second annual singalong

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sitting on park bench, eyeing feral pigeons with bad intent.  I had the optics focused in the distance, again watching a distant buteo morph into an immature Herring Gull for the umpteenth time that day when something seemed to be flying near them that was neither buteo nor larid.  A little further focusing and I was seeing something unfamiliar, but somehow I knew what it was.  What they were.  Because there were four of them, and they were Swifts.  They are back.  The bestest of the best birds.  So lets reprise the joyous sound of the song that I sang last year - I'm sure you know the words...

All together now!

Oooooooh, the fucking swifts are back,

The fucking swifts are back,


The fucking swifts are back!


Oh,  the fucking swifts are back,

The fucking swifts are back,


The fucking swifts are back!

United! United! United! United!
I like Swifts.

A Moorhen doing walking on water.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Now that spring migrancy is in full swing (a solitary swallow last week is migrancy with all guns blazing round here) and I have actually managed to get into the patch, I have seen birds.  Monday's visit was cut short because Jim turned up.  You don't know Jim, or need to know what he does, but he's bloody good at it and I needed to see him.  Hurumph.  Yesterday I did get a good look about, on a high tide.  There are at least 3 lots of Coots that look like they are trying to nest, other visible breeders include Magpie, Crow, Goldfinch, Parakeet and Blackbird.  Assumed breeders include Dunnock, Greenfinch, Mallard, Canada Goose, Tits, Wren etc etc

Strangely though, there are two birds remaining that really ought to be on their way.  They are winter birds as far as this patch is concerned and I look forward to their arrival during the late summer doldrums.  They precede the Pintail and outlast the Teal and are often overlooked.  I reckon that they are good looking ducks and the two Gadwall that I saw yesterday should have gone by now. Shouldn't they?

A coot doing prospecting for a new nest site no doubt

I was going to thank the people at blogger for putting a spellchecker back on the system, because although I can generally spell I tend not to check.   But then they've gone and screwed the photo uploading system.  Something that was simple and worked is now all linked into to picasa ffs.  Thanks a bloody bunch.

trolley dolly

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Those that have been watching the progress of the shopping trolley Coots over time will know that as the nesting season progresses, the nest slowly gets taller until they reach such a point that they are in a position to perhaps attain success.  When I went to see them yesterday, I watched their futile nest saving attempts when the water was almost at the high tide mark, and could see it in action. 

A nest doing wet, with a nice polystyrene cup

While they are at high water, the bird that is sitting on the nest (presumably the female) stays in situ whilst the other bird (presumably the male) frantically collects more material from the surrounding water course and takes it to the bird on the nest.  The bird on the nest takes these offerings and adds it to the structure of the nest.  The behaviour that the incumbent bird carries out can be seen in Swans, Geese and Ducks in a normal nesting situation (and perhaps any bird) - if they can reach something that is suitable for nest material without leaving the nest, it goes in.  As the water is rising, and to an extent the bird begins to float, it will use the fresh material to fill the gap that is underneath it and slowly increase the overall height of the nest.  Simple really. 

Obviously, while this is going on they are trying to protect the eggs, but cannot. Remember that the nest got so big last year that before the eggs could hatch out the whole thing detached itself from the moorings and floated off but if they continue like this and get lucky it might turn out ok.

Elsewher on the Wandle yesterday I noticed another pair of Coots running around with nesting material, in a tidal area.  Great.

Coots doing nesting handover behaviour

all work and no play...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

...makes jack a dull boy.

Just to close off the excitement regarding the lack of planes and nice blue sky, here is the same bit of sky that I posted last week.

With no volcano related restrictions.

a sky doing spot the difference.

fulham joins in migration tick frenzy

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

That's right kids, a migrant in the patch....

There I was, standing outside, discussing the merits of goalkeepers that play for north London Premier League teams, when a bird flew past, beyond and behind  the head of one of the people I was talking to (as I was not having the discussion on my own).  It was a Swallow.  Hurrah!

I managed to conceal my glee, make an erudite observation regarding Gomez and still take the year tick (58 for the year).


A non-migrant not flying past.

a louder alauda

Monday, April 19, 2010

Continuing on the theme of the continuation of nothing, I was by Heathrow Airport yesterday and stopped along the South Perimeter Road.  Normally this would be very noisy and full of the business of the taking of and landing of ruddy great planes.  Not yesterday, as only the most hermit-like would not know. 

