31 May 2011

An evening in the sun

Spent a few hours this evening tickling Swallows and checking on the fecundity of the burgeoning feral goose population,... what japes.

Oh, isn't he just the dearest,... little alien.

26 May 2011

Old skool

Despite having my spare batteries and cards in my pocket, I managed, by some quirk of mental numbness, to arrive at the Hoopoe without my 'proper' camera. Had to burn it up old stylee with a bit of retro digi-scoping action. Oooooosh!

[Does any of this make sense to anyone?]


... is definitely...

... and quite categorically...

... not...

... a...

... Mistle Thrush.

My second in Gwent; I have also dipped one, been on two wild Hoopoe chases and missed out on at least one suppressed bird in the county. The girlfriend has also bagged two but, most importantly, this current bird is my dog's tick,... everyone's a winner!

22 May 2011

I won't do it,... I won't I tell you

Planned on a couple of hours estuary-watching over high tide, missed the good stuff and had to make do with a few Gannet and Sanderling and a couple of Common Terns. Then a brief stop at the pools, en route to Morrison's and lunch, to check nothing had been blown in. Amazingly nothing hadn't been blown in, a very definite something had been, a Little Tern, which appeared on the breeze and settled in to roost amongst the Dunlin and Ringed Plover. And there, I'd suggest, it would have remained had three generations of some family of f**kwits not appeared out of the pill, walked along the seawall right next to the pools before clambering over the gates and heading off through the car-park. Unsurprisingly, the tern flushed and, as far as I'm aware, hasn't been seen since.

[NB. Currently fighting the urge to entitle this post "One good tern..."]

17 May 2011

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

An action shot from the recent expedition to find the wild things that go bump in the woods. Yes, I am wearing my fluffy fleece over my waterproof, it cuts down on the swishy-swishy and is an absolute must when hunting heffalumps or woozles for their hearing is exceptional. And no, that is not a camera, it is a bag filled to the brim with thimbles, forks and soap.

[Addendum: I so should have called this "In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun will never shine",... but didn't.]

16 May 2011

My first idea was much the better

Whilst casting around for a way to kickstart my return to Gwentish birding and delay a 'most consecutive playings of the Sparklehorse back catalogue' world record attempt, I whittled down the options to:
  1. wandering the local patch whacked out on lysergic acid diethylamide; or
  2. taking part in an ultra-local bird race.
Perhaps fortunately for the Gwent rarities committee, the birdrace appeared on the horizon before the local purveyor of all things hallucinogenic and another day of tear-arsing about, mostly looking for common but strangely uncooperative species loomed. The boundary for these things is fast becoming an ever-decreasing circle and, this time, the perimeter of the 'city' [*cough*] of Newport was chosen to minimise the day's carbon footprint and maximise the sheer pointlessness of it all [btw next year it will be the NWR, the year after Goldcliff Lagoons, then my garden and finally, in 2015, I'll be attempting a new record for how many birds I can see (or hear) in a 24 hour period through a partially obscured window whilst peering out from under my bed]. To avoid any build-up of heart-damaging tension I'll cut to the chase, we started at 02:30 and ended at 21:00 on 107 species (although, due to our statistician having run out of fingers and toes we thought we were on 105).

For the record, during the inaugural Newport Birdrace we found: Avocet, Barn Owl, Bearded Tit, Blackcap, Blackbird, Black-tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Canada Goose, Cetti's Warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Coot, Cormorant, Common Scoter, Coal Tit, Crossbill, Cuckoo, Curlew, Dipper, Dunlin, Dunnock, Feral Dove, Gadwall, Garden Warbler, Great Black-backed Gull, Great-crested Grebe, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Goosander, Goshawk, Greenfinch, Greylag Goose, Grey Heron, Great Tit, Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Jay, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Lesser Whitethroat, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Linnet, Little Owl, Little Ringed Plover, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Marsh Harrier, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Nightjar, Nuthatch, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pochard, Reed Bunting, Redshank, Redstart, Reed Warbler, Ringed Plover, Robin, Rook, Rock Pipit, Ruff, Sand Martin, Sanderling, Sedge Warbler, Shelduck, Shoveler, Siskin, Skylark, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Swift, Tawny Owl, Treecreeper, Tree Pipit, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Wheatear, Whimbrel, Whitethroat, Wigeon, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Wood Warbler, Wren and Yellowhammer.

