Saturday, March 31, 2007

Whitefront again

At Deeping Lakes LWT, 31.2.07 (digiscope)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Godwit count

Inspired by my friend Graham Catley's big counting technique, I coloured in a pic of a bunch of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits chased into the air by a Peregrine on the Nene Washes this afternoon (30.3.07). This was one of two flocks doing the rounds. And I was quite pleased by my estimate of 1,000 birds. As you can see by the clusters of 50, there are 900 birds in this photo. (DSLR)

Crowssbill in the crowssfire

As I lazily lounge in bed in the morning waiting for the moment when I feel I have enough energy to reach four feet for the tea which is sitting on the windowsill, I like to stare out of the window at the bird activity in the air and on the rooftops near our house. There is a particular aerial which attracts birds all the time: Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Starling, Greenfinch, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Blackbird and House Sparrow are so far on its official tick list.
A pair of Carrion Crows have been doing a lot of calling displaying and general territorialising. If I can summon the energy to lift my bins, I sometimes use them to watch these birds. And I noticed a couple of weeks back that one of the crow pair has overlapping tips to the bill, like a giant elongate crossbill. Naturally, this crow is called Crowssbill, and I'm hoping a. it survives, b. its bill can correct itself (I'm not sure if this ever happens (?) c. it and its partner are successful breeders.
However, today, while Crowssbill was dominating the aerial, a new pair of Carrion Crows moved in and saw him (let's call him him) off.
There was a bit of circling around and a potential big battle is about to commence.
I'll keep you posted (and will try and get a shot of Crowssbill)...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

More creepy-crawlies

Bee Fly

Green Tiger Beetle (one day I'll get the shot I'm really after, with no blades of grass concealing the mouthparts)

Glow-worm larva pretending to be dead...
All with Nikon Coolpix 4500 (all clickable for larger versions)

It is fabulous, sunny, warm (out of the cool breeze) day (27.3.07) and Brian The Natural Stone and I were once more in the field hunting bugs, moths and reptiles. This time we were at Old Sulehay in the old quarry part. Brian found a few lizards and the Glow-worm and the tiger beetle and Peacock, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. I found one or two Bee Flies. And I must say, I have never seen so many Dog Violets in my life. Sensational.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tiger and violet

Green Tiger-beetle

Dog Violet
Easton Hornstocks, 26.3.07
All pics with Nikon Coolpix 4500 (still a great macro camera). All clickable for biggies.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A trip to Norfolk

Stonechat (male), Dersingham (digiscope)

Green-winged Teal (drake), Titchwell (digiscope)

Brent Geese (dark-bellied), Titchwell (DSLR)

Shelduck (drake), Titchwell (DSLR)

Blackbird (female), Titchwell (DSLR)

Robin, Titchwell (DSLR)
North Norfolk PBC trip, 25.3.07. Thanks very much for the lift, Ray.
All images are clickable for larger versions.

Other highlights included:
Black-eared Kite with Red Kite viewable from Dersingham,
Red-breasted Geese (two) at King's Lynn,
Black Redstart (female) at Choseley drying barns,
Little Gull, a couple (1st and 2nd winter) at Titchwell,
Barn Owl, at least three early in the day.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Notebook download 24.3.07am

Maxey (starting v foggy)
Green Sandpiper, 7,
Little Ringed Plover, 2,
Ringed Plover, 6,
Redshank, 5,
Dunlin, 2, winter plumage,
Shelduck, 8 (four pairs).

Baston & Langtoft ARC pit
Blackcap, 1, singing male,

Deeping Lakes

European White-fronted Goose and Pink-footed Goose (DSLR)

European White-fronted Goose, 1,
Pink-footed Goose, 1,
Both geese were with Greylags between the track at the entrance and the Welland bank, in field with sheep and beets.
Ringed Plover, pair, with one bird in flight display being picked on by a Black-headed Gull which thinks it's a skua.
Chiffchaff, 1 singing,
Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1, drumming
Treecreeper, 1, singing along Gully.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ghost caught on camera?

Barn Owl action

Barn Owl, 22.3.07 (DSLR)

Maxey, 22.3.06

15.3.07 6.50-7.25am Maxey pits 7-7.30am
Sleeting and v cold.
These are just the birds I counted:
Teal, 47 counted,
Ringed Plover, 5,
Little Ringed Plover, 2,
Green Sandpiper, 4,
Snipe, 1,
Redshank, 3,
Chiffchaff, 2 singing
Green Woodpecker, 1 calling.

The other highlight was performing an uncontrolled 180° skid at the roundabout south of the Maxey Cut. Not pleasant, but at least the car behind was aware and used her brakes in time.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Great Crested Grebe, Overton Lake, Ferry Meadows, 18.3.07 (digiscoped)

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Hey, get off those daffs – this isn't Bogbumper, you know!


