Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kensington Gardens Tawny Owl brood

Central London’s famous Tawny Owls in Kensington Gardens have again successfully fledged a brood of three owlets. The early fledging was discovered last week by Des McKenzie and there has since been a steady stream of visitors and interested passers-by cranking their necks for a view of the fluff balls. They were not in the best position for photography today; partially hidden and on the wrong side of the side with respect to the sun. I’ll try again in the following weeks. Hopefully they’ll change position as they begin to stretch their wings. In the first image below I cloned out a couple of twigs that were protruding behind the owlet’s head in a distracting manner. Here are some better photographs of a brood in 2007:

Round Pond Photography

Following a cloudy week, the skies were clear today providing some good light for photography. After watching the Tawnies and a session at the Longwater, I moved on to the Round Pond. The feeding Shoveler flock were still swirling in a big cooperative orbit and an increase in bird song was noticeable with several Chaffinches and Blackbirds in full song. Several Stock Doves were also displaying over the chestnuts and plain trees as well as singing in typically subdued tones; I think they must be my favourite of the columbids found in the British Isles. Several bats were hawking around the pond at dusk.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A creek near Dubai

Thought I would post a few more flamingo photographs from my trip to the United Arab Emirates last November as I’m still catching up on the editing of some images. The tidal creek of Ras al Khor (also known as Khor Dubai, or more fully as Ras al Khor Wildife Sanctuary) is just five miles from the city of Dubai and is a protected reserve with rich mudlflats and 24-hour police security. Can any reserves in Britain boast this? The obvious draw is the flocks of Greater Flamingos but on the day I visited it was difficult to know where to look! Species noted included: Great Egret (21), Western Reef Egret (20+), Little Stint (1500+), Broad-billed Sandpiper (6+), Lesser Sand Plover (600+), Greater Sand Plover (10+), Kentish Plover (150+), Terek Sandpiper (1), Caspian Tern (14), Dunlin (200+), Curlew Sandpiper (13), Common Redshank (10+), Greenshank (10+), Temminck's Stint (1), Grey Heron (11), Little Green Bee-eater (4), Little Egret (1), Black-winged Stilt (10+), Greater Flamingo (35), Red-wattled Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Sandwich Tern (3), Spotted Redshank (1), Great Cormorant (12+), Northern Pintail (3), Northern Shoveler (3), Common Snipe (30+), Bar-tailed Godwit (4+), Curlew (15+), Eurasian Teal (30+), Mallard (40+), Grey Plover (1), and Black-headed Gull. On the raptor front, two Greater Spotted Eagles soaring in the same field of view of the World's tallest building was something else, but three Ospreys and a Marsh Harriers competed in the top predator stakes!

Larger versions:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ayrshire Waxwing Invasion 2008/09 - latest

Here is a summary of recent Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) reported in Ayrshire. While it hasn't matched the record 2004 invasion, there have been some impressive counts and the species has now been present in the county for an extended period. A full report of the autumn-winter period will be published in the Ayrshire Bird Report 2008. Please email me with additional sightings at

Thanks to the following for records: Al Barker, Kevin Beck, Gayle Brogan, Ian Clark, John Clark, cuculus69, Vallerie Firminger, Dave Grant, Iain Hamlin, Roger Hissett, Angus Hogg, Mike Howes, Cathy Jamieson, Jim Johnstone, Robert Kelly, Bruce Kerr, Lezah Ketchen, Keith & Henry Martin, Gordon McAdam, Gordon McCall, Marco McGinty, Susan, Stuart McMahon, Jason McManus, Brian Orr, Malcolm Peaker, David Roy, Tony & Gerda Scott, Alistair Simpson, Fraser Simpson, Fiona Stewart, Ingrid Swanson, Jim Thomson, Jim Woods, Fred Woodward & BirdGuides.

18 February
20 North Field Bowling Green, Ayr

16 February
9 Rowallan Drive, Kilmarnock

15 February
14 Troon

7 February
12 Fergus Hill Road, Kilwinning

5 February
30-35 Carleton Gardens, Prestwick
8 Alloway, Ayr

4 February
18 MFI, Ayr
16 Marlepark, Ayr
5 Masonhill, Ayr

3 February
15 MFI, Ayr
4 Masonhill, Ayr

2 February
1 Fisherton, Dunure

1 February
10+ in Kelburn, Fairlie
4 Masonhill, Ayr

30 January
2 MFI, Ayr

29 January
2 Lawthorn, Irvine

28 January
25 in Marchfield Quadrant, Ayr
11 MFI, Ayr

26 January
5 Ewanfield Road, Ayr

25 January
53 Montfode Drive, Ardrossan

24 January
26 Montfode Drive, Ardrossan
6 Cedar Road, Ayr

23 January
6 Montfode Drive, Ardrossan

22 January
3 Dalmellington

19 January
1 Loans

18 January
12 Barassie
6 Ardeer Quarry

17 January
27 Coll Gardens, Dreghorn
20 Saltcoats
10 Hilltop Place, Ayr

16 January
30 Prestwick
25 Bank Steet, Irvine
6 The Roundel, Largs

15 January
19 Bank Steet, Irvine

14 January
19 Bank Steet, Irvine

13 January
2 Grangemuir Road, Prestwick

12 January
2 Loans

6 January
200+ Kay Park, Kilmarnock
16 Loans

5 January
12 Dalrymple

40 Loans

4 January
50 Loans
1 Munro Place, Kilmarnock

3 January
34 Loans
11 Bonnyton disused railway line, Kilmarnock
6 Hansel Village
2 East Road
, Irvine

2 January
30 James Johnston Place, Kilmarnock
7 Loans
3 Bonnyton disused railway line, Kilmarnock
1 Heathfield, Ayr

1 January
8 Brisbane Glen Road, Largs
3 Bonnyton disused railway line, Kilmarnock
1 Kincaidston-Holmston roundabouts, Ayr

31 December

2 Chapelhill Roundabout, Ardrossan

2 Montfode Drive, Ardrossan

30 December
10 Bonnyton disused railway line, Kilmarnock

29 December
17 Bonnyton disused railway line, Kilmarnock

28 December
17 Bonnyton disused railway line, Kilmarnock
10 Lochlea Avenue, Troon
4 South Hamilton Street, Kilmarnock

13 Kilbirnie Loch

27 December
6 Stevenston

26 December
40 East Road, Irvine
27 Western Road, Kilmarnock
20 Fisherton

25 December
60 Meiklewood Avenue, Prestwick
9 Alloway-Doonfoot disused railway line
4 Knockentiber disused railway line
1 Kemp Court, Mauchline

24 December
70 Thornyflat Farm, Ayr
4 Heathfield, Ayr1 Monkton
1 Ardeer quarry, Stevenston

23 December
40 Thornyflat Farm, Ayr
1 Crosshill

22 December
4 Thornyflat Farm, Ayr
1 Patna

21 December
32 Moorfield, Kilmarnock
6 Hurlford

19 December
80 Marlepark-Taybank Drive, Ayr
1 Crosshill

18 December
20 Marlepark

19 December
c80 Marlepark/Taybank Drive, Ayr
1 north, Crosshill

18 December
20 Marlepark, Ayr

15 December
200 Heathfield, Ayr

50+ Masonhill, Ayr

Three flocks of 8, 10-15, 15-20 Bellfield Interchange/Kirklandside Hospital, Kilmarnock

14 December
130 Heathfield, Ayr

12 December
300 Heathfield, Ayr
25 Irvine

11 December
200+ Heathfield, Ayr

10 December
250 Heathfield, Ayr

9 December
100 Heathfield, Ayr
12 Alloway, Ayr

8 December
250 Heathfield, Ayr

7 December
350+ Heathfield, Ayr

1 Monkton

6 December
350+ Heathfield, Ayr
20-30 Largs
7 Irvine

30 November
60 Whitletts, Ayr
4 Stevenston

29 November
5 Sharphill Road, Saltcoats

25 November
5 Dreghorn

24 November
100 Auchinleck Road, Cumnock
30+ A71 before the exit onto the B7081 to Crosshouse
70 Auchincruive

23 November
30+ St Quivox

14 St Phillans Avenue/Dongola Road, Ayr

22 November
70 Carrick Road, Ayr
33 Walled Garden, Culzean
31 Hobsland Farm, Monkton
5 High Road, Maybole
3 Greenan Road, Ayr

21 November
38 Kay Park and St Joseph's Academy, Kilmarnock
30 Ewanfield Avenue-Bellvale Avenue, Ayr
15 Doon Academy, Dalmellington

20 November
40 Bus stance/Health Centre, Cumnock
1 The Roundel, Largs

19 November
25+ Bus stance/Health Centre, Cumnock
3 Kirklea, Crosshill

18 November
50-60 Cyclepath near Irvine Road, Kilwinning
2 Bus stance/Health Centre, Cumnock

17 November

160 Maybole Road, Ayr
100+ High Road/Sharphill Road, Saltcoats

88 petrol station, Fairlie
1 Irvine Road, Largs

16 November
200+ Saltcoats/Ardrossan inc: 120-150 High Road; 60+ Aberlour Pub; 17 in Montfode Drive & later part of 41 in Island View)
101 A78 between Douglas Park and Anderson Park, Largs
64 Bowencraig football pitches/Largs Marina, Largs

24 Kiln Court, Irvine
18 Tarryholme, Irvine
5 Bourtreehill, Irvine
3 Noddleburn Road, Largs

15 November
121+ John Street, Ayr

24 Kiln Court, Irvine
10 Anderson Memorial Park, Largs

14 November
114 Ayr College

15 A759/B746 junction, Barassie
7 Coll Gardens, Dreghorn

9 November
2 The Roundel, Largs

7 November
2 Kay Park, Kilmarnock
1 Newmilns

6 November
6 Walled Garden, Culzean

1 November
7 near 'the Pencil', Largs

Monday, February 16, 2009

Recent Sounds

I heard my first Blackbird of the year at dusk last Friday evening - singing from the main quad at UCL just off the racetrack of Euston Road, Central London. This seems to be later than normal, perhaps due to the colder winter. Last Thursday there was a male Blackbird calling from inside Euston station and I could hear it as I was coming up the escalators from the Underground! On the evening of the 14th Lisa and I heard a lonely Little Owl calling in Sunny Hill Park - only the second time I've heard one here in the suburbs of North London.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Jack Snipe patch tick

I was back up in Scotland again this weekend for the Scottish Recorders' Conference at the SOC headquarters of Waterston House in Aberlady. Its also known as The Scottish Birdwatching Resource Centre and I recommend a visit for anyone visiting the area. More details here:

Today I managed a cycle in the snow. There were few birds along the Knockentiber-Springside disused railway line – couldn't locate any of the Tree Sparrow, finch and bunting flocks that were present around the turn of the year. I did get a patch tick though with a Jack Snipe at NS369392. It initially rose vertically about a metre into the air before settling on the cycle path itself before flying back into a snow-free wet patch. Also on the line, around 70 Fieldfares feeding on fallen crab apples along Garrier Burn (NS389399) and still 80 Skylarks in barley stubble at NS385398. Snow cover often forces birds to feed in different ways and areas and I watched four Robins feeding out in a stubble field for extended periods around the feet of a group of 10 cows. There was no aggression between the Robins and they only rarely returned to the cover of hedgerow. Warwickdale's Green Sandpiper was still present, along with three Jack Snipe and five Roe Deer.

On Friday morning (6th) a male Shoveler (first site record) was present along with 131 Mallards and 20 Mute Swans on the Kay Park pond in Kilmarnock. Other weather related movements noted elsewhere this weekend included two Goosanders over Buchanan bus station in Glasgow and a Woodcock over the M8 near the Eurocentral business park.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


The snow cover remained this morning and the skies were mostly blue, so I managed another hour before work this morning.

Monday, February 02, 2009


I woke early to a strange silence (if that makes sense): none of the pre-dawn sounds could be heard. The forecast had been right and outside everything was blanketed in the biggest snowfall in the city for 18 years. According to the radio, London was shutting down…except for two underground lines, one of which was mine. Seizing the opportunity to get to Regent’s Park for an hour before work, I walked the traffic-free mile to the tube and although the journey took a staggering hour-and-a-half, I arrived in the park to pristine snow cover before others would later arrive and compact it. It was cloudy, so it was difficult to get a sparkle in the shots but I’ll try again tomorrow as clearer skies are predicted.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Rookery in the Metropolis

It's 40 years since Grey Herons first successfully reared young in London's Regent's Park. This weekend the colony of 25+ pairs looked to be doing just fine: nest building, mutual preening, mating, fighting.... all manner of behaviour could be observed. At this time of year the adult birds are also looking their best with blue lores and an intense pink-red bill base. With some blue sky and a breeze in the right direction the conditions were good for capturing some nest-building birds in flight.

... and some ducks in the shadows