Part VII - Not a Balrog...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

You may have thought that this one had gone away, or I had run out of stupid bird names for your delectation dear reader.

Not so!

If you are Swedish, there is a good possibility that your name could amuse English speakers with an idiosyncratic sense of humour and this one has. Especially as it is tagged onto a daft species name.

I present to you Olrog’s Cinclodes, Cinclodes olrogi.

I nicked this photo from a dude called Ramon Moller Jensen

Not a bad looking fella, eh?

Olrog was a Swedish Ornithologist/naturalist who spend most of his time in Argentina, where the LBJ lives (as does Ramon).

For the Larophiles out there, Olrog also has a gull named after him, but you knew that right?

Thanks again to Bo Boelens!

Freak show!

Friday, May 29, 2009

One thing that a patch birder faces is familiarity. The familiar birds that are seen every single day in exactly the same place. I'm not talking about the species here, it is the particular individual animals.

As this patch has limited wildlife friendly areas, and birds are fairly territorial right now there are very few interlopers being thrown into the mix. Yesterday there were three interlopers and they stood out a mile. Not just because the goose count was too high, but because they were freaks! Weird hybrid monster birds - escaped from the mad scientist's lair to reek havoc on the unsuspecting residents of Fulham...

Or maybe they were just after some bread.

Here are two (with the cinnamon pigeon - which I see every day. I hate it).

And for the close ups...

Freak 1

Freak 2

Freak 3

These are somebody elses birds. Please take them back, they're not right.

100% Proof

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grey Wagtail at a nest site.

Grey Wagtail in the nest site.

This is a little away from where I thought they were nesting. Last year I didn't find the nest and my 'proof' of breeding was a solitary juvenile. A female at the Messi (oops, mossy) nest with a gobfull of spiders is much more satisfactory.

Come on Barca!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It seems like ages since I mentioned Coots, and so as not to disappoint regular readers here I go again.

Went to check on the shopping trolley yesterday lunchtime, and initially there was no nesting behaviour to be seen. There was a single Coot there, but it didn't seem that interested in the site. That was until a pigeon had an idea about landing on the shopping trolley to see if it could find something interesting on it. At that point the Coot went mad! It launched itself directly at the pigeon/nest exocet like before the pigeon had finished landing and it flew off. This bird still obviously feels that it needs to protect the site. Just to reiterate that it was the boss, it climbed on to the trolley and gave a bit of foot stamping and loads of threat posturing stuff.

A Coot doing behaviour

It then had a preen and moved back into the water.

After this I found a Cormorant.

A Cormorant doing swimming

After that I found the Grey Wagtail nest (which I am especially pleased with) and I'll try and get some rubbish pics of it today.

Please Barca, please beat Man U. I'll love you long time, please Barca, please!

How old is Chris Packham?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A quiet bird weekend a chez Thing, so here is an update on the breeding Anseriformes on the Thames.

A pair with 3 young.

Another pair...

...who present 4 young

Goslings eating a wall.

Greylag! With young!

Chris Packham is 48.

Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I had a rant a while back about the lack of Loxia in my life and the world in general - click

Well now I am compelled to recant. Not because I have seen the damned things of course! Let me explain dear reader....

My mother recently went on a posh walking holiday in Scotland (the home land). While she was there, I sent an entirely innocent text to enquire as to how things were going. The reply, although equally innocent in tone has massive implications to my world view.

It read thus...

"Great ta. Saw pr crossbills on wed. Heard cuckoo but no sight. Just had swim and Jacuzzi. Weather great. x"

It's the second sentence that I have 'issues' with.

How on earth can I continue with this campaign of denial regarding these funny bloody finches when my mother has seen them for fucks sake? If I continue in that vein I am ostensibly calling my own mother a liar. Which is not nice.

So, for the record - I believe that Crossbills exist.
Happy now?
Because I'm not.
Not only does my mother have White Stork on her list (I don't), she also has Crossbills on her list.
"Weather great. x"
For no reason at all, St James' Park Pelicans.

You still here?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why do I ask dear reader?

