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

Sunday, 31 January 2010

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

- the superb 1986 release from The The (which consisted solely of Matt Johnson at the time).

This album stands the test of time in all respects, and is still one of my favourites. If you've never heard it, I instist that you get onto Amazon now and buy it (currently £4.38 new - bargain)!

BTW - these fecking ads on You Tube are pissing me off ....

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Back to Basics

Today was a gloriously sunny, but crisp cold day. This morning we had to get the boys sorted before off-loading them onto my Mum for the weekend - no chance of getting off out for some early morning birding. So I decided that instead this morning would be the ideal time to participate in the RSPB Garden Watch. I'd already loaded the main feeders and distributed plenty of mealworms and fruit in readiness - all I needed now was the peace and quiet after the boys left and a bit of luck with the local birds.

As it turned out, the garden and feeders did okay for species but numbers of individuals were down on previous weekends (obviously I don't get to see much coming and going in the week whilst at work). The total (excluding flyovers) was 41 individuals of 17 species:

6 Blackbird
2 Blue Tit
4 Bullfinch
1 Carrion Crow
2 Chaffinch
2 Dunnock
4 Goldfinch
1 Great Tit
4 Greenfinch
2 House Sparrow
2 Long-tailed Tit
3 Magpie
3 Robin
1 Song Thrush
2 Starling
1 Woodpigeon
1 Wren

I was disappointed at the low numbers of tits, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, and no idea where the usual Collared Doves have got to. Really pleased though with 2 pairs of Bullfinches, and nice to see a Wren pop up at just the right time. Watching the garden birds is something I still thoroughly enjoy even after all these years of birding - something therapeutic about it. After the counting I grabbed a few photos of a few of the visitors.

I ate the Collared Doves

Later this afternoon, I went over to Sence Valley Forest Park with Nichola for a walk around. Haven't been here for years, so I was interested to see how much it had grown up. Quite a lot as it happens. It was pretty busy with casual visitors and dog walkers, but I was only there for the fresh air and a bit of pseudo-birding (albeit with non-birding wife rather than kids). Click all images for a closer view.

Looking down onto Horseshoe Lake

Stonebridge Pool (looking into strong sunlight) (obviously)

Horseshoe Lake

Reedy predator

Stonebridge Pool was partially iced over

I really enjoyed the walk, despite nothing too exciting birdwise. Plenty of Wigeon, Teal and Mallard around, with fewer Gadwall, Tufted and Pochard and a Little Grebe on Stonebridge Pool. Good numbers of gulls on Horseshoe Lake - almost all Black-headed with a handful of Common.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Lunch In The Wood

As I mentioned before, I don't keep a yearlist these days. Hence I will strongly refute any suggestions that my lunch time jaunt to Swithland Wood was simply to pick up a couple of species for the year ....

It was a really nice bright spring-like sunny day (at least until mid-afternoon when it turned dull and drizzly). Almost immediately as I walked into the wood I was aware of tits everywhere in the canopy, and I could hear both Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling. It didn't take long to pick up Treecreeper and Marsh Tit - very nice they were too.

Despite grilling all of the moving tits, no sign of a hoped-for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker tagging along. A group (how may actually constitues a flock?) of c15 Siskin were busily flitting about and calling loudly. There was also a similar sized group of Redwing rooting through leaf-litter. All in all, a very pleasant half hour.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Patch Tick

This morning I had to go for the annual medical arranged by my company - it was mainly the usual stuff, but I was a bit bemused when the nurse required me to remove my shirt and left sock for an ECG?!

(Germans can't spell, but these ones make great tunes)

Apparently I am still healthy and alive with a pulse and normal blood pressure, but I still need to grow another couple of inches in height to get the BMI down. After the excitement of having my electrical activity analysed, but feeling weary from being drained of blood and degraded by having the piss requested out of me, I thought it was only right to drop into the area I laughingly refer to as my local birding patch for a quick look.

I chose Jubilee Park - so far this year it has either been too frozen to hold any birds or too flooded to access it, but today the main point was to check the flood-pool which would be full to the brim and hopefully holding something interesting. No one was more surprised than me (though to be fair there was only me) when the plan actually came to fruition - on first scan on the pool I immediately picked up 2 drake and 3 redhead Goosanders. These are strong contenders as my favourite duck, so I was more than happy to add them to the paltry patch list.

