Sunday, December 30, 2007


It was supposed to be sunny today, so we went to Norfolk. Started off in the Yare valley at Cantley, where plenty of White-fronted Geese were on the meadows with a sprinkling of Magic Bean Geese. The views of the Beans were much better than my last ones of this species - in pea-soup fog at the Nene Washes.

If there had been any daylight the photos might have been better, but the day had started well.

Next stop was Gunton Cliff for the Pallas's Warbler. Wasted a lot of time there - it wasn't seen at all. Tried Ness Point, Lowestoft, for Purple Sandpipers, but there were none to be seen. It was looking quite bleak.

(I feel sorry for Lowestoft - it used to be very prosperous with shipbuilding and fishing industries, which my ancestors were part of - but now it's a bit of a dump. Ness Point is the easternmost point of the British Isles, but they don't make much of it. The point sits next to an industrial estate, a gasworks, and a huge wind turbine under construction)

In the end we abandoned Suffolk and made for Norfolk, where we enjoyed the buntings - Snow and Lapland - at Salthouse. By the time we decided to try for the Ross's Geese at Holme, it was getting dark and the geese had cleared off.

Hmmmph. I hope 2008 will be better.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

  • Geese, buntings and witches' knickers
    I visited Norfolk over the Christmas break. We watched geese grazing in the Yare valley, snow and Lapland buntings on the coast, and then what I thought were some witches' knickers by the road on the way home...
    Read the whole thing on Notes on Nature

Friday, December 28, 2007


video taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Everyone else has video on their blog these days, so I thought I'd have a go. I was lucky that this Sparrowhawk perched on the garden fence after trying - and failing - to catch a Blackbird. It's a bit dark but it's not turned out too badly, considering it was digiscoped through a window, and the old Coolpix isn't really ideal for video...

Kestrel video

video taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Another bird of prey doing not very much, this time a Kestrel. They fly past quite often but I haven't seen one perching on the fence before. The Blue and Great Tits weren't very impressed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Swan bling

Had a terrible day trudging round various bits of Bedfordshire. We dipped on everything - Cattle Egret (in Cambs), White-fronted Geese at Harrold, Short-eared Owl at Thurleigh.

While bored at Harrold, I spotted this ringed Mute Swan. It's always worth checking birds for colour rings. I expect it's moved a total of zero km since it was ringed, but I've sent my sighting in to anyway.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sharp claws in fluffy slippers

Staring bleary-eyed out of the window this morning, something caught my attention. There was a bird on the garden fence. A closer look revealed it was a sparrowhawk, a young male.

There was something very odd about him. He appeared to be wearing slippers like one of my next-door neighbours used to wear in the '80s (you perhaps know the kind: black, fluffy and trimmed with feathers). Around each foot was a tangled mass of dark, downy feathers, and some bits of grass...
Read the whole post here

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Listening To Birds

Listening To Birds: An Anthropological Approach to Bird Sounds

This sounds [pun not intended] like an interesting project:
'A two year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council investigating how people perceive, identify and make sense of bird sounds.

What happens when we hear a bird? This is the question at the heart of this project and over the next two years we will be listening to birds with others and finding out how bird sounds become a part of people's lives.

We want to investigate how people listen to birds because we're fascinated by two subjects. First, we are interested in the relationships between humans and birds and the role that sound plays in this. We wish to understand how bird sounds become important and meaningful to people, for example as being evocative of time, place or season. Second, we want to explore hearing and to consider how people become skilled at differentiating what they hear.'

Friday, November 23, 2007

If you go down to the woods today

'Walking around The Lodge at lunchtime, there was a rustle and then the sound of powerfully whirring wings. A fat, brown bird flew from the crispy leaves in the sweet chestnut woodland and away up the hill from us. It made me jump! For a split second, I thought, 'what on earth was that?' but then it became obvious...'
Read the whole thing at Notes on Nature

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Garden tick

Tree (left) and House Sparrows. Note how colossal the HS looks by comparison

Tree Sparrow!

Male House Sparrow

Exciting times in the garden over the past couple of days. Yesterday, D was at home feeling ill. He happened to glance out of the window and saw a Tree Sparrow sitting in the bush! That came as a bit of a shock as we didn't know of any others nearby.

We invited Mark round today to catch and ring a few garden birds, as there are quite a few around at the moment. He put up a single net between the bush and the two feeders and in a couple of hours we were quite successful: the expected Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Robins, Dunnocks, House Sparrows, Chaffinches and Greenfinches. Oh, and a Tree Sparrow!

