Caption competition

Monday, December 28, 2009

As it is the christmas break I will thankfully be nowhere near a computer or the interweb for ages.

Just to keep my loyal 'fans' briefly amused in my absence - I've come up with a caption competition!  Think of it as my blogoweb Christmas present to you all. 

There aren't any prizes or anything.  Nor should you have expected any.

Off you go.

Or not.

A Gull doing what?

The 28th best patch in London.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This is the last day of the year that I will be in the patch, and I doubt very much if anything will be added to the over all excitement today.  However, if I do find a Med on the foreshore at lunchtime I will add a hastily prepared and very sweary and happy post later today. Don't expect that post to appear.

For the sake of a final post, let me get all retrospective on yo' ass.  This year I have seen 63 species within the self imposed patch boundary, which makes this the 28th best patch in London - officially!  That's right kids, there are only 27 better places within 20 miles of St Pauls Cathedral that are better to watch birds in this year.  Kinda makes your heart sing eh?

Those 63 species are...

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Ring Necked Parakeet, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Long tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Linnet, Redwing, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Jackdaw, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Swallow, Common Tern, House Martin, Swift, Common Sandpiper, Collared Dove, Kestrel, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Jay, Linnet, Fieldfare.

Bet you are glad that I didn't have a hundred and fifty, not that anyone piles through a list of common birds like this anyway.

Rarity wise, the highlight had to be the Greenshank, which was mostly suprising.  The most annoying was a  Godwit that was reported flying up the Thames down river from here and ended up in Barnes, which means that it must have flown through Fulham.  The biggest dip was a Peregrine.  Despite the many hours spent in the patch, and the relative proximity of a pair, I didn't clap eyes on them once, which is annoying.  The most pleasure came from the Starling roost I reckon (which is also the ornithological highlight) and obviously the most pain came from the damned Coots on the shopping trolley.  You may have wondered why a blog that refers to a certain species in it's title hasn't mentioned them recently, well just wait until the spring folks, it will all change then!

And finally, this would be the perfect juncture to wish yuletide splenditude and sprinklings of magic santa dust to my massive fan fanbase and all those that pop in via Google on the hunt for bizarre forms of pornography.

Happy christmas Dear reader.  Happy christmas to you.

A Coot doing remembering what it looks like.

It is not dirty.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I thought that I might count the Starlings from the roost this morning, but I wasn't early enough to catch the start, so didn't think that it was worth it.  Watched them for a bit though, which is always good.

Took a couple of pictures of the sunrise though, and when I loaded them up I was thinking 'jeez there's loads of shite on the lens'.  Except it isn't dirt - it's birds!  Starlings floating across the wonder that is the sky in Wandsworth at sun up.

No there hasn't been much else going on...

Starlings doing dirty.

I and the bird

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some of you may know about the 'blog carnival' thingies that are regularly published via the prolific 10,000 Birds.   They are worth reading, and worth hitting those links as you never know what you are going to find beyond ones normal blog reading.  The current offering, however is quite excellent (and not just because this humble blog is involved).

Check it out for yourself here -   I and the bird #115

A Kestrel doing obligatory post photograph.  On a post.

Bird eats fish!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Honest!  Just you wait and see! 

Yes, the patch is quiet.  Real quiet.  There have been no suprises and very little to report.  Minor behavioural nuances, that kind of thing.

Like this.  I have seen this kind of activity at distance a couple of times, but recently I had it close enough to digimon some 'pictures' of it.  Cormorant v flat fish.  A Flounder perhaps?  Dunno, I'm rubbish at fish.

The fish is caught and held in the beak at 90 degrees to the angle that the bird needs to swallow it.  With a lack of opposing thumbs, this is a bit tricky.  So long as it can avoid a GBB getting hold of it, they are usually successful.

But not pretty.

A Cormorant doing pelican

The return of a blogger

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

That's right folks - Des is back on the blogoweb.

Birding Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

A welcome return.

So here is a picture taken at said location.

Tawny Owls and a Magpie doing staring out

Pintails and gardening humour

Monday, December 14, 2009

There was a piece in the paper in the weekend where a bloke of the gardening telly made a funny point about the latin name of a plant, or a shrub or a tree. Anyway the was binomial specific was cockburnianus which produces hoots of laughter in garden centres.

