30 December 2011

Welcome to Gwent

Imagine this for six months of the year,...

... it's a bit like living in a forgotten, damp corner of a Tim Burton's 'Sleepy Hollow',... minus Christina Ricci,... and devoid of the excitement.

Weather for laying down and avoiding,... or for popping to Cardiff to bag merino base layers in the sales. Job done.

29 December 2011

Magor Pill and Marsh

A half-hearted, semi-coordinated search for yesterday's putative Black Brant saw me heading eastwards this morning. Unfortunately, thanks to the usual level of disturbance along the Severn Estuary SPA (e.g. two dog-walkers exercising their walkees on the limited areas of uncovered saltmarsh at high tide), Magor Pill only produced wheeling masses of calidrids wasting their energy supplies out over the water; the small, breakaway parties that did briefly settle only contained Dunlin and soon skittered off again. At one point I counted a flock of 1,600 birds but there were probably nearer 3,000 present in total. Wildfowl were dominated by Shelduck, certainly no geese around, and apart from a female Merlin it was all rather tedious.

A potter around Magor Marsh produced three Cetti's Warbler (including two singing males) and 1 Water Rail. Couldn't muster so much as a Chiffchaff amongst the tit flock, let alone a Firecrest,... or better. Cut my losses, buggered off home.

18 December 2011

Does anything rhyme with massacre?

Urgh! Ynys-y-fro twice in three days,... not healthy,... not healthy at all.

Mind you, I did actually record a Goosander on this, the second, Gwent [Gwentian? Gwentish?] Goosander Survey visit. It didn't actually sully its plumage with Ynys-y-fro water though, just a flyover, heading SE.

'Highlights' [hold on], 'highlights' [those inverted commas big enough for ya?] included: 1 Teal, 1 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 3 flyover Lapwing and a Snipe which flushed from the field into which the Woodcock disappeared last time - cryptic-coloured-long-schnozz central. The Little Grebe numbers are still in double figures but the lone 1st-winter Moorhen is yet to attract any friends, despite the low water levels and exposed mud on the top basin.

[Brassica? A half-rhyme at least.]

16 December 2011

No snow

The promised once-in-a-hundred-year snow storm produced a dusting on the hill opposite and a slightly threatening looking sky. Despite the obvious dangers, I headed off to Ynys-y-fro in the hope of witnessing the predictable exodus of Lapwing and Golden Plover fleeing the ferocious arctic blast. One Teal, one Gadwall, four Shoveler and a nascent runny nose later and I was in Morrisons looking for organic baked beans with which to line the cupboards. You never know, I could be trapped in this not-quite-whiteout, beyond the reach of outside help, you may never hear from me again.

I'm going downstairs for a cuppa,... I may be some time.

Someone at the Highways Agency knows his Gwent birding locations.

Still not much doing

Whether at sea-level or up-country, this week, when I have been out, I have been getting cold and wet,... and seeing precious little to make it all worthwhile. Mind you, beats sitting at the computer.

05 December 2011

Ref 1 - 0 Liverpool

We had a great view and, when the ref is brought up in front for crimes against football, I am expecting to be called as a star witness. One penalty-non-penalty, one disallowed non-offside-offside goal and one non-sending-off-sending-off resulted in our first loss in 12 games.

"The referee's a stereotype!" rang from the Putney End.

04 December 2011

Better post something or people will think I've left the country

If anyone is looking for a few digiscoping bits and bobs, there's a camera, adapter/adaptor and eyepiece on sale here. It's not mine, although the camera is identical to mine, actually let me just check,...

... no, it's not mine.

24 November 2011

A day during which the sun and Barney take the piss

Another day goosing around down Boat Lane. All of the birds were slightly more amenable than they have been, in fact the Greenland Whitefront was within 'almost close' range at times. Mind you, just as the entire flock started to draw near, the sun disappeared, which means I still haven't bagged really good photos of the hutchinsii/taverneri-but-most-probably-hutchinsii-given-the-ranges-etc Cackling Goose but did manage some passable video before they were all flushed onto the pill by something scary, unknown and unseen.