Well this humble blog is now 100 posts old. I’m not entirely sure that this is something to be celebrated, or regretted. Either way, I’ll proceed as if no milestone has been reached, and carry on as normal. If it ain’t broke…

Yesterday lunchtime was mostly spent watching Grey Wagtails at the end of the Wandle. Pied Wagtails are handsome little birds, but to me the Grey is a bit special. Qualifying that statement with any good reason I cannot do, they just are. Regular readers will know that there was assumed breeding success last year as I spotted a juvenile in the late summer. Regular readers will also know that they have been a regular occurrence over the winter and I hoped that they would hang around for another punt at breeding. Well it looks like they are. A male and female in situ, calling to each other a lot and in very suitable habitat. The male spent most of the time carrying around a gobfull of insects. Here he is.

And again, rubbishly.

Cracking. Will probably check that little fecker out again today.

Now, in the track Black Sabbath from the album Black Sabbath by the late sixites rock combo Black Sabbath a young Mr Osbourne (their 'vocalist') is heard to shout/scream “Oh no, oh no, oh please god help me”. A similar utterance came out of my mouth when I found this......

You might not be able to see what it is, but you might be able to guess.

Zoom in...

It's another pair of coots nesting in a totally inappropriate site! Hurrah! Suffice to say that this spot is as tidal as every other point around the Wandle basin, but if they have been clever, they might get away with it. It seems to be floating so it might just work!

And yes, it's a boat. I'll explain that another day.

Attentuation 2

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Attention - attenuation part 2.

Stick with it kids, this is verging on the scientific.

Here is the technical drawing of the area…

The graduated bank has various levels on it, which are designed to hold water. Initially there was a soil layer, this was topped up with a layer of sand and a Hessian type material to finish off. Last week sections were being topped of with a gravelly layer. I’m hoping that they are then going to plant appropriately, but I’m assuming that they will.

In time there will be a path along the top of the area which, once built, will give a continual riverside walk from the Wandle to the far end of Wandsworth Park. This is much more satisfactory than the industrial route that is taken at the moment. Until the path is built (which may not be open until the flats are up – which will take 12 months or so) the views of the new bank area are either from the opposite bank of the Thames or a sideways glance from the Wandle spit.

Here is a picture at high tide – pre-attenuation in progress.

The work in the winter did have a detrimental effect on the bird life in the Wandle mouth. Mostly on Pintail numbers. They seemed to dislike the disturbance and I didn't see any there once. They were further up river, but absent from haunts that they had the year before. Hopefully this winter...

And that’s the main gist of it. As the area improves, I may find more pics to post, I may not. At the moment the area is attenuating not much more than litter and river detritus. I’m trying really hard not to start a list for this specific area, which would be just tooooo sad.

Having said that, birds have been using it in small numbers for loafing, mainly Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Gulls. Occasionally a Blackbird alights, and most days a Heron can be found. Once the area is planted, I guess it’s only a matter of time before the Spotted Crakes and Aquatic Warblers move in…..

Attenuation. Part 1

Monday, May 18, 2009

It isn’t very often that a patch birder can be appreciative of new, custom built habitat, especially in the big smoke. However, I am in the fortunate position that I do have some brand spanking new habitat! As the patch is as dull as a dull thing on a particularly dull day right now, I’ve taken the time to show this new area off and finish a half composed and half promised post. Which for the benefit of the short attention spanned interweb user, I will split in two…

It doesn’t look like much at the moment, but do let me introduce you, dear reader, to the Attenuation Ponds!

What is an Attenuation Pond I hear you cry? Well it’s a kind of inter-tidal area with purpose built damn wall thingies that should hold water back for a while when the tide recedes. Regular and attentive readers (well that sure narrows it down a bit) may have spotted the area in previously posted pictures (ones that were in focus anyway).

How it looked last summer – before the work started.

The history is thus. There are some ‘fancy’ flats between the Wandle and Wandsworth Park. There is planning granted for some more, and they look nasty! ……….Part of the process of the application must have taken the environment into consideration with liaison with Wandsworth Council, the Environment Agency etc. The upshot is that the first thing the contractors had to do to the new site (which is on the meeting point of the Thames and the Wandle) was to build the new habitat. This involved a noisy period when a new section of the iron river wall was pounded into the ground behind the existing wall.

How it looked in the autumn, with a pile driver in situ.......

