 birders by the roadside. As we sat down at the edge of a sugar-beet field and began scanning, it was increasingly obvious that none of the other were actually looking for the bird - they were all standing around chatting, comparing optics, bragging about their latest holidays... anything but actively looking for the bird.

We spent three hours sitting and scanning, to no avail.

That's another 0.5 of a day of annual leave, gone, then...

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Just got back from a week in Cornwall. Here is an assortment of landscapes, flowers, insects and duff bird photos. More notes to be added later...

Cot Valley

Maritime heath, Porthgwarra

View from Nanquidno

'Ciao!' said the Choughs. Two seen at Nanquidno, then Cot (where these record shots were taken)

Stonechat, Nanquidno

'Fall' of Meadow Pipits after torrential rain at Beachside

Comma, Polgigga

Red Admiral, Polgigga

(click on this one for extra detail)

The ubiquitous Clouded Yellow - dozens seen during the week (this one at Nanquidno)

Speckled Wood, Polgigga

Flowers on set-aside at Nanjizal:
Corn Cockle



The Firecrest tree, Cot Valley

Wryneck record shot, Porthgwarra

Juvenile Herring Gull

Adult Herring Gull

The ubiquitous Buzzard

Longhorn cow having a scratch, Nanquidno

digiscoped photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x fixed or 20-60x zoom eyepieces