Pages on holiday.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Digimonocularisation ™

Friday, March 27, 2009

Yesterday was the day that all the passage birds came through my patch, and it will continue again today. The fly through Osprey, the Boney knocking about with the last of the Black Heads, the first singing Chiffchaff and of course the over shot Hoopoe. I know this will have happened because I didn't get out yesterday and nor will I today (thanks to the supervision of the removal of an RSJ yesterdayand a bidness lunch today).

So instead of an idiosynchratic take on what I have seen in the last 24 hours, have some pictures of a Heron from earlier in the week. My field craft was so awesome in my approach to this one, that I totally freaked out a bloke reading the paper in a quiet spot that he thought I was a wierd stalker and promptly upped sticks and farked orph.

They have been taken with my perhaps unique technique of Digi-monocularising™, or Digimonning™. This technique involves sticking the camera at the end of a monocular and taking two hundred photos in the hope that one is half decent.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The ardent acronym fans amongst you will know that this stands for Situation Normal - All Fucked Up.

And in the world of a certain pair of coots that live on the Wandle, this is quite an apt description of yesterdays events. The tide was well in and when I arrived they were frantically swimming around with random twigs, trying to make a difference...

Comparing the height of the water to more halcyon days... can see why the nest is doomed. In the middle of the picture you can see the remaining egg which is floating in the river. However, the obvious fact that the egg is now bobbing about in the cold water two feet above the nest is no reason not to try and incubate it - which is what this bird is doing...

Showing the incredibly strong instinct to protect the egg, regardless. Well that's the first brood fucked. Should have another soon.
Stay tuned kids - for the next enthralling episode of When Coots Go Bad!

Norfolk Bird Report 1968

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How's that for topical?

Well, dear reader, it may not be new, but the quality is unquestionable. Recently on Londonbirders, the former Inner London Bird Recorder and Hyde Park regular Des McKenzie offered up a bookcase of old bird reports from all over the place, for nothing, for whoever wanted them. So I got in contact. Having been a resident of Norfolk for a couple of decades, and that is also where I learned the craft, I was only to happy to get hold of a dozen or so Norfolk Bird and Mammal reports starting in the mid-sixties up to 1984 and a dozen or so Norfolk Bird Club bulletins. Sweet.

I have only reached 1968 on my reading and the ever tolerant Mrs Thing is being bombarded with lots and lots of "Listen to this!". Last night was spent reading an article by Richard Richardson and Billy Bishop on the attempted breeding of a couple of pairs of Black Tailed Godwits. This is not an article that would be submitted to an academic journal, but is all the better for it. An eight page analysis of their behaviour, habits, calls and attempts to breed at Cley one summer, it is very thorough and quite brilliant. As would be expected, it is illustrated fully by Richard Richardson's line drawings which are excellent at capturing the essence of a bird in a particular situation and what he leaves out is as good as what he puts in (remember that he rarely sketched in the field). Class.

But that wasn't all. The next article was a breakdown of the irruption of Nutcrackers from that year - and they were bloody everywhere! Two phases - one in August in which produced 23 birds (yes, 23 Nutcrackers in one county) and the second phase from August to mid-september that produced 54 (fifty-four). Kinell!

And I've seen some pictures too - they were not funny looking starlings, they were definitely Nutcrackers. And that is just the figures for Norfolk! Stunning. Proper birding, proper reading and I've still got loads left to read!

Who needs Cley?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some of the more long standing, avid, or perhaps even dedicated readers of this blog might, perchance, remember me moaning (no shit, honestly) about the lack of irruptives in my life this winter and I presented to you the waxwing bush... (don't know how to do the fancy linking thing yet)

... which still has a berry on it, hope is not lost.
Well today I offer you another stunning area of habitat in my humble patch. Considering the inner city location of my patch this large, nay vast, area of reedbed is quite remarkable, and an asset to the local biodiversity - rivalling anything that the wonders of Norfolk can provide.

It is of course not yet the home to a resident population of Bearded Tits (yes, Tits - not bearded bloody reedlings), but I have great hopes for it. There is enough space for a booming bittern to hide itself, and there are plenty of rats here, so a Short Eared Owl may pass by just after the Marsh Harrier worries the Corncrake. If you look hard at the picture you can see, through the dense stems, the resident ducks, and it has even held a couple of Phylloscopus in the winter months.

