Counting clicks

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Was pissing about with the Statcounter, and found that it had been counting all the hits since forever and now I've got one of those little total thingies way down on the right hand side.  Last time I looked it was at 14000+.

I find it quite astounding that there have been over fourteen thousand hits on this blog. I say it again - astounding.  Let's hope there is something worth clicking on Monday....

A Coot being counted.

Some words, a number and a picture

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yesterday was dull.  Dull dull dull.  Hardly worth mentioning.  But I will because I heard a Song Thrush.  And it was singing in Hurlingham Park.  It's a year tick for the patch bringing the total to 54.  It will sing again, and it's status here (as far as I am concerned) is of possible breeder, unconfirmed.

So here is the obligatory photo of a completely different bird.

A  Moorhen doing floating.

Sainsbury's complicit in slaughter of patch bird!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There was a bit of commotion on The Wandle yesterday, Blackbirds, Magpies, Coots all doing alarm calls - loads of gulls circling and calling wildly but I couldn't see what the fuss was.  Until a Pigeon flew across the river with a plastic bag attached to it's foot.  Specifically a Sainsbury's bag (identification is important don't you know).  Unfortunately for the pigeon, plastic bags are not very aerodynamic.  So it landed in the river.

This freaked all the ducks out and they flew off.  Bummer.  The Pigeon then flapped about a bit, trying to take off.  Like this...

This didn't work.  So it decided to flap towards the bank, to give itself a chance of getting dry and not drowning.  Which it did.  Unfortunately the bank on this part of The Wandle is nothing more than silt.  So it got stuck.  And there it sat, exhausted.  It's ulitmate fate involved drowning or perhaps being tea for a Herring Gull or Heron if found.

This would be an appostite moment to launch into a full blown rant about how bad plastic bags are and how we are polluting the environment on so many levels etc etc.  But beyond the wall there is a waste recycling plant (which we have to admit that we need) and anyway - its only a Pigeon, eh?

Do you want fries with that?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Many of the larger gulls have, over the course of the winter, been indulging in a kind of plunge diving activity. Kind of like a half arsed Gannet crossed with a not very good Cormorant. It’s done when the tide is a bit out and is done in the shallows. I’m guessing that they can see their prey, which makes it a bit easier. Normally it results in a Herring Gull getting a freshwater snail that they then fly off with and do a spot of Lammergeier like dropping onto rocks (other gulls round here do not seem to have mastered this – and it can help with quick ID’s – got a snail in it’s bill? It’s a Herring Gull).

Yesterday though, a Lesser Black-backed was a little more successful and pulled a ruddy great carp out of the river. I say carp, but my fish ID skills are not exactly sharp. I can tell the difference between cod in parsley sauce and cod in batter, and that’s nearly it. Anyway, it pulled the flapping fish out of the water onto the foreshore and decided that it was lunchtime. First up – the eye – BOSH! One peck and that was gone. It then proceeded to get stuck into the fleshy bits. None of the other gulls or crows got a look in. After 15 minutes or so, an immature GBB turned up and the LBB just gave way. Instantly. Washed it’s bill in the water and flew off. The GBB didn’t half look skinny – and those legs are a bit lanky – but have a gander at the beak – power!

For the sake of comparison there was another LBB with differing head markings.  I was going to rummage around Olsen & Larson last night (commonly known as the big scary gull book) but forgot.

An LBB doing lunch

A GBB doing power.

An LBB doing plumage variation and that.

What the hell is that?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Those are the words uttered by a 'member of the public' the other day when confronted with a duck in a local park.  Understandably.  He was flabbergasted when a duck swam past him.  Rightly so.

Now the interweb is a marvelous thing and I suspect that many people of the coming weeks and months may want to know what that crazy looking duck is in a certain park, namely Walpole Park in Ealing.  The searches that may  end up being entered into Google (other search engines are available) could have the form like..

funny looking duck walpole park ealing
strange looking duck walpole park ealing
colourful duck walpole park ealing
what duck walpole park ealing
what duck waplole park ealin
funny duck walploe prak ealing
what's that duck in walpole park?
osterley park duck (just in case)
ealing park duck
gunnersby park duck (again, you never know)

Members of the public may then land on this blog seeking answers to the question, so I am just helping out the public.  Disseminating information.  That kind of thing.

