Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Soul Train Podcasts

Forgot to pass comment on the podcasts I downloaded a couple of weeks ago. So, here's the verdict - excellent! Some really good music and probably the only way the likes of me would be able to get hold of original Northern Soul tracks (seeing as I certainly won't be paying £100s or £1000s for vinyl!). The i-Pod is currently populated with a varied electronic dance collection. All sorts on there - house, trance, ambient, rave, acid etc with no particular artists to speak of.

Taw Estuary 27/12/2007

I'm down in rural North Devon enjoying the Christmas break with the outlaws. As usual in the festive season, excessive red wine consumption, over-eating and between meal Stella has given me perpetual indigestion. So, as the perfect antidote I took a very leisurely stroll along the Taw Estuary this afternoon with the boys. I visited one of my favorite old birding haunts in this neck of the woods, the stretch of estuary alongside the Isley Marsh reserve near to Yelland. Soon after leaving the car I was immersed in a roving tit flock, mainly Long-taileds with the odd Blue and Great. A couple of Bullfinches, squealing Water Rail and an abietinus Chiffchaff later and I was watching the first of several Little Egrets on the marsh before heading onto the estuary path heading toward Instow. Before long I had found the expected Spoonbills - there always seem to be a few knocking about here during the winter. Today I had a minimum of five feeding on the incoming tide, with possibly another couple (hard to be sure with birds disappearing and re-appearing from the tidal creeks). Also plenty of Curlew and Shelduck about, min. three Little Egrets, small groups of Brents passing by and Redshank, Oystercatcher and Dunlin on the mudflats. Nothing exciting amongst the gulls though. All in all a very rewarding and refreshing visit.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Blogs you wouldn't believe ..

Since signing up to Blogger, I've realised that there are blogs out there covering a wide and varied range of topics. Whether the subject matter is obscure, daft or plain bizarre, some of these just have to be seen to be believed! I wouldn't recommend scrutiny in depth unless you are either seriously bored or equally nuts: http://thesuperfluousnipple.blogspot.com/ http://baconshow.blogspot.com/ http://livesofcones.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

On this day - 12/12/1993

'Sammy' the Black-winged Stilt took a liking to the Titchwell/Thornham area from mid-September in 1993, after having been at Druridge Bay in August. A day out in Norfolk on 12/12/1993 with Brian and John Hackett gave the opportunity to add him to my British List, and was the first of many sightings of the same individual over the next few years. In fact I saw Sammy annually between 1993 to 2000 and often several times in the same year. I missed him in November 2001 and haven't been to Titchwell since. It appears that Sammy probably threw a seven sometime in 2005? I would expect that many a year-lister saw Sammy during every one of those 13 years of residency. Excellent bird, despite the stupid gangling gait and unfeasibly long pink legs.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Ardea herodias

If it hasn't croaked, must be good odds on the Scillies Great Blue Heron turning up on the mainland?

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

.. Prodigy, so no surprises there then as that's what I said I'd loaded to the i-Pod last week! Ear-bleeding volume mandatory. Very brash, fast and angry it was too - Fuck 'em and Their Law etc. In complete contrast, although still on a dance based theme, I've just spent a couple of hours downloading some new stuff to listen to from here - I'll give an opinion next week but initial tasters sound pretty good.

Promotion

I stated from the very first posting to this blog that I wouldn't be talking shop - however I was very pleased to get confirmation on Friday that I'll be succeeding my boss who retires at Christmas. My main task in this respect over the weekend has been to browse car literature and decide what colour I want (not too much choice over model and trim level, pretty much all Vauxhalls on the company list at the moment). A spacious and economical 1.9 CDTi Vectra estate will be far more useful than my current poxy Peugeot lawn-mower!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Eldernell 06/12/2007