That brings me neatly, perhaps, to the promised Pintails. Possibly the best looking duck going. Possibly the best duck latin name going (Anas acuta). Last winter the Wandle basin didn’t get much Pintail action due to the creation of the Attenuation ponds, which scared them off.  Hopefully this winter will be better, as it is currently not a building site.  Started with a male, increased to two males and a female by mid week, and back down to a single male by Friday.  Hoping to be back to the levels of two winters ago when there would be a dozen or so, kicking about with a fair few Gadwall and a couple of dozen sleeping Tufties.

So there you go, a short post regarding Pintails, and no swearing.

A Pintail doing out of focus and everything

Sixth form climate change installation hypocrisy. Or so I think.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

This post is going to be a bit sweary.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Honestly, really sweary.  If you don't like bad language click on one of the other blogs, on the right of this page.  Go the new one, it's got some excellent pictures of Mandarins and Herons and Coots, and he (Fraser Simpson) doesn't seem to swear much.

Otherwise scroll the fuck on down.

Take a look at these fucking fuckwits.

Viewed from the other side of the bank on Wednesday,  I took a photo of them (regardless of the implications of Section 44 cos I'm rock hard me) as the situation looked a bit poncy to me, and I reckon I'm right.  They are fuckwits.  But you say, am I being too harsh too early?  Too judgemental, too world weary.  Let's see shall we?

Basically, here are two floppy haired  sixth form art student twats that have decided that it would be really cool to make some kind of comment on the state of the worlds climate (cos it's all topical and in the news and everything) by doing some kind of 'installation' or whatever they are fucking taught in school these days.  The said 'installation' is a model of a cute polar bear, sittting on a pretend sheet of ice looking all sorrowful and sad-eyed because mankind has properly fucked up the planet.  The pretend last-ice-sheet-in-the-world-ever is made from a polystyrene sheet that is three inches thick.  The whole thing was then set afloat in the Thames while they take pictures of the sad little polar bear, poorliddlepolarbear

But I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  I am an ageing pessimistic cynic. They are young and optimisitic.  I was like that once upon a time.  They are trying to highlight an issue that matters to them in one of the few ways that they know how.  By floating a silly bit of plastic with a fluffy toy on top of it in the fucking Thames.  I moved on. 

Yesterday I was again in my new patch within a patch when I saw something on the far bank.  It looked like it might be a dead swan.  A bank of tightly roosting egrets perhaps.  An albino bustard sunbathing?  I lined up the optics and had a look.

Yes, that is what you think it is.  A six foot by three foot lump of bloody polystyrene with straps on to hold a fluffy toy.

Thats right - the floppy haired twats had gone through the motions of taking their oh so important pictures for their poxy fucking art project that was focussing on how shite the world was because we pollute so much and we are all so bad and the prettyliddlepolarbears are all adrift in the big fucking ocean because everything like sucks yeah and we need to fix it like now and then gone and finished off their work by DUMPING THE PLASTIC IN THE FUCKING RIVER!

You stupid fucking idiots.  The level of hypocrisy and sheer fucking stupidity that I have witnessed just beggars belief.  Why do this?  Why pretend that you have any kind of green concerns and/or credentials and then go and pollute and litter so gratuitously? Shame on you, whoever you are.

Rather than sit in my ivory blog tower and rant about it, I borrowed a van and removed the plastic.  Idiots.

Rant over.  Unless something incredible happens today, this blog will shortly be discussing Pintail.

Thought for the day

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Take a moment to ponder the following...

Fact.  During the last inter-glacial period (approximately 125,000 years ago) the global temperature was 1.7 degrees higher than it is now. At that time the sea levels were 4-6 meters higher than we have presently.

In July, the G8 bloc of industrialised countries and some major developing countries adopted a target of keeping the global average temperature rise since pre-industrial times to 2C. However, small island states think this would cause serious climate impacts from rising sea levels, and have been arguing for a lower target of 1.5C. A number of African nations also back the lower target.

