Buglife get stung for 30 Grand

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The courts, in their infinite wisdom have decided that West Thurrock marshes can be built over.

"West Thurrock Marshes on the banks of the river Thames in south Essex is home to over 1,300 species of invertebrate, including 36 species in the Red Data Book, and seventeen of the Government’s priority conservation species. Only WindsorGreatPark and the internationally protected Dungeness shingles are known to support more rare and endangered species – and at just over 20 hectares West Thurrock Marshes is a fraction of their size."

Because they lost the case, the have to stump up £30,000 costs.

If I had it I'd give it to them.

Maybe somebody out there does...

Stake out!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just as I arrived at the Wandle yesterday, a caught a great view of a Kingfisher bombing downstream. However, this one didn't keep going straight in their Exocet like manner but veered off to the right to an area where it could perch. Typically this particular section is particular busy with industrial furniture (big cables and ducts going across the river etc) so I couldn't see where it landed. Occasionally when a Kingfisher flies in one direction on the river, it will fly back when disturbed (and disturbance is something that is almost constant around here). So I went back to the vantage point, got the camera out and focused it on where it was due to fly back - towards me. But then I saw it come away from the perching area and fly further downstream. Away from me dammit.

Bollocks to you sonny, I'm going to stay here holding the camera on the only area that you can use until you fly back up the river! You cannot beat my field craft! Or perhaps until my lunch is over. So I stood stock still, pointing the camera at this particular spot for about twenty minutes waiting for the inevitable urban disturbance to flush the bird back to me, but to no avail. Four trains went over the bridge, a couple of helicopters, a streetsweeping machine and a bloke pissing in a hedge all failed to flush my quarry. So the stake out continued with a couple of Coots and a stroppy Moorhen to watch. And then another Kingfisher flew past me - in quite the opposite direction to where I was expecting the initial one to return from. I rapidly and desperately fired off a couple of shots - and actually did manage to get the bird on film. Admittedly not the greatest shot, and perhaps only marginally better than a spot the ball competition, but there you go.
It is there. Honestly.
Once I began the return journey, I may have spotted one of them going back upriver from a point that is also difficult to view. But the simple fact is that I have two Kingfishers hanging around and thus a small, nay negligible chance that they could breed. It is this kind of hope that warms the heart of a patch birder. After all this Alcid excitement, I managed to pick up two Grey Wags (close together and close to where they bred last year), 17 Gadwall and a skulking Dabchick. Proper bloody birding.

Darwin and the Rhea

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

As we are in the throws of Darwin year, I thought I would proffer my favourite Darwin tale...

Although Darwin was a clever man, and some say a genius, he was much flawed but so often this is the case with scientists of the age, especially if we look back at their behaviour with modern tinted specs. If he wanted a closer look at something, he shot it. Simple, straightforward logic, I need to see that bird close up and it will not stop moving, so if I shoot it (for the good of science, natch) then it will stop moving and I can see it close up. Another thing to remember is that on long ocean journeys, there were no convenient places to buy food and top up your clubcard points. So the members of the ship that was there had to find food wherever and however they could. As you probably know, this was the problem for the Dodo. Easy to catch, big and tasty enough.

So it came to pass that Darwin (and his shipmates) had been on a regular diet of Rhea. I have no idea what a Rhea tastes like, but like most birds it is probably quite edible and I understand that Darwin thought so too but he probably didn't have to shoot it. One day, he was munching away on a drumstick, when he realised that the leg part that he was enjoying was smaller than the previous Rheas that he had been eating. When he twigged this, he rushed to the chef/cook/galley dude to ask what they were eating...

"I dunno guv, it's just a Rhea - same as yesterday, a sort of Cassawory casserole"
"No dear man, it's smaller - it could be a different species"
"Well if you don't like the size of the bloody portions you big beardy - "
"No, no, that's not the point - where are the remains of the bird?"
"Out the back guv, where Seaman Willie is having his fag break"

"You boy, where are the remains of tonights repast?"
"Dunno guv, it's just a Rhea, same as yesterday - chef says its a sort of - "
"Are you being funny, son?"
"Not me Mr Darwin, no Sir - erm, it's here in this chum pot that we've got for the pelagic trip later today"
"Well shiver me timbers, look at this - it's a completely different species, and new to science - fuck me I'm brilliant!!"

