Monday, 29 September 2008


So I have a dilemma. We're just putting together our DVD Guide to British Birds (270 species edition). Most of the footage is on glorious HD stock - which even when it's compressed for everyone's bog-standard DVD player looks fab and sumptuous. However, the odd species slightly fell through the net. We turn therefore to Leach's Storm-petrel. Our current footage is a) old, b) filmed in a gale 8, c) 4:3 rather than 16:9, d) old, e) frankly horrible.

It's rapidly approaching Leach's season. Which means if the weather is truly foul and the wind is storming off the Atlantic there's a chance of getting Leach's close in at the likes of New Brighton. But there are no guarantees. If there's a proper wreck Leach's can turn up anywhere in the country, paddling confusedly around inland reservoirs wondering who shrunk the Atlantic.

My question is then, do I pile off to Lancashire first thing tomorrow or do I bide my time and hope for a wreck.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The last butterfly?

Today the sun and relative heat was too good to resist and Max and I dived out on an attempt to finally find a Clouded Yellow. It's been a terrible year for butterflies - mostly due to the completely appalling weather. There have been barely any migrants, even Painted Ladies and Red Admirals are thin on the ground.

A trip to Sussex seemed in order. We met up with top butterflier Neil Hulme (East Sussex guru and finder of many a Brown Hairstreak). We scoured the downs for hours, and took some lovely Large White footage, and a wonderful seasonable Comma gorging itself on Blackberries (or Brambles as we call them in Scotland - I scoffed a few myself).

I attach a terrible phone-pic. I never have a proper camera on me. It's a disgrace I know.

So I find myself unaccountably sad and bereft. No butterflies for six whole months now - harbinger of winter. I shall have to do some editing!

Friday, 26 September 2008


OK, so Fiona's shamed me into my first blog posting. Dave Dunford, BirdGuides webmaster, here.

I'm currently working on an exciting new development for the BirdGuides website, but if I told you what it was, I'd have to kill you. Oh, alright then, it's some fancy new features for our photo galleries. When I'm not doing that I've been helping with our ongoing quest to work out why certain ISPs seem determined to block our emails. We aren't spammers, honest guv. We've also been trying to work out, with the help of the good people at Claranet, why under certain circumstances our database server hasn't always been performing as well as it might. We think we've cracked it - reboot the firewall in the short term, and a firmware upgrade in the small hours will (they hope) stop the problem coming back. So if you're a night owl you might find the website is down for an hour or so around 1am tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

It's been a long hard week. On Monday I made the London train with seconds to spare for a meeting with Fiona and the aforementioned new employee. Tuesday was mostly catching up on a backlog of emails (I had a few days off at the end of last week), and then Wednesday I was off again, this time to Dublin to discuss the gallery project with Technical Director John and our talented designer David Suttle ( Never been to Dublin before, and I can't say I saw much of it, apart from the inside of the airport. Much of Thursday was (as ever) taken up with compiling and checking the weekly newsletter (we don't just throw these things together, you know) and today I've finally been able to start working on some of the ideas we came up with on Wednesday. Looking forward to the weekend and a rest, though I'll have to check in briefly tomorrow to make sure the firewall upgrade hasn't caused any problems. Good birding folks.

That was the week that was

Yes - me again! It's been a funny old week. The prevailing easterlies dumped SO many birds on the UK it was a struggle to keep up. Interestingly autumn seems to have peaked two whole weeks earlier than last year. The quality of the Sibes arriving was tip-top, and some of them seem to have hung around enough to get their pictures into the galleries.

Behind the scenes I'm desperately beavering away on the 2009 catalogue. You wouldn't believe how much fiddling it takes. The rest of the team have been hard at work on our new "pro" galleries idea and battling horrid, horrid email problems. Take my advice, if you want to receive email from BirdGuides make sure you don't use btinternet or hotmail addresses. Both providers seem to think I'm peddling Viagra or similar.

So the weekend beckons. Forecast looks good. I may try and catch some Painted Ladies and a Clouded Yellow. Should really make an effort to film Yellow-browed Warbler too while there are so many of them around.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Does only one person work for BirdGuides?

Contrary to appearances, at least three other people work for BirdGuides. None of them seem to have particularly taken to blogging though. I've updated the poll today. The last poll got 100% yes response (by a statistically insignificant number of voters). Hopefully this one will attract a little more attention - as I've moved it up the page.