In  a letter to the Times yesterday, seven Fellows of the Royal Society (all professors in their field) state that "if there is no global agreement in Copenhagen, or soon after, to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the chances of the global warming by the end of this century being much less than 4C would seem to be very small".


A Chaffinch doing not related to this post other than in the big scheme of things.

New path by the Thames

Monday, December 07, 2009

Let me introduce you to a new part of my patch.  Not often do new bits of patch turn up, and not often do new bits of the Thames path get opened up.  Well last week I got both. 

Firstly, let me just say that the Thames path on this section of the river is irregular, being broken up by things like waste plants, rivers, wharfs (wharves?), The Hurlingham Club and industrial areas.  This means that much of the time that would be spent birding is actually spent walking around urban areas to get from one er, hot spot, to another.  These inconvenient areas also mean that much of the habitat that I would like to view/visit is out of reach.  Inconvenient.

Now, allow me take you back into the mists of my meandering posts.  The first mention (I think) of the development works by the mouth of the Wandle were detailed on this Bird Forum post. I continued, but with more photos and stuff on this blog here and then here.  And that seemed to be it.  Although there was a path and some ugly buildings planned for the area the economic climate has made this kind of building very slow in starting.  I would view the area from the north side of the river and occasionally see men working, but not often.  And then a big blue wooden shuttering fence thing went up.  And then a wire fence was erected outside this.  Occasionally men would arrive with top soil and stuff, and occasionally machines but nothing much seemed to be happening, nor was there any signs of anyones intentions.

And then at the beginning of last week, from the opposite side of the river I saw a chap in a suit striding purposefully towards a dead end which was wierd in itself as that area is never used by anyone that walksfaster than a dawdle.  Imagine my suprise when he was then seen walking purposefully around the top of the attenuation pond area.  So I thought I'd go and have a look.

Get in!  There's a bloody path right by loads of habitat and everything!

And now I'll sort of let the pictures do the talking?

A sign telling me that if I break my head open, it's my fault.

A path doing new.

A view of the top of the attenuation ponds.

Another view of the top of the attenuation ponds, looking to the Thames.

Habitat doing accessible.

Looking back down the Wandle.

A view of a path on a mirrory thing.

A bit of path.

A bit of path that is a bit longer and round the corner.

Mouth of Wandle to Thames with official looking boat.

I'll more than likely talk about birds in the area over the next few days.

Finally, let me state quite clearly that this post is not a reaction to a recent spate of  'Have a look round my patch' type posts (and intented posts) that have appeared on some of my favourite blogs recently.  No Siree, no way.  This is genuine news, and anyway I did all that like ages ago and if you want to see how rubbish this patch is you can get an idea by scrolling down this set of pages. 

Counting Coots - pushing the boundaries of birdblogging as you would expect.

Starlings vs Helicopters

Friday, December 04, 2009

Yes this is about Starlings again, rightly so. The media seem to have been  quite keen on Starlings this week, but only really for the big shows that they put on at roosting time and rightly so, but the Wandsworth Bridge birds are not very good at this. They don’t spend too much time in the air once at the site and get into place reasonably quickly. Why is this so?


Just down river from Wandsworth Bridge there is a heliport.  The helicopters use the river as an initial navigation aid (or so it would seem) and come over the bridge at no more than a couple of hundred feet.  Just the kind of height that a nice flock of Starlings would like to wheel around and give a show to a hardy patch birder.

That's my theory anyway.

On Tuesday however this was all changed when a Sparrowhawk was showing interest in the murmuration.  They stayed out and made a couple of half decent groups in the air, but stayed quite dispersed within the flock rather than the tight knit version they normally have.  And they climbed - higher than I've seen them round here.  Thankfully no helicopters came by and once the raptor realised that it wasn't going to get a meal it left and they all piled in under the bridge.

The obligatory photograph of a bird that I have not been talking about follows...