And that, dear reader, is how Darwin discovered a new species of Rhea. Verbatim.

Hmm, tasty.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I know I shouldn't, but I did go gull hunting at lunchtime armed with some bread. Other than squabbling Black-heads and aloof Commons, there was a 3rd winter Herring, a second winter GBB and this adult GBB.

When I saw it first, it disgorged what looked like a large pellet. I was pleased to see this as I hadn't witnessed it before. However, it didn't leave it where it was and kept lifting it up and starting to try to eat it again. So I took a couple of (rubbish) snaps, and guess what - it was a rat!


Can you see what it is yet?

Monday, January 26, 2009

In the name of science and Robinstroking, I did the Garden Birdwatch on Saturday and gave it another go on Sunday (validation of statistics etc). The best of it was that a Song Thrush was belting it's song out consistently for an hour, and a Starling was also going for it in a tree (with snatches of Greenfinch and Pied Wagtail in it's vocal arsenal). Just after a Chaffinch dropped in, Saturday's hour was brought to a sharp end by this critter...

... and this one too (this is Lulu - she is fucked-in-the-head from years of low level teasing from recalcitrant children).

So on Sunday morning I went for it again, despite the rain. For half an hour I had nothing but a bedraggled Woodpig and the singing Thrush for company, until the whole area was abandoned because of this...

No it's not the best photo but I never claimed to be any good with a lens... Once this dropped into next door's garden, everything freaked out and it fell silent, leaving me with one set of results which had three more species on it than last year (Dunnock, Feral Pigeon and Magpie).

So lets have a picture of a bird, and why not a Robin to stroke?

Right, I'm off to have a butchers at the river...

And another thing...

Friday, January 23, 2009

The putative Willet by Wandsworth Bridge from yesterday will go unsubmitted as I forgot my camera yesterday, so even if I had found something rare or photogenic there was no way of recording it. I did manage to glimpse a Little Grebe and a Grey Wagtail, but it was a largely uneventful day bird wise.

There is a Dunnock that has found it's voice as the light rises (well I can hardly describe it as the sun coming up these days) and it is improvising - if I didn't know that it was the only singing passerine in the area, I'd be hunting it down to find out what it was with the inevitable 'oh, it's a Dunnock'. Good sounding healthy bird though.

So lets have another bizarre bird name readers!

Following on from yesterday, there are other species that begin with 'Mrs' - Mrs Swinhoe's Sunbird, Mrs Gould's Sunbird, Mrs Sage's Blood Pheasant (sounds like a Fanny Craddock recipe) and Mrs Vernay's (I think) Blood Pheasant, but they are not pressing my humour button.

Today's offering is possibly the most convoluted one I could find and the least field friendly - as soon as the first cry of identification goes up everyone will look to the sky for an eagle and by the time you've finished naming it the bloody thing will have gone back into the scrub that it came from....

Verreaux's Grey-headed Puffback Flycatcher Batis minima.

Stick that one on your pager suckers!

The irony of the binomial in the Latin name is not lost...

You called it what?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This is the first in a short series of completely bizarre bird names. The ornithological equivalent of Moon Unit Zappa, or Zowie Bowie. For those pretentious taxanomists that cannot bear to let their moment of fame be wasted by the mundane.

While at Cley last summer, we purchased 'Whose Bird' by Bo Beolens and Michael Watkins which is a cracking read, basically outlining who the movers and shakers are in the history of bird nomenclature. There are the ones that are familiar to many birders, Forster, Steller, Yarrell, Cetti etc etc and many many more that are known only to a few (probably the peeps that have seen the species in question) and even Lucifer gets a namecheck. There are also some utterly strange ideas of what a good name for a bird would be, and so my first offering is...

Mrs Forbes-Watson’s Black-flycatcher (Melaenornis annamarulae)

No wonder it is more likely to be called Nimba - not the handiest name to shout out in the field...

