Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hummer season starts here!

This afternoon, I finally managed to time one of my [infrequent] visits to the canteen with that of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth. The Valerian has sprung up nicely in recent weeks, after all the rain we've had, and I think this is the first 'hummer' of the year to appear in this traditional spot.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Painted Lady on Lavender

Meadow Brown on Cranesbill

It finally stopped raining for a short while this afternoon, so I managed to do a bit of tidying up in the garden (believe me, there is a lot that needs doing).

It was a very pleasant surprise to see some butterflies enjoying the plants... a single Painted Lady and about half a dozen Meadow Browns. They joined the bumblebees on the Cranesbill and Lavender in the flower bed, plus the clover growing in the lawn and some Catmint. I know some people don't like clover in their lawns, but sod it, if it's good for insects, I want it.

The insect-attracting plants were already in situ when we moved in six months ago, so I ought to say thankyou to whoever planted them. They're all purple, but it does the job nicely.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How often do you see this?

Meadow Brown with its wings open

Not very often, in my experience. It's not very orange, is it?

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

Monday, June 18, 2007


Just heard all the local Swallows making a terrible racket outside, sounding frantic. Looked out of the window into the back garden and there was a male Sparrowhawk sitting on the fence, being dive-bombed by angry Swallows.

I turned round to grab my camera, but he'd cleared off.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


HMS Avocet sets sail for Peacock's Island

Common Tern chick

Spent this evening at Broom gravel pits, helping Mark Thomas catch and ring Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls.

It was good fun... first, we had to get to the island where the nests were. With six of us to get across in a small plastic dinghy, and only two lifejackets, there was a lot of rowing, well, paddling, to be done. By Mark.

Of course, all the adult birds scarpered when they saw us arrive, so once on the island we had to act quickly. First, chick collection. We covered the whole island (it's not that big) but had to tread very carefully, because eggs and chicks were everywhere.

Chicks big enough for ringing were picked up and placed in big plastic buckets for safekeeping; tiddlers were popped into cotton bird-bags to keep them from getting chilled.

The gulls - 61 of 'em - were ringed first and then awaited their release in the dinghy. That made for a very smelly, messy boat ride back. Just as well it wasn't far.

The tern chicks - there were 18 of those - received two colour-rings, as well as the standard metal ring. If you see a Common Tern sporting a white ring above a sky-blue one, on the left leg, that's one of ours. Report it, please.

Mark's been doing this for the past three years and his colour-ringed terns have turned up subsequently at Grafham Water and Paxton Pits, just up the A1, but also at Minsmere in Suffolk and Spurn in East Yorkshire.

Mark threw away his clothes when he got home.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Baby update

Well, the six baby Pheasants have - somewhat predictably - been reduced to just two.

The garden is full of juvenile Great Tits learning how to use the feeders, and the branches of the ash tree seem to be laden with young Jackdaws that have left their nest there.

There are two broods of House Sparrows in the garden, too.

We've heard Spotted Flycatchers calling from next door, so with a bit of luck, we'll be seeing baby flycatchers in a few months.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


If you haven't already seen it, check out this Goshawk webcam (also available here). The chick, up a tree in the New Forest, isn't far from fledging and it's worth taking a look to see it preening, flapping about, snoozing and being fed by its parents.

The camera is so good that you can see the chick breathing and flies crawling round on the nest.

Great entertainment on a rainy day...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dragons and damsels

Female Emperor ovipositing (egg-laying)

Four-spotted Chaser

Red-eyed Damselflies

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

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Ox-eye daisies

Bumblebee in flight

Bramble blossom

Speckled Wood


Azure Damselfly

Bee on Cow Parsley


Caterpillar 'floating' in mid-air, dangling on a line of silk


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

Rook in Action

Mmm, sunflower hearts... how do I get up there?

Got to get up here first...

This could be tricky...

Mustn't slip now...


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Garden list

Some people say that 'Spot Fly' is a terrible contraction of a lovely bird's name - Spotted Flycatcher. It's two syllables versus five so I think its use is perfectly justified when in a hurry.

Anyway - we heard, then saw, a Spotted Flycatcher, Muscicapa striata, in our garden today. I wondered when we moved in whether it would be good for them here. The bird flew out from the apple tree in next door's garden and briefly into our airspace, before flying across the road and landing in an Oak.

It's bird # 70 for the garden list; we've been here six months.

Full list here

Friday, June 08, 2007

Buddy Holly

Sorry, but this takes me right back to 1994, the year I started my GCSEs.

Accipiter nisus

Here's a bit of a blog post everyone should read:
'Sparrowhawks are important to me, because it is too easy for me to do the Keats thing: pour myself into birds as a way of disappearing from me-ness. I identify with birds too easily. I am embarrassed to admit that I’m way too ready to get lost in the enjoyment of a dust-bathing sparrow, take joy in the sun on my fluffy flanks, presume I know exactly what the blackbird’s thinking as it chinks in alarm in a hedge. But sparrowhawks are incomprehensible. I can’t pour myself into a sparrowhawk, not even for a moment. They’re the wrong density for the world I live in, and their mores are unaccountable.'
Go and read it now!

Late nights, early morning

It's been a busy week.

On Tuesday night, I went badger-watching with my workmates at a top-secret location in Hertfordshire. We kicked off the evening by going out for pizza and then headed towards Badger HQ. We got into the hide at about 8.45pm and it wasn't long before the first mammals made their appearance...


Once those crazy lagomorphs had polished off most of the food put out for the badgers - dog biscuits, peanuts and peanut butter - it was the turn of three Muntjac deer (two females and a male, which arrived and departed separately).

Next, we watched as three Red Fox cubs arrived. The peanut butter, which had been smeared on a log, was clearly their favoured food and they took turns to wolf it down.

Finally, the star of the show, a large Badger, turned up, putting everything else in its place. Peanut butter was all it was interested in, too, and the foxes could only look on as it devoured the lot, apparently.

Of course, it did the right thing and fell off the log once, as they always seem to do on the telly.

Three turbo-charged Wood Mice completed the cast, with another three Badgers also coming late on, though they were far more skittish and wouldn't come out in front of the hide. It was a good night; went to bed at 1am.

Tuesday morning, I got up at 5.30am to do a breeding bird survey at The Lodge. The weather was overcast and breezy with cloud low enough to hide the top bit of Sandy transmitter. We didn't see much, with the exception of swarms of juvenile Blue Tits flying in all directions, and heard a Spotted Flycatcher calling.

Wednesday night saw me standing in a middle of a drizzly field near Peterborough, listening for nocturnal birds and wondering whether, if I shut my eyes and stood up straight, I'd be able to fall asleep while standing upright, like a horse.

Haven't a clue what we'll be doing this weekend, but I think I'm due some photos.

Things that go 'squeak' in the night

Earlier this evening, about 10pm, I stepped outside to watch some bats - pipistrelles, I guess - swooping about. They repeatedly appeared from round the corner of the house and darted over the grass in search of insects.

It was interesting to hear their wings flapping when executing sharp turns or diving towards the lawn... I can remember vividly being camping with the Guides when I was 10, walking back from our campfire, and being able to hear the high-pitched squeaks of some bats which were out hunting.

I'm not sure I'm still capable of that now. Are my ears too old? Were the other bats bigger, lower-pitched ones? I hope to be able to test my hearing some more throughout summer.

While I was watching the bats in the dusk, I looked down the hedgerow, alongside the road, and there was a Barn Owl floating along. It veered off behind the house and disappeared from view. Thanks, bats.