One of, if not the, best things about winter birding is a good raptor roost site. Given the time and choice I'd go to Stubb's Mill every time. Titchwell has provided a couple of good late afternoons in the past, but Royden Common has always been a little disappointing. However another site that can be good is Eldernell (cTL318991). Last time I was there with John Hague in February 2002 we picked up two Marsh Harriers, a ring-tail Hen Harrier (don't tell Prince Harry), a couple of Barn Owls, 6+ Short-eared Owls plus Merlin and Peregrine.
This site is accessed from the end of Eldernell Lane off of the A605 just east of Coates - see here for access details. As can be seen from this ariel view, the site is a mixture of rough pasture and fenland wash - sadly surrounded by mainly arable farming.
A Customer meeting in Wisbech today gave me the opportunity to drop in for an hour or so on the way home, though given the time (c13:45 - 03:15) and very dull, windy and damp conditions, I certainly wasn't expecting a big raptor and owl haul.
The large pool just south of the bank held Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Greylags, but the bulk of the wildfowl was on the washes with 1000s of Wigeon, 100s of Teal and good numbers of Pintail. Plenty of Lapwings and Golden Plovers also. Aside from the many Mute Swans, a small party of Whoopers flew over heading east.
Sadly the raptor count included only Kestrel (several) but a superb Short-eared Owl was quartering at sheep-head level for a good half hour apart from when being harassed by Crows. I strongly expect that a visit with more time (ie up to dusk) and in better conditions would produce more. A great site well worth a visit.


Monday, 3 December 2007

On this day ... 03/12/1994

Thirteen years ago today – oh man – what a mega! After receiving news during the working day on Friday 2nd, myself and John Hackett hastily made plans to get ourselves up to Burghead on the Scottish Moray coastline. By early evening we had been picked up from the LFE services by Peter Colston (co-author of Rare Birds) and one of his mates and we were on our way. A bloody long way at that! We reached the site before daybreak, and at first light (along with c1000 others) we were getting crippling views of a juv Grey-tailed Tattler! Definitely a CMF. The tattler was completely unfazed by the hoards of lenses pointing at it, and was showing so close you could scrutinise its toes without optics. The excellent Birding Plus video series from that era has some fantastic footage of the tattler – must see about getting this series transferred onto the PC/DVD. It wasn't the first for Britain – that occurred (coincidentally) 13 years earlier on the Dyfi estuary in Oct-Nov 1981. However it was suppressed, so this was certainly the first available for the birding masses and I doubt that many (any?) listers in 1994 missed it as it lingered for a good while. Must be a major blocker for birders of the current generation though. Here's to another 13 or more tattler-free years – cheers. However as it breeds closer to Britain than a few other more regular vagrant waders I can't believe another hasn’t turned up yet. To round the day off, we also spent time at Findhorn grilling the scoters, and I managed to get Common, Velvet and Surf all in the same scope view. Magic. The trip turned a little sour when it transpired on the way back that the petrol was only being split three ways (Peter's mate was freeloading for some obscure reason or other). As if that wasn't bad enough we had to stop a couple of times on the way back so he could throw up. What a facking C*** on casters! At least we avoided any speeding fines – the Sunday newspapers were full of stories about car loads being caught in speed traps on the A9. In this one, Neal Eves claims to have been let off 3 times on the way – fuck me he's even competitive when it comes to traffic offences! Can't remember who gave me the clipping but I certainly didn't buy the Sunday Express myself.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

a very mellow and mainly acoustic mix of 'folk-rock' type stuff (including Waterboys, Ray Lamontagne, Proclaimers, Divine Comedy) and female solo artists (such as Tracey Chapman, Julia Fordham, KT Tunstall, PJ Harvey). All very relaxing. Can't stand it for another week though - I'm just uploading the i-Pod with the complete works of Prodigy for a drive to work wake-up call.

Curry

Managed a night out with The Drunkbirders last night (John Hague, Dave Gray, Mark Reader, Dave Mack and Andy Mackay). Pre-curry beers at the Criterion and Marquis Wellington were sadly too few, but a few pints of Indian lager with the curries at the Taj Mahal went down well. A follow on drink at the Lansdowne was somewhat spoilt by the general clientel and surly bastard staff - won't bother going there again. A good night out with a bit of banter, debate and obligatory piss-taking seeing as Grayboy had dipped White-tailed Eagle (again) during the day.

Dude

Took the boys out yesterday for some bird-spotting around Rutland Water and Eyebrook, picking up a Peregrine over Stoughton Airfield on the way. I won't call the day out birding as very active young children and fieldcraft/stealth don't mix. Managed to miss anything of real interest (didn't bother going onto Egleton reserve, just dropped into the centre to use facilities) but good to catch up with a few common species that I haven't seen for a few non-birding years like Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Pintail. A walk along the dam produced cold ears and watery eyes in the howling wind, but no Scaup or Long-tailed Duck (maybe they were over on the Nomanton side). I haven't been to Eyebrook for years and was disappointed to find the hedgerow along the old gull roost viewing area was too tall and thick to see anything. Not too many gulls there anyway. Masses of Lapwing and good numbers of Golden Plover there though, along with c30 Dunlin.

