29 April 2010

Goo-goo gaa-gaa

One for the Kate Humble fans today,...

Have been forgetting to mention the first appearances of bubby birds this year. Can't remember when/where my first Mallard ducklings were, but had Robin and Moorhen youngsters on Tuesday, and Cootsters and Woodpigeon squabs yesterday, which altogether, beg the response,... aaaaaaaaaah.

28 April 2010

Almost forgot to mention...

Two new 'uns for 2010 over Avonmouth way today: Garden Warbler and Large Red Damselfly,... joy.

27 April 2010

The best thing since bread came sliced

A Gwent tick! A palpable Gwent tick! Popped into Buggerall on the way home to pay homage to the Lesser Pecker; after a while heard both calling and drumming, then got a flight view, then more calling, another flight view and finally suspiciously distant drumming. May well have had two birds, may even have half an idea as to where the nest might be.

A bit of sky-watching for an errant Black Stork this evening produced a Swallow high north, a few gulls and, amongst the cirrostratus and discombobulus nimbus, a Phoenix x shark hybrid and an x-ray of a cartoon monkey's skull.

25 April 2010

That bloke off the telly

The Saltmarsh/Farmfield/'green' triumvirate of NWR lanes produced four Groppers, a Cuckoo and a few Whimbrel this morning. Having spoken to a few others, it sounds like there may have been as many as 10 Groppers between Saltmarsh Lane and the western end of the reserve today,... the magic of a decent bit of overnight weather. The only other highlight was close views of Mike Dilger (aka 'that-cheery-northern-bloke-who-does-the-wildlife-bits-on-The-One-Show',... still none the wiser? See pic here,... oh no wait,... here).

The/a male Garganey is still/was present at Goldcliff. The best of the waders included the Spotted Redshank, a dozen Whimbrel and a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit. A couple each of Red-legged Partridge, Rock Pipit and Wheatear, and more views of Mr. Dilger were the best of the rest.

On the way back Boat Lane produced a fly through Hobby plus Bar-headed and Barnacle Goose; and 5+ Swift were whizzing about over the Stone of Roger (who was Roger and what was so special about his stone?).

24 April 2010

Keeping one's head down

Avoided Uskmouth this morning, thought there might just be the slightest amount of disturbance from the 800+ Brownies/Guides whose jamboree the RSPB were hosting, during the breeding season, on a NNR holding at least three Schedule 1 species. Given how predictable it is that 800+ kids might be a less than peaceful influence, I wonder if any disturbance caused to the Cetti's, etc., could be referred to as 'reckless' a la, for example, Schedule 12 of The Countryside and Rights of Way Act?

I wonder.

Anyhoo, I ended up at Magor Marsh along with a few others avoiding Uskmouth. A Yellow Wagtail heading NE was about the best of the birding although plenty of Whitethroat, Blackcap, House Martin and Swallow were dotting about plus a fair few butterflies and hoverflies but that was about it.

23 April 2010


A Water Shrew, feeding in a ditch along the 'green lane' was the best at Uskmouth this morning; the supporting cast was lead by three Groppers (two, widely spaced, reeling males and a silent skulker in the bottom of bramble on the sea-wall),... actually I say "The supporting cast was lead by...", I should probably have said "The supporting cast was..."

[Addendum: Forgot to mention, a. there were a fair few Speckled Woods around, and b. there is a Sedge Warbler on the SW side of Reedbed 9 incorporating Bearded Tit-like 'pings' in its song.]

20 April 2010

Nice grice

Red Grouse, Goshawk, Redstart, Crossbill, Siskin, etc., all within a reasonably short distance of Castle Aberquimcum. Actually, if the wind was in the right direction, motor vehicles were outlawed, everyone agreed to hold their breath and pachyderm ear implants were available on the Welsh version of the NHS, I could just about hear Red Grouse from my back garden. Unfortunately, it would appear the planes are flying once again so that's scuppered that potential garden tick.

Identification pitfalls: redpolls and Blue Peacock

Some interesting redpolls have been passing through Bardsey of late (click here and then on "Latest Wildlife Sightings", scroll down for photos and discussion between 10th and 18th April); there are also reports of similar looking birds from Somerset (see here). On Bardsey the birds are being reported as "Common Redpoll" and/or flammea, whilst rostrata is mooted in Somerset. Around this time last year, I visited Tring in an attempt to bottom out just how much of a minefield subspecific redpoll identification really is,... conclusion - it's a total bastard. To continue with the metaphor, if you can imagine a minefield in a walled maze within which every mine is wired up to two nail bombs (one named 'phenotype', the other 'genotype') embedded opposite each other in the walls, one at head height, the other roughly aligned to the average birder's groin, then you get an idea of how tricky the identification of these streaky little cardueline blighters can be - proceed with extreme caution or, even better, don't proceed at all.