So the answer to the question is - it is a Mandarin Duck and it's latin name is Aix galericulata  and there are photos of it, and it's missus below.  Enjoy!  Send the link to your friends!   Show it to the world!

Regular readers of this blog may think that this whole post is an excuse for Statcounter tomfoolery and fresh duck porn. 

You'd be right.

But come on!  Look at it!

Patch Invasion

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not having put much stuff into the London Bird Club wiki recently, I thought I'd better.  I scrolled down to put Friday's details in (as it wasn't a bad hour by the standards round here) and amazingly it was (almost) all in there already.  But not by me!  Someone else had been in my patch, and had seen the things I had seen and put them in the wiki!  What the...

The entry read thus...

Wandle Creek/Thames: 2 m Teal, 6 Gadwall (1 f), 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Grey Heron, 1 G C Grebe (Thames), 2 Mute Swans, 2 Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, 1 Long-tailed Tit, 7 Goldfinch, 12 Magpie making a racket, pr Great Tit, 1 f Chaffinch, 9 Ring-necked Parakeet flying over Thames.

I have to say that I'm a bit posessive about this patch.  You see this isn't one of those designated birding areas (like Brent Res) where lots of people go, and you know that you will more than likely see another birder, this is a messy conglomerate of various habitats that I can get to in a certain amount of time.  I have met one birder in four years, and that just suits me fine.  I didn't choose this patch, it chose me.  So to have seen that another birder had been in the area got all sorts of selfish emotions running around, and a fair bit of satisfaction too.  This isn't a bad bit of London to spend half an hour if you want to see birds. 

However, there was something missing from the list.  Something that only a dedicated and hard working patch birder would have noticed.

These birds...

Coots.  He didn't count the Coots.  There are five here, but what is different about these birds is that they are on the Thames, and they are not fighting.  The resident birds stay in their territiories and fight.  These birds are visiting birds.  Patch invaders.

Wandle Creek/Thames: 11 Coots....

That's better.

A most welcome year tick

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm now at 53 for the year.  Picked up a couple of Mistle Thrushes in Wandsworth park on Friday, and today a Dunnock has arrived, and is singing with gusto in the winter sun.  Indeed I can even hear it while I type. Bonus.

With such a small post you'll be wanting a picture I guess...

A Magpie doing falling and flying and what not at the same time

I have been harsh on a duck

Friday, February 19, 2010

I never thought that I would be accused of that, unless spiking a roasted one with a fork counts.  Plum sauce. Roast potatoes.  Mange tout Rodney.  Yummy.  But I digress...

I have taken the counsel of my peers. I have wrestled with my conscience. I have consulted the rather vague set of rules governing my list. It would seem that I have been a bit harsh on myself. And it would seem that the sensible thing to do is tick the Wigeon.


Patch tick 77!

Two in a week!

51 for the year!

Thanks to all that replied with the words of wisdom (yes, even Ray), it is but a trifling moral dilemma I admit, but important nonetheless (in the context of the patch anyway).

The Wood Ducks I cannot tick. As Mark said, they do breed but they just feel wrong to me. Mandarin feel right, Wood Duck feels wrong. I suspect that if I were applying UK400 Club rules I could probably tick it, but I don’t. They would have Bar-headed Goose on their London list, whereas I didn’t tick the one I saw at Brent Res last year, because it doesn’t feel right.  That's just how listing works as far as I'm concerned.

Due to the annoying precipitation yesterday, I didn’t get anywhere near Wandsworth Park. Today I may head that way, but I rather feel that I might be on for a hat-trick of patch ticks and might not get there.

I live in hope (patch birder mantra #3).

Four ducks doing plastic and fantastic.

Would you tick this Wigeon?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Imagine my suprise yesterday lunchtime...

The tide was rising and leaving me few options on the foreshore for gullage etc.  I headed for Wandsworth Park.  I thought I might amuse myself by getting some gull ID's wrong.  No such time for that as I looked over the fence to the river and saw the top of a Wigeon.  Get in!  Patch tick!  I then took in the rest of the waterfowl on the river and noticed that there were two Wood Ducks there too.  Oh, that's really strange thought I.  And there was a female too.  Okay....