Give it some!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I shall diligently risk my Chalfont’s by sitting on a cold step for an hour while watching not much in the name of science (kinda) this weekend because it’s the RSPB Garden Birdwatch thingy. Last year I got about a dozen species, and expect no more than that this year – but there is nothing a patch birder likes more than being forced to watch not much in the name of science. I’ll put some bread out, and hope that the Starlings can get down quick enough before the Woodpigs clear it all up. Bring it on!

Like so many urbanites, putting food out for birds just makes the squirrels fatter, and what they leave behind just brings the rats out. The foxes don’t get much of it so they just raid the bins, leaving them open for the Woodpigs to clear up. I cut a coconut in half and hung it from the tree in the garden the other Sunday (as they were going for 57p in a nameless large supermarket) and the squirrels have stolen them. Completely vanished. Bitten through the string and gone. I doubt if the local Tits even got a sniff of them. Utter bastards.

As an aside, last summer I tried to ‘discourage’ the Woodpigs to leave the garden (did I mention that I detest Woodpigeons?) by use of a water pistol. Of course I had not thought this through properly and when they got squirted, they just quizzically looked at the sky, wondered where the rain was coming from and carried on scoffing bread until their bloody gizzards where totally extended. Utter, utter, bastards.

Ok, have a picture of a Cormorant ‘giving it some’ taken this lunchtime by a man that is outsmarted by pigeons.

Up to 42 while hearing the 44th...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rather than getting fixated on a dodgy gull I actually did some birding today and the signs of spring are present and correct! Well, singular rather than plural.

This Blackbird was singing! Not the full blown lungful, but I think he was fooled by the sun, which made a miraculous appearance at lunchtime. Or practicing.

As well as the ‘sign’ of spring there were the malingerers from winter. Ten Tufties, 16 Gadwall (a patch high count), 2 Goldcrests (perhaps three, but they were pretty mobile) and a Chiffchaff which I even managed to get a shite photo of...

All of this rounded off by hearing a Greenfinch, and seeing a Kingfisher bombing it down the Wandle (no picture of that of course) which brings it up to 42 on the patch for the year.
Just as I finished loading the pictures up, Obama is being sworn in. Cool huh?

Plain bustard silly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

You have to love the One Show - they regularly have slots on regarding our native avifauna, and occasionally an urban birder pops up!

Last night's slot was about the re-introduction of Great Bustards to Salisbury plain, and I just cannot see the bloody point of it. I get the Kite situation in Wales, I get the Eagles in Scotland, I even get the Corncrakes in the Fens, but I don't understand the need for Sea Eagles in Norfolk, and least of all the Bustards in Wiltshire. As I see it, the Kites and the Scottish Eagles have plenty of scope for expanding their range as their terrain is essentially unlimited - but the Bustards have nowhere to go! Once they have filled up the areas of Salisbury Plain that they have, the habitat disappears and they will reach saturation point with no nearby population to meet and greet. The boundaries of Salisbury Plain turn this project into a ruddy great aviary stuffed with ruddy great birds. Pointless.

Anyhow, I'll be off later to search for fictitious signs of spring. Mrs Thing asked me to kill a Robin this morning that has taken to signing it's bloody head off outside our window at 4am, so perhaps spring is now on the way. The Tufties that came in from the cold snap seem to have gone. The odd gadwall is knocking about, and the number of Herring Gull (of whatever damned subspecies) seemed to have tailed off. Yesterday was spent looking for Linnets (which are reported further up the river) and hoping for a Greenfinch - but to no avail.

Have a really rubbish picture of an Egyptian Goose, its Cat D (I think) so it's the closest pic I have to an introduction...

A Bullfinch gets me thinking

Monday, January 19, 2009

Knowing that I would find something small and interesting at Brent Res yesterday, we started at the sailing club end. I had a 'feeling' that there was a passerine to be found (other than the inevitable tits), and lo it appeared and bloody lovely it was too. A male Bullfinch, and diligently I have taken a dodgy pic of it. Not seeing these very often (my last was a female flying across the M25 and before that a male across the M11) I was more than happy for a patch tick and a year tick.