One of the redheads kept away from the two 'pairs'

I was lucky, as about 15 minutes later a horse charged up toward the pool and all five Goosanders fecked off to the north. Aside from this moderate success, there was nothing else exciting though Wigeon have returned in what for this site is abundance (156 of them). Also a lot of Black-headed Gulls (c130), about half of the resident Canadian bastards (c120), five Common and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a handful of Moorhens. The River Soar is still at high level and no sign of any Kingfishers today.

Just as I left, I was able to contemplate a moment in a Harry Hill style - if one inconsiderate dog-owner lets a fecking huge Great Dane off the leash at the same time as another one lets a nasty Rottweiler loose, which one is better? There's only one way to find out - FIGHT!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

Some sweet DnB

Mainly some cultured stuff from Sub Focus, especially from his eponymously titled album

Also a bit of Xample:

And whilst they tend to get slated by hardcore DnB fanatics, I personally think the Hold Your Colour release from Pendulum is superb.

Besides, this geezer reminds me of someone .....

Friday, 22 January 2010

Ring-billed Bastard

To some it is the peak of birding joy. To me, gull watching is a bit of a chore.

Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly dislike gulls - some of them are really smart. But grilling a huge flock of Herring, Lesser BB and Great BB (in all ages) in the hope of something more interesting just doesn't inspire me. Hence news of an in-county Ring-billed Gull filling me with equal amounts of hope and despair. It was seen yesterday afternoon and again this morning on a small balancing pool near to the tip at Shawell. Ring-billed Gull would be a county tick, but I knew that looking for it would involve endless tedium repeatedly scanning through the larger larids. Add to this scene the gloomy wet conditions and I have to say I was in two minds about heading over this afternoon.

However I pulled myself together, got there and spent the best part of 2 hrs grilling the white/grey/black mass without joy. Bollocks. They weren't even on the water - they were all lazily loafing on a grassy mound some way behind the pool (which can only be watched from a tiny gap in a hedge alongside a busy A road). In fact, a single adult Yellow-legged was the only brief excitement for me. Despite this, I will be back in the morning for another try. It's a bit like self-harming.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Labeling The Point

One thing I have tried to keep up with on this blog is labeling the posts. As it happens, some of the labels are more pertinent than others but what I have tried to do is to create a label by species whenever I've put up a photo.

If you look over there on the right hand side, below the post archive and blog links, there is a great big list of 676 labels. I've had a look through these and roughly categorised them as a bit of a milestone/reference point after a couple of years or so of blogging. There are:

Moth species : 344
Other insect species : 41
Other invertebrate species : 5
Bird species : 98
Mammal species : 7
Reptiles/amphibians/fish species :
6 Plants & flowers : 17

Leicestershire & Rutland sites/reserves/areas : 32
Other sites/reserves/areas : 18
'Tourist attractions' : 8

Moth recording : 5
Listing/twitching : 4

Bands/artists : 50
Comedy/satire/nonsense : 7
Films : 7
Sport : 6

General stuff : 14

There are also 7 labels to regular themes or features (like Listening to, On this day, Life in the garden). Next time you have a few minutes, have a browse through the labels and pull up a post from the archives to see what rubbish I wrote and the associated photos. Remember, only here will you find [Big Black & Bird's-foot Trefoil] [Kasabian & Kestrel] [Skin Moth & Skinny Puppy] next to each other in an alphabetical list.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Big Empty Waters

Nipped out at lunch into what proved to be a very gloomy and dull day. I headed off to Swithland Res, stopping at Cropston Res on the way and finding it was devoid of pretty much anything avian, but I reckon this is usually the case here. The species diversity:area and abundance:area ratios at Cropston must be one of the worst for any large open body of water in England. Undeterred by this, I carried on to Swithland Res. After two very mild nights and days, I figured that the water would be mainly fluid and I was hoping that the wildfowl would be back. Wrong.

The southen half was still largely frozen and aside from the bread-crazed Mallards, Coots and Mute Swans loitering at the causeway, the only things out on the reservoir was gulls and corvids standing on it. And a couple of Goldeneye.

If fucking Heather Mills can do it ...

