I am an addict.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I thought that I had it licked. I was over it. It was all sooo last season dahling. It was bad over the winter months, but as spring kicked in I was getting better.

It went away.

Or rather, they went away.

But now they are back. I went for my normal sojourn at lunchtime despite the heat, and before I knew it I caught myself scanning a small flock of gulls, just to make sure there was nothing 'different' hiding amongst them. Yes dear reader, Gulls. I'm not over it, I can't help myself.

Might as well face it, I'm addicted to Gulls.

I'm not going to stay in denial. I am in touch with my inner larophilia, and I am going to embrace it.

In public.

Fwwwwwwwoooooooooaaaaaaarrrrrr! GULLS! All sorts of lovely lovely Gulls!! Just look at them! LOOK!

Cor! Look at the gonys on that!

A nice young one!

Look at the tertials on this pair!

Look at the hood! Hubba hubba!

Honestly, if you don't like dodgy pics of gulls you might want to stop coming back here. There were 16 Black-headed Gulls here yesterday. The numbers are rising, winter is here and it can only get worse...

It was ever thus.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obviously the only thing that has interested any of you over the weekend was the topic of the shopping trolley coots.

Will they stay on the nest? Do they have eggs? Will the eggs hatch? Will the nest survive? Will Clint Dempsey stop crying?

Of course, the answer to all of the above is a resounding no.

This is what I found on Friday...

The whole top section of the nest (basically a big pile of stuff that floats) was not anchored to the base and during a high tide just got lifted up and floated away.


The compacted mud that is now the basis of the 'platform' is a development from spring. Last year this area was still weeds and stuff and the birds would be nesting in the trolley rather than on the trolley. The pair of Coots were nearby, apart, and looking slightly forlorn.

Michael Jackson - a tribute

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dear reader,

One humble bloggers tribute to a great man.

When I was young, my father knew Michael Jackson.

At a gathering that we attended in the mid 8o's I said to my friend Keith 'Do you want to meet Michael Jackson? My dad knows him and he is here'.

Keith was very excited by this, but was disappointed when he was shown the visage of a portly middle aged man with a beard. Unfortunately - despite the resemblance - it was not the Michael Jackson he expected.

Michael Jackson - The King of Beer

The Beer Hunter

Perhaps this time?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Regular readers will fully understand the following statement, newcomers may wonder what the excitement is about.

Look at the size of this fucking nest!

I hadn't been to see the shopping trolley nest for a couple of weeks, and in the meantime they have been quite industrious and have built the biggest nest that I have seen on this site (perhaps the biggest coot nest I have seen this year?). The shopping trolley is almost totally obscured by the size of it. The construction is more sturdy with lots of branches and twigs in situ rather than the normal floppy reeds. As can be seen, they are still building and sitting tight on what I hope is eggs.

The tide was still rising at this point, but there may be enough height in the nest to cope with it. Even if there is a little dousing of the nest, they should be able to keep adding to it to keep it clear. Promising stuff.

The future is bright, the future is orange tufted round its ugly little head. Perhaps.

Facts. Have them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Due to a mixture of illness, training, weekends etc, I haven't really contributed much to the blogosphere (not that my witterings could be considered a contribution, but I digress). So here, especially for you dear reader, are some avifaunical facts that I have gleaned during the down time. Have them.

The relative size of a birds testes is the hallmark of female promiscuity.

Bullfinches are so highly strung that they can die in the hand for no apparent reason.

Sandhill Cranes are the longest known surviving species. A leg bone discovered in Nebraska was 9 million years old.

Woodpeckers have an ear at the end of their tongue.

The rectal pressure of an Adelie Penguin is 7psi. The same that is in a keg of lager.

Zugunruhe is heritable.

According to William Harvey, the Ostrich phallus is 'like a cow's tongue'

Mozart had a pet Starling. His work K.522 may be based on Starling song.

There is one accepted record in North America of an Eurasian Blackbird.

An annual productivity rate of 0.65 chicks will maintain a Stone Curlew population.

Adolf Hitler is partly responsible for the presence of the breeding Avocets in Britain.

I have difficulty in spelling the word 'wierd'.

Coots evidently taste better than Moorhens.

I may, or may not, be Bill Oddie.

Coot young doing ugly.

Chris Packham Porn

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A quick scan of the statcounter details leads me to believe that some unfortunate was looking for 'Chris Packham Porn' in their interweb search engine. I didn't click the link for fear of finding out something distressing, or perhaps even the fact that this blog might be the top rated site for such things.

This whole business is proper, proper wierd.

A Pochard doing floating.