The patch tick got me thinking of what makes a patch? We've been to the Brent Res 9 times, and I like it. It is strangely reminiscent of my first proper patch (Surlingham Church Marsh) as there is a shooting club next to both, the regular snap of pistols and the flying of red flags while searching for another LBJ - Surlingham however did not have a fucking great Stadium at one end (ie Wem-ber-leee). There have been visits in winter, late summer and autumn, but nothing in spring and early summer. Without the full years view of the seasons and subsequent years to compare it against, I feel that it doesn't quite qualify (on purely self imposed rules) but it's almost there. After the weekend hiatus, the Fulham patch will of course be presenting me with some gulls to ponder later in the day. And maybe a Greenfinch?

Accidentally arty farty photo of a swan with a dribbly nose....

Modern birding is rubbish - part 1

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm not the first to use the phrase, but it holds true and yesterday was a prime example of falling into the traps. Lets turn back the clock dear reader to November 2007.
I found a gull on the Thames that was much more than a 'funny looking Common Gull'. I took notes, and observed it for as long as I could. That night I looked in books (bird books obvously) to try and work out what it was and I thought that it could be a Ring-billed but I needed to check some more of the key ID features. Thankfully it was hanging about the next day, and I took more notes and observed it some more and was happy that it was a concrete ID for a Ring-billed and loaded it into my log and onto Birdtrack.

Now that I have a digital camera, I didnt take notes - I just wacked the machine on the end of the optics and filled up the bloody memory card with shitty pictures and hastily loaded a few onto the interweb like a twat to find out in the end that it was a Herring Gull (albeit a funny looking one). Now if I didn't have all this new fangled technology I would probably have taken notes - gone through the ID process more methodically and come to the conclusion that it was a funny looking Herring Gull and that would have been the end of it. Modern technology makes for lazy birding practices which makes for rubbish birding. But it's very easy to fall into the trap, especially when I am still learning how to use the camera and these days if you don't get a picture of a bird, there is that element of doubt hanging over the veracity of the record.

On Londonbirders there is a similar situation now with a possible Caspian at the far edge of my patch (the question has yet to be answered - and no way am I jumping in on this one!). So i'll be looking for that at lunchtime no doubt. With a camera.

In the evening, I was going through the memory card on the camera, as there is no need to have 200 pictures of one bird on it, accidently pressed the wrong button and formatted the card, wiping every last fucking image from it. I was slightly annoyed by this, but thankfully do have some of those pictures saved on various computers. So here is a picture of a Med Gull that I took earlier in the year (not in Fulham I hasten to add). No problem with the ID on this baby!
Despite the number of posts regarding Larids, I am not a gull obsessive. At the moment.

Or perhaps not...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too hasty by half young Thing– it would seem that I have been merrily led down the garden path by a sub-adult bastard Herring Gull.

Key i-d points that were missed by yours truly were traces of brown on the tertials and greater coverts and there are wide white tertial tips, which are lacking, or almost so, in RBG (this information comes to you courtesy of the expert gull bods at birdforum). It did tick some of the other RBG boxes though in my head - size, mantle, iris, bill band, movement, fluffiness etc etc but there you go. Ring billed gull, no. Ring billed bollocks from me, yes.

Well I shall not be falling into that trap again little bird. You and your like may not be straightforward, but I shall prevail!

Ring Billed Gull??

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Side View.

With a Common Gull, behind it.

Close up again.

Common Gull to the left.

After the autocorrect button has been pressed - no other digital alterations...

Seen this lunchtime - looks like a good candidate for a Ring billed gull to me.

Bald Eagle in Fulham!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yes, I know its a gull, but if you squint a bit, and maybe look away from the screen and maybe flick through your copy of Sibley you will eventually see a Bald Eagle. It's like a do it yourself Magic Eye for bird ID. Or not.
Yesterday morning was pretty foggy (or a corblimeypeasoupah guv as they say in these parts), so I had a look around as these are the kind of conditions that brought me my only Lapwing in the distant past, so it was worth double checking the shapes that came out of the gloom. However, as might be expected all it produced was gulls and cormorants. The fog began to lift mid morning when I spotted a couple of GBB's on the north shore that had a flat fish of some sort, and having a good old munch. It is likely that this had been there a while as the usual scenario is that a Black-headed finds it, a Common Gull nicks it, a GBB eats it and a Heron tries to get it on the act. So I was a witness to phases three and four, but don't know how successful the heron was. Other than that, it has been the usual fair, but I was thinking yesterday that I have not seen any Linnets this year, which is a disappointment - they were regular on one of the waste areas last winter.