However, much more interesting (and inspiring of gasps of awe), are the species we missed which included: Black-headed Gull, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Raven, all manner of waders and Woodcock. I have no rational explanation for the lack of Kestrel and Raven but Green Woodpecker was the only total duff-up. One was recorded but two members of the team failed to hear it (including me).

Please note, no other teams were invited to take part this year, largely to ensure we won; however, if anyone is interested in a re-run next year, feel free to make yourselves known (alternatively, keep schtum and we can all pretend this sorry-arsed waste of an otherwise perfectly good Sunday never happened).

Anyway,... back to the musical offerings of Mr. Linkous.

PS. Please note I have not mentioned getting lost in Wentwood or the navigational dyslexia of a certain member of the team thus saving Mr. Richard Clarke from any embarrassment.

13 May 2011

All done

The haul: a little over 200 birds (including three ticks), 12 mammals (two 'roadkill only' but also one great big teddy bear-shaped über tick), eight or nine reptiles plus bugs and botany (with particular emphasis placed on trees this time [will Pinus nigra ever fail to raise a snigger?]).

Non-birding highlights included: yoghurt, honey and nut dessert heaven, a little four wheel drift, somebody else showing us how it should be done (and how to stand sheepishly alongside a people carrier once it's on its side in a ditch) and a woman break-dancing on the escalator at Gatwick.

The weather was the only notable downside being pretty hit and miss throughout and varying combinations of fog, rain and cold temperatures causing a few dips; however, it also meant we bumped into a steady stream of delayed migrants struggling northwards. The day before we bowled up at Durankulak and Shabla lakes a tour group had failed to locate any Paddyfield Warblers, we managed single birds at each site, presumably 'just in'.

As confident as I am that every single person on the plane offset their cheap flight to Sofia, and as innocent and blue as the sky appeared, a close look out the window would have revealed CO2 levels at 393.18 parts per million (ppm). The 'safe' upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is 350 ppm, levels have stayed higher than 350 ppm since early 1988,... I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.

And now,... the jarring car-crash of a return to this artificially green and birdless pleasant land,... cue two weeks of blaring Radiohead and snapping at the girlfriend.

PS. Thanks to Dimiter and Simeon from Neophron for putting up with three argumentative, and oftentimes sweary, Brits; whilst we weren't actually on one of their advertised tours, if you click here you can see the sort of thing they do do.

12 May 2011

Playing catch-up: the last full day

A quick look around the village produced a luscinia amongst the many megarhynchos along with Barred Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, etc.; then the long drive to more White-backed Woodpeckers, singing Red-breasted Flycatchers and a downpour at dusk which rather knocked our Ural Owl search on the proverbial head.

One of the many.

10 May 2011

Mmmmarsh terns

Haven't got time right now, but I'll add some text regarding the above at some point and the wisdom and wit therein will be as radiant and sparkling as the subject of the photographs,... probably.

Highlights of the day: Paddyfield Warblers and Porpoise. Back in the land of tickvoid but Cattle Egret and Common Rosefinch added to my Bulgaria list,... two bona fide scarcities in a day! In your faces big Bulgaria listers!

09 May 2011

Tick, tick, bang!

We had an 8 (eight) woodpecker day today but, unfortunately, couldn't find a flipping Wryneck to round things off; all very head-bashingly nice mind. Also plenty of vis mig with a few raptors plus biblical proportions of pelicans and Black Terns heading every which way. Other notables included Semi-collared Flycatcher, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, etc., etc.

Two ticks in the same field of view? Only one way to sort out which is the best,... FIGHT!

And one for the ladies,... a pretty little flower.

08 May 2011

Maybe tomorrow

Weather went south again today, still managed a decent number of raptors (Eastern Imperial Eagle, etc.) plus Dalmation Pelican, Masked Shrike, yadda, yadda, yadda,... still haven't deemed it necessary to register a tick yet though.

Ooh look! A Flitillary Flutterby.

07 May 2011

Ooh,... a bit of sun

Isn't it lovely when the sun comes out. It is also lovely when two or three pairs of Wallcreeper are flitting around, especially when one pair is nest building, foraging, singing and chasing each other round down to within 3 (three) metres.

