29 April 2013

Knit one, purl one

I have never seen a lamb in an ill-fitting jumper, their nans must really know how to knit.

PS. As of mid-morning today, all the regularly breeding warblers in Gwent have danced across my glazed stare or tickled my jaded ear.  They have all arrived in one's birding sphere for the year, they are all present and correct.  Well done them.  Now,... to find one of the less regular variety.

28 April 2013

More muckle

A second morning of pottering in search of Cetti's Warblers produced: 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Redstart, 2 Grasshopper Warbler, 11 Whimbrel, 1 or 2 Cuckoo, another 5 Lesser Whitethroat and approximately 25 Swift. Regarding the main quarry species, the weekend's efforts located just short of 30 territories.

The high high tide meant these guys were attempting to roost along the bottom of the sea-wall, of course, the Severn estuary is one of their most important staging posts, I wonder what impact the Wales Coast Path has been having today.

 Where the Whinchat wasn't.

27 April 2013


A trawl of Uskmouth to map the Cetti's Warblers produced a reasonably predictable bycatch of 2-3 Grasshopper Warblers, 1 Whinchat, 1 Cuckoo, 8 Swift, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, 9 Whimbrel and 2 Wheatear.  One borderline proper notable was the Red Kite which drifted slowly overhead just as I filled my memory card.  As I fiddled for a replacement, it lazily, oh-so-lazily, circled directly over my head before slowly, oh-so-slowly, moving off west just as I'd remedied the data storage situation.  What.  A.  Dick. 

Probably the best views I have had of this species in Gwent.  DICK!

26 April 2013

Four days in the field

Three days in low fields, one day in high fields, though no days in Gwent fields.  Finally caught up with the likes of Whinchat, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common Sandpiper, etc.  Tonnes of Wheatear dropping in and out, and managed half a dozen butterfly species - outrageous!  Still no odonata though,... not one. 

On the dead front, a big-bloaty-floaty Water Vole and a shiny-black-tarmac-flat Mole.  

19 April 2013

Three days in the hills

Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Stonechat, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Tree Pipit, Tree Pipit, Tree Pipit, dead sheep, Curlew, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Curlew, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Stonechat, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead sheep, Redstart, Wheatear, dead Hedgehog.

16 April 2013

The passing of a slice

For those for whom cake is an integral part of their lives, the last slice of a moist Vicky sponge, now dearly departed.

Now he belongs to the ages. He is not mine, he is the world's. He belongs not to our age, but to all ages. And yet, even though he belongs to all time and to all peoples, he is our own, for he was,... quintessentially,... cake.


14 April 2013

... and it continued

Sunday to, on and fro the patch produced: Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 150+ hirundines (including 2 House Martin), Yellow Wagtail and double figures of Willow Warbler. 

13 April 2013

A bit of an arrival

Yesterday at Boat Lane and the pools: 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 2 Water Rail, 8 Swallow, 5 White Wagtail and 12 Willow Warbler.

Today at the pools and Boat Lane: 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 23 Swallow, 8 Sand Martin, 1 White Wagtail, 10 Willow Warbler, 1 Redpoll over and the usual lovely great big farmyard geese,...


10 April 2013

That "Scoop"

A quick lunch stop at Bryn Bach Park produced closer views, in better light, of the latest addition to the Gwent list.  Did get sticky finger marks all over my optics though.

 Lesser Scaup with camera in one hand and a grim supermarket vintage [my arse] cheddar and salad sandwich in the other.

 Lesser Scaup with camera in one hand and cheese and onion crisps in the other.

Lesser Scaup with camera in one hand and banana in the other.

08 April 2013

Cover me Porkins, I'm going in

Here's a bit of a Moroccan Brucie Bonus I've been waiting to blog about, one for the Moroccan Rarities Committee too,...

[African] Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula presaharica [formerly Pale Rock (Crag) Martin P. obsoleta presaharica] confused already?  You may need to click on the image for a slightly larger version but, from this angle, you should be able to note the pale throat; the neatly pale tipped undertail coverts; and the dark underwing coverts near the carpal contrasting with the paler axillaries and inner underwing coverts.

Given the confused picture of this species' status in Morocco, we were concerned not to add another spurious claim and gild the already muddied waters.  As a result, we have been very cautious about the identification of these birds at, what appears to be, a 'new' location. However, thanks to much appreciated input from Messrs. Mullarney and van den Berg, we all feel wonderfully vindicated, ever-so-slightly smug and have now inked in our pencil ticks.  I mean, what else could they have been?  Even at a considerable distance, binoculars in one hand, plate of tajine and salad in the other, they were striking enough to pique our interest; the damn things were powdery grey from crown to uppertail and right across the upperwing coverts, only the contrastingly dull brown remiges and rectrices let the look down a little. [Hello hindsight, my old friend, slayer of doubt nigglers and what-if shoulder monkeys.]

