Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Red Letter Day

In the Telegraph , Ricky Ponting announced that he thought that the Ashes trophy urn should travel to the winning nation rather than remain locked up in the Lords Museum. Funny really as his wishes will be truly granted and the urn will remain in situ !
Geoffrey Boycott reports - "England Brilliant. Now on to Syndney and let's beat the buggers again."

Iced Up

A late WeBs count for Willington this month to reduce the impact on disturbance in such harsh conditions. I found that the Main & Fishing lake were iced at 95% with only a small pool of open water remaining on the latter with the Main Lake totally frozen and devoid of birdlife. The open water was unfortunately close to the access causeway which meant that every dog walker resulted in putting the birds up, burning calories that they cant easily replace.
I counted 178 Wigeon and only a handful of Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Pochard. A single Great-crested Grebe, Greylag and Mute Swan with a count of 52 Coot. For the first time in many years, no Barnacle Geese were on site.
Thank goodness for the thaw which has now set in ! Count taken on Monday 27th.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Who you calling Long Ears ?

Spending a winter convalescence with my Brother in Baldock.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Willington Wonderland

I decided not to do my WeBs count at the lakes this morning as to avoid disturbance when the birds are struggling to survive. Can't get the car out the drive so a few images around the village captured instead - snow like this is a novelty and I couldn't resist a few pictures. Like a scene from the Narnia chronicles !

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nordic Invaders

A rare venture out of late to Woburn where eighteen Waxwing were posing along Leighton Street. Superb birds aren't they ?

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Morning in Texas

Marsh Wren
Loggerhead Shrike
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
White-faced Ibis
Lincoln's Sparrow
Field Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrows
Eastern Meadowlark
Chipping Sparrow
American Wigeon
Following a request placed on BirdForum I was pleased to be able to get a morning's birding in whilst on my second business trip of the year to the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex.
Dallas is not helpful to those who attempt to bird on foot as I soon aroused suspicion with local security when I went for a morning walk before sunrise (07:30am). I was reminded of 9/11, clearly standing out from the rest because I had chosen to walk rather than use a car.
Anyway, two very helpful birders from the local Audubon society had agreed to take me out to somewhere more rural where some birding could be had and I am indebted to Laura and Susan who collected me from my hotel and showed me around Arlington.
The Trinity River water treatment pools covered a vast area and held many birds. the morning had been cold and the mists hung over the river and the first frost was still remaining as the sun warmed and threatened a very nice day, around 65 degrees fahrenheit.
Double-crested Cormorants flew over and an Eastern Phoebe wagged it's tail close to the entrance track. Susan drove her SUV around the perimiter of many of the open water pools which could be viewed with ease. Wildfowl numbers were good with Northern Shoveler and Green-winged Teal most common. Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail and a few Pied-billed Grebe, Redhead, Ruddy Duck and Bufflehead were picked up amongst the hundreds of American Coot. A few Shorebirds included Least Sandpipers, Wilson's Snipe, Long-billed Dowitchers, Kildeer and a single Greater Yellowlegs.
I was keen to scrutinise the throngs of Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles that were moving around as there were likely to be other Blackbird species to be seen. Laura picked up two Rusty Blackbirds in a small shrub alongside two Great-tailed Grackles.
My first Marsh Wren was also picked up singing by Laura and showed well for the camera whilst sparrow species were narrowed to White-crowned and Savannah. I had already managed to see White-throated, White-crowned, Chipping, Field and Lincoln's around the hotel & office area of Irving earlier in the week.
A single American Kestrel and Loggerhead Shrike patrolled the pools and at least half a dozen Eastern Meadowlarks were seen in the grass fields, a declining species in the region. as we were about to head back, Laura picked up a single White-faced Ibis, a species very similar to our Glossy Ibis seen back home.
From here Susan drove to an adjacent refuge / park close to the Trinity River which provided more woodland habitat. the birds were very active and a small flock of passerines included Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Ruby & Golden-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers along with my first Blue-headed Vireo. Northern Flicker and Brown Creeper played hide-and-seek on a dead tree and a Carolina Wren replayed it's evocative song.
A further walk along the trail around the mature woodlands also provided both Red-bellied Woodpecker and three Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. En-route back to my hotel in Irving, Susan dropped in to a residential site where Inca Dove were often seen but no-show today. Back to my hotel for 1pm ready for the journey back to the airport and my flight to Heathrow. A big thank-you to Laura and Susan for allowing my trip to include some Texas birding rather than be all-work and no-play.

Tex-Mex Grackle-fest

Back to working in Texas, this time with my DSLR. The Great-tailed Grackles congregate in the evenings in their hundreds and thousands around the car lots and restaurant areas resembling a scene from Hitchcock's "The Birds". Evening light and the birds queueing to bath made for some photo opportunities.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Garden Woodie

A chance picture through the kitchen window yesterday afternoon. The IS seemed to cope well with a hand-held shot at only 1/30th second. I couldn't get a shot of the bright male Brambling that was also around.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Toucan Test

A short test to see that my problem still exists with images edited from Lightroom and "Opened In" Adobe CS3 as Tiff images compared with images exported to jpg directly from LR Library as RAW. The latter option gives the "correct" result and upper images.
I can't see why the former option looks identical in LR and CS3 but when uploaded to my Blog looks god-awful (lower image).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tales of Old

A good freind has lent me an old leather bound copy of " An Illustrated Manual of British Birds" by Howard Saunders (1889) and it makes interesting reading. In those days Leica and Swarovski must have served the avid birder with firearms rather than optics !

The entry for The Common Buzzard reads as follows :-

As regards the British Islands, the epithet "common" is annually becoming less and less applicable to this species; but there are wild and wooded districts in England - especially on the western side - and in Wales, where the bird may still be seen circling high in air, and be heard uttering it's plaintive mewing cry. Fifty years ago it used to breed in Norfolk and in other counties abounding with partridges and grouse-game, without being considered incompatible with their existence; but with the increase of Pheasant-worship the doom of the Buzzard sealed, for the larger the "Hawk" the worse it must necessarily be !

And 150 years later the contest continues but the trusty Buzzard is bouncing back. Long may it last.

And here is what Saunders has to say about the Eagle Owl :-

Occurrences in Great Britain of this large and handsome species have from time to time been recorded; but some of these are known - while others may be suspected - to refer to examples which have escaped from that semi-captivity in which this Owl is often kept. Birds which were probably genuine migrants from Northern Europe have, however, been obtained, at long intervals, in the Orkney and Shetland Islands and on the mainland of Scotland; while in England, besides other records, a female showed no sign of having been in confinement was shot near Stamford in Lincolnshire, in April 1879.

And for the Great Auk whose demise was tracked in 1840 as follows :-

Mr Henry Evans, who has repeatedly visted the St Kilda group, has collected strong evidence that about 1840 a bird was secured on the grassy slopes of Stack-an-Armin, being killed three days afterwards as a witch, in consequence of a storm which frightened it's captors !

Skies over Burnham Overy

Stormy skies over Burnham Overy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Birds

Plenty of continental thrushes feeding this morning in the village including a female Ring Ouzel amongst the Redwing. A male Siskin and this Jay were nice to watch too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Long-tailed Tit

Lovely light this morning. A kettle of six vocal Common Buzzards just north of the river and plenty of Long-tailed Tit family feeding parties.

Saturday, September 18, 2010