30 August 2010

They shoot (again),... they score!

There we were, well into August injury time, teetering on the very edge of a trophy-less Aquatic season, just time for one last speculative effort and,...

Ker-ching,... my thumb, Gwent's ornitho-glitterati and, somewhere between the two, a streaky, IUCN Red Listed warbler. Thank Gosh I had my Box Brownie to hand to record the momentous event.

Back-up to the biggy was provided by a Hobby dashing westwards, 14 Lapwing and 70 Black-tailed Godwit shifted about by the tide, 4 Collared Dove, 6 Tree Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Grey Wagtail all heading high to the west, and 1-2 Grasshopper Warbler and a UK Sedge Warbler control (i.e. the fruit of another ringer's pliers) in the reedbed.

Hopefully, one of the lucky few, who were within a dash of the ringing site, will provide a better image of the bird at some point, they might even let me post it on here,... stay tuned,...

That's better,... a decent image of today's Aquatic Warbler c/o Weekend Birder. Whilst recent surveys have resulted in significantly increased population estimates, this is still a pissing rare bird (see here for more information).

Narrow, clear-cut central crown-stripe? Contrasting straw-coloured mantle with broad blackish shaft streaks? Open-faced impression due to pale lores? Sandy uppertail-coverts and rump with blackish shaft streaks? It's Aquatic o'clock.

28 August 2010

Lurking in the reeds

Another morning up to my neck in phragmites. Another 85 acros processed. Another distinct lack of Aquatic Warblers. There was a fair bit of movement overhead though with 15 Lapwing, 27 Snipe, 108 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 85 Swallow, 4 Grey Wagtails and 17 Tree Pipits logged between 06:00-11:00. Got home by 12:15. Got a phone call at 12:20 with the news that two Garganey were sat on the pool by the RSPB Centre,... Doh!

24 August 2010


Visited both first and second cities of this little principality today. Ornithological highlight was noticing that one of the Swansea graffiti massive (or should that be posse?) has labelled themselves Birdie. It is a pity it wasn't Birdy, that would have been cool or sick or killa or awesome or intense or immense or groovy,... or whatever the youth are currently using to mean vaguely interesting.

I know what you're thinking,... what a beautiful day.

23 August 2010

Windy, getting windier

Spent the day ploughing an ornithological furrow along the seawall at Oldbury. Got well and truly 'hoyed on' not long after arrival and spent the following five hours squelching one's way to Trenchfootsville. Three adult Arctic Terns moving steadily down-channel were the highlight, well, that and the calf being born at the side of the seawall,... he arrived mid downpour in the teeth of a force five south-westerly,... welcome to the world little moo-cow, I'd like to say it can't get any worse but, for you my little black and white bovine buddy, I think it just might.

PS. Wednesday's Cornish pelagic has been cancelled due to inclement weather :(
PPS. Thursday is looking very promising for a seawatch,... hmmm :)

21 August 2010

Oops, forgot to add a title

Despite weather induced delays and discontinuities the, delightfully moist, reedbeds at Uskmouth produced another 120 acros this morning. Once again, diversity was at a premium (still no flipping paludicola) and the sole highlight was another foreign control, this time from the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris. I'm starting to see Sedge and Reed Warblers in my nightmares,...

The archetypal acrocephalus. Who said "Boring"? To the naughty step with you.

In contrast to Reed, and despite being as common as muck, there is something about a Sedgie, cute as a button and a song like an Indian Peafowl's tail.

PS. If everyone could please remember that the medial (or nasal) half of the optic nerve decussates we'll all get along much better. Contralateral visual fields people! Contralateral visual fields.

19 August 2010


A little holiday homework on a grotty Gwentish evening,... Laysan Albatross, Cook's Petrel, Blue Whale? Don't mind if I do, and if we could rustle up a Craveri's Murrelet I'll be cart-wheeling around the deck.

15 August 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

"Torfaen County Borough Council in South East Wales UK have destroyed hundreds of square metres of ecologically sensitive habitats containing protected species"
Cwmynyscoy Local Nature Reserve appears to have taken a pounding from the very people who are supposed to be looking out for it. For more information, photos and suggestions of people to whom you can send your views see the Friends of Cwmynyscoy Nature Reserve blog

(Image c/o Friends of Cwmynyscoy Nature Reserve)

If I had driven a JCB through habitat containing protected species, I'd expect CCW to take me to court, a hefty fine and a bill for the habitat recreation works. I won't be holding my breath on this one but let us see what happens,...

13 August 2010

Wiht unhælo, grim ond grædig

A wind-curtailed morning's ringing ended with a respectable total of 130+ birds, the majority of which were Sedge. Overhead, a couple or three Tree Pipits headed west and a Green Sandpiper batted back and fore but that was about it.

Having said that, anything pottering over at height and giving anything but the most strident of flight calls would have been drowned out by the near constant wheezing and gasping of the new red-eyed, steam belching power station. I assume the current level of noise is only a temporary phase during construction, if not I'm going to have to don my shining armour, unsheath my blade and go slay the damn thing.

"Com on wanre niht scriðan sceadugenga" [...] "ða se gæst ongan gledum spiwan",...

[Note to squire/page: I think my sword needs an MOT, could you pop it down to Kwik Smith's? Oh, and when it comes back, check they've annealed it in venom and tempered it with blood will you? Last time they forgot, ta.]

11 August 2010


Following this evening's proceedings, another couple of dozen acros have been provided with personalised jewellery at Uskmouth. Half a dozen Swift and about 150 hirundines (mostly Swallow) were also knocking around and a Spotted Redshank flew east, calling it's little spotted head off, at dusk.

PS. Despite it being low tide and Lagoon 1 being the subject of a management task, a brief stop at Goldcliff produced Greenshank, Yellow Wagtail, 3 Avocet, 190 Black-tailed Godwit, etc., etc.

08 August 2010

Today's to-do list done

Pretty good day, have successfully ticked everything off the to-do list.

04:16 - stop alarm
04:17 - dress in 'birding clothes' (dull coloured, ill-fitting, doesn't-matter-if-they-get-shat-on-type-things)
04:18 - trip over Jack
04:19 - stop swearing
04:20 - put kettle on
04:23 - make two cups of tea, one for now, one to go cold for drinking on return
04:25 - consume three Weetabix
04:30 - find and pack gear
04:35 - leave house
04:36 - wake entire street with accidental 120 dB blast of Radio 4
04:40 - 100 mph down bypass with Rufous Whistler blaring from the CD player
04:45 - divert ringing partner from his breakfast cereal to his car
04:50 - 100 mph down bypass
05:00 - sidestep slumbering Newport
05:15 - arrive at reserve
05:20 - start erecting nets
05:21 - ringing partner swearing at nets
05:35 - finish erecting nets
05:35 - start ringing circa 140 streaked and unstreaked acrocephalus warblers of two, rather predictable, types
06:35 - betrayed by the short-term satiation of Weetabix (must stick to Shredded Wheat), ate banana.
07:05 - 'speez', note Tree Pipit heading west
07:15 - 'speez', note another Tree Pipit heading west
13:00 - cease ringing circa 140 streaked and unstreaked acrocephalus warblers of two, rather predictable, types
13:10 - leave site
13:40 - arrive home
13:45 - unload and stow gear on floordrobe
13:46 - stick TMS on telly/wireless amalgam
13:47 - make cheddar, tomato and Dijon mustard sandwiches
13:48 - realise sandwich is a bit heavy on the mustard
14:02 - head to study in south wing
14:12 - arrive in study, stick TMS on beautiful, new, shiny iMac
15:05 - interrupted repeatedly by cleaner
15:15 - ban cleaner from study
15:20 - put sign on study door "Private! Boys room, Darryl and Jack only, stay out!"
15:25 - plot cleaner's untimely demise as back-up plan
16:17 - find portal to another dimension in the back of an old Brother HL-12 printer
16:33 - drink third caffeine rich drink in attempt to stay awake
16:34 - fall asleep
18:25 - wake up
18:27 - make another cup of tea
18:28 - drop cup of tea on realising Pakistan are still batting
18:29 - mop up tea
18:39 - blog

07 August 2010

Wet but not aquatic,... yet

In spite of a couple of scudding showers, we ringed another 90 Reed and Sedge this morning. So far, the season is shaping up nicely. Very little visible migration though, a Common Sand dropped into Lagoon/Reedbed 6 at one point and a few phylloscs 'hweeted' around the site but that was about it. Haven't seen any Aquatics reported from the UK yet,... bit early, wrong winds, non-reporting, all three?