Unfortunately the Wigeon seemed to be quite friendly with the Wood Ducks.  So much so that when the Wigeon swam off, the Wood Ducks followed him.  And when they all got together again closer to the barges, the Wigeon seemed to be courting the female Wood Duck.  Drat. 

Getting out Occam's Razor again (sorry) I am left with the following conclusion.  3 non-tickable, probably escaped, ducks are following a duck that is known to be kept in captivity.  This duck is cavorting with the female non-tickable duck. 

The Wigeon is an escape.  Guilty by association.  And thenceforthly is not a patch tick.


Four ducks doing plastic.

Up Jib!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You may or may not have noticed that apart from the Coal Tit patch tick bonanza, there has been little of note recently, or perhaps more accurately, little noted. It’s the familiar story unfortunately – a string of high tide situations when I’ve been out and about, bumped up with a shit load of rain and you have a recipe for a birdless patch.

Thankfully Mrs Thing recently gave me a two inch thick biography of Charles Darwin so I can yack on about that for a bit, and hope that some weather and birds and tides come together in the next day or so. Or this blog is going to turn into Counting Anecdotes or something.

So Darwin nearly didn’t get on board The Beagle because he had a lazy nose. He wasn’t even the first choice for the position. He wasn’t even the second choice. He was the third choice. Once he accepted the offer it turned out that FitzRoy had offered it to his mate instead! However, this offer was turned down and eventually Darwin was able to take the position for himself.

The next few pages had me in stitches. I never thought that this book was going to be a laugh riot, but the lead up to the sailing was a catalogue of delays and problems. And then once they eventually got going Darwin spent the first few days doing nothing but puking.

So they are off and sailing, The Channel, Atlantic, Biscay, Canaries, vomiting. The usual stuff. The Canary Islands (and Tenerife in particular) was the first scheduled stop. Now, before the offer for the Beagle came about, Darwin was trying to sort out an extended trip to Tenerife to survey the geology and the natural history. He had become fixated with the tropical vegetation that he had read about, the rocks, the mountain the wildlife – everything. I don’t think it unreasonable to state that he was in besotted with the place – he dreamed and yearned to go there but all his plans to get there had fallen apart. The fact that The Beagle was going there was a major bonus, and he was looking forward to it. A lot. So The Beagle arrived offshore and dropped anchor. They contacted the locals and were told that because there was some contagious disease in England, they were not allowed onshore for two weeks.

‘Bugger’ thought Darwin.  Probably.

‘Up jib’ said FitzRoy (that’s the naval equivalent of ‘Fire up the Quattro’).

‘Double bugger’ thought Darwin. 

And after all his longing to reach Tenerife all he saw was a distant view when at anchor. Darwin was not a lucky man.

Dusky Warbler? Pah!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

London birders are more than a little excited by a Dusky Warbler in Walthamstow, and rightly so.  However, when they were all charging over to Eastenders land, I dutifully went for another foray into the patch and I found this!

Ok, it's a feeder and there are manifestly no birds on it.  But had I digimonned this image thirty seconds earlier there would have been a Coal Tit in the picture - and that is a patch tick!

And there was two of them.  Patch tick and patch second!  Result!

50 for the year (and still no Dunnock) and 76 for the patch.

Ker-bloody-ching!  Dusky Warbler?  Pah!

The impressionist

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Starling in my back garden is brilliant (he is pictured in all his unfocussed loveliness below).  Specifically the male, and specifically his song.

Many will know, and some will not, that Starlings are excellent mimics.  They are also excellent looking birds (if you take the time to have a good gawp) and they are intelligent.  All round good birds.

The male in my back garden has a growing repertoire of impressions.  In the last few weeks he has starting singing again, rehearsing for the summer.  When he starts to sing, you get the normal whistles and cracks, as if he is tuning in his own internal wireless, and then he is off.  And always in the same order.  It may be fair to assume that he puts the impressions into the song in the order that he learnt them, or it may not.  Either way he always starts with the alarm call of a Blackbird.  Not the full blown flying away because there is a cat on my head call, the nervy little 'chok' that they do when they are not quite sure what is going on.  And the Starling does it perfectly, and three or four times for good measure.