There have been reports on the London birders wiki of argentatus type Herring Gulls by Wandsworth Park, so I guess I'll have to brush up on my bloody gull identification and work out which is which. You never know, the powers that be might split them into bona fide species, and the chance for a patch armchair tick is too high to ignore. Anyway, despite the punkbirders guys encouragement to "Say no to gulls!" - when it's all you've got, you have to get excited about them. So, excited I am, and I shall inform you dear reader of the outcome and perhaps even upload a shite picture of a 'putative fuscus' or whatever they say. You lucky people!

Radio 4 at the Wandle!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ok, it was in Wimbledon, but on the Today programme this morning there was a report about the Angling Trust that came from the banks of the Wandle. The Angling Trust has evidently been set up to represent all UK anglers (there are 4 million we were told, which is no small fry brrrching!) and to lobby effectively for better waterway management and conversation which can only be a good thing. I’ve known birders in the past that have thought that anglers are a rotten lot, but personally I have no beef with them other than discarded line. They are not that different from birders in their love of the outdoors and quiet places and an ability to stay out in the wet and cold just in case something turns up… Some of them are know a fair bit about birds – was there not a Yellow somethinged Albatross that an angler brought to the attention of birders in Lincolnshire last year?
The Angling Trust have a website -

Anyhow, the report was reasonably accurate. It detailed that this ‘little chalk stream’ was one of the hardest working rivers in the country at one point as there were 90 mills using the power and that in the sixties it was little more than a sewer. The reporter kindly noted that in the river there were plastic bags and a washing machine, so I have no doubt that it was the Wandle! I reckon that the plastic bags will make it down stream to me, but given that washing machines have a concrete base, I doubt if that will float down to my patch. However at the time of the broadcast, it was still dark and it was bloody foggy out there this morning, so this may all have been journalistic license.

Basically it’s more good news. The Angling Trust, The London Rivers Action Plan – if everyone continues like this there is hope for this little chalk stream yet.

The picture is of the Wandle, but taken last summer. Things are a little less verdant at the moment…


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2008 may have been a great year for rarities around the country, and I may have gone to see a small American sparrow in January, and I may also have bumped into a twitch in Runton for a small brown bird that looks just a little bit different to the normal small bird, but that's as far as it went for me. It was also a year of note for irruptives, ie Crossbills and Waxwings. Despite my numerous searches in apposite sites for Crossbills, I was unable to locate any. Anywhere. Which is a bit of a pain in the arse. I even had a conversation with a young twitcher in Wells woods - he was after a Yellow Browned and a Raddes that had been seen the previous day, and he seemed a little confused when I told him "I'm only here to look for Crossbills". I left him to sift through a fast moving flock of tits and Goldcrests. And of course, I didn't find any Crossbills.
And what of the Waxwings? The magazines tell us that they are 'coming to a supermarket near you', which is not very likely round hear as the fat, gluttonous eating machines that are the local bastard Wood Pigeons have stripped the berries from most trees and bushes by the end of September (they are so bloody quick at it that it is tricky to even hang on to a Mistle Thrush for long). But I have one small area left for the Waxwings to drop into (before they have all decided that blighty is no good any more and move on like the berry following whores that they are) - so I present to you a picture of my Waxwing bush. I admit that there are not many berries on the bush. And that a Woodpig could strip it for elevenses, but it is my only hope! Forlornly I gaze upon this bush as I pass, waiting in vain for one of these Bohemian beauties to drop in. But they don't. Yet. A patch birder must be persistent and ever hopeful. If the Waxwings dont drop in, a Med Gull might, a raft of Smew might, a Willet might! Alright, I'm pushing it a bit for the Smew.