It all gets to much for this Mute Swan, which promptly attempts to disappear up its own cloaca

A superb Jay was rooting around beside a hedgerow on the way down Kinchley Lane. I also spotted some flowering plants on top of the stone walls. Anyone got any educated ideas what these are likely to be - Oxford Ragwort perhaps?

The northern half was much more free, and due to the lack of bread-crazed addicts it was also much emptier of birds. Whilst I pondered on exactly where all the fecking ducks had gone to, the Thornton Mothman pitched up. We concurred that the reservoir was empty. We had a good natter and waited in vain for the nailed-on Peregrine to show itself before I called time and headed back into what proved to be a very gloomy and dull factory.

Monday, 18 January 2010

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

Oldskool/acid/rave - all with a big smiley face. Stuff like this:

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Waterlogged Watermead

I headed out early this morning before it was light, and made my way over to Watermead CP North. I was hoping (though not expecting) that the Woodcocks that were loitering around Kingfisher hide last weekend were still feeding openly. I hadn't been to this site this early in the day before though, and didn't realise that the car park and hides were all locked until 08:30 - what a load of bollocks that is.

Whilst I waited, I walked down the main roadway and had a bit of a look around the general access parts of the park. Two things were immediately clear:
1) the big thaw was not complete as all of the large bodies of water were still partially iced over
2) irrespective of this the big thaw was clearly underway as large tracts of paths and land were under rising water

A nice flock of feeding Lesser Redpoll and a flyover party of Goosander (1m, 3f) brightened the mood. As soon as the warden arrived, I brought the car in and headed toward Kingfisher hide. Despite giving it plenty of time and patience, there were no Woodcock today. The bird-feeding table was standing in water, but it and most of the hangers were stocked and attracting a good number of birds - nothing more exciting than Nuthatch and Reed Bunting though. Before long, a Water Rail showed itself though the distance and shockingly bad light meant that only desperately poor record shots were possible (for me and my inadequate photography gear!).

I then headed toward Plover hide, only to be met halfway there by the warden proclaiming that part of the reserve to be closed due to flooding. WTF! This whole area is a fucking floodplain - of course it's flooded and that's exactly why I wanted to go and look at it. I walked around the main path and what I could see of the area revealed a good group of Teal and Shoveler that appeared to be enjoying the sensation of swimming and dabbling again. Then things got surreal.

I noticed a Grey Heron hunting in a ditch, and I decided to try and approach it cautiously from the other side and get some photos. I was almost there, patiently stalking, when a pair of completely fuckwitted pensioners and their dog came right up behind the heron. To be fair, the dog ambled past quietly and completely ignored said heron. Unlike the dog, the adult male fuckwit made a deliberate and intentional approach to the heron squawking loudly like a demented chicken. I called over and asked him, politely, whether his action was necessary. His response was that he didn't like them, and his decrepit partner helpfully added that they eat fish from ponds. I pointed out that this ditch was not a pond, but the heron may well be heading for one now, and advised them that they were fucking imbeciles.

I had just got back onto the main path and noticed a woman approaching with a small dog and a pushchair. Nothing unusual at first glance, then I realised that in the pushchair was another small dog. Eh? First it's all these celebrity twats walking around with them in handbags, and now one being taken for walk in a pushchair. I'm sure there was a plausible explanation, though window-licking eccentricity still seems most likely to me.

By now, the place was awash with dog walkers and idiots - generally all walking in smaller circuits than usual due to the rather large flowing puddles on their usual routes. I was about to throw in the towel when I bumped into the freshly arrived Drunkbirder. He was waiting to meet up with the Tea Boy and look for the Red-crested Pochard that had been loitering about. Seemed like a good idea, so we headed back to Kingfisher hide whilst we waited - still no Woodcock but now two Water Rails.

Dave arrived and we drove back down to the main parking area (having to stop abruptly to give way to a selfish wheelchair user intent on using all of the roadway rather than the sleeping-policeman-free pathway, but with no intention of following usual vehicular conventions like driving on the left and using roundabouts - fucking hell it's not the London Marathon). Dave saw claimed strung a flyover redhead Smew on the way down, me and John only saw a flypast female Goosander.