Well what did you expect?


Monday, March 23, 2009

Well that didn’t last long did it? Spring sprung and then pissed off again. Strong cold winds, dull skies, chilly hands etc, but now there are no gulls to while away the time on the river bank with. I ventured out first thing anyway, cursing to myself about the lack of avifauna – but the reality was that in a short 20 minute spell I did manage to pick up 18 species (including a pair of Gadwall on the river), and a singing Dunnock shortly after that. So it’s not really as bad as all that I guess.

Here is a new photo from this morning of the attenuation ponds by the new build on the saaarf side. I have pics of this area through it’s development and intend to have a full and detailed post/report on the said ponds (new habitat! Wahey!) which will be stunningly exciting, and possibly free of anglo-saxon invective.

And the big blokes in the boat? They are in some race down the Thames next month, in which they, or the other team, will win. Again.

Nice beaver!

Friday, March 20, 2009


More beaver propaganda appeared in the Times yesterday in the section aimed at children (young times?).

Some choice excerpts...

"This week scientists said beavers could be the saviours of England's environment..."

"Beavers even help to keep rivers clean, which would mean lesss money spent on water treatment and a cheaper water bill for your mum and dad! "

"...ecosystem engineers "

"... most negative effects are more minor than major..."

Pah! How many of these things do they really think are going to take root? For beavers to have an effect on the water bills and for that matter water quality of an area with millions of people in it, they'll have to have every bloody water course in the south east dammed up! Twice! Ecosystem engineers my arse. What a crock of shite.
I am currently still being teased by Grebes...

Hurry up!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What with the BhGulls all but gone, and now it looks like the Common are drifting away too it is pretty quiet round here, hence the hurry up call. Please can I have some migrant action? And soon? All this spring has sprung stuff is all well and good, but I dont want to see little flowers and the hint of buds on trees - I want birds! Summer bloody birds! Soon! Now in fact!
The most interesting thing I found today. A very dead Starling.

Why bother?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stand by - it's a rant!
Natural England (a fresh story on the radio and the papers today - who says that I'm not topical?) have given the green light for the introduction of Beavers into the countryside. Whats the fucking point? I can understand reintroducing species that have recently been pushed out or extending a helping hand to those that are on the edge, but why bother bringing back something that hasn't had a place in our country for hundreds of years? No old folks are sitting back in a rocking chair bemoaning the fact that 'in my day, this were all beavers - and now look at it'. Nobody looks over a reserve that is being developed and thinks 'I know exactly what we need to maintain the water levels here - Beavers!"Nobody can remember what they were like and the habitat will have changed in that period.
It just strikes me as a nothing more than vanity project, when the money could be much better spent on a whole host of projects (maybe chucking Buglife some money - they do a lot more to promote biodiversity). Now this may be controversial, but conservation groups need to realise that to have maximum effect, they need to keep the shooting lobby, landowners, farmers and the like on-side as much as possible as many of our aims are much the same. Bringing in some big old gap-toothed tree munching flappy tailed mammal into the equation is just going to annoy the shit out of everyone, for no gain in biodiversity. Stupid.

Have a rubbish picture I took of what might be a beaver.

The times, they are a changing

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It would seem that over the weekend the vast majority of the Black Headed Gulls have all but disappeared – which is a harbinger of springy type events as one assumes that they are off to breed. On this stretch of the river at low(ish) tide in the winter, there would be two or three hundred along the foreshore along with the smattering of Common, Herring and BB’s. Today I spent an hour on the bank without seeing a single specimen land. A half dozen or so flew over the bridge, but that was it.

In the spirit of post continuity, here is a Grebe.

Get off my cloud

Monday, March 16, 2009

For possibly the last time before the leaves came out, the Owls in Hyde Park took another chunk of time over the weekend. So here are more gratuitous pictures.

A Magpie had a go...

This was about as active as we saw - although the nice chap from last week was about (John he said is name was) and he had loads of action!

I did see a Treecreeper too, which was a nice year tick. There was the usual mix of birders and tourists and even an accidental visit from some actor luvvie type from the telly, but as I couldn't remember his name at the time, I can't be arsed to write it now.
I'm off now to look at an empty Coot nest. More moaning tomorrow I guess...

And then there was two...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thought I'd check up on the coots again today.

