Half decent gull pics

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Enforced lateness at work, so I've farted about with some gull pics from yesterday lunchtime. Some are even half decent. Note that some have rings on which I didn't see until the photos were looked at.

Stunning scenery

Friday, February 27, 2009

Despite the weather dude on the Today programme telling me (specifically) that there would be sun yesterday it failed to materialise. Dull, windy, cold and very little in the way of birds beyond the regular gulls and ducks. I did however manage to locate a Chiffchaff, which was on it's own (not with it's Goldcrest mates) and didn't make a sound. Subsequently there was little that would stay still long enough to take a rubbish picture of.

Apart from a Coot in and industrial type juxtaposition. Which was so bad, it's not worth posting, but got me thinking...

Many of my fellow bloggowebbers are able to put up lovely photos of scenery of outstanding beauty which provoke much envy ( example), so I thought I would give the equivalent for my humble little patch.

Beautiful eh? Especially the symmetry in the way two species of Crane are standing. Notice how the buds on the trees in the background are just popping through...
Late on, same time same place but a 50% increase in Geese.
And that dear reader, was yesterday.
Today, the sun is shining and I'm off out. Right now.

Old school field craft

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring hasn’t sprung, but it’s starting to make the avifauna get ready.

Great Crested Grebes are rid of their boring winter visage, and are hanging out together with some tentative weed offerings. Magpies are starting to investigate last years nest site, Grey Wagtails knocking about in a pair. Mute Swan also investigating a nest site (but one doesn’t look old enough to breed yet). Mallards, Gadwall and Tufties are all going in for a bit of head bobbing (but the Gadwall will leave soon). Black Headed Gulls are nearly all sporting summer caps (which means that they will start to disappear soon). Greenfinches are more vocal, as well as the Dunnocks (a long walk can find at least 4 singing males). Yesterday I managed to find two Goldcrests knocking about together (the Chiffchaff was hanging about in this kind of company but I haven’t seen it for a while). I managed to get a recognisable picture of one of them after what can only be described as old fashioned fieldcraft. Or stalking as it would probably be called in these enlightened times. No fancy kit, no pagers, no twittering, no nothing. Just watching, waiting and moving reeeeaaaaaal slow. Oh yeah, baby.

I was actually trying to relocate the Kingfisher that flew past me on Monday, but to no avail. Somehow this image appeared in my camera.

I think it might be a Great Tit, or a Blue Tit, or it may not even be a bird. I haven't got a bloody clue. But after all the stunning photography I have offered in the last couple of posts, I thought I would get back to my normal standards. The more I look at this pic, the more it amuses me. And I'm not entirely sure why.
While checking out the Starling roost late on (I hope to post more about this in time), some (20) Greylag Geese flew over. Which was nice.

Here's aluco-ing at you kid!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Piss poor pun, but I care not. Took Mrs Thing to the Tawny Owls in Hyde Park on Saturday (technically a twitch I suppose, but I'm not counting it as such). The info was about on londonbirders for a while and it seemed like this was the best time to go and see them. Birdguides had been there earlier in the week (see the blogolinkthingy on the right) so this does just kind of duplicate the info there, but with more idiosyncratic and gratuitous swearing.

Fuck my boots they were fucking ace!

See what I mean? Fucking ace!

There was quite a fuss about them, understandably and we showed a couple of tourists the young 'uns through the scope and I even showed them to some kids (and I generally hate kids). This involved taking a tripod and scope that are set up for someone that is 6'2" down to about 3 foot nothing. Gave them all a look (you never know what little spark may encourage them on) and moved off, with not so much as a thank you from their bloody mother. Yeah, cheers.
I'm assuming that this is a second brood? Or do they always nest late? All my books say laying in March, a month on the eggs, 4-5 weeks in the nest hole, and then the same again before they leave, meaning that the huge rat population can justify two broods. Dunno.
And then there was this madcrazy looking bloke who was looking for the second adult, and asked (in an overly posh voice) if the mother had been seen. In response to a question from Mrs Thing he was heard to say "I've been coming to these Isles for three yaahz". Which promoted much quizzical thinking - we've been here a lot longer than three years mate, but what has that go to do with the barring on a Tawny Owl?
Owls, he actually said Owls, not Isles. I've never heard it pronounced like that before! How we hooted with laughter (geddit?). He's probably some totally famous gentleman Ornithologist, or he is just mad.
There was a nice birder bloke called Nick there too, who seemed equally blown away.
They really are a piss easy, and absofuckinlutely top way to spend a couple of hours.
And we didn't find the Med Gull by the round pond, and honestly couldn't have given a shit.