Once this was in, the area between the old wall and the new was slowly landscaped, with a slow gradient to an intertidal level. The outer wall was then partly broken up and much of the rubble left at the bottom of the area as a habitat feature.

Nearly finished, with plant.....

Exciting huh?

Stay tuned for the next instalment kids!

These go to eleven

Friday, May 15, 2009

As you might guess, there is still not much happening in the patch. Little glimmers of joy still poke their heads out of the morass of daily patch birding.

A Pied Wagtail with a gobfull of insects was a good sign, and the Grey is still seen occasionally. Over half a dozen swifts overhead most of the time. Yesterday lunchtime, a couple of Common Terns flew down the river, disliked the make up of Wandsworth Bridge (well you would!) and flew back up again at the same time as a Chiffchaff starting piping up. First singer this year, not a year tick as there were overwintering bird(s) but I doubt very much if it will hang around.

There was a young chap taking samples of the water and silt at low tide too. He's doing a PhD at some London university. Hopefully he will send me a copy of the paper that he is preparing which could make quite interesting reading. He's looking at levels of mitten Crabs, shrimps, fish and the Heavy Metal content across six sites on the Thames. He may even want to know about the birdlife in the area - step forward your resident coot 'expert'. ROCK!

Coots. No really.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Please sir, can we have another rant about coots? Oh pleeeeeeeassse??
Okay okay!. Eyes down, look in........
In a paper published in Nature in 2003 (Egg recognition and counting reduce costs of avian conspecific brood parasitism), Bruce Lyon of the University Of California postulated that Coots can count. By removing and replacing the eggs of coots with dummy eggs that resembled Coot eggs he found that Coots (albeit our american cousins) can count.
"Clutch size comparisons revealed that females combine egg recognition and counting to make clutch size decisions—by counting their own eggs, while ignoring distinctive parasitic eggs, females avoid a maladaptive clutch size reduction."

If this is the case in the US, how come some of ours are so dumb.
Maybe it's just mine...
There have been suggestions that there could be some kind of benign intervention with the Coots on the Wandle and this has been considered. I've done a little reading and poking about. I have asked for some information (and sometimes it has been forthcoming) from fellow birders (thanks Alan). I've looked at the site to see if it is practical, with an imaginary Darwin barking in my ear about purity of gene pools and such like. However, these thoughts have to stop dear reader. And this is why...

Exhibit A

The world infamous shopping trolley Coots. Taken at the end of last week. Although they have managed to find a large pink flower to replace the Nike trainer (houseproud obviously) they have manifestly been unable to raise the height of the nest despite the suitability of the site to do so. Indeed the bird seems to be even lower in the nest site than usual. A visit yesterday found no eggs and nothing sitting.

Exhibit B

Wandle mouth mentalist. This is a bird sitting on a nest that is exposed for no more than two hours a day. Yet it continues to leap on it once exposed, grab some materials to add and then sit tight, while it's mate attacks anything that comes close. Even if it is 10 times bigger than it. About 10 minutes after this photo was taken the tide was up to it's belly.

Exhibit C

Brent Res Coot with a bloody skyscraper! Non-tidal water, with just a little bit of structure to hold on to, and the nest is proper high.

In conclusion, with the evidence supplied within, I have no option but to surmise that the Coots on the Wandle are retards.

Early start what?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chin chin! Arose rather early as there was much to do. I had to fire the housekeeper and cleaner as the House won't pay for them anymore (frightfully inconvenient I say, something to do with the proles Hogg told me), and they left without clearing the moat out what? Jolly bad form I say, so I had to pop the barbour on and do it ones self - such a crushing bore. It was while I was undertaking this onerous task (Mother will have to do it next time, it's terribly messy and dangerous) that I heard a Little bird singing. Wonderful flutey texture what? Reminded me of my days in Gib! Wasn't entirely sure what it was to be perfectly frank, but I know this chap in the village - he's jolly knowledgeable about these things, he's a twitchy or some such I think, so I popped into the study and pulled out the trusty old Lee Enfield and

Hang on! Wrong blog!