We got properly booted up for the watery hike over to the waterski pit, and headed off passing a pair of mentalist dog walkers taking their unhappy looking dog for an unintended swim on one of the tracks. The waterski pit is technically off-limits, as it doubles up as a private fishing lake. No fishermen today though, and no Cormorant shooting. We soon found the quarry - damn fine it looked too, even if a bit plastic.

After a good look at it, and more Goosander (1m, 2f), I made my excuses and headed home to domestic chores etc. Despite the frustrations and people, it was good to be out again and I did enjoy the morning - honestly.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Migratory Monster

I was confronted by this enormous beast at work this morning ...

It's even more impressive than the Pine Chafer we had.

My precise reaction was "fucking hell that's big!" - and this was pretty much the same response from everyone subsequently shown it, apart from the women who all screamed. It was sitting on top of some pallets. We'd recently off-loaded some from a lorry bringing packaging in from one of our southern Spanish plants which seems the most likely explanation for origin. I guess it wasn't too happy about arriving in Leicester, as it didn't put up too much of a struggle when being bundled into a plastic bag.

It's an Egyptian Grasshopper, and at just under 3" long (excluding antennae) it is an impressive insect. It's not very colourful apart from a bold red stripe on the back of its massive jumping legs. I'll try and get some better photos on a more appropriate prop in daylight tomorrow - assuming it is still alive. After that it's either one for the Leicester Museum reference collection or freeze dried bird food.

Monday, 11 January 2010


I was browsing through some recent photos this evening, looking to see if any were worth bothering with for editing and posting here. I decided they were mainly a bit crap, and turned instead to pissing around with filter effects on Photoshop.

Came across a filter (Chrome) which produces what would normally be an entirely rubbish effect - however I was struck in this instance by the very apt icy looking feel to the overall image. You will however have to squint to see the bird.

Can you see what it is yet?

I have no doubt that someone will manage to resolve the bird ID before tomorrow evening, when I'll update this post with another arty-farty version of the same image but with a more identifiable subject.

Update ....

Always makes me laugh how Robins are portrayed as the cutesy fluffy nice birds on Christmas cards, when in reality they are aggressive little feckers. This one has a real menacing look about it, like it's about to come over and give your nose a good pecking just cause you looked at it a bit funny.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


We've all been there as birders - innumerable times over the years. The moment when a complete non-birder either:

1. confidently tells you they have seen something laughably unlikely and won't be told otherwise (usually a Humming-bird nectaring at buddleia)
2. proclaims a Common Crane on the way to work (but wasn't aware that Grey Heron was a possibility)
3. hopelessly tries to describe something and expects you to give them a cast iron ID based solely on it being brown and small

There is though a more sinister fourth possibility, and one that strikes terror at the heart of every garden/patch/county lister - the moment when a non-birder nonchalantly gives you enough of a description to know that something really gripping has been seen but not by you. Worse, the non-birder has absolutely no personal interest in what it actually was, but is just telling you as it may be of interest to you. The glace cherry on this particular sticky bun is when the non-birder is a member of your own household mentioning something that was in the garden yesterday afternoon. Sigh.

Earlier this afternoon, Isabelle managed to muster just about enough teenage conversation to let me know that: 'oh yeah, there was something in the garden yesterday just before it started getting darker, right, while you were out - it was mainly brown and a bit like a pigeon shape body but a bit smaller with a really, like, long straight bill and it looked like it had longer legs than a pigeon .... '

What it actually was will remain unresolved, but against her will I got Isabelle flicking through Collins (1st ed. 1999, Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom, Grant) and she is confident it was 'like the ones on this page' - the page being 151.

I'll get me coat.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

Following a posting on Newton Stringer's blog a few days ago, I got to thinking about some of the music I was listening to c20 years ago when the Happy Mondays were at their "Bummed" & "Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches" peak. Certainly the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses were in the mix, but I've uploaded the i-Pod with stuff from the following three albums that I listened to incessantly around that time:

Monday, 4 January 2010

Siberian Swithland

Back into the industrious business of high-speed/volume can-making today - nothing too strenuous for me though as I'd cleared my desk and got myself into position for the New Year before the Christmas break. Still a culture shock after a restful break though, so to stop my head from exploding I nipped out at lunchtime for some fresh air and a bit of impromptu light birding.