On top of the crap light and borderline working distance, getting pictures of the wee fella was not helped by Barney working on his photo-bombing technique.

[NB. Still no sound recordings, couldn't help but bag the new Cetti's singing down there though.]

21 November 2011

What is happening to Autumnwatch?

More evidence of the BBC dumbing down their nature/environmental programming. Who has Chris Packham taken birdwatching now? I think that's Martin Hughes-Games on the right but don't recognise the others?

20 November 2011

Ynys-y-fro tick!

The Goosander survey at Ynys-y-fro produced precisely no Goosander. It did turn up three Wigeon, nine Shoveler, a Gadwall and nine Little Grebe, all of which, I'd say, qualify for 'good haul' status in a Ynys-y-fro context [NB. should that be "an Ynys-y-fro context"?]. The real highlight, however, was a Woodcock which flew across the road as I gave up on trying to see in the dark (damn my lack of tapetum) and headed back to the car - Ynys-y-fro tick!

19 November 2011

Oh yeah, I saw a Sharp-tailed Sand today

Bagged the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitchers and Spotted Sandpiper (plus Red-breasted Merganser, Bewick's Swans, etc., etc.) at Chew Valley Lake this morning and then popped down to Torr Reservoir for the really good stuff,...

A few images of the, rather light-dependent, breast coloration, the contrast between coverts and their pale tips and bill structure [NB. Will try for better shots of the same on the Gwent bird tomorrow,... again]. Didn't hear any calls definitely attributable to the Richardson's but, when the entire Canada (plus Bar-headed,... plus Canada x Greylag hybrid) flock flew from the fields to the reservoir at dusk, I did hear two very high pitched (but more-or-less canadensis structured calls), probably higher pitched than any female canadensis I have heard and, presumably, emanating from the little guy/gal.

Cutesy but not too cutesy bill profile. This bird has a much more restricted whitish collar at the base of the neck sock than our little tiddler.

Second generation scapular tips markedly more contrasting (broader and paler) than, actually not that contrasting, juvenile covert tips.

Ditto re scaps but note that brassy/bronzey sheen to the upper breast/lower neck.

Ditto re scaps but, wait a minute?! Where'd the metalwork go?

A less subtle example of the effect of different lighting on the breast. Now you see it,...

Never been to Torr before, not a bad little reservoir, even had a few waders with two Black-tailed Godwits, eight Snipe and five Lapwing dotted about,... not quite Chew mind.

17 November 2011

And you thought hybrid geese were shit

Ever seen a Goshawk x Sparrowhawk hybrid? No, I hadn't either, until today, when a chap comes along the sea-wall noisy accipiter on his glove. Luckily, for those of you who may want to see such a chimaera, and despite a certain caginess on the part of the owner, I was told it was "from a bloke in Wales" so, who knows, at some point one or two might escape and roam about, confusing all and sundry.

It's birds like this that bring out my cynical side, I couldn't help but wonder: a. about the origin of the breeding stock; and b. what is the point in this hybrid? I mean, if, for whatever reason, you wanted a bird of prey somewhere between Goshawk and Sparrowhawk why not get a Cooper's Hawk? Or a life,... obviously,... you could just get a life.

Don't get me started on Gyr x Merlin.

14 November 2011

New goose in town

Hanging with the homeboys,...

... ready for action,...

... strutting his stuff, "Hell-o ladies!"...

... making an entrance, "Let's PARRR-TAY!"

Keeping his head down, "Who let them in?!"

The dark-breasted hutchinsii-type Cackling Goose spent the morning on Goldcliff Pill, as did the two Canada x Greylag hybrids. Yesterday morning's Greenland White-fronted Goose was present on the grasslands but, for long periods, was hidden from view,... and Barney is still in his field.

PS. This bird is being reported by RBA as an escape, I would suggest 'of unknown origin' is a better label. This bird has occurred at the 'right' time of year, is the 'right' age, has arrived at roughly the same time as hutchinsii-types elsewhere (Islay [2], Sligo [3], Mayo [1], Donegal [1] and Somerset [1]), has arrived with another transatlantic species (Greenland White-fronted Goose, [only the second for Gwent]), is behaving like a wild bird, lacks any signs of captivity, has arrived at the same time as other transatlantic geese appearing in the region (Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Black Brant in Glamorgan), and is on the western side of the UK. OK, so there are lots of hutchinsii-type Cackling Goose in captivity and Gwent isn't Islay (and all the points above have a slight whiff of desperation hanging over them) but, if you keep a Welsh or Gwent list, you should probably make the effort to see it.

