Sunday, March 30, 2008

A little bit of bread and no cheese

Knockentiber - Springside Disused Railway Line, Ayrshire, Scotland Apr 1999.
Territorial song from overgrown hawthorn hedgerow.

I've started uploading some sonograms of old recordings I've made to the main website, including Blyth's Reed Warbler and Spotted Crake from Finland, Melodious Warbler and Golden Oriole from Spain, and Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler from Scotland. See:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Great Tit Repertoire Samples

For the past two weeks I've woken before 5 am. Sleep problems are not to blame. Just an extremely hyperactive Great Tit with unusually loud vocals. The bird begins singing a whole hour before sunrise, even when it is raining, from a large ornamental conifer in the street outside. At around 0445h it starts with song type 1 (see sonogram below) and continues, rarely pausing for longer than 30 seconds, until about 0530h. Then it stops, and rarely sings again all morning. Occasionally it switches song type - see sonograms 2 and 3 - but its repertoire is mainly composed of repeated phrases of a rapid double note at around 4 kHz followed by a higher note spanning 4 to 5 kHz. I've listened to a lot of Great Tits but this one is particularly incessant and louder than is typical. So this morning, without need for an alarm clock, I woke up to the major and went out and made some recordings. I'm beginning to suspect that it also sings louder when a plane flies overhead. Something to investigate further...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hoody in the park

I've watched Carrion Crows fly low across the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens and playfully dive-bomb the gulls perched on the buoys, even though they have no intention of perching there. Other gulls are another matter and many like to be in pole position on buoy number 3, much favoured by the wintering Mediterranean Gull. The series of pictures below show the German-ringed adult, now stunningly complete in breeding plumage, suddenly becoming aware of an incoming Common Gull and it utters a call; perhaps a threat or submission call. With menacing intent, the Common Gull drops down, sinking its beak in to the Med Gull's back while attempting to gain a foot hold on the buoy. Both end up in the water, as the perpetrator slips and the submissive hoody awkwardly belly-flops into the pond. After all this, the Common Gull flies off and makes no attempt to take up its perch. What would be the real reason for this aggression? Does the Common Gull recognise the other larid as something 'different', in much the same way that petrels are often harassed? Or perhaps it is to do with food resources and the 'pecking order', the Med Gull being the nimbler gull, quicker at snatching the artificial food provided by the tourists. Thanks to Des McKenzie for the tip-off.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Birds of Scotland

I finally have my copy of The Birds of Scotland. Way back in August last year I ordered it for £45 (pre-publication and SOC member discounts). It finally arrived in Ayrshire just after I left at New Year. I went back home last weekend, with a half-empty rucksack, and brought the 8 kilograms of Scottish bird knowledge back to London. I won’t write a review at this stage, having just started to browse the two tomes.

This landmark two volume publication has 1600 pages summarising 200 years of Scottish ornithology, covering 509 species and illustrated with 900 photographs and 1500 graphs and charts! All this took a team of nine editors (Ron Forrester, Ian Andrews, et al), working with 157 writers, five years to complete. In addition to the species accounts, there are chapters on Scotland’s geography and habitats, fossil records, history, changes in the avifauna, weather and bird migration, movements, bird recording, surveys, research, conservation, and the history of bird photography in Scotland.

It is already starting to win awards and every birder in Scotland should own a copy. Serious birders elsewhere with an interest in Scottish birds should really own it too.Visit the website for all the information including samples pages on White-tailed Eagle and Evening Grosbeak, oh and free, downloadable species checklist: