Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Moon... Mission 2

Digiscoped from our Peterborough garden, 28.9.04.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


More action from our garden in Peterborough (25.9.04). We do pretty well for Starlings and they were the first birds to take to peanuts. They had them to themselves for what seems like years, while the other birds concentrated on seeds put out. Now, though, other species, such as House Sparrows, Greenfinches and Blue Tits love peanuts, too, and Magpies and squirrels pick them from the ground and take them off presumably for storage.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Garden Bird Gallery... Part 1

I spent a big chunk of Saturday afternoon (25.9.04) practising my digiscoping on some birds in our Peterborough garden. Here is the first installment of what I came up with...

Collared Dove

Collared Dove

Blue Tit coming to the seed feeder


House Sparrow

The left hand House Sparrow was a wee bit aggressive at the feeder

House Sparrow (juvenile male)


A Greenfinch (looking rather pompous) shares the feeder with a Blue Tit

Male Greenfinch

Male Chaffinch

Grass Snake

Monday, 27.9.04, it was lunchtime and Brian Stone (The Natural) was driving, I was the passenger. Our destination: the pits at Etton/Maxey. As we neared our parking place Brian slammed on the breaks and as I screamed he shouted "grab your camera!". I screamed like a wimp, not because with the whiplash, but because I thought the creature slithering slowly across the road was about to be a flattened garter snake.
But, thanks to the breaking power of the Fiat Tipo, the Grass Snake was still intact and we photographed it before it went off. Our mission was realy to save it from the next car, but it wasn't that fond of me, and opened its mouth in a rather threatening way (incidentally, its a sort of orangey yellow inside). Eventually (with a little encouragement) it made its way to the other side of the road (at some speed I may add)
If you look closely at the photo, there is clearly blood coming out of both nostrils and the eyes are bright red (I believe they are usually golden). So, I reckon the snake had had a bit of an accident prior to meeting us (and that is probably why it was going so slowly when we first saw it). That said, it moved pretty well when we were there and slithered off quite happily into the grass, so I don't think it had a terminal injury.

..and closer-up, for those who crave more detail.

Friday, September 24, 2004


It's a cliché, but the moon is one of the most wonderful things we can see, and looks great through a scope. Here is my first digiscoped effort (23.9.04).

House Spider

In our downstairs loo (22.9.04). Look away if squeamish, but it only had six legs, so it's not that scary...

Raptor action

More stuff from Eldernell, Cambs (23.9.04). Kestrels at least have the decency to stay still as they hover, but my camera doesn't really like to lock on them mid-air (check out Bogbumper's site for better photos of this bird).

Frustrated by my Kestrel images, I reset my camera's settings and took my anger out on a ridiculously distant Barn Owl, racing a bus...

Needless to say, my frustrations were not lessened (the Barn Owl won the race).


Here are a few shots of a Kingfisher taken at Eldernell, Cambs, yesterday (23.9.04) in the channel known as Morton's Leam.

Finally, the bird had some success catching a fish. After about two minutes of bashing, it swallowed the beast.

Tree Sparrow success

I spent a day at Eldernell, near Whittlesey, Cambs, yesterday (23.9.04), testing compact binoculars for Bird Watching magazine with the Bogbumper. The advantage of the locality is that we could genuinely test the bins watching real birds. The best of a busy day's watching came in the form of Tree Sparrows using the feeders near the car-park. The Peterborough Bird Club keeps the feeders wells supplied, and thanks to the likes of Steve Gann and other keen volunteers, the seed is refilled every other day, or so, as the masses of finches, tits and buntings mucnh there way through the grub.
Although Eldernell is a traditional local site for Tree Sparrows, they have become increasingly hard to find there over recent years. Steve G told me that he hadn't seen a single one at the feeders this year and had never had a juvenile, so he was delighted when we told him that we had at least two adults and a juvenile regularly coming throughout the day. Surely, this is evidence of local breeding success of a declining and still locally-scarce bird. Hurrah!

Juvenile Tree Sparrow at the bird-feeders at Eldernell car-park, 23.9.04.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Throat to throat action

Once more, I was lured down to Coney Meadows, the scrubby, 'wild' area at Ferry Meadows Country Park, Peterborough, on Sunday morning (20.9.04). Ostensibly to hunt for an elusive Tree Pipit, I ended up watching a Lesser Whitethroat happily feeding in a rose bush (seemingly on the hips or on insects on them), before a Whitethroat came along and bullied the poor fellow off. So, I never did get to photograph the Lesser's tail... And the Tree Pipit was nowhere to be seen or heard, either.