13 November 2011

He's only ickle

Early November, appears at the same time as Greenland White-fronted Goose (Gwent's second record), unringed, undamaged wings, won't allow close approach; well that's the provenance sorted, now what the furcular is it?

Bill: small, short, stubby but not quite the ridiculous little triangular affair of minima.
Body size: very small, only seen in close association with UK feral Canada Goose (mostly canadensis? Referred to here as canadensis) although Greenland White-fronted Goose and Barnacle Goose also present. Body length appeared approximately two thirds of canadensis but much less in bulk (you might get three to every one canadensis; or, to put it another way, if a canadensis is 3 hours at Gas mark 6, then this bird would only be 1.5 hrs). Whilst not seen alongside one another, it seemed slightly smaller than Barnacle.
Neck: quite thick and, at all times, very short, even when extended during pre-flight anxiety behaviour.

Overall colour: dark, upperpart base colour a shade or two darker than canadensis; underparts very dark similar to canadensis upperparts, pretty concolouress across breast and belly, darker on lower neck, contrasting strongly with white collar, and regular pale and sparse blackish barring on flanks. Also a slight brassy sheen to the breast. Vent undertail and uppertail white. Tail blackish.
White 'cheeks': quite extensive and, though thinning slightly, still broad and square-ended at top.
Collar: clean white, quite deep on fore-neck thinning, and petering out, on sides.
Black chin stripe: lacking, although perhaps a slight 'dent' of black below the bill (maybe).
Voice: not heard (yet)
Structure: proportionately narrow in 'arm' and 'hand', quite a pointed wingtip; horizontal carriage; steep forehead and square head shape.

Structurally good (great?) for hutchinsii but really dark-breasted. Anyone got a photo of Hanson's 'baffinensis'?

See here for discussion and photos of the recent (near identical) bird at CVL, Blagdon Lake and Torr Reservoir (co-travellers or co-escapees?); and see here, and the references therein, for a good starting point to a white-cheeked goose inspired mental disorder.

12 November 2011

Catching the penny?

Caught up with CH's Slavonian Grebe at Uskmouth this morning then went on a tour of likely Pallas'/Yellow-browed/Firecrest locales in the surrounding environs all of which looked exceedingly likely, none of which produced. Actually, Fishyfinger/Fishybox [or whatever it is called] Lane looked absolutely perfect for a Dusky Warbler and I consider it the height of rudeness that one wasn't present. Of those things that did pop up, mentionables included: a juv/first-winter Marsh Harrier, the female Pochard hybrid, good numbers of Water Rails, a few flyover Snipe and Skylark, and both Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Saw a fair few of these today.

Might have missed top bird of the day though, NC had a, presumably escaped but who knows(?), ickle (minima-looking hutchinsii apparently,... maybe) Canada Goose this evening.

11 November 2011

I've been here before

Thought I'd finished my extended vigil on the much disputed Avon/South Gloucestershire boundary, but no, another week back on the soft banks of the Severn. Nothing too outrageous to report: 16 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, the odd Yellowhammer and Little Egret, a few Rock Pipits and a Brambling; best (and worst) of the bunch though was the terrible view of a Hawfinch disappearing NE high overhead. I hate getting shit views of a good bird.

07 November 2011

Shrike porn

A couple more of this lovely little fella/lass from Saturday.

It's amazing how much difference...

... a slight change in the auto white balance makes. If I was interested in accuracy I guess I'd start carrying a neutral grey card around with me.

[NB. Just in case nobody notices, I removed a twig from the background of the top image.]

06 November 2011

Where not to watch birds in Gwent: Caldicot Moor

The long-awaited second instalment of this once-every-37-months feature takes in the delightful Caldicot Moor.

