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

Monday, 31 December 2012

Some Stuff What I Saw in 2012

It's the usual end of year dilemma: do I bother putting a review of the year together? Too many highlights (good days out), lowlights (long periods doing nothing much) and non-events (pants mothing!) to do it justice. Last year I did a bit of an A to Z review of the blog over the year with hyperlinks - I haven't got the time or inclination to go that far this year, though I did like the A to Z structure. One thing I have had a lot of in 2012 (relatively) is British ticks ... far too many to review, and difficult to pick put highlights from that lot. So in what is possibly the laziest but most lavishly illustrated end of year effort, here is an A to Z of British ticks I've had this year ..... not in any order of preference, rarity or taxonomy, just alphabetical. Even that is with a bit of poetic licence - seemed a straightforward enough idea at the start!

Adela croesella

Balclutha punctata

Corizus hyoscyami

Dasysyrphus albostriatus

Ectopsocus briggsi

Fly Orchid

Grammoptera ruficornis

Heliophanus flavipes

Isotrias rectifasciana

Chaetorellia jaceae

Salsola kali (Prickly Saltwort) - yes, K was hard

Lauria cylindracea

Marchantia polymorpha

Navelwort Rust

Opsius stactogalus

Phasia hemiptera

Neurigona quadrifasciata

Rhagoletis alternata

Syritta pipiens

Trypetoptera punctulata

Arge ustulata

Aroga velocella

Wild Liquorice

Xysticus cristatus

Yellow-bird's Nest

Zygina angusta (probably!)

Happy New Year to everyone who reads or stumbles on this blog, and here's to a great 2013 in the field.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Another 2013 Challenge?

Aside from the Foot It challenge (bird species on foot from home in January), and the Patchwork Challenge (bird species within a 3kmsq area during 2013), there is another challenge that is just starting to pick up some momentum - the 1000 in 1kmsq challenge. The aim is simple, try to log 1000+ species in a 1km square. The elected area does not have to be absolutely in line with the OS map, though it must be square. On the face of it, I reckon picking up 1000 species during a year in a 1kmsq could be quite straightforward given two things - regular moth trapping and good habitat diversity in the square. And there's the rub ....

For instance I could elect to record in the squares that contain either Pickworth Great Wood, Clipsham Quarry, a bit of Rutland Water, or Ketton Quarry and the adjacent working quarry. Mothing these at least once a month and regular visits though the seasons for botany, mammals, birds and everything else would make 1000+ very likely. But I'm not convinced that I would actually get there that often, and in any case to do so would cost a lot of time and money in travelling there. I could elect to choose a more diverse square nearer to home on the same basis - maybe a square around Narborough Bog or Croft Hill/Huncote Embankment. Regular visits would be achievable and there is good diversity - but neither site is suitable for regular mothing.

But actually, maybe the point is not to pick a square where you think 1000 species should be easy, but stick with your home square and push yourself to find innocuous or difficult to ID species alongside the much more tenable regular garden moth trapping. I'm actually not decided as yet whether to go for it, but I have decided that if I do it will be this square with my house in the top-leftish corner:

 

In a normal year, I reckon 400+ lepidoptera species is easily possible in this square including butterflies and a bit of bush bashing for larvae and leafmines. 2012 has been completely pants, and I made virtually no effort with garden mothing but still managed 290 species (c100 down on 2010 & 2011). Birds are not strong in this square - maybe 65 species if I'm lucky. With all other orders, I reckon I'd be lucky to top 800 species in a year - but maybe I should just go for it and try harder. After all, if 400+ lepidoptera is possible then there must be at least 3 times that in total across the other invert orders.

I guess if I do go for it, it will make keeping an eye on the garden even more worthwhile. Like today, when an innocent trip to the garden bins revealed a newly established and widespread fungal attack on the garden fencing. Seems that the regular rains have thoroughly soaked the panels, and there is a profuse showing of Common Jellyspot.


It will also mean that I can't go on ignoring mosses, like this one in a garden plant pot today that may be Common Pincushion, or may not be.


I'm going to mull on it until Sunday before I finally decide whether to fold or go all in.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Monday, 10 December 2012

Local birding on a National scale

Looks like 2013 is the year that local patches and green birding are the main national birding focus, with two challenges set up that are sure to get a lot of people out flogging their patches and local areas.

When I defined my patch, I wanted it to be away from the generally well-watched hot-spots in the county but also to have at least some potential, and also to be close to home but to keep it separate from my garden list and immediate local area list (which is generally south from home). I therefore defined what I call the Soar Valley South patch which is within a few minutes drive north and outside of Whetstone.

So what are the two challenges ...

First up is an on foot from home in January challenge - Foot It. The area can be as big or small as you like with one constraint - you have to walk the whole way there and back from home. I've registered with a 3km radius from my home which means I can just about get to Jubilee Park and Narborough Bog, which are actually in the southern part of the patch. I can also go the other way from home down the lane towards Whetstone Pastures. This means I get the best potential out of my three local lists (garden, OFFH and patch). Here is my Foot It area:


As you can probably gather from this, I've set myself a target of 63 species. This will not be a doddle, and there will be a few species that I see south from home that may not register on the patch list (like Yellowhammer).

The Patchwork Challenge covers the whole year, and is a patch yearlisting challenge with the only contraint being that the patch must be 3km2 max. I order to meet this, I've basically defined a cut-out from my normal patch which includes all the best birdy bits I visit. See how I've managed to include Narborough Bog and the balancing pool and scrape field at Grove Park.

Both challenges are being run with a handicap scoring system. For Foot It, the score that will be compared is your actual achieved number of species as a percentage of the target you declared in advance - my target is 63 species. For the Patchwork Challenge, each species has a point value and the comparative score is your achieved point value versus an average that you've previously achieved on the patch. As my patch is essentially an inland birding wasteland then my average is a very modest 83 'points'.

