Sunday, 22 February 2009

Patchlist update

I spend a good deal of time moaning about my patch on this blog. This morning I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole flock of Linnets feeding on a disturbed patch of earth in Acton Park. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming away, and the teeny, wee pond in Southfields was crammed with frogs. The local Song Thrush was keeping me entertained by first "doing" car alarm, and then parakeet, reflecting the joys of urban birding.
My Mallards are back. They breed each year in the fetid beer-can pond in Acton Park - disappearing as soon as all the ducklings have been predated, and then reappearing as good as gold every February. I shall keep you up to date with the birth and demise of the ducklings. Patchlist total 36.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Number crunching

Various people have suggested to me that I should change the 0800 number for reporting sightings to one that is inclusive on mobile price plans. It turns out there's a new set of numbers beginning 03 that allows you to do exactly that. You can read about 03 numbers over at the ofcom page.

So - I've swapped. The new number is 0333 577 2473. I was stuck with the first five digits, but the last 4 spell BIRD on your keypad. Cunning huh? Sadly it costs 4p a minute to ring this number from a land-line, but I think that the vast majority of you will want to ring up immediately from the field. If it's the sort of sighting that can wait til you get back to the house - then you can always email it ( or use the webform. Actually, we rather like it if you use the webform for non-urgent sightings as it makes our life slightly easier.

Also - you can text your sighting if you so desire to 07786 200505 - but remember to stick BIRDS RPT at the start or we don't get it. For Bird Text Alert users you get three text credits for every sighting you send; so it's worth doing. Our news is only as good as you make it - so please send it in.

Anyway - let me know what you think. It's not too late to keep the 0800 number, and I aim to please!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Bouncing Babies

The Tawny Owl family in Kensington Gardens is rather A-list celeb. They have faithfully reproduced in the same stand of Chestnut Trees for as far back as Des McKenzie (actually he's not that old) can remember. Every year there has been a wee pilgrimage of London Birders, hoping for a glimpse of this obliging family as the adults roost, and the fluffy owlets start the most alarming practice of "branching".

As I understand it, Tawnies nest in a hole, but the young rapidly outgrow it. They therefore clamber out onto a branch, and are attended by their parents there. This sounds ideal, but in reality the chicks then get up to all sorts of mischief; throwing themselves (with frantic flapping) into adjoining trees, and clambering around the branches to the consternation of the small twitch.
Des's latest babies made their entrance onto the branch on Friday, causing a flutter of excitement on the Londonbirders yahoo group (there are in fact three owlets, the same as last year). There has been a constant stream of visitors today, and Des has been patiently trouping everyone around. Myself and Max pitched up with heaps of camera gear to capture the moment for posterity. They are really cute.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

How to spend Valentine's night with three men

Go mothing!
Our much-delayed mothing session for February was last night. Myself, Des McKenzie, Andy Culshaw and David Howdon rendezvoused at Perivale and set up three MV Skinner traps, and indulged in a round of sugaring.
Dusking produced a lot of Dotted Borders, an enormous wingless female Pale Brindled Beauty (Hawk-eye Howdon spotted it) and cold hands. Des discovered that catching moths in a net isn't nearly as easy as it looks (and especially not whilst stumbling around in the dark). The sugars for once did in fact produce a moth! (I'm terribly cynical about sugaring) - a white form Satellite.
It's interesting how dusking generally produces different moths that the actual trap. The traps this morning contained Chestnuts, loads of Torticodes alternella, a few Spring Usher, some Pale Brindled Beauties (including a melanic one) and an orange form Satellite.
Satellite - note the orange spot has two wee "moons"
"Normal" and form monacharia Pale Brindled Beauties. As ever sorry about the quality of the pics. I'm still resisting a real camera.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Lapwing Slaughter - shocking YouTube video

I've just had the following video brought to my attention. The accompanying text reads:

Despite a dramatic population decline in the EU the Lapwing is still listed as a huntable bird species in the european directive for the protection of birds. The result: More than half a million lapwings are killed by hunters and trappers in France, Spain and Italy each year. The Committee against bird slaughter (CABS) is working for a better protection of the Lapwing in Europe and demands that hunting of this species will be banned in the whole EU.
The video shows Lapwing trappers in the Aisne valley (France). Birds on passage are deceived by an apparently ideal roosting biotope of artificial ponds with small islands, shallow water zones and live Lapwing decoys. No sooner have the birds landed than they trapped in clap nets of up to 200 m² in area. These protected birds, which are on the Red List of endangered species throughout Europe, are later grilled and served as "Vanneaux à la crème".

Copyright: CABS / Komitee gegen den Vogelmord, Dipl.-Biol. Axel Hirschfeld

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Monday, 2 February 2009

Gratuitous Snow Pics

Taken on my iPhone before it got properly light:
My patchThe office - I'm the only one who's made it in. Am consoling self with hot coffee and plain chocolate digestives.