It was damned cold again last night, and only just at zero in bright sunshine when I went out at 12:30. I knew that most of the reservoirs would be pretty much frozen over, but I figured that Swithland Res would be big enough to hold some open water .... hmmm.

I went directly to the north section to look for the redhead Smew that has been knocking about - only to find that virtually the whole res was solid. All that remained free was two small pools in the middle, both only c10M in diameter and both crammed with wildfowl. Mingling much closer than you'd expect were Tutfed Duck, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe - and a solitary redhead Smew. Result.

c150 Coots along with a few Teal, Mallard and Moorhens were clambering about in the shallow outlet basin - shame I had no camera to capture the unusual scene.

Only other excitement came in the form of a Peregrine in the usual tree, and the biggest gathering of Grey Squirrels in one space I think I have ever seen. There were 14 all intently rooting through the leaf litter underneath the same tree and completely ignoring each other - hard times indeed.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Rutland Iceland

I decided last night that whatever the weather conditions, I was getting up and heading out to Rutland for the morning to catch up with one or two goodies. I don't keep a formal year-list these days (County or National), but there is always something that trips a switch in your birding brain in the first week or so of January that compels you out to see 'firsts for the year'.

As it happens, it was clear and fecking cold. After I'd scraped the ice off of the car and got going, the temperature dipped to -4.5C. Just as The Llama found on Friday, the A47 (a notorious accident blackspot in east Leicestershire and Rutland) was completely free of grit. I eased my way along rather than the usual high-speed blast up the crawler lanes (on the way back later in the day, I passed 1 damaged BMW X5, a Renault Megane in a ditch and a Nissan/Mitsubishi type utility pick-up being picked-up from the hedgerow).

First stop was Whitwell, just as the sun was rising and light was good enough for optics. I quickly picked up the Great Northern Diver sailing out to the sunrise, but no sign of the Red-throated (probably further out on the open water). Plenty of common ducks around as well.

Sunrise over Whitwell

I then headed over to the Egleton Reserve. I figured that an early start on a very cold day would at least keep most of the duffers and pensioners away (turned out I was half right, relatively few people there today, virtually none requiring walking aids). I made my way round to the back of Lagoon 1 to look for the Long-eared Owls behind Fieldfare Hide. Just as I got there, I was greeted by two couples with the news that one had just been flushed and was now out of sight. Fecking great. Within a couple of minutes it flew back to the same general area and then immediately away again - very brief and wholly unsatisfactory views. I left the two couples to it whilst I grilled the shrubbery that they had already checked further down the path to the hide. Almost immediately I picked up another LEO buried deep in the scrub - it was pretty well hidden but once picked out it could be seen well (for a buried in the scrub LEO). This bird was alert and kept looking over with ear-tufts raised, but it stayed put and was far enough away from the path to avoid flushing. A quick look out of the hide revealed lots of ice, 1 drake and 2 female Goosanders and some Meadow Pipits. A quick look through Harrier Hide confirmed the ice situation, and provided a cracking male Stonechat.

Lagoon Iceberg 1

After a quick stop at the centre, I headed over to Lagoon 3. Some may well remember that up until last January, the most annoying omission from my county list was Bittern. With the relative glut of recent sightings in VC55 (up to six individuals across four sites) I was keen to see if the curse had truly lifted - surely I couldn't fail to see one now?

I arrived at Shoveler Hide and was immediately informed that I'd just missed one - buggery. Undeterred I sat down and scanned, and picked out not one, not two, but three Bitterns - get in. Sadly there was not much else to see, on account of most of the water being hard and cold.

Lagoon Iceland 3

A very brief look onto the new Lagoon 4 initially gave the impression of an Arctic wasteland free of life. A closer look with optics revealed, bizarrely, a mixed Lapwing and Golden Plover flock hunkered down on the ice on the far side.

Lagoon Skating Rink 4

Walking back to the centre, I picked up a small group of superb Siskins feeding on alders by Grebe Hide - I like Siskins. A few smart Bullfinches knocking about the hedges were also nice. Less endearing was a fecking great big Rat running along one of the ditches. It saw me and dived for cover in a hawthorn trunk.