Lesser Whitethroat, Ferry Meadows, 20.9.04. Note the compact shape; dark bill; darker ear coverts; broken white eye-ring; grey iris; grey-brown plumage; dull brown/grey wings; and dark grey legs.

Whitethroat, same bush as above, Ferry Meadows, 20.9.04. Note longer-tailed elongate shape; pale-based bill; brown head; bold white eye-ring; warmer-brown plumage; 'rufous' wings with dark tertial centres; reddish iris; and buff-pink legs.

Dragon Quest

So, the search for the ultimate dragonfly eye photo continues. Here is a Common Darter head I snapped at the weekend at Dogsthorpe Star Pit, Cambs (19.9.04) [the head was at the time fully attached to the living insect, I hasten to add]. I like the way you can see the clearly-defined pseudo-pupils and the difference in size of the lenses of the compound eye over the different optical surfaces.
Surely, the quest must be coming to an end...


Yes, I know Dunlins are far from glam birds, but after a hard, windy slog around Prior's Fen, Cambs (18.9.04) and when the only bird worth looking at is a moulting juvenile, I'm sure you'll indulge my spate of photos...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

From the archives... No. 3

Once upon a time, a relatively-slim 'young' Weedon was in Japan, researching bryozoans at Hokkaido University, and birding in his spare time. They are very proud of their breeding Guillemots off the west coast of Hokkaido...

Pied Fly action

The hill above Santurtzi (the port of Bilbao) is a cracking place to look for migrants. During our brief stop there on Thursday morning (9.9.04), on the trip with the Company of Whales (check out, we stumbled on a big fall of Pied Flycatchers, with more than 100 on the hill. However, these photos were from a lesser invasion of the species (still with 30+ birds) a few days earlier (46.9.04). I don't remember ever seeing a Pied Fly bathing in a puddle before...

Migrant insects

Once more, out with the Bogbumper this lunchtime (16.9.04), to the juicy habitat of Serpentine brick pits (Hampton/Orton Malborne, Peterborough). It was a bit windy, with few prominent birds, the best things out there were migrant insects – a Clouded Yellow butterfly whizzing about and plenty of Migrant Hawker dragonflies. Here is one settled on a bramble.


Here's a taster of a few billion photos I took of a young Golden Plover which landed on the Pride of Bilbao when we were in the Channel off France (10.9.04). Once more, check out for more details of what we saw on the trip.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


The full story is too painful to tell, but it involves a monstrous grip of a local Sabine's Gull. I simply don't want to talk about it... sniff...
Ahem, second prize in the beauty contest went to a coupla Whinchats on Blackbush Drove, near Whittlesey, Cambs (11.9.04). The best place for chats seems to be a little pull-in down there, where there is a bit of a dung pile and some rough, rocky rubbish. Here, in my only pic, a Whinchat fights the howling hurricane blasting across the open fen...

Local shrike action

I've been away for a week or so, once more guiding for the Company of Whales on the Pride of Bilbao (Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry). We saw plenty of whlaes and dolphins and superb numbers of landbirds on deck. For more on this see:

I will be posting more from the trip later...

However, the night before I left, I got a call from Kevin Du Rose that he had found yet another good bird locally – the first Red-backed Shrike any local birders can remember (apart from a cruelly suppressed one during the FMD year of 2001).

So, before the sun rose I was at Prior's Fen, Cambs, refinding the juvenile shrike in the same bush. Soon, I was joined in a huge twitch of four other birders (Dan Williams, Katie the Bog, Brian the Natural and Steve Gann). Three of us got down to some competitive digiscoping, and this is the best I can muster. You can guess where alternative, but similar photos are on display...

Below: Juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Prior's Fen, Cambs, 4.9.04

Friday, September 03, 2004

A frog in the hand

The Natural Brian took Katie the Bog' and I out to Maxey pits to check for waders, this lunchtime (3.9.04). We had the usual bag of four Green Sandpipers and four Common Sandpipers and a couple of Turtle Doves. Plus this frog (found by the 'Bumper) which just happened to jump into the loving embrace of my Doolittle-like hands, pose for a bit, then gently return to its damp, grassy home...