Monday, 16 July 2012


Well, it's been some time. Best to get back on the horse again. So much has been seen and experienced since Oct 2011. Abscence down to laziness and being side-tracked by life's other complexities. Also a new obsession with HD video-ing, since I was kindly given a HandCam for my milestone birthday back in April 2012. Will try to relive some of those experiences here in the coming weeks. In the meantime...check out some films we made at:

So, yesterday a trip to Marshfield, South Glos. produced some filming opportunities. Here's some grabs from that trip. Highlights were an incredible aerial display by 15-25 Ravens, a "flash through" Hobby, an unexpected early returning Male Northern Wheatear. And, of course, Skylarks, Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers...Marshfield being one of the last local strongholds for these birds.

   Barn Swallow. New out of the nest.... 


                                        This is what I catch flies with...

   Returning Male Northern Wheatear


  Raven Grabs  ( Watch film here...)  


                                            Still Building That Nest...


  Cock Yellowhammer

The Swallows were filmed at Marshfield Farm icecream HQ. Being dive-bombed by Swallows while scoffing Marshfield Farm icecream, at source, is quite something...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pied Wheatear. Oldbury-On-Severn. 26 Oct 2011.

Found yesterday by Darryl Spittle, from Gwent, this female Pied Wheatear was still on show at Thornbury Yacht Club today. With a nice young Northern Wheatear for direct comparison.(Not shown here.)

A sedate and gentle "twitch" in between the showers...

Photo-ops were amazing. Unless you were dig'ing through an 80's Kowa!


What do you find at the end of a rainbow?

Yes. That's right! A stunning pleschanka!

We took a little vid. Can be seen here...

Hope this little beauty stays for more peeps to see her. An absolute "Wheatear Princess..."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Update Imminent, but in the Meantime?

Portugal, Pallid Harrier in Somerset, and other things?
Been a bit lax.
Down in deepest Somerset, at the weekend, caught up with 34 Common Crane in one glorious sedge. The result of 2 years hard work, and releases, by the Great Crane Project.

34 Cranes in flight.

The Crane sedge, bad digiscope, settled...

2 glorious hours scoping them, produced a male Merlin hunting 100+ Goldfinches. A ringtail Hen Harrier showed at distance. And there was a brief passage of Skylark at Aller Moor.

We'd visited in the Spring and failed to find the Cranes.  It seemed the pattern was to be repeated - viewing from vantage points across the flat expanse. Then 34 Jewels obscured the sky, and gave an aerobatic display before alighting.

In 5 years from the start of this release programme, it is hoped that at least 100 Cranes will provide a stable breeding stock. And a return of this missing jigsaw-piece to our birdscape.

Yesterday, a female Pied Wheatear was found near to us in fluvial weather. As I write the skies are clear and calm. perfect for migration. This day may provide a connection. It would be a bonus. But I wouldn't blame the bird for moving on.

Promise a Portugal trip report, and a September/October retrospect with, perhaps, some artwork...

In the meantime, some free illos I did for this year's Cambridge Bird Report...

Can you guess what they are?

Happy Birding and Drawing to you all!...


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

7 September 2011. Grey Phal and Manxie at Blagdon!

An early blow in September produces drastic effects on seabirds expecting it later. Never nice for them.
Blagdon Lake got its first Manx Shearwater record today. It was flying strongly around the lake at times. But settled to allow a few poor record shots. Am thinking it will make it back to the estuary and the sea, after nightfall, predations of gulls permitting. (It seemed a very fit looking shearwater...)

Distant First Blagdon Manxie...

Best Image...

Probably not a Wilson's off the Manxie's Bow!

The Joys of Digi-Scoping Reservoir Manx Shears...

Some record shots also, of a, Juvenile to 1st Winter, Grey Phalarope, similarly brought in by the recent strong winds. It seemed happier about the enforced displacement. (Will embed some record videos soon...)

You see? I told you I was TINY!...

More images and the full story can be found here on Nigel Milbourne's excellent 

Blagdon Lake Birds...


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Late August Forays: Xbill Quandary, Snipe Spat, and a Wader Wooosh...

22 August 11: Stock Hill, Somerset.

Good numbers of Common Crossbill around the forest. Small flocks of 5 - 10 birds through a 2 hour walk, and some reasonable, if neck-aching views.

Male Common Crossbill on Spruce. Note bill.

Back at the car-park Crossbills were visiting the stone wall that surrounds it, and flying up into lower branches of Scot's Pines. But also feeding on the cones here. We thought at the time they looked very stocky and thick-billed, with more of a "choop-choop" than a "chip-chip" resonance to their calls.
It was only after examining the downloaded photos next morning, that I realised these birds really did look different. The width of the upper and lower mandibles being roughly equal, as opposed to the thick/thin of the Common Xbills we'd photographed.

3 Views of "The Scot's Pine Xbills." Note thick-set, hefty-billed appearance compared to Common Xbill photo...

Some sketches done after to "flesh-out" the differences in these birds.

Although the photo evidence isn't that good, it does show to an extent the parrot-like bills of these birds. Compared to the others with slimmer beaks.
I have Two-Barred Xbill in the back of my mind  always when visiting Stock Hill (some hopes!), but hadn't expected  to encounter a quandary like this. As it stands I do not have enough evidence to present a case on the merit of these photos. But, still, something niggles at me about these birds. Common Crossbill bills are variable after all, and Parrot Crossbill would be a five star bird in Somerset. But these birds were odd, and quite different from the other Xbills we'd seen that afternoon. Hefty billed, thick-necked bruisers!
We must return soon, and hopefully get better photos.They appeared quite tame and allowed approach to a few metres. I would really like to solve this little mystery. Maybe they are odd thick-billed stocky CCs. But I would like to be sure...
Also in the forest a good crop of this year's Goldcrests, Coal Tits, Siskins, and a few Chiffchaff. Speckled Woods abounded and a few Gatekeepers were seen. The Silver-Washed Fritillaries seen earlier in the month were now gone. A doe Roe Deer was the only Mammal.

Doe Roe. ;)

Rose-Bay Willow Herb around car-park.

Chew Valley Lake. 23 Aug 11.

Heron's Green Bay: A smart juvenile Spotted Redshank in the toe of the bay.

Digi-Scope Spot Red

Heron's Green Pool: Of note 6 Green Sands, 7 Yellow Wags over going South, and a delightful spat between a Water Rail and our first Common Snipe of the Autumn.(Owing to its longer bill, and some flashy side-on tail fan-work the Snipe won!)


Herriot's Bridge: 3 Blackwit, 2 Green Sand and a juv Wood Sand on the mud at the back of the pool. 2 Water Rail in the channel to main lake.

Juv Wood Sand (distant!)

A Reed Pig

Slimbridge WWT. 24 Aug 11.

Hogarth Hide: 200+ Blackwits, 2 Greenshank, 3 juvenile Ruff (male and 2 females.)

Juvenile Ruff

Kingfisher Hide: Pair of Dabchick on nest. 2 stripey hatchlings and an egg still being incubated. During a heavy rainstorm one of the birds switched from fishing duties, and spent a long time building up the level of the nest, by collecting weed. A safety measure against the potential threat of rising water levels due to the rain.

Little Grebes at Home

Rushy Pen: 2 Blackwit, 1 Green Sand and 4 Little-Ringed Plover.