29 November 2008

Ducka, ducka ducka!

The Urban Dictionary has more than 250 entries beginning with the word 'duck' including: duck, duck 'n' mumble, Duck and a half, duck and cover, duck and swoop, Duck and Tuck, Duck Arse, Duck Ass, duck ass nigga, Duck Away, duck batty, duck bear, duck billed platipus (sic), duck bomb, Duck Boy, duck bread, duck bunny, duck but, duck butt, duck butter, duck butter, duck butter brewery, duck butter pudding, Duck Butter Slap, Duck Call, duck cheese, Duck Coily, duck cream, Duck Day, duck dive, duck dodger, Duck Dodgers, duck dont lie, duck duck goose, Duck Duck Grayduck, duck duck moose, duck egg, duck eggs, Duck Face, duck farmer, duck fart, duck fat, Duck feeder, Duck Feet, duck feet hands, Duck Fight, duck fonkies, duck food, duck foot hand, duck fuck, duck fucker, duck funnel, duck head nerd, Duck Hunt, Duck Hunter, duck hunter dog, duck hunting, duck hunting permit, Duck Lips, duck ma sick, duck man, duck man drake, Duck Me, Duck Meat, Duck Monkey, duck mustard, Duck My Sick, Duck Nugget, Duck Nuggets, Duck Off, duck out, Duck Party, Duck Paste, duck phuck, duck pond, duck pond simulator, Duck Puke, duck race, Duck Roll, duck sauce, duck sausage, duck shit, duck shoe, duck shoe mentality, duck shoes, duck shot, duck shove, Duck Shunter, Duck Sick, DUCK SICKER, duck Skirt, Duck Slider, Duck Sludge, Duck Snort, duck soup, duck spit, Duck spot, duck status, Duck Tagged, duck tales, duck tape, duck tape on the windows, duck that meal, duck tour, duck tours, Duck Town, duck tuck, duck under, duck walk, duck weed, duck whore, duck wrap, Duck Xing, duck yee, duck you, Duck'ed, Duck's Ass, duck's breakfast, duck's guts, duck's nuts, Duck-bill kiss, Duck-butter, Duck-duck-goose, duck-goosed, duck-it, Ducka, ducka ducka ducka, duckaduck, Duckage, duckalicious, Duckaluckaphobia, duckary, duckbill, duckbill platapus (sic), duckboy, Duckbutt, author duckbutt, duckbutter, duckdoogan, duckdow, duckduckduck, Ducked, ducked off, ducked out, duckee, Duckeey, duckegg, duckel bucket, ducker, duckers, duckery, duckerz, duckes up, ducket, duckets, duckett, duckettes, ducketts, Duckey, Duckface cuntmuffin, duckfloat, duckfoot, duckfucker, duckfuckery, duckfudder, Duckhead, duckhog, Duckhook, Duckie, Duckiefroggiestinker, duckies, duckin, duckin my fuck, duckin, DuckInferno, ducking, ducking chubi, ducking fick head, ducking it, duckish, duckitude, duckjob, duckket, ducklady, Duckle Nuster, ducklefart, Duckles, Ducklet, duckling, ducklings, Ducklips, duckman, Duckmanton, duckmeat, duckmo, duckmonkey, ducknuts, ducko, duckoff, Duckoutdoors, duckpin, duckplucker, DuckPuke, Duckrabbitism, duckrider, duckroll, duckrunt, ducks, ducks and drakes, ducks and sings, ducks guts, Ducks in a row, ducks nuts, ducks on the pond, DUCKS!, ducksauce, Duckshag, Ducksick, Ducksicker, DuckSloth, ducksnort, Ducksnuts, Duckspeak, duckstyle, ducktail, Ducktales, Ducktape, Ducktard, ducktionary, ducktown, ducktreesha, ducku, duckwad, duckwalk, Duckwarrior, duckwater, Duckwork, Duckworth, ducky, author ducky, ducky butt rubber, Ducky Duck, Ducky Ducky, ducky fist, Ducky Inc, ducky shirt, Duckylike, duckys, duckysex, Ducky_Dan, Duckzilla and duck_k.

It just goes to show: a. how inspiring the Anatidae can be; and b. how much spare time modern humans have at their disposal.

