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

Friday, 31 December 2010

Gloomy garrulus

Waxwings have been turning up in numbers in Leics. over the last few weeks, including some relatively big flocks in Loughborough, Hinckley, Coalville and over the last few days in Leicester. I had managed to avoid either bumping into any or specifically going to look for them, but you can only put it off for so long. Last night I planned to take the opportunity of a brief gap in the days proceedings this morning and to go and look for the large 200+ flock that had been knocking about near the Pork Pie island (no- none of us really know why it's locally known as that either, other than the round shape of the old library that overlooks the roundabout).

When this morning actually arrived, I wasn't sure whether to bother. It was the gloomiest grey morning imagineable. To call the light appalling would suggest that there was some. I set off anyway and tried to avoid other cars whilst I grilled every tree top near the island. Eventually, I spied a group of motley fat looking birds at the top of a bare tree. I pulled over further down the road, got the bins out and confirmed the suspicions - c80 Waxwings high up doing nothing. I put the bins back in the car, grabbed the camera to get a pathetic record shot and as I turned back the whole lot fecked right off. Bloody typical - not even the chance of a pants photo. A quick drive around was fruitless - as were most of the trees in the area. Sadly, the rest of the morning and early afternoon was already booked up with family stuff so no chance to have another look - although the light has not dramatically improved all day.

I briefly considered putting the garden trap out tonight - but decided it was highly likely to be a complete waste of time. Anything likely to be flying around here tonight is as likely to come to lit windows as anything else.

And so to tomorrow, and a New Year. One thing I haven't really bothered with for a very long while indeed is actively chasing a bird yearlist. Seems to me that to keep a yearlist with any sustained interest you need two things - a realistic challenge and a bit of friendly rivalry or a target to hit. I have no residual aspirations to tear around the country twitching regularly, let alone chasing British List yearticks. Yearlisting at a County level would require numerous visits to Rutland Water and Eyebrook to have any hope of reaching a good total - which immediately renders it unrealistic for me. I have an area that I consider as my local patch (Soar Valley South) but the range of potential species is limited to say the least - no sustained interest. John Drunkbirder Hague kept a Soar Valley (North) list for 2010 and muted the possibility of keeping a City Boundary list for 2011. This seems a reasonable challenge to me, giving the incentive to visit a few long-ignored or forgotten sites along the way. It will not be manic or all-encompassing. I'll be out sometime tomorrow to put a score on the Bubo door - look out for the updates through the year.

Have good night whatever you're doing - and here's to doing it all again but bigger and better in 2011.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Vid Clips

Well, everyone is doing some round up of the year type stuff. Aside from the annual moth summary that I've already published, I can't be arsed. It's all in the posts that you either read at the time or ignored cause you weren't bothered then (so why now?).

Here's a few clips from yesterday ..

Little Egret having a preen - Northam Burrows

Hungry Rook - Northam Burrows

Busy Curlew - Westward Ho!

Clockwork Redshank - Barnstaple

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Drizzly Devon

Today was grey and claggy, with persistent drizzle through the morning and early afternoon. I headed out regardless determined to get some birding in, but to be honest it was more of a field test of my gear. My feet were warm and dry thanks to the continued great performance of SealSkinz socks combined with wellies, the waterproof bins stayed clear and useable, and even the foppish built-in pack-a-mac on the camera case did a good job (and I thought it was a completely unnecessary adournment on an otherwise good case when I bought it). Even the now aging CragHoppers aquadry coat held up. The only failure was the exposed denim between the bottom of my coat and the top of my wellies .....

Firstly I headed to a place I'd been to years ago - Velator Quay near to Braunton Marsh & Burrows. I was looking for the reserve that I'd seen mentioned on the Devon News blog but I think it's on the other side of the river and couldn't see how to get across. I could see the still partly frozen Wrafton Lake (or at least I presume that's what it was). Plenty of Wigeon and Canada Geese about, but aside from a few pipits and wagtails nothing to get excited about. I enjoyed the walk along the river bank though - but everything external was soaked by the time I got back to the car.

Next I headed back to Northam Burrows and Westward Ho! determined to get a few shots. Still plenty of Curlew about in the grassy enclosure at the entrance to the Golf Course which afforded a few shots, and a few other bits around the burrows but again nothing exciting.