Still in place, still gathering nest material, still sitting...

...and they have lost eggs already.

As I left, the tide was rising...

If this follows the normal procedure, they will mate again shortly, the nest will be improved and raised. If they are lucky enough to raise it higher there still could be success.
A note on the possibly implied disturbance here. The nest is by a busy public path and road, and last year they would sit tight regardless of the disturbance, but they are more skittish so far this year. Although in the last two days they have moved off the nest in my presence - I have moved away sharpish and one of them has returned to sit straight away. Although my ugly mug is the least of their problems...

Off their trolley!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Subsequent to yesterdays observation of the mentalist Coots nest material collection, I wandered further up the river today to have a look to see if they are actually making a nest and what stage they are at.

Well, they are making a nest in the upturned shopping trolley and ski ensemble as they did last year (assuming that it is the same pair).

Already they are sitting on the nest.

And they have four eggs in the nest.

Which are doomed.

As I follow the drama (a sort of ornithological film noir), I shall of course update you dear reader. When I see the blog followers withdrawing and the Fatbirder ranking heading back towards four figures, I’ll know that you’ve had enough.

In the meantime, have an arty farty pic of a Grey Wag from yesterday.

Oh no, not again

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Well seeing as you asked, no the Grebes did not perform their foreplay dance yesterday but seemed more interested in actually building a nest. Nicely for me this seems to be on the corner of the dog leg of the river, possibly the only place on this little stretch that I cannot see. So in place of the spectacular watery extravaganza, have a picture of a small bird that I photographed badly.

However, did see this.

Yes, it is a Coot. And yes, it has nest material in it's gob.

To you this may seem mundane, to me this is the beginning of Groundhog Summer. Look at the mad red eye, and the steely determination to fulfill it's evolutionary destiny. This bird is beginning to make a nest in an area where it cannot succeed. Unless of course, it has learned from last years debacle. Now as my observations of the pair of Coots in this area last summer showed me, they have a fucking hard job remembering what happened yesterday (even if yesterday involved having the nest flooded out and the eggs sinking into the waters of the Wandle).

There will be, I am sure, considerable numbers of updates on these mentalists over the coming weeks....

Splash and a dash

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

And that dear reader is what a river looks like just after the Grebe I am trying photograph objects to my proximity...

As I may have intimated, I’m going to be trying to find the Great Crested Grebes and their mad courtship stuff this week. I’ll have high tides at lunchtime all week which helps. According to my notes, they were still at it at the beginning of April last year, and as they have started already this year, I might be in with a chance of witnessing the full blown courtship if I keep my focus on them for a week or so. Or that’s the plan. Offering rubbish photos may be secondary to the actual observation, and they are pretty evasive little bastards any way. But this was how far they got yesterday.

They began this in one area, and moved off pretty quick upstream, where I cannot follow due to the electricity substation. So I bypassed that and waited for them further up river, and they eventually came quite close (that old school field craft again folks) but not doing much at the same time mind you... so all I got was one doing a Shaky impression.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Being a creature of habits and simple pleasures, Saturday was given over to the Hyde Park Owls again. They are bigger than they were and can now fly. We were not aware of this until they started clambering about and rather than falling when they launched themselves, they flew and didn’t fall. There was the perhaps inevitable comic moment when one landed on the male who promptly flew to another tree.

Have a picture.

There was the usual assortment of birders and hangers on, and it helps to remind me why speaking to birders can be infuriating as they can be such a pretentious and snobbish lot. There was a thoroughly nice chap (whose name I didn’t get) who was there for a couple of hours with us who gave me a gentle ribbing about my old school optics, but was humble enough to use my scope for a little digital photography… The mental posh dude turned up again, but I’m warming to him – a little English eccentricity does no harm. We were riffing for a bit about the function of eye lashes within Eurasian avian predators. Rockin!

Other birders were largely annoying, and remarkably dismissive of the situation, some only staying long enough to get the fancy optics out, clock the bird and fuck off. But there you go, nowt stranger than folk.

There were parakeets nearby, have a picture.

Heard a Green Woodpecker, saw a Great Spot and the usual passerines were kicking about.

And I managed to dip on the Med Gull twice in a day. Bummer.

And uncharacteristically off topic, Ayr United went top of the league after thumping Stranraer 5-0 on Saturday. A win at Raith next week and the title is in the bag!

