Steady. Interesting, but steady.

Friday, July 30, 2010

On Wednesday morning I found the Yellow Legged Gull again so it is looking like it is doing what it normally does and should hang about for a month or so. Which is nice. It briefly showed yesterday lunchtime. That’s the steady bit. The only interest has come from Gulls. I had quite a long look over a flock yesterday lunchtime, and it was quite varied. Black-headed Gulls loafing, including a couple of juvs, there were a few juvenile Herrrings, some of which would be classed as first winter types as well as other summer or winter 'types'. There was also a big 2nd summer GBB, and nearly every variation of LBB on show including a cracking looking 3rd winter type – nice fresh feathers on all but the secondaries. Peachy. Did I say interesting? Well, if you don’t dig gulls it is was pretty boring I guess. Your loss.

While we are on the subject of books, I have two things that I just have to get off my chest. Firstly, The Big Gull Book (which really is brilliant) is a bit disappointing with some of the coverage of argenteus Herring Gulls – it’s really good for argentatus and all the rest but we don’t have them much over here. I just find it disappointing, and a little annoying that a book that is obviously going to sell very well in blighty is a bit light on one of the trickier ID’s and a bit 'Scando-centric'. So there.

Secondly, in that Big Year book about the mad twitchers rare bird enthusiasts, right, the author reckons that Al Levantin (one of the three protagonists) cannot smell. He was evidently an industrial chemist and after many years in the lab his nose packed up. This meant that when he went to a place called Brownsville Dump to look for Tamaulipas Crows (whatever they are) he had a distinct advantage over the other birders because he couldn’t smell the detritus that was attracting the crows. However, earlier in the book he was on a pelagic and could smell the cod liver oil and chum as it went over the side. Now, either he could smell or he couldn’t. Which one is it? How do you expect me to believe all the other tales in the book if you can't tell me if for sure if a mans nose works or not? Eh?  Answer that for me.

There, I feel better already.

Have a picture of some gulls.  On a beach.

Gulls on a beach doing spot the Med.  Yummy.

letting the days go by

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

After all of last week’s patch tick craziness, it is back to normal. The days roll on, the tide rises and falls, and the same birds fly about a bit when they can be bothered. 

Admittedly I did briefly see a Common Sandpiper again on Monday but that is by far and away the most interesting thing that has happened. There does seem to be a small increase in the amount of Woodpigeons flying through, and yesterday I heard a Robin sing – now that was a novelty. Due to recent reports of a Med Gull in the vicinity, every single gull in the patch has been getting a lot of attention. Normally optics need not be raised to eliminate the flying Black Headed from a Med search, but as most of them are moulting, most of the secondaries are all over the place at the moment so the wing profile is a bit wrong. So I have been birding furiously, but to no avail.

On Sunday I was watching Red Kites. This was very enjoyable. While I was in the area there was a Jackdaw with no tail. When in flight it looked like a small black owl. This also was enjoyable.

A gull doing an example of wing moult patterns in late summer with particular attention being paid to the secondaries to illustrate what I meant in the rambling text.

Kings of Leon and pigeon poo

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

You might have heard about this, you might not.  The story is told here.  I think it is quite funny.

how do i work this?

Monday, July 26, 2010

So the year list for the patch is now higher than last year by one. In fact I am now in the biggest year of my patch life for this patch. And it’s only July. I was in the 29th best patch in London last year, but even with last years total beaten, I'm only in the mid thirties.  And that's assuming that all the other worthy patch birders have updated their lists.  So to maintain the top 30 status pop-pickers I need a big year.

Funnily enough, I’ve just finished reading The Big Year by Mark Obmascik, which if you have any lists of birds that you see, you will enjoy. Three now legendary birders in America try to break the record for the most birds seen in America in a year. The winner (Sandy Komito) ended up with 745. If you haven’t read it (regardless of which side of the pond you sit on), get hold of it. It’s a ruddy good read. Their antics would make the most mental UK twitcher rare bird enthusiast look like a reasoned patch birder. Kind of.

The interweb also informs me that this subject is now being made into a comedy film with Jack Black, Angelica Houston and Steve Martin along with a load of actors that I’ve never heard of but are probably regarded as celebrities. I suspect that this will be rubbish. I digress. This is now the patch Big Year, I’ve already broken the record due to the recent run and the good fortune that the severe winter weather brought at the beginning of the year.  So what should I have, and what might I get, to move further into unknown territory?

Here are six species that I had last two years that have yet to appear this year.

Goldcrest – should be a cert in the Autumn/Winter
Collared Dove – rare but annual, only a matter of time
Brambling – a previous one off
Green Sandpiper – not wholly unlikely
Greenshank – a previous one off
Oystercatcher – a previous one off, but not uncommon in West London.

So out of that lot let’s say that I’ll get two more - 67 for sure.

Now, for the Brambling, let’s assume that there is a finch of somer sort knocking about for the year – either that or a Siskin, a Bullfinch or maybe even a Reed Bunting. 68

For the waders, let’s assume that one of the above will drop in at some point – 69

Which leaves me one off the heady heights of 70. So we need to spread the net a bit wider.

