Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Website offline!

I've had so many hits this month that my bandwith has been exceeded on www.fssbirding.org.uk
It will be available again from June 1st.

London Wetland Centre

A few photographs from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust reserve in London on Saturday...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tobago (I wish)

I’m not enjoying this rainy drought and this weekend looks like being another wet one. So, here are some colourful photographs from sunnier climes. My sister, Ruth, and her husband were recently in Tobago in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Although she is not a birder, with someone like me in the family it’s not surprising that some of my enthusiasm has rubbed off. They hired two local expert bird guides for two trips - Peter Cox for Tobago Forest Reserve and David Rooks for Little Tobago island - and came back with a good list of exotic species. Some of the birds I glanced from Ruth’s envious list included Red-billed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Great Black Hawk, White-fringed Antwren, Rufous-vented Chachalaca (Cocorico), Red-crowned Woodpecker, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue-backed Manakin and various hummingbirds to name a few. Below are some of her excellent photographs, taken with a small compact digital camera. Just shows that you don’t need a long lens to get some nice shots here!

Peter Cox - Tobago Nature Tours http://www.tobagonaturetours.com/
David Rooks - Rooks Nature Tours http://www.rookstobago.com/

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mandarin Broods at Darlands Lake

A wet weekend in London but some sun on Saturday tempted me out – only to be rewarded with a soaking and few photographs. I visited Darlands Lake at Totteridge, a few miles north in Middlesex, to try a photograph the Mandarin Ducks with their broods. I found a couple of extremely shy pairs with small ducklings but the rain and dogs put paid to any proper views – maybe next weekend.

This small site of woodland based around a small secluded lake created nearly 200 years ago was managed by Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust but I'm not sure if this is still the case. Perhaps it’s back in the hands of Barnet Council. In either case some work is apparently being undertaken to dredge the lake which has been silting up for some time. Of course, this is essential management to ensure it’s continued future – but at this time of year? Surely this is a most inappropriate point in the year when the breeding season is in full swing. Many healthy & mature trees have been removed along one bank of the lake, presumably to allow the dredging machinery access to the site. For the time being, Mandarin, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen are breeding but in less than scenic surroundings for which the lake is so popular with visitors and locals.

Lapwing, Kestrel, Lesser Whitethroat, all three woodpeckers, Treecreeper and Nuthatch were noted among the common birds. Below are a few shots grabbed before the rain.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Common Crane at Kilmarnock, Ayrshire

Kilmarnock, in southwest Scotland, is not exactly known for turning up rare birds. But, following on just a week after the Hoopoe, a Common Crane turned up on Sunday on the south-eastern edge of my home town. Living in London meant I was a little displeased as this must be the best bird since the Rose-coloured Starling in 2002. Not to worry, I guess there will be another purple patch in 2010!

Thanks to Angus Hogg, the County Recorder, for sending some nice shots and the following information...

This Crane is the 4th Ayrshire record, the last being at Drongan in 1989. This particular bird may well have been near Kirkmichael about a fortnight ago, since "a large swan-sized bird" was reported flying down the Girvan valley then, and this report was followed about two days later by a sighting of Common Crane flying over Wood of Cree. The other Ayrshire records are 1 at Yonderton, Dalrymple from 4 Oct-12 Nov 1977, and 1 at Dalrympleston Marsh, Trabboch from 15-25 Oct 1987.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Golden Oriole...for some

This weekend I missed a Golden Oriole not far from my place of work in London - only 10 minutes away by underground, followed by a slightly longer walk. The news came in on Friday through the London Birders yahoo group and BirdGuides (see also the Stoke Newington Birds blog) but of course I had to wait until the evening before seeing it – or not, as was the case. The bird had been elusive in oaks around Stoke Newington Reservoirs and didn’t want to show for the latecomers.

Most of Saturday was spent at the computer working on the final stages of the Ayrshire Bird Report 2005. On Sunday, I spent several hours photographing large and easy birds at Walthamstow Reservoirs. There are many fledgling Grey Herons around including one with a deformed beak. At times, when it was feeling especially sorry for itself, it kept hidden in dense, bankside vegetation until a fox surprised it. The heron launched itself into the water in a life-saving bid and the Canada Geese and Mute Swan family joined in the collective mobbing which saw the fox make a hasty retreat. See – Canada Geese are good for something! Also around were Lesser Whitethroat, Hobby, Common Tern, Shelduck and Common Sandpiper. Below is a small selection of photographs.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Titchwell RSPB Nature Reserve

Leaving work on Friday, a check on BirdGuides revealed a report of a Hoopoe back in my home town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. Nobody would seriously consider traveling 400 miles for a Hoopoe in the British Isles – they are not that rare after all. But what about one a stones throw away from a former local patch? Still a bit silly, and a needless, extra burden on the environment, but tempting nonetheless. In any case, it was never seen again. This overshooting drift migrant was probably grounded by that crazy thunderstorm a few nights ago and was glad to leave its temporary home of Kilmarnock Cemetery when the fine weather returned. The Hoopoe is probably my favourite bird and one nearby at, my other former local patch, Northcraig Reservoir on 9-10 May 1999 must rank as the best.

Anyway getting back on track, this weekend I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Cambridge and they kindly gave me a lift to Titchwell on the north Norfolk Coast. This is one of the finest RSPS nature reserves in southern England and despite the bad weather we managed to see 77 species from the two main hides without trying too hard. We didn’t even make it to the sea which would have notched up a few more. Nothing too unusual around, apart from the elusive Purple Heron, but Temminck’s Stint, Bearded Reedling, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Little Tern, Cetti’s Warbler, Little Stint, Garganey, and the dozens of Avocets and passage waders made for a great day.

Left my long lens at home so below are a selection of mainly phonescoped images with the Nokia 6280 and Kowa 821. First two are DSLR shots however (the difference in quality is obvious though).