"My name is Ducky. Yep, that is what it is, yep yep yep!" (Judith Barsi as 'Ducky' the Parasaurolophus in 'Land Before Time' [Amblin, 1988])

26 November 2008


Popped up to Surrey for the day, parakeets all over the shop, must smuggle one back across the bridge next time. There just aren't enough brightly coloured exotics over here. Did you know alien invasives are the most common contributory factor in recent avian extinctions? For more cheery news click here.

Even more random thought for the day: fire-eating is a skill not a magic trick; the real danger is not the burning but the poisoning (the fuel is not good for one's liver),... here endeth the lesson.

23 November 2008

Sniffles and sleet

Despite a cold (it could be man flu, chocolates and grapes to the usual address thanks) and the weather, managed to nip out to Peterstone Gout this afternoon. The reported female/1st-winter Black Redstart and a flyby Dark-bellied Brent Goose were the highlights although a decent number of Pintail were also bobbing about just offshore.

There have been a couple of slightly odd happenings at Peterstone lately. News of the Black Redstart took two days to 'get out' and a sighting of Grey Phalarope took two days and two observers before seeing the light of day. Does Peterstone have it's own time-zone? Is news disseminated by wayward racing pigeons? Is it Gwent's answer to the Bermuda Triangle? As Toyah Ann Willcox (apparently writing, recording and co-producing new solo material as we speak,... oh dear) was once heard to exclaim "It's a mystery".

19 November 2008

Jumpers for goal-posts

Whilst watching the footy tonight, I couldn't help thinking there is a passing resemblance between Miroslav Klose (you know, the Polish-born German striker,... the only player to have scored 5 goals in consecutive World Cups,... yeah, him) and a certain Mr. Lee G.R. Evans circa 1990 (you know, that bloke who... [add personal diatribe/love-in regarding LGRE here]). Anyway, obviously I thought this was just a product of random chance when, on being substituted...

It couldn't be true,... could it? Next time your path crosses Lee's try asking "Haben Sie ein Bruder?"

18 November 2008


Just when you thought hybrids couldn't get any more interesting,... click here to see the 'Spoobis'. It would appear the Po Delta also has an Eurasian x African Spoonbill hybrid knocking about too (anyone up for a twitch?).

16 November 2008

Once more unto the larid, dear friends, once more

Popped along to Lamby this morning, the gull performed admirably on air, land (well boardwalk) and sea (well lake). Also had a decent number of Woodpigeon and Redwing/Fieldfare, a few Siskin and a Peregrine over; plus 3 Water Rail, 2 Cetti's Warbler and a Treecreeper around the eastern end but couldn't quite bring myself to do a complete circuit.

Checked the hedgerows around Peterstone church on the way back but couldn't come up with anything better than a Chiffchaff and a Coal Tit or two.

15 November 2008

Team Firecrest

Another pootle around a few likely levels locations (Sudbrook, Magor Marsh, Redwick, Whitson and Goldcliff village) produced another Firecrest, that's two in two weeks, that's a 100% hit-rate,... oh yeah! This one popped up in front of us at Redwick (just NE of the church) and then proceeded to drop into brambles six feet away before giving yet more stonking views within a few yards. Much better than last week. It showed again later, rather more briefly, much to the relief of 'Mr. Weekend Birder' the soon-to-be newly crowned Gwent year-list record holder.

Other sightings, bordering on interesting, included: Water Rail and Stonechat at Sudbrook; 100 Snipe and 2 Stonechat at Magor; Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 2 Coal Tit and Treecreeper at Redwick; Green Sand at Goldcliff; and hundreds of Redwing and Fieldfare all over the shop.

Bit of botany

The much-overlooked Dangleberry (Bartleberry in the US), the seeds of which are known, in these parts, by the local name 'clagnut'.

14 November 2008

Where is Europe?

This month's Birding World appeared on the mat today. Having wrestled it from the jaws of the dog, I settled down to read it cover to cover (as is my wont). There are about 40 pages in a regular edition, so I usually allocate about 40 seconds for a read through: first I skip over the UK and WP photos/records sections (it's all been on the net for weeks by the time I see it in print); then I eagerly turn to the 'How I found the [enter rare bird here]' section and read the first paragraph or two of each article, the ones that cover the finder's moment of panic/euphoria; and, finally, I sometimes glance at whatever other random article has made it into the mag (often linked to whichever country Mr. Gantlett has just got back from). I then give it back to the dog to 'play' with. Well worth the money I think you'll agree (the mutt certainly thinks so).

