Thursday, May 31, 2007

Black Terns

Quick dip to pick...

...the next shot.

Leon found two Black Terns at Maxey pits this morning (as well as two Sanderlings). I had a go at photographing them (DSLR), but I'm still struggling with the autofocus, as it is too good (!) and always likes to pick up any background, rather than the bird!
Here ae my best efforts, before the two terns flew off at 9.15am.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Part of a flock of 12 Little Egrets on the High Wash (North Bank), on 25.5.07 (digiscope)
Also there were:
Turnstone, 1,
Dunlin, 4,
Tundrae Ringed Plover, 5,
Reeve, 1,
Greenshank, 1,

Friday, May 25, 2007

Max waders

Sanderling, Maxey pits, 22.5.07

I've been visiting Maxey pits on Etton Road very regularly this spring. It is the closest thing I have to my own patch, though one I share with a few other regulars. I love waders, and it was obvious after last autumn's performance, continuing into mid-winter, that this spring was going to come up with some goodies.
After a slow start, during which breeding plovers arrived plus a few Green Sandpipers and Redshanks and Dunlin, plus a few thousand Golden Plovers and Lapwings, things started to show promise with the arrival of a pair of Avocets looked like thgey wanted to stay and breed. They didn't even last into a second day.
It was not long after, though that the massive Bar-tailed Godwit surge occurred, after which the floodgates have opened and as of mid-May, haven't quite stopped.
This spring the pits have had (counts as a minimum) the following 25 species of waders:

Turnstone, 5, (inc 3 together),
Avocet, 4 (2 pairs),
Oystercatcher, up to a few at a time,
Grey Plover, 1, (arrived same day as Knot, in winter plumage),
Little Ringed Plover,
Ringed Plover,
Ringed Plover of race tundrae, max flock of 20,
Golden Plover, max flock of 2,000 with the last single on 12.5.07,
Lapwing, several pairs with chicks,
Ruff, flock of 8 (1 male),
Knot, 1 (summer plumage),
Sanderling, 6 (inc 3 together),
Dunlin, max flock of 41,
Curlew Sandpiper, 1,
Common Sandpiper, max count of 3,
Green Sandpiper, max count of ?9,
Wood Sandpiper, 1,
Greenshank, up to 2 at a time,
Redshank, max count of ?8
Spotted Redshank, 1, (seen by Bob Titman et al).
Bar-tailed Godwit, 50+, (inc flocks of 22 and 26),
Black-tailed Godwit, 1,
Whimbrel, 1,
Curlew 1, (seen by Mark Hawkes et al),
Snipe, max count of ?7,
Jack Snipe, max count of 3.

Roll on the next big one...

Owling and Quailing

I wrote this for the Bird Watching blog, but what's wrong with it appearing here, too...

As your copy of the latest Bird Watching magazine flops through the letterbox, and you eagerly rip it open, you will notice that I have written a feature on birds at night. If your copy hasn't arrived yet, it will, and if you don't subscribe then you should by going here and follow the links. Or you could just buy it in the shops from May 30 (WH Smith is recommended).
In the feature, I discuss the activities of birds during the hours of darkness and add a few tips. Last night (May 22, 2007), I tried a bit of night-birding myself. I had a pass from my wife to stay out late and my aim was to find a Quail. I didn't want to see one (which is near impossible) but to hear one singing.
I left home in the evening and headed down to my favourite Peterborian wader hotspot, Maxey pits. A rather runty, new-in Sanderling was the best bird on offer, but the night was still, superb and warm with a lovely atmosphere building and the air becoming jammed with millions of tiny mayflies.
At about 9.15pm, I left the site and headed slightly north for the fields around Baston and Langtoft pits (south Lincolnshire) and the road to Baston Fen. There are plenty of fields with crops and grass across these flat former fenlands. So, my tactic was to drive along a bit, find a field with a crop, then stop with the windows open, turn the engine off then listen for a minute or two before moving on another 400m or so.
The first few stops produced nothing. But as I turned toward Baston Fen, a lump on a wire angled down from a telegraph pole beside the road was unmistakable. It was a Tawny Owl, less than 10m from me. With the engine off, I quietly raised my bins and gloried in the beauty of this magnificent bird. It was staring down at a ditch, but I rudely made a tiny sqeak and it instantly rotated its head to stare right at me.
After several minutes during which it seemed to be completely unbothered by my presence, the owl flew across to my side of the road and perched on the wires above my car.
I drove on and 700m further down parked again. Surely that was the sound of a distant Quail? I got out of the car and strained to hear into the distance. No further sound, apart from Red-legged Partridges, but there was another Tawny Owl, perched as the previous bird out on a telelgraph wire over the road.