Weather for ducks

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fair pissing down at lunchtime it was, however not being a fairweather birder I braved the weather to go a look at birds - patch birding requires a bit of bloody mindedness to be worthwhile and effective, and today is the perfect example.

If I had looked out of the window and thought that it was a teenyweenybitwetandIdontwanttogooutcosI'llgetwet then I would be letting myself down, letting the patch down, and letting the statistics down and I would not have found 13 Gadwall - a record high for the site. Well worth the effort in the circumstance.

As I didn't take any photos, as there is no point in getting the camera wet (if that gets ruined I'm a fucking dead man, believe me), so I proffer a pic of a Gadwall from last week that is nearly in focus! Belting!

Brent Reservoir Coots stick it to the man!

Monday, January 12, 2009

A visit to Brent Reservoir late in the day yesterday with the wife was nice - picking up some year ticks (Pochard, Shoveler but no Ruddy Ducks) and watching Swans waddling on the ice (as much of the water was still a large sheet - which in itself is good as it stops the boat people chuffing about before falling in and consuming large quantities of blue green algae while disturbing the important things, ie birds). Anyhow, this picture amused me as the inner city Coots utterly disobey the instructions from the London borough of Barnet.

I had hoped to pick up on recent reports of a Firecrest and a Cetti's that were knocking about, but to no avail (why is that not suprising?). The closest I got was a Goldcrest and a Cetti's singing on the Natural World program about Cuckoo's. Which was a top notch bit of research and film making - I even half tuned into the repeat!

What urban birding really looks like...

Friday, January 09, 2009

This picture shows an area that readily accumulates the detritus that the good citizens of our capital readily chuck into the Wandle. It is fairly clear today, high tides can help to clear it out a bit. There are usually a few footballs here, and occasionally bigger stuff. Such as filing cabinets.

So, can you spot the Grey Wagtail?

London Rivers action plan

Friday, January 09, 2009

Twas on the news last night.

Money being thrown at improving the Thames and its tributaries. The Wandle, which concerns me most, seems to have lots of projects planned, which can only be a good thing. In the sixties this particular river was classified as dead due to the amount of pollution that was in the water - now Kingfishers are a regular sight at the north end, which is often taken as a signifier of a healthy river. If more and more improvements are made upstream then that must be good for my area, which hasn't been attended to for a few years to be honest, and could do with a bit of tlc.

On the map supplied on the first link, the green dot at the top is right in my patch where the bank of the Thames is being improved.

I wrote about this elsewhere...

I'm off for a smoke by the bank to go and look at early morning gulls and sluggish mallards...

Egyptian Geese in the distance...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dunnock started singing this morning with some gusto, which was a slightly tardy addition to the year list for the patch to put it at 37 against the monster total of 66 in 2008.

Lunchtime was good and bad. I walked all the way to Wandsworth bloody Park to try and find (and take a dodgy photo of) a Yellow Legged Gull that I saw on Monday. When I arrived, because the tide had only just started to expose the foreshore, all the gulls were on the far side of the fucking river! Bastards.

Anyway, found a Little Grebe on the way (38 for the year) and there were Egyptian Geese on the far bank to give me 39. If you look really hard at the far bank in the picture attached (god knows whereabouts it will appear in the post), behind the barge with the writing on - you can see Egyptian Geese.

No, honestly you can.

Numbers up

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tide slightly higher than yesterday so managed to count over 150 Tufties and found 4 Pintail. Loads of Gulls knocking about, but nothing out of the ordinary. 4 Canada Geese on the river. 7 Coots. 1 Moorhen.
Dodgy pics of flying Tufties, and a Pintail's arse.

Oh no it didn't...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ok, so the picture was at the top.

I'll work this blogging shit out it good time. Stick with it. Boredom and repetition can be therapuetic and good for your soul.

I'll be back again later...

101 Damnaythyas

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


without going into the site history too much, as I can flesh that out as I (and perhaps you dear reader) go along, this is mainly about patch birding in London and some dodgy photographs of distant birds.

Yesterday lunchtime (the phrase will repeat itself I assure you) I trebled my high count for Tufties when visiting Wandsworth Park, with a grand total of 101.

There should be a picture of them below this.

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