A Cormorant doing that thing that they do.  With the wings and all that.

v 3.0.1 - the Ska-daptor

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

In 1980 there was one item of attire that was the coolest thing to have in the playground, bar none. Readers that are slightly older than me, or those that are slightly or considerably younger than me are unlikely to know what it is or understand why. The item in question was a belt. One of those cotton belts that were worn with the end flapping down that have had a renaissance of late. They are not very good at keeping your trousers up, but what do school kids care about that?  Not any colour would do, oh no. Primary or pastel colours were for girls, black was nearly cool, white was barely cool. No – the coolest thing to have was a belt that was black on one side and white on the other. A two tone belt. It was the time of Ska, 2-Tone, Madness, The Specials etc etc. It would all shortly be replaced by stripes across the face and highwayman costumes, but that’s another matter. Yes that 2-Tone belt instantly made you cool.

I didn’t have one.

Why am I dribbling on about this shit?  Well, I do now have an important item of two toned gear.  Yes dear reader, the third version of the Digimonocularisation adaptor is born.  The 'Ska-daptor'.

This adaptor is another leap in digimonning technology as you would expect.  It is reversible, it is adjustable (by the addition or removal of insulation tape) and it can be sourced from a never ending stock should it be lost as I know what it started as.  Yes, I took a plastic thingie and with the help of a ruddy great file and a linisher it was formed.  Topped of with several layers of insulation tape et voila!  Digimonning is back on the menu - get in!

I expect that in the near future I will have something to write about birds.  In a patch.

Not a Water Rail

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thank you for the comments and yes indeed, it was a Water Rail. Despite the dodgy shaky images, the scoped view was quite satisfactory. Nice bird, nice patch tick.

Now - let nobody say that Counting Coots does not respond to customer demand! You want a mystery bird photo – you got it.

Different patch, different day, different bird.

So bad that it's good

Monday, November 30, 2009

Managed to get to Brent Res on Saturday for an hour.  The Cetti's Warbler was again refusing to make a sound which is a pity, as this would have been a nice patch tick.  There were plenty of ducks and Coots and a fair few snipe which was nice.  After a while, I trained the germans on some mud at the far side, as I reckoned that it was a suitable area for a certain species.  Bingo!  Out of the reeds it came, patch tick in the bag.  Much pleased was I.

The photograph below does include the species in question, and was only intended to be a record shot, but it turned out to be so rubbish, even by my own rubbish standards, that it has turned into an abstract piece that somehow manages to convey the habitat and habits of the species, as well as important identification features (perhaps it's jizz even)  in one simple snap.  Allegedly.  And no, it's not the Teal.

Can you see it?

A species of bird doing jizz


Thursday, November 26, 2009

As most of you/us are aware, it’s been a bit breezy of late. Strange birds have been cropping up. Frigate birds, Petrels with funny names, Divers, perhaps even a Booby. One never knows when or where these things will turn up. I’ve kept this in mind when I have diligently been pounding around the patch every fecking day and yesterday I came up trumps!

Relatively new readers of this here blog will perhaps be thinking that a half decent bird has turned up on the patch. Regular readers will have a fairly good idea of what is coming...........

The Great Crested Grebe count has gone up to 4! Hurrah! The newcomers have been on the opposite side of the river to the regulars, and they are proper busy little birds. Mainly small flatfish was the prey and they were doing quite well. They were present again today.

So the patch is bringing not much of local or national significance to the ornithological world.

Or is it?

Yesterday morning I counted the Starlings coming out of the roost again, and this time the number has shot up. 4600 birds. Yep - four thousand and six hundred Starlings. That, dear reader, is a statistic. In a national context this doesn’t compare with some of the big roosts (Gretna, Brighton etc) I know, but I’m pretty sure that this is significant at county level, as 4600 birds of any species is not to be sniffed at.

The Frigatebird and the Petrel may be grabbing the headlines, but the fact is that these Starlings are more important to our Biodiversity than any number of wind tossed vagrants.

I’m more than happy with that.

Great Crested Grebes doing not insignificant.

And finally...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

News today that the world of digimonning has taken a catastrophic step back with the loss of the second generation camera monocular interface device, often known as the adaptor. Sources have informed us that the adaptor has been misplaced ‘somewhere in London’ and has not been seen for at least two weeks.

The inventor of the adaptor has gone on record saying “balls”. The adaptor cannot just be recreated as it was made from a plastic ‘thingie’ that was found on an industrial estate. The lack of digimonning adaptor has been taken as a backward step akin to losing a digital camera and having to make do with a box brownie. There are rumours that the lack of adaptor has also had a detrimental effect on the quality of birds that are finding their way onto London based bird related blogs.