This month's perusal was different mind, firstly I couldn't help but notice the editorial team had decided Corvo was far too quiet this year, so had randomly added all kinds of birds to our tally. One Common Nighthawk had become two, two Yellowthroats were boosted to five(!), the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker had found a friend, and likewise the Yellow-throated Vireo had also doubled in number. They have also reported that five REVs were present, it was probably, a slightly less impressive two. God knows who was to blame but, if you want a better idea of the status of yanks on the Azores, click here and check out the pretty darn accurate database.

As if the burgeoning of Corvo's rarity tally wasn't enough, I noticed that Birding World (presumably in an effort to make flipping rare birds sound even flipping rarer), are reporting the Little Blue Heron as "a new European bird". As if being a fourth for the WP isn't good enough! Of course, this now begs the question, where are the boundaries of Europe? The Azores are obviously excluded (that's where the last three LBHs have turned up), is Iceland? What about Scandinavia or Cyprus? I'm guessing Turkey is way out. I need to know,... in fact, I demand to know! Oh, wait up,... no,... I've just realised, I couldn't give a toss.

By the way, Ian Lewington's Goshawk cover and Amur/Red-footed Falcon plate are superb, is he the greatest bird illustrator of all time? Discuss.

Meat 'n veg

Got a bonus from Riverford; curled up in the bottom of my organic, locally-sourced, fairly-traded, totally guilt-free cauliflower was this little fella...

Last time I found a moth in my greens it was a first for Newport. Unfortunately, this chubby little, cauliflower stuffed, guy looks like a Large Yellow Underwing.

13 November 2008

Report time

Got the new Gwentcestershire Bird Report through the other day, and a most beautifully laid out and wonderfully shiny publication it is too (click here if you wanna buy a copy). A few items have caught the eye thus far:
1. I loved the final sentence of the Pink-footed Goose entry; someone has gone to great lengths in an attempt to find the merest shred of a thread of hope to cling to regarding the possibility that this escape once flew unfettered with his wild brethren (A+ for effort on that one).

2. Apparently, there were no Yellow-legged Gulls in Gwent last year, is that strictly true?

3. Equally apparently, there were no Great Northern Divers in Gwent last year, now I know that is not strictly true. In fact I know that's not true at all.

4. And even more apparently, there was a Corn Bunting recorded at Dingestow in 2006. I remember dipping it but I don't remember seeing it in last year's the report.

5. Finally, I noticed that an aythya hybrid I sent in as "Tufted x Ring-necked Duck?" became "Tufted x Ring-necked Duck". All it takes is an errant eroteme or invisible interrogation point and all doubt over the little critter's unholy parentage is whisked away. Shame really, I quite like the uncertainty a hybrid brings to the party.

Points 2-4, and the fact that at least four Arctic Skuas were missing from the report, illustrate the various, probably inevitable, failings in the current records collation process. Some people don't appear to send in records at all, others send in some of what they've seen, some forget to take notes as a county rare flies past (oops, thought they might have gone in as skua sp. at least) and then every now and again something falls through the cracks at the committee stage. All I can say is, we must all try harder.

PS. There appear to be a number of photographers taking photos of Schedule 1 species in suitable breeding habitat during the breeding season. Presumably they weren't causing any disturbance, or have the requisite paperwork. The adult Peregrine looks particularly pissed off.

12 November 2008

Spot the vireo

Bosse has updated his PBase gallery with a few Azores snaps. If you would like to play 'spot the vireo' and see a pic of my second second for the WP, click here. For those who want more, I would guess there will be more shots in the next editions of Dutch Birding, Norfolk Birder's Monthly and Birdwatch.

09 November 2008

No title could prepare you for what you are about to receive

The mighty Folly Bog, part of my ex-patch, good mix of heathland breeders, hard work on the migrant front.

I was going to write about a morning's birding in God's county (that's Surrey to those of you unfortunate enough to have been born elsewhere) and how the only proven way to protect lowland heathland from the great unwashed, multitudinous proletariat and developers of this world involves razor wire and unexploded ordnance but then,... as if handed down from on high, on a gilded comedy platter,... I stumbled onto a video lovingly cast of the finest comedy gold, probably the most hilarious ever to grace the interweb in the history of ever.