A Coot with a view

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A coot doing royalty.

I've got flu. It is quite unsatisfactory.

Part IX - Lulu? C'est moi?!?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This one isn’t quite so funny, but it has a nice ring to it. Perhaps it has an internal contradiction that amuses me.

Lulu's Tody Tyrant, Poecilotriccus luluae

I nicked this picture from

Either way, Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant brings up images of a little Scottish one-trick-pony and some beardy bloke from Neighbours all mixed together in a hellish concoction to rule underworld barbies with extreme prejudice. Mate. Well, to me anyway.

I’m not entirely sure which Lulu it was named after (and don’t have the Who’s Bird book to hand as I type) but that was never really the point of these frivolous entries.

As the average reader of this humble blog is unlikely to be familiar with Peruvian foothills, I’ll give you some background to the bird.

It was discovered (or perhaps more accurately separated) in 2000 by Ned K Johnson and Robert E Jones (nice work guys). The paper detailing all this was published in The Auk in 2001. The paper is freely available online, as is much of the output of this esteemed organ (google for ‘Searchable Ornithological Research Archive’ – it is a cracking resource).

This distribution map is in the paper.

Maps are cool.

Postscript. I'm led to believe that in 2008 Ned K Johnson died, and the species is subsequently assuming the name Johnson's Tody Tyrant. Which although worthy, is not amusing in the slightest.

Where is this in your schedule?

Friday, June 12, 2009

So Springwatch is over. A show that infuriates and delights in equal measure. Packham has been great but that bloody Humble woman, her coprophilia and her personification, is incredibly annoying (but I suppose the robin-strokers need a figurehead...). However, it has to be forgiven all of this for the excellent work it does in bringing the natural world to the wider public. It's not aimed at me (and I dare say a fair few of you, dear readers) so my quibbles are irrelevant really. But I do have one point to raise.

Schedule one breeding species.
Now if I were to post information on some Little Ringed Plovers on the London Birders wiki in the breeding season I would get a slap (electronically of course, an e-slap perhaps) and the info would be taken down. If I were to just wander up to a nest of LRP's I would be breaking the law. The springwatch presenters are shown just wandering up to a new nest to have a look and show us the eggs in the nest, with the caveat that 'we only popped in - no harm was done'.

And it is at this point that they should have said that you - the general public - shouldn't be doing it. They've missed a trick, and really should have spelled it out. As with the Goshawks, the Chough, Marsh Harrier, Merlin etc.

Tsk tsk.

A Little Ringed Plover doing standing. On one leg.

How to beat the tube strike

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eight miles. Two hours. Average speed 4mph. Not good.

Rather than listen to the traffic reports, which were basically bad mixed with very bad and an extra portion of bad thrown in, and sit there in a state of frustration and ire I turned the experience on it's head - turned the radio off, flicked a finger at fate and the RMT and turned the journey into a Bird Race! That's right kids - how many species can I see in the eight mile slog around west London's leafy suburbs? For those with an ornithological bent, it was basically one loooong transect.

And guess what? It didn't half make the journey more pleasurable. I started to look at specific habitat to try and pick up specific species and found myself trying to predict what I was going to see next as certain areas came into view.

I've got a green in about half a mile, might pick up a Pied Wag, got Blackbird, maybe a Mistle Thrush? Seen them round here before. Ok bridge - check the water! Greeeeeebe! etc

I had a couple of unexpecteds, and missed a few that I hoped for - never in my life have I looked so hard for a Blue Tit - and been so disappointed to not find one.

For the record here's the list.



Wren - heard

Carrion Crow

Robin - heard

Herring Gull

Greenfinch - heard

Ring Necked Parakeet


Blackcap - singing (nice tick)




Coot (there had to be really)

Canada Goose

Feral Pigeon


Pied Wagtail

House Sparrow

Wood Pigeon


Great Tit


Grey Heron

Great Crested Grebe

Mute Swan


I didn't get the expected Blue Tit, Song or Mistle Thrush, Collared Dove, Dunnock or Goldfinch.

As the strike continues tonight, I shall take the same route and try and beat this score but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather get home in good time and not have time to look at the birds.

Ok, I lied about the Crossbill.

Nice, huh?

Koi bhi. Kabhi bhi. Banale!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Three species of note in the last day or two.

A scruffy male Sparrowhawk on Monday lunchtime.

A Collared Dove (the second this year) on Monday lunchtime.

A singing Blackcap yesterday morning - result!

And thats all I have for you right now, the gits are coming to audit my ass this morning so I'd better crack on.

