Thursday, May 21, 2009

We Can Work It Out

Fans of Eye To The Telescope will be pleased to learn that I am not going to abandon them completely whilst I am away in Islay. Firstly, I intend to be sending any birding news to Twitter, which will of course also appear on my blog.

Secondly, as announced last week, I have devised a little quiz to keep you all occupied while I'm away. What follows are 20 pictures, all of which lead to the identity of a species of bird. Some of them are a bit cryptic, but others are hopefully more straightforward.

If you wish to take part, use the link at the bottom to add a comment. I vet all comments before they appear on the blog, so when I return I can mark everybody's answers and announce the winners.

Of course, it wouldn't be a quiz without a few Telescope points on offer, so here's how the scoring system will work:

Each correct answer will be awarded 10 points.

Anyone who gets all 20 birds will be awarded a further 50 points.

First, second and third places will then receive 100, 50 and 25 points respectively.

Therefore, if you get all 20 right and win the quiz, you stand to receive a whopping 350 Telescope points.

To prevent anyone from submitting multiple answers, I think I will have to be strict and say that I will accept your first set of answers only.

Okay, enough from me ... here are the pictures:

Good luck everybody!

I'm back a week on Sunday, so look out for the answers and the scores on the doors soon afterwards.

Au revoir, fellow birders!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Birds Will Sing For Us

When I visited Minsmere last spring, I had my first ever glimpse of a nightingale. Despite being bowled over by its song and feeling fortunate to have had fleeting views of the bird, it was always one of those unsatisfactory ticks that you inevitably get from time to time. With that in mind, I resolved to visit Paxton Pits this year - a renowned site for this elusive species.

Mrs Reg and I headed off on Monday morning, and the ticks flowed fast and free right from the word go - I think we saw about a dozen Eddie Stobarts on the way there. After a decent steak and chips in St. Neots, we made our way to Paxton Pits, arriving at about 2:00pm.

We didn't have to wait long to see our first nightingale. Mrs Reg spotted it first, in the scrub to the right of the path. Not crippling views, but already much better than those had at Minsmere. The song was as rich and mellifluous [great word!] as I remembered, but perhaps a bit louder than I recalled.

A few garden warblers were noted before we mistakenly headed off along the River Ouse, instead of sticking to the Heron Trail. It turned out to be a good mistake to make, as we had excellent views of banded demoiselles and common blue damselflies along the path. A brown hawker dragonfly was also seen. Butterflies included green-veined whites, orange-tips and speckled woods. Further down we saw a couple of cuckoos, and then I had my first ever hornet, which truth be told was a little scary!

Male common blue damselfly

Female common blue damselfly

Male banded demoiselle

Female banded demoiselle

Having walked a fair way down the river, we realised we were somewhat off track and turned back. Once back on the Heron Trail we had our second nightingale of the day, but little else as we made our way back to the car park. After a bite to eat we ventured down the Meadow Trail, but other than a sedge warbler this didn't produce much either. Our final hoorah was another walk down the first part of the Heron Trail, which resulted in a couple more cuckoos and another nightingale near the Kingfisher Hide.

On the way back home we had another abundance of Eddie Stobarts, with a final tally of 22 for the day. Not bad, though I expect I'll top that when we travel up to Scotland at the end of next week.

Before I hit the hay last night, I had my usual check of the internet to see what had been around. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that a wryneck had been spotted at the site during the afternoon. I hadn't noticed any great activity during our visit, and the chap from the RSPB that I spoke to at about 5:00pm didn't mention it either. I don't carry a pager or have mobile access to the internet, so this was the first I had heard of it.

I didn't lose any sleep over the wryneck. Having spent six hours in the Wyre on Sunday and five hours at Paxton Pits, I was out like a light, though my dreams did tend to centre around birdsong and walking. Can't think why!

Bird Brain

As promised in yesterday's blog entry [seems like an age ago now!], I have pulled together a little something to keep you amused whilst I am in Islay. I'll be away for over a week and I expect the trip report will take some time to assemble, so I have devised a quiz, which will be posted here in just over a week's time.

Prior to that, there'll probably be a report from the patch, which I intend to visit during the weekend.

Until then, happy birding!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wild Wood

What a beautiful place the Wyre Forest is. Always so much to see, not just in terms of birds, but other wildlife and plant life too. I visited the forest with Steve Jones yesterday. Steve is a regular on our various birding trips and will be joining us when we travel to Islay a week on Friday.

My main aim was to latch onto pied flycatchers in Knowles Coppice. Sadly, despite a considerable effort, none were seen. The various birders we encountered reported a similar story, so maybe they were laying low yesterday. Another notable absentee was the pair of mandarins that have been reported regularly during the past week or two. We walked a considerable way down Dowles Brook, but didn't catch sight of them.

Anyway, enough of the negatives - let's focus on what we did see. A displaying tree pipit was our first tick of note, quickly followed by a pair of garden warblers. A red-legged partridge was at Lodge Hill Farm. Once past Lodge Hill Farm, we heard a couple of wood warblers away to our right, but couldn't see them.

A cuckoo was calling ahead of us, so we continued further down the path than I normally would. Despite not finding the cuckoo, I came across a stack of pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies. I've not seen these before and I was surprised to find that they are quite small. I'd imagined them to be larger. At the time, this led me to think they were small pearl-bordered fritillaries, but I positively identified them from pictures when I got home.

Pearl-bordered fritillary

Pearl-bordered fritillary

They are absolutely stunning, aren't they? Other butterflies seen today were brimstone, peacock, large white, orange-tip, green-veined white and speckled wood. I was seconds away from getting a picture of a brimstone, which was somewhat infuriating.

