Sunday, 3 July 2016

Back home

Every month I go and visit the little old lady in Stapleford who is my mother.  She makes me try and do chores, I manage to wriggle out of them by falling asleep. I also manage to slip out of the house for a few hours down to an agricultural reservoir under construction just under a mile from the house.  It has to be said this is a wonderful little patch and every time there is something of interest.  Last night I refound the Pyramid Orchid (now plural) and well over 50 Bee Orchids–looking rather shabby and well past their best. Today, well!


First up a Marbled White, my first here ever (and for the local), and then as I wondered slowly through the grass with my eyes to the floor, I chanced to look up.  A large raptor was moving west over the water meadows just to the south of the village and just to the north of me  I presumed a buzzard, but it didn't appear so as I had in my bins. Dark and long fingered I could get no structure on the upper or lower wings, Slightly greyer head and some two or three tones going on the back and wings.  So probably Marsh Harrier I concluded seeing as Fowlmere is a few miles to the west and Marsh Harriers are not unusual there, but I had some doubt.  Something reminded me of the Black Kite I had up the Roding last year.  Both would a first for me in the area.  I changed lenses and rattled off a few sadly distant images.  However on looking at them later I noted a slightly forked tail. Certainly wasn't a Red Kite, as we had one fly over the house later which would have been a house tick for my mum had she not seen one last time I was back (she did add Hobby though!).

So a Black Kite?  No reports on RBA though... The consensus coming from later tweets: not enough fingers, ah well. Done by a Marsh Harrier again. Yay patch tick!

Cue horribleness...

Funny last time I had to put a report in on a raptor in London (2 Honey Buzzards over Beckton) I had to do the same for 2 Honey Buzzard over Stapleford (on my mum's house list), still have to do the BK for last year, and might need to stick this one in for Cambridgeshire!

Things were quiet on the reservoir, a few Tufties and a single Little Ringed Plover–I presume they bred, but I didn't try too hard to find the proof. Today was about chasing butterfly and that was good: Brown Argus, Ringlet, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Laarge and Small Skipper, Large White and Green-veined White

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Norfolking pictures of a Great Knot

I didn't manage to see last year's Great Knot as it arrived and departed while I was training intern bankers, ah well! This year I thought my chance of catching up with this superb bird were also a lost cause–the Saturday I had free was winterish and there had been no sign of the bird, so I went back to bed. It popped up again and appeared to be getting into a routine–this time I will get you!

Roll-on the weekend checking its presence on RBA it was all go, apart from the enthusiasm squashed by millions of my fellow countryfolk.  Somehow I found myself at Kings Cross, no thanks to ongoing work on the tube.  A bitter tweet later and I find that I am not the only birder from London on the pilgrimage.  Jonathan Wassse is ahead of me and already on the "hopper" speeding circuitously through north-west Norfolk, until like a tagged-harrier his signal is lost along the coast. The bird was at Gore Point but now has flown with its cohort of thousands of regular Red Knot up to Scolt Head. Titchwell I reckoned would be the best bet.

After  12:00 I finally arrived at Titchwell and immediately felt better at this most intimate of reserves, it didn't appear too busy–the usual mix of hapless and the intense birder community.  I had a peak at the Knot on the scrape, a couple of Ruff too, the male still in breeding neck adornment and still a bit frisky, in the company of Sean Kerrigan, now becoming a bit of a fixture at Wanstead (could have given me a bloody lift me thinks!). We decide to mootch down to the beach where a falling tide might bring in our target. It didn't but never mind, it served up a mixture of Common, Little and Sandwich Tern, some Barwits, a Curlew and looking back over the marshes a Spoonbill and a fly-by Hobby–more than enough to pass the time by quickly.  I may have also been smitten by a young lady with blonde hair who was in the expectant crowd.

Jonathan W was there too and some of his birding chums from Barnsley, who I could just about understand. Time ticked on, too late for Sean who had to get back to London, and the tide gradually receded down the beach exposing the oyster beds that Knot were meant to favour.  A few hundred popped over the dunes to have a feed but the Scolt Head mob just bombed through west. So Gore Point is then. Jono and I made to leave, but I got distracted by a very showy Spotted Redshank close to the path still in much of its summer plumage. Well you would.

Not so Mr Wasse, made of sterner stuff, who ventured off on his own.  After a a quick coffee and a check of the bus times–one was on its way–and the coffee ends up in a bush.  Time enough on the bus to realise I wasn't actually sure where Gore Point was, no matter I would do the decent thing and walk from Thornham and check the beach along the way. Of course now I was playing against the clock and the last "hopper" back to Kings Lynn, and I would have probably missed the action if it hadn't been for birders coming the other way.

Jonathan meanwhile I had been offered a lift round to Holm Golf Course and had made it to the point way ahead of everyone and with a few minutes of setting up his scope had the bird.  Unfortunately he couldn't get the news out until another birder with a Norfolk friendly service rolled up. When I arrived a small gaggle were present and luckily so was the bird in amongst thousands of reds.  It kept to the back and every so often would scurry through the crowd and disappear again.  Smart bird, rather like a big Turnstone, which reminds me I still need that!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

So what?

Having roused myself out of cryogenic suspension, I bring you news that you will have waited fore eagerly–no! not that common sense has prevailed and we have voted to remain in the EU, nor that shooting of all forms has been outlawed–rather I have passed the milestone of 400 species in the UK. Not impressed–neither am I.  What I have achieved is to manage to go and view someones well publicised find and see it.

Does it make me a good birder? Hardly (second division at most!)
Is it important? Not in the least

Has it made me a better birder? In someways it has, though I am still very able to conjure up a major cock-up or two!

So what?

It has, and still is great fun–if I can be bothered: two London ticks were available this weekend (Purple Heron and Spotted Sandpiper) and while I would been very happy to be looking at them, the thought of traveling  to see them was well beyond my enthusiasm. Yet just a few weeks ago I managed to muster enough energy to go and see the Great Spotted Cuckoo (Portland), Great Reed Warbler (Little Paxton), and the Iberian Chiffchaff (Barnes).  All very worth while and birds I had wanted to see/hear for a few years now. An added bonus of a Gull-billed Tern at Lodmoor was a fluke.

 Great bird, shit photos

Great bird, even shittier photos

Stilt Sandpiper, great bird ....

Flukes = self found birds.  The very best birders have impressive lists of the self-found.  I was going to list a retrospective of my top 100 self-found birds, but I haven't found that many, and I wouldn't necessarily say that any skill was required other than being in the right place at the right time. That would be more like patchworking, and it comes as no surprise that most of my self-founds are on patch, but that is more to do with context (London vs. other birding hot spots).

Patchwork is however a plus towards being a good birder–know your site and what to expect and with patience and long hours find the unexpected. Easy!  If only. For the most part it is unrelentingly dull, but being out in nature is its own reward. I just wish I was more competent at recognising what I am looking at.  Take for example this rather splendid wasp. There are thousands of species of wasp (apparently!) in the UK and I can name few if any of them. 

I would dearly love to be a better naturalist, but time may be against me.  Roll-on September when I shall be giving up work for a bit and smashing the patch.