Now here is the weather with Tomasz Shafernaker. Tomasz, your name is funny if you say it with a Geordie accent – why is that?

A Mallard doing proper manky

Is there a technique for counting a huge number of birds?

Friday, November 20, 2009

That was the question.

In this instance dear reader, the convoluted answer is this.  If you know how to count lots of birds, you can skip this today and read something more interesting.  I have handily supplied some suggestions on the right hand side of the screen.  Isn't that nice of me?

Ok, counting them 'onetwothreefourfivesixseven' would be exhausting.  It's pretty easy to get a handle on what ten birds looks like so you extrapolate from there. Thankfully the Starlings trickle out in the morning rather than coming out en masse. Counting them in the evening is much more difficult and the quantity is internally referred to as ‘loads’.

If you look at the picture in yesterdays post, I use the tall building with the straight edge as the counting point. The birds generally move out (and in) to the roost under the bridge from the far side and the ones that I am counting are moving from left to right. As they pass the straight edge I count them in 10’s 20’s etc and write down the quantities at convenient breaks in the flow.   There is a fair chance that there are birds moving away from the bridge that I cannot see from my vantage point, but that dear reader, is another null hypothesis for another day.

And that's about it. 

Science. Done.  Again

Pink Footed Geese doing loads.

Early morning Science

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Had half an hour to kill this morning so I took the opportunity to do some science.  My aim was to count the dispersal of Starlings from the roost again, to see if there was an increase (I had suspected thus - I think that this is my null hypothesis science fans).  Anyway, the Starlings were not that keen on rising from their slumber.  Crows, Cormorants, Ducks and Gulls are all up before the Starlings, which kind of makes the Starlings the equivalent of a bunch of stroppy avian teens. 

Interestingly there was a fair amount of Cormorant movement upriver, dribs and drabs, maximum flock size of 17 and the total that came through was 119.  My previous site high was a count of 92.  Ornithologically significant.  Top hole!

Eventually the Starlings did start to stream out from under the bridge, and in the little time that was left to me (no more than 15 minutes) I counted 2695 birds.  I would have expected them to keep coming out for at least another 20 minutes (but not so heavily) and would think that the total could be around about 3500+.

This is an increase from the previous total (which was on a longer time scale) thus proving my null hypothesis.  I'll put the 2695 count into Birdtrack I reckon, but keep 3500 as the current estimate for the site usage.

Oh yeah, there was an Egyptian Goose too.

Science - done.

Wandsworth doing right early and everything.

Not a patch tick

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My normal sojourn this week is at the time when the Thames is high.  As I have stated ad nauseum this is not good for birds.  Actually it's probably ok for the birds as it happens, it's just a bit rubbish for a big bloke that wants to see some of them.  So I'm getting a bit desperate for some action.  So desperate in fact that when I found three Chaffinches feeding in a tree today, I was terribly excited because I thought that they may have been a patch year tick.

They were not.

A Mallard doing frustratingly commonplace

Experimental update

Monday, November 16, 2009

Approach site with apple already eaten.

Spot corvid flying towards deployment area.

Scientifically (and perhaps hastily) lob apple over the river wall from distance.

See corvid turn in air.

Hear plopping sound.

Realise that the tide is a little bit higher than the day before.

Mumble profanity under ones breath.

See corvid fly off.

Arrive at rivers edge.

See apple floating towards sea.

Mumble profanity under ones breath.

Watch gulls instead of doing science.

A gull doing extreme close up

More crow and apple action

Friday, November 13, 2009

The science continues dear reader.  Hardcore ornithological science.  I am in the frontline of the edge of the forefront of major scientific breakdown.

Normal modus operandi.  I eat apple.  I throw core onto foreshore to entice crow.  But you guessed that bit.


Crow takes apple.  Pecks at it. 

A crow about to do pecking.

Hides it by rock but this time covers it with leaves!  And then flies off.

A gull finds it.

A gull doing a bit fussy

But gulls don't like apples so it also flies off.


