anything about?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Basically, no.

At 5pm in the evening, it would seem that no birds have been seen in London today ...

the dream is over

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yes dear reader, the dream is over. I checked site yesterday and there are no young, just two adults. One of them aimlessly feeding, one of them standing on the nest and looking down through its legs, clucking away and expecting the little bald pates to appear from underneath it. They don’t, and won’t.

Now, one could anthropomorphise this whole situation, and if you did you would be sad because the Coots put in the effort to produce the eggs and one didn’t hatch, one nearly did, three did hatch but one chick didn’t last long. The two that were left were getting nicely plump just before they were eaten. If however, you don’t anthropomorphise the situation you will be glad to know that there is a Kestrel chick nearby with a nice fat stomach, full of Coot. Yummy.

With the loss of this nest, the birding interest on the patch is well and truly grinding to a summery halt.

Moths then.
Damselflies for sure.
Bugs if necessary.

Gulls anyone?

A Gull doing suddenly very interesting again.

sick as a parrot

Monday, June 28, 2010

Patch news, but not from me...

On the Wiki...

Friday 25 June 2010
Wandsworth: Hobby hunting over Wandle Creek at 5.30

Comment on this here blog from Michael Mac...

26 Jun (2 days ago)
I was looking at this nest today and saw no young only the pair of adults - there was another coot nest much futher down the river - so I take it the young have been predated?

A bloody Hobby!  FFS!  It won't come back, as there are no hirundines or dragonflies to eat.  I am as gutted as Frank Lampard.  Truly, truly pissed off.  A Hobby in the patch, and I missed it.  Gutted.

And as for the Coots, that really is bad news.  I'll be back, but what I'll have to show only the patch will tell...

A Whitethroat doing nervy

a post regarding farting noises

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nothing to do with the wonderfully flatulent Johnny Fartpants I assure you, but it is to do with another kind of seemingly audible flatus. 

Farting hirundines. The evocative and once widespread summer sound of a flying wet fart. Or more accurately the lack of hirundines round here and therefore the lack of wet farting noises. Or even more accurately the lack of a particular type of wet farting noise, as there are other birds that make wettish (damp?) farting noises that are similar to the wet farting noises that I wanted to hear, but hadn't heard, that on occasion sounded exactly like the wet farting noises I did want to hear. It got to such a point that the wet farting noises I was hearing were being dismissed as farting imposters without being considered properly.  I refer to the wet farting noises I was hearing in the sky of course and not necessarily anything that was generated by your esteemed host's trouser department.  Absolutely not, no. 

However,  I remain convinced that I didn’t rule out any wet farting noises without good reason (a birders farting jizz if you like), and until yesterday all wet farting noises were definitely the wrong farts. That's right, yesterday I heard wet farting noises in the sky and eventually, after much potty-mouthed mutterings, found the wet farting culprits and finally got the wet farting noise creators on the year list.

62 – House Martin x 3


And the Coots? No problems, they even have a drinking straw each.

Coots doing paaarp.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's late June.  There isn't much doing.  If you are sitting in front of a computer wondering what to do, preparing another blog post on moths just because you can't find any birds but don't really want to, here is some reading material for you.  Or if you are just looking for some web based work avoidance it will work just fine.

I and the bird 128

And just look at this bonkers bird!

There is more of that here...

fledged grey wagtails

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grey Wagtails have fledged for (at least) the second year in a row. Last year they fledged at the end of May, the two that I found yesterday were fresh out of the nest and there may be another to come. Nearly a months difference on the fledging time, so this time round I suspect that the first nest failed – and they didn’t nest in the same site as last year.

Here is one that has found a home on a mattress that was once in a Caravan.

Here is the other in a bush.

A Grey Wagtail doing fluff.

