31 December 2009

Quick look, quick post

A quick look at the top end of Boat Lane produced 5 Ruff, 6 Golden Plover and 16 Black-tailed Godwit amongst 600+ Lapwing; also had 13 Stock Dove on the opposite side of the road. Must dash...

30 December 2009

... and whither the weather is bound.

Some books to spend your Xmas money on, if you're interested (and you should be) in this sort of thing:

Helm, D. & Hepburn, C. (eds.) (2009). The Economics and Politics of Climate Change
Mackay, D.J.C. (2009). Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air (Available for FREE here!)
Mittermeier, R.A., et al. (2008). A Climate For Life: Meeting the Global Challenge
Stern, N. (2009). A Blueprint for a Safer Planet: How to Manage Climate Change and Create a New Era of Progress and Prosperity

NB: 1. these books are unlikely to make you laugh out loud (especially post-COP15); 2. all are available from the lovely people here; 3. only Mittermeier et al. has nice pretty pictures in it; and 4. if the topic of global climate change is not your sort of thing then, in the spirit of public service blogging, I'd suggest either this or this (depending on your personal preferences).

29 December 2009

Whether the weather is good...

Seven hours in the field with very few birds to show for it. Did have a smörgåsbord of weather though, mostly on the rainy theme, but a good variety nonetheless. We had everything from hissing and icy, via heavy, percussive and persistent through to floaty and globular before sleet and then, eventually, wet snow (the type the Yupik and Inuit, with the rich terminology for the white stuff, would call 'shitty').

28 December 2009

Magical mystery tour

A quick tazz round produced more grockles and dog walkers than birds, did manage one female Merlin going through the power station, one Avocet on the west bank of the Usk, three Stonechat and a Chiffchaff at Uskmouth; two Ruff, one Greenshank, one feral Barnacle Goose and 25+ Snipe at Boat Lane; one Spotted Redshank and one Green Sandpiper at Goldcliff Pools; and naff all at Redwick and Ynys-y-fro Reservoir.

26 December 2009

Great shrike

Jack got his second shrike today, not much else though, heathland (even the very best quality Surrey/Hants border heathland) in the winter is hard work - the odd Darty, a distant Crossbill and the nice ickle blighter above and that was that.

24 December 2009

Burp, fart, snore

If anyone needs me (or Jack) over the next couple of days we'll either be eating, drinking, or sleeping off the effects of eating and/or drinking. Might sneak some birding in somewhere but can't see it being anything too strenuous. As I think someone once said - "Happy bloomin' Xmas". Or, to be more precise,... "Happy bloomin' Saturnalia/pagan festival that was co-opted by the early Christians in an attempt to replace the traditional belief structure with the 'new' fairy story emanating from the Middle East". Why can't I find cards with that on in the post office?

23 December 2009

Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh

Spent most of today's meagre daylight hours at lovely Avonmouth; nothing too exciting, had to make do with a few Chiffchaff (all collybita looking/sounding), Stonechat and Snipe, plus a lone Blackcap. Most of the interest was passing overhead with 13 Golden Plover heading southwest along with a dose of Lapwing.

Almost forgot, a Barn Owl flopped across the M4 just west of the Magor turning,... and goodnight.

22 December 2009

Pretty cold

The view from my 'obs'. No Bramblings on the feeders and no flyover Lapwings; so far, this weather has done nothing to enhance the birding reputation of the Aberquimcum valley. It's amazing what the thinnest of white veneers does to the look of the place though,... you can hardly make out the scrambler-induced erosion when a touch of the white stuff has fallen.

21 December 2009

Brillo-haired monster vanquished!

In honour of the recent triumph of music over institutionalized mediocrity and pre-packaged shite, I give you Iffy Biro's acoustic (more festive feeling?) version of 'Killing in the Name'.

20 December 2009

Green bins, discuss

Seems to be a fair few Black Redstarts about this winter so it wasn't too surprising to find one at Uskmouth Power Station this morning. Unfortunately, just as I was composing the perfect shot of black redstartedness, some muppet wandered right across my line. The only other mentionables were four Golden Plovers amongst Lapwing on the Saltmarsh Grasslands and a rather striking leucistic Blackbird outside Liswerry College.

PS. The girlfriend also had "loads" (about 50) Crossbills at Craig Fapi near Forest Drive this morning.

19 December 2009

Do Kingfishers dream of fishy sheep?