It really doesn't need an introduction but when a clip is subtitled "Scenes of chaos as the church brawl breaks out" you know you are just about to experience the most side-splitting 2 mins and 2 secs of your life. And so I implore you to watch the video residing here.

If anyone needs me, I am lying in a crumpled mess under my desk, tears rolling down my cheeks, attempting to regain control over my breathing. Can you laugh yourself to death? Monty Python never came close to this.

[Edit - it gets even better, see more, under the genius title "Bless me father for I have chinned" here. Keep a particular eye out for the flying red monk.]

08 November 2008

It only went and worked

A tour of a few sites on the eastern levels produced the hoped for Firecrest (yay!) but not the Pallas' (boo). Unfortunately, I only heard the blighter and got the briefest of flight views after Richard found it just east of the 'red cliffs' at Blackrock. It seemed to be loosely associating with the small tit flock which was doing a circuit of the hedgerows and the disused railway line. Other semi-good birds included: Water Rail, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Redpoll and Siskin at Newhouse; plus Blackcap and Coal Tit at Redwick.

07 November 2008

Ooooooo, how arty!

Found a nice method for converting to black and white in Photoshop this evening, I think I'd stumbled over it before but forgotten all about it. Anyhoo, two hue/saturation adjustment layers, some judicious smart sharpening and ten minutes later...

Of course Blogger bollocks it up by automatically sharpening it to hell and back, but you get a hint of my masterly use of light and texture (ahem). I might even try it on a decent pic one day.

I might actually go birding tomorrow; there must be a Pallas' or Firecrest or something mildly interesting out there somewhere.

06 November 2008


A few Redwings seemed to be going down valley this evening, so accompanying muttley on his nightly ramble wasn't a complete waste of time.

Should you ever feel the need to slow traffic on a busy road, stand on a bridge and point a camera at the passing cars, seems to work wonders.

05 November 2008


The Aberqwimcumcarn valley has been resonating to the sound of fireworks ever since my return from sunnier climes. I guess tonight's are in celebration of a bungling, 400 year old, religion-inspired terrorist cell; and perhaps yesterday's were marking the arrival of America's new messiah. But what were the grubby little oiks celebrating with all the other evenings' whizzes, fizzes and pops?

On the Obama front, it's nice to know it is possible for the Republicans to lose a race for the presidency. Surely, if the Democrats had engineered a defeat this time there would have been civil war. I'd have thought the definition of a political 'shoe-in' probably involves fighting an election against a party presiding over economic armageddon and an unpopular war (or two), and against a rival who chooses a running mate best described as an ill-educated borderline nutter - but the gap was still only 6.1% of votes cast. In excess of 56 million Americans wanted 'more of the same',... eeep!

Downtown Aberqwimcumcarn, a pretty sight,... if you drive through at 80 mph.

PS. With regard to yesterday's postscript - I lied.

04 November 2008


This evening the girlfriend admitted to not knowing who Alfred Russel Wallace was,... I should sack her. Poor old Alfred, a collosus of evolutionary thought, local hero and a notably nifty nibbler of Nobby's nuts, cast into the fetid slurry pit of historical also-rans; the collected works of Craig Revel Horwood are more popular with some people in this house.

And now, the first in a gripping new regular feature, 'interesting facts about forgotten giants of science'...

Interesting facts about forgotten giants of science number one - despite being born at Llanbradoc, near Usk, Wallace was English (albeit with some Scottish paternal ancestry) as Monmouthshire resided on the less rainy side of the border in those days.

And now, the first in another gripping new regular feature, 'red herrings about forgotten giants of science'...

Red herrings about forgotten giants of science number one - the assertion that Alfred Russel Wallace was a "notably nifty nibbler of Nobby's nuts" may well be based on less than firm foundations, it might be 'a fact' but probably not a true one.

PS. I promise to get back to birds in the next post.

01 November 2008

Too cold to go out...

The body and mind are yet to acclimatize to being back in shitesville. So I'll stay in, listen to some tunes, read a few books and muck about on the Mac. Here's another pic from Corvo to keep you going...

I await correction on my French usage and abusage.