However, just for the hell of it, I did take a few pictures of pseudo-randomly selected samples of cabaret, flammea, islandica and rostrata and, just in case they might prove of interest, present them here for your perusal and delectation,... [NB. click on the images for larger versions,... or squint if you prefer.]

Upperparts of cabaret (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Underparts of cabaret (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Upperparts of flammea (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Underparts of flammea (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Upperparts of islandica (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Underparts of islandica (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Upperparts of rostrata (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

Underparts of rostrata (Copyright Natural History Museum, London).

17 April 2010

[enter title with pun including 'lark', 'larks' or 'larking' here]

A windless dawn on the top of mini mountain Maen is, just about, as good as it's ever going to get around here for recording Skylark song. Having worked out a half-decent strategy, I did alright with three of the more cooperative males. A pair of Wheatear were also knocking around and both Crossbill and Lesser Redpoll put in 'flyover' appearances.

Shot down to Goldcliff for high tide and joined the throng on the sea-wall. Most of what was on show were yesterday's leftovers (Bar-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, etc.) but the Whimbrel had increased to at least a dozen and Wheatear (2-3) and Swallow (15+) were also up on Friday. A few duck are still about with seven Wigeon offshore, 20+ Shoveler, a pair of Pintail and a fair few Gadwall and Teal hanging around.

Also year-ticked Holly Blue and Large White whilst stood waiting on a flyby raptor that never appeared.

16 April 2010

Have bugle, will tootle

Dawn up Mynydd Maen proved a touch windy, sounded the retreat (a bit like this) and pottered the levels instead. Boat Lane was, as ever, the epitome of untouched wilderness with it's poddling flock of Canadas mit Barnacle and Bar-headed hangers-on. Goldcliff was a bit more exciting, despite not arriving until a good hour after high tide, passage waders included 23 Bar-tailed and 45 Black-tailed Godwit, 19 Knot, 19 Dunlin, 16 Ringed Plover, 2 Turnstone, 1 Greenshank, 2-3 Whimbrel, 2 Spotted Redshank and 2-3 Grey Plover. By the time I arrived at Saltmarsh/Farmfield it was all over bar the shouting, just a late(ish) Snipe and my first Orange-tip of the year entered the notebook.

Is that Bristol Channel wrack Pelvetia canaliculata stuckinthemudensis?

PS. Have been winding down my window and sounding 'charge' on pulling away from traffic lights,... mixed response so far,... mixed response.

15 April 2010

Wanted: a headland

Popped in on Sand Point post-work this arvo. It felt like an interesting sylvia would pop out at any moment (probably one beginning with 's' - Subalpine, Sardinian or Spectacled p'raps), of course it didn't happen (just Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs plus Swallows and Sand Martins overhead), but it felt like it might,... which is surely half the battle. Pity Gwent doesn't have a similarly righteous wedge of rock.

[Addendum: forgot to mention, had my first Adder of the year too.]

13 April 2010

Identification pitfalls: Aix ducks

Figure 1: Flock of captive galericulata from their native China and close-up of sponsa (origin of specimen unknown).

As can be seen above, whilst superficially similar in female plumages, these two species are best told apart by differences in overall plumage tone, presence/absence of striations at sides of head and neck, extent of 'eye-patch' and eye-stripe, nail colour, shape of flank spotting, colour/glossiness of greater and median coverts, leg and body length and steepness of forehead. Ageing of galericulata best attempted with reference to head pattern and streaking on underparts; with sponsa accurate ageing achieved by cutting in half and counting the rings.

More photographs of the two species can be found by typing "plastic ducks" into Google or on page 103 of your newly arrived Birding World,... er,... shurely shome mishtake!

With thanks to Mr. Bonser (via Mr. Alfrey) for providing a reason to remove the plastic wrapping from my BW this month.

11 April 2010


Another morning at Uskmouth, another dose of migrants. Two Marsh Harriers seemed to be drifting west, both female-type, a largely dark bird skimmed the reeds at 07:00 whilst a paler crowned/forewinged individual was circling off St. Brides/Peterstone at around 08:00. The arrival of one Whitethroat and two Lesser Whitethroat has pretty much rounded off the local warblers; and five Sedge, one Reed Warbler and one Wheatear were the best of the rest.