06 May 2011

Totally bear!

It is not as warm in Bulgaria at this time of year as you might think. Yes, that is snow behind the frizz Coal Tit. Due to the unseasonably cold, wet and windy conditions we saw almost bugger all birdwise today, although, given I didn't need any of the target species on our itinerary, I wasn't too miffed. And I became significantly less miffed as just before dark we had prolonged (20+ minutes), close (down to about 120m) views of Brown Bear. Amazingly the blonde headed/mantled beauty bowled into a clearing, stood on its hind legs to suss things out, charged the grazing Roe Deer to scare them off, did a circuit of the perimeter and then tucked into a pile of handily placed apples,... nice.

05 May 2011

There be dragons

Fire Salamander,... what a cheeky little grin. Nutcracker, Little Crake, Lesser Spotted Eagle, stuff, stuff and more stuff,... no ticks yet mind.

02 May 2011

An open blogpost to [you?]

Dear [enter your name here if the cap fits],

Re the White Stork in Gwent

You seem to be mistaking a complete lack of information for suppression. The only information available on Saturday night appeared on Birdguides at about 21:00 and was of limited use, i.e. something along the lines of "White Stork, Chepstow". The observer is/was unknown to Gwent birders and, as such, no further information could be sought. You had all the information anyone had at that time.

The bird was refound Sunday morning because two/three birders spent hours looking around Chepstow for the bird and, on following up news of an incoming Osprey, it was refound by NC at Newhouse. Unfortunately, it was almost immediately lost again as it took off and couldn't be refound, despite considerable efforts by NC and TC (and much less considerable effort by a few of us who had been at Uskmouth). Anyone could have driven to Chepstow on spec and tried refinding it but most people couldn't be bothered or had other things to do (leading International Dawn Chorus Day walks, taking their kids to rugby competitions, etc., etc.).

Later in the morning some additional news (possibly by the original observer, though this remains unclear) was added to the GOS site and, obviously, NC put his news on. There was no suppression of this bird at any point, just less than perfect news by the original observer who would appear not totally up to speed re local rarity news dissemination.

Peace. Out.

PS. To the wider birding cadre, if you aren't on Twitter and 'following' the local birders, you are ignoring a rapidly growing news outlet (there are a few good ones to follow in Glos and Somerset, and Weekendbirder's is good for Gwent [I wouldn't necessarily bother following mine, it's full of all kinds of crap]).

PPS. Just for the record, if, God forfend, I ever opt to have kids, I promise not to moan at everyone else when they severely hamper my rarity finding/twitching/life.

PPPS. Breaking news: the Gwent county recorder is now on Twitter too, as was the only live coverage of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. Whilst I don't think the two are related, it does prove you probably should be on Twitter if you are a news whore (bird or otherwise).

01 May 2011

It's a new dawn, it's a new day

International Dawn Chorus Day weaved its magic again - woke to heavy showers and a stiff north-easterly. As a result, the assembled avian choir at Uskmouth was a little subdued and lacking in range and repertoire. The eight bankable warblers did just about enough to see us through but there were one or two notable absentees, e.g. Grasshopper Warbler,... and Robin (!?). The best birds were all non-singers: a Marsh Harrier hunting over the reedbeds, a few Whimbrel and a reasonable flock of Barwits on the foreshore plus a flurry of Swifts over the car park. Near the end of the walk news came through that the indefatigable Weekendbirder had refound the White Stork at the delightful Newhouse Industrial Estate (see here for photos and more,... at some point in the near future). Naturally, it had snuck off by the time three of us had made the dash along the M4/M48. The slightly garbled news from the previous day may suggest the bird is hanging around the Mathern/Chepstow area; question is, is it worth traipsing around 'between the bridges' or would high tide at Goldcliff prove more fruitful in the great scheme of things?

PS. Did get Garden Warbler and Yellow Wagtail at Newhouse so not a total waste of unleaded petroleum.

[NB. This blogpost was written to the strains of Nina Simone and powered by buckets of Clipper Organic Everyday Tea.]

[JW. I have now run out of abbreviations denoting additional lines of inconsequential text,... so (singing) why don't you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead?]