I could hear something though, way up in the sky, too high to see - a Skylark.  Singing it's head off, and probably being heard for the first time. 

A sunset doing all ashed up by Eyjafjallajoekull

noth·ing - [nuhth-ing]

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Absolutely nothing. By definition, an absence of anything. In the sky. Apart from sky.

It’s all a bit strange. Even on the clearest summer days in this city there is always something man made in the sky, or the evidence of something manmade having been there. Even first thing in the morning there is always a contrail somewhere, but today there is nothing. A cloudless clear blue sky. Soak it up over the weekend, because you might not see the sky like our forefathers did again.

In 1821 when this volcano was last eruptive, it was busy for two years. So I might be a bit premature. This could be something we see over and over again, and if that is the case the implications will be way beyond cancelled flights.

Check the picture.  There are birds in it.  Quite large ones to, but absolutely nothing else.

The sky doing nothing.  Almost.

eyjafjallajoekull and the patch

Friday, April 16, 2010

Living in London can be a bit noisy, what with all the planes flying over and all that.  The patch is on one of the flight lines to Heathrow, which means that there is almost always a large plane flying over or about to fly over.  Noisily.  This means that apart from the disproportionately loud song of the local Wrens, you cannot hear a bird singing unless it is sitting on your head.  Many of you will know that due to the ashen belching of the splendidly named Eyjafjallajoekull there are no planes flying over.  At all.  With this in mind, I took up a vantage point on the river bank yesterday to listen for distant song (hoping for a Blackcap again) and to see if the lack of air traffic would increase the amount of raptor activity from zero to one. 


Why I continue to think that the patch will produce like this, I don't know.  But it is what you do as a patch birder.  Hope, dream, expect.  My raptor watch produced nearby Gulls, Crows and Cormorants.  Pigeons too.  The hardcore skywatching produced distant Gulls, Crows and Cormorants.  Pigeons too.

A bit like this.


As I write, the latest news is that there are no planes flying until this evening at the earliest, so it will be quiet again.  But I shall not adapt my activity today, and just go for a normal frustrating day in the patch rather than a different frustrating day in the patch.

Finally, if you are in London, take a look into the sky today.  When was the last time you looked up and didn't see a contrail?

The sky at night containing ash from Eyjafjallajoekull supposedly.

a blogging milestone

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maybe that's over-egging it a bit.  Maybe a mile-pebble.  Or a yard-stone.  I'll explain in a bit.  Firstly, birds...

Like many other London birders yesterday I was hoping for some migrant action yesterday.  Specifically I was hoping for a singing Blackcap and possibly a hirundine.  I failed miserably on both as you might have expected.  There was a brief and excellent view of a male Sparrowhawk which may well be nesting in the same place as last year as the female has been seen intermittently too.  Other than that there was a Black-headed Gull.  Just the one.  And just the once.   The numbers have been steadily going down and now all I am left with is the stragglers.  Of course when the gulls leave the patch for the summer they are replaced by...well nothing actually.  I just lose about 60-70% of the physical numbers of birds which can be annoying when the remainder are in trees or are Coots. 

Believe it or not this is the 300th post on this blog, no honestly.  To mark this rather dubious milestone I've added some more birdy blog links on the birdy blog links on the birdy blog bit on the right.  It includes the excellent Tower 42 project, some patch birders local and not so, an Amurkn and Ray.  My mother thinks Ray is amusing.  I think he's a bit bonkers, in a nice way.  Feel free to make your own mind up...

Here is your utterly relevant picture.

A Heron doing in focus and sharp and perhaps even verging on a decent photo!

Normal service will resume shortly.

Ay up chuck!

Monday, April 12, 2010

An update on recent ornithological happenings that I have been witness to.

The Shopping Trolley Coots are on the third nest (as of Friday).

At a local park, there are more Pochards than last year, much courtship is going on.

Um, if I had ran a loo-list year list, it would now have Blackcap (h) on it.

Erm, I found a hole in a tree in a patch with a nesting Parakeet in it last week.

Errrrr, I have noticed this spring more than most the amount of birds that are feeding on the berries of Ivy and are still doing so in April.  I've seen some fierce competition between Blackbirds over bushes, obviously Wood Pigeons are stuffing down as many as they can but I've also seen Robins and Great Tits getting stuck in.  On Sunday however, there was a male Blackcap getting stuck in whilst the Blackbirds ignored it.  Strangely it constantly uttered it's alarm call - for those that don't know it is like two stones being hit together, perhaps even specifically rounded flints and a glancing blow chuck chuck chuck - and didn't seem to stop when feeding.  Nice, though, fresh from Africa.  Good bird.

Have a picture of a Wren instead.

A Wren doing digimonned by some thorns and water.

not what i hoped for...

Friday, April 09, 2010

...but it will do for now.

The first couple of vismigskywatchraptorwatching thingies of the year have predictably brought about nothing.  Not even an unidentified hirundine.  Just lots of looking around with the internal monologue following the predictable lines. 

Yep, Pigeon.
Is that a Pigeon? 
Funny looking Pigeon. 
Still a Pigeon.
Wood Pigeon. 
That Pigeon has got white wings.
Oh, a Cormorant. 
Whoa!  Bird right behind me! Oh, fat Wood Pigeon.

You get the idea.  However a brief stare at the sky this morning did bring a Jay flying across the river.  An unusual bird for here, but a yearly tick and the first for this year.

57 for the year.

Feel free to view the image captured yesterday evening.

Mandarin doing caught in the late evening sun.

new migrant stopover in fulham

Thursday, April 08, 2010

It is well documented that tired migrants will often use drilling platforms out at sea to rest on when on their migration, especially in more inclement weather.  It is well documented that I don't see many (or perhaps any) migrant birds in this patch.

Put these two facts together, and I reckon it could all change because of this...

That's right kids, someone has gone and stuck an oil rig in the middle of the Thames right by Wandsworth Bridge.  I shit you not.  Alright it might not be an oil rig, but to the layman it really really does look like one.  And it wasn't there yesterday. 

There is nobody on it.  It is just sitting there in all it's Mary Celeste like incongruous isolation doing nothing more than promoting questions amongst the commuters as they pass over the bridge.  They are generally along the lines of 'What the...?', moving towards 'How the...?' or at the extreme end of the imaginations 'Is this how the Pharoah is going to pay the debt off at Craven Cottage?.  I asked some nearby and busy looking cockney workmen if they knew anything about it, but they knew nothing either.

Intriguing for sure.  The reality is something to do with a super sewer. And it is going to be noisy.  Great.

Kept this goose interested though.

A Goose doing intrigued.

is it a loblolly?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

It’s a serious question, even though a little off topic for me.

I say it again - is this a Loblolly Pine? No, I hadn’t heard of a Loblolly Pine either, but now that I know that it exists it has automatically become my favourite tree in the entire world. Basic web identification of trees is a bit pants, and my tree book is in deep storage. Hence my throwing the question out to the blogwebonet...

A little context - I saw this tree in Norfolk, and it had these little bitty pine cones on them and they are pink – hot hot pink! And I was quite wowed by them, having never seen this before, despite living within 400 yards of the tree for a couple of years. That was a long time ago however and the tree may have been more immature than I was at the time. As usual, I have digressed. The question remains – is this a Loblolly Pine, and if it is not do you know what it is?

A tree doing loblolly.  Maybe

Something for the weekend

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Nest two update. 

Unsurprisingly, nest two is in the process of failing.  The way it normally works is this.  The Coots build a nest that is higher than the normal river level, but lower than the high tide level.  When the high tide comes along, the bird starts to float and the eggs start to move around in the nest cup.  There is then much frantic nest material insertion and egg moving.  The river is quite fast flowing when the tide is coming in and the eggs get dislodged from the nest completely by a combination of the above and get washed away.  Occasionally they get caught up in the base of the nest structure.

Like this.

An egg doing dislodged.

This was taken on Tuesday.  It is now Thursday (the observant amongst you will know this already), I didn't have a look on Wednesday (but did pick up a couple of late Teal - nice) and nor will I get over there today.  With the long weekend upon us I am unlikely to get to the nest site before Tuesday next week.  In that time I expect that nest two will have failed, been abandoned and the rebuild will have begun to create nest three.  Egg laying for this nest is fairly likely to be next week.  Maybe they will put some height in the next one.  Maybe they won't.  In the meantime, have a picture of a nest material handover situation.  You may or may not find this 'touching'.  I don't.

Happy days.

Coots doing nest material handover behaviour

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