Sunday, April 27, 2008

Return of the Whitethroat

A male Whitethroat has been in the garden again this week. I wonder if it's the same one as last year? It's certainly making its presence known, singing from the tops of the shrubs and performing song-flights.

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

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Beds birding again

Graffiti-covered building, Marston Moretaine

Stewartby lake

Bedfordshire birders have been revelling in a superb spring passage over the past couple of weeks. Mark Thomas wrote about his Sunday, April 20. On Monday lunchtime, I twitched a flock of 10 Whimbrel at Broom gravel pits, where on Wednesday lunchtime there were around 70 Arctic Terns swooping gracefully over the water (Ferry Meadows had around 200!). We dropped in at Stewartby to see a Sandwich Tern flying around on its own there, but missed a Red-throated Diver near Leighton Buzzard by a few minutes.

On Thursday, a singing Wood Warbler was found at Marston Vale Country Park. It was too much to resist, so we drove there through the rain after work. As I got out of the car, it was thundering and threatening to throw it down, so I decided to leave my DSLR in the car, for its own sake.

Of course, we got to the bird, it sang and was pretty showy for a leaf-lurker, and the sun came back out. As Messrs Blain and Whitney snapped away, I tried to tell myself that I'd only have been disappointed with the photos I'd have taken. Now I'm going to have to paint it, or something...

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Annual leave

Got to use up the last of my annual leave, so headed to Norfolk

Arnold's Marsh, Cley

Speckled Wood at Kelling Water Meadows



Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum (thanks, Roy)

Dead nettles (this is the kind of plant I can identify)

Er... red campion? No, Herb Robert (thanks Charlie)

Ramsons, or wild garlic... no, Garlic Mustard (thanks, Brian. I did say that I'm no good at plants, and I've just proved it)

What did we see? Started at Kelling Heath where Darren relocated the Great Grey Shrike just as we were leaving. Next stop was West Runton for two Shorelarks seen in a clifftop field; we couldn't find them but we did see a nice fly-by Hobby hunting the Swallows there.

Then on to Kelling Water Meadows, where there were lots of bugs and greenery down the lane (see above), a Ruff on the pool, a little flock of Yellow Wagtails containing two which looked vaguely blue-headed on a brief glance, a male Wheatear and three Ring Ouzels on the way to Weybourne.

I think we went to Cley next. The new visitor centre is very nice but the rainwater-flushed loo was a bit feeble. Nice idea, though. On the shingle ridge by Arnold's Marsh, we caught up with two Shorelarks; on the marsh itself were nearly 200 Sandwich Terns and an assortment of waders including a smart breeding-plumaged male Bar-tailed Godwit. Mustn't grumble.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640 or Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Friday, April 18, 2008

Beds birding

Thursday evening:
Tempsford twitchers l-r: Darren, Lloyd, Mark and Richard

Thursday morning:
The brown blob in the middle is the Stone-curlew

It's been a strange week in Bedfordshire, as far as I can tell. On Monday night we went to see a flock of 24 Black-tailed Godwits at Fenlake Meadows in Bedford. I've been spoiled as far as Blackwits go by the Nene Washes, but it was funny to see them with towerblocks and houses in the background.

On Thursday, we got a call about a Stone-curlew at Tempsford airfield, for which we made a quick diversion from work. That was pretty amazing. It was decidedly distant but it'll probably be the only one I ever see in the county.

That evening we were back at Tempsford. We went round to Station Road to see the Redstart which had been found by someone looking for the Stone-curlew but who'd got lost! We got good but brief views of a beautiful male bird, something we're usually deprived of in the east...

(If you want to see a nice Redstart photo, head over to Weedon's World)

Next stop Fenlake Meadows again, where a Grey Plover was showing well with the godwits. I was really surprised to see it hadn't cleared off before we got there, but there it was. It's a shame it wasn't in breeding plumage, but you can't have everything. It still looked pretty nice in the evening light, and beggars can't be choosers.

We were going to go to Broom to see if the Whimbrel was still there, but opted for the pub instead so we didn't dirty our 100% record for that evening.

So, maybe I should stop moaning about how crap Bedfordshire birding is.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640 +- Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Monday, April 14, 2008

There's a snake in the office

It's happened again (see post from two years ago): a Grass Snake found its way into our office today. After yesterday's heavy rain and hail showers, it's no wonder it preferred a nice, dry building.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM or Canon Powershot A640

Saturday, April 12, 2008

There's not much in them there hills...

Yearning for Ring Ouzels and suchlike, we headed for the hills this morning. This is Deacon Hill, near Pegsdon in Bedfordshire:

Regrettably, there were no ouzels, no redstarts of any variety and no Wheatears. Our best bird was a fly-over Curlew. There was a nice view from the top (Sandy transmitter and Little Barford power station visible through binoculars - a distance of 18 miles), but not much to see on the way up and the way down.

We also dropped in at Sharpenhoe Clappers, but there was even less to see there.

After discarding our crampons and oxygen cylinders, we stopped off at Rookery pit, where we failed to see three Ruff. 'Best' bird was what looked like an Argentine Bluebill, which, in case you're unaware, has (in proportion to body size) the biggest penis of any bird (20cm!). And no, we didn't see it.

Good storm-clouds, though

A whole new ecosystem in a bit of discarded carpet

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Friday, April 11, 2008

That takes the biscuit

I'm all for feeding the garden birds, but this is ridiculous...

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

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who finished off your apple core?

My colleague Lucinda was the former owner of the apple core. She lobbed it into the rhododendrons. Later on, I watched a Muntjac deer pick it up and continue eating where she left off.

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

Saturday, April 05, 2008


We went to Fowlmere this morning, before it started raining, in the hope of migrants. Virtually everyone else who's been out today has seen an Osprey, but we didn't - had to make do with plenty of Chiffchaffs and a meagre scattering of Blackcaps.

The old watercress beds at Fowlmere, where crystal-clear water bubbles up from the ground. We saw Brown Trout in one of the streams, which I think was a fish tick for me.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II or Canon Powershot A640

Friday, April 04, 2008

In bloom

The level of detail visible on the full-size images of this Peacock is quite mind-boggling (you'll have to take my word for it)

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

PS The last post was no. 666