Monday, 25 July 2011

Big Butterfly Count

I found a sunny spot on Saturday and settled down to do my Big Butterfly Count.

Results were:
  • Common Blue - 1
  • Gatekeeper - 4
  • Red Admiral - 2
  • Speckled Wood - 1
  • Large White - 1
Notice how having your camera on the wrong setting makes even a butterfly sitting still on a leaf in the sunshine out of focus...

The Red Admiral is mid-flight, hence even more blurred around the edges!

Doing the Big Butterfly Count is really easy. All you need is a sunny spot and 15 minutes to sit and watch. More details are on the Big Butterfly Count website.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Dragonflies app

Our latest, greatest app has arrived! A comprehensive field guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Britain and Ireland. Covers in detail the identification of all 46 species that have been recorded in the region. It aims to help the dragonfly-watcher — beginner or expert — to identify any species they encounter.

Based on Britain's Dragonflies by Wildguides, this app contains the same stunning photography, distribution maps, species accounts and tips for dragon-watching. In addition, there are handy confusion species suggestions and a key to help you narrow down the species you find.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A new BTO survey

The BTO has just launched a new survey, and this one doesn't involve being outdoors, or indeed watching any birds. Before autumn migration really hots up, the BTO, RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland and Scottish Ornithologists' Club would like to take the opportunity to find out more about how you watch and record birds, and how you use BirdTrack (if at all).

Your feedback will help the BirdTrack partners to prioritise future developments so please spend five minutes taking the bird recording and BirdTrack questionnaire.

Friday, 8 July 2011


There be dragons in the BirdGuides office this week. We've been busily putting the finishing touches to our new Dragonflies & Damselflies of Britain & Ireland app, based on the wonderful book by Dave Smallshire & Andy Swash.

With a window in the weather yesterday, we dashed out of the office to try a bit of app field testing... and to catch up with a species that was new for all of us in the process.

Completely red abdomen, dark thorax, red eyes, reddish legs and reddish pterostigma... It must be a Small Red Damselfly! And thankfully our app agrees.

They were surprisingly common and showed well, until the sun went behind a cloud at which point they would instantly melt away into the vegetation.

Also on site were Keeled Skimmer:

...Emerald Damselfly:

...and Black Darter:

Other stuff on site included this tiny Palmate Newt:

And several species of insectivorous plant. Butterwort sp.:

...Round-leaved Sundew:

...and Narrow-leaved Sundew

Huge thanks to Betty at QinetiQ, without whom our visit wouldn't have been possible.

And for more news on Dragonflies app, keep watching this space... or follow us on Twitter @BirdGuides for the very latest.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Prinn-ya prine-ya prinn-ee-a prine-ee-a

When the phone rings in our office, it could literally be anyone on the other end; in between the obvious BirdGuides calls we get anything from celebrities and authors to institutions on the other side of the world wanting to buy a kilogram of osmium. I exaggerate with the kilogram part but the rest is true. You'd think we'd be prepared for anything but this afternoon I was surprised to answer a call from a lovely lady at the BBC Pronunciation Unit asking how to pronounce Prinia. Now what you have to realise here is that I'm from Liverpool - admittedly not thick Scouse (like), but enough that I don't speak proper - and BirdGuides' MD Fiona Barclay hails from north of the border. So asking either of us to pronounce Prinia was likely not a wise thing for the BBC to be doing! Max, the only speaker of Queen's English in the office who could have helped, was out... so I had to field the call as best I could. Prinn-eeya I said, confidently. The BBC Pronunciations Unit lady thanked me for my time and we hung up, leaving me stressing over if I'd got the pronunciation right or not! Fiona agreed with prinn-eeya, and seemingly so does Geoff Sample, but then maybe it's a northern thing. I guess we'll see - if you hear Prinia being mispronounced on the BBC in the near future you'll know who to blame!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Emperor Penguin twitch

It was with great interest that we read an email from New Zealand resident Detlef Davies. Detlef wrote:
As a former 70s to 90s twitcher now living in New Zealand, I thought you might be interested in this twitch from down under. My wife & I made the 1,989 km (c.1,250 mile) round trip from the Far North to Pekapeka Beach near Wellington to see the imm Emperor Penguin on Thurs 23 June, the day before it was taken into care. It is only the second record, the first was in 1967. Here are a couple of pics. Most of the people are locals. Only c.30 birders went to see it.

A real mammoth twitch! To put the distance into perspective, a trip from Scilly to Shetland would only just notch up 1,000 miles on the clock. And can you imagine the scenes if a second record of such a magnificent beast turned up in the UK? I'm quite sure there'd be more than 30 birders willing to travel to see it!

Both images - Detlef Davies