Bumbling

Following the very cold Friday night last weekend I was surprised to note bees both yesterday morning and early afternoon today. Both were busy around a flowering cultivated heather we have close to the house sheltered against a fence. Both also fecked off before I could get a camera on them. Yesterday's was probably a White-tailed Bumble-bee (or very similar), no idea on today's but more like a typical honey-bee. Sure I've seen bees here in early winter before but I feel sure that these were before any really cold nights.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Flyposting

Back in days before Kasabian, Leicester's biggest local band was iNDUSTRiE (Liam O'Driscoll, Kev Potterton & me). Okay, maybe I'm looking at it from a biased perspective but we were phenomenally good. A key component of our band life (aside from music and beer) was advertising our gigs through flyposting. Considering it was mainly wandering around the city with the posters and a bucket of paste, nights out flyposting brought some funny moments like pasting and postering a moving double-decker on Charles Street. I usually made the posters, typically taking a pertinent drawing from 2000AD or similar and using an iterative process of blowing up on a photocopier at work, re-blackening, and blowing up again (it would have been a damn site easier with scanners and access to better computers!). The following formed the basis for one of the posters - I'll have a root around in the loft some time to find others and post them here for posterity some time.

Here's a couple of crappy grainy photos of the band - my scanner is bust so these are digital photos of the prints.
The Red Branch c1987
Liam on left, Skev, Kev on right

iNDUSTRiE c1993
Skev on left, Kev, Liam on right
Notice the obligatory black clothing and hair gel/spray in abundance. I really couldn't be arsed to spray my hair these days!

Today at Groby Pool

Another lunchtime foray into the wilds of Leicestershire for a scan through the wildfowl. Not enough time for accurate counts, but there was exactly zero Mandarin and nothing more exciting than Gadwall and Shoveler. Overall though there were a lot more ducks than last time I visited, with plenty of Wigeon and Pochard in particular. There were also more Cormorants than the Groby Pool fish stocks ought to support! Nothing to tax the gull identification skills either.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Bagworth revisited

Took the opportunity today to nip back to Bagworth Heath over lunch. No further sign of the Long-eared Owls (not unexpectedly - they weren't seen on Sunday morning and no reports since) but good to get back in the habit of walking around with bins instead of a net! Excellent close views of c10 Lesser Redpoll in a small mixed finch flock, plus a nice Reed Bunting, a Meadow Pipit and Green Woodpecker. Nothing too exciting but good to see after the prolonged indifference to birding. This site really does look to have some very interesting habitat - it's grown up a fair bit since I first visited in 2000. Must be worth a moth trapping session some time.

Monday, 26 November 2007

On this day ... 25/11/2001

Okay, on this day yesterday. I've mentioned my woeful county bird list before, but it would be even poorer if I hadn't bothered making the effort on days like 25/11/2001 when I managed to boost my county list by two. Namely, a female Velvet Scoter at the Rutland Water dam and a male American Wigeon at Eyebrook. Very nice too.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

LEO

Early doors this morning, in the very cold first light, found John Hague and myself at Bagworth Heath looking for Long-eared Owls reported roosting in hawthorns on Thursday. There was no sign of them on Friday, and the in-famous (in-something anyway) Burbage Birders website indicated they'd been flushed on the Thursday - so we weren't full of expectation.
We soon found a very likely looking hawthorn-lined ditch and started grilling the twiggery. Fieldfares and Redwings were knocking about in the hawthorns but no signs of any agitated birds to suggest owls being present. We worked our way down to the end of the ditch, at which point I decided to move around to the other side to check from there. Almost immediately John picked up a roosting bird, and as I moved back to look it was clear that it was not alone and that they were spooked by our presence. Inadvertently we'd managed to flush 3 LEOs. Nothing could be done about it - any of the many dog-walkers arriving could have flushed them as they were in the last bush right next to a main footpath. Two of the owls appeared to turn back and simply move back into the hawthorns further down, whilst the third flew further over and seemed to drop into a lightly wooded copse.
We backed off and re-started the search, and eventually I picked one up. By now Dave Gray had arrived - so he got straight onto the bird with no further disturbance. By the time we left there was a small gathering of LEO admirers, and all got superb views of this very cryptic bush-hugger.
LEO twitch - hopefully someone got a decent enough shot for the LROS news page.
Long-eared Owl was a (one of many) notable omission from my paltry county list, so good to get such good views.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Winter Moth

