Tuesday, 27 January 2009


This morning started brightly with a pair of Collared Doves at the end of my road - looking rather frisky. Great Tits were also singing their wee heads off as I wandered in to work. Spring is in the air. I must try summoning some more patch ticks by the power of blogging (come to think of it Yellow-browed Warblers have never been seen on my patch either).

I've been VERY busy logging all the footage we've taken over the past year. Over the summer I branched out into filming butterflies and dragons, so I find myself having to check the ID of every second insect. Butterflies I'm almost on top of; dragons and damsels are proving a little trickier. Between times I've also filmed rats, goats, deer, slow-worms, lizards, a good few moths, and extremely foolishly beetles. So here's my problem:

What on earth are they? My mothing chum David tells me they are likely to be Shield Bug nymphs. I thought they were simply orgying beetles. My eye-spy guide to insects isn't shedding any light. If anyone knows I'll be very grateful.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Oh, for the wings...

I spent a good hour on my patch at first light this morning and have little to report - other than the hen Pheasant is still there. She appears to be living in the council leaf-yard (which may explain her miraculous escape from the local canines).

Patchlisting has an odd side effect of highlighting the "missing" birds. I've lived in Acton for three years now, and it was only this week that light dawned that Collared Doves are mysteriously absent. Why? There are enough Wood Pigeons and Rats with Wings to keep me in pigeon pie for the next several decades. So - why are there no Collared Doves?

I sought advice from the ultimate London patchlister Des McK. He tells me he struggles to add CD each year, and generally only has a flyover on passage. How bizarre! I don't understand at all. My initial suspicion is that it's the same root cause as House Sparrows - no grains. Wood Pigeons and the ferals seem to have adapted to eat crisps and kebabs, but perhaps Collared Doves can't. Anyway - I'm interested. Please post your theories.

I add a random photo of a Tree Rat. I got a fab new point-and-shoot digital camera for Crimble as I'd whined so much about the iPhone camera.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Opportunity Knocks

Here are a couple of things that may be of interest to birders with a little time on their hands:

Volunteers Needed - Spring Migration Survey in Northern Greece

The Wetland Kerkini Bird Migration survey will be running again this year (2009); they hope to be doing transects from March through to May. Volunteers get free accommodation and some of the best birding in Europe. A reasonable level of bird identification skill is desirable, as is the ability to walk 4 or 5 kilometres per day minimum. Contact Gordon Ramel at mrgorgonramel@yahoo.com if you are interested in participating as a volunteer and do pass the word, and this email address, around to anyone and everyone who might be interested in participating.

For more detailed information on the area and the work, please visit the web page, now at: www.earthlife.net/lake-kerkini/volunteer.html

The calendar will be updated as volunteers are recruited.


Assistant Warden required on Fair Isle

Although Fair Isle Bird Observatory is hoping to be closed to visitors in 2009, whilst the new Observatory is being built, the ornithological work must continue - migration studies, seabird monitoring and ringing. An Assistant Warden is required to help with this work. The candidate must have good bird identification skills and preferably a BTO Ringing Licence. For further details and an application, please contact Deryk Shaw, FIBO, Fair Isle, Shetland ZE2 9JU or email fairisle.birdobs@zetnet.co.uk or phone 01595 760258.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Patchlisting update

I have to apologise for my initial cynicism about entering the London Birders Patchlisting competition. My patch isn't the birdless desert I thought it was going to be. I suspect at least some of this is down to the cold snap we're experiencing.

Rewind to Friday morning. My mobile started ringing before it was properly light, and I sortied in the slippery skiff of snow on the instruction of Max who had "found me a tick" but wouldn't divulge what it might be. I ran to the park expecting that whatever it might be might fly off before I arrived.

I really needn't have worried. On arrival, in all it's cryptic glory, was a female Pheasant. She was feeding in the frost on an area of rough ground near the bowling green. Totally bizarre. Now, as far as I'm aware there wouldn't be any Pheasants in the UK if it wan't for the shoots, and the nearest stocked area (worked out on back of fag-packet) must be at least 7 miles away as the gamebird flies - across featureless concrete. I've no idea how she came to be there, or where she is now (she disappeared later the same day - a victim of the local foxes I'll wager).

Tuesday morning I found a pair of uncharacteristically confiding Redwing in the park. They are still there today and I plan to wander over with the camera in a little while and take some footage. Patchlist total: 22.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Birds and the Battlefield

Before I forget; I helped a lovely Radio 4 researcher out a while ago with an intriguing-sounding programme involving birders serving on the battlefield. You can see the original BirdGuides article here. To tell the truth I'd largely forgotten about it.

Anyway - it's on this week! You can catch it on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday just after the 11am news. There's a wee link here. I'll pop the listen again link up once it's been on.

UPDATE: You can listen again here.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Golden Eagle v Goat

Happy New Year! I stumbled across the following YouTube classic over at grrlscientist's blog (which I heartily recommend). It's a wee bit long (a tad over 7 mins), and I don't do Spanish sadly - but it's all relatively self-explanatory. If you're not big enough to kill your prey straight-away - throw it off a cliff.

PS The patchlist isn't going very well due to it being dark while I go to work, and dark as I come back. Must try taking lunch outside.