A Grey Wagtail doing don’t worry about the Coots they are fine.

i knew before

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I still haven’t found the Grey Wagtail nest. There is one, of that I am sure. There is a female and a male Grey Wagtail, the male sings a lot and the female wasn’t seen for a while. Yesterday I saw both of them, in the same area at the same time and both had gobfulls of insects. One after another they flew to a similar place and then flew off. I think the nest may be underneath a bridge. But I thought that last year, and was very wrong. Elsewhere there was a couple of Common Terns floating up the Thames and some recently fledged Carrion Crows. Noisy Goldfinches, a flock of Long Tailed Tits. Greenfinches drinking from puddles in the road. Tufties floating. That kind of thing.

But you don’t care about all that, do you? You’ve come here to see what happened to the Coots and their chicks. You have come here for your daily dose of schadenfreude at my expense as I tear my hair out at the futility and desperation caused by the vicissitudes of one family of small water birds. Well dear reader, take that look off your face. I can see through your smile, you would love to be right and I’ll bet you didn’t sleep well last night. So here you are, here is the update what exactly has happened since the last instalment?

Well, not much actually. The big nest is a bit smaller, the little nest is a bit bigger and the two chicks are a bit bigger too.

Here is a picture that shows the size of the two nests in question.

Still, if this nest progresses well and I’m a bit short of Coot based drama – worry not – look what I found a mere four hundred yards from the shopping trolley!

Yep, it’s a fresh nest in a tidal river that isn’t high enough! Hurrah!

and then there were two

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  It's not meant to go like this, but then again perhaps it is.

This is how it is.  There are now two chicks, one has perished.  It is no more.  Predation?  I don't think so, the site is just too tricky to access.  The problem is this...

Yes, it is a nest with two chicks in it.  What's the matter with that you say dear reader?  Well it isn't the original nest, the nest that was high enough to hatch three and a half eggs. It's new, it's low, and it is rubbish.   

After the initial hatching was over, the adults moved the functioning cup of the nest a little further down the pile which I can understand as it meant that they could put fresh material in etc etc.  It then seemed that as the week went by they slipped further down the pile and closer to the water.  This wasn't a problem while the top of the nest was still above the high tide mark, but now it isn't.  Each time they have a new site the adults build, and when they build they take any material they can get their shiny little beaks on and the best source of nesting material is a nest that is not being used.  Henceforth the top of the best nest is falling and there is no easy point for them to the chicks out of the water when high tide arrives.  As Coots are not one of those waterbirds renowned for carrying chicks on their back the young may not be able to get out of the water at high tide, get a chill and drift off down the Wandle in their terminal torpor. 

To exacerbate this scenario, they have now started building a completely new nest (as per the picture) and this is being built a few yards down from the original nest.  When I last watched them the adults were extremely busy taking from the good nest and building up the new.  To such an extent that the original (once good) nest will now be totally covered during high tide as will the new nest leaving the chicks nowhere to go when the tide rises.  The adults, while being quite industrious have rather screwed the whole thing up. 

I suspect that when I next visit, there will be less than two chicks and quite possibly less than that.

the england algeria pigeon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The best bit about the match last night (apart from the result of course), was a spot of birding from the sofa....

Speckled Pigeon?  Answers on a postcard...

A pigeon doing “Nice to see your home fans booing you. That’s loyal supporters.” Snigger.

today i will mostly be eating..

Friday, June 18, 2010


And feeding it to four day old chicks for good measure.  For those that thought that Coots just eat weeds, this may come as a pleasant surprise.  I'm assuming that it is a Mitten Crab as they are not unknown in these parts, but one of the Coots did bring a crab to the nest yesterday.  The legs and the insides went down quite easily.  The chicks were not too keen on the shell though.

There was, for a short while, a Grey Wagtail on the nest site too.  Which is always nice.  Coots on the left, wag on the right.

Where the Coots are sitting is actually not the original nest itself, they seem now to have a couple of spots on the pile where they like to spend their time, just a short but perhaps significant distance from the rotting carcass of their sibling.

Have another Wagtail picture.

A Grey Wagtail doing nice.

a missed opportunity by springwatch...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

...and Coots too.

While flicking between the improving Uruguay and Springwatch last night, I caught the bird race feature.  Both teams ended up going to the Wetland Centre.  Perhaps a little contrived, but perhaps not a surprise.  The full details of the visit, I assume, will be in tonights programme which might be viewed depending on how bad France are (the worse they are, the less of Springwatch will be seen I reckon). 