Later this afternoon, after the kids had been bowling, I had a quick walk along the Taw Estuary cycle path between the Pottington Industrial Estate and Barnstaple. The tide was out which was perfect as the exposed mud was alive with waders. A good couple of hundred Dunlin were actively feeding, along with fewer Oystercatchers, Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank and a couple of Grey Plovers and Barwits. Also on the water was 8 Goosanders - 4 drakes and 4 redheads.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Taw Estuary - Isley Marsh

I awoke this morning to the hooting of a Tawny, the croaking of a Raven and the bubbling of a Curlew. This would normally have me jumping out of bed to enjoy three good garden ticks, but instead it reminded me instantly that I was away from home and in another county. We drove down to North Devon yesterday to catch up with family. As we headed south, the skies got greyer and the in-car thermometer crept up. By the time we'd arrived and unloaded, heavy rain set in ensuring that any lingering snow and ice was much pretty gone this morning.

I decided to head out to the estuary for an hour or so. I walked along my usual route along the cycle path to Isley Marsh and then back past Yelland Quay toward Instow. I usually manage to competely mis-time my visits to when the tide is far out, but today it was high and still rising.

Immediately evident in the usual spot were Spoonbills - 7 of them today. Two were sporting coloured rings but the distance and poor light made deciphering them a bit hit and miss. One appeared to have a yellow band with 'FJ9' or 'EJ9'. The other appeared to have blue over yellow flag over blue on the left leg and blue over pink over white on the right. I've since learned from the Devon News blog that these are actually white FJ9 on the former (ringed in Spain in April 2007), and green-yellow flag-green + blue-metal-lime on the latter (ringed in Holland in June 2007).

White blobs are Spoonbills

Can you see the colour bands?

Apart from the expected beaky/leggy birds, the tide line was adourned by various groups of roosting and feeding waders.

60 Oystercatchers
50 Dunlin
30 Turnstone
30 Redshank
20 Grey Plover
20 Curlew

Also 27 Bar-tailed Godwits in one group, and 25 Brents over. Good numbers of Linnets, Goldfinches and chaffinches feeding in the scrubby areas, and a single Rock Pipit which my conscience refused to string into a Water Pipit.

Main area where waders bunched up

Some waders ....

Later in the day I took the boys for a walk along the big boulders and beach alongside Northam Burrows. Here there was a large group of small birds feeding like waders in a large shallow pool in the parking area. I could see them distantly and wondered what waders they were, but a check with bins revealed just a single Sanderling amongst 29 Pied Wagtails!

Next we headed to Westward Ho! for a quick look on the rocky shore. We passed a small grassy enclosure on the way with 28 Curlews happily feeding by the roadside amongst Redwings and I cursed having left my camera back at the house. The rocks eventually gave up a single Purple Sand amongst Oystercatchers and Turnstones. Then Josh slipped into a rocky pool up to his knees and it was time to call it a day ....

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Hit me with your rhythm stick

Down in Devon, the inlaws have owned and run an instrument/music shop in Barnstaple since c1990. It's called Soundpad and is a continuation of the former shop of the same name in Leicester in the 70's/80's. They also had one down in Torquay running alongside the Barnstaple shop for c10 years until recently. [If you live in the south-west and need a guitar, amp, mixer, keyboard, mic etc - go see them!]

One of the benefits of having music-shop owning relatives is access to instruments for the kids, which in the past has included violins, keyboards and acoustic guitars. All good stuff. This year though, they opted for something a bit more physical for the boys Christmas present .....

Earplugs definitely required! It's a tight squeeze in the playroom.

Always fancied playing drums myself, but I have insufficient left-right + hand-foot co-ordination! Hence back in the band days we had various drum machines, though I did build a big pair of pads with built-in transducers to trigger a sampler - but that was more industrial and visual than rhythmic!

Anyway, here's a Classic Track with lent the post title ....

Friday, 24 December 2010

Peace & Goodwill

As I am sure those who know me know, and regular visitors to this BLOG will have established, I have no religeous persuasions at all. My youngest came up with a bizarre bit of self-thought philosophy yesterday - "Jesus is a myth, a bit like a three-headed Tiger". You can't argue with 8 year old logic.

So, Christmas for me is entirely unreligeous. It is mainly time off of work, a time for family, a really great dinner, and perpetuating the retailer-driven vision of how to keep the kids happy. It's also time to take stock, reflect on what has passed and what may be in store.

