Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Little Gull

End of March PBC year list update

Last week in March, 2008, I was on 125 (inc 17 'elites'). Year total: 189 (my record total)
Last week in March, 2009, I was on 131 (inc 22 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2010, I was on 126 (inc 15 'elites'). Year total: 177
Last week in March, 2011, I am on 130 (inc 18 'elites'). Year total: ?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2nd-summer Little Gull

This is my second Little Gull 'find' in the last week, both at Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough. After a party of three very early adults on Gunwade Lake last Friday, it was another surprise to find this well-hooded second-summer bird today (Wednesday) on the same lake. Its age is betrayed by the thin black streaks near the tips of the primaries (absent in full adults).
When I found the bird the weather was deeply cloudy and miserable, but I ventured (by bike, of course) round to the far side of the lake to photograph the gull none the same. Luckily, after an hour or so the cloud miraculously cleared allowing better chances to snap the little beauty, surely one of our most attractive gulls.


Anyone remember Twyford Down? It was an SSSI chalkland site partially destroyed to make a cut for the M3 so more cars could come back and forth from Southampton. Part of the Tories' hideous massive spending spree on roads, the site was marked as you drove down there with a the word Earthrape writ large.
When I lived in north-east London, near to Redbridge tube station on the Central Line, in the early 1990s, my local patch was Wanstead Park. The area was a mix of parkland and old ornamental watery woods gone to ruin and so great for woodpeckers, especially Lesser Spotted. Tucked away in one secret corner away from the regular dog-walker and kite-flying routes was an old disused sewage farm. This scruffy mix of concrete relics, mess and scrub was easily the best place to look for birds in the WP area. I found a few migrant Redstarts, Tree Pipit, all sorts of stuff around that delicious bit of brown field 'wasteland'.
Then one day, the bulldozers came in and tidied the place up. I arrived one morning to do my usual roudn of the old sewage farm to find the place screwed. In their wisdom, part of Wanstead Park had been subsumed by Epping Forest and part of the wonderful exchange project was the horrendous homogenisation of sewage farm to make it look like the rest of the park, suitable for picnickers and mothers with pushchairs. Or in shorthand: shit for birds.
I was a member of the local Wren Conservation Group (nowt to do with Wrens, but a Wanstead thing) and at one of their meetings brought up the appalling destruction of the best habitat in Wanstead park. The rest of the Group looked at me like I was a mad man!

My office in Peterborough is part of something called Lynchwood Business Park, named after Lynch Wood which runs along the River Nene out the back of the offices. It is just glass and concrete office block with a pond, a big car park, surrounded by trees and with a liberal smattering of bushes and hedges. Sparrowhawks nest in the trees by the pond, Green Woodpeckers feed out on the grass and all the usual woodland birds nest in and around, in the woods, bushes, trees and hedges.

For the last couple of months, one of the (few) joys of coming to work has come from the building of bird song as Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, Wrens sang their hearts out
out to proclaim territories.
A couple of weeks back, I watched at arms length as a weird little display of Wryneck-style head and neck distortions went on between and male and female Blackbird, oblivious to my presence. Their nest site was clearly in the dense bush growth next to the bike sheds where the Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks also favour. A day later, the landlords in their wisdom sent in the bulldozers and cutters, tattooed hired muscle to strip and denude. Two weeks on, all the bushes and trees and all the nesting birds near where those Blackbirds candidly displayed are gone. Wrens and Robins still sing in the area, but their nests are no more.

The willful destruction of this habitat was done apparently to provide a better view of Media House (our office block) from the street, apparently to make it more saleable.

Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended by Schedule 12 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 is concerned with the protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs. Subsection 1(1) creates the offences of Killing, injuring, or taking ANY wild bird; taking, damaging or destroying the nest of ANY such bird while in use or being built, or taking or destroying an egg of ANY such wild bird.

If any person intentionally

a. Kills, injures or takes any wild bird.

b. Takes, damages or destroys the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built; or

c. Takes or destroys an egg of any wild bird,

That person shall be guilty of an offence.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the Archive... No. 19

I have been gathering together some of my favourite digiscoping photos for a slide show I am going to be doing in a couple of weeks on a Bird Watching reader break. While searching through old photographs I found this one of a couple of Alpine Choughs at Fuente De, Picos De Europa, Spain. It isn't a digiscoped shot though, but taken just with an Nikon Coolpix 880 as the birds came to feed on bread. Ah, nostalgia...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rock Pipit at Ferry Meadows CP

This little beauty was found this morning by Brian Stone on the rocky NW shore of Gunwade Lake. Luckily, by the time I arrived on my bike it had flown over to the Watersports carpark jetty on the opposite shore and up for a bit of photographising in the morning sun. I have only seen a few spring Rock Pipits int eh PBC area, so this was a very welcome year tick. Nice work, Brian.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wall-to-wall Frogs (and spawn)


Bitterncrescendo by Weedons World

Leek Moth, I think

I believe this moth, which I found last night (24.3.11) in my 40W actinic Skinner in Peterborough, to be a Leek Moth [473 Leek Moth Acrolepiopsis assectella
(Zeller, 1839)]. It may be a first for V32 (Northants and Peterborough), I am not certain, and I don't think it has been recorded in neighbouring Hunts. I await the word of the local recorder(s).
Please forgive the rotten photos.

