Friday 15 January 2010

Bill Bailey’s Big Bag of ********

I probably should have known better than to expect too much from a programme about birds made by Sky, but the first two instalments of Bill Bailey’s Big Birdwatching Bonanza (Thursdays, 9pm, Sky1) have been disappointing.

As with anything I’ve ever seen him in, Bill is funny, and enthusiastic, but the show’s biggest problem, from a birder's point of view, is that he doesn’t actually know very much about birds. I wasn’t keeping notes, so I can’t remember any specific examples, but I remember sitting there constantly correcting his bird factoids and, on several occasions, identifications.

Worst of all, one of last night celebrity ‘challenges’ was to digiscope some waders out on the mud at Snettisham. The winning team managed to photograph three species, which were named as: Ringed Plover, Redshank and Golden Plover. The first one was indeed a Ringed Plover, but the Redshank looked like a Dunlin (I think – they didn’t show it for very long) and the Golden Plover was definitely a breeding plumaged Grey Plover. The photos had been printed out, so these weren’t just snap identifications – there must have been plenty of time (probably days, knowing how TV programmes are made) for someone to have correctly identified them.

Other things which rankled include the running joke in the first programme about the contestants continually flushing big flocks of waders and geese on the Solway Firth (yeah, that’s fucking hilarious isn’t it); terrible grainy old stock footage of birds that looks like it was shot in the 1960s (obviously keeps the cost down) and the so-called ‘celebrities’ (most of whom I've never heard of), who seem to have absolutely no interest in or knowledge of birds.

In short it’s not very good, but I shall keep watching it, if only to find out exactly what they were doing flushing all those ducks at Rutland Water last September...

Friday 1 January 2010

What I did in my holidays

What with one thing and another (having several commissions to complete, going away for Christmas and having two fecking colds, not to mention snow, ice and general winter apathy) I haven't done much birding recently. I did string see a Merlin flying over the A6 on my way home from not seeing the Bittern at Swithland Res last week, but that's about it.

So it was nice to get out to Rutland Water today for the first time since the middle of December. After successfully negotiating Leicestershire's new skating rink (which used to be called the A47, but is obviously no longer considered important enough to be worth wasting grit on!) I arrived at Whitwell to find the Great Northern Diver reasonably close in, and the Red-throated Diver miles away in the middle.

The Egleton reserve was absolutely heaving with punters, but I gritted my teeth and headed for Lagoon 3, where I had distant views of one of the Bitterns at the back of the lagoon. A solitary male Ruddy Duck was out in South Arm III, looking nervous, and a nice Short-eared Owl perched on a post by Lagoon 1. I got some crap record shots of the latter, which I shan't bore you with, and some blurred Kingfisher shots which weren't even worth keeping. Oh yes, and I heard a Brambling behind the visitor centre. And in the North Arm were 12 Red-crested Pochards.

Updates here will probably be even more sporadic for the next three months, as I'm working full time in the Leicestershire Museum's Collections Resources Centre (which sounds impressive but is actually an anonymous-looking unit on an industrial estate in Barrow on Soar) from next Monday until the end of March, doing stuff with dead moths and butterflies. Happy New Year!

Edit: on second thoughts I think I will bore you with the Short-eared Owl photo after all, because it's actually not bad considering the distance and the light: