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

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Half-arsed Bird Spotting

I needed to nip into work this afternoon for a couple of hours, and thought I'd precede this with a bit of light birding. I had it all planned out - Swithland Wood for a relaxing hour catching up with typical woodland birds and grabbing a few shots. When I got there, the car park was bedlam and every man and his dog, bike and horse seemed to have converged there. Bollocks. So, I resorted to a quick and very half-arsed stop at Swithland Reservoir. There were probably some interesting birds there, but I couldn't be arsed to look. The one bird I did watch was Goldeneye - there was a small group off the dam comprising 5 drakes all displaying and trying to get the attention of a lone female. I like Goldeneyes, and their display is definitely worth making the effort to see. Non-displaying Goldeneye Coot making use of the biggest bird-bath for miles around Before I went into the office, and had another quick look on the adjacent Braunstone estate for Waxwings. For the third time in two days I saw fuck all. On the way out of work at 16:30ish I had another quick look, and this time found 49 perched in a Lombardy Poplar on Hockley Farm Road, just around the corner from the lone berry laden Rowan tree in Avery Hill. Braunstone estate is not the sort of place to park up and get your optics and camera out! 49 Waxwings - trust me High up Waxwing

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Other Barak

No, not the American-Kenyan-Irishman newly inaugurated Barack Obama. I mean the military dinosaur that is the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, seen here on the right with his pal outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. They may be smiling but I hope the full force of The Hague falls on these fuckers for authorising the use of white phosphorus bombs in civilian areas in Gaza.

Grand Curry

I had a great curry last night in the company of Adrian Russell, Andy Mackay, Keith Tailby and Graham Finch. Ostensibly, this was the now-annual moth recorders curry night, but this is just a vague excuse for a group of aging blokes talking bollocks about everything and nothing whilst enjoying some great food and a couple of Kingfishers. It is many many years since I last visited The Grand Durbar on Melton Road, but I have to say that my meal was excellent, the place was great and the service was spot on. All in all a great night.

Today, I have mostly been listening to ..

Green Day (stuff from Dookie & American Idiot) and the awesome Songs About Fucking album by Big Black. Fucking great it was too, making a return drive to Sidcup along the two crappest motorways in rain much more bearable.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

No more Bittern-ness

If there is one bird more than any other that I have been bothered about for my county list, it is Bittern. I've lost count now of the number of times I've dipped wintering birds at Rutland Water, and I missed the Cossington bird last year. They always managed to fly into reedbeds just before I arrived never to be seen again, or just after I'd given up and left. Bastards! I thought the Eyebrook bird this week would also be consigned to the missed list, mainly because I couldn't get there in time to see it on Sunday when it turned up and I expected it would be a very short stayer during a working week. However as it was still there yesterday, and I had a business meeting in Wisbech, I hoped to finally end the bittern-ness. I arrived at EBR mid-afternoon on the way back, and was immediately struck by the small crowd at the inflow chatting and aimlessly looking around. Bollocks I thought, it's going to be one of those days again. However, eventually a bit of patience paid of and the Bittern came flying over, turned back and landed somewhere on the north side of the inflow bridge. A brief in-flight view but at last I had Bittern for the county. A bit more patience and excellent frame-filling scope views were had as the bird skulked in and out of the bank-side vegetation before it again flew - this time heading out onto the shoreline of the main reservoir on the Rutland side. More great scope views as it made its way purposefully along the shore before it once again flew, this time back to the inflow on the south side of the bridge. By the time I got back there, it was incredibly close and getting near enough to photograph - the only problem being that as it edged ever nearer the light was fading fast. Overall though I was extremely pleased with the views and happy with the shots I managed to get as the bird continued to hunt in the inflow at dusk. You can't see me - right? Bittern - OMFCL!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