Location - Just south-east of Undy; from junction J23a of the M4 head south and then bear left (signposted Magor), at the mini-roundabout turn right and stay on the B4245 for approximately 4.5 km through Magor and Undy. On reaching Llanfihangel near Rogiet turn right onto the minor road signposted Severn Tunnel Junction Station. After approximately 0.5 km you will pass the station on your left, head over the bridge crossing the railway and then, almost immediately, the bridge over the M4. On crossing the second bridge you have arrived at the eastern end of the moor.

Access - The majority of the moor, can be viewed from the main track (telescope essential) which you join by turning right at the T-junction approximately 200 m from the M4 bridge mentioned above. This track runs south-west across the moor before reaching another T-junction (turn right) and then another (turn left); it then joins a minor road which can be followed to Undy and the B4245. On the left, 600 m along the main track, is Fisherman's Lane, a track leading to the sea wall.

Habitat - The fields to the south of the road are largely improved grassland grazed by cattle and sheep; those to the north are a mixture of improved grassland and arable with limited areas prone to flooding.

Species - Very few species of bird have been located at this site making it another of the premier sites for not watching birds in the county. Apart from seeing a very small number of Buzzard, Kestrel, Lapwing and Skylark, this afternoon I managed to not watch birds during most of my visit.

Caldicot Moor, probably best to stay to the track or you might get shot in the privates.

Fisherman's Lane, tree-lined along its southern half, but for lying under a Gwentish sky, it would look ideal for a Yellow-browed Warbler or Firecrest.

05 November 2011

Shrikeathon Day 2

An hour into our return to Pembs and it didn't look good; a Black Redstart had popped up, a Lapland Bunting had gone over and two or three misplaced Water Rails had been logged in amongst the very 'birdy' fields and hedgerows, but there was a distinct lack of shrike. Then, a bit of long distance, mobile communication orchestrated, wizardry, resulted in us locating the lovely little critter sitting on the 'wrong' side of a nearby hedge. After another temporary disappearing trick (during which, entertainment was provided by a first-winter Hen Harrier) the bird resurfaced, eventually working its way back to the, now almost famous, five-bar gate, at which it showed down to not many metres at all.

A quick nose around in the bottom of the valley failed to result in the hoped for Pallas'/Yellow-browed/Firecrest but was punctuated with a brief heart-stopping moment when I noticed an amorphous, pale sandy, blob in the bottom of some dense scrub. The colour wasn't unlike the flanks of American Woodcock, but this is not why the moment was heart-stopping, no, the anxiety occurred on realising that I was not observing it, it was observing me,... the hunter had become the hunted,... I had come face to face with the Pembrokeshire Panther.

04 November 2011

Shrikeathon Day 1

Schlepped up to Salop for the shrike. Good scope views but left the Coolpix in the car, so had to make do with the DSLR,... you can see what it is.

PS. Overheard at the twitch: "I suppose if it was a 'normal' one it would sit on the top of the bushes".

01 November 2011


Lovely day in the hills, in between the showers it was mostly dry,... except in the wet bits.

29 October 2011

Hen's teeth

Well that doesn't happen often. I leave Gwent for some decent birding and Gwent has a better day than I do. The birding gods are fickle fairy folk aren't they. Fickle and bleeding annoying.

28 October 2011

What a silly bunt

Popped down to Peterstone/Sluice Farm in search of the Lapland Bunting this afternoon. Slogged from the church to beyond the blockhouse and back. There were pipits, there were larks, there were even buntings, but not the right bunting. Short-eared Owl and Black Redstart, both near the blockhouse, were probably the highlights. Discovering that, given enough time, my wellie/waterproof sock combination still results in a wet left foot was probably the lowlight.

I assume these nets are part of a healthy, well managed and efficiently regulated fishery along this part of the estuary.

27 October 2011

Nicer piccies

Look what appeared in my inbox this morning. I think Mr. Thoburn may have found this blog and taken pity on my attempts at photography :)

Image courtesy of Gary Thoburn (www.garytsphotos.zenfolio.com).

