Monday, 27 August 2012

Bridlington seabird cruises

The RSPB cruises off Flamborough Head for autumn 2012 will be starting a week on Sunday.  There will be 6 of these:

Sunday 2 September at 10:45am
Saturday 8 September at 9:00am
Saturday 15 September at 9:00am
Sunday 23 September at 9:00am
Saturday 29 September at 3:30pm
Saturday 6 October at 9:00am

As usual these will be aboard the MV Yorkshire Belle, sailing from Bridlington Harbour out into the North Sea to where the latest reports indicate there are migrating seabirds such as Arctic and Great Skuas, Sooty, Balearic and Manx Shearwaters plus many terns and plenty of Little Gulls.  They last up to 3½ hours and cost £18 per adult.

Booking is strongly recommended as they can get full, and this can be done by phoning the RSPB Bempton Cliffs cruise office on 01262 850959 and paying by debit/credit card over the phone.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Back from BirdFair

What an enjoyable weekend that turned out to be! Great to see so many people at BirdFair and glad that the weather (just about) held. Here are a few highlights from Sunday:

The East Asian–Australasian flyway mural taking shape.

A stick insect enjoying the tropical heat and humidity.

We're not allowed to show you what's attached to this camera (seriously, the guys on the Canon stand told us off for trying to take a photo of it)... but oddly we can show you this.

Optics envy.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Big BC cheque

The lovely Nick Baker and the lovely Martin Warren paid a visit to our stand today for the hand over of our (disappointingly small) giant cheque. £1 from each copy of our new butterfly DVD is going directly to Butterfly Conservation. The photo pretty much sums things up:

In other exciting news, Fiona got her binoculars checked by the clever man at Zeiss.

And the internet people came to fiddle with the internet box, which is located behind our stand.

The art marquee is getting a bit slippy now but marquee 7 has stayed afloat and the other marquees are — apart from being a bit muggy — largely fine. We're really enjoying being at Birdfair and hope that anyone who hasn't had a chance to call in and say hello will be able to do so tomorrow. We're in marquee 3, stand 14.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Celebrity barrow boy

We've survived BirdFair day 1.

Mud report: Art Marquee, muddy with potential to turn slippy. Marquee 3, fine. Marquee 7, damp turning wet. Far Isle, fine (they have cuddly Puffins on their stand).

All the birding greats have paid us a visit.

I finished the afternoon with lovely Israeli wine and some great talks from Mark Andrews and Martin Garner. Roll on tomorrow!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Greetings from Rutland

We've arrived; we've set the stand up; and we're ready to rock 'n' roll at 9 tomorrow morning — Marquee 3, stand 14 if you're passing.

After setting up, we headed out for a bit of birding: Osprey, Little Egret, Yellowhammer, flocks of Linnets. All very pleasant, and a nice change from Feral Pigeons and screaming parakeets.

And what of the weather?
It's not actually all that bad. The ground at Egleton is still quite firm — no doubt helped by the plastic tracks that have been laid — though it looks like marquee 7 might be teetering on the edge of a muddy abyss. We'll report back with more mud news tomorrow.

More importantly than the weather, what about the barrow boys and girls? Don't worry, there're here with horns in hand.

Josh and Stephen are particularly excited that the BirdGuides news app is now on Android as well as iPhone:

Monday, 13 August 2012

Bats, birds and small wind turbines

The latest research, just published, suggests that operating small wind turbines (defined as units generating less than 50kW electricity) may have little effect on bird activity at the fine-scale studied, but could reduce bat activity. Depending upon location, this may affect the availability of roost and foraging sites. Read the full paper here ( or a summary here (

Young Starlings on microturbine photo Elfie Waren

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Catching the Bug

I've just finished reading (and listening to) Catching the Bug by The Sound Approach. It's superb. Really superb. However, that's not what I want to talk about — I'll write a full review soon. I want to skip from The Sound Approach to birding to...

The Sound Approach to beeing

Let me introduce you to Bombus sylvarum, the Shrill Carder Bee.

It's quite a rare bee in the UK; indeed, it was a tick on my bee list. They're lovely little things. As their name suggests, they're rather shrill.

However, before we look at that further, let me introduce you to another bee that was new for my bee list.
Bombus humilis, the Brown-banded Carder Bee.

Brown-banded Carder Bees sound like... well, bees. Have a listen:

Shrill Carder Bees, in contrast, sound... shrill. Who'dathoughtit.

The shrill buzzing noise actually proved a really useful way to pick individuals up as they whizzed from bush to bush.

And just for fun:
I was going to annotate these and make some clever comments about fundamentals and modulations but after 90 minutes of being bored senseless by the London 2012 closing ceremony I'm not sure I've got the brain power... Still, I hear the Spice Girls are going to make an appearance later. I hope Geri's got her Union Jack dress on.

Earlier in the day, in case you're not fed up of bumblebees yet, we saw at least several of these; or should I say we managed to ID several of these:
Bombus soroeensis, Broken-belted Bumblebee
In total, we managed to see ten species of bumblebee.

Also this:
It's a Puss Moth caterpillar and it was speeding across the track at Dungeness ARC pit. They're green right up until the point at which they pupate, so this individual must have been right on the cusp of pupating. It was massive — about the size of my finger; and in case you're wonder, its head is at the right-hand end.

It was generally quiet for birds. Two Little Stints were on ARC pit along with two Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper and a decent flock of Golden Plover. A Reed Warbler and a couple of Common Whitethroats were in the trapping area at the obs.