We were probably unlucky not to get a woodpecker (one Green seen this morning, and three Great Spots all at once this afternoon), or a Sparrowhawk. I think the Jackdaws (which have been using both peanut and sunflower feeders) might be too canny to get caught. Perhaps we'll get them next time.

It will be really interesting to see whether the Tree Sparrow stays for the winter. Steve says it's typical for them to wander about at this time of year. This area has a number of features which should be good for them and we'll be getting some nestboxes in place for next spring.

Fingers crossed. Maybe this is the start of a new colony?

  • Blue Tit, 16
  • Great Tit, 6
  • Greenfinch, 6
  • House Sparrow, 3
  • Chaffinch, 2
  • Dunnock, 2
  • Coal Tit, 2
  • Robin, 1
  • Tree Sparrow, 1
photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Friday, November 16, 2007

A warm, fuzzy feeling

A heavy frost had coated everything in crystals. It wasn't long after dawn and already, fluffy, hungry-looking birds were lurking in the bushes. The bird feeders were nearly empty!

Under normal circumstances, you could perhaps accuse me of being a little disorganised, but this morning I became a hyper-efficient bird-feeding machine...
Read the whole post at Notes on Nature

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's that time of year

Beech leaves, beechmast and wasp

Sweet Chestnut

Oak skeleton

Red Admiral



Green Woodpecker hole

Leaf litter

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Friday, November 09, 2007

Inside story on the Sandringham harrier shootings

The RSPB's Investigations Officer, Mark Thomas, has written about his experience:

'I asked what was happening… He explained in a calm, yet clearly traumatised, voice that barely 20 minutes ago, together with two members of the public who he had taken specifically to look for roosting raptors, he had watched two female hen harriers being shot out of the sky.'

RSPB Investigations blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Go Edith!

Meet Edith, a Cypriot bird hunter's worst nightmare

PROTARAS, Cyprus (Reuters Life!) - A diminutive retired schoolteacher from Switzerland has become the worst nightmare for legions of illicit bird trappers in Cyprus.

"I track down the poaching sites, then I report these people to authorities. Possibly most of them have never spotted me watching them because I hide in the bushes," says Edith Loosli.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

East Norfolk

In my opinion, there are really only two reasons to visit Great Yarmouth:

1. Mediterranean Gulls on the beach between the two piers
2. The old cemetery, which can be great for newly-arrived migrants, but wasn't today

The Med Gulls were fun, though (and the chips weren't bad):

Adults (no black in the wing)

Second-winter (a small amount of black)

First-winter (lots of black in wing and tail)

Having fun on the beach (helter skelter in the background)

Perhaps a visit to the Britannia Theatre?

Feeding frenzy

Several of the Meds wore rings, and I managed to read the numbers on a couple of plastic colour rings. I've sent off the details ( so it'll be interesting to read their life histories. Belgium or the Netherlands look likely sources.

Black-headed Gulls



Holly (Winterton)

We started off at Winterton and failed to see much, apart from a cracking male Black Redstart. Loads of Blackbirds around, though.

Finished the day at the raptor roost at Stubb Mill, where we watched 30+ Marsh Harriers and at least two Hen Harriers come in. The Cranes were a disappointment, though - we only saw three very distantly, flying somewhere else for the night...

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Monday, October 22, 2007


Had a pleasantly long weekend on the East Yorkshire coast with Mark and Jenny and the dogs...

Red-flanked Bluetail at Old Fall Plantation, Flamborough Head (Yorkshire's first twitchable one). Mark has in-the-hand photos here

Tree Sparrow, Buckton (I blogged about this area on Notes On Nature)

Whooper Swans flying in-off at South Landing

Small Tortoiseshell, South Landing

Autumnal leaves, South Landing

Common Darter

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM and Nikon Coolpix 995

Friday, October 19, 2007

Preening for dummies

On Friday morning, I again had the privilege of watching a Sparrowhawk in the garden. A few weeks back, I saw a young female - this time, it was a young male. Again, he wasn't very interested in hunting (perhaps he'd eaten recently?) and instead spent more than an hour sitting on the garden fence watching the world go by and preening his feathers.

The other garden birds knew that they weren't really in danger and continued to use the feeder, only 12 feet away.

Hawk and a rose

The long, banded tail feathers were a bit tricky to reach; the hawk ran his bill along each one before letting them ping back into place

Important to keep those primaries in tip-top condition

Not sure what was going on here... perhaps some tidying of coverts

His toes got covered in down every time he folded one leg up into his breast feathers

It's important for Sparrowhawks to have clean toes so they had to come off somehow.

Portraits. On the top-left one you can see the nictitating membrane ('third eyelid)

Ready for action

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece