Showing promise

Sunday, May 30, 2010

As well as the relative excitement regarding the GBB the other day, I did also manage to check out the Coots on the Wandle.

They are, of course, nesting.  And as predicted, the nest is getting higher (although a little narrower than previous efforts)  and there is a minutely small chance of success.

Check out this weeks offering.

A nest doing narrower than before.

a post regarding large birds

Friday, May 28, 2010

If a large bird is standing on the back of another large bird of the same species, and the large bird that is underneath the large bird doesn't turn round and get the large bird on top off of it, that's mating right?

Well these two large birds were seen doing the exact same thing on the barges by Wandsworth Park yesterday.

And I saw them doing other behaviour too.  Billing and cooing (cooing is stretching it a bit), and they were doing territory too.

A barge that a large bird decides is it's territory is largely clear of other large birds...

And a barge that a large bird decides is not it's territory is largely full of the other large birds...

Yes, it looks like the Great Black-backed Gulls are back and they are in the mood for some breeding. They made the effort the summer before last (in the year 1 BCC*) and raised a chick which didn't fledge.  However they were nowhere to be seen in 2009.  Great Black-backed Gulls rarely breed in London (and Surrey for that matter - the patch overlaps the boundaries - in a Venn diagram kinda way) so hopefully there will be some success this year.  I'll obviously keep y'all up to date inbetween inane postings about Coots and moths.

[* - Before Counting Coots]

do you care?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Birdlife, which was nice.  So I read it, and it turns out that it wasn't. 

For those that haven't recieved it or don't know what it's about, here it is, verbatim.

Dear Bird Blogger,

Today we announced that Alaotra Grebe is officially extinct on the Red List.

The Dodo is the undoubted ‘celebrity’ among extinct species with its depiction in books, cartoons and the well-used expression ‘Dead as a Dodo’. Less well known about the Dodo is that it heads up a group of single island flightless birds that became extinct either at the hands of man, or by the introduction of predators that came along with the arrival of people to their islands. More than 130 species of birds have become extinct since AD 1500, mostly because of human actions...

When BirdLife publicises news of threat or extinction the first question posed by the media will be: “Why should we care?”

We're asking you to tell us why species matter. Do you care?

Please encourage your website visitors to leave comments on this page:

To read the full story, click here:

Thank you for your support.

Nick Askew
Although many of us will not have heard of the Alaotra Grebe, it's extinction is symbolic not just because it is a bird.  Because it is a bird, it produces headline news and is treated with more significance but in the time that it has taken for this bird species to have been eradicated there have been hundreds if not thousands of other lifeforms that are gone.  Extinct.  For ever.  Extinction is a bit like pregnancy, you cannot be a bit pregnant, nor can you be a bit extinct.  For the Alaotra Grebe, that's it.  And we did it.  Shame on you.

Click on the links up there.  Read the story.  Put your name on the list.  Show, at the very least, that you care.

I find it a little ironic that less than a week after a scientist announces the creation of the first synthetic life form we have the announcement about extinction.  Would it not make more sense, on the whole, to try and keep hold of what we've got?

sexual dimorphism and catholic polyphages

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm still a bit old fashioned when it comes to identification.  I want to look in a book to find out what something is.  This means that I have lots of books about identification of birds (not that it means that I get it right of course) and when it comes to moths and butterflies the same applies.  The two moths that I proffered yesterday were not in my book, so I had to go to my percieved second option and ask someone else.  I could have done what Jonathon claims to have done and go to the UK Moths website and look through the pictures of all the species until I found the right one, and then wouldn't have bothered y'all with my little request.  The thing is that it never actually occured to me!  Not for one minute did I think that there may have been a valuable resource online that could help.  Not in a book, see.  So for those that are still interested...

Image 1 was a Bee Moth Aphomia sociella and it is common.  Bee Moths are sexually dimorphic, and this was a female.  They are, of course, common.

Image 2 was a Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana. UK Moths says the following about it...

This originally Australian species was probably accidentally introduced into Cornwall in the 1930's and since then has spread quickly northwards, and is now regular in many parts, and very common in some areas [of course - Ed.].

A pest species in Australian orchards, it is one of the most catholic polyphages in Britain, and should be considered as a possibility when identifying larvae off any plant.
It flies in two generations between May and October.
So there. 

For the sake having a picture - here is another moth.  It is called a Grey Dagger.  But it might be a Dark Dagger.  The only way to tell them apart is to analyse their genitals.  And it might kill it.  Which is a bit unfortunate if you just found the rarer of the two, yes?  But I don't know how to analyse moth genitals and to be honest, I have no inclination to find out.  So lets assume that it's the common species, right?

Grey Dagger doing Acronicta psi

What I'll do today, right, is go out into the patch and watch some birds. Good idea, eh?   Don't go thinking that this blog is going to go all moth mad all summer.  It's is but a small diversion.  Honest guv.

there's another moth in me kitchen x 2

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Continuing the rather rubbish theme of moths and kitchen there have been some of note recently.  To me, not of any national significance nevermind local significance.  I find that I locate a moth, spend an age trying to identify it and then find out that it is so common that seeing a Robin in a west London garden is actually more interesting.  Anyway, recently there has been Golden Fringe, Garden Pebble, Common Pug, Hebrew Character and a carpet whose name escapes me.