Peidiwch a bwyda'r adar

Friday, February 20, 2009

I had the (mis)fortune of having to go to Cardiff yesterday for work, and had hoped to spend my lunch hour staring at the sea. Unfortunately the job went a bit tits up, and all I had time for was some chips at Cardiff bay, and guess what? My lunch break consisted of pretty much what I would have done had I been in London anyway, watching the local gulls! Of course the Black-heads where the dominant species, but the LBB were much more confident and supremely photogenic (although you might not guess it from this offering) and there are more Common Gulls in London. This is not a science fact readers, just a bit of Counting Coots guestimationology ™. One of the first things that I did notice was the 'accent' of the Starlings that were making noises by the car park. Their introductory syllable or two from their song was remarkably different from the London birds (I haven't noticed much of a difference in Starlings when in Norfolk, but Chaffinches are noticeably different there).

Naturally, where I go, Coots follow.

On the journey there, the weather was a bit shitty for birding and driving, but I did see a bedraggled Red Kite on a tree just outside Cardiff (year tick). The journey back was more productive with some cracking views of Buzzards on fence posts and a Little Egret in a field on the Welsh side of the Severn Bridge (year tick). So it was not all bad.

So after stuffing a load of chips in my face (by the way, the service in the chip shop was so unbearably fucking slow it was driving me mad with frustration - I think that might just be from becoming far too 'London' - and the chips I had in Torquay a couple of weeks ago were so much better) I threw the remains to the gulls, took some rubbish pictures and wandered back to the vehicle....

...where I passed this....

...and it was too late.

Breakin' the law - breakin' the law!

Another funny looking gull

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Went to the much neglected (well by me anyway) north bank today, and after pishing a couple of long-tailed tits to close quarters I prepared to sift through the gulls (yeah I know it only leads to trouble). In the distance I could see a largish gull that looked decidedly ‘white winged’ so checked it out through the optics, to see that yes it was white winged but only one of them! Some strange semi-albino nonsense going on?

The shoddy pics are here…

I presume it's a Herring Gull but it ain't half funny lookin'...

oop-oop-oop. oop-oop-oop.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mrs Thing and I took a trip to the Natural History Museum on Saturday and it was bloody brilliant. Mostly.

The thing that stayed with me the most was that the Dodo was fucking huge! Huge! No shit - it's no wonder this bird went in the pot - it was made for it. All these years, I havent actually thought about the size of it - so often it appears in books and is usually described as being related to a pigeon but being larger - but I had no idea that it was over 3 foot tall! The beak on it was enormous - if this bird actually had any aggressive tendencies, it would have ripped sailors' arses off with one peck if they came close. But it didn't. So the rest is history. Literally.

The rest of the bird room was on the one hand fascinating, and utter, utter shite. The amount of birds on display was great, and some of the more outlandish species was interesting, but many of the stuffed birds are a long way from realistic plumage, and some of them are just plain manky.

If you happen to go one day, and the Darwin exhibition is sold out (as it was on Saturday), I assume that you will take a bee(eater?)line for the bird room. If you do, check out the Spoonbill. It has turned into a horrible bug eyed freak that resembles only vaguely the gorgeous bird that you see in the field. If I happened to see such a freako-monster in the field, I'd feel guilty at looking at it. Just one example of many.

However, in the same case as the mangy spoonbill, there was a Hoopoe and I showed it to Mrs Thing and gave a little advance notice, that should an easy one hang around this year, we would be off to see it in a trice and it was greeted with a suprised "We get them? Here?". Cracking, so we left the room and headed off to see the blue whale while I did my fantastic, and stunningly realistic Hoopoe impression...

Part IV - What a mouthful

Saturday, February 14, 2009

So this naturalist dude goes to New Guinea just after the fin de siecle and for his troubles gets a bird named after him.

Nice one, says he.

Stupid, say we.

Moszkowski Green Winged King Parrot

Alsterus chloroptes moszkowski

Unsure and inconsistent

Friday, February 13, 2009

Inconveniently, work has managed to get in the way of my daily sojourns over the last few days, so there is little to report - but I feel that have a duty to you, dear reader, to let you know that I have not perished in a bizarre accident while leaning over the Thames to try and ensure that every gull I see is not a Kittiwake.

