Sunday 26 September 2010

Like it or lump it!

So the second big talking point of the autumn is another flycatcher. Ho hum. No doubt reams of crap will be written about the Empidonax currently residing on Blakeney Point, so here's my two penn'orth. Not that I shall be going to see it of course!

I've already heard several people say that they don't want to see it as it will never be identified. Although I have no interest in seeing it anyway, I have to say I don't understand this attitude at all. Most twitchers are more than happy to split species to suit their lists (and let's be honest, it isn't for any other reason) without any official endorsement from 'the authorities', so why not lump for the same reason? If it comes down, as now seems likely, to one of either Alder or Willow, just call it a Traill's Flycatcher for listing purposes. No more debate and everyone's happy.

If you don't like that idea, just stop for a minute and consider the parallel example of Grey-cheeked & Bicknell's Thrush. To the best of my knowledge no-one has Bicknell's Thrush on their British list, but everyone's quite happy to tick Grey-cheeked. Nor have I heard of anyone taking it off their list when the two were split. This is exactly the same situation as Alder/Willow Flycatcher - they are not separable in the field. The only difference is that 'Grey-cheeked Thrush' had already occurred in Britain before it was split, whereas 'Traill's Flycatcher' hadn't. If it had, I'm damn sure everyone who had it on their list would have kept it right there. I know I would!

Thursday 23 September 2010

Well that was a waste of time

The BBC weather forecast yesterday evening suggested that this morning might be good vismigging weather, with a light SW wind and any rain clearing by about 7am. In fact I distinctly remember the forecaster saying 'and if you're going to Burrough Hill tomorrow morning, take an extra pencil to write down all the migrants that will be passing over - and I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few Laps as well. So make sure you set your alarm nice and early!'

Lying bastard - it was a strong, almost directly southerly wind, there was fuck-all going over apart from a few Mipits, Chaffinches and Swallows, and after about an hour it absolutely pissed it down. After standing under a tree swearing at the rain for half an hour I gave up and came home.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Worrying increase in tedious birding blogs and websites

I am being directed to more and more dreary and pointless ‘birding diary’ type blog sites being created on the British Birding scene which I find very distressing, disturbing and sad about. Just what is it with British and the odd Irish birder [Is there only the one odd Irish birder? Surely not!]? Others may find this puerile attempt at nature writing interesting but I for one find it highly monotonous and tiresome. I have spent a birding lifetime trying to inject a little humour into birding and do not really expect to have to put up with this nonsense, nor do I expect to see every single migrating Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch counted and listed in detail in the way that is becoming fashionable. I am also very concerned to see that Birdforum only this past week had a sensible thread about moult in which no-one made an even slightly sarcastic comment, let alone escalated things into a full-blown slanging match. British birding needs to clean up its act – it has never been as dull and anorakish as it is currently on the web.

P.S. Come back tomorrow for full vis mig counts from Burrough Hill!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Gull cull?

I see Alan Tilmouth has already picked up on this - - but just to add that (as you'd expect really) I'm all in favour of culling Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls - then I don't have to try and identify the fuckers. Not that I do anyway, but getting rid of them would mean I don't even have to think about it. Or see any more photos of them on Surfbirds.

But seriously, if they did try and cull them (which I'm sure they won't, as it would be totally impractical and never-ending) who would they get to do it? Given that 99% of birders (including me) can't identify most of the large gulls they see these days, how the fuck would DEFRA's half-witted gunslingers manage? Is this just an undercover way of getting rid of all 'dirty seagulls' dreamt up by the Daily Mail? Or a devious attempt by the hired guns to create a new gravy train now that they've finished with the Ruddy Ducks?

As Alan says, no doubt this will get ramped up by the Great British Press into the next bullshit health scare, and we'll have to put up with weeks of lurid headlines and ridiculous articles screaming about how migratory birds are going to kill us all, until everyone forgets about it and the media vultures move on to the next stinking corpse of a story they can find to pick over.


Or, as the classic Daily Mash headline said: EVERYONE DEAD BY TEATIME!

Monday 20 September 2010

We want to hear from

Following the recent Llamas reunion, I had a trawl through the old site (I’ve still got its final incarnation on my computer) and thought I’d update one of the old features. I think the idea was nicked from some football magazine in the first place, so this is a re-hash of an idea we nicked from someone else. Nothing new under the sun, as they say.