A lot of people on the interweb don't try and work out what the identification of a species is.  They just lazily upload their pictures to Birdforum or some such and learn nothing in the process.  At the opposite end of the scale, lies yours truly.  Utterly determined to identify everything for myself, but failing due to the limited resource before me.  There are two (probably common moths) that I frustratingly cannot identify.  These two that I present here are not in my book (or at any angle that makes them identifiable) and I proffer them to the wider world (photographed in my incredible moth catcher).

A moth doing unidentified.

Another moth doing unidentified.

Any ideas?

a little of not much

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not much 'proper' birding done recently as real life has recently had a knack of getting in the way of things.  The local park has provided plenty of interest with all the waterbirds sprouting young left right and centre.

However, this photo is causing me much amusement.

15 minutes and a year tick

Friday, May 21, 2010

As every  recent overflying Buteo has morphed under focussing to a juvenile Herring Gull, so every recent flypast Common Tern has unseasonally morphed under focussing to an adult Black-headed Gull (see winter birds on previous post).

Until yesterday.

I had only the briefest of visits yesterday but the flypast Common Tern remained a Common Tern.  Bravo!  Year tick 61 in the bag.  Only three more (House Martin, Sandpiper spp, and Goldcrest are the likeliest) and I'll beat the 2009 list - and there is still another 7 months of patch drudgery to go!  Hurrah!

A Med Gull doing blimey I havent seen one of those for ages.

summer? i think not.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It seems like it's still winter here....

Drake Pintail on the Thames this week.  Winter bird.
Gadwall flying around the Wandle yesterday.  Winter birds.
Loads of Starlings heading over to the Wandsworth Bridge roost last night?  Winter birds.

All I need now is a dubious gull to turn up on the foreshore and I shall have no options left to me but to write to my MP.  It just isn't good enough.

The patch doing yesterday.

what are you doing here?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not you - I know what you are doing here (kind of). 

No, the question is directed at a bird.

Specifically this bird that was seen in the patch today.

Yes, it's a bloody Pintail.  In Fulham, in late May.  That is a seriously unseasonable bird.  Why, that is so strange that it's as strange as a Pintail in late May.


there's a moth in me kitchen...

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Stick it on the blog, obviously.

Last year on this blog (I can say that because I've been spinning this tedium out for everyone for an age) during the late summer  I stated that this was a moth free zone as many of my peers were filling the birdless days by finding moths and butterflies and things.  That didn't half make for some pretty repetitive postings.  I recant.  This post will contain a picture of a bug.  Why the change I hear you ask.  Why not I say.  They often stay still long enough to get a rubbish photo of and I have a book now, so I can now mis-identify moths and butterflies as readily as I do Gulls.  Hurrah!

So here we go, the first in an occasional and quite possibly very short series of posts on moths...

A Brimstone Moth doing Opisthograptis luteolata

a few random observations

Friday, May 14, 2010

When a pied wagtail with no tail flies over, it looks right wierd.

Egyptian Goose vocalisations are rubbish.

Once male Pochards have done mating, they seem to drift away.

I should have had a Common Sandpiper in the patch by now.  But haven't. And you can add Common Tern and House Martin to that list too.

The other day I counted over 90 feral pigeons and one Stock Dove on the foreshore.  Yes, it was that boring.

According to his e-mail signature Lee GREvans is running 10 blogs.  Ten (TEN).  How does anyone find time to run 10 blogs?

If a bird has nowhere to lay it's eggs, and it has mated, what does it do with them?  This is specifically about Coots, and more specifically about the pair that are hanging around the tidal Thames foreshore.

Coots doing it.

crow eats squirrels tongue

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If you are squeemish, don't read this or look at the pictures.

If you think that all mammals are lovely and fluffy and cute and cuddly, don't read this or look at the pictures. 

However, if you like a bit of nature red in tooth and claw, and you think that mammals are nothing more than food for large birds, get stuck in - you're gonna love it.

I went to the river, as you do, and while I was tucking into my sarnies I spotted a wet, still and presumably dead squirrel.  Ho hum, nevermind that happens.  Only last week a fox floated down the river.  One of the crows that is nesting nearby came down to the river bank and started poking around in the shingle.  I wondered if it knew that the squirrel carcass was there and if it didn't know, was it about to find it?  The latter in fact dear reader.  Not only did it find it, but as soon as it worked out what it was, it was straight to the bit that it knew contained a meal without any further investigation.  The squirrels mouth.  From here in, I reckon that the pictures do most of the talking...

Approaching dinner.

Wide shot.

Extreme close up!

Not enough grip?  Let's stand on it's head.

A bit more success.

More leverage needed -  lets use both legs...

One last tug...

Dinner is served.

