So bad that it's good

Monday, November 30, 2009

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

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

Can you see it?

A species of bird doing jizz


Thursday, November 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

Or is it?

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

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

I’m more than happy with that.

Great Crested Grebes doing not insignificant.

And finally...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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

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

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

A Mallard doing proper manky

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

That was the question.

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

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

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

And that's about it. 

Science. Done.  Again

Pink Footed Geese doing loads.

Early morning Science

Thursday, November 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

Oh yeah, there was an Egyptian Goose too.

Science - done.

Wandsworth doing right early and everything.

Not a patch tick

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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

They were not.

A Mallard doing frustratingly commonplace

Experimental update

Monday, November 16, 2009

Approach site with apple already eaten.

Spot corvid flying towards deployment area.

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

See corvid turn in air.

Hear plopping sound.

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

Mumble profanity under ones breath.

See corvid fly off.

Arrive at rivers edge.

See apple floating towards sea.

Mumble profanity under ones breath.

Watch gulls instead of doing science.

A gull doing extreme close up

More crow and apple action

Friday, November 13, 2009

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

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


Crow takes apple.  Pecks at it. 

A crow about to do pecking.

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

A gull finds it.

A gull doing a bit fussy

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


Crow takes apple.  Pecks at it.

Looks for hiding place.

Flies off.

An apple doing neglected

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


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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

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

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

A Robin doing hiding.

'Interesting' Gull Behaviour

Thursday, November 05, 2009

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

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

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

Black Headed Gull doing Cattle Egret

Are you being sarcaaaastic?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Slightly off topic, but there you go.

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

Yes, even better than Fanny's Woodstar

I present to you the Sarcastic Fringe Head Neoclinus blanchardi.

A Blennoid doing sarcasm.

Patch tick

Monday, November 02, 2009

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

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

I have no dodgy photos of the above.

But I do have one of a gull.

A gull doing overexposed in parts.

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