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.]