After three or four minutes it had extracted all that it could and flew directly to the nest. In the following half an hour it didn't return, so I can only assume that it wasn't going to eat any of the rest of the animal.  And I managed to get all the way through the post without alluding to aspic.


jamie oliver and chaffinch song variation

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The other night that Jamie Oliver was on the telly. It was a new programme where he goes round different places drenching food in copious amounts of olive oil while having staged mock-matey chats to locals. Pukka, innit? Anyhow, while he was drenching something else with olive oil (al fresco) in Venice I could hear a Chaffinch singing in the background. So far, so inane. However, the Chaffinch song was markedly different from the song we hear in the UK and my interest rose a little....

When I wur a lad dear reader, I was given a little aide memoire about how to recognise a Chaffinch song. Imagine a fast bowler approaching the wicket to bowl. Curtly Ambrose will do. As he approaches the wicket, the frequency of his footfall will increase as he approaches and delivers his 90mph Yorker. The Chaffinch song is likened to this footfall. Listen out next time – works a treat.

Now, as you may know, birdsong can vary from region to region and I find that the ones I notice the most are Chaffinch and Wren – probably because they are quite structured bursts of song and that’s why it was pretty easy to notice the difference. The Italian Chaffinch song started as ours does but there is a slight but noticable pause before the final flourish.  My meandering point is that the children of Italy cannot have the same aide memoire because the song is different. Oh, and they don’t play cricket.

I suppose that it could be compared to a footballer taking an illegal penalty.  Jogging up, pausing to put the keeper in one direction, and placing the ball in the opposite corner, scoring the goal without sanction.  Which some might think is apposite for an Italian striker. 

A Greenfinch doing 'lubbly-jubbly my old son'.

a safe seat?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Whilst watching some gull behaviour on the Thames foreshore and listening to my returned Blackcap yesterday, my eye (well eyes actually) was/were drawn to a Coot.  Not everyone will be drawn to a Coot going about its business and I generally try to resist, but as this one was sitting down I thought I'd pay a bit more attention.  Not only was it sitting down but it was pretending that it was on a nest.  I'll insert the picture here for illustrative purposes.

I suppose that it wasn't pretending that it was on a nest, it thought that it had found a nest and in prime location!  Just look at the proximity to the water!  Ideal nesting habitat!  However, that water that you can see is the Thames at nearly low tide.  This little area had been exposed for little over a half an hour, and this Coot had plonked it's behind down and started looking around like birds do when they settle onto a nest.  Inquisitive but bolshy and vulnerable at the same time.  Swear words entered my head, and then increased when it started to call to it's mate who promptly started dragging nest material from the edge of the water. 

One hour from this and it will be flooded out.  In a few hours it will be three metres underwater. They will, of course,  have absolutely no recollection of this tomorrow and do it all over again.  Just like the rest of the Coots round here and just as you would have expected. 

As daft as Coot, and then some.

year tick, plastics and accipiter

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Eventually I have Blackcap on the year list.  I thought I was going to have to write a meandering threnody to a lost passerine as they seem to have arrived everywhere else, but no - yesterday brought a Blackcap singing in the trees in the Hurlingham Club which with the Swifts last week brings me to a nice round 60 for the year.  What dominated my time in the patch yesterday was a Sparrowhawk that was also in the trees in the Hurlingham Club.  With a slight nod to Dave Lewis, here is a picture of said bird. 

Not only did these trees produce a year tick and a good bird (I got better views than the photo would have you believe don't you know) but I heard the damned peacock again, and then a bit of plastic wandered up the bank...

A Goose doing confused parentage.

sandhills, swifts and falcons

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I’ve just finished a book about Peregrines. You may have heard of it, it is called On The Wing by Alan Tennant. I don’t know why (and I’ve tried to work it out) but I found it incredibly hard going. The subject matter (two blokes following tagged Peregrines in a beat up Cessna) was interesting but I just couldn’t get on with the style of the writing, and for once it was a relief when the book was finished. The author can write and as I will show below has no problem connecting with nature and describing it with some merit, but the whole I found bitty. As I paid full whack for it though I felt that I should finish the damned thing. The Glasgow Herald is quoted on the cover as saying that it is an 'Ornithologist’s On The Road'. Why? Because it was hurried? Because the author bumbled about and around the subject? Becuase there are two blokes in it?  Because the follow up (The Dharma Falcons perhaps) was absolute drivel? I don’t know.

The previous post on here was regarding Swifts and their return, and I found a passage in the book that evoked similar feelings when the author talks about cranes.

Instead, I’d yearned to live out there on the vital, scary edge of the lives they led. Lives larger, older, more vital than those of the people I know, and during years when the northers [sic] held off past when the leaves had changed, and the sandhills were slow in coming I worried. But then, on some ordinary sunny day I’d hear what no one else heard – a faint, musical bugle drifting down 2,000 feet. Looking up, I’d pick out ten or twelve gray specks dotted against the blue and feel my heart clench, and soar, and make me yearn not just to go with the cranes but to be one.

A Canada Goose doing coy.

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