In lieu of a very large, pale falcon in Glamorgan; I made do with a very small, dark falcon in Gwent. The female Merlin is still knocking about down the bottom of the Farmfield Lane, its finchy larder seems a bit depleted though, most of the Greenfinch appear to have buggered off. The only other eyebrow raiser was a Kingfisher that took a short-cut through the game crop.

Pull back and centre,... enhance 34 to 46,... pull back, wait a minute,... pull right,... stop,... enhance 15 to 23,... give me a hard copy right there.

18 December 2009

COP-out looming

"It's a lot of uptight, middle-aged men doing the negotiations, who need to see through their particular little spheres of self-interest..." - Thom Yorke
Should we really be surprised that a large number of old, rich men, who have done just fine fucking the world to this point, aren't going to produce the required outcome from COP15? Given that the ruling elites of China, USA, India and Europe will, due to their positions of monied power, be able to insulate their friends and families from the risks of water-induced conflicts, issues of food and energy security and the unrest induced by migratory pressures (at least in the short-term), is it not just the slightest bit predictable that the best to come out of the COP circus is likely to be a few gallons of green-wash and a thinly veiled two finger salute to every other fucker that walks, crawls or flies on this planet? Would it have been different if Katrina had totalled New York as opposed to New Orleans? What if Beijing was disappearing under the waves not Tuvalu? Oh well, next year is supposed to be a more active year for hurricanes in the Atlantic, perhaps one will take out Manhattan and COP16 will be undertaken in an atmosphere of greater urgency.

Addendum: it's even worse than I thought it would be, COP15 has produced absolutely nothing. Ab-so-fucking-lutely nothing. They haven't even produced a document that requires signing off by the heads of state. Laughable. Obama is hamstrung by the Republicans; and China and India aren't going to take any significant steps until every member of their populations has a BMW, a 32" plasma TV and a Tesco loyalty card.

Addendum 2: the bad news just keeps coming, two of the more significant outcomes of COP15 are that the Chinese have agreed to some level of outside scrutiny with regard to carbon usage (albeit they haven't agreed to any targets, so there is nothing to scrutinise) and, in return, the Chinese have had the long-term target of halving emissions by 2050 dropped from the accord (and, presumably, any future agreement).

17 December 2009

A mystery demystified?

"... any Chiffchaff producing a typical tristis call should be a tristis, providing that plumage and bare-part colorations remain within the limits described..." van den Berg (2009).
I have my doubts about our current approach to Chiffchaffs but, if this is where the goal posts are at, and apparently it is (for now at least), then I had a classic Siberian Chiffchaff in Avon/North Somerset/South Gloucestershire/some geographically schizophrenic location this morning. I was working at the time so, unfortunately, I didn't have DSLR or recording equipment with me, but I'll have another look next week. In the meantime, if you're in the Avonmouth area, take a wander down Lawrence Weston Road, the bird was showing very well (and heard to call) just past the incinerator site in the trees/bushes on either side of the road opposite the brewery distribution depot. In addition, two or three Ruddy Ducks were at the 'square pool' near Avonmouth Sewage Works along with a good dose of native wildfowl.

NB. As often seems to be the case nowadays the reference you need is from Dutch Birding not BB or Birding World, details as follows: van den Berg, A. (2009). Calls, identification and taxonomy of Siberian Chiffchaff: an analysis. Dutch Birding 31: 79-85.

15 December 2009

Rise up little souls,... wage the unwinnable war

This morning The Daily Express published an online article containing a list of 100 'reasons' why global warming is natural (see http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/146138). The 'reasons' were presented as fact (under the subtitle "UK News") not as editorial comment or conjecture. Within hours the New Scientist blog had published rebuttals for the first 50 of the 'reasons' (see http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/12/50-reasons-why-global-warming.html), the other 50 were so derisory as to be not worthy of response. Each 'reason' was shown to be inaccurate, misleading or a distortion of fact.

Editorial arse gravy of this sort, masquerading as erstwhile alternative theory, is no longer simply ignorant scepticism in the face of overwhelming evidence and international scientific consensus; it is a conscious and malicious attempt to distort facts and misinform a public that is all too ready to cling to comfortable lies in the face of a very uncomfortable reality. This continual assertion of mistruths also seems to be in flagrant disregard of the first clause of the The Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code of Practice (parts i and iii). Personally, I am so bored of this blatent pedalling of self-interested shite as fact, I have made a complaint to the PCC, almost certainly an act of flawless futility; however, if you would like to do the same (it only takes a few minutes, and feel free to copy and paste any of the above) see http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/process.html.

