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

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Anus Horribilis

No, I have quite deliberately misspelt annus

In many many ways it has been a year that I would much rather forget; I've spent more time in hospital than in the whole of my previous 50 years, being drained of bloods, being filled up with fluids, being scanned, under general anaesthetic, embarrassed and in undignified situations, uncomfortable in the extreme, being radiated and taking meds etc. It's been a rollercoaster of emotions: bad news good news in swift rotation until my head was spinning.

But that is more than balanced by the fact that I am here, I am (currently) intact and I have a life to look forward to.

C'est la vie eh?

Hah, as I typed that last bit, it reminded me of some (now dated but funny if you are old enough) stuff by Victor Lewis-Smith back in the early 90s.

'I think I'm going to kick the bucket! Still, that's life, eh, that's life'.

Roll on 2020.

All the best to you and yours for the coming year/decade.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Tattler Intact

I realised (probably a lot later than others) that this winter marked the 25th anniversary of the Grey-tailed Tattler up at Burghead. I saw it on 03/12/1994 after along overnight drive. There are lots of grainy photos on the net, imagine the absolutely stonking digiblasting this mega would have got a decade or so later!

Swiped off the net - by Alan Tate I believe.

I can still remember how ridiculously well this bird showed, completely unfazed by the masses. I also remembered that there was some great footage of it from the defunct Birding Plus videos, and I also remembered that for some reason one of those videos was loitering on my bookshelf behind a load of DVDs whilst all of the others were in the loft. Not that it mattered as I haven't had a working VHS player for well over a decade ... still, surely it couldn't be ...

What a stroke of luck, it is the one with footage of the Tattler. I then remembered that we were heading over to take my Mum out for dinner ... and that she does still have a functioning and plugged in VHS. Best few minutes of VHS I've watched for lord knows how long.

I can hardly believe that this one has not turned up again. Still, with that Kleine Regenwulp knocking around in the Netherlands at the moment - anything can still happen!

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Grey Lane / Bright Beetles

This morning was mild, calm and dry (well, not raining but still damp underfoot). It was also very grey. Still, despite this I had an urge to take a stroll down the lane towards the PYO and around the Countesthorpe Meadow with my bins at hand. It was too grey to bother trying to photograph anything, other than the lanes I walked, and it seems appropriate to accentuate the greyness ...

Very pleasant and relaxing it was too. In particular I was pleased to be able to point my glass at Yellowhammers, Jays, Skylarks, Stock Doves, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares.

Nothing too exciting, and only 26 species in total but this is pretty sterile arable farmland around here with flailed hedgerows and no stubble.

The building works around the back of my housing estate seem to have finished, for now at least, and the service road that was built parallel with the main lane I walk is gone. You'd never know it had been there.

As an anthithesis to the greyness, here's a few more beetles that I've not posted previously from the PSL meet in June 2015.

Stenurella melanura, Beaulieu Heath, New Forest 14/06/2015

Cassida vittata - Ferrybridge, Portland 12/06/2015

Omophlus pubescens - Ferrybridge, Portland 13/06/2015
This one is a real rarity, and was a key target for the trip. We found several all on the same morning around a relatively small area of Thrift clumps ... appeared to be a brief and co-ordinated emergence.

Elaphrus cupreus - Beaulieu Heath, New Forest 14/06/2015

Dicheirotrichus gustavii - Ferrybridge, Portland 13/06/2015

Mononychus punctumalbum - Portland Bill Obs 11/06/2015

Friday, 27 December 2019

Hope and Capitulation

It's the season of peace, hope and goodwill to all men .....

Try telling that to anyone that's just watched their team capitulate twice in less than a week. Away at Man City, the Etihad Stadium was massive, I was sat far away and the result was disappointing to say the least. At the KP, the club put on a great pre-match lights and pyro show. Hopes were high that we could push Liverpool to their first league defeat of the season, only for Leicester to roll over with a whimper. It was easier to take when expectations were low and we were bound to get pasted. Before that season.