Crow takes apple.  Pecks at it.

Looks for hiding place.

Flies off.

An apple doing neglected

My interim conclusion is that crows kind of like apples unless their mates are about when they would rather fart about in the sky with them.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why the lack of posts? Basically there has been little noteworthy to report. So here is a brief summary of not much.

There has been a Caspian Gull noted further up river which I have dutifully been seeking but to no avail. This being a reasonably busy gull site it means that all the gulls need checking out, but none have revealed themselves to be anything other than variations on the existing species. I will persevere of course dear reader, and remain hopeful (I haven’t got a lot of choice really). Other than that, 2 Gadwall flying along the river, Grey Wagtails, Yellow Legged Gull, Wood Pigeon movement (small by some local standards) etc etc.  It’s November and the patch is in a period of stasis before the winter kicks in proper.

The only really notable thing happening is that Jackdaws have gone from being patch rarities to resident. This is being echoed elsewhere in London, and with a winter population of Carrion Crows that nearly hits a hundred they may find that they like it round here. Which is nice, because Jackdaws are cracking little birds.

A Robin doing hiding.

'Interesting' Gull Behaviour

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yes, gulls again.  Look I'd love to be able to tell you all about how mentally bonkers my Wrynecks were or how late the Stone Curlews are - but I can't.  But you know that.  Anyway here is some, er, ornithology.

The Mallards in part of the river spend their mornings (especially at lowish tide levels) sifting through the waters edge to the exclusion of all else.  The Gulls normally just do gull things.  However, yesterday morning there was a Black Headed Gull standing downstream of the Mallards picking off anything that they disturbed.  In a kind of Cattle Egret/Cattle situation.  Occasionally the Mallards took offence to this and tried to bite the gull.  I know that if someone was trying to muscle in on my breakfast, this would be my response that would be observed.

I've never seen this before -  the gulls are usually quite adept at finding enough food for themselves but it might be interesting to see if anymore of them learn this behaviour.  Unless of course they all do it and my observations of gulls has been less than first class.  No chance of that though, eh?

Black Headed Gull doing Cattle Egret

Are you being sarcaaaastic?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Slightly off topic, but there you go.

On the David Attenborough Life programme that was on last night, there was a fish which was perhaps the ugliest species of anything anywhere.  Forget the flying fish, this was the real star of the show.  Despite is dodgy fizgog it is now one of my favourite animals of all time because some wacko naturalist high on reefer has given it the greatest ever name of anything living.  Ever.

Yes, even better than Fanny's Woodstar

I present to you the Sarcastic Fringe Head Neoclinus blanchardi.

A Blennoid doing sarcasm.

Patch tick

Monday, November 02, 2009

Recently my place of employment has rather incoveniently got itself in the way of any meaningful birding, or life for that matter. However, here are some potted highlights from the patch.

Monday - 2 Kingfishers flew down river + 2 Grey Wagtails
Wednesday - 3 Fieldfare flew over - Patch Tick!  74 for the site - Kerching!
Thursday - 2 Fieldfare flew over.  Not a patch tick, not even a year tick.  I am now in a vis-mig hot spot.
Friday - 1 warbler.  Willow I think, but couldn't be sure.
Sunday - 25 Pied Wagtails at dusk.  Site record by loads of percent.

I have no dodgy photos of the above.

But I do have one of a gull.

A gull doing overexposed in parts.

Post # 200. Eric Ennion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I have recently acquired another copy of the Shell Bird Book by James Fisher from a second hand book emporium, and very good it is too. Youngsters that may happen upon this blog may not have heard of it but you will find that many 'old codgers' will speak fondly of it. I may be wrong but I think that there was more than one version produced, the version that I am referring to is not a field guide, but a book about birds or perhaps more accurately a book about everything about british birds.

Flicking through it and also reading chunks of it has been great but the thing that stood out most to me was the artwork by Eric Ennion. In the field guides we have now, such as the Collins and the big Helm Gull book etc the artwork, although excellent and accurate, is often cold and clinical. We need this.  Indeed we all pretty much asked for it but this isn’t a grumble about what we have now, just an observation.  If you look at the field guides from the fifties onwards (once the Thorburn images in the Observer books were quietly put to one side), there seemed to be more life in the artwork but this all changed with the Peterson model as birders were desperate for more definitive illustrations.  Gone now are the dodgy impressions of birds not seen in life by the artists and Stone Curlews looking backwards in flight.  