We watched 10+ birds for the best part of an hour near the village of Begaa during the return leg of a slingshot circumnavigation of Erg Chebbi.  The harsh early afternoon sun reflecting off the sand dunes has probably enhanced the warm wash to the underparts but this is supposedly a feature of presaharica.

07 April 2013

A trickle, a palpable trickle!

A potter around Boat Lane and the pill, pools and point of Goldcliff produced a few migrants today including: 1 White Wagtail, 20 Pied Wagtail, 2 Wheatear, 1 Willow Warbler, 7 Chiffchaff, 2 Redpoll and 1 Siskin.  Yesterday's Spoonbill was also still present at the pools though may have headed off over Boat Lane this evening.

06 April 2013


Given the Twitter traffic emanating from around the Severn/Bristol Channel today, it would appear spring has, if not sprung, started creeping around the fringes of the estuary... s'pose I'd better go birding tomorrow.

That strange ethereal substance caught in the translucent frisbee is called 'sunlight', pronounced 'sʌn.laɪt',... weird huh?! Of course, the other incredible element of the image to ponder is,... just how do two monkeys in a dog suit pull off such feats of athleticism?!

05 April 2013

I went outside, I was some time

Still flipping nippy in these parts, thought I'd pop out and see what intrepid migrants had made it to the patch,... not many, not many at all.

On the passerine front, a swirling mass of three Wheatear, half a dozen Chiffchaff and 30+ Mipit swept majestically across the levels in a literal wavelet of movement.  The waders did slightly better with four Grey Plover and 16 Knot joining the wintering Greenshank and Spotted Redshank in the Notes app. (plus 80 Black-tailed Godwit down Boat Lane).  The real highlight, however, was repeated passes by a female Hen Harrier doing it's best to get a special mention on this year's list of Lapwing botherers. A Raven showed her how it's really done though by making off with one of the few eggs laid to date.

The most abundant passerine migrant at Goldcliff today and there weren't exactly hordes of these.

PS. The semi-resident Bar-headed Goose may well be shacked up with a Canada Goose,... can't wait for those hybrids (yay!).
PPS. The LRP reported earlier in the morning had done a bunk before my arrival, presumably it had thought better of it and headed back south.

01 April 2013

We need to talk about Frank

"... they can be extremely difficult to see." Daff Cosney 2011
More-or-less how I imagined I'd see Double-spurred Francolin,... 

... or, if luck was on my side, maybe like this.

March 20th, Sidi Yahya, Morocco

After an increasingly frustrating wait, a Double-spurred Francolin calls from deep in the scrub; as anticipated, a bastard game bird being a bastard to see. Will it climb a 'display tree'? Will it respond to MP3?

Before we can find out, enter random Moroccan: [Oh-so-accurately translated from the French] "I'm the forest guardian, blah, blah, blah,... You want to see the birds? I'll show you the birds, blah, blah, blah,..." In he jumps, off we go.

A couple of mis-fires later (e.g. "Nope, they're Barbary Partridge.") and we're driving slowly along a track a little off-piste, albeit still in ungated, seemingly openly accessible country, and Bob's-your-mother's-brother, a francolin is spotted in the distance [pap, pap, pap, pap,...]. We ease forward a little to enjoy said francolin at pretty close range [pap, pap, pap, pap,...]. We roll up a bit more, Moroccan now steering as I hang out the window, finger on the shutter, foot on the accelerator and [pap, pap, pap, pap,...] before we know it Frank (like I said we're pretty close now, definitely on first name terms) is directly alongside the car [PAP, PAP, PAP, PAP].

OK, so it's stuck between us and a chain-link fence, and it did appear a little flustered, but slowly we're all starting to suspect this bird may, just possibly, have had previous experience of humankind. At this point, the comedy (or tragedy[?]) of stalking a chicken as it attempts to find it's way back into it's cage from the confines of a combi-piloted Renault Kangoo set in; delirium, or hysteria, or maybe some form of full blown emotional incontinence overcomes three of the assembled (Moroccan included), tears roll down cheeks. Like I say, I think laughter was the cause but I can't speak for the other two.
"Apparently large numbers are released for hunting purposes every year and I have no idea whether some populations are truly 'wild'..." Anonymous WP Lister 2013
Well, if we don't know which, if any, populations are 100% wild, there would appear to be severe doubts hanging over this one, the site for Double-spurred Francolin seems to be a turkey shoot.

If you have ticked Double-spurred Francolin at Sidi Yahya anytime in the last few years,...

... I can't help but think you may need to take a moment, lie down in a darkened room and look inwardly.

Or,... just tick it,... based, on the soundly reasoned, incontrovertible argument that every other fupper does.