It would have been a lot worse without ample pre-match lubrication for both games. Anyway, enough of that (poor) footballing nonsense.

As I am sure many amateur naturalists will recognise, there is always an odd sense of hope and anticipation during the week between Christmas and the New Year. For many, January 1st is a time to start afresh, look forward to the return of the change of seasons, and wonder what you're going to see that you haven't done before. Quite often, targets are set and ambitions are sometimes publicised .....

I'm not falling into that trap again, as I am notoriously bad at seeing them through!

Friday, 20 December 2019


Got a nice letter and phone call today. Reading the word 'remission' and hearing that I'm on a constant monitoring programme was perhaps the most reassuring and welcome news I've had for years. I'm not 'cured', and there are no guarantees, but for now I'm done other than three-monthly scans for the next year.

This week I have mainly been listening to some well crafted electronica from Orbital .... try it. Loud.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Legs, Lizards

So back to a great weekend on Portland in June 2015. But actually it all started in Hampshire on 11/06/2015 as I headed south and picked up Seth in Southampton for a bit of a pre-Portland jaunt. Seth was armed with some great botanical knowledge and sites, and I was armed with a list that needed filling. But before any botany, we headed the other way to Titchfield Haven where I was very pleased to pick up a long-overdue bird - a superb Greater Yellowlegs that had been knocking about for a while. It was pottering about with Godwits giving a good size comparison and showing it to be structurally distinct from its Lesser counterpart. I had my P600 bridge camera, and felt obliged to take some goddam awful record shots on full zoom.

After filling our boots, we headed over to the New Forest for some botany on our way to Dorset. Seth knew of a couple of sites where interesting plants could be found. And he found them. I didn't really make any effort to point a camera at them.

The main target was a small mint - Pennyroyal, which we saw albeit not yet in flower. Chamomile and Marsh Cudweed were also seen amongst a few plant ticks.

Whilst having a quick leak before heading off, I found a new for me beetle.

Lesser Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle

Next we headed to the Dorset coast, and we parked up in Boscombe. We were soon looking at numerous Wall Lizards. On the walls and surrounding vegetation. We also looked for Western Green Lizards but without joy.

Another of many plant ticks over the weekend was also here, and it was big and brash enough to make it onto the sensor.


Another new for me beetle here wanding across a pathway ...

Silpha laevigata

Eventually we arrived at our base for the rest of the weekend - the Portland Bird Obs. Bags dumped and Obs garden viewed, we set about the priority of the evening - walking up to the Eight Kings pub for a few beers!

Tuesday, 17 December 2019


Browsing through some photos this evening, and then checking back here, I've realised that somehow I've never posted or mentioned anything about a PSL trip down to Portland back in June 2015. I think I must have just posted various photos from this trip on the Facebook PSL group.

I've not got time to go through the whole thing now, but one of the great things we (Seth Gibson, Bill Urwin, Keith Lugg and I) did on this particular meet-up was buy some very cheap fishing gear and throw some ragworms off of a cliff near to the Portland Obs and at Weymouth Harbour. We managed to catch a few species, but I was particularly amazed that having never fished before I caught the biggest individual of the weekend. No fish were harmed during the growing of our lists. Can't say the same about the ragworms. Fish ON!

Large Ballan Wrasse with large fat bloke (courtesy of Danny Cooper).

Corkwing Wrasse

Corkwing Wrasse

Tompot Blenny

Monday, 16 December 2019

Personal Records

I've still got a load of 2019 moth records to get onto MapMate. But aside from moths, my personal recording is a bit ad hoc to say the least. Sometimes when out and about I will make a concerted effort to record everything I see and get these onto MapMate, other times I just note down a few bits of interest and especially anything that I know is new for me. The personal records that I do have on MapMate are now up to 78417.

With a bit of renewed enthusiasm I will try and be a bit more dilligent next year. I'm generating around 3500 moth records a year so with additional effort I'll try and get my records total up to say 84000 by end 2020.

Friday, 13 December 2019

I despair

I am not surprised that the rural Daily Mail readers that surround the seat that I live in, and others like it, continue to blindly vote for any old Tory regardless of policy, record or ability.