One of my favourite bands from my youth, and the old tracks still sound great today. I have almost all of their stuff on vinyl from the early Hansa releases to the Virgin days before they disbanded in October 1982, plus the live final offering Oil On Canvas. It must be obvious that I was to young to hear the early stuff on first release, I got into them somewhere between Quiet Life and Gentlemen Take Polaroids. I have to confess though that aside from odd tracks that Sylvian did with Ruichi Sakamoto, I never kept up with his or any of the other members solo stuff and have never heard the Rain Tree Crow work (Japan briefly reformed under this name). The five studio albums - all superb as far as I'm concerned: Adolescent Sex (Hansa, March 1978), Obscure Alternatives (Hansa, October 1978), Quiet Life (Hansa, December 1979), Gentlemen Take Polaroids (Virgin, November 1980) & Tin Drum (Virgin, November 1981). Here's a couple of tracks which demonstrate how the differing musical style over the years was more of a development rather than step-change. Visually though they changed significantly! Communist China, from Adolescent Sex Quiet Life, from Quiet Life (!) The Art of Parties, from Tin Drum My two favourite Japan tracks though are as different from all of the above as they are from each other: Rhodesia, from Obscure Alternatives Nightporter, from Gentlemen Take Polaroids

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Institutional Fuckwittedness

Oh my fucking days - like grandfather, like father, like son.

Offensive terms are apparently 'endearing nicknames' if you are royal / upper class knobs. Get a fucking grip - this is not PC gone mad, it's institutional disregard for ethnic minorities that can be directly linked back to the days of the Empire. Bring on the Republic.

"Tell them it is a term of affection and that you like it, otherwise I'll beat you with this big polo stick thing"

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Royal Racism

Harry is in the news again - why is anyone surprised? When you consider what a fucking blithering idiot his grandfather is then what do you expect. I'm only amazed that his brother hasn't managed to slip up as badly so far, but then I guess he feels he has more to lose in the royal race to the throne.

Harry has apologised for his choice of offensive nicknames for his army pals, but it's not enough. Get this fucker court-martialed and bounced out of the forces like every other soldier would be.

I'm not racist, but .........


Waxwings are great birds, full of character and with a full suite of redeeming features (tinkling call, superb colours, not rare but not common). The only thing I don't like about them is driving around Loughborough for an hour trying to catch up with the buggers to get photos! The sizeable flock was not immediately obvious at the locations reported from yesterday, but I eventually picked up around 20 briefly perched in a tree - not feeding and clearly not settled. I managed superb scope views but no chance of getting any photos, especially when they fecked off again. Another 20 minutes or so and I again picked some up perched in a tree, and managed to count 31 before they again flew off. There was only a couple of smallish trees with berries on the Belton Road, and plenty of pyracantha berries in the school ground, but these were all being ignored. I got the impression that the larger flock was dispersing whilst the birds looked for better feeding opportunities. I was about to leave them to it when I picked up a single bird feeding on apples - and at last managed to get a few shots. Waxwing - greedy birds, but at least they get five a day

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Goose & Swan

The title of this post is nothing to do with a rural drinking hole, but a reference to the birding this morning at Cossington. I was there just after first light, and once again it was bloody cold (-3C). I had a quick look around Cossington Lock for a loitering juv Whooper Swan with no sign, and was then planning on trapsing off towards the sewerage farm to look down onto the Wanlip North lakes when John Hague called to say he'd join me any minute. Andy Cliff also appeared and the three of us hot (actually fecking cold) footed it to look for geese. A good walk and a few minute later and we were scoping through a large sprawling goose flock, mainly Greylags and Canadas but a few White-fronted Geese were also quickly spotted. Before long the hoped-for juvenile Brent Goose gave itself up, quickly followed by a solitary Pink-footed Goose. Excellent - two county ticks for me. The White-front counting was nigh on impossible, but we made a minimum of 9 including a juvenile. A couple of Egyptian Geese also showed themselves - probably the biggest rarities in terms of Leicestershire (as opposed to Rutland where they are resident). A soaring Buzzard, loads of lapwings and assorted ducks were also noted before we headed back to the lock. This time the Whooper Swan was easily located milling about with a handful of adult Mute Swans. This bird is the epitome of the ugly duckling. Damned ugly. It was very animated though, constanly nodding its head and making noises. I grabbed a bit of crappy video in poor light - it actually looks pretty good on the PC but seems to get knackered through compression of some sort when uploaded. Anyway, you get the gist. A quick stomp around Rectory Marsh at Cossington Meadows put up four Snipe, but no Jacks. A pair of Stonechats were knocking about - always great to see. I then had a look around Chapel Lane off of Welford Road for a small group of Waxwings that were about yesterday - no joy. Maybe the big flock picked up at Loughborough this afternoon will still be knocking about tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Peaceful New Year .......