More whistles, cracks, and the odd peeeeeeooooooooo follow before he brings in a Pied Wagtail in flight.  Perfectly.  Catches me off guard quite regularly does that one.  He then brings in a bit of Magpie, a bit of Jay, a little Song Thrush, a hint of Goldfinch and some other bits of work in progress.  I'm assuming that as the year progresses and he sings for longer, there will be bit more finesse in the new impressions and more of the existing too.

I was in a local park on Saturday, and as I entered, I was thinking that what I could here was the wierdest Greenfinch song I ever did hear.  When I got my eye in to the top of the tree, it was another Starling, rehearsing for the summer.

A Starling doing Rory Bremner.

Elementary my dear Mrs Watson's Black Flycatcher

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yesterday's post wasn't meant as a trivial fun game to try and fill a blogging hole, I am genuinely interested to know what others think, so Des, Tim and Stuart thanks. But what was my thinking? Well, here goes nothing...

A list of the salient facts (kinda).

They definitely look like game bird feathers. There large striped one looks almost duck-like. Perhaps even Eider-ish.

This is Fulham. Any game bird, or sea duck would be absolute patch gold. They are not on the list of birds that I might reasonably expect here. However, recent london sitings have produced a small number of such sitings.

The amount of feathers on the river wall might well indicate a kill. But what is going to kill a large game bird round here? A Peregrine might, but you would expect it to be a pigeon specialist in London – the sight of a Pheasant sitting in a tree would cause it much confusion and there is another point – Pheasants roost in trees.

There was no blood. Or carcass. But either could have been removed – by rain or fox.

Fox. They are around here, but not much. I have seen them walking around the shops in the Kings Road during the rush hour, but the probability of one surfacing long enough to take its nose away from the rubbish bins to get a Pheasant that is unlikely to be here in the first place is small.

Litter. And this might be where the truth lies. In the 21st century, the good burghers of London treat their streets and waterways only marginally better than they did in the time of Pepys. If it can go on the floor, it will. If it can be left on an Industrial Estate, it will. If it can be dumped in the river then it definitely will. That’s why Thames21 exist. I have seen everything on the river bank from handbags to handguns, televisions to teletubbies. Everything gets chucked in this unfortunate body of water.

So, my dear Watson – in summary... they are the feathers of a game bird, but a game bird is fantastically rare in Fulham. Litter is much more common. If an item of litter contained feathers, it is more likely to have been the source of the problem in hand. What you do not know dear reader, is that across the river I know of where a bedsheet hangs in a bush by the river bank.  Bedding is already in the system. And this is the crux of the matter. This is where Occams Razor cuts through everything, bones and fillets the red herrings - delivering it in a nice white wine sauce of truth.  In theory.

Someone dumped a feather pillow. Loads fell out and stayed on the river wall, while the rest drifted off in the halcyon waters of the Thames. I believe this to be much more likely than a Pheasant drifting up here and getting wiped out.

Had me going for a while though.

Sherlock Holmes doing holding his Occams Razor.

Mystery feathers

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I found these on the river wall yesterday.

I have an idea of where they came from, but I could be wrong (it does happen).

Any offers?

Feathers doing I wonder...

The Final Countdown?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Powers outside my control meant that I 'unfortunately' had an opportunity to count the Starlings again this morning as they emerged from the roost under Wandsworth Bridge.  Unless Mrs Thing wants to brave a chilly morning by the Thames, this is likely to be the last count that I do this winter.  There are two reasons for this.  One - sun-up is earlier which means that soon they willl start pouring out before 7am, which means I have to get up stupid early to get on site.  Two - there doesn't seem any point any more.  I'm not being defeatist, I just keep coming  up with the same number.  c4,500 birds - and that was the count again.  Stick that into BirdTrack I reckon and get that satisfying message about an abnormal number of birds come up.  Nice.

Science.  Done.

The reward for all this?  Have a look at these pictures (which are untouched save for a crop).

Wandsworth doing not so bad actually when you look at it like this.

What the duck?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Teal numbers are slowly increasing on the Wandle.  Not quite double figures, that is how slow it is increasing.  And occasionally fluctuating.  They are all male, and they are starting to get less nervy.  When they first arrived, they only had to see a human on the spit area and they were off.  Now they just move along the water a bit and continue feeding.

Until yesterday. 

Because yesterday there were females.  Oh yes, two little lady Teal amongst the 7 males.  As you would expect, the males were more than a little excited and starting doing loads of bobbing and whistling while the female would keep teasingly distant from the males as they danced around.  I expect to see more of the same today, but preferably without the wind driving sleet onto my eyeballs.

Teal doing 'cor - look at the speculum on that!'

Nay, nay and thrice nay

Monday, February 08, 2010

As far as I am concerned, trying to connect with birds on a familiar patch is not twitching.  Going to a local patch, hoping that something good is going to be there is not twitching.

However, going to a local patch to try and see mental looking chinese ducks and not seeing them is dipping.  Going to a local patch, looking in the book to see what has been seen, finding out that the female Scaup is still knocking about and that there was a drake Goldeneye there in the morning and not seeing either of them is dipping.  They look(ed) like this.

So there you have the brief synopsis of a small amount of birding over the weekend.  Dipping.

Anyone noticed how tasty the Tufties are looking at the moment?

A Tufted Duck doing cracking plumage and everything.

Aix and pains

Friday, February 05, 2010


A Mandarin was seen close to, or perhaps even in the patch recently.

Not by me.

That's the pain bit.  Although as it's wings are clipped I might have put it in the dodgy tick pile myself...

But I reckon that this is as good as an excuse as any for some gratuitous duck porn as I'm likely to get...

A Mandarin doing phwoar!

So the incubus of nominalism was dispelled.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

That is a complete sentence from a book I was reading last night.  It tickled me.

Not as much as the Kingfisher that I saw by the Wandle yesterday, nor the 7 Linnets that were close by.  I wouldn't have got as close to them as I did if it wasn't for the splendid new path thingy.

On the opposite bank there was a film crew filming some lads in old skool tracksuits playing cricket on concrete near a graffiti splattered wall.   More than likely some minor plot device showing gritty realism that will occur in The Bill in the not too distant future.

I have pictures of dubious quality of all of the above.  Except the book.

Those pictures are on a camera that is several miles from this computer.

So have a picture that would have been better if I had been just a teeny bit further away from the subject.

Black-headed Gull doing nearly nice.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I know that this is not the best picture ever, but it is actually of the bird that I am about to yack on about (and no, there is not much going on in the patch over the last few days).

It's a Blackbird.  And it has been doing subsong.  I thoroughly enjoy catching this behaviour - I feel that I've been let back stage into a Blackbird rehearsal room.  This one is an immature bird.  No black head feathers yet, no yellow bill yet - but he has started to sing.  Probably not ready to launch with the full version at full volume because he'll attract attention and will end up scrapping, but for now he is finding his feet and snatching a little rehearsal time here and there.

A Blackbird doing singing, but really quietly...

Pondering about Kites

Monday, February 01, 2010

If you are a birder of sorts, then you may be asked the question "where is the best place to see Red Kites" and it used to be tricky.  But it isn't any more.  In certain areas it is almost impossible not to see them.   If you leave the M40 on the junction for Stokenchurch and just wander around in the area of Chinnor, Princes Riseborough etc etc you cannot get away from the fact that they have Kites.  They are bloody everywhere and there are bloody loads of them!  Everywhere!  Loads of them!  They really are pleasure to go and see but I have a couple of questions.  Is this a sustainable population? Can an area like this realistically support this many large carrion feeders? Is there any detrimental effect on other species in the area – crows, buzzards etc? Are the Kites being fed to maintain the population? Is this happening to bring money into the area for people? Do the Kites know that it is my Dads birthday today?

These are all pretty much rhetorical questions, and I reckon that the answers are roughly no, no, probably, surely yes and dur.

Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing them and I’m glad they are there. I don’t feel hypocritical in supporting the work that was done on the Kite population and dissing the Bustard program or the lunatic Sea Eagle in East Anglia idea. The population existed and was in danger – it’s slightly different. I just have this feeling that the population is just a little bit too high, and maybe they should be left to fend for themselves a bit more.

A Red Kite doing happy birthday

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