Not endearing

Back at the centre, an obligatory look at the feeders revealed the usual suspects and a couple of Tree Sparrows. One of the Chaffinches had some sort of growth or crap on it's foot and reminded me of the footage of desperate Flamingo fledglings you see on Attenborough's shows. I tried to get a shot but was hampered by the constant running in and out of yet another big Rat taking advantage of the free meal.

Cheeky bastard

A couple of Jackdaws were also making use of the feeders ..
.. until a big female Sparrowhawk whizzed through and flushed everything away.

I took that as a sign to get going. I decided to head to Exton to have a look at the spanking male Black Redstart that has been knocking about for a few weeks. Turned out to be a good move, as it was showing very well in glorious bright sunshine. What a cracking bird - constantly flitting about flycatching around the guttering of the house it has adopted.

Smart ..

.. from all angles.

Aside from the great birds seen this morning, I am happy to report that my toes were cosy throughout the sub-zero venture. Fecking great these socks are.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Birds, Avatar, Classic Track

First thing I saw out of the window today was the suburban Pheasant back for more feed. It put in a brief appearance on Christmas Day, but not on Boxing Day and then not since we got back from Devon until this morning. It looked entirely out of place sitting on the neighbour's garden wall.

I also took the opportunity to take a walk down Springwell Lane. I was disappointed but unsurprised to find no Yellowhammers and no Grey Partridge. There were 67 Lapwings feeding across two fields though, and I was very pleased to see again a Little Owl near the same tree as last year. Today it was perched low on a fence much further down the hedgerow. The only other notable avian species down the lane was a lone Meadow Pipit calling as it flew into a stubble field that was otherwise devoid of passerines.

Apart from this diversion, the only other birds seen today were regular visitors to the garden feeders and a pair of Grey Wagtails on Whetstone brook when I nipped to the Co-op.

The rest of the day was taken up with a visit to our local Vue Cinema to see the absolute epic that is James Cameron's Avatar.

The film is just over 3 hours long, but the story and imagery is so gripping that it doesn't feel like it. For me at least, this film is outstanding and well worth watching on the big screen in 3D with a pair of daft plastic glasses on.

I haven't posted a Classic Track for a while (great songs that those of us around the 40 years mark will remember fondly and probably have somewhere in our music collection). So, here's one ..

Difford and Tilbrook's songwriting was extraordinarily good, I reckon, and I could have picked one of several Squeeze tracks that are all equally great.

A real Classic Track for my generation - tell me if I'm wrong.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A Birding Later On

We didn't bother going out for New Years Eve - instead we spent a great night in playing a few board games and various Wii and Playstation challenges with the kids until the early hours. For some unknown reason I opted to drink Gin + fresh orange for the night, and I eventually fell into bed at around 02:45.

I had absolutely no intention of getting up this morning for a birding start, but when I eventually surfaced I could see that it was a superb crisp and cold bright day so I decided to head out to Eyebrook Res for the afternoon. Rutland Water would have been a better birding experience, but I knew it would be awash with elderly punters and wankers.

En route along the A47, I thoroughly enjoyed a superb Red Kite overhead and several Buzzards in the clear bright sky. Arriving at EBR, it was clear that a fair number of the elderly punters and wankers had spilled over, however I headed directly to the inflow bridge and parked up. I decided to leave the car there and uncharacteristically walk around with bins and scope.

Over the next couple of relaxing hours I managed to see c45 species including most of the common wildfowl and gulls, with highlights being the drake Green-winged Teal, a drake and 2 female Goosander, a couple of Redshanks, a few Snipe and Dunlin, a Little Egret, a few Tree Sparrows and a smart drake Bullfinch.

It was bloody freezing cold, so I was extremely pleased that one of my Christmas gifts were being put to good use - a pair of SealSkinz socks which kept my toes warm even when my gloved fingers were about to fall off. By the time I left the light was starting to fade but I made a quick stop at the regular tree and picked out a Little Owl sitting out on an exposed branch - a great end to the birding afternoon.

2010 - International Year of Biodiversity

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to a bird and moth filled year for all. I've already had a Blackbird alarm calling and a Robin singing at 00:05 whilst out watching fireworks and lanterns over the garden.

Apparently, 2010 has been declared as the UN International Year of Biodiversity ..

Hopefully that doesn't mean a year of hollow pledges and meaningless treaties followed by more decades of unsustainably raping the environment .....