Part VI. Fnarr Fnarr

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Myrtis Fanny.

Fanny's Woodstar.


Friday, March 06, 2009

I went to Suffolk on 'bidness' yesterday, and saw very little of interest ornithologically. Suffolk is nice (see the pic), and I was almost within smelling distance of Havergate.

Once the job was done, I informed my minion that we would stop for lunch at the nearest pretty laybay type thing. Which we did. There was a Great Tit wheezing in a tree, and a LTT which finished each of the Great Tit's syllables with a short peep. Weird. Jackdaws were knocking about in the distance. Not very exciting. Once the brief scoff was over we set off and a couple of corners later we found a parking area, by a river which was at low tide and gulls were present on the foreshore. This would have been a much better place to have lunch, so I pretty much fucked that opportunity up.

I have to go to a public house at lunchtime, again on 'bidness' so will not be out on the patch. Wheatears have been seen recently at the Wetland Centre, and Sand Martins are starting to move through but I have not seen any (yet). Next weeks focus is going to be on trying to find Grebes mating.

That is the state of affairs, as they stand. Right now.

Swearing at the telly

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I watched Nature’s Great Events last night, and the footage of the Gannets was truly spectacular. The distant shots of the large flock machine gunning into the sardine shoal was just stunning. I basically sat in front of the tellybox swearing my tits off as the film got better and better. It wasn’t a conversation, just a one way ornithological tuourette’s. A kind of jizz-jazz free form improv swearing.

“Fucking look at that!”

I found a Stock Dove on the foreshore yesterday, which is only the second time I have seen them in the patch. This is the patch equivalent of african Gannets going ballistic into the sea.

No, I know, I’m struggling to believe that myself.

Nothing to see here!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A new webolink is on the right, which thanks to Jim and James shows blogs in a map format and it's filling up quick!

In the UK there seems to be a massive bias to the north west - are you guys the only ones with anything worth seeing? Do northerners have a disposition for blogging? I dunno, but at the moment I'm the only one in London.

The idea is that the maps show birding blogs that are reasonably site specific around the globe that have a birding bias, so should anyone be heading to an area they can have a look at what's likely to be there. The chances of anyone actually wanting a day out in Fulham is negligible. However, in the spirit of the map here is a picture of what to expect.

In flight delights.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Kind of. From the weekend - note the sand! Thanks largely to Mrs Thing's chum making...

1st winter Med.

Pirates avast! Or something.

Adult Med. Saw this bird in the winter a couple of times, and now it looks different.

And if you look hard enough in this one, you can see a Barn Owl. A secret location that turns them up from time to time.


Part V - Jack Natterers toadies

Monday, March 02, 2009

Another in the series of frivolous and daft bird names courtesy of Bo Boelens' book (if I plug it enough do I get boosted up the Fatbirder ranks perhaps?).

Now most birders will have heard of Spix’s Macaw, due mainly to the fact that there are not very many of them at all. Anywhere.

Well today’s offering isn’t that. A contemporary of Spix (a naturalist that had that particular parrot particularnamed after him) also went of to study things in Brazil on the same expedition (and no doubt shot a large portion of the findings). Anyway, his name was Natterer and he was Austrian. The sensible thing would have to have given him a parrot too, as Natterer’s Parrot would have been great – or maybe an amphibian even (his Christian name was Johann, so he could possibly have been called Jack...), but no.

He got a bat - Natterer’s Bat. Fine with that. Might even have seen one.

He got a bird – Natterer’s Slaty Antshrike. Which although clumsy, tickles no funny bones.

And then someone (Temminck I reckon) gave him another bird – Natterers Vizer Bearer, which does.

Obviously I have to know what a vizer is…

1 definition found vizer - Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

Vizier \Viz"ier\, n. [Ar. wez[imac]r, waz[imac]r, properly, a bearer of burdens, a porter, from wazara to bear a burden:

A councilor of state; a high executive officer in Turkey and other Oriental countries

So this cruel, cruel, vindictive man was using these tiny little birds as his bloody porters.

I nicked this image from avesfoto by the way.

Must have looked impressive though, turning up to the campsite of an evening with loads of these birds flying behind him with all his leather cases and guns in their claws…

Related Posts with Thumbnails