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

Sunday, 27 January 2008

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

.. the various works of The Future Sound of London. Don't ask me to describe this music, other than it is electronic based and (save for sampled phrases) instrumental. And quite simply it's brilliant, especially the Lifeforms work.

On this day .. every year

I have seen nothing of particular interest in the birding world. And my sheer laziness has meant that I have missed some good January blast from the past dates over the last couple of weeks that I'll save for another year. I see also that Rob Fray has picked up the idea to good effect.


Most people would be highly bemused on joining a table just at the point where a hulking bear of a man is graphically explaining his successful mating over the winter. Of course these were mothmen, and the mating reference was to rearing moths for assembling in the coming season. I joined up with Adrian Russell, a shadow of his former self after a unilateral re-hab style approach to health, and Keith Tailby, larger than life and showing no signs of giving two monkeys about it (not unlike myself), at Swatlands curry house in Oadby. Very nice it was too; a couple of pints of Kingfisher, various chicken based starters and curries and a bit of catching up chat. Plans for mothing this year, new sites to work and reminiscing about the good old days when we had dry hot weather in the summer (ie pre 2007). It also gave me chance to acquire Keith's DSLR (350D) since he's upgraded to the all singing and dancing 40D. Don't expect to see stunning results too soon, may take me a while to get to grips with a real camera!


No real reason for not posting for a couple of weeks, other than I couldn't be arsed.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

This week, I have mostly been listening to ...

... Prince. New and old stuff, all excellent - even if he is a diminutive, purple fixated, pretentious weirdo.

Cley 13/01/2008

In years gone by, when I was afflicted by pageritis, the last seven days would have been sheer hell. Last Sunday, an adult White-crowned Sparrow was announced as coming to seed on a pebble driveway in Cley village, after having been successfully lured away from the adjacent private garden. This was big news - pretty much every lister would need to see it. In many ways it would be even more desirable than a British first - unblocking another enigma. The problem was that such a rare bird would attract very big crowds and viewing was evidently limited as witnessed in several other blogs - I like this one: Newton Stringer I was definitely keen to see the bird but the earliest opportunity for me (without showing complete disregard for family, or hastily departing from or failing to attend work) was not until today. Not the first time I've contemplated either missing a bird completely or having to wait - but the difference these days was that I was not bombarded by constant jibing from the pager, and I really didn't give it much thought. I had to work on Saturday aswell, but by the evening I had checked online references and made plans to go see the bird. I really can't remember the last time I actually went birding in Norfolk, so other than picking up the sparrow I was also looking forward to a bit a general birding on the coast picking up a few species I've not seen for years. First stop of the morning was Roydon Common where a Great Grey Shrike is wintering. Sadly no sign of it after an hour so I then made my way to Cley. When I arrived there was still a sizeable crowd (c150) - despite the very heavy crowds on Monday and yesterday. The bird was still present but had not showed for about an hour. However, within minutes of arriving it was back in view and the well behaved throng was getting good views. Those who had seen it well moved on leaving space for the new arrivals - like me. The sparrow then very obligingly showed again within a couple of minutes - absolutely superb, a really stunning bird. I got excellent views and managed to get some very crap video footage (must find a way of getting it onto PC). I should have moved on but I was hoping to get some better footage. I did get more views, but all fleeting. By the time I left it was gone midday. Next stop was Salthouse. By now the weather was dull and blowy. A large Snow Bunting flock was showing well from the beach car park but they were very flightly and grilling them for Laplands was cut short when the whole flock buggered off. I managed to get some video before they went though. I then leisurely made may way to Wells, stopping en route to video Little Egret and Brent Geese. There were 100s of Brents along the Wells beach roadside and eventually I picked up a Black Brant amongst them. Whilst there I got news of a Lesser Snow Goose down the road south of Wells - however looking for this was (literally) a wild goose chase. Good to see masses of Pink-feet though. After a walk down Lady Anne's drive and onto Holkham Gap, it was getting too late to move further along the coast and I decided to head for home via Roydon again. Roydon has always been a disappointing raptor roost side for me so I was not too hopeful. As I pulled up though there was a small group actively pointing and scoping. I quickly sorted myself out and joined the group - there were 3 ringtail Hen Harriers up and they were soon all together in the same scope view. Seconds later I realised that the pointing and scoping from some in the group was not at the harriers, and it turned out that the shrike was in view on top of a gorse bush - excellent. A few minutes later and the ringtail count was up to four and they were joined by a superb male. An excellent way to finish the day.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


I ought to mention that I've managed to get a wireless network up and running. 'No big technical achievement there' I hear you think. However, for several days I could only assume that WiFi was an acronym for Wireless Is Fucking Impossible.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Cherry Tree Feeding Fenzy - ish

A busy family weekend (Space Centre today and birthday party tomorrow) scuppered any chance I may have had of getting out birding. However this morning I was surprised to glance out to our very modest cherry tree laden with sunflower heart and peanut feeders and see that it was uncharacteristically busy. There is usually a decent variety of common garden birds using these feeders, and the odd surprise every now and then, but not usually all present on or under the feeders at the same time. Today during a spell of no more than five minutes there was: Greenfinch x12, Goldfinch x3, Chaffinch x3, House Sparrow x1, Dunnock x1, Robin x1, Blackbird x4, Blue Tit x1, Great Tit x1 and (only the second for the garden) Great Spotted Woodpecker x1. 28 individuals of 1o species - perhaps not wildy stunning numbers or species but if you know my tree and the lack of mature woodland in the immediate vicinity then this is noteworthy! The only time there are more individuals around is when the greedy bastard Starlings decend onto any bird cake I put out.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

On this day .. 01/01/1995

New Year's Day birding was always something I particularly enjoyed when staying in Devon, and something I've always not bothered with when staying at home in Leicestershire! The Devon day lists have always been good with an excellent variety of waders, wildfowl and common birds if you know where to look. There is also a good chance of returning or wintering scarcities like the almost ever-present Ring-billed Gull in Barnstaple through the 90s, regular wintering Spoonbills and Little Egrets on the Taw Estuary and a Hoopoe in Barnstaple on 01/01/1998. However, best day was 01/01/1995 when first birding stop of the day was the Kenwith Nature reserve in Bideford, where a Dusky Warbler was wintering along with a Yellow-browed Warbler and a few Chiffchaffs including a very good contender for tristis. Not birds you would expect on the first day of the year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all. Here's to a great 2008, and let's hope there are a lot more moths and birds!