06 August 2010

More on Wallace's gaff

CADW, the official guardian of built heritage of Wales, have twice (in 2000 and 2010) rejected calls to preserve Alfred Russel Wallace’s birthplace at Llanbadoc, Usk. Wallace lived in this house for the first five years of his life, and two of his sisters are buried in Llanbadoc churchyard (a couple of hundred yards away on the opposite side of the road). In addition, Wallace wrote about the formative influences of these earliest years of his life in his autobiography "My Life" (1906). Given his influence on biology, evolutionary thought and all things that stem from it, it would seem to be a bit of a shame if Monmouthshire's single most important son's heritage disappeared under a bulldozer.

If you would like to add your support to the effort to preserve Wallace's birthplace and childhood home for posterity, email Philip Hobson (hobsonp@wales.gsi.gov.uk) at CADW and ensure your views are known.

Alfred Russel Wallace in 1908, in 'the grand old man of science' mode, complete with compulsory rambling beard, wire-rimmed specs and knowing glint in eye.

PS. Earlier this year OUP brought out a paperback edition of 'Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace' edited by Charles H. Smith and George Beccaloni, if interested, click here.

04 August 2010

Ah, I see you have the machine that goes 'ping'

Another couple of acro sorties have produced about 40 Sedge and Reed plus a few odds and sods including five of these little blighters,...

03 August 2010

Overheard at Uskmouth

Ignorant munter with a face like a slapped John Dory:
"This is ridiculous, why do they let the reeds grow so high? We have driven all the way down here, walked around all afternoon and seen absolutely nothing."
I see the RSPB's attempts to turn the Newport masses into eco-warriors is going well.

PS. Perhaps somebody could explain the installation of a large, purple, concrete dragon next to the lighthouse. I can see the relevance of metal Bittern and Water Rail sculptures; I can even see the, albeit limited, benefit of bits of a large wooden dragonfly strewn about the place, but a cheap cartoonesque concrete dragon? What the fucking-fuckety-fuck-fuck is that doing on a NNR?

[Addendum: the dragon is fibreglass (only the plinth is concrete) and it is part of a "unique, world-class art event",... no, really it is. For more information see here,... interestingly they're not Welsh dragons, they're Polish (cue Daily Mail-esque rant, "These Polish dragons, they come over here, steal our dragons jobs,...")]

01 August 2010

The late shift

An afternoon/evening poppette at the acros served up another 50+ including another Spanish bird (this time from the Madrid scheme). However all this is nigh-irrelevant given the happenings earlier in the day,...

I'm on the eighth tee (par three, uphill all the way to an elevated green) it's been a mixed round to this point but I'm comfortably ahead, the pressure's off, the swing relaxed, the natural talent flowing untrammeled through mind and body. The visualized shot is a gentle fade, pitching short (into the top half of the front bank) and releasing up to the pin cut a few yards on. The swing was effortless and, like a perfectly timed cover-drive or a sweetly struck free-kick, the moment of contact barely perceptible. The second it left the club face I knew it was a laser-guided sphere of Exocetness headed straight for the flag,... I also knew I'd over hit it a little. Time slowed, the ball described perhaps the most beautiful arc a ball can describe and gracefully homed in on the 4.25 inch gateway to golfing heaven. Unfortunately, the raised green meant I could only see the top third of the pin but the audible 'thwock' and vigourous quaking of the flag had me legging it down the fairway and the colour draining from my playing partner's face. Approaching the green, sweat beaded, opponent floundered in wake and a Christmas morning sense of anticipation fluttered about the belly. As my eye-line reached green height the ball was nowhere to be seen, there was still a real possibility of it having pinged clean off the putting surface. Three strides on and,... WOOHOO!!! There's my shiny little pock-faced baby, beaming up from the the hole, wedged between stick and cup,... a no-bounce, no messin', club-to-crevice hole-in-one! Out comes the camera-phone for the obligatory clichéd posery (and not a little unwipe-offable ear-to-ear grinnery), cap sails skywards and thin worms of begrudging congratulations are extruded through my adversary's gritted dentures. The remainder of the round was pretty much a warm fuzzy blur, then off to get some champers and home for fizzy celebration.

Look at the quality of that putting surface. Chipping straight in is your only hope.

And the best bit of the whole episode? The nice chap who hands out the knackered clubs and collects the money at the Rogerstone Welfare Pitch & Putt let me keep the ball and tee as a trophy,... yay!