Of course, with gulls providing much of the interest on the river, I have to ensure that each group of Black-heads and Commons is scanned fully to ensure that I have not missed the chance of a Med or Ring-billed or for that matter a Little or Bonapartes (fat chance of that!). Yesterday there was a good shout for a Yellow Legged, but as it became distant and stationary almost immediately, I couldnt know for sure, so it will remain in the 'probably wasn't' pile. Other than that, the Linnets are still knocking about, a fair few Tufties are scattered over the area and a pair of pintail flew away from the river yesterday.

Obviously the sensible blogthing to do is supply a picture of a gull. So here are some swans from earlier today.

What else have I missed?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Loads by the sound of it....

The full Snipe count at Brent Res on Sunday was 53, pissing all over my paltry 16. There was also a couple of roosting Tawny Owls. Balls.

There were over 90 Fieldfare at two different parks close to where I was. Balls. And more Redwings too. 90 Fieldfare is brilliant!

Worst of all, on Friday, a Kittiwake was reported over the river by the Wetland centre rising and flying east. And where is east of the Wetland Centre? Fucking Fulham! - that's where! A Kittiwake flying past here would have sent me into some sort of bloody biblical rapture, but no - it didn't fly past me! No, I shall just be happy that there are plenty of Black-headed Gulls to watch. Bastard.

On a lighter note, after chasing them round the sky while they performed successive circular and silent loops, I did find 9 Linnets at lunchtime which I was particularly pleased with.

Was I the year tick?

Monday, February 09, 2009

On the way to the shop on Saturday morning, in a set of playing fields in Greenford, I thought it best to stop and check out the thrushes that were milling about, and found 39 Redwing, 12 Fieldfares, a Mistle Thrush and 3 Goldfinches on the ground too. Highest counts I've had round here by a long long way. My previous best for Redwing was 2 when I did a TTV on Ealing Common so this was a great find.

Froze my tits off in the garden on Sunday morning, but did manage to get a year tick when a Green Woodpecker piped up after a while. Other than that, Chaffinches are singing, the pair of Dunnocks are still knocking about, but I reckon that the local Wren has croaked in the harsh weather as over the course of an hour and a half, I heard or saw nothing. I have, however, worked out exactly where the boundary of the two Robin territories are - and they are split straight down the middle of the garden. This photo shows the males fronting up a bit. Too early in the year I guess for a full blown scrap - but they are starting to make themselves known to each other.

I've also put on a (rubbish) pic of a Parakeet that was one of a really bloody noisy group, but then they are not renowned for being a quiet species. Wake the neighbours up lads! Perhaps this one was looking for a nest site??

Sunday afternoon brought a trip to the Brent Reservoir in the glorious sunshine. We walked past a couple of walker toff peoples and the man responded by seeing me all decked out in the finest german optics and italian aluminium by asking the question "Did you see the bird watcher" as if I were the quarry of their investigations. Did I conform to the picture in their human nature of the city field guide? Subspecies perhaps? Quite strange.

Lots of ducks, Shovelers looking great in the sun, plenty of Pochard, Teal and Gadwall, and in the distance I found over a dozen Snipe. Which is a patch, year and London tick and thus quite satisfactory, unlike this piss poor digiscoping effort.

More daftness

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A little weekend treat – the third in the series of mental bird names courtesy of Bo Boelens.

Today we have….

Diggles’ Chocolate Parson Finch
Poephila cinca nigratecta

The person that actually put pen to paper must have known that they were creating a monster, no?

Ungrateful sod!

Friday, February 06, 2009

I get all togged up for a stomp in the freezing bloody cold, and take some bread with me. Start chucking it around, and the gulls and crows get on it. The gulls are a little reticent as there is not much foreshore, so the crows get stuck in en masse. After all the food was gone, all the crows calmed down and the gulls sat in the water, and what did I get in the way of thanks? I got shat on by a crow.


Do you remember the cracking little book from yesteryear dear reader - “What bird did that?”, well I have no need to refer to it at all as the culprit was sitting in the tree, having relieved itself with ease.

So, I grumpily went on my way, noting that the crows did seem to be aggressive towards everything today – chasing each other, Magpies, Starlings and even LBB’s in flight to get a bit of food so the snow must be biting a bit. Found another away from the scene of the crime which was a bit animated, and it was hassling a Sparrowhawk – probably a male. Patch year tick, taking me to the heady heights of 46!