Be vewy vewy quiet,...

PS. By the way, logged somewhere just short of 40 singing male Cetti's over the last two days.

[Addendum: an hour sky-watching this afternoon produced Peregrine (2 sightings of, presumably, the same bird), Sparrowhawk (1), Buzzard (6+), Raven (1) and a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls; had 10 minutes inside-of-eyelid-watching at one point which, surprisingly, produced nothing]

10 April 2010

Me, the Cetti's, meself and the toys

The first, delayed, visit of the Cetti's survey today. Quite a few of the wee blighters but, even more exciting (were it ornithologically possible to be more exciting than a Cetti's Warbler), Gropper, Sedge and Reed also put in appearances. Would have got some very nice recordings today were it not for the constant background din of construction activity, aviation, motor vehicles, barking dogs, etc., etc., etc.

PS. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff are now officially too numerous to count as anything but an impediment to finding something of real interest.

09 April 2010

Mostly Jack

A rare team effort at Saltmarsh/Uskmouth this afternoon produced nothing beyond another dose of Chiffchaff. Down Boat Lane, Barney is still present and, this evening, was being buzzed by a dozen Sand Martin and a Swallow.

06 April 2010

A good start

Visits to a couple of sites on the sunny side produced a smattering of northbounders. A spanking male Redstart was probably the pick of the bunch with 1 House Martin, 3 Blackcap, 8 Sand Martin and tonnes of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers providing support. There appeared to have been a proper arrival of the phylloscs, they were still concentrated in little flockettes (I like to think they'd just dropped out of the sky together) and feeding like crazy.

05 April 2010

Feeding the ducks

Next time some dingbat asks me "What is your favourite bird?" I'm gonna say Red-breasted Goose, if they say "... birds?" (plural) I think I'll stick with the tried and tested "Brown Boobies".

Had a day at Slimbridge today, lots of Chiffchaff all over the shop but highlights were: an Otter in the top of a tree, a nutter and his carrier bag full of sliced white, being asked if I was "Waiting on a sausage" by a waitress (?!), and up-ending my bag of corn into my jacket pocket.

PS. Why are they wasting money on a Crane captive breeding programme? What is it with the 'conservation' bodies and big birds? Some of these reintroduction projects (Crane, Great Bustard, etc.) are totally pointless.

04 April 2010

Happy birthday chocolate

As it is Easter and we are all celebrating the day that Jesus' good friend Mr. Cadbury invented chocolate, I thought I'd stick a few pictures of pretty flowers from Andalucia on here as an intimation of peace and goodwill to all (well, I say 'all'; again with due regard to the time of year, perhaps that should have been "... an intimation of peace and goodwill to all bar those I'd rather see crucified).

Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthrenidifera

Mirror Orchid Ophrys speculum

Yellow Ophrys Ophrys lutea

By the way, my botany is about as good as a chocolate toothbrush so feel free to correct my identification of the above should you know better.

PS. A quick dash along the sea-wall between Peterstone Church and the golf club produced a couple of Swallows heading inland, a Willow Warbler and a few Chiffchaffs.

03 April 2010

Ynys-y-fro migrant magnet

A quick outing produced one House Martin, 3 Willow Warbler, 16 Sand Martin, 10+ Swallow and a Chiffchaff or two at Newport's premier concrete lined wetland this evening. Very few wildfowl now though, presumably the upshot of seried ranks of fisher-folk standing gnome-like around the perimeter and the increasingly towering presence of the development currently being built right on top of what ought to be a County Wildlife Site/Site of Nature Conservation Importance/Site of Importance for Nature Conservation/whatever they call this sort of thing round here. How many such sites has Newport Tinpot Town Council designated by the way?

02 April 2010

Post-trip hangover

Spent the morning avoiding the weather and wondering why it is that, despite using Johnson & Johnson "No more tears" shampoo to a point of almost religious devotion, every time I visit the GOS sightings page I still wanna blub. Spent the afternoon oscillating between plotting the untimely demise of every human within a ten mile radius and longing for the sound of a creaking rope. This evening I have been fleshing out a plan for declaring my house and garden an independent super-power (I'm gonna have me a mine field and everything) just need to get it past a popular vote, me and the goldfish see eye-to-eye on this one, I think Jack's on board, not sure of 'She-who-must-be-given-the-impression-she-is-being-obeyed' (do I need a unanimous victory on this one or will a simple majority do?). I may never set foot in Gwent again.

Another full and productive day.

PS. May have OD'ed on Family Guy this evening,... giggidy.