We're having terrible email woes at the moment. Being a girl, and blonde I don't really understand what the problem is. With any luck one of the boys will post some sort of explanation.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Mothing and planning

On Saturday night Des McKenzie, Nick Tanner (another of the London birders establishment) and I met with Andy Culshaw and David Howdon over at Black Park. This is right next Pinewood Studios and has an excellent range of flora and fauna. It's the nearest thing we're going to get to proper heathland within the London Natural History Soc boundary anyway. We set two MV Skinners and an actinic heath trap.

Whilst setting up we had a Muntjac, and later on in the night I stumbled across a most excellent, huge Common Toad (neither of which I had the presence of mind to photograph). Mothing was relatively quiet. Oak Lutestring was by far the commonest species. I was rather impressed with a couple of Flounced Rustics. We also managed to catch two enormous Hornets. (I have to confess to being scared to death of the horrible critters).

So it's now Monday morning. I have my lovely webmaster coming to visit, along with a prospective member of staff(!). Im booked into blood donors later, and I'm trying to work out when I might manage a butterfly filming trip this week...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Large Coppers and Short-tailed Blues

I've had an exciting day today. I sortied to darkest Hampshire to meet with the wonderful Pete Eeles who runs the most marvellous website: I find this site totally invaluable and recommend it to everyone.

Pete is a butterfly wrangler. He grows livestock (all above board and pukka), and this gives me the opportunity to get footage of species that would otherwise incur airmiles and naughty carbon footprint. We had a lovely morning persuading Large Coppers to behave themselves and show all their sides. It turned out they were paragons of virtue. The Short-tailed Blues pinged off and had to be retrieved from the conservatory ceiling several times. I'm just ingesting the footage now and may post a little something to YouTube later.

On another note entirely I got my shiny, shiny new iPhone today. I may explode.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


Today I had a little jaunt to London's premiere birding destination: Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The objective was to film a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull and anything else of interest. I met up with the legend Des McKenzie (inner-London recorder and all round good egg), and we trogged off - Des helpfully carrying all my heavy gear.

The LBBG's were all loafing around the rowing boats in the middle of the Serpentine, but Des duly sorted that out with liberal application of stale bread. Lots of filming was done, and I should perhaps view the results later. I have to confess to being utterly rubbish at filming flying birds, but I did my best. It was much easier when the blighters were scoffing Crayfish and stale bread salad on the water.

I was pleased to see "Albert" still in residence (the local pied Blackbird). He's been there since at least 2005 disproving all theories about leucistic birds being less fit than normal ones. Also noted at least three Small Whites and a couple of Red Admirals, and plenty of hoarding going on by both Jays and Squirrels.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Pinner Wryneck

Max (Whitby - illustrious director of the company) and I jumped in the car earlier on the news that a Wryneck was at around Pinner Park Farm. We pitched up at the slightly the wrong place - but eventually found the small (but perfectly formed) twitch. The very kind farmer gave us free reign to wander, except in the field containing an alarmingly large bull.

The bird eventually gave itself up and was characteristically rather confiding at times, perching alluringly on a garden trellis, then in a Hawthorn hedge, and finally picking on the ground. Report on the quality of the footage later once I've ingested.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

just a quick post

Well Scotland is proving a washout. No mothing due to pouring rain, no butterflies due to pouring rain, no filming due to pouring rain. Still, Heather the Weather (a Scots institution - search on YouTube) confidently predicts sunshine tomorrow. I'm off to Corsewall Point in the hope of shearwaters, and if I'm lucky a Pom. I might have another go at the Scotch Argi too.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

I'll take the low road

Today I'm filling up the car with two cameras, two tripods, a variety of lenses and associated girly stuff - oh yes and a moth trap. I'm off to Scotland in search of the last Scotch Argus and an attempt at some sea-birds. The weather is particularly unpromising, which paradoxically may mean good sea-birds. We shall see.

I'm going to have a go at trapping my Mum's garden. I've remembered to pack my copy of Waring. Then I'm going to try and film the D&G Spoonbills, Scotch Argus and some skuas and shearwaters if I'm lucky. My brother has taken the day off work tomorrow, so he'll be very unhappy if it's still pouring.

My internet connection is always a little hazy in Scotland so probably tweets only for a few days. Wish me luck!

Monday, 8 September 2008

The First Post

Welcome to our new blog. All of the team at BirdGuides will post here, some more often than others I suspect. I've included my tweets, some of our YouTube videos and a poll (right at the bottom) to get us started.