Green-veined white

Back to the birds, and we spotted a redstart in Knowles Coppice, and several dippers and grey wagtails in and around Dowles Brook. Returning to Knowles Coppice, we finally caught up with a more showy wood warbler.

Start me up!


Grey Wagtail

We then bumped into a friend of Martyn Yapp's, who had heard a grasshopper warbler along the old railway line. Steve had to head off at this point, but I put a bit of time in to see if I could hear anything. Unfortunately, I couldn't, so I did one final circuit of Knowles Coppice then headed back to the car. On the way back a cuckoo finally revealed itself, flying high over the Lodge Hill Farm area.

A fantastic six hours!

Snap Happy

The new camera accompanied me to work every day last week. On Thursday, I managed to get some nice pictures of large white and speckled wood butterflies.

Large white

Speckled wood

The best of the birding was a green woodpecker seen fleetingly, and a bullfinch around the feeders. Blackcaps and chiffchaffs were heard singing, but it was otherwise quiet. Although there are many moorhen chicks now scampering around the place, I have yet to see any mallards with young. I'm not quite sure why - there are normally several ducks with broods by now. I'll have to keep my eye on that one.

Swifts have made it onto the year list and patch list in the last week too, and the nesting coal tits now appear to be taking food into the nest. I hope I'm around when the youngsters finally appear.

Pit Stop

I'm heading off to Paxton Pits later this morning. No prizes for guessing what I'm hoping to see there! Their website also reveals that there could be a few nice butterflies on the wing, so rest assured, I'll be keeping an eye out for them too.

A report from Paxton Pits will follow later this week, plus news of something else that I have been working on recently. Being the tease that I am, I won't say too much just now, but have no fears - I can feel some Telescope points coming on!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Last year my digital camera ran into a spot of bother on Abersoch beach when it became infiltrated with sand. It has been limping along ever since, with a knackered zoom lens and a reluctance to charge properly, which has left me high and dry in the field on occasion. Finally, I decided it was time to replace the poor blighter, though I haven't assigned him to the scrap heap just yet, as he will still be accompanying me on my travels in case of emergencies.

I am keen to capture some stills and video footage of the Islay trip, which is fast approaching and it pains me to say that the old boy just wasn't up to the task. Therefore, I took delivery of my new digital compact on Tuesday, having scraped together a bit of birthday money and some existing savings.

I have been having a bit of a play with it today at work and a few of my better efforts follow:


Shield bug



Buzzing thing

I don't know what it is, but I like it

Incidentally, I know the pictures on my blog are quite small. If you want to see them at their actual size, you can right click on them, then copy and paste them into another application.

A bit of digiscoping in the garden this evening also proved fairly successful, so with a bit more practice and experimentation I should be in fine shape for Islay, which is now just over two weeks away.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Long Day Is Over

Well, it was something of a marathon, commencing at 8:00am at Dimmingsdale and finishing at almost 6:00pm in the car park at Tittesworth Reservoir, but the bloggers' day out was a great success. We dipped on a few species, such as ring ouzel and cuckoo, but had more than our fair share of good spots.

Highlights included some very showy pied flycatchers and wood warblers at Dimmingsdale, redstart and tree pipit at Hawksmoor, and peregrine, red grouse, wheatear, golden plover and hobby on the moors.

Along the way we also had common buzzard, kestrel, common sandpiper, blackcap, whitethroat, willow warbler, curlew and little ringed plover, plus a host of the more common species.

Butterflies included orange-tip, large white, green-veined white, and a possible comma or two.

The M6 was typically productive for Eddie Stobart trucks, with five being added to the year and life lists. Thanks to Max for scribbling down the names as we drove along.

Hawksmoor - nearly as pretty as Katie Melua

The bloggers head off in pursuit of a vocal, but elusive tree pipit

A bit knackering, having had to get up at 5:45am, but well worth it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Delivering The Goods

The beauty of working a patch that only throws up the odd rarity, is that when it does deliver a gem it feels about ten times better than it probably should.

Seeing a common sandpiper at a local reserve is one thing, but to spot one at work on Tuesday during one of my regular walks around the grounds was immense! I don't think it beats the red kite that was spotted from the window last summer, but it probably ranks equally with the kingfisher that was on site a few years ago.

Sadly, I decided at the beginning of the year that unless I walked to work, birds seen whilst at the office wouldn't make it onto the Birds Seen On Foot list. This species therefore remains absent from my records, although I'm still in with a shout of seeing one at Earlswood Lakes. Attempts to relocate the bird later on Tuesday and throughout the week were sadly unsuccessful.

Aussie Rules

Yesterday evening I went to see the Australian Pink Floyd at the NIA. Of course, this has nothing to do with birds, although we did keep an eye out for the wood duck that is rumoured to frequent the canal that runs through Gas Street Basin.

Fans of Central Tonight might be excited to learn that we spotted fresh-faced presenter Gareth Owen entering the Slug & Lettuce, presumably for a post-work snifter. This encounter left my mate Boyley hopeful of running into weather girl Lucy Kite, but alas she was nowhere to be seen.

The Kite

As you may have guessed, the band play the music of Pink Floyd, and last night they performed The Wall in its entirety. It was some show, though when they launched into One Of My Turns, I found myself thinking of Willington Gravel Pits for some strange reason ...

Fans of the Floyd may remember that they launched a giant inflatable pig over Battersea Power Station for the artwork on their Animals album.

Pink Floyd's porcine prank

I think it's fair to say that this was quite probably the first incidence of swine flew!

Gimme Moor

It's the bloggers' day out tomorrow. We're off to the Staffordshire Moorlands again and as you'd expect, we have a target list as long as your arm. It promises to be a great day and there will undoubtedly be several accounts of the trip appearing on our various blogs in due course.

Until next time, don't forget to cover your mouth when you cough!