A lorry doing funny shit

Territorial boundaries and brood protection in an urban Coot (Fulica atra) population

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Fancy title, exciting post - honest.

It’s been a while dear reader, so let’s have some more behavioural observations of Coots! These shots are taken from a local park, which is bisected by the elevated M4 and is also under the flight path to Heathrow, but it’s nice enough. It ticks the small local park boxes and is enjoyable. And it is popular with rats. Lots of them. Hopping about in the daylight without a care in the world, getting fat on the discarded bread that is left out for the ducks. And the pigeons. And the Geese. And the Coots!

A Coot doing standing.

The behavioural observation is thus. On the small body of water (a good size pond really) there are breeding Mallard, Canada Geese and Coots. There are also regular Tufties and Pochard with the occasional Mandarin and Moorhen. There are three pairs of Coots, all seem to be breeding ok and their broods are at totally different stages of development. One is still on the nest, one has well grown but not independent young and the third has some fresh hatchlings.

A coot being a fledgeling.

Now when the humans come along and feed the birds, there is a fair bit of competition and the pecking order is in place, getting quite forceful at times, with the Canada Geese at the top of the order pecking anything that comes close to them including ducklings which suffer the most. The goslings and ducklings are brought into this melee to almost fend for themselves.

Two Coots doing agression

The coots however are much more diligent. The three pairs have reasonably well defined territories, which the adults meet at the edges of and have a bloody good scrap from time to time (well, they are Coots) but the young stay in the respective territory, away from the big food fight and away from any mental rival Coots. Which could drown them. The parents join in the food fight, but only for long enough to grab some food and then swim back to the respective territory to dispense the food before returning to the aforementioned melee. Thus they swim out to the pond, feed young, swim back, get food, swim off, feed young, etc etc. Mrs Thing was particularly taken by this persistence, and not surprisingly either.

The Coots on the Wandle may have been labelled as retards, but this bunch are far from it.

A Coot doing floating.

Hunting tygers in old Indyah

Monday, June 08, 2009

Friday lunchtime I went for a wander over to see what the toffs were up to. And it wasn't much. The grandstands were empty, and there seemed to be more security than pimms quaffing punters. I noted that there was a Ring-necked Parakeet nearby, and then out of the blue I heard a bloody Peacock. A peacock, in Fulham. What with the Polo round the corner, the trees filled with parakeets and Peacocks crying out from the lawns it was like being back in the Raj, what?

I haven't heard a peacock round here before so I have to assume that it has been hired for the event. How do you go about hiring a bloody peacock? Anyway, the RNP came quite close, and I cracked off a couple of shots (note that my photography is little better when the camera is not stuck on the end of high powered optics).

Now dear reader, if you are sitting in a more northerly section of blighty (regardless of whether or not you have a new BNP MEP - eek!), you may not see these parakeets very often (if at all) and sometimes people do come to the big smoke to see them.

Let it be known that they are noisy, distinctive in flight and an absolute arse to see when they sit in a tree.

Parakeet doing camouflage

Culling in the name of...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I thought it might be worth noting a slightly sinister occurrence related to this blog regarding Ruddy Ducks.

On the stat counter yesterday there was a visitor from the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) in York (hi!), who had arrived on the blog via a google search for ‘Ruddy Duck sightings UK – June 2009’.

Some of you may know the significance of this information, but for those that don’t I’ll summarise (and it may help explain the ‘humour’ behind the previous post). It has been decided that the population of non-native Ruddy Ducks in the UK are likely to interbreed with the White Headed Ducks in Spain which are vulnerable, so they (RD) must be eliminated. At a cost of around £5m. The CSL are allied with Defra in the cull (and I think that they may be the ones with the guns). Now there are many arguments for and against all this culling and in the Surrey and London groups there has been a bit of a bun fight, but my info is intended to be presented neutrally.

A simple search on the interweb can find postings of where people are finding Ruddy Ducks and obviously the CSL are using birders’ information which is being presented innocently (and perhaps naively) as a means of aiming the guns in the ‘right’ place.

In a circular way, my point is this. If you want them culled, keep posting the sightings. If you don’t, keep your mouth shut.

Upper class twit of the year revisited

Friday, June 05, 2009

This weekend, in the northern edge of my patch there will be a polo tournament.

Yep, that's right readers. A full blown 'high octane' polo tournament with ponies, pimms and toffs.

A little background. Hurlingham Park is a public park that had a running track on it and was popular with dog walkers, joggers and children. It is rubbish for birds because of this.

It was the venue for the Monty Python sketch Upper Class Twit Of The Year.