I very rarely bother running my garden light traps after the end of October - seems a bit of a waste of time to empty an empty trap. I know there are still moths about, and others run their traps with some success through the year, but there really is no decent woodland close to my garden so the chances of pulling in something interesting are limited. Mottled Umber is a very good example of a generally common and widely distributed species that I haven't seen here - mainly due to the lack of mature oaks within a mile radius.
One species I tend to get frequently at domestic lighting and windows through the early winter is the aptly named Winter Moth. The winged male is extremely dull and lacks any exciting characteristics. Two appeared tonight at the kitchen window - the first here this winter. The following lazy snap is of the underside of one - the upperside of the wings is not much different!


The female of this species is wingless - just looks like an egg-bound sack with 6 legs.
http://vc55moths.topcities.com/imagearchive/geometer/wintermoth.htm

22nd November is a typical date for this species to start appearing here, although I have a few records of individuals towards end of first week of November.

McClaren

No surprises then. After the most abyssmal display I've seen for a long while (and bearing in mind I take my lads to a local club for under 6s and under 8s football training on a Monday night) England are managerless. Gerrard was poor, Lampard was shite and the back four appeared to have already paid for a summer holiday in 2008. It's almost second-nature now for English teams or individuals to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. The only difference between England and Lewis Hamilton is that he is still with McClaren. By the way - what do you call something that is 12inches long and dangles in front of a twat? Steve McClarens tie of course.

Monday, 19 November 2007

The (real) Great Escape

Another very good contender for Foxes manager if Wednesday goes to rat-shit.

Milan Man

Poor Ian Holloway - happily minding his own business managing Plymouth (currently a credible 7th in the Championship) after five years at QPR (currently residing at lowly number 22) when Milan indicates that he's the 'top target' for the vacant Foxes job (currently languishing in 17th spot). Whatever did the poor bastard do to deserve that? Whoever, whenever, taking on the Foxes job these days seems to be strictly short-term. I can see us playing Forest and Leeds next year. In league one!

On this day ... 19/11/1994

An embarrasingly spurious trip down to Cliffe Pools in Kent with John Hackett, Richard Revell & Neil Howes to see a 1st winter Greater Flamingo was redeemed by pager alert of a Blyth's Pipit at Swale. Needless to say we got a leg on (or at least me & John did as we needed it) and got excellent views of this bird. It had in fact been present since 7th, but had been reported as a Tawny. At the time there were very few (couple at most) accepted previous records. This was a particularly pleasing stroke of luck as we'd been denied the opportunity to see this species only a week or so earlier (a bird that Neil & Richard did see, hence their restraint). One had been present at Languard from 4th, but wasn't confirmed until after the weekend. On the 10th it was trapped and ringed, and shortly afterwards eaten by a local Kestrel. Of course the trpping and ringing had nothing to do with it becoming suddenly vulnerable ....

Sunday, 18 November 2007

On this day ... 18/11/2000

1076 mile round trip to Hopeman Harbour with Brian (see'Blokes') and Carl Baggott. Steller's Eider - OMFL!

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

.. some great electro-industrial type stuff from c1988-1991, mainly Nitzer Ebb, Front Line Assembly and Front 242 with a bit of Skinny Puppy. Best played very loud. I tend to completely re-fresh my i-Pod shuffle every week - just deciding whether to go for some hardcore D&B this week, or maybe something entirely mellow and acoustic.

Criterion

After a bite to eat and a shower, we all met up again for an evening visit to The Criterion. This was ostensibly to witness the visible migration of Shetlander Rob Fray (on his way to Goa via Leicester). The other reason was to have some beer. We were successful on both counts!



John finds that attempts to hide his rotund frame behind a pint are futile.


Rob ponders as to whether he should abandon the Goa trip in favour of entering the Brainiac Quiz. Exactly the behaviour expected of a man whose name is an anagram of Berry O'Fart.


The camera catches the moment when Dave finds that after a day driving, and too many bags of salty crisps, he is unfortunately touching cloth.


Reports that yours truly has increased in volume from fat to Daniel Lambert are largely unfounded.

Selsey Bill 17/11/2007

06:05 in the morning, still dark and a bit nippy, I found myself in the highly unfamiliar position of being in a car with John 'Hoylander' Hague and Dave 'Grayboy' Gray on our way to see a bird - the first time we'd travelled together on a birding day out since the 2001 Snowy Egret!