I'm supposing that they didn't realise how close they were to the 29th best patch in London, and how close they were to the drama unfolding in the Wandle.  2.1 miles - that's all.  They could have had a wander around the patch and seen very little, and very easily too.  A missed opportunity for sure.

Day three

The chick in the egg didn't make it and it is now flattened at the bottom of the nest.  The fifth egg hasn't hatched.  The three chicks remain in situ. 

Coots doing day three.

day two

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everybody say.....bleeeeeuuuurgh

Baby Coots doing hit by the ugly stick - big time

So there are the three chicks seen yesterday and the day before, there was another chick in the process of hatching while I was there which can be seen just below the adult in this astonishingly high quality image...

It was still moving and getting attention from the parent while I was there yesterday and one of the chicks even responded to it and pecked either its shell or beak too.  Perhaps there will be four then.  There is another egg in the nest, but it is probably a no-goer.  The adults didn't know what to do with themselves yesterday, three years of trying (instinctively) and then these little furballs turn up.  They were on the nest, off the nest, feeding the chicks, walking over each other, returning to the hatchling, and repeating again.  

Good stuff all round.  More updates on here regarding this nest are inevitable.  Stay tuned kids!

i'm not sure how to tell you this...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

...but what do you reckon this is?

Why it's a day old Coot chick you say.  What's so special about that?

Perhaps if I put it in a little context for you...

Oh, you say.  That looks like a nest in the river Wandle that has been built on a shopping trolley by two Coots, and by golly it looks like there is a chick on the nest.

AT LAST! Insert a prodigious amount of joyful swearing right here................

That’s right dear reader, the Shopping Trolley Coots have, after at least three years of trying, incubated eggs successfully and now have young.  I say it again - the Shopping Trolley Coots have, after at least three years of trying, incubated eggs successfully and now have young

No, honestly.

No, I can hardly believe it myself either.

Lets have another view.

Yes, that is a Coot on a nest with a chick.  Gobsmacked I am.

Yesterday, there were three chicks and the adult was still looking after an egg or two. The weather was overcast and threatening to rain, so being young they stayed close to the female. 

I'll probably throw a cynical view in tomorrow, but for the moment just bask in the glory of persistence.

there's a dead moth in me kitchen

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beauty does not necessitate colour.  That's not another quote from one of those book things, it's an observation what I made.  Yes, Bee-eaters and Kingfishers are beautiful but some of my favourite birds are black.  Or white.  Or a combination of both, for monochrome simplicity is also beautiful.  And so it is with moths.

This moth (called an Ermine) was found in the kitchen over the weekend.  Dead, as you expected.

Very pretty moth (especially when it's alive).  Black and white doing it again.  Note the red patch on the back of it's head - it's not the norm.  I have seen this in Ermine before (get me!  Sounding like a right lepidopterist!) and this is how I reckon it happens.  They fly to the light bulb and bounce off.  And do it again, and again.  This slowly burns the fur (?) on the back of it's head of and then when it keeps going to the light it fries it's little brain up, and there it ends.  There was another one on the kitchen floor last week which also looked dead.  However, I picked it up and took it to the back garden where twenty seconds of direct sunlight brought it back to life and it flew off.

My moth list is now charging through the 20's with the addition of a few more species including this Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata), which can be assumed to be fresh as it is still quite greeny.

And no, over the weekend, I didn't see the Little Stint at Brent Res, nor the Common Rosefinch in Tottenham, but I might well see some Coots later today.

maybe, just maybe

Friday, June 11, 2010

If one wishes to give gravitas to a blog post, or a scientific treatise, it is always a good idea to supply a quote from some major thinker to show that you have researched the subject thoroughly. This shows that you have read the books, scribbled in the margins, stroked your chin and when you have come across the quote you have perhaps even said ‘hmmm’ under your breath and nodded sagely. Or perhaps you just found it in a book and thought that it looks clever. Either way, I will begin this posting about birds with an apposite quote.