It's as good a time as any to raise a glass to everyone reading and wish all a merry and peaceful Christmas and a happy and healthy bird/moth/beer/whatever* filled New Year.

*delete as appropriate or insert your own persuits and vices

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Going to the flicks

Been to the cinema twice over the last week with the boys.

Firstly, I took them to see the Saturday morning matinee showing of a film we missed first time up. It's a kids film, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A good story, great CGI animation and anatomically correct Owls (well, just about). Well worth a watch.

This afternoon we went to see this:

Another great film, though the 3D element was sparse to say the least. Good storyline, superb special effects, and a great soundtrack by Daft Punk BTW.

Coming up in the next few weeks - I'll be going to see these.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Whetstone Moth Report 2010

I've pulled together a sumptiously illustrated, highly detailed and quite back-slappingly brilliant report of my garden mothing this year. I've published various garden summaries before, but felt it was time to raise the bar. So I copied Stewart.

There are photos, tables, tedious commentry and even charts like this:

and this:

Even when saved as a pdf it's a 14Mb file, so I've uploaded to Google Docs for the time being. Seems to work okay apart from the photos are a bit pixelated in the viewer. It's available at the following:

Whetstone Moth Report 2010

Should anyone want a pdf copy to read properly, e-mail and let me know and I'll split into three e-mailable chunks.

If you spot any glaring errors, please let me know.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Retrospective County First

Way back on 25/06/2009, I enjoyed an excellent night mothing with Adrian Russell and Ron Follows at Clipsham Quarry - see these links to remind yourself:

Summary & Scenery
Moth Photos

In one of my traps (trap 5), there were four small tortricids that didn't look immediately familar. They looked to be one of the Cochylis spp., so I potted one up to check in Razowski. I convinced myself that it was Cochylidia heydeniana, which would be a new species for me and VC55. Hoping for a quick independent confirmation, I posted a photo on the UK Micros forum with details of the wingspan (9mm), site and date but no pointers to my suspected ID.

The plea attracted no response from anyone out of county. Even when I re-posted specifically asking if it could be C. heydeniana, no one was prepared to comment. The specimen was sadly resigned to the gen. det. in the future pile and there it stayed until recently. This evening I've received confirmation from Jon Clifton that it is indeed C. heydeniana. Excellent.

Despite there having been a handful of keen micro recorders in VC55 over the years, it wasn't so long ago that adding new micros to the county list was a relatively frequent incident. They seem to be harder to come by now so very pleased to add another.

Jumping the gun ..

Spoke too soon last night - tonight there have been TWO Winter Moths to lit windows. Here's a shocking shot of one flashed up ...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Moth, Winter

Surprised to find a Winter Moth clinging to a lit window earlier this evening - surely the last garden moth I'll see this year?

Monday, 13 December 2010


This week, I will mostly be listening to the new release by Deadmau5 - 4 x 4 = 12. Some great stuff that needs plenty of volume - turn it up, now.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

TTV, Yankee Duck and Useless Twats

Headed out earlyish this morning into what promised to be a clear, bright and cold day. At least that was the conditions I set out in , and drove out of Leicestershire in. By the time I was in Rutland it was distinctly greyer. Consequently no photos today - it was either too dull, stuff too far or I couldn't be arsed ..

I had a TTV to do around the middle (literally) of Rutland Water. Barely no land in this tetrad, aside from the tip of Hambleton Peninsular, the tip of Whitwell creek and part of the southern shoreline around Normanton. I anticipated that the diversity might not be what you'd expect for RW - and I was right. With no houses and only a small spinney in the tetrad, passerines were always going to be limited. There are a few fields and hedgerows though.

I carefully sifted through the wildfowl and picked up reasonable numbers of Tufted Ducks (106), Great Crested Grebes (58) and Gadwall (36) on the water in the immediate vicinity of the Peninsular. Far greater numbers of Canada Geese (479) and Wigeon (564) grazing on various bits of grass. But otherwise it was surprisingly limited - eg only 1 Pochard, 31 Mallard, 14 Goldeneye and a couple of Goosander. Even more surprising was the complete lack of Coot, and the shorelines were free of Moorhens, Teal, Grey Herons and Little Egrets - only 2 Redshank, a Lapwing and a Dunlin were on show. In fact, by far the most interesting thing on the water was a lone female Ruddy Duck. Otherwise, 3 Skylarks, 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Jays, 1 Bullfinch and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker were the highlights with 45 species in total.

