Friday, August 31, 2007

Three batty true stories


When I was a postgraduate at Bristol, we had a Geology 'staff' cricket team which would play most weeks on the plastic pitch at the university's sportsground. I was batting in one match and the ball sat up nicely for a pull or hook. But I mistimed it and the ball flew off my top edge right into the middle of my forehead, temporarily stunning me. The batsman at the other end (Martin Palmer as I recall) had the audacity to bully me up from my collapsed position to stagger for a single and the further cheek to get me back for a second!! My head swelled up nicely but symmetrically and throbbed for a long while. Cricket balls are hard.


When I was 15, I went in the summer to the Dordogne to stay with Uncle Peter, Auntie Solange and my cousins at Solange's mother's house. I shared a room with my 17-year-old cousin David and one morning we found a small bat roosting in the shutters of our room's French windows. David wanted a closer look, so he gently picked up the sleeping bat and took it into the room and hung it on a lampshade. After a couple of minutes the bat woke up and started flying around the room.

Now, I always thought that bats had wonderful navigation systems based on foolproof sonar. This bat clearly hadn't read that book, and flew straight into the nearest wall. It crashed to the ground, but managed to take off. We tried to shoo it toward the open windows, but instead it just flew around the room crashing into walls with alarming regularity. It once more fell to the floor, but we lost where it was.

We searched around a bit, then I saw it flying just above the floor. David stepped back and, by horrible timing, the bat flew right under his heel as he trod on the ground. There was an extremely unpleasant squidging sound as the bat was flattened by his weight.

Almost immediately there was a deafening explosive 'kaboom!!' It was a nearby jet's supersonic boom, but it really felt like God's condemning wrath.


With my family away, I faffed around at work this evening, leaving at 8 o'clock, when it was getting distinctly dark. I took my usual cycle route home, though, despite my lack of lights. I apologised to a family (with head torches) walking through Lynch Wood as I passed them and cycled through dense swarms of insects. One or two large bats could be seen flitting, through gaps in the trees.

I picked up pace after I passed the family and was travelling at speed along the clear path when I saw what appeared in the half light to be a big bat flying at head height straight towards me. Before I could do anything, it flew straight into me, whacking me blunt head-on, smack between the eyes!

I can still feel the bruising and slight swelling as I write this - it was not unlike being whacked by a cricket ball.

Biscay trip 27-30.8.07

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Santurtzi, Spain (digiscope)

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Santurtzi, Spain (digiscope)

Common Dolphins (DSLR)

Reed Warbler on the Monkey Island of the Pride of Bilbao (DSLR)

Two adult Sabine's Gulls (DSLR)

Two Great Skuas (DSLR)

Gannet (DSLR)

Fin Whale blow in the sunset. You can tell how windy it was by the stupid angle of this blow, almost looking like the bushy low blow of a Sperm Whale to the unwary (DSLR)

I'm just back from guiding a Company of Whales trip with Micky Maher on the Pride of Bilbao. It was a wee bit choppy from start to finish so our sightings were somewhat limited. However, the dull weather brought some cool migrants to the hill in the port at Santurtzi. Despite the weather, a good time was had by all I hope. Here is what we saw:

9 Fin Whales (15 unidentified large rorquals),
1 Minke Whale,
6 Bottle-nosed Dolphins,
139 Common Dolphins,
7 Striped Dolphins,
2 Ocean Sunfish,
11 Sabine's Gulls,
4 Sooty Shearwaters,
1 Manx Shearwater,
37 Great Skuas,
2 Arctic Skuas,
21 Storm Petrels.
Migrants recorded on or from the ship included
50 Shoveler,
5 Grey Herons,
3 Ringed Plovers,
1 Reed Warbler,
1 Willow Warbler,
1 Chiffchaff,
1 White Wagtail
3 Red Admirals.

In Spain we had
Woodchat Shrike,
14 Red-backed Shrikes,
2 Hoopoes,
3 Wrynecks,
3 Cirl Buntings,
5 Serins,
Black Redstart,
Melodious Warbler,
Tree Pipit,
Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher.

Click the pix!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Greenish Warbler, Walsey Hills NOA, 26.8.07 (DSLR)


Red-backed Shrike, Holme NWT, 26.8.07 (digiscope)

Friday, August 24, 2007


This Southern Hawker emerged from our pond yesterday. It still haddn't spread its wings yet and was just hanging resting on a Water Dock plant. Later I found the exuvia which had fallen into the water. I guess this came with the plants from from either Tom's or Kev's garden. Unfortunately I needed to use flash to photograph the insect (A640)

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I noticed it for the first time a few weeks ago. I was watching the gogglebox and there was strange high-pitched scraping, crackling sound coming from the top right corner of my hearing. It had been hot and I just assumed a bee or hoverfly was in the conservatory, banging its wings against the lightshade or the window. But it continued, so I went for an explore.

I searched all over the consrvatory, but there was no sign of the source of the crackle – but surely one of my pitcher plants, sundews or venus flytraps would get it, whatever it was...

But the crackling didn't stop, it was always there, like bristling electricity or a battery of fairies typing their memoirs. Crackle crackle, non-stop invisible crackle from somewhere near the glass roof of the conservatory.

Now I have found what the source of the sound is, I feel strangely at peace, though the crackling is a constant companion to any TV watching, only dying down in the dead of night.

Just beneath our bedroom window, and just above the conservatory, deep within the brickwork broods the bristling, bustling, thriving nest of a million wasps.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The power of digiscoping

I have cropped the head of the Cattle Egret featured below under the More from Mallorca... entry. If you click on the image you will see it at actual size. Not bad detail is it?
The image was (handheld) digiscoped with my new digiscoping camera of choice, the Canon PowerShot A640 through my Kowa 623 and 32x eyepiece. I reckon the 10Mpixels allow the preservation of loads of extra detail on cropped images, compared with the my previous favourite the 5Mpixel PowerShot A95.

Mallorcan scenics

Hoopy-anteater gallery

Another Aud or three

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Still fluffy juvenile Little Ringed Plover, S'Albufera, Mallorca (digiscope)

More from Mallorca...

Cattle Egret, S'Albufera (digiscope)

Audouin's Gull, near Alcúdia (DSLR)

Eleonora's Falcon, Mortitx (DSLR)

Sardinian Warbler, Cap de Formentor (digiscope)

Zitting Cisticola, S'Albufera (DSLR)

Night Heron adult, S'Albufera (digiscope)

Night Heron juvenile, S'Albufera (digiscope)

Black-winged Stilt, S'Albufera (DSLR)

Don't be shy, click on the pix!