Our destination was Selsey Bill, and the target was the White-billed Diver that had been knocking around on and off for a while. I have to say that whilst the prospect of a days birding was appealing, and of course I was looking forward to a long-awaited tick, I have never really enjoyed seawatching. Once we'd arrived and got ourselves kitted up in the obligatory protective layers, the size of the task was obvious - miles of open choppy waters and a long shingly beach - my idea of birding hell.
After a brief spell of scan-walk-scan, we merged with a group of like-minded birders. John eventually picked up a breeding plumaged diver and we were soon all scoping it albeit at some distance. As ever with seawatching, the conversation amongst the present birders deteriorated into the almost futile attempt to give directions to a dot in an open expanse of choppy water - at least one inept f.wit couldn't pick it up. The bird eventually showed why it is a White-billed Diver (I certainly won't ever be referring to it as a Yellow-billed Loon), but an outgoing trawler then cut across it - and it somehow vanished. We decided to walk further down the beach to try and get closer views but no further sign, so we decided to take a break for sustenance - a cardiac inducing full English at the High Street Cafe (and very good it was too).

Back out on the beach front but still no further sign of the diver, which was not seen again until a good two hours after we'd left. So, all in all very brief, distant and unsatisfying views - sums up most of my seawatching experiences! Other birds noted during the day included a superb Bonxie heading east, adult winter Med Gull directly over our heads in the car park, a superb close Purple Sand which only just evaded a Kestrel, a Kingfisher darting low over the tide, a Razorbill, loads of Gannets, an Eider, and a few Red-breasted Merganser.

Selsey council have employed a gang of wintering Turnstones to keep the car-park clean.

Perhaps the best birding first for me though was the luxury of being able to doze off in the car whilst being chauffeured around by Mr Gray.

Grayboy driving - OMFL!

Monday, 12 November 2007

H5N1. Again.

Another outbreak, again in Suffolk, again in a poultry farm. What a fucking surprise. Acting Chief Vetinary Officer, Fred Landeg, intimated (as expected) that the risk of the virus spreading is much increased in autumn due to wild bird migration - see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7091284.stm
An alternative view, which suggest that this percieved risk is bollocks, can be found here:
No doubt the NFU will be calling for all wild migratory wildfowl to be culled (along with the Badgers that are clearly the cause of bovine TB). Of course I would wholeheartedly support a selective cull of Canadas, hybrids, ferals and genetically modified Rock Doves - but on the basis that they are vermin rather than H5N1 carriers! Bernard Matthews said 'fuck! first it was that twat Jamie Oliver and now bird flu again - can't a bloke make a decent living from selling mechnically reclaimed battery farmed poultry carcases these days?'. Apparently.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Biological recording

Back in the mid-90s I bought an early version of Bird Recorder for Windows. I promptly set about populating it with my older records, although this was pretty much restricted to entering a few day lists and records of lifers. I kept it up to date for two or three years from then on, but I started slipping in 2000 and I had completely stopped using it for bird records by 2001. By then I had created a new species table for my moth recording and frankly I couldn't be arsed with maintaining two datasets. Over the last five or so years I have been using MapMate - a much better tool overall. I transferred all of my moth records from Bird Recorder and continued from there - currently I have some 31000 personal records. 2007 has been a pretty crap year though for mothing, and I have been able to keep MapMate up to date rather than spending a couple of weeks catching up during the winter. So I am now embarking on the task of transferring my birding records over. The downside is that with the number of sites to create and species names to correct between the two databases, it will actually be easier to re-enter everything. There are c8000 records to copy plus all those scrappy notebooks to wade through. I guess it will take a fair time and probably keep me busy for a couple of winters (or three). But at the end of it I will be certain of, for instance, exactly how many times I saw the Titchwell Black-winged Stilt and if I've seen five or six Rose-coloured Starlings (it'll take a while before I'm use to / happy with the current vernacular names and systematic order). I will of course endeavour to enter all of my new birding records directly into MapMate - although I certainly won't be bothering to enter every tit or finch than dangles off of me nuts.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Orwellian Geese

As every birder must surely agree, there are few sights and sounds more evocative than wintering geese. In Norfolk, or Scotland, on the Severn, or pretty much anywhere except Leicester. Using Orwell's vocab, all geese are equal but some are more equal than others! I know it will upset the sentimentalists, but it's high-time that a concerted national effort was made to dramatically cull the Canadas, hybrids and feral geese from our parks, lakes and reserves. Never mind Ruddy Ducks, it's these fuckers that need shooting!