This is the singer - Blackcap - in a tree.
Honestly there is! There is a warbler size blob in the middle of this Digimonoculared picture. It is a blackcap. It's the one in my back garden. Still there after a week, singing it's head off all day. Haven't located a female yet, so fingers crossed.
The one in Fulham has disappeared (typically), and there is not much to report from the patch (bugger all would be a better description). The highlight yesterday was an Egyptian goose taking off, flying into the wind, thinking better of it and going back to where it was anyway ffs.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

FFS! Moved the widget thing and it made the post totally rubbish and everything.

I don't know why, and I have better things to do than find out why.

The link to the birdlife site is right here

Fill your boots (and I got the linking thingy right).

New SpringWidget

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cool huh?

Moved it on to the bit on the right or whatever technical term I should use.

Click on it - you can have it on your blog too.

It's not like they are unworthy or anything is it??

A Wheatear in Kingston

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Many of you will know that if you are the known birdwatcher/birder/spotter/twitcher at a place of work, you often get approached by colleagues looking for identification solutions or titbits (geddit?) of knowledge. In my present job that has ranged from the 'little black and white birds in my garden' for my boss (Pied Wag) through 'what's that pretty little birdie by the smoking area?' (Dunnock) to ensuring billigerent oafs that there are fish in the Thames because Cormorants feed on bloody fish and there are nearly a hundred round here in the winter, you eeediot!

And then there are those that have a modicum of information that need me to put the finishing touches to a tentative i-d (what folly!) One such bird is here.

This was taken on his day off, while sitting at home in Kingston doing nowt. He had the identification right, and I told him this. It sat there for about an hour, he said looking lost. I informed him that a Wheatear sitting on a roof top in Kingston was lost but it wasn't anything to worry about. While we are chatting about the bird, and where it should and shouldn't be etc the thought was going through my mind that I have not had a Wheatear on this patch. Ever. And you just look out of your bloody window and lo! A Wheater just sits there!


Brent Res again.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Some of you may have wondered where this 'Brent Reservoir' place is. Some of you may not give a shit. You would be right in thinking that it is in London, but it is a big place don't you know.

This picture taken from the hide may help you place it into a wider socio-geographic location.

However, if you don't know what that big shopping basket thingy is, and you still want to know where it is - look it up on the web or something yeah? There's a link down on the right somewhere.
Note that I said 'from the hide'. I have joined an exclusive club as I now have a key for the hide and spent some time there on Sunday afternoon. Mrs Thing was none to impressed by the size and volume of the spider webs in the ceiling, but as hides go - this one is quite luxurious. There was nothing to really shout about while we were there, but that is not the point. I did see many species of birds 'getting jiggy wid it' including Lapwing and Common Tern. I don't know specifically if this particular bird was involved in this behaviour but here is a pic anyway.
There are loads of Grebes on the water (but many more coots of course). Here is a picture of one of them.

On the way back towards the north circular, I saw a crow mobbing a large bird which I didn't think was a Heron. It could just have been the brief view or the light that made it not look like a Heron. Unfortunately as I was bombing down the Edgware Road in a ruddy great van, trying to change lanes at 40mph with a Beemer right up my arse, it wasn't the ideal time to keep looking up and left. Ho hum.

Three little heads

Friday, May 08, 2009

Proof indeed that birds can hatch eggs on my patch, rather than just watch them float off or sink. And I take back my condescending comments about Canada Geese just flying up and down the river, some of them sit still long enough to produce offspring. Like what they are supposed to yeah? I managed to see three little yellow heads over the boards, but would expect there to be a few more, and they are not that old by the look of them.

The birds are on the barges moored off Wandsworth Park. I ventured over there today with the intention of checking out whether or not there is any GBB action, as there was last year – but that particular barge was full of idle cormorants and loafing teenage Herring Gulls which are no doubt right up for a bit of gosling for their tea.

Eat my facts.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Another high tide yesterday lunchtime, and as I trudged towards the river bank, I was filled with thoughts of 'can I be arsed with this today?'. Probably a reflection of the dour mornings work more than anything else...

As I got to the river, a Common Sandpiper flew along my side of the bank and when it got within about ten feet of me, it changed direction and shivered off to the other side. Suddenly I really could be arsed.

Fact - the first passage Common Sandpiper on this patch in 2008 occured on exactly the same date.