13 December 2009


A few hours at the bottom of Farmfield Lane produced a couple of sightings of a female Merlin and a pair of Stonechat. The flock of 300+ finches didn't appear to harbour anything exciting, couldn't even rustle up a Brambling; did see a one-eyed Cetti's Warbler though.

Merlin, when the baddies look this good who cares if the rest is shire.

12 December 2009

A bit more brown

Jack ticked the Brown Shrike today, during the process we both got slightly muddier than was strictly necessary but did get to chuckle, in typically childish fashion, at the little band of scope-pack wearing, RSPB cafe inhabitants who form the majority at these last knockings twitches. Oh, what larks!

07 December 2009

Oh, most mournful 'Anas, alack!'

Six hours in the field, three in pouring precipitation,... laaaaavely! The day was made all the better for lacking anything of real ornithological note, although a Mallard x Pintail hybrid appeared, post-deluge, amongst the Mallards (perhaps hybrid ducks fall from the clouds, a birding biblical plague, sent to try us by the big bearded birding pixie).

Two things to ponder whilst you peek at the pics: 1. this appears to be one of the less variable and easy to ID hybrids (see the following for photos of living, dead and long dead specimens; and here for a smorgasboard of all manner of Mallard hybrid action); and 2. auto white balance is an, as yet, imperfect feature on the Coolpix 5100 (although, as ever, pilot error remains a possible explanation for the faux 'warmth' in the first image).

For the record, whilst this hybrid combination appears to occur quite regularly 'in the wild', the origin of the bird above is clouded by the fact that a Wood Duck hybrid was found in almost exactly the same spot a couple of weeks back (it looks like a Wood Duck x Wigeon sp. to me, however, I didn't see it in the field and am only going on the phone-scoped image below [when I originally looked at it on the phone, my first thought was Wigeon x Mallard, oops!]. Presumably somebody not too far away is: a. putting the wrong ducks with the wrong drakes; and b. totally inept at keeping the questionable results in their cages.

Image courtesy of a bull,... wait a minute, let me try that again,... Image courtesy of A. Bull.

Should you feel the need, images of various Wood Duck hybrids (including Wigeon and Chiloe Wigeon combinations) are here; Wood Duck x Mallard pics are here; and Wood Duck x Pintail pics are here,... the very epitome of bedtime reading I think we can all agree,... zzzzz.

05 December 2009

Melt-in-the-mouth meat

Still present, still feeding on fetid lamb and still looking surprisingly good for it.

Hey good lookin', what's your secret?

Well, I eat a healthy breakfast of grey sheep flesh, followed by a light lunch of grey sheep flesh and round the day off with a grey sheep flesh supper,... it's nutritious, low in calories and tastes great. Gives me gosh awful wind mind, I'm having to sleep with my nose upwind of my arse and, at the office, I've been banned from using the lift.

PS. Forgot to mention, also had Redpoll and low-flying Helmeted Guineafowl at beautiful Beachley.

01 December 2009

Illegal bird trapping in Gwent

Just in case anyone doesn't visit the GOS homepage,...

Last Thursday an illegally set net (probably aimed at trapping finches) was found on the Newport Wetland Reserve which resulted in the death of a Reed Bunting (luckily, a number of other birds were released). If you see anything suspicious on the reserve please contact either the CCW reserve manager (Kevin Dupe) on 01633 275813 or the the Police Wildlife Liaison Officer for Newport (Tony Williams) on 01633 244999. There have been suspicious reports of bird trapping elsewhere on the levels in the past, so keep please your eyes open whenever out and about.

Mist-netting of birds to be ringed as part of the BTO Ringing Scheme is undertaken by the Goldcliff Ringing Group on the reserve (though largely on private parts of the site), and at other sites in the county. BTO ringers check their nets at 15-30 minute intervals (depending on conditions) so should be regularly visible and are pretty approachable and happy to answer queries but, if you see anything suspicious, err on the side of caution and contact the numbers above.

According to the RSPB website, last year, they received 64 reports of the illegal taking, possession or sale of wild birds (other than birds of prey) across the UK, these predominately involved finches. There is a market both in the UK and Europe (e.g. Malta) and birds fetch £40+ for the bastards doing the selling. As someone once said,... keep 'em peeled.