28 May 2010

We found a dog

Another week flitting hither and thither, mainly thither. A day's training on 'How not to be eaten by killer jellyfish' provided a perfect excuse for an evening on the Hampshire coast. Having forgotten that Titchfield is only open during non-birding hours, I only managed an hour before getting hoofed out; it was, however, long enough to snaffle Garganey, Med Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit and more wee baby wildfowl than you could fashion into midget's slippers (Gadwall really have gone bonkers in the last few years haven't they).

Baby schnozzler. Aaah! He's got his daddy's nose.

25 May 2010

Too busy to blog

OK, maybe just too busy to form a coherent sentence so,...


17 May 2010

Siberian Blue Robin

Another morning getting paid to be 'in the field' produced a very small (and diminishing before my very eyes) number of waders on the sunny side of the stream. Highlights included flushing a strange man from a bush and being drawn into a conversation about Swifts and House Martins by a strange man in a wide-brimmed hat. I did see my first Meadow Browns and Common Blues for the year but I was mostly day-dreaming about self-found Siberian Blue Robins and not counting absent waterbirds.

Popped in on the Iberian Chiffchaff post-work, still present, as was a Spotted Flycatcher and a handful of Crossbills.

Also returned the birdrace rental hearse this afternoon and suffered the traditional twinned moments of trepidation and disappointment as the chap in the cheap suit inspects the car, inevitably passes it as 'OK', and the thought traverses the mind that the £10 per day of damage waiver was money woefully spent. Ho-hum.

16 May 2010

Red letter day

Yesterday was 'Birdrace Day'! Approximately 22.5 hours, 250 miles and one posterior cruciate ligament injury later and,... whaddya know,... a new record is set. Despite an almost complete lack of scarcities (barring one obvious exception) 122 species were rounded up, pretty much all those regularly occurring in this season, with very few embarrassing misses. As ever with this sort of escapade, the total could have been better: Water Rail and Snipe were both recorded but not by all team members, four auks bombed up-channel but defied detection by some and specific identification by all, and a couple of other possibles/probables slipped by the wayside. Overall though, we topped the existing record by three, so a lot of sweat, a little blood but not too many tears.

12 May 2010

Sea beams glimmer in the dark

I nip off to sea for three days and a mega turns up in Gwent. Got back this afternoon, dumped baggage and was soon Wentwood bound [as per ever, click on images for larger versions].

Rain, a chilly afternoon and a less than ideal time of day meant the Iberian Chiffchaff only sang intermittently and rarely with any gusto. Most phrases missed out 'weeps' or the terminal flourish but a few performances were the real deal.

Rather fortuitously managed to record both Iberian Chiffchaff and Siskin calls (to which Iberian Chiffchaff calls are sometimes compared) in close succession.

09 May 2010

Another nine and a half hours

Lesser Canada x Barnacle Goose hybrid, with Barnacle, Canada and Greylag also present, Boat Lane continues to be Gwent's kick-ass site for geese. Two male Garganey, Marsh Harrier and Wheatear were also around and about. Curlew Sandpiper (1), Sanderling (6) and Bar-tailed Godwit (6) at Goldcliff Pools took the weekend's wader tally on the reserve to 18 species. Yellow Wagtail, a couple more Wheatear and a mixed singing Willowchiff also snuck into the notebook. The undeniable highlight of the day, however, was the tray of teas and coffees kindly served up by one of the reserve's neighbours to those soaking up the delights of Boat Lane - result.

08 May 2010

The long good Saturday

Left home - 05:30

1st stop, Uskmouth - Grasshopper Warbler, Wheatear, 10 Whimbrel and a super Canada x Greylag Goose.

2nd stop, Goldcliff Pools - Temminck's Stint and Little Stint.

3rd stop, Land's End - House Finch.

Returned home - 22:45.

06 May 2010

A reservoir for two

Had a late lunch with a Great Northern Diver today, I had the Greek salad, she had the fish. I dressed for the occasion, she didn't. What diver in their right mind would turn up in May in last season's outfit, wandering around in winter plumage at this stage,... whatever next.

PS. The Greek salad was revolting, kept going on about the economy or something.

05 May 2010


Came across this question today, "... where exactly do you draw the line between a birder and a non-birder?" Of course, the easy answer is "Between those people that have to ask that question and those that do not". However, for those that prefer a fuller answer,...

A true birder has a passion for birds and birding. The sights, sounds, excitement and, above all, knowledge fuel his passion for the emotional and spiritual intensity and pure classic beauty that can occur at the intersection of man and bird.

In terms of goals, the zone is the focus of every birders existence, it is only through inhabiting the zone can birders attain fulfillment. A birder lives a life of virtuous ornithological conduct and practice in order to achieve the zone.

