Thursday 27 May 2010

More media nonsense

From last Saturday's Grauniad - a bit late but I've only just got round to scanning it in:

The article didn't say how they were going to persuade Bar-headed Geese to winter in Scotland rather than India so that farmers could be paid to tolerate them.

Sunday 23 May 2010

On the bog

An excellent afternoon at the Natural England/British Dragonfly Society event at Chartley Moss NNR in Staffordshire. This superb reserve, one of the few examples of a floating peat bog in the UK, is rarely open to the public, so we were very fortunate that our visit coincided with a hot sunny day, ideal for watching dragonflies.

The main object of the day was to see White-faced Darter, which was a new species for me, and we saw about ten in total, mostly over the pools. I totally failed to get close enough to any of these to photograph them, having a) opted to take only my 105mm macro lens rather than the big zoom, and b) very generously lent John my wellies after he forgot to bring his, which meant that I had the choice of either staying away from the edge of the water on the slightly drier bits, or getting wet feet!

John wearing my wellies

Skev (wearing his own wellies) slowly sinks into the bog

Some people looking at dragonflies

However, after a lot of searching I finally found this approachable teneral (newly emerged) darter perched on some heather away from the pool, and was then very glad that I had brought the macro lens:

All in all a very enjoyable day; thanks to John, Mark and Jim for their company, and to John for booking the places on the event. And of course the weather gods for giving us perfect weather for a change!

Tuesday 18 May 2010


The flying pig had departed before I arrived at Rutland Water at about 06:45 this morning, but luckily the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was still present on Lagoon 4. No photos as usual, as it was too far away. But very nice all the same. Thanks for another good find Matthew!

Monday 17 May 2010

****, ****, ****, ****** & ********!

Just as I'm finishing my tea this evening my phone rings. I look at the screen - it's Matthew. Shit (sorry Matthew!) - that can only mean there's a good bird at Rutland Water. Let's hope it's something I don't need as I've got to go to a meeting about the LROS interpretative boards in about 15 minutes.

I answer it. "Do you want a first for the County?" says Matthew. No, no, no, no! I get at most two county ticks a year these days; I don't need one to turn up at 7pm on a night when I've got to go to a fucking meeting. "What is it?" "Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Lagoon 4!" Bollocks, bollocks and more bollocks.

Now, if it had been 'just' some sort of committee meeting I'd have been off to Rutland Water like a shot. But as I'm being paid to do these boards I feel it would be unprofessional not to go, especially as this particular meeting has already been postponed twice. So I put the news out on Twitter, turn my phone off and go to the meeting.

Oh well, perhaps it will still be there tomorrow. And there might be a flying pig perched on the Osprey nesting platform as well. Although as Richard Bayldon has just pointed out to me, the last two Cambs birds stayed for a few days, so you never know. The difficult decision now is whether to get out there early tomorrow or wait for news..... (I must stop ending all my blog posts with ..... - it's very lazy!)

Sunday 16 May 2010

National No-moth Night

Last night was National Moth Night. For anyone not familiar with the arcane world of moths and mothing, this is an annual event which is supposed to provide a 'snapshot' of the moths occurring throughout the country on whatever date is set (it changes from year to year). It goes without saying that whichever night is chosen, the weather will inevitably be poor, and last night was no exception, being clear and cold. Any sensible moths will have been down the pub, or tucked up in bed with a good book, depending on their age.

I had the good sense not to go out mothing anywhere, but I did at least run my two garden traps (one 80W mercury vapour and one 11W actinic for anyone who cares about such things). I wasn't expecting much, and had it not been NMN I probably wouldn't have bothered at all, but I certainly wasn't expecting a zero catch, which is what greeted me this morning when I went to inspect the traps. I don't recall ever catching nothing on a night in May, which just shows how poor this spring has been so far for insects.

Hope it warms up a bit for next Saturday's White-faced Darter trip to Chartley Moss....

Friday 14 May 2010

The T word

Spurred on mainly by the Drunkbirder’s gripping photos and account of the Oriental Pratincole showing down to a few millimetres earlier in the week, I took the momentous decision this morning to end my nine year twitching celibacy, and headed for Frampton Marsh. I’m not quite sure why – some sort of lame mid-life crisis perhaps. Or maybe I just fancied a day out somewhere different but not too far away, with a high probability of seeing a very rare bird. And I like pratincoles, despite the fact that they don’t seem to like me.

On arriving at the reserve I began to wonder whether this had been such a good idea after all – the car park was completely full, and I had to park on the verge outside the visitor centre. And this for a bird which had already been present for a week! Or maybe all RSPB reserves are like that these days – Titchwell certainly is. But at least (being the tight part-Scottish bastard that I am) I didn’t have to pay to park or buy a permit. And the bird was apparently still present, which was a relief given my long history of dipping on pratincoles.

As I entered the hide my doubts increased further – it was standing room only, and mostly dudes who didn’t have a clue what they were looking at (but again, this is more likely just the norm at RSPB reserves rather than an indictment of 21st century twitching). Eventually I managed to work my way to the front of the hide and quickly got onto the pratincole, which was flying around over the meadow at the back of the scrape. And that’s where it stayed, never coming anywhere near close enough to get even a record shot. But the scope views were perfectly adequate.

Also on view from the hide were a couple of summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers and two 1st-summer Little Gulls, and a drake Garganey from the Reedbed hide. John had assured me that I couldn’t fail to get good views of the ‘quite tame’ Corn Buntings here as well, which sounded promising as I haven’t seen one for about ten years. However, I only saw two, one in flight and one perched on a bush about half a mile away.

But what a superb reserve Frampton Marsh is. Definitely worth a visit again when there are fewer people around. This panorama shows about a third of the reserve, and was taken from the sea wall behind the East hide (6 shots with the Sigma 150-500 on 150mm, ‘photomerged’ in Photoshop). The pratincole was somewhere to the left of this view (click for larger image):

I had further, slightly closer scope views of the bird from this bank, before heading back to the car for some lunch, accompanied by a ‘grandstand’ view of the visitor centre’s septic tank being emptied. That bloke's just taking the piss, I thought....