Fact - that fact is awesome.

Of course, I should supply you with a stunning flight shot of a Common Sand here. I don't have one. So here is a swift. In flight. Natch.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Yep, Cuckoo spit. With a ‘p’.

No Cuckoo mind you, just some spit.

Not much of anything different in the patch at the moment. Still running on high tides at lunchtime which is a bit of a drag. The Blackcap seems to have buggered off, but the Swifts are lingering and slowly starting to fly about at less than 10,000 feet.

On a brighter note, I had an addition to my Loo List on Monday.

Yep, you heard it – a Loo List. A list of all the birds that I have seen or heard while sitting on the lav at home. Classy, eh? The previous addition was a Green Woodpecker bombing past the window earlier in the year, and with a Blackcap on Monday it brings the total to a bogtastic 27.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I remember well the day that it began.

It was late summer in the late 80's. My friend Mark and I had made our way to Cley. Mark was much shorter than me, and insisted that he had once seen a Lesser Kestrel. He hadn't. We were at the beach, close to the pillbox thingy and some kindly old gentlemen pointed in the direction of a small bird. We presented the optics to the eyes and behold, a Black Redstart. And it just sort of came out of me, "wow - that is fucking beautiful". Birders Tourrette's. The old gentlemen was a little shocked and suprised, but I think he understood.

It doesn't occur all the time when seeing birds and isnt connected just with seeing rare birds. The White-crowned Sparrow not so long ago could only produce Jazz Club type utterances - "oooh - Niiiice". At the other end of the scale are warblers. Last years Blyths at Runton, a perfunctory - "oh". But occasionally it rears it's head. Red-necked Phalarope (not even in summer plumage) the year after the Redstart - "whoa - fuuuuuck!".

I know that I am not alone with this condition, the Siberian Thrush that was in norfolk recently was described by a fellow blogger as a 'spunkdrainer'. Whilst amusing to some, i understand - this is a wholly fitting term for a bird that ticks the Tourrette's box.

Why am I rattling on about all this shit? Because I found this in a park over the weekend.

Just have a butchers at this bastard!

I'm hoping that I don't find a Bee-eater in a public place, could get nasty.

Green Giant

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Behold the can.

Yes, dear reader, you and I know that this is an empty can of Green Giant niblets (other brands of sweet corn are available). Why should I present to you such a picture? Well- lets turn that question into an early morning fun quiz! Send your text's to the usual number, remember kids that they will cost a fortune, you won't get a reply and you'll feel used once your choice is knocked out in the final vote. Anyway....

Is the can...

a) just sort of lying there?

b) dipping a Crested Lark?

c) part of the structure of a Coots nest at BrentRes?

d) oh, you've guessed it already haven't you...

Indeed it is - there are lots of coots nesting at Brent Res - and they have taken full use of all the wonderful things that the ever considerate residents of Barnet have left in the water. Including a patio chair. Honestly.
I would have loved to have seen the stupid bloody bird fetching the can up to it's nest, but all I have is mental images of the struggle. Mrs Thing is particularly taken with this addition to the list of nesting material that these halfwit birds use. Although I do cast continuing aspersions on their mental acuity, they have to be admired for their adapdability, as strange as it may seem to the human eye.

While we are talking about coot nests (well, I say we) here is the final scene of act two in the saga of the shopping trolley pair. Not sitting on a single egg, while the nest is not higher than it has been or needs to be. Wandle 2, coots 0.

Two ticks.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Due to internal physical reasons, which I will not distress you with here dear reader, I was up with the Crested Lark this morning, and spend my time wisely by shuffling about on the river bank, watching not much happen. The wetland centre has had Hobby in the last few days, so I was secretly hoping for one of those little belters. Of course, they didn’t appear.

After an hour or so things started to pick up. The Blackcap started singing again, an Egyptian Goose flew about for a bit and then I picked up a Swallow going about it’s business on the other side of the river. Patch year tick! After a short while I returned to the Blackcap, in the hope that I could find a female and I was alerted by an unfamiliar call over the river. Eyyyyyyyyes left! Bingo! Common Tern flying down river. Shmokin! Patch year tick! That brings it up to 53 for the year and more still to come.

Swan anyone?

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