Ducks. I have never seen a Pochard on this patch, which is slightly odd. Other candidates in this area are Shelduck and/or Shoveler. So let’s call that a nice round 70.

Gulls. I’m never short of Gulls in the winter, so it’s only a matter of time before something from the top drawer pops in . Med is my best bet (there was one in Chiswick over the weekend - hubba hubba!). – 71

Accidentals. This is where I need to be really lucky. But the following are seen on occasion within a couple of miles, Warblers, Osprey, Hobby, Sand Martin, Snipe, Dunlin, Plovers, Godwits, etc etc etc

Extrapolate from that lot, and in the spirit of the Big Year, nothing less than 73 will be accepted.  The chances of getting it though is another matter...

A Swallow, doing into the blue again.

well, how did i get here?

Friday, July 23, 2010

I think that I may have been in the wrong patch this morning.  I got uncommon birds and a patch tick par excellence.

The tides have been high at lunchtime this week, so the only good birding is in the morning.  Obviously, this being this particular patch, good birding means that the birds that are not there at lunchtime are there in the morning.  Which is fine.  It's a patch, and that's what it is all about.  Or is it?

I got to the river this morning, spied a couple of Grebes close in and some gulls.  So far, so really very normal indeed.  Then a Common Sandpiper flew past calling, and it was close in.  That'll do me.  Waders on this patch are very hard to come by so I was more than happy to try and follow this shivery winged rarity for half an hour or so.  Except that as I turned in one direction, I heard a familiar call behind me.  If I was at Cley, I wouldn't think twice about it.  Well maybe to check if something rarer was with it, maybe with spots.  But in the context of the patch I knew this was special.  I was stopped in my tracks and the adrenalin started to flow.  It called again - tyu-yu-yu - "holy shit I've got a Redshank".  There have been reports of one in the same borough, but just up river so I was hoping against all hope that one might come past, but as I spun round and eyeballed the foreshore there were five.  FIVE!  "Holy shit - there's five Redshanks".  Five lovely little patch ticks all in a row.  I was staggered.  And still am.  Of course, they flew off.  Record shots below.

Bloody hell.  I'll go and look for this sandpiper then.  Two wader species in a day.  Remarkable.  I got further down river and didn't find a sandpiper, but did find a Yellow-legged Gull.  And there was a Common Tern, and a summer plumage Common Gull (niiiiice..).

What is going on?  It's like the birding equivalent of Once In A Lifetime...

You may find yourself birding in a half decent patch

You may find yourself in another part of the Thames

You may find yourself in a beautiful patch, with a beautiful tick

You may ask yourself: well... how did I get here?

loo list update

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This morning I was incredibly not excited when I saw a female Mallard flying across the wide vista that can be seen from the loo window.  'Oh' I thought, 'that is a mallard' I continued internally.  'Hang on a minute', I continued again, and internally again, 'thats a bloody loo tick!'.  And so it was.  This brings the loo list to a staggering 32 species. 

The patch continues to do little.  Loafing Black-headed Gulls now regularly over 100.  5+ LBB.  The odd Tern.  Only a Wren sings.  I Redshank upriver refuses to show itself.  I can almost smell the imminent Med Gull.

'A Med Gull?' you say.  'What does that look like?' you continue.

Well if you insist...

A Med Gull doing what it looks like.

no pictures of flying ants

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yesterday was Flying Ant Day in Fulham.  That day in the year that flying ants come out and kamikaze style whack into everything, largely including my head. 

It is of course on flying ant day that people walk around going "it's flying ant day - look at all those ants".  All day.  And to everyone that they know.  As if we all know why it is that the ants take to the air, and that we care.  Or that we have some affinity with the ants, or even that we had been looking forward to flying ant day.  Although it has no cultural significance, it never gets on the news, everyone was talking about flying ants yesterday.  I suppose it beats going around saying "it is hot" all day which is equally inane.  Maybe it's the company I keep during the day.  Anyway,  I didn't take any photos of the ants, but instead I proffer some random buggage that I have come across recently.

Exhibit 1

Harpalus affinus

According to my book...

The elytra range from metallic green or blue, through bronzy red, to almost black with the outer areas punctate and slightly pubescent.
I have no idea what that means.

It is small and it looks like this.

Exhibit 2

Yellow Shell.  Camptogramma bilineata

It's a moth.

Exhibit 3.

Ringlet.  Aphantopus hyperantus.

It's a butterfly.

I have recently found a spider with a pink back but I cannot discuss this here as spiders, as I am sure you know dear reader, are not bugs.

I did see some birds yesterday.  But it wasn't very exciting.

they're back

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stop!  To ensure that the atmospherics of todays offering are correct, go back to the title of the post and put on your horror-movie-trailer-voiceover-voice on.  Go on.  The super deep gravelly voice that scares children but makes adults laugh because it is a bit stoopid really.  You know, the one that you can only do for a couple of words before it hurts your throat. And makes you cough.  But is occasionally worth it.  Now try again.

They're - baaack....