'Birds in general are stupid'  Julian Huxley, 1923

Let me illustrate this point by discussing the nesting habits of three pairs of Coots. Specifically in the Wandle. I am going give three examples and use words and pictures to elucidate behaviour of said bird in some kind of pseudo-scientific way. You shouldn’t really be surprised by this if you are a regular visitor here. I don’t blame you if you go and find something more interesting to do. For those that wish to persist, here goes!

The three examples of nesting are categorised thus – 'the doomed', 'the doomed but interesting', and the 'once doomed but hopeful'. Stick with it kids, it’ll be over in no time.

The doomed.

Not so long back I showed the folly of a pair of coots that plonked down on the banks of the Thames as the tide exposed a suitable area. Here is another example in the Wandle. It is a different pair, of that I have no doubt (there are about five pairs round here, none of them with a hope in hell of success). This area of the Wandle delta is the closest to the chalk stream that wandle once was, and this area of the riverbed is exposed for no more than a few hours at a time, and the nest site and the collection of material is futile. Don’t mock them, they cannot help it.

The doomed but interesting.

Spotted yesterday on the Wandle. If you look carefully you can see that there is a Coot behind the reeds frantically pulling all the nesting material that it’s mate is bringing it into a rudimentary nest. It’s high tide, and the birds are nesting in a quite suitable area. Now, if this nest were being made by any other waterbird you could reasonably expect success. However, these are Coots. Do you know what the problem is? In an hours time the water level will fall, and the nest will become more distant from the surface of the water. And Coots don’t like this one little bit. It doesn’t bother Moorhens, but Coots have to have the base of their nest touching water. So, it was an interesting proposition, but I doubt if the birds will build a nest from the top down that will be 5 metres tall.  I've seen this pair (or birds holding this section of the river as territory) starting nests on freshly exposed mud at low tide, so it is possible that they are trying to build two nests a day.  Mad.

The once doomed but hopeful.

The perennial favourites.  The shopping trolley Coots.  Now this doesn't look much different to the last picture of this nest.  Or does it?  To recap, the Coots build a nest, the high tide comes in and the nest is destroyed.   Repeat.  This is the first time I've seen this particular build at anything like high water, according to my sources the high tide in Chelsea was due at 12:16, build in a delay for Wandsworth and the Wandle and the highest of the tide would have been around about 12:40 and I was there at 13.20.  Essentially this picture shows the nest at high tide.  And all is calm, which I have never seen before with high water.  No drama.  The top of the nest is dry.  The bird on the nest is still.  So this nest that is potentially half way through the incubation time may be high enough to avoid the worst of the tidal flux. Perhaps it isn't doomed after all. 

They couldn't actually go and do it could they? 

Maybe, just maybe...

counting coots in essex

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And now on Radio 4, it’s Woman’s Hour – CLICK!

I had to take Mrs Thing to the University Of Essex and then wait for a number of hours before leaving the University Of Essex.

“What will you do for four hours?” said Mrs Thing. “Oh, don’t you worry about that...”.

For those that don’t know, The University Of Essex is one of those post-war out of town campuses, and is situated in the middle of Wivenhoe Park near Colchester. Which is a park like area on the outskirts of a large town that is next to the countryside. Terribly convenient for someone such as myself with a penchant for staring into trees with lots of time to kill. I could have done a bit of research to try and find out in advance what to expect and where to focus my energies, but that’s no fun and doesn’t leave much space for exploration which is of course half the fun of going to new places. So with the radio turned off, the doors closed and locked I headed off to wander round the campus. And it was totally pissing down with rain. And it rained really hard, and then started to rain harder. After an hour this began to annoy me as all I had seen was some very wet waterbirds doing very little. Having to stand underneath trees to try and get some shelter while smoking wet fags was quite wearing so I decided that I was going to brave the full ravages of the weather anyway so set off again, and then the rain stopped and the sun came out. Which was very nice.

A lake type thing doing ornamental and wet.

