Thursday, 24 February 2011

Twitterpated Blue Tit

Having bought my bargain Aldi nestbox camera the other week, it was hastily assembled and set up in the hope of it being occupied this year. It's all a bit low-tech, but hopefully does the job... So it's up in the biggest tree in the garden, looking out over the valley, with 30m of cable trailing into the house and wired into the TV through a series of splitters.

This was all about 10 days ago, and I'd occasionally flick to see what was going on - generally nothing! But it's actually quite amazing how quickly this happened.

So one morning this guy (a Blue Tit for anyone finding it hard to work out) was in, furiously pecking away, cleaning up the entrance hole. This has now become a regular occurrence, with constant tapping in the background on and off most mornings. Having made some modifications to the entrance hole, he's now been working on the inside, chipping away at any tatty corners and seemingly innocuous bits of box not to his liking. The results of his labours are more apparent from the outside.

The most interesting behaviour though, is something I've not seen before. But then I've never had a camera nestbox! Quite regularly, he'll drop down and scratch away at the floor, wings outstretched. Some form of home-making behaviour, confused display or just 'twitterpated' as Disney would say. Answers on a postcard please. Hopefully a female will also find the box to her liking, so I'll keep the updates coming over the spring.

Friday, 18 February 2011

White City Waxwings - the footage

Waxwings are surprisingly frustrating to film, spending most of their time back-lit high in the top of a tall tree and only venturing down to feed for a matter of seconds at a time. Still, we did manage some footage; here's a minute of the best of it:

Spring has certainly sprung in the capital!

With recent news of a nest-building Robin, the BTO has also recently heard of nest-building Goldfinches. This video was filmed on 3rd February in Stockwell, London, though the birds actually began building on 27th January.

I've also just seen on facebook that a Blackbird has been seen flying towards a possible nest site in Pimlico with a beakful of food! Is it really that time of year already?

White City Waxwings

A rapid deployment from the office took us to the BBC's White City in hot pursuit of 44 Waxwing. We only managed 32 but they weren't hanging around. Watch this space...


After chasing them round to Hammersmith Park, when they duly left again, we eventually got some footage back at White City. They also allowed a count to be made, with 56 in the flock. Just to prove we saw them, see the murky iPhone shot!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Predictions from the past...

Following our recent blog post on the Slaty-backed Gull set to be the latest addition to the British list, it was timely that I came across this old post earlier today.

This had also tried to predict the next new bird to turn up, posted in November 2008. Of the 14 predictions back then, only one (Eastern Crowned Warbler) has come to fruition. Which one next?...

Tawny Owls on the web

The BTO is back following its pair of nest box Tawny Owls again this year. Last year's footage included some incredible scenes of battles with Stock Doves and squirrels so it'll be interesting to see what this year brings.

You can follow the pair's trials and tribulations through the season on the BTO's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Things NOT to do with your nest box

This week is National Nest Box Week, but hopefully everyone will be slightly kinder to their birds than the early pioneers...

"Small nest boxes were being put up as early as 1527. These were for House Sparrows and were only found in Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire. They took the form of clay pots and were not exactly put up for the benefit of the birds. They were there to provide a source of fresh meat for the householder. Young sparrows were considered a delicacy around this time, as well as being a good source of protein."

This snippet comes from the BTO's latest e-newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Oriental Turtle Dove disappears again

Well the masses were well-behaved today, with 600 birders turning up to queue in the rain in Chipping Norton, but the bird refused to play ball. Having been seen at first light, it promptly left at 08:40 and has yet to return. More on the event can be heard on BBC Radio Oxford (around 4:20 in).

Monday, 14 February 2011

Oxon Oriental Turtle Dove returns

Having first shown itself briefly to local residents in December (webzine subscribers can read the full finders account here), Chipping Norton's Oriental Turtle Dove appeared again today. Access tomorrow might be fun, with just six hours and a queuing system in operation. More details are on the Oxon Bird Log. I'm sure this will make the evening news at some point, so we'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Waxwings make it to Acton

We've been watching the reports of Waxwing coming in right through the winter, gradually getting closer and closer to the BirdGuides' west London office but never quite making it close enough to justify an impromptu dash out of the office to see them. Until today, that is, when a flock of 70 birds pitched up in Acton. Within minutes of the news breaking we were out of the office, including our app developer Richard who, despite months of watching 100s of Waxwing reports pour into BirdGuides, had yet to clap eyes on one himself.

Driving round with our heads out of the window - approved Waxwing-finding technique - we soon located a flock of 35 or so birds trilling overhead before following them to a patch of berry bushes where we watched them feed from the (dry) comfort of the car.

Here's Richard enjoying his newest lifer, taking his list to... oh... at least five species now!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

All caught up

We're now completely up-to-date with our load of BirdGuides records to BirdTrack, and having just loaded a catch-up batch of records. So our entire archive of records, from 11:14 on 13th November 2000 (negative news on a Cornish Spanish Sparrow) to 23:03 yesterday (negative news on a Cornish American Herring Gull), are all now available on BirdTrack. This is great news, finally seeing our (well your) records out there working for conservation. All 1,027,823 of them!