The zone is the state of a perfect peace of mind that is free from afflictive states (e.g. craving, frustration, anger). The zone is the end of the worldly; there is no identity, no boundaries for the mind. The birder is at peace with the world, has connection with all birds and gives up all other obsessions and fixations. This peace is achieved when the existing volitional formations are pacified, and the conditions for the production of new ones are eradicated. In the zone the root causes of craving and aversion have been extinguished.

The zone is linked to seeing the empty nature of non-birding phenomena, a radical reordering of consciousness and unleashing of awareness. In the zone the ideal personality, the true birder becomes reality. The zone is the highest happiness, an enduring, transcendental happiness integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment.

The zone is the neutral mind, a mind that has come to a point of perfect ornithological lucidity and clarity due to the cessation of the production of volitional formations. The zone is outside of time, lifelessness, deathlessness, the highest spiritual attainment, the natural result that accrues to one who lives a life of virtuous conduct and practice in accordance with the third path. Such a life engenders increasing control over the process of birding. It produces wholesome birding with positive results and finally allows the cessation of the origination of non-birding altogether with the attainment of the zone. Failing to achieve the zone means beings forever wander through the impermanent and suffering-generating realms of desire, form, and formlessness, termed bird-spotting or dudery.

Of course, another surefire way to spot a birder is social ineptitude and a scant regard for outward appearance and/or personal hygiene.

Just one more question, is that enough piss-taking for one night?

04 May 2010

No title at all?

High tide at Goldcliff produced Merlin and Marsh Harrier and, as a result, very few waders; just one Spotted Redshank and three Knot went into the notebook. Luckily, Barney is still happily ensconced down Boat Lane, so not a totally wasted trip.

This evening a wander 'out back' produced singing Wood Warbler, Bullfinch (granted, not the greatest song in the world), Siskin and Lesser Redpoll plus non-singing Goshawk and Crossbill. Hoopoes were distinctly absent from proceedings, Mistle Thrushes weren't; strangely, this mirrors the situation when I last looked for Hoopoe around here. Lets hope there is a nice big picture of this morning's bird.

03 May 2010

Early curly sand

A leisurely bit of high-tiding at Goldcliff Pools was the order of the day. The Dunlin flock numbered about 600 and included a very dull, almost entirely winter-plumaged, Curlew Sandpiper (see pic). A Whinchat, two Spotted Redshank, a Knot and 75 Black-tailed Godwit were the best of the rest. The two Ringed Plover chicks seen yesterday have disappeared, it would seem one of the pairs of local Carrion Crow is to blame; I'm guessing the ickle plovers won't be reappearing as anything more exciting than a white splodge in the bottom of a corvid nest.

02 May 2010

Drowned out

It was raining when I got up at 04:00 and it didn't stop until about 08:30, as a result the 'Dawn Chorus Day' walk at Uskmouth turned into a soggy slog as we trekked from one reluctant songster to the next. Highlights included: Marsh Harrier, flyover Tree Pipit, two Grasshopper Warblers (one sat atop a fence post in full view), and the look of unfettered joy on the punters' faces as the RaSPBerry staff arrived to open up the cafe.

Brief stops at Goldcliff and Boat Lane produced, amongst other things, Spotted Redshank, Cuckoo, Swifts, a brood of two Ringed Plover chicks, and Barney the Barnacle Goose.

01 May 2010

How many strawberries grow in the sea?

Another quick circuit of Magor Marsh, another dose of roughly the same birds. Sedge Warblers were all over the shop, a minimum of three male Cetti's and a couple of probable females were dotting about, and four Greylags included a colour ringed bird. Let's face it, given it's early May, it wasn't the greatest morning in the Gwentish fenlands, however...

...somebody baked a cake yesterday, so I came home and ate half of it in order to: a. fulfill my duties as head taster; and b. to take my mind off the fact that I live in a county that can so ineffably attain dullness during such an exciting time of year.

For the aficionados out there, this is a Standen Golden Cake as per the recipe (albeit with the use of duck eggs; the recipe lists a noncommittal "eggs") in 'The National Trust Vegetarian Recipes' by Sarah Eddington. The book, I might point out, was bought at Dunwich Heath after the ever-so-slightly pointless 'Minsmere curlew' twitch of October 2004. On the day, not only did the book deflect any potential twitch-based miffery from the girlfriend, it also stopped me getting a National Trust parking ticket; and, ever since, I have been plied with all manner of tasty comestibles,... definitely deserving of a Gwentbirding Best Buy Award.

Aaah, those were the days, hazy autumnal sunshine, the chorus of "Surely they don't mean that one?" and enough chromatic noise in your digital images to make you laugh your lens-cap off.