31 August 2009

Icelandic godwit

Got the life history through on one of the colour-ringed godwits during the week (bottom right in the photo), it would appear to have migrated a little further south this autumn.
14.07.06 off Road 815 Oxnholl, Horgardalur, Northern Iceland (ringed as an unfledged chick)
16.05.07 Marshside, Southport, Merseyside, NW England
22.05.07 Marshside, Southport, Merseyside, NW England
19.07.07 Marshside, Southport, Merseyside, NW England
04.01.08 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
12.01.08 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
18.02.08 Heswall Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
20.02.08 Heswall Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
07.04.08 Mythop Main Dyke Flood, Fylde, Lancashire, England
27.12.08 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
28.12.08 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
30.12.08 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
03.01.09 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
05.01.09 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
06.01.09 Thurstaston Shore, Dee Estuary, Cheshire, NW England
17.01.09 Marshside, Southport, Merseyside, NW England
25.07.09 Goldcliff Pools, Newport Wetland Reserve, Gwent, S Wales
31.07.09 Goldcliff Pools and foreshore, Newport Wetland Reserve, Gwent, S Wales
09.08.09 Goldcliff Pools, Newport Wetland Reserve, Gwent, S Wales
14.08.09 Goldcliff Pools, Newport Wetland Reserve, Gwent, S Wales
24.08.09 St. Brides, Gwent, S. Wales

With thanks to Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson for the info.

30 August 2009


Today was shite, Goldcliff Point was shite, Goldcliff Pools was shite (even the grotty Garganey was shite) and Uskmouth was very moist,... and shite.

I'd like to think my positive attitude is an inspiration to you all.

29 August 2009

All good, some of it grrrr-eat!

All told, I had a pretty good day today. Started off pre-dawn taking an impromptu shower in a soggy reedbed but, from then on, it was all good. To kick things off, Yellow Wagtail, Gropper and Bearded Tit punctuated the acro haul, two of which looked like this...

Overhead, more Yellow Wags and Tree Pipits trickled westwards (along with an adventurous looking Great Spotted Woodpecker at one point) but, by mid-morning, it was all slowing down a bit so it was time to go shopping. "Shopping!?" Yes, dear reader, shopping. But wait, fear not, this was not aimlessly shoving a trolley around Sainsbury's whilst hoping the girl at the till will be better looking than the fat, monosyllabic, salad crusher you got last time; no, nor the "£100 for a pair of jeans?! That's robbery mate!" type shopping; no, no, this was the Indiana Jonesesque quest for priceless relics of ornithological yore. Did I come away with the Grail, near enough - a flipping excellent four volume set of Bannerman's 'Birds of the Atlantic Islands', allow your eyes to feast...

PS. The gnarly old hands above are not mine, to see my lovely young, sylph-like, 'never-done-a-hard-day's-work-in-their-lives', prehensile, multi-fingered body parts click here.

28 August 2009

The petrel pup

Lunchtime's seawatch descended into farce, can't see me taking Jack up Goldcliff Point again. First off, we had to sit up on top by the anchor (I said anchor) as I didn't think the little fella would take to tip-toeing along the sea-wall; then it was nigh impossible to get him to sit still and concentrate; and finally, it turns out he's the biggest stringer since Nambu, Nielsen and Susskind. Every Lesser Black-back was announced as "Skua!" or "Large shearwater!"; the final straw came in the form of, what will probably become known as, 'The Pagodroma incident'. As four of the white doves from the farm circled the point Jack shouts "SNOW PETREL!", grabs my phone and starts ringing out the news, it was the devil's own job to wrestle it off him and, during the melee he nicked my hat and legged it, laughing hysterically. I know he's only two, and I'm sure he'll learn that you can't go ringing out duff gen on somebody else's mobile (especially to RBA, I mean Birdguides will report anything but it would never have got on the pagers anyway), but enough was enough and I decided a walk up to Porton House and back might be less trying. Nothing too exciting leapt out in front of us but we managed 2 Knot, 1 Common Sandpiper, 20 Ringed Plover, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Rock Pipit and a few Wheatear.

Jack, immediately post-Pagodroma,... no Jack, you can't come ringing tomorrow.

NB. Please note, the furry fiend was on a lead throughout and his poo was lovingly collected and binned,... it's a right bugger getting it out from under your fingernails mind, I suppose it does keep your fingers warm though,... whaddya mean you put your hand inside the bag?

PS. Jack says they were 'Lessers' by the way,... stringy git.

25 August 2009

Highly dubious

There I was, inspired by the lightly ruffled waters of the magical Ynys-y-fro Reservoirs, composing what was to become the very pinnacle of my creative photographic output. I framed the image, waited for the perfect combination of light and wind, closed my eyes and pressed the shutter... only to find, on getting home, this abomination of nature had sailed into view. Foiled again!