At the feeding station, Bluebell Wood, Ferry Meadows, Peterborough, 19.3.07 (DSLR).


Robins, Bluebell Wood, Ferry Meadows, Peterborough (DSLR).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Plovers and shapes

Go on, you know you want to click it. Click it!

Tightly co-ordinated in alignment that defies physics, mathematics and philosophy, each Golden Plover lines itself up with the others, fooling the eye into believing they have a collective mind in perfect synchronisation, like a single dancing, flexing, leaping salmon.
My arse!

The Horror

I have a deep horror of ectoparasites, particularly arthropods, and let's face it particularly lice. I've never really seen one, but the very thought makes my skin crawl and tickly itching break out all over me. I spent N years studying invertebrates and loved them. But they were cuddly filter feeding innocents – not hideous, monstrous, blood-sucking things with legs and biting sucking mouthparts, indecent alien invaders, mini-vampires.
I've been bitten by one or two ticks, which was bad enough. And I remember clearly a night I spent in a recently reoccupied house when I awoke feeling slightly itchy and turned the light on to reveal eight engorged fleas spread over my body, draining my very lifeblood.
However, yesterday, I had my first encounter with nits, the capsules of head lice. Everyone around here says they had them as youngsters, but I come from a part of Surrey where they were probably wiped-out with Smallpox and their hideous name was never whispered.
We'd got a letter from the school saying that they were rife at the moment, and so bought and used the preventative shampoo.
But, there they were in poor Ed's hair. Tiny, almost invisible in fact, and perhaps only detectable because his hair is so fine and fair. Miniscule dark microscopic mouse droppings stuck near the base of a several hairs. Ed didn't mind a bit.
I nearly died of horror!
My scientific instincts kicked in though, and I had to get one under a microscope. You will agree from the photo that this is pure horror!

[Ed's nits are apparently gone now...]

The Grime

The Grime

I had to get out and wander on Wednesday lunchtime and the closest place to the office is the Grime, or Grimeshaw Wood, Bretton, Peterborough, if you insist. This patch of ancient woodland has been rudely subdivided and crossed with roads to make way for the modern housing estate that is Bretton, a curious place, where it seems that perhaps the majority of residents have no idea that they live on the very edge of the countryside. The north-south road that cuts through the various parts of the Grime also provides a geographical 'tracks' with dense housing, no pavements, and a certain number of chavs on the east, with giveaway coloured road signs. To the west are big houses, open lawns, silence bar birdsong and black writing on white road names.
Some of these houses back directly onto the part of the Grime I visit. Bounded on one side by the road on the other the fields of the Milton Estate, the leaves are still not out, but the ground is starting to green upwards, with Cuckoo Pints and Lesser Celandines, Ramsons and the first signs of Cow Parsley and the leaves of Bluebells-to-come everywhere.
Tits still dominate the birdsong, with Blue Tits getting a higher count than Great Tits (compared to last time I was here a week ago). The Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps aren't in yet.
Bird highlights were a Great Spotted Woodpecker male seemingly excavating, and the remudding of last year's Nuthatch nesthole, to the accompaniment of the partner's song.
Best of all, though, remained unseen. It was the mewing yelping of displaying Sparrowhawks. I took it that the deeper call was the female and the squeeky one the male. They were doubtless putting on a great display of dancing and diving up above the unaware heads of residents over on the east side of the tracks, but if they didn't see them, neither did I...

View west to the Milton estate.

Lesser Celandine

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Maxey 15.3.07

Golden Plovers

15.3.07 6.50-7.25am Maxey pits 6.45-7.40am
Another freezing sunny morning. The highlight was my first Little Ringed Plover of the year – my first summer migrant, locally. Good numbers of Golden Plover came in to bathe, a few passage Dunlin were present, and the Ringed Plover territories are going to be fiercely battled over, it seems, with at least 7 birds now present (they are hard to count here!).

Little Grebe, 2 pairs at least, plus another winter looking bird
Mute Swan, 2, pair),
Tufted Duck, c20, predominantly drakes together, plus scattered pairs and birds
Gadwall, 5,
Wigeon, 2
Mallard, c20
Shelduck, 8,
Teal, 57 counted,
Ringed Plover, 7,at least, including one winter looking bird,. Very territorial, with lots of singing and display flights.
Little Ringed Plover, my first of the year, flew off towards western pits at 7am,
Golden Plover, 713
Green Sandpiper, 1,
Snipe, 1,
Dunlin, 3, winter birds
Lapwing, a couple more birds scraping nests, and a vicious fight broke out between two birds.