Early Chiffchaff

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Found a Chiffchaff on the North Bank this morning. Was checking out some ducks flying over (Mallard of course) when an LBJ flew across the river and landed in a Buddleia. Tried to get some photos, but due to the light conditions and the rain (note - rain - not snow) I just ended up with some dark shots of a dead bush. With a Chiffchaff shaped smudge in the middle. Even by my standards they are utter shite.

Bizarrely, a Hoopoe was reported in Frensham yesterday (via Surrey Birders). WTF? A Hoopoe in the middle of winter - how lost must that bird be?

Counted Coots

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Coot numbers well up today. Normally on the Wandle there are 6 – that are largely in the territories that were observed last year. But today there were 5 more on the Thames, which is very unusual and my guess is that they are strays that have come in due to the harsh weather. There are, admittedly, more that hang around closer to the park, but these five were a half a mile away and seemed out of place. One of them was ‘clicking’ quite a bit, which is unlike the residents. They may have tried to get onto the quieter waters of the Wandle at some point, but the resident pairs are such a bolshy and stroppy lot that they would have sent them packing quickly. That or they got weirded out by hanging around the horny Gadwalls.

Anyhow, this kind of brings me to explaining the naming of this blog. Last summer, by far the most interesting thing that was happening once the breeding season kicked in was the machinations of the local Coot population. The most interesting were a pair that kept nesting in the same place on the Wandle and kept getting washed out. Although I hate myself for a slip into personification, I casually called them the shopping trolley Coots, as their nest site was literally on an upturned shopping trolley that was stuck in the river, and the resulting detritus that had caught up in it (including a ski). They produced at least three clutches that were methodically destroyed by the highest of the tides. This was repeated on a smaller scale by another pair that hold a territory below the weir, so the tidal nature of their site is the same as the Thames, but when the tide fell they began nest building and sitting on what they could get together over the course of a few hours before it got washed away. And this happened day after day after day… The third pair just fight with everything. Including a wonderfully entertaining lunchtime when it all kicked off …

The whole situation got me thinking about how good or bad a memory the birds have and whether they have any ‘understanding’ of how tides work – against the drive that they have to reproduce. These questions have yet to be answered fully, and I’m looking forward to the spring and summer to start watching this half dozen mental birds to see what they are up to again. So there, Counting Coots explained, kind of.

Almost predictably, a picture of the nest site from last year...

Red letter day!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Not a bad haul this lunchtime. Pretty much started off by bumping into another birder! Blummenell! Turns out that she’s being walking the path since the seventies, and can remember a time when she would get excited by seeing a Cormorant!

Anyhow, she carried on to Barnes and I stopped at Wandsworth Park and for a while it was wildfowl dominating the place. About 50 Tufties knocking about, a couple of drake Pintail and the usual Mallard. Sneaking about amongst them was a full blown Aylesbury Duck (just the sort that goes in the pot – yummy!) and a mutant Goose that I have seen a couple times before – it looks like a cross between a Canada and White-fronted. I was checking out a couple of Greylags when eight more flew in, and just before I left the riverbank eight Canada Geese flew over! Before leaving the park altogether, I cast an eye over the Thrushes that were feeding on the grass where the snow was thawing – Blackbird, a couple of Mistle Thrushes and a Redwing! Not just a year tick but a bloody patch tick! Here are some rubbish pics of the little beauty!

Did you hear that?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Peace and quiet - exceptional for here

No planes
No helicopters
No cranes
No lorries
No waste plant
No cement plant
No builders merchants
No flat building
No diggers
No pile drivers
No noise!

An hours lunch in the snow (no fairweather patchbirder am I readers!) and I ended up with over a dozen Tufties, a couple of Gadwall, Coots, Moorhens and the usual regulars. Eventually I found a little flock of finches - there were a couple of Chaffinches and about half a dozen Linnets! A result methinks, first of the winter and obviously a year tick for the patch. All in driving snow, and sub zero wind chill. Proper bloody birding.

As I didnt get a picture of the Linnets, have one of a Coot in the snow.

Why all the fuss?

Monday, February 02, 2009

The blogoweb is obviously going to be full of people going apeshit because there has been a bit of snow and London has come to a standstill. Obviously, being totally hardcore, I made it to work.

Currently the tide is falling, exposing the foreshore, so for most of the birds it makes no difference what trouble the humans are having.

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