We want to hear from:
  • Garry Bagnell’s geography teacher – Ofsted want a word with you.
  • The birder who thought that reporting a ‘heard only’ Honey Buzzard in Worcestershire the other day would in some way enhance their reputation.
  • Anyone who’s actually paid money to join the British Birding Association.
  • Anyone who voted for the so-called President of the aforesaid organisation.
  • The other Presidential candidates.
  • Anyone who knows the true identity of ‘Mr White’.
  • Someone who can tell us what ‘skor’ means.
  • The birding advisers for Bill Bailey’s Big Birdwatch – Tim Appleton wants a word with you.
We don’t want to hear from:
  • Anyone who has anything more to say about House Finch moult.
  • Anyone who gets excited by putative 1st-winter Thayer’s Gulls, or indeed 1st-winters of any large gull. It’s just not right.
  • The October 2009 ‘Shetland Stringer’ – fucking hell, I hope he’s not going again this year!
And we still haven’t heard from:
  • Anyone who actually witnessed L.Y.R.E. ticking the Pacific Swift at Cley.

Friday 17 September 2010

In Town For One Night Only

I had planned to go to Burrough Hill this morning for a spot of vismigging now that the wind of the last few days has finally dropped, but a combination of Beacon, Cobra, Jack Daniels (so much for the rehab!), curry and getting to bed at about 1.30 put paid to that idea. No doubt the Laps are streaming over in their hundreds as I type....

Anyway, John has already written up last night’s Llama reunion in far funnier style than I can manage this morning, but suffice to say it was an excellent evening. It’s sad that it took Rob & Richard’s granny’s funeral to get us all together in the same place for the first time since 2002, but such is the way of things now we’re scattered across the globe.

Unfortunately the photos John took with my camera didn’t come out too well, but as a comparison to the ones on his blog, I offer these dreadful old camcorder shots from the original Llamas site. It’s quite scary to think these were only taken about ten years ago (I think they were either 2000 or 2001), both in terms of how we’ve aged (and expanded in my case!), but also the pace of digital change. It really is only ten years since we all excitedly bought our first digital camcorders, and were amazed by the blurry 640 x 480 pixel images we got through our scopes. But now of course they look utterly shite compared with modern multi-megapixel cameras. I might dig out a few old favourites from those early digiscoping days and post them some time.

Don’t bother clicking on these, by the way – this is about as big as they get!

Saved the best one till last!

Friday 3 September 2010


Having done very little birding (or anything else much) over the summer, I thought I ought to make a start on trying to get into some sort of shape before Shetland. Otherwise I won’t even be able to make it to the Toab shop before Mark eats all the pies, let alone slog round South Mainland looking for rares for ten days!

So, there’s been an easterly wind for several days, loads of stuff on the east coast – time to check out Burrough Hill again. I’m sure if someone was able to do Burrough Hill every day, it would produce something really good. I know it’s in the middle of boring Leicestershire farmland about 40 miles from the coast, and it doesn’t even stick up that much from the east (it’s more of an escarpment than a hill), but it does seem to have an attraction for migrants.

What I was really hoping for of course was a flyover Lapland Bunting, a species I still need for my county list. John and Dave had one here in October 2008, so it’s not an outrageous thing to hope for, especially given the unprecedented numbers around the country at the moment. But on arriving at about 08:00 it was immediately obvious that nothing at all was flying over as the early morning fog cleared. So I turned my attention to the bushes on the south side of the hill fort, which is where most of the migrants usually are. One of the first birds I saw was this female Redstart, which I was well pleased with, not having seen one in the county since 2002. Even better, I then found another three nearby (including two males which I couldn’t get near enough to photograph), plus Tree Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Wheatears and a good assortment of warblers including 2 Garden Warblers.

I’ve always thought the southern slope of the hill looks perfect for a Wryneck, so I was slightly annoyed to get an email about one in Great Glen whilst actually walking through this bit. It should have been here! Fortunately I don’t need Wryneck for my county list, so I was able to ignore it (after putting it out on Twitter) and carry on.

Climbing up the ramparts of the hill fort and then back up the valley on the north side of the hill proved to me just how unfit I really am – I was well and truly fucked by the time I got back to the car. I’ve got a lot of work to do in the next month....