News update: Dave Manning, the micro-moth recorder for Northants and P'boro (as well as Beds) has confirmed that the Leek Moth is a VC32 first.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More spring moths in our garden

Common Quaker

Hebrew Character

Acleris cristana, a reasonably scarce/local species, apparently

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frogs and toads get frisky

6orfrogsntoads0478 by Weedons World
Recored in our garden tonight. There are hundreds of frogs and toads by the dozen. The frogs are the ones doing the purring 'croaks' and the little 'cheeps' are the odd toad I recorded.

Spring stuff

Today's springy highlights:

My first Sand Martins of the year (6 passing thriough Maxey GP)

Lots of Coltsfoot in bloom at Maxey GP

My first Peacock butterfly at Ferry Meadows CP

Lesser Celandines in full bloom at Ferry Meadows CP

Spring moths in the garden included Shoulder-stripe and Hebrew Character, both of which are new for the garden

That said, I am slightly worried by a couple of Mallards flying around over the garden while I was dealing with the moth trap. Last year, I think there presence in the pond had something to do with the lack of tadpoles

Monday, March 21, 2011

Texas article in Bird Watching Magazine

Just click it and read it, folks. Enjoy.

Spring moths

Early Grey

Clouded Drabs

Agonopterix subpropinquella (I reckon)
It is officially spring, they say (though I adhere to the March-May = spring philosophy), and with it has come some mild weather. Last night, I was out owling (adding Long-eared Owl to the old local year list, now you ask), and on the drive back in the dark, I saw several moths in the headlights, so resolved to do some trapping. I have had a few false starts since last October, catching next to nothing. But, things must change.
This morning, there were seven moths of six species, as follows [* = new for garden]

*Common Quaker, 1
Clouded Drab, 2,
*Early Grey, 1,
*Agonopterix subpropinquella, 1,
Emmelina monodactyla, 1

Collared Doves nest in our garden

Collared Doves are sitting on eggs (or at least one egg) in a nest in a fig tree mingled with the rose hedge in our back garden. In the past a pair have attempted puttin gone or two sticks together in the loquat tree in our front garden, then given up, but this is the first actual nesting by Collared Doves in our garden.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Murmuration of Redwings

March is an odd month. Spring is kicking off, with dog violets in our garden, Blackthorn blossom starting to bust through, Robins are picking moss off our conservatory roof and the Blue Tits were fighting with Dunnocks outside our bedroom window this morning. And of course, the frogs are going hell for leather to produce as much spawn as possible.
Spring birding is just about picking up, but it is a time to grind out some hard-earned ticks for the year list, rather than picking up sexy migrants.
One little treat which I particularly enjoyed on my cycle in to work this morning was something we get reasonably regularly in these parts. The Redwings start to get a little spirit of spring fever and, before returning to the continent to breed, find it hard to resist practising a spot of singing.
They gather in flocks near the tops of trees and all start to ramble off in crazy mixed song at once, sounding more like Starlings than how thrushes ought to sound. I love it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First garden moth of the year

I recorded my first garden moth of the year today in my light trap, a noctuid rejoicing in the most uninspiring name of Clouded Drab...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sir Patrick Spens


A hoot!

Every now and then you see something you realise you have never seen before. Tonight, on my cycle home in the dusk, for the first time in my life, I saw a Tawny Owl hooting.

Year list surge

It has been a very slow start to the year, with respect to my local year-listing around Peterborough. The exceptions during January and February were three scarce species I kept bumping into: Mealy Redpoll (more than 60 at two sites), Pink-footed Goose (nearly 100 at two sites) and Waxwing (hundreds at various sites).

However, since the beginning of March, my list has taken a significant leap forward. I have, in the last week, added:

Mediterranean Gull, an adult,
Bittern (one twitched another heard booming),
Bearded Tit,
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker,
Water Pipit, and
Avocet, three twitched at Ferry Meadows CP

I have also added Bewick's Swan to our garden list (and BIGBY) and Mealy Redpoll to my BIGBY list, after finding a (very tame) pair near our house while playing with a rugby ball with Jas and Ed.

I will update further at the traditional time of the end of the month to see how this year's list compares with the last three years'.