The competitive element is just for fun, but the main thing is getting everyone out doing some local birding and logging records on the BTO BirdTrack system. Looking forward to getting started.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

De-ringer Pulled My Leg Off


Egg thieves, grouse moors, habitat loss, global warming, Rod Hull - for years birds have had the rough end of the stick when it somes to relations with mankind. And whilst conservation societies, ecologists, naturalists, that woman who feeds the duckies and Johnny Kingdom all do their best for our birds, a new craze is threatening them. A craze that is sure to stop our birds getting their feet on or under our bird tables.

'Johnny Kingdom'

For centuries, birds have been subject to mankind's lust for keeping lists. It was only when the list-keepers started using optics rather than shotguns that the rot really set in. Whilst many of the modern-day lists are a bit of pointless competition, or at worst an all consuming class A habit, in the main the birds are not directly affected other than being a bit embarrassed by all the attention and comments like 'cor - look at the vent on that' and 'piece of shit, looks a bit plastic' and 'OMFL!'. But one branch of list-keeping developed into a more direct hands-on approach; a seedy and secretive sideline called ringing.

'piece of shit'

At first ringers maintained a respectable outward appearance and even claimed to be doing some good for bird conservation, but behind the scenes it was all a sham. After a good all over fondling, each bird had a metal ring closed onto one of its legs. The ring bears a number and each ringed bird became, effectively, someone's property - the property of the ringer. More than just a name on a list, numbered and catalogued like a possession.

'fondling tits'


But recently extremists have broken away from the ringing fraternity and taken this further. Not content with 'owning' their personal collection, some have found a way to steal another mans bird. Once closed, the rings cannot be taken off. At least not off of the leg whilst attached to the bird. And the evidence is that the craze for de-ringing is on the increase.

I found this distraught victim yesterday, who did not want to be named. He explained "It started two years ago. I was minding my own business eating some crap on a tip when there was this big bang like and then next thing I knew I was being bundled into a bag and taken off without being able to see anything. Before I knew it some big bloke was feeling me up all over and blowing up my cloaca and chuckling to himself going 'you're my precious now' and then next thing I knew I got this metal thing on me left leg and I'm being thrown out of a window." Bill continued "At first it was a bit odd, but before long I was getting me confidence back and settling back into my routines. Then a couple of months ago I'm back on the tip and it all starts again only this time when I got pulled out the bag this new geezer was like ' Fuck that - I'm having your ring' and he just pulled me bleeding leg off and then stuck a new ring on me right leg. That bloody hurt that did."

'eating crap'

Bill, who did not want to be named.

'another mans ring'


More and more cases are starting to come to light, and normal ringers have been quick to disassociate themselves from this de-ringing fetish. One ringer called Mick who did not want to be named said "honestly, I'd never put my hands on another mans ring. Or pull one off."

Meanwhile, for Bill and other victims there is nothing but a life of fear. As Bill said "Everytime I hear a bang now I just think 'shit', what happens if another one of these sadistic bastards gets hold of me? I mean it's hard enough eating crap on a tip on one leg, but doing it with no legs is going to be really tough."

'sadistic bastards'

Bill, looking worried and nervous

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Velvet, Gulls

Nipped out today into the clear blue skies, blinding sunshine and freezing cold. I headed over to Swithland Res, down Kinchley Lane and had a look at the Velvet Scoters that were picked up yesterday. The first-winter drake was showing well from the dam end - at least for scope views. The bright lighting, viewing angle and distance made for completely rubbish silhouetted record shots from me - hopefully someone with more patience and a huge lens got some proper shots.


The two females were very distant and barely discenible even with a scope, looking directly into the glare right across the northen section to the viaduct. Otherwise, all the usual Psychidae noted on the walls, along with this chrysalis which I am sure is one of the 'whites' - just not sure which one exactly.


I headed back round to the southen section and had a look out from the causeway - not a lot there but plenty of gulls loafing, with Black-headeds going mental everytime someone came along with a bit of bread. Made for some nice shots, and seeing as I've not posted a Black-headed Gull shot for 22 days I'll post some now.




With things to do in the afternoon, I headed for home via the balancing pool at Grove Park in Enderby. Gulls sometimes gather there, and with the liklihood of the pool being partly frozen I thought it would be a chance to find colour-ringed gulls. As it happens, there were plenty of gulls though nothing unexpected and none colour ringed.


Spot the odd one out


Not a gull

I did see at least three gulls with normal metal rings, though none well enough to read. I also found one gull with a serious story to tell, but I'll save that for another day.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

One For Sorrow

One bird that I've generally failed to get a good shot of is Magpie. They are a common enough bird, and whilst they can have a fairly ordinary pied appearance in some lights, in good light they come alive with superbly irridescent blues and greens. They are canny birds though, and seem to have a sense for movement of the shutter finger and get out of the way. Unless of course you have a lens the size of a small car, when you can happily photograph them from a mile away. Which I haven't.

Today I nipped into Watermead Park whilst out and about hunter-gathering for a family meal. The water levels were predictably high, almost to the point where the two lakes were conjoined. Large areas of grassy paddock and fields were under water as well. There wasn't much loitering around the car park area, but this Magpie was. Despite having a slightly dodgy right wing it was perfectly able to fly, but I did manage to get a few nice shots for a change.




The 'feeding area' where you can normally get close to gulls perched on the metal bars was under water, though today there were no gulls loitering around there anyway - all seemed to be out feeding on the easy-pickings of a flooded paddock.





Would have been a shame to come away with no other shots though in such good lighting, so I pointed the camera at these .....