Wednesday, 30 June 2010


It's been a hectic weekend and start to the week for me, full of a variety of BTO surveys! On the weekend I managed five Timed Tetrad Visits in East Lincolnshire for the Bird Atlas - the highlight being Hobby, new to TF45.

This was followed by football (OK, so not a BTO survey) on Sunday and sulking on Monday. We then ran our CES (Constant Effort Site ringing) on Tuesday at a great site in the Norfolk Broads. Amongst our catch was a French-ringed Reed Warbler which was a pleasant surprise, only the seventh to be found in Norfolk.

Very characteristic of the site are some of the reedbed birds, and on two net rounds we had Grasshopper Warbler and Bearded Tit in the hand together!

We did have to close nets at one point as the mother of rain storms came over, but thankfully we had a handy BBQ, both to cook breakfast and dry soaked hoodies.

In the evening we just about managed to squeeze in some nest recording at one of our sites near Thetford. We managed to ring six broods of Reed Warblers, check on a further 12 nests, and I even managed to find a Reed Bunting nest, with three 2-day-old chicks and an unhatched egg - the fourth at this site so far in 2010.

Last up was my BBS square this morning at Weybread, Suffolk. The highlight here was a very obliging pair of Spotted Flycatchers, but there were also plenty of family parties buzzing round.

So if you've never got involved in survey work, do give it a go! For more info, visit the BTO website.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Woody Woodpecker on CES

Just about managed to drag myself out of bed at 4:15 this morning to tag along on the BTO's Constant Effort Site ringing session.

It wasn't the busiest, but I was surprised at still how little growth there's been on the site. The reeds are still only a few feet high (below), there are no nettles (much to the relief of BirdTrack organiser Nick Moran, wearing shorts when we were putting up nets) and it just seems rather sparse...

We caught around 40 birds by 9am, many of which were retraps - excellent for survival studies! Highlight though, was this Green Woodpecker, caught in one of our least productive nets! The lack of red in the moustaches shows it's a female, and the pink eye, general colouration and broad primary coverts show it was a 'full' adult.

Seems it also has shape-shifting properties as well, looking strangely like Woody Woodpecker himself!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Fame at last!

OK, so not exactly fame, but you may have caught me with Martin Hughes-Games on the BBC's Springwatch programme last night. This is really in a previous existence, talking about ringing for the BTO, but it's still fun to watch.

It'll be on iPlayer for a week or so, so catch up with it here at about 41 minutes in.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Swift Focus

Ever wonder where our swifts used to hang out before they had our towns and cities? Well, every time I walk in the Blue Stack mountains in mid-summer on a (rare) good day, there they are, hawking for insects right up on the exposed heights at over 2000 feet.

I hadn't thought of photographing swifts before, but then I'd never seen them quite so close as they skimmed around me with ground-hugging dashes that would make a Tornado pilot weep. My first efforts were predictably rather dire: autofocus in 'sport' mode might be adept at tracking my son sprinting up the left wing or even our dog chasing the cat, but it failed miserably when confronted with a swift, transforming these streamlined flying machines into shapeless UFOs.

Switching to manual focus at least ensured that about one in ten shots was in focus. But there was still the problem of keeping the swift in the viewfinder while staying upright on the rough ground, and all the while ensuring that the fun didn't come to a swift and untimely end over the nearby cliff.

Having bagged a satisfying number of shots, I paused in my singleminded antics only to find another walker observing me rather quizzically from the nearby summit. I waved cheerily, but instead of coming over for a chat, he promptly turned and headed down the other side. I guess he hadn't seen the swifts...