Monday, February 27, 2012

Late Winter Bird Sounds on Hampstead Heath

First, a Carrion Crow calls, but I would probably define this as singing in the biological sense as this bird was part of a pair which appeared to be defending their territory from a neighbouring pair.

Next, a Chaffinch in full song; just one week ago many individuals (most likely 1st-year males) were singing plastic songs, not yet fully crystallised into full song.

Many Nuthatches were singing on the Heath but here is the typical call from a foraging bird, possibly used for contact; this and most other Nuthatches were paired and on territory.

Wrens sing all through the winter though the bird in this recording is uttering a shorter version of the typical song, lacking the terminal trill

Nearby a particularly vocal Magpie was uttering some loud, harsh calls. I initially hoped it may have been in response to a Tawny Owl but it turned out that a Grey Squirrel was very close to the nest site, currently in construction.

Next, a Great Tit sings it simple song of two sets of double notes at 6.4 and 3.8 kHz. A different bird can be heard responding in the background, exhibiting matched counter singing with the same song type at a slightly lower pitch. Another Great Tit recording then follows with a completely different song type.

Finally, another winter singer, the European Robin closes this recording with a wistful delivery of melancholic notes.

Through all of this is the constant noise pollution from distant traffic, overhead planes, and “come on clever doggy, such a good doggy, chasing the squirrels”.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Birds & Other Wildlife of the West Coast

I was pleased to have one my drawings (Dunlin) used on the cover of the conference programme/booking form for the 2012 Scottish Birdwatchers' Conference. This is organised by the SOC, BTO Scotland and Argyll Bird Club and takes place on 17 March in Oban at the Corran Halls. The theme this year is Birds & Other Wildlife of the West Coast.

More information can be found here:

A day-and-a-half camel ride to Rainham

Last weeked we saw nearly 70 species at Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve on the Thames, including Bearded Tit, Avocet, Caspian Gull, Water Pipit, Little Egret, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Peregrine. That was the good part. The bad part? It was nearly a day-and-a-half camel ride from north London via London Underground tubes and overground rail to get there. Well, it actually took three hours (quicker on return) even though its only 22 miles as the Common Yellowthroat flies. Why? Tube lines out of action, late trains, the usual story. We heard that a coach group from Wolverhampton had traveled to the reserve in the same time! Next time I'll go by bike - should be there in half the time.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Willow Tit drawing

Did a final drawing for the Ayrshire Bird Report last night. The Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) is one of Ayrshire's rarest breeding species but it can still be found at a few sites in the county despite the downward trend in the national population.

Monday, February 06, 2012


I like to cycle in the snow whenever I can (a rare event in London) and a trip to Brent Reservoir yesterday found it almost frozen over. A few patches of water remained, each populated by a distinctive collection of birds. There was the Coot/Gadwall covert in the Woodfield Park corner, a game of Mute Swans on the south side of Cool Oak Bridge, and a posse of Canada Geese and more coots on the north side. Meanwhile, Moorhens were skating everywhere. Most of the interesting wildfowl had departed with just a few Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon and Teal remaining. Lapwing, Fieldfare and Redwing were on the move overhead while both a Green and Common Sandpiper were on the outlet behind the dam. When there is snow on the ground every bird looks even better due to the reflected light on their undersides - even Wood Pigeons!