25 June 2010

Norf or saaaf?

High tide at Goldcliff this evening produced a few waders which might just be a hint of return failed-breeder passage, or maybe the last slothenly dregs of the northward trek. One Grey Plover, a few Turnstone and a fair few Black-tailed Godwit were the best, which doesn't sound much, but it gave us something to look at,... perhaps I should have stayed in and watched the Spain game. But then I'd have missed all the little fluffy baby ducks; Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard all appear to have bred successfully and, with the number of Teal down there, it wouldn't come as a shock if a brood of those didn't creep out of the margins at some point too.

And the prize for 'Silliest name at the World Cup' goes to...

Before the tragic kidnap of the younger of her wayward twin sons, Mrs. Dolenz was oft heard to cry "Where's Waldo?". And then, one tragic day, there came the answer none. And this was scarcely odd, because he'd been spirited off to Santiago.

23 June 2010

Phew,... or woohoo!

Bobby Charlton gingerbread men,... will confectionery like this make up for a crocked Rooney and a makeshift central defence? I think it just might,... at least until we get absolutely (Gerd) Müllered by Argentina in the quarter-finals.

19 June 2010

Would you, could you, in a boat?

The annual Somerset/Gwent pelagic was undertaken yesterday, as ever, there was a reassuringly predictable lack of seabirds but Denny's breeding assemblage proved to have leapt to a giddying all time high of six: Cormorant, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pipit and,... well,... you'll just have to wait and see...

Actually, the real rarity (well, a tick for me) was a fishy-fish-fish, and an ugly monkey-funker it was too,...

Sea Lamprey or, at least, the greater part of a Sea Lamprey.

[NB. I know, I know, you can't read the captions on the video. Don't worry they are all bollocks anyway, just sit back, watch the pictures and enjoy the über-groovy soundtrack :-)]

18 June 2010

Normal service will be resumed shortly...

As everyone else gets all dark and grungy, I thought I'd buck the trend and aim for 'light and airy', I call this theme 'a phalarope's fart on the breeze'.

13 June 2010

Sun, siff-saff and sylvia

Had a very enjoyable pootle around Gwent's long-staying avian stars with one of the brighter celestial bodies in the ornithological firmament this morning [Note to self: must test more embarrassingly extended metaphors to breaking point in the future].

Despite a midge onslaught, the Iberian Chiffchaff performed superbly, and in splendid isolation, at Cadira Beeches whilst the Marmora's was equally forthcoming but being trailed by a sizeable, semi-camouflaged cadre of the rustling, stomping, clicking and braying masses. Managed a reasonable recording, albeit including a bit more 'twitch ambience' than hoped for (see here [keen-eared locals might be able to identify the dulcet tones of two Gwent regulars roughly halfway through]); will return midweek for a more exclusive session, sound recording is not a particularly social activity but, being an anti-social bastard at the best of times, I guess I can just about live with it.

11 June 2010

Mr, Mrs, Miss, Other

Well, well, well, there really is some total shite being written and uttered about the Barolo's Shearwater isn't there? From twat camp one we have the, now predictable, "They can't stop me using a beam and a tape! We can charter a boat, steam in, bag it from the harbour and fuck-off" (you won't see it, you will disturb the Manxies [listed as a reason for notification on the Lundy SSSI citation] and you'll run the risk of getting you and the boatman a fine of up to £20,000); and, from twat camp two, we have "You might as well stay at home and listen to a recording" (well, yes you could, and you sir, are what we call a blinkered, ornithological retard).

The fact is, any night spent listening to a colony of performing Procellariiformes is a night well spent. Add the bonus that the choir's star countertenor is a quality rarity and it's a no-brainer isn't it? OK, so you're not going to see it but, you'll learn more about the bird from its calls than from its plumage. A good view might let you identify a 'Little' Shearwater to subspecies; a nice vocal performance will let you confidently assign the bird a sex and subspecies. A thinking birder presumably wants to know the most about any bird they come across and, if a bird is only going to 'give itself up' in one sensory modality, presumably would want to see those species whose plumage provides the answers and hear those whose song/calls proffer more information. Or, to put it another way, which would you bet on to find a nailed-on Iberian Chiffchaff, a blind birder or a deaf birder? Are you a birder or a birdwatcher/spotter?

Anyhoo, I couldn't give a tinker's cuss, listening to a Little Shear piping in the darkness whilst being besieged by the usual cacophony of cackling and wheezing Manxies was superb. Given the added bonus of the Telinga-Sound Devices-Sennheiser set-up and ornitho-acoustic nirvana was within my grasp (had it not been for some amateurish microphone handling on my part and a chorus of coughing, spluttering, foot-twitching, farting, etc., etc. of the half-dozen birders present - you know who you are!).

Barolo's Shearwater, Lundy, 8th June 2010, recorded at 02:38, minutes later I was snoozing on the track, by the time we got to bed proper the first Skylark had started up.

We also accumulated a nice little supporting cast during daylight hours including a full summer plumaged Great Northern Diver, a second calendar-year male Hen Harrier, the Puffins (altogether now,... aaah!) and a female second calendar-year Subalpine Warbler which found me whilst pottering down the island in my flip-flops. At first it proved a complete bugger to see, but eventually gave itself up,...