[ps I'll post one or pics once Blogger lets me again...]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lunchtime in the sun

Comma. Note how the underwing's white comma mark is so bright that it even reflects onto the shadow on the left of the insect...

Brian The Natural Stone and I took a trip out to the airforce base at Wittering this lunchtime (13.3.07). Actually we were next door at Easton Hornstocks, a wood I'd never visited before. Like Old Sulehay, it is a sandy, limey place that looks superb for insects. Brian was after Light Orange Underwing, I was along for the ride. It was fantastic to be out in the sun and I learnt how to identify Aspen, I think (the host of the moth). We found a glade with a few of these trees in plus a bunch of poplars that were beautifully riddled with the exit holes of Hornet Clearwing Moths – something for June, methinks.
And when we looked up, there was one of the moths! Only it wasn't; it was a Comma butterfly, the first of about six we saw, plus three Brimstones.

Green Tiger Beetle (by Jasmine Weedon), just to illustrate these superb insects (see below)

But the charm of such outings is not necessarily seeing the target, but all the rest, which amounted to the butterflies, two scarpering Muntjacs, the brightest Red Fox I've ever seen, three Common Lizards, a few Green Tiger Beetles, one or two hoverflies and solitary bees, and the combined sounds of several Coal Tits, Goldcrests and the paradoxically pleasing scold of a Jay. Aha, a taste of spring to come.

Brian gets down and dirty for a shot of the Comma. (Note essential tripod!)

Spring to the Max

Maxey pits (between Etton and Maxey, north of Peterborough) are looking juicy. After last spring's landscaping, scraping, flooding and tree planting, I feared for the site (which has been a good Little Ringed Plover breeding area for the last few years). By the autumn, it was pulling in Pectoral Sandpipers, by Christmas it had attracted at least nine 'elite'* wader species during the year (Turnstone, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Knot, Sanderling, Pectoral Sandpiper and Grey Plover plus a possible American Golden Plover).
This spring it has matured nicely and is surely going to attract some goodies. Luckily, the sapling trees in their tubes are going to grow very slowly and certainly won't be impeding viewing from the excellent hardstand on the Etton road. At the mo, it is probably the most easily visible good passage wader habitat in the Peterborough area. And I love waders, and it is less than 15 minutes from home.
So, I intend to visit the site on at least three mornings during the week to see how spirng develops, and report the changes here when I get back each morning, before work. The only trouble with morning visits here, is that some stuff definitely comes in during the day (last autumn a couple of Spotted Redshanks spent the day here but roosted miles away, perhaps near the Nene Washes; so they wouldn't come back until the morning was getting on a bit).
This morning (on a frosty, clear and lovely day) the site was dominated by the bubbling repetitious song of a Ringed Plover, one of at least two pairs which are seemingly intending to breed. The Lapwings are also showing signs of breeding, with nest scraping going on in the gravel. I counted 85 Teal here at the weekend, and nearly all of them are notably paired. Also paired are at least four pairs of Shelduck. Last year a pair raised eight ducklings.

13.3.07 6.50-7.25am Maxey pits
Little Grebe, 2 at least, (whinnying and presumably settling to breed),
Mute Swan, 3, (two adults and a last year's bird),
Tufted Duck, c20, predominantly drakes together, plus scattered pairs and birds
Gadwall, 2, (1 pair)
Shelduck, 8, (4 pairs)
Ringed Plover, 4, (2 pairs, one bird singing repeatedly while perched on a cobble)
Green Sandpiper, 1, flew in just as I was leaving,
Lapwing, c20 present, with one or two looking to scrape out 'nests' in the gravel,
Teal, 65, mostly paired (others hidden),
Green Woodpecker, one calling in distance,
Sky Lark, a few pairs are establishing territories in the rough ground, including one singing very close ot hardstand,
White Wagtail, 1, (one was recorded at Baston & Langtoft pits New Workings on 12.3.06),
Pied Wagtail, 3,
Meadow Pipit, a few calling overhead,
Yellowhammer, a few calling from the hedge along the road.

*'elite' is a word I use to describe birds in the Peterborough area (the PBC recording area) which are not readily seen by the average birder without a bit of luck, extra effort a bit of twitching or extra skill. The rest, some 135 species are the 'core'.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Treaclereaper and Bearded Tit?

I didn't get many shots this weekend. I got this almost passable Treeclepeeper – I'll get one properly one day... And this seemingly hirsute Long-tailed Tit was one of several I saw on Sunday (11.3.07) at Bedford Purlieus (a superb ancient wood) gathering feathers for their brilliant ball-like feather and lichen nests.