It transpires that I had been round the more ornamental side of the campus, where the alien tree species are in full flow along with a fair few Rhododendrons chucked in for good measure (there is a private house there too which I assume is the university top dude’s residence). It was not filling me with hope for the following hours. However, once I had left this area I found myself in an area of open parkland with long grass and some big oaks dotted about, very similar to this picture in fact.

A picture doing rain on the lens.

This gradually gave way to a more open area at the top of a hill with less of the big trees – and this where the interesting birds started to appear (singing Goldcrest, Swallow, two Woodpecker species, Blackcap etc) so in all I was enjoying it a bit more. I found this sign and I really don’t understand what it is about.  I mean, it's a sign on a signpost but it doesn't tell you anything.  It's at the end of a path which ends at a closed gate and a wall.  It's by a road, which has cars on it, not cows.  It's very strange, and the more I think about it the more confused I get.  So I won't think about it any more.

I don't get it.  I really don't get it.

After drying off a bit, I headed downhill to see what was on offer there. More grassland, more Swallows, half a dozen Swifts and an overflying Shelduck. I then spotted (towards the train line) what looked like reeds. Not only did they look like reeds, but when I got there they were reeds. Not only that but there was a few Reed Warblers knocking about too! In this area in this photo!

Enjoying this area took up some more time, and beside it there looked like there was a big chunk of decidiuous woodland, so I ambled over there. Thankfully some nice people had put a nice path right through the middle of it. So I walked down the path, with some more Blackcaps singing, a couple of Chiffchaffs giving it some, Chaffinches, Tits, etc. Eventually it gave way to a couple of fields of rapeseed, where I heard a distant Skylark and a coughing Pheasant. The path looked very much like this...

Nice, huh?

Once I had walked up it, I walked back down it.  And that was about it. Best part of four hours walking round a new site and very good it was too. Plenty of habitat, a good spot for raptor watching (had the weather been better) and plenty of interest for a patch birder. 38 species in all for me but I suspect that there are more to get normally (no House Martin, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, House Sparrow, Willow Warbler etc).

A nice little patch on the whole.

Did I mention that there were Coots? You must have expected this...

Essex Coots doing wet.

more of the same

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Got to the shopping trolley Coots on Monday and their reasonably high nest is still there and they are still incubating.  Not knowing when they started on this particular brood I have no idea of when they are unlikely to reach the end of the incubation period, but at the very least they are half way through I would think.  Maybe.

Other than that, Grey Wagtails are still about - a couple of Egyptian Geese are occasionals and the GBB's have been seen flying through but their barge could be seen the other day filled with juvenile Herring Gulls so they are not defending the territory any more.   So not much is going on but stuff is going on if you see what I mean.  But I did find the first Banded Demoiselle of the year with a male flitting about the Wandle.

Very nice.

Two coots doing persistence.

a sanderling and a bluebell

Monday, June 07, 2010

There was a bit of a treat at Brent Res over the weekend with a Sanderling showing well on the mud (although if you look at the picture you wouldn’t think so). Nice little bird in summery plumage, good patch tick and a London tick to boot. An unusual species to have at a place like that and looking at the lists on the hide wall, there are a few big hitters that don’t have Sanderling on their Brent Res list too! Although they do have plenty that I don’t I have to say...

While we are on the subject of Springwatch, I have to get something else of my chest. I may come across as some kind of Springwatch hater, but it is not intentional and I’m not. Blubells. Protected species yes? Illegal to uproot or offer for sale under the auspices of the Wildlife and Countryside act of 1981. So why, when trying to show how acidic the formic acid coming from an ant’s nest is, use a bluebell? And then ask why one would need litmus paper when you have bluebells? What kind of lunacy is this? What the presenters seem to forgetting is that there are a lot of children watching this programme (by design), and if children think that something is cool they will copy it. Getting bluebells to change colour over an ants nest is cool, but it would have made much more sense to use some bloody litmus paper and keep the bluebell info under the radar rather than having the possibility of loads of kids finding bluebells, pulling them up and then running around to find ants to wave them at. C’mon guys, it’s a great programme but do have a think about what you are broadcasting!