Image courtesy of Gary Thoburn (www.garytsphotos.zenfolio.com). I should point out, these images were taken in the warming glow of the low-angled evening light, the first two images in yesterday's post, taken in overcast conditions, are probably a more accurate impression of the colour tones of the bird's plumage,... these are much nicer piccies though :)

26 October 2011

Better make the best of it

Not showing so well this afternoon,...

... either it knew I had my proper camera,...

... or it may have noticed the 15-20 other people knocking around. Still jubbly though,... very jubbly.

25 October 2011

The internal timeline of the clueless mind

The first 15 things that crossed my mind on finding a Pied Wheatear:
  1. Oooh look! A wheatear [lower case], this will probably be bird of the day.
  2. Er,... why isn't that a female Pied?
  3. Why do I keep my Coolpix at the bottom of my bastard-to-open rucksack and not in my pocket?
  4. Pale, grey-toned and cold-looking overall, fringing to the lower scaps (f. difficult to see on crown, mantle, etc.), chat-like jizz, quite long-winged.
  5. Why won't this bird show me it's tail pattern?
  6. Oooh,... there's the tail.
  7. Can I remember how to exclude Eastern Black-eared? Can I bog-roll.
  8. The usual pangs of self-doubt admixed with the fear that some bastard will appear and re-identify it as melanoleuca and then I'll have to live with the searing mental anguish until, one bleak winter's morning, I'm found face down in an icy ditch, a brisk northerly snatching the last few sodden pages of Magnus Ullman's seminal 1994 Dutch Birding paper from my rigid grasp.
  9. Better 'phone a friend'. [having attempted to phone at least half a dozen 'friends', none of whom picked up...]
  10. Is my phone on the blink? [remembering my crack IT training I turn it off and on again].
  11. When is my new phone arriving?
  12. Input garnered from Messers Seth, Gates, Bull and Townend (not neccesarily in that order [can't remember order, many thanks all]).
  13. Better put it out as a Pied then.
  14. Always trust your first impressions, unless they're wrong, in which case, don't.
  15. OMG! One of the locals seems to have his phone switched off, another is in Norfolk and I think another just thought I said Pied Flycatcher,... *is* my phone on the blink? Am I on the blink? Is everyone else on the blink?
... and so it went on, indeed, goes on.

Up on the roof.

Oldbury-on-Severn Pied Wheatear Information

Just sticking this up quickly to give directions, etc. Don't worry, will add more later.

Location: The bird was feeding on and around the buildings at Thornbury Sailing Club and around the wooden post/tyres, etc., adjacent to the concrete slipway. As far as I know the bird was present until dusk.

Parking: Parking is available in Oldbury-on-Severn, opposite the pub at OS grid ST608924.

Access: If walking from the above parking, take the path along the north side of the sluice/drain and after about 900m you arrive at the sailing club. This area is officially private (owned by the sailing club) but, having been asked, members of the club were happy to allow access this afternoon. I would strongly suggest asking somebody on site, if present, before wandering across to the slipway or, once a club member arrives check whether it is OK to remain near the slipway. Obviously stay away from the boats.

24 October 2011


A seemingly knackered Short-eared Owl was 'bird of the windy day' over yonder in sunny South Gloucestcestcestcestcestcestershire. It spent the hours hunkering in the seaweed, only moving when forced by the local corvids/gulls or, later on, when the incoming tide reached its ankles.

Quite a dark and well-marked bird, *must* be suinda or bogotensis, actually, why shoot low? Galápagos Short-eared Owl on my Glos list!

23 October 2011

Brand new wooden-skin pill-box hide

Saltmarsh Lane and foreshore were dead-diddly-dead-dead this afternoon, probably not helped by the party of 20 passing ramblers or the fishyman on the saltmarsh with his Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Goldcliff Lagoons were slightly better. At least six Greenshank were present over high tide along with two Spotted Redshank and 35 Grey Plover. Non-highlights included: one Black-tailed Godwit, one Snipe, 155 Lapwing, 47 Redshank, 23 Oystercatcher, 70 Dunlin and 12 Fieldfare heading east.

[NB. Yes, ladles and gentlespoons, birding in Gwent has inspired the coining and use of the new ornithological term 'non-highlight'.]