NB. When describing the reservoirs as "magical" I should point out that I mean their consistent lack of interesting bird life tests one's very belief in such things as the basic laws of biology, physics and mathematics and leads inexorably towards a belief in evil little anti-rarity pixies huddled in the run-down garage at the bottom of the slope, whiling away the hours playing evil little pixie games of three-card brag (eschewing, as they do, the more recent and complicated poker variations), only interrupting the game to pop out and paint any scarcity that does turn up in the livery of the most closely related dross,... the little bastards. One of the Coot on the top basin is an American whose bill/shield has been given a lick of Dulux 'brilliant white' and whose undertail-coverts have been daubed with the same manufacturer's 'classic black'. This, of course, leaves two burning questions: 1. which bloody one!?; and 2. why do pixies always buy Dulux?

23 August 2009

A gloomy St. Brides

No "very small curlew/whimbrel" at St. Brides this evening, in fact, there were very few curlews of any description and those that were present appeared to move off to roost elsewhere. The only bird of any interest was a first-winter Med Gull with several hundred Black-heads at the mouth of the Ebbw.

For those of you at a loose end during the coming week, it might be worth checking any of the various wader roosts (Goldcliff Pools/Pill, the saltmarsh at Uskmouth, Peterstone, etc.) or any likely looking fields. But, if you do go looking, try taking a little digital camera with you; inexpensive, lightweight and a pretty much essential piece of kit for the lone birder, gone are the days of single-observer super-rares lacking in photo/audio/video support.

22 August 2009

Lurking in reeds

Aquatic Warbler caught, ringed and released at Uskmouth this morning. Today's effort finally produced the target species amongst, what was otherwise, a quite uninspiring (in both number and variety) catch. Also had 14 Tree Pipits buzz over, including a flock of 9, and a couple of Yellow Wagtails but nowt too much else.

18 August 2009

Slugs beware

The garden is just one big writhing mass of Slow-worms at the moment, it's amazing what a compost heap, a couple of log piles and the laziest of laissez faire approaches to gardening can achieve.

17 August 2009

"... you're gonna die, wearing that stupid hat"

Here's a couple of stories to inspire a Falling Down-esque shooting spree: click here if you need an excuse to don urban fatigues, bandoliers and automatic weaponry and rid the streets of Britain of petty criminals; and click here if you are looking for the impetus to jump behind the steering column of a M1 Abrams tank and go on a balls-out, full-on, rampage against multi-million dollar pig-f**king self-interested cliques in the US.

16 August 2009


A morning on the acros at Uskmouth produced another 100+ haul, a flyover Greenshank and a couple of right little sweeties - juv male above, juv female below. The difference in bill colour is already present in well-grown nestlings so all birds in the field should be 'sexable'.

15 August 2009

St. Ives pelagic

Pictures today, words tomorrow,... so tired,... so very, very tired.

[Edit - the words...] Crept away from Abercwimcum under the cover of darkness, rendezvoused in Isca at midnight and rolled onto Smeatons Pier about three and a half hours later. By five o'clock we were chugging away from St. Ives and out into the lumpy unknown. Drizzle and murk took over as darkness left off, limiting the visibility as we pitched and rolled, wind-against-tide, out to sea. Seven or so miles offshore chumming began and we drifted with the slick like a lonely turd on the swell; Stormies soon appeared, skimming and jinking over the greasy-grey but, as nice as they are, quite a wait ensued for anything of greater note. Luckily, to while away the time, I entertained the other members of the party by going green for a few minutes and threatening to show everyone my breakfast. Then, all need for amusement, and any thought of upchuckery, evaporated as a Wilson's made a couple of passes and I bagged the worst photo of a seabird in the history of history; a second Wilson's briefly trailed the boat on the way back in but, basically, it was all over bar the shouting, a few Manxies and a balloon knot of a drive back.

St. Ives pre-dawn, yes, that is your county recorder centre stage, at this point, still in his trousers.

Storm Petrel slipping past and off into the soft.

Mally, how can you not love that face (breath like a pinniped popping a fluffy mind).

14 August 2009

Not exactly buzzin'

Another day, another high tide at Goldcliff. The only 'anomaly' in the 55 strong Dunlin flock was a Sanderling. Elsewhere 1 Knot, 2 Greenshank and 2 LRP were almost noteworthy and one of the colour-ringed godwits is still present whilst 3 Wheatears, a couple of Yellow Wagtail and a few hirundines were the sum of the passerine movement. Also had Painted Lady ovipositing on the Creeping Thistle alongside the third platform and 3 helicopters, 1 light aircraft and a military jet overhead.