Red-legged Partridge by Mike Weedon

Another 100m on I parked and listened again, and there it was, the unmistakable 'wet-my-lips' of a Quail. Superb: my target bird achieved with minimal effort, plus brilliant Tawny Owl views thrown in.
Quails (I prefer the 's' plural) are out there somewhere. But generally you have to be out and about at odd owling hours to hear them for yourself. Go for it.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Little Gull

Look, I'm a stick!

Note a hint of pink flush in this shot.
Adult Little Gull, Baston & Langtoft pits, Lincolnshire, 20.5.07 (DSLR)
Click each for a larger pic.


Turtle Dove, Maxey pits, 20.5.07 (digiscope)

Wasp Beetle

Wasp Beetle, our garden pond, Peterborough, 18.5.07 (DSLR)

Thursday, May 17, 2007


...a curious confusion of gluten and arse.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

PBC Wilson's Coot-foot

Wilson's Phalarope (plus Greenshank), High Wash, Whittlesey, Cambs, 10.5.07 (digiscope).

Whenever a juicy rarity is hanging around in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire or further south in Cambridgeshire, but outside the PBC area, we always will it here! For once, the wishful thinking has come true. The amazing Wilson's Phalarope in glorious female splendour was not seen today at Grafham Water after a week or so at the site. But Jonathan Taylor of RSPB Nene Washes fame was there to see it fly in this afternoon (10.5.07) to the small, juicy pool on the High Wash (North Bank) halfway along to the Dog in a Doublet.
I was on the scene as soon as I could get there, but beaten by Brian Stone and Bob Davies (who almost had this bird on his garden list!). It was rainy and miserable, but once Brian climbed on the roof of his car (like a yobbo), and located the blighter, then the weather was put behind us. This is a brilliant little bird, and I will be returning to see it again if it hangs around.
I wonder if it will be drawn to my current fave site, Maxey, by other waders passing through. The presence of a Turnstone and the arrival of 14 Dunlin on the pool while Will Bowell was watching the 'rope, while the Maxey Turnstone of earlier today had gone this evening as had 14 of the 16 DUnlin earlier, may suggest at least a one way connection. Then there were last autumn's commuting Spotted Redshanks which roosted in the direction of the Washes, but returned each day to Maxey... Hmmmm...

Anyhow, Wilson's Phalarope is my 218th PBC species.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wood Ruff

Eight Ruff and 3 Dunlin, Maxy pits, Cambs, 3.5.07 (digiscope)

Wood Sandpiper, Maxey pits, Cambs, 7.5.07 (digiscope)

I've grilled my 'local patch' at least twice a day the last week or so. It is really just one pit with wonderful wader habitat. The last ten days have seen more than 50 Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Ruff (or 7 Reeves, 1 Ruff), at least 3 Greenshank, at least two Common Sandpiper, about 10 Dunlin (assuming once they go they're replaced by new ones), a minimum of four Golden Plovers (in the nearby field). And since yesterday, a splendid breeding-plumaged Wood Sandpiper. [Also a couple of weeks ago there were a couple of Avocets, and a Spotted Redshank was reported from there yesterday).

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, 4.5.07 (digiscope)
Not a bird I was expecting to see this week, this magnificent Wilson's Phalarope was my first in the UK. I'm glad I waited until an adult (and judging by its brightnss probably a superior female) turned up before I twitched one. This was also my first ever visit to the excellent Grafham Wter despite it being so close to Peterborough. It wasn't an easy bird to photograph (mainly through heat haze), but is was close enough for excellent views. The photos don't do justice to the subtle Red-backed Shrike blue-grey of the head and the salmon-peach of the breast, or the transition from black eye tripes to red-brown shoulder straps. Gorgeous.
It was using three main feeding strategies. Firstly, it was closing its eyes and swinging its head a few times quickly underwater, rather like an Avocet or a supersonic Shoveler. Secondly, it would occasionally do rapid spins on the spot like a Red-necked Phalarope. The third strategy was to follow the Shelducks, Gadwalls and Mallards and see what they stirred up, while picking repeatedly from the surface.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Swifts, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough, 2.5.07 (DSLR).

Another ouzel

Ring Ouzel, Stilton (on private Stilton Oaks Golf Course), 3.5.07 (digiscope). Thanks very much, Janet, for inviting us in to see this superb bird.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Triple drag

Four-spotted Chaser (DSLR)

Female Hairy Dragonfly (DSLR) click it to see quite how hairy!

Male Hairy Dragonfly (digiscope)
Here are three dragonflies from Serpentine Brick Pit, this glorious May 1, 2007.