Daisy

Whilst at WCPS I saw a few of these:


Ox-eye Daisy

My lack of botanical knowledge is well known, but surely Ox-eye Daisy shouldn't be flowering in November?

WCP South - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Had a drizzle-free but windy walk around both lakes this afternoon with Josh & Alex. They were sharing a pair of compact bins that were free courtesy of a works meal/match package at Leicester Tigers last year.

Alex perfecting his Benny Hill look.
On the bird front, I completely expectedly managed no sight or sound of the recent Cetti's - if still present it was no doubt tucked up and laughing at me. So other than a couple of squealing Water Rails, best bird by far was a very confiding and easy to see Short-toed Tree Creeper perched on one of the highly informative and accurate ID boards dotted around the southern lake.

I used to visit this site regularly when I first started birding regularly in c1990. Back then I used to park in a sort of slip road off of the main ring road, next to where now there is the optimistically named Waxwing Wood. It was relatively quiet and the waterside scrub was almost non-existent. There was no board-walk, but there was a fairly adequate hide looking onto the southern lake. I've seen some good birds there in the past, and ticked my first White-winged Black Tern (1994) and Marsh Warbler (1996) there. Most of the developments that are in place now have been there for some time, and the last time I visited was when a Kittiwake was there in 2000. Aside from the birds, or lack of, there were three things in particular that struck me today as I walked around:

The Good: once you get away from the car-park, the waterside scrub and reeds have developed into a very promising looking habitat. I especially like the southern end of the southern lake and the board -walk section of the northern lake. It's no surprise that Cetti's should turn up here, and the habitat is not unfavourable for breeding (but how long have we said that about Cetti's in VC55).

The bad: the wankers that insist on driving in, emptying three carrier bags full of bread for the geese and turning what should be an excellent site to get people interested in wildlife into an un-hygienic cesspit. I saw a rat lurking about (what a surprise), it stinks and looks fucking awful. These tossers deserve nothing more than a mountain of goose-shit on their heads and cars.

The ugly: I know it's not new, but that stupid Mammoth statue looks ridiculous.

With more time and less offspring I'll spend more time here and around the better Wanlip lakes.

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

.. an excellent mix of my early 1980s stuff, with very early Simple Minds (Empires and Dance & Sons and Fascination era) and Ultravox going down very well, the excellent Party Fears Two by The Associates newly downloaded, and many tracks by the likes of Blancmange, OMD, Human League, Heaven 17, China Crisis, Soft Cell, Thomas Dolby to name a few.

Techno Knobs

Call me old fashioned, but WTF is all this hype and nonsense about the i-Phone? I'm not exactly a technophobe, maybe a bit slow on the uptake, but is it really necessary to queue up for hours to buy a new phone and then prance around like a gormless twat for the telly crew. The last thing I'd want on a phone is to see the face of at least half of the knobs I saw on the news tonight.

Groby Pool

Nipped over to Groby Pool this afternoon after leaving work. I see the car park is completely locked off these days forcing normal visitors who aren't dogging to park on the roadside. I was suitably armed with my monopod fully inclusive of large pointy spike in case any filthy scumbags were about. There weren't, unless you include the manky Mallard-alike hybrids. Nothing too exciting on the water either - although seeing as I haven't bothered to look at any open water with bins or scope for a long while I can't remember the last time I saw Pochard!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

On this day ... 08/11/1998

I found myself scoping a fine looking White-rumped Sand in Manton Bay at Rutland Water. However the rarest aspect of this encounter wasn't the bird, it was the uncharacteristic display of enthusiasm on my part as a) it wasn't a lifer and b) it wasn't even a county tick. It was in pretty much the same area as the one I did tick on both counts in July 1994, and was possibly the same bird.

30th

Having polished up my scope and bins, I also ensured that my county list was up to date and submitted it for inclusion on the LROS website: http://www.lros.org.uk/listing.htm Despite three years or so of non-birding, I see that my list will make the top 30. Albeit a very lame joint 30th position. However, I was highly amused to see that this will still be higher than John Hague's list despite his recent birding activity.

Blokes ..