The Ennion plates in the Shell book, and from what I have seen of his field guide, give more of the impression, the movement and I suppose for the want of a better word – jizz of a species and are nothing but pleasurable to view.

Have a look at the example below of a Pied Wagtail which I have 'borrowed' from the Eric Ennion estate

Top stuff eh?

The website on has much more of his stuff, the phalarope picture on the home page is great and the long-tailed tits on this page are a delight.  Rummage around the site and you'll see that his landscapes are pretty good too.

So there you have it.  200 posts.   

I'll probably be back to swearing about gulls tomorrow. 

A post regarding Med Gulls

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I was in the hide, and the chaps in the corner were talking about stuff.  Birds.  Telescopes.  Ruffs.  The chaps in the corner are patch birders par excellence - none of this namby pamby 'been watching this site for a fair few years now', no.  Decades.  Cap doffed.

Anyhow, they were talking and they said the magic word. 


Upon the utterance of this word Mrs Thing may well have had thought along the lines of 'what did they have to say that for?'.  I may be wrong.  The problem is that I have a pavlovian reflex when they are mentioned or seen.  Instant excitement on a childlike level, and I can't wholly explain it. As I've stated before, I think that Common Gulls are good looking gulls -  but Med Gulls are good looking birds.  So when the chaps in the hide said the Med word, I was instantly animated and just blurted out 'What, here?' in a rather uncollected manner.  That's because 'here' is the Brent Res and as is common with this species, it turns up regularly each winter and sits in full veiw of the hide.  Rock and Roll!

I think that it is inevitable that one will turn up on my Fulham patch, and when it does I will probably post something on this here blog.  But that will more than likely be littered with vast amounts of excited expletives.

Here is a picture of a Med.  The larophiles amongst you will be pleased to note the black edge to P10 which although visible in this stunning photograph is not visible when this (adult winter) bird is in flight, and on many birds not at all.


A Med doing Med.

Choices, choices.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The choice at the weekend was simple.  Drive like an eejit to tyneside to see a small greeny bird that was proper rare.  Or pop off to Staines to see a small brown bird that is proper rare, but I had seen already.  Or go to a patch.  Guess what won?

The patch of course!  What exactly did you expect?  Wasn't the longest visit, but it was worth it as there was a very showy Jack Snipe at Brent Res.  I say very showy but this is by Jack Snipe standards.  I explained to Mrs Thing that the normal view of a Jack Snipe is of one flying away from you.  This one however was so comfortable that it was even sleeping in the open.  Cracking little bird.  London tick.  There were also lots of ducks (Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard), a fair few Little Grebes and loads of Coots.  Bloody hundreds of the things.  Was hoping to hear a Cetti's Warbler that had been there earlier in the week but if it was there it kept very quiet, or more accurately - silent.

You would of course like a picture the Jack Snipe wouldn't you.  I didn't take one.  It would have so blurry and small as to make it pointless.  With hindsight that wouldn't have made much difference to the quality of the blog would it?

Canada Goose doing rinsing.

A repeat measures experiment into the lardering inclinations of the Carrion Crow, Corvus corone

Friday, October 23, 2009

Or as you will perhaps see dear reader, how not to produce scientific data.

A modus operandi of Ornithological failure perhaps...

Go to a different part of the river.
Throw apple core towards random Crow. 
Watch Crow peck at apple.
Get stale bread from pocket.
Throw crumbs towards gulls.
See gulls peck at crumbs.
See Crow abandon apple.
See Crow follow crumbs.
And the gulls with crumbs.
See Common Gull pick up apple core.
See Common Gull drop apple core in river.
Utter word 'bugger' under ones breath.
See Crow leave.
Have no apple left.
Utter word 'arse' under ones breath.
Continue to feed gulls.

I reckon I'll do it in a slightly more controlled way today.