The view from the new hide. Look birds in the afternoon that aren't silhouettes!

19 October 2011

Good enough in a squeeze

And now for that in depth review of the iPhone 4S as a digiscoping/binning camera or, because I have a life and would rather be doing something else, a quick image of something on the other side of my study,...

iPhone 4S + Leica 8x42 Ultravids at minimum focus distance under terrible lighting with my standard digi-scoping post-processing applied, i.e. into Nikon Capture NX2 for a very small amount of contrast (+5), resized for blog (900 pixels along longest edge) and a gentle unsharp mask (intensity 20%, radius 3%, threshold 1).

I'm sure I could get a picture of a large, slow moving rarity if I absolutely had to. I'll probably still reach for the DSLR to document the flyby Asian Red-rumped Swallow mind.

PS. If I remember, I'll point it at a bird this weekend,... stay tuned tech fans.

PPS. I saw my first Short-eared Owl of the autumn today,... and a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, both over yonder, in deepest South Gloucestershire.

16 October 2011

October in Gwent

Another morning doing the lanes and Uskmouth, this time preceded by a few light showers, absolutely bound to have forced down the migrating hordes and decorated the hedgerows with Yellow-broweds and Firecrests,... or not. Almost identical species as Friday, mostly in slightly smaller numbers:
  • Lots - Siskin;
  • Plenty - Chaffinch and Redpoll;
  • A fair few - Lapwing, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Bearded Tit and Goldfinch;
  • A handful - alba wagtail, Linnet and Reed Bunting; and
  • One - aythya hybrid and Snipe.

PS. When they find my body below Goldcliff Point, head and torso embedded in the mud, legs stiffly protruding, Black-headed Gull perched on my upturned boot, this blog will be reappraised and gain an entry in The Guinness Book of World Records under 'the longest and most convoluted suicide note EVER'.

14 October 2011

Throwing the morning hours away

A morning 'vis migging' and Yellow-browed hunting down the lanes seemed a great idea. The light SE breeze promised much but, without a little weather to push stuff down, only produced an airborne parade devoid of a star performer. Managed to muster the following movers and shakers:
  • Lots - Siskin and Redpoll;
  • Plenty - Lapwing, Skylark, Redwing and Chaffinch;
  • A fair few - Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, Bearded Tit (doing the spirally-up-high-are-they-aren't-they-going-to-actually-fly-off-thing), Greenfinch (seemed to be moving) and Goldfinch;
  • A handful - Snipe, alba wagtail, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Linnet and Reed Bunting; and
  • One - Ruff, Whimbrel, Swallow, Grey Wagtail and Stonechat.

Not a Yellow-browed Warbler,... barely a bird really,... feathered mouse?

12 October 2011

Bird poisoning in Monmouthshire

The following was issued yesterday by RSPB Cymru, in conjunction with Gwent Police and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Authorities appeal for information over bird poisoning in Monmouthshire
RSPB offers £1000 reward for information leading to a conviction

Gwent Police, the Welsh Government and RSPB Cymru are appealing for information after a buzzard and two ravens were found poisoned in July at a site near Blaenavon, Monmouthshire. The RSPB is offering a reward of £1000 for information leading to a conviction.

Welsh Government Officials collected the birds as part of its Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) which investigates the death of wildlife throughout the UK where there is evidence that pesticide might have been involved.

The carcasses were sent for toxicological analysis where it was discovered they had been poisoned with the banned pesticide carbofuran. Two dead pigeons were also found which had been laced with a pesticide and it is believed these had been put out as an illegal poison bait. Tragically, two dead peregrines were found at the same site in July 2010 and these had also been poisoned with carbofuran.

The agricultural pesticide, carbofuran which has been banned for almost ten years, has been persistently abused to illegally poison birds of prey and other wildlife in the UK.