I am not surprised that there was no majority for any progressive party.

And I am not at all surprised that Brexit appears to have overshadowed everything else.

But I am surprised that regardless of the last nine years, the swingeing cuts and the rise in the equity gap between the top and bottom, people in what have been Labour stronghold seats turned to the Tories and delivered their biggest Parliamentary majority for decades. What the actual fuck!? I at least expected another hung-parliament.

People seem to have voted based on the mass media's terms: their destruction of Corbyn's character and their complete failure to properly scrutinise the Tories and in particular Johnson himself.

As for Johnson:
  • Liar = Proven fact
  • Racist = Proven fact
  • Homophobe = Proven fact
  • Elitist wanker = Proven fact
  • Fridge hugger = Proven fact
If people have voted on personalities rather than policies, then apparently being a shambling incoherent scarecrow is good enough. Either that, or people were sufficiently brain-washed by the continued use of robotic three-word mantras (Get Brexit Done, Dither and Delay, Oven-ready Deal).

Anyone actually thinking that Brexit will just 'get done' and that we'll never hear about it again is clearly deluded. There will be a rapid unopposed clearing through of the Withdrawal Bill and we will depart from the EU, on Johnson's terms and with the continued risk of crashing out with no finalised trade agreements with the EU in the transition period. Yes, the transition period where there will be more negotiating.

Meanwhile Johnson and his far-right cronies will be working on trade deals globally. Particularly with the US, where I have no doubt we will be completely screwed over and that will be the root of the deregulation, further privatisation of the NHS, reduced protection for the environment, lower consumer rights and protections etc that I fully expect the new Government to deliver. I can picture the negotiating position now ......

"Get down there BloJo, and be sure to swallow."

I am lucky enough that whatever the result I and my family will not be likely to be massively impacted, but that's not the point. Thousands across the country will be, and it baffles me how many of these people may well have put the cross in the box that seals their continued impoverishment.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Catch the Pigeon

We have an abundance of pigeons around here. Woodpigeons that is. We have always had much fewer Stock Doves, and Collared Doves are less common then they were a decade ago. Feral Pigeons have never been common around here, unlike in and around the city. Over the years we've been here I have had at least three 'lost' racing pigeons that I can remember hanging around in the garden for a while. At least I am sure that they were racing pigeons on account of their crass stupidity and complete lack of response to an approaching human gesturing at it to feck off.

I've had a day off work today, and this morning I looked into the garden and noted this:

It stayed say there looking gormless whilst I pointed the camera at it. I couldn't see any obvious rings, although it was a bit hunched up. Either way, over an hour later just before I headed off for a relaxing blast around the city to spend money, it was still sat in the same place.

Seems another highly likely racing pigeon. It was gone when I got home in the early afternoon, and I'd like to think that a large female Sparrowhawk was involved ......

Monday, 9 December 2019

Woburn Fungi

Home this evening after a great family break at Woburn Centre Parcs celebrating my youngest sister-in-law's 40th. As usual at family gatherings / Centre Parcs, I've enjoyed the water slides and rapids, eating too much and drinking far too much. I also managed to watch LCFC give the Villa a pasting with a pint or three on Sunday afternoon in the Sports Bar whilst the girls were in the Spa.

The lodge we were in, as they usually do, had a number of habitualised Grey Squirrels and tits loitering for an easy feed making breakfast times entertaining. We had a number of Pheasants and Red-legged Partidges knocking about, and aside from the many squirrels we had a visting Muntjac and a Stoat running about our patio. The lake had the usual ducks, Coots and Moorhens (including a weird albinistic individual), and a few Little Grebes that were clearly very used to people.

Like all Centre Parcs, Woburn has a bit of woodland to walk around and I found myself a quiet hour or so on Saturday morning too have a leisurely mooch about with a camera. The bit I was in was mainly damp birch and sycamore; nothing too exciting bird-wise apart from Green Woodpecker and Common Buzzard, but the many fallen and cut logs left around were housing a fair bit of fungal interest.