Next to Hurlingham Park is the Hurlingham Club which is pretty exclusive (the waiting list is about 15 years) and already has polo facilities and tennis and all that stuff. It also has the best collection of trees in the north side of the patch, and I can't get to it. It is where my recent Blackcap and singing Chiffchaff were.

Somebody thought that it was a good idea to rip up the running track, and put a new polo pitch in and sell it initially as being good for inner city kids (I shit you not) including the local councillor. Fool. Encouraging kids to play polo (especially from some of the estates round here) rather than running other such, slightly cheaper, sports is facile in the extreme.

They have kindly put a picture on their website of part of the patch, which I have of course stolen for your delectation.

The green patch in the middle is where there was once facilities for commoners, but is no more.

What all this has to do with a birding blog, I'm not entirely sure. The particular piece of land could barely gather in a blackbird in the winter never mind any other winter Thrushes and in the summer it's good for feral pigeons so it's not like I've lost good habitat or birds.

I just think it's daft, and a little apposite and amusing that the upper class twits have returned to the park.

Hey kids! Wasn't that fun?

Friday, June 05, 2009

What an amazing response guys! I can only thank every one that took part, it's your participation that makes these things worth it! So thanks again!

Without further ado lets get the results!

The phone lines are closed, the results have been independently checked and verified and I can declare that the winner of the Mystery Headless Bird Competition is.......




Remember kids, you've got to be in it to win it!

Bar-headed Goose - tick it if you dare...

Scraping the barrel

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The patch is quiet at the moment.

Very, very quiet. There is very little to report. The interesting singers have stopped singing, or gone away. There are some increased numbers of Egyptian Geese and Canada Geese. There are gulls.
So let's liven things up with a Mystery Headless Bird Guessing Competition! (I know, I'm really scraping the barrel for post ideas, but there you have it - guess or don't guess - who cares?!?!)
This was seen recently in an 'apparently wild state' and, of course, stunningly digiscopered.

No, not the Canada goose.

No, not the tyre.

If someone, anyone, guesses correctly - I'll post a picture of it's head!! How exciting is this kids?

Answers on postcard to the usual address! The only prize is kudos...

Part VIII - an open letter to William John Swainson

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Dear Mr Swainson,

I write to you more in sorrow than anger as it has come to my attention that when naming one of my ancestors in 1827 you were perhaps a little hasty in applying a familial monicker. This has lead to many uncomfortable moments through the family history, for which I feel I must take issue.

Although I am sure that your intentions were well meant, and I understand that English is littered with homonyms, there are words that generally bring only one image to one's mind, and your choice is one of these unfortunate instances.

Yes, I accept that the Old English origins may have allusions to the morning star (which would have been much more apposite) and it can literally mean ‘light-bearing’ (this also would have been much more preferable) but why oh why oh why did you have to name him Lucifer’s Hummingbird? Lucifer?

Could you not have forseen the damage this would do? How would you like it if you went through childhood with the nickname of 'el diablo' or 'archfiend'. Can you imagine the distress? We would have been quite happy being named like your thrush, or your toucan or the warbler or the bloody hawk, but no! You named us after the Devil. It's not like we look like members of the Satanic horde do we, we're bloody Hummingbirds! We are pretty and sparkly and quite un-satan like.

Yeah nice one. Really well done. Cheers.

Yours in metaphorical hell,

Calothorax Lucifer

A Coot and a cucumber

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Here we are again. By my reckoning this is the third attempt at nesting in the shopping trolley this year. And again, the level of the nest is too low. However, today's interesting piece of detritus is a cucumber. No, really - a full size, cling film wrapped ready to eat cucumber.

Naturally, the first thing you do with a cucumber when you decide that you don't want it, or that you don't like them any more is to chuck it in the nearest water course. Dear reader, I struggle to understand why people do this.

Anyway, the high quality, high definition image below shows the gourd in situ, to the right of the bird.

You may as well have a couple of stunning Digimonoculared™ snaps of a Heron in the Wandle too. It found a lot of something small when I was watching it. Fish fry? Mitten Crabs? Shrimp?

You ain't seen me, right?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Clocked this at the weekend.

High quality digiscoped image

Now I could tell you where I saw it dear reader, and the more astute among you may be able to guess where I saw it, but if I were to tell you of its whereabouts there could be big shiny trouble.

The dark forces of Defra could be unleashed in the guise of Cull In The Community. The big shiny Defra boats, with the big shiny cullers and their big shiny guns could come and put a big shiny bullet in the birds Ruddy head!

No, I shall not tell where it was. Nor shall I tell where the female was.

This renegade Oxyura can live to dive another day as far as I'm concerned. The secret is safe with me.

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