Before I left the Peninsular, I encountered a couple who upon seeing my scope and bins enquired if there was anything interesting about. I assured them that it was all usual stuff - nothing exciting. They then excitedly told me about a large group of Quails in a field that they'd seen on the way over. Oh dear - I suddenly remembered where I was.

As I drove back down through Hambleton I could see where all the rest of the expected wildfowl was - absolute masses of Coots, Tufteds, Pochards, Mute Swans etc all massed up in the north arm. Two tetrads east, one north.

Time was getting on a bit, and I had intended to head over to Loughborough to gawp at Waxwings, but I decided to drop into the Lyndon reserve first and have a look at the drake American Wigeon. Best laid plans - in all I spent a good two hours at Lyndon and scuppered any chance of getting over to Loughborough today.

First I headed to the Deep Water Hide on the west of the reserve to search. Initially, this was in blissful solitude. There were plenty of ducks on the water, but nothing on the shore. Sanning though I picked up a female Scaup, 3 drake + 1 female Red-crested Pochard, 4 redhead + 1 spanking drake Smew, and 7 redhead + 2 drake Goosander. No sign of the yankee though.

I was joined by others. On them immediately enquiring about the Wigeon, I let them know that I hadn't seen it, didn't know if it was about, and then reeled off what was there. "Not sure I know what a female Scaup looks like" was one response. 'Fucking hell, here we go' I thought. Sure enough, their assistance in looking for the Wigeon was frankly unnecessary. One of them tried to string redhead Smew as drake Ruddy Duck, and couldn't see the Scaup even when I eventually talked him directly onto the bird. When a huge group of feral Greylags dropped in, the same geezer proceed to call two Barnacle amongst them (1 Barnacle, 1 CanadaxGreylag Monstrosity). He then speculated on the parentage of two mainly white geese.

I'd had enough and left the hide. After watching a few Tree Sparrows on the feeders, I fully intended to head home but fortuitously bumped into the newly arrived Bretts in the car park who had a pager update - showing from east of Swan Hide on the east of the reserve. In for a penny, I trudged off with them for another go.

Eventually, the American Wigeon showed itself. Smart bird too - or at least a smart as an American Wigeon can be. It was constantly busy dabbling/feeding amongst a big group of Wigeon and Gadwall on the water - not sure what they were onto but they were like a mass of seabirds around a ball of sardines. Another 3 redhead Smew and 2 possibly 3 more female Scaup in the same area. Good stuff. As I left, the aforementioned group from the hide passed - they'd been in Swan Hide and couldn't see the bird ....

I headed into the now empty Swan Hide and though the viewing was constrained by a big bushy obstruction I immediately picked up the bird again for further views in better light. On leaving, I bumped into John 'media whore' Hague along the track where he'd been watching from - we had independently drawn the same conclusions about the same people as he also commented about what a load of useless fucking morons there seemed to be in the vicinity and had left Swan Hide before they drove him mental.

Before finally heading home, I headed over to Eyebrook for a quick look but it was still quite frozen so I gave it nothing but a cursory glance. Two Red Kites soaring over the fields by Holyoaks Farm were a nice end to the day.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Great birding ...

... does not feature in this short post. Instead, my last 36 hours have been spent:

1) at work
2) offloading kids with my Mum
3) attending works Christmas do
4) eating a nice meal
5) drinking too much free Stella (cause the inept barman at the swanky hotel couldn't keep track of what he was serving/charging)
6) steadfastly avoiding embarassing dad-dancing
7) enjoying the kid-free freedom at home before
8) facing up to some Christmas shopping
9) selling stuff on e-bay
10) looking for my next car

Infact the only avian highlights in the last few days have been a GS Woodpecker on my fat balls (highlight for the family at least - I was at work) and the slightly bizarre sight of a Lapwing roosting last night on a grassy verge under the light of a streetlamp. At least I am pretty sure that's what it was - I had Stella goggles on but I don't think that even in my wildest drunken moments have I hallucinated roosting waders .....

Tomorrow - a-birding I will go!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Listening to / Classic Tracks

Been a fair while since I last posted a Classic Track, but this week I have mostly been listening to an album full of them. Back in late 1978, when I was 10, my Dad brought home a superb new bit of vinyl - the cover looked just like this ...