A Black Headed Gull doing something.  I'm not entirely sure what to be perfectly honest, but it is doing nonetheless

Interesting Crow Behaviour

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I have wittered on about which birds like to eat apple cores in the past. Gulls no, Coots yes. Crows also like to have nibble on a core. In the summer the normal procedure would be to eat a bit and feed some to a vocal youngster.  As per this pic from the Counting Coots library of stunning photography.

Carrion Crow doing parenting

However, the times have moved on. The manky brown plumage has been replaced with a shiny black set of feathers and the youngsters are less likely to be begging for food. So yesterday I ate an apple and chucked the core onto the foreshore.  This time however, the Crow (probably not the same one as before) ate a little of the apple core, golden delicious, and then picked it up and hopped over to a large rock where it pushed it right under the open side. (It may be worth noting that it picked the area of the rock on my blind side.)   It then turned to a stone nearby, picked it up and wedged it up against the apple core.  Securing it in a future larder type situation.  This took no more than two minutes, and the Crow at no point seemed to be considering what it was doing, it looked more like this is something it is used to doing.  How long it thought that it might keep the food for I don't know as the location of the rock is below the high tide mark.  Might give another go today.  In the interests of Science and all that...

A rock doing larder

Borough hopping?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yesterday in the patch, there was a couple of Jackdaws which is uncommon round here and a Sparrowhawk which was being mobbed by a Carrion Crow.  Peristently.  Interestingly there is an almost identical entry on the London Birders wiki which was much the same for the Westfield Centre.  (For those don't know what the Westfield Centre is you'll love it or hate it.  A shrine to the temple of greed and shopping.  Like a ruddy great Arndale centre pumped Ben Johnson like full of steroids). Unfortunately the time of the W12 sighting has not been entered, but I think that it is entirely feasible that the same birds could have been borough hopping during the course of the day.  If a Crow has got enough food inside it for the rest of the day, I can quite imagine it following a Sparrowhawk for hours, just because it can.

Other than that, it is mainly gulls at the moment.  Suprised aren't you?  Elsewhere, near the attentuation pond it looks like a path is being made.  Whether or not this is going to open for public use yet I don't know but if it does it will make following the river much much easier.

Black Headed Gulls doing intentional lack of depth of field photo

When Starlings Go Bad

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

After the excitement of the Brown Shrike on Sunday, yesterday brought me back to the patch, and inevitably not much happened.  However, a salutory lesson in the extreme danger that we can put ourselves in manifested late in the day.  The Starling roost (or as they were not roosting, the Starling murmuration perhaps) was readying itself to go under Wandsworth Bridge.  Flying around.  Nearly landing on stuff.  Getting together.  All that stuff. 

They were nice and low and I could here the little calls that they made to each other and the sound of the air in their wings as several hundred flew over at a time.  Excellent stuff all round thought I.   It is at this point that two of the little darlings defecated on me.  Charming.  As it was my work clothes I wasn't entirely bothered, and as the deposits were almost entirely black the stain that is left resembles a small oil stain, so I can blame it on being in the workshop or something.  Sorted. 

So the lesson is, to avoid extreme wildlife danger don't view Starling flocks/murmurations from underneath.  No - don't thank me - I'm only too happy to spread this kind of information...

Black Headed Gulls doing in profile

"More exciting than patch birding"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yes dear reader, those words were uttered to me this weekend by Mrs Thing.  More exciting than patch birding.  But what on earth could have occured this weekend to provoke such a quote - what can possibly be more exciting than visiting a trusty patch, again?

Jensen Button becoming world champion?
Villa beating Chelsea?
The mad dad of Balloon Boy getting collared by the fuzz?

No, 'twas none of those.

It was twitching.

Dirty, filthy twitching.

Specifically twitching a Brown Shrike on Sunday afternoon, and it would seem that Mrs Thing much preferred the excitement of seeing this bird to sitting in a dirty hide in Barnet for a few hours staring at Coots.

A Brown Shrike doing showing.

This amazing image of this super rare bird is available to be purchased via Counting Coots Inc.  Just chuck us a tenner and I'll get someone with a colour printer to whack a couple off.  Many other images of rare birds are not available.  Buy two, get one free.  Makes sense, don't it?

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