Auckland explodes with colour and hope .... Sydney trips the light fantastic and showers optimism ....... Israel says 'Fuck all that peace bollocks - ave it!' And to make it all worse, the US (or at least Dick Head Cheney) are defending the current Israeli offensive on Gaza. I've said before, there will never be any chance of peace in the Middle East whilst there is no clearly defined and independant Palestinian State - a problem that the UK/UN/US created and appear to be doing fuck all to seriously address. I guess those Israeli celebrations of '60 years of peace' are over then?

Very Late / Early Breeding Behaviour

Remember that prolific pair of Collared Doves that nested on the neighbours satellite dish and security light last year? After the last nestlings fledged, the neighbours decided that they'd had enough pigeon shite spattered just outside their back door and dislodged the now empty nest. How I laughed when I noticed the Doves collecting twigs and stuff from our garden bewteen 22nd - 28th December. By 29th, the new nest on the same security light was complete, and the female has been sitting tight on the nest since 31st. Surely the latest and earliest breeding bird in VC55 during 2008 / 2009?!

Rutland Water 04/01/2009

After a busy Christmas and New Year break, I was keen to get out and about and half decided early yesterday evening that a day in Norfolk would be great. That went to the wall though after a late night playing Wii games and the voice of sanity (ie - the wife) pointing out that we had other stuff that needed doing before the kids go back to school etc. So, I opted for a more sensible couple of hours pottering around the non-Egleton parts of Rutland Water. I started off at the dam - and it was fecking freezing. There is always a wind in your face along the dam and today was no different. After a short 'stop-scope-stop' walk I picked up a pair of Scaup - nice. No signs of any divers from the dam though, so I opted to head to Whitwell Creek. After scoping for 10 minutes or so, looking out to the open water from the creek, I was surprised by 2 Great Northern Divers that popped up fairly close in the creek. Bloody typical - camera was in the car. By the time I'd legged it back with the camera the divers had moved further out so only a poor distant record shot possible. Great Northern Diver - no fecking loons at RW today I then bumped into Matthew Berriman, Allan Pocock, Andy Forryan and Ben Croxtall who were returning from the other end of Whitwell. I quick chat and exchange of news and I was off to scope the open waters. A few minutes later, I'd added Red-throated Diver to the list for the morning, and then a drake Red-crested Pochard lingering on the opposite coast of the Hambleton Peninsular. By now I'd noted most of the common and regular wintering wildfowl and waterbirds, and also a few other species like flyover Golden Plovers and a small Dunlin flock. And it felt like my toes were missing. A half-arsed look from the end of Barnsdale Avenue failed to produce the two Black-necked Grebes. I nipped into the Egleton reserve with the intention of getting an annual permit - but soon abandoned that idea when I realised the cost had now escalated to £25 (for LRWT members like me who have already paid £18, or £50 for non-LRWT members). Fucking hell - put this into context by thinking of the number, diversity and excellence of the RSPB reserves you can visit for your £34 annual membership. You could even go to Loch Garten and see real Ospreys. Anglian Water can kiss my my big fat arse. A free glance at the feeders produced a handful of Tree Sparrows amongst the common finches and tits - always a favorite. I was now thoroughly chilled and decided to have a quick look at Eyebrook before heading home. EBR was partially frozen over though and not much about. I spent some time scoping the loitering large gulls in vain, and a busy Redshank on the island. Wigeon - add in the evocative whistling yourself I called it a day and headed home, where a quick check revealed a modest list of 58 species for the morning. More importantly, it felt good to feel toes again.

Rewind - Role Reversal

Here's a couple of snaps from the end of November (hence the rewind bit). One is of an extremely common and much maligned bird looking stunning, the other is of a very colourful and appealing winter visitor looking pants due to the distance and fading light that it was photographed in. Waxwing - Whetstone, 24th November 2008 Starling - Whetstone, 23rd November 2008