Now see if you can read the next paragraph out loud (or if you must, internally) - but still with the horror-movie-trailer-voiceover-voice on.  If you don't follow the instructions, you will not get the most out of the post.  Now come on, play along!

In a world where everything was tidal, he was a humble patch birder.  He thought that they had gone, but this winter they have returned.  To haunt his dreams....  They are back, and this time they have abraded tertials.  He, armed with nothing more than a copy of the the old Collins and the Big Gull Book, must I-D them all.        Before.    They.    Send.    Him.     Insane.            From the maker of Death On the Wandle, and I Know What You Moulted Last Summer, coming to a patch near you - Thing stars in Dodgy Gulls Of Winter Part II - The Hunt For The Cachinnans....

A Common Gull doing first of the winter in a second summer progressing to second winter progression situation.

more kestrel food

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

As I mentioned, and you've probably forgotten already,  gull numbers rise.  Interestingly (in the context of not much being of interest) a couple of juvenile Black Headed Gulls are knocking about.  Their inconsistent wing pattern does occasionally give microseconds of excitement as nothing similar has been seen round here quite some time.  In other gull action, the GBB's were back on the barge, but are doing nothing more exciting than standing up, moving a bit, and sitting back down.

A juvenile gull doing floating.

There is more fresh Kestrel food in the patch too, with a lovely new batch of a half dozen Mallard ducklings knocking about by the houseboats and a single duckling in the Wandle delta.  Here is the obligatory rubbish picture of one of them on a handy bit of river detritus.

A duckling doing fattening itself up for a Kestrels lunch.

All of this incredible patch action paled into insignificance yesterday when it transpired that Mrs Thing has been awarded (and earned) a 1st Class degree.  To say that this is very good news is really understating the fact by a country mile.  Good on you kiddo.

patch tick!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

That's right kids - another first for the patch.  Hot on the heels of the two year ticks (when it was decreed that this patch is now on fire) my next sojourn brought an excellent first for the patch!


Yes, I can see that it isn't a bird.  In fact my identification skills lead me to believe that this is, in fact, a butterfly.  I can also confirm that it is a Speckled Wood and I have not seen one of these in this here patch before.  And yes, it is not where it should be as it should be (as it's name suggests) in a wood, being speckled.  Not on a sandy bit of almost waste ground next to a big river.

Yes, I would have preferred to witter on about birds.  But if the highlight of a visit is 'oh, there are now more than 30 Black Headed Gulls knocking about' then the butterfly gets the nod.

another day, another year tick

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Oh yes. 

This patch is now officially on fire.  Common Sandpiper swiftly followed by a returning Yellow Legged Gull.  Why do I say returning?  Becuase likes to sit on this bouy.  Just like it did before.

64 for the year. And climbing. 

Yesterday there was a Red Kite over the Wetland Centre.  I think it's my turn now.  That or something else year ticky or patch ticky.  Anyone seen a funny looking Lapwing?

A Gull doing returning.

A Gull doing taking off.

year tick!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

And about time too.  This one is pretty straightforward. 

I went to the river yesterday.  When I was there I saw a Common Sandpiper fly across the river and land on the foreshore.  It then flew back across the river (all shivery winged and that) and I didn’t see it again. 

And that’s how it happens.  Year tick. 63 for the year.

This picture shows you the area that the Sandpiper was in.  Just imagine that the gull in the picture is a small wader.  And that it is bobbing about.  And that will be approximately what I saw.

A Gull doing imaginary bobbing.

another series of random observations...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

...and another moth free post.

There have not been many blog posts here lately, because not much is happening.   Unless you call grebes flying 'a happening'.  I've looked, but I haven't found much.  Not much happening, not much blogging.  That's how it works, innit.

A Yellow-legged Gull was recently seen on the patch, not by me either - see here.  Usually, if they stay for a little while, they stay for a long while.  If you get me.

There is a Chaffinch by my house that cheeps for most of the evening, almost constantly.  It is getting annoying.

I don't know anyone who wants Uruguay to win tonight.

That oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is still leaking.

Home made scotch eggs are quite lovely.

There is a programme on the telly on Thursday about Harpy Eagles.  It is an hour long.  Yummy.

The moths from the other day were a European Corn-borer and Dark Arches.  One is a pest, and the other looks nothing like the picture in my book.

Birdlife now have a blog going on called the Birdlife Community.  It's ace.  Get on it.  It's not just conservation, or doom and gloom.  Just check out this Woodpecker.  And their tag cloud is immense.

Micro moths are not necessarily really small.

This picture is of a butterfly, not a moth.

A tatty White Admiral doing, phwoar look at that underwing!

I lied about this being a moth free post.

do me a favour

Friday, July 02, 2010

Someone please tell me what these bloody moths are!  I've been through my book at least 10 times trying to find something that is fits and have come close, but not close enough.  They are doing my bonce in.  Twisting my melons in fact.

Moth 1.  Not quite a Broken Barred Carpet, or is it.

Moth 2 - I can't even remember what I thought this was.

Yes, the quality isn't great, but no moths were harmed or chilled in the making of this blogpost.

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