A Sanderling doing very tickable indeed.

bits and bobs

Friday, June 04, 2010

Here are a random series of recent observations etc.

The GBB are no longer present on the barges.  This may have been in reaction to the big announcement that I made regarding the imminent nuptials.  They were there on Tuesday, but haven't been seen since.  This may have had something to do with the low tide.  Or it may not.  I am disappointed as it means that I really will have to pay more attention to the Coots in the Wandle as there is little else to see.

The patch will be hosting another one of the truly wonderful Polo In The Park gigs this weekend, which is er, nice.  Don't forget that this is supposed to be helping inner city kids get into polo and horsing (honestly), which was the justification for turfing over the running track.  I'm just having difficulty in seeing all that on the website at the moment... In the chaos that ensued last year, a lorry backed up the Thames path, knocked over a concrete bollard, demolished a section of someones garden wall and smashed up a concrete bench.  The bench (in the most shady and comfortable part of the path has yet to be replaced one year on.  Thanks guys, nice touch.

I reckon that the Goldfinches that were assumed to be nesting on the Fulham side have fledged as it is all very quiet.  During the course of the day you were almost guaranteed to hear lots of chattering and singing but it's all gone quiet, which I am taking as a good sign.

I still haven't seen any House Martins in the patch yet.  Not that I see many, but that's not the point.

There was a pair of Canada Goose with two goslings on the Thames yesterday.  Gawd knows where they came from.

A pair of Gadwall are still on the Wandle!  What the...  On Tuesday I thought that only the male was there and the female might be on a nest or something.  It wasnt, it was hiding behind some mallard.

A Trumpeter Finch was at Cley recently, Mr GREvans issued an email (that anyone can subscribe to- other rare bird alerts are available) saying that it had been flushed enough and that it shouldn't be disturbed - but is this not what is supposed to happen anyway?

With the recent addition of Silvery Y and The Engrailed, my list of self found and identified moths has now broken the 15 mark.  No, I didn't miss a digit out.  The Engrailed, what a name.

Kate Humble said on telly the other night that the second world war was "fairly appalling". Fairly appalling? Stunning.

On the topic of Mr GREvans, on the Londonbirders group, there is the annual talk (rightly so) of not going public on Schedule 1 species.  So how does Mr GREvans get away with his book about where and when to find rare birds?  I don't know, but if anyone buys it for me for my birthday later in the year, I won't mind.

That's hypocrisy isn't it?

Doesn't matter, nobody will have read this far down such an enormous post, once they've seen the picture of the gosling, everyone will go 'aaaaah' and go somewhere else.  Hypocrisy?  I'll probably get away with it...

A gosling doing fluffy.

avocet fatigue

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A popular wildlife programme is currently having a certain focus on Avocets at the nest. If the bird is not jusdadooorable, then I’m sure that it will be soon – as most birds on that programme are (although good on the male presenter for seeing the potential chick as a Kestrel meal).

I have seen these birds in the wild, and on more than one occasion in fact. I saw some this year and I saw some last year. And the year before that. Etc.  However, when I see them these days – despite their innate and undeniable beauty, the grace, the ridiculous yet practical beak, the incongruous leg colouring and even the wonderful name, I just don’t get excited by them. I call it ‘Avocet fatigue’, and I’m sure that I’m not the only birder out there that feels that way. Maybe not about Avocets perhaps, but I’m guessing that some birders really cannot get excited about birds they see all the time, regardless of their beauty/significance/rarity/charm etc etc.

I know why I suffer from Avocet fatigue, it’s because in the eighties I spent a month on an Island in Suffolk where there are a lot of them. And then I went back the next year for a fortnight. I don’t know how many there are these days but I have checked the BoEE counts that I have in my slapdash notebooks and there were 234.  And there were that many every bloody day.

So do excuse me if I don’t pay too much notice to them on the telly but perk up a bit when the raptors are killing stuff. Like the Hobby.  The one catching dragonflies that is, not the one sitting on a mans arm eating chicken.

Springwatch. You gotta love it.

An Avocet doing sleeping.  And blurry.

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