Sunday, March 29, 2009


At British Sugar, Peterborough - sweet!
The curious grey backgrounds were incredibly dark clouds full of hail showers. I was just making my way to a bus-shelter before the next shower and the sun burst through and the bird just appeared on this branch, blown around in the wind. I had just enough time to extend the legs on my tripod and take about thirty second worth of digiscoped photos before the heavens opened and the bird flew...

This weekend

Wheatear at Maxey
My obsessional PBC area year-listing continues, with the total having crept up to 134 (24 'elites'). I added Waxwing (thanks to Kevin "Pinky' Du Rose) at British Sugar on Oundle Road (see above shots), Cetti's Warbler heard at Eldernell Pit and a pair of Garganey at the Dog in a Doublet.
Other highlights included more sky-dancing Marsh Harriers; displaying Buzzards, and good numbers rising over the Nene Washes; a new female Wheatear at Maxey; Short-eared Owl at Deeping High Bank; Little Ringed Plovers at Maxey and Baston & Langtoft; a Peregrine; and a pair of Cranes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend highlights

Highlights this weekend (21-22.3.09) included:

1. Great views of a pair of sky-dancing Marsh Harriers, joined for a competitive dance-off by a handful of Buzzards.

Marsh Harrier

2. First Dog Violets in the garden this year (as found by Jasmine).

Dog Violets

5. First hatched Frog tadpoles in the big pond.

First tadpoles of the year

Blackthorn blossom

4. Twitching a 'female-type' Black Redstart at Swaddywell pits (where there were also a male and female Wheatear).

5. Twitching (by bike) a drake Ring-necked Duck at March Farmers on the Nene Washes. This is species 229 on my PBC Life List.

Last year on 26.3.08 I posted that my PBC year list had reached 125 (including 17 'elites'). This year's list currently stands on 131 including 22 'elites'.
Incidentally, I also bothered looking at where I would stand with a greener, self-propelled BIGBY list (inspired by Brian 'The Natural" Stone's efforts. So far I am on 85 species (including Crane, Ring-necked Duck and Scaup), this year.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Colombia Day 4-5, Rio Blanco antpittas

The Worm Man gathers earthworms, climbs the hill, places the worms in the bowl and whistles like a Chestnut-Crowned Antpitta. Then you sit and wait, as he whistles some more. Three species of antpitta (Slate-crowned came first and very briefly, like a little Robin, then Chestnut-crowned, then brief visits from Brown-banded) visited and Bicoloured Antpitta called in the distance but never revealed itself. (All shots digiscoped)

The endemic Brown-banded Antpitta in the worm bowl...

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta

Colombia Day 4, Part 2: Rio Blanco hummers

Long-tailed Sylph

Tourmaline Sunangel

Buff-tailed Coronet, easily the most numerous species at the feeders

Speckled Hummingbird

Collared Inca
Here are some of the dozen or so species of hummingbird that came to the feeders at Rio Blanco, while we were there. They were almost close enough to touch, and the wind from their wings would have ruffled my hair if I had any...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Nene Washes morning

I had a very pleasant morning at the RSPB Nene Washes today. The best bird was a summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe on the flooded field (feeding on invertebrates and what appeared to be tiny fish). It is the first BNG I have seen at this site (there were two there in 1998 and one in 2001), and it was also the first I can claim to have found locally.
Other highlights were three Water Pipits (including one pristine, peachy spring bird), a female Merlin with a decidedly full crop, two Peregrines (including the immature bird below) and decent numbers of Ruff (100+) and Black-tailed Godwits (see previous post).

There are also still loads of Whooper Swans in the area...


It is that time of year, again, when I get the urge to count Black-tailed Godwits on the Nene Washes. I photographed this flock this morning (14.3.09), as it swirled around panicking in the presence of an adult male Peregrine. Using the Graham P Catley colouring method (counting in 50s, here), I estimate that there are at least 2,650 godwits in this one flock.


I walked the two miles or so down the central drove of the RSPB Nene Washes this morning. Recently, there has been extensive flooding, but at least now you can walk all the way to the eastern end. I had walking boots on to wade through the odd puddle and mud on the track, but I was not the only one to have made it, recently. This humanoid footprint was one of a series near that end. Clearly a curious flat-footed primate, it is either some kind of Bigfoot or the footprint of a madman.
You decide.
And if you know what the smaller, clawed mammal prints are going the other way, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I officially declare that spring is here. The Coltsfoot is in bloom outside our office, bumblebees are flying out and about, the birds are breeding like rabbits and best of all and the defining moment for me: our big pond at home has its first frogspawn of the year, loads of it!

Happy spring, everyone.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Colombia Day 4, Manizales and beyond Part 1

Our first full day out of Manizales saw us deflected from our Rio Blanco destination by a mudlside. So we spent the morning at altitude, the Paramo of the Los Nevados National Park. This was perhaps my favourite part of the whole trip and I would have loved to have spent more time there. Part of the reason was the presence of the fantastic Bearded Helmetcrest, one of the world's truly great hummingbirds...

Golden-olive Woodpecker

Blue-and-white Swallow

Southern Lapwing

Many-striped Canastero

Paramo vegetation, Los Nevados

Steve Bird celebrates. Why? Here's why...

Bearded Helmetcrest: what a hummer!

Colombia Day 3, Manizales area

Having arrived at our rather tasty thermal bath hotel, we were treated top a night visit to the local sewage works. Lovely... Why? Lyre-tailed Nightjar: a male inside the plant and a female with a chick in a hollw outside. Superb.