It took about four hours, three phone calls, three texts and two helpful grockles to get Jaffa out of the pub to see this bird [NB. I should point out Jaffa says he was using the wifi in the pub and not partaking of alcoholic beverages].

This blog post was written to the soothing sounds of the sun's gone dim and the sky's turned black from the album ibm 1401, a user's manual by Johann Johannsson, for which you should be thankful, the ranty bits could have been a helluva lot worse.

[Addendum: There is now a recording of the Barolo's Shearwater and its Manxie mates here]

10 June 2010

Lundy Stardust

And he was alright, the birds were all together
Yes he was alright, the song went on forever
Yes he was awful nice
Really quite out of sight
And he sang all night long
More to follow, stay tuned.

07 June 2010

Barolo's Shearwater!

See here for the official, firsthand account of this mega find, read on if you want the poorly written irreverent bollocks,...

Saturday evening may have been the most exciting episode of vicarious birding I have ever had the pleasure to experience. There I was, sat at the Apple spending money on chooons, as per ever, when the phone rings. On the opposite end of the line was a rather manic sounding Jaffa, although perhaps we'd better start referring to him as Sir Jaffa if he keeps up the sort of exploits I am just about to recount. Now Jaff is generally a pretty relaxed, head-screwed-on sort of chap but, at that precise moment, was coming across a little like someone on the verge of a full, DSM-IV approved, panic attack. From what I could tell he'd been ornithologically marooned on a well known island helping his better half seek out pioneering Stormies for a few days. An idyllic situation I think you'll agree, that is,... unless you find a probable Barolo's Shearwater,... and Orange, in all their mobile-communicatory wisdom, appear to have forgotten to provide coverage for North Devon. Now, in car, whizzing homeward, Jaff was going through the classic mega-finder's malaise of a. doubting one's sanity, b. trying to get a second opinions, and c. juggling the conflicting pulls of 'news management'. It turns out Jaff is sane (probably). It also turns out that the dynamic petrel-pondering duo had recorded the 'song' and, with some jiggery-pokery, managed to shoe-horn it down the mobile to myself and that well known partaker of mid-Atlantic pelagic preposterousness Peter Alfrey (amongst others). Well, after the initial shock and reference to all manner of Barolo's, Boyd's and Manx material (I totally forgot lherminieri [bad boy, naughty boy, to your room!]) there was no other reasonable conclusion. But this was still potentially a monstrous mega and it is at times like these when the counsel of gods, Jedi masters and the like should be sought so an email was sent to those-whose-names-should-only-be-whispered (Killian 'Blessed be his name' Mullarney and Arnoud Obi Wan den Berg [and, via them, to the maestro of biomusicology Magnus Robb]). Once dispatched that, at about midnight, was that,... to bed, perchance to dream.

Rudely woken by the doris Sunday morning, I descended the wooden hill and blearily tinkered with that switch on the kettle that seems oh so evasive first thing in the morning. Whilst fumbling to master the digital wireless portion of what used to be called a telly, the phone rang,... Jaffa. Killian [NB. Will I be struck down by a bolt from the ornithological blue for first-namery? We shall see] had replied and was pretty darn confident that it was Barolo's, just need a reply from Magnus [NB. No lightening as yet,...] another long wait,...

Turned out Magnus was on holiday but the magic of email eventually meant positive news seeped through the ether, arriving from Orkney this morning, the rest, as they say (whoever 'they' are), is history.

Stay tuned for more,... hopefully.

PS. Apologies but don't even think about moaning about the slightly inch-high-secret-private-eye nature of the 'news management'. There was all manner of egg-on-facery/warden liaison/sheer disbelief/guru communication going on.
PPS. Sainsbury's spicy lentil cuppa soups are lovely.

05 June 2010

Booted into touch?

The Marmora's is still present this morning, although, from the look of Birdguides ("Marmora's Warbler: please view ONLY from the road and do not walk on the moor, by special request of the warden due to the presence of ground-nesting birds.") it sounds as though: a. the bird is not showing continually from the road; and b. the usual weekend muppets have arrived.

The Iberian Chiffchaff is also still providing supporting cast just down the road (see here for sonograms, etc.). Just for a moment Gwent is the very fulcrum of all things rare and feathered in the UK,... oh wait a minute,... Hampshire is trying to spoil the party,... Bedhampton anyone?

04 June 2010

The dawgs goddit!

Went back for sloppies this afternoon, largely to get it on Jack's burgeoning list; the bird seems to be doing much the same as yesterday.

The moment Jack and Sylvia [sarda] sarda went eyeball to eyeball. This is now Jack's new second favourite bird.

Blorenge Marmora's

According to all and sundry, the 1st-summer male Marmora's Warbler is still present this morning showing well from the road (as per yesterday afternoon and much to the relief of the National Park warden and local ground-nesting chats, etc.) and is now nest-building. Will be back up there later to get it on Jack's list.

03 June 2010

My photos are shite but I don't care

OK, I think I've narrowed it down to two explanations, either: a. the tectonic plate atop which Gwent rests has shifted slightly. As a result, this spring we appear to be getting some of the rarities that would otherwise have turned up in a neighbouring county; or

b. my continual out-pouring of anti-Gwent jibes have goaded the county into proving me wrong, hence two right old stonkers in a month,... you can thank me later.

What a little stonker, showed well all afternoon, sang throughout and had the good sense to keep its head down when the Hobby went over,... everyone's a winner baby!