13 August 2009

We're busy doing nothing

We're busy doing nothing, working the whole day through,
Trying to find lots of things not to do.
We're busy going nowhere. Isn't it just a crime?
We'd like to be unhappy but we never do have the time.
Not much birding this week, a few Green Sands over Avonmouth way and precious little else,... have got another boat trip planned for Saturday though,... which is nice.

09 August 2009

Cold water? No, my worm is just very small

Nothing too inspiring amongst the waders at Goldcliff this morning, the best bits were probably 3 Greenshank, 2 Green Sands, 2 LRP, 147 Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Snipe and 20 Yellow Wags. During high tide the birds were almost all on Lagoon 1 thanks to half a dozen fisher-folk dotted along the sea-wall and two of their mates stood out on the pill.

Having spoken to a couple of the wanglers, it turns out they, and the 'Newport Sea Wanglers' (the organisers of today's match), are well aware they shouldn't be on that stretch but it seems to make precisely f**k-all difference. They don't even have the sense to sit below the sea-wall. I wonder if they use 'Wanker Custom Lures',... bet they do [Note: if you get a mo, check out the link, it's not every website that includes the phrase "Bob hooked this big bass with a BJ Wanker crank"].

As usual the piss poor putt-putt planes pottered to and fro from Whitson Aerodrome, today joined by a shiny low-flying helicopter.

07 August 2009

A little maritime excursion

There can't be many better ways to spend a sunny Friday in August than eight hours steaming around Lyme Bay for cetaceans and seabirds? If the boat's engine had been a touch less tinnitus-inducing and we'd managed to rustle up a few drums of rancid soup les fruit de mer (lovingly laced with fish liver oil) it would have been a perfect trip, but even so, we got what we came for - 20+ White-beaked Dolphin. A few individuals showed down to a handful of yards, evading the camera naturally enough but giving crippling views.

A couple of animals further out,... aww look at their ickle white noses!

The lack of chum meant we had to take the birds as we found them: 2 Balearic and 20+ Manx Shearwaters, 2 Great and 1 Arctic Skua, and three Common Scoter were the sum of the 'notables'. Slightly less predictable was a constant trickle of Large White butterflies, presumably blown offshore by the gentle north-westerly.

I'd predict records of more interesting pelagic wanderers may be just round the corner - wouldn't be too surprised if Wilson's Petrel snuck onto a few Dorset lists with a little effort. More information on the 'Lyme Bay Project' can be found here.

As that famed French birder Luc Besson once penned, "Between what you know and what you wish, lies the secret of... [The Big Blue]",... that's a Manxie by the way, not Rosanna Arquette.

05 August 2009

Should 'windowlicker' be hyphenated?

Three species of migrant lep in the front garden today without even trying, the joy of a well-placed buddleia/buddleja (depending on whether you're an 'i-man' or a 'j-man'). Eight species of flutterby in total but the Gatekeepers refuse to join the party out front,... anti-social little bastards.

Autographa gamma and a furry windowlicker. Painted Lady and Red Admiral were, predictably, the other two,.... should you really, really want to know.

04 August 2009

FS 68278 LA Y,O(f); RA B,G comes to Newport by way of 3055

Got some information back on one of the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits that frequented Goldcliff a couple of weeks back. It was originally ringed in December 2008 640 km SSE of Goldcliff at Moëze-Oleron National Nature Reserve, Charente Maritime, France (for more information on the reserve and a chance to brush up on your Français click here).

Of course, in the intervening months it has probably flown up to Iceland and back. I wonder whether it popped in for tea with Jónsi Birgisson, Ólafur Arnalds, Jóhann Jóhannsson or any of those other clever musical bunnies,... I bet it did, islandica Black-tailed Godwits are famous for their good taste in Icelandic ambient post-rock classical ear-wormery.

02 August 2009

Like the leaves [...] when Autumn hath blown

The acros are definitely on the march at Uskmouth, the nets were littered with the little blighters this morning resulting in a catch of just over 150,... not too bad a haul. Not a lot else though, a Yellow Wag knocked about early on and the usual horde of 'bearded wonders' were pinging around.

Unfortunately, we left half an hour before a Marsh Harrier was seen to flop our way,... arse.

01 August 2009

Lamb sushi anyone?

The dead sheep and attendant gull were still present and proved to be just about the best on offer at Goldcliff this afternoon. For some reason the wader roost was all but non-existent; it was left to 10+ Yellow Wagtail, 1 Wheatear and a Green Sand to maintain the trickle of migration,... to be honest it wasn't exactly one of nature's great events.

[Edit: Forgot to mention one of yesterday's more interesting sightings, a female Teal with 7 three-quarter grown young was on the first lagoon.]