My Dad always had a habit of playing any new albums at a decent volume - which was sometimes a bonus and sometimes torture (like when it was Wishbone Ash ....). Track 1 burst into life, and from the first few seconds this came to be one of my all time favourite albums. We turned the volume up further and listened through a few times. Here's a few highlights from it - no apologies for starting with track 1.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Winter Wonderland

Nipped into Jubilee Park at lunchtime to get a few shots of the amazing hoar frosts that we've had. Overnight freezing fog and very low temps, clearing early morning to bright sunshine but temps still sub-zero. These were all taken around 13:00 - many of the trees and bushes had been in direct sunshine for at least 3 hours.

Jubilee Park

Jubilee Park

Jubilee Park

Jubilee Park

Jubilee Park

Precious little to see bird-wise though. Whilst the River Soar was free-flowing, the pool is still thick with ice and the whole place just seemed to be deserted save for a handful of Blackbirds, Robins and Goldfinches lingering in the trees and bushes closest to the houses.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Frozen Lunch

Nipped out for some crisp fresh air at lunchtime today. The partial thaw of yesterday was in rapid reverse with the sub-zero temps lingering through the day. It was clear and sunny but fecking cold. I knew that the water would be frozen over, but a walk down the public footpath on the northern side was the plan. Nothing too exciting to see, a couple of March Tits and Nuthatches were best but it was good to be out after a crap last week and a constrained weekend.

Friday, 3 December 2010

My Large Fat Balls

This week in our household has mainly revolved around illness. I had my turn at the start of the week and bravely worked through it, Nichola has been fighting it for two days, and this morning Josh complained of 'feeling poorly'. Nichola had to work today on a specific activity that could not be avoided, so I opted to work from home - at least whenever my VPN connection was working.

In between bouts of e-mails, phone calls, making tea and dithering, I spent some time looking to the skies. Everyone else was marvelling yesterday about the harsh-weather movements visibly taking place over their houses, and I wanted to share the experience. So, whenever I gazed into the clear sunny skies I made a note of what flew over. 5 Mute Swans, 4 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Redwings, 2 Carrion Crows, and a fecking Partridge in a pear tree. Despite the sunshine, it remained damned cold - cold enough to make my face sting whilst on the walk to and from school to collect Alex.

I'm considering re-mortgaging the house to keep the sunflower heart feeders stocked up. The hoards of Goldfinches and fewer Greenfinches continue to come, and today there was an increase in Chaffinches aswell (up to 7 at once). Having said that, as last year the Goldfinches in particular are getting very messy - I reckon for every seed they eat 2 or 3 hit the deck. Also, it never ceases to amaze me how bloody stupid Robins and Blackbirds are at feeding stations in cold weather - they spend more time and energy chasing their rivals away than actually eating.

Anyway, my large fat balls continue to be attractive .....

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

This week, I have mainly been listening to ..


I never tire of listening to the mighty Mode. Whatever other styles, genres and artists I've got into over the years - and there are lots - I always go back to DM at some point and damned fine stuff it is too.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Feed the birds .....

Lardy Bird Cake

250g slab of cheap lard (99% fat)
c200g of dried fruit (sultanas, currants, raisins)
c400g of uncooked peanuts
a couple of uneaten cheese sandwiches from the kids pack-up
any suitable left-overs from dinner (pizza, meat, pastry)

Blitz the peanuts, sandwiches (or other stale/surplus bready product) and dinner leftovers.

Gently heat the lard until 50% melted, then take off heat and allow to completely melt.

Stir in the blitzed stuff and ensure all crumbs soaked in melted lard. Add dried fruit (alternatively add a couple of blitzed apples) and stir in.

Turn out into roasting tin or similar and allow to set.

Break into chunks and place on ground by feeding station at dawn.

Feeds 50 - 100.

I reckon I keep our local Co-op in business on the lard front - 40p well spent every time if you ask me. They are also doing a roaring trade in 500g bags of sultanas.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Poorly, Park Life

Woke up feeling particularly rough this morning. No alcohol involved, which made it worse than ever. Felt like I'd been sedated and then had some sadistic bastard running heavy grade sandpaper up and down my throat all night. So I decided that getting up and and out in the extreme sub-zero conditions was not happening for a good few hours and went back to bed with a cuppa like a big jess.

After filling up the feeders (yet again) and putting out more mealworms and sultanas, I eventually I headed out to complete some domestic chores in readiness for Dad's Taxi duties this afternoon/evening ferrying various offspring to different parties. Whilst out, I dropped in to Jubilee Park for an hour.

We had no further snow over night, but it was extremely cold (car dash still read -5.5degC on the driveway when I headed out at 11am, but settled at -2.5degC after 20 minutes of driving). The big pool is frozen solid as expected, so the only wildfowl aside from the hoards of grazing Canada's was on the free-flowing River Soar - 7 pairs of Mallards, a drake Teal and 2 females, and 11 Mute Swans spread out (5 adults, 6 juvs). Also a single Snipe on the river bank (nice) and a Kingfisher flashed past.

The northern third of the park is a big open grassed area, but in the southern areas there are islands of mature trees with big scrubby areas. I don't normally pay too much attention to these, but today they were busy with lots of common passerines actively searching for food amongst the osiers, ash, alders etc and weedy bits.

Nothing extraordinary, but at least 6 Reed Buntings in there was a nice change. Also a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker, and a male Kestrel showing extremely well high up in a tree eating a small rodent - or at least it was until it noticed me watching it and it buggered of with it's meal. Despite the plentiful alders around the site no Siskins or Redpolls sadly.

The garden feeders have remained busy - managed a peak count of 18 Goldfinches at one time though as last year the Greenfinches seem to be dwindling. Aside from the existing sunflower hearts, nut feeder and suet-slab thing, I also picked up a cage feeder with some large fat balls yesterday at the local farm shop. This has been doing well with tits hanging off of them almost constantly - no sign of yesterday's Coal Tit though whilst I've been watching. Avoiding the feeders, but a welcome sight anyway was 4 male Bullfinches together on the embankment.

ps: just got home a few minutes ago (17:35) after transferring Josh from one party to another - car dash reads -7degC already, what's it going to be overnight ........

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Down the lane

Here's a few photos from this morning as mentioned in the last post ...

The view from my patio this morning when the sun was shining on the embankment.

Snow on conifer

At the top of the lane

Looking over the crappy fields

The Tree - again

Car tracks already forming the glistening compressed skid-pan for tonight/tomorrow

Pretty sure these are Rabbit tracks - one going each way

Each Rabbit print looked like the tongue-out emoticon

Ticking Tits and Fighting Finches

Catchy post title eh?

This morning I awoke early with the intention of walking down the lane and getting some arty shots of frosty scenes. That went for a wotsit when the expected frost was hidden by snow. Not exactly a deluge, in fact it was just right with c1.5" - not enough to avoid driving, but enough to light up the kids faces and get out for some snowball fighting and sledging without being badgered to make a snowman. Before we went out to the park though, I watched the comings and goings at the feeders and also crammed in a quick walk down the lane. I'll post some photos of that later.

You may recall that last weekend I mentioned seeing a Coal Tit at Narborough Bog, and that it was the closest I'd seen one to home. We've lived here for 16 years and I've had feeders out in all that time - though obviously I can't and don't watch them every minute of every day. This morning inbetween videoing some of the regulars, I was well pleased to see a smart Coal Tit flit in, grab a sunflower seen and dash back to the embankment. It did so another 3 times, always too quick for me to grab a shot. I'll keep a look out and try another day.

I'm having to fill up the sunflower hearts regularly to sate the ravenous hoards of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Chaffinches. Plenty of mealworms and sultanas going down aswell which is keeping the Starlings, Robins, Blackbirds and Dunnocks happy.

I really like Goldfinches with their red face masks, then again I also like Greenfinches with their greeny/yellow plumage tones - but which one is best .... there's only one way to find out .... FIGHT!

Note that the feeders are below the level of the top ports

All a bit calmer once refilled - again

Common, smart

Chaffinches a bit jumpy this morning ...

... and the Starlings

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Really, who gives a flying ......

Up and down the country, thousands upon thousands are no doubt making their plans for 29/04/2011. Travel to London, what hat to wear, what colour, bla bla bla. Well I'm making my plans now - a full day's birding with an overnight mothing session in some remote woodland with no fucking telly. I don't care what the weather is like - I'm not sitting around watching that wedding.

I really don't see what all the fuss about Katie is anyway - it's not like she's new to it.