I ought to make mention of some of the people who are likely to crop up regularly in this blog. There are many others that I could list but these have been my main birding and mothing accomplices: Birding: John Hackett – joined the company I was working for in the early 90's and someone who knew we were both interested in birds (though probably not realising that the level of interest was at that time on different playing fields) got us talking. No idea where he is or what he's doing these days since he left Leicester. Brian Moore – aka the Wearside Whippet. No idea how Brian met John, but it was with these two that I ended up watching that Oriental Pratincole. Brian is (or at least he was) a Chef – very much like the one in South Park but with a higher-pitched voice and lighter skin tone. Richard Revell – came to Leicester from Hull. Joined John, Brian and me on numerous twitches and trips in between 1994 – c1997. Again no idea where he is or what he's doing. Dave Gray – claims to be Welsh, and spent many years in a perpetual state of studentdom. Is now also a psychiatric nurse. What is it this affinity between birders and the mentally ill. First met Dave on a birding trip to Norfolk with Brian in March 1995. Dave's greatest birding accolade is the unique ability to singularly fail in giving adequate directions to anything of interest. Basically. John Hague – hailing from Yorkshire, supporter of Sheffield Wednesday and a psychiatric nurse – no doubt meeting the same people at home games and on suicide watch at work. First joined me, Brian and John Hackett for a Black-throated Thrush in Jan 1996. http://drunkbirders.blogspot.com/ Rob Fray – local lad, started birding whilst still in short trousers and was for a long time the whole of the LROS committee, now lives on Shetland with his gay dog called Sparky. http://www.robfray.co.uk/ Richard Fray – Rob's younger brother. Prior to emigrating to Arizona, Richard was also Rob's fatter, nocturnal and work-shy brother. http://www.rpf-wildlife-photos.com/home.php Birding and Mothing: Andy Mackay – local birding luminary and internationally renowned illustrative artist (I think it says on his blog). Andy is chiefly responsible for kick-starting my mothing interest, and for rejecting my July 1994 Red Kite record whilst he was County Recorder (I'm not bitter and don't hold grudges). http://www.ajm-wildlife-art.co.uk/blog/ Mothing: Adrian Russell – eminent county lepidopterist and long-standing county recorder. Also the chief supplier of virtually all of the excellent moth traps in VC55. Keith Tailby – based in Ravestone, but thinks nothing of driving all the way to Scotland for a single tick and then all the way back (ludicrous, I'd never do that ….) http://www.mothshots.com/ Ron Follows – owner of one of the best mothing gardens in VC55, there have been more county-first macros in Ron's Barrowden garden that I could hope for. Ron has the luxury of being retired – so he also spends a fair chunk of his time doing voluntary and ringing at RW.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

On this day ... 07/11/1999

A notable day from my birding past - but for the wrong reason. Dipping was alway annoying, and this day was no different. We'd blasted down to Cornwall to the Drift Res. / Tremethick Cross area and spent our time not seeing a pale phase Booted Eagle. This was made slightly more annoying by the tossers present in the dipping crowd that were calling and ticking a pale juv Common Buzzard. Not sure what happened to that eagle - was it ever accepted onto the British List? The reprieve (for me anyway) was a consolation tick with a Pacific Golden Plover at Culdrose, also a Red-backed Shrike there. In stark contrast to normal form, we also managed to see Black Duck at Stithians Res.

Autumnwatch

Is it just me that sniggers when old Bill and Kate start talking about 'beaver action' and 'live beaver shots'?

Death by cloaca

Seeing as I'd made the effort to find and clean my old scope, seemed a good idea to take it out and see if it actually still worked (having been stuffed in either the car boot or garden shed for 3 years). Nipped over the Swithland Res. during my lunch break. Nothing overly exciting - just as I remember general birding at SwR (with notable exceptions!). 100+ Greylags loitering around the causeway - presume these are responsible for the mountain of shite on the top of the wall. Had a quick look along there and seems possible that the resident colony of the Psychid moth Luffia ferchaultella has been obliterated by the massed geese cloacas.

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog, where over the coming weeks/months/years I'll be posting news and views about all manner of stuff in my life. The bulk of these posting will be notes and details of my moth trapping results, plus occasional postings about my birding (or lack of these days), my reviews and incisive biased comment on music, films, books, sport, current affairs and beer, and general thoughts and ramblings about important topics like the meaning of life and the price of Jelly Beans. All lavishly illustrated with photos, cuttings and links, probably. I'll also be interspersing current musings with 'on this day' snippets from memory lane.

Every story has a beginning though, and here's mine ....

I am nearly 40, b1968 in Leicester. I have lived in Leicestershire all of my life, in Whetstone since 1994 but grew up in the Humberstone area. I am happily married to Nichola (we met in late 1989 and eventually decided to get married in 1999), and we have three children - Isabelle (b1995), Joshua (b2001) & Alexander (b2002). They all share a common dis-interest in my interests. Okay, not quite true - the boys are always keen to see what moths I've caught, Isabelle is a budding musician and has seen some good birds (though not necessarily by choice) and Nichola really just dislikes the amount of time I spend pursuing my interests or researching / documenting / writing about them on this PC ................

In essence, aside from family (and as permitted by work commitments - I certainly won't be talking shop on this blog), the main interests in my life so far have been:

Music - I attended many gigs in my formative years and this escalated to being a member of Leicester based all-electronic bands The Red Branch and iNDUSTRiE (actually the same band with and without singers). We played numerous gigs between 1985 - 1994, but were loosing interest and faded into oblivion by c1996. The music developed from synth-pop (heavily influenced by Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, ABC and Human League) to a harder edged industrial-techno sound (once we'd heard the likes of Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Front Line Assembly). By the time we were disillusioned with lack of success and packing up, the equipment that had always been prohibitively expensive was starting to become cheaper and easier to use with full blown workstations and direct-to-disc recording. The kids today can knock out a dance track with very little effort and nothing more than a PC - not quite as rewarding as spending a couple of months programming analogue synths, drum machines and sequencers and recording on 4-track, but a damn site more prolific and lucrative!

Birding - since a very young age I've been fascinated by natural history and have always enjoyed watching Attenborough et al, but it wasn't until I was 21 that I actually started making the effort to go out into the field. I'd seen Buzzards in North Devon - although I'd actually seen some large birds and wanted to check out what they were, so I bought a field guide (two in fact - on offer in WH Smiths). Flicking through I realised just how many British birds there were that I'd never heard of, let alone seen, and felt compelled to go out and see some of them. I bought some cheap bins and started going out to local reserves to identify them for myself.


My first bird-spotting guides!

The thought of going further afield than Rutland Water never really entered my head for a couple of years, until a fervent high-listing twitcher started working at the same company as me. My first out of county birding trip, to Norfolk in May 1993, was a major eye opener. Just a week later we were back in Norfolk twitching Oriental Pratincole. By the end of 1993 I'd also ticked Red-flanked Bluetail and I was hooked. Between late 1993 - end 2001 I was a regular birder and I've seen some major rarities. I was also suffering with the debilitating pageritis. My obsession dwindled sharply after Christmas 2001 following my Dad's untimely death in a car crash - not surprisingly ticking rare birds no longer seemed important. I was still birding occasionally with my last tick being American Robin in January 2004, but since then I've neglected the scope and bins in favour of moth trapping ............. but I've just dug them out to get back into local birding.

Moths - I first got interested in moths after borrowing a heath trap in 1999. I built my own Skinner trap and started regular trapping in the garden in 2000 which continues to the present. Since that Skinner trap, I've also acquired enough kit for some serious out-of-garden trapping although I rarely go out of VC55 (Leicestershire and Rutland). The big appeal for me was a) the much greater ID challenge and sheer numbers of species, b) you can build up an ever growing list of species in your own garden, and c) the records generated are of much more scientific importance than any bird I've twitched. From day-one I've focussed on the micros as well as macros, though I have never bothered to try setting anything and have not yet mastered (moth) genitalia examination. I do photograph a lot of moths though. Nichola and the kids have got used to finding pots with moths in the fridge waiting to be photographed.

Other stuff - in no particular order:
I have read all but the latest of the Terry Pratchett Discworld books.
I used to be an avid reader of the 2000AD comics - Slaine, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis and ABC Warriors being my favourite story-lines.
I became addicted to on-line Poker a couple of years ago - I defeated this addiction by buying up some first-person shoot-em-up Playstation games on e-bay.
I then became addicted to first-person shoot-em-up Playstation games ..............
I have pretty much everything that Depeche Mode, Orbital and Kraftwerk have ever released in my hugely varied music collection.
I have no time for religion.
When I play squash I have only one aim - which is not to die from a coronary attack.
I have drifted in and out of supporting Leicester City FC - but I haven't drifted into following the Premiership team of the moment since I was at junior school (when I was always Steve Coppell playing for Man U. in the playground).
I am not a Royalist - at least the French got that one right.
I am allergic to DIY.
I have watched David Lynch's Eraserhead many times and still don't get it.
I have some golf clubs, and occasionally destroy municipal fairways as I hack my way around.