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:

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.


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 one article, Neal Eves claimed 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.


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.


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.


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.