Her marriage to Peter Andre collapsed due to conflicting opinions on which fake tan product was best.
Of him, they said "lock up your hair products"

More recently she's been stuck like velcro to hairy knob Russell Brand
Of him, they said "lock up your daughters, mothers, grandmothers and goats"

Seen on a secret date out with Big Willie
Of him, they said "lock up your military aircraft and raptors"

Monday, 22 November 2010

3 Cocks at Broad Hill

Finalising a few bits of Annual Report writing this week. It's always interesting and occasionally amusing how some of the detail and commentry that comes with common bird records doesn't quite look right in the cold light of day. Seems that especially since we've allowed computerised record submission, some of the detail is a little sparse. This Great Tit record amused my juvenile brain anyway - not sure if it was a comment on the gender of the birds or just what the recorder was thinking of at the time. I've removed some salient details from the view for obvious reasons!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

TTV & Listening to ..

Amongst the options I considered this morning were staying in bed, more reedbed watching or heading over to Rutland Water for another Lesser Yellowlegs. I decided that a lie-in would be nice but utilmately a waste of time, I can't face another reedbed session just yet, and Rutland Water would be busier than ever. So I shunned all three of these and went to do more local tetrad work instead.

The main habitat was the endless sterile farmland that is predominant in south Leicestershire, with the only redeeming features being a long abandoned and overgrown railway cutting and a few rough fields running either side of a brook. Consequently nothing too exciting, with by far the best birds (in a local context) being a Marsh Tit, 8 Siskins and a Jay. Good to be out counting though, but I was then constrained for the rest of the day by an obligatory family meal.

This week, I have mainly been listening to some classy stuff from ex Depeche Mode member Alan Wilder, working under the guise of Recoil. Great stuff this ....

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Civilised Birding

Yesterday's fog had cleared a little this morning, at least locally. So, after a few necessary tasks revolving around food (fill up seed feeders, scatter mealworms, fed the fish, feed the offspring ...) I headed over to Narborough Bog. Surely with all these Bearded Tits around there would be some in the reedbed there.

Before I entered the reserve, a small mixed tit flock caught my attention as they worked along the treeline and across to the allotments. I casually put the bins up to see if anything interesting tagging along and was pleased to find a Coal Tit amongst them - first I've seen here and the closest to home that I've ever seen one.

Once in the reserve, I walked around to the reedbed and watched, waited, listened. A sizeable group of Goldfinches went over, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker noisily called, but nothing from the reeds. Maybe they are the wrong type of reeds ...

No. 3 in the Titless Reedbed series ...

The wrong reeds ...

I carried on around the reserve, noting a couple of smart Bullfinches, but it was generally quiet aside from common species. I noticed some fungi and went off-piste to have a look. Turned out to be a great slice of luck as once again on this reserve I inadvertently put up a Woodcock.

Trametes hirsuta?


Lots of these flowering in the damp woodland ...

Is it normal for Red Campion to flower in mid-November?

I decided to head up to Cossington again, but almost as soon as hitting the motorway the fog was building again. I changed my plan and headed to Groby Pool instead. Still foggy but nowhere near as poor as yesterday's weather.

As ever, manky hybrid ducks and tame feral geese were cluttering the steps and pathway on the southern shore. There was a single drake Pochard that seemed to have drifted too far away from the rest of the ducks whilst sleeping, though he soon woke up and drifted off once I started to point the camera.

I headed on to the reedbed and bumped into Ben Croxtall and Andy Forryan. Before I had a chance to engage in any conversation we were all watching another small tit flock. A few Goldcrests were tagging along, and there was also the unusual sight of a tail-less Long-tailed Tit. A Kingfisher flashed past a couple of times whilst we waited in vain.

We all headed around to the public footpath to get a better view of the reedbed, stopping on the way to watch the comings and goings of a range of species coming to some seed laid out on a large flat stone. Overall we saw three Marsh Tits, a Nuthatch, two Great-spotted Woodpeckers, a Coal Tit along with a few Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches, Robins and Dunnocks.

Another Kingfisher, a smart Jay and a flyover Siskin were noted, but the reedbed though remained resolutely quiet ..

No. 4 in the Titless Reedbed series ...

Before heading back onto the main path I noted this impressive looking bracket fungus. No idea what it is.

After a bit of a natter, I headed back to the car. The conditions seemed to be deteriorating so I called it a day and headed home after checking through the various ducks and gulls on the water (nothing exciting).

All in all a great morning out in the field, enjoying both a bit of solitude and peace at the first site and some amiable conversation with like-minded souls at the second. Civilised birding, just like it should be.