PC Robert Maddocks, Wildlife Crime Officer with Gwent Police, said: “Our enquiries are ongoing to establish who is responsible for administering the poison used in these cases. All birds of prey, such as buzzards and peregrine falcons, are protected by law and it is illegal to kill them or disturb their nests.”
RSPB Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock said: “This is another dreadful incident of wildlife poisoning. There has been a persistent problem with the targeting and killing of peregrines in South Wales, and we believe it was this species being targeted in the latest incident. However, these crimes are completely indiscriminate other wildlife and people are put at risk from the illegal use of these highly toxic chemicals. We hope that the reward will encourage anyone with information to come forward.”

Environment Minister, John Griffiths said: “Wildlife forms an integral part of Wales’ unique and beautiful environment. It is important that we all work together to protect this environment for future generations and that incidents such as these are fully investigated and where applicable, action is taken.”

All birds of prey and ravens are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A person convicted of killing one of these birds or using pesticides illegally could be fined up to £5000 and /or six months in jail.

If members of the public have information about this crime they can call the RSPB on 0845 466 3636. All information will be handled in strictest confidence.

09 October 2011

Ibis 1-0 Icky

This sight was last seen in Gwent airspace almost exactly 109 years ago (11th October 1902 to 9th October 2011).

Saw the, slightly skittish, Glossy Ibis on the 'farm pond' adjacent to Goldcliff Lagoons. After half an hour it flew SW, seemingly back towards the pools, but we didn't relocate it until checking the Saltmarsh Grasslands near Boat Lane a good hour and a half later. It then headed NW towards Nash and I headed down Saltmarsh Lane in search of passerine excitement. Didn't get far mind. News of a 'hippo' at Peterstone Gout had me scurrying westward. Despite a prolonged, weather hindered, look see, there was no chunky warbler joy at the gout, at least, not beyond a handful of Blackcaps.

05 October 2011

What a grey day

South Gloucestershire was grey today. The skies were grey, the water was grey, the mud was grey, the grass was grey, the rain was very grey, even the birds were grey. The only things that weren't grey were my first Merlin of the autumn, which was mostly brown, and the underside of the flyover Golden Plover which was mostly white.

01 October 2011

MotD is just about to start

1 Pallid Harrier, 1 Hobby, 4 Crossbill, 4 Snipe, 2 Wheatear,... more words later.

[Addendum: spent most of the day on Black Down, Zomerset. After six hours of sun and scenery, with just a little yompage mixed in, we finally coincided with the Pallid Harrier. It then showed repeatedly, and for lengthy periods, but only really close on one brief flypast,... nice bird mind.]

30 September 2011

This one's for... Xenon

A demi-decent Goldcliff wader roost over a highish high tide produced: 1 Little Stint, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Golden Plover (flyover, heading NE), 2 Spotted Redshank, 7 Grey Plover, 50+ Avocet (seen in flight when flushed from the pill), 7 Ruff, 7 Greenshank, 200+ Curlew plus Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Redshank in the sort of numbers which fail to inspire a count. Non-waders included: 1 Kingfisher and 1 Peregrine plus, overhead, Skylark, Swallow, Grey and Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Siskin and Reed Bunting.

The height of joy was reached on realising the first of the two new hides was open for business. Screaming like a girl, I hot-footed it from the sea-wall and, knees shaking and fingers popping, I started up the access-everybody entry ramp,... half an hour later, excitement levels somewhat eroded, I reached the door and, whaddya know, a prestigious luxury hide. Beautifully decorated inside, wooden floors throughout, large observation room with 50" LED TV, library (again with 50" LED TV), dining area with staffed kitchen (free non-alcoholic beverages and a tempting selection of pastries, cakes and chocolates on offer [including my personal favourite: petite Madeleine de Commercy, yum-yum]), and finally, bathroom facilities done out very tastefully in marble with mini swimming pool, jacuzzi and Turkish bath. Sweet. Good job everyone. I did not realise Carlsberg did bird hides.

29 September 2011

Actually, I'll have a Mivvi

Lovely day out up-country, nothing too exciting on the birding front (a couple of juvenile Red Kites were about the best) but the undoubted sighting of the day was the ice-cream man taking a piss up the back of his own ice-cream van, before having a good old scratch of his arse and then climbing back in to take up his post alongside the Mr. Whippy dispenser. All I'm suggesting is - don't eat the cone. Don't. Eat. The. Cone.

25 September 2011